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Upcoming Tech-Infused Pro-D for the Fall

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized |

There are some terrific, tech-infused pro-d events coming up in September and October.  Please visit: https://www.smore.com/s91a6 for more information!

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2013/14: The Year I Want Everyone to FAIL!

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on September 10, 2013 in Uncategorized |

This is it – the start of a brand new school year!  I spent some time this summer coming up with my mantra for the new educational year: FAIL.  This year I want to encourage students and teachers to FAIL.  Now, before you get all worried and question whether I spent WAAAY too much time in the sun this summer, check out my definition of FAIL in the image below:

(Image found at: http://daytobeyou.com/inspire/fail-first-attempt-in-learning/)

Fail: First Attempt In Learning

You need first to fail in order to learn.  This is true whether in terms of trying out a new teaching methodology, designing a new unit, or  using new technology in the classroom.  The great thing about our profession is that we get to start fresh every September – sometimes even every term or semester!  We keep what has worked, and learn from what has FAILED in order to plan for an even better learning environment in our classrooms.  FAILing = future success, so long as we learn from our experiences!

We expect our students to fail.  We know that we are exposing them to new content and concepts, and that they might make some mistakes or experience some frustration before they come to that “a-ha” moment where the light bulb goes on and they actually “get it”.  We encourage them to keep trying, because we know that with each failure they are actually learning what DOES work as well as what doesn’t,  and that eventually this will help them put the puzzle pieces together in their brain in a way that makes the content make sense for them.  Failure is the foundation of inquiry, of invention, of innovation, and of all meaningful, internalized learning. Failure is good!

As educators we often have such high expectations of ourselves that we won’t give ourselves permission to fail, especially in front of our students.  In my role,  I especially see this in terms of trying out new technology tools to help achieve learning goals in the classroom.  We won’t use the SMARTboard that is hanging right on the wall in our classroom because we feel that we are not yet an “expert” at using it.  We decide against doing a super-engaging video editing project with our students because we have never used YouTube Editor ourselves.  We shy away from trying out Google Docs for an amazing, collaborative group project because we aren’t as comfortable with it as much as a more traditional, desktop-based word processing program.  Why the double-standard, people?!  If we want our students to fail in order to learn, why won’t we be kind to ourselves and expect the same in our own learning?  You don’t become an “expert” or even “comfortable” with a new tool without trying – and yes, failing – at using it a few times.  If you allow yourself to try and fail, especially in front of your students, you might find that you actually improve the learning situation in your classroom.  It is not only beneficial to model lifelong learning to your students, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate ways that you problem-solve and persevere when a concept or answer does not come easily on the first try.  In a culture often focused on instant gratification and easy (not best) solutions, by failing in front of your students, you would actually be teaching them important virtues such as creativity, determination, flexibility, and patience.  What a gift!

I hope that you FAIL this year, and that you encourage your students to do the same.  I especially hope that you give yourself opportunities to FAIL with new technology and tools that will help you achieve intended learning outcomes in your classroom in new and creative ways.  If you need any support with your learning, I hope that you will contact your friendly technology coordinator who will be happy to help you with suggestions of new things to try and support you as you learn, whether you feel like you’re FAILing or not!  Make this a wonderful year….. try something new and FAIL!

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Planning for Next Year!

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on June 25, 2013 in Uncategorized |

It is hard to believe that another school year is almost complete!  This has been a terrific year, and I have enjoyed working with so many SD73 teachers to help support them in planning/implementing technology enhanced learning projects in their classrooms and schools.

There are many exciting initiatives, projects, and opportunities that I am already looking forward to in the 2013/14 school year.  Here are just a few of the highlights:

– Deployment of Google Apps for Education accounts to our students (and interested staff).  Deployment will likely be staggered throughout the fall as schools  receive the Linux image upgrade.

– The Google in Education Summit at TRU Oct 25/26, 2013 (with optional pre-summit sessions on Oct 23/24)

–  A class set/cart of Chromebooks that will be available for SD73 teachers to sign out and use with their classes.  I will work with you to use these devices in engaging and powerful ways and help plan some great lessons and activities using web-based tools, including Google Apps.

– A Kamloops TedX Youth event in November, 2013 – stay tuned for more details!

– Tons of great workshop topics: Mobile learning/apps for literacy & numeracy, SMARTboards, YouTube in the Classroom, Google Docs/Drive and much more!

I hope you all have a wonderful summer, and I look forward to working with you in the fall!  If there are any workshop topics you would like to see offered, presentations you would like me to do at your school, or projects you would like me to support you with in your classrooms, please let me know so I can connect with you in September to plan!

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2013 Year-End Slideshow Soundtrack!

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on June 12, 2013 in Uncategorized |

This will be the first year I have not been working in a school of my own and helping with the annual year-end slideshow.  Everyone looks forward to it and sharing pictures from all the important events of the year is a great way to remind everyone about all the terrific things that happen at a school over the course of the 10 months that we are in session.

Even though I’ll miss being a part of the year-end school/student festivities, I have still found myself listening for great slideshow soundtrack candidates over the course of the school year. Old habits die hard!  I always try to pick songs that are current and that students will sing along to.  There’s nothing better than hearing all those young voices belting out the tunes on the last day!!

This year I have picked a selection of 6 songs that total approximately 23 minutes in length.  Check out the playlist – you can listen to it on the Grooveshark site – don’t forget to press “play all” near the top of the list.  Please note that if you decide to use the “Scream and Shout” song by Will.i.am and Britney Spears, that it will be important to choose the “clean” version of the song when you are downloading it from your favourite music site!

Click here to listen to the Slideshow 2013 playlist on Grooveshark!

 

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Google is EduAwesome!

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized |

I was recently privileged to attend the Google Teacher Academy at the Google Headquarters Campus (Google-plex) in Mountain View, California.  It was an absolutely amazing event, and quite possibly the most exciting, useful, memorable professional development that I have been a part of!

I have been a fan of Google tools/apps for a long time, and have expressed those sentiments here on my blog in previous posts.  The teacher academy took my love for these tools to a whole new level.  The 62 of us who attended the academy were already pretty savvy Google apps users, and I think every single one of us came away from our 2 day training event with more new ideas, tools, strategies, tips, and teaching ideas than we could possibly absorb. I am going to need my entire Christmas break just to go back over my many pages of notes (typed in Google Drive Docs, of course!) so I can process and digest everything I learned.

In the new year, I am hoping to get more and more teachers and students in our district using terrific Google Apps for Education, including Chrome browser, Drive (docs, spreadsheets, presentations, forms and more), YouTube (view AND create/edit videos), maps/Earth, Sites, and Search.  There is so much more that you can do with these tools than you ever imagined!

I have added a Google page to my blog.  I will try to share resources, tutorials and more about many different Google tools on this page.  Feel free to visit the page and use the resources for your own learning or to share with colleagues!

What Google apps/tools do you like the best? Are there any that you would like to learn more about?  When I offer workshops on Google tools in the new year, what topics would you like to see?  Your feedback is appreciated!

 

 

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A Great Time to Try Out New Technology!

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on September 17, 2012 in Uncategorized |

Welcome back!

September is an exciting time in education. I always feel lucky to be in a profession where we get a fresh start every year. After a relaxing break, we get to come back to our classes refreshed, excited, and ready to try out new lessons, strategies, and tools. It is the perfect time to set a goal to try out some new technology too! There are so many terrific tools out there that it should be easy to find something that will integrate well with whatever you are planning to cover in your classroom.

Some people are so excited to try out new tools that they pick a long list and set a goal to use them all in the first term. I usually recommend scaling this list back a bit. This is a busy time of year, and it is important to set small, attainable goals and not completely overwhelm ourselves. My advice is to pick one or two new tech tools that you will find the most useful right away, and get to know them really well. Develop your confidence, scaffold your learning, and when you are feeling confident with that tool, try out a new one!

Here are a few of my favorite tools that you might be interested in testing out this fall:

SMART Notebook Software

Over the past couple years, more and more schools in our district have purchased SMARTboards.  Notebook software is fabulous, interactive, and a great way to spice up lessons in ways that help with differentiation and engagement.  The best way to get inspiration and see some great ways to use Notebook software effectively is to visit the SMART Exchange website and view the lessons shared there by SMART and other educators around the world.   I will also be hosting numerous workshops and pro-d events over the course of the year to help people learn more about using the software in their classrooms.  Check our new Coordinators’ Professional Learning site for dates/times of upcoming workshops!

 

Google Docs/ Google Drive

I have written previously about my fondness for Google apps.  The entire Google suite of tools is pretty amazing, but I especially LOVE Google Docs.    Create documents, forms (including quizzes/surveys), spreadsheets, presentations and more, all in a collaborative format where there can be many people editing, in real time and at the same time!  I also find it very handy that all the docs I create are stored “on the cloud” so I can access them anywhere I have an Internet connection, on any computer, and even on my iPhone.   Want your students to become Google Docs Ninjas?  Ask me how!

 

Voicethread

I have been playing with Voicethread for a number of years, and it still remains one of my favorite web-based tools.  I love that they have free accounts for educators, and that the tool can be used for everything from digital storytelling, to Mathcasts, to virtual Science labs and everything in between and with every age/grade level.  It is amazingly versatile and super easy to use.  Watch “What is a Voicethread” to find out more!

 

Prezi

If you’re tired of “Death by Powerpoint” and want a fresh, interesting way to present information, check out Prezi!  Pan and zoom, embed media, come up with creative “paths” to your information, build on “Prezi’s” that others have already started and collaborate with others on presentations.  Use Prezi for everything from content delivery to having Sr. students create their online “Prezume“.   It takes a little getting used to, but once you and your students figure it out, you’ll find yourself using it for more and more!

 

Symbaloo Edu

Symbaloo is a phenomenal tool for helping organize the web for use with your students. It functions much like a social bookmarking tool, only it is far more visual.  It would be a great way to put together web-based resources for a particular unit of study, as an online learning commons for the Library program, or as a classroom repository of great resources for use at school and at home.  There is a Symbaloo app for iPhones/Android, and when you visit the site on your iPad it is mobile-optimized.  You can search for “mixes” that other people have created and find many terrific resources by browsing what is already there!  Check out some blog posts about how other teachers are using Symbaloo and get inspired!

 

If you are interested in trying any of these out in your SD73 classrooms, let me know how I can support you!   There are many, many, many more tools and programs available that I would love to help you with as well – hopefully I will have time to share in upcoming posts!

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Slideshow 2012 Playlist

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized |

Every year students look forward to the year-end photo slideshow that most schools wind up with at their final assemblies.  Here are my picks for a slideshow sound track for the 2011-2012 school year.  I try to pick songs that are current and that the students will sing along to.  I love hearing them belting out the tunes on the last day!

If you “theme” your pictures by song, I would put Me-to-We pics with “One Life” by Hedley, and sports team photos with “What Doesn’t Kill You” by Kelly Clarkson.

This is for an approx 30 minute slideshow. If you want it shorter, I would remove “Animal” for a 26 1/2 minute slideshow. You could also omit “Young Forever” to bring the time down to about 23 minutes.

Click the link below to be taken to the Grooveshark site and listen to my recommended playlist:

Slideshow 2012 by tpoelzer on Grooveshark

Enjoy and have a great summer!

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Too Much Time on Technology?

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on February 11, 2012 in Uncategorized |

There were a number of great projects and programs running in our district in January, including Screen Smart , Unplug and Play, Family Literacy day/week, Heap the Honda and more.  I am curious about the comments that I receive from colleagues each year when these events take place, wondering if, as Technology Coordinator, I’m “upset” or “offended” by the posters and media promoting them.  Some people view these valuable programs as promoting a message that technology is bad for our kids.  This is not how I interpret their message at all.

Just like any other activity, technology used in meaningful ways, and in balance with other pursuits, can be a powerful tool for teaching, learning, and communicating.  None of the above programs talk about technology being bad for children, however, they do advocate for making good parenting choices about how much screen time we allow our children to participate in each day.  They also encourage appropriate and relevant use of the technologies at our disposal.  This is an absolutely essential message parents should listen to and heed, and one that I make constant connections with.  The number one thing I argue with my own two teenage boys about at home…???? If you guessed that it’s how much screen time they are logging each day, you are correct!  My husband and I work hard to monitor time spent on screens of all types, help our sons make good choices about the types of technology they are using, and ensure that they are enrolled in other activities that promote a balance between entertainment, educational use of technology, and other “non-technological” activities.  It is an ongoing process, but a valuable one.

Anything not done in balance with other activities can easily be considered “bad” for you.  I rarely hear anyone insinuating that reading is a poor choice for entertainment or leisure; however, if someone were to spend all their time with their nose in a book and avoid participating in any physical activity or interaction with other people, it most certainly would not be good for their health or development.  Technology is much the same.  Is a gaming system inherently bad?  Not at all.  Is making a choice to play video games for 10 hours straight every Saturday and Sunday a poor choice?  Absolutely!  Is limiting gaming time to a reasonable amount each day and providing other opportunities to engage in physical activities and other pursuits reasonable and healthy?  You betcha!

As Technology Coordinator, I advocate for the effective, engaging, collaborative use of technologies in the classroom.  I see people using it in amazing ways every day to make activities, lessons, and units more meaningful.  Technology is not being used for entertainment in schools, but as a powerful tool for locating, working with and presenting information and for collaborating with other students and experts across the globe.  Here is just a sampling of some of the things I see happening on a fairly regular basis in SD73 schools:

  • Teachers presenting engaging lessons using interactive learning objects and multi-media on a SMARTboard
  • Students requesting more questions on a quiz because they enjoy submitting their answers using response “clickers”
  • Kindergarten students interacting and learning with their “weather buddies” in El Paso, Texas
  • Teacher-Librarians using current, relevant subscription databases and online resources to teach information literacy and research skills to students – and teaching them how to use a wide variety of interactive presentation tools to share what they’ve learned in their research
  • Grade 7 students participating in a videoconference with the Canadian Space Agency to learn about Mars rovers
  • Students Skyping with an author to learn more about their books and their writing process
  • Teachers sharing classroom information, links, podcasts, assignments and more with parents and students via their blogs and class websites
  • Resource room teachers using iPad apps to help students with special learning needs
  • High school teachers using collaborative tools like Google Docs and Quizlet to help their students work together online and review/learn content.

These are just a few of many examples I can share to demonstrate how technology is being utilized for relevant, positive purposes in our schools.  Integrating these tools into our instruction helps teach students how to leverage available technologies to access information safely and purposely, and create and participate in powerful, meaningful projects and collaborations.  In my professional role I do, and will continue to, promote and support this kind of use of technology in schools, and, as a parent, am delighted that my sons’ teachers are learning about and using these types of tools in their classrooms.

We often hear people state that “everything in moderation” is the key to success.  This applies to food, work, leisure activities and more.  Our children’s use of technology is no different.  “Technology” is not bad for our kids – it’s all about the balance!

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Tips to Start the New Year Cyber-Safely!

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on January 6, 2012 in Uncategorized |

Happy New Year!

When chatting with students upon to return to school this week, many of them tell me they received Christmas gifts that are technology-related (computers, iPod touches, gaming consoles, cell phones, etc.).  My own two sons are no different.  Many of these wonderful tools have Internet access through WiFi, etc. Our children are considered “digital natives” as they have grown up using this technology on a regular basis and can’t imagine a life without instantaneous access to online information and entertainment. As parents, sometimes we feel that 8 year olds know more than we do about cyber space, and we’re not sure where to start in terms of keeping our children safe online. Here are a few key tips:

  • Make sure computers and internet-accessible devices are always placed or used in high traffic, public areas in your home so you can observe your child’s online behaviour and be close at hand should there be a question or problem.

  • Make it a household policy that your elementary-aged children never sign up for accounts or provide personal information on websites Most sites require that students are a minimum of age 13 to create accounts on their sites – this includes social networking sites such as Facebook (refer to their terms of use). Anyone with these types of accounts has had to check a box to confirm their age or enter birthdate information that expressly states that they are over the age of 13. If you have evaluated a site and have decided it would be safe to allow your child to use, it may be wise to create a family account with a parent’s email address that you will let your child use. That way you always have the ability to login and check on account activity.

  • If your older child is using a social networking site, consider creating your own profile and have them “friend” you. Remind them that everything they post is part of a permanent “digital footprint” that they are leaving on the web, and that it is possible for people to see the information that they are posting – sometimes even those that they do not know. (Check out this great post for activities you can do with students (and yourself) to assess your digital footprint).  It is also imperative that you and your child are mindful of security settings – make sure only your “friends” can view photos, see personal information or read status updates.  Consider creating limited profiles if you don’t want all your “friends” to have access to all images and information you post.  While you’re at it, have a good discussion about what an online “friend” is!

  • Talk to your kids. Ask them about what they can do online, what sites they’re interested in, and who they’re communicating with. Discuss what to do if they access information online that makes them feel upset or uncomfortable.

  • A good, comprehensive list of Internet safety tips for parents can be found here:  http://www.netsmartz.org/safety/safetytips.htm

The Internet is a fantastic resource and is an incredible way of connecting, communicating, and finding excellent information. The good far outweighs the risk of any bad. Addressing Internet safety issues should not be done in a way that makes anyone feel afraid or upset. Nevertheless, just as with anything that may have associated risks… from using playground equipment at school to cooking simple snacks at home… education is key to ensuring our kids feel safe and comfortable using all types of tools – including computers, the Internet, and the wealth of resources available through the use of these tools.

There are many terrific Internet safety resources available freely online. Some are informational and great for teachers and parents; some are games and activities that you can use with children. I have compiled some of the best resources I have found and put them into a wiki site. You can access them at:http://surfsafely.pbworks.com/

Are there any other great Internet safety activities that you can recommend?  What has worked for you as a parent and/or educator?  Please feel free to share by posting a comment!

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Grateful for Google

Posted by Tracy Poelzer on November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized |

I have been participating in and presenting a lot of workshops on different Google apps and tools lately.  They are certainly things that I, myself, find useful in both personal and educational settings, and I’m really excited to be sharing them with other interested educators in our school district.  I also love that they’re FREE!!! After reading Jeff Utecht’s blog post about how Google is taking over his life (in a good way), I was inspired to do a post about some of my favourite Google tools as well.

Last week I presented to some videoconferencing and rural teachers about  using Google docs in the classroom.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Google docs, and am very excited about the possibilities of using them with students and teachers in useful, collaborative ways.   Due to the fact that multiple people can collaborate on a Google doc, in real time and at the same time, it makes it a wonderful tool for connecting students, classrooms, and teachers to work together on projects.  This can be done on a local or even global scale because Google apps are hosted on the “cloud”.  This means that you can access your account and shared documents from pretty much any computer (including tablets, smart phones and other devices) with Internet access and a web browser – regardless of your location in the world.

I have been using Google forms on a regular basis.  Forms are part of the Google docs suite, and can be used to make questionnaires or quizzes.  The link to the quiz can be shared with others, and once they fill out their information and click “submit”, Google puts that information into a nicely organized spreadsheet for you to view.  Entries are date/time stamped.  I find this an extremely useful tool for accepting registrations for workshops and pro-d events, and I think they’d be awesome for quick quizzes and other snapshot assessments to inform and guide instruction in a classroom setting as well.

I love Alan November’s model of a classroom community and can see how Google docs and other Google tools could contribute to terrific learning environments that follow this structure.  Have students take turns at different roles during class. Make them contributors to a classroom community.  Teach them to integrate 21st Century Skills effectively!  Here are some of my ideas for how they could be used:

 

Classroom Role Tool to Use
Note-taker / Scribe Google Docs
Key terms recorder Google Docs
Quiz / Review constructor Google Docs (Forms)
Class Calendar Updater Google Calendar
Resource Finder/Researcher           Google Search /Google Custom Search Engine
Class Website Updater Google Sites or Blogger
Collaboration Coordinators Google Talk or Google Groups
Map Maker Google Maps / Google Earth
Tutorial Designer Post to class YouTube Channel – Search on Google Videos or post to class blog/website
Model Maker Google SketchUp

 

Are there ways that you are using Google tools effectively in your classroom?  Would you like to learn more about them?  SD73 teachers: please contact me at the HGEC for more information. I’m happy to help!

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