My Blogging Challenge!

I have often spoken to my students about the power of having a reflective practice as a learner and I have good intentions to develop my blog to be an extension of my experiences and my learning from these experiences. However, life as a teacher and father of two is a very busy existence. Thus I have never followed through on this.

I am challenging myself to write at least one blog a week. In the past, I have challenged myself to produce well-developed content each week, but the reality is that I never had the time to write it and create something polished. So my plan is to write about anything that will help me develop as a person, father and teacher.

I am hoping that by engaging in this I will develop my writing skills, my reflective practices and grow my professional network as to enrich my perspectives of my interpretation of the world.

Good Luck Me!


My Views on Different Types of Digital Portfolios

Recently a colleague of mine posted a request for opinions about digital portfolios in the classroom. I believe that they are very useful tool for learning in the classroom. I believe that a portfolio can be used to showcase something. This means that there can be digital portfolios that showcase different things students do/experience in the classroom. There are three that I would like to share my thoughts on here.

First is the portfolio that is a collection of work. This generally demonstrates the quality final products. This focuses on the individual and their products and in my experience does not demonstrate learning.

Secondly there is a learning journal portfolio, which is intended use reflections of an experience or activity. The reflection is a means of communicating the KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learn) process. This is a more personal view of how an individual has constructed their learning through experiences. It allows for other parties to see the journey of what is learned and to gauge the amount of growth the individual has undergone.

Thirdly, there is a collaborative learning portfolio. Here multiple people contribute a unified analysis of an experience through documentation of discussions and justifications of the development process of a product. Focus is on the product and how people’s visions and opinion’s have shape the product. Some learning can be determined through this portfolio, however it would be more the learning about creating the product as a while compared to the learning journal portfolio that showcases the individuals construction of learning.

Understanding that there are different portfolios means that we need to clearly communicate which is to be used and when. It would also help determine which tools will be used in each situation. For example: Fresh grade is great as a learning portfolio. It does not handle file management or collaboration for peers well, but is very good at allowing communication of own learning with additional digital exemplars. A website may work better for showcasing the best work. Google docs or some other multiuser collaborative tool would be good for the collaborative portfolio.

I am very much in favour of digital portfolios. They can act as a summary of learning or even a notebook/journal of what and how much they have learned. Documenting this gives the opportunity for students, parents and teachers to go back and review what is learned and to determine the growth of a student. If nothing is documented, they don’t have that opportunity and the learning of an experience or moment may be forgotten or lost.

Conversation vs Communication

So much of my class time is spent conversing with students and working 1-on-1 with helping them overcoming hurdles in my classroom. So much so that I often find it hard to find the time to read and document feedback on all of the students reflection and summaries of learning.

For this I am often disappointed with myself, and try and convey that shortcoming to my students. In part because I believe that my documented feedback of their hard work and reflections should be the same as the conversations I have with students. But how is this possible!? Should I have a video drone recording me? Maybe one day it could come to that. But for now, the issue may be with me and my perception of how I am to develop at reflecting, teaching reflection, assessing and providing feedback for their communication.

Communication vs Conversation. A quick google search resulted in several site containing the following;

Conversation is an exchange of words, while communication is the transformation of thoughts and words into meaningful action. Conversation typically involves what you wish to share with another; communication focuses more on what you wish to accomplish.
In order to communicate effectively, we must:
– Listen actively.
– Speak only after considering the ramifications of our words.
– Establish and assign ownership to a shared vision or idea while transferring accountability with responsibility to the individual assuming each task.
– Intentionally follow through to make sure expectations are met and objectives are accomplished (while avoiding the natural tendency to “rescue” or “save” another from mistakes or failures).
– Allow mistakes (our own and those of others) to become learning experiences rather than death sentences.
– Praise openly and honestly and criticize privately and quietly.

For me, this drives home the fact that I need to provide constructive feedback to students when they communicate about their learning. But it doesn’t help me with clarifying the form that documented feedback should take with students. 

Possibly as I develop I need to schedule some in-class time where I focus on a couple of students at a day. Not only to have the conversation with the in class about work and reflection, but I document a summary of that conversation for them to create actionable items to develop their learning. This approach may also  provide opportunity to showcase growth over the progress of the activity.

The plan is formed. Time to see if I can improve myself and my practice, to provide better feedback and greater opportunities for students.

Reflecting for Learning

Here I am on the precipice of a new term of Grade 8 Info Tech and I am once again thinking about my curriculum implementation. There has been a lot of discussion about how to develop Communicating Student Learning at Sullivan Heights and what models are out there for doing this. The way I see it at the moment is that the students can communicate their own learning, or the teacher is communicating what they perceive the student has learnt. I believe that to teach and encourage students to communicate their learning will help reinforce that learning.

This is my lead in to reflections for learning. Through the use of online portfolio systems, help students to organise and express their thoughts. A reflection is one of the tools that will allow a student to do this and allow for documentation of that moment of learning and also to be able to measure their progress over time.

Whenever anyone is asked to share their interpretations and thoughts it is a risk for that person. How will my interpretation be perceived? Will I right? Will I be judged negatively? At least these are some of the same thoughts that I feel about my own practice as a teacher. I have been meaning to write a blog for awhile to document my journey as a teacher, but have always worried about the judgement that I could receive. 

Why now? I wanted to practice what I am about to start asking others to do. I feel that to be able to teach my students more effectively in this area, I need to provide examples of how to do this. Which means I need to make it a regular part of my own practice.

I am currently thinking that my workflow in reflecting for learning will be to write a personal journal entry every day for 30 days and to blog about experiences and opinions that I feel passionate about sharing.  I have chosen the 30 days, because this seems to be an regularly agreed upon belief tho make something a habit. And here my journey begins! 

Website Changes

I have made some major changes to my website recently.  These changes were made in hope of making it easier to find information and assignment we cover investigate in class.  Under the Learning Resources folder there are links to course level resources. The aim of these changes it to not restrict any student from investigating topics to that of just the course they are enrolled in, but to encourage to always be looking to learn as much as possible.

Thank you everyone and have a wonderful summer.

To all the wonderful students and teachers at Sullivan Heights Secondary, it has once again been a pleasure to work with you all throughout this year. As many of you know, I don’t know where I will be teaching next year. So I would like to wish everyone an adventurous, relaxing, safe, sun soaked or prosperous summer break. 

Many kind thanks and best wishes,

Mr. Richardson.

Using iPads, iMotion HD and iMovie to create an iStop-Motion-Animation!

I have recently just completed a unit with my Info Tech 9/10 class on Stop Motion Animation. I started this unit off with having students complete two tasks. Firstly students created a 10 sec animation using the Filmstreet Stop-Frame Animator. This introductory task gave the students an idea of what stop motion animation is. Next task was to introduce iPads and have students experiment with an app called iMotion HD. They were we recreating an animation where they were drawing a picture on a piece of paper. I let the do whatever they wanted and after 15 mins I borrowed one of they creations and displayed it on the projector through an Apple TV. This allowed us to have a conversation about the quality of work and what could be done to improve the animation. In no time at all students were suggesting; – “It’s to jerky, make more photos with smaller movements” – “The image is jumping around a bit, can they try and keep the image in the center of the frame” – “you can use the onion skin option in iMotion to align next image with previous” – “you could also put a mark on the table to make sure the ipad gets placed back in the same spot”

The students then teamed up into groups and were given a week and a half to create their movies. It was a lot of fun to watch the students run around the school acting out their movies. Once they had finished they moved onto the post-production phase. They were still using the iPad for this, they had to import the movie created by iMovie HD into iMovie. They needed to add a title page, a transition, some music and sound effects and end the movie with some credits. It was great to watch as the students experimented with the application, testing out it capabilities and it’s limitation. They discovered that since we were not syncing the iPads with a computer, that they discovered the limitation of themes, music and sound effects. This is something I would like to address in future iterations of this assignment.

It truly is amazing what the students will create when they get an iPad in their hands and are given the freedom to go anywhere in the school and create whatever they want. Here are 3 examples of some students work




This unit definitely captured students, in the future I would like to explore more mobile based learning, where students have the ability to move around, create and research topics in their own way. This teaching strategy definitely required me giving up a lot of control to the students and trusting them to d the right thing, but it paid off with their engagement and energy they brought to task.