Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

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 30, 2008

E-Merging Learning Conference

Filed under: Professional Development — Donna DesRoches @ 7:36 pm
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e-merging learning logo

The Saskatchewan E-Merging Learning Conference is fast approaching with session proposals due on December 1. I submitted two proposals relevant to teacher-librarianship:

Selection 2.0: Using RSS to enhance print, multimedia and web-based resource selection

RSS, a web-based application that allows the training of information to come to us, can be used to carry-out the professional selection responsibilities of teacher-libraries. This workshop will explain RSS, demonstrate a variety of formats for organizing incoming information and provide a number of sources for print, multimedia and web-based resources.

Using Emerging Technologies to Build a Personal Learning Network

Teacher-librarians are specialists with unique learning needs that are not always met through school or division-based professional development. This workshop will provide teacher-librarians with the tools and the knowledge to create networks that will lessen the isolation and provide global connections that will enhance their own learning and benefit the teachers and students with whom they work.

Program selection will take place on December 12.

The conference promises to be a exciting one with keynotes by David Warlick and Jamie McKenzie. I have to admit to a bit of bias however and say that the keynote that I most looking forward to isTelling the New Story . . . Live with Dean Shareski, Darren Kuropatwa, Clarence Fisher and Kathy Cassidy.

Download the flyer

April 19, 2008

Creating Critical Consumers

Filed under: Professional Development,Social Networking — Donna DesRoches @ 11:24 pm
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Alec Couros was back in our school division this week. Our administrators arranged quite an intensive schedule for him and he spoke to students from grade 2 – 12, to teachers and to parents.

I had an opportunity to hear one of the presentations he made to parents and two things struck me in his comments. The first was that because the technology is not going to go away, we – parents and teachers – need to immerse ourselves in the technology so that we understand it and provide the guidance that kids need to use it wisely and ethically. If we don’t they will learn from each other – not always a bad thing – but parents and teachers can provide the foundation in social ethics that is often missing when students teach each other.

The second thing that struck me in Alec’s talk was the need to not only ensure that our students/children are critical consumers of information but that they are also critical producers.

I started to think of what this entails and generated a brainstormed list of what I thought students need to know to be critical producers:

  1. Knowing audience – where to post information (e.g. YouTube, GoogleVideo, FaceBook)
  2. Reading and understanding the ‘terms of service’ agreements posted post on social networking sites
  3. Providing attribution for other’s work/ideas used in the creation of a product
  4. Licensing one’s own work and providing terms for its use
  5. Knowing what personal information is necessary to create an online presence but also recognizing that certain information should not be shared
  6. Using appropriately the privacy settings on social networking sites where one’s work is posted and shared
  7. Respecting the rights and wishes of others to not have pictures or video of themselves posted online.
  8. Using photos and video of others with their permission
  9. Portraying other people in positive ways and not in ways that are hurtful or harmful.

What have I missed?

I also believe that these skills must be taught as students create and post their products online. This is not a separate information/technology literacy skill but an integral component of student production and should be built into the lessons and instructional strategies that we use

April 11, 2008


Filed under: Professional Development — Donna DesRoches @ 10:25 pm

Yes, it’s done! On Saturday I presented my Master’s project to colleagues, classmates and faculty at the University of Saskatchewan. A classmate took these photos and when I look at them it seems that I am having fun! And, yes it was quite enjoyable. I realized as I spoke how important the topic of information literacy is to me and how I hope to share my enthusiasm with the teachers with whom I work.

My prof, Rick Schwier, ustreamed the presentations and it was interesting to receive feedback from friends and colleagues around North America.

My project, Teaching for Information Literacy, is a collection of resources to help teachers understand the concept of information literacy and to begin the process of implementing an information literacy program in their school.

One of the most important things for me to convey was the concept of moving beyond topical research to using an inquiry approach to engage students in the process of uncovering knowledge to create their own understandings. I did this by creating a video, Re/Search Re/Mixed, (with a great deal of assistance from my office mate, the Arts Education Consultant, Sherron Burns).

I also created a series of tutorials to help teachers use the resources available from the Ministry of Education and how to make the resources more accessible to staff and students by linking to individual databases and articles, using the rss feature available in Gale Infotrac and inserting a ProQuest widget on a blog or wiki page.

The portal also encompasses technology, especially new and emerging technologies as an essential component of information literacy. For example, social bookmarking is a tool that can be used at many stages of the research process to categorize, organize, annotate and share resources. Online mind-mapping and brainstorming tools allow students to continue their work outside of school as well as the ability to collaborate and share.

One of the most interesting questions that came from the audience after my presentation was, “can you give a specific example of how information literacy has changed”? My response was to share how little I now use a search engine since the growth of my personal learning network – my twitter friends, my network and the blogs that I read via my bloglines account. Information can now come to me – and I need the skills to be able to create the PLN that will bring me the information I need and the ability to filter the information.

The times they are a changin’ – are we ready?



April 10, 2008

National Congress on Rural Education

Filed under: Conferences,Professional Development — Donna DesRoches @ 5:04 pm

This week Living Sky School Division had two different forms of representation at the National Congress on Rural Education in Saskatoon.

hpim0236.jpgI, along with Jim Ellis and Byrna Luyben-Cronk, did a presentation on the Living Sky Professional Laptop program. Although our audience was small our presentation was well received especially by our Assistant Director.

Our professional laptop program is based on division -wide committees: In-school Instructional Technology Support, Arts Education, Early Literacy and ELA Inquiry.

Jim represented the Inquiry and In-school Instructional Technology Support Committee. Byrna is also a member of the In-school Instructional Technology Support Committee and she represented the Arts Education Committee. Unfortunately we were unable to have representation for the Early Literacy Committee. However, we were provided with a number of invaluable quotes from the committee members one of which I have included below. The others became a part of of our slide presentation.

We are efficient with the laptops during the meetings. In past committee work, we had you typing while we were running for print materials and flipping pages. Now we can all be international travellers through the internet accessing the information at our fingertips. Also, it has given me a tool to help colleagues when they say that they have a need. I was able to share web sites for activities from our committee with a teacher. I think it has made me more aware of and comfortable with technology-using photos and programs. I am gaining the confidence to help others play with these programs

Living Sky School Division was also represented at the Congress by students from McLurg High School who provided e-journalism services to its participants. These students worked diligently to provide a daily newsletter, video reporting and a blog to inform participants about congress events. They were a highly organized team coordinated by their Information Processing and English teachers. These teachers have a strong believe in authentic learning and this was an ideal opportunity for students to experience the tension and the thrill of meeting press deadlines, interviewing prominent individuals and speaking to the public. They handled this e-journalism experience as true professionals! Kudos to the students of McLurg High School!

March 28, 2008

Information Literacy

At the last meeting of our school division’s Learning and Technology Committee we focused our discussions on information literacy. We read through the new standards and the learning attributes of our 21st Century learners in an endeavour to ascribe our own understanding and meaning to the term, information literacy. The teachers articulated the concept in the following ways:

  • Information literacy is open, connected, collaborative, social, flexible/adaptive, critically, ongoing and inquiry-based.
  • Creating media literate students who retrieve and think critically about information from several sources and merge into a relevant and succinct format using collaboration.
  • To be technologically literate the students must be motivated to sail the 7 C’s and be connected, constructive, critical, collaborative, comfortable, creative and courageous.
  • Information literacy is the way you deal with information that is presented to you, the definition has changed in the past year, month, day, hour. To be info literate you must be able to recreate meaning through collaboration using critically thinking skills.
  • The ability to process, evaluate, re-evaluate and network information within a global community.
  • Actively be able to find information, critically assess and internalize in an ever-changing environment.

Determining what our students require at different grade levels to meet this understanding of information literacy was much more difficult.

We began to work with a brief document that I had created with teachers in a K – 8 school. We had based our discussions around the revised NETS and created a one page document that focused on specific areas for each grade level:

  • Pre-K – Kindergarten: Basic computer use and access
  • Grade One, Two and Three: Online connecting, communicating and collaborating
  • Grade Four and Five: Productivity Tools and Digital Storytelling
  • Grade Six, Seven and Eight: The Architecture and Grammar of the Internet
  • Grades Nine – Twelve – Design

Even with a basic document as a guide teachers struggled to identify at what grade level specific skills should be taught. They still wanted a scope and sequence. I heard it from almost every group. Why is this so? I believe that in many ways it is due to an instructional practice of the late 20th century – a computer teacher based in a computer lab. This setting and instructional approach maintain the belief that computers and technology must be taught rather than used to teach and learn and therefore require a curriculum.

After this experience, which reinforced the principles in the reading that I have done on information literacy, I believe that we do an injustice to our students by categorizing and assigning a grade level to technology and information literacy skills. Instead we should ask, “what thinking skills do our students require to successfully cope in a world of overwhelming and constantly changing information?” These are skills that cross all grade levels but are taught in developmentally appropriate ways.

Following this meeting I had a brief introduction to the new Saskatchewan ELA curriculum K- 9 which has inquiry embedded within it. Entrenched in inquiry learning are the skills that students need to find, use and share information. Maybe I am being somewhat optimistic but I believe that this is what will ensure that all students are taught how to use information effectively – which in the 21st Century involves the use of technology. It is now the responsibility of all teachers, not the teacher-librarian and not the computer teacher, to ensure that their students are taught, practice and master the skills for an information rich 21st Century.

I would hope as the writers of the New Literacy wiki state, “that the skills of using technology become the habits of students and teachers – that technology is called upon when needed the same way a dictionary or pencil has been in the past. Search techniques or spreadsheet skills, for example, should be learned when they are needed, not only age appropriately, but also context appropriately. Technology skills will be learned in school by students in the same way it is learned “in the real world”: as they need it.”

The next meeting of the Learning and Technology committee will be to examine new trends in professional development. We will take another look at information literacy and the implications of the inquiry strand in the new ELA curriculum. But, perhaps instead of a focus on the creation of technology and information literacy skills continuums, we will discuss how we can support our classroom teachers to ensure that information and technology skills are a part of all their classroom activities.

Photo: Clifton’s Computer Lab

October 21, 2007

Release the Hounds

Filed under: Professional Development,Web 2.0 — Donna DesRoches @ 5:03 pm

Yesterday in my small group chat room at this week’s Fireside Chat of the K-12 Online Conference participants enthused and complimented Chris Harbeck on his presentation, Release the Hounds. Needless to say, his session was first on my catch-up list this Sunday morning.

The participants in the chat room were right to be impressed. Chris Harbeck is a middle years math teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba and in his four mini-presentations he outlines four strategies that he uses to engage students in their learning. Scribe posts, growing posts, e-portfolios and unprojects are all very practical ways which effectively use a wide variety of technology tools to teach curriculum content.

I am working with a group of teachers, one from each school as well the teacher-librarians in our school division to look ways that we can more effectively use technology for teaching and learning. On September 25 we had our first day long meeting with a focus on the read/write web, web-based tools and their impact on education. As is natural at a meeting with such a focus teachers were awed and overwhelmed and the feedback reflected this with teachers asking, “Now what? How do I do this in my classroom? What are practical strategies for implementation?”

Chris’ presentations respond to this need in a very practical manner and because he is a math teacher his strategies for using technology in a meaningful way fit very well with our school division’s PLC focus on math.

I particularly like his approach on e-portfolios in which he asks students to teach their parents about a particular concept and in doing so demonstrate their knowledge of subject content and 2.0 applications.

I am doing a workshop on Monday, Easy Peasy Homework Pages, to demonstrate how wikis can be used to create simple homework pages. I will will use Chris’ slideshare presentation and wiki as an example of how such a simple tool can be used for powerful communication and interaction.

October 3, 2007

Professional Development Opportunity

Filed under: Professional Development — Donna DesRoches @ 5:31 pm
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The K-12 Online Conference is an incredible opportunity for educators to extend their knowledge and understanding of how current technology is impacting teaching and learning.


Fusion Finds describes the conference…

Breaking free of traditional conferences, the upcoming K-12 Online Conference: Playing with Boundaries (October 15-19th & October 22-26th) provides educators with an engaging, ongoing learning experience without time constraints. The K12 Online Conference is a unique professional development opportunity for teachers to engage with ideas and technologies that are having a real impact on 21st century classrooms.

The entire conference will be delivered as downloadable digital media via the Internet with over 40 sessions presented in four strands: Classroom 2.0, New Tools, Professional Learning Networks, and Obstacles to Opportunities. The conference launches with a keynote address on October 8th from respected blogger and author David Warlick and concludes with a global 24 hour live event, As Night Falls.

The conference is divided into four strands.

Strand A: Classroom 2.0
Leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and transparent atmosphere characterises teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Strand B: New Tools
Focusing on free tools, what are the “nuts and bolts” of using specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning?

Strand A: Professional Learning Networks
Using Web 2.0 tools educators can network with others around the globe extending traditional boundaries of ongoing, learner centered professional development and support.

Strand B: Obstacles to Opportunities
Boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age” shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their classroom practice. [more…]

Keynote information and the conference schedule and sessions descriptions can be found at the conference site.

Post the flyer on your staffroom bullet board.

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