Art Miles Japan — Our successful completion!

BIG congratulations to the Grade 6s and Mme Caudarella from  École Edward Johnson who participated in a Global Project called Art Miles Japan this year.  It is coordinated through the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN.org) and is a fabulous way for students to have a global learning experience.  A teacher is matched with a class from Japan and the classes begin by introducing themselves in the iEARN online forum and through videos that they create.   The two classes then decide on a theme for a mural; in this case it was around the local culture and nature evident in our two countries.

The class from Japan begins the first half of the mural painting, and, once complete, sends it to the class in Canada to finish, which we shared earlier here. What a great opportunity for students to research, collaborate, design, and be creative with a classroom from across the world! Mme Caudarella’s class received the half-finished mural from Japan in January and sent it back just before March Break. Thanks so much to our partner class from Japan for this wonderful collaboration! :)

Here are some pictures of the class working on and celebrating the finished mural:

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Appreciative Leadership – Chapter 1

I’m an eternal optimist.  Was I born this way?  I don’t know… all I know is that I’ve always viewed the cup as half-full and have an easy time finding silver linings somehow.  This must be what draws me to the Appreciative Inquiry approach that I began to learn about in my time as a Community Leader with Powerful Learning Practice.  And I do mean ‘began to learn’ because I feel like I need a lot of years to develop skill in this area.

Imagine my delight to have attended my first Family of Schools meeting at my Board this fall and to be presented with an article to read about all different kinds of leaders.  As I often do, I flipped directly to the back of the article to check out the resources, and found a 9780071743204recommended resource called Appreciative Leadership by Appreciative Inquiry gurus Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Kae Rader!   I promptly bought the book and began to read about their definition of AL:

Appreciative Leadership is the relational capacity to mobilize creative potential and turn it into positive power — to set in motion positive ripples of confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and performance — to make a positive difference in the world (P. 3)

I love this positive worldview and the focus on what IS needed, what IS possible and what CAN be done.  Super stuff for an optimist like me!

In devouring the first part of the book, the authors outline the 5 core strategies of AL and I find that they resonate with me.  In fact, these are exactly the things upon which I am focusing as a school administrator:

  1. Inquiry – Ask powerful questions
  2. Illumination – Bring out the best of people and situations
  3. Inclusions – Engage with people to coauthor the future
  4. Inspiration – Awaken the creative spirit
  5. Integrity – Make choices for the good of the whole

I want to get better at asking those powerful questions and as a beginning the authors suggest observing yourself to determine your ask-to-tell ratio.  They recommend that we ask questions about 3 times more than we tell information.  I have no clue what my ratio is, but I’m going to spend a week or two watching that more closely.

Do you know your ask-to-tell ratio?

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Making Thinking Visible – Getting started with routines

Making Thinking Visible is based on the work being done at Harvard’s Project Zero and is part of a larger study of Cultures of Thinking about which you can read more here.  The book provides a background about why a thinking focus is important and provides an introduction into the Thinking Routines that are recommended as a way to bring the theory into practice in the classroom.  I’ve found it a nice combination of going deeper into our professional practice as teachers, and practical suggestions that we can implement quickly and reflect upon as we go.  I’m fortunate to be involved with a group of primary teachers at my school who are exploring the text and trying some of the routines as part of their Collaborative Inquiry: How might inquiry-based learning look in a primary French Immersion program?

We’ll be each trying one of the routines from the first section of this book to get us started in discussion at our next PLC meeting, but first I thought I would attempt to briefly summarize the first part of the book.

Here is one of the authors,  Ron Ritchart, explaining why we need a culture of thinking in schools.

In the introduction of Making Thinking Visible the authors ask the question:
What kinds of thinking do you value and want to promote in your classroom?
And, as we look at the kinds of activities in the learning environments we create in schools…
What kind of thinking does this lesson/activity force students to do?
These questions are causing me to look more closely at what happens in my classroom.  I’ve always known that my job as an educator is to create an environment that fosters learning — sounds easy — but in reality, this is a really complex undertaking.  I realize that I can’t ‘make’ someone learn something, rather, the learner needs to be a partner in that process and the definition of ‘learning’ needs to be considered carefully and not be confused with compliance or fleeting knowledge accessible only in certain contexts.  I know that much of learning is unobservable (going on in the head of the learner) and my job is to help make it visible in order to help a learner keep moving forward.
The authors suggest the following activity which would be great for any teacher to try:
 Make a list of all the actions and activities with which your students are engaged in a subject you teach. Now, working from this list, create 3 new lists:
1.  The actions student in your class spend most of their time doing.  What actions account for 75 percent of what students do in your class on a regular basis?
2.  The actions most authentic to the discipline, that is, those things that real scientists, writers, artists, and so on actually do as they go about their work.
3.  The actions you remember doing yourself from a time when you were actively engaged in developing some new understanding of something within the discipline or subject area.
What Is Thinking?
The authors do a really nice job of talking about what they know about thinking, what they have learned about thinking, and what they mean by thinking in the first section of the book.  Although they acknowledge that there are lots of kinds of thinking, they are specifically talking about types of thinking that are particularly useful when we are trying to understand new concepts, ideas, and events  – which is often the kind of thinking we are doing in schools.

They outline 8 thinking ‘MOVES’

  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions
  7. Wondering and asking questions
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things

If you’ve ever questioned the way you’ve seen Bloom’s taxonomy used, as I have, you’ll enjoy the critique the authors provide there, but that’s another blog post altogether.

The Thinking Routines

“When we as teachers frame our core activity not as delivering the curriculum to a passive group of students but as engaging students actively with ideas and then uncovering and guiding their thinking about those ideas….(we strive to) make students’ thinking visible through our questioning, listening and documenting so that we can build on and extend that thinking on the way to deeper and richer understanding.”  (p.39)
The authors also describe the power involved when teachers make their own thinking explicit to students and model the high-quality conversations about thinking and ideas that should happen in our classrooms.  Both the idea that students need to be focused on the kinds of thinking that actually occur in world of real mathematicians, scientists, writers, artists etc., and the awareness of the power of co-learning, remind me of the amazing contributions of Seymour Papert in his study of how children learn – it’s no wonder I love their approach in this book!
The 3 categories of structures in Part 2 of the book, which they call routines, are selected for their ability to promote questioning, listening and documentation in these three areas:
  1. Introducing and Exploring Ideas
  2. Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas
  3. Routines for Digging Deeper into Ideas
Our first exploration involves choosing one of the routines in the area of Introducing and Exploring Ideas, trying it with our students and then sharing what we notice and wonder about the process as beginners. I’m choosing Chalk Talk as the routine that I’m bringing to the meeting.  Should be some great sharing and learning!
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Art Miles Project – Our Mural Arrives From Japan!

I’ve been working with Siham Caudarella and the students of her Grade 6 class this year on an international project called Art Miles.  This is one of the fabulous iEARN.org projects that make global collaboration fun and a great learning experience for students.  Art Miles is a new one for me this year; I’ve been lucky enough to take part in a few over the years and have written about them elsewhere.

Art Miles Japan involves connecting with a classroom in Japan and collaborating on a theme for a mural.  We are connected with Masaaki Kato’s Grade 6 class from Nuka Elementary School and in our case, we chose the theme of sharing nature and culture in our respective cities.  The Japanese class begins by painting the first half of the mural, and we complete the second half.  We began by introducing ourselves to our partner class through a video, and then we visited their city and neighbourhood via Google Earth.  Although we would have liked to arrange a Skype or Google Hangout, the time change did not work in our favour this time around. :(

Yesterday was such an exciting day! The box arrived as soon as school resumed in January, and we got together to open the box and see what was inside.  We were sent paint and the mural and lots of discussion and wonderings came out from students and teachers…

What was the mural made of?  How did the other class decide on their symbols for images?  What do the images represent? How will we learn to write our names in Japanese so that we can sign the mural?  What kind of paint are we using and how will we solve the problem of reading the Japanese on the paint cans?  Should we paint our scene in the same season in order to blend the two sides or should we make our section look really different?

We’ll be busy planning, drafting and painting in the next few weeks — stay tuned for the final product.  In the meantime, we capture a few moments of the mural’s exciting arrival here:

 

 

 

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NEW! Mindomo Mind Mapping for Ontario Learners

OSAPAC has announced the release of a new Mind Mapping tool, called Mindomo, that affords some exciting new possibilities for demonstrations of learning and collaboration.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 9.09.11 AMThis is a web application that students will access through a code that a teacher sets up in an easy process that is attached to their School Board email address.  I’ve had a chance to explore this tool and I love the way that it’s very easy to edit and add media like pictures and youtube videos to enhance student work.  There is also a great presentation mode, which allows students to create a presentation by zooming in on parts of their mind maps.   Templates are also included that provide editable maps in a variety of educational topics.

One of the best features of Mindomo is the fact that students can collaborate on their maps and share them out in many different formats.  Along with this collaborative feature comes a revision history so that collaborators and teachers can see when and how often people are working on their mapping projects — you can even receive notifications to get emails when changes are made to the maps.

No tool is perfect, and Mindomo is continuing to develop and add new features all the time.   There are a couple of limitations I’ve found, and using the following work-arounds has helped:

1) Mindomo does not have an outline view in the same way that you might expect to see in other Graphic Organizers.  You might be used to creating a mind map graphically and then, with the click of a button, seeing a textual representation of your thinking to organize main ideas and supporting details, which students could then use with other writing tools like Google Docs or Word.  With Mindomo, you’ll want to export your map as a .txt file, and then indent, number and add to your text document in a way that suits you.

2) Adding labels to a connector link turns your mind map into a concept map. With Mindomo, you can ‘add a label’ to a connector link when you use floating topics.  There is a quick create option for creating maps efficiently, you just can’t delete the connectors (or relationships) or add labels to them using this mode. Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 10.35.42 AMResources

Folks on the OSAPAC Committee have created a Public Folder where you can go for information about how to get access to Mindomo along with video tutorials to help you get started.  You can access those resources on the OSAPAC Website by clicking the Mindomo button currently on the Home Page or by going directly to the public folder here.

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NEW! From OSAPAC/CCPALO: Digital Resources

osapac

OSAPAC/CCPALO is the Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee that has been working hard over the last year and a half, in collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of Education, to bring some new educational resources to Ontario students and teachers.  As a member of the committee, I’m excited to be a part of sharing these out (most recently at #bit14 and #OntEdleaders events) and hope you’ll provide some feedback to us as you get using them!

A NEW and improved website!

Check out the new look of the OSAPAC Website.  It’s clean, streamlined, and includes all of the features from before such as: a list of the licensed digital products, a survey for teachers to indicate their wish list of software or applications that respond to student learning needs, information about the committee, and a FAQ section to address common questions.  New this year is the Project Section where the following projects are stored:

Digital Citizenship

LargeCompHeader002Classroom teachers gathered together in the summer of 2014 to create a package of resources (cross-curricular and Primary – Secondary) to help teachers integrate and implement digital citizenship into their programs.  This resource arose from multiple requests from Ontario teachers for assistance in Digital Citizenship; these requests were left on the OSAPAC Survey.  They developed four categories of digital citizenship that involve action oriented do’s, rather than don’ts, that support considering digital citizenship as part of the on-going culture of the classroom rather than an isolated unit or discussion.  Existing resources have been collated and applied in example lessons in a wide variety of subject and grade levels.  These lessons were designed with multiple entry points in mind; teachers can navigate through a list of resources, or use an example of a classroom connection that outlines an authentic task and includes curriculum, technology and digital citizenship links.

SAMR

In order to help instructional leaders, administrators, teachers, and other educators understand how Ministry licensed digital resources can be used to help facilitate and support evolving classroom practices, OSAPAC has developed some scaffolded supports around licensed products. The SAMR model provides a useful framework to help identify opportunities for learning afforded by technology, and can be a great starting point for those beginning to consider the pedagogical power of tech tools, and can also be useful for those more comfortable with the tools but who search for transformative ways to effectively integrate technology for student learning.

Teachers from around the province have shared lessons integrating OSAPAC software, and other free tools, with the Ontario Curriculum in mind.  These lessons involve taking the reader on a walk through the SAMR framework, starting with how the software could Substitute a traditional activity, and then moving up through Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.   You’ll also find some reflection videos from the teachers who created the lessons.

OSSEMOOC

OSSEMOOC is a third project from OSAPAC where Mark Carbone (@markwcarbone) and Donna Fry (@fryed) are nurturing a dynamic, open online community of formal and informal school leaders from across the province.   In learning with and from others, educators are finding out how to become connected leaders and learning from others who are leveraging social media tools in practical ways to make learning environments even better.

It’s been exciting to work with teachers and OSAPAC committee members to create these projects — please share your feedback with us if you have any.  Also, don’t forget to access the OSAPAC Survey and share your needs for digital resources!

 

 

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School Improvement Plans Are Everyone’s Business

Making our SIP (School Improvement Plan) come alive!

This year I heard about someone on Twitter who decided to post their Board Improvement Plan in a visible space at school to share with students, parents and the community as you see in the photo below.

SIPAfter hearing this idea via @leblancpeter @tlobaker and @nhamilton647 my Principal, @davidpmarquis, and I have decided to implement this in our school this year with a few additions.

Some big ideas are driving our thinking:

  • a vibrant school is one where everyone is learning
  • digital artefacts allow us to share in new ways
  • administrators should model their efforts to try new things
  • administrators should be helping to ‘tell’ the stories about meaningful learning in which students, staff, parents and community members are engaged
  • making thinking visible helps us to build knowledge as a community
  • constructing artefacts help us to articulate our learning to promote dialogue
  • pedagogical documentation needs to be purposeful

How will we do this?

We plan to post an image of the SIP in our hallway at the front of the school that links to photographs and documentation that will demonstrate our learning goals for the year and plans for school improvement. We’ll need to convert some of our current edu-speak into lingo that makes better sense to parents and students…this will be great!  We’ll take that a step further and create this digitally as well, so that QR codes posted could take visitors to more interactive online spaces like teacher websites, interviews with staff, students and parents, and evidence of our great learning spaces through text and images as well.

In implementing the thinking routines from Making Thinking Visible from Project Zero at Harvard this past year, I’m thinking that many of the routines for synthesis and exploring ideas will fit in perfectly. I will try to post this work in progress as we get going and share our hiccups and successes!

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