Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rockin' the School Community

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the day with several teachers at one of our Divisional elementary schools. I always appreciate the opportunity to meet informally with teachers to share ideas and find out about some of the innovative things that are happening in our classrooms.

While I was there, an old friend shared one of his recent projects with me. Ryan Miller, who was once a student teacher in my classroom, has found a way to successfully integrate his musical background with his current role as a teacher and guidance counsellor within our school division. While Ryan has long been an accomplished singer and songwriter, his foray into music within the context of education is beginning to flourish.

Earlier this year, Ryan attended one of our divisional workshops that explored several classroom uses of GarageBand. Although he hadn't played with GarageBand prior to this workshop, he's become hooked on writing and recording songs with this powerful Mac application.

This spring, Ryan wrote a song for his school. As word got out about this project, he's had other schools approach him about the possibility of recording songs on their behalf. Most recently, 'Mr. Miller' recorded Strathmillan Stars for one of our other elementary schools. The school provided a series of phrases that they wanted incorporated into the song, and Ryan involved the school choir and a student soloist within the song that he wrote.

I'm thoroughly impressed with Ryan's dedication and commitment to involving students in projects of this nature. What an incredible way to build community and celebrate school successes. I'd love to see more projects like this one being created across our division and around the world :-)

Please take a few minutes to have a listen to Strathmillan Stars and leave a comment with your reflections on this song and the concept of connecting and collaborating through music. On that note, I proudly present to you 'Strathmillan Stars', an original composition by Ryan Miller:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mining Our Resources

Last night I gave a short presentation at the ManACE Annual General Meeting. The focus of the presentation was to talk about the benefits of 'uncovering' technology tools and resources. For me, the highlight of the presentation was having Clarence Fisher join us virtually for a little while to discuss the impact mining has on his life and his community. Clarence also described some of the 'struggleware' that he and his students have unearthed...

You can view the slides from my presentation here, clicking on pause between slides:

Both of the presentations from the ManACE AGM were broadcast over uStream and they've been archived on the ManACE blog. Check out ManACE Memos to view these presentation :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Well Worth The Trip

This past weekend, I took my family out for a visit to the snake dens just north of Narcisse, Manitoba. At just an hour's drive from my doorstep, this was an incredible way to spend a beautiful day.

Each year, tens of thousands of garter snakes make their way to the unique geological landscapes that are found in this region. They spend the winter below ground in limestone caves. When they emerge each spring, they engage in a mating frenzy before moving on to their respective homes to spend the remainder of the year. Everywhere you look, garters are slithering through the grass and across your path. If you're lucky enough to come at the right time of the year, you'll even be privy to large 'mating balls', where many of the smaller male garters are writhing around one large female garter in an effort to reproduce. A day at the snake pits is an awe-inspiring experience, and people from around the world are attracted to see these events unfolding first-hand.

Yet, many of the Winnipeger's whom I've spoken to about the Narcisse snake pits over the last couple of days have never made the trip. It's not that they all dislike or are scared of snakes. Rather, they just haven't taken the time to explore the resources that they have so readily available.

I often see the same barriers with the infusion of technology in too many classrooms today:
- with technology, teachers have incredible tools at their fingertips, yet so many of them choose not to use them
- there are literally thousands of tools available for the taking, each of which provides ample opportunities for teaching and learning
- access to many of these tools and resources is free

If you live in Manitoba and haven't taken the time to witness the Narcisse snake dens firsthand, do yourself a favour and go. Millions of people from around the world have beat you to it.

And if you haven't yet explored the use of some of the free and easy onine tools that are available to benefit your teaching and learning, don't wait any longer. Millions of people from around the world have beat you to it. Just get started. And if you're not sure how to begin, Alan Levine's 50 Ways (errr... 67 Ways) to Tell a Story will serve as an excellent starting point to launch you on your way :-)