Double, Double Toil and Trouble


Over 400 years ago, William Shakespeare created his 3 witch characters for Macbeth (see Act IV, Scene I). Their foray into creating a special potion in the caldron resonates with the past two days of learning and networking that I engaged in during the recent BlendED 2015 Symposium. Yes, it fits the spooky Halloween-ish theme during this time of year yet, most importantly, it speaks to the collegial, collaborative and innovative learning opportunities that teachers, administrators and facilitators are ‘stirring up’ for students.

This first ever blendED 2015 Symposium centered on practical and comprehensive ways to offer blended (face to face + online) and online learning for students. Attendees came from across Canada and the northern territories to share their experiences and dialogue with one another. The Symposium was organized around five themes: research, pedagogy, tools, course design, and diverse learning groups.

Session details and notes found at

What I really want to emphasize from my experiences during this event is that “blended learning” is not just for Outreach, home-schooling and virtual schooling (distance learning venues). This type of approach can effectively be used within a typical classroom in a typical school setting. Due to more access to current and/or emerging technologies, teachers and students ARE creating these blendED learning opportunities.

This approach is not just about adding technology to the caldron, but continuing to think and offer quality learning experiences. (Think SAMR and TPACK).

For instance, a blendED potion could contain:

  • GAFE account, Teacher YouTube Channel with specific playlists, Website for link
  • Moodle account, Teacher and student resources
  • Twitter professional or class account, modeling and sharing on twitter stream
  • Smartphone, access to specific apps, websites, email
  • Gamifying units of instruction, students different formats to demo
  • GAFE/Online account, webcam, microphone to GHangout/Skype/VC/Blackboard with experts/other sites
  • Use simulators/interactives, apps (MinecraftEDU, Service Rig Sim, Welding Sim, Forestry Sim, LearnAlberta Gizmos), students apply to project/learning
  • Connecting with others through special events such as Discovery Ed virtual field trips, Global Read Aloud.
  • Blog account (Blogger, KidBlog, edublogs) to showcase learning, get and receive comments via classmates and/or globally, use Twitter #comments4kids to have other people comment outside of the classroom.
  • Access, create and share Open Education Resources
  • Host Makerspaces events – space, time, different materials (sew, robots, computers, coding, build), etc. Can be offered at lunch, afterschool, during instructional time.
  • And much more!

As you have read, there isn’t just one caldron with one set of experts and potions. There are many opportunities to share, collaborate and move forward IF one is willing to share, take a risk and ask for support……really it’s no trouble!


Other resources:

A Roadmap for Implementation of Blended Learning at the School Level

The Learning and Technology Policy Framework


Gotta Stand Up!

About a year ago, I saw firsthand how a Varidesk could change how a person’s office could be set up to allow for both standing and sitting at a work desk/station. Of course, the price tag that comes with this type of unit (~$340-$500) was out of reach for my department (especially if I trialed one and the rest of the team liked it too.) So, I went out on a virtual walkabout. I scoured online, I spoke with other colleagues and finally, I created my own stand-up version.

Yes, research is out there about the benefits of standing instead of sitting and I wanted to experience it to see if it was right for me. I work out of Division Office and when I am not out at schools, conferences or meetings, I currently sit in an ergonomic chair with 2 screens, keyboard and mouse on an L-shaped office desk with cabinets.

IKEA has a fantastic TV bench – Lack (90x26cm at $19.99) and I also bought two Ekby Valter brackets. I found my 8″ x 36″ black shelf at Home Depot (except that it was originally 10″ x 36″ so they cut off the extra there for me at $14.00). And the total cost was one-tenth of a Varidesk. Now, it is a permanent structure, so I am sure that I may want to sit from time to time. If and when I do, then I’ll just grab a Chromebook or a laptop to use.

Stand up desk 2 Stand up desk

Other things to think about like proper footwear, possibly a standing mat may be next on my list. And maybe taking mini-sit breaks throughout the day.

For other standing desk ideas, check out



A to C: Annotate and Comment

Whether you are a teacher or a student, you see a lot of text throughout the school year. While I work mainly in a digital environment (Google Apps for Education – GAFE), I still like to be able to annotate/make comments on pages. Below are some of the ways that I do this digitally.

  • Google Documents – click on the Comments box in the top right corner, highlight any text and type in your comment pertaining to that. You or others who have access to this document can add more comments, resolve or even delete them. A great way to work collaboratively on a document, share ideas, suggest improvements.

GDoc comments

  • Google Documents – use Kaizena Mini which is an Add-on that allows you to use voice comments. (You can comment on your own work to yourself or you can choose who the comments will go to.)

Gdoc Kaizena Mini

  • Google Documents – use Read&Write for Google Chrome extension to add Voice Notes to the document. Very slick, just make sure that your laptop, chromebook or netbook has a good microphone or you’ll need to invest in a mic + headset (or Apple earbuds).

GDoc_RWG VoiceNote

  • Google Drive – upload a .pdf. Open the .pdf and use the Read&Write for Google Chrome extension Annotations tool which creates a pin and opens up a text box (max 500 characters). If this document is shared to others and they too have RW4GC, they can also annotate at the same time.


These are just a few of the annotation and comment tools that I use while working in a GAFE environment with a laptop. There are other applications, especially for the iPad that I will certainly make time to post about at another date.

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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


Myths of Teaching and Learning

Recently, the Canadian Education Association released its latest poster regarding some neuromyths connected to learning and teaching. Take time to read each of these three myths and share how you are taking current neuroscience research to change your teaching practice and students’ learning environments.

edcan_neuromyths  1) Adapting instruction to students’ learning styles (K,S,A)

The promising practices that I do see making are difference are:

  • multiple means of representation – information/content is shared via audio, images, video, text so that students can engage with it in a variety of ways, not just their “preferred” way. I often share with staff and students that there may be times when I would just read the content on my own while another time I’d like the computer to read it to me or watch a brief intro video instead. It’s the opportunity for access to these options that I find crucial.
  • cooperative learning – engaging students by learning with and from each other via ‘scripted’ learning and sharing opportunities exposes students to a variety of experiences so even if the student prefers a specific way to learn, they are supported through practicing other ways in a safe and engaging manner.

  2)  No such thing as brain dominance

Promoting Passion Projects (197 examples, in the classroom), Genius Hour or Innovation Weeks (GCMS) where students study, explore, create a level of learning that is very personalized and student-centered allows opportunities to further develop their talents and/or skills in a particular area OR dip their toes into something of interest that they may never have pursued.

3) Cognitive capacity and function improves after 30 mins of vigorous exercise

Initiatives like Daily Physical Activity (DPA) and Physical Literacy offer fantastic opportunities for students to get up, moving and socially connecting with each other and themselves. Brain Breaks (such as GoNoodle) give the brain a break and may regroup students’ attention but do not necessarily improve cognitive capacity.

So, go ahead, share this poster with colleagues, print it off and take turns speaking about it during a PLC/Staff meeting. What are your thoughts regarding these neuromyths?


Future Thoughts

In the book by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, there is a girl who wonders whether she’ll be as tall as a house or the tree, whether she’ll wear sensible shoes and say sensible things.

Students: Read through these four questions and watch the video. Then take time to have a discussion with a partner about what the story was about as well as sharing your responses to the questions.

1. Do you think some of her beliefs about the future are possible, and some of them are impossible?

2. What is an example of something that seems impossible? What makes you think it is impossible?

3. Could it be possible? What would have to change to make it possible?

4. Do you think any of the things she imagines definitely will happen?

Teachers: How does this story affect how you create a “five star learning environment” for your students? What about yourself? Are there any beliefs about the future that you hold onto to turn the impossible into the possible?

1. Is there anything you know for sure about your future? How do you know it?


Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


Go Ahead, Be Creative!

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 8.14.48 PMMy professional growth plan for this school year isn’t that much of a departure from my previous year’s (see 2014-15), however I do feel that I have a more “leadership” type of focus that overarches my two goals this year. Whether it is modeling what kind of questions to ask of staff during walkabouts, or trying new apps, extensions or add-ons or even blogging/tweeting what is occurring in their school, this will be one of the facets of my work this year. (Our school division is part of the LTPF Leadership Community of Practice hosted by Alberta Ed and I have 4 Principals, 4 Teacher-Leaders and 2 IT personnel collaborating and learning together with 9 other provincial groups this year.) As well, the Learning Services team has undergone changes with new team members. So, my work may change a little or a lot depending upon how each team member requires support and how each school staff require professional development opportunities.


Be Creative is my theme for the year. As you can see in the image to the right, (created based on CrazySexyCool’s poster shop in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa) I not only am holding myself accountable (see goals below), but I want to remind myself daily (the poster will be hanging on one of my office walls) to ENJOY the opportunities along the way.


These are exciting times and each day brings new learning opportunities.



Facilitate, cultivate and design learning environments that provide rich experiential learning and sharing opportunities connected to Parkland School Division’s (PSD’s) Vision, Mission and Inclusive Ed philosophy as well as Alberta Education’s Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF).


  • Acknowledge the diverse needs and contributions of all
  • Offer physical spaces and PD to develop knowledge, skills and engage learners
  • Create virtual spaces and connections both local, national and global
  • Access resources, services, information and collaboration opportunities
  • Hone academic, social/emotional and physical skills through knowledge-building, creativity and innovation
  • Utilize a variety of resources, technologies and spaces to support learning for teachers leaders and students through thoughtful instructional design and collaboration as well as effective assessment of learning
  • Model and share learning experiences to empower real-world and relevant learning experiences


  • Learning Services Team
  • Senior Exec
  • Admin Teams
  • Inclusive Education Leads
  • LeadercastNow daily videos
  • Frameworks: Fierce Conversations, Cognitive Coaching, Bucket Filling, Cooperative Learning, Critical Thinking, Universal Design for Learning


  • Ongoing
  • Monthly meetings: Lead Team, LTPF Leadership Community of Practice, Inclusive Education Leads
  • Biweekly: Learning Services Team

Indicators of Success

  • Contribution to Learning Services work is recognized
  • Learning Services Team work plan is moving PSD Vision, Mission and Commitment Statements forward as per Admin meetings, PSD Voice, Student Advisory Committee
  • Learning Services Team incorporate the LTPF throughout their work with staff


Advance, model and assess the successful use of inclusive technologies to meet business goals, enhance team productivity, engage PSD staff, and remove barriers for students.


  • Refine instruction for essential digital literacy, research and inquiry and communication skills
  • Develop opportunities for staff learning and innovation to be demonstrated, shared and showcased
  • Build staff capacity to ensure sustainability and attainment of PSD/School Ed Plan/Tech goals
  • Advocate for the essential and effective uses of technology
  • Refine and demonstrate strong digital literacy skills
  • Explore and connect personalized learning while embracing the use of digital literacies and skills to empower independent learners
  • Foster an active online networking culture
  • Assist staff in taking ownership of their digital rights and responsibilities in building their digital skills


  • Listservs: QIAT, ATLE, ORC
  • Alberta Education, School Technology Branch
  • PLN
  • ERLC Advisory Committees
  • ATLE and ATLE ProLearn
  • TCEA
  • Frameworks: TPACK, SAMR, UDL, DI, RTI, SETT, LTPF
  • Twitter feeds and weekly chats (#edchat, #atchat, #gafesummit, #edtech)
  • Blogs
  • 2Learn
  • GAFE
  • Synergyze
  • PSD – IT Dept, Senior Exec, Lead Team, Learning Services, staff, students


  • Ongoing
  • ATLE Conference – November 2015

Indicators of Success

  • Staff utilizing, documenting success and sharing how they are using technology in learning, for efficiency, etc.
  • Marked improvement between Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 ET/IT survey with Admin
  • LTPF Leadership Community of Practice group is sharing their experiences not only with their staff but with colleagues.
  • Well attended PD sessions and follow up work with staff


Step It Up with Summarizing


Photo Credit: London Permaculture via Compfight cc


In order to boost student comprehension and achievement, students must understand how to effectively summarize what they are researching, learning and applying. Using a variety of online resources, teachers can support students with a variety of tools to assist them in summarizing more effectively. These are by no means all inclusive, there are many strategies and tools that are both low and high tech that one can use – here are just a few ideas for you to try out.

The power of being in a GAFE environment, allows students to be able to personalize their learning experiences so that they can engage in the curriculum and demonstrate their learning at their level.

    • Readability – chrome extension, declutters websites. Great to then take the decluttered article/info and copy & paste into a Google Document while researching.
    • SpeakIt! – chrome extension, text to speech. Just highlight the text, click on the SpeakIt icon in the extension toolbar and it will read the text to the student. (Think about using headphones for this.)
    • Announcify – chrome extension, paragraph text to speech, blurs out extraneous text. This extension will pop up a separate tab and automatically start reading.
    • VoiceNote II – chrome extension, speech to text. Click on the world icon to set the language preference, then onto the mic icon and speak away! Copy&paste the text into a Google Doc. Great dictation tool. Works very well on Chromebooks without a mic and headset, however other laptops may need to use a mic+headset.
    • Google Dictionary – chrome extension.
    • Read&Write Gold/Google – chrome extension with Word Prediction, Speech Input, Text to Speech, Vocabulary List….There are so many tools in this extension. Schools/school divisions must pay for student licences. Check with TextHelp.
    • GDoc – Add-on > tag cloud generator. A great way to make a text visual. See the two resources on how you could use this in the classroom.
    • Connected Mind – chrome app, mind map. You must bullet all your information including the title in order for the mind map to work.
    • Instagrok – chrome app, research/info mind map tool. Click all the pins you would like to use, delete those that are unnecessary, share the interactive “grok” via a link or insert into a blog/website.
    • Newsela  – chrome app, differentiated news articles in a variety of topic areas. Have all students read specific articles in a variety of subject areas at their level. One of my favorites. (Goes along with TweenTribune from the Smithsonian that I have shared over the years.)

Make literature pop/stand out with:

    • Flocabulary – subject area topics learned via rap songs – very catchy for all students. These range from K-12, topics are American so Social Studies and Math may not all connect to the Alberta curriculum. Subscription based, but does offer a trial period.
    • 60 second recap – of various literature by an amazing librarian. Many middle years to high school references.
    • SparkNotes online literature summaries, mainly from grades 5-12. See some examples such as MacBeth, Bridge to Terabithia. Teachers could easily copy&paste this information or grab the link to a particular piece of literature and input this into Google Classroom/Sites for students to utilize.
    • Litcharts – online literature summaries similar to SparkNotes, nice interactive theme overview. Compare this Macbeth info with that of SparkNotes.
    • Text Compactor – an online text summarizer where students paste in copied text and choose how much (a %) to summarize. 
    • Rewordify  – text simplifier where students paste text and various words throughout will be simplified. Hover over the changed words to see the original wording.
    • Graphic Outline – use various templates/graphic organizers that are tiered and shared via a template through GDrive/GClassroom for students to use throughout the year.

Extra Resources


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