Friday, 30 October 2015

Day 39: Video Announcements

At Byng PS we always struggle to find the best time for morning announcements. Often the kindergarten students are in the coat area and are not yet into the classroom.  If you wait for the kindergarten students then it falls in the middle of the intermediate lesson. The idea was born to do video announcements.

On the day before, staff and students put any announcements in the announcement binder. Students take the announcement binder and use the ipad (Green Screen by Do Ink) app to video, then import the videos into imovie. At a staff meeting towards the end of last year all staff were given the time and training to get established on google drive. The videos are shared on the google drive each day. Each classroom chooses the best time to show the video in their classroom with the least amount of interruptions.

Our goal is to have the students independently create our announcements and a teacher only needed to supervise the filming.  In collaboration with our board’s Innovation team, we will be running a student workshop to develop student ability to generate ideas, plan, conduct interviews, present orally in an effective way, film preproduction and post production.

Students will develop various segments that will be incorporated into the announcements on different days of the week.  For example, we currently include a segment called “Things that Make you Go Hmmmmm” where the students choose a photo that encourages classes to discuss questions related to the photo.  We are looking forward to classrooms sharing their learning and successes through photos or video in the shared video announcement google drive folder and then incorporating these clips into our announcements.  We are hoping that creating an extended audience for student work will help to engage them in their learning.

Our video announcements are a work in progress but we are looking forward to our continued growth!

If you have any questions please contact us: Lesia Collicutt and Joanne Larmer

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Day 38: Dreaming as Big as We Can

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a day visiting the grade 12 World Issues class at Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School. What a visit! The class is currently engaged in an inquiry project related to the United Nations 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. I should also add that their teacher is involved in New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.

The class established a goal: to educate others about the UN Sustainability Goals and to prompt people to take action to achieve these goals. Based on the interest they felt most connected to and the issues they felt passionate about, students divided into seven groups. Each group chose one of the 17 global goals to focus on. (#npssglobalgoals)

This inquiry project had some parameters established by the teacher. Student work had to include:
  • learning about the issue
  • sharing learning with others  
  • blogging about it and using social media to help achieve their goal
  • taking action - at a local level and a global level
  • identifying connections to Fullan’s Six Cs
  • documenting their learning journey

For me, part of being in the class for the day involved interviewing some of the students about their learning as they launched into this project. I have to admit, I was quite emotional as I listened to what students had to say about their learning, their teacher, the choice and trust that was given to them, the risks they were taking, and the fact that they felt empowered to make a real difference. As one student said, “Dreaming as big as we can...going all out.” Their excitement was evident. I also found it interesting that not once did the conversation with these grade 12 students centre around marks. It was all about the learning, achieving their goal, working together and making a difference.  

The students have wonderful ideas about how they can share their learning and have already been very active in using social media to spread the word and in planning their local and global actions. They have already established partnerships with other departments in their school, community organizations, elementary schools, and global organizations. To get a glimpse of what is happening, check out their blog posts on:

I can’t wait to see what happens as their learning continues. I am confident that this class will make a difference. Additionally, I believe the learning opportunities facilitated by their teacher will also make a difference in their lives in helping to foster a mindset and a skill set that will serve them long after their high school days.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Day 37: It's not always going to be easy

I've been working with some awesome Co-op teachers at Elmvale DHS over the past few weeks. Bill Neilly and Taudie Mcleaming have chosen to build parts of their course in D2L for a couple of reasons:

  • help with continuous intake in co-op
  • provide alternative ways for students to submit reflections. The traditional reflective journal can be submitted as an audio recording or text submission using D2L 
  • provide access to an app that can be used on Android and iPhones for the ePortfolio tool within D2L. Students can capture video and images that demonstrate their skills. These captures can be reflected on and will be shared with the teacher
  • provide descriptive feedback on student work through audio 
  • provide a way for students to listen to text lessons, no matter what device they are on 
Since we last met they've been populating their course with materials while I've been troubleshooting the easiest way to include a simple audio player at the top of any page with significant amounts of text.  So a page would look like the image below. 

After running my problem by the Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching contact from SMCDSB (and he called upon someone else for input) we found a couple of options, each requiring a bit of tinkering or at least multiple steps to set up. 

Having to deal with a multi-step process got me thinking about the impact of mobile and user friendly technology on education. There are times when having easy, quick-to-use technology is definitely an asset. However, I wonder what the impact is of only using easy, user-friendly digital tools? Are we missing anything when we only use the easy technology? Students need to experience having to fight with and figure something out to develop skills such as; what are the steps you go through when things don't work easily? What is worth fighting for, tinkering and figuring out and at what point is it becoming too complicated and distracting from the learning? 

While not everyone is going to become computer scientists and have a deep working knowledge of the circuitry and functioning of computers and networks, I think it's important to provide opportunities to develop confidence and resiliency to work through problems and troubleshoot. This can only be done by pushing ourselves to find ways for the technology to do new things that work for us. 

Basically, it's NOT always going to be easy and throughout the frustration I have to remind myself that this is a GOOD thing. I'm developing important skills. I just need to make sure I have great folks around me such as Bill, Taudie and Michael to help me problem solve. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Day 36: Vertical Non-Permanent Surface Learning

Recently I had the pleasure of observing a Vertical Math Day at Eastview Secondary School, courtesy of Lisa Peverill, @lmpeverill. This strategy has been adopted by the Mathematics department as one way to improve student engagement and learning. In this learning and teaching modality:
·         Students move from their desks to white or chalk boards located around the perimeter of the classroom.
·         In groups of 3 or 4, students explore mathematical challenges posed by the teacher. These challenges may be common or parallel in nature.
·         Groups collaborate within and across each other to construct mathematical meaning.
·         The teacher alternately moves from group to group, providing individualized support as needed, occasionally directing whole class attention to highlight key learning moments.                                         

Vertical Math has been a component of math instruction in a variety of courses, including Grades 9 and 10 Applied as well as Grade 12 Advanced Functions and Calculus and Vectors.

Why Vertical Math? These are the reasons cited by Alex Overwijk on his blog, a cited inspiration for the Eastview Mathematics Department:
·         Improves visibility.
·         Allows for transfer of knowledge around the room.
·         Non-Permanent removes fear of writing.
·         Formative assessment by teacher at all times.
·         Teacher can answer questions by having students look at others work.

Student Voice:
Vertical math ensures a high level of accountable talk! But what do students think about learning on Vertical Math days? Here is some excerpts from a student Google Forms survey given to a Grade 10 Applied class:

This profound impact on student engagement has drawn attention from Mathematics Chairs across SCDSB, some of whom have been visiting Eastview to see Vertical Math in action!

SlamDunkMath, Alex Overwijk

Every Math Teacher in the World Should Do This...Right Now!, Nathan Kraft’s Blog

Monday, 26 October 2015

Day 35: Learning About Central Tendency - Just a short flight away…

I have had a number of opportunities to spend time with some amazing grade 7 & 8 students in Mr. Clark's class at Uptergrove PS.  Today, the students were engaged in a Math lesson where, through investigation, they were asked to demonstrate how to apply an appropriate measure of central tendency needed to compare sets of student-created data.  After some discussion/paired activities in the minds-on and action portions of the lesson, the question was posed:
How might you use central tendency in YOUR world?
The plan:
  1. make a paper airplane with a small group (2-3 in a group)
  2. we’ll go outside and fly our planes (3 flights each)
  3. measure the distance of the flights
  4. record our distances
  5. input our data into the google form!
  6. compare and analyze data
  7. determine the best measure of central tendency in analyzing the data, apply it and explain why

Of course the students rose to the challenge…

What was the result?  Highly engaged students who co-created relevant sets of data to be measured in a meaningful learning environment.  

So, why hands-on math learning?
*Learning through concrete representations is engaging.
*Students get the opportunity to move about and get physically involved in the math they are learning.
*Manipulating physical objects can work as tools to help conceptualize understanding.

What an exceptional afternoon in a terrific, intermediate class!!  Thank you, Mr. Clark for the opportunity to co-plan and co-teach!!

NOTE: **This paper airplane idea was found at by Julie Reulbach.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Day 34: What makes a great school yard?

I was at WR Best today filling in for a colleague. I went outside at recess to get some fresh air and check out the yard. What a terrific space this school has for outdoor play. I was so impressed I gave a little shout-out on Twitter.

A few minutes later, I received a text from a friend and colleague saying;

I responded with;

Sample Size: 70+

% of students active
% of mixed age groupings
Competitive to Cooperative Ratio
Tarmac to Grass Ratio
Variety of activities
Quantity of large sticks from the nearby forest for fort building

This place has it all.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Day 33: Moving from our Comfort Zone

So this is my first blog post. I have to admit I feel a little uncomfortable with writing this. It is so out of my comfort zone! But, I know that is exactly the reason why I should do it! So here goes…

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the SIM (System Implementation and Monitoring) sessions for the Barrie Region. The two days were filled with lots of opportunity to learn and I found myself reflecting on that learning for some time. I thought a lot about MJ Gallagher’s suggestion that it is a leader’s role to comfort the distressed and distress the comfortable. I also thought about and agreed with the emphasis placed on remembering the human factor in everything we do. After an almost exclusive SIM focus on Math last year, Literacy was highlighted again and I really liked that the focus seems to have grown to include the critical literacy needed for our learners to navigate the digital world. Overall, the messages delivered at SIM seemed to confirm that Simcoe is not only the right path but is leading in many ways. I thought about how lucky we are here in Simcoe, and specifically, how lucky we are as part of the Program and Innovation Team because our leaders have given us “permission to innovate.” It speaks to the trust that has been developed in our system. Presenters at SIM spoke of how important it is to cultivate a culture of innovation and a culture of inquiry. I have been reflecting on what was started last year and I am excited by the possibilities this year.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Day 32 - I am a Scientist!

Playing at Midland Secondary School, I had the opportunity to discover the impact technology enabled learning can have on vocabulary development. Having taught science, I know that one barrier to students continuing to study science in the senior grades is the language component. Studying sciences, specifically biology, requires a lot of new language learning in addition to scientific concepts.

In Lisa Coughlin's grade 9 science class I got to see students recording videos of their peers describing ecosystems they had created. They also recorded video of microscopic living things in pond water through the microscope lens. From here they used the video and images with a classification key to identify them. As one group of students found something they could identify you could hear "I AM A SCIENTIST" from across the room.

Students posted videos and images to their e-Portfolios where they can be viewed by the teacher as well. None of these specific activities were graded, but Lisa used this information to determine next steps in her instruction. They also facilitated conversations with students about their progress and next steps.

What I noticed while walking around and chatting with students was their vocabulary. If they didn't have the words, they went looking for them. All this conversation, explaining their understanding and using technology to document their learning has led to a significant improvement in their vocabulary use.

Thank you Lisa for inviting me into your classroom and for sharing your learning with me!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Day 31: STEAM Acronym Conversations I've Had Lately

This year, every school in our board will be participating in an inquiry to explore STEAM education. Two weeks ago we launched this initiative with a kick-off event for secondary teachers at the Education Centre.

STEAM is part of my job title; it is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. We anticipated some uncertainty about what this would look like in schools, particularly in secondary schools where we naturally separate the subjects into different rooms, hallways, or wings of our school buildings. I am proud that this acronym is part of my title, though I might add that I've had my fill of STEAM puns and jokes for the time being. (These include, but are not limited to 'STEAM rooms,' 'getting STEAMy,' references to trains and conductor's hats, and the use of phrases like 'full STEAM ahead!'...I'm sure you get the idea.) 

I have had many conversations with teachers in the two weeks since the secondary STEAM launch. There are lots of great ideas brewing as school teams decide what direction their projects will take. Interestingly, many of my conversations with teachers have touched on the acronym itself. Months ago, when the idea to focus on STEAM was ‘born’ at the SCDSB, we were aware that the acronym might be met with some raised eyebrows. It turns out we were right!

Acronym Conversations, Type 1: “Where’s my letter?”
  • Can I ‘do STEAM’ if I am a History teacher?
  • I don’t teach Science and I’m not comfortable with Math. I don’t see myself in this.
  • I teach a Foods class and would like to incorporate some Science and Geography. Does this count?

It is obvious from these conversations that the STEAM acronym understates the scope of this work. Focusing on the letters puts us at rick of limiting our thinking. It leaves out the ‘H’ from History, the ‘C’ from Civics, and the ‘G’ from Geography. Social Studies, Health and Physical Education, Business, Modern Languages, are also missing (I'm sure you'll let me know if I have missed 'your' letter). Imagine the possibilities if we bring in other subjects: SHAM, SASS, GAME, CHAT, CHEATS, BEACH, CHASM, GAMES…

I can picture students creating wearable electronics in fashion class, advocating for community needs through kinetic art projects created using found materials, or partnering with schools across the world to learn about the impact of water pollution on health and well-being. I want everyone to hear, loud and clear, that this project can include your letter, even if it's not one of the letters in the slide deck.

Acronym Conversations, Type 2: “There are too many letters!”
  • I already do STEM really well. Do I need Art?
  • I can imagine bringing some Art into my Math class, but Science too?!?
  • I’m a Tech teacher. I think I do these things already, just not all at once.

It is clear to me that the other problem with the acronym is that it may imply that the removal of a letter diminishes the value of subject integration, suggesting that STEM, MAST, SEAM, TEAS, SEM, MST, TEM, ST, SM, MT, ET, ES, and EM, when done well, are less valuable than STEAM.

Unless subject-specific departments and course codes disappear from secondary school it will be difficult for most teachers to engage in '5-letter STEAM' in a rich way. In our team’s view, every time we purposefully integrate skills and knowledge from more than one discipline into our teaching, we are bringing STEAM education to our students. Teachers who are helping students make these transdisciplinary connections are doing a great job being STEAMy! In this case, the upcoming inquiries may be an opportunity for these teachers to share their good practice within or among schools, or may allow them to meet with like-minded teachers to explore a particular area of interest such as assessment.

So what?

In giving this initiative a name we certainly did not intend to strictly define – or limit – its boundaries. I hope that teachers will be able to look beyond the acronym and see two things: that STEAM already lives in their schools, and that the possibilities for this project are endless.

The word STEAM has become a word that encompasses everything we love about student-driven, inquiry-based learning that integrates a variety of skills and concepts from across our curriculum. As one colleague correctly stated, we could just call it ‘SCHOOL!’