Rick Van Eck: Games as Innovative Teaching Keynote

I've had this sitting in draft for about 7 months. It goes all the back to the end of May when I had the good fortune to attend the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference held here in Winnipeg. The line up of speakers was excellent, but Rick Van Eck stood out as the highlight of the entire conference for me. (I blogged about Rick's Breakout session at the time.) He has a very down to earth, practical, honest approach to using COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) games in education. Unfortunately the question period isn't included. Rick really shined during the Q&A afterward where his direct, honest, polite replies to pointed questions impressed everyone.

Anyway, I've mentioned this talk several times in passing since I saw it and now I can point people to hear the man himself. It's short; 22 min 21 sec. Worth every minute. You can click through Rick's slides below the video as he speaks.

(Download mp3, 25.4 MB)


Debating Standards Tests

Last night on twitter I tweeted:

That started the exchange below between myself and Gary Stager. Chris Lehmann joined in and we had a lively debate. I've decided to archive it here in response to the various communications I've received about it. Maybe extend the conversation a bit.

Gary and I





Chris Lehmann joined in. Chris' tweets should be interlaced with those of Gary and I above but summize.com doesn't do that. You can probably figure out where Chris' tweets fit in from the context of what came before.


Ian Hecht added this to the debate:

These things happen on twitter. While it's happening it feels like something of moment. Time passes, passions cool, and we realize we haven't necessarily added something new to an age old debate but perhaps we've articulated our thinking, and reasons for believing as we do, a little bit better. We might also come to respect the reasoned positions of colleagues who disagree with us and walk away having learned something about ourselves and each other. Identifying Similarities and Differences is one of the most powerful instructional strategies don't you know. ;-)

And Calculus For All: Update

Why YouTube?
In the comments to my last post I was asked why I chose to use YouTube instead of TeacherTube as a platform for my students to share their videos. I answered:

I chose YouTube for three reasons:

(1) That's where the kids go for video. They feel comfortable there and have their own accounts from which they publish video outside of school. This allows me to model some digital ethics vis a vis what do you and what don't you publish on YouTube.

(2) That's where all the people are. There is a significant math community on YouTube and I am hoping to draw their attention and perhaps participation which would add value to the assignment in terms of authenticity and audience.

(3) Kids think TeacherTube is for teachers, not them. That detracts somewhat from the value added by publishing publicly online.

A number of people have left comments for my students on their class blog. Thank you so much for that. In one of those comments pirategirl mentions how slow TeacherTube can be. I guess we can add that to my list of reasons above.

As part of this assignment we talked about copyright and I emphasized that using copyrighted material (music) is considered stealing unless they have permission to use the content. Generally, I believe that using 30 seconds or less of copyrighted music falls under Canadian Fair Dealing guidelines. (If I'm wrong about this I welcome the correction.) As part of this discussion I pointed the students to Jamendo where they could find free music to use without worrying about any copyright infringements.

I'm really proud of the way they all dealt with copyright issues and how they credited all the sources they used. Click through to their YouTube videos (see below) to read the details they included not only in the videos but in the informational text that accompanies their work.

The day before the deadline for students to publish their videos one of them left this comment on their class blog:

Maybe JAMENDO should be my name =D

it helps a lot.. thanks..

STATUS: currently cutting down 1:30 to 0:30 s.... 0__o

I was particularly chuffed about that "status update." (See the short podcast below.)

The Videos & The Podcast
Here are the four videos that the student groups generated (the 30 second time limit did not include credits) followed by a brief podcast reflection we did on the last day of classes before the winter break. Give it a listen, this project isn't over yet ...

Ben and Zeph: Calculus Commercial

Kristina, Jamie, & Joyce: YE OLDE DERIVATIVE

Paul, Shelley, & Yinan: Team PSY Derivatives Commercial

Francis, Lawrence, & Justice: Calculus commercial complete

The Podcast Reflection

(Download mp3 file, 3.3 MB)

One of the things we learned was that 30 seconds is too short. The next round of videos will have a 60 second time limit. They'll all be published by the end of January. Stay tuned. ;-)

Photo Credits: YouTube and Joost by flickr user thms.nl
Vintage Copyright by flickr user Ornithorynque

And Calculus For All

When I returned to work after 10 weeks of parental leave I wanted to find a way to measure how well my AP Calculus students had learned and understood what a derivative was. So, the day I returned to class I challenged them to create a commercial that educates: What is a derivative?

Some of the parameters they have are:

  • The video must educate people who know nothing about calculus.
  • The video must be published on YouTube.
  • Students may work in teams of up to 3 people.
  • No images of students faces. Masks or other methods of obscuring their identities may be used.
  • No algebra.
  • Maximum video length: 30 seconds.
  • Include as many different descriptions as possible in the time allowed.

The way we're doing this is I have published a video to YouTube describing the assignment and extended it as a challenge to the entire math community on YouTube. Students will "hand in" their commercials as video replies to mine.

I'm hoping other people in the math community on YouTube reply to the challenge. It will go a long way to adding another layer of authenticity to the assignment and create a more meaningful reason than "marks" to create high quality content: social credit.

Social credit is a powerful motivational force in the lives of teens; a force that hasn't fully been tapped in educational circles. It's behind the outstanding work some of my students do on their class blogs. I'm trying to be more deliberate about accessing that potential in new ways this year.

The video has just been published to the AP Calculus 2008 blog. The students commercials should be published by Friday morning.

If you have a moment, head over to their blog and leave them a comment telling them you're looking forward to their commercials. It'll help make real their sense of audience and perhaps encourage them to do their very best before they hit the publish button on their videos.

Calculus Commercial Seed Video

Photo Credit: Excuse Me Ma'm... by flickr user nobleignoble

"Up To Speed" Interview

Whenever I drive to or from work I like to listen to CBC radio. On the way home I listen to Margaux Watt who hosts "Up To Speed". So on Friday, after my Extreme (web 2.0) Lesson Plan Makeover workshop I was a little chuffed to be interviewed by Margaux on her show.

A friend recorded it and sent me the audio file. It's only about five minutes long. While we were talking the podcast I do with my students, Student Voices, came up. Margaux suggested she might play one of those interviews on the radio. I don't know if that will ever happen, but if you listened to the show on the radio and came here looking for those podcasts you can find them here.

Two five minute talks in as many days ... I can say exactly two things about five minute talks:

(1) Five minutes is very short.

(2) Five minutes is very hard to do well.

Here are my five minutes on the radio:

Photo Credit: cbc at night by flickr user sashafatcat

Extreme (web 2.0) Lesson Plan Makeover

All across Manitoba on Friday, teachers came together in about 28 different Special Area Groups for an full day of professional development workshops. I was invited by EBIT (Educators of Business and Information Technology) to do a presentation. Mine was the host school and the organizer of the conference is a friend so I said yes.

The idea was to a have more of a conversation than a presentation, where everyone came with a lesson plan they thought they might like to rework to take advantage of the affordances offered by social media and the suite of free tools available online. I shared a number of examples of how I had done this with some of my own lessons.

About 45 minutes into the workshop people started warming up and we had some good discussion. I tried to keep the focus more on pedagogy than tools but that can be hard in a session like this. Judging from the feedback afterward I think folks walked away happy for having been there. I created a wiki as a reference point for the folks that were there.

One of the examples that captured people's imagination was the mapping project my son is working on. It's not done yet, so I guess I'm outing him early. Many people seemed tickled at the idea that they could leave him an encouraging comment on his Google Map where he's bringing together text, images, and video to give an overview of the book Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker. Remember, what he's got there right now is mostly a partial rough draft, he should have it done in about another 7-10 days. In the meantime, feel free to leave some positive comments or suggestions for him on his map. ;-)

Here are the slides and audio from the session, available here and there. A comprehensive list of links we referenced should be there by the end of the weekend.

Audio (1 hr 41 min 25 sec)
Fast forward through the boring bits.

5 Minutes To Make A Difference

I'm sitting at the 2008 Manitoba Edubloggercon being held at the Princess Street campus of Red River College in downtown Winnipeg.

Eight presentations later things have become a little more organic. People are asking questions and the chat room in Ustream is replying instantly with answers, links, information, and resources to share. John Evans has just invited people to come up to his laptop right now and he's setting them up with twitter accounts so they can start building their personal learning networks. Brian Crosby just skyped in to answer questions about students at risk. People are just starting to get a sense of what comes from sipping the electric kool-aid.

Andy McKiel is the brains and brawn behind all this. He arranged the venue, made sure there was food and drink, coordinated the schedules of eight crazy busy people from two Canadian provinces and Thailand (the airports there are still closed today, Jeff Utecht showed us the role twitter is playing in the capture of the airports). Andy is a class act in everything he does. More Manitoban teachers need to know how fortunate we all are to have him as the President of MANace.

All the talks are (or will be soon) archived on the wiki Andy created for the event. I gave one of the five minute talks. I actually managed to stick to five minutes. It sort of helped that the slideshow was advancing on autoplay. If you're interested in my "5 Minutes to Make A Difference" here is the slidecast:

Also available as a video archive from Ustream.tv:

Live Broadcasting by Ustream

Photo Credit: Red River Community College by flickr user camd

MB Edubloggercon 2008: Awakening Possibilities

That sounds a lot better than calling it a pre-SAG event. (If you're not from Manitoba that's the unfortunate acronym for our provincial professional development day organized by the various Special Area Groups we teachers are all affiliated with in one way or another.)

We had a blast last year so we're looking to have a good time again this year. Andy McKiel, president of the Manitoba Association of Computing Educators (ManACE) is the brains behind getting together some food, folks, and fun while we share some ideas about the evolution of teaching and learning today. You're invited to join us!

The theme this year is Awakening Possibilities and Andy has invited me and 7 other people to give short talks as a focal point of conversation for the evening. We're modeling it on Chris Lehmann's breathtaking talk at Ignite Philly last month. We'll each talk for 5 minutes; 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide.

I will be part of the Manitoba contingent as will Chris Harbeck, Clarence Fisher, and John Evans. We'll be joined, via skype and/or Ustream, by our friends and colleagues from Saskatchewan Alec Couros, Dean Shareski, and Kathy Cassidy as well as Jeff Utecht from Bangkok, Thailand.

All the details are in the poster below (download a copy and share it around where you are). Andy built a wiki where you can find more info and a digital archive of the evening afterwards.

Hope to see you there!

The Permanence of Ephemera

I was listening to the radio in the car tonight on the way home from a parent info night at my kids school and thinking about email. Many people don't regard email as meaningful communication; it's not really connecting because it's so transient. Like online ecards. All this online stuff is so ephemeral. It's not as meaningful as stuff that takes more time to do, like sending a "real" card.

I don't buy that.

The ephemera of online "stuff", stuff you can't touch, is an illusion. Places like the Internet Archive and OurMedia.org (actually, they're in cahoots with each other) allow you to store an unlimited amount of your digital "stuff" online for free, forever.

This got me thinking about my students class blogs. Some of them are four years old now.

Those students (who were in grade 12 at the time) are in University now or have entered the workforce and are living their lives far beyond the boundaries of the classroom where we met. The papers they handed in, the exams they wrote, the assignments they did in class, all the "real" stuff they did is long gone. Irretrievable really.

The digital stuff they did, the scribe posts they wrote, their reflections on where they were in their learning and what was going on in their lives as it impacted them at school, the digital photographs they took, the projects and assignments they published online, they're all still there and they will likely remain there for a considerable amount of time to come. They will likely be able to show off their finest stuff to their kids. Perhaps even their grandkids some day.

It seems to me these digital ephemera have a lot more permanence than any of the paper and pencil work they did in school.

I received an email from a student of mine from about four years back. It was a thank you note. The kind of note a teacher is blessed with rarely. Perhaps once in a career. I'm keeping it. Backed up in two different online spaces. I don't know why, I just want to. It hasn't added any clutter to a busy household with four kids in it. It has added meaning to what I did four years ago and what I'll continue trying to do tomorrow morning.

Just because digital "stuff" is easy to create doesn't make it less valuable. In many ways it adds value, and permanence.

Then again, maybe it isn't so easy to make "digital stuff"; meaningful digital stuff. I'm still trying to get my head around it all.

Photo Credit: Elegant green wisp by flickr user Cheekybikerboy

I read the news today. Oh Boy!

That's the subtitle of my latest remix of my Numeracy across the Curriculum workshop. I was invited to speak to the staff of Chris Harbeck's school on Friday morning. The entire presentation (slides, audio, video) is archived on the wiki that supports this workshop. I've included lots of other links and resources for teachers. If you know of anything I should have included or should work in for next time please let me know.

This is one of the most difficult talks I've ever given. How can teachers, in this case k thorough grade 9 (students aged 5 to 14), weave the teaching of numeracy into their regular curriculum; teachers of English, Practical Arts, Social Studies, Art, Music, and Elementary teachers who do it all?

At one point in the slides you'll see The Hidden Problem is highlighted. The hidden problem is two-fold but the aspect of it I find most troublesome is not the one that was talked about in the research I read. (Links embedded in the slides.) Listen to the bit where I talk about the dinner party in the second half of this excerpt from Chris' Ustream:

14 minutes 5 seconds

And "Portable Learning" For All

The value of Wikipedia is becoming harder and harder to contest. This particular remix of Wikipedia (5500 articles, 20 volume encyclopaedia, 34 000 images, and 20 million words) should be downloaded by school and burned to dvd for every teacher and student to take home in their pocket.

And while you're at it, for your own professional development read what Wes has to say and download the entire K12 Online Conference (3 years worth of high quality PD) to carry around in your iPod. Take it in on the bus, or any time you have a free moment; maybe over coffee in the staff room. If you have a video iPod you could share it with a few of your colleagues.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia by flickr user Octavio Rojas

When Social Bookmarking (Any Tool) Goes Bad ...

I'm working with a group of teachers in a mentoring capacity. In conversation with another mentor in the project a question came up about social bookmarking. As I read through my take on the issue I thought I'd like to share it here to collect input from a diverse group of people. I wonder if teachers and administrators come out on the same side of these issues:

"So here is the question, the kids could then start tagging stuff as well to be shared with the teachers and other students, which would be really cool. But what if a kid tags something in appropriate? Can the person that first used the unique tag remove that tag? Does that tag creator have some ownership? Or is that just a risk we take??"

Did you ever have a kid tag something inappropriate?

I've been using delicious in my classes to have students aggregate and share content since November 2005. What is described above, while I recognize it COULD happen, has never happened to me in the last 3 years. This sort of action strikes me as particularly pernicious and malicious:

• A teacher sets up an assignment where kids collect useful resources (web pages) and consistently tag them using a tag the entire class agrees on for the purpose. For example, one of my class tags is pc40sw08. Not likely to be stumbled upon by happenstance.

• A student then tags an inappropriate site, say a porn site, using that tag and it gets aggregated with all the other quality content the rest of the class is generating. Kind of like one kid throwing black paint at a mural the rest of the class has made.

Like I said, while something like this is possible it just strikes me as exceptionally unlikely. I imagine the consequences would be similar to what would happen to the student who throws paint at the class mural, amplified somewhat because this is a very public thing to do. There are parallels to cyberbullying with this and I suspect consequences would line up similarly.

In order to remove the offending site the student who used the class tag to tag it (the porn site) would have to delete that tag from that resource in his/her delcious account. There would be no other way to remove the offending site from the aggregated list of sites.

This underscores why discussion of digital ethics is so important regardless of what we teach when we take it online. This is how I do it.

Lots of food for thought in this. To be completely frank, I see this discussion as more of an intellectual exercise than something that might actually happen. Some teachers may feel that my perspective is naive. Fair enough. Then again, I teach in an inner city school and I've been blogging with my classes going on 5 years. Lots of other educators use social bookmarking in a similar way. I'm fairly well connected and informed about this use of social bookmarking in an educational context and while I of course cannot possibly be aware of the experiences of every educator who has done this sort of exercise with their students and what sort of things have gone wrong this is something that has just never come up. If it did it would blaze a fire of commentary across the blogosphere and that hasn't happened.

So all this gets me thinking ... teaching and learning transparently on the web may open a door to abuses that aren't possible in an offline classroom. A PR disaster for the school or school community can happen in ways that are very public and aren't possible in a face-to-face offline learning environment. Maybe we should close the door on all this stuff ... or, are the benefits greater than the possible harm? How likely are those harms? Do we need a 0% harm solution before teaching and learning in this way? On the other hand, isn't it possible that harm happens every day in classrooms all over the world; since it happens behind closed doors and never sees the light of day, well, that's better than if it happened on the web, isn't it?

Photo Credit: Week 6: August 7 - 13 by flickr user Brooklyn Museum
Light of wisdom - I by flickr user carf

A Stack of K12 Online Goodness

With thanks to David Warlick I stumbled across this portable stack of pages from the first week of the K12 Online Conference. What a great interactive way to share the wealth of excellent content from all the presenters!

Here it is:

SearchmeView in searchme: full | lite

If you want to embed this stack on your own blog, webpage, or school website feel free to just copy and paste this code below:

<div><div class="youtube-video"><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" id="embedded" codebase="http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/current/swflash.cab" height="325" width="450"> <param name="flashvars" value="autoPlay=false&speed=1&theme=black"> <param name="movie" value="http://e.searchme.com/embed?a=sm&v=1&stack=25acb"> <param name="quality" value="high"> <param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"> <param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"> <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"> <embed src="http://e.searchme.com/embed?a=sm&v=1&stack=25acb" quality="high" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" name="embedded" play="true" loop="false" allowscriptaccess="always" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" pluginspage="http://www.adobe.com/go/getflashplayer" flashvars="autoPlay=false&speed=1&theme=black" align="middle" height="325" width="450"> </embed> </object></div><table width="450"><tbody><tr width="100%"><td align="left"><font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="-1"><a href="http://www.searchme.com/">Searchme</a></font></td><td align="right"><font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="-1">View in searchme: <a href="http://www.searchme.com/stack/25acb">full</a> | <a href="http://www.searchme.com/lite/stack/?stack=25acb">lite</a></font></td></tr></tbody></table></div>

Thanks for sharing this Dave!

How Flickr Threw a Switch In My Head

Last year, one of the people in my aggregator, D'Arcy Norman, published a video to share the results of his year long experiment: he took a picture every day for a year and published it to his flickr account. He called the experiment 365 Photos. Actually, an entire community has grown up around this idea on flickr; it wasn't D'Arcy's idea originally, there are over 1200 "365 Days" groups. I don't know who started this originally but it seems like a natural extension of publicly sharing your photos.

D'Arcy said a switch got thrown in his head. Watch his video of the results; as you watch you'll get a sense of what his year was like, when and where he went on vacation, his love for his son, the things he finds interesting, but pay particular attention to how he uses perspective, how sets up his "shots", and the things in his world he notices:

As the new year rang in for 2008 several other people in my aggregator decided to join D'Arcy in his new experiment: 366 Photos (2008 is a leap year). After several weeks many started writing about how their visual perception changed as a result of doing this. They started noticing things they hadn't before, the quality of the photos they took (of things, family, friends, events, etc.) improved dramatically, and a switch in their heads flickred.

I came late to this party for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the "every day for a year" commitment intimidates me. So, in March I started my own experiment: 31 Days.

There's a bit of folk wisdom that says it variously takes 21 or 28 days to create (or break) a habit. (15 minutes a day every day. If you miss a day just keep going until you get to 21 — or 28 — days in a row.) I've been able to find no verifiable research to back this up so make of it what you will. In any case, I did find that my 31 Days experiment lead to a change in the way I see the world and use visual imagery in my teaching.

Now, this part wasn't planned, but as I've used flickr more and more I've become more and more interested in taking "interesting" pictures.

As a math teacher I was fascinated to discover that photographers have long known of and used a mathematical definition for beauty. It's based on the number φ, phi (one H of a lot cooler than π, as my students say), which it turns out is embedded in the the natural world in all sorts of ways including the various dimensions of our own bodies. I digress, that's a post for another time. ;-)

I stumbled upon an online photography course over at morgueFile.com. I've only read through Lesson 1: Composition And Impact - It's A Beautiful Photograph, But Do You Know WHY It's Beautiful?. It had a significant impact on how I take pictures and view the world. That was almost a year ago. I'm about ready to move on to Lesson 2: Aperture And Shutter Speed - How They Work Together.

Here's how I did my 31 Days experiment:

 » All pictures were taken with my cell phone. (Because it's always there, and it's easy.)

 » All pictures were uploaded to flickr (almost) daily. (You can send directly from your phone if you like.)

 » All pictures were tagged with a unique tag for the experiment. i.e. 31Days.

 » All pictures were aggregated on my blog using a slideshow tool, SlideFlickr.com (also allows you to embed music).

 » I took at least one picture every day. (Some days I took more and picked the one liked best.)

You might wonder: Why all this photography stuff from a math teacher? Well, the short answer is that I wanted to model what I asked my students to do — check out the flickr assignment I designed.

The long answer is: It has enriched my life. I used to leave taking pictures to others; my wife or mother-in-law. Now I take more pictures than anyone, and the skills I've developed have lead to some striking pictures of my kids (sorry, we don't publish publics pics of our kids online ... yet). More than that, it has effected the way I read to learn. I recently finished reading John Dewey's Experience and Education. I decided, as a mnemonic and a way to help me move everything I read into long term memory swiftly, I would mentally construct an image that summarizes the content of each chapter. I hope to publish it as a slidecast (slideshow + podcast) on Slideshare in the near future. I know that little book really well as a result of doing this. Creating the slidecast will really embed it in my brain.

Anyway, I think I'm ready to try this experiment again in October. October in Winnipeg starts with colourful leaves on the trees and ends with snow on the ground. This is going to be fun!

Photo Credits:
Me and my Cell by flickr user dkuropatwa
Vitruvian Genesis by flickr user karlequin

Promise, Tool, Bargain

My main interest in teaching and learning on the web centers around exploring the effective use of social media to deepen our pedagogy and our students learning.

In Clay Shirky's recent book, Here Comes Everybody, he closes by saying that there are three "rules" behind the effective use of any social tool: it "relies on a successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the [students]".

The promise is about why would you use a certain tool. i.e. begin by asking yourself, what do you want to accomplish with your students? What do you want them to learn?

The tool is about answering the question: how do you want them to learn it?

The bargain, in Clay's words, "sets the rules of the road: if you are interested in the promise and adopt the tools, what can you (the students) expect and what will be expected of you?"

This is not a recipe for success. It's more of a framework to pin your thinking on. There are infinite paths to any goal; every teacher and student may start and end a course at the same place but the path they follow to get there is unique to each individual.

These three ideas can serve as a framework to guide our thinking as we try to answer the question: So, exactly what am I going to do differently with all this stuff in class tomorrow?

What do you think? Is this a helpful framework for thinking about using social media in the classroom?

The Global Learners Workshops

I just stumbled upon these videos on google video. They are from a 2 day series of workshops I did last summer for the Global Learners of Adams County School District #14 in Commerce City, Colorado. I knew that Joe Miller had recorded my presentations, I've only just now discovered them. Thanks for sharing this Joe!

While some of my thinking and the assignments I give my students have evolved since then, it's still a pretty good overview of how I work with my students and how I think about designing learning experiences and assessments for them. Each video is about an hour long.

Part 1 of 5: Tear Down The Walls (Day 1, August 9, 2007)

Part 2 of 5: Learning The Guitar (Day 1, August 9, 2007)

Part 3 of 5: Whiplash! (Day 1, August 9, 2007)

Part 4 of 5: What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before? (Day 2, August 10, 2007)

Part 5 of 5: Developing Expert Voices (Day 2, August 10, 2007)

The Buzz Was About Pedagogy

I was at Alan November's Building Learning Communities conference in Boston from July 15 to 18. This was the third year I was there and it was the best yet because the buzz was different.

Last year I left the conference hearing everyone saying things like:

» I have to learn flickr
» I have to learn wikis
» I have to learn blogs
» I have to learn [insert social media tool du jour]

This year the buzz was much more about pedagogy. The talk in the halls sounded like:

» I can use [this] to teach [that]
» I can see how much easier it would be for my students to understand if I used ...
» My students are going to LOVE learning this way!

I hope that sentiment was captured in the last minute reflection a number of us did together shared via Ustream:

Live Streaming by Ustream.TV

I captured some of the Ustream chat here.

Of course the best part of any conference is the people. I reconnected with old friends, met several "old friends" face to face for the first time, and met some people for the first time. Together, they made the conference feel like going to summer camp. ;-)

The three Keynote presenters (Ewan Mcintosh, John Davitt, and Dr. Pedro Noguera gave talks that dovetailed nicely together with a very strong focus on teaching and learning. They hadn't planned it that way but it seemed as though the three of them had collaborated to deliver a unified message. (If you want to listen to their talks Bob Sprankle has some of the best BLC08 coverage on the net over on his blog.)

I gave three presentations. One was an update from another I gave last year (What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before), the second (A Day In The Life) was a major revamp of one I did for Alec Couros' and Dean Shareski's graduate classes earlier this year. I worked hard to refine the ideas and practices I was sharing and tie them much more tightly to research on teaching and learning. The third (Everything New is Old Again: living and teaching in accelerating times) Clarence and I did together. This was the first time we had ever presented collaboratively. (This particular collaboration involved skype, google presentations, flickr, and Starbucks; a story unto itself really. ;-))

Mobile phones appear to be coming into their own as a learning tool this year. I tried something different using the photo capabilities of participants' mobiles and flickr. While in session I shared my private "publish directly to my flickr account" email address. I asked everyone to take pictures with their phones and email to the address I gave them (I've since changed the address). My account was set up to tag the photos automatically BLC08. Meanwhile, I had a wiki where I archived all my presentation resources. On a page in the wiki I embedded a slideshow I had created using Slideflickr. Slideflickr allows you to link music located somewhere online to play automatically while the slides are playing. I used Skreemr.com and Jamendo to find the music I linked to the slideshows -- I did this activity in two sessions.

All my BLC stuff is archived on the wiki I made for the conference. For those of you that don't feel like clicking through I've embedded the slides here:

Learning To Swim

Several months ago Melissa Hartman asked me if I'd write an article about social networking in the lives of teenagers for Imagine Magazine. It's a non-profit out of Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth; she's the editor.

I learned a lot about writing and working with an editor. It turned into more of an article about digital ethics than social networking. When I started I thought: 650 words! How am I going to write that much? Over 2000 words later (about three articles worth) I thought: 650 words! How am I ever going to get it down to so few? In the end I submitted about 750 words and the editing process began. I learned how to balance style, content, and story. I learned how to edit myself ruthlessly. I learned how it feels when someone else edits me ruthlessly. And I learned how easy it is to find a happy medium when you're working with a good editor.

This is the article that made it into print, the May/June 2008 issue titled Art Now (one of the two buttons in the top right corner of the window below will allow you to enlarge the image to make it easier to read):

Read this document on Scribd: Darren Kuropatwa: Learning To Swim

What do you think? Would this appeal to your average middle school student? (12 to 14 years old)

Student Voices: Episode 5 Ben and Mark

In this final episode of Student Voices for the 2007-2008 school year, two students, one grade 12 (17 years old) one grade 11 (16 years old), discuss how they evolved their innovative study practices that lead to them doing better on their final provincial standards test than they had done in their class work during the winter semester of 2008. They used a mash up of various online tools and reveal how they unwittingly became mentors for the rest of their class.

I had no idea they were doing this all semester. You'll hear the surprise in my voice. The best part of it comes at the end where the boys, one graduating one taking AP Calculus with me in September, talk about how they will mentor my future classes using the style they developed. What a great way to end the school year!

Let us know what you thought about the the ideas in podcast by leaving a comment.

(Download File 7.9Mb, 16 min. 30 sec.)

Show Notes

    » Pre-Cal 40S (Winter 2008) class blog

    » LaTeX Equation Editor
(I just found this! We'll be using it in class next year.)

    » Manitoba Provincial Exams Archive

    » Math 40S.com

Photo Credit: Shadow singer by flickr user EugeniusD80

Student Voices Episode 4: Justice, Lawrence, and Richard

First an update on this podcast: While we have received few comments on this or any of our class blogs the number of times the audio files have been downloaded is remarkable ...

Episode 1: Jessie 2440 downloads

Episode 2: Tim_MATH_y 1766 downloads

Episode 3: Chris, Craig, Graeme 1367 downloads

Thanks to all our listeners. We might get one more published during this school year but this may be the last until September. In any case feel free to let me or my students know your thoughts about what they had to say; every comment is appreciated. As their teacher, I'm awfully proud of them. I can only imagine how their parents must feel.

In this episode of Student Voices three Pre-Calculus students talk about how they put together their Developing Expert Voices project and what they learned in the process: how they they best learn math, how it can best be taught, and many other incidental things like team work and organizational skills.

All three of these students are in Grade 11 (about 16 years old). They are taking their grade 12 math course this year so that they can take AP Calculus next year.

They have titled their project with one of my favourite reminders to all my students: Mathematics is the Science of Patterns. If you watch any of the video content they created you'll hear several "in jokes". I'll let you "in" on a few of them:

• I eat a lot of yogourt. Between 1/2 and 3/4 of a litre most days.

• I HATE when students come late to class.

• I tell lots of stories in class; always with a mathematical slant or moral.

• To encourage students to move quickly I often say: "Hupsha, hupsha, quick like a bunny!"

• When students ask permission to miss my class to attend other school related events I almost always ask: "What?!? You want to miss my honey dripping words of wisdom?"

• You can see some more of my "famous expressions" here.

Let Justice, Lawrence, and Richard know what you thought about the podcast by leaving a comment here on this post or on the mirror of this post on their class blog.

Without any further ado, here is the podcast. A copy of the poster they made for their work is below.

(Download File 12.2Mb, 25 min. 30 sec.)

Photo Credit: Shadow singer by flickr user EugeniusD80

Les Foltos: Brainstorm and Wrap Up

This is the closing keynote presentation given by Les Foltos, Director of the Puget Sound Center for Teacher Learning and Technology, at the Microsoft Innovative Educators Conference held in Winnipeg on May 29, 2008. (The site appears to be down, or broken, now. I thought it was supposed to serve as a commons around which a growing network of teachers was going to built. I wonder what happened?)

This is the last podcast from the from the conference I recorded. It's a little noisy to listen to. We were all talking in small groups trying to crystallize what we had learned over the previous two days. The good news is we talked about many of the same things that we had discussed in the previous day's Ustream. The voices you hear talking in our little group are me, Clarence Fisher, Chris Harbeck, John Evans, Andy McKiel, Kathy Cassidy, and another lady whose name, unfortunately, I've forgotten. She was sitting in a neighbouring group and kept looking over at us, interested in what we were talking about. So, I invited her over and I'm glad she joined us. I think we all got a lot out of this conversation. Give it a listen and add your own two cents in the comments below.

(Download File 30.0Mb, 62 min. 30 sec.)


Great news! Chris found the Ustream recording!! Good on ya Chris. ;-)

Watcher beware: a surprising amount of time is devoted to discussing Dean Shareski's eating habits and his coffee mug — we had a lot of laughs. ;-)

Time: 36 min. 13 sec.

Live Videos provided by Ustream.TV

Richard Van Eck: Games Based Learning Breakout Session

This is the audio from Richard Van Eck's breakout session at the Microsoft Innovative Educators Conference. It's full of very practical ideas for how to incorporate using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) games in teaching a variety of subjects in the K-12 curriculum. Rick's presentations are very grounded with very little flash in his slides but lots of good concrete ideas to take back to the classroom. The night before this session Rick gave a keynote presentation on games based learning. He was asked if the kind of learning kids do in games based learning transfers well to the content areas. He looked the questioner straight in the eye and said, loudly and clearly: No. Then he fleshed out that answer. I still might be able to track down the audio from the keynote. If I can get it I'll publish it here. In the mean time this is a very practical talk about how to begin using COTS games in your classroom.

At about 19 minutes in Rick tried to get online but was locked out. Thankfully, Chris Harbeck was there and had the password. ;-)

(Download File 14.6Mb, 30 min. 30 sec.)

Photo Credit: Richard Van Eck by flickr user cogdog


I've come close a couple of times but this is the first award I've ever received. I was nominated by Andy McKiel. Andy was unanimously voted in as the new President of ManACE tonight. They also honoured Cheryl Prokopanko (provincial coordinator for Literacy with ICT for the Ministry of Education) with a well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. Cheryl is a passionate educator committed to helping other teachers learn how to weave technology into their teaching practice and create more opportunities for students to become successful, ethical, lifelong learners. Last year John Evans was the recipient of Educator of the Year Award; I'm in some pretty august company.

This was also the ManACE Annual General Meeting. I got to observe some of the inner workings of the organization. I mentioned to John, as we were leaving, how I was struck by the dedication of this group of educators. Brian Metcalfe, who retired last year as the technology consultant for my school division, was also there. It was wonderful to see him again. His presence really underscored the commitment folks have to ManACE; retirement is no obstacle to the work they do together. In my brief acceptance comments I encouraged the membership of ManACE to participate in the upcoming K12 Online 2008 conference.

I'm honoured to receive the Educator of the Year Award and wanted to publicly thank the board of directors and members of MANACE. In particular, I wanted to thank Andy McKiel; for nominating me, for the kind words he shared about me, and his continued efforts in helping make 21st century education accessible to teachers and students across the province. We've already begun talking about Manitoba EduBloggerCon 2008.

Arnold Wasserman: Innovation in Education

This is the Keynote presentation given by Arnold Wasserman on the second morning of the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference last week. The venue for the conference was the Red River College downtown campus here in Winnipeg. It was a beautiful place to hold the conference. The architecture is an innovative marriage between old and new.

This keynote was immediately followed by a presentation given by Ken Zorniak of Frantic Films. It was an interesting view inside the work that goes into the computer generated visual effects in the movies but we really needed some time to decompress and talk about the things Arnold had said in this talk. Several of us were struck by the many similarities between what Arnold talked about here and the conversation we Ustreamed the day before. Although we didn't record the Ustream we did capture many of the ideas that came up in that session at the end of the day in the session facilitated by Les Foltos from the Puget Sound Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

Here is the podcast recording of Arnold Wasserman's Keynote. Give it a listen. I'd love to hear what you think after you hear Arnold speak.

(Download File 14.8Mb, 61 min. 30 sec.)

Photo Credit: Red River Community College by flickr user camd

Teaching to the Brain

I've long held a ravenous appetite for learning how the brain works and how those capacities can be leveraged to help kids (and me) learn. I recently bought the owners manual. A few days back Jeff Utecht tweeted about a Google Talk by John Medina, authour of the book Brain Rules. John is blogging and sharing some great stuff.

Garr Renolds adapted some of the Brain Rules for presentations. As I've blogged earlier presenting information is something teachers do every day and we need to learn a lot more about how to do it more effectively. So, for my own future reference, and yours if you like, here is John Medina's Google talk, Garr's presentation, and a seemingly unrelated presentation by Dean Shareski whose K12 Online presentation on Design Matters continues to push my thinking every day. Look at how this presentation of Dean's adheres to many of John Medina's Brain Rules; and Dean hasn't even read John's book yet.

In future posts I hope to share how what I'm learning from all this is making it's way into my classroom. I'd love to hear how others incorporate these ideas into their work as well; in education or elsewhere. When we share these ideas and applications, whether they work or not, it helps us all learn.


Dean referenced this video at the end of his presentation; it's well wortht the 4 minute look: