Monday, December 29, 2014

Year Over, Years Older

This is my last post of 2014. Where did the time go? I'm still on vacation as I compose this post and my to-do list is a kilometer long. However, I made sure that on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, I relaxed and enjoyed the holiday with my family. One of my favourite presents was from my considerate husband, who ordered me a bound and printed copy of the first two years of my blog.

Thank goodness for iPhones and taking selfies!
Even though I have a pile of novels to read before January, I sat and read through the entire book, which contains my ruminations from 2009-2011. It was really neat to see how I've changed and how I've stayed the same. The biggest alterations?

My opinions about online privacy

In the past, I never used to mention people by name on the blog. I avoided using photos. I employed a pseudonym while on Twitter. Thanks to influences like Lisa Dempster and Gwyneth Jones, I started to be less afraid and more pro-active about controlling my positive digital footprint. I believe my thoughts are still evolving, as recent talks with Andrew Campbell and Peter Skillen have urged me to consider the online privacy of others as well and the digital tools I use.

My views on how blogs and Twitter work

My posts chronicle my relationship with Twitter, which mirrors many people's experiences. Beginning with "I'll just get an account to see things; I won't post" in 2009 to over 5000 tweets five years later, Twitter has become more important to me professionally and personally than I originally thought. I also used to fill my blog with "freebies", links to lesson plans and book reviews I wrote. Now, those items are still available on but my blog is more about reflecting on my teaching practices.

My pop culture and book obsessions

Boy, I used to write about Twilight a LOT back then! Thanks to the series, I have a group of wonderful adult friends from all over North America and we still keep in touch via Facebook, but I don't gush over the books I'm reading anymore.

My other observation is that I feel a lot older. It's not just the hair. (I've decided to stop colouring my hair, partly because I couldn't remember what the original hue was. Turns out it's salt and pepper, with emphasis on the salt.) I'm tired. In the past, I was involved in a lot of things, and I still am, but staying on top of everything isn't as easy as it once seemed to be. Maybe it's just my faulty memory, and the truth could be that I struggled with keeping things tidy, deadlines and completing tasks just as much back then. Still, in addition to my usual duties with school and the magazine, I'll be taking an Additional Qualification course starting in January (on Mentoring - my first official-like-on-OCT-records course since I completed my MEd in 2010, which will be exciting), running my church's Marriage Preparation program, working on the TLLP grant with the awesome Liam O'Donnell and Denise Colby, and getting closer to finishing that self-initiated research project on readers' choice programs (that I wrote about way back in the early days of my blog). I'll pace myself, monitor my energy levels, sleep when I need it, and chunk work so I can complete jobs and feel like I've accomplished something.  I may need to operate at a different speed, but if I approach 2015 with an "aging like fine wine" view instead of an "aging like an overripe banana" view, I'll be fine. Make 2015 bring you health, wealth, happiness, and all that you need.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Giving Time to Grow Readers

I gotta shake off the Grinch! I've been crabbier than usual this past week, because of

  • my lack of sleep due to the Christmas Novena
  • my messy library due to instrument storage for the Winter Concert and a poorly maintained Play Area
  • my impatience with loud audience members (partly due to my demophobia)
I noticed my attitude shifting from "half-full glass" to "half-empty glass" and I needed to take action to stop the slide of negativity. This post is part of my action plan. (Catching up on sleep during the holidays and making a list of all the things I am grateful for this past year are other components.)

In January 2015, my school will launch the official beginning of our Forest of Reading program. To prepare, the books have been made available to the staff to read in advance. This way, the adults will have already read the books and they can facilitate conversations with students on various titles and sign their passports. (A description of how we run our Forest of Reading program with the passports can be found in this article from Voice magazine.) I have heard that in other schools, teacher-librarians are floundering and trying in vain to beg other teachers to participate by reading at least one short book. At Agnes Macphail Public School, I am so very fortunate, because I have so many staff members, from the principal to teachers to educational assistants to early childhood educators, eagerly borrowing books at this insanely busy time of year to read. Some have been reading nominated titles since October, when the lists were announced by the Ontario Library Association and some keen student readers reserved copies from the public library. One classroom teacher in particular has surpassed my reading total by a large margin and continues to use her spare time to read. The wonderful thing is that teachers are reading books from many different lists, because it gives them the opportunities to chat with students in various grades. 

Way back in September, I took photos of our staff members for a "brains behind the books" bulletin board display. As a tribute to these wonderful school staff members and all they do to give time to grow readers and good young people (but while still maintaining their privacy), let me share here the pictures of our outstanding staff. If you are from my school or know some of the teachers, see if you can figure out who is who. 

 Merry Christmas, and special best wishes to our special education teacher, who began her maternity leave on the last calendar school day of 2014 (and her due date was yesterday, December 21).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A "Touchy" Topic

Last week, a friend of mine, who works with the school board centrally, stopped by my school unexpectedly. The snow storm had made his commute insane; he had been travelling for over two hours and still had not reached his destination. He asked if he could work in the library at my school instead of wasting more time trying to battle the weather and travel conditions. I welcomed him in. It was wonderful to have him around because he joined in and co-taught a couple of classes with me. In the afternoon, we were doing a drama activity called Toy Store with a Grade 1-2 class. The children were toys in a toy store that come to life when the toy store owner wasn't "around". As the toy store owner started to clean up the store and put the toys back on the shelf, my friend stepped out of role for a moment to ask "How are we supposed to move them?" I thought this was an unusual question until I realized that, as a male teacher, my friend was very cautious about when, how, and where he made physical contact with students.

Photo from Life Magazine
His question made me reflect on touching in schools. When my friend was a brand-new teacher, she said that most of their professional development workshops began with this message: "Welcome to today's session - remember, keep your hands off the students". This was a slight exaggeration, but understandable. Teachers need to be cautious when touching students so there aren't accusations of inappropriate contact. In a quick Google search, policy surrounding touch in the classroom encouraged restraint and caution: Touch only when necessary. Be professional and use professional judgement. However, I did find  this webcast that suggested that touch is important in schools. The discussion mentioned the famous Harlow monkey experiment where baby monkeys would cling to the comfort surrogate instead of the food surrogate. However, this opinion was definitely in the minority.

I am not as cautious as I should be. I admit - I do touch my students. However, most of the time, I do not initiate the contact. Students run up to me and hug me in the hall. If I sit on the carpet, students want to sit next to me or sit on my lap. While walking in line, students want to hold my hand. I don't encourage it but I don't discourage it when it happens, and if the hug lasts for more than a second or two, I try to redirect the student. I think this is due in part to my own upbringing and cultural norms. I'm comfortable with physical contact. I'm friendly and I express it by shaking hands or patting arms. I must keep in mind that not everyone is at ease with touching. Patting a head or rubbing a shoulder may be seen as very disrespectful or too intimate. It seems, though, that some children need that physical connection with someone.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with another friend who is doing her PhD on smell. We need our senses. For the safety of students, we have no-touch policies at some schools. To help people with sensitivities, we have scent-free environments. Respecting these needs are important but we do lose a little something when we deny or deprive our other senses when we learn. Maybe this is why students love "hands-on" learning - if we can't touch people, we can touch things. Making things with our own hands satisfies a basic need we have. Look at this article that my friend Lisa Noble sent to me about the benefits of holiday baking. I won't hug each and every one of my children's teachers to thank them for treating my son and daughter well, but I can thank them by creating cookies. (In addition to the Orange Ice Box and Lemon Lime Twists I made before, I tried four new recipes. I forgot to take a photo of the Cinnamon cookies, but the others are below.)

White Chocolate and Butterscotch Cookies

Cherry and Lemon Cookies

Mini Raspberry Pinwheels
So where does this leave me and the way my students interact with me physically? I don't think I can completely stop returning hugs or holding hands, but I will be more aware. After all, not all touch is "bad touch", and acting as if all contact is forbidden sends the wrong message. Having said that, I'll be careful and consider how, when, where and why to touch. What do you think?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tasty Field Trip and Teachable Moments

Last week, I had two half-day field trips with a total of four primary division classes to our local mall to visit some restaurants as part of our media literacy unit. What I witnessed was some great "incidental teaching" by the classroom teachers that came with me as well as some generous franchise owners that welcomed us with open arms.

Let me begin with the restaurants - I want to thank Avinash from Saravanaa Bhavan and Alpesh from Subway, both located at Woodside Square (1571 Sandhurst Circle, in the McCowan Avenue and Finch Avenue East area) for allowing forty children to "invade" their spaces. We had originally arranged to visit four restaurants that week (two locations for the Grade Two classes and two different ones for the Grade One classes) but one establishment never returned our phone calls/emails and the other place asked us not to come in because the manager wasn't on the premises, even though we had a phone call confirming our visit. Having fewer restaurants to compare and contrast was disappointing, but the sites that did allow us to come were so generous with their time. We were able to peek inside the back areas and kitchens where regular customers never get to venture. They answered many questions cheerfully. For simplicity's sake, we ate at Subway and they provided juice free of charge.

Here are some of the photos our students took themselves using the iPads we brought along.

Wall art at Subway

Menu at Subway

Wall art at Saravanaa Bhavan

Chopping green tomatoes in the kitchen

I must also thank the classroom teachers and parent volunteers that accompanied us on the walk and supervised the children during their tour and meal. I especially admired how the teachers used every moment for imparting lessons. On paper, this was a media trip but it also became:

  • a social skills trip (as Mrs. Morgan did a "think-aloud" to prepare the students on how to order their lunch themselves and the necessary steps)
  • a math trip (as they supervised the children as they paid for their meals and ensured they gave enough money and received the proper change, and estimated how long it would take to walk to our location)
  • a geography trip (as we walked through the neighbourhood, turning the right directions to lead us there and back)
  • an ergonomic, environmental education and design trip (as Ms. Chiu asked questions while the students waited for their turn to go into the Employees Only area such as "Why is the garbage can located here near the door?")
  • a language arts / oral communication trip (as both Ms. Chiu and Mrs. Morgan encouraged their students to speak loudly and clearly enough for the Subway employee to understand their order)
  • a visual arts trip (as we examined the art on the walls and the colour choices)
  • a social studies trip (as one of our adult supervisors, a student's grandfather, explained the cultural significance of the music, the food options, and the eating methods in the South East Indian vegetarian restaurant)
  • a critical literacy trip (as we saw how businesses try to get consumers to buy and continue buying from their establishments, from the smells to the survey with the free cookie on a return visit, to the kids' menu "toy")
I'm sure I'm forgetting some of the other curriculum connections (like equity, physical education, and more) that came out of our visit. Everyone that went enjoyed themselves and the students are inspired to create their own restaurants after seeing real-life examples. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Deal with a Disappointing Day

Today found me in a disagreeable state of mind as I sat down to write my blog post. Good advice says think twice before you press publish, especially when you are in a grumpy mood, but on the other hand, I heard that sharing just the high points and successes can be discouraging to others, who may feel like they cannot measure up to the "Twitter Superstars". I'll share a few of my disappointments today and maybe get around to reflecting on how to handle it. I will practice phrasing my thoughts using the "I feel" statements I was taught in Tribes - where the feeling and situation are explained and no blame is given. (I'll reveal all the self-blame and finger-pointing underneath.)

I feel disappointed when a lesson flops spectacularly, especially when effort was made to reschedule it so it occurs.
I am unhappy with the technology. Our kindergarten class was all ready and quietly waiting and the silly TV and DVD refused to play the sound. It took precious time to go to the computer, log onto Learn360 and try to find and download the clip I needed and by the time it was ready, the children had to return to class to dress for lunch.
I blame myself for not checking in advance to ensure that everything was in working order. I should have had Plan B ready, with the necessary video already downloaded to my computer so I wouldn't have to madly search in front of a crowd of 4- and 5-year-olds.

I feel disappointed when rules are broken in a particularly cruel fashion and one of the school clubs I run are part of the reason for the infraction.
I am unhappy with a couple of my students. They should have known better than to do what they did. Their actions were mean and thoughtless. I can't reveal what they did but it's really not nice.
I blame myself for not doing enough to prevent this behaviour. My administration was a bit cautious about allowing Photography Club to begin in the first place and I reassured my principal that the students would be responsible. I had to eat my words. My initial response to this incident was to shut the club down but my principal was the voice of reason and suggested that the actions of some should not penalize the majority. We discussed steps to take next time the club is formed, which were all reasonable, and I wish I had thought of them beforehand.

I feel disappointed when my volunteer efforts aren't recognized and communication between home and school is inconsistent.
I am unhappy with the administration at my son's school. I was the CSAC chair at my own children's school for two years and last week, we finally found people to fill the executive position. (Actually, it took three people to replace me, a fact I took perverse pleasure in noticing.) I saw the school newsletter today when I got home, which had a front-page announcement introducing the new co-chairs and included a blurb written by the pair. There was no "thanks to the departing chairperson" note at all. While I struggled with getting simple replies to my emails, how were they able to have a paragraph written, approved, and published in less than a week?
I blame myself for not fostering a better communication link or bond with the principal. It's a bit of jealousy - why does it appear to be so easy for the new chairs and the principal to work together? Why didn't the principal and I "click" but they do? Was it something I said or did?

I feel disappointed when I read about cases involving the abuse of trust by educators and the gender biases at play.
I am unhappy with some teachers and the justice system and society's double-standard. I first found this article on Yahoo (thanks hubby for re-finding it for me to link here after it disappeared from my Yahoo feed) about the number of female teachers who sexually abuse their students. The female perpetrators receive much lighter sentences than their male counterparts. The reason may be due to society's gender attitudes - it's not bad for this to happen to a pre-teen or teen boy, but it's a tragedy for the same to happen to a girl.
I blame myself for reading negative articles when I am in a bad mood. I probably also unconsciously hold some of these same biased attitudes that lead to these sorts of court decisions, and I don't like that realization. I have never abused a student but I suspect I would be initially more disgusted with a 40 year old man involved with a 15 year old girl than the opposite - and that's wrong; both cases are morally distressing and equally disgusting.

So how do I deal?
Writing about it actually helped. I know I didn't have to press "publish", but I wanted to prove my life isn't always a bed of roses and I'm not always Positive Pollyanna. Realizing that these disappointments are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things helps - we have a good friend dealing with brain cancer right now, so complaining about a lesson that bombed is small potatoes. My son told me to do something different that makes you happy and makes you forget about your disappointments. If you have other tips for dealing with a disappointing day, please add your comments below.

Monday, November 24, 2014

My wish for a list

This blog post took me much longer than average to write. I suspect that's because it's not simple, and I'm still trying to understand and process some of it myself.

Andrew Campbell wrote a great blog post about education technology tools and privacy.
My initial tweet response just hinted at the brain swirling occurring:

I actually did read it that night at least three times, and followed all the links to thoughtful educators Andrew mentioned like Royan Lee (@royanlee) Heidi Siwak (@HeidiSiwak) and Tim King (@tk1ng). It was a lot to absorb and comprehend, at least for me, because it feels abstract even though it isn't. I exchanged some public tweets and private DMs with Andrew on the topic. His replies made me think even harder, especially when he did some research for me on a free tool I was using that, it turns out, can collect any data it wants, analyze it, and can sell it or use it how it likes. My reaction was a desire for a list of good free apps and Andrew's follow up led to another blizzard of thoughts and feelings.
Nothing’s “free”. Most of them are trading data for services. So long as you are OK with that.
Dang. This short statement forced me to seriously consider things. Was I willing to trade away my students' privacy rights for a free tool, for convenience in assessment? The part that scared me is that I was worried that I was. Students didn't really care about their privacy that much, did they?

The webinar I listened to the very next day clarified that possible self-delusion pretty quickly. On November 19, Media Smarts (@MediaSmarts) shared the findings from their research. It took me a while to get to see the visuals but I heard the audio loud and clear and it stated that young people DO care about their privacy.

Andrew Campbell's provocations and probing questions reminded me of another educator I admire greatly: Peter Skillen (@peterskillen). As I mentioned here before, a short conversation with Peter had my mind reeling. I really had no idea about the level of influence of corporations and consumerism on education; I remember the Twitter kerfuffle when Pearson invited some educators to a talk - turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg. During our chat at the TLLP introduction workshop, I asked Peter if there was a list of conferences that were too commercial; instead of a list, Peter suggested I read things written by Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch). Once again, some of the issues are a bit beyond me because I'm such a novice at considering these topics, but I can feel my brain stretching in good ways. As I told Andrew, "I feel like [these ideas] are over my head but they inspire me to fetch a ladder".

Look critically at my blog post title - why is it that in two similar situations that I wanted a list? I think the hard truth is that I wanted someone to do the thinking for me - tell me what are the "good" conferences and "bad" conferences, tell me what are the "safe" apps and the "dangerous" apps, and if I trust you, I can take this summary and go off and do my thing with a seal of approval in my back pocket. Is that lazy? Cowardly? Ironically, a list like this sort of already exists - Bill Fitzgerald (@funnymonkey) has compiled some commentary on different software and their privacy settings. Instead of being lazy, I think the bigger issue is that I'm insecure in my own knowledge on some of these topics and I want someone I respect to guide me. What I need to realize is that I've got to do some of the thinking and deciding myself, and turn to the experts for assistance. I don't want to give up on using my iPad for collecting anecdotal notes on my students, because it beats trying to decipher all those scribbled observations on scrap paper close to report card time, but I want to be considerate of my students. Can I find an alternate with privacy settings I can accept? I hope so. As a mom, I'd want privacy considered for my own children, which is why I need to ask my son's school about how they handle Prodigy (a tool he loves but does gather information).

Everything this past week has been serendipitous, because my final thought that complements all of this reflection comes courtesy of the workshop I attended on mentoring. The delightful Jennifer Watt ((@jenniferwatt65) said that we have to stop acting as if "politics" is a bad word. We need to take political stances, to critically examine power relations. I should not be afraid to get a bit political, and if a list can help me gain courage to enter a political frame of mind, then maybe it's not such a lazy wish.

Monday, November 17, 2014

This Year's Yummy Media Project

I teach Media to the primary division students at my school as prep delivery for some teachers, and every year, the students and I design a large project to complete. Last year, it was making our own superhero costumes. In the previous year, we created media tie-in products after seeing Wreck It Ralph at the movies. Prior to that, we produced our own films on YouTube defining media. Despite my legendarily poor memory, I remember these assignments because they were so much fun to do and so much learning emerged from the process. This year promises to be just as thrilling.

There have been several early indications that this year's project will be enthusiastically received. I introduced it to a Grade 2 class during a lesson last week and I could barely get a word in because they were bubbling with ideas and suggestions. I dismissed the class for recess and before lunch that day, I had students in the Grade 3 class approaching me to say they heard we'd be doing X and Y. One of the students in that Grade 2 class confessed that in the period after media class that day, all he could think about in response to any of his classroom teacher's questions was this one word describing our project. The final clincher was when I started to explain to my principal about my plans and he replied, "Oh, I already know. F [one of the girls in Grade 2] told me everything."

What's got them so pumped? What's the word that has them so distracted?


Initially, we will brainstorm as many restaurants as we can think of, and consider what the target audiences could be. We will investigate all the jobs associated with running a restaurant. Then, the plan is to walk to a couple of local restaurants and visit them as part of a field trip. We'll take a critical look at many aspects of the establishments, from colour schemes to seating arrangements to menu options. (We will probably do some eating there as well!) After examining some real-life models, we are going to create and open, for one-day only, our own in-school restaurants (one per class, on different days). We are going to serve real food, and charge real money, and any profit that we might make will go to charity. 

I'm excited about this project but I'm also a little nervous. These are some of the questions that concern me a bit.
  • Adult Assistance - How am I going to organize this with the students if I am the only grownup? Who can I get to help us with all the various chores that need adult assistance, like cooking and collecting money?
  • Finances - How are we going to pay for all the items we'll need prior to our "grand opening"? How will we determine prices for our menu options in a way that is affordable and still helps us make back the money we spend beforehand?
  • Assessment - How am I going to evaluate this project, especially considering that students are going to be involved in different tasks? How will I communicate the learning to parents and via the inevitable report card mark?
Thankfully, some of these questions have started to develop answers. The classroom teachers have already indicated that they would accompany me on a restaurant field trip. I've asked Neil Andersen, media teacher extraordinaire, for his suggestions on assessment and evaluation. I can ask parents for help in the kitchen. This project will probably take several months to plan and complete, but the results look like they might be delicious!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ECOO 2014 Photos & Personal Development

I really like how Melissa Jensen used photos and Brian Smith used videos to document their learning at the annual ECOO conference in Niagara Falls. I wanted to share my own photos here as well as a different angle to my reflections. Yesterday was a snapshot of my professional development at the conference. Today, after the photos, I'll share my personal development.

David Hann & Brian Smith - thoughtful guys!

Ray Mercer at his talk about FDK e-portfolios
Denise, Liam, & me at our session (thanks Jen for taking the picture)
Andy at the Minecraft Party

The Survival Land subway
Scott and Dustin play
Liam, Diana, David, Michelle, Jacqui, Denise, Chris, Andrew
Jen (2nd from right) & members of her board

Personal Development at #BIT14

Some of these conversations were private, but I wanted to credit some special individuals for making me think and grow as a person.

Jen Apgar (@JenApgar on Twitter)

It's hard to believe I just met Jen last year at ECOO. She has become an important member of the GamingEdus group and is absolutely wonderful to talk to. Not only did she challenge me to articulate my professional thoughts (e.g. gamification vs games based learning is analogous to sewn on top vs embedded/woven within) but she got me to examine my own preconceived notions. We were talking about reluctant teachers at about 1:00 in the morning, and I muttered "don't water the rocks".
"Would you say that about your students?" she replied.
"No, of course not" I answered.
"So why is it okay to say or think this about a teacher but not a student?"
Busted. Caught in my fixed mindset, I vowed to try and change my attitude. Thanks Jen.

David Hann (@TeacherHann on Twitter)

It was David that convinced me to attend the Toronto MakerFaire instead of the TDSB Google Camp. (Sorry Andrew and Julie!) David had some words of wisdom for me about typecasting, "being known", and keeping energy alive.

Lisa Noble (@nobleknits2 on Twitter)

I was so delighted to meet Lisa face to face for the first time at #bit14. We "met" on Twitter, collaborated on a Tumblr inquiry, and referred to each other in blog posts. Lisa and I talked at length during the Minecraft Party about career choices, religion, vocations, and identity. I need to see this person again and not just to get her tasty cookies.

Alanna King (@banana29 on Twitter)

The connection I have with Alanna is evident by the way we interact. We are constantly hugging, patting shoulders, and grasping hands. I was so grateful to squeeze some time in with Alanna on Friday. We talked about our children, and taking on roles and accepting our limits.

Denise Colby (@Niecsa on Twitter)

If this was the Wizard of Oz, this would be the part where Dorothy addresses the Scarecrow. Denise and I have known each other a long time. We drove to Niagara and back together. We roomed together. We presented together. And we talked. Boy, did we talk! From the insights on gender while enjoying the circuit in the sauna and hot tub at the hotel, to topics of forgiveness, inclusion, and kindness, talking with Denise makes me a better person.

Monday, November 10, 2014

ECOO 2014 Reflections

Educational Computing Organization of Ontario
2014 Conference Reflections by Diana Maliszewski

Thursday, November 6, 2014 8:30 a.m.

The Power of Technology to Prepare Students for the Future by Richard Byrne

Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Richard Byrne is a former high school social studies teacher best known for developing the award-winning blog Free Technology for Teachers. He has been invited to speak at events all over North America, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Richard’s work is focused on sharing free web-based resources that educators can use to enhance their students’ learning experiences.

 I missed the keynote because I had to eat breakfast and pay for my registration.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Inquiry Based Learning and E-Portfolios in FDK by Ray Mercer and Cindy van Wonderen

Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) As part of a TLLP project we have started to explore Inquiry Based Learning with Full Day Kindergarten students, teachers and ECE's through the multiple lenses of The FDK curriculum, The Library Learning Commons and Collaborative Teacher Inquiry. To document the learning of all the learnings we are using a combination of Android Tablets, Chromebooks and Google Sites to develop our E Portfolios. This session will explore the ins and outs of these technologies in a network environment with emerging readers as we all try and document our learning.
3 Key Points:
1.       Many students and educators don’t know how to document and share their own learning. By putting evidence in an e-portfolio, we can show students at their best and demonstrate many things at the same time. Using digital technology means that it’s easier to capture what you see and hear them doing.
2.       If emergent readers can document and share their learning, anyone can. The tools they used (with help from the teachers/teacher-librarians/adults) included Pebble Go, Pixie3, Google Drive, Chromebooks, Samsung Galaxy Tab devices and more.
3.        Collaborative inquiry is exciting but also lengthy. It starts with a problem of practice (and is freeing to be able to say “I don’t know how to do this”) and honours the adult learners needs and speed. The deliverables for the TLLP are due in June but Ray sees this as taking 2-3 years.
So What? Now What? = My school’s PLC TLCP is focused on integrating technology and inquiry. I’m going to share my notes with the FDK team. (I can’t attend their meetings because I’m doing release coverage so they can gather together.) I also hope to speak more with Ray about the highs and lows of his TLLP journey, to see how they compare with mine.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 11:00 a.m.
Why Disney Princesses grow up to be Miley Cyrus: Teaching gender issues to 21st Century media studies students by Denise Yamashita
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Teaching Media Studies in today's world is challenging. The landscape has changed and teens no longer consume or engage with media the way past generations have. But the themes around gender stereotyping such as body image, traditional gender roles and sexualization remain important topics, particularly for young women. This session will demonstrate how teachers of Media Studies can find teachable moments that create authentic learning and discussion by utilizing real-time media examples, student interest, and a variety of technology such blogging, collaboration station discussion, Edmodo and a variety of online multimedia resources and creation tools to delve deeply into these issues.
3 Key Points
1.       Youth today do not necessarily share a baseline commonality of media experiences (e.g. in the past, everyone used to watch the same Saturday morning cartoons) so it can be challenging to use references everyone understands.
2.       Sometimes educators need to mention their personal life to interest and engage students so a personal bond is forged. The speaker didn’t like to discuss her family, but  talking about how her 4-year-old loved pink was an entry point for the teens to talk (because teens don’t see themselves as influenced by the media but can willingly accept younger kids as swayed by media).
3.       By using examples the teens were interested in (e.g. Miley Cyrus, as noted from their blog posts) as well as film circles (like literature circles) based on Disney films, the students became more aware that media stereotypes still exist.
So What? Now What? = Although this was for a high school class, I can see how I can use some of the ideas (e.g. Disney film clips, study those younger than the students themselves) for my own media classes. I liked how Yamashita said it was helpful to have a teacher-librarian assist her with tasks.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 11:00 a.m.
The “Maker Movement”: It’s about “Making Up Your Own Mind” by Peter Skillen
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) What is the maker movement? Is it only about ‘making with electronics’ and ‘coding’? No. I don’t believe it should be. ‘Making’ should focus on taking charge of, and building, your mind and your learning. Making objects and artifacts is a means to that end! ‘Making’ is at the heart of ‘constructionism’, tinkering and ‘inquiry’. In this session, let’s explore how we can use Information & Communications Technologies across the curriculum and grades to make ‘thinking visible’, to support inquiry, to construct collaboratively, and to engage students in project-based learning. Building poems, art, music, mathematical solutions and so on are all part of the ‘maker movement’ in my mind.
3 Key Points:
1.       The “3rd teacher” is the class culture and we need to ask ourselves if thinking is a highly valued activity in our class culture. By renaming our classrooms and learning spaces, we bring a new approach to the area and highlight the kind of thinking that will occur there (because the words “classroom” or “lab” come with its own baggage).
2.       There are many techniques and strategies you can use to make thinking visible, like “coding tricks” such as a question mark or light bulb you can use to annotate your thinking, use bulletin boards as process not as end product so learners can add to them with sticky notes, encourage journaling/blogging so kids can “tiptoe back through their thinking”, try Padlet or Google Draw or One Note, or use Brenda Sherry’s idea to post the SIP with QR codes attached so you can see the multimedia artefacts attached to the work.
3.       Check out the visible thinking website or Peter’s blog ( / for great resources.
So What? Now What? = I sneaked (snuck?) out of Denise’s workshop early because I wanted to hear Peter talk. Peter has really stretched my thinking about the corporate influence on education (and it needs more stretching) and I always learn a lot listening to him. He confirmed a lot of things for me (like the good idea to denote “zones” in my summer school classroom, or the way Denise Colby and her students use sticky notes a lot on their walls) and reminded me not to abandon them. I must make my bulletin boards live data walls showing the process of thinking, not just the product. I also learned that trying to attend two sessions during one period is the maximum I can do – I attempted to attend the “Be A YouTube Ninja” session but by the time I got there, it was over.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 12:00 noon
Coding for Kids: Skills in the Programming Age by Anthony Chuter
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Digital tinkering and playing are vital 21st century skills. This seminar will benefit educators keen to create "flipped", differentiated lessons, resources and discussions to help students succeed and learn through play. I will showcase the strategies I implement for a student-centered approach to programming and provide resources for educators to utilize Scratch 2.0 and other "coding" tools like Tynker to junior to senior students and across the curriculum. Finally, I will offer resources and activities for the Hour of Code and Computer Science week in December of each week.
I ended up skipping this session so I could go back to our hotel to collect equipment and conduct a walk-about of the Exhibition Hall floor (which served double-duty as a promotion of our ECOO session because I wore my Minecraft Villager costume and had a sign on my back advertising our talk).
Thursday, November 6, 2014 1:00 p.m.
Level Up! Games Based Learning in the Junior Classroom by Adele Stanfield and Derek Walker
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) We've all heard about game-based learning, but how does it really work? What does it look like in a classroom? How can an educator incorporate games into the instructional day and still ensure that students are learning? What are the benefits and drawbacks? If you've asked these burning questions then this session is for you! We will show you what games we use in our grade 5 classroom, how they are connected to the curriculum and the successes (and failures) we had during our year-long journey. Come join us while we explore the joy of games!
3 Key Points:
1.       Thank goodness for links! This is their presentation:
2.       This is their blog:
So What? Now What? = I didn’t have time to change out of my Minecraft Villager costume, so I attended the session in character (which threw off the speakers when I first entered the room – sorry Adele!) I couldn’t take notes, so the links helped a lot. I noticed that they used the words Gamification and Games Based Learning interchangeably, and this concerned me. My son already uses Prodigy, one of the games they recommended. I want to try Human Body, New World Colony, and Electrocity with my students.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 2:00 p.m.
Using Technology to See the Forest AND the Trees by Marie Swift and Deborah McCallum
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) We will share different entry points for using technology with current Canadian Literature as it relates to the SAMR model. The aim of this workshop is to help you to set up a framework and give you practical ideas for integrating traditional and digital literacies. Virtual collaboration to share responses to reading could include Twitter, Blogging, iMovie, book trailers and other tech platforms and social media. Imagine your students being able to interact with authors, illustrators, publishers and other students and teachers from across the province and country!
3 Key Points:
2.       There are many tools you can use, such as Twitter, Google Drive, Adobe Voice, Do Ink (green screen), Google Hangout, Teaching Kids News, and more to connect to the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading titles.
3.       Don’t underestimate the impact these tasks can have. One student connected with her favourite author over Twitter about the book and may have influenced a sequel.
So What? Now What? = I love seeing presentations where they practice what they preach. Marie surveyed the audience with Google Form (unfortunately my iPad didn’t want to cooperate with that) just like she would with a group of students, but shared in a respectful way. I saw Marie in action at the Simcoe County District School Board Teacher Librarian conference and it was nice to see her again. (Simcoe County DSB has some exciting things happening there. It’s good to hear from other boards.) I need to get that Do Ink green screen app for my school!
Thursday, November 6, 2014 2:00 p.m.
Assessment FOR, AS, and OF Learning by Neil Andersen and Carol Arcus
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) How might assessment and evaluation be used to promote learning? Using authentic student exemplars (including PSAs, comics, cooking shows, sports shows, tweets), we will explore strategies to help learners from Primary/Junior to Secondary levels develop their media literacy and language skills through effective assessment, feedback and evaluation. A variety of media forms, expectation statements and learning contexts will be presented. Participants are invited to bring samples of student work.
3 Key Points:
1.       With an emphasis on assessment vs the final project, it encourages deeper meaning, more mindfulness, and makes you slow down.
2.       Producing media texts is the best way to understand media because the students touch on all aspects of media (purpose, audience, form, conventions, techniques) and the choice of project can be theirs or yours but will depend on the time and energy commitment you want to give to a project (e.g. a documentary will be longer than a greeting card).
3.       Ensure that students switch their roles and responsibilities within media production so that they get practice in all areas, not just their strengths.
So What? Now What? = I admire Neil a lot and read the #K12media Twitter chat whenever I can. It was so nice to actually have practice in assessing student media texts (because they had us provide feedback on a project during the session) and they reminded us to always watch it at least twice to absorb everything. I want to consult with Neil about a large-scale media project I have planned with my students (where we will be creating a restaurant) and how I can effectively assess it.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 3:00 p.m.
Bridging the Divide: Pushing the Classroom Outside of Its Four Walls by Aviva Dunsiger and Jonathan So
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) During this presentation Aviva and Jonathan will share how they have opened up their classrooms through the use of social media (Twitter, Storify) and blogging. Attendees will learn about social media and blogging platforms that have allowed them to reach out to their students, parents, and other professionals: allowing the learning to continue outside of their classroom walls. Furthermore, participants will see how these two educators have entered each others classrooms, learned from each other and pushed each other to be better professionals -- even though they are in two different cities and Boards. Participants will walk away with practical advice on how learning is a community event and how learning from each other can only assist the learning in your own classroom.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 3:00 p.m.
How do we teach it if we’re not doing it? A discussion around curation, collaboration, and creation by Lisa Noble
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) The "C words" are often thrown around as the 21st century equivalent of the classic 3 R's, and they're important ideas. But there are so many questions - which curation tool? How often should you purge? Social bookmarking or not? Blogging, Tumblring, Twittering or all of the above? Which collaborative tool should you introduce your students to? How do you encourage collaboration and idea sharing in your own building, and your own classroom? How do we deepen our own skill set, encourage our colleagues to expand theirs, and model that for our students? I'll bring ideas that are working for me, and hope others will do the same. Let's do some demystifying together.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend either of these phenomenal sessions, as I spent extra-long in Neil’s session (turns out it was a two-hour workshop) and I had to prepare for my own talk.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 4:00 p.m.
Managing Minecraft: Misunderstandings and Murky Messes by Liam O’Donnell, Denise Colby, and Diana Maliszewski
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Minecraft is a great way to engage your students. It’s also a great way to cause chaos and unexpected disasters in your classroom. Bullying, griefing and a host of other issues can all happen in a single Minecraft session. How can teachers deal with these challenges? Where are the opportunities for learning? How can teachers strike a balance between chaotic (but rich) learning and controlled (but often dry) curriculum teaching? Participants will leave with a thorough understanding of the potential pitfalls of using Minecraft in the classroom and strategies to keep the learning happening when things get messy.
3 Key Points:
2.       Conflicts happen when wants and needs don’t align. If you use restorative practices and level-headed discussions instead of punitive actions (and establish norms in advance), less problems will occur. Despite it all, there will always be issues but the benefits outweigh the challenges.
3.       Messes can sometimes be good things (e.g. hacking is probing the boundaries).
So What? Now What? = At first, I thought our talk was about Minecraft but it turned into something more – autonomy, perception, and culture. I really appreciated the comments from the audience, especially Jen Apgar and Neil Andersen. I’ll try to keep in mind that messes can be good and bad and to look for the silver lining in all of them.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 8:00 p.m.
#BIT14 Minecraft Party by Andrew Forgrave, Liam O’Donnell, Denise Colby, and Diana Maliszewski
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Do zombies and creepers quiver at the sight of your skin? Are your Minecraft builds epic? Do you partake of group expeditions into the wilds of the Survival and Nether worlds? Or maybe you are just intrigued and looking to get started with Minecraft? Join Prax, Gumby, and others from the friendly GamingEDUs community for a fun and exciting F2F LAN Party. Join us in the SCCN in Room 201!
We changed locations to be beside the BIT14 Jam Session and it was a good decision. People popped over from the singing next door to check things out. Zoe Branigan-Pipe saved the day by providing laptops for participants to play Minecraft on. It was nice to see Michelle Korda, Jacqui Thompson, and Chris Solsea from last year. I had some super conversations with Jen Apgar, David Hann, and Lisa Noble that deserve their own separate reflection. Denise Colby lost her voice and we didn’t go to sleep until 1:30 a.m.!
Friday, November 7, 2014 8:30 a.m.
Keynote by Ron Canuel
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Ron Canuel has been President and CEO of the Canadian Education Association (CEA) since 2010, and has over 36 years of experience in the public education sector. As the former Director General of the Eastern Townships School Board in Quebec, Ron was the principal architect of one of the first Canadian district-wide wireless laptop computer program for students and teachers, and has received numerous awards in recognition of this ongoing initiative. He has been a frequent presenter, panelist, and lecturer at national and international conferences on CEA’s What did you do in school today? and Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach research and action initiatives, as well as on change management, innovation in education, leadership, and technology in the classroom.
8:30 a.m. after a 1:30 a.m. ending the night before is just not possible! Sleep, a solid breakfast, and checking out of the hotel room took precedence.
Friday, November 7, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Youth on YouTube by Royan Lee, Saman Rajabian and Katya Katsnelson
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) There may not be a site in the world that generates as much web traffic as YouTube. We all know that it’s commonplace to see youth as consumers of the content, but how much do we know about our young people who are the producers and leaders of it? Come to this session to meet two of @royanlee’s former students who have autonomously garnered large global followings by creating unique video content. Hear their stories, discover how they are generating (in some cases) significant incomes, ask them questions, and learn how to start your own YouTube channel from two of the savviest young leaders around.
3 Key Points:
1.       Both YouTube stars watched YouTube and thought that they could do it, so they started. Both individuals became bored and dissatisfied with their early videos and this prompted them to change focus.
2.       Katya’s tips for success are to be confident, strong, unique, and enjoy what you do. Saman’s tips for success are do what you like, stay consistent, don’t let low views or jealousy get in your way, and don’t do it for money or fame.
3.       These high school students say that Mr. Lee was the teacher that used the most technology with them and that their current teachers do not know about their popular YouTube channels (with the exception of Saman’s principal, who arranged to let him get a work experience credit in high school for his YouTube work). They don’t use their YouTube skills often in class, although one made a Romeo & Juliet video.
So What? Now What? = I was really excited and inspired by these teens. My son watches ExplodingTNT, Saman’s channel, and it was neat to meet the creator in person. Katya started her channel when she was my son’s age, so it is possible. We teachers need to find out about the “secret” worlds our students inhabit and let them use their talent and skills in school. This workshop was actually a double-period, so I stayed from 11:00 – 11:50 to continue to hear them speak.
Friday, November 7, 2014 12:00 noon
QR Code and the Library by Brian Smith
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) As the role of library and librarian changes, our physical spaces can transform from walls to gateways. This workshop will give real world examples of how QR codes can be used to make the library a portal to research, an extension of the classroom and a place where mobile devices can be used to their fullest potential.
I couldn’t stay for the entire session, as I had to travel back to Toronto to attend my daughter’s high school art show. Thankfully, Brian made his presentation available with a QR code. I took the photo via iPad and I will explore it in depth later on. I sat next to the lovely Alanna King and we were able to connect again for some “personal development”.