Virtual Mentorship: Interview

I had the opportunity to interview my mentoring teacher, Carolyn Durley. I was able to ask her about her experiences integrating technology into her classroom, along with her other notable experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Tech Task #11: A Peak Inside Your Classroom

Physical Environment

I want my classroom to be collaboration/creative thinking/active learning-friendly space. I would love for my classroom to have stand up work spaces. Royan Lee spoke briefly about how he has an area in his classroom with stand up desks and this got me thinking about how I learn best. When I am standing, my mind is more active. This may not be true in everyone, but it is something that I would like to examine. Ideally these stand up desks make it easier for students to work in collaborative groups. Of course there are limitations to this, such as classroom spaces as they are right now – the classroom I was in for my internship had 9 lab benches that were low to the ground and bolted to the floor. Hard to work around that.. Below is a picture of the classroom I was working in. (I almost get nostalgic looking at it… missing my students and co-op).


Pedagogy & Learning Environment 

I took the time to create a social contract with one of my classes that I was struggling with during internship. This was a contract between the students and I, and also between each of the students. By building this contract together, we were able to share our expectations of what we wanted our learning environment to look like. I was able to create a visual using Wordle, which I posted in the classroom. I would like to do this on the first day with each of my classes so we are all on the same page. The picture on the left is what they feel I should expect from them and on the right is what they expect from me. 


IMG_1500Everything that Shelley Wright mentioned about making learning meaningful was absolutely refreshing and inspiring. A summary of what I took from her: 

  • I want to teach skills using the content – not just focus on memorization of content they can find on the internet (something I have believed for over a year now).
  • Find ways to bring back student curiosity.
  • Have students document learning processes (for labs) with videos or voice threads rather than formal lab write ups where they are looking for the “right answer”.
  • Have honest discussions about our learning (first I must create a culture of respect and compassion in my classroom – no one feels silly for bringing up concerns or for making mistakes).

Technology Tools

Based on my experiences during internship, I plan to have all students create an iGo account. This is important to be because as Shelley Wright mentioned, it is hard for students to “lose” their work on it. There were waaaaay too many experiences of students attempting to save their work on the drive at the school but losing it when the computer reset upon restart. I am having them create these for my sanity… and so they can hand in assignments digitally, have all their work in one place, share easily, work in groups, have everything save automatically, have access when on any computer, etc. 

I am now comfortable with blogging! I would love to have my students blogging, maybe by starting with a classroom blog for my first year? Haven’t necessarily decided on this yet. But I do know that I want my students sharing their work with a global audience – an idea that many of our guests presented about but Heather Durnin was the one I remember using the term “global audience” which I loved.

Beyond using a blog to share student work, I want to make other social media forms useful in my classroom.. my students are obsessed with it so why not put it to work! Alec Couros described social affordances which I understood as using the technology that is readily available to us in a way that enhances student experiences. Twitter hashtags to document learning, a Facebook group for sharing information, Flickr for sharing what is going on in our classroom, same with YouTube to document and share learning. All of these are platforms that students are already using to reach out to others. Lets use what they are comfortable with to share and get input from others around the world.

Karen Lirenman shared that the technology available to us makes the world feel a lot smaller but bigger at the same time. By just reading that statement it wouldn’t make much sense but the way that she stated it was really easy to follow. I thought it was great how she was able to bring so many experts into her classroom and “flatten” her classroom walls to bring so many people in to their classroom. It is a goal to make connections and find ways to bring these experts into my classroom for my students to learn from.

Tech Task #8: Mobile 2 *update*

As mentioned when I first completed part 2 of Tech Task #8, I planned to create a QR code to use in a presentation for one of my classes. What I ended up doing was creating a QR code that would link to a Haiku Deck presentation I created to guide groups through different activities.

QR code example:

Dissolved Oxygen QR

Scan it and it leads you here:

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I was excited about the potential of this tool in the classroom. It would enable me to let students work on individual topics without actually having to go to each group and explain their task. When I was presenting it, I simply gave each group a QR code with no indication of what it would be used for and they were able to use the instructions to complete the activity. **If I was using this with a classroom (not my peers) I would include more instruction.

Tech Task #10: Best Ideas

For this post, we were to watch a live session and explain which ideas “stuck” with us from each of the 3 experts. I am going to summarize my favourite points and include links to their blog posts.

For all presenters, I loved the way they talked about bringing in outside experts.


Heather shared one specific experience where her class Skyped an expert who was studying polar bears in Churchill, MB at the time. I LOVED that after the conversation they had with Andy, the students were inspired and a meaningful project developed because of it. Polar Bears Student Action

Heather also spoke of her students presenting their work to a global audience. This is something I have heard of before but I liked the different mediums she spoke of, especially the radio station 105thehive (and maybe I just liked this idea because it is something new to me).

Lastly, I was not aware of Padlet (formerly wallwisher) and love the resource as it allows students (and me!) to easily keep track of interesting things we think of/find. I have already tried it out and it is absolutely user-friendly.


Although Heather was the one speaking about the Our Day project, I found it on Clarence’s blog (which she mentioned we would). This project is awesome. I loved watching the original Our Day video and was just as excited by reading about Clarence’s plans for creating the same project with his class and other classrooms around the world. In reading the comments on the blog post, I learned that teachers from all over had contacted him to be a part of this (Thailand, New Zealand, Japan, Washington (US)). It made me wonder how those teachers had found this blog post and if he had previous connections to them? The internet is an amazing thing for bringing people together when in reality they are hours of travel away.

Similar to this (in some ways) is a photography project I came across. A photographer took photos of children around the world with their most prized possessions: Toy Story. I would likely use the photos in the classroom to get students think about values.


One of Royan’s suggestions was that it is not our responsibility to “force” collaboration to happen. Rather we must create a space for collaboration and let it happen naturally. Loved this idea!

Royan also spoke of a tool that he has his students use: Thinking books. These are a great modification of a typical journal as it is a space for students to be as “messy” as they want as they are documenting their learning (I say messy because these don’t ask students to stay ‘between the lines’ – literally and figuratively). Through jotting notes or sketching about their experiences, these individuals are able to build connections and find meaning in their learning.

After browsing Royan’s blog for over an hour (seriously – I couldn’t stop) I have decided to post some links to my favourites of his blog posts (not an exhaustive list – had to quit looking before I spent my whole night on it):

Getting Animated

The “I’ve always wondered why…” Project

Welcome to a New School Year

The Power of Introverts – Spicy Links

My Students Rapping (seriously cool dude)

Less is More

Don’t Call it ‘Gym” (Mark would like this one..)

One Planet

Just watch it. If it doesn’t make you think about the way we live, I’m not sure what will. I really hope this gets the funding it needs to develop into its full potential.

Tech Task #9: Are you Well Googled?

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This image is of my name typed into a Word document with the suggested spelling of my name. I included it to show that no… my name does not have an H in it! and also to demonstrate that this might be why I was able to easily find myself on the first page as Stepan (no H) is not a very common spelling for my last name.

Results for Googling…

Click on the link or the picture to view the screencast I created (with Jing) on my “google me” results. (Thank you to Kendra K who I got the idea from to create a screencast rather than just screenshot!)

Google me!

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 5.56.15 PMAs I explained in the video, I was not surprised by what I found when I googled myself. What I did not mention was my previous feelings about my digital footprint. I wanted to be unsearchable… mainly because I was afraid of posting anything that might affect me in the future (not that I ever post anything crazy).

I also “YouTubed” myself to see what I would find.. Here are the 3 videos I have uploaded. Not much on there at all!

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Hopes for future Googling…

More of my work in the classroom being found – perhaps with a classroom blog (original.. I know) or with work that my students have done in the community (a major goal for me is to have my students out in the community doing things that “matter” to them and others).

Communication with George Couros

After watching last week’s live session, I tweeted this to George (but forgot to add the #ecmo355, woops!)

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Modern Designing: Murphey Beds?

I just watched this video, and although the purpose of the video is to promote this furniture, I was more excited about the design aspect. As they explain, creating these products requires input from furniture designers, mechanical engineers, and a hardware company.

Essentially, very cool engineering and design ideas. I could see myself setting up my students with such a challenge.

Tech Task #8: Mobile 2

For this tech task, we are to find a way that we want to use QR codes and then make one.

I had many ideas about what I could do with this:

  • When sending out invitations, create a code that links to a site where people can RSVP. (But I don’t have any events requiring invitations at the moment)
  • Have my students create a QR code that links to their “about me” page of their blogs (which my students will have once I have my own classroom… always dreaming). They would put this QR code on the front of their daily bell ringer books so I could easily access each one. (But I don’t have a classroom yet)
  • Create a QR code with my location on it and tattoo it inside my dogs ear for if he gets distracted by a squirrel and takes off… (good idea.. wouldn’t want to implement it though)
  • Create a QR code to put at the top of my syllabus at the beginning of each semester so students and parents can easily access my information/website/e-mail etc. (again don’t have a classroom yet).
  • Create a QR code that links to an interesting science YouTube video. Again, as I am always thinking about education and how I can use resources in the classroom, I picture myself doing this with fun facts or other material in my classroom as something to get students “going” for the day. (again…. no classroom)

Because all of these (especially the dog one) didn’t pan out as ideas I could use (ever).. or just not at the moment, I decided to create a QR code that links to a page of my blog where I will have resources I have collected for the Science 10 Saskatchewan curriculum. For my post-internship science class, I am presenting a collection of resources that can be used to teach the Science 10 curriculum. As part of my presentation, I plan to hand out the QR code that links to this page so my classmates can easily find the information. I will be presenting this on March 28th so I will post an update after that, detailing how it goes! So stay tuned…

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