Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wall-E, the Flu, and Me

I was taken with the movie Wall-E. I was fascinated with the animation, and how I could be entertained by an animated piece of technology. I was also a little horrified how close to the truth the depictions of future humanity might be. So what does this have to do with the 'flu.

I'm one of those teachers who has been stricken with the "flu du jour". I'm also an asthmatic. The two don't go together well, and suffice it to say extreme fatigue, aches, pains, and coughs have kept me away from work this week in the flesh. (I thought it would be extremely rude of me to cough in parents' faces during parent-teacher -interviews even though I've finished a course of Tamiflu.)

Interestingly enough, despite my illness and because of technology, I've been "working" a lot.

No matter how sick I am, no matter how much sleep I need, I still need something to do when laying on the couch and staring at the ceiling. To the rescue: wireless internet and a laptop.

Most of what I do with my laptop has to do On it I can make up my dayplan, email my sub, mark emailed assignments, and enter marks all done between naps and creative staring at the wall. My sub is email literate and we've emailed back and forth during class time. I've even made up two quizzes and a new social studies major assignment. I'm not to the point Eldon G. was where he was teaching from Edmodo, but the possibility is there. I could see myself teaching from my laptop connected continuously to my ever-becoming-techno-literate sub!!! (She's great! Always up for a new challenge).

It scares me to think how much like one of the techno-humans of Wall-E I've become.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Am I a digital teacher? Am I stupid or am I addicted to my job?

At our I-SITS meeting, Donna showed a video of a first year "digital teacher". The young woman in question was very definite in her opinions of her teaching methods and why they were the right ones for kids of the "digital generation". I found her presence irritating and arrogant and in response my back went up. Whatever she was saying might have been true, but I didn't want to listen to it.

On reflection, I wonder about my reaction to her. Is it that she is young, beautiful, and a recent graduate of UBC. (I checked her web page). Is it her definite "know-it-all attitude" that implies to my aging ears that she knows a whole lot more about effective teaching than I do. (I've been at it 29 years and I'm a graduate of the U of S Masters in Educational Communications program albeit 10 11 years ago.) In her defense, someone else has edited her talk, and perhaps presented her as being more forceful and know-it-all than she appears on the video.

I love being part of the I-SITS committee. I love the spirited debate, the thirst for knowledge, the camaraderie of educators that rejuvenates me and helps sustain me when I spend most of my weekend prepping "digital" lessons and marking. Right now, I'm trying to imagine this teacher or someone like her on this committee. Would she have anything to learn from us? Would she have the patience to teach us something or share with us her not-so-successful experiments in the classroom? I hope so. The video presentation doesn't leave me hopeful.

As I said, I've been teaching somewhere around 29 years. I'm still "prepping my face off". I feel guilty if I use the same lesson and lesson plan more than once without revising and enriching it. Somewhere in all of this, my "real life" continues to suffer? Am I stupid, inefficient or addicted to my job? I don't know. I still love to teach and prep lessons. I'd also really like a "life."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A plea to those of partisan politics; Please teach me something I didn't know.

Here we go again. Another Canadian election is happening possibly as soon as this fall. The last one wasn't supposed to happen because Prime Minister Harper and his ruling Conservatives had passed a law mandating Canadian elections be held once every four years. Hmm....the last election was against the law and almost no Canadians wanted to have it. This possible coming election is equally as popular as the last one.

South of the border there is a never-ending stream of partisan politics Republicans versus Democrats. Right now, the rhetoric concerns universal health care. We Canadians - at least many of us - look smugly and condescendingly upon Americans for their "pay-per-use" healthcare. Is healthcare in Canada truly as good as we think it is? Are there any reasoned and calm Republicans out there who can explain to Canadians why publicly-funded healthcare is not what we think it is?

Could everybody please stop with the mud-slinging and scare tactics? When you persist, I tune you out.

I am pleading with people of all political persuasions to please teach me something I don't already know. Provide me with facts and figures and the results of reputable studies. Treat me like I am a world citizen hungry for knowledge to help me make my own mind up about economics, politics, and social good. I'm not stupid. I want to be informed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The somewhat open, social, and highly connected wedding.

As my FaceBook and Flickr friends know, my oldest step-daughter, Jennifer, was married last week at her mother's country residence. The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, the wedding party stunning, the location breathtaking, and the weather perfect. How did Web 2.0 have, and not have, a role in the wedding.

First, my step-daughter keeps a blog. The official announcement of the relationship happened sometime in March of 2008. We were treated to pictures and stories about their shared adventures in the Caribbean and at the Medical University of the Americas.

We did meet Brandon, then the "significant other" at Christmastime of 2008. It was a face-t0-face visit and turkey dinner at our house.

Officially the wedding announcement didn't happen until invitations were sent out. An official wedding site was created, and prospective guests had the option of confirming or declining their presence on the website. The gift registry was on

The "bride-to-be" kept us updated on her blog. Upon returning to Saskatchewan to study fot her US medical licensing exam, Mondays were reserved for wedding plans. She updated her blog faithfully.

The bride and groom had arranged photographers from Edmonton to pictorially document the wedding and the wedding rehearsal. People like me, the evil-wicked-stepmother, had a field day taking digital photos (I snapped over 200).

Interestingly enough, no one "officially" videotaped the wedding. I'm thinking that photographs are moments in time from the point of view of the photographer. We can use the images to pique our own memories and feelings of the event. I'm not sure a video could evoke being there in the same way. Unless one could be there, physically. for the event, I think photos are the next best thing.

The bride and groom took off the next day so the bride could start her clinical rotations in Oklahoma city. We the family, check her blog, Twitter, and Facebook accounts regularly. After the wedding, guests have been uploading images to the group Flickr site.

Life goes on. Some of it gets shared via Web 2.0.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why I Really Liked Being on the In-School Technology Committee

I've always known why I love being in Educational Technology. It isn't machines, or computer scripts, or games, or....

The real reason I love it so much is that I get to indulge my passion for eclecticism and to hang out with an eclectic group of people all concerned with teaching and learning. We all come from different academic and technical backgrounds so for us to "talk shop" we need to focus on how we teach not what we teach. I can't think of getting any closer to educational heaven than that!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Have I Learned? A Response to the REAL Gary's Post

What is the most recent thing I've learned as a teacher? I've been mulling that over since Gary wrote his post and put out the "challenge". I guess I have to haul out my "dirty little secrets" about why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place.

Way back when (1976) when I finally finished my first degree (Arts 4 year, sociology) I began to re-ponder the question..."What do I want to be when I grow up?" I'd had one disastrous (for me) year in the (now defunct) College of Home Economics (I wanted to learn interior design). I'd always said I didn't want to become a teacher; however when I sat down to look at my career options one of the things I always like to do is learn. It seemed to me at that time that teaching was a logical choice to meet that need.

Even though teaching has been difficult (I'm a pretty hardcore introvert) it has met my need to learn (and learn and learn....). Teaching is never dull. If it becomes dull (for me) it means I need to learn something new which has meant going back to university ... in 1981 -82 to study special education, and in 1994 to start a masters in educational communications.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm teaching something new just for the sake of meeting my need for novelty as opposed to being a truly innovative teacher. Am I meeting my students' academic needs or are we just mucking around in the unknown for the sake of doing it? Is it even ethical to depart from the "tried and true" in order to forge new pedagogical territory? My step-daughter has just finished five semesters of medical education; her studying arsenal includes piles of flashcards to prepare her to write multiple choice exams.

. I know I have to follow "the curriculum". My experience and what I have learned from my studies in grad school don't always match up to what "the curriculum" tells me to do. Teaching ro me is a never-ending series of questions, and experiments in order to teach my students effectively.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Inspired by the TL Summit and Cool Math Teachers...

This morning as I was driving my 1 hour drive to Hafford, I had a "ping" moment. My students could take definitions from their geometry unit and with the help of a drawing program create slide images to explain these geometric concepts. I could import them into Windows Movie Maker, or just put them on a Google Docs slide show and post it in our blog.

Yesterday, I had all my students copy a portable program that cannot be named into their documents folder. This program has draw tools that can create circle pies. While the student creates them, he/she can see the exact angle of the pie in a tiny window. I wanted them to have some practice creating and measuring angles, as well as learn how to use draw tools. (Never teach anything that doesn't go with at least 3 other things I always say; it's the wardrobe planning method of instructional design...but I digress).

Today with the same program, each student created a slide and we exported them to .gif. I learned that I had to save the documents to their accounts and then copy them to the homework file, rather than saving them directly the homeowrk file.

Kids said it was the most fun they'd had in a math class. I guess I'd better not do this again. School, especially math class, is supposed to be miserable.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Educational Reform = Societal Reform

I think education has become the scapegoat of society. Schools are expected more and more to perform the duties that only a whole, well-functioning and integrated society can.

I remember some things learned back in my caveperson university days, an era when calculators had just replaced slide rules. I remember learning that schools are a reflection of the communities they serve. If this is true, (I think it is) then it is nearly pointless to ponder educational reform until social reforms take place.

It would seem in our society that we have compartmentalized everything, for example religion, food production, commerce, health care, families, child rearing, elder care, education of the young, safety. We have created experts and institutions for each of these social functions. These experts and institutions tend not to take any responsibility for matters not considered under their authority. The individual must deal with a dizzying number of experts and institutions in order to just survive from day to day.

Somehow in our 21st century world we are getting worse and worse at effectively meeting the needs of the people who live here. Society needs to function as a whole unit since a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Until we world citizens can de - compartmentalize our institutions and learn to communicate and effectively problem solve together, I don't think anything will get much better, and probably will get a whole lot worse.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Apology to Dean Shareski

I need to apologize to Mr. Shareski. In the heat of an intense tekkie meeting I responded to an image projected by Donna D. and obtained via Dean's flickr. I meant to find the image to attach to my blog to complete the context...but my eyes are failing me and I couldn't see the projection and then I couldn't find the flickr image...and then we had to go home.

Without the image the post made it sound like Mr. S. himself had made the quote, when in fact, he had just posted it from somebody else. Thank you for graciously pointing this out to me in your comment. I am honoured that you would read "Life on the Lefthand Side". I enjoy your blog tremendously and have also enjoyed hearing you present at conferences. You make me think (I hope not just react!) For that I am indebted.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Personal Lerning Networks: A response to Donna's presentation

This is a response to our tekkie meeting and a comment posted by Dean Shareski that I can't find at the moment but it struck a nerve I'll write about it.

I don't think personal learning networks are new. They are the way of the world.

I find Shareski's quote so arrogant. While "technology" is useful (don't get me wrong I LOVE it) I have to ask myself, What constitutes technology?" Isn't a note in a bottle a form of technology? A nail dipped in blood can be used to write. What does it mean "to advance"? Does one need a computer to promote learning and wisdom?

If one does not value learning, expanding one's own horizons, and questioning what one holds to be true, it doesn't matter how much technology one has and how many people one can connect with. Learning is a way of being, a lifestyle, a spiritual practice if you will. Technology, whatever it is, is merely a tool.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

It takes a whole (global) village to raise a child doesn't it?

Friday afternoon, fourth class, second day of the second semester, first day second semester with this class. I had an unpleasant incident with two grade 10 students the details of which don't really matter.

What really matters is that the situation in which the students found themselves isn't the situation that most met their needs at that particular time. Neither of them wanted to do what I, the school, society, and possibly the other students wanted them to do. Their actions involved insubordination. The consequences needed to address that were provided by the administration (to whom I am extremely grateful).

Later on, I whined on Twitter, "If we are such an advanced society, why are we keeping kids in school when they don't want to be there. We have nothing better for them?"

The school cannot give either of these students precisely what it is they most need. To succeed in schools, students need to become skilled in time management and delayed gratification. Successful time management and delayed gratification become possible only if the child's needs for food, shelter, clothing, safety,nurturing, identity, love and belonging are adequately met. I don't believe that the school, on its own, can begin to meet these basic human needs. Schools CAN be part of a co-parenting of children with all the rest of the village.

For these two kids, and a whole lot of others, co-parenting from the village isn't happening. Until it does, some teachers and some students are doomed to play out the unpleasant drama we enacted yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Would This Qualify as "21st Century Skills"?

My grade 5/6 social studies class is ticked off with me. Really.

We are studying the geographic regions of Canada. We've already gone over what they are by reading a section of a book and making notes. We've even marked the notes together as a class.

As a follow - up, I've put them into groups of 3, given them short articles on the geographic regions of Canada from 2 different photocopiable activity books (which means that the printing is big and the headings and sub headings are large) and I've given them a frame (aka "note taking sheet") into which they have to put the correct information to complete the notes. In order to do the task, hopefully, a) they will work as a group; b) they will use headings and subheadings to help locate information; c) they will look for specific bits of information by skimming and looking for key words or clue words from the notes.

Yes we are using pencil and paper. Yes we are getting information from two different sources and putting it together. Yes maybe we are getting the idea that the information really DOES EXIST even though I can't locate it in 2.5 nanoseconds (Ms. Cone wasn't really lying after all.)

My experience with kids using the internet for locating information is that they have no, or almost no clue that they actually have to READ something beyond the first sentence or paragraph. Hopefully this kind of activity will translate into the development of better over all research skills so that they will use the internet (and other sources) effectively.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A different type of social studies test.

As I have previously Yammered, I've signed my class up for the 80 Schools Around the World project. Not being certain how to start, I just started anyway, as Sylvia has us all on a Google Docs database. I contacted Nadine Norris a tech consultant from Oak Forest Illinois (near Chicago). Actually I Skyped her; my class was working on an assignment and she was eating lunch in her tech room.

Nadine had a fourth grade class who was studying government and wanted to ask my class some questions about Canadian government. Nadine was shocked to learn (as are many Canadians) that the prime minister is not the head of our governemnt; Queen Elizabeth is.

Friday morning came and the appointed Skype hour. My grade six group protested that they didn't really know anything about Canadian government ("Too bad," I said.) I had trouble connected to the wireless with my Mac and had to use the Dell (I don't really like the web cam as well as the one on my Mac). In my haste, I had forgotten to re hook up the data projector, so my group of 12 or so was clustered around the laptop.

What I found interesting was the kinds of questions the American kids asked; for example, how long has the Queen held her position. (Since 1953 I supplied the answer). My class asked the fourth graders if they were happy to have Obama and the kids clapped (I guess that's a yes.)

On reflection, I think it was a great experience for the kids. Most of the time, we Canadians don't get this kind of experience until we leave the country to visit an other one. I still wish I had better technology for a big group; Skype is after all best suited for an individual to individual conference. However, what better way to do a crash course with a test on Canadian government? (Well, maybe go to Ottawa and have to work for an MP?)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

7 Things You May Not Know About Me

I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that being "tagged" on Donna's blog post means I am to write my own 7 things. So far, I've found everything else everyone has written FASCINATING; I'm not sure I can write anything that would keep anyone awake long enough to read the whole post, but here goes:

1. I spent one year in the (now-defunct) College of Home Economics at the University of Saskatchewan. I come from a working class background. After a year of studying Arts and Sciences, I felt like I needed to study something to get "a real job". I actually was able to transfer all my credits and at the end of 1973 had two years towards a HomeEc degree. I hated every minute of HomeEc and transferred back to Arts.

2. I have an advanced degree in Sociology meaning I have a 4 year arts degree. I have an equal number of French classes, but double majors in French and Sociology weren't recognized.

3. At age 14 I attended an election rally for Pierre Trudeau. It was more like a rock concert than a rally. I got a "psychedelic" TRUDEAU poster on a stick and after the ralley, I proceeded to carry it home through my working class neighbourhood. Every yard had black and orange NDP lawn signs. I was not attacked or verbally abused; however when I walked into the 25th Street Grocery (owned then by my uncle), the clerk told me to "Get that thing out of here."

4. I spent the summer before the election of the Partie Quebecois taking an amazing summer immersion course in Trois-Rivieres. It had been cooperatively offered by the U of S and Memorial University in Newfoundland. We didn't study French; we studied Quebec history, literature, and culture in French. We didn't live on campus; my "proprietier" (sp?) was head of the PQ in Trois-Rivieres. Needless to say, my political vocabulary improved immensely as did my understanding of the world view in Quebec.

5. I was a sick little kid. I had asthma and eczema. At 8 days of age I had a brain puncture to alleviate pressure on the brain. I was hospitalized once for two weeks and my parents weren't allowed to visit me (times have changed).

6. In 1990 or 91 I "crashed" the Edmonton and area teachers convention (over 5000 teachers at the Edmonton convention center) and happened to attend a session on multimedia. Someone wheeled in a large card with a Mac computer, televisions, laser disc reader, speakers, etc. etc. and proceeded to explain how this was the future of computing and media. I was hooked.

7. I got my first dog 11 years ago while I was working on my project for my masters degree. Lukey was an adorable miniature schnauzer. Rick Schweir even allowed him to play on his desk, after welcoming Lukey into his office like a beloved colleague. Lukey died in 2003.