Creating Digital Trails

Recently, I wrote a blog post, which resulted in an interesting comment from Doug Peterson.

While this was not necessarily the intent of my post, Doug got me thinking about different uses of blogs.

I returned to this thinking recently, when I left a comment on his post yesterday about ChatGPT and interviews.

I started to think, maybe I need to record my thinking in a blog post, so that I can return to it if/when we explore school uses for ChatGPT.

Further to what I shared in my blog post comment, it would be interesting to critically analyze the questions that students write.

  • Which ones are ChatGPT more likely to answer correctly, and which ones are not?
  • If ChatGPT cannot answer the questions correctly, could the students utilize the information available online to answer the questions themselves?
  • How might students need to reformulate questions to allow for more in-depth answers?

The new Language Document, makes lots of connections between Language expectations and the content areas, and this kind of activity would definitely support this learning.

As I write this post, I’m thinking about a tweet from Jennifer Angle back in May.

I know that there was an overlap here between AI and questioning (interviews), and I wish that I could remember the exact use of ChatGPT in this experience. I do know that by including this tweet in my post, I will think more about what happened here, and reach out to Jennifer to find out more about the evolution of this project.

When we blog, we create a digital trail of our thinking and learning, and provide opportunities to re-explore, re-think, and re-use ideas from the past. How have you used blogging in this way? Thanks Doug for not only inspiring this blog post, but for reminding me about the importance of documenting my thinking here, so that I can return to it again … maybe this year, maybe next year, or maybe many years down the line.


How do you troubleshoot?

Doug Peterson is one of my favourite bloggers. For a while now, each Sunday at 5:00, he shares a recap of his reading highlights from the week. Since Doug often points me to interesting stories, blogs, and news articles, I always enjoy perusing this weekly post. As part of each post, Doug often includes some “technology troubleshooting.” While I like reading these troubleshooting stories, Doug’s far more advanced than me in his technology skills, so I’ll admit that I frequently sit in awe of what he accomplishes and his thought process throughout. An experience today though had me thinking more about “technology troubleshooting.”

I was out with a friend for lunch today, and when I returned home, I heard from another friend of mine. She just received a personal report from a doctor in Montreal, but the report was in French. She was hoping that I might be able to help her translate it. Now I’ve used Google translate many times before, but never for text contained in a document. I figured that there must be a way to do this. I started with the help of Google.

I thought about asking “how to translate a document from French to English.” Google suggested a couple of different apps. I downloaded both of them. Apps are always easy … right?! These might have been easy, but in order to translate documents, they required a paid subscription. No thank you. There must be another way.

I went back to Google, and saw a list of steps to translate a document from my computer. Perfect! I would just download the file to my computer and go from there. I’m good at following steps. It was going great until I saw this message.

At this point, I gave up. I called my friend back and explained that since the document was scanned, I could not translate it. She would need to call her doctor to ask for a translated document or a copy of the original text (that I could then copy and translate). She thanked me for the help, and figured that she would investigate more tomorrow.

While there was no push for me to do any more, I couldn’t stop thinking about this translating problem. There must be something that I could do. I decided to sit with the problem until after dinner tonight. At one point during my Google investigations, I saw that you could use the Lens App for translating documents. I have Microsoft Lens on my iPhone. I know that with Lens, you can share documents to the Immersive Reader. This got me thinking: text in the Immersive Reader would no longer appear as scanned. If I could then export this text, I could copy it and put it into Google Translate. Hmmm …

  • I took a screenshot of the report.
  • I opened the screenshot in the Lens app.
  • I shared it to the Immersive Reader.
  • Then I exported it from the Immersive Reader and opened it in Word.
  • I copied the text from Word and put it into Google Translate.
  • I translated the text to English.
  • Then I copied the English text and emailed it back to my friend.

Yay! Something that I was sure today wouldn’t work — and couldn’t work — did work with a few additional attempts, some extra wait time, and the drive to solve this problem.

In another moment of problem solving joy, as I’m writing this blog post, I realized that I could have done the same thing in fewer steps.

  • Take a screenshot of the report.
  • Open the screenshot in the Lens app.
  • Save it to Word.
  • Copy the text from Word and put it into Google Translate.
  • Translate the text to English.
  • Copy the English text and send it back to my friend.

While I haven’t tested it out, I could probably have exported this Word Document as a PDF, saved it to my computer, and followed the steps to translate a document that I started out with earlier this afternoon.

Why bother blogging about this? Even as an adult, it’s amazing how much joy you can feel when you solve a hard problem.

  • What’s a hard problem for you, might not be for someone else.
  • Maybe your solution to the problem is just one of many, but that’s okay.
  • If we want to understand how students feel when challenged with problems, maybe we also need to experience this for ourselves.
  • Could reflecting on the process of how we solve a challenging problem, help us when guiding and/or supporting kids?

When was the last time that you had to do some troubleshooting? What’s your story? I’m going to be looking out for a few more troubleshooting experiences this summer. It’s amazing how good you can feel when something that you don’t think can work, actually does!


Two Months Off?

I’ve been seeing this article shared widely recently, as I also engage on Twitter with many of the educators included in it.

Like these teachers, I’m not taking two full months of vacation.

All of this being said, I’ve been contemplating the common complaint that teachers “get two months off.” While I think it’s wonderful that we share our learning, classroom preparation, and professional experiences over those two months, what if we did take the two months off? In education, we talk a lot about mental health and well-being. Sometimes taking a step away from the classroom, and truly taking the opportunity to recharge, to spend time with family and friends, and to find some quiet time alone, are all great things. Maybe this is what some, many, or even all of us need in order to bring our best selves back to the classroom in September!

While I will likely tweet or share on Instagram about my professional learning, you’ll also see me post about my many non-educational reads this summer. I think this has value as well. An educational leader who I truly admire, told me many years ago, the importance of learning how to both “work hard” and “vacation hard.” Breaks are not bad things. They often give us the patience, the reflection time, and the stamina to do better when school starts again. Please educators, administrators, and educational leaders, share all of your amazing learning in the next couple of months, but also, share your time to unwind. You deserve it. We all do. Teachers may get “two months off,” and maybe that is a perk of the position, but I don’t know one educator who stays in education for that reason alone. Do you?


9 Months

Nine months seems like such a short period of time, and yet, it’s long enough to grow a baby. It’s almost long enough for an entire school year — you need 10 months for that, but at 40 weeks, maybe that’s also true for the baby. πŸ™‚ It was also the exact amount of time that I was at Bellmoore. On Wednesday morning, I found out that this would be my last day at Bellmoore. Starting on Thursday, I would begin as a Reading Specialist at another school.

I’m not against change: Hillcrest will be the tenth school that I’ve taught at in 22+ years. I knew in this Reading Specialist role that change is always a possibility, and I welcome the new learning that comes from a new location, new connections, and new colleagues. A variety of uncontrollable, but understandable factors, made my knowledge of this switch a little later than it might usually be, but this past year has taught me a lot about flexibility. Why not end on a flexible note?!

Saying “goodbye” is never easy, and Wednesday definitely came with a lot of hugs, a lot of tears, and a lot of special moments. Just like when I started my time at Bellmoore, I ended my time there without taking a single photograph or video of student learning. The only classroom image I shared on that day was one captured by a Grade 1/2 teacher at the school.

I think that this stream of tweets sums up my day best.

On Wednesday, I made memories of my time at Bellmoore, and while it might have been one of the most emotionally-draining days of my career, it was also a special end to a special nine months. Everyone at the school made me feel so very loved, even to the very last tweet from the principal on Wednesday night.

Nine months does not always seem like long enough, but in those nine months …

  • a significant number of Grade 1 students learned how to read.
  • small group instruction became a priority in classroom practice.
  • educators reflected on student growth as a team, and we made changes together based on these reflections.
  • attitudes towards reading changed for the better — more students saw themselves as “readers” and took risks that they weren’t taking before.
  • we started a systematic and structured approach to phonics instruction, which helped support decoding skills and writing skills.
  • we explored the connection between reading and writing, and created an Epic Play Project, which addressed both.
  • we looked at how to ensure that ALL students were meeting with success, which sometimes meant modifying practices and consulting different educator teams.
  • we saw what was possible when we worked together as a team.

I have so much love for my Bellmoore family, while I am also so excited about the new year ahead.

As I’ve learned from The MEHRIT Centre, emotions can be complicated, and I experienced that for myself this week. What are your notable experiences and learning from the past nine months? There’s no time like the present to make a difference, as we never know what the future holds. A lot can happen in nine months.