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The Lack of iPad and Android at #ASCD12

March 25, 2012 Leave a comment

iPad has been with us for two years, and some great Android tablets have been around for at least half that time. Over a hundred million people are using these devices to interact with others, consume content, create and share understandings. They are everywhere at the conference – I’m sure there are hundreds, if not a thousand, tablets in teachers hands at #ASCD12. Yet when you look through the session book, they are near-completely absent.

I’m not trying to rag on the organizers of ASCD12 in any way – In fact I think they’ve done a fabulous job as usual. ASCD is my favourite conference, and I’ve been to many many others (I’m including my own conference, a ~400 delegate science conference). I’m really just making an observation of the sessions that were proposed.

This lack of tablets saddens me, because I’ve seen first hand how radically different they are than using desktops, laptops, or netbooks in the classroom. I’ve taught in the extremes – with a whiteboard marker and a textbook as my main resources, and a science class in a computer lab with web2.0 and social media heavily embedded. Technology (albeit, not on its own), opens so many doors. I’ve been a tech leader in my district for 3 years. This past year I’ve spent my time supporting students and teachers with iPads more than anything else. I confidently say, no other piece of technology in the past few years – no website, no computer, no cell phone – has caused as much genuine excitement and tangible positive influence on learning and teaching.

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know if anyone can be an expert teacher with a device that has only existed for a few years, but I’ve watched students speak words no one knew they had. I’ve seen kids write stories that touch the heart. And I’ve read e-mails from teachers who work late into the evening that simply couldn’t get motivated in the past. The iPad isn’t the answer. But it is the catalyst. And I just want to meet like-minded people who are way out on the edge with me on this one.

If you’re out there at #ascd12 and around on Monday, I’d love to hear your story

I’m presenting on the topic of iPads and student diversity at 8am in room 204c Monday Morning at #ASCD12. Stop in or come by after if you have an experience to share – I want to hear it.


In The Pursuit of Appyness

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been over a year since I’ve been a regular blogger. You see, 12 months ago to the day the world had its first glimpse at the iPad 2. Ever since then it has been a huge focus of mine. So much so, I’ve barely stopped to reflect (read: blog).

I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms over the last few years, working with thousands of students. I honestly believe that mobile technology such as the iPad (and the ecosystem that surrounds it) is the most engaging, most personalized and simplest way for students to interact with the curriculum as far as technology goes. Students are excited. Teachers are excited. I’m excited!

The strength of the iPad lies in the apps. At the same time, an all-too-common desire to have the longest, greatest and most updated app list frustrates me. The goal sometimes becomes to have an app for everything. And you know what, there almost is. But pursuing this ever-growing app list down to the nitty gritty of every single learner outcome isn’t the answer. Well, at least I don’t think it is.

An efficient carpenter may have hundreds of tools, but if you’re cabinet-maker, chances are there are 3 or 4 that you couldn’t live with out. I think our learners (and teachers) can be much more efficient if they focus on learning a few broad strokes. Have a dozen or so apps that provide what you need. Leave the other 597 apps that you own (my current app count on my iPad 2) in the cloud.

There are at least a dozen different video editing apps that I’ve seen teachers use or have heard teachers spout off to each other. Some are awful. Others are great. But, one is enough. iMove, for example, could keep you busy with no less than a dozen different activities. I don’t mean to suggest that you should only ever use one app in a category. What I do want to suggest is that, once you find an app that works, focus on some of the great activities you can do with that one app.

When I started a small decking company almost 10 years ago I kept buying up tools. I had 5 different drills, 3 different nailers, dozens of accessories, a few hundred feet in extension chords, and at least half a dozen saws. I was rookie. The last deck I built required just 1 drill, 1 saw, a tape and a level. The deck was beautiful.

You don’t need every great app that is out there. You don’t even need 1% of them. Take the time with your students to explore what can be done with just a few great apps, and they will build wonderful things.

Categories: Uncategorized

ASCD Presentation Handout

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

The following link will give you access to the handout for our session “Written Conversations Develop Minds for the Future”. The hand it covers the ‘how to’ portion of our presentation.

Handout EspejoGerndt

Categories: Uncategorized

Collaboration On The Web – Quick Links

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment
Categories: Uncategorized

Join an ASCD Group: Technology for Teaching and Learning

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The ASCD is a top-notch educators organization that provides books, resources and various PD opportunities to teachers. The ASCD Annual Conference is an amazing experience and should be on a list for any educator to attend.

One are that the ASCD lacks in is support for technology in education. I hope to change this by forming an ASCD Professional Interest Community (PIC) titled: Technology for Teaching and Learning. Please join me in the formation of this ASCD community by signing up here! Both ASCD members and non members can join, the only requirement is that there are a minimum of 15 ASCD members.

Categories: Uncategorized

Getting High School Kids To Talk “Math”

November 24, 2010 3 comments


Today I had the pleasure of working with a dedicated and gifted first year teacher. Tim is doing an impressive job teaching pre-calculus grade 11 and 12 math; he has well prepared lessons and examples, clear explanations and solid answers to student questions. Tim invited me into his classroom to work with him and his students to develop some mathematical discourse with the kids.

The unit of study for todays grade 11’s was circle geometry; students had to learn, prove and apply both the Tangent Radius Theorem and Equal Tangents Theorem

Equal Tangents Theorem: PA = PB

Tangent Radius Theorem: Angle OPQ = 90 degrees

The lesson played out as shown below. Keep in mind the focus is on student talk.

Part 1 – Modelling Teachers (Tim and I) stated the Equal tangents theorem for the students, and walked them through the logic of the proof

Part 2 – We Do Together Teachers stated the Tangent Radius Theorem and elicited ideas from the whole class regarding their understanding of the theorem, the diagram, assumptions, and conjectures. Students were encouraged to use relevant math terms and were probed with open ended questions to guide their thinking.

Part 3 – You Do Together (whole class) a) Students solved a problem that most students could easily prove. b) Then, as a class (this is the “do together” part) students brainstormed relevant terminology and theorems used to do the example proof.

Part 4 – You Do Together (Pairs) Students had 60 seconds to use a diagram and the terms from part 3 to explain/prove the problem to a partner – after 60 seconds they switched roles from listened to speaker.

During part one of the lesson no students used the language of mathematics verbally. During part two, students struggled to use the language (either they weren’t comfortable doing so or they didn’t know how). By part four of the lesson students were very talkative and on topic. The sentences formed by students seemed to be perfectly logical and mathematically correct. It was quite exciting for both Tim and I to see how quickly students became engaged in mathematical discourse when given clear structures and expectations. Tomorrow we will be trying out a write-around (recently called paper-blogging in the blogosphere) and I am quite excited to see the results. My personal agenda is to get students using social media to engage in discourse by the third lesson (approximately 160 minutes of lead up instruction time).

If you’ve been wanting to get students to talk more in your math classes – just give it a try. A couple of simple structures and a few minutes of planning seems to go a long way!

The Real Social Studies

November 23, 2010 1 comment

Something Close To My Heart

In 1985 my father was 28 (my current age), a classroom teacher, department head, volleyball coach, and father of 3 small children. Needless to say, he was very busy. A small local (Fort McMurray, AB) charity called Santas Anonymous was being run by a handful of volunteers, one of them my dad, Gil Espejo.

Santas Anonymous is a charity that provides food, books, toys, juice and Christmas dinner to families without in the community and surrounding areas of Fort McMurray. In 1985 the charity was serving so many families that the volunteers couldn’t keep up and the Christmas hampers couldn’t easily be prepared in any available space. My dad had what I think was a simple but profound idea; run the charity out of his school (Father Patrick Mercredi Community High School) and have the students volunteer their time to help out. There were skeptics at the time who thought that students wouldn’t help, but my father believed in them. As busy as he was, he found the time to make it work.

Fourteen years later – by the time I was in grade 12 – Santas Anonymous had grown to become probably the largest single-school student run charity in Western Canada; possibly in all of North America. In a single weekend the students could raise up to $30 000  in what they call a Miracle Marathon.  In addition to the money, the weekend lead to the collection of truck loads of food, toys, books, and clothing. During a Blitz weekend, which usually occurred 3 or 4 times in the months leading up to Christmas, hundreds of Father Mercredi students would drive around the entire city in small groups, going door to door spreading the word of Santas Anonymous and collecting non-perishable food items and other donations.

I remember in the first week of December dozens of students would go shopping at the local Zellers department store, buying toys for age groups of needy kids that we hadn’t quite collected enough items for during our campaign. We would go around the store and almost clear it out, using funds that we had raised. I’m not certain if this exact activity still happens, but it gives you an idea of the range of work students would take on.

In usually the second week of December all of the food and toys (10s of thousands of items) are moved to the schools gymnasium. The food, collected by students, is piled in a row about 4 ft high, 5 ft deep and 90 ft long (the length of a high school Div 1 basketball court). The toys, books, stuffed animals, and sporting goods form an even larger pile on the opposite side of the gymnasium. In between these two piles are rows of hundreds of empty boxes with the names of families and children – these boxes become the hampers that are driven to recipients by community volunteers and students.

The last day of school before Christmas vacation (December 17th for 2010) is called packing day, and it is one of the most inspiring sights you could ever see.  It is the day where all of the food and other items are carefully packed into hampers for families. Hundreds of volunteer students and community members are organized into teams.  Various teams exist, including: a welcoming committee (human logistics), packing teams, quality control teams (‘Santa’ checks every hamper twice!), loading crews and delivery teams. About 3 or 4 students share the title of “Head Leaders” – they orchestrate much of the activity that occurs throughout the campaign season and on packing day.

For the 1999 campaign season I was a grade 12 student and a co head leader with some great friends; Coady, Carla and Stephanie. At that point I had spent every Christmas season of my life (since 1985 when I was 3) being a part of Santas Anonymous; it was a part of my identity. The last family that I packed a hamper for that year was for a family of 6; two parents, four younger kids. Carla helped me pack it. We chose the soup, canned vegetables, meats, and desserts. We chose the toys and books for each of those children. We wrote cards to the kids by name, wrapping the gifts ourselves, and signed ‘love santa’ for every child. By the time the ‘hamper’ went out the door it was probably 4 or 5 huge boxes full of food, toys, books, and a complete Christmas dinner including turkey, milk, dressing and everything else you can imagine. Christmas is a hard enough time of year of many people – we believed we could at least alleviate the stress of worrying about the necessities and a few gifts.

Last year Santas Anonymous celebrated its 25th anniversary at Father Mercredi. My dad is still working at the high school; now he is the principal. The campaign is still important to the community, and I’m sure will always be influential on the lives of the young volunteers. At least one of the current staff members at Father Mercredi was once a students volunteer with the Santas Anonymous campaign back in the 90’s. Now she is taking the time to facilitate the same amazing experiences and opportunities for her own students.

I think a social justice ‘project’ like santas anonymous is one of the most effective ways to build community within a school. It empowers students and connects them to each other and to the broader community in a way no other activity can – if you don’t believe me please go visit Father Merc during the campaign season where the benefits of the campaign are self-evident.

Over the course of the last 26 years santas anonymous has helped tens of thousands of families and has developed important skills, moral and ethics in thousands of participating students. This wouldn’t happen without the hard work, volunteering and dedication of the teachers involved. Its been said before by many, but I want to reiterate: thank you to the staff members of Father Mercredi for allowing such a program to exist within a school, especially to the teachers (some former) who influenced me personally while I was a student. Mr. Abraham, Mr Henstridge, and especially, my Dad.

My dad recently asked for my help with setting up a webpage. To make it easier for him and others to edit, we set up using wordpress. Tonight he called me with his next problem – people can’t find his site. He’s not connected enough online. Please share the link on your own blog, website, or twitter account to boost the google rankings and help the campaign network with the people who need it and the people who can help.

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