Blog Archives

Warm in Manitoba


(CC BY-NC 2.0) haglundc

Here in Winnipeg we’ve had days and days of -30 degree temperatures, but this week I found a hot spot in Manitoba–#mbedchat. I’m still fairly low on the social media learning curve, and this was my first Twitter chat, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Doing something new always comes with a degree of nerves or uncertainty. As a teacher I’m learning to embrace those feelings because 1. they are simply part of learning (and I want to be a life-long learner) 2. I expect students to handle these feelings on a daily basis, and I’d like to credibly empathize with and support them in their learning. It was time to take the next step on Twitter and in my personal/professional development and join a Twitter Chat.

Even though I know the group wasn’t huge, the pace of the tweets was quick for me at first. I was working with HootSuite for the first time and trying to follow etiquette as well as I could. After the first 10 or 15 minutes, I settled down, stopped obsessing about perfect tweets, and started enjoying the electricity that always seems to generate when passionate teachers get together. During a lengthy cold spell, it isn’t unusual to hear complaints about Manitoba, but 60 minutes with a dozen Manitoba educators melted any negativity and rekindled my Manitoba pride. These dedicated, generous folks left me with tabs full of great resources, confidence that my children are in excellent hands, and renewed energy for the next teaching day that comes from knowing that you belong to something important and so much bigger than yourself. That is quite a pay off for the small price of overcoming a few nerves and trying something new. Thank you #mbedchat.

So, if you haven’t yet tried a twitter chat, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Jerry Blumengarten (aka Cybraryman) has a great resource page to help you get started. The page includes a link to an extensive list of chats, so you’re sure to find a chat that fits you. I don’t want to oversell, but after weeks of frigid temps, the deepfreeze finally broke–right after #mbedchat. Coincidence? Try your first Twitter chat and then you be the judge.



January 12, 2014 · 9:46 pm

Spreading a Little Sunshine

The Sunshine Award or the Sunshine Elevens or one of several other versions of inspiration and encouragement for bloggers has been rapidly circulating the blogosphere. Thank you, Sheri Edwards, for nominating me. It seems that no matter where I turn on the web these days, @grammasheri is doing something thoughtful and helpful. She practices what she teaches. Inspiring this blog post is further evidence of her thoughtfulness.

(CC BY 2.0) Dhaval Jani

(CC BY 2.0) Dhaval Jani

Here’s how this chain letter of inspiration works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

 Eleven Random Facts About Me

  1. I ride a bike to work year round. -38 Celsius (no wind chill) is my coldest ride.
  2. As a student teacher I auditioned for a movie with a class of drama students. I lost the part in callbacks to Paul Walker.
  3. I once spent 7 days (168 hours) without human contact. I did have some decent conversation with squirrels once I warmed up to them during the final few days.
  4. I’ve lived as far south as Phoenix, AZ and as far north as Winnipeg, MB.
  5. The first time I laid hands on an iOS device was just over a year ago, and it fundamentally changed some of my thoughts about the future (in education and in general).
  6. I live in a house filled with women (wife and four daughters).
  7. The strangest summer job I worked involved shaking tea bags to ensure they were properly sealed.
  8. I have a Masters degree in English: Creative Writing
  9. I’m one of the six people on the planet without a Facebook account.
  10. I brew beer with my dad for the pure enjoyment of the beer and the company.
  11. The first movie I experienced in the theatre was Star Wars.

Answering Sheri’s Questions

When did you know what you wanted to do for a career? How did you discover that?

In grade nine I knew I wanted to teach. It was a deep-down knowing, but there were some more conscious moments of clarity. For example, my literature teacher was discussing a poem with the class and asked us to consider what could inspire someone to leap off a cliff (this was a dramatic love poem). Before thinking I blurted, “A push!” and the teacher laughed. It was a simple moment, but instead of the scolding I was expecting for my rashness, I received a human response. Teachers were suddenly human beings! I was a human being, too, and perhaps that meant I could really become a teacher without morphing into some caricature of a grown-up. Teaching could be about relationship. Ah Ha! I was hooked!

What are your top three favorite books of all time?

This question is too difficult for me. I’m cheating and naming three authors (which is difficult enough).

C.S. Lewis

Garret Keizer

Flannery O’Connor

If you could only read one blogger next year, who would it be?

George Couros

What advice do you have for educators today?

Relationship, relationship, relationship! Craft, credibility, assessment—these are important elements of education, but they all rest on the foundation of relationships: with students, with colleagues, with parents, with administration.

Teach students, not standards.

Say you’re sorry. (It’s a real relationship enhancer.)

Collaborate generously and humbly with colleagues.

Learn without fear of mistakes.

What is on your bucket list?

Design and build a bicycle by hand.

Finish a full-length writing project.

Grow my own ingredients and turn them into beer.

Get a hole-in-one.

Catch a notable Rainbow trout.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?


Travelling is wonderful, both around the planet and in the mind, but nothing is as fine as truly coming home.

What is your favorite quote?

“The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.” –C.S. Lewis

What song lyrics move you?

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace, U2

If you could sit with any 5 people dead or alive around your dinner table, who would you choose and why?

This is an easy one. I am married to a wonderful woman and have four lovely daughters. There are no five people, dead or alive, with whom I would rather dine. Christmas break has been delightful, not because I’m away from school (I love school), but rather because I enjoy three squares a day with my favourite people.

What are your five favorite verbs?

Love, reflect, embrace, wonder, laugh

What six words sum up your philosophy [of life or of education]?

Foster growth mindset soli Deo Gloria

Bloggers (some of these good people have been through this exercise, but they are worth taking a look)

Eleven Questions for Bloggers

  1. What do you do for escape or relaxation?
  2. What is one concern you have about the future of technology?
  3. Share one Ah-Ha! moment you’ve had (in or out of a classroom).
  4. Which books (one fiction, one non-fiction) would you recommend to new teachers?
  5. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
  6. If you had to change careers, what new career would you choose?
  7. When you’re not immersed in the present, do you find yourself more often looking back or looking ahead?
  8. What is your favourite season? Why?
  9. If I handed you $100, what would you do with it?
  10. What metaphor/simile describes your writing process? (eg. My writing is like a tube of toothpaste. It flows quickly at first, but at the end it’s hard to squeeze out the last little bit and finish the tube.)
  11. Which Twitter hashtag would you follow if you could only follow one?

Happy blogging in 2014! Thank you for your inspirational words and efforts.


January 3, 2014 · 5:08 pm

Steep but Fun

A year ago I joined a committee at my school to explore an iPad 1:1 pilot. My role was the tech rookie, representing tentative adopters of new technology. We researched and drafted a proposal that is now working its way through the funding and approval stages; if all goes well we’ll have iPads and training for all grade 10 teachers and students next fall.

Two months ago, as we were finishing the proposal, my administrator put a new iPad into my hands, and it revealed a whole new set of options and ideas for me. I saw a bit more clearly into the mobile world of my students and colleagues. I envisioned the boon a room full of iPads would be to PBL and In the Middle style workshops in my classroom.

Of course, I also recognized how little I know and how much I have to learn, which brings me to ETMOOC. Two months ago I’d never used a mobile device; now I’m using an iPad everyday in my classroom and next week I’m participating in my first MOOC. That’s quite the rollercoaster, and it’s only beginning! I like my learning and my rollercoasters the same way–the steeper the curves the greater the fun (and fear). That’s a combination for growth.


January 12, 2013 · 9:30 pm