3 Things I’m Grateful For: Location, Location, Location

There’s an interview with comedian Louis C.K. that really resonates with me about a lot of tech stuff. It’s called “Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy.” Take a moment, if you haven’t already, to enjoy watching (please note, it’s not suitable for children).

This interview makes me think about a lot of incredibly amazing tech stuff that gets taken for granted, but specifically, location based apps.
Here are 3 location-based pieces of tech wizardry I am grateful for:

GPS & Maps

Map PinsIn Switzerland, they happen drive on the other side of the road to each of the four countries I have lived in previously. Driving on the other side of the road feels like you are constantly making mistakes that may have dire consequences for you or the people you happen to be sharing the road with. In short, it’s terrifying. But with the GPS turned on, at least I don’t have to worry about knowing where I am supposed to be driving, and I can concentrate on important things, like not screaming out loud when a car comes the opposite direction on a narrow Swiss road.

True story: my kids gave me a round of applause when I first drove home. I think I’ll keep them.

Apple maps, Google maps, they’re both amazing! Take some time to appreciate the wonder that is location-based navigation! I do every day in this new country of ours.

Recycling Map

There are a lot of reasons to love the Swiss – chocolate and Roger Federer are but two of many – however, one has to appreciate their commitment to recycling. Recycling is expected, rather than encouraged, and I think that’s just great. Except for when I don’t know where to find the nearest recycling centre. Enter the Recycling Map. Simply type in your postcode, and what it is exactly that you want to recycle, and voila! The nearest locations are pointed out to you on the wonder that is Maps. Genius.

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FourSquare & Swarm

FourSquareLooking on FourSquare (also available as an app) has become one of the first things I do in a new location. It provides information on places to eat (very important to me!), nightlife (somewhat less important) and things to do (yes, yes!).

Users leave tips and ratings on each location they visit through partner app Swarm. FourSquare uses this information to recommend locations nearby, complete with distance, address and contact details, opening hours, and a rating out of 10. This is alongside the tips from reviewers.

FourSquare has been responsible for some of my most memorable meals on holiday. Peskesi in Heraklion and Gelato at Cioccolat Italiani are two recent examples of places that would have gone undiscovered, had it not been for FourSquare.

I encourage you to start contributing to the pool of knowledge on FourSquare, by leaving tips about your favourite places on Swarm. That way, we all benefit!

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“Trip planning.” flickr photo by Shawn Harquail https://flickr.com/photos/harquail/15866878743 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Documentation Using Technology

“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” 

– Loris Malaguzzi

Inspired by the work of Reggio Emilia, UWCSEA East infant teachers have been exploring documentation to make learning and thinking visible. The role of the teacher in this process is to observe the students carefully, look for those significant moments, and capture images/videos together with examples of student voice.

This documentation is brought to their teaching teams so they can interpret it, explore options for next steps for the students involved, and make connections to the curriculum where relevant.

My colleague Dave Caleb and I had the opportunity to present to the infant teachers about ways technology can help support the documentation process. As you can imagine, technology is a natural fit for this sort of process, so we had lots to share.

Our presentation is below. We would love to hear your ideas about ways technology can enhance the documentation process. Leave us a comment!

(Cross posted at GreaTechxpectations)

Shoulder-to-Shoulder

fullsizerender-4I have described being a Digital Literacy Coach as the best job in the world and I truly mean it. 99% of the time. But some days are hard.

I mean, really hard.

Navigating the dynamics of a large school and the complicated nuances involved in building and maintaining relationships can be challenging at times, but today was not one of those days.

Today was one of those days that reminds you that you are privileged to do this job every day and work with such an amazing bunch of educators. Here are a couple of the highlights:

Today, not only was I welcomed into a G3 team meeting, I was  encouraged to stay and participate in a discussion around possible goals for the year for that grade, even though I don’t teach the students daily like the class teachers do.

The discussion was well-organised, and every single person in the room had their voice recognised and heard. There was a sense of calm, despite people raising different and interesting possible areas of focus for the grade level goal.

Today, an informal conversation about professional development with the effervescent  Laura led to a shared desire to learn (and teach) visual note-taking. I am not a visual notes guru, but I do know someone at our school who is: G5 teacher Jocelyn Sutherland.

Laura and I set off to find her. Predictably, she was in class, conferring with individual students on their writing as we came in.

There are some teachers that are 100% ok with people popping into their classes, no matter what is going on. Jocelyn is one of those teachers. I truly value teachers who can see visitors as an opportunity rather than an imposition.

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As we took photos of posters Jocelyn had made using visual note-taking strategies, she quickly sent us links to some videos that teach visual note-taking. Winning! We even saw some student examples of visual notes. The students were very eager to share, and articulate in sharing why/how visual note-taking is helping them.

There were about 10 minutes left before the period ended – just enough time to watch the first 2 videos with Laura.

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What I liked about the interactions I described today was that I wasn’t just a Technology specialist giving advice or tech support to people, but rather I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers – learning from and with them.

And that makes for a pretty great day.

Coaching for Digital Literacy

Coaching for Digital LiteracyA little over a year ago, I collaborated with a group of international school teachers in the technology coaching field to create a multi-touch book called Coaching for Digital Literacy. See the blurb below:

Coaching for Digital Literacy is an emerging field where educators are supported in developing their pedagogy around learning with digital tools. This book is a collaborative effort by experienced Digital Literacy Coaches in international schools that will serve as an invaluable resource for those already in a similar role as well as people who are considering this field.

Filled with practical suggestions and case studies, this book aims to arm Digital Literacy Coaches with proven skills and techniques to support learners.

It was wonderful to be a part of this process, together with Andrew McCarthy, Clint Hamada, Jeff Plaman and Louise Phinney, and I’m very pleased to be able to share it with you.

Building Capacity with Tech Mentors

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

I was lucky enough to participate in a 3-day retreat with 25 teachers from across UWCSEA’s two campuses, designed to build capacity in the college with regards to coaching and mentoring in general, and technology in particular. We have had a lot of requests for more details about the retreat, so I thought I’d outline some key aspects:

Approach

The planning committee comprised of the Digital Literacy Coaches, Teacher Librarians & our Tech Director. Andrew McCarthy (DLC at Dover) created a wonderful Google site for the retreat, then we divided into groups to plan and populate the site according to interest/level of expertise.

The retreat focused on Cognitive Coaching and Mentoring (facilitated by the dynamic duo of  William Powell & Ochan Kusuma-Powell) in the morning sessions, together with afternoon sessions exploring strategic technology themes at UWCSEA. We wanted to build in a culture of sharing and team building throughout. To this end, we incorporated an optional Photo Walk with Dave Caleb (Grade Four teacher and photographer extraordinaire), time for sharing best practice from participants and a social dinner one evening.

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Bill & Ochan really did a spectacular job of setting the tone of the Retreat. They had a fluid, natural style which contributed to a relaxed, engaging atmosphere throughout. Their coaching sessions focused on the following:

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

Wednesday – 8am – 12pm

Surfacing assumptions about adult learning — preconceived notions vs. what the research suggests

Four support functions: Coaching, Consulting, Collaborating, and Evaluating

Trust and Rapport

Thursday – 8am to 12pm

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

Self-Directed Learning: how does a Mentor support it

Coaching as Mentoring

The Planning Conversation – how to support a Mentee in planning

Practice with specific coaching strategies

Friday – 8am to 12pm

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

Situational Leadership for Adult Learning: Directive and Supportive Behaviors

Feedback: The Breakfast of Champions and Losers — how different types of feedback affect the recipient.

Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development and how they impact learning.

The Reflecting Conversation: how to support a Mentee in reflecting and evaluating technology use.

Things I learned:

If you effectively double the number of devices people have access to, you will break the wifi

iPadsOne exciting aspect of the conference was that we were able to give each Tech Mentor a new iPad. There were several reasons for this, including the fact that teachers who play with technology in their everyday lives are more likely to use it in the classroom (and beyond), as well as the opportunities for meaningful and detailed assessment for learning that the iPad affords. Not surprisingly, the iPads were very well-received by the Mentors, and they dove headfirst into exploring it for note taking, capturing images, creating iMovie trailers and much more.

The downside to that is that although we factored in the number of people coming to the Retreat, we didn’t take the number of devices they would be connecting to the wifi into consideration. Lesson learned.

People Really Matter

Screen Shot 2012-06-05 at 1.24.07 PMFrom the feedback we received, the chance to meet and get to know people from the other campuses repeatedly came up. Both our campuses are HUGE, and it is not unusual that people can work at the same campus for years and not lay eyes on one another. Just taking the time to sit down and really learn about some other people was a considerable benefit. We know that magical things happen when you put passionate and interesting people in the same room together, and the Tech Mentors’ Retreat certainly confirmed that.

Pedagogy First, Technology Second 

DSC_6243This Retreat was not designed to teach the teachers a whole lot of technology. The people who were there were already keen on the tech – we didn’t need to shove it down their throats. What made it so successful in my mind was that it was grounded in research and emphasized technology as a tool for learning, rather than an end in itself. In fact the majority of the conference involved best practice for interacting with others – social skills 101 if you like – and would be useful for any individual! It gave a lot of insights into the reasons people can be reluctant to use technology, and provided some techniques to deal with these sort of issues at school.

I Still Love to Share

And so it seems did our Mentors. It was neat to have the showcase sessions with interesting things people are doing in their classrooms. Learning from the experience in the room made people feel valued, and reminded us that there are so many wonderful things happening already at our school, we just need to provide opportunities for people to share with a wider audience. 

Photo by Dave Caleb

Photo by Dave Caleb

[Please check out our Storify collections from Day 1, Day 2 & Day 3 if you would like to see the collective knowledge of the group as we went along.]

Getting off Campus is a Good Thing

A new location can help us to switch our mind from the pulls of day-to-day teaching, to focus on new learning with fewer distractions. It felt like we were at a conference in another country.

Visual Literacy is Important for All

Many Tech Mentors mentioned Noah Katz‘s work on Visual Literacy as a highlight for them. Noah (DLC at Dover) reminded us that we all have a role to play in helping students learn how to share information in the clearest, most visually appealing way possible. We hope to get Noah’s presentation up for you soon, so you can all benefit from his knowledge in this subject.

Passion is Infectious 

Photo by Louise

Photo by Louise Phinney

When we are passionate about something, it really shows through in our presentations. Watching Noah talk about design, Katie Day talk about literacy or Dave Caleb about photography, well, you can’t help but get sucked into that vortex of awesomeness. How are we making this happen for the students we teach? For our teaching colleagues? For ourselves? These are questions worth considering as we look ahead to a new academic year in August.

Thank you!

I couldn’t let the opportunity to say a couple of thank yous go by…

Andrew, thanks for coming up with this genius plan in the first place; and Ben, thanks for having the vision to support it and help make it happen.

To our new Tech Mentors, working with you was an absolute pleasure, and I am grateful so many of you are on Twitter etc so we can keep the conversations going.

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Technology + Musical = Awesome

We are up to our necks in rehearsals for our Grade 6 musical, Once on this Island, but I had to share the role of technology in making the musical run smoothly. Honestly, I don’t know how we ever did a musical without it. Here’s what we’ve been doing so far:

Choreography

YouTube now provides us with access to other schools/theatre groups who have performed the same musical. The Director (my husband Miles) and the backstage crew have trawled the web for the best examples of choreography for each song, and we have ‘borrowed’ the bits we like to supplement what was already in our minds. It has saved a lot of time, and we can watch the videos as many times as we need to get a particular set of moves down.

Video Trailers

Every Grade 6 student has a role to play in this musical, and we simply couldn’t do it with our backstage crew. A couple of them have created video trailers for the show to promote interest, and one student is producing weekly videos for our school newsletter to keep the community informed of our progress. These have proven to be engaging and above all, entertaining, for the grade 6 students and our school community. We have used iMovie extensively for this purpose.

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Filming

Our talented backstage crew are also helping out with filming rehearsals, and assisting our Digital Media Specialist in manning the cameras for the actual performances.

Google Apps

The backstage crew have created surveys using Google Forms to source costumes, and have used Google Docs extensively to organise and share resources. A spreadsheet was created with a cast list and costuming needs, as well as documents with videos for choreography (including how to learn to waltz for one particular scene), images for face painting ideas, and a list of props needed for each scene. The shared editing feature has been invaluable for backstage organisation.

Screen shot 2011-06-03 at AM 09.41.10Tickets & Posters

Students have produced tickets and posters for the show using Pages, which have helped publicize it around our school.

I am proud of the way students are taking ownership throughout the show, including taking on the roles of stage managers, lighting, sound and PR. This is what we want our Middle School students to be doing, and technology is helping them along the way.