Sunday, 9 November 2014

None of us is as good as all of us

I arrived home from #BIT14 at 2:30 Saturday morning and found this on my kitchen table:

It made me think a lot about my experience at #BIT14.  I have a lot to think and say about my learning at the conference, but I think I'm going to save most of the "how to" and "why" that I picked up for another post and this one will focus more on one of the overriding messages, which is summed up in this banner that my daughter and each of the members of her Atom hockey team received at practice on Friday night.

The opportunity for collaboration is, perhaps, my favourite of the many possibilities placed before us by technology.  During the conference, as I heard about different tools, I heard that many of them are good for collaborating.  I was shown how to use many tools to collaborate.  I can imagine ways to use many of the tools to collaborate with all of the learners in my school and with the parents of our students.  I'm getting ahead of myself though.  First I want to tell you about some amazing people with whom I am already collaborating, because they are an integral part of both my journey to #BIT14 and my personal learning journey.

I'm really lucky to work with a bunch of great people.  I'm even luckier to be working on a TLLP with three of my friends from work.

Here we are in front of Niagara Falls after the conference ended.  From left to right are @JMarciski (that's me), @ColleenKR, @KimberNipRock and @ErinLangevin

The focus of our project is increasing student and parent engagement through the use of technology.  You see, our high school is fed by 6 elementary schools and serves three townships, two reserves and one unorganized township, plus all of the rural space in between.  Distance has always been a barrier to bringing parents into our building.  Past experiences with education in our school or elsewhere is also a significant barrier for many of our parents.  We hope that by using technologies in our classrooms (and in my case in my practice as the school guidance counsellor) to empower our students as well as to make the learning and activities of our whole school more visible and by going out to the parents in some of our school's communities and showing them how to use the technologies to see what their children are learning and doing we will break down some barriers and, at the very least, make our students and their families more comfortable and happy. As an aside, I think it's kind of funny to refer to this as "the least" because it is perhaps "the most," but I suppose this is better addressed in a future post.

I'm kind of off track here, though.  I mean to be writing about the notion that none of us is as good as all of us.  Even before we set out to do the TLLP, the four of us have been interested in changing our practice.  We were fortunate for two years to have a principal who pushed our thinking and helped us on our way to change.  In June 2013 she organized a Hands on Media fair for the administrators in our board and took us along to share our new-found expertise with all of the principals.  We worked together and supported each other to prepare our presentations and that is when we realized what a great team we make. Incidentally we are a department despite the fact that I am the guidance counsellor (and previously a teacher of English), Erin teaches Co-op, Career Studies, Food and Nutrition and other humanities courses, Kim teaches Business and Fashion, and Colleen teaches Art.  Prior to our work together for Hands on Media we struggled to find a way to collaborate but since then, despite the HUGE differences in our assigned teaching roles, we have realized that it's actually very easy to collaborate.  And as a bonus we've become even better friends than we used to be.

Here we are in June 2013 in front of Aguasabon Falls in Terrace Bay, Ontario before the Hands on Media event.  From left to right, Jenni, Erin, Kim and Colleen.  These falls are much smaller than Niagara so we're blocking them.

While we were in Niagara Falls, we were overwhelmed with all of the learning about exciting possibilites and we were exhausted and our exhaustion led to a lot of laughing and some ridiculous actions. On Thursday evening as we were chatting and waiting to head out for the second annual photo walk, we decided we wanted some tea. If any of you ever comes to visit us in our staff room you will see that we have a bit of a tea addiction and that is central to our friendship and our collaboration. Anyway, we decided that the English Breakfast tea available in our room wasn't what we wanted.  Instead we wanted the loose leaf Turkish Apple that Kim brought.  Unfortunately, although we all knew we were bringing loose leaf tea, none of us brought tea filters.   I suggested heading down to Starbucks and getting tea there but Kim and Erin felt strongly that if Kim had brought tea all the way to Niagara Falls and Erin had brought her kettle, we should use them.  Colleen agreed and frankly, Turkish Apple is WAY better than anything you can buy at Starbucks, so I was eager to find a way to do this too. It was time to collaborate to improvise and innovate! Disclaimer:  Although only Erin appears in these photos, we really did work together to figure out how to make our loose leaf tea in our hotel room, without tea filters.  Once the prototype was created by Kim and Erin and seemed to be working, Erin set out to make a few more and that is when I decided to capture the process.

Erin and Kim figured we could somehow use the English Breakfast tea bags from our room so they took the tea bags and opened them up.

Next we spent some time trying to figure out what we could do with the tea that was already in the tea bags so we wouldn't waste it (us thinking could have been a funny photo, too bad we didn't think of that) but eventually we just disposed of the tea:

We thought we would now be able to dump in the new tea but it turned out we needed to tie off one end of the tea bag with its string.

After that we used the paper glass cover/coaster to funnel the Turkish Apple tea into the modified tea bag.

Once the tea bag was full the other end had to be tied off.  What would we use?  Whew! Kim brought dental floss.

We boiled some water and poured it in.  It seemed as though we were now 4 minutes from having Turkish Apple tea.

Unfortunately, when we started to take the tea bags out of the prepared tea, some of them didn't hold up.  Now we had a new challenge.  How to strain the cups of tea that needed it.  I'll be honest, I offered my socks.  And I only had one clean pair left...

But then, at the same time, all four of us thought of the same paper cover/coaster that we had used earlier in the process.  Perhaps we could strain it through that.  But it was too thick; it was made of cardboard really.  So Kim poked a hole in it.  You can see the hole in the photo below, if you look carefully.

And Erin strained the tea into another vessel.

And poured it back into the paper cups for hot beverages.  And we had some delicious Turkish Apple tea to drink before we headed out to explore and take photos.

I decided to document the tea-making process in part because we had a lot of laughs while doing it, but more so because it demonstrates our collaboration and proves that "none of us is as good as all of us."  For this particular project, we all had the desire to get a job done.  Kim and Erin had the persistence to make it happen.  They also had most of the ideas and the resources.  I added some humour and I documented our process.  Documenting is usually Colleen's job and while she was present, she had a more pressing issue at hand (consolidating her learning from a session earlier in the day, Digital Photography 101 by Peter Beens so she could put it to use in her role as a leader in the impending photo walk.)  And isn't this what happens in groups?  At different times we collaborate in different ways and take on different roles, to solve different problems and definitely none of us is as good as all of us.

So as we continue on our personal learning journeys and our TLLP, we are also planning for our next project, which involves all of us, the rest of our staff, Google and perhaps the rest of the board.  And we are excited to find new ways to collaborate, innovate, and probably improvise.  Just like we did while we made the tea.

(And now to find a way to get us all to #BIT15...)

Here we are on the photo walk.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

We can learn something anywhere, anytime.

Sometimes I would just like to turn my teacher brain off.  Actually, I think my family would like this even more than I would.  Last night we took our kids to see the movie Monsters University.  Of all the kids' movies I've seen trailers for lately, it wasn't high on my list of movies I wanted to see, but we were supposed to go to day 2 of the Thunder Bay Blues Fest and there was an awful lot of rain so we headed to the movie instead.  Incidentally, this was a good choice as we nearly drowned on our way out of the theatre because it was raining so hard. We actually saw some women standing in water half way up their shins, getting into their car. Anyway, I digress.  Back to Monsters University.  (Disclaimer:  I've never seen Monsters, Inc.)

It starts with Mike, the tiny, cute, green eyeball, er,  monster who is on a class field trip for a little experiential learning and career exploration.  They are there to see "Scarers" in action.  Frustrated and pushed to the back of the group, Mike can't see anything that's going on and his teacher doesn't help him out in any way. (This led me to do some self-exploration of my own practice over the years and to think about some actions/attitudes to be sure to avoid in the future.) Mike finds his own way to find out what's going on by breaking all of the rules set out for him by the adults involved.  He has a real learning experience because he chooses not to be limited by the boundaries and his education/career/life pathway is set!  Mike is going to be a Scarer.

Fast forward 8 or 10 years and Mike arrives at Monsters University where he is ready to work hard to reach his goal.  He meets Sulley, who is riding the coat tails of his family of famous Scarers.  We learn a great deal about fixed vs. growth mind-sets through the challenges faced by these two and their Oozma Kappa (OK) fraternity brothers/teammates.  There was nothing they couldn't accomplish through hard work and collaboration.  There was a clear cheating doesn't pay lesson and we learned that sometimes things don't turn out the way we had planned but that different pathways can get us to the same destination.  I spent the entire movie thinking, "This part would be good for my first-day-of-school pep talk," and, "Erin might want to use this part in Career Studies," and, "This part could be used as our staff explores growth mindsets next year."

Then after the movie we had our usual family conversation.  After the usual, "Did you like it?"  "What parts did you like best?"  "Was there anything you didn't like?" each followed, of course, by "Why" questions that I always ask after the movies came the next one that I always ask:  "So did you learn anything from this movie?"  My 10-year-old son prefers not to engage in these conversations (he's the one who most wishes my teacher-brain had an on-off switch) so he answered "No" right away.  My 7-year-old daughter hasn't caught on to this avoidance technique yet.  She still indulges me. She learned that, "Just because you come from a family of Scarers, or a family of something or anything, it doesn't mean you're going to be good at it.  Just being big and strong doesn't make you good a something.  You have to face your fears and work hard."  Not bad learning for one evening in July, I'd say.

So that was our first family learning experience this summer.  Next week, at the request of my 10-year-old, we will be visiting the a nuclear plant.  He assured me there is a visitors' centre (confirmed by my brother who works there.)  I'll let you know what we learned.

More immediately though, tonight we will be attending Day 3 of the music festival no matter what the weather brings.  We will NOT miss Great Big Sea.  I guess if it rains my kids will learn a little more about overcoming adversity, because I won't be listening to any whining or complaining...

Monday, 3 June 2013

Hands on Media Here I Come

In the past week I have created accounts in Evernote, Lino,, Instagram, Youtube, gmail and EduClipper (ok, I made this account a few weeks ago, but I've just started to try to understand and use it). I joined Facebook about a month and a half ago and I'm trying to get a better understanding of ALL of the uses of Pinterest. I've been pinning and clipping and posting and sticky-noting like crazy.

And now I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed.  And possibly less-organized than ever.

Why are there so many social media/social bookmarking/organizational tools out there?  How do I pick the best one?  Should I have accounts with more than one?  Am I missing out because I haven't joined Delicious or Diigo?  Or is there an even better one I don't even know about?  Why is it that with everything I learn I also learn that there's so much more to learn?

I'm trying to prepare a workshop session for our school board's "Hands on Media" day for administrators, which is coming up on our next PD day on Monday, June 10.  Although there were a few topics I was interested in or knowledgeable enough to present, I picked social bookmarking/educational pin boards.  I had a whole release day to play with Pinterest and EduClipper and prepare my presentation.  And maybe include a bit about Lino.  And perhaps address the question "How do I find out what's out there for use in education?  How do I figure out what's best for me and my students?  How do I learn about it?" No sweat! This would be the easiest "presentation" I've ever prepared.  I only have 45 minutes and a significant amount of that should be time for my "students" to "play."  It would take no time to get this organized and I'd probably even have time left over to work on some graduation stuff (because that's coming up next week too.) Ha ha ha! LOL! ROTFL!

This is me working on my presentation, or rather researching.  (I was probably answering email to people back at the school because a lot of people needed information from me that day.  Silly me for checking in the first place.)
Photo by Kim.
I'm not sure if it's because I'm out of practice with preparing lesson plans.  Or if it's because I'm lacking focus  because there's just SO MUCH going on at school and at home at this time of year, but I'm really struggling with this.  My biggest problem is I can't curate all of the information.  No, it's that I can't select a focus.  Well also I can't decide what would be the best platform for my "newbie-techies" (a category to which I belong myself).  Or maybe my biggest problem is that I can't select the best presentation method (did I mention I signed up for Screenr on the weekend?)  IT'S ALL SO EXCITING I JUST DON'T WANT THEM TO MISS OUT ON ANYTHING.  But I know I need to narrow my focus because it just won't all fit AND I want them to come out of the session feeling positive.  I don't want to overwhelm anybody.

I thought that if I sat down and gathered my thoughts via my (much ignored by me) blog it might help me focus.  And I think maybe it has.  Sifting through my various thoughts that are all over the place has brought me some focus.  So thanks for letting me vet my thoughts on this topic.  I think I'm several steps closer to actually being able to do this.  And although it might seem otherwise, if I hadn't had that day to explore more and more and more sites and services I would still be very, very, very far from ready for this.

Erin working hard on her presentation about Career Cruising and how it's going to  allow students to create and share IPPs next year.  (I love her topic!)  Photo my me.

Kim's going to let everyone know about the flipped classroom which she's trying for the first time in her accounting class.  She's starting with a video because, after all, "the medium is the message."  Check out the yummy cinnamon buns in the middle of the table.  Photo by me.

This is Colleen working on her presentation about blogging.  She is also using the medium/message approach as her presentation is being formatted as a blog post.  Colleen was our host for our day as we couldn't tie up a whole computer lab for a whole day.  Plus we had no interruptions this way.  She made the delicious cinnamon buns.
I shared the recipe with her.  Photo by me.
We really did have a great day of planning and preparing. We're really loving all of this learning, risk-taking and collaborating.  When we get together again this Friday afternoon we hope to be able to "present" to each other and give feedback for improvement.  I think they will all be ready.  I think you should wish me luck...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

So I just read that I am supposed to prepare an introduction.  I'm choosing, at this point, to write it as a blog post.  My very first post was about my recent journey into the world of Twitter.  I think it pretty much summed up where I am at with technology (not very far), so in this, my second post, I will tell a bit about myself and why I signed up for ETMOOC.

My name is Jenni Scott-Marciski.  I've just entered the 16th year of my teaching career at Nip-Rock High in Red Rock, Ontario on the northernmost shore of Lake Superior. For the first couple of years I taught a bit of this and a bit of that (art, Special Education, merchandising, native studies, civics, career studies, Canadian history, drama and English). I then spent several years teaching English and leading the Communications department. I'm now in my fifth year as our school's guidance counselor and as the leader of our Student Services department.  Our school has fewer than 200 students and we continue to try to run as comprehensive a program as possible which means we are developing a reliance on elearning courses to help students fill their timetables.  In fact, all of our university-bound students must take elearning courses in Grade 12.  In addition to my 197 kids at school, I have two at home.  My son is just about 10 and my daughter is 7.  One of the main reasons I signed up for ETMOOC is so I can better serve all of my kids (the 197 at school and the 2 at home).  I`ve been asking for PD around technology for years and this opportunity was put before me by my principal.  Besides me, she has signed up for ETMOOC as have 2 other teachers from my school.  This morning we were working on one more of our teachers to sign up and I think we might have convinced her.  Anyway, I digress.  I just couldn`t pass up this opportunity to learn about technology in education.  It`s way too daunting to  try and figure this out on my own because there`s just so much out there that I don`t know where to start.  

I have to admit though, I have a second reason for joining ETMOOC.  And it`s kind of selfish.  But I`m trying to convince myself that I deserve it.  I`ve joined because I really, really need something in my life that`s about me.  I have been feeling as though I`ve lost all desire to do anything lately and with the loss of desire has come a loss of confidence.  The prospect of learning something new has sparked an enthusiasm in me that I haven`t felt in a long time, so that is why I'm getting excited about ETMOOC.  (Now, if only I could get through an entire blog post without 10 000 ``Mommy`s."  You know what I mean: `Mommy, I need to upgrade itunes.  Is that ok?" And "Mommy, I deleted this app on the computer but it's still on my ipod. itunes is kind of unreliable."  And "Mommy, I just did an experiment and the chocolate milk powder tastes WAY better than the chocolate milk syrup." And "Mommy, it's a good thing I figured out where to put the resistor in the last project I did, isn't it?"  And  "Mommy, do we have any 3D glasses anywhere?"  And the most recent, "Mommy, you know how we couldn't figure out how to install the Aether Mod, well I just found instructions 'How to install any mod.'"  Seriously, I heard all of this and more during the writing of this post.)

Well, I wrote this post the evening of the first etmooc Blackboard Collaborate session, just before it started.  Apparently I saved it instead of publishing it.  Since then, I've been pretty excited by what I've participated in so far.  I'm now thinking that I had better try out some new things and make a visual introduction that's more fun than this one.  Hopefully I'll get that introduction done before etmooc draws to a close.  I'm now on TweetDeck and Hootsuite.  I'm ready to try Google Reader.  And I've got some ideas I want to blog about.   (Note:  during the addition of this final paragraph tonight, I heard  4 facts about nuclear disasters, each preceded by, "Mommy...")

Sunday, 13 January 2013

I Think of my Principal as @Fryed

I'm starting this blog because I've signed up for ETMOOC and one of the requirements is that participants blog. Despite everything I've read about the importance of blogging for educators, I've not yet arrived at a place where I feel that it is necessary for me but I'm willing to give it a try.  Despite my willingness to give it a try, I've sort of been avoiding getting started  because all of this technology stuff is uncharted territory for me and thoughts of participating in my first MOOC are making me a bit anxious.  I knew though that I couldn't put it off forever and when it dawned on me earlier today that I could write my first post about my first foray into connectedness (Twitter), I decided that today would be the day I picked a blog provider (or forum or platform or whatever it's supposed to be called) and got started.

I joined Twitter in the fall. I didn't know much about Twitter, or rather I had only  misconceptions about Twitter, but @ColleenKR, (who is my friend and the art teacher in our school where I am the guidance counselor) convinced me that it would be a great place for me to connect with other educators who are passionate about learning.  She convinced me to give it a try, just as she had been convinced by our principal, @fryed.

Although I got off to a slow start, I am making steady progress.  Since joining Twitter I've moved from following only people I know to following people that the people I know retweeted to following people who were retweeted by strangers and had things to say that provoked deep thought on my part.  I've moved from checking Twitter every couple of days to checking it first thing in the morning, last thing before I go to sleep and many, many times in between.  I just don't want to miss anything.  I've figured out how to tweet and retweet and change my profile picture.  I understand how to use hash tags effectively (although still forget to do so, most of the time.)  I'm finding myself looking forward to tweets by certain people I'm following more than others.

What's got me a bit worried about the role of Twitter in my life is that I've begun thinking of the people I knew before joining by their Twitter handles.  When I get up I think, "I wonder what @fryed tweeted this morning or I wonder if @ColleenKR or @KimberNipRock replied to my tweet or I wonder if @wallwins tweeted to say she made it home." But what's even worse is that I'm thinking of these people outside of Twitter  as their Twitter handles too.  When I put on my favourite blue shirt in the  morning, I wonder if @ColleenKR will show up at school wearing hers.  I wonder if @KimberNipRock will drop by for a chat during her prep.  I wonder if @fryed and I will have time to get together to work on...  I'm not sure what this means, but I sure hope I snap out of it!  I am fairly certain that at very least I've taken some baby-steps toward connectedness.

Well, I've been at this for awhile so I'd better go check mean make supper!  (And that's my next concern:  time management when there's just so much to explore...)