Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Newspaper of Research Thought

I've been experimenting with Paper.li for a means of sharing the research, exploration of learning and changes in educational assessment and learning that we've been doing in our school. This paper has been an excellent means of visually sharing and summarizing what we're doing in our school.  I've been tweeting it but for those of you that have not seen this, please look below and enjoy.

Click on Title of Paper to get the entire paper.

Being Open to Change...

Last week I worked with three teachers as part of our Innovative Learning Design Grant.  Although there is only three days left of classes before winter break and all teachers are extremely tired from working so hard up, there is still excitement in the air.  

I started this day getting the necessary material for making movies in French.  I had already worked with Aaron for about an hour previously with training in IMovie.  At the start of the day we gathered up the necessary equipment for him: 4 digital cameras, extra batteries, cable to download the video and 2 laptops that had IMovie on them.  He was willing to experiment with his class with a different manner of assessing what his students learned.  That's what makes this research so wonderful, having teachers willing to take a chance.

The next teacher was introduced to Livebinder.  She had all her material already organized in paper format and did not see a need to convert the material to a Livebinder, but what was so fantastic was the initiative to try something new.

Shelley created an account, copied someone else's binder to her section to edit, began a new binder to experiment with and expressed the desire to continue to explore this new tools and perhaps use it in another one of her classes.  We then look at some other technology that she was interested in and in the end this was a very gratifying and rewarding experience for me.

The third teacher was the most passionate teacher yet.  Katie came into our school to work in a portable.  Her department heads asked for a LCD projector for her and a computer and in the end she received both items as well as a new document reader that takes pictures of what you project as well as, with a click of a button, you can make an swf video to add to your web site.  After going through the process of learning how to hook up all this equipment together, then learning the new software, the passion did not diminish, instead it strengthen.  Katie has expressed the wish to take her computer, the LCD projector and the document reader home over the holidays so she can experiment with these new resources, and become a stronger teacher with these means.  That’s passion that can ignite most students. 

Thank you for this experiences my fellow colleagues.

Reflection on Changed Teaching Practices

New Years Eve is a time of New Year Resolutions, but for me, it is also a time for reflection of my life, both personal and professional.  Every teacher should take the time to reflect on their practice as an Educator.  How can we, as a professional, improve our ability to do our job to the maximum?  That's where the reflection comes in. 

I've asked myself a number of questions now, in a number of areas of my professional life:

  • How are my students doing?
  • What did a do new this year?
  • How did it make me feel, both physically and mentally?
  • What was good or bad about this experience? Or perhaps it was both.
  • What sense can I make of what happened?  What did happen and why?
  • What else should I have done besides what I did?  How could I have improved what happened?
  • If it happened again, what would I do differently?

These questions should not be asked only once a year, but constantly when making changes to your professional development.  But I find the holidays is a great time to do this.

Dewey (1933) identifies 3 characteristics of  people who are good at reflecting on their actions:  open-mindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness.  These people are willing to take chancesand to change.  They turn every event into a learning experience.  It's as simple as it sounds, you do only three things:  look at an event, understand it, and learn from it.  This will help you grow in all aspects of your life

Tomas S. Farrell asks questions of more depth for understanding of why we teach the way we teach:

  • What do I do as a teacher?  ( a description of my practice)
  • What does this mean to me?  ( a look at the theories behind my practice)
  • How did I come to be this way?  (a look at the influences on my practice)
  • How might I do this differently?  ( a look at my future actions).  

He states in the book "Reflective Practice in Action:  80 Reflection" that effective partitioners go a step beyond simply acknowledging successes and failures, they strive to figure out why it worked or not, and how to change the way it went.    You need to constantly reflect on the new and old theories, values and believes of teaching, what learning means to you and what learning means to your students, tries new experiences and theories, examines what's happened, talk to others about it,  and see what can be changes and what cannot.  The conversation with colleagues is what will help you to see other views and other opinions, so you can see all aspects of your own learning experience of the event you just experienced.

So in all of this, where am I?  How well am I doing this term?  I have done a huge amount of recollective reflecting ( making sense of what happened in the hopes to change what I hope I can try again and get different results).  I will try again the Facebook assessment/collective Portfolios with my Grade 11/12 students.  But I need to explain in more detail to the students how to self-assess their own work.  I need to teach them self-reflective thinking, to explain that by reviewing their failures, they can show me learning, that every learning experience does not need to be positive.  

I will continue to do differentiation instruction in my Grade 11/12 Information classes.  I have created a number of online courses of learning in Photoshop, Illustrator, Advance Photoshop and some work in JavaScripting Programming.  The HTML online site has worked well after three years of editing, and I understand that the others will take some time to change as well.  

The reflection portfolios in my Grade 8 Information Technology class was not as successful as the Grade 11/12 one, feedback was not well done.  I need to connect their work in a better setup, perhaps using blogs like this one, and having a listing of the blogs all together will help me to moderate/control my time in a more effective manner, to respond in a quicker manner to work posted online.  Something to consider in more depth.

I have done active reflection ( immediate decision making during class as events unfold)  throughout these changes in my teaching practices, asking students to tag their photos so I can give immediate feedback worked extremely well.  Having students make photo book on Facebook to have their area of study organized worked well.  For those people doing movie editing, I advice getting a YouTube channel set up right away, so you can embed the videos right into Facebook (this worked extremely well).

In all honesty, the Grade 11/12 students were extremely happy with the differentiation practice - I on the other hand was extremely tired.  In the end students were helping each other.  This practise of asking other people before you ask the teacher (I'm the fifth on the list) worked better in the lower grades then the higher ones.  The Grade 11/12 students were not as receptive to a change in teaching practices as were the lower grades but in the end all were happy.

So the most important question of reflection - will I continue to explore these areas of interest or change to something new.  I'm not done yet, I like the changes in the student's learning - them taking ownership of what they want to learn. The level of motivation has tripled for many of them.  I just need to learn to manage my time more effectively for critiquing their work online.

There's my reflection so far.  Thanks for listening.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Differentiation - a lot of work but worth it....

I've been working with differentiating my Information Technology 11/12 class this year.  The class consist of 31 students in grade 11 and 12, at different levels of skills.  Some are in Grade 12 and have taken the course previously (there were 7 of them), for some  it's their first time but they have previous knowledge (6 of them), and some have started with no knowledge at all but have heard from friends that they liked the course.  

The course started with a basic lesson on plagiarism and copyright .  Every student needed to learn these rules since the course consist of taking pictures, editing them, and putting them online.  Then all students did a small unit in Adobe Photoshop.  But after that point students were allowed to choose the area they wished to follow as well as given the option that at any time they could change their mind and start something else (see below for choices).  With the ability to choose what they learn students took ownership of their learning with the premise that this would motivate them to work harder.  The premise was wrong in many ways.

This was an elective and as such some students chose to take it for an easy mark, a supposition that was wrong, my expectation was high, every day you needed to learn something new.

The intro (copyright and Photoshop) took one month to get through, the selection of choosing what they  wanted to learn was in October.  It took approximately until the end of October to the 1st week of November for students to understand expectations of the level of commitment that I wanted.  I expected students to work hard everyday.  My expectations of myself is very high and I expect the same work ethics from my students.  What I forgot is that sometimes the student doesn't want to work, they want down time, something that I very much understand, being one more week before the Winter Vacation.

I did however see that the students are enjoying what they chose to learn, that this took time for students to understand if they try, I was happy and they should be happy.  Instead of trying so hard to not work, when they did start working, they enjoyed what they did.   

At the end of every class I asked individual students "Did you learn something today? What?"  Sometimes I got the straight answer of "nothing" and sometimes it opened up a conversation of self-assessment that was wonderful, exactly what I wanted, a student that honestly said "This is what I learned, this is what I need to work on", and the best question "Can you teach me this ....?".  They wanted to learn.  What better reward for a teacher, a student who wants to learn.

Like any major change in the dynamic of introducing a new teaching method, it takes time to iron out the problems, to set the right expectations, but like life, both these factors change with the change of personalities that you have in the classroom.  It is only through repetition, of explaining in detail your expectation of the student and to follow though with these expectations, will the students understand what they need to do and what they are expected to do in your classroom.  

Diversifying the lessons, teaching 7 different subjects at the same time in a classroom within the hour is challenging, students still need to learn to ask each other before asking the teacher, to rely on peers and researching their own answers before relying on a teacher.  I continually remind them, I will not be there to give you answers forever.  You need to rely on yourself more then me.  

That's the best lesson I can teach them, "Rely on yourself".  As Frank Tyger, nationally published editorial cartoonist, columnist and humorist for the Trenton Times said "Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you."

This is an example of one of my student's flash christmas assignment.  From my class at Sullivan Heights Secondary High School in Surrey, British Columbia, to you at your school district, have a Merry Christmas.

11 Desktop Design
11 Web Photoshop
12 Advance
Programming Languages
Copy Write and Plagiarism
Copy Write and Plagiarism
Copy Write and Plagiarism
Copy Write and Plagiarism
Advance Photoshop
Principles of Design -
Principles of Design for Web Pages
Intro Flash
Color Unit
Color Unit
Color Unit
Color Unit
Illustrator Advance
Advance Dreamweaver - CSS


Final Project – Newspaper
Final Project Web Page for Teacher
Final Project – Starting a New Business
Final Project – Exam.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sharing in the Educational Playground.

It's funny how when someone says something in passing it makes you think and wonder "What were you thinking when you said that?!!"

I told some friends about Sullivan Heights Paper, a summary of the blogs of the research that we're doing for the Tech Grant we received in September. They in turn were surprised at how much we don't mind sharing what we've done so far, the lessons, the rubrics, and exemplars.  I explained that it wasn't so much the grant that got the staff at our school started, it was the idea of sharing with people what we were doing, explaining to others what has worked for us, and what has failed.  This sharing of the adventure of our travels to reach the goals we set in September enhances the enjoyment of this trip.  The "Passion of learning" is what drives us.

Life is too short.  We need to enjoy a few moments in time and think about what we have and how we're fortunate to have what we have.  We were one of the first schools to get the College Wifi (thank you to all that helped support our school in that decision), and we received financial support in implementing some changes in our instruction and assessment methods to change our school environment.  Some examples of what we implemented so far is the welcoming of student technology (cell phones, outside computers, etc) into the classroom instead of banning it, embraced the opportunity these tools give our students in learning as 21st Century learners.  We're hoping to help students to understand how to properly use social networking tools/sites with awareness.  We want students to explore web 2.0 tools to self-assess their learning and enhance their critically thinking skills.  But with this exploration comes the  responsibility and need for comprehension (both teachers and students) in the area of copyright, plagiarism and intellectual property.  We are rich in having the opportunity and ability to delve into various areas of inquiry that each of us are passionate about, growing in our knowledge and skills. 

So I ask the question back to my friend "Why not share?" Twitter has given me numerous occasions to learn from colleagues all over the world.  I have seen opening and closing speakers of a number of conferences that I did not have the opportunity to go to.  These people share with me, why not give back to them?  Why reinvent the wheel?  Two heads are better then one, someone can make what I share better, and then give back to me their opinion.  What better opportunity can you think of?!

Most of us entered the field of education because of the love of seeing a student's eyes glow when they finally understand what we have been trying to teach them.  The rush of pleasure a teacher feels when they say "Oh, I get it!".  That rush is not diminished when it's an adult who says this.  It's flattering when someone retweets you, why not feel the same when someone edits your idea to suit their class.  As in a retweet, mentioning the name of the person is the polite thing, and as professionals I hope we do the same with the rubrics, documents, or anything of a colleague that we wish to use. 

So why not enjoy the sharing.  To people who follow my site, please, feel free to use anything here or at my other sites (excellent Web 2.0 tools at this link).  Just say thanks  and email to say how it worked or how I can improve it.  
This morning I looked at the sunrise here in Vancouver (yes this picture), on a beautiful sunny crisp morning, and I thought to myself, I'm fortunate to be in a job that I enjoy, continuously challenging myself to be better in my field, having the means and opportunity to explore my interest and passion.  Why not share my good luck with others?  I hope this blog and my colleagues blogs help you in some way, shape or form.  Enjoy your day or week.  Enjoy your passion.