Tag: staff development

Learning on a Curve – Learning Tech Inquiry Team


So much to learn – that must have been the thinking bubble of each participant in our Learning Tech Inquiry group.  It was a day to use the new technologies (laptops, ipads, software) and get a bit more comfortable.

This is what we explored:

  1. Start with a bit of brainstorming ideas.  We used Padlet (previously known as Wallwisher) to park some ideas.  This online board provides space for collecting inspiration, images, links and grouping content.
  2. Categorizing ideas?   Popplet  is a online application that allows images, writing, drawing, colours to visually convey ideas.   Having an online account can connect computers and ipads – students have ready access at home.    An exploration of  Inspiration offered a powerful way to embed video to frame our thinking process.  This gave us brainstorming with direct visual/auditory memory support from the movie.  The addition of rapid-fire tool (in Inspiration) gave us the ability to type almost at the “speed of thought”.
  3. Image work – While image work can be done on the laptop, we chose to do this with iPads.  The camera app on the iPad was used to take pictures or video and save them to the camera roll.  Importing these into other apps was simple to further communicate our learning.  We discussed the challenge of getting our projects off the device.
  4. Screen capture – Screenhunter was downloaded and installed on our laptops.  [The software performs simple screen captures and cropping of any content displayed.]
  5. Writing and Sharing/Commenting support – in line with our brainstorm “out of the box” thinking, we went to 5-Card Flickr (http://5card.cogdogblog.com/play.php?suit=5card).  This site pulls random images from Flickr, which you select to create a story.  Once the  5 images were selected, we used Screenhunter to capture the image.  This was inserted into a Google Doc.  Then the writing proceeded.  [Google Docs allows many people to be working on the same document at one time. Collaboration and revisioning at its best!  Students and teachers gain the power of the commenting feature to engage in dialogue.]

You can tell we had a very busy packed morning.  Time to mull over the activities and see how they might be used in our classes to support our inquiry journey.  We encourage you to try some of these and let us know how it went.

December – The Gift of Time

It’s December and most every hour is in high gear, trying to get those last minute  projects  merged in with winter festivities.  And just this weekend, we got our first whiff of snow.  Magic is in the air among the smell of gingerbread houses, mandarin oranges and other treats popping up in all locations.  Not to mention the dreaded tinsel and glitter that seems to attach themselves everywhere or the impromptu breakout in song.

We’ve had a lot of projects this term.  Blogging has continued to see an increase in the number of teachers and administrators who are wanting to open their communications to a wider world as well as providing spaces for students to practice their online digital footprint.  One of our specialized groups  - the teacher-librarians facilitated by Patricia Finlay are meshing understandings of “Learning Commons” and what that might look like in a blogging platform. No matter the purpose, it takes a coordinated effort in how we see the role of technology in our lives and how we use it to deepen both our understandings of the world and as a communication platform.

Writers Workshop launched with great energy as teachers work with their students to explore their writing in focused ways that include collaborative conversations, real time revision and blended support (in class face-to-face and online).  Our tool of choice is Google Docs through Google Apps for Education.  Stay tuned with us as we capture the journey.

Our Secondary Inquiry Assessment team is off to the races with a dedicated open-questiongroup of teachers across the disciplines and from a variety of sites.  Questions and connections in how to include ‘standards based assessment’ or rubrics that are more than checklists are issues that deserve time to grapple with.  Some have made a commitment to digging into ‘flipped classroom’ process and finding that it opens up time to work with struggling students (a positive surprise).

The iPad and other idevices have taken schools by a storm.  What has become apparent are the creative ways that people have found to connect beyond the basics (the play) to delve deeper – asking bigger questions.  The spiral of intensity increases as teachers connect and share with others; affirming, cross-referencing and in some cases challenging each other to extend.

What is even more of a privilege are the chance encounters down school hallways with teachers who are excited to share their insights.  Their stories (successes and not successes) are the fuel that light the possibilities.  Your learning stories are important and we love hearing them.  Please consider sharing them here or give us a call.

Getting Extra Mileage from Apps


One of the things I find challenging is the inability of the iPad to support multiple open softwares (like my laptop).  Try using Side by Side.  This allows you to split the screen up to four windows at a time.  Read, research, download files and take notes can be integrated into a session.  This app has just been updated with access to Dropbox, making it even handier than before.


Learning, Learning Everywhere – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the learning opportunities throughout the year with more details in the Staff Development Calendar.

Tech Snacks: 

This series of learning opportunities are offered as little snacks of possibilities.  Come spend a bit of time (30 minutes each) to see and explore a variety of tools, objects, projects and ideas that engages students and teachers.  As part of this experience, we will be sharing in an online environment (“a snackinar”) allowing you the ability to connect anywhere you are.  Registration for each of the Tech Snacks can be done through the Staff Development Calendar. Gather your friends and make it a group affair.
Topics will change in order to respond to your needs (making this a personalized experience).
  • “Curation” – Bookmarking and organizing resources using online tools (Diigo, Symbaloo,)
  • Strengthening Oral Language – What do you have at hand? (Audacity, Vocaroo, …)
  • Creative Ideas to Support Writing – web resources and other tools
  • Tiny tools that make a big difference in Literacy (visual dictionaries, word clouds, 5 card visuals…)
  • Organizers for Thinking – graphic organizers (Kidspiration/Inspiration/Popplet/bubbl.us)
  • Video? “What do you have at hand?” (Photostory, MovieMaker…)
  • Comics is reading/writing? – Using graphics to enhance the story (ComicLife)
  • Developing Surveys – Google Forms
  • Tips and Tricks of PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Publisher
  • Social Media platforms as connecting your PLN (Twitter, blogging…)

Online Resources to Support Students struggling in Reading or Math:

Destination Success and Raz-Kids provide a range of opportunities for those students who need more personalization in their learning to be successful in reading or math.  Teachers gear activities and lessons based on goals, while assessments can be built into each of the modules.

IPad ShootOut:

Bring your iPad and come prepared to learn a little, share a little, and have fun.  This “unconference” session is sure to engage you and your colleagues in collaborative conversations as we see a variety of apps in action, uncover ways to use the device in extending critical problem-solving and assessment, connect how documenting learning for reflection creates opportunity for deeper conversation…


All sessions or learning series are located in the Staff Development Calendar.  If you are interested in more details, please contact any member of our Learning Technologies team.

Welcome back September

Welcome back September.  And what a spectacular summer it has been – Olympics energy, warm sunny weather, family and friends laughter.  Though it’s always great to get away and get recharged, I look forward to the start of each new year.  A new year to test out some crazy ideas (yes I’ve read and reread some 13 books and most likely there will be future posts reflecting these ideas), a new year of possibles, a new year of adventures…

On the staff development side, I’m excited about a host of opportunities to engage in conversation and experiences. And I’m really excited about the varied entry points for our educators:  hands-on experiences in gathering places rich with deep conversation, blended online interactive webinars [yes I'm expanding this due to the response from last year], small group experiences as a shared approach to inquiry, self-directed or guided by our blog content.
So what’s on the horizon? Since this could be long, I’ve broken it down to multiple posts. This one will focus on literacy (reading, writing, communicating in all content areas). [Details of how you can be involved is on the SD calendar.]

Blogging or having some web presence continues to be a mainstay.  If you haven’t considered how this can help you enhance your curriculum, please talk to me or check out our many class or professional blogs (click on Blogs) hosted on our server.  You will see a variety of ways that our teachers and administrators have used the platform (eg. Literature/Information Circles, math problem-solving, critical thinking, parent & community global sharing, class newsletters, extending student voices, homework reminders, research support links, deepening professional conversation).  If you’re wanting to hop on board (“begin at the beginning”), our first group starts at the beginning of October. If you are thinking, “how am I going to take this to the next level”,  consider joining one of our ‘next steps/advancing’ gatherings.

Writing, whether in general or content areas is part of the literacy process. We are continuing our pilot of Google Docs through our Google Apps for Education. In fact, the response received from last year’s Writers Workshop group was beyond what I expected so I’m hoping to dive in with both feet.  Google Docs is an online tool, which allows teachers and their students to collaborate and revise in real time.  Critical to the writing process is timely support, which this tool has in its commenting feature. What types of questions and writing scaffolds can increase writing skills? How can you reframe comments to strengthen writers? Great questions lead to great conversations.  How does this open up the possibilities of peer support, parent engagement, as well as teachers targeting specific areas?  Many of the teachers have shared how the writing has changed, how students have changed their personal view of writing and how editing/revision is more accessible over paper/pencil. And a big side perk of no more hearing “I forgot it or lost it”.  If you’re thinking to change your writing program, consider joining our series.  If you are one of our advanced writers [Writers Workshop-year2], we have a an entry spot for you too (deepening the conversation of writing strategies).

Oral language and Communication rounds out the general literacy components.  Grouped in this is communication (eg. strengthening speaking and oral language through consideration of audio/video, and visual supports (eg. photography, graphic organizing).  The tools we use fall into categories – easy,  really easy, and supremely easy.  Depending on your goals, audio recordings are a great way to encourage oral language, reading fluency, or ongoing assessment via tools as simple as the audio recorder on a computer, audio on ipad or itouch or online through Vocaroo.  If you’re looking for a bit of splash, online avatars add personal pizzazz without driving you crazy (Voki, Blabberize).  Of course you’ll need a blog or wiki or other web presence to showcase them.  In video, our ‘go-to’ is Photostory or Movie Maker.  And all of these can be strengthened through developing our ideas with the use of graphic organizers (Inspiration, Kidspiration, Webspiration (online), Popplet for ipads). For those interested in the role of visual images, consider how digital cameras can provide a voice to the world.  I’ve watched students gain confidence and increase their vocabulary through the power of images.

Where can you find more information on these opportunities?

  • Staff Development Calendar lists opportunities ongoing through the year (stop by often)
  • our blogs provide a history of all of our content including learning, instruction and process
  • email our Learning Technologies team

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