Teaching Digital Health, Wellness and Citizenry Through Children’s Books

Teaching our learners about digital citizenship isn’t exactly the most exiting topic to engage conversation, but as we all know, the right hook can make all of the difference. As well, picture books, regardless of age, are always a hit. Below are some great books to consider.

Chicken Clicking (Jeanne Willis)

This book, complete with beautiful pictures, covers the topic of digital privacy, and leads to discussion in more than one area.

In the beginning, the book prompts discussion about the importance of passwords, auto-saving sensitive information (credit cards) and signing out of accounts. It also allows for conversation about ensuring you have permission before making purchases online.

Next, this book provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the sharing of personal information with strangers and appropriate contexts for meeting people in person from the online world. Do not miss this chance to talk about what is safe, such as meeting in a public space with friends or how to purchase items off of an online Marketplace. Be prepared, though, as you may be surprised as who knows the term “catphishing”.

If You Give a Mouse an iPhone
(Ann Droyd)

This book is excellent for having a discussion about screen time, both for parents and students. It also great for effects, if you read with inflection and excitement. It also can help discuss what is healthy or appropriate screen time/use, reminding students that screen time at school counts and the use of devices to
set limits while also being internally responsible for time limits.

This reading could also be more impactful to read to learners prior to a school break or before going on a school trip, reminding students the importance of unplugging, even during the travel so as to not miss out on moments on the journey, not just the destination.

Don’t forget, when reading, point out how much the mouse’s eyes bulge while using the device!

Nerdy Birdy Tweets (Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies)


Nerdy Birdy and his best friend, Vulture, are very different. Nerdy Birdy loves video games, but Vulture finds them BORING. Vulture loves snacking on dead things, but Nerdy Birdy finds that GROSS. Luckily, you don’t have to agree on everything to still be friends.

One day, Nerdy Birdy joins Tweetster, and the friend requests start flying in. Vulture watches as Nerdy Birdy gets swept up in his new friendships, but when she finally gets angry, Nerdy Birdy knows just what to do to make things right.

On the Internet: Our First Talk About Online Safety (Jillian Roberts and Jane Heinrichs)

Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 11.24.38 AMThis book takes readers through several scenarios around parental supervision, online bullying and anonymity. It also includes examples of people who use the Internet to make the world a better place. The story addresses common safety concerns with easy-to-understand rationales as to why it’s important to maintain boundaries online just as in real life.


Goodnight iPad 
(Ann Droyd)

An excellent and relatable story about the need to unplug from our devices before bed. Beginning by illustrating a home well-equipped with technology, it walks us through a myriad of distractions that can lead us to remain on our phone much later than we should. While meant to be a parody, the story does an excellent job at depicting just how much we are surrounded by technology in our homes.



(John Rocco)


This book serves a dual-purpose. First, it provides an entry point to discuss what a blackout is and to help our young learners understand what a blackout is. Second, it provides a reminder about the balance we require in our life regarding technology. Specifically, it emphasizes the importance of family and community time.






The Technology Tail (Julia Cook)

In this book, we are introduced to the character “Screen”. Screen helps explains what happens to things that are posted online, and the consequences of those actions. This book lends itself nicely to not only a person’s online image, but cyberbullying as well.








Goodnight Selfie (Scott Menchin)

This book is great for engaging students in a conversation around “the selfie” and “the elsie-selfie”. It lends itself to talking about what is worth taking a selfie of – and sharing with others – and what is not. Further, there is a page in the book where the character takes a selfie with roller skating, swinging high and getting hurt, which allows for a good entry point to talking about mobile devices and being distracted – I mentioned distracted driving, distracted rolling, and the need to be stopped and aware of your surroundings (hazards) before taking photos. I also made this sheet to accompany the book for primary grades (please click here).





Dot (Randy Zuckerberg)

This is an excellent book to spark dialogue over healthy use of digital devices.  Dot, the main character, knows a lot about digital devices and how to use them, but this tends to consume her time… until she embarks on a real-world adventure.






Bad Kitty Does Not Like Video Games (Nick Bruel)

This book provides a great entry point to discuss healthy balances between technology and other forms of entertainment. It directly addresses how much time spent playing video games, lending nicely to discuss what limitations exist for your learners. In this book, the story begins with Bad Kitty glued to the bunny and carrot video game. Then, Bad Kitty is told to play outside, draw and read before being allowed to play more video games.  Outside, Bad Kitty acts out the video game through imaginative play. Then, Bad Kitty draws scenes from the video game. After this, Bad Kitty’s creativity turns everything into monsters in the drawing. Last, Bad Kitty reads a book with connections to the video game (sounds similar to The Tale of Peter Rabbit). In the end, Bad Kitty goes outside to read and draw, rather than play more video games.



Tek: The Modern Cave Boy
(Patrick McDonnell)

This book is creatively designed to emulate an iPad, which makes it difficult to keep in circulation at our library. Overall, the story line follows a cave boy so addicted to his technology that his abilities digress, as he misses out on life. He misses the Ice Age and never learns about dinosaurs, and has very little ability to communicate and interact with others. That is, until the volcano erupts and his technology crashes. After this, Tek rediscovers the world around him.

This book has excellent details in its design. Each page has connectivity and battery power icons that change throughout the story, and bolds difficult words, which could lead to a vocabulary/creative writing activity. Kids absolutely love having this book read to them.

Collaborative Book Creation

In the spring of 2018, I collaborated with one grade 3/4 class on a learning journey to publish our own collaborative book on rocks native to our learning community and the rock cycle. In order to accomplish this, the class needed to learn how to use the app Book Creator. Below are the steps we followed to complete this collaborative learning task.

Step 1: Author Visit

The classroom teacher arranged a Face Time virtual visit by an author who wrote a book on why life is amazing. This was used as the “hook” to get students excited about writing their own books.

Step 2: Collecting Photos and Videos

In order to complete an authentic book on the topic “Life is Amazing”, learners were required to explore their community on weekly class walks and take photos/videos on why life is amazing.

Step 3: “Life is Amazing” Book Creation

To teach students the features in Book Creator, students were posed to write on the topic “Life is Amazing”. This activity was created as a scaffolding task and taught learners the following specific skills:

  • inserting and manipulating text
  • taking and saving photos/video to the camera roll
  • saving photos off of the internet to the camera roll
  • inserting and resizing photo/video
  • inserting background images
  • saving a Book Creator file as a PDF and video
  • how to share photos and videos via “Air Drop” on iPads

Here are some snapshots of students exemplars.

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Because this task was designed for students to learn how to use Book Creator, they were assessed using the following rubric. Please note, the content was not the focus of the assessment, but rather the skills of the app itself in conjunction with writing mechanics. As well, a feedback loop was implemented, with students providing peer feedback to one another. Once feedback was received, an opportunity to revise work was provided prior to submission for summative assessment. Each student was also required to identify one area they were proud of and one area for future improvement, which would be incorporated into the second iteration.

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Step 4: Rock Research

The next step in this process was for students to conduct research on the different rocks and minerals indigenous to the community. To set students up for success, I researched what rocks and minerals were indigenous and then used our Virtual Learning Commons (VLC) to provide students with age and content appropriate web links to guide learning. The VLC can be viewed here, but some snapshots of the classroom’s specific learning space has been included below.

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In addition to this, all relevant books were pulled for student use. Prior to accessing the VLC, students were required to use the physical resources. Lessons on how to use a table of contents and index were provided, and the school’s other grade 3/4 class was brought in to provide peer mentoring on how to take notes using the magnet note method. This gave students the choice to either use one sticky note for one fact or one sticky note to write key words. In the magnet note method, the main topic in placed in the middle of the sticky note, with four words/phrases/points in each corner to explain the centre word. Additional sticky notes are then added to elaborate, following the same method. Below are some snapshots of student research.

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Students were given topics based on preference so they were learning on areas of interest. Sticky notes were attached to construction paper for organization, and I housed them for safe keeping.

Step 5: Draft Writing

Once all areas had been researched, students were then given different areas to then take the magnet notes, organize them, and then write a paragraph on the topic.  Students also needed to find a picture to represent their topic. As you can imagine, this required quite a bit of support for our struggling writers. Luckily, because we were co-teaching and there was a CEA in this block, there were three adults to support this task.

When paragraph drafts were finished, students had two peers edit their work. Then, they typed out their paragraphs using Google Docs. Once this was complete, an adult edited their work one final time. This process was completed until all paragraphs were finished.

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Step 6: Book Contributions

Now that all of the paragraphs were finished, students moved to the iPads. By accessing Google Docs, the paragraphs were easily copied and pasted into blank pages in the Book Creator app. If the photos could not be transferred, students used safari to find the photo again, save it to the camera roll and then insert into the appropriate place. Each page was given a title, but this was all that was done.

Step 7: Creating a Collaborative Book

When all pages were finished, students were air dropped the Book Creator files to my iPad. Then, using screen mirroring, I showed the class how to combine the Book Creator files together.

After all pages were combined, I then air dropped the finished file to all of the students. From here, we took a tour through a bunch of published books and talked about what we noticed about layout and design. Students mentioned:

  • titles were always bigger
  • the same font was used
  • backgrounds that weren’t distracting
  • title pages
  • author names

Using these a hooks, students began to design their own version of the book. Once complete, the students uploaded it to their Google Drive as well as to Fresh Grade (our districts digital report cards) in PDF, video and the Book Creator file format for future editing.  Here are some finished projects.


Overall, this project was a success. Yes, it took quite a bit off time, but because the task was designed through an interdisciplinary lens with an emphasis on Science, Language Arts and ADST, the process and product served to be a valuable documentation of student learning. As well, because students were provided with voice and choice with each taking ownership over their learning, engagement and motivation were high. On the downside, this task would be difficult to execute with just one adult. It is recommended to connect with your LLC teacher and resource staff to help support on a similar endeavour.

Technology and Change: What’s on the Horizon and Strategies To Support Your School

As well begin to move into a new school year, I feel it valuable to provide some literature-informed insights on our technological horizon, along with some strategies to help leaders (both formal and informal) successfully navigate upcoming changes and challenges, and leverage technology in ways that impact staff, students and learning positively.

What’s on the Horizon?

To assist us in understanding technology in school, it is important for us to understand what is pushing contexts to innovate and change, and what is hindering progress. Technology adoption is being accelerated by numerous emerging trends, pedagogical shifts and learner needs, including (Acer for Education, 2018; Adams Becker, Brown, Dahlstrom,  Davis, DePaul, Diaz, & Pomerantz, 2018; Freeman, Adams Becker, Cummins, Davis, & Hall Giesinger, 2017; Rogers, 2018):

  • coding as a literacy
  • redesigning learning spaces
  • a focus on measuring learning
  • a emphasis on deep learning
  • creating cultures of innovation
  • the proliferation of Open Education Resources (OER)
  • cross-institution and cross-sector collaboration
  • interdisciplinary learning
  • machine learning
  • flipped learning
  • 1:1/BYOD becoming a standard


Conversely, technology adoption is being hindered by (Acer for Education, 2018; Adams et al., 2018; Freeman et al., 2017; Rogers, 2018):

  • the need to improve digital literacy
  • teaching computational thinking
  • learning to create authentic learning experiences
  • rethinking the role of teachers
  • how to sustain innovation through leadership changes
  • addressing the achievement gap
  • ensuring digital equity
  • bandwidth capabilities
  • systems security and outsourcing


How do we approach this successfully?

Technology integration and use must be planned to aligned with the values and beliefs held by a school’s culture. Values and beliefs are what is believed to be most important to a school, and shape how the culture perceives reality (Gruenert & Whitaker, 2015). Most values in schools are learned, such as football, planning time of technology in teaching and learning. Effective change connects to the deepest values of your staff and inspires greatness (Kotter, 1996). Therefore, in order to support successful technology change, we must connect the technology to existing key values. In other words, we must answer the question does your culture’s definition of effective teaching include technology as an effective learning tool? Below are three strategies to support effective technology integration in your context.

Suggested Strategies

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards for Teachers: In today’s classrooms, all teachers must have competency in ICT. Many school districts, government agencies and international organizations have standards and resources available to support leaders in ensuring schools have frameworks to lead professional learning (PL) in this area. A great way to establish a sense of urgency for professional growth is to begin with a brainstorm activity where staff collaborate on what knowledge and skills they feel are necessary in this area. Then, introduce any district or government standards, and compare lists. To extend, you can also provide standards from external resources and literature to solidify expectations. For example, ISTE has an excellent yoga-inspired summary great for PL, even providing opportunities to integrate kinaesthetic learning. Yes, I have done this, with great feedback from staff. From here, staff can then set an individual goal for improvement in one area.

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Improving Teacher Self-Efficacy: While knowing how to use technology is necessary, this is not enough if teachers do not feel confident using it (Ertmer, & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). Spending time to increase self-efficacy  can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including helping teachers gain successful personal experiences, providing time to witness technology successfully supporting students, working with knowledgeable peers, allowing time for teacher to play and explore tools, and starting small. Co-planning and co-teaching are excellent methods to support all of these (Ertmer et al., 2010). Providing release time to tinker and plan, with the expectation that co-teaching results, will help move teacher practice forward.

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 10.35.28 AMConnections to Pedagogical Beliefs and Values: Effective technology integration depends on a consideration of the interactions among technology, content, and pedagogy. This is known as TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).  TPACK is the interplay of three primary forms of knowledge content (CK), pedagogy (PK), technology (TK). However, the TPACK approach goes beyond seeing these three knowledge bases in isolation. Successful technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires understanding the relationship between these components while also considering:

    • the individual teacher
    • grade-level
    • school-specific factors
    • demographics
    • culture

To help better explain the overlapping intersections, please see below. Please keep in mind that pedagogical preferences also influence technology integration in teaching and learning. For example, teachers who currently hold more traditional pedagogical practices, such as direct instruction, tend use use technology in low levels. In comparison, teachers who hold more emergent pedagogical beliefs, such as constructivism and connectivism, tend to use more technology. When working with staff members, we must first discover if the teacher believes there is value in the technology being proposed (PCK & TCK).

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Yes, this is big work, and yes, this work requires time, resources and supports for your staff. However, it can be done. If we begin with understanding the values and beliefs our our context’s culture and use the correct resources/supports, we can navigate our unexpected technological future.



Acer for Education (2018, January 12). 8 education technology trends for 2018. Retrieved online from http://eu-acerforeducation.acer.com/education-trends/8-education-technology-trends-for-2018/

Adams Becker, S., Brown, M., Dahlstrom, E.,  Davis, A., DePaul, K., Diaz, V., and Pomerantz, J. (2018). NMC Horizon Report: 2018 Higher Education Edition. Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE, 2018. Retrieved online from https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2018/8/2018horizonreport.pdf

Ertmer, P. and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2010). Teacher technology change. Journal of Research on Technology in Education 42(3), 255-284. Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., and Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved online from https://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Gruenert, S. and Whitaker, T. (2015) School culture rewired: How to define, assess and transform it. Alexandria, Virginia USA: ASCD.

Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Mishra, P., and Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6).

Mundy, M., Kupczynski, R., and Kup, K. (2012). Teacher’s perceptions of technology use in the schools. SAGE Open, 2(1).

Rogers, C. (2018, January 10). Edtech 2018: 17 emerging trends. Education Technology. Retrieved online from https://edtechnology.co.uk/Article/edtech-2018-17-emerging-trends


Deep Learning: Reflecting & Revising on my Understanding

The pedagogical approach to task design in which one engages a student in deep learning – an approach I am quite passionate about – has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Yet, as with many educational concepts, asking one to define what deep learning is or “looks like” is quite difficult.  When I first began teaching on this topic, my explanation of deep/surface learning were as follows:

  • Surface learning: the acceptance of information and memorization as isolated and unlinked facts. It leads to superficial retention of material for examinations and does not promote understanding or long-term retention of knowledge and information.
  • Deep learning:  the critical analysis of new ideas, linking them to already known concepts (transference), leading to understanding and long-term retention of concepts so that they can be used for problem-solving in unfamiliar contexts. Deep learning works best when connected to motivations and interests. Deep learning promotes understanding and application for life. You know deep learning is achieved when a person can explain something in a different, but related, context. 

The exemplar I would use to support these definitions is the video below from 2013 titled Teachers Embrace ‘Deep Learning,’ Teaching Practical Skills:


Recently, I have been exposed to some new learning and new perspectives on what deep learning is.

Metra and Fine (2015) characterize deep learning as when one can demonstrate “significant understanding of core content, exhibit critical thinking and problem-solving, collaborate, communicate, direct their own learning, and possess and academic mindset” (p. 4). Students can transfer knowledge from one context to another and not only possess significant factual knowledge, but can also develop interpretations, arguments and conclusions from that knowledge. This is accomplished by connecting understanding to student motivations and interest, argue Metra and Fine (2015), which then emerges when mastery, identity and creativity intersect.

Explaining deeper learning through a list of attributes, Berger, Wooden and Vilen (2016) state this approach challenges, engages and empowers student. They categorize deeper learning into six outcomes:

  1. mastery of core academic content
  2. critical thinking and problem solving
  3. collaboration
  4. effective communication
  5. self-directed learning
  6. academic mindset

In the book Deeper Learning: Engage the World Change the World, Fullan, Quinn and McEachen (2017) conceptualize deep learning as an environment where students are challenged, provoked and stimulated, and learning is celebrated. Similarly to Berger et al. (2016), these authors propose a list of six global competencies (Fullan, Quinn & McEachen, 2017):

  1. character
  2. citizenship
  3. collaboration
  4. communication
  5. creativity
  6. critical thinking

Upon this inquiry, it is evident that every definition or explanation of deep learning is different, and my original explanation is in due of a revision. But, before I share my revised perspective, I feel it is best to share an example of the most recent deep learning I witnessed.

At my current school, I am transforming an elementary library to a library learning commons. This school is characterized as traditional, rural and small. However, it is not lacking opportunities for innovation. A recent purchase of a Ditto Pro 3-D printer has kept my lunches and recesses quite busy. After grabbing the attention of my early adopters, word of “how cool” the printer was spread quickly. In a grade 5/6 drama class, I allowed students to use EZ-Robots in their green screen newscasts.  This prompted two boys to ask to print a sword for Roli.  This involved the students to learn to group objects together, and how to best format an object so it resulted in a successful print. Doing most of this on their free time, the two began to explore the program Tinkercad, communicate and collaborate on how to design the sword (a bit of critical thinking in there), and then head to the printer. Their first pint resulted in the following:

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If one looks close enough, the glue from a hot glue gun can be seen. Unfortunately, the boys were not successful in grouping the shapes together. This prompted in a quick tutorial on how to better align objects for a stronger bond, as well as a lesson in how to use a glue gun.

So, back to the drawing board again – and at this point I knew the students were interested and motivated because now Roli needed a hat. The boys set out again with their feedback in hand and a new challenge: make the hat hollow. The next morning, they were back before school started with a new design. I checked it over and saw that not only was grouping better, but the hat was hollow. I then asked if they were sure on the size. Watching the brains initiate, one of the boys went over to the robot’s head and held up a yellow ruler. After a quick estimate, he decided the size was perfect.  Below is the hat:

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It looked pretty good, but unfortunately, it was too big for Roli’s head. Alas, it must rest on a slant in order to stay put. However, the valuable lesson of size and scale was learnt.

In December 2017, an opportunity arose for me to co-plan and co-teach with the grade 5/6 teachers on a final interdisciplinary project on natural resources in British Columbia. Once these two boys learnt there was a presentation component, they immediately asked if they could 3D print a model. I was happy to support. However, what emerged was completely breath taking! Designing 2 separate files, the boys managed to produce the following… which required very little support from teachers. Please not the symmetry, scale (the two pieces joined together at the hitch), and attention to detail.


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But what was even more exciting for me was what happened next. Being the last day before winter break, these two boys were at school well before the day began to check on their second print. As they worked to free the logging trailer from the print bed, others began to accumulate in the learning commons to see the result. Some students had yet to dabble in the printing world while others were struggling to learn the program. However, magic occurred as those two boys began saying phrases like “it isn’t that hard”, “want me to show you?” and “let me help”. Laptops were pulled out and the students became immersed in learning… deep learning. The two boys, now the teachers, demonstrated mastery as they were now leading and supporting others in creating designs. They took pride in me “not having to check it over” before sending to the printer because they had already done so. And, when the bell rang for students to get to class, I had to ask for them to be excused because the learning was so powerful.


The two boys were sharing their journey with visiting admin, parent council members and other teachers, feeling empowered and proud. And to imagine, it only took 3 prints!



All together, when I look at the current literature and combine this with my past definition and action research evidence, moving forward, my new explanation of deep learning is as follows: Deep learning occurs when careful attention to task design engages learners in creative learning experiences that require the use of effective communication skills so collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and self-directed learning can occur. Design must consider prior knowledge, student interest and student motivation, with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in both competency and content development by allowing transference of knowledge to others and to different contexts.


Berger, R., Wooden, L. and Vilen, A. (2016). Learning that lasts: Challenging, engaging, and empowering students with deeper instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fullan, M., Quinn, J. and McEachen J. (2017). Deep learning: Engage the world change the world. Thousand Oakes: Corwin, A SAGE Company.

Mahata, J. and Fine, S. (2015, December). The why, what, where, and how of deeper learning in American secondary schools: Deeper learning research series. Boston: Jobs for the Future.



EZ-Robots, 3-D Printing, The Daily Five and Life Cycles: Interdisciplinary Learning in the Library Learning Commons

This past month, I have been working with a group of grade two students on an interdisciplinary assignment. Collaborating with the classroom teacher, we planned for the six students to learn about the life cycle of a salmon The Daily Five literacy approach, integrating technological literacy and the maker approach into student learning. While the technological literacy is yet to have a universal definition, for the purpose of this post, technological literacy skills can be developed through classroom activities and assessments that enable student to “learn the importance of listening, talking and discussing in technologies processes, especially in articulating, questioning and evaluating ideas” (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2014, p. 24). Makerspaces, or maker inspired tasks, are new to the school in this case study. Understanding that participation in makerspaces and FabLabs facilitates students into becoming makers, creators, and innovators, while increasing interest in STEM (Blikstein, Kabayadondo, Martin, & Fields, 2017), incorporating difficult technological subjects, such coding, into core curricular learning not only exposes student to new learning through an interdisciplinary lens, but it also paves multiple pathways to learning twenty-first-century skills by facilitating collaborative and iterative projects (Blikstein, 2013; Kafai & Peppler, 2011).

The Process:

As Oyama Traditional School is beginning to transform its library into a learning commons, teachers are beginning to explore what this looks like for the role of the teacher librarian. In this exemplar, a grade 2 classroom teacher asked me (the teacher librarian) to work with a group of students for a few weeks.  Here is a breakdown of our learning.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 6.57.03 PM Students came to the Library Learning Commons (LLC) during their daily literacy block. Using the Web 2.0 tool Epic, they read to themselves on the topic of the life cycle of a salmon.

After reading, students completed word work on key terms such as fry, smolt, alevin, and life cycle. This was completed on index cards.


Next, students engaged in writing. This occurred in two stages. First students completed a flow chart where they drew a picture of each stage. They wrote a sentence to describe their picture. Then, using an writing outline, students created a script, complete with an introductory sentence, supporting details and closing sentence.


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As students finished their writing, they partnered up and practice reading what they wrote out loud. This is the read to someone and listen to someone read of The Daily Five.


Once ready, students took their turn recording their speech in the JD Humanoid EZ-Robot. Being in grade two, there was lots to learn. Not only were students using the “right  click” on a mouse, but they also learnt how to export, or send, a file from one source to another, how to save and name a file, and how to add pre-coded movements written in script to an audio file.


Below are videos of a few of our final products:

While waiting for their turn to record their voice, students explored the Web 2.0 tool Tinkercad and made their first attempt in designing a 3D image – a salmon.  A sample was provided for the students, and a basic overview of how to use the tool. However, at this stage, students were encouraged to explore, learn by trying and remember its okay to F.A.I.L.


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Overall, this took 3 weeks to complete of approximate 75 minutes per day. Students were eager to come to the LLC each day and highly engaged in their learning. Peers would come in a see what students were doing, excited for “their turn” with me. It has been noted that student understanding of the salmon lifestyle in excellent and the writing they produced is above grade level.  For example, students wrote one supporting detail for every stage in grade 2. One student is currently writing a more in-depth script so she can be recorded explaining what her learning occurred so we can share this with the rest of teachers on staff. Last, students learnt how to make and F.A.I.L., while also being introduced to computer science, coding, audio recording, and 3-D printing – all of this in 3 weeks! They were engaged in ideation, critical thinking, problem solving, design thinking, and skill building, many of the core competencies in BC’s new K-9 curriculum (Government of British Columbia, 2017). When asked, students reported the most difficult task for them was using Tinkered, but the best part was learning how to make JD move.


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2014). The Australian Curriculum: Technologies. Retrieved from http://www.heia.com.au/resources/documents/Designandtechnologies2014.pdf

Blikstein, P. (2013). Digital fabrication and ‘making’ in education: The democratization of invention. In J. Walter-Herrmann & C. Büching (Eds.), FabLabs: Of machines, makers and inventors (pp. 203–221). Bielefeld: Transcript Publishers.

Blikstein, P., Kabayadondo, Z., Martin, A. and Fields, D. (2017), An Assessment Instrument of Technological Literacies in Makerspaces and FabLabs. Journal of Engineering Education, 106: 149–175. doi:10.1002/jee.20156

Government of British Columbia (2017). BC’s new curriculum. British Columbia: Government of British Columbia. Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/competencies

Kafai, Y. B.
, & Peppler, K. A. (2011). Youth, technology, and DIY developing participatory competencies in creative media production. Review of Research in Education, 35(1), 89119.

Economic Systems and a Maker Faire

This past Spring, a coworker, Amie Curran, and myself set out on a journey redesigning our teaching of a grade 9 humanities unit on economics, marketing, advertising and public speaking.  Our journey is outlined below.

First, we turned our classrooms into giant KWL charts, with students posting on one wall what they already know about economics and questions they have on another.

Then, using table top whiteboards, students created a new list of what they learned from each other on the classroom walls, and what further questions they had.

Students were then given an “entrance ticket” to complete for a flipped video lesson.

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Upon return to class, students engaged in an extension task based this video, having to identify different countries in the world that practice the different economic systems.

From here, we then built an economic continuum on the whiteboard of where Canada and the US fit, as well as where each of the major political parties are positioned, thus connecting economics to earlier learning on Canadian government.

After this task, we began several scaffolding activities to help students understand economic concepts including scarcity, supply & demand, factors of production, and levels of production.

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As well, we learned concepts pertaining to government involvement in the economy.  After doing some math to understand unit pricing, we showed students a video on how lego was made, because who doesn’t like lego?

Then, we introduced the students to their final task.

Then, we gave the students 60 minutes to complete a design challenge where they had to make their prototype.  But, students had to buy everything, including tape, cardboard, string, etc. Our prices were not cheap! So, when they wanted more money, they had to “work” for it.

Once the class was over, the store was closed and students were not allowed to work on their prototype. The following day, we completed a lesson on marketing and advertising.

Students were then given three classes to create their advertisements and prepare their pitches, table set up for the faire.  At the faire, each student and staff member that participated was given $50 “Hartbills” or $50 “Currancy” to invest in companies they felt was most likely to succeed.

Below are some samples of student advertisements and explanations of their products.  Overall, Amie and I saw high levels of student engagement through throughout this task. All groups finished on time and participated in the event. By inviting staff, we hope activities designed in this matter will continue in our colleagues’ practice. Yes, the task was a lot of work – co-teaching was a huge factor in this task’s success, but out students not only learned economics, but had an opportunity to experience it, down to tracking the cost of supplies and learning creative ways to convince people to invest.


Immigration Simulation in Grade 9 Humanities

During our immigration unit, to have students fully understand and apply the knowledge we have been working with about Canada’s immigration policy, we had our students participate in an immigration simulation. But before we get to the simulation, I will explain how we scaffolded leading up to the task.

First, we had students engage in a flipped learning task where they had to watch the video below, visit the interactive website referred to at the end of the video and complete an entrance ticket.

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Students were given three days to view the video and complete an entrance ticket summarizing the content. Upon the day of this task, completed entrance tickets were collected at the class door prior to student entry. Students who had not completed the activity were provided with a laptop and an alternate space to view the videos and complete their task. Once finished, students were invited to join class and participate. The barn door between two classrooms was opened, but students could not work with different classes, as they had not earn the right to immigrate yet. In class, students were organized into small groups of 3-4. Using erasable tabletop whiteboards made of opaque plexiglass, students were asked to collaboratively recall, organize and define the five factors influencing immigration, and provide one example of a push and pull factor for each. During this process, the teacher acted as a guide, encouraging students to think deeply and posing questions they should be asking themselves. Once finished, students completed an exit ticket, ranking the five factors in order of personal importance and providing a rationale for their ranking. Please see the slide show below for the photo documentation.

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The next lesson involved students learning about the point system and how there are different categories that an applicant can earn points in for qualification.

From here, we asked students to come up with what categories of points are important, which are not important and what is missing.  For each class, we then voted and determined what the top five categories are when determining eligibility. Then students were grouped according to these categories and asked to determine the criteria, in realistic terms for a person their age.  Here are some samples of what was generated:


From here, students had to create an immigration form to give to those wanting to try to immigrate into their classroom.  We used Google Docs for this task and provided them with a template to follow.  Man, did this test their formatting skills!! To see a sample, please click on the below the photo.

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Once the forms met our standards – yes this took a bit of time and patience – when then engaged in our immigration test where students were given the forms to complete to see if they qualified to enter other classrooms.  We had an immigration counter where you took your completed forms for verification, a customer service centre for questions, and border security to watch for people trying to sneak across.

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In the end, the students engaged in an active and authentic learning experienced where they had to apply their knowledge to a new context.  Students learnt just how tough it is to immigrate under the economic class, and gained a greater appreciation to being born in Canada.

Clarifying Misconceptions: First Nations Collective Rights – To What Extent Have We Affirmed These in Canada?

Recently, I began the conversation with my grade 9 students about collective rights in Canada – what they are, who receives them, why collective rights exist and to what extent have we, Canadians, affirmed these rights in society.

One of the significant learning outcomes surrounds understanding the collective rights of First Nations. While I have taught this topic numerous times, I felt it was time to do a better job, and I needed to know more in order to be a better teacher for my kids. This is such an important topic in our collective identities and histories, and, unfortunately, full of many common misconceptions in our daily lives. Thus, I revised my lesson. However, resources on this topic a difficult to find, even more so that provide a concrete understanding of who, what, when, where and why. In the spirit of strengthening the conversation for all Canadians and continuing the journey of reconciliation, here is an overview of my lesson.

After some vocabulary work, I explained to my students that aboriginal people in Canada receive collective rights, which are inherent, or are passed down from generation to generation.  I explained that these rights were negotiated through the Numbered Treaties and Indian Act.  A map of Numbered Treaty territories in Canada is below (from the Issues for Canadians textbook).



The Charter grants First Nations groups the following rights (also from the Issues for Canadians textbook). We looked at Treaties 6-8 because these treaties apply to land in the province of Alberta. However, examples I include, cover various parts of Canada:


At this point, I provided my students with a form of a KWL chart and asked them to thinking independently of what they think rights in each of these categories include. I asked students to fill out the first two columns.  Not surprisingly, they did not have much prior knowledge.


After thinking and discussing in table groups, I led a conversation and had students fill in their third column based on information I provided.

Health Care Rights

  • It has been the long time position of First Nations that all health care and medicines are pre-paid and are to be provided to Treaty First Nations as promised in the Numbered Treaties.
  • Inherent Rights include a traditional health system of: Medicine Women and Men; ceremonies and practices for healing and prevention; and medicines from minerals, animals, plants and water, traditional lands and resources.

We then watched the following video so students could gain a better understanding of a traditional health approach:

screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-8-35-37-pmAnishnawbe health: where western medicine meets tradition

Education Rights

  • The Government of Canada funds elementary and secondary education for First Nation students ordinarily resident on-reserve, provides post-secondary education financial support for First Nation and eligible Inuit students, and provides support to Canadian post-secondary institutions for the design and delivery of university and college level courses that respond to the education needs of First Nation and Inuit students.
  • This lead to the creation of residential schooling

We then watched the following clip:



Fishing & Hunting Rights

  • Affirmed as part of the Constitution of Canada by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, Indian people “have the right, which the Province hereby assures to them, of hunting, trapping and fishing game and fish for food at all seasons of the year on all unoccupied Crown lands and on any other lands to which (they) may have a right of access.”
  • We then had a discussion surrounding these three questions:
    • What does this mean?
    • How is this different from people who are not First Nations?
    • Why do they get this right?

Then, we watched the following news clip and reflected:



  • An Indian Reserve is a tract of land set aside under the Indian Act and treaty agreements for the exclusive use of an Indian band. Band members possess the right to live on reserve lands, and band administrative and political structures are frequently located there.
  • Reserves today continue to be important land bases for First Nations across Canada, often contained within their ancestral and spiritual homelands. Yet, on average, reserves present some of the most alarming conditions in Canada. They are typically isolated communities with high instances of poverty, substance abuse, suicide, unemployment, and mortality.

To give students a clear picture of what conditions on some reserves are, we analyzed the following photograph:


We then had a conversation about Attawapiskat and the recent events that have happened in that community. In 2011, What in the World by Les Plan provided a current event on this topic.  This was also provided to students who wanted to extend their understanding:


Farming Assistance

  • In signing treaties with the First Nations, the government promised to provide them with a way of life through farming. Agriculture was not only the government’s plan to develop an agricultural based economy in the west but it was a means to assimilate the First Nations into the rest of society.
  • Some First Nations farmers did have success in farming and had commercially viable operations. It became apparent in some cases the First Nations were more successful than non-First Nations farmers, which caused the government to implement policies to benefit the interests of the non-First Nations farmers. The government wanted the non-First Nations farmers to be prosperous in the hopes of attracting more settlers to the prairie provinces in pursuit of agriculture.  


  • Intended to be a revenue stream, a share of the wealth generated by revenues from territory.
  • Indigenous nations agreed to share their resources and territories with European settlers, in exchange for a number of benefits, including annual payments.

We then read the following news article as a class on annuities:


Needless to say, students were quite shocked. With their third column now full and brains a bit saturated, we ended our discussion there for the day.  The next class, students were given another current event from 2013 in What in the World. After reading the article in groups of 4-5 as a read aloud, groups examined the photo and editorial cartoon, and, using tabletop whiteboards, answered the questions:

  • To what extent have we affirmed collective rights of First Nations?
  • What, if any, are the next steps in affirming these collective rights?

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Overall, students replied with a sense that while intentions outlined in the Numbered Treaties (many believe the Indian was very racist) are “good”, as a society, we need to make sure that the rights are provided for.

  • One group used education as an example – why are schools on reserves not as good as MidSun?
  • Another group spoke of the need to do a better job with housing and basic needs.
  • Last, a group spoke of how excellent of a job First Nations are doing at educating and involving aboriginal youth, and hopefully this will now continue into the rest of Canadian society.

Overall, I know this lesson still has a long way to go. It does only highlight the issues and not what has been successful. This lesson will continue to evolve – please add revise, adapt as you see fit.  If you would like a copy of the Google Presentation or other resources, please contact me and I will gladly share. As well, if you find resources that would make this better, please share!!


Comic Book Creation & Personalization in Humanities 9

This fall, students in grade 9 humanities set out to  create their own comic book.  To accomplish this, and help them understand comic book/graphic novel techniques, a comprehensive unit of study was created.  Below are the steps and stages completed, with the attempt of personalizing learning for all students.

Step 1: Introduction

The following comic that a student teacher had found was placed on the SmartBoard:screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-12-05-02-pm

Students were given several minutes in their table group to talk about what they see.  Response varied, but included:

  • different reactions to getting out of bed
  • a boy excited for summer vacation, but not for school
  • mom has to “bug” the boy to get out of bed
  • fun versus school

Then, the following script was added to the slide, and the students were asked to revise their responses to what they saw:


Responses improved, with students becoming more critical of their examination:

  • We know it is summer in the first frame because the trees have leaves. It is not summer in the second because the trees do not have leaves.
  • We know the sun is brighter in the first frame because its rays go farther into the sky
  • We see baseball clothing on the chair in the first frame.
  • The lines around the boy and his smile in the first frame show excitement to get out of bed. The boy has a from in the second slide.
  • The thought bubbles are dreams the boy is having.
  • The message is that the boy is more motivated to get out of bed in the summer than for school

Step 2: Elements of a Comic Book

Lesson two involved students learning the various elements of a comic book including:

  • Script
  • Word balloons
  • Thought balloons
  • Panel
  • Open panel
  • Narratory block
  • Splash page
  • Close-up
  • Longshot
  • Sound effect
  • Gutter
  • Bleed

Examples of each of these were placed on the SmartBoard to provide a visual, much like the example below.


Step 3: Applying New Knowledge

To reinforce the learning in step two, I pulled a variety of comics and graphic novels from the learning commons and had students work in partners to identify all the comic elements. I reviewed the resources in advance to ensure they all include the elements address, and varied the reading level of the choices. Students worked in partners, and I circulated to check in with each group.  If students finished quickly, I had them swap with another group.

Step 4: Digging Deeper

To provide a framework for examining cartoons, the following framework was generated and provided to students. If you would like a copy of this, please contact me:


Using this guideline, we examined the following comic from a previous ELA 9 PAT exam, and then, as a class, answered the corresponding PAT questions:

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Once this was complete, students were required to go through the process with a second sample from a PAT exam. They wrote their answers on tabletop whiteboards with a partner. I circulated and checked for understanding.


Again, the corresponding questions were placed on the SmartBoard for students to answer. Students reported getting more answers correct the second time.

Step 5: Need to Know Vocabulary

As a must, we reviewed our key literary vocabulary. We did this as a jigsaw.


A sample of the jigsaw is illustrated below:


Step 6: SEXC Paragraph

At this point, it was time to ask students for a writing sample.  What better way to do this than to ask students to write about their favourite superhero power? First, they were taught the “SEXC” paragraph structure.

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Students were then given the following Hero/Villain paragraph task that corresponded with three ELA9 curricular outcomes:

  • 3.1.1 Synthesize ideas and info from a variety of sources to develop own opinions and general impressions
  • 3.3.3 Develop coherence by relating all key ideas to the overall purpose of the print text
  • 3.3.6 Choose specific vocabulary and use conventions accurately and effectively to enhance credibility

 Step 1: Fill out the following chart for three super heroes or villains by using the links below for research. You should have 3 pros and 3 cons for each power. (Complete in Word or use separate paper; your choice).


Step 2: Choose the power you think would be the best to have from your selections above (either to fight crime, create crime, or just in general with your everyday life).

Step 3: Use the paragraph planner – or a different planning method of your choosing to create your outline with a topic sentence. You must show this pre-planning before your begin writing your paragraph.


Step 4: Write a fabulously well-written and well-constructed paragraph (not an essay) below that follows the SEXC structure explaining why the power you chose would be awesome.

Step 7: Captain Canuck

For this task, students were assigned to reading groups and tasked with reading aloud the comic “Captain Canuck: Enter the Crime Stopper”. Once finished, on tabletop whiteboards, students had to identify the comic book elements used in the book and provide a page number so we know where you have found it. I checked this when complete. Then, with a partner, students were given a plot diagram and asked to plot out the storyline of the comic. This was to show they understand to the key elements required in a story.



Step 8: Creating the Comic

We finally have reached making our comics! Here, I provided a handout of the stages to making a comic, which I received from http://www.makingcomics.com/2014/01/16/overview-comic-creation-process/ . Then, students were given the following summative assessment:


Students were assessed using the following rubric:


Below are some screen shot exemplars from completed work.  To personalize learning, I gave comic teams a myriad of options, including:

  • complete all by hand, with or without the provided storyboard frames.
  • Hand draw and then use Comic Life on either iPads or PC computers to upload & organize
  • Stop motion photography – photos can be uploaded into Comic Life
  • Tutorial links to Adobe Elements for photo editing
  • One student completed a detailed script with no illustrations as he worked on his own.

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Student results exceeded my expectations.  Because this was their first time, the intent is to turn this into an interdisciplinary project in the spring, connecting to Science/Math/Social Studies.  The same rubric would be used, as students are familiar with it.  However, criteria directly related to content in the added disciplines cold be added.


Mobile Learning: Pic Collage, Elements of Governance and Collective Groups

As part of the introduction to grade 9 Social Studies, I have my students identify five collective groups they belong to in order for them to understand how their collective identities also shape their individualism – we all ma have groups in common, but none of us have the exact same list of collective groups. This is what makes us an individual. Students are given the following instructions:

  • Everyone belongs to collective groups, whether they be family, teams, or other community groups.
  • Make a list of 5 collective groups you belong to.
  • For each group indicate the purpose of the group, what their traditions or expectations are, and how you are included.
  • Explain how belonging to a group contributes to your individual identity.
  • Be prepared to share you ideas with the class.

Once students have completes this task, they submit this as a writing sample for me.

The next class, I introduce the 5 elements of governance.


  1. Rules of Conduct are rules that are created  to govern the lives of the country or a group’s members. They are designed to encourage positive behaviour and discourage other kinds of behaviours.
  2. Authority is the means by which the people are governed (a supreme power or authority), with the ability to use force within its boundaries.
  3. No system of government can exist unless it is accepted by the people.The people give the government the right to exercise power.
  4. Jurisdiction refers to the area over which the government has the power to make and enforce rules or laws.
  5. Someone must be responsible for enforcing the rules and laws. If members were allowed to ignore or disobey rules or laws, there would be no order and society could not operate efficiently.

To have students apply this new knowledge, I had them choose one of their collective groups and identify these five elements within the group.  I also gave them an option to apply these to a different culture or make-believe culture. To give them an option to not draw, I showed the how to use the free app Pic Collage.  Below are some of the collages my students created:

gabe9e            joey       maddy9e           emily9bede9e         courtney9b        betty9e