Monday, May 23, 2011

The Long Weekend Balancing Act

As I sit here drinking my coffee on this fine Monday afternoon (long weekend), I think what a great opportunity it is for me to have the chance to catch up on all my twitter links, emails, my blog writing and comment replies. I have spent a majority of this long weekend 'off' working on school work - marking, correcting, prepping - and another big chunk of time coaching drama practices for our school drama performance which is taking place on July 8. I think many people who don't understand this profession believe that all teachers spend these long weekends just working on decks and relaxing....yes that may be true for some, and I would be a liar if  I said I didn't spend some time doing those very things, but what the majority of the public doesn't understand is that as teachers this profession really does occupy our minds every day regardless of it being a weekend or holiday.
I am guilty of being preoccupied with thoughts of school and preparing for upcoming lessons, events and sometimes it can take away from the task at hand or things relating to home life. I have blogged about balance and that is the very key to success in being a teacher. It is very true that being a teacher doesn't stop at the school doors - we go home and our mind is still at school - but we need to consciously and daily tell ourselves to be present. That is the greatest advice - be present in whatever activity it is that you are doing. This advice is transferable to all jobs, occupations and professions but truly rings home for teachers.
By no means do I expect any sort of recognition for my many hours of extra prep work, coaching, or marking and correcting of schoolwork. All a teacher would hope for is students to have that light bulb turn on at least a few times a month to show you that the work you do is not being glossed over by all of the other things that occur in a day. So here I am, working away on my long weekend and loving it! I got a few hours outside in the heat to cut the grass, work the garden for my bedding plants and began some landscaping projects. I found balance this weekend by blending my time with school and home responsibilities and hope all other teachers out there find time to enjoy their lives in all aspects while the end of the year is creeping upon us!
Take care out there and smile because summer and warm weather is just around the corner!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Simulation Activity and Critical Thinking Skills By My Students

The Simulation Background...
In History 10, we are doing a simulation activity - a mock court-case of the U.S. Government and the State of Georgia vs. the Cherokee Indians. I love doing these sorts of activities with my students because it gets them to be really creative in their wording and thinking.

The Task...which is the hard part for students...
They need to come up with a minimum of 4 good arguments to present to the jury in a variety of ways - such as through witness testimony, charts or speeches. I had the class read all the information sheets for both sides (Plaintiff and Defendant) in order for them to understand the arguments and reasons from both perspectives. I think it is important that students take a view from both sides of the table because not every situation is black/white - many times a situation is various shades of grey. The information is typically one-sided and more favorable to one party, but this is the point where students have to actually use their creative and critical thinking skills. Students tend to dislike any activity that involves them to "think about it", where the answer is not right in front of them. There are always those few students who love this sort of thing but it definitely is not the majority of students I teach!

Here they are...hard at work...

And In The End...
The end of the activity involves students discussing the outcome after the jury has returned a verdict based on the information presented. The historical facts behind the case is given to them prior to the mock case but the outcome of the factual/historical case is kept secret from them until the end of the activity where I will read it out to them and we will discuss the impact and significance the case had for the Native Americans and the Government. Knowing that we are Canadians and the court-case was American-based, the students understand that many of these land claim issues were a problem in Canada as well and we plan to cover the history of Canadian First Nations land claim rights, through our learning of Treaty Education in the classroom - which is a very valuable and interesting addition to our history classes.

Oh how times never really change...
I had a teacher once who always told us - "It's time to put your thinking hat on!" I have adapted that in my classroom and if you ask my students what I always say, they would tell you it is "It's time to put your critical thinking cap on!" - The wheels turn on different paths but the motions are the same....gotta love teachers and education!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

iT Summit 2011 Day TWO reflections

Now that iT Summit is all done for the year, I get this sad feeling. I was so elated to see so many great teacher minds in one room and I truly could feel the innovative vibes floating in the air - or in the clicking of computer keys!

Michael Wesch's presentations on remixing our society and schools was really interesting to listen to - I really enjoyed the psychology connections to what he was saying. I have been teaching Psych 20 / 30 for the last two years now and I really found myself understanding those broad and deep topics he touched on - especially the self image implications of using technology. It is super interesting to promote those questions to students to hear what they would have to say about how technology affects their self-image and self-awareness - or would they even know what I am talking about and just text their friends how crazy their teacher was becoming!?!

Obviously winning a new iPod Touch rocked - thanks to my mad skills at website development and understanding ALL programs - HAHAHA just kidding!! No but seriously, I have gotten a lot of ideas from each session I attended. I just wish there were more hours in the day to be able to attend ALL the sessions I wanted to! I would've loved to have seen Shelley Wright's presentation, and I am sorry I never got a chance to attend and support Ryan Hackl, Micheal Hagel, and Mavis Hoffman or Morag Riddell in their sessions! I know it takes a lot of strength to get up in front of your peers and speak about your experiences so kudos to every teacher who presented their struggles and successes with technology. I admire you.
The Cool Tools Duel (Tuel) was very funny and interesting - I have some cool things to check out!

It was an honor to sit beside Kathy Cassidy in the SMART Response session - it is kinda funny when you read about people's stories and realize that you have been following their work in some way or another (blog, twitter, website, books, etc.) and all of the sudden there they are, sitting next to you! It's silly I guess that I don't just introduce myself and tell them what I think but it's intimidating - I'm sure these people like Dean Shareski, Alec Curous, Will Richardson, and many others are all down to earth and would just laugh at me thinking that way but you just feel a bit star-struck. In the small world of teaching - especially in Saskatchewan - it is awesome to be able to attend a conference and sit next to people who inspire you to be better every day in your job. I look at what these people try and do in their classrooms and I get excited to teach. I love this job!

Final thoughts? I wish there were TWO iT Summits a year and I wish I could attend both each year! No seriously, I had a wonderful time meeting up with former colleagues, laughing with friends, being inspired to try a bunch of new things (ipods in classrooms?!), and I will see you there next year!!! Cheers to technology!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tips for using an iTouch in your classroom - Notes from iT Summit Breakout Session

iTouch in Classrooms:
These points and ideas are taken from  (Joanna Sanders Bobiash) a teacher in Regina, SK. Thanks for sharing your journey and innovation Joanna!

Sonic Pics
-digital storytelling

iPro Recorder
-fluency and comprehension
-observation notes

Google Earth / Star Walk

Literacy and Numeracy Games

Calculator- and other tools
-ex: translator

E Clicker Response System - instead of a SMART Response clicker

Google Forms - and other Google apps

-no copy and paste
-can email responses directly
-access links

Q R Codes - lots of possibilities
- - QR Code generator
-- Could be used for learning stations, and a variety of other strategies

- number your ipods
- develop a sign-out system
- give ipod an email address
- sync ipods to ONE computer only
- update apps from the computer NOT the ipod itself
- organize your apps in groupings
- designate a helper to organize your supplies (earphones, cords, pods, etc.)
- eBay to buy accessories for cheaper than at stores

M. Wesch - Remixed Schools - Notes from presentation

Notes from Michael Wesch's Remixed Schools Keynote - iT Summit 2011, May 10th

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...: "Cool Tools Duo by Dean Shareski , Alec Couros , Hall Davidson (Discovery Education) Who is the winner of the tool duo? Poll Everywhere: b..."
Post borrowed from Joanna Sanders-Bobiash @!

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...

My Adventures in Educational Technology: IT Summit 2011 Cool Tools Duo/Trio/Mash-Up by Dean...: "Cool Tools Duo by Dean Shareski , Alec Couros , Hall Davidson (Discovery Education) Who is the winner of the tool duo? Poll Everywhere: b..."
Post borrowed from Joanna Sanders-Bobiash @!

SMART Response - Assessment Clickers - Notes from iT Summit Presentation

The session on SMART Response systems - which was all about assessment clickers in the classroom. It is supposed to help you assess both summative and formative items. See notes - I tried to make them as detailed as possible to help all levels of teachers:

Crowdsourcing and Collaboration - M. Wesch May 10, 2011 - Google Docs

Crowdsourcing and Collaboration - M. Wesch May 10, 2011 - Google Docs:
Some good stuff here to check out - very interesting ideas

Monday, May 09, 2011

iT Summit 2011 Day one reflections

It is day one of two of the iT Summit 2011 in Saskatoon, SK and I am already feeling the buzz and excitement from participants (myself included). Every year that I attend this conference, this being my fourth year, I always walk out feeling ready to try something new. Not everything will be easily implemented or be simple to figure out even from my end, but I don't seem to feel as defeated coming out of sessions as I have at other conventions or conferences. I think that many teachers want to try new things and we realize that everyone here is attending for the same sorts of reasons, whether it be to learn new things, revamp what they already do, or just start from the beginning. Not every teacher that attends a technology in education themed conference is going to be at the same level - we, just as our students, are all at different levels of ability and comfort. That's the beauty of it all.

When I walked in this morning I ran into Mavis, who is a teacher I worked with on a technology committee called iSITS in Living Sky division 3 years ago now. It was fantastic to see her and I loved how she hook my arm and led me to the promise land of a table full of other LSKY teachers that I haven't seen since last iT Summit. I love the networking, visiting and collaborating and idea-swapping that goes along with this conference. I see my Horizon school division PLN often enough that it is exciting to branch out across Saskatchewan and see other colleagues to share experiences with. I get to attend some of the most interesting sessions and listen to some really great keynote presenters but the best part to me really is just connecting with other teachers in Saskatchewan who are doing so many cool things in their classrooms - or have some great ideas they are working on.

I saw a presentation today about using handheld devices in the classroom - I will get some notes and ideas up when I get more time - but I really walked out of there inspired. Honestly, I cannot say that about every presentation attended during any conference but today I did. There are a lot of innovative things teachers even close to home are doing that I want to try. Oh just give me time. 

A former principal once told me - "if I can at least get one solid thing out of a conference or convention - I call it a success" - I a point. The really exciting thing is that a technology in education conference such as this one, makes me come out with many solid ideas and points to take home. I can't wait to get started. 

See you tomorrow all and I will update whenever I can! I am excited to see Alex Couros and Dean Shareski's Cool Tool Duel tomorrow, and am thinking there will be a bunch of things to try after - can't wait.

Magic Moodle - May 9th -iT Summit 2011 - Notes...

Magic Moodle - iT Summit 2011
Presenter: Chantal Ounsworth
Notes from the presentation from May 9th