Tuesday, April 14, 2015

EdTech & Numeracy Unite!


This year has been quite the journey for many teachers when it comes to numeracy and technology. Great learning has taken place, with many stories to share. It is these stories that can continue to support others in their learning journey; as well as act as an excellent reflection piece for my own journey. So what better way to share then through another #peel21st blog hop! The following is my own reflection on combining technology with numeracy; but be sure to check out the other blog posts by other amazing #peel21st educators about their own reflections. 


We are bombarded regularly with numbers and data in all walks of life. Whether it is financial information, contact details, mathematical equations, spreadsheets, graphs, addresses, etc., we can easily come across hundreds of sets of data in a single day. One of the difficulties in understanding all this information is processing it in your mind and providing some context for it. This has always been a difficulty for myself, where upon being presented with such data the words "Okay, how much is that really?"will regularly be uttered.

However, one of the tools I find to be extremely beneficial in understanding such large sets of numbers has been through infographics. In the past Excel was one of the only ways to visualize data (scary I know!), but now we have such tools like Piktochart, Ease.ly, Infogr.am that can create some really stunning presentations (just search 'Infographics' on Google, or see below)

http://www.bethkanter.org/wp-content/uploads/what-is-an-infographic.jpg

I have found many other educators have come to appreciate these tools as well, and students especially. A conversation I had with Chef Marelli not too long ago is evidence enough. We discussed how recipes have lots of numeracy in them - weights, measurements, sizing, scale, etc., and for many students this can be a struggle. However, looking at this information through an infographic lense, students can come to understand all these concepts much more effectively; and produce a fine tasting dish as a bonus!

http://lloydhumphreys.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/11-cinnamon-roll-recipe-infographic.png

So whether you are in English, Math, Social Science, Technology, Phys Ed, or any other subject area, Infographics can be a great way to demonstrate learning; and allow for a greater understanding of data across all curriculum. Yes Math may be a focus, but that doesn't mean we can't use something like infographics to work on numeracy skills in any subject, and become 'Super' as a result!

http://mashable.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Superman-Infographic-Updated.jpg

Be sure to check out the other awesome #peel21st bloggers!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

10 Good Things

Often times in education we fall into the habit, or trap, of negative dialogue. It's easy to focus on what's not working well, what needs to change, or what is wrong with the 'system' or 'school board'. I hear it often, and too have fallen into that trap at times. However, contrary to what we believe, it really doesn't help improve anything. What we end up doing is just driving ourselves mad, and allow the negative conversation to continue. Don't get me wrong, it's important to vent and have the support of peers to do so; but what if we vent more often about the great stuff happening in our classroom, school, board, or education in general? Wouldn't that do more to improve education as a whole? Wouldn't we be able to learn more? Improve our professional practice? Provide students with a more enjoyable education experience? I think so.


That's why we need more of #10goodthings; more sharing of what's going so well in our own practice. Thanks to Ve Anusic, a good friend and colleague of mine, who challenged me to reflect & share some of the good things happening in my little world over the past year; and thus contribute to the positive dialogue in education!

#10GoodThings



1. The continuous learning I am experiencing in my new role as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. Hesitant & overwhelmed at first, I am really loving this new role in supporting, learning, and working with many different schools & colleagues.

2. A couple of days this past semester I was able to work alongside George Couros - someone I consider a rockstar in education.

3. Continuously revisiting my own professional practice around assessment, and doing away with traditional evaluation practices; and loving every bit of it. Gotta thank @AssessmentGeek for that one!

4. Hit 100,000 views on a Youtube video I posted for my students. It may not be that interesting, but I don't, nor have ever, taught that many students. It made me realize the vast connections we are able to make now through new media and technology.

5. I continuously learn about 'new' tools (ie. Kahoot, Thinglink, Canva, etc.) for use in the classroom and share them with others. For one I love learning about a new tool, but more importantly I love when a colleague uses it in their classroom and comes back to tell me how much their students enjoyed using it, and the greater learning experience it has given them.

6. I have encouraged my parents to begin using Instagram, Pinterest and Wordpress, to follow their own passions, and connect with the world.

7. I miss the classroom - this is a good thing. It reminds me of how much I love teaching.

8. Twitter has been good since I began using it. But find myself liking it more and more, mainly because of a very awesome PLN that has formed through the #peel21st hashtag. I find myself constantly learning from many amazing educators.

9. I am excited by many new opportunities to learn from others, as well as share my learning. Really excited to try out making a podcast with @jimmyblackwood!

And last but not least...

10. Blogging. I wish I could do it more, but when I do, I find it very beneficial. Like this very post, it allows me to truly reflect on what I am thinking or doing.


A little note:
I began this post wondering if I could even write about 10 positive things. I am now apologizing to those experiences, relationships, and past events that I failed to mention here. It's amazing what happens when you begin reflecting - you begin to realize just how much you have done, and the people who have contributed to it! There are a lot more than 10 'things' and maybe I'll write another list soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mindomo

It's home screen says it all "Use the Force of Mind Mapping" and that's exactly what it does. There are a variety of tools available for teachers for this very purpose, and Mindomo is no different. It allows students to 'map' their content knowledge in a way that allows them to develop a deeper understanding of course content. The website/tool allows for this mapping to venture to various levels in order to do so and provides a wealth of options for students to collaborate, communicate, critically think, and create.

Here's my 5 brief thoughts (and completely initial - need to use it more):

  1. Ministry Supported - for Ontario teachers, this means that you can create free accounts for yourself and all of your students; and access all of the features it provides.
  2. Device Neutral - whether your students use iOs devices, Mac OS X, Android, Microsoft, or Linux, they can all access the tool in the same way.
  3. Posting Options - Students can post notes, multimedia, links, icons, comments, and emoticons; change the themes of the blank space; and connect ideas using lines just like they would on paper.
  4. Class Collaboration - I haven't really explored this in detail, but it allows you to set up your classes, enrol all of your students and have them connect, share, and collaborate on course mind maps. You can set up specific groups, and organize them in any way you want.
  5. Fairly Simple User Interface - like other tools such as Padlet, adding content is as easy as clicking on the blank page and adding text. Inserting visuals and other media (as mentioned previously) is also as simple as clicking and adding. However, I think it's a bit more of a tool I think that suits intermediate/secondary students, as the terminology and commands might be a bit too much for elementary.

Anyway, a pretty good tool for visualizing the connections between concepts, and developing an understanding of the relationships that exist.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Where do we start?

I've been thinking a lot about this post lately. Mainly because of my role, I am able to visit a lot of different schools; and see a lot of different environments. These environments, not unlike the physical world, shape the beings that live within it. Unfortunately, the school environment hasn't changed all that much, has it?

I see people mention it all the time on social media:

"If you take a group of teachers from 100 years ago, and place them in a school today, they wouldn't notice a difference"

It's pretty sad really, that we haven't evolved too much when it comes to the actual physical classroom. Thankfully pedagogy and technology has made up for this lack of environmental progress, but at what point will we stop and really consider addressing the actual classroom?

Walk into most secondary classrooms and you'll see the same thing - desks in rows, the teacher's desk where it's always been, the blackboard/whiteboard/screen/etc. behind them, and the focus of the class is to look to the front. I acknowledge this is not the rule, as I said before 'most' and not 'all' classrooms are this way; but it is a very common element for most schools. I also acknowledge that this setup is beneficial for some lessons, but again 'some' and not 'all'. (I would even go so far as to say 'few' instead of 'some')

With such an environment does it really matter how much technology is implemented in the classroom? Is it conducive to newer more effective pedagogy? Do students really attempt to express themselves to their fullest? Are they able to collaborate effectively? Or build on the other generally accepted 21st century skills of communication, critical thinking, and creativity?

Often I think of what the most successful organizations today look like. I think of companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. that all have very innovative workplaces - a mix of both collaborative and quiet areas, with a lot of room to truly innovate. How can we expect our students to become innovators, creators, communicators, etc. if we don't provide similar environments to do so?

And it's not just the classroom really; take a look at a staffroom. Is it a place for collaboration and innovation? Or like a classroom, is the focus on silent, individual work? How about the library - does it support learning as a 'social process'? And the rest of the school - does it allow for learning to happen anytime, anywhere?

Now I do recognize that there are a tonne of limitations that schools face, that Fortune 500 companies do not. And I also know that major construction really doesn't fall into a school's budget. But what about new schools that are built? Are we really thinking about the future in constructing these places of 21st century learning? Or do we often look to the past in building these 'new' schools?

So changing an entire school may be a difficult mission to accomplish; however, we can begin by taking small steps. In our own classrooms. Comfort & security may be too great to overcome, but it's amazing what happens when a small change takes place. Maybe it's just getting rid of the rows of student desks. Or maybe getting rid of the teacher's desk altogether. But imagine what might happen if you did?

I just think we need to start this progress; and sooner rather than later. I think we need to acknowledge the fact that improving student success doesn't just fall on pedagogy, technology, and curriculum knowledge; we need the environment to change as well. So I guess this post is really about challenging ourselves; stepping out of our comfort zones and really innovate to make a truly 21st century school.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our Evolving Communication

Every so often I listen to concerns regarding technology's role in advancing student language & communication. Most often the question posed is whether or not technology is hindering our students' ability to communicate effectively. The concern stems from the language of texting, and that if we as educators infuse greater technology in our classrooms, do we foster 'improper' texting conventions of communication?

Typically when this concern is raised I immediately reflect back to my days as a student in my grade 11 English class. I see myself sitting there at my desk, staring at a book full of words and terms I cannot for the life of me understand. I am told over and over again, how this book contains language of great importance, and I would be wise to learn it. I understand that the author influenced almost every narrative that came after him, but I could never understand what the heck this 'Bill' guy was talking about.

I have never (well maybe rarely) used any of the phrases William Shakespeare so eloquently penned in his great works. As I have said, I understand his works are masterpieces; and believe me, I wish I appreciated them then like I do now. However, I also understand that when I speak to family, write an email to coworkers, or text my friends, I don't utter the phrase "Where art thou?"

Communication has evolved, and continues to evolve. I wonder if someone back in 1650 said "These kids these days! those gents don't knoweth how to writeth properly!" Did they fret about the state of spelling & grammar? Did they wonder if giving every student a chalk & slate would lead to every kid not knowing how to speak properly? Or that they wouldn't know how to write a proper essay?

True, texting has a great influence on the evolution of communication; but I don't believe it's because of the technology. Communication has changed because we have adapted as living, breathing, walking & talking beings in how we use it. No device forces you to write 'U' instead of 'You'. We make that choice. Even if we are talking about autocorrect, we still make the choice to set the autocorrect function to do this, or allow it.

If we are concerned about our students' written communication than it's our responsibility to teach them the proper conventions for each medium. If it comes to writing an essay, then yes we need to teach them how to properly construct one. However, how many essays have you wrote lately? How many students are going to go on to write one in their future?

Students however, are far more likely to blog, text, email, and produce a podcast. Therefore, maybe if we get students to construct these forms of communication, they will take greater care with their conventions? Not because of the technology component, but because these are ways which resonate with them, and ways of communication in which they see in their future.

I hope my students go on to write amazing works of art, essays of great importance, and novels that capture the masses. But I also hope just one goes on to blog a little, maybe like me, and finds their outlet for communication.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Learning in the 21st Century


Over the last several weeks I have found myself in many conversations about what 21st century teaching & learning means. It seems like a topic that would be perfect for our second #peel21st blog hop. So here we are again! Read on to learn more about what I think 21st century learning is to me, and don't forget to check out the other blog posts linked at the bottom of the post."

I often try to articulate what it really means to learn in the 21st century. It is difficult. I battle with attempting to define this almost everyday. I often look toward the skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century; and therefore what our students need to acquire. However, defining 21st century skills doesn't necessarily translate to the idea of 'what learning in the 21st century is?' or better yet, looks like.

Therefore, I often gravitate toward the idea of what should happen in a classroom every day, and believe there should be a few observable traits. These I think should be the 4 C's of 21st century education - collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. It's not like they weren't around when I was in school, but they definitely weren't a focus in the same way. This is the distinct difference I see between the learning I engaged in, and the one I want for my students. Learning, as John Seely Brown said best, is a social process. Therefore as teachers, we really need to ensure we provide an environment that allows for socializing to happen.

I think the biggest thing however, is that learning today needs to be 'real'. Learning has to allow students of all ages connect with the world around them. I came across this video not too long ago that I believe really articulates my thoughts on what learning today is really about.



So when it's all said and done, learning today requires authenticity, connections, and most of all, the ability of others to support you in following your passion. Or put another way learning in the 21st century...


What do you think?


Oh and don’t forget to check out the other blog posts in our Blog Hop!





Friday, October 17, 2014

The Tweet that Changed a Life

It isn't often you get to work alongside someone who greatly inspires you; who you regularly look to for motivation and direction to become a better educator. Many of these people I follow on Twitter, see at conferences, and read their blogs; but rarely do I ever truly get to "work" with them (I intentionally use parenthesis there, as work in this case is hardly work!). Today however, was one of those rare, and very lucky days.

I saw George Couros speak for the first time a couple of years ago at #TLDWpeel and walked away wanting to change the world. He has an affect on people that few have; and is one of those leaders that can make people laugh, cry, truly engage with one another, nod their heads in complete agreement with everything he says, and get them up on their feet dancing to whatever the fad song is of the day. It's truly remarkable.

I could go on this whole post and talk about how amazing it is to work with someone like that; and in a way, I set out with somewhat of an intention to do so. However, today I bore witness to something else that was maybe even more amazing. Sorry George ;)


We set out on the day without a roadmap, or any real plan of how the day was going to go. It was really about responding to the needs of the 20 educators in the room, and what they felt they really wanted to accomplish. The one main idea that we had however, was to connect these educators with others that exist outside the walls of their school - open the doors to a wealth of expertise, ideas, innovation, and sharing.

The real amazing moment came when we were signing all of them up on Twitter and showing them the ins & outs of the social media platform. One teacher in particular George signed up himself, just to show the rest the process of tweeting, retweeting, mentioning others, and following people who are worthwhile to follow. He then proceeded to demonstrate the true power of Twitter, and how one tweet can develop so many new connections. From his own account he tweeted out the following:


The rest of us watched. In an instant there were 5 new followers; 30 seconds later, 12 new followers; a minute, and 15 were now following her. After just a couple of minutes, Lisa had already developed connections with many educators from around the world. In that moment, she realized what she had just done. She turned to George and softly, but profoundly stated "This just changed my life."