Friday, 27 May 2016

Day 169 - The Little Inquiry That Could!

Next week is June first. I can't believe it, but it is that time of year. June is a time for endings and beginnings, grief and excitement. For me, it is a time of reflection. A time to look back at the work we have done and the impact it has had. 

This year, nothing has given me more gratification than the transforming learning spaces inquiry. It has been a privilege to work with incredible educators who have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones to meet the learning needs of their students. This was a true inquiry, we didn't really know how it was going to go. We certainly had no idea the spread it would have. We started with a small group of teachers and it organically grew to touch schools in all areas of our Board. It has become a constant conversation and starting point for many other inquiries. Educators are seeing the connections between transforming their spaces and it's connection to STEAM, Inquiry and play based learning. When space is transformed so is the learning. We have heard from students and staff that changing the space has created an environment that has allowed students to make decisions. They need to think about the working space that works best for them. 

Moving to community space rather than individually held real estate has fostered collaboration, a sense of team and empathy.
Mrs. Sweeney's Door!
We are also seeing that having a variety of spaces is having an impact on movement. Students are moving and being active in their learning significantly more than they were with traditional desks and chairs. We know this is important, "Amazingly, the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning" (Jensen, 2005) For more information on the movement/brain connection, check out this link; Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Eric Jensen. We are seeing students who are now motivated to come to school and engage in learning in ways they never have before. 

We have learned a great deal about the importance of physical space on student learning over the last few months but this is just the beginning. We are encouraged by what we are hearing from the participants of this inquiry. We have also been inspired by spaces in Private Industry. Tyger Shark digital media welcomed us into their thoughtfully considered space in downtown Barrie. They have designed their space to foster creativity and collaboration. Between their space and their message of, "we need people who are hungry to constantly learn" we felt inspired and affirmed in our work. 

This work is challenging and there are often more questions than answers but when I walk into a transformed space and feel the learning, I know it is worth it. 

This year, I feel like June is only a launching pad for the incredible learning and work to come. The little inquiry that could is no longer little and it will only continue to gain momentum. I couldn't be more proud to part of this team that is changing learning environments for the better.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Day 167: One book that connected the county

For 7 weeks this Spring, over 90 Grade 5-8 classes from across Simcoe County read the same book during our first ever SCDSB Read Aloud.  The inspiring novel that was chosen for this exciting event was Walking Home by Eric Walters.  

The story is about a thirteen-year-old boy and his younger sister who, as a result of political unrest, go on a journey of over a hundred miles across Kenya to find their relatives.  The children encounter many challenges along the way.  A companion website brings the novel to life, through photos, videos and maps.

This project came about after a small group of teachers and teacher librarians were inspired by the Global Read Aloud and wanted to do something  similar here in Simcoe County.  After choosing the book, it was decided that all Grades 5-8 classes would be invited to participate. Melanee Vandermolen's Grade 5 students at West Bayfield Elementary School created promotional posters as part of their Media Literacy program, which were copied and sent to all schools to promote the project.

From the beginning, the organizers felt strongly that they wanted to be inclusive of all Grade 5-8 teachers and students, regardless of  their comfort with technology.  The priority of this read aloud was to put the focus on the book itself, rather than the technology tools used for exploring and connecting.  Just over 90 teachers responded  to the email invitation by signing up on a Google Form.  From there, the organizers used that list of contacts to keep the project moving forward.  Teachers were asked if they wanted to connect their classes with another one and share ideas about the book.

The culminating activity was a very special video conference on Google Hangouts on Air.  In preparation, the teachers were asked to work with their students to come up with rich questions and share them with the organizing committee.  A few classes were chosen to go "live" with Mr. Walters and ask the questions submitted on behalf of the contributing classes.

Photo by S.English - used with permission

If you missed the conversation with Eric Walters and would like to watch a recording of it, click below to access the video on YouTube:

Be sure to follow us on Twitter to watch for updates for next year.  The organizers welcome others who wish to join in so that the SCDSB Read Aloud can be expanded to include more grade levels. Be sure to complete our feedback survey if you participated in the Read Aloud in any way this year.  We want to hear your voices before making decisions about next year's project.

A big thank you to all the classes who participated, especially to those teachers and students who shared ideas with others.  

Students!  Teachers!  Teacher Librarians!  Please leave us a comment.  What did you like most about the SCDSB Read Aloud?

Here are a few stats:

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Day 164: Learn with us! Live video event from NPDL Deep Learning Lab

There are 14 schools in SCDSB participating in New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL) initiatives. These schools are pushing the envelope with innovative ideas. On Thursday May 19th school teams are getting together to share successes and lessons learned throughout the year. Teams will include students, parents, teachers and administrators.

This hangout will be a station in a carousel of sharing at our Deep Learning Lab. Please excuse any 'dead air' moments as we transition between different teams. If you have any questions for the schools sharing, please feel free to tweet them with the tags #SCDSB #NPDL. We'll do our best to get the questions to schools as they are sharing.

You can watch the live event right here at 10:45 - 11:30 am on May 19th, 2016.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Day 163: What Does Belonging Look Like?

Tonight, we held a celebration and screening of films created by students for our SCDSB Student Film Festival. The theme this year was "What Does Belonging Look Like?".  Getting the chance to hear students explain the messages in their videos and what they learned in the process was very powerful. Some of these explanations included;
  • that he hid a message in the credits about gender neutrality 
  • her powerful metaphor for equity
  • how in creating the video she felt that students in her school really reflected and therefore felt as though they belonged even more than before 
  • how he was now belonging in his new school after creating the video about his friends before leaving his previous school 
  • how he shared the message supporting others in making new friends with humour 
  • how they connected with students across the world 
While we celebrated by watching the products, the real work was in the process for this Film Festival. Students all worked through a feedback cycle where they provided feedback on all the other films before the final submission date. Many students worked this feedback into their edits expertly. 

We have the very basics for next years Digital Media Festival planned. Please join us. 

If you would like to learn from the many powerful messages shared by students, please watch our videos below! Thanks to Taking It Global for supporting our Film Festival. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Day 162: Using Plasticine To Make A Digital Book Come Alive

This collaboration project began at the Reading For the Love of It conference when we attended a session by Barbara Reid. She inspired  us by her techniques and her plasticine artwork.  Using real examples, she talked about projects she had done with students.  Her clear step by step instructions and student examples, made us feel  that it was something we could definitely do with our students.

We do character ed assemblies at East Oro P.S.  and we were emphasizing "Honesty" as March's character trait.  We chose Franklin Fibs because we thought the kids would really enjoy making the animals out of plasticine.  We needed a book of a good length, easy for them to read and follow  the story.  

Here's the finished copy of our digital book, Franklin Fibs!

To begin, our Grade 2 students started practising to use the techniques with plasticine that were modelled on YouTube and in a variety of Barbara Reid books.  Students were exploring colour mixing, using tools and various techniques by creating an outdoor picture that could show anything they wanted.  

In our Grade 2 class, we co-created success criteria for expressive oral language that should be used when presenting a poem or other oral reading.

Then we read the Franklin story and talked about the message.  They were each given a page of text that they needed to sketch with paper, pencil and pencil crayons.  We discussed the need to simplify the picture, knowing that the next step would involve plasticine.  This part surprised us, as students were able to focus on the  important  aspects of their picture.  Then they had to use their sketch, placed beside a cardboard base to begin creating their plasticine image.  This stage took 4-5 sessions to build the background, add the details and  textures to come up with their finished product.  Then the students practiced reading aloud their text to match their image according to the success criteria.  We photographed each picture using the camera on an iPad.

Watch our "How-to" video made in iMovie

In the app, Adobe Voice (available on  the Airwatch catalogue for teachers who sign up for a free account) we added the photos from the camera roll, then had each student record their section of the story.  Later, we were able to tap and drag the photo/recordings into the proper sequence.  We then added the music from the choices available in the app.  An important tip is to turn the volume down to make sure student voice can be heard clearly over the music.

Lora Langner and Jenn Fyfe