Monday, April 29, 2013

Celebrating Successes in Sun West

A number of teachers across Sun West have been fostering the development of 21st Century Competency skills by focusing on developing critical thinking and collaboration skills. The following is just a small snapshot of the work being done across the Division in these areas.

Inquiry learning is at the heart of Saskatchewan renewed curriculum and represents the shift in teaching that is echoed in the 21st Century competencies.

Problem or project based (PBL) units are an ideal way to help learners develop critical thinking skills. Learning Coach, Scott Stephens, has been working with a number of teachers to implement the PBL units developed by the University of Saskatchewan, College of Agriculture and Bio-Resources. 

Both Robert LeBlanc (Westcliffe) and Brent Larwood (Outlook High) are successfully using these PBL units in their Senior Science classes. Brent is now conducting all group collaboration and assessments through Google drive. He loves it because everything is always online 24 hours a day.

Other teachers have been exploring ways to connect their students to the world beyond the classroom using various digital tools.  Loretta Sinclair (Lucky Lake), Shannon Dimitroff (Elizabeth) and Marea Olafson (Eston) are three teachers in Sun West who have used blogging with their students. Loretta uses the blog for writing. “I provide a writing prompt or give a writing assignment and then the students write on the blog. They also respond to what their classmates wrote.”

The Supporting Technology wiki has more information on those wishing to blog with their own students.

Using Skype to connect with others is another valuable tool for connecting students globally. The students inn Lindsay Johnson’s Grade 8 Arts Ed classroom at KCS were able to discuss the life and work of a Montreal artist.

At OHS, Amanda Culver set up a Skype interview with a drug addictions specialist for her Grade 9 Health class. This paired with a live presentation from a local addictions counselor gave her students a real life perspective of drug abuse.

Natasha Cochran (North West) and James Siemens (OES) used Skype to bring their Grade 5 classrooms together for an online presentation.

Shannon Libke (Kenaston) co-planned a novel study with a teacher from the Queen Charlotte Islands and then used email and Skype to connect the students from the two schools.

Hats off to all of you!

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Introduction to Blogging – A Guide for Teachers

More and more classrooms are using weblogs as a tool for sharing and reflecting on learning experiences. Some teachers use weblogs as a communication tool, posting regular updates about the classroom so that parents are kept informed about classroom activities. Others teachers invite students to use blogs as a way to publish final written products such as stories, and critiques. Blogs can also be used to share rough drafts, and first impressions, to chronicle an entire learning journey. There are many different ways to incorporate either a class blog, or individual student blogs, into your own classroom.

As an educator, the first step is to think about the reasons you want to blog with your students. What is the purpose of the blog? Do you want to document the learning process? Is your purpose to share a final product? Are you hoping to provide students an opportunity to receive feedback from others? Is the intent to provide a space for reflection? Defining the purpose is key.

Once you have determined the reasons for incorporating blogging into your classroom, decide on the knowledge and skills that students will need to have before they even begin to create their first post. As I have worked with teachers and their students, we have created a list of tips that we have found to be important to review prior to blogging:

1. Share the purpose of the blog: In order to students, parents and school administration to understand the reason students are using this tool, it is critical to share the goals of the blogs. A parent letter may be the best way to communicate this information.
 2. Determine your audience: Who will have access to view the posts, or to comment on the posts? Are you hoping that parents will comment on student posts? If you hope to share ideas with a global audience, and to make connections with teachers and classrooms around the world, your blog settings will different than those who want to only share with a closed group of people, like parents and students in the class.
 3. Choose a blog hosting site: Blog hosting sites differ in how they are managed, but all sites offer a multitude of settings for users so that the blog can be as open or as private as one wants. Recently, I have been working with KidBlog which allows teachers to review posts before allowing publication to the web. For many, there is comfort in knowing that all posts are subject to review by the teacher. This site also allows teachers to reset student passwords which is a handy feature. This tends to be a more time-consuming process than using a blog hosting site like Blogger where teachers have no control of publication of their posts. Ultimately, this decision will rest solely with your own comfort level, both in your students, and in the blogging process.
 4. Educate students about responsibilities: Whether you are choosing a blog site with teacher controls or not, educating students about etiquette and expectations when blogging will help ensure that the posts will be appropriate. As well, it is a good idea to discuss consequences for students who violate ethical posting rules. One of the ways to do this is to review the Acceptable Use Policy for Technology for your division with your students prior to accessing the blog. I have also created a Power Point presentation about the “rules of the “road” when blogging.
5. Explore other blogs: In order to provide students with a better idea about the potential of blogs, I suggest sharing examples of other student blogs at all levels of competence. From this exploration, together, you and the students will be able to co-construct a list of criteria for their own blogs. (video clip about co-constructing in the classroom). As an educator, you may also want to explore how others are using blogs to engage in professional learning. The Top 100 Education Blogs is an older page (2006), but many of the links are still active and will connect you with some amazing educators!
 Good luck with your blogging experiences!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Desire to be the Best

Last week, 30 year old Dylan Armstrong from Kamloops, B.C. won silver in shot put at the world track and field championship in South Korea. Four years ago, Armstrong finished fourth, missing a chance for a medal by less than one centimeter.

____ That’s what his disappointment looked like for the medal-hopeful. So small, yet so incredibly huge.

But this year, more determined than ever, Armstrong sat down with his coach as he set this year’s goal: to be better than anyone in the world.

          "It's always motivation to be that close,” states Armstrong. “There's nothing that I could have done better, I put everything on the line. I prepared, I had a Canadian record, it just played out that I got fourth and lost by a centimetre," he said. "I'm going to do whatever I can not to let it happen again." – CBC Sports

What motivates Dylan Armstrong to put in countless hours to be the best? What drives him to continue to work for four more years after losing by a distance smaller than his pinky finger?

     Certainly not money… Canadian Olympic hopefuls are not living the high-life by any means!
     Is it the thrill of the win?
     Or the inner satisfaction that comes when a personal goal has been reached?

Armstrong has set the highest possible goal in the sporting world - to be the best in the world. Undoubtedly, he sacrifices much as he strives to reach his ultimate goal.

He certainly doesn’t sit still for long in his quest for the top. Following his win, Armstrong was already looking ahead: “I won’t take time off. I have to train tomorrow, and the objective is a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.” (Globe and Mail)

Like Armstrong, we, as educators, are dedicated. We spend countless hours, both in and out of the school, to provide quality learning opportunities to the many students who pass through our classrooms. We believe in the same ideals as Armstrong: perseverance, commitment, “heart”. Although there are no podiums, shiny medals, or thunderous applause, we know that we make a difference in students’ lives. And that’s enough.

As teachers, we are also goal-setters. Our goals are directly influenced by our motivation to improve teaching methods and classroom practices.

So this fall, as we prepare to develop our professional goals, let’s use Dylan Armstrong’s personal quest to help each of us reach for the top.

• What is your goal for the upcoming year?
• What motivates you to be a better teacher?
• How will you strive to be the best you can be this school year?
• What will you need to do to reach that goal?

For more information on motivation, check out Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. For a summary of his ideas, watch a quick Youtube video called Drive.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Intentions

"A garden requires patient labor and attention.
Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions.
They thrive because someone expended effort on them."
- Liberty Hyde Bailey

This afternoon, I finished writing my Smart Goal for the upcoming school year. It's no surprise that technology is involved! But I really want to commit to sharing through this blog. In looking back at my last post, I see that I had some really good intentions, but here we are, eight months later, and I am finally posting again!

This is common - I start the school year with so many dreams, ideas, hopes ... and then, I fizzle out. Usually it is gradual and I am not even aware that it is happening. But, when I look back, I see all those failed ambitions, those unreached goals, I am embarrassed by all of those good, yet unfulfilled intentions.

Has the same thing happened to you? Good intentions at the beginning of the year that are rarely realized? So, how can we prevent this from happening this school year?

Steven Covey's book, The 7 Habits of highly Effective People, seems like a great place to start. Here is my abbreviated version of the 7 Habits to help us this year:

1 - Be Proactive: Focus on the things that we can change. Let's agree to not waste time on the things that are out of our control.

2 - Begin with the End in Mind: Make a plan for what we want to accomplish this year and plan how to get there. I am going to set aside specific time in my day planner to work on my Smart Goal and my professional learning for the year. How will you plan to meet your goal?

3 - Put Things First: Set priorities and realize that not doing everything is okay. I like to call this "baby steps"! We are going to burn out if we try and do everything!

4 - Think Win! Win!: Cooperation works better than competition, especially in this profession! I love this idea of collaboration and team-work and hope that the wikis really take off this year. There is so much potential for us to work smarter, not harder!

5 - Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood: Learn to really listen. I recently heard someone refer to most conversations as "dueling monologues".  I think about the students who sit in classrooms for hours, listening to us, listening to others. It seems like a good idea to practice our own listening skills if we expect our students to do this. I know we can do it!

6 - Synergize: "Two heads are better than one." We have a perfect opportunity with renewed curriculum to form teaching teams and tackle tasks together! (This is really why I love my job. I get to do this every day!)

7 - Sharpen the Saw: Finding balance keeps us fresh. We all need to find the home-work balance and take time to enjoy life. I would highly recommend The Book of Awesome as a night time reading. It really helps define "awesomeness" and how to take a moment of pleasure in the simplest of things.

Through this blog, I look forward to sharing technologies that you can use to enhance your classroom. I also hope that you will take the time to comment and engage in conversations with other educators about the topics that pop up here.

Welcome to the new school year, to our new start, to our committment to good intentions ~

- Jade

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A New Year and a New Plan

So I have been reading The Pioneer Woman's blog ( and have sort of caught the blog fever again. Obviously, I have not posted for a looooong time, but here we go again!

My goal is to post some neat things related to my job and use this to share with other educators.

Here are a couple of things I have come across lately:
1. Hands-On Science Series - a Manitoba publication that fits with the Pan Canadian Protocol. This matches our Saskatchewan Science curriculum for Grades 1-5. I plan to do some more curriculum matching to make sure the outcomes and indicators. Will keep you posted (ha ha - get it??) Never mind ...

2. www.smories.comSo cute! This site features students reading stories through video. I want to do something with this!!!
Any takers???

That's all for now ...