Category Archives: Collaborates Fearlessly

Got How? You Also Need to Know Your Why

In May of this year, I wrote about The Elusive Why: Yours and Theirs, and today I continue this stream of thought with looking at the HOW but really to need to KNOW YOUR WHY. Whether this wny is personal or professional there are some important pieces that we need in place in order to find our “calling”, our “passion” or the reason why we get up in the morning every day.

Just taking time throughout the week to look at the upcoming personal/professional activities is important. Yet, having some sort of growth plan will allow for these weekly overviews to connect and make sense with your BIG goals. With this “big picture” plan of personal/professional life in place, we can begin to make incremental changes in our daily habits and routines, and our life will start to change. If you haven’t read Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, definitely check it out!

As well, watch Michael Jr’s short video clip on this topic. It’s a video definitely worth showing your colleagues, family, friends and even students.

Now it’s my time to work on my annual Teacher Professional Growth Plan. As per my teacher organization (Alberta Teacher’s Association), “developing the plan is a professional function through which teachers demonstrate their commitment to lifelong professional learning while fulfilling their regulatory requirement pertaining to continuing education. The key components of developing the plan found in the policy governing growth plans states a teacher’s annual growth plan shall:

  • Reflect goals and objectives based on an assessment of learning needs by the individual teacher
  • Show a demonstrable relationship to the Teaching Quality Standard
  • Take into consideration the educational plans for the school, school board and Alberta Education”

I hope this inspired some conversation on your part!


Keeping the Thoughts at Bay


Notes, note-taking, messages, information – it’s all important at different times throughout my day and work week. I use all sorts of tools to take notes, but for the short ones, like a quick stand up meeting, a voicemail, phone call or quick “to do” list, I have relied on a physical notebook for the work that I do.

Sure, I use GSuite applications and Notes iOS app on my smartphone and laptops, but my “go to” note taker has been the 9′ x 6′ (23cm x 15cm) notebook that I use each school year. Just like my previous teacher notebooks, when I was in the classroom, this one is in paper form and stays in my office. However, lately I have noticed that I want something more available to me, whenever the need arises. I turned to Google Keep for this.


Being a school division that uses the Google Suite of Applications, it was an easy tool to turn to. I’ve dabbled with it, seen other teachers use it effectively with their students, but I did not quite have a continual and mindful purpose in using it.

Here’s how I’ve started to use Google Keep:

  • in Google Chrome settings > on startup > add Google Keep tab to the “open specific page or set of pages” during start up so it is ready for me to review when I sign in.
  • install Save to Google Keep chrome extension for this items of interest that I’d like to look further into (otherwise I use the Diigo chrome extension for blog posts, larger information for later use (no time limit).
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone. I love the audio note feature here as it keeps the audio while also providing a transcript.
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone to make a drawing. Whether it’s a quick description or a math problem, I’ll have it saved for later use.
  • within GKeep, create labels. Right now, I’m using monthly labels and color backgrounds. Gives me a quick overview of what’s occurred or occurring in a specific month.
  • within GKeep, you can easily add collaborators or save to a Google Doc. Information doesn’t just have to reside with me, crowd sourcing is easy here.
  • within GKeep, the Remind Me feature is getting a lot of use. Now I don’t have to highlight or sticky note my notebook to ensure things get done. I do use Google Tasks within my Google Calendar so this remind feature is fantastic. The reminder can be set for a date/time or even a location.
  • within GKeep, adding images, making lists, or just typing notes gives me some creative writing choices.
  • within GKeep, you’ll never lose a note. Just search for it! It even uses OCR so you can take a picture of a page with text (textbook, magazine article, etc.)  which will also be searchable.

After a couple of weeks, my digital notetaking is doing well. I do scribe some items in my notebook and transfer them to GKeep. I think that after Christmas Break I will “hide” my print notebook whereby I will need to use GKeep exclusively. We’ll see how that goes!



Your Help Needed to Keep the Oceans Alive!

64ª A.V. EcoFaxina - Manguezal

This is a great social project for students in connecting the global with local. Students are asked to help solve a larger world problem (the oceans are dying) with a close-to-home solution. It’s a great opportunity for students to problem solve, think critically, collaborate, communicate, manage information and be creative in their learning.



11 x 17 Paper copy of Placemat 1 (or 2) with either three or four spaces and a middle section.

Quivervision’s Enjoy Summer and Sea coloring pack – one pack per group

Oral Presentation Rubric from ReadWriteThink – one copy for each student



Alberta Language Arts Grades 2-7

Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to:

  • explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences
  • comprehend and respond personally and critically to oral, print and other media texts
  • manage ideas and information
  • enhance the clarity and artistry of communication
  • respect, support and collaborate with others.


Alberta Social Studies

Grade 2 Canada’s Dynamic Communities

Grade 3 Global Citizenship


Alberta Science

Grade 3 Animal Life Cycles

Grade 4 Waste & Our World

Grade 5 Weather Watch

Grade 7 Interactions and Ecosystems


Common Core

Reading: Literature

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 7.1


Reading: Informational Text

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3

Speaking & Listening

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1, 2.2., 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6….7.6


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.2.1, 2.2, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 3.7….7.7


Day 1

Guiding Questions

The headline in the local paper and online news blog seems impossible. The oceans of the world are dying. Oceanographers and coastal residents are commenting that we must act right now to stop this. Even though your community does not reside near an ocean or sea, you know that you must help. (10 mins.)


How is your community contributing to this problem?


How can your community change to support ocean life?


What local action do you think would be best?


Note: The teacher can create a “fake news article” using to share this information or post on a Google doc or handout.


Instructional Strategy

  • Have students do some online research in pairs. (Teacher can have a list of sites for students to go to or open-ended search. A collaborative Google document with some specific questions can guide the students searches.) (20 mins.)
  • Divide students into groups of 3-4. Give each group one Placemat where each will record their individual responses and ideas. (5 mins.) Then as a group they will decide what are the main ideas and write those in the middle of the Placemat. (10 mins.) Project on a large screen some questions like – which ocean is closest to our community? What is an ocean? What might you find there? List some problems facing oceans, etc.
  • Each group shares their main ideas and all group posters can be put on a classroom wall. (20 mins.)

Day 2

  • Do some more research. Students will find out what are the problems facing oceans today, how are people contributing to the problem and how are they acting to change this? This could be continued online research and connecting with experts via GHangout/Skype or even email. Make some notes on a collaborative document like a Google Document, on Padlet, or TitanPad. (30 – 45 mins.)

Day 3

  • As a group, students look at their research and decide on an action, that can be taken in their community to help save the oceans. (30 mins.) They can post this to the collaborative document or on a poster, all students will then do a “Gallery Walk” off each group’s work offering any feedback. (30 mins.)

Day 4

  • Students then color the Enjoy Summer and Sea pages in the coloring pack as some of their visuals for the project. They will use an iPad/iPod with the Quiver iOS app to view their augmented pages. (30 mins.)
  • The group will create a poem, commercial, short story or song using their research and augmented Summer and Sea pages. Each member requires a part to orally share during the presentation. (30 – 45 mins.)

Day 5

  • Teacher videos students reading the poem or short story, singing the song or creating the commercial while also showing the augmented pages.  (30 – 45 mins.)



Oral Presentation Rubric from ReadWriteThink – one copy for each student.


Key Vocabulary

Overarching vocabulary found at Depending on the grade level, teachers would adjust the amount of keywords students would be exposed to.



Watch the archived virtual field trip sponsored by Discovery Education – Of the People: Protecting Our Ocean. Participants are taken inside the State Department in Washington, D.C. to learn how international cooperation among nations, as well as everyday actions by students that can save our oceans.


Go to where there are over 150 videos for teachers to make available for students who are studying tides, oceans, etc with also additional lesson plans.


Set up a live Google Hangout with scientists through Their primary goal is to connect classrooms with guest speakers and virtual field trip experiences on science, adventure and conservation from around the world.



Learning with CASS and AbEd

I had the opportunity this week to attend a conference with my Senior Executive team. It’s not often that I have an opportunity like this to sit at the same table with them, although I do get to see and touch base them individually within the school division. It was nice to sit and listen to their thoughts during the keynotes. I was also busy during this conference by hosting two sessions:

Leading into the Future with Learning Commons

The Canadian Standards of Practice for Effective School Library Learning Commons allow schools and school divisions to support a continuum of growth through various activities and learning opportunities. This session will share the work that Parkland School Division has taken on over the past two years as well as showcasing the ERLC Learning Commons Demo sites.


Leadership in the LTPF: Cultivation, Capacity and Convergence (with participant notes)

Parkland School Division administrators who are members of the Alberta Education LTPF Community of Practice will share their journey of LTPF implementation at each of their sites (K-12, French, Christian, Alternate, Rural, Urban). The session will have participants reflect and share their own assumptions, inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes that they may already be thinking about and connect it with the strategies and successes that PSD has seen during this CoP work.

Feel free to check out some of the participant tweets, resources and images that were shared at



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


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


Effective Classroom Instruction Using Tech: Identifying Similarities and Differences

3350940973_4333e99a81_mPhoto Credit: dullhunk 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 Pollock2. 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.

Essential Instructional Strategy #9

In identifying similarities and differences teachers establish the context of the information which allows students to restructure their understanding of that content. Technology allows students to create graphic organizers for comparing, classifying, creating metaphors and analogies.

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.

Classify terms, genres or create an analogy puzzle. Compare raw data from Landmark.

Use Read&Write Gold/Google Vocabulary List to establish a baseline of knowledge.


Take time to review the many lessons and activities created by ReadWriteThink.



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.