Going on a vacation? Pack for a purpose!

My friend Christine went to Costa Rica last Christmas for a family vacation in the sun. Before she went, though, she gathered school supplies from everyone (other teachers at our school, neighbours, family) to bring to a local school near her hotel. Her seven year old son insisted that he didn’t want a toy for Christmas; he wanted to give the children at the school more school supplies.

They were very happy to personally meet the teachers and students at the school. Surprisingly, the school was completely empty of supplies so everything was greatly appreciated.

This year Christine’s family is going back to Costa Rica and she has even recruited Walmart to donate supplies. They have amassed 150 lbs of supplies!

Christine made all her own connections with the local school in advance. However, if you are like me and wouldn’t know where to start, thankfully someone else does!

You can go to www.packforapurpose.org and easily find how to “make a impact on the lives of children” wherever you are travelling in the world.

The Pack for a Purpose motto is “Small space, Little Effort, Big Impact” because they suggest that if everyone sets aside only 5 lbs in their luggage for local needs and is able to drop it off at their hotel, then it will make a big impact.

What a fantastic idea! This would also be an excellent part of the planning for any overseas school trip. I know I will be checking out their website before I pack for my next trip!

Storify: Technology Tools in the Classroom

MissZita and I recently had the opportunity to work with Student Success Teachers as they explored Web 2.o tools for their classrooms. These are teachers who work with students who are not always being successful in regular classrooms.  The students often work independently to complete credits.  We wanted to give the teachers a large range of tools that would support differentiation for these students. Student engagement is priority!

We decided to collaborate and build a “Storify” to bring together a large range of links, video tutorials and examples for the teachers. During the workshop, the teachers were able to not only get an overview of all the tools, but also chose two or three to explore further with our guidance.

This was the first time either of us had used this tool, but we are both impressed at how easy it was to use and the highly visual end product.  You can access our Storify on Technology Tools in the Classroom at the following link:



At my school board’s 21st Century Teaching and Learning Technologies Symposium, the keynote speaker was Dean Shareski.  By video conference from Saskatchewan, he asked us if we felt we had an ethical obligation to share. (I love the serendipity of his name and message!) If we discover a lesson, activity or idea that engages students and/or helps them be successful, makes teachers’ jobs easier or more impactful, or is just plain fun, are we ethically obligated to share?

When I was a new teacher, I was privileged to be part of a department that shared everything. We worked collaboratively in course teams to develop common lessons and evaluations while encouraging individual teaching styles in the classroom. Everyone contributed their expertise to the team and even if a teacher didn’t contribute very much because they were new to the department or were occasional teachers, we still shared because that was better for the students. I thought all departments were the same. Of course, this is not true. I know many teachers who refuse to share anything with their colleagues, who keep their binders at home in case someone takes it and copies it when they are not there.

There are many reasons, all valid, why teachers don’t share. They are fearful of criticism. They don’t feel it’s fair if they do a lot of work and someone else doesn’t. They feel they have intellectual ownership of their work and others will present it as if it were their own. Perhaps, they think some teachers are lazy if they do not develop their own lessons. However, isn’t it better that they use your excellent, engaging lessons instead of photocopying worksheet after worksheet and showing movies? What is better for the students?

I was recently part of a team of resource teachers (RT) who developed and led the rest of the RTs in a learning session. As part of that team, I helped make a PowerPoint presentation with embedded videos. Afterward, I sat down with another RT and taught her, step-by-step, how to download, trim, convert and embed video files in PowerPoint 2007 using RealPlayer. I documented those steps in a list and then sent it to the rest of my team members. When one of the RTs on the team asked me to share these instructions with all the RTs on our shared workspace website, I hesitated because I was worried about the legality of encouraging people to download clips. I was also fearful of criticism in case I had made an error or someone could not follow the instructions.

Sharesky helped me to see why I should “put it out there”. So, I have added a section in my instructions to help teachers find videos people have shared in the Creative Commons that are copyright free and have since posted the instructions for all teachers in my board. I have also been inspired to create this blog and have attached these instructions to this post. Please feel free to take these instructions to use, modify, or even pass off as your own work. If you find anything unclear or incorrect, or you know an easier way to embed video, please let me know in the comments. I would love it if you help me make my instructions better! I’ve also attached introductory instructions for Prezi, Exploratree, Voicethread, and Gapminder.

We all access information online. None of it would be there if people did not share. Before I start working on something—anything—I always see what’s “out there” first.  Why reinvent the wheel?

What do you think? Do we have an ethical obligation to share?

Instructions to embed videos in PowerPoint

Prezi instructions                  Intro to Voicethreads                      

Instructions for Exploreatree                   Intro to Gapminder