It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

A Week of Learning September 28, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831,New Learning — Jamie @ 2:38 am

A week in reflection…

It is already Monday night, which means that tomorrow will be class number three of EC&I 831.  Where has the time gone?  Looking back on the week, I have had a steep learning curve in many new things.

Last Tuesday started with a math PD opportunity.  We are now full force in the new math curriculum and we received a new program to use to teach it.  We were “voluntold” to attend this full day math workshop organized by our school division and run by a member of our SK Ministry team.  As you can well imagine, the thought of all of our grade 2-3 teachers (4 at our school) missing a full day of school so soon in the year was a little scary.  However, this day turned out to be a wonderfully useful day.  It was choke-full of ready-to-use activities.  It was also a unique opportunity to be with only French Immersion teachers so we had lengthy discussions about the vocabulary and the language challenges that our FSL students encounter.  Questions such as: “Do we teach vocabulary before we teach the math?”  and “How can we assess to make sure that it is the math skills we are assessing and not the language/reading skills?”

Tuesday evening was our EC&I 831 class.  It was very interesting.  I had never used a social bookmarking site before, so that information was all new to me.  I am also fairly new to WordPress.  I knew how to do basic things such as post, but I had no idea how to, as one of my classmates said “pimp my blog.”  I have since done a few things to add interest to my blog.  I even set up a blog for my parents, posting my daily emails and other information there.  They are enjoying it too.  I also learned what “trackbacks” and “pingbacks” are.  I’m truly sorry to all the blogs I’ve quoted before but not added to a trackback.  I will do so in the future!

I had been using Google Reader for a while now.  As I said in my introductory biography here, I am a huge reader.  I have used Google Reader to subscribe to the many book review blogs I follow.  A few of my favourites are 11-yr-old Melina’s Reading Vacation, and the crew at Reading Teen.  I also follow the blogs of many, MANY teachers, librarians, and educational experts.  Again, some of my favourites are the Reading Countess at Recycle Your Reads, Joan Young from Finding Ways for All Kids to Flourish, and Donalyn Miller at The Book Whisperer who also wrote a book (which changed my whole attitude towards teaching, BTW) by the same name.  Also, I was fortunate enough to become a part of the second generation of an Edublogger’s Alliance, the brain-child of Kelly Tenkely, joining together bloggers with a commitment to read and comment on others’ blogs.  It is similar to Alec’s idea of a “critical friend” who you know will always read your posts.  Kelly is an absolutely huge support and I encourage you to follow her on Twitter.  You can find her page here.  What I didn’t know about GR that I learned in class is that you can make your own folders and rename the blogs to make things more convenient for you.

The last thing we talked about in class was Twitter.  I have been on Twitter for about 6 months now.  At first, I thought that it was going to be a waste of time.  I have to say that I have done more professional development in those 6 months than I have in the last 6 years.  It has led me to more professional reading, I’ve gone to a technology conference because of Twitter, and I would not likely have taken this class either.

Wednesday and Thursday passed without much incident.  Friday was a PD day.  We had some time to do some collaborative planning.  Last fall, our grades 1-3 teachers talked about implementing a “guided literacy” model in our school to try and help answer some of the varied needs we are experiencing in our classrooms.  We were searching for a way to support our non-readers while challenging our strong students (not boring them!)  I was very excited by this prospect.  My principal asked me to take the lead on the project and myself and one of my colleagues spent hours and hours planning for the project this summer.  We were both very excited by the idea, so we wanted to come into the fall with a lot of the planning done so that the other teachers involved would not feel like they were being given “more work”.  The plan was to do our final planning and start right away this week or next.  Well, things did not go as planned.  The only people who were completely on board were myself, the teacher I planned with and our learning resource teacher.  The others, although not against the idea of it, felt like they didn’t understand it well enough yet or felt like their classes were just not ready to collaborate just yet.  So, rework the plan.  The three of us comfortable with the project are going to start next week.  The others will join in as the year goes and they feel comfortable.  The three “leaders” of the project made our groups, picked our focus, and are now ready to go next week!  I am so excited for my students.  I think that it will be an absolute benefit to each and every one of their learning!

Our school division is using a new report card this year for grades 1-5 based on the new curriculum outcomes.  I met with my grade 3 colleague on Saturday to go through the new outcomes and plan with her how we are going to assess each of the outcomes.  It was heavy learning and thinking, but it was absolutely beneficial to the planning of my year.

Then, after she left, it was time to work on my intro bio video.  I had decided to use pictures instead of a video because I felt too shy to talk on camera.  However, after I made my voicethread and I saw some of the great videos of my classmates, I thought that I might give it a try.  I encountered a problem, though.  I honestly have NO IDEA where to start.  I asked Lisa how she made hers.  She kindly answered me, but I knew that I didn’t stand a chance when I didn’t understand a thing that she said!  I decided to keep my voicethread for now, but I hope that by the end of the semester I’ll be able to make a true video, combining video and pictures.

Today was our first library exchange day.  Normally I ask a parent volunteer to come work the computer so that I can be talking to the kids, helping them find books, talking to them about what they like to read…  Today, I was forced to sit at the computer during today exchange.  I overheard some of the conversations.  They were talking to each other about books they have read.  Asking if others have read certain books, what they thought of them.  This just supported my ideas for having some way of sharing booktalks or book reviews beyond the confines of the classroom to within the walls of the school.  I’m still not sure what the best platform for this would be.  Would it be a blog that could be moderated?   Videos, written responses, and podcasts could be embedded, comments could be shared.  Can you search a blog?  There is a wiki that people would edit.  However, the edits could not be monitored in the same way and we would run the risk of losing everything… Do you have any suggestions?  I am going to start with the two grade 3 classes.  In preparation, we have them writing their reviews in their “Readers’ Notebooks” so that they have a good base to add when I figure out what to do!

Sorry for length.  I’ve learned a lot this week!  Thanks for reading and please share your ideas!


19 Responses to “A Week of Learning”

  1. Joan Young Says:

    Wow Jamie! You certainly have learned a lot, and taught me a few things with this post as well 🙂 Thanks for the mention of my blog. I am so glad we have connected through Twitter. I love that you have this blog to share your learning. Thanks!

  2. Lisa M Lane Says:

    Ah, I feel like an idiot having provided such detailed instructions! I was using iMovie, and pasting in some stills. I wouldn’t have started there – I just wanted to see what I could do because I did something like it before and it didn’t work the way I wanted it to. I was challenged to see if I could do a better job than I did last time. But that’s seriously stepping in to the middle of something big I was trying to learn!

    Voicethread is great. But most people would start with what’s installed on their computers. On a Mac, iMovie let me just use my built-in webcam and talk. On a PC, Windows Movie Maker will do the same. In both programs, you can play with them to figure out how to edit, looking up advice on the web for something particular (like “add stills Windows Movie Maker”). That’s where I’d start.

    There are undoubtedly better and even easier to use movie programs on the web — I hope our classmates help us find some!


    • Jamie Says:

      Please don’t feel like an idiot! I am so very impressed with your video! I am just not used to not understanding something. Trying to figure out this video with a little bit of big fish in a little sea to little fish in a bit sea syndrome! I am known as the “go-to” person for technology in my building, but we are so very basic! I know lots about lots in our school, but I just realized just how much I DON’T know! Thanks for trying to help! BTW, I only have access to PCs, no Mac’s.

  3. Alec Couros Says:

    I’m happy you went with the long post, Jamie. Keep writing as you wish.

    Just to cut in with Lisa questions about online editors – I have heard good and bad things about JayCut – but it’s the one I hear most often when it comes to free and online video editing. Animoto isn’t exactly video editing (because you lack control) but it does create some neat videos . For something quite different, I had a student try something called xtranormal – see it here: – I am not sure if the tool is still free, but it used to be.

  4. Thanks for the shout out, Jamie! It sounds like you had a very productive week! I hope your year continues on such a positive trajectory. What a blessed group of kids your students are!

  5. Stephen Rahn Says:

    I am very glad to see that Twitter is having a positive impact on your professional development. I am doing my dissertation on that very subject. I might want to interview you at some point if you would be willing.

  6. Isobel Says:

    Really enjoyed reading about your learning. It’s a truly reflective learner record. Would you mind if I showed it to my masters class as an example of reflective writing?

  7. Cheers Jamie –

    Clearly you are already quite proficient in the social media space.

    I really would go for a wiki, if the students know how they work, but I would encourage different types of book recommendations and reviews – like you suggest video, audio and written…I don’t see why if you used wikispaces there was a chance of losing everything? the beauty of a wiki is that they keep all revisions!

    Also – see if you can get a Livescribe Pen…that would be great to use between students – they could interview each other about books they read and take notes with the pen. It also records the audio and you could include the notes and audio on the wiki.

    • Jamie Says:

      Hi Daniel. Thanks for the comment. Actually, I don’t know much about wikispaces except that when I tried to create one last year, I managed to lose everything I had! I definitely need to learn more about them before I introduce them to the kids! I actually came across a lovely library wiki tonight and got excited by the possibilities. So, between your encouraging comment and this wiki I found, I will definitely learn more! I’ve also never heard of a Livescribe Pen. I’ll research those too. My admin is super supportive of my ideas, so we may be able to find some money to purchase a few things too!

  8. Melina Says:

    Hey Jamie,

    I don’t understand everything you said, I totally agree with the library exchange part and getting people to talk about the books they read. A blog where the kids could post their reviews and comments sounds so fun!

    And I love the background color of this blog! It’s so pretty.

    • Jamie Says:

      Thanks Melina! It’s okay that you don’t understand. It is just enough to know that I am trying to create a place where kids (like you) at my school can share about books they like (or don’t like) without having to have their own blog! Thanks for your feedback.

  9. Jason Green Says:


    First of all let me tell you how jealous I am of French immersion schools. I’d love to send my kids (Grade 1 and Grade 2) to one if I could, but here in central Arkansas they get an hour of Spanish a week, and I don’t want to bewilder them further by trying to teach French at home (I was a French teacher before leaving for the greener pastures of instructional tech), not to mention the uncoolness of Dad trying to teach anything. In looking at these tools , has it been a problem to find ones with good French language support in the UI?

  10. ktenkely Says:

    You did have a long week! First of all let me say that I am “lifting” the verbiage “voluntold” have not heard that before but love it!
    Second, the new blog theme looks fabulous…you are officially pimped 🙂
    I have so enjoyed reading your reflections, following your reading and passion for helping kids love reading. It comes through in everything you do. You are transforming lives!

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