The Calm Before the MEd Storm

It’s official; I’m in! In September I  start the final year of my Masters degree at Simon Fraser University. I received my letter last week and already I can feel the upcoming change. I swing between feeling extremely excited to feeling absolute panic! I’m aware that the daily rhythm of my life, which has Storm lightfinally achieved balance and is almost relaxed, will change  dramatically for the year of study. Life is fairly calm right now, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it was just the calm before the storm. I was right; the MEd storm lays directly in my path!

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to record learning, with all the accompanying struggles and successes, on this blog. During TLITE, I kept an electronic journal using Microsoft Word. That was a stretch for me as I’ve always kept a journal, but it was always with pen and paper. Six months after TLITE ended, I started this blog in hopes of maintaining professional momentum. It has served a variety of purposes since November 2008 and soon will serve as one way to record and extend my  learning the MEd year.

One thing that I found with my electronic journal was that I would lapse into personal writing at times. I haven’t done that as much in my blog because I try to stay aware of the audience that comes with writing in a public space and the digital footprint that I’m leaving with every keystroke or click of the mouse. It will be good for my brain to be forced to shuffle through and clarify the professional from the personal this fall.

Not surprisingly, even though I don’t start until September, my mind has Cotton Cloudsalready begun. Thursday morning I woke up with enough ideas to complete two years of coursework, let alone one. But that’s another post. I think I’ll let my brain enjoy the calm seas of contemplation a little longer before I share my ideas with the world…

Images from Flickr: Cotton Clouds by rob_surreal, Storm light by jekrub

Taking a Photo a Day

I love photography. I always have. I’ve always been the person who’s rarely in any photos because I’m the one taking them. Teaching photography is an woodabsolute pleasure and I enjoy sharing my passion for the subject with my students.

Last New Year’s Eve, I decided to take on the challenge of taking a photo a day for the duration of 2010. Not surpisingly, I learned about the photo a day challenge through Twitter. My first photo, at the right, is one of my favourites so far. I started because I love taking photographs, but I also though that it might be an interesting assignment for my photography students and I like to try things out before I bring them into the classroom.

FragilityI decided to follow @dailyshoot on Twitter because they tweet simple, good photo assignments each day. It helps to keep motivated and inspired. You can even tweet your photo with a link and they’ll add it to their Daily Shoot site. I usually try the daily shoot assignment, but, if the opportunity presents itself, I veer off and capture images of my choice.

I use my Flickr account to archive my daily photos. I also joined two groups on Flickr: the 2010/365photos group (a group largely made up of After the rain...edubloggers which started in 2008) and the Art Ed 365/2010 (another group similiar to the first, but specifically for art teachers). I already had a Flickr account, so it was just a matter of finding the groups (which I learned about from my PLN on Twitter) and joining. Both groups contain members that I either follow on Twitter or that have a blog I subscribe to. I purposefully joined groups that would extend my existing PLN experience and I’ve found that being a part of the group has made my commitment more real.

The benefits I’ve experienced so far are:

  • a greater awareness, a constant searching, for that awesome photo
  • some great photos that I’m really proud of
  • a neat visual record of my year so far
  • an understanding of what it feels like to have to take photos in the same place every day. I get it now when my photo students come in and say ‘there’s nothing to take photos of in this school’,  whereas before I’d privately think, ‘how could there be nothing to take photos of in the whole school?’

The struggles I’ve had so far:

  • finding inspiration in the same spaces day after day. I think it’s time to go on some long drives to take advantage of the beautiful natural setting surrounding me. Looking at my photos so far, very few are outside of my house or my classroom, even though I take my camera with me everywhere I go. I want to change that.
  • remembering to take the photos. I haven’t missed a day yet although I haven’t posted all the photos online, but I have forgotten until late at night and then I was stuck taking a photo just because I had to. Not surprisingly, those don’t turn out very well.
  • technical difficulties. I’m getting a dark spot in the lower right corner of my recent photos. It only shows up in certain close up situations with the flash and it’s ruined a few good photos already.
  • uploading the photos to Flickr, then naming them, tagging them, adding them to the group pool, etc. Is there an easier way to archive the daily photo? There probably is, but I haven’t found it yet, so I usually only upload every couple of weeks or so.

In this time of limitless online professional development, the daily photo is a Linesvaluable and worthwhile learning experience. I’ve really enjoyed it so far and I think it will make for a valuable photography assignment for my students. I wonder about others’ experience so far and I think in a classroom setting, where the students can sit and talk about their successes, struggles, etc. face to face, it will be even better.

All images by me.

It’s Been Awhile…

Where to start?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. My apologies to those of you who do check in regularly. I’ve thought, at least once a week, of something that would make a great topic for a post, but then life rushed me right past it before I could pull it out of my mind and onto the ‘new post’ window.

Here’s what’s happened in the last two months to prevent me from posting:

#1. Report cards. I’ve been teaching for 14 years and I still haven’t figured out how to do reports without the rest of my life coming to a complete standstill. Any ideas?

#2. Presentation to colleagues on Using Web 2.0 Tools To Build and Maintain a Personal Learning Network for the district non-instructional day in November. This was really a long, detailed Tech Corner designed to spread the word about the great potential for learning connections using technology.

#3. Twitter. Wow. I said that in August, and I’m still saying that now. In only six months I’ve sent 636 tweets, decided to follow 302 people and I’ve picked up 195 followers along the way. If you want to be connected in the world today, you have to be on Twitter. It’s just that simple. It does come with a price though. It’s taken a fair chunk of my computer time away from this blog but because it’s microblogging, I still think I’m moving forward with my online pro-d.

#4. Christmas. I think for the first time in my life, I managed to pull off a wonderful, organized, fun-filled family Christmas without tiring myself out. I made it a priority and I maintained balance which meant that some things, like blogging, just didn’t take place. But this is some of what I did accomplish:

  • 8 batches of gingerbread cookies (my specialty)Christmas Baking
  • 4 batches of sugar cookies
  • 2 batches of shortbread (secret family recipe)
  • 1 batch of krumkake
  • 1 gingerbread house
  • several Christmas movies, complete with treats, blankets, pjs, and other comfy movie night necessities
  • a beautiful Norwegian Christmas Eve dinner, etc., for my husband’s family

#5. I joined a book club. My first, actually. A wonderfully inspiring colleague asked me to be a member so I couldn’t refuse! We’re reading Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen. The coolest part so far was a conference call to Eric himself (turns out one of my colleagues knows him, what are the odds?!) after we read the first chapter.

That’s my update! I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do plan on posting more regularly. More to come…

Tech Corner – Wordle

At the start of every staff meeting I present a short (~5 minute) agenda item called Tech Corner. During Tech Corner, I introduce something related to using technology in education. My overall purpose is to advocate for the transformative integration of technology into the school. With a positive approach, I show items of  interest to colleagues to get them thinking about how they could use technology to enhance the learning in their classrooms.My Wordle

The last Tech Corner focused on Wordle.  I’ve used Wordle in my blog posts before, but after seeing it used at the local elementary school I decided to share it with colleagues.

Using the laptop and LCD projector, I started with a quick demo introducing the Wordle website. I then showed two different ways to create a Wordle: paste in a chunk of text or type in a URL for a webpage that has a RSS or Atom feed. I then shared a few examples, some from online sources (Obama’s speech to students at the start of the school year) and some from students in my own school (a colleague had used it for the first time earlier that day). Ever the art teacher, I finished off with a quick demo of how to change the design using choices of language, font, layout and colour. It was a typical Tech Corner – lots of info through visual examples, some demonstration and me talking through the whole thing.

I often wonder about how Tech Corner is received. Do staff really enjoy and learn something useful from my five minute technology blitz? Or are they tuning out and marking while I talk?

This time, I learned very quickly what the teachers at my school thought about the Wordle Tech Corner. The next day, a teacher came into my classroom because he was having difficutly using Wordle in one of the computer labs. We soon discovered that one lab has Java installed on the machines so Wordle works properly, the other lab has machines without Java and with Deep Freeze, so installation is a problem.  Although we had to solve that problem, I was thrilled that he was using the website with his students!

In the next few days, a Wordle sensation spread throughout the school. A bulletin board appeared with student Wordles all over it. The secretary called me in because she needed help creating a Wordle for a card for her brother (brilliant idea actually – she brainstormed words about her brother to create the Wordle and made it into the front of a card for him). Another teacher asked me questions about it. And students in my classes asked how to use the site and started creating their own Wordles out of curiosity!

This Tech Corner had a positive impact on the students, teachers and secretary at the school. I wonder, though, why this one was more successful than Tech Corners of the past. Was it the striking visual impact of the Wordle itself? Perhaps it was the use of elements and principles of design that only an art teacher would know about? Was it that the non-stop Tech Corners at the start of every staff meeting for the last three years have opened up people’s mindset? Was it that the staff are becoming more receptive to using technology over time?

My graduate diploma mentor said that quality learning often results in more questions than answers. Although I’m on the teaching side of Tech Corner, I’m obviously still learning, albeit with different outcomes than everyone else.

Wordle above of this blog post and courtesy of Wordle

Tips on Creating Effective School Technology Leadership

Thanks to Twitter and Scott McLeod, I learned that today is Leadership Day 2009 (#leadershipday09) in the blogosphere. The idea is for bloggers to share ideas related to effective school technology leadership. These posts are then linked back to Scott’s original post in his excellent blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, for everyone, including school leaders, to read and comment on. Sounds like a great way to share ideas, start a complex conversation and learn from others!

To start, how is leadership defined in an educational context? I like Mintzberg’s definition:

“Leadership is…about energizing other people to make good decisions and do other things. In other words, it is about helping release the positive energy that exists naturally within people. Effective leadership inspires more than empowers; it connects more than it controls; it demonstrates more than it decides. It does all this by engaging – itself above all and consequently others.”

Leadership goes beyond school and district administration. In every school, there are usually teacher leaders too. According to Harris and Muijs (2003),

“(t)eacher leadership is not a formal role, responsibility or a set of tasks; it is a form of agency where teachers are empowered to lead development work that impacts directly upon the quality of teaching and learning. Teacher leaders lead within and beyond the classroom, they identify with and contribute to a community of teachers and influence others towards improved educational practice.”

Based on those ideas, I think the first step in creating effective school technology leadership would be the creation of a team of administrators and teacher leaders. The purpose of this team would be to work collaboratively to enact constructive change towards increasing effective use of technology within the school. I think it’s important to note that the team members all need to be willing to participate with school staff in formal and informal professional learning activities. A metanalysis conducted in 2007 by Professor Viviane M. J. Robinson suggests that the most effective leadership dimension is “promoting and participating in teacher learning and development.” Leading by example and being active participants in the process is key.

Once you have a team in place, the next step would be to ask some questions:

  • How is technology being used to enhance learning in school?
  • What needs to be done to more effectively integrate the use of technology in the school?
  • Where are teachers ‘at’ with the use of technology in their practice?
  • Where are students ‘at’ with the use of technology in their learning?
  • What do people know?
  • What do they want to learn?
  • What do they need to know?

After getting some answers (and probably even more questions!), staff could work on goal setting. I think it would be important for a few school wide goals to be decided, but I also think that personal goal setting on how to more effectively use technology in one’s own classroom would be useful too. From there, the original team could take on the responsibility of planning some professional development activities, and then the learning, and hopefully, positive change, could really start.

Technology is intimidating to many, as is change. To increase success, I think it’s vitally important that the team adopt a respectful, supportive, patient, and encouraging approach throughout the entire process, from asking the initial questions of staff members, to all pro-d activities. In my experience, the approach is often the deciding factor in whether or not one is able to really engage and motivate the learners and create a community of learners.

Now that I’ve written this out, I think I might just try it. What do you think?

Professional Development Meme 2009

Happy Summer Holidays to all of those who teach/learn from September to June! I was catching up with my Google Reader and thanks to Claire, thought I’d begin my summer posting by sharing my pro-d plans for the lazy days ahead.


Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2009 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules

  1. Pick 1-3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
  2. For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/07/09).
  3. Post the above directions along with your 1-3 goals on your blog.
  4. Title your post Professional Development Meme 2009 and link back/trackback to
  5. Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme09.
  6. Tag 5-8 others to participate in the meme.
  7. Achieve your goals and “develop professionally.”
  8. Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

My Professional Development Goals

1. Finish reading A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink and Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. I read the first chapter of each of these, but never continued because I was distracted by other learning. That seems to happen to me quite a bit. Sometimes I think my learning is a huge web full of divergence…

2. Post once every 1-2 weeks – There are several post ideas waiting in my little black book and simmering in my head. I’ve read Disrupting Class and Dances With Dependency in the last few months and I think writing about them would help to solidify my learning. 

3. Finish my e-portfolio. I have the basic layout of an online resume completed. Now I need to collect, scan and import all the photos, newspaper articles, and other visual extras that will help to explain my unique teaching experience.

Like Claire and Phil, I’m not tagging anyone. If you read this post I hope you decide to join in and complete the meme in your own blog! Also like Phil, I’m going to add some extras. These are not necessarily goals, they’re more like professional development play to amuse me during the summer:

1. I’d like to play with Twitter this summer. I just signed up and love it already! Follow me!

2. I’d like to play with my blog. I should redo my About page, and I should also probably finish the 31 Day Blogging Challenge I started in, *cough*, January.

3. I need to start prepping a yearbook course. I’ve sponsored the school yearbook for three years, but always as an extra, after school activity. Next year, I’ve convinced admin to allow me to teach it for credit within the timetable. There’s a lot of potential for some great learning and collaboration here, so I’d like to be ready to maximize that.

That’s it! That’s enough! I’m so thankful to have a job I love which allows me summers off work to relax and rejuvenate. Ten weeks of nothing but time – time to read, play, learn, nap, run, bake, bike, socialize. It’s amazing to live life minus the forced work schedule.

Imagery by threedaysatseaat

Reflecting on Professional Momentum

Just over one year ago, I was very concerned that I was about to lose the professional momentum that I was experiencing as a result of graduate coursework. At the time, I was finishing a graduate diploma which had completely transformed my teaching practice and I worried that the end of the coursework would coincide with the end of my professional growth spurt.

Now, a little over a year later, I am confused and indecisive as to which way my professional life is headed, hence the reflective nature of this post. I did not lose the momentum as I’d feared; in fact, there is too much momentum and too many options before me to choose from. Time seems to be speeding by and more and more opportunities are piling up. I need to slow things down. I need time to process, time to think, time to listen to my intuition…it’s a good thing summer holidays are right around the corner! I need time to find that inner map and decide which road to choose.

Road #1

The first road leads a year of coursework to complete the Masters in Education degree. The application is submitted and the waiting has begun. If I am accepted, I have one intense year of academic study during which I’d love to explore how to use technology to improve the critiquing process associated with an art program. My art class blog is inspiring me to investigate this topic more fully, more completely and with proper academic perspective. I like the art class blog for many reasons. I think it’s a great idea with wonderful potential and I would love the opportunity to explore it as an action research project. I feel like this year my first attempt was just a taste of what I could really do with blogging in an art program. I want to finish the MEd and I am excited about the idea of one more year of intellectual overload. I do not look forward to the negative impact from the travel and time away from home life, but it’s only one year and timing is right, so it’s manageable.

Road #2

I’ve been asked to participate in a shared instruction project within my district. This involves team teaching with another teacher from a school in a different community using video conferencing, Elluminate and Smart Boards as tools to allow such a project to work. This is exciting, innovative stuff. This would be a great project to be involved in, especially from the beginning when one could have a lot of input into the initial planning and shaping of the project. The problem is, I’ve already submitted the Masters application. I can’t do both the Masters and the Shared Instruction project. I’m hoping that even if I drive by the off ramp to Road #2 this time, that I can circle back and take that route a year from now, provided it’s still open for me to take.

Road #3

I won’t get to this road for awhile – this is the route to administration. I would like to move into administration 8-10 years from now. This will be a difficult road (at first, anyway) but one I’m interested in exploring and one I’m sure that I can do, and do well, with the proper training. Perhaps 5-10 years as a Vice Principal to learn the job from an exceptional mentor (high expectations, as always) then finish off my career as a Principal before retiring to do a PhD in Education. That’s as far as I’ve thought along that route, but I think it’s a good option to keep in mind as I move along in my career path. The MEd route fits in nicely along the way, as does Road #4…

Road #4

This is a side road to leadership. I like this route. I was asked to participate in a Leadership Series that started several months ago. This project involves developing leadership capacities in teacher leaders within a tri-district group working under the direction of the British Columbia Education Leadership Council (BCELC). There’s some action research involved (I think mine’s leading towards encouraging teachers at my school to increase their transformative uses of technology with their students – sound familiar?), a great deal of collaboration with others and guidance from a few well respected experts in the field.

Road #5

Family circumstances being what they are, a move is inevitable at some point in the near future, near future being no more than two years away. The move would need to be to a new community, which means securing a new job. I’m pretty sure that my teaching experiences thus far is unique enough to at least make districts take notice of my resume and it allows me lots of options in terms of what teaching positions I can be successful at. The problem here is that I strongly dislike not knowing where I’m headed. Which road above, #1 or #2, will most likely lead me to Road #5? And then what happens to #3 and #4 along the way? And what happens when I turn down the road that leads to a new home and a new job and all the changes that go along with relocating? There, at least, my sense of adventure kicks in and I get excited. Once I find the route, I can relax and enjoy the ride. I’m also playing with thoughts of a major change – international school? teacher exchange? So many routes there, I don’t know where to begin…

Road #6

The last option is more like a parking lot than a road. I could do nothing and just stay where I am. No MEd, no shared instruction, no move. I could just let the career car idle for awhile. Not very environmentally responsible, and not really me either. So, not really an option, but I need to be aware of it as a choice so that I don’t get stuck idling and then five years from now realize that I’m still sitting in the parking lot trying to decide which way to go.

There are other smaller side roads branching out along the way too – maintaining and building on my web log, CEET (another project I recently became involved in) and others. The further I travel, the more branches there seem to be along the road. I guess that’s better than the alternative, but frustrating for someone with an open and sometimes indecisive mind.

I need to keep the professional momentum moving, not too fast, and not too slow. Any ideas? Which road(s) look the best? Which route would take? Feedback, thoughts/ideas, or any maps you know of would be greatly appreciated…

Imagery from – Too fast by raysto, crossroads by StuffEyeSee, and Private Parking Only by Shrued

VSS Conference 2009

Have you ever experienced an absolutely overwhelming professional development event? For example, a conference where your mind feels so full of new and interesting information that if one more idea tries to fit into your brain, your head will explode? I’m sure that would never actually happen, but you know what I mean…

That’s how I felt last week at the 2009 VSS Annual Spring Conference. I still feel ‘full’, although my mind has had a couple of days to sift through and absorb the experience. It was a great conference for many reasons and the three days I attended were filled with opportunities for learning and networking. If I have time, I would like to write a few posts about the conference, but for now, I’ll sum up the experience with my four favourites.

My favourite keynote speaker was Michael Horn. He is a brilliant man, the kind of person I could sit and listen to for days. Michael’s keynote focused on applying the theory of disruptive innovation to the field of education. It was an interesting blend of MBA vernacular and what’s happening in education today. I’ve just started reading the book he co-authored, Disrupting Class, upon which the keynote was based. So far, I like it. I like the writing style and the argument that is building makes sense. The book is U.S. based, but definitely applicable outside of the States.

My favourite session was “What’s New on the Net” presented by John Goldsmith. The session I attended was standing room only. John went through his blogsite, DE Tools of the Trade, a resource you don’t want to miss! From free online file converters to online safety sites, there are countless websites to explore.

My favourite coincidence was being invited by Betty to sit with her one morning. I sat down, Betty introduced me to the two other women at the table, and the small talk continued.  The interesting part was that I sat right next to a lady named Claire. After a few minutes, Betty pointed out that I follow Claire’s blog, at which point I realized I was sitting beside someone that I knew of and had ‘met’, but only virtually through blogging! I have been reading Claire’s blog since last summer. I like what she has to say so I have commented on her posts and she’s replied back. Last Thursday morning, I sat right next to her and never would have realized who she was had it not been for the fact that Betty made the connection.

My favourite exhibitor was You have to check this out. This site allows teachers to create and store lesson plans using interactive, multimedia material based on content found in Canadian museums. Created by the Department of Canadian Heritage, it is very clever and has a lot of potential uses. 

Finally, the benefits of attending a conference are not limited to the formal learning that occurs. It was a really great week for me. Playing Wii Tennis at an exhibitor’s booth with Lisa was fun, even if she did beat me! Going out to watch the Canucks win the fourth game of the series and sweep St. Louis was awesome! And all the fun little experiences, the quick yummy breakfasts, shopping trips with family and inside jokes involving crayons, made it a very memorable, stimulating and exciting week for me.

Imagery by me.