Monthly Archives: May 2013

To my Ontario PLN. Hello.

I have been thinking about constructing a post to introduce myself more officially to some Ontario educators I have met online for a few weeks now. This move is important because relationship, connection, and community is the be-all and end-all for me. Of course, it takes time for meaningful relationships to form, but at the very least we should be able to answer the basic question, “Who the heck is this person anyway?”

This is how one draft began…



I am a high school English teacher  by trade, but as of 2010 I began working as the K-12 literacy coach for the Wikwemikong Board of Education.I have spent many years teaching and learning about teaching in isolation. But I am not speaking of teachers closing the doors of their classrooms because I didn’t. Nor am I speaking about being physically isolated as many First Nations schools are because we aren’t.

Nope. I am referring to being professionally isolated from other educators, school boards, and the Ministry of Education itself. First Nations schools are federally funded and until very recently were not included in provincial initiatives.  With the opportunity to connect face-to-face limited to the rare conference, we were left to our own devices to move our practice forward.

When I heard about Twitter, I immediately signed up. It was April 2009.  However, without the connections to subject associations (the English Association is quite inactive), unions, or the ministry, I could not ‘see’ anything happening in education, so I moved on. I played around with Facebook in the classroom, certified as a Flat Classroom teacher, and then ran into #etmooc and #gafesummit where I did begin to connect with Ontario educators. (This is the end of a draft post.)

To this point, my thinking in this post was really about how hard it can be to find people to connect with, who share enough of the same context as yours so that the engagement is meaningful and relevant. Through #flatclass and #etmooc, I made lots of connections to educators both globally and nationally, and I  appreciate the conversations I have with this part of my PLN, but I did wonder where my fellow Ontario educators were.

#Ontsm answered that question, and what I learned from a week of public thinking and reflecting on social media can be found here.


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I started teaching directly to digital citizenship this year in conjunction with the Flat Class Project one of my colleagues was running in her leadership class. I also ran the same lessons, more or less, with a grade 6 and grade 8 class who participated in Global Read Aloud 2012.  Post-#Ontsm, I have to say that those lessons just scratched the surface of the conversations teachers have to have with students about navigating the social media landscape. The problem with that thinking is it assumes that the teachers understand the conversation themselves, and after witnessing a week dominated by intense back and forth discussion, critical questions, and deep reflection by educators who are well-traveled in the social media landscape, that thinking couldn’t be farther from the truth.That it is paramount for teachers to be involved in social media is clear to me, and I have been chipping away at their resistance to engaging in social media through holding Tweet chats and Google Hangouts for various book studies, and modeling the use of creation and curation tools in their classrooms.  I need to do more though. I need to unpack the lessons learned from #ontsm and connect them to the curriculum.  I need to demonstrate that this is not a stand alone lesson or unit. Rather, our consideration of social media must be woven throughout all of our teaching.

Here is some of what I’ve learned this week.

Social Media & the Curriculum
1. The importance of understanding the conventions of any text form.2. Understanding the power of word choice. What is derogatory language and how can we ensure that the language we use is not hurtful or distracting?

3.  Creating media products in all content areas to summarize and synthesize.

4. Incorporating critical literacy across the curriculum

5. Digital literacies (here I am referencing Doug Belshaw’s work used in a prior post)

“Once we see that online texts are not exactly written or spoken, we begin to understand that cyber literacy requires a special form of critical thinking. Communication in the online world is not quite like anything else.” Gurak (2001)

Evidence from #ontsm
The hashtag: why and how it’s used. See Brian Harrison’s explanation here.Some language used in tweets and posts may have caused many to wince: “teen-like” and “coming out of the woodwork”

Andy’s Scoopit! and Alanna’s Storify.

All of the posts and tweets surrounding the corporate agenda. But for me, especially Jane’s comments on media literacy.

To recognize as Stepan does that even in the social media landscape we are human and that relationships matter.

We need to pay attention to the inevitable gaps that appear in our 140 character conversations.

And finally…beyond what learning I can transfer into my practice from this social media conversation, I have  questions about the process of consultation in educational change.  One of the hottest topics in the province centres on student voice and inclusion, and yet in this conversation the issue of diversity did not venture beyond credentials. Did Pearson include the voices of minority populations? ELL? Special Education? First Nations? Rural? How can we work towards having not only a common  curriculum in this province, but also common representation?

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