The importance of ‘Experience’ and ‘Self’ in Global Learning.

A couple months ago, I spent a few days in the woods north of Bancroft, Ontario. It was a frigid -30C with windchill values hitting -46C, but this is part of life when entering the Canadian wilderness in January, and ultimately we knew that it would be a great experience. I truly value these experiences. They push my comfort zone and force me to connect more deeply with friends, family, my kids, nature, and more importantly, myself. Actually, many of my financial arguments with my wife are around decisions on spending as I mostly spend my money on experiences rather than ‘things’. I’ve always been this way.

When I began my career 10 years ago, I could never have comprehended the journey that teaching would take me on. I spent my first year teaching in an Inuit community in Nunavut and this was transformative in so many ways – mostly personal. I came back south and worked various LTOs with my local public board.  After a couple of years, the urge to explore and experience the world again crept back in and I left Canada to teach in Casablanca, Morocco. Again, this experience was transformative, changing my perspective on life and teaching. Returning home, I landed a job at Lakefield College School where I have grown so much more as a teacher; learning from and travelling the world with my students, learning with my amazing colleagues, and having doors opened to me. My life at LCS has been and continues to be, transformative. My life has been sculpted through experiences, and I truly believe that student learning should be too. Not just good assignments or labs, but real life-worthy experiences that engage our students deeply across all disciplines.  We thrive on experiences because every new experience means new learning. It pushes us out of our comfort zones, forces us to take a different approach, and changes the ‘I used to think’ to ‘Now I think’.

With my new position at LCS, Director of Global Learning, I was given the opportunity to marry my passion for geography, travel, adventure, teaching. And so, my action plan this year revolved around making our Global Learning Trips more meaningful. They are transformative experiences as they are, but how do we ensure our students are asking the right questions, digging deeper to understand themselves and their place in the world better?

Action Plan: How might we support deep global learning through meaningful experiences and programming?

I was tasked to create a curriculum for our students to work through prior to their experiences overseas with our Global Learning trips.  I knew I wanted to create something special and through many conversations, iterations and many jumps through systemic hoops at LCS, we came to a consensus that a weekend retreat for all trip teams would be the best approach for this year. Trip leaders would learn and participate alongside their students. I wanted it to be an experience, I wanted to create an atmosphere of learning –  and intentionality was paramount. And so was born the…

Key learnings I hoped for:

  • General knowledge of destination country, culture, history, and people.
  • Overall self-awareness and its importance to global experiences.
  • Understanding of their privileges as they pertain to global experiences.
  • Understanding of how biases and assumptions can affect interactions.
  • Learning about each other – i.e. building a team

Heading into the pre-retreat weekend, I was nervous. My creative juices had been flowing for months in anticipation of this weekend. Through collaboration with some Global Learning team leaders, my direct report, @vboomgaardt, and our pedagogical coaches, @ddoucet and Ali Webb, the Global Learning retreat was sculpted into something that I was excited about.

Once up at Bark Lake, the scene was set. Our students were put through the learning ringer with a heavily packed 2-day global learning experience with activities, deep reflective time, and creative outlets that pertained to their countries. They worked, ate, and slept with their team and began their journey of self-discovery and global learning well before heading to their respective countries over March Break.

Like any new program, constructive feedback and changes are bound to arise. What I didn’t fully expect, was how much our students took from this experience. I leave you with some of the student feedback from their experience (see below). Reading these again and seeing words like ‘grateful, trust, mindful, gives me goosebumps to this day. It was one of the most powerful experiences that I have been apart of as a teacher.

“I think that learning about what your country, team, and yourself … prepared me more because I am now more familiar with the country before attending. Also, I know everyone in my group and we’re past the awkward stage of meeting new people and I’d say that we’d all be comfortable opening up to each other about any concerns we might have. Taking the time to really evaluate myself and think about what I’m good at and writing what I’m worried about down took away some nervousness by letting it all out.”

“Learning about my country helped rationalise some of my fears and give me some background for how to behave abroad, while simply spending time with my team helped me to become comfortable around the people I will have to trust on my trip”

“These activities made me realize of all the privileges which we have, and how that will be important to remember as we go in countries where people will be less fortunate. It also made me understand more about Ecuador and Galápagos Islands.”

“I got to become closer with some new people as well as becoming closer to people who are already my best friends. I was also able to see what its gonna be like when I get there and to just be thankful and mindful of what I have.”

“Really getting to know my group, we didn’t really know each other before. I didn’t really know exactly what to expect on this trip until I went on his retreat. The privileges activity was really eye opening and I really enjoyed that.

“Honestly I think everything was great! It was an awesome time and allowed us to get to know our country and the people within our group.”

“It really opened my eyes to how lucky I am and how grateful I am to even be going on the trip which makes me even more excited”

If you are interested in seeing more detail, here is the schedule of events and for the slide deck of the Global Learning Pre-Trip retreat weekend –> Click Here


Reflections on my Cohort 21 Action Plan:

Posted in Action Plan, Global Learning, Lifelong Learner | Leave a comment

Student Leadership: Engagement, Enthusiasm, and Empowerment

Three years ago, I got the chance to start working in our newly formed program called Leadership, Character, and Values (LCV). Aimed at building leadership from grade 9screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-8-48-45-pm through to grade 12, it focuses on scaffolding successful leadership skills as students moved through their high school experience and then off to post-secondary education. Like most independent schools, the diversity of  student programming is both wide and sometimes competitive (often competing against each other for time and space).

We have spent the past few years building the program and slowly earning the respect (program-wise) of both staff and students. That being said, our students are constantly pulled in many directions which creates a hierarchy of priority, which sometimes results in ‘Leadership’ being prioritised differently when up against academics, athletics, arts, and other programs. By empathising with the students, it is easy to understand why they might disengage in a program like LCV when it’s new, mandatory, and immersed in a program demanding school such as mine. Though I have seen an increased engagement over the years, I am still challenged to create an engaging program that drives enthusiasm and empowers students to embrace and value skills surrounding leadership and character.

What does it all come down to?

  • All leadership is based on the ability to work together and build relationships. If the students aren’t aware of their own abilities and ‘types’, then how are they able to correct actions that would affect their own ability to work with others on a day to day basis.
  • Values must be core understandings of who they are and what they can contribute to the class/program
  • Awareness of who THEY are is key.

This year, I’m hoping to tackle three distinct areas.

  1. Build a program that engages students to think deeply about their leadership potential (as defined by them)
  2. Empower students to make decisions, plan events, and become aware of their own strengths and weakness as they apply it to working with others and building relationships.
  3. Create an enthusiasm around the leadership, character, and values program.

Scaffolding the year:

Yesterday, I ran a two-hour leadership retreat for the grade 11’s. The goal was to create awareness around their ‘type’ (defined by Extrovert/Introvert, Thinker/Feeler, Sensor/Intuitive, Perceiver/Judger) and how it affects their ability to work in teams as they are tasked this year with designing the student Christmas party and a Global Literacy Initiative week in the spring. Teamwork, awareness of self, and leadership will ultimately be the key to their success.

Prior to the morning retreat, each grade 11 completed a newly designed Personality Type ‘Verifier’ through a program called TypeCoach developed in association with Harvard and Stanford. From the results we designed a program to increase personal awareness of how their type will affect their ability to work with others. The resulting report is eye-opening and gives areas to work on, challenges they face, strengths they have, and suggested techniques when working with other ‘Types’ – Here is my report for an idea of what that looks like. 

After a few team challenges (including the 18-minute Marshmallow Challenge developed by Tim Wujec – see below) and individual reflection we had them ‘own’ their type and make commitment statements for the year.  I am hoping that we can circle back throughout the year to their type and these statements.

Love to hear your thoughts, feedback, suggestions?

My Challenge:

How might I build a leadership program for the Grade 11 class that empowers and engages a meaningful and enthusiastic approach to leadership, character, and values?



Posted in Action Plan, Leadership | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Assessment – A Never Ending Journey

Redefining Assessment

Learning really never ends, eh?  Cohort 21 has provided me with yet another chance to think, re-evaluate, and implement new practices in teaching.  Working alongside some fantastic facilitators and coaches, and with a new cohort of educational thinkers and tinkerers, I have received much feedback on assessment and feedback in my classroom.

A few key aspects to this year:

The need to always ask 'Why?'

The need to always ask ‘Why?’

Moving forward, assessment truly is a journey.  Working with a few colleagues at my school, we implemented an Assessment Tuning Protocol PD session that involved faculty from a variety of  disciplines. The feedback I got when presenting my classroom dilemma was astounding. Working with my colleagues not only allowed me to tune my assessment practices, it also offered us a chance to learn from each other in a meaningful and respectful structured session.  Everyone walked away with something new to think about- this not only helped in opening the dialogue on assessment strategies, it also benefits the students and their learning.

Working and learning from others has offered the most practical growth for me this year.  Comments on blogs, working with colleagues, and informal conversations during Cohort 21 face to faces has meant a redefining of how I use assessments in my class.



We are constantly working towards being better – a better self, a better educator, a better husband, a better father… In the end, it is most important to always believe in the journey – there is no perfection, only a path of learning that never ends.

Thank you to all those who helped with my action plan this year. Your comments, ideas, and suggestions have been very much appreciated! Looking forward to our next Face to Face in Hamilton.


Posted in Action Plan, Assessment, Feedback | 9 Comments

How do you approach dilemmas in your class/school?

Last year, I spent much time figuring out the intricacies of applying project based learning in my grade 12 biology class.  I shifted to teaching grade 11 biology this year and quickly realized upon reflecting from my experience last year, that I needed to iron out my approach to feedback and assessment in order to deepen student learning while also having them practice the skills they need for 21st-century life in education.  At my school, I have found that there seems to be a significant gap in the conversation surrounding assessment. I began to approach a few people that I knew could help, both with my classroom dilemma and with a desire to start conversations around assessment in the wider community.

Joe McCrae, who recently moved to our community and join the LCS faculty, had spent quite some time working with protocols designed by The National School Reform Faculty who’s mission is to “empower educators to create meaningful learning experiences for all, by collaborating effectively in reflective democratic communities that foster educational equity and social justice.”  He suggested that we offer up an opportunity to present my dilemmas surrounding assessment to the greater faculty. @ddoucet, Joe, and I sent out an invite and were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response by people who wanted to talk more about assessment (approximately 40% of our faculty responded and wanted to be involved), and I was happy to see that people were interested in working as a team to approach the dilemma I was having in my grade 11 biology class; perhaps a dilemma they were also having.

The NSRF is a not-for-profit organization and offers several free protocols that allow for collaborative approaches to a variety of situations in your school and class. (Protocols from A-Z). There are many so depending on what your goal is for the collaborative time with staff or students, will depend on which protocol fits.  As I was looking for consultation and feedback from my colleagues, we decided the Consultancy Protocol would offer the best structure for me to get as much feedback on my Cohort 21 action plan and assessment dilemmas as possible.

How does this look?

First of all, I presented a PBL activity that I had given to my students and explained the process of daily goal setting and reflective practice (using docAppender). I also presented my self-assessment piece that the students had to complete and the rubric that I used to evaluate.

Afterward, I presented my dilemmas:

  • Dilemma #1 – How can I use assessment in my Biology course to deepen student understanding and improve the quality of student work.  
  • Dilemma #2 – How can I clearly communicate my expectations of student work.

Once I completed this presentation (to approximately 8 other colleagues), it was time for them to start asking questions – Joe led the group through the protocol which includes a set of timed activities:

  1. clarifying questions to set the context
  2. probing questions to dig deeper
  3. a group discussion where I metaphorically stepped out of the conversation and they discussed my dilemmas and presentation, allowing me to listen and take notes, thereby receiving the feedback that I needed.
  4. Reflection time allowing me to reflect and respond to the discussion

Having colleagues from a diverse set of backgrounds in the room, allowed for some very provoking questions, some of which I had already thought about and others which I had not:

Clarifying questions: 

What was the reflection – Did they every get feedback on what they actually wrote?

How you’ve practiced integrating vocabulary before the project?

When you are marking, how do you anchor levels from the rubric.  How do you maintain consistency between students or marking times?

How many nailed it out of the park?

Plagiarism and references?  How did you handle this?  

Probing questions:

I am often the person that says this is my fault if this tanked.  Have you thought of other reasons, beyond the scope of your project?  Have you considered other factors?

If more teachers did PBL, would kids have an easier time with this type of work?

How much do you think their abilities in reading and writing affected their results?

How were you evaluating their ability to take what they know and apply it to the new topic. 

Why do you think they were misjudging their work, and how could you change this?

Discussion: My notes while they discussed my dilemma

  • Project is clearly laid out – almost like a checklist but with questions (some kids will always miss the expectations)
  • Rubric seems clear 
  • Do it more – a project base course – they will learn how to approach big questions and projects over the time spent in the course
  • Use daily reflections and include a paragraph to practice scientific writing
  • Cross-curricular. Many opportunities to approach other teacher and collaborate.
  • Involve students with exemplars and breaking down the rubric. Feedback at the start –  what does excellent work look like?
  • Less emphasis on the goal and what they accomplished – explicit feedback so they can work to overall expectations.
  • Research versus PBL – what is the difference really?
  • Struggles with time – Project Based Learning
  • Be more intentional about metacognitive factor  – have the reflections change (provide a paragraph of your writing today – reflections with practice)
  • Are my expectations too high or not well enough explained
  • create intention and be explicit

What has this done for me and my colleagues?

This process made me think, question, and evaluate my teaching and assessment.  The ideas, discussion and feedback will help me approach my dilemma and contextualize the problem as seen through the eyes of others. This process was collaborative and improved communication across departments, it allowed for a respectful and organized approach to collaboration where everyone felt valued. Based on feedback, my colleagues enjoyed the process and they remarked on how it made them also think about their own assessment practice; a powerful result from a 50-minute process. I am grateful for this experience with my colleagues and for the feedback that they could offer.  One of the best comments from a colleague as we rushed off to class, “Can we do this every week!?”

Participant Feedback:  

Warm / Cool Feedback about the structure of this conversation.

  • Kept it focused and within the timeframe available
  • I liked the structure of clarifying questions, probing, and then discussion. I think it encouraged us to refrain from jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. We had to really listen and think deeply.

Do you feel like you were able to take something away from this conversation for your own practice?

  • Yes – a more critical eye to rubrics and framing/preparing students for an assignment – lots of transferrable issues
  • Yes- I’d like to use the protocol itself somehow in the classroom.  I also was encouraged to hear teachers wrestling with the same challenges I face.
  • Yes – I was interested to learn about the parallels of skill between the sciences and humanities (ie, my assumption was that science was less skill-based and more content based); going through this process highlighted the importance of focusing on student skill, rather than product
  • Yes – I liked how the protocols demanded engagement. For 50 minutes, we needed to be there and nowhere else but I got more from that 50 minutes than I have from all other meetings combined this year. Makes me realise that i shouldn’t be giving my students the option of disengaging.
  • Made me excited about PBL – something I think I often take for granted – and reflective about my own assessment practices.

Imagine the power of integrating these protocols with the Design Thinking process.  The results would be powerful for approaching dilemmas, both in the class and in the school.

Posted in Action Plan, Assessment, Feedback | 12 Comments

Clearing the fog: Taking a closer look at Assessment and Feedback

How will your students receive, accept, and apply feedback?

When I think back to my years in high school, I remember essays, tests, pop quizzes, and the occasional assignment. Aside from

the projects and labs that we did in Physics and Chemistry, rarely was I asked to design my own project, reflect on how I was learning or being assessed, and never did I ever conference with a teacher about my learning. Last year, I worked through a Project-Based Learning unit where I gave constant feedback daily and students created questions, delved into subjects of their own choice, and made connections to the curriculum.  In the end, I handed them a rubric with a grade and some comments on it. How were they supposed to learn from a piece of paper?  It was during this unit, where I realized that I needed to re-evaluate how I give and more importantly, use feedback.

In the process of Design Thinking (See @lmcbeth’s post here), the empathizing piece is so important. How do I design a project that pushes 21st-century students to engage their interests and work to their own potential? Then, how do I create a system of feedback that is both constructive and immediate with an assessment process that allows for student reflection and learning? Ideally, learning FROM the rubrics, comments and feedback I provide on a continual basis.

My goal is to devise a feedback process that is more immediate, can be applied to any type of assessment, and is clearly visible along the way. Ideally, I’d like to redesign my classroom as well – with feedback and assessment in mind.

My challenge - perhaps this is two action plans in one. The design thinking process allowed me to break down my problem and see it more clearly. The immediate feedback through collaboration at Cohort 21 was exactly what I needed.

My challenge – perhaps this is two action plans in one. The design thinking process allowed me to break down my problem and see it more clearly. The immediate feedback through collaboration at Cohort 21 was exactly what I needed.

Most recently, I have reached out to both @ddoucet and my Director in Teaching and Learning (Dave Krocker) to discuss making rubrics and post-assessment feedback more effective. From these conversations, my co-teacher and I redesigned the rubric (A great post on how to build a more meaningful rubric on Edutopia), asked students to submit self-reflections based on where they sat – Below, At, or Above standard. The key here was asking students ‘Why?”. Some responses…

After this, we conferenced with the students regarding their rubric and their self-reflection – this process often resulted with an ‘Ah ha’ moment for some of the students. It was clear to both myself and them that there is a need for more instances of feedback throughout the process – this is something that I need to focus on and has been an area of growth for me for quite awhile now. Somehow, I also want to redesign my space both in real life and online to better my feedback and increase student learning. I’m certainly on my way, but much more growth lies ahead.

Throughout our last F2F, applying the Design model to this problem brought to light many new insights and ideas.  The numerous conversations fueled a new appreciation for what assessment is really supposed to look like. A big thank you to @ksolowey, @gnichols, @lmcbeth, & @ddoucet along with many others in the Cohort 21 group who gave me great feedback and ideas to move forward with.

At the end of the day, great assessments are only the starting point. What they do with their feedback is where true learning and growth really happens.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on feedback and assessment.  What are other techniques that you use to make sure feedback is actually used to enhance learning? How do you make it consistent and timely?



Posted in Action Plan, Assessment, Feedback | 21 Comments

It All Comes Down to Feedback – PBL and Personlized Learning in Biology

I am going to own up to the fact that sometimes I find it very difficult to give structured and critical feedback.  Throughout my 2career, I have found that the varying expectations of myself as a teacher from both students and admin have been drastically different.  My recent experience with my grade 12 Biology project has made me realize that I give the best feedback in face to face experiences.  Project Based Learning allowed me to take a step away from the front of the room and join the students in their journey through this process.  I used many many ‘mini-conferences’ and daily goal setting and reflections allowed for a constant ‘checkpoint’ or conversation outside of class through DocAppender and Google Forms.


  • Pushing students to be more creative with their approach – Design Thinking process would have helped.
  • Empathizing more with my students about the challenges that this type of open ended project might cause.
  • Being different and learning through this process caused anxiety within the classroom at points
  • providing constructive and continual feedback was certainly a challenge for me but a crucial part to this type of learning.

Here is my Action Plan reflection – Certainly much to learn from this experience and some tweaks for next year as well.  In the end I was very pleased with what students were able to accomplish and with the depth at which they were to explore. (My Action Plan in Storify – )



Thoughts, comments, suggestions, resources? Please share!

Posted in Action Plan, Personalized Learning | 4 Comments

Personalize and Project Based Learning…A Plan in Action

Alright, so personalize learning and project based learning (A great article) isn’t all that new.  However, if you were one of the many who sat

An amazing infographic that explains the ideals of personalized learning.

An amazing infographic that explains the ideals of personalized learning.

through high school and university biology lectures (you know, the ones you jolt awake from), then you know how boring it can sometimes be.  In an attempt to change the minds of the few who now sit in front of me in my Grade 12 bio class, I am about to force them on a journey of learning.  Perhaps force is a strong word… motivate and support them.  In spurts of learning throughout the beginning of this year, my grade 12 bio class has been lectured to only a handful of times (I do see it’s importance), and instead, have been challenged to investigate protein transport disorders, play with lego in a TPACK inspired DNA/RNA learning challenge, create videos to explain processes of DNA replication, transcription, and protein synthesis, use twitter to share and discuss ethics surrounding biology and technology, and now I am taking them to a new level…I hope. My current and most arduous assignment is what I am calling the Molecular Genetics Challenge; a very open, personalized, and project based journey.

Alright, some background on why first.  My learning community is pretty amazing. Through Cohort 21, colleagues, and those I follow on Twitter, I have been exposed to many ideas on project based learning.  This community is what has motivated me to look at things in a new light.  After some discussion with various people, I gained the confidence to do something different and break away from more traditional biology classroom; especially in a grade 12 class where pressure to perform is at all time highs.  My goal or action plan is to take project based learning and combine it with the ideals of personalized learning.  It was the infographic to the right that really got me thinking (click to see full size).  After reading through it I went back to the curriculum and realized that the Molecular Genetics unit in Grade 12 biology is designed perfectly for a personalized project based learning assignment…or journey.


Here’s the plan: The Assignment (Feel free to make a copy!)

Step 1: Curriculum Documents. Using the curriculum documents and the essential questions for the unit, students will decide on a project/thesis that will best lead them down their path of learning.

Step 2: Proposal: Students will create a one page proposal with their thesis and rationale which will be submitted for approval during a conference with me.

Step 3: Research. Students will need to compile resources and create an annotated bibliography to demonstrate their research and to mimic expectations that post-secondary institutions have.

Step 4: Project completion. How the project is completed and the final project will be entirely up to the student. I will provide resources and feedback daily.

Step 5: Project defence. Like with a thesis defence in a Masters program, students will defend their project to another faculty member and myself.  This will be limited to a 10 minute presentation of their journey and learning.

How collaboration will be a part of this process:

The classroom will be divided into working spaces to ensure that students are directed and that they have support from others who are working on the same stage of the project. They will also be encouraged to share successes, questions, and concerns via their classroom hashtag on twitter.



Using DocAppender, an add on for Google Forms, the students will submit goals at the begining of each class.  They will also complete my Reflective Survey at the end of each class.  Why do I mention DocAppender? By using this add-on, I am able to populate a single Google Document with information from each survey that is specific to a student.  It’s a great conversation piece for conferencing with my students. Feel free to watch the following video on how I am using DocAppender:

I am continuing to look for ways of making this better for the students.  Please feel free to comment and share your ideas.  What are your thoughts on personalized and project based learning?





Posted in Action Plan, Education Tools, Personalized Learning | 6 Comments

Twitter chats, Storify, and PLCs in the classroom

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 10.28.28 PM

Similar to Facebook, you are able to set up a profile where all your Storify articles are stored. You can also follow and share with others.

Twitter and Storify – Enhancing and Archiving for Learning

The power of sharing in an isolated event such as a Twitter chat can be a motivating, collaborative, and unique way to stimulate the minds of our students.  A couple weeks ago, I ran my first Twitter chat with the Cohort 21 crew on educational frameworks and action planning as a professional development technique.  After completing the Twitter chat, I wanted to capture the questions, ideas, and resources that the Cohort 21 community shared.  I had heard of Storify before but hadn’t used it as a tool to capture and archive resources. It was super easy and made it into a very organized and easy to read format.  Unfortunately, WordPress won’t embed Storify due to security reasons but you can still see the link below to view the recent chat on Ed-tech Frameworks such as SAMR, TPACK, and TIM and get an idea of how it works. This was the first time that I had seen the value of Storify for my learning as a teacher and potentially for my students.

In the weeks following, a group of teachers at my school, and various other independent schools in Ontario, attended the GAFE Summit in Montreal, which in itself is an amazing PD opportunity.  Again, it was a time where many people were sharing their resources, ideas, and views via Twitter.  As I wished to capture the conversation, Storify allowed me to compile the resources that were shared via the #GafeSummit hashtag for future use.

Bringing it to the classroom

After my experience with the archiving site, Storify.  Brent Hurley, a fellow Cohort 21 Coach, and myself began discussing ways in which we could use Twitter to enhance the learning within our classrooms.  After much discussion, we were both able to come up with a meaningful way to use Twitter in the classroom and capture the moments via Storify.

In Brent’s AP English class, he set up a hashtag unique to his classroom and posed questions to stimulate conversation between his students.  He then archives the conversation through Storify so the kids can access the conversation in an easy and organized platform.  It’s a unique way to integrate social media into the classroom in a way that also demonstrates what good digital citizenship looks like. The students essentially learn how to create their own personal learning community (PLC) within their own class.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 10.36.56 PM

Brent’s AP English class. Big ideas, questions, and comments shared via Twitter, made into an organized ‘Story’ for students to use and share.

I am excited to introduce Twitter Chats to my Biology class next week as well.  The conversation, resources, questions, and curiousity that it can instil will be a powerful way to connect students to social media in a different way then they are usually exposed to.  I know that twitter, when used correctly, can be a powerful tool for learning and for connecting people, as it has been for my own professional development as a teacher.  My plan is to have students run Twitter Chats surrounding ethical issues, technological advances, and new ideas for my upcoming Molecular Genetics unit, have them archive them with Storify, and then bring the conversation back into the class. I am really excited to see where this goes with my grade 12 biology students and I will be careful to scaffold them for success:
  • Use a hashtag to keep the conversation in one place and between select individuals.
  • Pre-discuss good questions that could stimulate sharing and conversations.
  • Have a limited time and date for them to carry out their discussion.
  • Have students create topics to be discussed.
  • Carry out a ‘mock’ chat in class to show how it is done.
  • Discuss the importance of digital citizenship
Wish me luck! I will update with a post afterwards.
I’d love to hear what you are doing with Twitter in your classroom and I am always looking for more great ideas. Please share!
Posted in EdTech, Education Tools, PLC | 2 Comments

Growth Mindset – Birth to Death, and Reincarnation

I always wonder if the Growth Mindset is one born innately or one nurtured through years of situational experiences that push your comfort zone.  For me,  various things have lead to the development and need to have a growth mindset in my everyday life.  A personal desire to always enjoy the things I do, a need and desire to have change in my life (a slight ADD personality may be to blame here), a push for lifelong learning and curiousity, and the need to be valued as a member of a community have all been part of developing my own growth mindset.

Growth vs Fixed Mindset - Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University

Growth vs Fixed Mindset – Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University

Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, has spent her life studying growth mindset, challenge based learning, and various other psychology based problems regarding mindset.  Something that struck me was how growth mindset was defined; simply put, when students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that intelligence can be developed, failure needs to be embraced, and most importantly, that it is possible to control your mindset.


I do strongly believe that we, as children, are innate natural-born learners. We have a growth mindset, we explore new boundaries constantly, and failure is an everyday occurrence that needs to be overcome and is…or else we would never walk, talk, eat, play, you get the point.


My question is, where then does the fixed mindset come from? Why is it, that as some people get older, they stop challenging themselves? Specifically, in their professional lives.

I wanted to explore the barriers, and here are some that I came up with:

  1. The inner ‘Gremlin’ (Check out ‘Taming Your Gremlin’ by Rick Carson) or the internal ‘you’ that convinces you that it is not possible to step outside your comfort zone because it might result in failure.
  2. The ‘We’ve always done it this way’ attitude that stifles new ideas when older systems are comfortable
  3. Culture and societal pressures within the workplace and within our lives that set up an environment where fixed mindsets persist and the outliers become only those who wish to grow.
  4. Administrative barriers – people in leadership roles pushing against change from grassroots initiatives within the staff
  5. Ownership of speciality areas within the organization that frowns on collaboration.  The ‘this is my course’ attitude.
  6. New challenges that arise outside of a job which shifts the focus and growth (perhaps a Growth mindset elsewhere in life)

I am a ‘science guy’ and it is quick to notice that these barriers would simply perpetuate themselves in a positive feedback cycle.  That is, until an unbalance makes a ripple that disrupts the cycle. This leads me to what I call the ‘reincarnation’.


So how do some break the cycle, or perhaps never enter it?  As like many ‘self-help programs’ there must be a step by step system. In an attempt at understanding why and how, I have come up with ways that growth mindset can be nurtured back to health.

  1. People need tools to learn and grow
  2. People need motivation.  It can come in many forms.  One form being, passionate people with ideas and a good understanding that can lead people from a fixed mindset, to a motivated mindset, and finally to a growth mindset that is internalized and self-motivated for the future. Sometimes, it’s all about getting the ball rolling or acknowledging achievements.
  3. People also need time to reflect, look back, and look forward
  4. Growth is relative to the person.  Just because perceived growth seems minor, it is still an accomplishment and this needs to be acknowledged.
  5. Challenges and failures must be supported, understood, and built upon through collaboration.


My reincarnation or perhaps re-motivation of my own growth mindset came in the form of Cohort 21; a well designed, well lead PD program developed to nurture growth and change mindset to fit learning in the 21st century.  For me, this was the ‘ah ha’ moment.

In the name of science I have put together a bit of a Mindset survey.  Please feel free to add to the growing results!

Posted in Growth Mindset, Lifelong Learner | 1 Comment

A Paperless Unit – Stewardship Through Technology

The idea of going paperless, though not a new one, came to us in a collaborative meeting the grade 10 science team had today after school.  For years, we have struggled to really make the Climate Change unit cohesive, fluid, and interactive.  Not to say we haven’t tried or haven’t had any success in the unit, but every year it is one that seems to undergo major reconstruction.  Perhaps this is a good thing, Climate Change and the concepts behind it are simply not as linear as the chemistry, physics, and biology (though less so) units.  The study of climate is political, dynamic, and misunderstood and it lends itself to a much more different approach in pedagogy. The essential questions and enduring understandings see to have a better chance in coming to life in a more personal way.

Small changes can make a big difference.

Our attempt at making it stick out a little better this year involves taking the entire unit to a completely paperless world.  Some may argue that this is not conducive to the holistic learning of a child, but I would argue that if it is something that informs change and actually impacts slightly on the actual issue at hand, then perhaps its worth exploring.

What it entitles:

Taking students outside of the classroom – hands on activities capturing and reflecting on pictures taken with their BYODs

Extensive use of Google Docs – Collaborative reflection, data analysis and lab submissions, Google Forms – assessment/evaluation

Moving students to Google Classroom for the unit – Management of files in Google Docs (See post on Google Classroom)

Twitter/Blogs – Connect with a scientist, ask questions, make it authentic

Integration of SAMR – Make it more meaningful

Use of online toolsPadlet, Easel-ly, Todaysmeet

In the end, we hope that the students gain valuable skills, seek to learn more through digital media related to climate change, converse and discuss in a digital forum, and perhaps appreciate the fact that no pencil, pen, and paper was used during the unit that focuses on the impacts that we have on the world around us.

And perhaps a small change in our everyday life can really invoke a greater difference in the world.







Posted in EdTech, Education Tools, SAMR | 8 Comments