An overdue update – A teacher’s role in non-formal education

I was finally able to get caught up on viewing the Elluminate recording of this week’s EC&I 831 session that I had to miss due to previous commitments. Yes, another wild and woolly Saturday night, but it was good to get one more item checked off the ever expanding to-do list. The fact that I have come to view learning opportunities such as this as items on my to-do list is disconcerting, but I guess that is a topic to address at another time…

Alec presented us with a key question based on this week’s session: what is our role in non-formal learning? This is an interesting question for me to attempt to address. I am gainfully employed in the world of formal education and I am provided with professional development and other learning opportunities as a result. I am investing a lot of money in the world of formal education as I struggle to keep my head above water in year two of my graduate studies.  Yet I learn more about teaching through the people I follow on Twitter than I have in ten years of pro-d workshops and a year of graduate courses. I think this is largely due to the fact that I can pick and choose who I want to learn from and what I want to learn about. I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine many of my students feel the same way about non-formal vs. formal learning. If students are able to expand their knowledge by following their true interests through non-formal learning they should be encouraged to do so. While I am not aware of sites such as this in my subject areas, I would be thrilled with my students using resources such as the Khan Academy if I was a science or math teacher. I know many teachers would feel threatened by seeing their students rely on non-formal learning opportunities such as this, but I would feel like a hypocrite to not encourage my students to learn in a way that has served me so well.

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EC&I 831: Another course, another Couros…

The first week of classes are now but a memory. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting down for my first Tuesday evening EC&I 831 class with Alec Couros, and now it is Monday and I haven’t done my “homework” for tomorrow’s session. Oh, the joys of life as a full-time teacher attempting to complete his graduate studies with two small boys under the age of three…

One of the topics Alec suggested we write about in our first class post was our perceived skill and knowledge level when it came to using social media. I must admit I thought I felt pretty good about my skills in this area until I took part in our first Elluminate session and couldn’t even get my microphone to work. Fortunately, I did manage to get my webcam up and running in the middle of Alec’s intro to the course which apparently wasn’t supposed to happen. Clearly I have a couple things to work on, though I am fortunate to have taken part in Alec’s crash course on social networking earlier this summer. I can appreciate the concerns many of my “classmates” expressed at the end of our first session regarding the technological overload they were dealing with. All I can say to them is that they are in good hands and that, though their brains will be hurting at the end of each class, it is a good kind of hurting. Looking forward to another great class tomorrow…

And so it begins…

On Thursday I received the long-awaited seal of approval from my district’s superintendent regarding my plan to pilot Google Apps. Strangely enough she had more important things to deal with but I’m thankful she found the time to review my proposal. However, the week I lost while awaiting her reply is going to complicate my implementation plan as I hope to have everything up and running by September 14th or so. Dare to dream I guess…

With that out of the way I embarked on my first attempt to register a domain name.  I thought this would be a relatively simple process and found a suitable domain name (kalamalkasecondary.ca) at domainsatcost.ca. Registration was easy enough, but I got hung up at the checkout as I kept getting errors saying I hadn’t set registered my domain with CIRA yet, even though I had. After spending about an hour getting nowhere (while in a summer masters course no less) I pulled the plug in order to resist the urge to throw my laptop through a window. That evening help arrived in the form of Peter Vogel, a valued member of my growing Twitter PLN. Peter spent some time offering tips and helped me get my domain name processed and paid for.

With my domain name registered and paid for I was FINALLY able to sign up for my Google Apps account.  My domain name synced up easily enough but now I have yet another hurdle to hop over. After registering I noticed my account was for Google Apps Standard Edition, not Education Edition.  I referred to Scott Meech’s blog for pointers and filled out Google’s request form for the switch from Standard to Education Edition and now I am playing the waiting game once more.

While I wait for Google to switch me to Google Apps Education Edition I intend to start creating student email addresses, class calendars, tomorrow. I am hopeful that all of this work will carry over in the eventual transfer to Education Edition and that I can begin to make serious progress in the next couple of days.

Back in the saddle. Project Google Apps begins…

Well, it has certainly been awhile since I got around to updating my modest little blog. A few weeks off without literature reviews, course readings and thinking too much about my masters in general has done the trick.  I almost feel ready to go into school tomorrow and start prepping for the first day of school on September 9th. Between that and another week of summer institute classes at UBCO starting on August 31st my last two weeks of summer are looking fairly full already. Oh well, such is the life…

For the next few months I’ll be using this blog to keep a journal of sorts about my proposed masters project.  In this project I intend to pilot the implementation of Google Apps in two of my Social Studies 10 classes. I discussed my early thoughts on this idea in an earlier post and I have taken a couple of steps towards implementation since that time.

On Friday August 21st I met with my principal to discuss my plan.  While he had heard of Google Apps he wasn’t familiar with everything that it did. Although I had to provide him with a fairly rough verbal overview of what Google Apps is and does (my laptop hard-drive bit it during Alec Couros’ class), he was very excited about, and supportive of, my plan. He booked me full time computer labs for my two Socials 10 classes which will obviously make the use of Google Apps on a consistent basis much easier. My principal didn’t foresee any barriers to my proposal at the district level, but he suggested that I should put together a bit of info about my project and Google Apps to pass along to the powers-that-be at the board office.

Taking my principal’s advice to heart, I set about writing up my overview. I thought I would post the results in this blog for anyone that might be interested. I have omitted names of a few people and the name of my school out of respect for the privacy of others. I relied heavily on links and feedback provided by those of you that stumbled upon this blog in order to support my proposal so I will issue you all a group thank you again. The power of a dynamic PLN continues to amaze me. So, here it is. Not the most exciting read in the world but hopefully it will be enough to get things rolling…

Dan

Dan Reid’s Masters Project Proposal: Piloting the implementation of Google Apps Education Edition

Introduction

My name is Dan Reid and I am currently teaching Social Studies and English at ######## Secondary School. At the present time, I am in the process of completing my masters in educational technology through UBCO. I started my masters in September of 2008 and hope to be finished it by July of 2010. One requirement of this masters program is the completion of a final project that furthers my learning and is useful to myself and other teachers. Based upon discussions with both ########, my masters project supervisor, and ########, I have decided to base my masters project around an examination of the implementation of Google Apps Education Edition in one or two of my Social Studies 10 classes.

What is Google Apps Education Edition? (NOTE: All pieces of underlined text are links to related sites and/or videos.)

Google Apps Education Edition is a free online application suite that is designed to improve and promote communication and collaboration. A growing number of school districts and universities have implemented Google Apps with resounding success. This 10 minute video provides a fairly thorough overview of some of the main features of Google Apps, but here are a few highlights:

  • EMAIL: Gmail(Google mail) accounts for students and staff. These accounts can be set up to grab email from other accounts and include built-in text, voice and video chat features to enhance collaboration. They also allow for over 7000 MB of storage, and they are totally ad-free when created as a part of Google Apps Education Edition.
  • GOOGLE DOCS: Google Docs is a web-based application that allows people to work collaboratively from any two computers with internet connections. The collaborative power of Google Docs is explained clearly and quickly in this brief video. Google Docs allows people to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations that can be easily shared and can be quickly converted to and from other types of documents such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. All of these documents can be submitted and marked online so there is no need to print anything. The power of Google Docs is difficult to explain in just a few words so I have included a couple of other useful links that explain it very well.
  • GOOGLE CALENDAR: Google Calendar is a great communication tool. Individuals can create their own events to add to their personal calendars and they can also share their calendars with other people, be they students, parents or staff members. This is a great way to improve communication of school events and assignment deadlines to students and parents. It is also a great way to determine suitable meeting times for staff members and to notify or remind staff members about upcoming meetings.
  • CUSTOM DOMAIN NAME: While the entire Google Apps application suite and all associated emails and files are hosted by Google, Google Apps allows users to create and use a custom domain name. For example, using Google Apps students would not have student@gmail.com for their Gmail addresses. Instead, they would have email addresses along the lines of student@####secondary.ca, student@####school.ca, or even student@#######.ca, depending on the domain name that was deemed to be most appropriate for this pilot project. Another benefit of using your own domain name is that the Google logos can be replaced by school logos. An example of a school email account created in Google Apps for Castilleja School, located in California, can be found here.
  • CONCERNS OVER GOOGLE AND PRIVACY: Click here to review Google’s security and privacy policies.

What exactly is my masters project proposal?

As stated earlier, in my proposed masters project I would like to pilot the implementation of Google Apps in two of my Semester 1 Social Studies 10 classes. The first part of my project would focus on an overview of the steps that I went through in attempting to get approval for my proposal — in other words, this very proposal overview! The second part would track the difficulties and successes that I encountered as I completed the implementation process and began to introduce Google Apps to my students. The third part would then examine my attempts to improve student collaboration and overall learning through the use of Google Apps in these two classes. Don suggested that it might be worthwhile to see if there are other staff members interested in getting involved in using Google Apps to improve staff collaboration and communication, so an examination of this could also be done. The final part would be a review of the entire process that would include recommendations for a potential wider-scale implementation of Google Apps either solely at ######### or throughout the district. Obviously the details of each of these four components need to be fleshed out somewhat, but I intend to keep a “journal” throughout the process on my recently created blog in order to ensure that I am remembering to record the ups and downs of my busy year.

What happens next?

######## didn’t foresee any major issues with getting approval for this pilot study, but we both thought it would be best that both ########## and ########## were aware of what we were planning on doing. We also wanted to be sure that we chose an acceptable domain name to use and I would be happy to provide a list of possible domain names if the ones mentioned earlier are not deemed to be appropriate. Once again, I want to reiterate that Google Apps Education Edition is completely free and that this pilot project would require no extra technical support at the district level. The only support required at this time is the approval of a domain name and then I can begin the pilot implementation process. I have listed a few links at the bottom of this proposal with suggestions on how to implement Google Apps for you to examine if you are interested.

Thank you for taking the time to review this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you and I look forward to hopefully piloting the introduction of this exciting technology in ########. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Thanks again,

Dan Reid

Implementing Google Apps

Google Apps and Cloud Computing
Google Apps – Integration Plan for Higher Education
Matt Montagne’s Google Transition Site (with tutorials)
Matt Montagne’s Google Apps Student Support Site (with screencasts)
Scott Meech: Process of setting up Google Apps Education Edition at the district level

EDST499k – Day 5 Reflection: The End Has No End

Well, here we are at the end of an exciting and informative week with Alec Couros. I wrote yesterday that I am glad to be done my studies for a month, but I am going to miss coming to this class. This is usually not the way I am feeling at the conclusion of most of the classes I have taken during my education training so Alec should certainly take that as a big compliment!

Though I am now on vacation (well not quite, I still have to finish a nasty lit review for my previous class…)  I intend to use some of my time off to continue exploring many of the tools we learned about this week and of course continuing to work on my masters project. I’ve received some great feedback from yesterday’s blog and I hope I can link up with some of the people that offered words of wisdom at some point during the next few months. I intend to continue to use this blog to reflect on my efforts as I finish the next year of my studies and also to comment on whatever else comes up, be it ed-tech related or otherwise.

For anyone wondering, the video at the top of the blog doesn’t really have any great symbolic importance. I thought of the song today in class as I reflected on my own learning from this week while working on my Pecha Kucha presentation. I think the song’s title “The End Has No End” is appropriate because even though our class ended today our learning certainly did not. I know I will continue to work at learning new and exciting educational technologies and on building my PLN. Based on my discussions with my classmates I know they all intend to do the same.

Thanks again for a great week, Alec!
Dan

EDST 499k – Day 4 Reflection and thoughts on Google Apps

Today we spent most of our time working with Flips to make mini films. The Flip cameras were really easy to use though they have somewhat limited features.  They seem pretty ideal for students who aren’t working in a video production class, but simply doing video projects in other areas.  While I can’t see myself doing a ton of work in my own classes with video production it was still interesting to work with the technology and to get a better appreciation for the amount of work people must put into their own videos and films. Here is the video our group made in class.

I thought I’d mention Google Apps for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we have been doing some work with Google Docs in class during the last few sessions so it is something topical to discuss. Secondly, and somewhat selfishly, I plan on focusing my masters project on my own experience implementing Google Apps into one or more of my classes this upcoming year. I am very interested in testing the powers of Google Docs for student collaboration and Google Calendar for keeping students and parents abreast of due dates and tests. I know Google Apps can do do much more than this and really improving the experience of students in my classes.

I am a bit concerned about the difficulties I anticipate potentially encountering when I approach my administration and board office to get permission to set up Google Apps in my class. The main reason I am anticipating some difficulties is the lack of awareness about the power of Apps. I am hopeful that I can get the necessary people on board by presenting info on some other schools and their successes with Apps, such as Adam Scott C.V.I. & Intermediate School in Peterborough, Ontario and Arizona State University where the entire university runs on Apps.

So I am about to start planning my sales pitch to my admin and board office. If anyone that stumbles upon my quaint little blog is able to offer any insight or advice as to how best to approach this (or has any other tips relating to using Google Apps) it would be greatly appreciated. I’ve received some very helpful feedback on my posts from the past few days (thank you all!) and added some valuable contacts through Twitter as well.

Thanks,

Dan

EDST 499k – Day 3 Reflection

Today Alec showed us a bunch more of his tools and how to use them. Several things stood out to me as being potentially very useful for me and my students. I’m just going to run through some of the tools I could see myself using and encouraging my students to use in their own projects.

Screencastle is a cool way to record visual and audio explanations of how to do basically anything on a computer. I could see this saving me from having to explain how to do things as mundane as attaching a doc to an email. It could also be useful for showing my students the basics in using some of the other tools we were introduced to today.

Wordle can be used to create “word clouds” which are cool visuals that can be done by simply pasting a piece of text (a story, a poem, an essay, whatever) into the site and then it spits out the visual. Pretty cool stuff…

I enjoyed today’s class a lot . I was truly engaged throughout our whole session and the three hours flew by. I envision students responding in a similar fashion after being introduced to these tools and then being given the option to work with them on their own projects.

Thursday July 30th – Well, apparently this didn’t post yesterday so I’ll throw it up here now.  Not sure what happened. Technology…