Monday, 24 October 2016

What Really Happened at My School with the OSSLT

*This blog post probably won’t make me that popular, but it’s been bubbling to come out ever since I read the reactions to last week’s fail of EQAOs online OSSLT.*

I was one of the teachers on the team at my school to get everything ready. My jobs were to make sure the SDC was accurate, with all accommodations listed for all those writing and to set up the groupings (ie rooms) for everyone. I also had to get out the letters to parents telling them which accommodations their child was receiving. Getting the AT (assistive technology) checked out and running was another item on my To Do List. When the test is written in March, I have 7 weeks to complete these tasks. This time I had 4. What could go wrong?

Most of the teachers at my school pitched in to help our students be as successful as possible. This looked like specific skill lessons and paper practices within the various curriculum areas. Teachers also had students go online to practice the Sample test, both on the public site and, once it was up, through the kiosk. Countless hours were spent by our entire school community in prepping for this test – kinesthetically and psychologically. We encouraged, reassured, pushed and explained. REPEAT.

On the Monday, three days before the test, I had students go online to practice, through the kiosk, with tickets (passwords). I went into one class per period, for the first three periods of the day. Students were in different rooms and were using different devices – hardwired PCs, wireless laptops, and Chromebooks. There were various issues even then. Students were getting frozen out, their timing was counting down and then, for no discernible reason, they’d get back into the test. It was obvious that it wasn’t our school or Board bandwidth. We were fully prepared for this test not to work!

And guess what – it didn’t!!! No matter the reason HACKED?!  – and here’s where I’ve been inspired to write this post. This was an authentic example of the need to be adaptable and resilient. STUFF happens in life that may not be according to our plans and beyond our control. You’re leaving for a trip on March Break – the ONLY time you can travel and there’s a snowstorm that grounds your flight. You’re on your way to a theatre production or to work and your (car) (subway) (train) breaks down or you get behind a massive accident. You’re buying groceries or filling up your car and you go to pay with debit and the machines are all down.  I suppose you can curl up in a ball and sob uncontrollably, or you can yell and scream and then get on with it.  Of course disappointment is to be expected, but vitriolic outbursts and disgust is not very progressive. Our kids experienced disappointment, the aftermath of being anxious and nervous to have it all for naught and – they were not mortally wounded.  Teachers played a large role in keeping things in perspective and were living, breathing examples of #resilience, with a measure of #adaptability. There’s so much else in the world that could happen that would be deemed a devastating catastrophe. If this is the worst thing our students ever experience, I’m thinking they’re very lucky and blessed.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A Tribute & a Thought for B.Ed Students

I lost a friend this weekend. He died of cancer. He was a teacher, a mentor, a friend, a husband, a father, grandfather and brother. He was a TEACHER for over thirty years. He touched the lives of hundreds of students as well as those of his co-workers. He was kind, funny, passionate about teaching, especially English. As the news is spreading throughout our community, former students are compelled to share their feelings and memories of him: “an amazing teacher”; “Passionate about English and developing aspiring writers..”; “the most unique man I have ever met”; “I’ve never had a teacher as passionate about his job and his students”. And as I read these I think – there are not a lot of jobs where one can touch so many lives for years and years. I am #mindful of the impact we teachers have on the students that go through our doors. I feel immense #gratitude for the opportunity I have to make a difference, such as my friend has had. I hope I can be more like him.

I want to remind all those pursuing this profession vocation, of the unique gift you have to affect lives and affect change. Treasure it. Use it for the best. Appreciate it every day. Exercise compassion and thoughtfulness towards those you are leading. Your impact will be huge and will last past your lifetime.

I will miss you HH. I cannot imagine the world without you in it.

Friday, 15 January 2016

The Musings of a (NON) Hacker.

Hack. Hacker. Hacking. A word that has different connotations- apparently! I used to think that hack meant to “break into” or corrupt a computer. A “hack” was a cheater or a lazy, good-for-nothin’. Well, in the past few months as I’ve researched MakerSpaces and making, I’ve discovered that the word ‘hack’ has a different nuance to it -  fun, creative, rather positive aura to it. It’s a good thing to hack an assignment or a piece of equipment, a tool or an object, to make it work better for you and your needs. Who knew??! Thing is – I’ve always been a rule-follower. Hacking doesn’t come naturally to me. I just use things as they were built to be, rarely, if ever, making modifications. People who do this all the time have my utmost admiration! The only exception to this is in regards to teaching lesson plans or unit plans. I always work them with my learners in mind – and they change semester to semester.

I wonder if it’s because I feel confident as a teacher? However, with objects/things – I don’t feel that way at all.

So why is this coming up now? I’m taking the Critical Making course at UOIT and I have to make and hack things – yikes!! I don’t even know where to begin!

This is going to be quite a learning journey!


Sunday, 10 January 2016

#EDUC5101G Week of Jan 12, 2016

My M.Ed Journey (so far…)

Hi Everyone! This is my introductory blog for the course, Digital Tools in Knowledge Construction. This is my 10th and final course for the M.Ed! I’m quite excited about this because of the accomplishment that it represents. Conversely, I don’t think I can go back to doing nothing with my time, so I’ve been thinking of what to do instead? Pursuing a PhD isn’t where I want to go at this point in my life, so that’s not an option. (This is probably a future blog post … “Life after the M.Ed” !) I’ve loved the learning I’ve been able to do since I started it back in 2013. It truly has made a difference in my practice and in how I explore topics in education, so it makes sense to do something with, and to continue, my new knowledge!

Teaching Situation

I’ve been teaching for 23 years.  Currently, I’m a Special Education resource teacher at a high school in South Oshawa. I have a caseload of 137 (or so) students. My students are all working for credit (the diploma) and have any of or a combination of, a learning disability, mental health issues or who are on the autism spectrum (ASD). I’m involved in a  TLLP project where we are using D2L in order to provide the Least Restrictive Environment - LRE (Rozalski, Stewart & Miller, 2010) and differentiation for students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) The IEP Process.


I’m using ‘Blogger’ for my blogs for a few reasons:

·      I set it up a couple of years ago and am familiar with the platform
·      I use it to blog on other topics and what better way to demonstrate the power of blogging, than to share within and without the course (good advice, Rob!)
·      It’s free!

Expectations for EDUC5101G

I don’t actually have all my learning goals/expectations for this course articulated yet. To be honest, I needed a Cluster 1 course to complete the M.Ed and this fulfills that requirement. I chose this course over another because I thought I might be able to learn how to create a website and learn to code, with help from others in the course – the collaboration piece is huge for me! Although looking at the Course Outline, not sure that's where I'll be going with this course? I thought it would be a good course to consolidate the learning from the other courses I’ve taken and to use it in LATMEd (Life After the M.Ed). I’ve looked at the weekly topics and am interested in the class discussions we’ll have for them. I’m curious to see what comes of the topic on Acceptable Use vs Responsible Use – this will be relevant for me in second semester within the context of my TLLP. I'm also looking forward to the dialogue we'll have on why technology integration IS NOT a good idea!
Finally … I’m looking forward to this course and to learning and sharing with everyone in it!


Rozalski, M., Stewart, A., & Miller, J. (2010). How to determine the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities. Exceptionality, 18(3), 151-163.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

My #OneWord for 2016

 I have been thinking for a couple of weeks now about my #OneWord. I’m interested and invested in so many things that it was hard to narrow down my focus to one word.

The OneWord Short List

On the ‘short list’ is: Perseverance This word is a front-runner because it’s an element of the #GrowthMindset and something my school has been talking about and working on for over a year. My colleagues and I worry about the seeming-lack of perseverance in a large number of our students. We talk often about how to encourage and develop it in them (with them?). Perseverance is something I practice in my role as a student advocate – sometimes the roadblocks and barriers are high or solid and/or numerous and I need to persist in breaking or dismantling them and/or teaching students how to go around and over them.

Next on the short list: Empower: I’ve been reading the #InnovatorsMindset by @gcouros and I am excited about being mindful of empowering my students so that they can be successful and engaged in their learning, and hopefully reaching their goals and making themselves proud.

And the third word is: Create: I want to create this year. I want to create effective differentiated lessons on D2L. I want to create an interactive website for my #TLLP. I want to create interesting, thought-provoking blogs. I want to create content, not merely consume it!


Phew! I feel so much better now that that’s been decided!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

What if I'm wrong about the Makerspace?

I've been mulling over my MakerSpace idea today and wondering if I'm on the right track? I'm proposing to run it within/as a course. Because the physical space exists; because there's an existing framework in which it can run; because it works around inner-school politics. My goal for this has always been to provide opportunities for students who are disengaged to come to school as well as to provide collaboration opportunities for a diverse population - not as easy as it sounds when students are streamed according to their post-secondary pathway. An after-school Makerspace won't be effective for my target group - they don't come to school when they're supposed to, never mind 'after hours'.

And today, I was reading George Couros' book, The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity and he distinguishes between engagement and empowerment in citing Bill Ferriter: "Engaging students means getting kids excited about OUR content, interests, curricula; empowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR passions, interests, future (Kids need to be empowered NOT engaged)."

And so, my vision is articulated along these lines. My target group needs to be empowered to create and expand and set their own path so that they can be engaged. My vision (when realized) will do that! So, thanks @gcouros!

I am on the right track!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Looking Forward to 2016

Like many people, I've been reflecting on the past year and what I've done and all the things I've learned! And with those thoughts and reflections, I've set some goals for the new year - and I'm pretty excited about it all!

This January I will start my final course for my M. Ed, at University of Ontario Institute of Technology (@uoit)! I have loved doing this so much! I've learned and grown and have gained much from all the work, reading and collaborating. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made. I'm going to savour this course ...I might complain about the workload, but I don't think I'll really mean it!

In November, I had an epiphany, of sorts. One of my coursemates  (@katpapulkas) did a presentation about MakerSpaces/MakerEducation that was dynamic and interesting. It talked about how transformative the maker movement is and how excited people of all ages get over it. Later that week, I attended the ECOO Conference (@BringIT2016) - though it was 2015 - and was privileged to hear keynote speaker, Sylvia Martinez (@smartinez) talk about Maker Education. And, like a thunderbolt, an idea hit me! I'd been troubled about students who are so disengaged from school and learning. I love learning as do my closest friends - how could these kids not love it?! But maybe they do love learning, just not what and where? And then I thought, what if, we could bring Making to them? What if ....they could get excited about making something that works or that does something ....and maybe they would come to school - and maybe they would even want to stay there ... and maybe they would get sparked up!! Well this idea took me through the rest of 2015 and is the wave I'm riding into 2016.

I read 3 books and numerous articles and did research on the Maker Movement. I wrote a paper about it. I worked on a TLLP proposal for it. I badgered, educated, discussed, cajoled, shared info about Maker Education with friends, colleagues, family members, coursemates. I see making EVERYWHERE I look! I would never consider myself a tinkerer. I only make when I'm cooking - which I do a lot of and, by all accounts, I do that well. So, mostly, me wanting to create the Maker Movement at my school is very far out of my comfort zone. Like the students on my caseload (135 IEPs) this is focusing on my strengths and what I can do, not on my weaknesses. I'm creative and organized and a good problem solver. I have perseverance and determination and I can see the long road. And even though someone "in the know" told me that my idea doesn't "fit" what a Maker Space is, I'm not dissuaded because I know it's a good idea for the kids!

So - there are a few things I want to do this year:
1) Learn to code - because I think this will be a valuable skill to have in the future and I think I need to have it!
2) Learn how to create an interactive website, because although I almost have a Masters of Education in Digital Technologies, I've never done this before!
3) Blog more!!! I reflect all the time - in my head - I'll see if it makes a difference if I write it down
4) Execute my Maker Space idea! (Which includes another gazillion things - but I have 365 more days- it's a Leap Year - to discuss those!)

See why I'm so excited?!