Axe Throwing with my PLN

photo via Olympia Aquatics (
photo via Olympia Aquatics (

We had an impromptu sleep over last night with 4 fifteen year old boys who play soccer together. As I was making coffee, I was dreading going outside to clean up the backyard after their midnight swim. When I sat at my kitchen table to enjoy my coffee and survey what had to be done in the backyard I noticed that the boys had already cleaned up the yard. I was pleased…then not pleased. I was not pleased at myself for assuming that 4 teenage boys were going to leave a mess behind them.

Assumptions are not based on fact but from personal experience from only a single viewpoint. So where did my assumption come from? As I reflected on this I recognized it was from my experiences in the classroom. After the bell signals the end of the period I usually walk around the room to see if anything needs tidying up. I often find textbooks, calculators, wrappers, and often they are where the boys were seated. Did the forgetting of textbooks and littering create my mindset that all teenage boys are forgetful and messy? Sure some are, but the word “all” is the problem. I was painting the boys in my backyard with the same brush as a few of the boys in my classroom. Do students assume things about teachers?

As a teacher, I am also aware that students sometimes forget we are regular people too. When I see them at the grocery store or the mall there is always a sense of shock to see me outside of school. There is even a greater shock when you tell them things like how you spent the weekend riding your motorcycle or going axe throwing with your friends.

axeYes, axe throwing is a real thing and tonight I will be going for the second time with teachers from my Professional Learning Network (PLN). I am not sure why I find this uniquely Canadian activity so satisfying. But I do blame Jane, Herman, and Andrea for introducing me to it. It would be safe to assume that this is not a normal activity for “teachers”, but, it is a lot of fun and a fantastic team builder. Twelve members of my PLN are getting together later today to go to BATL Grounds to learn axe throwing. It is very different than how we typically spend our time talking about education and how to better prepare students. However, during this activity we get to laugh at each other, have some competition, and spend time together learning a new skill. It gives us an opportunity to see each other as regular people doing something that others might think of as silly.

I guess it is time to lose the assumption that all teenage boys are messy and that teachers only talk about teaching. There is one assumption I am keeping…teenage boys are always hungry.

Tech and Teachers

While scrolling through Twitter I came across this tweet from David Warlick (@dwarlick):

It got me thinking about changes in “edtech”. Over the past decade I have attending various conferences and I have noticed a steady change in the content of the presentations. What I am most impressed by is how educators who have embrace “edtech” have moved away from gadgets and doodads and have shifted to looking at technology to innovate education. In other words, my colleagues are not just looking for the next shiny new tool to try out. Instead, they are trying to improve their teaching by taking a pedagogical sound approach to learning. Only then are they trying to find the right “edtech” tool to enhance the experience for students. Sometimes the tool might be a new mobile app, while at other times, it is the use of coloured pencils and chart paper.

To me it looks like teachers are moving away from the shiny new gadget and are instead looking at these tools with the same critical eye we look at chalk or whiteboard markers. The questions about “edtech” tools have also changed from, “How do I fit this into my lesson?” to “Will this help my student to learn?” It is becoming less about the “latest and greatest” and more about how “edtech” enhances the learning experience.

Back to conferences. I have really notice a shift here in Ontario. At a recent conference, the majority of the sessions I attended where facilitated by Ontario educators for whom the pedagogy came first. As the sessions progressed, the “edtech” was demonstrated and explained to the audience while at the same time continually tied back to sound pedagogy. At the same conference I was left feeling puzzled at the end of a keynote that mostly consisted of a list of “edtech” tools. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have done these same presentations, but that was almost a decade ago when “edtech” was still in its infancy. I did not expect it from high profile speakers.

I continue to be amazed at the quality of speakers at Ontario education conferences. Congratulations to all the Ontario educators out there who are modernizing student learning from a factory model to a problem solving model that is more inline with a technological age. I look forward to learning from you at the next conference.