Archive for December, 2014

Turns out making my summary of learning was just as steep of a learning curve as the learning from this course! Well maybe I shouldn’t go quite that far but I did want to document the trials and tribulations I experienced in getting it all to come together.

It all started with seeing Ryan Josephson’s Summary of Learning from the last section of ECI 831. Have a look…

(Be sure to watch the credits! He’s hilarious!)

I was inspired by his work but not sure that was the path I would follow…though as a music teacher it would be a natural fit! At the time I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with all of my class, job and life responsibilities and I was wishing I could have an extra day in the week or at least a few more hours…or maybe a million more?!

Hmmm…If I had a million hours…? Well sure enough, I found a hook and some creative inspiration from one of my favourite bands, The BareNaked Ladies. And so, If I had a million ‘hours’ began playing in my head and the new lyrics started flowing. I sat down with the real lyrics beside me and crafted some new ones to incorporate as much as I could of my EC&I 831 learnings.

Next up? Finding an app for making a video. In a recent post about digital storytelling I had tried VoiceThread but wanted this to be more active, not just pictures accompanied by sound. IMovie would’ve been a great choice (so I’ve heard) but as I was on a PC I had to find something different. I found YouTube Movie Maker, which I chose for its presumed compatibility with YouTube (but learned belatedly has no affiliation) and started to play around. I sang a little acapella and created a secondary video track with harmony to lay on top. My crude trial worked great…but if I showed it to you I’d have to hide my digital presence! There’s some things that don’t need to be posted even in the name of educational reflection!!

What I can show you is my next experiment. I was planning to find a nice karaoke version of the tune, upload it into YouTube Movie Maker and voila, get on with video editing. However, then the discussion of music copyright dampened my spirits. Now what? Around the same time Jenn Stewart Mitchell posted a great blog about creating with GarageBand. In it she referenced Ryan Hicks‘ YouTube ‘how to’ for creating and learning with GarageBand and iPad/iPhone. Here’s his simple and very effective tutorial:

Thanks Ryan! Armed with information I downloaded GarageBand on my mini-iPad and started playing around. This is my test song about bats that I created for my Grade 2 students.

And here’s where I hit the snag. In order to upload it onto YouTube Movie Maker I had to save it on my hard drive but couldn’t get it from my iPad over to my PC. I saved it to the cloud, I tried to email it, I couldn’t access the wave file….BOO! All sorts of difficulties! Though I do play piano, I didn’t really have the time to get my ‘chops’ to par.

Thanks again to Ryan for trying to help me through the process. When I told him my goal and the problems I was having, he suggested the karaoke route that I originally planned was probably the easiest route AND if I couldn’t find it he’d spend about 10 minutes or so to whip off a recording for me. How cool is that?!

So back to my karaoke plan and let the copyright gods smite me down all in the name of higher education…hopefully it won’t come to that! I found and bought a karaoke version (eventually), in the wrong key (of course), then found a free pitch changer (yay!) and uploaded the music I need to start my final project (finally!) Wheeeww!

Let the recording begin! …wait, first I need to practise, and practise…and practise some more.

A couple days later I went back on YouTube Movie Maker to work on recording only to discover a not-so-subtle watermark brand across the screen. Nope, sorry, not upgrading. Next!

I spent a while looking for other video recorders and editing software and dallied a little on youtube looking at other Summary of Learning posts. This was one of my finds and I am inadvertently using the same song:( Can’t a girl catch a break?! Here’s a shout out to the ECMP 455 students who made this for their summary of learning…check theirs out here! They learned a lot! But I digress…

One of the other Summaries I found talked about using a video editor called Camtasia. While waiting for the free trial to download (…it better be good!) I found one of Alec’s favs that he’s shared as a stellar example. Check it out. It’s an amazing example of what video editing can be.

Finally got Camtasia running and did some experimentation. As an old administrator of mine used to say, “Slow is fast”…especially when trying to sync up audio and video tracks I would add! After about 4 hours I’ve got an experimental 60 seconds or so…ARGH!!! But, on the upside, now I know what I’m doing. I think.

I really liked working with Camtasia but did have a few hiccups in the process. It was great to be able to lay different tracks down though I think a good mic would’ve helped. I also wasn’t sure how to sing along without having the music dubbed over again with each singing track thus the earbuds you see in the final product. The call-out option was awesome and if I had had more time I would’ve figured out the transition feature to make them a little more interesting…pretty sure I could do that easily on PowerPoint;)! Another thing that would’ve made editing easier would be if the time sequencer could display in beats rather than seconds. Despite zooming in it was really hard to sync up the background vocals when I split them so it was just easier to leave it in place on the screen throughout though it wasn’t as visually appealing. If I were to do it again I would spend a LOT more time planning and mapping out the video so it would be a more seamless end product. I am well aware of the not-quite synced up audio and uncertain ‘acting’ as far as the placement of the back-up singer goes, not to mention a few sour notes! Ouch! And finally, I was really disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to add in the alternate endings I had planned!

Let’s see..

“When I have a few more hours…

…I’d ‘Share More’! (a la Ryan Josephson!)

…I’d get an ‘A’!

…but I don’t!

…I’d be rich!

…I’d get some sleep! (possibly my favourite)

Ah, well, the moment has passed. Here it is in case you missed it on my final summary of learning post.

Thanks for taking part in my learning journey this semester and thanks for reading!

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This semester I have been very busy learning online about learning online…

That is, I’ve been taking ECI 831 Social Media and Open Education with Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrant as part of my Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction. I have never been a student of a class with so much freedom as this one. I loved having the opportunity to reflect on my online experiences and our weekly course topics.

Photo Credit: JaulaDeArdilla via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: JaulaDeArdilla via Compfight cc

As a child of the ’80s I’ve experience a lot of technological shifts that have had such an impact on our society. When I was young my dad used to say the phone was a communication device, not for visiting. To him it was still technology, to me it was part of daily life. I remember our first (expensive) VCR, loading game tapes on a Commodore64, using floppy discs and typing essays on an electronic typewriter. I learned how to email at university and once owned a clunky flip phone.

As far as teaching goes I’ve recorded (first with mic and tape then with digital recorders), copied (dubbing tapes then burning cds) and shared music parts via wiki (or tried to!) I’ve set up email groups to communicate with twelve schools about our joint band program and purchased music notation software licensing for my school. I have seen the change from overhead projector to data projector and used laptops, a document camera, Skype and iPads in the classroom. And I’ve only been teaching since 2000.

My online presence began when I started FaceBook around 2006 so I could ‘hang out around the water cooler’ while on maternity leave. It was nice to feel connected to friends and family from home. I got my first iPhone a few years ago (so I could text with the real world) and now feel a little lost without the easy access to information, my contacts, my email and even work projects. Technology and being connected has changed how I do business–from checking in with my spouse and making babysitting arrangements to collaborating with other teachers and reconnecting with old friends.

It has even changed our language and social rules. Last week our prof and guest speaker, Alec Couros noted his son’s use of ‘buffering’ to describe his siblings confused pause and I hear it in my son’s use of ‘pause’ (as in video games) rather than ‘just a second, mom!’ I’ve sat at gatherings watching friends socialize on their phones and simultaneously curate events with Snapchat or Instagram.

As Marshall McLuhan discovered, “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

Photo Credit: ePublicist via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ePublicist via Compfight cc

 

Participating in ECI 831 has definitely shaped me. As part of this class we were required to develop our Professional Learning Network through Blogging, Twitter and Google+….not to mention complete a major digital project through the course of the semester.

Here’s my recap on my networking experiences:

 

 

BLOGGING

why i blogThen – I had started blogging about a year and a half ago when an accident left me off work for a few months. I took that opportunity for some professional development, namely trying some new digital tools I hoped one day I could implement in my classroom. I spent a lot of time setting up my blog and loved writing about my recovery, career aspirations and parenthood. I set my publishing settings to automatically publish to my facebook and twitter accounts but my few posts were read mostly by my facebook friends.

Now – I have really enjoyed all the writing I have done for my blog this semester and I’m excited to have a wider audience by nature of our class blog hub. I’ve also extended my publishing messages to Google+ and include different hashtags that relate to my post and consequently have gotten an even wider audience than before. I’ve made a few tweaks to my blog layout by including category tabs at the top of my home page and my twitter feed but what I’m most proud of is the richness of my blog posts now compared to back when I started. I’m using lots of hyperlinks (to articles or people) and pingbacks when I remember which colleague’s blog I read that inspired me! I’m including lots of images and videos that I’ve found on copyright free sources like compfight and learned how to embed them and their source seamlessly into my text. And, finally last night I figured out how to add sources as captions and align pictures on either side of the text. YES! I think my titles and writing engage my audience and I’m really excited about getting the occasional comment from people outside our class community. I was also really stoked to discover I have over 400 followers! What?! When did that happen!

Next Steps – I’m still debating about whether or not I need an About.Me page since Twitter and my blog are the main sites I want public. I guess Google+ would be another though I’m not sure how many identities I can manage! (I intend to keep my Facebook account private for now though it is becoming a great space to connect with teachers and find teacher resources.) I do however, need to do a few updates on my About me section in my blog as well as the Ed Tech section now that I have so much new learning to add to it. I’d also like to tweak the category tabs at the top of my page into drop down menus so visitors can more easily see what I’m writing about.

I’m also really excited about starting a classroom blog sometime in the new year and I’ve spoken with our tech consultant about getting my grade 2 students on their own blogs as well. It is such a motivational platform for writing and I know they would be really excited to publish their work on their own site. I’m looking forward to connecting with +Lisa K and +Justine Stephanson who have implemented student blogs this fall and will serve as my model. Sue Waters also put me on to a fabulous teacher’s blog that’s another great example of blogging in the classroom. I already have a list to check out and am excited to add mine to the fray!

TWITTER

Then – I started my twitter account around the same time as my blog when I had some time on my hands to experiment. I searched for topics of interest and followed lots of people that Twitter suggested based on those interests. I asked a few colleagues about the use of hashtags and started to group the people I follow into lists. But, mostly it just seemed like work filtering through all the noise so I didn’t make much use of it. I locked my account so people had to request to follow me and was a little weirded out that everyone can see my thoughts online!

Now – I’m really excited about how my use of Twitter has changed this semester. A shout out to Kelly Christopherson for his Tweetdeck tutorial that revolutionized my use of Twitter! Now I have hashtags of interest set up in columns so I can see at a glance what is happening in the communities I am interested in. I am using hashtags in my bio and posts with much better fluency and with more purpose in order to reach out to the communities I am interested in (like #gamification or #dgbl…digital game based learning) or communities I am a part of (#saskedchat, #regteach or #yqrlearn).

tweetdeck capture

I have taken part in some twitter chats (#saskedchat, #moedchat, and one about gifted learning) and I’m really excited about having connected with new people who have liked my blogposts or responded via twitter. It’s pretty cool that someone I don’t know has taken enough interest in what I’ve contributed to reply with a comment.

At the same time as developing my professional twitter account, I have also been using a classroom account (set up by my job share partner, Amy Lawson). I am tweeting out the happenings in our classroom and even started a twitter measurement challenge with my grade 2 students. Still waiting for takers but at least we put it out there!

Next Steps – I plan to continue reaching out! There’s a whole list of hashtags I’d like to explore as well as chats I’d like to take in. I’m also wondering if it’s worth it to take a second look at the ‘list’ function to see how that can help me further develop my PLN.  Though I’m not sure how much stock to put in the follows vs. followed by ratio, I’m sure my ‘follows’ list could stand some weeding! As far as using twitter in the classroom, I would like to get my students more involved in the actual writing and posting of the tweets and in using hashtags to find information and communities that would benefit our learning.

GOOGLE+

Then – I few years ago one of my young colleagues was trying to connect our isolated community of band directors via google docs. Though she even set up a common google user name and password it never really took off and we were back to the email circus! Around the same time I was introduced to DropBox as a way to share student account information. Because I didn’t have to use it often I was nervous and clumsy each time I logged in….what’s that password again?! My next Google doc sharing experiences were about the same.

Jump ahead to last winter when in my first grad class my group, including our current classmate, Krista Gates, worked together via Google Presentation for our major project. I loved it! So, when my job share partner and I were setting up our partnership I immediately suggested it as a way to communicate and plan. She was onboard as she had already been using google docs with her collaborative projects.

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Now – Being a Google Plus member didn’t mean much to me then but now I see what a great platform Google Communities can be for collaboration and sharing. Our ECI 831 community site has been a great way to not only navigate the course but also to connect with fellow learners, ask questions, and share ideas and resources.  I’ve enjoyed being a part of a group of like-minded individuals and know that if I throw a question out there someone is bound to know the answer or have a similar situation. I’ve really appreciated the collegial relationships and learning that has developed on Google+ over the semester and look forward to continuing them beyond the confines of this class.

Next Steps – Michael Wacker reinforced my belief that Google docs is a great way to collaborate and I’m looking forward to further exploring all that it has to offer including the Add-ons that I’m recently learning about. I’m also looking forward to doing more sharing through Google+. For example, I have a couple of students will be away on extended trips and we’re looking at the possibility of sharing some assignments through a google doc. No more stressing about trying to put together a package of 1-2 months’ worth of learning!

I’m not sure how much I will pursue my Google+ identity (in terms of circles, communities, etc.) unless the need arises. I have yet to explore those other aspects so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing!

LEARNING ONLINE

As Alec Couros stated in his presentation, Living and Learning in the Digital Age, we truly are in a new culture of learning. Digital learning and connected literacies (like Twitter and blogging) need to be central pieces in our classroom learning. More than ever we need to help our students become critical and creative thinkers and consumers. We are preparing them for a job and society that likely doesn’t even exist yet. That’s a daunting task. As Tagore said,

Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”

We need to not only give them the digital skills to participate in the digital age but also teach them to curate a positive digital identity right from the start. No more teaching in little boxes anymore. We need to encourage rhizomatic learning and teaching since now, more than ever before, we are so interconnected. So…

spirt of open ed Embrace change.

“If technology is an event at your school you’re doing it wrong.”

Let go and be the lead learner.

Thanks for supporting my learning this semester during EC&I 831. I learned a LOT!

 

 

For my major digital project this semester I’ve been exploring MOOCs–Massive Open Online Courses. I think it’s pretty amazing that you can learn just about anything online and a lot of it for FREE!

Photo Credit: snowpup5 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: snowpup5 via Compfight cc

My plan was to learn about engaging primary students through the use of games, technology and infusing other forms of play like song and movement. I discovered applicable MOOC course options after lengthy searches through MOOC lists. There’s so many choices out there it’s difficult to narrow it down but I appreciated being able to search by topic, date or other criteria (like cost! Free is good!)

My first MOOC was a self-paced course offered by OpenLearning called, Gamification in Education taught by Dr. Tom Benjamin from Australia. The content offered lots of game theory which was fascinating but not always easy to apply. The content delivery was well-sequenced, if a bit cheesy and the fact that the instructor noted limitations of gaming rather than just touting its benefits helped to establish credibility with me as a user. Benjamin’s credentials, affiliations and links to his other research also helped to secure the MOOC’s credibility especially since the course itself wasn’t affiliated with a traditional university.

I thought that the technical component provided by OpenLearning was mostly seamless though sometimes a little cumbersome. The links weren’t always laid out in the best way to navigate back and forth between modules, assignments, resources, etc. but I did manage to get where I had to go without too much backtracking!

I really appreciated the self-directed pace but missed the opportunity to connect with other learners. Though the MOOC provided the structure wanted, I found having little accountability for deadlines a challenge. I also found it difficult to stay motivated when the course theory wasn’t supported with contextual examples that resonated with me. Why am I taking this again? I also wasn’t sure how in depth my assignment responses were supposed to be as there was little said about criteria. I tried to complete them in a manner that would be most useful for me in my teaching practice but I also found that I was wanting assignments to more closely correlate with what I’m doing professionally so I could more directly apply my learning.

Photo Credit: bernat... via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bernat… via Compfight cc

Despite these hurdles, I learned a lot! In a previous post, Games in Education, I outlined the basics of the gamification principles that I gleaned from the course. I learned that adding unknowns (like dice or a spinner) can level the playing field, that intermittent rewards are the most effective, and that the size or quality of the prize is mostly irrelevant! I took some of my learning back to my classroom with me and describe a few of the games I created in a post entitled, Morphing My MOOC Project. Since then I’ve been working on game elements to aid in classroom management. The jury’s still out on whether it has been a success or not!

In the end I was pleased with my first MOOC experience but thought that “learning with a cohort would be more valuable for me as it would help further my learning and provide more accountability for assessment purposes.”

Next up was the iPads in the Classroom MOOC but unfortunately that plan took a nose dive when what was advertised as a free course turned out to be not so free. Now what? Who’s in charge of course descriptions and how did that error happen? Hmmm…perhaps appealing to the masses means skimming over the details?

Minecraft launch screen

Minecraft launch screen

Ok, Plan B…or was that C? Many of my young students are very  engaged with playing Minecraft and though I dabbled with it a bit last year I wanted to learn more about how it could be used in the classroom. I was excited to find, Getting Started with MinecraftEdu (link no longer available) on Canvas Net and equally excited that this MOOC experience would provide the opportunity to learn alongside a cohort.

The MOOC immediately started out with a hiccup in that the ‘free’ MOOC required software that was not free. Foiled again! Lesson learned–read the fine print. I decided to begin anyway and see if I could figure out the software requirements (maybe even buy it?) in the mean time.

The Minecraft MOOC started in much the same way as far as content delivery. I appreciated that it too provided some of the principles of game theory but it also took it a step further to explore gaming in our digital culture. This along with some of the great resources really gave this MOOC credibility. I particularly liked Jane McGonigal’s Tedtalks (see one of them below), Marc Prensky’s Computer Games and Learning: Digital Game-Based Learning, and the extensive list of Teaching with MinecraftEdu resources.

What was different with this MOOC experience was learning with a cohort…all 900 of us! At the outset of the course we were to introduce ourselves then peer assess three introductions. Though the assignment criteria was spelled out, the evaluation scheme wasn’t and whether our peer reviews would be assessed was uncertain. In her article, The Problems with Coursera’s Peer Assessments Audrey Watters states that though peers are better than ‘robot graders’, peer assessment in large classes like MOOCs are difficult because of the variability of feedback, lack of feedback on feedback, anonymity of feedback, and lack of community (‘Are they really peers?’). I would add that the technical aspects of giving and receiving that feedback can also be troublesome as was my experience.

Students were also asked to join small learning groups of about 20-25 students within the course. Though I eventually found my way through the maze of links to join a group it didn’t feel like we ever developed a sense of community as there didn’t seem to be any structure or assignment in place to use that community. Did I miss something?

As the MOOC progressed, my software issues loomed. I discovered that even if I wanted to buy MinecraftEdu I couldn’t because it requires a bulk purchase through an educational institution and was again disappointed to learn my division did not have licensing. Realizing the issue, our instructor made arrangements for all of us to ‘borrow’ a client version that would run off his school’s server courtesy of the software developers. Cool! Problem solved…except that it wouldn’t launch on my computer and despite reaching out to our instructor online I didn’t get my issues resolved and had to find another way to accomplish what I wanted to learn. I bought the commercial version and completed the assignments as much as I was able to. (Not sure I would’ve been as committed if it hadn’t been required for my digital learning project for this class!) Aside from the community builds, I did accomplish most of the Minecraft tasks using online tutorials as my guide. Here’s the culmination of my Minecraft learning:

This appeared in my post, Spawning Ideas for Gaming in the Classroom, which I tweeted to the MOOC instructor to say thanks. He replied back to me to offer a second opportunity to try the MOOC activities. He helped me resolve my software issues (Java Runtime NOT Java) and dropboxed the tutorial world file for me to try. Who knew that you could do extra credit assignments to complete a MOOC?! Now there’s a great teacher.

I’m not sure I’m any closer to using Minecraft in the classroom but I have gotten over the initial hump of learning how to play and I have a much better understanding of the possibilities that gaming can offer in the classroom.

MOOC meme

Photo Credit: mathplourde via Compfight cc

As for MOOCs, I’ve learned a lot about them too. There are benefits and pitfalls to the MOOC experience and I’ve experienced them both. In this article posted by my colleague Brittany BandurTony Bates  outlines some of the strengths and weaknesses of MOOCs.

  1. MOOCs offer open and free education but it isn’t always accessible and appropriate to those that need it.
  2.  MOOCs have the potential to reach a wide demographic but typical MOOC students “are already well-educated and employed.” Hollands and Tirthali (2014), researchers at Columbia University Teachers’ College
  3. MOOC participation is flexible-from the casual observer to the full participant. Unfortunately few participate fully or complete the course.

Ho et al. (p.13) produced this diagram to show the different levels of commitment to xMOOCs

 

The weaknesses are echoed in Mindshift’s How to build a better Mooc (posted by my colleague Jaylene Brass) which cites Konnikova’s, Will Moocs be flukes? published in the New Yorker.

The premise of the MOOC movement is as commendable as it is democratic: quality education should not be a luxury good.”

She goes on to suggest that using control theory–formative assessment to inform individualized curriculum–would help to build a better MOOC. If it’s too easy or learner’s aren’t accountable enough the learning won’t be effective. She calls on Bjork’s theory of desirable difficulties  in saying MOOCs would likely be more effective if they didn’t shy away from challenging students, rather than presenting a fluid experience which gives the false impression of the learning and retention.”

I would have to agree. Throughout my MOOC experiences I was looking for assignments that would help me learn the content rather than just go through the motions.

Despite having trouble with timely facilitator feedback, access to resources, and a lack of learner community, I loved the easy access to learning something new. And while I loved the self-paced flexibility, as a student I needed more accountability. I think students would thrive in a learning environment that allowed them to explore their interests and needs at their own pace and level while at the same time providing some structure and rigor in their learning tasks.

Now, how to leverage these principles in my grade 2 classroom? Hmmm…there’s probably a MOOC out there to help me figure that one out! Always learning.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your feedback.