Posts Tagged With: blogging

At Heart, I’m Still A Teacher

All of us who move into district leadership positions must remember that we are still teachers.

This past Friday I visited 4 schools in our district to present on Library Learning Commons. It was a busy and exciting day as I raced from school to school sharing my message and trying to convince teachers that an effort to bring our libraries into the 21st century was a worthwhile endeavour. These were the first 4 of 7 schools I’ll be working with as part of our district wide pilot. I recently blogged about our plans here.

In the days leading up to my presentations I made myself conscious of the fact that this could easily be seen by our already stretched teachers as one more thing being preached about from my soap box in central office. So, I decided to prepare a presentation showcasing projects that could be experimented with in the Learning Commons and possibly used to support the work they are already doing with their students. Using examples from my previous work as a teaching administrator, I tried to highlight projects that build important competencies and provide a platform for authentic literacy. I wanted them to see these projects as an “instead of” and not an “in addition to.”

Here are the projects I shared:

Grade 6 Iroquois Confederacy Webpage – Grade 6 students worked with their teacher to design, build, edit, and manage a webpage that covered their Social Studies unit on the Iroquois Confederacy. Students researched and created content over time and eventually completed this amazing resource that can now be shared with others. http://iroquois6gle.weebly.com

Public Service Announcements –  Grade 6 students used iPads and iMovie to create Public Service Announcements as part of their unit on the Charter of Rights. They were then uploaded to the teachers YouTube account and played on the Smartboard in the Learning Commons for all to see.

100 Word Challenge – Grade 4 students participated in the 100 Word Challenge, a website that provides some guaranteed comments on student blog posts. Pay particular attention to the comment towards the bottom where Cait connected with a class in Galway, Ireland.

Bullying Rants – Grade 5 students wrote and recorded rants about bullying in school, using their Kidblog accounts and the Audioboo App. Not only did they write from their heart, they also spoke with great passion and emotion.

Digital Stories – Grade 3 students created digital story books using Storybird, recorded themselves reading it, and then embedded it all into their blog. You can press play and then follow along with the book.

About Me – Grade 1 students created an Animoto  to tell their classmates (and perhaps even the rest of the world) about themselves.

Digital Portfolio –  Grade 6 students maintained a personal blog throughout the year, building a portfolio of their work.

Sharing these personal learning experiences and offering support seemed to go a long way. A number of teachers have already contacted me with questions about how to try some of the ideas I shared. We as leaders often see the value in moving toward something before our teachers do. Before moving themselves, our teachers need to see and understand the small practical steps that will get them there. I hope to find the right balance between the two.

My best chance of doing so is to never forget…

At heart, I’m still a teacher.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And So Test Prep Season Begins

This past week parent/teacher conferences were held at our school. It was an opportunity for teachers and students to share the many engaging learning experiences they’ve been involved in this year. This interactive timeline outlines some of them. I am so proud of my teachers for trying a variety of new approaches in order to engage our learners in a more relevant way. It’s exciting to walk around the school and see teaching and learning as I never have before.

Awhile back I wrote a post called Is Curriculum Thwarting Transformation? There, I argued that our provinces oversized curriculum is getting in the way of teachers trying to dig deeper into key learner outcomes through real world, authentic learning experiences. In order to get everything “covered” by the end of the year they have no choice but to skim the surface of important outcomes so students will at least have touched on everything. As we all know, that means staying at the lower end of Blooms Taxonomy. And if you’re a grade 3, 6 or 9 teacher with Provincial Achievement Tests staring you in the face, that ups the ante even more.

So with the final term underway at our elementary school, the grade 3 and 6 teachers are starting to prep for the test. Our superintendent @cdsmeaton has always told us that the PATs should not affect our teaching practice. “I am a staunch believer”, he tells us, “that a focus on excellent teaching will lead to excellent results, no matter how it’s measured.” I tell them the same thing. But it doesn’t quite play out that way in the mind of the individual teacher. PATs, existing as they are, leave teachers with a strong sense of responsibility to prepare their students to write them; and as long as the tests are administered in such a way that has very little to do with the type of learning teachers are being called upon to engage in, there will be a bit of an exit from engaging learning around this time every year.

Heres what I’m getting at:

Below is a question from the 2009 Grade 6 Social Studies PAT: (lower order Blooms and builds no competencies)

EquityThe assignment below took place earlier this year at my school, addressing the same learner outcome: (higher order Blooms and builds countless competencies)

Equity vs Equality

Teacher Blog Post to Students

Student Response

Student Response

And yet another project addressing the same learner outcome: (higher order Blooms and builds countless competencies)

Here is another question from the 2009 Grade 6 ELA Provincial Achievement Test: (lower order Blooms and builds no competencies)

Simile

The assignment below addressed the same learner outcome: (higher order Blooms and builds countless competencies)

Rachels Simile Post

Yet another question from the 2009 Grade 6 ELA Provincial Achievement Test: (lower order Blooms and builds no competencies)

Reading Response

The blog post below addressed the same learner outcome: (higher order Blooms and builds countless competencies)

Michelle Reading Response

Many would say that my teachers should continue with these engaging and authentic learning experiences and the PATS will take care of themselves. The problem is that it takes time; much more time than is left over once the curriculum gets “covered.” Time that will now be needed to skim the surface, to prep for the test, to write the test, and to deal with a great deal of unneeded stress.

Is it fair to ask teachers and students to do both?

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Listen To Me – I Can Read

audioboo_logo[1]We’ve had the Audioboo App on our school iPads for a while now. It’s a great podcasting tool because you can easily record student’s voices and the recording automatically uploads to the Audioboo website where you can manage all your “Boos” and embed them wherever you want. If you don’t have iPads, you can do it all, right from your PC as well. Here, for example, is a recording of a student teacher giving a testimonial after completing an internship at our school. Recently, the concept of recording students reading books came across my Twitter stream. This was not the first time I heard about the high yield strategy of providing children with the opportunity to listen to themselves read. This has been found to improve confidence, fluency and comprehension as the article indicated. So last week, after being reminded of this, we introduced two new activities at our school, one with grade 5 and the other with grade 1. Grade 5 – The students had already been involved in the 100 Word Challenge, a weekly creative writing activity for children 16 and under. Each week a prompt is given, which can be a picture or a series of individual words and the children can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. In our case, grade 4, 5 and 6 students complete their writing on Microsoft Word, post it on their blog and then link it to the 100 Word Challenge blog. They receive some excellent comments from teachers and students around the world and may be selected as part of the weekly showcase of excellent writing. Here’s where the podcasting comes in. Starting last week the students have been voice recording their written entries. We have been embedding the Audioboo recording into their blog post along with the written piece. The students really enjoy hearing their voice and will be able to monitor their own progress as they add more entries to their blogs throughout the year. Here are a couple of examples: Alexis and her story about a dark stormy night in New York City and Tyler writing about a poor bird. Grade 1 – If you want to see what pride looks like, just watch the face of a grade 1 student as they listen to themself read. Last week,CB276635-5691-4882-A165-60847A63D7A7-229-0000003ADC57D570[1] before returning their library books we voice recorded them reading their book. Then, we assisted them in embedding the recording in a Kidblog post. After sending the posts out through our school Twitter feed, a teacher and her students from Texas left a bunch of comments. What a powerful affirmation for our students. Here is Kayla reading Frog and Toad are Friends and Lemuel reading Nicky Upstairs and Down. I encourage you to take a look at the comments they have already recieved. They can’t wait to hear themselves read again next week. We are looking forward to discovering more ways to incorporate voice recording into the literacy activities at our school. If the way in which our students are engaged in the process is any indication, I suspect more teachers will give it a try.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, ETMOOC, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Student Blogging a Year and a Half Later

Last year we introduced blogging in an attempt to better engage students in their learning. In early September, every grade 4, 5 and 6 student was set up with an account and away we went. Blogging, we thought, would provide one means to build many of the so called 21st century competencies being touted by the education ministry in our province. Kidblog seemed like the perfect platform as it was a safe and easy tool designed specifically for younger students.

iheartblogging-379x243[1]At first, teachers were somewhat perplexed by how to use the blogs with their students. This paperless new platform challenged their very thinking, and left them questioning how it could possibly be used to meet important learner outcomes in the Program of Study. There was a great deal of conversation around the relevance of blogging and some even referred to it as “a waste of valuable instructional time.”

In spite of some reluctance, everyone endeavoured to give blogging a try and as the year got underway students were taught how to log in and apply basic etiquette while sharing their thoughts and ideas in an online environment. Although some incorporated blogging in a more meaningful way than others, everyone eventually became somewhat comfortable with the management of their class accounts. Even the reluctant adopters tolerated some blogging once they witnessed the high levels of student engagement.

Fast forward to this year where blogs have been set up for students in grades 1 through 6 and teachers have a much clearer understanding of how to plan, teach and assess student’s online work. In October we held an evening PD session and nearly every teacher attended, building capacity in our collective knowledge about student blogging.  After spending last year learning about the blogs, they are now better equipped to work blogs into daily instruction. We’ve come a long way in a year and a half.

Below I’ve listed a few of the blogging activities I’ve witnessed at my school. I invite you to click on the links to see our student’s work.

1. Collaborate with other classes by completing a novel study on classics like Charlottes Web and The One and Only Ivan through the Global Read Aloud. Example #1 Example #2 Example #3

2. Debate the environmental impact of practices such as gas fracking, oil drilling and clear cutting by writing a position statement then comment on other posts by agreeing or disagreeing. Example #1 Example #2 

3. Participate in cool challenges like the 100 Word Challenge by posting a creative piece based on a prompt. The entry must be exactly 100 words in length, will receive constructive comments, and may be selected for a weekly showcase. Example #1 Example #2

4. Introduce yourself to the world. Example #1 Example #2

5. Post partial pictures of interesting things around the school and ask others to comment by guessing what it is. Post the answer after a week or so. Example #1 Example #2

6. Write about important topics such as bullying and world peace and engage in an online conversation with peers. Example #1 Example #2 Example #3

7. Respond to teacher posts in different subject areas and justify your comment. Example #1 Example #2

8. Introduce yourself to the teachers at the Jr. High School you will attend next year. Example #1 Example #2

9. Write a post to the Minister of Education, sharing your thoughts on the future of schools. Example #1 Example #2

10. Write an inspirational post about a retiring staff member at your school. Example #1 Example #2

11. Stand up for human rights by writing a post protesting the atrocities committed by irresponsible leaders. Example #1 Example #2

A year and a half ago we took a chance and started blogging with our students. Today, I sure am glad we did.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

Observations on ETMOOC Week 1 – People, Processes and Stuff

For a few years now I have been following the annual Horizon Report.

The internationally recognized New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report is a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. In the 2011 report “personal learning environments” was expected to be 4 to 5 years away from adoption into the mainstream and in the 2012 report, 2 to 3 years away. Interestingly enough, in the 2010 report there is no mention of personal learning environments at all.

The report describes personal learning environments as something that “supports self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization.” It goes on to say that “while the concept of PLEs is still fairly fluid, it is clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person.”

So now I find myself in ETMOOC, a 12 week long Massive Open Online Course with a focus on Technology & Media, along with hundreds of other early adopters who I assume are, like me, looking for ways to continue on their lifelong journey of learning. This has been an amazing week and I thank the conspirators for their foresight and leadership. Although it takes innovative, divergent thinkers like yourselves to get something as big as this off the ground, I’m sure your intentions will be realized as our MOOC takes on a life of its own.gg53965385[1]

Some of my observations from this past week:

The People – Wow! What a learning experience it was for me to view all the ETMOOC introductions. I was both humbled and reinforced every day as I saw what was put out there for all to see. Everything from simple blog posts to intricate multi-media presentations were used to introduce ourselves to our new community. Through these introductions alone, the learning had already begun in full force. The one thing that stood out for me was how far we’ve come with our attitude toward online safety and sharing of personal information. People openly depicted names and images of homes, work places, colleagues, and loved ones. Just a few short years ago we as a society were so much more careful about our digital footprint.

The Processes – I really liked how the introductory sessions were accessible through both Blackboard Collaborate and a Twitter Chat (and were repeated for those who missed or were from different time zones). I participated in both and came away with a sense of being part of something important. @courosa and @cogdog moderated these sessions and did a great job of reminding us why we are here. I’m already thinking the “C” in MOOC stands more for community and less for course. The blog hub and G+ community will also serve as great platforms to communicate and build relationships. I noticed that someone suggested we stick to one social media platform to keep things simpler. Personally, I like the varied approach. It forces me to broaden my skills. It will be interesting to see where most of the interaction takes place. I have one final thought in this area. Thank you for keeping Friday, Saturday and Sunday off the schedule.

The Stuff – Theres a lot of really good stuff being shared already. How many multi media presentation tools have you added to your “I have to learn that” list after intro week? We saw iMovie, Vimeo, YouTube, Voki, Tagxedo, PhotoPeach, Glogster, and Go! Animate just to name a few. Also, the introductions to Twitter, Blogging and Social Curation were perfectly placed in this first week. In my opinion a wonderful example of relevant scaffolding of learning. Many will benefit going forward as a result of those presentations.

One week in and I’m not regretting my decision to join ETMOOC. And if what I am hearing from others on Twitter, Blogs and G+ is any indication, the Horizon Report has probably got it right.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Throw It All – Some Will Stick

Big snow came to our city last week and the students at my school basked in their glory. There’s something about kids playing in newly fallen snow that makes us all smile. They go all out; jumping, diving and rolling in it with this renewed sense of reckless abandon. They risk everything, as though nothing can stop them from their mission of utilizing every last ounce of the fluffy white stuff. Like Ken Robinson says, they are in their element.

As principal, my job of course, is to make sure all this fun fits within the guidelines of our school rules and consequence those that step over that line. So on Friday afternoon I walked throughout the school grounds to make sure all was right with the world. As the bell sounded and students were entering the school I took one last glance around and saw this.

Snow thrown against the wall.

Some snow got stuck on the wall

It appeared as though some students thought it was a good idea to hold target practice on a wall and I was taken back to my own childhood when my friends and I did the exact same thing. We loved throwing the snow at a target and then being able to see that some of it stuck. We always knew how close we were to our desired target because some of it, not all, would be left there to see.

This gets me thinking about my work as a principal who desperately wants to move my school forward to better engage todays learners. It’s easy to get discouraged when I introduce what I think is a forward thinking idea and not everyone feels the same way. As a matter of fact, many of the ideas I put out there fall flat on their face. Each teacher, it seems, has their own reason why they feel they can or can’t entertain the latest initiative, proposal, or suggestion.

I had an excellent conversation with my grade 4 and 5 teachers a few days ago. I met with them to introduce the 100 Word Challenge, a weekly creative writing activity for children where a prompt is given and they can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. It is then posted on a class blog and linked to the 100 Word Challenge blog, where others from around the world comment on the entry. I thought this was a great idea as the teachers were looking for better ways to utilized their Kidblog accounts and this was the perfect platform to do just that.

During the conversation I made a point to let them know (as I always do) that there was no pressure to use the website – “My job”, I said, “is to bring these things to your attention and you should decide if its something you see of value to you and your students.” Then, one of the teachers said something very interesting. “Does that mean”, he said with a chuckle, “that if we don’t see its value you’ll meet with us again next week to share something else?” To that I smiled and answered “Yes, I will do that even if you see the value in this activity.” By the way, this time they saw the value and all of them are giving the 100 Word Challenge a try.

By now my teachers know that I share a lot but force very little. Isn’t that our job as learning leaders – looking out over the horizon and introducing our teachers to all the new things to consider? Shouldn’t we lead by example? Like the children’s approach to a blanket of newly fallen snow, shouldn’t we be taking it all in and sharing it all out?

If we throw it all – some will surely stick.

Categories: Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our Next Engaging Project

It’s amazing how being a connected educator can lead to learning experiences that one may never have imagined in the past. Roy Fernandez is the principal of St. Henry School in Toronto. I met Roy for the first time on February 17, 2012 when he left this comment on my blog:

I’m a principal at a school in Toronto and while I’m not a technophobe, I’m not a technophile either. Have been learning in the last month about blogs, twitter accounts, etc. I recently added a link to your blog to mine as part of an assignment we were asked to do. Your post today about tweets was VERY topical as I am very unsure how to use the tweeting on a daily basis. Will start following as soon as I remember my twitter password! One big question I have is how have you encouraged parents to follow. I have more board people following me than parents so I’m not sure how to get those numbers up. My blog is learninginthetechworld.wordpress.com Have a good weekend ahead.

the-ripple-effect[1]Shortly there after we connected via email, which began a professional (and to some degree personal) relationship that has seen us sharing best practices and bouncing many ideas off of one another along the way. We have managed to collaborate through Twitter, blogs , text, email, Google Docs, telephone, and Skype. It did not take me long to realize that, in Roy, I had gained a colleague who was as eager and passionate as I was about moving his school along the challenging road of education reform. Although we have never met in person, Roy and I have been introduced to each others wives and children on Skype and have gotten to know a few things about one another away from our professional lives. I think the personal piece enhances the professional piece.

Anyway, together we have initiated some engaging collaboration and for me personally, my instructional leadership has been greatly enhanced. We certainly learn from one another but perhaps the greatest benefit of our working relationship is that, as we think of new approaches, we are able to enlist teachers and students from each of our schools to join us. I think I speak for both Roy and I when I say that building teacher and student capacity is the most important part of our work together. A good example of this capacity building took place last June when our grade 5 classes participated in a Mystery Skype for the first time. Roy and I took care of some of the logistical work but our teachers and students planned and carried out the project. I’m not sure if I had ever seen my grade 5s more engaged.

So on to the title of this blog entry, Our Next Engaging Project. As I write this post our grade 6s are using this wonder book exemplar to brainstorm “I wonder…” questions for teams of students to research and answer. They will then be expected to improve and refine their answers using this better answer self assessment tool. Both of these instructional tools were shared with me by Roy awhile back. At our end, we are familiar with Google Docs so will set that part up. The garde 6 teachers, Ms. Poulin and Mrs. Mabin are taking charge of the project. Think of all the authentic literacy taking place here. These are the steps we hope to follow:

  1. The two classes will meet at an agreed upon time via Google Docs to brainstorm a list of “I wonder…” questions. Do we want a theme for these questions or just leave it wide open? We decided to leave it wide open.
  2. Each “I wonder…” question will be offered to teams of students at the other school for consideration.
  3. Schools will take turns offering “I wonder…” questions until all teams from each school are partnered up.
  4. Teams will work independently to answer the questions by using all resources available. (Internet, local experts, library books, etc.)
  5. Students will then use the “Better Answer” strategy to create a finished product. Should be a paragraph or so.
  6. With finished products in hand, classes will meet at an agreed upon time via Skype to present answers to one another. Skype will begin with a virtual handshake. (I’ll explain later)
  7. Each “I wonder…” answer will be presented to the other class, first by one school and then by the other.
  8. All students will use a teacher created scoring rubric to peer assess the team from the other school. (We’ll need to create that rubric)
  9. Schools can forward the completed peer assessments to the other school. (Electronically or perhaps via snail mail?)

We would never have been able to provide our students with this type of authentic engagement had we not reached out to one another in the first place. As I reflect on how far this relationship has come, I think of the analogy of the rock being tossed into the middle of the quiet pond. The ripple effect is enormous.

Check out Roy Fernandez’s blog here http://learninginthetechworld.wordpress.com/

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Getting to the How and Why of Student Blogging

This year every grade 2-6 student in my school has been set up with a Kidblog account. After successfully introducing this easy and safe platform with older students last year it made sense to continue to explore blogging as an excellent form of authentic literacy.  Here are some of the reasons why I feel every student should be introduced to blogging:

  • Blogging is fun.
  • Students can learn to communicate effectively.
  • Students can learn to share thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and support them with details that make understanding easy.
  • Students can become better writers, both in content and mechanics.
  • Students can become better readers, improving comprehension and the ability to read critically.
  • Students can learn to use Web 2.0 technology as a tool to publish their work to share with their peers, family, and friends.
  • Students can improve writing in an exciting and engaging manner.
  • Students can comment on other’s work, sharing thoughts and ideas.
  • Students can learn about using computers and web-based tools.
  • Students can show off their work to their parents, grandparents, and other family members.

The idea of student blogging has definitely taken hold with many of my teachers as the year gets underway. Already, we are planning a supper session on Kidblog. “Experts” on staff will lead two sessions: 1. How to Administer a Kidblog Account and 2. Using Kidblog to Support and Enhance Learning.  Needless to say, I am very encouraged that teachers see the value in such an endeavor. I’m looking forward to watching throughout the year as my teachers come up with ways to build 21st century literacy skills in our students through blogging.

I do, however, want to share a word of caution. In reviewing the archives of last years student blogs I’ve noticed something. Kids are quite competent at posting on the who, what, when, and where of their topic. What was noticeably absent was the how and why. Blogging, at it’s best, is not just the sharing of facts and information. It’s also the sharing of your own opinions and ideas. It’s about respectful debate. It’s about inquiry and investigation. It’s about incorporating the Blooms levels of synthesis and evaluation. If blogging is going to be a worthwhile experience for students and teachers, these last two questions must be given a lot of attention.

Whether writing posts or commenting, I will be encouraging teachers to expect a lot of their student’s writing this year. After all, improved literacy should be an automatic product of the blogging process. A big focus on the how and why will be the key.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Transformation Actually Occurs

PART 1

Last week I was going about my nightly ritual of checking student Kidblog accounts to moderate and approve any posts or comments that may have been submitted in the past 24 hours. I’ve been doing this since September when we introduced our grade 4-6 students to the concept of blogging, an idea that has been received by the teachers in my school to varying degrees. Some have embraced it with great enthusiasm while others are still trying to figure out exactly how it can support their daily teaching practice. That’s OK. The way I look at it, transformation is a curve, and some move along that curve faster than others. The students, on the other hand, have been highly engaged with blogging from the day we started.

So, while checking the student blogs I was quickly drawn to our recent 4DE class posts where 61 comments were awaiting moderation. I thought, “Wow! Where did these come from?” As I started to read (and approve) them I was not able to determine who wrote them, but they were appropriate and appeared to be written by other grade 4 students from somewhere. That’s the beauty of Kidblog. All posts and comments require administrator approval before anyone can see them. This allows us to open our blogging experience to the entire world. It was not until one of the last remaining comments that I was able to determine the source; and this only because the student gave the name of his school. Then the very last submission confirmed who was responsible for having the students comment on our 4DE posts; Mr. Groves. This made my day.

So what does all this have to do with transformation?

PART 2

Mr. Groves had been the grade 1 teacher at my school for the past year, covering a maternity leave that recently ended. While on our staff, he immersed himself in any capacity building experience that was made available to him. He spent time researching and experimenting with iPad apps, implementing a web-based guided reading program, and delving into the world of Twitter to make connections and improve his professional practice. This culture of ‘failing forward’ at our school enabled Mr. Groves to take the necessary risks which made student learning more relevant. Although individual blogging was a bit advanced for his grade 1 students, he did comment on the older student blogs from time to time and became familiar with the Kidblog program. 

At the end of March Mr. Groves left us, but spent only a few days on the substitute teacher list before landing a term position at a cross town school teaching grade 4.  And these comments I was approving were coming from his students. He was introducing them to blogging by having them comment on our student’s posts before creating posts of their own. I contacted him right away and thanked him for taking this great tool and introducing it at another school. He shared his class link and told me that other teachers at the school were already approaching him to learn more about blogging with students. (Insert pride here) He’s taking what he learned here and sharing it there. It’s like passing a baton.

CONCLUSION

Transformation is not an easy process. I’ve often wondered how we will ever make the necessary systemic shift with so many fixed mindsets out there. As school leaders, we can easily get frustrated and lose hope when ideas we perceive as forward-thinking are embraced by few and shunned by many. But then I think of individuals like Mr. Groves and am reminded of how transformation actually occurs. Not usually in large numbers but one individual at a time. Eventually, a critical mass forms and we find ourselves at our destination without even knowing it.

Whether or not you are a person of faith, this prayer is a great metaphor of our work as transformative educators. Creating the Church of Tomorrow. Keep going.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Just “Cover” Curriculum

In our province the English Language Arts curriculum is loaded with numerous outcomes at every grade level. While looking through these outcomes last week my attention was drawn to the concept of  clarifying and extending thoughts and ideas, which is included throughout the K – 9 Program of Study. In grade 5, for example, students are expected to be able to clarify and extend by:

1. seeking others’ viewpoints to build on personal responses and understanding

2. combining ideas by using talk, notes, and personal writing to explore relationships among their own ideas and those of others, and

3. extending understanding by searching for further ideas and information from others.

Not only are teachers expected to “cover” these (and all other) prescribed outcomes, today we are wanting them to do it in such a way that 21st century competencies are being built at the same time.  I blogged about the difficulty with this earlier. What follows is a simple yet innovative example of how these outcomes are being met through competency based learning.

Earlier this year our grade 5s connected with Mrs. Gray’s grade 5 class in Canton, Michigan through our school Twitter account. We got to know each other by tweeting our daily experiences and commenting on blog posts as both classes used Kigblog. Shortly thereafter a Skype visit was set up and the students were able to introduce temselves face-to-face. The level of engagement throughout these experiences was extremely high but the curricular component was missing.

Our current project, I believe, takes care of that. We are writing a story together using a Google Doc. Our students came up with a title and wrote the first part of the story. That alone was an exercise in creativity, collaboration, digital literacy, and problem solving. We then sent the link to Canton, where they edited and illustrated our writing, then extended the story by a couple of paragraphs. They have now returned it to us and the students are highly engaged in illustrating and writing again. This is what I call authentic literacy, calling upon students to utilize higher order thinking skills and build important competencies they will need in the future. Here is a link to the shared story as it currently exists.

I think we have effectively addressed the outcomes listed above, and made them relevant to the students. A number of these learning opportunities are out there for our students. As teachers, we just have to go looking for them.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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