Showing posts from 2014

How I Got Hooked On Science Fair

Tonight I met with several members of the Simcoe County Regional Science and Technology Fair committee. It's only my second year on the committee but I truly enjoy spending time with the other members. On the way home tonight I took some time to reflect on why.

At a glance the members of the science fair committee seem pretty diverse. Although many of us are teachers, some are not. Those who teach do so in public schools, Catholic schools, private schools and colleges. Some of us have young children at home (who occasionally get dragged out to meetings) and some are retired empty-nesters. We often hold our meetings in restaurants and I'm betting it's hard for strangers to figure out what could possibly bring us all together.

Two years ago I attended the regional science fair as a judge. It was my first time at the fair (my school hadn't participated anytime in recent history) and all it took was one conversation with a 4th-grade scientist for me to be hooked. There is …

Twitter and My PLN

Our recent board-wide launch of our New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL) project saw students, parents, teachers, and administrators gather in the same space to share their vision for education. We discussed barriers to progress and helped find ways to overcome them. We talked about the value of community connections and the power of student voice. We struggled with the open-ended nature of the project and the feeling of responsibility that comes with creating new learning in our schools.
During the NPDL launch we were encouraged to share our thinking throughout the day through Twitter. Many of us were happily ‘tweeting’ during many of the presentations and discussions. We tweeted to help us share insights, distill out the ‘big ideas,’ and acknowledge the contributions of other individuals around us. At about the midpoint of the day I overheard a comment from a teacher that could have come from me six months ago. To paraphrase, he said: ‘It’s a shame so many people are so busy Twe…

'Bring IT, Together' Conference Debrief - Part 2

Part 1 of my conference debrief can be found in my previous post:

This post is a summary of my take-aways from conference sessions I attended. They're here for me more than anything, but I would like to invite you to browse - you might find something interesting to you! If you want more information about any of these presentations I'll do my best to help you find it. I have included Twitter handels for presenters if I have them.

STEM Lesson: How to extract DNA from a banana
Martha (@marthajez) and Drew Jez from Fair Chance Learning. Loved this session; as a science teacher I love the idea of recording observations using video and photo documentation as well as in writing. The USB microscope for class viewing was neat. We Skyped with a scientist to discuss our findings and ask questions (VROC program). Partners in Research, in addition to VROC, offers other exciting opportunities including STEM summe…

'Bring IT, Together' Conference Debrief - Part 1

As a new blogger this is my first attempt to summarize a conference experience in writing. I don't want to assume that all readers have been to a conference before, so I'll attempt to describe the overall experience before sharing the good bits.

Picture a place where hundreds (sometimes thousands) of like-minded people converge in a single location to share their passion. There are conferences for dentists, weavers, physicists, philosophers - if you can think it up, it probably exists. Last week I spent three days in Niagara Falls at 'Bring IT, Together 2014,' a conference hosted by ECOO (the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) and OASBO-ICT (Ontario Association of School Business Officials - Information and Communication Technology). This conference is for people interested in the use of digital tools to transform education and there were over 1500 attendees. Over three days I attended three keynote speeches, four in-depth hands-on technology sessions, and …

Much more than a new perspective.

I became a teacher in 2003. I taught science for 10 years before, give or take a mat leave or two, before taking on my current central role. I had (and still have) excellent mentors who taught (teach) me the value of routines, relationships, organization and balance. I could have taught very happily for 10 or 20 more years without changing anything.

In April I saw the job postings for IRT positions in an email attachment. I read the attachment more than once, but thought up many excuses for not taking action. There were commitments I had made to the school that I didn't want to back out on: student government, academic awards assembly, etc. There was my family to consider; a new job might mean irregular hours and would certainly take me farther away from home. The third major excuse I made was that I was probably not cut out for this type of role. I am an introvert and have always carefully navigated my workplace spaces and relationships in a way that allows me to feel calm and in…

The grass is different on the other side.

The secondary science classroom is my natural environment. I have supervised fetal pig dissections involving 34 students and put my trust in hundreds of teenagers as they melt, boil, mix, and observe chemicals. I have labeled and stored a large number of dangerous substances and dealt with hazardous waste disposal. Outside of the classroom I have helped students put on musicals, organize dances, navigate relationship breakups, choose post-secondary programmes, and deal with all of the pressures they face as young adults. These things are part of the natural rhythm of my day. When I teach Chemistry courses I am teaching students who have chosen my class as an elective; everyone is there with some kind of agenda. Although we find time for fun and for indulging curiosity there is a great deal invested in grades at this level. The enjoyable bits of learning sometimes get lost as students focus on their numerical grade and their chance of being accepted into their university or college of …

'Spoiling the Surprise' - Is this something we need to worry about?

Indulge me by participating in a little visualization:
You're strolling down the hallway of your school and are walking past the classroom of a colleague who teaches a grade lower than the one you are currently teaching. Your ears perk up when you hear something familiar. A feeling of panic rises inside you when you realize what you're hearing: your colleague is using an activity/demo/video/whatchamacallit that you usually use during your unit on widgets! The moment of surprise you would have had with your future students has been ruined.

This has happened to me many times before. I have been a Chemistry teacher for the most part and I have in my back pocket a wide array of demos and other activities that do an exemplary job of driving home key topics for my grade 11 and 12 students. It used to make my uncomfortable when one of these 'key' demos was done by another teacher in grade 9 and 10. (It isn't that I don't do any demos with the 9's and 10's...ju…

If I Could be a Student for One Semester...

Today I decided that I want to go back to high school so that I can take some tech classes. I spent the day with a group of communication technology teachers who were meeting to share and learn about some of the toys and tools available to them. My role today was to support the teachers' introduction to GAFE by providing login support and demonstrating a few of the tools (forms, Classroom, docs). Easy, right? Nope. I has some serious competition.

Representatives from Canon were on hand to demonstrated some of the features of their XA camcorder. The demonstration of the functionality of this camera made me seriously consider whether I had something I needed to make a documentary about right now. For instance, maybe I need to show people how to use GAFE on their smartphones whilst rollerskating on the waterfront trail. That might be useful, right?

The TriCaster was another gorgeous piece of equipment on display. I had never been exposed to this type of equipment before, and the poss…

EdCamp Reflections

September was filled with many new experiences as I started my central position. You could almost hear the energy crackling in our workspace (which has been nicknamed ‘The PIT’ as we are the Program and Innovation Team). Some of the energy in the PIT was focused on planning EdCamp Barrie, held on September 27th. Several members of my team have been working on this for many months. Their efforts and vision culminated in an energizing day of PD for participants from across Ontario.

Mental Preparation I first heard about EdCamp last June when I started following my new colleagues on Twitter. I had no idea what it involved and was happy to see a ‘What is an EdCamp?’ link on the event website. My personal preference is that events in my life proceed in a predictable and reliable fashion. I prefer to have a concrete home and work schedule. I do not like making last-minute plans for dinner parties. When I go to conferences I always carefully read the programme and make decisions in advance abo…

First Real Blog Post (teenagers made me do it)

I have been waiting for the reality of my new job to set in. I think I'm about 50% there. I am an instructional resource teacher with a focus on Science K - 12 in our new 'Program and Innovation' department. After 11 years in the classroom this is a big change for me. My 3 minute drive to work has transformed into long drives in the country as I move from school to school. I have enjoyed the extra time for quiet reflection and the opportunity to catch up on the backlog of podcasts waiting patiently on my iPod.

While I have not started supporting teachers in collaborative inquiries yet I have had a chance to visit a number of schools across the county to support teachers as they learn to access and use their GAFE accounts. My incredible team has gone beyond the call of duty to reach out and answer teachers' requests for help by organizing after school "GAFE Cafes" at about 15 locations across the school board as well as 'lunch and learn' sessions in ne…