Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Week

Credenda moved it’s office last week, and I missed blogging. But I still want to get something up for everyone about Christmas. A couple of weeks ago, three of our eTeachers flew North to Fond du Lac, Stony Rapids, and Black Lake to visit our eStudents. They put together a video for our eStudent Assembly, which is recorded and posted at the Credenda website.

We have another video we want to post, but we need releases signed first. In any case, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We have a lot to be thankful for. I see a lot of people less fortunate than myself, and I am reminded of how much I have. During this season, please take time to think of others and be filled with care and cheer. See you when we get back from the holidays.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Week 7

This week's virtue is Creativity. Creativity is the power of imagination. Creativity is a way to develop your special talents, gifts or abilities. It is seeing something in a new way, finding a different way to solve a problem. Creativity is using your imagination to bring something new into the world. These are just a few ways to describe, "creativity." The sad reality is that many of us growing up and going to school had our creativity, (how do I say it tactfully?) kind of squashed out of us.

Well, at least that was my experience for the most part, except for that one social studies class in Grade eight. The assignment was to do a group project about the Loyalists in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I don't remember what the other students did, but I remember our project, because I had never had so much fun creating a skit with my three friends. The teacher was so supportive and I felt so affirmed. One of the elements of the skit was using a little comedy. We were acting out Loyalists hiding in the night trying to keep from getting discovered. We used magic candles that relight every time you tried to blow them out, until we dipped them in water. It really added to the suspense and the comedy. We had so much fun. But unfortunately, that was one of the rare moments where I remember I was allowed, no, I was encouraged to use my creativity.

A few weeks ago, we were asked to watch a video by Sir Ken Robinson on Ted.com called, Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Robinson says that creativity in schools should treated as importantly as literacy. I believe he is right! Here at Credenda, we want our eTeachers and eStudents alike to realize their potential not only in math, science, and literacy, but also in their creative expressions of each of these subject areas. We want learning to be fun, interesting, and relevant. I'm not interested in assignments being given to eStudents just for the sake of being given an assignment. It must have a purpose, and there are a variety of ways to achieve that purpose. Not only do I want Credenda to be that place of learning, but that kind of experience; the Credenda experience that embraces creativity. I love the potential to use technology to achieve these goals. Over the past weeks, I have been encouraging you to use blogs as one of those ways to express yourself. You can embed video, images, put links to other sources, and more. Blogging is becoming increasingly recognized as a valuable medium for communicating. Today's employers are looking for workers, who understand technology and the many ways to use it to communicate, and work collaboratively. In many ways, they are looking for creative people. You think about that!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Week 6

Each week I'm trying to introduce a different topic that are practical for both eStudents and eTeachers. This is week is no different than the rest, so here it goes. I don't know about you, but the news that came out of Mumbai this week evoked a variety of emotion for me. First, I felt shock, disbelief at the terrorist actions of killing innocent people. It's difficult to understand how people can do these terrible kinds of things. What is going through there minds? Second, I felt sad at the loss of life. Stories have poured out of children watching their parents both being killed in front of them. Terrible! Third, I felt anger at those that did this. I had to be careful not to dwell on this emotion. I know I cannot change what happened there, but I think about what positive things can I do with the people I meet or work with daily, or speak with regularly or infrequently in meetings or wherever.

That's why at Credenda, we promote the virtues in our school. Virtues are those positive qualities that we need to grow in ourselves and encourage in others. Everyone has virtues, but often the challenge is for us to recognize those virtues in ourselves and bring those great qualities out in others around us. Each week, we promote a different virtue that each one of us can work on for ourselves and encourage in others. This weeks virtue is "Honour." What is honour? Honour is living with a sense of respect for what you believe is right. It is living by the virtues, showing great respect for yourself, other people, and the rules you live by. When you are honourable, you don't have to feel ashamed of who you are or what you are doing. You are worthy of respect. You set a good example. Part of that good example is speaking the language of the virtues. A couple of months ago, I did a few interviews about the importance speaking to one another that encourages others, rather than shame them. I posted this video on YouTube, and here it is.

We all need to use this language with one another.

Also, at Credenda, we promote a different charitable project each year. A couple of years ago, we sponsored World Vision, last year, we sponsored "Save Darfur," this year we are sponsoring "100-School Challenge." In November, Heather Barkley of Free the Children shared amazing stories of hope that transpire when young people help others. Heather explained this three step doable action plan; 1) Tell one person. 2) Find your passion. 3) Get involved with Adopt a Village. Why 2) Find your passion? The Adopt a Village program works to provide clean water, teach alternative incomes, and build schools.

Our eStudents and eTeachers are excited about helping each other and the world be a better place to live. We are committed to developing minds and hearts that are respectful to one another and the world. We believe that we can make a difference.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Week 5

I'm actually enjoying blogging. Didn't know I would like it so much. You can share what you want, no more, no less. I'm sure some folks have blogs that don't make any sense, and maybe this is one of them. (lol) But I am trying to using this blog as a means that steers eStudents and eTeachers alike towards resources and tools available that can enhance learning. Sadly, some educators use the new tools in their classrooms like they would the old exercises and assignments. It's just simply replacing the pen and paper with a keyboard and computer. Just because someone is using technology doesn't mean they learned more. Too often assignment are simply make work projects, or busy work. The learning outcome is not the priority.

I need to be careful to be understood that I am promoting technology, especially since I am the ePrincipal of Credenda. I love technology, but I am not in favour of just using technology to replace old bad habits. There needs to be purpose in using it.

That leads me to my ramblings this week on how can we have eStudents use techonology to share the work they are doing with their peers that encourages connections. I'm not talking about Facebook, Bebo, Tagged, or MySpace. I think one of the greatest tools for eStudents to share work is blogging. It's simple, it's easy, and it's free. Now if I may self-indulge for a moment, but allow me this, because it relates. My younger daughter, Bailey, is at University of Lethbridge, AB. She is taking a Sociology course, where she and 4 other classmates were required to keep a weekly blog about any topic they wished as long as it related to their class. I want to share that blog, because it is a great example of how this tool can used very effectively by students.

Digitally Delicious This a group of socially and politically conscious young people that care about food and what they eat. They get to share their opinions with their peers and know that there voice is being heard. One week, they featured a restaurant that specializes in organic food from New York City. The owner, contacted them afterwards and thanked them for the plug. They were delighted. And rightly so too. I'm really proud of the work they are doing, and they get a lot of visits to their site now. They are very creative and it shines through.

There are a variety of blogging tools out there, but here are a few to mention: Blogger. If you have a gmail account, you can sign up very easily for this blogger. The reason I use this one is because I have a gmail account, but I also can blog from my Treo700 Smartphone directly to my account. So I can do this from the road, literally. Preferably when I'm not driving. The other one that is often highly recommended is WordPress. This is one my daughter, Bailey, uses. She likes it and finds it very easy to use as well. It's important, when you select a blogger account, that it can embed video and images easily. WordPress does both of these well.

In closing, I'm embedding a YouTube video that explains blogging in very simple terms. Check it out and have a good week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week 4

Last week, I changed the background to black to honour Remembrance Day. I hope you took the time to watch the videos.It is pretty important to remember our veterans.

This week, I'm suppose to challenge each one of us to explore a digital too or resource for learning. We are very fortunate to have an engaging, never-tiring, course designer at Credenda, Randy Robert, who loves to share new tools and resources that he has found on the web. I honestly love the sites he sends links for me to look up. Here are a few samples, before I review and describe the website I want to feature this week.

For example: VozMe. Very cool! If you didn't notice, look at the top right of the blog page, I added the light blue button that says, "Select a text, and click here for voice." Try it! Just highlight the text in this blog and click the button at the top right, and then javascript converts the text into voice and reads it for you. A great tool for English as a Second Language.

Another great site was Animoto. This is a special tool that enables you to make video with your images that are analyzed by the online software and coordinated with the music you select to play with the video. Great tool for digital storytelling. Here's a sample of what it can do. This was our ELCC Grad this past weekend.

Another site is the Microsoft Telescope This is very cool site that allows you and your students to see the galaxy via the Internet. Amazing!This would be a great tool for teaching science without having to even go outside with a big telescope.

Finally, the site that Randy sent me that I was very intrigued with was Yoowalk. This is a website that allows you to set up a profile and avatar, and then create a virtual world of links that you can browse in and out of as an actual person walking through the streets. I've enclosed an image to illustrate at the top of the page. As a teacher, you can set up a world of links where your students can tour for information and resources. This is a very site. As a teacher, I could see myself using it to get students engaged in learning. I would even ask them how they would use it too to get the most out of it.

Enjoy, and be creative.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Week 3

Well, this is week 3 of my new adventures of blogging. Actually, I'm enjoying it. In fact, I hear that eStudents and eTeachers are actually reading it. Cool. Not sure how much I'm actually contributing to pedagogy, but it is fun to ramble on.

This week I want to focus on Remembrance Day, November 11. Personally, I'm a big fan of our veterans. I try to think of what it must have felt like to ship out from Canada on a boat across the Atlantic to fight in World War I & II. I really can't get my head around it. I think it would have been terrifying. I'm a peace loving guy to begin with, and I imagine most of those who went to war were also peace loving family guys, who had a deep commitment and loyalty to Canada.

It still strikes me when I watch the Remembrance Day services and see the dwindling numbers of veterans with tears streaming down their faces, like the memory of the war was just yesterday, and they are still grieving the loss of that buddy, or buddies like it was today. I don't think we appreciate the significance enough of what happened and what they did for our freedoms. It is so easy to take it for granted.

I love history, so I have spent lots of time with veterans, and listened to their stories. They love to tell their stories. Pretty soon they will be gone, and those stories will go with them. We need to hear those stories, record those stories, and honour they stories by keeping them alive. So here's what I would like us to do this week.

We are going to combine a little History with Language Arts. I want you to watch this video called Learn about Remembrance Day.

In the video, she mentions Lt. Col. John McRae poem, "In Flanders Field's." Now that poem has been put to music as well, and this video combines images from WWI & WWII with the song.

Now after hearing about the history of Remembrance Day and the Poppy, combined with the poem/song, In Flander's Field, write your response on my blog here. "What does it make you think about? How do you feel about what the veterans did for us? What do we need to do to keep their stories and memories alive?" Tell me what you think, even in a few sentences.

For those of you with a video camera, and you know a veteran, go out a record a story and post it on my blog, or your own blog site.

Lest we forget!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Week 2

Well, I'm sitting here in Prince Albert, SK watching the election results for the American election. A week ago, I was in the capital of Canada; Ottawa, the hub of all political happenings for Canada. However, the recent media coverage of the American election has overshadowed our own political events. It was only three weeks ago, we had our own national election. Less than a week ago, our government appointed 38 Conservative cabinet ministers, the most in years. How many Americans could name the leaders of the five main Canadian political parties, while we, in Canada, know the names of the two presidential leaders, their running mates, their spouses, and how many houses they own. Somehow our political news seems to pale in comparison to the historical US election that will affect us in Canada. Maybe that's why we are fixated to this presidential race.

A recent Environics survey reported by the CBC said that, "Fifteen per cent of Canadians would give up their ballot in Canada's next federal election to vote in the U.S. election." Wow! Some might wonder why I'm venturing into politics on this blog. But I believe it is important to us to teach our youth about the importance of politics and how the American political scenery influences our Canadian economy (the recent sub-prime bailout and market drop), our foreign policy (Canadian troops in Afghanistan), to just name a few.

It's the Message, Stupid: What Really Matters in American Politics examines the strategies that both the Democrats and Republicans use to spin the message. This week, I would like our eTeachers and eStudents alike to consider a variety of questions with regard to the election. It is important that we think about this topic from a variety of perspectives, in order to develop a well-rounded understanding of politics, both Canadian and American.

1) What are the implications of the USA possibly electing an African American president or a female Vice President? How has the USA been able to move past race and gender issues to embrace change from traditional voting patterns? What would it take for Canada to elect a First Nations Prime Minister? What would need to change to make that happen? Write a blog expressing an opinion on this.

2) Is the message the most important aspect, or is it the experience or character of the leader that determines who should be elected? After viewing the Discovery video, produce a sixty second video with your webcam and post it on Youtube stating your opinion about whether the message is the most important or something else.

3) Watch the SNL video of the Obama vs. McCain debate poking a little fun at the event. Produce a viral video with your cellphone or webcam putting a humorous spin on politics as you see it playing out. Keep it clean!

4) Read the article: Obama: A Full Partnership with Indian Country and discuss the position of Barack Obama towards Native Americans and how it compares or differs from Canadian political attitudes or platforms towards our First Nations people. Discuss your response with another person.

5) Respond to the CBC quote of 15% of Canadians wishing to vote in the American election by writing a paragraph stating your position: Agree or Disagree. Why or why not?

Hope you give some thought to this topic. See you next week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Week 1

First of all, I'm sitting in my hotel room in Ottawa, Ont. where I'm attending a Data Management Workshop hosted by the Canadian Council of Learning. I'm here because, we are investigating the potential for Credenda to be a host for our regional data. But I digress.

My name is Vince Hill. I'm the Director/Principal of Credenda Virtual High School. I was invited to Prince Albert Grand Council to create the online solution in response to a 2004 Indicators Report they produced that outlined a shortage of math and science classes being offered in our northern schools in Saskatchewan.

Today, we offer over 30 online, live courses to over 150 high school eStudents from across the province, and 4 post-secondary programs to over 120 eStudents. Our website is www.credenda.net. Currently, we have four of us taking the Wilkes program and another to join us in January. During the last class, Digital Storytelling, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I set up an online group discussion using our ElluminateLive tool. We had 9 - 10 participants join us, included the instructor, where we discussed the assignments and gave feedback to ideas. That really added to my online experience, and I believe to others as well. (We meet on Tuesday evening, 9PM on ElluminateLive. Just enter your name and no password. Better to have a headset with a microphone.)

I'm looking forward to this class, Digital Media in the Classroom, for different reasons than maybe others, because I am an administrator. I don't have a class to teach, but I supervise the eTeachers that are taking this course. I am particularly interested in how I can support them in their online classrooms in using various types of media to teach our eStudents. I want to be versed in what they are doing, so I can assist them and our eStudents.