Final Reflection

This is my final reflection for ecmp 355! Signing out on this class – but I’ll continue to blog and stay connected!

Proposal

Introduction

Goals 

I have compiled a list of goals for education. I want…

  • Students to be able to think critically. This is an essential skill that will enable individuals to become life long learners.  This includes the ability to understand new information and apply it to their lives.
  • Students to be able to communicate with others. We live in a very social world where individuals will always be interacting with others whether it is face to face or over the internet. I believe it is important for my students to have the ability to use their critical thinking skills to form opinions that they can share with others, as well as be able to communicate their ideas in a way that helps them to connect to those who share passions with them.
  • To make education meaningful for students by providing authentic, hands-on, interactive learning experiences that are interesting and apply directly to the lives of each of my students. Students typically become interested and invested when they see how what they are learning can help them (humans are selfish beings).
  • To ignite a fire in each of my students that makes them excited about expanding their knowledge and developing new skills. Through helping them to see recognize their abilities, it will achieve one of the goals above of making my students life long learners as they will determine ways that they are internally motivated to continuously learn.
  • To remove the fear of failure. Through creating an environment where students understand that in order to learn, they will be making mistakes and learning from them, I hope to restore each individual’s sense of creativity. When there is a fear of failure, individuals are less likely to take risks and less learning takes place as a result. In addition, I hope to remove formal grades and replace them with meaningful feedback from educators, peers, and those in the community. 

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Full video from TED: Build a school in the cloud: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3jYVe1RGaU.

  • Students to take ownership for their learning.  Through giving the students choice in what and how they learn, they will develop essential skills. Also, by removing myself from the front of the classroom, and having the students teach themselves and each other, I will be seen less as the “teacher with all the answers” and more as a facilitator for learning who helps the students to discover.
  • The whole student to be considered in education. Rather than focusing on developing only their knowledge base, we should be considering the overall happiness of each individual. To do this, education needs to be personalized and responsive to student needs.
  • To overhaul the views of society which place more importance on the subject areas that are considered to be academic. This view leads to many individuals feeling that they are not smart and not successful if they do not hold a certain set of skills or interests. The following video demonstrates a society that has been “overhauled” where there is “respect and dignity in all work in Finalnd”:

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Full video from The Finland Phenomenonhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbqJwTjx7PQ

School Environment

  • I see students having a “home base” working in passion groups, with others who have similar interests to them. This would replace the model where subjects are divided by rooms and students are divided randomly. In these passion areas, students will still be learning a variety of subjects, yet the focus will be on integration and application of topics of interests of the students.
  • Inspiring physical environments that promote collaboration and innovative thinking. Such physical environments would be supplied with the tools necessary for individuals to explore passion areas (remember this is an ideal situation). Specifically, I imagine individual desks replaced by standing workbenches and multiple study areas in a larger room.
  • Students having input in how their time would be spent (division of project preparation, community exploration, social collaboration).
  • In the following video, Sugata Mitra proposes the idea of the Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE). More information on SOLE can be found here: SOLE Support. I love that he has backed up his suggestion with classrooms that have successfully used the SOLE method. In these classrooms, the teacher’s role is to ask the student interesting questions, and allow the students to use resources and work in collaborative groups in order to investigate and explore what the answer might be.

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Full video, TED: Build a School in a Cloud, found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3jYVe1RGaU.

  • It is important to create connections to the community and between learning and student life. Kiran Bir Sethi hightlights the importance of “blurring the boundaries between school and life“. I love the presenter’s point that “passion is contagious”:

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Full video, TED: Teaching kids to take charge, found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKU-FEGabuY.

Study areas

The following are suggested passion areas that would be offered for students. I would suggest that in grade 9 students have the opportunity to explore all passion areas that are of any interest to them but in the more senior grades that individuals choose a pathway. Of course as it is important to give students choice, it would be possible for them to work in multiple passion areas if they took ownership for their learning and dedicated themselves fully. Beyond this, it is important for passion areas to have the opportunity to work together on collaborative projects that mimic how different professions work inter-collaboratively in the “real world”.

  • Trades (carpentry/mechanic/plumber/refrigeration/etc.)
  • Sciences (biotechnology/physiotherapy/environmental engineer/medicine/etc.)
  • Arts (journalism/art/graphic design/fashion/photography/architecture/etc.)
  • Social Sciences (human justice/women studies/history/law/etc.)
  • Business (accounting/administration/entrepreneurship/finance/marketing/etc.)

Student work

After watching the following video, I was inspired. There were certain components that stuck out to me:

  • There is a focus on four main bodies of learning: English, math, social sciences, and natural sciences.
  • Students have choice in how they study each of the four main bodies of learning.
  • There are three components to their schooling: weekly questions; individual endeavour; and collaborative endeavour. Specifically, the weekly questions are great as the students get to choose a topic to explore each week that is fascinating to them. And at the end of the week they have to find a way to present to their peers, which is also fantastic as this is a clear demonstration of what they have learned.
  • Beyond the knowledge they are gaining, all students in this program are developing multiple life skills throughout all they are doing.

Based on the above video and other sources of inspiration, in an ideal school I imagine students would:

  • Explore their passion area through meaningful investigations (just as with the weekly questions above) that equip them to work in the same area they are passionate about. In these explorations, students can choose to work in small groups or individually but must start out the week by creating a mini proposal outlining what they plan to investigate for the week, which bodies of learning they will work on, as well as how they plan to share it with others.
  • Have the chance to work alone and in groups. It is important for students to do both solo and group projects as these work on developing different skill sets.
  • Document and share their learning through online portfolios. It is important for individuals to share what they are working on with others in the class and through the online community as it brings meaning to what they are doing. By putting their work out there, they get the chance to receive feedback and connect with others around the world interested in the same area.
  • Be able to participate in active learning experiences. In the following video, the presenter (Daphne Koller) speaks about what students need and what they definitely do not need:

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Full video, TED: What we’re learning from online education, found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6FvJ6jMGHU.

Teachers

  • By working in areas that they are passionate about, with individuals who are excited about the content, teachers will stay motivated to bring the best to the students.
  • The role of the teacher is to support, rather than lead the students. As teachers, we can provide ideas for inspiration, help students to make connections in the community, use our previous knowledge to guide them.
  • I imagine multiple professionals working within passion areas. This does not necessarily mean co-teaching, more so it is an attempt at utilizing and capitalizing on the knowledge and power of social learning. By having multiple professionals in the same learning space, student groups will have the opportunity to work with many teachers with the same passion and interests that they hold.
  • The role of teachers is not to be the “holder of the information”. Nor is it our role to give our students a grade that ranks their work against others. Rather, it is our job to support students and provide them with meaningful feedback that helps them grow as a whole.
  • It is our job to build meaningful relationships with the students we can support all aspects of their lives, and help them to make connections in the community that will help them to be successful after school.

Curriculum

  • Rather than requiring that each student learns the exact same content, I propose that our curriculum is a set of skill outcomes. This will give individuals the chance to demonstrate the development of their skills through their chosen subject areas.
  • Students are to demonstrate an ability to think critically, use information effectively, communicate constructively (written and verbal), work in a social setting, take risks willingly, manage their time, act as a leader, set and achieve realistic goals and reflect on experiences.

Final Thoughts

Although this is my “ideal school system” and aspects of it are based off my dreams that are not (currently) possible based on limitations in our present school systems, much of what I have described above is achievable. If nothing else, take away the importance of teaching the whole individual – developing students who are compassionate towards others, understand how they fit in their communities, and who see that they have the ability to succeed in what ever they love. 

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Virtual Mentorship: Interview

I had the opportunity to interview my mentoring teacher, Carolyn Durley. I was able to ask her about her experiences integrating technology into her classroom, along with her other notable experiences inside and outside the classroom.

Tech Task #11: A Peak Inside Your Classroom

Physical Environment

I want my classroom to be collaboration/creative thinking/active learning-friendly space. I would love for my classroom to have stand up work spaces. Royan Lee spoke briefly about how he has an area in his classroom with stand up desks and this got me thinking about how I learn best. When I am standing, my mind is more active. This may not be true in everyone, but it is something that I would like to examine. Ideally these stand up desks make it easier for students to work in collaborative groups. Of course there are limitations to this, such as classroom spaces as they are right now – the classroom I was in for my internship had 9 lab benches that were low to the ground and bolted to the floor. Hard to work around that.. Below is a picture of the classroom I was working in. (I almost get nostalgic looking at it… missing my students and co-op).

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Pedagogy & Learning Environment 

I took the time to create a social contract with one of my classes that I was struggling with during internship. This was a contract between the students and I, and also between each of the students. By building this contract together, we were able to share our expectations of what we wanted our learning environment to look like. I was able to create a visual using Wordle, which I posted in the classroom. I would like to do this on the first day with each of my classes so we are all on the same page. The picture on the left is what they feel I should expect from them and on the right is what they expect from me. 

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IMG_1500Everything that Shelley Wright mentioned about making learning meaningful was absolutely refreshing and inspiring. A summary of what I took from her: 

  • I want to teach skills using the content – not just focus on memorization of content they can find on the internet (something I have believed for over a year now).
  • Find ways to bring back student curiosity.
  • Have students document learning processes (for labs) with videos or voice threads rather than formal lab write ups where they are looking for the “right answer”.
  • Have honest discussions about our learning (first I must create a culture of respect and compassion in my classroom – no one feels silly for bringing up concerns or for making mistakes).

Technology Tools

Based on my experiences during internship, I plan to have all students create an iGo account. This is important to be because as Shelley Wright mentioned, it is hard for students to “lose” their work on it. There were waaaaay too many experiences of students attempting to save their work on the drive at the school but losing it when the computer reset upon restart. I am having them create these for my sanity… and so they can hand in assignments digitally, have all their work in one place, share easily, work in groups, have everything save automatically, have access when on any computer, etc. 

I am now comfortable with blogging! I would love to have my students blogging, maybe by starting with a classroom blog for my first year? Haven’t necessarily decided on this yet. But I do know that I want my students sharing their work with a global audience – an idea that many of our guests presented about but Heather Durnin was the one I remember using the term “global audience” which I loved.

Beyond using a blog to share student work, I want to make other social media forms useful in my classroom.. my students are obsessed with it so why not put it to work! Alec Couros described social affordances which I understood as using the technology that is readily available to us in a way that enhances student experiences. Twitter hashtags to document learning, a Facebook group for sharing information, Flickr for sharing what is going on in our classroom, same with YouTube to document and share learning. All of these are platforms that students are already using to reach out to others. Lets use what they are comfortable with to share and get input from others around the world.

Karen Lirenman shared that the technology available to us makes the world feel a lot smaller but bigger at the same time. By just reading that statement it wouldn’t make much sense but the way that she stated it was really easy to follow. I thought it was great how she was able to bring so many experts into her classroom and “flatten” her classroom walls to bring so many people in to their classroom. It is a goal to make connections and find ways to bring these experts into my classroom for my students to learn from.

Tech Task #8: Mobile 2 *update*

As mentioned when I first completed part 2 of Tech Task #8, I planned to create a QR code to use in a presentation for one of my classes. What I ended up doing was creating a QR code that would link to a Haiku Deck presentation I created to guide groups through different activities.

QR code example:

Dissolved Oxygen QR

Scan it and it leads you here:

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/JeGpPcxDzL/dissolved-oxygen-probe

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I was excited about the potential of this tool in the classroom. It would enable me to let students work on individual topics without actually having to go to each group and explain their task. When I was presenting it, I simply gave each group a QR code with no indication of what it would be used for and they were able to use the instructions to complete the activity. **If I was using this with a classroom (not my peers) I would include more instruction.

Tech Task #10: Best Ideas

For this post, we were to watch a live session and explain which ideas “stuck” with us from each of the 3 experts. I am going to summarize my favourite points and include links to their blog posts.

For all presenters, I loved the way they talked about bringing in outside experts.

Heather

Heather shared one specific experience where her class Skyped an expert who was studying polar bears in Churchill, MB at the time. I LOVED that after the conversation they had with Andy, the students were inspired and a meaningful project developed because of it. Polar Bears Student Action

Heather also spoke of her students presenting their work to a global audience. This is something I have heard of before but I liked the different mediums she spoke of, especially the radio station 105thehive (and maybe I just liked this idea because it is something new to me).

Lastly, I was not aware of Padlet (formerly wallwisher) and love the resource as it allows students (and me!) to easily keep track of interesting things we think of/find. I have already tried it out and it is absolutely user-friendly.

Clarence

Although Heather was the one speaking about the Our Day project, I found it on Clarence’s blog (which she mentioned we would). This project is awesome. I loved watching the original Our Day video and was just as excited by reading about Clarence’s plans for creating the same project with his class and other classrooms around the world. In reading the comments on the blog post, I learned that teachers from all over had contacted him to be a part of this (Thailand, New Zealand, Japan, Washington (US)). It made me wonder how those teachers had found this blog post and if he had previous connections to them? The internet is an amazing thing for bringing people together when in reality they are hours of travel away.

Similar to this (in some ways) is a photography project I came across. A photographer took photos of children around the world with their most prized possessions: Toy Story. I would likely use the photos in the classroom to get students think about values.

Royan

One of Royan’s suggestions was that it is not our responsibility to “force” collaboration to happen. Rather we must create a space for collaboration and let it happen naturally. Loved this idea!

Royan also spoke of a tool that he has his students use: Thinking books. These are a great modification of a typical journal as it is a space for students to be as “messy” as they want as they are documenting their learning (I say messy because these don’t ask students to stay ‘between the lines’ – literally and figuratively). Through jotting notes or sketching about their experiences, these individuals are able to build connections and find meaning in their learning.

After browsing Royan’s blog for over an hour (seriously – I couldn’t stop) I have decided to post some links to my favourites of his blog posts (not an exhaustive list – had to quit looking before I spent my whole night on it):

Getting Animated

The “I’ve always wondered why…” Project

Welcome to a New School Year

The Power of Introverts – Spicy Links

My Students Rapping (seriously cool dude)

Less is More

Don’t Call it ‘Gym” (Mark would like this one..)

One Planet

Just watch it. If it doesn’t make you think about the way we live, I’m not sure what will. I really hope this gets the funding it needs to develop into its full potential.