Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bring It Together 2016

Well, we did it!  We presented at our first conference as a team. It was a lot of work to prepare the presentation. However, the preparation allowed us to consolidate our journey so far and focus in on our next steps. We presented on, "Creating Interactive and Innovative Learning Environments that Foster Deep Learning and New Learning Partnerships".

We presented to a smaller audience than anticipated. This really allowed us to connect with attendees. The conversations after the presentation allowed us to exchange ideas with other teachers and form new partnerships. It is very beneficial to hear ideas from outside of our school board as well as to make deeper connections with those in our board. This week, we had a teacher from another school come to see our learning environments and to chat with students about how they can show their learning in different ways.

Twitter has allowed us to connect with people all across the province (and world) who are working on similar ideas. We were inspired by Tina Zita and her "pop up makerspaces" after hearing her speak at Connect 2016. Through Twitter, we arranged a meeting with her during BIT. We were able to sit and brainstorm ideas around makerspaces. Tina was able to share ideas about new technology that we may want to integrate into our teaching.

Attending the BIT conference reinforced for us how important it is to have face to face time with colleagues. The time was rich in allowing us to develop more friendships, deeper partnerships and to have fun in a different context. It's in the small moments of connecting (e.g. having lunch together) that new ideas begin to form. Taking a break from the rigorous pace of the classroom gave our brains space to take in new ideas and get excited again about trying new things.

#fun  #BIT2016  #NewPartnerships  #laughs  #inspired  #FlexibleSeatings  #ocsb
#DeepLearning  #TLLP

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Global Cardboard Challenge 2016

This was our 2nd year participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge. We gathered our grade 2 and 6 students together to watch Caine's Arcade and to provoke discussion and inquiry. Once again Caine's powerful video really inspired our children to create, thinking outside the box using recycled materials and cardboard.

The premise behind the global challenge is "that it gives children an opportunity to collaborate, learn, and build the things they imagine through a simple process called Creative Play. The Challenge lets children explore their interests and passions; teaches critical thinking, resourcefulness, perseverance, teamwork and other 21st century skills; and brings communities together to foster and celebrate child creativity!" (Imagination Foundation)

Students brainstormed ideas and then ideas were grouped together around the natural themes that developed. Groups then had to make a plan using Google drawings to design their idea. Students were grouped as best as we could with at least one grade 6 student in a group. Some groups were solely grade 6 and some were solely grade 2. We noticed that this year, our grade 6 and 2 students naturally created their own groups as opposed to last year where the groupings were more teacher directed.

This year we decided to do the challenge in the gymnasium as opposed to our learning space because we wanted to have the maximum amount of space to create. So on the day of our cardboard challenge event, our gym was covered in cardboard. Our thoughts on the day: students were engaged for more than an hour in their design by going back and making changes to their plans/designs. Students really wanted to try out each other's creations and recognized how many ideas were represented.

Check out the link for a recap of our day BER Cardboard Challenge Day

As we unbury ourselves from the amount of cardboard we look back we fully recognize the amount of work that goes into a hosting a day like this. From gathering the required amount of cardboard, to storing the cardboard, moving it from classrooms to the gym, and the final deconstruction and recycling of materials.

Ideally these creations would be able to be celebrated and shared with a local audience (the school) but due to space issues (the gym converts to a daycare) we had no choice but to dismantle and recycle. This presented a new challenge, especially to the grade 2 students that could not bring them on the bus due to policy, students had a hard time saying goodbye to their creations. We created a movie for students to watch of all of their creations as a way to celebrate and admire all of their creations.

Even with the challenges we experienced, we see the day so valuable and will definitely be hosting our 3rd annual challenge next year. It's possible because of the collaboration and support we have as a team of 3. The opportunity for creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication and to share our work globally outweighs the drawbacks of hosting such an event.

We thank all those who have read our blog and have shared comments with us. Keep them gives us reason to write!

A. Eaton, P. Roche, A. Porcari

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


We had our first funded planning day and our goal was to create curriculum links and activities to go with our robots. It was a little overwhelming to play with all our robots all at once so we decided to begin by focusing our attention on one robot -DASH it was!

Through pins, tweets and blogs we began to explore different tasks and ideas that would connect Dash to our curriculum. We quickly found ourselves
excited about how much was already out there. From fashionista to snow plows- DASH can become anything!

We worked through the ideas and re-created task cards with open ended challenges that would engage and allow students to meet the challenge in a variety of ways. Our morning quickly flew by as we created our bank of rich tasks.

We switched gears in the afternoon and collaborated and consulted with Dr. Jennifer Flynn (Board Consultant-Student Success). Jennifer had already been developing curriculum links in math, science and language for makerspaces. We discussed some of the global competencies that students would naturally develop through the makerspace movement- collaboration, creativity and innovation, communication, and critical thinking,  Our enthusiasm and excitement grew now that we were able to generate ideas as collaborative partners. Together we shared the resources we have developed so far and discussed next steps.  Once we have finished refining these tools, we will happily share these here.

We also outlined our plan to begin creating a shared mindset around deep learning and the makerspace movement. Our next step is to have release days for our french partners to come into our classroom, with our students, and experience how the robots work. As a follow up, our partners would create french task cards related to french and social studies.

A. Eaton, P. Roche, A. Porcari

Sunday, October 2, 2016


As we take on the innovator’s mindset, our lens on many activities has changed.

To get our Grade 2s started on making and creating this year, we introduced some low-tech lego challenges. The challenge cards had a variety of tasks (e.g. Can you make a flower? Can you make a lego man that flies?). Task cards were put in a bag and partners drew cards out randomly to complete. Student engagement was really high. Part way through the block, one set of partners had written three of their own challenge cards to add to the bag.

Even though some groups got the same challenge, no two groups created the same thing to meet a challenge card. What hooks me on these types of activities is how much you can learn about a student. Watching students create and work through problems (“Our tree kept falling over. The top was too heavy. We had to make the bottom stronger. It took a lot of tries!”) gives great insight into their creative thinking and their grit. Some students have good collaboration skills. Others need coaching on how to work with a partner. We definitely saw the global competencies in action.

One of the things that you strive for most as a teacher is for students to be excited about learning and positive about coming to school. Students entering the classroom the next morning asked, “Are we doing lego challenges again?”

Building on the enthusiasm of the Lego challenges, the grade 2s got together with the grade 6s in our Learning Commons to meet some robotic friends. Our newly organized Tech carts with Dot and Dash, Sphero, cubelets, and makey makey (Lego robots too) had been explored by the grade 6s . Now, the grade 6s were excited to introduce them to the grade 2s.

Natural curiosity was at the fore and the excitement was palpable in the room. Sphero kept hiding in corners and Dash was eliciting a lot of giggles as he/she spun about and spoke robot gibberish!  

One grade 2 student demonstrated perseverance and focus as he
worked diligently to build an mBot with his (patient) grade 6 partner.

The makey makey teams had some challenges and learned that plasticine was not as good a conductor as playdoh. Not all the technology worked right away and some frustration was obvious, but trial and error, perseverance and grit led to new learning. This experience let us see the strengths of many of our students through a new set of challenges early in the school year.

We have started this leading and learning journey as three teachers with our students and as George Couros says, “Innovation is not about the stuff, it is a way of thinking.”  We’re in this together!

A. Eaton and T. Roche

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Oh Where to Begin...

As the challenges of a new school year have begun, I find myself already about to embark on my 3rd week of school and wondering where the time has gone. The excitement looms in the air of what the new week will bring. My partners and I have met numerous times already to discuss our plan to roll out our TLLP. As we sit and share some planning time, we get quickly consumed with amazing ideas of things we want to do but have yet to start because time just seems to consume us.

Important to note, I am a grade 6 teacher and my partners are both grade 2 teachers. As we sit with excitement as to where to begin we often find ourselves at a stumbling block. Our most recent planning time involved us wanting to sit and write our first blog post together, but quickly our excitement turned to what we want to accomplish with our students and how, only to be stopped by the bell and back to class. We mutually agreed that I would be the guinea pig and roll out some of our robotics with the "BIG kids first and see how that goes..LOL..  In the next few paragraphs I will explain my experience from the past week.

SO the carts and all materials arrived in late June, and as the year wrapped up, it was important that
we stored all our treasures in a safe place over the summer. As soon as we had finished the finishing touches in our classroom, we found ourselves unpacking all the goodies from dash and dot, to sphero's, circuits, makey makey's and more... If felt like Christmas morning! As I rolled the cart into my room, I didn't know quite where to start. So it sat..and sat..So week two of school approached and I was itching to get my hands on some of those was I going to do this? I didn't know much about some of the tools other than to see them at various conferences or read about them on twitter..and now I had them right in front of me.  How was I going to teach my students how to use these gadgets when I didn't even know how to? Do I let them just explore? What was my purpose? Tons of questions running through my head!

So I took the plunge..last week I sat with a group of 19 students and we decided we were just going to learn from each other so out came the Cubelets, Sphero and the makey makey. Students were
assigned into group and placed with the robotic or tool they wanted to try most. Off they went!

If I could capture the excitement in the classroom with a single photo I would! For some that excitement was short lived, (but I will get to that in a moment).

After a few glitches with getting the sphero synced with our iPad, students were in the hallway chasing our principal with the sph
ero. In the classroom, some students were beginning to feel the frustration of having to work in a group and really understand the meaning of collaboration. For some groups, it was all hands on deck and students were sharing ideas of how to get things to move and ideas were met with respect. While others were quickly getting anxious and frustrated that others were not sharing some of the devices or listening to ideas. The week prior to this roll out, I sat down with my group of 19 students and we participated in numerous engineering challenges. We had a discussion about the challenges that this brought from working as a team, to listening to other's ideas, to having a growth mindset. Although the excitement on the faces of my students far outweighed the glitches, it did make me wonder and question what had changed from the previous week. As the time passed and it was time to put things away I sat with my class and I discussed the skills I was proud to see developing and a discussion about next steps- some things we still need to work on. I think we have just scratched the surface of some of these cool tools and can't wait to share with you some more tools as we begin to explore.

Stay tuned!
A. Porcari