Final Learning Leader Project

This year’s learning leader project was beneficial for a few reasons. First of all, it reaffirmed that what we are doing at MCHS is in the right direction. Since our first wave of teachers did the learning leader project last year, we have already been exposed to a lot of the new apps that we learned at the sessions. We are fortunate at our school to have many teachers who provided sessions at each staff meeting on what they learned. Secondly, it reinforced what I had already learned and forced me to dig deeper into each app. This allowed me to become much more comfortable with the apps so I would use them outside of school too.

Personally the favorite apps I used are Socrative, Google Docs and Google Drive. Socrative is a great tool that allows the students to put their Smartphones to use in the classroom. Kids enjoy using their phones as opposed to pen and paper. In terms of Google apps, I use them all the time because they are so good for group/collaborative projects for kids. In the past, I would have to limit who could be on the document at any time or have the kids copy and paste their work into one document as only one person could use it at a time. Those days are thankfully over. As for Google Drive, I love it. No longer can a student say they didn’t get an assignment or they forgot it was their day to present something. I have all may class work, calendars, assignments, course outlines, etc on Google Drive. They can access it at anytime and from anywhere. Parents can also be added. This alleviates the old excuses and blame that teachers get when a kid has not been doing his work.

In terms of A-ha moments, I have them all the time. I find myself finding news ways to use my iPad and the apps we learned all the time. I am often sitting at home when one hits. I will discover a new way to use on the apps for my classes. This in itself is an A-ha moment.

As for sessions, I held in my school. I held one formal session after school. It attracted about 5 teachers. At the session, I demo’d how to use Socrative to enhance Smartphone usage in the classroom. Teachers were exposed to how they could apply multiple choice and True/False questioning as a review mechanism for their class. I also demo’d how they could use the Exit evaluations and quizzes for formative and summative assessments. Last of all, I helped them get setup on Socrative so they could create their own quizzes and exit evaluations.

In the second session, I help a couple of teachers get setup and use Socrative. They were unable to come on the previous day so I did it again for them.

The impact of the sessions on the school is tough to evaluate. I know the teachers who attended are integrating Smartphones into their assessments now. I am sure word of mouth will carry it further too. As a whole, our school has taken what has been delivered from all of Learning Leaders over the past few years and integrated them into their lessons. The iPad cart gets used regularly so that is a great sign.

Overall, I am very happy with the Learning Leader program and how it continues to evolve. Teachers are sharing what they are discovering with one another.

Learning Leader Project – Final Assignment

Participating in this project has rejuvenated my teaching practises!  I am excited again about what I am doing in my classroom with my students.  I had found that I was in a bit of a rut and if I was feeling somewhat bored, my students were also likely to pick up on that.  So, when the opportunity to become involved in the Learning Leader Project came up, I am very grateful that I signed on.

I have learned so much during this project, and there is still so much more to learn. I have found several apps that have become favorites.  The first one is Evernote – I love this app for organizing the information that I have found and it gives me an easy way to access things later.  I don’t have to remember a lot of hashtags and labels, as things can go into the many “notebooks” I’ve created.  This works for me, and it makes sense to me for my style of learning and retrieving information.

I was trying to find a way to utilize an app immediately in the classroom and I discovered that Show Me does just that.  I teach Food Studies, and one of the things that is so important for my students to see are exemplars of what a good product should be (standards).  I had used my iPad to take lots of pictures of my students’ work at various stages during the cooking or baking process.  I had an “a-ha” moment, when I realized I could simply take one of these pictures and turn it into a mini lesson to illustrate what the standards for a good loaf of bread should be!  It literally took 21 seconds to do.  Now, I have big plans to turn out more of these “show me” lessons that will also be valuable to students who may have missed a demonstration that I have done in class.

I have also enjoyed using Twitter.  I found it took me awhile to get comfortable “tweeting”, but I am able to see how valuable Twitter is now for obtaining information and sharing and connecting with others.  Going back to what I said earlier about taking pictures of my students’ work, I sent out a few of these pictures through twitter, and was surprised to get several responses that connected me with other foods teachers (up to that time, my PLN consisted of no one in my area).  That led to a dialogue with a teacher in Red Deer who was struggling to fit a particular module into his program, and through Twitter, I was able to share with him what I had done.  It was a great connection, especially because most schools will only have one Foods teacher, so you really do need to have someone else to bounce ideas off of.

In my school, many teachers were part of the Learning Leader Project in 2011-12.  As a result, we have a lot of staff who are very savvy on this technology journey. I found this very helpful for me, because each of the sessions done in this project were packed with a lot of new information.  This, at times, could be somewhat overwhelming, so it was great to have others on staff that I could go to for help.  They could clarify or show me how they had used various apps and programs.  I don’t feel that I am an expert in any of this, but I have felt comfortable sharing what I have been learning, and it is encouraging to know that I am much further ahead now, than I was even a month ago, in utilizing apps, google docs and blogging.

My goal is to get my students comfortable sharing their learning.  For a group who readily shares their life on social media, they have been somewhat resistant to blog/share what they have learned.  This has surprised me, yet I know that if I am comfortable doing it, they will be too.  My hope is to create our own web page where my students consistently post their work and what they have learned as they created it.

Cheryl Jereniuk – Spruce Grove Composite High School


Helicopter Parents

As teachers, we have all come across those parents that will argue and debate every mark, assignment, and consequence for their child: helicopter parents. As a parent myself, I can see how it can easily happen. However, it is disturbing to see how this over parenting can actually harm the children they care so deeply for. It is possible for a parent to be to protective. Who would’ve ever thought that parents would call in sick for their adult children? I can’t believe that parents actually go to their child’s job interviews? As a CALM teacher, I found the article at very interesting.

Session one

Being able to bring technology into my classroom is something that I am always excited about.  After the first session my excitement grew as I knew there would be countless ways that I can have my students get immersed into technology in a school setting.  They all know about video games and what input to put the tv to in order to start playing, what I hoped to do was harness that excitement and knowledge and bring it into a classroom learning setting.  After the first session I was able to fool around with the iPad and come up with some cool ways to use it in my class getting my students into it right away.  This only confirmed that it was a great decision to join this project, to benefit my students in many different ways.

I had joined Twitter a while ago and to be honest wasn’t that taken with it.  I kind of felt it was more for letting people what you were doing.  I didn’t (and still don’t) think anyone cares that I went to the grocery store and then the gym, so I didn’t use it.  What I failed to realize is that it is a great way to communicate ideas and gather resources from other educators around the world.  After the first session I tried to put up articles that I had read and found interesting to see what other people thought, and it was awesome to get some conversation going, especially with our new report card and the article that I found denouncing the report card as a whole.  It was perfect timing.  I also posted a couple questions to the twitter world with regards to some resources I was hoping to use.  Within minutes in both cases I had an answer.  It was incredible. Even though we are all so busy with report cards, parents, sports teams, etc I know that I am going to try and utilize this tool more and more.

As for moving on and what I hope to gain from this experience, I think that I am trying to keep an open mind and roll with the punches to use a cliche.  I am interested in what there is to learn and excited to implement it into my classroom as much as possible.

Teaching in the 21st Century with a 20th Century Model

The learning leaders course is an excellent opportunity to connect with educators within Parkland School Division (PSD) and all over the globe. As a 2nd year teacher I am very excited to solidify my own teaching style. A philosophy that I hope to never lose is connecting/sharing resources, ideas and knowledge to further develop the learning of students. However, “cherry-picking” from different educators isn’t a new concept at all; in fact, I am constantly reminded that “teaching is all about recreating what has already been created.” A skill that I am learning daily.

Seth Godin explained the educational history of the western world in the 20th century in his video clip” Stop Stealing Dreams.” I have been pondering his explanation of the “industrial model of education” and can’t help to think that education needs to adjust to a model that is NOT just about efficiency, order and obedience. Now, the 21st century, skill-based projects and inquiry research projects helps move away from this 20th century teaching. However I am curious, to what extent should we move away from the 20th century model where order, efficiency, and obedience are the primary role of education? Are these skills not valued anymore?

I am sure I will develop a solid answer to this question as continue through my educational journey. Let me know what you think? @Ferzlig


Big Questions

Learning how to plug into other educators in my field across the globe on twitter connects me to some of the best professional development in the world. Not only am I broadening my professional network, I am encouraged to think of some of the ‘big questions’ that face education. The transformation that education is searching for will come from the consideration and reflection on those big questions: What is education for? Are our goals as educators the same as parents’ goals? Should they be? If we are too focused on the day-to-day teaching and managing in our classrooms, do we lose sight of what the ‘big picture’ of education is? If it does, to what extent does that take away from the value of what we are doing in the classroom? How can we balance our development as life long learners (and therefore become better teachers, in my opinion) with the fulfillment of our commitments to our day-to-day classroom obligations?

Learning and the 7 Stages of Grief

By Kathryn Kindrat – Middle School Teacher, Seba Beach School

Throughout my life I have learned so many new things, I continue to learn every day, and I am excited to continue learning… that doesn’t mean it has been easy. I recently read a Twitter post about a poetry project, made by a university student doing her practicum in Calgary. She and her cohort student teacher partner developed an incredible inquiry based poetry unit, the likes I have never seen before. In her words:

Our Grade 6 Humanities classes completed a three step writing method that culminated in a kinetic poem. Each phase required students to delve deeply into their thoughts and wonders, broaden their knowledge of poetry and powerful writing, become familiar with different computer programs and websites, and tap into their creativity.

Students documented their work using the online notebook program Evernote which was synced and shared so we could monitor progress instantaneously. We placed emphasis on the process rather than the product and assessed students by giving them formative feedback on their written reflections completed after each phase. The student’s ability to communicate their understanding and experiences was our evidence that meaningful learning took place.

To bring their poems to life, students used Keynote to create text animation. I was amazed how quickly they mastered the program and how they naturally collaborated to share their knowledge. Watching the finished products proves that richer language was used to communicate deeper messages and this makes these poems worth producing.

– University of Calgary student teacher, Lisa Nguyen 

I must note, I consider myself to be fairly current in both new technologies and teaching practices, still I was blown away. I think you will understand what I mean if you check it out. Here is a blog post that will give you a quick intro and some product examples: Poetry that Moves.  And here is the actual class website that outlines the complete process: Poetry Project.

I am ashamed to say, after the initial feeling of awe wore off, my next reaction wasn’t one of excitement; rather, I boarded a roller coaster of emotion and had one heck of a ride. Naturally, as a teacher, I buried any negativity I had, and swore not to speak of it. Then I thought about the, Obvious to You. Amazing to Others., video that we watched in our first session. I reflected on the idea that perhaps my shameful feelings, and the journey that I went on, are things that others could relate to, identify with and perhaps find comfort in, and maybe, I would feel better about the situation if I said something out loud. So here it goes.

Learning and the 7 stages of grief

Shock and Denial

As I looked over the website, the first thing that popped into my head was, yeah this is great, but… there is no way this is the work of a normal grade 6 class, they must be advanced and highly trained in the inquiry process. And I bet the unit took forever! There is no way to actually accomplish what she did while covering the rest of the curriculum objectives… and on and on. Then came the guilt came rushing in.

Pain and Guilt

I felt bad, like I wasn’t being the teacher that my students needed me to be. I had these physical pangs of guilt, thinking about how a university student is utilizing all the newest technology to its fullest potential, at the same time engaging and guiding the kids through the inquiry process. She not only facilitated some incredible learning, she documented the whole thing online, including video reflections made by the kids that actually showed their learning as it happened. UGH! I started beating myself up, thinking of how I needed to do more, be better…

After a little bit of ice cream and Jersey Shore (nothing makes you feel better about yourself than Jersey Shore), I thought about it again. That is when I got mad.

Anger and Bargaining

I thought to myself, of course she is able to do this amazing unit; that is all you have to do in your practicum! I am juggling 3 grades, with twice that in levels and adaptations, I coach, I take care of a home, I am so exhausted from all the work I do already, how can I possibly do MORE?!! I quickly realized that I was pissed off, not because this girl has it easy because that is not true, but because I care A LOT about the work I do and I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to give my students the best possible education I can. I just want to find a way to reach all of my students, deliver all of the content, create lifelong learners and maintain excellent relationships with every student. Is that too much to ask? Am I just not good enough?

Depression, Reflection and Loneliness

I was upset. I felt sad and alone, because I was sure that no other teacher would have this kind of reaction to witnessing such a powerful learning opportunity. Somewhere between berating my abilities and wallowing in self pity, I started reflecting on my own teaching practices and the things that I can do well, and realized something… I am not doing so bad.

The Upward Turn

I started thinking about some of the new technology and engaging activities that I have introduced/explored with my students, from using Animoto, Edmodo, YouTube, Glogster EDU, edublogs, to performing comedy routines, hosting critical thinking contests, participating in online debates and group poetry; the list goes on. I started thinking about what I could do, instead of the things I couldn’t.

Reconstruction and Working Through

I began brainstorming ways that I could adapt the unit and the process to fit with my kids, the context of the school and the resources available to me. I started getting excited at the possibility of introducing them to something they have never done before, not only in terms of the final product and technology, but also in the process.

Acceptance and Hope

I realized that before I could truly open my eyes and begin learning from my peer, I had to accept that learning can be uncomfortable at first, it can be downright depressing! I started to think about how it might be possible that kids go through similar emotions when tackling a difficult story, or a new math problem. Do they see other kids going through the motions easily and get mad that they are not yet at the same level? Do they feel bad about their own abilities? With support, can I help them get to that “Upward Turn”? Something clicked for me; I am not alone, learning something new, especially those big learning moments, can be hard, it is a journey, for better or for worse. Now I am at the hopeful stage. I am going to give this unit a try, I have no doubt that it will be difficult, especially the first time around, but I know we can do it.

I will leave you with this final thought, you are not alone. Cliché yes, but also true. I encourage others to talk about, not only their successes but also the journey, including all of the hills and valleys that they encountered along the way. If we tell ourselves or others that new learning should be easy, or come naturally, we are bound to give up if it isn’t or doesn’t. As twisted as it sounds, I prefer to think about learning as grieving, I know I will go through some tough moments, but if I give myself time and the benefit of the doubt, I will pull through and be stronger for it.

How does this relate to specifically to being a learning leader in the area of technology? Though the learning curve with technology is steep, being young and involved, I was naïve enough to think that nothing could scare me, but as I am learning, there is always something new – something better. We always have to be ready for that big scary plunge that takes us outside of our comfort zone, and to embrace all of the crazy feelings that are part of the package.

Prep: Learning Leader Program, Session 2

Thank you so much for your participation in the Learning Leader Sessions so far and the work that you have done in between the sessions.  Please remember that all participants are expected to write a blog post in between sessions so you have some time to do that as well.  All of the information on how to post a blog is located on the Session 1 post so please check there if you have any questions.

You will need to complete the following items before the next session:

  1. Sign up for the session that you will be attending by Friday, January 13th on this survey.  If you are unable to attend, you will need to make arrangements with me directly to ensure that that you are not missing anything.
  2. Please sign up for a Dropbox account.  Once that is done, please download the Dropbox App onto your iPad.  (Please ensure that you know your username and password when you come into the session as I am not able to obtain this information.)
  3. Sign up for a Hootsuite account if you do not already have one.  Then download the app for your iPad and use the same information to login to your account.
  4. Ensure that you have the Twitter App on your iPad.

It is beneficial that when you are creating accounts that you use a similar user name that is unique.  Not only does it help you to remember how you have signed up but it also helps to create a digital identity.  For example, I have a unique name so I sign up for most accounts as ‘gcouros’.  This helps people to identify me on these social networks and build a connection with them.

As we will only be using these apps, I invite you to bring or think of some questions that you would like to ask before the next session.  If you are willing, please submit them in the comments and I will see if I can answer them before or during the session.

Before the next session, please also take a look at the following article by Eric Sheninger entitled, “Tools to help become a tech savvy educator“.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

George Couros