Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

Primary Preoccupation - A grade one teacher inviting the world into  her classroom

Connected Teachers, Connected Students

As you may already be aware, this month is Connected Educator Month. A plethora of webinars, discussions, Twitter chats and events have been planned (scroll down to see upcoming events) to help educators to recognize the power of connecting, to help them to build their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to give teachers opportunities to learn together.

This event is a tremendous chance for educators to take control of their own learning. I hope that you’ll take advantage of some of the opportunities it provides.

But what about our students? Do they, too, deserve to have a learning network that is outside of their classroom? To have opportunities to connect and learn from people who live in other locations? To see the power of having a Student Learning Network (SLN*)?

I think they do. This month, as part of Connected Educator month, I’m going to be leading a virtual book club centering around my book, Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.  Some of our book club will be asynchronous such as online discussions and activities to get you started on your connecting journey. We’ll also get together for a webinar twice this month for virtual face-to-face time.

Have you wanted to start connecting your classroom but never quite got started? Now is the time to do it. We’ll all be in the virtual room learning together. You’ll have support for the questions you have and others who are learning alongside you.

How to get started? Buy a copy of my eBook and then hop over to the Connected Educator Ning and register to get started. I’ve joined lots of Nings in the past and have always found them to be a great tool. They are available when the timing works for me. Once you have joined, have a look around, but be sure to click on my book in the list on the left hand side and then click on Join at the top of the page.  Once you’re there, introduce yourself in the discussion area and get started learning!

Although I teach primary grades, teachers in any elementary grade can take the principles we talk about and apply them to their own classroom.

I can’t wait to see you there!

(*Kudos to @kristenziemke for coining the term “SLN”)

Miss BLC? You Can Still Watch the Keynotes!

Alan November, the founder of November Learning, did something distinctly different for the closing keynote at his Building Learning Communities Education Conference last month. Instead of having one person speak, he asked four diverse individuals to each deliver a fifteen minute TED-like talk. I was honoured to be chosen as one of the presenters. The speakers, in order of appearance were me, No Tosh consultant Tom Barrett, high school teacher Catlin Tucker and University of Regina professor Alec Couros.

Several people asked me if the keynotes had been recorded, but since I had seen no evidence of the cameras that I had seen in previous years at the plenary sessions, I said “no”. I was wrong! (Talk about unobtrusive camera work…) The keynotes were recorded, edited and now anyone can see them, even if you were not fortunate enough to attend the conference.

I see that the other two BLC keynotes by Dr. Yong Zhao and Dr. David Weinberger have also been posted.  Both are inspiring and well worth watching.

Primary Digital Portfolios – The Trailer

The 2010 K12 Online Conference is almost here.  Some of my students were fortunate to be selected as presenters this year.  They will be sharing their personal knowledge of digital portfolios.  Although the conference will not begin until October 18th (see the flyer), I have prepared a trailer to whet your appetite.


I’m looking forward to seeing all of the presentations for this unique conference.  See you there!

Update:  The presentation is now LIVE on the K12 Online conference page. You can view it here.

Point and Shoot: Using Video to Capture Learning

Making Movies


I can think of few things that engage children as much as movies, especially if the movies feature the children themselves.  Because of this, I love to use video in my classroom to give evidence of the learning that has taken place and to illustrate the students’ reflection.  Sometimes the video captures only a lesson, and sometimes it demonstrates an entire unit of learning, but always the students want to watch again and again.  Parents are also delighted to get a glimpse into the classroom and to watch their child talking about  learning.

To this engagement, add the mounting evidence of the importance of visual learning (some is referenced in the slides below), and you would be hard pressed to find a good reason to NOT use video.

The wiki for my Point and Shoot presentation from BLC has lots of examples of students and classrooms that are using video in their classrooms (thanks, PLN!), as well as links to more information.  The slides are embedded below.

[slideshare id=4774570&doc=pointandshootforslideshare-100716175125-phpapp01]

Rebooting the Three R’s

Last month, Amanda Marrinan, Maria Knee and I did another presentation together, this time at the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston.  While our focus for our last presentation was the way we plan for technology, this presentation focused on the curriculum, and the tools we use to help our students meet our diverse curricular expectations.

[slideshare id=4765059&doc=rebootingthe3rsforslideshare-100715160452-phpapp02]

We also compiled a wiki of many of the tools that we use.

To be honest, one of our biggest hurdles in planning this session  (well, besides the fact that we live in three different countries and have three different working styles) was trying to organize what we do to fit into the three traditional R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithemtic.  I’m glad to say that the present day curricula of all three of us goes far beyond those traditional boundaries, as you can see from the slides and wiki.

Let’s Do It: Planning for Tech in the Primary Classroom

Photo by Jenn Orr

Earlier this week, I was at the International Society for Technology in Education convention in Denver, Colorado.  While there, I presented a session about the planning for technology in primary classrooms along with Amanda Marrinan and Maria Knee.  While planning a presentation across continents is not without its challenges, I love presenting with these ladies.  We all do similar things in our classrooms, and having a kindergarten teacher, a grade one teacher and a year two teacher all present together gives a well-rounded primary picture.

You can see a recorded video of the presentation on the ISTE site.  After watching some other presenters struggle with bandwidth during videos they wanted to show, we decided to play our video right from the file on my computer.  Although the sound was fine in the presentation hall, there is absolutely no sound on the recording. (A file that the techie guys put on my computer right before we presented was supposed to fix that, but…) Here is the video:


Although the ISTE wizards have done a superb job of adding our slides into the video, you can also view them separately if you wish.

Primary Media Literacy

Last week, in celebration of Media Literacy Week, I was (via Skype) part of an event held in Winnipeg and organized by ManAce.  The organizers planned a packed evening, beginning with four presenters from different parts of Canada who worked with a wide variety of students (I was the token primary representative) and followed by a panel discussion.  Each of the four initial presenters had five minutes to present their point of view, followed by questions.

Because I wanted to include student voices in my presentation, I used a video for part of what I wanted to say.  In making the video, I was inspired by the great video that the organizers of the event had made–it started me thinking about what media literacy looks like in a primary classroom.

Through the magic of Slideshare, my video is part of my slides below.  Can primary students be media literate?  You betcha!

[slideshare id=2453747&doc=medialiteracyis-091108201101-phpapp02]

Early Childhood Resources

Yes, it has indeed been a long time since I posted on this blog.

Recently, I did two presentations at our provincial Early Childhood Education Council‘s annual convention.This is a decidedly non-tech convention (I was apparently the only presenter who needed internet access) attended mainly by K to 2 teachers.

My first presentation was the Top Ten Free Technology Tools for Young Learners.  Choosing ten tools turned out to be more difficult than I had expected.  The top few were no brainers to me, but after that, choosing tools that I thought these teachers might use was harder than I had expected.  There are just so many that are possible to use.  I did get lots of questions on Twitter when I posted this link, asking why I had not included Voicethread in the list.  I do think Voicethread is a great tool, and I admire the work other teachers have done, but it has not worked well for me, so I didn’t think it was fair to include it.  The wonderful Amanda Marrinan got up at 3:30 in the morning to Skype in to my session and wowed the attendees with her lovely Aussie accent and passion.

My other presentation, Login for Literacy, was on a topic near and dear to my heart–using technology to support learning in the six strands of our provincial language arts curriculum.  The wiki also includes a few math links as I wanted the attendees to see the potential there as well. Wendy Goodwin graciously shared via Skype about the reader’s theatre we have done between classes using Skype, and some of the other things she has been doing with her teachers.

Several teachers who chose another session popped in to ask me for a copy of my handout, and were surprised to receive a url instead.  It was a weird feeling to be the only person at the conference checking things on her laptop, but definitely good to be reminded that most of the world does not work the way I do.

Starting Out Right

I’ve done several sessions to introduce teachers to blogging in the past, and have usually walked away wondering how many were going to keep it up. Beyond the technical aspects (which are huge issues if you’re not yet sure how to do basic things such as copy and paste) there is always the worry that teachers will not see the potential, but will just see it as “one more thing” to be added to their already busy day. At a fairly recent session that I did, I guessed that only about one third of the participants would actually follow up on the work we did together.

Yesterday I did a daylong session about using blogging to meet your curriculum with about fifty K–2 teachers. This session was the brainchild of Donna Desroche and JoAnne Kasper, and involved teachers from almost all of the schools in their division. It was one of the most enjoyable sessions I have ever done. I loved it because I went away feeling like all of the participants there would actually use what they had learned. I think it worked well for several reasons:

Preparation – All of the teachers came with a Classblogmeister blog already set up. We didn’t need to take time to go over basics, but could instead focus on making it work in the classroom.

Time – The teachers had a whole day of release time to learn about, talk about and feel comfortable with their blogs.

Ownership – We spent some time talking about how to customize their blog and then let them have time to add widgets, change templates and make their blog their own. I don’t see this as peripheral. I think this is an important step in ownership for teachers as well as students.

Curriculum Connection – As you can see from the wiki that I used, we also spent some time talking about specific ways they could use their blog to connect their students with our Saskatchewan curriculum. When I showed them how to embed a video, and some examples of curriculum-related videos that they could use, I could see their eyes light up.

Ongoing Support – At the end of the day, Donna asked them to talk in groups about ways that they felt they could use the blog in their classroom, and then asked them to email both herself and JoAnne to let her know their thoughts about the day and what further support they needed to help implement their goal for their blog. Some of them took the opportunity to find other classes to connect with and begin a blogging buddy exchange.

Well done, JoAnne and Donna. You’ve created a great model that’s worth following. I can’t wait to see the great stuff the teachers and their students will do.


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