Professional Development From The Comfort Of Your Own Home?

Over the past couple of weeks I was able to participate in two online discussions about education in North America. This was a first for me, and I was anxious about how productive a 1-hour virtual discussion could be. I mean these forums are open to the public, and the pessimist in me was questioning whether all those “faceless names” were even affiliated with the education system. However, all of my initial hesitations were rapidly dismissed.

Both of the discussions I participated in took place using the Elluminate software. The first session I joined was a presentation about Web 2.0 by one of my professors at Brock (Zoe, or @zbpipe on Twitter). Although Zoe reflected on her life as a networked teacher, the session was highly interactive. Participants joined from places as far as Australia, and South America!  At one point Zoe asked “What does Web 2.0 mean to you?” and everyone wrote their responses using the Elluminate whiteboard application! Throughout the session I picked up some helpful links and tools. Wallwisher, Delicious and Evernote were a few of the tools that were recommended by other participants. Zoe also spoke about the Livescribe pen, which records what is being said during note-taking. For more info about this tool check out: http://livewithlivescribe.edublogs.org

The second live presentation I participated in was titled “Ben Daley on High Tech High”. The focus of this discussion was on a series of charter schools in San Diego that highlight the use of technology in the classroom. These schools have four design principles that are reflected both in the classrooms, and the entire school community. The first principle is that there needs to be a degree of personalization in teaching so that students feel like they are truly appreciated . Secondly there needs to be real world connections that allow the students to see a purpose to their learning. Lastly there needs to be an intellectual mission and the teacher needs to act as a designer of student learning. A lot of the discussion that was generated was based on how students are admitted into these schools, and how they are assessed. For more information about these charter schools check out: http://www.hightechhigh.org/about

All in all these two live discussions were great! The presenters were very interesting, and both were great at responding to questions (even tough ones) that were posed by the participants. And although I don’t know who you are, I am also very grateful to all of those “faceless names” for the words of wisdom they offered to someone just entering the profession 🙂

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