Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dear Grade 3:

What you need to know before you jump into the adventure ahead. You will be grade 4s soon. Don't worry you will be amazing!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

IDL Yr. 2, Failure and Success

June Reflections

This year has flown by. I tried to take on new challenges as the year unfolded and I have ventured into the global stadium. Our class joined The Global  Read Aloud and I encouraged and mentored the teachers that wanted to integrate iPads and computers into their classroom.  We acquired more iPads and opened up their use to all of the teachers in the school and some have started to use them.

Even after years of using technology with children I always find new challenges to overcome. When I see new Apps, or great new ideas, or opportunities for my class to take on  a new way to build learning it excites me. I have to take it on. I can't always do it all, but I like to find great new ways to help my students succeed.

 I understand how hard it is for some children to communicate, to fail even when they have given their all. I understand how difficult it can be to march to  a different drummer. I have a special spot in my heart for children who struggle because school is not always an easy place for them to navigate. I know that many gifted children face challenges as diverse as others special needs children. Children come to us eager to learn, eager to please and eager to be accepted, Some make it look so easy, and some struggle every day.

I came to teaching as a second career after having children. I was hooked on education after seeing the new directions that learning was taking at the time. I visited classrooms that made teaching and learning an adventure. Along the way I took many courses on using technology as a tool to provide open ended learning opportunities for children with learning disabilities including giftedness.

I learned how helpless it feels to fail. School always came easy to me and I never quite understood how some people struggled to understand a new concept or remember a lesson. I always just knew how to write an exam essay, how to memorize a textbook, or how to anticipate what questions would be on an exam. Then, out of the blue, I learned how to fail... How desperate it feels to try to understand, how frustrating and powerless you feel.

In my last year of Education at University I ended up in a class "Elementary Mathematics From Advance Standpoint" A great math class for soon to be elementary teachers..right?? Not so. It was a class that looked at advanced mathematical proofs using whole (elementary) numbers. A class in advanced number theory. A class that only serious Math scholars and unsuspecting education students took. The Faculty of Education had mistakenly thought it was a class in basic math for teachers of primary students. The first day we were told all of the education students would fail. We did. All of us. We could not withdraw as it was required for a Math major and those of us enrolled were all a few courses from graduating. Withdrawl meant not graduating.

I was a mother of three and a student. I cold not, not graduate. The stakes were too high. The cost of daycare, classes and raising family had taken its toll and we needed to move into the land of the working. Every day I went to class and took notes, I got support from a doctoral student. I redid every question over and over. I still failed. I started to freeze on our daily quiz. My mind totally blanked out. Panic flooded me. I went to the Dean Of Education to get help. He told me to relax, my marks were high,  I would be fine. I wasn't. I turned to the Professor, a semi retired math genius, for help. He said married women  belonged at home  with their family, and education wasn't a real subject. I tried harder, I started to memorize all the proofs I could. The problem was we were never given the same type more than once.

In the end, I failed. I couldn't retake it as it was only taught by one professor. However, the course was removed from the the Faculty of Education requirements and without being required enrollment dropped, and the course did too. Too late for me. I was able to complete two independent study courses to graduate, and  more importantly I learned what it was like to fail. I have never forgotten that course. I still have the hundreds of pages of proofs I wrote out and memorized and my heart jumps when I see that look of confusion and fear in a child's eyes.

How does this relate to my teaching over the last year? It is with me always. I need to find new ways for children to succeed and be confident learners, to be able to take risks, collaborate and feel good about themselves, not the panic, fear and emptiness I felt.

This has changed my perspective on learning. I don't believe in Mastery learning, or in final answers. I believe that if you write a math test you should be able to take it home, get help, correct it, and rewrite the very same test, or take it home to practice with mom and dad first. I believe that we are there to help children succeed, to find ways to help them support their own learning, take risks, and to celebrate their success. I believe there are better ways to learn and the children will find them. If we let them.

This is what drives me to push them to do their best, to help them find new ways to succeed, to work together, to create, to engage in authentic tasks that compel them, guide them and inspire them. This year blogging was the most important tool in my box to make that happen. We invited in First Nations people to teach us to weave, to drum, to draw, to make button blankets, to listen to their stories and to appreciate their history. They taught us Arctic games, showed us their tools, and how to build an igloo. We went to Fort Langley and documented the trip, blogged about what we learned and then took time to learn about explorers from The Government archives and public domain logs, maps, and pictures. There was no test. We participated, blogged, and shared. We taught each other about the explorers we followed, and joined them on their journeys.

Every year I worry that I didn't actually test them. I listened. I read, I talked with them. They wrote, drew, and even made videos. I am not sure that every child learned everything about every explorer. But they did learn about some of the explorers, they learned about our past, and they learned how to learn more. They participated actively in first hand, authentic interviews and Aboriginal activities. They can tell me their stories.

For me the journey has been inspiring. I have seen some of my reluctant learners step up and become writers, Some have become directors and some have had their chance to shine, They blog for fun. They blog from home. They have a purpose to draw and their artwork is amazing. (Could be a book on its own.) Others have become mentors and and have been inspired to publish more. Their blogs are growing rapidly now and have become eportfolios of their year with me. They have added field trip photo galleries and some will add their artwork too. I love to see them take pride in their work and consider it important.

Now, having said all this, I must say that we have not commented as much on each other's work as would have liked. Most likely, because we do so verbally. Next year we will have to find a partner class to blog with to solve this. In fact I saw an amazing site that sets weekly blog challenges for students. It leads them through activities to learn about blogs, blog rolls, commenting, reaching out, and connecting.

I think this will be a great way to reach out and get in a weekly blog club. Also we will go ahead with Global Read Aloud again and as we make new blog partners we will Skype more.

I have started BYOD and some of my class have done so. It was done with little fanfare and students use them as they would the class iPads, We have used Creative Commons and public domain images or their own pictures for all their work. The year started slowly, but in January we reached a tipping point and the blogs took off. Now the year is running out and it feels like we just got started. When I think back to September I am amazed at all the class has accomplished and how much they have grown.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why I Became An Educator? What Legacy?



Why did I become an educator??

I was actually going to be a Commercial Artist and worked briefly in the industry. At that time it was a field that few women were working in and an adventure in itself. However, I found that there was very little opportunity to create. I painted huge murals on buildings, trucks, windows, and even created and screened museum exhibits. After a awhile, every street I drove down had some of my work on display and every piece of clothing I owned had paint on it somewhere.  But..I was always producing someone else's creations.

 Next came Computer programming and I enrolled in Computer Science. I took an elective course in education and the rest fell into place.

Opportunities to create abounded. One of the best parts of teaching is being able to create a space where learning is an adventure. Every September is a new beginning. Every year has its own challenges and rewards.  Creating activities and opportunities to challenge and inspire my students and then watching them surpass my them is always rewarding. Every new project we take on inspires new ones.

I enjoy working with children, and each year they become mine, but for me it is the way a classroom takes on a life of its own.

What legacy do I want to leave behind? 

 That is harder. I have never thought of teaching in those terms. I  have always been passionate about integrating technology and have spent many years striving to do so. I want the world to see elementary school students as the powerhouses they are. Too may times we underestimate their abilities. I have heard:  the children are too young to learn how to save their work, or how to logon to their accounts, or that they don't need the computing capacity of older students because they only write short stories. I would like the world to see that these kids are fearless, quick to learn and capable of taking on many of the challenges we assume only much older students can do.

 I would like my teaching legacy to be that I have shown my students, and the world what amazing things they are capable of.  I want them to believe they can do it all. I want to open your eyes and make you understand that too.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Progress Report Yr 2 Innovative Designs For Learning

As spring break approaches and I plan for Term 3, it is time to reflect on class goals in Integrating Technology for Year 2 of our Innovate Designs For Learning Project.  Below are my goals and our progress to date in Year 2.

This year I want to find new opportunities to support my class and new resources to individualize learning for each of my students. 

1. In year 1 of the Project we dabbled with Pinterest and although we only managed to dip our toes in and bookmark our work to share, I can see now that there are other great possibilities for this year. I want to set up separate boards for each child:
  •  to post links to their online blogs, movies and to post photos of their artwork;
  •  to pin the resources they find and the photos they use in their creations. This year we used dropbox but Pinterest makes it much easier to bookmark and collect resources because it is so visual.
  • one reason for me to post resources and links to new projects. I make webpages for each of our projects with video, links and instructions and I think Pinterest will help me organize and make them quicker to access. Also the class can add new links they find that we should use or share Then they become part of the assignment creation phase. 
    • I am exploring Surrey Schools new web site to build a class wiki that will connect student blogs and websites in one space. I would like to find a way to connect through district resources. I am working on an exemplar site to see if this is a possibility. So far I am finding it much more difficult to use in comparison with online resources, but I am going to complete the site and see how it turns out. When done, it may become a space to link students to all their books, blogs, and videos.
    • I am still using Pinterest to collect my own resources and have a class site set up for this year too. However we have been so busy creating content that I have not had time to  get students pinning. I will work on this in term 3.
2. I will continue to make movies with the class. Last year we made two.  Both were follow up projects to novels. The class loved making them and it helped them develop a stronger understanding of setting, character, key events, and plotlines. They said it made them become the characters and they learned to work together and value each other. This year I would like to open up opportunities for them to use this format to make documentaries of our First Nation's workshops and research Owls. Now that Book Creator can hold videos we can embed our videos and then write about making them. Or perhaps create a book that contains them all and allow a question and answer  or comment section to go with each video. Lots more possibilities.
  • We are in the midst of making our first movie. We have written legends and are working to produce them. Students have created the legends, written the scripts,  and now that they are bringing heir own devices we can work in smaller groups of three instead of four. We have also used Animoto this year and Book Creator so in term three students will have more ways to present their learning. We will start a research project on Owls and students will choose from making books or a web page to present their work to the class. We have been using book creator and blogging extensively this year and  have been getting them to produce their own illustrations or take photos so we do not need to depend on Google for pictures. However this is more time consuming and next term we may end up using royalty free photograhs. 

3. I would like to find more opportunities to give students choices. They love to take charge of their own learning. I think that after they have tried a variety of presentation and research projects they should have the opportunity and the confidence to decide which ones they want to try again.
  • We are now able to make slideshows, ebooks, websites, blog and are just starting to film our movies with the iPads. Now that we have the skills we can have more choice. In term three  students will have at least two choices for presenting their research on Owls and Explorers.
4. Sharing. Last year we shared our books and videos at assemblies and through YouTube and our blogs but we did not have a partner class to work with to get feedback.This year I will involve at least one other class and help them to start their own class blogs,  publish ebooks and I will mentor other teachers as they work on their own class projects. Also I will find another class that is blogging and link up with them to comment and share our work and give my class an opportunity to appreciate the work of others. I want to set up groups to share online resources and ideas with others on our new Surrey Schools website and I hope others will add and share theirs with me.  I would like to find a way to meet with some of my twitter colleagues  to share,  compare, plan and engage in collaborative projects together.
  • We joined the Global Read Aloud and were able to skype, Twitter and post our Animoto predictions with others from Surey and around the world. We enjoyed reading along with so many other students and blogged about the book as we went.  We have started to work on commenting on our class blogs and on others as a class. 
  • I  attended the Dinner Series and tried to implement ideas between sessions.  For example 
    • After Digital Stories dinner we made 6 word stories for our Global Read Aloud predictions. We started with the picture then we made twitter predictions and then honed them further into 6 word predictions which we shared using Animoto.  I usually start with the writing then move to illustrating but this session made me re-think my lessons and emphasize the importance of the picture 
    • Bill Ferriter's talk on engaging students in real work was already an important part of our classroom. However, after attending that session I revised my math program to have my students create books to teach others the multiplication tables. Instead of drills, they created Math Raps, and illustrated, wrote and recorded them to create an interactive book.  Making Math Raps was a great idea but making the books became a cumbersome project so next year we will make them into videos to share instead of books. It will require more practice and less time illustrating. This is not Kiva, but a step. We still would like to introduce Kiva in Term 3, still a goal to work on. We have been too immersed in projects to find time for everything. It is sometimes hard to decide which ones to take on next. 
    • I have set up online resources and helped a group of grade six students that are working with video and slides to make presentations at  assemblies. They participated in the City of Surrey Anti-Bullying Public Service Video Contest.  We are working with our buddy class to make ebooks,  I presented at CUEBC's fall technology conference, and mentored teachers at school with book and blogging projects as well.  

5. Assessment:  Last year we did school wide writes and as I looked at the fall and the spring writes I was amazed at the growth. The new writing is focused and far more detailed. The students edited more,  their stories had better overall structure, and their voice shone through. I will need to see if the same is true next year.  When they published their research on the CPR with Book Creator they were able to publish their findings in their own words - a big step for grade four. Was this just a one time event or does blogging make such a major difference in student writing? Some of the most dramatic changes were made by my lowest students. 

  • This year I looked at the writing results on two fronts. First, I have been watching our blogs evolve over the last term. In the beginning, I had to encourage most of my students to write more. Now they write freely, and seem to enjoy the process more. They are taking on the persona of the characters they write about as well. 
  • Secondly, I compared their two school wide writes and found changes in writing, similar to last year. Students that wrote only a few sentences are now writing pages and their writing is becoming more fluent. However, many still have not improved their editing when writing on paper. They are more likely to do so when blogging though. Perhaps they see writing on paper as drafting.  
As we enter term 3, we have Legends to finish and new projects ahead. Students now blog, make books, and Animotos. They are currently making videos so they will have the skills in term three to make choices in presentation formats. They are used to working in teams and are becoming more independent in their work habits. They understand how important everyone's role is when working in a group and are becoming more reliable as well.

I am looking forward to term three. The year is slipping by, and as usual we will run out of year before we run out of projects. I would like to find time for more online collaborating so we are going to try Wonderopolis next term-or perhaps Mystery Skypes. Perhaps we will get to try them both.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

For Tia: How To Put A Video in your Blog

Hi Tia: this one's for you. Posted your answer here as Surrey Schools is down.

I did not embed the videos.

You can not embed videos yet and yet I wanted to share videos so  this is my solution:
They are photos of my videos that are linked to the videos.

Step 1.
Take a video and upload it to YouTube.

 Step 2.  Go YouTube and take a picture of the video (command, shift, 3 takes a screen shot and places it on desktop).   I started the video at full size, paused, and took a screen shot (command, shift, 3) so it would be full size and look like the video with the start arrow showing.

Step 3. Insert your picture into your blog.

Step 4.  Then create a link between the YouTube video and the photo. To do this insert link but do not put any text in the top box. Instead just copy an paste the url from the video in the bottom box.

Enlarged box below

Step 5  Done! Easy! The arrow on the photo is what lets people know at first glance that it is a video. 

I must be a visual learner because I ignore text links and always go straight to content that I can see that I want or need at a glance. I hate opening link after link to find what I am looking for, so this is the a solution I use to create my own thumbnails when I want them and they are not available.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blogging: "Play The Whole Game"

Recently, I have been reading interesting articles from MindShift on visions of educational technology and thinking about the new BCEDPLAN's emphasis on digital literacy. The following quote from  Three Competing Visions Of Educational Technology refers to playing the whole game when integrating technology in a meaningful way. As we finish our second school wide write I contemplated what playing the whole game looks like in my class, and in particular as it pertains to writing.

Three competing visions of educational technology. Which is yours?

"Used well, the computer extends the breadth, depth and complexity of potential projects. This in turn affords kids with the opportunity to, in the words of David Perkins, “play the whole game.” Thanks to the computer, children today have the opportunity to be mathematicians, novelists, engineers, composers, geneticists, composers, filmmakers, etc… But, only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative." 
 I have been trying to empower students with the new competencies we are moving to in our quest for digital literacy.  Our iPads and computers are important tools in our daily learning. We use them to create movies, ebooks, and to share our work. We work in partners and teams and collaborate with students in other schools with Skype. Working together to understand, create and solve gives us purpose, guides our learning and teaches respect...but has it enhanced our learning? Has it done more than motivate and engage us? Is "playing the whole game" important to student achievement?

One of our school goals is writing. We are using school wide writes to assess student progress in this area. Our first write was in October. We had another in January and will write again in term three. Since October, we have blogged extensively, created ebooks, and are about to embark on writing and producing movies as part of our study on First Nations legends.  I am looking for validation that the time spent daily on blogging and creating books was time well invested prior to proceeding with new unit plans. I reviewed our writing progress using the two writing samples and this is what I learned.


• Students are writing more - especially my lower students. In October student writing ranged from several sentences to a page in length. In January, most were writing three to four pages.  
• Their writing is more fluent. They are more focused and have a better sense of what they are trying to accomplish, or what their story is about.  Now they have a beginning or starting point and a sense of direction while they write. They focus on the story and follow a logical path from introduction to end, with less repetition and are not adding irrelevant information.
• They are less focused on "video game" writing. Fewer students are caught up in writing about fighting with little regard to story or character.
• They are starting to add their own "voice" and making an effort to engage the reader rather than simply listing a series of events.
• They are starting to use conversation, vary their sentence structure, and more detail to explain and add interest.

Areas needing focused support. Now that we are writing more we will focus more on editing.

• Sentence structure. Although they are writing more and trying out new ways to engage the reader, many still have run on and incomplete sentences. They need to work on editing their writing to add the punctuation after they get their ideas down.  As we write our legends we will work on peer editing. Scripting their legends for their videos will help with conversation and focus them on setting and character development.
• Organization - We have not yet spent time on paragraphs as our writing was too brief. Now that we are becoming more fluent we can organize our writing into paragraphs. We will work on this through a research project, and in our daily blogging. We will use subtopics to research owls and to separate scenes for their movies.
• purpose - As we  continue to work on our blogs and use our sites we will focus on the reasons we are writing or presenting. We will work on combining information, sorting out the relevant, and ensuring that what we write is important to our purpose. We will continue to work on commenting and discussing other blogs with each other.


Overall, I was very impressed with the progress we have made. I think that blogging has given students both opportunity and a purpose to write (to play the whole game). This has resulted  in increased confidence and direction. They enjoy writing now and often add more as they blog. We always write rough drafts in our journals first and then move online and I think this has made students more willing to edit and add "more" as they write. Having time to re-read their drafts as they blog gives them the opportunity to enhance their writing.  Having their own sites and blogs gives them the audience and purpose to enjoy writing. They often ask to add more or write extra blogs. They are choosing to write from home now and to add extra blogs if they are finished early.

At our last diner series we talked about giving students authentic work to inspire and motivate them. For us it is our blogs. There is a sense of purpose during class time and students are acquiring a sense of independence. They work at their own rate now. This provides the opportunity to individualize projects to fit student abilities.   They use the iPads to upload their artwork and help each other when problems arise. 

As we research and making movies I expect we will develop an even deeper understanding of story and our voices will become stronger. This was my experience last year and I am confident we are on track to do so again this year. Students will have another choice in how to present their writing  and become better at collaborators. 

As I look at these results with an eye on the new draft competencies from the BCEDPLAN I feel that we are headed in the right direction.
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking and innovation
  • Personal responsibility and well being
  • Social responsibility

Playing the whole game has promoted social responsibility in class. It has helped students to self-regulate as they become responsible for their own work, and for their part in group projects. During blog time they are often all in different stages of publishing and this required them to take charge of their time and work independently. Some will be drafting while others are illustrating or working online. Students need to rely on each other for technical support and often work at home. They move from one task to the next and are comfortable working together to accomplish tasks. They have learned to appreciate the strengths of classmates, ask each other for support, and provide the same to others.

My next quest is to find new ways to assess, self assess, and peer assess student work. Langwiches blog discusses this and offers an assessment rubric for blogs. This will be a starting point for me to begin creating class rubrics with students. 

Assessment in the Modern Classroom: Part Three- Blog Writing

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Miserable Life ( Stop Bullying )

Just before Christmas I received a flyer for an Anti Bullying Contest. Students from grade 6 and up were invited to create a 30 sec or 60 sec video on the topic of Anti-bullying.  My previous students have been looking for opportunities to use the skills they learned last year and their creative talents to make slide shows for our assemblies and to mentor other classes. I invited them to enter the contest and they jumped at the chance. They wrote, directed, acted, filmed and edited the film using and iPad and a Macbook. They spent recess, lunch hours and after school time to complete the film. They read all the rules,  ensured that their entry met all of the necessary requirements and presented me with their finished movie. I thought that I was going to have to help with technical support and remind them how to manipulate iMovie.  I was wrong. They remembered. They are amazing!

My only job was to upload the film to the contest website and ensure all the permission slips were obtained and forwarded with their entry.  They never fail to impress me with their dedication and enthusiasm.

This is the film.Another feather in their cap.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Just The Facts

 Multiplication Time

 Every year it is a struggle to get my students to master their times tables. We listen to music, have timetable drills, play times table games and I assign them for homework. I've tried it all. Last year I tried something new. I had the class create their own times table raps and for the first time virtually all my students learned their tables.

This year we are working to make times tables ebooks with voice over fact "raps".  It is a time consuming project but if the students learn these facts  it will be time well spent, as very few of my class know them.

The assignment:

1. With a partner create a rap for the 6 times table.

6 and 4
are on the floor.
6 times 4
equal twenty-four.


2. t took a while to get the students rhyming the second line with the last. They automatically wanted to rhyme it with the first instead. They struggled with a few that were harder to rhyme but eventually they succeeded.

Use the storyboard sheet provided to re-write out the verses and then create pictures to go with them.
 3. Create the illustrations and then take pictures of them with the iPad camera and upload them to Dropbox

 4. Use Book Creator and the iPad to create a digital 6 times table rap by placing the illustration in, and adding a voice over. Some students may choose to add a text box too.


4 to 5 days per times table fact:

Day 1: create the rap
Day 2: make the storyboard and start the illustrations
Day 3: finish Illustrations
Day 4: create book and voice overs.

We will do the 6, 7, 8, and 9 times table facts.