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!

 

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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

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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Think Tank: Transforming the learning experience

cecceThis week I had the honour to be invited to contribute to a panel of amazing people at the recent Think Tank session from CECCE, one of Ontario’s French School Boards, along with well known thinkers about transforming educational environments.  My ECOO colleague Peter Skillen and I have crossed paths recently with many CECCE educators in attendance at Educon, ISTE and various Ontario events, as well as in my work at the Ministry, so it was wonderful to have a chance to hear more about the deep dive they are taking to transform their system. The school board has been working to fundamentally change their system to serve students, not just in the their academic pursuits, but in their well-being as they grow and develop into engaged, compassionate, learning citizens and @heidisiwak does a great job of capturing their journey here in her blog if you’d like to learn more.  I found it a challenge to decide what I might contribute to this amazing panel,  but was willing to give it a try and participate, and hopefully add something of value to the discussion. Michael Fullan did a wonderful job of finding a way to share all of the voices in a relatively short period of time!fullanpanel

If you search #cecce hashtag, you’ll see many of the tweets that describe the day. Over and over I heard people focused on three critical factors that lead to effective change:

  • First, we have to understand how people (both students and adults) learn.
  • Second, we have design learning environments and experiences around interesting, provoking, and real-life authentic issues.
  • Lastly, we must trust all learners to be partners in their own learning

There were many things to note,  but one thing struck me as especially important and it came from the student trustee on the panel.   There had been lots of talk from the adults in the room about ‘deep learning’, but Matthew really named it when asked about what he wanted from his education.  He said that he wanted learning “that would help him in the rest of his life”.  This stuck me as a specific example of the kind of learning transfer that we talk about when we focus on deep learning.

When we broke into table discussions after the panel, I was interested in following that further and asked Catherine (another student trustee), what kinds of things she felt she was learning at school that she felt would benefit her for ‘the rest of her life’. She mentioned discovering her passion for causes and helping people to learn more about them through events that she has organized through her school.  She mentioned the student government that she’s been involved with, and along the way the teachers who have supported her in developing her strengths, both academically, and through her interests in extra-curricular.  This led our table to a discussion of passion-based learning and how extra-curriculars should not be extra at all, but a part of school life.  In reflecting on that conversation, I realize that in that brief conversation, Catherine named many, if not all, of the competencies that are so much a part of the educator conversations happening to describe 21st century learning: communication skills that evolve as a part of authentic collaboration, creativity and critical thinking in the pursuit of learning and in the sharing of meaningful information to persuade others, the entrepreneurial spirit involved in social action,  and the self-awareness that is required to take risks, understand one’s strengths, and to continue to grow and persevere to accomplish goals.

As we continued our discussion at the table,  the school board members, along with student trustee Catherine, mentioned that joy is important, that relationships are key, and that the partnerships were an important part of making education relevant to our children and youth.  This was palpable in the room throughout the day from the remarks of all of the organizers of the event, and evidenced once again in the thoughtful closing comments from Superintendent Eugénie Congi.  What a great team! Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 5.09.27 PM

I’m excited to hear how this work at CECCE evolves and I thank the organizers for allowing me to be a part of it.  I hope that I am able share this success story across the province so that other boards and students can benefit from their deep thinking and vision for their teachers and students.

On a personal note, I’m excited that I’m able to continue my French language learning and I found the benefit of the simultaneous translation that was provided to me during the event to be amazing!  Merci!

 

Automatic Attribution on CC Search of Flickr

Creative Commons is not a new concept, and many people have been aware of its existence for some time, as well as the need to credit the work of generous people who offer to share their creations with us.   It’s also great when something comes along that makes it a little easier for media creators to cite the work of the original author.image

While talking to my brilliant colleagues Jac Calder and Peter Skillen recently, I learned about an online tool to make citations within Flickr, a fabulous source for images, even easier!

This beta site was developed by John Johnston and it allows you to choose a flickr image and, with the click of your mouse, have the citation of the original owner placed on the image which you can then use in presentations or other media that you are creating.  I usually teach students how to use an online photo editor for this purpose, but this removes a step and makes things a bit easier for students, without removing the understanding and diligence involved with acknowledging the original author of the work.

We’ll have to get this added to the OSAPAC resource about Digital Citizenship — it would be a great addition to the resources section under Creation and Credit!

 

What Do We Mean By Learning Anyway?

A Connected Educator Month 2015 Event starting on October 1st!

Join Peter Skillen and me in a collective, month long, discussion to:Cloud Computing Small text

  • extend and deepen our understanding of the term learning
  • participate in a knowledge building approach to collaboration
  • model deep practices for our professional learning environments (colleagues and/or classrooms)

Brief Description (see full site for details)

We will spend the month exploring, unpacking, and discussing what we mean by the term learning. This will include:

  • building background knowledge through sharing and reading resources related to the topic
  • introductory Twitter Chat
  • co-creation of a slidedeck of our ideas
  • reflective Twitter chat
  • contemplative rewriting of our slides
  • culminating creation of reflection statementsVector illustration of two communicating people

We will use a knowledge-building approach to this event.

“If Knowledge building had to be described in a single sentence, it would be: ‘giving students collective responsibility for idea improvement. In Knowledge Building, students work together as a community to build and improve explanations of problems of understanding that arise from the group itself.” (We will be the students in this project!)


So please join us! Go to What Do We Mean By Learning Anyway? for all the details to get started!

Sincerely,

Peter Skillen & Brenda Sherry with the support of OSSEMOOC