Not another Twitter Chat!

I appreciate a good twitter chat. I also appreciate being part of the @ONedchat team. This week, I’ll be moderating the #ONedchat with guest moderator Lee Araoz, coordinator of Instructional Technology, staff developer and coach. Lee is an online course creator & student-directed learning evangelist. He resides in Long Island, New York

Lee and I will be running a fairly traditional Twitter chat  on Genius Hour and PBL on Wednesday, April 19 from 8:30 to 9:30 EST.hMLKeiVs

Here’s where it’ll get a little different. From 8:00-8:30 EST, right before our Twitter chat, Lee and I will be hosting a YOUTube Live event where we’ll be sharing our best Genius Hour/PBL idea/resource that make a difference in our teaching practice. We will follow with a quick Q and A and then continue the conversation with our Twitter chat. If you’d like to join us live, on-air to engage with us, please fill in the form. Otherwise follow this link to watch the live event.

We look forward to sharing and learning with you!

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Put Your City on the Map!

We have used descriptive writing, our research skills, visualizing, visual arts and a combination of tech tools to put our city on the map. Each student picked one of their favourite places unique to our city; Thunder Bay. Their task was to write a descriptive paragraph about their place, capture it using a variety of media forms and then literally put their place on an interactive map of Thunder Bay .

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 Below is our interactive map with each of our favourite places! Click on “enlarge icon” in the upper right corner then click each of the pins or subtitles to take you to a link to each student’s descriptive paragraphs and artwork. ***We’d LOVE to from you! Please take a moment to sign our digital guest book!

We are looking forward to sharing our map with our pen pals from the United Kingdom to help them get to know our city a little better.

Why stop there? Perhaps classes throughout the world would like to join us and put their city on the map as well!

So, let’s get started! You can access our ‘Put Your City on the Map’ Google slides and begin. *Please feel free to modify to suit the needs, wants and vision of your own class! Tweet us updates to @cherandpete and include the hashtag #ourcityourmap If you’d like editing rights to slide deck message us and we’d be happy to provide them to allow you to customize.

If you plan on joining us to put your city on the map please fill in this short form to let us know where in the world you are from!

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Visiting our Past

Our St. Elizabeth School students recently travelled back in time to 1816. We experienced our wonderful past at Fort William Historical Park! The many sights and sounds remind us of our rich history and the influence they had on shaping the Canada we love today. The video below captures our journey….

Can you identify the objects that you see? Do you know what they we used for? Who benefited from these objects? Where did each object originate? What object could you not do without? What objects were a necessity? What objects were used for leisure? How did these objects play a role in shaping Canada?



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“Deep” Learning?

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Thanks Jen Hegna for tagging me in your recent blog post “Reflections of Deeper Learning PD”. (We are looking forward to having her share at our #MADPD Day on May 7th). It was a very timely post for me as I’ve recently been reflecting on the term “deep learning”. Below are my comments left on Jen’s post. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Jen, I LOVE how you are leading to redesign and redefine PD. My two big “ahhas” were:

1. “Making the invisible – visible (student artifacts, teachers sharing)”. YES!!! We need to see many more examples of student work in professional development sessions. I would love to see more students actually sharing their work and voice at teacher PD sessions, but logistically that is difficult, though not impossible. From a classroom teacher’s point of view, when teachers are given opportunities to share, my learning goes deeper.

2. “If we believe deeper learning can benefit students – we should model deeper learning strategies in PD.” Exactly. Teachers model all the time. It’s how we get the desired results in our classrooms. If we model our vision of learning and create an environment where deeper learning can thrive, it will happen. Deeper learning comes from deeper questions.

“Deep learning” has quickly become a new catch phrase in education. How is it defined? How is it evaluated? How do we know it’s happening? Sometimes the results of deep learning happen long after the project is done. Sometimes the results of deep learning are not visible at all. Deep learning isn’t a “one off”… it’s simply becomes a way that we learn and think about things. I’m not sure anyone can look at a project from a distance and say “yes” that’s deep learning or no it isn’t. If you want to determine if deep learning (however that is defined) is happening, visit classrooms…not for an hour or even a a day… visit them often and talk to kids and listen to them talk and share. Listen to how they talk, how they think and how they question and you’ll then understand how they learn.

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The Minecraft Selfie and the power a Simple SHARE!

Last Monday, my teaching partner Melinda Shaughnessy offered to share her Minecraft selfie idea with me. Since I was just introducing transformational geometry to my students, I thought this would be a great way start. I left my supply teacher instructions to have my students self direct their learning; to research transformations, watch instructional videos and read webpages that they found relevant and met their learning needs. They took jot notes as they researched and then conquered the Minecraft selfie to demonstrate their understanding of what they had learned.

When I returned the following day, I took a video of a few exemplars and tweeted it which allowed me to share some good examplars with my students. I also share our learning with my students’ parents and included the tweet in our weekly blog.

The tweet received a lot of attention from the greater education community:

Many teachers asked for more information and said that they’d like to try the activity with their class. So, in the spirit of sharing, I’ve compiled a PDF that will help get teachers get started. My class would LOVE to see how your Minecraft selfies turn out. Please tag us in a tweet!

I’d also like to share an extension idea. A past student, Karli Bender, has recently stated teaching in the UK. She contacted me hoping to start a “pen pal friendship” between my class and hers. Of course, I’m all over it and my kids are beyond excited. Here’s my idea: I’m going to have my kids create another Minecraft selfie, this time with the goal of representing themselves as accurately as possible on a larger sized grid paper. They will then write with the body of their letter including three paragraphs; the first on their appearance, the second on their personality and the last on personal facts. We’ll send the letters with the Minecraft selfies included. Karli’s class will be tasked with reading the letters and trying to match the selfies to the writer. If time permits, I’ll have my kids voice record (podcast their letters as well).

Karli has recently written to ask if I know of another class who may be interested in becoming pen pals with her other class. I’m pretty sure I do…. I’ll be asking Mrs. Shaughnessey if her class would like to share in the fun!

Thanks Melinda for sharing your Minecraft selfie activity.

There truly is power in sharing!



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We are ALL Difference Makers

Jose would be arriving in my class in three weeks, I was told. His family was migrating from Venezuela to Thunder Bay. He’d be attending St. Elizabeth School. In my class. He screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-1-06-58-pmcouldn’t speak English. Not a word. Gulp. How could I help? What would I do? How could I make a difference for Jose?

We had access to iPads. I researched translator apps and found “Translator Pro“. My kids learned to speak Spanish. When Jose arrived on his first day at St.Elizabeth school he looked sad, nervous and scared. So did his mom and dad. I approached his family and said, “Welcome Jose, you are going to love your new school and classmates. We are happy to have you in our class!” Blank stares. From behind my back I produced the iPad. I had Jose push a magical button and the iPad translated my greeting into Spanish and spoke,Bienvenido Jose, vas a amar a tu nueva escuela y compañeros de clase. Estamos felices de tenerte en nuestra class!” A huge smile lit up Jose’s face. His dad shook my hand. His mom cried. Tears of joy. 

We walked to our class. My students greeted and conversed with our new friend in Spanish. Jose excelled. He learned a thousand English words by the end of the school year. He was conversing with his classmates in English and was teaching them more Spanish. He taught his peers incredible soccer moves and became our track star. Jose was happy.

Teachers have so many incredible tools at their finger tips to help make a difference for their students. In turn by modelling creative, thoughtful, innovative use of technology we are demonstrating to our children how they can make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others.

Innovating is looking beyond “what is” and asking “what could be?” In early April I’ll be presenting a Keynote titled “We are ALL Difference Makers” where I’ll be sharing many different examples of how I’ve innovated to make a difference for myself, as a teacher, my students, my community and even the world.  I’m hoping that many teachers will help contribute to my keynote by sharing one example of how they’ve  innovated to make a difference. **Please note, an innovative idea might have nothing to do with using technology. By sharing our innovative ideas we will collectively make a difference for our global community of learners. If you are willing to contribute please take a moment to fill in this Google form:  We are ALL Difference Makers.

Thank YOU for making a difference!

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Over the past three weeks my students and I walked the Secret Path with Chanie Wenjack, a young 12 year old boy who ran away from the Cecilia Residential Residential School in Kenora, Ontario in 1966. Our journey with Chanie can be read in our blog post: ‘Walking the Secret Path’. My students are now impassioned with making a difference for Chanie, to help remember him and his story (see all their ideas in our original post).


When Chanie ran away from the residential school he managed to walk 60 kilometres of the 600  he needed to cover to reach his home at Ogokji Post.  One group of students suggested we walk 60 kilometres together as a class. Our goal is to walk one kilometre a day for 60 days. If 9 other classes joined our walk, together we’d cover the 600 kilometres that Chanie needed get back home.

If you’d like to join us in our #WalkwithChanie please let us know by tweeting to the hashtag!

We will not forget you Chanie.


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Walking the Secret Path


When I first watched Gord Downie’s Secret Path I was moved beyond words. I knew I had to invite Chanie into my class but I wasn’t sure how. I reached out to our Native Resource Teacher, Mrs. Fiddler for advice, guidance and support.

Part One- Monday and Tuesday- A Journey to Canada’s Past


Over the past two days Mrs. Fiddler has taken us on a journey…into Canada’s past. She took my class to places I never could have. She shared stories that I didn’t even know existed. She brought authentic artifacts that my students could hold, feel and smell.  Mrs. Fiddler brought us back in time and  helped us to learn, understand and question.

As my students travelled, they took “field notes” in their Adventure Logs. Their notes reflected their learning and understanding. They also listed many questions. Some were answered and many remain unanswered. This morning we debriefed to share our learning and our questions. I pushed my students to reflect on their journey and to dig deep and share their take aways.

We also added our learning from our journey to Canada’s Past with Mrs. Fiddler to our Digital Adventure Logs. Below are a few examples.

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At the end of the day I told my students that I was anxious for them to meet a young boy who I had recently met.  Chanie would be visiting our class the next day.  They were ready to walk his Secret Path….

Part Two- Wednesday to Friday- Walking With Chanie


It’s Friday and I finally have a chance to reflect on and share where we’ve travelled over the last three days. It has been a very emotional journey. I am so proud of my students for honouring Chanie and becoming so impassioned with his story. I’m also grateful for having Tesa Fiddler as our guide.

On Wednesday my students came to school with mixed emotions about travelling back in time to 1966 to meet Chaine at the Cecilia Residential Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. They were excited, anxious and nervous all at the same time. So was I. Mrs. Fiddler arrived back in our classroom with a warm smile and a comfortable disposition. We were all in good hands. She set the stage for our journey by sharing her own family’s personal experience with residential schools and a discussion ensued about some of the lasting impacts. Tesa went on to talk about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how Canada is trying to right past mistakes. She introduced my class to Gord Downie and many “light bulbs” went on when she mentioned his band, The Tragically Hip. Many of their parents were fans and by default, so were my students. Mrs. Fiddler played a clip from Gord’s last concert singing New Orleans is Sinking (one of my favourites) and then shared the part of the concert where he addressed our Prime Minister.

With our guide leading the way, Mrs. Fiddler handed out the Secret Path novels and copies of the lyrics. With our adventure logs in hand and the video cued on the SMART Board, our journey began. My students walked with Chanie away from his residential school and along the railway tracks from Kenora in his quest to reach his home at Ogoki Post some 400 kilometers away.  Chanie never completed his journey. However, Gord Downie’s lyrics and Jeff Lemire’s illustrations  have allowed us to  walk with Chanie, to learn, feel, question and…understand. Chaine, you have taught us more than you will ever know.

We will never forget you.

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My students spent Thursday and Friday continuing to reflect on their journey. They compiled all of their learning as a chapter in their Digital Adventure Logs.

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Part 3- Secret Math Path

As well, we embarked on a Secret Path Math Journey. Feel free take on the math challenges with your students.

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My students were inspired to do something to honour Chaine and keep his spirit, memory and story alive. I challenged them to take on their own M.A.D Projects. I was touched by my students’ ideas. Watch for updates as they put their ideas into ACTION!

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Part 5- #WalkwithChanie

Today we started an art project inspired by Chanie. My direction to my students was to create an art piece that fit the title #WalkwithChanie. My students chose the medium and how they wished to create their piece. Most used the iPads to view and listen to the Secret Path again. Many of my students sang along with the lyrics. Join our ‘Walk with Chanie!

Please visit

The 1967 McClean’s story of Chanie  Wenjack: The Lonely Death of Chanie Wenjack

The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund

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I just finished applying for the National Geographic Educator program. I was recently named a National Geographic Educator of the Week and am very proud and excited to be connected with such an amazing group of people. In December I was thrilled to be asked to work in cooperation with National Geographic Education, Google and 20 amazing educators from across North America on a very exciting project (more to come…)!

For those of you who know me, know that I love to travel, adventure and explore. I believe some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life have come through adventure. Isn’t learning just that…. AN ADVENTURE? My Capstone project combines my passion for breaking down classroom walls, teaching outside of the text and empowering students to recognize their tremendous potential to make a difference. I am sharing my lesson (project) plan and my video…. “IMAGINE”. If you are interested or have any questions, please feel free to ask!

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First Podcast: Success, Failure and Climbing Mountains!

Recently Derek Rhodenizer invited me onto his podcast to discuss PBL. We never got that far, we couldn’t get off the topic of failure! Derek asked me point blank what failure was and after a bit of thinking I responded that it was an opportunity to learn. From there the podcast simply unfolded and a great discussion ensued. It seems that Derek and I can talk forever! The conversation spilled over to our mutual Twitter PLN and Derek wisely started the hashtag #whatisfailure to archive the great conversation.

And then it happened….with the conversation still fresh on my mind and with many ideas still spinning in my head, my students and I googled: “Inspiring poems on courage for kids”. What transpired was simply one of those crazy “AH HA”  moments we all love to experience as teachers. I wanted to blog about it to get my ideas down as soon as possible. The problem was, I couldn’t. I simply didn’t have enough time. So took a deep breathe and attempted my first podcast. It’s raw, unedited and certainly not perfect. But I make no apologies. The purpose of the podcast was to allow me to get my  thoughts down, reflect and learn. I’m happy to share them with you and as always, appreciate your input.



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