New, official leadership roles for the first time

For the first time in my teaching career, I am officially in a leadership position! I’ve always thought I’d work towards that eventually, but also have always said no, or shied away from working towards that type of position. I have had many reasons – children at home, Masters studies to complete, the desire to focus only on the act of teaching – and yet this year, for the first time, I find myself in not one, but two, leadership roles. I’m finding priorities are shifting and I have a few new things to focus on in relation to the number one priority of my students.

First Role: Connected Classrooms Coordinator/Lead Teacher

In June, Brooke, my amazing colleague and then lead Connected Classroom teacher made a parallel move within the district to become the lead Connected 8 teacher. That move resulted in a leadership shift in the Elementary Connected Classrooms with me becoming the new lead! I met with Brooke in mid-August to learn about my new role and was excited to see all that I would be responsible for. It’s a definite change in mindset and now I have a real reason to start learning about leadership. It’s something I’ve always thought I’d eventually turn towards at some point in my career and this is a great way to ease into it a little more gently. Interesting how personal relevancy can so profoundly change one’s perspective.

Second Role: Mentoring a Teacher Candidate (Student Teacher)

On the first day of school this year, for the first time in 16 years of teaching, I’ll have a student teacher (or, as she is called through her university, a teacher candidate). Although she doesn’t actually start her practicum until Tuesday, she and I have been working together all summer via texting, email, twitter, several sessions at the school and one evening tea in my kitchen. There is so much more to being a teacher than showing up at school. To me, and to many, it is a lifestyle, and that, I think, is one thing that I want to share with her. It’s a lifestyle that I love (most of the time!) and I want her to understand so much more than the curricular learning outcomes and strategies to use for teaching place value.

One bonus for me is that I feel motivated and excited already. I’m already benefitting from the opportunity to be a teacher mentor. She keeps thanking me for taking the time to involve her and communicate with her, but I keep thinking that I need to thank her for the injection of added interest and excitement she’s bringing to my practice. I think she is going to be a great teacher, and I’m excited to help her along and watch her take these last final steps into the profession.

Where do I start?

Leadership is one of those words that’s everywhere. I always paid attention, but always felt that it didn’t really apply to me. We all, however, can be leaders and I understand how I fit inside that definition, but personally it felt as if the real leaders were the administrators, upper district administrators and others in that type of position. Suddenly, I fit under my own umbrella and a whole new tangent of research, learning, reading, people and possibilities are meaningful. There is a lot that I want to learn, but with time becoming scarce as school goes back in next week, I need to choose my first few steps carefully.

So, books to read, blogs to find, tweeps to follow and a long talk with my dad (a high school administrator for 30 years and the president of a large teachers association for a few years too) to help me get going! What do you think? Any ideas on where I should start?

 

Imagery by Plug Us In and used with permission from Flickr.

Impact of the elementary connected classrooms on student engagement

This writing is cross-posted at the Elementary Connected Classrooms Project. It is focused on topics related to our work on the Growing Innovations grant project and my second contribution to our collaborative ECC blog. In less than one month, all the groups involved in Growing Innovations are attending an event showcasing each project. The following post is a response to one of the final questions we are to answer as the project timelines come to a close.
 

How has Connected Classrooms impacted student engagement in the classroom?

 

Starting with today

I looked through the doorway during a lesson this morning, peeking out to see what the group of students outside was doing. I could see what looked like a huddle of nine boys, all squeezing in around the one student holding the camera. They were watching the playback of a video clip they had just filmed. As I watched, the Aboriginal Student Support Worker supervising students working outside caught my eye. She smiled and said “they’re sure having fun!” As she spoke, the group suddenly broke apart, smiles on every face. They started running toward the classroom, having completed their video clip, ready to upload it to a netbook. Each student looked energized, happy, and motivated. They were fully engaged in their learning.

To put this in context, we started a multimedia unit last week in the Connected Classrooms. Today I introduced software for creating and editing videos. After a 15 minute lesson introducing the learning intentions, software and a quick review of royalty-free audio sites from the week before, I set students free to explore, create and direct their own learning.

That was when the learning started to get messy.

By messy, I mean that some students immediately went over to grab a camera and start filming video clips. One group of students began taking photos for a stop motion animation film. Several students opened up the royalty-free music sites from the week before and started downloading audio. Many students decided to try out the software for themselves and started creating a slideshow right away.

There were students working alone, lost in their own world of multimedia exploration, other students worked with a partner and learned from each other as they went along, and still other students working in small groups. Students were inside, outside, in the back room, out in the hallway and working in the room next door.

I could barely finish up with one student before another came up with an urgent question – How do I upload the video onto my flashdrive? How do I download this song? Where are all the cameras because we need one? – and on and on and on. The students wanted to know, needed to know, the answers so they could get on with creating their multimedia pieces. No hesitation to ask questions from this group.

And that was just the students in my classroom at Cayoosh. Watching the screen from time to time, I could see most of the students in Ashcroft and Lytton at their computers, but I wondered how many of my other students in those places were off with cameras and ideas during the connection. I also wondered if there were any questions from those students afar, but, thankfully, as both of my Connected Classroom colleagues are extremely tech-savvy when it comes to multimedia, I was confident that they were able to answer all questions at their sites.

It was a great class and the learning only stopped because lunch arrived. Students didn’t want to stop. They procrastinated when it came time to finish up – just let me download this one last song, I just need to get the photos off the camera, I want to show my friend the video I made – please Ms G? When I turned the microphone on to finish up the connected lesson with all three sites, I felt as if I was interrupting all the students. The Ashcroft and Lytton students seemed completely engaged as well. The chorus of “Goodbye!” was quieter than usual, and my guess is that students were so into the multimedia activities that our closing farewell faded in importance, a rare and unusual occurrence.

How has connected classrooms impacted student engagement?

Which brings me back to the original question: how has connected classrooms impacted student engagement in my classroom? Even reflecting solely on today’s lesson, there are so many ways to answer this question. There are the obvious answers based on the latest research focused on student engagement in schools. During the connected lesson, students were focused and on task.  They wanted to keep going and didn’t want to stop and disengage from their activities. They took the initiative to ask questions and move beyond the walls of the classroom to get the photos or video footage they needed. They were animated, energetic and brought that ‘edge of chaos’ feeling to the learning environment that seems productive and alive.

Multimedia

Going beyond a quick study of student cues, I would argue that learning in an environment in which multimedia and new technologies are simply embedded into everyday activities is highly engaging for students. Our students have a variety of multimedia equipment available to learn with and from. The students constantly engage with multimedia content; showing them how to create multimedia themselves is of interest to them. They want to learn it. It is relevant to their lives. And in the Connected Classrooms, with resources and people to help, students couldn’t wait to get started on multimedia creations all their own.

Digital teachers

I think that our role as ‘digital teachers’, an idea I developed during my Masters coursework, is also one aspect of the connected classrooms that impacts student engagement overall, and certainly within multimedia unit lessons like the one today. As connected classroom teachers, we create at least one multimedia project per month. The monthly news is created and shared from each site at the end of the month. While students help with this process by recording special events in photographs and video each month, the task of creating and editing the video falls to the teachers. We take this role seriously, showing students responsible, appropriate and safe ways to create and share content online.

Teacher engagement

Another way in which Connected Classrooms impacts student engagement is through teacher engagement. All three of us have choice as to what we teach. I still remember the shock I felt when my administrator asked me what I wanted to teach on my days as the lead teacher. Not surprisingly, we each teach an area that is highly interesting to us. Brooke’s passion for environmental stewardship comes through loud and clear during her Tuesday lessons on current events. Aislinn’s love of children’s literature is obvious not only in her Reading Power lesson activities, but also in her always new and interesting book choices. I love photography and multimedia and I know that my excitement passes along to the students during my Thursday lessons. Our authentic engagement with the topics we teach is obvious; the students get to learn from not one, but three people excited to share about a topic both personally and professionally important to them.

To finish

Student engagement is a tricky topic and the Connected Classroom is an extremely rich and complex learning environment so I’m quite certain I have not in any way adequately answered the Growing Innovation question, but hopefully my thoughts prompted by one lesson have at least made sense and perhaps inspired some new thinking along the way.

Back to an impossible task

I haven’t sat down to write about the ECC since last summer. At that time, I was at the end of my thesis, obsessed with trying to sort and articulate my learning from an indescribably amazing MEd year. One of the struggles I experienced at the time was trying to simplify the Connected Classrooms. At the time I remember thinking that the more I learned about the ECC, the larger it became in my mind and that no amount of thinking or learning or discussing or writing could ever justify, simplify or capture all that the ECC really is because it is such a rich, complicated, wonderful learning and teaching environment.

I’m supposed to be writing a post for the ECC blog, yet, as I sit, all topics I had brainstormed that stare at me from my pages of notes seem to swell, and the familiar outward swirling of this topic seems to appear in my mind. I feel very much still within the final processing stages of learning from my Masters year and I realize that I’ll have to reconcile within my mind to isolate one little snippet to write about today. Now, to grab that one little piece before it gets picked up in the gigantic vortex of thought…

The reason for all of this is the Growing Innovations Grant. Last year, Brooke, an ECC colleague, and Brenna, a Connected 8 teacher, started the grant application process and, long story short, our application was successful and we received the grant. With that came responsibilities, including the creation of, and regular contributions to, an ECC blog. At our most recent ECC collaboration day, we decided that one blog post per month until the spring would be a good way to move forward and make progress towards our project goals listed in the grant application.

Now, while I was excited that we’d be collaboratively blogging about the ECC, I was even more excited when I learned that we could use some of our grant money for release time to actually do the thinking, writing and posting. I love to write, and find writing for professional purposes very valuable, but if you read my blog, you’ll know that, lately anyway, I rarely post. Priorities being what they are, I just don’t have the time to spend writing at my computer a few times a week. Give me a choice between playing Battleship with my child or writing a blog post in that last 30 minutes of free time after dinner is done, dishes are washed and the laundry is on, etc., etc., I’ll choose Battleship every time.

Fortunately, the luxury of time has been afforded to me in small parcels over the next few months. I’m excited to write. But, at the same time, it’s interesting that while I am supposed to be thinking about writing on the ECC, instead I end up on a tangent about the situation of writing itself.

Writing about the ECC again will be both challenging and extremely valuable. It’s a great opportunity to continue the learning that I started in my MEd year of research and, without the extra push of the ECC blog and release time, I probably wouldn’t have the time to do it, not to mention the challenges I still experience trying to wrestle one manageable piece to tame into being my topic.

Enough thinking, I’d best get started…

(Digital) Citizenship

Less than two weeks ago, I was excited that eight months of teacher research was solidifying into the central idea of learning relationships. While I originally focused my MEd on student/teacher rapport through a video camera, there is much more going on in the Elementary Connected Classrooms to focus simply on the teacher/student relationship. There are peer-to-peer relationships, the collaborative relationships between the three teachers involved, and then all the crossovers between the almost 70 students and 3 teachers interacting in different ways (not just through the camera) each week. I decided that the term ‘learning relationships’ better described the complicated web of interpersonal connections in our unique setting and changed my terminology to reflect that deeper understanding.

I was, however, only temporarily satisfied with ‘learning relationships’ as the hub of my research. It just seemed too simple and not quite right. Now, after further reflections on my experiences at the Digital Learning Spring Conference and another weekend at SFU with a brilliant professor, I finally think (I hope!) I’ve found the main themes that connect all other ideas at the center of my learning.

At this point, deep caring for children – all children – sits as the base of my pedagogy. It always has. Motherhood is a part of that, but not all of it. I care deeply for the well-being and the happiness and the future of all children, mine first, of course, but other’s children are a close second. I love working with kids and absolutely fight for the best education they can possibly get because, in my opinion, not offering what they deserve in the classroom every day is a disservice to them.
digital citizenship

In my opinion, if we, as educators, truly care about children, we need to honour the learning environment that today’s children are growing up in. If we are guiding them to become good citizens, we need to incorporate digital citizenship into their learning. Each child, family, and community will vary as to the extent to which new technologies have become a part of daily life, hence the idea of honoring each individual’s learning environment. Thanks to some simple online dialogue with David Truss, I’ve decided that (digital) citizenship is the other main theme that binds all my research strands. Citizenship is still the main idea, but with the lesser theme of digital connected to it.

A vital component of (digital) citizenship is how to create and maintain healthy learning relationships. I worry about those, for example, who don’t understand social media because it is the way of the world in a very real sense. We need more educators to become experts in how to use new technologies, if for no other reason than to be good role models and guide the kids; the kids who will use those technologies anyway, regardless of whether or not they’ve received guidance to help keep them productive and safe. Even more important, we need educators who don’t get caught up in the technology, but who become (digital) citizens themselves and then gain a greater understanding of the larger, more meaningful themes, such as learning relationships, within that new technologically-rich context.

Imagery by I am I.A.M. from Flickr.com and altered as allowed per CC license using FotoFlexer’s SuperPixelate.

Connecting, Innovating, and Personalizing Education

Last November, the Ministry of Education sent a videographer to our district to film the Elementary Connected Classrooms project. The videographer spent the day filming in the TechnoKidz classroom in Lytton, one of our three Connected Classrooms. The video was just released in the Ministry Media Room and, if you watch carefully, that’s me teaching onscreen 39 seconds in. It was my turn to teach that day and, somewhat nervously, I taught about word usage and becoming a Wordsmith (inspired by a writing lesson from the Traits of Writing book).

We learned today that the video made from the filming is part of a Ministry press release entitled “Growing innovation brings personalized learning to life“. The video is mentioned at the end of the press release and it shows how we’re connecting students with innovative technology use and, in the process, taking steps to personalize education for our rural students.

Even though the video is only 51 seconds long, it’s pretty neat to have the project recognized in this way!

Posted in Connected Classroom, MEd. Tags: . 4 Comments »

The Boys and the Tech Connection

The painting below sits at the front of my research journal for my Masters coursework. It took me twenty years to find and, that story, though too long and not quite relevant enough to include in its entirety here, has woven its way into my inquiry. That painting symbolizes a new layer of understanding into why I do what I do at home, at school and in my Masters research.

Mother and Child

Madame Vigee-Le Brun and her daughter, Jeanne-Lucie-Louise,  1789
(painted by Louise Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun)

Last night I sat supposedly working on report cards watching and listening to my children. My two sons were both on the home PC playing with a friend. The friend was far away – a 6 hour drive from here – visiting family. The friend, let’s call him Leif, has been my older son’s best friend for years. They are both rough tumble boys who seem to be from two worlds; the first world of tree forts and dirt biking switches back and forth with the second, newer world of video games and Youtube.

The boys were playing a free online video game that had a chat feature, so the three of them were chatting away, laughing, yelling, discussing what to do, goofing around, having a great time. They were using, very proficiently, a variety of technological tools to have fun with a friend.

A confession: I don’t always like technology. I do love it for some things, but it’s awful in other ways. It can be a huge waste of time, it can create real problems in people’s lives and I question the overall health of sitting in front of a screen for too many hours in a day. But it’s a part of our lives, our childrens’ and students’ lives very much so, and I feel it’s important to stay one step ahead of the younger generation in order to guide, role-model and help them navigate the world through the lens of technology. That’s a huge, heavy lens that nearly all children wear now. I want to be able to help them be able to stand up under its weight and think critically while looking through that lens. I also want to help them realize that they can, and should, sometimes take that lens off and unplug.

I stopped writing report cards and started to pay attention when I realized what the boys were doing. I stopped when I realized how the technology was allowing for a positive, transformative friendship-solidifying experience. I started to pay close attention to how the communication enabled by the technology was enhancing the connection and relationship between the boys, even over a vast geographical distance.

I started to think about the connection to my job. What the boys were doing is basically the same thing we’re doing with the Elementary Connected Classrooms project. One goal for the project is to create and maintain a relationship, a real connection, using technology, to bridge geographical distance and enlarge students’ peer group while at the same time giving them practice, in a safe and guided way, to learn how to learn from and with others online.

And that’s what my boys were doing. Using technology, under my guidance and watchful eye (from the kitchen table where I sat, I had a direct view of the computer screen, not to mention that I was close enough to hear the chat perfectly) to bridge the distance and maintain and enhance a friendship. They were using technology to play with a friend. It sounds so simple, but the more I think about it, the more complex it seems to be.

One thing I’ve known for years is that motherhood is a huge motivator for me. For example, all that I do with technology…from TLITE to the MEd inquiry to the Connected Classroom to all my independent, online PLN pro-d…it’s all, at the very heart of the matter, to do with being a mother. I am very motivated to stay one step ahead of my children and want to know just enough so that I know more about technology than them. I strive to keep them productive and literate and competitive and safe with their use of technology. I know they are growing up as Marc Prensky’s ‘digital natives’, and I want, as their mother, to be able to help guide them and help them along in that technological environment as I strive to do in every other aspect of their lives. I’ve known this all along. I’ve always known that, before my students, who I do absolutely love working with and who I try to be a wonderful teacher to in so many ways, are my own children. I am always so much more a mother than I am a teacher.

And that’s when I really had to stop. I was reminded of my older son’s entry into a visualization exercise we did at class one day. Basically, in the middle of a guided meditative type exercise to focus our thoughts on our inquiry, my son popped his head into my envisioned classroom. Since it happened, I’ve been wondering why. I was convinced, out of guilt, I think, that he was literally barging in on my imagined inquiry because I was neglecting him and his brother with all of the extra work and travel that the Masters has brought to our lives.

But he wasn’t barging in, he was reminding me. He was reminding me that motherhood is the driving force behind all that I do with technology. I do care about my students and take my job as a teacher in this small community very seriously. But I’m a mom first and foremost in all that I do. Which brings me, finally, to the painting of the mother and child…

I’ve loved that painting since before having children of my own. It is motherhood, simply and beautifully.

I placed that image at the front of my research journal weeks ago, not really knowing how it connected to my inquiry, but sensing and trusting that it did. Watching the boys and the tech connection tonight helped me to not only understand why my son appeared in my visualization, but also to remember why this inquiry is so important to me. Those boys and their technology made me realize that motherhood is one of my deepest motivators and the one lens that I never take off.

Thanks boys. Just another reason to appreciate those rangy boys that I’ve always enjoyed so much…

A Chance Meeting

Yesterday a student changed the way I think.

Allow me to explain. I was being a dutiful sports-mom and was a sideline official at my child’s sporting event. One of my duties was to ensure that the score sheet was correct. As I was verifying the visiting teams’ roster, I was surprised to notice a familiar name: Hubert Smith.

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Hubert is a part of the Connected Classrooms project. He lives in a different community geographically distant from my home and both communities are in the same school district. Furthermore, both Hubert’s class and my class are a part of the Connected Classrooms project so, everyday when the classes connect using the latest video conferencing and desktop sharing software to teach and learn collaboratively across the district, Hubert sees me as one of his teachers. Some days I’m teaching his class a lesson through a video camera, other days I’m a supporting teacher guiding my students through the other teacher’s lesson activities.

camera cropped

Also, Hubert is reading the novel I am teaching in our Online Literature Circles. Every week I post a deep thinking question to our Connected Classrooms Moodle site and Hubert, along with all the other students reading the novel, posts a response to the forum. We’ve had some good discussions online and Hubert even took the initiative to post a music video relevant to our novel. He and I have built some student/teacher rapport within the Connected Classrooms environment. I have never met Hubert face to face but, as one of his teachers, he has been learning from me for over three months now. This is something I’m sure distance education teachers are used to, but not me.

After the sporting event mentioned above,  when it was finally time to leave and go home, I looked up and saw a boy walking out of the changing rooms with his mother. The way he looked at me, I instantly knew that it was Hubert. He smiled, tentatively, then, after I smiled tentatively back, his face transformed into a full, happy smile of recognition and he waved. He mother came walking over and introduced herself, starting our conversation by explaining that Hubert had said I was his teacher.

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It was the coolest and oddest experience I have had in a long time as a teacher. Here, before me, was a student of mine that I have been teaching for over three months. We know one another as student and teacher and have interacted as such in a variety of ways but always through a virtual connection.

I am still amazes at how powerful the actual face to face meeting was. It was so nice to put a face to the name and be able to chat with him in person. We talked about the game and his team, we talked about school and we parted saying ‘see you next week’. Meeting his mother was wonderful, too.  I love meeting students’ parents for many reasons and she was so warm and seemed genuinely happy to meet me.

The chance meeting with Hubert, and the power of the experience, was timely. I’m currently finishing my research proposal for the Masters course and I’ve struggled to find the exact words with which to frame my inquiry. My inquiry is centered around arts-based methods and advocating for visual arts. I also feel a need to research indigenous worldviews to more fully understand hidden perspectives that I bring into the classroom each day. And, somewhere, I was hoping that those two topics would intersect and enlighten me with their connection.

I have constantly thought that those two topics are enough and should be the focus for my research but the unique learning environment that is the Connected Classrooms keeps creeping into my inquiry. I have purposefully tried to leave the context of teaching through new technologies out of the inquiry for simplicity’s sake.

But the reality of it is that, everyday, when I turn on that video conferencing equipment or login to the Connected Classrooms Moodle site, I am teaching in a radically different way than I have ever taught before. I can’t remove that from my inquiry. The way that my pedagogy is shifting as a result of the Connected Classrooms is profound and effects everything about my teaching practice, including the research for my Masters Degree. While I would like to leave the complexities of teaching with these new technologies out of my research, I can’t, and I shouldn’t.

Hubert reminded me that the context of the Connected Classrooms is effecting who I am as an educator, how I teach and what I believe about teaching and learning. He reminded me that the students are at the center of my inquiry and that I have entered into a teaching position which fundamentally changes the connection between student and teacher. And while I’m fascinated with the arts and intrigued by indigenous methods, I can’t ignore the environment in which I’ll be exploring those ideas.

Which takes me to a whole new level of thinking in this inquiry process…can I connect all three? I thought I’d tried, but really I was just asking separate questions that didn’t connect. Now I wonder, can I make meaning and create knowledge about using arts-based methods while gaining understanding of inherent  indigenous paradigms in a technology-rich learning environment that is innovative to the point of fundamentally transforming teaching and learning?

The more I write, the more I think, the more questions I have…all thanks to Hubert.

Hubert is a pseudonym to protect the student’s actual identity.
Soccer game by RaeA from Flickr.com, Hands 2 by A Taridona and Camera equipment by me.

Posted in Connected Classroom, MEd, pedagogy. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

I Wonder What I Wonder?

I’m a few weeks into the MEd routine now. The familiar life of me as an academic can be described in this way:

  • Read, whenever possible, and if necessary, make it possible to keep up421538389_ad19813ccb_z the self-imposed schedule,
  • Comment and scribble notes all over each article or chapter,
  • Find time to critically analyze the readings and my thoughts on the readings.  The dual accounting strategy Vicki showed has worked well, and I’d like to move that work into this space somehow.
  • Think about where I’m headed. The big picture. Why I’m doing this. The October 25th deadline for a draft proposal is fast approaching. All this reading is leading somewhere. So, I’m working in time to think, mainly because I’m able to afford that luxury at this point in the course and also because I know, from previous graduate coursework, the importance of taking the time to let ideas simmer and see where the wanderings of my mind take me.

167191996_48359529bd_zWhat will my inquiry look like? Or, as I jotted down the other day, I wonder what I wonder?

Hence time to post on possible inquiry topics. This is what I’m wondering about at this point:

  • Creativity. Big topic. Needs to be focused. I wonder about the creative process and how it’s connected to writing. I’ve learned a great deal about creating in the visual arts in recent years – how can I apply that learning to the writing process with intermediate students? How does that question fit into the unique learning environment that is the  Connected Classroom?
  • Collaboration in the field of education. Another big topic. Would probably focus this down to teaching collaboratively with other teachers over geographic space using video conferencing, desktop sharing software, Smartboards, and other technology in the Connected Classrooms. Or…
  • Students learning collaboratively in the moodle learning space. How does posting in a collaborative moodle forum on topics such as current events or online literature circles change the learning?
  • The writing process. Kind of connected to my first bullet above. Could narrow to questions around my teaching of writing in the Connected Classroom environment or to students’ development as writers using the Traits of Writing by Ruth Culham.
  • Student engagement and student/teacher rapport. Really where I thought I’d go with my inquiry from the start and it still surfaces in my head whenever I think about what I could do with the MEd.
  • Being a Connected Classroom teacher. Or, teaching in a ‘Flintstones vs. Jetsons’ teaching environment, as my predecessor called it! The Connected Classroom project is a pretty cool gig. The project even has the attention of the provincial Ministry of Education to the extent that  they’re going to be keeping a close watch on the ground-breaking ways in which the school district is using technology to enhance the learning experiences of the students. So many ways to turn what we’re doing into a question, such as…
  • How can I engage learners across the district through a camera and 70530914_d5e6dd0ef8_zlearners in my classroom at the same time?
  • How do I create/build/maintain student-teacher rapport across the district through a camera and learners in my classroom at the same time?
  • How do I plan lessons, create visuals, communicate content, and teach curricula through a camera and in my own classroom at the same time?

Many, many questions at this point! Too many…I’m only doing one MEd! I’ll probably have to save a few for the PhD I have planned after retirement…

Any comments? Questions about my questions? Which stood out? Which seem to be most ‘alive’? I’d love your feedback…!

Imagery from Flickr:  B is for Books by Jim is Write, Reading by ilmungo, and  Reading by Pensiero.

Enough with the downtime, time for a challenge…

I’m very happy that the one week of holidays I allotted to myself this summerIMG_1647 happily stretched into one month. Proof of this is that on July 18th, I sat down on the couch, tea and book in hand, and realized that I actually felt relaxed. By early August, I had no idea what day of the week it was or what the date was. Sure, I had a dayplanner filled with camping, trips to the beach and other important summer to do’s, but I somehow managed to just blur the days into a succession of fun summer tasks without maintaining a schedule.

It was a great summer vacation, and now it’s time to transition back to reality. Looking back, I did manage to work while forgetting time. I actually did a great deal of reading and thinking to get ready for the challenging year ahead…

I read Ruth Culham’s  6+1 Traits of Writing and her more recent book, Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for Middle School. The more I think about what I learned from these books, the more ridiculous it seems that anyone would just expect students to be able to write. There is so much to teach them about writing, just like anything else, and I’m excited to focus on writing in my role with the Connected Classroom project.

sfu cropped

I spent a fair bit of time thinking about the upcoming year of study to complete my Masters in Education at Simon Fraser University. Cindy, a teacher who just completed the same MEd a couple of weeks ago, recently posted about how fantastic her experience was. If I was excited before, she increased it tenfold with her post! The first weekend of classes is September 11/12, so once school starts, life is going to get interesting (I’ll try Cindy, really, I will, to keep you updated!). Anytime I feel panic about being a mom, a teacher, AND a grad student, I remind myself that this next year is all about positive stress and challenge and I stubbornly refuse to complain or think negatively about such a wonderful opportunity.

I also managed to spend time doing nothing this summer, and downtime always allows for undirected thinking. What I think about during that blissful downtime often surprises me and this summer was no exception. The main theme that ran through all my thinking this summer, whether I was  reflecting on returning to Intermediate teaching, or planning for the last year of my MEd (or tenting for a week, by myself, with two children, a dog and a 5:45 a.m. wake-up call for hockey camp!) was challenge. Challenge seemed to creep into all my thoughts. I realized I need challenge in my life; I actively seek it out. And I realized I’ve always been that way. I thought I was just an overachiever, but I think now I can define myself as one who actively seeks and needs and enjoys challenge in life.

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All that thinking about challenge left me with these questions – How do we teach that? How do we get students to enjoy challenge?  I’m hoping that theme finds a way to surface in both my Connected Classroom and my MEd research…

All photos by me. Challenge Motivator poster generated by Big Huge Labs.

From One Dream Job to Another…

For the past seven years, I’ve had one of the best jobs a teacher can ever hope to have. I have been teaching art and photography in a small town high school. The art room was well-equipped when I walked in seven years ago IMG_0135and over the years I have managed to steadily increase my supplies and my student numbers. Classroom management has been almost a non-issue as, I would guess, ~80% of behavioural issues disappear the second students walk in the door. My students loved art and enjoyed being in art class. It was a dream job – a thriving program, a room full of resources and a student body that genuinely liked me.

And I left that dream job this week, incredibly, to move on to something even more exciting…

Get Some Juice InStarting in September, I will be an Elementary Connected Classroom (ECC) teacher in a grade 4/5 classroom. It’s always been my goal, from my student teacher days, to teach grade five. I love working with students of all ages, but I particularly enjoy students at the grade five level;  developmentally they are thinking logically but, for the most part, they’re still children. The age of the students and reaching a career goal are, however, only part of what makes this a dream job.

From what I understand, the Connected Classroom project is a great example of  how to use technology to enhance student learning and facilitate teacher collaboration across a school district and between communities. In three separate communities, there is one ‘connected classroom’ equipped with video conferencing equipment, SMARTboards, and 1:1 netbooks for student use. Elluminate software and Moodle platforms are used for teaching and learning. A block of time is scheduled each day for the three classrooms to be connected and actual face-to-face meetings happen several times a year. Teachers collaborate as a team, using all this technology, to bring a group of students together for a shared learning experience unlike anything the district, if not the province or even the country, has ever offered before.

I did have moments of hesitation when I was deciding whether or not to accept the offer and take the job. I love teaching art and photography and my job at the high school has been wonderful. Once I realized IMG_0146that I won’t actually stop teaching art or photography, the hesitation faded away. Art is part of the curriculum I’m expected to teach and I can easily use digital photography to enhance all areas of the curriculum;  all the activities I love teaching can be adapted to fit a whole new group of students.

All the information I’m sharing here is my consolidation of various recent conversations and I know I have a lot to learn before I start in September. I haven’t even met face to face with most of the ECC team yet but I’m absolutely ecstatic to get started! It’s a great opportunity and a fantastic teaching job, not to mention how perfect this situation is for the last year of my Master’s research which I’ll also be starting in September…but that’s another post!

Imagery: Get Some Juice In by Mountainbread on Flickr.com and the other two photos by me.