Day 130 (of 189) remote learning on #WorldAutismAwarenessDay

Day 130 (of 189) remote learning on #WorldAutismAwarenessDay



In a very real sense, we can reflect on the (adapted) opening to Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities: It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness etc we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…..



With our learners who are on the spectrum, it is likewise: best, because no school (which is very stressful to many) worst, because predictable structure is gone. And for those of us who have separated “learning at school” and “you time at home”, doing remote learning …. at home… is going to be a very conflicting message.



Especially when there is so much information (wisdom) to be learned available at the click of an app…. and just as many distractions and foolishness (so many candies to crush and toks to tik!)



We have everything available, but nothing in terms of certainty. When the unknowns are greater than usual (not just uncertainty about death, life, the universe and eternity) and include “when do we go back to school?” into the list of unknowns… well that’s like an all-you-can-eat-buffet for anxiety, depression and everything “blue zoned”.



In other words, it’s not an easy time for anyone, possibly more so for those on the spectrum. School can be stressful, but usually it is a familiar stress – predictable start and end times (the bells and fluid hallways can be triggering admittedly) and familiar layout.



So as we recognize our learners and family members who are on the spectrum, be aware that this change to more “unknown and uncertain” weeks ahead may be a tad stressful, and as others go high (get escalated) we need to model the calm and be even more patient. As I have been using as my mantra during this weird time of year… I am a leaf on the wind…watch how I soar!



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Day 129 (of 189) a book deal!

Day 129 (of 189) a book deal!

I thought I might get a book deal for one of my writings to do with education – who would think it would come from fiction?!? Definitely leading to me having to find some time to do more writing!


Here is the opening:

I blame Lillooet British Columbia.

They were the community that started “The Monitor” after the virus struck. They say the virus,  was similar to the flu – except it wasn’t.  When people got it, they were were deemed coronials and not expected to live. And they were definitely not allowed to go outside. But they did. 

So when the request for social distancing went unheeded, the media made a cry for tracking those people who wouldn’t stay home. At first it was just for those infected, but very quickly the declaration to stay at home was for everyone…sick or not. The only exception was for those who needed to go to pick up groceries in places where the stores would not ship your order. 

But apparently there were still too many people and towns were trying to figure out what to do to keep track of violators. Then this small town in rural Canada shared their idea and it went viral. A bracelet was attached to each person – kinda like those ones the hospital put on you when you were admitted, but these were even harder to get off…and they had a chip in them that would send a signal through the cell network that let the hospital track them. But the hospital didn’t trust just anyone to see which people were doing what, they used an app called The Monitor. It would send a message to a central hub to let them know if someone left their house at an unapproved time. It quickly became “any time”.

The success of their first few days exploded on the internet. Every community wanted to copy this model. Then the fines started. Then we heard stories of people going out for walks, but not coming home. 

Apparently then things got weird. 

My dad would tell me stories of different things he knew of. Apparently, there were these things called restaurants that you could go to with other people you knew. You could sit together. And people would actually cook food for you and serve it to you! And there were all types of these restaurants with all types of special foods to order. But all that changed. And the date was lodged in everybody’s minds – even those of us who weren’t born yet. April First. April Fools Day…



Yep… April Fools…!

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Day 128 (of 189) a little rant on pass/fail and %s

Day 128 (of 189) a little rant on pass/fail and %s


Recently, I found out my name was mentioned during a meeting session:



Definitely something I have learned since I shifted away from checkmarks, Xs, percentages, and letter grades and moved into descriptive feedback (typically starting with “two stars and a wish” while being mindful that one negative comment can skewer a whole list of positive comments…) where the “thing (singular) to work on next” is achievable and relevant.



It has also led me to do some rethinking about what makes a pass/fail – especially when many still allow score calculations perpetuate the game of school (which my oldest daughter apparently won by getting ‘the’ Governor Generals award – only one per school….and if its not a game, why are we keeping scores?). And my kids roll their eyes when they talk about their percentages in their courses because they now know, I will ask what is the 18% that they don’t know? or how could they demonstrate that they learned the missing x% – assuming 100% means having learned it all – or remembered it long enough to regurgitate the information presented to them…. sorry – I digress a bit….



But I have a son who processes a lot of information, but whose anxiety and autism prevents him from achieving well in a traditional manner. For every question – asked by a teacher, or on a worksheet, can have thousands of possible answers and struggles to figure out which “one” the teacher wants to see/hear. So his learning can be deep, but his scores on tasks is low.  My youngest daughter has learned from both of them, so blends a love of learning with a wonder if the current school structure is the best methodology….. all different learners, but all measured the same…. hmmmmm….



And it gets me to my rethink/wonder about percentages. Specifically the fallacy that 50% is a good barrier for pass/fail. Heck, my daughters engineering program has 60% as its “fail” barrier. And is 95% good? Good enough for the average successful landing for an airline? Or for survival rate in a tonsillectomy? A batting average? <– unachievable by the way, heck no batter has ever hit at a 50% rate and a 30% rate gets you consideration for hall of fame entry.



And I have friends who did not achieve 50% in our Algebra 11 class, but passed (as long as they never do another math class again – one ended up having to teach math 9 in his first year as a teacher….) and I KNOW I did not get 50% in my university french class…. but that’s a story better told in person….But I also liked one of my education profs who said as long as we did 3 essays, we would get 80%, (task completion – and had to be completed to a standard) and there would be extras that could be done to achieve a higher mark – if we had the time and wherewithal to do more by learning more/deeper. Took away the stress and I don’t think many just stuck with 80%, but I also know that the education program was very stressful to some, so knowing they didn’t have to do the extra work… helped reduce the stress.



So why can’t we acknowledge that perhaps a percentage is lower but can still be a “pass” – especially if we take into consideration how much is authentically learned vs what is already known – I have worked with students who got As (back when I still had to do letter grades) but I was not working with grade level curriculum with them; we were doing some extension work instead – and my oldest went (and continues to go) deep into subject material prior to even taking her course, so do we reward inherit knowledge over/same/??? as learned material? Does the change from pretest to posttest matter?

When I taught in the secondary world, I used to say to my English and Socials students when they were worried about failing, that they would likely have to work harder to fail our class than what it would take to pass it (or do even better). A mindset I have continued, and blended with my other rant that I always emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to the learning outcomes, because no matter how hard I have tried, I don’t believe I ever fully covered every one – and why I have loved the shift to “Big Questions” in the BC Curriculum because it allows a good bit of versatility over how to address them (aka not everyone needs to know the names of all 206 bones in the skeleton, but there will always be one who needs to know the name of all 206 bones).


Then there is also my ever growing bias that the more I learn about %s the more I get worried when told how precise they are…. Too often “margin of error” is not factored in. Likewise other errors in test analysis, bias of questions, etc etc – and I admit my own bias is from a friend who got 85.4999999999999% in Biology 11, and the teacher refused to give credit for a question he saw was marked wrong but was right because his behaviour meant he shouldn’t get an A.


Yet there is also the wonder about types of average – too often we rely on the mean average, when there are so many to explore; mode, median, range, most-recent etc. So why use percentages? to indicate “how much of a course was learned” –> because then there is the question about “learned for a task/test?” or learned deeply. Does one matter more than the other? I’d say its 50-50 (but largely because sometimes I can be jerk).

Essentially when it comes to people in education using percentages, I admit I get nervous and often bite my tongue, because too often….



Maybe a student getting 30% is good enough for credit for a course. Maybe for some courses 90% isn’t good enough for credit. And conversely for some courses, a student getting 40% may be more of an achievement than a student getting 75%. The numbers don’t tell the whole story of what is needed, and the story of rite learning journey is much more important and vital!  I admit I look forward to the day where nobody bats an eye when we see 25% (A) …. and likewise 100% becomes an expectation because we focus on the learning outcomes, not just task completion.


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Day 127 (of 189) the new day #1

Day 127 (of 189) the new day #1



Well, spring break has come to an end (based on the calendar) but students still remain away. 2020 and the spread of COVID-19 have led to some strangeness leading to a “new normal”.  We started off with some “closed” signs placed around the school and then waited….



Fortunately the news has travelled well and nobody “didn’t know” that in-class learning had been suspended. Other questions…well there are plenty of those. But Day one is focused on connections.

So we used Zoom to meet as a staff (school staff + district staff) to get in alignment on some wonders and some worries. Our vulnerable families and families whose work is “essential service” remain important to us – but making a connection comes before any learning will take place (kinda like the start of the school year; without a focus on connections and relationships, learning is an uphill struggle). It was fabulous that everybody was able to make it online together and see so many familiar faces (some used their landline to call in… no judging clothing being worn at home!)




We make connections – even I am doing “something” starting off with my “lunch stories with Landy”



And I am trying to find those little joys – such as being able to leave my vehicle at home and walk to and from the school. The time to walk and get some fresh air is always helpful.  And no fear of being bored, because at a school, there is never “nothing to do” – though I miss the people!

So getting some feedback on my “story time” was fabulous – especially with some saying they are looking forward to tomorrow….glad I asked (and got) some requests!




The new “day one” …. done for now…




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SBL #1 (Spring Break of Learning 2020) my biggest worry: one size fits all learning during COVID19 learning… with a reference to @ltoddrose

SBL #1 (Spring Break of Learning 2020) my biggest worry: one size fits all learning…


Well, Spring Break 2020 has not gone according to plan. In BC, we started our Spring Break on March 13th – a true “friday the 13th” as it turns out… we sent our students home with a fabulous Talent Show afternoon, but also with the news of many other school jurisdictions closing “indefinitely” because of the spread of COVID-19. In the week since, we have also “closed indefinitely” with all schools in BC on a simultaneous two week spring break (some districts only have 1 week, some schools are year round so have their breaks at different times etc etc) so that we can all come back on March 30 to a “new normal” for what is being referred to as a “continuation of learning”.  And as much as I am a fan of using tech with education (technologization) I have some worries with some of the things I am hearing…



….and it links back to a wonder/share from a staff member about “one size learning” when he brought up “alignment in practice” and having all grade 3s working on the same thing – and as I pointed out, many districts have tried the mindset that “on Tuesday the Xth, all grade Y students will be doing: this and that. End of Line” to great disaster. Because while it makes sense in a industrial, assembly line mindset (from which schooling emerged….) it does not work in practice. Students are absent; students are unique – they learn at different rates and times; misunderstandings have to be ignored; teachable moments have to be ignored, etc etc etc.  and worst of all – if a student doesn’t “get it” on that day….what happens next? When do we stop doing interventions? If someone does not have a good sense of numbers, they are going to struggle with… everything in math…. do we not go back and reinforce some of the basic skills to enhance understanding, or hope that it just “comes to them” while they are working on more abstract work in later years?



I worry when I see shares online for those jurisdictions who are creating on the fly that are “work packages” for a class – is a homogeneous work package going to work for heterogeneous learners? How will they get feedback or support if they are misunderstanding something (or not understanding something at all) – what if the parents don’t “get it” either, or enough to help their kids learning at home. I can see a lot of frustration going on. Likewise, I can see great ideas such as geniushour struggling outside of a supportive learning community (classroom) because they don’t have peers to bounce ideas off of – or to ask question of, except asynchronously -> which I think is fine for older learners, but when it comes to wonders…I really wonder what asynchronous kindergarten can look like….




I have been doing some thinking about District Assessments as separate from in-class Assessments – where the classroom teacher needs to holistically know who their learner is – what is their independent reading level, what are they focusing on to become better writers, how is their math fluency; in opposition to district “needs” being more: are learners at or below “accepted grade reading levels” – at or below expectations of writers of similar age, and have a sense of number and operations that are “expected” based on their year of birth.  Very different mindsets.  But… can these also be part of the continuity of learning sent home: send home these types of assessments so that parents can see how their child is doing compared to “typical expectations”?



Or do we continue with what we do best: meeting the needs of our learners and supporting them with work that they can do independently and then push those zones of proximal learning when the brain is ready for a “leap forward”.  But then, how frequently can/should that be when we can’t be at school?




Daily drop-ins – one student/day to limit social contact and work with a teacher on things to focus on for the next….month+?

Daily Video chats – except for those who do not have the right technical supports and can thereby expect to be further “left behind”

Weekly interactions???



I daresay that those using efolios are likely more ready to have students and teacher interactions via folios – sharing an activity and then have a result shared back – a light framework of a Math 11 (History of Math) course I helped develop for our local secondary school:



But I am really worried that education will stray away from the direction it had been heading towards: personalized learning journeys and instead face a detour of “one size fits all” packages that, as Todd Rose pointed out in his fabulous books End of Average and Dark Horse end up missing everyone. My biggest takeaway remains: when we aim for the average, we end up making things worse for pretty much everyone. There are many ways for learners to be successful, but no one way that will work for all. We need many entrance and exit points for learning, because the journey is almost always more important than the final product (okay – influenced by Isaacsons DaVinci on this thought too…)

So in the “new reality” of asynchronous schooling that is due to COVID19, please do no think that “one package” will meet all learner needs. But perhaps one good question can have all learners respond in unique ways… And perhaps we need “connection opportunities” – saw one school do a virtual dance party and another doing a “read aloud” – both things that I am thinking would be good to come “from the principals office” to continue community networking opportunities…

There are some neat opportunities to do different during our “new normal” – looking forward to continuing to see, create and share them!

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Day 126 (of 189) ahhh spring break

Day 126 (of 189) ahhh spring break

Well, the planned list of spring break to-dos has changed. My daughter likes to challenge me in a March madness bracket, but that’s off – as are many/all sports….so…..

– Reading (got a stack of books and a review to do for an upcoming issue of our @bcpvpa magazine – so the pressure is: which one… and the photo is just the ones I’m taking home – not the ones already there nor the digital ones as well – part of me thinks a 14 day self-quarantine isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)

– writing (need to bug @mraspinall about a thing)

– more writing (I’m feeling a dystopian short story or two wanting to come out of me, so maybe some fiction sharing during my SBL – Spring Break Learning blogs)

– physical challenges (for my sons Activity 12 class we are going to do a week at a gym; I’m also going to get my bike ready for the season)

– school catchup (my office got cluttered and I need to start prepping our reading/storage portable ready to be a classroom as we prepare for a likely new division with all the kindys coming in September!)

– spring cleaning (I’ve got too many boxes and bins we haven’t opened – and I want more of my library to be downsized and more e-reader friendly; the librarIAN that is me has to let go…and so do my kids with some of their old collections!)

Getting my Atari 2600 working…got a hankering for some retro gaming after some great tweet shares on Friday the 13th!

– enjoying the sun and weather that is the Sunshine Coast – two ferries can’t be wrong!

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Day 125 (of 189) communication

Day 126 (of 189) communication

It was longer ago than I wish to mention when I first realized that email was too slow. But when I told a teacher he could just email me a link for a video he wanted to show at our talent show and I saw the panic in his eye…I realized that there are still many lanes on the “communication superhighway”… and even though I remember hearing an assistant superintendent explaining “texting” to the rest of the senior team by naming me and a few other “youngsters” were using it – and it might be “the next big thing” – admittedly, many still had to click a button three times to get a “c”, or try their clicking blackberry keyboards….

But what happens when we are in different lanes…

Can we assume all people are checking antiquated methods? I know my daughter is excited,y waiting for a birthday card from the grandparents….and waiting…and those same grandparents only recently received our valentines card and photos.

And with news…. we’ll, earlier in the week I learned our school is getting solar panels when a tweet was shared with me. And nobody else in-district had heard the announcement yet to give us a heads up…. likewise with Coronavirus, the news is moving at different speeds, and like a crash on the highway, sometimes it slows everyone down.

I know some of our best “timely” info has come via texting this week. Even DMs via twitter have been awesome and timely. Emails are more for archiving and as double checks to make sure all (or almost all) have the same information. But email isn’t dead yet – I know it is still the easiest way to contact all our families (well almost all as a few still don’t have an address shared with the school) and I still have a couple staff members without a smartphone – and it still shocks me that one regularly forgets her cell on her desk – how do people do that?!?

I know I still go with three speeds: emergency is a rare phone call; most info via text – especially a missing student et al; stuff to deal with leisurely – that’s the email…

What’s your preferred communication method?

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