From Moscow With Love

 

My eyes fill up with tears as I say goodbye to Anna who is also crying. We clasp hands and promise to stay in touch: she, inviting me to her family home by the Black Sea: me, inviting her to Toronto for a Canadian experience. We hug and reluctantly let each other go. As I walk through the doors I turn around and we give each other a final wave, smiling and blowing kisses.

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(My beautiful and gracious guide, Anna Komarovaaa)

Five days ago we met for the first time when I landed at the Moscow airport. She was assigned to be my “guide” to help me navigate Moscow and to be my translator for the duration of my stay. I was invited to the Moscow Global Forum to present a session on Sketchnoting, along with 47 other international speakers.

It was the trip of the lifetime. I fell in love with Moscow; its culture and its people, and I made many new international connections and friends. As I sit at the Moscow airport ready to board my flight home, I reflect on how magical this Russian experience was.

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(Photo credit Vladimir Fofanov)

  1. The city

Moscow is, beyond a doubt, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. There is breathtaking architecture, huge boulevards, many statues and parks, the Moskva River which winds its way through the city, the magnificent Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, and many charming pedestrian-only cobblestones streets like the famous Arbat Street.

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(Image source)

I was astonished with the vastness of the streets, buildings and monuments. The Russians clearly like to do things in a big way!

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(Statue of Vladimir the Great)

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(Russian State Library)

I was also struck with the cleanliness of the city. Early in the morning an army of cleaners descend on the streets, picking up garbage and sweeping by hand every piece of garbage in sight.

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(Street cleaners arriving in the early morning)

The morning after I arrived, I went for a long walk along the Moskva River all the way to the famous Gorky Park.

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The city is great for walking, with many underground tunnels that go under the wide boulevards which allows for the traffic to flow more freely throughout the city. Even so, the traffic jams in Moscow are epic and I was surprised to see so few cyclists. I saw a beautiful bicycle path along the river, but in general there seems to be a shortage of bicycle paths in the city. However, the subway system is one of the best in the world, with 200 stations bringing millions of Muscovites in and out of the city every day.

subway2. The food

Russian food includes much smoked fish and meat, fresh vegetables and fruit, hearty bread and delicious cheeses. I particularly like the traditional dishes like borscht, dumplings, and caviar with pancakes and sour cream. The Russians serve many courses in a formal meal and we had to learn to pace ourselves so as to leave room for all of the courses. Our hosts told us that in Russia, it is considered polite to leave food on your plate because it indicates to your host that they served a sufficient amount of food. This was certainly not a problem for us as every meal we were served was humongous! (Click here to learn more about food etiquette in Russia.)

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3. The conference

The inaugural Moscow Global Forum was one of the best organized conferences I have ever attended, with 20,000 delegates. The highlight of for me was participating in a Question and Answer session where we were able to share our areas of expertise with the audience in  mini-sessions of 10 minutes. The moderator had prepared many excellent questions to keep the discussion moving at a fast pace. These sessions gave us a chance to get to know the other presenters and to ask them questions about their outstanding work. Another highlight for me was getting to meet Luis Von Ahn (creator of Recaptcha and Duolingo) after his keynote. Read more here about his brilliant idea to help digitize books through crowd-sourcing the word recognition feature in Recaptcha.

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4. The excursions

Our hosts treated us like royalty as soon as we arrived in Moscow, greeting us at the airport and organizing and accompanying us on many excursions during our stay. We were each assigned a personal guide to facilitate our trip and to make us feel welcome in Moscow. These guides were delightful young students or recent graduates who were hired for the conference.

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My first excursion was to School No. 627. I had missed seeing the full school day in action but was able to visit the after school program: small classes engaged in various after school activities. It was a happy, welcoming atmosphere and the students were excited to try out their English on me.

 

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Over the next two days our group had two walking tours: one of central Moscow and the other one of The Kremlin. It was obvious that our guides had tremendous pride in their city and they were extremely knowledgeable about the history of Moscow, spanning 870 years. The information was a little overwhelming, but I was glad to learn about the many wars, fires, and religious and political transformations the city has been through.

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The Moscow Fire of 1812 (Image source)

There is a vast number of museums in Moscow. We visited the Tretyakov Gallery to see an astonishing collection of Russian masterpieces spanning several centuries. I was particularly taken by the story behind “The Unequal Marriage” by Vasili Pukirev. Click here to read more.

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One of my favourite excursions was the glamorous dinner cruise on the Moscva River. The food was exquisite and seemed to never end (I counted 9 courses!) accompanied by a live band that played traditional Russian music.

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(Image source)

Our final dinner was at the Carlson Restaurant, one of Moscow’s finest eating establishments. We were treated to another multi-course feast of mouth-watering food, wine, and Russian vodka. We rolled out of there, busting out of our seams and marvelling at the vast quantity of food served at every meal.

5. Moscow’s birthday celebration

Our visit to Moscow coincided with a celebration its 870th birthday. On the weekend there were many live performances on huge stages set up around the city.

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(Image source)

The police, security guards and army presence was significant and buses were set up at the ends of busy streets to prevent terrorist attacks. All citizens had to go through security screens before entering the city centre. 

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The security forces were very thorough and it was obvious that they took their jobs very seriously as they rarely cracked a smile. The civilians seemed to take this all in stride, but even our guides said that they had never seen this level of security for an event in Moscow before.

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I was impressed with the level of organization and coordination required set up all the checkpoints which reinforced my sense that Russians have a highly developed command system and infra-structure to pull off security in this grand scale.

Moscow has a population of 12 million and it seemed to me like most were in the city Saturday night. By the time we got back to our hotel (the Ritz-Carlton), we were a little frazzled so a night-cap on the roof-top terrace seemed in order.  Sipping on Moscow Mules while watching a magnificent display of fireworks was just what we needed to end the night in a magical way.

6. The people

I love connecting with other educators on social media, but there’s nothing like face-to-face interactions during conferences to have those deeper levels conversations about important issues in our profession and to get to know each other on a personal level. The international presenters were a diverse community, representing 20 different countries, cutting across many different types of educational institutions. It was fascinating to compare notes about the similarities and differences between our school cultures and to exchange ideas. I was in awe of the passion that each educator displayed towards their students’ well-being and their commitment to creating inclusive school communities. Throughout the afore-mentioned boat cruise, many toasts were made by the presenters and hosts and the overriding theme was the importance of communication, collaboration and idea-sharing. But above all, there was a unified call for world peace.

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7. The hosts

It’s hard to accurately describe the extent of the hospitality that our hosts extended towards us. When Anna first greeted me at the airport and ushered me into a private car, I knew that that this was going to be a special experience. Throughout the 5 days I was there, Anna barely left my side. She was like a mother hen, always making sure that I knew where to go and that I was in time for my next appointment. All of the other presenters I talked to said that their guides were equally lovely and conscientious.

On our last day in Moscow after the Kremlin tour some presenters and I decided to go for a walk around the city. To our immense surprise and delight, our hosts asked to join us, even off-duty! Later in the day we had a delicious dinner at the famous Ukrainian restaurant, Tarus Bulba, (across from the magnificent Russian State Library) and were again regaled with live music.

Over dinner that night, our hosts explained to us the strong sense of hospitality that Russians have. They described how even families who do not have many luxuries will forego feeding themselves so that their guests can have the very best of what they can offer. Our hosts embodied this sensibility along with a fierce sense of pride of their history, culture and country. Their warmth, sense of humour, compassion and generosity reached into our hearts and took hold. We will never forget our new friends and we will be forever grateful to them for making us feel so special.

(A huge спасибо to the organizers of the International Presenters program: Diana Obukhova and Nastya Ivanova. This event could not have happened without their tireless efforts!)

(Click here to learn some basic Russian words.)

 

How to convert grades into percentages in the New Google Forms Quiz

I love the quiz feature in the new Google Forms because you can format it to allow your students to see their marks right away. However, the mark does not appear as a percentage, instead it appears only as number of correct answers, for example: 16/25. As a teacher, sometimes you need to convert that result into a percentage.

I am not a Google Sheets person, so I turned to my super geeky and talented friend, Jen Giffen for some help. Here is her solution:

  1. Insert two blank columns to the right of your marks.

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  1. In the first blank column in row 2, type =left(

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  1. Click the first mark in column B. B2 will automatically appear (or whatever cell number the first mark is in)

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  1. Type ,2) then hit Enter

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  1.  The original mark will appear in the C column. Now click on the D column.

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  1. Type = then tap the mark in the B column.

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  1. Type / and the total your quiz is out of, then tap the % symbol

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  1. You will now get a percentage in column D.

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9. To complete all percentage conversions, drag down the bottom right corner of Column C.

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  1. Now do the same for Column D

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  1. NOTE: If you try to cut and paste these percentages on a new spreadsheet, you will get this:

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  1. So you need to use “Paste special” then “Paste values only”.

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THANKS, JEN!!!

TEAM Digital Breakout EDU, Canadian Style

Last week I was invited by my friends Kim Pollishuke and Jenn Casa-Todd to play a collaborative, live, on-line game of Digital Breakout EDU via Google Hangouts.

The timing could not have been better for me, as a few days later, I was due to travel to Irvine, California with the EdTechTeam to facilitate, among other sessions, a session on Digital BreakoutEDU. But I had very little experience with it, so I was delighted for the opportunity to test it out with friends, Sandra Chow, Larissa Aradj, Scott Monahan, Jen Giffen, and Les McBeth, and others. Kim and Jenn were beta-testing the game for a large, online game planned for TeachOntario, Feb. 23.

For those of you who are new to the concept of breakout games, they are essentially games that are devised with a series of problems that need to be solved in order to “break out” of room, or a box, or, in the case of Digital Breakout EDU, a Google form. Last year James Sanders and Mark Hammons spearheaded the Breakout EDU movement in education, which, due to its tremendous popularity amongst educators, evolved into a fully fledged separate entity, Breakout EDU, with a huge Facebook group and new games appearing every day.

Some time later, Mari Venturino and Justin Birckbichler came up with a digitalized version of Breakout EDU, using Google Sites, locked Google forms, and many other tools to create games with. You can check out all the games here.

The digitalized game that Kim and Jenn created was a lot of fun and gave me many ideas for my GAFESummit presentation. Since I am Canadian and the summit was in the United States, I decided to base the game on facts about Canada. I also decided to make it a team game by placing teachers into groups and challenging them to see who would break out the fastest. A few days before the conference, I tested it out with my students. I split my class into 5 teams, and each student had a Chromebook to work on to try to solve the puzzles. 5 minutes into the game, I knew that it was going to be a tremendous success as my students were immediately engaged, working collaboratively, and having tons of fun.

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I love the physical version of the game, but several factors of the digitalized version make it stand out as a very appealing alternative.

  1. No purchase of a box necessary.

  2. No locks to worry about re-setting.

  3. No kit components to worry about losing.

  4. 100% student engagement if you have many devices for them to work on. No one feels left out or unable to contribute.

  5. Zero time required for set up (unless you make up your own game).

  6. Great opportunity for students to create their own games.

  7. Can be played live online via video-conferencing.

At my session in Irvine, 70 teachers played the game. I divided them into 6 groups. Some groups stayed in the room and some groups left to find a quiet place to solve the game.

After 20 minutes, we had a winner: Group 1!

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The energy in the room was high, and I can honestly say that it was the most fun I have ever had in a training session for teachers. Click below for the games!

  1. Team Digital Breakout EDU for students

  2. Team Digital Breakout EDU for teachers

  3. Team Digital Breakout EDU en français

NOTE: Each team has a separate game because there is a shared, editable Google doc as one of the clues to solve. Each team needs to work collaboratively on the document, but separately from the other teams.

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100 Sketchnotes of Inspiration

(This is a cross-post from the EdTechTeam Blog)

Many thanks to Kim Pollishuke for writing this review about my book, “Sketchnotes for Educators.” (SD)

2017 couldn’t have started off better when I checked the mail on January 3rd. Sylvia Duckworth’s new book Sketchnotes for Educators: 100 Inspiring Illustrations for Lifelong Learners arrived!

A few years ago, when I joined Twitter (see page 172), Sylvia’s sketchnotes quickly caught my eye. I had seen people doodle before but never like this. What a beautiful and succinct way to capture learning! I followed her and eagerly waited for each new drawing. Soon after, I was lucky to have the chance to meet her and she became part of my growing PLN (see pages 166 & 178).

What I love about Sylvia is her willingness to step out of her comfort zone (see page 28). I couldn’t believe that her very first sketchnote was only in 2015! What a risk she took, trying something new and then sharing her efforts publicly so that others could learn alongside her.

 

Reading this book will replenish your educator’s soul. On those days when you come home tired and frustrated, turn to page 54 and discover the “10 Steps to Happiness” or page 22 to learn about “Life”. On the days when you come home feeling like you just got it all wrong and you’re stuck, open page 72 to compare a “Growth Mindset vs Fixed Minded” or page 156 to begin walking the path out of “Stagnation”.

Now, on those great days when you come home feeling awesome because your students demonstrated problem solving, collaborative and critical thinking skills, flip to page 70 to see how you have a truly innovative classroom. When you wake up feeling like you can take on the world, jump to page 32 for “10 Things We Can Learn from Superheroes”.

Want to learn about Google tools, Breakout EDU, digital citizenship or effective leadership and innovation?  Sketchnotes for Educators really does have it all. This is not a book that you will read and then stick on a shelf to collect dust. This is that special book that you will want to have at your fingertips for years to come. At least I know I will.
Thank you, Sylvia!

Kim Pollishuke
Google for Education
Certified Innovator and Trainer
Digital Literacy Resource Teacher
Thornhill, Ontario

 

My Top 10 Sketchnotes in 2016

As the clock ticks down to the end of 2016, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the past 12 months. I derive a huge pleasure in creating drawings related to education and then sharing them on social media. A question I often get is, “What are your most popular sketchnotes?” Well, thanks to Twitter, it’s easy to get hard statistics to find out the answer. So here they are, in order from 10 to 1. Make sure to read to the end to find out the most popular sketchnote for 2016!

#10: The Benefits of Creativity (134 retweets)

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#9: Three Questions to Ask Your Child Every Day (135 retweets)

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#8: Modes of Thinking (168 retweets)

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#7: Teaching Digital Citizenship (173 retweets)

7#6: 10 Reasons to Use Inquiry-based Learning (181 retweets)

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#5: 10 Reasons Why Every Teacher Needs a PLN (221 retweets)

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#4: 10 Growth Mindset Phrases for Teachers (225 retweets)

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#3: 10 Things We Can Learn from Superheroes (241 retweets)

3

#2: Seven Digital Citizenship Rules (293 retweets)

2#1: A Checklist for Today’s Teachers (413 retweets)

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Click here to read about my most popular sketchnotes for 2015. NOTE: Free downloads for these drawings can be found on my Flickr site or in my book, 100 Sketchnotes for Educators. (Click here to order.)

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My sketchnote book

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(This is a cross-post from the EdTechTeam blog)

I have been pinching myself for days, ever since the dream of creating a book with my sketchnotes became a reality with the recent announcement from the EdTechTeam Press for book pre-ordering.

You see, I stopped drawing when I was around ten years old. I lost my love for art, as many kids do when they grow up. I did not believe I was a good artist, so what was the point?

Fast-forward forty-five years: In 2014, I started to notice some beautiful drawings related to education showing up on social media. People were taking notes from conferences and creating drawings in a doodling fashion. I learned it was called “sketchnoting,” and I thought I would give it a try. I uploaded my first drawing to Flickr and Tweeted it out in January 2015. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that anyone would be interested in my drawings.

But educators were interested in my drawings, and before long, I was hooked on sketchnoting. I loved being able to express my ideas in a creative way, and the fact that my drawings seemed to resonate strongly with my PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) made me yearn to create more. I was on the constant hunt for interesting things to draw related to education: blog posts, graphics, articles, posters. Some ideas I borrowed from others, some ideas I came up with on my own.

With much surprise, I noticed that people were Tweeting photos of my drawings displayed on classroom and staffroom walls. The Iceberg Illusion in particular, went viral, even appealing to people outside the educational community: entrepreneurs, athletes, coaches, writers, and managers. It thrilled me to know that my drawings were being shared and appreciated in so many ways.

The book is a collection of 100 of my most popular sketchnotes (which I have heard some people also refer to as edusketches since they often have to do with education). I created the book to provoke conversations about some of the topics covered, to entice readers to go to the original resource if referenced in the drawing, to provide links where the pieces can be downloaded, and to inspire readers to try sketchnoting themselves.

I would like to thank Holly Clark and the EdTechTeam press for believing in my book and for supporting me in this journey. I would also like to thank my PLN for encouraging me to continue to create and share my drawings. I am in constant awe of the brilliant teaching community around me and you are my inspiration.

(Please click here to pre-order the book.)

 

Calling all French Second Language Teachers!

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Keeping Twitter lists up-to-date is very difficult. I used to have one for French teachers but then my life got busy (who can relate?) and I gave up adding to it. So yesterday I put out a plea to my PLN on Twitter and Facebook (Ontario French Teachers group) and voilà: within 24 hours I had 60 names on the shared Google doc!

If you are an FSL teacher and haven’t added your name yet, please do! And please forward the list to any other FSL teachers you might know so that they can add their names. This will be a great go-to list for any FSL teacher looking to make more connections on Twitter.

Click here for the list.

Keep on being awesome, my #FSL PLN!

Love, Sylvia