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.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Twitter ideas for class groups

July 23rd, 2010
Using Twitter has been a fabulous PD discovery for me. It’s only been 8 months since I’ve hopped on, and already I feel quite at home learning from my PLN. I plan to try using Twitter in the following manner this fall: (before I get there, I will share the details of my classroom set-up). We have one desktop eMac, and I have created a student log-in on my MacBook. Otherwise, we have a 30-machine lab that we can access once or twice a week as a whole class.

1. Twitter updates for parents. I have a job board in my junior class room, with responsibilities like “Courier/attendance runner”, “Phone person/secretary”, etc. This year I am adding “Tweeter”, simply printing the Twitter logo onto an Avery label sticker, and adding it to the job board.



The tweeter’s job will be to post a message every day, telling our parent followers about what we learned/did/ or guests we had in the school. I am hoping this helps in 2 ways: 1. To consolidate the fine art of summary. 2. To promote digital citizenship, using the web for positive messages, and education.

2. The next idea is to create four or five permanent accounts, know as “group 1″ – “group 5″. When students collaborate throughout the year, they will be responsible for logging in to their appropriate group numbered account, and discussing what they did. I would post guiding prompts and questions for them to help stay focused on what is being asked. For example, Susie, Bill, and Paul are group 3, learning about the circulatory system. Once they’ve presented they will log onto to Twitter in the “Group 3″ account, and share about their learning. In the next learning activity, if Paul is now in group 1, he will log into that user account and share there. If anyone out there has already tried this, I would be curious to know about how it worked for you; is it efficient? Are students motivated to use Twitter in this fashion? I suppose this set up could work well for Wikis as well. Simply create group pages, and allow student groups to share there.

I think it’s a prime time for teachers to model the positive uses of technology for students, especially K-6 when parents are likely offering more computer autonomy at home. By incorporating Twitter and wikis simply as additional learning tools, I hope to “build better users”.

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Learning to blog @ #catc10

August 12th, 2010

Web 2.0 tools offer us and our students a million ways to use technology in education. Twitter and blogs are the most popular tools being learned about here at camp. Care to share how you plan to use these tools this year? How have you already employed 2.0 in the classroom? What are you doing to make it even better this year?

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