Implementing VR #4: YouTube Playlist

Touring our PRSD8 Google Expedition Virtual Reality set around our vast school division has been quite delightful. The first reactions of the students from K-12 to the virtual world brings a smile to my face every time–as does the grinning teacher,  watching the first reactions of his or her students.   Yet, there is so much more to discover in the virtual reality world than Google Expeditions, especially since it (Expeditions) is so American based in content.

So it was with great excitement that we were able to successfully launch our first YouTube 360 playlist. A school in Oyen wanted to use VR “to do Olympic events” for an Olympic-themed day that they were having. Since nothing of the sort currently exists in Google Expeditions, I knew this was the opportunity that I had been looking for to push myself to try and create a YouTube playlist and use it with a class of students.

It turned out to be a great success, as over 10 groups of 10-13 students filed through our ‘viewing parlor’, took a comfy seat, and launched into our Olympic events playlist: bobsled, ski jump, luge, skeleton, downhill skiing, snowboard cross.  A few teachers even made it through the whole experience!

Watch below as the grade 1 students in Mrs. Roberston’s class experience the thrill of the ski jump!

This particular playlist worked very well for the small groups of students that we had a one time. A downfall to using YouTube is that you have to click quite a few spots to get to the playlist AND get the viewer into “Google Cardboard” mode. Cathy and I clicked all of the buttons each time for each student, as one wrong click, and it takes much longer to get back to the correct place.

A key element to using the playlist was to have a distinct acronym in the title (PRSD8VR). This playlist was the only thing that came up when searching YouTube, which then made it easy to select and save to the “Library”. Once we had put the playlist in the Library of every viewer, it made it much more convenient to launch the playlist quickly.

The Olympic theme certainly made the YouTube playlist a great place for a trial run. Thanks Oyen Public for helping push problem solving!


Implementing VR #3: At a Hutterite Colony!

Classes in our school division have had access to Virtual Reality for 3 school weeks now.  Cathy and I , our PRSD8 Instructional Coaches, have done lots of learning and discovery as we have transported the VR viewers and run VR in seven of our schools so far, and we will be visiting another two schools new to VR this week.  This week I will be posting a few times about our learning curve in this exciting new project.

We had been looking forward to this ground-breaking day since before Christmas. Susan Martin, the teacher/principal of Jenner Colony School had gotten permission from the 20180112_110046_001883888399.jpgschool’s German teacher, Ron, to let the student’s experience the Virtual Reality viewers.  For those not familiar with Hutterite Colony schools, many do not allow any form of technology; that means the teacher cannot even have a computer at the school, and there is no internet or even television. So you can see why we were very excited to bring Virtual Reality to Susan’s colony!  The virtual reality experience would be a spring board for a writer’s workshop for grades 1-3 students on using exciting verbs and adverbs, and a grade 4-6 newspaper writing lesson.

20180112_131127424448441.jpgWe also learned some valuable lessons this day.  In our excitement to bring VR to a colony, it failed to register that a Google Expedition VR experience requires a lot of internet — and we were going to a place without internet.  So it is plain embarrassing to admit that we did not have this epiphany until we were actually in the school building and unpacking the viewers!

As a result of our incredibly embarrassing oversight, we learned a few valuable things:

  • It IS possible to run Google Expedition over a hot spot. (Thanks goodness!)
  • A hot spot can host up to 5 devices at once. With this, we were able to connect the “Leader” tablet and then 4 VR viewers. (Fortunately, this was a very small group of students, so we were able to accommodate all the students, the teacher assistant, the German teacher and 2 additional kindergarten students in 3 sittings)
  • Having two students share a single device is manageable
  • It is actually a really different – and nice – experience to just sit among 3 or 4 students and lead an Expedition

Thanks to Mrs. Martin and her lovely class for such a fun day. We can’t wait to come back – and not just because we got to wear slippers all day! Hopefully we will get to hear what is happening to Dorothy and her adventures in OZ!



Implementing VR #2: Google Street View

Classes in our school division have had access to Virtual Reality for 3 school weeks now.  Cathy and I, our division Instructional Coaches, have done lots of learning and discovery as we have transported the VR viewers and run VR in seven of our schools so far; we will be visiting another two schools new to VR this week.  This week I will be posting a few times about our learning curve in this exciting new project.

At EBHS this past week, we tried Google Street view for the first time with our new set of VR Viewers. Mr. Wadman wanted his high school art students to get to explore New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and there were no Google Expeditions available.  It turned out that the only way to MoMA was by trying something new!  Google is so great because not only have they mapped streets, but also the inside of museums and tourist attractions–but when the building is empty! If you use an “identified” StreetView upload, (as opposed to a citizen upload), there are no other people standing around–you have the whole museum to yourself!

We started by installing the Google Street View app on all 30 viewers and then making the icon available in Kid’s mode. The high school students were a good starting audience for this experiment as they had to follow instructions very carefully to get to the right Street View gallery. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to “favourite” or identify the desired version of StreetView for something like MoMA that has dozens of uploaded options. Fortunately, the art class followed instructions well, and we all got to the same gallery room relatively smoothly.


EBHS Art students visit New York’s MoMA – Museum of Modern Art , as Mr. Wadman captures yearbook photos

Mr. Wadman created a scavenger hunt for students once they were in the museum; this gave them a sense of purpose as they explored the many different rooms in the museum.

What we have learned:

  • We will be recommending StreetView for junior high and higher. Unlike Google Expedition where the silver button is not a factor, students need to use the button to “walk” or advance their way through hallways and doorways. This takes some time to get used to and would be difficult for younger adventurers
  • A class should start with a Google Expedition BEFORE taking on Google StreetView
  • So far, if a teacher wants to do a StreetView tour, we are advising that they create a scavenger hunt or similar task to help keep students focused and moving through the space — this may change the more we experiment with StreetView

Implementing VR #1: Early Lessons

Classes in our school division have had access to a class set of 30 Virtual Reality viewers for 3 school weeks now.  Cathy and I have done lots of learning and discovery as we have transported the VR viewers and run VR in seven of our schools so far; we will be visiting another two schools new to VR this week.  This week I will be posting a few times about our learning curve in this exciting new project.

Things that we have learned:

  • Google Expedition is a great way to start sharing VR with whole classes; the teacher/leader guides and all students experience the same thing at the same time
  • It is important to tell students ahead of time that they should pull the glasses down and take a break if they are feeling dizzy
  • We have quickly made the rule that students have to stay seated — bottoms in your seats!
  • It is important to give all instructions BEFORE students take their first peek! The first moments when students start to explore is priceless to listen to, and they are so excited. It is not worth trying to interrupt this moment of discovery with any information!
  • Students always want to know what the silver button on the top of the viewer does.  In Google Expedition, it does NOTHING. I tell them to go ahead and push it all they want!


    30 VR Viewers inside MAX

  • VR eats battery life! We cannot do a full day of Google Expedition with a different class every period – the battery is done after about three sessions of approximately 30 minutes. It even seems we have one or two units that have difficulty keeping a charge — we are trying to pin point them.
  • As teachers search for Google Expeditions to run with their class, it is VERY important to actually download the tour, and then click on each tab to see the images that are available. Often, what sounds like the perfect title, is a boring museum or monument tour.

First ever Virtual Reality viewing session at Prairie Rose School Division – at Parkside School. Thanks Mrs. Heidinger!


VR at Senator Gershaw in Bow Island.

Trying Something New: Breakout EDU

My colleagues Heather and Janay and I have been eager and excited and planning to try Breakout EDU boxes in our classes for almost year. But of course, like introducing anything new and exciting, finding the time to do the research and the set up in order to implement is always a barrier.  When I was hired by our school division as an Instructional Coach halfway through first semester, I quickly realized that helping bring this Breakout EDU box experience to reality would be one way to help out and get into high school classes.


Maiden voyage for #PRSD8 Breakout EDU boxes

Although we had initially considered making our own Breakout kits by sourcing all of the components ourselves, we soon realized that a) the variety of locks needed (colours, letters, shapes, etc) were not readily available at local stores and b) locks are expensive. So, in the end, I ordered a ‘class set’ of 6 Breakout EDU boxes directly from the Breakout EDU online store. The price didn’t look quite as good after USD exchange and hefty out of country shipping costs, but the boxes finally arrived.  In my new position, I actually had time to properly unpack, inventory and colour code all of the various components for each box, especially considered that these will ultimately be used by classrooms of differing age levels across our school division.

Earlier in December, I spent a morning with Heather and Janay and we chose a pre-made game from the Breakout EDU store. Janay was looking for an English Literature review game – in the end, we chose a poetry review game. Together we printed the game resources, I then laminated and cut out the pieces, and organized them into envelopes for what I hope is a good, re-useable system. (I had to promise that I would not use this game with any of the EBHS feeder schools. Eventually, we will try our hand at making a complete game from scratch — Janay is an expert at riddles and puzzles!)

Like with anything new, there is a learning curve: how to reset and organize the locks, how to best sort, collect and manage the locks and ‘game resources’.


A great way to get the attention of high school boys – locks and boxes!

Heather’s Learning Strategies class did a test run of the game a few days before the full class experience. After a few minor alterations, we ran the first PRSD8 Breakout game the day before Christmas break. We invited a few adults to share the experience and help out in each group; this was a good strategy for helping students get past the inevitable points of frustration.


In the end, this was an awesome success.

  • Students and adults alike had fun.
  • Janay is already plotting ways to create her own original games — I figure this could be a great retirement project in a few years!
  • There were 1 or 2 minor glitches with the materials and locks –things that would make the game-play better for next time.  But as this was a learning experience for all, this makes sense–there is always room to learn and improve in anything that we do.

As anticipated, there is a bright future for the Breakout EDU experience in Prairie Rose School Division:

  • Janay is already planning a Shakespeare/Romeo & Juliet Breakout experience for her academic Grade 10 English course next semester.
  • I am hoping to take this Poetry Breakout to Angie in Foremost and Matt in Burdett after Christmas.
  • I’ve got a Breakout “Staff Experience” prepared that Cathy and I will take to Oyen with us in February for the School Improvement Day
  • Jason in Schuler is interested in a Breakout experience for his Junior High Phys Ed class in Schuler….

Trying Something new: VR & Google Expedition

Google Expedition 1Check out this grand adventure!  This is way beyond Google Cardboard that I wrote about previously! This picture shows 24 of our 30 new Google Expedition viewers waiting to be fully formatted and set up so that we (the new PRRD8 Instructional Coaches) can get them into the hands of eager teachers and students around our division!

There has been lots to do to get this set-up ready to ‘hit the road’.

  • The tech guys have been formatting and securing the phones that go into each of the viewers.
  • Cathy and I have been doing lots of experimenting and app testing to get used to how they work and to decide on some of the basic apps, in addition to Google Expedition, that would be useful for classrooms.
  • We’ve had to buy a smaller wheeled-storage / carrying device to transport them in; the set-up in the picture takes two grown ups to load into a vehicle, and it won’t fit into the trunk of our cars!
  • We’ve also been stretching the limits of our YouTube channel and playlist knowledge as we come up with an expedient way to get additional content to all student in a timely manner when we are not use the actual Google Expedition app.

So, steep learning curve, yes, but a very exciting one! Can’t wait to update with ‘stories from the classroom’ once we are able to hit the road with this set-up!

IMMOOCing with colleagues: trying something new for Season 3

I was very much inspired by participating in the first two “seasons” of IMMOOC. Now, I will be honest that I did not complete every task that was assigned and each time, although I had high hopes, I only averaged three or four of the six blog posts. Despite this, I thought the concept of a massive on-line learning community was exciting, and the learning was indeed visible. In fact, I was jealous of those who were participating in IMMOOC as a group of colleagues from a school, or division, and dreamed that someday I might be able to also convince some colleagues to join in.innovators mindset

Then the stars aligned. George Couros announced an October 2017 IMMOOC Season 3, and several colleagues were wondering if I would be trying to gather staff into another book study. I took this as a sign that it was time to try the IMMOOC group participation that I had always coveted.

The back story to this is that I teach high school and over the last few years I’ve gathered some interested colleagues together to try a book study together -something that hadn’t really happen at our school previously. This was a new thing and I blogged about it several times years ago, as you can read about here and here. Some of the books had a greater impact than others, but the process always occurred over many months, usually at school, somehow connected to the school day. Some of my colleagues have been in all of the book studies and were willing to give this new 6-week power book study a try. We even recruited a fresh face or two.

In the end, it would be easy to sum up this dream IMMOOC group study as a failure. The every-week-for-6-weeks pace was just too much. In fact, I think my dear colleagues were mostly relieved when I sent out a message after Week 4 that we weren’t going to try to assemble for the rest of the weeks. I think that only one other person in the group even attempted to blog (thanks, Heather). I’m not sure that anyone commented on a single ‘strangers’ blog. I’m not sure that anyone else followed the IMMOOC learning after we gave up the group in Week 4.

Yet despite these perceived failures, I think that there is always some growth and learning that occurs when we try to push a bit of innovation forward. For example:

  • Some of my colleagues read Innovator’s Mindset for the first time.
  • Some of my colleagues started the book and will get around to finishing it eventually.
  • Several of these colleagues participated in their first Twitter Chat.
  • Other colleagues were reminded of the good learning space that Twitter can be.
  • We got to sit in each other’s homes and re-connect and talk about educational issues that we don’t get around to discussing at school.
  • Even though I don’t think we watched a single full video session from beginning to end, it was because we ran out of time because we were spurred to discussion by something one of the guests said that we agreed or didn’t agree with (ie. the definition of and debate about homework!)
  • I learned that a book study at our school is indeed best attempted over a semester or a year, not a month!

If nothing else, this experience is a good reminder that just because a plan doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was a waste of time. In fact, doesn’t some of the best learning take place when things don’t go as planned.

Trying something new: A new job!

This fall marks the 21st year that I have taught high school Social Studies (and English)  in Room 124.  That’s a pretty long time.  In fact, I am the first teacher to ever have occupied this room, since I started teaching at this school the year that it opened. So it felt pretty weird today telling class after class that within a week or two, they would have a new teacher, as I would be moving on to a new job.

Here is the October 11 version of my new job process…..a flashback if you will, that didn’t get published immediately:

Today is Wednesday. This past Friday I went for an interview for a temporary Instructional Coach- a position that has come about mid-semester due to some unexpected provincial funding. Saturday I was offered the job. Monday night after Thanksgiving Dinner, I was making sub plans for a Tuesday Instructional Coaching event hosted by a neighbouring school division.  Today I was telling my students that I’d be leaving them.  This has been a whirl-wind of a week. (And that doesn’t even count Saturday, when my family spent the day moving my parents off of the farm that has been in the family for over 100 years!)

Fortunately, they didn’t cheer and dance at the thought of getting rid of me! I was most surprised by the reaction of my last period of the day class. This is my non-academic crew; the ones that don’t love being at school, but stay because they know that it probably makes sense to endure it in the long run.  I have taught most of these students in a previous year, and some of the poor lads and lasses have been stuck with me for three years in a row. Some of the most surprising characters took it almost as a personal insult that I was leaving them. Some asked if I had my calendar mixed up because it wasn’t April (when April Fool’s Day comes along).  Luckily, the remainder of class time was a distraction with a lively simulation of capitalism as we had a “wicket factory” for the rest of the day.

Although there are many uncertainties about this new position at this early stage, the heavy weight of reality of “leaving home” is a certainty.  I won’t have been out of this classroom for this long of a time period since I was on maternity leave with my twin babies almost 17 years ago!  Of course, that seems like just yesterday, too.

And of course, change is good. But it can still be scary, even when you are an adult with very exciting possibilities before you.

Innovator’s Mindset – trying a staff version of #IMMOOC 3

innovators mindsetThis is our staff’s 3rd attempt at doing a book study together…. but a very different approach.

Some EBHS staff will get together to participate together-ish in the 3rd online edition of #IMMOOC with YouTube lives sessions to watch, Twitter Chats, blogs posts and commenting on the blogs of others. This will undoubtedly push some members out side of their comfort zone….just what an innovator should do. I’ve personally participated in the first 2 online #IMMOOC sessions, and am glad I’ve finally been able to get a crew to join me (from the many who purchased his book when he was at our 2016 Teacher’s Convention). Here’s to trying something new! I hope we can stick with it!

Post Script: Wondering how it went? Click here

Something new: A Trip to Africa

So here’s something new that I’ll be trying: travel to Africa.

From August 7-30, my husband and I will be part of a team of 7 that will travel to Uganda and Zambia doing community/school/coaching/humanitarian/mission work.  My hubby’s been to Zambia 4 times, but this will be my first trip ever to the African continent.

Trying something new!