Sunday, July 15, 2018

PhD Studies and Candidacy: Is There Life After Coursework?

On June 28, I completed the final course of my PhD program.  Every institution and every department within an institution has their own unique requirements for coursework and the candidacy process, and I've learned that the next step isn't revealed until I'm almost done the previous one. So what have I been up to lately and what is happening next? Lots of people have been asking, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to explaining the candidacy process in Curriculum and Instruction at University of Victoria!
First of all, doctoral students in Curriculum and Instruction are required to take four courses: two required (Discourses of Education and Advanced Research Methodologies) and two electives that can be outside the department and even the faculty.  My supervisor completed her PhD at UBC where the course requirements are a lot heavier, and she believed that I would be more successful with a broader knowledge base.  And she was totally correct--I feel like I lost a lot between my Master's degree and my doctoral program, AND I pay the same tuition if I take two courses or four courses at a time! As a result, I completed seven courses instead of four: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives of Child and Youth Care, Curriculum as Discourse, Global Education, a cross-departmental research internship, Gender and Leadership, plus the two required courses.

So while I was taking my courses, I was a PhD or doctoral student. Now that my courses have come to an end, I have started candidacy exams to hopefully embark on the next stage of my program.  If I am successful, I will become a PhD candidate who has demonstrated the theoretical knowledge and research skills necessary to begin my own program of research. So what does candidacy involve? If you follow me on social media, you probably saw my exhausted and overwhelmed posts from the library, coffeehouses, and my little apartment in the last couple of weeks. I pretty much lived on popcorn and wore my fuzzy robe all the time...except when I went to yoga or the left the house. Candidacy is the hardest thing that I've ever done in my's the breakdown:

1) First step is to form a committee: a committee consists of your supervisor, another faculty member from the same department, and someone from a different department or faculty at UVic.  I have three people on my committee at the moment, and the third member is from the psychology department. I believe that a fourth member will be added down the road who will serve as my external examiner when I defend my dissertation.

2) Submit a candidacy proposal: this is a 5-10 page paper that outlines the direction of my future research.  It includes an introduction, rationale, significance of my research, theoretical framework, research design, and review of the literature. It is really hard to fit all of that into ten pages, but we are encouraged to be succinct at the PhD level, or "parsimonious" as the Dean of Education says! My candidacy proposal was hugely challenging. All year I had planned to research community and family experiences of project-based learning in early years. but my supervisor felt that this might be limiting for my future prospects...and it wasn't aligned with the funding priorities for Canada's big research council that funds research. I knew that she was totally right of course, but it meant a switch in topics this spring. I'd spent the whole year amassing literature on project-based learning and diving deep into the topic. When we decided to change my topic, it was like starting from the beginning a month before candidacy started. My new topic investigates how technology is being used with young children in rural and urban Manitoba as well as teacher purpose for using technology. This area is another huge passion of mine and I have a lot of practical experience, but I had no idea about the body of research out there.

3) Present the candidacy proposal: I submitted my candidacy proposal on June 25 and my committee had about ten days to review it. On July 5, I met with the three members of my committee. I gave an informal presentation about my proposal that lasted about 25 minutes, then they asked me questions for another 25 minutes. Answering questions from three experienced researchers was very intimidating; however, I really felt like all my years of teaching and presenting had prepared me for this moment. Based on my proposal, they decided that I was ready to begin the candidacy process. I really wasn't sure if they would accept my proposal or not, because it just seemed so last minute and thrown together--although I worked really hard on it, I felt like I didn't have a handle on my new topic or the research design. But as my supervisor reassured me after the meeting, everyone feels exactly like that (or else she's just really nice).

4) The first question: after I left, my committee met and decided on two questions for me. One question is about research design and the other one focuses on theory and a literature review. I received my first question on Friday, July 6, which meant I had exactly one week to write and submit a 20-25 page paper answering my question. My supervisor is no longer allowed to help me as now is the time for me to demonstrate strong and independent academic work.
My research process is a messy one 
My first question focused on my research design (case study). So for an entire week I immersed myself in case study research design. And, I couldn't just write about my thoughts and opinions...every idea needed to be substantiated by existing research or the writings of case study scholars. Unfortunately case study is kind of airy-fairy (Is it a methodology or a method or none of the above? Oh wait, maybe it's all of the above?!) with lots of opinions about how it should be done, so it was really difficult to figure it all out for myself. I actually thought about case study nearly every moment of every day and I dreamed about it too. I researched all weekend and Monday, then started writing on Tuesday. On Thursday night, I wrote until nearly 3 am, then got up the next morning, finished the paper, and edited it.  Academic writing requires a particular style--in education, I have to write and cite references in APA format which is the pickiest, fussiest thing in the world. For my final proofread, I read all 23 pages out loud and actually started crying when I got to the conclusion (dramatic, sleep-deprived, super stressed out...all of the above).
I submitted my paper just in time for happy hour on Friday. Now my committee has two weeks to review it, and I will either pass and be given my second question, or I might be required to edit it and re-submit it, or I just might fail if they decide that I don't demonstrate a thorough enough understanding of case study. I don't know what will happen. All I know is that I did my absolute best work and that I couldn't have worked harder. If it's not good enough, it's not good enough. If I pass this question, I will receive my second question in two weeks and I'll have another week to produce a 20-25 page paper that I anticipate focuses on theory and the relevant literature.

So what am I doing for the next two weeks? Hanging out on the beach and doing lots of yoga? Well, I'll probably go to yoga everyday, but I have a new task right now. I'm applying for a research grant from SSHRCC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) which is a big's unlikely that I will receive one as a first-year PhD student, but it's worth a try I guess.

If I pass both questions, I will defend my candidacy in a formal presentation and question session. If I make it through that, I will officially be a PhD candidate! It seems like a long way away, and I'm not confident in my ability to make it through all these challenges. I'm trying hard to only think about my current task, otherwise it just seems really overwhelming. When I move back to Manitoba, I'm returning to Oak Lake Community School to teach Senior Kindergarten every other day. The rest of my time will hopefully be dedicated to writing my ethics application and research proposal.

This first year has been a time of huge growth both professionally and personally (read more about my first term here and here), and it's far from over. I'm looking at another year to get ready to conduct research, a year to collect data, and then at least another year or two of data analysis and dissertation-writing and editing. Stay tuned--with some luck and a lot of hard work, I hope to be planning a huge graduation party in about four years!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Gender: What Teachers and School Leaders of Young Children Need to Know

Since I began a class on gender and leadership with Dr. Catherine McGregor, I realized that I knew very little about gender development in young children.  Our discussions, readings, and guest speakers encouraged me to examine my kindergarten classroom practice, and I realized that I was not creating a truly gender-inclusive learning environment for my little people.  When we were given the opportunity to do a choice project for our final assignment, I knew that investigating gender in young children was really important for me.  This past year, I have spent a lot of time in early years classrooms around Victoria, and it is clear to me that I'm not the only teacher who is uninformed.  With a desire to share research, statistics, and resources and ideas for wise practices, I chose to develop a presentation, podcast, and this blog post for teachers and school leaders of young children.

Since I am still learning about gender in young children and exploring the literature and resources, this presentation (available upon request), blog post, and podcast are far from complete.  I'm sure that I've made some mistakes and missed out important information and ideas.  Please accept my apologies if anything I've said or written is offensive as that was never my intent.  Instead, this is my effort to begin a conversation, pique other educators' interest, and make changes to classroom practice to improve education for ALL children.

Kindergarten Diva Podcast
Take 20 minutes to get a quick overview of what you need to know and what you can start doing now to create a gender-inclusive classroom!  This podcast is available on iTunes and Google Play, or you can listen right here.

Manitoba Government Resources
Manitoba Education and Training document, Supporting Transgender and Gender Diverse Students in Manitoba Schools 

The Every Teacher Project on LGBTQ-Inclusive Education in Canada's K-12 Schools 
-see pages 3-8 for a glossary of important terms

Transgender People in Ontario, Canada: Statistics from the Trans PULSE Project to Inform Human Rights Policy 

BEING SAFE, BEING ME:Results of the CanadianTrans Youth Health Survey 

Gender Identity and Young Children: Information from the Canadian Paediatric Society 

Healthy Gender Development and Young Children: A Guide for Early Childhood Programs and Professionals

Responding to Children's Questions on LGBTQ Topics 

Building a library of anti-bias children's books
Ideas from Brightly
Ideas from Huffington Post

Institute for Humane Education and Welcoming Schools: ideas for lessons/learning experiences

Gender Creative Kids of Canada: a wealth of information and resources, as well as opportunities to connect with other families and service providers

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Coffee House Chronicles, Part 1: Victoria's Best Cafes for Working and Studying

Until last fall, I was the girl who ran into Starbucks, grabbed my mobile order, and continued on in my busy day. Unless I was travelling, I seldom worked in coffee shops or paid close attention to the atmosphere and amenities. That all changed when I moved to Victoria and became a PhD student living in a tiny studio apartment...with a piano player on the floor above me. Suddenly, it became imperative to find that perfect coffee house with delicious lattes, a cool vibe, and a great work space. This series of blog posts features some of my work/study picks from Victoria's buzzing coffee house scene. I've evaluated each cafe on appearance and atmosphere, work space, and coffee/food. Hopefully this guide will lead you to your new mobile office...a place where the latte art is creative, the wifi is strong, and you feel productive and inspired!

Hide and Seek Coffee, 2207 Oak Bay Avenue, Victoria
Oak Bay is such a charming neighbourhood!
Appearance and Atmosphere 
Located in a brick building with high ceilings and large windows, Hide and Seek Coffee packs a big aesthetic appeal. The decor is minimalist with lots of white and light wood, accented with artistically arranged shelving with coffee and various merchandise for sale. The coffee bar is long and white and everything looks sparkling clean. Music selections were great--singer-songwriter, folk-inspired, and some 1960s Beatles-sounding tunes added to the ambiance. And when you throw in that this coffee house is located in the incredibly charming Oak Bay neighbourhood, you have a winner for sure.
Beautifully arranged merchandise

Barista Kelsey behind the long coffee bar
Work Space
There are a variety of tables and seating options available, with power outlets located under some of the tables. Natural light floods the space, and wifi is available. This intimate yet uncrowded coffee house is definitely a pleasant space to work!
Lots of natural light here
Coffee and Food
I wasn't hungry, but I did notice that they have homemade pop-tarts and vegan/gluten-free selections. My latte was excellent, made with non-fat milk and house-made vanilla syrup, which was their only flavour. It was served in a nice cup with terrific latte art. Worthy of noting: although they don't roast their own beans, they serve coffee from local roasters such as Fantastico and Fernwood.

Overall Impression
I'll definitely return here--it's near my apartment and meets all my requirements for a great work space. The barista who served me (Kelsey) was super friendly and took time to explain where they source their coffee, provided recommendations for other coffee houses to visit, and encouraged me to return on Sunday for their famous waffle features. The only negatives were the lack of latte flavours and limited outdoor seating (only a bench and a couple of stools, no tables).

Habit Coffee (The Atrium), 808 Yates Street, Victoria

Appearance and Atmosphere
Habit Coffee is big on visual impact, and I was impressed from the moment I spied their Yates Street location. Massive curving windows flood the space with natural light and provide a panoramic view of the bustling action on busy Yates Street. There's also a sunny patio with flowers and numerous tables, as well as a fantastic courtyard space available for customers' use. Wow!

The decor includes natural wood, rugged stainless steel, exposed concrete, and chalkboard menus, giving a chic industrial look. Music selections added to the ambiance. Habit Coffee rates high on appearance and atmosphere!
Open, airy, and lots of natural light 

This adjacent courtyard is beautiful! Wow! 

Work Space
The abundance of natural light and different seating options lend themselves nicely to a productive work space. This is a great place to pass the time with a book or a sip a coffee and watch the world go by. Unfortunately it is not well-suited to anyone who requires wifi or power outlets, as there is a dearth of both. I'm drafting this post tethered to my iPhone. Definitely a disappointment....but now that I know this, I would choose Habit for tasks not requiring wifi (or get access from one of the other businesses nearby). And sometimes not having internet access keeps me more focused on the task at hand!
Great views and many seating options, but NO WIFI! 
Coffee and Food
Similar to Hide and Seek, the only flavoured latte available was a vanilla latte. My latte was beautifully crafted with terrific latte art, and served in a clear glass with no handle, evoking memories of Europe. It was a delicious latte and reasonably priced at $4.50.  Habit Coffee brews Bow and Arrow products from a local roaster and stocks Phillips' sodas as well. There was a tempting selection of food, and the lemon-lavender muffin definitely caught my eye--something to look forward to on a future visit.

Overall Impression
This place is big and beautiful with huge aesthetic appeal, and the sunny patio is a nice bonus. I would definitely return, but having to pay for street parking and no wifi or power outlets are disadvantages that would impact my decision to work here. All in all, Habit Coffee is highlight of the Victoria coffee scene!

Tre Fantastico at Parkside Hotel and Spa, 810 Humboldt Street, Victoria
Appearance and Atmosphere
Located in Parkside Hotel and Spa, Tre Fantastico is a coffee house on steroids...a cafe as well as a lounge with great eats. The actual interior space is quite small--the main room contains the coffee bar where you order and a handful of tables, connected to a second room by a hallway. There are more seating options in here with some cool modern art on the walls. All of this is quite nice, but the decor isn't the reason I'm obsessed with this place--it's the fantastic outdoor patio and the hotel lobby and conservatory area that patrons can access. The patio is shaded with beautiful greenery, and I love looking up from my screen or book to rest my eyes on the historic St. Ann's Convent in the distance.
A great spot to take a break from studying 

The hotel lobby is incredibly inviting, with a variety of seating options, including a glassed-in conservatory space. When I'm craving warmth and natural light on cooler days, it is so pleasant to work in here under the mini lights by the fish pond. Lastly, there are really nice bathrooms to use with high-end hand soap and lotion. What I did learn was that you CAN'T take your wine into the lobby area, but non-alcoholic drinks are allowed!
A nice variety of seating options in the hotel lobby 

A fish pond...such a tranquil spot to read 
Work Space
Tre Fantastico (the cafe space) is a lovely spot to read or work on a laptop. The wifi is strong, and you can work on your laptop outside if you choose a shaded spot. The only disadvantage is a lack of power outlets--I only found one on a quick inspection, so make sure your devices are fully charged before you arrive. The hotel lobby and conservatory is better suited to reading, as there are no tables (other than coffee tables) to put your device on, and they are the wrong height for computer work. I have happily worked here for hours, and I always found it a functional space and enjoyable experience.

Coffee and Food
There are three Cafe Fantastico locations in the city, and Fantastico has been sourcing and roasting their own coffee beans for 25 years (according to the friendly barista). The caramel lattes are excellent here with lovely latte art, and so is the food. I love their Morning Glory muffins, and the cookies and scones look great too. For heartier fare, I've only ever had the breakfast sandwich (which was delicious) but the food I've seen around me has looked very tempting too.
Caramel latte and a Morning Glory muffin...mmmm!
For later in the day (or not....), alcoholic beverages are a really nice option. Victoria craft beers, BC wines, and a variety of spirits are available, and there is a twice-daily happy hour (5-6 pm and 8-9 pm) with discounted prices.

Overall Impression
Tre Fantastico packs a big punch with the combination of great food and drinks and gorgeous physical spaces. This is one of my favourite places to work and study in Victoria, made even nicer by the fact that I can stroll through St. Ann's to Beacon Hill Park for a break whenever I need one!

And there you have first three reviews of some of Victoria's best coffee houses. Stay tuned for another post in this series, and I'd love your feedback on where I should visit next. Please share your ideas in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Simple Ideas for a Successful Junior Kindergarten Program

Lucky you! You get to teach Junior Kindergarten! Four year-olds are so much fun, and not that much different from five year-olds. If you are teaching a multi-age Junior and Senior Kindergarten program, you'll find that most four and five-year olds fit together beautifully.  I've taught Senior Kindergarten since 2008, and variations of stand-alone and combined Junior and Senior Kindergarten since 2010, and I absolutely love it. Here's what I've learned along the way about routines, resources, and activities to develop your program!
Four year-olds are so much fun!
Developing smooth arrival procedures makes everyone's day better. I photograph all the steps in arriving in the classroom and create a PowerPoint presentation which we review on a daily basis. As the different slides appear, students complete that task if they haven't done so. I also photograph all the students in the classroom and make a second PowerPoint where we practice our friends' names every morning. Within a couple of weeks, most students are secure in routines and know their friends' names.

To ease separation anxiety (which can be a reality for four year-olds), I recommend a fun and engaging activity at drop-off/arrival time. Encourage parents to say a quick goodbye, as lingering only delays the inevitable tears. I suggest starting your day (or afternoon) with free play in the classroom or discovery learning activities--that way your kiddos are immediately immersed in something they love.
Who can resist spray-painting snow?
How to Start the Day with Discovery Learning 
Begin by teaching the routine of hanging up coat and backpack, handing in clipboard/agenda, putting on indoor shoes, then going to a table to explore and interact with the materials. Discovery learning can target literacy, numeracy, art exploration, as well as science and social studies concepts. Some teachers try to have one tub/tray from each curricular area each week for a total of 4-5 tubs/trays. Discovery learning is play-based, hands on, and promotes inquiry. Learn more here and check out these fantastic ideas on Pinterest.

The start of the year is a great time to begin discovery learning with simple fine motor activities to strengthen the hand skills of your learners—very important for the increasing demands for printing we place on Grade 1 students. See this post to learn more about fine motor activities that are open-ended and encourage exploration. Make time to develop Junior Kindergarten students' fine motor skills--it's a priority at this age.   
Developing fine motor skills as well as an understanding of how secondary colours are created
Once a discovery learning routine is established, activities can become more complex. As a teacher, you can spend the time observing students, capturing evidence of learning through photographs and voice recordings, and taking anecdotal notes. You might choose to position yourself at one discovery tray or roam around the room. I highly recommend Microsoft OneNote to organize all that information—create a page for each student, and you’ll have a wealth of data by report card time. Microsoft OneNote is available across platforms (app and web-based). 

It is imperative that four and five year-olds have an uninterrupted block of free play.  In my classroom, we end the day with nearly 60 minutes of playtime (as recommended by the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada...check out this statement). It is everyone's favourite time of the day. The students and I co-create a variety of play activities based on their interests and I provide literacy and numeracy materials to support the play. Based on what I observe during play time, I teach relevant mini-lessons to move the play forward and develop important new skills. I often pick one student to observe during play, taking notes and capturing images. This yields a wealth of assessment data! Here's an example of what play-based learning might look like in Junior Kindergarten.
Simple materials such as these plastic cups are a popular activity during free play.
Curriculum and Program Development
Don't be alarmed, but there is no formal curriculum for Junior Kindergarten in Manitoba, as JK is not a provincially recognized program. Let me explain my way of thinking about teaching and learning in JK.
-I use the provincial Kindergarten curriculum to guide my instruction in JK with the idea that four year-olds have two years to become proficient in the outcomes
-the recent provincial Kindergarten support document, A Time for Learning, A Time for Joy, is an excellent resource to plan your program
-these documents are also great resources for guiding children's behavior and program development
-opportunities for play-based, inquiry-based, and project-based learning are vitally important and should focus on the students' interests. This has replaced teacher-developed themes in my classroom.
-Kindergarten students (JK/SK) should spend a very limited amount of time on worksheets/workbooks. I include a little bit in my program to strengthen hand skills and prepare them for Grade 1.
-since there are no provincial outcomes for JK students, I regard it as a year to "get what they can". The goal of my JK program is to develop early literacy, numeracy, social, and motor skills. If you are teaching a multi-age JK/SK program, all students participate in all whole-class learning experiences with different activities for learners depending on their level. We are one learning community.
-I work closely with my speech-language pathologist (co-teaching if we can) to strengthen phonological awareness--so important for early literacy!
-just like SK, children come to us at all different points, and it is our job to help them move forward on their learning journey. Some kids will leave Junior Kindergarten knowing all their letters and sounds, others will leave knowing just a few--and both cases are completely acceptable!
-however, that child with very emergent skills will certainly be on my radar very early in the year when he/she begins Senior Kindergarten. And, if I think there is a deeper issue, I will refer to clinical services as soon as possible in Junior Kindergarten.
Connecting with another classroom via Skype as part of a project-based learning experience  
Sample Schedule
8:20-8:25: arrival
8:25-8:45: breakfast snack and discovery learning materials are available, children eat at the circle if they are interested. Discovery learning activities focus on sensory and fine motor development at the start of the year and gradually include literacy, numeracy, and science.
8:45-9 am: morning meeting (reviewing routines and students' names/attendance, counting, songs/poems)
9-9:55 am: whole class learning time (inquiry or project-based, relevant mini-lessons based on play, etc).
-we spend 15 minutes doing Letterland or phonological awareness activities during this block.
-Handwriting Without Tears activities once a week
9:55-10:10: outdoor recess with entire school
10:10-10:30: story time and snack
10:30-11:20: free play, often with an art activity available for students who are interested
-if the gym is available, we might play in the gym for 15 minutes
-we might play outdoors, weather conditions permitting
11:20-11:30: clean up, goodbye song at circle, home time
Creating a menu for the classroom restaurant 
Assessing and Reporting
There are no formal reporting requirements in JK. However, I maintain frequent communication with families through texting, face-to-face conversations, and social media. Since our JK students only attend 0.25, I feel that it is premature to write a report card in November. I invite families to join me for a conference if they are interested or if I have concerns. Otherwise, I write a one-page report card in March. I use a scale to evaluate learning and social behaviors (secure, developing, not yet), then comment anecdotally on strengths and areas to develop,

My comments are based on ongoing pedagogical narrations that include conversations with the child, observations (including photos/videos), and work samples he/she has produced. As previously mentioned, I organize all of this in Microsoft OneNote. More information on pedagogical narration is available in this resource from University of Victoria.

Additional Resources
Ministry of Education, Ontario: this province offers full-time Junior and Senior Kindergarten to all children in the province. Here is their guiding document on Kindergarten.

Junior Kindergarten is a unique and special time in a child's life...enjoy every minute of learning with these fun little people!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Yoga and Digital Tools in Healthy Communities

I'm excited to present at the 2018 Child and Youth Care Conference (CYCABC) in Vancouver tomorrow (Sway presentation available here).  Lately I seem to spend a lot of time reading and discussing project-based learning in early childhood settings, so I'm looking forward to sharing about one of my other!  Since I became a certified yoga teacher in September 2015, I have taught adult and children's yoga classes, as well as integrated yoga into my kindergarten classroom practice and work as a resource teacher.
There is a large body of research on yogic practices and their impacts on physical and mental health, as well as emerging research on how yoga can support immunity, sleep, and addiction treatment.  In recent years, yoga has been hailed as a panacea to "cure whatever ails you", but it is important for professionals to be very intentional in their use of yoga in clinical and classroom settings.  In many cases, yogic practices offer documented benefits, in other cases more research needs to be done, and in some, the effect is negligible.  When using yogic practices with children, it is also important to be cognizant of the views and beliefs of families.  Some families are uncomfortable and/or opposed to their child participating in any form of yoga--clear communication is a must!
For me, yoga is a vital support to my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.  Since I began a daily yoga practice over three years ago, I am more flexible with better balance than I have ever been in my entire life.  I generate more innovative and creative thoughts and higher-quality work following a session on my fact, some of my best ideas for PhD assignments have popped into my head during savasana.  When I am upset, time on my mat helps me process big emotions and deal with my feelings in a more deliberate and positive way.  Spiritually, yoga helps me connect to myself, my community, and the belief that there is so much more than what is visible to the eye.     

Yoga Resources from My Blog

The Beginner's Guide to Yoga in the Classroom 

Teacher Wellness Series
Simple Tips and Free Resources to Start Your Yoga Practice
What Teachers Do When They're Sick
Morning Rituals to Start Your Day Off Right 
Four Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

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?
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

1) The Accidental Creative
2) The One Thing (absolutely love Episode 42 with Angela Duckworth on grit)

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.