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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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Tonight a friend posted a plea for help on her Facebook.  It seems her three-year-old daughter was playing with her iPod and afterwards her audio book was playing in fast forward, despite attempts to power it off and back on.  I love to figure things out, so I did what I always do when I need to know something - I googled it.  And I was able to find a solution to said problem.  Love it! What I love even more is the way technology allows us to toss out a question to our friends and then go back to doing other things like washing dishes or doing homework.  It gives us the freedom to check back for the answer once we find another spare moment, and does not force us to do extensive research when we just don't have the time.  She was busy.  I was not.  Her problem was solved and everyone is happy.

Texting works the same way.  I am able to send little messages throughout the day to let my partner know how things are going, or that I'm thinking about him, and he is able to read and respond when he has a spare minute, and so on.  It allows us to stay connected when we are both caught up, doing our own thing.  This is important to me because when I am in school mode and he is working, our schedules just don't mesh.  And without the use of these technologies, we might go whole days without communicating on some level.  Some people believe that these types of technologies are diminishing traditional social interactions.  Maybe that is the case for some, but I still engage in other forms like face-to-face conversation, Skyping, or phone calls.  I think I just have more options than I did before.

Do you think technology helps or hinders your connections?

 
 
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!
 
 
I spent a half day with my coop and the kindergartens yesterday morning and it was such a delight.  She has over 20 students in her room, which seems like a lot for kindergarten, but the routines she has established make transitions seamless.  She also has an EA in the room to assist a student who uses an iPad to communicate.  She was able to tell us what she did the night before by selecting the word/symbols she needed to create a sentence that the iPad spoke out-loud for her.  We are going to have another student next year in the Discovery Pre-School who will be getting his own iPad to use for the same thing.  I think it will be really neat to be a part of his learning experience as he figures out how to communicate with his new "voice".


Another exciting opportunity I will be participating in next semester, is the chance to help pilot a new web-based tool that is being developed to capture play based learning in the classroom.  I think five teachers in Canada are testing the program, and my coop and I will be one.  I had a quick look around at the site yesterday and some of the features it has are the ability to upload photos, videos and audio clips to the "learning story", include the names of the students involved in the observation, send the story to the involved children's parents, link the story to learning outcomes, and much, much more.  I am so excited to be a part of such an innovative program!

I am really looking forward to the upcoming semester.  Being in the classroom yesterday made me miss teaching.  I also recalled that a person cannot visit a room of kids and not come away with at least one funny story.  So, here goes.  Yesterday morning the kinders were lined up quietly in the boot room, waiting for the bell to ring for recess.  When it did, everyone went rushing outside.  A, who took off running with extra vigour, fell on the gravel just outside the door.  When I looked through the window, I saw him standing there pointing to his knee, with only one shoe on.  Immediately his friend T came running over to report.

T: "Miss S!  Miss S!  A fell and hurt himself!  He was running so fast that he fell and he blew a shoe!"

My coop and I looked at each other and laughed.  "He blew a shoe!"  Too cute!
 
 
 
 
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?