Changing the World for the Better One Microloan at at Time



On November 19th from 1-2pm PST I’m honoured to be joining Bill Ferriter for a Solution Tree Webinar exploring Kiva microloans.

Click the picture above to see our slides and check out the resources that Bill has collated for the event.  Check the @solutiontree twitter feed or the Solution Tree webpage for event details and log-in information: 

Post Script:  to access the slides and resources from this webinar click here:

ISTE Ignite Speech July 2014

This summer I was extremely fortunate to be able to share my learning at the ISTE Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  I gave an Ignite speech entitled, “Today’s Learners are Tomorrow’s Leaders: Social Entrepreneurship in the Classroom” describing the work my students have been doing with Kiva and microloans in developing countries.

I have been so very blessed to have the support of so many extraordinary people.  I would like to thank Steve Mesler for coaching me in writing for public speaking, Dean Shareski for mentoring me in Digital Storytelling and Karen Lirenman for helping me rehearse.  Bill Ferriter deserves an award for his inspiration, hard work, tireless cheer leading and sharing all of his materials.  Jessica Hanson at Kiva was instrumental in providing graphics, slides and technical support from KivaU Headquarters.  And lastly, I would be remiss not to thank my dear #sd36learn crew led by Elisa Carlson for their relentless support and encouragement to take new risks and share my learning.  Thank you to everyone for the ways you have made my path meaningful, I couldn’t have done it without you all!  (or as my pal Bill says, “y’all”!)



ISTE 2014 Initial Reflection- More Questions Than Answers

IMG_1399How can I even begin to write about ISTE?  Short answer? I absolutely loved it.

I drank in every moment of it.  I loved the travel (yes, after living through a plane crash years ago, I can finally say that!), the humidity (goodbye excema, even just for a few days), walking through Olympic Park, seeing the skyline at night, the workshops, Chick fil-A 🙂 visiting the Canadian Consulate, meals shared, memories made…

I need to clarify, though.  ISTE wasn’t just the sessions at the Georgia World Congress Center and being a tourist, it was the late night conversations, the unforgettable breakfasts, connecting with my #sd36learn crew over dinners and laughter, the walks/uber/taxi/MARTA rides to and from the hotel and events, waiting in line for the bathroom at the convention center, and even (yes, even) the expo hall…

For me, ISTE was about the people.

I could try to name all the brilliant people that have played a role in shaping my thinking, but I worry I would leave someone out.   You know may or may not know who you are.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences and building a shared history with me.

Sure, there were things that I simply don’t understand, that confused me, stressed me out and even upset me and made me mad.  But I am extremely grateful to have the experience of being with so many brilliant people who share some of the same ideals and goals that I do.

So here I am at home struggling to find words to describe how I am untangling this experience- trying to reconstruct and put this new learning into my present construct.  Truth be told, I’m a little lost and overwhelmed, but time will help with that.

I’ll try to keep this brief.  Maybe I’ll even come out of the blogging black hole I have been in this year and blast out a post or two more…but for now I’m just trying to figure out what I am even attempting to figure out.

I have so many questions racing around my brain that I am having difficulty even imagining what my classroom will look like in the fall, let alone trying to articulate my learning.  I’ve decided to be more vulnerable than I’m comfortable being and blog about what I am thinking and the questions I have, because my greatest take away from ISTE is that I have a group of people who want to help and support me by engaging in critical conversation.   Feel free to chime in any time, friends 🙂

So here are some questions/ideas that I am wrestling with at the moment:

-Why do we do what we do, what is best for the whole child?  What is fundamental to my professional identity?  Do I stay the course?  Do I change direction?

-Where is my balance in how I approach the weighting of inquiry vs. content?   Is teaching the skills of inquiry (questioning, collaboration, perseverance, critical feedback, communication and more) bigger than teaching the fundamentals of language and numeracy?  How do I marry my belief that practice is important in skill development with my belief that teaching thinking is what kids really need?  How can I integrate skills and processes more?  And what about what I am most passionate about-the arts and creating?

-Why do we use smart boards when a plain old whiteboard will do the same thing? Is technology putting distance and barriers between my students and I?   Am I missing something when I saw all the big name publishers saying their product will make my classroom more ______ (insert latest buzzword here…) and didn’t believe a word they said?

-What about teaching the whole child?  I’m pondering the myriad of qualities I want my students to develop and what I need to do to support my students in the skills and attitudes of being: social-emotional, academic, engaged, kind, generous, gracious, graceful, contributing, appreciating, being present in the moment…when do we lose sight of the basic skills of being happy, content people?

-I am in that uncomfortable space of wanting to know what is the right thing to do for kids and trying to pull it all together-when it isn’t together in my own understanding of tools and processes that will guide a child towards good questioning and inquiry skills…or really, just life skills.

-When are we going to look at tech that addresses the needs of kids with anxiety?  I was looking all over the expo hall for somebody that is the innovator in the field of social/emotional needs in the classroom.  What about something that will help a child to track his/her heart rate and prompt the child to calm, breathe, alter their self talk?  (Kinda like an emotional “fitbit” for kids)  I didn’t find anything that addresses those coping skills and it’s DESPERATELY needed for the kids in my classroom.

Kinda a lot, right?



I’m grateful that ISTE was at the beginning of the summer so that I can have some time to ponder, read and visualize how I will begin to address these questions in my own classroom in the fall.  I need some serious time in the garden to get some thinking done if I’m going to even attempt to have an action plan in time for school to start!

I’m also grateful that I have a brilliant group of friends to reach out to and seek answers with.

And that’s really the best part of ISTE for me.

What questions did your ISTE experience spark in you?

Building my Ignite Talk

I’ve had a few people ask me about my Ignite speech and how I put it together, so I thought I’d write a blog post for anyone who may be considering doing an Ignite talk for the Dinner Series.

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014 I was very humbled and honoured to be able to do an Ignite talk for the Surrey District “Engaging the Digital Learner” Dinner Series.  Two colleagues; Sarah Garr and Sarah Dalzell, a special guest-US Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler and I all presented Ignite talks before the main speaker, Sylvia Martinez gave an inspiring talk about the Maker Movement and her book, “Invent to Learn.”

Here is the link to the recording of the streaming;


The process…

The first thing I did was to reach out to friends who have done an Ignite before-helping teacher Lisa Domeir de Suarez and Karen Lirenman.  Karen and I met over dinner shortly before the winter break and I was able to pick her brain about the logistics of how it worked-20 slides, 15 seconds per slide, did she read notes or memorize, paper notes or on her ipad?  Is it too dark to read note cards, how do you see your slides as you speak…?  Her answer was that she used her ipad and flipped through her presentation as she spoke.  She could see her slides on the screen to her side as she spoke and was able to pace her speaking accordingly.   She gave me the big picture and logistics so I knew where to start.

Lisa recommended the e-book, “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte, which I downloaded (free) on my ipad and read over the holidays.  It’s a remarkable resource and I highly recommend it to anyone who speaks publicly.

Next I met with my #hashtagtrouble girls and in true hashtag style, tossed about some ideas.  This brilliant group of ladies continually challenge me to verbalize my thoughts and defend my ideas, which helps me to solidify my thinking.   For that and for so many other reasons, I am so grateful for their friendship and support.

This year I have been a part of Classroom Champions; a community of classes and teachers paired with Olympic athletes and a fantastic resource for any classroom.   I am proud and honored to be working with Steve Mesler, the co-founder.  When we were planning the logistics of another event, I mentioned to him that I was speaking and he very kindly offered to chat via google hangout and give me some coaching.

Considering that he speaks publicly for a living and has many Ted talks under his belt, I put on my brave, put aside my awe (and hoped desperately that I would be able to speak somewhat intelligently) and jumped at the chance.  After all, how many people get the chance to be coached by an Olympic Gold medalist?   Having a patient expert in my corner made all the difference in the quality of my Ignite talk.

The main take-aways from my chat with Steve Mesler were:

1.  Consider your audience-who are you speaking to?  What do you have to offer them?

2.  What message or main idea do you want the audience to walk away with?  We talked about how my two big ideas could be brought together under one theme, tagline or title.  (After much pondering I later chose, “Building Communities Around Students”)

3.  The best way to communicate is by telling stories.  He said to pick two stories that convey my ideas and tell them.  By telling stories you connect with the audience and establish that you are on the same level as they are and the audience is more likely to remember your talk.

4.  The biggest surprise for me was when Steve shared that the structure of public speaking is very simple:

1.  Tell them what you are going to say

2.  Tell them

3.  Tell them what you told them

It seems so simple, but the elegance is in the simplicity.  With the rapid-fire slide deck and the short time limit, the more direct, the better.

Building the slide deck was a bit of a chicken/egg quandary.  Pick the photos and build the script or find the photo to fit the speech?  I ended up doing a bit of both.  After my chat with Steve I had a really clear idea of the two main ideas I wanted to share.  I selected photos that went with each grouping and then printed them out on paper.   A few of the images had ideas already associated with them, but many of them were generic enough that I could work my ideas into the photo.  As my thoughts became organised, I moved images around (and searched for new ones) to fit my ideas

I was careful to make sure that the writing on the slide images was minimal because if the audience is reading your slide, they aren’t listening to your words.  The first slide with the quote from Bill Ferriter I read aloud for that reason.

Once I got my slides together and the words to go with each slide (3-5 sentences at the most is what I recommend) I sent the Powerpoint to Lisa and Steve for feedback.  I also had the guidance and tech wisdom of Kevin Amboe on my side to help with the timing and rehearsing in Powerpoint.

Karen also did one very special thing for me.  The day before the talk she sent me a message on Facebook and said that the hardest part for her was just before she spoke.  Once she started everything was fine.  I knew where Karen was sitting that evening, so as I got up to speak I looked her way.  She caught my gaze and gave me the biggest smile and two thumbs up.   That small act of kindness helped me to remain focused and likely stopped me from throwing up on my shoes.

Now that I have gone through the Ignite forge, I am happy to help out any #sd36learn folks who are considering speaking at the Dinner Series-just drop me an e-mail.  It’s a real challenge to refine big ideas into a five-minute talk.  I feel it has made me a better presenter in longer workshop-type sessions and I look forward to transferring these new skills to future presentations.

Finally, I am completely grateful to all of my caring, critical friends who supported my learning in this adventure.  My wish in presenting was to honour Bill Ferriter, Dean Shareski, the amazing folks at Kiva, Steve Mesler and Classroom Champions for all of the opportunities they have given my students and I because they shared themselves with the world.   Thank you to Elisa Carlson, Kevin Amboe and the IML team for encouraging me to present and giving me the opportunity to share my learning!

At the end of the night with Steve Mesler and Robyn Thiessen

Resources for my Ignite Presentation January 15, 2014

Here are some links to more information about Kiva and Classroom Champions.


@kiva on Twitter

KivaU-site for students and educators.  The educator site has links to K-12 and post secondary lesson plans (which are fabulous!)

My blog posts about Kiva

Bill Ferriter’s Wiki on Microloans with lesson plans and tons of information:

Bill Ferriter’s Blog:  @plugusin on Twitter

Kristen Goggin’s blog (she’s a math teacher in an all boys middle school who uses Kiva as a huge part of her math program.  Check out her blog, its fabulous!)  @gogogoggin on Twitter

Inspiring folks from the Kiva family:

Jonathan’s blog about his walk across America to raise awareness for Kiva: @kivawalk on Twitter

Jake of Nuru International-profoundly inspiring story and truly making progress in the fight against global poverty @iamnuru on Twitter

Bob Harris-author of “The International Bank of Bob” amongst other amazing achievements  @bobharrisdotcom on Twitter

There are so many other amazing people and resources for Kiva.  I will add to the list as I have time.


Classroom Champions

@classroomchamps on twitter

Steve Mesler


I have a blog post about Classroom Champions in the works, I’ll post it here when it is finished.

Feel free to contact me for further information about Kiva or Classroom Champions, I can point you in the right direction 🙂