Sunday, December 15, 2013

Searching visually and by reading level

A few times recently I've found myself searching and searching with students for good information. It has made me realize I haven't been modeling and teaching search skills enough for students to own a broad group of search strategies. These are two tools I'm really liking right now:

Instagrok is a visual search tool that creates a searchable mind map of ideas connected to your search term. It also allows you to search by reading level, gives key facts, and resources in various formats. (Thanks to Jason Kadonaga and his students for re-introducing me to this tool)

After seeing Instagrok found Google's reading level filters shown below. I'm not sure I would have listed this Encyclopedia Britannica article as "basic", but I did find some resources here that I was able to recommend to a student.

What search tools do you use? How do you teach search skills?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Initial Thoughts on the BC Science K-9 Draft Curriculum

Wordle: BC Science K-9 Draft Curriculum (Dec 2013)
Curriculum Documents:
I'm curious to see and hear how people respond to the Draft BC curriculum. Its great to see the Ministry of Education opening channels for public to provide feedback regarding the curriculum too ( I hope we get a sense of what the people of BC think of the changes.

I took some time recently to try digest the Science section of it and condensed it all onto 11 by 17 sheets as seen here. The wordle above illustrates the emphasis within the Science Curriculum. For me the phrase "competency driven and content based" captures the essence of the new drafts perfectly. The shift in emphasis is no doubt dramatic.

After pushing into Project Based Learning in a Bring Your Own Device environment I see all kinds of opportunity in this new curriculum for my own practice. I see the competency driven nature as a stronger structure with which we can continue to develop Educate citizens with the core knowledge and core competencies to be leaders of tomorrow.

What do you think about the change? Have you given feedback to the Ministry?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PBL Learning Team

Wordle: Questions about Project Based Learning

A group of Teachers met today at Kelly Road to discuss Project Based Learning. We've ordered BIE's PBL Starter Kit as a resources and will be working through that together as a way to inform and evaluate our practice. We've also started a blog dedicated exclusively to the group. Its online here

One of the things we did was share our questions. Here's what we came up with:

  • What questions do we have?
    • How does PBL work?
    • How does PBL benefit our students?
      • motivation
      • engagement
      • success
      • building core competencies (thinking, communicating, personal and social competency)
      • Definition of “The Educated Citizen” (we heard this recently and understand its in the BC school regulations, but do not know where)
        • literacy and numeracy foundations
        • understanding rich content
        • core competencies
    • How do we cover curriculum through PBL?
    • What is “true PBL”, is there “true PBL”?
    • How much information is required before students jump in?
    • How much Teacher Direction/ Guidance is needed?
      • How do we facilitate and let students drive?
      • What role do driving questions play?
      • How do we come up with really good driving questions?
      • What skills and experiences do students bring to projects?
    • How do different disciplines come together in projects?

We agreed its the highlighted questions that matter most. Its the difference this way of learning makes in the lives of our students that matters most. We want to be intentional about evaluating our practice based on the difference it makes for students. We are excited to be learning together!

What questions do you have about PBL?

cross posted at:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cross Curricular Competencies

BC is transforming education, and it's an exciting and curious transformation to be a part of. After seeing the draft "cross curricular competencies" early on, my Teaching partner and I started working them into our practice. With our students we defined the competencies and built assessment rubrics for each one. Throughout the year students assessed their own growth in each competency using evidence from their project work. The work was very rewarding and the conversations were rich. The competencies allowed us to broaden our conversation and the bridge the skills students were gaining both inside and outside our classroom with the work they were doing within it. For me the quote "concept-based and competency-driven" frames the new curriculum perfectly, and it's a model I can get behind.

From my perspective yhis "transformation" in BC been a very open process, and it has been intentionally welcoming to the voices of British Colombians. I have had the privilege of joining the conversation on communication competency at a district level with a curriculum design team. Our team is one of three meeting in the province to give input into the creation of a communication competency continua. A draft of our work is shown here ( and the document explains the possible structure and content of the draft continua. Our goal is to create a tool that will help students grow in their communication competency through descriptive, illustrative statements and examples of communication competency. 

BC has invited everyone to join the conversation on curriculum transformation here:, but if you have an comments on the communication competency work I'd love to hear them too.

Will this support learners in improving their communication skills in all subject areas and at all grade levels? What more does it need? How can it be improved?

Thanks for your input!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Talk of Change - Embracing Project Based Learning

change_thoughts by MMcDonough
change_thoughts, a photo by MMcDonough on Flickr.

I gave my first Professional Development workshop yesterday on Project Based Learning (PBL). While I've talked to Colleagues, Parents, and Community members about PBL, this was my first chance to have a deeper, focused dialoug with educators about PBL. 

I was very cognizant in putting it together that I wanted to create opportunities for rich conversations and sharing of ideas, activities, and strategies. I borrowed and adapted questions from David Truss's presentation "7 Ways to Transform Your Classroom". The questions participants discussed together and shared thoughts on were a powerful part of the day, in my opinion. 

Selling anything, though, is not easy. As George Couros points out, we need to be strategic if we want to help others embrace change. George poses three questions that we can answer for Educators as we present change. Let me share my thoughts on them as it relates to PBL:

  • How will this save me time?
    • Such a valuable question for Educators. I want to acknowledge that adopting and settling into new Teaching practices takes time and energy, we all know that. For me the investment pays off in the product, and we'll get to that in a minute. In my experience the payoff with PBL is in two places. First, I save time preparing discrete tasks. My projects are almost always chunked into pieces that stretch over 2-6 hours of class time. So, once students are engaged in a new activity we roll with it for a few days, allowing me to do much more guiding, facilitating, informal breakout workshops, and formative assessment. Secondly, I save time in assessment. PBL lends itself beautifully to AFL practices that look a lot like students developing ownership by understanding where they are at and where they are going in their learning. This requires coaching and practice, but does not require that I collect small pieces of work daily, or even every few days to document the small steps in their learning journey. I should say to that my context is also a BYOD program. This saves a huge amount of time for me photocopying discrete tasks. I've moved my project outlines to Google Drive so students have current (and ever-changing) copies shared with them and they can be set up to comment on the outline or even edit as needed. 
  • We need to focus on different, not more
    • Yes. Some of the shifts I've been cognizant of in my practice as it related to PBL are in the ways I synthesize and summarize information, share resources, and share my expertise. As I move to PBL I fully desire to shift my instructional methods from Teacher centered to Learner centered. It strikes me as odd that so often we stand up and synthesize and summarize content for students. We need to teach students to synthesize and summarize content. If we are too worried about covering the content to let the students summarize it for themselves then perhaps we are trying to cover too much content (and I don't mean to get too involved in the debate over covering content here, I am more interesting in suggesting that this is one way that PBL is different and not more). My argument on resources is very much the same. Students need to be able to effectively find and critically curate content online. We are doing them a disservice if we find it for them, and we are doing them an even greater disservice if we do not teach our students to use a variety of resources. So we shift from finding and curating and sharing resources for our students to having them find, curate, and share their own resources. Lastly, PBL comes with a shift in expertise. Methods of Inquiry seek to involve community and experts outside the school. Although I'm not there yet in my practice, efforts to do this have been rewarding. I believe the same can be said about the learning community that exists within the classroom. Prensky writes about a Partnering pedagogy where we are all Teachers and we are all Learners. We need to shift our practice enough to allow students to embrace the roll as the experts that they are and are becoming.  
  • Is this better?
    • I believe so. In the presentation I respond to the "Why?" question with three arguments: because of shared experiences, because of shared findings, and because of shared understanding of best practice. There's a lot to unpack there, but I'll leave that to the presentation itself. After reading Couros's post the piece of this I feel I missed was the way in which its better for me. Ultimately I am most satisfied as a Teacher when the Learners I'm working with are most satisfied in their Learning. To that end, yes. PBL has allowed for deeper, richer, more meaning learning for my students and left me more satisfied in my Teaching!
Do you agree? What burning PBL questions are on your mind? Does PBL save you time? What shifts has it come with in your practice? Is it better for you and your students? What conversations are you interested in having as you consider change?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Consumption Project
Project Outline

As I look back at this project there are some things I liked about and some things that need overhauling.

-students engaged in quality research and fact finding to determine the rate at which a resource was consumed by a certain population at a certain point in time
-students were thinking critically about his to represent their model so as to bring the Math to life by picking a quantity that would be significant (for a certain population at a certain time)
-the project points to the global theme of sustainability
-models were engaging
-choice of topics, methods of modelling increased engagement

Bigger and better next time:
-sustainability is such a deep and far reaching theme, I want to make sure to do it justice in a project like this. I'm not sure exactly how to approach that, but for starters I'd either look at sustainable practices with respect to either the food industry or energy sector (rather then leaving the option open)
-again, to better serve the sustainability theme I want to make sure this project culminates in a real, applicable, significant prouduct. This could, perhaps, be something like a marketing project and pitch to a local restaurant. It would be really cool to get a sense of what a restaurant needs and how we can help th market themselves, or to help raise awareness of sustainable food choices 
-I could see using a question like "How do our consumption habits impact others?", or perhaps even making this more specific like "How does Canadian consumption of coffee effect Ethiopia?", but I'm not sure how the socials ties would be made, and that relationship may likely dictate the scope of the question and inquiry.
-as with other projects with a physical product, I've seen that getting into researching, drafting, and revising a model design early really pays off in the end. Along these same lines a goal I've been thinking of lately is to really improve the quality if sketches. I want to see students think through and prepare well for their sketches so they can approximate their product as well as possible. I wonder if a strategy here would be to have students actually prototype a scale sketch or model before constructing their final product.

How does Technology Mimic Biology? 
Last year we rolled out an Optics Project where students made pinhole cameras. It was hugely successful in terms of engagement and motivation. We loved the iterative nature of pinhole camera design. Build - shoot - develop - tweak - shoot - develop - repeat. Excellent! The project was a bit of a hodge podge of activities that didn't all fit seamlessly into a bigger broader question or inquiry. Although I continue thinking about this project, I'm not rolling it out again yet so I haven't yet re-drafted last year's project.

Here's last year's outline. 

Here are my current thoughts about chunking the inquiry into the Question: How does Technology Mimic Biology?

Part 1: Behaviours of Light Inquiry
-begin with 1 question on why light behaves the way it does, prompted with 24 hours to brainstorm
-then experiment with light equipment to better understand the behaviours of light and how technologies manipulate light to perform complex tasks

Part 2: Eye Dissection
-last time we started with too much emphasis on students finding and using resources
-this time we'll limit the inquiry, but maximize the learning that can come out of the dissection
-kWL for parts of the eye (k and w) done prior to lab, L assessed for thinking competency
-give lab guide after some work with K and W 

Part 3: Compare and Contrast Cameras and Eyes
-questions together follow around functionality of eye (under conditions similar to camera - light at various focal lengths, varying levels of light...)
-next independent questions? of camera design (aperture, shutter speed, focal length relative to camera size)

Part 4: Design, Construct, Use Pinhole Cameras
-research and find designs
-detailed sketches
-light meter apps

Monday, October 21, 2013

Logo Contest: Lessons from an early project

As one of our first few projects, and one with a focus on community building, we ran a logo contest early last year. We used the project to introduce and set up some Math content related to ratios, rates, and proportions (Math 8), as well as similar figures (Math 9). Science outcomes related to Scientific Literacy, and English outcomes related to Media awareness were also tied in through related assignments. The curricular ties were strong. As one of our first projects, though, this project stands our in my mind mostly because of what I learned from it.

One of the things I wish I had done differently with the project is to have started the logo design aspects sooner. Since then I've done a few design projects with a colleague who regularly runs with a two step research process for design work: first, a search for a variety of designs that students collect in a document; then, once a few favorite designs are chosen, a second search and collection takes place for a large number of designs related to the favorites from the first round. Drawing inspiration from other's logos would have given students an excellent springboard from which to begin sketching and drafting their logo designs.

The second aspect I learned from was the level of voice and choice in the technology used. We left students with options as to how they created their logos - we had everything from Google Sketch Up designs, Paint designs, Gimp designs, and Google Draw designs. Many students were exploring these drawing programs for the first time. Students were given ample drawing time, and were also given tutorial videos to better their understanding of Gimp. Because there was a range of new tools being used, though, students were not given quality feedback on their design work. In the end, however, the students with the greatest knowledge of the design tools produced the best logo.

The end product, as seen above, turned out really well. Of course, this wasn't the only product of the project. Students were motivated in the work, and enjoyed the process of pitching and voting on a logo. Math outcomes were tied in nicely to logo drafting, Science outcomes dovetailed into a "companies in the news" assignment, and English outcomes were met by a media assignment alongside the logo. As a community builder the project served its purpose well, and it was very cool to have the program represented by a piece of student work.

What were your take aways from your first experiences in Project Based Learning? Are there elements of the process you focused on early on? What kinds of projects or tasks would you use to introduce PBL in your classroom?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Making Feedback an Event

What does feedback look like in your context? How has giving and accepting feedback been modeled in your experience?

Peer Feedback is a powerful classroom tool for a variety of reasons. It helps foster a collaborative culture, exposes students to varying ideas and perspectives, serves as a form of positive peer pressure, and gives students an opportunity to put their best foot forward as they prepare their work for feedback. I believe feedback can also be used to teach content, and I want to improve the way we do feedback in my classes so we can maximize its benefit for our learning.

In this case students had prepared sketches of the models they were planning on building and animating to bring mitosis or meiosis to life. The models will have a QR code attached linking to a video which will explain the model and bring it to life either visually or orally. Although many of the sketches were not fully developed I believe students benefited from thinking through their plan and creating their sketch as well as by looking at the plans and sketches of others.

What I really enjoyed about this round of feedback was that it was very much an event (and for my purposes an excellent form of formative assessment). Students were asked to come with their sketches. Sketches were then touched up to ensure that they were self explanatory to viewers who were circulating by for 3 minutes at a time. Students then added to their sketches notes to guide the feedback. They also added comments to let the viewer know what they liked about their work, what was tricky, and what they thought they might do differently (a suggestion from a student-parent in my PLN, thanks Greg). Feedback then proceeded in 3 minute rounds (a time chosen based one total time available, but it actually worked quite well). This countdown timer was used to add an edgy, funky, fun structure to the event. Students enjoyed it, and agreed that it was comfortable, beneficial, and improved their knowledge of the content.

As we continually seek to improve the quality of feedback one of Dylan William's suggestions (from "Embedded Formative Assessment") I've enjoyed is to collect the post-it feedback afterward and post is on the board. Students are then encouraged to look at all the feedback and vote on which pieces are most useful to the reader.

At the end of the day I want the feedback experience to be valuable enough that students come prepared, and participate to the best of their ability to their own benefit and the benefit of their classroom. So, how can we do feedback better?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Project Based Learning Workshop Plans and Questions
I'm excited to be facilitating a Project Based Learning Workshop this month in the Robson Valley. Its been a fantastic process trying to distil my learning and beliefs about learning into a day's worth of activities and conversations for educators.

Here's the synopsis for the day:
Why PBL? What is PBL? How do we do PBL? Together we will explore these questions through  resources, examples, and the sharing of ideas and experiences. We will look at assessment strategies and learning activities that complement project based learning, and will collaboratively plan new projects and tweak existing ones.
And here's the link to the day plan.

How would you describe Project Based Learning? What do you feel are the most valuable lessons you've learned? What burning questions do you have as an educator as you look at new methods of instruction, learning activities, and new assessment practices? What resources have been most valuable for informing your practice (I've collected videos here and other goodies here)

I welcome your feedback!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why I Love Project Based Learning

We spent our first two weeks of the school year working on a Sundae Project. The project was a huge success on so many levels. I want to share why I found the project, and consistently find Project Based Learning so rich.

From the launch to the debrief students were engaged in this project. We introduced it in a overly serious manor, describing why its important for us to start the year establishing a sense of priorities, structures and processes for projects, habits for successful teamwork, and common language around assessment and assessment practices. We then showed this video and handed out the project summary (and lightened it up)!

In my mind this project exemplified deep learning, and here's why. True, students were only assessed on two Cross Curricular Competencies, Thinking Competency as well as Social and Personal Responsibility, but the learning was so much greater than that. Here were some of the learning highlights for me:
  • Students became better team players, as everyone took a role in their project, and as teams worked on making decisions together
  • Students introduced one another to new collaborative technology as Grade 9's showed Grade 8's how to use Google Drive and Documents
  • Students learned empathy as they planned a sundae menu together. I overheard one fantastic conversation in a group that was divided over whether to serve toppings with nuts or not. Half the group thought they could work around allergies while the other half did not. After some back and forth one student worked up the courage to share a personal story illustrating her point of view. She was persuasive and the group came to an agreement. Excellent decision making!
  • Students were shown a new application of Google Spreadsheets. After a quick workshop on formulas using cell references teams jumped in. Even though tax calculations were presented as an optional challenge many teams went for it.
  • Students demonstrated financial literacy and number sense as they carefully shopped three stores and over 100 options to stretch their budget the farthest in making up their Sundaes. Many teams asked for more options. Teams also had to determine serving sizes and the number of servings per container, and unit conversions were frequently required. 
  • Students came together as a learning community through sharing their ideas and opinions in a non-threatening, fun project
  • One team demonstrated fantastic scientific literacy as they discussed serving sizes, when it was appropriate to use mass, and when it was appropriate to use volume. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Professional Learning Plan 2013/2014

Flickr (
After diving into PBL with both feet last year I've been trying to focus my efforts this year and be strategic in my practice. Today was our School Planning Day at Kelly Road and we were tasks to choose on of the 8 District Goals (Assessment for Learning, Data-Driven Evidence for Learning, Cultural Competencies, Social and Emotional Learning, Poverty and Student Learning, Differentiation/ Universal Designs for Learning, Enhanced Learning Through Technology, Supervision of Instruction/ Mentorship and Training are the 8 presented this morning)and develop a Professional Learning Plan relating to one of the goals. As the year goes on we will have a chance to spend time with others on staff working toward those goals.

My plan is to focus on the PBL process this year by targeting critique and developing a critique protocol with students. Here's the full plan:

Steve Chase’s Professional Learning Plan 2013/2014

My Learning Intention:

Will a class-created peer critique protocol improve students ownership of their learning, use of one another as learning resources, and understanding of course content?


  • Students will agree that peer critique was comfortable 80% of the time
  • Students will agree that peer critique was beneficial 80% of the time
  • Students will agree that peer critique furthered their understanding of course content 80% of the time

My Plan:

  • Develop peer critique language and structure with students (protocol)
  • Use peer critique at set points in projects to allow students to present their work to peers and receive feedback
  • Survey students each project to see if peer critique protocol is meeting the criteria


  • How can we structure critique sessions so students feel comfortable sharing their work?
  • How can we structure critique sessions so students feel the time is beneficial?
  • How can we structure critique sessions so it is rigorous in terms of content?

Descriptive Feedback:

I plan on using Beth Wilcox as a resource in building the critique protocol, but this inquiry is largely based on my students response to this as a practice, so their feedback is essential.

Self and Peer Support:

I’ve met and discussed feedback and critique in broader terms with a small group of teachers on staff and would appreciate the opportunity to meet with them in the future if possible.
I would also love the opportunity to explore more Project Based Learning resources on my own or with others. A few that seem particularly relevant are from “PBL for 21st Century Success”, and “PBL Handbook”.

Ownership and Where:

I will be posting updates on my blog (, but would also be happy to share my learning with peers.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Beth Wilcox's Rise and Fall of Civilizations Project

Grade 9 Working Timeline

I wanted to share one of the fantastic timelines created in my colleagues Humanities class. What a rigirous project, and what a beautiful piece to finish with!

PBL Process as Modelled by High Tech High

As I settled into the summer intercession at High Tech High this year I was energized to speak with Peers Masters of Project Based Learning. I went with questions and wondering about how best to start and finish projects, but found quickly they were not doing anything to radically different then what I was doing. I have been started projects well - a hook and a driving question. I have been wrapping up projects well - public presentation and reflection. Through seeing the work if their students and gearing their experiences what I saw these Masters doing with a high level of skill was allowing their students to guide, encourage, and support one another through descriptive peer feedback. (They call it critique, but in BC we are already comfortable with the language of "descriptive feedback" and I think it's appropriate here). One Teacher was even going as far posing an action research question of how feedback can be used to teach content. Seeing their work has energized my passion to guide the process well. I'll be looking at the roll of feedback more in the coming year.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Student and Parent Survey on PBL and BYOD

This month wraps up the first year of our Project Based Learning (PBL) Choice Program, the Northern Learning Centre. In the last few weeks of classes we gave students and parents the opportunity to share their perspectives on Project Based Learning as well as our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model. Here's what they said (click here view the .pdf in its own window):

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reflections on my first year of BYOD

I've struggled to put this post together because our use of technology is so much a part of life in the Northern Learning Centre that its hard to reflect on how learning would be different without it. In addition, technology is so much a part of the way I work and learn that its almost impossible to separate it from pedagogy. To that end I don't mean to sound at all as if I have it all figured out, I'm learning just like you are! For me, the move to bring your own device (BYOD) this year was an opportunity for me to create a learning environment for my students that looks just like the environment I learn in and have been learning in for years. Here are my reflections on the year in terms of student responsibility, learning tools, and learning resources in a BYOD environment. They are in no particular order.

  • Digital Fluency:
    • We as a system need to increase students levels of digital fluency. Before entering our program some of our students had not had the opportunity to explore computing efficiencies such as quick keys, shortcuts, browsers capabilities, bookmarking until they entered our classrooms. When it came to sending emails or sharing pictures most students were comfortable with one method at best, so it was exciting to open their eyes to all the possibilities - especially when it lead to increased use and functionality of their phones, iPods or personal devices in school and personal contexts.
  • Organization:
    • Technology provides an excellent way to scaffold students organization skills. They loved storage in the cloud, and could use it with high efficacy. Some students implemented their own time management systems such as using sticky or reminders for deadlines and to track progress on ongoing tasks. We're thinking about replacing rolling out shared calendars as a primary organizational method. Feel free to weigh in with feedback if you've tried it.
  • Paper:
    • We weren't ready to give up paper. Part way through the year my Teaching partner and I decided we would ask for assignments to be printed. This gave students a tangible end to a piece of work, and gave us a tangible product to assess. Early on some even asked for paperwork, as it was hard to give up cold turkey.
  • Distractions:
    • We grossly overestimated the problem of devices as distractions. Very rarely did we feel student devices were an added distractions in class. The reality was, they were there anyway. The difference was now they were being used out in the open where previously they had only been hidden. As a practice we would ask students to close or put away technology when it wasn't needed, and when needed we would ask a student to leave their technology on our desks if it had been used inappropriately, but cases of inappropriate use were very rare (no more common then inappropriate use of cell phones in a traditional environment)
  • Apps and Extensions:
    • Students enjoyed having the ability to find tools like apps (teleprompter, write on calculator), and extensions (speech to text, text to speech). Our public wireless network which our students use doesn't currently allow all apps to function perfectly, but this is one are we are looking at in the future so we can better utilize the many  tools there are out there.
  • Responsibility:
    • If we truly want to educate students to become leaders of the future we need to teach citizenship. Some of the most exciting teachable moments for my partner and I were those around a students digital footprint. Its so interesting to break down the walls students set up between their lives inside and outside the classroom. Whether its publishing their work, asking questions on shared doc, promoting a cause or event, we want students to feel safe, secure, and confident as they find however and wherever they find their voice and find their identity.
  • Critical Consumers:
    • The open availability of learning resources demands that we teach students to be critical consumers of what they hear, see and read; and also teach students to more find quality information more efficiently and effectively. Teaching students to do these things requires a great deal of time and effort, and I'm so glad I can teach and model strategies for finding and critically assessing information along the way rather then as lessons unto themselves.
  • Sharing Resources:
    • The socially responsible action in response to the open availability of learning resources is that we share. Spaces for personalization were beginning to be embraced. Last year it was blogs, next year we'll tweak the way we do social bookmarks and try again (last year we tried Diigo and Moodle Forums, next year I will be trying shared boards on Pinterest). Along with this we need to teach students to acknowledge the work of others and use it responsibly.  Again, a big work worthy of a big investment of time and energy.
  • Collaboration:
    • We believe one of the greatest uses of technology in the classroom is for collaboration. More and more tasks can be accomplished online with sharable resources and tools: partner and team projects,  peer/ teacher feedback and critique, co-constructing rubrics and projects, surveys, assessments, and sign ups, and shared calendars were all used in the Northern Learning Centre.  Most of these tools were adopted very quickly by students, and collaboration quickly became the norm in our classes!

  • Sharing our work:
    • Finally we are challenged to learn with our students as they seek to produce work that has lasting value. Not only does technology make it easy to ensure that our work goes through a process of multiple drafts, but it also creates so many opportunities for public exhibition. Publishing work online is intensely visual, and online production is increasingly pushing us to be intentional about the production quality of our work. Digital production allows us to critique and revise a project for its content, structure, and presentation. 

I'd love to share more about my BYOD and hear about yours. Please share your comments, questions, and experiences!

My email address is if you prefer to connect that way. 

Summary of Our Work This Year as a Project Tuning Learning Team

Our actions:

Our learning team met once to establish group norms and introduce the protocol, six times to tune projects, and then concluded by hosting a Professional Development Day when we invited other teachers in our District. 

Work completed:

We tuned Kim’s Geography Project, Beth’s Mapping project, Steve’s Optics Project, Wayne’s Euthanasia Debate Project, Aaron's Plate Project, and Glen’s Landscapes and Literature Course. We also revised the tuning protocol and created a Facilitator and Participant Version


Our group focused our time around a project tuning protocol shared by High TechHigh (HTH). The protocol was used to guide our conversations as we shared projects. The process served as an opportunity to get an inside look at colleague’s methods of instructions, assessment practices, tasks and activities, and project structures. Initially the protocol was used as it was written by HTH, but by the end of the year we had revised the protocol to better suite our purposes.  

Sharing our Learning:

Members of our learning team hosted a workshop on Friday May 3rd where they shared two projects as well as the tuning protocol we had used. Participants were excited to see the projects that Wayne, Kim, and Beth brought to share, and many of them plan on using them back in their own classrooms. The tuning protocol was well respected and was also shared as a tool for participants to take away.

Next steps:

We hope to meet again next year and involve anyone interested. We enjoyed the use of the tuning protocol and have also considered implementing HTH’s “looking at student work” protocol.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Landscape Architecture Project Comes to a Close - Here is the Project Outline

Our final science project in our Project Based Learning Choice program was a school garden. We started with the plan to have every student planting and experimenting with veggies, but the project naturally became differentiated. Some students had to explore an automatic irrigation system, while others explored composting.

Their work is displayed on our KRSS Garden Blog.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Last week we took our students as well as a few others from Kelly Road to Vancouver. One of the most exciting themes for me throughout the trip was sustainability. We saw an excellent presentation at the Vancouver Aquarium on sustainable fishing practices and their Ocean Wise label. We heard from Capilano Suspension Bridge how chose to use reclaimed wood from demolished grain towers in Saskatchewan for their tree tops bridges. Science World had a fantastic exhibit on consumption. We also saw the reclamation work going on at Britannia mines to clean up the local ecosystem after years of pollution. on the solutions side of things we got to experience the Local Garden greenhouse in downtown Vancouver.

The best part is that these exhibits, experiences, and lessons resonate with students. They get it! They know that it's their future that's in jeopardy and their efforts are needed. Our students came away shocked by the statistics and critical of their own choices.

It's so much sweeter know running projects like our greenhouse. It's awesome to see students choosing to reclaim pallets to build shelves, and going out of their way to find buckets to reuse as containers. 

I think sustainability is a theme that lends itself to projects across every discipline. Not only that, but it forces us go think and act globally. It's a theme I hope to weave into my practice and projects wherever possible. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

KRSS Garden Update

Well Prince George has shown signs of summer and our KRSS Garden is one of them! Student`s have been excited to get their plants transplanted into containers in the garden, and also to start some new seeds in the garden itself too. We have planted cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beets, cucumbers, potatoes, onlins, carrots and strawberries, The students have also constructed an automated watering system.

As the students have dug their hands into science they`ve been forced to think critically at every turn. First, student`s each put together a care plan for their plants. Next, student`s designed an experiment they can run in the garden. They are all responsible for their plants, making their own decisions about watering, containers, location in the garden, soil and fertilizers, and how to measure the plants overall health. In some ways the project has been made even more interesting by the fact that we won`t be able to harvest from each of our plants. Students have been forced to ask themselves what conditions are necessary to first, keep their plants alive, and secondly encourage their growth.

For me the research process has been particularly exciting, as many students have been able to swap stories and ask questions of friends and family as part of their inquiry. I`d love to see the KRSS Garden become a project that really pulls together the school community and local community as well.  Art Knapps, our local garden store, has been very supportive and we`ve enjoyed working with them. We`ve also been in touch with the Enhanced Forestry Lab at UNBC and hope to get there next year to see their work first hand.

In addition to the science experiments students are running the project has also involved a number of products in their Tech class. So far students have build an 8` by 16` greenhouse and gardening tools. Plans are in the works for storage containers, shelves, benches, expansions to the watering system, plant hangers, and planter boxes.

The project its taken us in a few unexpected directions. Some students who did not have successful plants are now experimenting with composting, and gaining a better understanding of how to compost effectively at the school; other students have brought a passion for sustainability to the project, and have enjoyed the upcycling of 5 gallon buckets and packing pallets in the garden. We saw a great community garden underway at Science World, and are excited to see the Alterrus vertical urban garden as well. 

Are you becoming an increasingly effective communicator?

Isn`t that the question we want to be asking ourselves? Isn`t it  a question we want our students to be asking themselves?

I have been given the opportunity to work with a local group of educators to help design a communication competency continuum that will be a part of BCs new curriculum. Sharon Joerski is the consultant hired by the Ministry who`s been bringing us together and bringing together our ideas regarding communication competency .

So far we have brought a few samples of student work and have been pulling out the major themes and shifts from pre-K to grade 12. Our goal over the next few months is to identify the major elements in communication competency, and illustrate each of them with examples of student work. Once we have improved our definition of the elements of communication we can begin to more clearly describe levels of proficiency in each of the elements.

The model that`s been proposed to us is of a continuum presented in a series of concentric circles, with  elements extending from the inner circle toward the outer rings. A tree metaphor has been suggested too as an appropriate one in that additional ``rings`` can always been added as a learner improves their communication skills. This graphic would describe communication with a number of I can statements. The statements would link to examples of student work as well as resources for classroom teachers.  

As I look at the work my students are doing, and engage in professional conversations like these regarding communication, I feel more strongly then ever that our new curriculum needs to be focused on competencies that will allow today's learners to reach their full potential in tomorrow's workplaces. So as we seek to improve communication in the 21st century I am confident we are on the right track! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Student Samples Demonstrating Communication Competency

Summarizing Projects:

Reflective Thinking:
Encouraging Other Students to take action:
Presenting the Northern Learning Centre Choice Program to Others:

A Brilliant Hook
  • We often start a class after a break with a catch up activity, or some kind of icebreaker. A few times now we’ve asked students to summarize their time off in three words. Once the presenter has shared a volunteer is randomly selected from the audience to ask a question based on the three words. Most students use a combination of adjectives to describe various activities and events. One student in particular has mastered the hook. His face was full of enthusiasm as he shared that he had had the “best weekend ever!” Every student in the room was filled with curiosity and almost competing to be the one to question him further. The explanation that followed did not disappoint.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Defining BC's New Cross-Curricular Competencies: Part 1 - Communication
This year I've been on an exciting journey toward a more holistic approach to education. I firmly that we as educators need to ensure that we are developing the whole child, and we are developing their potential in such a way that they can apply themselves wherever they choose in the future. That takes more than content knowledge.

My Teaching partner and I have made a concerted effort to embed the BC Ministry of Education's Cross Curricular Competencies in everything we do. Our students have developed rubrics on these skills, have self assessed them, have been assessed by us and others, have told stories of ways in which they've demonstrated them, and are now using them as labels for their blog posts. In our upcoming report cards we will be including our students own comments on their competencies and their own personal goals. We are excited and encouraged to look back at what they've come up with.

I am proud to say that I have also been invited to participate in a working group to help define these draft competencies. The Ministry of Education is welcoming feedback on the current plans for Transforming BC's Curriculum. I encourage you to check it out and provide feedback to them directly, or let me know what I can pass along on your behalf.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A School Garden is Born: The Story of a Facilitated Project Launch

We were stoked to have Greg Jonuk, a trained facilitator, help us launch or #krssgarden project this week. Greg and I had been planning the morning for weeks in order to best give voice to our community and to mine their ideas, questions, and comments as best we could.

Here's the run down of the morning (for more detail see the agenda):
  • "Teacher Talk Show" - Greg interviewed Beth and myself to give some context to the project
  • "Press Conference" time for participants to share aspects of the project that excited them, aspects that scared them, ideas for what success would look like and questions about the project
  • "Open Space" time for participants to:
    • Respond to the prompt: "In order to have a successful garden at KRSS we need to think about..." and stick their ideas to a wall
    • Shop for topics on the wall and decide which they individually wanted to discuss
    • Discuss topics in small groups (this proceeded in three rounds after students had chosen which topic they'd discuss in each round)
We've now taken all the input from staff, students, and parents and combined it into a Google form. Now we can begin prioritizing our work as we plan on school garden!

PS. Sorry about the formatting of the linked documents, it was lost in the conversion to Google Docs