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An Open Letter to Graduates

grad

 

Photo Credit: acase1968 via Compfight cc

 

It’s graduation time from a variety of educational institutions. Kindergarten, Grade 6, Grade 8 or 9, high school, college or university. Sure, some people call them ‘farewells’ but truly, students are graduating onto something else, whether it is another school, another grade or into a career.

This post showcases some of my thoughts as I reflect on my own high school graduation (it’s an anniversary year for it – not telling you the years, though!), but also a reflective piece looking back on what I’ve accomplished, learned, and am still learning.

My continued influencers are my Mom and Dad, a retired teacher and both business owners, they ensured that my home, academic, and extra-curricular life was full and diversified. There are also my brother, friends, and classmates who continue to influence and share their world with me. As well as the colleagues who I work, meet and connect with throughout the school year. (Yes, I loved learning, so I became a teacher, went into Administration and now work at Division Office.) I am thankful to whomever I meet.

Enough about me and onto the ‘speech’:

To all 2016 Graduates, wherever you are in your life, I have four significant thoughts to share with you.

  1. PASSION CAN BE FOUND AND ACTED UPON

As Plumeri said, although, “you can Google for an answer. You can Google for a mate. You can Google for a career. But you can’t Google to find what’s in your heart, the passion that lifts you skyward”. If you haven’t yet found your Passion, then go looking for it. You can even try what Stephen Robinson (52skillz) is doing by trying one skill each week. Find something that excites you and just do it! Whatever it is, well, as long as it’s legal! Write things down that you like, brainstorm, have a journal or sketchbook and write keywords, draw out ideas. Think about every leader or person that you’ve ever admired, everything that you’ve accomplished. Take action and make that choice to be your own active hero of your own life. Don’t wait for others to pull you  along.

2. PATHS CAN BE DEFINED

Steve Jobs is well known for his unforgettable remarks, and one comes to mind regarding your path into the next phase of your life.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

As soon as we are born into this world we have a time counter attached to ourselves. We don’t exactly know how much time we are given in this realm, but we should work to make it better or different. Go out and explore, ask questions, connect with others, listen to music, read, draw, create, imagine and have fun! Create your own path, take your Passion reflections and formulate a plan of action. And review that plan often since it most likely will change with your experiences and new ideas that you capture.

3.  PERSIST, PERSEVERE

Don’t give up! Your path may not be easily walked on. Experiences, people, and/or ideas may provide obstacles or temporary barricades. I think of all the inventors, athletes and entrepreneurs who tried thousands of times to get something of relevance right. Basketballer extraordinaire, Michael Jordan, was cut from his Junior High BB squad, so he practiced and put more time in and become a successful NBA player. Vacuum inventor, James Dyson, took five years and set up his own manufacturing company (since no other vacuum company wanted to handle his product). Media mogul, Oprah Winfrey, was publicly fired from her first TV anchor job in Baltimore for getting ‘to emotionally invested in her stories’. Movie director, Steven Spielberg was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts multiple times. And author, J.K. Rowling, was a single mom living off welfare when she began writing the first Harry Potter novel. This goes to show you that each of these ordinary people found their Passion, worked on their Path and Persevered to achieve their ultimate goal.

4.  PHILANTROPY IS WHERE ITS AT

Give, give, give! Give your time, your hear, your voice and if have some, your money to specific causes, organizations and/or people that you believe are making a difference in their community. Knowing that you sacrificed something in order to help others in need gives you a sense of purpose in life or work. You have the opportunity to build your social circles while reaping the physical, mental and spiritual benefits from however you have contributed to the cause. And, seeing a smile on someone’s face, makes you smile too – that’s is always a good thing!

Take these concepts of PASSION, PATHS, PERSEVERANCE and PHILANTHROPY and make your life into something that you are PROUD of. I wish each and every graduate all the best!

I leave you with this original and fantastic Graduation song:

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2016 in Communicates to Inspire

 

Gone Digital: Good and Bad Connections

At the end of May, I had an opportunity to spend 1.5 days with some pretty ‘smart’ people regarding how emerging technologies can hold both a promise and a peril for individuals, families and communities. The evening lecture and the day long Invitational Research Colloquium on Growing Up Digital in Alberta: Children, Youth and Society shared some amazing findings. (I will make my best attempt at summarizing what these incredible experts shared.)

The evening was an overview and open to the public while the colloquium was invitational and hosted a variety of professionals and diverse groups from across the province. A few goals to think about as you delve further into this subject:

  • To consider the extent to which technologies are (re) shaping the minds and bodies of children and youth
  • To explore the neuroscience and psychology of digital distraction(s)
  • To identify the issues, perspectives and contentions emerging from current Canadian and American research
  • To discuss the 2015 findings of the Harvard University, Alberta Teachers’ Association and University of Alberta longitudinal study on Growing Up Digital (GUD) in Alberta
  • To generate key questions to guide policy decisions and future research on emerging technologies, learning, teaching and the well-being of children and youth

Our expert speakers were:

Larry Rosen is a research psychologist with specialties in multitasking, social networking, generational differences, parenting, child and adolescent development, and educational psychology, and is recognized as an international expert in the “Psychology of Technology.”

Michael Rich came to medicine after a 12-year career as a filmmaker. His current areas of health research and clinical work combine his experience and expertise in medicine and media, making him the world’s first “mediatrician.”

Here is a visual and audio (I created) summary of Larry and Michael’s presentations. While watching and listening, think about:

How does this information challenge or affirm current practices and policies?

What key research areas or essential questions require further exploration?

Larry – The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World

Michael

Michael – Gaining Connectivity Losing Connectedness

Michael 2

Yet there is more. Watch the following THREE videos that continue this conversation and research on this topic.

 

How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development

 

Coding Can Be as Easy as ‘Apple’ Pie

Apple coding

K-12 teachers spent the day with Bob (@velcrohook) from Apple Canada who worked us through some programming paces using Apple products – iPads and MacBooks.

Working through some heavy programming terminology like:

  • statement
  • algorithm
  • variables (scope global vs local)
  • data type
  • initialization
  • functions
  • conditional statements (if-then)
  • loops
  • running/executing a program
  • debugging

One would think that this terminology would sit well only at the high school level, but that isn’t true as Bob focused us from the easiest tasks to the hardest by the end of the day. It was quite a learning journey and I would highly recommend time spent learning and interacting just like this to anyone who is interested in getting their students into this world of programming.

Our journey:

  • Jigsaw puzzles – even these warrant the need to communicate and connect and put together in order to create something, a picture in this instance.
  • Lightbot Jr and Lightbot apps – fun with the basics and then looking at the different procedures to make that robot move! Definitely something that individual and some groups of students can work on. (K-3, but older students may like it too)
  • Scratch Jr and Scratch apps – from basics, to programming to exemplars and curriculum on the main Scratch website, this is my “go to” for anyone who is interested in jumping into the coding world with their students. (K-12)

Apple coding2 Apple coding3

  • Hopscotch app – from making a game, to pictures to remakes, to Rube Goldberg machines, emojis, etc. This one app will fascinate from grades 3+.
  • Tickle app – my favorite app since it does so much. With it you can use block programming (like Scratch) to program Star Wars BB-8 Droid, Arduino, Drones, Dash and Dot robots, Spheros, and Ollies.
  • XCode on MacBook – create amazing apps for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. I love that you can create the code on one half and the other half shows you in real-time what it would like on the application. There’s also the new Swift Playgrounds too (we didn’t go into this one).

Basically, you need to find time with colleagues, with your students to try these applications out, you won’t be disappointed and will certainly learn a lot along the way.

 

 

 

Got Some Initiative with That?

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Photo Credit: Nicobobinus via Compfight cc

Today I had the opportunity to work with a whole staff. The first part of our work together was an overview of some of the EdTech Initiatives that our school division has been working on. Check out what was shared below. See what you have in common. Also, are there some pieces that you haven’t thought of? Are there things that we should be looking at as well? This is a brief overview, mind you, but it is always good to read other people’s comments.

Activator

Just Like Me – how many of you are similar? different? from each other. This is a great activity to start off a session/workshop with!

 

Initiatives in PSD

 

  • Social Media/Networking

 

Social Networking in Real Life – hilarious video!

Parkland teachers are using Social Media in a variety of ways – communication, collaboration, connecting with other classrooms/experts, resources, sharing, learning, demonstrating….

Citizenship and Social Responsibility standards are part of the reporting process in the school division. Continued work on digital citizenship and literacy will enhance the already existing standards. Staff and students are working with many resources.

 

  • Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy

 

Library Learning Commons staff use Destiny Library system for their books, textbooks and other resources. Accessing ebooks, audiobooks, links is also an important part of this process.

 

  • Library Learning Commons – new library companion software

 

    • Destiny
    • MackinVIA™ is a library program that makes it easy to access your school’s eBooks and educational databases and it connects with our current Destiny Library System. Teachers can easily create groups that host specific linked resources for a particular topic. You can use MackinVIA on any device that has Internet access. For online and offline access, there is a free MackinVIA app available for download.
 

Graphic Organizers in Google – Say What?

graphic organizers

As the educational world becomes more blended in the resources, materials, ideas and information that we use in the classroom, so too have Graphic Organizers.

As noted on the Inspiration website, Graphic organizers guide learners’ thinking as they fill in and build upon a visual map or diagram. Graphic organizers are some of the most effective visual learning strategies for students and are applied across the curriculum to enhance learning and understanding of subject matter content. In a variety of formats dependent upon the task, graphic organizers facilitate students’ learning by helping them identify areas of focus within a broad topic, such as a novel or article. Because they help the learner make connections and structure thinking, students often turn to graphic organizers for writing projects.

I find that some teacher’s who are used to having students use a paper version of graphic organizer that is really effective are somewhat hesitant to move towards using that same graphic organizer in an online manner. (And I don’t mean .pdf’ing the original paper version.)

As I work in a GAFE environment, checking out Google drawings is one viable solution. Each drawing can be shared with specific permissions in mind – view only, comment only, or editable. I have scoured and collected a variety of these graphic organizers, all found in a GDrive folder HERE (this is view only, make your own copies). I’ve ensured to give credit to whomever has created the GDrawing.

I hope this inspires you to use digital graphic organizers. Feel free to share some of yours!

 

Creating an Inventive Learning Environment

Invent to Learn ETCATA

I just returned from an amazing two days of interactions, learning, connecting and collaborating with a few 100 of my colleagues, ETCATA Executive, Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager. It was an amazing experience from the start with Sylvia and Gary (Invent to Learn authors) facilitating and introducing us to a variety of theory, history, practical strategies and hands-on learning.

Invent to Learn obligation

Invent to Learn – Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom is a three-year old book based on how to use (low to high) technology to make, repair or customize the things we need to use in our daily life. The benefit is that students love creating and talking and teachers will love how easily this fits into current curriculum. The ETCATA Specialist Council brought Sylvia and Gary up to Edmonton for April 4-5 and then on to Calgary for April 7-8. This opportunity provides any ETCATA members to connect with each other, learn from engaging speakers and continue their professional learning.

Invent to Learn

With so much being shared, I created a Storify for the 2 day event HERE. And if you have the physical copy of Invent to Learn, make sure you pair it up with their website!

 

 

5×5 Learning: ChromED Responses

Asking questions, polling, surveys, they are all viable and used within the classroom, but how can teachers easily and effectively create these? One specific tool is the Google Form, or GForm. Found within the GAFE environment. It is really a quick way to create and continue a conversation with your students, parents, and community.

 

Some basics:

GForms for PD, Administrators, Teachers, Students

5 Ways to Use GForms

 

If you are already using GForms but want to take it up a notch, check out Using GForms and Add-ons within GClassroom shared by Synergyse.

 
And with some recent updates to GForms, see some other ideas in 9 classroom uses.

 

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