Looking for a few good mentors

From January to April I'll be teaching a course called ECMP 455. It's an advanced course on using technology in education. Whatever that means. 

Actually what it means is I want my students to dig deep into what teaching and learning looks like in 2012 as great teachers and great ideas come together to make learning better and richer and even transformative. I've taught this particular course 4-5 times now and am really looking forward to this term. I've got some interesting and new ideas planned and I'll share on that later. 

The class is made up of pre-service teachers who are usually in their 3rd or 4th year of teaching and have had some classroom experience. This course is totally optional so they take it because they have an interest in technology and usually have some skill set above the average pre-service teacher. That doesn't mean they are programmers, just that this class doesn't focus much on the "how to" stuff, but more the "why to" stuff. 

One idea that I began a few years back was the virtual mentorship. I connected my students with teachers and classrooms around the world and they did varying degrees of work with those classrooms ranging from commenting on blogs to teaching virtually via Skype. Here's one example from a few years back.


I've not done that for a few terms now and want to resurrect that idea. Here's where I'm hoping you or someone you know would be willing to participate. This time however I'd like to offer 2 options for teachers. 


  • must have an open online classroom presence where students regularly blog or post work
  • must be willing to have your students interact online via comments or twitter or discussion areas
  • must be willing to have my students do at least one real time virtual teaching session via Skype or other online conferencing tool
  • explore the possibility of another project 
  • must be willing to provide feedback to my student (3-4 emails or contact via twitter)

Mentorship Lite:

  • must have an open online classroom presence where students regularly blog or post work
  • must be willing to have your students interact online via comments or twitter or discussion areas
  • occasionally contact student via twitter or email…no expectations

What I'm going to do is show my students the list of mentors and have them choose based on their interests and your offerings. Whether you are chosen for a full mentorship or not, everyone of you that requests will at least have my students commenting in some way on your students' work. 

Thanks so much for being willing to support future teachers. The partnerships you create here can be incredibly influential on these students.  If you're not a classroom teacher but think of someone that might be a great fit, please pass this along to them or Retweet this at the bottom of the post.

 I'll be in contact with you in late December or early January. If you have any questions either leave them in the comments or email me dean AT shareski DOT ca

If the form doesn't load for you, you can fill it out here.

The anatomy of a Skype call

I respect Gary Stager's opinion. He pushes my thinking. That's what he did for me here:

Why would you Skype someone involved “in the process?” What process? Who? State legislators? What are they likely to tell a student that can’t be found out in a book or article?

The connections you speak of, now matter how much you yearn for them may be as inauthentic as the task itself. Perhaps they just make a task nobody cares about even more arduous. The “you can use Google ____ or Skype with someone” suggestions have become as automatic and meaningless as when a politician says, “We need to pay teachers more, but hold them accountable.”

To be fair, Gary's comments here were about a broader issue and he goes on to discuss it in more detail. For me the striking comment that “skyping someone in” is often a automatic response to trying to demonstrate you have a classroom that “gets it” gave me pause to think. While I applaud teachers who consider this strategy, without thought and purpose it has no more value or impact that asking a parent or principal to randomly come talk to your class.

But today was a day where I saw Skype used in a truly authentic, powerful and yet quite unassuming way. Much like a pop-in. On the surface it was a class in the small town of Mortlach, Saskatchewan talking with students in Philadelphia, PA. Depending on who you ask that may or not be all that remarkable. The technology was pretty straightforward. A laptop, webcam, and a projector. Call someone up and start talking. Today we can longer attempt to think that that requires any degree of skill. it doesn't. Unless you have some type of fear mongering administrator or IT person weary of Skype, or an unwilling teacher, every classroom can and should have the capability. no training required.

Allow me to deconstruct this for you.

A week ago, Zac Chase of SLA posted a wonderful recording on his blog of some students in a task he calls Story Slam. I listened to it and immediately shared it with my own kids and then thought of a teacher in my district that I knew would love this idea. I shared it with her and without asking permission, I suggested that Zac might be able to have his kids and him Skype in and share this. Which brings us to today.

What I witnessed was a group of students sharing a couple of stories and learning about an idea. The students from SLA talked about what story slam involves, students in Mortlach asked a few questions and in turn shared a story too. A brief pop-in that later led to more conversations about storytelling, inspiration, encouragement and learning in a very natural way.

The untold story here is how a conversation like this can even happen. There's a story of networks and connections, a willingness for one teacher to publicly share practice and student work and another teaching actively seeking a better learning experience for her students. I'll take partial credit for the networking and connections. Part of my job is to connect learners.

The willingness of a teacher to share allows me to even know that this good work and good idea exists. Can I once again implore everyone to please share your work? It matters.

Finally, a teacher who sees herself as a learner, wants great things for her students and is open to ideas that will help them finished the story.

All these pieces were necessary for this to take place. This is no flat classroom type project, no massive project based learning example, just some teachers and students interested in storytelling and a desire to get better.

So Skype, for Skype's sake is just superfluous. This is about way more than technology. It isn't just about technology, but in some ways, it is.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dkuropatwa/4766403166/

A Call for Teachers

As readers of my blog know, I’ve been teaching part time at the University of Regina for the past few years. I teach an introductory course to pre-service teachers on technology. I’ve had the freedom to more the curriculum to a much more broader look at technology in our schools. It’s been a wonderful experience for me and my students.

Guest appearance by SherylFor the past 3 terms I’ve had my undergrads hook up with classrooms from around the world. Over the course of about 2 months the range of interactions is anything from skype conferences where my students teach lessons to commenting on blogs to working closely with students in collaborative projects. I’m been reluctant to make it much more structured since I want to honor teacher’s time and access. My student’s express a variety of  levels of satisfaction. I usually have the connect with 2 classrooms both to give them some variety but also to insure a greater chance of interactions. Two months is a very short time to build a connection with a class. Amazingly, some of my students made this happen and for many it was the best part of the course.  Others were frustrated by communication break downs and lack of activity. This was usually no one’s fault but the nature of school. Teachers are busy and I don’t want to place any undue expectations on them. I want my students simply to have the chance to interact with other students in whatever way the teacher sees fit. It’s not a perfect program by any means but it continues to provide students with an experience they never get in other classes in their university careers.

From May 6-June 18 I’ll be teacher the spring term of this same course. I had originally resigned the idea of a mentorship not only because of the shorter time frame but also since many US schools in particular would either be done or winding down. However I know there may be many that might be looking to have some outside voices participate.  I thought I’d give it a shot.

We’ve had classrooms ranging from Kindergarten to advanced senior Math. My goal is simply to have my students witness and experience how teachers and students share and open their classrooms to the world.  So I’m calling any teacher or classrooms in any grade and subject area. I might suggest the following scenarios for interaction:

  • A Skype call to share stories about where you live and where we live
  • Find out what areas of expertise my students might have and have the teach a lesson virtually
  • Collaborate on a story
  • Have my students comment on student work

As teachers, you’re using many tools to connect, these are just some starting points. My students need to see these in action. I realize that in a month it’s going to be difficult to establish a deep relationship be I’m open to being surprised.

So leave a comment, email me shareski at gmail.com, or resend this to any teacher you wish and let me know if you might be interested.  Our class meets every Monday and Wednesday evening and I’ll likely have you come all join me  in early May (likely the 11th or 13th) via Elluminate one evening to share about classroom.

Please complete this form if you’re interested:

Once again, testing the boundaries of my PLN.

Podcast 41….Dan’s Video Project

Dan Meyer  produced a fantastic 10 episode vodcast over the summer. We discuss his approach, his influences and the challenge of producing high quality, effective video.

Show notes:

Dan’s 10 videos
Ze Frank

David Simon
The WireGraphing Stories
Summer Camp Video

*My feed in itunes is not functioning. The feed validates but itunes says it’s wrong. Any help would be appreciated.

Hey Mr. Shareski, look what we got!

I’ll take these kind of interruptions any day. Working in my office, the familiar Skype chat box sound alerts me to someone wanting my attention. It was Matthew, a grade one student in Kathy’s class. He wanted to chat. This is our conversation:

are teechr sas yes you can cum from Mathew.

I will come over tomorrow if that’s okay

yes can you cum at 11:00?

okay, it’s a date!

see you too moro.

Sorry I can’t come in the morning. It will have to be later in the afternoon or else on Wednesday.

how about 1:20

That should work. I think my meeting will be finished by then.

do you wont to see wat we havein awr cllas rite nou


This is what he wanted to show me.

New Laptop

Update: As you can see this was largely a copy and paste job via Skype chat. I inadvertently left the name of the student in the post. Fortunately, Kathy was Johnny-on-the-spot and noticed but decided to check with the parent. The parent was quite happy to have the name left on. Thanks Mom and Dad whoever you are.