Summer Reflections

I see today as the halfway point of the summer. July now becomes memories while August sits in the future, full of possibilities.

I’ve chosen time with my children over time with a screen lately but I enjoy blogging every summer (like now when it’s 4:48 a.m. and I can’t sleep) so here I am, sitting at the laptop, listening to a very enthusiastic rooster while the blue moon sets and the sky lightens on August 1st.

One last confession before I launch into my reflections – my urge to blog was also pushed along by the fact that my older son, a very tech-savvy teen, gave me a hard time recently about not spending enough time online. Just when I think I have the work/life balance all figured out and I feel I am being a good mom, along comes the teenager to make me question my decisions. Not surprising, really, as he’s the type of kid that constantly pushes you beyond your comfort zone in general and I (usually) love him for it.

Enough preamble…time to reflect and share about my summer so far!

Summer Reflection #1: New camera equals new learning about photography

 For the first time in my life, I’m learning how to use a really nice DSLR camera. My dad (who took up photography when he retired from being a principal ~10 yrs ago) loaned me one of his many fancy cameras so I’ve been happily taking all sorts of cool photos and learning a lot in the process. I’ve taught photography to students for 12 years now but this camera is well above and beyond what you’d work with at a school. It’s been a wonderful learning experience and hopefully I can share some of my favourite photos here soon.

Summer Reflection #2: I love summer because I have time to read for fun

 I’ve read at least 2-3 novels a week since the start of the summer holidays. I. Love. That. I inherited a Kobo e-reader in the spring and I’m learning a new reading experience through that device. I love the convenience and ease of access it offers and I’m guessing that’s one reason I’ve read so much.

I’ve also had the time to tackle the pile of books to read for school. By far the most memorable book I’ve read in that pile is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. A great book to read during the summer. So good. Thanks to Pernille Ripp – it was her post that brought it to my attention.

Summer Reflection #3: The summer of last minute ‘there’s been a change in plans’

 This has been making me a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy. The entire month of July was me making plans and organizing events, trips, etc., only to have them be cancelled, changed or spiral right out of my control at the last minute. After a month of what I can only call chaotic upheaval in my family life, I’m trying to adjust my outlook and just go with it. Not easy for me, I’ll admit, as I’m the planner/organizer in the family. I’m not, however, planning anything else this summer. I’m going to live in the moment and work on being more flexible. Instead of creating a summer holiday, I’m going to experience it instead. Lots to learn here.

Summer Reflection #4: The summer of drive here. Now drive there. Now drive somewhere else.

 Along with the chaotic upheaval and constant last minute ‘change of plans’ has come numerous day and overnight trips. I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time in a vehicle as the time I spent driving around the southern half of the province in July. Now I don’t like traveling and I get fairly carsick, even when I drive, so this hasn’t been easy. In retrospect, it’s been nice to see family living in other places and I’ve been reminded of how stunningly beautiful British Columbia is. I also love that the highways around my little hometown are the only ones on which I regularly see wildlife. There’s something to be said there.

Summer Reflection #5: The summer of starting to learn to let go

This is the most difficult thing I’ve experienced in awhile. My kids are growing up fast. Both are in high school and I love this stage of family life as I’ve loved all others, but this one comes with the future of adulthood right around the corner. This summer I’ve had to let my older son go away on his own, for the first time, more than once, and it’s been really, really tough to do. The most difficult situation involved him traveling hundreds of kilometres to the US for six days with a local sports team. It was an incredible opportunity for all the boys and my son was noticeably changed (in a good way) and matured when he returned home, but wow, was it a tough experience personally, and not just for me, but for a bunch of the parents. While it’s necessary to be supportive and positive and help your children move along into this next phase of their lives, it’s hard because it also means letting them grow up and learn how to be away from home. I know it’s the next step in this parenting journey but I just don’t know how to do it. Thankfully I have some time to learn and adjust and figure it out.

Here’s hoping that the learning journey that is life is a little smoother, easier, kinder for the second half of the summer. Happy August and thanks for reading!

 

 

Scattered, drifting, lost, anchored and trying to figure it all out.

I’ve felt a little lost professionally for awhile now. Well, I don’t know if ‘lost’ is exactly the right word. It’s definitely something, though; even my blogging is unsettled, inconsistent. I feel scattered. I can’t focus professionally. It’s starting to irritate me, partly because I can’t figure it out.

There’s still, thankfully, a strong sense of purpose. A real sense of ‘right’. I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to do. But for the first time in a long time, as a professional, I feel like I have no firm direction. And it’s not as if there’s no directionality to my thinking and professional development. There is, but there’s almost too much. I’m not really getting anywhere. There are too many things I want to think about, focus on, learn. I’m at the point where I’m not experiencing deep learning and I think that’s what I’m craving. Maybe that depth is what’s missing.

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When I think about all this and try to figure it out, I keep thinking of ocean imagery. I envision drifting aimlessly along on a gentle ocean. The water is calm with subtle swells and gentle movement. I’m enjoying the ride even though I have no way to control the direction I’m headed. But I love being on the water. I’m not afraid. It doesn’t feel bad. Just a little aimless. Like I should be doing more than drifting.

Up until a year or so ago, I would regularly come up with a professional plan for learning and follow through. But lately, I move in one direction and learn a little bit, then my attention is caught by something else, so I switch and think on something else for awhile. It feels a bit like a strange, scattered holding pattern. Like there should be something more, but I don’t know what it is, but also like I’m craving a profound immersion in professional learning that will bring purpose and a sense of direction.

At this point, the only way that I can see experiencing that kind of immersive learning experience would be to go back to school. I really, really love the push and obsession that comes with formal education and there’s a big part of me that wants to go back to school eventually. But eventually isn’t now, and maybe that’s part of the holding pattern.

The holding pattern is partly the stability that comes with where I’m at in life. I love my family life and feel that each day with my sons is more and more precious. I’m keenly aware of the fact that in half a dozen years or so they’ll both most likely have moved away. And by moved away I mean different town because most young adults have to leave this small town to find their way in the world. I don’t even want to think about it. An elder told me not too long ago that I will have a tough time with the empty nest when it comes along and I’d wager she’s right. For some reason, I thought it would get easier to let my children go as they grew older, taller, stronger and more independent. It’s not.

So while I feel a little lost professionally, at the same time I guess what I’ve figured out by writing this is that it’s home life, especially motherhood, that anchors me. There’s an overall balance there. I may be drifting around professionally but I think I’m drifting around that stable little island called home. I can see all the lovely learning possibilities out on the horizon, but I’ve anchored off the place that has profound personal relevance right now and I just don’t want to travel too far away. It’s starting to make some sense. Maybe.

I guess I’m not really lost and drifting, but instead, anchored where I need to be while experiencing the ongoing struggle with the balance between home and work. And that’s okay. Love my family. Love being a teacher. Being pulled both ways but anchored at home.

 

Photo accessed February 24, 2015 and used with permission from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-JHtCb9JrqKo/U4ZTkrt8bKI/AAAAAAAAPBM/-vwXQGjZBo4/s1600/CayoLargo-ocean.jpg

Thinking about Literacy

One of my main focuses for the school year is literacy. One of my main focuses every year is literacy, but I’m trying to step outside of the professional echo chamber that I think I’ve been a bit stuck in for a year or two and take a fresh new perspective. I kind of feel like I’m starting over as a teacher. And I am in a way, as I’m teaching grade seven again for the first time in almost twenty years. It’s where I started and the feeling of coming full circle is a constant in my mind.

Back to literacy. I enjoyed Will Richardson’s keynote at the CUEBC fall conference and wanted to hear more from him in person while I had the chance, so I attended his session on literacy later in the day. During his keynote he talked about how there were so many two word phrases with the word learning in them: mobile learning, e-learning, distance learning, etc., etc., etc. Will reminded us that it’s all ‘learning’. Do we need all those extra words?

He talked during his literacy session about the same sort of thing: digital literacy, visual literacy, information literacy. Isn’t it all just literacy?

So then what is literacy. Without looking it up, I’d say literacy is a person’s ability to understand and process information and to communicate. The dictionary I just looked in (written in 2006) defines literacy as “the ability to read and write”. My definition is an expanded version of that and I think it’s expanded because people like Will and experiences with students like those sitting in front of me have made it expand.

I want my students to be able to read and write. I also want them to be able to communicate through a multimedia slideshow. And look at a painting and tell you about the elements and principles of design. And be able to find a reliable, good source of information if they have a question they want to answer. And be able to critically read through information online. And, and, and, and, and…

I’m guessing that not only have I come full circle back to students in grade seven, which has prompted a reinvigoration in my practice including the literacy focus, but I’m thinking that being a teacher of students in today’s world, not to mention students in the Elementary Connected Classrooms project, is forcing me to shift my ideas and learn more about how I define literacy.

More to come…

Renewed Sense of Purpose

There has not been a regular public day of school in BC since the middle of June. Between the strike and the summer holidays, we’ve pretty much had the entire summer season out of school.  

During this extended summer, I can count the number of times I got up to start my day before 8:00 a.m. on one hand. I am not an early bird, though strangely I have the most energy and seem to be at my most positive and peppy first thing in the morning. So, being off work I slept in. I told myself because I was staying up later at night that it was okay if I took my time getting out of bed in the morning. I worried a few times that I was falling into a pattern of being lazy. I worried that I was falling into depression. I was happy enough and I had a fantastic summer, but there were many times when this nagging sense of doubt entered and I worried about my discipline and overall motivation in this seemingly endless summer.

Fast forward through that endless summer to last Friday, the first day of work for all public school teachers in BC. Last Thursday the majority voted to accept the tentative agreement offered, thus ending the teacher strike. So, at 9:30 last Thursday night, approximately 41000 teachers realized that they had three days to prepare to teach students as students are back in school tomorrow, Monday morning. If you’re a teacher, or live with a teacher, you can imagine how overwhelming that Thursday night was. For me, personally, I was super excited to be going back to work, and super freaked out about how in the world I could possibly be ready for students on Monday because I usually work at least 7 full days at the end of August to prepare for the first day of school.

One of my main concerns at that time was simple – how am I going to get up in the morning? Would I be able to get to sleep at night? Strangely, Friday morning at 8:00 I was already in my car driving to school. I’d been up since 6:30. I was wide awake. I was excited. I was full of energy.

As I was driving, I thought about everything in that last paragraph. I thought about all the days I’d slept in. I thought about my worries surrounding my sleep cycle. I thought about how great it felt to be up and almost at work. And as I was thinking all that, one word popped into my head.

Purpose.

With a return to work came a renewed sense of purpose. I love being a teacher. It is much more than a job to me. It is a calling. My calling. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing, has been for the last 25 years. Longer actually, but I initially refused to listen to that calling because my parents were teachers and I told myself that I wouldn’t follow along in their shoes (can you say teenage rebellion?).

I was ecstatic, joyful, and motivated Friday morning as I drove to the school earlier than I’d practically driven anywhere in the past three months. I need to teach and be surrounded by children and help them learn and help them along in their path in life because without it, I’m a little lost. And this is third major reminder in my life that yes, teaching is where I should be at this point in my life.

I must say that my own two children are an even stronger calling and I do find my life’s purpose in them every day. But I have said many times that I wouldn’t be a good stay at home mom. I need more. I’m a better mom when I’m a teacher. So for their sake, and my own, I’m glad that I have this renewed sense of purpose to motivate me and get me out of bed earlier every morning.

 

To be a teacher

I spent yesterday at a wedding. It was a beautiful, intimate event at a cabin on a lake. No cell service. No 3G. No road access. Boats carried guests from the dock a few kilometres out of town for a ten minute ride down a glacier-fed lake to the cabin. All this on a gorgeous late summer day.

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No big deal, right? People go to weddings all the time. The thing was, though, that I’m not related by blood and I’m not best friends with anybody from the wedding party. My connection to the event was through my job as I taught both the bride and the groom when they attended the local high school years ago.

Now, when I say I’ve taught the bride, that’s an oversimplification. She entered into the art room in grade eight when I taught art and photography. She never really left until she graduated in 2010. While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, as she did take other courses, there were many, many days during which I spent more time with her than I did with my own children. She took every art course, every photography course, worked with me on the school yearbooks, helped me set up several student art shows for the community and she worked closely with me the year she graduated on everything from fundraising to transforming the gym with decorations for prom and graduation. She’s an incredibly talented artistic person and it was a delight to teach and watch her turn into the wonderful young lady she is today.

A year ago she contacted me to go for tea. My standing offer with all students after they graduate is that they can contact me anytime to go for tea and visit. Many do, and she has. More than once. The visit last year though was special as she shared her recent engagement and asked me to save the date for her wedding.

I was honoured to be there yesterday. To be invited, as a former teacher, to share in such a special time in someone’s life is humbling to say the least. All other guests were either family to the bride and groom or close family friends. I looked around at one point and realized that of all of the young adults sitting at the table, I had taught every one of them.

I couldn’t help thinking about all the connections as the day went along. I sat through dinner with a former student who earned her teaching degree last year after completing her practicum in my classroom last year. I was lucky to spend time cuddling with an adorable 6 month old baby boy, the son and nephew of two sisters I taught all through high school. I also visited with a handsome little guy who just celebrated his first birthday – another son of two talented former art students. At one point, I introduced myself to the boyfriend of the maid of honour (twin sister to the bride and another student who practically lived in my classroom through high school) and he recognized my name as it’s come into conversations – it was instant recognition on his part. Finally, when I thanked the bride, her parents and the groom, for inviting me, they were so authentically happy that I had come to share in the special day.

And it wasn’t just today. This wasn’t my first wedding where the connection was through having taught the bride or groom. I’ve also been invited to and attended baby showers and first birthdays. I’m guessing that maybe it’s a small town thing, but maybe not. I’m pretty sure that this happens to teachers because to be a teacher is to have an impact that matters in someone’s life. And you don’t have to look up at the moon to realize that an impact leaves a mark that lasts.

Teaching isn’t just a job. It isn’t just lesson plans, curriculum and helping kids learn a list of outcomes. Well, it is all those things, but it is much, much more. To be a teacher is to have a lasting impact on someone’s life to the point where, when a guest list for a wedding is being written up, your name is brought into the conversation. To be a teacher is to honour someone’s life in such a way that you become a part of their life and the life of their family, even long after they leave your classroom. To be a teacher is, at times, to become something  similar to extended family – someone who is remembered and included in special celebrations like weddings and baby showers.

To be a teacher is to feel joyful for a wonderful day spent visiting with former students and their families. To be a teacher is to share in the beautiful celebration of two lovely young people as they begin their marriage outside a cabin, on a lake, surrounded by mountains and family and friends.

And so today, in spite of chaos all around, I am more thankful and honoured than ever to be an educator. Amidst a teacher strike and a bargaining impasse with the employer, I’ll hold on to the beauty and the joy I experienced yesterday because I decided to be a teacher.

Photo taken by me from the dock at wedding yesterday.

 

Sunshine, Family Fun and Happy Summer Adventures

If you read my previous post, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I ruined your day, brought you down, made you think the world was a little more dark and sad than it should be. Truth be told, the world, and those living on it, have suffered greatly this year. The horrors occurring in Gaza, the Mount Polley tailings pond breach here in BC, the recent death of Robin Williams – the world has been hurting.

Strangely though, amidst all that, my life has been overwhelmingly happy and fun. The theme of this post is the opposite of what I wrote about yesterday, and the remaining bit of my desire to reflect on and share my “incredibly full” summer in order to prepare my head to move into the upcoming school year.

I have had a fantastic late spring and summer. Late in the spring, there were some major positives occurrences in my life. I’ve written at length in one of my professional journals about a trip to Victoria to tour the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII) with a group of colleagues. What a fantastic trip and an amazing school. If I could transport myself directly there with my children attending and me teaching, I’d be in heaven. Also during that trip we attended a radically different institution designed around neuroplasticity. Both schools left my mind reeling and I’m hoping to go back next year with the ECC team.

Then there was a fantastic weekend in May during which I was lucky enough to attend and present at both the Networks of Inquiry and Innovation symposium and the Growing Innovation Symposium at UBC. Another mind-blowing professional development weekend that I also wrote pages and pages about in my journal. Not sure why I was keeping those thoughts to myself, but I’m guessing it had to do with the need to protect myself somewhat during that difficult time which I wrote about yesterday. Makes me think that I was very turtle-like at the end of the year, retreating into the safety of my shell as needed.

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Summer holidays hit with record high temperatures in July! The little town where I live was the hottest place in the county more than once this year. The best way to deal with temperatures that high is to load up floaties, a picnic lunch, a good book and head to the lake that’s only 10 minutes out of town. My sons and I spent the better part of July doing just that and it was awesome. There is nothing that says ‘summer’ more than cooling off with a long swim in a beautiful, cool, clean lake surrounded by mountains and fresh air.
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Another thing that says ‘summer’ in BC is skateboarding and, as both my boys love skateboarding, we joined a group that travelled to two nearby communities for a day of skateboarding and sightseeing. The boys loved it! They were able to skate a very new concrete park about two hours from our town and then skate another older park in a city known world wide as a tourist destination. After they skated for hours, we enjoyed a group dinner before driving through the mountains to get back home.

Then there were the times spent with my siblings. So. Much. Fun. I hugged, laughed with, cried with, hung out with and ate with (I won’t even get into all the food – so good!!) all four of my siblings. I also had a lovely trip down to the city to see my dad and step-mom. Finally, I have four nephews (aged 10 months – 11 years) and I got to spend a bunch of time with all of them this summer. It was an absolute blast – quite literally actually, as during one visit, a massive storm blew through the valley and one of my brothers saw a lightning strike actually hit one of the mountains and start a forest fire. Crazy. At one point there were 12 people in my little home, most camping out in the back yard. All of my father’s grandchildren, six boys, were running all around my house and my yard and it was complete chaos. I loved it. This was a summer of treasured family time and I’m very thankful.

14770046313_74a4f2cf38_zAnother highlight was a family trip with my husband and boys to a sports/music festival. Again, super fun. Even though you can see it on TV, seeing a guy on a dirtbike do a back flip in the air a few metres in front of you is amazing. That trip ended off with my teenager’s first concert – a chart topping DJ who has worked with some of the biggest singers in the world. It was also my first experience at a DJ concert – all the other concerts I’ve attended have been an actual band on the stage. It was super cool to see the visual show; whoever created all those incredible graphics so perfectly matched to the music is a genius. The DJ, who’s from the UK, only did the one show in Canada this year so we were fortunate to see him and enjoy his music first hand.

One of the last big events was a trip down to the city with family to see my sister off to grad school in Ontario. That trip was an emotional roller coaster and, like the rest of the summer, packed with fun. Great food, fun activities, and, one of the highlights of my year so far, a trip to an author signing for one of my favourite novel series. The author is actually a history professor in southern California and her talk before the signing was more like a lecture than a book talk. It was fantastic to meet her! The next day, after another lovely family dinner, I hugged my sister one last time before she headed off on an airplane to begin her Masters degree halfway across the country. I miss her so much and have no idea when I’ll get to hug her again, but I’m super proud of her and excited for this next phase of her life.

A camping trip with my younger son finished off the list of summer adventures. He invited a few friends to an overnight campout birthday party at a local campground. We were lucky to enjoy ‘smores and hotdogs over the fire as the local forest service lifted the summer-long campfire ban that day. The boys had lots of fun and I’ll never forget the feeling of peace and calm that I experienced looking up at the stars on that beautiful summer night.

All the negatives from my last post and the world around just seemed to slide off this summer because I was surrounded by love, happiness and fun. It’s been an incredible few months full of renewal and rejuvenation. I’m thinking that can only mean more good times ahead with the new school year starting soon.

All photos by me :)

Stormy Skies, Rough Seas, Deluge

I’m thinking that this has been the longest gap between posts in my blogging history. Not surprisingly, the reason for that is that life has been incredibly full. That’s not an excuse, just my own reasoning and, as this space is for me to share as I choose, that’s as good an explanation as any.

The phrase “incredibly full” is a simple statement that encapsulates a very complex five months of life. Last year was one of the most difficult of my career due to reasons beyond my control. During the last few months of the school year, when the stress I was under manifested as medical issues, there was a personal tragedy within the family of old, very close friends and this affected our entire community. At that point, my body and mind went into survival mode and I had to make my health a priority. Life was pretty dark and rough for awhile.

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On top of a difficult year end, personal tragedy and medical issues, there were months of chaos and uncertainty surrounding contract negotiations between the teachers in British Columbia and our employer. A breakdown in this process meant that the school year ended suddenly as teachers in BC walked out on a full scale strike two weeks before school was supposed to end. Even now, two months later, there is no resolution in the dispute and while the beginning of the next school year is scheduled to begin in less than a week, teachers may still be on strike.

I like to keep this blog a positive place full of ideas and thoughts that need to be clarified, deconstructed, remembered and shared, so it was a conscious decision not to write and pollute this space while in a negative deluge of life. I only share these thoughts now because it’s time to move forward and to do that I need to clear my mind by consciously placing the struggles and negativity behind me and firmly into the past. Basically, acknowledge and shift forward.

Tomorrow I’d like to shift my mind further into the renewal that comes with a new school year (even if we are still on strike) by remembering and sharing all the goodness that came with the summer. And there was a lot of it – “incredibly full” from above also refers to a whole bunch of fun. I had a wonderful summer, the best in years. I’d like to end such a great holiday by reminding myself of the abundance of blessings in my life and then carry that feeling as I move on into the transition ahead. So, another post tomorrow I hope, full of fun and happy times, to balance out the darkness I let in above. Until tomorrow…

Photo Storm Light by jekrub

The Learning Power of Educational Video (as taught to me by my son)

Here’s part of the prompt for this month’s Blog A Month Challenge found here:

Our optional topic for March centers on the learning power of educational video.

Great movies challenge our thinking, speak to our emotions, and take us to distant worlds both historical and fantastic.  Integrating the power of videos into your classroom, professional development, and/or school culture offers even greater potential impact as there is the opportunity to reflect, discuss, and critique the quality and message of the video.

Suggest one to two of your favorite videos (Ted Talks, YouTube Clips, Vimeos, Movie Clips…etc) that you have used in your school setting, and share how you used it. Explain how incorporating this visual into your presentation or lesson has helped you to achieve your goals.

Now I’d better admit right at the start; I’m not a ‘video’ person. It’s not my first choice of media to learn from. I rarely click on links and watch videos. I will, however, gladly read an article/blog post/etc., and I almost always click on links to photographs or images. I’m not even really a movie person anymore, much to my husband’s dismay. I think it has something to do my notion that a video or movie will take too much time. I would need to think on it a bit more to figure out the resistance and general disinterest.

You may be wondering how the direction of this post is going to turn around to the learning power of education video, the topic for the month shown above. I’m getting there through the lens of motherhood and leaving the obvious direction that the topic above seems intended to take. Hope that’s okay. It’s the way my mind went…

Like many of our youth, my teenage son is a video fanatic. While he would barely read a book to save his life, and he hates reading in general, he devours youtube videos like no one else that I know. He’s one of ‘those boys’. He’s really, really active, he’s really, really quick & bright, and he’s really, really horrible when he’s bored. He doesn’t like school and he’s a bit of a nightmare to engage in a classroom (understatement of the year), but when he wants (key word here – ‘wants’) to learn or do something, absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, can stop him. He’s more than a little intense and has this indefinable quality that I love and can only describe as his ‘edge’. I love him to pieces.

So what does this have to do with the learning power of educational video? Well, for him, and for many of those lumped in with him into that demographic that we want to keep in school and engage and help succeed, for him and those like him, the fact that the content can be engaged through video as the media IS the learning power. I’ll expand on that, and hopefully it will make sense.

Lately my son has been watching TED and TEDx talks. All on his own. No prompting from me about educational value. He watches them on his phone, anywhere, anytime and at home on his computer. He watches them first on his own and then, if he feels that it’s worth it, he’ll invite me to watch with him. He also shares links with friends. I’ve noticed him quoting the speakers from the videos in general conversation. The topics of the videos usually make sense to me. I understood immediately why he wanted to watch Rodney Mullen: Pop an ollie and innovate with me and why he’d want to watch Forget what you know: Jacob Barnett but he branches off and engages with other, seemingly random, topics too. Vine, Instagram videos and his own youtube channel round out the multimedia aspect of his lifestyle.

He’s paying attention. He’s learning independently and making meaningful connections to his life and his interactions with his peers and his family. I’ve been analyzing it a bit because it’s obviously deep learning and it’s interesting to me because he is a really tough kid to ‘teach’. It’s tough for teachers to get him to learn. It’s also interesting to me because video is such a foreign way for me to learn. Yet it’s so natural and easy for him, not to mentions a complete and total contrast to trying to get him to learn from a book or virtually anything written on a piece of paper.

I should mention at this point that my two sons are being raised with a high critical awareness of the content they consume and participate with online and elsewhere. Anyone who knows me will understand the passion for (digital) citizenship that I carry around deep seated within me, and that has been an important contributing factor to my childrens’ behaviour online and in general. We talk about gaming, social media, online interactions, etc., all the time. And don’t get me wrong, he still watches his share of ridiculous content too (he is fourteen and stupid humor is at an all time high with him) but the fact that he’s choosing to watch high quality educational content is noteworthy. And it makes me proud, and hopeful. Maybe this is how he will get through the next few years and find success after high school. Maybe video is the key.

I didn’t exactly take the prompt and answer the questions above. But I did make a powerful connection between video as being key for some children to engage with content and learn in a meaningful way. For some students, like my son, the learning power of educational video is the fact that because it is multimedia, it is more likely to engage. For whatever reason, multimedia content will make some students pay attention. Is it their ‘language’? Their learning style? Their literacy? I’m not sure, but if your goals are to engage and help your students to learn, then the type of content is something to attend to. A small shift, but potentially huge gains for our students.

I have many, many more questions on this but I think that’s enough for today. I’ll keep paying attention to learn more and I’m looking forward to the Blog a Month Challenge topic for April! Thanks for reading!

Afterthought – if you’d like to check out some great videos with educational content, check out the Rodney Mullen and Jacob Barnett links above – lots of interesting bits that relate to learning and the field of education! 

Blog a Month Challenge, or My Latest Formal Push to Learn

If you know me, you know I need/like the push and obligation of a formal learning commitment. That’s how I seem to work best. Left to my own devices, I become happily lost reading works of fiction, spending time just being with my children, making satisfying creations with my hands and enjoying frequent rejuvenating naps. Life at it’s finest.

But I like professional learning too. Problem is, I really only experience professional learning efficiently with a formal push. As I do from time to time, I’m signing up for a blogging challenge to force myself to write in this space. I love writing here, don’t get me wrong, but to make myself find the time I need a little extra outside motivation.

So, thank you to a tweet I noticed this morning from Shawn Davids, I learned about the Blog a Month Challenge. Yes, I need a little encouragement and accountability and yes, I need a formal push to post once a month, so, yes, I signed up! I can do a post a month. And now I have to.

 

A Little Sunshine to Start the New Year

Thanks to Sarah and Claire for giving me the purpose to write a blog post in the form of a little “sunshine”. What does this mean, you ask? For those who haven’t seen it yet, there is an internet/blogging/Twitter meme going around and Sarah and Claire were kind enough to include me. Sarah explains what this meme is about perfectly in the following excerpt from her recent post:

Here is a description of this blogging, twitter-generated, meme-type task:

The Sunshine Award gives others an opportunity to learn about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 (or so) other fine bloggers for you to get to know! Although I know every one is busy at this time of year, I hope the bloggers I nominate will be able to share a few interesting things about themselves. They can then highlight bloggers that they have enjoyed following.

Here are the rules:

Acknowledge the nominating blogger. Share 11 random facts about yourself. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition! Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

Thank you Sarah for that perfect explanation! So, here’s my Sunshine Award info:

11 Random Facts about me:

  1. As a child, I lived and grew up in Kitsilano and the West End in downtown Vancouver.
  2. I spent almost the entire year from the time I was two to three years old in and out of oxygen tents in the pediatric ward of Vancouver General Hospital. Asthma wasn’t so controllable in the days before Ventolin and inhaled steroids. Back then you received a shot of adrenaline in the behind. Not fun when you’re two. I have vivid memories of my hospital stays during that time. Horrible.
  3. During my childhood, my mom and I spent many years scouring used book stores in Vancouver and Victoria looking for old editions of Nancy Drew novels and I have a fairly complete collection. It was special time spent with her searching for the books and also a shared passion to read them.
  4. I was on the pit crew for my husband and his best friend when they used to race our 1949 Willys pickup truck in Mud Bog Races. You should try changing 40″ plus tires caked in thick mud – character building :)
  5. My husband often says that he knows when dinner is done (if I’m cooking) by the sound of the smoke detector alarm going off. Sadly, this is true.
  6. My current/former pets include dogs, fish, cats, rats, a tarantula (inherited class pet) and a ball python.
  7. I haven’t been able to engage with non-fiction since completing my Masters Degree in 2011, yet I continue to purchase the latest education must-reads, which then sit on my book shelf looking pretty and unfortunately not interesting to me in the slightest.
  8. I like going camping. Real camping where there is no running water, no numbered campsites and no other humans anywhere near where I’m camped with my family.
  9. I like to spend time looking out windows, but there has to be some space beyond to look at. A window that is close to and faces a wall seems like a terrible waste.
  10. I like to bake. I grew up in a house that always had something home made sitting on the kitchen counter for the kids to enjoy and my kitchen often offers the same. It relaxes me too and I enjoy the creative aspects of taking a bunch of ingredients and transforming them into something completely new.
  11. I have never been on an airplane.

11 Answers for Sarah:

  1.   What is your middle name and why do you have it? My middle name is Leigh. I love it. I also have no idea why I have it, my mom isn’t around to ask the reasoning behind why she named me that, and nobody else seems to know the reason behind it either.
  2.   Who is your favourite female family member and why? That’s easy. My one and only sister is my favourite female family member. She’s actually one of my best friends in life, regardless of the fact that she is much younger than I am, and I love her to pieces.
  3.   What do you do that you wish you didn’t? Get up early to get to work on time. If my job started at 11:00 each day, I’d be a much happier and healthier person.
  4.   What is your secret addiction? or a confession you are willing to make. Hmm…what to share, what to share… I guess I have a simple but serious addiction to tea. My day is not complete with one cup of earl grey tea.
  5.   If you could do any other job what would it be? I fantasize about having a job that I leave behind each day when I go home – a job that isn’t so important that I go through life without the heavy burden of some sort of professional responsibility 24/7. That said, I did go to fashion school after high school and earned a Fashion Merchandising diploma. I still love the world of fashion and would love to work in the industry. I think that I’d like to be a librarian in a big, fancy college/university library. I could see myself being a solitary professor living the life of an academic. I would also like to write – that’s actually one of my plans after I retire – I have all sorts of plans for various novels/books/stories.
  6.  What is your favourite breakfast meal? I’m a cereal person. I have to have cereal in the morning. Something healthy, crunchy and gluten/nut free with a moderate amount of nice, cold milk.
  7.  What sport would you love to be good at? My first thought is  softball because I love the satisfying crack of the bat when it connects with the ball and it’s fun to play with a team.
  8.   Do you watch the Olympics on TV? Why or why not? Yes, or, if I’m working or away from home I ‘watch’ on Twitter. I like the Olympics because I am a proud Canadian and love cheering for Canada’s athletes plus I enjoy watching the amazing athleticism that some humans can achieve.
  9.  What is in your freezer right now? All sorts of food (bread, beef, chicken, frozen bananas, melting chocolate wafers, blueberries, french fries, apricots from my tree last year, tomatoes from my garden, etc.) because I have two always-hungry, growing boys. Bait because my husband loves fishing and there are many great places to fish around here. Ice packs because I have two always-active boys who often need to ice minor injuries from skateboarding, biking, running, trampoline-ing, wrestling, and whatever else they do to hurt themselves in a day.
  10.  What were you afraid of as a child? Being kidnapped, which, in retrospect, was possibly the result of reading Nancy Drew novels and other mystery stories all the time.
  11. What is your favourite colour? Why? I’ve never been able to choose only one colour as my favourite. My favourite colour shifts between greens, purples and blues so I guess I feel most comfortable with cool colours if you want to think along the lines of the colour wheel. More specifically, kelly green, emerald green, and a nice bright clean spring green. I also really like forest, dark and hunter as shown here. For purples I like both purple and violet equally but prefer the medium tones and darker shades over the lighter tints. Blue is my comfort colour – it’s throughout my house and I wear it all the time – and although I never wear it, blue and orange is my favourite colour combination.

11 Answers for Claire:

  1. What lead to you becoming an educator? That’s a long answer! The short version is that because my parents were teachers, I rebelled against what I wanted to do (teach) and went to fashion school. After three years in retail management making money for someone else selling clothes people didn’t need, I was frustrated and disillusioned as to my purpose in life. After a day of soul searching with my husband, I realized I really did want to be a teacher and work with children and I needed to swallow my pride and go back to school to do what I had always wanted to do.
  2. If you hadn’t become an educator, what would you have done instead? Please see #5 above for some thoughts on that!
  3. Are you concerned about student privacy and security with regards to cloud computing?  For example, do you have any reservations about students using Google Apps or other cloud based services?  I don’t trust Google. I admire them and love using many of their online products but I don’t trust them. I have big concerns about privacy and security in regards to cloud computing and everything online. There are too many people out there driven by greed and other selfish urges for me to trust that my data/my students data/my children’s data is safe.
  4. What was the first ‘real’ job that you had? My first real job was as a sales clerk at the Fields Store here in town. That was my Friday night/Saturday morning job for four years through high school.
  5. What is your current favourite book, movie and / or album? I watched Silver Linings Playbook this week and loved it! Wonderful actors, a great story, fantastic composition on the filming – very good movie!
  6. What did you always want to be when you grew up? I had a pretty strong desire to be a teacher, then a doctor, then a writer, and then a fashion designer, in that order.
  7. What is the strangest food that you’ve ever eaten? Cow tongue in Home Ec 11. It was horrid. I didn’t eat for a week afterwards. Blech!
  8. If you could sit down and talk with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why. My mom because I miss her. Simple.
  9. How far away do you live from where you grew up? I grew up in Vancouver until I was nine, so that’s about 400 kilometres away from here. But at the age of nine, my mom moved us here for her teaching career and I grew up about two kilometres from my current home.
  10. What is your favourite way to unplug and unwind? My every-other-day run. No headphones or music for me! Just the birds singing and the quiet of the rural roads in my town!
  11. Salty or sweet? Sweet!!

Now the tagging part (or not so much tagging as sharing the sunshine while I break the chain):

This is the part where I break the rules and break the chain. When I was looking for people to tag last night, most of the people I wanted to tag have already done their homework and completed fantastic sunshine posts! You are all very diligent people. Instead of tagging these people, I’m acknowledging them as very important to my PLN, people I’d love to meet and spend time talking with or people I have met that I’d like to learn more from in the future.

Check out the sunshine homework posts already done by some of these amazing people. Or check out their blog. Or follow them on Twitter. Connect somehow because they’re good people:

  1. Dean Shareski
  2. Michelle Baldwin
  3. Chris Kennedy
  4. Tia Henriksen
  5. Sarah Soltau-Heller
  6. Chris Wejr
  7. David Truss
  8. Claire Thompson
  9. Brooke Haller
  10. Iram Khan
  11. Cori Saas

Now that I’ve broken the chain, I should add that if you do want to continue and post the answers to my questions, I’ve come up with, for the most part, simple choice-type, random questions. Feel free to explain your choices, or not!

  1. If you could choose would you prefer to live in a city or a small town?
  2. If you had the space, would you plant a flower garden or vegetable garden?
  3. Would you rather drive a sleek, fast European sports car (one example – Ferrari) or a sleek, fast classic car (one example – Corvette stingray)?
  4. Do you prefer cats, dogs or neither?
  5. Are you a night owl or an early bird?
  6. What’s easier for you – writing using paper and pen or writing using word processing?
  7. Have you ever climbed a tree or had a tree fort?
  8. What is your favourite season?
  9. What was the first or best concert you’ve ever attended?
  10. Would you prefer to attend a backyard barbeque or go to a fancy restaurant?
  11. When was the last time you drew something?

That’s it! If you do decide to answer my questions and continue to spread the sunshine, here’s a summary of the homework assignment:

  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. Choose to:
  5.     a) 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, or,

b) Break the chain like I did and end it however you like.
That’s it! Thanks again to Sarah and Claire for giving me a reason to blog and get my head back into ‘work’ mode as the end of winter break draws near!