Archive for September, 2014

If you’re of the same vintage as me you may remember this classic junior novel by the beloved, Judy Blume. In the story, Margaret is faced with the daunting task of completing a year-long project for her enthusiastic grade 6 teacher. As someone with no religious affiliation, Margaret undertakes to explore her spirituality by investigating religions in her community. Hoping for divine intervention, she struggles to find her way to some kind of spiritual clarity not to mention a final project for her teacher. Despite her efforts (and her learning), Margaret hands in a sorry one page letter in an attempt to demonstrate her findings…(sorry for the spoiler;)

I’m pretty sure my semester-long major digital project won’t end that bleakly but I sure could use some divine intervention!!

I’m 2/3rds of the way through a self-paced gamification MOOC and stalling…like ‘pull off the highway onto a side road, park the car and have a picnic’ kind of stalling! EEP!

The plan was to learn about how to engage my primary students through game-based learning (not necessarily the video variety), iPad technology, and other forms of play. I found a few appropriate MOOCs and got started hoping a MOOC would provide some structure and definition. I worked through the first two modules, blogged about my beginnings and carried on to module 3 & 4. I watched all the videos, took notes, did the ungraded homework (just check my notes, I dare ya!) , and completed the computer assessed quizzes. And with two modules to go, here I stall…

1. Is it the self-paced issue? (I need deadlines!)

2. Is it that the content is not moving in the direction I want to go quickly enough? (Lots of theory which I appreciate and a few concrete applications I can use but…not enough to combat #3)

3. Is it that as a teacher new to my primary grade position I have other more pressing needs? (like classroom management strategies, unit planning and resource creation…in spades! not to mention pursuing school-wide technology goals)

…I have also been preoccupied with reflecting on our rhizomatic learning chat, keeping up with everyone’s posts (I’m discovering I need to pick my battles here!), and wondering if I shouldn’t jump ship (“Man, over-MOOC!”) and develop a classroom blog instead to kill two birds with one stone so to speak!

And so, the picnic is done, metaphors sufficiently mixed and I’m back in the car still waiting for the way to become clear.

Perhaps I just need to have a little faith;)


Typically making things harder than they need to be,


*This ‘fluffy’ post is brought to you by yet another sleepless night!



I’ve spent almost a week waiting for my subconscious to work out this blog post! While I was excited about the nature of rhizomatic learning, I was bogged down by the realities of the day to day in my teaching world. How can I marry the good pedagogy of rhizomatic learning with the demands of the classroom? Though at first I avoided reading my classmates reflections on this concept wanting to add my own thoughts, I was glad that when I broke down and read them it really put it all in perspective. Thank you ECI 831 colleagues! I submit my thoughts into the fray! 

Picture via

Last week my Social Media & Open Ed class had a lively chat session with Dave Cormier about rhizomatic learning, a kind of interconnected, messy learning process based on the outgrowth of connected (or stunted) paths between a community of learners. Fascinating. As an educated adult, this process echoes how I learn what I need to know professionally and personally. Though I prefer a structured approach (for the accountability factor;) I do ultimately decide as the learner what I want to learn and how I will go about doing it.

As exciting (and distracting!) as our conversation was, my mind was spinning wondering how this fits in with the assessment/accountability focused climate of our public education systems today. It seems we have these wonderful leaders and researchers telling us what’s great for children and learning while the institution that is ‘formal education’ hampers accessibility to this experience for our students (or at least impedes the path with a myriad of obstacles.)

Is rhizomatic learning just a new name for inquiry based learning? Kind of but less restrictive I think. I’m trying to imagine how my young primary students will choose what they want to learn (all 22 of them) then go and learn it with my support. A motivating way to learn basic skills (literacy, numeracy, etc)? Definitely, but are they equipped for that much independence? From my vantage point, no, not yet though I am really excited about Sugata Mitra’s conclusions from experiments with children learning independently with computers in remote places in the world and his concept of Self Organized Learning Environments. An exciting future for education!

Mitra says that teachers should “salute learning” and allow for learning for pleasure rather than from ‘threat’.

If you allow for self-organization learning emerges. It’s not about making learning happen, it’s about letting it happen, starting the process then standing back and watching in awe!”

Here’s what SOLE might look like in the classroom starting with some BIG QUESTIONS…

Perhaps our conversation just didn’t lead down that path of HOW to develop this rhizomatic process with our young students who are not yet independent readers. In my mind THAT is the necessary foundation of any inquiry process (aside from physical observation). Even in the video above the students are clearly able to read and search online on their own.

I guess like the concept itself, getting to rhizomatic learning with our young students is a winding system of prior learning, prerequisite skills, experience and connecting them to information they need. Providing a model and guided learning is key before expecting they can go it alone. And, before we can implement community as classroom (as Dave Cormier’s rhizomatic ideas suggest) we first need to forge our classroom community.

All of the different avenues we are learning in class should help us to form stronger communities and networks.”  from Kenna Nelson’s blog post Community as Curriculum.

So, can we really do both – engage our students to learn all of the prescribed outcomes while allowing them the freedom to learn what and how they want? It’s an amazing teacher who can motivate students in this direction. For me, it’s another step in my rhizomatic learning process. Models wanted.


My first experience with a presentation that allowed for an online backchannel was at a division-wide inservice a few years ago. A hundred or so teachers were crowded into a banquet room and our presenters were asking for anonymous feedback via text to an on-screen backchannel. At the time I was not so text savy nor was I comfortable with having my texts go live to the feed. The presenters had an agenda to follow but were very also focused on addressing the content (not all of it polite!) in the backchannel, a near impossible task. Though I applauded the division for working hard to incorporate current technology I didn’t find the experience terribly satisfying.


This year our division did a twitter hub (a twub?) to incorporate backchannel feedback from teachers across the entire division though we were all at our separate schools. This seemed to work better facility-wise and I think it made it easier for the presenters to focus on their ‘studio audience.’ They took time to go back and address some of the tweets that came across the backchannel at a few points during the presentation. The focus was clearly on the presentation content, rather than the technology, and I found it to be a more valuable experience barring the plethara of retweets and comments that simply reiterated ones already made. It was difficult to sift through all the extras to find the substance while attempting to keep up with the main presentation.


Which brings me to my current experience with Blackboard connect…

Presently I am taking a class that uses Blackboard connect for our weekly online discussions. It’s a great way to connect us with each other and with experts in the field we are studying. It saves travel and time, not to mention parking fees, and I appreciate that my time commitment is condensed. The medium gives us the opportunity to have interactive discussions where the moderator or presenter can get immediate feedback on questions posed. It’s also a great way for everyone to jump in and have their say. However, I found our last class to be extremely distracting and somewhat discouraging in that there were two (or more) conversations happening in addition to the actual presentation and I just couldn’t keep up. As someone who doesn’t like to miss anything I was frustrated and seemed to miss a lot!

I used to think I was a good multi-tasker but have come to understand that you can really only give your attention to ONE thing at a time…can’t you? Though you may have a number of things on the go you direct your attention to each one in turn (or back and forth as the case often is!) So, I am trying to reconcile the cognitive dissonance I am experiencing here. Can I be a diligent student by participating in the backchannel chat while simultaneously keep up with the guest speakers? OR does backchanneling simply promote bad manners?!? (Guilty!)

I guess I’m just old school but I’d be most grateful if you can help me reconcile my backchannel blues.



I’m about a third of the way into the Gamification MOOC offered by online learning so I thought I’d stop to share my first impressions.


So far the content is hitting what I am hoping to learn, that is, the nature of using games in education. I am impressed by the inclusion of the theory behind the inclusion of games and am continually thinking about how to apply these concepts to my teaching practice with my primary students.


The video avatar and voice simulation seem a little cheesy for my taste but tolerable given I am learning. The content seems well sequenced and supported and though it seems very ‘home-grown’, it does seem reputable. The fact that it outlines the limitations of games along with its uses adds to that credibility.

I’m not really excited about the example games it provides to illustrate the concepts. Though the subject matter is of interest, the internet research quests aren’t really that appealing to me. I am hoping that the next module provides examples of a different nature that can be applied more directly to my teaching situation. My hope isn’t to learn how to create computer games for my students but rather learn how to create engaging, manipulative games that aren’t necessarily dependent on their technological skills.

Technical Component

So far the logistics of signing up, creating a profile and getting started have been seamless. At times I am uncertain what link I should be working on next so that has caused a little confusion. It was a little frustrating to have to go back to the introductory link to navigate the course but I’ve since discovered the system and have smoothed out that process.

It seems this MOOC initially was a timed course (rather than a self-directed one) so the discussion comments are dated and it’s difficult to tell who is taking it currently (without searching for that info.) I do plan to take the time to scroll down through some of the question comments to get that full experience of learning from others who have experienced the same course. At the same time, I appreciate the fact that I can go ahead or stop where it’s convenient for me.

On to module 3!


I would like to learn how to engage primary students through the use of games, technology and infusing other forms of play like song and movement.


– Participate in the Gamification MOOC

– Take the iPads in the classroom MOOC

– gather online information on how-to

– gather resources from online (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

– seek out appropriate twitter chat feeds and websites

– search teacher blogs and class websites

Journal Reflections

– I intend to document my reflections through the use of different apps incorporating text, images, audio, video, etc.!

Rick Schweir, retired Edtech professor, gave my Social Media & Open Education class a snapshot of the history of education technology, from the days of the first printing press to today’s plethora of digital choices. In our discussion he spoke about David Brook’s TedTalk, “The Social Animal” wherein Brooks speaks about the ‘revolution of consciousness’ that is upon us. Here’s my summary and reflections on that TedTalk.

“People learn from people they love.”

A powerful sentiment for educators to take in. It’s the reason we teachers get into the business of teaching in the first place, isn’t it? How refreshing to hear that, according to Antonio Damasio’s research, emotion is the foundation of reason. Based on this new wave of thought, Brooks declares…

“We’re developing a revolution in consciousness, a new view of human nature, a new humanism, a new enchantment.”

Here are 3 key insights he shares about this revolution and my interpretations:

1) “Consciousness writes the autobiography …while the unconscious mind does most of the work.” In other words, going with your gut is legitimate, valuable, and probably right.

2)Emotions are at the center of our thinking.”  He refers to Antonio Damasio’s work in stating “emotions aren’t separate from reason but they are the foundation of reason because they tell us what to value. So reading and educating your emotions is one of the central activities of wisdom. As an arts teacher I love when research supports the tremendous benefits of self-expression that are so integral to the arts.

3) “We are not primarily self contained individuals, we are social animals not rational. We emerge out of relationships and are deeply interpenetrated with one another. We re-enaact what we see through others.” What a powerful image. Nothing happens without relationships first and things are stunted without them.

While reason is often weak, sentiments are strong and trustworthy correcting the “dehumanizing bias.”

What does this mean for how we value Human capital?

Brooks shares 6 unquantifiable gifts humans possess:

1) Mindsight – We “download models” or “hoover up knowledge” from those around us. Another poignant thought for teachers.

2) Equal Poise – We have the ability to read biases and over confidences in our own mind, the ability to examine our own thoughts and self-evaluate.

3) Metis – We have the ability to pick up patterns in the environment. In others words, we have special sensitivities, street smarts, intuition.

4) Sympathy – We have the ability to work in groups and groups are smarter than individuals. Group effectiveness is determined by communication skills (ex. turn taking) not IQ.  Face to face groups are smarter because 90% of communication is non-verbal! Wow, read that again…90% is non-verbal. What does this mean for us given the way technology is evolving how we communicate?

5) Blending – We have the ability to pretend or take on the characteristics of another. What most think of as child’s play is really a complicated process of blending identities. Another shout out for the arts! Unfortunately these activities we revel in as children are suppressed as we age. Another point for teachers to ponder.

6) Limerence – Brooks defines this as a drive or motivation. Though our conscious mind might hunger for achievement, ourunconscious mind hungers for transcendence.” Have you ever had that perfect moment of synergy with a group? Amazing. I’m not pursuing a masters to add letters behind my name or to get a pay hike, though both of those would be nice. I’m taking classes to become a better teacher, to contribute, and to hopefully have more of those moments of limerence with my students. Yet, if we are social animals do we not need/want to be valued for our contributions? Is that the same as being an achievement junkie or praise hound? Hmmm…old habits die hard.

Bring on the revolution.

September 14, 2014


As part of my ECI 831 Social Media & Open Education grad class I am required to complete a major digital project and document my process. With that in mind I am using this tab on my blog to share my thoughts as I work through my project.

There are three options and lots of flexibility with how to proceed which makes the ‘deciding’ a little tricky for fence-sitters like me! My first thought was to develop a comprehensive, online unit to support my new adventures in Grade Two inquiry, particularly in Social or Science. My collection of resources is a little skimpy given this is my first time teaching it so creating a unit plan would certainly be beneficial and practical.

There seemed to be a lot of interest from other students in learning an instrument online (Option B) and though as a former music teacher learning guitar has been on my list of things to do, I don’t want to devote the amount time to practicing that I know is involved! At this point in my career I would prefer to direct my energies to something more applicable in my classroom.

Option C also generated a lot of interest. I had heard of MOOCs before and had even begun one quite some time ago but I thought at the time I’d rather devote my learning to a masters program, a more ‘legit’ mode of learning in my estimation. I had all but dismissed the idea for this project but thought I’d at least have a look online at the offerings. I was somewhat surprised at the array of choices–some free, some not; and some more ‘pedigreed’ than others! How do you tell which ones are more reputable or resume worthy? (…not that I’m looking to pad my CV with impressive looking MOOCs; I’m more concerned with the quality and accuracy of the instruction.) How do I pare down the choices?! As someone who likes to check out all my options before deciding this is, of course, a near impossible task! This is one of the things that I find personally challenging about working online whether looking for teacher resources, product information, medical information (,…you name it!) One could never go through ALL the choices out there so it forces me to make a decision despite not having turned over every stone.

As usual, I like to consult the ‘experts’! It’s an annoying trait that for some reason I can’t just follow my gut the first time;)! I have put a feeler out to a couple of tech savy and admin bound friends who are more in the know of useful MOOCs that might be out there. In the mean time I am almost decided on couple of MOOCS to check out: a gamification one that I’m hoping would be useful in my primary class and an iPad in the classroom one that would be immediately applicable to my teaching practice. And the unit plan…? I think for now I will continue sourcing online pages and friends for the resources I need. So far I’ve found lots of great things that I can tweak for my use. Adding more to my knowledge base might be just as useful as collecting resources.

Last night was my first official webinar! I had heard of Kathy Cassidy a couple of years ago when I was exploring twitter and looking for blogs to follow. She does amazing things with her primary students in the name of digital literacy. Check out her classroom blog! As I perused through her posts and the students’ blogs I was in awe of all of the technology she incorporates into her teaching. How do you get the kids from here to there? Where do you start? And what do you do if you don’t have a class set of iPads?

When I saw this post about her digital citizenship webinar on Powerful Learning Practice I had to check it out.

digital-citizenship webinar adKey ideas for me . . .

* Why use technology in the primary grades? They are growing up in a digital age. Digital literacy is important to their future! Parents want help teaching digital citizenship.

* The basics of digital citizenship – Be kind. Be safe. Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. Look at other kid blogs and have students talk about what they’ve learned about that person just from reading their blog. What would people think of you based on your blog? Start thinking about leaving a positive digital footprint from the start.

* If parents are hesitant spend the time to familiarize and educate them about why you are using digital technology (…to encourage writing, to provide an audience for their writing and their discoveries, to document their progress, to connect with and learn from others, to build their digital literacy, etc.!) And explain what safeguards are in place (…don’t match pictures and names, password protected, be careful who you follow, no one posts unless the teacher has seen it first, etc.)

* Make student ownership of blogging easier by syncing a class edublog with EasyBlogJr. My understanding is that all student blogs are in a hub on the class edublog site and kids can upload their own content with the touch of a button. Wow! I’m looking forward to checking that out!

* Using Twitter: Be very selective in who you follow! Read tweets together. Use hashtags to group your tweets by content. And, try not to edit their language;) Let it be their authentic voice!

* Video Conferencing: Great for pre-readers/pre-writers. Use to talk with ‘experts’ (from qualified professionals to other students.) Read to each other via Skype or even try Reader’s Theatre!

* Using digital tools (though sometimes more work) can help teachers become more active with assessment because “you can hear their thinking not just see the product.”


* When I asked Kathy ‘where did she start?’ She said she had a webpage but it seemed that the kids were just playing games. She wanted to get them blogging so it would involve higher order thinking!  Now THAT’S teaching!

If you want to learn more about how Kathy uses technology in her classroom check out her ebook Connected from the Start.Image 1

At the time of my last post over a year ago, I was embarking on a new journey into the elementary world after teaching high school music and elementary band for the previous decade (and then some). After a year of teaching K-4 Drama and grade 3 Social Studies I am once again striking out on a new path, this time as an elementary classroom teacher. I am really excited to be job sharing in a grade 2 classroom and look forward to all of the new adventures that await in this new role.

In the midst of this career change (not to mention personal change as my family and I adjusted to our move), I began pursuing my Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction. I have just started my third class, Social Media and Open Education, which is the purpose for resurrecting what initially was my ‘practise blog’!  [Incidentally, I believe you can audit the class if you’re interested. Check out last year’s EC&I 831 here. I’ll keep you posted on an updated site.]

Though I’m a little daunted by keeping up with all of the online expectations in this course, I am really excited to get a well-needed boost to my ‘Ed Tech’ skills and my comfort level with using a variety of platforms and technology tools. I’m also really excited that this class syncs up with my school’s (and my) technology goals this year so I will have the support I need to implement some of the new strategies I’m learning into my classroom. I feel like I have a bit of a jump start with regard to using new tools in the classroom as my job share partner already has a school blog, twitter and remind accounts for communicating with parents and a few iPads available for student use. I’m hoping to extend our technology use to student blogs later this fall when our students (and I!) are ready for that next step. I’m also planning to skype with my students again this year and look into online planning tools, particularly Cory Antonini’s Digital Learner Solutions Unit and Rubric Planner.

I will be posting about my new adventures in the classroom and in my masters class as I stumble and stride into the world of ed tech keeping in mind that my primary goal is to become a better teacher (and technology user) in the process!

Stay tuned and don’t mind a few ‘sour’ notes here and there as I get it all sorted out!