Creation and Consumption; Finding a Balance

What stood out to us after reading the book and spending the day with George was how we currently use the technology in our classroom. Based on our reflections and conversations with colleagues, we realized we are using our technology (iPads, computers, digital cameras) primarily for consumption. We would like to begin guiding elementary students towards utilizing technology more creatively. We are trying to find the balance between the practicalities of using technology for consumption while finding ways for students to express themselves creatively.

Where our learning begins is finding a good starting point – which apps are best, what programs are available, how are other teachers being innovative in this area, and how to connect all of this to our curriculum.

We welcome any suggestions or ideas, as we are excited to start this new chapter in our teaching journey.


Vanessa Madsen
Grade 1 teacher


Val Mytopher
Math support teacher

Niji Mahkwa School
Cluster group 1996

To Innovate or Not to Innovate? That is NOT the question

After leaving the first session with George, we were left with many questions to bring back to our school.

One in particular, is how do we move our school from tiny pockets of innovation, to a culture of innovation?

What we are left with, as well as from reading his book, was that much of the way information is presented to us as teachers – through professional development or implementation of new programs does not necessarily inspire everyone to be creative, and it often does not foster a CULTURE of innovation. Instead what we tend to see is a small group of inspired educators taking it upon themselves to learn something new or to challenge the boundaries and limitations that allow them to create relevant and purposeful learning opportunities for students. And this is great, these are the pockets of innovation that usually exist in a school. What is, and has always been the struggle is creating an environment and a culture where this becomes the norm.

The message that was received from hearing George speak, as well reading his book, was that building a culture of innovation will take everyone in an organization or school working together. That it is not a “top down” or “bottom up” approach, but an “all hands on deck” one. That the goal is not to change for the sake of change, but to make the change meaningful and purposeful. To move away from a culture of compliance to one of creative engagement, empowerment and as George put it… “a chance to do something amazing”.

So with this mindset, we will be sharing our ideas about innovation with our colleagues during our school planning day this coming Friday. We will be present what we have discussed and explored in the ITTL sessions, as well as what we have learned jumping into the world of Twitter, Google Apps, Google Hangouts and blogging as we become part of creating a culture of innovation at St. John’s High School.


Meghan Davidson & Jim Anastasiadis
St. John’s High School
Cluster 1971

Our Motto’s Is That We Are All Life-Long Learners

After the March session with George Couros, I was incredibly excited about introducing new concepts with my students.  Reflecting upon my own classroom, I knew that in order for my classroom to grow (my students and myself) that by introducing technology with my students was the path that I wanted to go.  As a primary teacher, we are constantly learning through hands on, team building and creating.  But after the session, George showed us more ways to have our student’s little brains working and creating.

The entire session I kept thinking of how brilliant it would be for students to learn how to use technology appropriately and how to use technology to further their own learning.  It wasn’t about sitting in front a computer learning through a program, it was based on creating and making connections with students and people around the world. It’s learning at their fingertips.

Innovating teaching is about what we can do to further and enhance children’s learning.  It’s not just about technology, which I think a lot of people were afraid of.  It’s about creating problem solvers, creators, being reflective on their own learning…  I could go on, but I truly believe that this sketchnote that George had created sums it up perfectly.

Characteristics of an Innovators Mindset


As teachers, we are constantly learning and that’s what we want to be able to promote with our students.  One of our motto’s is that we are life-long learners, so that’s exactly the goal we need to have for our students.

name: Kimberly Bui
school: Champlain School
Cluster group : 1971

Innovative Teacher Fail

“Twitter is so out,” said my 14-year-old daughter when she heard me talking about my day with George Couros. I took the statement with a grain of salt because I know teenagers aren’t known for basing their findings in sound research. However, it opened the door to conversations about how my own kids use their personal devices for learning – at home and at school.

I used to be the teacher who gave the stink-eye anytime I saw a phone in my music class. ‘How dare you bring that portal to the outside world into my classroom?’ Although I’ve come a long way since then, I’m still a questioner. I will question the why and the how these devices are used in the classroom. Mostly because I have no idea.

Example – my innovative teacher fail story:

About five years ago I had a student, Cody. Cody was an energetic, fun, big personality, grade 5 student. Cody LOVED Michael Jackson. He asked me repeatedly and excitedly over the course of the year if we could learn about Michael Jackson. The teacher in me loved his eagerness to learn, but for some reason I could not wrap my brain around how to facilitate this request in the classroom. I was thinking like a “giver of information” and not a facilitator of creativity and curiosity. That year came and went, and, sadly, I had done nothing to encourage Cody’s excitement to learn.

Fast forward 8 months. I had just come back from a leave of absence. Cody was now in grade 6. He and the rest of his class began asking me, “Can we do PowerPoint presentations this year! When can we do them?!” They sounded almost urgent. They so badly wanted to learn using this tool. Upon further investigation, I learned that the substitute teacher, during my absence, had figured out what I couldn’t. With certain tools, in this case PowerPoint, students can direct their own learning. And when they have the incredible opportunity to cultivate their curious nature, there’s no stopping them.

As I continue my journey as a teacher, I hope I can walk the path of innovative education with the creativity, curiosity and excitement that Cody taught me. Who better to learn from than our own students?

Rhona Sawatsky
Earl Grey School
Cluster Group 1971

Dance If You Dare


We’ve all seen it. She’s the life of the party when she starts bending her knees and shaking her hips to the beat of the music. She’s dancing for the whole room and loving every minute! Get your mind out of the gutter – I’m talking about the baby in the room! From a very young age there is no denying that dance is a part of human nature. But somewhere along the way the love of dance begins to dim as some children realize that dancing means taking a risk. How can we keep dance “normal” as children begin to age?

Reflecting on “The 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset”, from author and principal George Couros, I found myself thinking a lot about innovators being Risk Takers, and how it applies to dance in my classroom. I am always amazed with the participation levels of my grade 1 students when it comes to taking a risk and dancing! The trick is to warm them up to the experience by introducing new things slowly; making it comfortable, easy, and inviting. I mean, don’t we have to do this with adults as well?


I start the day with basic stretches and body isolations every morning. This makes dance a regular part of our routine, not a “scary” experience, and the kids really enjoy feeling their muscles work, getting their blood moving, and listening to the latest Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift song.


Once students are comfortable moving in the morning, we progress to a super simple choreographed dance that incorporates a little more energy. My absolute favourite time of the year is October when we learn “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (a very simplified version). The kids go crazy for dancing like a zombie, especially on Halloween when they are in their costumes!


After they have practiced these skills they begin to think of themselves as “dancers” and are much less intimidated by the risk involved in dance expression. This is when the characteristics of innovation can really be seen. Students can work together and create short dance pieces on any topic, and they feel comfortable moving their body. For example, we created dances titled, “Snowflakes”, “Autumn”, and “Feelings”. All were beautiful, empowering, and totally created by the students.
I was going to blather on about all of the amazing things that have come out of exploring dance with my class, but when I revisited the Manitoba Dance Curriculum I found these excerpts that really summarize all of my thoughts and practices.

“Dance enriches a vibrant culture and is integral to human life. It has the power to illuminate, deepen, broaden, and enhance human experience. Dance offers a unique way of perceiving, interpreting, and communicating diverse life worlds. As one of the oldest and most primal of the performing arts, dance has existed across all cultures and historical periods. It has always been a socially significant component of all civilizations, and remains a relevant symbolic tool for people around the globe today.

The fusion of body action and cognition manifested in the dance Framework promotes self-initiated learning, active problem solving, openness, collaboration, innovation, socialization, empathy, flexibility, critical and divergent thinking, and risk taking. Dance has the potential to promote responsibility and leadership and to prepare and inspire future citizens of the world to understand and address the most critical challenges of their times.”

As teachers, and citizens, let’s work hard to keep dance bright in the eyes of our children as they age. They payoffs are great. And, even if dance is a little uncomfortable for you, reflect on why? Is risk taking holding you back?Untitled__Dance_Blog-Final_Copy_copy___page_2_of_2_



Jenna Kennedy
Strathcona School
Cluster 1971

Dance Blog-Final Copy

What Is Innovation? Innovating Curriculum!

After listening to George speak, I have a new and deeper understanding of what innovation is. Innovation is using new and creative practices that meet the needs of students today, and prepares them for their needs in the future. I often think about whether or not what I am teaching students really matters? I teach in the inner city, and many of my students experience tremendous struggles at home. Getting my students engaged in learning can be difficult when so often they come to school tired, hungry, and emotionally exhausted. Yet, I am mandated to teach students about topics like monerans, protists and fungi in the science curriculum? Or topics, such as confederation. Is that what these students really need? Is knowing the definition of a protist essential to their future? Probably not. Focusing on teaching both social and academic skills, like researching online or collaborating with others is more important; however, I do not believe that the Manitoba curriculum reflects this. Perhaps a more innovative curriculum could help teachers adopt more innovative practices? Yes, some might argue, that we do have “cluster 0” that indicates the skills we should be teaching, but cluster 0 is only one cluster, in addition to all the other clusters, general outcomes and specific outcomes. I feel that the way the curriculum is formatted, does not really highlight the importance of teaching skills.

Anna Choy
Shaughnessy Park
Cluster 1971

Impacting Statements

My first session with George really made me reflect on my own teaching practices. He made a few arguments during his presentation that really stuck with me. The first being that we tend to teach how we are taught, but not necessarily what is the best for our students. I connected this idea to what Jennifer Katz (Education professor at University of Manitoba and author of Teaching to Diversity) spoke about during one of her presentations. She asserted that we do not expect any other profession to engage in older or outdated practices just because the professionals are use to operating in a specific way. Take a doctor for instance. Knowledge in medicine and science has grown tremendously. When new and better medications come out, we expect doctors to use those medications. It is not acceptable for doctors to keep using the older and less effective medicine just because that is what they are use to. Just like a doctor, teachers need to adapt, change, and or update their materials, lessons, and teaching styles to meet the needs of the current generation and generations of students to come. This means accepting that we must continuously be learning and changing. This directly links to the second statement that impacted me. George strongly asserted that teachers need to stay current and adopt current practices, including the use of technology, in order to be relevant. If we do not adapt and change to our environment, then teachers will become “extinct” so to speak. Although this statement originally made me uncomfortable, for I felt that my job was threatened, I understood the importance of what he is saying. I try my best to be as innovative as possible, as most teachers do; however, time, lack of money, lack of training, lack of technology, and lack of support from colleagues and/or administration are all barriers to innovative classrooms.

Anna Choy
Shaughnessy Park
Cluster 1971

Capturing Enthusiasm One Clip at a Time

Making Movies

Over the years, I have dabbled in making short movies with my students for a variety of reasons. Some on camcorders with the mini tapes where the batteries consistently failed, others on my Canon camera with tiny images. Both set up for a nightmare in editing post project. It would be a collaborative enterprise, but it would still fall on me. Not this time. iMovie on iPad is a convenient and easy way to drop and drag your way into a quality movie with high student involvement every step of the way.

This year we read aloud Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler which lent itself well as a feature film because of its size and storyline. It is a tale about a little boy who was always told he was too little and ends up becoming a hero. As we read, we started by creating a large story board to track characters and main ideas through drawing and writing. It emerged through class discussions that since we had iPads for a period of time, maybe we could make the characters come alive in a movie of the book and the rest was history.

The student engagement, commitment and cooperation were immediately evident. Once characters were selected, scripts were written by scene and by the actors. One student took on filming and direction; others were in charge of background music and spent hours experimenting in Garageband and doing voice-over narrations. Groups of students worked on props, made invitations and posters for our premiere.

We filmed over a series of weeks and students maintained their enthusiasm the entire time because of their ownership in the project. It didn’t stop there. To get a complete experience, actors created cast photos and bios, decorated a viewing room with a red carpet and invited parents to a Popcorn Premiere Party to celebrate their efforts and receive their own DVD for posterity.

Where it gets interesting… students with speech issues were determined to have speaking roles. Students with focus and attention issues were dialed in. A quieter student became the director. Dramatization deepened comprehension for all students.

It was a learning journey for me too. I was introduced to the lightning projector cable (which was great because now I use iPads as document cameras in other parts of my day). I learned what the sound limitations are of the iPad microphones for the next project. And finally, I learned to share large files through Dropbox saving me extreme frustration.

Believe me, I don’t own shares in Mac and I’m not selling anything new – many teachers make movies with their students. But for my learning journey, this was a student and teacher friendly way for me to step back and my students take the lead. Having easy to use technology is one of the keys, but without the iPads in first place, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But that is a story for another time. 😉

Shelagh McGregor
Inkster School
Grade 3/4
Cluster 1971

The Promise of Twitter

If you had told me I would be going to a PD seminar that highly promotes using Twitter as a classroom tool, I would have been very skeptical of the relevance and use that it would have to my classroom. However, I was surprised that I have been converted. It was during the PD seminar that I first registered for Twitter.

That evening I was telling my fiancée, who is a teacher in the LRSD, about the PD. In his division Twitter is highly encouraged for teachers to use. His school’s Twitter page is amazing! I highly encourage all of you to check out @wyattLRSD. Teachers frequently post projects and events that are happening in their classrooms as well as reminders for days such as school closures.  I am not a parent, but I can only imagine how much parents would value this page. I am told the most common response to “what did you do today at school?” is “nothing” or “I don’t remember”.

I would love for Gladstone School to have a Twitter page like Victor Wyatt School’s but I do see some obstacles. Firstly, I can’t see many of my coworkers buying into Twitter. Secondly, can Twitter be added to WSD’s Media Consent form? Having the students’ faces makes most of the posts much more meaningful.

Erin Rogalsky
Grade 2/3 Teacher
Gladstone School
Cluster 1971