Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mindshare Learning's 21st Century Digital Classrom Video Challenge: A Look Back

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Robert Martellacci of Mindshare Learning. He asked if I would be interested in giving a video interview for the May edition of the Mindshare Learning Report, reflecting on my technology journey and how winning their video contest two years ago had impacted my classroom practice. I was thrilled to talk to Robert again about the amazing opportunity afforded to my students and me by Mindshare, and in preparing for the interview, I went on this walk down memory lane....

In February 2010, I watched an amazing video created by Kathy Cassidy and her Grade 1 class. It was an award-winning entry in Mindshare Learning's 21st Century Digital Classroom National Video Challenge. Mrs. Cassidy and her students won $15 000 worth of technology prizes and professional learning, and I was inspired to enter the contest the following year.

I eagerly watched for the contest announcement. It was my first year of teaching a combined junior and senior kindergarten class, and I had made some changes in the ways I was infusing technology to support student learning. My students and I decided on a "Goodnight Moon" theme. We brainstormed a list of all the technology tools that helped us learn, then filmed a movie of us saying goodnight to each of them. The students explained how we used these tools to communicate, collaborate, problem-solve,and think critically and creatively. After an entire day devoted to editing and narrating, we had a movie that we were very proud of!
video
What tools did we use?
-a digital camera
-Microsoft Photo Story. Join the Microsoft Partners in Learning for access to great free tools for creating movies!
-Freeplay Music for a copyright-free soundtrack

In mid-January, I was meeting with my principal in her office, and our administrative assistant knocked at the door. She said there was someone on the phone for me. and she thought it might be about that video contest my class entered. With great trepidation, we took the call on speaker phone. After a brief chat with Robert Martellacci, he shared the exciting news--Goodnight 21st Century Learners had been selected as the Central Canadian prize winner. $15 000 of technology prizes and professional learning were on their way to Oak Lake Community School's kindergarten classroom! It was definitely the most exciting moment of my teaching career at that point, and I didn't hesitate to throw a party to celebrate with my friends and family after school!

We had so much fun posing for our picture for the official press release. We went with the theme of "We're 4 and 5 Going on 21...21st Century Learners" and dressed up as what we would like to be when we grew up.
It was like Christmas that spring as prizes from a variety of donors arrived by mail and courier. My classroom were the lucky recipients of:
-a huge SMART Board with a short drop projector
-SMART Response system (early years version)
-Front Row Lasso classroom amplification system
-Dell netbook
-Flip video camera
-year's subscription to Discovery Education
-professional learning sessions from Blossom Learning
-year's subscription to Net Trekker
-all-expense paid trip to the ISTE in Philadelphia

Two years later, we still use all of these tools on a daily and weekly basis. Our SMART Board is in constant use, as is my Front Row Lasso system. We engage in a variety of collaborative projects through Skype, Twitter, and Xbox Video Kinect, and the SMART Board and Front Row system greatly enhance these collaborations. Our Flip video camera has proven to be the perfect size for little hands, and it has been used to create countless videos sharing our learning.

But the best was still yet to come...an all-expense paid trip to the ISTE in Philadelphia in June! Through the generous support of our school board, my principal Brenda Masson was able to attend with me. We left on the weekend so that we could have a couple of days of touring and sightseeing, then attended the conference Monday-Wednesday. Although I had attended a Microsoft Global Forum before with 500 participants, I had never attended a conference of this magnitude! The most exciting moment was when we checked out the displays on our first morning. We found the Mindshare Learning booth and what did we see? Goodnight 21st Century Learners projected on a big screen, and my kindergarten students' cute faces smiling down from a banner!
 Over the course of the conference, Brenda and I attended some terrific sessions. We also spent quite a bit of time in the vendor displays, entering lots of draws, collecting the free giveaways, and learning about so many amazing products and services. Some of my favourites were:
Front Row: I made a great connection with Front Row at the ISTE that has evolved into my role as a teacher advocate for Front Row!

Brain Pop and Brain Pop Junior: I continue to love this wonderful video and educational resource site. The new Game Up! and Educators' Community have enhanced this already terrific site, and I was so excited to meet Dr. Kari Stubbs of Brain Pop in Prague at the Global Forum in 2012. Brain Pop very generously gave a free subscription to every educator at the Global Forum.

Reading Plus: this web-based tool builds fluency and reading comprehension in students from Grade 3 and beyond. This company provided us with training and a complimentary 6-month free trial. We absolutely loved Reading Plus and saw significant gains in our students' reading abilities. Sadly we were not able to afford a subscription the following year.

Learn to Be Healthy: this subscription site provides health education resources (videos, learning activities, etc.) for K-12.

As fantastic as the conference was, the absolute highlight was Mindshare Learning's Award Reception held jointly with the Canadian Consulate on Tuesday, June 28. The venue was beautiful--Philadelphia's Union League. When Brenda and I were touring on our first day, we passed the Union League building. Our tour guide shared that it was one of the United States' most exclusive clubs, occupying an entire city block with hotel, restaurant, and function rooms, and that most people would never see the inside of it. When we saw Robert at the ISTE and he told us that the Awards Ceremony was being held at the Union League, Brenda and I were beyond excited. We also decided that the dresses we brought we not fancy enough for an evening at the Union League and straight to the stores we went!
 Philadelphia's historic Union League building, Abraham Lincoln Room, was the scene of the reception
 The Canadian Consulate jointly hosted the reception with Mindshare Learning, and the Canadian Consul presented our awards.
Only one of the winning videos was shown at the reception. It was an extremely special moment when Goodnight 21st Century Learners was shown to the large crowd!
Receiving our awards and posing with the Canadian Consul, president of ISTE, and Robert Martellaci
The evening ended on a patriotic note when the crowd gathered and sang O Canada in both English and French. In honour of our location, we also sang Star Spangled Banner. It was a touching moment! Check out Mindshare Learning's Flickr photostream of the event.

As detailed in my video interview, winning the Mindshare Learning video challenge, receiving so many great tools, attending the ISTE, and the many great connections I made as a result have had a profound impact on my classroom practice. I would highly encourage every classroom teacher to enter this video challenge. Whether you're a winner or not, examining your classroom practice and sharing it with others is always an excellent opportunity for professional growth!