Saturday, 14 March 2020

COVID-19 - Feeling overwhelmed? You are not alone.

We are in a pandemic - and I am worried. Not about contracting COVID-19 but about my well being, and the well being of other teacher parents, during school closures due to the pandemic.

Bitmoji ImageYou see, I am a perfectionist. My standards are high - and the ones I often place on myself can be unattainable at times. I know I am not alone in this.

I have watched my Twitter feed explode with people sharing plans of how to support learning from a distance as schools close. I wait in anticipation the plan Ontario government says it will provide in the near future to help navigate these unknown waters. I see article after article touting the latest EdTech companies that have made all premium features free for the next while to support distance learning (like this list or this Wakelet created by my friend Brian Briggs). It is such great stuff!! I get so excited about all that I will be able to do, I begin digitally hoarding, writing pseudo lesson plans for my children and my students in preparation. And then the panic sets in.

The more I read, the more I feel like I am going to do it all wrong. Perfection Paralysis.  The more I know, the less competent I seem to feel. I want to capitalize on all the great things out there. I know the phenomenal learning environment I stand to create for my children. BUT….

I am a teacher, but I am not a homeschooler. When I work at my school I have a live support system. I can bat around ideas with others teaching the same thing, the same kids. I have resources at my disposal. I have a lunch hour, prep time. I have an escape when I go home at the end of the day - a change of pace. With the school closure, I do not.

Teaching our own children is different. I will be dealing with sibling rivalry, keeping kids quiet while my husband (who works on commission) takes phone calls as his office has been socially responsible and closed for a few weeks too. Our normal weekend attitude is pretty laissez-faire - weekends are for rest and rejuvenation, this will be a shift for all of us.

I know what good teaching looks like, and I don’t want to mess this up. I find myself learning two new curriculums to meet my children’s needs, to make sure they don’t “fall behind” (of what or whom I am not sure). I am digitally hoarding activities that would be “perfect” to “get us through” these three weeks - both my own children and the children I serve.

Then there is the added pressure to support our students from afar. How can I support them when the relationships we have built were in person. How will I tell that Bryan is having a bad day when I can’t see how he sits in his chairs (his “tell sign” for his mood). What about the moral support my crew of girls needs at lunch when they visit me in the Library. What about the kids who come in every day because this is where they feel comfortable? I read that social isolation leads to increased episodes of domestic violence. How can we help when we are not there? We all know that teaching is not 9-3, summers off. And when we can’t be there, it is hard.

I am worried about the expectations I will put on myself - that WE will put on ourselves.

I write this post to hash out some of the uncertainty, vulnerability, and anxiety I am feeling. And I am certain I am not the only one feeling this way. I hope others who are also feeling this way can find solace that they are not alone in these feelings, and I hope that the discussions it might provoke will take us all to a place that will help us give ourselves the break we need.

Here are a few things my (rational) inner voice is saying to me now:
    Bitmoji Image
  1. Find Balance
  2. Leverage the tools available - but not all of them. Pick a few - if kids (your own or the ones that are yours usually from 9-3) like it, stick with it. With all the changes some stability is good.
  3. Online is not the only way - while I love me my EdTech unplugging often works better for my kids. This is a great resource listing ways to meet curriculum offline at home from Karyn Fillhart
  4. Think of this as a sort of co-op - give kids some of that “real world” learning we talk about so often - teach them how to make a meal, do some yard work, heck, bird watching!
  5. We remember learning experiences over the specific lesson.
  6. Get outside - we can all use recess!
  7. When social media hijacks you emotionally, shut it down or go down another rabbit hole like I did today with #DoodleAndChat (thanks Carrie!) or follow accounts on Instagram like the Good News Movement and Upworthy.
  8. Take this time to do the little things you have been wanting to do but just could find the time and make it a learning opportunity.
  9. Set realistic expectations - we should feel more rested, not more stressed.  Social distancing is meant to keep us healthy - let's make sure that is in all aspects.
  10. Don’t compare. As hard as it is.
  11. Share your feelings with those around you.
  12. If your children go to bed saying the day was fun - that’s a win
  13. If your children go to bed saying the day sucked - that’s not a fail
  14. Above all, remember perfection is a four-letter word
Stay well.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Podcasting in the classroom

As you may know, I am the co-host of a podcast called Shukes and Giff the Podcast.  It is a fun passion project I do with my friend and colleague Kim Pollishuke. We are by no means expert podcasters, in fact, we often joke about how unpolished our practices are when we talk about our "fancy high tech mic".

Yes, those are my iPhone earbud wrapped
around a disposable water bottle.

Truth be told we have spent more money on promo stickers than on recording equipment!

When we set out on our podcasting adventure Kim and I wanted to create something that could be replicated in the classroom - something easy and free!  We settled on Anchor.  It works for us.  We love that it is cloud-based and works on all platforms.  But for some, there are still privacy concerns - especially for educators working with students under 13 years of age.  

I have a few different options for tacking this hurdle, like Andrew Fenstermaker's suggestion to use Flipgrid for podcasting. But then this afternoon I was listening to Chris Nesi's House of EdTech podcast and something dawned on me....why not use the (relatively) new insert audio feature and simply host podcasts on Google Slides?!

Note:  I used Chrome to do this and it seems to be the browser that works best.  Others have reported errors with inserting audio in other browsers (e.g., Brave)

Here's is my workflow.  
  1. Have students design a podcast logo
  2. Have students record the audio for an episode (or a few episodes).  This can be done on a device with audio recording or by using something like Cloud Audio Recorder that does not require an account but can be linked to save to one's Google Drive.  (If you/students want to get fancy and edit, check out Bear Audio - free and cloud-based.) No matter your method, have students upload audio to their Google Drive.
  3. Create a slide deck for each student podcast OR the entire class.
    • If you choose to do one deck per student, have them put their logo on the title slide and then each slide can be an episode.  They could also include episode notes on this slide.
      • If you do this you could make a Class Google Site and upload each podcast slide deck to the site.
    • If you choose to do an entire class deck, have a Class podcasts intro page with all the logos on it.  Have each logo link to a slide in the deck.  Each slide in the deck is reserved for each individual podcast.
  4. On the podcast show slide, choose Insert --> Audio and link the audio from step 2.

Voila!  Instant podcasts housed completely in Google Drive that can be kept private for the teacher and student, or, my preference, shared with the class or district - or beyond with permission.  

While this method does not push to main podcatchers (Apple Podcasts, Google Play, etc.), it does provide a walled garden wherein students can share their ideas in a less traditional structure.

Here are some very simple deck mockups.  (Click to open the actual deck.)

All Class Podcast Slide Deck

Single Student Podcast Side Deck

As Kim and I say in Shukes and Giff....Give it a Go!

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Creating Animated GIFs in Google Slides with Creator Studio

I am currently enrolled in Tony Vincent's Classy Creations course.  It is my second course with Tony and they are really incredible.  I can't recommend them enough.
Static Logo By Nancy Watson

This week we were tasked with making a logo and some classmates created some great stuff.  There was one, in particular, I really liked and I suggested that the creator (Nancy Watson), also consider creating an animated version.  When she asked how to do it,  I created the video below and thought I would share for others who might be interested.

Basically, you need to duplicate a slide ever to slightly and then use the Creator Studio add-on for Google Slides.  It takes some time, but the end result can be pretty great.


Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Learn to Sketchnote Course - #TodayISketchnotED

My first sketchnote was certainly nothing to write home about but over the years, with practice, I have improved.  

Often times I share my sketches on social media I receive comments like this one:

Darby does know how to write "I'm" - she wanted me to let people know 😂

So, with a push from my friend Andrew Fenstermaker, I have decided to help others get started (or hone their current skills) by facilitating a course!

For details - visit the TodayISketchnotED website

One last thing...we will be using the hashtag #TodayISketchED on social media when talking about the course and when sharing sketchnotes.  

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Ditch Summit 2019 - A Review in Sketchnotes

Aside from the excitement that December usually holds with the holidays and time off, I always look forward to Matt Miller's annual #DitchSummit.  Touted as PD on your couch, Matt assembles a great line up of guests and releases one video a day over the holidays, keeping them up until school resumes in January.  (There might be still time to sign up to receive the links to the videos - they are open until Jan. 8 2020!  Bonus - you get all past videos too!)

I not only love the learning, but I also love the time I set aside to work on my sketchnoting...a passion and skill I have built in large thanks to the Ditch Summit as I make it a priority to sketch each guest each December (see my past sketches from  2016, 2017, and 2018).  Each year I am reminded how much peace sketching brings me, and I am excited to see what new trick I will learn on my sketching app (I use the pro version of Tayasui Sketches).

Here are my sketches and my biggest takeaway from this year's summit:
(Note: you can find all my sketches from this year in this Google Drive folder)

Day 1: PBL with Real Life Community Projects with Omar López
I loved the stories Omar shared about how he asks students "What problems can we solve with what we learned" and his story about his students considering the non-human implications that "The Wall" would bring to a local national park.

Day 2: Infusing Creativity into Teaching, Learning, and Life with Austin Kleon
I have been wanting to read Kleon's books for some time.  The two lines that struck me most were that perfectionism hinders future work and that copying from one is plagiarism but copying from many is research.  Aside from the learning, I fell in love with the font on the covers of his books and as a result, I found a new personal font - as you will see moving forward I am using it all the time!!  (I also won a copy of the books in a Twitter contest so that is exciting - thanks to my son Tanner for watching the video with me - that's what clinched my win!)

Day 3: Using Your Personal Passion to Electrify Teaching with Toney JacksonToney talked about his students, many of whom have YouTube channels.  He said that when he asks them what they are creating he is often met with blank stares.  As a result, he has carved out time every week in his class to allow students to create content - digital or not.  How cool?!

Day 4: Create a Memorable Class with Techy, Pirate Teaching with Matt Miller
I am so excited to read Matt's new book - I love his stuff...each chapter reads like a mini keynote presentation and is so inspiring.  His line "If class is so forgettable, how do we expect students to remember?!" was very powerful.  I also loved the idea to invest in impact.

Day 5: Using Powerful Teaching to Remember and Thrive with Pooja Agarwal & Patrice BainThis is the second time Dr. Pooja Agarwal has been on the Ditch Summit and she encouraged viewers not to take notes but to do some retrieval practice (listen for a bit then dump out all you remember).  Full disclosure, I did not do as she asked...but I am going to try another time! Patrice also offered some great ways to use the tools in class.  

Day 6: Help Students Slay the Mic with Their Powerful Voices with Jam Gamble
She had me at "hailing from Toronto, Canada" (LOL). Jam showed such passion for authentic student voice and her reminder to check your timezone (a great metaphor for meeting students where they are) was particularly impactful.

Day 7: Don't Ditch That Tech: Differentiate Digitally with Nate and Angie Ridgway
Holy app ideas, Batman!  Angie, Nate, and Matt talked about so many tools we can use in all facets of our practice.  Iorad was one I have seen but had forgotten about - it automagically creates step by step instructions based on mouse clicks - how cool is that?
(I also love the little Elsa character I drew...she is just so cute!  In case you are wondering about my images, they do not all come from my head.  I often visit the for inspiration!  I almost always sketch with two screens and will copy ideas from there.  That's where I found Elsa.)

Day 8: Create and Consume Immersively with AR/VR with Jaime Donally
I know we shouldn't pick favourites, but there was something about Jaime's video that really spoke to my heart.  Firstly, she is so incredibly knowledgeable about AR/VR - she shared so many ideas and apps - but more than that she spoke with such passion and fluency you could really tell she walks the talk.

Day 9: Hands-On STEM Projects Your Students Will Love with Karon Weber & Ankur Anand
Finally, Karon and Ankur from Microsoft shared the FREE Hacking STEM projects that have been developed to support deep and meaningful STEM learning.  Much of it looked like it was out a movie but most can be done with household items.  I loved the idea of "an experience in a box" and look forward to their PD package to help teachers (like me) who were taught in a very traditional way and aren't always sure how to provide this sort of experience to students.  

So another year is done.  Thank you, Matt for the time you take to offer this great learning FREE to educators every year.  

Monday, 24 June 2019

ISTE Day -1

I'm here!  ISTE is my bucket filler. For the last three years, it has helped me build relationships, engage in great learning, and surround myself with positive energy.

My plan was to microblog...and know the saying...the best-laid plans of mice and men.  Yesterday (what I call Day -1) was jam-packed - and I didn't pull out my laptop once.  I did post on Instagram though - so check that out.

That said, I did see some great things and connect with some great people.  Here are some highlights:

ISTE Ignites - They were all great but I particularly enjoyed Jen Casa-Todd and Henry Turner.  Jen spoke about ensuring students have voice and the importance of adult mentorship.  Henry spoke about how he turned an incident of hate into a learning opportunity to empower students.

GooseChase EDU - I have heard of GooseChase but have never used it.  It is a platform that helps create education scavenger hunts.  I am part of a GooseChase now and it is a lot of fun.  I learned that they are a Canadian company!!

Lunch at the park - Self-care is important - and so Lisa Bettencourt and I headed out to Dilworth park for great food and phenomenal live entertainment.  The best part was the connection - Lisa and I got to chat away from the hustle of the conference and She told me all about a great initiative the students at Ashbury college did in partnership with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)...more on that later.

Bought some exciting books - I love a good  book so I hit up the bookstore and picked up four!  (Which gave me 15% off and a tote bag!) . The books:

I met the Wakelet crew!  Walking around in a pack the Wakelet crew is doing some major engagement with their community.  It was great to meet them IRL.

Today I will try to blog more...but no promises, it might come out tomorrow!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Another Day another EdTech conference! #ECOOCamp 2019

I left Connect, went home and pick up the fam and headed to Owen Sound for #ECOOCamp 2019.

The boys are at the pool and at the Owen Sound library's Mini ComiCon this morning while I am learning with friends from the BWDSB and beyond.

The day began with Peter Skillen who spoke directly to my heart.  From pedagogy, to tools, to learning, to bias, Peter's experience runs as deep as his passion, and his down to earth delivery was perfect.

I also attended a session by Leslie Boerkamp (@lboerkamp) and Nicole Batte (@nicbatte) and it was all about my favourite things - extensions. They introduced me to a couple of new ones including:

Convert Google Docs to Gmail drafts - you can write and format an email in Google Docs and, with a click of a button, you can convert the Doc into a GMail email!  (It is all explained in the company's blog post)

Momentum - Replace new tab page with a personal dashboard featuring to-do, weather, and inspiration.

All the extensions they shared can be found in their slide deck.

Thanks to Peter McAsh who invited me to speak.  It was a great day!