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

Trying To Think More Like A Dog A Little Bit More Each Day

Our first Innovative Leader’s session took me back to a technology conference I attended a few years ago. At that conference I saw and met many talented educators who were using social media in very innovative ways in the classroom. There was quite a buzz of energy at that two day conference. One classroom teacher who particularly stood out for me as being an exceptional leader and mentor in this field is an elementary teacher in Saskatchewan, Kathy Cassidy. Being a teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where I first started my teacher career intrigued me even further. My administrator gave me permission to purchase Kathy’s ebook, “Connected From the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades.” I pondered that if Kathy could introduce and connect her students to this vast world of learning beyond the four walls of her classroom, activate and engage their minds, spark curiosity, then couldn’t I do that here in my classroom in Winnipeg.

I’m always telling my students to, “think outside the box”, and “try something new”, so I decided to jump on board. It looked easy enough and our school had some iPads ready to use.  So I signed up for Twitter and Instagram, downloaded Kidblog and Edublog apps, Biblionasium with good intentions to have students participate in an online book club forum with my students and I even created a SKYPE account. I was ready to seize these opportunities. I had all the tools. Ready, set go. Nothing happened! I followed a few but “SAFE” people but I was too nervous to tweet. I stayed in “Cat” mode. It is easier to stay with what is comfortable.

It was around this time our school had PD from the MTS society about using Social Media. I started to worry about the negative social media implications. The “what if” mental obstacle course started in my brain. What if I followed the wrong person? What if a parent followed me and they had links to something inappropriate? How could I control those things? Unfortunately that’s where I stalled. I idled for a while poking around at different websites and trying out different applications but continued to put Social Media and the unique learning experiences I could create and infuse in my regular teaching practice on hold. I had witnessed from Kathy’s presentation the possibilities and continued to be fascinated with the learning experiences she was facilitating for her students. If I were a student in her school I’d want to be in her classroom. I became disappointed in myself that I hadn’t moved beyond these initial steps which I had taken.

George Couros’s presentation on “The Myths of Technology and Learning” has renewed this interest, but I found myself relieved that other people around me had some of the same sentiments and needed some support and help to figure out how to get started. With some additional help from Keith Strachan to wrap my mind around some of these challenges I feel that I might be ready to have another go at this and leap into this new abyss. Keith reminds me that it is ok to be a beginner and that there are other people in the same boat alongside and networking with me as I begin this journey. I’m trying to think more like a dog a little bit more each day.


Catherine Tattersall

Earl Grey School

Cluster 1971