March 515 research update

To be honest, I have had great difficulty this last month managing all the different things that are being thrown at me. With Report cards, student led conferences, teaching full time and two courses on top of two children and managing a household with my husband away, I feel like I am not doing anything really well. I am very excited about my research topic and can’t wait to dig in to my new book but am getting very panicky about the looming deadlines. Can I have my thoughts in some sort of coherent form by April? Will it be good quality work or will I feel pressured to just but anything on paper and then have to redo it all in the summer? I have had to compartmentalize my life in order to survive. A week where I focus on my family, a week for my classroom, a week for my masters. That way at least I can turn to people and say “sorry, you have no laundry- it’s not your week”. Oh, if only that worked! I have deliberately chosen a topic that is very relevant to me so this month my progress is more related to doing things that help me to create my own maker space. If I am going to write about the effectiveness  of using Maker space to bring Reggio Emilia principles up the grades, then I am going to have to do it first. This is the part that I find exciting. Putting all the articles and my subsequent connections into a real world scenario. Unfortunately, what I should be focusing on is the writing of my lit review which I am finding very difficult to get into.

Progress Report:

  • Continued research into Maker Spaces
  • Attended Pro D workshop on Maker Space and made contact with teacher at Hillcrest Elementary who is currently creating a space
  • Approached my admin about creating a maker space in my classroom or somewhere in our school. Talked with school librarian, curriculum specialist and tech support about how to implement in our setting.
  • Changed job for next year. Moving to Grade 3 which ties in perfectly with Masters topic of bringing Reggio up the grades.
  • Ordered book “Invent To Learn” by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager

Jan/ Feb 515 Research Update


Good News!! Found research by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow linking Reggio Emilia Approach to Maker Movement. This is exactly what I have been looking for. Have now shifted focus from inquiry to Maker Space.

  • Began researching Constructionism vs Constructivism as philosophical underpinnings
  • Went to Uvic library to contact research librarian
  • Contacted Gary Stager via Twitter to ask for more info on Reggio. He is currently writing a book that has yet to be published but mentioned that his PHD research may be valuable.
  • Continued searching for research/ articles that link Reggio to Maker Movement. Other than Gary Stager none to be found
  • Continuing to try to flush out headings for lit review- What is important? What can be left out?
  • Continue reading Creswell as reference to how to proceed with questions and research

Nov/Dec Research Progress 515 Update

  • November/December
  • Created an iMovie in my classroom to help document learning
  • Explored articles provided by google scholar
  • narrowing down topic to student voice
  • Question? How can technology be used to increase student voice in Reggio Emilia style pedagological documentation?
  • explored twitter #reggiopln and found interesting article on digital documentation
  • thinking about final product- an ebook reference for teachers with a scope and sequence of grade appropriate apps/ resources to use
  • explored Uvic Space. Read many thesis documents to get sense of projects
  • continuing to collect articles
  • printing, sorting and highlighting articles in binder



Pedagological Documentation

Student Voice

Reggio Emilia

technology for teachers

Google Scholar alerts for: technology and documentation early ed

Scoop it-Reggio Documentation

Google + community– Inquiry and Reggio Emilia Documentation (61 members)

Sept/ Oct 515 Research Update


  • created blog about research topic and interests- helped to narrow down focus
  • Joined google + tiegrad community
  • met with Jane Rees weekly
  • organized/created Google folder for 515 course including all assignments and blog posts to help map out course create framework for research
  • realized that it will be essential to be organized due to amount of info we will be dealing with
  • created folder in Ref works for Lit review
  • looking into how to have shared folder for documentation articles
  • Made connections to 591 evaluation assignment- I will evaluate a resource that involves students  documentating own journey- perhaps book creator,show me or explain everything
  • Discussed using creation tools Diego and scoop it to help curate articles
  • Learned how to import google scholar article notifications into refworks

Next steps:

Use this space to list search terms and results

Save google scholar articles to refworks

Refine search terms in google scholar

Contact service administrator to allow access to google library

From Bonsai to Bamboo


Creative commons File:Bamboo 2.jpg

I was so inspired listening to David Cormier @davecormier talking to my Grad cohort about his philosophy of education and assessment. He asked some very powerful questions and espoused a view of education that made me pause and take notice. So often we simply accept the status quo, or as traditionalists, believe that because something has been so for so long it must be good. David gave us a brief history of public education that started in 1870 in Birmingham, England with a standardized curriculum that included:

  • reading basic text
  • Writing a sentence
  • the ability to do basic arithmetic

In the 1800’s if you could do all these things you were deemed fit for release to the local factory to start work. The current education is still based on this same factory model that prized obedience and attendance. Dave didn’t need to point out how ridiculous this is. Sir Ken Robinson also made reference to our outdated models of education in his 2006 Ted Talk “How Schools Kill Creativity”

Dave believes that this standardized one size fits all model of teaching and assessment does nothing to enhance true learning. He stated that “if people don’t care- nothing will happen”. The core of learning is to figure out how to make people care and to figure out where the nexus of caring lives. I love that term “The Nexus of Caring”. As a primary teacher I know that building a close relationship with my students is key to their success. I know that if they feel respected and feel listened to they will work harder. It pains me to have to write report cards that boil children down to a number and compares them to their peers. On the other hand, I have also been in courses where my sole goal was to figure out what the teacher wanted me to say so that I could get my ‘A’ forget the useless facts picked up along the way and move on.

As Dave pointed out, it is incredibly difficult to quantify and judge someone else’s learning experience. People come to learning situations with a huge range of backgrounds, belief systems, and ideologies. Dave describes learning as rhizomatic. Just as my garden bamboo is spreading shoots and canes in all directions, and can’t be contained, so does true learning. I love this analogy, as not only does it address the multiple and often unexpected directions that learning may take us, but it also takes into account that much of this growing is done underground and unseen. In the spring I marvel at the fact that I find bamboo shoots in far and unexpected  corners of the yard (my pristine architect neighbour doesn’t share my excitement) and admire the tenacity and resilience of the plant.

Unfortunately our current educational system is more of a bonsai tree mentality – the kind that you know in advance what you want, and take great pains to tweak and form into the perfect specimen. How to care for a Bonsai Tree tells us that you need to first pick a worthy plant and then become a skilled ‘expert’ to painstakingly trim and prune it to fit into a preselected container. There are a number of traditional bonsai training styles to choose from. Your successful specimen should be displayed for all to see. You are advised to discard unsuccessful attempts.

While bonsai trees are beautiful and can be appreciated for their perfect structure and design, I would much rather sit under a wild bamboo plant listening to the whispers and rustlings of potential, blowing in the wind.

Thanks Dave, for helping inspire a new rhizome in my wild jungle of learning.

Link to MOOC exploring Rhizomatic learning

Finding a better Fit -Learning Project update #8


This week I am finally going to address the biggest stumbling block with my learning project. I don’t actually like using WordPress to blog. I have given it my best shot. I have really, really tried to get used to the dashboard and to figure out all the tools and widgets. I have watched many you tube tutorials and read endless blogs. There is no shortage of people who love it and are willing to share hints and step by step instructions on how to use WordPress. But here’s the thing. I have now come to a place in my blogging world that I am comfortable with. I use blogging to communicate with my parents, my classmates and my PLN. The WordPress blog that I have so far created meets those needs. It organizes my blogs, shows recent comments, has a twitter link and provides me with information about how many times it is viewed. The next step in my WordPress journey would be to add plugins to increase viewership, choose a host to manage my own site and figure out how to keep current with updates, security, and backups. I don’t feel the need to do any of those things.

So this week, instead of adding needless plugins, I chose to explore sites, and talk to people about the pros and cons of WordPress over the other options out there. I quickly realized that I am not alone in thinking that WordPress is ‘clunky’ and ‘overly complex and difficult for new users to use and navigate.’ Even  John O’Nolan–designer, developer and former deputy head of the WordPress UX team– decided in 2012 to come up with a simpler tool for bloggers called Ghost. See below for sites comparing WordPress to other options:

WordPress vs Ghost

WordPress vs Blogger

WordPress vs Squarespace

WordPress vs Weebly

The 15 Best Blogging Platforms today (updated June 2014)

WordPress is lauded for being a powerful, open source platform with open codes that anyone can use and customize. While I can appreciate the fact the WordPress has over 29,000 plug ins to customize my site, the mere thought of it overwhelms me. The thing is… As harsh as this may sound, I don’t care. At this point in time I am not interested in learning to code. I am not a skilled developer and have no desire to develop my own tool to sell to other users. I also don’t like not being able to see what my post is going to look like live as I write. I am constantly having to preview my posts to see if the links work or the picture inserted correctly. The fact that people hire ‘word press contractors’  or developers to help them create their sites speaks to the difficulty of navigating the site for the common folk.

WordPress is great if you want to create an eCommerce store as there are over 600 plugins in the directory that provide shopping carts, inventory management systems, etc. Online companies can benefit greatly from a well organized WordPress site. BUT… I am a classroom teacher. I don’t need an online store nor do I ever see myself needing one.

As all the reviews state, a blogging platform is highly personal and should reflect the needs of its users. I don’t think I am the demographic that WordPress is looking out for. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great tool (74.6 million people can’t all be wrong) just that it isn’t the tool for me. Obviously, at this stage of my learning project I am not about to throw out my blog and start again, but I am going to start taking a closer look at the options out there to see what might be a better fit.

It would be most helpful if you could let me know what you use.

Adding joy to my to do list

Oh joy where have you gone? I must admit that lately I have struggled with finding joy in my learning. Learning has become a list of looming deadlines and an endless list of things to read and write about. Listening to Dean Shareski, speak to my UVic Masters class, last Thursday night reminded me that joy needs to be central to our learning and that taking time to reflect on what brings joy is an important part of the learning process. Reading Alfie Kohn’s post Feel bad education-The Cult of Rigor and the Loss of Joy helped me realize how far sideways things have gone in our schools. The attainment of joy is often seen as interfering with real learning. Laughter is seen as a sign of misbehaviour and enthusiastic chatter and movement is viewed as a lack of control on the teacher’s part. I admit that sometimes there is a fine line between joy and complete off task silliness. As a grade 1 teacher, I am lucky to be teaching children who are new enough to the system to still be joyful. Their natural inclination is to be thrilled with learning something new. They will often break out in spontaneous song or dance at the sheer joy of discovery. Their faces light up in glee when they finally finish that story they have spent days working on. They do a happy dance when they persevere through a math problem and figure it out. Of course, not all learning can be joyful. There is nothing exciting or new about practicing printing which is an important skill that must be developed through repetition. I also realize that my students find joy in different things. Some love to read others to write and some to build. I think the trick is to value joy in our classrooms. Not to seek it constantly or berate ourselves if it is not there but to value and recognize it when it appears. To be ready to set aside the lesson plan and go with the flow. To identify those unscripted moments that build community within the classroom. There is nothing like a shared laugh to bring students closer together. We value collaboration and community – is shared joy not a great way to get there naturally? Why is it that as children go through our school system they seem to lose their joy and creativity? Sir Ken Robinson gave a powerful Ted-talk exploring this topic. Why do we continue to educate students in a factory model when innately we know it isn’t right?

As I was writing this post my husband came into the room and asked if I wanted to go to the beach to watch the sun rise. My first inclination was 1. to be annoyed by the disruption when I was on a roll and 2. to say no as I had too much to do. Luckily, I came to my senses quickly and  recognized the irony in refusing a beautiful morning with my husband because I needed to finish writing a blog about ‘joy’. Taking the break on a frosty morning to listen to the seagulls calling, watch the fishing boats go out and experience the beauty of a calm, sunny morning at the beach brought me more joy than writing a thousand blogs. I realized that making time for joy should be a priority both in my life and in my classroom. How many times have I missed out on a joyful opportunity because I was just too busy or it wasn’t the right time? I resolve to add joy to my to do list. Not as a specific activity or time but as a constant presence and reminder to watch for it, to nurture and encourage it, in my family and my students. Thank you Dean for reminding me that joy isn’t superfluous but rather a much-needed and valued part of a good life.

IMG_2785The view I almost missed.