July 2009

I’ve been in Dominica for a week and posting on my IT for Dominica trip blog, but as I was hiking yesterday the notion of “trails optional” became very literal.

When I choose  my blog title I was out for a run through the coulees of Lethbridge where I often won’t follow a trail and run where my feet take me.  This often leads me to a dead end, or with a very steep uphill ahead of me.  I thought this notion of trails optional was a really appropriate metaphor for how I approach the use of technology in my classroom.  I am often trailblazing and trying things that others in my division aren’t doing.  I dive right into new technologies without hesitation.  I strive to integrate educationally relevant technology and bring a complete 21st century learning environment to my students.  I have chronicled these projects over the last two and a half months.  I will continue to share new ideas and refine older ones so that other teachers and student can benefit.  When it comes to using technology, for me trails are truly optional, I strive to be ahead of the pack and bring new things forward.  This isn’t always successful, but on the whole I love what I’m doing, and I see the tremendous benefit to my students.

My whole life I haven’t been afraid to put myself out there and try new things.  I’ve moved to completely new cities, where I might have known one or two people, three times now.  I’ve taken leadership positions in high school, at the university level, and within my schools.  I’ve never been in a formal administration role, but I’m not done in the classroom.  In seven short years teaching I am continually astonished with how much I have learned and grown, and I’m not done yet.  I have more to share and learn from my students and fellow colleagues.  There may be a time when I leave the classroom, but I’m not there yet.

The IT for Dominica project has been another chance for me to venture out into the world, internationally this time, to learn from others and share what I know.  I’ve been fortunate to travel twice to this beautiful country, full of engaging and loving people.  Yesterday I toured a part of the island that has the narrowest, highest, windiest roads.  It doesn’t get many tourists and it is very poor.  I hiked up a small trail, which was more in the river than on the land.  The final destination was a beautiful waterfall in the middle of the rain forest, a place where trails are optional, but the journey itself is the reward.

The post below is from my It for Dominica website, but it tells the tail of my never ending quest for new and uncharted territory where trails are optional.

If you can’t see the youtube video, or want to download smaller chunks – the video is in six parts linked below:

Victoria Falls

Jen Not Telling Her Mom What She Just Did

Insane Rocks

Rain forest

White River

Emerald Pool

Saturday was absolutely fantastic. We decided to visit the south east portion of the island, a place where neither Paul or I had been. We drove through Grand Bay, Bagatelle, Petite Savanne, La Plaine, and many more lovely little villages. We hiked up to Victoria Falls, a fairly short but intense walk. You cross the white river 3 times, which meant a lot of shoes on and shoes off. Towards the top the trail is the river and you have to climb over, around, through, and even under huge boulders. It was scary, and really quite difficult. We had a guide, Dixon, who stopped me from slipping to some sure broken bones many times. We definitely wouldn’t have made it without him. The view at the top was amazing, check out the photos and video.

The second stop of the day was the Emerald Pool, which is an earthcache. An earthcache is a geocache with no container, you have to take a photo of yourself and email the cache owner the answer to a question. They are in geologically sensitive or significant locations. This one is in Morne Trois Piton National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Emerald Pool
Victoria Falls
Jen at the Falls – and over all those rocks in bare feet!
Looking back to the Caribbean Sea

P1000407I don’t even remember the first time I saw a smartboard – it may have been student teaching in Edmonton, or it may have been in my undergrad days at U of A.  Today I introduced a new set of teachers to the wonder of the interactive white board.  Dominica is still a developing country, but they are working hard to improve their country.  Education is a main focus for improvement, espeically improving skills with IT.  When I walked into my classroom at the Dominica Grammar School this morning a smartboard was not what I expected to see, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I immediately turned it on and pulled up my work.  The people standing around me were entralled as I adjusted settings, oriented the board, and organized the floating toolbar just how I like it.  I think this is when they started to realize what they had.  The board had just been installed and no one had even used it yet, the markers were still in a plastic bag.  As the teachers trickled in and started to see me magically flip between windows just by touching a screen, they stared!  The internet choose this opportune moment to go down so I started to show the smartboard tools.  The excitement over making a triangle, recording a math problem, or just writing and erasing your name was contageous.  The teachers before me started to see the possibilites the board held in the classroom and I have only showed them a few simple tricks – just wait until I dig into smart notebook and show them my jeopardy game, or flash files.

mapThe IT for Dominica project is a one man show – Dr. Maurice Hollingsworth, who is trying to help the people of Dominica.  It started ten years ago with old computers from schools around Lethbridge going down to Dominica.  Several shipments of machines when down and were installed, and to support the new computers on the island a program of professional development was started.  Today machines aren’t sent down to Dominica anymore, as they have alternate sources of funding, but two teachers still go down every summer to run a summer institute on how to integrate and use technology.  The program is funded largely through the provincial Alberta Teacher’s Association and the Palliser Local 19 of the ATA.   It’s teaching helping teachers make education better through the use of technology.  I’ve personally been involved in the project for two years.  I spent two amazing weeks teaching IT, focusing on web 2.0, last summer.  I just arrived in Dominica today and I begin two more weeks tomorrow.  We are supposed to have 43 students, I’m very excited to get going, and to see more of this beautiful island.  Now I’m in Dominica – not the Dominican Republic – common mistake.  It is further south, in the Windward Island chain – about 15 degrees N.  It is hurricane season and currently we are being hit by a tropical wave and there are two not so nice looking systems churning away in the Atlantic.

Follow my journey through teaching and traveling in Dominica: http://www.jendeyenberg.edublogs.org/

Learn more about the IT for Dominica Project: http://itfordominica.org/

This past school year I fully embraced the world of Web 2.0 in my classroom.  As part of my University of Lethbridge Information Technology Leadership Masters program I had to select an article to summarize and review for a presentation.  I’ve not only been using Web 2.0, but teaching a two week course focusing on Web 2.0 in Dominica.  The article I choose was:

Rosen, D., & Nelson, C. (2008). Web 2.0: A New Generation of Learners and Education. Computers in the Schools, 25, 211-225. Retrieved July 11, 2009, from http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t792303982

It’s a great read about not only Web 2.0, but the further implications of Web 2.0 on students and education in general.

I made a prezi presentation – check it out!

When I geocache with my class, I always try to keep it fresh and interesting to keep them from getting bored, or the activity from getting stale.  One of the best ways is to use interesting and unique geocaching containers.  Here are a few I use, I plan to use, and that I’ve seen in my caching experiences:

1) Camo Tape – I love camo tape – it hides just about anything in a bush. My students have threatened to hide my camo tape!
2) Magnetic Anything – I like the hide a keys, or magnets attached to a micro. Magnetic caches are great in the school yard for hiding caches on playground equipment.
3) Caching Critters – These caches are now around Lethbridge and I can’t wait to use the idea with my kids. They could even be tied to curriculum – have Arctic animals for my arctic unit. Thanks to Geokid for this great idea.
4) Nut and Bolt – very clever caches. The inside is hollowed out leaving space for a small log or clue. Picture from www.crazycaches.com
5) The Log – looks like a log, smells like a log, is a log, with a secret! Thanks to yantski for this great idea.
6) The Rock – I love my fake rock cache. My students have actually picked it up to throw it when they have been frustrated only to find the truth… My fake rock is locked in the school where all the floors are being replaced, so this fake rock is courtesy of gidget_to.
7) Outlet Switch Cover/In a hole (Any clever disguise)- Another very clever idea I’ve adapted to the school yard. A little spray paint to match playground equipment and you have a very hard to find cache. Thanks to Pinky and Mr. Clean for the outlet cover idea and harley hunters for the unique rebar cache.
8 ) Bark – a waterproof match container, or a film cannister, a glue gun, and some bark. Although it was my crafty ways that made this cache, I got the idea from Darkmoon Evil I started with an orange waterproof match container, spray painted it green, then hot glued bark on. The lid even still opens.
9) Sprinkler Head/Drain – Darkmoon Evil has a great drain cache in his photo set, but this sprinkler cache is by goodkid. I’m raiding my dad’s garage this summer to find something similar to make for my kids for next year!
10) Balls – Hollowed out golf balls, tennis balls, and even the old playground balls that don’t hold air anymore. Kids never think to look at something that is usually just laying around. Beware of these caches being muggled by puppy dogs. The tennis ball was easy to make, I’m still pondering on how to turn a golf ball into a cache, but I think it may take a dremmel, half a film canister, and several golf balls to experiment with.