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#peel21st Blog Hop: A Few of My Favourite Things

Well for most our 2nd #bloghop has come and gone but I share some of my favourite things to go with what several of the others shared earlier in the evening.  Please check out what the others have shared by following the links below my post.

My Favourite Things!

My favourite things are just a few of the gadgets the students @CountrysidePDSB have been getting their hands on this fall.  From tinkering and exploring with the littlebits to learning to code with the Ozobots and Dash there have been hours of fun learning.

Littlebits – tiny electronic boards that magnetically snap together to create circuits that can do just about anything you can imagine.  Students have been explore with some of the kits (SynthKit – DeluxeKit – SpaceKit) and we look forward to exploring more in the new year when we break open the ArduinoCodingKit and the CloudBitKit)

Ozobots – these tiny #bots have produced children who just won’t give up as they attempt to make these little machine do unimaginable manoveurs with a variety of colourful lines and dots.  Of course the kids believe they can some how “code” with their lines an instruction that will tell these little guys to jump but have not realized that they might need a hand from Dash and his launcher to make that jump to the next step.

Dash – Dash admittedly has been quite some fun….at first I took Dash on a tour of the school….knocking on some doors and mooing like a cow or quacking like a duck, I even programmed Dash to ask the Grade 1’s for some Jellybeans from the floor that they were using to create patterns.  But there is some much more that Dash can do with the Apps developed to control him.   We have been exploring Go, Blockly and Path.  Most of our time has been spent with Blockly where the students have learned to visually code with blocks in order to complete challenges that Dash must complete. Some students have simply enjoyed dragging and dropping blocks into the workspace, clicking RUN and watching Dash move about.  In the New Year I hope to venture out to more classes to let them explore the world of coding with Dash as well as putting Dash to work during our Nutrition Break coding camps.

A hopeful gadget for our Coding club is BB-8 from Sphero but I’ll need to do a little reading before I can justify its price tag.  For now I am quite pleased with what Littlebits, Ozobots and Dash have done to give our students some experience with new technologies and coding.

I would be happy to hear what others think.  Don’t forget to read on….

1 Jason Richea
2 Heather Lye
3 Amit Mehrotra
4 Jason Wigmore
5 Melanie Mulcaster
6 Jonathan So
7 Jim Cash
8 Tina Zita
9 Maggie Fay
10 Sapna Gandhi
11 Pam Taylor
12 Gina Loutrianakis

#Peel21st Blog Hop – When Tech and Numeracy Collide

It’s the 3rd #peel21st BlogHop I have had the opportunity to work with many classes this year in a variety of different capacities; support teacher, co-teacher, filling in on that day when there was no supply to cover the class or simply when I had the opportunity to drop in and see what was going on when I heard excitement.

Area/Perimeter and Minecraft with the Grade 3’s (@CSVGrade3) and (@PGsInquires)

The students in these two classes were so enthusiastic about Minecraft and being able to teach their teachers how to build a variety of different structures that in turn their teachers turned that energy into a teaching opportunity.  What I  happened upon was students constructing various structures within their Minecraft world to represent various Areas and Perimeters.  The level of engagement was significant and it was clear that the students had developed a good understanding of the concepts being explored.  The best of all, it was being done using one of the most popular games amongst students.

I did not have the opportunity to take any photos of the students working within Minecraft however, here is some of the non-tech exploration of Math and Minecraft that evolved from the tech.

Math meets Google Earth and The Pyramids

The Grade 8’s @CountrysidePDSB are your typical group of Grade 8 students whatever, that may actually be.  About two weeks prior to a visit in the computer lab they approach their teacher and asked is they could learn about the major empires of the world.  This idea evolved and resulted in the learning about the Egyptians.  Now they’ve likely done this before back in Grade 5 but she went with the idea and great things happened.  Eventually, Tech met Math when she presented them with the following challenge, “Pick 3 of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids. Research their measurements and calculate the volume and the surface area for each.”  I happened to venture into the lab on this day when the group was feverishly researching the dimensions of the ancient structures.  I at first questioned the likelihood of being able to find the data readily available somewhere on the internet or for that matter readily available in some sort of book on our library shelves.  Moments later, the idea came to me, why not explore the pyramids using Google Earth, it would show each in 3-dimensions.  The students continue to plod along with their plan of finding the measurements and using known formulas to solve the challenge at hand.   I pushed my crazy idea of using tech and Google Earth and the result was…

A 3D view of the Great Pyramid of Giza

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Some approximate measurements using the ruler tool and the 2D image.

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The length of one side

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The height of that side

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Look we figured out how to use the ruler tool itself to do the area calculation and the others below.

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Using information that was readily available online at their fingertips along with a basic tool “The ruler” a few members of the group gathered the necessary information and applied previous knowledge of perimeter, area and volume to solve the challenge.  Of course as some of the images show, they figured out how to have the tech-tool solve the challenge for themselves.  All in all a great meeting of tech and math.

The Math of SGTS

SGTS, what’s that?  Sorry, top secret unless it has leaked or you caught one of my prior blog entries.  But in working with our Grade 6 class @CountrysidePDSB and their space inquiry we will be working with various mathematical concepts that will help the group predict where our package may end up, how fast it will get there, how long it will take to recover and.  Of course being able to work this out will be a key component to further mathematical exploration that will focus on data gathered during the testing.  More to come regarding this meet up.  Follow the Twitter feed @SGTS_CSVPS

Hangout with CSVPS 6s and Laura Dawkins

This past week we returned back to school after a much needed break and we prepared for an important meeting with PhD Student Laura Dawkins from the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Exeter.

Today was the day, after a few test “hangouts” we were ready  to chat live with Laura.  The class was excited, the laptop was setup and linked through our Apple TV to the projector.  I put the call through to Laura across the pond in the UK where she took time out of her evening to chat with us about launching a balloon into near-space.

Despite all efforts to ensure an issue free chat, we had choppy video and audio.  Of course, had I not run a few test there would not have been issues.  We kept the connection live and began troubleshooting.  First, was to play with audio and video quality, it was possible that we were maxing out our bandwidth though I couldn’t believe so.  Without repair, I went on to the WiFi connection to the Apple TV and dropped our link to the big visual.  With that our connection instantly improved.  Next time, hard wire the laptop and leave the wireless connection for the Apple TV.

As Julie put it in her blog entry (

“During the chat our students had the opportunity to ask all of their questions, and more.  They spoke professionally and thoughtfully about their topics.  Laura was a great resource and we were so grateful for the time she took to speak with us.”

The group was engaged and attentive, ready for more.  The conversation went on and on.  The kids asked their questions, Laura responded sharing her experience and insight for our students and their project.  I must say that I was afraid that the conversation would end up feeling very scripted because we had prepared ourselves with questions.  But that was not the case and the conversation felt quite fluid with the students interjecting with questions not prepped because the discussion opened itself to their curiosities about the launching of weather balloons and space.

Here is our chat…

After a nearly 40 minute conversation, we had many of the answers we sought to the questions we were asking.  The chat also confirmed much of the initial research we had been conducting about the materials we would need and the knowledge that it would take to accomplish the task of launching a balloon into near-space.

Thank you, Miss Harper and Grade Sixes for let me be a part of your class and leading you down this path of exploration.

Thank you, Laura for taking time out of your personal time to chat with a group of students from Canada

#peel21st Twitter Chat : Learning Spaces in the 21st Century

Last week the word went out to #peel21st followers that we would be holding a chat focusing on “Learning Spaces in the 21st Century”

I was excited to gather some input for evolving some of the empty spaces at Countryside Village and a twitter chat would be an excellent place to acquire this input.  With anticipation Tina, EricaMelanie and I shared a discussion through email about the Q’s that would guide our chat.  The concern, could we distract Teachers from deadlines, due dates and report cards?  I would say that we were successful with an enticing conversation about learning spaces.

The discussion began with introductions and the question…

and so…

along with discussions about comfy furniture with build in charging capabilities, fluid spaces, 3d printers, 1-1 devices, large windows, outdoor spaces….the conversation about 21st century spaces was a buzz.

We then tossed in a poll, 1-1 Computer Labs? Yay or Nay.  Consensus, not really the group participating were split.

And then…


Q3 brought us to…

Lots of discussion focused on promoting, and fostering learning for the sake of learning, self-guided exploration, inquiry, creativity, sharing, authenticity, play, accountability, expectations, learning goals, etc.

and the evening wrapped up with…

and our #peel21st Tweeps shared…

What a great chat.  

It has certainly left my mind a buzz as I consider the direction for my space.  Will it be #makerspace, #fluidcommons or a #mix….I would love your input.

Coding and Computer Science Education Week…A beginning

What a Great Week to Introduce “Coding”!

With the support of many notables (Obama, Bosh, Kutcher, Mayer, Wojcicki) “Computer Science Education Week and Coding” has gained popularity and the push to have children experience it has also grown.

An article posted last May,

Screenshot 2014-12-10 14.37.49 discussed the “coding” movement in education and how the opportunity to experience “it” is important so the current generation of learners are not left with being exposed to something that could open doors in the future.

What is coding?

The CSED group says,

“Computer science is the art of blending human ideas and digital tools to increase our power. Computer scientists work in so many different areas: writing apps for phones, curing diseases, creating animated movies, working on social media, building robots that explore other planets and so much more.”CSED

At Countryside Village Public School we started off simple by participating in “Computer Science Education Week“.  This exposed the children to the basics of computer programming.  Most of the programming was basic visual programming where they learned to give an object instructions to complete a given set of actions.

The following are the APPS and sites the students have the opportunity to explore during our “coding sessions”,


Daisy the Dino – Cost (Free) – iPad Only – Grade(s) – (1 through 3)

Daisy the Dinosaur by Hopscotch Technologies introduces children to basic computer programming. A challenge mode tutorial shows how to make the dinosaur move, jump, shrink and grow using drag and drop instructions. Without explicitly using the terms, it demonstrates looping and conditional programming. But for children playing with this free app, it’s all about making a cute green dinosaur move at your command. In the free play mode, users can design their own programs for Daisy. – More Info

Scratch Jr. – Peel District School Board ITRT Jim Cash shares a introduction to ScratchJr.

Kodable – Cost (Free) – iPad Only – Grade (s) Ages 5 and up

Kodable teaches kids the basics of any programming language in a fun game! Completely self-guided.  Teacher trackable.

Lightbot – Cost (Free Hour of Code Edition) – iPad, Android, Windows, Flash-based on Web – Grade 1+

Lightbot is a programming puzzle game. This means that at its core, it is a puzzle game, but its
game mechanics lend themselves to actually having a one-to-one relationship with
programming concepts.

Hopscotch – Cost (Free) – iPad Only – Grade 3+

Programming made easy.  No typing. No syntax errors. Just drag and drop blocks. Hopscotch is an intuitive, friendly programming interface designed for everyone.

Tynker – Cost (Free) – iPad, Android, Web – Grade 2+

Tynker’s creative computing platform helps children develop computational thinking and programming skills in a fun, intuitive and imaginative way. Our innovative visual programming language, interactive self-paced courses, and game-based programming activities provide an easy introduction to programming, and empower children to innovate and create.

More @

Cargo-bot – Cost (Free) – iPad Only – Grade 2+

A puzzle game where instruction program a robot to move boxes. Cargo-Bot is the first game on the App Store developed using Codea, an iPad app for rapidly creating games and simulations.  It gives students the opportunity to understand that a set of instructions need to be given in order for actions to be performed.

The Sites

Codecademy’s – Hour of Code 

Tynker’s – Hour of Code

Lightbot’s – Hour of Code

MIT’s Scratch – Hour of Code

RoboMind Academy’s – Hour of Code

Our “coding” week was a great success.  More than 30 kids explored computer programming at various levels for nearly 5 hours in total.  It was a great kick start for our “coding club” that will begin in the new year.

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Twitter – Evolved Teacher PD, Teacher Communication Tool

I have always been one to check out everything, or at least sign up for everything I might at one point find useful.  I also have a thing about getting the user name I want.  This was also the situation when in signed up for Twitter back in July of 2010. Screenshot 2014-10-09 10.54.39 Though at that time I was years behind the crowd fleeing Facebook and joining the next evolution of Social Media.  Facebook was always a way to connect with those whom you lost touch with, to revisit ones past and to share with family near and far what was happening in your life.  Rarely was it able to capture what was happening around the globe and present it in a refined concise manner.  Twitter on the other hand was providing people with a means of following what was happening to others 140 characters at a  time.  And this is what drew me to Twitter.  I always found myself online, reading the latest; local, Canadian and global newsworthy stories from a countless number of online sources from my local paper (The Hamilton Spectator) to the CBC and CNN for my global news.  Twitter gave me the ability to bring all of these sources into one tool where I could hear about the stories as they were shared, at least I thought that it would.  What I didn’t realize was that Twitter rolled meaning that as new “Tweets” were shared the old were shoved off.   I was now missing key events that were not being “retweeted” or re-shared.  Twitter was frustrating to say the least.  I had an account, I followed others, but I didn’t get how it worked.  I put Twitter to the side.

A year or so passed and my interest in Twitter resurfaced.  I cannot recall what brought my attention back to the Twitterverse but I can now say that Twitter makes much sense than what it originally did back in July of 2010.  I now get how to find those missed posts, I use my internet browser to access a web-based version when sitting in front of my laptop, I use an app-based version from my phone and find myself following and contributing to the fast-paced 140 character world of Twitter.

Twitter has provided me with an environment for observing, sharing and learning.  As an educator Twitter as provided much for the evolution of my teaching practices.  A typical PD session in past was delivered by an individual or small group to few or many that attended.   They reminded me of the many university lectures that I sat in on, the difference being that most PD occurs over a 1 or 2-hour session and then you are left to take from it what you can and try to work it into your teaching practices.  Twitter has taken the traditional single session PD and evolved it with the allowance for continual connection with the experts.

I have also taken a new approach in the communication front.  The thought is to give our families and community an outside look at what is happening on the inside in the classrooms of their children.  I have been inspired to do so because of colleagues in education who have provide that look inside for my wife and I.  As teachers we would likely have little opportunity to see what is happening inside the classrooms of our daughter and eventually our son.  But with a tool like twitter and educators like @avivaloca and @AllieDoyle8 we were able to catch a glimpse of what our daughter experienced in her first year of school.  WE can’t thank them enough.  So my journey to connect our classrooms and students with the families continues with the goal of building a stronger learning community.

Twitter, it can be a daunting environment, mind-boggling to those unfamiliar, but with a little willingness to take a risk, it can bring great reward. Give it a try.

Notability iOS and OSX – #peel21st blog hop

I jumped at the opportunity to share a favourite tech tool when Tina sent out the Tweet.

Of course my enthusiastic, react before I think attitude got myself signed up to share about a tool that I had yet to consider sharing about.  Problem, of course not, I am also the “What app? What is its name? Ok, I’ll try it type”  Over the next week I thought about the tool that I would write about.  A couple days ago as I was using one of my now go to tools, I finally decided that I would share my experiences with  “Notability“.

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While I have used many note taking apps, Evernote and OneNote to name a couple. Notability has demonstrated versatility within one app and across the Apple platforms that I have yet to find efficient with the others.

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To date I have typically found myself creating notes on my iPhone and them working with them further on my Mac.


First you can link with your Dropbox, Google, Box account for easy backup and access elsewhere.


There is then the flexibility of being able to share via a variety of services both suited for Apple and non-iOS/OSX based devices.


Notes can be created on various different backgrounds or paper styles.  Blank being created for sketching on imported photos, etc.  Graph and lined great for students who have difficulty without or who are trying to create something that needs structure.


Basic features on the iPhone allow text based notes, sketches, photos from the camera or camera roll which then can be annotated as well as audio notes recorded.  I have yet to experience a limit to audio recordings within an individual note.

Overall, I would say that this has been the all-in-one note taking tool that I have been most pleased with.


Check out the other tools from our #peel21st bloggers;

The Night before #TLDWpeel 2014

It’s the night before this years Teaching and Learning in a Digital World Conference #TLDWPeel and I sit here with my laptop in front of me at the island in our kitchen, coffee made, music playing in the background and my wife Shivonne (@SLewisYoung) to my left as we discuss our poster sessions and prepare for the two days ahead.  We certainly find our ourselves in a familiar situation with a little night before the deadline preparation.  For myself, I find the added pressure almost energizing.  Some might say that is the coffee but its Decaf.  Nonetheless, I am again super excited to be sharing some of my experiences over the next two days and I know Shivonne is just as excited to share her experiences.  Shivonne and a colleague will be sharing  their experience with Genius Hour in primary classrooms and I will be sharing my experience with using Social Media in the Intermediate classroom.

Other posters sessions for this years’ #TLDWpeel conference @

When I was asked by a few PDSB colleagues to present at this years’ TLDWpeel conference, the wheel began to turn.  I started a mental list of the various topics that I would be willing to share my experience with but as some may agree mental lists are not always the best if you are expecting to come back and have something to work with, especially days or even weeks later.  High on the list however, was to share about my experience using Social Media with my Grade 7’s,  School-based iPad management, and the others….it was a mental list and I am writing this blog post some three months after submitting my proposal.

I chose to talk about the use of social media in the classroom for a few reasons.  The first being that I have found great benefits as an educator to have come from Social Media tools such as Twitter, Blogs, Storify, Thinglink, Youtube and a ever expanding list that support the learning environment that I am trying to promote as well as my own professional learning.  The second, my students use it so why not take advantage of their prior knowledge, and help them make more of Social Media tools. Another was to help colleagues take advantage of the Social Media tools so many of our students are using and settle the fears they may have about them.

Here is to an excellent conference of sharing and learning.

Coming soon…. (June, a blog post I couldn’t just step away from)

June has been one of those months, when is it not for a teacher? Year-end trips, events, report cards and of course the inevitable look ahead to the summer.  June is certainly not a month to sit back a relax now that the kids in your class have fully-grasped the expectations that you have drilled into them all year.  The fact is it is a month to keep them interested and motivated with their learning, what better time for collaborative inquiry-based learning.  Students love working with their peers and enjoy the opportunity to explore topics freely.  This June has been all about inquiry, collaboration and sharing.  My students just wrapped up an inquiry project on the impacts of a global issue related to the use and/or extraction of natural resources and now are working together as an entire class on a geographic inquiry about a country or region they wanted to know more about.  While it seems chaotic to have 24 Grade 7’s working on one project, it is amazing to see the division of responsibilities, the planning and the following through that is occurring as time ticks.  I have definitely set out my expectations, first to work together to accomplish a goal, two being that they will sharing the findings of their inquiry with my other two classes and a far greater audience using Twitter and other social media like their blogs.  As well, to have them gain a better geographical understanding of a place, make global connections with experts (Hopefully 😉 ) and to enjoy learning.  And to top off the learning, I have surprised my students by stepping in and participating in the inquiry.  What can I say, I love geography and certainly enjoy digging up new information about places I know little about.

On a professional level June has been all about sharing as, Shivonne and I have led a push on Peel’s very own Project184 blog, a place where the Peel District School Board family can share their learning experiences with others within the board and beyond.  Three weeks into the pilot of the #peel21st184 blog we have seen nearly 20 Peel educators share their responses to the question, “What did you learn today?”   The response has been overwhelming, many have expressed their excitement about the project and lots look forward to the 2014-15 edition of the #peel21st184 blog project.  While thinking ahead to next year is probably the last thing of most are doing, we already have put out the Call for Writers ( and are looking for contributors whether it be students, teachers, office managers, or superintendents.  The goal is to have as many PDSB’ers share their experiences, to inspire others.

Working with Google+

Beyond the curricular expectations for this term, the focus was to use social media as a learning tool.

To date we have used #twitter #storify #smore and my students have for the most part enjoyed using these in their view non-learning tools for learning. There are definitely a few typically non-engaged students who have thrived and enjoyed this new opportunity and of course a few that even this opportunity did not light their learning flame.

The most recent journey down social media lane was #Google+. In the realm of social media tools, I would have to say that this is one that just has not caught on with the mainstream social media users. It would however provide us with the flexibility and options to learn how to use social media in an effective way both as learning tool and a tool to help build a positive digital footprint.

The task for my students was to take on the persona of the main character in a fictional book they would be reading. They would share and post as the character as if it were actually themselves. The would build a profile for the character and they would evolve as a person though a fictional one.

The first challenge was to create to Google+ accounts, this went fairly smoothly except that some if my students had the difficulty of creating a profile for a person they knew little about. Books needed to be read and the students were forced to pay particular attention to how their main character was developed by the author so that they could build their profile. This really showed me who recognized the development of the character and who did not.

Of course as they developed their profiles, they would also be posting and sharing what was going on in their lives as if it was them living the events occurring in the book. Both as I and my students did this we found out that it was going to take more time than what we had planned to read our books because as things happened we were pausing to share on Google+. For some of my readers this was difficult while for others who were not my typical readers the breaks provided by the need to post keep them going. I did have a couple who struggled with the idea and so they fell back on traditional methods like journaling as the character.

Overall, I feel that this activity was successful and provided my class an opportunity to see a use for social media beyond the “social”

We will try this again, but in small groups reading one common book and each taking on the roles of different characters where we then interact as those characters online.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this activity.

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