Innovation Island

I love being an innovative educator. I love trying out new things. I love exploring new technologies that can connect children to each other and the world around them. But sometimes it can be lonely work. I’ve been really impressed with how my board has connected different educators. I’ve grown my professional learning community significantly over the past year, especially connecting with more local teachers.

group hand fist bump
Photo by on

My area of need continues to be to strengthen connections within my own building. It really helps when my work is more public. I think when teachers share beyond their rooms, when they open their doors, sharing becomes much easier. One of my last projects involve the use of green screens for videos that my students were making. This helped build a lot of connections since green screens popped up all of the building, and then people were able to ask what I was doing. I bounce ideas off of other people and was able to think more deeply as a consequence.

Teaching can sometimes be a very isolating job. I really need to work harder at building connections with others. I need to renew my commitment to keep sharing my thinking. I need to purposely connect with people in my building.

Let’s keep bridging those islands!

green mountain surrounded by body of water photo
Photo by Borislav Krustev on




I Threw Out Some Books

I went one to one this year. each of my grade 7 students got a chrome book. And it was amazing. One thing I didn’t anticipate was that the consumption of print media drastically went down. Now I’m going to take full responsibility for this as I’ve been wishing and dreaming for technology forever. And when my wish came true, I jumped headfirst into it. We used our devices for everything! But with all things, balance is important. What is out of balance right now is that my students aren’t reading a variety of texts – specifically print.

pile of books
Photo by Pixabay on

I have fought hard for my classroom library. I spent lots of my own money on it. I have begged borrowed and stolen books for it (often from my own children!). I have invested lots of myself into my classroom library. However, in the last few years, that has slowed down. I haven’t added very many new books to my collection. And it is becoming stale. So today I went through my collection and started throwing things out.

pile of books in shallow focus photography
Photo by Pixabay on

Now before you get up in arms, I am not pitching willy-nilly. It was very clear in my desire to increase the quantity of books that I have often overlooked the quality of these books. Some of these books are quite old. And I’m not talking in the classic sense, I’m talking literally old. And not that good. But this was where I was when trying to build my collection years ago: I would take anything!

It is both kind of liberating to go through and try to freshen up my collection. I do think there is a need to spend some money and I am curious about how to go through with it. I’m sure I can make a case for investing in classroom libraries for next year. Perhaps I can borrow and beg from my principal and community council.

There are a couple things I had no problem with. I had a collection of dictionaries that I tossed without a second glance. I did not feel any guilt about throwing these things out. Honestly I can’t remember the last time I had my students open up a dictionary. Now that being said, I do expect proper spelling from the students. It’s just a technology makes it so much easier than thumbing through the cumbersome dictionary. And you should’ve seen the size of the thesaurus! Out it went!

black and white book business close up
Photo by Pixabay on

So balances is something that I need to work on. I want to rediscover and re-focus on the love of (print) reading next year. I want to strike a good balance between technology and print.



Single Point Rubrics and Robots

This year I’ve been trying to deepen my assessment. I teach intermediate. That means we are dealing in percents. I’ve been resisting the idea presents because to me, traditionally, an 8 out of 10 equals 80%. This would be a level four or an A. However, my experiences with percents have often been a misalignment to the matching level. What I mean to say is this: just because it student gets 8 out of 10 things right doesn’t necessarily mean they have demonstrated a level 4 mastery. Now of course this means I need to look more deeply at my assessments to ensure there are level 4 opportunities. And that my assessment accurately reflects what the student can demonstrate. I know this bias doesn’t always reflect percentages but it has been my past experience. Currently I’m looking to broaden that experience.

I’ve also long resisted the traditional rubric. I did enjoy it when I first started using it but over the last few years I’ve become disillusioned. It just seemed like a lot of work for me and it wasn’t giving me the pay off that I wanted. And then I moved to learning goals and success criteria. But I didn’t find a way to make my rubrics match that.

This year online I came across a single point rubric. Found this really exciting. No longer was I wasting my time with unnecessary leveled boxes. The reason I discarded rubrics is because I didn’t want to spend time on level one and level two. My focus was the target of level three.

Single point rubrics allowed me to focus on my success criteria. I was then able to focus on our goals and assign a level accordingly. I feel I’ve done away with meaningless qualifiers as they don’t mean much for students. Now I’m able to focus on the learning.

I’m still not sure it’s perfect but I am moving forward.

Now what I do feel constrained with is how to take this rubric and translate it into a percent.

Over the last few months I’ve been using my single point rubric and then collecting each number to then divide out of a total. This would give me a percent. There were a few problems with this. If students got all level fours they would end up with 100%. For some reason my mind resisted this as 100% always seem to be almost unattainable. If a student got all level threes they would then get 75%. This to me seemed OK. However the problem was if a student scored a level two or level one consistently for each point. If the students scored level two they would end up with 50%. The students scored level one they would score much below 50%. This didn’t match our traditional percentage and letter grade and level alignment.

Generally if a student was scoring level two they should get somewhere between 60 to 69%. If a student is scoring at a level one would be somewhere between 50 and 59%.

So then I needed to realign my values. I calculated that if the student scored at a level two I should score them as a 2.5. This generally gave me a 65%. If a student was scoring at a level one then they would be awarded two points each. This gave them about a 50%.

But I’m still wrestling with is that idea the level four equalling 100%. What I may end up doing is assigning a value of four for a 4+ and then a value of 3.5 for a traditional level four. This may help realign of the percentages to the letter grades that I have traditionally been used to.

And yesterday something really exciting happened. I was able to get a robot to do my calculations and deliver a percent.

Now I credit my wife for this revelation. I’m pretty familiar with most traditional software programs. However, for some reason, I’ve managed to avoid Excel. The Google equivalent to this would be Sheets. Don’t know why I never dug into that program but the longer I’ve avoided it the more my resistance grew. So then I was stuck manually calculating percentages and averages. And it seem to me that it was a lot of unnecessary work.

The last night I leaned in and opened up a sheet and transferred my single point rubric from a Google doc into a Google sheet. It took a bit of fiddling and a lot of Googling but I was able to create a single point rubric with check boxes and a space for a total and percent. This saves me lots of time.

Single Point Rubric Sheets 2

Few months ago I was fortunate enough to attend a conference where I listened to Alice Keeler. There are many pieces of advice she gave gave, but one that I was determined to try was this: get robots to do the work. It’s a much more efficient use of my time. So if I could get sheets to calculate for me that would be a good thing. The robot does the work!

Today I had quite a few writing portfolios to mark. Using the sheets rubric I save myself some time. And this felt good.

So I’ll continue to work on my assessment practices. I know I have a ways to go to increase the rigor of my assessments and that my percentages need to better align with the level that I’m observing.

What are your thoughts and feelings on rubrics?


Managing Memes and Themes

So today did not go well. I created a slideshow that each student was to contribute to. This was not the first time we’ve done this. But for some reason today it was especially distracting and troublesome.

Bingo Night
Just a sample of the nonsense.


Now I have exceptional students in my class. They have all sorts of different abilities and contributions to make, some a lot more than others. But I found today especially frustrating.

Yet another gem. 

I created a Google Slides that everyone was to contribute to. This wasn’t new. But today, I saw behaviour that I haven’t seen in months. They were posting inappropriate Memes. They were messing with each other‘s work. It was a mess! And I got mad. I shut down the show. I started deleting like a fiend. I even accidentally deleted legitimate work in my (over)reaction.

What was different about today? Was I fed up with the lack of contributions? Or is it just that I am so exhausted right now that I couldn’t focus on what is important?

Meme meme.JPG

I wanted to post this here because I’m very aware of the effects of social media. It is very easy to get caught up in the facade presented online. People only post the best and this manufactures an elevated effect: there are no flaws or mistakes. Only perfection. So I want to show my mistakes.

Either way I’ll try again tomorrow. I’m trying to be aware of how I react. I want to be positive and encourage good digital citizenship. But some days it is hard.

How have you come back from hard days?


Green Screen Trouble

I’m on a mission. I’m trying to get a green screen at my school. Now, I have no idea what I’m doing. I know that I want to use it to make videos. But beyond that I have no idea. So I started out by reaching out to Twitter. Sought out advice and talked to people who had experience using one. I then tried to come up with different solutions that would work at my school. I started a dreaming big. I wanted to paint a whole section of wall. When that was discouraged I thought about painting a large portable screen. Now I’ve decided to purchase some cheap dollar store table cloths and use those until they get wrecked.



The point of this reflection? I wanted to think about how I am approaching technology. I want my kids to work together. Although the product is interesting, the pedagogy is still more important. I want to emphasize collaboration and communication. Want to emphasize the thinking that goes on when making this.

So I started with an idea. I asked for help. Today I will present it to my students and we’ll figure it out together. Will we be successful? Probably! Because we’re going to give it a go.

How are you approaching new technology?