Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Reflection on Oneself

Each year we have the opportunity to sit down with Administration in our school to reflect on our individual (teacher) plans for learning.  It’s like any job where you must have a yearly performance appraisal yet for teachers (at least those in Ontario) who are life-long learners we have ALP’s (Annual Learning Plans) which are not only reflections on what we have done in the recent past in terms of professional development but also visions as to what we see ourselves doing to improve our practices in the near future.  ALP’s are just one of many components meant to keep teachers accountable for their practices both in and out side of the classroom.

This year we were asked to reflect on two questions in preparation for what we call our fireside chat (without the fire because of course that wouldn’t be a safe thing to have in an elementary school).

The first question, “Are you an ‘outlier’ teacher or are you teaching the way you were taught?” was derived from a questions asked in Tony Wagner’s latest book, “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World”  which asked, with knowledge now being a free commodity, how can we develop a culture of learning that promotes 21st century skills?  And he came to suggest that “We must focus on skills and not content,” and “to succeed in the 21st-century economy, students must learn to analyze and solve problems, collaborate, persevere, take calculated risks and learn from failure”

Much like the feelings of Wagner, I feel that developing skills are far more important than the content that is used to develop those skills.  My wife @SLewisYoung  often find ourselves discussing the pitfalls of the education system, how it sometimes can fail students especially because of the overwhelming expectations of the curriculum and the need for greater integration across the subjects areas.

As a result, my intermediate students that I have taught for the past 7 or so years, have heard a very similar statement directed to them at the beginning of every school year, which is, “This year you will develop the skills that will help your work through the challenges that life will throw at you” and that if I want to “I can teach you everything that you will need to know in Grade 7 or 8, Language, Math, and Science by using Geographic content”.  I am a little biased when it come to the content I would like to use to drive my program because the world makes things go round.

To be honest, I was a bit afraid of this question at first.  What if I had the wrong answer?  What if I felt that I was but what I did did not really represent their vision of the ‘outlier’.  So, though I knew what  was in store, I ignored the need to organize my thoughts surrounding the ‘question’.  I mean, I do this for a living, I plan, I prepare and I deliver.  All I would need to do would be to give myself a few hours time to consider how I would respond and I work best under the pressure of a deadline which for my chat wasn’t for a couple weeks at the time.

Time passed, almost two weeks this and it was the night before my fireside chat with Kathryn when I remember that there were these questions that I needed to prepare to discuss.  So I sat down at my computer and put finger to keys and…this is what I came up with…

“Are you an ‘outlier’ teacher or are you teaching the way you were taught?”

I feel that I was taught (K through University) using a great variety of teaching practices from the traditional methods of rote learning through to practices which incorporated the use of the latest and most innovative pedagogies including the use of technologies in the classroom.  So, do I teach the way I was taught? I do not believe so, (And the following is what I have added with some additional thought and reflection) but of course my childhood memories of school are limited to my knowledge that “my desk” was “that desk” most often seen beside my teachers desk.  But the fact is, the classroom today is a much different place than that I experienced in my own education especially what I had experienced in K through 8.  I mean I learned how to read, write, compute, solve problems and share knowledge that I acquired by reading, writing, talking and listening.  And based on skills I possess today I feel that my teachers including my parents/grandparents did a good job of providing me with the skills necessary to be successful.  Were those who taught me ‘outliers’?  Probably not, but they were using teaching strategies proven to give the results they wanted which were children who could read, write and have a basic skill set that could be developed with further schooling.  Were they capable? certainly.  Were some innovative and creative in the way they approached teaching the very basic skills that Wagner now suggests are needed to be successful in the 21st-century?  Most definitely.

So again, do I teach the way I was taught? I do not believe so, as pedagogies have evolved significantly since I left my primary education (K-8) almost 25 years ago.  I would find it hard to believe that anyone in the teaching profession presently would teach just as those teaching 20 or even 30 years ago, as a teacher then or now was/is a life-long learner and therefore constantly working to develop his/her practices to educate the youth of society.  Am I an outlier? Sure. Why? Because I feel that I am willing to try new methods that may or may not work as I expect and learn from the risk of possible failure.  Because I want to prepare my students for a world that does not yet exist because of the ever so rapid evolution that technology has brought upon us.

The second question that I was to be prepared to discuss was, do you infuse play, passion and purpose into all learning in your classroom?

Yet again, considering how I would respond was a daunting challenge.  Play? Sure. Passion? My own, of course. Purpose? Yes, there is always a purpose.

This year particularly has been a year of passion and inquiry.  Learning for a purpose has always held great importance for myself.  I was one of those “students with potential” who “did not value education”, so I generally feel that I understand where some of my less motivated students who feel this way are coming from.  Though when I express this to them, I get the most bizarre looks.  For them, I am their teacher and there is no way that a teacher would have once considered school unimportant.  For this reason, learning for a purpose has always been a goal in my teaching practices.  Life skills are important and the content in which we use to teach those skills only serves to give them some general knowledge about the world around them.

Inquiry has also been an area of focus in the more recent years as I have attempt to shift the learning focus to student interests with some guidance and parameters in order to ensure that I meet curricular expectations set out by the Ministry of Education.  Inquiry also lends itself to ‘play’ in a sort of trial-and-error, experimentation, solving sort of way where by the students can get down and dirty with their learning.

Passion, I have embarked on a journey into the world of Genius Time/20-percent time, developed out of a theory employed by the Internet superpower Google who paid benefit to employees with free paid time to work on projects of their own interest.  The result, many of the tools we find today integrated on the web.  Within the realm of education, Genius Time has been gaining popularity in an effort to bring back a love for learning amongst students by giving them the time to work on projects of their own interest where for the teacher the assessment for and of learning focuses on the processes/skills rather than the product(s) of their learning.

What makes a teacher an outlier?  Is it a necessary trait? Are we all ‘outliers’ according to the question above?  What are your feelings about infusing play, passion and purpose in your practices?  Please feel free to share.

Today was #geniushour Trial Day

Awesome, I am so glad to hear that you kids enjoyed it as much as mine did. Now they can be prepared for the adventure of their own Genius project as mine prepare to retry or move forward with a project derived from their interests and passions.

1B4E - Shivonne Lewis-Young

Today was the final day before the Christmas Break.  If you work in a school or with children then you know that it’s a pretty crazy day.  The children are so excited and it’s really difficult to get them to focus on any tasks.  I’ve done the movie and popcorn on the last day, free time activities, games day.  All which are pretty special things that the students enjoy but I wanted to end our 2013 on a real high.  If you ask any of the students in the class what is their favourite thing about school they will likely tell you genius time.  So I knew I had to something big with genius time.

My initial plan was to just let them go ahead and make their projects.  But my wonderful colleague and husband Phil Young had his students engage in a genius time day and while it was…

View original post 920 more words

The time has come…

Students and families,

It’s back, our overnight trip for intermediate students. At Treeline, this is our 8th Intermediate Overnight Trip and the 3rd time that we have visited Ottawa.  The opportunity to travel to the Capital of our country provides students a chance to explore some of the countries greatest buildings and museums in an environment outside the walls of our classrooms.  Our school will be travelling with Brightspark a leader in educational tours in Canada.

On the trip this year students will explore,

Parliament Hill Centre Block  on a guided tour – the Parliament Buildings are historical monuments, architectural treasures, and an important national symbol cherished by all Canadians
The Museum of Civilization, a building itself which is an architectural masterpiece and one of the largest museums in the world, and its exceptional exhibits present 100,000 years of Canadian prehistory, history and culture for your students to explore.

Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is a part of Ottawa that is not to be missed.  The museum’s signature galleries and special exhibitions draw visitors from around the world. Fossils and dinosaursmammalsbirdswaterEarth—there’s something here for everyone. It’s worth a visit for the architecture alone! The museum is a massive 100-year-old heritage building fondly known as “the castle.” It’s more than just a landmark; it’s a piece of our collective history.  Read more about this excellent example of 20th-century architecture. (Taken from

Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum, a stunning structure on the banks of the Ottawa River houses the largest military history collection in Canada, spanning the period from The Seven Years’ War to the present  
The Byward Market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. Within its streets, you will find museums, cafés, specialty food shops, boutiques, restaurants and more.
Students will also have an opportunity to ride along the famous Rideau Canal and take a bus tour along Sussex Drive where our Tour Leader comments on points of interest including the residences of the Prime Minister and Governor General.
Join us, for a fun and exciting learning adventure in our Nations Capital this May.
Have questions, please fill out the form below.


More information coming soon.

Mr Young

Synchronizing OneNote iPad App with PDSB Office365 Account

With the relatively new introduction of Office 365 in the Peel District School Board, many are searching out way to link their mobile devices with this new cloud based resource.  One App that compliments Office365 is the iOS app OneNote, a virtual notebook, great for students, educators and the like to organize and keep track of notes and integrate images to support those notes taken.  It is certainly a competitor to the likes of Evernote and Google Keep.

For those in organization where an Office 365 sharepoint account has been created, OneNote (iOS, and Android) can connect to the service providing a virtually seamless interface between the mobile and non-mobile devices that many used for note taking.

A few steps to make this connection,

  1. Download and install the iOS or Android verisons of OneNote for your mobile device from the AppStore or Google Play.

a. iOS iPhone version –

b. iOS iPad version –

c. Android version – (Works on phones cannot confirm with tabs)

*The following instructions are based on the setup using an iPad.

2.  **Initiate setup using a Microsoft account (i.e., a Hotmail email account) and your board Office 365 sharepoint account will not allow you to get OneNote going for the very first time.  I just happen to have a hotmail account from back in the day before Gmail.

IMG_0504 IMG_0505

3.  Once you have done this, you will be able to add the Office 365 sharepoint service that your organization (for PDSB educators, your account associated with Office365) has created for you.

4.  The first step is to add the service itself.  By touching your Avatar image in the upper left hand corner of the screen you will be provided a pop-up dialogue box giving you the option to “Add a Service”.  Click “Add a Service” then select “Office 365 SharePoint”.  Next key in your email account and associated password.  For PDSB educators this is your and your typical email password. Then click sign-in.  It will verify your account and return to the main OneNote screen.

IMG_0507 IMG_0508 IMG_0509 IMG_0510 IMG_0511 IMG_0512

5.  At this point not much looks different.  Clicking your Avatar in the upper left corner will now reveal that you have two services associated with your device.


6.  The next step is to add an account so that the work you are doing is actually connected with your Office 365 SharePoint account and not your Hotmail based cloud. Again by touching your Avatar image in the upper left hand corner of the screen you will be provided a pop-up dialogue box giving you the option to “Switch Account”. Select “Switch Account” and then “Add an Account” and follow the steps to add your Office 365 account.  This seems redundant but it is so far the only way I have manage to get my OneNote notebooks to sync without issue between my mobile devices and the web based account.

IMG_0516 IMG_0517 IMG_0518 IMG_0519

7.  Clicking your Avatar in the upper left corner will now reveal that you are using on your device in your organization based (PDSB) Office 365 SharePoint account


8.  Now you are almost ready to use OneNote in conjunction with your organization based (PDSB) Office 365 SharePoint account.  I have yet to discover a way to create a new notebook on my mobile device while working under my sharepoint account.  It seems as though one must first login to the web-based OneNote and create the notebooks that you will want to use.  You can see that while associated with my Office 365 account I do not have the option to “Create Notebook” where as when I am working using my Hotmail based account I do have the option to “Create Notebook” and unfortunately these two services cannot be merged.


Organization-based account with no option to create notebook.


Microsoft-based account with option to create notebook.

Today was Genius Day

I can say that I anxiously awaited the arrival of our Genius Day for the past week.  It was set out to be the opportunity for my students to work through, and develop the project of their passions, thoughts, ideas and curiosities.  I was nervous though and rightly so.  Students at the intermediate level (Grade 7 and 8) are typically forgetful and apathetic when it comes to learning and school.  I told myself that today would be different and they, my students were excited for this opportunity to have an entire school day to develop their genius plans into to a true reality.

I arrived at school as usual with my coffee in hand, anxiously waiting for my students to arrive carrying whatever they would need to build, create, test, and make.  One after another they arrived asking to put their materials and ingredients into our classroom.  I would arrange the desk so that students working on similar genius projects this would hopefully keep my builders away from my bakers and so on.  We wouldn’t want electronics mixing with liquids that is unless there was an outlying project to explore.  As the students took their seat things were looking well.  We were sitting with almost 95 percent of students prepared to work.  The remaining served as our videographers who would document all of the work being done by their peers.

A few simple yet important instruction were shared before kick off.  1.  Follow your plan.  2. Be safe. and 3. Enjoy yourself.  They were off  building, creating, testing, and making.  The room was a buzz with an energy often unseen in an intermediate class unless they had been told that they had received an extension on a project due the next day.  I too was excited, excited to see their ideas materialize.

As the day wore on students were facing all sorts of challenges in the projects they had set out to work on.  Many of the challenges the face came as surprises and primarily because everything they had learned or read about to date had not been experience by themselves or had been edited in such a way that the errors made were unseen or removed thus leading them to believe the task to be simple.   Were they ever surprised when a challenge popped up.  And the indirect and unexpected learning that occurred was indescribably awesome.

I must say that our Genius Day was a success for the majority.  A success not because everything worked out as planned but because most learned from what the did or encountered over the day.

Below are just a few of the photos to share a glimpse into our day.


Easy does it, remember what I was told "Be Safe!"

Easy does it, remember what I was told “Be Safe!”


I can't wait to get this book published!

I can’t wait to get this book published!

I thought it was "measure once, cut twice"

I thought it was “measure once, cut twice”

What should I tell then next?

What should I tell then next?

What's it going to take to get this thing working?

What’s it going to take to get this thing working?

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What’s Your Secret?

I find myself reading twitter, and blog posts nightly but often forget that I have a blog out there that exists.  So I ask any of you that might read this, “What’s Your Secret?” when it comes to keeping your blog fresh?  I find that I have ideas for a latest post but often find that those ideas come to mind at the most inopportune time like on my commute to and from work, in the grocery store or while in the pool during my sons Parent-and-Tot swim lessons. If I had the Lifeproof case I could sit there in the pool dictating my most recently blog idea but that is not the situation but the fact is, even that thought is impractical.  I also find that the ideas that arise at times not conducive for putting fingers to keys easily gone from memory in the evenings when I am reading others Tweets and Blogs.  So, I seek advice from those that are able to get those thoughts and ideas shared when they want.

Tomorrow is Genius Day

The students in my class have spent most of the term working at their own pace on their various projects.  Some have made good progress from initial idea, to a plan and recently the product, however, tomorrow our room will be host to Genius Day.  Up until now they have been given an hour here or there every week plus any time the have chosen to put into their projects at home.  Tomorrow, will be much different than previous Genius Time, it will be a day solely dedicated to working on the product of the projects.  I must say that I am anxiously awaiting our day for genius.  For some students, they will continue to develop the products of their ideas while other will take their first leap beyond idea and begin constructing, making, creating, testing, experimenting and more.  I have prepared those who have yet to leap, with the thought in mind that it is better to try and fail than to never try at all.  Because in the end a successful project is one where there is/was evidence of learning during the process and whether they achieve what they set out to achieve as far as their product will not affect the outcome. So here is to tomorrow and an excellent day of inquiry, exploration and creation.

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A Mommy Keelyn Day

My little girl in action.

1B4E - Shivonne Lewis-Young

Today I was home from work with my sick little girl.  She was sick through the night and in the morning when I had to make the decision to send her to school or stay home with her the answer was clear.  Poor little button!  But I’m sure all of you can identify the need to be with your mama when you are feeling that way.  My 6:30am riser slept in until 9:30 and then asked to be relocated to the couch.  She tried to be up a few times but it didn’t last long as she told me she was feeling dizzy.  A few movies later (thank you Netflix) and lots of snuggles she had started to perk up and that’s when I could see the boredom creep in.  A quick Pinterest search later and I found a fast and easy salt dough recipe  ornament that had 3 simple…

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