Earlier this week Dean invited Instructional Technology Specialist, Alan Levine to steer our live session on the topic of Digital Storytelling.  During his presentation, Alan mentioned a website called DS106, an online course for Digital Storytelling that you can join anytime and sort of use as you like.  Dean asked us to check it out and complete two assignments from two different categories.  Let me begin my saying that my archaic operating system and lack of Photoshop made this very challenging for me.  I wasn't sure where to start, so I clicked the 'gimme a random one' button at the top.  You might be thinking, "That's the spirit!" or "How brave!" but I clicked that button close to 20 times, looking for an assignment that interested me and that I could do with the software I have.

The first one that caught my eye was Letters in Your Surroundings under the Design Assignments.  It looked snazzy and creative which is right up my alley, so I set to work.  This week I had also learned the importance of using images off the internet under the Creative Commons, so I began searching for the letters I needed to create my name.  After I had downloaded all of my images, I pasted them into a Word document and formatted them to be the same height.  From there I saved my document as a PDF in iPhoto by selecting the option from a drop down list in my printer dialogue box.  Then I opened the image in iPhoto, cropped out the extra white space, and was left with this!  The pictures are a little blurry, but that's what you get when you don't have a proper photo editor.  I still think it's pretty cool. 
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Images Used Under Creative Commons From (Left to Right): John-Morgan, Camera Eye Photography, *Ann Gordon, p_a_h, isconniethere, Nina Matthews Photography, janetmck, Nina Matthews Photography
I went back to the random assignment generator, and clicked a few more times and came up with the Comic Book Effect assignment under Visual Assignments.  I was determined not to let my lack of a photo editor bring me down, so I went into the App Store on my iPad and bought the Halftone app for $0.99.  I then uploaded a photo I had taken of my cat, Hank, earlier this week with the Hipstamatic app and added some magical comic book effects.  It was really easy to use and looks pretty cool.  I emailed both of the pictures to myself so I could upload them here for you to see:
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Before (Jimmy Lens, Kodot XGrizzled Film, No Flash)
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Comic Book Hank
There are hundreds of assignments to choose from which would give students tons of choice if you decided to use DS106 in the classroom.  There are lots of connections that could be made to areas like literacy that would provide an alternative to boring old book reports.  Check it out and post your creations below!
 
 
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My twitter feed has been buzzing for the last week about an Edmonton teacher who assigned a zero, despite his school's No Zeros Policy.  My classmates have been blogging, the news has been reporting, and now my brain is struggling to sort through this information to get my thoughts organized into words.  I guess I will start by admitting I had only been reading little snippets of other people's opinions up until today.  This can be attributed to the overwhelming number of responses that came pouring out of the floodgates after the media released the story last Thursday. The first blog I sat down and read from start to finish, other than my classmates', was School Isn’t Like a Job byJohn Scammell.  The title of his post comes from the shared opinions of many community members about the role education plays in the lives of children and youth.

My first question was, "is school a job?"  I can quit my job at any point I become dissatisfied with the work I am doing, and have some choices about the fields of work I enter into.  I can choose whether or not I accept a promotion and can base my decision on things like remuneration, hours of the job, whether or not I think I will like my new boss or if I think I can work well with my new coworkers.  When I compare these to the choices I had in school, none of them come to mind until maybe University.  Children are expected to attend school until they are at least 16 years old in Saskatchewan, regardless of their interest, and have no choice about areas of study until high school, at which point there are only a few up for negotiation.  Each year students are shuffled on to the next grade and are assigned a teacher and a group of students they are expected to work alongside for the next 10 months - little to no exceptions there either.  So in that sense, no, school is not a job because it is not a choice and the pay is non-existent.

John writes that some people believe that the grade is the pay check, but goes on to discredit this theory because in the real world, pay is based on a number of variables including hours worked and productivity.  School isn't like a job in that sense either.  Marks are based on what students are able to show in terms of outcomes, not how much time they spent acquiring that knowledge or the number of worksheets or projects they produced.  How does this relate to zeros?  Well, a large portion of the population believes that assigning zeros for work not completed sets students up to take responsibility in the real world where if they fail to do the work at a job, they get fired.  Essentially a zero is the educational equivalent of losing your job.  John summed up his views on this false comparison:

        "A bright kid who does no work (I assume people are talking about homework here) and still writes and
        passes my tests will pass my class. He has to. He has shown me he can do the math.
        A weak, hard-working student who does every single thing I assign, but fails the tests will fail my class. He
        has to. He has shown me he can’t do the math.
        Any student, weak or strong, who doesn’t write my tests cannot be assessed. I make him do the course
        again. I have to. He hasn’t shown me whether or not he can do the math, so I can’t pass him.
        The bottom line is that I can’t assess work. Doing work just isn’t in my curriculum. Knowing math is. That’s
        all I can assess."

This is where Mr Scammell lost me.  Is making a student repeat a course not essentially the same thing as assigning a zero?  My equation of a fail to a zero is actually incorrect and the difference I found explained by Cherra-Lynne Olthof, a middle-years teacher from Alberta, here.  On the topic of zeros, she wrote:

        "I give out something called an Insufficient.  People have told me this is a fancy way of saying 0 but it really
        isn’t.  When I write INS on an outcome what I’m saying is, 'I have no idea if your child can do this or not.  I
        have no evidence with which to make this judgement.'  That is much different then giving out a 0 which says,
        'Your child knows 0% of the content of this subject.'"

My lack of understanding on the difference comes from my inexperience in the field.  I didn't know that "INS" was an option, and maybe that's because it isn't one in Saskatchewan.  I honestly have no idea.  Maybe one of my Saskatchewan teacher-friends can help enlighten me on that one.  The other part is that I am not specializing in the area of high school education.  I am studying to be a primary educator where the ownership of responsibility is still slowly being transferred.  However, after reading and listening to multiple perspectives on the issue including the initial news story, opinions from respected educational bloggers, and the comments that ensued from both, the issue seems to be viewed as one of two things:

                    1) Should formative assessments be assigned a mandatory grade?
                                                            AND
                    2) Who is to blame when students don't do their assignments?

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To answer the first question - no.  Formative assessments are ultimately used by the teacher for the teacher to help guide future learning experiences based on what the students are and are not picking up.  They are not an indication of a student's ability because the learning is not yet complete.  If a student decides not to check in with his/her teacher, essentially they are the ones who will suffer in the long run.  And not because some teacher is going to give them a zero, but because they will have no way to gauge their learning or have the opportunity to receive clarification as needed.  This may or may not be reflected in their final grade, but having the opportunity to show what they know is all that matters.  Reporting is all about outcomes and indicators which is based on a final product, not about the steps along the way.  Of course teachers should assess more than one time per year, but if a student chooses to only complete the final assessment, the added stress to perform is on them.

The answer to number two is related to number one, and is less about blame and more about concern.  If a student is not completing a teacher's assignments for some reason, that reason should become the concern of the teacher.  Teaching is intended to be a reflective practice that is always changing to meet the needs of the ever changing students.  Sometimes lessons that were expected to wow, end up bombing.  It happens!  The important thing is that teachers reflect on what went wrong so that changes can be made if the lesson is attempted again.  The same goes for assignments and assessments.  The biggest indicators of student engagement at the high school level are attendance and completion of course work.  While it may be difficult to accept part of the responsibility for lack of student participation, it is important because the education belongs to the student - not to the teacher.  It really doesn't matter what the teacher thinks qualifies as an awesome lesson - it matters what the students think.

In the end, I don't believe that handing out zeros benefits those who receive them most.  If the argument is around teaching responsibility, students who do not complete the assigned coursework are less likely to pass any type of assessments the teacher needs to make an informed decision about what the student knows.  If a teacher is unable to assess a student with sufficient evidence, the student will have to retake the course.  No one said that they were passing students with zero proof of learning!  If the argument is around fairness, education is meant to be fair, not equal.  Fairness is not giving everybody the same thing, it is about giving everybody what they need.  If a student feels that they don't need to participate in certain learning activities, then that is a decision they are allowed to make, pending an understanding that their decision may impact their future mark because of a lack of comprehension.  That to me is teaching a student responsibility and consequences without the use of a threat or punishment of a zero.  Seems more effective to me.

 
 
After an informative presentation from Google Certified Teacher, Michael Wacker, I realized how little I know about the company and all it has to offer.  I have occasionally used Google Scholar to find articles for papers and Google Traduction was my lifeline when I was in Québec participating in the Explore program.  I also used Google Docs one time two years ago to create a group presentation.  But on the regular, other than using google as a verb and religiously googling everything under the sun (both pages and images), I consider myself fairly green to the world of Google.

At the start of this semester, Dean introduced us to the wondrous Google Reader.  I now use it to check my blog subscriptions two to three times per day.  And to think I almost missed out on that gem too. Close call!  A week after that I received some advice from my younger sister and signed up for Google Analytics to check the stats of my blog.  I am proud to report that my fan base is growing and that my visitors span across Canada from Victoria, BC to Charlottetown, PE and even into the United States.  Then came the presentation from Mr Wacker and now I can officially consider my mind blown.  So many things you can do in Google, you literally don't need much else.

I had created a quiz a few days ago in Google Docs using Forms and have now tallied my results.  I used Docs again to create pie charts representing the percentage of folks that selected each option, so read on to find out how you stacked up against everyone else who participated as well as some fun facts about the correct answers.
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Over half of participants guessed that 1985 was the year that the first cell phone was released to the public.  Motorola manufactured the first cell phone called the DynaTAC 8000x.  It became available for purchase on March 6, 1983, offered 30 minutes of talk time and was priced at $3,995. Children of the 80s and 90s may remember this model best as the phone that Zach Morris used on Saved By The Bell.  

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Again about half the respondents guessed that Myspace was the first social network site.  On the other end of the spectrum, no one was reeled into selecting Facebook.  You were all too smart to fall for that one! SixDegrees.com was the correct answer, coming onto the scene in 1997.  It was named after the six degrees of separation concept and allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances both on the site and externally.  Users could send messages and post bulletin board items to people in their first, second, and third degrees, and see their connection to any other user on the site. It was one of the first manifestations of social networking websites in the format now seen today.  It is still up and running, but only to people who were previously members of the site.  

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Another section of the pie devoted to half, but this time it was the right answer, short message service.  And again I didn't stump anyone with one option, smart management system.  SMS is the service component of text messaging that allows short messages to be transmitted between cell phones.

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I stumped you good on this last one.  Over 75% of you guessed the NOMAD Jukebox.  I couldn't fool anyone with the iPod, but only one person got the correct answer.  Audio Highway released its Listen Up player on September 23, 1996.  They began shipping the player to the United States a year later. The device was never mass-produced with only about 25 units ever made.

*All of my information and facts came from Wikipedia

Interesting results!  Of all the responses I received, only one person got all four questions correct.  Hopefully you all learned something you can share with your friends, "Did you know...?"  Now, back to my Google investigation. When you are on Google's homepage, you can access a "More" drop down list at the top which reveals an option "Even more".  Here is where the lesser knowns of Google exist.  One really cool product is Blog Search, which is another search engine, devoted solely to blogs.  Where was this feature two weeks ago?  I should have googled it. You can type in any subject that might be of interest to you and get millions of blogs in seconds. This would be a really great resource for teachers to connect with other teachers.

Google Translate, or Traduction en français, is one I mentioned earlier.  I found this program critical when I was immersed in an unfamiliar language.  With Canada's growing immigrant population, this would be an excellent tool for teachers to use to help bridge the home and school for families and students who are still learning English.  If you have ever wondered how Google does it, check out this little video here: 
I am finding more and more that I need to either update the OS for my Mac or buy a new one, because most new programs require at least OS X 10.5 and I'm still rocking 10.4.11.  I am going to get left in the proverbial dust if I don't upgrade soon.  And I have already found so many neat things I want to try, but am unable to access them because my system is no longer compatible.  Geez, Miss W.  Get with the times!
 
 
 
 
This weekend I delved into the world of podcasting and I will admit it was challenging for me to sit and listen to them.  I am obviously a person who needs visuals because I found my eyeballs wandering around the room inadvertently causing my mind to follow suit.  However, I was able to rustle up some good shares for you and create a bit of magic myself.

Ever since I created and taught a unit on science in my pre-internship, I have fancied myself a scientist.  I have recently introduced experiments to the kids at work and they love it.  I think part of it is the natural inquiry process that occurs in scientific exploration.  So I was naturally curious when I found a podcast dedicated to simple science explanations because the one thing I struggled with was putting the scientific reasoning into kid friendly language.  While this podcast is too advanced for littles, it is easily understood by adults and could be translated for younger students.

Another podcast I liked was from TeacherCast.  The website hasn't been updated in a while so the particular episode I listened to about how to begin teaching with technology isn't up there but is available on iTunes.  One of the guests said something that really stuck with me because it reminded me almost exactly of something Dean said during one of our live sessions this week.  The gentleman stated that "we have to make sure we show our students we are not afraid to make mistakes" and Dean had said something similar when he was trying something out for us on the spot.  I appreciate when he does stuff like that because then he makes it safe for us to try new things and to take risks in a public space, like on our blogs.

A third podcast that caught my eye, I picked up off the favourites page on iTunes.  It is actually a series of video podcasts from Scam School.  The host is a little bit over the top for my liking, but he does teach you some neat tricks you can dazzle your friends with next time you're out and about.  Maybe you could become the next David Copperfield
Speaking of magic, I created a little of my own here in this little podcast. I much preferred this week's tech task of over the video blog we had to create a couple of weeks ago.  Mostly because I didn't have to get dressed.  The cat you see in the middle there, lounging on the stairs, is my girl Charlie Bear. She is also the one you can hear meowing in the background at about 3:04.  She's so needy
sometimes!  During my pod (is that short for podcast, or would you just say cast?) I mentioned a couple of articles: one on HubPages and the other on canada.com.  If you're pressed for time and can't listen to the whole thing, answer me this: What would you do if recess was eliminated in your school?  
 
 
I had plans all week to participate in a chat on twitter, but coordinating my interests with my schedule became a bit of a nightmare.  Perhaps I need to hire an assistant; preferably one who is familiar with the time zones.  My hope was to participate in a live conversation, so this afternoon I picked one from this list my professor posted.  It was scheduled to start at 8:00 CST and so I conferred with my father on the location of CST in relation to us.  He confidently replied that CST was in fact Alberta's zone.  This evening I eagerly signed onto twitter at 7:59pm only to discover I had missed the whole thing.  It is safe to say that if I do end up hiring an assistant, my dad will not be in the running.  Sorry, dad!

The chat I semi-engaged in was under the #blogchat hashtag which I thought was fitting given my recent startup. Tonight the conversation was around commenting.  Topics ranged from spam comments to comment censorship. Some bloggers felt that social sharing (Facebook, twitter, etc.) were more powerful than comments because the shares reach a wider audience.  I have posted my blog on my Facebook and have tweeted the address and have seen a direct correlation between my post and the number of views I receive on those days.  So, I am going to take this a step further and invite my friends and followers to share/re-tweet my post with their friends and see how this impacts my traffic.  I am hoping that I can increase my following and get more people posting comments, feedback, and questions because unlike some of the participants tonight, I do enjoy the comments.  They are what motivate me to write, and the last few days have been a bit of a dry spell for me.

So under the advice of @problogger, I pose this question to my readers:  Do blog comments matter to you?
 
 
About a year ago, a teacher I follow on Facebook posted a link to a kindergarten teacher-blogger who was hosting a giveaway on her blog.  I checked out the details and found that to enter her contest you had to follow her top 40 list of bloggers.  So I did and also decided to bookmark the blogs to my browser for future reference.  Needless to say I didn't do much following because who wants to check out 40 blogs everyday?  But now thanks to my new tool, Google Reader, I have created a folder for my educational blogs and then subscribed to each of them so I can check one place to see who has posted new material.  Brilliant!  I have complied a list of my favourites for you below.
This is a 3rd grade teacher from the United States.  I like her blog because she shares lots of great resources and videos of things she has tried in the classroom.  She has also provided a list of her favourite online tools.

This is a neat blog with an environmental/global education perspective.  Her teaching principles include geographical knowledge and understanding, cultural awareness, working together as a global community to solve real-world issues, sharing the responsibility of caring for the Earth, and global kindness.  This blog also has some great links to facilitate connections to teachers all over the world.

This is a 2nd grade teacher blog from the United States.  She shares tons of resources and ideas from her classroom which is great because she also provides feedback for how things went when she tried them out.

I liked this blog by Shelley Gray because it is Canadian.  She blogs from a primary perspective and because she is in Manitoba, and their curriculum is very close to Saskatchewan's in some areas, her ideas can easily be adapted to meet our outcomes. I also follow Shelley on Facebook and used some of her resources during my pre-internship.

This 1st grade teacher blogger has great resources on her blog and on Teachers Pay Teachers.  She also posts a lot of freebies on her site, so it is a great one to follow.

This is a blog I hope to use a lot during my internship as I will be in a kindergarten/discovery pre-school classroom.  She has some great literacy resources and a tour of her classroom setup.

This is another 1st grade blogger.  I like the tabs at the top showcasing the literacy and math centers, as you can never have too many ideas for those!  

This blog has great resources for toddlers and pre school kids, which will also be valuable during my internship.

Lastly, this blog is a literacy resource for primary students.  It features lots of ideas and resources for teaching reading to young students.  This is one that would be valuable to primary teachers for finding different strategies to help meet different learners' needs.
 
 
I have finally found a routine that works for my schedule this semester.  I have specific times of the day set aside for certain tasks that need to be completed.  This is the best way I know how to keep myself organized.  For example, I have chosen to blog every night after class/before bed.  I tried a couple of different times of day and found that this one worked best for me in terms of consistency.  I also had the opportunity tonight to listen to the ECMP 355 live session from this week which happened to tie in nicely to what I was thinking about for my post.  I love when that happens.  I feel like there should be fireworks or something.  Anyway, I paused the session to type this post so I wouldn't forget.  You never know when ideas will strike, so I am always prepared with a pen and paper to jot them down, or in this case, a blog and a keyboard.

This week we were asked to follow the #comments4kids hashtag on twitter and find a few classes to follow and comment on.  I went on twitter this afternoon and found a three that I wanted to post comments on.  The first was a news podcast created by 3rd graders in Oklahoma.  My comment hasn't been approved yet, but I tried to give the children specific feedback about what I liked so they knew I had actually taken the time to listen.  The second blog I found was a blog dedicated to book reviews written by the students.  I found a book I had actually read and posted a comment to that student, which you can read here.  I think peer book reviews are an excellent strategy for promoting literacy in the classroom and teaming them up with blogging is magic!  Lastly I visited another 3rd grade blog and commented on a couple of posts that I really enjoyed reading.  One of the posts has since disappeared, but the other one can be found here, along with my comment.

During the live session this week, Dean mentioned the power behind a comment from a stranger who had happened on your blog, and cared enough about what you were writing to leave some feedback.  This is so true!  I have had a couple of strangers comment on my posts and I was so excited that I immediately told my partner about them.  It made my work feel important and made me want to write more.  I guess in a way I payed that forward this afternoon and I hope my comments inspired some youngsters to keep blogging.  
 
 
The mystery of what Miss W looks like has finally been revealed.  I particularly love the awkward face YouTube selected as the cover for my video.  Really captured the essence of what I was going for.  Oh and by the way, this took me days to record.  I just couldn't get my hair/lighting/outfit/voice just right.  A true labour of love.  Enjoy!
 
 
Welcome to my humble abode! I am not new to the world of blogging.  You might remember me from such blogs as "Reduce Reuse Recycle: You Are What You Eat" and "Mes Aventures au Québec", both of which are sooo last year in that no one has posted on them since 2011.  This blog is going to be different, I can just feel it.  I am still in the process of sprucing up the place, so don't get too attached to the decor.  I have never used Weebly before so I am learning how to move things around and make changes. One of the features you may have noticed is my twitter feed on the right.  You may have also noticed that my last tweet was almost 100 days ago.  I will be honest and say that I only signed up for my account a few months ago at the suggestion of one of my profs and, up until recently, I didn't get how to tweet #WhatIsThisNumberSignAboutAnyway. This was particularly embarrassing when I discovered that my dad had been tweeting for nearly two years before I joined. So I posted the feed on my blog for two reasons: 1) so I remember that I have a twitter account and 2) so I can make a conscious effort to tweet more often.  And who knows?  Maybe my tweets will be so awesome that Josh Groban will want to turn them into songs too.