Month: June 2009

Two Days Left… and Singing

pic02 11x14I spent the afternoon gathering photos to make a slide show for one of my students who is graduating Wednesday.  While my jump drive and I moved from computer to computer, I asked after another student.  Her teacher shared that she wished her student had a way to share the photos the student had taken on the weekend at a school outing but, the teacher added, “there are only two days left!”  Well… 

Tonight, I emailed the teacher 19 different “tools” to help this young photographer.  I’m not sure if my login and password will allow me to embed/link the student’s little project to the school’s web-site, but I’ll go in early on grad night and give it a whirl.  Oh, and I’m happy to report, after sifting through 341 photos, I have not suffered death by slide show.  Score one for Tech Teacher! 

I feel like there should be singing now.



blue fractal

… I think I’ve thought about my future classroom so much, shared so much these last few week, that I thought I’d shared here.  Anyway, here’s the short version:

Computers for each kid, yes, but an access thing, not an at-the-desk thing.  I don’t like the feel of kids in rows behind computers.  I see my future as active, with the students weaving in and out of learning areas that integrate technology seamlessly with other ways that they were learning.  I’m all about project-based, inquiry learning and social action projects.  I love group work, so yes, there will be wikis and oodles of options for kids to demonstrate their learning.  I want my students to learn alongside peers from around the world, learn from teachers around the world and learn from having a world-wide audience to publish for and to comment on their work.  I hope that the learning environment will be filled with diversity, and that it will be student-led. 

The tools that make sense are the tools that will fit what is needed, that will push the kids to ask hard questions and engage with their content, with each other, and with their home and global communities.  As much as possible, tools should be kid-selected.  Isn’t that exactly what we did as we, a class of ECMP355 learners, began to discover as we worked through our final projects?  If my students need for me to learn a new tool, then I will.  I’m not scared any more.  In fact, I’ll strive to introduce new tools with each new group. I will continue to build on our collective learnings.  I’m not nervous any more; I’m only excited about being a tech teacher.  I’ll map out my units, getting feedback from the kids as I go and we will figure out the ‘how’ together.  I don’t want to become a one-sided teacher either, where I plan a lesson or unit around technology.  I want technology to be integrated into my lessons.  I do not want to isolate technology from the other curriculum areas.  I want my students and I to learn the technology skills we need together.  I’ve heard this referred to as “just in time learning” and I believe its the best way to learn skills – in context.  And I’m not going to start small.  That’s not me.  I’m a Middle Years teacher for goodness sake.  It’s called jump in and get wet. 

I want my kids to know that if they are comfortable making a movie, or colouring a poster or singing a song or being private, public, global or anything in between, that all spaces are valued.  I want my students to be able to find the medium that best empowers their individual and collective voices.  I love the idea of scribes and students “owning” the content on the blog, but I’m also keenly aware that this kind of pressure might not work for all learners.  Merging technology into my classroom will be all about differentiation!

How about what my classroom does not look like?  It is not a place where technology is used as a vehicle to entertain a child with a disability.  Ex:  When a child is acting up or the teacher needs a break, the student is allowed to play a non educational computer game.  Technology, though often a learning aid, in not a substitute for teaching and learning.  Technology is not a set of skills learned in isolation.  That would be like learning to bouce a basketball but never transferring that skill or playing the Game / Technology is not just about using the computer as a digital pcoliflower fractalencil for reproducing old ideas.  There’s a whole big world out there to be discovered using technology.  Technology is not an end onto itself.  It is a means to making learning more meaningful for kids. 

I see myself as a tag along guide, door opener person.  I don’t know it all, and don’t ever want to.  I do know that I’ll have to be able to ask good, engaging questions, and get the kids talking, exploring.  I know that learning, as much as possible, needs to be fun and should mirror the way that students learn outside of school.  Like teaching, learning must be rich with choice.  Technology will help provide those choices.

                                                                                                                        Photo: One &  Two


Yesterday, Alec Couros was chatting about sense of wholeness.  Late last night,  I was blogging with Christina about this idea and the notion that more technotlogy is not necerily better, it’s actually debliliateing.  I shared with Christina that the best way I find to keep my sense of wholeness is by taking moments of time away.  I do this once a year, in a big way.  Everylake fuzzywinter I attend a silent retreat weekend.  I bring very little with me, other than touiletties and clothes.  I do not bring my compouter, mp3 player, phone, camera, books, note papter, or pens.  I sit, hike, walk, lay in the snow, eat, sleep, all in silence.  Mostly, I listen.  I take my ‘time away’ to be still, and to connect. 

I am a very wired person.  I am an adult learner with ADHD, sometimes it is as though I do not have an off button.  However, this constant state of busy is not always healty for me.  I learned a long time ago that the best way for me to be well is for me to begin each day in silence, and for me to cultivate moments of solitute.

Perhaps this is why Podcasts have not tweaked my interest.  I like driving with the windows downs and listening to the wind.  I like driving alone and watching the world go by.  I like not being connected to chatter, even if it’s chatter that will help me learn, and I don’t want anything filling the gap in those precious moments of quiet.  

I found this Podcast (out of Regina) and it made me smile, ‘ol soccer mom’ that I am: The Beautiful Game

But, because the point was to get us searching, I found a daily podcast that shares my love of writing.  I subcribed to the podcast and will listen to it as I sit to check my email.  Its the kind of stuff that makes me smarter in all ways: APM: Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac Podcast.

The idea of audio books trills me to my toes.  I see so many applications for students with special needs.  I spent an hour searching for books to put onto a mp3 player for one of my students who is graduating in eight days.  What a great gift!

Photo: Flicker

Mentorship: a new understanding of teaching and learning

I’ve worked with three mentors and their kids but I’ve not been equally engaged with all three mentors or their students.  The level of my involvement has been my own choice, for the most part, partly because with one of my mentors I found a connection and a shared passion to run with the possibilities of this mentorship gift.  For the most part, however, the difference in involvement with the three mentors and their classes was due to a lack of time.  I simply did not have enough time to give all that I wanted to with each group. 

San Diego, grade 7-8 Spanish Language LearnersSan Diago Blog Pic]

I’ve been blogging with Leigh Murrell’s Class in San Diego, Ca.  Like all of my mentors, Leigh was on the ball with inviting me to her classroom blog (using Blogger) and guiding me through the set up of my own home page.  I wrote an introductory post.  I then waited.  What was interesting about this mentorship is that I really waited.  I have Leigh’s class blog linked to my Google Reader and it didn’t occur to me to go back and check the classroom blog to see if the students had left comments on my own blog site.  When no posts came up, I assumed no new posts were being made to my blog.  I was wrong.  As well though, I felt I had no time to check the site and I was on the brink of emailing Leigh and telling her I would not be able to blog with her students.  I had accepted a temporary position with the school system as a ‘tutor’ and I was feeling very overwhelmed.

Leigh emailed me after about a week and said the kids were anxious to hear back from me!  I had oodles of comments.  I read the comments and felt terrible.  I had already given my word to the kids, and even though letting Leigh down would have been one thing, I can’t let kids down, I’m not made that way.  (My temporary position was put on pause for two weeks so that worked out well, for the parameters of ECMP)  I quickly posted a long reply to the students.  Leigh had me reply to the students collectively, on my own page, and though at first this seemed strange, like I wasn’t making individual connections, I began to see this kind of learning differently.  The other kids had a chance to jump in and comment and that took the conversation in a different direction, and I like that.  Openness like this felt more like a classroom discussion.  I did not feel like I was having a discussion with individual students who were thousands away.


Australia, grades 5 and 6 

I’ve also been blogging with Lois Smethurst’s grade 5 and 6 classes in Australia.  I feel that I know her students a lot more than the Sand Diego kids because I’ve seen their faces and heard their voices.  After experiencing the success of Skyping with another mentor’s class, when I was chatting with Lois, I instantly knew I wanted to Skype into her class and introduce myself this way, get to know her kids.  The time difference confused me a little, but we figured it out.  I got to meet both full grades of 5s and 6s.  They asked me questions and I asked them questions.  Lois and I had a short Skype call before I chatted with the students. 

Her students are in the LEEP program, at Berwick schools and these students are referred to as “Lodgers” because of what they do in their extension program.  The easier way to explaining the program is for Lois to describe it,  or to think of it as a pull out program, or self-managed educational technology program for students with exceptionalities.  Lois cautions that she is new to the program, but from what I can gather and from what her students blog, they adore both her and the program.

Currently, they are debating with students in other schools and working on novel studies, though none of these are done in a ‘traditional’ manner.  The students use pod casts, TuxPaint, VoiceThread, Skype, Glogster, Audiotouch and individual and class blogs.  As compared to interactions with the students in Leigh’s class in San Diego, my comments with these Australian students have been very individualised to each student.  However, I know from the comments that they make on their blogs and the project they are engaged in, that the students work collaboratively in class, that the class is filled with social learning.  It’s their comments with me that are individualized. 

My involvement with Lois’s class didn’t need to stay so one-dimensional.  I believe she would have been keen to let me try a number of projects with her students and that likely the reason it didn’t happen was because I didn’t volunteer.  I didn’t volunteer because I knew that I didn’t have the time.  At times too, I felt I was not fulfilling my role with her kids as well as I would have liked.  Some of Lois’s kids simply posted comments on their blogs while others embedded Glogster ‘poster’ pages.  I also found responding to the Glogster pages took a lot more time then responding to a blog post.   I was so surprised when Lois sent me this feedback,

Hi Cori
Just wanted to let you know you are doing a fantastic job on the blog. The students love to get your comments and     they are exactly what I would be saying. They are so much more effective coming from you as you are very special in their eyes. Your Skype conference had such an impact! Thanks for your work, it is brilliant.
Lois                                                                          (Lois Smethurst, Wednesday, June 10, 2009 4:07 AM)

Lois’s class will continue after ECMP355 is finished, and I plan to keep chatting with the kids as long as Lois will let me.  I have a great idea of geocaching project.  Both she and her kids are really good connections.  I think about where I’ll be next fall, in my internship placement, as of last Friday, it’s entirely uncertain.  But one thing that I know, I will stay in touch with my mentors, and I will find ways for our students to connect! 

North Carolina, Grade 6poutine and skype call 001

With Bill Ferriter’s three groups of grade six science classes, I’ve jumped right in.  Bill was the first of my mentors to reply via email and Bill was ready for anything, and said so, often.  He checked to be sure that I had a Gmail account, which I did, and then he encouraged me to Skype into his class and meet his kids.  Bill said go and I said OK.  As Bill struggled with the bureaucracy of getting Skype set up in his class, I struggled with setting up the web cam that came with this computer and its $7000 worth of software and fancy gadgets.  I remember asking myself why I ever would need a webcam?  Oh my goodness.  I emailed Bill later that week that I thought the third period kids were getting the better me!  I was more awake, my stories clearer at 9:30 than at 6:30!  And now, I would wonder how I could ever live without a webcam.  I am a storyteller for goodness sake.  I love sharing stories! 

The way Bill taught using the Skype tool impressed me as well.  He had a clear process for how we were going to Skype, and he laid out his expectations for me.  For example, when we tried the call first call, he said that if the connection failed, he would be the one calling back.  Always, when the class called, Bill and the kids controlled the conversation, not me.  He had the student prepare their questions and they were mostly questions connected to what they were learning, with a few about where I lived (Moose Jaw is a funky name for a city after all).  The kids knew a bit about me; Bill had read the “about me” section on my blog.  But his kids were prepared for the interview, and this showed.  I was being interviewed by well-prepared students, and I was set at ease instantly.  I not only learned how to teach using Skype from those calls, but also how to employ good teaching as part of teaching digital technology!  After those first three visits, I Skyped in every other day that next week.

The kids were practicing CommonCraft tutorials and I was there to watch and offer feedback.  I was nervous that connecting with the kids from so far away and via webcam would be difficult but, for the most part it wasn’t.  With one group I had to pick up my questioning to hold their attention, to keep them on task, but that was all.  I know that those mornings with Mr. Ferriter’s kids were my favorite parts of the whole semester.  The kids and I connected (oh and this makes me sad – on the voicethread that I started and the kids have added to, one of the students with whom I connected –[867-5309, that’s an inside joke, sorry, you are not supposed to get it] recorded his comment and the audio was wonky.  I didn’t get to hear his comments, or his voice.  I’m still sad!).  The kids said things like, “Hey, have you said Hi to Ms. Saas today?”  I loved sharing their learning, being part of their lives and inviting them into mine.

From the first Skype call with Bill that lasted for quite awhile, I knew I wanted to work with his kids and with him.  He was so open to ideas.  As the VoiceThread project unfolded and Bill and I collaborated, I followed what the kids were doing on their numerous blogs and began to read Bill’s professional blog as well.  The VT project started out with the intention that I would create it and the kids would participate in it, however that is not how teaching and learning works.  The project became more like I open a few doors and now I’m tagging along while students are probing deeper into the learning and this is exciting for me. 

However, I can tell the VT is my first one.  I can see all the ways I would improve it, from the guiding questions on the first slide to creating a VT that can be copied, with pages on the end for teachers with different guiding questions that they can record and used as they feel necessary.  Also, the audio needs to be re-recorded.  Let’s not even mention the monsoon season in Saskatchewan that interfered with the video taping!

Anyway, I checked back and there are new comments, all the time there are new comments, and I’m pleased.  I’m going to add the link to the blog about the new owl imprint on Wednesday.  Then the kids can blog with Janet, and follow George’s imprinting journey.  You know, keep the learning going.

When I began my ECMP355 class a few weeks ago, I had, what I believed to be a strong understanding of out-of-the-box inquiry-based learning in a middle-years classroom.  Now, wow, the pedagogy of differentiation, of engagement, of inquiry, of real-life experiences and heck, of just plain fun, is shifting so much I hear the sound of stone scraping against stone.  I hope with Bill, as with all of my mentors this semester, I’ll be able to continue to collaborate with them and their future classrooms of kids to discover social learning spaces where we tag-along. 

My postscript 

I’ve had amazing mentors in my life, my parents, both teachers, three instructors at university, and now Bill.  Recently, the chair of the middle-year program at the U of R announced that she will be heading to the US to write a book during her sabbatical.  I thought how strange it was to head to the US to write when we have so much to learn at home.  Then I met Bill, and began following what he was reading and writing.  My wonderful network of amazing middle-years teachers and supportive mentors is growing; its becoming global. 

I love learning.  I savor it like sweet hard candy.  In six years, my daughter will be off to University and I wonder if I’ll return to school to complete a Masters of Education degree.  In a recent post, Bill shared these words from one of his students:

Dear Mr. Ferriter,

You don’t know how difficult writing this letter is. 
It means admitting that my middle school career is finally drawing to a close.  Three fleeting years have passed in the blink of an eye, and I’m so thankful that you’ve been a part of them.  The year that I spent in your class was one of the most exciting of my life.  For the first time, I enjoyed coming to school each day and reveled in the fun of it all.


You taught me to look at the world in a new perspective.  I learned about all of the things that technology can produce.  I mean, who could forget all of that awesome blogging?  But most of all, you are an all around awesome guy.  You are funny, smart, witty, and can make light of almost any situation.  Thank you so much.

Very truly yours,

boy shoringBill is not a theory man, or better said, his theory is based on practical experience.  Advice from Bill, I suspect, most often comes from what he has learned in the laboratory of his classroom.  Moose Jaw is home.  However in six years, I wonder how much bigger the world will appear, knowing that I have a network of middle-years teachers and mentors?   However, doesn’t having that network, simply bring the learning to me?  Isn’t that the point?  Oh the possibilities…

Photo: Flicker

The Harry Potter Party #6

Last Friday night, my sister, Christie, my daughter, Jessy Lee and I went to the movies.  The movie was fine, but the best part was seeing the new trailer for the sixth movie in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince! 

The sixth book is Jessy Lee’s and my second favourite book in the Harry series, bestested only by Harry PSorting Hat Jaimeeotter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I can hardly wait for the movie!  Here’s why – With the release of a new Harry Potter movie, The Brown Eyed Girls host The Harry Potter Party.  You are welcome to join us – here are the rules:

 1) You must read the book before you can see the movie (and hang out with the cool people).  Oh, and yes, oh my, there is snogging this year! 

 2) You must come in costume.  Most attendees keep their costume choice secret.  Jessy Lee and I do not telBoys pointing wondsl each other what characters we are dressing up as, only our seamstress (my sister) is privy to that information.  Oh, there was an expectation one year when Jessy Lee and I dressed as the father and son duo, Lucius and Draco Melfoy

 3) You must stay in costume and join the group (about 20-30 of us) for supper/desert at a local restaurant following the movie.   At the restaurant we laugh, recap, compare notes and blend in 🙂Spooky Alison

 There is no age-limit; all are welcome.  But you may want to begin planning; costumes have been in production for months already.  This is a piggy-bank-breaking, sewing-machine-using, book-re-reading, big time magic-making event.  So grab a cloak, a tie, your wand and start practicing for your O.W.L.s.; July is fast approaching!

 p.s.  Bet you can’t guess my character…

Social Learning w/ 5 Examples from ECMP 355


social learningphoto flicker


Lyndsay lyndsay with mittons

As the ECMP355 activities began, I admit I regularly read Lyndsay’s posts because I knew her from the previous year when we both sat on the executive of the Education Students Society.  It was no surprise then, after our intrutor’s tech task to break down the camera shots in a short clip from any YouTube video, that after I posted my video, I check in to see what Lyndsay had to say

Although her writing didn’t prompt me to write another post, the images on her post did prompt a response.  Upon viewing her video, another video clip popped up as suggestion of other videos I might be interested in viewing. 

Lyndsay ended her post with these little words, (Oh, and for all you bloggers who do not take the time to hyperlink, please make this note, none of following would have happened had Lyndsay not taken the time for that one little hyperlink), “P.S. If anyone is interested, this video is also by Dove. And this one REALLY DISTURBED ME!” 

I thought, “Disturbed you?  How, why, really?  What parts? What connections does this have to the first video you posted?”  These question were running in my mind as I watched the second video and then saw the video to it’s right.  Lyndsay’s excellent inquiry question already had me searching for my own answers. 

I was instantly shocked by Greenpeace’s video that brought to light of the environmental destruction that happens because of the making of palm oil, the main ingredient found in Dove cosmetic.  Maybe it is the Faculty of Education’s social justice theme that has been molding me these last four years, but I now tend to see the world through a socially just lens.  I did not see social justice in the two Dove videos.  I saw a teachable moment however and I posted about that.

I met Karen when she introduced herself the first night of ECMP355.  I’ve come to know her through her cut-to-the-chase, arts-supporting, beautifully written, roller-derby-loving posts.  I enjoy reading Karen’s blog, not only for the content but for the style with which she writes.  Her prose is effortless, and her writing makes me smile. 

She responded to my post about the Dove videos with these comments, “These films are made for the benefit of getting women to think about their relationship to media, and how beauty is packaged and sold to women as though women are imperfect.” 

All I could think was, “Yes, but dig deeper.  Once kids are able to go deeper and discover the ugly nature of this message, students will really learn how ‘produced beauty’ is superficial”.  There is so much scope and depth in this one little example.  And as my mentoring teacher, Bill Ferriter reflects, and as my teacher of Reading, Dr. Meredith Chereland, often shares, kids become engaged with content when its message centers on questions of fairness.  The same holds true for me, on my blog, in my teaching, with my daughter, in my learning, and in my personal life.  I needed to look closer at the underlying issue of equity.  I believe that the real question regarding Dove’s use of an ethical message to further their unethical goals is does the end justify the means?

Dean said in the June 6th class that if we were going to be critical of others in our reflections than we needed to email these reflections to him and not post them.  I wonder if Dean is of the Thumper mentality that “If you can’t say anything nice, than don’t say anything at all.”  Conversely, Dean has repeatedly spoken of the need for us to strive for a transparency with our social learning.  My transparency sometimes manifests itself as a criticism or a need to stand up for what I believe in. 

I understand this contradiction to mean that a great deal of my current social learning in my blogging belongs to the ever-present System, and not to me.  This is the very description of opaque.  I’m not so silly to think that the system will ever go ‘away.’  Look back at my post about my becoming a teacher.  I deliberately bit my tongue holding for non-tenured reasons…  


Back to my point:  When Larrisa stated in her post that she was engaged in a “battle against the “divorce” label that she described as a label of “hate, bitterness, anger, injustice, deception, pain, agony, shame or any other destructive word” she hit my trigger.  I loath the off-handed divorce label.  People wield it with little understanding of the negative stereotypes it carries.  Children are classified by this label and if you, blog reader, do not believe me, than ponder this: for every box you check off stating you are single, married or common-law, I check off a similar box for my child declaring that her parents are divorced.  I am forced to place her into a stereotype that I believe to be riddled with the destructive labels of hate, bitterness, anger, injustice, deception, pain, agony, and shame.  Now let’s talk about digital identity. 

I loath that my daughter is considered “at-risk” because she comes from a single-parent home.  The supposed risks for children of divorce are much misunderstood.  The truth is that the real risk for youth comes from those who are not shown consistent bonds of trust from the adults in their lives, (Reclaiming our Prodigal Sons’ and Daughters, Brentro).  I have no doubt that my daughter knows bonding and trust, and that she understands these key behaviors better than most of her peers.  And she is child of a single parent.  Have your children learned trust from your behaviors? 

I read to her every night.  I go to all her practices and games.  I am here to negotiate her boundaries with her, and I will never leave.  One night as I held the puke bucket for another of her seemingly endless bouts of nausea through a long night, she looked up at me and said gratefully, “You are my Pukey Mom!”  Yes, this is my label.  Divorce is not our label, and children are worth more than labels.  My daughter is Jessy Lee, and because her home is filled with bonding, mastery, independence and generosity, she is resilient.  Now, this is my understanding of divorce.


 Bill Ferriter advised me the other day to make sure to stay on top of the VT comments, to go ahead and delete the ones that are not classroom appropriate.  He said kids will comment about almost anything, and part of my role in this digital world is to teach kids the difference between an educational environment and a social environment like Facebook.  Bill says that by deleting students’ comments, we give kids that message.  Social learning can lead to a desire to engage in cruelty or futile discussion.  Sometimes, not all posts even need a response.  Sometimes the best response is no further engagement.


As with Karen, I didn’t know Lance prior to this course.  I remember that first night when he shared that this course did not intimidate him.  I remember when he posted his tech task on Google Maps, he was finished so quickly!  That first weekend I was having trouble hyper-linking so I thought, “Hey, email Lance.” 

He replied right away.  That he had cats, was a great conversation starter, like being able to discuss children (Lance loves his cats).  I don’t think a week (other than that week I was teaching) has gone by when I haven’t emailed him.

To Lance:

“2009/6/10 … “OK, for the life of my I cannot remember or find my way through to posting flickr pics…  think of it this way… you can write all about all the good stuff you’ve taught me!!” 

Of course he replied, talked me through it, and I’m fine with Flickr pictures now.  Thanks be to Lance 🙂

What I like best about the ebbs and flows of Lance’s work falls into two specific categories: his knowledge of technology and his calmness with which he engages with the content. 

When we first started, I was certain Lance was this super digital hero and that I would never be as technologically literate as he is.  Look at what he is teaching in the fall .  I’m teaching Middle-Years (5-9), so I was feeling then, that in most cases, the kids would teach me.  Yet, Lance never made me feel diminished as he offered suggestions to me and to others as well.  I was peeking in on his blog and read about how he had responded to Tammy regarding how to add a Cluster Map.  Well, my digital resiliency was through the roof as I persevered Wednesday and got this widget to work.  I have a big red S on my back, I’m sure.  I also think that someday, I’ll be a tech giant too, well, how about this: I be one of the people that Dean invites back to mentor or perhaps someone he’ll invite to an Ellumiate session.  It’s a nifty goal.  Lance helped with that. 

I recall the darn picture of a tree that Lance posted, saying, “I’ve found an old picture of the house taken last year.”  Lance’s posts are gentle.  They are not filled with erudite mumbo-jumbo.  They are real and about him and make you feel like one of his friends, stopping in to sit around his kitchen table and chat.  With Lance’s blog I feel he offers so much of himself because of the way I’m pulled in and later find myself lost in my own memories.  Lance’s May-long-weekend post tweaked something, and even though I’ve read hundreds of posts in the last month, I’ve kept his marked ‘unread’ and returned to it often.  In reply, I had things to say about my first home, the home where I became a mom, the home where, for the first time, I returned this spring.  Memories are very powerful, and this one I savoured.  His posts aren’t critical, but in a way, I feel they make me think more than a lot of posts that blog only the debatable issues.


I’ve known Karie for a few years.  We met through a mutual friend who is now finished her Early Childhood degree and subbing in Moose Jaw.  Karie replied to my post, “Me in 4.”  Karie was reflecting on what she saw in one of the images.  I purposefully had not included words with my images, but after Lyndsay referred to one of the images, the one of grandpa’s grass, as “feathers,” I thought I had better make a brief comment.  I responded to Karie’s comment because I felt she had spend a lot of time with the images, that she was not simply a passerby, “Is that you walking with someone or is that a photo that you took?”  I then, gave back to “her.” I shared part of the meaning found in the photo, but then I stopped explaining the images.  The images in Cori in 4 were done to stand as a work of art.  I have no desire to provide an Artist’s Statement.  Once my work is public, the work changes, this is what I believe.  If Lyndsay thinks she sees feathers in my photo them perhaps she does.  Perhaps I should spend some time and think about how she might see feathers in my silent prairie grass.  I think there has to be space in our social learning not to be keen to reply, but to let some posts stand alone. 

I posted two items like this recently, one about my daughter’s soccer team because I’m a super proud Soccer mom  and she had earned the game ball that night, running into the house to get my camera saying, “Mom, hey, you can blog about us.”  So I did blog.  For me, for her and for all of you who should share in these wonderful girls.  I also posted a Rick Mercer Rant.  It’s a neat upper level teaching tool and if I have to explain the rationale of posting a solid piece of humour on our government’s antics, and expect others to comment on it.  Wow, I’m tired!  Let it stand, please.  Leave it to Rick.  My musings can be likened to Bert’s recent post on digital identity.  You know, it’s only a precious few who are going to change the way they think about me by what I ‘put’ out there.  What you think of me, most likely, is already set.  Most of you already see the ‘feather,’ right?   Hmm.  Though, I like that what is out there I can create and can be a smothering of positive authentic Cori stuff.  Feathers nowhere to be seen.  

Karie’s posts this last while have been a dialogue between herself and her mentor, and her emerging comfort with new teaching tools.  She posts about Skyping and using VT and finding the time to fit in all the projects.  Karie writes “I was so nervous about all of this and you have made it such a wonderful experience. I noticed while watching the post you put on your blog, I may have been speaking a bit loud. Maybe yelling in hopes that you can hear me all the way over there in New Zealand…. I am hoping to have my voicethread done by the end of the weekend. I also would love to send up some answers to the questions that your class has asked me.” And her mentor replied “Here’s the great thing about Voicethread- we don’t have to send things to add to them…No worries about your voice at all- we just shout at the computer as well.”  This is the beauty of social learning.  I’m learning alongside the two of them and they do not even know I am there.  Karie sent this note to me, “I will be careful not to swat at any flies on the wall… lol.”  I adored the mentor’s comment about VT that the beauty in them is that they can be created together while Karie and the teacher are completely apart.  They create it where they want, if they want to, and when they are ready.  Isn’t that what we’ve been doing with our thoughts these last five weeks? … creating our own learning from each other’s spaces?

What’s been going on with “What is Habitat?”

George, Burrowing Owl Imprint Day 1
George, Burrowing Owl Imprint Day 1

So What is Habitat?  and what’s been going on with the VoiceThread project these last few days?

The kids have left some amazing responses. I’m impressed. I can see them making connections between the content I’ve presented and what they’ve been learning in class, like adaptation and current events. The main discussion today centred on needs versus wants, and on people’s ability to adapt versus their willingness to adapt. This is higher level stuff. I wish I had not responded so fully to the first few clips. Argg. But I’m learning too, not only about teaching using VT, but also about Burrowing Owls and habitat. I’ve heard it said often that the more you teach something the more you know it, and this is true.

Anyway, I was amazed at how in-charge-of-their-learning they’ve become. While I was listening to the VT, going from frame to frame, getting a sense of the bigger message, a new voicethread popped up. It’s Saturday people! These kids don’t have to engage in this project. I don’t think it’s homework to them. They are kids motivated to learn. I am really impressed. I’m anxious to get Janet, the Director of Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre, involved in the conversations. She has so much to offer.

But I need to share about their amazing teacher, Bill:
Last Thursday morning, this was in my in-box. “Hey Cori, so we might have a problem! (Digital resilience, though. We’re not giving up.)”

Turns out the VT could only be viewed. Bill and his students could not leave comments on the VT. Via email Bill talked me through getting the VT ready to go. Not a big deal? Think about what Bill was doing Thursday morning. He was in class, teaching middle-years kids and he was also  getting his sub-notes ready because he’s off to Denmark to learn more ways to teach outside the box.

Bill said that when he gets back he would share how he fixed the VT. (I think I’m more curious to learn how he managed to multi-task with such kindness). If I’ve learned anything from Bill, it’s the need to keep plugging, the idea of digital resiliency. I decided, on my own, to try to figure out what he’d done to get the VT working. Here’s what I think Bill did: I think Bill transferred “ownership” of my VT from my account to his account by making himself an editor. The VT is still on my account but it shows up that he created the VT. This is a nifty little VT trick, and I’ll be anxious to ask him if this is how he helped me on Thursday.

As well, I think I might try doing the same kind of run-through with the VT my daughter and her friends made using my two existing VT accounts so that I can get a feel for this fancy trick. Anyway, after Bill had the VT account all set up, I purchased a Pro-educator account. Then I had to delete the original VT so his students would not get mixed up when they were looking for the VT. The moment when I pressed delete was really the only true nerve racking moment of the whole morning!

So was all of Bill’s assistance last Thursday simply No Big Deal? How can I say thanks enough for all his kindness, effort and opportunities to learn these last few weeks? This is a teacher, I think, who cares most about the learning of those around him. ~