Tag Archives: Fry

#makeschooldifferent

I grew up in a place and at a time when communication beyond face-to-face interaction was limited to the phone. Long distance calling was exorbitantly expensive and so, rarely done. It was hard to imagine being an ocean biologist when the nearest ocean was a thousand miles away. It was hard to believe that you could do anything other what you saw in front of you, and most of the time, there was simply nothing there.

Nothing on TVCreative Commons License futureatlas.com via Compfight

I’m not even exaggerating.

I still live on the edge of the populated spaces in this country where there are no traffic lights, no stores open for evening shopping, and no line-ups for…well, anything. Waiting in traffic means someone is helping that turtle trying to get to the other side or a family of raccoons have decided to cross the road. And yet I don’t have to live on the periphery of  intellectual spaces any longer. I can participate in the most current educational thinking of Ontario, Canada, and beyond. I don’t have to wait for someone else to decide what is important for me to know about teaching and learning. I don’t have to hope that someone will provide me with inspiration for my work. I don’t have to draw on only the local resources to design courses that are meaningful, relevant, and intellectually engaging for my students.

What this does mean; however, is that others in my situation don’t have to either. This has been the challenge, then the difficulty, and now the problem facing me of the past five years. Why are the educators around me not embracing the opportunities offered via the current technologies to grow and learn past where they are physically located? Why rely on Nelson or Pearson solely to teach their students? Why do they think that what they have always done is sufficient today?

This brings me to this…..

MakeThingsDifferent screenshot Fryed

And Donna Fry’s blog is a source of inspiration for me. She tagged me in this post where she enumerates the 5 things that she thinks we need to stop pretending in order to #makeschooldifferent.

Here is my list…

#1.  We need to stop pretending that teachers can do this job alone. We need to recognize that planning time cannot mean that teachers work in isolation; nor can it only mean planning across grade teams. It must also mean having time to connect with educators beyond our four walls.  It means growing our PLN. It means honouring social media connection time as valuable.

#2. We need to stop pretending that all educators are de facto good learners. Tom Whitby has said, “To be better educators, we must first have to be better learners.” Agreed. And this does mean all of us who claim the title of educator: ECE, EA, Teacher, Coach, Consultant, Coordinator, Principal, Supervisor, Education Officer, Program Manager etc. We all need to expect of ourselves first what we expect of our students…to be risk-takers, metacognitive, and ‘learning ready’.

#3. We need to stop pretending that someone else is going to do the work. All educators at every level of our education system must engage in the actual work with students. The days of “walk-throughs” by administration need to end. Rather, administration needs to work in the classroom to remain connected to the ever-changing demands of the teaching-learning exchange.

Instructional rounds conducted by teachers and administration have taken hold in some places and work because they support/model a culture of ongoing learning. I have to believe that that culture is passed on to and/or picked up by the students, too.

There are other examples that demonstrate the importance/value of everyone doing the work. You can see here the Northern Ontario eLCs working with teachers and students of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and the Trillium Lakelands District School Board. Another example comes from a session I attended for preparation work for a new e-learning course where Lori Stryker from the Assessment Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Education spoke about her work with teachers and students in classrooms to ensure that the work does not live in the theoretical realm, but moves always to practice.

#4. We have to stop pretending that learning is about isolated subjects driven by content. We need to design learning to be interdisciplinary so that students and teachers can tackle real world needs. This might mean solving real problems like how a school can acquire a new field for outdoor learning and recreation/training, or it might mean developing a program that responds to students’ desire to learn about the traditional life of their people (much like the  Specialist High School Major program in Ontario does). We need to see this kind of learning become the norm.

Frankly, it is becoming more and more difficult to explain to high school students why they need four English credits. They don’t dispute needing to develop and strengthen their communication/literacy skills, but many of them would rather do that work via robotics, student council, or a music business course.

Which brings me to …

#5. We have to stop pretending that only some teachers are teachers of literacy. Everyone needs to be able to speak, read, write, and create really well. Literacy is the set of skills that drives all other content–regardless of discipline. Literacy instruction needs to be built into every part of a students’ day because it is a set of skills that was, is, and will always be needed. Advanced literacy skills ensure that students will be able to think critically, communicate persuasively, and work collaboratively. In Ontario, the work of incorporating/embedding literacy into every grade 7-12 classroom is supported by the Adolescent Literacy Guide and the folks at the Curriculum Services Branch of the Ministry of Education. It’s up to our school and system leaders to make sure that every teacher is skilled at literacy instruction.

Of course, there are more than 5 things to stop pretending. Here are some other voices who have expressed ideas that I would add to my list too!!!

Heather Theijsmeijer

Colleen Rose

Ms. Armstrong

Deborah McCallum

And I would like to challenge my English teacher colleagues  @msjweir@arachnemom, @sarle83, and @danikatipping. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts ladies!!!

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Filed under Literacy, OSSEMOOC, Professional Learning, Teaching

5 Things I’ve Learned in 2013

Or had confirmed, or moved my thinking on….it’s been a big year.

Last July, I came across the Pearson “5 Things I’ve Learned” series via Ewan Mcintosh’s contribution. The idea of identifying five big ideas that I have come to know, or to have learned, appealed to me.

 

I did have great intentions to follow up this tweet with an actual post, but that never happened. It did for Donna Fry though, and as always, Donna’s post is deeply reflective, refreshingly honest, and eminently relatable. It has sat at the edge of my mind, nudging me to get on with my own “5 Things I’ve Learned” post, until now.

Since the ending of a year causes us to reflect on the past twelve months, and the beginning of the new year pushes us to consider what the new year holds for us, I decided to use the “5 Things I’ve Learned” format as the tool to do all of this thinking. Of course, this means I am tweaking the format so that the “5 things I’ve Learned” is reflective of the thinking and learning from this past year specifically, albeit they are built on the ideas that have permeated my life generally.

I am listing the five ideas, but no hierarchy is intended. I am an interdisciplinary or connective thinker, so all of these ideas lead from and to each other depending on the conversation or problem.

Let’s get started…

1. Work harder to build trust.  Understanding that relationships matter is not new. Neither is it a new idea that trust is a foundation block in relationships.

Nope.

What I learned this year is that to build real trust (read here trust that doesn’t let you down, that enables you to grow and change, that supports you, that is loyal) you have to work really hard.

LLCI Glogster

But the work, whether it is face-to-face or online, is not quick conversation over coffee or in a Tweet chat. It is not having the same view on pedagogy or technology integration. It is not about being on the same team, in the same department, or in the same course. It’s not only about making others feel good about themselves and their daily work. Rather, the hard work of building trust is that work that is inconvenient, goes against the grain, needs lots of time, pushes us out of our comfort zone, is transparent, and forces us to keep our promises and tell the truth.

2. Passion and Commitment. This has been a curious year for me professionally. I began it as a K12 literacy coach, and I will finish the year as a high school English and Student Success teacher. Regardless of our role, I was, and am, reminded each day that we need to bring our passion for learning and our commitment to our students to the fore. More than that though is the realization that passion and commitment are fed through the collaboration and co-learning work teachers engage in. As a coach, I was privileged to spend time in many classrooms.

Have a peek at what passion and commitment looked like: I saw teachers as storytellers, explorers, researchers, readers, writers, and problem solvers. I saw teachers as learners who did their homework and modeled innovation and change. I saw teachers who worked hard everyday to love what they do and then instill that love in their students.

Teina inquiry

 

What a honour!

 

These teachers are my inspiration now that I have return to the classroom. And the experience of collaborating and  co-learning with them pushes me to generate that work in my school.

When teachers work with teachers, we create a culture that encourages the conversation and leadership required to ensure success for all students.

3. Students Reflect Back What They Observe. I believe that students mirror back to us our behaviour, our language, our habits, our values. We can run climate surveys to discover what courses students might like to take, if they feel safe in the school, or what extra-curricular activities they would like offered. We can ask why they are late for class or if they have space and opportunity at home to complete homework. We can ask them for their feedback on how the school can be a better place for them.

Feedback

Or we can think about our students’ behaviours, both social and academic, as feedback to us based on us.

4. To Initiate  Somewhere in 2013, I ran into Seth Godin in a serious way. I am sure that I knew about him, heard him interviewed on various shows on CBC Radio, and possibly even purchased a book of his for someone I love. But Mr. Godin had not permeated my consciousness until this past year. I like lots of his thinking; I think it can be applied to so much of what we do in our private lives as well as in education, but the idea that really resonated with me this summer is the idea of initiating

 

I needed to hear this message. I had been enjoying learning about social media platforms and I was having a very nice time engaging in various online professional learning events, but I realized that my attention was beginning to wane. I had been doing a lot of learning and now I needed to use it. I would, of course, apply my new learning in my teaching, but I had just come from coaching for the past three years and my love for developing and delivering professional learning was (is) strong.

Just do it, right? Get started. Don’t wait for others to initiate. Be fearless.

So I have.

  • OOE13 Co-Creator
  • EdcampIsland slated for May ’14
  • School Blog launch Jan. ’14

5.  Be Ready to Make the Shift. This past year I participated in my first mooc–Educational Technology and Media Open Online Course or ETMOOC. This event profoundly changed the way I think about learning in an academic setting. Sure, ETMOOC was an open, online course, but I didn’t know what that meant. I just knew I was taking a course. I knew there would be webinars and Tweet chats and that I needed to blog about my learning. That was all okay with me. I knew about webinars from work and my Masters’ program and Tweet chats from some online communities I had joined and I had started a blog for #cyberpd2012.

I was ready.

Or was I?

What was going on here anyway? Where was the stuffiness? The stiffness that comes when a group of strangers end up in some room together for a mutual, yet individual experience? There’s music playing at the outset of the first “lecture”. The “prof” is super casual, chatting away with folks, and the chat box is flying with comments. There is a familiarity in the room; a feeling that we all belong. There are no titles used, or groups constructed by what level you teach….no map. There is Dave Cormier heckling Alec Couros (an inside job, but I didn’t know that, yet). There’s the whiteboard interaction that clearly gets out of hand.

Then there’s the cow.

This opening learning event set the stage for a learning experience that was challenging, engaging, supportive, integrated, free flowing, always on, permissive, immediate, organic, and …fun!

 Did I learn anything? Beyond learning about digital literacy, digital citizenship, content curation, digital storytelling, open education, and beyond developing increased comfort with social media platforms and tools, and beyond creating digital products like Storify, 5 Card Flickr, LipDub, and writing blog posts, ETMOOC taught me about the changing educational landscape. The ground is shifting beneath our feet, and we must begin now to shift with it.

Now.

Thanks 2013.

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Filed under Year End Reflection

The lighter side of blogging.

A few weeks ago I received the blogging challenge that has been making the rounds. Donna Fry reminds us that there should be joy in our writing, and I agree. The joy that I feel about teaching and learning needs to emerge from whatever I am currently thinking through. But the lighthearted tone that some writers are seemingly so easily able to generate (like Dean Shareski) is something that I always have to work on.

Here’s how this blogging challenge works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

1. My nominating blogger:  PLN Cheer leader Donna Fry is exactly the kind of person you need in your corner when you’re learning.

Am I Ready For This??!

2.  Eleven Random Facts About Julie Balen:

1. Christmas is not my favourite holiday. It’s never been, even when I was little. Extreme consumption is an activity that I have trouble with.

2. It follows then  that shopping is a struggle for me…even online. 

3. I spent many summers working for mining companies, but never in an office.

4. Salt snacks over sugar.

5. Peter Gzowski is my all time favourite radio host.

6. The tapping of fingers drives me crazy.

7.  I once performed in a fringe festival.

8. I have no Native, French, or British blood. But I am Canadian.

9.  I believe in having large windows through which to view the world, and a larger door through which to invite the world.

10. I won the silver medal in the Quebec Regional Winter Games (curling).

11. I met Pierre Elliot Trudeau twice.

3. The 11 questions Donna created for me:

1. What was the first “subject area” you studied after leaving high school?

English Literature…haven’t strayed far from my love of learning about the world through the lens of literary works.

2. If you could cook anything, what would you cook for supper tonight?

Chicken parmigiana—-olive oil, fresh parm, free range chicken and homemade pasta…mmmm.

3. What makes you stop and pause during your day?

Light. Winter light glowing through snow or glistening off of ice. Sunrise and sunset of course, but also shadows and angles of light in the yard and house. First light, twilight, starlight, and moon light. We live deep in the country where there are no street lights or store lights, so night lights give rise to wonder and possibility. And then there is summer light, you know, that quality of light that makes everything look like a post card.

4. Cats or Dogs?

Haha…dogs. I have had many dogs in my life: Scamp, Napoleon, Akela, Baloo, Satchmo, and Hawkeye. BUT, I do have a 12 year old cat, the only cat I have ever had and he makes me laugh more and more each day.

5. If you could have only one Pinterest Board, what would the topic be?

Gardens. No question.

6. What was the catalyst that got you blogging in the first place?

Cathy Mere. She hosted both the Peter Johnston Opening Minds book study in July of 2012 and then the PB 10for10 2012 event. I stumbled upon these events, and they catapulted me into the online learning environment.

7. What is one (funny) childhood misconception that you had, or that you have experienced with a young child? (for example, we lived near Manilla, Ontario during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. My 5-year-old daughter watched the news and thought it was right near our house!)

This is really tough…My first-born child, when he was 3 years old, loved the original Land Before Time movie. He fell in love with the story and the characters…he was Little Foot. However, maybe because he had no experience with TV prior to viewing the film (or maybe this is quite common with kids regardless), I can remember him standing in front of the TV, faced pressed against the screen, lamenting that “I want to be there, mom…inside there with Sarah.”

8. What was your favourite summer job?

Working at the mine and making a ton of money so I could afford to go to university.

9. Where do you find flow?

In conversations with others, not necessarily like-minded and not necessarily face-to-face, but with anyone who will honestly and truly engage with me.

10. What was one personal challenge you faced in 2013?

Finding as much time as I could to participate in ETMOOC!

11. What are YOU passionate about?

Moving people to do great things for other people.

 

Are You Ready For This?

 4. My list of bloggers includes  those who have encouraged me and those I hope to encourage:

1. Jenn Chan @jennzia

2. Rhonda Jessen @rljessen

3. Sarah Le @sarle83

4. Cathy Mere @cathymere

5. Brendan Murphy @dendari

6. Lisa Noble @nobleknits2

7. Amy Rudd @aruddteacher100

8. Peter Skillen @peterskillen

9. Yana Bauer @arachnemom

10. Mackenzie Sayers @macksayers

11. Heather Theijsmijer @HTheijsmeijer

5.  And my 11 questions for you are:

 1. What does online learning mean for you?

2. What makes you laugh?

3.  Satellite vs. Netflix?

4. Movie or Novel?

5. Who is your favourite Canadian author?

6. If you could go on vacation any where in the world, where would that be?

7. Favourite wild flower?

8. What educational event do you REALLY want to attend?

9. What is the one tech tool you cannot live without?

10. Hottest educational trend/author for you right now.

11 List three high points of 2013.

Whew.

That’s if folks. It took me way longer to write this post than I thought it would….maybe it’s the time of year? In any case, enjoy the process!

Wishing everyone a terrific end to 2013 and an inspirational start to 2014!

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Filed under General