Conditions for Learning


One question from yesterday’s session is still unanswered, and that bugs me.  A lot.

How am I going to lead this learning when I return to my school?


I was thankful to be included in this year’s Leadership Learning Team, and was inspired by the wealth of resources shared by educators in our board.

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 3.42.22 PM

Please click on the picture to read my Storify.

In all honesty, I’m still digesting all of this information.  I feel like I need to sit down with some of the people who ran yesterday’s activities to clarify that I understood what they were trying to convey.  There was simply so much “great stuff” to process, and I don’t want to miss the points that they were trying to make, especially when I’m being asked to help lead this learning when I return to school.

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Yay, Report Cards.

Do you have any idea how good I am at procrastinating?  Absolutely fabulous.  Especially when it comes to calculating report card marks and writing comments.  My house will suddenly become spotless (even the ring around the tub will vanish), my laundry will be washed and folded…  I might even catch up on writing a blog post or two.  But that daunting task of evaluating will be ignored until the last minute.

Have a peek at Brandon Grasley’s post about Improving Report Card Comments With a Checklist.  You’ll see that it isn’t exactly the most thrilling experience for him either.  In fact, I’ll bet that most people would agree that the process of assessing student work is so much more beneficial to the working relationship between teacher & student than that of ranking the success of a variety of projects and tests in order to come up with a number that somehow represents the knowledge attained by each child in class.

So, I did just that.  Rather than writing a comment filled with ‘edu-babble’, I wrote my comments so that they were understandable, meaningful and might be used to help my students.  My test:  I read each one with my students today in class.  If it didn’t make sense to them, or wasn’t quite right, they had the chance to let me know.  They were asked to tell me if it reflected their experience, and if anything should be changed.  I was especially grateful for the students who had recommendations for edits that better represented their strengths and next steps for learning.

After chatting with each student, I realized what a great opportunity we just took advantage of.  They realized that I cared about their individual goals and wanted to help them find the best way to reach their next step.  They became a bit more confident knowing that they were a partner in this learning experience; that the word of the teacher isn’t the “be all and end all”.  This classroom, this place where we meet five times a week, isn’t just a place for the teacher to play boss.  This is a place where we figure things out.


Posted in Education Reform, Growing Success, Ontario | Tagged , | 1 Comment

#BIT14, Day 2 & 3

Bring IT Together was phenomenal.  Almost overwhelming.

My friends (colleagues) and I were able to attend #BIT14 thanks to our TLLP project, a professional learning opportunity funded by the Ministry of Education.  Last year, Jenni Scott-Marciski and I attended the conference and immediately wanted to find a way to come back with other educators.  Now that we have absorbed as much information as possible, we feel ready to start working toward our TLLP goals with renewed vigour.


Day 2 of the conference began with a great keynote by Richard Byrne, followed by a variety of fantastic sessions.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to speak about “Personalized Learning Through Assessment“, a topic that is both challenging and rewarding.  If you would like to view my resources, please click here.  After my session, I hustled to make sure that I could attend Peter Beens’ “Digital Photography” presentation.  It was worth it!  I’ll be reviewing Peter’s slides a few times to help the information sink in.

Kendra Spira started off the afternoon with “Capturing Student Learning in the Secondary Classroom“, where we learned about her experiences with technology and the benefits it provides for students with a wide array of learning styles.  Excellent work!  Stepan Pruchnicky‘s “Mash It Up” was next on the agenda, and I’m so glad I went.  His multimedia presentation was highlighted with student work, helping to illustrate how to use ideas and resources in the classroom.  It sure is fun to learn about a few new tools to play with.

Thursday night’s Photo Walk was a definite highlight from #BIT14.   Peter Beens gave this beginner some very helpful tips, and our group enjoyed a mild evening while we strolled around Niagara Falls to capture some new memories.

DSC_0240 2

Ron Canuel gave an impassioned keynote address on Friday morning, challenging us to look beyond that which makes us comfortable.  In fact, he encouraged us to become very uncomfortable in order to make progressive changes in education.  In our professional life, do we accept the status quo, or are we willing to innovate?  Have we transformed our practice to benefit students?  Why should we?  How do we?

Next stop:  “The Networked Leader“, with George Couros.  Make sure you’re awake and ready to connect, because George is ready to Google you, to see how you present yourself online, and to help you make the most of networking.


“If you’re not connected, what are you missing out on?” ~ @gcouros

One of the most celebrated events of #BIT14 was the #selfiescavanger – we grabbed our phones and captured tons of great memories.  Here are a few…

Thank you so much to the organizers of #BIT14.  This conference is a fantastic opportunity to learn, connect, and to change.

Some kind feedback.  Thank you.


Posted in Ed tech, Education Reform, Ontario | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

#BIT14, Day 1


What would you wish for in a conference?

Spectacular scenery?  Great venue?  Great friends?  An opportunity to learn?


#BIT14 is the place to be.

I was so fortunate to have the chance to present with Derrick Schellenberg & Maureen Asselin today.  We spoke about TVO’s TeachOntario, a new online space for Ontario educators to meet, collaborate and learn.  Thank you to TVO for this fantastic opportunity!

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.05.40 PM

Click the picture to view the presentation


Bonus:  my very own Polkaroo shirt!  (Thanks, TVO) :)

Please check out TVO’s Storify (click on the picture):

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.01.57 PM

Posted in Ed tech, Ontario | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Fly on the Wall

I just read a post written by Melissa Purtee, entitled “Just Wow“, and am reminded of the power of being a connected teacher.  Before the days of using a blog, Twitter, or even a Facebook group, to reach out and share ideas with other educators, I often wished that I could visit other classrooms.  I wanted to make contact with teachers whose work I admired and watch them in action.  This is still a lingering desire, but it’s so much easier to learn about great pedagogy by reading through the reflections of enlightened educators.

On this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, I would like to thank all of the teachers who are willing to share a part of their experiences with the rest of us.



Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Luncheon of Hope

Yesterday, I attended the 2014 TBayTel Luncheon of Hope in Thunder Bay.  To help remember this special occasion, and in case I lose the hard copy of my notes, I thought I would make a copy of my speech:

This is scary.  But I won’t let fear stop me from speaking to you today.  For too long, I’ve let fear paralyze me and prevent me from experiencing what life has to offer.  I’m sure that many of you can identify with this.  What holds us back from doing the things we want to do?  The things we were designed to do?

A while ago, my friend shared a quote with me:  “People with cancer don’t have the privilege to choose when to fight back, they fight every day”.

It must be scary to have to fight cancer.  To have no choice.  So how can others honour those who are facing that fear?  We can face our own.  We can make a difference.

This year, I had the privilege of creating an artwork that helped to raise funds for the Exceptional Cancer Care Campaign.  What an absolutely amazing experience this has been, and so fulfilling.  I started to realize that I could make a difference — something I thought that only other people could do.

So I would like to ask you to think about yourself for a moment.  Is there something small that you could do to make a difference for someone else?  To help another person?  To change their world?  When you think of it, do it.  Do it right away.

Approximately half an hour after I spoke to an audience of over 500 people, the silent auction for my painting was closed and the winner announced.  Tears were shed as I heard that a generous donor and new owner of my landscape had given $2000 to the Exceptional Cancer Care Campaign.


If possible, I will try to attend this Luncheon every year.  Thank you so much to Jason, Lindsay and Dan.  You may never know what a difference you have made.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To learn the story of my painting, please click here.


Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invisible Art

#NipRockArt students learned about Invisible Art today.  Listen to CBC’s podcast:


I think it’s safe to say that Lana Newstrom’s artwork left an impression on my classes.  The image below includes some of the most common words found throughout their written reactions:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 5.53.50 PM

No matter what sort of art is studied, my students use the critical analysis process to respond in a way that helps them digest what they see (or don’t see).

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 4.57.26 PM

We focused on our initial reactions today, which were filled with descriptions that included a wide array of responses.  Students weren’t shy to share their concerns, questions, admiration and even outrage.




When we looked at Newstrom’s website, we read about the purpose of her exhibit:

All proceeds go directly to some worthy causes. Today it is EFF… and, of course, you’re free to contribute to a cause of YOUR choice.
You’ll get to own one of my works once you let me know where you contributed and how much.

For some students, this information provided a chance to see things differently.  For others, their original opinion remained intact.


I believe it’s more of a story than art.  And she’s the only one who can tell it because no one else can see what she has created unless she is there to explain it to them. (student)

I believe [people] enjoy the feeling and connection they have with a piece when they imagine what Lana sees.  I think her description allows you to experience the piece for how you want to see it. (student)

I can see her point.  A way of being able to see what you cannot see.  And I like the idea.  It’s just not art.  (student)

I find it pretty awesome that even though she tells the same description, everyone is going to interpret it differently.  …Also, the fact that she donates to charities is pretty awesome.  All in all it’s a pretty awesome idea.  Kinda.  (student)

I’m looking forward to many more discussions about artworks that intrigue, challenge and inspire us.

*thanks to a fantastic group of art educators who provided a huge list of artists that are surrounded by controversy:  Jackson Pollock, Yoko Ono, van Gogh, Shia Labeouf, Marcel Duchamp, Norman Rockwell, Jeffrey Koons, Goya, Barry McGee, Richard Serra, Rousseau, Manet, Rothko, Damian Hirst, Chris Olifi, Ai Weiwei, Andy Warhol, Kostabi, and so many more!

Posted in Art Education | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments