As part of my personal growth goals for this year, I am taking a hip hop class. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not a dancer and especially not a hip hop dancer. In fact, I worry that my lack of skills are offensive to authentic hip hop artists… However, I am pushing myself outside my comfort zone and taking this class. There are eight of us in the class but only three people attended last night and two of the three just happened to be the quiet, shy, hide-in-the-back types… All eyes would be on us and quite honestly, I was petrified.
As per usual, he made us watch him demonstrate the moves, practice and then perform to the best of our abilities. An amazing thing happened though, I picked up the choreography rather quickly. I’m not sure if it’s because we are five weeks into the course and my brain is understanding the moves or if it was a complete fluke, but the instructor noticed as well and commented on my “skills.” He then asked why I didn’t feel comfortable the past four weeks. And the honest answer I gave him was that this is a scary experience for me. He told me though that I do have the ability to “hit” the moves and that I shouldn’t be a “chicken-sh!t” anymore (in a completely joking fashion of course.)
The conversation really hit home for me. We ask students to step outside their comfort zones every single day, but yet, I feel that we very seldom do ourselves. I think we have to role model what it looks like to learn and to show the students that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. We also have to be there to support them on this journey rather than berate their attempts whether successful or not. Finally, it’s also reminded me of the importance of scaffolding the learning. The instructor saw last night that I need to watch his feet first before I can attempt anything with my hands and I don’t think he knew that before last night.
Taking this class has been so good for me on so many levels and I’m so thankful to one of my more outgoing girlfriends who is the reason I’m this far outside my little msjweir bubble.
I spend a lot of time reading. For the most part it is non-fiction based about child rearing or education or healthy living, but I’m coming to the conclusion that every time I’ve found something I think makes a lot of sense or is applicable to my life and/or beliefs, there is a follow up article that “debunks” what I just read.
As a parent, I find this aggravating. I only want to do what is best for my girls, but it seems like every decision a parent makes, there is a study or organization or condescending peer suggesting the opposite. The most recent discussion has centred on the amount of screen time a child has over the course of the day. Now, I definitely believe that kids should have a variety of activities over the course of the day, but I am not impressed with the amount of fear-mongering that has accompanied this recommendation. I actually have been experiencing some anxiety about the amount of screen time in which my three year old engages. Today, however, I vowed to stop fretting. My child gets a variety of stimulation through crafting, reading, drawing, tracing, dancing, singing, running, jumping, petting the dog, helping me bake or clean and of course playing with her younger sister, that I shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety.
It just makes me wonder… Do we have too much access to information? Are we bombarded by the same stories over and over again until it causes anxiety? How do we as educators and/or parents help our students/children deal with such an overwhelming amount of information?
It also makes me question the concept of studies at all. Take Gardner’s multiple intelligences, for example. It is education 101 in teachers’ colleges, but has been questioned and “debunked” recently. I think that much of what we have learned from allowing people to express themselves in whatever fashion they find most comfortable is crucial but I also think that what works one day, might be different the next. I don’t know if you can pigeon hole people into a certain category but what it has done is make others consider and celebrate the differences of those around us. To me, that’s the important detail- not that we have 10 kinethestic learners in our class of 20 students. It just makes me think- do we really need “studies” that promote fear? Why can’t we just have people learning and sharing their observations then allow people to make their own informed decision without the condescension and anxiety?
It’s a week before #ecoo13 and I’ve just finished the slides for my presentation and now I’m reflecting. When I submitted an application to present at #ecoo13, I was trying to think about aspects of education that I don’t think are discussed or considered enough, but also what I personally enjoy about the conference. I actually struggled for a good long time and submitted pretty much right at the deadline, but the idea of co-learning with students (not colleagues) is a topic that I think gets lip-service but isn’t practiced in many classrooms. I also love the face to face conversations that I have with people in my PLN and other attendees so that is what my presentation will contain.
I have to be honest, though, I am not an expert on this topic and there is actually very little research on learning with students. Most of the research centred on learning with colleagues or supporting students as they learned, but not learning alongside students. The lack of information got me thinking and reflecting on my own practice. Do I learn alongside my students? The answer I think is both yes and no. I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know” but there are many times where when I know I’m going to be discussing something with students that I’m not completely familiar with, I do some background research. What would class be like if I didn’t do the background research? Would I lose credibility with the students or gain it? Are we ready in education for this kind of model? Historically, teachers have been the keepers of the information and even though the internet has blown this idea out of the water, the antiquated model of “the teacher” still exists.
In essence, what I’m hoping is that a variety of people choose to attend my session and we engage in a deep dialogue about what co-learning can look like in all different kinds of classrooms. I’m a secondary English teacher and I have ideas about how the English curriculum allows us to learn with our students but I have no idea what it would look like in a Math or Science or elementary interdisciplinary classrooms, but I would love to learn.
I’ve been thinking a lot about learning lately. One of my personal growth goals is to learn something new on a regular basis and therefore I’m taking a hip hop class. Now, for those who know me, I don’t have swagger or street cred and this is WAY outside my introverted comfort zone, but I am really enjoying the class so far and here are the reasons why:
1. My teacher is engaging. It’s obvious he loves to dance and that he feels the music. He cracks jokes, is encouraging, and treats each person in the class as an individual by scaffolding his teaching.
2. We celebrate success. Even if it is a small success like the proper head tilt or the right way to spin. Everything is positive and it draws some of us shy people out of our shells.
3. Finally, it’s FUN!! We dance, we laugh, we feel the music and we learn. It’s awesome.
I just wish students felt this way about school…
It’s a lazy, rainy Saturday afternoon here and therefore the perfect day to begin preparing my ECOO presentation. Now, I’m going to upfront and honest, I’m trying something new for me and I’m willing to take the risk that it might flop, but I wanted to try to be different.
My #ecoo13 presentation centres on co-learning in the classroom. It’s an area that I find really quite fascinating as I love hearing what my students are interested in, seeing how they learn and learning new things, myself. Unfortunately, I feel that there is still quite a strong stigma in education that teachers are the holders of all the information and students learn from us.
So as I started my research into this field, I am not finding that there is much out there about teachers and students learning together. There is a great deal about co-operative learning and students teaching each other as well as teachers collaborating with other teachers but not a lot about students and teachers working together in the classroom. So here’s where you come in, good people in my PLN: I would be very appreciative if you could reply in the comments or tweet me (@msjweir) a comment about what co-learning looks like in your or another teacher’s classroom. If you have a link to a blogpost about this topic, that would be great too. Or photos or videos or anything else that can demonstrate co-learning in a classroom.
My presentation at #ecoo13 is a scaffolded discussion stye and by no means am I an expert on this topic. Rather, I am hoping that I am going to learn just as much as anyone who chooses to attend my session. I would also love to include authentic examples of co-learning in the classroom and hopefully others will indulge me on this plight.
Thank you in advance,
Yesterday I attended #ontsm which was a gathering of educators from Ontario with a focus on discussing social media in education.
It was a really interesting day full of rich discussion with some of my favourite people. The aspect of the day that spoke to me the most was a conversation I was a part of at the end of the day with some very passionate people. Within this conversation, we were really delving into the idea of a “culture of learning” (term courtesy of Kent Manning) and it got me thinking.
I don’t really know if we have a “culture of learning” in our education system. I can’t speak to other subjects or the elementary grades, but sometimes I wonder if what the students are “supposed to learn” is really that important. I might get myself into some hot water here with other educators, but honestly, I think back to my high school and university days and wonder what was the relevance of what I “learned” since I can’t remember much of it… How is that important? What did I learn? In many cases, I think the learning was how to compile information in my brain, spew it back to the teacher or professor and then promptly forget it. Doesn’t sound like learning to me…
During this conversation I was rocking my sleeping three month old daughter and it made me wonder about the education future for my girls. Are they going to learn things that are relevant and interesting to them? Are they going to feel it’s okay to make mistakes? Are we still going to have EQAO when they get to grades 3, 6 and 10? Unfortunately, I think the answer to this question is yes…)
I think the main issue at play in all of this is our cultural understanding of education and learning. We really do need to break down all our beliefs about education, learning, assessment and everything else related to education and start to think about what is truly important for our students and children.
Here are some of my hopes for my girls:
- they love to learn
- they each have an insatiable curiosity
- how to have a voice (using a variety of communication styles)
- that they possess compassion and empathy
- that they aren’t afraid to make mistakes
- that they try to do something on their own but look to others for help rather than give up
- that they see anyone as a teacher including themselves
- they explore every environment they encounter
- they value their family and friends
- are grateful
And finally, that they find something in life that they love and makes them happy.
Just some Sunday musings from this mommy/educator/learner…
For the first semester of this school year, I was again given the wonderful privilege of continuing my blended learning project. This year instead of having a class set of iPads, I had 13 iPads and 10 Chromebooks and it was awesome! It wasn’t quite 1:1 in any of my classes but between the board technology and students bringing their own devices, it worked out quite well.
Now I know that many people will be hoping for a recommendation of one over the other in a post such as this, but in all honesty, I don’t believe one device is superior over the other. They each have their pros and cons and it really depends on the kind of task assigned as to which device the students preferred.
So here are some observations about each device instead:
Pro- the battery lasts a really long time as I found they only needed to be charged two to three times a week
Pro- the camera allowed my students to create some beautiful images and videos
Pro- iMovie is relatively easy to use and most figured it out quickly
Pro- many of my students have iPods or iPhones so were quite familiar with how to navigate an iPad
Con- many students still see this as a device that is for entertainment and I had to spend a lot of time talking about how it can be a productive piece of technology
Con- doesn’t run flash so it was difficult to make infographics
Con- some projects got altered by other students since devices shared among classes (although that provided an authentic opportunity to talk about digital citizenship and respect)
Pro- runs flash
Pro- students appreciated having a keyboard
Pro- Google tools work beautifully
Pro- totally customizable for each student through their Google account
Pro- easy to share among students since everything is saved in the cloud
Con- runs off keyboard shortcuts and many students didn’t even know Ctrl C….
Con- students expected full functioning of a laptop since it looks like a laptop
So I apologize to those of you looking for a reason to purchase one over the other, but I really believe having both was ideal as it gave students the choice and autonomy to use what they felt would work the best for them as individuals based on the tasks assigned. (As a side note: I use web based programs like Edmodo, Google Docs, etc., so that tasks can be done from almost any piece of wi-fi enabled technology.)