Fair Dealing

In Canada we use “Fair Dealing” as our language around using materials or work created by others. The laws around copyright in Canada have recently been updated to reflect the broad spectrum of available media and how that media is being used.

The way we use and interact with media is constantly undergoing change. Where we once were satisfied being an audience to other people’s “Funniest Home Videos”, we now upload our own, or make mash-ups of thematic videos we find online. Public domain becomes a grey area; someone shares an image on Flickr that may have originally been copyright protected by the original author, but is now an image of an image with the option to download and share freely. There is a cultural shift towards sharing the wealth of information and resources and knocking down some of the paywalls that exist. MOOCs, open learning and PLNs contribute to the ideals of open source initiatives.

As teachers, what does that mean for how we teach our students to access and use information? For me, the biggest issue is working with images. Every year, I have students who cite “Google Images” as the source for an image that they have copied and pasted into their work. When I show what an actual link to an image looks like (often 4 lines of text long, filled with random numbers and percentage signs), the students exhale and say “Ohhhhhhhh”.

And then I muddle them further by discussing that those images are actually owned by someone. How is that possible, they wonder. Any efforts to relate the ownership of online images to images in books are not understood, not relatable.

I try to set the bar for image use high for my students. Because I am hoping that the blogging and tweeting that my students do in class becomes a habit, I want them only using creative commons licensed images, or images that they have permission to use. I am hoping that my students continue to write and create publically and feel that they can expect to have their words and work respected.

My favourite search tools for copyright free material:

compfight.com – mainly searches Flickr for images

cc search – a tool to help you search multiple mediums, including sources for sound and video

If you are interested in learning more about Copyright law in Canada ERAC offers a free course for members.

Or, you can learn a bit about Copyright law from the “Fair Use” privileges in the United States, one of which allows for use of materials for the purpose of satire. Enjoy!


Barely Breathing – Getting Started

I am one week into my Zen project. I am hoping to learn how to use meditation and mindfulness to decrease my stress, learn self-regulatory strategies and become more present in all elements of my life. My ultimate goal is to calm my busy mind with the hope of increased hours of sleep.

So far, I have done a lot of reading and online research. I listed the resources I have located in my previous blog post. I have been only using two of the resources so far: Headspace and Stop, Breathe and Think. I definitely prefer the Headspace app. I am dreading finishing the free 10 sessions as I am fairly certain that I will end up paying for a subscription to this service, as I am enjoying and learning a great deal from it. I am learning more about myself and what I need as I learn about meditation as I explore the tools that I have found.

My needs:

  • A soothing voice
  • Clear instructions, with specific things to focus on
  • Sequential lessons, building slowly in complexity
  • A focus on self
  • Metaphors that I can understand and that work for my busy brain
  • Simple steps
  • Guided meditation – I am nowhere near ready for independent practice yet – I still need direct instruction!!!

A key difference between Headspace and Stop, Breathe and Think is where you are asked to focus your attention. Headspace encourages me to consider my breathing and the thoughts that wander into my focus as I learn to meditate. Headspace has been very gentle in its guidance, so far. The voice is incredibly soothing, and even after long pauses, it does not intrude. There are simple explanations and metaphors for how we think and how we attempt to wrangle our thinking. I can see my thoughts as “traffic” – a busy street with all of my thoughts rushing by. I can see myself attempting to direct that traffic, control it, and I can even see myself running (screaming) after a wayward thought-car. Having that picture in my mind makes it easier to step back and imagine myself sitting at the side of the road, observing the traffic of thoughts, but staying less involved. Headspace encourages me to be gentle with myself, and it even gives me time during a meditation to allow my brain to wallow in the crazy if it wants to. Stop, Breathe and Think has not been enjoyable. In fact, I stopped my last session with 3 minutes still on the clock because I had become irritated. I find the voice to be a bit more intrusive, and the pace is ridiculous! The meditations flit from one thing to another, and I can’t keep up. The ideas are HUGE, and I cannot relate. In the space of a less than a minute, I am asked to imagine myself filling with peace, then I need to fill the room with peace, and then I need to see that peace spreading over the world. What??! I found myself feeling panicky at the end of these meditations, like I had not yet done my job. One feature I did like from this app is that it encourages you to perform a check-in for mind, body and emotions before it offered customized meditation options for you. I may look at this app again when I have more experience, but for right now I need to walk away.

Going forward, I need some measurable details. Since my ultimate goal is increasing my hours of sleep, I will be looking at my weekly averages.

Baseline average: 5 hours 22 minutes of sleep

First week (January 18 – 24): 5 hours 54 minute of sleep


A one-day snapshot of sleep efficiency as captured by Fitbit Force. Is it nap-time yet?

A one-day snapshot of sleep efficiency as captured by Fitbit Force. Is it nap-time yet?

Barely Breathing

Update on my #LearningProject

I am going to propose this Learning Project Plan in a similar fashion to how some of my students propose their Genius Hour projects, with a rationale, a guiding question, an initial resource list, and a learning target.

My project is on mindfulness and meditation.

Rationale: My husband calls is “busy brain”. He can immediately tell by my body language how present I am. I can feel myself constantly trying to untangle problems, plan for upcoming events, and worry about things that may or may not happen. I have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night as I think my random thoughts. I have difficulty sustaining attention on one thing for too long, as I become increasingly aware of my enormous “to do” list.

My husband, who has known me for almost 18 years, tells me that this is a learned behavior and it is fairly new to me. He actually thinks that it might have developed on the job. Working with 30 Middle School students means that my attention is always needed. No matter how well my students learn to collaborate or network with each other, there is still a need for me to be available, “on”. As I meet with one student, there are still 3 others with their hands up, an amazing learning event happening between a small group in the corner that needs to be recorded in some way, an awareness of the clock, and CONSTANT interruptions (bell, announcements, fire drill, broken technology). I enjoy my days with my students, and I often get back more than I give, but I don’t think that I let go of being “on” when my students go home for the day. My thoughts race. My heart races. My mind wanders from one unfinished idea to the next.

My students are participating the in the #onelittleword challenge as a New Year’s Resolution this year. My #onelittleword for this year is “Balance”. I think that giving myself time to meditate, reflect, and learn to be mindful would help me to find balance in many areas of my life.






I teach mindfulness and Self-Regulation in the classroom. I am actually quite proud of how my students are able to think about their needs in relation to attending a fairly structured school. Students spend time thinking about how their body feels in various situations during the day and learn to make any needed adjustments to feel better if needed. I feel like I can share ideas and help support others in their path to mindfulness, but I don’t actually embrace any of the ideas that would support me in my own needs. I am wondering if this is a case of those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach???

Guiding Question: What elements of mindfulness and meditation will help me to develop more peace of mind, support a more balanced and healthy lifestyle, and teach me to live in the moment?

Initial List of Resources:

This should get me started. I haven’t even skimmed Youtube yet!

My Learning Target: This is a personal learning experience that will be subjectively evaluated through my own reflections. I am hoping to note an improvement in my mood, energy levels, ability to respond to stress, sleep patterns and a calmer mind.

This is a lot to ask in 12 weeks! I believe that this will take longer than 50-100 hours to be transformative. I will take this initial time to find resources, to find what works for me, and to practice regularly. I am hoping that I can develop habits and routines that will serve me long after this course has ended.

I will share out my learning through regular blog posts where I evaluate my response to the tools I am using, new tools I have found, an overall summary of daily check ins (I am wondering if I need to create a simple rubric for self-evaluation?), sharing out new knowledge, and a reflection on areas of improvement or need. The Wii Fit game has a great meditation and yoga section that I can also use to test my stillness and breathing. I have only mastered keeping the candle lit once time!

Other ideas to keep focused and to get support might be to reach out through Twitter and this blog for help and ideas.

Hanging with the #pdppposseRC

I was excited to connect with @mlleballen and the #pdppposse from #edci336 through BlueJeans on January 22 to chat Middle School book clubs. I was surprised by the number of people in attendance – a great group to meet!

I feel like I must first start by apologizing for the number of interruptions on my end – it was my prep block, but a closed classroom door actually means “welcome, come on in!” in Middle School!

I had an opportunity to hear about the books that everyone else was reading, and I got to add a couple of titles to my “must read” list. I discussed a few books that I often suggest to my readers for Literature Circles or Book Clubs, or just as great reads. I may have left a few titles off of my rapid-fire list (thanks your patience, #pdpposseRC!). Here are some of my favourite titles:

Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie – Jordan Sonnenblick

Elsewhere – Gabrielle Zevin

Schooled – Gordan Korman

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda – Tom Angleberger

Pig Boy – Vicki Grant

Out of my Mind – Sharon Draper

A Mango Shaped Space – Wendy Mass

The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke

Some of my favourite authors for Middle School readers are on that list: Wendy Mass, Sharon Creech, Gordan Korman and Jordan Sonnenblick.

Some of the group had heard about using Orca Currents as a resource for high-interest, low-vocabulary reads. Pig Boy is an Orca Currents selection, and I usually offer at least two choices. (My other favourite is Daredevil Club by Pam Withers) I love Orca Currents books, and even my keenest readers are drawn to them. My suggestion is to pre-read any Orca book before recommending it to a student reader, as some of the content can be a tad explicit!

One of my favourite resources for learning about great books and authors is Twitter. Great hashtags to follow include #nerdybookclub, #GRA (Global Read Aloud), #titletalk and #TLchat.

I have participated in the Global Read Aloud for the last two years. Last year we read “Out of My Mind” and this year we are reading two books from the list. During the actual #GRA15, we read “One for the Murphys” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. It was amazing! My students tweeted to many other classes and the author herself often responded to us. We will be reading “Fourteenth Goldfish” by Jennifer Holm, which was another #GRA15 option, starting in the beginning of February. This book ties in well with #geniushour, inspiring wonder, innovation and determination. The Global Read Aloud project only happens once a year, but I usually read aloud to my Middle School students year round. I think that it is important to share quality literature with your students, to model reading fluency, to share how I think a I read a book, and to explore the tangents, the imaginary worlds, and the emotions that a well-written book elicit. Sometimes I plan attached activities for my read aloud, but often I choose to read/listen/discuss a great book for the love of reading. Make time for it!

Thank you for including me in your meeting, #pdppposse! I enjoyed the chat. Many of my happiest moments teaching have been when a reluctant reader FINALLY finds a book that they truly love. I loved seeing the dedication you are all putting into creating reading magic in your own classrooms. I am looking forward to hearing more about your journeys and adventures!

Choosing a #LearningProject

In our #tiegrad course with Alec Couros, we’ve been given the opportunity to choose any topic we’d like to study as a personal learning project. I blogged previously a bit about that here. I settled on the Learning Project fairly quickly, but had a great deal of difficulty settling on a topic. I made a huge web in my classroom and worked my way through my passions, needs, interests, and questions in a similar way that I usually ask my students to explore as they select their #geniushour projects. My whole class got involved! They were so excited to help me choose something, and it was humbling to hear some of their ideas. For example, I KNOW that I struggle to throw a ball well in softball, but it’s a little embarrassing to have a student point it out as an important skill I should spend 50-100 hours developing!

My brainstorming web. My students' ideas are in orange, my ideas/my husband's ideas are in blue.

My brainstorming web. My students’ ideas are in orange, my ideas/my husband’s ideas are in blue.

In the end, only the ideas that I was truly passionate about and genuinely interested in pursuing made it onto my web. My ideas were written in blue, and my students’ suggestions were written in orange. I clustered my ideas around some central themes: Music, Technology, Art, Languages, Zen, etc. I was surprised to see myself so drawn to music and art. I have always loved music and envy people who are able to bring such beauty through sound. I do not have a lot of skill in the area of art, and struggle to make myself understood through images. I am grateful to teach Middle School, as the students laugh at my stick figure drawings and support my efforts to draw straight lines.

My top contenders for Learning Projects may surprise you:

  1. Guitar: I have access to guitars, Bryan Jackson was offering Beginner Guitar a sessional as part of his class, it seems like a great opportunity to learn. I live near a beach. Can’t you just see me out there practicing at sunset, illegal beach fire keeping me warm, gathering a small but appreciative crowd?
  2. Singing: When I sing, people run away. Maybe these are unrelated events, but I am becoming suspicious. I love to sing, but I am pretty terrible at it. I love listening to amazing singers, and am drawn to stories told through song. The downside with this is that I believe that it will take more professional intervention and possibly way more than 50-100 hours to teach me how to sing.
  3. Speaking Spanish: my husband can speak it, I’ve tried to learn in the past, and there are MANY resources for learning foreign languages online. Huge benefit! I can’t wait to go back to Cuba, and actually have a few words in my vocabulary.
  4. Piano: I would love to know how to play. Again, lots of helpful online resources, but I think that actually having a piano or keyboard would be essential.
  5. Meditation: I have done some Yoga in the past, but only used it really for strengthening and lengthening my muscles, I always feel energized after doing it, not relaxed. I need help to calm my mind, and meditation has been suggested to me frequently!

In considering which topic to explore further, I knew that I needed to narrow my list into things that:

  • Were actually manageable
  • Would serve me immediately
  • Bring me joy
  • Have resources available
  • Would suit learning publicly

Drumroll please….

I selected meditation.

I have never been a good sleeper. Even from my first, fresh days home from the hospital, I kept everyone awake. I still do. Comparing Fitbit stats with my friend today, we compared our restless “Sleep” minutes over the last month. She averaged between 9-16 minutes of restlessness. I averaged between 140-190 minutes of restlessness each night.

My mind is always working. I worry. I fret. I practice conversations – that never actually happen. I find “being in the moment” a challenge. I don’t listen well. I move quickly, think quickly and rush around constantly.

My goals: Slow down. Be mindful. Meditate. Be present. Be still. Develop my own self-regulatory skillset. Listen.

And above all: Breathe.


My own Digital Participation

Like several #tiegrad cohort members, I spent some time this weekend reflecting on my online presence. In our very first term of our Masters work, we were fortunate enough to have a visit with Bonnie Stewart who posed a similar question asking us to think about who we were online. Unfortunately, that was one of the blogs lost when UVic was hacked, but even so, my answer has changed over time. She shared our professor, Alec Couros as an example of someone who seamlessly blends his professional and personal lives online.

I am only digitally active in a few areas. I have a Twitter account, this blog, a Kidblog account with my students, a classroom Twitter account, a couple of social bookmarking sites, and dormant About.Me and LinkedIn pages. Oh, and I also was starting to develop a Fitbit PLN, until my Fitbit decided to part company with me. I am my most true self on my two blog sites. I try to include personal stories, and a few more personal pictures. I was very saddened to lose my UVic blog where I shared how I learned to read, with a picture of my brother and me outside of the Prince George public library. I still have a Word copy of that post, but I heartbreakingly lost my treasured comments from my family and my #tiegrad cohort. It’s funny that we teach about the permanence/footprint of our online identities – maybe it’s only the stuff that we wish we could forget that is actually permanent!

I am more careful with my words on Twitter. 140 characters leaves a lot of room for context collapse and I worry about what to say or share. I feel great when something I tweet is re-tweeted, but when I retweet, I feel like I might be perceived as fangirling!

I think that the main difference between my blog and Twitter is that few people actually read through my blog in its entirety, but anyone could stumble across my words on Twitter. We often snoop through each other’s lists to see whom people are following and what they have to say. My visualization of blogging is like walking through a semi-deserted street verbally telling a friend a story or answering a question. However, Twitter is like graffiti – very visual and left to linger for all to see. I still hesitate and hover over both the “Publish” and the “Tweet” buttons.

I liked the ideas by Melody and Suzanne of creating a Task List for developing a more well-rounded digital identity.

My Task List:

  1. Refine my About.Me and LinkedIn pages (or start fresh!)
  2. Be more active on Twitter: I loved co-moderating our #anxietyined chats, and participating in #bcedchat, #byodchat, and #mschat. I am currently only participating in #bcedchat. Hesitate less, share more.
  3. Blog more frequently. It is an expectation of this course, but I also enjoyed completing the 30 Days Reflective Blogging Challenge in September. I need my blogging to serve me, not just be an assignment to complete. I may need to examine or reflect upon other areas of my life, not just my thoughts and learning as a Masters student. I’ve been managing to blog twice a week since the term began, but it has been entirely assignment-based. These posts will only engage my fellow Grad students. Time to broaden my focus.
  4. Get to know my PLN. I have gotten to know a few of the people I have connected with on Twitter, but mainly by asking questions. I need to look for more opportunities to connect and give back.
  5. Re-read and reflect on the article that was shared out by Valerie Irvine: The Guide to Social Media Time Management. Keep my task list in mind and refine my goals as I work.
  6. Maintain balance. Cultivate my in-person relationships as I develop my digital relationships.

Turning the Tables

Like any Masters course, our EDCI 569 course has several assignment components to it. The second assignment is causing me the most sleepless moments currently. We have been given the choice between an inquiry into some facet of digital learning, taking on a 50-100 hour open learning project, or participating/evaluating a MOOC.

I am least interested in the MOOC, because I’ve already tried them. I like and dislike the same feature: the anonymity. You can hide in the massive-ness, but you can also be lonely in it. I felt like I did a good job “listening”, but my very little voice was indistinguishable from the others. MOOCs generally remind me of the huge auditorium-style lectures in my early University days. Your voice gets heard when you break off into little groups for labs, but the professor has no idea if you even showed up for the main lectures. You could learn the content in other ways and sleep in instead.

My conundrum is between choosing the Open Learning or an inquiry into digital learning. I feel like the Digital Learning option will encourage me to explore more dynamic resources related to my Lit Review for EDCI 515, and will provide me with a richness and depth that I may otherwise overlook. But, the lure of learning anything that I want to learn and sharing out the process continues to be a siren call.

I started Genius Hour in my classroom in October 2013, and it was inspiring to see what huge projects my students tackled. I learned so many new things as my students acquired new knowledge and shared it out on their blogs and in class discussions/presentations. I collaborated with a student on learning a new piece of technology in our class, and shared out my learning as well. Several students were overwhelmed as they faced the buffet of learning options and took weeks to decide on a topic. That is where I am right now: I have a huge brainstorm web on a poster behind my desk where I am brainstorming what I would like to learn. This is my next Genius Hour learning project, and thinking that it could possibly fit in with my Masters is an exciting idea! However, I have questions before I commit:

  • What about collaboration? Can this learning project be completed in pairs or small groups? Most 20% Time or Genius Hour teachers encourage their learners to collaborate, to work together to extend thinking and challenge each other.
  • Can it truly be any topic? Does it have to have a tangible product at the end? I have limited my wish list down to 3-4 ideas, but one does not have an actual end product, only growth over time.
  • How do I decide….??? Too many topics to choose from!!

What would you learn if you could choose any topic? How would you reach out to find support to pursue and celebrate your passions? Who would be your cheerleaders in this project?

The decision is coming soon. Stay tuned!