A Simple Prompt with Big Impact 

I’ve written before about the power of protocols, particularly the ones from Project Zero’s Making Thinking Visible.

One that I find I’m going back to over and over again is used to articulate shifts.  Shifts in learning, shifts in thinking, shifts in understanding.  We talk about the power of reflection, but how often do we run out of time, or squeeze it in at the end of our sessions with learners?  We talk about sharing our learning, and documenting our thinking, but how often do we ever go deeper than swapping stories and sharing information?  How do we make sure that we are focused on growth?

What can we learn by observing the shifts that others have undergone?

Here is the protocol:

I used to think….now I think…

Although it’s quick to implement, and you might think that it’s ‘simple’,  it’s my experience that it takes some practice and time in order to really articulate shifts in thinking effectively.

Try it for yourself,  but don’t just try it once.! Try it with the students and teachers you work with, but give it some time.   The reason that Harvard’s Project Zero refers to their protocols as ‘thinking routines’ is because of their understanding that the power of their use is in understanding that ‘routines are really just patterns of action that can be integrated and used in a variety of contexts’.

I love the way that Richard Elmore used this wonderful protocol to collect a series of essays to describe the shifts in understanding of a variety of educators!  I feel like I should use this protocol more often myself, especially on the blog!

 

The Nature of Learning – OECD

It’s always great to go back to the science of learning to underpin everything we do as educators. A fascination for how people learn led me to an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and this has served me so well as a prerequisite to teaching, but I realize that many other educators may not have had that background. This publication reminds us of the complexity of building effective learning environments and is a good overview of lots of relevant background about learning. A great resource for #iicti inquiry projects!

The Nature of Learning

One Minute Meetings – What could you possibly accomplish? 

After stumbling upon an interesting post by The School Vlogger,  Dr. Mary Hemphill, I noticed she happened to be talking about engaging student voice at her school, and when she began to talk about changing culture and keeping students at the centre, I was really intrigued.  The idea being shared was one way that she was addressing the challenge of collecting data from the most important people in the school – the students!  We’ve all used surveys, and engaged in conversations and observations,  and of course google forms, but do we really hear from everyone that way? And how engaged in the process do they really feel? It was my experience as a school leader that despite the most intentional planning to know every student, there were some voices I heard more than others and some classrooms that I visited more frequently than others.  After watching the YouTube video below, and hearing this idea, I was excited about trying it and was missing being at my school in order to give it a go!

3 simple questions…just 1 minute out of class time, AND asked to every one of the students at the school…could that be done?

Who did I know who might value this, and want to give it a go?  I sent out a tweet to my first educational mentor, Kathy Gossling-Spears, who I was fortunate enough to meet in my first 3 years of teaching.  Our dream has always been to have a school of our own one day! 🙂

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Just as I thought, Kathy dove in and gave it a try. Watch the video below that inspired us and check out the interview with Kathy about her observations about the first time trying it!

Give it a try and let us know what you find out and how it works for you!  Kathy is now on round two, so stay tuned for an update on what she has learned. 🙂

Kathy’s Interview after trying 1 minute meetings

Don’t Wait! Innovate!

We hear a lot these days about the idea of INNOVATION. Not to be confused with invention, innovation means to improve upon, to make things better.
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How do you connect to innovation in your practice?screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-7-35-33-pm

Jennifer Kranenburg is a teacher from Ontario whose story is an inspirational example of how creative educators, focused on responding to student interest and curiosity, can innovate the curriculum to be relevant and engaging and to solve real world problems.  If you take 20 or so minutes to watch her TedX talk, you’ll see how she does an amazing job embracing Ontario’s global competencies.

Jennifer thinks about how students can contribute as global citizens, and from that thinking emerges other valuable elements – the rich learning the students need just in time to solve the problems they want to solve. I’ve probably missed a few things, but here are some of the elements that I’m seeing as I watch – what would you add to the list that stood out for you?

  • critical  thinking
  • innovation
  • caring
  • co-learning; student-student, teacher-student, and teachers and students together with community partners
  • collaboration within school and with experts
  • communication within class and with the world
  • creativity and problem-solving
  • technologies that enable deeper learning, but aren’t the primary focus
  • authentic assessment
  • global citizenship and sustainability

Students are learning how to learn, how to serve others, and how to empower themselves to make positive changes to their world!

What do you notice as you watch?  In what ways do you resonate with Jennifer as an educational innovator? What are the powerful ideas that she strives to amplify in her classroom?  What about you?

If we want our students to be innovative, as usual, maybe we should start with ourselves first.  Before we ask for a more prescriptive curriculum (adding coding, for instance, as a contemporary example), maybe we should just find out where it connects and GO FOR IT!

To find our more about Jennifer’s classroom, check out her online spaces:

https://twitter.com/jennkranenburg

Ms Kranenburg’s Classroom Blog

Peter Skillen and I were absolutely thrilled to have Jennifer at Minds On Media at BIT16 Conference this year – Check out Jennifer’s Story

Coding in 2004 – Looking back to move forward…

Sometimes there are moments that bring you back in time to reflect on your teaching practice, and a visit to YRDSBs Quest Conference this week certainly did that for me.  Brian Aspinall @mraspinall was mentioning his early efforts in coding with kids in a club that he started while he was a University student in 2005.

During the 2004-2005 school year (it actually may have been after the May ECOO 2003, although my memory escapes me), I began using MicroWorlds Jr Logo with my Grade 2 students as a result of being introduced to it by people who had been on board with programming with children since at least the 70’s.  Whoa! I had some background to catch up on and began to learn and read about the giants behind this educational reform.

Beginning my Master’s degree at OISE in 2003 led me to inspiring people like Clare Brett, Jim Hewitt, Earl Woodruff, the work of Seymour Papert and the notion of constructionism.  Being an ECOO member and attending the 2003 annual conference led me to meet inspiring people like @peterskillen who got me started with MicroWorlds Jr, @garystager, Karen Beutler @kbbeutler, @dougpete, @andyforgrave and Mitch Resnick, all of whom had been programming with kids for ages! I was WAY behind and knew it!  My first workshop for teachers in 2005 was my effort to share what I was learning from this amazing community of educators who had sparked my passion and who were teaching me about new ways of teaching that suited my desired classroom culture: inquiry and student-driven project based learning. Coding became another way to engage students in the authentic application of math skills already at play in my classroom: art, music, building things and cooking, to name a few.

There was no problem connecting coding with my curriculum, as you’ll see in the slides below. Computational thinking was not a term I was using back then, but it’s interesting to look back and see connections to cross-curricular authentic applications of Math, as well as references to teacher-student co-learning and what we would now call global competencies or 21st century skills, especially in the areas of problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, inquiry and learning to learn.

My biggest advice to teachers, in this time where many voices are telling us that we must have coding put into the elementary curriculum, would be to take the freedom you are given with our Ontario curriculum and innovate your own examples to go along with overall expectations!  I’m so glad that I didn’t wait and many other teachers like the ones at Quest and ECOO (BIT) are not waiting either.  Don’t wait….Innovate!

 

Google Forms and Siri Unite For Recording Anecdotals

I’m a big fan of using Siri on my iphone and have been ever since I began using speech to text software with students in about 2006.  Boy, has the technology improved since then!  I now use it to create reminders, schedule calendar events and dictate emails and documents when I have a quiet place to do so.

So this summer, while exploring assessment with AQ students, we were considering the ways that technology affords us powerful ways to capture or document learning.  We know that the easy access to cameras and video has been helpful, so how are you transforming the ways that you keep your anecdotal records?

Google Forms is a great way to capture information that automatically populates a spreadsheet to keep records for you.  So why not put it to use, with Siri, to record the great things you see going on in your school if you are an administrator, or in your classroom if you are a teacher!  Using your phone, you will always be able to quickly update and you can sort your spreadsheet later by category or by name.

  1.  Create a google form that lists the people you are keeping records about, in a dropdown type of format in question #1. Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.54.52 PM
  2. Use categories with a checkboxes list – since you will perhaps want to select more than one category at a time in questions #2.
  3. Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.57.23 PMFor question #3, add a long answer paragraph so that you can dictate your message using Siri with lots of space to talk. Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.59.54 PM
  4. Add the link to the Google Form to the home screen on your smart phone or tablet and you are ready to go!

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I’m a primary teacher at heart so recording observations and conversations are stilpizza-boxes-358029__180l some of my favourite ways to document.  In the early 90’s I used pizza boxes (empty, clean and donated) to save the best pieces of student work (determined by my grade 1’s and 2’s ) and based on success criteria (not sure what we called it then but that’s what it was…).  Students then led the parent-teacher conferences with those portfolios – the evidence of their best learning with an explanation of why.

We also used to develop many ‘rolls’ of camera film to post around the room to document the learning.  Now, that’s such a snap with our digital devices!

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Making in Grade 2 – Circa 1989

 

 

#IICTI Learning @MakerEd Toronto

It was great to visit the York School this week to attend #MakerEdTo.  This was a fantastic opportunity to connect the #iicti AQ course members to a network of makerededucators interested in constructivist and constructionist uses of technology.  An added bonus was that they got to hear all about Seymour Papert from the Keynote Speaker and long time follower of Seymour’s work, Peter Skillen, who would later visit our class for some further learning.  Peter shared his wonderful list of resources in this google doc.  Visit his blog, The Construction Zone for more great learning!

It was a bit of a trek from Waterloo, especially during the first week of class, but these keen educators made the trip and shared their learning in many ways through course reflections using Adobe Spark and Storify.  Many of the big themes of the course were revisited with the connections that were made this first week.

We captured many of their tweets in the following Storify and as you can see, enthusiastic learning and many excellent resources were shared on the day and beyond!

Check out some other reflections from Sara Styan, Kelly Walton and Lori Turk.

https://storify.com/brendasherry/maker-ed-toronto
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YPALS – Youth Helping Youth at the YMCA

Peter Skillen and I had the pleasure of attending a working group session at the YMCA of Greater Toronto led by Candy Chow (YPALS Coordinator – ‎YMCA of Greater Toronto) and Nina Arcon (YPALS Specialist at YMCA of Greater Toronto). This group of about 12 young people are about to launch a blog that will help newcomers to Canada in areas that would help make the transition easier: health care information, customs, laws, education information, etc.

In this digital age, our tools allow us to reach out over time and space in a more non-linear fashion, and that’s exactly what this group is hoping to do.  Their blog will allow people who are preparing their arrival in Canada to begin to investigate their new life before arriving, as well as help those folks who are already here find and explore this source for information.

I was asked to contribute my knowledge about blogging, and especially aspects of Creative Commons that would ensure that this public space wouldn’t be violating any copyright laws.  Similar to my experience with working with teachers, these students had never heard of the Creative Commons.  They weren’t aware of the laws around responsible use of the works of others, or how to license their own content.  Peter and I hear all of the time about how the presence of ‘digital natives’ will mean we no longer have to focus on building capacity for technology use…”they were born with it, they just know it!”  Not our experience. It was so refreshing to work with these smart, amazing, self-directed and community minded young people who were so eager to learn.  They were delighted that we were sharing sites that would give them great content for their school assignments too!

Congratulations to this team of YPALS at the YMCA of Greater Toronto! I can’t wait to see what they come up with and hope that I get invited back again…thanks for the opportunity!