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May 15

As the cost of personal devices continues to drop and more teachers are embracing technology, BYOD is continuing its (somewhat) slow but (completely) inevitable creep across the educational landscape. People have lots of questions about equity, bandwidth, security, workflow and philosophy. They’re all important questions and ones that require thought and dialogue before a classroom, school or district makes the leap.

However; the biggest question, the one that underlies all of it is….why? Luckily, from my standpoint as a classroom teacher who has had 1:1 devices in my room for the last decade, “why” is the easiest question to answer.


When every student has a device, the classroom becomes a digital environment, where devices are used as and when they are needed, to support and enhance learning. This is fundamentally different from the environment created when you take your class to the computer lab once a week or wheel a cart of laptops into your room twice a week. In a BYOD classroom, teachers are not “teaching computers”, they are teaching learning, using tools that the students are engaged with.


This may not seem like an important reason, but believe me it’s a big one! Students who are engaged are students who are open to learning. Would you rather learn about the cave paintings in France by reading a text or by visiting the interactive website that allows you to actually explore the caves at your speed? Would you rather write about your field trip on a piece of paper or blog about it and get responses from your Australian epals?


There is nothing quite like the hum of excitement in a classroom where students are engaged in using technology in a meaningful way. If we want to develop lifelong learners (and we do!) then creating an environment where they are excited about learning is crucial.


When you have a device at your fingertips, you have the world at your fingertips. This is increasingly important as we move towards inquiry in our classrooms. I was recently working with a group of Grade 3s who were learning about structures. As a culminating activity, each student chose a famous building somewhere in the world to research. With the wide variety of buildings chosen, the teacher would never have been able to find books to supply answers to the incredibly interesting and complex questions the students were coming up with. Without the devices, the student would have been limited to the one or two structures that were in the textbooks.


When every student has a device, learning can be immediate. As a student, you don’t have to wait to go to the library and check out a book. As a teacher, you don’t have to rely on outdated textbooks and atlases. Nor do you have to have all the answers. The recent political unrest in the Ukraine is a perfect example. The atlases in my room still show the USSR and I couldn’t really answer many of the student’ questions.  On their devices, students could look at maps, study the area on google earth, watch videos of protests, listen to news commentary and read about the history of the area.


Let’s face it – there are very few careers that do not use technology in some way. The abilities to communicate, problem-solve and collaborate in a digital environment are vitally important to success in most careers. When devices are part of the toolbox every child has, these skills can easily and effectively be embedded in the learning.


No one disputes the fact that this is important, but how and when does it get taught? And who teaches it? Many parents are ill equipped to teach the necessary skills and kids often teach each other the wrong thing. An environment where devices are ubiquitous allows both teachers and students to talk about and explore the issues in a natural, timely way.


I realize that the road to get to BYOD will be more difficult for some schools and districts than for others but the destination is worth the effort. As someone who has taught in a 1:1 or BYOD environment for many years now, I can say that BYOD has not only changed my classroom, it has fundamentally changed the way I teach and the way I think about learning. So…..Y BYOD? The question is, with all the benefits to students and learning, Y not?

​This is a HaikuDeck I have used a number of times when presenting to people on BYOD

<iframe src="" width="500" height="400" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0"></iframe><br /><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 8pt;">Created with <a href="">Haiku Deck, the free presentation app</a></span> 



February 14
Making Learning Visible – The Case for e-Portfolios

cap u.png

One of the more significant developments in learning over the past decade is the desire to see students as active, engaged learners; extending beyond what they are demonstrating in any given subject or class.  Learner profiles and cross curricular competencies are two ideas that identify the skills and attitudes of a learner that should be transferable into multiple situations, curricular areas, and other aspects of a student’s life.

Capturing the learner profile or cross-curricular competencies, however, isn’t easy. 

I was very encouraged to learn at the recent Capilano University e-Portfolio Forum that post secondary institutions in BC are valuing and finding ways to capture the learner profile and make learning visible.  The e-Portfolio Forum brought together post secondary and K-12 educators interested in learning more about how digital places can support student transitions as well as help students demonstrate more accurately who they are as learners.

At Capilano University Aurelea Mahood and Cyri Jones are leading an ambitious Capilano University e-Portfolio Project ( ).  “The project’s primary focus will be on the how best to use e-portfolios as a tool to facilitate transitions into professional, vocational and/or educational opportunities after graduation.”

Novak Rojic, Manager of Web Strategist at UBC shared the work happening at UBC  where e-Portfolios are being used increasingly.  Rojic referenced a powerful notion influencing post secondary instruction describing “students as producers.”  Thinking of students as producers is challenging instruction to expect and challenge students to be creators, researchers, designers and performers in their learning.  More information about this idea is available at .

The common characteristic of e-Portfolios is the need for students to “own” a digital presence where they can share and capture the process of their work.  Some of the learning shared on the e-Portfolios is polished; finalized work while other learning is rough, in-process, learning.  It appears that all institutions are providing a common student portfolio.

In K-12 there are a few interesting e-Portfolios emerging.  In West Vancouver we are using a Student Dashboard where students can blog and capture their learning in a secured district space.  In Delta students are increasingly using a WordPress solution that is open to the public (  Riverside Secondary in Coquitlam is developing an Edublog (WordPress) solution specifically for their school ( 

The conclusion from the Capilano e-Portfolio Forum was the need to help support our students with a digital presence and portfolio. Increasingly employers and transitions to new schools or levels are coming to expect to see more of a students learning than their transcript. E-Portfolios promises to be a solid foundation helping students achieve these goals.

The Twitter Feed from the Forum is available at 

January 28
January Pro-D Presentations

​I presented twice at the January district Pro-D day. The first presentation I did was about Digital Storytelling in the Primary Classroom using iPads. While I won't embed my presentation here, as it was a very back and forth thing, I will say that we spent the whole time talking about only two apps: iMovie and BookCreator​. For my money, these are two of the best, most flexible apps out there. They can be used for pretty much any grade and with any subject. You give me a unit and I will find a way to incorporate one of these apps!

The second presentation I gave was really geared towards intermediate teachers and to providing them with a list of apps and sites that can be used in the classroom and how they can be used! With more classrooms going BYOD there is the challenge of finding apps and/or sites that can work across multiple platforms. For more information, check out the presentation: 

<iframe src="" width="427" height="356" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" style="border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px 1px 0; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;" allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style="margin-bottom:5px"> <strong> <a href="" title="Digital toolbox" target="_blank">Digital toolbox</a> </strong> from <strong><a href="" target="_blank">mswilsonri2</a></strong> </div>​

January 17
DIY.ORG - Do It Yourself

Today is the West Vancouver School District's Professional Development Day.  Below are the notes from my session on DIY.ORG​.  The powerpoint, unit plan, parent letter, and rubric are also attached.

The cole's notes of the session are below:

The major themes in learning the past decade have centred around an increase in personalization and choice - trying to find ways to make learning engaging and active for all students.  These themes have been fueled by an increase in access to digital resources as well as a general recogniztion that the skills we need to develop with our students are changing for our modern world.  Increasingly we want students that can get started on a task, organize there tasks into manageable steps, seek help from multiple sources including digital and follow through to complete a task creatively and to their best possible work. 

To respond to these changes we have seen a number of vehicles that are allowing students to pursue an interest or a passion while working on "real" work.  In our district this includes ideas such as Passion Projects, Genius Hours, Project Based Learning, IB Exhibitions, and I Cubed.  DIY.ORG is another idea that would fit into these ideas as a potential structure to help students ​develop the skills of taking initiative and organizing themselves to learn a simple or more complex task or skill.

Each of the vehicles for learning today have similiar elements - a hook or something that captures the student interest (this can be student initiatied such as a passion project or teacher initiatited in the case of project based learning); an active and applied focus; an emphasis on the process of learning; a use of assessment for learning and structured feedback during the learning; and a final culmination or demonstration of learning. 

In order to successfully plan and design learning in this type of context teachers need to ensure that they are establishing a clear set of expectations about the process, the feedback, and the end goal.  It is through students doing their best work combined with a structure of reflection and feedback that we see learning today come to life.


Do it yourself unit plan.docxDo it yourself unit plan.docx

do it yourself rubric.docxdo it yourself rubric.docx ​

DIY Letter to Parents.docxDIY Letter to Parents.docx

January 08
Superintendent's Homework

When your superintendent gives you homework, you need to put your best effort forward. I hear by offer to you my 11 random facts and the answers to his questions. Chris Kennedy’s Random Facts are available HERE. 

Eleven Random Facts About Me:  

1.  I was born in Edmonton, grew up in Calgary, and have now lived on the West Coast longer than I lived in Alberta.

2. I had really, really red hair growing up. That and my freckles made me very Ron Howard “ish” as a kid.

3. My feet were full grown at age 10, yet I was a foot shorter than I am now.

4. I think I am a pretty good ping pong player. 

5. I like to run on trails in the forrest where I have no idea how slow I really am.

6. During my years as a hockey coach, I’ve only been kicked out of a hockey game once. It is a good story.

7. I used to think I was tall - 6’4” was the height in my University Basketball program. Recently,  my nephews measured me and I’m probably closer to 6’1”. Maybe I played way bigger than I actually am?

8. I met my wife in University and she made me late for a class. Well, actually I met her at my house a few years earlier as she was dating my brothers roommate. That’s another good story. 

9. I never really read a book until I was travelling in University with my sports teams. Now I can’t find enough time to read.

10. My stupid human trick is to bend the top joint of my index finger so it looks like a hockey stick. I can also make my fingers do the moon dance. It is quite a talent.

11. I have three children and spend as much time cheering them on, coaching them, and getting them to their many activities.

Some other Random Questions for You:

1.  If you could only watch one television station what would it be?  I really like watching NFL footaball, but only when it is PVR’ed. 

2.  Looking back at your schooling, what was the silliest rule your school had? The smoke pit in the middle of the school. It was originally built as a garden but for some reason kids could go there and have a safe place to smoke.

3.  Who is the greatest ever Canuck? I’m from Calgary, so I like Stan Smyl because he missed the breakaway that allowed the Flames to go on to win the Stanley Cup.

4.  What is the greatest rock group of the 1980s?  No brainer - U2! 

5.  What is something education related you have changed your opinion on over your career? Competition - I used to think that competition was detrimental to learning for learning sake. I now believe that competition when done in the right environment can enhance learning.

6.  What is the warmest place you have ever been -- and how warm was it? I played a soccer game in Mexico City in the middle of the afternoon. Best shape of my life and I only lasted 15 minutes.

7.  Poorest fashion trend you have seen in schools in the last 10 years? Wearing PJ’s to school.

8.  What was more frustrating to deal with in your school -- Pokemon cards or silly bands?  Going back to PJ’s.

9.  Describe your favourite high school teacher in four words. Mr. Mitchell “believed in me.”

10.  What is the best reason to go on Facebook at least once a day?  I’ve started to go on Facebook to connect with my family that live across the country.

11.  If blogging was outlawed tomorrow -- what would be your reaction?  I would be scared about our democracy as blogging has become a very democratic medium. 

October 21
Teaching to the Active and Applied

During our last professional day I sat down with a group of West Vancouver Secondary teachers. The question we discussed was centered on the purpose of inquiry and digital access. "Why do we need to focus on inquiry and digital access? What will it do for our students?" As the conversation unfolded we built a "matrix of learning". We have seen similar models before and for our conversation, this seemed to help articulate the challenge we are facing in our classroom.

The first continuum exists between "passive engagement" and "active engagement." Passive engagement occurs when we don't have control over the learning; it is when we are listening, reading, taking notes, and trying to make sense of external information. Active engagement occurs when we are in control and when nothing happens unless we activate the learning.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 2.18.58 PM.png

The second continuum exists between "theoretical" and "applied" learning. Theoretical learning occurs in the abstract and is based on text and symbols to represent something more concrete. Applied learning, in contrast, is the concrete learning that experiences the world as it is intended.                  

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 2.19.08 PM.png

We agreed that generally speaking learning presently occurs most often in the bottom left quadrant. We want our students to experience the top right corner more often and it is probably important to learn in all four quadrants. The top right hand corner is where inquiry and digital access comes to life.   Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 2.19.40 PM.png

As we want students to experience learning that is more actively engaged and applied, we need to design learning experiences differently. Students need to be curious and inquisitive (inquiry) and they need the tools to explore divergent ideas and to dig deeper into areas that will be unique and personal (digital access). Inquiry and digital access can help us move our students learning become more active and applied.

June 27
Summer Playing?

Clay Mation.png

Heading into the summer means that we can hopefully take a break from the business of the school year. However, if you are like me you will probably find some time where you want to "play" with technology and find some cool new applications - possibly for no other reason but to find something or do something interesting.

I stumbled across the following website that has a list of web applications. Some of the sites I have experience with but some of them are new and look like a lot of fun.  I can't wait to make a Clay version of myself using Clay Maker.  ​Creating a mural of all your resources and thinking looks like a lot of fun using  Finally, I'll likely spend a few hours making Star Wars opening scene using Star Wars Crawl Creator.

There are a lot more applications available at​​ 

Have fun!

June 14
West Vancouver’s Innovation Celebration

This past week over 75 educators gathered to celebrate our district's first Innovation Celebration.  The celebration was the culmination of 20 Innovation Grants that were awarded to teachers pursuing their own inquiry into improving teaching and learning in our schools.


The celebration highlighted a number of different "innovations" that are occurring in our district.  We have seen teachers follow a hunch, explore an idea, try a new concept, and develop a better understanding of:

  • Student engagement through experiential pedagogy
  • Collaboration enhancing learning
  • Digital media's impact on student learning
  • Self-directed learning on self-regulation and literacy comprehension
  • Self-regulation's impact on engagement and achievement
  • Digital literacy / access impact on inquiry
  • Project Based Learning's impact on engagement and student collaboration
  • New technologies impact on students with learning disabilities
  • Digital Writing's impact on writing proficiency
  • An iPad as a teaching tool
  • Ecological education's impact on student learning
  • Digital e-books impact on French reading and listening


The power of our celebration came in the dialogue and conversations that occurred during the event.  We are entering a time in education where there are fewer manuals and more opportunities to create and explore what is unfolding in our classrooms.  The Innovation Grants provided our teachers with a structure to explore a hunch and then take it into their classrooms and begin to make some conclusions.


A few conclusions have emerged based on the various grants. These include:

  • Digital access combined with inquiry or other "constructivist" pedagogy has a significant impact on student engagement and learning. 
  • Digital access with a transmission model has a minimal impact on student engagement and learning
  • Public displays of learning are both motivating and deepening in the learning process
  • Self-regulation is a critical piece in the learning process
  • Teachers require time and opportunity to be innovative in their classroom
  • Being innovative is scary at times, but also very rewarding and energizing! 


We look forward to learning more next year as teachers are once again invited to follow a hunch, explore an idea, and look for new ways to engage students, make learning relevant and develop quality learning for all of our students!




April 16
1:1 Action Research - Initial Observations

At the beginning of April a number of classrooms in West Vancouver began  “1:1 Digital Access Action Research.”  The intent of the research was to learn how learning and teaching was impacted when every student had pervasive, just in time access to a digital device.  In our current reality many of our classrooms have some access some of the time. We think this scenario is actually more difficult in which to learn and teach. 

In addition,  what is unique about this research is that we are recognizing that students have personal devices.  There is very little consistency between student’s personal devices except they can all access the Internet. The devices in the classroom are ranging from old laptops to new laptops, Macbooks, iPads, Surface tablets to Android tablets. As long as they can connect, the students seem quite fearless in their approach to problem solve and find ways to engage in their learning.

I’ve asked teachers to report out on what they are seeing in the early days – we hope to share and discover more as time goes on.

What has been good?

·      Emailing criteria means the excuse; 'I lost it' doesn't work. 

·      We have access to resources which supports inquiry

·      Using Dashboard means the students have a powerful tool to help them organize their work in one place and transport if from school to home and back.  This is especially helpful for the children who find maintaining their organizational skills difficult. Can't get dropped in a mud puddle or eaten by a dog.

·      In my classroom there has been no fuss over using the computers, the technology is being used, as needed almost seamlessly in my room. The iPad users sometimes use the schools' keyboards when typing a lot of material. Most can find a companion app to do what the computer users are doing. . Kids take ownership and figure it out on their own. "Look Mrs. R I found a Prezie app!" and off they go. Love it! The world of technology does not frighten children the way it seems to stress adults.

·      Encourages and fosters independent and focused work. Especially for boys and also for those students with learning / behavior challenges. So nice to see them focusing and working positively alongside their peers.

·      Students email questions, to teacher, to buddies, to the world. Instant feedback is efficient and gratifying. Nice to feel heard. Much better than red ink.

·      When blogging, or sharing presentations the children realize that their work is more public and this helps to 'raise the bar' in regards to self-evaluation and reflection. 

·      Somehow, when the children are working in collaborative groups and they are using technology, the children seem more focused. I wonder if the technology gives students a center or grounding from which to work?

·      I must admit work that is word-processed is tidier and this makes it quicker and easier to mark.

·      Being able to include images, videos and songs to help support and explain their thinking is a powerful new tool. For those who find expressing themselves in words challenging this can open up new vistas for communicating their thinking and learning. For instance, a boy in my class who has severe written output issues completed an entire presentation on Lamborghinis. It was mostly images, but his oral presentation demonstrated a depth of knowledge about his topic that was surprising.

·      Student’s spelling and word choice improves when you teach them how to effectively use the tools available on MSWord or Pages on ipads

·      Students are learning to use a variety of tools simultaneously. For instance, I looked over at a grade 6 girl. She had the criteria for her assignment on half of her screen, she had Word open on the other half, she was reading her SS text on her lap and note taking on Word while she was waiting for Prezi to load. Efficient. And, she was one of my more technologically challenged students at the beginning of the year

·      The projector is a powerful tool! Meaningful, timely Youtube videos are watched, powerful images displayed, criteria shared, student work shared, and lots of discussion created and responded to...and emailed to me for marking and responding to students. The projector has had the most impact on my teaching in years. The projector provides a quick no mess, instant, no time wasted vehicle to share with children. Because it is so quick, it can be used often for quick demonstrations. It can provide images to investigate ideas and instigate discussion, the projector can instantly provide alternate points of view with a power that words alone don't have. A bonus, because we often turn the lights down it softens the room and the children seems to snuggle into exploring their ideas...

What has surprised me?

·      It surprises me that people feel that students having 1:1 access to technological devices at any time at school is anything but to be expected. Many have their own iPads, or iPods in their backpacks. At home, although they often must share devices with other family members, all of my students have access to technology almost anytime. 

·      How fast it is to find information (instant) when we are discussing things in class

·      How much having google images supports our ability to “see” what we are learning

·      How many options exist/how many things we can DO with technology to show what we know or find things out

·      For educators too, tech opens up endless teaching and learning opportunities that far outweigh the frustration of slow Internet, missing chargers, and access denied messages!

·      I was surprised when a teacher said, how can the students take notes from my lesson if they are 'playing' with their devices.  I figure the students take snaps and vids when they need to. A paradigm shift needs to be made here.

·      It surprises me that children think that computers are smarter than they are. When they figure out that they are in fact in the driviers seat of these powerful tools and that the sky is the limit, they begin to see and think over the rainbow!


What has been difficult

·      The Internet is slow, loading time is boring. We usually turn on the computers, begin downloading and then move on to another task while waiting. Read alouds, reading novels, related texts, articles, discussion around images or related videos.

·      Finding the right sources / websites to use for gathering information

·      Technology is not always reliable

·      iMovie’s are fun and very effective presentation tools. The children’s' world is full of videos and the kids cannot get enough of making them. Sadly, I cannot hog the iPad cart all day. I've tried though.

·      Time! I want to do more with the children than time allows! So many opportunities to learn and explore, so little time.


April 11
Project Based Learning Promotes Engagement AND Rigour

I had the chance to teach / supervise / facilitate two of Alysia Francis' grade 6/7 science classes at Pauline Johnson. The students were highly engaged in an applied learning activity – they were building playground models to "improve" their playground – providing additional safety and fun ideas to the existing playground.


The activity was engaging and in its original design – students worked in groups, they explored the existing playground, they brainstormed ideas, the planned and then they built the models.  The "untraditional' design of the learning, however, was very interesting.
By adding a layer of digital technology, the students were asked to record the process of their learning.  During the actual creation of the playground model, students took pictures and videos of their group work and hand-on building.  Some of the students literally had their iPads video their class work.  They planned on editing and highlighting their learning in the presentation, but were trying to capture what they were actually doing to come up with the end product.  Some students took pictures at various points to emphasize their learning process. It is in these pictures and videos and the subsequent editing that the process of the student learning became transparent. 
There is no doubt that applied learning is engaging. In this class the students were focused and highly engaged. It is often the question of rigour and depth that can be asked of this type of learning.  
However, with this one additional layer I believe the conceptual attainment and understanding of science concepts was deeply learned and engrained into the understanding of the students.  Students were able to demonstrate, by explaining in their videos, how they made their structure's earthquake proof by embedding flexible links inside of stronger material, how they strengthened the weak links within the structure, and how they could make the various equipment more enjoyable.
I really appreciated being part of the class and seeing how access to digital tools combined with innovative learning ideas and design can make a significant impact on student learning!

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 About this blog


Digital Literacy is one of the primary goals of the West Vancouver School District. We believe that every student needs to develop the skills and knowledge to participate effeciently and ethically in a digital environment.

Please follow along, join the conversation and help us build the resources and dialogue to help our students develop the skills and knowledge they need!