ECMP355

Adventures of ECMP 355 (Summary of Learning)

I’m not sure one post or one video can explain all that I’ve learned this semester, but I worked with Brooke Stewart on creating a video or two where we tried to fully summarize what we have learned on this journey that is ECMP 355! Rural internet limitations means that we had to break up our summary of learning into two parts: the first being a Powtoon video where we go on a journey about learning about technology and the second, we reflect on a few things we couldn’t include in our Powtoon including coding, cyberbullying and a topic that is special to us- technology and rural schools.

 

I sincerely hope you enjoy our videos as much as I enjoyed creating them with my friend and neighbor Brooke!

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Online Activism and Social Justice

Our world is imperfect. Privilege is afforded to a select few and exclusion happens all around us. Although it is imperfect, it can be changed. We can change our world. Change can happen in a variety of ways, not just by marches, protests and voting booths, but by opening dialogues, teaching others and accepting a diversity of voices and viewpoints. Change is difficult, change can be seen as threatening and online dialogue can get muddled with trolls, irrelevant comments and dissension.

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Photo Credit: justine warrington Flickr via Compfight cc

This week we were presented with a few questions: “can online activism be meaningful and worthwhile?” & “Is it possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?”

My answer is yes. Yes, it can be meaningful and worthwhile and productive, but there are ways to go about talking about a specific cause in such a way that educates the public and opens dialogues.

First, conversations should be conducted in an appropriate venue with an appropriate audience. A dog owner forum would be a great venue to talk about no-kill shelters and spay/neuter clinics while those members might be less receptive to talks about social justice and other non-dog related topics.

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Photo Credit: Geraint Rowland Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

Conversants allow others to voice their opinions in a respectful, meaningful manner. Hopefully the dialogue stays free of over-generalization, name calling and other disrespectful habits that detract from the topic on hand. Openly discussing differing viewpoints allows others to see the different sides of the story and synthesize any information.

According to Caralee Robertson, we need to engage in these conversations to be good digital citizens and that these conversations need to be based on facts, not blown up assumptions. 

Online activism can be deeply meaningful and can reach individuals across the world. I think there are a few key things that can keep the dialogue on a meaningful level: knowledge, authenticity, informational about the issues and maintaining an open dialogue with others.

Those supporting a particular issue should be knowledgeable about said issue and about how to solve the problems surrounding the issue. It is one thing to bring light on a problem, but it takes a solution to bring people together and unite them for a cause.

To me, authenticity is a huge deal. If I feel like a cause is “just a fad” I’m less likely to invest my time, money or thought on it. But if a person comes to me with strong feelings and information on why the topic is important , then I’m more likely to learn about it and contribute.

32407024424_de44f576f7.jpg Photo Credit: chrisjohnbeckett Flickr via Compfight cc

In addition to authenticity, maintaining an open dialogue is also important for both authenticity and in acknowledging a variety of view points that exist. Diversity makes us stronger, our multitude of voices leads to a more complete narrative and more wholesome solutions.

Please, engage in dialogue, support a cause and discuss social justice. Help the world change, be the change you wish to see! But be prepared for trolls to disrupt the dialogue and for others to not see eye-to-eye with you, acknowledge differences and respect opinions for it is by our differences that we make our world a better place.

Learning Project Summary

When this semester began and I learned that I had to work on a “learning project,” I was doubtful. I figured it would be a drain on my time and that I would hate it. I was wrong. I enjoyed learning about engraving and I’d love to learn more about it. There are three day courses I can take from professionals to hone my technique. I am saving up for one of those courses!

If I had to describe my learning project journey in one word, it would be “roller-coaster.” On my trip from Calgary, I was sky-high with my expectations and how much I was going to accomplish with this project this semester. To say that I overestimated myself- is an understatement. I learned lots about engraving, more about myself and tons about online learning.

To kick off my list of things learned, I will start with organization. It is important to organize your research materials as sources can be scattered across the internet with various authors/contributors and information can differ depending on the source. I have an “engraving” folder on Chrome and my Safari browser on my iPhone. This really helped me stay organized. I also utilized Evernote to write notes, save websites and save pictures for inspiration. It even has a handy-dandy Chrome extension to help you!

Access to certain pieces of information may be limited and information is not always free. Sometimes you have to buy or rent a digital copy of a video, pay for a membership or invest in private lessons via video conference or phone call. This isn’t new to me, private lessons via phone call or video are common in the barrel racing world.

Having a network is important. I didn’t get the opportunity to establish an engraving network like I have for teaching, though I did gain information via online forums available to me. I believe the quality of my learning project suffered from my lack of network. I did gain some great sources from Twitter thanks to the Hobo Nickel Society. They responded to my tweet!

This reinforced another idea- don’t be afraid to ask for help! Someone in your network may be able to help you!

Don’t forget to reflect and learn from failure. Accept failure when it happens, explore why it happened and move on with what you learned from the experience. I know I failed mostly from a lack of practice and a lack of tools (you need the right tool for the job!), but I can still improve my skills with the tools I have and I can always buy more tools.

My last project is incomplete. I began engraving a pair of stirrups (See my post with stirrup inspiration!), but life got in the way. I plan on finishing the pair, but it might take me awhile to get them completed while we are calving and I am working full-time. Below are some photos of my process and a few of my projects this semester! I hope everyone had as much fun as I did when it came to their learning project this class! I’m considering a new learning project in the Fall, I just have to decide what I want to pursue.

My Contributions 

“How have you contributed to the learning of others?”

That is a very good question. It has been a long semester filled with ups and downs, indecision and a rather hectic schedule for me.

I will say that this is my weakest link. When my life got busy, my responses and comments got pushed to the side. I also have a tendency to lurk, seeing how others have solved the problem rather than answering the question being asked. I also felt limited by my lack of knowledge in this topic of technology. It took me awhile to actually comment on Google+. Below are some screenshots from comments I made and posts I shared on our Google+ community.

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I began the semester hating Twitter. I had tried using it as a personal account and I just didn’t “get it” but thanks to this class, I now love twitter! I love learning new things (especially about teaching) and meeting new people.

I shared a few sources with my #ECMP355 classmates like Love, Joy, Feminism and Youtube extensions for teachers (see embedded Tweet above). I also helped a few classmates learn more about a particular ed tech tool- Flipgrid by Tweeting about the tool and created a topic using Flipgrid on which my fellow ECMP classmates could use Flipgrid as a student and respond to a prompt.

I also participated in a few Twitter chats such as #CVTechTalk and #imaginEDchat and I would love to keep participating in chats such as those in the future (when I can, Spring and Summer are hectic times for me due to our ranch. We start calving in mid-March through May and then there’s seeding in the Spring and haying in the Summer in addition to our branding and helping our neighbors with theirs).

I love the Twitter chats because you see so many different opinions from a variety of sources (which I could see easier thanks to Tweetdeck!). These chats are also a way to expand your network  based on your interests (Social Studies, anyone? Social Justice? Teach like a Pirate??) which I think is great, I can learn better methods that are catered to the issues that pop up in a Social Studies/History classroom.

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I could have commented on more posts, but as I’ve said before, my life got busy and I pushed the interaction part of this class to the side. It is a terrible excuse, but I am owning that this was my weakness and I could have done better.

My next post will be all about what I’ve learned! Stay tuned!

Wiggle Engraving

So I decided to play around with wriggle engraving the other week. I’m so sorry that I’m a few weeks behind, between calving season and subbing I’ve had a pretty full schedule!

I saw this engraved trumpet while on a google search adventure and I absolutely loved this design! I had to try something like it!

Fig. 6, 69, Engraving Detail

Detail on the engraved trumpet.

Online learning is difficult, especially if the concept or skill is particularly detailed or not well-known. Engraving is a skill that is all detail. Engraving well involves attention to detail, knowledge of the tools and materials involved and a whole lot of feel. I don’t have great feel yet, but with practice and perseverance, my feel will develop.

Until then, I will keep practicing and honing my skills! After this bracelet, I began engraving an aluminum stirrup (I’ll post about it later) and I’m so excited about how it is turning out!

This is my attempt at wiggle engraving.

Learning online is great, however; it poses its own challenges to different learners. I am very much a hands-on type learner. I like to try new things and experiment until I find a strategy that works for me. With engraving, it is a great strategy, but it can get expensive when I need new materials to experiment with or if I need a new tool to try a new technique.

Sometimes our students don’t learn the same way we teach. That’s OK, great even! We as teachers need to acknowledge those differences and structure our classroom in such a way that everyone can learn in different ways.

Playing with Scratch

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I decided to play around with Scratch today! I had fun making the unicorn jump around using the arrow keys. It took some getting used to, knowing what I wanted the unicorn to do but not knowing the exact terminology. It definitely took some tweaking!

I think coding is an important 21st Century skill that our students can benefit from learning. Coding and tweaking websites can be a great resume building skill and makes our students more attractive to future employers.

Coding can also engage students who might otherwise not be interested in classroom topics.

Technology Integration

Tech is everywhere. We engage with technology everyday as consumers, whether by using our an app on our phone or on the job. It is clear this is the 21st Century. Just how can technology benefit schools, students and educators?

Education technology is a wonderful thing, it can open up a whole new world to students who live in extremely rural areas (like I do) and it allows them to broaden their experiences when life is not limited by locale. 12158666264_61c44094fa This can be done via virtual tours such as this one of the Louvre or via linking classrooms via video conferencing. Students in smaller schools may also be able to access classes that otherwise might not be offered.

Photo Credit: Wayne Stadler Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

Another way that education technology is a wonderful thing is that teachers can utilize technology to encourage student voice and promote democracy in the classroom. Students who are introverts can be encouraged to use their voice via technologies such as Flipgrid or Mentimeter or through a platform such as blogging or Twitter where they might be more comfortable rather than speaking in front of classmates. Students can also give teachers feedback on lessons, topics and classroom activities. And for other students, technology can provide a real audience for them to share their ideas and practice their writing skills. Blog platforms such as Edublogs can provide a safe environment in which these students can blog about topics and hone their writing skills with real-life applications.

Technology can also streamline instruction. To quote Alec Couros, “if you can google it, why teach it?” Instead of focusing on information overload, teachers can focus on teaching skills such as writing, digital citizenship, branding and other 21st Century skills that may help them in college and career readiness. Our students should be becoming critical thinkers, engaged in asking questions and making their world a better place instead of focusing solely on the memorization of dates and names that they might forget after the next test (dates and names are important, but it shouldn’t be the only thing on our students’ minds).

We can all agree that technology is a good thing, however; there are a few things to consider before we jump in feet first. We must consider student access to devices if our classroom is “bring your own device,” some students cannot afford a smart phone or tablet or computer and making your classroom BYOD might create some issues.

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How much is too much? Can too much technology be a bad thing? According to Science Daily, writing notes by hand might make learning easier and the information might be absorbed better than if those notes were typed. We as educators need to find a balance between technology and regular classroom instruction.

Photo Credit: DawMatt Flickr via Compfight cc

We should seek to pick and choose types of technology that fit our classroom and school environments instead going overboard and adopting things wholesale. What works in one classroom may not work in another. This is especially true right now when many educators and administrators are concerned over budget cuts and what kind of impact those budget cuts might have upon our schools.

Overall, there are many advantages to integrating technology into our classrooms, but there are many things to consider before we jump in feet first. Technology integration should be smooth with students in mind.

Flipping for Flipgrid

I decided to explore Flipgrid as a classroom tool. Flipgrid is an edtech tool that allows students to respond to a teacher-posted topic or question. Student videos can get likes and responses and teachers can post their own responses to student videos.

I love the idea of Flipgrid! As a social studies teacher, I really believe in promoting democracy in the classroom. Encouraging student voice leads to student involvement and student involvement can evolve to community participation and active citizens. This tool allows students to develop their own voice via video and respond to their peers. This allows even students who may be quiet in “RL” an outlet for discussion. I might be able to hear a voice that might otherwise be drowned out in the usual hustle and bustle of a regular classroom.

I tried the free version, since I’m still subbing and don’t have a classroom of my own (yet!). The free version allows an educator one grid, unlimited topics, unlimited number of students, and unlimited responses in addition to a free app. The non-free subscription has more handy dandy tools and the ability to embed a grid or topic to a website or blog (like this one!) and I could see myself upgrading eventually.

Let me get down to the nitty-gritty:

Pros: 

  • allows for equal student voice with created video responses
  • helps create and supplement class discussion
  • Teachers can moderate and response to student videos
  • Has privacy controls that can be tweaked by the teacher

Cons: 

  • Student created video responses are short (in the free version, only about 1:30 long)
  • There’s a bit of a learning curve to set up, but now that I’ve played with it, its pretty easy to to set and moderate.
  • Requires app for student devices such as tablets and phones which might be difficult for some students (sometimes storage space is a hot commodity!).

Application ideas:

  • Great tool for a flipped classroom or a classroom oriented around discussion
  • Encouragement of student voice and classroom discussion of ideas
  • Tool that students can access at home or when traveling

 

Blogging in the Classroom

So Skylar and I decided to create videos using Flipgrid for our conversation regarding blogging in the classroom.
I played a concerned parent and the points of my video are:

  1. student privacy- Is my child going to be exposed to potential predators?
  2. The idea that what my child writes could have potential to hurt them in the long run (think about Justine Sacco and the backlash from one Tweet)
  3. Is blogging really necessary? Is this vital to my child’s education or is it just a fad? Is the instructor going to have enough time and energy to devote to overseeing students when they blog.

Skylar responded to my video! It is so cool to see different videos on a topic. I just wish those videos were longer than a 1:30! I was in a room that wasn’t very quiet with no headphones and so I love the idea that Flipgrid makes a transcript of every response! The transcript may be inaccurate thanks to developing technology but I’d like to thank IBM Watson for trying his best anyway!

isam just responding to your post about blocking ends at the classroom and as a parent myself I think you know it it’s natural for us to to be concerned about a child and especially you know with the stories of Amanda Todd or just you stay cool you know about about how we’re leaving you know it to doodles like Frank and I think that as a teacher privacy privacy settings and controls are greater importance we must be careful when choosing our privacy options especially for how great you know when having our students while you were at different assignments or you know I am I think when introducing flocking to my students that it’s definitely a a great opportunity to first educate them on digital identity you know discussing online safety and privacy with students as well as discussing arm digital footprint that you may be creating I also think that having the parents involved will be an important step as well you know to student success for a blogging perhaps having the parent teacher interaction will help motivate the students learn more I’d definitely think that there’s a lot of positives to that as well that can come from blogging inside the class

In addition to the points that Skylar made in her video response, I wanted to add a few things. Blogging and the creation of a digital portfolio can add so much to a student’s education and set them up for success after high school (whether it be college readiness or career readiness). George Couros makes some valid points in his post 5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog” I am going to re-hash most of what he said and add a bit of my own ideas into the mix as well.

Blogging can improve literacy with different mediums, making students better digital citizens while exposing them to various tools such a YouTube, Flickr and a host of others that can be related to blogging.

Blogging can also help with the development of student voice and encourage reflection about learning. With blogging, students can be a part of a community and through community (commenting, etc) there can be an exchange of ideas and those students can learn from each other. Students can initiate change through their blogging and the exchange of ideas. This shows them that they aren’t “just a kid” and that they can make their own environments better with their ideas (Like the creator of “Sit With Us”).

Blogging can also serve as an archive of student learning. All your posts are saved and organized by tag, category and date! They can see how far they’ve come from grade 9, or see what they learned in grade 10 science; it is all there on their own page! I kinda wished I had an archive like that off my classes from university or even high school! This leads us to the development of a positive digital footprint for our students. Let’s create one before someone else does it for us. Let’s fill the web with positive stuff instead of negative.

I also think blogging in the classroom could be a great set up for teaching our students 21st Century skills for both career and college readiness. Students learn:

  1. About tagging and using categories- for post viewing ease and webpage organization
  2. Development of networks (like my PLN on Twitter or my network of fellow “hipsters” who struggle with FAI and labral tears of the hip)
  3. Résumé building, or using their blog webpage as a résumé where they can show off their skills.
  4. Skill ownership and the importance of communication. Students can say “I know how to do this!” and student created blogs can serve as a way for parents to check up on what their children are learning (depending on the privacy settings).
  5. Privacy and how to control who can see what.
  6. Intellectual property and appropriate usage and the need to cite sources, photographs, etc.

Overall, I see many positives for blogging in the classroom with the appropriate lessons to students about privacy, writing to an audience, post appropriateness. As long as the instructor takes the time and the steps to set students up for success, I can see blogging being very beneficial for students.

 

Failure as a teacher

With the weather being kinda crappy out, I decided I might as well work on my learning project. 

I decided to tackled this tutorial on the Engraving Forum. It is a step by step demo of the basic western bright cut engraving. 

Screenshot taken from hand engraving forum


I quickly realized this basic tutorial isn’t as easy as the engraving forum members made it out. I am a raw beginner, working for the first time with brass with limited tools. Most of the members are either professionals, or have been practicing for awhile. 

Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.

 Morihei Ueshiba

I did give it a try, despite missing some of the tools listed. 

I sharpened my tools, put a piece on my vise and began. I failed. Miserably. 

Wiggle engraving the backbone was step one.


Step one went fairly well. Wiggle graving is a skill I know how to do. After that, I was lost. My graver slipped (a few times) resulting in scratches. And no matter what I did, I couldn’t make cuts like the author. 

This reminded me of teaching in a classroom setting. We will have students who struggle, who fail at tasks, and who wrestle with a concept. We need to help them learn to wrestle with hard concepts and not give up on learning just because it’s hard. 

A picture of my failure.


I failed today, but I won’t quit. I will go tool shopping (who doesn’t like shopping?) and learn more about engraving and practice more. 

Who else has struggled with something to do with their learning projects? 
PS: I just had an epiphany about making sure we have all the tools before implementing something new in our classroom such as a new app or piece of technology!