Monday, 28 March 2016

The Passionate Learner Experiment Begins!

My Microschool's inaugural course, "The Passionate Learner Project" is underway.  Tn incredible Superhero Learners (who are currently in grades 4-12) and their Parent Allies have taken a risk with me, as we experiment with a new way of learning!
Superhero Learners are using digital literacy skills to answer the question: how might we change the world in one day? They will complete 24 hours of work in the next 10 weeks. Together, we are creating a game that will guide their highly personalized and passion-based learning.

They are working their way through the several quests in Mission 1: You Are a Superhero. They are exploring what kind of teacher they need and what kind of learner they are.

Learners work their way through the Mission Dossiers I send to them at their own pace, in their own way.
In the coming days, each learner will launch a Digital HQ where they will document their learning. I hope you'll follow along and add to the conversation! We need allies to cheer on the learners, challenge their thinking and add their influence. We are so happy to welcome Lisa Paterson as a Yoga coach to the Superheroes in Mission 2. If you want to be a part of The Passionate Learner Experiment as an ally, let me know!
To whet your appetite, I have to share one learner's approach to Quest 1.1  
We have space for a couple more learners to come on board if you know anyone who would like to play and learn with us!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

40 Ways to Teach About Global Education and Empower Globally Competent Youth

In our increasingly connected world and global economy, it is more important than ever to equip and empower youth with the skills and knowledge to be globally competent. They need to be taught how to learn about, communicate with and take part in their local, national and global communities.

Successful high school graduates should be able to demonstrate excellent communication skills, empathy, critical media literacy, cultural sensitivity and collaboration. They should have an understanding of the history of their own cultures and the world. They should know how to effectively use maps, charts and graphs to learn information about geography. They should be eager to share their stories and learn the stories of others, with open hearts and minds.

How can you empower youth with global competencies?

Share Enlightening, Inspiring Content

Connect Your Class With Other Classes
  • One of the most powerful ways for kids to learn is from other kids. If you can, connect your students with students from around the world.
  • Skype in the Classroom helps you connect with other classes, experts and virtual field trips. If you haven't tried a Mystery Skype yet, you have to sign up!
  • The Global Read Aloud, run by my incredible friend, Pernille, unites classrooms around the world, as they read the same book (there are choices based on student age) every fall. 
  • Connect with Pen Pals. Start with reading the book Same Same But Different and brainstorm ways you and your students can find Pen Pals (Snail Mail or digital)

Participate in Global Initiatives
  • In October, Stand Up for Girls. Learn about why so many girls around the world are not given an opportunity to have an education, and demonstrate your support for them by literally standing up for girls.

Learn About the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Share and post the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in child friendly language, in your classroom. 
  • Illustrate and write about what each of the rights mean to you and your students. Years ago, I did a project where I collected drawings depicting the rights here in Canada and then had students in Lesotho, Africa, draw their representations as well. 
  • If You Could Wear My Sneakers - funny poems based on the articles in the UN Convention
  • For Every Child - beautifully illustrated depictions of the Rights
  • I Have the Right to Be a Child - simple, colourful book exploring all childrens' rights. 

Learn About Micro Loans
  • Read the book One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference
  • Fundraise $25 (or $50 or $100...) and, as a class, invest in a real person. Visit and start a lending profile. You will be able to relend your loan over and over and over! My students and I have put under $175 into our account and that has allowed us to lend over $1000! 

Read Amazing Stories in Picture Books 
There are many incredible picture books that help tell the story of children around the world. Here are just a few that I love:
  • Iqbal and Malala - The stories of an Indian boy and a Pakistani girl who demanded education and faced incredible violence from adults as a response. These stories open a students' eyes to how differently education is valued around the world.
  • It's Back to School We Go: First Day Stories
  • Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words - by now, you surely know about Malala, the youngest every recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. This book is, "a testament to the power of education to change the world for boys and girls everywhere."
  • Nasreen's Secret School 
    • "Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared. In despair, her grandmother risks everyone to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness?"
    • There is a video of this book being read available on Youtube
  • Rain School - I was introduced to this story by one of my Bachelor of Education students who created a whole day plan based on this beautiful book. (Video here)
    • "It's the first day of school in Chad, Africa. Children are filling the road. 'Will they give us a notebook?' Thomas asks. 'Will they give us a pencil? Will I learn to read?' But when he and the other children arrive at the schoolyard, they find no classroom, no desks. Just a teacher. 'We will build our school,' she says. 'This is our first lesson.'"
  • Waiting for the Biblioburro
    • "Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village, there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight; a travelling library resting on the backs of two burros (donkeys) - all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own."

Learn About the Lives of Children Around the World Through Gorgeous Photographye
Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Here are just a few that I love:

Share Your Stories
  • On your class blog, share what a day in life of your students looks like - use pictures, videos and/or writing.
  • Share your learning, projects and adventures on a class Twitter account.
  • Make videos and have a class Youtube channel to tell your learning stories.
  • Respond to people's comments, visit their projects and learn together.

Show Your Students That They Can Make an Impact
From Amy Poehler's Smart Girls
  • Share stories of kids changing the world (including this list from 2012 and these projects by awesome young humans) 
  • Fill some free time in the classroom by practicing your vocabulary or times tables (or a number of other topics) and, for every correct answer, the World Food Program gets rice to give to people in need. Play FreeRice!
  • Set up a class account on We Give Books. For every book your your students read online (extra awesomeness for reading with younger or older Reading Buddies!), Penguin donates books to children who need them!
  • Ask your students what problems they want to solve and be a Collaborative Curator to support them. Curate great information and collaborate with them to make a plan!

How do you empower your students and help them become globally competent? Share your ideas below!

This post was inspired by this tweet:
Thanks for spurring me into action, Sylvia! 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Dear Grade 4-12 Student, How Can You Change the World in One Day?

Dear Grade 4-12 student,

 Do you want a chance to be a part of a brand new learning experiment and be a model of how we can disrupt and design education in a way that REALLY works for learners?

 You can be one of the first students at the Experimental Prototype School of Tomorrow (EPSOT) starting on March 22nd, 2016. There are four spaces left in the first cohort!

 In 24 hours of online work, you will explore the question, “As a digitally literate person, what can I make in one day?” You will pick your own path to explore this question and can do the 24 hours of work at any rate you choose.

 Your teacher, Shauna Pollock, will be your guide and collaborative curator, working alongside you to learn and practice new skills, discover new tools and apply your learning to a self-selected project. Your classmates in this first cohort will be on parallel learning journeys of their own and you will learn how to collaborate and communicate with them online.

 This is a chance to hack your learning and help shape what education can look like in 2016. We will use digital literacy skills to help you uncover and explore your passion. You will be empowered to pursue a self-selected project and share it with a real audience.

 Are you ready to take your learning to the next level? Email Shauna Pollock at for more information on how to become part of “The Passionate Learner Experiment.”


Monday, 14 March 2016

Want to Join The Passionate Learner Experiment?

Developing Digital Literacy to Make an Impact
Where do ideas come from? Reading. Writing. Thinking. Those moments when I am not multitasking and have to focus on showering or driving. Conversations with amazing people. A need that has to be filled. Watching TV. Sometimes the ideas all merge and meld together and a truly beautiful one emerges.

For the past several months, I have gotten to live in a world of my ideas more than ever before and it has been incredible. I have spent many hours alone, moulding my ideas, memories and stories into my book. I have gotten to talk to fascinating people who are following their dreams, innovating and making the world a better place. My ideas have gotten bigger and better through conversations with them.

I have started a business that is dedicated to making learning experiences more magical. I empower learners to understand themselves, make discoveries and solve problems. I have been working with teachers, business owners, entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers. The group I love the most and miss the most is students.

I have a dream to open a grade 4-12 physical school that takes everything I’ve learned through research and experience and apply it, creating a whole new educational model - a prototype that others can learn from and follow.

For a long time, I’ve been saying that’s my “Ten Year Plan” to open a school. Suddenly, I wondered, “Why wait?” Nothing happens overnight, but the first iteration of an Experimental Prototype School of Tomorrow (EPSOT) is formed in my mind and in files all over my computer. Why not bring it to life with a small group of motivated learners who can experiment with me?

The First Iteration of EPSOT - The Passionate Learner Experiment

This is where you come in. My latest idea of how to make EPSOT come true right now might be my greatest one. This is an invitation for you and your child to join me on an exciting journey. On March 22nd, 2016 the families of the inaugural EPSOT class will meet and kick off a blended learning course answering the question: “As a digitally literate person, what can you make in one day?”

Over the next several weeks, students in the course will choose their own learning adventures and be expected to spend twenty-four hours working on their projects.

I will guide them through this experience, collaborating with them, curating information and learning with them through online media (such as email, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, Twitter, individual blogs, texting and/or phone calls). We will also have at least one virtual visit as a group to check up on progress and one in person event in Ottawa, Canada to celebrate and share our learning.

What I am offering is an individualized online learning experience for your child (grade 6-12) where they learn about Digital Literacy. They will learn important lessons through online learning modules that will require them to spend a total of twenty-four hours online, working independently (reading, watching videos, writing), responding to others’ work, collaborating (live and asynchronously) and sharing their discoveries. They will use their newly acquired knowledge of Digital Literacy to complete a self-selected Passion Project answering a guiding question that they will self-select.

This course will be highly dynamic and collaborative. I will create a framework for it and, together, the participating students and I will shape it to fit their needs and interests.

My hope is that this experiment will teach us all a lot. I hope that we will find that we can effectively use online tools to learn more than we’d ever imagined. I plan to use our discoveries and deliver this program to many more learners.

I need for you, as a parent or guardian, to be willing to jump into this experiment with me and support your child's learning. I need the learners’ commitment to participate in fun, interactive learning modules.

The course will be highly responsive to students' needs and can be completed at their own pace and will be shaped by their own ideas. They will explore and make discoveries about Digital Literacy. They will apply that to their self-selected project and create digital content to demonstrate their learning.

This course starts on March 22nd, 2016. If you know of a learner who would be perfect for this Passionate Learner Experiment, there are a few spaces in the inaugural cohort that are still available (as of March 15th, 2016).

You can contact me via this blog or email at to get more information (including cost) and an online registration package.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Following Your Dreams

This post originally appeared on the MapleSyrupEdu blog

I used to really, really love roller coasters. I was one of those kids and teens who would hop off of a ride, only to run back into line, ready to ride it again. Some of my happiest days were those at theme parks, when the crowd was so small that the line was non-existent and I could twirl my finger around in a little circle to the ride operator, and they would send me through the coaster again.

In LA last fall, I rode a Universal Studios roller coaster four times in a row, just like this. I can’t believe I used to be able to ride all day. It took me hours to lose the dizziness I gained in four minutes of joy.

The last year of my life has been a real-life roller coaster, of the emotional variety. It’s been a roller coaster in the best possible way. It’s the emotional roller coaster of following my dreams.

You’re going to join me on a walkthrough of my ride, and the emotional ups and downs I’ve experienced. This is possible with the power of imagination, which I’m going to ask you to use for the next few minutes.

My ride started much like many roller coasters do. I had to slowly, laboriously walk up to the top, then trust the ride vehicle to take me safely up and down hills and through spirals and loop-de-loops. For twenty-two years, I walked towards the line-up for this rollercoaster. Along the way, I passed through schools and relationships. Then, I got in line for the ride. The line took me ten years. In those ten years, I passed through more schools, more relationships and got to bring hundreds of students with me on the journey up those stairs. I found a steady job, bought a house, got married, could explain my job in one word: “teacher” and felt pretty comfy.

Then I got to the front of the line. A few things happened to change my momentum completely. I got a book deal and my husband got a new job. The book deal took hold of the operating controls of the rollercoaster and sped up all my dreams. Captain Handsome’s new job was in a new city. I took a 100% pay cut and undexpectedly, found myself in the seat of a ride vehicle without a seatbelt. The ride I thought I knew was history. Getting to the front of the line, I realized the ride I’d planned to take many years down the road was now was the one I was about to embark on, but at a much faster speed and without the security measures I’d expected. I’d always wanted to write a book. I like new challenges and new adventures. I was ready to see where this ride took me.

My husband had already started his ride and, taking a deep breath, I followed.

The ride has taken me ten months so far. The first drop was stomach churning and heart wrenching. I had to leave my amazing grade ¾ students, The Gladiator Snails, two months before the school year ended.

Several months of the ride were incredibly boring to anyone watching from the ground, expecting screams of terror or joy. My rollercoaster was quiet, passing through coffee shops, libraries and cafes. I rode, laptop burning a hole in my lap, fingers flying over the keyboard as I poured my heart into 115 000 words of my first book. Days, weeks and months on the coaster were quiet.

There were bumps and turns as deadlines loomed, editors gave feedback and my Alpha and Beta reader teams dissected my words. Despite what looked so dull from the outside, my screams came. Some of them were silent. Some were witnessed by my most trusted friends and family. I screamed with frustration. I screamed with self doubt. I screamed with relief.

Some days, the coaster brought me high into the sky. I’d always wanted to share my stories and ideas, and my students’ stories and ideas with a larger audience. Getting to write a book allowed me to do that. Those days, all I could see what the big, blue sky.

My roller coaster has taken several long, low dips. I have had my breath literally taken away with really bad viruses that slowed down the speed of the ride and dragged me very low.

Some days, my stomach was in my throat, as I freefell. I questioned everything I did and everything I thought and everything I wrote.

Some days I dreaded having to face my computer and my thoughts. Some days I just wanted to get off the ride.

Some days, the tracks were heading upwards, yet I felt like I was being pulled downwards. I got mad at myself for not being grateful for the ride I was lucky enough to be on.

For months, my ride was intensely private, almost as if the tracks of my rollercoaster took me through dark, lonely buildings. I felt quiet and invisible. Sometimes I forgot the world. Sometimes, it felt like the world forgot me.

Then, the coaster would surprise me and I’d flip over, seeing the world in a new way. I realized that the coaster tracks were ones I’d built over the years and that, even though it felt unsafe and scary at times, that there were things guiding me on a strong path. I realized that the highest parts of my track were supported by people who love me and believe in me. I could see my former students and their families holding up the track. My husband was there to push my ride vehicle back up the tracks when it dipped and slowed. He could even lift it back onto the tracks when one wheel, or all of them, came off. My family and friends were there to build new supports as unexpected turns appeared. There were people there to believe in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.

Suddenly, the roller coaster stopped. My manuscript was finished, but not yet a book. The writing process was over. I had time to steer the rollercoaster in a new direction. I reconnected with people and with the world. I got outside more. I went on a trip. I worked to build other people’s rollercoasters and cheer them on as they rode.

A few days before I expected it to, the rollercoaster abruptly started again. My book was released. People who I hadn’t heard from in years started to stand alongside the rollercoaster tracks and cheer me on.

After the months of a quiet, solitary routine, I was riding through a bright, noisy world. It was the scariest part of the ride. People could see me now. They could even see into my head and heart through the words in my book. My track was being built faster than I could comprehend and I couldn’t come to terms with the new ride fast enough. I felt like I was watching someone else on the ride.

Trusted family and friends stepped in and slowed down the ride. They hopped into the ride vehicle next to me and rode with me. Through their eyes, I began to see more clearly where I had come from and what I had accomplished. They pointed out incredible directions that my ride could take next. I started to feel some of the pride they felt for me for myself. I began to breathe more easily.

I was launched into the sky when I got the first photos of people reading my book. People shared what they were learning from my words. My students were excited to see themselves in the pages. Suddenly, I couldn’t describe my job in one word anymore. Now, I was an educator (out of the classroom) and an author.

The book finished, I was no longer actively authoring and I was happy to stick my hands in the air and be taken on a ride, celebrating what I had accomplished. Even though I was feeling more relaxed, there was no end to the ride in sight.

I had to start building a new track. I had to steer my rollercoaster to somewhere new. The first, defined ride of writing a book had finished, but my journey had not. Once again, I found myself facing a huge drop into the unknown.

Even though the first part of the ride had its ups and downs, I feel so grateful to have had the chance to get on. I feel so lucky that I got to the front of the line. I feel brave for having taken the risk of getting on a new ride.

Right now, I’ve taken the fast-track once again. My ten-year goal of opening a school feels to far away. I don’t want to stay on the same ride for ten whole years. Instead, I’ve skipped over the track I thought I’d ride and am creating a new one. Looking past the dip to the track of my new ride, I can only see a fuzzy picture of it. I know that there are lots of dips and bumps, spins and flips. I like the future I see ahead.

My job, once again, has become harder to describe. I’m becoming an alphabetical list of roles. I am now an author, a blue sky thinker, a consultant, a designer and an educator.

After a deep breath, the coaster starts again and I fly past the huge dip, stomach threatening to come out my mouth. Right now, I am riding directly up, looking into a big blue sky, seeing dreams begin to materialize in the clouds above me. I don’t know what will come next, but I can’t wait to see.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

One World About High School

I'm starting to play with the responses to my ‪#‎rethinkhighschool‬ survey.
The two images below represent the answers to two questions.

 #1. Describe your high school experience in one word.
#2. Describe what an ideal high school experience could be.
Are you surprised at the results? What would you add?

Drowning in Drafts - a Poem I Made Up in My Car

Drowning in Drafts

I narrated this poem onto VoiceMemo on my phone, in my car, on February 18th, 2016. Because I am so badly drowning in drafts, I'm only getting to typing it up now, almost three weeks later.

Also, I have not shared a poem publicly since high school. Be gentle.

Thank you stock photography for this perfect picture.
For many months
I worked on a single narrative
A single project
I could forgive myself
And excuse myself
For not blogging

But I came up with ideas
Lots of ideas
Which I added to lists
Upon lists
Which I have organized
And prioritized
And alphabetized
And check listed
And expanded
And researched
And narrated
And sketched
And texted

Now, they wash over me
Started as drafts
Unfinished posts
Unshared ideas
They sit in my list
On the notes on my phone
Rambling ideas
Rolling on top of each other
Started as drafts
In the draft folder on my blog
On neon sheets of paper on my coffee table
And Post-Its in my pockets

Every time I don't write a post
Another idea forms
And I sink
Beneath the drafts
And I'm drowning
Under waves
Of ideas

Every time I swim through the drafts
Trying to pull my head above
A new idea forms
I cannot get to the top
Because I cannot get to the top
I give up
And I stop swimming
I stop writing
I hide beneath the waves
Of my ideas
Half formed
In drafts

Even this poem
Coming from my brain
To my mouth
To the VoiceMemo
Will become
Another wave
Another wave in the digital ocean
Of drafts
Of ideas

(Ha! Past Shauna was wrong - I took a stroke, I kicked and I shared this one draft today!)

Monday, 7 March 2016

The Importance of Play - Games in the Classroom

I have been working with an incredible young entrepreneur in Toronto. Kevin Munn has worked in education for seven years. He has been a Child and Youth Worker, ESL teacher and tutor. I know that I would have loved to have had Kevin work with me and my students. He is responsive to student needs and interests, creating games for them to learn and practice skills. Games helped Kevin learn when he was a student and he created games for the students he worked with. Students with a variety of academic, social and emotional needs responded positively, engaged in their learning. His games became popular with teachers and he created sets for them, even buying his own personal laminator to set up customizable games for them. 
Captain Handsome and my MIL tested the games before I brought them to the ESL class
This year, Kevin's company, Hungry Minds Academy has created "Academy in a Box" - four fully-customizable card and board games for students. I have been using several of the games with my Hotel ESL class and the Syrian refugee youth have been able to understand and engage with them easily.

Kevin is joining #cdnedchat tonight from 8-9 p.m. EST for a chat about the importance of play, particularly about why we should and how we could use board games in the classroom.

He is passionate about empowering students to learn at home and at school and has done the research to back up his product line. Tonight, Kevin's questions are based on a five-year evidence based study (including the complied results of sixty independent studies) about the benefits of gameplay on learning.
Tonight's chat will ask you to read some of Kevin's discoveries before you share your own experience. We don't usually give you a sneak preview, but here are Kevin's questions and what we'll be talking about in #cdnedchat tonight:

Q1: How do you use games (esp board games) in your classroom?

Games are inherently engaging to most students, but how they are used determines how effective they can be in a classroom.  Teachers who use games deliberately have the best results.
Many game mechanics include an element of competition, but that can be downplayed, so that learners see that the competitive aspects are not the focus. (Shauna's note: competition is not inherently evil, but competition and learning don't play well together)
Q2: How do you use inconsequential competition in class?

If games do not focus on important academic content, they will have little or no effect on student achievement.

Q3. How do you work essential academic content into games?

The studies referred to found the most common error teachers make when using games is after the games are complete.  Often teachers just add up team points and move on.  They miss out on the opportunity to debrief to go over aspects that are now clearer, were most difficult at the time, etc.

Q4. How long do you debrief after games, and what do you discuss?
Another boost in the effectiveness of games in the classroom was found in having students take notes on the game/lesson afterwards.  Or to allow students to go back and correct homework, etc. with this new knowledge.
Q5. How can you have students reflect or act on what they learned from their participation in games?