Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reflections on the School Year That Was

Last year I was on sabbatical so it was the first time in 38 years I have not been in a classroom. This year saw a few changes in my workload, as well as picking up some of the courses I have previously taught. I enjoyed the year out of the classroom - first one in 37 years or so, but I also enjoyed being back. I also think this year proved once again that a person should be always learning, and reflecting on that learning. I have always told my students (aspiring teachers) that as a former Principal, if a teacher thinks they know all there is to know - I would not want them on my staff.

In Fall I taught my first graduate level course - Intro to Curriculum, not only that but it was online as well. I held biweekly zoom classes and Moodle in between. This was a big learning experience on many levels. I had students from 4 different countries and from across Manitoba. We had great discussions about curriculum and how it plays out in various jurisdictions. I am sure I learned as much as the students. I also will make adjustments in future grad courses from what I learned about delivery. One new thing I tried was to have the final major assignment an ignite style presentation (along with an annotated bibliography), the result was fantastic and the students agreed that they enjoyed them. I will continue to embrace different ways of presenting learning - and will include writing as part of it, but not all ;-)

Taken (by me) in July 2016 at Emerald Lake,
Yoho National Park,B.C.
In my B.Ed. courses (they were all ed tech courses) I continued to make use of blogs, as usual there was mixed reaction, but what was interesting was that some of the students giving push back, relented in their summary post and admitted the value - some even enjoyed doing them and vowed to continue the practice. I was considering giving more choice with alternatives to the blog, but I am now thinking of keeping the assignment but adding suggestions for posts for those who struggle with that. I also want to find ways to help students dig deeper in their posts and make it truly reflective. Some offer summaries of what we did - I want them to dig into topics of interest and how they may/have impacted their thinking about teaching/learning. Being reflective and thinking about practice is - to me - important in being a good teacher who grows and continues to learn, somehow I want to promote that, I think I model that - 38 years as an educator and I by no means profess to know it all and am always on the lookout for new ideas. One thing I can do better is take more time to read and write!

Another major assignment I use in my ed tech course is building (starting to) an eportfolio. I go over the why and give ideas for the how - we usually brainstorm what should be on it and I use example s(with permission) from previous years. Again I had some push back on this assignment form some, most of my students find it a useful exercise and something they can build on and use. The process also gives them some hands on creating a web site. I have been thinking though, that I should do some research and survey admin in the province to see to what extend these are useful artifacts, and what types of information they suggest is most useful for seeking employment.

One thing I do want to be sure to employ is more choice - I am a believer in giving choice
, but I want to allow more in a few major assignments ... but mostly I want to encourage and model deep and critical thinking about the use of ed tech.

One final thing, a few weeks ago I was fortunate to hear Yong Zhao speak in Winnipeg. While I am not sure his idea of entrepreneurship is the be all and end all, I really enjoyed his message and way of thinking. He is an interesting speaker and provides good evidence and prompts thinking. If you have not read his work, I encourage you to do so. While I have read and used his work before, I bought a few more of his books and am reading one now. I like his analogy of standardized testing, and standards in general - how educators are 'sausage makers' and despite all the talk and work about differences and embracing passions, we test to see how the sausages came out by comparing them to a standard. At one point, he answered a question about PISA and other standardized tests saying they might have some good aspects, but overall are destructive!

A break, some research work - and then back to planning these changes for next years' courses!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Educational Technology in Manitoba - a FREE eBook

Late last year my colleague, Dr. Rennie Redekopp (University of Manitoba) and released a new free eBook we edited title Education and Technology: Manitoba Action and Reflection. This book consists of 15 chapters written by Manitoba Educators. The book is divided into 4 parts: Current Trends and Issues, Connecting and Sharing , Stories of Personal Transformation, and Where Do We Go From Here?

The book was an idea I had over a year ago and Rennie agreed to help out. The chapters paint an exciting portrait of educational technology use in Manitoba schools. The editors hope that it can act to inspire others to implement educational technology in thoughtful and meaningful ways.

You can get the book here:
on the ManACE web site as a pdf, or in the iBook store. (It is also available on Kindle store - but you have to pay for it there!)

Download and enjoy!!

Thursday, July 7, 2016


This year, CSSE (Canadian Society for the Study of Education) conference was held just 'down the highway' in Calgary at the end of May, beginning of June. I was fortunate to have two proposals accepted, I was unfortunate because I had to cancel at the last minute. The faculty of education at BU was well represented with several colleagues attending and presenting, a few graduate students were also presenting. By all accounts it was a great time. Last year in Ottawa was my first CSSE conference, and it was very enjoyable. One of the presentations was with a colleague and was the initial findings of our case study of a rural 1:1 school. I thank my colleague and research partner, Dr. J. Kirk, for doing the presentation (we did put plan it out and prepare it together). My other presentation was a roundtable (I went to a few last year and enjoy them - more of a discussion than a paper presentation is) about a multiple case study of social media use in a rural high school, unfortunately it had to be cancelled. With all that said, I am pleased to post the slides for the presentation and the handout I had prepared for my roundtable. For the handout I decided to use piktochart and experiment with a  more visual approach.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Riding the Wave of Change (conference)

Last week (May 5-6) was the annual Riding the Wave conference in Gimli, MB. This conference is sponsored by MAETL (Manitoba Association of Educational Technology Leaders) and ManACE (Manitoba Association for Computing Educators) and is meant for K-12 educators and IT folks and is, of course, related to technology use in schools. I don't usually present at this conference - it is great to just go, relax, and take in sessions - and this year, I almost decided to not go and attend a one day research seminar at my institution (it sounded really relevant and interesting), in the end I decided to go to RTW. It was a great decision, I do try to stay in touch and I work closely with K-12 school personnel, I want my teacher ed courses to remain relevant, and I like to work with the field. The decision to attend was certainly not a mistake.

Sphero maze!
The keynote was given by the inspiring Kathy Cassidy (@kathycassidy) from Moose Jaw. I use her book Connected from the Start as a text in my EY ICT in Ed course - the students always love it! Her message was all about new literacies - multi-literacies in today's digital world. The importance of visual (including video) literacy. An inspiring presentation. It was good to chat with her again for  a few minutes.

Sphero Chariots!
The other sessions I attended were about coding and maker spaces - something I want to add into my ICT in Ed courses next year when I return from sabbatical (sadly almost over!). I played with spheros and lego and learned some great tips and ideas. These sessions were by Tara (@msmclauchlan) and Joan (@jbadger), from St. James Assiniboia SD and Diana Rendina (@DianaLRedina - a visitor from Tampa - her slides are here). I also attended a great session by Shannon McLintock Miller (@shannonmmiller from Denver) who presented powerful stories about student voice. A great reminder about the purpose of our efforts, and a topic that I value (see my Hybrid Pedagogy article on student empowerment).

A slide from Shannon McLintock Miller's Presentation
That evening, we held a sweltering (the AC was broken!) list of 15 fantastic Ignite presentations sponsored by ManACE. Photos of the event can be seen on the ManACE instagram account - what an evening of inspiring stories, all of the spotlight speakers volunteered to present - and the evening finished with the conference keynote, Kath Cassidy, giving another great presentation. The plan is to put up the audio of the presentations via ManACE.

Darren's "The Fourth Screen"

The next day, I attended 2 sessions before I had to head off. Both addressed the important topic of digital citizenship, although with very different approaches. My friend Darren (@dkuropatwa) presented powerful stories for teaching digital citizenship - he included asides explaining his approach - which is very positive - and showed us many resources. I hope to have Darren come to my institution to present to faculty and students alike. The next session was by another friend, Dr. Rennie Redekopp (@rredekopp), Rennie took a more critical approach - that to be citizens we need to consider issues such as the environment, sustainability, energy use, and manufacturing in relation to digital products (see his links here). Together, these approaches offered important resources and food for thought for thinking and operating in a digital world.

All in all, it was a very good conference - so many good sessions to choose from, I know I missed some other great ones. I learned much and gathered up ideas/resources to incorporate into my own courses for aspiring teachers. It also provided an opportunity to connect with friends and to meet new ones.

One final note, a shoutout to the amazing Andy McKiel (@amckiel) - who, as a member of MAETL and ManACE, does incredible work behind the scenes in putting on events in Manitoba for educators!

Gimli Beach
Gimli Pier

Gimli Pier