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 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.

June 21, 2008

My wordle…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 10:26 pm

May 30, 2008

The potential folly of laptop programs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 9:51 pm

Next year our school division plans to implement a laptop program – nowhere near a 1:1 but we are putting a 15 – 20 set of laptops in each school in the division that wishes to participate in the program. I must admit that I approach this project with some trepidation. Are our teachers ready? Will the laptops be used for authentic, meaningful learning or will they simply be used to do old things in new ways? Have we provided opportunities for professional development that will ensure the technology is used to meet our students’ 21st Century learning needs?

Clay Burrell’s post, An Old Prophecy Confirmed? On the Uses and Abuses of Laptop Learning echoed some of my concerns as he quoted from a student post that speaks to the ‘coolness’ factor of their school’s 1:1 laptop program.

I’ve had too many teachers assign us to “make an iMovie” for this and that. I had to make an iMovie for my World Geography class and Asian Studies class. I was surprised when even my Spanish teacher told me to make an iMovie. It is obvious [our school] is trying too hard…to look cool.

The student goes on to describe a class where he feels the laptop has been used for real learning:

We use our MacBooks to interact with people from all over the world, and learn how to write for [a] true audience. Not just that, we learn how to accomplish stuff through networking and meeting new cool people.

While the MacBooks in the Writing Seminar classroom are shining, the other MacBooks in other classrooms are crying. They say, “what the hell am I doing here?”

Clay’s final comments on his student’s post are well worth keeping in mind as we begin our foray into student laptop computing:

Younsuk’s mention that Macbooks help learning by allowing students to connect and network with the world is something no teacher or administrator is going to understand without doing it. It’s 20th century education with a shiny bell and whistle otherwise. Just a new way to turn in homework. The immigrants in power will think it’s cutting edge, but the students will think otherwise.

It is so important that teachers understand that student use of laptops is about connecting, communicating, collaborating and creating. And yes, I do believe that in our school division we are moving in such a direction.

We are definitely more ready than we would have been a year ago for this student laptop initiative. I work with an excellent team of teachers who go way beyond providing ‘sit and get’ professional development for their teachers – hands-on, one-to-one, just-in-time, mentoring, and meaningful staff collaboration and other forms of ‘differentiated instruction’ will help our teachers ensure that we just don’t look cool but are providing meaningful learning opportunities for their students.

Photo –

March 28, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 2:27 am

Somehow I came across the great clipart site, WP Clipart, which I have found incredibly useful. As it states on the frontpicture-4.png page,

WPClipart is a collection of high-quality public domain images specifically tailored for use in word processors and optimized for printing on home/small office inkjet printers. There are thousands of color graphic clips as well as illustrations, photographs and black and white line art.

Except for a few “fair use” items — namely company logos (like the company name on a credit card) or recognizable products (like a particular model cell phone) — all the rest of the images are Public Domain.

There are many, many images in nicely categorized directories which are easily searched from a search box on each page.

A Conversation with Alec Couros

Filed under: Uncategorized — Donna DesRoches @ 1:15 am

hpim0207.jpgI am back at work now after a three month educational leave to complete my Master’s project. The first day back was a full day workshop with the Learning and Technology committee members. Our day focused on teaching for information literacy and ended with a presentation from Dr. Alec Couros of the University of Regina on digital citizenship and online safety. The presentation was greatly appreciated by the teachers as one of the expectations of this committee is to do a workshop with their staff on digital citizenship. Alec also spoke to students from NBCHS and Maymont and to the Admin Council. The presentations were well received with several requests to have Alec return to the Battlefords again.

Next Page »

Blog at