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




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?

Leveraging Digital: citizenship

I have to admit that I love buzzwords. And leveraging digital is one of the buzzwords that I enjoy the most. In my mind, when I hear the words leveraging digital, I have a very powerful visual. I see a lever being used effectively to move a very large object. To me, digital allows us to do really great things. And often it makes work easier.


My goal over the next few posts is to share how I am using digital to promote those 21st-century skills. Now before I go any further, I do realize that we are 18 years into the 21st-century. But the skills are still important. They are also called Global Competencies, and they include: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity & innovation (from Edugains) and citizenship and character.

Today want to talk about how I am using digital to foster citizenship skills for my students. Out of all the competencies I will be discussing, citizenship has the most tension for me.

group of people holding hands forming teamwork
Photo by on

To understand this I think I need to break down my past experiences and then look to what I am currently doing, and that will inspire what I’ll do in the future.

A few years ago when I started looking earnestly at a embracing technology within my teaching, there was a popular movement to launch digital citizenship within schools. One of my first experiences was called Digital Citizenship Boot Camp. This was a series of lessons, at the beginning of the year, that would introduce students to the core beliefs of good digital citizenship. These lessons would have students rotating through different stations. Sometimes there was even an exam at the end. Successful completion of this exam was rewarded with a digital drivers license. This license allowed students to use devices at school as well as bring their own devices from home. This license stated that students are ready to use technology appropriately.


Now I love this idea. I love a focussed whole school conversation about good digital citizenship skills for our  learners. It is important to teach good citizenship. But the problem with me in particular is that these lessons ended when the boot camp was over. I needed to embed these skills in my daily practice. So my practice needed to evolve.

The one thing I’ve always been aware of is that students will make mistakes. I’ve had a few dramatic examples of that throughout my career. But I’ve always tried to maintain a positive technology reaction. I cringe when teachers put the tools away, and ban the program, or shut the whole thing down. I feel this doesn’t solve the problem. My goal continues to be to teach the expected behavior. I want students using these programs appropriately. Mistakes help us learn. So I persevere.

This year all of my students got Chrome book. I can’t speak enough about how this is transforming my practice. One example of my positive technology reaction is to an app called Pushbullet. Students were able to connect with each other using this messaging platform. They could connect with each other using their school given logins. I know some teachers that struggle with this. I know some teachers that have banned this program. But I have persisted and resisted.

I believe it’s important to teach students how to master the technology. For most of their lives I feel technology has existed for distraction purposes only. The technology is very good at distracting. Notifications regularly pull us away from our focus. Technology constantly clambers for our attention. This is what we’ve designed it for.

So I’ve encouraged my students to use this program. I’ve encouraged them to connect with each other in positive and meaningful ways. I’ve co-opted this program as my agenda. I use it to connect with students who aren’t conveniently near me in class. A quick message to share their thinking is very effective for me.

Now will they use it inappropriately? Of course they do! But that is the balance. I need to constantly show them how to positively and productively use technology. And I can do this by how I respond to them. I choose to focus on the positive possibilities of technology rather than react to the negative consequences of technology. Of course there will be mistakes. And I need to use these as learning opportunities. But if I only focus on the negative then technology becomes negative.

So digital citizenship continues to be a struggle and finding balance. I need to constantly show and model and encourage good behavior. I need to use mistakes as learning opportunities. I need to balance consequences with opportunities. This is how I’m going to continue to struggle with good digital citizenship.

One of my goals is to foster citizenship beyond my classroom walls: Global Citizenship. I feel I’m not doing enough to foster global citizenship with in my class. I’m teaching them how to interact appropriately with each other, but we have yet to reach outside to others. Not sure how I’m going to do this but I’ll keep trying. There are a few teachers in my school who are trying this. So I wish to get on board with that. I wish to see the authentic connections my students can make among themselves and then to people outside our classroom.

How are you fostering good citizenship using technology?