Podcasts in Elementary School

Podcasts are an up and coming (some say, “already arrived”) teaching tool.  Recent survey results by the group Kidslisten.org contain some amazing statistics about the age of students listening to podcasts (almost 60% between the ages of 5 and 8) and how much they listen (1/2 of students surveyed listen to at least one podcast a week, 1/3 of students listen everyday.)


Listening with your students to a podcast like The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian  may be a way to engage students in storytelling that is free and captivating.


We, at the Doucette, have continually toyed with the idea of a book club podcast so that we could get the word out about the many great resources we read and want to recommend to Werklund students and others in the field of teaching.  It hasn’t happened yet but stay tuned…

On the other hand, Book Club for Kids Podcast is an interesting addition to reviews for kids by kids and some special guests.  Some great discussions can be started using the reviews that are already uploaded and they are free.


And your class may want to create a podcast of their own, reviewing books or taking on other subjects that can be scripted.  How to Start a Podcast may be a great resource to get you and your students creating your own “in-class” podcast to share with each other.

Begin with a podcast or kidcast that will interest your students and start using free podcasts in your classroom.



IDEO Wise Report 2018

The recently released IDEO Wise Report entitled, Thinking and Acting like a Designer: How design thinking supports innovation in K-12 education by Annette Diefenthatler, Laura Moorhead, Sandy Speicher, Charla Bear and Deirdre Cerminaro is a comprehensive snapshot of what design thinking is looking like in the global K-12 environment.

“If we want students to be creative, collaborative, communicative problem-solvers, adults – administrators, as well as teachers – need to act the same way.” (p. 44)

This quote, hidden deep in the text, is a very important point to make if we are to adopt the mission to embed a designer mindset in the K-12 classroom.  Every one of the stakeholders in the school and the administration of that school must put on the cloak of a designer.

I feel many teachers are already there because they are accommodating students within their classrooms everyday.  Students who need to stand or pace to get work done.  Students who need headphones to tune out.  Students who need an extra snack in the morning to help them concentrate.  Many teachers are designing a classroom where their students find comfort, safety and success.

Wearing the cloak of the designer is much bigger than the classroom as well.  Can we revisit many of the norms we take for granted within a school and classroom every year to change and adapt them to the current wave of students and stakeholders?  Do we have to accept a schedule or routine or an environment that does not challenge every one to be their most engaged self?

This report does challenge the stakeholders in education to use design thinking in the design of schools, classrooms, curriculum and programs to encourage students and staff to be engaged in learning.

Embedding the curriculum with design challenges associated with real world problems surrounds students with the possibility of designing solutions for curriculum related, interdisciplinary problems.  Key to the success of students using the design process is the modeling of all staff who think and solve problems using design thinking methods.

This document gives practical, real life examples of what design thinking looks like at many levels of  K-12 education and would be a great read for anyone creating a culture of design in any education setting.


New Equipment at the Doucette

Do you have a podcast you want to record?  Do you want to do research in a completely new way?  Are you sharing podcasts with your students?

Werklund School of Education has just acquired some new technology to make all of these ways of communicating easier.   Early in March, two Go Pro Cameras will be available for loan up to a week.  These cameras will have chest harnesses so that researchers can record what students and teachers are saying and doing in various research environments.

Because of the popularity of the Yeti microphone that was purchased last year, we have added two more to the collection.  This piece of technology makes for great recording of the spoken voice to share a podcast with your students.

In addition to these major pieces of loanable technology, we have also added two blue-tooth speakers to the collection making it easier to share learning with your students.

We are also expecting a flurry of new robots.  They are always fun to experiment with in classes from K-12 or with your own teaching students.  By prior booking, there will be a total of five Ozobot kits to use with a class.  Other robots are expected soon as the recommendation to include coding in classrooms from K-12 becomes more intense.

In addition to all the new, cool technology, we are welcoming a new Technology Support Assistant for Werklund School of Education to work from the Doucette Library.  Linda Easthope will be joining us beginning in March to help you with your many technology queries.

Please also remember that the iPads, MacBooks and PC carts can be loaned out from Monday to Friday between 8:30am and 6pm while students are here and until 4:30pm during intercession.

All of this technology is available for sign out from the Doucette Library during regular library hours.  Please come and visit us with your UCID and we can arrange for you to borrow it.  We would also like to hear how you are using it to complete your research or as an addition to your classroom.


The New Smoke Signals by Rachel Mishenene


There are many benefits to working in an education library including reading many great books and working with some leading edge technology.  Once you are immersed in the collection, sometimes you find special interests that merit some study.  For me, I am always on the look out for ways that the indigenous people of Canada bolster the connection between young people and the elders of these communities.

The importance of keeping the language and the stories of the past alive with younger generations and the capturing of these narratives in their original language is essential to begin the healing and to grow a strong future.

There is a powerful digital world out there that can be harnessed to capture these stories and connect indigenous communities together.

The New Smoke Signals: Communicating in a Digital World by Rachel Mishenene  is a small but powerful book that links the indigenous world to the digital world in a easy, uncomplicated way.  The book has a variety of information in it.  She says, “First Nation, Inuit and Metis people across the country have embraced this relatively new way of communicating with each other, learning new things and preserving the old teachings.” (p.5) And so begins a look at modern technology like cellphones, social media like LinkedIn and blogs, to help tell the stories that are important to indigenous communities.  I especially liked the example of the blog, where a free-lance writer named Stan reflects on the life of his aunt in a blog post after she passes away.  Contained within this section are the reasons someone would blog and the fact that most blogs are read in the morning along with a complete reprint of Stan’s tribute story about his aunt.

This book is from a small publisher called Ningwakwe Learning Press (www.ningwakwe.ca) but does a fine job of bridging the gap between young and old indigenous people.

Maker Faire 3.0


Five hundred and twenty-five students.  Five design processes and many problems of practice.  Two Super Librarians and a passion for learning. Those numbers sum up what the February 9, 2018 Maker Faire at the Doucette Library looked like although you would need the Bruno Mars music in the background to really get a sense of what was happening.

For three years now, the Doucette Library has hosted the final day of classes for the 2nd year undergraduate education students for Werklund School of Education.  The library hosts some of the many sections of EDUC 546, elementary specialties in the morning and secondary specialties in the afternoon, within the library walls and all the other classes are to be found here on the 3rd floor of Education Classroom Block.

The air is electric with learning, collaborating and sharing of ideas.  Students are also treated to a fair-like atmosphere conjured up by Tammy Flanders and Paula Hollohan of the Doucette Library.  These two have worked with many of the students to match ideas with resources through the students’ two-year term at Werklund.


Many students took part in the limbo, guessing fairy tale endings on the Wheel of Fortune, walked on stilts and visited with Meccanoid the Robot.  Puppet shows were all the rage with many students donning various puppet characters to play out hilarious scenes.  The dress-up corner with many Alice in Wonderland inspired costumes served as a make shift photo booth with many students creating memories with their classmates.

It was a party to celebrate the transition of student to teacher as Werklund classmates spend one of their final days on campus enjoying the hospitality of the Doucette Library.


Design Thinking – Wrap-up

We finished up by teaching 11 workshops based on Design Thinking (the IDEO way) to around 225 second year Werklund students and Tammy and I have a few takeaways from the experience.

  1. The sooner the better.  If we could teach “The Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario to every student in the second year program during the first week of classes in January, everyone would benefit.  There comes a time in the third week where students have already looked at the 5 possibilities (Design Thinking, Discipline-Based Inquiry, Project-Based, Understanding by Design and Universal Design for Learning) to solve their problem of practice where our workshop is really too late.
  2. No matter how much time you give, students want more.  In this case, we actually had students prototype an advertising “pitch” for a product or program that would solve “The Three Little Pigs” scenario.  Last year our feedback was that students wanted to prototype.  We allowed time this year for prototyping and presenting (testing) and then used Today’s Meet to collect feedback from the other students in the class.  Because of time limits, feedback was not rich with information to give groups ideas to change or rationalize why not to change their product or pitch.  Students still felt we did not allow them enough time to digest the feedback.
  3. Instructors in the program should know what they are getting into.  We should have clear information about the workshop we offer since we are now considered to be “the experts” on staff for Design Thinking.  We tried to get students to come independently to the workshop in time away from class time.  We had very little buy-in for students doing the workshop without their classmates.  Given that students want to only come with their class, please see #1.

And we are already talking about changes we would make for next January.  I still think that Design Thinking, the process and the workshop, are valuable tools to give students in Werklund School of Education.  We would love to have a whole day, in the first week of January, with instructors and students to walk everyone through the process fully and completely but we are managing to give a good experience to those who sign up early and immerse themselves in the workshop.

Coding – Where Do I Start?


Well I actually know where I started coding and it was the Daisy the Dinosaur App. Although I know that I should be ashamed to say it, I’m not. For my age, I think any kind of coding is a bonus. Something I never, ever thought I would be learning and, yet, here I am.


And, because the focus in the Doucette Library is to take this educational technology out to the K-12 environment, I think walking the walk and talking the talk is where it is at.

Moving forward was a tougher decision. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be options to learn coding at the next level. Python seemed a bit of a stretch, like speaking Greek before learning Greek. Thanks to a couple of robots, though, my decision became more evident. Ozobot and Dash and Dot both use Blockly (and there is also a Blockly Jr.) So I learned some great terms like looping and moving of robots with simpler click and drag commands.


Alas, there are larger programming needs on my horizon. For the wearable workshop that we are working on, I would like to, also, invest some time with Scratch. This language also calls upon the click and drag method to watch what happens and that suits me fine.


My experience with Arduino taught me that I was trying to gallop before I knew how to walk. Much of the coding for arduinos is open source but I am not yet able to predict what the outcome of downloading much of the code will be or how to make minor changes to affect the downloaded code. And, yet, I keep at it, learning step-by-step. I also know that I am not an intuitive coder.

I’ve collected a few good websites, apps and resources to help you begin to bring coding into your classroom or to try something to connect with other coders out there in the world. Take a look here to see where to start.

Design Thinking – “The Teacher as Designer”

We often hear this statement during or before any of the workshops we run about design thinking.  Although this phrase appears in 2010 in an article entitled, “The Teacher as Designer: Pedagogy in the New Media Age,” by Mary Kalantizis, Bill Cope, referring to the process of Learning by Design, we use the more general description in our design thinking workshops.

The teacher as designer refers to every educator who designs a classroom, a lesson, a unit, a project, a school environment, a school atmosphere and/or professional development workshops for colleagues.

The design thinking workshops we offer have students work through the d.school five-step program using the “Three Little Pigs” story as an anchor.  This use of the design thinking process is not the only way we see this technique being used by teachers.

Using it to break your students into groups in your class and work through a potential solution to a problem is just one way the process is used in education.  It does reach all the current “c’s” of the modern classroom: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication. It also provides an opportunity for students to practice many so-called “soft skills” as well.

In the secondary stream of our program, we often get feedback about the process not being conducive to the delivery of curriculum content in their grade level.  Lesson and unit design can be developed using the five steps of design thinking.  Starting with the empathy stage where a teacher looks at the lesson from the student’s point of view may be quite eye opening.  Effective lesson and unit development can be completed using the design thinking process.

There may be school wide problems that are presented by other teachers or administration that can be solved using the design thinking process.


Each individual school has its own priorities and culture that is set by the administration, often taking into account staff and students ideas.  As administration creates a certain identity for a school, staff may be engaged in the design thinking process to bring these ideas to life.  Say, for example, a school seeks to be an integral part of the community in which it is situated.  Connections with the community can be fostered through various means and the ideas may come from an design thinking session that features the empathy and definition stages.  Moving towards ideation makes the collected research from these stages result in effective community connection for the school as a whole.  Having many great ideas that don’t fit the needs of the community won’t engage staff and students like something that meets the needs of the surrounding area and makes an positive impact in the community.

In these three separate areas of teaching, teachers can take up the d.school, five step process and introduce design thinking into their school.

Design Thinking 2.0 – Interview with a consultant?

We have had some very successful workshops in the first week of working with the second year students from Werklund School of Education.  We had both elementary and secondary classes working through the famous “Three Little Pigs” design thinking scenario with mixed results although most students came up with a convincing pitch to share with the class.  From the “Cattlepult” to a “wonderful community where pigs and wolves live in harmony,” pitches for a “solution” to the pigs versus wolves problem abound.

Our final workshop on Friday afternoon offered us the least number of comments in the definition phase.  We couldn’t cluster ideas or look for outliers.  We were left with very few ideas to talk about or work through to a solution stage.  Perhaps, students weren’t engaged enough to give back any evidence collected in the empathy phase but it was difficult to maintain any momentum through ideation, prototyping and the testing loop.

So here is the change we made to help with the definition stage.  We backed up to the Empathy phase and instead of having pigs and wolves empathize with each other, we introduced two “consultants” into each group to ask questions and gather information from wolves or pigs.  Each consultant was provided with a package of documentation containing some basic information about the pigs and the wolves that could prompt some entry points to begin to gather information.

This morning we worked through a class incorporating this change.  We did get many more ideas to write up on the board for our definition stage and some great statements to anchor the ideation and prototypes.  And, we gathered statements from each one of the four groups.  We will try this approach again on Tuesday.

The ironic feedback we received on just one form was “…if the student switch roles. …can have a better understanding of different roles.”

We will work with the consultant model for now but we will keep an open mind depending on more feedback that will come with future workshops.


Design Thinking 2.0

Did I mention that it is January again and for us at the Doucette Library, that means Design Thinking?  The second year Education course, EDUC 546, is looking a little different this year, widening it’s scope to include Universal Design for Learning, Project-Based Learning, Understanding by Design, Discipline-Based Inquiry, and the Design Thinking from IDEO and Stanford.

Tammy and I will be, again, contributing to the learning by holding a number of workshops for the EDUC 546 classes following last year’s model based on the Three Little Pigs.  Ah, but this year we have an extra few minutes in which to add PROTOTYPING!  We will be adding the final two steps in the Design Thinking process, prototyping and feedback/re-test into the Three Little Pigs scenario in a way that fits into our new time constraint.


In this iteration of the workshop, we will be asking students to ideate using chart paper divided into 4 sections.  We are hoping that students will come up with at least 2 different, viable ideas within the sections of paper.  They will find that the more ideas you have, the better outcome you will have.

For prototyping, we are asking them to take one of the ideas to prototype but not as an actual artifact.  Students will be coming up with a pitch or a way to advertise their chosen artifact.  It is an interesting way to have each group present an idea and sway the rest of the class to think about their solution.

Feedback will be given by other students in the class though the website, TodaysMeet in a “room” for each workshop we are giving.  A few minutes will be available for them to look over the feedback received in this fashion.  Critique comments will answer questions like, “how well does the prototype solve the problem as stated in the defining question,” and “how effective is the pitch?”

We are still asking for feedback about our workshop.  It helps to change what is happening in the Design Thinking teaching here at the Doucette.  So stay tuned, iterations are happening.