Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

September 3, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 9:11 pm

The past week flew by in a blur as I gave and attended workshops.  First, I gave the school-based technology boot camp written about earlier, which was nicely followed by a full day with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Sheryl’s presentation on the connected learner clearly articulated the need for pedagogical change and a focus on digital literacies.

The next two days I spent delivering half-day workshop on Writing to Learn with Technology.  During these sessions I introduced ways that teachers could implement strategies from Angela Peery’s Writing Matters in Every Classroom and Daniels, Zemelman and Steineke’s Content Area Writing using a variety of technology tools.

The focus was primarily on Word as we recently implemented Office 2010 and teachers are as of yet unfamiliar with the changes that make it extremely easy to use for Writing to Learn strategies as well as to format and create quality documents. I also suggested online tools and iOS apps that could be used.  The travelling set of iPads was available for anyone who wanted to experiment with an app and I was able to demonstrate apps with a second project and an Apple TV.

We have two schools in our division going one-to-one with iPads this year and several teachers had brought their iPads with them. It was a learning experience for us all as we delved into Pages and discovered what an amazing word processing app it is.

Teachers were engaged during the presentation and the exit slips that were emailed to me indicated that they enjoyed the day and learned several Writing to Learn strategies and useful tech tips.  Many indicated that they enjoyed the session because they did not feel overwhelmed.

I contrast that with some of the feedback that I received about the Tech Boot Camp and the Sheryl’s connected learner presentation.  “Overwhelming”, “our students aren’t ready”, “not all our students have devices nor access”, “we need to teach the basics”, “I don’t have time”, “I need to teach the curriculum” were comments that I heard.

Perhaps I am being presumptuous but underlying all the comments the subtext that I heard is “this makes me uncomfortable”, “change scares me”.

I enjoyed preparing for and delivering the Writing to Learn Using Technology workshop because it is always delightful to provide teachers with supports that they can immediately use.

However, I will also continue to make teachers feel uncomfortable. Will Richardson has said, “If you’re comfortable with education today, then you’re not paying attention,” and we need to be paying attention to the influences that social media and technology are having on teaching and learning.  The pending changes are immense.


August 29, 2012

A Reflection on the day…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 2:26 am
Tags: , ,

Today I delivered my first workshop of the year to a middle years/high school staff – a full day technology boot camp. Naturally I had an agenda that was way too full and we deviated from it part way through to meet an identified school need.

However some important conversations took place that helped me acknowledge an important stand that I need to take in my role as an educational technology consultant.

I can no longer offer the participation of educators in social media as an option.  It is essential that teachers begin to understand the world in which their students exist and the only way this is possible is through the creation of personal learning networks that enable them to understand how social media works.

Today we had a rather good discussion around quotes from the MediaSmarts study, Young Canadians in a Wired World Phase III: Talking to Youth and Parents about Life Online. Teachers disagreed with the findings presented by the study and offered many examples of students’ inability to self-regulate or demonstrate resiliency and competence in response to online risks.   I then asked who formally taught students how to use social media, manage their privacy settings or how to respond to inappropriate requests or online behaviors.  Not one teacher raised their hand.

My observations are that teachers love technology when it allows them to be productive teachers; access to great resources, the ability to communicate with parent and students, and the tools to create handouts and worksheets.

However they struggle with the newer technologies that allow for connection, conversation, collaboration, and personal learning.  They are not using the tools that have become integral to our students lives and therefore are unable to appreciate their benefits and only see the negative consequences of inappropriate use.

Today I said, without apology, without hesitation, without tempering my words, that it is the responsibility of every educator to participate in a variety of social media networks – for their own learning, to facilitate the learning of their students, to model appropriate use and to formally and informally teach students how to use social networks intelligently and ethically.

Not all liked what I said.

November 21, 2010

Teacher Netbook Roll Out

Filed under: One-to-One — Donna DesRoches @ 8:48 pm

This past week was an unusually busy week with our division-wide technology bootcamp taking place on Tuesday and the delivery of the teacher netbooks to the schools that will be participating in our one-to-one program next year.  This year is learning year for our teachers and a year to determine the procedures that will guide student use of the netbooks in the following year.

As well as delivering the netbooks I provided a one  hour workshop tailored to the needs of the each staff.  I had met with each school previously and we talked about how their learning would focus on two strands: social media and what they would like to communicate to students, parents and their community about the one-to-one program.  The intent of this first inservice was to explore the netbook  itself, to use some social media tools and to begin some preliminary thinking about articulating a vision for one-to-one in their school.

This was more successful in some schools than others.  The internet was down when the inservice for the North Battleford Comprehensive High School began thus limiting the use of the social media tools I had planned.  We did focus on some of the productivity tools on the netbook but the building of a collaborative document of questions, concerns, and aha moments on a google spreadsheet was limited as the internet came up as the time alloted for the workshop came to a close.  Ah well, the next day the principal did thank me for the workshop and told me that staff are quite excited about the venture.

I was delighted with the participation of the teachers a Spiritwood High School as I followed a discussion about student behavior and expectations with one of our division counsellors.  It was a long day for the teachers but they joined in the discussions, added to the spreadsheet and began to consider a vision for the one-to-one initiative that they could articulate to their student, parent and school community.

I was scheduled to speak at Luseland School at 1:40 and had hoped to make it to Major School by 3:05. Considering that this was at least a 30 minute drive across grid roads I may have been a bit over optimistic!  Luseland teachers also engaged in the conversations and the learning focusing on the big ideas and questions about implementation.  I was late leaving for Major School and unfortunately took a wrong turn leaving the community and did not make it Major School until almost 5:00.  Teachers were still in the school for Parent-Teacher interviews so I was able to deliver the netbooks. Over supper the teachers opened their netbooks and explored and experimented asking many questions. I enjoyed our conversation and look forward to working with them in January when they will spend a full day in school-based technology-based boot camp.

The highlight of the week was a return to Luseland School to watch the iSITS teacher, Micheal Hagel, take his staff through their technology boot camp.  Teachers were totally engaged in their learning – experimenting, exploring, questioning.  While their boot camp agenda explored many different tools what impressed me most was the focus on teacher learning via blogs and rss feeds.  Michael expressed how important these tools were to his professional learning and encouraged and helped teachers build their personal reading lists – create their own learning networks.

I am also pleased that many of the teachers in our one-to-one program have joined our division Yammer network.  We are beginning to create a strong community of learners willing to share their learning, their classroom activities, ask questions and respond to the questions asked by their colleagues.

The support of the iSITS (in-School Instructional Technology Support) teachers will be instrumental in the success of our one-to-one initiative.  Micheal’s leadership in the implementation and delivery of the Luseland Boot Camp enables a solid beginning for his teachers.   Mavis Hoffman’s leadership has encouraged teachers to experiment with a wide variety of technology and media.  One teacher thrilled parents with Audacity-made recordings of their children reading; another is using Google Sketch-up with her students to plan a playground; and all of Major teachers are using Yammer to share and communicate.  At NBCHS Rob Wall has re-instituted Techie Tuesdays and he Yammers, Twitters and blogs about their one-to-one experience.  Ryan Hackl at Spiritwood has his teachers using Chatterous for intra-school of communication and continues to encourage their use of Yammer and a wide variety of social media tools.

I know that we are going to have issues with our one-to-one initiative.  However, after this week of working with teachers, of observing them with the netbooks, and their eagerness to use the them with their students the issues will not be about teacher fear or hesitation about learning.  The biggest issue will be lack of bandwidth. So please, please, Saskatchewan Ministry of Education – hear this plea….either provide us with more bandwidth or allow school divisions to purchase more – allow us to use the tools that will facilitate learning in the 21st Century!

Next… On Monday we launch our teacher iPad initiative at Connaught Community School.  Stay tuned!

October 11, 2010

Exploring the Possibility of an iPad One-to-One Project

Filed under: One-to-One — Donna DesRoches @ 4:32 pm

In my last post I wrote about the five schools in our division that have been selected via an application process to participate in a one-to-one project using netbooks. The first year involves providing all teachers with a netbook and a learning program to explore the technology, the learning and the management of a one-to-one program.  The following year students would be issued with netbooks in a configuration (one-to-one; two-to-one, grade-based, etc.) determined by their teachers.

When I met with the administration of Connaught Community School, they tentatively broached the idea of considering iPads as their one-to-one project.


16 iPads: Part 1 from Kominyetska


I took their idea back to the Director of Education and the division’s IT Manager who agreed that this would be an idea worth exploring.  We all agreed however, that the teachers needed to have a clear understanding of the pros and cons of such a venture prior to purchasing the iPads.  We needed to know that they understood that the iPad is very much an unknown and that they were prepared to handle the uncertainties over the course of the year.

I informed the principal and we set up a time for me to meet with the staff.  I took my iPad and passed it around and when the teachers were informed that this was indeed a possibility there was both a sense of excitement and trepidation in the room.

I explained to the teachers that while the division was willing to support an iPad project in their school we needed to know that they understood the pros and cons.  I asked each teacher to research the use of the iPad in the context of their grades and specialties and to provide their administrator with what they had learned.  If, when the research had been completed, the school still wanted iPads as their mobile device for the one-to-one project we would proceed with the purchasing.

About a week later the administrators, the schools key technology teachers, and I met.  The principal had talked with each teacher and had recorded his or her pros and cons. They were excited by the possibilities offered by the mobility of the device, the long battery life, the number and varieties of apps that would facilitate differentiated learning, and the e-book possibilities offered by the device.

Issues such as the cost of and the management of downloading of apps, no access to well-used, educational flash games, monitoring of student use, impact on bandwidth and using a first-generation product were major concerns expressed by the teachers.  They acknowledged that many of their questions and concerns could not be answered until they used the devices and so informed me that they, as a staff, were ready to proceed with year one of an  iPad one-to-one  project.

The iPad have been ordered for the 14 teachers and we all eagerly await the learning that will follow.


September 25, 2010

One-to-one Netbook Program

Filed under: One-to-One,Professional Development — Donna DesRoches @ 9:16 pm

This fall Living Sky School Division, a collection of schools in rural Saskatchewan, embarked on the first steps of a one-to-one initiative.  In June schools were invited to submit a proposal for participation in a year of teacher training to prepare for one-to-one the following year.  Eleven schools submitted a proposal and five schools were accepted.  The selection was based on a cross section of the school division (rural, urban, small, large, high school, elementary, PreK-12 and the quality of their statement of intent, which had to include:

  1. A statement of why the school wishes to participate in the program.  This could include the school’s philosophical statement about technology and learning and/or how one-to-one has the potential to advance student learning.
  2. An outline of a suggested training schedule (after-school, lunch hour, etc – limited release time will be available for small group or individual work)
  3. An expression of understanding of how technology use involves incorporating division initiatives such as UbD, Differentiated Instruction and Assessment.
  4. A demonstrated commitment by ALL staff to participate fully in the training program
    1. Attendance at workshop and other training sessions
    2. Completion of learning tasks
    3. Sharing knowledge and insights
    4. Participation in the creation of the manual to be used in the implementation of one-to-one in the school
  5. A statement that indicates an understanding that the school or the school division may choose to terminate the training program at anytime.

Each teacher in the five schools that have been selected, Major, NBCHS, Spiritwood High School, Connaught Community School, and Luseland School will receive a netbook, and copy of the book, 1-To-1 Learning: Laptop Programs that Work.

I will be responsible for guiding and facilitating the professional learning program and so far have had conversations with two school staffs about what the learning will look like.  Division initiatives are of primary importances – especially our focus on Differentiated Instruction – as are school goals.  During our initial conversations I talked about social media, personal learning networks and how I would like them to personalize the learning as much as possible.  The learning will evolve around the use of social media to facilitate connection, conversation and collaboration.

We are also undertaking a simplified form of action research to document our progress and to reflect on our learning.  Teachers have been asked to create a question, to take some action based on the question and to document their learning.

The netbooks should be here within the month and we will begin our learning journey.  This journey will look different in each school and may lead to a variety of decisions made at the end.  A staff may decide that they do not want student one-to-one; they may decide that it is more appropriate in certain grades, or they might want a two-to-one or three-to-one ratio at the end of the year.  It is the school’s decision – but it will be made based on hands-on knowledge, research and learning.

November 4, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 3:22 am

Dean Shareski’s post, Robbing Teachers and Students of Joy, resonated with me as I thought about a  grade 8 classroom that I had been in today. It was an incredible mix of students including Cree, Metís, non-First Nations, a girl from the Ukraine who had been in the classroom for one day and another who had been in Canada just since the start of the school year as well as students from the division’s behavior program.

Was there joy?  Maybe not… at first.  However the students became engaged when the Arts Ed consultant and I started talking about culture – they had already done a fair amount of work on the topic – and asking them to consider what they had learned about culture in terms of their youth culture.  It was an interesting moment for them to realize that culture applied to them and not to the past or that which existed in a country far, far away.

The teacher asked us to assist in the class because the students are going to create a media project about culture.  He is very open about the students using any sort of technology that they have available to complete and share the project including using cell phones to capture images and Facebook to share.

We showed the short video, No Mankind is not as Island, which was shot entirely with cell phones and the students were totally absorbed.   Afterwards we asked them to reflect and then share on what they thought the messages were, the mood of the film and the symbols used.

Their responses were thoughtful and mature – “talk to people because everyone has a story”; “we need to help, share, care….for others”; “ we should work together, be united” They saw the red, heart-shaped balloon as a symbol of hope when flying high and that of despair when crushed flat.

We talked about audience and authenticity. About copyright and getting people’s permission to use their photos. About using one’s talents to communicate ideas.

Although they were typical grade eight students who niggled at each other, constantly interrupted, squirmed, moved incessantly, and were somewhat boisterous they were engaged and thoughtful. There was joy in this classroom today.

April 19, 2009

Learning on Purpose

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 7:38 pm

Gary passed on this challenge a while back “What was the last thing you really learned on purpose? I don’t mean something that you learned in passing. I mean something you went out of your way to find out about. Not because you had to but because you wanted to.” …and I have been thinking about it ever since.

I must admit that I find it difficult to remember the last time that I deliberately learned something that I did not have to learn. I have learned many things in passing because I have several interests – primarily in education, school libraries and technology –thinkerwithgirl1 for which I have structured my learning environment and my personal learning network. I am constantly reading, viewing, listening and following links that support these interests.

I do remember several learning challenges the most recent of which was creating school websites using Drupal. I had absolutely no reference for the application and no individuals nearby to ask for advice. I did however find the advice, support and direction I needed from the web. My learning process was very similar to that described by Joan Vinall Cox in her post, An Autodidact is Social.

At the moment I am not deeply involved in activities outside of the world of education that spur learning. When I was the president of the Board for Save the Children Canada I was constantly learning about Board management and international development. When I was an ardent traveler I immersed myself in learning about the places in which I planned to travel and as a young runner I immersed myself in fitness lore and technique. Now, however, I am content with armchair traveling and enjoying turning the pages of travel books such as Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux.

I am confident in my capacity as a learner, both from experience and from growing up in a family of learners. I know that when ready to move into another unfamiliar area I will anticipate and be prepared to deal with the messiness, the uncertainty and the thrill of the learning process.


March 1, 2009

Wasting Time on a Sunday Morning

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 6:05 pm

While I should be doing all sorts of things including cleaning my house, and finalizing details for two workshops I am instead reading bloglines and catching up on interesting posts and new resources. And… I came across create across the Hero Factory and generated the incredible Caped Whip Lash…myhero1

A Reflective Rant on Reading

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 3:41 pm

Via Doug Johnson’s Blue Skunk blog comes this video by an articulate young man on the difference between reading for school and the free reading opportunities offered by the library.

February 1, 2009


Filed under: School Web Sites — Donna DesRoches @ 7:29 pm

Over the past year several schools in our division have participated in a Drupal School Web Site Project. This project started slowly as a way for schools did not have someone with the necessary skills to set up and maintain a web site created in a web-authoring program such as DreamWeaver. Some of the sites in our division had become very dated. School web sites can be difficult to update and very time-consuming to maintain.

Once other schools saw the sites and the ease with which every teacher could add information and maintain their own page they also began requesting a site.

I cannot say that the process has been an easy one for me. Even though I did not have to go through the process of installing Drupal on the Division’s web server I had to learn how to determine which modules we needed and how to configure the application for each school’s site. I learned how to use Drupal by creating, Teaching for Information Literacy, the project for my Masters Program. There were a few late night tears involved in the process! Over time however, I have learned many things and it has become much easier to configure a new site for a school

Lawrence SchoolI know that teachers, including the in-school instructional technology support (iSITS) teachers are very busy therefore I set up the site so that the minute it is released to teachers they can begin to add content.

The schools send me:

  • Colours, logo, motto, staff lists and menu items

I then ensure that:

  • Modules are enabled and configured
  • Users added
  • Roles and permissions established
  • Basic look established (Theme, colours, motto, school picture and contact info)
  • Menu items added
  • One page of content is created under each user’s login

Once schools started using their site I was soon challenged to learn more – how do I add audio? Upload a video of a tour of my school? Embed a YouTube video? Add a calendar? Some of these things have been a bit challenging to learn and I am extremely grateful for the support that I have had from our technical department. One individual had been assigned to support this project and he so willing to learn and to show and explain things to me that I believe we have made great strides in this service to our schools.

This fall I held a series of regional workshops for the iSITS teachers, school secretaries and other interested staff members. I showed them all the things that I do in the initial configuration and now they have begun to experiment and add the touches that make the website their own.

Mrs. Nichol's Math Pages

The most rewarding part of this project has been watching teachers begin to use the site as a communication tool with students and parents. In one school the administrator has asked that all his teachers place their course outlines online. First they begin to add text – homework lists, etc – then they begin to add links, new pages, graphics, photos and YouTube videos.

The Drupal project continues to expand. Our Art Education Consultant has used Drupal to create her Arts Alive Web Site and one of our counselors has created the Youth Network as a way to communicate with the students he sees.

I know that I have a great deal more to learn about Drupal but the positive response from teachers, students, and parents spur me to keep on learning and sharing. Hmmm – maybe it is time to move Learning and Technology from wikispaces to a school division hosted site.

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