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Jonathan Yoder

Dinner Time!

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Dec 2, 2018

I recently saw on Twitter a superintendent from Virginia who paraphrased a high school student’s perspective on teacher-centered classrooms versus student-centered ones. They described it in a food analogy, so I was immediately hooked! The student said that teacher-centered classrooms were like having a meal where the students sit in high chairs and are spoon-fed their meals, whereas student-centered learning is where students and teacher work together to prepare the meal and then all sit down together to enjoy it.


It made me think a lot about my own classroom. And even though I wholeheartedly agree with that perspective and would say that I aim for my classroom to be in that style every day. The reality is that if I look back at my practices on a daily basis I would have seen more high chairs than tables. Why is that? Well, it's most likely based on my lens of education. Historically, classrooms that I experienced as a student were more often than not teacher-centered. So as a result I tend to default to that style of classroom. It's easy to control and plan for. When I think of student-centered learning, it becomes more of an amorphous being that is harder to visualize; something akin to herding cats or how watching the movie is easier than reading the book. Thus when I am in a time crunch in terms of planning (as we teachers always are) it is a lot faster and easier to go with what I know.


So how can I break the cycle? I need to make conscious choices on a daily basis. Before I roll out a lesson I need to spend time reflecting on if the way I have planned a lesson is truly student-centered. I also need to embrace the uncomfortableness of the unknown. Often times I convince myself that I need to spoon feed them the info because it is new and we all need to be on the same page in terms of defining terms. However, the reality is I can still have the kids lead that portion of the lesson. Doing jigsaw activities where student-led groups define new terms or topics and become masters in that area (of course with teacher guidance!) and then they split up and help disseminate the important information and terms to their classmates. The lesson then ends with us coming together as a whole group to sit down and enjoy the meal together by debriefing. The use of exit tickets in which each kid must respond to the day’s essential question can be my daily proof that the material is working. Then with a well calculated warm up for the following day I can ensure that the material is gaining traction in their minds. Now I can begin to dive deeper by giving projects or problems to solve that will require them to take those new terms and ideas to the next level of application and synthesis. Ending with a project that will allow each student to show me in their own way that they truly grasp and can answer our standards based essential questions.

Models like SAMR can help us to take what we have always done and give it a digital makeover. It will help us to engage more students, which will in turn help with classroom management as well as the enduring battle of digital daydreaming where students stop listening to a lecture and go down the digital rabbit hole that starts with checking their bff’s snaps and ends in the digital trolling of every major social media feed. This is what blogger Tim Urban called the “Dark Playground” in his 2016 TED talk “Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator”.


Ultimately we need to make more engaging lessons so that students have a healthy work ethic that allows them the ability to be career ready so that they can balance life both the mundane and mind blowing opportunities that lie ahead. The longer they stay in the high chair, the harder it will be to produce valuable members of society who will make a difference well after we are gone and no longer able to spoon feed ourselves never mind the generation child-minded adults we have enabled. But just like the New Year’s resolutions we are all prepping for in the days ahead; it will require us to reach down and set new routines. So accept the challenge and find a colleague and get yourself some homegrown accountability. Our kids deserve it!




pammoran. (2018 November 30). high school student to paraphrase “in a teacher-centered class, students get “fed” learning like in a high chair - in a learner-centered environment, students help make the meal and sit down to eat together” [Twitter post]. Retrieved from


Urban, T. (2016, March 5). Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator [Video file]. Retrieved from




In today's digital era of ubiquitous technology we teachers need to walk the tightrope of what is educationally appropriate. I recently saw on Twitter a photo from a local IU training session that was spot on in terms of how we should handle technology in the classroom:

"Learning is King. Growth is Queen. Cool is the court jester. The jester is technology and he has value, but don't put him in charge of the kingdom!"

We need to use the "cool" to engage our students. We need to re-spark their curiosity. Technology can certainly help us take our curriculum and deliver it in a way that allows our students to explore the world around them from within our classrooms and even beyond. However, we need to find balance. Tech for the sake of Tech is NOT what we want from this initiative. We want to stick within our district's mantra of "Doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason"


Canvas, for example, is a Learning Management System that allows us to have a central hub (aka digital classroom) for our classes just like the actual room where we meet every day for 45 minutes. This virtual space helps us stay connected beyond that small sliver of time we are allotted (roughly 141 hours a year). Other tools like Google Apps for Education and Nearpod allow us to work together in real time regardless of location. Making sure that we are all on the same digital and literal page. This sense of collaboration can really augment our time together and teaches important interpersonal skills, which can really help us maximize our face to face time, which will always be so important. Now all of those programs and apps would be meaningless without the Chromebooks, which allow us to have equity. This allows all our students and staff to have the ability to participate in the same activities that help engage and shape our learning environments. Now that we have these devices its time to see their full potential. Going into next year we will need to start thinking beyond the digitizing of worksheets and step outside our comfort zones to learn how to really engage our students. The incorporation of project based learning would be a nice addition to our classes so that we can best model the type of problem solving our students will be doing after their leave our doors.


The most important take away is that all of this technology does not replace you. It merely helps you manage the learning of you students. John Dewey in his 1897 essay entitled "My Pedagogic Creed" beautifully describes the role of a teacher that is truly timeless. He states:

"The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences."

The technology we now all have access to allows us, if we choose, to really help 'select the influences'. It helps us bring balance to all the media students are inundated with in today's digital world. We can never undo their involvement with social media or with gaming and that is not our role as teachers, but we can select the appropriate ways social media can augment learning. We can gamify our classes to bring that same spark of enthusiasm to our lessons. We can take notes from those who actively engage our students and find ways to incorporate that magic into our classes. We can help manage their exposure and not just for 45 minutes, but by curating an online presence we can truly take back the digital streets and deliver positive and engaging alternatives.


Too many times our students (and us too!) choose to go to a place that is described by blogger Tim Urban as the 'Dark Playground'. A place where we engage in unearned free time. It is so easy to get lost in binge watching Netflix or joining another campaign on Fortnite, but if we engage our students in multimedia projects that truly pique their curiosity then perhaps we can help them utilize their precious free time so that they can effectively earn their leisure time to just veg out. It is on that tightrope that we all must walk. Technology will ultimately help them prepare for how the world works and will continue to work. We (as students, teachers...humans) need balance, not just with technology, but in life!

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance."

― Epicurus

Today I worked with some teachers of K-2 students.  They did not want students to have to log on individually and they have about 1:5 ratio so the workload in logon/off management would be quite high and a barrier to using Canvas.  I suggested keeping reading logs using discussions.   We set up a group set where each student was the only member of their group.  Then set up a discussion and made it a group discussion on this set.   The teacher could then access a space for each student , record the student reading and make notes relevant to the reading assessment.  All as discussion posts.  The students don't need to log in individually but the teacher can keep a record of each students progress over time.   This changed the mind of several Early Childhood teacher who had come to the PL with the idea that canvas had nothing to offer them.   There is a solution for every (most) purpose teachers have.

This is more for schools in NSW, but may help those delivering data analysis. 

Tell Them From Me survey results are in - have to do the data analysis for the staff. After a while, there are usually some serious head nodders, and heavy eyelids. Who can blame people - big day at work followed by a PD session after school. 

So this time I flipped it. Instead of me going through the 88 page PowerPoint (I kid you not) for staff, I embedded the PowerPoint on Canvas, split the staff into groups with allocated pages to look at, attached multiple pages of trend data on SharePoint and linked it in, gave them a 20 minute limit and asked them to reply with their findings to questions in a discussion. 

Staff were also emailed the instructions the day before so they could get an idea of what they were doing and the PD session was set up just like a lesson - learning intentions, success criteria and resources. It was 'speed data'. 

The conversations and results that came back in the discussions were amazing. Not to mention the sneaky 'modelling' for staff using pages, links, embedded files and discussions. A total win today, building capacity with data analysis and utilisation, collaboration across all staff and of course - no snoring! 




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Our system has not opened the Parent app yet, so I have been looking for a way to show student work to parents, while staying in the Canvas environment.

I have been investigating the idea of using a discussion - set up using groups, so that there is only one student and the teacher in each group.  Students then have a private communication line with their teacher.  They can add images, text, audio etc using it as a reflective journal space.  If the discussion is set to be marked and it then becomes available to add as a submission to the ePortfolio.  Teachers can then ask the students to share the link to the eportfolio with their parents.

The class teacher can monitor the discussion, provide feedback and make suggestions.  The eportfolio is updated as new posts are made, so it is always up to date.   Parents can see what their child is doing at school. 

I still have to check that it will work in a real class but it has potential to solve our issues until the Parent app is released.

Jonathan Yoder

State of the Union

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Oct 28, 2018

The State of the Union is strong! We have had a great 1st quarter with Canvas and Chromebooks. I thought I would take this week to highlight some of the great features teachers have been using and absolutely love! Although we have a long way to go our level of buy-in at all levels is rather impressive and speaks to the level of professionalism of our HS faculty!


Rubrics are the newest in our arsenal. Teachers are loving the variety. Our English department is loving the option to use ranges since that is what the state standards require. Social Studies teachers are loving the free form rubrics where they can create custom comments for each assignment. We will be running a rubrics session at our November PD to allow them to share their rubric love as well as dive deeper as we continue to explore the enormous quiver that Canvas provides us. 


SIS integration has been the number one item that all instructors love. Our Learning Support and Phys Ed departments will really love this feature since they tend to have multiple sections in the grade book. This will allow them to post one time and have it spray out into their 20+ sections in Skyward, saving them enormous amounts of time. On that note, we do have two known issues with our Skyward Sync. We have seen an unchecking of our Student and Parent Access. Once we reset our Skyward assignment display defaults to "always post" then the issue seemed to subside. The other issue is that for a small number the assignments seem to sync successfully, but somehow the assignment end up in the deleted area of Skyward requiring the teacher to 'restore' the assignment. So far though, we LOVE the sync to SIS option! It really has saved our instructors' time with grading.



Quizzes/Quizzes.Next has been another great find for our instructors. The ability to give warm ups and exit tickets has allowed teachers and students to get valuable feedback in a timely manner. I really believe the timely manner of it is what is extremely valuable for all involved. We need to use assessments for learning, so that we know what in fact students are learning. Some teachers, such an our online and hybrid teachers, have been using the quizzes as actual summative assessments. Our Chemistry teachers are even working on giving their final through Quizzes in Canvas! Our online Ecology teacher loves the ability to use Question groups so that no two tests are the same, allowing her to create equal but different questions. We are eager to have Quizzes.Next offer more functionality like partial grading for Categorization, Ranking, and Multiple answers. Also the ability to offer access codes has been helpful in preserving integrity for 504 and I.E.P. students who get extended time. 


Kami has been another great tool teachers are using to make use less papers and waste less time photocopying. We are able annotate PDFs digitally. This will have benefits for note taking as well as worksheets and even professional documents. The functionality of the free version is limited, but effective. We need to spend time helping the students understand how to organize their Google Drive and how to make sure they save their annotations before their final submission, but Canvas + Kami integration is in the works so hopefully as more teachers use it we can think about asking for subscriptions to help alleviate the need for paper unnecessarily. 


Our students were recently surveyed and they are so appreciative of their teachers really diving head first into make more interactive lessons with less paper. While not always doing things digitally is the answer; it is nice that we decrease paper when it makes sense. Technology is good in moderation and it will take us a bit to understand where it makes sense and where it is necessary to have paper. But for now it really has been amazing to see how our staff and students are really moving into the 21st century with all of this new technology. Eventually we will begin to look at models like ISTE and SAMR to help us augment learning in our classes!

I am backward mapping this blog post - starting with the end in mind! 

This photo (and banner) is of some of the happy faces of students at Callaghan College and De La Salle Lipa - Philippines (on the Promethean) after the final judging of their Sustainability Project which was organised by Instructure's Troy Martin and team. 

Let's back track now - last term, students at De La Salle Lipa, Callaghan College Wallsend Campus and Waratah Campus were set a challenge by Instructure and Red Agency - look at Sustainability and single use plastics, come up with solutions and alternatives. Students were grouped on Canvas with representatives from each Campus on teams. They had to research and deliver a PowerPoint based on problem solving these issues. They had to communicate and collaborate with people they didn't know, develop relationships, navigate time zones and solve a massive environmental issue. 

Did I mention they are 15 years old?

All groups were judged (via speedgrader) from both the Philippines and Australia and the top ten groups completed their final presentations across video link today - presenting together in front of staff, students and parents from both countries. (Not to mention the media presence as well). We are not sure who won yet as there were so many quality presentations, however in our eyes, it doesn't matter. They all won! And so did we - the future is safe with kids like these in both countries.

As teachers - what did we do? Only provided support and set up the Canvas course. They had no time out of class. All students had to do this project above and beyond their normal studies, and they volunteered for this! It was a complete first for our College and quite frankly a fantastic start. There were times when we checked the groups and could see conferences were happening, collaborative documents were being shared and discussions were flying back and forth between countries. When we saw some of the friendships that have been developed  today, and watched them present together as a team - well let's just say our hearts were full of pride. I can only imagine the joy if they all ever met in person. 

Today we witnessed a technological tool support many solutions to global problems, but that didn't matter in the end - what we saw was global friendship. You just cannot buy that!


callaghancollegewallsendcampus David SUMMERVILLE Troy Martin Dan Goldsmith

Jonathan Yoder

Unique Uniformity

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Oct 14, 2018

After almost a quarter of the school year under way, we are starting to see trends. The ability in Canvas to really do whatever you heart desires with your course is a blessing and a curse. With so much autonomy how do we develop best practices so that the students aren't confused and know what to expect while surfing our virtual classrooms. Well, one thing we teachers have in common is a syllabus; a course outline.


My suggestion has been to think about using the 'Syllabus' page as the course landing page rather than 'Modules'. It allows the teacher the ability to better control the environment by providing space to explain how he or she is using Canvas. One can provide links to important modules, pages, discussions or assignments. You can even embed videos for enrichment as well as to show off your personality just like how you might decorate you physical classroom with engaging photos and posters. You can also provide your contact info, a photo and even attach a file of your class expectations. Then along the bottom of the page will be running list of all assignments and events for the course that Canvas will auto-populate as the year goes on.


Pro Tip: If you have certain class expectations you can list them as well, but I think a useful alternative might be to divide up your class expectations into pages in a module and then make a syllabus quiz to end the module requiring that the students score 100% before they can move on to other course modules/content. 


There are so many options and each teacher should have the autonomy to do with their Canvas pages as they please, but we do need to have a little bit of order and uniformity so that our students know what to expect just like they know each classroom will have desks, chairs and whiteboard. They should be able to count on each virtual class having a syllabus page, modules and assignments. And although it is true that we don't teach the parents it might go a long way toward transparency if the parents,learning support teachers and guidance counselors, when they sign on to observe, also had a sense of how each teacher is using their page so they could better support their students.


So take a second to think about your Canvas courses and if a casual observer or new student were to sign onto your course, would they feel confident on how to navigate the course? It might save you time from having to write clarifying emails or have 1 on 1 discussions with confused students and parents. And the beauty of Canvas is that once you have a good template set; then it will be ready for each new year with the ability for any necessary tweaks you may need to make from year to year!

Last term my faculty and I embarked on the first Project Based Learning ( the real PBL to be talked about here) task for Year 7 Japanese learners. Year 7 are 12-13 years old and in their first year of high school. We have always done PBL tasks with smaller elective classes, however with ten Yr 7 classes; this was going to be a challenge (about 290 students). Whilst using many fabulous resources from the Buck Institute, Canvas also has its own benefits for making this work.

Canvas has made PBL tasks what they should be. I call the other PBL – previously beetroot laden tasks as in the past when tasks were handed out on paper, the sheet was lost in the student’s backpack somewhere (not unlike Dr Who’s Tardis) and usually came out weeks later with beetroot stains on it.


The Project (a film in Japanese approximately 2-3 mins long) was able to be completely scaffolded for all learners over several pages and then groups could have their own ‘Canvas site’ to control which made their lives easier for messaging, document control, versioning and collaboration – in particular out of school hours work.


Group contracts and project management logs could be saved as collaborative documents or just as a separate page, the students were also marked on keeping learning blogs, which the discussion tool was used for. The discussion was used as an individual blog (each child named the discussion their own name) - they replied to themselves after each lesson, which meant there was a time and date stamp, as well as a record of their own progress.

The calendar was used to organise their project management logs for the group as well as filming times, messages to each other about what everyone needed to bring each lesson.


The student contracts, project management logs, and teacher ‘check-ins’ were marked on to the assessment rubric as we progressed through the term. Marks were allocated on the rubric to the work in class as the students advanced through their tasks. By the time the project was due to be filmed, it was the last major part of the marking left for the teachers.


There was also another separate rubric that students had to fill in at the end of the filming by themselves. It was a self-evaluation to assess their own future learning skills. This was achieved by setting up a few laptops with the teacher logged in and the students found their name in Speedgrader and ‘marked themselves’. This was based on:

  • Focus on the Task / Participation
  • Shared Responsibility
  • Listening, Questioning and Discussing
  • Research and Information Sharing
  • Problem Solving


The Speedgrader rubric was a great process for the students to evaluate themselves without having to complete surveys or long answers (poor little things were tired). They were also allocated marks for completing the self-evaluation rubric, not the score they gave themselves to encourage them to answer more honestly about their work. From my own classes (3 classes = 90 students) the data showed that 20% rated themselves highly in all five sections, 55% of students thought they were average and 25% felt they were poor at demonstrating these skills. The wrap up was a very interesting discussion as to how they feel these skills will help them later in life. When asked about how they felt Canvas helped them in their projects, the responses were equally mixed as some found it easy, others difficult, and many responded with the feeling that it was difficult to hide from the workload – their friends were checking, their teachers were checking and their parents/caregivers could observe too.


Overall a great experience, PBL is highly differentiated, but also needs a level of organisation and kindness to achieve. One class did have to complete some ‘teamwork remediation’ as changing groups every lesson because ‘they all hate each other today’ was not an option. It is a big ask sometimes for 12 and 13 year olds, however with a few tweaks, it will get another run. Did they do everything perfectly? No - of course not. But not everything was their problem either, there are things I need to change too in the lesson delivery and student groupings. But that is the fun part - learning from the medals and the missions. The journey with PBL is just as important as the product – and this product thankfully now has no beetroot covered paper!



This project is shared in Commons – Japanese Project Based Learning Unit Year 7. Hopefully this helps someone else.

As we continue to work with all this new technology, the number one priority will be to make sure our students come to class prepared. We obviously cannot pack their bags for them, but by having expectations with accountability we can avoid the phrases of "I left it at home" or "I forgot to charge it". We should not accept these types of responses. We cannot enable these students any longer. We need to demand better of them.


I think it's important that if we plan on using Chromebooks in our classes regularly then we should think about have a system for participation points in place that may even require daily tracking. Maybe its something as simple as 2 points a day for having a Chromebook-1 point for having it and 1 point for not needing to plug it in or borrow a charger. Then you add a weekly 10 point assignment in the grade book that shows them and their parents of whether there is an issue that needs to be addressed.


So this week when a kid tells you that they left it in their car or at home, maybe it's time to think about making a change to your class expectations and enacting a system that makes sense for you and your style, but we need to set the expectation and hold them accountable each and every day. It is not a lot to ask of them. They need to do better and we need to support them through this change. Otherwise they will do to us what they do to their parents...wear them down with excuses like their dog at their Chromebook until you just throw your hands up in the air exhausted from the verbal weapons of mass confusion. Students love to spread these excuses when they are avoiding doing something that they don't consider to be fun or perhaps because these phrases have worked for them in the past. Be firm, be resilient and model for them the steadfast nature that their future bosses will demand of them one day.

Jonathan Yoder

Consistency is Key

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Sep 30, 2018
One thing my school as Tech newbies will have to consider as we move forward with Canvas, or really any LMS, is consistency. Consistency for our students and parents within our course design to easily find important information quickly. That is one of the main reasons behind adding the digital nature to what we do. The Tech doesn't define our class; it is there to help as another avenue to engage today's students, parents, and community members with your content area expertise. Schools should not be a 'member's only' club, especially not in public education. This new tech allows us to deliver the same message to all stakeholders. There is no more playing telephone between what you said in class versus what version parents received when they returned home, tired from work. And for us as teachers, this is awesome to have the ability to control your classroom virtually and remotely! We teachers in today's world need to be mindful of what we can all do despite our comfort level with technology so that we can engage more students. Meet them halfway between old school and new school. Draw the lines in the digital sand. Have a dialogue with your classes, let them help you decide how to dip your toes into the water.

I think the easiest first steps are the creation of "Assignments" followed by the use of "Modules". They are going to be key players where we can agree on a uniformed front for all of our students. When you create assignments in Canvas and you keep the "Assignment" button active on your course menu (left side of screen), students get a nice view of what is "overdue", what is "upcoming" and then at the bottom any "past assignments". They can also view by assignment group/type (See bellow image).




The Assignment area allows students and their guardians a quick and easy screen view within your course to stay organized. They can also see upcoming items in three other locations. First, it is displayed on the right side of their dashboard every time they login on a computer or Chromebook. Second, they can see it on their course calendar. Third, if you have a "Syllabus" page it also creates a running list of assignments at the bottom. So you just create the assignment one time and Canvas intuitively send it to all the aforementioned locations. Pretty nice!

Are you entering "Assignments" from the calendar? The Pro is that it is quick and easy if you are not allowing  submissions. You just click on the date you want it to be due/completed. Then you start at the top by clicking on the "Assignment" tab then enter the "Title" of the assignment, then choose a time if you wish otherwise it defaults to 11:59 pm. You can really leave the time alone or maybe just put it in for 7:30 am as a reminder that it should be done before school starts that day. Then you need to make sure you are on the "Calendar" for the particular class you wish to assign and finally you need to hit "Publish" and "Save".

The Cons are as follows. First, if you're not paying attention you could put it on the wrong class calendar. Second, you can inadvertently put it as an "Event" and not an "Assignment" and it will not appear as described in the last paragraph. Third is the kids will only see the title with no instructional information nor how many points it is worth nor how you want them to turn it in. Which ultimately means that students who are absent will still have to come to you or another classmate for directions instead of being able to follow along remotely if their absence is one that allows them to keep afloat remotely. One nice feature about "Assignments" is that you also have the ability in Canvas to attach files and embed videos in the instructions area that might have been part of that HW assignment/Unit. If you hit the "More Options" button from the calendar view you can go to that area and add in details to keep parents informed as well, which might help you not have to answer as many emails or make as many phone calls home. That alone is worth the time it takes to enter in the details and if you use this assignment in future years you will only need to tweak the date and reassign for future years.



Once you are comfortable with Assignments the next step is to build Modules that are orderly and chronological. This will be key if you want to help with transfer students or late additions. It can also help with students who are absent for an extended periods of time for illness etc. When you have all of you material on Canvas in your "Pages", "Files", and "Assignments" going to Modules will allow you to build your course quickly by placing in any pages, discussions, assignments and links you may want them to access in the order you want them to access those materials! Then students can just go to modules and pick up where they left off! You can even put in settings so they get check marks showing where they left off!

Once you build a system then the concept of Emergency Sub Plans and Digital Snow Days can be a possibility with little to no confusion. If you have a chance consider taking an  course, there are lots of free options with Google. It might help you better understand good and bad examples of how  material can be disseminated. This is something to really strive for by next school year, but thinking of it now will help as you learn the system and how best to build your courses! It will take time and some trial and error! Don't be discouraged, it is not an easy journey! But it is worth your time and effort!

Isobel Williams

Showcase Student Work

Posted by Isobel Williams Sep 27, 2018

I have been thinking about ways to showcase student work in a Gallery Walk type of experience in Canvas.  I have had several teachers ask about solutions for this.

Sway via Office365 - you can upload images or videos and add text if required.  The sway can be embedded in a course and students could move through it at their own pace.

Photos in Windows - you can create short videos using photos.  This can be uploaded to your course as media. It seems to be a much simpler version of photostory and is quite quick and easy to use if you have the images ready to go. Text can be added.  The pictures will play through so give each image enough time to be seen.

Photostory3  - this can be downloaded and is the great app it always was.  Use photos you have on your computer to create  videos. Zoom in on important aspects of an image and add text and transitions.  This is a bit more complex to master but is worth the effort.

Add to your Canvas by uploading through the media link.

Happy sharing.

Isobel Williams

Printing Rubrics

Posted by Isobel Williams Sep 24, 2018

We found a roundabout way to print out rubrics - In the mark-book select a student then select marks from their Activity card.   This brings up a list of all their assignments.  There are icons next to the assignment and these will expand score, feedback and rubric.     If you expand these you can then print out the whole list of assignments - I limit it to the page or pages with the relevant rubric.    Its is a bit of a fiddle to have to do it for every student but it is a solution if you need/ want a paper copy.    

   Change is hard. Time is limited, but I truly believe we are on a good trajectory toward real change in our school. I have been telling the students in my demos that all this new tech is like the Cheesecake Factory Menu...Its massive and awesome with a few undesirables on the menu pending one's tastes. And just how one might want to order 5 different things the reality is your wallet and your stomach couldn't handle it all! Same with teachers and all this new technology, we need time and return visits to be able to try all that they have to offer. Or maybe we need to just team up with colleagues and share meals at first!



   We public school teachers have a fine line to walk between compliance/standardization and true progressive education through Project Based and Inquiry Based Learning. It will take time, but one thing we can all do is continue to make small adjustments in how we interact with out students. We must realize that they have spent their entire careers K-8 using a lot of technology and not seated quietly in rows for extended periods of time. This is something I had not even considered until recently when I attended an elementary back to school night presentation. So just like the students need to be patient with us and our comfort level or lack of  in regards to technology, we also need to be patient as we teach them "how to learn" which may be even more important than the actual content we teach.

   If you fear that students aren't paying attention and are using their Chromebooks to tune you out, then instead of looking for the Fort Knox software that condemns their Chromebooks to being paperweights...maybe we should look at modifying and redefining lessons! Now this doesn't mean we have to up heave all that you do and that your career has been a fraud, it just means that times change and the students' attention may not be about how they need to learn to just pay attention, maybe its an indication that we need to pay attention to what they are telling us through their actions. 


   I am currently reading a new book called Timeless Learning written by 3 Public School teachers (Ira Socol, Pam Moran, Chad Ratliff) and this quote really struck a chord with me.

"The 21st century world rapidly changes around our schools and swirls around our children...sustaining schooling as it has existed will not prepare children for the world they will enter as adults. We educators all must focus on helping children become creative and empathetic problem-solvers. We must help them be ready for a world none of us can define, but we all know will look nothing like the recent past" (Socol 54-55)

 Ira Socol later goes on to say that when he observes other teachers in their classrooms he never watches the teacher. He watches the students (even their feet if seated) to see if they are engaged.

"So much talent exists in children that doesn't get seen or heard because the potential of young people often gets lost in our traditions of worksheets, repetitive motion tasks, and teachers standing at the dominant teaching wall. When kids tune out, passively or agressively, because work has no context, little meaning, and makes no sense, we never see the strengths and assets of full range of the learners who are in our schools." (Socol 51) 

   Change is hard, but it starts with simple choices in even our language. So think about a lesson you have coming up in November. Let's see if we can't change it up a little and see how we can still preserve your style, but see if we can't engage your students in a new way that reignites some of the disengaged and maybe even reigniting you along the way! Let's do something great! Let's have fun! Let's change the world one day at a time.


Don't forget you are human, you are not perfect! 

(But as a teacher you're pretty darn close!)


Socol, Ira, et al. Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Brand, 2018.

Jonathan Yoder

Mind Full or Mindful

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Sep 16, 2018

When I think about my routine during the school year, I feel like my brain is always full of "stuff". Whether it be all of the students I have or how a certain lesson went that day. Then onto family: am I picking up my daughter from the bus stop? What am I making for dinner? And what ultimately happens is I get too full! I used to sit in department or faculty meetings at the end of the day on Wednesdays and just feel like there was no more room for whatever was on the agenda that day. Maybe I was just "hangry", but usually I would describe it like a teapot full of water, having been left on the burner on high without a spout or way to release that building pressure. And in the frenzy of thoughts that occupied my brain I would get overwhelmed and even a bit depressed at times...maybe even a little bit of fear. Was I up for the challenge of all of my my students, my colleagues, my family, my community? Would the kids like the lesson I prepped for tomorrow? Did I forget to make any copies? And what I started to notice is that it was not in the amount of things I'm doing that necessarily  needed to change, but in my perception. I needed to be less mind full and more mindful. In whatever role I was in at any given moment in my day, I just needed to be there. 


Now that seems so easy, doesn't it? How could something so simple like staying in the moment become such a chore. Where do I go wrong time after time, when I inevitably go from the "Let's do this!" pumped up charge of promising to be more in the moment to then somehow finding myself on a completely different road full of congested thought traffic. How did I go from a nice rural drive in the country to bumper to bumper traffic on a 6 lane mind-way! My conclusion is that we love the road when it is serene and smooth, but at some point we hit a rocky road of potholes or undeveloped streets. Thoughts of negative energy hit us; perhaps when you get a call that a family member is unexpectedly ill or a bad report comes from your child's school and now you have to take off work to go elsewhere. It disrupts your mojo, your flow. So when those moments of happiness leave us, we tend to want to find some sort of alternate we take a mental road to somewhere other than where we should be in that moment. Life is not all unicorns and rainbows, this much we all know. Sometimes I find myself chasing the feeling of eternal happiness, when some times I just need to feel whatever the present situation calls for even if it is disappointment, anger or fear. Those are natural human emotions that are responses to your current environment...stay on that road! Be in that moment then move on. Our students, our family, our colleagues deserve their moment with us. We shouldn't immediately hit an emotional eject button to avoid feeling what our bodies need to feel. Otherwise we might lose sight of our bigger goals in life and all the little steps needed to get there day in and day out. We become so mind full that we miss the "exit" we intended to take and instead of focusing on course correcting sometimes we just dig in and go on cruise control. Or perhaps we turn our attention to the GPS and look for others to guide us or tell us what to do next. Mostly we just need to trust ourselves, slow down and feel. Know your value and be present in every moment so others can enjoy you in all your glory! You are enough!


We need to keep ourselves emotionally grounded so that we can be a leader in the classroom, in our home and in the community. Take a moment and think about what goals you had for this school year back in July or even early August. As the first month of school is coming to a close...Are you where you intended? Did life seem to get in the way? Were you too mind full and now are so far off track that you feel like you've hit a point of no return? Put all the negative energy away, take 30 seconds to close your eyes, focus on your breathing and nothing else. Clear your mind, remember your summer self in all its hopefulness and optimism for the upcoming year and try something new, be present the next time you step into your classroom, your home, your community. Really see your students, your children, your family as they are in that moment and appreciate all your blessings even when your emotional forecast seems to be cloudy! Bring an umbrella! You got this! You are enough. 

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