Thursday, December 31, 2009


A few years ago when I discovered Google Calendar, Docs, iGoogle, Reader and on and on and on I was really thrilled that I could have all my 'stuff' online and accessible from any internet ready device. I'm not sure that all of those apps have increased my workflow though. Ease of collaboration, yes! Ease of sharing, yes! Ease of access, yes! More work done in less time--well, not really.


I teach at a distributed learning school. I am responsible for Science 8 - 12 courses as well as Math 8 - 11. The math courses are all paper based and the science courses are all online. My students work from home, but they have access to face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials via Elluminate, as well as help as needed via phone, e-mail and face-to-face. The students work asynchronously at their own pace. This means that it is rare that I mark two of the same assignments in a row.

When Technology Makes Life Decidedly Better

Part 1: Moodle

This fall my district undertook to host Moodle on its own server. Prior to this our online course offerings were through WebCT (an oldish version). In our Moodle courses assignments can be submitted electronically within the course, with alerts being sent to the teacher to let them know when new material is ready to be marked.

Part 2: HP Tablet Laptop

Our school has had 2 HP Tablet laptops for the past couple of years. If you haven't seen or used one of these, you have the ability to draw directly on the screen using a special pen. There is handwriting recognition software which can convert handwriting into typed text. Prior to this year I have used the tablets with a projector when teaching to write notes and instructions, just as you might use a felt pen and transparencies on an overhead projector.

Marking with the HP Tablet

Marking with the HP Tablet

Part 3: Putting It All Together

Here's what happens when you combine Moodle with the HP tablet.

I receive an e-mail alert that a student has submitted an assignment. I click on the link and am taken to the assignment in Moodle. I select the student's file which is downloaded on my computer and opened in word. Using the pen on the tablet I can easily mark and add comments to the assignment (marking with the pen tool is far easier than adding comment boxes). I then save the file with a new name. I go back to Moodle, input the grade, and upload the marked file. The student will now receive an e-mail alert to tell them that their work has been marked. Easy peasy!

Prior to using Moodle, when students e-mailed in their work I had to save it to a specific folder, mark it, go to my marks program to record the mark, save the marked file, attach it to an e-mail and send it to the student. Lots of clicks, lots of little pieces to remember to do.

Prior to using Moodle, most students did their work on paper and dropped it off at the school. There was a delay between the student finishing the work and me receiving it and then a delay between me marking the work and them picking it up. And then there are the (infrequent) times I'd forget to record the mark and the times that students claimed that they handed in their work but it disappeared or they claimed that the marked work never reached them. This doesn't happen with the new system! In addition, it is far more convenient to carry home just a laptop as opposed to envelopes of student work. Students also tended to hand in a whole whack of work all at once, preventing timely feedback. In Moodle students are less likely to do this.

I'm finding it difficult to convey how smooth and seamless the Moodle/tablet combination is! Let me just say that I actually look forward to marking now (sick, I know).

How 'Bout You?

Is there some system or technology that you use that actually helps your workflow to a significant degree? I'd love to hear about it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to see about getting all of those math courses I teach into Moodle ;-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Most Influential Post of 2009

Requisite--So I Haven't Blogged For A While...

Lately my on-line participation has shifted more towards Twitter and the relatively new social networking site for BC educators, CEET (Community of Expertise in Educational Technology). Coupled with starting to using Moodle for course delivery and learning more about online course design, I've been less active with my blog.

Edublog Awards

Though I haven't been blogging much, I have watched with interest the Edublog Awards. I never got off my butt to make any nominations--so thank you to all those folks who did. The nomination list is always a good place to find interesting voices that are new to me.

Better Late Than Never... My Nomination

Though I didn't nominate anyone, I would like to highlight this post by Stephen Downes as the post that I found most influential in 2009. The post, titled The Monkeysphere Ideology, refers to a Cracked article from 2007 (yes, that Cracked.) From Downes:
Now let's look at the Cracked article, which suggests that each of us has a limit of about 150 people we can know and understand and relate to. The theory is based on Dunbar's number, and Cracked calls it - with more than a little alacrity - the 'monkeysphere'. The article, which was written in 2005, is making the rounds again.

Sock Monkey Group by sunsetgirl creations
Sock Monkey Group by sunsetgirl creations
One of the key points that Downes makes is:
Our failure lies not in the fact that we cannot know and understand more than 150 people. That's just a fact of physiology. Rather, our failure lies in how we characterize the remaining 99.99 percent of humanity: as though they were automatons.

I see this 'us and them' mentality pervading so much of life. Now whenever I do I think of the monkeysphere. For example; there has been so much in the news lately to do with global warming, and CBC ran this piece last week on the disputed island of Miningo. Because of global warming the water temperature in Lake Victoria is rising and water levels are dropping. This, along with overfishing, is resulting in increased pressure on the Nile perch stocks in the lake. Miningo island has become the flash point for Ugandan and Kenyan fishers who are finding it increasingly difficult to catch enough fish. From the CBC story:
The change in Lake Victoria is important because some 30 million people rely on it for their livelihood.

It is in situations like this that the monkeysphere ideology comes into play in a powerful way. Take this quote from the CBC story:

Kenyan fisherman Paul Odhiambo sorts through his catch of Nile perch in the bottom of his boat moored along Migingo's rocky shore. His anger rises quickly when thinking of Uganda.

"They just come with tear gas. And spraying us with the tear gas," he says. "So these people are not human. Just look at them. They are carrying guns. Why? Why carrying guns at this small place."

"So these people are not human." Where have you heard this before? Where else has this been justification for treating other human beings like garbage? But this is not a Uganda/Kenya problem. It is a human problem.

Since I read Downes' post, I've been thinking about the monkeysphere quite a bit. I am more aware when those around me and those I hear and read about "characterize the remaining 99.99 percent of humanity: as though they were automatons." or worse...

What About You?

What do you think about the monkeysphere? And what blog post, book , article, etc has influenced you in a big way this year? Thanks as always for reading, and I welcome comments. Cheers!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Re-visiting the PD 2009 Meme

Early in the summer I was tagged for the Professional Development Meme 2009. This meme was started by Clif Mims. Normally I'm not crazy about memes--they remind me too much of chain letters--but I felt that this one was worth my time :-) For the meme I wrote a post about three goals I would like to accomplish over the summer. Below I'll list the goals and how I did.

  • Read 'Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns'. Not only did I read the book, I blogged my reflections on it here.

  • Learn more about teaching using Moodle. I chose this as a goal because my district was moving over to using Moodle as our learning management system (LMS). Prior to that we offered on-line courses through Open School BC and their WebCT system. Regrettably, I did not spend much time on this particular goal. I was very familiar with Moodle from the perspective of a student and as a facilitator (thank you KnowSchools!) and I had taken an introductory course on Moodle in June. I guess I'm just saying that it's not like I was totally unprepared for the change over to Moodle. I hope to write more on the change over to Moodle in a little while.

  • Prepare for the two professional development sessions I will be facilitating at the end of the summer. I spent A LOT of time on this one. In fact I probably spent too much time on it. I'm guessing I put at least 10 hours of preparation for each session; the sessions were around 3.5 hours each. In the end I enjoyed doing the sessions, but found that it is really difficult to design a session for all levels of technical ability. I plan on writing more about these sessions, but at this point I'll just leave you with the link to the website I created to support the course. My goal was to provide participants with the information so that they could progress through the different topics at their own pace.

So, I feel good about how I did on two of the three goals and overall I'm pretty pleased with the PD part of my summer. Now excuse me while I go and spend a bit more time learning to Moodle...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Disrupting Class

Earlier in the summer I read Disrupting Class, one of my summer PD goals. The following are my scattered reflections on the book.

*Note: the book focuses mainly on high school--I would be interested to
see what teachers in the elementary grades have to think about the

  • Most schools approach teaching using the factory model; 30 kids in a class, assigned by age. It is difficult for teachers to address their students' individual learning styles. Some students get left behind and some get bored because everyone has to move along at the same pace. They mentioned that much of teacher training focuses on classroom management: an essential element in the factory model.
  • Technology can help; programs that teach kids according to their learning styles and only allow the student to move on when the student has mastered the content. We aren't there yet, but the authors are optimistic that collaborative on-line tools will be built that will allow teachers, students and others to create tutorials, lessons and so on that will help others to learn.
  • Cater to non-consumption. The authors point out that disruptive innovations usually target non-consumption. They give the example of the early SONY transistor radios; they were cheap and the sound wasn't great, but they were popular with teenagers who could not afford the only other option--big, expensive table top or floor model radios. Teenagers, previously non-consumers of radios, became the new consumers of the disruptive technology. In education the areas where we will see change is with courses that schools cannot offer due to student numbers and other factors. Distributed learning schools are not going to be successful if they are focusing on courses that regular bricks and mortars school already offer.
  • The disruptive innovations will not be successful under the current structures. He gave the example of Toyota's experience with hybrid cars. Toyota put together a team to build a hybrid from the ground up. They didn't have to use existing components and make do. They could re-engineer all of the systems so that the final product was efficient and worked well. Other car manufacturers did not take this approach, and their hybrid cars are inferior.
The Journey from Here to There

In my position as a teacher in a distributed learning (DL) high school I can see the growth in demand for a different model of schooling. In my district budgets are getting tighter and enrollment is dropping so creative solutions are being looked at. This fall all of our grade 10 students will be enrolled in Planning 10 (a core course) delivered in an on-line format. Doing Planning 10 on-line, outside of the time-table, will allow the students more choice; there won't be timetable clashes between planning 10 and other courses. It will also be possible for students to take more than a full load of courses. One can't help but wonder if being exposed to planning 10 on-line will encourage students to take other courses on-line, that currently are not offered at their school.

Right now, many of the on-line courses I have seen are not geared towards a range of learners. Typically, the kids who deal well with text, and are self disciplined enough to stick to a time line do well. There is not a lot of differentiation... yet. A lot of the talk at the distributed learning conference I attended in the spring (Virtual School Society Annual Spring Conference) was about how to cater to the big range of students who are now exploring distributed/on-line learning. People on the front lines want modular courses, where you can put together a course that is designed to meet the needs of the learner. I think we'll start to see these. Currently though, the cost to put together a complete on-line course can be quite high. I've heard estimates of $40,000 to produce one on-line course. On the one hand I am doubtful that we will see the modularity and differentiation that is written about in Disrupting Class, but on the other hand I am constantly amazed at the incredible applications that are available on the web, so who knows?

I'd like to know a bit more about the authors' visions of the role of the teacher in this new model. Right now as a DL teacher I can tell you that one of my biggest challenges is getting good lines of communication flowing between myself and my students. I've written about communication with my students here and here. Currently I rely on e-mail and phone to communicate with students, but recently it occurred to me that e-mail is very old school--I've got to explore the ways that my students are most comfortable communicating. For example, many students don't use e-mail, but are constantly texting; would they text me with their questions if that was an option?

Canadian Perspective

It definitely seems like it is a much more tumultuous time in education in the USA than in Canada. Frequently in Disrupting Class the authors referred to the negative impact of teacher unions and the tension between public schools and charter schools. That is not to say that those tensions do not exist in Canada; just that the magnitude is much much lower.

The Wrap Up

Where do you see the future of on-line learning? If you read the book, what did you think of it? As always, thanks for reading my post!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reflecting on 08/09

Before I really get into my plans/goals for the 09/10 school year, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the past year. 

Goals and Results 
Prior to the school year starting, and as it went along I had a number of goals.  I'll discuss them below with a review of how they worked out.

'Malinconia. L'ultima partitella (the last match of+the+summer)'

  1. Get more face-to-face time with my students (I work at a distributed learning school--students work at home on the curriculum that we provide):  In the 07/08 school year my colleague, Jodie, ran a humanities class for her grade 8-10 students and I could see the benefits of this weekly face-to-face time; it allowed for discussions, one-on-one tutoring, and an opportunity to speak to students about their progress.  So for this past school year Jodie and I offered a general high school class for 2 hours on Thursday mornings.  Students were encouraged to attend, but for many students it was optional.  For other students at risk for failure the class was mandatory.  The benefit to this structure was that we had weekly face-to-face time with the students who needed it most.  The drawback was that with the large number of students present, all at different levels and at different points in their programs, it became difficult to conduct effective lessons.  I think that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks though.  In my experience one of the key factors for a student to succeed in a distributed learning program at the high school level is good communication with the teacher.  These face-to-face classes facilitated this.
  2. Improve communication with students:  I've written about the communication aspect before in this post.  This year many of the courses I was responsible for were paper based which meant that my kids were not in a Learning Management System (LMS) with built in e-mail.  I wouldn't have thought this would be a problem, but a surprising number of students do not have their own e-mail accounts that they use regularly--I guess they rely more on IM and sites like Facebook to communicate.  Partly to address this, Jodie and I (ok, it was mostly Jodie) set up a 'Student Lounge' in WebCT.  Most of our students take at least one course in the WebCT LMS; enrolling all of them in the 'Student Lounge' meant that it was easy to send out batch e-mails and it was easy for them to e-mail us.  We had other plans to showcase student work along with some general discussions.  Those didn't materialize, but I definitely had more students contacting me with questions than prior to the 'Lounge', so I'm pretty happy with the results.
  3. Provide opportunities for students to conduct labs at our school with support:  There are some virtual labs that my students do, but there are also a good number of traditional labs the students are expected to do.  To do a lab at home on your own can be frustrating.  Let's face it, even in a typical classroom kids get frustrated because they don't get the 'right' results, or they are unsure what to do.  This year my goal was to have time during some of the weekly high school class (see #1 above) to help students with labs.  This was not a big success.  I was able to do a couple of labs with the kids, but because the students start at different times and end up in different places in the course, it was difficult to choose a lab that all students were ready for.
  4. Improve my weekly Elluminate sessions: In the 07/08 school year I started doing weekly Elluminate sessions.  One week was for science and the next was for math.  We met for 30 minutes for each grade.  I gave a mini-lesson reviewing old concepts and introducing new ones.  Then there was time for questions from the students. I started out this way again in 08/09.  As usual the problem is that very quickly the students get spread out in their courses, so preparing a mini-lesson becomes difficult.  Over the course of the year the sessions shifted more to being a straight tutorial.  I find Elluminate to be very useful to help students with their math.  It is difficult to answer math questions over the phone or via e-mail, but using the whiteboard feature in Elluminate allows you to write out the math symbols easily and have the student help to answer the question.  For next year I think I will spend more time recording mini-lessons so that I can build up an archive that students can access as needed and use the Elluminate times as straight tutorials.  I have to work on attendance too.  The sessions are not mandatory and attendance is not always great.  I'll have to look at ways to improve this.
Future Plans
Those are the main goals I pursued this year.  If you have any thoughts on how I can improve on these areas, I would love to hear it.  I plan on posting again soon with my goals for next year.  I hope to make this an annual event: posting goals prior to the new school year and reviewing them once the year is over.  If you already do this, do you find it useful?  If you don't, would you consider it to be helpful.  As always, thanks for reading this!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Making PD Sticky

I've been thinking a lot about professional development (PD) and technology integration the last little while.

Questions by Oberazzi

My Questions:
  • How do you make PD sticky?  We've all gone to a conference or PD day, learned some wonderful (or not) things, then gone back to our classrooms never to revisit those ideas again.  How to make them sticky? 
  • How do you encourage teachers to start their own Professional Learning Networks (PLN) and provide them with the skills to be successful? 
  • How do you support the sharing of ideas and resources within your local area?  I've been very lucky to connect with wonderful educators from around the English speaking world, but know very little about the teachers in my own small school district.
  • How do you truly integrate technology and support your teachers while doing so?
Over at Charlie Roy's blog I left this comment on technology integration:
The training element of introducing new technology is always a challenge. The approach that you took this year sounds like a good start. You definitely have to meet people where they are at. In my dream school the director of technology would be a consultant. S/he would meet with teachers one on one; the individual teachers would outline what their objectives with a particular unit or project are and the director of tech would come up with a variety of ways to integrate technology. Doing a poetry unit? Let me suggest using Wordles, or Voice Threads, or... and here's how to proceed.
I think that you also have to find the people in your school or district who are really into integrating technology into their teaching and/or professional learning and support them like crazy.  You're going to see great things from them and the goal is that they will inspire others.  I'm not sure that converting people overtly is going to work, but diffusion just might do it.

What do you think?  Do you have answers to my questions above?  I'm happy for some push back and sharing of ideas.  Cheers!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Professional Development Meme 2009

I was reading about the meme on Louise Maine's blog and thought it sounded like a good one, and low and behold she had tagged me.  Well here goes!


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. Read 'Disrupting Class; How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns'

  2. Learn more about teaching using Moodle (my district is switching to Moodle in the fall and I will be responsible for teaching at least 4 courses using this Learning Management System)

  3. Prepare for the two professional development sessions I will be facilitating at the end of the summer

I'm really looking forward to summer break not only to accomplish the goals above, but more importantly to decompress and enjoy time with friends and family.

Now, I'm going to break rule #6 and not explicitly tag anyone.  If you are reading this, first off thanks!  Secondly, if you haven't been tagged already and think you'd like to participate, then consider yourself tagged ;-)

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Quick Reflections on VSS 2009

    Though the title says quick reflections, I've been reflecting on the Virtual School Society Annual Spring Conference since the first round of sessions kicked off.  The VSS and the pre-conference are an opportunity for people involved in distributed learning (DL) and educators who use digital technology in education to get together and share what they've been up to.  Briefly, here are some of my take aways:

    Mast reflections by DonGato CC Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative works.

    • Tying in with Michael Horn's keynote, DisruptingClass: How Disruptive Innovation is Changing the Way the World Learns, web 2.0 tools and the young field of DL are part of the current disruptive innovation.  Horn says that to be successful, disruptive innovations must be allowed to be separate from the status quo and not judged by the current/old norms.  My take--Don't force your DL program to be like the regular school program; let your DL teachers and admin experiment and innovate--they have the potential to help many of those kids whose needs are not currently being met in schools.

    • DL schools don't necessarily fit with the rest of the school system

    • there is as shift to teaching mastery: a DL environment is the perfect place for this

    • More educators are finding that tools like Elluminate Live! can be very powerful, especially with math instruction and tutoring.  (**A Province-wide license means that Elluminate Live! is free to use for all BC educators--go here to find out more)

    • A surprising small number of DL educators are on Twitter, but perhaps more will be after Ellen Wagner's keynote :-)

    • A surprising number of delegates have not yet dipped their toes in the web 2.0 waters

    • There is a shift away from the tools to the pedagogy of teaching and learning in a DL environment

    • No two DL schools are alike--some offer only synchronous programs, some offer asynchronous and continuous enrollment, some are 12 month operations, some are big, some are small, some offer special ed, some don't...

    • More people are willing to share their stuff; not just their ideas, but the things they have created.

    My last point is BIG.  Two years ago when I went to the predecessor of the VSS conference, the BC Ed Online, the mood was one of competition.  We were all competing for the same pool of DL students.  Talk was of how to protect what we've created, not how to share.   I'm glad for the change in perspective.

    My brain will be mulling over the VSS sessions and discussions for quite a while to come and this post was a chance for me to finally put down my thoughts.  The conference will inform the direction my school takes over the next little while, and that is pretty exciting.

    The Last Words
    My questions for you are, (1) have you noticed a shift towards sharing?  I mean, it's so gosh darned easy now to share what you have created in the digital world, shouldn't we all be sharing?  Doesn't that give more value to what you've spent time creating?  (2) Are you starting to notice a shift away from the tools and towards best practices in this increasingly digital world?

    As always, thanks for reading!

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    The Power of Observation

    One of the best things about my teaching practicum, oh those many years ago, was the chance to sit in and observe other teachers in their classrooms.  Everyone has a different teaching style and there is always something to take away and make your own.  Since my practicum days I have taken the opportunity a few times to sit in on colleagues' classes, but never as often as I would have liked.

    student teacher by peiqianlong
    Attribution License

    Blogs, Twitter, and social networks are making it easier to network with and learn from other educators, but for the most part they don't allow for actual observation.  Lately, however, I've been able to get in some virtual classroom observations and it's been great!  This past year I've taken a number of week long on-line professional development classes through KnowSchools.  In addition, I've been training to be an assistant facilitator for KnowSchools which has allowed me an inside peek as to how the different facilitators organize and run their week long classes.  The classes are done using Moodle and it has been fascinating to see how the different facilitators make use of the different features in Moodle.  So I'm learning about some great ways to improve my teaching practice and I'm getting to observe talented educators and how they teach.

    I've also participated in some virtual PD offered in Elluminate Live from a variety of sources; today I popped in (briefly) to Classroom 2.0's weekly show.  I use Elluminate Live with my distributed learning students so whenever I'm in a session that someone else is moderating I'm looking for good ideas that I can steal!  It's also good to experience an Elluminate Live session as a participant.  It reminds me that it is boring just to sit and listen to the moderator; I need to give my students an active way to participate and discuss ideas and I need to engage them with good visuals.

    Do you take the opportunity to observe your colleagues as they teach?  If so, how do you make time to do this?  Do you prefer live and in person, or virtual observations?  I'd love to hear from you :-)

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    The DL DeLemma

    In February Ken Allen wrote a great post, Champion Elearning Myths, that's been rattling around in my brain for the past month.  He raised a number of points that are relevant to me as I teach at a distributed learning (DL) school in British Columbia (in other jurisdictions it is often referred to as distance learning). 

    Student - Studying by m00by CC attribution, no derivative works.

    There have been a lot of changes to distributed learning in the past 5 years which have resulted in more students, especially in grades 10 and up, enrolling in DL schools.  There are a myriad of reasons that students have for choosing a DL school.  Lately at my school we are seeing more and more students enrolling who have learning challenges and/or do not have the organizational skills to successfully work through the courses we offer.  With many of these students they have agreed to come in and work at the school for 2 or more days of the week to receive support from their teachers and certified educational assistant (teachers assistant).  This is helping the students to be more successful, but I don't think it is enough; they still need more support. 

    This leads me to wonder, when does a DL school stop being a DL school?  I mean, if we really want these kids to be successful, maybe we should say that they need to come into the school 4 days a week?  It seems that the system needs another option.  The students that I am concerned about are not being successful at the regular schools, but they also don't 'fit' at the alternative programs.  They are in between and so are choosing the DL option.  The problem is that most successful DL students need to be organized, motivated, and have strong support at home.  That is not the case for most of these kids.  Heck, a DL program is challenging for the 'ideal' student. 

    I guess I need to step back and ask, are these kids being more successful with us than they were in their regular school?  If so, is that enough?  I don't know; I still think they deserve more. 

    What do you think?  How can we help these kids who fall through the cracks? 
       Technorati Tags: ,

    Saturday, March 14, 2009

    Attack of the Body Snatchers

    This week at my friend's school: a girl Googles her friend's name and finds a blog, apparently written by the friend, which discusses all sorts of personal issues that really ought not to be on-line for all to read.  When the friend is shown the site by the principal she claims that she is not the author; that someone created the blog and is impersonating her.  After a request from the school the site content is quickly removed by the blog host.

    I see two scenarios here, both disturbing.

    A)  Someone is impersonating the girl.  This would be very easy to do, though a bit time consuming.  What if someone was impersonating you by creating 'your' blog?  What damaging content could they post?  How could you prove that you were not the author of the blog?  Would it even be possible to determine who was the real author?  All I can say is I'm going to keep that Google Alert for my name; though I should figure out how to filter it so that I don't keep getting hits for Claire Thompson the S and M novelist.

    B)  No one is impersonating the girl.  She just showed a real lack of knowledge thinking that she could treat her blog, with her name on it, like a personal diary; full of intimate details that only she could read.  This is a dangerous lack of knowledge.  We have to do a better job of educating our kids about the internet.  In my day teens could make mistakes, sometimes pretty big ones, but they didn't do it on-line, for the whole world to see, forever...    

    Each day more and more kids have easy unfettered access to the internet via cell phones, the iPod touch, and whatever those new gameboy thingy's are called.  No longer can we rely on just keeping the family computer in the kitchen (though that's still a good idea) or on having programs like Net Nanny or Agent Bob (a program my husband developed) on the aforementioned family computer. We've got to give the kids the skills to make good decisions on-line.

    Vendo iPod touch 16 GB by juanpol

    Are you aware of these sorts of issues occuring with your students?  Does your school address digital citizenship/literacy in an adequate way or is it just a piecemeal process?
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    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Using A Blog Editor

    Using a Blog Editor

    This week I've been participating in a KnowWeeks course called 'Browserless Blogging ' with Grant Potter.  One of our tasks has been to try out a desk top blog editor.  I think that this just means using something other than your blog's own editor that can post directly to your blog.  So writing your post in Word and cutting and pasting it to your blog's editor doesn't count.  And if you've read Sue Waters' post on this you'll know that that is a bad idea anyway.

    As I was going through the list of options there was one that I had tried; Flock's blog editor.  I wasn't crazy about it as it lost all of the formatting when it uploaded to edublogs; though maybe I needed to tweek some settings.

    Anyway, as I was going through the list and trying to decide which other blog editor I'd like to try, it occured to me that Google Docs has a 'post to blog' feature.  I like writing my posts in Google Docs, because that it where I do most of my writing.  When I went to check out the 'post to blog' feature today I realized that when I tried in the past, I hadn't been able to get the setting right.  When I looked at it today I realized that the blog URL I had put in was in the wrong format.  Another post by Sue Waters helped me to figure it out.  To post from Google Docs to Edublogs you use the following URL:

    So this is my test of posting from Google Docs.  I know it won't add tags or categories, but I'm gonna give it a whirl.  Where do you post your blogs from?

    Blog (detall) [sic] by Lady Madonna Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Sharing a Little Cheer

    Right now I have over 200 unread posts in my blog reader; I definitely have to do some pruning.  There are some writers who's posts I read as soon as I can; I've blogged about them here.  Lately there are two other bloggers who have percolated to the top of my faves list.  They often bring a smile to my face, which is a nice relief in February (*note: February is probably a Northern Hemisphere affliction).

    The Principal's Blog

    This blogger cracks me up.  As the cop on the Simpson's says, what he writes "is funny, because it's true".  His posts can also be poignant (see this post for example: read to the end where the Principal's Page's wife leaves a note).  Up until recently all of The Principal's Page post titles were in caps.  Many of his paragraphs are one sentence long.  He refers to his posts as blogs, which I find endearing.  I don't know who he is, but his "blogs" have cheered up some bleak days.

    Not Too Late To Change The Name

    This is the other 'must read' blog in my reader right now and is  by Jen.  Jen teaches at a ghetto middle school (her words, not mine) in LA.  This is her second year of teaching, but I think this is her second career.  Her job sounds really challenging and I frankly don't know how she does it.  Her language is colourful at times, but she writes with humour and compassion.  She sometimes writes short bittersweet posts like this one, and then ones like this one that make me realize that my troubles are pretty small in the big scheme of things.  She also writes hopeful posts like this one.  One quirk about Jen's posts are that they never have titles.

    Freedom in Anonymity?

    Both Principal's Page and Jen write anonomously, which may be why their posts are so enjoyable; they can say what they want to without professional repercussions.  That is not to say that they slag people, because they don't.  They can just be a little more candid than some of us are willing to be when our names are attached to our blogs.

    Who Makes You Smile?

    I've shared a couple of my favourite, put a smile on your face, bloggers.  Do you have a few gems to share?  What do you think about blogs published anonymously; are you pro, con, "it depends", or other?  I'd love to hear what you think :-)

    Saturday, January 31, 2009

    Just Some Hoops to Jump Through

    It was Thursday and some of the high school students were at the school to do some work (I work at a Distributed Learning / Distance Learning school, so usually the kids are at home).  One of the grade 10s was working on a course she was just starting; 'Family Studies 11'.  This kid is pretty bright and does well in our program.

    Me: "So does Family Studies look interesting?"
    Her: "Yes.  Mr. X said it was easy so that's why I took it."

    Superdog by skycaptaintwo
    Attribution License

    Yup.  Just another hoop.  Made me think of the 'Guitar Hero' part of this post by Dan Myers.  It also made me think of the really bright, top of the district, student I taught a few years ago who switched from Chemistry 12 to Geography 12 a third of the way through because she knew she could get through Geography more easily.  Not because she liked Geography better.  I know this because she told me as much.

    I don't get it.  When I was in high school I probably could have taken a study block, but that never occurred to me; I was having a hard time trying to narrow down the classes that I wanted to take.  I took Drawing and Painting 12 because I liked, well, drawing and painting.  Not because I thought it might be easy.  In fact I had very little artistic talent and taking the course probably put me in danger of lowering my GPA.  I took Drafting 11 and 12, again, not because I thought they might be easy courses, but because I was interested in them.  Same with Choir, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics.

    So when I see kids taking "easy credits", or study blocks, or gunning through their academic courses so they can graduate 6 months or a year early;  I.  Just.  Don't.  Get.  It.

    I don't want to lay all the blame on these kids, though.  It's human nature to do the easy thing, to keep doing those things that make you feel successful.  Have you seen how most people use flashcards to study--they spend most of their time on the cards that they already understand, and not the cards they need to understand.  Failure feels uncomfortable, so we often stick with what we already know.

    The system is also to blame.  We often focus on "these are the courses you need to graduate", "this is the minimum number of credits you need", instead of "we have some wonderful courses that you're really going to enjoy, learn a lot from, and serve you well in the future".  Maybe we need more inspiring courses.

    I don't know.  What do you think?

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Re-discovering Books

    Or the Silver Lining of Being Sick

    So far 2009 has been a bit of a bust for me as I have been sick for the entire time with a variety of non-life-threatening ailments.  The plus side is that I have been able to read some books!  Back in the spring I bought Daniel Pink's 'A Whole New Mind' and only made it about 40 pages in.  Well I got a chance to read it and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  Then, on one of my forays out of the house to procure tinctures etc, I picked up Malcom Gladwell's 'Outliers' and devoured it quickly.  Another great read that has me analyzing my own personal success and wondering what factors will impact the success my children will experience as they grow up. Both Pink and Gladwell do a wonderful job of weaving stories of individuals to make their respective points.

    Different Types of Reading

    Now I find myself wishing I had some more unread books on hand to read.  There is something really satisfying about books that I'm not getting from reading blog posts.  I enjoy reading posts and engaging in conversations in the comments, but books really feed my soul.  I guess I need to have a balanced diet when it comes to reading.  I've also got to make sure that I'm not so busy that I don't have time for books.  A problem that I have with books is that I feel compelled to finish them; I have difficulty just reading a chapter and putting the book down for a day or two.  Reading a book in just a few sittings is not a good strategy if you have a job and a husband and two little kids to look after ;-)

    Now on My List

    Since tweeting about reading these two books it's been recommended that I read 'The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives' by Leonard Mlodinow and  'The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything' by Ken Robinson.  So I'm on a quest to get these books; so far my local book sellers and library are not helping me out.

    Any Recommendations?  What's on Your List of Books to Read?

    What books have you enjoyed lately?  What book(s) are you pining to read?

    Monday, January 5, 2009

    Tools and Sites I Use--One Year Later


    tools by tashland

    Last January I decided to write a post on the tools and sites that I was using on a regular basis.  I thought it would be interesting to do another list this year and see what changes, if any, there are.  The tools that I use daily have a star next to them, all the other tools I use at least on a weekly basis.  In no particular order they are:

    • Twitter* (microblogging tool)

    • TwitterFox* (Twitter client)

    • iGoogle* (customizable homepage with different feeds--I have Google Reader, calendar, Gmail, news, weather etc)

    • Google Docs*

    • Google Reader*

    • Google Calendar*

    • Edublogs

    • GMail*

    • Firefox* (web browser)

    • Flock (Firefox based web browser)

    • Delicious* (social bookmarking site)

    • Google Chat

    • Skype

    • MS Outlook (only because it is the mail program at work)

    • MS Word (for work documents)

    • iPhoto

    • Flickr

    • coComment*

    • co.mments

    • Blogger

    • Facebook (once I started using Flock I found I used Facebook more because of its built in Facebook client)

    • WetPaint

    • Wikispaces

    • YouTube

    • Google Search*

    • Elluminate Live

    • Wikipedia

    • WebCT/Blackboard

    • MS FrontPage (for work)

    No doubt I've missed a few tools.  Compared to last year's list I've noticed the following:

    • Twitter is now on my list.

    • This year's list is way longer; 29 entries as opposed to 13, with 19 brand new entries.

    • 3 entries from last year didn't make this year's list: Google Notebook, Moodle, and Google Video.  Since I started using Delicious I found that I dropped Google Notebook.  I still use Notebook occasionally, but definitely not on a weekly basis.  Moodle was on my list last year because I was part of a pilot project with Open School BC using Moodle for some of our courses.  The pilot project ended in June '08 and so too my moodling.  My colleague and I are going to lobby the powers that be to allow us to use the Moodle server that they already have up and running, but just for in house use (ie not for students to access via the web).  Google Video, just kinda faded out for me.  Not sure why.

    • Wikipedia was the only wiki on my list last year.

    So, I've done a lot more exploring and added a bunch more tools and sites to my toolbelt.  But hey, they're still just tools.  I could have five great hammers, but if I never used them, or had no skill with them, then so what.  It's not the tools per say, it's what you do with them.

    Are you gobsmacked that one of your fave tools is not on my list?  Curious about a tool that I've mentioned?  Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

    7 Things You Don't Know About Me

    I was tagged by Jan Smith for the meme "7 Things You Don't Know About Me", so here goes!

    • I watched every game of the Canucks' '94 run for the Stanley Cup, either in person or on TV.  My friends had season's tickets and so I got to attend some of the games.  A bunch of us would get together to watch the games on TV.  I seem to recall that the friends sold the 3rd and 4th round tickets, but I tell you even those 1st and 2nd round games were great!  The loudest place I have ever been was at the Pacific Coliseum for round 2 against the Dallas Stars.  After the Canucks won game 6 of the finals we went down to Robson Street in Vancouver and participated in the celebration; everyone was so happy it was great. I didn't go down to Robson when things turned nasty after the Canucks lost game 7.  I haven't been such an avid hockey fan these days, thought the Canada / Russia World Junior game the other night was a real nail biter!

    • I have a class 4 driver's license.  In BC that means that I can drive a mini-bus (approx 19 passengers).  When I was assistant coach for the high school golf team the coach asked me to get one so that I could drive the team on occasion.  I haven't used it much; the responsibility of driving 19 young lives around wears me out.

    • All through my high school years I was absolutely certain that I would become an architect.  Then I got to university ;-)

    • I am very afraid of heights, though I have found that after giving birth to two sons many of my fears have weakened a bit.  Perhaps it's time to head over to the bluffs...

      Skaha Bluffs by outdoorsgirl

    • My oldest son has Asperger Syndrome.  Going through the process of getting a diagnosis and then advocating to get appropriate support for him in the schools has really changed my outlook as a teacher.  I have a lot more compassion for the 'difficult' students, and the students who struggle with anxiety. I also have a greater appreciation of what the parents go through.

    • I get excited when I can add another phylum to the 'Foods I Have Eaten' list.  I'm a biologist; this is ok in biology circles;-)  My husband and I were at a big Chinese banquet a number of years ago and I was very happy because I got to add Phylum Cnidaria (jellyfish) to my list.  For a moment I thought I'd get to add Phylum Porifera too (sponges), but it turned out to be bamboo (who knew?)  I don't go out of my way to eat weird things, but if they are part of the conventional cuisine of a culture--I'll try 'em!

    • I have worked on the DNA of Sticklebacks (fish), Cutthroat trout, Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden (fish), Kokanee (fish), killer whales and humans.  Sticklebacks , the other fish and killer whales to learn more about their evolution.  On humans I worked in a lab where we studied Fragile X syndrome and were looking for genes associated with autism.

    Doing the '7 Things' has been fun, and I've definitely enjoyed learning more about the folks whose blogs I read.  I'm supposed to tag people for this one, but I think I'll leave it up to you--if you would like to do the '7 Things' meme, consider yourself tagged...

    Pop-Tastic Award

    I was recently nominated by Charlie Roy for a Pop-Tastic Award.  I like the idea of the Pop-Tastic Awards; highlighting wonderful bloggers who may not necessarily have wide audience.  I'm honoured to be nominated by Charlie, whose blog I've been enjoying for about a year now.  My 6 nominations for the Pop-Tastic Award are...

    The first 5 folks are educators that I've met in the past five months and they are doing great stuff on their blogs (and in their schools!)  My last pick, Ted Munat, is a bit of a departure.  Ted is the father of Sharky, who has Asperger's.  Ted's blog is where he writes about the joys and challenges of parenting Sharky.  I think Ted's blog will be of interest to educators; most educators will come into contact with children on the autism spectrum and it is important that we understand the challenges these kids and their parents face.  I hope you check out all of these blogs.

    Here are the  Rules & Regs for the bling:

    1. When you receive The Award, please post it on your blog, linking back to the person who gave it to you.

    2. Please visit Veggie Mom’s Post , which explains the origins of The Award, and Sign Mr. Linky, so she’ll be able to keep a record of all whose Blogs are Pop-tastic! Feel free to leave a comment, too!!

    3. Pass The Award along to SIX Bloggy Friends, whose creativity merits inclusion in this circle. Link to their blogs in your Awards Post, and notify them that they’ve received The Award.

    I strongly suggest looking at the other blogs that Charlie nominated.