Mt Everest, Skype and SE2R

I was asked to plan a series of lessons for a Science 9 Applied class using the curriculum expectation  B3.5  which states “identify some factors related to human activity that have an impact on ecosystems.”

I did an internet search on this topic and found many ideas related to climate change. I believe that students are inundated with this topic in class, so I started looking for a different angle.

I remembered an article that I read about the human impact on Mount Everest and thought this might be the best way to approach this topic. I located several youtube videos showing how the climbers were changing the mountain. I showed these to the class and we discussed the impacts on the ecosystem. I also located 4-5 one page articles on Mount Everest at different reading levels. With the classroom teacher’s help, I assigned one article to each student that met their reading level as best as we could.

After watching a presentation by Leigh Cassell on her project the Digital Human Library I went in search of a speaker who had climbed Mount Everest. This was something that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. I have never done a web presentation like this before, I’m not good at approaching people I don’t know,  and I don’t really like asking for favors from people, but I really wanted to provide this opportunity to my students.

I did a Google search looking for Canadians who had climb Mt Everest. I found a few names and contacted them through their websites requesting a presentation.

IMG_2728Eventually, I connected with Sandra Leduc who climbed Mt Everest in 2012. She was very open to the idea of Skyping with my class. I emailed her about the focus of the lesson and she planned her talk around that idea. She even left work early so she could talk to us in a quiet space and without interruption. Ten minutes before we were to start I was still struggling to get Skype to work. Finally I went into the main part of the library at my school and asked if anyone knew how to Skype. One student came over right away, clicked on one button and we were ready to go.This was all new to me.

Sandra’s presentation kept us all engrossed for an hour and then students were able to ask her specific questions about her climb. It was the highlight of my semester.

Students then wrote an article discussing the three main ways humans impact the ecosystem on Mount Everest. Pictures, graphs, etc were to be included in their final work.This article along with the videos, and our skype talk were the basis of their research. The articles were written using Google Docs and shared with me. I read their work each evening and made comments along the way.

I’ve recently read Assessment 3.0 by Mark Barnes.  I particularly liked Chapter 3 where he discusses his assessment method called SE2R which stands for Summarize, Explain, Redirect, Resubmit.

Here is an example of what I gave students after I assessed their work.

Summarize: You wrote a blog post on the human impact on Mt Everest.

Explain: You clearly identified 3 specific impacts on Mt Everest. Why is all this garbage left behind? Why is the waste entering the water system a problem now? Why is it unsafe to remove bodies? Is this true for the whole mountain or only some areas? I don’t think it is warming enough for the bodies to slide down but the warming does cause other problems.

You offered 1 solution for each of the problems. Please expand on these ideas. How might everyone going to the bathroom in the same space cause problems?

Redirect: Please return to the post and explain the human impact on Everest  and explain the human impacts in more detail.  Also give more details to your solutions.

Resubmit: When you are finished, please send me an email ( and let me know that you have made these changes and I will look at your work again.

I then gave each student their suggestions for the article. Students were given a few days to use my suggestions to improve their work. I was available for one-on-one discussion when requested.  In the end, I did assign a grade to the work, but students did not see this until after the re-submit time was up.
Overall, this lesson incorporated several new aspects for me which included contacting people to talk to my class, Skyping, and a new assessment system. Moving out of my comfort zone was necessary to my learning and my students’ learning.

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When I was at the BringItTogether conference in November, I purchased Dash, a fun robot targeted for elementary schools.

dash1Now I teach in a secondary school so why did I buy a product for younger students?

Well, some of my best professional development has been with elementary school teachers. I believe that if it works for the younger grades, then it should work for secondary schools.

So I bought Dash. He comes with several programs that work on ipads/iphones. The link above gives an explanation on each of the apps. I drove him down the hallway and into classrooms. Students would always come over and look at the ipad and ask me questions. I really enjoyed the look of shock when I asked if they wanted to try as I handed them the ipad. Off they went crashing Dash into things and making all kinds of noise. Soon I had students showing up in the library asking if they could play with Dash. This was great way for high school students to play but no coding was happening.

Several weeks later, I was driving my son and his team mate to their basketball practice. We had a discussion about what was going on at their different schools. I found out that his school had 10 Dashes that day.

I started thinking about how I could use multiple Dashes to teach coding. My thought was to offer one class a chance to use Dash in small groups including doing some coding. I emailed my board contact to find out just how many Dash were around. While I was waiting for an answer to my question, I went to see a teacher about using her class to teach some coding. I was luck enough to have built a good relationship with this teacher who said right away.

I found out that I could borrow 8 Dash from the board. It was also suggested that I connect it with the Hour of Code that was the same week. This is where things got a little crazy. I had 9 Dash for 3 days. Somehow sharing with only one class seemed like a waste of resources. So I went back to the teacher at my school and asked if I could take over her other 2 classes as well  for 3 days.

I should mention now that I had avoided anything to do with coding up to now. It just felt like too much for me to take on with all of my other responsibilities.

However, the planning for the day was easy using resources from the Hour of Code and from the Dash websites. I just followed the instructions soon found myself coding Flappy Birds, Star Wars and Dash. This was certainly just an introduction to coding and I was no expert but I had just enough knowledge to get started.

On the big day, I asked each class if any of the students knew how to code and became instant best friends with them. The days were crazy busy and fun as each class figured out how to code. I even had the Dash out at lunch for students not in the classes to play.

Take aways from the three days:


  • three full days is too much for one person!
  • the grade 11 class played with Dash far longer than the grade 9 class. They even asked for a ball to play soccer!
  • anyone can code.
  • since most students are not in a computer class, they need this opportunity to learn coding.
  • it’s was a great way for me  to connect to students that may not normally come into the library.
  • it was just plain fun.
  • don’t let your lack of experience in an area stop students from having the opportunity to learn something new.




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The Ontario Library Association held its annual Super Conference in January 2016. The conference includes all kinds of librarians from universities, hospitals, public libraries, and teacher librarians.

This was the first time I attended the conference in 5 years. It felt good to be back amongst my library people.

Back in the spring, I was meeting with two colleagues to discuss makerspaces in high school libraries. The call for presenters for this conference had just opened and we tossed around the idea of putting something together. Eventually Pam Jeffrey and I decided to present on our journey into makerspaces.

Makerspaces are connected to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). This idea combines these different areas to get students using the inquiry process to make different things. Sometimes students are successful and sometimes they are not. Getting IMG_2890students and staff to buy into this concept has been interesting. Makerspaces are more than crafts. It includes crafts, robots, building, taking things apart, woodworking, machines, etc.

So, Pam and I with help and support from Melissa Jensen sent in a proposal for our presentation. It was accepted in June.

In the fall, I started offering maker activities in the library. It was a slow go, with me often going around the library at lunch trying to get students to buy in. I found out that I really had to promote any idea I had.

I kept saying to people that I hadn’t done much related to the Makerspace, when in fact I have done a number of small activities. For example, I finally taught myself how to use the Makey Makey Classic which was far easier than I thought. I set up two computers with Makey Makey boards at lunch. On one, students could play Tetris and the other computer students could play the piano. I watched students walk by without even looking at the computers or the the oranges on the table. I went over to the computer, turned the volume up all the way, and started playing on the piano. As soon as I started making noise, students came over to see what was going on. Suddenly I had a crowd of teenagers trying to remember songs from long ago piano lessons.


I have also offered duct tape wallets which then moved on to bags, origami, lego building, colouring for exam stress relief, and soon to try paracord bracelets, plastic cup stacking, and knitting.


For curriculum connections, a grade 9 science class attempted to build a new space gloves with the few materials that I provided. Students were then tested on how well they could pick up dominoes and set them on edge, text a message to a friend, and pick up and move popsicle sticks.


The slide presentation for our workshop at OLA SuperConference.

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After going to a conference in 2010, I decided to start a blog. I did a few scattered posts but I’m not great at self promotion and few people saw what I was writing. So, I stopped.

About a week ago, I read Resources on Blogs as Digital Portfolios by George Couros. I have been trying to wrap my head around digital portfolios but just couldn’t figure out what it would look like.

I read Couros’ post on this and went through the links he provided. I spent a couple of days thinking about it and decided to give it a try. As the tech coach at my school, I offered to help grade 12 teachers to set this up with their class and to help with any problems or issues that arise.

I looked into WordPress and Weebly as two blogging platforms that might work Then I remembered that I had started a blog a few years ago with wordpress. I reset my password and located my blog. As I read through the few posts I made, I realized that this is the digital portfolio that I was looking for.

I have one teacher signed up and plan to do some one-on-one promotion tomorrow at school and plan to drum up some more business with face to face discussions.


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#scmindson !

I am at the Simcoe County Minds on Media day. It is amazing to see all this people learning about technology and trying out new things.
What a great way to do PD — hands on just like our students
See for all the different things going on!

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Literacy Bags in Secondary Schools

So this week I will present on using Literacy Bags in Secondary Schools. This is a very neat idea that I took from my sons’ kindergarten teacher.

It all starts with a good picture book. The book is used as the way to get students to practice literacy strategies. I have tried to keep, clear, straight forward instructions that can be finished within a 75 minute period.

Here are a couple of pictures of what is inside each literacy bag.

Here is a copy of my presentation with the links to resources and to me. Literacy Bags in Secondary Schools

I would love to get a conversation going about teaching literacy in high schools. What do you think?

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Powerpoint Hell

I am the first to groan when I go to a professional development session and see a powerpoint full of bullets and words. And don’t even get me going on those presenters who like to read every word to you while telling you they aren’t going to read from the slides!

So when I started to plan my presentation for the upcoming Ontario Library Association Superconference, I did not want to use powerpoint for my visuals. I checked out Voicethreads ( which I love to use with my students. But it wasn’t right for this topic. Next I tried Prezi ( but I kept getting nauseous by the movements to each topic.

So I fell back on a powerpoint presentation. I have read several books about how to use powerpoint effectively. Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds is still one of my favorites. Using his principles of simple and clean slides, I put together my presentation. Making a powerpoint this way requires far more organization before you start on the slides than if you fill them with bullets and words.

After producing a detailed topic outline, I carefully hunted down photographs that would fit with each section. Then I had to play with the size of the photos to make them fit each slide. Most importantly I recorded reference information for each photograh used.

I am quite proud that this powerpoint does not include any bullets, minimal words per slide and large pictures that will guide me when giving the presentation. Now I am just down to the practicing what I want to say and picking out the books I want to bring with me.

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