professional learning community

It has been a long time since I last blogged and when I checked my blog I realized that that last time I wrote on this page was in 2010! Where did the time go and what happened???? At the time I was busy in my classroom of grade fives and sixes, had many collaborative projects running and was actively using technology in my classroom. I think I got wrapped up in my little world and started to forget about the world around me.

Since my last blog post I have changed schools and changed roles within the school. Last year I moved to George Lee School and started working as a Learning Resource Teacher. My school environment is quite different. My previous school had about 100 students and was a community school with a high First Nations population. My current school has just under 400 students and has a high EAL population. I am fortunate to hear a multitude of languages and accents along with learning about many cultures. This year I have taken on the role as acting vice-principal  along with continuing to work as a Learning Resource Teacher.

I have also traveled to Kenya and Tanzania the last three summers to work with Education Beyond Borders.   

EBB Workshops in Tanzania

EBB Workshops in Tanzania

I was fortunate to work with many wonderful teachers as we shared ideas about project based and inquiry learning, differentiation, collaboration and working with professional learning clusters. During my first summer I worked in the GIlgil area about 100 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, the second year I worked in the Mount Kilimanjaro area of Tanzania along with the GIlgil area while the third year I concentrated my work with EBB in Tanzania. All of my experiences were extremely rewarding and taught me so many things about myself as a teacher, person and world citizen.

I am starting to feel the need to re-connect to my professional colleagues that I have worked with around the world through blogging and twitter. As well, I am considering planning some collaborative learning projects for students this year. With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi it might be time to start planning on project for that.

It’s good to be back and I’m looking forward to reading blog posts, tweets and articles from my many colleagues around the world.

I love the information, links and ideas I get my Twitter network. The thoughts of other educators are often provoking and make me think about my teaching. This morning I was checking my TweetDeck and checked out the Curriculum 21 ning site. ‘Langwitches’ had posted a new quote.

Curriculum 21 Quotes

Curriculum 21 is a new ning site for me but I liked the tag line on their site “Mapping the Global Classroom of the Future.” I’ll have to look around the site more but I may have to join this new network and make some connections.

Welcome to the Sandbox is the welcome to my most recent, and last, grad class. The class is officially EC&I 832 Computers in the Classroom and is being offered on-line during the winter semester at the University of Regina.

I’m  on Block 1 and making my way through the course readings and activities for the week.

This week you will:
1. Familiarize yourself with the course overview and the course evaluation
2. Explore who you are as a learner in an online space and reflect on who you are as a learner and educator in a digital world
3. Share your introductory biography so others can get to know you

My first adventure in this course will be to take an on-line learning styles quiz and looking at who I am as a learner. Stay tuned for how that works out for me. The second task is to read Karl Fisch’s blog post “Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher?” . I’ll be curious to see how I fit in to his definition of technologically literate or illiterate. The third challenge for the week is to complete an introduction to the rest of the class so that we can try and put faces to names as we work through the semester.

In a brief story format (written, audio or audio/visual), please share:

  1. An introduction of yourself
  2. Where you are in your Graduate Studies program and what route you have chosen to take (course route or thesis; Curriculum and Instruction or other area)
  3. Your professional background and current assignment or position
  4. Your background/experience with technology on a personal level as well as within your current role
  5. Who are you as a learner and what makes your “learning curve go off the chart”?
  6. Any interests/hobbies/talents/achievements that would help others get to know you better

Wish me luck as I complete the tasks, particularly reflecting on who I am as a learner. I think as with every class that I’ve taken on the way to completing my Master’s program I’m going to grow, learn and be challenged to look at the world in a different way.

More reaction to Al Upton’s blog shut down. What do you think?

I’d wish for my children to be in Al’s class for SURE!!! He is an educator that is LEADING THE WAY!!! Others should take note! Our children NEED this sort of learning and education!

Author: Anne
Sorry that such a fantastic opportunity for learning has been taken away from your students. Student blogging has such potential for motivation, for connection with an audience, for furthering communication. After all, that’s what writing is for!

Author: John Connell
Al Upton is, without doubt, one of the most committed educators I have ever met – his focus, every time I meet him, is entirely on the children in this class. This decision by the South Australian authorities is monumentally stupid, shortsighted and anti-education – it is also cowardly. Someone, somewhere, has buckled in the face of paranoia and a closed-minded, irrational fear of nothing whatsoever.

For the past 14 months, I have been extolling the virtues of Al Upton, his minilegends, and, as I thought, the forward-thinking education system of South Australia, all around the world. Everywhere I go I mention this school blogger par-excellence – now I will be forced to use this ridiculous decision as an example of a head-in-the-sand attitude that believes we can protect our children best by banning everything that moves. The best protection, in fact, as Al knows, is education itself – an anti-education move such as this simply beggars belief.

Author: Sean FitzGerald
Very disappointing. I’ll just add one point, which I haven’t seen made yet, which is this… what is this modelling? You make a mistake in good faith and you get slammed? Why couldn’t this situation have been used to clarify safety guidelines and make whatever changes to the way you were working in line with those? Why shut down your whole operation completely? It seems more like punishing and making an example of than correcting behaviour. Oh wait… this is school. 😦

Author: Darren Kuropatwa
Just learned about this via an email. Al, and all the mini-legends, I’m so sorry to hear of this and wanted to add my voice of support. I hope your ministry of education officials look through the work you and your kids have been doing online for the last few years and examine there concerns in that larger context. I suspect doing so will open their eyes the sort of careful, considered, and responsible educator that you are.

Looking ahead to that future, the mini-legends will become legends in name and fact as together you all model educational blogging at its best. I really can’t see any other outcome to follow from a pedagogue examining the opus of your work online.

Warmest Regards and Best Wishes,
Darren Kuropatwa
<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Department Head Mathematics</a>
Winnipeg, Canada

Author: scotter
What a shame! I was looking forwards to looking at the mini’s work.
I hope our own local authority are more open minded!
Alasdair Lanyon

Author: Christine Martell
I am so sorry to see this happening. The mini’s have been an incredible inspiration to me, and I’m sure to many others throughout the world. My heart goes out to you and the kids. it can be so frustrating to have creative expression both misunderstood and repressed.

Just from what I have seen here, I know you will turn this experience into deep learning for all involved, I just wish you didn’t have to.

This morning on Twitter thekyleguy sent out a tweet about this unfortunate event. What do you think? As you read through the post do you agree with the ministry’s decision? Read the comments from other educational bloggers around the world as they discuss the decision.

Other educational bloggers are discussing this event. Read this blog for more reaction.

Order for Closure

This blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children Services – South Australia)

It seems that this blog in particular is being investigated regarding risk and management issues. What procedures should be taken for the use/non-use of blogs to enhance student learning will be considered.

Please note … I am greatly comforted by the support from many of my parents/care-givers, the staff & leadership at school and the Learning Technologies team at ‘headquarters’.

I absolutely value the support and wisdom given to me from my online global social networks – and isn’t that what the whole thing is all about?

Best of all are the kids
.. without their enthusiasm, love for blogging and collaboration … well this blog would never have existed .. and now, would not be closed.

Cheers, Al

Please Note … Let’s embrace this as an opportunity to promote the value of blogs and online learning generally. There is no benefit in looking for blame here, there is enormous value and potential in celebrating our voices.

addthis_url = ‘’; addthis_title = ‘Order+for+Closure’; addthis_pub = ”; Grab a free Edublog to get your own comment avatar!


avatar 1. murcha – March 14, 2008
Pardon? Is this for real! Come to Victoria then and bring the students with you. Did they checkout the clustr map and see the authentic audience that your students have? It was wonderful to see them blogging and to see the support given to you worldwide. Let me know if there is anything that I can do to help!!
avatar 2. dogtrax – March 14, 2008
WowThe benefits of blogging are many and varied, including: writing for an authentic audience, exploring other points of views, composing in different modes and medium, researching and evaluating information and integrating student interest in the classroom.
I am sure the list goes on and on.
I thought your concept of a mentor program was fantastic and it seemed as if you had tapped into something powerful in the world, too.
I hope you can reverse the order (is that possible?)

Perhaps: remove pictures and create pseudonyms and re-launch?

Good luck
Kevin Hodgson
Massachusetts, USA

avatar 3. Allison Miller – March 14, 2008
This is a very interesting and distressing situation!I would like to know what evidence or data the ‘risk management’ dept of DECS is using when they have come to their decision to ’shut down’ this site.

Al is offering his students the opportunity to interact and learn from a global network of people. He is offering his students the means to learn in a ’safe’ environment of how to operate in an interactive online environment.

Doesn’t DECS have an ethical responsibility to help their students to develop the skills they require to operate in the 21st century through collaborative spaces such as blogs, wikis, and social networking sites.

Where will these students learn the skills to safely operate in an online environment?

The internet offers an opportunity for students to network and learn beyond their locality and time zone through social networking. To date, our young people have been using the internet to connect with others, with little or no guidance from their parents or teachers.

However, educational institutes have the opportunity to help ‘guide’ their students through the ‘unchartered waters’ of online social networking through spaces such as what Al is developing with his students.

He has been open and upfront with his students, parents, colleagues, authorities, and online networks. The people who who have offered their assistance to ‘mentor’ his students are people who have the utmost respect of the online community. People who model appropriate online social behaviour, and are ‘paving the way’ for others in how to share and mentor others online.

I believe the decision to shut down this site is very narrow minded and the decision has been based on a very limited and sensationalised view of what an online environment can offer to young people.

Young people are no more at threat online than they are in the ‘real world’. The skills required to understand ’stranger danger’ apply to an online environment.

Allowing Al Upton’s students to learn in an online environment will allow these students to apply their ’stranger danger’ skills in a safe and ‘controlled’ environment.

Please do not deny these students the opportunity to learn in a rich, valuable and safe environment, to develop the skills they will need to be effective individuals in the 21st century.

avatar 4. Kate Olson – March 14, 2008
Al -I was so upset when I saw Sue Waters tweet about this this morning – I’m waiting for her post after her Skype session today to perhaps learn more about how other Aussie edubloggers are reacting……I hope to find out details of this that will help all other educators using blogs with our students. Keep us posted, Al.

avatar 5. Jo McLeay – March 14, 2008
Al, I am so surprised as I know how much blogging helps students learning. It is practice in writing, it is practice in critical reading and in collaboration. Students need to learn in a safe place and school is such a place. Teachers who can mentor students and make positive comments on the student writing help them know that they have a real audience. It helps motivate students. This seems to be a backward step.
avatar 6. Frank’s Blog – March 14, 2008
These are both confusing and enlightening times. While trying myself to get similar projects started here where I am, I am now rethinking approach and process and politics. Very disappointed that some have to be those that increase awareness through difficult times as you are experiencing now. But, I hope as we move forward, that education overall will be better and all will not be in vain. No. not hope … I am sure of it! Good luck with these changes and redefining moments in educational history. The 21st Century certainly has given us much to think about.
avatar 7. Drew Buddie – March 14, 2008
Al, I am absolutely gobsmacked at the decision to stop this amazing initiative. I can understand the need to ensure that young people need to be safe online, but why on earth there is a problem with blog comments that are left on a page, and therefore TRANSPARENT, is utterly beyond me. Shame on the bureaucratic nincompoop that made this decision.And if it doesn’t sound sad to say it, It’s the miniLegends themselves I feel sorry for. This is a story that could go global (and if *I* have anything to do with it, it will)!

avatar 8. Robin Ellis – March 14, 2008
I was very sorry to see the message above, I have been using the mini legends as an example for my administrators and teachers in our conversations regarding the wonderful opportunities blogging provides for students to reach beyond the walls of their classrooms. All students need to learn how to navigate the online world safely, and what better models than those who use the same world in their own practice and themselvs model appropriate behavior? I would hope this decision to remove the blog will be reconsidered and you allow the students to continue developing the skills which will help to shape their future.
avatar 9. Chris – March 15, 2008 said.

avatar 10. Corrie Bergeron – March 15, 2008
So a few parents are concerned about a potential threat to their kids from people who live on the OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET!?!
avatar 11. gkat – March 15, 2008
Wondering… (sorry if this information was already collected Al but) would it have made a difference or would parents feel more safe if the educator-mentors had sent “proof/validation” of their employment as educators? (as they do e.g. in Quest Atlantis?), Such a shame for your students.
avatar 12. Kathryn Greenhill – March 15, 2008
I wish that my two boys were in Al Upton’s class and had an opportunity to be part of a blogging programme like this. They need to learn how to navigate the ‘net safely. They need to understand how to safely have conversations with people from around the world.They need to understand how to present themselves online, including how to safely use their own voice and identity. I want them to experiment with their online identity in a safe environment where they are supported. I don’t want them to go underground and experiment by themselves with no guidance from someone who understands the online environment.

My kids have been reading the Minilegends’ blogs and love to see what the kids are doing. They are encouraged to learn about what the other kids are learning.

As a parent and an educator I use Al’s classroom blog as a Best Practice model for classroom blogging. I have shared the site with other parents and educators.

To not continue with this, the Minilegends miss out on learning, their parents miss out on learning about the internet along with their kids, other kids miss out on learning from the Minilegends and a pioneering Best Practice example is lost to us.

avatar 13. susant – March 15, 2008
I too am flabbergasted by the closure of this blog, and fail to see how comments by educators world wide could be seen as a potential danger.I am also reminded of a blog post by Dean Shareski “Why Privacy is Moot Point” – Shareski points out that newspapers regularly publish children’s photos and names without parents’ permission.

avatar 14. Nancy White – March 15, 2008
It is my belief that working WITH kids to help them find their own, safe path in the digital world involved guided LIVING in that digital world with the support of teachers, parents and yes, other people out in the world. By avoiding this real experience, I believe children are at greater risk.I understand and respect academic organizations’ concerns about risk and risk management. The problem is, our participation in the world does not stop at the school door. We should not try and legislate as if it does.

Further, children today must have strong digital skills – and that includes social skills – to survive in the job market. I consult with organizations about how they can work/collaborate online and one of the key skills they are now realizing they need to hire and cultivate is online community and social network skills, the ability to write FOR and ON the web, and the social intelligence of how to do this wisely and effectively.

Al, you have my digital support from afar. Please send my best wishes and encouragement to the Mini Legends who have, so far, taught many of us adults so much.

Hm, that makes me realize. This is as much about the world learning from the kids as the other way around. ….

avatar 15. Tim Davies – March 15, 2008
Hey AlAll arguments about whether or not blogging is positive for young people’s learning aside (I believe it is) – it strikes me that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (widest internationally agreed treaty, signed by Australia) speaks to this situation.

I’ve blogged on it over here: but broadly – Article 13 states:

“The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.”

That appears to pretty well describe what the miniLegends were up to. And it is articulated as a specific /right/ of all under 18s. Taking action to limit the right should require some serious proof that other protection rights and concerns substantively trump it….

avatar 16. Michele Martin – March 15, 2008
Al, check out this link–it’s to a study debunking the cyber-stalking myths. Your kids are in greater danger in the “real world” than they are online!

avatar 17. russel – March 15, 2008
Well, I can’t add any content to what has already been said but I can add the weight of another voice in agreement.
Thankyou Al for being in the front line here. I have come close to being shutdown within the last twelve months by conservative forces in my own own local evnironment and I remember the pain with discomfort.
I trust that the conservative elements in the department that have made this decision will soon feel the full force of the educational necessity to allow kids to learn safe online behaviour in the safe environment of school. They can only keep their heads in the sand for so long. I wonder if they know what their own kids are doing right now? I wonder when they last spoke with their own kids about the actual life that they live… a lot of it online… in all likelihood.
Its not the end mate… its just the beginning of another interesting journey. Be of good cheer. ) The truth will win out.
avatar 18. Chris Harbeck – March 15, 2008
Al Whatever support you need from your network I will try to help. It is so short sighted of the “powers that be” need to have the big stick and shut down powerful educational thinking. It really is a shame that a visionary like yourself and your students are being stifled.Kids that do not have a positive exposure to the web and are not taught how to be informed web citizens will be ignorant to dangers in the future.

Good luck with your fight.

avatar 19. Alan Levine – March 15, 2008
Al- I am so disappointed to hear of this (word just got to me via twitter). You had created a model project and handled the concerns in the best way possible.For some government authority to override the wishes and permissions granted by the parents is unfair to say the least and perhaps leaning towards totalitarian. Who is more responsible and gets to make decisions for Australian children- the government or the parent?

If it were me, I might have shied from using the kids photos, but as they are identified only by first name, I fail to see the dire risk.

If there is anything we can do to protest, petition, complain, just shout out.

avatar 20. indigo196 – March 15, 2008
I will not say that the board is wrong… safety is a concern.Two options exist:
1. Move this project to a ‘closed’ model in which students can interact, but ’stranger danger’ can not see the site.

2. Ensure that students DO NOT expose personal information on the site that would enable ’stranger danger’ to target them.

I have no visited here before so I am not making a claim that this site did not safeguard the children, but I do understand the concern that parents and administrators have.

avatar 21. Kimberly Brown – March 15, 2008
Oh my. Another group of administrators who don’t get it! It’s time to move with the times and the value of connected learning. So sorry about this.Kimberly Brown
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Last night was my first foray in Second Life. My EC&I 831 class from the University of Regina toured Second Life last night with the help of tour guide Kirk Kezema from the University of Saskatchewan. The first challenge was to create an account and an identity in Second Life. I am Global Chesnokov. Now, if you don’t know how this works you are allowed to choose your first name then there are choices for your last name. I chose Global because at the time I had the tv on the Global television network and their logo/name was on the screen. Next I had to choose what I looked like. Unfortunately I made the same choice as two other people in my class so we had triplets wandering cyberland last night. I could only tell it was me when I read my name above my head. If I was going to do this again I would personalize my identity. I now had to install the Second Life program to my computer. Well, my school MacBook wasn’t letting me do much and the browsers weren’t recognizing the Second Life url for my tour. I tried on my PC at home. I installed the program then the flashing blox came up telling me that my video cards were too old to support the program. Finally, I used my husband’s brand new HP laptop with a 17″ screen. He said I could use it for the class and then he was uninstalling Second Life. He couldn’t imagine what sort of educational value playing a game could be.

Okay, so now I’m in Second Life and I’m teleporting to our meetng place which is the EECM Meeting Hall. We meet in a virtual lecture hall and are asked to sit down. Sounds easy right? Guess again. We looked like a group of kindergarten students trying to form a circle. It was truly sad. Finally our leader was able to organize the virtual world neophytes and explain what would happen on our tour. We visited the University of Saskatchewan’s virtual world,The Discovery Channel’s Learning Centre and had an opportunity to speak to one of their staff members, and finally the Space & Flight Museum. We didn’t visit the University of Ohio’s virtual world but I found a introductory video on YouTube. We lost people on the tour, we had to learn to walk straight and follow our guide and others kept sitting down at unexpected moments.

I can see how there could be opportunities to use a virtual world in a middle years classroom. I think it would be interesting to visit The Discovery Channel’s Learning Centre to participate in some of their programming. During a Science unit I would like to take my students to the Space & Flight Museum. My husband asked how I would keep track of my students and I answered that it would be like any other field trip when I would do head counts. It does open up some interesting possibilities for classroom use.

So who out there is a Second Life resident? Why and how do you use the your virtual world? How does anyone think a virtual world could be utilized in a classroom? I’m interested because I see the possibilities but I’m sure there are others like my husband who can’t imagine any educational value.

Last week Dean Shareski spoke to our EC&I 831 class about his journey to connected learning. He said he’s lucky that he’s been able to work with other teachers and administrators who “get it.” You all know what I mean. The colleagues who value new ideas and start imagining how they can make use of these ideas in their teaching. It’s great when you connect with someone who shares your vision for integrating technology into teaching and is willing to work with you. My journey to connected learning is now progressing and I feel fortunate to have connected with so many educators who share the same vision.

Dean also shared his “Five Big Ideas” for enjoying the journey to connected learning and teaching.

1. Get Personal & Selfish: Decide that you want to learn new technologies for you.

2. Develop a Professional Learning Community on Steroids: Have a networked PLC, Use an RSS reader to keep connected to relevant blogs, Compile a Delicious network, join Twitter and blog.

3. Consider Your Comm-post Rating: Find a balance between commenting and posting, comment more than you post. This blog from Intrepid Classroom has some good commenting guidelines.

4. Have Fun!

5. Share Everything!