Monday, May 21, 2018

Hands-On Fun! Festival of Trees and STEAM Family Night

Thank you Doug Peterson for mentioning last week's blog post about the STEAM Family Night preparations in his post from his regular column, "This Week in Ontario Edublogs". His last sentence made it almost a prerequisite to center today's blog post on the results of STEAM Family Night.

I’m looking forward to reading her post next week when she reflects and sums up the activities.
The thing is, STEAM Family Night was only one of many activities from the past week! On Monday, we had our school's Track and Field qualifying day. On Tuesday, it was the Red Maple Festival of Trees. On Wednesday, it was the Silver Birch Festival of Trees. On Thursday, we had the STEAM Family Night. Friday was a "quiet day" as it was *only* Pizza Lunch.

What commonality did all these events have? How can I tie them together in one blog post? I think the answer is involvement or being hands-on. I'll summarize and reflect in reverse order. In the tradition of the "star and wish" method of reflection, I'll put a star ⭐near the things that went well, and a wish ⛅near the things that can be improved.

STEAM Family Night Organization Team

STEAM Family Night

Everyone was absolutely delighted with how this inaugural event unfolded! There were a few little uncertain moments leading up to the launch - some of the teachers who were not on the core team but volunteering on the actual night weren't really instructed on the nitty-gritty of the station they'd be monitoring ⛅, and we were worried that one of our key vendors would not show up. ⛅ However, everything worked out extremely well.

We had a short introduction in the gym, with brief but lively performances ⭐by the junior and senior band. Our vendors were in the gym where everything began and that was good for people to browse and shop around before the mini-performance. ⭐ Another clever move was to have the spoken remarks kept to a minimum and translated immediately after. ⭐ The crowd quieted down a bit when the explanation of the night was spoken in Chinese. Thank you Elmwood Electronics, Ellaminnow, and Logics Academy for being in our vendor hall, and especially to our two student-led pop-up stores, Coco Bombs and Caffinedles Candles. We also had student work displays in the gym and accessible via QR Codes. ⭐I was sorry that the crowds weren't as intense in the gym post-introduction, as everyone hurried to participate at the stations, ⛅but we'll figure this out in the future. Next time, we'll also arrange for some dual language books to be available ⛅ (thanks Ellaminnow for trying to accommodate us.)

The stations were located in different areas around the school ⭐ and supported with volunteer staff members and intermediate students. ⭐ The signage explained the station. ⭐

Last week's blog post elaborated on the straws and connectors task. This was in the library and the teachers stationed there loved how involved the adults were with the task. ⭐We loved taking pictures of the parents getting down on the ground, helping to measure and build these various structures.

I was located at the Squishy Circuit area in the lunchroom and it was also a big hit. I was concerned about how well this would work, because it took me three days of trying ⛅to make the bulbs light up. Melanie Mulcaster from Peel provided long-distance aid, but it was Mr. Tong who solved the problem - the wires hadn't been stripped enough. Once again, my heart just burst with joy when I saw how, with just a tiny bit of encouragement, the adults were working alongside their children and grandchildren to make things work. ⭐ It was so rewarding to hear the gasps and shouts of glee when the light illuminated. We had challenge cards and I like how some students invented their own challenges! ⭐

Also in the lunchroom, at the other end, was the "make your own birdhouse / bird feeder" station. This was very popular ⭐and we'll have to brainstorm how to distribute the crowds a bit more ⛅ if we do this again in the future.

Upstairs in the computer lab, there was "unplugged coding" as well as traditional coding with Scratch. The Pokemon theme really enticed participants. ⭐ I really admire how the supervisors at this station, both students and staff, ensured that older family members got involved. ⭐All these tasks were accessible to learners and explorers of all ages, so families could go from station to station as a group instead of splitting up. ⭐

Also upstairs, in the staff room, was the green screen station. Big thanks to our principal for allowing us to purchase a small photo printer so families could have a tangible souvenir of the event. ⭐The line up extended out the hall ⛅ but the people managing this station worked quickly and made e-mail delivery of the photos an option. ⭐

Downstairs in the primary hallway, Dash robots were being manipulated. Big thanks to Remy from Logics Academy for supporting this station with his presence. ⭐

We had some fantastic prizes and we did the draw the next day at school.

The organization team hasn't met yet to debrief, but I think we were very pleased with the results. The language barrier is a big obstacle for holding school-wide events at our school, but due to the excellent translations for signs, ⭐ spoken directions, ⭐ and roaming student translators  ⭐(thank you Ms. Lung, Ms. Shi, and students!) as well as the hands-on aspect of the night, we overcame it. Families love taking photos, which can become almost oppressive in a concert-like scenario as parents rush the stage like paparazzi, but with these activities, it was welcomed and encouraged. ⭐ We even had a Twitter / Instagram hashtag contest for the most shares. One little misstep at the end of the night was that our flyers said #amsteam18 and our t-shirts and program said #amsteam2018. ⛅Thankfully, people used both hashtags. The best part for me was seeing the family members working together, as a team, on tasks. ⭐

Festival of Trees

Last year, I didn't go to the Festival of Trees - I arranged the trip and sent others in my place. This year, I made it a point to go, although I didn't see that much of the Festival. ⛅Why? I was working at the Forest of Reading Research station. I'm collecting data for a study of the Impact of Readers Choice Award programs. I needed to be there to supervise the station. Did I regret it? Not at all. Being directly involved with this important project meant that I had a vital part to play. ⭐Here are a few of the photos I took of students filling out surveys (and getting lollipops as a thank-you) and posing with some awesome volunteers.

I noticed that those students who also were more heavily involved with the mechanics of the Festival enjoyed it more, despite the demands on their time. I had seven students who were on stage either as sign carriers, speech presenters, or results announcers. They were excited to be part of the action. Driving the students that were scheduled to present at the non-fiction Silver Birch ceremony in my car saved me a lot of headaches ⭐ - by not relying on the bus, we made it on time. (The buses are better for us than TTC but can take a long time to travel.) I saw some teachers and students from my school throughout the two days, and they seemed to have fun. This trip can be stressful to adult supervisors who have to keep an eye on their charges but for whatever reasons (well-behaved students? decent adult-student ratios? solid organization and pre-planning?) even the staff members and parents with primary-aged children from my school did not seem frantic. ⭐ The junior and intermediate teachers in attendance from my school were pleased that their students (mostly) demonstrated responsibility by arriving at check-in points on time. ⭐ More than half of my intermediate students skipped the Red Maple awards ceremony to purchase snacks, ⛅but that was their choice and it did not negatively impact the day.

Track and Field

Thank you Ms. Daley, Mrs. Commisso, and Ms. Keberer for organizing a wonderful Track and Field Day at our school. 

I could write an entire blog post just on track and field. For some students, this is the best day of the year. This is a chance for them to shine, for their abilities to be prioritized and celebrated. For other students, this is a day they dread. Some actually even skip school to avoid participating. Then there are the tears and meltdowns as students struggle with competition and not getting what they want. Thank you to all the staff members, especially Mrs. Paterson, for being there for the students and patiently helping those who were dis-regulated to try and calm down. 

Even though I didn't have fond memories of track and field from when I was a child (as I wasn't very athletic at all), I think it is a hands-on (or feet-on?) method of getting active. Maybe next year, I can get more involved with mentally preparing students for the possible disappointments this day might bring and re-framing their thoughts to focus on personal bests instead of ribbons (although everyone gets a ribbon of some sort at the end). Maybe we can talk with students who were unhappy with the day to let them offer choices (that don't necessarily involve them completely opting out) so that it can be a good day for even more students.

What's Next?

Stay tuned for the Silver Birch Quiz Bowl, Red Maple Marketing Campaign, CHFI/KISS.FM radio trip, Media AQ Reunion, and ETFO ICT for Women Conference, all in the next two weeks!

Monday, May 14, 2018

STEAM Team Evolution

My default answer to questions of how I am is pretty consistent this month: tired. With five trips planned in the next two and a half weeks, plus the yearbook deadline looming and other school-wide events, it feels very busy and my energy is lagging.

I've had to get a bit creative in arranging prep coverage for my days away. I took some unused partnering periods to provide some advanced prep pay back for one of our kindergarten classes. They received a double block of time. What could I do with the class that would be useful and productive?

One of the most popular items in my school library maker space are straws and connectors. Students love to build things, but most of the time, due to space restrictions and the large amount of mess it makes, I usually ask that structures get dismantled after the time is up. I'd been making a few exceptions lately, such as when another kindergarten class asked if they could keep their "library" up to play in the next day they were scheduled to visit. This led to a bit of class jealousy ("Why do THEY get to keep their building up?") as well as some class inspiration ("Can WE do that TOO?")

Since straws and connectors were going to be one of the stations available at our school's upcoming STEAM Family Night, we thought that it would be good to expose our youngest students a bit more to the possibilities. Another structure was already erect and so this class decided to try and make a building that was larger than the one that was currently standing.

This is the original structure that inspired the Ks

We took three and a half periods to work on this project, and the ECE and I really noticed a evolution in the students' collaboration skills, problem solving, and communication. At first, the students were very self-centered. They went off by themselves or in pairs to do their making. One made a door but had nowhere to attach it. Another built part of the roof, but had nothing to stick it on top of to use it. The students started to connect their builds only once Mrs. Isidro and I encouraged them to join forces. They still didn't quite have a "big picture" yet, as they connected the straws up and somewhat willy-nilly. By the end of the first period of work, the structure fell down.

Mrs. Isidro and I wanted the students to do the thinking and building. Our role was to redirect and amplify student ideas. The second period was the same day in the afternoon. The students were keen to try again. One of the adults commented on how a cube built by a student seemed to be stronger and then the enthusiasm in the room increased and the language changed. One of them said, "It's more stable. We need a wider base." Then we started to see small groups making cubes and then adding those cubes to create a wall. We saw counting as students examined how long their structure was growing, compared to the one made by another group.

The finished project!

The third period was almost magical. The students could see the progress and they started to take on different roles. Some students decided that they needed to be the "fixers", and so they examined the structure to find where straws had come loose from the connectors and put them back together. This was a really important role, as it maintained the structural integrity of the bottom of the building. Others chose to make the structure taller, and then they had to brainstorm what to do when the structure rose above their heads. "We need a step stool!", someone yelled. Since there were no step stools to be found in the library, they used chairs to stand on. Still other students took it upon themselves to pass the builders more straws or more connectors, so they didn't have to get off their chairs. We started to run out of straws, so I cracked open another set of straws and connectors. This building used two and a half boxes of straws to complete. 

Then there was the matter of the roof. Should we put a roof on? Will it fall in? How will we do it? In the end, we decided to leave it open, with a "sky light".

The pride in their accomplishment was evident. One little JK girl kept saying, over and over, with glee in her voice, "It's not broken!" We spent part of our last period together choosing which teachers we wanted to show the building to, and fetching them. My job was to watch the other teacher's class so the guest could go to the library to view the impressive build. It was 7 cubes across and 6 cubes high. The teachers they brought in were suitably impressed. They were able to enter the door (a big improvement over the 2 cube wide, 2 cube high door the boy working on his own two days prior had developed) and stand inside the building. 

All good things come to an end. I had to be pretty sensitive about taking it down. Instead of involving the whole class, Thess and I chose a few students to come to the library before school ended on Friday to dismantle it. As I apologized for having to remove the structure, one of the SKs said, "That's okay. We can always rebuild it. And we can make it even bigger!"

I hope this will encourage and inspire our students to come to our first ever school Family STEAM Night. It's being held on May 17, 2018 from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. This event would not have been possible without our "STEAM Dream Team" of planners: Farah Wadia, Tina Voltsinis, Jennifer Balido-Cadavez, Hager Awara, Diana Hong, Ashley Clarke, and myself. We really worked well together. There will be stations that explore straws and connectors, squishy circuits, green screen technology, unplugged coding along with Scratch, Dash robots, and bird feeder construction with recycled materials. The bands will play, Mr. Roberts' Girls in STEM group will sell bath bombs and candles, and vendors like Elmwood Electronics and Ellaminnow will be there. It looks like it will be a lot of fun. Check the #amsteam18 hashtag on Twitter as well as the @agnesmacphailps Twitter account for photos of the event. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Fearful but I Finished! #MADPD and Hemming

A lot of my learning this week happened during the weekend. On Sunday, I participated in #MADPD - where educators share what "Makes A Difference" in their classrooms and schools.

I mentioned in a previous blog post,, that this would be a departure from my regular presentation mode. When I've done webinars in the past for OTF (the Ontario Teachers Federation) or TVO (Teach Ontario), I've had others standing ready in the background to make it a smooth experience. Even though #MADPD is not affiliated with an official organization, there were many emails with technical tips and reminders in preparation for "D-Day" (or is that "PD-Day"?). I touched base with Jennifer Casa-Todd via Twitter DM for any last-minute suggestions, checked that the tech was ready to roll, and even made sure the basement background, my hair, makeup, and nails were just right. I took this photo a few minutes before I was scheduled to start.

When it was time for me to present at noon, I could not locate the "start broadcast" button on my channel page. Yikes! Thankfully, Jennifer was still in touch and I could see her messages on my cell phone next to me. I started a new live broadcast and delivered the presentation, only a few minutes behind schedule. I even had two live viewers during the actual broadcast: Stephen Hurley from VoicEd Radio, and my daughter Mary (who was checking to make sure everything went well). I was so grateful for Jennifer's advice and heads-up - it meant I was aware of the lag in sound and to monitor the YouTube chat link. Here's a copy of the archived #MADPD session I did

After it was done, my teeth ached! I think it was because my jaw was clenched with tension. I was really nervous, and frankly, a little frightened that it would bomb spectacularly. It didn't, and it wouldn't have been the end of the world if it did, but I'm relieved that it worked. After all, Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley talk almost fondly of the time they tried to do a broadcast of VoicEd Radio live at the Bring IT Together conference, and the recording failed - they call it the "lost recording". It was nice to have a live audience for our #MADPD talks, but Carol Salva, a #MADPD participant from this year and last year, told us:

OK!  So *IF* you have tech issues and your session does not work out, NO STRESS!  We have had a few like that and I am speaking from experience here.  Do what I did last year.  Keep trouble shooting and then if all else fails you can always re-record your session on  your own.  Give Derek/Peter the new watch link & also Jennifer for the Master schedule.  
That way, your updated/fixed video will be viewable in replay.  Today is exciting but really, most of the views happen in replay over time.  I had 2 live viewers last year but over 100 in replay.
We don't always talk about how trying new things in education can actually be a bit scary. (The original title for this blog post was Scared but Successful - but I already used the word success in last week's post!) The day before, I finished a project that I was really terrified that I'd mess up. I've been taking sewing lessons and my latest task was to hem my daughter's prom dress. My daughter bought her own dress with money she saved, and although it was not ridiculously expensive, it was costly enough that I did not want to make a huge mistake that would involve buying another one to replace the dress if I damaged it beyond repair. Last week, my sewing instructor showed me how to get the proper length, pin it, iron it to show the new goal length, chalk an inch for the inside hem, and then cut it. I was so scared to take a scissors to the dress, but I did. This week, I stitched the cut ends so it wouldn't fray, folded it and sewed the hem. It worked!

I think it's important to try things that aren't guaranteed to work, and that actually might fill you with trepidation. It definitely makes me more empathetic to students when they have to try new things. On Friday, May 4, I escorted our First Lego League Junior team to their event. I think they were nervous about speaking to the project reviewers, but like me and my projects, they survived and thrived!

So here's to trying things that make you anxious and here's to friends and supporters (Jennifer, Derek, Peter, my sewing teacher Natalie and classmates Mumtaz, Marcia, Angelina) who make attempting these things a little less frightening.

Monday, April 30, 2018

What qualifies as success? Measuring musicals, reviewing reading

Last week, our big production experiment came to fruition. Usually, our school holds a Winter Concert and a Spring Concert, where we showcase different classes in their own performances. This year, our music teacher, Wing-Chee Lee, felt that we were ready for something new; a school musical. Everything would be connected and interrelated. For it to work, we needed an even greater commitment by the staff and students, and to paraphrase a quote from Peter Pan, "faith, trust and pixie dust".

I know how intense it is to put on a school musical. Even though I have very few memories of my own time in elementary school, I do recall being actively involved in our school operettas. I was Tinker Bell in Peter Pan, Puss in Puss 'n Boots, and Pinocchio in the play of the same name. Practices and rehearsals were just part of the huge effort behind the production.

Diana as Pinocchio, circa 1983

My role in 2018 with our musical involved photography, creating costumes and makeup for many of the main stage performers and helping the drama club with their mime. Mme Awara also designed costumes, worked with the drama club, and organized the prop and set design club. Additionally, Ms. Clarke and Mr. Roberts (our videographer) made sets too, with and without students. Ms. Wadia was the stage manager, an often thankless, behind-the-scenes job; she and her crew fetched classes so they would appear at the right time quickly and quietly. She and Ms. Daley coordinated the Student Council Me to We bake sale that happened before and after the musical. Ms. Daley also rehearsed with the drama club. So did Mrs. Commisso, who helped make things run smoothly backstage and helped train the Recorder Club. Ms. Lee (and her partner, Mr. McCartney) wrote the play from scratch and composed all the music and songs used. She choreographed the moves by the class groups and with a small team of student helpers, built their props.

I'd say that the musical was a resounding success. The gym was packed and everyone we spoke to afterwards had positive things to say about the event. An endeavor of this scale is always a big nerve-wracking. Somehow, it all came together. The makeup looked better than it did the first time we attempted it. The treats were all sold to eager audience members. I can hardly wait to examine all the photos taken so we can select a few to include in the yearbook.

The very next day, it was Voting Day at our school for the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading. I tweeted out this photo of our first experiment with an online voting booth / polling station.

Was this an indication of success, or just that I just had a single computer up? Then I looked at my numbers - specifically the ratio between the number of participants that initially signed up and the number of readers that qualified to vote. Last year, I wasn't pleased with my statistics. This year, my Red Maple numbers reached a record high - 95% of the participants who expressed interest initially actually qualified. This is directly related to the efforts of the classroom teachers AND the regulation that students had to qualify to vote to go to the Festival of Trees. My other numbers, which you can see here from past years, were higher for fiction compared to 2015-16, and lower for non-fiction and express when contrasted with that same year. Does that mean my Forest of Reading program was partly a success?

Numbers can be deceiving. As I lamented the low percentages, my colleague Renee Keberer (and beyond-board friend Lisa Noble) gave me a metaphorical kick in the butt - she asked me if I should be sad that not as many qualified, or happy that more students decided to try. Was I so hung up on the quantitative data that I was missing some of the excellent qualitative data? What about that Grade 7 that used to be a uninspired reader, who became so enamoured of the options that he loaned his public library copies out to classmates so they could qualify, and whose passport tribute led to his selection as the sign carrier for the 2018 Red Maple Festival of Trees?

Forgive the calls to a higher being, but the student was impressed

What about the Grade 2s and 3s in Room 117 that accepted the challenge even when it wasn't expected of them? What about the students in Room 112, 111 and 113 that worked together to ensure that 50% of their class qualified, thereby giving their class teachers a spot on the Festival of Trees trip? What about D, who told me that he's been at our school since Grade 4 and that THIS was the first year he actually managed to qualify?

So the 2018 Forest of Reading WAS a success at my school. I just needed to reframe, and not get hung up on the numbers. (I can't help it - I'm a data nerd. I kept track of the number of chats I conducted from January to April, and guess how many I did? 320! I know I missed writing some down, but I had 95 in January, 114 in February, 45 in March, and 66 in April.)

I think it's a good idea that I'll be presenting with Kerri Commisso at an upcoming Symposium May 11 for TDSB Learning Coaches with the theme "Measuring What Matters Across the Curriculum". Kerri is an excellent educator and during our most recent collaboration, she did a wonderful job of reminding me that there are different ways to assess success and it isn't always numerical.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Learning to Let Go

My friend Lisa Noble has a knack of sensing when I need to hear a message before I even realize it. She posted this on Twitter on April 20 and tagged me.

Sometimes, teacher friends will talk to me about things, and there's an urge to try and "do something" to help out, to rectify or correct situations that we as individuals may see as "not right". Is that always the proper response? I decided to do some research before I offered advice (unsolicited and/or requested).

I contacted the Ontario College of Teachers, and their professional library is in the process of sending some books they thought might be useful. I also contacted the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

The more time I spend with people from my teachers' union, the more I appreciate what they have to offer. I spoke with someone at ETFO, who is a professional relations counsellor and also a teacher. My phone conversation with her was some excellent informal professional learning!

The professional relations counsellor mentioned "18.1.A" and I didn't know what that was. It's part of the document called We The Teachers, published by the Ontario Teachers Federation and it refers to the Duties of a Member to Fellow Members. You can locate the entire document at  It says:

Duties of a Member to Fellow Members
A member shall,
avoid interfering in an unwarranted manner
between other teachers and pupils;
on making an adverse report on another
member, furnish him with a written
statement of the report at the earliest
possible time and not later than three days
after making the report;
notwithstanding section 18 (1) (b), a
member who makes an adverse report
about another member respecting
suspected sexual abuse of a student by
that other member need not provide him
or her with a copy of the report or with any
information about the report. (WB02)

The professional relations counsellor said that, if the conduct or practices of another teacher is not negatively impacting you or the students, then it's not your business to interfere. She showed me a great technique about using yourself as the example when describing a situation, so I'm going to try it here with myself as the person being discussed. For instance, if another teacher saw me, Diana, playing video games with my students on the interactive white board, he or she may think, "Ugh, that is such a waste of instructional time! How irresponsible!" However, that teacher is not obligated to scold me or complain about me, because this is not a case where students are in harm's way.

If a teacher's conduct or practice is such that you feel like it needs to be addressed, then the important consideration is to approach the situation from the role of a concerned fellow teacher who cares about the colleague. If I want to return to the example from above, a teacher might ask to talk to me, Diana, privately, and say something like "I noticed that there was some video game playing in your class for the past few weeks. I am just worried about what the parents might think, if they believe you aren't covering the curriculum." The conversation is not accusatory or judgemental. It's meant to show that you are looking out for your colleague's best interests and hopefully will avoid anyone getting defensive. It also gives the teacher in question an opportunity to explain the reason for their actions if they choose to share it. Another possible scenario: if another teacher heard me screaming at the students in the library, he or she may quietly ask me into the hall and simply say "I heard some yelling. Is there anything I can do to help?"

I really appreciated the ETFO employee's time and I think it was an important reminder that we don't all teach the same way. It's easier to gripe to our friends about Ms. X or Mr. Y down the hall, but if our concerns are genuine, assume positive intent and have a caring conversation.

Monday, April 16, 2018

#ECOOCamp Reflections - Far From Home, Near to Learning

This past weekend, the big news was the ice storm that hit Ontario. On Saturday, April 14, 2018, I drove to Owen Sound for the first ECOO Camp. Beginning my journey at 6:00 a.m. meant that I didn't have much traffic trouble on the way there and the roads were not yet treacherous. It took a typical 2.5 hours of travel time. Going back was a different story. Despite the fact that I had to shorten my time there due to the weather, I still got a lot out of the experience.

The neat thing was that ECOO partnered with Teach Ontario for this event.
The site can be found at

Confirmation that I was a speaker here!

8:45 a.m. - Opening Keynote by Emily Fitzpatrick

Summary & 3 Key Points
  1. The future is amazing
  2. There are so many cool and exciting things to discover and explore
  3. Technology makes a lot of neat things possible

So What? Now What?

I felt like Emily's talk was supposed to be directed more to the heart than the mind. It was a feel-good way to begin the conference.

9:15 a.m. - Making Space and Time for a Maker Space in your School by Velvet Rollin

Summary and 3 Key Points
  1. Don't just think about it. Do it! (They just launched in November.)
  2. There can be a noticeable reduction in the amount of negative behaviour when students are visiting the makerspace instead of getting in trouble at recess.
  3. You don't have to buy a lot of expensive stuff for your makerspace.

So What? Now What?

I've been "doing makerspaces" in my school library for a while now, so a lot of the information was not new to me. I was quite disappointed that, although their makerspace was in the school library, there were no school library professionals (aka teacher-librarians) there to guide and support it. I can't change the amount of school library staffing there, but at least my presence reminded people about why teacher-librarians can matter.

10:15 a.m. - Making Movies by Diana Maliszewski

Love this photo of my participants snapping a shot of a slide!

Summary and 3 Key Points
  1. Making movies hits a lot of curriculum expectations as well as learning skills / global competencies.
  2. Students care about YouTube (and so do many of us) and sharing there is cool - just remember to consider privacy / media release forms / copyright and user permission levels (visual and audio).
  3. Green screen is fun because you can use any person or character with any background - just don't dress someone in green unless you want their body to be invisible!

So What? Now What?

Next time, I should put my contact information and YouTube account name on the first slide or on the bottom of all the slides, so that people don't have to ask or wait to get that data. I'm glad that we had time to tinker with the mini-green screen set-up because that was the point where I believe that people became the most excited. I was relieved that the information I shared with satisfactory to elementary and secondary teachers because there were quite a few high school representatives in the audience. (Either that, or they were too polite to say that the material was irrelevant to them!)

11:15 a.m. - There is no shushing in this library! by Julie Reay / The A-Z of Online Tools by Jen Apgar and Emily Fitzpatrick

Summary and 3 Key Points
  1. There are a lot of free tools you can use to engage your students.
  2. There are a lot of tips you can employ to make your job easier (I'm thinking the random group generator in one of the examples I forgot to write down - Flippity, maybe?)
  3. Be willing to "just try stuff", like Jen and Emily did with this presentation (wing it!) because you never know when even ninjas like Emily will learn something new.

So What? Now What?

I learned quite a few handy little tidbits from this talk that I wasn't expecting to - I had originally hoped to hear from the originally scheduled speaker but the ice storm kept her away. I also tended to stay away from the brand-name strands (ECOO Camp had a Microsoft strand, a Google strand, a pedagogy strand, and administrator strand) but maybe I should not have done so, since this was Google-focused but was still productive. I also used Twitter to take notes during this session, which was both good and bad; good for sharing, bad for occasionally missing stuff as I grabbed a photo to go along with the perfectly worded tweet.

12:15 p.m. - Lunch

Thank you cafeteria staff and Nadine Osborne! I had a quick lunch, chatted with Nadine (who teaches the ETFO Kindergarten AQ course and is a long-time friend of my beloved Lisa Noble), and then packed up with extra bowls of soup for the yucky drive home. There were so many kind people who offered me places to stay (in their hotel rooms, at their houses, or with relatives nearby) but I'm glad I spent the 4 hours slowly driving back. I'm sorry I missed Derek Tangredi's closing keynote - the tweets I saw indicated that it was a good one. I would not have applied to present at this conference had it not been for Doug Peterson, current president of ECOO and connector extraordinaire. Thanks Doug and the entire team for a great conference.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Go Together

It's so much better when you go together!

This is true whether it relates to exercise or professional learning. I have examples from this week to prove both types.

A) Go Together to Exercise

I took a four-month hiatus from my Cross Fit exercise classes so that I could focus on my sewing lessons. I thought I'd have to choose between returning to Cross Fit and continuing sewing class (which I was inclined to do because I was finally seeing progress) but I decided to try and do both, since they are on different days. Returning to Cross Fit would have been excruciatingly difficult had it not been for my new exercise buddy - my husband James.

James' shoes on the left, mine on the right - brand new for class!

No lies - the break away from this sort of physical activity was too long and I was super-sore after the first class on Easter Monday. The benefit was that I wasn't the only one in the household with aching muscles. James hurt in different places (his triceps vs my quadriceps) but we both felt like we accomplished something together. James says he's taking the classes with me "to become more fit and to encourage you [Diana, aka me] so you [Diana, aka I] don't slack off". I appreciate this level of accountability. There were only a few classes in the fall that I skipped just because I didn't feel up to exerting myself. I suspect that now there will be even fewer missed sessions.

The funny thing is that when I returned to school on Wednesday, April 4 (two days after my first 2018 Cross Fit Sweat 60 class), hobbling and limping, my discomfort motivated two of my colleagues to sign up for a class at the same location! I'm not sure if the normal response to witnessing the physical suffering of another human being is to say, "Ooh, give me some of what she's having!", but it inspired them. One had to back out at the last minute, but the other - Kathleen - attended the class and was pleased enough with the experience that she chose to register too.

If you'd like to see exactly how challenging everyday tasks like walking was at that time, go watch my MADPD promotional video where I crawl up the stairs. The URL is

B) Go Together for Professional Learning - #tdsbul18

Visual of John Malloy's opening keynote at #tdsbul18

Last week's blog mentioned that I was busy preparing for the 2018 TDSB Unleashing Learning conference on Tuesday, April 3 (which is why the staff and students at my school didn't see my altered gait until the next day). 1500 educators swarmed the Beanfield Centre on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition to hear about how Global Competencies intertwine with some neat teaching and learning opportunities. It was also the site of the DLL (Digital Lead Learner) Marketplace, where everyday practitioners share some of the tips and tools they use when integrating technology in their classrooms. That translates to a lot of people, which can be pretty overwhelming. I checked out the schedule beforehand and attended a great workshop by April De Melo and Erin Persad about supporting kindergarten STEAM inquiries in the library.

Thankfully, I found my co-presenter, Denise, at lunch and we buddied up for the rest of the afternoon. That didn't mean we stuck to each other's side like glue; it meant that we had another person to compare notes, discuss observations, analyze talks, and make connections. I hope that the photo below won't be the last I see of teacher and author Peyton Leung - he likes games just as much as Denise and I do, and I hope that morphs into a teacher gaming outing.

Denise, Joel, Peyton, and me - selfie with Peyton's cool book!

My friends Diana Hong and Rob Reyes made a point of attending my workshop and tweeting about it to support me, for which I was surprised but grateful. I didn't realize my principal was also attending the conference; he dropped by just before I had to present to give his best wishes, which was very nice. The next day, I discovered that our school's chairs went to the same conference as well. I'm sorry we didn't get to hang out in quite the same way Denise and I were able to, because then we could share our "ahas" from the day. Turns out I got an opportunity to do that with Diana Hong later in the week.

C) Go Together for Professional Learning - #tdsbEd 2nd Anniversary
When you go somewhere you've never been before, going with someone else makes it less intimidating. Thursday, April 5, 2018 was the second anniversary of the #tdsbEd Twitter chat. Diana Hong had never participated in one before, despite the fact that she is the Technology Goddess I often turn to when I'm stumped. She agreed to come with me to TDSB headquarters at 5050 Yonge Street to mingle with some of the #tdsbEd participants. Many of the new faces at the anniversary party came with a colleague. Even some of the veteran tweeters brought someone else along. It makes the situation socially safe and more comfortable. We chatted with others, we nibbled on food, and we even tweeted. We didn't have time to stay for the entire event, and so it demonstrates another advantage to going somewhere together - it's not as awkward leaving an occasion in the middle of it when you aren't the only one. (We were also lucky we left when we did because I neglected to inform my family that we left Ms. Hong's car in my driveway so we could carpool and the parking enforcement division of Toronto Police was notified about this mystery parker. Luckily the officer that arrived on the scene was very understanding and did not ticket or tow my friend's car.)

Hopefully these examples will help you find a friend to accompany you somewhere instead of going solo. Too bad I can't find anyone from the GTA heading to Owen Sound next Saturday. Anyone?