It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

Avoiding temptation November 27, 2010

Filed under: eci831,New Learning,Opinion pieces — Jamie @ 1:33 pm

Yesterday I had quite the conversation with a teacher friend. It started out about an incident that had happened with a student that day and led to a discussion about why teachers might be resistant to the idea of giving students freedom to learn and explore on the internet, even with instruction on appropriate behaviour.

The teacher in question had outdoor supervision and left her cell phone in her classroom. The student entered the classroom without permission, took her cell phone and phoned the last 5 numbers. At each number, he either left messages full of expletives or when someone answered, proceeded to call them a bunch of names, including expletives. One number was a parent from her classroom, one was her husband. Both immediately called the school to let the teacher know that something had happened. When the student had been found out, this teacher said that the student’s response was “I knew it was wrong. It was just too tempting, I couldn’t help it!”

Photo taken by Shahram Sharif at


And there, my friends, is the crux of the problem with the internet and web 2.0. This is why many teachers and administrators are scared. For some reason, many of our students know how to behave appropriately, they just don’t. We got to talking about what we can do to change this attitude in kids. How do we get past this with our students? I think that for most students, teaching and modeling appropriate behaviours will be enough. However, what can we do with those students who find the inappropriate use of the tools “just too tempting”? In this day, it would only take one student doing something questionable to raise the pitchforks and torches against the tools themselves without understanding that it is one child making a bad decision and not the tool that is the problem. For those of you who use these tools, particularly in elementary school (grades K-8) have you had problems like this? What have you done to prepare the students against these problems? How have you (and your school) reacted if something came up? I’d be interested about what both teachers and administrators think. Although, suggestions from anyone are welcome! Thank you.


My own TED experience November 14, 2010

Filed under: eci831,New Learning — Jamie @ 2:32 pm

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to attend TEDxSaskatoon. Now, as soon as I heard of this opportunity, I was excited. I applied for a ticket, was accepted, and started to plan the drive. I shared my excitement with many in my Twitter PLN. In the Twitterverse, it is easy to forget sometimes that to the average person in my life, the words Twitter, blog, Web 2.0, and TED are from a foreign language. I knew what TED was, I know the influence that TED has in the world, but honestly, I had no idea how to really explain this to others. I looked up TED on Wikipedia. Here is what I found:

But again, they might understand “Ideas worth spreading” but the words “Creative Commons” would again be foreign. The best way to maybe explain this might just be to share some of the ideas I came away with. Some of the ideas I think are worth sharing. At the beginning of the day, we were provided with a pen and a pad of sticky notes. As the day progressed, I took notes and stuck them in my program. They are the ideas…

Here they are. Note: They are attributed to the speakers, but they may not be word-for-word quotations.

  • Everyone has a unique talent and it is your purpose in life to share it and to use it to help other people. – Dale Zak
  • Your unique talent is not just one thing, but the combination of your being. – Dale Zak
  • The smartest person in the room is the room. We, as teachers, need to stop the idea of the “mind your own business” education and we need to start taking advantage of the collective knowledge that is available to us in our classrooms. – Dean Shareski
  • To start tapping into our inspiration and creativity, here are three suggestions… First, write the last though you have before bed and the first thought you have in the morning for three weeks. You will begin the see the truth of your life and ideas will start to flow. Second, take off your iPod or turn off your music while you walk or drive. Once in a while, stop and write down the first word that comes to you. You will be amazed at what comes to you. Third, sit down with a pen and paper and try free form writing. The ideas will just start to flow. – Jay Semko
  • Believe in the impact of a single idea and in the collective power of a community. – Ainsley Robertson (Her talk reminded me very much of the Dress for Success Regina program we have here in Regina.)
  • Nothing is more powerful than a hand-written letter. – Omar Ahmad (from his TED talk “Political Change with Pen and Paper“)
  • Eating locally: Start small – Try a potluck with friends and ask that everyone use Saskatchewan grown/made products. For more information, try the Saskatchewan CSA. – Amy Jo Ehman
  • I’m not doing it because it is the right thing to do, but because it just feels right! – Amy Jo Ehman
  • If we are not doing assessments, how will we know their limitations? BINGO! Why are we focussing on peoples’ limitations and not their strengths??? – Jeff Nachtigall
  • Watch “A Year at Sherbrooke” (a NFB film) for some inspiration. – Jeff Nachtigall
  • Art is a vehicle for hope. – Jeff Nachtigall (Side note: This talk reminded me a lot of the Best Buddies Blues Band program here in Regina.)
  • The only thing democracy cannot survive is people who don’t care about it and don’t participate. – Lieutenant Governor Gordon L. Barnhart (This reminded me of a tweet I saw while the USA Senate elections were going on, and I’m sorry I didn’t save it so I can’t attribute it: If you can vote for a favourite dancer/singer/reality star but can’t vote for a political leader, there is something very very wrong.)
  • Pyjamas should be an essential part of your work wardrobe as much as your suit. – Carolyn Schur
  • Creativity in the collective is a powerful thing. – Alec Couros
  • Everyone should know about the OER Commons and the Creative Commons. We should be teaching our students about them. – Alec Couros
  • The first follower is the underestimated leader. He transforms the lone nut into the perceived leader. – Derek Sivers (From his TED Talk “How to Start a Movement”)
  • Have the courage to follow and to show others how to follow. – Derek Sivers (From his TED Talk “How to Start a Movement”)
  • A thought turns into a belief, which turns into a behaviour, which turns into our normal; and our normal is our enemy. – Gregg Cochlan
  • Do these four things: First, act with civility. Second, act with compassion. Third, act with citizenship. Fourth, work on peaceful coexistence with just one person. – Gregg Cochlan (Side note: This idea will become the basis for a social skills unit in my classroom.)

What a day! So much to think about and to process! I am going to take some time to process all this information. I’m going to start small with the last point on this list and work my way out: one idea at a time! What do you think of these ideas? If you were there, what ideas did you come away with?

PS> If I have misunderstood or mis-attributed something, please correct me!  I’ve already found one mistake and corrected it!


Digital Tiptoeing Along November 6, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831,New Learning — Jamie @ 4:44 pm

I have been starting at this sentence since Thursday: “After last week’s class, I was left with mixed feelings.” I know what I want to say, but I’m not sure how to express it.

When I signed up for this class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that learning and collaborating online would be involved. I have always had mixed feelings about my online identity. Given the warnings we have been sent by our board about Facebook and other online social media, I have always been careful of what I post online. I have been careful to keep my Twitter account as professional as possible and to keep things generally pretty positive.

Since starting this class, I have started to “open up” a little more online. I have posted about my sick leave, I have commented on some posts that may be considered “controversial” and I have begun to create and collaborate with other educators. I connect informally with 500+ educators daily and directly with 50-100 on a regular basis. I have involved my class in a few collaborative projects with classes across the country in the last few years. I keep two blogs, one professional, one as a student. This is the second year that my students have been blogging. I have created a wikispace and blog of my parents. I even took the plunge and agreed to lead a talk for our next class (which is very much out of my comfort zone!) I truly thought that I had started to create an online presence for myself; a professional identity that I could be proud of (in my small little world).

However, during class last week, Dean Shareski asked us to search ourselves on three different websites: Google, Spezify, and Persona MIT. Using all three of these searches and only my name, I found only one hit that was about me within the first few pages.

There are apparently a lot more popular Jamie Forrest’s than I. I have since tried many variations of my name. The only way I can find ANYTHING about myself on Google (the main go-to site for searches) is to quote my name and add my city. These are the top five entries:

This brings me back to the sentence I’ve been staring at since Thursday… mixed feelings. The “old” part of me is happy about being invisible. I now know that my employer, my parents, my students and their parents and others cannot find anything about me that puts into question my standing as a positive role model in my community. However, neither can they find anything about me to reinforce this either.

Dean posted this slide during his talk on Tuesday:

He also talked about the difference between contribution and creation. If you look at all five of the hits about me, they are all contributions I have made on someone else’s creations. Nowhere did I find mention of either of my blogs, my class wiki, or my students’ blogs… None of my “creations” appeared. This left me feeling actually a little sad…

So, my question to all of you is: what are your suggestions for getting your creations out there in a positive and controlled way?



Edmodo out, WordPress in October 28, 2010

Filed under: eci831,New Learning — Jamie @ 3:37 am

So, after a day of watching how-to videos, reading step-by-step help files, and just plain playing around, I’ve come to this conclusion:  although Edmodo seems to be a powerful tool on its own, I don’t think that it is the tool for what I have envisioned for my project.  So, I dropped it…

I switched over to WordPress and have been playing with this blog.  I like that I can tag the book review using the interest level of the book, the reading level, the sticker colour, and whether or not the book is AR.  I have played around with one post, trying to establish a standard format for the students to follow too.

I do have a question for the seasoned bloggers out there.  Is there a widget that allows for people to check all the tags they want in a search?  For example, if they want an LG book with a sticker colour LAVENDER, can they search for both of these tags at once?

Thanks in advance for your help.  Also, any suggestions you have for improving the blog would be appreciated!


Falling Into Place September 30, 2010

Filed under: Class reflections,eci831,New Learning — Jamie @ 2:42 am

Today was a great day.  Why, you ask?  (Or at least maybe wonder…)  The reason is simply that things really seem to be falling into place for me.

In preparation for this week’s class, Alec asked us to create an introductory video.  At first, I was trying to find ways to avoid being in front of the camera.  I ended up making a Voicethread.  I was not overly pleased with the results.  It was okay, but just okay.  I was even willing to step in front of the camera, but I realized that I had absolutely NO IDEA about where to start in making a video.

This got me thinking about my situation at school.  I am often viewed as the “go to” person for technology questions and seen as “pushing the envelope” technologically.  This was on my mind last night while listening to Dr. Schwier speak about the history and evolution of technologies.  Both in listening to Rick and Alec talk and in following the backchannel chat, I noticed that many of the tools and technologies that are deemed “old” or “out of date” in the real world are “new” and “novel” on my staff.  This is perhaps why I am regarded so highly.  However, I know enough to know how much I DON’T know!  The fact that I don’t know anything about making and editing video was really eating at me.

So, today I decided to do something about it.  I went to my principal with the ideas I had about QR codes and book reviews.  She was super excited by the prospects and even offered to purchase a new 4th generation iPod touch for our school to help me get started and to create a few samples.  She suggested I consider applying for the Best Buy grant to purchase MacBooks and iPods to facilitate getting this project to a sustainable state.  She then suggested I talk to one of our ET guys about learning how to edit video.  So, after school I walked into the staff room and who was there but the very ET person I wanted to speak to!  I talked to him for about 30 minutes and he offered to come TWICE to work with me!  One day to teach me how to capture video and one day to teach me to edit it.  He then suggested I contact a different ET person to ask if there would be funds available to cover my class for the ½ day of video editing so I could learn uninterrupted.  So, I emailed her, and within another 30 minutes, I had approval!  It feels absolutely wonderful to have that kind of support!

My mind is absolutely reeling with ideas and I’m really looking forward to what is to come!  I would really appreciate any suggestions you have about hardware, software, video content, etc.  I’m open and willing to learn!


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!