A Smackdown and More

A couple of weeks ago, I received a surprising, but very pleasant, direct message on Twitter that went something like this, “Going to be in Surrey in a couple of weeks… want to get together?”  Umm… Yeah! Absolutely!  The message was from Dean Shareski! Dean presented at our district’s Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series in the fall and has also been involved in the #ETMooc currently being offered by Alec Couros and crew.

Dean expressed interest in doing something in a classroom with kids and maybe doing something after school with educators around the district.  So, that’s what we (meaning @teacherdiana1) started planning.

Grade 3 teacher, Diana Williams, was very excited and took the idea and ran with it – literally.  She had already planned on creating a video to promote her student’s involvement in KIVA (a website where you can make micro-loans to people in Third World Countries who are trying to start businesses). What a better opportunity than to create the video with help from Dean Shareski!  So, through pneumonia, Diana worked tirelessly (even though we did order her to stay home recommend that she stay home and rest and this opportunity would present itself again another time) rewriting the lyrics to a song so her students could become KIVA Ninjas.  She taught the song to her Grade 3 students, complete with props and actions. They were adorable!

Dean Shareski and Austin Dolan (from Discovery Education) came and we all had a great time!  The students were engaged and enthusiastic.  They learned about what a green screen was and  why it is used.  The interacted with Dean and Austin for the entire afternoon.  It was great seeing how natural Dean is with the children.  It was evident how much fun everyone had together. Austin has a great sense of humour too (sorry Diana, but it was pretty funny).

After further assisting Diana with the technical aspects of putting the video together – taking out the green screen and adding Discovery Education photos in the background, Dean was then ready for his after-school event – a Smackdown!

Now, when Dean discussed hosting a Smackdown at Bear Creek, I was a little curious. I had never been to a Smackdown before!  In case you are curious as well, a Smackdown is a sharing event.  You can share a website, an app, a program, an activity, or really anything that has been meaningful to you and/or your students. You can learn more about it on Cybraryman’s page here.  It was really an awesome time to share among friends!  We had approximately 20 dedicated and inspiring Surrey School District educators in attendance and 3 fantastic educators via Google Hangout.  With great energy in the room, and Dean facilitating the Smackdown, the sharing began.

First up was Robyn Thiessen (@robynthiessen) who shared what her Grade 3 and Grade 4 students are doing with The Global Classroom Project. Dean also mentioned the Den Connects resource through Discovery Education which has numerous global collaboration opportunities available as well.

Heather Blacker (@heatherblacker) from Winnipeg was our first visitor via Google Hangout. She shared her great sense of humour and her knowledge of the free app HaikuDeck and how she used it with her class during their animal studies. We learned that HaikuDeck is great for allowing only the use of Copyright images through the app. What a great way to ensure Copyrights are being honoured!  I really need to check out this app! Here is Heather’s Tech Blog! Take a look and you will find loads of different projects to try with your students.

Our own Gallit Zvi (@gallit_z) was up next sharing wonderful things she and colleague Hugh MacDonald (@hughtheteacher) are doing with Genius Hour with their students. Genius Hour allows students to explore their passions within the school day. You will never see kids more enthusiastic, motivated, and engaged as you do during their Genius Hour time.  Jodi Pulvers (@JPulvers) and Iram Khan (@TeacherMrsKhan) both shared how their kindergarten students do Genius Hour projects with their Big Buddies. You can read about their experiences here and here respectively.

Brad Fountain (@bradfountain) was up next via Google Hangout. He shared with us the  CoachesEye app and talked about the multiple purposes of the app. He also recommended people download the free app, AppShopper which tells you when apps are on sale.

One of our secondary Teacher Librarian’s, Lisa Domeier (@librarymall) shared a couple of books with us:  Steal Like an Artist  and The Virtual Self. Lisa also shared the new Engaging the Digital Learner: Going Deeper Podcast, which can now be found on iTunes U. The latest district dinner series session, with Chris Lehman, can be heard in this podcast series. Lisa went on to talk about the importance of having students have an authentic audience when they are completing assignments. That is one reason blogging is so great – you are writing for the world to see – not just your teacher.

Kathy Cassidy (@kathycassidy) from Moosejaw, was up next to talk to us about some of the things her Grade 1 and 2 students are up to. She shared with us that Skype now has group skype for educators (you need to apply online in advance). Kathy has just recently written a book, Connected From the Start (due out the end of March).

Local Educator, Marilyn Carr (@MSMEcarr), shared her love of the books, Drive by Daniel Pink and Reality is Broken by Jane McGonegall.  Marilyn suggested taking a look at the TED Talk by Paul Anderson about classroom game design.

Dean talked to us a bit about the Discovery Education Network that all educators in our district are a part of already.  He also talked how to become a DenStar and about the Den Summer Institute. It all sounds very interesting and exciting. (If you are an educator (including administrators) in Surrey and you are not sure how to access your Discovery Education account, please ask your administrator or you can email or direct message me on Twitter and I will try to help.)

Surrey Vice Principal, Iram Khan, talked about how blogging has connected her with her families more than she has ever felt in her years of teaching. She emphasized that it is important not to be discouraged by parents not commenting on the blog. Even though they are not commenting in writing, they are commenting in person and feeling much more connected with their child(ren)’s education. You can read Iram’s blog post about this topic here.

Dean Shareski then shared about ifttt.com (if this then that) recipes. If you want to have your recent blog post immediately posted on Twitter as soon as you press publish, create a recipe!  There are countless recipes to be created. Take a look!  You can use the ones already listed on the site, or create your own.

What a great day we had!  The only problem was, our time together went by way too quickly!  There were many wonderful educators present who didn’t have the opportunity to share their wonderful ideas and things they are doing in their classroom. Next time!

Of course, a day isn’t complete without a little bit of cake . . .  We wanted to wish Dean a Happy Birthday and thank him for spending his time with us.  What a great experience. We welcome Dean back at any time.  🙂

A big thank you goes out to the amazing Diana Williams (@teacherdiana1) for all her hard work organizing this event and to Iram Khan (@teachermrskhan) for helping as well.

Here is a Storify of the BCSmackdown Event.

Here is a collaborative Google Doc of Smackdown Notes created by Gallit Zvi.

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

10 thoughts on “A Smackdown and More

  1. Thank you summarizing the day with Dean so well Tia. I really appreciated the invite and I know Marilyn had a great time learning with everyone as well. It was fantastic to hear all the great things that are happening in our district and in Canada. We definitely need more Smackdowns!

    1. Hi Par,

      I really wanted to get all the info out in one place so that I would be able to refer to it at other times. It is much easier to have things posted on my blog than anywhere else. Glad you enjoyed it. It is always so great to hear others share. We have so much to learn from one another!

      Thanks for coming,


  2. And thank you, Tia, for sharing the event with us all… instead of insisting on just going for coffee with Dean and keeping him all to yourself!! ;o) Such a simple offering meant so much to so many people on so many levels.

    1. Hi Iram,

      hahaha It didn’t even cross my mind to try to keep Dean to myself. I’m sure that wasn’t what he would have wanted either. hahaha

      It was a great opportunity for us to learn from one another and have Dean there to answer questions and facilitate.

      I have signed up to become a Den Star. How about you?


  3. Tia! Thank you for such a detailed recap of the day! The photos you took of my students perfectly captured their personalities and the events of the afternoon-I always enjoy your digital storytelling. The afternoon was so action-packed I didn’t have time to process it while it was happening so I really appreciate all of the links and photos you have included in your post.

    One of the many things I admire about you is your ability to connect people and to encourage others to try new things. This was such a fantastic opportunity for my students and I. Without you as the connector and cheerleader we would have drifted quietly into spring break (and yeah, probably would have taken some time off to get better, LOL!) Instead we have been re-energized and I have a pile of fun and interesting learning to do in my (spare) time over spring break 🙂 I will be sure to share my learning with others so they may benefit from the gift you have given us!

    Thanks again for all you do-you make a HUGE difference in the lives of our students and staff.


    1. You are so very sweet, Diana!

      It was very fast-paced and pretty hard to believe that all that happened in the week before Dean’s visit. It was not me though – YOU are amazing. I mention something to you and you run with it and organize it all!

      Yah, we *could* have just rolled in to Spring Break, all relaxed and what not, but what fun would that have been? hahaha Totally kidding – you REALLY should have taken time off to get better. You are such a warrior!

      You inspire me WAY more than I do to you. I suggest things and you do things I could never have even imagined possible. I can’t wait to see your video in its completion.

      Thank you for all YOU do to help inspire me to continue learning, growing, and sharing!


  4. Thanks for sharing this blog and all the info Tia. I am sorry I missed but somehow parent- teacher conferences were scheduled on the same day. What’s with that? Thanks for the links, I now have some new things at during this Spring Break. Enjoy!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing, Tia. Diana works so hard to motivate and inspire the students in our class, as well as other educators around her. Her energy is infectious and she continues to amaze me how at ease she is with all the new things she tries. The students are very lucky to have her as a teacher, and I am equally fortunate to have such an inspirational partner. I am excited to see the final results of the KIVA video. Well done everyone. 🙂

    1. Hi Trish,
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      We are all fortunate to have each other on this journey. We are all there to inspire one another – and that’s what we do. Our students are very fortunate to have caring, energetic, engaging teachers! I think it makes a difference in so many aspects of their education, don’t you?

      See you tomorrow,

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