Sunday, 27 April 2014

Blogging 101 - My Session at MTS Awakening Possiblities

If you missed my reflection on the MTS Awakening Possiblities Conference, check it out here

     Always wanted to blog with your students but were unsure about how to get started? Did you get started by could not determine how to maintain the blog throughout the year? This session shares an educator's experiences as she introduces blogging to her students for the first time. Topics such as project implementation, purposeful use, and assessment integration will be discussed. Challenges and successes of the project will also be shared.
Blogging 101, Kirsten Thompson
I am very excited I had a "speaker" name tag!
Blogging 101, Kirsten Thompson
All excited, showing off my session poster!
Thanks to John Evans for the photo :)
     My session took place Thursday morning before lunch and I was so happy with how many people were in attendance! Compared to previous presentations that I had done, this was easily the biggest audience with well over 5x the attendees than I had seen previously, yay!

     I started off by having everyone get into groups based on their teaching level: Elementary, Junior High, High School (I also had several admin who picked a group based on their interests). Using Padlet/Wallwisher, I asked those in attendance to discuss in their groups and share why they would want to blog or how they want to use blogging. See their awesome responses below!

     My session was divided into four main sections:
1 ) Why Blog?

2 ) Blogging Platforms
- How do you want your blog to function?

3 ) Parental/Guardian Consent
- Matching your divisional/school guidelines

4 ) I Got A Blog, Now What?
- Author system
- Expectations
- Implementing a blog into class time

    I'm actually considering building upon this session and creating a series of videos or podcasts on each of these sections in more detail. What are your thoughts? Is this something that would be helpful?

     Leave any blogging questions below!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference

     This week was the MTS Awakening Possibilities Tech Conference and my head is still spinning over how amazing it was! Starting on Wednesday the 16th, approximately 600 educators got together to discuss educational technology in regards to:
- implementation
- policy
- potential tools
- project options
- and much more!
Here's an excerpt from the official MTS Awakening Possibilities website:

     This conference was exciting for me for a lot of reasons. I remember attending the MTS Fab 5 Conference in Brandon in the fall of 2012 and seeing a banner advertising for an upcoming technology conference. At this time there wasn't any information about presenters, there wasn't even an official date picked other than 2014, but I knew I would want to go due to the theme. Then in the spring of 2013, much to my surprise, I received an email asking me to present at the conference in regards to my work with educational blogging! Fast forward another year and the conference was finally here!

     I drove the 3.5 hours into the city after school on Tuesday, officially ending my shortest teaching week on record (the conference was held Wednesday-Thursday, and we didn't have any classes on Friday due to the Good Friday holiday). While many attendees/presenters chose to stay at the Victoria Inn (the location of the conference), I opted to stay with family as I am very rarely in the city.

     When I walked into the conference Wednesday morning I felt very overwhelmed. I hadn't come into the city with anyone that I knew and while I knew people who were in attendance, I had only meet approximately 10 of them in person.... wait... what?! Its true! Many of the people in attendance are educators that I connect with on a weekly basis through Twitter, Email, or my Blog but many of them I had never met in real life. Luckily for me, however, there were many members of the ManACE Board present who have been doing this type of thing longer than me and helped show me around and "introduce" me to the familiar strangers I was meeting for the first time.

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference
A panoramic pic trying to get a sense of how many educators were in
attendance; this pic does not do it justice.

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference
A panoramic pic of the front of the room from my perspective (I sat right up close!)

Building Bolder Schools
Steve Dembo - Keynote

     Steve serves as Discovery Education's director of social media, is a former Kindergarten teacher, and is recognized as one of the first educational podcasters. He opened up by sharing a story about his son who had recently finished Kindergarten. At the end of the year, when Steve questioned his son about what he liked the best out of Kindergarten, his son replied that his favourite thing all year was when he got to be line leader... when he got to be in charge and lead his classmates in various activities around the school. He spoke about how as we grow up the thought of line leader moves from exciting to terrifying... adults tend to fear the unknown and don't want to be responsible for being at the "head of the line".

     Interestingly enough, many of these educators are online through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, Podcasts, etc and are ok sharing their ideas and thoughts with the world, but are not necessarily playing that leadership role in their own schools. Steve mentioned that it is as is, "the teacher lounge is not a subset of the whole world," teachers can share with the world, but not within their own schools. I found this really neat graphic, shared by Edutopia, that I think does the perfect job at visually highlighting this idea:

the pencil metaphor for educational technology, the pencil metaphor and ed tech, steve dembo awakening possibilities, steve dembo discovery education, steve dembo building bolder schools
The Pencil Metaphor. (2014). Uploaded to Google+ by Micheal Parent. Available online at:
     Steve's presentation was the perfect fit to kick-off the conference as it was the perfect blend of information, inspiration, and humour. In fact, I enjoyed Steve's keynote address so much that I actually moved my original session choices around so that I could attend his second session at the end of the day as well! Here is a short improve clip captured by the Manitoba Teachers' Society in the middle of Steve's session:

Follow Steve Dembo through:

Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades
Kathy Cassidy

     Going into the conference, I think I was most excited to listen to Kathy Cassidy's presentation as I have looked up to her, and the work that she does with her students, since I became involved in educational technology in my B.Ed degree. Kathy is a Grade 1 teacher out of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan who utilizes classroom blogs, twitter, and Skype with her students on a regular basis to connect her students with the world and expand their learning opportunities.

MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference

     Kathy started us off by brainstorming and sharing all of the various reasons why we might decide to connect out classroom using various technologies. Here is a Wordle I created of some of the ideas people mentioned:
MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference, #MTSawake2014 , MTS technology conference

    The majority of the session consisted of Kathy sharing the tools that her classroom utilizes most and how they are implemented into the classroom setting. Here is some of the information/ideas that were mentioned:
- bring in experts (geologists for a unit on rocks, nurses for a unit on the body, etc)
- provide a general audience (students can show off projects, practice reading aloud)
- mystery set-ups (students are matched with another classroom & they have to ask
   specific questions to guess where they are)
- Skype In The Classroom is a good tool for finding other educators to connect with

- share projects
- reflect on learning
- students have individual blogs
- Kathy uses KidBlogs or EduBlogs
- during parent-night, have parents comment before they leave so they know how to

- follow other classroom accounts
- follow experts or educational networks
- read aloud to practice reading
- use hashtags to compile conversations

     I think Kathy did a wonderful job of reviewing the tools and projects that she utilizes in her classroom. As someone who is doing this with students for the first time in middle school, I am excited that I can take her ideas back with me to share with our elementary teachers.

* View the handout that accompanied this session:
* View the Storify created of the Tweets that went out regarding this session.

Follow Kathy Cassidy through:
Professional Blog
Classroom Blog

Meeting the Expectations of Changing Technologies in MY-SY Science
Kris Moroski

     This year I am teaching Grade 7, 8 & 9 Science, and I assume that I am going to maintain at least 2/3 of those classes next year as well. As such, I really wanted to fit this session into my schedule because I am not very familiar with the science technology that is available for schools. While our school does have a science lab it is somewhat outdated and is not available for use this year as we are awaiting renovations (which actually start this summer, yay!). In the meantime, I have been completing whatever labs I can directly in my classroom and supplementing with virtual labs that I find through my online network of educators.

     Kris' focus was on how technology is changing so quickly and how we are moving away from the technology that frustrated us at the beginning and are now reaching a point where technological integration is much more fluid and intuitive. I think this would have been a really good presentation for those teachers in our schools who are maybe apprehensive about using technologies due to bad experiences in the past. Below is Kris' entire presentation that he showed using Prezi, enjoy!

Follow Kris Moroski through:

Storytelling for the YouTube Generation
Steve Dembo

     I purposefully moved my schedule around to attend this session after hearing Steve's keynote address in the morning and I was not disappointed! On top of Steve's engaging presentation style, I was especially interested in this presentation because I wanted some new ideas to try with my students. I was first introduced to digital storytelling in my B.Ed when I attended a session with Andy McKiel and Darren Kuropatwa and have been trying to incorporate it ever since. While I've done a few projects with my students, I still felt a little bit unsure of how to guide my students as they haven't done digital storytelling in other classes and felt overwhelmed with the unlimited options they could potentially have.

     Steve definitely came to my rescue because he used YouTube video examples to highlight different storytelling options that I could implement into my classroom such as:
- Kinetic Typography
- Sweding It
- Annotations in YouTube
- and much more!
He also shared some awesome tools that I hadn't heard of yet, including, that I plan on utilizing right away! Here is Steve's entire, comprehensive, presentation featuring loads of YouTube examples and ideas (it may take a while to load, it is a large file):

Follow Steve Dembo through:

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Andy McKiel

    This presentation was the only presentation I attended on the Thursday of the conference I presented directly afterwards and I had to, unfortunately, miss the afternoon in order to be on the road in time to celebrate Easter at home.

     Andy took a step back in this session and opposed to focusing on different technological tools, he discussed the different ways in which we can implement meaningful practices into the classroom for our learners. He shared that he focuses on the 5 C's when decided to implement a project or technology; does it allow the student to
- Communicate
- Collaborate
- Think Critically
- Be Creative
- Practice Citizenship 

     He also provided us with a 10-Step Recipe for Success when it comes to incorporating practices into our classrooms:
1 ) Celebrate Learning
2) Audience Matters
3) Sharing is Awesome
4) Students as Teachers
5) Teachers as Learners
6) Perspective Matters
     - You think your lesson is awesome, do your students?
     - Is someone asked, "What is the point?" what would you say?
7) Be Social
8) Get Connected
9) Encourage Student Voice
10) Provide Choice

Follow Andy McKiel through:


I want to send a BIG thank-you out to everyone who worked hard to put on this amazing conference opportunity, to all of the amazing presenters, to those who asked me to present, those who attended my session, and the awesome educators out there working to make their students learning experience richer!

If you weren't able to attend the conference, check out #MTSawake2014 on Twitter to read through the treasure-trove of information shared by those in attendance!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Good Things Sunday

    This post is inspired by the stories at the collaborative blog, One Good Thing.

- I have a student in one of my classes who is dealing with
  many personal issues both at school and at home. As such,
  their attendance is very sporadic which results in them falling
  behind and feeling left out and frustrated when they are present.
  This week they were present for two of our three math classes.
  In the first class they were uncooperative and didn't attempt
  anything during the hour. In the second class, they not only
  allowed me to sit with them, but they even smiled while we
  worked together on an assignment. It may seem like a small
  accomplishment but it us it was huge :)

- I held a 10-station science lab for my Grade 9 class on
  Physical & Chemical Changes for out unit on Chemistry.
  One station involved mixing corn starch (which I had labeled
  as mystery powder) and water together and students were
  asked to play around with the substance and identify what
  type of change they were witnessing. While many students
  had seen this trick before in other classes or at home, I had
  some students in which this was completely new for them.
  Seeing the uninhibited wonder on their faces as they tried to
  figure out what they just created was priceless!

     What good things happened in your week?

Friday, 11 April 2014

2 Stars & A Wish: Week 28

     With Spring Break come and gone, we are on our last stretch of school before summer holidays and I know that these next three months are going to go by very quickly! It is hard to believe that at this time last year, I was student teaching here and nervously hoping that a job opening would come up. That time only seems like a few short months ago and it is mind-boggling to think about how it has already been a year!

     I didn't write a reflection the last two weeks as it was our Parent-Teacher interviews and Spring Break holiday. I am trying, however, to finish strong with my reflections so I am back at it again!  Two things that I think went well this week are:

1 ) Completing 3 Labs This Week With Students
- While I teach Grade 7, 8, & 9 Science I do not have direct
  access to a lot of supplies or our science lab as these informally
  fall under the jurisdiction of our High School Science Teacher.
  As such, I've had a hard time planning a lot of science labs due
  to the logistics of putting everything together.
- Luckily, this week I was able to book our Home-Ec room so I
  would have access to sinks, lots of space, and some supplies, as
  well as borrow some supplies from our High School science
- My Grade 9 class completed a 10-station lab regarding Physical
  & Chemical Changes for our Chemistry unit and my Grade 7 class
  completed a exploratory lab regarding heat and thermometers for
  their unit on the Particle Theory of Matter!
- During Spring Break, my husband and I renovated our laundry
  room with all new cabinetry from IKEA which meant that we had
  A LOT of boxes on hand. To take advantage of this, I brought
  some into my Grade 8 Math class so we could not only build
  forts, but then practice determining the surface area of our fort
  for our unit on Measuring 3D Shapes!

2 ) Completing the Last Step For my Masters Program Admissions
- So this accomplishment isn't necessarily something that
   occurred in my classroom, but it is something that I am still
   very proud of as it occupied a lot of my mental energy this
   last little while.
- Earlier in February I completed the first portion of the admissions
  program which was very basic (forms with general information,
  letters of reference, about me statements, etc). After that I awaited
  anxiously for my email saying that I could schedule a time for my
  writing test, the second and last step to be considered for acceptance.
- On Thursday I was issued my timed writing test via email and now
  it is just a waiting game for a few weeks to see how it all turns out!

     One thing that I want to work on for next week, however, is organizing material for substitutes. I will be away Wednesday and Thursday to present at the MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference as well as attending meetings on Monday for my school. After factoring in that there is no school on Friday that leaves me with just one teaching day... the shortest teaching week for me on record. This will be the longest time I've planned for a sub so I hope it all turns out!

Week 26 Update

     Before Spring Break I shared that I wanted to put together some independent study packages for my students to finish over the break. After talking to other teachers, both in my school and through the blog, I decided against it. Many teachers agreed that the work wouldn't get done and I would be in the same place after Spring Break, but also have frustrated students. As such, I didn't put anything together and am just trying to get through the material that I can.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Fanning The Flame of Curiosity

     “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”[1] Can an individual’s pursuit of knowledge ever truly cease? Educators the world over are diligently attempting to arm their students with the skills and values so that they can become life-long learners; learners who recognize not only that education is not limited to the confines of a classroom, but also that self-guided learning often times provides the most rewarding and valuable experiences of all. In a profession that is built upon the ignition of students’ curiosity, there are many teachers who not only end their formal education with their Bachelors of Education but also take a passive approach to new educational experiences as well. One only needs to listen in on the staffroom conversations prior to a Professional Development session to pinpoint just how high this number can be. I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as educators to not only ignite our students’ curiosity, but to also maintain the flame of our own. I am currently pursuing acceptance into Brandon University’s Masters of Education program (Curriculum & Instruction Stream) based on my personal belief statement listed above as well as my desire to focus on the purposeful implementation of technology into curriculum outcomes and delivery.

     While there are educators who recognize the importance of implementing technology into their classrooms, there are not as many who recognize the necessity of this practice within today’s society. Gone are the days where the teaching staff and school libraries accounted for the sum of knowledge within a division. The development of the internet, and its insurmountable associated programs, has expanded the possibilities of education to the point where the public school education model I graduated from, a short seven years ago, is now laughable. Technology allows students everything from accessing information and connecting with real-world experts to tailored learning adaptations and experiential learning opportunities. Two areas that I am especially interested in are the purposeful integration of “Maker Spaces” for both formal and informal scientific exploration and student-lead/student-created online environments. One of my goals as an educator is to focus on purposefully implementing various technologies not only into the delivery of my lessons, but also into the curriculum outcomes themselves.

Please accept this writing sample as part of my formal application to Brandon University’s Masters of Education program; I hope it not only provides an indication of my writing level but also of my personal desire to continue on the path of formalized education. Within a graduate program, I will be provided with the guidance and support that will be required as I work towards my goals. In the same way I design a variety of learning opportunities for my students, I recognize that a graduate program will further my professional education through specialized courses and supported experiences that would not be accessible to me otherwise. My previous six years of post-secondary education at Brandon University provided me with the opportunity to explore my interests, identify and develop my passions, and connect with amazing people in various fields; it also left me wanting more. Please allow me an opportunity to fan the flame of my curiosity.

[1] Unknown Author; often misattributed to Socrates or Plutarch, although no findable citation to either philosopher is available.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Introducing 3D Shapes

The week before Spring Break marked my Grade 8's introduction to 3D Shapes.
This is our 6th unit of the 8 that we will cover this year and, personally,
I think it is one of the most fun!
Here are some of the activities we completed over the week,
they were NOT all done in one day.

     I started off the unit by having students, in groups of 4, brainstorm ALL of the ingredients they would need if they were going to bake a cake. Some students went very simple with the boxed-cake-mix approach, others had detailed lists for baking one from scratch, and others were much more focused on the decorating options!

     When completed, I asked my students the following questions:

What is the shape of the container that that ingredient comes in?
Does the shape of the container match the shape of the ingredient?
What things do companies keep in mind when selecting package shapes?

I was really pleased with the responses of the last question, which ranged from convenience and usable marketing space to environmental sustainability and purpose.

     I then presented my students with the two images below and asked them, "If both golf balls and tennis balls are spheres, then why does one often come packaged in rectangular prisms while the other often comes packaged in cylinders?"

Again, my students had excellent ideas and one student quickly pointed out that, "I lose WAY more golf balls than tennis balls so when I buy lots of boxes they stack in my garage!"

     We then revisited the concept of a 2D Net for a 3D Shape, a concept they were introduced to in elementary school. We discussed how a net is a pattern for a 3D shape and, while some nets include small tabs to help them glue easier, a net does not have any overlaps or gaps. They were then presented with the image below which depicts the 11 different nets that can form a cube. I then asked my students:
What 3D shape can be formed by these nets?

Does each net form the shape successfully?

How do you know?

     I then put together 6 centers/stations that my students worked through over the course of 2-3 classes. We do centers/stations almost every time we have a new concept and my students respond really well to them, plus it gives me a great chance to focus on small-group formative assessment.

Station 1
- Concentration/Memory Match Game
     - Students were tasked with matching 3D shapes to their
        respective nets

Station 2
- Crazy Nets
     - Students were provided with complex nets that would create
        3D shapes like icosahedrons (soccer balls) and hebdomicontadissadron
        (the Death Star from Star Wars)
     - Find complex nets here

Station 3
- Conference with Me
     - I always build in one center/station that allows me to sit down
       with students and complete formative assessments for the topic

Station 4
- Computer Activities
     - Students were provided with three different computer activities/
        games to explore through
              - Short introductory information interactive
              - Good for students who need to review information first
     - Play Nets
              - Answer various questions and challenges about nets &
                 3D shapes
              - Various levels of difficulty and teachers can track progress
              - 3D shapes game from BBC KS2 Bitesize Maths
              - My students seemed to enjoy this game the most

Station 5
- Nets Challenge Game
     As a group, pick a 3D Shape. Some examples might be:
          - Cube                  - Rectangular Prism
          - Pyramid              - Triangular Prisms
     - Assign measurements to each side length. 
        Draw the 3D shape below and label in all the appropriate 
     - On square dot paper, take turns drawing as many 
        different nets as possible.
     - Score two points for a net not already used yet. 
        Score one point for a net already used.
     - If someone draws a design that you do not think forms 
       the correct shape, you may challenge them. Check their 
       design by cutting it out and folding it. If it does not form 
       the shape, no points are scored. If it does form the shape,
       you miss your next turn.
     - Play ends when  no one can draw any more nets.
     - The winner is the person with the most points.
     * Game adapted from the Math Makes Sense Textbook Series.

Station 6
Workbook Questions
     - Our school provides individual student workbooks from the Math
       Makes Sense series and this center/station allowed students to work
       through questions regarding nets & 3D shapes for practice
     - I could check these questions for understanding during Station 3 or
       at the end of class


     After Spring Break we will wrap up our discussion on nets and move onto measuring surface area and volume of 3D shapes. Do you have any online resources, activities, tips for this section?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

April Currently

     I am currently writing this from the luxury of Spring Break! Last week included the delivery of our spring report cards and our second formal parent-teacher interviews of the year (read all about my experience & tips here). This week has brought a much needed break and despite it still being -30C, and feeling nothing like spring, I couldn't be happier!

     If you haven't encountered a "Currently" post before, it is just a fun post at the beginning of each month that serves as a way to share what is Currently going on in your life! You can link up and share your own "Currently" post by visiting the wonderful Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.
What are your thoughts as we enter April?
What are your must-dos during Spring Break?