Wednesday, March 8, 2017

New Fluencies

Over the past few days, there have been a few blog posts I have read and some interactions I have had that have really got me thinking about my learning and growth as an educator.

These readings and discussions have me thinking about the exploration and discovery that my students and I are on this school year. We have been part of this really cool cycle where we find ourselves scared to death to try something new, jumping in and trying it anyway, adjusting our course to try to stay on a reasonable path, becoming skilled at it, bumping things up to enhance our skill(s), and then starting all over again with something new we want to try and being totally scared to attempt it. It's funny because we have experienced the cycle enough times to know what will most likely happen, but we still go through the parts of the process with the fear and excitement as if it was the first time we had ever experienced said fear and excitement.

A good example would be our work with 3D printing. We have had success and failure but have enough experience with the technology to know how to leverage it to get what we need to assist our learning and/or demonstration of learning. Another example would be our podcasts where we share our learning by recording the audio and  then listening to it so we can think about our thinking.

We keep trying new things - figuring them out - and then working at them in order to feel comfortable with our practice. We are working toward being fluent in the things we are doing in order to make them more automatic and part of our everyday learning. 

Below is a podcast that was recorded today. It was initiated by two of my students who really wanted to talk about their thinking. They went off (together) after recording this and listened to it several times (via personal mobile devices). I am certain they will listen to it again tomorrow as they engage in the activity that will help them demonstrate their understanding. 

This is where we are at right now. Each day provides us (the students and myself) with new opportunities to practice what we are fluent at/with and to enter the fluency cycle to learn something new. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Secret to Success: Learn it from a Grade 5 Student

The video above was posted yesterday. The individual in the video is a student in my class. We were wrapping up gym class and he asked if he could shoot some hoops. As I was putting away some of the equipment we were using he asked me if we could make a deal. I said sure. He said, "if I make a shot from half court, can I get something?". I responded by saying, "sure, the whole class can have an extra 10 minutes of activity time but you can only have one shot". 

As I put the equipment away he took a couple of shots and when I was done with the equipment I told him he could take a "practice shot". By this point he has probably taken 3 half court shots. When it was time for him to make his official attempt, I pulled out my iPhone to record his shot. Well, what do you know, he sank the shot! The class erupted in happiness and we were all feeling really good about what just happened. It was pretty cool to see it live and he felt like a million bucks.

Later in the day I tweeted the video out. I got a response from one of my colleagues about the video (thanks +Michael Leonard). His son had asked him how many attempts he made before sinking the basket. 

Great question. It reminded me to think about everything we don't see when something awesome like this happens. I thought about this student and what I know about him and his love for basketball. I thought about his story and what he has had to do to be able to successfully make that shot. I then tweeted about that.

In order for him to sink that shot he would need to practice, a lot. He would need to learn to deal with missing, a lot. We can call that failure.

He would need keep trying after failing. We can call that resilience.

He would need to stay positive, and have a growth mindset.

He would need to learn to adjust his shot based on his last shot. We can call that iteration.

He would need to have some hope, faith, and some success every now and again so that he would be motivated to keep working at it.

He would need to start small by shooting hoops from close range and backing up step by step to continue to challenge himself.

He would need to spend his time practicing and not doing other things. We can call that sacrifice.

He feels good about his abilities and is open to challenges. We can call that confidence.

He plays organized basketball, his parents support him by spending their time and money so he can play the game with others and learn from a coach. We can call that support. 

There is always a story to go along with the video. I know that this student loves basketball. He takes great pride in learning how to play and he challenges himself to become better everyday. He is passionate about, and loves, the game. It brings him joy and has allowed him to achieve a level of skill that gives him confidence.

We can learn a lot from people like this. The next time you see something awesome and are inspired by it, I encourage you to reach out and talk to the individual who is doing awesome things. Find out about what has led then to success. I have a feeling you will hear the same types of things that I have written about here.

The secret to success is really not a secret. Hard work, making mistakes, continued attempts, support, and a bit of luck will lead you to success. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Learning continues as we CONNECT

Our connection with +Carlos Roque's class in Cambridge is taking off! Carlos' students have provided my students with two Math tasks that we have worked through. The activities that we are engaging in are exciting to the students and provides them with 'real life' reasons to "do" Math. It's interesting to hear them and watch them work on solving the patterning questions that have been shared with us via Google Drive.

Since the activities are being created by students for students, there seems to be a lot more engagement and 'pride' in creating and completing tasks. It's not all work though, there is some fun happening as well. Carlos' class sent us a Halloween message via YouTube - check it out:

Prior to this message by Carlos's students we had created two videos for them - answering the Math tasks that they had sent to us. Jeff represents our class in sharing our process/answer in the first video and Amanda represents our class in sharing our response in the second video. 

I'm sure you have noticed that I am not sharing the identity of the students in my class. For recorded videos that live on the Internet, my students and I have decided not to share their identity. However, that doesn't stop us from using our audio which the students are very excited about. It may lead to a few podcasts which are another way for us to connect with other classes and share our learning.

We recently created a Math activity for Mr. Roque's class via Google Docs. We shared the Doc with Mr. Roque and then made a short video about it:

We look forward to hearing back from our friends in Cambridge and can't wait for our next live meeting with them. It certainly is a valuable connection for the teachers and students involved. As we progress on our learning journey, Mr. Roque and I continue to learn how to leverage the tech tools involved in getting our classes together. As we are learning, so are our students - first hand and in real time. They know that the walls that surround our classrooms are simply physical barriers that protect us from the elements, not from learning with anyone in the world that has access to technology. Until our next post, get and/or stay connected!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Going with the Flow

My students and I arranged to connect with +Carlos Roque and his grade 5 students today. Last week Carlos and I connected via email about having a hangout between our classes. We talked about setting up the hardware component of the hangout (computer set up, etc) and what we would chat about during out hangout.

When the time came for us to connect, we found ourselves alone in the hangout. The students and I wondered what happened to the grade 5 class - did they have a technical issue? Did Carlos not get my email in time with the link to our hangout? Did something happen at their school that got in the way? We were unsure but as we talked about what we were thinking, we decided to make the best of our opportunity and record a message for the grade 5 students.

The students and I talked about what we should say in our recording, they quieted down, and I hit the "broadcast" button. We went live so I could record the hangout and then send the link to Carlos and his students. We took advantage of our situation and created content for our friends. Great learning came from the hangout that didn't happen. Check out our message to our Cambridge friends:

A few minutes after recording and sending this video to Carlos, we got a call from him and his students! We answered the call and connected!! It turns out that they had some technical issues. This was their first time in a hangout and they did a great job. As we spoke to the students and they spoke to us, I could hear Carlos in the background talking to his students about proper etiquette and supporting them throughout the experience. It was wonderful to see my colleague in action as he broke down the walls of his classroom and continued to teach his students how to do things right. 

It was great to connect the two classes (two of my current students know Mr. Roque and some of his students) and look forward to connecting again soon to do some Math together.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Connecting with other Classrooms

This school year I am part of a core group of educators working to connect classrooms in order to improve teacher practise and student learning. The goal is to break down the classroom walls and use a variety of tools/techniques to bring teachers and students together to learn and share.

Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to connect with other teachers using google hangouts and social media but it has never been as planned and strategic as it will be this year.

With these thoughts in my head I decided to email a couple of my colleagues to see if they wanted to connect today for a short time. One of the teachers is relatively new to the use of technology for things of this nature and the other is a seasoned veteran. They both agreed to connect via hangout as an "introduction" to this school year and for my class to share their learning in math at the current time.

The first hangout didn't go as planned. My colleague's camera didn't work, she didn't have a mic, and after few minutes my mic stopped working. Technology is great, isn't it? Thankfully, we used the chat feature to communicate with each other and I used my camera to show her class what we were talking about. 

This 'failure' was great for a couple of reasons. First, my colleague, her students, and my students got to see what things look like when things don't go right. This is an important experience as it provides an understanding of all the little things that need to come together to make something like this happen. My students saw me preparing for the hangout and they knew that I wasn't purposely trying to fail. Second, everyone involved got to see my reaction when things stopped working. I know that glitches like this happen from time to time  so it was important for me to remain calm and go with the flow as much as I can. Although things didn't go as planned, failure (issues that are unexpected) is part of the process. 

Having some fun and showing my students the options that Hangouts provide before connecting with another class.

The second hangout was a lot more successful than the first. For starters, I got myself a new mic to make sure that I would be heard on the other end. The teacher I connected with has experience with hangouts and has experienced difficulties along the way - between the two of us we could trouble shoot out way through a hangout to make sure it worked. 

With audio and video working on both ends, we talked about our learning in Math, with a focus on Math representations and 3D technology. It was neat to present our work (grade 4/5) to a grade 7 class. The hangout was about 5-10 minutes long and served its purpose. 

The students were pretty happy to have experienced seeing and speaking with people outside of our classroom. We are already looking forward to connecting with other classes in our system, and beyond, to share our learning and to experience the learning process with others.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Learning will be Epic (and Innovative in and of Itself) #IMMOOC #RollandChidiac

The path that has led me to the #IMMOOC has been an interesting one. I'm hoping that it is an indication of the great learning that is to come. In June, some of my colleagues ( +Jessica Weber  and +Amy Shantz)  who were taking a course together, decided that they wanted to have a book study over the summer months. I read about it on Twitter and told them that I was interested. Next thing you know, I've got a copy of +George Couros' 'Innovators Mindset' book in my hands. However, that was not my first interaction with the text. Months before the local book club opportunity, I was part of a Voxer chat group (thanks to +Jennifer Casa-Todd)  about the book - where I got to interact with a variety of people from around the globe about their thoughts and experiences with respect to the Innovators Mindset. Even thought I hadn't read the book yet, I was blown away by the learning that was coming out of the chat.

While I was participating in the Voxer chat, I experienced something that I can still visualize today, with crystal clarity. I was at a meeting with a group of people above my pay grade (consultants, principals, and senior admin) and one of them had the book. You could tell that it was being used extensively - it had sticky notes falling out of it and it looked worn - great indicators of the value it held for this particular person. Anyhow, I engaged this person and told them that I was participating in the Voxer chat group about the book.  They began to share their learning with me and anyone listening to us could see and hear the passion with which this person was talking about their experience.

This next part is what has stuck with me over the past few months: this person said to another person (both of whom I respect and look up to) "If you're not learning, you're dying" and the response from the other person was "well, that would explain all the corpses I have been seeing lately!". Wow! That is when several things hit me. First, I thought, I need to get myself in gear and keep bumping up my learning journey. Second, I knew that I needed to put the Innovators Mindset book on my learning journey.

I started reading the book this summer and then I saw a tweet referring to a post that George wrote to see if people were interested in participating in an Innovators Mindset MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). I filled in the form and crossed my fingers that enough people would do the same so that George would proceed with his idea. I shared this opportunity with my District by posting it to our Google + page and told my close friends about it. You can imagine how happy I was when I found out that the MOOC would be running!

The Facebook Page for the MOOC is buzzing and people are posting links to their blog posts about joining the MOOC and what they hope to gain from it. I am looking forward to connecting with people, learning with them, and sharing my learning so I can establish an innovators mindset. I believe that it is worthy of making this mindset a habit. What I am loving so far is that we are already establishing an Innovators Mindset by trying new things and pushing ourselves in order to learn and grow in a way that we may not have experienced before. People are leveraging Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Voxer, and who knows what else to learn and connect.

The learning will be epic. Looking forward to connecting and growing with you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Students Leveraging 3D Technology

Shortly before school ended in June, the students and I talked about the personal projects they engaged in over the school year. The personal projects were our version of 20% time/genius hour. They engaged in a variety of projects and used them to learn about new things and practise the skills they learned. 

In the last couple of weeks of school, I encouraged the students to think about what types of personal projects they would like to participate in next school year. We talked about a variety of things and many students showed interest in personal projects that would be a service to others. They took the time to start brainstorming what they might want to engage in next year.

A group of students put a plan together and brought it to me. They wanted to do something that would help cheer up young people who are in the hospital. They wanted to design and 3D print something that the children in the hospital could wear/hold on to for inspiration - a reminder that they were not alone. They created and printed the following:

We ran out of time to write letters and get these to the hospital but I am certain this will be taken care of when the school year starts up again. The students are proud and excited about their idea. I look forward to having them make what they need and continue to leverage the resources they have at hand to make their ideas come to life.