So, What Did You Learn This Summer? – SBÉ Week 9

Summer is almost over.

It’s the last week of summer vacation here. Our boys are desperately trying to squeeze every ounce of summer out of each day – morning swimming – afternoon in the park – evening fires well into to the night. Visiting with cousins, riding bikes, playing hoops and sneaking carrots from the garden.

It’s almost over.

Yesterday, as my 8-year-old and I were putting the final touches on the robot we have been building this summer, we did some “Best of Summer ’17” moments – the week of swimming lessons in Porcupine Plain,

the week of swimming lessons in Porcupine Plain,

the days at Gma’s house where he and his brother rode the merry-go-round,

the trip to Banff, the beach days paddle boarding were all mentioned.

But the best moments, according to him, were the evenings in the backyard eating ice cream and watching the fire.

When I asked why they were the best, he said: “I don’t know, just because”.

Sometimes words are hard to find for those moments. They are simple things – time spent watching the flames, eating ice cream (and Smores) and just being with family. But, there’s so much going on.

But, there’s so much going on.

A Summer of Learning

It has been a busy summer with plenty of “remember that” moments. But there has also been time for learning. There are the research and writing for my dissertation proposal. Learning to paddle board – it’s a bit tricky especially when you have an 8-year-old on the board with you. Building a robot. Gardening. Repairing and fixing bikes, tents, cars, and sprinklers.

However, what stretched me the most was learning to be a caregiver to my aging parents. Learning to listen more intently to what they were saying. Realizing I needed to learn to be more patient – less focused on “fixing the problem” and more on helping them make adjustments. It was a difficult learning experience with many moments of anxiety, where regret was almost overwhelming at times and there were tears from all of us. Learning to be a caregiver to my parents has not been easy. As a parent of eight children and a teacher for 23 years, taking care of others has been part of what I do. But this was different. So different and so difficult at times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it.

So different and so difficult at times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it.

I’m still not sure, actually.

But I’ve learned a great deal about my parents such as I can see where I get my stubborn side from, times two.  I know that I will have to continue to learn as this journey continues. It won’t be easy – but it’s essential.

I know that I will have to continue to learn as this journey continues.

It won’t be easy – but it’s essential.

It’s learning to reach out to others who are/have been doing the same thing. Asking questions. Being comfortable with not knowing answers. Being okay with needing help. Being vulnerable. Being scared.

What did You Learn this Summer?

Learning happens in so many ways. So often, when educators gather to talk about what they learned over the summer, there is a shopping list of books and conferences, PD sessions and classes. When someone doesn’t do any of these, they’re sometimes made to feel “lesser”, like they aren’t quite as good as a professional. Often, as I’ve read in a few different edtwitter chats this summer, people wonder how to get those teachers to buy into life-long learning. To care more about being a teacher. To be as passionate as we think they should be about teaching. This summer I really didn’t do a whole lot of “professional learning” but I learned a lot. I know it will make me a better son, father, husband, brother, friend and, most likely, a better educator.

This summer I really didn’t do a whole lot of “professional learning” but I learned a lot. I know it will make me a better son, father, husband, brother, friend, most likely, a better educator and, I hope, a better person.

So, what did you learn this summer?

Make Something Happen – SBÉ Week 8

Last week I was away with my family on vacation. We did something new as a family – we did Backcountry camping which meant we had to trek all our camping gear and provisions 2 kms up the side of a mountain. We have done a great deal of camping as a family but not like this. With 10 of us, it isn’t always easy to figure out what to take or what we’ll need so we have to do a lot of improvising. It’s isn’t easy when we’re setting up in a regular campsite but trekking 2Kms into bear country added a new twist.

One thing we didn’t take into consideration was how to ensure we could get our food up to the site AND store it in the bear-secure lockers. Who knew that breakfast for 10 weighed so much! What to do?

What to do?

We decided that it wasn’t going to work trekking things up and down.

Instead, we decided that breakfast, lunch, and supper were going to be “take out”

– where we took ourselves out

– down to the vehicles each morning for breakfast.









then lunch and supper at a park. With a portable BBQ & Coleman stove, lunch and supper were great experiences we spent as a family.






We’ve learned that you have to learn to adapt to work within the environment you have, looking to make the best of what you have. You look to find ways to make things happening, to adapt to what is happening and do what is best for the group.

Be Ready to Meet the Challenges

This week, the topic for the #saskedchat Blogging Éxpose is Make Something Happen. How will you meet the challenges of the upcoming school year?

What will you do when you try something new and things don’t see to be going the way you expected?

How will you adapt to meet the needs of the students and build relationships, like a family at a meal?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas this week. Each week we have more people joining us and sharing their ideas and thoughts. I encourage each of you to visit the blogs each week to leave a comment and support their work.


Connecting – SBÉ – Week 6

Connecting and Connections

That’s our topic for week 6 of the Summer Blogging Exposé.

All teachers are connected. They share with the teachers in their building and have connections outside of education. But when discussing “Connected Educators” that’s usually not what comes to mind.

At least when discussing it with “Connected Educators”.

Often, the term “Connected” refers to teachers who use Social Media in some form to connect with other teachers. Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat are the Social Network Sites that come to mind in this context.

It’s true that these sites allow teachers to connect in ways that were not available in the past and provide an opportunity for sharing and connecting that goes beyond the local.

Lemarr Treadwell, a frequent contributor to the weekly #saskedchat tweeted this out during our last chat.

Connection – Local AND Global

As someone who has been connected for around 11 years using SM, I have experienced, as well as seen, how being a connected educator provides opportunities for relationships that can support growth and learning.

However, being connected doesn’t mean this happens automatically or that being connected is always a positive.

Being connected can definitely support a teacher’s growth and development and open opportunities for global relationships and supporting school growth and development, something that George Couros has written about a few times.

But the power of connecting and the depth of relationships rely on continuing to cultivate and grow those relationships in much the same way that local relationships need to be grown and developed. Digital connections are definitely important


the connections in the classroom with students and the connections in the school with parents and colleagues are equally important. It’s not an either/or – it’s both.

Connected Educators understand that being ‘connected’ means cultivating relationships in the school, in the community, and globally. It requires sharing with others openly in order to grow and develop all teachers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.

What does being ‘connected’ mean to you?

How do you connect both locally and globally?

Why has connecting been important to you?

What’s your favourite way to connect with other teachers?

How did you become a connected educator?

Happy blogging everyone!

PLE – Summer Blogging Exposé – Week 5

Personal Learning Environment

What comes to mind when you read the previous line?

What do you think a PLE is?


How would you describe your own PLE?

A Conversation Killer

Next time you’re at a summer gathering, ask someone about their PLE.

What do you think would happen?

I did.

Instant conversational death.

I actually asked twice; just to see what would happen.

It was family.

Awkward silence. Blank stares.

Subject change.

But it’s not just at a summer family gathering. I once asked at a staff meeting.

Awkward silence. Blank stares.

Subject change.

Even teachers aren’t sure what to say.

Would you be able to have a discussion?

So what is a PLN?


According to Educause, a PLN

describes the tools, communities, and services that constitute the individual platforms learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals. A PLE is frequently contrated with a learning management system in that an LMS tends to be course-centric, whearas a PLE is learner-centric. Educause

IMAILE (Innovative, Methods for Award Procedures of ICT learning in Europe) defines a PLE as

are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to:

  • set their own learning goals ( with support of their teachers)
  • manage their learning, both content and process
  • communicate with others in the process of learning

Connie Malamed describes a PLE as

a self-directed and evolving environment of tools, services and resources organized by a person seeking a way to accomplish lifetime learning, to create, and to connect with others of similar interests.

Because it is personalized, everyone’s PLE will be unique. Because it is collaborative, information may be continually created and shared.

The common ideas about a PLE that flow through each of these:

– Self-directed – goals are set by the individual
– Individuals manage the content and process
– Incorporates the use of Social Network Sites
– Involves collaboration with others for learning

My own PLE looks something like this:

Information – Content – Services – People

This shows some of the different parts that contribute to my learning through self-directed goals and collaboration with others using various web-services.

Over time my PLE has changed as I add something new while trimming what no longer is needed. It’s in a constant state of beta – never fully finished.

I Wonder ….

1. What would happen if you were asked about your own PLE?

2. Have you considered your own learning environment and the impact it has on your development?

3. Why is your PLE important?

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing what you share about this topic.

Summer Blogging Exposé – Week 4

Welcome to week 4 of the Summer Blogging Exposé. This week our theme is Personal Learning Network.

 Your Personal Learning Network

All teachers have some sort of Personal Learning Network (PLN). This is a group of people with whom they connect and discuss the work they do. It usually includes teachers and other people who are in the educational profession but can include anyone with whom they share the work they do and who affects their learning in some way. The main component of this network is learning. A great example is a post- Justin Schleider just published about the importance of his PLN, or as he describes it his Personal Learning Family (PLF), in his growth and development.

I surround myself with producers and creators who are constantly pushing themselves and others to learn.

These networks have always contributed to educator development and learning. Although it is often discussed in relation to being a “Connected Educator”, a PLN isn’t a new concept and has, I would suggest, always been a part of teacher learning. From short hallway talks to discussions around the photocopier to formal learning activities, teachers turn to other teachers to share and learn. Not all of these discussions result in learning but it is my experience that they are all sites of potential learning. “Each day is a PD day” is something I truly believe and the people around you can really affect the learning you do and the approach you take.

Reflections of the People Around You

I don’t know if this is completely true since for a good part of my life the 5 people I spent most of my time with were all about 13 years old – I was a grade 7 teacher – although come to think of it, I did fit in pretty well…..

The people in our lives have a major effect on the outlook we have on life. As an administrator, one of the aspects of culture I was very focused on was the positive – focusing on solutions that would help move the school forward, ways to build people up, and interactions that were positive and developmental. I wasn’t always successful but I knew that working at this was foundational to success.

I saw first hand how negativity could destroy even an amazing school staff. I was one of the negative people, something that I’m not very proud of, but I did learn that no amount of morale boosting or “rah rah” would overcome the negativity of a group until the negativity was addressed. When I became an administrator, I quickly learned how destructive negativity was for a group – I didn’t have the skills to deal with it in my first position and it ended up eating away at the staff and me personally. But I did learn that negativity needed to be addressed – it couldn’t be left as the elephant in the room – to not address it affected the learning of the students and couldn’t be left ‘to work itself out’.

Addressing the negative isn’t easy but it is necessary. This applies to all aspects of our lives. Negativity needs to be addressed and part of the solution is surrounding ourselves with people who are moving and looking forward. They tend to be grounded in what is happening today, focused on being in the moment and finding solutions. I find these people are very attuned to their own thoughts and feelings and how they affect what they do. They are very aware that not everything is “great” but they look for the positive solution to move forward.

 What Does Your PLN Look Like?

Who is in your immediate circle?

What type of people surround you?

How do these people affect you?

What does your PLN look like?

How important is it to surround oneself with others who are positive?

What do you do when you are in the midst of people who are not positive?

I’m looking forward to reading what others think about this topic.

Have an Edu-Awesome Week!

Summer Blogging Expose – week 3

So this week our topic is classroom/school design. It’s also a first for me as I write this post on my phone while lying on the beach watching my kids play in the water. (I will join them shortly. Short post this time!).

Why Classroom Design?

I’m on a beach but it  is really sand and rock. It’s not comfortable to sit or lay on.  The location, proximity to a large population and the fact it’s 28C would make me think it would be packed. Yet as yet u can see, it’s not.

It’s like our schools and classrooms. Are they designed to be places where students want to learn and explore? Are they designed for the people using them or, like the beach, so they are low maintenance and low cost? The mixture of rocks and sand will last longer  against the effects of wind and rain but it isn’t user friendly or fun to walk across.

I Wonder ….

How do we design classrooms for student use?

Do we consider comfort as well as purpose?

What role does cost/economics play in design?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this.





Summer Learning – Summer Fun #saskedchat – June 6th

Tonight our topic for exploration Thursday June 6th is Summer Learning – Summer Fun.

Summer – nights by the campfire. Days at the beach. Family holidays.

For many teachers, it’s a time to rejuvenate and refresh, spend time with families and friends and just relax. But it’s also time for learning.

Always On Learning

Teachers have always taken time during the summer to develop and learn. Today, in a time of constant change, this is a necessary part of the summer routine for teachers. It’s important for teachers to continue their learning throughout the summer which means developing a plan that includes opportunities during the summer.

Traditionally, many teachers took some sort of summer classes or attended a PD event such as a conference or a short-course as part of their summer learning.

Conferences – There are so many different conferences for teachers all summer long. EdSurge outlines 50 K-12 Ed Technology conferences for 2017 – 2018. All summer long there are a variety of conferences that teachers can attend dealing with every subject. Although these are great opportunities, not everyone can attend and benefit from the networking and learning that takes place.

Classes – All summer long university campuses across North America see teachers returning to take classes for a variety of reasons. If they can’t make it to the campus, teachers have a variety of options for online learning.

Short-courses – these take place in a variety of venues and are intense learning sessions that take place over 3 to 5 days and are usually focused on a particular sub-group of teachers such as K – 3 or Science & Math teachers or Administrators. These intense course are geared to helping teachers to improve and develop specific understandings in a short period of time.

There are Alternatives

All of these are great opportunities but they aren’t necessarily for everyone. Many teachers just can’t manage to include these in their summer. Thankfully, there are a number of other opportunities for learning that can fit into any schedule.

Twitter chats/Voxer Groups – each of these is slightly different but are available to anyone who has an internet connection and a connectable device. Both offer opportunities for teachers to join groups of teachers who are continuing their learning. Teachers are encouraged to take part in book studies, informal discussions, scheduled chats, subject specific discussions, and a variety of other variations of these.

Online Courses – online learning continues to grow and there are more options for people who want to improve and develop at their own pace. You might explore PCDI Canada, edX, Open Culture, SkillShare, FutureLearn, Udacity, Lynda, Coursera , Microsoft (like Teaching Sustainable Development Goals) and many others. You can also check out the iTunes Online Courses for a variety of options.

Podcasts – Podcasts have been growing in popularity over the past few years. I’ve been listening to them for about 10 years and have even dabbled with a few of my own. Learning to create a podcast is a great  experience which can be used in all classrooms for a variety of learning experiences. I suggest checking out the iTunes library which has podcasts for everything. You can also check out StitcherPodcast Alley, PodOmatic, and LearnOutLoud. Podcasts are a great way to learn while you’re exercising or doing something like cleaning or driving. In fact, as I write this I’m listening to Todd Henry’s Accidental Creative podcast.

Local opportunities- I am fortunate to live in a community that offers classes all year long through a variety of different venues including the library and the local community associations. There are also museums, galleries, and other attractions which offer opportunities for learning.  In the past few years my wife and I have learned to dance the two-step and waltz. Learning isn’t limited to ‘academics’. I highly recommend looking into a variety of options that include a wholistic approach to learning.

Every Day is a PD Day

The opportunities for learning are changing as new options provide teachers paths for learning at their own pace and when it works best for them. “Every day is a PD day” has been something that I’ve repeated to staffs where I was a principal and discussed with other teachers. One doesn’t need to “wait” or travel or spend a great deal of money but  you do need to seek out the opportunities and be open to opportunities. Don’t treat learning like a separate event, it can take place anywhere at any time if one is curious and is willing to ask questions.

I Wonder…..

What are your favourite learning options during the summer?

How do you include learning throughout the summer?

How do you ensure learning continues to be fun and energizing?

We’d love to hear from you and your ideas and suggestions. Leave a comment or contact us at @saskedchat on Twitter.