The Learning Project



It's been said and discussed often here and many places that a real shift for educators is moving from teacher to learner. Not so much moving, we still need teachers, expertise matters but until we see ourselves as learners and intentionally show are students we can't be the educator our students need us to be. 

Last week I began my ECMP 355 course with largely freshman pre-service teachers. My usual introduction to my course reminds them that they are the winners of education. They were successful students because they were largely compliant and knew how to survive and thrive in a system that values a "mind your own business" style of learning. Do what you're told, when you're told to, and you'll be fine. Learning isn't very self directed in this system. Students wait to be told what to learn.

I'm trying to get them to consider something new. I truly believe that the best coaches in sports aren't usually the best athletes. They are often the bench players, backups and lesser known players who end up becoming the best coaches because they truly understand and can break down the subtleties  of the game.  Understanding not only how you learn but being able to articulate it and express it is a skill I'm not convinced all our teachers have. 

Last year i read Ewan's post about a 100 hour challenge. I tucked that post away because I knew I'd come back to it. So with that idea in mind, I'm asking my students to take 25-50 hours and learn something new. While Ewan's goals were somewhat different, I want my students to explore a few things.

1. Learn a skill, concept or idea you know very little or nothing about but that you're interested in learning

2. Document the learning. Write about it, video tape, audio record, whatever.

3. Consider all the sources you use to learn. Collect those resources. 

4. Take a early baseline snapshot of your understand at the beginning and another one at the end. Compare and analyze. 

That's it. As the quote above says, make your learning transparent.  I've never done a project like this with students before. it's not really about technology and yet it will be as students share their learning and consider people who can be their teachers. I feel like I need to participate in this as well. So I decided that I'd like to learn to play the guitar. I love music, have some musical background but have never learned to play the guitar. Starting with my daughter as one of my teachers, I completed my first lesson.

I'm really looking forward to my own learning but also watching others learn as well. If you have any ideas on how to make this idea/project better, let me know.




“The deleterious effect of gradings and its offspring”

It’s that time again when we get busy calculating grades to determine the winners and the losers. I realize few if any teachers think of it that way but to many, that’s how it comes across. You can argue that it’s simply a celebration of hard work and excellence. Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s been over a year since one of my students wrote a very heartfelt post about his younger brother. The aftermath of this post was quite powerful and led to  a big change. Read the comments, a few of which aren’t very nice to get the full picture. Kyle handled himself with integrity. I continue to point to this post as a great example of the power and potential of blogging.

But the whole grading and honour roll thing continues to be problem-some, at least for me.

All my kids have been on the honour roll. For them the grades were motivating and to be honest, they didn’t really work all that hard. Sure they studied and put in the effort but I know many students who worked much harder with poorer results. School came pretty easy for them. In the end, the real winners were the ones that learned how to learn, the ones that found a passion, worked hard because they cared about what they did and wanted to make the most of every opportunity. I’m not saying my kids didn’t achieve any of these but it wasn’t the dominant reason they went to school. My youngest, who is 12 is tired of me telling her not to focus on the grade but focus on the learning. But it’s hard for her to think differently when everything around her tells her the grade is really the most important thing. We live in a system that prizes numbers and letters.

So back to Kyle’s post. Last night Kyle and Jordan presented to my current ECMP 355 class on ideas that are still resonating with them a year after taking my course. One of the reasons I asked them to do this was to demonstrate that hopefully what they learn in my course has value, value beyond a grade but something they’ll use for the rest of their lives. They did a wonderful job. Kyle spent a few minutes talking about that post and some of the inside stories around it. I posted it to twitter last night and my colleague and mentor Rick Schwier posted a comment that has been in my head for the day:

I have a son with a different kind of disability. He has Down syndrome, and he is 37 now. He’s the most academic of my three kids, and I mean it… not in some pathetic condescending way. He pays attention. He is a serious critic. He has no tolerance for fools. He remembers important things and refuses to internalize trivial things. He inspires. Honour rolls. Silly. Trivial. Unnecessary. And at their worst, soul destroying. The older I get, the less tolerant I’m becoming of the deleterious effects of grading and its offspring.

Wow. “…the deleterious effect of gradings and its offspring”. Chew on that for a while.

There must be a link

This post sounds alot like this one but I don’t care.

Technology doesn’t make you a great teacher. But in my experiences those that do, seem to be among the best. I had two examples today that supports my hypothesis. First I was at a conference today with most of our school administrators.  During a lull in the conference I checked my twitter account. (There were several lulls) and saw a primary teacher from one of our schools posted a picture of her students learning. Her principal happened to be sitting nearby and I showed him the picture of the kids. Another principal asked him who the teacher was. His reply included the phrase, "she’s an awesome teacher".

Today I taught my pre-service teachers and brought in over 20 teachers from across Canada, the US and even New Zealand to introduce themselves and share what they might want my students to do in their classrooms. Each teacher took a couple of minutes to introduce themselves and describe their classrooms. It was absolutely exhilarating. This had nothing to do with the technology they deployed but their passion for teaching and learning.  One of those teachers was in her 37th year of teaching. Digital natives theory shot down again. 37 years and still willing to learn, to try something new that might help her students, that’s inspiring.

I"m fortunate, no question. I have a wonderful network and get to expose my students to these awesome teachers. and;

There must be a link between good teaching and technology. That’s what I see.

Photo by Mrs. B. Martin



A Powerful Learning Opportunity

One of the most powerful things I’ve been part of recent years is the opportunity I’ve had to connect pre-service teachers with experienced classroom teachers via an online mentorship. This has transformed many young people and offered them an experience to work with great teachers from around the world and observe first hand what it means to use technology to amplify and enhance learning through technology.

This video illustrates one example of what happened last term as Carey Pohanka and one of my students worked together. If you were one of those students or teachers impacted by this mentorship program, please feel free to leave a comment as well.

I’ve written about it before here so I won’t go into any more detail other than to invite you to be a part of this experience from September to December. If you’re interested, fill out this form and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.


A Call for Teachers

As readers of my blog know, I’ve been teaching part time at the University of Regina for the past few years. I teach an introductory course to pre-service teachers on technology. I’ve had the freedom to more the curriculum to a much more broader look at technology in our schools. It’s been a wonderful experience for me and my students.

Guest appearance by SherylFor the past 3 terms I’ve had my undergrads hook up with classrooms from around the world. Over the course of about 2 months the range of interactions is anything from skype conferences where my students teach lessons to commenting on blogs to working closely with students in collaborative projects. I’m been reluctant to make it much more structured since I want to honor teacher’s time and access. My student’s express a variety of  levels of satisfaction. I usually have the connect with 2 classrooms both to give them some variety but also to insure a greater chance of interactions. Two months is a very short time to build a connection with a class. Amazingly, some of my students made this happen and for many it was the best part of the course.  Others were frustrated by communication break downs and lack of activity. This was usually no one’s fault but the nature of school. Teachers are busy and I don’t want to place any undue expectations on them. I want my students simply to have the chance to interact with other students in whatever way the teacher sees fit. It’s not a perfect program by any means but it continues to provide students with an experience they never get in other classes in their university careers.

From May 6-June 18 I’ll be teacher the spring term of this same course. I had originally resigned the idea of a mentorship not only because of the shorter time frame but also since many US schools in particular would either be done or winding down. However I know there may be many that might be looking to have some outside voices participate.  I thought I’d give it a shot.

We’ve had classrooms ranging from Kindergarten to advanced senior Math. My goal is simply to have my students witness and experience how teachers and students share and open their classrooms to the world.  So I’m calling any teacher or classrooms in any grade and subject area. I might suggest the following scenarios for interaction:

  • A Skype call to share stories about where you live and where we live
  • Find out what areas of expertise my students might have and have the teach a lesson virtually
  • Collaborate on a story
  • Have my students comment on student work

As teachers, you’re using many tools to connect, these are just some starting points. My students need to see these in action. I realize that in a month it’s going to be difficult to establish a deep relationship be I’m open to being surprised.

So leave a comment, email me shareski at, or resend this to any teacher you wish and let me know if you might be interested.  Our class meets every Monday and Wednesday evening and I’ll likely have you come all join me  in early May (likely the 11th or 13th) via Elluminate one evening to share about classroom.

Please complete this form if you’re interested:

Once again, testing the boundaries of my PLN.