Tag Archive | WestCAST

E-Advisership: Great on So Many Levels

At WestCAST, I had the pleasure of presenting about my internship with my faculty adviser. Why? My faculty adviser designed a new framework for advisership. The best way to explain this is by giving you a run down of our presentation.

It started off with Kathy explaining her plan and how it fit into the U of R. She wanted to enhance the engagement of the faculty adviser and build a stronger relationship with their interns. The basic set up we had was that she would visit me once or twice in person (as per a usual faculty adviser set up), and a few times I would either Skype her directly into my class or record a lesson and send it to her. However, the modification was that before each time she came to visit/watch, we had about a week lead up of planning, reflecting, fixing, and improving. We would set up a time about week before, then a few days later, I would send her my initial lesson plan. She would send it back to me a few days later, and we would have a Skype meeting talking about the highlights and the things I needed to improve upon. She would then watch/visit and we could post-conference about how the lesson went, how the changes did or didn’t work, etc. It definitely lead to deeper conversations and greater learning on my behalf.

For my portion of the presentation, I got to speak to the benefits and drawbacks of the E-Adviser Model. To save time (and avoid rehashing the twenty minutes), I’ll give a quick summary below.


  • It was very good to have 1 on 1 pre-conference conversations prior to teaching a lesson
  • It worked great to get in touch with other interns
    • More diverse feedback
    • Good to see how others are doing (not stranded on my own “island” wondering if everyone else was doing what I was doing)
  • I used it on the iPad 2 to Skype Kathy into a lesson, which enabled me to literally take Kathy with me wherever I went. Ultimately, she was more connected and observed the conversations better than had she been there in person.

Electronic PDP

  • This referred to the emails and Skyping back and forth prior to and after a lesson.
  • The feedback on lesson plans was constructive.
  • It enabled both pro-active and retroactive feedback. A typical Faculty Adviser Model (FAM) only allows for retro-active feeback on a lesson.
  • Emailing opened up the conversation/pre-conference on Skype. It was less about me telling her what I was planning and more about getting feedback on what she thought worked/didn’t work in my lesson plan.
  • Having another set of eyes reviewing my plans made me a better planner, which doesn’t typically happen within a typical FAM.

Flip Video

  • Kathy provided each of her interns a Flip Video Camera to use during internship.
  • Initially, it was very intimidating; however, forcing myself to watch the video before I edited it down and sent it off to her was very useful for my own professional growth. It was like getting double the feedback.
  • It forced deeper analysis of my teaching since we both got to watch me teach.

Top Ten Reasons Why  E-Advisership Is a Good Idea

  • I had all the support of a typical FAM — I knew Kathy would come in person if I needed her too.
  • It built a community of learners within the interns she was advising for.
  • It enabled deeper conversations and reflection.
  • Both sides (both Kathy and I) saw what each other was seeing/thinking.
  • I had a closer and better relationship with Kathy because we were so connected. I knew she had a lot to offer, so I was able to get as much of that knowledge as I possible could.
  • Because of the timelines and the constant connection, it forced me to be more accountable and more prepared (no “night-before-at-2-am” lesson plans)
  • It enabled me to have better reflection on my own planning.
  • It enabled me to have better reflection on my own teaching.
  • It opened up the conversation with my cooperating teacher as well.
  • It helped me to become more excited about using technology within my classroom, and pushed me to build my own PLN through twitter, this blog, and beyond.


  • The interns need to have a good internet connection
  • All the software needs to be installed and up-to-date
  • Each intern needs to be sold on the idea of the E-Advisorship or it won’t work out as well as it could

Overall, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I am ever so grateful to Kathy, and I certainly hope that I can incorporate some of the the professional development we did into my future classroom teaching.


Memorable Versus Memorizable

At the WestCAST Conference last month, I had the opportunity to attend the presentation by Michele Jacobson. This presentation was fantastic for a two reasons: (1) she had lots of great stuff to talk to us about, and (2) she opened up her presentation by telling us that we should be tweeting and on our phones while she was presenting.

First: the awesome stuff she told us about. Michele talked a lot about student showcasing. How do I see this working in my classroom, based on what I learned from Michele? Well, it starts off with something Michele called a “Great Task,” which is a well designed task for students that is memorable, not memorizable. Those last three words stuck with me. This means that the task is active and participatory, requires communication, and provides assessment as, of, and for learning. With this task, students would also need to engage in active peer review based off of a well-laid out, clear, concise rubric. This ensures student accountability, but also provides exposure to other thinking.

The peer review (notice that I didn’t call it peer-evaluation) is the best part for me. I’m a big believer in learning through teaching others. In my personal life, I’ve  been competing as a baton twirler for over 17 years. I started taking coaching courses and assisting with coaching about five years ago. I didn’t really understand the technique fully until I started helping and teaching young twirlers the basics. Since the basics build up to harder tricks and skills, having a solid understanding of the basics is imperative. I have to say, my understanding of the mechanics of twirling and learning how to coach has greatly improved my ability to practice and self-coach during that practice. This would be the same in a classroom — learning how to identify strengths and weaknesses within someone else’s work will ultimately help students to understand the material better, and enable them to better critique their own work. That will most certainly lead to better learning and deeper understanding. How marvelous!

Now for the second part of why Michele was awesome: she encouraged us to tweet. Gone were the days of trying to hide a phone under the table and sneakily tweet or text without looking down. She asked us to tweet. It was awesome. We were able to be in the presentation, listening to her make fantastic points, and still hold a group discussion, courtesy of the #WestCAST2012 hash tag. We also tweeted @dmichelej (Michele Jacobson), which helped keep things organized too. What was an awesome outcome of this? Michele tweeted us back after she finished speaking! The conversation continued far beyond the presentation. How marvelous!

I’m thinking that this could be really beneficial in a classroom. We were having a group discussion, but it was totally quiet. I know there are a lot of hurdles (like how do I tell if they are engaged versus playing Angry Birds), but it is certainly something to ponder.

With tweeting during her presentation, Michele instilled exactly what she was presenting about — we were actively engaged and her presentation was memorable, not memorizable.

Hand-Held Learning

Here is the first installment of my mini-series regarding what I learned at WestCAST:

Peggy Jubien (U of A) and Brad McDiarmid (Red Deer College) co-presented on pocket technospaces. They emphasized that when a student is using his/her iPod, cell phone, etc., to listen to music or play games, he/she is in his/her own world. Listening music and playing games alters four important factors for engagement: sense of place (altered perception of the outside world), sense of others (altered perception of who you are interacting with and who is around you), sense of time (altered perception of time), and sense of body (altered perception of your physical state).

Such engagement can actually work to teachers’ benefit. How? First off, if a student is so intensely focused on a game, why not bring that came into the classroom. For a quick example, many math teachers are experimenting with using Angry Birds in the classroom. Students love Angry Birds, and teachers love teaching tangent lines in calculus. Voila! A match made in heaven.

Teachers can also use this with a more traditional educational sense by having students listen to podcasts, audio books, or other audio resources. This got me thinking about the flipped classroom — why not do a podcast sometimes, instead of a video, or have the videos in a format that can be downloaded on to an iPod?

I want to leave you with a surprising fact from their presentation that stuck out to me.

Did you know that 53% of mobile gamers (i.e. people who play games on their cell phone or iPod) are female?

I Don’t Want to “Teach” Anymore

I’ve had a very interesting last few weeks. I had the opportunity to go to WestCAST (see the mini-blog series on all the wonderful things I took from it coming soon) last week, and it was reading week. Reading week meant a few things: firstly, I got to sleep in, and secondly, I had time alone with my thoughts.

I’ve decided to make quite a few life changes and start taking my self more seriously. On the whole, I am a very serious person, but I found as of late that I’ve got a huge need to impress. That has all changed. I’m in it for me now.

Now that I’ve kept you all in suspense, I will clarify, I wholeheartedly want to be a teacher in the professional sense. I do not, however, want to bethat teacher who stands up at the chalkboard and lectures on end while her class may or may not be listening. Who is to say that I have all the knowledge in the classroom? Heck, the majority of my students, if not all of them at some point, have or will have access to a mobile device that will enable them to access the internet. This for me means a few things: (1) I want wifi in my classroom, (2) I’m no longer the smartest person in the room, (3) I need to get out of the textbook habits, (4) I can let my students direct their own learning.

With this huge mind shift, I’ve decided to really investigate a few things–inquiry-base learning, flipped classrooms, and assessment.

Inquiry for me was always pretty scary. It is the assignment where you need to account for every single “what if” possible. I understood inquiry as a way for me to secretly lead my students to the answer by predicting their every move. Writing that actually seems pretty creepy, if you ask me. So my question to myself is, “What harm would it be if the students stumbled in a different direction than I was headed?” The obvious answer is that it might not be in the curriculum or that it could “waste” valuable teaching time. This is where I’m at loggerheads with myself: if the students are productively learning and engaged, what harm am I really doing? I don’t have the answer for this, but I suspect I’ll keep soul-searching on this one for a while and see where I end up.

With regard to flipped classrooms, I am hugely intrigued by this. I’ve completely revamped a personal project for one of my classes because I want to do this. If you aren’t sure what a flipped classroom is, check out Kyle Webb’s blog post about it. He sums it up REALLY nicely. I think this is a necessary step for me. I know that during my internship, I had a few students who seemed to follow along just fine in class, then absolutely floundered during homework. It seemed like there was never enough time to “reteach” a few students, so they had a pretty tough time in my class. So what would my classroom look like if I flipped it? My students would watch a short video teaching the topic we are on and answer a couple of questions on it (similar to bell work, but homework). They would come to class, have a chance to ask questions similar to a group discussion, then go to work on their assignment. There would be an ENTIRE HOUR where I would be available to help my students–both the strong and the weak–on their assignments. This, I feel, would make me a better “teacher.”

Now the part that I get caught up about with this is that I’m still teaching. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to see what I can find to flip the flipped classroom into an inquiry-based learning experience. I agree that teacher-centred learning has it’s place, and I’m not going to abolish it, but I do want to get a variety of teaching methods within the flipped classroom.

Lastly, I’ve been pondering assessment. Most definitely with a flipped classroom, my anecdotal assessment abilities have the potential to be through the roof. I could make time to check in with each student every single day. Again, having this knowledge would make me a better “teacher” so that I can specifically develop each lesson to the student needs. Isn’t that the goal of teaching? Education for everyone?

So this is where I’m standing right now: I don’t want to be the star of my classroom, I don’t have to be the star of my classroom, and I shouldn’t be the star of my classroom. I have to get over the “no cellphones”/”no iPods“/”no twitter”/”no texting”/”no internet”/”no youtube”/whatever other arbitrary rules that are inhibiting student success. This sounds like a brilliant fairytale for my future classroom. I know it will be hard and it won’t happen all at once, but I know where I want to end up. That end point may change as my students change, society changes, and I change, but I know the general direction I am headed, and, man, it feels good.

WestCAST and Live Blogging

I am so excited. Why? In a few short weeks (13 sleeps, not that I’m counting), I’ll be going to WestCAST for my very first time. It’s in Calgary, AB this year, which is one of my favourite cities to visit. I’ve never been, so if anyone has any advice for me, let me know!

Basically, I’m wondering about protocol. Do I have to wear “teacher” attire (I’m assuming yes)? Should I bring “business cards” or something of the sort with my contact info? How much stuff will I likely  bring home from the conference (I’m thinking space for packing)? Should I look at taking a clipboard or a pen/paper ensemble for taking notes? Will I need to take notes (I’m assuming yes on this one too)?

That’s just a start for my questions. If anyone can help me out at all, I would really appreciate it!


On the upside, I plan on live blogging and tweeting while I’m there with all the awesome stuff I’m sure to learn. Dean, my prof for ECMP 455, suggested using coveritlive.com. It has a free trial, but I did a little bit of sleuthing and discovered that wordpress has its own live blogging plug-in. I’ll be testing that out over the next couple of days!

If you want to follow me on twitter, I am @sarathibeault.