For the Islands of Excellence conference, we were so pleased to partner with Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program to be able to give away scholarships to a few educators to join us for the conference.

Here are some snippets from their blogs.

Heidi Siwak Twitter @HeidiSiwak

Islands of Excellence left us with new connections, compelling ideas and a vision for the future of education. The question now is how do we build bridges between these isolated pockets of innovation and expand these types of initiatives so that more learners have the opportunity to experience a different approach to education that matches more appropriately the requirements of today?

Brandon Zoras @BrandonZoras

I got to connect with teachers in all fields, admin, community activists, and everyone in between. It was great seeing so many other leaders in their fields working towards the common goal of providing the best possible learning experience for students. The conversations were great starting points for change and really challenged the status quo.

Ally Fly @FlyOnTheCWall

One of the really exciting things about this conference – about this evening – was that it brought together not only educators, but individuals from “the outside world” … What I mean by this, is that as a Grade 5 teacher I spend the vast majority of my time in my own room with my own students – therefore, the opportunity to connect with others and across such a vast spectrum was a true gift!

It was our pleasure to be able to support Heidi, Brandon and Ally to attend the conference and we are all so grateful to Microsoft Partners in Learning for helping make waves!

~ Jenn

To kick us off for the first ever Islands Of Excellence, we have the most amazing list of speakers talking about a multitude of intersections with education.
Don Adams, YMCA Academy
Rita Fundner, CCICT & CareerMash,
Mandy Wintink, UExperience, Center for Applied Neuroscience Coaching
Adil Dhalla, My City Lives
Julian Diego, SKETCH
Ashley Lewis, Aesthetec Studio Inc, Girls Learning Code, Mobile Children’s Museum
Andy Forest, Maker Kids
Jessica Tudos, kika creative
There is still time to get a ticket.
This event is powered by Pecha Kucha.

Jessica Tudos is an educator, entrepreneur, and Olympian. As the founding director of kika creative, Jessica facilitates and leads innovative experiential initiatives in education, culture and community engagement. Drawing from her Olympic gymnastics experience and diverse international educational career in over 40 countries, Jessica is known for her ability to “get things done” through collaboration and innovation, while maintaining a high level of enthusiasm, pragmatism, and authenticity along the way. As a motivational speaker and member of Clean Air Champions and Motivate Canada, Jessica encourages individuals, groups and organizations to engage in lifelong learning, healthy active living and creative expression that leads to positive social change. Jessica

is bringing to life the story of a young gymnast-in-the making through Kika the Upside Down Girl and will be launching her interactive C3 Program (Cultivating Curiosity & Creativity) in 2013. Jessica lives in Toronto, Canada and is the proud single mother of a wonderful son.

Are You Curious About Your Curiosity?

Are you still inquisitive and child-like in your discovery of the world or has life got you feeling disengaged and apathetic? In this session on Cultivating Curiosity Through Creativity, educator, entrepreneur and Olympian Jessica Tudos takes us on a journey that highlights the benefits, techniques and pitfalls commonly linked to curiosity.  Although cultivating curiosity in a results-based system such as education can be challenging, Jessica shows us how a deck of cards inclusive of hundreds of creative ideas can foster unbridled curiosity in all of us.

Register to see Jessica speak on November 16th at the YMCA Academy –

Raised in the suburbs of Ontario, Ashley Lewis moved to Toronto to complete her degree. She is a tech savvy, Ryerson New Media grad with a passion for children’s content. Ashley is a hacking, interactive designer with a DIY mentality. With a background in fine art, she also enjoys painting, sculpting and drawing when she isn’t coding. She loves collaborating on creative projects with people of different specializations and is aiding with the launch of Toronto’s first mobile Children’s Museum, inspired by the late great Marshall McLuhan. She has worked and interned for companies like TIFF and CBC and is currently working with Aesthetec and Girls Learning Code. As a lady learning code herself, she is excited at the thought of passing this passion to younger generations.

Register to see Ashley speak on November 16th at the YMCA Academy –

Rita Fundner’s career spans 30 years in both Information Technology and Human Resources and models a combination of business and IT skills.

Prior to joining the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills and CareerMash as Executive Director, she served in management and technical IT roles for provincial and municipal government as well as the financial services sector. She also provided executive coaching and strategic planning services to law schools and medical school programs in Canada and the US through her consulting firm.

Register to see Rita speak on November 16th at the YMCA Academy –


Julian Diego is a Program Coordinator at Sketch Working Arts. Julian Diego is a Program Coordinator at Sketch Working Arts, where he has been focussing on supporting youth through movement arts, such as kung fu, dance and theatre. SKETCH is a community-arts development initiative for young people, ages 15-29, who are homeless or living on the margins. Based in Toronto, SKETCH engages youth from all over Canada. The initiative creates equitable opportunities for diverse young people to experience the transformative power of the arts, to develop their leadership and self-sufficiency, and to cultivate social and
environmental change through the arts.

SKETCH celebrates and proliferates its community-arts practice with partners in various Canadian towns and cities to build a movement where young people, free from barriers, are celebrated and engaged as culture makers, perception changers and collaborators in building creative community. It has been recognized locally, provincially and nationally for its unique, capacity-focused approach to youth engagement and organizing through the arts.

SKETCH also works to mentor and support emerging artists who wish to affect change in the Greater Toronto Area. These collaborative partners include Womynation, creating arts activities for young women of colour; Connect To Youth, creating awareness and advocacy for youth through theatre; and New Eyez, educating the community on barriers newcomer youth face.

SKETCH maintains a strong partnership network to create community supports to marginalized youth in social service, health, environment,employment and education. Every year SKETCH engages 650 to 800 street-involved and marginalized youth, and sees approximately 10,000 visits per year in our community-arts programming. These youth engage in arts exploration and self expression, skill-building and capacity-building projects, career-development opportunities, and youth-leadership training–all while participating in a lively and vibrant community of youth art makers.

Your chance to come to Islands Of Excellence as a Microsoft’s Partner in Learning scholar is still available.

Applications have been extended until Tuesday November 13, 2012 at midnight. Applications will be accepted at splash [at] makewaveshere [dot] com

1. What are some innovative ways that you are using Microsoft technologies in your classroom and school?

2. How do you communicate online and share your ideas, experiences and best practices with other teachers?

3. Is critical pedagogy, or components of it, a part of your teaching practice? How do you explore critical pedagogy with your students?

4. Would you be willing to write a short blog post on some your innovative uses of Microsoft technology in the classroom?

Tinkering is in Andy’s bones. As a child, he was always making things; rockets, a suit of armour, an intercom system, a solar water heating system and a scratch-built database program on his commodore 64 to keep track of his friends birthdays.
Along with his wife Marianne Mader, Andy is the Co-Founder and Chief Instigator of MakerKids, the first MakerSpace for kids in Canada! Started in his garage in 2010 for kids to build their own ideas with real tools, it is now a full-fledged non-profit with a permanent 1200 sq ft space! Kids build submarines, sew monsters, make chocolate molds, build robots, print 3D objects, and more!
Andy has also been the President of Dimentians for 17 years, which is a full service digital communications agency with a staff of 6. Dimentians specializes in non-profits and helping make the world a better place!
Making Makers
In recent years, the Maker movement has grown exponentially. People are making all kinds of interesting things out of wood, metal, electronics, cloth and other crafts in their garages and living rooms.
How do people get involved with this? Tools are expensive, and the know how to use them is declining.
Enter MakerSpaces! These community workshops provide the space, the tools, and the training to become whatever kind of Maker you fancy.
Maker Kids is such a workshop, specializing in young people. Kids come up with their own project ideas, and mentors help them figure out how to build them. Kids creativity is unbounded, and they have built some crazy things!

We are pleased to announce sponsorship from Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. We are passing on the goodies to you. Apply for a PiL scholarship by November 11, 2012 at midnight to be considered. Applications will be accepted at splash [at] makewaveshere [dot] com

Are you an innovative teacher that is pushing the boundaries of technology use in the classroom? Do you have an active and vibrant online community where you share your ideas, experiences, and best practices to create the 21st century classroom? If so, Microsoft’s Partners in Learning (PiL) program would like to help you build your online communities. In partnership with Make Waves, PiL would like to sponsor your attendance at their inaugural Islands of Excellence Conference on November 16th and 17th.

If you are interested in a receiving a full-conference pass to the Islands of Excellence Conference, please answer the following questions:

1. What are some innovative ways that you are using Microsoft technologies in your classroom and school?

2. How do you communicate online and share your ideas, experiences and best practices with other teachers?

3. Is critical pedagogy, or components of it, a part of your teaching practice? How do you explore critical pedagogy with your students?

4. Would you be willing to write a short blog post on some your innovative uses of Microsoft technology in the classroom?

PiL’s Mission:

Partners in Learning is committed to bridging development gaps and helping realize basic rights by improving education and providing young people with the skills they need to become productive members of society. Since its launch in 2003, PiL has touched the lives of more than 200 million students and teachers in 114 countries.

About PiL:

Microsoft’s Partners in Learning is working with educators and school leaders in Canada to deliver a portfolio of professional development, tools and resources designed to advance teaching and learning and connect with educators worldwide.

Join our PiL Network

Visit our Canadian blog

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Kathryn and I met Don Adams, the Head of the YMCA Academy in May. When we were still just talking about what Islands of Excellence could be. Don immediately blew us away with his passion and compassion for his school and students. We have been sharing and shaping the growth of Make Waves and Islands of Excellence with Don along the way. We are so lucky to have Don as a supporter of ours.

You can come hear Don speak on Friday November 16th at the Pecha Kucha.  


Tell me about best or challenging day

Amongst many great days, one stands out in particular. It was my first day at The YMCA Academy, and I was being introduced at an assembly of the school as the new principal. It’s important to understand that many students with learning disabilities do not react well to change — structure is of utmost importance — so my arrival at the school could be fairly disruptive. Understanding that, I was a little nervous about the assembly.

After the introductions, one student approached me with a broad smile, extending her hand in welcome. She said “Don, it’s good to meet you. Please come into our classes — I’d like to get to know you better.” Imagine yourself as a high school student, asking the new principal to join you in her classes!! What a remarkable school!

Tell me about something when you surprised yourself

I like to push personal boundaries, so “surprising” myself isn’t that uncommon. I once set a goal of building myself a car — a real car — from scratch. I worked on that for six years! I’ve been driving it every summer now for the last four years. I had no real mechanical or engineering experience or expertise, so the idea was a bit audacious. But I did it, and it’s a great car!

What do you see are the benefits of having multidisciplinary or different perspectives in education

As a group educators are the most other-focussed people in the world. Each is concerned with bettering the life chances of his or her students. Each, being individual, has his or her own ideas and methods on how to best do that. So, connecting with other educators broadens my repertoire of available methods and ideas, and makes me a better teacher and administrator.

Tell me a story of an IOE that you know

I just found out about a really marvelous mentoring program for youth between the ages of 15 and 23 — Called StepStones. It is for youth entering early adulthood with minimal levels of support in their lives — aging out of foster care, formerly homeless and runaway youth, youth with active mental health/substance abuse problems, delinquent youth estranged from their birth or adoptive parents etc. In this program, youth are connected with long term mentors, for a minimal period of one year, to work on goals and essential life skills related to then critical domains: Permanence, Identity, Self Care & Health, Housing, Education, Job & Career, Finances & Money, Transportation, Life Skills, and Community, Culture, Social Life.