Sunday, January 18, 2015

10 Good Things

Often times in education we fall into the habit, or trap, of negative dialogue. It's easy to focus on what's not working well, what needs to change, or what is wrong with the 'system' or 'school board'. I hear it often, and too have fallen into that trap at times. However, contrary to what we believe, it really doesn't help improve anything. What we end up doing is just driving ourselves mad, and allow the negative conversation to continue. Don't get me wrong, it's important to vent and have the support of peers to do so; but what if we vent more often about the great stuff happening in our classroom, school, board, or education in general? Wouldn't that do more to improve education as a whole? Wouldn't we be able to learn more? Improve our professional practice? Provide students with a more enjoyable education experience? I think so.

That's why we need more of #10goodthings; more sharing of what's going so well in our own practice. Thanks to Ve Anusic, a good friend and colleague of mine, who challenged me to reflect & share some of the good things happening in my little world over the past year; and thus contribute to the positive dialogue in education!


1. The continuous learning I am experiencing in my new role as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. Hesitant & overwhelmed at first, I am really loving this new role in supporting, learning, and working with many different schools & colleagues.

2. A couple of days this past semester I was able to work alongside George Couros - someone I consider a rockstar in education.

3. Continuously revisiting my own professional practice around assessment, and doing away with traditional evaluation practices; and loving every bit of it. Gotta thank @AssessmentGeek for that one!

4. Hit 100,000 views on a Youtube video I posted for my students. It may not be that interesting, but I don't, nor have ever, taught that many students. It made me realize the vast connections we are able to make now through new media and technology.

5. I continuously learn about 'new' tools (ie. Kahoot, Thinglink, Canva, etc.) for use in the classroom and share them with others. For one I love learning about a new tool, but more importantly I love when a colleague uses it in their classroom and comes back to tell me how much their students enjoyed using it, and the greater learning experience it has given them.

6. I have encouraged my parents to begin using Instagram, Pinterest and Wordpress, to follow their own passions, and connect with the world.

7. I miss the classroom - this is a good thing. It reminds me of how much I love teaching.

8. Twitter has been good since I began using it. But find myself liking it more and more, mainly because of a very awesome PLN that has formed through the #peel21st hashtag. I find myself constantly learning from many amazing educators.

9. I am excited by many new opportunities to learn from others, as well as share my learning. Really excited to try out making a podcast with @jimmyblackwood!

And last but not least...

10. Blogging. I wish I could do it more, but when I do, I find it very beneficial. Like this very post, it allows me to truly reflect on what I am thinking or doing.

A little note:
I began this post wondering if I could even write about 10 positive things. I am now apologizing to those experiences, relationships, and past events that I failed to mention here. It's amazing what happens when you begin reflecting - you begin to realize just how much you have done, and the people who have contributed to it! There are a lot more than 10 'things' and maybe I'll write another list soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


It's home screen says it all "Use the Force of Mind Mapping" and that's exactly what it does. There are a variety of tools available for teachers for this very purpose, and Mindomo is no different. It allows students to 'map' their content knowledge in a way that allows them to develop a deeper understanding of course content. The website/tool allows for this mapping to venture to various levels in order to do so and provides a wealth of options for students to collaborate, communicate, critically think, and create.

Here's my 5 brief thoughts (and completely initial - need to use it more):

  1. Ministry Supported - for Ontario teachers, this means that you can create free accounts for yourself and all of your students; and access all of the features it provides.
  2. Device Neutral - whether your students use iOs devices, Mac OS X, Android, Microsoft, or Linux, they can all access the tool in the same way.
  3. Posting Options - Students can post notes, multimedia, links, icons, comments, and emoticons; change the themes of the blank space; and connect ideas using lines just like they would on paper.
  4. Class Collaboration - I haven't really explored this in detail, but it allows you to set up your classes, enrol all of your students and have them connect, share, and collaborate on course mind maps. You can set up specific groups, and organize them in any way you want.
  5. Fairly Simple User Interface - like other tools such as Padlet, adding content is as easy as clicking on the blank page and adding text. Inserting visuals and other media (as mentioned previously) is also as simple as clicking and adding. However, I think it's a bit more of a tool I think that suits intermediate/secondary students, as the terminology and commands might be a bit too much for elementary.

Anyway, a pretty good tool for visualizing the connections between concepts, and developing an understanding of the relationships that exist.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Where do we start?

I've been thinking a lot about this post lately. Mainly because of my role, I am able to visit a lot of different schools; and see a lot of different environments. These environments, not unlike the physical world, shape the beings that live within it. Unfortunately, the school environment hasn't changed all that much, has it?

I see people mention it all the time on social media:

"If you take a group of teachers from 100 years ago, and place them in a school today, they wouldn't notice a difference"

It's pretty sad really, that we haven't evolved too much when it comes to the actual physical classroom. Thankfully pedagogy and technology has made up for this lack of environmental progress, but at what point will we stop and really consider addressing the actual classroom?

Walk into most secondary classrooms and you'll see the same thing - desks in rows, the teacher's desk where it's always been, the blackboard/whiteboard/screen/etc. behind them, and the focus of the class is to look to the front. I acknowledge this is not the rule, as I said before 'most' and not 'all' classrooms are this way; but it is a very common element for most schools. I also acknowledge that this setup is beneficial for some lessons, but again 'some' and not 'all'. (I would even go so far as to say 'few' instead of 'some')

With such an environment does it really matter how much technology is implemented in the classroom? Is it conducive to newer more effective pedagogy? Do students really attempt to express themselves to their fullest? Are they able to collaborate effectively? Or build on the other generally accepted 21st century skills of communication, critical thinking, and creativity?

Often I think of what the most successful organizations today look like. I think of companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. that all have very innovative workplaces - a mix of both collaborative and quiet areas, with a lot of room to truly innovate. How can we expect our students to become innovators, creators, communicators, etc. if we don't provide similar environments to do so?

And it's not just the classroom really; take a look at a staffroom. Is it a place for collaboration and innovation? Or like a classroom, is the focus on silent, individual work? How about the library - does it support learning as a 'social process'? And the rest of the school - does it allow for learning to happen anytime, anywhere?

Now I do recognize that there are a tonne of limitations that schools face, that Fortune 500 companies do not. And I also know that major construction really doesn't fall into a school's budget. But what about new schools that are built? Are we really thinking about the future in constructing these places of 21st century learning? Or do we often look to the past in building these 'new' schools?

So changing an entire school may be a difficult mission to accomplish; however, we can begin by taking small steps. In our own classrooms. Comfort & security may be too great to overcome, but it's amazing what happens when a small change takes place. Maybe it's just getting rid of the rows of student desks. Or maybe getting rid of the teacher's desk altogether. But imagine what might happen if you did?

I just think we need to start this progress; and sooner rather than later. I think we need to acknowledge the fact that improving student success doesn't just fall on pedagogy, technology, and curriculum knowledge; we need the environment to change as well. So I guess this post is really about challenging ourselves; stepping out of our comfort zones and really innovate to make a truly 21st century school.