Farewell to Our Forever Dog

Two weeks ago I typed this:

I am still shocked. A month ago I would have never guessed the smallest symptom would actually be the clue to the most heart wrenching diagnosis for our dog. Our lovely Rudie, despite the best care at the Western Veterinary Centre and the huge love of her owners and her massive extended fan club, was not going to be able to overcome this challenge in the way we so wished. What followed was the decision that our heads knew was the very best, most loving, most humane act but our hearts were screaming “No, not now, not yet, not ever!” She and I spent every day together this year, side by side, as I navigated through my full-time course load at grad school. She stayed up until 3 am with me (she did the sleeping for both of us), nudged at my elbow when it was time for some fresh air and a walk, listened to endless hours of editing read aloud, dodged flying wads of Kleenex as I cried with the fear I couldn’t do the work, and above all she was there for me and with me…tirelessly, reliably, lovingly, loyally. Just as she always had been for my husband her entire 12 years of life and for me for the 6 years since I joined their pack. We were a family.

Photo by Flare Photography

I am so terribly sad. Without her the house is deafeningly quiet. It feels like a vacuum is continually sucking something out. This version of quiet is so loud my ears ache. Rudie was a quiet, well mannered, easy going girl…anything but noisy. But her beautiful presence filled up this home in a way I did not fully realize when she was here. So it is not a noise that is missing, it is a presence that is absent. It makes my heart ache.

In the days and weeks following our farewell I realize there are a million crummy firsts. I am trying to reframe these as a million special reminders showing me how embedded Rudie was in even the tiniest moments of every single day. The first time I mowed the lawn without having to throw a tennis ball so carefully laid in my path. The first morning not giving her a big belly rub before letting her outside. The first thunderstorm during which she did not need to be reassured and comforted. The first load of groceries I brought into the house which weren’t thoroughly inspected by that awesome lab nose. The first walk through the neighbourhood without her by my side. The firsts are seemingly endless right now and they are such a glaring reminder of her absence but also of the magnitude of her presence while she was here. I believe our hearts are forever changed by the love we share with a pet. A part of us that would otherwise not bubble to the surface is released through this relationship. I know it hurts so much right now because the time together was so fantastic. Big love means the potential for big loss. However, I would not trade the love to spare me the loss. I would never sacrifice the fun, the silliness, the adventures, the connection, the companionship, the joy just to ensure I didn’t one day feel the way I feel right now. The love far out weighs the loss, and one day in the future the love will also eclipse this loss. But in this moment the hurt takes my breath away.

In a year in which the themes of my learning have been openness, sharing, community, connections, and the power of stories I thought it was fitting to share the beautiful lessons I learned from our Rudie dog.

Life Lessons from My Dog

  • Greet everyone
  • Stick together
  • Do what you love
  • Be in the moment
  • There is always room to add to the pack
  • Don’t be shy to show your enthusiasm and passion
  • Smile often
  • Be loyal to your people
  • Love and live large
  • A positive attitude never lets you down
  • Be open—to new people, new experiences, new places, new adventures
  • Fresh air and a good walk always put life into perspective
  • Forgive and forget (Thanks, Jeff!)
  • Never miss the chance to nap (Thanks, Sarah!)
  • Always eat more than one cookie in a sitting (Thanks again, Sarah!)
  • Don’t judge (Thanks, Lindsay!)
  • Go as hard as you can for as long as you can (Thanks, Norm and Marilyn!)
  • Kisses are for everyone (Thank you, Stephen and Murphy!)
  • It’s okay to lie down in any place, at any time (Thanks again, Stephen and Murphy!)

The love is deep, the memories are beautiful, and I am forever grateful. Farewell sweet girl…until we meet again. xo

I wonder: What lessons would you add to this list that you have learned from your pet?

For the Love of Learning

Classroom Sign: The Mess by KTVee, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Photo by  KTVee 

And just like that 8 weeks have passed since my last blog post! The magic of grad school…time dissolves while you are pouring brain cells, sweat, tears, and late, late nights into learning. My third term at the U of S has just wrapped up and in reflection I would have to say: ‎40 boxes of Kleenexes later, sleep deprived, serious lack of vitamin D, questionable loss of sanity, blurred eyesight, overloaded on caffeine, neglected dog and husband, house in disarray, random joint pain…it is all worth it! Without hesitation, I believe this to my core.

When I think about all of my learning experiences over the past three months I am staggered. It almost feels like an out of body experience not merely because I wonder how I got through it all (although I am curious how that happened!) but at a deeper level I did not think it was possible to learn so much and on so many levels. Through my coursework I have been deeply challenged, inspired, pushed, surprised, reaffirmed, and rejuvenated. I continue to experience on a profound level what it feels like to learn through inquiry and through authentic experiences. My learning has been interconnected, uncomfortable at times, messy, difficult, urgent, unpredictable, relevant, and eye opening. I love the struggle and the effort of this learning. I love the moments when epiphanies hit, my perspectives shift or an awareness settles in as I realize I have not simply learned something, I have been changed by the learning. As my studies continue so does the degree to which I am changed as a learner, a teacher, and as a person.

David Jakes on Change 2 by datruss, on Flickr
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As a learner I have discovered on a deeper level how to: wrestle with ideas and problems, persevere beyond what I believed possible, push back and be pushed back upon, connect with others to propel my learning in multi-directions, and be resourceful when the solutions are nowhere near obvious. I continue to be inspired by educators who think outside the box while supporting and encouraging others to do the same. I am a self-declared nerd so I am comfortable in saying I am in awe of what our brains can do when pushed to create, connect, wonder, and stretch. I am yet again reminded how good it feels for my brain to form those new connections and realizations; how good it feels to think in new ways, add new dimensions onto the lens through which I see, and come to a deeper level of understanding that gives me that “wow” feeling. It makes me think so much about my own students and it renews my commitment to facilitate their “wow” moments. I believe it is those moments that reel us in and create life-long learners; learners who have a thirst for more and who want to get messy and wild in their learning.

Anyone who stops learning is old by klbeasley, on Flickr
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As a teacher I have been further inspired to seek out authentic, rich experiences for learning. I am reaffirmed in the value of inquiry and the importance of students living the process of learning…realizing it is mucky and tough but at the same time discovering their ability to work through it, and the strength that is gained though collaboration and connections. The value of relationships continues to come through loud and clear for me. Relationships are truly at the heart of all that we do. I have come to realize that relationships and connections take many forms and they do not need to be face-to-face to have depth, meaning, and impact. I now clearly see that one of my roles as a teacher is to support my students in making genuine connections beyond their classroom and school walls. They need to interact and engage with people who have many different experiences, ideas, perspectives, and passions. We are changed by the people we connect with and my students deserve to know this lesson far sooner than I did.

Let Them Fly by KTVee, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Photo by  KTVee 

As a person I have become more confident in my ability to express my thinking, more brave in my ruckus making, more thoughtful in my opinions, and more grounded in my beliefs about teaching and learning. I was reminded on an extreme level that I can use my  perfectionism to be productive, however wrangling it when I am overwhelmed is like riding a wild bull. And I was indeed bucked off more than once this term. I have lived knowledge of the power of a network and how their support makes anything possible. I have learned that I have to trust my gut and my instincts. This is not a new lesson for me, but each time I am faced with it I think it resonates deeper. It is a lesson that is not to be learned in one shot, I need to put myself out there repeatedly to learn how to trust myself.

Think Different by KTVee, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Photo by  KTVee 

I have more specifics to share about my learning in relation to instructional design and my Master’s project but it has to wait. Tomorrow I am hitting the road in hope of giving these braincells some time to regroup for the Spring term…my last term of my Master’s program.

So I am leaving this view…

A lovely and talented MacBook... by fd, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License Photo by  fd 

For this view:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I will definitely learn about Brazil while I am there but more importantly I will learn all the lovely and amazing things a four year old niece and a 2 year old nephew have to teach their “Auntie Tan”. These will be lessons of the heart and spirit, and I cannot wait!

Inspirational Gems

Any colour you like.... by Rushing Mania, on Flickr
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Goal 5 for the 30 Goals Challenge is to share sources of inspiration, those artifacts that keep us uplifted and motivated as educators. There is an amazing wealth of inspiration online and I find it challenging to organize it all. I use folders and favourites, bookmarks and Google Docs, journal entries and Post-Its, Evernote and Instapaper, Delicious and Dropbox. I guess one way of looking at is I can stumble upon my growing treasure of inspirational gems anywhere and any time!

Do one thing, the thing that is in your heart. ~Eric Jolly

My heart in your hands by aussiegall, on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Photo by aussiegall 

Going back to school for my Master’s degree had been on my mind with varying intensity ever since I received my BEd but the longer I thought about it the scarier the notion became and the longer I had to convince myself I couldn’t do it. But it kept bubbling to the surface because I felt in my heart and in my gut that I wanted to do it. The problem was in my head, it was working against me which is all too often my greatest obstacle. Finally after becoming so fed up with myself and the sorry list of reasons not to do it, I pushed myself off the cliff of fear and applied for a Professional leave and to the University of Saskatchewan. During the same week (oddly enough exactly one year ago) that I received my acceptance for both applications, Seth Godin posted this quote on his blog. It captures so perfectly how we are able to tackle a goal even when it terrifies us.

Make big plans…that’s the best way to make big things happen. Write down your plans. Share them with trusted colleagues. Seek out team members and accomplices. Shun the non-believers. They won’t be easily convinced, but they can be ignored. Is there any doubt that making big plans increases the chances that something great will happen? Is there any doubt that we need your ideas and your contribution? Why then, are you hesitating to make big plans? ~Seth Godin

Seth will probably never know this but he has a long history of creating blog posts that seem to speak directly to my current state of being, inspiring me when I need it most. Spooky but lovely all at the same time. This serendipity has shown me time and again that I am not alone in my thoughts and fears. Knowing that others face similar challenges reassures me and encourages me to look the worries of my mind in the eye, embrace the passions of my heart, garner the wealth of support that surrounds me, and take that leap.

Colours by Camdiluv ♥, on FlickrCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  Photo by  Camdiluv

For many years now I have kept a copy of the poem Desiderata close at hand for inspiration. The same dog-eared, yellowed copy has hung by my side in various classrooms and offices. What I love about this poem is how different sections rise to the surface at different times and in these moments I comprehend the words in a new light. Today, in this moment, I feel connected to the following section:

Whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

My well loved and well worn copy of Desiderata

As I looked through my favourite quotes today I realized many of them fall into one of four categories. These are themes that are obviously close to my heart as they are resonating with me over and over.

Change Making: I am committed to change because I am deeply committed to education. I believe it is my responsibility as an educator to advocate for progress in teaching and learning on behalf of my students. As I pull together the pieces of my Master’s project, which centres on many forms of change making, I am able to see the positive outcomes of pushing for change. However, I am also all too familiar with the rough edges of change making, the many times when you want to crack and say, “Why am I even bothering?” Sometimes the obstacles feel overwhelming and the barricades insurmountable. I always need inspiration to stay committed to change making and it comes in many amazing forms, through words and visuals but also through people. Thankfully there are many change makers who openly share their journeys  in blog posts, tweets, presentations and more. There is most definitely strength in numbers.

If you want to achieve widespread impact and lasting value, be bold. ~Howard Schultz

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. ~Andy Warhol

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is. ~H. Jackson Browne

Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve. ~J.K. Rowling

Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience. ~Hyman Rickover

In fact, you can make a difference…Passionate people on a mission can make change happen. You better be prepared to stick it out, to exert yourself, to last longer than you ever expected and to care so much it hurts. ~Seth Godin

Overcoming Challenges: Hand in hand with change making is the need to remain inspired when the chips are down.

Trying times are not the times to stop trying. ~Ray Owen

The brick walls aren’t there to keep us out, the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. ~R. Pausch

Plan on being misunderstood. Repeat yourself. When in doubt repeat yourself. ~Seth Godin

Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself. ~Seth Godin

156.365 strange, by ashley rose,, on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  Photo by  ashley rose, 

Relationships and Connections: Forming and nurturing relationships is a priority in my life, professionally and personally. These quotes remind me about the true power of being connected with others.

Tell everyone what you want to do and someone will want to help you do it. ~W. Clement Stone

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. ~Henry Ford

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. ~Helen Keller

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~Lao Tzu

Attitude and Outlook: One of my previous teaching partners loved to say, “Attitude is the one thing you get to choose every single day.” When teaching a class of soon-to-be teenagers who often felt they were short on choices in the world this phrase was inspirational not only for them but for us as well!

Everyone is given an acre of attitudes at birth. It’s yours to tend and garden and weed and live with. You can plant bitterness or good humor. Feel free to fertilize and tend the feelings and approaches that you want to spend time with. Unless you hurt someone, this acre is all yours.

Probably worth putting up a decent fence, so that only the attitudes that you choose will have a chance to put down seeds, but it’s certainly a bad idea to put up a wall, because a walled garden is no good to anyone passing by. You get to decide what comes through your fence gate, right?

Watching out for invasive species—spending sufficient time on weeding and pruning and staking seem to be incredibly powerful tools for accomplishing the life you want. I refuse to accept that an attitude is an accident of birth or an unchangeable constant. That would be truly horrible to contemplate. -Seth Godin

TED recently launched TED Quotes, “a new initiative that collects memorable quotes from TEDTalks, groups them by category, and makes them easy to share.” I am excited about this new resource for finding inspiration as not only does it isolate key quotes into themes but it also provides the option to watch the affiliated TED Talks. I have been spending time exploring Quotes about Changing the World and it has been a wonderful way to feed my inspiration.

All the artifacts I have shared in this post are extremely instrumental in fuelling my inspiration and keeping my passion afloat, but I would be remiss if I did not mention a very special class of 8 year olds who every day provide me with not only inspiration but sheer joy and hope. Their “official” title is The Global Grade 3s (but they also answer to “bloggers”) and they are a force of change to be reckoned with! I have much to say about the journey we are on together and the library they are building in Q’enqo, Peru but for now I will point you to our classroom blog and let their beautiful voices speak to you.

I wonder: Where do you find your inspiration? How do you organize all the gems?

Magical Lessons from Students

A Little Magic by courosa, on Flickr
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The second goal of the 30 Goals Challenge is to write about a magical teaching moment. When I started thinking about this goal a rush of many little faces came to mind. The memories did not come in moments but in students. I thought back to all the students who have painted on the canvas of my career, the canvas that captures the beauty of being a teacher. The students are the ones who have made it magical because they are at the heart of the countless special moments.

I think teaching in itself is magical. It is amazing to be there to see the moments of transformation and gained confidence; when struggles are overcome, connections are made, and the realization of “I can!” hits. It is unbelievably special to witness the growth of students and to join in celebrating their successes in spite of what they once believed or didn’t believe, in spite of the odds or the diagnosis, and in spite of the world handing them more than I can ever imagine. This is the magic of teaching.

A small snapshot of a few of the students who have taught me about the magic of teaching:

  • Claire* was in my Grade 3 classroom and she had Down Syndrome. It was evident that school was certainly not her favourite place. She was withdrawn, disengaged, and she clearly did not feel connected to her classmates nor her learning. I was fearful she was just putting in time coming to school. Claire’s amazing educational assistant and I resolved, “Not good enough. We can do better, we must do better.” Claire taught me the magic of building confidence, becoming an active and contributing member of a community, and aiming high. She called me “Emoo” and I still remember how it felt when her warm hand would reach for mine and she’d look at me and say, “I love you, my Emoo.”

hold on by Close to Home, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License Photo by  Close to Home 

  • Daniel was a Grade 6 student in my classroom who had seen more in his short life than I could wrap my mind around. He was angry, hurt and headed for trouble. Schoolwork was the furthest thing from his mind, survival was at the forefront. Daniel taught me the magic of being available, nonjudgemental, and taking the time to listen. He showed me that although I could’t fix all the intricacies of his situation (despite staying awake at night desperate to) I could be there for him, believing in him and his future even though he could not. Years later when he was in high school I saw Daniel working at a Tim Horton’s drive-thru. He had a light in his eyes that I always hoped he would find. He was doing great in school, playing on the football team, and above all he was happy. In that moment my eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with hope.

Hope by mischiru, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License Photo by  mischiru 

  • Mark was one of my Grade 4 students. He viewed school as something horrible that was happening to him. Reading and writing were very challenging for Mark and both activities usually resulted in him acting out and being disruptive. Mark definitely did not see himself as a reader nor a writer, and perhaps not even as a learner. He was only 9 years old and he already did not believe in himself. Mark taught me the magic of creating a history of successes no matter how small, and not giving up on someone even when they have given up on themselves. One day as Mark put down his pencil after writing in his journal, he said in utter disbelief, “I wrote this. I actually wrote this myself. I think I am a writer, Miss Emann.”

a valentine for nana by woodleywonderworks, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Photo by  woodleywonderworks 

I always say I have the best job in the world because the moments are second to none and they have all shaped me as a teacher and as a person. I am grateful to my students and the lessons they continue to teach me about life, being human, and the power of navigating this amazing journey together. Magic.

*All names have been changed

I’d love to know: What magic have your students taught you?

Me Manifesto

Macys - Believe by Tattooed JJ, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License Photo by  Tattooed JJ 

Shelly Terrell, from the Teacher Reboot Camp blog and #Edchat, is so inspiring and motivating! I have long followed her blog and I was excited to learn about the start of another cycle of her 30 Goals Challenge. This week marked the kick off to the 30 Goals Challenge for Educators 2012. The theme for this 3rd cycle is “Dare to Believe”. Shelly has posted an introductory video and in it she explains this year’s theme. The focus of “Dare to Believe” is to help teachers believe they can make changes in their classrooms and communities, and that students are key part of this change as well.

The first challenge is to create a Me Manifesto publicly expressing your principles and intentions, and this will act as a foundation for moving forward.

  • What do you believe about life? Learning? Teaching?
  • How do you learn?
  • What is important to you?
  • What ideals to you carry in your classroom?

The format for creating your Me Manifesto is wide open—any tool or platform will work. Share your Me Manifestos on your blogs, Twitter or even add a comment to Shelly’s post. Share them with your students and have your students create their own.

I found great value in the reflective process of creating my Me Manifesto. I discovered that my blog has really helped clarify and articulate what is important to me, what I value, and what I am committed to in teaching, learning and education. I created my Me Manifesto using my go-to tool Glogster. Please click the image below to take a peek.

Me Manifesto using Glogster

I’d love to know what you would put in your own Me Manifesto. If you are also participating in the 30 Goals Challenge please let me know. I think it is a fabulous way to inspire blog posts, share with other educators, and focus our sights on believing and bringing about change.

Ruckus Maker

where the wild things by .Va i ♥ ven. Arp, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Photo by  .Va i ♥ ven. Arp 

As a teacher I always feel there are two New Years in a single year—September and January. I find it a welcome opportunity to evaluate and realign my goals, personally and professionally. Although I don’t refer to my professional goals as resolutions, in this context using Wikipedia’s definition, a commitment to goals, projects or reforming of habits, it fits. Call them what you will—goals, resolutions, plans, objectives.

Frankly, I prefer my professional new year’s resolutions over my personal ones as they are more about exploring new ideas and experiences with my students and colleagues, and less about what I am not doing, like losing weight and saving money. My professional resolutions always seem to be dynamic, exciting and evolving, while my personal January resolutions tend to be generic, familiar and tired. Don’t get me wrong, I have personal goals and I am a very goal oriented person but I don’t do well with the whole “it is January, ergo I need to come up with some goals”. It may work for some people but I tend to create my goals as life unfolds, January or not.

After the holidays I read through a backlog of Seth Godin’s blog posts, and I was yet again reminded how much his words resonate with me. In his most recent posts a common theme spoke to me and it is one I needed to hear to be renewed for the upcoming term. It is about committing to being a ruckus maker, being dedicated to bringing about change.

I think my desire to bring about change found me before I found it. In my search for ways to infuse technology into learning I stumbled upon many opportunities and many roadblocks, many tools and many policies, many questions and yet not as many answers, or at least ones I was willing to accept. These all led me to the same place—wondering why. Why can’t we look at this differently? Why can’t we try this for the sake of our students? Why is this door closed? It was a if I had re-entered the toddler “why” phase. These many “whys” fuelled my strong commitment to bringing about change—change with a purpose, with a goal, with meaning. All grounded in, “What is best for our students and their learning?”

What I have discovered is that as you start asking “why” to a broad scope of people and start offering “what if” options to be explored, the more the doors open and the more change can stretch its wings and find some room to fly around. Instead of change flexing its muscles and evoking fear, I am learning that giving it a crack of sunlight to grow and become established is far more effective and far less threatening.

I rounded up 6 themes from Seth’s posts that I think will give me strength and courage to push forward. I hope they speak to you, too!

Make a Commitment

You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.

It’s always been this way” is not a reason to keep on keeping on. Challenge the status quo.

As soon as you accept that just about everything in our created world is only a few generations old, it makes it a lot easier to deal with the fact that the assumptions we make about the future are generally wrong, and that the stress we have over change is completely wasted.

Ask Great Questions

A great question is one you can ask yourself, one that disturbs your status quo and scares you a little bit.

Why not be great?

You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It’s never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment — just one second — to decide.

Make a Difference

One option is to struggle to be heard whenever you’re in the room…

Another is to be the sort of person who is missed when you’re not.The first involves making noise. The second involves making a difference.

Create a Hassle

…Great storytellers and artists and ruckus makers manage to insulate themselves from the people they’re going to hassle. And the job of those that are being hassled by the commotion is to be hassled by the commotion. No commotion, no job.

In place of new year’s resolutions I am making a commitment to the above statements, for myself and for my students. While I believe I have long been committed to these ideas, I love the clarity and focus found here on this list. I think they will help serve as my compass,  particularly when the road gets rough and the ruckus maker needs a reminder as to why a ruckus is worth making.

How will you create a ruckus this year?

Celebration of Learning

Fountain of Color by sunsurfr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  Photo by sunsurfr 

A week ago today was our final class of EC&I 831 and it was our second night of sharing our summaries of learning. Once again it was a joyful and powerful experience listening to all the learning that took place over the past three months. As Alec mentioned on several occasions: you could hear the confidence in peoples’ voices. Everyone took such risks and ventured far beyond their comfort zones, and we all “survived” to tell fantastic stories of growth and change. We pushed the boundaries in ourselves and others. We became advocates for change and exploration. We came to appreciate and embrace what were once mysteries. The summaries of learning were truly celebrations of journeys.

I knew I would struggle as the class wound down and it was time to sign off for the final time. I am an emotional girl and goodbyes  get me every time. I admit I felt sad and I had a little cry. Pretty silly, I know. But I know I felt this way because it is difficult to see a great experience end. And yet I know it hasn’t really ended. Yes, the structured time and place for meeting my classmates has ended, but the connections and sense of community will continue to exist and grow in the very social media we came to value through this course.

I created my summary of learning using Glogster, a tool I explored early on in the course. I fell in love with Glogster and its potential for self-expression. The audio links I embedded into the Glog pages I recorded in Audacity. Glogster has an audio recording tool but I was unhappy with the sound quality. Audacity is a free, open source software for recording and editing audio. If you have not tried it before I highly recommend it. We use Audacity with our students in Grades 2 to 6 with excellent results in many different projects. I designed a series of interlinked Glogs to capture the various themes from my wonderful EC&I 831 experiences. To explore my summary of learning please click the image below. Maybe Santa will bring me a WordPress.org blog so I can embed more into my blog posts!

My Summary of Learning for EC&I 831

Wonderful World of Wikis

Many Orbs by Ate My Crayons, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Photo by Ate My Crayons 

As I sit here fretting over the finishing touches on my EC&I 831 final project, the Global Gateway wiki, it dawns on me that the glory of a wiki is there are no finishing touches. The goal is for it be a collaborative work in progress. I sincerely hope this happens. I have discovered so many terrific resources through Twitter without people even realizing they are adding to the wiki. Imagine what will happen when more people know they can contribute their resources and projects to this wiki?

I try not to refer to it as my wiki for although I feel deeply connected to it and I have spent countless hours with it for three months, it is not mine. It is a collective. I must say for me that is one of the most amazing and beneficial aspects of a wiki. It really rises up and meets the call for a space where we can build something together to be used by everyone. A place to collect and share but also to help make sense of the resources and information. It embraces the true sharing mentality. Many voices, many ideas, many perspectives.

I have become a complete wiki convert! No more am I the lurker of wikis for now I see the value of engaging and participating actively in their creation at any stage. Just add wikis to my list of new found loves (tools that is!) thanks to EC&I 831. Not only am I very excited to collaborate with others on the Global Gateway wiki, I am excited to start using wikis with colleagues and students. There is a vast amount of potential for the use of wikis in classrooms and schools. I know other educators have long been developing wikis, and I am late to the party. But I know late doesn’t mean the opportunity has passed me by for there are many great people who have paved the way and will support me on this journey.

As a way to reflect on my new wiki knowledge I thought I would share some resources for educators and highlight some of my discoveries about Wikispaces.

Common Craft yet again comes to the rescue with a great video to introduce the concept of wikis.

Wikis in the Classroom is a comprehensive slideshare by Vicki Davis. In this rich presentation she discusses:

  • What is a wiki?
  • Why use wikis in a classroom?
  • Pedagogical uses of wikis in classrooms
  • Examples of classroom wikis

Wikis in the ClassroomView more presentations from Vicki Davis

I have learned a great deal during my wiki creating adventure and I documented it all along the way in a Google Doc. I will spare you the full details of my questions, challenges, and victories but I thought a short summary may be helpful to others.

Great features:

  • Easy to use: If you can create a Word document you can create a wiki.
  • Free: For PreK to Grade 12 make sure you register for a wiki through Wikispaces for Educators. You can create student accounts without requiring student emails and you can moderator many features.
  • Collaborative: Users have the ability to add and edit content, begin and contribute to discussions, and attach comments to specific sections of a wiki page.
  • Support: There are a wealth of excellent online resources available to help educators integrate wikis into their classrooms (see my list below).
  • Variety: Collect and share resources, artifacts, ideas, discoveries and more.
  • Benefits for students: engagement, voice, personalization, assessment, active involvement in learning, and accessibility from home and school.

What I learned and will use in my next wiki:

  • Altering the appearance and making it look visually appealing was a challenge and I found I had to explore outside of my design comfort zone to achieve a certain look. In retrospect I would let some of my worries about the “look” go as this is not completely necessary for the wiki to be functional and successful.  Live and learn!
  • As with learning anything new there is a lot of trial and even more error. I did not do much reading about the details of “how to” before I dove in. This is traditionally my style of learning—leap in, find out what stumps me, and then go looking for answers. The good news is wikis are easy enough to jump into and coupled with the wealth of resources available, you will most definitely either overcome or accept the glitches.
  • To get started I found it helpful to organize and plan the initial pages by entering in titles and a line of text regarding the content of each page. I needed to create this structure for myself in order to slot in the resources I had already located. Although I later moved items around and added more pages, this point of launch was key in tackling the daunting, blank wiki.
  • Headings and tables became my best friends. It was very important to me that the content was readable and easy to navigate. I found it necessary to find a way to contain and present the information consistently on each page. If for no other reason than to maintain my sanity!
  • Linking and embedding allowed me to vary and expand the the content in the wiki.
  • The more I worked with the wiki the more I enjoyed it and saw its power. I think often as a consumer I miss the value of the tool but as a creator I can experience the possibilities.
Below are some fabulous wiki resources:
  • Educational Wikis This wiki’s goal is to answer: “How can I use wikis in education?”
  • Wiki Walk-Through A wiki create by TeachersFirst with easy instructions for getting started. Also includes ideas for using wikis with students of different ages and in different subject areas.
  •  PDPresenterToolkit A great resource for creating wiki PD experiences. Includes activities, slides, examples and resources.
  •  Wikispaces Help Fabulous and straight forward support to help tackle and understand the key elements of a wiki.

I am wondering: Have you used wikis with your students? What advice would you offer? What benefits did you discover?

Some people have wondered about the snow falling on my blog. It is very easy to do if you have a WordPress blog. Start the flurry on your blog!

My Nominations for the Edublog Awards

Day68,365, An apple a day keeps the doct by Andreas-photography, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  Photo by  Andreas-photography 

In previous years I have used Edublog award nominee lists as a way to find excellent blogs and resources but I have never participated in the nomination process. This year as the deadline looms (December 2) I began to consider taking part. EC&I 831 truly ignited my involvement and participation online, and consequently I am reading far more blogs than ever before. I have gained such an appreciation for the many educators putting themselves out there to the benefit of all of us. As I have often shared in my posts, there are countless blogs that impact and inspire me. I try to highlight and share these as often as possible on either my blog or through my tweets. Narrowing it down to only a few blogs in a few categories is very challenging. By no means are my nominations all encompassing as there are many, many bloggers to which I am most grateful and appreciative.

Definitely without hesitation for the category of Best New Blog I would, if I could, nominate every single one of my EC&I 831 classmates. I am so humbled, in awe, and inspired by the risks they have all taken by blogging and pushing themselves out into the open to share and explore. Taking this journey with such brave people has been instrumental in my own growth. So to all of you—thank you for your blogs and your courage. Reading your posts have pushed my thinking, clarified my understanding, challenged me to wonder and question, validated my journey, and connected me to you and your work. #youmatter

Below are my nominations for the Edublog Awards 2011.

Best Individual Tweeter: @shareski

  • Dean Shareski is a brilliant example of walking the talk. He openly and enthusiastically learns and shares online. His tweets reflect his belief that sharing is a moral imperative. I have learned so much through the resources, ideas, questions and learning that Dean so graciously shares with the world. Thank you, Dean!

Best Classroom Blog: Mrs. Cassidy’s Classroom Blog

  • Kathy Cassidy blogs with her Grade 1 students! That statement in itself should rock your world. Following the amazing posts on her classroom blog make me smile, wow me, and remind me of the unbelievable potential in our students at every age…given a teacher who believes in them and takes risks for their learning. Kathy, you are my hero. You have inspired me to advocate for the use of classroom blogs in our school district. You are paving an awesome road. Thank you!

Best Group Blog: 184 Days of Learning

  • Each school day a contributor (administrator, teacher, student) from a school in the Parkland School Division posts a 250 word submission answering the question “What did you learn today?” This group blog beautifully showcases and honours a wide variety of voices and perspectives that are not always heard. Thank you, Parkland School Division for sharing your stories!

Best Ed Tech/Resource Sharing Blog: Free Technology for Teachers

  • Richard Byrne’s blog was one of the first blogs I followed for ed tech resources and I have been a loyal reader ever since. It is always the blog I go to when I am looking for a tool to… I am never disappointed. Richard has an amazing way of finding terrific resources and illustrating their potential use in classrooms. Thank you, Richard for your commitment to sharing—you are making a difference!

Most Influential Blog Post: Ditch Internet Filters!

  • Mike Fisher’s post is a terrific call to action. He challenges existing and outdated policies around filtering that have a direct and frightening impact on students and their learning. This post has become a cornerstone in my arsenal for pushing forward and advocating for change. Thank you, Mike for loudly sounding the alarm!

Best Twitter Hashtag: #Comments4Kids

  • This hashtag supports student blogging by encouraging people to comment on student blogs. When a teacher tweets a link to a student’s blog post and attaches this hashtag it represents a request for comments, and the opportunity to make an impact. What a brilliant way to make a difference and foster student blogging!

Best Open PD/Unconference/Webinar Series: Global Education Conference

  • An amazing five days of solid, round the clock, online, and free sessions from presenters all around the world. The diversity and quality of sessions is incredibly impressive. With the unbelievable wealth of sessions it is next to impossible to attend them all but fortunately all sessions are recorded and available online.

Best School Administrator Blog: The Principal of Change

  • George Couros consistently writes open, honest and positive posts about learning and leading. He too subscribes to the sharing philosophy, and as a result his posts are rich with ideas and resources that speak directly to educators. “You should read” is a regular post in which George highlights a selection of “great stuff” being shared on social networks. You are inspiring—thank you, George!

This is Not Goodbye

goodbye by woodleywonderworks, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Photo by woodleywonderworks 

I hate good-byes.  I know what I need.  I need more hellos.

~Charles M. Schulz

Saying “goodbye” is so hard. I am a sensitive gal at the best of times but coupled with a farewell, I usually become a teary mess. After 13 years of teaching I still cry every June as my students leave for the summer and move on to the next grade. I once asked my principal, “When will this get easier? When will I get through the end of the school year without crying?” Her response, “I hope you never do. It is you. You build the relationships and you feel so connected. That is never a bad thing.” I have drawn on her words many times as it reframed what I saw as a silly, weak, overly emotional response into an appreciation of the power, value and depth of connections. As crummy as the goodbye is, the journey and time together is always worth it.

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

~Theodor Seuss Geisel, attributed

I have long felt the journey of learning with others is a strong bonding force. Every June when I reflect on the past 10 months with my students I am amazed at all we have experienced. As we navigate learning together as a group we see each other in many different lights. We join hands through the struggles, questions, mysteries and frustrations. We celebrate the victories, discoveries and break-throughs. In 10 months we have created a shared story of learning that connects us in a special way. Through my tears in June I always try to remind myself that this amazing story doesn’t disappear once we say goodbye. It doesn’t fail to exist anymore when we move on. It indeed happened, we lived it, and we are fortunate to add it to our personal collections of stories. Years later when I run into former students they remind me of the pieces of the story they still hold close. Even though the physical structure of an experience is over, the impact of it still remains. And in some cases so do the connections.

Why am I talking about June goodbyes at the end of November? This post emerges as I sift through my emotions from last night’s EC&I 831 class. Alec summarized and reflected on our three months of learning together. Although we have two classes remaining they are dedicated to sharing student summaries so last night was a course wrap up. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone and I am not at all ready for it to end. Our journey has just started! We are picking up steam and now we have to say goodbye? I was, in my usual farewell state, tearing up as the class wound down. I have never met any of my classmates face to face and yet I feel connected to them. We have created a story of learning that is rich with risks, inspiration, enthusiasm and growth. The energy has been contagious and buoyant. The experiences and people in this course have opened my eyes, pushed my thinking, exposed me to a new world, and truly changed me. It cannot be over!

In the midst of a quasi pity party I had a moment of clarity—this course may be ending but it’s role was to be the vehicle to this moment. It was the catalyst that helped form the networks and helped demonstrate the possibilities. It was essentially the matchmaker between my PLN and me. I know a matchmaker doesn’t need to stick around once the connection has formed, their job is done. The course is not the network nor the learning. As Alec said last night, “The community is the curriculum. It is a living curriculum.” In this I understand the separation between the course and the content. I must say goodbye to the course and its defined structure. I will indeed miss Tuesday evenings with Alec, our guests, our mentors and my classmates. But the goodbyes stop there. I am leaving the structure of the course with an amazing story of learning but it is just at the beginning, there are countless more pages to fill. The connections, the networks, and the opportunities for learning are all still here and will continue to grow and evolve.

This is not a traditional blog post for me. I have no hyperlinks, no embedded videos and I suppose I defied all that I know is best practice. But today I needed to lean on my blog to process the perceived goodbye and the perceived end of something so magical and awesome. I must say I still feel slightly melancholy even though my mind logically knows the above understandings to be true. I think the feeling will subside on December 7, the morning after our last class and the official end of the course, when I see a tweet with #eci831. A little reminder that all is well. We know where to find each other—online and close by as we have been all along. Thank you, friends.