Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Best Moment...

"This is the first #Peel21st Blog Hop of the year. After a bit of an irregular start to the school year, a few of us thought sharing our best moments thus far would be a great way to reconnect. Take a look at the blogs posted at the bottom, and hop from one to another to see some other best moments."

I was going to write about my best moment so far this year, and although this is true, it also has been my best moment since beginning in my role as a resource teacher. Since 'leaving' the classroom over a year ago, I've had few opportunities to teach in the classroom with students. This year however has been much different.

I've been able to co-teach several lessons with some teachers at a few of the schools I support. It's provided me the opportunity to engage with kids again, and placed me back in one of my favourite places in the world - the classroom. I don't like to get 'corny' or whatever you want to call it, but I've really come to realize how much I love the classroom; and how much I've missed it. It's only when you step outside of that for an extended period of time, do you understand what you have left.

These opportunities have also provided great opportunities to learn alongside other teachers, and observe their practices as well. You begin to see strategies, dynamics, techniques, etc. that you can only learn by collaborating together. The interplay between two teachers in a classroom is also so rewarding, and really makes me wish that was more common place (at the secondary level at least).

Students have also been awesome in allowing a stranger, such as myself, come into their community and work with them in learning various technology tools. They have really shown how much they want to learn various tools to support their learning, and crave the opportunity to explore these tools. There was a moment in one of the classes where we were basically holding a 'matchmaker' event - students throwing out ideas they want to do to complete projects & products for their courses, and I was throwing back ideas of tools they could use to complete such tasks. It was awesome to see their eyes light up, and brains explode somewhat, when they looked at the app/tool and what it could do; and made me realize that students crave creative expression, and are always looking for new ways to convey this. They also were able to show me tools & apps that I haven't heard of before, and put themselves in the role of the teacher to do so. That's not so easy to do, but they have a certain knack for it when it comes to showing technology, and I was wise to listen.

We never really get to step outside our own selves, and look back to see what we have done; or how we are progressing in our own practice. But this year has been just that, and I've really been able to reflect - I love being in the classroom; I love working alongside talented individuals; and most of all, I love learning alongside students.

What has been your best moment?

Be sure to check out the other #Peel21st bloggers and their best moments!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to the Future... of Education

In case you missed it today marks the day in Back to the Future II in which Marty & Doc jump in the Delorean and travel to in the future - October 21, 2015. I was 8 when that movie came out, but I still remember the hover board, and how I couldn't wait until I had my own in 2015. Well, today is today, and I still don't have a hoverboard, the Cubs haven't won the World Series, and there were only 4 Jaws movies (3 too many I know). However, as far off as that movie may have been with its predictions, the one thing it did do was give people a fascination with what the future may look like.

When it comes to predicting the future, it's not so much what you think will happen, but what you WANT to happen. There are a lot of things I hope may come true for the world, but that is just way too hard! Therefore, I thought I'd write a screenplay for the next installment of the Back to the Future franchise titled 'Back to the Future School'.

1.  Technology IS Ubiquitous
  • Yes in the future technology will not be treated as a side, to the regular classroom instruction. Using an app, web tool, or hardware device will not be treated as an event. Coding will be as ingrained in the curriculum as literacy or numeracy, and our debate over 1:1 vs. non 1:1 classes will be a thing of the past.
2.  The Classroom Looks A Lot Like Your Living Room
  • We will finally realize there is a strong connection between learning environment and learning. That if we want to truly differentiate our instruction, we also need to provide areas within the classroom that allow for this differentiation. Couches, chairs, individual seating, and group collaboration areas will all be the norm.
3.  Timetable? What Timetable?
  • Students will drive their own learning; popping into the class that they need to for that day & time. Want to work your way through the science curriculum today? Go for it. Want to solely focus on geography and history today, well that can be done. Don't hear a bell? Well that's because there aren't any. This may apply more to the secondary folk, but still could be applied to all grade levels. 
  • I know it's a terrible acronym but the point is we will place as much emphasis on all disciplines as we currently do with STEM. In order to be successful, students will draw on knowledge & experience from a variety of curriculum areas, and connect the dots. This also lends itself nicely to doing away with single subject classes, and offering courses that bring multiple curriculums together. Students will learn about the 'Physical World' a class that looks at Geography, Physics, Biology, and Math in one 'class'. 
5.  Just Do It
  • Studying will take on a whole new meaning in the future. Students won't be cramming for a tests; they'll be studying on their own, when they need to, in order to actually demonstrate their learning by DOING. Single, one-off assessment pieces will be a thing of the past. Do I want to know what lil' Jimmy knows? Absolutely. But I want lil' Jimmy to show me through his demonstration, his ongoing learning process, and his ability to perform what he has chosen to learn about.

Will all of these things actually happen? Probably not. Some will be achieved, others won't be, and some we'll blow right past and offer solutions and examples I can't even fathom right now. Back to the Future didn't nail every prediction, but it didn't have to. It simply offered ideas, and inspired people to take steps toward making them a reality. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

EdTech & Numeracy Unite!

This year has been quite the journey for many teachers when it comes to numeracy and technology. Great learning has taken place, with many stories to share. It is these stories that can continue to support others in their learning journey; as well as act as an excellent reflection piece for my own journey. So what better way to share then through another #peel21st blog hop! The following is my own reflection on combining technology with numeracy; but be sure to check out the other blog posts by other amazing #peel21st educators about their own reflections. 

We are bombarded regularly with numbers and data in all walks of life. Whether it is financial information, contact details, mathematical equations, spreadsheets, graphs, addresses, etc., we can easily come across hundreds of sets of data in a single day. One of the difficulties in understanding all this information is processing it in your mind and providing some context for it. This has always been a difficulty for myself, where upon being presented with such data the words "Okay, how much is that really?"will regularly be uttered.

However, one of the tools I find to be extremely beneficial in understanding such large sets of numbers has been through infographics. In the past Excel was one of the only ways to visualize data (scary I know!), but now we have such tools like Piktochart, Ease.ly, Infogr.am that can create some really stunning presentations (just search 'Infographics' on Google, or see below)


I have found many other educators have come to appreciate these tools as well, and students especially. A conversation I had with Chef Marelli not too long ago is evidence enough. We discussed how recipes have lots of numeracy in them - weights, measurements, sizing, scale, etc., and for many students this can be a struggle. However, looking at this information through an infographic lense, students can come to understand all these concepts much more effectively; and produce a fine tasting dish as a bonus!


So whether you are in English, Math, Social Science, Technology, Phys Ed, or any other subject area, Infographics can be a great way to demonstrate learning; and allow for a greater understanding of data across all curriculum. Yes Math may be a focus, but that doesn't mean we can't use something like infographics to work on numeracy skills in any subject, and become 'Super' as a result!


Be sure to check out the other awesome #peel21st bloggers!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

10 Good Things

Often times in education we fall into the habit, or trap, of negative dialogue. It's easy to focus on what's not working well, what needs to change, or what is wrong with the 'system' or 'school board'. I hear it often, and too have fallen into that trap at times. However, contrary to what we believe, it really doesn't help improve anything. What we end up doing is just driving ourselves mad, and allow the negative conversation to continue. Don't get me wrong, it's important to vent and have the support of peers to do so; but what if we vent more often about the great stuff happening in our classroom, school, board, or education in general? Wouldn't that do more to improve education as a whole? Wouldn't we be able to learn more? Improve our professional practice? Provide students with a more enjoyable education experience? I think so.

That's why we need more of #10goodthings; more sharing of what's going so well in our own practice. Thanks to Ve Anusic, a good friend and colleague of mine, who challenged me to reflect & share some of the good things happening in my little world over the past year; and thus contribute to the positive dialogue in education!


1. The continuous learning I am experiencing in my new role as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. Hesitant & overwhelmed at first, I am really loving this new role in supporting, learning, and working with many different schools & colleagues.

2. A couple of days this past semester I was able to work alongside George Couros - someone I consider a rockstar in education.

3. Continuously revisiting my own professional practice around assessment, and doing away with traditional evaluation practices; and loving every bit of it. Gotta thank @AssessmentGeek for that one!

4. Hit 100,000 views on a Youtube video I posted for my students. It may not be that interesting, but I don't, nor have ever, taught that many students. It made me realize the vast connections we are able to make now through new media and technology.

5. I continuously learn about 'new' tools (ie. Kahoot, Thinglink, Canva, etc.) for use in the classroom and share them with others. For one I love learning about a new tool, but more importantly I love when a colleague uses it in their classroom and comes back to tell me how much their students enjoyed using it, and the greater learning experience it has given them.

6. I have encouraged my parents to begin using Instagram, Pinterest and Wordpress, to follow their own passions, and connect with the world.

7. I miss the classroom - this is a good thing. It reminds me of how much I love teaching.

8. Twitter has been good since I began using it. But find myself liking it more and more, mainly because of a very awesome PLN that has formed through the #peel21st hashtag. I find myself constantly learning from many amazing educators.

9. I am excited by many new opportunities to learn from others, as well as share my learning. Really excited to try out making a podcast with @jimmyblackwood!

And last but not least...

10. Blogging. I wish I could do it more, but when I do, I find it very beneficial. Like this very post, it allows me to truly reflect on what I am thinking or doing.

A little note:
I began this post wondering if I could even write about 10 positive things. I am now apologizing to those experiences, relationships, and past events that I failed to mention here. It's amazing what happens when you begin reflecting - you begin to realize just how much you have done, and the people who have contributed to it! There are a lot more than 10 'things' and maybe I'll write another list soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


It's home screen says it all "Use the Force of Mind Mapping" and that's exactly what it does. There are a variety of tools available for teachers for this very purpose, and Mindomo is no different. It allows students to 'map' their content knowledge in a way that allows them to develop a deeper understanding of course content. The website/tool allows for this mapping to venture to various levels in order to do so and provides a wealth of options for students to collaborate, communicate, critically think, and create.

Here's my 5 brief thoughts (and completely initial - need to use it more):

  1. Ministry Supported - for Ontario teachers, this means that you can create free accounts for yourself and all of your students; and access all of the features it provides.
  2. Device Neutral - whether your students use iOs devices, Mac OS X, Android, Microsoft, or Linux, they can all access the tool in the same way.
  3. Posting Options - Students can post notes, multimedia, links, icons, comments, and emoticons; change the themes of the blank space; and connect ideas using lines just like they would on paper.
  4. Class Collaboration - I haven't really explored this in detail, but it allows you to set up your classes, enrol all of your students and have them connect, share, and collaborate on course mind maps. You can set up specific groups, and organize them in any way you want.
  5. Fairly Simple User Interface - like other tools such as Padlet, adding content is as easy as clicking on the blank page and adding text. Inserting visuals and other media (as mentioned previously) is also as simple as clicking and adding. However, I think it's a bit more of a tool I think that suits intermediate/secondary students, as the terminology and commands might be a bit too much for elementary.

Anyway, a pretty good tool for visualizing the connections between concepts, and developing an understanding of the relationships that exist.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Where do we start?

I've been thinking a lot about this post lately. Mainly because of my role, I am able to visit a lot of different schools; and see a lot of different environments. These environments, not unlike the physical world, shape the beings that live within it. Unfortunately, the school environment hasn't changed all that much, has it?

I see people mention it all the time on social media:

"If you take a group of teachers from 100 years ago, and place them in a school today, they wouldn't notice a difference"

It's pretty sad really, that we haven't evolved too much when it comes to the actual physical classroom. Thankfully pedagogy and technology has made up for this lack of environmental progress, but at what point will we stop and really consider addressing the actual classroom?

Walk into most secondary classrooms and you'll see the same thing - desks in rows, the teacher's desk where it's always been, the blackboard/whiteboard/screen/etc. behind them, and the focus of the class is to look to the front. I acknowledge this is not the rule, as I said before 'most' and not 'all' classrooms are this way; but it is a very common element for most schools. I also acknowledge that this setup is beneficial for some lessons, but again 'some' and not 'all'. (I would even go so far as to say 'few' instead of 'some')

With such an environment does it really matter how much technology is implemented in the classroom? Is it conducive to newer more effective pedagogy? Do students really attempt to express themselves to their fullest? Are they able to collaborate effectively? Or build on the other generally accepted 21st century skills of communication, critical thinking, and creativity?

Often I think of what the most successful organizations today look like. I think of companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. that all have very innovative workplaces - a mix of both collaborative and quiet areas, with a lot of room to truly innovate. How can we expect our students to become innovators, creators, communicators, etc. if we don't provide similar environments to do so?

And it's not just the classroom really; take a look at a staffroom. Is it a place for collaboration and innovation? Or like a classroom, is the focus on silent, individual work? How about the library - does it support learning as a 'social process'? And the rest of the school - does it allow for learning to happen anytime, anywhere?

Now I do recognize that there are a tonne of limitations that schools face, that Fortune 500 companies do not. And I also know that major construction really doesn't fall into a school's budget. But what about new schools that are built? Are we really thinking about the future in constructing these places of 21st century learning? Or do we often look to the past in building these 'new' schools?

So changing an entire school may be a difficult mission to accomplish; however, we can begin by taking small steps. In our own classrooms. Comfort & security may be too great to overcome, but it's amazing what happens when a small change takes place. Maybe it's just getting rid of the rows of student desks. Or maybe getting rid of the teacher's desk altogether. But imagine what might happen if you did?

I just think we need to start this progress; and sooner rather than later. I think we need to acknowledge the fact that improving student success doesn't just fall on pedagogy, technology, and curriculum knowledge; we need the environment to change as well. So I guess this post is really about challenging ourselves; stepping out of our comfort zones and really innovate to make a truly 21st century school.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our Evolving Communication

Every so often I listen to concerns regarding technology's role in advancing student language & communication. Most often the question posed is whether or not technology is hindering our students' ability to communicate effectively. The concern stems from the language of texting, and that if we as educators infuse greater technology in our classrooms, do we foster 'improper' texting conventions of communication?

Typically when this concern is raised I immediately reflect back to my days as a student in my grade 11 English class. I see myself sitting there at my desk, staring at a book full of words and terms I cannot for the life of me understand. I am told over and over again, how this book contains language of great importance, and I would be wise to learn it. I understand that the author influenced almost every narrative that came after him, but I could never understand what the heck this 'Bill' guy was talking about.

I have never (well maybe rarely) used any of the phrases William Shakespeare so eloquently penned in his great works. As I have said, I understand his works are masterpieces; and believe me, I wish I appreciated them then like I do now. However, I also understand that when I speak to family, write an email to coworkers, or text my friends, I don't utter the phrase "Where art thou?"

Communication has evolved, and continues to evolve. I wonder if someone back in 1650 said "These kids these days! those gents don't knoweth how to writeth properly!" Did they fret about the state of spelling & grammar? Did they wonder if giving every student a chalk & slate would lead to every kid not knowing how to speak properly? Or that they wouldn't know how to write a proper essay?

True, texting has a great influence on the evolution of communication; but I don't believe it's because of the technology. Communication has changed because we have adapted as living, breathing, walking & talking beings in how we use it. No device forces you to write 'U' instead of 'You'. We make that choice. Even if we are talking about autocorrect, we still make the choice to set the autocorrect function to do this, or allow it.

If we are concerned about our students' written communication than it's our responsibility to teach them the proper conventions for each medium. If it comes to writing an essay, then yes we need to teach them how to properly construct one. However, how many essays have you wrote lately? How many students are going to go on to write one in their future?

Students however, are far more likely to blog, text, email, and produce a podcast. Therefore, maybe if we get students to construct these forms of communication, they will take greater care with their conventions? Not because of the technology component, but because these are ways which resonate with them, and ways of communication in which they see in their future.

I hope my students go on to write amazing works of art, essays of great importance, and novels that capture the masses. But I also hope just one goes on to blog a little, maybe like me, and finds their outlet for communication.