Mentorship Interview

I’ve been interacting with Shauna’s grade 4/5 class in Ottawa, Ontario.  I have been really impressed with how the class uses Skype on an iPad to connect students with the outside world.  On my first visit, Fin gave me a tour of her classroom and introduced me to many of her classmates and the classroom pets during their “Ketchup Pickle” time (pick something to get caught up on).  Then I talked with Hunter about what it was like to be a student in a classroom that blogs, talks with people on Skype, and doesn’t use grades with assessments.  On my second visit, Vickie showed what she had been working on throughout the year.  She taught me how to multiply using the Lattice Method (as shown below)!

Image from

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to interview Shauna using Skype.  Since Skype doesn’t have a built in video recorder, I decided to use the Voice Memo app on my iphone to record the audio.  Have a listen!

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Tech Task 11: A classroom designed to facilitate learning

If I could design every detail of my ideal classroom, this is how it might look!

Versatile Furniture – desks and chairs that can be rolled around the classroom to make different configurations.  Separate desks for individual work, two at a table for partner work, groups of four or six for collaboration, semi-circle shape for presentations and lectures, full circle shape for class discussions, and desks at the sides of the room for large demos or activities.  I would also like to have tables with adjustable heights and tables where students can stand at to do their work.

Comfortable Furniture – education is one of the last industries that doesn’t seem to care enough about the physical comfort of their “customers”.  I hope to have my students up and active in my classroom, but when it’s time to sit down my students should be comfortable.  As a tall student myself, the classic plastic chair-desk combo was a major source of discomfort that distracted me from learning.  I think comfortable chairs (I know they exist, because I am sitting on one right now) in the classroom are a way of saying, “I respect you as humans and I understand the need to feel comfortable in my class as you learn”.  I also would have a reading area with a comfortable couch and science magazines.

Technology Connection – I would like to have a classroom that has access to a computer network with a large bandwidth.  I plan to use school computers/laptops/iPads/etc. from time to time, but mostly I would encourage students to bring and use their own devices.  I would want a large bandwidth so that we would be able to use the Internet throughout the whole day without the typical wait time you expect with school networks.  In my experience, the wait time can effectively render the Internet and tech devices useless!

Technology – I hope to use a Smart board (or equivalent) and an iPad (or equivalent) as a remote way for the class to interact with the Smart board.  I plan to bring and use my own technology as well (smart phone, iPad, etc.) to demonstrate how to use this technology to learn.  I also want to get a good quality slow motion camera for my physics classes, so that we can observe quick phenomena in science (vibration of guitar strings, projectile motion, etc.)

Things on the wall and in the class – I plan to put my student’s work on the wall.  I really would like to have a showcase display (maybe a full wall’s worth) for projects that the students do throughout the semester.  If this showcase could be in the hallway or the cafeteria where more students could view it, that would be even better.  I would also like to steal the idea of the POE (Predict Observe Explain) that we did in ESCI350.  These are small displays with experiments that students can follow to discover cool scientific concepts.  As mentioned above, I would also have a reading area with science magazines, puzzles, gyroscopes, etc.

Blogging – I plan to create a class blog for each class (maybe just one for my first year) that I teach.  This blog will be used to document student learning and to showcase student achievements.  In future years, I would like to have each of my students create their own blog to document and showcase their own learning.

Others – There are many other parts of the classroom environment and philosophy of teaching that I have opinions on.  🙂  But I would like people to actually read what I post, so I will stop here.  In future posts I hope to share my thoughts on lighting, acoustics, HVAC issues, student involvement in choosing indicators, project-based learning, inquiry learning, formative and summative assessments, grading, use of rubrics, interaction with other classes, independent study, the new Saskatchewan curriculum, differentiated instruction, etc.  Stay tuned.

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Lip Dub Contribution

Here’s what Daniel and the Atkins have been up to: getting their part ready for the Is Somebody Singing – Lip Dub!

Please feel free to donation to the Lead Singer Voice And Stage Presence Lessons fund!

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The Classroom Environment for Learning

Thanks, Taylor, for posting the link on Twitter.

I just read an excellent article (an excerpt on from the full article) titled “How to Make Your Classroom a Thinking Space“, by Jane Krauss and Suzie Boss.

The authors give concrete examples for creating a classroom environment for students.  I believe creating a learning environment in your class is a crucial part of teaching students how to learn.  “This school has intentionally developed a climate and curriculum to encourage deep thinking, which is reflected by the physical environment.”

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Tech Task 10: Best Ideas

So last Wednesday, we had three teachers present on using technology in school.  Heather Durnin @hdurnin website, Royan Lee @roylanlee website, and Clarence Fisher @glassbeed website.

My favourite idea from Heather has got to be the internet radio station – .  Her class can share ideas, stories, music, etc. by broadcasting them on the radio!  My students could use radio broadcasting to share what they have learned in class with the community, or maybe I could use it as a differentiation assessment tool for students who prefer to show their understanding verbally.  On a side note: I enjoyed the link to the choir rehersal at the Powell River Vocal Summit.  I sang in Oran in Edmonton under the direction of Scott Leithead and know how great a workshop that must have been!

My favourite idea from Royan Lee is using paper as a “thinking tool” and not as the medium to host the final result (as the end result would often be posted or experienced online or simply with other students).  I also liked his ideas about using tall tables so students can stand at them and work instead of being anchored to the traditional individual chair-desk.  I plan to deeply reflect on what is being promoted by the physical environment of my classroom, and hopefully I can encourage student collaboration, inquiry activities, and the joy of learning with the choices I (with student input) make.

My favourite idea from Clarence Fisher is differentiation with technology.  It’s not good enough to just use technology in the classroom.  “It’s not simply enough to just throw technology into a space and hope that it will motivate [students]”.  Not every student is motivated by the same technical tools or devices.  Teachers need to use technology in different ways to meet the individual student’s learning goals.  I hope to be better aware of the individual technology needs in my classroom.  I think BYOD (bring your own device) may be one of the solutions of technology differentiation.

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Tech Task 9: Google Yourself

So I googled myself today, March 11, 2013, and I was not too shocked to find myself missing from the first page.  Daniel Atkins is a fairly common name.  And right now I am competing with Daniel Atkins, the US navy sailor who got a medal of honor, and Daniel Atkins, the professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan.  There are, of course, many more Daniel Atkins than that…so I’ve got to work hard to stand tall among so many.


I did find my profile link on page 4…so at least that’s something.


I was, however, much more satisfied when I checked out the google image search of “Daniel Atkins”.  My blog photo and my twitter profile picture were both on the front page!  My blog photo was the 10th picture!


So stay tuned, people of the internet, someday I will joust my way to the top!  Someday the title of The Most Searchable Daniel Atkins in the World will be mine!  (insert evil laugh)

Note: I do wonder if the results would vary if I wasn’t using my own personal computer…doesn’t google try to personalize your search results?

Specific Question 1: Do I like what I found?

Yes, I am happy with what I found.  My twitter, blog, and profile are all represented through a google search.  That basically is my online presence today.  I also have a facebook account, but I rarely use it and so it contains virtually no current information about myself.

Specific Question 2: What might I like to see in the future?

In the future I hope that my blogging will show how I have learned to be a better teacher and how I have connected with many people throughout this world.  I hope to be insightful, creative, and breaking new ground in education.  I don’t really care if I become the most searchable Daniel Atkins in the world, but page one would be convenient for people trying to find me.  I also hope that someday I will become photogenic so that people don’t have to say, “Yes, I know he looks kinda goofy, but he’s really quite a good guy…no really, he doesn’t always look that bad!”

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Tech Task 8: QR Codes

QR codes

Check out the QR code I created!


This is how I hope to use it.



As a dad who often gets his two daughters dressed and ready in the morning, let me make a recommendation to other dads out there.  Get a few kids t-shirts made with a QR code (linked to a pretty picture of your child) and a caption like “See my potential” or “Don’t judge me!  My mother does a better job.” or “I usually look sooooo pretty!” screen printed on the t-shirt.

If you already own a t-shirt business and want to use this idea, go ahead…but please send me a few free t-shirts once you’ve made a whole whack of money.

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