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Making it Interesting

It is important to stimulate students learning in many different ways. Keeping teaching interesting for students and allowing them to be the engine that drives the learning environment is key. This blog will follow one teacher's quest to Make Learning Int

Updated: 2018-04-18T06:44:33.398-05:00


Parents 50th Anniversary


Here is a small Magazine I made for my parents. frameborder="0" height="587" hspace="0" name="joomag-embed-2eeccf67-390b-4c51-89f3-8c88dcced718" src="//;image,//,fill" style="height: 587px; width: 900px;" vspace="0" width="900">

We Scare Hunger 2014


I took this imagefrom this website after I watched this video from John Oliver (warning some *&^@@ language) allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />After you have stopped laughing over the circus peanuts and the insane build up of this holiday I need to tell you about We Scare Hunger. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />The idea is simple.  As you grow older you should not be going out for Halloween for yourself.  Do it for someone else.  Imagine if most of the Middle school kids that are out for candy did this activity first.  For those of you who did not watch the video here is a snapshot.  Get dressed up, go door to door asking for food items for your local food bank instead of candy. I know that this brings instant credibility to teens in my school.  At Sargent Park we on average raise up to 2500 items for our local food bank Winnipeg Harvest.  I used to be proud of that fact.  I was until this year.  My twins Colin and Alex have done this twice.  Once in Grade 7 and this year in Grade 8.  This year they did our block and one other side of another block.  Approx 60 houses in just over an hour.  Together in about 90 minutes they collected over 100 items.  This was not difficult.  Approximate math is an item a minute.  Let's use this to figure out how big this could get.I teach 150 kids.  If 100 go out for 90 minutes they could get... 100 x 90 is 9000 items of food for the food bank.  I on average only get 2500.  Not horrible but you see why I am a wee bit disappointed. My other problem is this.  My twins go to the largest Grade 7-8 school in the city.  Almost 1000 kids in those two grades.  We had no kids come by our house doing We Scare Hunger.  This is a sad statement on how opportunities are missed.  One in 5 kids in Winnipeg live below the poverty line and many use food banks.  More math.  If my kids school did this like we do at Sargent Park.  60% would be out doing We Scare Hunger.  If they all went out for 90 minutes and.... so 600 x 90 is 5400 items of food for Winnipeg Harvest.We need to empower kids to be difference makers.  School leadership needs to rally their students to want to go out and make a difference.  You all can do the math.  How many 7th and 8th graders do you have around your house.  Do they really need all that sugar? Put those costumes to good use.  Help your local food bank. 5000 teens at 90 minutes each makes 450000 items of food going to those who need it. Kids can make a difference[...]

CyberSleuthing is cool


Friday was Halloween and people all around the school were getting dressed up.  I donned my usual pylon outfit which was made from my outrageous orange shirt and a cone strapped to my head.  Film to follow! That is not the story. My math teaching partner was a pi rate and had a fantastic costume on.... this still is not the story.  What the story is comes from what she found in her pocket from Value village.  No it was not $2000 it was a vehicle registration from 1978.Here is what I found out.  The car registered was a 1962 Plymouth Valiant was a cool find to begin with but what else could I find from this piece of paper almost 40 years old....Well it had an address.  588 Gertrude Ave. Hey that is close by my house.  Just over a few miles to the east.  Time for Google again.Thanks to street view this is the house that the car lived at. This was getting too cool for school. Talk about your digital presence on the internet.  All of this information from a 1978 registration card.  Only one piece left... the driver.  Who was Anne Steen of 588 Gertrude Ave who drove a 2 door Plymouth Valiant? Once again Google would give me answers.Anne Steen from the Obituary from 2006 was an interesting lady who tried to run for public office, ended up working for Government and retired to Vancouver......... but here is where the story takes a turn.  Her niece and I worked at a restaurant in Osborne Village in the 1990's.TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL.  Wow all of this from 15 minutes of detective work and a computer. [...]

Blowing off the Dust


 Bodie State Park ghost town, Interior, bedroom door, wallpaper. by Randy Weiner  Can you believe it after almost 3 years I am compelled to blog.  Why is that? What has churned up my insides with awesomeness that I have to blog.  Well one name Darren Kuropatwa.  I was blessed this morning to sit in on his session about using images in teaching.  I have seen it all before but Darren being Darren kicked it up a notch. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="355" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//" style="border-width: 1px; border: 1px solid #CCC; margin-bottom: 5px; max-width: 100%;" width="425"> Mobile Learning Photo Safari v3 from Darren KuropatwaBefore I go into detail with the cool tools from Darren I should really talk about blogging and my lack of it. Schedule Personally I have not had time.... no I have not made time for blogging or twitter as of late.  Life at school changed with new roles and responsibilities.  I am in charge of our school lunch canteen.  I feed 300 kids various things every day.  It takes up every lunch hour during the school year.  I am not complaining but there went 55 minutes of reflection time. Life at home with 3 teen age boys also tends to get in the way of things.  Choice too comes into play when perhaps I want to spend time with my family and wife or training for a marathon instead of writing and reflecting.  Anyways perhaps this is a reason to write too.  Make time for quick reflection and let some of the goodness and badness out.StudentsEven though I still have maintained student blogs every year since 2007 or maybe 2006 they really did not evolve with the time.  Their main purpose was to build a sense of community and keep the room transparent 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  In recent years students have started to look at the blog a digital paper.  Digital application by Ian Hayhurst That was never its intent.  I feel that as my momentum slowed down and I started to learn less so did the purpose at the blog and the students attitude towards it.  For blogs this year to be successful they need to evolve and be what they once were.  Something cool and different that no one else does.  Using new tools to create this community within the blog itself might be the answer.  Many tools that Darren talked about today will allow students to use the blog as a canvas to showcase their learning in ways not yet done in this province and perhaps country.  I am ready to open some eyes again, my students, my colleagues and my PLN.  These kids are ready to show off what they know and l need to be there to help them do this.  Bringing Blogging BackSo how do we bring blogging back, get that reflection and thinking and create a digital document.  I think it stems from the reason I have not been blogging.  Time.  Kids need to be able to get something created quickly but at the same time do something well.  What if kids use the blog as a digital folder, still do scribeposts but do it in a way that is more efficient.  I had been expecting kids to create scribepost in the same way that Darren and I had been doing for almost a decade.  Life changes and so do the assignments.I am going to incorporate more video and audio into the blogs.  When kids see the new tools that are out there they should get enthused about blogging and scribing as their older brothers and sisters did years ago.  So what am I going to use? Good question.  What can I use is a better question.  The lab that is attached to my room is so old (How old is it?) that hamsters currently are used to power them by spinning a wheel. 7 year old Dell PC's can type but event that is difficult when the browsers that are on them do not support the java or flash that sites are using. So most of this work will h[...]

Run for Diabetes 2012


Hi everyone. Here is a small letter I have sent to some explaining why I am running the 2012 Run for Diabetes on September 3rd. Hi Everyone While most of you will be enjoying the September long weekend at the cottage or in your back yard! I will be running the Run for Diabetes 2012 The North West Company Half Marathon on September 3rd. This run will be in support of my son Colin that has Type 1 Diabetes. It has been just over a year now since Colin was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. The year has been smooth and for an eleven year old kid Colin is showing tremendous strength and resilience. He receives insulin 3 times a day and has even started to self administer the needles.  Colin however does go through some periods of "Why Me". He has always been a healthy child and is active and looks after himself. He sees his twin and older brother with no issues and sometimes struggles wondering why he was chosen to be the child with "health issues." This is tough for a kid. Strangely enough of my three children Colin has always been best suited to coping and dealing with challenges. This year Colin will continue to play competitive basketball and soccer and run track. Diabetes does not stop kids from being active it just requires new routines and awareness of when your body needs insulin or sugar. For the most part as a family we have helped Colin lead a normal life and have controlled his blood sugar levels properly. Sometimes we do miscalculate and his numbers either go down or up substantially. We have been blessed and lucky that this first year has gone so smoothly. That being said Jackie and I still wake up every morning and check to see that he is breathing normally and not in a Diabetic Coma (when the blood sugar dips very low over night). Every morning we go into his room watch his breathing and breath a sigh of relief. While giving insulin is some what mathematical the body is constantly changing. We are always vigilant about Colin's growing and changes and hope our calculations are correct.Thanks for your time and I hope you can support my run this September. If you are unable to pledge online I would gladly come by and pick up your donation.ChrisHere is the electronic pledge information. You have been invited to pledge for Chris Harbeck in support of Canadian Diabetes Association.  Secure online donations can be made at the Running Room Events web site with your credit card. An electronic tax receipt will be sent to you by email. Please click here to make a secure online donation. For more information about the Run for Diabetes 2012 The North West Company Half Marathon, or to join us on Monday September 3, 2012, please visit this link.Some facts about DiabetesOver 300,000 Canadians live with type 1 diabetes.The incidence rate of type 1 diabetes is rising by three to five per cent in Canada; the greatest rise occurs in five to nine year olds.  Living with type 1 diabetes requires approximately 1,460 needles a year (based on four injections per day) and 2,190 finger pokes a year to test blood sugar levels. The World Health Organization indicates five to ten per cent of a nation’s health budget is spent on diabetes.Diabetes and its complications cost the Canadian economy more than $17.4 billion a year.   For more information about Diabetes please see this link at the JDRF website.[...]

Vow Of Silence


Cross posted at Embracing Citizenship

Free the Children have an annual awareness campaign called The Vow of Silence

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The main goal for the Grade 8 Teaching team at Sargent Park was to make our students aware of why it is important to stand in solidarity with the millions of child labourers in the world.

The Students in our school need to know that they do not need to  stand by while children are subjected to exploitation, poverty and the denial of their basic rights.

The Vow of Silence is a way to make them aware.  So on November 30th this year all of the Grade 8 students and many of their classmates went silent for a day.  In the school teachers did not talk, annoucments were not read and silence reigned over all.  It was amazing.  For a loonie or a toonie the students were allowed and encouraged not to talk, use cellphones, text, connect on the internet for a day.  Many passed the test.  Hallways were silent during classtime, during class change and even during lunch.  Ordering lunch was difficult when you do not have a voice but students managed to communicate even without a voice.

The Grade 8 team passed out information for other teachers to use in their classes.  Articles talking about the exploitation of children around the world were used as language arts and social studies lessons.  As a school we became more aware.

At the end of the day when it was all over students and staff were more aware of what was going on around the world. We had also raised over $300 for Free the Children. 

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"><p><br><br><br><br>asdf</p>

Did you take the Vow of Silence this year? It is never to late.
Here is what our day sounded and looked like.
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I Will Statements


Cross Posted at Embracing Citizenship

In preparation for their citizenship unit this year we got the students to come up with I will statements.  We had them watch Spencer West and the Kielburgers from previous We Day Events.  Following the videos we brainstormed, did some group work and allowed the students to come up with statements of I Will... Each of these statements were supposed to be large and transformative for them. All of the statements did not end up being as grand as we planned.  I think this works in our favour.  It will allow us to revisit them in the future, see which statements were weak or easily accomplished and which ones withstood time and are still ongoing.

Here is the video we produced with their I will statements.
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We Day 2011 Wrap up


This is a post is also found at my Embracing Citizenship blog.It is just under a week ago that 45 of us from Sargent Park School attended We Day in Winnipeg.  What a wonderful event.  If your city does not have a We Day I highly recommend becoming a Free the Children School and traveling to the closest city that has one.  It is a life changing event for many students.Starting early in the morning the students arrived at school and prepared to go to the MTS licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10We decided to go by transit bus due to the ease of getting to and from downtown.  This proved to be the right decision. The bus picked us up right out side the school and had us at We Day in under 15 minutes. Yeah bring on We Day.Before the concert the students went to the various t shirt outlets and souvenir kiosks and purchased many items to remember We Day.  These souvenirs would go with the We Day shirts we created at school.  Being dressed as a team was a gave us that togetherness feeling.  cc licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10It should be noted that other divisions bought tshirts for their entire crew that went to We Day.  These florescent yellow  shirts really glowed in the black light of the arena and would be standing out on TV and the licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10We Day then started in earnest.  This concert was designed for youth.  It was amazing.  You had 5 to 6 minutes of high energy music and dancing followed by a short video and then a speaker.  This kept the attention of all those in the audience.  Amazing messages were soaked in by all the students in the audience.Memorable speakers were The Honorable Paul Martin, Mia Farrow, Hannah Taylor, and Rick Hansen.  But it was Spencer West and the Kielburger Brothers.  The ability of these speakers to stir emotions inside todays teens and make them want to be agents of change shows the power of the day.  cc licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10cc licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10Kids walked out of the Arena wanting to do more.  Asking questions about how they were going to change things at school, in their community and around the globe.Arriving back at the school we had a debriefing session and started with the next stage of this process.  The Vow of Silence. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">This will take place on November 30.  Our goal, to silence our school, raise $500 and stand in solidarity with those who do not have a voice around the licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10Updates to follow![...]

Halloween for Hunger... The Results


Today is November 1st and the students have returned from Halloween for Hunger.  Over half of the students participated.  I am very impressed.  These students decided to forgo candy at houses to ask for donations to Winnipeg Harvest.  We have great kids.  One of their comments this morning was...
"The people in the neighborhood were all saying WE LOVE Sargent Park Kids".  Well so do I.

I set the bar high when I asked these students to participate.  I asked them to try to get 1400 items for harvest.  They almost made this goal.  They brought in 1281 items for Winnipeg Harvest.  It is all sitting in my computer lab.  Tomorrow we will package it up and send it up the street to the food bank.

Way to go Sargent Park.  You are truly amazing.  Great group of kids and fantastic team of teachers pushing you to bigger and better things.  Keep it up... soon we will be doing more great things. 

Here is a movie of the students creating a wall with 1300 items of food.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">

New Year New Citizenship Curriculum


Well it is the end of October, the temperature is cooling off here in Manitoba but it is rising inside the Grade 8 classes at Sargent Park School.  We are embarking on our fourth year of Teaching Citizenship and we have added a few new twists.One of the first twists is that we have asked the students to participate in an activity called Halloween for Hunger. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">We have had 3 meetings with the students so far.  Of the 140 that we teach between 60 and 70 are willing to do this activity.  Wow if each student brings in 10 items for our food bank that would be over 700 items.  Our class food drives have been successful so far and we have brought in between 100 and 200 items.  I am proud of our students.  Great cause too.  Helping hunger at Halloween instead of helping tooth decay.This year we are a We School.  This means that we get to participate in We Day in Winnipeg and do activities for Free the Children.  This has opened up many opportunities for our students to see the power of youth in action. We get to take 45 students to this event.  So they are showing us actions they are doing to be chosen.  Sadly there will be lots of competition. and not enough seats.  The rest of the rooms will watch the simulcast on Much Music back at the school. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Here is what we have done so far....To inspire the students about the power of humanity we showed this X-Factor Australia clip. If  you have not seen it you need to. Warning you will need some kleenex at the end.  Powerful stuff. When showing this to your students stop it at the 50 second mark.  Talk about what they have seen then play the rest of the video.  (The crafting of this video by X-factor is also worth noting.  For a film class it is amazing how powerful the soundtrack and editing is) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Our first We Day activities focused around Spencer West and Craig Keilburger.  Spencer is a motivational speaker for a group called Me to We.  It is affiliated with Free the Children and pushes youth to become active in their community and around the world.  We showed a video of Spencer allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Following that we had the kids read a biography of Spencer we had found online.  The students read the biography and highlighted the key words.  We are going to have them put all the words into a Word splash like a Wordle.Once the students complete this task they are doing a few different activities, found on the second page of the document.  Most importantly we want the kids to go from I COULD to I WILL statements.  Following the I WILL statements we will take a photo of the students eyes and I WILL statement over their mouths.  This will be made into a movie and photo mosaic like the one found at this Ewan McIntosh post. Instead of hands we will use our I WILL statements.  It should be powerful. also introduced the students to Craig Keilburger.  In my opinion one of the most important Canadians of all time.  At such a young age Craig is the founder and spark behind the Free the Children Organization.  This is a group he started when he was but.... 11 years old. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">As we were studying and learning about Craig the idea was to draw parallels between his life and the lives of my studen[...]

October Updates and a Citizenship Curriculum?


Keeping a internal promise I made this summer I am trying to blog more this year.  One of the things I will do is to do monthly updates on my pedagogy and goings on at school.  Welcome to the end of my first month.In math we started a collaborative project with two schools in Ontario.  My posts were all under the Mantario Running tag at the Sargent Park Mathzone.  I am grateful to my two Ontario schools who also participated.  I need to apologize about my fizzling out at the end.  We managed to incorporate a good deal of a ratio, rate and proportion unit around our cross country seasons.  Now that cross country season is over I hope to connect with Andy and Heather's classes in eluminate and do some creative problem solving.Speaking of running.  Did you know that my Cross Country team won all four categories eligable to us this year.  Fantastic running and they trained over 3500 kms collectively.  Great job runners! Here is our map. frameborder="0" height="350" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src=",-89.264929&spn=6.073035,15.936918&t=h&output=embed" width="425">View Mantario Running in a larger mapOur next Math Unit will be on graphing.  I have found two great lessons from NCTM that fit into our Citizenship Project this year.  I am looking forward to pushing my students to learn graphing and learn about world issues at the same time.  Amazing how things fall into our laps sometimes.Speaking of Citizenship, Sargent Park, is part of WeDay this year. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">This is so exciting.  If you are interested in teaching responsibility and citizenship to your students their website is where you need to go.  I am amazed by what the Free the Children organization presents to teachers and students.  We still will be doing our old favorites to build citizenship this year.  Pay it Forward, 25 Cents a Day and 2 Minutes to Make a Difference. But we are adding more fabulous things this year.  We will do a Halloween Foodbank Drive.  Instead of going out and asking for candy students will have a choice to go to their neighbours and ask for donations of canned goods to take to a foodbank. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Amazingly enough October was our foodbank drive month.  Kismit again!! In November we will do the Vow of Silence that is to educate the students about children who are subjected to exploitation, poverty and the denial of their basic rights. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"><p>&amp;amp;lt;br&amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;lt;br&amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;lt;br&amp;amp;gt;All</p>It seems like so much to do in so little time but with a team effort we can build the leaders of tomorrow and teach the curriculum too. With that in mind I have started a new blog. Very much in its infancy but a place for my students to go when they are trying to make a difference. Titled Embracing Citizenship it will be a hub and information stop for this new Citizenship Curriculum my team and I are creating at Sargent Park School. Wow all of that in September.... so much time still to go and we are filled to the rim with goodness. Looking forward to October and November.[...]

Hard Drive Failure


cc licensed flickr photo shared by hindesite

I never thought I would say this but.... please back up your backup!! A few weeks ago I had a catastrophic hard drive meltdown.  Not on my aging MBP but on my brand new Lacie External Hard Drive.  Here is how it unfolded.

I was sitting in my working spot uploading photos to my Aperture Libraries when my Lacie fell over on the carpet.  It did not fall off a table, or even 6 cms nope it just fell over onto the carpet.  I was not all that worried till I heard the tell tale sound of clicking.... OMG you have to be kidding me.

I tried to recover anything from the drive, took it into the shop but was told it was a HD failure.  On that drive were 2 years of photos:(

Such a simple accident can ruin so many memories.  Not everything was lost. I had most photos on flickr so I used photo grabbr to get most of them back to a new HD.  What I could not find on flickr I found on my Time Machine backup in the basement.  Out of 5000+ photos I only lost about 250 but that is 250 to many.  I recommend that all of us who use external drives find other drives to back up all photos on. 

I am now putting my raw masters onto a different usb hard drive after putting them onto the Lacie.  I really do not want to relive that weekend over again.

Why Connections Matter


As many of you know already a fantastic event happened in the beginning of August.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10

Unplug'd was a summit of Canadian Educators who came together because ________ Matters.  We got together, networked, talked and were a group for three intensive days.  What came out of it was a terrific document and more importantly were connections.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10

Every week the connections and people we met at The Edge in Ontario get stronger and stronger.  We read each others material, we chat in twitter and Google+ and find new ways to collaborate and make our pedagogy stronger. Already new collaborations are on my horizon  with @aforgave, @hdurninand @alanahcallan!!

Being part of the ds106 broadcast and lurking in on Google+ it was fun to see the personalities of Allanah (Her Smile and boat distractions) and Gulia how was working the board from behind the scenes with a Cheshire cat grin on her face.  I love all of you.

Why do you have to have Conferences, meetings, meet-ups with collegues who give a damn..... it is because we are not alone.  We are connected.  It is fun and great to share ideas and collaborate with each other.

Unplug'd Rocked. Correction Unplug'd is still Rockin!!

Running for a Purpose


   have been an athlete for many years. I started swimming when I was 12 and continued until I was 20.  The following years were a combination of trying out different sports.  I ran, ran the Timex Road Racing Series in Winnipeg and even tried triathlons.... but it wasn't until last year where I hooked up with a trainer/friend and started training for marathons.  My first real training since I was a swimmer.  It felt great and I love training again.  But wait this is not why I am writing this licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10Part of my training regiment for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon is to run a Half Marathon on September 5th.  No big deal I have run dozens of half marathons.  It is the cause that got my attention.  Most half marathons have a cause that you can fundraise for.  Normally I shy away from this and use my entry fee as my donation.  This half marathon is different.  The cause is Diabetes.  Normally that wouldn't do much for me until May of this licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10During the month of May one of my twins Colin started to have headaches and wetting the bed frequently.  We took him to the doctor and we were sent immediately to the Endocrinologist. We informed that he had Type 1 Diabetes.  Colin had lost the lottery and was the one in 600 kid that had a bad pancreas. It just stopped working.  Colin took it stride, we as parents learned how to give him insulin, and life moved on. New routines new challenges but life moved oncc licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10Interestingly enough soon after Colin was diagnosed lots of stories in the news was talking about new advancements in Diabetes Research.  It was most promising. Perhaps in Colin's lifetime he will be cured of this disease.I have friends with Type 1 Diabeties, @cogdog has run many a marathon to raise funds for diabetes. Now it is my turn to ask for help.  You too can play a part in curing this disease. Link to>>> Sponsoring my run....<<<<  will provide funds to search for a cure for diabetes. I know there are many of you out there.  If we all do a little it is amazing how those "littles" become so much.  Thank you in advance.  I will keep you posted on the fundraising and the result![...]

My Unplug'd Experience


The Unplug'd Participantscc licensed flickr photo shared by unplugd From August 5 to 7th 2011 forty Canadian Educators got together to spend time talking about "Why ________ Matters!".  It was a truly Canadian experience. Why had we gotten together and were would this be leading us too?  These are questions I still wrestle with today when explaining to people what we accomplished that weekend.  Perhaps the Unplug'd website would help. Here is what it said:UnPlug’d brings together Canadian educational change agents to share peer-reviewed success stories; to deepen relationships among participants; to publish the collective vision of the group.  Grassroots educators will share their first-hand experiences, collectively considering modern approaches to learning.  The summit will culminate with the release a publication that communicates a vision for the future of K-12 education in Canada.   Forty educators, 40 stories made for passionate discussions.  It was the discussion that was so special about Unplugd.  Most of us were familiar with each other from our online PLN.  We had talked, chatted in 140 characters or less but never sat down and looked each other in the eyes and had conversations.  It is always fascinating to meet people in our online network and family F2F.  Things change and we start to hear the passion behind the words that we read so often.  This is one of the reasons why Unplug'd worked. We did deepen relationships with other participants such a powerful licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10We were able to unhook ourselves from the network. Have a F2F network of people all gathered around a table, canoe, dock, lake, cabin, meal anywhere you could sit or be with someone conversations were happening.  Real conversations.  This was so rich.All of us came with our homework completed.  An essay of 250 to 400 words.  Something you were passionate about.  We were grouped into small pods or chapter groups with a loose connection between us.  What was amazing is that when we all shared our stories and essays it was obvious that we were meant to be in that specific group.  The Organizers had grouped us based on title alone.  As we read, shared and became a team you could see the threads holding us together.  As the organizers said in their introductionto publish the collective vision of the group.  Grassroots educators will share their first-hand experiences, collectively considering modern approaches to licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10When I walked into this project it would be fair that my batteries were on low.  I had gotten through the year, had great students, used tech to capture their imagination and allow them to be producers of learning but still felt empty.  I had not done something new, not found anything to push my envelope of learning.  Unplug'd changed all of that.  Personally I am recharged and have done 2 blog posts in a week.  Reflecting, thinking and sharing thoughts.  Wow! It is fun to write again. All of this would not have happened if it was not for that licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10But where do we go.  The book has been published.  The Introduction and Chapter 1 are available now  and the next chapters will be published every week.  This allows for discussion, debate and conversations in manageable chunks. I hope you all read the book and soak in the messages that were shared.  Something will resonate with you.  Take that thought, that bit of knowledge and use it to r[...]

London Riots


Before I begin to unpack the fantastic adventure I had with the #unplugd11 crew out in Ontario a new post popped into my head yesterday.  Yes a new post.  Been a while.  Since April.  Bad Blogging.... but here it is.As I was driving to pick up my son at his camp the CBC news came on and they were talking about the Riots in London and why they were happening.  One thing mentioned was the disenfranchised youth.  Kids that have been forgotten by social programs, can't find work, or do not want to find work, who are using social media to gather and loot and riot.Image from London cc licensed flickr photo shared by tgeaslandThis was disturbing in many ways.  The riots in Vancouver show that this is not just a London problem.  Youth these days see it as OK to go on a rampage and destroy licensed flickr photo shared by Charles de JesusLook around you at the litter on the streets and the malaise with so many 20 somethings.  I deal with 13 and 14 year olds.  Most of them keen on life still and less than 20% would be susceptible to joining these RIOTS just because they could do mayhem. So where does it break down.  How do we go from happy kids to ..... lets go break things and be "bad".This brings me back to the CBC report yesterday.  They interviewed a youth in his 20's in Manchester. What struck me about his interview were the following statements (paraphrasing from memory sorry)Are you not afraid you are going to be caught? Nah I go out all the time till late in the morning.  Never been caught.  How many have they caught anyways 3 or 4 maybe 10 they won't get me. What will happen when you get home? No one cares there. Are they going to ground me? Yell at me. Whatever.  Here is a youtube video (language warning) not the interview I heard but similar allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="" width="560">The tone of the interviewee was so nonchalant, almost I am doing this because I am bored.  That is the scarey part for me.  Just because I am bored I am going to wreck a city and cause lots of damage and hurt people.  Yep I have nothing better to do.I hope we can find a way to improve peoples way of life.  Give them something to look forward to.  Allow them to find a passion that is something other than looting, violence and mayhem.  Perhaps we can all do our part.Explain to our kids, tell them what is going on in England. Why it started and how it is able to maintain its intensity.  After we have dealt with our family we then need to figure a way to use this in school to explain to our students the COST of what is happening.  Instant riot leads to long term pain for so many people.It is a bit of a rant I know but we need to take action now before that youth malaise settles in here and floods over onto the street.  The world is going through a rocky rough time right now.  We all need to do our part.Just thinking out loud.[...]

Why you need to control your digital footprint


I tell students to be wary and cautious about their digital footprint. Yikes now there is even more proof to be cautious.

Courtesy of:

Make them aware of the perils of acting out on line.  Like an elephant the internet does not forget many things.

Teaching Citizenship Part 3 25 Cents a Day


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Royal_RiversWelcome to 25 Cents a day.This project was inspired by a email I received from Brian Metcalfe. had run across this post from 2008. All about one youth and 25 days to try to create change.I challenged everyone who read my blog to TRY to do something every single day during the holiday season to make a SMALL difference in his or her world. I explained that whoever made the “most difference” in December would win a $25.00 donation to the charity of his or her choice on Christmas night. I SAVED ALL OF MY ALLOWANCE ($25) FOR THE MONTH OF DECEMBER, AND I WAS REALLY SURPRISED AND EXCITED WHEN SEVERAL PEOPLE  GENEROUSLY OFFERED TO MATCH MY DONATION (OR MORE)! At Sargent Park we do many things over the holiday months. We have donePennies from HeavenKoats for KidsHarvest Food DrivesChristmas Cheer BoardThis year it was time for the Grade 8 Students to do something different.  What happens when you challenge students to give up something for a prolonged period of time.  You get many groans and moans.  If you keep it simple enough the groans turn to cheers and hope.  25 cents a day asked students to donate THEIR OWN MONEY so that we could give it to charity.  The goal of this project was to empower students to learn how to give.  Over the 3 weeks of the project the goal was to raise up to $600.  140 students at .25 a day means $35 a day and over the 15 days that would mean about $525.  Of this money half would go to a local charity and the remaining would be donated to licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by charbeck10The students were asked to bring in a quarter every day.  A quarter of their own $$ not to ask their parents for it.  The quarter symbolized giving up something for someone else.  It was not a large sum of money but perhaps 1 less chocolate milk a week so that the could help out others in need.  Can you do without something.  Something small but can you sacrifice for the common good of all.  Students were at different levels of giving.  Some struggled to bring in the quarter while others donated $5 more than once during the campaign.One might ask did all students participate equally.  The answer would be no.  Just like with society some gave more than others.  I will say this that all students did participate.  All gave at least $1 and felt good about it.Does this fit here?Not surprisingly, people who belong to online communities having to do with local matters are more likely to say that the Internet has gotten them more involved with their cities or towns.  One in seven members (14%) of local online groups say the Internet has helped them become more involved in their local community.  Nearly one in five (19%) of people who joined local online groups after first having Internet contact with them say the Internet has increased their involvement with their community. sent out a tweet and asked if other schools wanted to participate.  I received 4 responses.  2 of them did not pan out because of their own school policies.  I did get a positive hit from Karl Fisch.  He is an Algebra Teacher at Arapahoe High School in Colorado.  He challenged his students to participate and they raised $ 77 in two weeks.  He then had his fa[...]

Teaching Citizenship Part 2 Pay It Forward


Part 1 Pay it Forward (what can you do to make someones life better, Random act of Kindness)How important is a single act of kindness? For most teens it can be the first step to becoming a better citizen.  How can we teach this and why should we bother?Inspired by a teacher.... this is important.  We need to be real not just standing on a stage.  Powerful actions come from leaders who inspire.  The events of kindness will start small but once one kid realizes what can happen they all start to join in.How many of you have seen the movie?Read the book?Pay it forward was a 2000 Movie starringHelen HuntKevin SpaceyHaley Joel OsmentThe story was about a young teen boy who takes a Social Studies assignment to Heart.  His teacher Mr. St. Clair put this up on the Board THINK OF AN IDEA FOR WORLD CHANGE, AND PUT IT INTO ACTION.When confronted by Trevor’s mother in the movie he describes the project this way..."First of all, it's a voluntary assignment. For extra credit. If a student finds the idea overwhelming, he or she need not participate. Second of all, what I want is for the students to re-examine their role in the world, and think of ways one person can make a difference. It's a very healthy exercise."’s idea was as follows"You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask howthey can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It three more people. Each. So, nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven." He turned on the calculator, punched in a few numbers. "Then it sort of spreads out, see, to eighty-one, then two hundred forty-three, then seven hundred twenty-nine, then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?" This is how I start to imprint citizenship on my Grade 8 Students.  In November before the winter holiday season we as a group (140) students sit and watch Pay It Forward.  In the 3 years that we have been doing this at Sargent Park the movie still pulls at my heart.  Students watch the movie, brainstorm ideas that can be their random acts of kindness.140 x 1 is 140 acts of kindness if people kept on doing or thinking about these acts over a period of time they would be sustained.  (Not exponentially like in the movie but increased non the less)  Students have 2 weeks to complete their act of kindness.  They are expected to write about it at their blogs and to document their act somehow;picturemovienote Every set of students provides a different set of solutions to this assignment.  The first year we did this was the year of the snow storm over the Winter break.  1 out of 3 students decided that shoveling the snow was their act of kindness, not someone else’s walk or driveway but their own.  Disappointing yes but still a first step.  In the next years students chose to do more interesting acts of kindness.  They searched out opportunities to do work in the community to make lives better.  Students chose towork at a soup kitchendonate clothes and other items of their own to Salvation ArmyCreate a mini food drive for Winnipeg harvestA group of students collect their own $$ and create packages for children at Childrens hospital Write to soldiers overseasBake cookies for seniorsIn the two years that have followed less students have done the babysitting/chore tasks and looked for larger ones. Every year it continues to get better.  this year we had one grou[...]

Teaching Citizenship Part 1 The WHY....


This is an attempt to recreate my keynote from Byte 2011.  I really want to get across why it is important to teach citizenship or to model being a good citizen.  It is in all of our best interests.I am not going to lie to you.  I am a lucky person.  I love my job, I love my students and I do not have any problem going to work every day.  I teach in a rather large Nursery to Grade 9 school in the west end of Winnipeg.  Sargent Park School has a population of about 1000 students of which the 140 grade 8 students are all mine.  The majority of them are kind courteous and kids you would bring home to meet your family. So why am I so concerned about teaching Citizenship to students.  Think about the news lately.  What is the dominating theme in popular media...Facebook is bad. Bad Bad Bad? Yet.. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="" title="YouTube video player" width="560">Yet around the world things are happening because of Social Media... but it is bad please remember that!!Youtube gets cute kids noticed. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="" title="YouTube video player" width="425">Kids should not be on the computer just learning reading writing and writhmatic.If you were to ask my parents who live across from Ecole Robert H Smith (a large elementary school and popular teen late night hangout)  they might describe teens this way: “Hanging out late in public places”, 7/11, play structureslazy just give me the answer pleasenaive fragile uniqueNot go getter's “do I have too?”Not the most flattering light to see the next generation of leaders in is it?On the other hand Teachers see:Self-absorbed; indulged; multi-taskingdecent, grounded and optimisticentitled, distracted, perplexedimpulsive, impatient,  collaborative.hopeful, restless, connectedconnected, curious, socialLet's Define Citizenship."Active citizenship" is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public , volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens.Citizenship was equated by Virginia Leary (1999) as connoting "a bundle of rights lets look at this another way.  Perhaps citizenship is not a bundle of rights but a bundle of responsibilities. Kids especially teens do not just wake up and understand these bundles of responsibilities.  They have a hard enough time waking up!!cc licensed flickr photo shared by Ollie CrafoordI think that the vast majority of teens are trying to find themselves. They need a push them to go in positive directions.  A favorite analogy of mine is that teens are clay creatures that have been molded into who they are by their previous experiences but the clay is not cured yet.  We still have time to mold some important imprinting into these creatures before it is set.Teens have a hard time seeing past their out-stretched hand.  Their world view is only as far as their hand can reach to the next french fry or meal.  (Imagine Linda Carter and Wonder Woman).  These students will be adults soon and need to be shown how they can become better citizens, to do their part in making life better for others.As educators we all need young adults to wrestle with these ideas or responsibilities before they take their rightful place as leaders in our communities and [...]

How about an Online Multiple Choice Experience


Here are three question that I created in a matter of minutes at a site called Flisti. It is really easy and if the embed code works pretty catchy and student friendly.

What is the area of a rectangular prism that has dimentions of 5 cm, 4 cm and 10 cm.220

A rectangular prism has dimentions of 10cm, 5cm and 3cm. What is its total surface area?

A circle has a diameter of 10 cm. What is its area?

Would you use this tool in your class?

Motivation, Daniel Pink and a White Board HMMM


With almost 4 million views at youtube I think some of you have seen this video. As I watched it today it made me think about how I teach. The reward system we offer students for completed work and what we have to do to foster "REAL" thinking.  My brain is still coming up with ideas Daniel Pink mentioned in his talk.

Drive The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.

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The way this artist renders the talk into cartoon ideas is so intriguing. I have many talented students in my class and oodles of white board space. Perhaps this style of movie will be motivating to my students or yours.

Please leave a reply with your thoughts on this video.


So How did the $0.25 a day work out??


Our winter campaign of charity has finished and I have some tremendous results to share with you.  For the readers of this blog you will have read this post. In it I describe the 3 week plus 3 day push to have students contribute $0.25 of their own money everyday.  They were to give up something small once a week and contribute THEIR money and not their parents to raise money for some holiday charities.  I blogged about this, put it out on twitter to try to get other schools to participate.  I even created a wiki to house all of this information.In the end I had one other school participate.  Karl Fisch and his fantastic math students at AHS in Colorado participated.  Here is an excerpt from Karl's post;Our goal was a quarter a day per student for the remaining ten days we had of class, which worked out to $62.50 for the twenty-five students in my class. We ended up at $77.26. (Including one student who chased me down in the cafeteria on the last day before break – which is three days after the last day my class meets – to hand me 85 cents.) I said I would match up to $100, so I’ll be matching with $77.26. My Dad apparently still reads my blog and he said he’d match at 50% of what I matched, so that’s another $38.63. And then Rob in Afghanistan, who I’ve blogged about before, sent me an email letting me know he would be sending me a $100 check as well.So that works out to $293.15 (okay, I’m gonna chip in another $6.85 to make that $300). Now, I know that’s not a huge amount of money, and I didn’t take advantage of the full educational possibilities here (see some of Bill Ferriter’s excellent work with Kiva), but it will still make a difference for the entrepreneur(s) we fund with this (and, of course, when it gets paid back I’ll re-loan it again and again – that’s part of the beauty of Kiva).Thank you Karl for giving us at Sargent Park someone else to look at during this project.  It is hard sometimes to do things on your own.So how did we do at Sargent Park.  Over the 3 week 3 day period we raised $519.  This is increadable.  If the students all had brought in $0.25 we would have been at approximately $650.  I am impressed and awestruck. Thank you Sargent Park Grade 8 Students.  Your generosity is licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10On the last day of school we had a movie morning to celebrate the completion of our work.  When the movie was over I told the students that instead of buying the treats or candy this year I was donating to Agape Table.  In front of them I pulled up the web donate and proceeded to donate $150 to this worthy charity.  I did this with a purpose.  I had to show them that adults donate too and I wanted them to see the power of donating.  This was further amplified when we started donating their charity licensed flickr photo shared by charbeck10This is how it broke down.  We gave $300 to 1HopeWinnipeg.  This local charity operates 5 different shelters around the city.  $300 will help out tremendously.  The rest of their charitable donations went to Kiva.  This is also where things got really fun.  Imagine if you will over 100 students in a classroom.  Looking at a Smartboard with the Kiva Site up.  I now explain what Kiva does and how it works.  As a group now we start reading the stories on the Kiva site and c[...]

Once Again I have Amazing Kids... Pay it Forward


We start of our 2 Minutes to Make a Difference Project every year with Pay it Forward.  We get the students to watch the movie, reflect on the ideas expressed in the movie and then have them go out and do a Random Act of licensed flickr photo shared by mtsofanIt all started three years ago when my new teaching team mate Michele was first introduced to the 2 minutes project.  She said that for a few years she had been doing a Pay it Forward unit with her students.  The two ideas meshed perfectly with each other.  Here is an excerpt from the movie..."You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It three more people. Each. So, nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven." He turned on the calculator, punched in a few numbers. "Then it sort of spreads out, see, to eighty-one, then two hundred forty-three, then seven hundred twenty-nine, then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?"The first year students were a bit perplexed with the whole idea of doing a random act of kindness.  They went and babysat younger siblings for free, shoveled walks and did chores. While these were altruistic and doing a good deed they were weak in the "Random Act" and helping aspects of the Pay it Forward Movement.  Still when the goal is to awaken a feeling of giving and citizenship in 13 year old kids it was somewhat of a success.The next year we started off the same way as in the past.  One small change occurred the students talked about all of the possible activities they could do right after the movie.  They were excited and almost egging each other on to do bigger and better deeds.  This time the students donated toys to hospitals, volunteered at daycares and sent pillows to soldiers overseas.  The students really understood what was needed to do a Pay it Forward activity.  The best examples was Elijah and her group.  They pooled their own money and created gift baskets for the Children's Hospital. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />Which brings us to this year.  I was skeptical of what could be accomplished.  Last years crew had done a great job and I was extremely hopeful that this years crew would be similar.  I was not disappointed.  The students did a great job.  We had boys delivering toys to churches, writing letters to soldiers overseas, and caroling outside of a supermarket to raise funds for a homeless shelter and taking toys to the Childrens Hospital.  Here are all of the projects.  Please leave comments behind for the students they would appreciate that.873 Pay it Forward817 Pay it Forward816 Pay it Forward814 Pay it Forwardcc licensed flickr photo shared by jillallynIn an interesting twist I was interviewed by the local CBC with a student about Pay it Forward.  Listen!They had been talking about it all day on the station.  People had called in talking about buying coffee for strangers and purchasing their parking... I emailed the station and told them about the students and their projects.  They[...]

Would your students donate $0.25 a day?


So once again Brian Metcalfe has given me an ideas that well.... I have decided to run with. It is a simple premise but holds a huge potential.  I am asking all of my students (140) to bring in a donation of $0.25 a day.  We will continue to do this up till the Winter Break on December licensed flickr photo shared by elycefelizEvery year the Grade 8 students have found a Christmas Charity to help out.  It is the start to our Citizenship Project 2 minutes to make a Difference. We are still doing that.  We have chosen 1 Hope Winnipeg this year as our major charity. Half of all money raised will go to 1 Hope Winnipeg.  The other money raised will be donated to charities that the students will choose.  This is why it is so powerful. We are putting the power in their hands.  They donated the money and they get to choose who to give it to.So how do you get students to donate 25 cents a day.  I have not figured that out yet.  I know that each teacher is going to have to work hard at keeping this idea going.  Students will forget and decide that they do not want to participate.  Teachers can keep the flame alive though and I am adding a global touch.  Through my network on twitter and my readership here I hope to have other schools across Canada and around the world participate.  I have created a wiki to keep track of the schools and what they have raised.  The wiki will be open and each participating school will be able to do whatever they want.  Seeing kids from around the globe doing this event with them could spur them licensed flickr photo shared by Icky PicIt is important that students do not get this money from their parents.  They have to earn it or give up something to make the donation.  We are sending a note home to parents so that they understand that this is supposed to be a student project not a parent project.  Most of our students spend money at our canteen or local restaurants at lunch.  Giving up a quarter for most of them will not be a deal breaker.  THEY just have to understand the sacrifice that is needed.  I hope it works. If it does the students at the school will have raised $1800 in a short 4 weeks.  Powerful stuff.Now for the important question. Who is going to join? Please email me and join the wiki.chris (dot) harbeck (at)[...]