Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Educator's Guide to Podcasting: Easy Tips for Getting Started

For quite awhile, I've been an avid listener of podcasts. I like to listen to them while I'm driving, getting ready in the morning, or doing housework. They're like audiobooks, only free! They're like TV in that they entertain you, but you can do other things at the same time. It's a winning formula for me! My top two apps for accessing podcasts are Spotify and iTunes (the apps are right on my iPhone, and that's where I do all my listening). When I know I'm going to be out of wifi or decent mobile service (hello rural Manitoba) I download episodes in advance. The world of podcasts seems absolutely endless, and I'm always discovering new ones.

What are my favourite podcasts?
Yoga/Wellness/Health
1) Modern Yoga: Leo Cheung
2) Be the Light: Melanie Madhuri Phillips
3) From the Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl (Rachel Brathen)
4) Light Work: Danielle LaPorte (hasn't launched yet but I'm super excited about this one)
5) Be Better: Dr. Greg Wells

Life/Self-Improvement
1) The Accidental Creative
2) The One Thing (absolutely love Episode 42 with Angela Duckworth on grit)

Travel
1) Zero to Travel: Jason Moore

For awhile now, I've been considering starting my own podcast as an accompaniment to my blog, but I just never seemed to find the time. I also wasn't completely certain how to do it, although I had a vague idea. That all changed in January when Dr. Kathy Sanford included a podcast as one of our assignments in our Advanced Research Methodologies course. She wanted us to use simple language to discuss our research topics and potential research designs for our doctoral work, and share our ideas through an audio interview that could be used as a podcast. I decided to collaborate with my friends Rob and Maya to record three episodes together, and my Kindergarten Diva podcast was born! I spent a day figuring out the ins and outs of the podcasting world, and I'll share that information with you today! First of all, my Kindergarten Diva podcast is available on this blog under the podcasts tab, and it's also on iTunes if you search "Kindergarten Diva" or follow this link. My goal for this week is to figure out how to get it on Google Play and/or Spotify.

First of all, why podcast? Podcasting is a fantastic way to quickly and easily share information in an accessible format with a real audience.

As an educator:
-professional learning and reflective practice
-share your classroom practice with others
-reflect on what is working and what isn't
-connect to a larger community of practice (educators and other partners around the world)
-share information with busy families and community members (especially if reading printed materials is an issue)

With your students:
-can create a podcast on any topic as a whole class or guided small groups in the early years
-learners can share their understandings of a topic (such as polar bears), provide directions on how to do something (coding for example), or raise awareness/issue a call to action (climate change)
-podcasting lends itself well to differentiated instruction and meeting the needs of diverse learners
-students do not need strong reading and writing skills to participate; instead they just need to be willing to share their voices
-students who are shy or non-verbal can still contribute. They can be in charge of sound effects with instruments, writing a script or developing interview questions, acting as a time keeper or researcher,  or setting up equipment. 
-podcasts are such a fun way to record reader's theatres or share favourite stories with a real world audience...and a fantastic way to build fluency and expression.

How to get started? Let me walk you through the steps!
Equipment Needed:
-device (laptop is what I've been using)
-microphone (the best quality you can afford--I have a Snowball back in my kindergarten classroom which is great. Currently I'm recording on a $20 microphone from Staples...because student life).

Software/Web Tools/Apps Needed:
-Audacity if you're using a PC (free download, then add the LAME mp3 encoder. It will help you do this the first time you try to export your recording as an mp3 file).
-Garage Band if you're using a Mac
-there are a number of apps out there for recording podcasts too. I played around with a few of them but gave up in frustration. Old school with Audacity worked best for me.
-an app/program to make cover art for your podcast (I used Rhonna Designs and Vanillapen, but any app that puts text on a photograph or background will work)

Podcast-hosting platform:
-I'm using Podbean, but there is a huge variety to choose from. I went with Podbean because it had good reviews, it was simple to use, and charged a low monthly fee to host my podcasts. If you are doing very little recording, it will host your podcasts for free, but I found I reached the monthly limit really fast.

Music/Sound Effects
-check out YouTube's copyright-free audio library or Freeplay Music
-I like to use the same 15 second clip of music as an introduction and conclusion
-just download a short clip as an mp3 file--if you choose clips that don't require attribution, that's all you need to do!

Now that you're ready to go with your equipment and tools, here are the steps in creating your podcast:
1) Use Audacity to record your podcast. Do a test run to see if your microphone is working and the sound quality is decent first! I find interviews to be really fun, but you can certainly just record yourself talking too.
2) Use Audacity's tools to edit--highlight and cut out pauses or sections that you're not happy with. Use fade in and fade out from the effects tab.
3) When you are happy with your podcast, save the project (it's some weird Audacity file format). Then export your podcast as an mp3 file.
4) Open a new file in Audacity and import your introductory music. Then import your podcast (the one you saved as an mp3). I know this sounds silly, but you can't add your mp3 music to the weird Audacity file format.  They both need to be mp3 files to join them together.
5) Highlight your podcast and choose the slider tool in the top tool bar (it has an arrow on each end) and slide your podcast down so it starts at the end of the music. You might choose to fade out the music so there's a nice transition.
6) If you are adding music to the end, either copy and paste your introductory music or add a new and different audio file. Use the slider tool to slide the music to the end of your podcast.
7) Make sure you are happy with how it sounds, then export it as an mp3.

Create cover art for your podcast:
1) In an app or program (Publisher would work too) of your choice, create a square image. Add text (the name of your podcast) and images/designs and save it as a JPEG. If you are given options about the resolution of the image, choose a low resolution as iTunes will not accept high-res images. I had to redo mine because it was too big.
Uploading your podcast:
1) Login to the podcast hosting site of  your choice.
2) Upload your podcast and enter all the correct information, giving it a catchy title.
3) At some point you will need to upload the cover art for your podcast. Use the image you just created (if you did it on your mobile device, email it to yourself or upload it to Microsoft One Drive or Google Drive).
4) Depending on the site you use, it will create a podcast player that you can embed into your blog or website (see the Podcasts section of my blog).
5) Your podcast hosting site will generate an RSS feed of your podcast. This is what you need to get it on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify....this is why you can't just upload your mp3 file to iTunes Podcasts.
6) Find the RSS feed and copy it.
7) Visit the iTunes Connect site and login in with your Apple ID. Click on Podcasts, then follow the steps to add a new podcast, copying and pasting your RSS feed.
8) It will take a few days for iTunes to review and approve your podcast, but then it will show up in the Podcasts app!
9) I anticipate these steps are similar for Google Play and Spotify...I just haven't tried yet. And since I'm an iPhone user, iTunes Podcasts was my starting point.

Using podcasts with  your class:
1) If you have devices in your class, you could teach your students how to access the class podcasts in the podcasts app.
2) Or, you could embed your podcasts to a class blog (like I've done here) and create a shortcut for your students to click on to easily locate the podcasts.

Sharing your podcasts:
1) Once your podcasts are uploaded, share the link through social media...I recommend Twitter or Facebook.  Instagram isn't really ideal because link-sharing is limited to one URL in your profile. Although, you could place your most recent podcast there or the link to your podcast channel.
2) If you don't use social media in your classroom, email the link to parents, post it to the school website, or send it home in a newsletter with steps detailing how to access the podcast.

And there you have it! It might take some trial and error, but there are many YouTube tutorial videos to help you. Before you know it, you'll be podcasting like a pro. If you teach older students, don't hesitate to figure out these steps with your class...some students have a lot of tech knowledge and can be a great resource. If you are fortunate enough to have an ICT teacher-leader (like Leah Obach in Park West School Division) or an ICT consultant (like Mike Thiessen in Fort La Bosse), ask them to support you as you begin this process. Two brains are always better than one!

Good luck! And, if you have any suggestions for future Kindergarten Diva podcast episodes, please comment below or connect with me on Twitter at @india0309.  I'd love to hear from you!


Friday, March 30, 2018

Yoga Off the Mat: Local and Global Yoga Non-Profit Organizations

One of my assignments for my global education course was to research an international non-profit organization.  As yoga is one of my great passions, I decided to see if there were any organizations that focused on yoga. A quick Google search turned up a few that looked interesting, but then I became busy with other assignments and didn't think about it any further for a few weeks.

Then my friend Melissa invited me to attend a yoga teacher mixer event as part of Victoria Yoga Conference.  Midway through the evening, everyone gathered in a circle and we introduced ourselves.  I was surprised to learn that two women involved with local yoga non-profit organizations were in the room!

Nicole McLellan is the founder of The Om-Work Project.  Nicole is an educator and yoga teacher with the mission of making yoga teacher training and travel accessible to high school graduates as an alternative to traditional post-secondary experiences.  Nicole's foundation administers a scholarship fund to cover the costs of international yoga teacher training for young women who have completed high school.  Nicole is also a speaker and author.  Visit the website and follow her on social media (@theomworkproject) to learn more. View their brand-new video here!

Sarah Holmes de Castro from Yoga Outreach was also in attendance.  Yoga Outreach is a provincial non-profit that targets trauma-informed yoga practices for abused women and prison inmates.  Yoga Outreach provides trauma-informed yoga teacher training and retreats.

Both Nicole and Sarah told me that the local lululemon store was very supportive of their work, which led me to discover lululemon here to be.  This social impact program has pledged $25 million over five years to support local and global yoga initiatives, such as Africa Yoga Project and Love Your Brain. Check out my infographic handout below to learn more.  I had so much fun creating this handout using Microsoft Publisher and the Bitmoji extension for Google Chrome.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Research is One Big Mystery: Examining Research Through Nancy Drew's Magnifying Glass


Click on the video above to watch a narrated version of my Pecha Kucha presentation.  Pecha Kucha is a presentation format of 20 slides with 20 seconds of narration per slide and the slide deck auto-advances during the live presentation.  It is difficult to cite references when speaking in this format.  This Pecha Kucha presentation is based on a paper of the same title that I have written, and here is the reference list for the paper. 

References
Agee, J. (2009). Developing qualitative research questions: A reflective process. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22(4), 431–447. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518390902736512
Chadderton, C. & Torrance, H. (2011). Case study. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Theory and methods in social science research, (2nd ed., pp. 53-60). Los Angeles, CA: Sage
Chamberlain, K. (1994). The secrets of Nancy Drew: Having their cake and eating It too. The Lion and the Unicorn, 18(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1353/uni.0.0328
Frankham, J. & MacRae, Christina. (2011). Ethnography. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Theory and methods in social science research, (2nd ed., pp. 34-42). Los Angeles, CA: Sage
Farnsworth, V., Kleanthous, I., & Wenger-Trayner, E. (2016). Communities of Practice as a
Social Theory of Learning: A conversation with Etienne Wenger. British Journal of Educational Studies, 64(2), 139–160. doi:10.1080/00071005.2015.1133799
Fraser, H. (2004). Doing narrative research: Analysing personal stories line by line. Qualitative Social Work , 3(2), 179–201. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473325004043383
Gill, S. & Goodson, I. (2011). Life history and narrative methods. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Theory and methods in social science research, (2nd ed., pp. 157-165). Los Angeles, CA: Sage
Janesick, V. (2000). The choreography of qualitative design: Minuets, improvisations, and
crystallization. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research, (pp. 379–399). Thousand Oaks,CA:Sage                                                                                                         
Keene, C. (1932). Nancy’s mysterious letter. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap.
Keene, C. (1953). The ringmaster’s secret. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap.
Killeavy, M., & Moloney, A. (n.d.). Reflection in a social space: Can blogging support reflective practice for beginning teachers? Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 1070–1076. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2009.11.002
Knowledge mobilization documents best practices for clear language research summaries. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2018, from http://researchimpact.ca/knowledge-mobilization-documents-best-practices-for-clear-language-research-summaries/
Lynch, M. P. (2017). Teaching humility in an age of arrogance. Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://www.chronicle.com/article/Teaching-Humility-in-an-Age-of/240266
Province of Manitoba. (2012). The community schools act. Retrieved March 22, 2018, from https://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-2/b012e.php
Somekh, B., Burman, E., Delamont, S., Meyer, J., Payne, M., & Thorpe, R. (2011). Research in the social sciences. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Theory and methods in social science research, (pp. 2-15). Los Angeles, CA: Sage
Taylor, K. (2017). Nancy Drew: Feminist or daddy’s girl? Retrieved March 21, 2018, from
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/nancy-drew-feminist-or-daddys-girl/article1354579/
Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Teachers as Researchers: Making the Shift

I think my heart will always be in a classroom…whether it’s a room full of energetic, shining-faced five year-olds or a university classroom filled with “big kids” training to become teachers, this is the place where I am always happiest and most alive.  My decision to pursue doctoral studies was a difficult one, as it meant leaving these special people and places for awhile and becoming a student once again.

Above: Junior and Senior Kindergarten sell iced tea and cookies to raise money to help the endangered Oregon spotted frog...one of my favourite project-based learning experiences!

In the past year, my cohort and I have shifted to view education through the lens of researcher as well as practitioner.  This has been an especially tough one for me…for many years, I have probably placed a much higher value on practical knowledge than research.  When research findings don’t align with my own experiences as a practitioner, I am guilty of defaulting to my own lived experience.  According to Labaree (2003), teachers firmly believe that only fellow teachers have the authority to speak about teaching and the educational process.  Labaree found that teachers can and will refute an entire study by citing one differing practical classroom example. 

At the same time, teachers are deeply caring professionals committed to providing the best possible education for their students.  When something isn’t working in their classrooms, they usually want to know why.  Many teachers are excited to implement new pedagogical approaches, curricula, or teaching strategies and want to know if these practices are making a difference for their learners.  Although teachers must report on students with letter/number grades and percentages, teachers know that there is a bigger story behind the quantitative data.  Despite a strong reliance on practical experience, teachers do care about research—they are interested in solving problems, investigating more deeply, and making a difference. This leads me to the topic of my blog post—can teachers also function as researchers?  Is it possible to operate with one foot in each camp?

What is teacher research?
Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1993) defined teacher research as “systematic and intentional inquiry by teachers about their own school and classroom work” (pp. 23–24).  However, instead of being the objective observer, teachers are involved in every aspect of the teaching and research process—both roles are intertwined, conducted at the same time, and inform each other (Klehr, 2012).  Klehr has observed that teacher research is an active, reflective, and constantly evolving process; research questions may shift over time as a direct result of data collection, student needs, or shifting political situations in the educational systems.  I believe the goal of teacher research is more informed, deliberate classroom practice.

Qualitative research methods are well-suited to the flexible, holistic nature of teacher-led research.  Teaching journals, pedagogical narration, field notes, observations, and media samples are accessible and natural for most classroom teachers.  In my practice, I blog on a monthly basis to reflect on and disseminate my work.  Blog posts have chronicled my evolution as a teacher, allowing me to identify what has worked, how I could improve as a practitioner, and what direction I should take next.   With blog posts, short case studies, and the other methods described above, it is possible to identify themes through narrative analysis.  Narrative methods are an excellent fit for the “personal, storied nature of teaching” (Carter, 1993, p. 8).  Teachers are natural storytellers who can analyze their stories through a research lens to gain important insights.  

In my own practice, I’ve been fortunate to participate in a more formal research process several times.  On both occasions, this has fallen under the umbrella of participatory action research as a teacher piloting new curricula and programs.  My first experience was in 2007 when Manitoba Education developed a Literacy with ICT continuum.  I was one of three teachers in my school district who implemented the new continuum and developed and assessed a variety of  learning experiences.  I collected student work samples and observations and maintained a teacher log of my experiences and reflections.  Throughout the year, I shared my findings with Manitoba Education which informed the development process and final product.

Another time, I was able to assist with the development and implementation of my school district’s first Junior Kindergarten program.  As a pilot site, we collected quantitative data such as test scores (using the DIAL-4 developmental screening tool), parent surveys, as well as relying on more qualitative measures such as observations, field notes, and student work samples.  We wanted to know if regular early intervention with a qualified teacher and clinicians had a lasting impact on students’ academic and social success.  Although I was an inexperienced researcher with a ton of bias and deeply invested in the process myself, my research informed my classroom practice and my classroom practice influenced my research questions.  Collecting data and constantly reflecting on what was working and what wasn’t led to the development of a research-informed, high-quality early intervention program that I still regard as one of the great achievements of my teaching career.

What shifts do teachers need to make to also function as researchers?
Upon completing an undergraduate degree, most new teachers aren’t prepared to engage in research activities.  Keeping their heads above water with teaching, assessing, reporting, and classroom management is enough to leave them exhausted at the end of the day.  Gaining life and classroom experience and developing a reflective practice are excellent starting points for novice teachers.  With time and continued professional learning, teachers may be ready to move toward these four shifts in perspective to engage more effectively in research activities (Labaree, 2003).

a) From normative to analytical: instead of wondering what to do when a particular problem occurs, teachers must transition to examining the nature of the problem to understand it more fully. This shift in viewpoint enables teachers to focus on the big picture (instead of just one student or one issue) and make broader connections and generalizations.

b) From personal to intellectual:  good teachers are deeply invested in relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.  However, to use an old cliché, sometimes this can stop them from seeing the forest because of all the trees. As researchers, teachers need to look beyond individual relationships to big, important ideas. 

c) From particular to universal:  many teachers are busy and overwhelmed, giving them a narrow focus limited to their classrooms and students. Researchers have a broad knowledge of theory that can create linkages to a community of practice.  My colleague and best friend Leah Obach and I like to work within a community of practice, including parents, students, community members, educational stakeholders, and universities in our classroom practices.  This creates opportunities for collaboration and learning experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. 
Above: Junior and Senior Kindergarten students collaborate with university students to investigate climate change and the impact on polar bears

d) From experiential to theoretical: as previously mentioned, many teachers believe their lived experiences trump any theory or research.  Teachers must be willing to consider theory as well as practical experience in their roles of teacher-researchers. 

Challenges and next steps 
Practicing teachers have great potential to benefit from examining and applying existing research and investigating and creating new research.  However, few teachers have the time (or the sometimes the desire) to read professional literature, finding academic studies to be dense and difficult reading.  One solution is to make clear language research summaries available to practicing teachers.  These concise and simple summaries are a quick and easy way for busy teachers to engage with current research (“Knowledge mobilization", n.d.). 

Children in classrooms can function as co-researchers (although this idea merits its own blog post).  Pedagogical approaches such as inquiry and project-based learning foster a classroom culture that values children's curiosity and ability to ask questions and identify problems and issues in their world.  Children are very capable of posing questions and can become tenacious researchers when pursuing ideas that are important to them.  Giving children the opportunity to participate in research builds important academic skills as well as the ability to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate with others.
Above: Kindergarten children collect quantitative data through a survey.

Additionally, stronger linkages must be forged between universities and K-12 schools.  When university faculty conduct research in K-12 educational settings, it demystifies the research process and provides useful and timely information to classroom teachers (hopefully). University faculty involved in local schools can also lead to mentoring or partnering with teachers as teachers begin to engage in their own research.  As classroom teachers experience the value in the process, it is likely that they will be more invested in continuing to ask questions, seek answers, share their findings, and make a difference in education.   

References

Carter, K. (1993). The place of story in the study of teaching and teacher education. Educational Researcher, 22, 5–12.
Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (1993). Inside/ Outside: Teacher research and knowledge. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Klehr, M. (2012). Qualitative teacher research and the complexity of classroom contexts. Theory Into Practice , 51(2), 122–128. https://doi.org/https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/10.1080/00405841.2012.662867
Knowledge mobilization documents best practices for clear language research summaries. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2018, from http://researchimpact.ca/knowledge-mobilization-documents-best-practices-for-clear-language-research-summaries/
Labaree, D. F. (2003). The peculiar problems of preparing educational researchers. Educational    Researcher , 32(4), 13–22. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/doi/pdf/10.3102/0013189X032004013

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What I've Learned in the First Term of PhD Studies: Workflow and Wellness

It's hard to believe, but the first term of PhD studies has drawn to a close. As my last blog post indicated, September seemed to crawl as I battled a touch of homesickness, so many firsts, and being brave and by myself. Once I put September behind me, October and November have passed in the blink of an eye. I like to think as a slightly older and wiser PhD student, I've learned a few things in the last couple of months.

Figure Out My Workflow: Researching and Writing Papers

This has been a really hard one for me. The first paper I wrote took me DAYS because I didn't have any steps or strategies in place to help me organize my time, my resources, and my writing process. I'm doing so much better with this now, especially after writing three massive papers all due in the past week. Here's what works for me:
-search for articles and books in Google Scholar
-read abstracts of articles, if that is promising do a quick scan of the article, and determine if  it's useful
-copy the title and author, search them in the UVic library catalogue, then download to my computer into OneDrive files labelled by topic
-at the same time, extract the reference information into Mendeley (a free citation manager tool that has a desktop program, a Google Chrome browser plug-in, a Microsoft plug-in, and an app)
-based on the articles I found, I get a piece of chart paper and make a big concept map of all the ideas I want to include
-structure an outline of my paper and decide on the major themes. I set this up in Microsoft Word, not as the actual paper, but as a place to organize information. The themes continue to evolve throughout this process.
-then I begin to read the articles. Anytime I find anything useful, I copy and paste the text, article title, and page number into the correct section of my outline.
-revisit course materials for anything that links to my paper
-print out my outline (because it's just too hard to switch screens), then spend some time reading all my notes and let it sink in
-then I make a concept map that organizes the first section of my paper, then write the first section of the paper. I repeat this process section by section until all the writing is done, extracting citations from Mendeley as I go (the Microsoft Word plug in makes this very easy)
-write the introduction and discussion/conclusion
-draft the abstract
-let the paper rest for a day or two so I can return to it with fresh eyes
-read the paper and edit, at least two times
-read the paper paying strict attention to APA format, looking things up as necessary in my handbook or online
-ask friends and/or my supervisor to review to give feedback on the flow of the paper, cohesiveness of my thoughts, and sharpness of argument
-take a deep breath and submit, then pour a very large glass of red to celebrate!

Workflow: Organizing Class Materials and Notes

The only tools I need to manage course materials and notes are Microsoft OneNote and OneDrive. I've set up a Doctoral Studies OneNote notebook with sections for each course. Each class, I start a new page in the relevant section with notes. If the professor hands something out or shares a useful diagram, I photograph it and upload it to OneNote. This has worked wonderfully well, and when friends miss notes, it's easy for me to share mine with them. The only thing I might do differently next term is organize my course notes by topic instead of date, as it was sometimes difficult to remember what date we discussed something. As OneNote is a cross-platform tool, I have the app on my iPhone, my Surface, and my laptop. Everything syncs across devices, so I always have everything I need.
Additionally, I organize all articles, course outlines, and handouts in Microsoft OneDrive. I have a folder called Doctoral Studies and a sub-folder for each class. Like OneNote, OneDrive is available on all my devices, and it is really easy to share documents and work collaboratively with my colleagues.

Office 365 is free for educators and includes the tools I rely on so heavily. All you need is an education email address (your school division or university one will work) and you can start using it for free! Learn more here.

Leverage Your Resources

I'm fortunate to be surrounded by amazing friends, colleagues, and mentors, and I know that seeking their support is key to my success. It's sometimes hard to make myself vulnerable and share my work with them because I don't want them to think it's bad. But I know the only way I'll improve is with feedback, and sometimes I can't see my own glaring errors as I've spent so much time working on the paper. Sending my first paper to my supervisor for review was a very hard and scary moment. But her feedback was kind as well as constructive, and I learned a lot.

My best friend Leah and I like to do as much as we can together and we have very similar educational interests. It's a bit harder now, but that's where Skype has been a great tool. We used Skype to review my paper together last weekend; sharing the screen so we could both see the paper at once.

You Won't Survive Without Your Cohort

My department chair at Brandon University advised me that my relationships with the people in my cohort would be critical to my success, and he was absolutely right. On the first day of my first class, I made a new friend, and I've added to that number throughout the term. I took it upon myself to organize a cohort study group and we meet every other Wednesday before one of our classes. I used Microsoft Forms to find a time and location that worked for the most people. Sometimes only a few people show up, but it is an important opportunity to discuss the readings and assignments, ask questions, and listen to each other.
Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people standing
Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoor

Take Time for Wellness

Time spent in nature and on my yoga mat kept me sane during the crazy busy-ness of final papers. I keep my yoga mat unrolled by the table where I work, and every hour I stop what I'm doing and spend a few minutes practicing...often just a few cat-cow stretches, downward dog, forward folds, and some twists. Additionally, I take in a studio class most days at One Yoga, Alive Mindbody (barre--my new passion) or Fernwood Yoga Den, and occasionally Moksana and Moksha. Moving my body and focusing on nothing but my breath and intention are so therapeutic for me.  After finishing my a 6000-word paper, I was exhausted and overwhelmed, but thought I should carry on to my next paper. This proved to be a really bad idea as I was unproductive and tearful and incapable of doing anything. I used my Mind Body app to find an upcoming class and headed to Moksha for a 90-minute warm yin class. It was the best thing I could have done, and as my mind and body relaxed in savasana, I was hit with the most fabulous idea ever for structuring my next paper. I left the yoga studio feeling inspired, and went home to write half the paper in one sitting. I got an A+, and I firmly believe that I wouldn't have produced such great work without taking care of myself first.
Image may contain: indoor
Love yoga barre classes at Alive Mindbody!
Most days I visit my nearby beach which is only five minutes away. The fresh ocean air and refreshing breeze always energize and refocus me. There is a great trail that wanders from Willows Beach to Cattle Point that I love to walk along. The beaches are open to dogs beginning in October, so I often get to pat dogs and visit with their owners. Social interaction, animals, and fresh air always make me feel so much better.

And the first term is in the books...
My first term of PhD studies went so much better than I expected... I'm really pleased with my marks, the program and my supervisor are both excellent, and I love my new friends and yoga community. Happy to be back in Manitoba for the holidays, and excited to see what the second term has in store!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The ABCs of My Professional Practice with Video Scribe



I developed this video for an assignment in one of my PhD courses--we were tasked to create a multimedia presentation demonstrating who we are as a practitioner. This was my first time using Video Scribe, and there was a bit of a learning curve. There were lots of helpful YouTube tutorials which really helped. My only complaint about this tool is that the sound track has to be made in one big chunk...you can't attach narration to individual slides/images. As a result, it took me about ten tries to get my narration...nearly...perfect!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My PhD Journey Begins: Living and Learning in Victoria, BC

Well here I am in Victoria and it's October. Thank goodness. September was the longest month of my life. Usually, September flies by in a flurry of first days of kindergarten, endless forms to complete for the office, and all the usual "back to routine" stuff. This September was dramatically different as I am currently on leave from Fort La Bosse School Division and my busy and fun kindergarten classroom at Oak Lake Community School. It was a September full of new experiences, first times, and a lot of being brave. And time seemed to crawl.

So what brings me to Victoria? After years of flirting with the idea, I've finally decided to pursue my PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on early childhood education. I researched PhD programs all over Canada, and the best fit for me (complete with a fabulous supervisor and entrance scholarship) was University of Victoria on the west coast of Canada. I've been here for nearly 6 weeks and a lot has happened. Here are some of my thoughts on this new and exciting stage of my life.
On Being a Student
UVic has the most beautiful campus ever, and now that I've figured out most things are contained within the ring road with a huge green space in the middle, I'm navigating my way around campus without Google Maps. There are totem poles everywhere, a lovely fountain in the centre of campus, a gorgeous library, and the amazing First Peoples' House. Finnerty Gardens and Mystic Vale are also part of UVic, and they are beautiful green spaces that I enjoy as often as I can.
It isn't just the campus that's nice--the people in my cohort (the PhD word for the people in your year/program) and my professors are great too. I've already made some new friends in my cohort and organized a study group. And I'm super impressed with the high quality of professors...I'm regularly moved to tears in my curriculum class with Dr. David Blades. I've never met someone who could make curriculum fascinating, engaging, and emotional, but this man certainly can. This week's assignment was to write a story about a time we felt we'd made a difference in education, then reflect on it. Everyone was invited to share their story for last night's class, and it resulted in 11 teachers and a professor tearing up over and over. And this was how he introduced us to the phenomenological approach, which postulates that curriculum is experiential, relationship-based, and transcends the human experience. Wow! My supervisor is amazing as well. Her name is Dr. Jodi Streelasky and she is such a lovely person, and everyone who asks me who my supervisor is assures me that I'm so lucky when I tell them. Take a look at her latest project here.

I'm thriving on immersing myself in being a learner again, but I'm still not confident that I can actually do this. I just keep telling myself to do the work, participate in class, and it will all come together. Fingers crossed! There are so many additional learning opportunities on campus that I'm soaking up too--special lectures with visiting scholars, concerts, and sessions for improving my knowledge base and academic skills. I'm going to as many as I can because it's basically free professional development.

On Being Brave
I've had to be brave a lot lately, and I think that's why the month of September has been so hard. My best friend Leah drove out here with me, so together we navigated the bus system, set up my apartment, and toured around Victoria. But when Leah left, reality hit with a vengeance. I've never lived on my own before, so it's been quite an adjustment. Fortunately my little apartment is working out really well and the people I rent from are very nice.
First meal in the new apartment with Leah
First day on campus at graduate student orientation 


My first day of school probably took the greatest amount of bravery. I was (and still am to some degree) really intimidated of classes at the PhD level. I'm still worried that I'm not smart enough and although I make an effort to participate in class, I never think my comments are as meaningful and intelligent as what other people say, but I can only offer what I know from my own experiences. Just like I'd tell my kindergarten students, I focus on trying my hardest, doing my absolute best, and being myself. And if that's not good enough, then this isn't the right path for me.

Although I've always been a confident driver (not necessarily a good driver, but a reasonably confident one), driving in Victoria is stressful. My built-in GPS in my Jeep loves to take me the most random routes ever, so I constantly have to check with Google Maps. I'm always getting messed up by lanes that turn into turning lanes (or don't) and all the new "no left turns on certain streets" that were added recently and maps haven't caught up. There is also never ANY parking downtown, so I take the bus a lot. Since I never know where I'm going, I have to allow myself lots of time, and as a result I show up everywhere super early (my dad would be proud).

Teaching on-call requires quite a bit of bravery too. Just driving to the school in morning traffic is enough to get my heart pounding. Then the assignment is just like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're going to get. Most of my experiences have been pretty decent, but I had a rough go last week. I've discovered a new love for high school low incidence classrooms (what we'd call a life skills unit in Manitoba) and those are my absolute favourite call outs. Since I have a Master of Education in Special Education, nearly all my call-outs are for learning assistance and special education. Not one kindergarten classroom yet :( Fortunately, the pay is really good (2-3 times what substitute teachers make in Manitoba) and it's nice to be with kids a couple of times a week. I've instituted a new rule: if I teach on call I can go to Starbucks. It's working pretty well.

Victoria and the People
I'd heard from a few people that Victoria was quite a "closed" city that didn't welcome outsiders well, but my experience has been the exact opposite. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, and I chat with people everywhere I go. Yoga has been wonderful, as I meet lots of people in yoga studios and I made some new friends at my yoga teacher training at the end of September. The thing I like best is that when riding the bus, everyone thanks the busdriver when they get off. How charming is that?

Victoria's Yoga Scene
Sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm here to go to school, not attend yoga classes. It's hard. There are so many amazing yoga studios and events, and I'm less than 2 km from a therapeutic yoga teacher training program. Their restorative training was fantastic in September, and they offer weekend trainings twice a month. But finances and academic commitments dictate that this is something I can only take advantage of once in awhile. I'm also very guilty of wanting to plan my teaching on-call schedule around my favourite yoga classes. I've discovered a new passion--barre classes (especially the ones that blend yoga and/or pilates). I'm spoiled for choice here!
Taking relaxation to a new level at Ajna Yoga restorative training

New Things I've Learned
Anytime you step out of your comfort zone it's a great opportunity to learn new things about yourself. Not that it's always easy or fun, and I know these realizations are really simple. But sometimes you need experiences like these to drive home the most basic lessons.
1) It's a huge privilege to be part of a community. I miss Kenton, my family, my friends, my yoga community, and my school community. I miss people knowing me and caring about me, and I miss knowing and caring about other people too. Although I am making new friends and a place for myself here, I don't really think it's possible to replicate the level of connection and interdependence in Victoria that I've experienced as a lifelong resident of a small town.
2) Having a pet is an amazing gift. I miss my dog and cat SO much. It's not that I miss them more than my family, it's just that I can't text and call them. In six weeks of being away from them, I've learned that having a pet to love and care for is really imperative to my happiness. I ask to pat random dogs and engage in conversation with dog owners at Starbucks, the beach, and on trails just to get a dog fix. I have all these beautiful places to walk and hike and no dog to take with me, and it's so hard.
3) Keeping busy is key. I've always maintained a very busy schedule, and although sometimes I've longed to have fewer commitments, I've found that I don't do well with downtime. Especially when I'm lonely. My PhD workload is demanding, and I try to teach on-call 1.5-2 days per week. Any remaining time I fill with yoga. The busier I am the better I seem to do! Every week I try to do something new and "touristy". So far I've visited Witty's Lagoon, Hatley Castle, Ogden Point, Butchart Gardens, a couple of wineries, Beacon Hill Park, walked the Songhees Walkway, checked out Mile 0, and enjoyed a few beaches. I also went to the symphony in the beautiful Royal Theatre to hear James Ehnes with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. I'm so grateful that my temporary home has so many beautiful sites and new and different things to do.
The stunning legislature buildings and grounds in downtown Victoria
4) Everything is temporary. I tell myself this when I'm feeling homesick or overwhelmed. These feelings are temporary and will pass. This opportunity to live, learn, and practice yoga in Victoria, BC, is temporary too. I try and stay mindful, push myself to try new things and meet new people, and soak up every drop of this amazing, challenging new experience.