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!  
 
 
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!
 
 
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.
 
 
ac*count*a*ble |əˈkountəbəl|
adjective
1 (of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible : government must be accountable to its citizens | parents could be held accountable for their children's actions

That is the definition from my Apple Dictionary for a word that gets tossed around a lot in education.  My professor, Dean, just posted his thoughts on the word the other day.  And it has been coming up a lot around the light of recent events.  Back in 2010, the Saskatoon Public School Division announced a policy for its high schools that mandated late assignments and plagiarism be "reported in student evaluations, but not reflected in academic assessments" (CBC News, September 2010).  Here is CBC's short video reporting the story:
Needless to say, people had a lot negative opinions about the new policy.  One comment that stood out to me was written by the alias, raceguy:

        "The whole approach to this dumbing down of the system by officials in Sakatoon [sic] is absurd. Should
        we not be looking at opportunities to drive our students to success and excellence by improving the
        education progams [sic]. 
        The fact that there are no provincial or national standards to measure students academic achievements
        is even more of a concern. I personally would have loved to know how my children were stacking up
        against students from other communities in Saskatchewan while they were in high school.
        Oh, sorry that would mean making teachers and the school system accountable to someone. Good grief,
        don't want to pick on the good teachers but isn't it time to hold some of these useless educators
        responsible for their actions?"

This type of attitude is exactly the one that Dean mentioned, that lowers teachers from their role of professional to that of a factory worker, administering tests.  Education is a topic everyone has an opinion about, and rightfully so.  It is something that everyone participates in to some extent.  I just wish that people would gather all of the facts before making a statement like the one above, requesting accountability through standardized testing.  I invite anyone who thinks that ranking teachers by test scores is a good idea, to read about how this worked out for teachers in New York.

Along the same story, in a CBC Radio interview* (September 2010), Saskatchewan's Premier made it very clear that he was opposed to Saskatoon's assessment strategy.  He gave an example of one of his own children losing marks for turning some things in late and how he appreciated the repercussions because he thought it had taught his child a lesson about life in the real world.  I would imagine that Brad Wall provides a stable and supportive home environment, yet if his children struggle to get their homework done sometimes, how about the children who are responsible for providing the care of younger siblings?  Or the students who live on their own and work to support themselves?  I have had many professors extend or negotiate the deadlines on assignments because students had approached them about conflicting schedules.  Life happens and teachers need to be flexible to allow for that.

But maybe instead of the directive coming from the administration that teachers are no longer to hand out zeros for late or plagiarized assignments, that they instead mandate teachers to be flexible with deadlines on a needs basis and use less punitive approaches to punishment when problems do arise; turn a mistake like plagiarism into an opportunity for growth and learning instead of assigning a zero without explanation.  In the radio interview, Mr. Wall agreed that teachers need to make special considerations for students they know are struggling and admitted that teachers are the ones who are working alongside the students and would therefore know what is best for them.  But instead of allowing teachers to make that call, he feels that more standardized approaches are necessary for consistency.

There are no standardized students or standardized classrooms.  Teachers do not come in a standardized package like houses in new subdivisions.  Why would standardized tests be the answer?  This again comes down to what Dean said about teachers being reduced to factory workers instead of the professionals we once were.  I worry that we are headed in the direction of the United States, where schools and their teachers are ranked according to obscure test results.  It will be a sad day for education if that is the case.  Our children deserve better than that.

*I did not have permission to share the radio interview, otherwise I would have posted it here for you all to listen.  If I am able to get permission, I will post it for your listening pleasure!
 
 
I am just coming up on the halfway point of my semester and things are reaching a peak in terms of busy.  I have papers, midterms, and presentations all coming up in the next couple of weeks, but I've got my eye on the prize. June 20 - the Summer Solstice.  And the last day of the semester/the last day of University classes for me.  For a while anyway.  My first presentation is coming up on Monday and I was in charge of creating some sort of visual presentation to organize our information.  I chose to use Prezi for this.

I was first introduced to Prezi in my second year of education during my ECI 302 - Environmental Education - course.  My instructor used it to create a presentation introducing herself to the class.  I have tried to use it a few times since then, and each time I learn something new.  The possibilities are really endless for creating eye catching presentations.  For example, you can assmble really intricate drawings using the shapes buttons. I figured this out when I was trying to delete some of the elements from the template I used to create the Prezi below.  I had to delete each line separately (or maybe I didn't, but I did anyway) and there were a lot of them used to form things like cartoon people, clouds with lightening bolts, a telescope, ants, and other fun creatures.  Normally, I would create a Prezi from scratch, but time is just not on  my side these days.  This one still does the job though:
What are your favourite programs for creating presentations?
 
 
I spend a fair bit of my day on my computer or iPad; sometimes doing homework but mostly googling recipes or browsing Used Regina ads (it's like an online garage sale you can browse from your home, and who doesn't love garage sales? No? Just me?). Both my computer and iPad automatically log me into Skype whenever they are signed on.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Skype, it is literally the best thing since the telephone.  It is free to use and allows you to call up your loved ones to have a face-to-face conversation through your respective  computers. I actually remember thinking about the invention of a phone that would allow people to see who they were talking to when I was 7 or 8.  It really creeped me out because for some reason I thought it would only be one sided and it would be without my knowledge.  Skype isn't like that. It has allowed me to watch my nephew and (much) younger sister and brother grow up, even though we don't live in the same province. In fact, my 5-year-old sister knows how to operate Skype on multiple devices and has been known to Skype me several times a week, pending my green check mark showing (a Skype feature that lets you know who is online). This reminds me how different my childhood was 20+ years ago from children today. Another example is going to the movie store to rent a video.  I used to love going with my parents, my friends, my boyfriend to pick out a movie and grab some snacks for an evening of cinema in the living room.  With the exception of small convenience stores and specialty shops, we are currently witnessing the death of physical movie rentals. It is actually on life support in Regina.  Big stores like Blockbuster and Rogers just couldn't compete with the likes of Netflix and on-demand services offered by cable companies and both have since closed all their mortar and brick locations and made the move to offer online rentals. My prediction is that music stores like hmv are next.  Technology is changing the way we offer a lot of services, including education.  I don't know how many times I have wondered how teachers lesson planned before the Internet. It's funny to think that one day children will wonder how we managed to live life with the little conveniences we have right now.
someecards.com - When I was your age, we had to dial to get online