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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

I am sure Mrs. Renaud would have stumbled upon Twitter on her own in short time.  In fact I am pretty sure she had an account and maybe just wasn’t using it yet.  I am not going to take credit where it is not due, ie. it was not I that made her “Tweet”.  After all she is correct in saying that it “is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education.”  So as the Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair person I expected her, sooner or later, to engage with the various accounts that our school had to offer.  Why then aren’t all parents grabbing this same opportunity, this chance, to keep their ears on the tracks and their eyes on the horizon while their children fly by on the high velocity train we are calling the education system today.  That is to say that many schools are catching that train.  Others may be slow off the platform while still others are sitting at the station waiting for the bus.  Nevertheless, the realm of social media and content creation in my context is a realm of learning, connecting, creating and collaborating for all learners.

This image, pulled from twitter just this evening in fact, states a powerful message about harnessing the power inherent in the technology of today.  Try inserting Parents or Principals in place of Teachers!

Author Unknown

Author Unknown: If you know of the origin please comment so I can verify and attribute please.

It wasn’t long into the school year that Mrs. Renaud began recognizing the power of the twitter-verse.  She soon started sending tweets about her learning as a parent.  Her son and his classmates interacted with her.  She shared these experiences with other parents.  Shortly after that Stephanie discovered #ptchat (parent/teacher chat).  She attended EdCampSWO on April 6, 2014 and now is looking to start her own twitter groups to help other parents learn alongside their children.  Below is a culmination of all these experiences in the form of an article that she wrote for a regional publication highlighting the power that social media, specifically twitter, can have on the relationships between parents, students and school. Please read this guest post by Mrs. Renaud and then feel free to send her a tweet and let her know what great work she is doing as a learning parent!

It’s Sweet To Tweet! A Guide to Twitter for Parents

by: Stephanie Renaud (@yoga_junkie) Eastwood (@EastwoodEagles) Parent Involvement Committee (@EastwoodPIC) Chair

Twitter is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education.  Schools and their teachers are jumping on the bandwagon by the dozen.

If you are not a Twitter user already, I am sure you have heard of it.  It is very simple to create an account.  All you need is an email address.  You are in complete control of what you follow, so it is easy to customize your feed to your interests and likes, much like Facebook.  A quick search of the Greater Essex County District School Board site reveals that many, if not most schools have an account that you can follow, as well as individual teachers, classes, school organizations and administrators.

I contend that, as parents, we would be well placed to be jumping on the band wagon as well.  Here’s why.

Reasons why is it sweet to tweet as a parent.

#1 Connect with other parents.

Community is a powerful thing.  In a time when so many of us are part of dual parent working families, we barely have time to kiss our kids goodnight when we tuck them in, to say nothing of building relationships within our community.  Yet these connections are what makes life meaningful.  These connections help us to understand that we are not alone, that there are others out there who have the same joys and struggles we do.  In the same way that Facebook allows us to efficiently and conveniently connect with our friends and loved ones about our lives, twitter can help us connect to our children, our community and our schools in convenient, manageable ways.

#2 Up to the moment info on what your kid is doing at school.

How many of us ask our kids what they did at school today?  I am willing to wager all of us.  How often is the answer “oh, nothing.”  Ugh! I am trying to be interested here! Twitter offers you the opportunity to be tuned in to what your kids are doing on a day-to-day basis so you can ask questions that are much more specific.  The more specific you are, the more interested you sound, and the more likely you are to get a meaningful response.  When our kids feel like we are interested in their learning, their learning becomes just that much more engaging for them.  Who knows? We might just learn something new ourselves.

#3 Tweeting saves trees.

How much paper comes home in your kids’ school bags?  If they are anything like mine, it’s at least a small forest per week.  In an effort to reduce the paper waste in schools, many of them post updates and information on Twitter. Trouble is, not enough parents are active on the interface to substantially reduce the need for paper communication.  Become active, it can reduce waste.

#4 A place to ask questions and get answers from people who know.

As parents with children in school we often have questions and concerns about what happens at school with our kids.  Tweeting these questions and concerns allows us the opportunity to connect not only with other parents who may be wondering the same thing, but also with professionals both in our school community and in the larger global community who can give us answers, feedback and next steps.  Without leaving our kitchen table.

#5 A safe place to air general concerns and share ideas.

Who has time to go another meeting? So often our concerns and ideas are shelved due to sheer lack of time to set the meeting, to address or share them.  Let alone attend that meeting and be present enough to make it meaningful.  Tweet it.  Instantly your concern is communicated to the relevant people, be it your administrator, your child’s classroom teacher or the parent involvement committee for your school or region.   To make it even better? The responses are delivered right to your mobile device, be it iPhone, iPad or laptop.  Did  you have an idea to share? A new way to approach a problem that you see with how your school operates? Tweet it! Ideas are powerful things, and are better when shared.

#6 Does your child have special needs? Reach out to others who walk the same path.

With the rise of ADHD, autism and other developmental and behavioural diagnosis in children it has become more important than ever that we connect with other parents who do the same job we do.  Sharing ideas, questions, and struggles is a great way to help our own parenting strategies evolve and improve.  As a special needs parent, the more tools I have, the more effective I can be.

#7 Great way to stayed connected as a working parent

Let’s face it, we are all way too busy.   Being more involved in our children’s education is something many, if not most of us want to do that we just feel we don’t have the time for.  The emergence of social media as a tool makes being involved as easy as checking your twitter feed.  It only takes a few minutes, and instantly you are more informed, more involved.  Like my mom always told me, knowledge is power.

#8  Knowledge is power.

The more information we have as parents about how and what our children are learning, the more we can support and extend the learning beyond the classroom.  Research is clear on this point.  The more education is extended beyond the four walls of the classroom, the more meaningful and long-lasting  it becomes.  How powerful is that?

As parents of increasingly technologically capable young people it behooves us to join the digital movement.  With awareness and involvement in the digital world we have the ability to guide and safeguard our children in the new digital frontier, and join with our schools in facilitating the development of our students as global citizens with media savvy.

Every school in the #GECDSB has a website.  I encourage you to look up your schools website where they will no doubt have multiple twitter accounts listed.

If you are still not feeling too confident that you can set up your own account and get tweeting, check out these links which lead you to some nice, simple How-To guides to get you started.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/how-to-use-twitter/#!DDUXH

http://mainframereview.com/how-to-twitter-for-dummies/

Tweet, engage, empower.  It’s that simple.

 Special thanks for this post goes to Stephanie Renaud, Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair

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@DougPete’s post today about the Hour of Coding event of December got me thinking…

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It started me on a hunt for the name of that “trackball tank” we used in the computer lab at Essex High school with Mr. Ryan. I did not find it.

I found something better!

Check out this gem from 1980. There is coding on page 10/11, Nostradamus like predictions on the “Media Librarian” on page 4 and this great article on student programmers who will “learn to program by the 7th grade.”

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I found this PDF at Slashdot.org . Have fun.

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Cross-Post Thursday!

Today’s Blog post is a cross-post shared by Doug Peterson of Off the Record.   The interview took me some time so cheating here and using it in my 21 day event made sense.  I’ve had the honour of knowing Doug for some time.  Since I came on to teaching  actually.  He has been influential to so many educators by turning them on to some new tool that invoked critical thought or creativity in students.  Want to know what is going on in innovative Ontario classrooms?  Follow Off the Record.  You will be in the know.

An Interview with James Cowper

Posted on October 22, 2013 by @dougpete

I’ve had the pleasure to work with James Cowper in a couple of schools where he has served the Greater Essex County District School Board as an administrator.  He’s a supporter of teachers, as you would expect from an administrator, but he also “walks the walk” when it comes to using technology in education.  Recently, we met for a coffee to chat and solve all of the world’s problems and that served as a launchpad for this interview.

Doug:  Thanks, James, for sharing your thoughts via this blog post.

James:  No problem Doug.  I am happy to talk and listen with you.  I am quite flattered that you wanted to hear my thoughts and stories of days in the schoolhouse working with learners of all ages!  I appreciate it.  Thanks.

Doug:  I recall our first encounters with technology – it seems so long ago that you were involved in a technology project when you were at Mill Street Public School in Leamington.  What did you learn from working with students at Mill Street?

James:  I learned that kids are kids everywhere you go.  I came in on the front end of an ICT project in which recycled computers along with millions of meters of RJ45 (EthernetPicture1 cable) were deployed to a 350 pupil K-8 school.  The computers had competent capabilities and the staff and students were anxious to use them.  What I learned about kids and computers was that it is the creativity that we must exercise with the tools of the trade.  Using the computers, funny I don’t even call them that anymore, to drill and kill or surf and turf is just not the ticket.  Kids need to create, collaborate and communicate with the technology.  I learned an awful lot about what not to do with technology funny enough.  Of course we were doing the best that we could do at the time.  PL around the high-end use of the devices was not structured or supported in a way that would lead to critical use of the tools.  I learned that you couldn’t fool kids.  Saying that computers engage kids and then using them as word processors, encyclopedias and digital worksheets only lasts so long.  If you do this for too long the kids will video you teaching the class, put it to music, morph Albert Einstein’s head onto your body and post the video for all their tweeps to see.  Seriously.  It is not the computers or the iPads that “engage” kids.  It is the access to the world, the creative quotient and the ease of collaboration that engages them.  Those things are not done with a device, a computer alone.  They must be married to the facilitation and supervision of a learning teacher.

Doug:  Since that time, you have been promoted to Principal at Eastwood Public School in Windsor.  During our coffee, you indicated that you’ve been there for five years now.  So, a question – if someone is making their first trip to Eastwood – what would they see that would invoke the understanding that this school really has its act together with respect to Technology?

Picture3James:  Well, we don’t have hover boards and wear silver suits yet.  Kids are not glued to screens with robotic teachers.  Books and board games is still the best part of the day at first nutrition break so I am not sure you would really be able to see a difference.  I apologize for my sarcasm.  I mean no offence.  Really.  If you had asked me what school would look like in the year 2013 when I was in grade 5 I would have said flying in cars and learning from robots!   (I think Ms. McTavish assigned that project!) You can feel a difference at Eastwood School.  At least that is what almost every visitor has said to me at one point or another.  What you can feel is a calm energy that comes when we are all functioning at very close wavelengths.  Kids are working at learning and teachers are learning while working.  It is symbiotic.  The technology that is incorporated into the day and the learning is organic.  Getting an iPad is not a monumental event.  Students do not run full tilt to the power cart.  It sits open and students get them when they need them.  There are no more labs.  We do not covet our tools in closets or the Principal’s office to gather dust.  I would say that the novelty of the device is gone.  What is left is a new type of pen and pencil.  Kids view them as tools to do the business of learning.  It is not the device that has made the difference at Eastwood it is the inherent connectivity that has.  The device without Wi-Fi access would be like having a Porsche without tires.  You can enjoy the look and the rev of that awesome engine you just couldn’t go anywhere.  Kids do walk around with devices.  We have BYOD norms.  Before you even walked in the door you would recognize we have a pretty substantial online presence.  Short of that we have a staff that continue to learn and grow in the area of tech. utilization, integration and content creation.  We are as careful as we can be with regards to where and how we spend our limited budget dollars.  We also are always looking for innovative ways to build community partnerships.  Two years ago we were awarded a reading grant, the first in the district, and we gained the opportunity to spend eighty thousand dollars on learning resources.  So as a school that has its act together I would say that we have found the reasonable and appropriate place to infuse technological tools to enhance our learning.  I would say that we have been responsible digital citizens.  I would also say we’ve lots to learn and much work to do.

Thanks Doug for allowing me to share here.  If you wish to read the interview in its entirety please follow the links to Off the Record.

Tomorrow’s post–Hey Principals!  Are Those Teachers on Twitter?

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A video that was inspired by @Johnwink90 ‘s 136 character tweet.

On Saturday, July 18, I participated in #satchat.  I had some time while the kids were playing Plants versus Zombies (the “Cowper Game App of the Summer!”).   I had a coffee and my partner was reading beside me.  I figured….why not.  The topic of the day was “Back to School” and leading us was @DCulberhouse.  I knew that the majority of the educators were West Coasties and I was interested in their take on Back to School.  Of course there were many other participants from all over North America.  Until the spammers got ahold of the hashtag things were going great.  Of course the infiltration of spammers has nothing to do with the good people leading or participating in #satchat.  On the contrary.  The fact that we were trending a topic on a Saturday morning across the continent (and warranted the most inappropriate spam) speaks volumes about the quality of the 140 character content.

As @dougpete explains in What does Twitter for PD Mean; Twitter can be a launching pad:


The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

After reading @dougpete’s blog entry and considering many conversations with incredible learning leaders like @kellypower and @globeandtims I continue to rehash the essential question:  Is Twitter a Professional Learning tool?

Well, in this particular instance,:

  1. I participated in the chat on Saturday with a group of like-minded educators passionate about learning and opening the school year (from all over North America).
  2. I learned of a myriad of ways other leaders are handling logistical issues that are ever-present in the first weeks of school.
  3. I grabbed a few nuggets of wisdom that resonated with me.
  4. I learned of many ideas, best practises and innovations for having a successful Back to School Night.
  5. I learned of one Principal (@JohnWink90) making “How To” videos for his parents and community.
  6. I made the committment to “give it a go” (thanks for the lingo @jessmcculloch) myself with an iPad, iMovie and our Eastwood Eagles YouTube account.
  7. I filmed the entire video using my own children and a few adult helpers as “actors” on the very same day.
  8. I then sent the video to three individuals (@avivaloca being one), I have never met face to face, for their perspective and assistance (as well as an administrator in a neighbouring district.)
  9. I also sent the video to two Vice Principals in my district for their perspective and assistance.
  10. Finally I uploaded the video to our school blog and mailed it directly to our faculty (we have some new faces)

I have captured the moment I got the idea with this image:

This endeavour involved professionals, learning, technology tools, acting (doing) and reflecting.  I will undoubtedly get feedback from the community, other school leaders and the kids.  Granted there is not a direct impact on student achievement.  I still believe firmly that the reason I engaged in the entire process was because I am a member of an ever-expanding professional learning network through Twitter.  Again, in this instance the power of social media lead to deeper learning experiences.

For me Twitter has not been the best professional learning I have ever engaged in.  I believe that saying this is hyperbole.  On the contrary I have had some incredibly moving learning experiences with one, two or three people in a room making dialogue over work, learning, dilemmas or successes of our profession.  These are the professional learning experiences that have been the most riveting and influential.  Funny thing is. . . without Twitter I may not have had the opportunity to have these conversations with the likes of those mentioned above (not to mention the 34 #UnPlugd12 -ers from last weekend!).  Twitter has turned me on to some individuals who have led me to question, bolster, appreciate, act on and essentially change my perspective on just about everything I have learned to this point.

Thanks good sir.  I hope it helps our school community this September.  I am going to have some fun filming a trailer for this academic year next!

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