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Working with Google+

Beyond the curricular expectations for this term, the focus was to use social media as a learning tool.

To date we have used #twitter #storify #smore and my students have for the most part enjoyed using these in their view non-learning tools for learning. There are definitely a few typically non-engaged students who have thrived and enjoyed this new opportunity and of course a few that even this opportunity did not light their learning flame.

The most recent journey down social media lane was #Google+. In the realm of social media tools, I would have to say that this is one that just has not caught on with the mainstream social media users. It would however provide us with the flexibility and options to learn how to use social media in an effective way both as learning tool and a tool to help build a positive digital footprint.

The task for my students was to take on the persona of the main character in a fictional book they would be reading. They would share and post as the character as if it were actually themselves. The would build a profile for the character and they would evolve as a person though a fictional one.

The first challenge was to create to Google+ accounts, this went fairly smoothly except that some if my students had the difficulty of creating a profile for a person they knew little about. Books needed to be read and the students were forced to pay particular attention to how their main character was developed by the author so that they could build their profile. This really showed me who recognized the development of the character and who did not.

Of course as they developed their profiles, they would also be posting and sharing what was going on in their lives as if it was them living the events occurring in the book. Both as I and my students did this we found out that it was going to take more time than what we had planned to read our books because as things happened we were pausing to share on Google+. For some of my readers this was difficult while for others who were not my typical readers the breaks provided by the need to post keep them going. I did have a couple who struggled with the idea and so they fell back on traditional methods like journaling as the character.

Overall, I feel that this activity was successful and provided my class an opportunity to see a use for social media beyond the “social”

We will try this again, but in small groups reading one common book and each taking on the roles of different characters where we then interact as those characters online.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this activity.

Today was Genius Day

I can say that I anxiously awaited the arrival of our Genius Day for the past week.  It was set out to be the opportunity for my students to work through, and develop the project of their passions, thoughts, ideas and curiosities.  I was nervous though and rightly so.  Students at the intermediate level (Grade 7 and 8) are typically forgetful and apathetic when it comes to learning and school.  I told myself that today would be different and they, my students were excited for this opportunity to have an entire school day to develop their genius plans into to a true reality.

I arrived at school as usual with my coffee in hand, anxiously waiting for my students to arrive carrying whatever they would need to build, create, test, and make.  One after another they arrived asking to put their materials and ingredients into our classroom.  I would arrange the desk so that students working on similar genius projects this would hopefully keep my builders away from my bakers and so on.  We wouldn’t want electronics mixing with liquids that is unless there was an outlying project to explore.  As the students took their seat things were looking well.  We were sitting with almost 95 percent of students prepared to work.  The remaining served as our videographers who would document all of the work being done by their peers.

A few simple yet important instruction were shared before kick off.  1.  Follow your plan.  2. Be safe. and 3. Enjoy yourself.  They were off  building, creating, testing, and making.  The room was a buzz with an energy often unseen in an intermediate class unless they had been told that they had received an extension on a project due the next day.  I too was excited, excited to see their ideas materialize.

As the day wore on students were facing all sorts of challenges in the projects they had set out to work on.  Many of the challenges the face came as surprises and primarily because everything they had learned or read about to date had not been experience by themselves or had been edited in such a way that the errors made were unseen or removed thus leading them to believe the task to be simple.   Were they ever surprised when a challenge popped up.  And the indirect and unexpected learning that occurred was indescribably awesome.

I must say that our Genius Day was a success for the majority.  A success not because everything worked out as planned but because most learned from what the did or encountered over the day.

Below are just a few of the photos to share a glimpse into our day.

IMG_0362

Easy does it, remember what I was told "Be Safe!"

Easy does it, remember what I was told “Be Safe!”

IMG_0357

I can't wait to get this book published!

I can’t wait to get this book published!

I thought it was "measure once, cut twice"

I thought it was “measure once, cut twice”

What should I tell then next?

What should I tell then next?

What's it going to take to get this thing working?

What’s it going to take to get this thing working?

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Speed Geeking

It’s the next evolution of PD for teachers here in the Peel District School Board It was the second #peel21st north Edtech Network meeting held at HBSS.  This session would take on the well known format known as ‘speed dating’ used by many singles seeking companionship or someone to spend a little time with but with a Peel Tech Twist…which is to geekify.  Out fabulous team of ITRT’s (Intstructional Technology Resource Teacher) led by Tina Zita has prepared an excellent schedule of sessions for the coming school year.

These meetings are not only a great way to share and gather information about what is happening around our board but a chance to connect with those who are trying to do just as many other teachers are which is integrating technology into their teaching and learning practices.

The a focus was the topic of BYOD “Bringing Your Own Device”.  Our school board recently “approved a $7 million investment in technology for Peel students that will ensure our schools are increasingly connected and relevant in the 21st Century” with its focus on WiFi infrastructure for all schools.  The result has been a push towards opening the teaching-learning environment to the personal devices many students own.

I was given the opportunity to share my experience with BYOD at the intermediate (Gr. 7 and 8) level.  The primary question asked by the groups during this session was “what does BYOD look like in Grade 7 and 8?”  My response has evolved greatly since the beginning of this school year.  My vision that I shared was, devices out and available at all times, ready to perform. This year however, BYOD has taken on a much different look.  I have far fewer students who bring more than their iPod or smartphones and while there is a use for these devices there are far greater limitations to their usage.  I also shared that I feel that BYOD has been plagued by actions of a few during the previous school year and during the first part of this school year.  And of course this is where the discussion continued.   One group asked the questions, “Have you experienced any issues?”  Whether it was connectivity, to the inability to access device app stores and of course what they were probably trying to get at, bullying/inappropriate use, I was able to share that yes, I have experienced it all.  But of course this allowed me to share that as with any new initiative it is important to lay the groundwork (build a strong sense of Digital Citizenship and an appropriate use policy) for all groups who will participate or face an uphill battle to fix what has been broken.  

Before I knew it the session was over, there was a sense that everyone wanted more, who wouldn’t.  It was a laid back environment where learning was happening at its own pace and in its own direction.  And everyone was able to take just what they wanted away, back to their own school and classroom where they could add it to their arsenal of technology knowledge and tools.  Have questions about my experiences with BYOD at the Intermediate level, feel free to comment, tweet @_PhilYoung or contact me via email @ s.phillip.young@gmail.com  And you can always check out the BYOD video shot at Treeline Public School a couple years back. 

Until the next session

Another new school year…

Three weeks into another school year, and the journey has already proven interesting.  Some may ask, why?  The answer is not so simple.  Every teacher spends any number of days over their summer break preparing for the return back to school following Labour Day, at least in Ontario most of us do.  We revise plans to meet newly released curriculum, we re-think teaching method to reflect best practices, we consider trying something new (e.g., Inquiry-based learning, genius hour), and we organize our classrooms in preparation for the new year.  And, that final weekend before school starts for many is the time to relax with family especially for those with children who are also returning back to school.  Everyone has hopefully managed to survive the summer without illness and our immune systems are in top shape to fend off the new breed of germs a class of 20 or more will throw at us.  I speak for myself, this year was like but unlike all of my previous returns to a new school year.  I was up late the night before the first day, thinking over everything that I would run through ad say on day one with my new group.  I was also returning to a grade that I had not taught in several years, so I was rehashing the whole years’ plans in the back of my mind.  Finally, I would lay down telling myself that sleep was needed.  My son, daughter and wife had all been sick over the long weekend and I figured I was in the clear, I was wrong.  I woke up and mentally tried to get myself prepared for the day ahead.  Mental preparing myself was one thing, but physically my gut was telling me otherwise.  I fought the feeling of nausea, there was no possible way that I wouldn’t make it to my first day.  I mean I had to set things straight on day one, or else I might find myself playing catch up with the whole classroom management piece that we work so hard to develop in week one of a new school year.  I arrived at school after and what would seem like a forever commute, looking according to others “a white as a ghost.”  Thankfully, I had first period prep, it was exactly the way I wanted the year to start, having my students be greeted by someone other than myself but it was a chance for me to gather myself and get a little colour.  I prepared my class with a little letter of introduction outlining some basic expectations and simple beginning of the year activities knowing that I wouldn’t be able to face them on this day one of the new school year.  I made my way to the office and asked my secretary if she could put a 1/2 day job in the system.  I would cross my fingers and hope that at 12 I could fight my way up the stairs to meet each of the 3 classes that I would teach this year.  I made it and I survived the afternoon though I am sure those who saw me would have thought otherwise.

Day Two – Rougher than the first.  How could it be possible to miss the 1st one and a half days.  I guess I would have to wait until day three to set into motion the wheels of learning for the year.

Day Three on….check back for a reflection on some new ideas for a new school year!

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