Category Archives: Aligning Resources with Practices

Opportunities for Innovation in Traditional Classes

5/10

Last week on Twitter, there was a conversation about whether innovation was necessary in some traditional subject areas based on this criteria identified by George Couros in The Innovator’s Mindset.

I have been thinking a great deal about this because of my own experiences this week. My daughter is really enjoying her Ancient Civilization course. She really likes her teacher and she finds the ancient world; its history, culture and tradition fascinating. There is nothing new about the content in the class, so arguably, a teacher could, for the most part deliver the same content to students because that content does not change.  Is this a reason not to look for opportunities to innovate?

For her culminating activity, Sydney (grade 11) had to create a 3-panel poster board showcasing her research for her chosen topic. There was a choice of topic, but not of the way students could demonstrate their learning about the topic. On presentation day, each of the poster boards were to be displayed, and students walked around to learn about each other’s projects.

These are some of my questions:

-We had to go out and purchase a 3-panel board ($10) and then go back to print colour copies because we have run out of ink. We are often mindful of inequity when it comes to digital access, but wouldn’t a student in a single-parent or low-income family have difficulty getting out, purchasing, and assembling these items?

-The writing which was included needed to be in paragraph form–Sydney knows that her peers won’t read it when they come around, but that ultimately this writing is a requirement for the teacher. Isn’t there a better way to engage students to read the content? How can there be a more authentic audience?

-My daughter is good at creating things on the computer, but does not necessarily feel confident when it comes to “crafty” things (she comes by that honestly). She painted the board, but when she got to school she saw some students’ boards were magnificent.  Despite the fact that she felt she did a good job with the research, she felt embarrassed that the board didn’t really showcase how hard she had worked and the content she had researched because it didn’t look as beautiful as the others. On the other hand, some students who spent an inordinate amount of time decorating the board, did not have the required content and did not do well.  Wouldn’t providing choice allow students to demonstrate their understanding in a way that complements their strengths?

A few Alternatives

Inquiry-based learning

Inquiry-based learning is a student-centered approach which works well in content-heavy, traditional courses. Students engage in research about a topic, pose their own questions, refine their questions and may choose the manner in which to best present the information. This is done using a constant feedback loop and instruction is given as needed. A starting question might be, “Where do we see the influence of the Ancient (Mayan, Greek, Egyptian, etc…) on modern day_______ (Literature, politics, architecture, culture, etc…)?” In this way, even if two students choose the Mayan civilization, their projects would be completely different from one another and they can see how the ancient world has had an impact on them.

I used Getting Started with Inquiry as a springboard when I facilitated professional learning around inquiry, but there are lots of resources out there that help teachers move to this model. The difference in this approach is that students take ownership of their learning.

Choice board

Even when teachers don’t use an inquiry-based learning model, a choice board is a good alternative which allows students to select the way in which they would like to demonstrate their learning.  Typically, there is a Free Choice in which students can propose an alternative assignment. What is great about this is it provides students with ideas, while allowing flexibility. Below is an example from a Science class shared with me by Ryan Imgrund.

With this framework, the teacher really helps students ensure they are making a choice which will be sufficiently challenging for them, and also helps to support the research. Most importantly, students can then reflect on whether or not they had made the right choice (metacognition), which allows for growth and learning.

Interestingly, my daughter found a Youtube channel by a teacher, Mr. Nicky, who creates parodies for Ancient History songs. She shared it with her class. This could have easily been a choice for students; it would have been hard work, but also a fun and creative way to demonstrate learning.

Breakout EDU & Breakout EDU Digital

I am a huge fan of Breakout EDU and I’ve written about it before. It’s great to see more and more teachers  bringing these into classes for students to play–they LOVE it!   I am currently co-creating a Breakout EDU digital game with Kim Pollishuke, for an upcoming TVO webinar, and it reminded me how very valuable (and rather simple) it would be for students to create a BreakOut game (digital or physical) as a culminating activity.  So much of the critical thinking happens during the creation of the game. Creating a game would show how students are able to apply what they’ve learned in a course and students can play each other’s games to learn about other topics . It would be challenging, but deep learning often is; and the games can be used for exam review, shared widely with other classes, and used in the future for teaching and learning, so there is an inherent authentic audience. Justin Birckbichler and Mari Venturino have a resource page that would help with ideas for how to present the clues, but students would have to have a good knowledge of content in order to create a good game. To me, this is an ideal way for students to move beyond the memorization of facts.

Other ideas

Check out Nicholas Provenzano’s plan to use Snapchat with the classic novel, Huckleberry Finn here.

There are some good suggestions in this post by Alice Keeler, “Easy ways to Upgrade your lesson from 1900 to 2017”. (Math focus)

As you can see from this post, I think there are opportunities for Innovation in ANY classroom in ANY subject.  Searching for new and better ways to deliver traditional content and to have students understand it, are necessary in today’s classroom.  Yes, at its heart it is good pedagogy–that’s how you know it’s not just new and flashy and shallow. Looking for BETTER ways to invoke deep learning is what I think we need to move towards.

Would love your feedback! How are you looking for opportunities to innovate in courses that are traditionally very content-heavy? What resources do you find helpful?

Do students think we should be using social media in school?

I noticed that I had a blog post in draft form from the summer. Do you do this as a blogger? I’m not sure why I didn’t post it then; maybe it didn’t feel complete or I wasn’t happy with it. Nonetheless, I pushed myself way too hard yesterday and have to be gentle with myself, so this is my 3/10 post.

When I was researching for my Social Media in Education course, I put out an informal survey on Twitter. It was by no means a scientific survey: I didn’t have a control group and the fact is, because I used Twitter to administer the survey, many of the kids who responded had teachers who already use social media in their classrooms. So though so this is not hard data by any means, it is interesting.

The respondents were from grade 6-8 (so ages 11-14 years old) and this what they said when I asked whether or not social media should be used in school:


And here’s the interesting thing I noticed when students responded to the question, “Why” or “Why not”.  Students who had used social media in their classroom for the purposes of learning (three times or more) had a positive attitude towards the potential of social media verses the students who never did.

Look at these extremes:

Here are the responses from kids who said yes. Most of these students had indicated that they had had the opportunity to use social media in their classes:

  • because it is a good way to share how you are learning with people around the world
  • because you will learn about thing all the time and the world is coming to the point where you will need to use social media
  • because it can be educational and fun.
  • because it helps with learning and it gives us an experience.
  • Yes, because it is a great resource for learning, if you go on certain accounts, it can actually help you learn something, all the major companies use social media.
  • it can help you get comfortable with talking to people

And there was a group of students who did not actually use social media in school, but indicated that wished they could be:

  • some social media can help you learn about whats going on in the world right now. Also, some kids enjoy using social media, so maybe kids would be more interested in learning if they could use social media to learn and connect with and about the world
  • I think it should because it could potentially be a resource, and it could help with the understanding of the online life
  • Social media should be used in school as it helps children learn something that they are used to using. Today, almost all children use social media.

There were many students (32 out of 102 respondents) who were not sure, but could not exactly articulate why. There were many, “I don’t know” responses and “I’m not sure” and one student articulated it this way: I’m not sure because I don’t really understand how using social media would help students learn in class.

Of the students who said no (13 out of 102 respondents) to using social media in school, it seemed to focus on hypotheticals and the fear narrative:

  • Because too much social media is bad and could strain our eyes if we’re on it to long.
  • If students were allowed to use social media at school today it would have been a problem because there could be a cyberbully.
  • We shouldn’t because the kids might not be using it appropriately

What stood out most to me from the survey results was the stark difference between the attitudes of the students who used social media daily and were given the opportunity to use social media in the classroom more than 5 times in a school year, versus what students who use social media daily, but who had never been given the opportunity to use it in class had to say.  You see, those students only look that their own social use, their tendency to be distracted by their friends’ posts. They are also likely the students who have been taught nothing about social media beyond how bad it is, so it is no wonder that they could not see any educational value.

And yet, I continue to talk to teachers from across the globe who cannot use social media in their classrooms because it is blocked or banned.

Do we invite students to District-level tables? Do we have a student school advisory team at the school level?

Will anything ever change if we don’t change the path we are currently taking when it comes to using social media in the classroom?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Here is a link to the questionnaire and here is a link to all of responses if you are interested.

A focus on what is POSSIBLE

Update: I have had to change my goal from 10 blogs in 10 days to 10 blogs over the next two weeks. I just couldn’t do it and need to be realistic and gentle with myself and my recovery! 

When I saw Tina Zita’s challenge: 10 Posts in 10 Days in my inbox this morning, I thought what I have thought since November 1st. I don’t think I can do that.  In fact, today is Blue Monday, isn’t it? 10 blog posts in 10 days in my condition: Impossible.

I hadn’t created my #oneword2017 as so many of my friends and peers had, I hadn’t done a 2017 Learning Resolutions video reflection and posted it to #EDU2017 even though I had really meant to.

You see I incurred a concussion on October 31st and I have not been myself since. In fact, today, 77 days later was my first day back at work–it was only two hours and a modified schedule–but it was the first day that I got dressed and went to work and smiled at teachers and students faintly and answered that I was doing ok, when I feel less than ok.

Flashback to last night, when my next door neighbour, who is a Rehabilitation psychologist talked to me about the fact that I need to push myself; that I may be 100% by the 3 month mark in a couple of weeks, or I may not be, but no matter what, my brain will benefit from working, and pushing.

So 10 Days of Blogging seems less impossible…

There will always be a reason not to. This was brought home to me when George Couros shared an article, The Dark Side of Tech in the Classroom: Caveats for Implementing Tech in Schools . There are lots of great thoughts on it, but what I noticed most is that the author, though professing the effective integration of tech can be a “helpful thing” spent the entire article talking about the negative aspects of technology integration.

Maybe this is human nature. To focus on the negatives instead of the positives. To say it is impossible before we concede that it is possible. To use a deficit model instead of an asset model.

There will always be a reason not to do something.

And so, my one word for this year is POSSIBLE.

I will write 10 blogs in 10 days, despite the fact that it will likely take me considerable effort. They won’t always be long, and likely not perfectly edited like they normally would be, but doing this is possible. So says 5th grader, Madelyn.

Won’t you join us?

(used with permission based on an Audrey Hepburn quotation)

My learning resolution: #EDU2017

Leading & Building a Positive Culture as a Teacher-Librarian

I was at a family function last weekend when my sister said it.  No one had talked about the fact that I was changing roles in September.  Now I know why–they had talked about it amongst themselves.  She said, “So you went from being the Literacy Consultant for a whole board to a Teacher-Librarian? Like isn’t that a total demotion?  Why would you do that?!” (yup, her exact words–gotta love my sister’s direct & honest approach??)

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback, but it made me really think about leadership and how people perceive leadership as being connected to titles. It also showed me the extent to which people don’t recognize how valuable Teacher-Librarians can be in a school.

What I explained to her is that I chose to be a Teacher-Librarian so I can continue to be a leader. In that role, I have the privilege of working with teachers, administration, and students in positive and impactful ways.

Two awesome posts by George Couros this week : 10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #Classroom Culture this year and  10 Easy Ways to Build a Positive #School Culture as a Principal, helped me to think about the ways in which a Teacher-Librarian is not just a leader, but has the incredible opportunity to contribute to the building of  an amazing culture in a school.

An effective Teacher-Librarian supports teachers to try something different, offers a little tweak that can move a lesson or unit from good to awesome, offers a second set of hands, eyes, and ears to help differentiate and assess.  An effective teacher-librarian can help a teacher find the perfect tech tool or resource to serve the learning needs of their students.

We know about critical literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and every other modern literacy classroom teachers haven’t had the time to dig in to or keep up with in this age of abundant information.

But our space isn’t just another classroom in the school.  The Library Learning Commons can and should be the heart of a school; a place where learning, literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and fun come together.

Teacher-Librarians also interact with students– lots of students every day.  I am completely new at this role, so maybe I’m off base here, but I think that George’s Top 10 list can be modified for the role of Teacher-Librarian.  This is what I’m thinking:

10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing School Culture as a Teacher-Librarian this year (2)

 

I’d like to create an inviting and positive learning culture when it comes to allowing cellphones in my Learning Commons.  I am experimenting with the wording on this poster and would love your feedback on this sign:

Be prepared to rethink how you use social media here (2)

 

More about building a positive culture by connecting your students

I am committed to helping teachers and students to see how technology and social media can be used to learn and share learning, connect with others, and be a more positive influence in the lives of others!

I am excited for the opportunity to work with teachers and students at my school and in the world on the following initiatives:

I would like to start a High School Global Book Club to foster digital leadership and a love of reading.  My VERY DRAFT ideas are here.  So far, I’ve got a few North American schools and an International school in Thailand interested.  Would love for you to join us!

I am participating in the Global Peace Project sponsored my Buncee launching September 26th. It is free to join and is an excellent way to build empathy, cultural awareness and to work towards spreading peace.  Details here.

I am helping my friend, Barbara  from Norway to get some North American classes involved in a Digital Storytelling project beginning in September. Check it out here.

I am organizing a Global Amazing Race EDU for grades 7, 8 and high school.  The project launch happens on February 10th with a Virtual Breakout EDU!  Details here.

I can’t wait to see my sister at the next family function to tell her all about my  start to an amazing school year!

Quotation source: http://ottmag.com/most-famous-leadership-quotes/

 

Social media and education: my research and wonderings

Yesterday, my friend, Jennifer Williams shared a tweet about how to create Facebook with classes. I replied to her that Facebook was blocked in my District, but that it looked great.  A complete stranger (a grad student from India) jumped in and asked how it was possible that Facebook was blocked in America.  Here is our Twitter exchange:

Facebook Blocked Blog

He concluded by saying, “just us having this conversation sitting opposite ends of the world is example enough”.  And indeed this is true.

This post is not meant to criticize Districts that block or don’t block, but more of an exploration of my wonderings prompted by this exchange. I know the dark side of social media exists.  I really do and keeping students safe is the primary concern of educators.  And yet, I am increasing confused around what we even mean by social media and the criteria by which we should determine what (or if) a site is blocked, not blocked.

I have already done some thinking about what social media means in this  blog post prompted by an experience by Carl Hooker, reflecting on the fact that according to teens, everything is social media. But because I am enrolled in a self-directed grad course called, Social Media in Education, I am wondering about academic perspectives and definitions.

Scholars danah boyd and Nicole Ellison define social network sites rather than social media itself in their 2007 paper, Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship, as online communities that allow users  to

(1 ) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,

(2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and

(3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (2007)

In It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens, boyd refers to social media as a collection of “sites and services that emerged during the early 2000s including social network sites, video sharing sites, blogging and microblogging platforms, and related tools that allow participants to create and share their own content”  (boyd, 2014, pg 6).

And according to Kaplan and Haenlein (2014),  Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (media content publicly available and created by end users)”

And so I’m not sure if I’m oversimplifying here, but when I consider those definitions, I think of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Music.ly, and Snapchat, but  also Youtube,  Wikipedia, Prezi, and Slideshare.   But can we also include Google Apps for education? and many Curating platforms?  Basically, can’t we say that anything that allows for content creation or remixing and public sharing social media?

Kerric Harvey, in Encyclopedia of social media and politics contemplates the ambiguity as well:

What is Social Media-

–Kerric Harvey, 2014

So, if academics and students have a tough time defining social media, what is the criteria by which Districts make decisions about which “social media” to block?

Something Henry Jenkins says in Participatory Culture in a networked era really resonates with me :

I could see the first wave of young people who had enjoyed extensive access to digital technologies, observing the ways they were incorporating these tools and practices into all different dimensions of their life and work..[but] many adults were shutting down opportunities that were meaningful for young people out of a moral panic response to technological and cultural change.” (pg 36)

I would extend the idea of moral panic to a very real concern about legal and liability implications that often accompany these decisions.  So in the same way that I understand the notion of blocking “social media”, I am perplexed my many questions (listed here in no particular order):

Don’t we want students to generate content not just for themselves but for others?   Do we still associate creation with something that needs to be done in a classroom for a teacher or are we considering the extent to which some of this creation can become part of a more participatory culture?

If we know that learning is social then isn’t sharing learning (including online) something that we should strive for as educational institutions?  Is the problem the extent to which users can communicate with each other (which may be abusive) rather than the sharing itself? If so, is this not a problem that need to be addressed regardless of whether students are sharing face to face or online?

What criteria determines which sites to block and which sites should be used for teaching and learning?  Is it worthwhile for sites to be open for teachers but not students? (especially in elementary) because of age restrictions of many social media sites?

Should (or could) schools determine which sites can/can’t be used based on their own school culture and the input of teachers and students or is this too complicated from an IT perspective?

What are the considerations that all stakeholders need to consider when making these decisions?

Are there Districts that don’t block anything? and if so, how do they ensure the safety and privacy of their students?

Do students sit at the table to help make sense of it all? Can they?

I think Jenkins states it well here:

Right now, we are at a moment of transition. For many of us, we are experiencing a significant expansion of our communicative capacities within a networked culture, yet very little in our past has taught us how to use those expanded capacities responsibly or constructively…It’s confusing, there are ethical dilemmas, none of us know how to use that power…The only way forward is to ask the hard questions, to confront the bad along with the good, to challenges [sic] the inequalities and the abuses. (Jenkins, 2016, pg 25)

I would love to hear your questions and thoughts as I continue to contemplate this topic.

 

 

References:

boyd, danah (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale     University Press.

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393

Harvey, K. (Ed.) (2014). Encyclopedia of social media and politics (Vols. 1-3). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781452244723

Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! the challenges and opportunities of social media. Greenwich: Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Curation Tools, Social Media, and Student Digital Leadership

“The sheer volume of digital information that is available makes it increasingly challenging to find the information you are interested in.  Curation in a digital world isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

–Stephen Dale

As I embark on a new self-directed course called, Social Media in Education at the University of Ontario, Institute for Technology (UOIT), I am set with the task of finding a curation tool to keep track of the various resources I accumulate over the next couple of months.  Because of the content of the course, I am thinking that the curation tool I select, should be public and shareable.

What is curation?

I really like Sylvia Tolisano’s definition of curation:

“…the ability to find, to filter, to evaluate, to annotate, to choose which sources are valuable.” (Valenza, et al. 2014)

Stephen Daly, in his article, Content Curation: The Future of Relevance, reminds us that when we think of curation we think of a museum curator who keeps abreast of trends, listens to what guests are discussing and finds resources that resonate well with those areas.  He states that you no longer need to have studied curation : “social media sharing has enabled anyone to share anything with the world.”  (Daly. 2014, pg 1)

Content Curation Tools

The following are a few content curation tools which I either like or want to explore and what I know about them so far:

Storify (13+) allows me to draw content from a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Google Plus feed or from Google in order to create a digital story with annotations.  It’s also very intuitive; I use it regularly to consolidate learning like here and to summarize events.

Diigo allows me to individually or collaboratively bookmark and annotate links, pages, notes, and media.  I have been able to add tags to make my bookmarks searchable as well as add highlight, sticky notes, or screenshots to my libraries (Valenza, pg 63).   The Chrome extension is extremely useful.  I don’t believe there is an age restriction, but you need to sign up with an email.

Flipboard (13+) also has a handy Google Chrome extension and is a place to not just read content, but curate it as well.  I tried this tool out for one of my previous courses and like that I can add a comment or idea to the articles, videos, or photos that I “flip” and that I can also categorize magazines and share them.

Pinterest  My 16 year old uses Pintrest all the time for decorating and recipe ideas and I follow the Edumatch board, but that’s about it.  I’d like to explore how Pintrest might be used in a school or classroom setting especially because of its incredible visual quality; I know some teachers are already having their students create boards for a variety of subjects.

I have been using Google Plus Communities (13 +) more and more lately to share information, links, videos, or project ideas with various groups of people.  I think this platform has great potential as a curation platform.  I am interested in exploring this tool more in this context.

Bundlr is a tool that I learned about through Joyce Valenza, in Curation Platforms.  The tool allows you to create relevant “bundles” using articles, images, videos, tweets, and links and share them.  Out of all these tools it is the one tool I know absolutely nothing about but would like to challenge myself to explore.

I have also personally used Evernote and Symbaloo, to curate and organize articles, websites, images, and blogposts based on themes and ideas.  This blog  (any blog by virtue of tags) serves as a curation tool for my own learning as well.  Many of my friends (especially my Edumatch Voxer PLN),  also use Blendspace, Livebinders, Educlippers, and Scoop-it,.  Like anything when it comes to technology, there are literally a hundred apps and tools that might serve a similar purpose.  Check out this list.

So how many of these tools are currently being used by or taught to students?

The current practice in many schools when it comes to curating information involves citing or annotating resources for one specific unit or project at a time, usually in the form of research notes, a bibliography or annotated bibliography which is submitted it to the teacher and sometimes even graded.  This is good.

And so I asked the Twitterverse via a poll:

Curation Poll

Only about 35 out of 97 people who responded teach students to use online curation tools. This is by no means reliable data–people may have said no because they teach kindergarten or don’t meet the age restrictions or don’t have access to technology.  The results are interesting nonetheless.  As educators we are constantly seeking ways to be more efficient and productive with finding and organizing information, but this hasn’t quite translated to classroom practice. Don’t our students need these same skills?  I think we need to do better than this in 2016, especially when content curation utilizes so many different forms of literacy. Here is a graphic outlining Content Curation Competencies which I modified from Stephen Dale, and to which I applied three sample tools (Pintrest, Flipboard, and Storify).

Content Curation Competencies

Curation and Student Digital Leadership

In the meantime, I randomly Googled myself (a practice I regularly encourage students and teachers to do) and saw that my Symbaloo account came up. This made me think about Student Digital Leadership.

Why? I wonder about the current practice of showing students how to curate information specifically for a class or a teacher, which then never goes anywhere, when we could be teaching students curation tools that can actually contribute to their online presence and allow them to both learn and share their learning in a guided and scaffolded way.  Better?

What if we modelled what content curation looked like in the early years by having a collaborative online curation space, and then helping our kids select and create content for that online space?  This would work especially well in inquiry-rich classrooms where research is happening based on student interests.  Here is a link to a class-created Flipboards by Lisa Noble’s class.

What if students in older grades were able to make decisions about where to curate their work and that part of that decision included a social networking opportunity which allowed them to share their learning as well as actively learning from the curated resources of other students?

And what if we asked students in grade 12 to reflect on their curated resources from grade 9 and the extent to which they feel they have grown as learners and as information gatherers and seekers?

Ideally, you would compare and contrast the tool’s features, check the terms of service to ensure it doesn’t sell your private information and that you are using the tool with the age suggested.  Even better, why not decide as a class what features you deem important and have your students investigate a few of them and decide on which tool(s) they’d like to use for the year?

 

An emphasis on curation will not only help students to track the plethora of information on the web, and provide them with essential literacy skills but an organizational tool they can readily use if they choose to go to post-secondary.  It also serves to provide students with an opportunity to learn and share their learning and thus foster Digital Leadership skills.

References

Dale, S. (2014). Content curation: The future of relevance.Business Information Review, 31(4), 199-205. doi:10.1177/0266382114564267

Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Curation outside the library world. Library Technology Reports, 50(7), 51.

Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Curation platforms. Library Technology Reports, 50(7), 60.

 

Design Thinking and Professional Learning

When I learned about the Global Design Day event on April 26th, 2016, proposed by AJ Juliani and John Spenser, I was so excited!  The event is about engaging in building, creating, & tinkering which reinforces so many 21st century competencies.  Any time we can come together as a community to try something which is about trying something different from the norm (with or without technology) is also a wonderful way to build community! It didn’t take much convincing before Daniel LaGamba got on board and we had the support of senior administration and our awesome 21C Board team to go ahead and promote this event.

Daniel and I set out to host a Google Hangout on Air (via Tozzle which was totally new learning for us) in order to tell the Teacher-Librarians in our 108 schools what this was all about.  We were completely excited until we realized that April 26th was a day when we had various teachers coming to the Board for professional learning in our 21C initiative.  We would not be able to go to the schools to support this event!  So what to do?  Provide a Global Day of Design Professional learning opportunity of course.  We only had two hours and wanted to make the most of it.

What this looked like:

We began with this awesome video about the Launch Cycle created by John Spenser which clearly identifies what design thinking and the Launch cycle look like:

We then had participants choose one of four design challenges based on interest.  We chose not to go with the design challenges already on the GlobalDayofDesign website.  Below you will find a brief description of what each of these challenges looked like.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 6.39.44 AM

The workshop was then divided up as follows:

  • Time to Design, Create, and/or Build
  • Time to Capture and Record the Process (digitally or with chart paper & markers)
  • Time to Share designs as well as the process (challenges, successes)
  • Debrief

Choice 1: Breakout EDU

In this design challenge, participants had to solve a simple Break Out EDU challenge (Candy Caper).  They then sat in small subject/grade specific groups to create an extension to the game  for their students.  This was an idea suggested by Jeffrey Humphries when I chatted with him about my thinking for Global Design Day.  In our debrief, I talked with teachers about how valuable it would be for students to create the challenges for other students. Here is a link to one of the group’s reflection using Flipagram and here is a link to a reflection using Adobe Voice.

Choice 2: Virtual Reality and Make Do

Stephanie Wilson, a psychologist with our District came up with this idea which was incredibly powerful.  Participants experience the story of Sidra, a young girl in a refugee camp via Google Cardboard and the Vrse app.  They then design a prototype for something that would make her life better and use cardboard and Make-dos to create the prototype.  This is an incredible design opportunity that also builds empathy and cultural awareness and can be replicated with any virtual reality app.

Choice 3: Greeen Screen Movie Making

In this digital design challenge, participants created a storyboard for a green screen film project using the DoInk iPad app.  This app is new to participants, so many of them first spent time playing and discovering and reported one of their successes being learning that they could re-size and re-position the main image.  In a short time, particpants were able to create short green-screen videos and proudly showcased them.

Choice 4: 3D Design

We don’t have a 3D printer…but know who does?? The local library!  We connected with them for our Mental Health Symposium Makerspace and they were more than happy to come back for Global Day of Design.  They brought robots to be coded and vinyl designs too! And best of all, teacher participants now know that building a relationship with their community library is not only possible, but a good idea!

I can’t wait for the schools who participated to contribute to our District’s collaborative blog with their reflections and experiences with their students for Global Day of Design!

You can see some of our #ycdsb21c teachers and students who were involved in this storify by AJ Juliani.

I know it was just a day, but lots of teachers and students have had the opportunity to experience design thinking as a way of practicing 21st century competencies. And best of all, it was FUN!

Why not try this for your next professional learning day?  I’d be happy to help!

 

 

Success is your personal best: What does that look like in school?

Are you like me?  It seems that no matter what I’m doing, I always seem to connect things back to education.  I guess I know that teaching and learning is a vocation for me, not just a job.

So I was in Spin class this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about this class as an analogy for learning.  First of all, I only started spinning about 8 months ago because a friend of mine who was a Spin Instructor told me it was awesome; I had written it off previously as something I didn’t enjoy or couldn’t master.  In the spirit of trying things outside of my comfort zone, I picked it up again and now it’s my absolute favourite class.

But I digress.

There are lots of different instructors who each have their own strengths and styles and who motivate us in different ways.  Kelly, the owner of the gym, encourages us to modify the speed & resistance to suit our own needs; actually all of the instructors say that.  She tells us that success and failure is just a state of mind in this class and that the goal is to do our personal best.  I LOVE this!  It gives me the freedom to not compare myself to the person spinning beside me (though admittedly I always sneak a peak to see what others beside me are doing).  Each week I push myself to go a little farther & to increase my resistance so I am working harder.  When I leave the gym, it is with a sense of elation and accomplishment: success!

This morning, another instructor told us the same thing–modify according to where you are at.  But then, she walked around and checked everyone’s speed.  I guess this was meant to encourage us to go faster & push harder, but what it did to me, was make me cover my speedometer with my towel and pray she wouldn’t say anything to me  or check my progress.

And if you haven’t already made the connection, I am thinking about what this looks like for..

  • teachers leading learning in classrooms,
  • administrators leading learning in a school, and
  • people like me who are leading professional learning at the District level.

It made me think about  John Hattie’s idea of a year’s worth of growth and my evolving understanding of what that means, and what George Couros says in The Innovator’s Mindset about helping people move from their Point A to their Point B.

Are we measuring one learner’s performance against another or are we helping learners to recognize their strengths ?

Are we allowing adequate time or opportunity for them to reflect on where they need to go with our guidance, descriptive feedback, and encouragement?

Are we saying one thing but then our actions indicate differently?

Are we celebrating what success looks like in incremental steps,  or do we hold an unattainable standard that some learners may never even try to reach for because it seems too impossible to do so?

How do we help learners to know what their “personal best” looks like and help them become accountable to themselves when they don’t get there?

Does this look the same whether we are talking about young learners in a classroom or adult learners engaging in professional development?

I will never go as far or as fast as the gal who spins beside me on Saturday mornings.  We have different body types and fitness levels.  I’m ok with that. But I can tell you that compared to 8 months ago, I am rockin’ it!

Success =YOUR personal bestnot someone else's

 

If Everything is Social Media to teens…

I just read this excellent post by Carl Hooker, The Truth About Teens: Everything is Social Media, shared by George Couros. Hooker speaks about his experiences working with a group of students and the questions he asked them about their social media uses and habits.  You really should read the full post; the activities and responses are awesome!

A couple of the questions really resonates. One was whether or not they believed a deleted photo really disappeared and the other was about which apps kids were using including ones which parents should beware of.  I love the honesty of the kids.

What I found interesting:

-KiK was listed as a messaging tool in this list by the students, but not placed in the “beware” category.  This app has come under scrutiny for cyberbullying (Check out this CNN article) and when I hosted a panel of adults and teens, Tinder also came up as an app to be aware of.

-YikYak was listed (as perhaps it should be), and yet, as I learned from experience, that this is complicated.

One of the main conclusions that came out was that students are using platforms that would not necessarily be considered social media and using them to communicate with one another in similar ways to how they are using social media.

Obviously there are no right or wrong answers and each school community will have different experiences from which to draw their opinions.  It is however clear that there are a whole host of social media sites that can be used for nefarious reasons.  It’s not about the tool, but the user of the tool.  I can use YikYak (as my daughter does) to post silly puns about her day, or I can use it to demean someone annonymously.  I can use Twitter to promote awareness about an organization or an important cause, or I can use it to subtext and demoralize someone. And I can use Youtube to do the same thing.

Any social media tool can be used negatively or positively

And, if indeed teens use many spaces in the same way as they use social media, then is it really effective for us to spend so much time fear-mongering in schools about how bad social media is?  We arbitrarily block sites– I say arbitrarily because the list Hooker generated yielded some apps neither he nor I have heard of, so an IT Dept would not know to block it.  Shouldn’t we instead, be spending more of that time teaching kids how to communicate effectively online and in some of these spaces?

This is on my mind especially because of the events of the other day.  I tweeted out the link to a hashtag that kids had created for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy test. #osslt2016  My daughter and I got a real kick out of the very clever posts by students who had just written the test.  Even EQAO (the governing body overseeing the test) responded light-heartedly:

Then a friend of mine pointed out that there was an extremely inappropriate post in the feed. When I looked, I was mortified. Instinctively, I deleted my tweet and reported the tweet as offensive.  This student basically likened writing the test to wanting to be a suicide bomber and included a photo!

Then I took a closer look.  This was just a grade 10 kid trying to be funny and not really understanding the impact.  I looked at his Facebook page (easy enough to find) and realized from the very innocent profile and posts that he had just made a vast error in judgement.

I instinctively contacted him via Twitter.  It could have gone one of two ways: he could have responded maliciously, or he could have realized his error.  Here is how the exchange went:

Me: This is never ever appropriate. Nor is it funny.  And this tweet can come back to haunt you when you are looking for a job.

Student: (Liked, Retweeted) Thx

Me: You are welcome. Delete it and hopefully no one will see it for now. Good luck!

Student: Kk (Deleted the tweet)

If I wasn’t in this space, I would not have been able to help this student.

This experience has reaffirmed my conviction that we need to spend more time focusing on using social media in positive ways.  When we talk about social media, we can’t always use the fear narrative; but we need to be in these spaces to help students navigate the tricky waters!

Carl Hooker’s post and my own experience have me wondering:

Do we use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc…in our teaching and learning ? Or are we blocking them and having kids communicate in these spaces on their own?

Do we talk to students about apps that worry them and brainstorm ways to turn possible negative experiences into positives?

Do we explicitly teach students how to comment effectively online, in a variety of places? Give them strategies to respond (or not respond) to inappropriate comments?  Give them challenges to respond positively to change the trajectory of negative posts?

Do we allow our students to comment on the Youtube videos they watch in class or do we just share the link ?   Or do we block Youtube altogether?

Do we help students in school develop an online presence so that when they are “googled” they have positives that outweigh some of the gaps in judgement?

We need to focus on Digital Citizenship AND Digital Leadership in school simultaneously.

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Professional Learning and Physical Constraints

I was honoured to be invited to facilitate a workshop for Canadian World Studies teachers around the topic of inquiry-based learning.  As I began to plan, I realized that they were scheduled to be in a very small meeting room and no other space was available.

As a facilitator I had a few choices. Let the physical space stop me from doing what I think is essential (providing hands learning experiences) and create a sit-and-get presentation, decline the invitation because I couldn’t do it justice…

OR, become innovative within constraints (one my favourite big ideas out of George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset book ).  I chose to be creative with my physical space and use the hallway, as well as the power of Google Slides to collaborate within the confines of the small space.

There were more than a few eyebrows raised as I was setting up my inquiry stations and putting up images and QR codes on the walls of the hallway. And I knew that we would have to be relatively quiet considering the Accounting Department works primarily on that floor. I had to move some of the furniture, of course as well.  As District personnel walked past, I wondered what they were thinking.  A few of them asked and others just paused inquisitively to look.

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This experience has me wondering a few things:

Is learning visible in all aspects of our school organizations?  Do all stakeholders, regardless of role, who work in our educational system know what this looks like and is it important that they do?

How many of our physical spaces (in schools, in District offices) which were created so long ago, prohibit true collaboration and exploration?  And if they do, how can we be creative with our physical spaces so we see opportunities instead of obstacles?

What’s more important in a learning organization: a little noise, some moved furniture, or tape marks on walls or active hands-on, learning experiences?

If indeed we want teachers to move towards learner-centered classrooms, then doesn’t our professional learning need to model this stance no matter what room we are in?

What do we say when we walk by teachers’ rooms  or by hallways when active learning is happening? Do we think things are out of control, or do we recognize that learning and collaboration is sometimes messy and noisy?

In the end, I think the teachers appreciated the opportunity to move, discuss, share, and wonder.  And I was glad that I didn’t let physical space stop me from modelling what inquiry looks like (though I might try sticky tack instead of tape next time) 🙂