Team Canada 2009

The time in Brazil was fantastic.  We were treated like absolute royalty (which suits my princess tendencies just fine) and the people on the Canadian team were fantastic.  We had 10 innovative teacher projects and 1 innovative school (Check out their project here)  It was by far the largest delegation.  I do not want to be ungrateful for the opportunity presented, but there are a a few glaring differences in the Canadian Innovative Teacher process.  Last spring through back channels and word of mouth my colleague Darlene received information about the Innovative Teachers program.  The Canadian regional lead works out of  Eastern Canada and the program is much more widely known in New Brunswick.  In fact 7 were from New Brunswick (all fantastic, inspiring people).  Nathan Toft learned of the program through a tweet on twitter.  It is not widely advertised or promoted.  When I tried to search for it on the web all I found were broken links and cryptic blog posts.  The Canadian projects had to use 1 of 4 programs/resources (Marvin, OneNote, Learning Essentials, or the Zune ).  I think this in itself really limits innovation and what can achieved by teachers.  I’m not sure how many applications there were, but 10 were selected to be implemented.

The idea is you apply in the spring, and complete the project in the fall, scrambling to get done for mid to the end of October.  I would have loved to be able to submit a project that I had been working on for a while and that had demonstrated success and innovation with students.  My work with GPS would have been a great fit, and I love to share it.  We didn’t get the Marvin software until the end of August and my tech department scrambled to get everything installed, running, and to troubleshoot the ongoing saga of audio issues.  They have been fantastic throughout the entire journey, and I owe much of my success to them.  I honestly don’t even know if they read my blog, but what you see here is always supported and made so much better with their encouragement.  I tend to get a bit excited (I know…shocking) and will jump right into things without always looking at all perspectives, they moderate me well – even if it frustrates me at times.

This gave us a two months to learn Marvin and use it with the students.  In early October we had to submit a proof of concept.  The idea was then the Canadian finalists would be selected from there.  Often Canadian projects are showcased at the Asia Pacific Innovative Teachers Forum, but this year it was the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum in Salvador, Brazil.  With a stroke of luck, combined with a deal on airline tickets, all of the 10 Canadian projects were invited to go to Brazil.

This meant in the last two weeks of October we had to complete our Project VCT (which we hadn’t even heard about until then), poster, get a travel Visa (oh my what a headache), and plan for a week away from the kids.  Busy – but absolutely worth it!

Out of the 10 Canadian projects, 6 of us were using Marvin.  This led to what seemed like many great ideas that ended up grouped together.  Two of the Canadians were selected as semi-finalists.  They picked the right two.  George’s project, having at risk youth created public service announcements with the mayor of Bathhurst on Marvin, and Genevieve’s work using OneNote to help motivate and organize students with Dyslexia, were innovative and inspiring.

We were using Marvin (with a bit of OneNote and Learning Essentials thrown in for good measure).  Marvin is a program I have learned to love and hate all in the same breath.  The potential is fantastic, but it is still in its early stages with many bugs to be worked out.  Yesterday as I was using it with my students we would have to ignore avatars that gave us script errors and restart frequently.  The great part of the program is introducing students to a script based programming environment where they can develop a list of commands to achieve a goal.  Read more about our project here.

That’s the scoop on the Canadian Innovative Educators experience.  Although it is a different process it exposed me to Marvin. allowed many Canadian educators to share their innovation and learn about the innovation of others, and the people I’ve met will continue to influence my teaching practice.