Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Writing Prompts and Moodle Forums

The last couple of weeks I have spent time at Teepee Creek school working with their Grade 5/6 Language Arts teacher.  We knew we wanted to do a writing assignment, that students could see each others work and reflect on it.

We picked 3 websites to use as writing prompts. 
For each of the writing prompts we created a forum.

Inside each forum was a simple set of instruction for how to get to the writing prompt, how to hand in the assignment and some feedback prompts. 

This was a great way for students to start sharing their work, reflect and respond to others in a password protected environment.  Next up...blogging!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

MPTCA - My Sessions

All About Blogging - This was my first ever my double session.  While I enjoyed having longer than 75 minutes, 3 hours was just too long! 
Who is that?  And what is he eating?
We spent a good 2 hours establishing why teachers and students should blog, setting up an RSS reader

and subscribing to blogs.  We then tried out three blogging platforms (Posterous, KidBlogs, Blogger) and then set up our own.  No wonder everyone was exhausted!  Feel free to check out the session here and play around with some of the blogging platforms.  There are instructions, usernames and passwords to try each platform out. 

Technology Integration for Social Studies Div 3ish - This was my second double session and I think I had better pacing for this one!  The best part of this session, my junior high social teacher Mr. Yas attended!  My theme was Create, Collaborate and Critically Think.  However with what was happening in Japan, we went a little off course (teachable moment) as I showed my #japan twitter stream, Al Jazeera English and The Boston Picture as alternative ways to get current events.  The majority of the session you can find here.  I think I started off strong with creating a fake Facebook page and different ways to use audio.  We deviated slightly off course here and there, taking a looking at The Week in Rap and National Geographic Typical Person video.  I think that teachers walked away with some new ideas and had a fair amount of time to play with them.

All in all a most excellent teachers' convention!

What I learned at MPTCA

It was a good one!  Managed to attend 8 of 8 sessions, although my stomach didn't appreciate it, my brain did!

Rick Wormeli (@rickwormeli) I attend his opening and closing keynotes.  It was great way to start the conference with a few laughs and great reminders to take back to the classroom. Some things that I will take back from the opening session:

Teachers do not play fair, students need to know the target to be able to hit it.  Why are tests kept secret?

Deviating from the path, sometimes produces the best results.

Because I said so = eat your spinach assignment!

And remember this about Rick...

During the closing keynote, who could forget the Sound of Music clip!  What an awesome way to explain differentiation.  Make sure that you follow Rick on Twitter and check out YouTube, he has tons of great clips, like this one.

Vanessa and the SMART session!
SMART Board in Humanities was next on my hit list, facilitated by twitter friend Vanessa Cassie.  She was fabulous, as usual, and even though I had to skip out early she gave the group these two fabulous ideas:

  1. Hiding the text bubble in a political cartoon, allowing students to brainstorm what would be there and then erasing to reveal.  I created my own here for those that are interested in trying it out and learning how to create their own.
  2. Using dice to create a story prompt.  Using the image and text dice and have dice representing character, setting and object.  Allow student to role to create their own writing prompt.  Again you can see my example here to try out!

Nicole Moodling!
Intro to Moodle was facilitated by Nicole Gilles and attended by all three Grande Prairie Districts!  It will be so awesome to have a common language and to be able to easily share and collaborate.  You can find all the session information here.

What I loved about using Twitter, again, is that I have my notes from each session! See the #mptca twitter search here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mystery Podcasts

Adding music.
Quick share of a great lesson done at Teepee Creek school with a Grade 5/6 class.   Since Audacity is supported software in our district, I had it pushed to the lab in preparation for this lesson.  Here is what we did:

1)  Podcasting Moodle Page - had all students start here, that way they have a list of resources, how tos and audio files, to refer back to.  As well I have linked the Audacity download if students wanted to use this at home.

2) Quick Demo - I did a quick demo of recording, saving and importing audio from a website, deleting and moving audio clips around. 
Reading from a script,

Reading from typed script
3) The assignment - you are doing a report from a crime scene.  Make sure to introduce yourself, add some music and describe the scene in detail.

Then we set them loose.  Look at some of their  creations!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How did you learn that?

I get asked frequently how I obtained my computer skills and a passion for integrating technology and learning.

This is not something that I was taught in high school, I am not a part of the digital native generation (if there even is one?!?).  In high school we had a computer lab that was used for typing.  At home we had a computer that we used for word processing and playing Dig Dug.

While attending the University of Lethbridge I got my first glimpse of the Internet.  I used it for nothing more than email and those very basic chat rooms.

This was also the time when Darcy and I bought our first computer, for gaming!

It wasn't until I attended the University of Alberta that I truly had a computer experience.  To graduate with a B. Ed you had to pass a computer class that met the ICT outcomes for Grade 6.  Basically use Excel formulas and create a multi-linked web page.  Still nothing that was horribly exciting!

In my last summer session I took a elective around technology integration and math.  It was this course and the instructor, Barb Brown who I have recently reconnected with via Twitter, that made me realize the power of technology for student engagement, project based learning and generally making my life easier.  Although not required, I created an online digital portfolio of my projects. This included things like Math Jeopardy, Webquest and web pages with links.

Learned shared by klmontgomery Creative Commons
I learned very quickly that I did not like being up at the front of the classroom.  That students doing and creating was far more effective than listening and sitting and that technology was just one of the tools that I had in my arsenal to make this happen.

When I started working at Peace Wapiti, 2001, my classroom had an old Mac computer, teachers could have email address if they requested them and the entire staff shared 2 PC's in the staffroom to do report cards on. So, I moved the LCD projector into my classroom, booked the computer lab every chance I got and worked with what I had.  My first technology forays included mostly using the Microsoft Office for students to create Power Points, brochures and word processing.  Every once in awhile we fought the dial up Internet to try something online, at least until we were asked by the office to get off because they had something to do.

Just when I thought I was starting to get my techno-groove and handle classroom management effectively, I had babies.  Two in a row and I felt like I was away from the classroom for a decade as things had changed so quickly.  My home computers were used for this.

Screen time at a very, very early age!
When I returned from my maternity leave it seemed like the whole world had changed.  PWSD had Moodle, whatever that was, there were all these online tools and my Microsoft Office activities were just not cutting it anymore.  However, I persevered because I could see the engagement and excitement in my students and how teaching was just easier this way.  I was more than willing to work late into the night for this, not so much for report cards!

He will hate this picture!
Through it all I had a little something extra and I reminded of Malcolm Gladwell's book The Outliers.  In it he examines factors that contribute to success.  The first half of the book he talks about opportunity, in my case I had the opportunity to work with technology that worked.  I have live in tech support who patiently walks me through things again and again and again, keeps things running and out of my hands if I don't need to know and is my sounding board and inquisitor who challenges me to keep learning.

In the end it comes down to an inspiring teacher, tons of support and doing what is right for students that continues to keep me passionate about learning.

What's Up? (March 7-11)

Thanks to everyone that has been Tweeting, Facebooking and following along at this blog.  I really appreciate the comments and the feedback. 

Here is what my week looks like:

Monday/Tuesday - Teepee Creek Technology Project days. 

Tuesday evening - Peace Wapiti Academy Parent Council Presentation.

Wednesday - AM at PWA working with staff on their flexibility course.  PM Networked Educational Leader session with Sandy McDonald

Thursday - All About Blogging 12:10-3pm in the PWA Computer lab.

Friday - Intro to Moodle 9-10:15 with Nicole Gilles in CP 85, I will be the trusty assistant.  Technology Integration in Social Studies Div 3 10:35-1:25 in the PWA Computer lab.

Some items to check out....

Have a fabulous week and I hope to see everyone Thursday or Friday at Teachers' Convention!

I totally stole this idea from George Couros and his staffroom blog.

Using a Pensieve in a Junior High Literacy Classroom

This is the second in a series looking inside a balanced literacy junior high classroom.  Part 1, on Word Work, can be found here.  In these videos Jenny will explain how she uses a pensieve for herself, her students and for assessment.  You can find the complete video on YouTube here

Special thanks to literacy coordinators Jenny McAusland and Rowena Stewart for spearheading this project!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

#daily5 Chat

This was the 3rd #daily5 chat that I have participated in.  The first in September and the second in October, and I know this fine group has met in between.  Here is the full Elluminate Recording for February 27th.

The first thing I  love about these chats is that if gives me, a non-literacy teacher, a chance to hear what is going on in teacher's classrooms so that I can have a better idea of how to support them. There are so many great ideas discussed, along with what worked and didn't work. 

The second part that I love is I get to meet some fabulous new teachers.  This chat was Sunday at 9 pm our time, many of us in the north west were getting ready for bed.  Then we had two teachers join us from down under!  They were just finishing their school day and heading home for supper.  I now have 5 new twitter friends added to my Personal Learning Network.

Thanks again for including me in your chat!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Travelling with Technology

An upcoming blogging hiatus will be brought to you by....

A family vacation!  However even on vacation, we travel with and use technology...

1) Computer, we take only one, my Dell Studio.  If you are PWSD teacher we have a computer agreement with Dell when purchasing a computer.  We take the computer to download our camera pictures on, watch movies, connect to the hotel wireless and so someone in my family can play WOW.  If you are thinking about purchasing a computer and want some help, just ask

2) Camera : we have a Nikon D5000 DSLR which I am in desperate need of a photography course on.  Shooting just on automatic and with the standard lens I can capture the kids no matter how fast they are running.

3) iPhone, I *heart* my iPhone and since data is crazy expensive out of Canada, I opt to just work off wireless at hotels or ones I find waundering around. My phone is my number one tech tool while on vacation.  I used:

Awesome Note (Free or $3.99 for unlimited)
I used the Travel Diary to keep a daily account of what we did.  I also made sure to take a couple of pictures each day with my phone camera so that I could attach them to the journal. 

Posterous (Free but set up on a computer before you leave) Posterous is blogging, dead simple.  I would send the travel diary, above, to a Posterous email address that I have set up before I left.  The travel diary was then posted to my blog.  Dead simple.  You can take a look at our 3 weeks in Holland here.

Compass (Free) because data was so expensive I had to rely on public wireless, which meant Google Maps was usually out of the question.  A paper map and my phone compass usually had us going in the right direction in no time!

Scrabble App ($2.99) totally worth a few dollars to occupy yourself (and up to 4 players) in a Scrabble game.

Alarm Clock (Free) You have to be up on time!

4) Kids iPods - will be loaded with a couple of movies and TV shows for the flight and then app.  iWrite Words (Free/$2.99), Angry Birds (Free/$0.99) and all sorts of crazy stuff.

What do you like to travel with?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

High School Flexibility Project

The high school flexibility project is an Alberta Education initiative designed to removed the 25 hours of face to face time required per course credit and allow high schools more flexibility in their course delivery. Peace Wapiti Academy is part of this project and invited me to sit on a day of discussions.

My involvement with the Flex plan at PWA is to help teachers get more of their course digitalized and up into Moodle.  Students then have access to their work anytime and anyplace.  PWA is working on the anypace portion with their iPlan block and a number of other initiatives, Josie and Debbie are the experts.

For the day groups were divided into subject areas, Math and PE, Science, Social and English, Admin and finally CTS.  I joined the CTS group.  Schools from Spruce Grove, Lethbridge Catholic, Calgary Catholic, Apsen View and Grande Prairie Public were present.  We started the day sharing what flex looks like in each school, and it looks different in each school.  Some alternate days, 60 min blocks followed by 90 minutes blocks, others have PLT (Personal Learning Time) twice a month where students choose where they need to work and still others have mandatory cohort groups with flexible scheduling.  Schools ran quarters to allow students 5 entry points a year for a course, including summer school, and others ran full year courses of PE, CALM and CTS.  Lunch hours became extensions of learning time as e-learning centers are established in schools.  Many schools have shortened the number of minutes in each block and added an extra block to the day.  This extra block allows students to explore classes that they would not normally have time for.  One school is exploring having a class scheduled from 4-6 pm, as they were having trouble getting students to school early in the morning but students were always hanging around after school.  For every school it came down to giving more opportunities for students to direct and manage their own learning.

There have been and continue to be challenges.  Helping students to self direct learning has been difficult.  If you require attendance, is it flexible?  One school uses a pyramid model where by certain grades trigger more guidance.  It you have 85% in Math, you get choice, 70% you have a guidance councillor, 50% and you must go to the Math block.  Another challenge was technology, sometimes getting technology to recognize this more flexible structure, of students coming and going, has been problematic.  Finally our group discussed how do you support teachers in this journey, since many teachers teach they way they were taught, this change has been revolutionary.  Time for teachers to observe one another, share best practices and work collaboratively seemed to be the models that have been yielding the best results.

CTS by the curriculum module structure, employs flexible entry and assessment points already, so this was not something new to this group.  Many CTS modules are self directed and paced, so the flexibility project lends itself to this subject area.  They are not tied to grade 12 diplomas exams or minimum hours. I think this tweet sums it up