Tuesday, 4 March 2014

My Final Project

Here is the final project for my I4Ed course, a reflection on the learning I did within it this semester presented via a video I created using iMovie :)

EEP - Please don't judge me... this is my first time using iMovie all by myself...

Last Blog Post for a While...

Well, well, well. Here we are at the end of another semester. But this is no ordinary semester, oh no it's not. The end of this semester signifies the end of life as I know it: The end of my formal education - for now, at least. It's finally beginning to sink in.

But I am not going to write my last blog post (for a little while, at least) on the topic of melancholy memories, and wrenching reminiscences. I am going to write it about George Couros' presentation in class today (the second last class of my Education degree).

Topics up for Discussion:
  1. Defining a Mastery Teacher
  2. The Digital Footprint and Employability
  3. Professional vs. Private: An Identity Crisis
  4. The Right to Choose What is Shared When and Where

Now, I think that George is right on the mark when he describes today's master teacher as one who connects with and teaches kids first and curriculum second. If you've read some of my former blog posts, you know that I am a firm believer in inquiry-based, student-led learning, and George seems to be a huge proponent of this shift in pedagogy, as well.  He brought up some excellent points about how, as educators, we need to inspire our students to become lifelong learners, rather than learners who are externally motivated by superficial rewards like letter grades. I think that it is fabulous, simply fabulous, that he is a principal, and so has the ability to make this type of teaching and learning a reality for those within his division.

Click here for a link to Mr. Couros' "What Makes a Master Teacher" blog post

So, not only did George talk to us about mastery teaching, but he talked to us about the role social media and online presence plays in getting a teaching job, as well. This was great because in a couple months, this is exactly what we will be doing, and so we really need all the help we can get. Basically, George drew our attention to the reality that Google is accessible for everyone - from parents to potential employers, and that these people are certainly going to use it to look into our lives. And, quite frankly, I have been hearing this spiel ever since I have considered applying to the Faculty of Education, and the recommended advice seems to go something like this: take the party pictures off social media, jack up the privacy settings, or better yet, delete social media outlets altogether.

However, though Mr. Couros was singing a version of this song, the lyrics were really quite different. He advocated for the active use of social media, and for, rather than falling off the world wide web altogether, making ourselves as easy to find as possible when our names get punched into the Google search bar. He said that when in the midst of the hiring process, the candidates who make it to the "job interview" phase are the candidates who have a positive digital footprint, rather than those with no digital footprint at all. And to an extent, I see where he is coming from. Principals want to see what teachers can share with both their school's students and their teachers, especially in regards to the hot topic that is technology. What better way to exhibit this than through technological outlets such as teacher websites, Twitter, blogs, and ePortfolios? And what better way to connect with other educators?

However, where I really fell off of George's wavelength was when he included social media in this digital identity stew. I have both a Facebook account, and two Twitter accounts - but both my Facebook account and one of my Twitter accounts are for personal use only, and so they are not easily accessible through a simple Google search. George talked about how educators need to work towards melding their online personal life with their online professional life, since teaching is an occupation in which it is quite difficult to keep the two separate; after all, we are moulding the minds of the community's children - don't the community members have a right to know just what kind of people we are, both inside and out of school?

Now, I definitely do think that the public has a right to access information about me that is relevant to my life as a professional, but I just cannot accept that they have a right to access information about my private life. And I realize that I have entered into a field where a private life is difficult to have, but I firmly believe that it is a necessity since, though being a teacher is a huge part of my identity, it is not the only part of my identity.

It must also be noted that when I refer to my personal life, I do not mean it to be synonymous with "inappropriateness." I just feel that the content that I choose to share in these media outlets is content that is shared between myself and my friends and family, not people I have never made the acquaintance of. Just as I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing the funny things that happened at my part-time job, my family photos, or my relationship status with a stranger on the street, I don't feel comfortable sharing these things with anyone who has access to the internet.

This is not to say that I won't choose to share these things with my coworkers, and the students in my classroom, should I happen to get an interview based on the merits presented in my professional technological outlets - it is just that I should be able to make this decision, and not have it affect my employment outlook.

Shelley's (W)Right: eduBlogging about an eduBlogger (extra post)

So, as one of our tech tasks in I4Ed, Mike had us find, follow, and report on an eduBlogger and his/her blog. So I have, based on his advice, been reading through some of the posts on a blog that I will be sure to continue reading in the future. Here is some more information about it:

Link to the Blog: http://shelleywright.wordpress.com/

Name of eduBlogger: Shelley Wright

EduBlogger's Background: Senior Years ELA and Science educator in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan and current PhD student in the area of Curriculum and Instruction.

Why I followed blog: Mike (my professor) told me that Shelley's blog deals a lot with inquiry-based learning within the Senior Years age group. I happen to be pursuing a degree in the Senior Years stream, and I truly believe that inquiry-based learning is the only future of Education.

Description of the Blog: Shelley's blog discusses, in depth, the importance of inquiry-based and problem-based learning in creating lifelong learners with developed identities and relevant skill-sets. Throughout her blog posts, she states her case intelligently, and eloquently (she is an English teacher, after all), and it is a case that I strongly agree with. Honestly, reading her blog has been such a validating experience for me, since almost everything she has written has been on my mind sometime in the past two years of my Education degree. I will definitely continue reading both her blog posts and her Twitter tweets.

Shelley's TEDtalk Video:

Here is an excerpt from one of Shelley's posts titled "Academics: What's it Good for?," which I feel really sums up what I have experienced in some of my own secondary and post-secondary education classes, and what I believe many students are still experiencing today:

"Schools value hoop jumping. For the most part, kids who we consider “academic” tend to be good hoop jumpers. They’ve figured out the system and can navigate their way through the predictable demands of the system. But they are seldom truly engaged. Rarely are they transformed by their learning. They’re going through the motions."

And here is a response I wrote to Shelley after reading the full post from which this excerpt came from. I feel that it will serve to further explain why I am such a fan of her blog.

Hi Shelley,
I am in my final year of Education (high school stream, with teachables in English and Biology - we sound a lot alike in more ways than one) at Brandon University. I came across your blog because my Internet for Educators professor, Mike Nantais, recommended it, and I am sure glad he did. What you have written here about inquiry-based and problem-based learning mirrors my thoughts on the future of education, exactly, and I am so thankful to have read it. I am thankful because I feel that in many high school classrooms, including some of the ones I learned in (only 5 years ago) and some of the ones I've student-taught in, this style of teaching and learning has not quite been accepted - which is too bad, since I know the consequences of academic hoop-jumping from first-hand experience.
I was always thought of as being an academic student through both high school and my undergrad degree. My whole self-concept was based around my ability to get good grades in school. It wasn't until I entered into the Faculty of Education that I began to realize that "academic" is not synonymous with "skilled" or "intelligent." I mean, sure, in order to jump through the hoops presented in school, one needs to be smart enough to know the system, literate enough to read the textbooks, and resilient enough to memorize the content - but these skills are not the skills I realized I would need if I was going be successful in my Bachelor of Education degree, and then eventually as a classroom teacher. During my student teaching placements, in between teaching my students, I was also re-teaching myself how to learn. I realized that I did not truly understand many of the concepts outlined in the curriculum, because when I learned them in school, they were memorized, spewed out on an exam, and then forgotten almost immediately, as you say in your blog post. Skills that should have been built up in school, like critical-thinking, creativity, logical reasoning, collaboration, and independent thinking, were skills that I had to develop on my own.
It is wonderful to know that a real, live teacher is putting inquiry-based learning into practise, and is being recognized and celebrated for it across the country. It is very reassuring for someone like me, who believes in the theory, but has not yet had the opportunity to put it into practice. 
Thank you,

Twittering Away (Extra Post)


I hadn't realized that I am a litttttttttle behind in my tech task blog posts! Oops. So I need to talk about my experiences with Twitter today... Hmmm... What to say?

Today's Topics:

  1. My Thoughts on Social Media
  2. Twitter in the Classroom
  3. Twitter and the PLN

I have used Twitter for about two years now, so it's nothing new for me. I like it okay, but honestly - I am not a big social media person. Now, don't get me wrong - I love technology and I think it is very useful in the classroom. But in terms of social media, I would rather live my life in the moment, than spend it documenting the moment. And this does not only go for Twitter. I am RARELY on Facebook, and I don't use any of the new social media platforms that all the cool kids are using, like Instagram or Snapchat.

Twitter is good because it is concise and to-the-point. Because of this, I think it would make a great classroom tool. In an English classroom I can see myself using it to teach kids to write concisely, or to summarize. It would make a great, modern way to do exit slips as well.

In terms of my personal learning network, I have no doubt that the education professionals I have added to my Twitter page will have interesting and insightful tweets, and that they will share many fantastic resources. However, if I am being honest... I don't check as my Twitter feed as much as I should in order to gather these resources. This is something that, now that I am heading out into my career, I am going to make an effort to work on. Even though, as I've said, I am a bit of a humbug when it comes to social media.

Bottom line: Twitter is a great social media platform - I'm just not that into social media. But I realize its value as a professional, and so I am going to try harder.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Future of Education & My Educational Philosophy, Based on the Horizon Report (extra post)

What do I think the future holds for education? What an enormous question to be asked of such a little person. 

I think that the future demands strong, intelligent, and educated role models, especially when dealing with technology. Manitoba's teachers need to be well-versed in apps and the internet, and must be prepared to model this knowledge pedagogically. Students are able and willing to use technology in their social lives, but are not as savvy as we would assume when it comes to their academic lives. This needs to change, since, when it comes down to it, technology is the future of both academia and the workplace. And by teaching our students how to use technology academically, I do not only mean teaching them to use Microsoft Word - I mean bringing the social media they know and love outside the classroom, into the classroom.

As was discussed at the BYOD panel, I think filters and uber-privacy are concepts of the past. The future is about seamlessly integrating technology into both our lifestyles and the lifestyles of students, and this means teaching how to use it both safely and appropriately. 

I also think that the future of education is problem-based and inquiry-based learning, a key component of which is differentiated learning. With internet access quickly becoming a norm across the province, students are able to take control of their learning now, more than ever before. Each individual now has access to millions of resources, rather than a single classroom teacher, which will have a huge impact on when, where, what, and how they learn. The teacher's role MUST shift from dispenser of knowledge to facilitator and guider of learning and creation. Technology opens so many new doors for students who are motivated to walk through them, and it is an educator's job, now more than ever before, to help students cross that threshold. 

By no means is the future of education a walk in the park; we have a lot of work to do before we phase out the teacher-centered pedagogy of the past, and replace it with the student-centered pedagogy of the future. But this awkward in-between stage won't last forever. I am confident that educators will evolve because, simply put, education is a profession that demands they do so. I mean, we got into this job to help our students succeed, and what the students need from us now are the tools to do so in an increasingly technological society. 


Using Video in the Classroom (extra post)

Soooo ever since I asked a principal from the Portage La Prairie School Division what some popular questions to ask in a job interview are, and he replied with: "What is your favorite TEDtalk?," I have been on a mission to find the answer to that question by immersing myself in as many of these videos as my schedule will tolerate. Fortunately, I4Ed has given me plenty of opportunity to multitask: I am able to watch TEDtalks AS assignments. Talk about relevant and meaningful. Anyways, I visited the TEDtalks website, and came up with a couple gooders I could use in my future classroom:

Oh yes, the list of topics: 

  1. Two Videos I Could Use in My Classroom
  2. Using Video as a Teaching Tool 
  3. How Students Could Use Video in the Classroom
  4. Student Videos on YouTube?

My embedded videos are not working. I am not sure if these videos will magically appear in my blog post at some time other than now (do videos do that?), so I am going to include the direct links just to be sure that you are able to have access to them. Video #1 features Joe Kowan, a folk singer who discusses, with a ginormous audience, how to beat stage fright. Kowan is relatable, down-to-earth, funny, and personable - all features that would make him appealing to students. I can see myself using this video near the beginning of the school year, before students had to do an assignment in which they would need to speak publicly in front of the class. In English, I might even have an opportunity to use this video as part of an activating strategy for an entire Public Speaking unit.

Watch Joe Kowan here if you are not able to watch him below.

In video #2, you will have the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite speakers, Temple Grandin, share her thoughts about people with autism - especially those who are savants - and the kind of minds the world needs. I could use this video in both a Science and an English course. In science, autism would be a fascinating topic to study when dealing with the human brain. Grandin actually discusses the anatomy of an autistic brain vs. that of a "normal" brain in the video. In English, the sky is the limit, as this is just the nature of the course. In my upcoming placement, I plan on doing a unit based upon a novel called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which is a fictional work told from the point of view of a child on the autism spectrum. Grandin's video would be an excellent asset to a unit of this nature, in order to have students further their understanding of autism (and thereby, the novel) as the exceptionality is discussed from the perspective of someone who is actually experiencing it.

Watch Temple Grandin here if you cannot watch her below.

Video can be used as a teaching tool in many ways, some of which I have discussed above. I think video works very well as both an activating strategy (so long as an engaging video is chosen) and an acquiring strategy. Videos have props, tech effects, colours, sounds, and people students have never seen before in their classroom environment, which brings forth a novelty and intrigue factor that can lead to engagement. I think that it is also great that classroom teachers are able to bring in experts via media platforms such as Skype and video, so that students may receive content directly from the source. In addition to engagement and expertise, videos are also a great source platform from which visual learners can receive information.

Just as teachers can use video to relay information to students, students can us video to relay information to teachers. Student-created video can act as a powerful assessment tool. I say powerful for a couple reasons: 1) because it not only allows students to tackle course-specific outcomes, but ICT outcomes as well - which is hugely important in our present and future society, and 2) because it video greatly expands the forms a finished project can take. There are so many different video-making tools available both as software and online, and these tools allow for endless possibilities. A video is also very storable and sharable piece of work, meaning that students can easily keep and have access to their finished product, and easily share it with their teachers, family, friends, and even the world.

If the school division I work in allows student-made videos to be made public, I would definitely consider doing so. My mind is not fully made up on the topic, because though with sharing comes fantastic opportunities to connect with others across the world, it also comes with great responsibility. While I am all for teaching digital literacy and citizenship (especially when it comes to privacy) I am not sure that I am ready to take the fall for a student who posts inappropriately or shares too much information.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

My Life Just Got So Much More ExZITEing.

Wahahaha. I am totally blogged out for the night, but seeing as how I have mountains of I4Ed to do tonight, I will persevere, albeit a little deliriously. Trent is here, in the background, calling me a fatty because I chose to sit down and do my homework instead of pouring him a... Dr. Pepper. Dear reader, I feel as though you are quick enough to spot the irony of this situation all on your own.

Anyways, the cats are being their typical selves - Benni is chasing shadows, and Jax is judging her. I am eating a delicious bowl of honey-flavoured greek yogurt with crushed almonds and raspberry granola in it. House of Cards is playing in the background. Trent is now avoiding his homework by playing car racing games on his iPad. I am avoiding doing my homework (my blog post) by summarizing what is happening around me.

Today's topic is:
  1. Zite
John Evans came to our classroom on Thursday and introduced us to some really sweet ed-tech resources, one of which is an iPhone and iPad app called Zite. This app is absolutely perfect for me, since I definitely do not watch or read enough news, and I just don't know where to get started when searching for educationally relevant and compelling reading material. 

When one gets started with Zite, one chooses as many or as few topics of interest as one likes, and adds these topics to one's dashboard. The app gets this decision-making process started by providing its user with a list of popular interests and common categories. However, the user may type various, more specific categories into the custom search bar and add them to his/her own dashboard as well. 

Jeeze, is Kevin Spacey ever good at being a creepshow...

Anyways, once it's users' personal interests have been selected, Zite gathers articles from all over the web (from Facebook to CNN) and displays them on it's user's newsfeed, or dashboard. The user may then flip through countless articles custom-tailored to his/her interests.

Some of the things I have read about lately are Edublogging, the Flipped Classroom, A revolutionary Dutch dementia-focused care village called De Hogeweyk, and 10 simple lessons that make up a Writer's Bootcamp. I have been clipping these articles to my Evernote so that I am able to keep track of all of the great information I am finding. This has been working out really well; Because of this, I am finding myself really enjoying Evernote as well (I have had it for quite a while, but had not yet found a great use for it until now).

I have been addicted to this App, basically since I downloaded it on Thursday. And it is so easy to justify spending hours and hours on it, rather than doing my homework... because I am actually learning! It has re-introduced me to the joy of reading in a manageable capacity, since the articles it exposes me to are a lot shorter than the novels I enjoy reading through the summer.