Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jamming with the Generations

Image via WikipediaWide angle photo of the action of a Kawai UST-...

I come from a musical family. My mom, Isabel, played the piano, accordion, trombone, and violin. She sang solos at church. When she was younger, she was in a Gilbert & Sullivan production of the Pirates of Penzance. My dad, Don, met my mom at a Bible camp. He heard someone playing the accordion and followed the sound to discover my mom there.

The piano at the social center in the 19th cen...Image via Wikipedia

My mom came from a musical family. I remember listening to her sister, Elsie, singing with a Sweet Adelines group. One of my mom's prized possessions was an ornately carved upright piano. This piano was inherited by her dad from his father (B. P. Richardson). Since my great grandfather died in 1910, the piano is more than 100 years old.

As I was growing up, I took piano lessons and practiced on this beautiful piano. My five younger brothers and sisters also learned to play with this piano. Each of my siblings also learned to play another musical instrument (euphonium, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and flute). We would gather around the piano and play and sing. My mom was so delighted with her musical children.

Once I stopped taking piano lessons (when I was 15, in Grade 8 of Royal Conservatory Music), I continued to play the piano. I turned from playing classical music to popular music and church music. I practiced more once I ceased piano lessons than before. I was now playing whatever I wanted to play. Over the years since then, I have discovered such solace and comfort in playing the piano.

When we had our three children, I wanted them to learn to play the piano for their own enjoyment. All three took piano lessons. They also learned to play other instruments (trombone, flute, saxophone, and tuba). This year, when my daughter went to Ambrose University in Calgary, she took her flute with her. She joined an orchestra and began jam sessions with a small group of students. Prior to this, she had only played the notes on the page. Now she has learned to improvise.

When my daughter came home for Christmas, she kept asking us to jam with her. Finally we sat down to do this. My husband got out his guitar (which he hasn't played for over 20 years). My daughter played the flute. My son (the tuba player who doesn't own a tuba) and I team-played the piano. I sang. We ended up singing and playing our way through the entire Reader's Digest Christmas songbook. It was so much fun.

In the last few years of her life, my mom (who died in 1998) had difficulty with singing and playing the piano. She said that she was looking forward to playing the piano in heaven.

The other evening I thought of how delighted my mom, her father, and grandfather would have been to see the fruits of their musical gifts being expressed in joyous song in my living room. Maybe they were playing along in the heavenly realms (jamming with the generations).

Joy to the World. Merry Christmas to you. May you enjoy the gift of being with your family and loved ones at Christmas.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Broken Road of Grief

I've walked this road before I know but this time it's so final. I've lived in this world without my Mom (Isabel Sanders) for many years (since 1998) but this will be my first Christmas without my Dad (Don Sanders) as part of my earthly family circle.

This afternoon I read Bonnie Stewart's blog post about a Christmas card that had gone astray. Each year for the four years they have lived in their home, a card has arrived for the previous family.

Bonnie's thoughts triggered this post.

Every year my parents sent out their annual Christmas letter. In turn they received cards and letters from friends around the world. The cards and letters were piled up in a special Christmas basket. Once I left home, I was welcome to read through the Christmas cards and letters when I returned.

I would usually sit in the living room with my parents or with only my Dad in recent years. As I went through all the cards and letters, we would chat about the sender. I connected with those people through my parents. Now, my parents are both gone. What will happen to those connections?

Like Bonnie, I stopped sending Christmas cards a few years back. I became a full-time working mother and something had to give. Christmas cards fell by the wayside. Now that we are almost empty nesters, maybe it is time for me to begin this annual connection tradition again.

My Dad was quite modern for an 86 year old. He still wrote letters but he also used email to keep in touch with his friends. After Dad died, one of my tasks was to send an email notice to all of those on his email address list. We gave Dad's computer to a friend of his. That was one very difficult thing after Dad died on May 8th. We had to clear out his apartment by the end of the month. I felt that I was dismantling my Dad's life and then there was nothing physical left. It was different with my Mom because my Dad continued to live in the home they had shared.

Last year Dad came to Saskatoon for Christmas. He spent most of Christmas lying on the couch because of pain in his leg. (cancer) I'm so thankful for the trips we took together and for all the visits we made to his home in Regina. I know that I was a good daughter to him and have no regrets about our time together here on earth.

However, at the moment, I just feel sad. My first Christmas without my Dad.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Part 1, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: Introduction

Sea sponge from KrapanjImage via Wikipedia

The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning is very important. I liken it to a sponge which is saturated with water. However, if no one ever squeezes the water out of the sponge, it will eventually turn smelly and old as it simply sits in the sponge. Students, who have worked through all the other phases of guided inquiry, will generally look forward to sharing their learning. In the next few blog posts I will discuss the aspects of that sharing. I felt that neither of our class texts provided much information on this topic. So I decided to ask the journalistic questions of Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How in order to drill down into the concept of sharing one's learning. I feel that there is some overlap with the Creating phase of the Inquiry Process. In both phases, students must be aware of their audience. I am leaving the research essay on the creating side of things. However, the essay may be the foundation for the sharing which takes place next. In fact, in many science or heritage fairs, students are asked to have their research essay available. Most people do not read it though since they look at the display or model or artifacts shared by the student.

Over the past few weeks, as I have been preparing to write about the sharing phase, I have also been preparing to share my learning as the presenter of a Twitter workshop. Since July 2009, I have been on Twitter--in effect, doing my own inquiry learning about how it works. Yesterday, I presented the workshop to four adults. I went through all of the stages of this sharing process. I will tell you a little about my experience of sharing as I wend my way through these blog posts.

The next blog post will address the Who and the What of the sharing phase. (Click here.)Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Part 2, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: Who and What? : audience for "Prediction M...Image by (nz)dave via Flickr

Who is involved in the sharing phase of inquiry learning?

Both the student(s) sharing the learning and the audience (viewers, listeners) are part of the "who". Students may have worked alone on a project so that the sharing phase is a solitary venture. However, sometimes the individual inquiry projects may be brought together for the sharing phase so that students can begin to synthesize learning. (e.g. Students working on a biography project create a timeline of important events in a life. Teacher then brings small groups of students together to design a presentation which intermingles the people's lives. I did this project with Grade 5 students. The groups shared a movie and two skits which brought their individual biography subjects together.)

The project may have been collaborative from the start. Students may work in pairs or small groups. (One aspect which teachers of the inquiry process may need to spend more time on is building those social skills and collaborative skills if asking students to work together. In the biography project above, some students almost came to blows because they clung to their own ideas and refused to listen to the rest of the group. I had to spend more time on group skills to support their inquiry learning work.)

Recently there has been a push to do inquiry learning within e-collaborations. Kim Cofino of the International School in Bangkok, Thailand has written this blog post ( to give teachers support with setting up groups which will collaborate digitally.

The other "who" of sharing is the audience. In the past, students shared the product of their research (generally a research essay) with only the teacher. (Kuhlthau, 2007) With inquiry learning, the goal is to create a community of learners who engage with the learning products together. Students may share their learning with one other student, in a small group of students, to the whole class, or to the whole school. Students may even be invited to go outside of their school to share in a different venue. With online communities, students may be sharing their learning (especially in the form of a blog post, VoiceThread, or video) with a group of strangers that they never meet. Recently, Kim Cofino (teacher mentioned above) had a parents' morning. Parents brought their laptops and Kim taught them how to use an RSS feed (Google Reader) to aggregate all the class and school blogs. Suddenly those blog posts have a wider audience and students will be encouraged to do a better job on them. (Check out Kathy Cassidy's Grade 1 blog site.,%20 She is a teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. People stop by from all around the world to read her students' blog posts. She recently used Skype to do Readers' Theatre with a class from the United States.)

The most common audience for student sharing is a group of people in the same room with the speaker. The student needs to be aware of background knowledge that the audience may possess. I recently attended a Web 2.0 workshop in which the presenter repeatedly checked in with the audience (who were strangers to her) to ask about basic concepts. Then if we already knew about the concept, she moved past it. In my Twitter workshop, I first thought that my audience would be pre-service education students. I thought about what their motivations may be for learning about Twitter. I planned a short get-acquainted activity before the workshop began. However, when no education students signed up, I was not sure who my audience would be. I had four people attend (three were teachers and one an ESL student). I had to revise the focus of my presentation because of my audience. I wasn't well prepared for the ESL student who at one point tweeted: I'm lost. Know your audience! (For some questions to ask to prepare for the audience go to

What is involved in the sharing phase of inquiry learning?

According to the book Guided Inquiry (Kuhlthau, 2007), the sharing phase of inquiry learning includes both a product of learning and the action of sharing that learning. The product may have been created in its final form during the creation phase. However, many projects involve the creation of a research essay which can not easily be shared with an audience. Therefore students will need to create something which can be shared with an audience. (e.g. Grade 6 students did research essays on the birds and animals we might see at camp. Then they created posters for the bird or animal they researched. At camp, these posters were on display. Throughout camp, each student gave a short speech about their bird or animal.)

The product may be decided at the beginning of the inquiry process (e.g. Grade 4 Science - amusement park rides) or may arise more naturally throughout the inquiry process. With students who are new to inquiry learning, teachers may tell them what they will share ("we are making powerpoints or posters to share our learning") while with students more experienced in inquiry learning, they may choose their own unique final product.

When students are choosing how to share, Multiple Intelligences thinking could be part of the process. Teachers who are suggesting various products could think of the various Multiple Intelligences when designing the projects. There are some helpful worksheets within the Appendices of Focus on Inquiry (See A, B, D, & E) which could help students understand their preferences in selecting products of learning. Here is a list of possible products of research (not all will be appropriate for sharing with an audience). Here is a list of digital tools for creating projects

Speeches: One of the most common ways of sharing learning is through a speech. The speech may stand-alone or may include visuals, a poster, or a powerpoint slide show. Students who have never given a speech may be very nervous. In my classrooms, I have always had students take turns leading opening exercises. This seems to help them in developing those skills in public speaking. Students should practice making eye contact, speaking clearly, using gestures, and organizing content well.

List of public speaking resources:

5th Grader speech (Excellent--eye contact, enthusiasm, humour, 3 points, gestures)

Many resources for public speaking

Tips from Craig Kielburger (video)

Adorable video of 3 year old Chinese boy public speaking (watch for what he does right: gestures, eye contact, enthusiasm, brevity. Wrong- too dependant on notes. But what can I say, reading and speaking at three.)

Animated training for giving a speech

Powerpoint: If students choose to use a powerpoint as their means of sharing their learning, there are various considerations. If the powerpoint will be presented along with a speech, the latest guidelines for powerpoints are that they should contain little text and more pictures. (See Joyce Valenza's blog post Powerpoints can be uploaded to Slideshare for other people to view. I think that if the powerpoint is a stand-alone vehicle for sharing, it does need more text on each page. Most students will use it in combination with a speech and then less text will be best.

Videos: Resources for those making videos

Posters: Ideas for creating poster displays (intended for older students) a display board for science fair

Debates: Students may use a debate as a way of sharing their learning. (After my grade 6 students had researched and presented on alternative forms of energy, I had them face-off and debate on why their form was better than the other person's form. This type of debate can lead to higher levels of thinking.) Resources for debate:

I know this section has been long. My goal has been to include some of the resources I have discovered that can be used by teachers and students in creating some of the products that they will share.

For my Twitter workshop, I used a data projector and a handout for each student. I actually had one of my students who was new to Twitter demonstrate step-by-step how to open and use a Twitter account. Her actions were displayed on the screen and I talked about the process as we went along. My presentation was very hands-on and interactive since every student sent two tweets and followed other people and replied to a message. At the end, I talked about the value of Twitter.

The next section is about the When and Where of the sharing phase of inquiry learning. (Click here.)
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Part 3, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: When & Where?

When does the sharing phase of inquiry learning take place?

This is related to time. At what point during the inquiry learning process do students share about their learning. Obviously, most of the sharing will come at the end of the process as the student shares with an audience about their new knowledge. However, it would be valuable for students to share at various points throughout the process as well. (One teacher has set up a Google Docs survey form so that students can easily report about their learning as they go through the process.) We are not only trying to expand the funds of knowledge about the focus of the research. We are also seeking to expand the understanding of the process of research. Therefore it would be helpful to share in a metacognitive way with small groups of students.

Another aspect of sharing, that is related to time, is the idea that the products that students share will become increasingly more complex as the school years go by. In Focus on Inquiry (2004, p. 32-35), suggestions are given for the expectations for those new to inquiry all the way to those who are very experienced with inquiry. For the newcomers to inquiry, the teacher has more control and gives a lot of direction. However, as students learn the process, they have more and more choice with topics and ways to present them. The Galileo Learning Network provides this rubric with increasing complexity as students develop their inquiry skills. (

For my Twitter workshop, I could not have given it until I knew a lot about how Twitter worked. I guess learning about Twitter was like an independent inquiry project for me. At one site about how to do inquiry learning, this question was asked: "When is it time to report? Since learners are dealing with self-directed questions that have highly personal value, they should report when they are satisfied with the answer." By that measure, I reached the point of being satisfied with the answer. (Maybe my question was: Does Twitter have value for me as a teacher?) Then it was time for me to share my learning with others.

Where does the sharing phase of inquiry learning take place?

If the sharing is taking place in a physical setting ( a classroom, an auditorium), logistics must be part of the consideration in planning the sharing. Teachers will usually be the ones to take care of this. I have set up many heritage fairs and science fairs in my classroom. I would need to set up for the traffic flow through the room. I also needed to prep the students to stand up to give their brief speech about their project since our room usually became very noisy during these fairs.

If the sharing is taking place online, then technology becomes part of the scenario. For example, when I watched some of the Skype session that the Grade 1 Moose Jaw teacher, Kathy Cassidy, shared with the teacher in the States, there was a lack of audio clarity. This is a technical issue.

When I shared my learning about Twitter with the students in my Twitter workshop, we were in a computer lab. This was an ideal setting since I wanted all of them to create Twitter accounts right away. Sometimes the venue for sharing will change from one presentation to the next. Students and teachers will need to be flexible about making each location work for them.

The next blog post deals with the Why and How of the sharing phase of the inquiry learning process. (Click here.)

Part 4, The Sharing Phase in Inquiry Learning - Why and How?

Why is it important for students involved in an inquiry learning project to share their new understandings?

By this point in their inquiry learning process, students have become very knowledgeable about their topic. They may have created a research essay or a powerpoint presentation. However, as they grapple with the issues of how to share their new knowledge with an audience, it will consolidate the learning that they have done. Depending how they choose to share, they may receive feedback which will help them to improve their learning process or product. (For example, if they posted a powerpoint presentation on Slideshare, they could ask for people to make comments on the presentation. If they created a video and posted it to YouTube, people could make comments.) As students work on sharing about their topic, it moves them to begin the process of transfer of inquiry skills into other areas. In a science inquiry process using open inquiry, Knodt (2009) discovered that as students met regularly for inquiry projects, they began to transfer the language and habits of thinking into other subjects. They were able to reflect using metacognition.

Another reason for sharing the learning is in order to build the class into a community of learners. Kuhlthau (2007) suggests that as students collaborate and then listen to each other's presentations, rich funds of knowledge are created for that community.

As I shared my Twitter workshop, it helped me to understand my own practice of using Twitter. Things I had only understand intuitively, I was able to put into words. As well, my Twitter workshop helped to build my community of learners as I encouraged the class to begin to discover the value of Twitter.

How does the sharing phase of inquiry learning take place?

This aspect of the sharing is interconnected with many of the other question words. However, I am choosing to look at how the teacher supports the learning to share process. The teacher will be discovering along with the students (especially when it comes to using new technologies like Prezi or Voicethread). The teacher will need to scaffold learning and provide just the right amount of support. Part of this learning may be the provision of rubrics to help students see all the requirements for various ways of sharing learning. For those new to inquiry, the teacher may simply give them the rubrics. However, as students become more adept at inquiry, teacher and students together can create the rubrics. (
Create Rubrics for Project Activities

The teacher may also provide models for students to refer to in making their sharing creations. I mentioned earlier the posters that my students created to take to camp. I made a poster ahead of time to determine how much information and how many pictures could be included on a small poster. I showed the students the poster as a model. Part of the sharing (and later reflecting on the sharing) process is to reflect on the presentations that other students have made. I did this several times after Science Fairs or Heritage Fairs. After I had marked all the displays, I invited the class to come on a Gallery Walk with me. I took them to the top 3 or 4 displays. Then I asked them what they noticed. They shared their observations. Then I mentioned anything that they had not touched upon. When students returned to their own displays, I could hear them reflect on what they had done well and what they could do better.

Sometimes during the sharing phase of inquiry learning, teachers will need to encourage students to revisit some of the other phases. Inquiry learning is a recursive process. More information may need to be retrieved or a new product created especially if a new audience will be coming in. (During Science and Heritage Fairs, my students noticed that they needed to adjust their mini-speeches depending on the age group visiting their displays.)

For my Twitter workshop, I did look at information that other people had shared about teaching Twitter. I noticed that sometimes instructors of Twitter workshops would say, "Please welcome Ms. White to Twitter." When I would click on Ms. White, she would have no tweets. Even those students who had a tweet, had followed no one. So I learned from others and structured my Twitter workshop in order to address these concerns.

Visit blog post entry #5 for the discussion questions and reference list for this look at the Sharing phase of inquiry learning. (Click here.)

Part 5, The Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning: Discussion Questions and Reference List

Chicago, the graphic novel - let's see if we c...Image by kern.justin via Flickr


Through this presentation, I have learned much more about the sharing phase of inquiry learning. I wanted to create a resource for myself and others to use when their students reach the Sharing phase. Only as the sponge is squeezed out (remember my image from the first blog post) can others benefit from the refreshment that comes from the sponge. Students who learn how to share their learning will be welcome anywhere. As well, as the sharing takes place, a community of learners is formed.

Throughout my search for information on sharing learning, I came across some amazing projects. I was really impressed with both of the following projects. Both involved authentic learning and both projects made a difference as they were shared within and beyond the immediate community of learners. I am using references to both of these projects to frame the questions for this Sharing Phase of Inquiry Learning.

According to Focus on Inquiry, authentic learning “involves going beyond active learning to challenge and solve complex problems and construct new meaning that is grounded in real-world experience. Students are challenged to create new knowledge, to answer a question, to develop a solution or to support a position or point of view based on real-world problems” (2004, p. 109)

The young people on this video were involved in real-life learning as they studied their run-down neighbourhood in Chicago. The YouMedia project at the Chicago Public Library gave these teens a place to hang out, mess around, and geek out. They joined inquiry projects and borrowed equipment from the library to capture and share their new knowledge.

Question 1: As you watch the video, what are the various ways in which their new learnings are shared? How do they show an awareness of their audience?

World Habitat Day Presentation from YOUmedia on Vimeo.

Question 2: A teacher at King Middle School in Portland, Maine which created the Fading Footprint video below (viewing optional) said that "Every kid has their own finish line" when it comes to inquiry learning. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? How would this concept impact on the sharing phase of guided inquiry?

Fading Footprint Video from King Middle School, Portland, Maine

(For more about this project, visit


Alberta Learning (2004). Focus on inquiry: A teacher’s guide to implementing inquiry-based learning. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Learning. Available at

Knodt, Jean. (Oct. 2009). Cultivating Curious Minds: Teaching for Innovation through Open-Inquiry Learning. In Teacher Librarian, Vol. 37, Iss. 1, pp. 15-21.

Kuhlthau, Carol, Maniotes, Leslie, & Caspari, Ann. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. London: Libraries Unlimited.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two Children's Books by Canadian authors (with booktalk podcasts)

For a class assignment I was asked to create podcasts with booktalks for two children's books. The books I chose were Melanie Bluelake's Dream by Betty Dorian (author from Saskatchewan, Canada) and A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King (Canadian author).

Melanie Bluelake's Dream

Dorion, Betty. (1995). Melanie Bluelake's Dream. Regina, Saskatchewan: Coteau Books.

Novel, Ages 9 - 12

Awards, Honours, Prizes:
Saskatchewan, Canada Book Awards, 1995 Nominee Children's Literature Canada
Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, 1998 ; Nominee; Manitoba, Canada
Silver Birch Award, 1997 ; Nominee; Fiction; Ontario, Canada

Melanie is a ten year old Aboriginal girl who moves from a reserve in northern Saskatchewan into the city of Prince Albert. She is unhappy that her mom forced her to leave her Kokum (grandmother) behind on the reserve. Melanie's mom is determined to finish her grade 12 and make a better life for herself and her daughter. The story is told from Melanie's point of view as she learns to adjust from the freedom of life on the reserve where she knew everyone to life in the city. The book presents a matter-of-fact picture of those living in poverty. In the midst of the hardship of life, there are glimpses of joy--when Melanie dresses up for Halloween, when Melanie makes new friends, and when Melanie makes peace with her mom.

The author of this book, Betty Dorion, has taught on reserves and in the city of Prince Albert. I appreciate the realism and understanding of the socio-economic setting that she brought to this story.

Other books by Betty Dorion:

Bay Girl (1998, Coteau Books)
Strike (2000, Coteau Books)
Whose Side Are You On? (2001, Coteau Books)

A Coyote Solstice Tale

King, Thomas. (2009). A Coyote Solstice Tale. (Illustrated by Gary Clement). Toronto: Groundwood Books.

Picture Book, ages 4 - 9

This is a Christmas tale with a twist. Coyote lives in a little house in the woods. He is preparing to welcome his animal friends for supper when a little girl dressed as a reindeer shows up. The animal friends retrace her footprints in the snow to discover that she escaped from the Christmas mayhem at the mall. Coyote jumps shopping cart first into the fun and loads up with presents for all--only to discover that the cashier wants him to pay for the gifts. Coyote discovers that goodwill and peace are free and he doesn't need or want those presents.

The story is told in rhyme and the illustrations are almost like cartoons. This book is one that children will enjoy reading and rereading to catch the details in the story and the pictures. This is an unusual Christmas book as it pokes gentle fun at materialism and extols the joys of simple things--friends, goodwill, and peace.

Thomas King is an author and a professor at Guelph University in Ontario. In the past he created a hilarious show for CBC Radio entitled "The Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour".

Other Books for Children by Thomas King:

Coyote Sings to the Moon (2001, WestWind Press)
Coyote's New Suit (2004, Key Porter Books)
A Coyote Columbus Story (2007, Groundwood Books
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Global Issues for Teachers

This morning on Twitter, I read tweets from two teachers. In one tweet, a teacher near Boston, complained about lack of access to the computer and language labs for her class. She wondered what would happen when all teachers began to teach digitally.

Another teacher said that in her area of Nebraska there were no substitute teachers available so that, although she was sick and needed a sub, she was going to drown her illness in Motrin and head into the classroom.

A few weeks ago I spend five days assisting in school reviews for some schools in a nearby city. In both schools, teachers commented on the lack of substitute teachers within their school division. They have been given certain dates when there will be "no subs available". (These are days when many teachers are out of the classroom for Professional Development training.) Teachers were concerned about the last minute nature of illness. Sometimes you just need to stay home.

In one of the schools that I visited, they had recently lost their computer lab when the room was needed as a classroom. Now they have a class set of laptops that travel from room to room. It takes longer to set them up. Particularly for the younger grades, password access is an issue.

Here are two teacher issues that are global. A lack of substitute teachers can impact both a teacher's health and the health within a school. Lack of access to technology will affect how students learn or don't learn to use technology in education.

Are there any other global teacher issues that you see as you learn from your international contacts?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ruth's Random Resource Round-up October 18, 2009

Enjoy these resources that I have collected over the past month.

Cut out the pieces of YouTube videos that you want to use. Tube Chop

Bloom's Taxonomy : A visual that includes technology

Class Discussion Guidelines (Excellent graphic, visual handout that you could discuss with students)

Parent wiki created by Cindy Seibel

Good blog post about how to use class blogs with students

Great Quotes about Learning and Change

Embed the Twitter stream directly into your presentations

Graphic organizers

Listen to Yann Martel (Canadian author of The Life of Pi) talk about writing the poem for the One Drop foundation and read the poem

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Surfing the Wild Ride in Elluminate Sessions #eci831

Last Tuesday evening I participated in Dr. Alec Couros' virtual classroom. Dr. Couros is a professor at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. He has 20 for-credit students and around 200 not-for-credit students in this graduate level class titled: Social Media & Open Education. (#eci831) (To learn more, read my blog post at .) I am delighted to be one of the 200 from around the world who are benefiting from this class. Alec is bringing in some ex

Surfing BreaksImage by via Flickr

cellent speakers (via live video, of course). Students are writing blog posts about the class. (Learn more at Class information, It's not too late to join.

I have participated in two Elluminate sessions in this class. (Elluminate: Prior to these two sessions, I have been part of three earlier Elluminate sessions. When you truly participate and engage in those Elluminate sessions, they can be a really wild ride. It's like trying to surf (when you don't know how). The waves just keep on coming. Sometimes you jump on your board and try to ride the wave (this is when you're typing your chat so fast that you feel as though your fingers could fall off). Sometimes you lay on your stomach and just hang on to the board (this is when you simply lurk and listen, trying to take it all in. You may mutter a little or do some heavy sighing but only in the privacy of your own home). Other times you fall off and get eaten by a shark (this is when you get so sidetracked by your private thoughts or by a side conversation with someone that you stop listening to the main conversation).

Boogie BoardingImage by therealglen via Flickr

Let me share with you some of my experiences from the 5 Elluminate sessions that I have been part of. In the first session (with Edmonton social media guru Mack Male [Twitter handle @mastermaq]), I participated with my classmates and professor in an online class from the University of Alberta. There were around 16 participants that evening. I knew most of them from our discussions in the online class. Mack shared with screen casts and slides to illustrate his talk about social media. The backchannel chat was going fast and furious. However, since there were only 16 of us, it was manageable. Mack picked up on most of the questions that we asked. I do remember that at one point I asked a question. It got lost in the shuffle. Much later on, one of my online classmates asked (in the chat) whether my question had been answered. At that point the question was answered. That evening, each participant went away feeling exhilarated. There was no moderator of our discussion but we watched out for each other. There were only 16 of us in the session.

The next session that I was part of was a session with George Siemens and Dave Cormier. It was held just before the Open Education Conference in Vancouver. I know the hashtag was #smti but have forgotten what that stands for. I was totally overwhelmed during that session. I rarely participated in the backchannel chat. I did not know anyone else who was participating. The ideas were new to me. I was struggling to understand the concepts and I had nobody to talk to. Since it was a conversation between George Siemens and Dave Cormier, they had some "private jokes". Maybe everyone else listening was privy to the jokes but I wasn't. At one point, Dave or George referred to Web 2.0 in a derogatory manner (Something about Reilly and picking up on a name one of them had created.) Since I had just completed a Web 2.0 tool class, my ears perked up. Here were two social media big-wigs decrying the use of the term Web 2.0. Why? So I asked, "What's the joke?" because they were chuckling over this concept. Dave Cormier replied (in the chat), "what joke?". I tried to explain but never did get a reply. I went away from that Elluminate session feeling excited with the ideas but disappointed because I never did receive an answer for my question. I still haven't received an answer so if any of you know the answer, please let me know.

The third Elluminate session for me was in another online class from the University of Alberta. The professor was introducing some of the tools for the class. It was similar to a face-to-face lecture class. There were fewer than 10 people in the session. It was informative but not exhilarating.

The 4th Elluminate session that I participated in took place on September 15th--the first session of #eci831 that was open to non-registered students. Alec Couros introduced many of the tools that we would use during the class (Google Reader, Tweetdeck). Alec did present lots of ways of using the tools that were new to me. However, since I knew about much of what he was talking about, I could follow along. I even stood up and surfed the waves on my boogie board. I made comments, asked and answered questions. I heard many people's confusion as they plaintively bleated, "What's ____________________?" I tried to hear those cries and answer them if I knew the answer.

(Just a little aside here: I am taking another online class in Inquiry Learning. In this type of learning, students need a little background in a subject before they can begin to choose their own avenues of questioning and learning. During the provision of background, there can be a lot of discomfort because it is all new to the students. I could see this type of discouragement and frustration exhibited by some of the other students in #eci831. According to inquiry learning theory, these feelings are totally normal when faced with radically new concepts.)

Now on to my 5th experience with an Elluminate session: That would have been last Tuesday evening (Sept. 22). Fortunately I had read Dr. Richard Schwier's paper ahead of time. I had some ideas about where his presentation was going that evening. This helped me to cope with the three things that competed for my attention: Dr. Schwier's mini video, the slides of the presentation, and the backchannel chatroom. Once again that evening, there were approximately 80 people in attendance at the class. I assume that the 20 registered students were present. This means that they were competing for time and attention with the 60 non-registered students.

(Another aside here: This past week Shel Israel, author of Twitterville, was participating in a visit with a class somewhere. He publicized this visit on Twitter and invited people to attend via Twitter. I was following the chat (using the hashtag Shel provided). Shel's intention was that he would tweet with the students in the class while the other visitors would simply lurk and listen. Instead, the visitors began to overwhelm the discussion because they kept piping up with new questions or comments. Shel had to tell them, "This discussion is only for people in the class.")

That evening I really empathized with those people who are taking this class for credit. I think that their questions were getting lost in the hurly-burly of the crowd of others talking over each other. I think that some of them were feeling overwhelmed by the three streams of inpu

The ConversationImage by soylentgreen23 via Flickr

t hurtling their way (video, screencast, backchannel chat). They want to participate in the conversation.

(Another thought I had at the time has to do with the "banking model" of school. This is really completely unrelated to the logistics of an Elluminate session. I heard one student say that she wanted to hear the professor's voice. She may have joined this class because of Dr. Alec Couros. She wanted to learn from him. Now there's all these other people taking up Dr. Couros' air space. What is going on?!? Last year I had a similar thought in my first graduate level class. The professor of the class (the person with the PhD) kept asking the students to share about their lives as teachers and their thoughts and opinions on the ideas in the class. I kept waiting for the prof to speak up and tell us what we should be thinking about those ideas. This was the model from my under-graduate education. I felt ripped off because I was paying for the class, to hear this PhD person talk, and instead I was listening to my peers. Eventually I came to see that my professor was a constructivist who was encouraging us to meld our experience with our new learnings to build our own knowledge and concepts. She knew that each of us came in with our own funds of knowledge. We were not empty banks waiting for her to fill us. In the same way in this #eci831 class, we each come with our own understandings and diverse backgrounds. We each need to take new concepts and meld them with what we already know. It's not Alec Couros' voice we need to hear more of but that inner voice within us that says "Wow, I love that concept. It really fits with me. " or "What in the world? I don't get it. I always thought that ..." In this way, I grapple with the ideas and confiscate a few for my own.)

So how can #eci831 become more manageable for those of us participating in it?

1) Discussion moderator: I think it might be good to have someone to moderate the discussion, to pick up on those important questions or address people's confusion.

2) Some form of I.D. for registered students: I don't want to be like those outsiders who horned in on Shel Israel's discussions with a class. I know that I am an invited guest but I believe that the registered students need to have a voice. They are the minority group in this situation. Could they have a different colour of font or could they put an asterisk before their class name? I don't want their questions and opinions to be lost in the press of the crowd.

I thank Alec Couros and his registered students for allowing the rest of us the privilege of being part of this class. I am enjoying it immensely. Whether I'm standing up surfing the wave, just hanging on to the board and trying to survive, or even being eaten by a shark, I feel really alive (dendrites growing and zinging in my brain) every Tuesday night.

P.S. I came across this blog post about a teacher's use of Elluminate in an elementary school setting. She used it to teach students about the instruments of the symphony.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Building a Network with Twitter (#eci831)

I have been part of Twitter since early in July of this year. I have gradually built a network, one person at a time. On August 6, I wrote a blog post titled "31 Tweets, 6 Followers, Following 24" ( If I were to write about the state of my Twitterverse today, the title would be "369 Tweets, 115 Followers, Following 194". In the past six weeks, I have been working on building a Professional Learning Network (PLN) as well as a local community network (for the cit

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...Image via Wikipedia

y of #Saskatoon, #yxe). Many of the people I follow on Twitter have an either/or network. Is it possible for me to effectively build a network that includes both types of followers?

I remember in August when I followed Alec Couros (courosa on Twitter), I sent him a message asking him for Saskatchewan people to follow. He gave me two names. This is an influential Open Education guru living in Regina, Saskatchewan and teaching at the University of Regina. As of today, Alec has more than 5000 people (the size of a small Saskatchewan city) following him on Twitter. Alec has been so generous with the Twitter community that he has a Professional Learning Network that spans the globe. (I know I'm simplifying the picture somewhat. Alec is also offering an Open Education class, #eci831, which has given many , including myself, the opportunity to hear his voice.) Alec has a Twitter community from around the world. His PLN is enormous.

Here's my point: If I engage with other educators and share resources and ideas on Twitter, what will my local Saskatoon followers think? If I tweet about #CupcakeCornerSk that just opened in Saskatoon, will the members of my Professional Learning Network decide to "unfollow" me because these

sktoon09h01 Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon 2009Image by CanadaGood via Flickr

tweets are not of interest to them?

My question for other people in Alec Couros' class (and for any of the others who read my blog): How have you been able to build both a local and a professional Twitter community? Is it best to select one or the other as the priority? Is it possible to have my cake and eat it too?
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ruth's Random Resource Round-up Sept. 17, 2009

Once a week I gather together resources (mainly for teachers although some will interest others as well) and post them in my blog. Make sure to check out the bacon flowchart. Enjoy the links I have saved in the last week.

Spreadsheet of every TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design Conference) Talk (most around 15 minutes long)

TED Talks VisualizationImage by Lilly via Flickr

Live-streaming video from the Trafalgar Square fourth plinth (London) 24/7 entertainment one person and one hour at a time

Video about how to use Tweet Deck to organize the tweet input

Bloom's Taxonomy updated to include digital learning

Back to School Web Tools for Students (looks best for college students or older high school)

A wetpaint wiki about Twitter for Teachers (a work in progress)

Set up your own chat room at Tiny Chat

Teacher teaches other teachers about blogging

Flowchart to help you with computer expertise

Bacon Flowchart to help you decide whether you want bacon

Bacon frying in bacon grease.Image via Wikipedia


Search for a free E-book on any topic

Blog post which explains Wall Wisher (cool way for students to post interesting tidbits of research information)

GarageBand (only available for Macs, I think)

What is Garage Band?

Garage Band is a powerful and user-friendly software program that allows you to create soundtracks, accompaniments, podcasts, and much more. Using Garage Band you can:

  • Create musical projects (even if you don’t play an instrument),
  • Involve and inspire your students creativity,
  • Create podcasts,
  • Add effects,
  • How to export and share your projects
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Newspaper Rant

What's black and white and read all over? If some people have their way, it won't be the newspaper. Why? Tell me, why? Just because I love my Twitter and the blog posts that come to my Google Reader, does this mean I should ditch (or diss) my newspaper?

So many people I meet online see everything in black and white (yes that's another newspaper joke). They love their breaking news (and yes, I found it rather shocking that after hearing about Ted Kennedy's passing on Twitter, I didn't read about it in the paper for 1 1/2 days) a

2:21Image by tcp909 via Flickr

nd their tidbits of juicy information (Kanye West anyone?). But why does it have to be either social media or the newspaper? Can't we have both?

Here's a few reasons I will continue to read my local newspaper--the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix--each day.

1) I believe in buying locally. I want to keep my city vibrant and growing. I believe that supporting my local newspaper is part of my plan to consume locally. I like the local coverage in my newspaper. It also covers national and international stories that I can find elsewhere. I think that local newspapers need to go even more in-depth with those local stories in order to attract readers.

2) I am a tactile person. I like the feel of the newspaper. I also like the idea that my newspaper boy (or girl) has trekked around the neighbourhood early in the morning (making some ca$h) to deliver my paper. My husband sits and reads the paper along with his breakfast cereal. I read it later and do the Suduko (in pen, I'm proud to say. If I mess up, I

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...Image via Wikipedia

give up for that day). A little later my son (17 years old) reads the paper from front to back. I even like the feel of the papers as I recycle them using Saskatoon's Curbside Recycling service.

3) Currently I have three main sources for news in my life:

1. I use Twitter for the latest stories. However, how much detail can be given in 140 characters? I do click on links sometimes to read more. Twitter is like the headlines or the captions for the news.

2. I read the local newspaper six days each week. This gives me more detail on the news I have seen in short form on Twitter. I follow local stories this way.

Maclean'sImage via Wikipedia

3. I read the Maclean's magazine (similar to Times or Newsweek for those in the United States). This weekly magazine provides more in-depth commentary and information on some of the national and international stories in the world. For example, it just had a cover story on the Kennedy family.

Bottom line for me is that I love my newspaper. Please, don't let it die. Tell your local newspaper folk how they can better meet your needs and serve you. Help them to find their niche in this evolving world of instant, viral news stories.

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