Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reflections on AB2 Museum Day project

It has been two months since our Museum Day; this was our day to showcase our learning, with physical models we had built, along with incorporated QR Code guided tours. Tonight I look back and reflect on how this project changed my teaching.

I was excited to give others students the opportunity to take a mentoring role. Andrew's (Mr. Bieronski) Grade Ten students became mentors to my Grade Four students in the planning and execution of each phase of our 6 week project.  I was impressed by their meticulous planning processes, and considerable thought given to each stage of the project, from design to build.  Upon meeting these young adults in person, I realized just how much more they got from this than just offering a set of printed, guided instructions. In our whole group discussion, one student shared how great she felt after having helped someone else. As a teacher, knowing that I helped someone realize the sheer joy and power of doing good is highest degree of success.

Life is not about getting good grades, landing the cushy job, and making scores of cash. The true joy in life lies in intrinsic rewards. If I can allow 16 year old kids to realize the power of philanthropy (whether guided by school or not), I have touched on a powerful nerve. If they can use a simple tech tool to touch base with their 9 year old partners, offering encouragement and constructive criticism that result firstly in a positive step forward, and secondly in the deeply satisfying feeling of having done good, I have done what I set out to do.

Museum Day proved to be the highlight of our year. Even though my students worked for 6 weeks on the constructing, designing, and preparing for their exhibit, they showed no exhaustion or indifference to The Big Day. Without the use of iPads, the internet, or Google tools, this project would have undoubtedly taken twice as long, with far more frustration, both from students and teacher.

I am grateful that I could use Google Hangouts to confer with Mr. Bieronski, and his students immediately, and frequently to make sure we were all on the right track. I am also grateful to Ian Tao, who introduced me to his app Sesame Snap, that allowed the students to collect their own assessment data in a personal digital portfolio, that I could also share and use in my evaluations.

This project introduced me to several new ideas and people who propelled my learning along the way. I explored new Google tools like Hangouts, Drive, and Google Apps for Education to keep myself on the forefront of assessment and feedback, without needing to work harder. Ian Tao's Sesame and Sesame Snap allowed my students and me to immediately collect, reflect upon, and evaluate our data as we built the project.

Watching kids bustle through the door twenty minutes before the bell in order to get a head start on building for the day told me that I had something special going on in my room.  Engaged in their task, my students forgot that they were still learning and growing. Education needs to be more of this, and less of monotonous, irrelevant tasks that do not relate to their lives. As a teacher, one may need to throw out last year's plans and jump off the cliff into something new, exciting, and motivating. You may fail; you may be gloriously successful. The point is, you tried to stay relevant and inspiring.

I feel like I made a major step forward in my teaching. I undertook the planning and new learning that was required to facilitate the Museum Project for my students. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it lit the fire of motivation in me; motivation to be better, to stay current, and to inspire children to love their learning. I will take those tenets with me as I strive to grow and stay relevant to newer generations of kids as they cross my threshold on their journey through education.  This project has given me an inspirational, rewarding start on this trip.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Reflections from Week 2

This week our museum project has made great gains. We managed to resurrect the Roman Coliseum, investigate the Great Pyramids, and reconstruct a Mosque. Students have been resourceful and cooperative when it comes to sharing their materials. I was very pleased to see students share hot glue sticks, paint, nails, and even Play-Doh to help eachother progress with their respective exhibits.

On the technology front, we learned how to add photos and video directly into our Google Drives on the iPads. We struggled at first trying to execute moves we can do on desktop computers, and found that we had to become more creative with our creations on the iPad version.

We made folders that we shared, and dropped our photos and videos into these folders. Thanks to a quick conversation on Twitter with Mr. Bieronski, we were able to share with as many of our coaches as the program would allow. (We're still working out obstacles with differences between the desktop and mobile versions.

I can tell we're on the right track, because when I explain what our class is doing to other teachers, or even non-educators, the reaction is usually one of surprise and riveted curiosity.  So far no one has expressed doubt or scepticism with our plan.

I hope that next week the students will have a chance to "meet" with their coaches on line to share their progress. We also need to start writing and recording the interactive portion of our exhibit. If we keep going on the same trajectory, I feel we'll be in a good place very soon.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Harnessing the Power of Collaboration (AB Squared, part 1)

This past week began the meticulous, definite planning of a cross-divisional project. My partner in collaboration, Mr. Andrew Bieronski and I have laid the foundational stones for a physical, virtual, digital playground. He and I coincidentally engaged in a lunchtime conversation during the RCAC Conference in London, ON. this past December.

I wanted to create another great digital project; the last one, Canada Connection, was a tremendous success. Five different classrooms and grades combined the study of Canada into a bi-monthly online meeting, where we shared our learning about a region of Canada, focussing on the curriculum expectations of our respective grades. The result was several interactive presentations, dances, stop-motion films, slideshows, Prezis, all rooted in our discovery and learning about Canada's history, geography, and culture.

 This one is different. Grade Ten students will mentor Grade Four, as they endeavour to create museum exhibits, related to the study of Ancient Times. The idea simmered, bubbled, and became convincingly possible during that fateful lunch hour discussion; thanks goes to David Dowhaniuk, who pushed and provoked with thoughtful questions.

 So, after much discussion, theorizing, fantasizing, and planning, the project is a go. I often see the finished product in my head; students proudly standing beside their exhibits, engaged in discussions about how it all came about, and how these civilizations impacted our modern world. Much must be accomplished before that vision becomes a reality.

I must trust our plan, my vision, and my belief that this is the right group of students to undertake this task. I promised myself that I would blog about the process as a model, because the students will be required to blog about their experience as well. I am eager, excited, and confident that this will be a learning experience that is rich and lasting. I hope this to be "the one they remember", (for all the right reasons). Let us hope that my instinct is right.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thoughts from #ecoo13

Reflections on ECOO 2013 And now to decompress.... My brain is chock full of teaching ideas, tips, tools, resources, could-dos, should-dos, all of which I want to spend more time thinking about. Thank goodness for note-taking apps (or even the humble pen) that have allowed me to try and remember every shred of infoI collected in 48 hours. I will go home, pull out my trusty tablet, and stare T these notes thinking, "yeah, I should totally do that...I should start Monday". Who's kidding who though, it's much more involved than that; here are the points in common that I'm taking away with me: . Learn it yourself first. Playplayplayplay. You can't break anything! Become more comfortable with a tool before foisting upon your children win aspirations of learning greatness. Armies need a general, not the Walmart Greeter. . Give myself permission to fumble and drop the ball. Kids will think no less of me if I totally mess up a presentation, or accidentally erase files or links. They'll laugh along with me if I start laughing first. It's all good- I'm new at this stuff too! (More like, "here, _____, find out what this app does, and come tell Mme all about it!") . Fuel the passion. My professional goal for this year is to assess without paper. I've tinkered with Evernote, skitch, Edmodo! Google docs, livescribe, all with the end goal of finding a new workflow that works for me. Note: this should make you uneasy at times. This is the shift hitting the fan. Worm around, scratch your head, and say "what next?" Instead of "what now?" If you're slipping back to an old way of doing things, perhaps this wasn't the passion you were really trying to foster and grow. No problem, just keep trying to evolve and improve in ways that make you excited, and that make you look objectively at your practice and say "yes! This is awesome!" I'm likely going into my classroom this weekend to see what went down in my absence, and to try jumping back into the fray. I will find myself thinking about total pedagogical upheaval, about ditching everything I currently do, this is the nature of ECOO and like conferences for me; I wouldn't change that. I need to love myself with the skills I bring to the table today. I need to allow myself time and learning curves like water slides to get better at the role I play in this journey called Education. It doesn't matter if I'm not a guru tomorrow; what matters is my students leave me feeling empowered, excited, and good about continuing down their learning paths more equipped than in September. Thanks to conferences like ECOO, I'm going to feel that way too.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Reflections on starting a PLP

Yesterday I joined the world of PLP, or Powerful Learning Practice. I will be working with a group of 5 other WRDSB educators, as well as colleagues and mentors from around North America and the world. After having had a day to let it all percolate, I'm thinking about how I'm going to incorporate this year-long learning experience into my already quite busy life. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beech and Will Richardson both gave us advice to take this slowly and carefully, so as not become completely overwhelmed and discouraged by its enormity. Like tour guides at the trailhead, they warned us to take the flat, scenic path first, rather than madly sprinting off by ourselves to the jagged cliff edge. From what percolated, I think PLP is about constantly keeping an eye on your own practice in education, just to make sure that you're up to date, lessons are relevant to learners, and that you're preparing young people to be fully functional, capable, happy members of society. In our specific context, it means embracing and blending in the wonders of technology that are everywhere, so that kids a) know how to use technology for good not evil; b) are taking evolutionary steps along with society, building growth, change, and adaptation into their lifestyles. I like how Sheryl described the PLP journey. She described the internet as a river. Constantly flowing, approachable and inviting. Sometimes we want to dip our feet to relax and cool off; other times we dive in head first and swim for a while. Still, there are other days (particularly in Canada) when we're not really into swimming or getting wet; the river is still there- quietly going about its business, and there to welcome us back when we're ready to go there. Before she made that analogy, I had a visual in my head of how I felt about this journey. I picture a great scene from "Finding Nemo" where Crush the sea turtle is grooving along in the EAC (East Australian Current) along with hundreds of other fish, and has Dory and Marlin in his care. When the current blasts ahead, he screams "Righteous! Righteous!" loving every minute of it. (incidentally his turtle kids happily go with the flow, just trusting that everything is going where it should). When Dory and Marlin jump from the stream at Sydney, they look around, a bit unsure of what to do next, but not panicking that they may have made some kind of mistake. I think that's the key- wherever PLP may take you, it's not a right or wrong destination. The trip there changes who you are, and now you need to absorb that little piece of the journey into your being, and carry on to the next stop, trusting that this is all going to be a good move in the end. I have yet to attend the first webinar- I'm still learning to navigate the ning. So right now I'm on the banks of the River PLP content to watch it flow by me, doing its thing. I know that soon my feet will be in it and I'll be talking to the little fish that go by. Don't tell me if the river sneaks around a bend and opens into some furious rapids; I want to find that out for myself when the time comes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I'm curious....

Tomorrow we'll all head back from a week off on various March Break activities. I'm asking myself what the kids are going to tell me about first; something they saw? A new experience they got to try? I'm going to be looking to see whether authentic learning situations took the front seat this week over any other more mundane activities like going to the movies, dining out, or shopping. (Note to reader: I value all of those activities for various reasons; I'm thinking specifically of how one's holiday may quietly contribute to learning through moments of authenticity.) Ben went to California like I did; I wonder what he's going to tell me about first? When Hailey comes back from the Dominican, will she tell me about an enriching experience first? I think what I'd tell the kids about first is walking through the tiny steel corridors on the USS Midway in San Diego, and how I learned so much about military aviation and its connection to that area. (I don't know if they'll really care that I shot 89 on a fairly challenging Palm Springs golf course....) I'm going to wait and observe what comes up first. If it's all about cool learning experiences, I'll be sure to post and share what came up first. If not, it was a worthy experiment in observation.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Power of Respect

I am so proud of my students for how they practise good digital citizenship. We were lucky enough to have Susan Watt (@susanwatt) come to our classroom in the fall to teach us about the respectful use of other people's intellectual materials, and how important it is to give credit where due. My students in grades 4/5 are now compiling images for an art/Keynote assignment and are automatically seeking out "labeled for reuse" images and recording the URLs in their slideshows to give attribution. Even if the idea of plagiarism is incomprehensible at this age, it still makes me proud to see that the kids realize that someone else prepared this material for them, so simply learning how to give credit teaches them respect for other users and contributors on the net. To other elementary teachers out there: please know that students in grades 4 and up (in my personal experience) can truly comprehend the value and importance of being honest, and of giving attribution to their sources when required. I hope that when these same students arrive in college or university courses this will be as automatic as blinking. I can proudly say, Lesson Learned.