Further Reflections

When reading George Couros’ book, I was especially captivated by his thoughts on innovative leadership and his focus on facilitating far reaching change in schools rather pockets of innovation in the odd classroom. Change that creates schools full of classrooms that are challenging, innovative and empowering for students is needed.

I believe that in order for teachers to change and improve their practise when they are already extremely busy and overtaxed with their job there a few things that need to happen.

Teachers need…

  1. Support from administration
  2. A professional/mentoring relationship with an innovative leader
  3. Patience (real and lasting change can be slow)
  4. opportunities to collaborate with other innovative teachers
  5. reflection time

Georgia Wells, Children of the Earth

My Favourite Digital Tools

My Favourite Digital Tools

In my last post I mentioned that as a millennial I am quick to adopt any tool regardless of whether it meets any personal or educational outcomes. I am the one who searches for ‘lifehacks’. Most of these tools, apps, and technologies come and go, but some remain useful to me everyday. Here is a list that I have found helpful. In some cases, the connection to education may be a bit loose, but in making my life easier/more organized/flow better, these tools help me focus on my most important instructional goals. 


Evernote, a cloud-based note-taking application, is where I store EVERYTHING from my life. It flexibly works with different formats and filetypes, and it synchronizes across platforms. In it I store resources, assessments, sheet music, music files, business cards, presentations, media and lesson plans. You can search for notes by any contained text, and email documents to the program using an Evernote-specific email address (E.g. joshwinestock.9471942@m.evernote.com). 

 A few ways it has helped me teach:

-Until it’s time to print and distribute, all of my resources are paperless.

-I can play media files straight from the application (including those I needed throughout the winter concert).

-It stores my report card comment bank.

-All of my blog subscriptions (including My ITLL Blog) are sent to my evernote email address, keeping my real inbox clear.

– For our drama performance THIS week, a colleague of mine created a note where she placed music files throughout the script so she could easily read the script and launch the music at the same time. 

I recommend partnering Evernote with Scannable – a high quality scanner for your phone.

Followupthen (Followupthen.com)

Followupthen is an email reminder program that lets you send reminder emails to yourself or someone else at specified times. Sending an email to the addressthursday@followupthen.com will bring the email back to you on Thursday. Everyweekday7am@followupthen.com will bring a recurring email back to you at 7am every workday.

How I used this application: Our school sends out a weekly bulletin for staff called Monday morning jazz. The optimal time for me to read it is every morning at 8:45am. I don’t want to print it or leave it in inbox where I will forget it, so I send it to the email address everyweekday845am@followupthen.com.

Microsoft Sway (Sway.com)

I was introduced to this presentation application when the WSD sent out an email newsletter using it in September or October. Sway is a highly intuitive online presentation application (similar to Prezi). Teachers can create lesson plans online for students to access at home. Students can create presentations at home and link them to their teachers. In addition to lesson plans, I use Sway to hold all of my choir lyrics (http://bit.ly/1rmfWyy)

Planboard (Planboardapp.com)

I haven’t been using this application much in the past school year. This application, created by chalk.com, is an online planning notebook. You can include links and media throughout your lesson plan. Chalk also hosts Markboard, a site to record classroom assessments.

Other applications I find helpful:

1. Say it Mail it (iPhone) – take audio notes and immediately mail it to yourself or (bonus points) to your Evernote account.

2. The Email game (online) – quickly move through email.

3. Workflow (iphone/ipad) – Create apps within this app.

4. WolframAlpha (everywhere)-  Find and compare anything quantifiable on the internet.

5. Substitute Alert (iPhone)- Notifications to your phone for Aesop jobs (for all the substitute teachers out there).

6. Duolingo (everywhere)- Language learning app.

7. Dropbox (everywhere) – Filesharing

8. Figure by Propellerhead (iPhone/Ipad) – Music fun!

9. Quick Graph  – my favourite graphing app

Josh Winestock

Music/Math Support

Tyndall Park School

Session Two Blog Reflection

After my time with George in March I was able to reflect on my practice as an educator.  I read the second chapter and was drawn to the points about having empathy for our students in how they learn best.  “Do the learning experiences you create mimic the type of learning you expect to engage in?” (p.39)  “Is there a better way?” (p. 42)  Since the beginning of the school year I have really been pushing myself to change my math practice to create more hands on learning.  Not just hands on learning in terms of having math materials on shelves but allowing the students to make their own discoveries around a main topic.  I have been allowing groups of students to visit a math centre based around a question posted i.e. “What can you discover about capacity?”  I had various containers, paper, pencils and materials such as water, beans and cotton balls laid out for them to discover with.  During this time I would have the others students working independently while I could listen to the conversations that were going on at the math centre and record what I was hearing.  At the end of math I would invite some of those students to share what they discovered at the math centre that day with the rest of the class.  The student’s were so engaged in their conversations and were excited to share what they discovered with the class.

I think I am moving in the right direction in terms of the innovator’s mindset.  I want my students to have more than just worksheet experiences in math and sitting at the carpet and me telling them how to solve math facts.  If I go back to decision that made me change my practice, it probably was from my own experience as a new mom, what would I want from my own daughter’s early years teacher?  A teacher who believed in play based learning with hands on experiences or a teacher who was old fashioned in her teaching style?  The first one would appeal to me more as a mom.  I’m excited to see what else I can come up with for my math practice in the classroom.  I’m sure George’s book and the conversations we will have during these sessions will inspire me with more ideas.  Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 11.52.35 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 11.52.22 AM

Shannon McMurtry

Grade 1 Teacher

Grosvenor School

Cluster 1996

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


I left the first session with George Couros excited but also saturated with information. I have been thinking about what this means for me in the context of my classroom and here are a few of my thoughts.

  1. Literacy as communication.

I knew that literacy was part of communication but it made me really examine how we communicate in our world today. I thought about how to integrate what we traditionally do with the technology of today. This is important and I feel we need to bridge this gap in a meaningful way for students. How can this be done without spending an entire day on technology or an entire day not using technology? Finding the balance is important.

  1. Using social media in the classroom.

How am I going to do this? I want it to be in a meaningful and authentic fashion, using it in a way that allows the children to develop questioning skills. I would like to use this media as a catalyst for a better world and facilitate change. When children use technology at home, they are not using in person one on one interactions with others because of computers, tablets and games. Sometimes students misunderstand each other and are having a harder time communicating face to face and using social skills appropriately. I believe part of my job is to marry the two worlds so students can be appropriate on social media, use technology and also understand how to interact with others appropriately within our classroom and our community.

I have set up a twitter account and I am looking forward to using a classroom Instagram account as well in the next several weeks. This session has made me think about using social media in my classroom as a tool for the students to help and inspire others and to be inspired, within their community and connections around the world.

Maria Pochailo

Cluster 1996


Innovation an Mathematics Education

After attending our session with George Couros I began to wonder … what is innovative when it comes to mathematics education? Now before I say anything else, I’d like to say that I do not see myself as a perfect example of an innovative math teacher. However, I do know myself to be a person who is genuinely interested in learning math and learning about teaching math. And as George has said in his book, “[i]f we want to create a culture of innovation, we must first focus on furthering our own learning and growth.” After participating in the workshop, reading parts of George’s book, some online research, and becoming the proud-owner of a Twitter handle (Colleen H2 btw ;)) here are my thoughts thus far … What is innovative when it comes to mathematics education . . .

Embracing an inquiry approach

In other words, students are actively involved in coming up with, investigating, and   solving real-life mathematics problems. In my online travels I came across a great website for inspiration for real-life problems: www.mathalicious.com.

Building upon strengths

As George suggests, we should help students find what they love and create learning experiences which develop their strengths. I think it would be really neat to ask the students where the math is in whatever it is they love. For example, if you love biking, where is the math in biking? If you love YouTube, where is the math in YouTube? I think this could lead to some neat ideas/innovations.

Building connections

Students could connect with experts who use math in their fields and industries and learn from them. I’m excited for our classroom to begin building more connections using Twitter and blogging!

Looking very forward to what George so nicely phrased as this “opportunity to create something better for our students.” Thanks for reading and happy learning everyone!


Colleen Heuchert-Hammell

Montrose School

Cluster 1996

Engagement vs Empowerment


As one of the guiding principles of learning in the Winnipeg School Division, I based most of my classroom practices around the goal of engaging students. Engagement is not a buzzword but a practice, of captivating student’s attention, and having them invested in what content they are learning. Making learning interesting. Fun even. By keeping this as a central idea close to my heart while I taught, I thought I was putting students at the center of my pedagogy. I still think I am, putting students first that is. Engagement is good practice. But maybe I set the bar too low.

George Couros admits in his book, that even in his early days of teaching, he believed that engagement was enough. It’s not that engagement is bad practice. But as George goes on to explain by quoting Bill Ferriter, “Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula.” Still sounds pretty good to me. Until I read further.


Empowering students “means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future”. We need to raise the bar from just settling for engagement through good content and practice, to empowerment. It’s easy to do an inquiry project, or genius hour as a “one-off” empowering activity, but how do you embed this idea mindset into our classroom environment? I do not have the answer yet, but I certainly hope to continue to learn and find out.

“Empowering students to succeed in school and life – means that we pay attention to the skills companies are seeking.”

As a high school teacher, I admit to occasionally resorting to an old adage, referring to my duty to adequately prepare students for the “real world”. George reminds us that this “real world” is the world we all live in, not some futuristic society. In Thomas Friedman’s article which George references titled, “How to Get a Job at Google”, there are five hiring attributes that the company desires in its employees: cognitive ability, leadership, humility, ownership, and expertise.

As teachers yes we want students to have these, as both Thomas and George point out. But I couldn’t help but notice that in order for an educator to truly embrace the innovators mindset, an effective teacher must have these attributes as well.

  1. Empowerment to process on the fly, learn new tools and technology, and adapt to student needs.
  2. Leadership to recognize when to relinquish power to the students, and allow them to take control of their learning environment.
  3. Humility to admit that you don’t know everything, and building a professional network to help support your weaknesses and foster creativity.
  4. Ownership to work on solving organizational problems within the classroom/school/division and rise above them to benefit students.
  5. Expertise: specifically listed as the least important attribute by Friedman, although some content knowledge is required to teach a subject area, thinking you already know the answer can’t keep you from exploring new and exciting options.


Jeremy Midford – Children of the Earth High School

Reflection on Innovative Practices


 As I reflect on innovative teaching, I think back to the in-service I attended in January involving “21st century learning with Johnny Wells”. It was after this in-service that I recognized the importance of giving students the opportunity to work in small teams to accomplish a task. These “instant challenges” inspire creative and critical thinking, promote team-building, problem solving, risk-taking, and allow students to be project managers, to persevere when faced with a problem, and build self-confidence. These are all skills that students will need to have when they become adults and are ready to enter the workforce.

Finding the time to do instant challenges in my classroom is a challenge for me. However, I do think that I have been teaching students these skills through some extra-curricular clubs that I have offered over the years. In Lego Mindstorms Club, students work in partners to build robots out of Lego and then use computer software to program their robots to move around an object, move through a maze, sense colour, light, and sound, and hit objects, etc.

In Geocaching Club, students work in teams to follow coordinates that eventually lead them to a “treasure”. I have also done this activity as a field trip last year with our Geography Club. Students were divided into 4 teams and were provided with walkie-talkies which they used to communicate with other teams to let them know that they found the geocaches. It was like the “Amazing Race” and was team-building at its finest!

Lastly, I have used Minecraft Edu. in the classroom and offered it as a club. In the classroom, I had my students create a digital world of a novel that we were studying. After choosing an area of the map to focus on, students had to break into small groups and assign tasks to one another and build their structures using materials that would have been used in the story. In the Minecraft Club, students had the opportunity to work in groups and accomplish tasks that I gave them.

I enjoy doing the above mentioned clubs because I have a genuine interest in them. I think that is important because students need to see the teacher’s enthusiasm in order to buy in. However, there are always new ideas for using innovative teaching in the classroom that I am open to trying. I definitely want to try some instant challenges with my students before the year ends, and I have some in mind. Now that it is a little less busy, it might be a good time to try something new.

Michael Conklin

Carpathia School

Cluster 1996

My Social Media Inquiry….


“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again. ~Abraham Maslow

I was asked to write about the purpose of schools 3-4 weeks before our first meeting with George Couros. Here is an exert:

“…The purpose of schools I see not only through the lens of a teacher but parent of a 12 year old daughter and 10 year old son… we are educating the children of the 21st century. What does that mean? How does that change the stance on education from years ago? A few have questioned… I believe it is our mission to provide a multitude of experiences to our students that allow for creativity, collaboration, and communication and to ignite sparks of curiosity in classrooms. We, as teachers must cultivate a democratic culture where their voices are heard and valued as we unpack the curriculum in creative and interesting ways that are responsive to the learner. Providing students opportunities to wonder, derive theories and wrestle with wrong answers fosters stronger critical thinkers, problem solvers and reflective learners. This will make our future brighter. We teach kids to take risks, to think out- side the box, to get involved, to care about the world around them. We integrate technology into everything we do because we know that is their future. We infuse passion into learning about topics that matter, topics they won’t forget because it was connected to real life. We facilitate learning…as we teach them… they teach us…Why School? We are teaching students in the 21st century…tomorrow’s leaders… and they deserve to be ready.

The reason I share a piece of that with you today is to let you see how timely this workshop was to my thinking about education. My writing reflection was written from the heart, firmly rooted in what I believe and practice as an inquiry support teacher. Upon my return from session #1, I re -read my writing and the 3 sentences I highlighted jumped off the page and made me think… really think. I wrote about integrating curriculum with technology, our students being tomorrows leaders, and raised the question about what it means to educate a 21st century learner. I thought I got it. I thought had most of the answers, I knew what George was talking about… we spoke the same language. Well, maybe not exactly. Participating in George’s workshop and reading his book has challenged my thinking…has shifted my thinking. I am someone whose never been on Face book and bragged about it. Never been on Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram- you name it…I wasn’t on it. I also held my daughter off of a device until 2 months ago (she’s almost finished grade 7 and the “ONLY ONE” without a device). George made me think about social media in a whole new way. He made me think about audience in a global context. He made me think about how social media is their future… the way to connect in the 21st century world and the earlier we start modeling Digital Citizenship more and more in our classrooms and utilizing it in connected meaningful ways, the more our students will be ready to use it responsibly on their own. I am a glass half full kind of gal but my outlook on social media was shattered after hearing all the negative stories.   I signed up on Instagram to follow my daughter and I am now on a personal inquiry journey with Twitter. I have a twitter account and connect with other educators everywhere! I tweet! But can’t hashtag properly (according to my daughter), I am holding learning lunches at my school to start the conversation about edublogs, twitter and digital citizenship. I have always read professionally but I am doing it even more now. So… George and WSD support, thank you. Thank you for a shift in mindset and the opportunity to learn. I thank you…and so does my daughter!

Camie Lawson/ Montrose School