Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bill Ferriter - Engaging the Digital Learner: Going Deeper

Photo Credit: ushtey via Compfight cc 
On Wednesday Jan 16th, I had the opportunity to attend the third Digital Dinner Series put on by my School District for the 2012-2013 school year. The keynote speaker for this session was Bill Ferriter. But even before Bill got up to speak, the room was a buzz.

I have been fortunate enough to have attended all the previous sessions and with that experience I can say that last Wednesday's session was different than the others.  Now please, don't get me wrong, they have all been equally engaging and inspiring but this one was just a little different.  You see something IS happening in my school district. Change IS happening. People ARE getting excited.  Conversations ARE happening.  This was clearly visible on Wednesday night.

We started the evening off with a presentation by Brette Galy.  She shared some of the ways she is using technology as an early literacy teacher.  Both before and after her presentation the room was given questions to discuss, and discuss people did.  I wish I had written down the questions because they really got people talking. 

After Brette's presentation we listened to Michel Gagnon.  He spoke about how technology is transforming his high school teaching.  Again after his presentation more questions were given to the audience, and more buzz followed.

Both presentation were really good and  I think they opened the eyes of many educators wondering what they could do with access to technology.   What was great was that these two teachers are new to using technology as a tool in their teaching practice.  Good teachers, doing good things, but now utilizing technology to get there.  I don't know if it was because of what they were doing is doable by others, or the questions that we were asked to discuss before or after their presentations, but people in the room were motivated and engaged. And this was all before the keynote speaker spoke.

Fast forward through dinner and it's time for Bill Ferriter to take the stage. Our School District twitter feed #sd36learn was projected onto a big screen for everyone to see.  It was flying with tweets, apparently trending globally.  

Bill started with encouraging us to change from being a "yah but" teacher, to becoming a "what if" teacher. To see the possible when others around us are making excuses.  He  inspired us all with what he is doing with his classes.  He, like Shelley Wright, encouraged us to make sure that our students are doing meaningful work. He shared the Kiva organization with us, and I'm sure inspired many (including me) to lend money to those in third world countries trying to do something to better themselves.  What he did was totally doable for many of us in our school district. He made it look easy and even offered to have his students Skype into our classrooms, talk about the project, and  give us a $25 gift card to help get us started.  I hope some have taken him up on that offer.

Another thing that was cool about the evening is that some of the upper leaders of my School District were in the room. Both Jordan Tinney and Mike McKay were there to witness the excitement and transformations that are happening in our school district. I can only imagine that  leading the largest district in the province is a time demanding job, but as one of the little people in the district it meant a lot to me to  see these important leaders at this function.  There were close to 300 educators in the room, and there would have been even more if there was space for them.  I also know that a lot of money has been put into supporting innovative grant proposals, and so it was good for them to see the good things are happening because of these investments. It was good for all of us to see this.  Surrey is making incredible changes.  That was very clear in the twitter feed and the conversations and sharing happening throughout the room. I'm glad the upper management was there to see this excitement.

There were also other guests in the room from other local school districts.  I love that about Surrey. While we are the largest district in British Columbia, and our Director of Instruction Elisa Carlson has a mission to transform education, we know that we can not do it alone.  I love that my district believes just as strongly in being connected as I do.

I don't know exactly what it was but Wednesday night was an awe inspiring evening.  Change is often slow to start, but I really think Surrey is heading in the right direction and it's super exciting to be a part of it. Watch out, you just never know where we are headed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

#ETMOOC - An Introduction Video

A few weeks back a tweet went out about a massive open on-line course (MOOC) focussing on educational technology and media.  It has its own hashtag on twitter #ETMOOC, and it's own website at  In typically Karen fashion, I signed up immediately and then started to wonder what I was getting myself into.

Our first assignment was to create an introductory video.  While I made this video a few days ago for some reason I didn't want to put it up on my blog. But after watching so many other introduction videos I felt it was time I shared mine too.  Here it is.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A New Approach to Teaching Linear Math - Day One

Well as I said I would, on Thursday I introduced my students to the options they could choose from to practice their linear measurement.  When they left school on Thursday I left them with the job of thinking about what they would do on Friday for math.

Friday's math time came and went and I have to say I couldn't be happier with what I saw.  My kidlets were engaged and on task the entire time. I saw rulers flying all over the place and terms like "centimetre", "measure", "ruler", "don't forget to start at zero" filled the air. There were smiles. Lots of smiles. There was lots of learning too.

Take a look for yourself.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the two boys who are creating their own individual iMovies. They travelled around the classroom measuring, and documenting through photos with voice added. I can't wait to be able to show you their movies too.

Take a look at some of the things they posted on their blogs just after one day.

Yaksh , Sukhleen , Kaleb, Jaydan , and Maryam.

It wasn't a success for everyone, as I figured it might be the case. A couple of kids tried to move from station to station with out actually doing anything at the stations so we had to put in the rule that you had to complete a task before you moved on.  You had to have something to show for your time at a station - but more specifically you had to MEASURE something. I think Monday will be a better day for ALL of my students.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Loving AppleTV

Apple TV is some what new to me and my class but we are starting to really love it. We use it regularly with my personal laptop as a way to skype without cables and cords. Nothing beats being able to move the laptop around the room and REALLY share what's happening outside our window with our friends.

We've been using it with iPads too. Here one of my students is reading from her book which she made in My Story. It was super easy for the class to see her pictures, and she just gleamed as she read her story to the class.

Are you using Apple TV in your classroom? I'd love to hear how you are using it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A New Approach to Teaching Linear Measurement

This week in math we have started to look at measurement (linear) as our main focus of study. It has been three years since I last taught this unit as my teacher candidates have taught it the past two.  Now measurement isn't typically a difficult unit to teach, and the children usually enjoy it. But since I'm having a year of really mixing it up I figured it was time I mixed this up too.

Getting Smaller by Kaptain Kobold
I've been thinking a lot about how I can give my students choice in how to practice and show me that they understand linear measurement.   In the past we've all done the same activity at the same time - a one shot lesson that is changed each day. Yes, the lessons were open ended but I was in charge of telling everyone what to do and they did it. This year I want to give them more choice.

So my brain started spinning as I came up with different ways for my students to practice and show their knowledge. I wanted to have activities that were very hands on, activities that included the technology we have available to us, and activities that were more structured.   My students will also have the choice of working on their own or with a partner or small group.  Here's what I've come up with:

  1. Build a Home for a Bear - in this station the students  will build a home, using blocks (or some other item if they chose) that is large enough to house one of our stuffed reading buddies. Once the home is complete the student will measure the dimensions of the home.  There is an option to use a camera to record the house, and then label the house with its measurements. Or this recording can be done just by voice, on a white board, on paper or in what ever way works best for the student(s).
  2. Cover the Metre Stick - in this station the students will spin a spinner then measure the corresponding item.  With that measurement the student will stack items along a metre stick equivalent to the item measured. They will continue to build alongside of the metre stick until it's covered.
  3. Magic Number iMovie - in this station the students will chose a specific length (say 10 cm, or 20 cim) and find objects around the room that are that length. They will then take a photo of that object. Once enough objects are found, and there are enough photos they will create a simple movie in iMovie. They will be able to add their voices to the movie to explain what they did.
  4. Watch Me Measure - in this station the students will find objects of their choice to measure. They will measure and take a picture of what they have measured. They will add these pictures to the Educreations app and write a sentence to go with their picture stating what they measure, and how long (short, high, tall etc..) the object is. Adding voice is also an option. Once the photos are collected and documented this can be added to their individual blog.
  5. Measure Me - in this station the students will trace their body (or that of a friends) on REALLY BIG paper. Then they will measure different parts of their body and record it on their life sized version of them selves.
  6. Looking for Objects - in this station the students will have a paper with specific lengths on it. They will have to go around the room and find items that fit under each specific length.
So there you have it, those are the six stations I've come up with.  But the thing is, I don't want to tell my students which station to go to. I don't want to rotate them either.  I just want them to be able to chose.  

When I was telling a colleague about my plan she wondered if I had considered a tic tac toe type board to ensure that my students try more than one station. I did think about that but the more I thought about it the more I really wanted them to do all the choosing. If they want to work all week doing the same job, getting better or more in depth with it, who am I to stop them because my ultimate goal is to have my students measure. How they chose to learn the skill is up to them.

So on Thursday I will be sharing these stations with them. I have no idea how it's going to go. I know that I'll be busy helping them get started, and I'm sure there will be a few that will need guidance.  And if I find someone can't handle this freedom, I will be there for them too.  It will be a good lesson in self regulation.

Wish me luck, I hope that in a little while I'll be able to post how fantastic everything went, and if not then at least I'll have something to share.

I'm curious, have you ever tried something like this? Or do you have some great linear measurement ideas I should try? Mass and volume are coming next.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Little Word for 2013

One year ago today I chose a word to guide me through 2012. At the time I was facing a lot of struggles but  knew I was strong enough and determined enough to get through them, and flourish.  I needed a word that would keep me grounded and focussed on what was important to me.  My word was CAN.  You can read that post  here.

Now that 2012 has come and gone it's time to check in on how that word met my needs.  If you haven't figured it out already, 2012  was a pretty amazing year for me professionally.  A lot of incredible opportunities came my way and I took full advantage of as many of them as I could. Along the way I struggled with many things too.  Keeping the word CAN at the front of my brain each and every day helped me get through it all.

It's time for me to chose a word for 2013.  I must admit I don't really want to let go of  the word CAN so I don't think I will but it will no longer be my focus word. For 2012 my focus word will be BALANCE.  I think with my professional explosion some where along the way I lost some of my balance.  I have and will always have interests in many different areas in my life. I LOVE to learn. I LOVE to meet new people. I LOVE to share. But sometimes, along the way I get so wrapped up in one area I'm passionate about that I lose balance in others.

This past year I'd have to say I was out of balance. Work was a big part of my world. Now that was not in a bad way, I love what I do, I love spending time learning and getting better at what I'm doing, but I love a lot of other things too.  But to be honest with myself I spent way too much time reading professional books and not enough time reading pleasure books.  I had hours and hours of conversations professionally but not nearly as many personally.  It's a big part of who I am though, I like to do my best and I like to exceed expectations. Those expectations are placed on me by me.  I'm lucky though, really lucky in fact, because I have really fantastic friends and they let me do what I was happy doing.  But I miss being in better balance.  With that in mind in 2013 I will...

  • better BALANCE the time I spend between work and pleasure
  • better BALANCE the time I spend between inside and outside
  • better BALANCE the time I spend between being active and being at rest
  • better BALANCE the time I spend on line and  off line
  • better BALANCE the time I spend between saying YES and saying NO (or at least thinking a bit longer before saying YES so quickly)
  • better BALANCE the number of projects I get my class involved with (not limiting but thinking about before moving forward with them)
  • better BALANCE the foods that I eat - thankfully I really love healthy food but even too much healthy food isn't a good thing.
  • better BALANCE myself.
Now BALANCE doesn't have to mean equal. For me it's much more about being mindful of the choices I make with my life, and when I make certain decisions over and over again at a expense of other decisions.  It's about remembering to have an early night from work after a few late ones. It's about leaving things unfinished, or turning off the computer an hour earlier than normal.  It's about BALANCE.

In 2013 I will do a better job at being in BALANCE.