Got a Story? Share It.

I was introduced to microTrend’s “What’s Your Story?” contest via one of my Diigo groups – Digital Citizenship in Schools this past week. It was exciting to see this yearly video contest (for students aged 13+) that highlights creative, impactful and safe and responsible ways to interact online. Not only is digital citizenship an important topic in schools today, but to have opportunities to see and hear some innovative ways that students relate/connect to it is fantastic.

Don’t wait for the individual or school entries to be shown, try this with your students right now in the classroom. Have them create a video(s) using the same specifications found in the More Details section.

Develop some criteria on what would make an effective video? Should it be creative? Memorable?

Have students look at past winners. And have them check out the many resources before they storyboard and film their masterpiece.

I think one of this year’s participants really has nailed it! What do you think? Could you do better? How?


Are You Brave?

Having another opportunity to host a Leadercast in our school division is just an amazing and unforgettable experience. For those who don’t recognize “Leadercast”, it is a day-long learning event with a variety of speakers focused on speaking on one particular subject from their own experiences.


This year the speakers were:


The theme – The Brave Ones – showcases one of the essential behaviors for innovative and forward-moving leadership. Those leaders who push their organizations into different paths and who are bold enough to think of both the ethical, social and moral pieces while engaging their people are the ones who we heard from today. It is not just those famous leaders that one needs to think about, it is important to think about everyday leaders in their communities who are audacious and driven to make a difference.


Whether it was in the journal in print or the Leadercast App, there was a Be Brave Checklist found in both. For each speaker session, (there were four) participants were asked to create their own brave action. Below are mine, so far….

Session 1 – speakers: Andy Stanley, Rorke Denver, Bill McDermott

  • To wrap my head around the idea of saying “wow” not “how” when ideas and/or policies are not meeting our educational standards. Then ask “what do I believe is impossible to do in our educational field but if it could be done, would fundamentally change our work?” I will have to think more about what I could ‘bravely’ be doing to answer that question. Currently, in Alberta the previous government froze $$ going to school divisions for the 2015-16 school year, however last week a new government was voted in. Could the $$ situation change soon? If it does or doesn’t, I still need to think further on this.
  • Leadercast_Andy
  • Sketch created by on May 8, 2015
    • Session 2 – speakers: Malala Yousafzai, Peyton Manning
  • Continue to speak out for all students and my instance that the learning environment be set up in a universally-designed manner to engage everyone no matter where they are in the Alberta curriculum continuum. My goal is to support teachers and EAs and students to utilize available resources, materials and tools. It is also my goal that our Admin and any leaders who present or create workshops also think about adult learners and design appropriate, engaging and demanding opportunities for participants.
  • Leadercast_Malala
  • Sketch created by on May
    • Session 3 – speakers: Seth Godin, Ed Catmull
  • I need to work on being even more curious, to think outside the box and share my thoughts with colleagues. I do have a great Learning Services team and school division whose vision is to provide “a place where exploration, creativity and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams” (including me!). Sometimes, I feel I may do many things at various sites and with other groups that I may not share clearly to the Team what I have been doing. (I try to share directly with colleagues, in my blog, on Twitter and via the weekly Online employee newsletter, but one can never share too much!)
  • Leadercast_Ed
    • Session 4 – speakers: Aja Brown, Rudy Guiliani
  • Don’t be afraid to have Fierce Conversations with groups of people or even individuals. If you are unsure how to get started, Susan Scott’s bestseller Fierce Conversations or even the training will help you. I know that in my work dealing with school administrators, staff and sometimes students this training has allowed me to get clarity and clearly envision the conversation(s) at hand.

Leadercast2015Leadercast 2015_2

I will continue to follow @Leadercast #leadercast throughout the year as well as subscribe to the Leadercast Now site (video clips and action strategies) throughout the upcoming year. I know that the 50 people who attended the simulcast were moved by the people and the theme.

What will you do to be brave in the work that you do?


Effective Classroom Instruction Using Tech: Setting Objectives


Photo Credit: StormKatt via Compfight cc

Eight years ago, the authors Pitler, Kuhn and Malenoski took the eleven essential instructional strategies that were identified originally by Marzano, Pickering and Pollock and integrated technology with each. These essential instructional strategies allow teachers to then use them purposefully to steadily improve student learning. In this digital age of learning and in considerations of this research, I have included not only an outline of how technology could be used to complement and enhance these teaching strategies but also specific technology tools/resources.


This will be a series of 11 posts on this topic.

Essential Instructional Strategy #1

In setting objectives teachers focus on establishing a direction for student learning. Technology can engage and enhance the goal-setting process by providing:

  •         Organization tools
  •         Communication tools
  •         Clarity for teachers, students and parents.

Within the learning environment, various resources may be used. Below is a complementary list of actions and ideas, but by no means is it an exhaustive list. Please add your ideas in the comments section if you like.



1 – Pitler, H., R., E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. Alexandria: ASCD.

2 – Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Also look at Dean, C.B., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H. & Stone, B.J. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement, 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


Just Say Wow!

Science experiments can be truly amazing!   Explored
This is just me “geeking out” at reviewing and reading Stephen Wolfram’s latest blog post, The Frontiers of Computational Thinking from his keynote at the recent SXSW 2015 Conference.

I have been a big user and sharer of the WolframAlpha knowledge engine. I recognize its support in visualizing the world around us. Teachers can use this knowledge engine in all subject areas for information, for discussion, and for comparison. This is not the only thing that Stephen Wolfram, founder of Wolfram Research is working on however.

I really like his thoughts on computational thinking and his work particularly with correlating knowledge in science and technology. His work on Wolfram Language is about to revolutionize ideas, programming, and interactions with the technical side of computing.

In his blog which is a transcript of his keynote (18 minute excerpt below) he shows how Wolfram Language acts when conversing with a human. The results, in my opinion, are just as amazing as seeing a student with severe autistic tendencies interact with Siri on his iPhone. Take time to go through the transcript and see what different things Stephen asks Wolfram Language to do from math examples, definitions, word clouds, images, graphs, tweetable programs, code playing cards, a student programming lab, multiple languages, making art, etc.

I also viewed an excerpt video of this actual keynote that makes part of Stephen’s transcript come alive.

My next thoughts are:

  • How do I share this with colleagues so that they see the possibility for its use in the learning environment?
  • What does this mean for a student? How could they use it in their own learning?
  • Who is interested in trying this out? If it’s YOU, then go to Wolfram Programming Cloud to play in your own environment!

Why Design Thinking?

What excited me initially about this process was the opportunity for teachers to be able to focus on creating transformational learning experiences for students. Through this process students develop a way to produce creative solutions to any posed problem.

Nice brief overview video (3:01) created by IDEO.

Design Thinking allows students to be confident enough to tackle any challenge because they have the right tools and resources or know how to ask/get them. Collaboration across grade levels, tapping into cross-curricular areas, and inviting other stakeholders allow for a variety of insights, experiences and unimaginable learning. It’s scary because it IS DIFFERENT, but through this process, students learn how to personalize it, internalize it and apply it to their own lives.


I like how Stanford’s has established the process of:

  • Define the problem by developing empathy through asking what different people need.
  • Iterate the problem which a variety of possible solutions.
  • Create prototypes and test them out.
  • Reflect on the process.
  • Repeat any part of these steps until a final acceptable solution is achieved.


To the Challenge!

In order to get people to understand the Design Thinking process, they MUST actually try it out. Shared below is a short, 40 minute mini design challenge that one can start out with to introduce it to colleagues and/or students.

The mini design challenge can easily be run with 2-3 people working together as a team. It is important to have materials available for each team to use (like clothespins, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, scotch tape, straws, a variety of paper, scissors, pencils, sharpies/felts, aluminum foil, pompoms, yarn/string, foam objects, etc.)

Each team is tasked to try to design, build and promote their product or service. This specific challenge that was presented to participants who attended the recent Educational Technology Council of the Alberta Teachers Association (ETCATA) sponsored Makerspaces event. (The three images below show actual participants working through the mini design challenge.)

The challenge

  • Each person is a designer at a specific company.
  • That company is trying to win a contract to produce a personal or professional product/service.
  • The team of three people are tasked with creating a working prototype that will utilise a specified technology to solve a specific issue. (Each team was given two words to incorporate into the prototype. For this challenge, I issued each team with a technology tool and a silly word such as internet + kitten, printer + frizz.) Complete List of tech tool and silly words.
  • The team, using the Product/service pitch sheet and provided materials, will design, build the prototype and develop a one minute pitch all in 35 minutes.
  • If there are a large number of teams working on this at the same time, three teams can get together and pitch their prototypes and then choose a ‘winner’ of the contract within their group.

ETCATA_designteam ETCATA_designteam2 ETCATA_designteam3


Next Steps for the Classroom

Great questions being asked by teachers via IDEO video clip (1:45).

I also love the way IDEO has developed a Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators (free download) and although I the above challenge is based on Stanford’s Design Thinking process, you cannot go wrong with using the toolkit as you explore this design process with your students. You can also use the above mini design challenge with your colleagues as a quick introduction OR if you want to go deeper and take the Virtual Crash Course from Stanford’s, do check it out as it runs 90 minutes. The course includes the toolkit, video and an amazing gift challenge that you won’t soon forget!

Other Design Thinking resources:

Whatever you decide to dabble on, I know that it will change the way you plan, create and establishing learning practices in the classroom environment. Enjoy!


Using the + in GAFE

Morning coffee with Google+

So what’s the big deal with Google+? Can’t Facebook and LinkedIn do the same thing?

For me, in my Social Media hemisphere, I use Facebook as a personal communicator and connector with family, high school and post-secondary friends. LinkedIn is my professional site where I can connect with educators, administrators, vendors, educational institutions, etc. The value in using Google+ is that it collects various shared resources and displays them online while allowing patrons to chat, link, highlight, share multimedia, have book talks, create online meetings, offer blended learning opportunities for a variety of educational/professional purposes. With our school division in its third year of GAFE, Google+ now seems a natural way to go to connect our teachers together in an online environment and also connect with others internationally.

Currently, the Google+ main suite of tools contains:

Profile – where you describe yourself, post entries publicly or to specific people/groups. It’s also where the birthdate (not year) is important since this is auto-streamed into your Gcalendar (if you follow that person’s G+) which is a really neat feature.

  • It is important that you share just enough educational information about yourself to allow people to see if they would like to follow you. (Just like Twitter, if a person that I would like to follow doesn’t share a brief bio, then I don’t follow them because I don’t really know who they are.)


Circles – is the area where you can group people you follow. They can be put into more than one of your created circles

  • If they work in your school but also teach Math, they could be in a School circle as well as a Math circle. This is a great place to move your followers into groups. Makes it really easy to share great information, resources all at once to one group instead of typing everyone’s email address!


Communities – are created by any person who has an active G+ account. They can be public or closed and any posts can further be organized by topic within the specific community. This is a great way to meet, connect and share.

  • You’ll see below that our Division has a number of communities that our teachers can join. They are kept open, but shared links from time to time may only be available to our teachers since they are on our portal (intranet), but anyone can join and benefit! There are also many other great educational communities to join. For GAFE, I recommend GEG Alberta, Google Apps in Education, Canadian GAFE Educators, Google Docs and Drive to start. You can also do a search for a particular content area and choose via number of members/posts, etc. Within each community that you either create or join it’s also important to decide if you want the notifications turned on or off.

Google plus PSDcommunities

Events – allows you to announce and schedule both online and offline events.

  • An easy way to share activities and invite others to join in on the fun! The ability to say Yes, No or Maybe gives an opportunity for the creator of the event to see who is coming.


Hangouts – a personal video conference tool that allows up to 15 people on different devices to connect. You also do a live hangout that allows up to 100 participants to see with an archive uploaded to your YouTube account.


Photos – This is the place to curate your images.

  • Add them directly from your G+ app on a mobile device or upload from a storage/computer. You can create albums to group them easily.


Pages or Local – I don’t know of anyone in my Division using these.

For a great step-by-step tutorial, I recommend using @ericcurts Google+ for Schools document. He does a great job of outlining each step combining text and images. The Gooru also has some solid tutorials that combine brief video clips with text, check out the specific Gooru Google+ Tutorials. And for our teachers, they can also access within their G+ environment, the Synergyse Training Button.

However you use Google+ in your educational environment, you can see that it is filled with many features.


Reach for the Summit!


Photo Credit: Artotem via Compfight cc


With over ¾ of school divisions and post-secondary institutions in Alberta connecting their staff and students to the GAFE (Google Apps for Education) environment, attending workshops like the annual Alberta Google Summit allow staff time to further familiarize themselves with the platform and what successes/challenges other sites are encountering.


My own school division has been utilizing the GAFE environment for three years. We continue to offer in-house, school site professional learning sessions and have access to Synergyse training as well.


In my own experiences, I have noticed that the staff who:

  • understand the opportunities for creation, collaboration and communication using the GAFE environment and are modeling this in their classrooms, are able to see the benefits for students.
  • take time to get to know how certain google apps, chrome extensions/apps/add-ons work and try them out in class, use them more often with students.
  • have administrators that model the use of GAFE in the business of learning and support/share this work with their staff, are more adept and comfortable in this environment.
  • attend and share their professional learning experiences with colleagues and see the connection to current divisional/provincial initiatives are better able to explain to parents how GAFE is making a positive impact in the learning environment.
  • have continual access to devices (through BYOD/school-owned) are better able to plan and use specific instructional strategies to make learning effective for ALL their students.


Learning is a journey and with GAFE this is no different. Below I have linked several resources that may peak your interest.


Alberta GAFEsummit 2015 collaborative notes – includes all sessions and keynotes from this two day event.


The GOORU – a favorite training website of mine. Various resources, tools, features and more are available. I really like that you can explore a specific topic or even sign up for their daily tips to arrive in your mailbox.


Become a Google Ninja – this is an online self-paced program.


Join a G+ Community like GEG Alberta, Canadian GAFE Educators, Google Docs and Drive, Google Apps in Education or even create your own to share resources, ideas and experiences.


Follow the Twitter feed hashtag #gafesummit (and @edtechteam) for specific GAFE-inspired experiences.


Check out Google for Education training lessons that offer topics from Android tablets to YouTube, all developed by the Google team.


Have fun, share lots and collaborate often! That “summit” may feel out of reach sometimes, just remember there are other ‘sherpas’ ready to help you along the way.



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