Wednesday, May 13, 2009


1: Sounder

I've been in skills development at a secondary school in Vancouver. Some of the students are working on a grade 9 essay. "How do I write an opening sentence?" What does "Introduce your thesis" mean? "How do I do an introduction? " "What is a summary?" They ask me how to start and how to spell certain words. "Just get your ideas out, get notes and even point form. " I explain. This is the process of writing. The students had to talk about the novel and the film and the differences between the two. "What are some differences with the film?" and "Why do you think the director did this?" I ask. "It made the dad more interesting?" she tells me. "Do you think that the writer had anything to do with the film's screenplay?" (this I explained is an adaptation for a film) "No" she tells me, as she feels that the film is too different from the book. I realized in that past few days here, how important it is to give students this one on one help with assignments such as these. I want them to be in the moment, thinking of process-ideas- and not hung up on writing their introductions.

2. The photograph

Another assignment was writing memoirs and how to get ideas for writing. One student was having trouble starting as well. He had already done the first writing prompt excercises but now was on the photograph-What first comes to mind? Is there a picture you wish you had not been in? Is there a photo of you that you treasure? Is there one that taught you something? Then, something popped out of him suddenly: "There's this guy, sortave a godson-like a son, brother, my sister introduced him and he was part of our family, and he died" There's an idea that you could expand on! I say. Do you have a photo of him? I tell him the story of this quote I heard once: "Only the dead inhabit photographs...We the living are the ghosts." (Jeffrey Eudinedes) I explain that sometimes, when people die and we are showing someone a photo of them we say things like: "This is grandpa" But if they were alive we usually say here's a photo of Jane, or Helen etc. The photo becomes an embodiment of the deceased person. When I see myself in a picture, or someone else does, its not really real-but more surreal and well....ghost-like.

He tells me some things and I tell him to write it all down. He does. I ask him to look at this picture and describe it to me. "How does he look? When was picture taken? Does this man look happy or sad? I ask about how he feels when he sees this picture: "What does this picture say to you?" He has told me how this family member was only 22. I ask him about if he ever wonders what this man would be doing, had he not died. "Do you wonder about this?" Get anything you think you feel on paper. What you know is important, and worth writing about. I see him begin and write almost a whole page, from his point of view and his memory.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Just asked another student about school, who by the way, is also pretty much against video gaming too. His response to my questions regarding school: "No fun, boring." His favourite teachers of various subjects, were classes where they 'do' things or make things. He likes classes with activities, and humour and teachers who like what they do and make it fun. There are many dynamic educators making these positive changes in classrooms, and I see this as working the best for students, especially those who are not inherently academic or self-directed. I have now been in about 4 schools with alternative programmes, and I see bright students, who inherently do want to learn but have just not conformed into the regular system. I have met homeschoolers who are passionate and talented and are making music, making films, creating art, making history....

Thursday, April 2, 2009

halo 3 obsessions

Saw this documentary about teens and gaming.  It was on the Fifth Estate a couple of weeks ago.  Its fitting as my son is quite obsessed with Halo 3 and has gone to tournaments. Most of his peers now are older than him...either grade 10, 11 or 12 and beyond.  Its an interesting social world: people he met online and now sees face to face.  I can not get my head around it as I am not at all interested in playing first person shooter games, or any games for that matter.  Although, I do go online to use Facebook.  And, I do play some games:  Lexulous, World traveller...both of which are on Facebook.  I try to relate to my son and other teens who play games online.  But I also feel helpless to make him stop playing.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I saw this video from a couple of years ago-reminds me of the Michael Wesch's "A vision of students today" and here's another one of his that i love: Information/Revolution

I find myself drawn to those students who don't fit the 'norm' and march to their own beats...the 'artsy' types, the ones who fall through the cracks and are bored with school. But I am also interested in (and puzzled by) those students who get more from working independently, or are introverted and find school a place that stresses them out. I know from my own memories of school, that it was a bit stressful-esp. high school....but i also liked lots about school: i love to learn with people-I'm an 'extrovert' according to Meyer/Briggs....(but i did score once as a borderline extrovert/introvert...) I get energized from collaboration-and school is setup this way =but what about those who need to get energized from within...? What about those who hate going in front of the class but yet have to due to it being part of the curriculum?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

directed/self directed/learning

I am listening to Teri talk to her grade 9's and 10's about photography. Something she spoke about yesterday sticks in my mind. She told the students that there is a large amount of evidence proving that students still learn the best with the teacher in the room.  She is an art teacher, film teacher, photo teacher and also teaches Yearbook.  Much of her course assignments are project based, being 'art' courses....hands-on etc. However she feels that there is a time and a place for the teacher to be in front of the class....teaching.   In this case, to learn about cameras, safety and expectations.  But also, throughout the term,  students will have this face to face, with new topics.  I know that I like to learn with others. Teaching myself online is probably my least favourite thing, and while I've been forcing myself to do this better, I still favour an 'in the flesh' approach!

So gettting back to my WIKIspace with my Communication 12's,  I have received assignments from 4 of 17 students.  I also have added their regular teacher to our WIKI.  She is giving them some class time to complete assignments which I post online.  I would mainly like to see the WIKI as a discussion place, where students can share and post and modify the page if they want. I also have told them I see it being a support to their learning.  A place where they can go to find information to supplement what they are doing in class.  Unfortunately many I think, are feeling like its extra work.  (and not its off to eat i go....Teri has homemade Turkey soup)

Saturday, February 21, 2009 • View topic - wiki vs. phpbb

A lot of my finding so far, have been observing students (and teachers) while I was a TOC in various classrooms.  I found that the courses where students could direct their learning more, (drama, seemed, for obvious reason, more engaged in their learing.  With English, the curriculum seems more 'set' and more difficult to adapt in some ways.  Students get used to doing things in a particular way.  (read, write, questions, test, read...) I thought by adding to this, making some of the assighments online-or a palce to discuss in -class assighments, I could creat another classroom of sorts-a social network.  But, the students, most of whom already were using tools like Facebook, Texting, seemed to look at this 'wiki' as yet another 'job' or assignment (which is was).  I also know that given I was not the full-time teacher, many did not take my lesson seriously.  I may have more response ( I know I would have actually) with the grade 9's.  I was planning to set up a blog with them but could not get access to the lab to do this with them for one of the periods.  From all of this and what I have seen in other classrooms where it works,  I would definately use Blogs and Wikis in my classroom. It was be part of the overall curriculum in any subject I taught.  For English, I would use Blogs for discussions and reflections, and have students use their own blog for journal entries which could be posted to feedback or kept private for just teacher feedback. • View topic - wiki vs. phpbb

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

fielding questions...

Well....interesting day-booked libary out...and as I thought....the students meandered in and 14 of the 17 showed up. I managed to get them set up but now need to figure out some WIKI whether when I first made this wiki if I made it a teacher/educator type one. I remember Sharon from TLITE helping me initially with this when we did the COQTLITE wiki. Here's the link for my new classroom wiki: planetzutar ... I am still having some difficulties with understanding the inner workings of html and privacy and admin. vs. members etc. I do what I usually do-play-learn with the students and thankfully have many helpful/knowledgable ones! I was going to have them set up blogs as well, for creative writing and journalling but it took the whole class (as expected) to set up the wikis (and the computers/internet were super slow) Well now its back to Coquitlam for daughters hockey game.

Monday, February 16, 2009

PMSS Field study

Had my first day with my Communications 12 students and they seem keen to try this Wiki stuff. The only problem I'm facing now, is that although I have their emails and I've invited them all, I have to wait to see if they do their homework! I have booked a computer lab to ensure I have them all on board and then to get them to create blog portfolios which I am planning to link to our Wiki. I also like the idea of one Blog that is student run. As this is not 'my' class, I have to somehow get it across to students that this is part of their classwork and will contribute to their learning and their final grades. I feel pretty optomistic about the whole project. There are still some glitches to iron out though: how to keep the connection with the students when I am not here-participation is still key to any lesson working. It was nice to see many of my former students today.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Torres on the brain

I had such a great day listening to Marco Torres yesterday. He showed us this nifty pen too-LifeScribe-fitting..... I first heard about Marco Torres back in 2005 when I was looking on a favourite website of mine (Edutopia) and then again, his name appeared in our first summer session of TLITE....I was hooked. My fascination for Project Learning ( was in 2003, while at UBC and a guest instructor of Technology Education told us about it and Edutopia. Since then I have been getting a subscription to the magazine and have made it my mission to always include some aspect of project-based learning in my teaching.

I am convinced that students at many of the secondary (and elementary) students in the lower mainland would benefit from the approach that Torres takes. He speaks about it here: I hope to have the opportunity to see him and his students in action one day. I loved his feelings about how students are often recipients rather than producers of information and learning. I also loved his analogy to a cooking website and how creative it was in comparison to what schools offer kids in terms of school web pages etc.( I think of Sharepoint too.)

While Torres is dealing with a high school drop out rate of 85%, and many children with little or no access to technology at home, there are similiar issues here in some of the schools. In my of the postal codes: Grandview Woodlands, is one of the poorest in Canada! There is a higher percentage of Native/First Nation students as well as ESL and special needs. Torres's student population is made of of predominentally Latinos. The main difference is that his school has 5000 students, and most of ours have less than 2000. I am definately going to keep his ideas in mind
while doing my field work in an Communications (English) 12 class.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I am reading Will Richardson's book 'Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms' again. I'm amazed at how much I have learned! The first time I picked up this book, when first starting in TLITE, I was overloaded and still quite new to social networking and online portfolios. This is not to say that I am an expert or that I am never overwhelmed with information anymore....its just that now that I have been blogging and using WIKIS, I see what he is talking about. I am in the organizing stage of a hopefully ongoing project with two different English classes (which might expand to 3) Its so important for mentors to remain open to learning too....much of my own learning has come from being in the classroom and watching students and asking them questions....(how do you do.... ? How do you spell....?) I never assume the role of expert. I feel I am more of a sharer of ideas and keep my childlike curiousity alive...

Monday, February 2, 2009

field studies

Found an informative site-just googled 'integrating technology into high school english class'

then had link to this site...

I am still trying to find ways to integrate technology into a secondary English class. I am planning to set up in two different classes-one grade 9 and a gr. 8 or 10. The teachers are using different approaches and novel studies.