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.)
As many of you know, we welcomed a new addition to our family two weeks ago and we couldn’t be happier. This makes Lexie a big sister and as she is a major conversationalist, (aka chatterbox) she talks about Cali constantly. She is also in the language acquisition stage where she is experimenting with personal pronouns and since she is only two and a half, she makes mistakes. She has difficulty figuring out when to use ‘she’ versus ‘her’ and when we try to help her choose the proper pronoun, she disagrees with us and claims she is right. (Side note: I have no idea where she gets this headstrong attitude…
As we have been working through this at home, it has me thinking about the classroom and how we would typically correct this grammar issue. The favourite strategy seems to be the good old worksheet where we ‘drill and kill’ the students to understand the difference. Obviously, this isn’t going to work with someone who can’t read yet, but I think we could employ more practical solutions in the classroom instead of the standard worksheet photocopied out of some grammar textbook.
So here’s what I’m thinking:
- give the student realistic situations to practice the proper skill (role play, skits, etc.) which is a modification of what we are doing here with Lexie
- have the students create comic strips where they practice the proper grammatical skill
- make Common Craft style videos that depict the appropriate usage
As always, I would love to hear some other strategies, ideas and opinions
As many of you know, we are in the process of waiting for baby #2 to arrive and as I’m quite certain I’m going to have my hands full with a newborn and a two and a half year old, I visited my hairdresser yesterday for a pre-baby trim. I really enjoy chatting with my hairdresser as she leads a very different life from me and always makes me think.
She knows I’m a teacher and was asking me my impression of students. She told me that she doesn’t feel students are really any different today than they were when we were in high school (she’s around my age) as she said she was the kind of student who hated school and took it out on her teachers. We talked about how for many students they don’t see the relevance of school curriculum and I suggested that I share her views especially when it comes to English class. So it makes me wonder…
Are we doing a disservice to students like her who aren’t interested in reading what we want them to read? She is extremely knowledgeable in her field and it’s more than obvious she spends time reading about the best products for hair, how to be environmentally-friendly (the salon prides itself on being eco-friendly by using phosphate and sulfate free products) and discovering new techniques in her field. Knowing what we teach in our senior level English classes, how are we preparing our students for fields such as this? (other than through the high skills majors programs) I really believe there must be a way that we can allow our students to examine and read material they are interested in while still teaching the skills necessary for success in their futures (critical thinking especially).
I think it’s going to take many, many, many conversations about the value of units such as whole class novels, short stories, and Shakespeare but I think some day we will see English class evolve into so much more as the possibilities are endless.
Just my thinking on this Wednesday morning…
I am a very blessed person. I have a wonderful family and an amazing job! As the time passes, I realize how lucky I really am compared to so many people in this world. So as I’m in the holiday spirit and feeling gratitude for the wonderful life I lead, I want to express my gratitude.
1. My amazing family. I have a very supportive husband who always encourages me to do more for my career and helps in any way he can. I have a wonderful two year old who makes me laugh every single day. We are also getting ready to welcome our second child into the world and I feel truly blessed for this miracle.
2. My wonderful job. This year I was transferred to Jacob Hespeler Secondary School and it has been the best experience of my career. Our department has a family feeling which involves such support and teamwork. I’ve also found my educational kindred spirit there and I’m thankful to work with someone who shares my somewhat radical pedagogy and encourages me to express my creativity as well as pushes my thinking. All I can say is thanks.
3. I have taught a wonderful group of students this year and I am so thankful for the good times and laughter we have had in class this year.
4. My PLN. You rock- enough said.
So as this is my last day in the classroom for a year, I want to wish all my colleagues, students and PLN a very happy holiday season and wonderful new year!
One of the key aspects of my classroom is the concept of mutual respect. I think it’s very important that my students feel they can be themselves and ask questions that support their learning whether it’s connected to curriculum or real life. As I’m also a believer in the Atticus Finch style of parenting, (answering student/child questions honestly) I do my best to give a truthful and honest answer for my students’ questions.
As can be expected, this week my students have questions related to our work-to-rule job action taking place in Ontario. What I really appreciate about the group of students I have currently is that we have been able to have an open and honest conversations about the issues we as teachers are facing, but also they as students are dealing with currently. I am quite pleased with how this is transpiring as the students have taken the time to listen to what I have had to say and have felt comfortable enough with me to express their concerns.
I can appreciate what they are going through as when I was in high school, extracurriculars were an integral aspect of my teenage experience. I can also imagine that it can, at times, feel like a pretty negative environment as many of us are really feeling demoralized by the constant “demonification” of us by the media and the Ontario government. I think the government needs to take a lesson from my students and actually listen to our issues, take the time to talk to us about their concerns, stop portraying us as this completely evil entity that is ruining education in Ontario, and come to a mutually respectful compromise instead of dictating the terms of our contract.
The government could learn a lot from my students if they only took the time to listen and follow their positive and respectful example.
When I became a teacher, some of the best advice I was given is “to pick your battles wisely.” Now that I’m a parent of a toddler, that advice means so much more as there seem to be battles at every turn
What I don’t understand is why the Ontario government didn’t follow this age-old wisdom when dealing with the short fall in the economy. Teachers agreed to a wage freeze way back in the spring and help the government out, but why did they feel the need to go so much further and strip us of our bargaining rights? We did our part, why haven’t they looked elsewhere to make up the short fall? What has been the purpose of all this animosity? At this point, nothing has really been accomplished other than much frustration for us as well as parents.
I just don’t understand. We teach our students to look for a fair resolution to issues, not to slander others in person and/or through social media and to consider all the options before acting. At this point, all these positive attributes have gone out the window as we have not been given a fair opportunity to resolve the issues, been consistently slammed by the media and the public (just read the comments after articles from The Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun) and have not had our ideas considered at all by the government. All this creates a really tense working environment.
It just leaves me wondering…