Friday, 23 October 2015

Friday October 23

Google Apps for Education

One of the things I consistently hear from the teachers I work with is: "there are so many apps and different components of Google. It's hard to keep up!" I absolutely agree! It seems every week, Google or their partners release something new that could be integrated into what we do with our students. Understanding their usage takes time. Working with me is one way to improve your overall understanding but there are other things you can do. Google actually has produced so very good professional development resources. One can be found here: This web page has some excellent resources for many of the apps you use daily. Whether you need assistance organizing your email or scheduling appointments or would like to know more about using Google Docs, this website has resources to help. The lessons organized on the site are very straightforward and I have found them to be very informative. So, if you are looking for a little bit of extra help, check out the resources.

Education for All Success For Each

Next week we will all gather together for a District wide Professional Development day. Early next week, I will be sharing some resources for the day through our Google Drive. I have already created a shared space for all teachers in the division called Grasslands Teaching Resources. You can find the folder here: As we approach PD day, there will be questions to guide the work we do next week and space to put the work you complete on Friday. The focus for the day will be centred around long range planning with your students. Elementary, Junior High and High School teachers will have an opportunity to work collaboratively throughout the day.

Please look for emails from you reminding you of the collaborative space and the documents available to you.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Friday October 16

Thanks For Sharing! Now What?

Over the past few weeks, I'm sure many of you who use Google Drive with your students have received emails saying someone has invited you to collaborate or edit or view some kind of file or folder. Keeping track of all those documents can be rather time consuming, particularly if you are working with many students. Add to that the documents and files shared by administrators and your drive can quickly become a pile of virtual paper. So, how do we manage the document flow coming in to us?

When working with students, one thing I suggest is they create one folder and share it with their teachers. If they label the folder with their first and last name and the course name (EG: Sean Beaton Language Arts) it makes it much easier to identify who's folder it is. By sharing one folder and putting all of the work for the class into that folder, you will not continue to receive emails about sharing. Anything that is placed or created in that shared folder automatically retains the same sharing permissions as the folder. The students can tell you face to face or through email they have completed the assignment and it is in the folder, or you can check the folder yourself. This entire process is made even more straightforward when you use Google Classroom as all assignments are turned in through the assignment stream. You don't need to go looking for them. You will receive a notification that the assignment is completed in your email but you won't need to search in your "shared with me" section of your drive.

The same principles apply to sharing with colleagues. If you are working collaboratively with a group of teachers, create one single folder for the group. Share the folder with all your colleagues who need access and place all relevant documents in this folder. That way, people are not inundated with email and they do not need to look in their shared with me section. The one thing you may want to do with a shared folder is add it to your drive so you know where it is. To do this, right click on the name of the folder shared with you in the Shared with Me section of your drive. Then select "Move to Drive." You can then choose where to put the folder. 

If you are using Google Drive with your students, let me know how things are going. I really enjoy hearing feedback and knowing how things are working in your classrooms.

The Power of Language

Over the past few weeks, one of my projects has been to go through various programs of study in preparation for PD on October 30. What I found as I combed through the various curricula was a vast difference in language use. In some curriculum documents, the words General Outcome and Specific Outcome are used. In others it is Related Issue and Concept. Still others use different language. It took me a little while to come to an understanding as to why this was the case - each of the documents was written at a different time. For example the Social Studies 30-1 curriculum was released less than ten years ago whereas the English Language Arts Curriculum is much older. As a result, the terminology does not match. But, the essence of what the documents are trying to achieve is the same. 

Teachers are tasked with helping students move through large "chunks" of information. They can be called General Outcomes or Related issues but they are the same idea. These large chunks of information form the bulk of our units and the bulk of our summative assessments. This is the information we need to report back to parents. The smaller pieces that make up the whole are the things we do day to day in our classrooms - they are the concepts that we help our students understand while working to a larger goal. These smaller pieces are where our formative assessment takes place. We work with students in helping them understand this information and ensure we give them feedback regarding this understanding, all the while moving toward the end goal of the General Outcome. 

This past week, four schools came together to begin the process of collaboratively "unpacking" the curriculum. Over the next few weeks, all of us will get together to begin this process in an effort to continue the amazing work being done all over the district to promote success for each of our students. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Friday October 9

Google Apps, Extensions and Add-ons

It seems everyday there are more bits and pieces that work with Google Apps for Education. Two areas where there seems to be constant development are with Google Apps and Extensions and Google Add-ons.

Google apps are direct links to web based programs. Adding apps gives you a bit more functionality such as linking directly to your Google Drive. An example of an App is Google Classroom. This is an application that links directly to your Google account an enables you to create a digital learning space for your students. Extensions are small pieces of software that link with the Chrome Browser to enable you to do some really interesting things very quickly. There are literally hundreds of apps and extensions to choose from. They can be found through the Google Webstore. We are in the process of adding apps and extensions to the Grasslands section of the Webstore. If you find ones that you think people would use let me know and I will ensure they are added.

Here is a link to a Google Slides presentation about some very useful Apps and Extensions. It was put together by Michelle Armstrong, a Google Certified Teacher and Trainer from Calgary:

Add-ons are small pieces of software that connect directly to Google Docs and Google Sheets. They can be found by clicking on Add-ons in the toolbar in a Google Doc or in Google Sheets. You then select "Get Add-ons" to see what is available. One that is very popular among math teachers is gMath. This Add-on gives you the ability to include mathematical notation in a Google Doc. You can either type in your notation or you can use the microphone on your computer to speak the notation which you can then insert into your Google Doc. 

Take a look at Apps, Extensions, and Add-ons to see how you can increase the utility of Google Chrome and Google Apps for Education. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

A Gathering Place

Last week I created a space on my Google Drive for teachers to share lessons, units and examples of student work. One request I have heard from many teachers I've worked with are examples of strategies they can use in their classroom to promote student learning. I was very fortunate to attend a session in the summer with Barry Bennett a University of Toronto teacher educator and author of the Book Beyond Monet. This book provides teachers with hundreds of teaching strategies that are useful in all divisions. Barry gave us all a digital copy of this book and asked that we share it with whoever we felt could use it. As such, I've put it on the shared drive for all of you. I have also put on another of Barry's books called Classroom Management: A Thinking and Caring Approach. 

Both of these resources can be found here: Please feel free to download the two resources and add any that you think would be helpful to your colleagues!

Education for All Success for Each

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a High School Redesign symposium. I am always amazed to hear about the great things that are being done around the province. One item that came up during the day that applies to all grades is the idea of planning for learning.

In the session I attended, teachers from Lethbridge talked about the process they went through to ensure everything they did in the classroom was related back to concepts and outcomes in the program of studies. They told us about the collaborative work they did during PD sessions to mine through the curriculum. They also spoke about the need to link their planning with the needs of their students. They had very powerful stories of success from both teachers and students who spoke about flexibility, mastery learning and consistent feedback. One piece of advice they had for all of us in the room was to ensure not to "grade" everything the students did but to provide lots of descriptive feedback to the students. In addition, they spoke about ensuring their lessons, planning and assessment was continually linked to curricular outcomes.

Ultimately, their message was to be mindful of preparing and assessing students. By doing so, they said they were able to promote individualized success. Students who needed some extra supports in their learning received them. Students who were ready for a larger challenge were given that opportunity.

Having visited so many classrooms throughout the division it is so great to see so many teachers finding success with students in a similar way to what was described by these teachers from Lethbridge.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Friday, October 2

Google Tips - Optical Character Recognition, Read&Write

One of the really powerful tools in our Google Drive is something called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This capability enables users to turn PDFs into editable Google Docs. In many cases, you wouldn't need to edit the PDF. However, if you had a student who needed some support with reading, this could be an interesting way to make information accessible to them. When you combine Google Drive OCR with Read&Write for Google, you have a powerful accessibility tool. For example, let's say you have a student in one of your classes who struggles with reading. You can scan a PDF copy of the text you want them to read, open it as a Google Doc, and then have them use Read&Write for Google (which all of our students now have access to) to ensure the student can access the information. Watch the clip below to see what I mean (Read&Write for Google sounds much better in person).

A Gathering Place Part 2

As I wrote last week, many of you requested that we develop a space for curating and housing examples of lesson plans, assignments, activities, and student work. I suggested we use this blog as a way to store these items. However, it was suggested to me that we utilize Google Drive to achieve this outcome. I agree and think that would be a much better way to store these pieces of information. As such, I have created a shared space for us all: This link will bring you to a folder titled "Grasslands Teaching and Learning." In this folder, there are subfolders for K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. In each of those folders, I have created "Lesson Plan, Activities" and "Examples of Student Work" folders. 

The material you share here does not need to include technology or Google Apps for Education; that is not the purpose. The purpose is to provide a space where you can share resources with your colleagues. The resources could be lessons that you like, assignments that you thought went well, or activities that you would like to share. You can share hard copies of lessons or videos of you working with your students on the lessons. For the student work section, you can share pieces of student work that you and your students are very proud of. One thing to note, however, if you do plan on sharing student work, be sure that you have their permission to do so prior to posting in in the folder. In addition, it is a good idea to remove the student's name from the work. I always appreciated seeing examples of my colleagues' lessons and the work our students were doing. 

I hope this space is helpful and that we begin to create a repository of all the amazing things that are going on in the district. I have the privilege of travelling to schools and working with so many teachers and students. I get to see the really great things you are all doing. It would be awesome if you would share that with all of your colleagues! 

Education for All Success for Each - Multiple Means of Representation

In looking at the idea of success for each of our students, I thought it would be beneficial to write a little bit about multiple means of representation. This is an idea that really keys in on finding ways for all of our students to demonstrate their understanding of topics we cover in class. As we move more and more toward outcomes based assessment, this is a powerful way to ensure we know where are students are in mastering outcomes. 

Multiple means of representation simply refers to the idea that we provide our students with different ways to demonstrate their understanding of the topics we cover in our classrooms. They could do so through posters, creation of websites, videos, verbally or through written text. When I taught full time, I always had specific tasks that were non-negotiable - students had to complete them the way they were outlined. This was specifically important for my Social Studies 30-1 students and their written work as it was required of them on their Diploma Exam. However, for many of my other assigned tasks, I gave students the choice of how they wanted to complete them. Of course, this did mean I needed to do a bit more work in creating rubrics. But, once I had the rubrics for a specific outcome, it didn't really matter how the students demonstrated their understanding because they were graded using a rubric for the outcome not for a specific task. 

Providing our students with multiple ways to demonstrate their understanding ensures we get a true sense of where our students are at and whether we need to provide them with support with the outcomes. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Thursday, September 24

Google Tips

Have you ever written an email and pressed send before you were actually ready to send it? Or, maybe you wished you could reword a few lines. With Gmail, that ability now exists. Earlier in September, Google introduced an undo feature to their email. When set up, you have 30 seconds to undo the sending of an email. It isn't a lot of time but it does give you the ability to "unsend" your email. To set this feature up in your email, follow the directions in the video below. 

A Gathering Place

At the end of the 2014/2015 school year, I asked for some feedback from all Grasslands teachers. One item that came up many times was the desire to have a space where we could collect examples of lessons and student work. People said to me they would really like to see what their colleagues were doing in their classrooms. There are a number of ways we could to this. However, to me, the easiest way is to use this blog as a gathering place for lessons, activities, assessments, or student work that you would like to share with your colleagues in the district. As such, I am putting out a request for anything you would like to share. I am not looking only for lessons which utilize technology in the classroom. Rather, I would like to share what you are proud of. If you have something you would like to share with your colleagues, whether it is a lesson or a piece of student work, please email me and we can discuss the best way to showcase what you have. 

Education for All Success for Each

During our Welcome Back PD session, Superintendent David Steele used the phrase above to plot out the goals of Grasslands. The phrase exemplifies the values of Grasslands Public Schools. These include being a welcoming and safe environment for all of our students and ensuring that each one of them is successful in their learning journey. Success will not look the same for every student, and, as teachers, we need to be aware of this and ensure we have the appropriate tools to make this happen. Over the course of the year, I will try to use this blog to point to different tools, resources, and practices we can utilize to achieve the idea of education for all and success for each. 

One such tool we have access to is the Google Drive. This is a powerful resource to utilize with our students, due to the ease with which we can share, collaborate and provide feedback. One way you can use your Google Drive to promote student success, is to ensure all your students have access to your class notes. You can create a folder on your drive where your students can access the notes for your lesson. In this way, if the students miss something in the lesson or if they were away, they have the ability to catch up. In addition, it provides them with a resource to prepare study notes. By universally providing access to this resource, we can potentially increase the learning outcomes for all of our students.

If you would like help setting this up on your Google Drive, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to help!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Voice Typing

Speech to Text

Last year, and already this year, I have received many requests from teachers looking for a speech to text tool to assist some of their students. There are definitely many products on the market which provide this tool. Some are very expensive and somewhat unweildy and some are free but do not work well. It would seem, that Google has come up with a solution they call Voice Typing. 

Voice Typing is a free tool that is incorporated into Google Docs and is available to anyone. To access voice typing, open a Google Doc, click on Tools in the Toolbar Menu and then select Voice Typing. When you are ready, click on the microphone to speak. Like most speech to text software, Google Voice Typing recognizes editing commands like "new line," "period," "comma," and "new paragraph." From what I have seen, it is very good. However, like most speech to text software it may have some difficulty picking up a voice in a loud room or distinguishing what the speaker is saying, particularly if they have an accent. Therefore, the students using Voice Typing will need to read their work to ensure it actually says what they want it to say. 

Some Words of Caution

The strength of Google Voice Typing and other speech to text software actually comes in the ability of the student to complete pre writing activities. I always said to my students that if you couldn't speak an essay/paragraph/thesis statement, there is no way you could write one. However, in order to be able to speak an essay, or write an essay, students must complete some prewriting work, whether that is an outline, or a writing web. Without the background work, I believe it would be difficult for students to use this tool. 

One thing I was thinking about as well, is how this could be utilized with our ELL families. Google Voice Typing recognizes 40 different languages. Combined with Google Translate, itwould be very powerful if used during parent-teacher interviews with parents who have difficulty expressing themselves in English.

I hope your week was awesome! Have a great weekend!

All the best,

Friday, 4 September 2015

Welcome Back!!

Welcome back everyone! Hopefully you all had time to relax over the summer. As I did last year, I will try to send out this blog every week, depending on my schedule. In the blog, I will highlight things that are going on in the division and things that are going on with our Google Apps for Education. Google was very busy over the summer making quite a few changes to Google Apps. I will share as much information as I have in the coming weeks. I will also use this blog to share information about teaching and learning, curriculum, and assessment.

I want to keep this entry short as I know how much you have going on. But, I think it is important for you to all know you all have access to funds to work one on one with me. The funds are available to pay for a half day sub so we have time to plan and problem solve together. To access these funds, book a time with me by either following this link Learning and Innovation Booking Form or by sending me an email request. Once we agree on a time, you book a sub and complete the Learning and Innovation Collaboration form found here: Bring that form to the meeting and we are set!

In addition, I will come work with you and your students in your classroom. Last year, I had the privilege of working with students from grade 1 through 12. I will be in schools at least once per month throughout the year. If you would like the schedule of when I will be in your school, please let me know.

Ultimately, I am your resource. I thoroughly enjoy being in schools and working with our teachers and students. I am looking forward to another great year in Grasslands!

Have a great day and a great long weekend!!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Using Google Drive and Google Docs to Promote Peer Editing

Good afternoon everyone,

This week, I went the practical route in my post. I thought I would provide you with a concrete example of how to utilize Google Drive and Google Docs to promote peer editing and collaboration among your students. I have worked with quite a few teachers setting this up. We have found that the initial setup takes a bit of time but once it is organized it is an excellent way to promote peer editing and collaboration.

Step One: Have Students Create a Folder and Share it With You

The first step in this process is to have your students create a folder on their Google Drive and share it with you. By doing this, you will be able to see everything they put into that folder. I would suggest you have them build their writing in that folder directly. That way, they don't have to move anything. If they build their written piece using Google Docs in their shared folder, it keeps everything together and organized.

Step Two: Create Editing Groups

Once your students have a piece of writing in their folder, you can begin to create groupings of your students. Create folders for your groups. I would suggest naming them with either the names of the students in the group or Group 1, Group 2, etc. Once you have the folder created, share it with only the students in that group. Because you created the folder, you will be able to see everything they do in the folder.

Step Three: Have Students Put Their Work in the Group Folder

Have students make a copy of the work they have completed. They can then move the copy of their work into their shared group folder. Once their work is in that folder, they can begin the process of peer editing. How you decide to do this is entirely up to you. Students can suggest edits on the pieces or can comment on the work. Choose a strategy that works for you and for your students. 

Once the students have a piece that has been peer edited, they could make a copy of it and place it back into their original folder they shared with you. This becomes their final piece of writing. One further step could be for the students to share their final, peer edited piece with people outside of your classroom by publishing their piece on a blog or by sharing the piece through Google Drive with students or teachers outside of your class.

The End

The goal in this process is twofold. First, students write a piece and share it with you. They then share the piece with their peers and get feedback and incorporate the feedback into their writing. This process encourages collaboration and helps them develop peer editing skills. By sharing the finished piece through a blog or another format, the students can bring their writing to a wider audience.

If this is something you would be interested in doing with your students (no matter what grade they are in), let me know and I would be happy to help you set it up.

Have a great day!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Professional Learning Opportunities

One thing I have heard from many teachers is the desire to have more time to learn the tools related to Google Apps for Education. It is very difficult to find time during the day to "play" with the tools we have available to us in order to feel comfortable with them.

Tech Tuesday

Shawn Lachapelle, a teacher at Brooks Junior High, suggested the idea of a tech Tuesday, an evening where we can get together to have time to learn how to use some of the tools we have available through Google Apps for Education. I thought this was a great idea and through some work (mostly done by Mr. Lachapelle) we are able to invite you all to Tech Tuesday at 7PM on April 21. This meeting will take place at Brooks Junior High School in the library. Our hope is that we will be able to offer other evenings around the district so people have an opportunity to learn more about what they can do with the applications. We will have some teacher and student presentations, a Q and A session, and lots of time to use the computers in the library as well as the Chromebooks at the Junior High. 

If this is something you are interested in, please let me know by RSVPing to me at

If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

School Visits and Guest Blog

As of Monday, I will complete all of my school visits. I am in Tilley for the last one. My visits have been very beneficial. I have worked with students and teachers from grade 1 through 12. There are a lot of amazing things going on in the division that I would like to share with you all. If you didn't get a chance to work with me when I was in your school and would like me, please use the scheduling page on this blog or send me an email.

 This week, Lesley Dewar, a grade one teacher at Eastbrook Elementary is our Guest Blogger. If you would like more information about what she is doing please send her an email! If you would like to work with me, let me know: 

Hi, my name is Lesley Dewar.  For those of you that don’t know me, I wear many hats, most notably ATA treasurer and grade one teacher at Eastbrook Elementary.   Those of you that have worked with me know that I love technology and I love using technology with my grade ones.   I often find myself telling my students about how computers weren’t invented when I was their age and that I didn’t have a cell phone until I was an adult, which usually is greeted with a blank stare.  I guess this generation of kids can’t imagine a world without technology, and to be quite frank, I don’t think I can remember how I functioned as an adult without it.  I am a huge believer that kids need to learn digital citizenship as soon as they can, as most of them have access to this and can be used as a great teaching tool.  I don’t avoid technology with grade ones, I try to embrace it, incorporate it and use it to enrich our lives. 

Lately, I have been working on a book blog.  I used Google to set up a blogger website and have set the permissions to enable it to be only viewed by myself and invited others.  The blog runs much like a website.  At Eastbrook, we have a special “student of the week”, in my room, I let this student choose a book and read it to the class.  When they have practiced enough, I will record them reading their book to the class.   I have already asked permission from parents to “publish” the readings and I use my Google blog to do just that.  Each week I publish the reading onto the blog and we have a movie screening in class of the books.  I assign directors, sound technicians and crew.  It has developed into a small idea that I hoped would build self-esteem and promote literacy into something that ranges across many topics and has provided pivotal and powerful conversations within the class.  I am hoping that another teacher will be interested in joining me, and that I can share our class book blog with another class both inside and out with the division.  I am hoping that we can share book blogs, and perhaps meet online.  Here is a recent picture of my book blog:

Another technological venture that I am working towards is the world of Twitter.    As you may or may not know, up until recently Grasslands had blocked Twitter.  It is now open to use.  I have a Twitter account set up and have been talking about internet safety with my students.  Twitter is an amazing way to connect with the world and get real time information.  The next step in my plan is to set up a classroom board for our tweets.  I intend to give my students a paper with space for 160 characters, where a few times a week we will think and write some things we would like to Tweet.   As a class, we will review them and Tweet a few.  I am hoping to get this up and running in the next few days.  If you would like to follow us, our Twitter handle is @MsDewarsClass

Friday, 6 March 2015

Some Resources

Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education in Div I/II

Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of requests for resources for Division I and II classrooms. I have spoken to many of you about doing collaborative writing projects or peer editing projects. As well, we have discussed the idea that using Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks in a Division I and II classroom can be focused on helping the students build a digital skill base, just as we would have them build a literacy or numeracy skill base. 

I had the opportunity to hear a great teacher from Wolf Creek School Division describe how she uses the tools in her classroom. Kendall Johnson gave a presentation at a recent Google Apps for Education summit in Edmonton. She discussed a variety of ways to use the tools with younger students. As we couldn't all be there, I've included a web link to her presentation: If you have any questions about the information in the presentation you can definitely contact me. Or, you can contact Kendall directly. Her contact information is in her presentation.

Tech Tuesday 

A common concern I hear from teachers is about having the time to learn how to use the tools we have accessible to us. We are all very busy and finding the time during our day can be difficult. When I spoke with Shawn Lachapelle from Brooks Junior High about the issue, he suggested we hold a Tech Tuesday for teachers. The event will be an opportunity for all of us to learn together and share some of the things we are doing in classrooms across the division. We are still working out the overall agenda for the meeting, but, I can tell you it will take place at Brooks Junior High on April 21. The exact time will be determined shortly and I will send out an email to let you know the firm details. For now, please save the date and look forward to a great sharing and learning session!

Guest Blog

Last week, I sent out a request for guest bloggers to share their stories in this space. Jeff Mason from BCHS shared is thoughts and use of Google Classroom last week. This week, Boni Levie shares her thoughts and ideas of using Chromebooks in her grade one classroom. If you want to share the great things you are doing in your classroom, please send me an email. I would really like to include your stories. They do not have to be related to technology in the classroom. If you would like to read the rest of Boni's blog, you can find it here:

Diving off a cliff

Working with grade ones has proven to be challenging and highly rewarding using google. Yes all 19 can log onto Google Drive and then onto the Grade One google site (I have created for their use). I needed to create a platform where images could be clicked to guide students to multiple sites during any computer session (no typing of addresses). Computers are now apart of every subject area. Not just during a 30 or 40 minute class once a week. Chrome books are very dependable and do not have the time lags or complex sign in routines. For literacy, I am using the Daily 5 format for instruction. The chrome books are used during reading to self ( they can access RAZ kids site), for writing to self (Google Docs) and for phonetic work ( Starfall site). For Mathematics, they can access ICT games, IXL practice questions, NCTM apps for numeracy and the list goes on.

Logging on was the first hurdle in November was : How do you get kids to type out a 9 to 16 long string of letters when they may not even know their letters? Well....lots of practice!!! The first time took 1 hour and the second time took 30 min. Progress! For those wanting to know what it looked like... I made each child a card with their email and password on it. I highlighted one pink and one green so I could direct them to a color of text to type during directions. I could control the passwords and made it simple (bugXXXX). The X represents a 4 number combination I know).

Wow! they sure learned to match and check quickly.. Lots of motivation and their letter recognition increased due to the additional motivation to start the fun part sooner.

Once trained as a large group... all the kid can now do it themselves during centre time! Yahooo!

More later

Friday, 27 February 2015

The Changing Landscape

As teachers, we have an opportunity to change the landscape. The work we do with students has such an important impact. The students we have in our classroom live in a world much different from when many (maybe most) of us went to school. They deal with many of the same issues as students have for many years. However, their reality includes a number of problems that never existed when we were students. In addition, our students have access to more information than many of us ever did. Their ability to access that information is increasing as well. As such, I would suggest it is our responsibility to help our students beyond delivering curriculum. We need to work with our students on developing critical thinking skills and help them wade through the digital world in a responsible, effective way.

We have a wide array of tools at our disposal to assist with this process. I know many of our teachers are utilizing these tools and many more would like to learn more about how to use the tools. I have heard from many teachers over the past two weeks through this survey they would like more training and time to learn how to utilize some of the tools we have available. I am here to assist with this process. I had the distinct pleasure of working with teachers at Brooks Junior High, Brooks Composite High School, and Griffin Park School this week. We discussed ways in which the tools could be used in their classrooms. In addition, I was able to go outside my comfort zone and teach Grade 3, 4, and 5 students how to use the tools. The excitement they had was really energizing. But, the tools cannot just be toys - the learning is the most important part. The students and I discussed how they could collaborate with each other, their teachers and students in other schools. They spoke about how they could learn more from other people. They were very excited, so were the teachers.

I also wanted an opportunity to share with you, in the voices of the teachers, things they are doing in their classrooms. Jeff Mason, a Social Studies teacher at Brooks Composite, agreed to share some of the things he is doing. I hope that our guest column becomes a regular part of this blog. If you want to share some of the things you are doing in your classroom, whether they are technology related or not, please send me an email. 


Guest Contributor: Mr. Jeff Mason

Hello everyone, my name is Jeff Mason and I teach high school social studies at the Brooks Composite High School.  Sean asked me to share a little about what I am doing in my classroom. I thought I’d use the opportunity to discuss how I use Google Classroom in my classes. 
Google Classroom is an app you can use with your Google account.

I find Google Classroom particularly helpful for my classes. The app essentially acts like a private Facebook stream for your class. You can easily post pictures, videos, web links, or documents from your computer. (Similar to Moodle) You can allow students to post and comment as well, or you can make it so that only you can post. The class is completely secure, meaning others cannot get into the online classroom if you do not allow it.

In the above picture you see a post I made for my 10-1 social class. We are learning about how language impacts identity and how globalization impacts language. I posted a quick PowerPoint and a few web links that we explored as a class. 

You can also create assignments for students in Google Classroom.

 This was an opening assignment I had my grade 10 class complete. We went through some of the most important current events of the last year at the beginning of the semester. They then had to write a paragraph response on how one of the current events demonstrated that we live in a globalized world. The assignment capabilities of Google Classroom is handy, as it keeps all the students work neatly organized, reduces paper use, and allows me to provide feedback digitally on the assignment. Google Documents save automatically as well, so there is less chance of students losing their work from not saving. 

I use Google Classroom in a variety of ways in all of my classes. It is great for “flipped classrooms” where I post videos or websites with content and ask the students to learn content at home and come to class prepared to have a discussion on the content. Almost daily we discuss current events in the world. Any pictures, articles, or short video clips on the current events we discuss are put on the stream so that students can revisit the information. Web quests are super easy to set up. For example, I can link four websites on the Residential School system in Canada and have the students explore the links and gather information from the sites. (or I can have the students find the websites themselves and share with the class). I can have trivia competitions with the students as they gather information. For example, I had students gather information about the Rwandan Genocide online; I then posted questions about the genocide on the stream. The students had a competition on who could find the correct answer first. There are other ways to utilize Google Classroom, however I worry that this post is too long already. I encourage you all to explore this app when you have an opportunity. It has certainly become a part of my classroom routine. 

If you have any questions you can email me at or follow my blog at

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Google Apps for Education Feedback

Over the past five months, I have had the opportunity to present to all divisions and spend time in all schools. During that time, I've presented on the tools available through Google Apps for Education and have discussed ways in which we can foster student learning through Universal Design for Learning and differentiated instruction. I always say that we need to begin with the learning outcomes in mind and then map on technology or look at different ways to present information.

I am interested in how the adoption of Google Apps for education is proceeding in different levels within the division. As such, I created a short survey using Google Forms. I would really appreciate if you could take a few moments to complete the survey. It is anonymous. The information collected in the survey will help me construct professional learning opportunities that reflect the needs of the division as a whole.

Thank you very much for taking the time to complete the survey. If you have any questions about it, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Google Apps for Education Survey

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Differentiation and Technology

Over the past few weeks, I have worked with a few teachers on utilizing technology as a means to differentiate instruction and assessment. As such, I thought it might be beneficial to spend some time on the overall concept of differentiation in my blog this week. I am certain you have seen much of this information before. However, I thought this might dovetail nicely with my last post on Effective Teaching and Learning.

What is Differentiated Instruction?

Most researchers agree, differentiation is:

  • A process to approach teaching and learning for students of differing abilities in the same class.
  • A teaching theory based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms.
  • Not reactive but a systematic, planned approach to meet the learning needs of a diverse classroom.
Generally, differentiation can occur in relation to content, process and products of a lesson. We can design delivery and assessment in a variety of ways to meet the unique needs of our learners. This includes using pre-assessment and ongoing assessment strategies to ensure the needs of our students are met. There is a large body of research to suggest that we need to maintain academic challenge for our students but that challenge needs to be at their academic level. If things are too easy or too difficult, the students will not be engaged. As such, when we systematically plan our instruction and consistently use data to drive our decision making, we will promote student learning. 

How Does Technology Play a Role?

I usually begin my sessions discussing technology integration by saying the primary goal is the learning, not the technology. However, technology we have available to us can play a significant role in differentiated instruction. For instance, we can use a wide array of technology applications to provide choice to students in completing assessments. When I taught full time, there were always assignments that were non-negotiable. As a Social Studies 30-1 teacher, all my students needed to write. However, there were assignments that they had choice on. In addition, even though I had non-negotiable assignments, having the students complete them using a Google Doc meant the feedback I gave and the revisions they completed were much easier to complete. Providing students with teacher notes becomes much easier through the use of a shared Google Drive Folder. Students have access to the notes so they do not need to spend the time copying them down. This frees them up to focus on the content of the lessons. This is a very simple way to look at the issue. What I would like you to take away from this is that we have the tools to make differentiation work for you and for your students. 

If you would like to work with me on how to utilize some of the tools we have in order to differentiate instruction or assessment, I would be happy to help. After all, we are all in this together and the ultimate goal is student learning.  

Upcoming Visits

Between next week and the end of March, I will be visiting each one of your schools. I will generally be there at 8:30 and stay the entire day. I will be available to work one-to-one with you on planning lessons and assessments or visiting your classroom. It is entirely up to you. The week before I visit, you will receive an email from your administration as a reminder about my visit. If you would like to book time to meet with me, please let me know. If you have any questions about these visits, do not hesitate to ask. I am looking forward to spending time with you and your students in your schools!

Wednesday, March 18
Wednesday Feb 25
Tuesday, Feb 24
Monday, Feb 23
Tuesday, March 6
Wednesday, Feb 11
Thursday, March 5 (AM)
Griffin Park
Monday, Feb 26
Rolling Hills
Monday, March 9
Thursday, March 5 (PM)
Monday, March 16
Thursday, Feb 5
Tuesday, Feb 3

Friday, 16 January 2015

Effective Teaching and Learning

Effective Teaching

Have you ever walked into a classroom and just knew it was an effective room. I would bet we could all agree there is an "atmosphere" in a classroom that is highly effective. This month, administrators took time to discuss the qualities of effective teachers. They were presented with the following questions:
  1. What does it mean to be an effective/excellent teacher?
  2. How do you know teachers are effective?
  3. What measures do we have to know teachers are effective?
  4. What is your vision for excellence in teaching and learning. 
Administrators from all schools discussed the questions in small groups. Below is a summary of those discussions:

What does it mean to be an effective/excellent teacher?

  • Going beyond basic competencies.
  • Lifelong learners
  • Self-reflection and willingness to change/make changes to teaching practice
  • Open and responsive to feedback from students and parents
  • Student focused
  • Establishes foundational relationships which enable growth
  • Works as an activator rather than facilitator
  • Asks a wide array of questions
  • Invites feedback
  • Utilizes differentiated instruction and assessment
  • Works with the entire community as a resource 
  • Has a growth mindset
  • Teacher includes the students as part of a community of learners

How do you know teachers are effective?

  • Students feel capable and have a sense of agency
  • Students can identify the goals of lessons
  • Positive relationships with students, parents, colleagues
  • Direct observations and conversations with teachers, their colleagues, students and parents

What measures do we have to know our teachers are effective?

  • Classroom observations
  • Conversations
  • Student outcomes
  • Academic but also the student sense of their own agency, belonging, and competence
  • Students feel connected, capable, contributing and cared for
  • Clear link between assessment and planning
  • Students are passionate about being in the classroom

What is our vision for excellence in teaching and learning?

  • Excited/engaged student body
  • Positive school cultures
  • Positive relationships
  • Classrooms as learning environments

Last night, new Grasslands teachers met for a sharing session at Central Office. We discussed the same questions. Interestingly, the same responses came up. There was a big focus on the development of positive relationships with the entire learning community (colleagues, students, parents, administrators, the greater community). In addition, there was a strong focus on the idea of connecting and collaborating. Below are links to two documents about teaching effectiveness that we discussed. I would also be very interested to know your thoughts. How would you define effective and excellent teaching? What is your vision for teaching and learning in your classroom? 

Teaching Effectiveness Resources:

Google Drive Resources

The last item I have for you this week is a link to some excellent Google Drive resources. It lists a number of learning activities you can do with Google Drive as well as some time saving tips you can use when you are in Drive. Our use of Google and Chrome Apps has skyrocketed over the past few months. This is great to see! I hope you are finding success with the tools in Drive. If you have any questions or need any help, please do not hesitate to ask. 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Well, it is almost the end of the first week back. I hope you and your students have made it through relatively unscathed. I thought I would start off the New Year on the Learning and Innovation blog with some resources you can incorporate into your classroom. As well, there is an upcoming project and one conference which may be of interest to some of you. As always, if you would like more information or would like me to come work with you, please do not hesitate to contact me. Next week, I will share some updates on some of the really great things your colleagues are doing around the division.


I have shared this website before but thought it warranted a second mention. It has been popping up on a number of different blogs I read. Instagrok ( is a site where students can search any topic and create customizable concept maps. The concept maps can be scaled in difficulty to suit the needs of the students. As well, students can create their own concept maps and save their maps. I see a lot of use for this in all divisions and subject areas. The site creates maps that include text, images and videos. In addition, each subconcept that appears on the map is expandable. I spent quite a bit of time playing around with the site. I believe many of you would be able to integrate it directly into your lessons.

Chrome Apps Perfect for the Chrome Classroom

With the integration of Google Drive across the division, there are many applications that are available to us and to our students. The apps increase the functionality of the tools we have available through Google Drive. 

Holly Clark, a Google Certified trainer and Junior High Teacher from San Diego, has put together a list of Chrome Apps that help increase the functionality of Google Chrome. I had the opportunity to meet Holly in August while she presented at a conference in Calgary. She is an energetic, passionate teacher who has a great deal to share. She describes her favourite Chrome Apps on her blog which can be found here: Holly is also very open to questions and is willing to help teachers integrate Google Apps for Education into their classroom. 

Medicine Hat College/Grasslands Collaboration

Earlier in the year, I wrote a blog post about VROC - Virtual Researchers on Call ( This free service pairs teachers in all divisions in Grasslands with researchers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math who are willing to be virtual guest speakers in classrooms. As a humanities teacher, I thought it was unfortunate that this type of service did not exist for those of us outside the STEM environment. As such, I approached Medicine Hat College with the idea of creating a database of their instructors who would be interested in being virtual guest speakers on topics in the humanities. They agreed to engage in a pilot project with us. As a result, we are looking for teachers in grade 9 through 12 who would be willing to participate in a pilot. As a participant, you would gain access to Medicine Hat College professors with expertise in economics, literature, history, political science, and geography who would be willing to speak to your classes through either Skype or Google Hangouts. You would also help to come up with a list of possible topics that these professors may be asked to speak on. We would like to keep the initial pilot to grades 9 through 12 with the intention of expanding, should the pilot be successful. 

If you are interested in acting as a participant in the pilot project, please contact me and I will provide you with more details.

Alberta Google Summit: March 2/3, Edmonton

The Google in Education Alberta Summit is a high intensity two day event, which focuses on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education to promote student learning in K-12 schools. The program features both local and international Google Certified Teachers, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers, practicing administrators and solution providers. 

I attended the last summit in Calgary in August and was very impressed. I took a lot of useful information away from the conference. If you want to expand your knowledge and understanding of how to use Google Apps for Education or find innovative ways to utilize the tools in your classroom, this is a great opportunity. You can find more details here: