Beyond Classroom Tech Tips…

January 8, 2009

Inspired Picture Writing

Filed under: Writing — Donna DesRoches @ 2:35 pm

Inspired picture writing at PicLits.

Remember those poetry fridge magnets? Now try it online with pictures – what a great way to to inspire the creative writing process!

I love this site and could spend hours playing with words and images – creating combinations that reflect my thoughts and emotions.

You can drag and drop the images and the words or you can go ‘freestyle’ and add your own text.

Images can be saved and easily embedded into a blog or facebook. Give a try – get the creative juices flowing!


January 7, 2009

Global Interconnectedness & Web Evaluation

Filed under: Information Literacy — Donna DesRoches @ 10:41 pm

It still amazes me at how emerging technologies can so easily facilitate connection and communication. Yesterday I was browsing my network’s bookmarks in Delicious and came across a bookmark made by Judy O’Connell in Australia to a post by Mike Romard at the Shanghai American School. I really liked the two lessons on web evaluation that he had created for his grade three students and passed the link along to teachers in my school division via Yammer. I immediately received a message back that the link was no longer working. Mike is part of my Twitter network so I sent a DM about the link – he immediately DM’d me and gave me another link which I was able to pass along to the teacher via Yammer. From Shanghai to North Battleford in minutes – wow!

flyingpenquin1Mike’s lessons “for 3rd grade students on the benefits and pitfalls of the World (Wild) Web” provide teachers with a very engaging way to teach lower elementary students about why they need to think critically about what they find on the web. He uses a variety of video sources that illustrate the points that he wants to make as well as links to his favourite answers to the questions he poses his students. He also includes what he would say to the students for each section of the lesson – very cool – very useful – very creative! Give it a look.

Flying Penguins from

January 6, 2009

Sharing Resources

Filed under: Resources,Social bookmarking — Donna DesRoches @ 11:57 pm
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Even though I have been a curriculum consultant for two years now I still have the teacher-librarian’s love of connecting teachers and resources. Although I find it a bit more difficult at the division level to really make connections for people I have found that by using a couple of online tools, Delicious and Yammer, I am able to ‘spread the word’ about the many wonderful resources that I come across via Twitter, my Delicious network and my Bloglines account.

DeliciousDelicious is my favourite web 2.0 tool because it not only allows me to collect and organize resources but it also allows me to annotate them. And when I do so I am thinking in the back of mind about the teachers who might be using the resources and how they might find them useful within their teaching context. I can also let individuals within my Delicious network know about a resource that might meet their specific needs. My wish would be that every teacher in our division would bookmark my Delicious link. Yes, yes, it would be much better if they subscribed to or joined my network – but to even occasionally open the bookmark would allow them to quickly and easily find great resources.

Last fall a member of our iSITS committee (in-school instructionalYammer technology support) started a Living Sky School Division Yammer account and several members of the committee have begun to use it share new resources and to ask for and to provide support for each other. (Yammer is much like Twitter but the participants are limited to those with a specific institutional e-mail address) It has become a very useful communication tool and I often will post links to key resources that I think that teachers might find useful.

There are others tools that I know will also be useful in disseminating information about resources to teachers and over the next few weeks I plan to experiment with start pages to create constantly updated lists of resources in as many subject areas as possible. I will keep you posted with regards to the success of my efforts.

A Photo A Day

Filed under: digital photography — Donna DesRoches @ 2:46 am

Last year I subscribed to and viewed often the 366photo group and wondered if I could possibly manage a photo a day myself. Spurred on by the commitment of those in the group I thought why not start a group and invite friends and colleagues to participate. I did consider joining the larger group – which this year has become very large – but decided I wanted a bit more of personal touch and to at least begin this experience with those that I know.

I have managed five days so far and already I can see that it will be difficult to manage a photo a day – but I am keeping my eyes open and maybe beginning to look at the world in a new way. I hope to that over the course of the year I will become better acquainted with my camera and begin to play with a photo editing program. I am delighted that others have begun to post – some of my friends and colleagues are very talented – but even more important is that this can be another way of building community; of sharing our knowledge,  our expertise and even a little of ourselves.

Stop by and see our photos on flickr.

January 3, 2009

A Day of Learning

Filed under: Professional Learning — Donna DesRoches @ 2:27 am
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Today was a great way to begin the New Year. I began by listening to Darren Kurpatwa and the convenors of the 2008 K-12 Online Conference and by participating in the backchannel on Chatterous. I found the conversations enthralling as we talked about 21st c. learning, teaching and the hurdles that many impassioned educators are facing.

My most favourite moment of the broadcast was listening to Darren speak about how math is about patterns and how important it is to teach students how to recognize patterns. I have heard Darren speak a few times now and have always been impressed by his enthusiasm and his energy but in this moment in the interview I really heard the passion with which he approaches teaching and especially teaching math

Neil Winton has provided an excellent summary of the interview and the chat.

Following Darren’s interview I logged into Elluminate to participate in a discussion facilitated by Will Richardson on 21st C literacies. Wow! Did the discussion fly! At times it seemed disjointed and it felt like we were going in circles as we struggled with defining literacies and differentiating them from skills. I am in the midst of reading the transcript of the chat and look forward to listening again to the discussion when the audio is posted.

I managed to clean my house and make an occasional post to the chats as I prepared for afternoon coffee and a face-to-face chat with my office mates – who are also curriculum consultants. As great as virtual opportunities are there is nothing like being in the company of good friends and professional colleagues.

January 1, 2009

7 things meme

Filed under: Personal — Donna DesRoches @ 8:03 pm

Many thanks to Rick Schwier who invited me to participate in the 7 things meme. It spurred me on to writing my first blog post of 2009. Below are the ‘7 things you probably don’t know about me’.

  1. When I was seven our house burned to the ground and my family lost everything. We were squatting on Royal land at Mile 923.3 on the Alaska Highway where my father had built a home. The oil tank that heated our home caught fire 11 days after Christmas and slowly grew into a blaze that destroyed everything. None of my family was harmed and the Whitehorse community looked after us very well. I remember being happy that I did not have to go to school because I did not have uniform
  2. I learned about the power of community and belonging when I played the flute in my high school band. I was not very good but I practiced diligently and managed to become first flautist. We worshiped our band teacher and under his leadership solidified into a strong community that extended beyond the band room. I loved high school and it was primarily because of the community that he created.
  3. I started my teaching career in a ‘alternate’ school in Lethbridge where everyone was called by their first name. Even now, 30 years later, I feel uncomfortable when students call me Ms. DesRoches. Today in the more traditional school setting when I give students the option to call me Donna or Ms. DesRoches they prefer Ms. DesRoches.
  4. I learned the difference between charity and development when I spent eight months as a volunteer in Cochabamba, Bolivia working with street children. I learned that it is very hard even for a knowledgeable volunteer to put aside beliefs and passions and let the people tell you what they need and to simply carry it out. I brought my love of books with me and spent a great deal of money buying books for the children and the school that I worked in. I never once consulted with others about what the real needs might be. The children loved the books but I still wonder if the money could have been better used elsewhere.
  5. I am a strong supporter of Save the Children Canada. I began as a branch volunteer planning fund raising and awareness activities, was elected to the board, and eventually became Chair. During my time on the Board I visited our projects in India and Ethiopia. While in Ethiopia I opened a food relief outlet in the highland community of Ajbar. Even though I am no longer on the board or involved in branch activities Save the Children remains my charity of choice.
  6. I have met both Stephen Lewis and Romeo Dalliare. In my role as the Board Chair of Save the Children Canada I presented our annual award to Stephen Lewis and at the same gala sat at the head table with Romeo Dallaire who was the guest speaker. Wow! A night to remember!
  7. I collect dragons. Early in my career at NBCHS I acquired the nickname ‘dragon-lady’ and as a joke a co-worker presented me with a dragon that remains on my desk today. Since then I have acquired many dragons both European and Asian. I love the symbolism each represents – in the European dragon, the fears that we must slay before we can move forward and in the Asian dragon, wisdom, knowledge and immortality. My most recent dragon is a beautiful jade carving that my sister brought back from China.


Eldon Germann
Morag Riddel
Gary Ball
Pat Cone

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

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 –

May 9, 2008

Blogging and Reading Comprehension Strategies

Filed under: blogging — Donna DesRoches @ 9:10 pm
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In a WizIQ seminar a conversation about blog comments recently took place with several teachers in my school division and Kelly Christopherson. Teachers said comments that indicated an understanding of their key ideas, provided a quality critique, or shared a similar learning or action extended their own understanding and learning.

Many students within our school division are now blogging as part of their daily classroom activities. As teachers have become more comfortable with the online writing format they want to extend the audience and the conversations for their students first by encouraging them to comment on classmates’ writing and then by finding other classrooms that their students can connect, write and share their learning.

While they recognize the value that commenting brings to the blogging process many teachers struggle to explain and teach students how to make meaningful comments on others’ writing.

An ahah moment occurred one day when I was working in a teacher’s classroom and saw a number of posters on Reading Comprehension Strategies on her wall. I then had a conversation with the Language and Literacy Consultant who also became quite excited at how reading and commenting on the blog posts of their peers could enhance student utilization of the reading comprehension strategies. She suggested that teachers could help primary and early bloggers use the reading comprehension strategies by choosing one strategy and having the whole class use that strategy to comment on their classmates’ posts.

Having students use the reading comprehension strategies to comment helps them to avoid words like nice, good and interesting in their comments.

Students, especially primary and students new to blogging can use sentence frames to…

Make Connections – e.g. after reading a blog about a puppy students use a sentence starter “this reminds me of when my puppy did….”

Question – asking questions that use starters such as, “I didn’t understand this…” “I wonder what…”

Other reading comprehension strategies can be used to respond to student blog posts:

Visualization – if an entry supports visualization – have the student draw a picture and then describe it.

Infer – (for older students) – look for inferences that the writer makes – e.g. if the blogger writes with passion – comment on the evidence that allows them to make the inference or “I see that you have lots of knowledge about this topic” and again provide the evidence.

Synthesize – paraphrase – transfer the statement from the blog into their world – “what you said makes me think about this idea in my world – how this applies to me”.

Blogging is a great communication tool but it is the use of effective commenting skills that will extend and engage global conversations for our students.

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