Today I attended my first Learning Connections workshop at our school board office (OCSB). What an amazing experience! In the morning we all attended six different presentations put on by elementary teachers from around the school board. We had ten minutes in each presentation before we were moved on prompted by a makey makey banana bongo. Each presenter had all their material linked through a QR code – really helpful!
One of the presentation centres – all info was accessible through QR codes
After this, we met with other participants to compare notes and create a summary of our key learning. We created a Powtoon – a totally new tool for me. The results can be found at the top of this post.
The great thing about this session were the experts available to help us with our creations. Our expert was a junior level student from one of our elementary schools. He patiently took me through the steps on how to set up my first powtoon. He was an excellent teacher!
This is a good lesson for all of us. The real experts in this new digital age are the students. There is no way we can learn this technology as quickly as the students can. Whether it is an app, a maker kit or the newest chromebook, the students are the new experts. We are all learners!
What a terrific group! Learning Connections is a unique gift to our staffs. It is a growing group of educators learning new digital tools to innovate and learn. As a principal, I need to learn all that I can from this group. Educational leaders need to know how to use digital technology. We don’t need to be the experts, but we certainly need to be open and accepting of the changes happening on a daily basis.
We need to be gateways for the teachers and students who want to innovate and experiment with brand new ways of doing things.
I’m hoping to try something different at our next teacher PD session. Our PLNs are essential. We have used them for the past three years. Our teachers meet in grade or subject-based groups and plan their learning throughout the year. At our upcoming consolidation session, we are going to attempt our first ‘blogging party’.
Rather than have the teachers present their findings orally, we are going to ask them to create a blog so that they can share their learning with the world!
To make this a bit easier, we are planning to teach them how to create a simple blog. Audience is everything, we really want our teachers to share their great work with professionals around the world.
Our blogging party will be May 2nd. We will post using the hash tags #ocsb and #bloggingparty. Please comment, this will be a great motivator for our teachers!!
2. Click on the ‘new blog’ button on your dashboard. You will then see a collection of templates to choose from. You will also be prompted to choose a title for your triad blog. Try something catchy! Remember, ultimately your blog may be read around the world!! Your will also get your address – please bookmark this! (good time to try Symbaloo) Don’t worry if you have to come up with a temporary address to move on, your can change it in Settings after – your address is important, you want something as simple as possible – I am using triaddgmjunior.blogspot.com
3. That’s it! You have a name, a template you are ready for your first post!
4. The rest is just a matter of trial and (a bit of) error!
For approximately the past five months, my fourth graders and I have been pre-piloting BYOD for our district. While our findings are detailed in an earlier post, here is a list of what I consider to be the must-have apps for BYOD (as opposed to apps that I might consider to be “the best” in general).
Google Drive: The ability to establish an effective workflow is easily one of the bigger problems when dealing with mobile devices in the classroom. When this app came out a few years ago it essentially took a sledgehammer to this dilemma. Although this app does not possess all the same functionality as its desktop counterpart, it will allow students and teachers to access their work, wherever and whenever (especially if your district has gone Google Apps for Education, which it should). Platforms: iOS, Android, web Price: free
This morning I had a chance to sit in on the junior math triad at our school. The triad is made up of three schools – St. Gregory, St. Daniel and St. Monica. The teachers in each triad meet throughout the year and set their own learning goals as the year progresses. These learning goals become the basis of our school improvement plan.
I try to sit in on as many triad meetings as possible and I always find their conversations really interesting. Because the teachers set their own learning goals and decide when they are going to meet to work on their own inquiries there is continuous discovery based on the evidence gathered from student work.
I have been fortunate enough to work with this group throughout the school year. They have been working on a continuing inquiry on the use of math journals as a way to introduce and reinforce math concepts.
If we continue to solidify students’ ability to communicate about math through the use of math journals with support through conferencing, then they should be able to demonstrate their learning through oral or written responses using math language..
current math inquiry goal – junior math
At this point, the teachers are reflecting on what they have learned this year and where they want to go in the future. Reading through the math journals, it is very interesting to see how the students reflect on what they are learning. The teachers shared some of these reflections with me and I am posting them here.
The junior triad is now exploring how the journalling, especially the reflections can lead to more sophisticated student inquiry. They have learned that the ground for inquiry needs to be carefully prepared before jumping into one. The math journals, leading to individual student reflection on learning is a great way to do this.
The wonderful thing about the triad teacher inquiry process is that teachers choose what they want to learn based on the needs of their students. They all record their learning in an Evidence of Learning document that gets updated every time they meet. Ultimately, their inquiries become the basis for our school improvement plan.
For me, the most interesting teacher reflection throughout this process has to do with how their inquiries has changed their teaching practice. We added this question this year after reading Intentional Interruptions by Steven Katz. Katz states that every time teachers embark on a new ‘doing’, they need to reflect on some key questions. One of these questions asks teachers to reflect on how any new initiative will deepen their professional understanding such that teacher practice changes. (pg 78)
This is how the junior teachers answered this question:
Where to next? Now what?
“The journals have shown us that explicit teaching prior to, or in combination with, inquiry allows for more success. We need to fill the student’s toolboxes with concepts and strategies before we can expect them to be confident in problem based inquiry. Confidence is one of the most important tools for students to be successful!
We have also learned that the journals have built in differentiation for all the learning styles in the classroom with the flexibility and creativity allowed in the reflection piece.
We will definitely continue the Math journal into next year. Where possible, the students remaining in the school will have their journals passed on to the coming teacher and continued on from there (teacher discretion). We hope to take the explicit teaching in the journals and use it to strengthen the students’ inquiry skills.
Possibility for next year are some shortcuts for the kids who have a difficult time with copying or concepts, for example having the curriculum learning goals pre-typed, having some of the interactive tools photocopied, creating alternative interactive tools based on student needs.
More conferencing needed.”
Really interesting to see concrete examples of teacher learning taking off once they are given the autonomy to try out new concepts on their own!