Change is Coming: Everyday is Day 1

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For my final project in course five, the potential for overhaul could possibly focus on two units. Since my units are always changing I like to think that we are perpetually at day 1 everyday when it comes to change.

First option would look at my IB Economics Year 1 unit on national income and the level of overall economic activity in an economy. The focus here is on looking at the circular flow of income model, measures of economic economic activity, fluctuations in the business cycle and connections to Theory of Knowledge (TOK). This unit gives a good platform to integrate technology and encourage students to be innovative in their technology use. The plan here is to try and move through the 4 tiers described in the article A Matrix Model for Designing and Assessing Network-Enhanced Courses. These are substitution, augmentation, modification and most importantly redefinition. Using tools like voicethreads, diigo allows for the creation of tasks inconceivable without the use the computer. For example uploading graphs and discussion points to VoiceThreads on the business diagram and having students debate the possible stages on the diagram the economy is operating at would meet the learning objectives of higher order thinking. Also using diigo students could now bookmark articles as a class giving examples of recessions and booms and share these with the class using the innovative features of diigo that allow students to do things with shared bookmarking that couldn’t be done before.    

Second option might be to look at my IB Economics Year 2 unit on Economic Development. The focus here is on distinguishing between economic growth and economic development, the characteristics of economically less developed countries, the diversity among these countries, international development goals and connections to Theory of Knowledge (TOK). Similar to the approach laid out above I would have students use the many technology tools available to compare various developing countries and present similarities and differences on how countries develop in terms of economic growth and economic development. We would look at the distinction between economic outcomes and human outcomes. For example innovative tools such as gapminder which allow students to create graphs comparing economic indicators for many different countries create power stimuli for visual learners and others . Students could then include these diagrams on their personal blogs or where they could embed other information (google docs and google presentation) to create an online presentation that others could then comment on.

Those are my two ideas at this point and for each of them I don’t foresee any issues that would limit my ability to accomplish what I want to do. I and my students already have some experience with integrating technology into these classes so it be will more about creating activities that can redefine what i have done before. The goal will be to try and create new tasks only available through the integration of technology which will allow for new ways of learning for my students.

Looking forward to the final project!

Presentation Zen

Presentation Zen design principles certainly makes one think about the many different aspects of not just how to do a presentation but also what it means to be creative. Following these principles can make anyone more creative. I like how the discussion is about the process and not the technology. How to create a better PowerPoint presentation has more to do with what you do before you turn the computer on. Thinking about things such as design, story symphony and empathy and realizing that they are key features in getting it right with your audience and they need to be worked out before you start creating the slides. There are many other tips in the readings about presentation zen but the ones that stand out for me and resonate long after my initial introduction to this process, are to keep it simple, use original visual themes not templates, show some passion, ask yourself if it can pass the “elevator test”, know your audience and most of all figure out how to create meaning for your audience. I am just starting this process. I am in the design stage of my presentation and I am excited to try and apply all of these things I have highlighted. I’m sure I will miss hitting on some of these but fortunately it’s about the process and I am learning a ton.

Thoughts on Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a serious issue. As the School heads called parents in cyberbully case shows, it is a difficult issue to deal with and more so when things are taking place off campus. Students will sometimes act impulsively and even when they realize their mistake they may not be able to fix it quickly. The article stated that the offending students had a difficult time removing the content once they were found out. Spending time teaching kids to be digital citizens  and encouraging them to become the creators of knowledge and not using these digital tools to simply consume information will go a long ways in teaching kids how to be constructive rather than destructive in their use of these tools. Some digital tools are worse than others. Banning texting for children until they go to university would be an idea I might consider and get behind. I think that would help solve some issues and may also save lives. My learning on this issue would lead me to a strategy of coming up with better ways to educate students on cyberbullying that students can relate to in a more real way. This is not an easy task and needs much more thought and work. I also believe there needs to be more enforcement techniques employed by both teachers and parents. This two pronged approach seems to be the appropriate course of action.

Should we fear digital footprints or the lack thereof?

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If parents didn’t have enough to worry about, now they are afraid that their kid will grow up with either too much damaging information online or “even, worse, that no links about her will come up at all”. How serious should we all take this? Of course it depends. I think most people with good rational thought processes understand that people living online lives are going to have content of both a professional and personal nature. Personally, I have no desire to become part of that marketing machine face book. I find Twitter useful for information sharing. Email is still the killer app for me and for most people.  Through my own experience working with students, teachers and others I could write a whole blog on this but that would be getting off topic.

The fact is your digital footprint is out there and if it’s not out there presently, it will be. It’s not something to fear, it’s all about making good decisions based on who you are. I’m more concerned about people presenting themselves as somebody they are not, both personally and professionally. Would your digital footprint help attain that first job interview or even that first date? Potentially yes , but alone its not going to get you that job or mate. As long as there are avenues to check references that corroborate what a digital profile reflects then it shouldn’t be an issue. These avenues need to be further developed online but we can still use more traditional ways as a bridge. I think we should emphasize that digital footprints should reflect who you are. Don’t be afraid to show that. In the long run I believe that will lead to better outcomes for all. Its no different then any other challenge we face, it comes down to education, teaching our kids how to make good decisions but knowing mistakes will still be made, learning from them and moving forward. Your digital footprint is not something to get overly fearful  about. It creates both opportunities and consequences. Learning how to navigate them is just another step in being a life long learner.

Course 1 Final Project

Internal Assessment season is almost over for another year. Now I can turn my attention to some unfinished business.

My course 1 final project is an economics lesson on scarcity. I have added some ways technology can be integrated into the lesson to help students make more sense and meaning and to help with transfer of knowledge.

Background and process:

I like to start out this lesson by giving out some sweet rice cakes at the start of class. I will then put up two pictures on the digital projector: one of arid land and one of people queuing to buy something. I will then ask students to think about where these pictures are taken. Students are usually surprised that the first picture is Australia and the second is Thailand.

I then ask students what is the connection between the rice cakes, the Australian picture of arid land and the Thailand picture of people lining up. What are people queuing to buy? (answer: rice)

Students will report on the causes and effects of Australia’s rice shortage and why that is also affecting a big rice producer like Thailand.

Students will then identify another commodity on the world market and trace the effects of a shortage or surplus on a world map.

Diagrams will be created throughout different segments of the lesson(s) and shared/discussed online using Google docs and wikis.

Getting It Wrong from the Beginning

I enjoyed the readings and videos this week. Dan Meyer says a student can pass a unit without knowing any physics but just by knowing how to decode the text book. I suppose you could look at the upside. They didn’t learn any real physics but did learn the skill of how to decode a text book. In economics we call that a distortion of the market or in this case a distortion of the learning. The incentive put in place leads to a different outcome than intended. It reminded me of a book I read a couple of years back called “Getting it wrong from the beginning” 

The Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) described in the Horizon Report looks like an interesting concept but it sounds a lot like putting a new name on “Differentiated Learning”. What I see the difference being is that the student is empowered more in the creation of their own learning plan for a PLE. This learning avenue is now available to the students because of new technology innovation. It’s up to the educators now, to start to develop and implement PLEs.

Some interesting global collaborative sites I found and which I could use in my units would be sites like My Economic Story where people share their stories about how changes in the economy are affecting their lives. Putting a human face on these economic factors really helps students to understand and relate to the economic concepts they are learning. Patchworknation  is another great site for understanding the characteristics of various communities throughout a country. These communities are given names depending on their economic or social characteristics like: Boom towns, Emptying Nests, Tractor Country, Immigration Nation and many other telling names.  Another site is PBS news hour extra which has a section called “Student Voices” that allows students from around the world to share their stories on important events happening in their countries. As more initiatives increase opportunities for more global collaborations between students/teachers, learning can be made more relevant and the pursuit of knowledge is going to be that more fun and exciting!

Shaping the Classroom for Tech

Since we started using laptops in my school along with the addition of a digital projector in my classroom the teaching and learning has became much more rich. It’s been a process though. Shaping Tech for the Classroom touches on some of my experiences from first dabbling and then doing things in old then new ways and finally doing new things in new ways. Training and finding the time is always an issue but I wouldn’t say I was ever “afraid to experiment” with new technology although letting students have the space to work effectively and not feel like you have to be in total control of what they are doing on their laptops is always a bit of a struggle for me. One of the things I don’t think the article mentions and that I have found important from my own experience, is the physical environment, and how small changes can make a dramatic impact when technology is implemented in the classroom. When we went with bigger desks this year it really allowed me to use all the resources I like using in teaching economics. Having students being able to have their laptop, textbooks, and mini whiteboards all easily accessible really improved our ability to quickly transition between activities and back again. I can quickly check student retention with the mini whiteboards and move on to another activity on the laptops with the textbook easily available for a quick resource check. To get teachers to buy in and get them using the technology you really have to provide them with not the just the tools, training and support to take risks but the physical environment to use them effectively. Something as simple as desks can have a significant impact on the overall effectiveness of technology integration.

I enjoyed the video on “when I become a teacher” but I really don’t see many of those teachers in the international setting (well maybe the occasional quiet one trying to become an administrator). On a similar theme check out Mr. Gump’s comment as he compares teachers to a box of…

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If you want to see more from this group check out the 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Educators.

Instigator or Catalyst ? (Part I)

21st century teacher freedom fighter or 18th century teacher terrorist? Do you have a label in your organization? I sometimes get called an “instigator”. If you are going to label me I prefer the term “catalyst” :-). Communication can sometimes get shut down. People have something to say but they are afraid to say it. If I sense that is the case I might “initiate” more discussion even though I might not have the positional clout or for that matter the knowledge myself. I do this with the hope of giving an opening to a more knowledgeable colleague who is waiting for the opportunity to articulate a great point . Challenge, question and move things forward is a sound strategy in my opinion.

Sometimes or maybe often when I am reading something I will start to relate it to other things in my life or broaden the context. As I read through “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” I couldn’t help but think of my own organization. “The health of the learning ecology of the organization depends on effective nurturing of information flow”. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Both within the classroom and outside how can we keep this “pipe” flowing with information? Yes the pipe is more important than the content. I am trying to build that pipe in my classroom with the new learning tools available so my students can get that content when they are ready and at time and place that is convenient to them. I also use these tools as I communicate with teachers and administration at my school.

Since I cannot “experience everything…I store my knowledge in my friends” Through the use of these new communication technologies we are in fact more than ever experiencing an amazing opportunity to “collect knowledge through collecting people”. I do notice the ways I am doing this now and I can only envision expanding on these ways as I become more knowledgeable in the future. Finding the time of course is going to be an issue but as the article mentions, mastering new skills like learning to quickly access what is needed should also help with this challenge. And no I haven’t mastered this yet!


I’ve been following the Jeremy Lin story, the unknown basketball player who comes out of nowhere and is now leading the New York Knicks to success. There’s a great article about the 10 lessons Jeremy Lin can teach us that I’ve been using in class with my students. I thought I would share this article after reading the principle’s page blog this morning on a similar theme about how “sports should be used as a teaching opportunity on how to deal with success. And Failure”.

Let’s get this party started!

Hi folks, I’m looking forward to the courses and learning and sharing with you all. I’ll start out by saying I really enjoyed the resources I have watched and read so far.

“Learning well with others” I found myself thinking about how collaboration is changing and students and teachers will need to develop new skills in evaluating collaborators to ascertain quickly what role they can play in our growth. At the same time we have to be more open to sharing our own work publicly. This can be difficult initially as old habits can die hard but the good news is a new habit can be started just by taking that first step.

The article on “Disrupting Class: Student-Centric Education is the future” had me thinking back to some of the work I did at what I’ll call my first real professional career related type of job. This was back in the middle to late nineties. I was working in a newly established educational center for communication technologies at the University of New Brunswick. I had just recently graduated from here with my second degree in education. At the center which was located in the faculty of education, we developed what was then one of the first online university courses offered for credit in Canada. We used web pages combined with listservs and a web based forum called Webboard – much less integrated then today’s tools! This was an education course offered to teachers located in areas where they couldn’t travel to the university to take a face to face course. This really was a situation where a “disruptive transformation took place, “where the alternative is no class at all”.

“The Digital Youth Project” had me thinking about my own students and realizing that they do seem more willing to learn from peers than adults. I see this everyday and to understand it and harness it would allow me to be more effective inside the classroom and out. I agree schools should look more at thinking about “education as a process of guiding kinds’ participation in public life” and I like how they have created a broader classification of this public life. I think technology can make it easier to make these linkages in the classroom. It opens up new worlds, new perspectives and new opportunities to engage with others. Whether that’s innovative ways to introduce more role models or being able to better reach people who have similar interests and who we can collaborate with.

Certainly lots of insights and ideas I will continue to digest!