Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Skype Cooking Lessons with Chef Paola

I was part of a really special learning experience at Major Pratt School over the last few weeks.  MPS foods classes had the opportunity to work with a professional chef from Italy thanks to the technology available in our schools.  Chef Paola Martinenghi presented a 3 part series for students via Skype.   Her classes focused on Italian food and culture.   Chef Paola is incredibly passionate and she was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenter.   We are very grateful to The Chef and The Dish for making this connection possible.  It was such an exciting opportunity to have Park West School Division students connect with an expert in this way!  Thank you to Mrs. Nemez and Mrs. Falkevitch for inviting me to be part of this learning experience in your classroom!

Class 1: The Importance of Food, Country and Culture
Chef Paola's first session focused on iconic Italian foods.  We were transported right into her kitchen in Italy with high-quality video and audio.  As we were getting to know each other, she reached back to grab a bag of Manitoba flour off her shelf!  It was pretty incredible to see one of our province's products in her hands.   For our first class, Chef Paola taught us about where certain foods are produced and talked about the history and culture related to some of our favourite Italian foods.   Chef Paola's enthusiasm engaged us as she told stories of how parmesan cheese is made, where pizza originated and how foods become traditional.  Each group of students had slightly different experiences depending on their questions and interests.  When talking about their first impressions, everyone agreed that Chef Paola was an intelligent and passionate presenter!

Class 2:  Cooking with an Expert
The second class with Chef Paola was a cooking demonstration, which students really enjoyed.  She prepared traditional Italian foods with each class.  Each group of students watched her prepare bruschetta, studying her ingredients, techniques and tools.   She also prepared pesto with some classes.   Seeing Chef Paola in action in her kitchen at home was an awesome experience!   She told us about the local ingredients she used and explained the importance of using ingredients from her region.   To conclude the class, Chef Paola issued a challenge.   Students were asked to prepare their own, creative versions of bruschetta using any locally-available ingredients.

The Cooking Challenge
In the days between classes with Chef Paola, students worked together to create their own versions of bruschetta.   They used the concept of bread with chopped toppings, but tried substituting a variety of ingredients for the traditional tomato, cheese and basil.   

Class 3:  Sharing the Results
In the third and final session, students presented their bruschetta creations to Chef Paola.   Using screen sharing, students were able to share photos of their bruschetta interpretations.  Students talked about the ingredients they used, reasons for choosing those ingredients and answered questions posed by Chef Paola.   Chef Paola offered feedback on each group's work and provided tips and suggestions.  After presenting their creations, students were able to ask questions and hear a few more stories from Chef Paola. 

Enhancing Education with ICT
I was really pleased to be part of such an exciting learning opportunity.   I really liked that students used technology to connect with an expert to enhance their learning.  I thought that the cooking challenge was a great way to connect the digital, online learning experience with the in-class learning.  The high-quality video calls were an awesome way to see a professional chef in action.  For me, this experience underscores the potential for technology to enhance learning. 

Want to try it?
The Chef and The Dish offers Skype cooking sessions with a selection of master chefs from around the world.   The business typically offers in-home sessions, but they were willing to adapt their sessions for a classroom.   Check out their website for more information!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Creativity, Communication & Citizenship: Brilliant Book Trailers!

One of the awesome parts of my job as LwICT Teacher Leader is that I get to be involved with a wide variety of learning activities.   In May, I was invited to help Mrs. Bowley's grade 7 class with a really awesome book trailer project.  Students viewed a variety of book trailers before selecting a favourite text and planning their own book trailer.  The grade 7s used iMovie to create their trailers and then uploaded them to YouTube.  Next, they made posters with QR codes linked to their videos so they could share their book recommendations by displaying the posters at their school. 

What I Like...

I think the final videos are really well done and I've got a long list of books I want to read after watching them!   There was a lot to like about this project, but some aspects that stood out to me included:

Creativity and Communication 
Bringing together images, text and music to create a compelling book trailer video required creativity and this group of students certainly let their creativity shine!  The project also required effective communication.  Students demonstrated their understanding of a text and conveyed the essence of the book by selecting appropriate elements to include in their video. 

ICT Infusion
This project is a great example of how ICT can support and enhance learning.   Students were able to use technology tools to demonstrate their understanding and knowledge of a text.   I also really like how technology enabled sharing in this example; the QR code posters and video links are great ways for students to share their work with a wider audience.  I think other students and teachers will enjoy watching these!

Digital Citizenship
When I first visited the grade 7 class to help get their book trailers started, we discussed copyright and the need to respect others' work.   We talked about sources for public domain images and royalty-free music.   I know that these thoughtful conversations continued because I heard more about digital citizenship when I returned for my next visit.  I learned that the students did some research on acceptable use and discussed how copyright was applicable to this project.  Students also discussed  sharing their work and considered which platform to use, how much personal information to include and how the videos would be shared.  I was happy to see and hear students thinking about digital citizenship as they worked on this project.   

Watch These!

Okay, you've got my perspective on this cool project - now it is time to watch some samples!   Thanks to Mrs. Bowley's class for sharing the book trailers below!   They are definitely worth watching.  You might even want to compile a list of books to enjoy this summer.   

The Maze Runner 


Girl, Stolen

If I Stay

Miss. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Remember Me Always

Where She Went

The Hunger Games

Pitch Black

Everything, Everything

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Produce to Show Understanding: Designing Digital Posters

In Manitoba, we have a Literacy with ICT model for 21st century learning.   Our aim is to support students in developing skills to think critically and creatively using ICT .  One of the Literacy with ICT resources available is a continuum of skills.   The continuum includes goals for students to "Produce to Show Understanding".   We want students to demonstrate understanding of their learning, which can be achieved using a variety of formats.   In addition to the more traditional ways that students can share their knowledge, there are many ways that students can share their learning using technology.   One option that I have explored in PWSD classrooms this year is having students design digital posters to demonstrate their understanding. 

When supporting the use of technology in our school division, I aim to be responsive to the goals and needs of students and teachers.  I try to find ways for technology to support or enhance the learning already happening in classrooms.  Supporting students with designing digital posters is an activity that fits well with a variety of learning activities.   I've worked with students and teachers to create digital posters for a variety of subjects/topics.  Here are a few examples:
  • designing posters to share highlights from a social studies inquiry topic such as Canada's North
  • producing digital posters with key information about endangered species as part of a research project 
  • creating movie posters based on a novel
Thinking Critically and Creatively 
Students engaging in the task of designing digital posters often have to summarize or parse down  information, which is an important critical thinking skill.   They also have to make design decisions about font, images, spacing and style.  Designing a digital poster requires creative skills just like designing on paper!   

Going Beyond the Classroom
I'm passionate about students sharing their work beyond the classroom, so I really like that these posters can easily be shared with a wide audience.   Some classes have shared their work on social media and some have allowed me to share their work here on my blog and/or on my social media channels.   Digital posters can easily be uploaded to a variety of platforms for sharing.  This relates to another dimension of our Literacy with ICT continuum, focused on communication.  We want students to be able to share ideas, information and work.

Tech Tools
Students designing posters on iPads used PicCollage.  Students designing on computers created student accounts at Canva.  I encourage students to source public domain images from Pixabay (web or app based) or similar sites. 

Student Samples: The Outsiders
I worked with Mrs. Dyck's ELA class at Strathclair Community School this month to support them in designing digital movie posters.   The class had just read the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and Mrs. Dyck tasked them with designing a catchy poster for the video version.   Students were asked to research the actual cast, release date and producer of the film and then to use their creative talents to develop a tag line.  Students were encouraged to make their designs visually appealing and easy to read.  Check out their work below!

Thanks to Mrs. Dyck's class for sharing your work!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Coding in the Classroom: Student Perspectives

As the LwICT Teacher Leader, something that I have supported in classrooms this year is coding.  Many PWSD students have had the opportunity to learn basic programming skills using student-friendly tools.   One such class is Mrs. Fransila's Grade 7/8 class in Inglis.   During my monthly school visits, the grade 7/8s have been learning to code using Wonder Workshop Dash robots.   We have done some "unplugged" coding activities with no technology and some mini-lessons on different topics.   The students are working their way through the Wonder Workshop challenge cards, which include a variety of programming tasks. 

The students recently reflected on their experiences with learning to code and I noticed their reflections posted in the classroom last time I visited their class.   I think it is really important to seek student feedback about teaching and learning, so I was eager to read what these students had to say!   I think the students shared some valuable insight, so (with their permission) I am sharing their ideas below:

Ready, Set, Go!
"Meet Dash, our classroom robot!  Dash has been with us since December.  We have had lots of fun programming and coding its instructions.  We had cards with steps and instructions so that we could give Dash specific commands.  We learned how to safely operate and care for Dash.  Sometimes, before we had a completed outcome, we had to practice getting the measurements and the steps just right.  In the introduction to coding, we learned how to sequence the steps in the order that it said on the cards.   After leveling up, we started learning about loops and conditions where we needed different materials, like obstacles, cups and bulldozer attachments.   After learning more and more about coding, more practice and adjustments were needed.  My group got to level C.  I like coding.  It is fun, sometimes a bit frustrating, but it is mostly enjoyable.  All I had to do was input different blocks into the iPad and press "go" when I was ready.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to code the Blockly app!  I think that coding is fun, I can't wait to finish the cards!"

The Adventures of Coding
"In December 2017, Mrs. Obach came to our classroom with robots to introduce us to coding.  Mrs. Obach taught us how to care for our robots.  We did some practice cards where we had to follow all the steps in proper sequence to get the desired outcome, but sometimes we had to adjust the conditions to get it right.  We learned that some cards needed materials like tape, cups, or the bulldozer blade.  We learned about loops and if/then [statements] and we had lots of fun."

Coding Dash
"In December, Mrs. Obach came and did an introduction on coding robots.  We learned how to take care of Dash (Dash is the robot).  We couldn't pick it up by its head when moving it and [we] also learned how to use the cards we were given to help it execute conditions and loops.  When using the cards, you would use the steps that are given to code Dash.  Sometimes we have to adjust the course so that Dash wouldn't hit anything.  The materials we used were tape, cups and bulldozer clips.  When we used the tape, it marked where Dash started and where to place the cups if they moved.  Dash sometimes went around the cups and sometimes pushed them into the tape that was a square.  The bulldozer clips are used to push the cups around.  In order to get a good sequence, you have to follow the cards step by step.  If you don't follow the order, then everything will be a big flop and would have to restart and go through the steps again.  To get a positive outcome, you have to have lots of practice.  When I was doing my last card, I had to keep redoing it because the cups weren't in the right spot or Dash wasn't in the right starting position.  It was an amazing experience.  I am thankful that I was able to learn about coding with Dash."

Crazy Coding
"In December, Mrs. Obach brought 2 robots into our classroom so we could learn coding.  There were instructions on cards that showed the steps you needed.  The introduction was learning how to sequence and adjust the commands when something wasn't working with the card outcome.  There were different materials you could use under different conditions.  There were different blocks you could use like go forward, go left __ degrees, loop and others.  We had practice and learned rules on how to care for the robots." 

While reading and re-reading the student reflections, a couple of key points stood out to me:

Try, Try Again:  The students refer to making multiple attempts at completing a given coding challenge/task.  One student mentions that they encountered some frustration.   The important thing I noticed is that, despite setbacks, all of these students persisted in their work.   I have shared my opinion that developing tenacity is one of the reasons that I think learning to code is valuable and this student feedback validated that for me.   Students learning to code often have to work through complex tasks and make multiple attempts to succeed.

How Technology Works:  Students mentioned learning to sequence commands, program loops and use conditions.   One student even comments on the relative simplicity of block coding versus the actual programming that might be required to build the Blockly app they've been using.   Although not all students will need to know how to program a computer, it is likely that most students will use technology in school and in their future.   Teaching students basic programming gives students an understanding of how technology works.   I think it is beneficial to develop this understanding of the basics since we so often rely on technology!

If you are interested in coding, check out my post on getting started with coding in the classroom.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Cultivate World Literacy 2018: HCI Grade 7 Book Drive

As the Literacy with ICT teacher leader, I have the chance to work with students and teachers on many different projects and learning activities.   This spring, we had 6 Park West School Division classes from 3 different schools participate in Cultivate World Literacy.   Cultivate World Literacy involved classrooms from around the world working together to explore the topic of literacy and the issue of illiteracy.   132 classrooms from 35 countries participated in this collaborative project.  Supported by technology, classrooms around the world could connect and share their learning.  Students and teachers were encouraged to examine local and global issues related to literacy over several weeks.   After learning about the global issue of illiteracy, participating classrooms were challenged to take action to promote literacy, raise awareness or make a difference.  One of the participating classes from PWSD chose to organize a book drive as their action to make a difference.  Check out the student-authored article below for details on the HCI Grade 7 Cultivate World Literacy Book Drive. 

Students Make Efforts to Promote Literacy
By Aiden Murray and Kendra Drake
According to Statistics Canada, 3.1 million Canadians from age 16-65 read at lower than middle school levels. Students from Hamiota Collegiate joined students from around the world for a project called Cultivate World Literacy. Two teachers named Julie Hembree and Tammy Dunbar created this project to improve lives by promoting literacy. This non-profit collaborative venture included a 5 week campaign for students around the world. Students in Park West School Division shared their work on a digital bulletin board called Padlet. In addition, students around the world shared their work at

For week one, students celebrated reading. The grade 7 class did this by having a “book tasting” where students went around the classroom with snacks and read different books. Students kept note of titles of book they would like to read. During week two, the grade 7s teamed up with the grade 11 class to research the topic of illiteracy.  In week three, students created videos showcasing their schools and libraries. It was a surreal experience seeing schools from countries on the other side of the Earth. For the next week, students were making connections with other classes. The grade 7s created digital posters to raise awareness about illiteracy and shared them on social media. During week 5, students were challenged to make a difference. The grade 7 class made a goal to collect books for 3-10 year-old kids in Hamiota.

The grade 7s went through a process of steps to create their project. They started with brainstorming about an idea that would help stop illiteracy. After we decided which project to complete, we created the goal of what we wanted to accomplish. We had several steps that were completed by a variety of students. Our most important step was to get the donation boxes and posters to the businesses. Now we are hoping that the community will support our cause by donating books that are new or gently used targeting ages 3-10. These books can be dropped off at the following locations:
Co-op, Country Crocus Bakery, Home Hardware Stores, Municipal Office, Hamiota Collegiate. 

Our class would like to thank you for doing your part in ending illiteracy!  

The article appeared in the April 2018 edition of the town newsletter and the book drive received great support, as evidenced by the many boxes of books the Grade  7s collected! 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Digital Publishing with Decker Colony Students

In my role as Literacy with ICT Teacher Leader for PWSD, I am fortunate to work in lots of great classrooms.   One class that I have worked with recently is Mr. Elias Wipf's Grade 7-9 ELA class at Decker Colony School.   This group of students decided to tackle a special writing project this year.   Their goal was to collaboratively write short stories and publish them digitally.   Their books are now available online and they have printed a copy for their school library.   The quality of their work is absolutely exceptional, so I'd encourage you to check out the books using the links below!

The Fish Said by Grace and Carrie Waldner

The 3 Little Swines by Daniel and Alex Waldner

Unsuspecting by Renae Wipf, Tamar Waldner, Adelheid Waldner and Natalya Waldner 

I have already written quite a bit about publishing digital books on this blog.  If you are interested in digital book creation, you can read more about the process in this post. You can also check out this post to see some more samples and read about why I think students should publish their writing.  A few things to note about the Decker Grades 7-9 books:
  • Collaboration:  Students worked with their grade-level peers to write the stories.  They used a shared document (Google Doc) to write collaboratively.
  • Planning: In addition to planning their stories, students also used a storyboard to plan the layout of their books.   Developing a storyboard allowed students to plan the illustrations they would need.   Having the storyboards helped students put their text and artwork together in the digital book by following the plan for which pages would contain text and which pages would contain illustrations. 
  • Artwork:  The artwork included in these books is excellent!  The students developed their illustrations on paper and a combination of photographing and colour scanning was used to digitize the photos.  
  • Revision: The shared documents made ongoing revision easier.   Students and teachers could read, re-read, edit and revise.  The writing in these books was revised and refined a number of times based on peer editing and teacher editing.   

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sharing Knowledge and Building Skills with Video Production

One way for students to demonstrate their understanding is through video production.  In my role as LwICT Teacher Leader, I was privileged to work with Mrs. Facey and her awesome group of Grade 8s on a video production project this term.   The grade 8 class was working on a "Power of Media" theme along with Project 11 activities on self-esteem.  Mrs. Facey gave her students the opportunity to produce videos as part of their learning.  Not only did the class create some powerful videos to share, they also engaged in deep, meaningful learning.

Although I was not in the classroom every day of this project, it was evident during my classroom visits that the grade 8s were learning a lot.   Their project included a wide variety of learning activities/assignments, such as:
  • research on self-esteem
  • viewing and analyzing existing media related to self-esteem
  • planning: students identified their target audience and intended message, they planned a style/format for their video and identified setting, actors etc.
  • script writing: students learned to use a two column script to plan for audio and visual aspects of their videos
  • revising and editing: students worked hard to make their work high quality, which involved revising based on peer feedback and teacher feedback
  • videography: students filmed, edited and shared their videos 

When students completed their scripts, they were grouped into video production teams.   The team then had to review each team member's script and decide which video(s) to produce.  When I met with a team at this stage of the project, I was so impressed with the collaboration, negotiation and discussion taking place.  Once a script was selected by the team, they undertook further revisions and planned their set, props and costumes.   Next, the groups assigned roles such as director, assistant director, videographer and editor.  They selected actors to fill each role.   Once their plans were in place, students used the school's available video equipment and filmed footage on an iPad.   Upon completing filming, editors worked in iMovie.  The final products were shared on the class YouTube channel in hopes of reaching their target audiences.  Students started sharing their work and made a plan to reach their targeted audiences.

The final videos are very well done and very powerful.   I would encourage you to watch them below.  However, the final videos can only begin to show the meaningful learning that these students engaged in throughout the project.   I'm sure that my short description above cannot fully convey all of the learning that took place, but from meeting with this class, I know that they gained valuable knowledge and developed important skills through this project. 

Why I Think This Project is Awesome
Yes, the videos are excellent and that definitely makes this project awesome, but behind those videos was a lot of learning that make this kind of project so worthwhile.  As a teacher, I saw a lot of good things happening with this project. 

Purpose for Learning: I've written before about students doing "work that matters" and I think this is an excellent example. Students created these videos because they wanted to share an important message and have an impact with their work.  Some groups focused on educating others about self-esteem while other groups shared messages to encourage and uplift others.  Regardless of the message, students were writing, revising, editing, filming and sharing for a purpose. They had a reason to read, write, view, analyze and discuss. 

Authentic Audience:  Students identified an audience that they wanted to reach and actually shared their videos in places where those people could access them.   I love when audiences outside of the classroom get to see the great work that students are doing!

Building Skills: The variety of learning activities involved in completing this project provided opportunities for students to develop skills in collaboration, communication, problem solving and critical thinking.