Note Taking and Random Thoughts on Repurposing.

Did a fun note taking class today with googledocs.  Learned all this from a coworker who learned it from Jeff Utecht. Using googledocs I had students work in threes (I will make only three students in the class do this later, I’m just practicing skills right now).  On your googledoc I had them create a table with two columns.  One column was for big ideas, and the other column was for facts.  One person would be responsible for one column, the another person would be responsible for the other.  The third person in the group was responsible for finding images.  I found the students way more engaged in the note taking activity when they were responsible for a single task, not trying to see the big picture and the small details.  While they were working away, I would add comments to their work to extend their learning.  By giving the students options in the future (especially in high school or university, this would’ve made my life way easier) they can choose now between working on their own or working collaboratively.  Student choice is important to me and this activity game me an opportunity to really embody that belief.

Today is also Remembrance Day so I got to thinking about my grandparents.  One day my grandma asked if I would be working outside, I affirmed this idea and she handed me a thin sponge tied to an elastic band (like we have in pants or shirts).  She told me it was a sweatband and it worked really well.  I try to go beyond just the three Rs and think about sustainable design.  My grandma was great at this, always repurposing things.  I try, but it’s almost always easier for me to find something that fits a specific need. With apps for the ipad I try to remind my teachers we are going for actual creativity. By repurposing apps and giving students fewer directions we can use specific apps for different ideas. The apps that are specifically for a function always seem limiting, but Showme, educreations, and most of iWork and iLife seem to work really well for getting students to push boundaries.  Although my grandma was never into tech, it is a great way for me to repurpose her ideas.

This week we are starting our tech/teaching group. We’re looking for a name and trying to blog more and tweet more.  Hopefully it will help us all integrate tech that leads directly towards student learning.  Building my community to keep me focused, thanks for the help with the forming good habits!

Blogging and Students

Finally I’ve started with students and blogging and reactivated the class twitter account.  It’s a totally different experience working as a single subject teacher rather than a classroom teacher.  Right now I’m trying to lay down the groundwork to bring the idea of blogging into classes.

The students loved it. Instead of reflecting just for themselves and spurring no action. The students had to think about what they as a class learned and then the one student scribe had to think about specifically what she learned. It was wonderful and easy really.

I feel like it’s a good start, just need to keep it up by forming those good habits.

Habit Forming?

It’s been really easy for me to form bad habits. Unconsciously I just do whatever and soon it’s too easy to stay in that rhythm, as long as it isn’t too good for me.  The things I want to do, running, blogging, etc. have been harder habits for me to form.

I wish I was better at remembering but I was reading/listening to something recently where the presenter was talking about how teachers use the idea that students are easily distracted because of access to technology as an easy way to explain why the students weren’t successful in class.  The presenter said it was our duty to work harder to inspire our students to work harder to stay focused, and that there is a sense of accomplishment in staying focused. So, I know that it is crucial for me to stay focused in order to do this, but I find it so difficult.

I’m at an EARCOS conference in Bangkok right now, and many of the speakers and presenters are saying the same thing in different forms, and I feel like I say the same things to my students (and was told the same things by my teachers) but still forming those good habits are so elusive.

I want to make sure that students are blogging about the environment and their place in it this year.  I feel like this will be essential for their learning.  By sharing their thoughts, writing about a place that is close to them, and communicating with others about their places, I think they will also develop a greater sense of community in the international world.

So any good habit forming tips? How do I keep myself accountable? I’m working with some people to make sure I keep to my goals, I guess community is important, but any other ideas are very welcome.

Social Media and Environmental Education

This was the topic of our #enviroed chat this week.  Honestly, it is something I have thought a lot about.  Since I’m living the life of an expatriate, there are many things I am unaware of regarding the environment.  Back home I would know who to contact, or would have a more entrenched sense of community.  Living abroad is fantastic for so many reasons, but this connection is something I often feel I am lacking.

My biggest wonder is how I can leverage social media to enhance my students’ understanding of their learning goals.  Personally, I have used twitter (my #enviroed group especially), Instagram, Skype and Facebook to learn more about how I can interact in my new community, as well as continue to develop my environmental awareness of what is happening in Canada.  I am wondering how I can transfer these ideas to my students.  There is a huge opportunity for students to collaborate effectively using social media in the classroom with people who are located at various spots around the world.

What we need, I think, is like minded-teachers who are willing to open up these possibilities.  It seems that in Canada it can be easy to find a board nearby where you can interact with others who share similar learning outcomes.  There are a million small reasons why my students and I have hesitated jumping into this digital world, but I wonder what’s really stopping me.

My goal this year is to have at least some students from my school connecting with students in Canada regarding the environment.  My hope is that is positive and hopeful, not doom and gloom.  I have a community to work on this, just need to set aside time to actually get the students working on this. I would really love to have conservation photography as the centre of our discussions.  Students selecting something they would like to conserve, take photos of it throughout the year, and learning more about that thing, and passing their knowledge along to others.

Side goals are establishing twitter accounts for the classes I work with as a tech coach.  By having students further their inquiry through discussions with others, and then hopefully moving those discussions into blogs or wikis, we can create a world where my students are no longer just consumers of knowledge.  I want them to be collaborators and creators.  When working with others, and seeing learning as not something that happens solely within the classroom, we can start taking action that is meaningful for each of them independently.  

Learning 2.013

What a conference. Seriously, it was great to be reminded of how important pedagogy is in any integration opportunity.

The big take away is purposefully create spaces for authentic conversations. Thanks to @paulaguinto for the wonderful moderation and all my fellow discussers for delving deep into this topic.

I get fairly concerned about the “real” world. I mean, what is this? How do we talk about it? After years of a masters program deconstructing myself, I really wonder, what is real?

I think often as educators we dismiss the virtual world as not real.  Especially as an environmental educator I wonder how we can have students fully enriched in outdoor education while still using technology. Throughout the discussion I was constantly reminded of purposeful construction of space.

Regardless of how we feel about either the natural world or the virtual world, I think it’s safe to say that most of our students travel in both worlds. So, in order to be relevant to their lives, we need to exist in both as well.  I’m still struggling to find out how to do this best, but I rest assured that there isn’t “one” answer.

Like most of what we do, we have to get to the students’ level, and understand their personal needs.  Students need a voice, students need to feel empowered to achieve their personal best.  This means we need to create these spaces, with intent, to enable them to share their thoughts and ideas.

I want to do this more with environmental education. I’ve been talking to @rangerridley about sharing class blogs, but first I need to establish them with my students, and get them recording their feelings and emotions regarding the outdoors.  I’m really thankful for iPads at times like this.  They are easy to take outside, take photos, record thoughts, share their learning visibly (thanks Nicki Hambleton) and then make connections. I want them to use the virtual world to take action for the natural world.

More than that, I want people to realize there is no “real” world and that we have to work as a group to define how we can do the best for our shared world.  Using the internet as a tool, means we can collaborate without travelling, meaningfully and with a purpose.

Anyway, I can’t wait to go back next year.

Conservation Photography

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to incorporate the iPad into environmental education. I’ve talked with others (and I think here) about using the iPad to record images of reflective spaces or magic spots. Taking the idea from Payne and Wattchow and linking the iPad to take photos made me think that you could make your magic spot visible.  You could see how things have changed and reflect on the change either in your magic spot, or back in class.

For over two years I’ve known my friend Neil has been into the idea of conservation photography, but haven’t made the connection.

Copyright Neil Ever Osborne – used with permission

He uses photography to highlight the importance of conserving our environment. Taking action happens in many different forms as an environmentalist.  Neil chooses to create awareness and share his passion through writing and photos. 

I wonder how we can use this as educators.  Can we engage students on a similar project, take photos of what inspires them and what they want to keep safe.  By having students share their passions through images, we can help shape the future of how we view the environment. 
What I’m looking for now is how people are using iPads to take photos.  What media are students creating to help our world? Help me out please, and check out Neil’s website http://www.neileverosborne.com/   

What tools do we use?

After our #enviroed chat today, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different tools we use as teachers.  Finally, I finished my thesis, what a long time, but throughout the process we looked at different ways we can engage students in environmental education. Some of our chat today went over the same content, but at one point, we started talking about different tools to use. 
As a technology coach, I think a lot about the different digital tools we should use for different situations. Most of my questions start with why, or what is the end result.  When planning learning engagements, i want to know what the teacher is looking for, and then I try to apply the right digital tool to the situation.  As a tech coach, this makes a lot of sense to me.  In class we use iPads for different things than we use net books for.  We will use a camera for very specific tasks that we wouldn’t think of using a desktop for.  Each tool has a different function, and we use each or a combination of tools to finish a product. 
I hadn’t thought about using environmental tools, and I am still struggling to think of tools teachers always have handy, other than the outdoors.  The person who brought the idea up suggested a ratio of 2:1 natural tools over digital tools.  What does that look like in a school, and more importantly for me, can we combine the two.  Are we bringing our digital tools outside?  By using programs like project Noah we can link our biological learning to places all over the globe. Taking photos of our favourite places and then blogging about them to persuade others to interact with nature could be useful for learning about writing and our favourite places. 
It seems there is often a tension between digital and natural, it’s one I feel often in this position as tech coach.  I want to embrace technology without losing the natural world, but I don’t often bring my technology outside, and I rarely ask my students to do this.  
I’m still hoping to do a time lapse magic spot video by the end of the year.  I need to dedicate some time to this, to make it work, and share our learning with others.  Conservation photography seems like an interesting avenue to take with students. It could be a way to mix the natural and digital tools we use to create engaging learning experiences for our students.