Wednesday, November 16, 2011

StoryTelling - Every Student is an Individual Story

I've been thinking a great deal about the importance of storytelling lately. We all know people in our lives that have been great storytellers. We could sit and listen to them for hours. Their stories made us laugh, gasp, or even make us cry. But these people have a knack at telling stories because they usually made a point. There was a climax to the story they told. It engaged you as a listener. You don't have to have the best voice to tell a good story, you don't have to look perfect either. One of the best storytellers of our time is Malcolm Gladwell. He has the frizziest hairdo, his voice has a bit of a warble, but he is amazing at telling stories that draws you in as a listener. He rounds out of his stories with a point that doesn't sound preachy, but still gets a point across and makes you think. Let's watch an example of his on TedTalks.


So what is the point I am trying to make you may ask?

I was a conference recently, and the speaker, Sir Ken Robinson said this, "Education has to be personal. Every student is an individual story. Unless education is personal, it is nothing." What piqued my interest is the phrase that every student is an individual story. I don't want our students coming to school each day as part of a mechanical process, but as an organic process. Learning must have a life of it's own. With that life is a story. Each student at Credenda is a story. A story that I want told. I don't care about what any of us look like, or sounds like, I care about about the story that is told, and we all need to listen to each others stories. It was Hemingway that said, "when people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." I want the students of Credenda to know, that we are listening. We want to hear your stories of hope, challenges, failures, successes, and more. That is what makes our lives richer. So when you do your assignments, or come to class, approach your learning as you are telling your story. I'm listening, and so are our teachers.

Now a cool tool that I think might come in handy with teachers is CiteThisForMe.  One of the things going for it, is that it allows for books, journals, newspapers, and websites to be cited and then added to your document that you are working on. It's clean and easy to use. And it's free.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BYOD - bring your own device

Just sitting here listening to Jason Ohler speak at the Leadership 2011 conference in Edmonton, AB. My interested was piqued with a couple of statements he made around digital literacy. "We limit our students from expressing themselves with the medium they know. They live a non-digitalized life at school and digital life outside of school."

He's referring to how many times we take the cell phones or smartphones from our students and force them to write an essay about an outcome that could been demonstrated with some form of media that the students already know and used outside of school.

Now he wasn't saying that we stop writing, in fact, he said that the writing is critical to good productions with media. However, we need to encourage the students to use the media they are familiar with to create visual writing. It's important that common activities for math, language arts, science be done in ways that a story can to told with media. 

To illustrate, he showed the video by Hans Rosling that took normal boring stats and animated them telling a story.

I think this is a great illustration of bringing the ordinary alive.

On a another note, here's a great tool, Tagxedo. This tool turns words, speeches, and more into shapes. It's something like Wordle but with specific shapes and patterns. Pretty cool.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Flipped Classroom

What is a flipped classroom? According to Jerry Overmyer a "Flipped Classroom is a model of teaching in which a student’s homework is the traditional lecture viewed outside of class on a vodcast. Then class time is spent on inquiry-based learning which would include what would traditionally be viewed as a student’s homework assignment. Synonymous with Reverse Classroom."

I've been hearing a lot lately about this relatively new education practice. It is very constructivist and project-based for that matter. Some might say this isn't anything really new, but I think it is. The difference comes from the use of the video blended with a screencast. Here's a video that describes how one teacher uses it:

Here's another teacher using the flipped model:

These teachers are creating their own resources. Great stuff! But it also takes a lot of work. Another teacher flipped his classroom using Khan Academy math, science, and humanities resources. Here's the link to this story: The Flipped Classroom Advances: Developments in Reverse Learning and Instruction

I guess some of my interest was piqued recently around the Flipped Classroom, when I watched a TedTalk video by Salman Khan. Here it is:

Here at Credenda, we use live instruction with ElluminateLive to deliver our instruction. Even though we use technology to deliver instruction, it can be very much a matter of an eTeacher trying to recreate a face to face classroom online. That doesn't work, because lecture styled instruction doesn't necessarily work best. We have to make the learning experience more engaging. Using technology like an iTouch with videos is very creative, using screencasts makes sense as well. Sometimes I think we overwhelm our students with too much information, and really not think about how much are they retaining.

So how can we at Credenda create a flipped classroom for our students? First of all, I would hate to lose the live experience in creating a flipped classroom. I don't think we would have to either. Using ElluminateLive and using the video inset into the session with the whiteboard as the screencast is what we do each day already. The difference comes into play when we allow students to access their archived, recorded classes on their own time as in a Flipped Classroom, and using the regularly scheduled time during the day to help students with their homework. Could it work? Yes. I think it could, but it would take some reeducating of eStudents and eTeachers. If we try something like this at Credenda, we need to run a pilot first and see how it works.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Honour the Treaties!!!

I don't generally venture into the political in a public forum, however, some things need to be said because it is just right to speak out. It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.” To remain quiet is to ignore the great need in a land where truth, justice and liberty are upheld. Aaron Huey: America's Native Prisoners of War video brought this to mind when I recently watched this TedTalk video. What a powerful photo essay about a place that I had the opportunity to visit in July 2010.

Aaron passionately outlined the challenges the Lakota and Sioux are facing. Last summer, I had an opportunity to see it firsthand, and the images are not easily erased. Let me describe my experience. We drove down to South Dakota for a family vacation to attend a weekend of outdoor concerts, see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Devil's Tower, the Black Hills, and go camping. After we finished seeing the sites, I had one more thing in my bucket list that I wanted to do. I wanted to go to Wounded Knee. If you look at the map I've embedded, the Oglala Reservation is a large area south of Rapid City, and from first glance, Wounded Knee should be pretty straight forward to find.

Not so! We drove southeast from Rapid City watching the looming black horizon filled with lightning draw near, almost as a metaphor of what we were soon to see. We drove eventfully on to the Reservation filled with wide open fields; some developed and others empty grassland. I couldn't believe how much land there was. Then out of the blue was a huge casino and hotel in the middle of nowhere. My wife and I looked at each other and commented about how it seemed so oddly placed. Beyond the casino, we continued to drive and see relatively nothing again for miles. Slowly, we began to see the odd house trailer scattered alongside the road. There was so little development of the land or resources.

Then we drove into Pine Ridge past the Red Cloud Indian School, which was a stark contrast from the rest of the homes and buildings that displayed so much poverty. We were overwhelmed by what we saw. I reflected back to my days of growing up on Atikameg Lake First Nation in Canada, and found myself thinking that even though we had very little back in the 1960's, these people in 2010 have far less. Little did I know what I would hear firsthand from some of the community members.

We looked at the map and continued down the #18 highway in search of Wounded Knee. We drove past Batesland realizing we were now off the Reserve, but we hadn't seen a sign for Wounded Knee. I kept saying, "You'd think with such a huge significant event like Wounded Knee, there would be a sign." We had been so used to signs everywhere pointing out Mt. Rushmore, and every little underground cave open for tours. But not one sign for Wounded Knee. I put it into the GPS, and nothing. The map just showed a general area, but no roads. We knew we were in the right area, so we started taking roads north of the #18 and crisscrossing back and forth. Finally, we found it. A big green sign with writing on it describing the events of the that dreadful day in 1890.

Not much of a sign considering what happened over a hundred years ago. It was almost as if the American government didn't really care if people visited this site, read about it, or even found it for that matter. There was no tourist booth, other than free standing poles with makeshift pine boughs draped across to shelter people selling a few trinkets and necklaces from the summer heat To one side of the stand were two binders full of photocopied pictures describing the Massacre at Wounded Knee, but no government issued pamphlets or brochures. One elder was there who explained about the living conditions on the Reserve. Across the way, his sister lived in a trailer without power or running water. She used an outhouse, and had a 100 ft. extension cord running from a power pole that had a makeshift power box so she could run a hot plate. The stories were sad and heart wrenching.

And then there was this picture taken in 1890. The elder asked me if I knew why the person pictured to the left was wearing a scarf around his head. I shrugged, "I don't know." He replied, "Because he was scalped by the Cavalry." I don't know about you, but that really hit me hard. The whole event was wrong, but so much information is being buried from the public. I left Wounded Knee that day with a pit in my stomach. It stayed with me for days, and rightly so. Herein lies the problem. The treaties, which are binding covenants between the government and the people need to be honoured. Apologies for the atrocities need to be made. The government cannot look the other way and ignore what is happening in Oglala.

I really appreciated Aaron Huey's talk. It made me think, it made me remember, now I want my voice to to join his and speak out calling for action.