Okay, I am going to be honest here. I haven't had a chance yet to join one of the #ETMOOC Blackboard Collaborate classes online. I have added them all to my calendar with great intentions, but they all seem to be at a time where I already had a previous engagement or was still in the middle of my schoolday. Life can just be so busy sometimes (and eastern time can be oh so early)
That does not mean; however, that I haven't been able to learn with my fellow #ETMOOCers! Thank goodness for the twitter chat, hashtags and google+ group because that is how I have been able to stay in the loop, join great conversations, and check out your blogs and vlogs. I have even, most recently, joined a Middle Educators Neighbourhood wiki (thanks to Sheri Edwards for including me in this). What a fantastic way to put it...a neighbourhood! I just love it! I have said in a previous blog post that you are all my colleagues in my new virtual hallway via twitter, but there is something to the word: neighbourhood.
It reminded me of the intro song to Mr. Rogers (one of my childhood favourites). And just how his neighbourhood had a magical feel to it, so too, does my virtual neighbourhood with all of you! I feel so grateful to have found you all and to have even made friends in my online neighbourhood. There is something magical to this indeed.
Thank you all for pushing me to best educator I can be by sharing your blogs, tweets, vlogs, comments and words of wisdom.
What fantastic neighbours I have!
Connect in the Middle Wiki created by Sheri Edwards. If you are a Middle Grades Educator, click on the picture above and join us!
On the "Connect in the Middle" wiki, Sheri has taken some of the #ETMOOC prompts and encouraged us to blog about:
- How important is connected learning? Why?
- Is it possible for our classrooms to support this kind of learning? If so, how?
I think connected learning is so important. And not just for my students, but for me as well. As an educator, my practice began to transform when I became connected and started joining "neighbourhoods" of learners and educators. Hang out in these neighbourhoods long enough and you can't NOT start to reflect on your own practise, start questioning education and make changes/improvements in your classroom.
And if it works for us, then it should work for our students too? I believe so. My students are always excited when they get a comment on their blog from a student in another school. They loved being a part of the Global Read Aloud
, and they keep reminding me that we have to connect with Mr. Hong
's class again! Connections are HUGE. To all of us.
Thank you all for connecting to me and for being in my neighbourhood.
I have never participated in a MOOC before, but the other day I noticed a bunch of people tweeting about #ETMOOC and I thought it looked interesting. At first I was a little nervous about committing to a course since I am already teaching full time and in a part time Graduate Diploma Program at SFU, but once I realized that this MOOC is classified as a network-based MOOC where participation is "encouraged but not mandatory", I was in! Iove learning and this format sounds really appealing! I think I can handle it!
This week is orientation week and we are supposed to introduce ourselves on our blog somehow; I will be working on a video tonight!
Want more information? Check out the hyperlinks above and see what orientation will look like here.
You can still register for #ETMOOC this week! Looking forward to learning with all of you!
We tried something new this past month in Health & Career 6/7. Hugh McDonald
and I wanted to give the students more opportunities to be creative (besides their Genius Hour
time of course), so we gave groups of 4 students a Learning Outcome and an iPod and said make a short 60 second movie (inspired by Dean Shareski)
proving your understand this Learning Outcome:
"Describes the benefits of being physically active on attaining and maintaining a balanced, healthy lifestyle" (BC Prescribed Learning Outcome)
Students had a wonderful time creating these short movies. They:
-COLLABORATED to decide on a story/scenes for their movies
-CRITICALLY THOUGHT about what the learning outcome meant to them. Side note: many decided that although the learning outcome didn't mention healthy eating, they ought to include it because then it would be easier to be physically active, since they would have the energy from the nutritious food.
-CREATED short skits and took turns filming
-COMMUNICATED their thoughts through video and shared online
A nice, short unit that is very student-centred and encompasses many aspects of 21st Century Learning
I am so thankful that I have such a great teaching partner, Hugh McDonald, who thinks up great ideas like this all the time!
Here are a few examples:
I have been planning this blog post, since having a very interesting conversation with twitter pal, Heidi Hass Gable (@HHG)
, a couple of weeks ago. We talked about the benefits of WiFi and how my teaching has evolved since my school went wireless. So, I have been thinking about this post since then and was planning on writing about my transformation from "teacher at the centre of it all" to another body blending into the crowd...you have heard it before-- "The guide on the side instead of the sage on the stage". That sort of thing...and it is all true and it has been an amazing journey!
But then the nature of this post switched...
My friend and teaching partner, Hugh McDonald (@HughTheTeacher)
gave our students WiFi as the topic for their
blog post this week...and now my perspective doesn't seem as important anymore...instead here is what our students
think about how WiFi and how it has changed their
Ruqaiyah is in grade 6.
I absolutely love her thoughts on sharing her learning; "In our class we have e-portfolios and we put our best work and achievements online so the world can see them and inspire other people such as teachers. Sharing your knowledge with people is a really important thing because you can help someone create something amazing just by sharing your ideas". How brilliant!
Another 6th grade student, Sarah
, wrote, "We need wifi in school because it’s You can talk to other people around the world about the project that we are doing like the globel read aloud about a book called the one and only ivan which is amazing talking to other schools about it".
And here is Indy's blog:
, a grade 7 student, points out that "With wifi you have a variety of ways of getting research done, you have pictures and videos. In math now we are making a arcade game and we need to learn all the learning outcomes. Most of the people in my class don’t know how to do circumference. So they search it on you tube".
Students taking charge of their own learning? Sounds good to me!
, a grade 7 student brought up a few different benefits, one being presentations. She stated, "We also use it a lot for presentations, such as PowerPoints, creating websites or just writing something on Word. It’s more interesting to be able to learn it by creating it and using many cool features than just writing it on a poster. Other students that may be watching the Powerpoint will be engaged in it and taking a lot of information in".
I could keep going and going, or if you are interested please check out all our blogs at kidblog.org/mrszisclass-2
. We would love to hear your comments!
The children have spoken, and they see the benefits that WiFi has had on their education: the sharing with a global community, the ability to create and share their ePortfolios, iPad math games, etc. It is a part of the way we learn now and gives us so many opportunities.
What do you think? Has it changed the way you teach or the way your students learn?
Last year I started a class website with hopes that parents/guardians would get a better idea of what their children were learning & doing at school. It included:
-a schedule of upcoming dates
-links to school district pdfs
with which they could send me messages
-a class blog
about upcoming units/projects
-list of daily homework
-links to educational websites
and more!I asked parents to complete a survey monkey in which many confessed that they did not really use the website...but all said that they were happy that it existed!
Well, this year I am hoping to get more of our parents/guardians using our site! So taking advice from my PLN on twitter this is what I am going to do:
-post this poster outside of my classroom so that parents can easily scan the QR codes to our website and twitter account
-call each parent during the first week of school to personally invite them to Meet the Teacher night so that I can share our website URL and its functions with all of them
-collect parent emails and send messages when important updates are madeAny other advice? I really want to get more parents/guardians involved this year!
What are you going to do to improve your school/home communication?
I am sitting at Starbucks working with my pal and teaching partner, Hugh McDonald
, on our two Professional Development Day presentations that we will be giving this August. One is called "Introduction to the iPad as an Assessment and Learning Tool". We thought it would be cool to use a linoit
board to gather information from you, our wonderful PLN! We would love to know what apps you love using with your class and how you use them. For example, I love "showme
" because students can draw, write and speak at the same time about a given topic.
What do you love using? Please take a moment to click on the link below and add a "stickie note" to my iPad board! Thank you so much! I will also be using this linoit to show my group the power of a PLN on twitter! You guys rock!
Special thanks to Denise Krebs
for first introducing me to linoit.com
, I learn so much from you, Denise!
What a great web 2.0 tool!
Last school year, my students created ePortfolios for the first time. I had never done a project like this with a class before, but because of my interest in technology, I thought this was a wonderful project for us to do! In the BC curriculum
it states that students should “select images from their own portfolio for class presentation
and/or public display, and give reasons for this selection” and to “compare a developed artwork to their initial drafts and explain how their ideas have changed and developed,” in regards to Art. Well, I believe it is important to be able to do this in all subject areas, not just art. So I explained to my students that we were going to look through all of our work and choose the things we were most proud of; the projects that we learned the most from, and the assignments that really showed our learning and we were going to put those works onto a website where we could showcase them. They were very excited to start and what I love about this project is that I did not have any samples to show them (as this was new for me) and so they really got to make their ePortfolios their own! Again something that we all strive for in education, to have students take ownership of their learning! This is also echoed by the Ministry of Education
as they encourage us to help students build “key competencies like self-reliance, critical thinking, [and] inquiry". We decided to build our portfolios using weebly
because it is a very user friendly site and my students were familiar with it because our class website
is a weebly site which I created. The picture below will take you to one student's ePortfolio where he has kindly linked all of my students' ePortfolios.
They were a success! The students loved creating their own websites and I loved seeing them reflect upon previous projects and assignments! Many students even created extra pages where they discussed items of importance to them that were not a part of our learning over the year (such as a page devoted to Martin Luther King, Jr—one student's hero, and a dolphin information page). They taught themselves how to add music to their websites (something I did not know how to do, but was thrilled about because they were teaching themselves and each other how to do something new!! Another skill we want our students to have—self-sufficiency and the ability to learn on their own).
If you haven't tried creating portfolios (electronic or otherwise), I highly suggest you give it a chance next year. They are a wonderful way to allow students to be creative, express themselves and become more reflective of their learning and growth.
One regret I have is that we did not start the ePortfolios earlier in the school year. We only began in third term, and therefore we only had a few months left of school to document. Next year, we will begin at the start of the year and we will continue all year long (and hopefully even into future grades, as my teaching partner, Hugh McDonald
, show them to the rest of the staff at our school as well as the high school our students feed into. Our vision being that students would begin these ePortfolios in Kindergarten and continue them right through high school.
I also regret not giving the students time to peer-assess their portfolios. While we were working on them, they did, of course, collaborate and help each other out at times, but they weren't given specific time to share. Sharing with peers and giving feedback is, of course, a key part of any publishing process and in our rush to finish them before the end of the year, we overlooked that step. Next year, we will move slower (and stop along the way to share) and I expect their ePortfolios to be even more amazing!
It has been suggested to me by many people on twitter that I use evernote next year as a way of keeping track of the students learning and then the website as a way of showcasing the best. I am currently leaning towards that route for next year (as I can see the value of having the two types) and am going to spend a day with AnneMarie Middleton
(fellow Surrey school teacher) working through how to make this work, before making up my mind.
But I wonder…have you created ePortfolios with your students? What format do you use? What will you use next year? Why? I would love to hear from you!
I am rediscovering my love for word clouds and thought I would share a few ways to use them in the classroom! But first, a quick explanation: tagxedo.com is a word cloud creator. You put in the words that you want to appear in the picture OR you enter the URL of a website. The more times a word appears in a document, the bigger it will be in the word cloud. Below is a word cloud I made using the URL for this blog. The largest words are TECHNOLOGY, INTEGRATING, GENIUS HOUR, BLOGGING, LEARN AND LEARNER. That is because those are the words that I use the most when I write my blog!
3 ways you can use word clouds with your students:
1. In September I have them do an All About Me picture. I tell them to type in their name 10 times (so it will be the largest) and then have them type in words that describe themselves. This is a great ways to get to know your students, for them to get to know each other and also gives you something to decorate the room with at the start of the year. Last year, I made word clouds with all of the grades 5s and 6s at my school and we decorated the whole computer lab. In my example below I used my name, interests, hobbies etc.
2. You can use them to create title pages. I had them put all of the words that they thought had to do with science and then we printed them and put them at the beginning of our Science Duotangs. They looked so great! And it also got them thinking about what science really is. I made this example using wikipedia's definition of science.
3. Students can use them to make visual representations of their poetry. They would type up their poems and could then add to their poetry booklets OR save the jpeg of their cloud and put on their ePortfolios, blogs, etc.
There are so many other ways to use this cool web 2.0 tool (character study, mother's day cards...the list goes on and on...) If you haven't played around with word clouds yet, I suggest you do...a perfect rainy day activity for the summer break & we get lots of those here in the Lower Mainland ;)
I have a lot of people ask me (well, usually tweet me) this very question. And I realized that I talk about it, blog about it, and tweet about it all the time, but I have not actually put out a definition anywhere. So here it goes...
Genius Hour is a precious time, loved by all my students. It is when they are allowed to develop their own inquiry question about whatever it is that they want to explore. They are then given about 3 one hour Genius Hour sessions and then they are usually ready to present their learning to the class.
Genius Hour is an amazing time. All the kids are excited and this creates a buzz in the air! Some students are huddled around a laptop doing research on countries they are interested in, others are creating websites, PowerPoints and slideshows on an area of interest, and some are out in the hallway filming movies. Some aren't using technology at all, but rather are building and creating things with their hands. But no matter what they are working on, the common thread is that it is something they are interested in and/or passionate about.
I did not invent #geniushour
. I wish I had...but I didn't. I want to give credit for the idea of Genius Hour to the right people, but it is hard to tell who actually thought of it first. I heard about it from twitter. A colleague of mine, @HughTheTeacher
tweet with a link to her blog post on the idea of Genius Hour. In it, she gives credit to Dan Pink
, author of Drive
and to Passion Based Learning expert, @AngelaMaiers
. Dan Pink gives credit to a credit union in Washington. And that is as far back as I can track the term "Genius Hour" but of course, the idea that people should be able to learn about what they are passionate about and be given time to become geniuses has been around for a bit. And I won't be able to track the origins of that. So, let's just agree that I did not invent it but I sure do love it!
In Pink’s aforementioned blog, he defines Genius Hour in the following way, “Each week, employees [students, in our case] can take a Genius Hour — 60 minutes to work on new ideas or master new skills.” He continues to describe it in one work place, “They’ve used that precious sliver of autonomy well, coming up with a range of innovations including training tools for other branches”(Pink 2011
). My students were just as successful. They loved Genius Hour and used their time wisely to learn about topics that they were passionate about (some examples are cooking, countries, Free the Children, iMovie, website design, etc.) Denise Krebs
came up with the idea of using a hashtag (#geniushour) and I, later, came up with the idea of a monthly chat and a wikispace
(to read more about that click here
). So, as you can see this has really been a collaborative project between many of us (we are spread out across North America and yet still able to share our ideas because of twitter).
Right when I heard about Genius Hour, I knew it was something that I had to do with my class. I always get excited about giving students authentic tasks that have meaning. So Genius Hour spoke
to me. I started talking with the students about this idea and they were immediately excited and eager to start.
To those that are nervous about starting something new: Don’t let my excitement mislead you…things did not go perfectly, but that is okay. I have learned so much this year. The students’ genius hour really became my own genius hour too. We learned together, figuring out so much as we went along, and even so I would do much more modeling (of how to chose an inquiry question and share it) in future years, it was not necessarily a bad experience for all of us to have to stop, regroup, take a few steps back and continue. It showed them that I am a learner too.
Need another reason to dive in? The BC Ed Plan encourages students to have the opportunity to “discover, embrace and fulfill their passion” (British Columbia Ministry of Education 2011). Passion is so important! In a typical elementary school classroom, students have to learn what we tell them when we tell them. There is little choice in curriculum and so Genius Hour gives them a time to escape these confines and learn about what they want to learn about. And that is when genius happens.
In summary, because of Genius Hour I am a changed teacher forever. I no longer need to be in control of all of the learning. I have learned that it is okay, and actually highly beneficial, to step back and allow the learning to happen. I have also learned that inquiry projects are not only valuable to teacher-learners (which is the only way I had thought of them before) but that the students can also benefit from creating interesting inquiry projects themselves. For more information, check out our #geniushour wiki and follow the hashtag on twitter!
The other day I had a handful of students in my class who finished an activity in record time, so I gave them a few iPads and asked them to look for apps they thought were educationally sound and then present them to the class (basically so I could buy myself some time to work with some of the other students that needed more time). Anyway, what started as a way to keep some kids busy turned into an incredible experience! I loved how my students shared their rationales for the apps they chose. I am going to blog about them over the next few weeks...starting with SHOW ME
This is what the two girls wrote on the board and they are so right! Show me is a great way for students to teach each other (and show you, the teacher, what they know). Click below to see the show me they made! Makes for a great activity and/or assessment!