Curation

When reading about 21st century learning I often come across the term “curation”.  Beth Kanter defines content curation as  “the organizing, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best pieces of content that you’ve cherry picked with your network” (be sure to read the whole post).

As more and more information is published on the web, we need tools to help us find, filter and organize that information.  Students need to learn that not all information is created equally and that learning requires us to evaluate and edit information constantly.

I use quite a few tools that help me with these activities:

twitter – a continuous rich stream of links come to me from my PLN through twitter

delicious – a great way to bookmark sites, research papers and other sources of information to refer back to

google alerts – an easy way to automate searches that you perform on a regular basis

rss reader – a “dashboard” for bringing all the blogs, news sources, and other things together in one place for catching up

Increasingly there are tools that bring disparate sources together and present them in a visually appealing way – almost like a magazine – and it is one of these that I’ve been playing around with lately.

Scoop.it is a tool that helps you to explore your favourite topic by bringing content (sites, posts, videos, etc) together in an online exhibit. Scoop.it will even crawl the web looking for links that might be of interest to you. You can follow topics and other scoop.it posters and easily pull links that appeal to you into your own curation page.

I’m just getting started with this project, so far I’ve pulled together some of my all-time favourites and will add new things as I come across them.  I’m hoping this will be an effective way to pull together information to engage people (in particular parents) who aren’t necessarily tuned in to the latest web tools.

Asking people to jump right into twitter or blogging or social bookmarking can be a bit overwhelming. My hope is that by exploring topics of interest through scoop.it they will see the power of curation tools for their children and might even try it for themselves.

What I’m scooping right now:

Leading and Learning in 21C

Family and Community Engagement in Education

School – Family Partnerships for the 21st Century

I read a lot of articles about improving the school – family dynamic in public education. Some focus on parent involvement, others go toward parent engagement. I have been inspired by the work of Joyce Epstein and Debbie Pushor as they both encourage the development of true partnerships based on mutual respect and a desire to enhance student learning.

(For those interested my friend Lorna Costantini brings their research out of the journals and into our living rooms through conversations with both women that are rich with real examples. See here and here for archives).

Today I read an article on home – school relationships that contained a sentence that really popped for me … made me say out loud “exactly!”.

(As I love the flickr group Great quotes about learning and change, I knew I had to make a poster using this line; I’ve wanted to use my orange mushroom photo for a long time and longed for a quotation about families and communities).

Wanting to know more about the author Marilyn Price-Mitchell I read her paper Boundary Dynamics: Implications for Building Parent – School Relationships. It really meshed with my own beliefs that connections, trust, networks, and knowledge creation are coming together to provide us with a real opportunity to build school – family partnerships that benefit all of us – students, parents, teachers, and community.

The knowledge society, the learning organization, and the information technology revolution represent trends that are bringing the family into the mainstream of education in ways never before experienced p. 22

EXACTLY!!!

I’d like to give credit to Chris Wejr who’s “Things that make me go BOOM” linked to this article and had me reflecting on all kinds of great things today.

Connect

On August 31 nearly 1000 teachers from this District gathered in one place for a day of learning together.  As Chair of the District Education Council I am invited to speak for a few minutes at the beginning of the day.  As I am there in an official capacity I’m cognizant of delivering a message that is true to the Council’s mission and goals, so I decided to continue with the theme of “connecting”.

I encouraged educators to model 21st century learning by exploring networks and using technology to connect to their own passions and to have conversations with educators far and wide. I suggested a few easy things they could do to begin: Tech20Tuesday, #edchat, Learning: Everybody’s Project, or even their own association’s social networks. As the major theme of the event was “responsible use” of technology I even suggested they might want to read a great blog post on the CEA website. Our District schools have developed some very good professional learning communities, but I asked them to go beyond the usual for conversations and then to bring back what they learned to their PLCs.

BUT as I was writing the remarks for the event, I realized that as a Council we have been distracted, albeit by some important responsibilities, from our own true purpose of connecting citizens to the public education system.  Whether we meet online or in person we have to spend more time in conversation with our community, exploring how to connect to the learning that is happening and celebrating the innovation that exists in so many places.

I’m excited for the new year to begin, I look forward to connecting more myself!

my message

LearnEast 2.0.11 – Parent Perspective of 21C

There’s an excellent learning event underway for NB educators in Fredericton this week. LearnEast 2.0.11, a high quality, low cost event attended by 200 keen teachers from around the province, has been organized by Bryan Facey (@Faceyman) and Jeff Whipple (@jeffwhipple) of District 18 and Jay Colpitts (@JayColpitts) of District 14.  I was happy to be asked to sit on a panel this afternoon and discuss my views (a parent’s perspective) on 21C and virtual learning opportunities for NB students.

In advocating for 21C and virtual spaces I outlined three areas where our modern tools can significantly improve our public education system.  Acknowledging that 21C type learning doesn’t require a tech-rich environment, I commented that tech tools and the internet do however enable us to make so many more connections that strengthen the role of public education.

1) Connecting students to their passions – our modern tools allow us to make personalized learning possible.  We can go beyond differentiated instruction, beyond ability grouping and reach out and touch the passions of every student of every ability in every school.

2) Connecting parents to the learning in classrooms – be it through inviting comments on a student/class blog, contributing ideas to a school wiki or skyping in from the office to provide real-world perspective on a discussion in the classroom – technology allows parents to interact with the learning in schools that goes far beyond reading comments on a report card or signing off a homework sheet.

3) Connecting the community to the school and the school to the world – the role of public education can be enhanced significantly by building connections between our local resources and our schools as well as by linking our schools to other communities around the world.  Many teachers have utilized local/global partners to enhance classroom learning, but the ability to do this virtually expands our capability tremendously and really enables us to authenticate public education as a community building institution.

I summarized my contribution by paraphrasing Stephen Downes (@downes) and encouraging the group to embrace a system where students do not have an education provided for them, but one that empowers students to build an education for themselves.

Unplug’d 2011

It has been a week since I returned from the most uplifting professional/personal development event I have ever participated in – Unplug’d 2011.

In the week that has gone by I’ve immersed myself in the afterglow of the event through sharing with the Uplug’d crew on twitter and flickr and even occasionally on ds106 radio.  I have made sure to read all of the reflection blog posts that I’ve come across and I have spent a lot of time pondering the event and what it means for me.

I learned so much about the people behind the pixels during the three days we were unplugged. The time and opportunity to share stories, songs and food led to a deeper connection which makes their work in all facets of education so much more real and inspiring.

I learned that very different people gathered from this incredibly large country can come together and work collaboratively.  I learned that everyone has a story to tell and it is okay if telling your story makes you vulnerable.

I learned that while reflection is an important component of learning, real growth in learning comes from turning reflection into action.  Thinking about something and writing about something are good – but acting on those thoughts and words leads to real growth and real learning.

When one is the ‘official spokesperson’ for a public education organization it is important to be clear when you are expressing your own personal beliefs.  I have never hesitated to promote 21C learning as it is a component of my District‘s focus on the future, nor have I been shy about increasing parent involvement and student voice in our system.  But most times I stop short of openly advocating for the transformative change I believe New Brunswick should be pursuing – and that just isn’t good enough for a ‘change agent’.

So now what?  It is time for me to take the next step – to push publish on this piece and begin to find ways to express my beliefs through actions and to inspire more citizens to get involved in shaping the future of public education in N.B..

I encourage you to read the Preface and Chapter One of “Why _______ Matters” and share with me your thoughts.