Tag Archives: interdisciplinary

#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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“T-SHAPED” PEOPLE

A contribution to OSSEMOOC‘s pic-and-post series:

This post by  David Culberhouse  (Educator, Senior Director Elementary Ed, Previous Principal CA Distinguished School, Co-Moderator West Coast #satchat) is the fourth in a series called  “The Creative Leader”.

Here he explores the notion of ‘T-shaped’ people. His message is clear: leaders need to understand what creativity and innovation look like, and they need to intentionally build a staff with people who have depth of knowledge in one area and who can also branch out and work creatively and collaboratively in another.

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Shared by: David Theriault,  English Teacher in southern California (@davidtedu)

The work of leadership is not just to ensure that educators have deep knowledge of their disciplines, but that they have the flexibility to move laterally across the building, across disciplines, across grades to be innovative and creative.

I love this post because I do think that we need to figure out how to become more interdisciplinary in high schools. We need to not just have ‘open doors’, but flattened walls. We need people who can think and create and innovate and initiate from their deep curricular and disciplinary knowledge and who can also take that thinking, creating, innovating beyond their curriculum and discipline to uncharted waters.

Bring on the Ts!!

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Literacy–a word for all educators.

 

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I just returned from a terrific professional learning day with my literacy counter parts from across the Northeastern region of Ontario. This session was hosted by  educators from the Curriculum and Learning Resources Policy Unit, Joanne Folville and Julie Gayoski-Luke.

The focus of our conversation was The Adolescent Literacy Guide, a new resource from the Ontario Ministry of Education. This resource was placed in our hands last fall and we were asked to review it and consider how we would use it in schools with teachers and administration. Now, we gathered to share our work around this resource. Like everyone else in education, the Ministry is interested in gathering evidence of its resources’ effectiveness. The idea behind this resource was not a full roll out; that is, the guide was not to be handed out en mass. Rather,  its content was designed and formatted to be accessed as needed-more of a ‘dip in and grab’ process.

I am still processing the rich conversation around this resource, but today I wanted to comment on the ongoing issue of the word literacy. There was a strong feeling around the table that the Ministry should have used the title The Adolescent Learner’s Guide rather than The Adolescent Literacy Guide. The claim made is that when high school teachers hear the word literacy, they immediately think that’s the responsibility of the English department, and tune out.

I get that. But it’s time we called these teachers on this attitude. We can no longer rely on a definition of literacy that is limited to a person’s ability to read and write.

According to the Canadian Council on Learning, “true literacy encompasses much more than just these basic skills. It includes the ability to analyse things, understand general ideas or terms, use symbols in complex ways, apply theories, and perform other necessary life skills―including the ability to engage in the social and economic life of the community.”

And for Douglas Kellner, Ph.D. at UCLA “literacy involves gaining the skills and knowledge to read and interpret the text of the world and to successfully navigate its challenges, conflicts and crises.  Literacy is a necessary condition to equip people to participate in the local, national and global economy, culture and polity.”

These are useful and relevant definitions for literacy in 2013. They are inclusive. Here is the beginning of a list of literacies:

  • Ecoliteracy
  • Financial Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Critical Literacy
  • Emotional Literacy
  • Information Literacy
  • Aural Literacy
  • Visual Literacy
  • Multicultural Literacy
  • Physical Fitness and Nutrition Literacy
  • CyberLiteracy
  • Digital Literacy
  • Web Literacy

Is there any course offered in high school that does not include reading and writing? Is there any course offered in high school that does not require thinking, analyzing, or the application of theories?  Is there any course offered in high school that does not also tap into any of the above literacies?
It is time for all educators, even high school content area teachers, to accept that they are teachers of literacy.

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