SOL (2016) 9: eportfolio prep (thanks to @coolcatteacher @freshgrade @quippedInc)

SOL (2016) 9: eportfolio prep (thanks to @coolcatteacher @freshgrade @quippedInc)

We are closing in on the time to start thinking about how to communicate learning in the upcoming year. And in BC, we have:
New Curriculum:

A new (temporary as parental consultation is just beginning on a new-new) report order:

And with me moving to a new school, I am looking forward to further discussing the use of eportfolios. And when discussing why we use eportfolios (as tools to communicate student learning, not just reporting on score achievement:

I like to refer back to the work that Vicki Davis aka @coolcatteacher has done on this topic:
because eportfolios show so much more than a report card is able to do (ie show creativity, model different communication methodologies etc)

In BC with our stringent FOIPOP rules, we have limited access to “compliant” eportfolio tools…..fortunately our limitation has is connected to two fantastic tools. My former school has been using @freshgrade for the past three years as a “pilot” for communicating student learning. It is now permissible for any teacher on our district to use, and other districts are making use of it on even wider scales. I am very happy that we have had three years working with the FreshGrade team as they have committed to an early statement: what we show you today is the worst our product will ever be – it will continue to improve thanks to the input of educators. Also nice that they are a short drive away (Okanagan bias!) 

The other product being ‘tested out’ in our district is another Canadian company from Winnipeg called Quio aka @quippedinc who have another product that some teachers I work with are very intrigued by. 

Should there be “one” choice for eportfolios? I default here to my philosophy on many things linked to technology: right tool fore the right person. If the tool “feels right” it’s probably the good choice. Should students have “a” portfolio that follows him…..that I can see many sides to….but I’m okay with a model that follows a “guided gradual release of responsibility” where teachers curate more in the early years and students take over in later years…..and if they are exposed to a couple of models, then they can see which represents them best. Same with tablets – I can make an android device work, but love my iPad and can make it do more, faster (but know the opposite is the reality for my brother in law). 

For me, it is less about the tool you use (though I will continue to use FreshGrade this year) than what goes into it, as seen back in the Vicki Davis article – because the report card didn’t show my oldest daughters 3D printed car or her trombone solo, my sons gains in communicating his creativity not my youngest girls leadership activities….all things I wish would’ve been better archived via eportfolios. Yes they are different than report cards, but just because report cards have survived for 130 years (- since a small grouping of old white guys came up with “a” way of learning that reflected the assembly line mindset, we have better tools and better mindsets available. Let’s use them. 

And right after I pressed ‘publish’ @garr_s shared some @gcouros thinking on eportfolio startup:

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SOL (2016) 8: review of Networked Youth by @mrjtyler

SOL (2016) 8: review of Networked Youth by @mrjtyler

I’ll admit that I have worked with John on a few projects with the @bcpvpa – but it was also a pleasant surprise when he very humbly shared one of his projects: the book Networked Youth (what every parent needs to know about online behaviour). As impressive is him getting social media expert Jesse Miller aka @MediatedReality to write the forward – when Jesse speaks about social media, I listen. 

Jesse nicely illustrates the prevalence of social media as part of our world both at home and in school. Not much of a surprise, but a mindshift as the notes previously passed between students or written on walls can have a much wider (and unintended) audience. Many parents of today’s children may have had moments they are glad don’t pop up on their “Facebook memories wall” but that is something today’s learners get to work with – for both good and bad. We have shifted from a world where decisions of what we have access to view and see was chosen for us (by networks and news editors) to a much more media-open landscape. 

John takes the approach that I hope all principals will with this topic: that of problem solving and thinking about the topic, not assign of blame (dos and do nots). Instead framing questions around digital citizenship, acknowledging different comfort levels for different user-families…..and acknowledging that it isn’t just a viewing public (like tv) but potentially (okay – realistically, inevitably) involve multiple communications (comments, both positive and negative) that may need specific coping skills (don’t respond to internet trolls!). Being familiar with platforms/apps kids are using is as vital as knowing whose house your child is spending time at. 

And just saying “don’t use it” isn’t a long term solution (or really even a short term viable option). It’s far more important to know (and discuss) what, why, and how you are using…..and knowing what to do when mistakes are made (because we will all make mistakes online). 

John uses some great story examples to show how easy it is for something small to become enlarged thanks to the online world. A wrong text….a bad tweet (still think that comic sans should be a universal ‘sarcasm font’ adapted to all media apps) can quickly get attention from unintended audiences. 

John also poses some great activities to do in order to become better-aware of the online world. This is not a book telling you what/what not to do after all. It’s not going to be enough to read about what to do… need to be able to experience it (you can’t just read a cook book to understand how to make a beef Wellington!)

That isn’t to say that John doesn’t include some great ideas to help you identify ways to make your digital footprint a good one (do no harm to others) because he does – page 24. And the reminders are good for all levels of tech users. Awareness is key – burying your head in the sand or assuming that kids will learn it “somewhere/somehow” is not as effective as modelling and sharing good, positive “netiquette”. As Johns wife is quoted to have said: you cannot change the things you refuse to acknowledge. 

In summary, this book will be available for parents in my learning community. I will also be using elements of it (especially the activities) as part of my library program (library is part of my teaching component in my K-8 school). A focused read, it can be read in one sitting, but has questions that can take a lot longer to go through, or review and access again and again (especially as children get older). I’m very glad that John wrote this book – it definitely has a positive message about what online behaviour can be as we work to enhance our children’s (and our own) digital footprint with digital dignity. 

The book can be found: 




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SOL (2016) 7 a guest blog on project based learning for

SOL (2016) 7 a guest blog on project based learning for 

Today I was asked to create a “Guest Blog” for Derek Gesce – a teacher at one of our middle schools – after a discussion about eportfolios and project bases lead if. His blog can be found at:

I recently sat down with my colleague Derek to talk about eportfolios – something that my school has been using for three years. As so often happens, the discussion led to conversations around assessment and evaluation, and project based learning. We talked about our successes and failures along the way, and I explained my evolution as I look at the reason and methodologies i have used along my own journey – thus began the invitation to share about my view on Project Based Learning:

Why it’s awesome: creates amazing sense of community (as I saw early on when using GarageBand for a class project to create songs for our ‘dads’ with the caveat: I don’t know anything about GB and it was up to the class to help each other out….and they did with experts arising from the unlikeliest of learners!)

It also focuses on other competencies such as Communication, Critical & Creative Thinking…and so much more.

Why it’s needed: so often when I introduce Project Based Learning I encounter a common problem: learners not knowing what they want to learn (not need….though often project based learning means that it becomes a “need to do”) Often my learners have not had authentic “choice” beyond ‘A or B’ (soccer or karate as the saying goes in my learning community) and when they get to choose what they want to choose… can become difficult for them. So I have begun to do more scaffolding (especially with early learners).

What I love is that this comic strip actually came true for one of my learners:

Where to start:

Wonders. Specifically A great “first step” into exploring questions that can have multiple answers….and even better, multiple ways of getting to answers! But the focus is on asking good questions – and especially ones that make you go hmmmmm. The tougher one is letting the silence go. “Wait time” is key – allowing think time and not providing ‘the answer’ which learners are quickly conditioned to expect. There are amazing things to wonder and different “experts” emerge at different times – even how one of my grade one girls suddenly became interested (and an expert) in marsupials! I like using this thinking strategy as part of my library time as I can scaffold and differentiate this depending on the age and experiences of my learners!

Self Organized Learning Environments

This work came via Sugata Mitra – an educationist who came to prominence with his Ted Talk about a Hole in the Wall

Essentially: ask good and interesting questions. Those that don’t make good multiple choice tests. 

The framework is to pose an interesting question (I like using learning outcome statements) and providing a time frame for sharing (90 minutes is ideal – I’ve tried shorter and longer and 90 seems to definitely be “right”). The sharing can be in any method the students want – and have ranged from posters to videos to slideshows. And the groups are….self organized. Might be some individuals and there will be groups that are too big when first starting out. Over time the learners do start to figure out what works best (hint: not always best friends working together). The strategic plans for the learners changes each time – and the process fits in very nicely into eportfolios to show the evolution of communication (and research) skills. 


“If I could give you an hour a week to learn whatever you want….what would you do?”
This is how I often introduce Geniushour. A chance to study anything. And I was thrilled a couple of years ago when one of my learners took inspiration from the earlier cartoon and his own love of dinosaurs to learn about them. 

True, I admit that sometimes learners appear to “waste time” – but I always remember that learners are too frequently trained that if they wait long enough an answer will be provided. When you trust the process, it does work. But it becomes very difficult to assess the “work” in a traditional way – if someone’s passion project is on poetry, sometimes the muse doth not present itself on Tuesday’s at 9:45….. but it can be very difficult to provide a tight timeline for something based on student interests. 

But when you hear (and see) students doing work at home (even over spring break!) to further learning, it’s quite reassuring that we are on the right track. 

Overall: I’ve had two mindsets during my evolution in using projects based learning strategies:

Era 1: embrace the chaos 

Era 2: trust the process (knowing it’ll go at different speeds)

As part of a gradual/guided release of responsibility framework, Wonders are very controlled, SOLEs are more learner focused and Geniushour is completely student owned. 
Deadlines? Wonders are meant for smaller timeframes. SOLEs are designed for 90 minutes per question. And Geniushour hopefully lasts a lifetime – if it doesn’t, was it really a passion project? 

Assessment? Hard to traditionally assess student work in these areas that are based on student inquiry. It is tough to create standards on competencies – we can’t say “by grade three students will show they are creative by _____”. It is easier to focus on descriptive feedback – highlighting what has been successful done/learned and suggestions for next steps. But if you are needing to translate to a letter grade, a portfolio review is a very effective and authentic (as authentic as calculating an average based on a series of tasks) method of evaluation. 

Landy opinion: I like project based methodologies because they focus on individual student learning – not based on completing class-wide tasks and being compared to a cohort segregated based on year of birth, but instead based on schema (background knowledge) and looking for gains based on what the individual has authentically learned. 

Not saying it’s easy…..but it can be completely worth it!!

So embrace the chaos, trust the chaos and let students have some say in what/why/how they learn!

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SOL (2016) 6 growth mindsets via @pernilleripp @gcouros

SOL (2016) 6 growth mindsets via @pernilleripp @gcouros 

I’ve been a fan of the work of Carol Dweck in her book Mindset where she talks about the importance of growth mindsets ….. I even refer to her work in many of my own blogs

That ties in with some recent discussions I have heard this year with the work of George Couros as he created The Innovators Mindset

So often these discussions have led to the understanding that sometimes learning takes time and different ways to look at a situation. The innovators mindset is very similar to the growth mindset as both make it clear that there is no “one” way…and that the mind needs to have the flexibility to do different/more based on new information (learning). 

And even more so on a variety of media (at least three podcasts and a couple of times on TV) that have linked back to a phrasing that Muhammed Ali said:

Then today I got to read a reflection of a review by Pernille Ripp (who inspired me to return to the library with the teaching component of my principalship)

A gut wrenching reflection where she rethinks what she thought she knew. And most importantly – she admits it. Wait – even more importantly she mindfully grew her knowledge. She reflects on how the change in what she was reading was influenced by her schema (background knowledge) and reaffirms the importance of understanding and being willing to change the way you think/perceive/understand the world. Pernille bears her soul and shows what all great educators need to do: have a growth mindset… learn and always do better… do different when it makes an authentic difference. 

It’s never easy to admit the need to change….and even harder to share when you got something wrong (not the right word – it’s only wrong if you stick with it long after you have learned more…) re-understood. The more we learn the better we can do things different and help the next generation of learners & doers. Thank you Pernille. 

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SOL 5 (2016) inclusion w @tweetsomemoore at @ubcedO 

SOL 5 (2016) inclusion w @tweetsomemoore at @ubcedO 

Trying to do some more sketch notes at UBCO – always great to hear ideas and thinkings of newbie teachers!
Re the “aim for outside pins” reference: 

Some great thinkings and sharings during the Q&A session – esp mixing segregation, ability-grouping, integration and integration (and occasional exclusion)
Alternative: goal groups based on strategies (ie kids working on making connections)

And how to “do” inclusion…… Well, Shelley has photoshopped a visual:

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SOL 4 (2016) Connections & Serendipity…..and thanks to #bcpvpa ShortCourse



Serendipity. I believe in serendipitous moments.



It’s how I connected to @freshgrade for eportfolios – when I received calls from four colleagues within a couple of days to “check out that Okanagan company because it might connect with your ideas on reporting student learning” – and indeed it did.



It’s how I started by “blogging each day of learning” thanks to a chance connection/challenge by @gcouros and the reflection this has started has been invaluable (and I’m looking forward to starting year 4)



This years ShortCourse at UBC had me connect with a powerful group of education leaders: vice principals from across the province….a group that on paper I wondered how they would inter-connect….I didn’t need to worry….they’re good at that! They helped me recharge after a very busy and distracting final month at school.



It also had me connect with a variety of colleagues from around the province, several that I worked with in previous districts….some I knew via visits to other districts and/or asynchronous work (aka twitter) – but all got together for common reasons this week and work on our education-leadership skills; highlighted to me with the willingness for many to be volun-told to present their stories through an ignite event to kick off the week! Nice that they didn’t say ‘no’ when I asked them – it ended up being a highlight of the week and allowed all of us to get to know them even better!



At a social, I ran into a new Vice Principal…..who recognized my name…..we connected the dots and realized I taught him Grade 9 Socials & PE… can indeed be a small world – especially when I learned that he also taught in some of the same schools I have taught in….! At least I didn’t turn him away from a career in education!!



And the best moment of serendipity this week:



The “song of the night” was Walk the Moon’s Shut Up and Dance – a song that I have now retired from my “month in review” playlist:

and while when I walked into my final assembly at my school to hear the whole school singing it and cried….the last night of ShortCourse had the song played a couple times at the banquet and my table group knew the story….and wouldn’t let me shy away – turning the song into both a reminder of saying goodbye to a school, but also hello to a dynamic group of educators who are going to enhance the learning in our province!



ShortCourse is always an exhausting week….but I definitely had a huge smile on my face on my drive home!

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SOL 3b (2016) #bcpvpa Anxiety Reminder

SOL 3b (2016) #bcpvpa Anxiety Reminder



Use celebrities as intro to who works w mental wellness – Identify which celebrities work with and work through issues on their way to success.



Also why things like anxiety are normal and meant for us to happen – keeps us safe (panic et al is about moving oxygen to where it is needed for “flight”) – but when that happens, their brain is not able to do other things (like math) – when being chased by a bear….body does what it needs to do (urge to “lighten load” or run or tremble or….)



Sufferers Need to know: doesn’t go forever. The body runs out of gas. It will end. It isn’t forever.



Three options:  flight freeze fight



Intrusive thoughts – everyone has them (obsessions) but when they are misinterpreted (as could actually happen) that can become very intense. Feel their thoughts are facts….and so often they’re not. You may think about driving off a cliff….but you wouldn’t….right?



Trauma also an understated causation. PTSD re-experience flashbacks. Not predictable what may trigger a memory.



If kids (parents) are in survival mode….learning ain’t happening



How to help them tolerate uncertainties. There are no certainties – neither absolutely worse case scenario or over-amazing – almost always somewhere in the middle



Coaching helps – esp using self-compassion “what would you say to a friend” – probably not a negative rant….or a score /10….



Always encourage students to experiment – try different things to see if it helps you feel better.  (but remember that alcohol is a depressant and drugs like marijuana can escalate side effects like paranoia….neither has a positive long-term effect and impact)




Ways In To Work With Anxiety:

Build relationships

Empathize, normalize, validate

Work together – what can “we” do

Language (stress vs anxiety)

Focus on current coping and supports

Plant seeds and point towards resources

Encourage students to try out some strategies


For educators:

No hard fast rules for success for all

Develop a plan WITH students

Work towards a specific goal

Step forward regardless of the size (but smaller better)

Be willing to modify the plan (plan things – even w teacher pre plan a Q for success)

Expect ups and downs (there will be steps back)

Don’t reinforce avoidance

Provide opportunities to face fears and doable steps

Great reminder to my own work and thinking around anxiety!!



And of course, my infamous Rant on Anxiety:

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