Sunday, February 20, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
They are co-planning and then co-teaching math classes via video conference. We're using a variety of tools to support the project including Polycom video conferencing units, adobe connect, Taking IT Global, SMART boards, document cameras, google docs, blogs and wikis. The main purpose of our pilot is to investigate the various situations possible and to look into potentially enhancing our typical demonstration classrooms and co-teaching professional development opportunities with technology.
Pair 1 - two grade 3/4 classes about 80 km apart (one class mostly grade 3's and the other mostly grade 4's)
Pair 2 - a grade 4/5 class and a grade 6 class about 70 km apart
Pair 3 - two grade 8 classes about 80 km apart
Here are some of our teams observations from each pairing. Our debriefing team consists of the teachers, numeracy consultant, instructional strategy consultants, ICT consultants and a ministry project manager. We focused a lot on the classroom dynamics piece this time.
Pair 1 (primary) observations -
- they started their first lesson having the students come up to the camera in groups of 3 and state their name, one thing about themselves (I like hockey, have 2 dogs, etc.) and then pose a challenge question for the other class. These were math questions that the students had created. A group who had the answer in the other classroom would then respond by stepping up to the camera and introducing themselves (name and one thing about themselves). They would then pose their challenge question. This went back and forth quickly and the entire classes were very engaged in solving each problem posed to their class.
- one class was set up as a horseshoe layout where the camera was at the open end and the students stepped up when they shared their problem
- students wrote their challenge problem on a whiteboard and then showed it to the camera
- geoboards were hard to see on the camera with the lighting
- each classroom had two set ups - one with the polycom and projector, the other with document camera, smart board and projector. This allowed the teachers to be using the same smart notebook file in each classroom. They included timers and challenge instructions on the boards.
- the teachers had prepared their classes by having the polycom set up for a few days before, allowing students to see themselves on the screen. One also had her class practice asking their questions and she videotaped them. She then played it back for them allowing them to decide what they needed to do better when "live" (speak louder or clearer, step up closer to the camera).
- the teachers took turns leading the parts of the lesson
- the lesson included open questions where the students came up with a variety of solutions for each problem. Most of the questions were multiplication and division. They then shared their responses with each class.
- students were particularly engaged because they wanted to have different solutions than everyone else so that they got a chance to share. Watching these students really stretch their thinking to allow themselves to be the one to share was great.
- a whole host of manipulatives were used
- teachers put a tape line on the floor where students should stand to share with the other class
- one comment from some observers "we felt like we were in the room with the other class"
- some areas to improve on next time - maybe sticking to one or two manipulatives for a lesson to ease the mangement. Perhaps might have been too ambitious for the first few lessons using multiple manipulatives at a time and then making sure the teachers have determined who is going to lead which part so they can naturally flow back and forth
- interesting to watch the grade 3's become engaged in the grade 4's challenge questions that were multiplication beyond what they had been exposed to before. They really stretched their minds, chose tools to help them and tried to figure these problems out (because they wanted to go up and share). It was amazing to watch.
- these two teachers co-planned in person
Pair 2 (junior) observations:
- they started by introducing themselves and then went into a game using link cubes and guessing each others patterns. They asked each class great questions about patterns to determine the other classes pattern.
- some really interesting non-verbal signals used between these two classes. One class uses some sign language in class (thank you or appreciation is expressed by waiving both hands up and then a demonstration of friendly love is expressed with a hand signal). Another class introduced their yes and know signals (thumbs up and a big X across their chest with forearms). These signals were wonderful via videoconference because they didn't create distracting noise and the kids picked them up and initiated the signals on a consistent basis.
- we learned that bins of link cubes make a lot of noise that wouldn't be a problem in a "normal" class, but when on videoconference can be distracting. We thought maybe having the cubes out without the bins (or using bags) and felt on the desks might help
- another activity they did was guess my number using hundreds charts. They had a neat discussion about characteristics of numbers and good effective questioning.
- the classes have continued their collaboration by answering discussions and math challenges on the Taking IT Global ED classroom feature.
- there was one gentleman in this class that normally does not participate who stepped up and did awesome, answering questions and sharing freely
- these two teachers co-planned via adobe connect
- they debriefed immediately afterwards via adobe connect with a few consultants. The immediate discussion was invaluable.
Pair 3 (intermediate) observations:
- a very distinct different between grade 8 and the younger kids. They are much more concerned about what other people think about them and so behaviours changed completely. Some who were outgoing were suddenly shy and some who were shy stepped up. They also wanted to know much more about how the equipment worked and more about the students on the other end of the camera. They had really neat questions to ask.
- the kids started with an introductory activity where they shared with each other the different topics they had covered in math class so far. It was a really neat summary and intro activity for this age group. The students thought to grab their notebooks and start looking for the "big ideas".
- the teachers were intuitive to recognize that with the grade 8's the activity had to be very student focused and so partnered them all up with groups on each side of the camera and they created and shared challenge questions with each other. Groups were made based on interested indicated in the introduction activity and so many of the kids made really neat math problems based on these areas of interest
- we did learn that we may have been using the wrong technology for this part of the lesson. Having students come up in small groups to the camera to share with partners while the rest of the class working on their challenges was distracting and noisy. Perhaps a station with headsets and adobe connect would have worked better? We will continue to work on this
- the groups are continuing on with their math problems using the Taking IT Global ED platform as well
- the challenge questions created by students for their partners were very high quality
- grade 8's dress their best and do their hair on days when they are videoconferencing :)
- in general student engagement was amazing
- the teachers of these classes are incredible risk takers and collaborators
- its NOT about the tools (tech), its about the relationships and collaboration
Resources we used:
* Permission form (adapted by each teacher to fit what they needed)
* Ministry GAINS Classroom Dynamics materials
* Taking IT Global Ed (TIGed)
Thursday, December 2, 2010
While I was there, another teacher stopped me to explain their student-created interactive element websites for chemistry. One teacher asked me to brainstorm some ways to support some of our students who get between 50%-59% in grade 9 applied mathematics, so they are prepared for grade 10 applied mathematics. A teacher decided to work with the law teacher to do a lesson on Creative Commons and legal aspects. The Student Success Teacher talked about moving to an electronic communication method for supporting at-risk students. When I went to search for equipment (headphone/microphone headsets) that had previously sat around gathering dust, they were out BEING USED! :) Lastly, one teacher who has been integrating tons of wonderful tasks into her class has now looked at her assessment practices and decided to improve the way she tracks and marks to be more holistic and appropriate. This type of love of learning spreads beyond simply doing a "tech" project, but infects us with a great desire to be better teachers.
Creativity, innovation and risk-taking is spreading like wild fire through the school. I mean, they were a radical bunch to begin with :) , but I think the Minds on Media PD Day combined with Teacher Notebooks in hand have certainly helped empower this passionate group. The positive energy is palpable - a great staff.
It has made my day! Now to go battle the snow covered roads for a drive to the next school on my list today. :)
Monday, November 22, 2010
After today, Minds on Media, the brainchild of Peter Skillen (@peterskillen www.peterskillen.org ) and Brenda Sherry (@brendasherry http://www.brendasherry.com) is officially my favorite way of starting with teachers to integrate technology. Brenda and Peter created it for ECOO and it is always a big hit. Minds on Media involves having centres around in one room with facilitators covering a wide variety of topics. Participants bring their own laptop and visit the stations they wish and move around as they wish.
A principal asked me to come in and support their school on a PD Day to work on integrating technology. My mind started reeling - how could we run something that would allow each teacher, all starting in very different places to access and learn while moving the school along with their school improvement plan? The only thing they all had in common was that they had all just received the same HP Mini Teacher Notebook computer.
I started to think about having separate break out groups in different rooms and then I remembered the Minds On Media session Peter and Brenda ran for iEARN Canada's conference this summer in Barrie, ON. A quick tweet to Peter and Brenda asking if I could copy their idea resulted in permission to use their logo and ideas and most importantly, overwhelming support. The only debate was with Peter as he went back and forth trying to decide which of his websites I should use when giving credit. :) Oh, and trying to figure out Peter and Brenda speak as they started referencing the Roger Waters phenomenom as in a post by Peter a few years ago. I thought they might have actually created their own language...
To start our versions of Minds On Media, we created a wiki to post links for teachers as they floated around from station to station. We found a handful of EXCELLENT leaders from within the school to run the stations.
Today was the day for Minds on Media in Penetanguishene and it went GREAT! Below are some of the reasons why.
Reasons Minds on Media is good for teachers:
- accessible by all. Each teacher was met where they were. For beginners, there was a station about "personalizing your notebook" where we spent time showing teachers how to connect their notebook to a projector and how to make a video play full screen. We didn't call this the "for dummies" station and respected EVERY question. Everyone felt comfortable. We threw in some tricks of the trade to make the tiny netbook easier to work with (getting rid of tool bars on Internet Explorer, changing how the mouse track pad works, moving the windows start menu to the side instead of the bottom). These tricks of the trade intrigued seasoned computer users who came over and ended up coaching others as well.
- work at own pace
- choice, choice, choice - valuing their professional judgement
- choice of going into depth at a station or skimming through them all
- watching others to see the possibilities that technology can bring (especially for those who are not "techies" as they say)
- great discussion about best practices
- learn from the station leaders AND other teachers at the same table
- personalized learning
- every teacher eventually engaged. Some started by hovering around stations afraid to jump in because they were intimidated, but they eventually found a station they were comfortable getting started at
- some teachers who wanted support while creating lessons or activities, sat down and created right then and there with facilitators to help
- some teachers who are comfortable integrating lots of different technology floated around and gathered ideas then took those ideas and adapted them to work for their own classes
- developed leadership in the station leaders in a non-threatening way. It took those teachers who were using the technology and put them in a low-risk situation where they could lead others without running the whole show
- built capacity among schools own staff. In the future when teachers want support with a technology, chances are they will go to one of the teachers who led the stations instead of automatically calling the board support staff
- teachers were asking for MORE! Some staff connected with others and made plans to work on projects together. Some planned action research projects
- developed a culture of collaboration. Teachers asked other teachers how to do things, teachers shared stories, teachers shared links and resources, everyone worked together to make sure everyone at the table could keep up
- lots of chairs and tables including a few in the centre at a "non-station" to allow those who get into a project a space to work quietly if they need for a few minutes
- we had 8 stations for 35-40 people and that worked out well
- lots of extension cords for projectors, SMART boards and for teachers to plug in and power up
- screens or walls to project onto - remember lights will be on so test projectors
- send out info about stations ahead of time so teachers can mentally prepare themselves
- it is important to have someone helping organize who knows the staff of the school so leaders can be drawn out and encouraged
- choose station topics of varying degrees of complexity - some very basic stations as entry points and some more complicated ones to engage your "techie" teachers :)
- all stations must be in the same room so teachers can see what is going on across the room and get up and move whenever they wish. This ability to float and move is important
- Open the invitation to lead a station to all teacher so you get topics they are interested in
- lead and follow-up with discussions about how different technology uses are supporting the school improvement plan. What is the ultimate goal (what are the learning goals)? Technology is just the tool...
Peter Skillen - @peterskillen www.peterskillen.org
Brenda Sherry - @brendasherry http://www.brendasherry.com
Friday, November 19, 2010
In comes my new magic pen. Now I can take notes with or without audio recording and they can go directly into my Evernote with all other things I do. Tagged and organized. I'm more present and personal again in meetings. I'm not using my screen as a shield. One problem I ran into is that I still need to be connected to look something up, check a calendar or find a file. So, the iPad or iPhone has to come along. But for me it's no where near as distracting. For me this works. I can review the parts of a meeting where my mind wandered. Sometimes the laptop is still needed, but less often. Sometimes i still choose the laptop if i know its going to be really boring :) I just wish the notes imported into Evernote with the audio right in them. I'm having trouble getting the audio in at all. Any solutions?
Two things I've learned:
1. Be VERY aware of the conversation, let others know that you are recording and turn it off if the conversation slips out of the professional zone.
2. I need to write neater and stop doodling to make the writing to text feature more effective.
I can imagine many good uses for this in a secondary math class in group work and creating electronic BANSHOs. For me in my current role I'm loving how it allows me to remain a little more present. I just need to remain aware of privacy and work on my handwriting. I'm having flashbacks to elementary school where I was given remedial work for my handwriting and enrichment in math. My brain worked differently even back then. I wonder how a livescribe pen could have helped?
So... How do you feel about being recorded at meetings?
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Sunday morning proved to be rainy, overcast and cold out. Aside from walking the dog and hunting the red squirrels that have found their way into my attic, it was going to be a day to catch up on chores indoors. First and foremost I opened up tweetdeck to see what I had missed over the past few days. My #OTFCUE column was full. Yeah! I worked from the beginning and started my own learning based on the tweets of those attending. THANK YOU all for sharing. Below is what I've learned in a few hours of catch-up.
- Using Google Alerts for parents to keep track of their children's digital footprint. I use it myself, but never thought to encourage parents. Great idea Zoe!
- Google Insight - creating graphs and tables on the interest of specific search terms. What a great opportunity for a business or marketing course.
- Creating Google Custom Searches and embedding into your website. Great for students when they only need to search a few websites.
- Google is great, but there are other options. This presentation makes some great points about research skills. It's all about choosing the right tool for the job.
- Google Scribe could be very useful for struggling writers.
- Google Forms allow you to embed maps.
- Google Lit Trips - connecting maps, images and locations to literature.
- Google News - one-stop shopping for the most popular news of the minute.
- Google New - a place to read about all the new things happening at Google.
- Google Wonder Wheel - searching for topics connected to your original search term - using graphics to organize.
- Google Squared - creating a table from search information. Great to help students with organization of information.
- Google Search Stories - Telling story (video) through google searches. I've seen these before but can never think of a good use. Some great ideas thrown around by educators on twitter!
- Embedding Google Lookup into a spreadsheet (Google Doc)- This one is my FAVORITE!!! What a great way to collect data - you enter the search into the spreadsheet and it pulls in the data from the web. So many possibilities. The one I created (based on an example given by Google) is a table of elements and their characteristics.
- Red squirrels are going to drive me insane! I can hear them - but I can't find out where they are or how they are getting in for the life of me. It's time to start an all-out war!
Thanks to the following for helping me grab some excellent ideas even if I couldn't participate in the learning in real time: @susayoun, @mathattck, @dougpete, @tgianno, @rickbudd, @msjweir, @pmcash, @zbpipe and @cyndiejacobs!
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I've harassed the poor morning show host Meg before (she is wonderful and comes into the local high school for literacy conferences on a regular basis) and so sent her off an email. This is what it said:
"If we DON'T use mobile devices in the classroom, who exactly is modeling appropriate use? How do they learn how to use them properly?
Why do we all have this vision of kids sitting in rows in order to learn? What kind of job is like that? By NOT having mobile devices in class we are saying that we don't want kids collaborating, communicating and searching for information. COME ON!!! This is the 21st century!!! These are skills that are needed for success. Mobile devices are Powerful learning devices. So, never thought I'd say this - props to @Dalton_McGuinty ( his twitter handle). He gets that we need to change our view of education in order to prepare these poor kids for THEIR future, not our past."
I received this response "Good points Jacyln. Hope you heard our discussion on this.....this email featured heavily:)"
I unfortunately missed this later discussion and am highly curious as to whether I was debated or agreed with. Either way I'm happy. If I was agreed with, than maybe more people (listeners) were swayed towards my opinion. If I was debated, then it would have been a great learning experience (if only I had heard it and responded).
This little early morning interaction reminds me how education has to change to reflect changes in society. Twenty years ago a "nobody" like myself would never have their opinion heard, considered and debated on a radio station like The Dock FM. Technology has facilitated communication and collaboration to a degree that it permeates almost every career. How on earth do we expect our students to learn how to use this technology to help them be heard and to share ideas if we use blanket policies to ban them from schools? Will they be distracting? YES! Absolutely! When students hand wrote and passed notes did we ban the pen and paper? No, because they were seen as integral to the learning process. Technology is integral to the learning process when used properly. Technology in itself is useless. You could have a classroom with laptops on every desk and an interactive whiteboard at the front, that functions exactly like a classroom from the 1950's. Students are seated in rows typing out notes. The teaching needs to change along with technology use.
We need to ask our selves "is this helping students succeed in today's world?". What skills do they need to succeed? My guess is collaboration, communication and innovation. Recalling facts is not important if you can "google it". Using that information to form ideas, arguments and communicate those thoughts are much more important. Technology can facilitate that. We can't be sure what today's students will be faced with in 50 years. How can I know what to teach them that will be relevant? Things change so fast. Maybe if we teach them how to learn for themselves, communicate and problem solve, they'll be able to figure it out for themselves?
So, thanks to The Dock FM for the thought-provoking morning. I've also learned an important lesson - if I decide to harass you, I'd darn well better listen to the rest of the morning show! :)
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I've had a few people ask me about our Amazing Race Grade 9 activity and I need to pass the task of organizer off to another staff member while I'm away this year - so I've described our day here to kill two birds with one stone.
I LOVE starting the year off right. Instead of talking at our grade 9's and organizing guided tours we do something a little different. Every time we do it, staff, students and parents talk about how enjoyable it is. Staff get to meet the incoming grade 9's in a fun, relaxed environment and the kids get to be, well, kids! It's the only time grade 9s feel like they are the only ones in the school and they love it.
This idea began when I was teaching in Moosonee, Ontario at Northern Lights Secondary School. Like all good ideas, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly who came up with it, but I believe Angela Tozer and Sandy Lederer are to be given credit for this idea.
When I moved to PSS, I brought the idea with me and this is how our day goes:
9:30 - 10:00 am - Welcome by Principal, Vice-Principal and Student Council leaders, introduction of staff (Guidance, Special Education, Student Success)
10:00 - 11: 15 am - The Amazing Race Activity
11:15 - 11:30 - wrap up, questions and refreshments in the cafeteria
During the Amazing Race students visit the rooms listed on their passport, complete a challenge there and get sticker or stamp for their passport. Here is a link to the Google Doc copy of our Amazing Race "passport" students use. At the end they trade in their completed passport for their timetable (and a lesson on how to read it).
In terms of organization, here is what we do:
- put up sign-up sheet for staff during last week of school. Take 9! Day is on a holiday, so staff volunteer. Any staff member is welcome (custodial, office, educational assistants, teachers, administration)
- the day before I set up all the challenges as needed (most staff organize their own now) and put envelopes in each volunteers mailbox with materials they need and stickers/stamps for the passports. I also revamp the passport with the appropriate room numbers for this years challenges and print them.
- on the day of we tell teachers that students will start coming to the classrooms around 10:00 am. We then make an announcement at the end, asking all Grade 9s to return to the cafeteria. This is really a signal for teachers that it is over.
- how to log onto the computer system (our passwords start as YYYYMMDD and then need to be changed) in the resource room
- how to use a lock - students must open a combo lock to complete challenge
- something in the gym (shoot a basket, soccer goal, floor hockey, sit ups, push ups, etc.)
- something in the shops (hammer a nail into a board, etc.)
- something dramatic in the drama room
- find/label a few rooms on the school map
- something in the hospitality room (measuring, mixing, a step in baking something, etc.)
- purchasing of their package deals (student fees, yearbook, etc.) or getting info about it
- getting their timetables and learning how to read them (rooms, course codes, locker number, etc.)
- extra-curricular, something about clubs and teams
After the first year, most teachers will set up their own challenges without any help from the organizer. It is a time for teachers to "sell" clubs and subjects as well. For example, breakfast club or green team leaders have challenges around those clubs. The first year it helps to provide teachers with "challenges in an envelope" so they get the idea.
Starting the year off with bubbling grade 9's wandering through the school trying to find classrooms (until they get to the challenge where they get a map of the school) is amazing. Staff love this way of meeting grade 9s. We've used name tags before and then provided awards that the teachers decided on (one for each challenge, just silly things - like most innovative way of doing something, most helpful, etc.). Our students' council leaders often run or help out with the challenges in the classrooms to relieve congestion. Starting the year off right while building community!