Discovery Education

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”

Wendell Berry

artwork from the Wabano Centre


Today’s Theme – Discovery Education

The Discovery Educator Network (DEN) is a global community of educators passionate about teaching with digital media, sharing resources, collaborating, and networking. Our 4500+ STAR Discovery Educators have provided professional development to over 1 million educators worldwide, both on-line and in-person. Discovery Educators have exclusive access to a wide range of resources, professional development activities, networking opportunities, exclusive Discovery events and more!

Dean Shareski @shareski will be in Ottawa next week to talk to principlas about Digital Resources and Discovery Education  blog – 

Quiz Builder on Discovery Education

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SAMR in the schools – where is your staff?

It is very exciting to see what is happening on our staff.  With a good representation of the SAMR model (below) it is possible to get a good idea on how our staff is progressing.  There is still a good deal of work to be done, but the survey gives a good idea of what my role as principal and what our staff need to continue to work on.

Think back to September, where would you have put yourself according to the SAMR model





Now that you are half way through the year where would you put yourself on the scale?

Substitution 4 40%
Modification 4 40%
Augmentation 2 20%
Redefinition 0 0%

Where do you plan to be by the end of the school year?

Substitution 1 13%
Modification 4 50%
Augmenataion 0 0%
Redefinition 3 38%

Is there anything that I could do to help you move to the next level

I am using some technology that is listed in all of the SAMR categories but because I only use them some of the time I probably was (in Sept) and still am at the S level. I still have a long way to go and would really benefit from some in-service. We have spent a lot of money on the technology and none on teacher training in the use of it. I am not tapping in to the full potential of the iPads (or even the SMARTBoard for that matter even though I use it all the time). ? More time to explore and train with devices and programs. Also – not much for you to do on your end but – tech support is not always available to us when we really need it ASAP. ( understandably, INFO TECH is always busy, but why are they not adding more “IT” staff to reflect the increase in number of devices and tech items were are using compared to a few years ago? We still only have one very busy service IT for so many schools. You have done an outstanding job of putting technology into the hands of teachers and students. Thank you.

To move to the next level, a couple of half day in-school workshops from Lisa Langsford or Marcie Martel (or similar) to SHOW us how to use some apps and show us some real student samples of how to use them would help a lot. And allowing some hands-on to explore what they are teaching us. (Or after school if funding is not available). We must be able to tap into some board funding??? I get the feeling we are only scratching the surface of how we can be using the ipads.

If there was a set (minimum 4) Chrome books in my class all the time I could reasonably incorporate them into constant use, therefore making them a full time tech choice. Continue educating us on shortcuts or new apps at staff meeting I need concrete suggestions for primary activities where tech can be substituted on a more regular basis. What aps are best for primary level which students can use on their own to produce work? Personally, I find my tech goals are pushed back by lack of time but I would make an effort to take the time if I had to present my activity to others or had a deadline to send student work to you. My goal is to use it on a more regular basis though… Not just for one project to demo. Provide some in-school PD time to learn a new tool.

WiFi – are there any areas of the school where the wifi signal is not strong. ie you can’t pick up a signal

library and the hallway outside of it, staff room No issues! ? Staffroom hall, and please share comment above with them as well all OK as far as I know x in and near library Staff room and library

Thanks for all your comments – we are up to seven!!

I promise some action will come out of this survey and i will amke sure the Board knows there are no weak wifi zones

 Click here to download the PDF – will really help you figure out where you are and where you are going!!

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#edcampottawa Blogging in the classroom

Notes on the sessions today at #Edcampottawa

Megan Valois @msvalois 

– great work on blogging – lots of information outlining the rationale for using blogging.

Terrific idea – to send a more detail home on what type of social media will be used in the classroom.

The letter from Megan’s blog is here – this blog is a terrific resource!

Now using blogging as a way to reflect on the work going on the the classroom.  Also books the iPads once a week to use the machines for blogging during the day.

Students learn how to give meaningful feedback and are expected to give feedback to other students’ blogs.

When students comment on other blogs, the majority of students will go back in and improve their posts – students are learning from each other!

Really interesting the work that must be done in advance of blogging – here are the main two sessions:

  • what makes for a good blog post
  • how to give effective feedback
second session at #Edcampottawa on student blogging
second session at #Edcampottawa on student blogging



co-constructed chart Megan uses with her students prior to blogging – what makes an effective blog?  What make for effective feedback?

Teacher collaboration project – Math journals


I have written briefly about one of the teacher collaboration inquiries that has been going on in our three schools.  In this post, the teachers have written an explanation of their work so far.  I am hoping that more of our teacher groups will do the same so we can post their work on this blog.

These rest of this entry is written by Teresa Zappavigna, one of the teacher triad members.

Our Triad team came together in early October to determine an area of focus for our students in our junior grades.  After examining EQAO scores, last year’s records, and our personal running records to date, our next steps became quite evident.  The attitude toward math and in particular, problem solving, needed to be addressed. Many times, students have the skills, but are thrown by the math language.  Students needed to find a tool to help students break down math  problems (scaffold their thinking) in order to understand:  “What do I know?”; “What do I need to know?”;  and “How can I help solve the problem/ What strategies can I use?”. A tool was introduced by our partners from St. Daniel’s.  They were in the process of working on interactive Math journals which help guide a student’s problem- solving process and encourages them to demonstrate their understanding of new math concepts in a personal and creative way (through re-enactment, art, poetry, music, crossword puzzles, etc.,).  Our intention is that if we explicitly teach problem solving strategies and provide opportunities for students to prove, explain and reflect on their learning in Math journals, then students will have more success in explaining their thinking while problem solving.  By allowing students the opportunity to express themselves creatively (be it literacy, numeracy, arts, verbal, kinesthetic, tactile,) we hope to make math fun for students who shy away from math.

We are still in the process of developing a routine using these journals with our students.  Our observations so far have been positive.  Students have been eager to share their rap songs, cartoons etc with the class and are often asking the teachers if we will be working on our “journals today”.  The atmosphere is changing and we hope to continue these “brag books” as a tool to help students develop efficient problem solving strategies.

Video of a student conference…Please watch both (one is the continuation of the other) In this video, teachers can see the importance of conferencing with students on their journals, EVEN if the student puts a GREEN traffic light on the activity. He or she might not fully understand the concept. The example is a student working on Place Value activities.

samples and photos from the teacher inquiry


math journal - grade 4


Sample of a grade 4 journal – this is a collaborative project in grades 4, 5, and 6 being carried out in three schools

Using iMovie to highlight school sports

Coming off of ECOO13, I am trying to use all sorts of new technology to highlight what is going on at our school.

One of the really fun tools has been iMovie trailers.  We have made a bunch of them to really jazz up the reporting of some of our tournaments.

Friday, we hope to take the next step by training our grade 6’s to use more of iMovie in order to make a series of anti-bullying videos for the school.  Moving beyond trailers is a big step, but it is very exciting to see how quickly our students are learning to use this great tool.

Here is today’s video – the cool thing about trailers is that it sets up the shots for you.  I actually did most of this work in 5-10 minutes!  Great fun!

The real test comes this Friday when the grade 6 students will present their video material!  Looking forward to this.


Triad Project: The use of math journals to encourage purposeful talk

Yesterday, we spent the entire day with Lucy West.  It was a great day and I learned a great deal.  She asked us to tell her one thing that we would take away from the session.  I told her I would visit all of the junior math classes and really find out what they are doing.

This post is based on my observations in the grade 6 math class.  The teacher is using math journals as a way to get her kids to think about math concepts – today she is focusing on mean median and mode.  There was a good deal of very purposeful talk from the students based on their journaling.  The teacher’s questioning encouraged additional contributions from her students.

Math journaling is the project the grade 4- 5-6 Triad is working on this fall – three schools and the teachers in grades 4,5 and 6 are taking part in a collaborative inquiry on the benefits of using math journals.  Here is their inquiry statement:

If we explicitly teach problem solving strategies and provide opportunities for students to prove, explain and reflect on their learning in Math journals,

then students will have more success in explaining their thinking while problem solving.

Based on Lucy West’s talk, three simple things can change the learning culture of a classroom

  • turn and talk
  • tell me more about that?
  • who can repeat that?

All these were observed today!  Great lesson

Lucy West – Focusing on Student Thinking

Notes on Lucy West session today at our School Board


How would we know real learning is taking place? seeing student thinking as evidence?

What concerns you about being an instructional leader?

  • need more time to work on learning – more time reserved for PD would help
  • understanding more about what the problem is about grade 6 math scores on EQAO
  • getting a clearer picture – what are the initiatives that truly have an impact on student learning.

First Big Idea:

You can have positional authority but still not be a leader.  70-80% of people in positional authority are not effective – so what makes someone a leader??

How are we going to define leadership?

‘Anyone who wants to help is a leader’

‘leadership is a verb not a job’

the most important tool is influence – everyone has a circle of influence.  Identifying who is in your circle will give you a picture on how you can move a school.

Leadership is something you choose to do some of the time.  There are many informal leaders – if we can influence them we can have greater influence in the school.

Second Big Idea:

What are you passionate about?

Leadership is passionate – if I am willing to put my ideas on the table, if I am willing to say what I am passionate about, you can at least open a dialogue with your teachers.

Do we know what our teachers are passionate about – what do they care about.  You may find common ground if you can find out what they are passionate about.

If you try to impose ideas on people you are going to lose people – can’t do this and be effective.

Vital Smarts – a resource mentioned by Lucy that addresses some of these questions

VitalSmarts is an innovator in corporate training and leadership development.
With award-winning training products based on more than 30 years of ongoing research, we have helped more than 300 of the Fortune 500 realize significant results using a proven method for driving rapid, sustainable, and measurable change in behaviors. We can teach your organization how to:

  • Dialogue safely about any topic
  • Achieve universal accountability
  • Help leaders influence organization-wide behavior
  • Increase employee engagement through self-directed change

The biggest issue in any organization is people NOT speaking up.  What do we do about that?  We need to get people to tell us what they think.

When something doesn’t work well – how do we encourage people to approach us?  When we are willing to do this we can change the culture!

Adaptive challenges cannot be solved by technical solutions – the job is to sort out what really matters.  Do we ask – what really matters?  What are we going to focus on?

Bottom-line purpose – to get kids to learn.  But, no one knows how to reach 100% of the kids 100% of the time – that is an adaptive challenge – we can use technical solutions to change adaptive challenges.  

The materials we have have to be used mindfully. 

Adaptive challenges are solved more through a process – ask questions, innovate, collaborate, work together – all of these practices are adaptive solutions.

Leaders need courage – we need to challenge the status quo.

Raise the taboo issues

point out contradictions

What risk are you willing to take?

Obstacles to Learning – tool for us to use can you identify what your obstacles are?

  • what learning look, feel and sound like?
  • what gets in the way of my learning?
  • how do we create a learning culture in which people become public and reflective and committed learners?

A Fractal – never-ending pattern – how many teachers exhibit the same obstacles to learning that we do?  How many students have the same obstacles?  How many are caused by the nature of the school?

What Happens in your organization when people

  • question authority
  • are skeptical
  • complain about situations attempt to do things differently from the norm

Habits of Mind

taking small steps to build a habit of mind to address the obstacle you have identified.

For me?  Turning off my phone at night!

if you focus on Vital Behaviours you can make the changes you want to make.

to actually hear what kids are saying and following that – this is a key behaviour.

What happens when a student gives an answer – what does the teacher do?  Anything that invites the students to tell what they are thinking about.  Dialogue that emphasizes reasoning, the big idea and critical thinking – that will allow for a student-centered classroom.

How to analyze a math class?

  • Who is doing the talking?  Asking the questions?
  • What’s the focus of the talk?
  • What are the students saying?
  • What happens when someone makes a mistake?

When you focus on discourse – we are learning to listen to each other, consider another’s perspective, how to challenge someone in a respective fashion – it means learning to work collaboratively with others.

We need to have a questioning culture (Fullan) where it is OK to make mistakes.  To be able to sit in the place of uncertainty more comfortably.

We attend to results, but not the culture and behaviour we need to have to bring about changes.

what questions might people use when they are thinking critically?

  • how do you know that
  • what is your source of information?
  • what evidence do you have, what further evidence do you need?
  • how might I be wrong about this?

mindset – the problem especially math, is that the teachers do not have the content knowledge – what do we need?

learn math from people who can teach they way they need to teach their children – not a one-shot idea.  This needs to be teachers working in teams to develop vital behaviours.

In your class, how do you us questioning?  What would happen if you the principal spent a week just listening to what questions teachers use?

lesson planning – to solve a problem look for as many ways to solve a problem as possible – this way you can predict what students will come up with.

The Turkey Problem – 24lb. turkey – 15 minutes per lb. how long to cook the turkey – why is this a rich task at grade 3?  Because they haven’t been taught to do this yet and different units. Specifically:

  • prior to any teaching of multiplication algorithms
  • sharing student work after students have solved the problem
  • teacher deliberately determines the order in which selected partners will share
  • thinking is visible

also, see this earlier post on math

Emphasis on the student doing the talking rather than the teacher.

The basic talk moves:

  • turn and talk
  • tell me more about that?
  • who can repeat that?

These three techniques can shift the culture in the classroom

turn and talk

Points on accountable talk :

  • use accountable talk asap
  • remind students to use each others name when talking
  • concentrate on big ideas
  • plan with others
  • have students turn and talk about the concept
  • daily expectations …tech explicitly
  • go back to students to clarify

this is not a natural skill –

what the teacher observed:

  • students not afraid to make mistakes
  • students willing to challenge each other
  • kids are coming to class
  • students writing notes in their own words

If the teacher is willing and ready this is what can happen!

Where to go from here?  I need to get into more math classes to see what really is happening at our school!!

Be Somebody that knows stuff

These are the notes of our grade 1/2 teacher Pauline O’Hara.  I have seen similar thoughts expressed in Who Owns the Learning by Alan November, but these are all Pauline’s original thoughts on what we can be doing to motivate our kids.

What do you know?  make a personal poster entitled Yes I Can!  Fill it with sticky notes stating what the student already knows.

Start small and grow

  • ask me about…
  • I know more stuff…
  • now I know…
  • look what else I know….
  • I learned…


next – have students share what they know with students in other classes

Set goals to learn more new stuff that can be shared with other students.

Make the passion for knowledge PUBLIC

There are no uninteresting subjects, only uninterested people

It’s not about the sauce, it is about the process.  The process is the gift

sauce 2

Teachers are “learning salespeople” – sell the product!


Share your curiosity with someone else.  If someone does not know how to wonder, share how to develop that skill!

Get parents involved too – they too must promote learning and curiosity, they can share their knowledge with their children

Promote PRIDE in knowing



Then…keep a visual record

post #ecoo13 where do we go from here?

  • keep yourself in the role of the learner

  • tell your story: be visible, live out loud, create value, leverage video and social media, reflect and blog 

  • stay connected

  • consider frameworks such as the SAMR model as an ongoing change model 

  • consider the power of students teaching students through video

  • nurture those around you

Mark Carbone, President ECOO



These are all great ways to move forward from this point.  I consider myself very fortunate to have received such great PD over the past six months.  The CASA conference in July, Will Richardson @willrich45 at our Director’s Conference and of course #ECOO13.

I have to thank my superintendent Simone Oliver @SimoneROliver and our IT guru Rob Long @longrwr for giving me these wonderful opportunities!  Now, I need to keep the learning going.

For one thing, I have to go back to lanyard and collect more information from the workshops I attended – I will go back and add this to the posta already up.

Next, what do I do when I return to school?

One idea.  I loved the Minds on Media session.  I had great conversations with teachers and I learned about cool apps

I would like to make the rest of this year a Minds on Media session.  

Our teachers are doing great things every day.  They use Raz Kids, Dream Box, mathletics, Edmodo, Edublog, Kidblog, Blogger.  They use iPads, netbooks and now Chromebooks.  They are doing incredible things all the time.

On top of all that, they work in collaborative teams with teachers from two other schools – they are all involved in really interesting inquiry projects – the first set of projects will be complete by the end of November.

So, this is what I am going to do:

  • make a visual record of the innovative teaching that is going on every day
  • give our staff an audience by posting their work here on this blog
  • create a visual record of the work of our triads – journey with them through their inquiries
  • celebrate, encourage, support, serve and learn from our teachers

This is such a challenging time for teachers – every day they are confronted with some new form of technology.  They are being asked to change their teaching methodology to support an entirely new learning environment.  They are being asked not to deliver information but to create intelligence out of the mass of information our students now have access to.

Has there ever been a more challenging time – I would say no.

So what do I need to do?  See myself as the lead learner in the school and accompany our teachers on the rocky journey to incorporate technology into a new way of teaching – the journey will be rockey because not everything will work – but if you don’t take risks you will never learn, and we are all about learning!

one triad at work - as principal, my role will be to support and accompany them on their learning journey - and of course celebrate!!
one triad at work – as principal, my role will be to support and accompany them on their learning journey – and of course celebrate!!