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Google Forms and Calendar Training Session

I have offered to help with the Google Docs Intermediate Session by focusing a little bit on Google Forms and Google Calendar.

The following is a great resource for Google Forms made via crowdsourcing and found on educator Tom Barrett‘s website EdTech: 74 Interesting ways to use Google Forms in the Classroom.

For Google Calendar, here is a  video tutorial for Embedding your Google Calendar in your Moodle Page.

And here is a tutorial for syncing your Google Calendar with Outlook.

 

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My Literate Life

For my Reading Pt. 1 Course, I have been asked to reflect on my life as a reader.  I thought I’d share my thoughts here.

My Experiences as a Reader

Early Childhood

From what my mother tells me, my early reading life consisted of us reciting nursery rhymes and singing together.  I remember having books of Fairy Tales with illustrations that were both beautiful and terrifying.  My other early memories center more around classic children’s television programming more than books.

Elementary School

I attended a French Immersion school, so my primary school books were ‘Dimoitou et ses amis’, and Robert Munch translated into French.
My interest in books blossomed slowly and really bloomed when my mother took my brother and I to our public library.  I was introduced to Dr. Seuss and other books that I would borrow again and again.  I was fond of rhyming and repetition and rereading.

Books gradually became an escape for me in my junior and intermediate years.  I was always very heavily into television, so when I was told to turn off the TV, I would escape into some Babysitter Club, RL Stein, or Christopher Pike book and later any Caroline B. Cooney book that I could get my hands on.  I attribute my becoming a voracious reader to Archie comics and Babysitter Club books.  Although I attempted a few classics when I was stranded at my Grandparent’s house, I wasn’t really ready and ended up quickly abandoning many of them.  I did enjoy the adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, and fell in love with Alice in Wonderland, but wouldn’t read another acclaimed children’s classic until much later.  My love of television got me hooked on another form of comic book as Japanese animation became popular. Through this medium I discovered Manga (Japanese style comic books) and began a collection of Heroine-centred and fantasy themed manga books.

High School

Starting high school, I continued to read for pleasure to avoid doing homework when there was nothing of interest on TV or my parents thought I’d watched enough for the day.  My feelings about the required reading in my high school English classes depended half on the book itself and half on the teacher’s personality and style of teaching.  I had very little patience for the ‘read a chapter then answer these questions’ method of reading instruction.  Now as an afterthought I find it really strange that we read so many plays in English class, but never acted any out.  Some notable books we read in High School included Romeo & Juliet and Brave New World.  I continued with French Emerson, so we had twice as many novels and pieces of literature to study.  I really enjoyed reading Le pont sur la rivier Kwai, (The Bridge on the River Kwai) in French, but I couldn’t help noticing the books we read in French class were far racier with themes of sexuality and explicit language.  On top of the required reading in high school I discovered Harry Potter series quite by accident.  Like everyone before and after me, I instantly got swept into the world of Hogwarts.

Post-Secondary

In University, I continued my study of foreign languages by majoring in Spanish language and literature.  This opened up yet another world of books.  I fell in love with the short plays by Paloma Pedrero, the movies of Pedro Almodovar and books such as Bajarse al moro.
One summer I took a Children’s literature class as an elective and was blown away by all the classics I had either abandoned or hadn’t even interested me as a child.  I was introduced to Watership Down which holds a strong position among my favorite books of all time.  This was one of the best courses I took in University and the diversity of books I was exposed to was truly outstanding.
In teacher’s college and my first years of teaching, I am thankful to have been introduced to so many great children’s authors and the power of picture books in particular.

Adult Life

Nowadays I am extremely thankful for technology, because it has really revolutionised how I read and what I read.  Because I’m living and teaching overseas, I don’t have very easy access to books in English and colleagues who share the same practices and resources as the ones I left in Ontario.  I keep up do date via on-line resources and blogs related to Young Adult and Children’s literature.  I get ideas for professional resources and non-fiction reads via renowned teaching blogs and websites.  I can carry my library with me on my Kindle and I can listen to audio books while doing the dishes or laundry.
Right now I am very into Young Adult and Adult Fantasy and Futuristic Distopian Genres.  Books by Megan Whalen Turner, Kristen Cashore, Melina Marchetta, Susanne Collins, and George R.R. Martin are some recent favorites.

How these Experiences Influence the Way I Teach Reading

The reading experiences I have had over the years have made me realise that readers develop at their own pace.  Independent of all curriculum and other mandated documents, I try to teach both students and their parents that reading is a very personal endeavour.  It’s ok to abandon books, to ‘get stuck in a rut’ of a particular genre or author, to reread and to read electronically or with your ears (audio books).  I try to provide my students with different media, such as pictures, articles, and movies to help enrich the reading experience and I do my best to expose them to different forms of reading material such as books, magazines, manuals, websites, audiobooks, comic books, manga, etc.  I also try to read a lot of books at the appropriate age level of my students and keep up to date with new authors and trends.  I am therefore able to recommend and discuss reading material with my students.  My goal is to help students find the joy in reading for pleasure any way I can.


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Lower School PE Infographic

I have gotten a few compliments on my lower school infographic that serves to inform parents and other members of our school community what they need to know about PE at ISH.

I decided to introduce my subject area this way because at the beginning of the school year parents are bombarded with information; and I wanted to give them something not only useful but also visually appealing, easy to understand and memorable.

I also like to think it’s helpful to the non-native English speakers in our community.  Check it out.

 

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Professional Goals for the 2011-2012 School Year

Last week I sat down with my supervising principals and together we set my professional goals for the 2011-2012 school year.

I have two goals that I will be focusing on this year:

1. Assessment in the MYP

I have already fired up the OCC website and the ECIS PE conference 2011 website, all in an effort to use resources that are already out there for creating engaging and meaningful MYP units and assessments.

I am also hoping that by using Facebook as a class management tool I will be able to come up with some creative and exciting assessments using current and relevant media.

2. Conference Leadership

I am attending two conferences this year, a PE in the PYP conference, and the annual ECIS PE conference.

I hope to be a leader in my department, by bringing back and sharing what I learn with my colleagues after the PYP conference.  I will try to come up with a unique way to present what I’ve learned without taking up too much of my colleague’s time, (or boring him to death).

The ECIS PE conference is my real professional development.  We hosted the conference last year and it was an incredible experience.  I felt like a real leader in the International PE community while hosting and while presenting.  I plan to present again at this year’s conference.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish this year.


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The Power of Skype

Up until this point I have used Skype to stay in touch with my family these past two years I’ve been overseas.  I also wrote about having used Skype in the classroom to connect to other students around the world.

I know that it is just a tool, but today I truly witnessed the power of Skype.  Yes, it can help us stay in touch with family and friends; yes, it has educational benefits; but it can potentially have profound emotional value as well.

You see, today I attended my Grandfather’s Funeral via Skype.

My Grandfather died on Tuesday.  This was expected and for the best.  He had Parkinson’s and dementia and his quality of life was deteriorating daily.  But my Grandfather was a kind man and he was loved by many, so it was very sad to lose him.

This past weekend my Mother told me that they were taking him off his medications and were letting nature take it’s course, making sure he was comfortable and felt no pain.  During our weekly Skype call she prepared me for the worst and told me the Doctors said it was just a matter of days.

It’s been a hard week.  I felt helpless and isolated, so far from my family.  I couldn’t help my Mom with all the arrangements, I couldn’t give my Grandma a hug to comfort her, I couldn’t say my last goodbyes while I held my Grandpa’s hand.

This was the first time in two years that I felt true frustration at being separated from my family.

I did what I could do from here.  I Skyped with my Mother daily for updates, and we emailed back and forth. I called my Grandma the ‘old fashioned’ way because her nursing home didn’t have a wireless connection my Mom could connect to her laptop.  I had Mom put the phone to Grandpa’s ear so I could tell him I love him and miss him.  He couldn’t speak anymore at this point but the nurses say he could hear my voice.  I sent flowers.

When Grandpa finally did pass away I offered to represent the grandchildren and write something to say at the service.  I tried to think of a creative way to do that from across the ocean.  I didn’t like the idea of someone else reading my words – I wanted them to be just right.  I decided on a podcast. It was so easy using drop.io.  (I got the idea from Richard Byrnes’s post on podcasting, I already used drop.io but it was my first time using the ‘voice mail’ feature.)

All this still didn’t feel like enough.  I apologised to my Mom again and again for not being there to help and support the family.  We talked about how I could be ‘present’ at the service.  (My Mother preferred the term ‘Celebration of Life’ rather than funeral.)  She decided to check out the wireless connection at the funeral home to see if it was possible for me to attend the service by Skyping in on her laptop.

So, as it turns out, today I spent nearly two hours on Skype, being passed around from family member to family member before the service, waving at distant relatives, ‘sitting’ between my Mom and Dad in the front row so I had a good ‘view’ of the proceedings that followed.

It was the next best thing to actually being there.  I could not only hear all the familiar voices, but I could see all the familiar faces too!  I could hear the sniffles and sobs during the prayers, the laughter and the murmurs of agreements during the eulogies.  My own short podcast eulogy was played from my brother’s iphone which he had hooked up to the main sound system.

Today I was able to have an emotional connection with my family and take part in a ceremony that a few years ago I wouldn’t have been able, simply because of geography.  I understand that Skype is just the tool I used and that the real reason I had this opportunity is my Mother’s deep desire for me to be present and involved, a funeral home in rural Ontario actually having a wireless connection good enough to support the video call, and my brother taking ownership to test and make sure everything worked.

Skype was just the tool, but I can’t think of another tool that is free or as easy to use.  Skype enabled me to be present and involved in my Grandfather’s Funeral.  I was able to support and comfort my family.  The peace of mind given to me by being able to make this emotional connection has been a priceless gift.

Thank you Skype.