Friday, July 27, 2012

The Change of Education needs to consider the Teacher 
I've been reading all these different manners of changing your educational practises, from Backward Planning, to Activating Students' Creative Thinking, and the list goes on.  With the changes in our school of "No Marks", "technology implementation", "Using Web 2.0 Tools", "Eportfolios", and many more that we are exploring, we all need to remember one thing.  Even though one of these methods looks great and alive (The exploration in our Physical Education Department is absolutely fabulous - tweet Ryan Neufeld - @teacherneuf and Jeff Vaughan - @CptKudos  for more information), this doesn't mean it will work for everyone.  Not all teachers are the same, we may have similar training, and have gone to the same classes, but the personality of the teacher does come through somewhat, in some way, or manner.  This means that not all methods of teaching will work the same for every teacher due to this personality.

The great news is that if every teacher is different from the next, students won't get use to one style of learning, and this is a reality of life - no two things are the same (look at the picture - really look - and tell me if you see the exact Flamingo twice - look at their coloring). 

So as teaches this is what we normally do  (Sorry for speaking for a group of teachers but after 25 years of teaching in a number of schools and acting as a computer facilitator of learning technology - I've seen a lot of styles) - we take what we like the most out of every learning experience and we use that.  Sound familiar?  So do students.  We do not criticize the different manners in which a student learns, we try to instigate a number of ways of learning in our lesson plans, try to touch all (or as many as well can) of the different ways students learn.  Why can't we accept the same of teachers?  We learn different, we use what we've learned, to the best of our ability.  Some of us learn quickly, some of us take more time to contemplate things, but in the end, almost all teachers have the same goal, to be the best that we can.

Think about it.  How much do you use what you've learned compared to a colleague?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's summer time and here's the pencil....

I'm reading educational books, I'm blogging, I'm learning new crafts and skills, I'm upgrading my Java....  What is wrong with me!!!!  Then I got my sense of humour back when I found this picture on Pinterest....  I wonder which one I am....

I hope my students are the 3rd one.  Only by our mistakes do we learn....

Weebly Analysis from the Students' Point of View.

With all the summaries that I've posted last month in regards to the learning of my colleagues at the school I realized that I have not posted my own summary.  For the past 3 months I've had two groups of students  doing e-portfolios on Weebly.  The program is simple to use, lets you have 40 accounts for free, and for teachers to assess, instead of gathering up the individual web addresses of each student who creates a eportfolio web site, Weebly lets the teacher control the sites, make it private or not, and change the passwords.  See my blog entry on Weebly to understand the Pro's and Con's of the program.

At the end of the school year I asked my Grade 8 students a number of questions in regards to Weebly and doing electronic portfolios for their learning.  The following is the results of the 28 students that answered the survey.  

I was happy that students realized that reflecting on their learning through the eportfolios helped them learn more and helped them realize that they were learning.

The data below did surprise me.  I asked twice for parents to assess their child's learning with the electronic portfolios.  From these results it's clear that I need to do a better explanation to parents of the reason for electronic portfolios and what they can do for both the child and the parent in talking about the learning.

I was happy that students realized they were choosing the activities and what they added to their portfolios, giving them ownership of their learning and help them understanding their learning more.

The data below was no surprise.  I knew that by reflecting on their learning, they would learn more.  What I am hoping for this coming year is more peer assessment, opening up their electronic portfolios to their friends.
 After reading about developing curious and creative minds (John Barell - Developing More Curious Minds)

I can honestly say that I did not use the blogging section of the electronic portfolio to it's full capacity, I should target a day (Friday would be good) with a reflection question every single time, so students can get use to this and be prepared to come up with their own reflections.  Although I am happy with the results of the survey, I could of done more.

Finally, you can see from the data below that the students did not need to spend the entire class to do their portfolios, it ranged from 10 - 30 minutes, depending on what they were working on, and this was not every day, only 1 - 2 days a week.  This is manageable in regards to time for any teacher.

The final question was a question of preference that I had asked my class and it was completely different then the response I got from  my 1st term class.  The 2nd term loved Weebly more then Webnode, whereas the 1st term students like Webnode more then Weebly.  The only difference was which web designing site was introduced first to the students.  Students liked the 1st web site introduced to them best.  In the 2nd term I introduced Weebly to the students first, and here are the results.  Interesting to look into more.

I hoped these results helped you as much as they intriged me.

New Procedures and Ideas for Professional Development.

Sullivan Heights continues to think and learn with new ideas procedures for professional development. We'll continue to make Individual Learning Goals our goals.  Most of the school's goals last year were in regards to learning new technology or new methods of assessment using apps, Web 2.0 tools online and growing with learning networks online using Twitter.  Below is a slide show from Jane Hart (excellent blog to follow) on the impact of social media on the workplace (and relevant to the educational field of learning).

It's true, our school has been crazy with learning last year.  Everyone wanted to try something new, learn something new, do something new.  We've explored numerous areas of learning with technology, but we've also examined new ways of teaching and/or assessing with our students in regards to this technology.  With all the learning last year, this coming school year our school needs to look more closer at the impact of this learning on both our teaching styles, our new manners of assessment, the learning done by the students and ask ourselves if these changes that have developed are actually helping our students.  

Change is good but it can also be stressful, the handling of the impact and  logistics of change.  Change can sometimes be uncomfortable because it forces us out of comfort zone; even when the change is good. Not everyone embraced the learning, but some recognized that they needed to change with their fellow colleagues.  The difficulty has to do with the rippling effects of change in the school. It forces teachers to create new routines, new ways of thinking or believing and new perceptions of the world around them. With any sort of change one needs to sit back and reflect on these changes:  Has it made a difference to me, to my students, and/or even to parents?  Has it improved my/student's situation in the school or even outside of school? Has it been beneficial?  

The changes in our school with Twitter was like a tiny pebble thrown lightly in a pond, the ripple effects went farther then anyone really thought it would, in our school and outside to PLNs most of my colleagues at school have made.The only way to recognize this effect was to stop for a moment, take account of events and the situation around you, reflect and document what you have learned, to actually take the time to assess the change in the students and in your environment, and note what has come about with the change.  

This is where we need to go for this next year.  We need to reflect on the effects and affects of our learning.  We need to assess our learning and the learning of our students:  is it worth the change?  We also need to realize that this change may be affecting our students as well, in ways we should look at.

With all this change happening in our school, we need to ask the questions:
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why are we making this effort to change?
Because the world is changing, the students are thinking differently (their experiences in today's world have taught them to think differently), and working in today's world is a lot different as well.  Thus we need to understand what changes we as a school need to make as well, and you as a teacher need to consider.

There is a  deeper issue at work here that Sir Kenneth Robinson so eloquently underscores in his book "Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative?" At the heart of most schools Sir Robinson believes is our obsessive preoccupation with academic ability and the confusion of academic ability with intelligence. To Robinson there is "much more to intelligence than academic ability and much more to education than developing it." John Bareell agrees with him in "Developing More Curious Minds".  Both point out the truth, that it is not so much the academic ability to memorize and recite what is learned as much as the importance of teaching students to be creative and to be curious about learning, to develop further the love of learning, and instilling in students a curiosity to continuously learn or want to learn.  That's what this change is about, to change and help students become more creative in exploring new information on the information highway, to collaborate and learn form each other, and to question what they learn, be it questioning the sources, question the books, the Internet, even the teacher.  This means different ways of teaching (backward planning, project based, differentiating, collaborate group work, etc), assessing differently (no marks, skill sets, rubrics, etc) and grabbing students curiosity (through the internet, web tools, blogging, critical thinkings, etc).

That's a lot to ask for.

As my mother once said to me and I have repeated numerous times to my students "There is no such thing as a stupid question, it's just stupid not to question". 

so that's what I hope our school continues to do, not just change but to question our change and see if it not only develops a curious and creative mind in our students but to show the students that the teacher as well is curious and creative.

Let the questions continue.... with the learning ;) and the assessing of our learning.