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

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#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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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!

 

New Health and Physical Education Curriculum

Many school administrators are aware that some parents are feeScreen Shot 2015-09-20 at 3.35.47 PMling the tension of change in Ontario’s Health and Physical Education (HPE) Revision for 2015. Concern that kids need more current information (the last curriculum was released 17 years ago), and a more comprehensive understanding of all the aspects of healthy living, has led to this revision. Ontario curriculum is written by experts in education, content, and policy, as well as in consultation with parents across the province. Many people are involved in trying to dispel the myths about the new curriculum that began to surface last spring, in many cases anonymously, and it’s my guess is that once folks actually dig in and read the curriculum, as some journalists have begun to do, fears quickly subside.

The Health and Physical Education curriculum has four main sections for each grade:

  • Living Skills: understanding themselves, communicating and interacting positively with others and learning to think critically and solve problems
  • Active Living: active participation, physical fitness and safety
  • Movement Competence: skills for moving properly and with confidence
  • Healthy Living: learning about health, making healthy choices, and understanding the connections to everyday life

A quick google search ‘myths about sex ed curriculum’ will bring up lots of good information to dispel the myths about Ontario’s revised HPE Curriculum, but my hope would be that parents actually read the curriculum, in order to make their own decisions.  Here is a gathering of some helpful resources that school administrators or school council chairs might want to share with concerned parents who are wanting more information:

Overview of the curriculum revisions, including the sexual health component.

HPE_flyer_AODA – Ontario Ministry of Education – The ministry has produced a suite of materials for parents in several languages to build understanding about what students will learn. There are also details about how to order parent materials that Principals and Vice-Principals can make available to parents.

CBC Radio Interview with Meg Hickling – Veteran educator about body science and sexual health

Grade by Grade Guide to the Ontario HPE Curriculum (Sexual health portions) written for Muslim parents and created by Anela Jadunandan – hear her CBC Radio interview  on Metro Morning.

CBC – Parents speaking up in support of the Ontario HPE Curriculum

Sexual health experts from BC in support of Ontario’s new curriculum

 

Invent To Learn – A Must Read for Schools

by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, Ph.D
20130520-Invent-to-Learn-BookOne of the greatest joys of being a connected learner is the fact that I’m meeting so many friends from all over the world who are also people from whom I learn so much.  Meeting them virtually sometimes leads to meeting them f2f, hanging out at conferences, working along with them, and reading their blogs and articles, but I’m getting a kick out of buying their books!

I bought Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez’s book, Invent to Learn, sight unseen, because I know their brilliant work and applaud their mission to elevate much of what we see in educational technology implementation (not always a pretty sight)  to higher levels. This book is a must read for all educators and administrators who are interested in muddling through the many choices for technology use in your school with STEM in mind — it will help you see the light!  They provide enough theoretical background to provide you and/or your teachers with knowledge of the giants who came before us, and to more deeply understand effective learning theory (constructivism) and effective teaching theory (constructionism). They also mention pioneers in the field of ed tech that every educator ought to know, but, strangely enough, don’t always (e.g., Seymour Papert, Cynthia Solomon, Brian Silverman, Sherry Turkle to name just a few). They then suggest 3 “game changers”  for your school or classroom  – fabrication, physical computing and programming.  I was thrilled to see that we are on the right track at my school with a recent grant award that focuses on all three of these! 🙂  Gary and Sylvia also provide lots of information and ideas about the practical planning of how to get started with these interesting game changers.  As a teacher I have always loved that blend of theory and practice in resources that I choose.

What’s critical in a book like this, and what Gary and Sylvia accomplish really nicely, is that the concept of maker space is outlined within the context of a school culture that puts authentic student learning and passion at the forefront, along with an acceptance that co-learning along with students is a great way to model our learning stance as teachers. Great advice from the authors to the educators reading this book is: “Less Us, More Them”. The tinkering mindset and the cycle of making — which they call TMI (Think, Make, Improve), and the fact that students are empowered agents in their own learning, are just as important as the making itself.  For this reason making can involve technology or found materials or art supplies. It’s more about a bricolage approach…working with the best of what you have on hand.

If you are interested in more about what the current interest in coding and maker spaces can offer, this is a great book for you!

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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Making Thinking Visible – Getting started with routines

10999036Making 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! 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!

 

 

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?

 

Back to the classroom…Here we go! Part 1

I’m headed back to the classroom .5 this fall as I also move into my new role as Vice Principal.  So, after about 7 years of being in a central board position, I’m back at it with lots to be reminded about; different deadlines, report cards (writing and reading), assessment and tracking and the weekly timetable.  Creating a collaborative learning culture, planning lessons, units and projects were the things I absolutely loved best about being the classroom so I’m pretty pumped!

After asking the Junior teachers what might work best for them, my assignment is to see 5 classes each week for an hour each (Grades 3-5) and look after Media Literacy, Dance, Music and some resource time for the school as well.  I immediately thought about how the Media Literacy piece would support the Dance and Music elements.  I also thought that since I’m not a fluent French speaker (yet!),  Music, Dance and Media could be combined to support learning about French culture – I could help contribute in that way to the French Immersion experience.

So…where to start?

Step 1: Curriculum Connections

I’m a lover of PBL, so I’m immediately drawn to how these 3 subject areas might overlap and how rich projects could emerge.  I’m also considering that since I only see these classes once a week I’ll need to work through cross-curricular rich tasks or be left tearing my hair out!  My sense of the curriculum was that the creative processes in the Arts would align nicely with the overall expectations in Media Literacy.  I took to a Lino.it and here’s what emerged!   Fabulous alignment in 3 areas! 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 9.01.45 PMStep 2:  Rich and Relevant Tasks

I was inspired this summer by a visit to the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, Ireland, where they have created a fantastic mulitmedia experience for learners.  I got thinking that if the Media piece were to involve sharing out what we learned about Music and Dance (forms, creations, reflections),  this would be a meaningful way to bring in many important elements of media study (digital citizenship, audience, purpose, voice, forms, multimedia tools and devices).   My next step is to use a Graphic Organizer to pull out the specific expectations in each grade level and sort them based on how they align with each other.  This will prompt project ideas and give me a framework for how to shape students’ wonderings and questions around some big ideas as we move forward.  Stay tuned for Part 2 as that emerges over the next week or two.

In the meantime….Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 9.28.02 PM

As the year starts and I get my plans in place in conjunction with the other teachers, I’m going to start with Bitstrips with all of the classes.  This will allow me to get to know each student, build community in an online space, teach some preliminary skills around digital citizenship, and work on how to give effective feedback to each other.  The feedback and reflection element will be very critical as we move into exploring the arts together!   It’s also a Ministry Licensed OSAPAC tool and I know that it should work well on multiple devices…not to mention how exciting it is for students!