Creativity is the Fuel

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A Human Endeavour. Post #6 EDER 679 Technology and Society

Filed under: EDER 679.05 November 26, 2012 @ 10:43 am


The time has come to wrap up our blog posts for this course. Blogging is about reflection and evidence of the power of reflection has been coming at me from all angles this week.

We have pondered the value of digital games, collaborative tools, curriculum restrictions, the role of inquiry, student engagement. We need to be very thoughtful in every aspect of our work as teachers. As we expand the tools available for learning we need to remember that what works for students and for adults is what has worked for millennia – human interaction.

While moderating our chapter discussion on digital games I was struck with an idea. People play mmo’s because of their need to play; to connect. At the core of digital games is the collective, the same collective exists in the street games kids have played for centuries. The thrill of kick the can, the challenge of street hockey, the buzz of a group demonstration are all embodied in the digital world of collective-style digital games. Humans want to interact with other humans.

We are often surprised by the impact of blogging. Yet we are fully aware of the power of reflection. Blogging, journalling, diaries, personal letters, stories around the campfire – is there any difference? Now we have a digital campfire where everyone can have a turn at being the storyteller.

Today I linked to a middle school student’s blog from a tweet by Dr. Michele Jacobsen, a U of C professor. The post was profound and personal. The comment section was teeming with reactions. Some may look at this blog and say, ‘Look what blogging can do.’ Yes, blogging is a powerful tool, yet we cannot underestimate that it grows from our long existing need to connect.

Many people focus on the fact that blogs have a massive audience – yet it doesn’t take responses from thousands of people to make an impact. One comment has an impact. Five comments and we feel connected. More than ten comments and the word viral starts to enter our thoughts. The world of blogging is a digital form of the printing press and we know the impact that invention had, and continues to have, on the world.

This term I have been writing a scholarly reflective journal. I’ve chosen to keep a digital journal, although many in class keep paper journals. We read and we discuss, all the while we are very thoughtful about the content of the readings. Yet it is our own writing that brings the deepest awareness, synthesis, discovery of ideas. I’m not alone in this experience. It is a shared experience that we all talk about and then write about. We write about how writing has furthered our thinking…our knowing.

The world is changing. What hasn’t changed is that we are human. The ways we engage are truly personal and unique to each of us. The connecting thread woven through the work of teaching is that this is a human endeavour. Our work in schools will be strengthened as we remember our humanness. My hope is that our digital tools will help us to do just that.

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LT4 Student Collaboration

Filed under: EDER 679.05 November 21, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

The Impact of Technology on Student Collaboration

Patti Jones and Carole Jones

Technology has had an impact on student collaboration. The power of Web 2.0 and 3.0 tools has connected the classroom to the world and the world to the classroom. Our presentation will give you a glimpse into the world of student collaboration with and without technology.

Click on the image below to link to our presentation.

Please note that SlideRocket is not optimized for mobile devices and is best viewed on a computer. We suggest that you watch through the slides in auto mode (you can click to pause and play, though) and then return to the slides with links to resources and documents (indicated by blue text). The linked documents are excellent resources for expanding your use of collaborative tools – whether you are just beginning to use collaborative tools or experienced.


Synthesizing activity:  Collaborative tools are numerous, and ever expanding.  Knowing which tools meet your students’ needs is an important step in developing ways to use these tools in your classroom. This activity is to collaboratively build a digital database of tools.

Please complete our easy to use form below. We would like you to share a collaborative tool you currently use or one you have seen and are curious about. Please provide an explanation on how it could be used and the potential benefits for students.  Appropriate grade ranges are helpful, but not required. Adult learning environments are included, too.

“I am what I create and share and others build on.” (J.S. Brown, 2011)

We have emailed the resulting information as a summary and as a spreadsheet for you to use, share and continue to build as you weave collaborative tools into your teaching and learning.

Thank you!

Patti and Carole 

Final Data is available here

Click here to access the Collaborative Tool Reference Google Doc.


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Breaking Down Barriers. EDER 679 Technology and Society: Post #5

Filed under: EDER 679.05 November 12, 2012 @ 10:42 am

During our chapter review discussions much has been written about the constraints of curriculum, testing and credits. These school realities are described as barriers to change; how we organize the school day, our use of technology, teachers’ use of inquiry based pedagogy and more. Thomas and Brown remind us that “(w)hen change comes slowly, adaptation is easy.”(Ch. 9)  I would like to say that if we choose the easy route, students will not benefit from advances in pedagogy, technology or learning models. Our students deserve better.

We need to view school as “a set of new possibilities” (Thomas and Brown, 2011) not as the cornerstone of ‘the way it has always been’. Some teachers say, ‘Students will not work unless the task is laid out for them.’, ‘Inquiry leads to chaos.’, ‘Students are not motivated to look beyond the easy answer.’ I would like to share an example of how learning can change even in the credit-bound world of high school.

The project From Blue to Red,  sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency, is a multimedia, multidisciplinary collaboration between Lord Beaverbrook High School (LBHS), professional artists, scientists and astronauts. At the core of the project is a story written for young children.

I had the privilege of being involved in the project from the perspective of a LBHS feeder school. Our grade 4 students were asked to provide feedback on the story while it was in the development stage and to participate in a live Skype session with Dr. Robert Thirsk. The opinions of our young students were valued, woven into the work of the project and acted upon.

For the high school students, this project is a living verification that school, even high school, can be different. Describing the depth and breadth of the project would take a documentary. The key matter here is that students experienced school in ways that challenged their thinking and caused them to create, communicate, collaborate and take risks. The intensity of the learning was remarkable; our traditional view of high school was warped. The barriers came down.

Thomas and Brown’s view of a new culture of learning may seem to some to be an unattainable ideal. I believe it is not only attainable but possible within our schools not just in the future, but now; here; today. We can “marry structure and freedom to create something altogether new.” (Thomas and Brown, 2011, Ch. 9)


McIntyre, R., & Whelan Kotkas, S. (2012). From blue to red. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Tiberious Publishing.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. [Kindle Edition]. doi: 10.4236/ce. 2012.33057


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Time’s Up! EDER 679 Technology and Society: Post #4

Filed under: EDER 679.05 October 29, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

Time is up for “old school.” (Richardson, 2012) Today’s learners demand a new kind of education. Teachers, as designers of classroom learning, need to be able to provide learning environments that allow students to thrive.  According to Will Richardson in his new book, ‘Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere’ (2012), education has gone “basically unrevised for 150 years.”  In a majority of Canadian schools the physical building, the timetable, report cards and the playground look very familiar. In some schools, the way learning happens, though, and the environments in which it happens have changed. Most importantly, learning can happen “around the things we learners choose to learn, not what someone else tells us to learn.” (Richardson, 2012)

“Literacy has always meant being able to consume and produce the media forms of the day, whatever they may be”. (Ohler, 2011)  Have you thought about books, papers, pencils as forms of media? Based on Richardson’s timespan of 150 years, school has focussed on reading print material, writing paragraphs and essays and lots of time listening to a person talk. Literacy has meant reading, writing, and speaking with viewing being added as a form of literacy relatively recently. In 2012, literacy can mean mixing words with images, sounds, music, video, and other media to create, as Jason Ohler (2011) describes, a multimedia collage, in the form of web pages, digital stories, videos and so much more.

Time is up for schools to insist that literacy revolve around limited forms of media for consumption and production. Schools can move from being text-centred to supporting a collage of media literacy in creative, thoughtful, ways. Students and adults can create media, stories and projects that are articulate and authentic. Teachers and students are surrounded by a multitude of Web 2.0 tools to explore, master and share. It can be difficult to choose which tool to use. Some people may feel that technology makes tasks more difficult rather than easier. If that is the case, either the wrong tool is being used or the task needs to be changed.

On the journey of creating excellent learning environments we do not have to be experts at everything, however, teachers need to be willing to take risks and be lifelong learners. One question that may help teachers and students select high quality tools is, ‘Does this tool allow me to expand my classroom beyond physical space or the constraints of time?’ Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 tools can meet these demands.

By collaborating and sharing work and talents within our school communities and our online communities we can create dynamic places for children and adults to learn. School can continue to exist even when “Learning and Information are Everywhere” (Richardson, 2012)


Ohler, J. (2011). New media, new kids-new literacies, new citizens. Retrieved November 21, 2011, from

Richardson, W. (2012). Why school?: How education must change when learning and information are everywhere. New York: TED Books.

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What Really Counts? Post #3 EDER 679 Technology and Society

Filed under: EDER 679.05 October 14, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

I would like to see schools let go of their search for 21st century learning skills. The 21st century is here and we need to embrace a “new culture of learning” now. (Thomas & Brown, 2011) A slow rate of change in schools is viewed by some educators as expected and acceptable. Students, however, do not have time to wait for us to make changes to the work of schools. We can teach in ways that bring to life the words “where imaginations play, learning happens.” (Thomas & Brown, 2011) Through active use of technology tools, our students have the power to explore possibilities, collaborate with each other, to share their learning with the world – and to receive feedback on their work from this global audience. Students can make an impact right now by designing their learning journeys and expanding their understanding of the world.  They need to do this without waiting for the adults around them catch up with the 21st century. By being participants in their own learning, students discover what it is they are curious about and can explore it in ways enabled by web 2.0 tools.

In their discussion about the power of play, Thomas and Brown describe how play can allow students to “discover what is important to them, what it is they actually want to learn…”. (Thomas and Brown, 2011, Ch. 9) When they are learning about what they care about, students explore, create and build knowledge in authentic ways: ways that transform their understanding; learning that stays with them.

Classrooms, and the schools they are in, can be knowledge building collectives where students experience first-hand the act of discovery, risk taking, evaluating, exploration and collaboration. In a learning environment where everyone, including the teacher, is on a path of exploration, teaching and learning will be motivating and engaging. Student motivation will be sustained as they delve into “things that matter to the learners and to the world.” (Canadian Education Association, 2012)

What really counts? What really counts is creating learning environments that support students in being open to learning and active in their exploration of the world. In such environments, students will be able to move confidently into their own 21st century futures and teachers can run alongside trying to keep up.


Canadian Education Association. (2012, 09 01). Playing to Learn. Retrieved 10 10, 2012, from Canada Education Think Twice:

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. [Kindle Edition]. doi: 10.4236/ce. 2012.33057

Image Credit: Evolve Technologies

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EDER 679 Technology and Society: Post #2 The Language of Technology

Filed under: EDER 679.05 September 27, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

Over the past twenty years there has been much talk about 21st Century learning skills and the use of technology in education. It may be the opinion of some people that when planning for the use of technology in a school the language would be focused on software, hardware, inputs, outcomes, information, etc. There would be little consideration of the importance of building, creating or exploring. This cannot be said of the recent work of Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. In their book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (2011); creating, play and experimentation are all explored in detail. They ask the question, “What if students were asking questions about things that really mattered to them?” (Thomas and Brown, 2011, Ch. 6)

Their invocation is for teachers to develop a new culture of learning designed to meet the needs of students today . “Only when we care about experimentation, play, and questions more than efficiency, outcomes and answers do we have a space that is truly open to the imagination.” (Thomas and Brown, 2011). They see technology as a participatory medium, and that “simply unleashing students on the Internet” doesn’t create a good learning environment “any more than lecturing and testing them more does.” (Chapter 3)

The idea that lecturing and testing are not the roads to good learning is not a new one. Ted Aoki, in his 1987 work Inspiriting the Curriculum (Pinar, Irwin, & Aoki, 2005) writes, that for the work in a classroom to come alive “the curriculum itself has to contain, said or unsaid, an invitation to teachers and students to enter into it.” (p. 362) The idea that what is to be learned “is invited” (Aoki, 2005) into the classroom by both teachers and students is an enticing one; one that I see fits well with Thomas and Brown’s vision of a new culture of learning. Can you see the connection between Aoki’s ‘inviting curriculum in’ and Thomas and Brown’s description of “an environment where learning happens on a continuous basis because the participants are internally motivated to find, share, and filter new information on a near-constant basis.”(Ch. 9)? There is a strong connection between inviting and finding, sharing and filtering new learning.

As a teacher and parent I would like to see us let go of our search for 21st Century learning skills. The 21st Century is here and we need to embrace a “new culture of learning” (Thomas and Brown, 2011) now. We can teach in ways that bring to life the words “where imaginations play, learning happens.” (Thomas and Brown, 2011, Ch. 1)


Pinar, W. F., Irwin, R. F., & Aoki, T. T. (2005). Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki. Mahwah, NJ, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. [Kindle Edition]. doi: 10.4236/ce. 2012.33057

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EDER 679 Technology & Society: Post #1 How connected do we want to be?

Filed under: EDER 679.05 September 17, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

Learning to be connected and learning to be separate from each other are both critical skills for students. As educators, and as parents, we need to find spaces for both. Dennis Shirley, in ‘The Fourth Way of technology and change’ (2011), is clear about the role of technology for young people. “Schools can help our young to be separate from and yet connected with others in these transient, unpredictable, and ultimately ephemeral journeys we call our lives.” (Shirley, 2011, p. 207).

I live in a place where it is very easy to be connected any time; any place; using any device. In Calgary, as in most North American cities, there are very few barriers to my access to information.

I also spend a lot of time in a very disconnected place. In Trout Lake, B.C., in the year 1988, disconnected meant physically distant from any highway with no electricity, no phone and, of course, no internet. We were a long way from anywhere and communication, other than face-to-face, was nearly impossible. We did not know what was happening in Calgary, or the rest of the world and they did not know what was happening with us. There was a peaceful pace to this existence.

Now in 2012, we have made the climb out of that isolation. Our physical location has not changed but the paved highway is now just 2 kilometres away and via high-speed Internet we have access to the internet and voice and video communication. We know what is happening in Calgary; we know what is happening around the world. We converse with our daughter in Italy while ‘touring’ her around the cabin to share the latest renovations. She shares her latest adventures with us. We are now surrounded by the beeps and bells of news updates, emails arriving and video calls starting. That peaceful pace has changed.

I wonder what has been gained and what has been lost. Not only has my connectivity changed, my context has changed – drastically. My lifestyle is a product of this connected world. We have changed; our contexts have changed; our expectations have changed.

  • Is there a way to separate the advantages and disadvantages of these changes?
  • Can we track how our lives have improved/changed due to technology over the past twenty-five years?

Being connected to the world we inhabit includes both physical and digital forms of experience, learning and communication.  We do not have to choose one over the other; 1988 or 2012. As John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas implore in A New Culture of Learning (2011), “the point is to embrace what we don’t know, come up with better questions about it, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more.” (ch. 2) We must create a woven blend of the best of the past and the ever-changing opportunities of today so we can move confidently into the future.


Shirley, D. (2011). The fourth way of technology and change. Journal of Educational Change, 12, 187-209.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. [Kindle Edition]. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.33057