I have once again been humbled and honoured by the opportunity to discuss my life and my thoughts about education and teaching with another amazing educator, Rolland Chidiac.
When Rolland asked me to participate in his podcast, I was taken aback (as you'll hear in our discussion about this in the podcast). I felt really inadequate as a participant compared to the other amazing people he had previously had as guests on his podcast. I couldn't imagine what I could possibly have to share that other people would want to listen to!
Rolland convinced me (I think he uses the word - strong armed?!) to join him for a chat about inspiration and I'm really glad I did. We had an amazing conversation and I got to share some thoughts on things that I love and am passionate about, especially in the realm of education.
Thank you again so much for this opportunity Rolland.
If you'd like to take a listen, you find find the Podcast - Rolland Chidiac Connects - Episode 35 here.
Here is what Rolland had to say about our episode:
This episode features Megan Valois, a High School Teacher at St. Pius X in Ottawa, Ontario. She is also a Mom, an Army wife, and a fitness enthusiast. With respect to teaching and learning, Megan is passionate about 21st Century Learning and the use of technology in the classroom (Edtech), Differentiated Instruction, Assessment for Learning, and a variety of other topics that make her an effective educator and an asset to any Professional Learning Network.
Listen in to hear what Megan has to say about how we connected, her current work as a High School teacher, working with English Language Learners, how it came to be that she became a teacher, past students who connect with/visit her, what she might be doing if she were not a teacher, what motivates her day to day, finding the time to eat well and work out, being married to a soldier and what it is like to deal with deployments, resources/support for military spouses and her volunteer work, the experience of parenting her 3 month old on her own for a period of time, what she would tell someone seeking motivation/inspiration, and fear of failure and the power of taking a step in a different direction.
I'm excited to have the opportunity to lead some professional development on Google Apps for Education at my school in the next few weeks.
Back in early March, I presented on Hangouts and Scripts at our Ottawa Catholic School Board IT conference - SummIT X. As someone who is passionate about Google, it was lots of fun to present on the advantages of using GAFE! If you're interested in my sessions, check them out here:
Since Windows XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft next year, our focus is really on using GAFE, which our board has been using for a few years now. In order to help my colleagues make the transition, I am offering some brief sessions. I will be doing my best to Hangout on Air for most sessions so keep your eyes peeled for later posts!
Google “Docs” 101 - Beginner Session (April 24)
Are you interested in learning how to log in to Google docs to create documents, make folders, upload your files from your USB “to the cloud” (on Google!) and share and edit documents with anyone in the world? Want your students to submit their work online and you can see exactly what time it was submitted and when it was last edited and by whom? Want to create a document that several people can work on at once, and be able to see exactly WHO typed what part of the document? Join us for this session all about how to get started with Google Docs!
Google Forms 101 - Beginner (May 15)
Are you familiar with how to log into your Google drive? Are you comfortable using Google docs but want to learn more? Do you want to learn about how to make surveys and even quizzes using Google forms? These are a great tool for formative assessment - and they are quick and easy!!
Google Hangouts 101 - Beginner (May 29)
Have you heard of Skype? Are you interested in having the ability to video conference with anyone across the world, for free? You can not only video call together but you can work on shared documents (from Google docs) WITHIN the call and work together! You can also use this to call other classes or do PD/meetings from home!
Simplify your life with Google! - Intermediate (June 5)
Are you feeling comfortable with the basics of Google? Do you want to find some cool tools (apps/extensions/scripts) that will make your life EASIER?! Join this session to learn about tips and tricks that will save you time!! You’ll learn how to clear a page of ads, screencast, block ads on YouTube videos, automatically “mark” formative assessment quizzes and more!
First of all, I feel terrible about my delay in posting this. No excuse, other than being busy, and we all are!!
I was really humbled to be nominated by 3 people:
Michelle Cordy (@cordym)
Jeffrey Humphries (@itechteach)
Amy Bowker (@classcollect).
Michelle and I met online through Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat). Together, we worked our way through our Google Apps for Education certification! She is a resourceful, intelligent, and caring 1:1 iPad Grade 3/4 teacher who blogs at: http://hacktheclassroom.ca/.
Jeffrey is one of the awesome people in my PLN, who also happens to be from Ottawa... where I am!! He regularly participates in #cdnedchat, which I moderate, and I have learned so much from his contributions... especially because he is way more tech savvy than I am! :) Check him out here: http://www.technology4all.ca/blog.html
Amy and I met at #EdCampOttawa... she was one of the organizers. My favourite part was how we saw each other and both recognized each other from Twitter.... "Hey, you're @MsValois! Yes! You're @classcollect." Had some great conversations with her that day about DI and love what she is doing with education in her class. Her blog is just awesome: http://classroomcollective.tumblr.com/ Tons of resources and ideas!
Here is how it works:
11 Facts about Me:
1. I have a cat and a dog (German Shepherd): Fynn and Jack. I was terrified of big dogs until we got ours!
2. My favourite city to visit (of all time) is Washington, DC. I am obsessed. I went twice in 4 months!
3. I didn't get my first SmartPhone until last May!
4. This past summer, I read 1 book every 3 or so days! (Yes, I don't have children... haha!)
5. I run on coffee as fuel! My daily order from Tim Hortons is an extra large with 2 cream, half sugar and a creamy caramel flavour shot!
6. I don't like shopping; crowds bother me.
7. This year for Thanksgiving, I cooked my first ever turkey!
8. I rarely watch TV; I only really follow 3 shows: Homeland, Criminal Minds and Law and Order SVU
9. Except for two school field trips (last year and year before), I can't even remember the last time I went to a movie theatre! I am pretty sure the last movie I saw was the 3D Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey in 2009 with my Mom!
10. I am proud of my husband; he is in the Canadian Armed Forces and has twice deployed in service to the CAF.
11. If I had to choose between sweet or savoury, I'd always choose sweet.
11 Questions for me:
1. What Disney Character would you be?
Mary Poppins! Not a traditional Disney character but it is a Disney film! :) If I have to choose animated, Belle. I think she's the least "damsel in distress" of the Disney princess group; at least she shows some bravery and conviction.
2. What is the coolest app you have read about or use?
Right now, it's just Chrome Extensions in general.
3. Have you ever skyped in your classroom?
No, I prefer Google Hangout. :)
4. What twitter chats do you follow?
Too many to list but I'd be remiss if I didn't shout out to the chat I help moderate: Canadian Ed Chat. #cdnedchat - every Monday at 8pm EST.
5: What is the best thing about teaching?
6. What is your favourite stationary item?
Do Post It Notes count? Love those!
7. Cake or Ice Cream?
Cake, but only with butter cream icing... or else I scrape off the icing.
8. House Pet: Snake or Ferret?
I'd rather stick a pencil in my eye than have either. I guess snake.
9. Favourite Movie?
I can't choose one! Fried Green Tomatoes (I watched it more than 25 times when I was a kid... around 9/10 years old) and the Life of David Gale.
10: Best gift you ever got?
Hmmm. Probably the scrapbook my Mom made me for my 16th- symbolic. My parents also bought me a car (99 Sunfire!) when I graduated University with honours. That was pretty awesome!!!
11. Why did you want to become a teacher?
See answer 5. ;)
My "sunshine nominees"
Because I love DI, so much, I am differentiating this assignment for my blogging needs! ;) I am listing 11 people to follow on Twitter. If they have a blog, you can check out their blog too and they can answer the questions, if they choose. But there are some great people on Twitter who may not have blogs.... or active blogs.. and maybe this will be a reason for them to start blogging or continue! :)
I know that both Jennie and Jason have already been mentioned but I really had to include them both on my list.
1. Dana Ariss (@danaariss). Blog: www.daariss.wordpress.com
2. Theresa Wells-Taylor (@thecandydish)
3. James Petersen (@jpetersen02): Blog: www.mrjpetersen.weebly.com
4. Paul McGuire (@mcguirp) Blog: http://paulmcguire1.wordpress.com/
5. Nicholas Ferroni (@nicholasferroni): He writes for the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/
6. Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey): Blog: http://jmarkeyap.blogspot.ca/
7. Stephane Crete (@stephanecrete)
8. Rola Tibshirani (@rolat): Blog: http://learninginprogess.blogspot.ca/ and http://ensemble-together.blogspot.ca/
9. Shannon Smith (@shannoninottawa): Blog: http://shannoninottawa.com/
10. Moss Pike (@mosspike): Blog: http://cinisetfavilla.blogspot.ca/
11. Jennie Magiera (@msmagiera) http://www.teachinglikeits2999.com/
Questions for my nominees: (Some of these "borrowed" from other posts!)
Here's something that I have been thinking about for a while... professional development. I have so many things to say about refining, revamping, re-assessing professional development opportunities for educators.... but I'll try to keep the focus narrow this time on one or two aspects.
The realm of professional development opportunities have been greatly opened, enriched and enhanced by the power of the Internet. Web searches, podcasts, resource libraries and sharing, websites, Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, virtual conferences, online libraries web 2.0 tools are just a small sample of the amazing ways that educators can connect online as never before, opening a whole world of collaboration and learning that was not available before!
I love my PLN. I have learned so much online through the amazing educators that I connect with. In fact, I love them so much, I wrote a thank-you letter in an earlier blog post! For that, check here: http://assessmentforlearning.weebly.com/1/post/2013/11/to-my-pln-what-i-need-you-to-know-ce13.html
But here's the thing... I appreciate traditional PD also. There are some really amazing conferences out there. This year alone, I can name 5 that I would like to have attended. What's the barrier? Funding. The biggest barrier, for me, is the lack of funding available for professional development opportunities. Take the GAFE summit in Montreal, for example. It's taking place on Saturday and Sunday, December 7-8. Transportation there/back (either fuel and parking, or train ticket) is about $100. Add in a night or two at a hotel (if I take the train, I'd have to go Friday night, because it doesn't leave early enough on Saturday) at $120 a night. Top that off with the conference fee of $249 and even eating thrifty costs money and a weekend conference costs almost half a grand! That's a weekend conference with no supply cost built in! ECOO happened in October in Niagara Falls. Again, same situation! Transportation, hotel, food, conference cost, supply teacher cost... you're looking at almost $1000. Don't even get me starting about ITSE in Georgia this year. The plane ticket alone is almost $500... add in 4 night of lodging ($600) plus food (~$200) and conference cost ($380), you're looking at closer to $1500.
The point? I can't afford $3000 in professional development costs a year. I wish I could. I am passionate enough that I will give up weekends and summers for PD (in fact, I often spend evenings and weekends at free PD, such as EdCamp Ottawa on November 23 of this year!) but I can't shell out that kind of money, on top of all the other expenses in my life and in my profession. When the only funding available is a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split every 2 years, I appreciate this but I can't keep up with all the new and amazing opportunities available without breaking the bank!
And I get thinking... so many other organizations provide opportunities like this free of charge. As someone with many close family/friends working at various levels of government, I know that they often go on all-expenses paid professional development, across the province, country and even world. They are not asked to pay conference fees... not even their own food cost or flight cost. Meanwhile, if I want to attend a really great conference... even if it requires me to miss NO days of work, I'm still shelling out $250-$1500. And I think this is an issue. I think it's hindering me from becoming the best I can be.
I think if you want teachers to be better versions of themselves, you need to provide tangible opportunities for growth and inspiration. And in my board, I am lucky that we have great consultants and board staff who travel to conferences and bring back learning but here's the reality: sometimes, teachers get tired of hearing all the great conferences that consultant X went to and all the great things that department X wants teachers to now use in their classes. If you want your teachers to get inspired and motivated and excited, you need to send THEM to these conferences. Let them network and see awesomeness (yes, I used that word) in ACTION! Let TEACHERS come back from these conferences and share their learning with their colleagues.... showing how they are implementing these great things in a classroom. And while it's important for consultants and superintendents to learn about these initiatives and share them with teachers, sometimes it's even more important for people who are in the classrooms every day to learn these strategies first-hand and implement them and share with everyone else: "this is what I'm doing and it's working and I can help you do it too!" Because lateral professional sharing and collaboration is powerful.... usually much more powerful than top-down sharing.
And I say this from experience. A few years ago, I had the amazing experience of an all expenses paid trip to a Ministry Differentiated Instruction conference in Toronto. And it DID pump me up! I came back SO inspired that I created this DI strategies booklet (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3R3CWEwwMLYMk1kRlp2b25seUE/edit) in one weekend! It has been shared with my staff, other schools in our board and even given out as a resource by the Student Success department at my school board to all DI teams. THIS is the power of PD!
And so I hope that maybe, someday, we are able to revamp and reassess the access to great PD that teachers have. Are we meeting their needs? How are we hindering students by not providing teachers with ways to access opportunities to improve themselves? What can we do to challenge teachers and keep them motivated, invigorated and passionate, like I was when I came home from Toronto and when I reached out to my online PLN.
Because sometimes, we need to remember that money spent on PD is not an expense, but an investment.
To my PLN… thank you.
As Connected Educators month wrapped up, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my journey in “connectedness”.
I turned to Twitter by happen stance a few years ago but was never very active online. I lurked, I posted a bit then abandoned it for weeks and months at a time. Finally, just over a year ago, I came back. I don’t even really remember the circumstances surrounding it but I decided to check out what was out there. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was grappling with who I was as an educator and where to go next. I'm a true Type A… perfectionist to a fault… and in many ways, I had begun to feel worn out and jaded. I didn't want to be THAT person. I wanted to learn more and do more. I was getting frustrated by negative comments about change and innovation. I wanted more than basic professional development workshops on subjects/areas that I felt comfortable in. I didn’t know what else was “out there” but I figured there must be more… and I wanted to find it.
And then Twitter opened my eyes. I started following “ed tech” gurus and learning about neat tools to try. I started using some of these tools in my classroom and experimented with them as a means of learning. I started to read and follow tweets from people who shared my views and beliefs and the passion that I once had and wanted to have back. I read thoughts that could have been my own… and then realized it had been retweeted and/or favourited countless times and I knew I wasn’t alone. I stumbled upon a new “chat”... Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat). I had never participated in a Twitter chat. A month or so later, Michael Quinn, one of the co-founders, invited me to help guest moderate a chat on Differentiated Instruction when I tweeted to tell him it was a passion of mine. I was terrified. I was worried that everyone would think I wasn’t good enough, well versed enough, tech savvy enough. I felt like a fraud. I was new to this online realm. What could I possibly have to offer? I will be so much less than everyone else, won’t I?
And then I met the #cdnedchat team and they were amazing. They were welcoming and open minded and great sources of information, learning and support. And I realized, we’re all on this journey and we all had to start sometime and somewhere. What was most important then, was that I wanted to be better and learn more and integrate innovative teaching tools and strategies into my practice. Not surprisingly, everyone was there to support and help!
I was blessed to continue my involvement in #cdnedchat, having been asked to join on the moderation team full time. Participating in these weekly chats fuelled my drive to keep learning as much as I could about new educational technologies and educational initiatives. It became a passion. I started learning more and more about things that I knew some, little or nothing about! Online literature circles, Google Hangouts, blogging, Google Apps for Education, digital portfolios, 1:1 programs, QR codes, Flipping the Classroom, project based learning…. the list goes on and on. And the more I learned, the more my passion returned. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with how much was out there and how little I knew, I began to feel invigorated that there was so much potential and that all I had to do was learn about it and make it happen! I would look forward to Google Hangouts with the team because I felt I had found people who were similar to me. I’ve called Dana Ariss my “edu soul sister” on more than one occasion because we see so many things from the same perspective and are passionate about so many of the same things.
I began to participate in more Twitter chats and reach out to #edtech leaders on Twitter to share and gather ideas and feedback. I became inspired by the amazing Angela Maiers and her “You Matter” campaign. It changed the way that I viewed my role as a teacher and how I began my school year (2013-2014) with my students. Instead of focusing on rules, I chose to focus on relationships. I am seeing a huge difference already.
I also spent more time learning about and integrating technology into my practice. I launched my professional website and started sharing my research and presentations, and even included a blog… this blog… as a part of it. I wanted to start sharing all the neat things that my students were capable of doing! I started using more #edtech tools such as Edmodo, Pinterest, AudioBoo, Google Drive (docs/forms), and more recently, this school year, blogs (Blogger), Remind 101, Socrative, QR codes, ExplainEverything and Geddit. (This led the way to using innovative teaching strategies like Genius Time and project based learning and the creation of my alternative learning space this year).
The ideas became endless. My mind would be racing after a Twitter chat and I could hardly sleep, thinking of all the great ideas I had heard - things I had never even thought of before - and how I could make these work for my students! And the passion began to multiply. I would bounce ideas off of educators trying the same things or wanting to. And I’d get feedback and advice from people who had been long doing the initiatives and using the tools and strategies that I was just taking on. And I teamed up with amazing mentors, like Michelle Cordy, who pushed me to make opportunities to better myself as an educator- to steer my own ship and find my own niche - and inspired me to do things that challenge me and scare me because I can and what do I have to lose? (And here I am, one exam away from having attained Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer - Qualified Individual status! I couldn’t have imagined this 2 years ago!)
And so, as we wrap up connected educator’s month, I am thankful that I faced roadblocks, frustrations and feelings of being jaded and alone because it forced me to make a decision; make a change or stay the same. I chose change. It’s scary, terrifying, exciting and inspiring all at once. It needed to happen and I’m glad it did. I’m glad I felt the push to look further to find something to challenge me to be better than I was. Something to make me better for myself, and thereby, for my students… because isn’t that what it’s all about? Being the best version of yourself?
A few of the key people that I have learned the most from are included in this post but there are many more who have impacted my journey…. some with one post that stood out to me and some, who with their every post inspire me, daily. Some of these people do not follow me and will never see this blog post. Some will. I am okay with both of those facts.
I just want to say thanks. Thanks to the PLN for helping to open my eyes to the amazing world that is out there. Thank you for showing me the endless possibilities in education. Thank you for reminding me why I have never wanted to do anything other than teach. Thank you for showing me ways to reinvigorate the passion that has never died inside of me. Thank you for being people that I learn from and thank you for inspiring me to be the best that I can be.
When I launched my website earlier in 2013, I decided to add this blog component to it. I figure, what better way to share and showcase the amazing things my school and my students are participating in. It also gives me a chance to reflect on my own professional learning and to share my experiences, insight, feedback, and suggestions about the initiatives in my classroom, in a far reaching way which will give me the opportunity to get feedback and responses from our global community.
This school year (2013-2014), I am going to start blogging with my students. I have spent a lot of time reading online about the benefits of blogging and connecting with amazing educators on Twitter who are part of my professional learning network and who are avid bloggers. (See below for some comments on a few who I think you should know about!). Being on Twitter has shown me the power of a global audience and network; many of the people I connect with on Twitter are spread far and wide across North America (and beyond!). This leads me to my first point....
There's a ton of different reasons and philosophies and pros and cons. But here are the reasons I want to try blogging this year, based on my learning and research.
1. Authentic experience
What better way to get students to understand the power of words and ideas than to have them share it on a forum which can be viewed globally? I love the idea of a worldwide audience to read and share with. This gives students the chance to create their own digital footprint while building on the skills of research, critical thinking, reflection, writing and editing.
2. Collaboration and Discussion
These concepts can be separate and can be intertwined. The idea of sharing thoughts, reflections, ideas, creative writing, videos, music, etc. with an audience and then having the opportunity to discuss, debate, re-think, analyse, reflect, apply and engage is inspiring to me. The option to peer edit or to work with a partner on a concept or idea is such a real-world, 21st century skill. The option to post comments and share voice or written comments/feedback gives students something they couldn't have with a typed and submitted essay or poster board. The opportunity to discuss and connect with those outside the walls of the school means a more diverse perspective is available and offers an exciting chance for students to connect with those living across the province, country or globe!
3. Creativity, Innovation and Ownership
Blogs allow students so many opportunities to be creative and express themselves in a way that speaks to who they are as individuals while still demonstrating the key knowledge that the teacher is looking to assess. Some students might create videos, others 'photo essays', perhaps poetry or equations or quite simply a written reflection. Students have the chance to take ownership for their own creations and expression. The ability to embed media, include podcasts, edit templates, and share understanding in a multitude of ways means that there's no limit to the creative expression of knowledge that a student can share! The students also have the pride (and responsibility) of ownership! The blog is his/hers and can be set up to reflect his/her personality, interests, talents and passions. As a huge supporter and promoter of differentiated instruction, I really love how many opportunities there are in blogging for students to show their understanding or apply knowledge in diverse and creative ways!
4. Supporting 21st Century Learning Skills
Of course, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity are 21st century learning skills that I have already mentioned. But the last piece is the technology piece of the puzzle. Helping students to feel more at ease with the use of technology and ways to maximize its potential. Digital natives are already tuned in to many types of technology - namely, social media. Harnessing the power of technology for educational purposes and integrating (yes, fully integrating) technology is a key for 21st century learners. Blogging provides the opportunity to develop web skills, understand digital citizenship and its responsibilities and build an online presence and experience that students will need to understand and be at ease with for their futures.
There are many different platforms out there that teachers can use to blog with: Google Sites, Weebly, Blogger, Edublogs, WordPress, Wikispaces and Blogspot, to name a few!
Visit the sites, test them out, ask around and find out which one is best for you!
I am really looking forward to my blogging journey with my students and I will most certainly be blogging about it myself, here on this blog!
In closing, here's a shout out to a few of the bloggers who I have learned from and have been inspired by this summer:
- @davidtedu David's #eduslam on blogging is far more powerful and eloquent than anything I could come up with! If you haven't seen his slam, I highly recommend you check it out here:
- @KLirenman - I have connected with Karen a few times on Twitter and am really impressed with what she does with blogging. I love that Karen has two blogs: her classroom one: http://www.mslirenmansroom.blogspot.ca/ and her own blog where she shares teaching experiences: http://learningandsharingwithmsl.blogspot.ca/. The fact that she blogs with Grade 1 students proves that it can work at any age!
@kathycassidy - Kathy also blogs with young students. I just love all of the photos and videos on her blog! It really shows experiential learning at its finest! http://mscassidysclass.edublogs.org/
@PaulSolarz- I will gush even more about Paul when I blog about digital portfolios (eportfolios). Had the opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Paul on digital portfolios and left it very excited and full of ideas! His blog is his own e-portfolio of what he does with his students. Check it out: http://psolarz.weebly.com/mr-solarz-eportfolio.html
Tonight was an exciting professional development opportunity for me! I had the chance to be the guest moderator for Canadian Ed Chat - a professional learning chat on Twitter for Canadian educators, which takes place each Monday at 8pm EST.
Our topic this evening was Differentiated Instruction and when I mentioned to the moderator team that it was one of my passions, Michael Quinn (@neurophilomath) kindly asked me to co-moderate the chat with him!
Together with the Ed Chat team, we came up with a series of awesome questions to stimulate discussion on DI and to gain ideas about effective implementation, especially using technology.
It was such a great experience for me and I thank the team for allowing me to step in for the night to talk about one of my biggest passions - DI!
If you are an educator, I highly recommend you join us for a chat! I promise you'll leave the hour filled with tons of great ideas!
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!