Tuesday, May 08, 2012

iT Summit 2012 - My Notes; Go Ahead, Use It!

iT Summit Conference 2012 Saskatoon, Sk
May 7th, 2012

Keynote Address
The Power of Networks: Why it Matters to Education 
Alec Couros
My Notes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/12i690Hn1eltdnI5StTFANmGzF9vRaMIjjCocHGPdRt0/edit

Breakout Session
Classroom Instruction and Technology: Tools to Support Research-Based Strategies
L. Forrest, D. Benko
Teaching With Technology - Website for teachers, looking at teaching strategies and tools to help support classrooms with technology integration

Breakout Session
Welcome to the Inquiry, Flipped, Tech-Embedded Classroom
Shelley Wright
My Notes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XRIck6fqCGHUgLqKoGGiXP1rwzFW75pFbTuwhBVpgjY/edit
Very inspirational!
wright.shelley@ prairiesouth.ca

Breakout Session 
Breaking Down Walls: Collaboration Across the Planet
Lori Zbaraschuk
https://mp.srsd119.ca/ITSummit/Collaboration - view her powerpoint here!

May 8th, 2012

Breakout Session
SMART Notebook 11
Trish Shynkaruk and Jason Orbaugh
My Notes: Including a lot of the new features that are coming out in Notebook 11 - AWESOME!!!

Breakout Session In The Zone: Using Technology to Differentiate
W. James, C. Walter, J. Byershttp://schools.spsd.sk.ca/curriculum/techyteacher -Find the PPT here!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why are you interested in technology? Why am I?!

I sit here wondering how exactly it is that I came to be so interested in technology. I never really used to be when I was in high school or growing up, besides the odd fun game on our old computer at the farm like Oregon Trail or Simfarm. Boy do those games ever bring back memories! When I was in elementary/middle years, we had DOS and learned very basic programming (not sure I remember much of that now!), and it wasn't until I was in upper high school that we got "new" computers that dealt with some other formatting and basic MS Word. I caught on quite quickly and continued advancing in technology as my years went on. 

I had to do a lot more work on computers in University as I went through the College of Education at the UofS, and with a major in PAA (Industrial Arts) and a minor in ELA, it became a part of my everyday life. Whether it was in IA with drafting in AutoCAD, machining programs, or writing essays and creating projects and presentations in my ELA courses,  I was always using a computer for some form of technology. I guess you could say I just sort of got better at it as I got older and I continued to work on programs more and more. I would never have said that my life was always filled with top-notch technology and opportunities, but that my perseverance and dedication to doing well (and sometimes the 'easy way') with computers, helped me see the proverbial 'light' about technology in education. 

Now I have a laptop , a projector, speakers,and a SMARTboard I cannot live without, and soon to be a classroom set of iPads that I am sure I won't be about to live without as well. Maybe it doesn't matter how I came to be where I am, but the more interesting question or discussion to have would be why I am where I am in terms of technology. Education is a living organism. I truly believe that. It is CONSTANTLY changing, as long as those teachers who really care about the meaning of education take the time to stay up to date. Whether it be the curriculum that guides the content, to the far reaches of teaching styles and content delivery. Teachers have a wide-ranging job, more than a lot of other professions in my opinion. In saying that, it is also our job to try to stay on top of some trends and innovative teaching, which typically means with TECHNOLOGY! I must say that if I needed to pinpoint why my teaching style involves a lot of technology I guess I could say it is because of the students and their need for inspiration, engagement and advancement, but I might by lying if I said that was the only reason. Ultimately, with all these extra things put on teachers plates today, I use technology (and am interested in it), because it makes my job a whole lot EASIER! 
What about you? Comment and let's talk. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Little Miss Higgins records new song at school!

The students and staff of my school had the opportunity to be part of a great and unique experience when Jolene Higgins of the band Little Miss Higgins, came to the school on Thursday, March 15th to record their new song! Setting up a home-made recording studio in a classroom, and along with a local recording engineering student Lisa Bart as recording engineer, Jolene and her helpers created an environment that was ready for some fantastic singing! The students and staff took part in the singing of the chorus and Lisa says she was able to get a lot of great recorded takes from the session. There were also a number of student soloists helping out Little Miss Higgins with the song, as well as our principal! A great time was had by everyone in the school and it was exciting for the students to get to see and hear the sneak peek of the new song, as well as allowing them the chance to be part of the recording of a new tune by Little Miss Higgins! How cool is that? Next up...video creation!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Texting/tweeting/facebook during meals?

Whether it is texting, tweeting, facebooking, or any other social media usage on your phone, there may be a time and place for it, but it sure isn't at the dinner table! 
I read an interesting article that talked about how Generation Y is changing social norms when it comes to using  your cell phone at the dinner table. I have a problem with this when it really is a problem. You see I don't exactly have a problem with once in a while checking your phone if there is something important you're waiting to hear about or something but to have it sitting in your lap or in hands at all times at the dinner table is a whole other issue. A lot of times it seems these social media and technology is taking over our lives and controlling us, instead of us controlling it. This article stated that:
"Today, a study from The Hartman Group tells a much different story: around 29 per cent of respondents admitted to having used a social networking site while dining. If you zero in on Millennials (aka Generation Y), the scales tip even further. Nearly half of those polled said they’d used a phone, tablet, or laptop during a meal."
I have been on plenty of dinners with people, and I can tell you for certain that yes people sure do text during meals. I even told them to put their phone away at one point. Not all students, or adults for that matter however did text during the meal but had it out right before and right after sitting down. What can be so important that within 10 minutes as a teenager, you've received something of such critical importance that you needed to check your phone? The likely answer is absolutely nothing! Even as adults we are really guilty of not being good models to children about technology. This always just leads to a larger conversation but maybe that will be another post...
Oh I've heard them all, "My mom/dad/sister/brother is texting me!", "I just need to check this one thing...", "It's not my fault someone is texting me!", "I will only be one second..." and on and on.....blah blah blah blah blah. It seems as though young people do not get the social graces any more, such as how it may feel to that person sitting across from you when you whip out your phone when they're talking to you, or you're talking to them! I sure don't feel needed/wanted/appreciated when that happens to me!
Not only Generation Y....
I guess I need to admit that although this article focuses on Generation Y, the truth is that it is not only young people or teenagers who commit this error in judgement, the cell phones also lies in the hands of adults. Modelling is very important and especially in front of your own children. If you are a parent who brings the cell phone to the supper table and uses it constantly then you're likely the root of the problem here. The other issue comes from parents not only modelling but also from not standing up and saying something to their kids when they are doing it. Tell them no! Take the phone away. Make a statement and commitment that cell phones are best left elsewhere!
It used to be just taking a phone call during supper but this trend has now progressed into actually texting during meals and this just goes to show how face-to-face interactions are less and less important to people. The rudeness factor just jumped 3 fold!
Want a neat solution?
Some people are coming up with creative and unique ways to punish those who bring their phones out during meals.
The Phone Stack Game:"
Sick of people texting and talking on their cellphone during get-togethers at restaurants? A new game discourages such behaviour and can potentially cost the loser a lot of money."

The basic idea of the game is that you stack your phones on the table (you don't really have to stack it), and it starts right when you order your food. Once the food is ordered, you can not check your phone throughout the whole meal until everyone has paid and you're ready to leave. In this version by the kid who invented it, you pay for the whole meal (everyone's meal including your own) if you pick up your phone before the meal is done. 
There can be a few adaptations, as this sync blog article goes on to describe such as:
"adopt this game at home if gadgets at the dinner table are an issue. Rather than needing to pay for the meal, the loser needs to do the dishes or some other undesirable chore."

This is maybe something to look into if you find yourself, or your company you choose to keep, having trouble staying off facebook, twitter or texting your friends during a meal. The consequences may be severe but probably worth it in the end. 

What are your thoughts on all this?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What is a Leap Year? A great video to show students...

Ever wonder what a leap year really is? I am teaching Social Studies 9 this year and our first unit is called Time. We learn about the Julian and Gregorian calendar, along with solstice and equinox, we dive into the world of time and how it came to be. The one thing that really interested the students though was the concept of leap year. I explained it, we read about it, we discussed it but here is a great learning tool....a youtube video that explains the concept really well. Simple language, use of drawings to help reinforce, and a fun approach equals a video of great instructional quality. I showed this to all my grade 9-12's today and I was actually a bit surprised by those who didn't really know about it fully or understand it before the video. Cheers to day 366 and Happy Leap Year Day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Crunch Time vs. Quality Time

I know this is a bit late but I wanted to come back to this post I started (and obviously became too busy to finish) at the end of January. The points remain valid to teachers so I thought I would share a food for thought that was floating around in my busy brain this year...

Teachers need to talk about this...
It is nearing the end of semester one and I am about 2 more weeks away from exams, and a switch to a new semester. During this time of year (every year it seems), I find myself wondering if I should be crunching all that undone material to my students or choosing a few key pieces and focusing on them more thoroughly. Seems to me that even veteran teachers come across this problem, and it doesn't just lie with new-10yr teachers. I think I find that a bit more comforting in that maybe I'm not doing such a terrible job and that possibly in reflecting like I am here on this post, that I am actually doing the right thing. It is the dialogue that needs to happen, talking about these sorts of concerns and then finding a bit of a common practice.

What do I do? What have I done in the past?
Hmmm.....Well for starters, I think this year finds me in a further behind spot than I have been in the past 5 years at this time in these courses. Possibly due to a number of factors that include new curriculum, student engagement issues (i.e. lots of boys in an ELA class who dislike ELA), spending more time on certain things than I did last year, and also I can not forget that some of this lies with me (the teacher). I am not naive enough to say that it isn't at all my fault that we are in this pickle, but that is not to say that I can control my whole learning environment and make students read, comprehend, or work faster because I want them to either. I can't even count on two hands, the number of classes that were taken away from me for things other than curriculum or education (in the traditional sense). We have missed lots and although this is a concern in and of itself, it leads me to the next question....

Crunch vs. Quality? End of Semester Concerns
Choose some of those really key pieces that need to be taught and focus your attention and time there with quality, or push through the rest of the curriculum pieces and hope for it to hit as many kids as possible....hmmm...concerns that are really trumping great education. The push from many different places makes delivering quality education difficult or at least more challenging than it ever used to be, creates unique learning environments when the end of semester is looming in the near future. I am not sure what anyone's real 'rule of thumb' is on this question, and it probably has a lot of factors that make this a not-straight-forward situation or example. How many kids, what age, which subject, what grade level, the kids themselves (attitude), your attitude, your experience, your administration, etc. can all affect how the students will respond to either you pushing forth crunch time or savouring the quality on a few pieces. Either way, whatever you choose in your situation, I vote that the teacher always makes the best possibly decision for their students, their class and for their own comfort level. Go for it, and don't let what other teachers decide affect your classroom and your own unique students because only the teacher knows best in this situation. 

The Super Book of Web Tools

This comprehensive tool-kit gives great web 2.0 learning and teaching resources to use with your students. It is separated according to elementary, middle years and high school grade levels, so this resource is really user-friendly and gives great descriptions of the tools.
Check it out, share it and use it!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Student Song-writing Experience with Little Miss Higgins

Today we had a visit from the band Little Miss Higgins, who actually live in the community where I teach. Click on the song title if you want to hear a few of their songs such as "Bargain Shop Panties" or "Middle of Nowhere". They were here today sharing with us the song that was inspired and partially created by the students from my school! Jolene Higgins from Little Miss Higgins came out in December to work with the students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 about song-writing. She spent some time talking about her creative process and how she and her partner and guitar player Foy Taylor (David Mark), write songs. She wanted to write a song about the school and include the perspectives of the students themselves, so when she came to work with the kids we all were very excited. 

Jolene gave the students 5 prompts, a few of them being 'what did you learn in school this week' and 'what is your favorite thing about the school' - they were told to just write down the first thing that came into their heads because that means the most to them and not to worry about sounding 'good' or being 'right'. It was the ultimate in free-writing because the students were making a connection to their lives without even realizing it! Jolene compiled all of the answers from all of the students in the school and took them with here to start her journey of writing this song. 

She came to us explaining that she was done writing the song and that almost all of the lyrics (with exception of making it flow), were from the students' responses in the song-writing exercise. Jolene and David, along with Irv Fines on bass (another local musician, member of the party band Men Without Shame) and one of our own grade 11 students Cory Bart on drums, performed the song for the staff and students today in the gymnasium. In addition to just performing the song, Little Miss Higgins also had the students get involved and we all helped sing the chorus along with her. Her idea is to maybe use some of the process we did today with some students in the music recording and also in the video creation later on! How cool is that?!? I hope to get at least one of the videos put up here for you to see in the near future so stay tuned!

The kids were so inspired and excited to be part of such an amazing team of fun musicians. Thank you for sharing your talents with our future!