Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Summary of Learning

I was looking to find a different way of doing a screen cast for my Summary of Learning for my ECI 831 class and found Reflector. This application runs on your computer and allows you to connect multiple Airplay devices, mirroring whatever you're doing to your computer screen. It is really simple to use!

I used Quicktime to to the screen captures while I was mirroring my devices. I used a chromakey green desktop wallpaper for some of the shots and for others I used the chalkboard from Keynote. Title slides were built and animated in Keynote then exported as a movie to iMovie where they were chopped. I used the Freeze Frame feature in iMovie to layout my sequences then layered my screen casts over top. Voice over was done in iMovie using a Behringer C-1 microphone and small mixer to EQ the sound.

My daughter plays a guest role as she accepts a Factime call while working on her My Little Pony drawings. All screen casts were sped up in iMovie.

I'd like to use this in my classroom for student presentations. At the moment Android devices do not mirror over Airplay but there are companies developing the ability for their devices to connect in the same way Apple devices do.

I created an original soundtrack in Garageband using a drum loop, my keyboard, voice and electric guitar but found it too distracting so I cut it from the final video.

I'm going to use Reflector to create some videos on BYOD workflows for students and teachers and post them to my YouTube channel.

Thank You

This is been a lifetime of learning. And it will be a lifetime of sharing. Thank you to everyone for making this a great class. I hope to work with you all again someday.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Busy Semester September - December 2013

I'm taking the time to draft a list of the things I've been doing since September of this year. Sometimes a person can get really busy and not take stock of all that's going on around them. My life certainly has a strong base in technology. I've long been ruminating on how technology plays a role in my life and have shared much of what I know very openly with everyone I meet. I haven't taken time in the past to share on the internet though and I suppose it's time to start doing that. I'd love to get feedback from people and grow my personal learning network through this blog. If you have any advice or share any interests I would love to hear from you! This post also serves as a planning document for my Summary of Learning in my ECI 831 class.

Personal Education

Masters of Educational Technology & Design, University of Saskatchewan
  • Attended ECI 831 through the University of Regina. An excellent course as we were introduced to amazing people and several lifetimes of possibilities in using the principles of Open Education and Social Media and is the reason I started blogging. Thanks to Dr. Alec Couros for his passion and dedication and enriching our lives with so many ideas and connections.
Personal Learning Portfolios Using BYOD

  • My major learning project for ECI 831. This project evolved from wanting to introduce students to the idea of Personal Learning Networks to the creation of Learning Portfolios mostly by using mobile devices. You can read all about it by following the link.

In The Classroom

I'm at a new school this year and working to get to know new students, colleagues and classes. It's been a busy semester learning to fit in at Winston Knoll Collegiate and I'd like to thank my students and colleagues for making me feel welcome. We have an amazing group of grade 9 students that will be pleasure to work with over the next 3.5 years.

  • Teaching Students Photography Using Mobile Devices
  • Simple Photographic Studio Setup
  • Post Processing Images
  • Working to Increase Student Literacy Through Writing Reflections on Competed Work
  • Using Pinterest Boards to Curate Ideas for my Art Classes
  • Visual Art 10 Class Blog on Blogger Resource Site and Calendar
  • Art 9 Blog on Blogger Photos of Student Work and Course Calendar
  • Created an Outdoor Club Blog for Winston Knoll Collegiate
  • Remind 101

With Colleagues

I started the Winston Knoll Collegiate Technology Collaborative, a group of teachers wanting to learn more about technology and it's role in education. So far we've had a bunch of meetings and a lot of interest. We have come up with some goals for our school to provide a strong foundation for innovation in our classrooms using shared resources and student owned devices. I'd like to thank all the members of our group for being so supportive and fantastic and having so many great ideas. Work has begun on the following initiatives:

  • Google Apps for Education Accounts for every student and staff member in the school
  • Started a Google + Community and Google Group for our Tech Collaborative
  • Sharing and Documentation are all Cloud based to facilitate collaboration between the members of our group
  • Started a Blog which will go live in 2014 to share what we are doing with technology in our school. This will provide a showcase for the innovation that takes place as we move forward.
  • Our Administration has come on board with us and is looking to support us in any way they can. Thanks to our Principal, Mr. Brad Howard for all his support.
  • We have learned how to better connect with students through Google Groups, course blogs and social media as well as messaging services like Remind 101.

With Family

Work has begun to connect more with my family. We purchased an iPad for my mom and dad. Dad has never used a computer and mom's been a pioneer since 1981. The iPad has allowed both of them to connect and share with us no matter where they go! My mom was even able to introduce us to cousins we've never met in Poland when she was there at the end of the summer. (I know... this kinda slides me back into August and this post is supposed to be about September till December) I also got them an Apple TV so they can see the photos we've been taking of the their grandkids on the big screen.

My daughter Yukimi is a young artist and she's been drawing and painting so much. She is now learning to use YouTube to learn how to draw her favourite cartoon characters and is using my Cintiq 12" drawing tablet to create drawing in Photoshop. Next I think I'll be setting up a blog with her so she can start developing her own Personal Learning Portfolio and start curating a gallery of all her amazing work.

In The Community

For the Alpine Club of Canada Saskatchewan Section, Regina Chapter

  • Became a Member of the Club
  • Travelled to the Banff Mountain Film Festival in Banff Alberta
  • Became the Social Media Promotions Director for the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival - Best of the Fest Tour in Regina, Saskatchewan. We now use Facebook, Google + and Twitter in our Promotion of these events. Each of these platforms are built for organizers to collaborate.
  • Was the Projectionist, Film Announcer and Sound guy for the presentation of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina, Saskatchewan.

For the Cathedral Village Arts Festival, Regina Saskatchewan

  • Became a member of the organizing committee for the festival as Technical Advisor
  • Stage Setup and Sound mixing for the Vertigo Series Poetry Slam at the Mercury Cafe in Regina and mixed sound for recording artist CR Avery
  • Stage Setup and Sound Mixer for Billy Hughes and Double Down
  • Built a Collaborative Website for the Festival (still in Beta) to replace the old CVAF website

For CARFAC Saskatchewan

  • Was appointed a member of the board.
  • I hope that my experience in Art Education and Technology will be a positive contribution to the service of CARFAC

On a Personal Level

This Personal Blog and Portfolio Site on Blogger is the result of my ECI 831 class. I'm finding more and more that enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts. In the future I'll be posting resources and ideas I working on for the classes I teach. I've spent time cleaning up my footprint on the web and learning how to use a variety of resources to connect with others. I'll always say I'm not the best at Blogging or Tweeting but I'm certainly learning. If I've learned anything this semester it's that connecting and sharing with the people all around us provides us with a better life experience. I hope to continue blogging my experience. I've certainly spent many years learning from others on the internet and it is about time that I become a contributor as well.

Personal Learning Portfolios From Start to Future

A Little History

A learning portfolio is a wonderful thing. It brings a variety of content together for the consideration of others and serves as an archive that demonstrates a person's growth in their personal learning. It also becomes a valuable sharing space in a personal learning network. As more and more educators embrace the concept of Open Education Resources, it also becomes an important place for sharing not only ideas but tools and resources as well. Schools, employers, colleagues and friends can all benefit from the sharing that takes place in a portfolio. I'm just beginning to learn about all the potential a learning portfolio has to offer and I'd like to share some of my thoughts and experiences with having students create electronic versions of their own learning portfolios over the past few years.

Photo Credit: e.b. image via Compfight cc
My students have been creating class specific learning portfolios for the past 8 years. Back in the day we made interactive portfolios as web-sites designed graphically in Fireworks and Dreamweaver. This website on CD was a simple way to showcase student work at a time when we didn't have the means to put things on the internet. This wasn't an ideal situation and was much like those old suitcases above. If you wanted to someone to see your work, you still had to have them rummage through the actual work. If students wanted to, they could of course FTP their sites to some space they purchased on the web. If not, they could submit a copy of their CD for consideration. It was pretty basic and clunky even though the portfolios were very original and interesting to look at once you put the disc in the computer.

The second version of student portfolios began a few years ago when my students began using Google Apps for Education Accounts. We used Blogger to create simple portfolios. Students have the ability to change the visibility of their blogs so it is up to them to decide if they want their portfolios to be visible to the world, people within our school system or only to specific people. The ability to change the level of privacy on this project was key in being able to do this with all of my students. Now we had the ability to share portfolio work with anyone by providing a link. This was far better than the previous version! Here's an example of a great portfolio from last year:

This year we are continuing to use Blogger as a platform to host our portfolios. We use Blogger because our school system has Google Apps for Education and we have the ability to give every one of our students an account. I have the good fortune of being an administrator on our Google Accounts system so I can add accounts whenever I need to. This makes life super easy down the road as I don't have to bother anyone when it comes to setting up and maintaining accounts. Once in a while I may have to reset a password for the odd kid who forgets how to log in. The school that I am in is working towards having every student on Google Apps for Education. That's over a 1000 students! The big change with this version is in using personal devices to create and curate a blog rather than a full lab of shared computers.

The largest hurdle we face is the availability of technology within our school. We have a lot of students and it's rare that you can find a computer lab with vacancy at the time when you need it. So we've moved to using BYOD as a solution in the classroom. This is less than perfect at the moment as there is not guarantee that every student has their own technology. There is a lot of sharing and lending of equipment to make this possible. I'm in a high school and so far I'm lucky that most of my students have their own devices. I've seen tablets, laptops, smartphones and iPods new and old coming into the classroom more and more since telling students it's ok for them to use their devices during class time. For some this is distracting... but more and more I find that kids are using their devices for work during our hour. It seems that the novelty and distraction of texting, social media and games fades quickly when their is so much to be done in class. I think students are finding that their devices are so much more powerful than what they knew them to be previously.

This year's portfolios are a work in progress. I'll post some examples in the future but for now, they are not really show and tell worthy but will only get better with time.

Why Use Blogs as Learning Portfolios?

I've had the great opportunity of learning from a blogging master over the past few months. Sue Waters of Edublogs shares so much information about blogging in schools in "The State of Educational Blogging in 2012". From my own experience I feel that blogs are easy to set up, easy to customize and easy to edit and manage. They provide a slick framework for connecting any type of web resource and can have many types of content showcased within them. Blogs are easy to use both on computers and mobile devices with functionality growing on mobile devices all the time.

Blogs provide the real possibility for us to showcase our work in a highly accessible and portable way. People can subscribe to get updates when there are new posts. Blogs provide an excellent platform for sharing ideas and accepting feedback in the form of comments. Blogs can be created collaboratively or stay very personal.

The organization Canadians for 21st Century Learning and Innovation outline seven competencies in their publication "Shifting Minds." As you read the rest of this post consider those seven competencies as you do and see if you can fit much of what I'm talking about with Student Learning Portfolios.

The Seven 21st Century Competencies outlined by C21 Canada in "Shifting Minds":

  • Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Character
  • Culture and Ethical Citizenship
  • Computer and Digital Technologies

Considerations When Building Learning Portfolios

My number one caution to anyone wanting to introduce blogs as portfolios to their students is to take it slow. Don't expect a lot of glitz and glamor right at the start. These projects take a lot of time to develop. If you look at this blog as an example you'll see that I've really only begun to curate my own personal portfolio.

Besides taking it slow, keep it simple. I made the mistake of creating a bunch of blogs for a variety of purposes. I also made the mistake of limiting student portfolios to just my class. The portfolio can become so much more! Also, if students have to keep up a separate blog for each of the things they do, things are going to become impossibly complicated very quickly. 

Posts and pages are two very important features that make it possible to organize a variety of content within a blog. Blog posts can be labelled or tagged. Say a student posts about an art project for their AP art class. They could simply include a label or tag (this depends on the blog platform you use) that would categorize the post as fitting in to AP Art. As their instructor, you can navigate to their blog (I just put bookmarks in a folder on my bookmarks bar in Google Chrome) then select the appropriate label or tag for the class you teach and bam... you can see all their posts for your class. This makes for a very simple way for you to be able to provide feedback on student work and evaluate projects learning. To save a little more time, you can navigate to the label or tag before bookmarking their blog. When you select the bookmark you will be taken automatically to the right part of their learning portfolio that reflects the work that is being done for your class. This is something I wish I would have done a long time ago! A future project for me is to go hunting for things I've done and move them into this blog! Don't make that mistake!!! Pages can become placeholders for content that may be more static in nature such as lists of skills and certifications or showcase larger projects, philosophies and so on.

Ultimately I'd like to see every student in my school start their own learning portfolio by the end of this school year. With so many teachers and students this is most likely a lofty goal that will be very difficult to achieve. It think that if we start small and keep in mind that one blog will serve all classes, we just need a few people to start this project with their classes. All other teachers and course will benefit from their students quickly becoming learning portfolio experts in the years to come. 

Blogging Tools

Working with blogs is fairly simple and kids are pretty quick to pick up on the basics of blogging. There are some choices you have to make when starting out with learning portfolios. First of all you have to decide if all students will use the same blogging platform or if they will be able to choose the platform that works best for them. Edublogs offers a great level of privacy control for instructors and is simple to set up. You can change privacy setting for all student blogs, make edits and turn on approval setting for when people comment on blogs. Although Edublogs is based on Wordpress I find that it is not as easily customizable in look and feel for students. It's ease of use seems to come from all the support and ideas offered by the people at Edublogs. Blogger works well if you are using Google Apps for Education. Students need only one account to access all services. Blogger could be better integrated with other Google services at the time of this writing to increase overall functionality and ease of use when embedding content such as slideshows and documents. Wordpress offers a high degree of personalization and customizing.  There are mobile applications for all three. I have experimented and worked with each of these platforms and like with any tool, ultimately the decision is yours to make.

Get Started

  • Choose a platform or have students choose a platform. This depends on the age and ability of the students you work with.
  • Have students write a first post and demonstrate how to tag or label it.
  • Have your students customize the look and feel of the blog with themes, fonts, colours and original images.
  • It's time to create a page. Pages can become places for major projects, lists of skills and certifications. 
  • Set up basic functionality of the blog. Make labels or tags visible. Make page links visible.
  • Pages Sort Major Portions of the Portfolio
  • Create your own learning portfolio that models what you want students to do. Your portfolio becomes a place for you to share with students and other educators and is a representation of everything you do professionally.

Start Simple

Any kind of content can be posted to a blog. Posting photographs of completed work in an art class is a great place to start. This will provide the opportunity to improve their photography and photo editing skills. Writing a reflection on the project is a great way to demonstrate understanding and open the door for further learning. Depending on the level of the class or the literacy of the student these reflections may be simple and short in the beginning and hopefully will become more in depth with practice. You can challenge students to leave positive feedback on their classmate's blogs as well. This is a great way to encourage positive participation online and teach kids about their roles as good citizens in an online world. If you have a website or blog set up for your class you can provide links to all the blogs of students participating in your course.

Go Further

Students can increase the functionality of their blogs by adding widgets to the sidebars of their blog. There are many to choose from and it is good to try many of these out.

Embedding other bits of content such as documents, videos or slideshows can bring more impact and interest to the blog as well. This can be a tricky concept to learn in the beginning but is not difficult once you get the hang of it. All you have to look for is the embed code for whatever it is you're looking to embed. Do a web search on how to embed the thing you want in your specific type of blog. Help is never far away. Here I used the Pinterest Widget Builder to embed one of my boards into this post:

Pinterest can be a handy way for students to share their work or bring together many ideas during their research. It also provides a great way to curate a number of resources into one place under a specific title for teachers that want to kickstart student ideas.

Teach students about copyright and how to add attribution to their images. Compfight and Creative Commons Search are two very useful tools to find copyright free images that can be used with proper crediting for the creators of those images. The image of the old suitcases at the top of this post is a good example of this.

I've been linking to resources on the internet throughout this blog post. Showing students how to connect their portfolios to other people through the Hyperlinking of items in text in your blog can help your personal learning network grow.


Students need time to work to do a little maintenance on their learning portfolios from time to time. I've made the mistake of not giving students enough time in a computer lab to really work on a space they can be proud of. On my next go round, I will spend time at the beginning of my next course setting up blogs with students before we start a project. In fact, the blog will be the first project. As we do other work throughout the semester students will learn to document their work and reflect on their experience. It will be important to give time for them to engage in this process, not only on their personal devices but also in a lab situation. As good as mobile applications are, so much more can be done on a traditional computer when working with blogs.

In Conclusion

Can you imagine a learning portfolio created by an elementary school student and what it would look like 5, 10 even 30 years later. Learning portfolios could create the ultimate personal historical document of each of us. A living document that shares experiences and understanding openly with others. As I have learned during this project, sharing is a part of living. Sharing our experiences, our knowledge and our ideas will help to build a better world. The internet is perhaps our greatest achievement. Learning to participate in it's positive growth is a responsibility we as educators have. Working with the next generation of open and connected people can only help to provide our youth with the opportunity to learn and grow for the rest of their lives and to connect with people from around the world to further their experience as contributors to and benefactors of a world of culture, ideas and knowledge.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Student Portfolios & the Art of BYOD

Student Portfolios

I've been using blogs as a way of creating student learning portfolios for the past couple years. When I taught Graphic Arts and Photography we started out making digital portfolios in Fireworks, Flash and Dreamweaver. We were building mini websites in a very graphical way. These websites were burned to compact discs and we even made a jacket with liner notes and printed directly onto the compact discs to give them a professional look.

There were always laptops for every student in my old room and we were able to move to using Blogs as simple portfolios when we began using Google Apps for Education. We could have used other platforms at that time but to be honest, I didn't know much about blogging! We were able to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premier Pro from Adobe and Blogger, Docs and Picasa Web Albums from Google to put our portfolios together. The goal then was to showcase completed student work. Last year we began to build planning documents in Google Docs and embed them into several pages within the blog to highlight the process students followed in creating their projects. Two of my students used their skills in building online portfolios to help them gain admission to the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, Canada. It was a very proud moment.

This year I was transferred into a different program at a different school. I no longer had a 1 to 1 laptop luxury so there needed to be a new way of doing business in my classroom if we were to integrate technology into our learning. Luckily, many of the kids have their own devices.

Creative Workflow

The difficulty lay in developing and integrating a workflow that it would work with any device. This could not be done alone and has benefitted greatly from feedback from students and much experimentation. Becoming proficient at building blogs and curating portfolios mainly through a variety of personal devices has been a collaborative effort between the students and myself.

Here's the general workflow we use in our creative classes. I believe this sequence works well for most things and can be thought of in more complex ways than presented here.
  • Idea - From a set of parameters or a given technique, students develop an idea for their creative work. 
  • Brainstorming - Students take the time to think about everything they know about technique, materials, theme and process.
  • Research - Expanding learning comes in the form of working with classmates, instructors as well as online and print resources.
  • Planning - Sketching and model making are a major part of the process to ensure the success of the project.
  • Creating - This is the making of the project.
  • Evaluation - Can take the form of self, peer or instructor led evaluation. Evaluation is based on a rubric that outlines expectations for creative projects given at the beginning of the process.
  • Reflection - The process of reflecting on the experience of creating a work of art allows for improvement and new ideas to take place.

The Art of BYOD

At the beginning of the course I set up Google Apps for Education accounts for all the students. We spent a class in a computer lab to ease the process of signing in for the first time. In the future I would like to do this without the use of a lab. Students then were asked to set up their new email account on their devices. Email has become a useful and important tool in our classes. I can email the entire group of students effectively and quickly using Google Groups. Students are now able to communicate with me via a professional email account that is fully transparent. Next was the installation of a few mobile applications. Blogger, Google Drive, Snapseed, and the Google App were all downloaded. It's taken a while to convince students why these applications are necessary when working in the world of Google Apps for Education. The best selling point in the beginning was the 30 GB of cloud storage. Now that we've done a couple of collaborative exercises students are seeing that there is a lot more than just storage in this suite of tools.

Taking from what I learned in a variety of classes over the past couple of years and using some of the techniques modelled in ECI 831 as well as learning from student feedback we came up with the following based on the Creative Workflow above to take advantage of the variety of mobile devices coming into the studio. We found a handful of apps that work really well both on Android and on iOS. This workflow also makes it possible for us to work with content on tablets, laptops and desktops. Using common tools also enables us to do things more collaboratively and on shared devices in the future.
  • Ideas and brainstorming are done in a paper Sketchbook. Photos provide content for portfolio work. In future projects I'll be exploring the use of some mobile apps dedicated to brainstorming and pulling ideas together. As well as sketching.
  • Research is both web and Print Based - Examples are collected and posted to student blogs.
  • Planning is done in a sketchbook and documented with photographs.
  • Step by step progress during the making of a project is documented with photos.
  • The completed Final Project is photographed with seamless paper backgrounds and natural light
  • A slideshow is made and embedded in a blog post documenting each phase of the project and the photo of the final product.
  • Written reflections are included in with the blog post.
Now that students have completed a few projects and have had the opportunity to learn how to build their portfolios, here's what I would like to do with class participants in the future:

  • Collaborative projects involving Pairs or Groups
  • More Student Commenting on Peer Portfolio Work
  • Teach more about image Attribution & Copyright
  • Self-Directed Art Project With Mentorship from and Artist
  • Student Created How-To Videos
The portfolio and BYOD project has given me lots to think about. Stay tuned for a reflection on the entire process.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Starting to See Fruit

New Beginnings

I've been working hard with my students, my colleagues and my administration. I've only been at my new school for a few months but I finally feel that I'm making a positive contribution to the school. I used to teach with a lot of technology. After being transferred to another school I found myself with very little access to computers in my classroom. I'm currently teaching visual art in grades 9 and 10.

I'm not the best blogger in the world but the next few posts through this next weekend will summarize what we've been doing in my classrooms and in my school.

Photo Credit: Jeffy Can via Compfight cc

Changing Gears to Slow it Down

I've been trying to involve the use of personal technology in my classroom. I'm lucky that most of my students have access to their own technology. Some bring phones, others bring iPods and tablets. Some of my students have nothing so I lend them my devices and we have on computer in the classroom that we can pass around. I'm always impressed by students willing to share their devices with their classmates as well.

My original thinking was to get my students to build Personal Learning Networks. This has turned into a more baby step kind of approach where my students are learning to use applications both web based and mobile to curate their own online portfolios. We're using Blogger to build these portfolios and I was able to set each student up with a Google Apps for Education account. We've had all kinds of hurdles throughout this process to clear. The past few days my students are starting to catch on. They can now check their email, they can go to the course blog, they take the time to read directions and then they ask lots of great questions. They are beginning to see how they can document the projects they create with their phone cameras. It's an exciting time in my art classroom!

I think that if I were to work with the same students again that they would have the basic skills necessary to move towards more collaboration and sharing online. I think that the development of a Personal Learning Network would be more achievable.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Starting a Technology Collaborative

Grass Roots

The past three weeks I've had meetings in my classroom with a few people on my staff who are interested in using technology in education. All I did was email the entire staff to see who would be into being part of a grass roots team of people talking about what we do and can be doing to enhance learning in our school. After three weeks of meeting our number has grown to about 10 people. One of those people is our Principal! He came in the door last week and I was a bit shocked! We are not an official committee and we weren't having an official type of meeting and I have no status other than classroom teacher. It's great to see that teachers are interested in helping students learn and that they are willing to give up a lunch hour each week to meet to discuss ideas.

Photo Credit: tbone_sandwich via Compfight cc


In our first meeting we got to know each other better. We discussed our background, if any, with technology. I set up Google Apps for Education accounts for those that did not have them and reset passwords for others. I am lucky to be an admin on our Google Apps for Education at Regina Public Schools. I can give students, administrators, teachers and interns accounts very quickly. We found that some of our members were using Google Apps in other schools but not in this one. We identified that we had a variety of levels of knowledge and that we all shared one important thing. We are passionate educators who aren't afraid to share and to learn new things. One of our members teaches in another school in the afternoon so she joins us via Google Hangouts. We shared our minutes document and kept notes on what we were talking about. We've kept this document up each week and are following a bit of the style that we see in the document we've been using in our EC&I 831 class at the U of R. We are learning to collaborate on the minutes and learning how to connect with phones, tablets and laptops.

I created a Google Group, a Google + community and a blog on Blogger for our Tech collaborative to start the process of sharing ideas and building interest in what we are doing. I hope that these connections will be the beginning of something great at our school!

Learning Together

The biggest goal for our team is to learn how to collaborate and share with each other using technology. We are learning together how to use web based tools to communicate and collaborate with each other. Through hands on experimentation we are learning how easy it is to work together. The next step is to take what we have learned and use it with students. I have set up a few classes with Google Accounts already. My goal is to have our entire team become admins so that we can work to set up accounts for more teachers and students. Many keyboards would make light work of entering all of our students into the system! If we can hit a critical mass this year with teachers and students collaborating with each other I would be so excited.

Making Better Use of Our Tools

We've also been sharing which tools work well for us when communicating and collaborating with students. We are lucky to have a growing population of students bringing their own technology into the classroom. There has long been the complaint that we can't involve more technology in our classrooms because of the shortage of shared resources. We've been discussing the shift towards BYOD and how we can easily facilitate ways for students to use their devices in a positive manner in our classes.

So it's a beginning. I'm glad I took a leadership role in getting this team put together. I hope that it will grow and that the collaboration will continue. We are learning together and working together. Hopefully in doing so we will encourage the same from our students. If you've been in a school that's been working towards better using technology in the classroom and on staff feel free to share some ideas with me. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Crowdsourcing Funding, Design, Ideas & Education

Crowdsourcing is becoming more and more prevalent now that people can easily connect with each other easily through the internet. 


Maybe you have an idea but don't have the capitol to fund it. Crowdsourcing is becoming a popular way of finding the money you need to make a project go forward. 

Rylan Grayston of Peachy Printer is an inventor from Yorkton Saskatchewan who is using crowd sourced funding through Kickstarter to fund further development of his $100 3D Printer.


Perhaps you have an idea but need the expertise of many people to be able to build a better design for your project. Graham Hill the, the creator of Treehugger.com, is also the creator of the LifeEdited apartment in New York City. He explains the apartment and his use of crowdsourced design in the following video:

Ideas & Education

If you're an educator you might have ideas or be short on ideas... who knows? Whether you're looking to learn or looking to share, you can become more connected in a number of ways. My EC&I 831 Class at the University of Regina uses Google + Communities and a Blog Hub as a way of connecting students together. Signing up for edConnectr is a way for teachers to get involved with other like minded people. It seems to me that this centralized hub lets people pose questions and help others to become better connected educators. There are so many resources at our finger tips these days that it can all be a bit overwhelming from time to time. edConnectr seeks to pair individuals with like minded people with the same interests to ease the beginning of sharing. The ability to crowdsource information in a direct and meaningful way may take us to very good sharing and learning opportunities.


So why am I talking about crowdsourcing? It's happening all around us in a variety of ways and is beginning to shape the human experience. Can we even begin to imagine how this type of interaction could solve some of the largest problems we face? I am beginning to think that crowdsourcing could in fact influence the classes that I teach. Becoming a connected teacher I have started using services like edConnectr, Twitter, Google + Communities, EduBlogs, and Blogger. I'm beginning to think of what I can do to crowdsource for my classroom. What if funding, design, ideas & education all came from the world, flowing into classrooms everywhere, fuelling the human potential from a very early age? It's wonderful to have become a part of a much more interesting and open world.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Extreme Happiness

I was so fortunate to shake hands with Aleksander Gamme from Norway at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. This guy cross country skied unsupported to the South Pole and back to the coast along with Cas and Jonesy... but you'll have to watch Crossing the Ice to get the full story. This is how he felt after opening one of the caches he had left behind on his way to the South Pole. On his return to the coast of Antarctica he finds his cache and... well I'll let you take a look. You don't need to speak Norwegian to understand this feeling:

Maybe I didn't feel this good when I drove away from the festival after having met so many amazing people and hearing so many wonderful stories... but I was in that zone! More later...

Friday, November 1, 2013


I'm on my way to the Banff Mountain Film Festival! It's time for inspiration, connecting with friends and making new ones. I'm surrounded by positivity and outdoorsy awesomeness. A long drive gives you a good amount of time to contemplate a great many things. 

It's been a busy week. I have connected all my students with blogs and remind 101. I started a teacher technology club at my school and now I'm going to see some of the most interesting people in the world. What a week. I'm now working on a new post showing how my outdoor programs use technology when we are planning trips and when we are in the field.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Citizens of The Online World

I've done a bunch of travelling. I'm compiling a list of my adventures here on my blog. It's been an interesting life wandering around... spending a lot of time with people and making new friends in all kinds of places. No matter where I've been, people have always been welcoming and warm. I didn't grow up with the internet. I was born in 1975. I grew up with a computer though so that made me a nerd right from the time I was six. I was always fascinated by programming and games. I liked learning how to use software and hardware and build my own machines. Everyone wanted advice from me on gadgets and computers ever since I can remember. I even had one of the first smartphones... it was great to finally fit a computer in my pocket!

I lived in Japan for a couple of years teaching English on the JET Programme in junior high schools on the island of Yakushima. This was from 2000 to 2002. I then spent time working in Malaysia and travelling the long way round to finally get home to Canada in 2003. I severed my ties with technology during my time in Japan. There was very little access to the internet on my island. Digital photography was very new and super expensive. I shot all my photos on slide film. I wrote a diary. It was all very old school! Even the schools that I taught in didn't have much access to technology. I spent most of my time hiking the beautiful island, learning to speak Japanese with my new friends that also loved hiking and also swimming in the amazing ocean. I disconnected with technology but really connected with people and nature. It was very fulfilling. I felt my travels made me a decent citizen of the earth.

This is a picture of me showing my students how to carve pumpkins for Halloween in 2001.

When I came back to Canada I taught in Nipawin for a couple years and then moved to Regina. During that time I was reintroduced to technology. Facebook and Youtube have replace much of the email and forwards we used to get. There has been an explosion of applications that are cheap and accessible and now so many people are so comfortable with using these devices and technologies every day. We started using Blackboard and Moodle. I built a website with a colleague for the Theatre Arts 20 curriculum here in Saskatchewan. I worked with students to create digital portfolios of their artwork as websites on CD. Now we use blogs to do the same thing.

I've never been good at sharing what I do online. I don't tweet a lot. I don't blog a lot. I don't post to Facebook much. I haven't contributed much to Youtube. I've been private on the web but I've always helped everyone around me learn these skills and springboard new ideas off each other and take it all further. I've always been wanting my students to develop and show what they can do and have never taken the time to highlight what I do. I'm just not comfortable with it... but I'm trying.

So blogging for me is new. I grew up keeping things private. Doing so much thinking on my own and collaborating with people face to face when I needed to. I'm feeling more and more that this online world has great potential. I want to roam this new world in different way now. Through Twitter and the blog I'm meeting people as I travel without moving. Great people. People who collaborate and help. It's getting more comfortable now. I want to thank all the people that have been so positive online. Everyone that has given ideas freely. I hope that I will also be one to share ideas now as well. I hope to be a decent citizen of the online world.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A New Direction

So it's time for a new direction. A different twist on the personal learning network I was trying to build using Google Apps for Education and Blogger with my art students. I'll speak to the challenges I had with that situation in a future post.

I've decided to use edublogs with my homeroom. I will be with these students for 4 years and I believe this will be a great experience for all of us.

My motivation for moving to Edublogs and working with my homeroom? I love the personalized support I get from Sue Waters of Edublogs! She is amazing. I had the chance to meet her while she was a guest speaker for my EC&I 831 class at the University of Regina with Social Media and Open Education Guru Alec Couros. Ever since it's like having her on speed dial. I tweet... she gets right to me.

I got personalized advice from Sue today over Twitter. I'm sitting down to breakfast and had the idea to tweet about my project being focused around my homeroom students using edublogs and voila... she was right there with me... and I was in Moose Jaw and she in Australia!

  • Step 1: I had all the kids download the Edublogs mobile app to their devices before leaving for the weekend on Friday. They were not to create accounts, just download the app.
  • Step 2: I'm setting up unique blogs for each one of my students in my home room using the my class feature in Edublogs. I am assigning codes to the blog addresses after being advised by Sue to do so. This makes it easier to sort kids later on if I decide to tie more blogs into this central hub.

Setting up blogs for my students is super simple using Edublogs! I'm able to add them and view their dashboards if I need to make changes. (I made a couple of errors and swiftly changed them on the fly)

Edublogs creates a list of student blog links associated with my class automatically as a menu in the blog. Cool. I'll be sharing the link to my Edublog class site once I have permission to do so from my students.

Tomorrow is the big day. Will my students be able to log in from their mobile devices? Will they blog something interesting to start with?

Sue suggested we take a look at the following video to get us started as well:

Any ideas or advice you would give me as we get started? Any fun projects that would get grade 9 students enthused about blogging? Thanks for your feedback!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Working on a Digital Identity

I had a moment of culture shock. I was feeling like technology was taking over me.
So I took a little break.

Today I decided to take control. I began with the questions "Who am I online?", "What do people see when they "Google" me?"

Here's what they would have found as of today:

  1. My Twitter Feed (I'm not the best tweeter but it's the first hit)
  2. My Facebook Page (I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook but it's in second place)
  3. Some Images of Me (nothing bad and those that I didn't like I tracked down and got rid of them)
  4. Rate My Teacher (uhhhggg, a major blow to my self-esteem, really wish this site didn't exist)
  5. Linked In (so I'm working at this one and getting my professional profile up to date)
  6. Youtube (only one video on my channel from a project I was a part of for a masters class last year)
  7. Google + (my profile is taking shape)
  8. EC&I Blog Hub (I'm working to read and comment on what you wonderful people have written)
  9. Flickr (I had to contact Yahoo to get account reset, I signed up a long time ago)
This was just the first page of hits. So what am I doing about my Digital Footprint? I'm taking action. It's about time I did a little house cleaning. While it seems there's nothing I can do about Rate My Teacher, I started working on my online identity by creating an About Me page. I then cleaned up some Facebook posts and pictures, removed a bunch of stuff from Instagram and am trying to get my Flickr account revived. Google + and Linked In are two things I'm working on when I can. I renamed my blog as well. I've never been one to promote myself and always felt pretty shy about doing so. I guess this is a major plunge into using Social Media to my advantage. My blog will become my online portfolio, linking people to other services and sites that convey a consistent message about who I am, my philosophy, my career to date and my future goals.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I decided to take the rest of the week since our session with Dr. Schwier to watch my world in a reflective light clearly focused on the theme of community. It's been an interesting and busy week and as I write it all down now, I realize just how much community means to me but also how diverse and varied the communities that surround me and include me are. As I work on my project to build a digital learning community that functions as an out of class enhancement to the work my students do during our sessions at school I am further inspired to embrace the challenges that present themselves in the nurturing of a fledgling group of interactive learners.

Starting with Dr. Schwier's introspective and thoughtful ruminations on community, I began to reflect on the past couple of years I have spent becoming a part of the Education Technology and Design or ETAD Master's of Education community at the U of S. This community is not confined by the borders of an institution in Saskatoon, but rather is open to a world of interesting and diverse people that find the use of technology in learning to be a fascinating and challenging world. These people have been paramount in the formation of my identity as a learner in a greater realm. This wasn't an easy transition. In the beginning we found ourselves to be taking classes in from people that spoke from great distance. We got to know each other as two dimensional moving pictures on screens with voices that would cut in and out and speed up on a catch up sequence that made us often sound like chipmunks on helium. We worked in strange spaces like discussion boards and shared documents, often collaborating asynchronously achieving common goals and sharing our thoughts and knowledge with people we had never met face to face. When I had the chance to meet many of my colleagues during a presentation in at the U of S and again at our ETAD Studio this past July I was taken by how three-dimensional everyone looked... a strange revelation indeed. But we were all bound together by a familiarity. As of last semester I've had new challenges presented to me that made it difficult to be positive about my place in education. But this community of ETAD helped me regain my passion and resolve and nudged me back onto the tracks. Dr. Schwier, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Morisson are all part of a fantastic team of caring and creative individuals that have grown a community that I am fortunate to be included in. EC&I 831 seems to be a natural extension of the ideals that make the program at the U of S so strong. I can see us quickly becoming something more that our parts and it feels it has only just begun.

I've lived in a few places in my life; Shellbrook, France, Montreal, Regina, Quebec City, Saskatoon, Shellbrook, Japan, Malaysia, Shellbrook, Nipawin, and Regina. Funny how some of those places repeat themselves. My home town as you may have guessed is Shellbrook. I've been a part of groups of people doing some amazing things in all of these places. If I wrote about all of those experiences here... we'd have one long read for you on our hands! I was at one high school for the past eight years here in Regina and now am at another, feeling like a new guy once again. There are new students, new colleagues and new duties. Each class has it's own social dynamic and for one hour each week day a group of about 30 people try to find their way with each other. In a large school like the one I'm presently at, not everyone in the room knows each other when they first arrive. Developing a positive dynamic in a classroom is a delicate task. I've had my ups and downs over the years trying to make things work. Most of my time is spent working with students these days. They come with a variety of ability and skill both academically and socially. I've begun to introduce them to using social media tools to express themselves and interact outside of the classroom. I'm excited to see what this project will become as I try to mirror a bit of what is happening in EC&I 831 with my own students. We are using Blogger and Twitter as well as other web-based applications to grow an environment of sharing and encouragement in our visual arts classes, my home room and our outdoor education club. I've spent a lot of time developing a positive relationship with students that I hope will translate into a positive and interactive experience for them online. My vision of success in this project would be to see students interacting with each other, sharing ideas and content without being prompted by the guidelines of an assignment.

Outside of my work at a public there is of course my little family comprised of my wife, my daughter and myself and two cats. There are also my friends, my volunteer association colleagues, my cultural community association people and the neighbours in the area I live in. I teach a sessional at the U of R and am in a master's degree. There is also the Twitter-verse, Google + communities and Facebook. These communities all blend together to form and influence me. I too play a role in supporting and influencing them. It's really incredible to think that one individual today is a part of many overlapping spheres of influence through not only their endeavours in real time but also through the connective electrical tissues of the internet. I hope to become a positive contributor to my online communities. I hope that I will have something interesting to share as I have learned so much from the sharing of others over the years. I'm hopeful too that my students will find a rewarding presence in their learning community both face to face and online.

If you made it this far I'd like to thank you for reading. If you have any advice or experiences to share on the topic of online learning communities, perhaps some success and challenges you've encountered I'd like to hear about them.

Thanks again for reading,

Jason Grayston

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Progress In Building a Learning Network

Things are progressing in my building of a student learning network here at Winston Knoll Collegiate. The past two days have been spent with my first group of grade 10 art students activating their Google Apps for Education accounts, familiarizing themselves with everything Google and creating their first blog.

The main goal here is to create a place where students can display work and reflect upon their experiences. Until now they have used a sketchbook to do this type of activity. I want to move students into a more collaborative space in their learning. Students will now have the ability to look at each other's blogs and post comments on their classmates work. This will be done after teaching students how to objectively critique artwork.

Students that have a mobile device (almost every one of my students has one) will be able to contribute to their blogs and make comments on the blogs of their classmates using their own technology. My goal is to have them do their first critique next week after they have set up their blogs, become familiar with posting and commenting. To begin with commenting on the blogs I'm going to have each student post three or more compliments on other student's work on their blogs. I think this type of atmosphere will help to encourage positive and objective critiquing in the future.

These individual blogs will be worked into true learning portfolios. The blog portion will be used for assignment submission and reflection. Other sections will include research, brainstorming and planning for projects.

All of the student blogs will be linked from a central blog. This central also has a course calendar, assignments, photos from the classroom and an integrated twitter feed that students can post to by using a specific hashtag. We tried using the twitter feature today and it was a lot of fun. Our philosophy will be developed collaboratively by all students and I intend to use a Google Doc to do this. An embedded Google doc will also allow us to compile blog addresses and links of interest.

It's exciting. Students seem to be motivated and interested in using their hand held devices in a new and interesting way. I will be providing links to the central blog when we have more content added in and the blog has been customized.... I'm thinking of having the class collaborate on that part too!

If you have any ideas or suggestions, feel free to let me know!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Learning Network

I've been working on a web-based learning network for my classes here at Winston-Knoll Collegiate.
Essentially, each class I teach has a dedicated blog. These are all cross-linked to a central hub called Mr. G @ WKC. Right now I'm working on student accounts in Google Apps for Education so that students can set up learning portfolios in my art classes and in my home room. I created a professional twitter account @mrjgrayston for a part of my school communication. This feed is embedded in a few of the blogs as well.

I have built the following blogs so far:

Visual Art 10
Art 9
Outdoor Ed
My Blog
ECI 831 Blog

I'm setting these up at the moment but will post links to them once I have all the formatting and permissions set up.

Students will begin setting up Learning Portfolios on Monday next week. The goal is to set up everything so that they can easily use their mobile devices to work on their portfolios and comment on their classmates blogs.

Today I had students download the Blogger App and the Google App on their devices.

Excitement is building!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Student Electronic Portfolios & Learning Network

Next week we begin the great BYOD experiment... It starts with Google Apps for Ed. All of my students will have accounts. They will then create blogs as online portfolios. Student blogs will become a place for them to reflect and document their process in art making. Students will also be able to make comments on their peers blogs. Their blogs will also connect them with a central learning hub Created and curated by me. This learning network has many goals. The biggest goal is that we will all learn from each other. We will create a social media learning network that runs alongside our face-to-face classroom time. Right now I'm creating user accounts and developing the central blog. Students will create their blogs next week. I already have them documenting content from class with their phone's cameras. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Life: Online... Flames vs Islanders

Can we enjoy 2 things at once? Certainly... Double booked and still able to do it all!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Underwater Photography

Today I had Shane Gross of www.grossphotographic.com come in to talk to my Visual Art 10 students. I dove with Shane last Christmas in the Bahamas and was excited to have him present to my classes. He has a great presentation that was tailored for my art students. He speaks of the underlying principles of his passion, of photography and of the preservation of our oceans. There were hints of biology and technology and amazing stories of sharks that captivated students. Originally from Regina, Shane now calls Harbour Island, Bahamas his home where he works as a dive instructor and part owner of Valentine's Dive Center. I'm going to try to arrange a Skype session with him for my students when he's back down at the dive center. Thanks Shane for a great talk. Hope to see you again under the great blue waves. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A New Beginning

It seems fitting that a rebirth in how I promote the use of technology in the classroom should occur. After all, it's a new school year, I'm in a new school, I have to prep all new classes and I'm in a new masters class. The challenge? I used to have a lot of technology available to me in the classroom. Now I have one computer in the corner and limited access to shared technology resources. I wrote a research paper this summer on Bring Your Own Device/ Technology. My idea for this fall is to grow a culture of personal device use in the classroom, having students build electronic learning portfolios of their work and connecting them together into a learning community. This will be a community of students in two Visual Arts 10 classes. My goal is to fuel student interest in their subject area through their interactions with peers using social media to bring them all together. It's baby steps in the beginning as students become accustomed to a device welcoming environment. I'm happy to say that it's been an easy sell so far... after all... Open Education has to start with an open mind. I want to encourage students to stay connected in the classroom and to open new connections with others. Sharing ideas, resources and feedback within the learning community will hopefully lead to greater individual success within the class.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Pitch

Today begins an adventure in collaborative learning!

I pitched the idea of a collaborative project to 6 Communications Media students here at Sheldon-Williams Collegiate in Regina, SK, Canada. They are going to work together to create a video for a contest through Take Me Outside.
My challenge to the students is that they will have to create their video using equipment available to them and only web-based applications. We have a strong base of applications available to them through Google Apps for Education. They will be able to use a variety of other web based applications as well to record audio, create graphical content and edit their project.

They will journal their progress in a blog that I will link to this blog when they have it up and running. All documents, calendars and project will be fully modifiable by all members of the group.

I will be following their progress and using their examples of inquiry based learning as I write a chapter for an ebook for my Educational Technology & Design 802 Masters Class through the University of Saskatchewan.

Here is the intro to my proposal for my ebook chapter:
Collaborative Inquiry via Web-Based Applications
Collaboration and inquiry are two concepts at the base of modern educational practice. My ebook chapter will document a group of students working collaboratively through an inquiry based project using only web-based applications to complete their project. This document will also strive to tie current research and understanding on the principles of collaborative group work and inquiry in a web-based environment to the student project. In the classroom I act as a consultant and resource. In the masters class I am a researcher and writer on best practice for collaborative learning.

At the moment I'm collecting together a bunch of research on this topic. It's going to be some kind of ride! Hopefully it all comes together... it's a fantastic bunch of students and a decent topic to explore. I think we're all going to learn a bunch of new ways of working together.

-Mr. G