Thursday, October 16, 2014

Animoto - Love it!

Well I'm back at it again with Animoto. What a great tool. Easy to use. And creates great quality videos.

While my Video Production class is working on a HD quality Terry Fox video with script, storyboard, interviews, voice overs, and whole works which we will share later, I pulled a bunch of random photos and one video clip and had this video done on Animoto in less than five minutes. You got to love that.

The side benefit of this app is that I also have the education account which gives me the opportunity to create longer videos and share out my promo code to up to 50 students and colleagues. I'm going to love playing with this tool again after taking a short break from it.

It's a great way to promote the school and students particularly after running an event in the school, or completing a project the students have been working on in a class. Students have so much fun with this tool. You can find it at

Here is my quick sample video:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reading Needs to be a Priority: Online Children Books & Resources

With the advent of technology, there has been a fear that children will do less reading. Some will site that gaming keeps kids from reading, or the increased use of mobile devices. And maybe it does have some bearing on how much students read, but I think reading has been on the decline for a while and hasn't only been an issue recently. In a recent infographic, which I have attached below, it notes that 33% of high school graduates never pick up a book and read after high school. I find that not only hard to believe, but tragic.

If we won't read for ourselves, at least pick up a book and read to our children. If there isn't a book handy, we always have access to the Internet and online resources. Here's a list of  few sites where we can find online books for children that are very engaging.

Online Children Book Sites:

There are lots more sites, but check these out for a start.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 6, 2014

One month into the Principalship...!!!

Very few people are as fortunate as I to walk into a school and take over a principalship of a good school. And it's not only me saying this. We are hearing this from all over. With volleyball session in full swing and parents and students coming from other schools in the region,  it's amazing how many people rave about the canteen we have in the school, or how clean the school is, or what a great gym we have. This speaks highly of the caretakers we have, who work so hard to maintain the school, and the students, who are very respectful when it comes to treating the school and equipment properly. Our students are great ambassadors for Bassano when they go to other schools as well. We are very proud of them. Not only are they playing well, but their character is showing through as well.

So not only do I have a great school to work at because of the facility, but the students are fantastic. Those that know me know that I like to be visible in the school. I sit with students at lunch and visit. It's all about relationships that we form with students. I've always said, and I don't have any research to back me up, but experience tells me that 80% of learning is about relationship. If teachers don't have relationships with students and just come into a class and push content out to students, it will fail. But when you take time to get to know students and show them you care, you've created an environment for students to feel safe and want to learn. I don't want to be Mr. Hill to the students for the rest of my life, I want to that principal that they can say cared for them, and I hope they can call me Vince one day too.

I'm convinced that a major reason parents don't always trust schools and struggle with supporting any school is because of their own experiences as a student. And some schools have earned that reputation fairly. But here at Bassano School, I have made it my vision and mission to ensure that student feels safe, appreciated and empowered to exceed their potential. Pipe dream? I think not. So that means, as a School, we need to builds relationships at home with parents. I hope that we can start with a clean slate with parents, who have felt isolated and distrustful of what schools may have done in the past. We need to work together and make this right.

On that note, I have a huge request. I am convinced that we need to be extremely proactive addressing literacy or reading with students. As a former English teacher, I believe we can never read enough to our children, with our children, and for our children. You notice that I added "for our children." Reading isn't just a student activity. We need to model for our children the importance of reading. I read all the time; my wife reads all the time. Reading is important. I came across this image and quote on it the other day that said, Follow the path a great book leads you on. It always leads to a more open mind! Parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, please read with our children. For their sake and their future, everyone needs to read with our students. This isn't just the schools job as I've heard some people say. I want to get the Home Reading Program going again. So in the near future, we will send out information about this program. I also want to hold Parent Information nights that will teach strategies to parents giving them the tools to help their child become the best readers possible.

Finally, the staff we have are great. I've worked in and supervised a lot of schools. We have a staff that works hard. They put in a lot of extra hours over and above the regulars hours. I am very honoured to be counted as one of the staff with these folks. Think of all the time they put in driving students to games and tournaments on the weekend. Or the volunteering for school dance night. Or planning fundraisers like Terry Fox Run, or SRC Magazine Fundraiser. This is all extra time they give to our students. They still have to prepare for their classes and teach. They show up at 7:30 AM for a professional development session because they are not done learning themselves. They are always looking for ways to be more effective teachers and education assistants. I'm impressed.

So what can you do to help. I'm glad you asked. Come to Parent Council meetings to learn in more detail the happenings at the school. We are always looking for volunteers, drivers for school sports events, and more. We encourage community members to come in and visit and see what's happening for themselves. We are also in early talks with Medicine Hat College about bringing post-secondary programming to Bassano and offering them in the evenings and weekends. Also, Newell Further Education is offering more programs in the school as well. Check out our website ( regularly for updates, sign up for the monthly newsletter, follow us on Twitter, @bassanoschool.

That's it for this month. Thanks for listening!

Siksika Signs 3-Yr Agreement with #GPSD6

Darren Pietrobono, Lenora Rabbit Carrier, Linda Andres, David Steele, Rhian Schroeder, Vince Hill (Standing left to right)
Hector Winnipeg, Vic Budz (Sitting left to right)

September 29, 2014

Anytime partnerships can be established, individuals and communities benefit. Bassano School is no exception to this principle. For 46 years now, Siksika First Nation students have been attending Bassano School with First Nation graduation rates increasing each year. Siksika students, who attend Bassano School demonstrate tremendous commitment to their education. Many of them spend up to two hours on the school bus each day. According to Tristan Weasel Head, Grade 12 student, “Coming to Bassano School has been a great experience and given me more opportunities and choices for my career path.”

Experiences like Tristan’s have been made possible because of the new three year partnership agreement that Grasslands Public Schools and Siksika First Nation negotiated this year. This agreement involves 73 students attending from Siksika from Grade 1 – 12. A  First Nations person is employed as a Community Liaison worker to enhance communication with parents and students.  In the new agreement this position will be a Grasslands position. 

Siksika spokesperson, Lenora Rabbit Carrier, Assistant Superintendent said “The partnership with Grasslands has been very positive, which is due to the collaborative efforts from both parties.  We are proud of the commendable achievements of our students and the increasing graduation rates.  The diverse programs offered, academic support and cultural infusion have given our students the tools to seek their academic goals and dreams”, and Grasslands Superintendent David Steele added “We are very proud of the programs in Bassano and the achievements of our Siksika students.

Vince Hill, Principal, who has been working with First Nation students for the past 25 years and just moved to Bassano, is thrilled to be working in a school which celebrates diversity and embraces all cultures. “I count it a privilege to be given this opportunity to support our First Nation students in a partnership such as this,” says Mr. Hill. “We have great students coming from Siksika, who want to be here, and want to learn.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Do We Care About Adult Literacy? We Need To!

Daphne Greenberg asks some great questions that we who can read need to consider. 4 out of 10 adults in Canada have low literacy and this is not just an English as a Second Language issue. We are so quick to suggest that it's the foreign workers that struggle with reading, but the truth of the matter is that many of them can read, just not English. But they can read in their own language, so they technically don't get counted in those numbers. But as much as it is a need within in our communities, sadly, those who need to read this message, cannot read this blog. That's a big reason that I like to add a video to my blog, because at least people who might not read very well can get something out of this message.

So what do we need to do? We need to invest into adult literacy programs and give our time volunteer tutoring. The benefits are huge. When a person can read a so many more opportunities open up to them either for employment, or even just their quality of life. It's easy for us to take for granted that we can read. I love to read, and I thoroughly enjoy sitting back and relaxing with my Kindle app on my tablet. A whole new world opens up to me as a read a novel, or non-fiction on a given topic of interest. As a result, I'm learning. But if my only source of information is radio or TV, I'm missing out of so much. But more importantly, if I can't read chances are greater that I will struggle socio-economically. And then what about the children? How does this affect them?

Sadly, low literacy is everywhere and we need to care about it.

Here's a few links to look at: Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education

P.A.L.S. - Changing Lives Through Literacy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trains, Train, Learn

How many of you have been on a train? I love travelling on a train, or subway. We see trains all the time. They are not an uncommon sight around Bassano. Many of the staff will laugh about my obsession with trains, because it began while trying to sleep in camper trailer and being woken up several times each evening to the train whistle as it approached the highway crossroads. My father-in-law was a train man for 37 years, and he was telling me there is pattern to the whistles. - Two long, one short or two short, one long means the train is approaching a grade level crossing or road crossing. Multiple short whistles mean Danger! Something is on the track like livestock or a vehicle. In any case, for the first few weeks in Bassano, I heard every train that went through town; supposedly we have 23 that go through each day. I think there are more! People tell me I'll get use to it, and I have already to some extent, but I do like the sound of the train. It's become a familiar sound. 

Every morning that I'm out running at 6:30 AM, I see trains going through town. I love watching them go by. Each car uniquely spray painted by some artist somewhere in Canada or the USA. It makes you wonder where that car has been. And the detail is amazing as illustrated in the picture here. 

How many of you knew that trains were responsible for us living in Mountain Standard Time? Time zones have not always been around. In fact, Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian railway planner and engineer, outlined a plan for worldwide standard time in the late 1870s. On November 18, 1883, the railway implemented Standard Time Zones for all railways in the USA and Canada. Then the Government of Canada passed legislation implementing time zones across Canada on July 1, 1891. 

All this train talk got me thinking about the word, train. Where does it come from? So I did a little research and learned that the word train used as a noun, comes from the Latin meaning to pull, or draw. On a long dress, a train is the long part of material that is being pulled behind. As a verb, train means to educate, instruct, or teach. Training is not confined to just teachers and schools though; training begins at home first. In fact, parents are the first teachers. Following the wise old proverb we as parents are called to, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Train, or Pull, or Draw the learning from the each learner in this lifelong process, that's what we do as parents, and that's what we do as teachers.

We are tasked by Alberta Education to educate our students. We are to train them with the skills that will help them succeed later on in life after school. So this year, we have a Ministerial Order that has commissioned us to ensure that we train our children the following 10 skills or competencies across all subject areas. These competencies are sets of attitudes, skills and knowledge that are drawn upon and applied to different situations and subject areas for successful learning and living. They will be developed by every student, in every grade and across every subject/discipline area. They are:

  • Know how to learn...
  • Think critically...
  • Identify and solve complex problems...
  • Manage information...
  • Innovate...
  • Create opportunities...
  • Apply multiple literacies...
  • Demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others
  • Demonstrate global and cultural understanding..
  • Identify and apply career and life skills...
If you want more information about these, check out the link at Cross-Curricular Competencies. 

We talk a lot about learning these days, and being a lifelong learner, which is very student-centred. But in order, for our students to be successful in learning, we need to train them how to learn, think critically, work through problems, manage the information, and more. We will pull and draw this out of our students, because we believe that can and will exceed their potential this year and in the years to come. So every time you see a train this year, think about learning, whether it is your learning or our students learning. It's a year to train.