Voice and Choice – Teachers & Students Ring Out

From time to time we continue our focus on sharing  practices in SD41 that create community and build connected stories using our blogs.


On the Cariboo side of the city, resides Armstrong teacher, Jude Comeau. Her blog called Division 11’s Class Blog-Learning One Byte At A Time,  is a hive of connected learning.  Her purposes are multi-fold; informing the parent community of targeted lessons and activities, student blogging as authentic writing on a digital platform, student e-portfolio of writing process over time, student voice and choice.  From a glance at the student work, I can see the negotiation of language as they get better and better at articulating their story.

Here’s a student piece on “important from heart”:

We are very busy with our project. I hope it turns out amazing for everyone! I have seen some of your illustrations! They look amazing! I have seen Alyssa’s illustrations and they look like an artist drew it because she is an artist! Good for you! I hope your Moms will like it because you worked very very very very hard on it! We have to thank Mrs. Comeau for buying the tea, the cookies, the juice and more ! You are the best teacher in the world!!! For Mothers day this is my Mom’s third time going to it! First my brother was in her class three years ago! Second my sister had a mothers day tea in preschool with the same mugs. They borrowed it from Mrs.Comeau. So this is her third time going! Hopefully my sister is in her class! Then she will have four!  I hope this turns out great for everyone! Thank you Mrs. Comeau!

From …

Can you feel this grade 3 student’s energy and spark as she writes – I do. blog_comeau2

Oral language is showcased through the use of a talking avatar, Tellagami  (iPad app) where they share their best books. These were so convincing as salespeople that I wanted to hop over and read the books myself.  And they discovered the power of polls. The latest one provided another opportunity to gather information as well as discuss the results. Since the topic was Mothers’ Day, I’m wondering just how the conversation went.



Over on the North side, is Aubrey French teacher, Laura Hintz. Her blog named Division 7 – notre coin de communication, is another example of story sharing.  She uses her camera to capture work done on the whiteboard and posts them as snapshots of learning. This is powerful for both students as a review and for parents to glean a window into school.  Using the blog in this manner offers more class time for collaborative dialogue rather than having students spend the time in copying down notes.

Her students have been granted ids to share their voice online.  An ecclectic set of posts (written in French) connected to each student writer is showcased providing an e-portfolio of sorts into their learning.  Comments from peers are a part of the journey of writing to support and grow the community of writers. Students experienced multiple times the power of crafting comments that “lift the writer”.

None of the posts are perfect and this should not be the goal. A blog is always a work in progress offering space and time for sharing, reflection and reworking of ideas. Writing takes practice, a lot of practice is required to craft focused powerful communication.  Great writing requires a lot of reading and synthesizing to inform thinking.  The journey of both classes of student bloggers and teacher storytellers also shows courage.  Courage to put ideas out there and courage to receive feedback.  In doing so, they not only share their story but give courage to the rest of us to share ours.

Our Learning Technologies team is always available if you would like move along this direction – providing opportunities for students to live and experience digital citizenship.
How are you sharing your story?

An Audience of One is No Audience At All

crowd_fountain“Students need an authentic audience.”  You’ve heard this statement before. Given the vast array of opportunities, you would think that this is easy.  But any number of bells are ringing in your head and you recognize it’s not that simple.  Consider questions like “who will be the target audience – parents, peers, people across the country or around the world? What are the goals that you are trying to address? Are there questions of security that need to be considered? How are you going to ensure that you can manage it?

There is great educational value in using online platforms in school – wider authentic audiences, engagement and personalization, and a chance to practice digital citizenship are among them.  More importantly, the literacy development is within a coordinated, adult supervised environment (another plus).  A student reflected on the difference, “when I hand in work to a teacher, it’s ok work; when I share with the world, it’s great work”.  Interesting to hear the viewpoint. Students get it – they’re used to ‘mashups’ and sharing and openness. They’ve figured out that writing for audience forces them to clarify thinking (you know it’s easier to win an argument in your head, not so simple with people).  They’re not afraid to write and rewrite because the web allows for quick edits.  They’ve also figured out that they can think in public to use the feedback to change the way they think or build on their thinking. It sounds very much like learning doesn’t it? Perhaps this poster by Krissie Venosdale says it all.


Our sd41 blogs  were developed for the expressed purposes of all of the above.  They offer opportunity for students and teachers and administrators to be in collaborative environments sharing their ideas and deepening conversation. They can easily bring people together from different places, different walks of life.  They engage almost all of the senses (ok…I haven’t figured a way to offer the sense of smell yet).  The availability of multi-way dialogue gives you many ways to approach the ‘teachable moment’.  Some of our teachers have used it for extending literature circles, current events debates, extending story writing (gathering comments and revising plot), creating positive digital footprint, changing school processes, communicating with scientists and engineers, inviting parents to the community of learning. The list goes on and on and only serves to remind us that teachers are creative in their endeavours to invite the world into their classrooms.

How are you providing an authentic audience for your students or staff? Would love to hear your journey or questions.

Dialogue With A Twist

google_storybuilderlogoHow would you create opportunities for students to practice dialogue? Perhaps it’s talk between two people or two characters in a book or a conversation between you and yourself? MMhh…now that would be interesting. A bit of reflective action produced in video format. And practicing a host of literacy elements to boot.

The tool you ask? It’s Google Story Builder —just hot off the presses in April. Check out this online tool to create dialogue, monologue…the possibilities are endless.


Type in the names of characters; enter in dialogue. Add some music in the background and capture the weblink to share your conversation online.  I’ve created one on Questions (yes my favourite topic). Here’s the link:  http://goo.gl/mB5bXf

Sometimes you just have to have a conversation with yourself and sometimes it’s just about plain fun. Imagine if this was used as a documentation reflection piece in the classroom?

I would love to hear how you’re using this new tool?