Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cool Ways to use Flipgrid in your class and practice

Looking for some fun ways to use Flipgrid?

 Consider these! Use Flipgrid to....


Review and Discuss Books! 
Give thanks!
 Discuss with an expert!   
Have Fun!


Monday, 17 April 2017

What does great PD look like?

I am taking a course right now and I was challenged to think about what great PD would look like. This is where I landed...

Learning Modules
Building on the success of Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs (OSSEMOOC is a great Ontario resource), I would like to see some sort of partially online workshop model.  In my experience, many teachers cannot make it to after school or weekend learning sessions. Moreover, even learning that occurs during the day (like lunch-and-learns) are not always accessible because of commitment to students.  This hybrid solution would roll out on LMS and CMS platforms (Google Classroom, D2L, Edsby, etc.).  It would consists of short, accessible video tutorials for teachers.  (Note: I have a Google Classroom I post in twice a week and teachers can enrol to get notifications or opportunities and tools.  I also have a YouTube Channel whereon I post short videos about various tech tips.  Both are well received but do not have the reach I would like.)  Prior to any formal learning I like the notion of having “get up to speed” videos (Teaching 2.0) so everyone is aware of the ins and outs of technology used in the district.  These videos, however, would need to be monitored or have links to e-mail/message “live” people so that questions could be posed while learning (to avoid the main criticism in the YouTube as Teacher Training Tool article).  Webinars would be another model that could be employed using Adobe Connect or YouTube Live.  My district does after school webinars (with Adobe Connect).  Teachers can participate in real time or watch after the original air date. I think this sort of learning is beneficial to teachers as they have the option to participate in real time wherein they can ask questions or they can find a time that is convenient for them to watch after the fact. I also like the social aspect of this model - as Eric Westendorf, co-founder of LearnZillion, explained in Teachers without Borders, it is important to leverages the expertise of teachers to reduce isolation.

Commitment to Initiatives
I love the aspect about commitment from teachers of 2 years  (like in the Teaching 2.0 article).  I think committing to initiatives is very important for true learning to take place.  With commitment would come release time (time, after all is a teacher’s currency) and a guarantee of others to collaborate with on the learning journey.  Moreover, I think this model would empower all teachers as they would all have a voice in the meetings during release time. Furthermore, I would like to see all stakeholders have a say in what the release time days would look like in terms of learning, discussion, and next steps. (Perhaps a collaborative agenda?)

Involve the Students
I have always felt that a sure fire way to get teachers invested in learning is to involve students as teachers.  (I equate it to walking by a lemonade stand and not buying a drink - few teachers have the strength).  I love Jennie Magiera’s (Google Certified Innovator and Apple Distinguished Educator) use of Speed Dating to Learn Apps wherein students demonstrate apps to teachers in 3 minutes or less.  I also love the Student Gurus/Genius Bar model wherein students act as experts and resources for teachers.  I would love to find a way to implement this into my schools for learning, and into in-service learning for teachers.

Making Learning Visible

The last component my model would have is the publishing/sharing aspect.  As mentioned in Teaching 2.0, the sharing does not need to be as formal as a peer reviewed journal.  At a school level, implementing a Pineapple Chart would be a great beginning.  Beyond that , I would like to see teachers present at workshops, district meetings, as well as sharing on blogs, Twitter and other forms of social networks.  I am also toying with the idea of doing a #passthescope model wherein learner broadcast live from around the world on a common topic and each person is given a 15 minute time block before they pass off to another person for their insight.  This is great for remote areas as it really makes learning global.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Flipped Learning

In the summer of 2012, I attended a symposium at OISE wherein I learned about flipping the classroom. On the Go Train ride home, I watched Salman Khan's TED talk "Let's use video to reinvent the classroom".

I was mesmerized. I could not believe what I was watching. I was so excited. I'm pretty sure I was talking to my screen like a crazy person.  It revolutionized the way I thought about classroom instruction.  I tried it (albeit only a few times), and had, what I would consider, success.

In the fall of 2016, my oldest son started gr. 1.  My views of homework changed drastically.  He likes school...he hates homework.  Evenings, which used to be fun play time, now involve us arguing over him completing a worksheet that was send home, or a book he needs to read (and more than likely has already memorized).  So I haven begun to question, why aren't we giving homework the students want to do? (Have a look at Peter Mullen's great TEDxTalk on students controlling the learning - it's inspirational.)

This got me back to thinking about Flipped Learning.  Was it not just mandated homework?  I understand that there is value is being able to have time to percolate learning, ask questions of you teacher while engaged in the work, students working at their own pace, etc, but, what are we modelling?  Where is the work-life balance?  Flipped learning is built on the foundation that work has to be done beyond school hours.  In an age that we glorify the state of being busy and complain how run down we feel in the same breath, does the flipped learning practice really teach students the skills, mindsets, and value we want to impart on our children?  I hazard to say it does not.

New idea:  Mandate family time.  Mandate curiosity.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Background Music Track (via Videos) in Google Slides

A few weeks ago Google made some terrific upgrades to including videos in Google Slides.  Gone are the days that you can only include videos from you can load in videos from your Google Drive.  Hooray!

Along with this came some new video options.  Once you click the video, a "Video Options" button appears on the toolbar.

Clicking this button allows sidebar to appear.  On this sidebar you can select a start and stop time for a video (this is great for video you have but only want to show parts of).  You can have videos auto start when the slide is presented.  Finally, you can have video play with muted sound (great to create effect - think introducing Omaha Beach with the scene from Saving Private Ryan playing behind you).

All these changes made me think of one of the biggest things I miss from Powerpoint - ability to have music play in the background of a slide show.    I began to wonder if these changes could facilitate it, so I began to tinker.

Here is what I did:
  1. I opened a slide deck my children had created thanks to Eric Curt's Make snowmen on Google Slides activity.
  2. I inserted the video for Dean Martin's version of "Let it Snow" by going
    to INSERT --> VIDEO and searching it on YouTube.
  3. Once it was inserted, I shrunk the size of the video screen as small as it could go.  This way it would be on the slide, but not visible.
  4. I copied the video on every slide.
  5. On each slide, I selected "autoplay when presenting" in video options.  (Note, you need to click the video on each slide to get the video options to complete this step and the next one.)
  6.  This is where I had to tinker.  I wanted to change the start and end times so each slide would have a section of the song.  First I tried 10 seconds per slide. (Slide 1 went 0:00-0:10, Slide 2 went 0:11-0:20, etc).  I found, once published (see next step) it was too choppy, so I changed it to 15 seconds per slides (Slide 1 went 0:00-0:15, Slide 2 went 0:16-0:30, etc).  Still this was choppy so I decided to overlap times.  My final "success" was: Slide 1- 0:00-0:16, Slide 2 - 0:14-0:32, etc).
  7. I then went published it to the web (FILE --> PUBLISH TO WEB), choosing "Auto-Advance Slides every 15 seconds" and "start slides as soon as the player loads" options from the pop up menu that appears (see to the right).
This is what was produced

As you can see, in the end, there was a slight pause as slides changed (which is kind of annoying) but it seems to be the best that I can do right now.  Anyone have another (better) work around?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

In 1994, Gloria Ladson-Billings introduced the term “Culturally Relevant Teaching” (CRT) to describe "teaching that integrates a student’s background knowledge and prior home and community experiences into the curriculum and the teaching and learning experiences that take place in the classroom".  Essentially, she stated that every student is unique and his/her uniqueness needs to be honoured in the classroom to maximize engagement and in turn learning.  

In an attempt to ensure CRT, teachers are encouraged to use inquiry-based approaches.  Inquiry-based approaches could include project- or problem-based learning (including activities like 20 time and project based learning; more about IBL can be found here).  While some teacher may shy away from these practices, there is evidence that suggests that they are beneficial for all learners, not only those who play the game of school well.  Moreover, as stated in the Ministry of Education's Capacity Building series, "the core of these strategies.. a) hold[s] high expectations for learning while b) recogniz[e] and honour the strengths that a student’s lived experiences and/or home culture bring to the learning environment of the classroom".  So, as practitioners, we need to evaluate what it is that prevents us from implementing these strategies in our classroom.

What I see as one of the biggest challenges lies in having teachers "expand upon what is considered as the “curriculum” – recognizing both the informal and the subtle ways in which the curriculum defines what is and what is not valued in our schools and society".  These sorts of projects allow students to guide a lot of their learning which can be viewed by stakeholders as risky.  However, it is exactly this kind of learning that can empower and ready students for what they will face beyond the walls of our schools. 

Furthermore, we often align our teaching with what has been "effective" (or perhaps more accurately, modelled) for us as learners, and many teachers succeeded in (or experienced) a sit and get model of education wherein facts were regurgitated and self-directed learning was not modeled.  We need to break down this paradigm so all learners can experience success.  

By allowing students to explore their own passions by probing into deep, multi-layered questions, we "lessen dominant perspectives in our curriculum so that contributions from different backgrounds can be better understood and integrated into learning".

Work Cited
Dufour, Eve. "Learning Disabilities and Diversity: A Culturally Responsive Approach."LD@school. LD @ School, 22 May 2015. Web. 29 Jan. 2017. <>.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The Dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Ontario Ministry of Education (2013).  Capacity Building Series K-12: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Towards Equity and Inclusivity in Ontario Schools ). Retrieved from

Friday, 20 January 2017

Periscope in Education

Yesterday I participated in #passthescopeEDU.  It was a global event wherein participants from the US, Canada, Argentina, and even Singapore mused on the theme #WhatIf2017.  Each participant was given a 15 minute time block wherein they shared their #WhatIf thoughts.

These crazy ladies! (Photo taken by K. Pollishuke)
I was with some wonderful educators (Kim Pollishuke, Jocelyn Kervin, and Laura Collins) who joined my 15 minutes and we spoke about eliminating homework, grades, and subjects areas as well as engaging learners earlier in mindsets created in events like EdTech Camps.  We are all hesitant at first - wondering what we would say, but when our time came, the discourse came organically.  We received hearts from viewers, loving comments, etc. and it allowed us time to reflect and share some of our education passions. Afterward, it is safe to say that we were all happy we took the risk and participated.

The exercise got me to thinking about the use of Periscope in the classroom which led to an overall thought about the scope (pardon the pun) and reach social media platforms of this nature (Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.) can have in education.  Furthermore, I was inspired to share my thoughts to a wider audience - practicing what I preach so to speak.

Three Benefits of Taking your Classroom/School Global

Real World Exposure
We are constantly saying we want to prepare students for the real why aren't we exposing them to this world?  Social media platforms allow connections with professionals you would not normally have access to as well as other students with varying experiences, cultural backgrounds, and ideas.

Authentic Voice
There is something to be said for taking the risk and sharing to a broad audience.  It can solicit honest, unbias feedback.  It allows the students to go beyond knowing what the teacher wants to hear and makes them consider multiple perspectives.

Inclusive of the Community
It is a great way to include community stakeholders who might not normally get to participate.  Sharing a link to the daytime school concert or awards assembly can allow working parents, distant relatives, etc. Participate in the students' daily jexperiences.

While there are always concerns about privacy, potential tech issues, and time to co-ordinate this worth of things, I think the benefits are worth it to try to make it work.

Note: like any time you are using the internet with students ensure you discuss digital citizenship with your students and have proper permissions from parents/guardians.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Making a Bigger Impact & Having a Further Reach

By the nature of my role (Digital Literacy Resource Teacher) I have no choice but to have a high level of tech integration in my daily practice.  I have learned so much in terms of tech.  There are many days I cannot wait to get back into the classroom to give everything a try in a more traditional setting.  That said, I think I can still have an impact on students, and perhaps even more, with the reach I have on teachers in my district.

In my role I have nine high schools on my docket.  I have made a lot of connections with teachers, but, reflecting on the school year so far, and looking ahead, I think my reach can be further and deeper.  Here is my plan moving forward:
  1. Creation of Resources.  I do a lot of learning on a day to day basis that I share with teachers orally when we meet.  I think this could be more streamlined.  I am going to commit to making one rich resource a week.  I have already started this with these documents:
    1. HyperDoc Lesson Plan.  I have had this document for quite some time, but I wanted to add in links and such so people know the rich tech tools that are available to use in the HyperDoc cycle.  I did this a couple of days ago and I am really proud of it.
    2. How to do a Mystery Skype/Hangout.  I listened to @jmattmiller’s #DitchSummit talks over the last week of school before the winter break.  I was fascinated with the ease in which mystery Skype/Hangout connections can be made and I wanted to share this with others in a way that made them see how easy it is.
    3. #DYK (Did You Know) Webcasts.  I have started to create screencasts/webcasts with easy tech tips and explanations to useful tech tools.  I will host these on my YouTube channel.
  2. Sharing of Resources.  Once I have the resources created I need to share them more widely.  There are a few ways I have considered doing this.
    1. I have started a Google Classroom for teachers to join.  I will post any resource I create in there.  I figure many of our teachers are using classroom so it will be a site they visit daily already.  
    2. I am going to increase the number of webcasts I make and really grow my YouTube channel.
    3. I am going to tweet out resources to share with my PLN - be they in my district of not.
    4. I am toying with the idea of a podcast...I just need to hone in on a concrete focus.
I am a big believer in karma...and this sums up it up nicely.  

I can’t wait to see what I might get...and if not, at least I have a great documentation of my learning.