Our Learning Commons gets a maker space addition!

In a few days, I’m taking on a new role with a secondment to the Ministry of Ontario in the 21st Century Learning Unit.  I’m feeling bittersweet about the new role; sad to be leaving my school and all of the wonderful students, teachers and parents I’ve come to know in my short time as a VP, but excited about a new challenge and ready to embrace a new adventure!

Luckily for me, I get to continue to support my school’s newly acquired grant from Future Shop, where we’ve received almost $20000 to enhance student learning with innovative technologies.  IMG_0787

Our shopping is almost complete, and I’m planning on chronicling  our journey as we move forward, starting with a little piece of the grant proposal as follows, and sharing our plan of action over the next 8 weeks.

 

Our students want to become producers, not just consumers of media, and participate as 21st century learners in a world that is creative, collaborative and global. We want students to access tools that allow participation as global citizens, demonstrations of learning through the creation of shareable multimedia projects, and engaging in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming through projects that are possible with robust technology tools.  Innovative practice with a STEM focus in elementary schools means that students see themselves as idea-makers, planners, designers and builders. We’ve found that our Chromebooks allow us easy ways to collaborate and share files, but this is not enough.  We need tools like laptops, programming software, peripherals for multimedia creation, and Ministry licensed digital resources in order to leverage more of the powerful applications that computers afford us.

Currently, our library is a traditional space holding books and 20 desktop computers in a lab setting.  Our teacher librarian has begun to turn our space into a creative Learning Commons that promotes flexible purposes for learning, and we need mobile devices available to all students, at all times, to be truly transformative for student learning.  Our Learning Commons has the infrastructure to manage this with our efficient wifi throughout the school and a small room attached to the larger space that is the perfect solution to a technology enhanced maker space and multimedia production studio.

STEM initiatives such as the one we are proposing provide an engaging way for students to connect to the curriculum in the areas of math, science, and technology, as well as support the Ontario Ministry’s focus on inquiry based learning and leveraging the power of intentional play to advance learning.  With this grant we can transform this space to include learning, invention, play, creation and innovation and we see it growing from the basic elements we’ve requested to a creative play and invention space that is responsive to the needs, interests and abilities of our students at different age levels.

We are so grateful that Future Shop saw our vision and chose us to be grant recipients so that we can make this happen!

The technology requested in this grant will allow students to develop:

  • skills and experience in creation with multi-media tools (e.g., podcasting, websites, videos, presentations, music)
  • skills and experience in using Logo programming languages (i.e., Scratch, Turtle Art (both free) and MicroWorlds which is included in the proposal, as well as ProBots and BeeBots)
  • hands-on experience using programmable materials (i.e., Little Bits construction tools along with Arduino and Sphero Balls)
  • an understanding of manufacturing and design elements using software that will transpose student designs into 3D artefacts using the 3D printer

#ejps, #future-shop, #grant

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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#arts, #iearn, #technology

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!

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.

#osapac

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!

#sip

Inviting Family Voice: Crowdsourcing For Remembrance Day

I remember hearing Annie Kidder from People for Education talking about parent engagement a couple of years ago. She was cautioning the educators in the room to look beyond the obvious in terms of parent engagement.  We often think parent engagement means that the parents actually need to show up at the school for events.  This idea stuck with me…parent engagement can mean so many other things: helping your child come to school ready to learn, reading the correspondence the school sends out in order to stay informed, participating in fundraisers, responding to requests that might be made for occasional volunteering…all sorts of things, many that might not even take place in the school building or during school hours.  Not every parent can be present during school hours, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be engaged in school life along with their children!  As a working parent of two children myself, I looked for ways to contribute and do my part to support and understand the school, but it couldn’t happen during the school day.

So, when my principal and I were chatting about our Remembrance Day assembly and how we could bring student voice to the process and make the Remembrance more relevant to our students who are in Grades K- 6, I was thinking back to those comments from Annie Kidder and thought about using technology to help out.  Here’s what we came up with to make this work!

First, I created a google slideshow and added a title slide and my example slide to model the process.  Then, I created a screencast to show parents and students how to collaborate and add their slide about their family members who may serve or have served in the armed forces in Canada or other countries.  I used my favourite quick and easy screencasting tool, Screen-cast-o-matic, and then uploaded it here on YouTube.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.07.22 PMI shared the plan with staff and mentioned that I had never tried this but wanted to give it a go. I also mentioned what might go wrong, and that I had a Plan B to try and prevent any issues that I was anticipating could create any wrinkles.

It was pretty exciting when I saw the first slide come in yesterday from a family, and it continues to grow!  I wonder how many will contribute?  We’ll know at the end of the day Monday.  These will be read by students at the assembly as we share it with our whole school, and shared out later on our school website.

One of the things I’m working on as a new administrator through the Ontario Leadership Framework, is modeling some risk-taking for staff and letting them know that I’m okay with them trying new things even though they might not always work.  We all need to try new things and they might not always work perfectly, but that’s part of learning!  Another focus is increasing student voice in our school and building relationships with our parent community, both things I hope will be nurtured by making this small effort to reach out and include our families in our celebrations at school.

UPDATE! This was a huge success! We had 38 slides contributed which I thought was a great result from a first attempt,  and the students loved hearing their names and their families mentioned.   I wonder how this crowdsourcing approach could be used in other areas?

Getting Started with PLCs – A Protocol for Group Collaboration

Our first staff meeting at Edward Johnson was partly about getting to know each other. We have many new staff members (including both administrators), several LTOs (Long Term Occasionals) and a growing FDK (Full Day Kindergarten) team of 14 educators. We are also about to get started choosing areas of interest and people to work with for our professional learning teams — aka — our collaborative teacher inquiry groups. index

Many getting to know you activities include interest inventories, learning style or learning preference surveys that help us get to know ourselves as learners, but we thought it might be important to get to know ourselves as a group, and wonder a bit about our own participation in teams; how do others influence us, and how do we impact the group?  My go-to site for great protocols is the National School Reform Faculty from the Harmony Education Centre, and one that fits really well for this purpose is the Compass Points Activity, its purpose being to understand our preferences in group work.

I’ve used this protocol about 4 times now, very successfully in three f2f sessions and even once trying it online during a Connected Coaching course with PLP Network.  Through the protocol we learn a lot about each other, and we learn a lot about how other people in our groups can strengthen our team and ‘balance’ us out.

The protocol is a four corners activity.  Each teacher identifies him/herself with one of the compass points which describes them best and then joins others in that group for a brief discussion. In general, the four compass points identify some folks who jump right in, some who like to know the big picture, some who like to focus on the details and some who are concerned about interpersonal skills and making sure that all members are heard.

Here are the points that are discussed in each group and then shared out briefly to all:

  • what are the strengths of your style?
  • what are the limitations of your style?
  • what do you want others to know about your style?
  • which of the other styles do you find most difficult to work with and why?

Each group I’ve done this with has had fun and some giggles along the way as we see each group complete the discussion and sharing in a way that suits their style. This time around some teachers noticed that our group was pretty evenly split among the four groups, and that some of their favourite people to work with were actually quite different than them in terms of how they liked to approach group tasks. We learned who liked to jump right in and who liked to see the big picture, who likes to understand the details first and who would want to look after people and make sure that all were heard.  We talked about what our group might find stressful at times as well as the benefits to us of having a diverse team.

My hope is that this activity will build some trust among us as we begin our learning this year, and it has also given us some understanding of our role in group dynamics….both from the point of view of what we need to be effective contributors and what our colleagues need from us!

What ways to you try to build a culture of trust and openness that leads to productive group work in your setting?

 

#leadership, #pd, #protocol