Thursday, 5 July 2018

What we did in the Digital Historian Project

My friend and colleague Alanna King (@banana29) recently blogged about our LLC annual report.  It started a few years ago as a way to explain to administration what we did other than check out books.  I love creating the slideshow and looking back on all of the different things we do each year.

This year I also created a slideshow for the Digital Historian Project that I was a part of for the first time.  I originally created the slideshow for a PD session for Community and Connected Learning at our board, and as a look back on our year for the student graduation.  Inspired by Alanna to share what we did, here's my review of the Digital Historian Project (DHP)

I loved my time with the DHP.  As you can see we started working with the students in semester one even though the program didn't start until semester two.  It is truly an experiential learning opportunity as the students immerse themselves in work that is very integrated between subjects and some of their work is used by the Dufferin Museum as well.

I'd like to thank Asher Kirk-Elleker for working with me in the DHP.  As you can see, Asher did a great job keeping the twitterverse up to date with all the students were sharing.  We are disappointed that it won't be running next year (2018-2019) due to low enrolment, but we are hopeful that it will be back the following year!

Saturday, 8 July 2017


Well, I've finished Integrated Integration and Tech AQ, part 2.  I just submitted my final project.  Here's the VoiceThread...
Additional comments are welcome if you have things you would like to add, or share or comment on.

And here's a link to the voice thread in case you can't comment from here.  It doesn't seem to want to work in Safari, but is fine in Chrome.
Of course general questions, comments or concerns can also be left in the comments below.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Encouraging staff

One of the informal leadership roles I have in my school is that of tech leader.  I've taken it upon myself to help staff find ways of incorporating digital tools into the teaching and learning.  I try to do this in a few ways...
1) I've started writing for the school's staff newsletter again.  I had to give this up for a while, but I've taken it back again this spring.  I hope that I will get to continue this in the fall with our new administration team.  I try to write about a tool that teachers could incorporate into their work with the students.  I also try to encourage other PD opportunities that teachers can access like the OTF webinars or summer institutes.
2) I am part of the planning group for our annual staff meeting about tech in the classrooms.  We try to run various sessions that teachers can choose from.  Each session is 15-20 minutes and staff go to 3 different sessions in the course of an hour.  Some sessions are staff run and we try to bring in people from around the board to share what they are doing as well.  I usually both try to present something and help develop the list of people to invite.  We work to make sure that staff presenting do not present all three sessions so they can participate in the learning as well.  This year I presented interactive slideshows, and we invited MaryKay to talk about Maker Spaces and Kendra to talk iPad apps for sharing learning.
3) On no bus days and during the exam and turn around time, in addition to making myself available for any questions or help I may be able to give, I try to set up a session to show one tool in a little more depth than I usually have time for.  Last week I advertised a session on Planboard.
I am often disappointed by the turnout.  I don't ask for RSVPs, but people will often stop and tell me they are interested and planning on coming.  Last week at least 5 people said they were interested and would see me Wednesday afternoon.  Wednesday afternoon came and 3 people showed up - only one of whom was someone who told me she was coming.  But by putting myself out there and offering group sessions, people also know I'm willing to share ideas and tech tips and that means that they will seek me out when they have questions or what to bounce ideas off someone.  I really like that aspect of the informal leadership role I've created for myself.

double duty - playing with hypothesis and Alan November's article Walk Through for Innovation

I will admit, I skimmed the Alan November stuff in the critical literacy section of my IICTI course.  November is someone who I've known about and seen stuff from for as long as I've been having my students work on line.  But when I decided that I wanted to play with as a tool I went back to the November article (that honestly I hadn't previously opened when I skimmed the content about November).
PART A - thoughts on the article...
I was both challenged by parts of the article and had some "YES" moments reading the article.
One of my 'take aways' was a way into colleagues' classes as a Teacher Librarian.  We (my TL partner and I) always offer to collaborate with all the teachers in our school, often to the point of begging teachers to let us work with them on their research projects.  What we are often allowed to do is to show students how the data bases work and we encourage students to move beyond Google to find other reputable sources.
This is important.   Students still should understand what an academic journal is, and how it is different from a magazine.  Searching for articles in the data base also encourages students to practice finding the right search terms and see that it is important.  This is a transferable skill back to Google, but often students don't see the importance of finding the best search phrase in Google, because just about any phrase will give them something.  Then when that something isn't what they are looking for the problem in their minds is that the information isn't out there.  When students tell me that - I'm agog!  Really??  All the information in the work, but that doesn't exist?  That they may need to go past page one, or try a different term/phrase escapes them.
But in addition to a lesson on how to use the data bases, we should be talking about how best to use Google for this project.  What could be put into the search bar?  What other phrases might work?
November says "Google does not read English or any language." I'm sure this is news to most people. It certainly seems like Google reads English.  That's why people type their question in to the search bar.  But it doesn't interpret language.  It just looks for the words, not the meaning behind the words.
Very few if any student are about to ask ... for help with a Google search ... It is the teacher's responsibility to teach the research skills that lead to high quality comparative search.
 I would argue that many teachers don't know this either (or know they don't know).  In that case it can be my job (as TL) to make myself available to the teacher to collaborate on the assignment.  To ask about search terms and how to go deeper.  I need to come up with a list of questions to ask teachers about their assignments to help get better results and encourage more critical thinking in their research.
I'm not sure what those questions could be...
Might the information on this topic be different if it was from a different country?  Would it matter?
Are there other terms that might be used to find the information?  Different ways of saying the same thing?
What is the counter argument?  Who would hold that opinion?

I found the points under the first of the 6 questions to be of most value to me: "Did the assignment build the capacity for critical thinking on the web?"

PART B - thoughts on
I get basically how it works.  I need to play with it with someone else or in a group.  I also need to go back and read more and watch videos about it's use with a class.  Could students use this to annotate a primary source document, then share their notes with me?  I'm generally not interested in a whole class annotating the same article - not everyone will participate, but maybe in small groups?
Here's my initial attempt at using  I haven't gone very far, but if someone want to read my comments and reply, or add your own I'd be interested both in your ideas and in what it looks like in
I don't really like the way it highlights then moves it into the notes with no spaces.  I think I've used other annotation or note taking apps that I've liked better.  Although right now I can't come up with the names.  The one I'm thinking of put the notes right in the document like sticky notes that you could open or close.  There was also the option to put push pins into places in the document/pdf.

Monday, 3 July 2017

DHP & Experiential Learning

Today I had a meeting with stakeholders in the DHP (administration from 2 schools, education liaison from DCMA, another DCMA representative and Asher).  We talked about moving forward.  There will be a few changes next year in addition to Neil's retirement.  The museum will be going through a renovation during second semester, which is the time when the program spends 1/2 the time there and the other 1/2 the time at ODSS.  Because of the renovation we will have to change that up.
One of the things we talked about was getting together with the museum staff through video chat.  Currently UGDSB does not allow students to access google hangouts.  We can get around this by having a teacher log in and allowing the students access to the museum through the teacher's login, but that doesn't really give ownership to the students if they want to connect independently.

We also talked about a possible shift from D2L to Google Classroom.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I really like Google Classroom, but I don't think it is as robust as D2L.  But if we aren't using all the features in D2L anyway then maybe that doesn't matter.  It would get rid of a pretty huge learning curve for the students in a semester where their learning is already pretty huge.  One of the stumbling blocks will be trying to get the museum educator a ugcloud login so she can continue to be active in their learning.  In fact, she thinks she will be able to be even more connected to the students as it will be easier for her to see their process.

The other concern that was brought up by one of the administrators was students' concerns about being disconnected from their home school.  Students miss out on spirit days, or grad photos and the like.  We are now considering having a day a week where the students all work in the library/learning commons in their home school.  We could somehow connect with them during the day - google hangout if we can get them access, or I suggested Blackboard Collaborate if the board has that, or Adobe Connect.  We also thought that we (teachers) could travel to the various schools - either all three at different points during the day, or one school each week - maybe do the live chats from a different school each time.  In addition to helping the students keep connected with their home school community, it will also cut back on busing costs - one of the biggest costs of the program.

These shifts will also help enforce the digital learning aspect of the Digital Historian Project.

After I got home and was reflecting on how to make sure the students were engaging with the course when they were on their own, I thought about some of the ways we, as students in IICTI, were encouraged to engage with the material and each other when we weren't face to face.  I started thinking maybe each week (or homeschool day) there was an activity where students posted a piece of their own learning in the morning, then in the afternoon spent some time commenting on each others.  This could be done via VoiceThread as in module 6/7/8 or the slideshow from module 10.

Voice or text?

I'm a text person.  I'd rather text or email than call.  I can make myself present in front of a live audience (my voice shakes, but I'm getting over that).  I've always hated the sound of my recorded voice.    Doesn't everyone?

I remember having to record my voice on one of these when I was in grade school.  I'm pretty sure it was grade 4 and I had to record an oral presentation on a famous Canadian.  I chose Anne Murray.  I was pretty proud of my research - although for the life of me I can't figure out what I would have been able to find out about her without google.  I probably used the library's file folders where they cut out newspaper and magazine articles.  But when it came to recording it, I was a disaster.  I kept insisting that I had to redo it because it didn't sound like me.  I think my mom finally just took the recorder away and said I was done.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a colleague about how her students were going to present their research.  Her concern was that they didn't want to do presentations in front of each other.  She also didn't want them to be text heavy slideshows which is what high school student want to do.  I suggested Adobe Spark.  It would be more visual, they wouldn't have to do class presentations.  They could share in small groups and respond to each other that way.
I said I was pretty sure I could get them going on it and it should be easy.  I did a practice one just to make sure it worked both on the chrome books and iPads/iPhones.  I recorded my voice - I hated it, but got over it.  I sent it to the colleague to make sure students would be able to share them with her.  I told her she didn't need to actually listen to it.  She did and said it didn't sound like me.  I listened again.  I felt that if I was going to encourage students to record their voices I had to figure out what I thought was wrong with mine.  Then I listened to some other people who recorded their voices:  Brenda on her weekly messages to us, a couple podcasts, some vloggers...  I decided that I sounded too formal and stiff.  I needed to sound like I was actually talking to a person.  When I talked to the students about recording their voices I encouraged them to think about talking to an individual.  Allowing themselves to engage with the material and sound excited about it.
After that we had to do our screencast to our part 1 selves.  I tried to take my own advice and even though I still felt funny sitting in a room by myself sounding engaging, I think it turned out better than my Spark video.  I didn't allow myself to keep doing it looking for perfection.  I just did the best I could in the six takes that I did.  (Six isn't crazy is it?)  Then I stopped.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

IICTI part 2, module 3 reflection: Research Project

In this post I'm supposed to share what I think I will do for my research project.  I am really lacking ideas at this point.  I obviously want to do something that relates to what I teach, or do in my school.  I also want to do something that will push my learning.  I don't want to do something in which the focus is a tool, but maybe...

OK,  I've been adding to this post for a whole week as I work through my ideas and talk to others and figure out what I want to do.  When I hit publish, it reverted to what I had typed on the first night (last Monday), and deleted Wednesday and Friday and this morning's additions and thoughts!!!

There is no way that I can recreate the visible thinking that I had done, but here's what I'm thinking now.

My research project will be about digital humanities.  Here's a little bit about how I got here...

Inspiration:  Alanna King (my ODLLC partner) handed me this article that she thought I'd be interested in.

Context:  I am teaching one section of the DHP next year, and it is taking up a lot of my energy thinking about what that means, and what I will be doing.

As a humanities department, my history colleagues and I have been concerned with the societal shift away from the importance of humanities.  We also struggle with how to make history more a "doing" discipline.

1) literature review/research
2) survey students in DHP class currently (or previous students) about what skills they've developed and the transfer they see
2 b) interview Asher (DHP teacher), Neil (DHP teacher), Pat (DHP Principal), Wendy (DHP VP and parent of former student) about their experience with the program.
3) play with the tools that are recommended for digital humanities
4) bring in what I've found by following #CDNcraft and what tools are currently being used in the study of aboriginal issues courses.
5) what digital tools are available and currently being used in making connections to Aboriginal studies and or history classes

In terms of the Planning, Acting, Observing, Reflecting cycle - I think the challenge for me will be the "implement your intervention" part of Acting.  But I think there is a way of working through the cycle without the actual implementation at this point.

Here is a link to my mindomo brainstorming.

As I work through this thinking yet again, I may have changed my focus a bit...  Let's see where this journey takes me.