Monday, 20 January 2014

We Asked and They Answered: Canadian Olympians Rule!

Have I mentioned lately that I love Twitter? If not, I absolutely love the power of Twitter and the connecting that occurs with it! Twitter continues to provide awesome connections for my grade 3 students including our new adventure with Olympians.

Do you ever experience that "Wow, did that just happen?" moment? My students and I did today! But before I share it, I should give the background information: this weekend I was planning an Olympic unit for my grade 3 class and was wanting to connect with some Canadian Olympians on twitter to ask questions to about being Olympians. The Canadian Olympic Team on twitter told me that on www.olympic.ca you can see which athletes are on Twitter and to ask them directly if they would answer our questions. So off I went to see which athletes were on twitter and tweeted the more active ones to see if they would be willing to answer a few questions from my class. I thought maybe one or two would respond since they would be busy getting ready for the Olympics after all. I was way off in my prediction as within twenty-four hours I had received responses from fifteen Canadian Olympian athletes!

I wanted to easily find the tweets for when we started our Olympic research so I came up with the hashtag #olympianchat and off we went. Today we tweeted out to Chandra Crawford (@ChandraCrawford) and James McNaughton (@McNaughtonJames). Chandra Crawford won gold in the 2006 Olympics and James McNaughton will be competing in his first Olympics. Both Chandra and James answered all of the questions shortly after we tweeted them which wasn't expected since they are busy getting ready for the Olympics. They even addressed the students, who had tweeted them, with their names. It made their day to have a tweet addressed to them. Their effort to respond and do so with enthusiasm blew me way and caused the "wow did this just happen?" moment. It was a moment that my students will remember for a long time. When they see the athletes competing they will feel a connection. Chandra and James were just the start of our #olympianchat athletes with many more to come all week long! Thank you to Chandra and James for replying today and to all other Canadian Olympians who said they would reply to our tweets this week. I appreciate the power and positive effect that your simple and quick act will have for my students. We will be cheering loudly for Chandra and James as well as all of the other Canadian athletes we connect with.

Many people from my PLN have tweeted me about this project and said how interesting it is, so my advice is jump in with your students. All that can happen is they reply with interested like fifteen or so did to my tweets or they don't reply because they are busy getting ready for the Olympics. So go for gold and see what you can get!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

C-The New Letter in Our Town

In my classroom we have moved past the 3 Rs and on to a new educational letter. We're all about the 3 Cs. My students are; connecting, collaborating, and creating. Of course, we still; write, read, and do math but using the three Cs. This year, it hasn't been a complete day unless we have done at least one of the 3 Cs. Our journey with the 3 Cs has been a exciting one that must be shared.

Last year, my 3 Cs journey began with myself personally becoming more connected (through Twitter). Soon this jumped over to my classroom as we study different communities so connecting to other classes in North America and around the world fit nicely. Being connected in our classroom means we use Social Media to interact and learn with students around the world. We tweet our learning with our twitter buddies from classes in North America and the world. Our tweet topics include; what we are learning in class, questions about topics we are learning about,  books we are reading including our Global Read Aloud novel and many more. We comment on other class blogs and receive comments from students in other classes. This year we started using Instagram to share our learning and have received comments and questions on our pictures.

Connecting:

Dana Ariss was one of the first people I connected with on Twitter and it has led to our classes connecting on various topics. We have recently between tweeting up a storm with the Dana Ariss's (@danaariss) class, the @gr34bears, about the book we are both reading. This wonderful book is called Wendell the World's Worst Wizard by J.C. Spencer. Both Dana and I discovered this book because we were both following one of the authors of the book-John Spencer. John (@edrethink) was promoting his book on twitter and we both fell in love with the book. We both started reading it to our classes at the same time and starting connecting with tweets on it. Our connecting with the book could have stopped there but it didn't. John and his co-author (his wife) created a twitter account for the main character in the book (@wendellwizard). They are doing an awesome job answer the questions and comments we tweet to Wendell. Last week we even had a twitter chat with the @gr34bears and @wendellwizard. It was fun for all parties involved! Before Christmas break, John even Skyped with my class to answer our questions about writing the book. It was the best Skype session I've had my class participate in. All of these connections have, also, led to awesome creating.

Creating:

This year we have been creating awesome writing pieces and projects related to our read alouds. The
creativeness of John Spencer and Wendell from his chapter book have inspired us to be even more creative with our Wizard Spells and our spoof of  "What Does the Fox Say?" by Ylvis. Without twitter and these connections my students would not have had the chance to do these awesome projects. Our creating around Wendell the World's Worst Wizard led to the final C, collaboration, with the @gr34bears.

Collaborating:

This past month we have started collaborating beyond the classroom level. My students are now not just collaborating in classroom based groups but are collaborating with Dana's class to come up with a design using the items that Wendell found on his trips to the DUMP (see Wendell the World's Worst Wizard by J.C. Spencer for more information on the DUMP). Our students used google docs to come up with a plan together as well as Skyped to make final decisions.February brings a few new collaborations with the @gr34bears. We are both studying countries as part of our social studies and so we decided to join forces for more fun and creative collaborating. Our students are partnered up to use a google doc to research a given country.  For some reason, when we were planning this project I was reminded of the TV show "Where in the World Carmen San Diego?" and thought it would be neat to use google docs and have our classes re-write the song based on the countries we are studying. My other idea was to have students work with their other class partner to come up with questions about their country and include them in our "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" live game show in a Skype session. Dana willingly agreed to jump into this adventure and we both can't wait for the research to begin. We have more collaborations planned for later on. I hope, for as long as we are both teaching similar grade levels, that we continue to have our students collaborate and learn together.

The 3 Cs in our classroom have brought learning to a new level. I can't imagine our room without them. What is the new letter in your classroom? I hope it's C or something inspiring!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Craving Teacher Feedback

I think that I am craving teacher feedback. I didn't realize it until the other day when I was planning a research unit with a more experienced educator and she told me that I was doing amazing things.  It was most likely the first feedback other than “great art work on your bulletin board” that I had received from a more experienced educator since I had my last evaluation over 3 years ago. We, as teachers, give continuous feedback to our students but most teachers or administrators don't seem to give it to one another as much. I know that I am doing a good job with my students using technology and creativity to teach them, help them learn, and inspire them but, just like my students love getting comments on their blogs, I'd like to hear that I’m doing a good job or even what I could do better.

Don't get me wrong, I receive many thank yous when helping others out in their classroom with technology projects or activities but it isn't the same as hearing feedback about what you are doing in your own classroom. As a newer teacher I feel like I would benefit from feedback from my more experienced colleagues.  These first ten years or so are our crucial years in developing as a teacher and although I know I am doing a fine job  feedback is important in developing as a teacher. Our experienced educators have knowledge and insight that I may not have thought of especially a few years ago when my teaching evaluations stopped. I find myself turning to the newest teacher, who started teaching the year I stopped receiving feedback, to share my ideas and thoughts. We collaborate and share while, also, providing feedback in the form of; "I love that idea. How do did you do that?" or sometimes this colleague will ask "I am having trouble with this ... or do you have any ideas for this__?" and I'll do the same as well. This is the kind of feedback and discussion that I yearn for from experienced educators as although the conversations I have with this newer teacher are insightful, more feedback from others is always great. So thank you to the more experienced teacher that made my day by simply telling me I was doing amazing things.

I do, also, get feedback from my online colleagues on the projects I am organizing or on ideas I share. I must thank Dana Ariss (@danariss) for providing me with much needed feedback. She keeps me going and motivated. Dana, you are a role model and inspiration. Please keep on giving feedback and I will keep on providing it in return!

Feedback is crucial in student learning so I think in return it should be more prevalent amongst all educators. Even a simple "Oh I love that art project your students did. How did they do it?" provides some feedback. Perhaps, at lunch times and recess I need to start sharing what we are in doing in my classroom to get things rolling.  Maybe this will facilitate more feedback and discussion on what we are doing in our classrooms. This in turn could perhaps lead to how we could develop stronger team-work and collaboration in order to continue our positive climate and safe environment for all students and staff. I need some advice and tips or should I say feedback from my online colleagues, if you don’t mind. How do members of my PLN share feedback with your colleagues? How do you collaborate with your colleagues? How do you facilitate these discussions for sharing feedback in your work environments? What can I do to help create a sharing environment with my colleagues? Any other advice?

Thank you to the colleague who let me know that I was doing a good job. It may have just been a simple statement to you but to me the feedback made my day and got me thinking about teacher feedback. Both you and Dana have helped satisfy my craving for feedback and encouraged me to seek advice and feedback from my online colleagues.

Feedback, anyone?



Friday, 27 December 2013

The Power of Twitter Chat and My Journey to Starting #mbedchat


When I first starting using Twitter, I didn't join Twitter chats. This was not because I didn't understand them but because I found them too fast moving to get information out of them. Fortunately, I quickly realized the power of these Twitter chats. These chats give us a chance to connect with other educators who might share the same interests or views as us and also those who may not. I soon found that connecting with educators during Twitter chats allows me to share my passion for technology in the classroom as well as my views on education. It allows me to share my voice without rejection. I now have a voice that is heard. I can share my thoughts without a fear of complaints about my views on education that are not the traditional views. It is a way for me to feel less isolated up here in northern Manitoba.


The first Twitter chat I joined was #edchat shortly followed by a few #3rdchat discussions. These chats allowed me to connect with colleagues all over the world and at my grade level but they were missing one thing, they were created by American teachers so not all discussions were applicable. In April 2013 #cdnedchat jumped onto the scene and that problem was solved as there was now somewhere to connect with like mind-teachers that lived in the same country. People from other countries still join the conversations but the topics are all relevant to all Canadian teachers regardless of where you teach. BC (British Columbia) Edchat was founded this summer by some teachers in BC. It is a great chat that focuses on topics that most teachers can relate to but has some topics specifically related to education in British Columbia. This, of course, got me thinking about a Manitoba Edchat. I was connecting with other teachers and feeling less isolated but I still didn't have a group of people I could chat to about was going on specifically in education in Manitoba. We had our new province wide report cards coming up in November and teachers up here in Thompson were unsure about them and #cdnedchat couldn't weigh in. In September, I decided that it was time to take a leap and Tweeted out the possibility. Soon Manitoba educators were interested and I quickly had a co-founder. Tanis Thiessen (@tjthiessen) started helping me with the technical logistics and we were off and ready for a start up at the end of October. Georgette Nairn (@georgettenairn) joined us a co-moderator. These past two months of #mbedchat have been a great experience. I've connected with many like-minded Manitoba Educators and can't wait to start the chat up again after break.


Twitter chats and especially #mbedchat continue to give me the push to fulfil and pursue my passions in education. Thank you to all in my Twitter PLN. You make me a better educator.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Sunshine Blog

I've been enjoying the sunshine blog posts by people in my PLN. I found myself being tagged by two amazing people-Dana Ariss and Tanis Thiessen! Unfortunately, that means most bloggers I know and follow have been tagged already so I am going to share 11 things about myself and answering both sets of questions. I won't tag anyone but will invite people who haven't been nominated yet to jump on board. So if you are reading this and haven't been nominated yet, then tag your it and consider this your nomination. Just answer my questions and list 11 bloggers to answer your questions.
Here is how it works:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.
  6. Note: I won't be doing number 4.
My Nominating Bloggers
My first nominating blogger is the amazing Dana Ariss. We “met” on Twitter last school year and we've been connecting our classes ever since. I am so glad to have met Dana as she has helped my technology passion survive in a place where it is hard to thrive. I will always be grateful for her willingness to join me and my class on our crazy wild adventures in learning! Thanks Dana.
My second nominating blogger is Tanis Thiessen. I first "met" Tanis in September when I started tweeting out the idea for a Manitoba Edchat. Tanis was more than eager to help with the start of up what is now #mbedchat. Thank you for being an inspiration and for your dedication to #mbedchat.
11 Random Facts About Me
1. My three passions are teaching, travelling, and technology. I am the most happy when using technology to teach and when travelling in my time off.
2. I’m an introvert. Sometimes people mistake me for being a snob but, I just truly don't like big crowds and I am shy.
3. I love trying food from different countries. 
4. I have only every had three jobs. 1. KFC-Tacobell worker 2. Cashier at Sobeys. 3. Primary teacher at the same school since I started teaching right out of university. 
5. I love taking pictures on my trips but, I am not a good photographer.
6. Twitter has helped me keep my passion for teaching alive.
7. I love Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte. 
8. I am half Canadian and half Australian.
9. I love travelling to big cities but I could never live in one.
10. My favourite band and artists are always changing. I am currently loving: Imagine Dragons, Capital Cities, Justin Timberlake and Serena Ryder.
11. I hate hot weather which can cause trouble when travelling in Europe during the summer.
11 Questions For Me From Dana
1. Why teaching?
Until I was in grade 3 I wanted to be a teacher but then I had a bad experience with my grade 3 teacher that deterred me from wanting to teach for awhile. Although before wanting to be a teacher again I still wanted to work with teachers. My father, a retired teacher, inspired me to want to be a teacher again.
2. Who or what is your  greatest inspiration?
My father is my greatest inspiration. He taught a program called Student Support Program. When I was in grade 10 he became depressed due to the stress of his job and never fully returned to teaching. Later on, I asked him despite the stress that his job caused if he would do the same thing all over again. He didn't think for more than a second before saying yes. To me that showed a love and dedication to what he did. I have a friend who teaches something similar to what he did and despite their "war" stories of the job it was obvious the passion that they both had. This passion helps me survive when I am stressed out.
3. What is one new thing you have tried this year?
I started using Google Apps for Education to further the connections my students are making.
4. What would your ideal day look like?
My ideal day would be a day spent with friends or by myself exploring wherever I was travelling and then curling up with a good book at night time.
5. Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?
I think my favourite teacher would have to be Mr. Bartlette who I had for grade 9 and 10 English. His passion for his job was quite evident.
6. If you could live anywhere in the world other than where you currently live, where would it be?
I really don't know as I love travelling exploring European cities but I don't like big places for long. Maybe London?
7.  What is something you are looking forward to in 2014?
I am looking for new connections and further travels in 2014.
8.  Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I am more of an early bird than a night owl.
9.  What is your favourite band or music artist?
I always seem to have a new favourite but probably right now it is a tie between Capital Cities and Imagine Dragons.
10. Why Twitter?
Twitter has allowed me to make connections with like minded educators like my frequent collaborator and the person who nominated me-Dana.
11. Mac or PC? Android or iPhone?
I am currently a PC  girl but looking into a Macbook Air. Phone wise I have an iPhone.
11 Questions For Me From Tanis
1. First memory of school?
Sadly, it is the one that turned me off of wanting to teach for awhile. In grade 3 I was in a class that wasn't the best behaved. I was one of the few well-behaved students and I got frustrated with my teacher being so strict and always being mad.

2. One thing to keep about current education system?
I think the move to be creative and critical thinkers is something we need to keep and push further forward.

3. One thing to change about current education system?
I think we need to move away from the need for testing (provincial/state testing).

4. Favourite site or app?
Kidblog.org is the best site/app.

5. Student who shifted your thinking?
Not really sure I have one other than a few students that shined when blogging and pushed me to advocate it more.

6. Leader who shifted your thinking?

I think a principal at another school  in my district has influenced me to continue with my passion and the way I think as a teacher.
7. Coffee, tea, or water?
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.
8. Retirement dream?
To travel the world.
9. Next year dream?
School-Use more AR
Personal-Travel more
10. Why blog?
To share my thoughts and views on education.
11. New year resolution?
To continue to share and make online contributions.
11 Questions For Whoever Wants to Share:
1. What is your ideal job in the education field?
2. Why did you choose to become a teacher?
3. What is your favourite subject to teach and why?
4. Why is being a connected educator important?
5. Favourite snack-chips or chocolate?
6. What is your favourite movie and why?
7. What is the best place you've visited?
8. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
9. What is your all time favourite book?
10. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could take three items, what three would you take?
11. Which educational leader(s) inspire you and why?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Creativity in the Classroom



Every year I set technology goals to implement in my classroom and for my own professional growth. This year, two of those goals are to blog professionally, and to have my students express their creativity in many ways. 

Last Friday, I had the chance to hear Dean Shareski speak at my SAGE (Special Area Groups of Educators) conference at Manitoba's province wide PD day. Dean's amazing session on 5 Minute Creativity got the wheels turning in my head for simple ways to have creativity in the classroom in easy but thought provoking ways. It also made me realize that creativity doesn't just have to be arts related and that I was already giving my students chances to be creative with the videos we create and the point of view blogs we write amongst other projects. I decided that I wanted to focus on quick creativity activities using technology in achieving my goal as then we could be creative more frequently.

I decided to take Dean's idea of the what if videos , where people complete the sentence "what if everyone" and you make it into a video, and combine it with something my students use on a regular basis. I thought it would be interesting to create a what if blog and then get responses from around the world. My students each contributed their own what if to our class what if blog and I tweeted out our blog link asking for the world to join in by commenting back to us about their what if. 

We received a comment from Dean Shareski himself and comments from across North America, Australia, UAE, and the Netherlands. My students loved seeing how people around the world were looking at and sharing in their creativity. Quite a few teachers even commented on our blog and on Twitter about how neat this project is. 

 Here is the link to the what if blog if you wish to contribute: What if

I was all set to move on from this project when I thought; what if I switched it up and we drew our favourite what ifs out and wrote them out to share with our global audience. We decided that we would pick our favourite one, draw it, write about it, video record ourselves (on iPod touches) sharing what would happen, and then use Aurasma with them. The plan is to use the art as a trigger and then have our video-recorded explanation of the what if scenario as the overlay. We will be starting them this week and and they will be displayed on our bulletin board for student led conferences. I can't wait for the parents to see how creative we can be!

Through this what if project I learned how easy and quick creativity can be. Dean has inspired me to continue to try new quick creativity activities. Our quick creativity journey will continue after student led conferences with 6 Word Stories to share who we are with our blogging and tweeting buddies. Stay tuned for our creativity updates.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Why Can't I Blog?

I want to blog, trust me I do. I did blog a few posts but I just can't seem to keep doing it. I don't know why I can't seem to bring myself to write and publish blog posts. I am a huge advocate of students blogging in the classroom. In fact, my students blog at least three times a week. I just can't bring myself to do it. I've been trying to figure out what is holding me back since I have thoughts to share. Is it a fear of people thinking my thoughts are crazy? Is that I know I am not the greatest writer (grammar and structure wise)? Is it a fear that because I am not a great writer people will be put off by my blog or make fun of it?  Is it a fear that nobody will read it?

After pondering about it for a long time, I've started to realize that it is a fear of failure holding me back. As a classroom teacher, I try and make sure my students try new things and aren't afraid of these experiences but, yet my fear of failure is holding me back from something that I know I can do. I need to remove my fear barrier and share my thoughts through my blog. I am going to need some help from you though. Can you please help me out by giving me some tips or thoughts? Go easy on me and don't laugh. Thank you.