Coding Adventure Part 1.5

As Alec mentioned, I am woefully behind in updating on my coding adventure.

I’ve been exploring some apps for coding, like Learn to Code with Python (which is shown in the gif below), Code School, Py – Learn to Code, and with Wing 101, which I’ve been using to “actually” code on the computer, not just on my phone.

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Coding on my phone seems much more limited than on a computer, though it’s been much more accessible (I was waiting in my doctor’s office last week and was trying out these different apps while I waited — I mean, what else am I going to do??)

Along with the coding, I’ve been learning other skills. Like the gif above. I made that from screenshots on my phone using Google Photos. I’m also playing around with different screencasting programs. I initially used Screencast-o-matic and for the next videos I tried Screencastify. I can’t say for sure which I like better, but Screencastify will upload to my drive but Screencast-o-matic is just a tiny bit more user friendly.

But I digress.

Coding is a lot harder than I thought. I am having a harder time than I thought keeping up with documenting. Documenting doesn’t always happen due to time/place, but I have been trying different aspects of coding. I guess it’s time for me to settle down and finalize what I’m doing (spoiler alert: it’s a fancy calculator. I try and start it in my video)

Wish me luck as I attempt to finish my calculator!


Share and Share Alike

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Sharing seems to be a common thread through my Master’s degree. The concept of sharing has dogged my every class in some fashion, whether it is sharing content or sharing ideas. It seems “sharing” is something a lot of teachers struggle with.

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I think the biggest personal barrier to my sharing with others is the concept of not being good enough to share. As I indicated in a previous post, teachers, in my experience, have an inferiority complex when it comes to their own work. Teachers are constantly comparing themselves to each other and how much better another teacher is doing something compared to what they’re doing now.

As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for the next cool thing, but I can also see how some teachers like what they do because they’ve done it for  so long that to do something else would be very uncomfortable. So they don’t seek out new ideas or lessons. It seems that teaching is a profession of extremes: you either share or you don’t. There doesn’t seem to be very much middle ground that way.

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As Dean Shareski says, I think teachers have an obligation to share ideas and content because teaching can be such a collaborative profession, if you let it. If there’s no sense of collegiality fostered, it is too easy to shut your door and do your own thing for the next 40 years. It’s contingent on teachers to share with each other and to reach out to others, without waiting to be approached first.

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I think in order to create a culture where sharing is encouraged, there has to be a value placed on it, from above. If sharing amongst teachers is considered a priority, if creating things collaborative becomes paramount, there will be a corresponding increase in sharing with teachers. But, right now, teachers are strapped for time and are limited on resources, mentally, physically, and time-wise. Teachers are stretched thin. Sharing becomes a back burner issue when just getting through the day and planning a lesson at a time is life. (I find this especially true with new preps — I have all new preps this semester and have never felt so like a first-year teacher again!)

If teaching were to have an oath, like the Hippocratic one, I think the first commandment would be: First, share and share reserving judgment.


Sharing for Growth

In my opinion of the advancements in education, technology and many important areas have to do with sharing.  In fact, when I think about the advancements I have made in my career, I can relate almost everything I have ever learned to the concept of sharing and open communication with others. This isn’t limited to the sharing of lesson resources alone – but on a larger scale that includes the sharing of ideas, feedback, problem solving and open communication with friends, colleagues and and other grad students.

Steve Johnson’s Ted Talk titled,  Where Good Ideas Come From speaks to the importance of collaborating with others and sharing ideas. He draws attention to the importance of not only sharing good ideas, but how sometimes talking about problems or what my kids and I call in the classroom “speed bumps” can often lead to new and noteworthy ideas or innovations.

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I believe a popular misconception, at least for me, is that often a good idea is a sudden light bulb reaction that happens out of nowhere, or so it seems. However, Johnson’s Ted Talk addresses the fact that often good ideas are built over long periods of time. Johnson had me thinking about the push companies like Google make for employees to have 20% release time from their regular duties just for to focus on generating new ideas. It’s an interesting concept but one I can really see the value in. When I think about my own workday, I am so stressed for time and literally make too many minute by minute decisions to think about much else. That is why I can really appreciate the common prep time given aside from teaching to share, discuss new teaching resources and problem solve with other grade alike teachers within my school. It’s not google – but I always walk away learning something new from someone else.

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Image via Personal Outcomes Collaboration

This common prep time set aside regular work, or even regular prep times is built with sharing and collaboration in mind. We often share and develop new teaching projects, ideas, problem solve or share interesting PD resources with one another. We may be in a different category then Google, however this time does benefit my learning as an employee and as a result has an impact on my performance which is in turn good for my employer. A key factor in creating a culture of sharing between educators is providing time and opportunity within the school day to do so and exploring online avenues to explore PD opportunities, including developing your PLN (Professional Learning Network) outside of the school day using tools like Twitter.

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Image via 30daybooks

However, many teachers are very reserved when it comes to sharing  – many who do not share at all – at least in front of an audience. Non-sharing, in my opinion, limits one’s growth and creates a culture of non-collaboration. Why do some people believe not sharing is best for them? Perhaps it’s not an issue of believing what’s best for them, but rather a fear of being ridiculed or judged for their work or ideas. Is it merely an issue of self-confidence? I was once guilty of not sharing my ideas in front of others unless I was literally asked or absolutely had to. I was always open to sharing my resources and what I knew, but avoided being put on the spot in a large meeting to “share” at all costs. As Marley mentions, “There is no need to reinvent the wheel” but rather lets build upon what we already know and whats already out there to take our work to the next level. I preferred to blend into the crowd until a mentor of mine began to highlight my skills and strengths and encourage me to share what I’m doing in the classroom with other teachers. For me, it was the fear of what others thought. What if others don’t agree or like what I have to say? With age, this notion of “What will others think?” became less and less important and my thinking shifting towards the importance of sharing from others. If I could help just one teacher by sharing what I am already doing in the classroom was more meaningful to me then worrying about what others would think.

I think confidence in one’s self is a key issue regarding one’s level of comfort in sharing. Also the more one seeks information to learn, the more like they are to establish a similar sharing attitude. When I began teaching several years ago, I was so grateful for new information, ideas and resources that were shared with me – both by colleagues I

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Image via Teaching Culture

knew, and strangers online from different education resource platforms. The more things I “borrowed” from others, the more obligated I felt to share what I had with other teachers who are looking to learn about a certain subject or needed help. I was much more willing to make suggestions based on what has been shared with me when I noticed a colleague struggling with the same issues I may have already experienced before them. I think of this as my “duty to share” and given the amount of great ideas that have been shared with me, it is my duty to pass them along to others. As Amy so nicely put it in her most recent blog post that “A big part of openness is being adaptable” and I think this is so true. We must be willing to be flexible in our thinking and actions as we learn and grow. I believe that in order for that to happen there needs to be a willingness to accept new ideas and in turn share with others.  A culture of sharing is just so critical to developing in our profession.

Speaking of the culture of sharing, as leaders within the school I think sharing is a big part of building your team up and highlighting the strengths of others within the school. Not only does Parkland School Division’s website titled 184 Day of Learning highlights the great work of teachers, but they are also sharing ideas of what quality teaching with their employees. Whether it was their main goal or not – this website makes learning visible and but it always demonstrates the value they place on creating a culture of sharing.

Heather Duncan’s Ted Talk makes reference to the need so “share our secrets” as teachers with others. Within the day, it can feel isolating within our classroom and the need for collaboration and sharing is more important than ever. She emphasizes the need to “break out of our comfort zones” and initiate these conversations with students within our grade groups and then venturing further to meet other teachers.

I enjoyed Christina’s most recent blog post which stressed the importance of focusing in on the basic needs of the student and collaborating with an entire team to ensure the individual student succeeds not only in academics but also in terms of social growth and having their basic needs met. So often I think of sharing in terms of resources for academics, when often the need for sharing entails a holistic approach that addresses the whole child. I spoke about many in-house “key players” in collaboration and appreciate Christina’s reminder about the outside agencies that are often needed to provide proper supports with students – it truly does take a village to raise a child.

Until Next Time!
Tayler


OER Commons

For my OER, I chose to look at the OER Commons. This to me seemed to be the hub from which all spokes derived.

Before I begin, I’d like to shout out to Awesome Screenshot for making this blog entry so painless!

The following is a review of their website in terms of accessibility, interface, content, and visual appeal.

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At first glance, their website seems open and their tag line of “Explore. Create. Collaborate” inviting. So far, so good.

Under their heading banner is a way to create lesson plans to freely share with other educators, like Teachers Pay Teachers, without the paying part. I was interested to see how many lessons or documents teachers are freely sharing with their colleagues, when options to be paid for this work exist (beyond your actual job, obviously). In order to create lessons or resources, you need to login through their system. I created an account in order to see what the process would be like.

Edit Lesson   OER Commons.pngAs you can see from the screenshot, it looks like they use WordPress to create their lessons, as my avatar from WordPress is in the corner. The text editing is smooth and user friendly, perhaps because I was already used to WordPress.

I really liked that I could preview my lesson as a student or as a fellow educator to see what they would see when accessing it.

Next, I went to explore other “hubs” to see what they offered, or where they would take me:

Network Hubs   OER Commons.pngThe list seems massive! Unless I knew exactly what I was looking for, I think I would feel incredibly overwhelmed by the choices presented. Some of the resources were other ones Alec suggested in the Weekly Outline and some were new to me. The one that interested me the most was the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers.

It is a repository of professional resources for teachers:

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This seems like a really neat resource to use as a teacher in order to inform practice, both as a professional and as a way to introduce things to students.

What was really interesting was this:

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It’s a list of countries and organizations which have adopted the system created by UNESCO. The list of countries include places which are generally seen as “third world” or in need of reform in their educational systems. Does this mean that perhaps they’re taking more steps forward than first world countries in adopting a framework such as this?

OER Commons is a vast network of available resources for teachers and students to take advantage of. It seems user-friendly, authentic, and a really neat way to access numerous free lessons and modules to aid in teaching. I think by using this a teacher could possibly make their learning and teaching more global as the resources come from across the globe.


The Amazing World of Open Education Resources

Last week the course content and my blog post led me in the direction of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) and my mind was pretty blown. I’ve heard people talk about these online courses but it wasn’t until I started looking deeper into the countless options available that it really struck me – WOW this is SO cool!

This week I explored TEDEd and Open Learn and I’m here to offer you my personal realizations, reactions and most importantly evaluation of these sites/resources.

First up to the plate..

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Although I have heard of TED-ed and watched the odd video that pops up on my FB News Feed, I have never truly taken advantage of the site itself or used it for my own classroom. I was instantly drawn into the engaging setup which allows you to visually “preview” the videos. The wide range of topics had me instantly excited as I could see this being a solid “go to” site for educational resources and short video clips to either introduce or review curriculum content.

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Although the videos were of extremely interesting topics and fun facts, I found it difficult to find content that directly related to the outcomes I’m working with. This isn’t to say this site doesn’t offer anything of value – it truly does. But perhaps it doesn’t fully align with outcomes in the way I had hoped for and I need to adjust my view of this sites purpose. Will I be able to consistently find a video to support my lesson specific to a certain strategy or content?  Maybe not. But will I be able to find an engaging video to stimulate discussion within my classroom? Absolutely!

I was instantly excited about the well organized theme menu along the left hand side (Health, Literature, Mathematics, Science and Technology etc.). I used the search bar to locate different learning topics “rocks and minerals” or “Agriculture” but didn’t have much luck finding content related to learning outcomes.

All in all, I think this is a good site filled with quality educational videos. Each video is designed with a lesson and offers a “Watch, Think, Dig Deeper, Discuss” links that provide interesting discussion questions and prompts for teachers to use and to support this video portion of the resource.

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Image via Traffic Challan

Pros: 
Fun, engaging, quality videos on a variety of interesting topics
Great conversation starters and videos to facilitate student discussions
Easy to use menus and toolbar
Easy to navigate – filters to access age appropriate videos
Flipped classroom resources

Cons: 
Challenge to find content that relates to curriculum topics
Wide range of topics result in narrow focus rather than deep learning

Next up…
Open Learn

Open Learn is Moodle based learning resource through the UK’s Open University. 

One of the pro’s of Open Learn is the easy to use user interface and of course the free content which includes over 1000 courses. The site is easy to navigate with menus that allow you to access a wealth of different courses. I wanted to get a grasp of what this site could offer me as an educator. Clicking on “Education and Development” I am was impressed with the variety of courses I could explore for free in terms of professional development. I’ve attached a list (although it’s not a complete list) of some of the topics offered within the Education category alone.

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Image via Open Learn
Another benefit of open education is quick and cost effective way to access information as opposed to the using textbooks which quickly become outdated. “Open Learn allows users to download, modify, translate and adapt to their culture to the material to enhance its usefulness. They provide the opportunity for people to work together to co-modify, co-produce, test and co-produce again, retesting derivative material which generates a cycle of rapid continuous improvement. Using technology Open Educational Resources aim to remove access barriers to knowledge and educational opportunities around the world.” (Wikipedia, 2017) The idea of collaboration and sharing is strong in the world of open education.

Open learn allows you to choose differing levels of courses from introductory to advanced and provides a multitude of different course lengths from 4 hours to 100 hours depending on the course you take.

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Image via Open Learn

I think this is a great resource for anyone who wants to grow in a specific skill and develop themselves personally and professionally. I feel like this is a quality resource and was unable to find many flaws or cons towards this site or it’s content. One question that comes to mind is how content relates to us in Canada. Does being based in the UK impact the content for me personally? I tried to find the answer for myself, and being it is an Open Ed site there are many wide open courses however in the area of business some courses are specific to to certain locations – for example “Why are Public Companies Vanishing in America?”  Would it be somewhat difficult to find Canadian content?

After a quick search in the Open Learn search bar, I was quickly directed to a large amount of courses that touch on information about Canada across many subject areas. Clearly availability of Canadian content is not an issue in  the UK originated Open Learn platform.

Pros:
– Large variety of topics and courses to choose from
-Easy to use interface
– Options to connect with other users and ask questions in a comment field within the course
– Courses available computer, mobile phone or tablet
– Easy to understand Copy Right Info (See image below)

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The free content in which Open Learn owns copyright is available to use under the
Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike’ .  Open learn tries to release to as much information as they can under an open license as cost is usually the most common barrier for those seeking higher education.  Open Learn  also created a sister website called OpenLearn Create which allows users to take Open Learns content and ” rework it or adapt it for your own use and then contribute it back into the OpenLearn community by placing it in OpenLearn Create.” (Open Learn FAQ’s). Open Learn is a neat resource to keep in mind regardless of your profession. I believe with the wide range of courses available, the only problem you may have is narrowing your choices down to one course!

Until next time!
Tayler


Education for All

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I have so many thoughts on open education. I’m trying to get them in order so that I sound somewhat coherent.

I am conflicted about the idea of open education.

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On one hand, open education is just that. Open, free. No holds barred. Places like Harvard have open courses available online. But, something tells me that if I turned up at the STF with a certificate I printed out at home saying I now have a degree from Harvard I would be laughed out of the building.

However, this goes against what I stand for we we discuss democratization of education . I believe education should be open and available to everyone. Having education as a paid concept is a very capitalist movement that goes against the Marxist that lurks beneath the surface of my heart.

I’m all for education that’s open, which is why I’m a public school teacher. This article by the Independent has a whole list of universities which offer free (or almost free) education to their students.

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But, the conundrum I run into is am I legally allowed to offer free education? Can I offer or post something to the internet in the name of open education within my ethical limitations?

I am paid by the Regina Board of Education, who in turn derives money from taxpayers. By allowing someone else to use something I created using taxpayer money, am I violating some kind of ethics? The person using my work may be half way across the world and have no connection to me.

This concept really hit home with Larry Lessig’s video on Laws that Choke Creativity and then with Everything is a Remix. Is my creativity being stifled? Is my students? How do I balance my obligations to my employer while still honouring my desire for a free, open education? Who are these laws really protecting in the end? The trespassers (to borrow a phrase from the video) or the people on the ground? How original is my work in the end? As a teacher, you’re always told “don’t reinvent the wheel” in terms of creating new material.

These thoughts led me to this declaration:

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If education is then framed like this, money doesn’t matter. Respecting human rights becomes the most important thing.

Education belongs to all and I’ll end with a quote (which speaks to me as an English teacher):

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