To say summer flew by would be the understatement of the year. Life took over once again, and next thing I knew it had been another month since I last blogged. I know, not exactly an award winning performance since ECMP wrapped up (sorry, Dean!). But I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal, so I am optimistic that with internship getting underway this week, blog posts will begin to flow like lava. So, what have I been up to since July 11? Let's see. I wrapped up my summer with Ta-Wa-Si Recreation mid-August and am seriously missing those kids. It was such a pleasure to see those smiling faces every day and to spend my afternoons soaking up the sun and the sound of children's laughter. Nothing beats that! We visited beaches, the QCX, went rock climbing and swimming, made corn husk dolls, and wrapped up the year with a day at IPSCO playing and exploring. Best.Summer.Ever.
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Our Humble Abode
On the personal front, my partner and I sold our home and purchased a new (to us) one! It is a perfect blend of old and new without sacrificing any of the charming character. I am not generally a believer of fate, but after this whole process, I may be a convert. We have been browsing for our dream home for years. When I say that, I literally mean YEARS. Since we were in the tricky position of buying and selling, we had to be sure that there was a home we really wanted before we listed, so we could avoid being caught in a position where our condo was sold and we were forced to buy something to avoid becoming homeless. When this house came on the market, it was way over priced. But as days turned into months and the price slowly came down, our interest began to climb.

Then one day, in a whirlwind decision, we prepped our home for a sale, hired an agent, looked at the property, fell in love, listed our condo, put in an offer contingent on the sale of our home, and began the waiting game. This is where I will say my belief in fate was altered. This house was literally everything we wanted and so we were nervous about how long it would take to sell ours and the looming potential that another offer would come rolling in leaving us with no choice but to walk away. Our condo came on the market on a Wednesday and I waited all day for someone to call. That night I got my first call to show the place. Hooray! The next day I received another call. And another one. And then another! We ended up with five showings and three offers on the first day. One week later everything was done and this gem was ours. Now we wait a little more until our possession date in late September - a much less stressful wait!

While I am waiting to move, I will be busy prepping and planning for internship. Last week my coop and I participated in Internship Seminar. It was three long days spent getting to know one another and what this whole process will be about. We came up with a way that will work for our unique programs for me to gradually take over the classroom. Just having an idea of what my initial classroom duties will be has me feeling more at ease about this whole process. We are officially back to school tomorrow and I am looking forward to getting started.

I'm not sure how to describe it, but I feel as though things are really coming together. It's verging on scary how well things are falling into place. It almost has me thinking that my luck must be on the brink of running out. But until then, I will relish in the awesomeness that is my life right now!

 
 
A while back, Dean asked us to engage in a couple of assignments from the DS106 website.  I blogged about my tasks and received a comment from a classmate about another assignment she thought I would have chosen: Cat Breading.  Had I seen it when I was carefully selecting my projects, I definitely would have completed it then. Fast-forward to this week, and I found myself with a couple pieces of decrepit bread in my cupboard, some time to kill, and a very special cat named Charlie.

The Story Of Charlie Bear

It was Friday, November 10, 2006.  I remember this because I had the day off work as Remembrance Day fell on the Saturday that year.  I was on my way out to my car when I heard the tiny meows of a kitten somewhere on the street.  I looked around and called, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!"  Almost immediately, a little cat skittishly ran over to me on my driveway.  I tried to approach her but as I stepped toward her she ran back onto the street. It was snowing and getting too cold for a small cat like that to be out for long, so I went up to the porch of the house and called again: "Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!"  Again she came, and so this time I opened the door and invited her into the house. She came running in the door and was warmly greeted by a curious German Shepherd, a Collie crossed with who-knows-what, and a growling/hissing cat who was clearly running the show.  Needless to say, Charlie bolted back outside to safety.  I looked around for her, but she was nowhere in sight.  When I returned to my car and turned on my headlights, the beam of light shone into a bush at the front of the house, revealing the little kitten.

Tugging on my heart strings, I rescued her from the bush and brought her back into the house and into the spare bedroom where she spent the night with my mom.  The next morning I called the Humane Society to report "him" found (I am really bad at deciphering the genders of kittens) and was informed of my options:

        1.  Bring her in immediately
        2.  Keep her at home until someone claims her and if after two weeks no one phones looking for her, bring her
             in then
             OR
        3.  Keep her at home until someone claims her and if after two weeks no one phones looking for her, keep her
             forever
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Charlie's New Zipper Post-Surgery
We obviously chose option #3 and here we are today.  She is the polar opposite of my other cat, Hank (#catproblems), in that she is almost annoyingly affectionate and will take whatever our two Bostons or we dish out.  Last year she swallowed a large piece of a rubber dog toy and underwent major surgery to have it removed. When the vet techs phoned to update us the morning after, they said she was still a little groggy from the drugs but was rubbing her face on everyone's hands.  That is my Charlie Bear.  So when I stuck a piece of bread on her head, she just sat patiently while I snapped pictures and laughed hysterically at her expense.  I almost feel bad when I write that, but then I look at this picture and chuckle a little more:    

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Miss Charlie, Donning Her Bread-Crown
 
 
The end of my semester has come and gone.  My final marks have all been posted and yet I still have this anxious feeling in my guts that I have something due.  I wonder when that feeling will subside and give way to the freedom that is my reality and allow me to actually enjoy my summer?  My semester proved to be fruitful in more than just a learning sense.  In fact, things almost seem too good to be true right now.  One of my instructors has moved on from her role as classroom teacher and into the role of consultant with the Ministry of Education and she generously donated all of her classroom resources to me.  I have a bajillion boxes to go through and decide what to keep and what to toss, but I am so grateful for the offering because it can be expensive for a new teacher to go out and purchase these things.  Another one of my instructors happened to also be a superintendent with the school board I am hoping to work for in January and has provided me with some advice for my internship as well as a foot in the interviewing door.  Although none of this guarantees me a job, I am feeling optimistic about my future career.  

I started work this week at the Ta-Wa-Si Recreation program.  I am working the luxurious hours of 1 - 5 and spend the better part of my day outside, engaging with most of the same children I have spent the last 6 months working with.  I enjoy that I can say, "I love my job" and mean it.  You would have to meet and get to know the children I spend my days with to get it.  They are such a cool bunch who continue to humble me with their perspectives.  I have been working to find camps and activities of interest to connect the children to so that they can take advantage of the programming that is available to them.  I thought I had a basketball camp lined up for a group of boys who love to shoot hoops and played on the school team, but some issues have come up causing us to look elsewhere. The YMCA is really great about making things work for these children so I am hopeful we can find something.  I actually have to deliver the bad news to them today that the camp we had been talking about is now a no-go.  Hopefully the fact that we are going swimming this afternoon will provide some sort of silver lining to the day, as I know they are going to be disappointed.

On a completely different note, this morning I committed myself to blogging and visiting my neglected Google Reader.  Check and check!  I had about 150 things that I had missed since I looked at it last.  I am glad I scrolled through instead of marking everything as read because I found a really neat resource that I want to share with my fellow primary teachers.  It was a post from Amanda at One Extra Degree about a resource she is selling over on TeachersPayTeachers.  I had purchased her pirate themed mapping package during my pre-internship and loved her ideas, so when I saw her dinosaur themed word-work bundle, I was equally enthusiastic to share.  The resource she has created is geared toward grade-threes, however I can see it working for my kinders in the fall.  I am envisioning a centre with buckets of sand or dirt and rakes for the children to "dig-up" their laminated popcorn or sight words.  Check it out and leave a comment about how you might use it in your classroom!  
 
 
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A week has come and gone since my last post.  My weekend was crammed with wedding showers which meant plenty of baking and gift wrapping for me.  I had mentioned my love of baking in the little blurb about me located in my blog sidebar, and have included a picture to showcase my wares.  They were vanilla cupcakes dipped in white chocolate ganache, and then topped with blueberry buttercream, blueberry-orange drizzle, and a fresh blueberry. There are few things that make me happier than baking and teaching.  Except for maybe editing videos, which I was also doing this weekend in an attempt to complete my Final Reflection on time.  Unfortunately my archaic computer was taking upwards of 7 hours to upload 30 second clips I had created with Screencast-O-Matic until finally giving me the metaphorical finger in the form of a spinny wheel of death and then shutting down for the night.  When I finally got it turned back on, there was not a trace of my project in sight. Thankfully my partner returned like a knight in shining armour Sunday night with his laptop in tow so I could proceed to basically start from scratch.  His Mac is much more modern than mine and was exponentially faster and easier to use, so I was able to complete it with no problems.

So, without further ado, I present to you my Final Reflection showcasing what I learned this semester. Leave a comment or question below!

 
 
It is hard to believe our spring semester has come to a close.  I still have a couple of things to wrap up before I can officially declare my completion of my last University classes ever.  Or at least for a little while.  But it feels good all the same as the assignments will be enjoyable to do.  One of them is a summary of learning on how I contributed to the education of others and how they contributed to mine.  I have decided to make my summary as transparent as this entire experience has been for me thus far, and so consider this post my recap of the semester.

In my very first post, Dean made a comment about my "voice" and how glad he was to see that I was comfortable with mine.  Writing is always a laborious process for me.  It's a bit of a love/hate relationship in that I usually love the product but hate the process.  It took me hours to write most of these posts because of the time I take to make sure they are properly edited, they are well resourced, and that they are enjoyable to read.  So I appreciated that Dean noticed my effort to let my personality shine through as that was something that was important to me.  One is always a little nervous about the first time he/she puts him/herself out there because, as they say,
someecards.com - You only get one chance to make a first impression
So his feedback let me know that I was heading in the right direction.  And over the next seven weeks, comments are what continued to let me know how I was doing.  I had a classmate take note of my map widget and express an interest in using one herself.  She used the word "steal" and in any other University program that would be an appropriate term.  But in the Faculty of Education, and this class in particular, we were always encouraged to share our ideas so I was happy to have someone take an interest in mine.  On the other hand, I also appreciated the feedback when someone wasn't digging what I was doing.  I received some not-so-nice realities about the lackluster appearance of my posts but put the criticism to use and made sure to add some type of media to the majority of my work.  This also happened to coincide with the syllabus so kudos to my sister for laying it out for me, otherwise I may have missed that one.

Disagreements or having someone challenge your point of view can also be a great way to learn.  Sometimes having someone point out an opposing stance can help us to either reconsider our initial thoughts or solidify our position on a topic.  One article that had everyone chatting was the story of an Edmonton teacher who was suspended for not abiding by his school's No-Zero Policy.  I wrote my own post on the topic and also engaged in conversation with others about their views on the matter, both classmates and strangers.  This was a challenge for me as I often think of my views as "irrelevant" or "uninformed" because I am not working in the field yet.  But as I took chances and publicized my opinion, I received some positive feedback as well as some alternate perspectives, all with my professionalism intact.  These are learning opportunities I would have missed out on if I had remained safely on the sidelines.

I did the same on twitter where, after several failed attempts, I  finally participated in an #edchat.  It was there that
I received a suggestion for posing questions to increase the likelihood of receiving a comment or starting a conversation, so I began trying to incorporate them into my posts.  I found some interesting conversations ensued after a question was asked, like one another classmate posted about homework.  As I was checking my Google Reader one day, I saw a similar post from an educator in Alberta and shared the link for Jane in her comments. She checked it out, posted a comment for Joe about her own blog, which then brought him into our discussion.  If you look at the conversation there, lots of different ideas and resources were passed around.  A great example of collaborative learning and Jane has since started following Joe too.

Another thing I found with questions, are that they can be an actual call for help.  I noticed many of my peers asking for assistance with some aspect of technology and I always tried to respond because I know how frustrating it can be sometimes!  I read about a classmate struggling with the size of something she was trying to embed in her blog.  Since we both use Weebly, I played around with it in my own blog first and then sent her the instructions so she would have them for next time. I also provided Jane with some assistance with embedding her survey in WordPress and directed another classmate to Jane on twitter when she was struggling with the same issue.  I've even extended my helping hand to people outside the class with technology troubles like my friend here.  I am a problem solver by nature, so I love responding to challenges.

Throughout the semester I tried to remain conscious of the positive feelings and motivation I got from knowing that people were reading my posts.  For me, comments are a measure of reader engagement so I made a point of sharing my thoughts with fellow bloggers.  I did it for children and I did it for adults and both made me feel great.    Part of a teacher's job is to inspire, inform, share, and collaborate with students and other educators.  I consider myself lucky because, in my chosen profession, I will get to do this kind of stuff everyday.  And Dean, my classmates, and everyone else I have connected with along the way, have all taught me that technology has expanded the audience with which I can do those things.  I think I really embraced the collaborative style of this class, which is so critical because as Dean wrote, "You can't be a lurker in [this] class".  I value all of the input and resources I have received over the semester and I hope that my classmates feel the same way about my contributions.

Education is changing.  What an exciting time to be a teacher!       
I would also welcome any comments below about how I might have helped in your learning process.

Thank you everyone for a great semester!
 
 
A couple of weeks ago I came across a neat tool for creating email newsletters, called Flashissue.  My intention was to create my own, but my dinosaur of a computer isn't compatible with Google Chrome, which the program operates in.  I was planning to patiently wait for my partner to return with his new(er) laptop, but that isn't happening any time soon.  So I decided to stop selfishly making you wait, because they provide really stellar instructions that could have you spreading your news in no time.  I will, however, give you the gist of things. If you blog, or plan to blog, in your classroom, with Flashissue you can take your favourite posts from the month and turn them into a newsletter that you could email out to parents.  Or if you blog for personal or business reasons, you could send your highlights to friends, family, clients, or your personal fan club to keep everyone in the loop.  Either way, it looks like an easy way to keep people up to date without spending a lot of additional time.  And time is something teachers (especially new teachers) never have enough of.

Speaking of teaching, maybe once I re-enter the workforce in January I will finally be able to upgrade my old desktop to the innovative MacBook Wheel.  That way I can stop blogging about how incompatible my computer is and start living again. 
The Onion News - MacBook Wheel
 
 
The other day, I read an article on twitter about a young girl from Scotland who had been photographing and rating her lunches on a blog she started a couple of months ago.  From what I read in her posts, it was started to bring awareness to the types of lunches they were being served at school.  In one post, blog author Veg, says that "the good thing about this blog is Dad understands why I am hungry when I get home."  When I discovered her blog, it was because she had just been banned by Argyll and Bute Council, a constituency of the Scottish Parliament, from posting anymore photos because she was "only [representing] a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision [was] made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen", a quote taken from their website by the media.  Later that day, they retracted their statement and Councillor Roddy McCuish, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, stated that "there is no place for censorship in this Council and never will be whilst I am leader" (Statement on School Meals).

There are many things I find amazing about this story.  I will highlight a few for you here.

The first is how much support this 9-year-old girl has garnered.  Jamie Oliver, a celebrity chef and food activist trying to improve the nutrition offered in England's schools and starter of a food revolution around the globe, stumbled upon Veg's blog and sent a shout-out to her dad on twitter to show his support.
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Screen shot taken from www.twitter.com/#!/jamieoliver
This was only after her third post, and over 100,000 people had stopped by her blog.  A few weeks later, her counter rolled over 1,000,000 views!  The second amazing thing about this story is that when her blog began receiving such incredible support and attention, she decided to use her popularity to continue raising funds for Mary's Meals, an international movement that sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education.  This is an excerpt from one of her blogs, explaining her mission:

        "There have been some comments on the blog saying I am lucky even to get a meal at lunch. You are right.
        That's why my friends and I set up Charity Children to raise money for Mary's Meals. We planted plants and
        decorated their pots. We made cards, felted soaps, necklaces and friendship bracelets. We sold these at
        school and raised £70. I was given £50 by a magazine that wanted to print my pictures so I decided to give it
        all to Mary's Meals"

This is an action project that would make any teacher proud, made even more special because it was orchestrated by children out of the goodness of their hearts.  When the ruling came out that Veg would no longer be able to continue her blog, she was devastated.  And not so much for herself, but that she wouldn't be able to raise enough funds for a new kitchen for Mary's Meals - the cost of which is about £7,000.  On June 14, the day her blog was shut down, she had raised just about £2,000.  When I checked her total this evening, just three days later, it was £81,992.70.  If you want to support Veg's mission, you can donate here.

If you look at the counter widget at the bottom of her blog, you can literally watch it tick.  She is at over 5,000,000 visitors, receives hundreds of comments per entry and tons of fan-mail, including pictures of lunches from around the world, which she started adding to her pages.  The third thing that amazed me about this story was the way people began rallying for justice on her behalf when the story broke about the ban.  She was in a time of need, feeling hopeless about the decision that had just been passed, and her entourage came together to show their support, including Jamie Oliver who tweeted for help from his followers: 
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Screen shot taken from www.twitter.com/#!/jamieoliver
I think this young girl is a true inspiration and a beautiful example of the power of technology.  There has never been a time when news and information have been able to travel as fast as they do today.  I hope that people everywhere read her story and feel encouraged to take their own action for the better.

What would your action project be?
 
 
I have been thinking a lot about my final reflection piece to sum up my learning in this class.  I have been inspired by the series of "The Web Is What You Make Of It" videos Google Chrome has created.  I like the screen shots they have used and the sound of typing you can hear over the music.  I'm not sure why, but it appeals to me.  So, I have started experimenting on my computer to try and create my own video.  I used Screencast-O-Matic to record my screen shots and then edited my clips in iMovie.  I have some experience working with iMovie from last spring while I was in Québec for the Explore program.  I figured out how to edit a movie using the French version there, so I feel confident in my ability to navigate the English version at home.  Here is a sneak peek of what I was playing around with tonight:
I already have some ideas for how to improve the quality and the types of shots I want to get, but I think that gives you an idea of the direction I am heading.  Feel free to post some feedback or suggestions.  I am open to hearing them!
 
 
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I saw a link to an article today in my twitter feed from @MorningsideCtr.  It was an article from The New York Times, featuring stories from high school students about their use of study drugs to compete in some of the elite schools in the States. A similar conversation had come up in my EPSY 322 - Students with Special Needs - course the other night after one of my classmates presented on the topic of ADHD.  And after reading some of the accounts from students, most of them agreed that it had nothing to do with getting high.  Instead, many of these students felt they needed the help of drugs to cope with the overwhelming demands placed on them by schools and society.  

A 17-year-old girl from Austin, Texas said that she started taking her younger brother's Focalin prescription to get caught up after she missed a week of school:

        "The benefits were amazing. I had been sick a week before, and in one night, I caught up on several physics         and calculus assignments and knocked-out the first act of Hamlet. But the productivity was just one of three
        perks that came from that little 20mg pill: I was able to stay up until 3am, then get up again at 6am feeling
        completely rested, more so than if I had slept ten hours."

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I wondered why students in high school would feel such an enormous amount of pressure; I don't recall high school being that way for me.  Then I remembered that getting into University in the United States is a completely different ball game than it is here in Regina.  A young woman from Pittsburgh explained how Adderall helped her deal with the added pressure the economic crisis has placed on students:

        "Young adults today feel like they need straight-A's, a good internship, a jam-packed social life and more or
        we're failures. We're worried about our future . . . We know we're going into an abysmal job market and
        need any edge we can get, and no effort feels like its enough. You have to pick two: sleep, social life or
        grades.  Stimulants like Adderall give you a much needed boost when your in such a high-stress, exhausting
        situation."

Is this the type of message schools are sending to children?  The competitive nature of post-secondary schooling seems to have created an every-person-for-themselves mentality that has young adults grasping at whatever tools will give them the extra edge they need to get ahead.  Some of the students end up addicted to the pills, claiming that the effects of not taking them daily has left them unable to function.  One boy from New York City was fortunate to have kicked the habit after being accepted to college:

        "The last time I used it in high school was around the end of my first semester of senior year. I was admitted
        to college at that point and high school seemed less stressful to me, and thus the reliance on drugs for good
        grades dissipated."

Although standardized testing in Canada has not been awarded the same level of value as it has in the US, some provinces have begun taking more stock in their results than others.  The pressure to perform on these exams can increase levels of stress in both students and teachers.  However, stress can come from many areas of our lives.  It is important that educators equip students with healthy coping strategies to deal with the added stress that getting older seems to bring along with it, so that they don't begin misusing or abusing drugs to deal.

What are some ways that you deal with the stresses in your life?  Mine is making lists to keep organized and to help put things into perspective.  Post your advice below!

 
 
Since beginning this class, my daily online routine has changed considerably.  Mostly in length.  I used to check both of my personal email accounts, check Facebook and then check my University account.  Then I would maybe check my online banking, but that was about it.  Now, I check both of my personal email accounts mostly looking for blog comment notifications, check my Google Reader and post feedback as necessary, check Facebook, check twitter casually note any mentions or retweets, check Google Analytics someone from Brisbane stopped by for like 3 seconds - no big deal, and then tweet/like/share my blog post from the night before.  I go through this cycle, minus the blog share and Analytics, several times a day.  I find all kinds of inspiration through my connections that I come back to throughout my day.

Tonight I was patrolling my twitter feed and came across a tweet by @davecormier, Manager of Web Communications and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island and Principal of Edactive Technologies.  Dean had invited Dave to drop by one of our live sessions a few weeks back, with the hopes of connecting our class with Dave's because he teaches a similarly themed course in PEI.  That is how I came to know of Dave and his tweets.  Tonight he posted a link to his son's blog who was wanting to know how people use their computers.  So I moseyed on over and discovered that Dave's blogging son is six.  And that he creates podcasts about dinosaurs because that is something he is really into.  I gave his show a listen and was totally blown away.  Just give episode three of Charlottetownosaurus a watch and you'll see why:
Oscar's enthusiasm about Mesozoic times makes my heart smile.  He is using words I don't even know and is spouting off facts like they are common knowledge.  To me, this is proof that when we teach to student interests and strengths, powerful and meaningful learning experiences will ensue.  And how about providing him the opportunity to share his expertise in an exciting way?  Who wouldn't want to host their very own show to be broadcasted on their very own blog?  Children never cease to inspire me with their capabilities! This makes me so excited to begin my internship, so I can find out what interests my little learners and plan meaningful ways to engage them in digging deeper to find out more.  So thank you, Dave, for being such an awesome dad and encouraging your son to pursue his interests.  And a big thank you to Oscar for teaching me a thing or twelve about dinosaurs!

You can check out more of Oscar's work here.