Tuesday, January 7, 2014

It is only fitting that the person I consider my social media mentor, Claire Thompson (@clthompson) has tagged me in a meme that is circulating around, and perhaps given me the kick in the pants I need to start blogging again. Thanks for thinking of me Claire.

I have been asked to write about the following:

11 Random facts about yourself
11 questions asked by another
11 question that you ask another
11 people in your PLN.......so here goes:

11 Random Facts About Me

1. My bucket list includes building an authentic igloo and spending the night in it. (How's that for random?) 
2. I regularly fall asleep during the last ten minutes of a movie (or the first ten minutes).
3. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy in my twenties (explaining #2).
4. I grew up on an 800 acre guest ranch in the North Okanagan so although I never went to Disneyland as a child, I had my own horse, I have camped in a teepee, and I have been in a one-horse open sleigh. 
5. Apparently I occasionally laugh like Betty Rubble. 
6. I have the inability to hum a proper tune to literally any song. Just ask anyone who has played Cranium with me. 
7. On a daily basis I wonder how I helped create two of the most beautiful, smart, talented and funny children I know. 
8. The first teaching job I had was at my former high school. It took me the better part of three years to call several of my former teachers who were now colleagues by their first name. 
9. Despite having flat feet, I am surprisingly athletic and playing sports is where I find my flow, my zone, my happy place. 
10. The view from my kitchen window includes a large tree where two bald eagles return every year.
11. I am left-handed and for this I blame my inability to cut a straight line or to be able to show my son how to tie his shoes. 

11 Questions Asked by Claire (here)

  1. What lead to you becoming an educator? I loved school, love learning and couldn't imagine a better way to make a living than aspiring to instill a love of learning in others. A cliched response I know, but that's really it. 
  2. If you hadn’t become an educator, what would you have done instead? I almost took a course to be a paralegal instead. I would have been soo bad at that. 
  3. Are you concerned about student privacy and security with regards to cloud computing?  For example, do you have any reservations about students using Google Apps or other cloud based services? Privacy and security should always be a concern but better that students learn how to participate in the cloud with our guidance. Having said that, I teach highschool and would be much more hesitant if I worked with younger children. 
  4. What was the first ‘real’ job that you had? I worked for a landscaping company doing maintenance. I was in such good shape. 
  5. What is your current favourite book, movie and / or album? Current favourite movie: Anchorman 2. I love parodies and this one was so over the top. 
  6. What did you always want to be when you grew up? A teacher. That's it. 
  7. What is the strangest food that you’ve ever eaten?  I'm drawing a blank. Note to self: Try some strange food in 2014. 
  8. If you could sit down and talk with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why. Oh that is just not a fair question. Can I make it cocktail party?
  9. How far away do you live from where you grew up? About 3 hours. 
  10. What is your favourite way to unplug and unwind? To go sit on my dock (any season) and just sit in silence and look, really look, at the nature around me. 
  11. Salty or sweet? Both at the same time. Eg Chocolate covered pretzels or a salad with cashews and pears. 

11 Questions from me:

1. What is the one thing that you hope your students learn about learning?
2. If you knew you couldn't fail, what is one thing you would try that you haven't?
3. What is the best prank you have pulled or has been pulled on you?
4. What is your favorite ice-cream flavour?
5. What is your best "pro-d" experience that occurred outside of a typical pro-d setting?
6. Name two people that have influenced you as an educator and explain how. 
7. Finish this sentence: I am surprised that....
8. Now finish this one: Nothing makes me laugh out loud more than.....
9. Who is one of your  favourite comedians?
10. What musician or band would you go out of your way to see (that you haven't already).
11. What is one of your favourite quotes? 

My 11 "victims": I've chosen a variety of people. Those I have worked closely with, acquaintances I would like to have coffee with someday to get to know better, and just for kicks some people for whom I have never come across their radar but have appreciated their contributions more than once. 


@? maybe one of you can send this to a random newbie blogger that needs something to write about. :)

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Post back here. 




Sunday, January 20, 2013

Google Gives Good Online Course Design



Recently I took part in Google's Mooc "Powersearching" delivered with their own (of course) LMS built using Course Builder.


Using a clean design, clear activities and assessments, built-in community and communication, I had the opportunity to learn in my own style, to suit my personal needs and interests, to particpate in a community and get immediate feedback. The semi-synchronous environment motivated me to participate regularly.

While I'm not interested in learning the skills to use Course Builder, I think the extensive planning tools they have provided are worth a look for any online course using an LMS.  In particular:

Parts of a Course Builder Course
    Four areas are identified and described when building a course:
    1. Course content and delivery
    2. Assessments and Activities
    3. Social Interactions
    4. Administrative Tasks


The course flow is described as semi-synchronous. I want to look at this more closely using cohorts in a DL environment. I think this would increase the communication opportunities between teacher and student and other students. 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hello ETMOOC

I have recently taken the leap and joined a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). ETMOOC (Educational Technology and Media) is a connectivist MOOC loosely tied around this website

Is it for credit? Is it something an administrator is heading? No. Then why, you may be wondering. Why would one sign up for such a thing then? 

1. I've heard enough about these courses and their growing popularity that I figured it was time to see what the buzz was all about.

2. I am also part of a district committee on developing PLNs as a professional development model and I am curious to take part in a completely new learning process and a chance to meet some new educators. From what I've read of the introductions so far, it will be a privilege to make connections with any number of the talented participants that have signed up. I have started a blog  (Professional Development Online SD67) for those that are new to the world of PLNs.

3. I believe that if we as teachers are expecting our students to become self-directed, lifelong learners then we should walk that walk. Hesitantly I offer my third blog (1000 Reuses For A Thing) which is a little off my radar at the moment but not dead in the water.

4. I am excited and energized by both the possibilities and challenges of this so-called "revolution" in education due to technology and media and look forward to continuing my learning in this field.

Our first task is to introduce ourselves. So this is me....


Sunday, October 21, 2012

21st Century Fluencies


My October 19th, PSA day was spent with a group of teachers at a session on Professional Development Online (Creating PLNs) We started the day by watching the keynote speaker for CUEBC, Ian Jukes, via live-streamed video. His focus was on change: changes in our society, changes in in our workplace and as a result the need for change in education. 


He started with some interesting statistics from  the world of work. He explained that creative class jobs have increased since the 1980's. Those jobs were defined as those that are facilitated by technology, but can't be replaced by technology. He went on to say that the economy is eliminating standardized jobs, but schools are still focusing on standardized tests and curriculum. In fact by 2012, 50% of jobs will require creative abstract skills. In answer to why these skills weren't being taught more he quoted Tom Peters, 


"What gets measured gets done. What doesn't get measured doesn't get done."

Ian referred to 6 new "21st century fluencies" that educators need to incorporate when teaching traditional content. 


1. Problem solving

2. Creativity

2. Analytical Thinking
4. Collaborate
5. Communicate
6. Ethics, Actions, Accountability


At this point I had two thoughts: One,  I think there are a lot of teachers out there who are teaching 21st century fluency skills , who are getting them done, but yes, the skills don't get measured. My second thought was how would you go about measuring those skills?  The next thing I know this a link came up via Twitter from @margoflower of a shared google doc. which is working on just that. 
By the end of Jukes' fast-paced, visually stimulating presentation, generously injected by humour, the following are some "nuggets" I wanted to make sure to remember. Admittedly, none of this is necessarily new information, but things that can easily be forgotten in the day to day minutiae of teaching if we aren't careful, if we don't constantly remind ourselves of the big picture. 

"How do we get the content to stick? Interest and Relevance is essential to the learner. It is not about what you teach but how you teach."


"Activities that are multi-sensory, about the real world are the most effective learning environments. "Make learning matter" 


This formula that Jukes supplied made all of this "stick" much better for me: Interest & Relevance + HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) + Real World = 21st Century Learning.


And best of all, at the end of this inspiring keynote, we were provided with some swag to take home.  app.fluency.21. com is a link to sign up to a beta project which is  unit planner tool as well as access to public plans already made via The 21st Century Fluency Project


At the closing we were asked to do three things:
1. Write down three things you know now.
2. Write down two things that you are going to share with colleagues.
3. Write down one action that you are going to take.

and so...... this post and then back to that unit planner! 




Sunday, April 22, 2012

Manifesto of Successful Learning

Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a presentation for all the prod reps in our district. The presentation ended with a focus on creating a personal professional development plan. When asked if we already had a professional development plan,  I smugly raised my hand. After all, I have at least five different projects on the go that would count as professional development and I did write one post link with some goals a while back, so yah I've got a pd plan. But as I examined the templates we were given as examples, I had to admit that I really didn't have a formal plan.

So first goal in my prod plan: create a more formal pro-d plan.  I consider myself one who is continually learning to improve myself as a teacher, but just like Tiger Woods (I know, dubious role model), I'm going to break down my swing and go right back to the basics when considering my professional practice.

So what is driving my goals for professional development ? Well simply put, how I can best help students become successful, motivated learners. One teacher at the presentation shared how she has a mission statement posted right by her computer for all to see. For some time, I have  wanted to create something succinct and visual that would keep in the forefront what I should be working for every day that I show up for work.

So here is what is going to go up:

My Manifesto of Successful Learning (keywords based on William Glasser's Self-Control Theory)

I would love to know if you think there is anything that should be added or changed! Incidentally, "teachers" could be inserted for the word "learners" don't you think? 



Monday, October 24, 2011

Gold Nuggets from Pro-d Day: Think Big and Start Small

I attended an inspiring and energetic presentation today in my school district titled "Show What You Know" The focus of the presentation was on how to provide students opportunities to both learn new information and  show their knowledge in ways in addition to traditional reading and writing and how to properly assess these opportunities.  In other words, it was a great reminder of what good teaching practice looks like.

Here are some of the big ideas that were discussed:

1. Think big and start small.
I'm an idea person and I have no shortage of things I want to accomplish in my role as a DL teacher. One slide "Think big and start small", resonated with me. I need to list and outline my projects, prioritize and then take one action, however small, towards reaching my goals.

2. Create communities.
Students need to feel a part of a community to feel comfortable to take risks, to be part of something that would be less without them. Despite my students being primarily online, creating a sense of community is vital yet obviously a challenge for a number of reasons.

3. Get students out of their comfort zone but not into a fear zone.
Too often in the distributed learning world, we start with trying to give the students what they want, but not necessarily what they need. In a DL course student can be in the fear zone because of the computer technology itself. Good design should take away that fear and make way for learning to occur.

4. Bring attention to learning outcomes and assess based on those outcomes.
This is an example of good practice that can be overlooked. In an online course, Ministry standards dictate that the learning outcomes be visible. Many of the older courses can have up to fifteen objectives for one lesson! This is overkill for the students for sure. In addition the criteria for assessment is often based not on the learning objectives but vague things like effort and creativity. I like the example given "The poster title" where a student can work for hours on a beautiful poster but not actually include the necessary content and therefore not earn a good mark. A good point was made that a different rubric does not have to be made for every choice in a project assignment if the assessment reflects the required content. In an age of limitless online free tools, I think we need to be careful that we are still assessing what we want our students to know.

5. Choice that doesn't overwhelm.

While the learning outcomes should be the same, the way a student can show their learning can be in different ways. Singing, drawing on windows, filming, modelling and movement are all choices. I have incorporated some assignments in my online course where there is more choice. Ironically, I have seen where too many choices can be overwhelming. Especially for students working online and mostly independantly, I need to provide exemplars, and clear criteria for these choices.


So thank you to Judith, Erica, Anita, Jeff and Naryn for providing focus to my ongoing goal of providing quality online learning as a choice for students in our district.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Call for Bonus Assignment Ideas

Here's a problem I bet every teacher wishes they had: A friend of mine (a math teacher) is continually getting asked by his students for bonus assignments so they can get extra marks. He recently put out a request on Facebook for help with some ideas about revamping his bonus assignments so that the assignments would contribute to his students becoming well-rounded citizens rather than just high achieving math students (thanks to his brilliant teaching I'm sure ;)).

So in response to his "contest" (who can't resist that?) here are my ideas for his prompts:

from www.claus.com
1. "Read a thought provoking inspiring book"
The Little Prince, The Alchemist, Jonathon Livingstone Seagull, The Phantom Tollbooth are all "quirky" yet thought provoking reads.  Here's a great list of books I just came across,  many of which I've read and have found inspiring and many I see that I'd like to still read (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for one). 

2. "A movie that illicts thought, reflection or emotion"  The Green Mile, Life is Beautiful, Gran Torino and Amelie are a few that come to mind.

For 3. "Attend a Cultural Event" and 4. "Learn or demonstrate a life lesson"  maybe add "....that is out of your comfort zone".

While these bonus assignments I'm assuming are to give students a chance to bring their mark up as much as possible (most likely to fulfill the expectations of parents and future educational instutitions), I love the idea that along the way they might just stumble upon an experience that is rewarding in itself. Good luck with that Mr. W!

...and if anyone else has some good ideas, let me know and I'll pass them along.