Reflections on an AQ…

For the final required blog post for the Additional Qualification course I am taking (Integrating Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom, Part 2), my task is to address some of my final thoughts or take-aways.

One of my classmates, Stephanie El Kabbouchi did an excellent job of listing out some of the key assignments.  You can read her post here.  Rather than reiterate what is already on another edublogs site, I thought that I would comment on a few of the unique structures of this AQ that really stood out for me.

    1. The assignments were differentiated so that every participant could access the content at their own level. The major assignment was an ongoing inquiry of your own choice.  This high degree of differentiation made the course challenging and engaging for participants with varying levels of comfort with regards to technology and vastly different teaching scenarios (e.g., elementary school, kindergarten, high school, supply teacher, instructional coach, teacher on leave, urban setting, rural settings, First Nations setting, etc…).
    2. Eight students in an online AQ is an excellent size.  This allowed us to really get to know each other and respond in meaningful ways.  I have taken AQs with as few as four people and as many as twenty in the past.  The former made it tough to generate rich discussion that also suited people’s schedules and the latter made it more difficult to feel connected, especially since in such a large group participants are usually not reading and responding to everyone’s comments.  Again, eight seemed a magic number.
    3. All of the assignments were practical and not at all reminiscent of those 10-page lesson plans that I used to write in teachers’ college… you know the ones!  The assignments were either immediately usable in a class setting or otherwise a way for us to test out and explore tools that we might use with our students at a later date.  The website https://www.commonsensemedia.org was especially rich.
    4. The theory, particularly the TPACK model, was thought-provoking and presented in very digestible chunks (thanks, internet attention spans!).
    5. Finally I have to give a shout-out to the instructor of the AQ course, Paul MacKett, who, despite the online delivery model, put a very human touch on this course. He did this by sharing personal anecdotes from his days in the classroom, reminding us that each of us (himself included) is a whole person with many other competing interests in our lives such as family, health, work, etc… He took the time to offer insightful and encouraging comments and suggestions, always written in a collegial tone, to every single discussion thread.  Quite impressive.

Taking AQs can sometimes be a daunting prospect – after all, most teachers already have a full plate with work, family, and other commitments. The learning in this course was interesting, the course load was manageable, the instructor was supportive and knowledgable and the tone was collaborative in nature.  Level 4!

**This is the third of a series of posts that I am writing based on prompts from my Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom Part 2 course.**

Copyright & Creative Commons

In my school board, Copyright Posters (i.e., the DOs and DO NOTs of photocopying) are posted above most photocopiers in our school.  In general, they make wonderful wallpaper, which is to say that they don’t get much attention after a while.  Our manager of Business and Learning Technologies always includes copyright reminders in his monthly e-newsletters (e.g., Did you know that it is a copyright infringement to use your personal Netflix account to show videos in you classroom?), but one walk around during an indoor recess would tell you that this message has not been received (or at least implemented) by many teachers.  Despite the fact that there are lots of free-to-view videos available online on sites like YouTube and Vimeo, as educators, we still tend to show videos that impinge on copyright issues for, I believe three reasons:

  1. Educators want to show the best possible material to students;
  2. Educators may not realize that there is a copyright infringement;
  3. Even when educators do realize that there is a copyright infringement, they never feel or see the consequences of such an infringement and so there is not a strong disincentive.

This is true of images too insofar as students and educators take images off the internet and paste them into projects and personal sites. When I first started blogging, I copied images from the internet with no regard for copyright, never even mentioning where I got the images from.  Later, on my blog, I started including links to the images’ URLs or websites that they came from.  Finally, when I learned about Creative Commons, I started doing “labelled for reuse” searches in Google images and only using those images and attributing to the creators, as necessary.

Here is a quick screencast I made on how to search for images that you are allowed to reuse.

I have done this with students before, but I have never gone through the ins and outs of Creative Commons licensing. That is definitely something that I would do with my grades 3-8 students in the future.  (Though I suspect that as with all technology-related lessons I do, there will be a student or two in the class who already knows about Creative Commons and can teach me a thing or two!  What a great time to be a teacher/learner!)

Emotional Intelligence, Resiliency & Positive Living Skills

 

Mental health is much more than the absence of mental illness. (The Kindergarten Program 2016 p. 62)

 

 

Until not so long ago, when I thought of “mental health” what I was really thinking about was “mental un-health” – undesirable behaviours and a myriad of diagnoses.  This past year I have spent much time with my beloved Kindergarten Program (2016) document, from the Ontario Ministry of Education, which places a huge emphasis on self-regulation and well-being as being key to academic success and social-emotional health.

Self-regulation is central to a child’s capacity to learn. (…) Children’s ability to self-regulate – to set limits for themselves and manage their own emotions, attention, and behaviour – allows them to develop the emotional well-being and the habits of mind, such as persistence and curiosity, that are essential for early learning and that set the stage for lifelong learning. Self-regulation involves attention skills, working memory, and cognitive flexibility (…). Self-regulation skills also allow children to have positive social interactions and help establish constructive patterns of behaviour that will be useful to them throughout their lives (Ponitz et al., 2009).

Research has shown that the ability to self-regulate is essential to the development of learning skills and work habits (Baumeister & Vohs, 2011) (…) (The Kindergarten Program 2016, p. 54)

Well-being is influenced not only by the absence of problems and risks but by the presence of factors, at the individual, family, and community level, that contribute to healthy growth and development. Educators help promote positive mental health in the classroom by providing children with opportunities to learn adaptive, management, and coping skills; communication skills; and relationship and social skills – the personal and interpersonal skills they need to develop resilience, a secure identity, and a strong sense of self. (…)

When educators take children’s well-being, including their mental health, into account when considering instructional approaches, they help to ensure a strong foundation for learning. (The Kindergarten Program 2016, p. 62)

The following are three resources that I have been looking into and would like to learn more about:

Reaching IN… Reaching OUT (RIRO) is a Canadian, evidence-based program that supports the development of resiliency skills among young children and the adults that care for them, both in school and at home.  I have colleagues who have used this program and who rave about it.  A major plus is that this is such a well-developed program that involves hours f in-person training to fully implement it.  The corresponding downside is that for those looking for a quick fix or who are unable to attend training, this program seems out of reach.

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence also offers extensive training and their resources seem easier to implement in K-8 classes. By using the four-coloured Mood Meter and the “RULER” acronym, students begin to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express, and Regulate their emotions.  How to get started using these strategies in early childhood settings is highlighted in the article Teaching Emotional Intelligence in Early Childhood (Young Children, 72(1) – March 2017).  The article states that “Children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention, are more engaged in school, have more positive relationships, and are more empathic.”

Teaching Emotional Intelligence in Early Childhood (Young Children, 72(1) – March 2017)

MindMasters is a research-based program that teaches simple and concrete techniques to help children manage stress and frustration, relax fully and develop a positive perspective.”  It is a free program promoted by the Child and Youth Health Network for Eastern Ontario that includes online videos, an app for kids, and references to picture books available at the Ottawa Public Library. Mind masters bills itself as a toolkit for helping children develop positive living skills.

Have you had any success with any of these programs, either at home or at school?

Indigenous Education – Markers along my journey…

As a first year teacher back in 2007, First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) studies did not factor into my grades 7 and 8 Core French classes in an inner-city Canadian school.  Since I didn’t teach Social Studies, it did not occur to me to include FNMI issues into my classes.  Additionally, I purposely avoided engaging with my students about cultural, religious or ethnic heritage, based on the advice of a more experienced colleague. Fast-forward to June when I was asked to participate in a division-wide “Shopping Mall” unit.  I created a worksheet which listed words and phrases that store-owners at a mall might need (e.g., Now Open, Welcome, On Sale, Half Price, Thank You, etc…) and had the students translate these phrases into French and other languages, with the help of their multilingual classmates.  I was totally surprised when I saw that someone had written in Cree.  Not only did I have a First Nations student in my class, not only had it taken me until nearly the end of the year to create conditions where he could easily choose to self-identify, but, because of his name (Jacob Wolf*), I had, until that time, transposed my own cultural biases onto him and assumed he was Jewish!  This was an a-ha moment for me and changed the way I engaged with my students from then on.  In recent years, I have worked hard to create a more open classroom environment where we can all learn from each other.  At times, this learning includes exposing our own biases and looking around with fresh eyes.

Once I started thinking more about FNMI issues, it got me wondering about how indigenous families might feel when they see French-Core checked off on their child’s report card and right below that, a checkmark indicating Native Language-N/A.  Even just writing that last sentence feels like a punch in the gut, knowing that most elementary students do not have access to a Native Language class and the historical reasons why this might be the case.  With that in mind and faced with a very sweet yet seemingly unmotivated student in one of my grade 5 Core French classes, I approached my principal about looking into the possibility of creating an independent unit of study for this boy in his indigenous language, using online resources.  She was very supportive of the idea, but unfortunately, at that time there were few resources available online and, I am sad to say, the project fizzled without the student or his family ever learning about it.

Now, thanks to advances in technology, there are quite a few places online where teachers can turn to to support indigenous language learning.  Here are a few links:

Article and CBC Radio Piece: Should non-Indigenous Canadians learn Indigenous languages?

NewJourneys.ca – Resources for learning Cree

http://www.tansi.tv: Games, stories, and videos to help kids learn Cree

http://www.creedictionary.com

http://www.omniglot.com/writing/cree.htm

“(Becoming an Indigenous education partner) simply requires an open mind, and a commitment to professional learning. The reality is that all teachers in Ontario need to be armed with a toolkit of knowledge, so that they have the skills and confidence to teach FNMI content in their classrooms.” (http://etfovoice.ca/node/586)  I am at the beginning of this journey and am continuing to learn in this area.
*I have slightly modified this student’s name to preserve his privacy.

**This is the third of a series of posts that I am writing based on prompts from my Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom Part 2 course.**

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

“Culturally responsive pedagogy is a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-lynch-edd/culturally-responsive-pedagogy_b_1147364.html)

From the Capacity Building Series, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy:
Towards Equity and Inclusivity in
Ontario Schools

This is such a huge and important topic.  For this post, I decided to address this theme through the lens of Intercultural Understanding (which is a focus in every strand of Ontario’s Grades 4-8 Core French Program) and share a little bit about how I strived to create a culturally responsive classroom environment.

I was struck by the line in the Student Identity and Engagement in Elementary Schools: Capacity Building Series that stated: “When teachers explore student identity in the spirit of discovery and out of authentic caring for each student as a whole person, meaningful relationships develop.”  This reminds me of the work of Dr. Jean Clinton who consulted for the Ministry of Education on the new Kindergarten Program (2016) and wrote The Power of Positive Adult Child Relationships: Connection Is the Key.  As educators, we know how powerful relationships can be – both with students, parents and colleagues – for creating and sustaining safe, healthy, equitable and inclusive learning environments that honour and respect diversity.

One of the strategies that I have used in the past has been to send a note home at the beginning of the year, inviting parents and students to help me promote intercultural understanding.  Here is the text:

Intercultural Understanding in Core French – How you can help!

Learning about different cultures is an important part of the new Core French curriculum.  As in years past, I will occasionally include posts about celebrations and traditions that are meaningful to students in my classes, but I need your help: If there is a celebration or tradition that is special to your family, please let me know about it!  (Celebrations and traditions need not be religious in nature, for example, if your family has an awesome movie night tradition, that is worth sharing too as that is also part of our Canadian culture!)  

Thanks to my students and their families, every year I learn something new in this department!  Let’s keep it up!

This initiative proved to be transformative, both for myself and my students.  Families sent in photos of their holiday tables, students surprised me with essays about their celebrations, others came in traditional dress and performed dances for us.  We all learned a ton!  A homeroom teacher colleague of mine once ask how I knew so much about the kids’ cultural events.  I told her the truth: I just asked!

As a parent of children who do not celebrate the majority culture, I can say from experience that it is so much easier for families to walk through a door that has been opened than to have to first open the door and then walk through it.

Other strategies I have tried/could try are:

  • Honouring a child’s first language by having the child or the family teach me how to say hello, thank you and well done in their native tongue;
  • Co-creating a class book with family photos for each child;
  • Creating class profiles so as ensure that I am addressing the various learning styles and multiple intelligences of my students;
  • Involving the children in the design of the classroom environment and units of study, but being aware that if the dramatic play area is always subject to a vote, then only majority voices may get heard (i.e., Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc…)
  • Recognizing that every child learns in a unique way and honouring the space and time they need to optimise their learning.

Further resources I explored include:

The Learning Exchange – Culturally Responsive: Educator Mindset and Action, which includes some great videos.

Learning Disabilities and Diversity: A Culturally Responsive Approachwhich includes the statement, “Educators attempting to teach about a culture they do not identify with risks perpetuating assumptions and stereotypes about certain social groups. When implementing a culturally responsive pedagogy in the classroom, the role of the educator is to create a platform where cultural knowledge can be shared; it is a learning opportunity that allows student to see:

Knowledge building is reciprocal because students play an active role in crafting and developing learning experiences for themselves and their peers. This results in making learning relevant and accessible for all students in the classroom as they are able to see themselves in the curriculum. (OME, 2013, p. 5)”

This is a subject that is near to my heart. Can you tell!?

This is the second of a series of posts that I am writing based on prompts from my Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom Part 2 course.

A Podcast on Blogging, Going Paperless and Tech-related PD

Here is the 10-minute version of my 4 minute podcast that I created for an AQ assignment.

The questions were:

a) What is your experience with blogging? Would you / have you used it in conjunction with your classroom?

b) Many teachers want to “go paperless”. How do you feel about this idea? Is it one that you would embrace? Why? why not?

c) How does your school board address professional development when it comes to technology?

In this longer version I talk more about my school board’s approach to tech PD, whereas in the shorter version I focus more on how we have incorporated tech into the delivery of PD from our Curriculum Services department.

Enjoy!

Talkin’ ’bout my Tech-volution

This is the first of a series of posts that I am writing based on prompts from my Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom Part 2 course.

Looking Back…

Looking waaaaaayy back, I remember when, as a pre-teen, I swore off typing and computers all together.  Imagine a pre-teen today shunning technology?  It seems laughable!

In my previous career, I recall an assistant showing me graphs that she made with Excel.  I was blown away.  From then on, my attitude became, if I know what is possible, I can learn it (or at least try)! By the time I entered teachers’ college in 2006, I was a fairly adept Photoshop user (despite a lack of talent in the visual arts) and, thanks to having seen a PhotoStory created by a guest lecturer, I jumped in to my student teaching by creating one with the students to document our learning.

Fast forward and I have integrated technology in various ways in my intermediate classroom (at a time when bringing tech into the classroom doubled as a workout since it was so bulky and heavy), when I was a JK-6 itinerant teacher on a cart, when I worked in a (far-flung) portable, and when I found myself back inside a school with chromebooks, projectors, laptops, etc…  My practice evolved from Smart Notebook and Comic Life to blogging, GSuite, and dabbling in the flipped classroom environment.

In my most recent position as an Early Years/French as a Second Language Instructional Coach, I have integrated technology in a number of ways, including:

  • Delivering professional development by Google Classroom;
  • Using Google Forms to gather information about educators’ interests for professional development;
  • Collaborating with colleagues by using Google Drive, Docs and Slides to create shared resources;
  • Using Google Forms to gather feedback from session participants;
  • Using my iPad to photograph action plan/exit cards from participants so that they could take them with them and we (the presenters) could have a record of what was most impactful about our sessions and what participants intended to implement in their classrooms.

Every year and in every teaching situation, I have refined what I did in years before, and added new ways of integrating technology.  As the girl who swore off typing and computers, I’m pretty proud of that.

I have only been in my current role since September (and left on a parental leave in April). I don’t yet know how my practice will evolve when I return to this role in November 2017, but I will be looking to see what is possible, so that I can learn it and give it a try.

Looking Ahead…

I joined Twitter in 2009 and it was amazing connecting with so many thoughtful educators!  However, I was one of those junkies who read everything those I followed were tweeting and blogging about. That worked well when I was younger and only has one kid, but eventually, I ended up cutting Twitter out of my life instead of finding a balance.

I started a classroom blog back in 2011 and it became my new online love.  Through my blog I made great connections with my students and their families and my blogs serve as documentation of my previous years of teaching. However, a few years ago we went on a work-to-rule-type strike, and I had to reduce my blogging to a bare minimum.  When we returned from strike action, I realized that my blogging muscles had gotten lazy.  In truth, I never returned to blogging with the same frequency as I had during those pre-strike years and I abandoned this professional musings blog completely, except for AQ-related posts.

Moving forward, my pedagogical goals are related to engaging with and growing my PLN by returning to Twitter and blogging in meaningful and sustainable ways.  I look forward to learning from other educators and being held accountable!

Cognitive, Behavioural & Social Learning Theories in the Intermediate Drama Classroom

Here is a screen shot of a glog that I made using Glogster for my Intermediate Drama ABQ course that I am taking through the University of Western Ontario.  My students and I had played around with Glogster back in 2009 and the kids loved it.  Unfortunately, those were the days before templates (or before I had found them?) and everything we created looked rather garage-sale-chic.  Today, Glogster has lots of neat templates and I used the Space Discoveries template as my inspiration for this glog.

Click the picture to see the glog on its native site.  (Once it is fully loaded, click the white frame at the top right for a full screen view – otherwise, get yourself a magnifying glass!)

Learning Theories Glog

Have you ever used Glogster with your students?

Kindergarten: Entering Play

As part of my Kindergarten Part 2 course, I thought through how I might interact with a group of children and alter the environment in my class so as to promote the goals of Ontario’s Full Day Early Learning-Kindergarten Program, to suit the needs of four children outlined in a particular learning story.

Not having my own Kindergarten class at the time of writing, I am sharing my assignment here in hopes that it might be useful to someone out reading who does.  (Also, sharing this assignment with a wider audience was part of the assignment!)

Happy reading, if you are so inclined!

LE3-8 Entering Play