Monthly Archives: December 2013

The lighter side of blogging.

A few weeks ago I received the blogging challenge that has been making the rounds. Donna Fry reminds us that there should be joy in our writing, and I agree. The joy that I feel about teaching and learning needs to emerge from whatever I am currently thinking through. But the lighthearted tone that some writers are seemingly so easily able to generate (like Dean Shareski) is something that I always have to work on.

Here’s how this blogging challenge works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

1. My nominating blogger:  PLN Cheer leader Donna Fry is exactly the kind of person you need in your corner when you’re learning.

Am I Ready For This??!

2.  Eleven Random Facts About Julie Balen:

1. Christmas is not my favourite holiday. It’s never been, even when I was little. Extreme consumption is an activity that I have trouble with.

2. It follows then  that shopping is a struggle for me…even online. 

3. I spent many summers working for mining companies, but never in an office.

4. Salt snacks over sugar.

5. Peter Gzowski is my all time favourite radio host.

6. The tapping of fingers drives me crazy.

7.  I once performed in a fringe festival.

8. I have no Native, French, or British blood. But I am Canadian.

9.  I believe in having large windows through which to view the world, and a larger door through which to invite the world.

10. I won the silver medal in the Quebec Regional Winter Games (curling).

11. I met Pierre Elliot Trudeau twice.

3. The 11 questions Donna created for me:

1. What was the first “subject area” you studied after leaving high school?

English Literature…haven’t strayed far from my love of learning about the world through the lens of literary works.

2. If you could cook anything, what would you cook for supper tonight?

Chicken parmigiana—-olive oil, fresh parm, free range chicken and homemade pasta…mmmm.

3. What makes you stop and pause during your day?

Light. Winter light glowing through snow or glistening off of ice. Sunrise and sunset of course, but also shadows and angles of light in the yard and house. First light, twilight, starlight, and moon light. We live deep in the country where there are no street lights or store lights, so night lights give rise to wonder and possibility. And then there is summer light, you know, that quality of light that makes everything look like a post card.

4. Cats or Dogs?

Haha…dogs. I have had many dogs in my life: Scamp, Napoleon, Akela, Baloo, Satchmo, and Hawkeye. BUT, I do have a 12 year old cat, the only cat I have ever had and he makes me laugh more and more each day.

5. If you could have only one Pinterest Board, what would the topic be?

Gardens. No question.

6. What was the catalyst that got you blogging in the first place?

Cathy Mere. She hosted both the Peter Johnston Opening Minds book study in July of 2012 and then the PB 10for10 2012 event. I stumbled upon these events, and they catapulted me into the online learning environment.

7. What is one (funny) childhood misconception that you had, or that you have experienced with a young child? (for example, we lived near Manilla, Ontario during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. My 5-year-old daughter watched the news and thought it was right near our house!)

This is really tough…My first-born child, when he was 3 years old, loved the original Land Before Time movie. He fell in love with the story and the characters…he was Little Foot. However, maybe because he had no experience with TV prior to viewing the film (or maybe this is quite common with kids regardless), I can remember him standing in front of the TV, faced pressed against the screen, lamenting that “I want to be there, mom…inside there with Sarah.”

8. What was your favourite summer job?

Working at the mine and making a ton of money so I could afford to go to university.

9. Where do you find flow?

In conversations with others, not necessarily like-minded and not necessarily face-to-face, but with anyone who will honestly and truly engage with me.

10. What was one personal challenge you faced in 2013?

Finding as much time as I could to participate in ETMOOC!

11. What are YOU passionate about?

Moving people to do great things for other people.

 

Are You Ready For This?

 4. My list of bloggers includes  those who have encouraged me and those I hope to encourage:

1. Jenn Chan @jennzia

2. Rhonda Jessen @rljessen

3. Sarah Le @sarle83

4. Cathy Mere @cathymere

5. Brendan Murphy @dendari

6. Lisa Noble @nobleknits2

7. Amy Rudd @aruddteacher100

8. Peter Skillen @peterskillen

9. Yana Bauer @arachnemom

10. Mackenzie Sayers @macksayers

11. Heather Theijsmijer @HTheijsmeijer

5.  And my 11 questions for you are:

 1. What does online learning mean for you?

2. What makes you laugh?

3.  Satellite vs. Netflix?

4. Movie or Novel?

5. Who is your favourite Canadian author?

6. If you could go on vacation any where in the world, where would that be?

7. Favourite wild flower?

8. What educational event do you REALLY want to attend?

9. What is the one tech tool you cannot live without?

10. Hottest educational trend/author for you right now.

11 List three high points of 2013.

Whew.

That’s if folks. It took me way longer to write this post than I thought it would….maybe it’s the time of year? In any case, enjoy the process!

Wishing everyone a terrific end to 2013 and an inspirational start to 2014!

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Mystery Skype: There’s no mystery here.

This past week my ENG3C class participated in a Mystery Skype with another Ontario grade 11 class. There are so many directions this post can take:

  • What happens when you have a PLN…
  • What happens when you say “Yes” to your PLN…
  • What happens when your colleagues believe in the work you do…
  • What happens when the technology fails you…
  • What happens when the students are collaborators in the design of the event…
  • What happens when students are willing to risk themselves to share a bit of who they are…
  • What happens when it’s over…

But, today I want to focus on what happens when we understand the power of technology integrated into our teaching and our students’ learning.

PB260476

We have been using some technology in our class this semester. A wiki that houses lessons, video, and other resources, Google docs, and recently Twitter and Edublogs . Much of this tech integration is straight-up substitution, and although students are enjoying tweeting out learning goals and daily takeaways, and having access to the Internet in the classroom via Chromebooks, the interaction still falls into the ‘fun and games’ category. I cringe every time I am asked if my students are more engaged because of the technology in my room.

In reality, it has taken us months to feel comfortable using Chromebooks, to understand Google Drive, and to incorporate any of the tech and tools into our day. We have not yet had enough experience using the Internet and its products as learning resources. Social media platforms continue to be used strictly for personal use, so bringing them into the learning environment did cause some surprise. And what they did not impact at all was our intellectual engagement with the course big ideas, questions, and materials. There have been no sparks, no meaningful connections, no newly discovered rabbit holes.

When Sarah Le tweeted me about the possibility of running a Mystery Skype with our two English classes with the ultimate goal of having a conversation about First Nations stereotypes, my antennae began to crackle. Here was an opportunity to test the power of flattening the walls, engaging authentically, and creating conversation for learning.  And yet, what underpins all of this is our ability to think…to plan, to predict, to design, to gather appropriate resources, to problem solve, to collaborate, to take risks. This event, then, was not about technology, at least not wholly.

We had plenty of time to get ready for the big day. We had assigned roles, prepped questions, vetted the other class’ questions, gathered some resources, and held a dry run of the event.  The Internet was a bid dodgy, but otherwise, the students felt they were ready. We weren’t. The second the call ended, students began to evaluate their performance.

“We needed to have better questions prepared.”

“We needed to have thought through a strategy to help us figure out where they were.”

“We needed to be better at responding to questions.”

“We need to be better organized.”

“We need to communicate more with each other.”

In under an hour, students recognized and articulated their learning needs; the same learning needs that I have spent the last two months teaching to. The difference? I think their expressions say it all.

PB260486

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