Learning 2.010 : Reflections from the First Steps Cohort #3

At Learning 2.010,  the more you put in, the more you get out. It is a place where you make connections and develop your personal learning network. It’s about you finding out what you want to learn and then how and where to learn it.

In the First Steps cohort, our aim was for participants to walk out with a digital shared space which contained:

1. A vision for how they want to change their classroom/community
2. A practical action plan/road map on how they might get there
3. An expanded Personal Learning Network which may include a mentor for guidance

My cohort was a very diverse range – as is always that case with any group of educators – ranging from low to high technology skills; high school to kindergarten, arts to science, tech integrators to tech beginners…all highly professional and all experts in their own fields. Wow – what a bunch!

Did we achieve the goals? Absolutely, the majority of the cohort not only developed (collaboratively) their road maps, but also published online and linked up with a co-mentor. Here is the amazing array of goals, each one leading to a unique road map/action plan:

  • Address NETS.S standards through digital portfolios (Paul Welsh,  SAS Singapore)
  • Incorporate blogs into both 7th and 8th grade classes to encourage more on-line participation (Peter Dratz, HKIS)
  • Producing student digital portfolios for regular reflection (Helen Douglas, CIS-HK)
  • To become more aware of the issues of wikis and digital citizenships (Janice Dwyer, CIS – HK)
  • Rearranging the room for constructivist use of technology (Kent Peterson, SAS Singapore)
  • To create a professional blog (Kate Grant, NIST)
  • To develop a Moodle course & introduce social bookmarking (Michael Etheridge, SAS Singapore)
  • A global book club using Shelfari to increase students’ abilities of collaboration, communication and reading comprehension (Keith Ferrell, SAS Singapore);
  • Expand students’ understanding of digital citizenship expectations though using ePals email and Google Apps (Susan Sedro – SAS Singapore)
  • developing an IT Toolbox (Jane Cooper, NIST)
  • Introduce to students the web based note taking tool “Evernote” (Steve Early – SAS Singapore)
  • Updating a weekly blog; getting kids excited about blog and adding to it (Jamie Clayton – SAS Singapore)
  • Identify a variety of tools and activities that teachers could use with their students (James Shin-Gay, SAS Singapore)

For me, it was a huge learning experience and one of the best professional development experiences I have ever had. From the onset, being invited to be one of the cohort facilitators was a major achievement but also one of the most daunting and terrifying experiences. Two days before the conference, we came together from places near and far. For 48 hours, we talked, discussed, planned and bonded and become a community of cohort facilitators. The second 48 hours, we then formed a community of learners with our cohorts. In 4 days, 450+ people came together as the Learning 2.010 Community.

Amanda, Mike and Mads

Thank you to my cohort team: Amanda DeCardy (SAS), Michael Boll (Concordia) and David Elliott (ex-HKIS) the First Steps team. We planned, we discussed, we bonded and it was an awesome ride!

Suspending the ‘micro-moments’ to actually think!

In my classroom today I find that the more students use technology, the poorer their note-taking skills have become. The majority of resources I present to my students are in electronic format. When asked to make notes, I find that the students tend to copy and paste sentences and phrases without little thought for layout and organization. When asked later to recall, students tend to just read from their notes without any deep understanding of what they have jotted down. Technology is not a substitute for thinking and I need to correct this; not only is the thinking time reduced but also the very act of writing the notes has been removed; and most worrying, the problem of plagiarism creeps in.

So how to we ensure that students develop good note-taking skills effectively using laptops?  Luckily for me I get in-class support from the ESOL department from Pat Bradley. I see this as a great partnership; Pat is able to offer a wide range of great strategies and I find ways to implement these in our 21st Century classroom. Here is an outline of a model we used in class with our new set of Grade 11 ITGS students – we were discussing keypads at ATMs:

  1. We tend to use web-based or electronic resources. By viewing the web-page in Safari, or a PDF document in Apple’s Preview, you can right-click on any work and the dictionary definition will appear. A great tool not just for our ESOL learners.

    Right-click in Preview for the dictionary definition
  2. We have students read a section at a time. Some students read ahead giving the others times to read. Once all had read the section, we close, yes – close, our laptops. We suspend those ‘micro-moments’ to actually think!
  3. Using the IWB (or lots of colored whiteboard pens) we brainstorm the key words and main ideas of each section. As our class is about the use of Information Technology, we tend to discuss technical terms, and this allows students to to add their own information so that the key points are expanded and become more detailed as well as give the students a sense of ownership.

    Brain storming on the IWB - keypads at ATMs
  4. Students then discuss the key points in small groups; this is very important for ESOL students as it helps with fluency and prevents regurgitation of meaningless set of words and phrases.
  5. Finally, students open their laptops, fire up Evernote and type up their notes using the prompts on the board.

Points to ponder:

  • What technology tools do you use to help students in note-taking?
  • Do you think that technology erodes thinking time?