Saturday, June 11, 2016

Creating My First Multimedia Text Set

Yesterday I learned a new skill:  how to create a multimedia text set.  I'm going to be teaching IB Literature again next year (for the past three I've been teaching IB Language and Literature only), so I thought I'd apply my new skill to my preparation for teaching one of our selected texts for that course - Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore.  The text set is designed as an introduction to the unit, and should allow for greater personalisation, flipping, and differentiation of my instruction.  Click on the image below to check out my work:

Sunday, May 15, 2016


It's coming and we are getting so excited!

JoMUN XIV promotional poster

Our newly appointed Secretary General and Co-Deputy Secretary Generals have been doing an absolutely outstanding job of organizing and planning for our conference so far.

Secretary General and Co-Deputy Secretary Generals for JoMUN XIV

We also have an amazing group of chairs this year who are currently hard at work finalizing their research reports.

Student leaders of JoMUN XIV

This year, our goals are to change the culture of our conference to become a more collaborative one, to continue to improve on the quality of debate, and to continue to grow by inviting more local and international schools to participate.  Already, we are expecting more than double the number of schools that participated last year.  In addition, we are becoming re-affiliated with THIMUN this year, an important step in terms of helping us to maintain our conference's already very high standards of excellence.

We would love to welcome your school at JoMUN XIV.  You can find can find everything you need to sign up here.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Flipping Out

Backflip | Flickr - Photo Sharing! : taken from - Will Hodson

Our inquiry into flipped learning is officially over, and this is what I learned.

After carrying out some initial research, I was surprised to discover that there is some controversy surrounding this trendy teaching strategy.  If not used carefully, flipped learning can be a very passive and teacher-centered approach to learning; it can also encourage rote learning and rely too heavily on extrinsic forms of motivation.  On the other hand, if one views flipped learning as simply one tool out of many and makes it a point to focus on making the flipped learning experience as interactive as possible, then it can definitely free up time in the classroom for more inquiry and collaboration as well as providing students with the differentiated forms of support that they need.  According to this infographic from Mind/Shift, schools that have experimented with a full implementation of a flipped approach have seen great gains in terms of both learning and engagement.

If you are thinking of getting started with flipped learning, this article is the most useful of the many that I came across in my research:  it contains a lot of solid and practical advice from the flipped learning gurus Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann.  

One thing that I really wanted to look into further during our inquiry was the various new tools that exist to help teachers flip reading for their students.  I decided to try Curriculet first, and created this assignment for my Grade 9 English students based on Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz."

It took me a while to figure out what I was doing - the tool wasn't entirely intuitive.  Although I will definitely use the assignment with my students, I'm not convinced that it provides something much different from a worksheet, or that the assignment will be much more fun than a worksheet for them to complete.  Plus, it took me forever to create.  When I get some time, I plan to check out ActivelyLearn as well, to see whether it might suit me better.

The tool which has the most potential, in my opinion, is Zaption.  I created this one based on John Green's Crash Course video on "How and Why We Read."  Not only will this tool enable me to make better use of video as a teaching tool, I can also see great potential for its use as a learning tool.  For example, in our speech unit, students could use Zaption to annotate famous speeches from the movies.  Alternatively, they could record their own speeches, upload them to YouTube, and then annotate them to show their knowledge and understanding.  The tool is free, extremely easy to use, and actually pretty fun.

As for my own videos, I will soon be ready to start recording.  I've selected a topic (an introduction to our poetry unit, focusing on what makes poetry special) and I know which tool I want to use (Screencast-o-matic).  However, I'm finding that the initial stages of a flipped approach to learning are actually quite time consuming.  I'm told that after I get over the initial hump, flipping will get easier.  However, as it turns out, the five hours that we were allocated for this inquiry were simply not enough for me to be able to fully consolidate my learning.  Ideally, besides Screencast-o-matic, I would have loved to be able to experiment with other video creation tools also, and to test out the various videos with my students to determine their effect and to see what, if any, kinds of videos they prefer.

In sum, I've only just gotten started on my flipped learning journey, and still have a long, long way to go.  Nevertheless, I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity I've had to explore my own professional learning goals in collaboration with my peers.  Professional development is so often something that is done to teachers rather than by them.  Whether working with students or with adults, learning that is self-directed, personalized, relevant, hands-on, ongoing, and collaborative is powerful learning indeed.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

THIMUN Qatar 2016

A video from our recent trip to Doha:

It was awesome :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Health & Fitness Apps

Not quite ready to cave in to the Fitbit craze, I've instead decided to try out the following combination of apps:

BMI Calculator

Calorie Counter - My Fitness Pal

Daily Yoga - Yoga Fitness App

7 Minute Workout


Water Drink Reminder

My goals it to get back in shape and return to my ideal weight after allowing my doctoral program to completely derail me.  Wish me luck!  Will let you know how it goes...

What health and fitness apps have you had success with?  Let me know in the comments section below...

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My First Screencast/My Oral Defense

Because I am looking into flipping my classroom after Christmas, I decided to give screencasting a try today.  From the various options available, I selected Screen-o-matic, also recommended by Richard Byrne over at Free Technology for Teachers.  Screen-o-matic is extremely easy to use, with the only limitations being that the user can only record 15 minute clips at a time and must have Internet access to use it.  Because I used my oral defense as practice, which was about 30 minutes in length, I had to overcome the time restrictions by recording and downloading shorter clips and then editing them in Windows Movie Maker.

Here is the result:

I still have a lot to learn about how to make my presentations more exciting to watch and listen to, but I guess that this is okay for a start :)  I look forward to using this tool more next semester as a means of further differentiating instruction for my high school English students.     

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Inquiring into the Potential of Flipped Learning within the High School English Classroom

High School English teachers are perhaps the originators of a flipped approach to learning, with much of the reading and preparation for any particular class being conducted outside of class.

However, a need exists, particularly with many of our students away for extended periods of time to renew their visas, but also for students who are out sick, participating in extracurricular activities, or simply in need of further reinforcement, to provide resources for students to review the skills taught in class on their own time and in a location that is convenient to them. 

According to the Flipped Learning Network, “flipped learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”  Flipped learning allows for greater flexibility in terms of what, when, and how students learn.  Starting in the New Year, my department members and I will be working collaboratively to explore the potential of this approach to learning within our subject area.  

We will be taking an inquiry-based approach to our learning, as follows:   

By the end of the self-directed Learning Institute, we hope to have achieved the following learning outcomes:

·         Learned more about the benefits and challenges of a flipped approach to learning
·         Learned more about the potential applications for this approach within a HS English classroom
·         Examined various examples of a flipped approach to learning
·         Learned more about various resources, approaches, and tools available to facilitate a flipped approach to learning
·         Created one or more videos to use within our classes
·         Shared these videos with one another and with our students to seek feedback
·         Reflected on the feedback and on the overall experience to determine what, if any, improvements could be made, and what the next steps to a flipped approach to learning within the HS English classroom might be

Wish us luck! 


Flipped Learning Network.  The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™.  FLN, 2014.  PDF file.      <>

My Blog List