Thursday, March 9, 2017

Attributes of Bravery

For International Women's Day, we watch this inspiring TED Talk by Caroline Paul.
In this video, Paul explores 3 attributes of bravery which include:
1 - Getting outside your comfort zone
2 - Calling on your own resilience
3 - Finding confidence in yourself and your decisions

First of all, these three attributes are what I hope to instill in all students. Especially at the intermediate level, where they are struggling to find their place, discussing the benefits of these attributes is so important. Task risks, bounce forward when faced with setbacks, and be who you are.

While Paul discusses what parents can do to encourage girls to be more brave, I think that we have a role to play as educators as well.

I am quite open with my students. I share stories and anecdotes often as a way to build relationships and wearing my heart of my sleeve is just a part of who I am. I find the more open I am, the more students are willing to give of themselves. I also share aspects of my life to model positive mindsets and attitudes. I have noticed the past few years many girls who are hesitant to talk risks. Intelligent, kind, incredibly capable young women who remain quiet as the voices of males in the room fill the air. I have wondered why this is, and maybe this TED talk has something to say about it.

I have a bit of an adventurous spirit. Maybe this comes from growing up with three big brothers. I climbed trees, I fell, I got back up, I crossed streams by tiptoeing across logs. I was expected to be brave.

In education, perhaps we need to not only encourage, but expect bravery from our girls. While we can't change all attitudes and perceptions, we can help build confidence and resilience in all our students.

Maybe we need to ask each day, "How were you brave today?".

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Voyageurs of Learning

“Joseph-Nicholas Delisle and his nephew by marriage, Philippe Buache, were obsessed by the idea of a vast sea, connected to the Pacific in northwestern North America. Beginning in 1752, Delisle and Buache published a series of maps and memoirs describing this mythical 'Mer de 1'ouest'; some of their maps appeared as late as 1779 in Diderot's Encyclop├ędie. The 'Mer de l'ouest' had been a strong motive for exploration but as early as the 1740s few others dared place it on a map”. 
(Library and Archives Canada)
Image and except retrieved from the Historical Atlas of Canada
During our second day of Innovation Stations a rather interesting metaphor struck me. We were discussing how as early users of this educational technology, we have a responsibility to document our learning journey, successes and failures, so that others might learn from us and to provide documentation of our thinking processes for our own reflection.

Maybe this is a little like the early explorers of Canada, such as Delisle and Buache, who dared to envision something different, something uncharted, something magical. They had hope and belief in discovery. When they set off on new explorations, they were not sure where they would lead. With conviction, passion, incredible resilience, and bravery they embarked on their expeditions.

As I looked around the classroom this afternoon, I noticed students totally enamoured with their learning expeditions. When they encountered challenges, such as robots 'misbehaving' or code not quite working they asked questions of each other and tried something else. I witnessed teams seeking support from the team who completed the station the day before. In the final moments of consolidation, students were keen to add their reflections, as they are beginning to see the importance of it for themselves and for others. With each exploration, a map required to show where we have been.

All of this makes me think of the many edtech 'voyageurs' who dare to envision education as something different than it is today. Those who create possible 'maps' of what education can be, those with hopes and aspirations for learning in new and innovative ways. We cannot predict with certainty what the future will look like. Our 'maps' may turn out to imperfect, such as the mythical 'Mer de l'ouest'. Yet, we keep searching for new places, with hopeful and passionate hearts.

Educators and learners as voyageurs of learning. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Innovation Stations

What do you do when your MOSS Robotics and Sphero Sprk+ kits arrive on your doorstep?
First, of course, you do a little happy dance!

Then you resist the urge to open the boxes until you are with your students.
This past weekend it was AGONY not to dive in. I held back as I know how awesome it is to open them up in the presents of the learners and ask, "What's possible with what's in these boxes?".

A little background - this past December I had the fortunate opportunity of attending the MISA Innovation day in London, On. Not only did I get to connect with inspiring educators and leaders from our region, I also had the chance to apply for some funding. My proposal for my 'FAB LAB' was excepted - enter the MOSS robotics and the Sphero Sprk+.

With these new additions to our FabLab, I wanted students to get their hands on them and explore the possibilities and document their initial thinking and wonderings. As I always say, with exploration comes the necessity for reflection.

So today we started our first round of Innovation Stations. Students were grouped in teams of 4 to explore elements of our FabLab. Some activities such as coding using Scratch and 3D designing/printing using TinkerCad and M3D are not new, but the innovation stations a challenge to use creativity and critical thinking in new ways.

See below for our thoughts and creations from our first day of Innovation Stations!

Scratch Station CANADA150 Challenge
One groups' first iteration: using a sprite as a host to their trivia game. Upon discussion they are searching for a more "Canadian" sprite. Also looking to add cumulative point scores. 

Creating a robot using proximity sensors. First attempt the robot moved haphazardly in circles. Debugging uncovered cubes in the incorrect orientation. 

Collaboration in action. 
Programming our new friend SPRK to run the course ... and back again!
MOSS team reflection: "Using MOSS is complicated but fun. Building our robot tells us what certain parts do and how it works. For example the proximity sensor measures how far or close to something it is. It is very enjoyable if complex and delicate, we hope to use it again soon."

Google Cardboard team reflection: "In google street view we travelled to Greece. In Greece we noticed that a lot of the landscape was made out of marble (ex. sidewalks). We also saw a lot of greenery. We also went to the liars bridge in Romania. We found out that all the buildings are painted in orange. Next we went to China. We were in some sort of a temple and the building was huge. Just before the session ended we traveled to the taj mahal in India."

The classroom was a buzz of activity this afternoon. It was my absolute pleasure to witness students collaborating, creating, and problem solving using these new innovative learning tools. I'm not sure where we are going next, but what I do know is that journey is richer and celebration sweeter when we put students in the drivers seat and provide experiences that are engaging and challenging.

Monday, March 6, 2017


I've heard it said that Twitter is like a flowing river. It's impossible to catch all the water. You reach in when you can to fill up your cup. I'm not exactly sure where I heard this, but it captures what Twitter is for me. When I first started on Twitter, I was overwhelmed by the shear quantity of information and possible connections. I developed a bit of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Slowly I began to let go of my expectations and dip my cup when I needed that re-fueling/refreshing from my PLN.
This past Saturday I dipped my cup in at a rather serendipitous time. I noticed a challenge from  @mrfusco to complete #5posts5days. I have felt the need to get back to blogging and this was just the nudge I needed. Carlo's first blog asks, 'Why blog?' and this ties in perfectly with the ideas I wanted to share today.
Why do I blog? 
I blog because spending a few minutes focusing on one small aspect of teaching, leading, learning helps me to refocus on what I hold dear. In the fast pace of daily life as an educator, it's easy to get wrapped up in the 'to-do' list. Blogging helps me reflect on what's working, why it's working, and what needs to change. It's for me. I don't write for an audience (maybe I should), but as a means of fleshing out the ideas floating around in my head. So what's in my head today?

Here is what's whirling around in my mind.
I keep coming back to this paragraph that I read in Thomas Friedman's latest book Thank You for Being Late.  Ever since my teaching experience in China I am fascinated with 21st century competencies in light of globalization. What's really going on in the world around us? What might the world of tomorrow look like for our students? How does this impact education? This book addresses many of these questions and so much more.

Here is the paragraph I keep coming back to:

"Knowledge is only good if you can reflect on it". -> AMEN!
Dismiss your FOMO thoughts. 
Let things ruminate. 
Be patient ... with yourself ... with others.
Embrace moments of unexpected delay. 
Be in the now. 
Slow down in order to deepen relationships. 

What does this mean for my practice?
Learning needs room to breathe. Give it the space and time it needs to settle in. Provide more opportunities for genuine reflection.
It's okay to 'miss out' on some things, so other things can flourish. Tune in to priorities.
Be in relationship with others. This makes us who we are as humans. This is why I love being an educator. The ability to form connections with others- to inspire, to care, to listen, to share. Let this be the guide.

I have now finished Part I of this book and think it would make an incredible book club for educators. Friedman has a way of weaving stories and observations together that brings clarity to perspectives explored. Any takers? I'd love to PAUSE and REFLECT with others!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What is teaching?

Alright Twitterverse. You've done it. You've given me the much needed nudge to get back to blogging.

It started this morning with this post and the threads that followed.
So I visited @MrSoclassroom's latest blog post: The purpose of teaching is ....

He commented on Cathy Fosnot's quotation, "The purpose of teaching is to help students learn ... however, without learning there is no teaching".

I think the quotations by @slwindisch and @mrsoclassroom fit together quite perfectly.
The purpose of teaching is to help students learn.
But what are we guiding them to learn about? And why that?

These are the questions that often keep me up at night. Of course we have the curriculum documents that guide our content, but there is so much more to it than that. It's about teaching students that learning how to learn is important. It's modelling that being curious and giving in to that curiosity - even though it might be hard, that you might face some struggles, and that it's going to take time and effort - is kind of the point of it all.

The what and why that are the big ideas that relate to learning in order to life fully and productively. We find these ideas throughout our curriculum documents we just have to uncover them and often backwards map student and teacher wonderings to these big ideas.

Teaching for me, is about igniting the passion inside my students.

For some students, they are ready. They have a good idea of who they are are what sparks their interest. They relish the opportunity to pursue learning about topics that inspire them. They need little more than a flicker of flint to get their flame roaring.

However, for some students, this isn't easy. They have become accustomed to the content, the what, fitting nicely inside prepackaged boxes. They need lots of kindling to get their flames going. This is what teaching is to me. Providing the experiences, the conversations, the inspiration to help students figure out what is important for them to learn about, giving them the tools they need to build their own fire, and instilling in them the confidence to light the match.

@mrsoclassroom added on this by challenging us to think about how we assess this type of learning.
For this, I look to the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning progressions. I had the fortunate privilege to attend NPDL training session this past month and am in the process of aligning these progressions with student design projects. More to come on this in the coming weeks...

Thanks for the inspiration Twitterverse! This is just what I needed on this Sunday morning!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Geometry and 3D Printing

The topic of geometric properties has become the focus of our latest mathematics spiral. The possible connections with spatial reasoning and 3D printing have become quite obvious as we have worked our way through various explorations.

Specific Curriculum Expectations:
- Sort and classify triangles and quadrilaterals by geometric properties related to symmetry, angles, and sides, through investigation using a variety of tools and strategies
- Identify, through investigation, the minimum side and angle information needed to describe a unique triangle
- Determine, through investigation using a variety of tools relationships among area, perimeter, corresponding side lengths, and corresponding angles of congruent shapes
- Demonstrate an understanding that enlarging or reducing two-dimensional shapes creates similar shapes

Exploration 1: Student Guessing Game

Students worked with a partner to classify polygons according to geometric properties. One partner selected a plastic polygon and held it behind a barrier. This partner provided clues to help the other student draw the correct shape. This activity also involved significant spatial reasoning as the task involved creating mental images corresponding to the given clues in order to draw the correct polygon. I noticed students using hand gestures to ask questions (eg. folding hands to show symmetry, hands extended to show parallel sides, holding hands into position of angles). Although these students were not following the rules of the game, it did provide a glimpse into their thinking.

Examples of student clues:

"The shape is a polygon. It has 8 vertices. It is concave/irregular. It has an interior reflex angle. It has no lines of symmetry. It has one pair of parallel sides."

"It has 4 acute angles and 4 reflex angles. It has 4 lines of symmetry. It is a concave and irregular polygon. It has 8 vertices's and 8 sides. All sides are equal. It has no parallel sides. It has rotational symmetry."

Exploration 2: Designing Shapes for Primary Students

On quite a few occasions, primary teachers at our school have knocked on our classroom door looking for attribute blocks. I am lucky to have my own set (fortunate hand-me-down from my retired teacher mom) and am happy to lend it out as we have a shortage in our school inventory.

Over the years a few pieces have become missing and I requested that the Grade 7s help me print some new ones using our 3D printer - an opportunity to further develop our skills with designing and creating using our 3D printer while also filling a need for our school community.

Students thought it might also be helpful to create additional shapes for student use including a wider variety of regular and irregular polygons.

Examples of student thinking during design process:

"For the regular octagon we got a box and made it 10mm high and 20mm by 20mm wide. Then we got another box and put a hole threw it so then it could become a triangle we did that 4 times. After that we put all the blocks together and then grouped it and got our shape of a regular octagon."

"For the irregular octagon we started with a square, then we had to make 2 triangles to go on the side of it, Next we got a square and put it underneath and duplicated one of the triangles from before and then had two more triangles to put on the side of it. And finally we grouped together."

We have just begun printing these shapes ... stay tuned for project progress!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Day 11 & Beyond: Reflection on Leadership and Innovation

My final task in the CPCO PQP 10 day challenge is to create a post summarizing my thoughts on what it means to be a digital leader. This happens to coincide with my participation at the MISA Innovation conference today in London. Rather serendipitous!

In one of the open spaces, discussion centered around teacher/administration buy-in. How do we move the system forward? A key concept we kept coming back to was the idea of partnerships.

- Partnerships between administrators and teachers where risk is embraced. This relies heavily on trust and both individuals taking a co-learning stance. It's about asking the 'What if...' and 'How might ...' questions.
- Partnerships between teachers perhaps through demonstration classrooms or informal mentorship opportunities.
- Partnerships between administrators, teachers, and students (learning with and from each other).

Building these partnerships requires time and the alignment of resources with priorities. Changing the culture is a slow process.

It was also shared that the 20% (early innovation adopters) naturally take risks and embrace failure as a part of the journey, however moving the 60% over the tipping point requires 'small wins'. They need to feel successful in order to build efficacy. I wonder how early adopters sharing their failures might impact the mindset of others who take more timid steps forward.

So what is my Day 11 going to look like?
Helping others make progress on work that they feel is meaningful. This will require asking what it is that they want for student learning, providing support, and helping them feel successful with where they are at. It's about their journey.