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.