Saturday, August 18, 2012

Life is Like a Game of Solitaire

This week has been one of the most stressful weeks of my life. My UK visa was refused two weeks to the day I am scheduled to fly out. Yikes. People who have known me for years may not have thought it was possible to stress me out - but, never say never - all things are possible!

This week was filled with urgency, phone call after phone call after phone call, research, tears, more phone calls, running around collecting documents from all over the world, pop and solitaire. Yes, pop and solitaire became my coping mechanism (healthy right?!)

As I played the countless number of solitaire games this week, I began to analyze my game play; my strategies, my problem solving skills, the cards themselves, the game in its entirety. I noticed a parallel between my present week and experiences with the cards I was playing.

First, you are dealt 7 cards. These 7 cards represent different things in your life. These 7 things, are key factors, have a large influence on your life. It is how you interact with them, how you interpret them, the choices you make surrounding them that dictate your next moves. When I play, I always manoeuvre  these 7 cards first, play as much with what I call the ground as possible.

As you place cards, another card is always presented - a new event - a consequence - a reward for your actions. It becomes a new challenge in your life, something new to experience and interact with. This card has a chance of helping you, or posing a challenge. When these cards are flipped, it is your attitude that determines the effect of the card (pro or con), it is your attitude that determines the outcome and the play of this card. This card provides an opportunity of opening a new door, creating chances, or a moment of problem solving. When problem solving you must analyze the present cards and see how they can all work together - how can all of these things in your life work together? Is there something in your life not quite working?

My goal while playing is to create the open spaces down on the ground, make those chances, provide space for new experiences, new challenges, new things. By making these spaces, in solitaire, a king is able to be placed. In life, something exciting, something big can take place, like in my life right now I am moving to England in a week (fingers crossed on that visa!)

The pile, I think of as a life line. Things aren't working out on the ground, so you pull from the top - you ask someone for help, you pull out some resources. The pile presents three options, however you must clear the top choice to get to the next, or present yourself with three new options. This allows for some risk taking, and again some problem solving. But the main part it shows, and what I experienced this week was a big support system. The options, the way you proceed through the life line cards, everyone is there willing to help it is just up to you how you access it.

Finally, through combination of the ground cards, and the life line cards, you place cards on a shelf. This is much like displaying a trophy, hanging a degree, or simply making recognition of your achievements with a pat on the back. As you process the cards, organize them, you achieve something, you have things in order. As you process the events in your life, you achieve things, you have things in order - time management, happiness, stress free life - you become unstoppable.

But, what about that "Quit" button and start a new game. It's always there, it's always an option, and a tempting option at that when the life line cards just aren't there to help out the ground cards and there's really nothing else to do. So why not just quit and start a new game, be dealt some new cards - be dealt a new life? At the beginning of the week, closer to the crisis I hit that quit button. I hit that quit button every time there were "no" options, really, every time the slightest bit of problem solving needed to happen. As the week progressed, my support system gathered, the crisis dissolved and just became a card I was dealt I was no longer hitting that quit button, rather I was problem solving, looking at my options. This is when the real thinking of solitaire and life entered my mind. If I had just hit the quit button after being dealt a bad card, I would be getting new cards, starting a new game. A new game I don't want. I've planned, I've dreamed, I am going to move to England. If I hit quit button, I would be home, working some office job playing someone else's game of solitaire.

No matter what cards you are dealt, there is always a play waiting to be made. Don't be so fast to hit the quit button and start over when the going gets tough, play the game you've entered. Just keep your head in the game, use your life lines and don't forget/don't be scared to create the opportunities for new cards to be dealt.

As for my card game, my week of stress is over, that card has been passed on, put on the shelf and joined someone else's game. It is no longer in my hands. I am scheduled to move to England on the 27th and I can't wait for the cards I am about to be dealt starting in September.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

One Life Photography Contest

Photography has recently become a hobby of mine. I find pleasure in seeking the images and capturing the moments and scenery the world has to offer us. I travel a lot and relive my memories and share my stories through my photography. Photography is an excellent source of story telling, use of imagination, catalyst for wondering and an aid in day dreaming. Photography for me is in an escape into another world, a world where the images are captured and held onto; a world, where everything may not be perfect, but everyone and everything has a voice.

Shelby Steward: Click "Collect Me" to help me win a New York City photo exhibition and a$25,000 cash grant: One Life Photography Competition

Sunday, April 8, 2012


This past week of placement, hanging out before school with some of the teachers we were having a discussion about being that teacher - that role model, that teacher that can change the world. All of these teachers have been working for at least ten years and say they once had that dream, when they were in teachers college, but in reality it's just not happening.
I sat there and took in their words, listening carefully as they discussed one of my favourite movies Freedom Writers, and Saving Silverman, and movies where the teacher is a hero, where the teacher influences the children's lives immensely.
I walk around with that vision of being that teacher, my entire life has been based around being that teacher, i imagine my life as that teacher. Through my teacher I want to change the world, I want to help those children who need it most, I want to reach out to those children who feel lost, and make those who do not like school find some sort of interest in learning. I want to give everyone a chance to succeed.
I have been told before that my visions are too idealistic. The same thought always come to mind, John Lennon's "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
In my International Education class we had a guest speaker present his experiences in teaching in Aboriginal schools, and now in a Montessori school. He discussed the realities and politics that come along with teaching, but also the passions of the teachers that make learning excited. He said to always hold on to your idealistic vision, your teaching dream. Pursue that dream. There will be hard days and there will be amazing days, but carry your vision with you.
Taylor Mali's video, What Teachers Make is one of my favourite videos. For me, talking from an idealist perspective, in snaps back the realists vision into the bigger picture of the difference they're making.
The teachers began their conversation because of some disappointment in a couple of the students attending that school. The disappointment was not a product of a lack of effort from the teachers, but more of a defeated sensation. They were frustrated and lost on how to reach these particular students. Taylor Mali's speech presents the small things that teachers do that lead up to the bigger picture, the idealistic vision.
Watch the video of What Teachers Makes. This version is a production the beautiful words.

Without people dreaming, we would achieve so little. Hang onto your visions, don't let anyone or anything stop you. Pursue your dreams. Wish it. Dream it. Do it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Conflict of Technology

Today at work I was verbally insulted and abused by a customer. As the sales associate I am allowed to do nothing, but stand there and smile politely.
However, as this man continued to yell at me I realized that this was an act of anger due to a lack of knowledge; a lack of knowledge of technology.
This issue was his chip on his credit card did not work, our store policy and payment system does not allow us to override chips due to security reasons. This man swore that it would work and I was not listening to him and I should believe him that it would work. However, he was not listening to me in my telling him of the way our system works. But that is besides the point. This man was mislead about the technology.
This had me thinking - I understand the technology of chip readers and magnet swipes and the payment systems, but all because I work in retail. If I didn't I would know how they work, but not really understand how they work.
This is a piece of technology used everyday, for many of us, multiple times a day. Yet, what do we really know about it? What do we know about how the payment system responds to our card? Reaches the bank? We all just stand there waiting for that "Approved. Remove Card" message.
How are we supposed to learn about this technology, or fully understand this technology?
I cannot fault that man for yelling at me, I am sure he is a lovely guy. He was just arguing for something he believed in and the way he thought the system worked. He did not know any different, or understand why we, as a store, cannot do what he was asking and override his chip.

I find this relates back to a comment I made earlier about teaching our students about social media. They all know how to work the machine, but they don't know how the machine works. Technology is something that needs to be taught, to everyone, at any age.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Professional Advisory

Although the information heard in the attached advisory is known and commonly mentioned, watching and reading the advisory was one of the last assignments of my technology class. Once we've embarked on our digital footprint journey and hopped on the educational technology train we are warned about the implications that can come along with using educational technology.

However, I believe this was done intentionally. Many of my peers came into this class with fears; fears of technology, fears of breaching our new found standards of practice, fears of leaving behind a permanent mistake. It would not have been right to start the class off only reiterating those fears or misconceptions. Starting the class off with this advisory would have been a steep fall off of the ed tech bandwagon.

I also believe the process we went through, and the pedagogy of the technology we were exposed to steered us in the right direction. We were not driving blind, but had all the guidance and support of our peers, our teacher Zoe Branigan-Pipe, and all of those who joined us along the way developing our professional learning networks. We were in a safe environment to explore and learn about the technology, without the fear of making a costly mistake. We were exposed to the educational side of technology rather than the mere entertainment side.

One of my first posts was about the two types of users of Twitter and my hesitation to get an account. This hesitation was a product of the lack of knowledge of the tool. From this class I have now gained a full understanding of the power of twitter, have fully adopted the social network and participate in weekly chats, gaining and sharing resources.

My Twitter experience is what students need to experience. 21st century students are lucky to be learning at such an innovative time, but they need to know how these sites are properly used and how they can truly benefit from them. I still hear people discussing exactly how I used to feel about Twitter - why do people care what I am doing every second of every day? People do not understand the networking it creates, the amount of learning that takes place and the relationships made. Students understand how to work the machine, but they don't really know what the machine does. Integrating these social media sites and other technologies in the classroom can open students up to be always learning, always creating and always building. I find my school day never ends anymore because of all the social networking outlets I now have. I find myself feeling accountable and needing to research new ed tech tools to contribute to my network rather than just taking the resources from others.

If we begin teaching our elementary school students about networking, proper online etiquette, the power of Google Plus, the educational side of technology versus the entertainment side - imagine the networks they can start building. Imagine the possibilities these students will have when they graduate high school or university. Sheikha Al Mayassa on a recent Ted Talk discusses Globalizing the Local and Localizing the Global. Social networking has the capabilities to do so - if students start learning how to use the tools properly and effectively - now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My First...

Imagine yourself in a place completely outside of your comfort zone, somewhere new and somewhere unrecognizable. Now imagine everyone looking at you with eyes of curiosity and wonder, whispers of questions and pointed fingers all directed in your way.

This was my first experience in El Salvador.

This was my first experience as a minority group.

For the first time in my life, I am that completely unique, foreign body. The traditional roles of a Eurocentric upbringing have been reversed. I am no longer the majority.  An aura of enquiring, marveling and curiosity was felt lingering in the air. However, there was never a feeling that I did not belong there. Sometimes I forgot about my skin colour difference and thought the curious looks were because I was wearing shorts (something not common among the locals, especially for a female).

This was until one my students reminded me - a 22-year-old university student asked me why my skin is white.

At first I did not even know how to answer this. I had never been asked that question before, but in my broken Spanish I began to discuss our British heritage and family lineage, as well as geography and Canadian climate (this then lead into a discussion about the cold and snow, but that’s for another time!)
Before answering this question I had to take a minute and think about it. I was not thinking this was something to be offended by; I was focusing more on about the reasons it was asked. This was not an act of discrimination, but rather an act of curiosity. This student had never seen a person with white skin before. In fact, this was also a first for these students.
At that moment, our firsts became unified and we shared this experience together. This first experience as a minority no longer felt that way as we embarked on a learning experience together. Our differences were embraced and explored. Things were taught and things were learned.
My first experience as a minority was not even known as that. Although the stares and the questions, and the curiosity remained it was our first experience as students working together from two different countries and cultures. It was our first experience of sharing. It was our first experience of learning. It was my first time going through a life changing experience. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012


In tech class we have been exploring a collection of the many Web 2.0 options for classroom uses. I have always used mind maps to organize my ideas when writing an essay, or as a part of a study sheet of key concepts, so I decided to explore the uses of Popplet.

Popplet is an interactive, creative mind map tool. Popplet allows you to brainstorm ideas, collaborate ideas, and visually represent ideas. Multiple students can work on one Popplet, engaging in one brainstorm and compiling a class full of ideas.

This can be a great tool to co-construct a success criteria, or a diagnostic assessment of a unit. I have created a Popplet which you can see below about other uses in a few classroom subjects.

I created a Popplet about the uses to understand the user ability of the program and simplicity of the program. It offers a tutorial as you create your first mind map and the buttons are clearly displayed about what to and how to do it. All you need is to come up with the ideas for the text!

During my first placement I was teaching persuasive writing. We were writing an essay as whole class at first. In order to organize our ideas we created a mind map to develop topic sentences and the proofs supporting those statements. 

If I were to teach that lesson again, I would use the Popplet tool. I love the collaboration aspect and that multiple students can work on this together. Individuals can create their own Popplet and then add collaborators to add more ideas.

Tying in with my EduBlog; Miss Steward's Gymnasium, I have created a popplet to incorporate my students' learning throughout the unit. This Popplet teaches the skill of collaboration, and team work while reflecting on their classroom learning. Collaboration and teamwork are commonly used skills in Physical Education. This collaborative mind map is to introduce the skill into all aspects of life, rather than merely in an athletic atmosphere.