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Archive for March, 2012

I feel like a Twitter veteran with my five-year subscription anniversary coming up on March 23.  And yet, in recent weeks, I have been disillusioned with Twitter — it must be the growing pains of social media.  While the current labour unrest in BC has, at times, brought out  thoughtful discord, too often, as discussions have moved to Twitter, it has brought out name calling, anonymous accounts, idea trashing, and inappropriate language.  Too often, adults have used the power of social media in ways we would never want our kids to.  Too often, I see one of the great powers of social media for educators being misused, instead of fostering its ability to role model for students how we engage in ethical and thoughtful ways.

So, with that said, I stand by the comment that I often make — that learning through social media, and Twitter in particular, has been a most powerful and inspirational learning.   Here is a slide I often include in my presentations describing Twitter:

A recent article by Max Cooke:  Twitter and Canadian Educators,  from the Canadian Education Association, nicely captured the use and potential for Twitter:

An emerging group of leaders in Canadian education has attracted thousands of followers. They’ve made Twitter an extension of their lives, delivering twenty or more tweets a day that can include, for example, links to media articles, research, new ideas from education bloggers, or to their own, or simply a personal thought. At their best, edu-tweeters are adeptly leveraging Twitter to brand themselves, to reinvent teacher PD, and perhaps to accelerate the transformation of our Canadian education systems. Twitter is being used to extend formal PD conferences beyond their venue to followers on Twitter in real time; it’s facilitating informal discussions (“unconferences”) among educators with common interests; it’s allowing best practices to “go viral” on the Internet; and it’s allowing innovative classroom teachers to challenge the status quo.

In his article, Cooke included a list of 30 Canadian Educators to assist new users as they begin to explore Twitter. One of the key ideas about Twitter is to follow a diverse group of people to avoid the ‘echo chamber’ effect. I, personally, have found it very useful to follow a group of people with local, BC, Canadian and International content, and even a few for humour (how else do I explain why I follow @peeweeherman), and I am often asked by new users, who to follow?  My suggestion is you start by following one person, look at who they follow, and build your interest and list from there.  I found Cooke’s list of Canadian edu-tweeters to be very helpful, and it gave me a few great, new people to follow as well.

So, whether you are a new or experienced user, and having been inspired by Cooke’s article, here are 40 BC edu-tweeters I would start with as you look at who to follow.  I understand there are several thousand BC educators now using Twitter, so this list is only a small sample of the connections available. While almost all organizations have corporate accounts, I find following and engaging with people to be much more satisfying. My only rules in creating this list were (and are) that people are directly related to K-12 education, and not in West Vancouver (the West Van tweeters are all great and I encourage you to follow them from this list here).

Aaron Mueller, Secondary Online Teacher, Vancouver

Al Smith - Teacher-Librarian, Kelowna

Brian Kuhn – Technology Leader, Coquitlam

Bruce Beairsto - Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University

Cale Birk – Secondary School Principal, Kamloops

Carrie Gelson – Elementary School Teacher, Vancouver

Chris Wejr – Elementary School Principal, Agassiz

Darcy Mullin – Elementary School Principal, Summerland

David Truss – Vice-Principal, Coquitlam

David Wees – IB Math and Science Teacher, Vancouver

Elisa Carlson – Director of Instruction, Surrey

Errin Gregory – Elementary Teacher, Gold Trail

George Abbott – BC Minister of Education

Gino Bondi - Secondary Principal, Vancouver

Glen Hansman – 2nd Vice-President, BC Teachers Federation

Gregg Ferrie – Director of Technology, Saanich

Heather Daily – Teacher-Librarian, Coquitlam

Hugh McDonald – Elementary School Teacher, Surrey

Jacob Martens – Secondary Science Teacher, Vancouver

Janet Steffenhagen – Education Reporter for the Vancouver Sun

Johnny Bevacqua – School Principal, Vancouver

Karen Lirenman, Elementary School Teacher, Surrey

Kelley Inden – Secondary Humanities Teacher, Nechako Lakes

Larry Espe – Superintendent, Peace River North

Peter Vogel - ICT / Physics Teacher, Vancouver

Mike McKay – Superintendent, Surrey

Moira Ekdahl - Teacher-Librarian, Vancouver

Neil Stephenson – District Principal of Innovation and Inquiry, Delta

Paige MacFarlane - Assistant-Deputy Minister, BC Ministry of Education

Patti Bacchus – Board Chair, Vancouver School Board

Ron Sherman – Elementary Principal, Kootenay lakes

Robert Genaille – Teacher, Fraser-Cascade

Sheila Morissette - Secondary Principal, Surrey

Silas White – Board Chair, Sunshine Coast

Stephen Petrucci – Director of Instruction, Peace River North

Steve Cardwell – Superintendent, Vancouver

Tamara Malloff – Teacher-Librarian, Kootenay Lakes

Terry Ainge – Secondary Principal, Delta

Tia Henriksen – Elementary Vice-Principal, Surrey

Valerie Irvine – Educational Technology Professor, University of Victoria

Looking through my list of who I follow, and checking in on their accounts, has been a good process and an excellent reminder of the passion and curiosity so many BC educators have and are sharing in digital space.  It was interesting to see how different districts were represented — I could have found at least another dozen from Surrey for example (like @rwd01 and @bobneuf ) but tried to share a more provincial picture.  This list should not be looked at as a Best of list (this is relative), but rather a starting point for new users, or users with more experience looking to broaden their conversations. To be sure, even as I go through my list, I know I have missed a number of awesome BC educators I learn with and from on a regular basis.

So, what of the powers of this social media tool? It is the ideas, not role or geography that matter.  And, hopefully, this small slice of my network can help you grow your network.

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We tried to stop them, but they just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

As a follow-up to my “real-real” learning post (here), last week I had the chance to spend some time with four Sentinel Secondary students, Adam Mitha, Justin Wong, Jun Jeagal and Sailesh Suri, to hear a story, firsthand, of what this kind of learning looks and feels like.

Supported by their teacher, Joel Gibson, the four young men, former classmates in Joel’s Information Technology class, were inspired to develop an “App” for the school that could easily match any created by experts in the field. They didn’t get paid, they didn’t get school credit, but it was some of the best learning they had ever experienced. In my conversation with them, they expounded about the 300 hours of coding, developing and designing that went into the finished product that has just been loaded to iTunes here (it is a free download).

So, just why did they do it?  They wanted to leave a legacy for the school. They described it as a mostly an out-of-school project, but they loved it because they were doing stuff they wanted to do and were interested in learning about. They emphasized the role of their teacher, Joel Gibson, “saying, I believe in you, is the best thing a teacher can do.”  When Joel saw the group needed to obtain more technical expertise for some parts of the project, he connected the students to experts from within and outside the system. Along the way, he connected them to the school PAC and others who could help.

Of course, as I stated at the beginning of this post, we didn’t make it easy for them. We (the system), limited some of their access to computers, were slow to support them technically, and made it challenging to move forward. They said that it was a good thing they had Mr. Gibson to mentor and guide them, but also, that they were part of the hacker culture. The hacker culture, as they described it, is “doing things over and over again. At school, the culture is that you do it right the first time.” One student remarked, “I had 30 failed projects before this one.”

I have been inspired by their inventiveness, determination and passion. How can we help students balance this kind of work with school, or better yet, how do we make this type of work systemic to the work of the school?  These four students were pursuing their passion, creating real work of value, and they were learning — for the benefit and reward of learning.

Often, this type of informal learning can be incredibly powerful. While our current structure does limit this “real world” opportunities, students like Adam, Justin, Jun and Sailesh, describe these as often the most exhilarating school experiences.

Be sure to download the fabulous Sentinel App:  HERE


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