Monday, October 31, 2016

Hug Monster (Even at #ETFOt4t)

For those who celebrate, Happy Halloween! The monster in the title isn't your typical Halloween fright ... read on.

Is it possible for your students to influence what you do and what you say?
I'm starting to suspect this happens more than I realize.

Some of the students in my school love to hug. I'm not sure if it's because they can detect that I'm okay with hugging (which I've written about in the past here) but they make a point of collecting a "morning hug" and "afternoon hug" each day from me, and will verbally scold me if I've forgotten or neglected to give them their twice-daily allocation. They are the ones to initiate the contact, as I must be cautious about this sort of contact. We've also worked with particular students around issues of consent, and I've tried to transfer this useful practice in general to other students - ask before touching. Coaching students to ask "May I have a hug?" instead of grabbing an adult in an unexpected embrace is a good idea.

I had to remind myself to use this technique while at the ETFO ICT conference on October 28-29, 2016. I'm glad I asked for permission most of the time. Who received these physical greetings?

Bixi Lobo-Molnar, one of the ETFO organizers. I've been fortunate to work with Bixi on the 2016  ETFO Summer Academies. She and Jill and Emma and all the team members do a fabulous job ensuring all the needs of participants and presenters are met.

Using Plickers on Friday

Denise Colby, my co-presenter. Denise was a saint and saviour at this conference, because not only did she co-run our Friday and Saturday sessions on Minecraft, she volunteered to lead two more Friday workshops because the original presenter could not attend.

Showing Minecraft tips Saturday

Great comics website I can use! Thanks Melissa!
Melissa Jensen. I sat with Melissa and several other teachers from Simcoe County DSB during the opening keynote and I also picked Melissa's brain about my upcoming Teach Ontario course on graphic novels and comics when both of us had a break from presenting in our schedules on Friday. Melissa has a wealth of information at her fingertips (and on her phone) and I really appreciated the feedback she provided for me.

 Andrea Payne. Andrea said it wasn't necessary for us to attend her session on search techniques, but her absolutely stellar slides - perfect for use with students and a designer's dream - were the perfect PD piece for me on Saturday. We ate lunch together as she polished her presentation and it felt like I experienced her session first-hand. Although Andrea and I are in the same board, she is in the west-end of the city and we don't get to see each other often. That's a shame.

 It was an excellent conference as usual - most of the sessions were similar to the ones offered in June but thanks to some additional funding, ETFO was able to provide it again for those who were not chosen to attend this past spring. Dr. Camille Rutherford was an excellent keynote (don't worry - I didn't run up and hug her - we don't know each other) and it was very affirming to hear her mention female ed-tech leaders of Ontario by name, like Zelia Tavares, Aviva Dunsiger, and Alanna King, with whom I was also familiar. These were some key tweets from the keynote and some important things to remember as we continue:

Monday, October 24, 2016

No Car

I had plenty of fodder for this week's blog post ... filming at TVO, getting sick mid-week, bringing the baby skinny pigs to school, lamenting the lost of Bitstrips and getting frustrated with the lesser replacement ... but I thought I'd write about my car.

While I was home recovering from a epic migraine that hit the day before, I decided to "use my time wisely" by taking my car in for an oil change. (I'll refrain from commenting on why I felt the need to use my sick day for more than just time to recuperate.) The engine light was on but it often lights up due to a flaw in the car's design that makes it activate when the gas cap isn't turned tightly, but I didn't think much of it. The reality was that there was indeed something wrong with my car's engine and I just didn't realize it. The car has been at the mechanic's garage since last Wednesday as they order a replacement part and fix the problem.

I could stop my blog post there and reflect on how what I thought was wrong wasn't the issue at all and that we risk ignoring signs and symptoms (in cars and children) at our peril. I could invoke the "assume" warning: when you assume, you make an a** out of "u" and "me".

I learned more, however, in the subsequent days of managing life as usual without my wheels. The experience certainly increased my empathy. On Thursday morning, I took the bus with my son and daughter part of the way - they had much further to travel. Despite having used public transit all during my university years to get to York University from south Scarborough, I found I lacked the stamina and tolerance of my youth. It was so dark! It was so crowded! It was so long and dreary!

I appreciated the kindness of my fellow staff members, who upon discovering that I temporarily had no car, offered to drive me home. Thank you Renee, and thank you Lisa - especially for carrying the skinny pig cage to my house in the back of your car!

I learned that I had to think and plan much more thoroughly before going anywhere.
Math became quite important as I turned often to my computer to investigate how much longer it would take for me to arrive at destinations I never gave much consideration to going before. Our family walked to the local library on the weekend - a 5 minute drive was a 20 minute walk one-way. Getting to my Bootcamp Fitness Centre takes 11 minutes by car and 28 minutes by bus. Going to work takes 16 minutes by car and 41 minutes by bus. Because times usually doubled, I had to leave earlier, factor in the return travel time, and earmark a longer period of time to accomplish tasks. How do people manage when they have to go grocery shopping and haul their purchases in buggies or on the bus?

Then I realized how thankless I was being. I'm fortunate to live in Toronto, where we have the TTC and most locations are accessible for just $3.25 per trip. What about other areas of Ontario without adequate public transportation? What about other areas of the world, where children have to walk for hours just to collect water or get to school?

Knowing others have it worse can be small comfort. I asked myself how this experience would change my behaviour or attitude in the future. I think I will be more grateful when my husband (who doesn't have a licence and walks or takes the bus everywhere) does errands without me. It's a bigger effort on his part and I should recognize the amount of time it takes him. I'll also offer my chauffeur services more often to him and others. I will also be less quick to judge people when they talk about the hardships of getting to places when they can only rely on others to get them there.

Monday, October 17, 2016

We Just Clicked

Have you ever met someone and it felt like you've known each other for ages, as kindred spirits?

I was corresponding pretty frequently last week with two of my favourite people, Melanie Mulcaster @the_mulc and Jennifer Brown @JennMacBrown, about some big projects and ideas when this realization hit me like a ton of bricks - I've only known them this calendar year (2016). In fact, I've only met Melanie face to face twice - at Treasure Mountain Canada and at Maker Ed Toronto. I've only met Jennifer once in person, at that same Maker Ed Toronto event in July.

Despite this brief period of time together, I have to admire and thank Melanie and Jennifer for pushing my thinking, supporting my experiments, and providing feedback in thoughtful, caring, engaged ways.

You can tell by my Twitter feed how important these two have become. This is a copy-and-paste of my notifications.

  1. After a day in bed with a wicked flu what could be better than an impromptu with & ? A win maybe?
  2. Not sure - wondered too - perhaps the Google tech held some teachers back from promoting it - learning curve maybe?
  3. I also laugh at myself say "we are doing..." - should say we are trying for the first time! LOL
  4. Oct 14
     liked some Tweets you were mentioned in
    Oct 14
    our approach as well, am also collaborating w Ts in their classes
  5. I don't have any scheduled book exchange so it offers me more flexibility with small group & whole class visits
  6. our approach as well, am also collaborating w Ts in their classes
  7. Oct 14
     liked your Tweets
    Oct 14
    . Great idea! My Jr Div kids have lobbied 4 & got MakerSpace time during Lib periods after book exchange if time

  1. we are doing the intro workshops during instructional day then "open" maker times after school
  2. I had grades 1,4,5,7,8 sign up. So 3 sessions grade 4 with another teacher, grade 1 on their own, grade 5,7,8 together
  3. same most activities will be grade 4 and up
  4. I am very new to being a Google believer but wow - I am totally hooked now! Still lots to learn!
  5. Oct 14
     liked some Tweets you were mentioned in
    Oct 14
    to not tu lol
  6. to not tu lol
  7. I sent the link to staff & they facilitated it. I want to get tu the point I just send it the kids' Google accounts.
  8. How did you do the Google forms? Kids did it in class? or when they came to the LLC?
  9. Oct 14
     liked a Tweet you were mentioned in
    Oct 14
    I used google forms for sign up & the google spreadsheet tool has saved my brain tonight for the scheduling!
  10. I used google forms for sign up & the google spreadsheet tool has saved my brain tonight for the scheduling!
  11. I don't know what I would do without you 2 when I need advice about all of this!!!! ❤️
  12. Oct 14
     liked some Tweets you were mentioned in
    Oct 14
    I plan on doing the Safety Skeletons first as per my last tweet. We can compare successes/next steps :)
  13. Have I told you that I love that you're my friends? <3
  14. I plan on doing the Safety Skeletons first as per my last tweet. We can compare successes/next steps :)
  1. Organize into groups prim/ jnr/int/. Int 1st - use as mentors and instructors 4 prim/jnr. Do over several days
  2. thoughts about the ideal way to schedule everyone?
And all of this transpired over the course of just a single day!

Jennifer has saved my bacon more than she's realized. I am the school library editorial board representative on Open Shelf, the official online publication of the Ontario Library Association. I've had trouble trying to solicit articles from school library professionals because these are typically very busy people with not a lot of time to spare to write, and we have another publication (The Teaching Librarian, OSLA's magazine) to fill with content as well. Not only has Jennifer written an article for Open Shelf, she's agreed to be a regular columnist! Look for her "It's Elementary: Adventures in School Libraries" articles to appear in late 2016. (I should also mention that her writing is impressive - it's the right mix of emotion and information, personal and professional. Open Shelf's readers are going to love it.)

Melanie is an inspiration. She created and ran a course on the TVO site Teach Ontario called "MakerSpaces on the Spot and on a Dime". I've been asked to do something similar about graphic novels. I didn't think I could do it. Melanie set the bar too high! Melanie's course is absolutely incredible, a pedagogical gold mine. She (and the fabulous Alanna King, who runs the very-popular book clubs on Teach Ontario) answered my numerous email questions patiently and reassuringly.

Both these teacher-librarians have also been incredibly helpful and supportive with my finger knitting endeavours. Melanie told me about a fabulous place to buy yarn inexpensively. Jennifer has offered to host finger knitting socials at her house. When I post photos of my work in progress, they often like, retweet or reply to them.

I feel blessed and fortunate to have met this pair of human dynamos. I'm sad that, since we are in different school boards (Peel vs Toronto), we don't have the opportunity to meet as often as I'd like. However, thanks to social media and the immediacy of texts and emails, their advice and words of encouragement are close by. I can hardly wait until the OLA Superconference when we'll be there simultaneously (with thousands of other library folks, but we'll find each other among the crowds).