Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Engaging Students using Video Messages

Many months ago I read about using video messages to "hook" student into the learning that they were going to do in class. I read about this on Twitter and I was intrigued. The idea comes from the fact that many people have smart phones that have video camera capabilities, so why not take short video of a real-life situation that can be used to engage students in their learning. I have played around with the idea and have tried it a couple of times but I didn't really feel good about it until today.

I was at the hockey arena on the weekend with my boys for their skating lessons and as they were doing their thing I couldn't help but wonder what my students would say if I asked them how they would measure the perimeter of the skating rink using non standard units. We are talking about perimeter right now so it seemed like a great opportunity for me to try this out without too much stress. The video is "raw" and impromptu so please don't be too harsh in your judgement. I fumble a couple of times and even use the word 'area' as I am trying to set it up for my students. My wife (who is also an elementary school teacher) commented on the 'flaws' of the video but I am sticking to the idea that it is an authentic video and that this whole process would not be so effective if things were planned and polished. Here is the video:

After watching the video the students worked with a partner to talk about what non standard units they could use tho measure the perimeter of the ice rink. After a couple of minutes we brought things back to the whole group and I recorded their ideas. We had a great discussion!

Here is what they came up with:

The students had a lot of fun with this! They enjoyed watching me talk to them about the math and they loved seeing all the items in the video that they could use to measure the perimeter of the ice rink.

I'm looking forward to trying this again! I hope that I can continue to catch real life experiences that I can use in the classroom to help engage my students in their learning. I already have some ideas to try and get them to make connections and work on point of view. I am also interested in asking richer questions/applying Blooms Taxonomy in order to reach my students where they are at and work with them to bump things up.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Plans Change, Shift Happens! (TLLP 2012-2013)

Tweet from Simon Sinek (April 23, 2013) -
 I read this tweet this morning and it seemed to fit perfectly with what I have been experiencing with what I affectionately refer to as the iProject. There has been a lot of 'change' with the project - the only constant has been ME and my mentor. Nevertheless, I felt a strange comfort when I read Simon Sinek's message.

This project has taught me a lot about a variety of things, but what I am taking away from it today is how it has helped me transform into a better collaborator, communicator, and problem solver. While working on the project this morning I was wondering how my morning would go as I search for apps to assist our grade 2 student. Without question, each student is unique but usually there are similarities. All three of the students in this project are different and all of them are on a unique learning journey. One of our students is really doing well and able to meld a social aspect to it. Another student responds well to the use of the device but the social aspect is nearly non existent. Our youngest student has good days and bad days but has come a long way.

The main plan was to provide our students with an innovative way to meet their needs and help them learn and I am pleased to say that it has been happening, as we planned. Everything under the umbrella of the main plan has shifted and even changed. If someone had told me a year ago about all the changes that would come our way I would have laughed out loud and told them that what they were telling me would never happen.

I am 'ok' with what we have experienced throughout this journey so far and I look forward to the last couple of months as we lead our iProject students to success!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Success for all Students: 21st Century Teaching/Learning using Tablets & A Blended Learning Model

Over the past few years my school board has invested in technological advancements/ideas in order to improve student engagement, achievement, and encourage the acquirement of 21st Century skills. Every classroom in our system is equipped with a Brightlink projector/interactive whiteboard. This combination allows for access and use of digital resources (e.g. You Tube, interactive websites) for teacher and student benefit. Also, teachers have been provided with training and access to software that allows for the creation of interactive lessons to be used via the projectors in the classrooms. On top of the investment in the classroom, all of our schools have wireless Internet hot spots that allow staff, students, and visitors to bring their own device for appropriate use in our buildings. 
With such great developments in our system, Ferdinand Krauss and I created a proposal for the Ministry of Education's Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) which is an annual project-based professional learning opportunity for experienced classroom teachers. The TLLP "...funds proposals from classroom teachers who seek a peer leadership role in curriculum, instructional practice or supporting other teachers. The three goals of the program are to create and support opportunities for teacher professional learning, foster teacher leadership and facilitate the sharing of exemplary practices with others for the broader benefit of Ontario's students" ( Ferdinand and I are pleased with the Ministry's decision to fund our project for the 2013-2014 school year.
Image courtesy of Michael Redfearn
Our project title is "Success for all Students: 21st Century Teaching/Learning using Tablets & A Blended Learning Model". Our plan involves the use of the collaborative inquiry framework to design blended learning projects that target a specific area of achievement and engagement for primary and junior students. A review of current instructional practice will help us to identify an innovative approach to achieving the stated learning goals. The Blended Learning activities will incorporate resources from the Ontario Educational Resource Bank, and tools from the provincial Learning Management System in order to differentiate instruction and provide enrichment and remediation for student learning. The use of tablets will allow students to actively participate in Blended Learning on a regular basis and help them to become more proficient at using Web 2.0 tools for collaboration and communication. Professional development will occur with the use of the Blended Learning model and the tablets so that educators interested in adopting this approach can use their own experiences to inform their practice.
Participating in the design, implementation and evaluation of a Blended Learning project will allow us to determine the specific instructional practices and strategies that are required to improve learning for primary and junior students. For example, what activities and formats do the students find most engaging and which ones are most successful at enhancing their learning? We will also be able to determine how to use the tools and resources to become more effective at differentiating instruction for a variety of learning styles and aptitudes in order to meet the needs of our students. Gaining experience using the tools in the LMS will help us to better design learning pathways for remediation and enrichment in a Blended Learning model. The knowledge we gain will be shared with other educators that would like to adopt this model as a result of our Board’s recent decision to support Bring your Own Device.
We believe that our project will contribute to increasing student learning and development by differentiating instruction in order to meet each student's needs. Helping all students succeed in their learning is an enormous challenge that requires an innovative approach such as the one we have proposed. The use of technology as a learning tool is an engaging one that allows for differentiation of content of instruction, processes & techniques to help make sense of content, and what students produce to demonstrate their learning. Differentiation is further supported with the use of Blooms Digital Taxonomy which is appropriate when using web 2.0 tools in combination with mobile devices. Moreover, the use of the blended learning model & tablets would also help facilitate student learning/development of critical thinking skills known as 21st century fluencies, making learning relevant to life in our digital age.

Image courtesy of Michael Redfearn

We are both very excited to have this learning and leadership opportunity. We look forward to engaging our students in such an innovative way while meeting their needs. Your feedback is welcome, please consider leaving a comment here or via email at