Doing the Best with What I’ve Got

Or, What SharePoint has Taught  Reminded Me About the IBO

My school runs a Microsoft SharePoint portal. It’s okay, I guess. It’s a bit clunky, not very attractive and somewhat limited in terms of customization. Or so I thought…

I have been given the keys to my own little kingdom: I have been granted permissions above and beyond those of most teachers (but not fully admin rights) because of my spiffy new job title. And, like any geeky gadget-lovin’ guy or gal, I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to see how far I can go before I break something. And that’s how I discovered that, with the proper design privileges, you can embed media-rich content into SharePoint web pages.

Notice that I did not say blogs or wikis. That is the one feature that is most missed in SharePoint. You simply cannot embed videos or any other script-based ‘widget’ into the SharePoint blogs or wikis. But, emboldened by my new discoveries, I did some more research and came up with this: the Enhanced Rich Text Editor. This just adds a new button to the WYSIWYG editor that allows for exactly the embedding features I’ve been looking for. It hasn’t been installed yet but my Tech Director seems keen on the find too.

I’ve just finished reading “Education Needs to be Turned on Its Head” which was Tweeted to me by my friend @amichetti. I think his words are relevant here:

It’s this: learn about what interests you, gets you curious, gets you excited. Figure out where to get the information you need. Read about it, talk to someone about it, find out about it. Try it. Do it, make mistakes. Figure out how to correct the mistakes. Figure out how to solve the problems you encounter. Repeat.

I’ve just done exactly what we want our students to do. Find a problem; solve a problem. It was my own natural curiousity that drove this inquiry and I was only able to be an inquirer because of that extra bit of tinkering room I was given. We need to take the shackles off the students, give them the room to play, to make mistakes and maybe even break something. Let them be a risk taker! But we also need to guide them down the path of being a responsible and principled memeber of their community. Did you see what just happened?

Image Credit: Kingdom Keys by LivingOS (CC BY SA)

Upcoming PD Opportunities

Here’s a list of what I’m plugging to the staff here:

What: 23 Things: Tools for 21st Century Teaching and Learning
Where: This is an online course
When: Begins September 14 and will go for 10 weeks

  • Technically, you should have registered by last Friday. However, you can try to sneak your registration in if you are really keen. There are already a few teachers who have signed up and I hope to host a 23 Things Professional Learning Community for all those involved.

What: ASB Unplugged
Where: The American School of Bombay
When: Feb 24 – 27 2010

 What: K12 Online Conference 2009
Where: This is a virtual conference.
When: Starts November 20 2009 with 40 presentations being posted for download over a two-week period (December 7 – 17). There will also be live events.

What: Create the Future: Become a 21st Century Learner
Where: BISS International School, Beijing
When: January 16 – 17

Did I miss anything? (I know I don’t have the 21st Century Learning HK conference listed… I figure it’s too late for people to register anyhow…)

image: Untitled by _fLeMmA__

A Long Road

Three weeks on the new job have passed. I’m still finding my feet, so to speak. I’m loving the ability to help teachers both in and out of the class. I just wish there was more of the “in class” part! It’ll come, I know, as teachers figure out how to utilize my services. I guess I need to be more vocal about going into classes and find some friendly faces who won’t mind an unplanned visit.

There is still a long, long road ahead. As I try to organize my thoughts and priorities, as I try to define the parameters of this new position, I realize that there is a lot of work to be done! But where to begin?

the long road ahead by qmnonic (CC BY)

the long road ahead by qmnonic (CC BY)

  • I’ve got a small group of teachers (and one administrator!) interested in starting a Professional Learning Community around the 23 Things workshop.
  • I’d like to work with the ES IT Facilitator in finalizing a series of after-school Tech Sessions.
  • I’d like to plan and implement a series of Parent Workshops on issues such as Online Safety, Digital Citizenship, Copyright and Creative Commons, Navigating Our School Portal, Truths and Myths Regarding Facebook, <anything else?>
  • I’d like to establish a culture of Personal Learning Networks, trying to get more teachers reading and learning from other teachers as well as sharing their own expertise with teachers around the world.
  • I’d like to get students blogging, either internally or publicly. At this point, it is most important to establish the culture of blogging, regardless of the location.
  • I’d like to establish a scalable method of tracking (and reporting?) Technology Integration standards (which don’t exist for my school but can easily be based upon NETS, the IB Learner Profile and MYP ATL Skills).
  • I’d like to get a say in the setup of our school tablets. Why are we using Real Player instead of VLC? Is it truly a security risk to include Firefox and IE8? (IE8 is necessary, in my experience, to view and use our MS SharePoint portal.)

Anything else I should keep on my radar?

Technology Facilitator: My New Role

A few days ago, Kim Cofino was wondering about the variations in job titles amongst people doing similar work at different schools.

What is it about technology in education that makes it so difficult to define roles that everyone can agree on and understand? Even though we’ve had technology in schools for decades, it still seems like we’re making it up as we go along.

I missed her original Tweet calling for the different titles or else I would have added my very own brand new title to the mix: MSHS Technology Facilitator.

We’ve been back at school for the better part of a week now and I still am trying to come to grips with what this fancy new title means. Here’s what’s been bouncing around in my head to date:

What I am:

  • I’m there to support teachers, both in the classroom, with ideas on how where our current technologies fit into their curriculum and the best ways to integrate the two, and out, by providing training and support.
  • I’m there to support students by providing co-teaching and out-of-class support.
  • I’m there to support parents by offering workshops to help them understand what their children are doing in our 1:1 school.
  • I’m a filter between the teachers and the tech director.
  • I’m an observer, trying to monitor how teachers and students are progressing with their technology integration and finding ways to advance that integration based on what I see.

What I’m not:

  • I’m not Tech Support (no admin passwords, sorry!) though I’ll try my best to troubleshoot.
  • I’m not a classroom teacher any more.
  • I’m not THE expert.

So far, I’ve been running around putting out fires as teachers get back into the swing of using their Tablets. I’ve also been running some in-house PD on using Outlook effectively and efficiently as well as guiding the staff on what they will need to be showing our students on Day 1 (tomorrow!) when grades 8 – 10 receive their tablets for the very first time. I’ve also run an intro session for our batch of student helpers so that they can help me fight fires over the first few days.

I am absolutely thrilled to be the first person to occupy this position at my school. This position was created because our Admin saw the need for it as a direct result of Jeff Utecht‘s visit last November. I only hope I can fill the already-high expectations placed on this job.

I’m also a bit confused: after 10+ years of getting ready for students on Day 1, I’m not doing that this year. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet…

Thing 12: My Holiday Slideshow (from Flickr)

Please excuse the brevity (and funny punctuation) of the next few blog posts. Being in Europe has its drawbacks: expensive internet cafes and funny keyboards.

At least, that”s what I hope it will look like! I”m only on the 5th day of the holiday, but thanks to Flickr, those are the things I”m hoping to see. You can travel anywhere in the world using other people”s photos, or you can harness the power of visual images using clear, sharp and near-professional photos.

Image Credits:

Nice-Cote-d’Azur-card by

Contrails and the Pisa Tower by ccgd

relax in river to the Arno by pasma

Salzburg Cathedral by joiseyshowaa

Nuremberg: The City Clock by bill barber (very sporadic)

Relief…Bleriot-Plage, Calais by grange85

London Eye at Night by Philipp Klinger (in US & CDN 14/06 till 04/07)

Mermaid Quay by JohnGreenaway

Exposition Universelle by . SantiMB . (uninspired)

Thing 11: Flickr and CC

Please excuse the brevity (and funny punctuation) of the next few blog posts. Being in Europe has its drawbacks: expensive internet cafes and funny keyboards.

I thought I”d include a picture of where I”m currently internet-ing. My family and I are on our big European holiday and we”re currently camping about 800 meters from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Flickr could be used in all sorts of ways in the classroom. A quick example: on day 1 of a new school year, have the students search Flickr to find photos that represent their summer holiday. It could be literal, such as my photo above, or it could be more symbolic.

Photo: Contrails and the Pisa Tower by ccgd

Thing 10: Copyright, Copywrong and Creative Commons

Please excuse the brevity (and funny punctuation) of the next few blog posts. Being in Europe has its drawbacks: expensive internet cafes and funny keyboards.

Teachers have always gotten around traditional copyright law, whether they knew it or not, by the “Fair Use” standards in place for education. While this serves us well, it will not always serve our students. Nor does traditional copyright laws take into account the instantaneous nature of sharing and remixing information.

Enter Creative Commons.

CC licensing is necessary in today”s world. It can, I think, be thought of as a community. I”ll use your images, music, etc. and you can use mine. There is nobody policing anything. It”s up to the individual users to ensure that they are abiding by the terms of the license that has been placed on the work by the creator.

I kind of like that idea when it comes to students: empowering people to ensure that they are using other people”s work responsibly.