Teacher = Learner =Teacher

I have recently had the opportunity to participate in a teaching partnership with a colleague in my school board who I had never met. We were introduced through a pilot project where teachers who have some experience and comfort level working with computer technology are partnered with an individual who wants to learn more about including ed tech in his/her teaching practice.

My partner has been teaching for longer than I have, in a discipline where I have no experience teaching.  He is in a rural school where mine is more urban. On paper, we look like an unlikely pair. Enter the magic of collaboration and conversation.

Sgt Peppers – The Beatles INNOVATION

We talked about teaching. Our thoughts on education reform. The necessity of coffee. We engaged in my favourite pedagogical conversation, “If I could design my own school, it would look like…” We talked about innovation. And technology in education. We talked about music.  And the influence of new technology on music. (Neither of us teach music, but we both love it, and share a particular affinity for music from the 1960’s.)

Formally, in the ITIP (Innovative Teacher Integration Project), I am the mentor and Mr. D is the mentee. I think those labels are misleading, as the best teaching is learning, and vice versa. The most important element to in this entire process is time. We had a morning (which isn’t much – but it was something!) to meet, to discuss, to come to an understanding, to help one another. Giving teachers time to collaborate with one another produces great ideas and better opportunities for student learning.

Through our conversations, I came to understand Mr. D’s goals. He wants to reach the students where they are, giving them a tool with which to record their art work for posterity (and assessment. Because school.) It needed to be phone-friendly – as pretty much all students have a cell phone at the ready, and it had to be easy – so that they would use it.

We talked over some options and decided to try setting up a class Edublog – the students could take pictures of the artwork they created and upload it to their personal blogs. Edublogs has a handy app that is free in both iOs and android. Students will create a digital portfolio of their work and a have place to reflect on the learning process. Photos of the work in different stages will help in understanding how the learning happens- and any text included will enrich the understanding of both the student (metacognition) and the teacher. As part of the triangulation process, the discussions between teacher and student can now be real and virtual, and the product is recorded forever – so students can take their work home and hang it on the fridge. 🙂

The transition from traditional ways to new ways needs to be purposeful. How will this transition enrich the learning process in Mr D’s class?  Will his students embrace it?  Will the conversations be richer?  Will they be able to discuss their work on a deeper level than before? I’m interested to see.  I have lots left to learn.


“List of images on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Apr. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.

Blogging – Gah!

So this semi-annual blog post business is a bit ridiculous. I really need to be documenting my thoughts and my work more effectively.  It is one of those situations where I feel “It’s been so long since I’ve posted something, what’s the point?”  But that self-defeatist attitude and negative self-talk never got anyone anywhere. So here I go again.

I had the privilege to attend the OLA Super Conference last week, and on Wednesday afternoon, had the pleasure of hearing Sunni Brown speak as the hour-long keynote. Her book is called “The Doodle Revolution”



and in it, she explores creative thinking and the power of doodling to allow our brains to work differently. Chapters include Doodling is Thinking in Disguise, The Doodle’s Radical Contributions, Doodle University and Taking the InfoDoodle to Work.  The premise of her book and her talk boiled down to this: in order to be successful lifelong learners, we need to be willing to Learn, Un-Learn, and Re-Learn – and we need to be willing to do this pretty much constantly. As a teacher, and a champion of the library learning commons, this philosophy made so much sense. I know, however, that if it is difficult for me (a person who is a pretty significant risk-taker) that it will be extremely difficult for many of my colleagues and students.

In order to demonstrate her philosophy, Sunni had the audience of 3000+ librarians do a couple of exercises which challenged our collective approach to thinking, problem solving and creativity. The first was spontaneous idea creation – which I found fun, but a bit stressful. The second activity required reflection on something each of us has personal negative feelings about – particularly in the area of teaching and learning. This exercise was meant to address the negative self-talk that we all participate in, and – in the words of Elsa – “Let it go.”  I really enjoyed the reminder to acknowledge and validate (and then set free) the little voice inside my head that tells me “You’re not good enough.” and  “You can’t do that.”  I tend to be an optimist, but even so, this gentle reminder was a welcome one. Those little voices need to be soothed.

My intention (in addition to regular blogging) is to find ways to implement the ideas in Sunni Brown’s book into my teaching and learning in the BCI Library Learning Commons.

This Changes Everything



Tomorrow I venture into previously uncharted territory in my teaching and learning in the BCI Library Learning Commons. Tomorrow, thanks to the NFB Virtual Classroom program, we are hosting Naomi Klein, who will lecture on her most recent book, “This Changes Everything”.  Her research focuses on the connection between Capitalism and Global Climate Change. I have invited two classes (and various extras) to come, listen and engage in the virtual learning experience.

I should say, I’m not a stranger to digital learning; I’ve done Google Hangouts and Skype for meetings and webinars, but this is the first time I’ve used the NFB platform and had an audience/group of 70+ students involved. I have high hopes that this will be all I dream of: the true classroom without walls, where students are in a cloud classroom with students from all over Canada, engaging in meaningful dialogue and reflection with a true expert. The possibility of removing the limitations imposed by a traditional schooling model (scheduling, travel, fees and space to host a speaker) opens the door to inviting a broad variety of experts in a vast number of fields to speak to students. And who better to teach than experts?  If we can get students excited about the people they meet, if we can take this opportunity to teach them more than content and extend to presentation skills, critical thinking, digital literacy and digital citizenship, if we can demonstrate the REAL WORLD connections to the learning in school?

I have to agree: This Changes Everything.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

Here is some information about the virtual classroom and also some suggested films and resources related to the issue of global climate change and Capitalism.

Virtual Classroom Link: This Changes Everything

NFB Resources – This Changes Everything

Reflections on 21st Century Learning


If there’s a pedagogical hot button that makes my hackles rise, it’s the ubiquitous catch-all “21st Century Learning.” Bandied about by teachers, school boards, policy makers and social media, it is used so often to refer to so many different elements of learning (mostly the integration of tech tools into classrooms) that it has ceased to have meaning. It sounds progressive, but promises nothing in terms of improvement to student learning, achievement or educational experience. While I recognize the importance of preparing our students for the uncertainties, the changes and the possibilities the future holds, I frequently feel bogged down by the “21st century”.  Dragging your iPod from home to school is not innovative education. Replacing a pen and paper with a laptop is not differentiated instruction.  Using Google to copy and paste information from a website in response to a low-order thinking question is not research or inquiry. The suggestion that “all we have to do is give kids the technology – they’ll figure it out, because they’re digital natives!” makes my head spin. These are some of the problems I had with the loaded term, “21st century learning.” Until last week.

This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Ministry of Education/Faculties of Education Forum in Toronto, where I participated in a variety of meaningful and interesting discussions, the most engaging being around the  21st Century Competencies – Draft document, which currently resides on the EduGains website. The facilitators from the Ministry of Education were sincerely interested in feedback from educators from around the province and the discussion we had was rich and engaging. The discussion focused around our goals for the graduates of 2030 – and the document addresses the development of cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in students. 21st century learning is more about helping to create global citizens than about tablets and robots.

There is a focus on lifelong learning: providing teachers with support and the opportunity to develop their practice through deep learning and establishing teaching partnerships. In addition, the document places a priority on learning environments, including learning commons and makerspaces as places to foster skills in critical literacy, innovation and creativity. The document also calls for digital resources to be made available to students across the province in the interest of equity and accessibility.  These areas align beautifully with the principles and guidelines suggested in both the vision document Together for Learning (2010) and the CLA publication, Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Libraries in Canada (2014). It is exciting to see how the values I hold so dear, and the pedagogies I know to be sound, are being reflected from so many sources.  I have been inspired by the session leaders and the participants around my discussion table, by the students and teachers in my school, and by the Teacher-Librarians and classroom teachers in my PLN; the potential for teaching and learning in the province of Ontario continues to grow and develop. I am excited to be on this path of lifelong learning – the possibilities are endless!





One of the people I have had the pleasure to get to know through my work with provincial library subject associations is Melissa Jensen, from Simcoe County District School Board. I am fortunate to have her has a colleague, a friend and also my Vice President/President Elect of the Ontario School Library Association! Melissa has spent 15 years in as an elementary teacher-librarian and is currently the Lead Learner in Collaborative Inquiries with her school board. As just one of many great ideas she has shared, Melissa has inspired me to use this blog to keep track of the projects I undertake with other teachers.

The idea of a Collaboration Blog is COOL!  Thanks Melissa!

Follow Melissa on Twitter @mjtlbarrie for great PD and connections to Inquiry, STEAM, makerspaces, GAFE and assessment. She is awesome!

Also – she just hosted a webinar yesterday with another awesome T-L friend, Diana Maliszewski @MzMollyTL through OTF Connects – it should be archived soon.

Teacher-Librarianship: Together for Learning on the Job

This session brings together teacher-librarians to explore issues relevant to their practice. Questions that will be explored include: How do school library professionals transform their libraries into Library Learning Commons? What human and digital resources can we access critically to enhance our teaching practices and thereby help our students learn? When do teacher-librarians have the time to deeply examine and understand some of the most recent and relevant pedagogy around our profession (e.g. Together for Learning [2010] and Leading Learning [2014])? This OTF Connects session will provide the time, the topics, and the teacher-librarians  to help you find answers to these questions and more.

Audience: Teacher-Librarians, K-12

Resources: Coming soon!


The Best Job Ever

IMG_4192 IMG_3828 IMG_3975 IMG_4108

As a Teacher-Librarian in 2016, you need to be a lot of things. On any given day in my amazing school library learning commons, I am called upon to assist in many tasks, including but not limited to:

  • curator
  • IT specialist
  • reader’s advisory
  • detective
  • therapist
  • literacy expert
  • citation goddess
  • archivist
  • barista
  • nurse
  • collection development specialist
  • editor
  • collaborator
  • curriculum adviser
  • scientist
  • event planner
  • facilitator
  • other duties as assigned…

I believe my most important role is facilitator. Collaboration with students, teachers, the community and other teacher-librarians makes this job the most rewarding I have ever had. Each day I look forward to working in a bustling, active-learning space, where students and teachers feel comfortable coming to learn, to hang out, and to try new things; be they a genre of novel they’ve never read or taking apart an old tablet for the first time in our #hackerspace.


Education is about trying things, figuring stuff out, testing theories, learning from our mistakes, and reflecting on our experiences. The Learning Commons philosophy tells us that we are all learners -from the cradle to the grave – and by extension, that everyone has value. The collective contribution of students, teachers and others in our community to the learning environment at BCI is what makes our school and our learning experiences great. It is exciting to contribute to that energy.

My intention is to share awesome, amazing and sometimes even mundane thoughts and events with the wider learning community through this blog. There will be photos of the BCI Library Learning Commons, and links to resources and other stuff I find interesting. I’m hoping that this will be an effective collaboration tool for professional learning, as well – so please feel free to comment or share ideas with me. I’m always open to new adventures!