Archives For Inspiration

Mini Keynotes iPadapalooza #iplza15

Instead of a traditional keynote, 10 speakers were each asked to do a 3 minute talk.  Here were the people and the big ideas.

Sketchnote by Meghan Zigmond ~ used with pride and permission!

  • Rabbi Michael Cohen The pencil is a mighty tool, the iPad too!  (Plus amazingly hand drawn slides).
  • me – The life story of Kevin Mitnick, all time hacker, rapped to the tune of Fresh Prince.  Hack the classroom.

Gost in the Wire

  • Amy Mayer There is a big difference between compliance and engagement. And, “If your kids ask you for a worksheet you are doing it right.”
  • Reshan Richards  Knowing That and Knowing How, Learning THAT and Learning HOW ASSESSING THAT or ASSESSING HOW. #QFAT (Qualitative Formative Assessment Tool).
  • Rafranz Davis You have to make an effort for equality. Real Change is Intentional.
  • Carl Hooker #UndeadLearning Fighting the Zombie apocalypse.

Day 1: One More Thing ~ Adam Bellow

You can see Adam flying his drone, as well as a wonderful overview of the entire event in this iPadpalooza Highlight video.

Adam Bellow’s opening keynote really hit on a lot of 2015 trends: coding, fear of failure, sharing, risk taking and drones. He geeked up, as we like to do in edtech, especially when he flew a drone programmed by Tickle.  His emphasis was on people over shiny things, even though he talked about technology gadgets and apps and services. His putting-people-first message was post App, post idevice. His keynote was centered on being connected to each other and the importance of sharing. By highlighting how quickly the new tech becomes old, he brought a freshness to the people-and-pedagogy-first message.  Student engagement has been a big selling point and focus for edtech evangelists, but he points out that the superficial engagement of new hardware and software is fleeting. Bellow reminds us to focus on the people, the connections, and the learning.

My favourite Adam Bellow Quotes:

  • “It’s not about the apps and tech it’s about culture and people.”
  • “It’s not about what you do but what you share.”
  • “Failed Ed tech initiatives start with a list of things to buy.”
  • “The Device doesn’t matter because they don’t last anyway.”

Tools, Sites and Apps Mentioned in Adam Bellow’s Keynote:

Day 2: 10 Lessons from Steve Jobs ~ Guy Kawasaki

1) innovators learn to ignore naysayers  a.k.a. “BOZOs”
2) costumers can’t always tell you what they need
3) it’s not about the current curve
4) design matters
5) big challenges beget BIG CHANCES
6) less is more
7) changing your mind is a sign of being smart
8) value does not equal price
9) “A” players hire “A+” players
10) the perfect combination to market and sell anything: maximize uniqueness and value
BONUS: some things need to be believed to be seen.
Guy Kawasaki

Day 3: Eric Whitacre

You may have seen Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, if not, take a look.

This was an outstanding, life enriching, keynote. Having a passionate knowledgeable person walk you through something they love is a profound experience.  Eric Whitacre talked about how he got into music, the virtual choir, his process and stories of music and composers. It was an hour of magic.

My favourite phrases and quotes:

When talking about hearing choir music for the first time:
  • “It was like I was standing in the middle of a cosmic Swatch watch.”
  • “It felt like someone was speaking my true name.”
  • “I was surround by a see of people escorting me to the next level.”
On being a composer:
  • “Being a composer is an odd job. I try to steal fire from the gods.”

Golden Bricks

I also especially liked how he talked about how all music, all songs, have a ‘Golden Brick.’ The golden brick is a simple piece of the song that is the anchor of the song, speaks the emotional essence of the piece and often repeats throughout.  He had us listen to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

He explained how the “ba-ba-ba BOOM” was the Golden Brick of this piece. Here he is watching the visualization and pointing out the brick as it repeats.

 

 

China Beckons

In about a month, I will be travelling to Beijing and Hanghzou China with Jonathan So  to participate in the 3rd Annual China Elementary Education International Conference.

Jonathan and I were invited by Ann Lieberman through our involvement with the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program. We are very grateful to have been selected and we hope to represent Ontario educators well.

Jonathan and I are guests that represent Ontario Education.  I have been wondering, what makes Ontario’s education system so great? Why do other countries want to know what we are up to?

Education in Ontario is Pretty Great

Did you know that our school system here in Ontario is one of the best in the world?

Did you know that our province has seen a 15% increase in graduation rates and 17% increase in achievement of provincial standards in grade 3 and 6 over the last 10 years? Also, we have closed the achievement gaps between English Language Learners and those students for whom English is their first language.

Not bad.  We still have a lot of work to do, but this is good improvement.

And, we are striving to get even better

For ten years, our education system in Ontario has been improving at a steady rate.  What’s next?

Three words: Inspire, innovate, transform.

In April 2014, the Ministry of Education released Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario.

The overall mission is to see success and well-being for every learner from early child care through to adult. Schools should build “knowledge, skills, characteristics” to help learners become “personally successful, economically productive and actively engaged citizens.”

The province of Ontario has 4 clear goals:

  • achieving excellence
  • ensuring equity
  • promoting well-being
  • enhancing public confidence

There is a big emphasis on technology for actualizing these goals, especially when it comes to the achieving excellence goal. Below you can see the very first point in the action plan for achieving excellence is to invest in technology.

Ontario has a renewed vision for education.  These goals will be measured and yes, EQAO data is part of the picture.  I am cheerful to see from the Achieving Excellence document that there will be a broader focus on gathering data beyond reading, writing and math (through EQAO).  There is a a fresh feeling of change and think I see that the government will be looking at broader indicators of success.

Inspire. Innovate. Transform.  Focus on excellence, equity, wellness and engaging parents and the broader community.

How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg

How not to be wrong: The power of mathematical thinking By Jordan Ellenberg is a story of how we can use mathematics to make decisions and better understand the world around us.  Mathematics is “extending our common sense by other means.”

More great quotes from the book:

“Dividing one number by another number is mere computation; figuring out what you should divide by what is mathematics.”  p.84

“Once your laptop can do it, it’s not mathematics anymore.” p. 283

“When you’re working hard on a theorem, you should try to prove it by day and disprove it by night.” p.433

When to celebrate and when not to celebrate

Be careful of the inferences you make from small data sets.  If you are a teacher or principal at a small school and your EQAO scores shoot way up, or way down, this is more likely numbers doing their thing than something wonderful (or terrible) that you did.  Here is the thing that Ellenberg reminds us so well, small sample sizes can have huge variability.  The results of a small group can fire up and down.  Be mindful that small sample sizes do this type of thing.  If it was a huge improvement, quietly say to yourself that it could equally have been a huge downturn. The numbers in these cases are really only valuable by looking at the changes over a longer period of time.  So, if you are a principal or teacher in a small school, don’t let the yearly data fool you, look at the bigger picture.

Similarly, if you are a huge school, there is something you should keep in mind too.  Are you an administrator or teacher in a giant school? Are you finding that your EQAO scores don’t change much year to year? Well, that’s because of regression to the mean!  Again, look at the overall trends.

In both cases, look at the big picture. Don’t let a small or large number send you thinking things that aren’t true.

Counter-intuitive Thinking and Missing Bullet Holes  

Abraham Wald was a mathematician who contributed to the war effort in WW2 from within Columbia University as part of the Statistical research Group (SRG).  He and a group of brilliant mathematicians were working on how to armour planes so that they would not get shot down.  But, the problem was that adding armour added weight, which took more fuel and rendered the planes less maneuverable (arguably cancelling out any benefit of adding armour in the first place).


So, they looked at the data.  Where are planes being hit?  The plan was to add armour to those parts of the plane.  The researchers found that the fuselages of planes had many bullet holes whereas there were far fewer bullet holes on the engines of returning planes.

So, where would you put the extra armour? On the fuselage!  No, this is not the right idea.  Wald said the armour shouldn’t go where the bullet holes are most, but where there are no bullet holes at all, which was on the engines.  Wald was able to see that the planes that did not make it back for inspection where probably the planes that got hit in the engine.  The planes the researchers were inspecting were able to make it back, so bullet holes had not caused fatal damage.

Where are the missing holes? The missing holes are on the planes that were shot down!  Wald was able to ask: What assumptions are you making? And are they justified?

This connects to the quote above about believing your ideas by day, and disbelieving them at night.  The numbers of bullet holes, or any set of data, must be interpreted. That’s where the mathematical thinking is most essential. Here we use math to guide our intuitions down a more structured path so they don’t bring us down.

More is not always Better and Ferris Bueller Explained

More is not always better.  We know this, but time and time again we think that data runs on a straight line going up or down. More often, however, data is “straight locally and curved globally.” When we stand back, the shape of the data starts to look different.

Remember Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?  Bueller? Bueller?  The super boring economics teacher was talking about the Laffer Curve, taxation and voodoo economics. There is actually some great math in this segment!  You see, governments thought that if raising taxes a little raised a little revenue, then raising taxes a lot would raise A LOT of revenue. Turns out that it’s not a straight line, it’s a curve, a Laffer Curve.  There is a point at which you increase taxes so much that your revenue starts to drop because people either hide their money or stop working. If you watch the Ferris Bueller clip, and look at this diagram, this is the diagram the teacher is describing when there is saliva on the desk from the sleeping teen.

Laffer Curve

This also applies to giving advice, writing a blog, making mistakes in the classroom and missing flights!

Yes, missing flights. If you are always on time for your flight and you never miss one, you are probably spending too much time at the airport.  Mind you, this probably only applies to frequent flyers. (Utils are an economists units for the utility something gives you).

“George Stigler, the 1982 Nobelist in economics, used to say, “If you never miss the plane, you’re spending too much time in airports.” p. 232 

So, other lessons of the Laffer Curve:

If you worry too much about giving good advice, you probably don’t give enough advice.

If you spend too much time trying to be productive, you are less productive.

I blame Jonathan So and his blog post as well as Adele Stanfield for this post.  Both of whom tapped me for Aviva Dunsiger‘s thought provoking #MakeSchoolDifferent game.

Here are 5 things I think we should stop pretending.  Now.

My 5 things:

1) That school = the building.  And I don’t mean in that cute 21st century talk about moving beyond the walls to the Internet, I mean outside. The yard, the pond, the forest.  Kids see school as building + yard + community. Teachers see school as the building. I am deeply inspired by my husband Greg Marshall and his almost forest FDK program.  He has opened my eyes to how children see the space. He has helped me see a new way to engage children. Give them SPACE. Elevate them as learners with trust and exploration outside.

2) Take the word “digital” away from anything and everything.  Example: Digital portfolios and digital citizenship. Make portfolios. Teach citizenship.  Find a smoother interface and interplay between bit-space and meat-space. Kids-these-days don’t see such a harsh divide between online and offline. Adults go offline, kids are just AFK (Away From Keyboard). And thank you to Alec Couros for this idea from his recent keynote at #ETFOT4T.

3) Well-being can’t wait. We need to elevate the status of learners, teachers, ECEs, EAs, principals, parents, custodians, admin assistants.  Everyone should just be a bit nicer at school.  I would like to see a deeper respect between individuals throughout the community.

4) Stop Platform wars.  Really? We are still debating Apple vs Google vs Microsoft vs Linux?  Enough.  Get online. Spend money on good wifi and technology that doesn’t suck…anyone’s time.  I thought platform wars were over after Netscape and Nintendo vs Sega.

5) Stop pretending that teachers can’t be leaders unless they become a principal or a learning coordinator. (Now this is getting personal). Teachers can be leaders.  People in a position of power/authority/promotion aren’t always leaders. Teachers can influence change without climbing the ladder. And for those that climb the ladder, great! LEAD! Be a renegade not a robot.  As a teacher, I make my voice heard. I lead. I follow. I join. In the great words of Miley Cirus: I can’t stop. I won’t stop.

So. There.Outside with my class

Make better Movies

Thanks to Jose Martinez, my students and I will make better movies. We might even feel brave enough to call them films! His session (description here) was called “Lights, Cameras, Action!” and you can find all the key information, with examples, on his blog.

Key Learning:

  1. Plan! Story board first. Don’t pick up the camera until you have your shots planned out.
  2. Have kids name camera angles in their work. Great idea for being consciously skilled and assessing media literacy conventions.
  3. To get students to make watchable videos, give them a theme and keep it short. As in 20 seconds!

Thank you also to Ernest Agbuya and Daniella Marchese for their session called Storytelling with the Moving Image. I learned that there are professional development opportunities through TIFF and there is an Kids Film Festival through TIFF too! Imagine!

Passion and Compassion

Colleen Rose might be one of the kindest people I’ve met.  She’s brilliant, smart and incredibly tender and responsive to her students’ needs.  Her session about Personalized Learning through Assessment was a poignant reminder of how we can reach out to kids while working through the curriculum and the school day. All her resources from her session can be found here.

A New Tool

Thanks to Tim Hawes I walked away from Bring IT Together with a great new tool!  His session New Ministry Licensed Web-Based Graphic Organizer focused on a rad new tool Mindomo. Think Mind Mapping software + Popplet + Padlet and more.  Fab!

Scratch and nkwry

Thank you to Brian Aspinall and for the great session on Coding in Math. Learning about algebra and variables? Get kids using Scratch to apply these concepts in a practical setting that is fun too! He’s a clever lad and a programmer in his own right. He has developed a Pinterest type web-based app for helping students curate information, check out nkwry – amazing stuff!

Bringing people together

This is what it’s really about!  My PLN is so amazing. Thank you to all of you, and big thank you to my new pal Brian Smith for making this wonderful picture of friendship and collaboration!

Photo by Brian Smith

Photo by Brian Smith

After hearing about the excursions planned for the week to Torrey Pines State National Reserve, San Dieguito Lagoon, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Scripps Institution of Oceanography we were also informed that we would augment these experiences with an iTunes U course and a series of biology texts called Life On Earth by E. O. Wilson.

Then, much to the delight of everyone there, biologist and researcher Edward Osborne Wilson, also know as E.O. Wilson, took to the stage and sat in a leather seat unfolding his prepared notes. An incredibly dignified and generous man, Wilson spoke to us for an hour about biology, the importance of science to the human condition, and achieving excellence.  He even spoke boldly and unapologetically about religion.

E. O. Wilson Wilson, a highly successful, prolific and decorated scientist, focused on the study of ants, known as myrmecology.  He says that studying a single organism can lead to a great breakthrough.

“For every organism, there are advancements to be made that couldn’t be made from any other discipline.” ~ E. O. Wilson

To him, biology will help humanity and lead to better self understanding.  He invites all of us to take up membership in the scientific community as a natural and normal extension of our humanity.  It is not only our duty to take an interest in the natural world, but an unavoidable need we should not suppress.

Near the end of his talk he veered off the path of biology towards achieving excellence and nurturing excellence in young scientists.  He says that the successful scientists he knows did not have the highest IQ.  Wilson spoke of his friend Watson (as in James Watson, as in Watson and Crick as in DNA) who did not have the highest IQ, but more importantly a restlessness and an entrepreneurial obsession.  The great scientists had a desire to do something big.  They asked themselves “What hasn’t been done?”  and “What is extraordinary?”  As teachers, he asked of us to look for children who have this restlessness and desire for science and to encourage them on the path to owning their part in the scientific community.

E.O. Wilson has authored and led a team to create the highly interactive iBook series, Life on Earth.  These books are incredible.  Amazingly, they are also free.

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 1: Unity & Diversity of Life on Earth

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 2: Guided Tour of the Living Cell

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 3: Genetics

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 4: Animal Physiology

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 5: Plant Physiology

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 6: Guided Tour of Biodiversity

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 7: Guided Tour of Ecosystems

 

I am feeling inspired by Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work and so I thought it would be fun to post some pictures from the making of my Google Teacher Academy application video.

Here is the video:

1st Shot: White background and desk.

This is taken in my basement with a white screen I often use in my class for video and for teaching about light to my grade 4s in our photography/light unit.  The slider for my camera made all the difference in each shot. The cam slider was much more effective then your regular Ken Burns effects within iMovie.  Though this was the last shot that I filmed, I wanted to start with just the desk to be sure it popped in each picture.  I want to create a continuous story with this visual as my anchor.

white screen

2nd shot: Jet Aircraft Museum

Thanks to my partner, Greg Marshall, we got access to the Jet Aircarft Museum here in London. Greg is learning to fly a plane so he was a natural at approaching the very kind and generous staff.

JAM Jet Aircraft Museum

3nd shot: Grand Bend, Lake Huron

This shot was taken in early May just after the Google Teacher Academy opened applications. It was really, really cold! I am wearing a full on puffy liner and parka!  I like the images that contrast nature with technology to remind us of the bigger picture.  It was funny to lug around the desk and all the stuff inside the desk. Each time I tried to make sure that the contents of the desk were in the same position.

beach Grand Bend

6th shot: The ARTS Project

After being turned down by Museum London, we turned to the friendly folks at The ARTS project who were more than happy to support the project.

Art Project

4th and 9th shots: Komoka Provincial Park, Thames River

One of my favourite places to run and play.

Komoka Park

10th shot: Fanshawe Pioneer Village

I love the old school compared to new school. It’s funny to think about continuity and change in education. Has it really changed that much from the days of the one room school house?

Pioneer Village

11th shot: Museum Of Ontario Archaeology

This is really my favourite shot.  The way the light comes in from the far door feels like magic to me. Plus, it was fun to climb up high to nab a shot from a different perspective. Can you spot me in the photo?

Long House

Reflections

I loved this process. I learned that when you tell a story, you tell it to yourself too.  This is a message I believe with my entire heart, and it took making the video to really let the message come out.  I loved telling a story and creating something beautiful.  I am very proud that I was able to give my perspective while still meeting the condition of the application (talking about innovation and positive change).  Next, I want to create another video that is unrelated to any application process.

Thanks

Thank you to Mark Hammons @mhammons for the most specific and honest feedback. For being so positive too.

Thank you to team Voxer and PLC friends for discussions and for being in the video: Greg Garner @classroom_tech, Jaime Vandergrift @JaimeVanderG, Tracy Clark @TracyClark08, Jon Samuelson @ipadsammy, Megan Valois @MsValois

Thank you to staff and students at my school.

Thank you to epic BMX riding of Kevin Gauci and his friends.

Thank you David Malone @dwmalone, Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth, and Tanya Avrith @edtechschools for leading the way and checking in with me throughout the process.

Thank you, most of all to Greg Marshall @mr_marshall grip and most inspiring human I know.

This is the fifth of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions. For the final blog post in the series, all thinkers are from TVDSB.

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This is the first of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions. Meet Angela, Lisa, Courtney, Kristin and Alline.

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