Playful People Learn


“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  A quote from Albert Einstein that I love.  Fun and play are often referenced as activities of the carefree, frivolous and sometimes careless.  Albert Einstein places it exactly where it needs to be.  Front and centre in learning.  In order to play, you are committing to action.  To participate.  To risk the unfamiliar.  To hypothesize.  To imagine possibilities.  To adjust to the unexpected.  To find humour.  To enjoy.  To appreciate.  To communicate.

I was at a conference recently where the speaker was casting aspersions on blanket statements about the merits of play.  He referenced that play needed to take a specific form in order to result in meaningful learning.  I don’t disagree that play can be structured to meet specific learning outcomes.  Teaching kindergarten was very much about structuring play activities to guide children to learn specific skills or develop background knowledge.  Opportunities were designed to encourage children to ask questions and go about finding the answers.  However this is looking at play from a narrow perspective.

A willingness to be playful is a habit that opens up the world.  It presumes a stance in the world that is positive and open to wonder and to other people.  One of the learning teams at my last school would meet on the balcony on Friday after school to drink a pop, debrief the week and chat about the upcoming weekend.  There was always laughter, a litany of responsibilities and plans for play on the weekend with family and friends.  There was a shared belief that those “play” opportunities were an important part of how we experience new things and open ourselves up to getting to know people and come back to school refreshed.

At times I bemoan the fact that middle school students stay late after school to congregate around their handheld devices.  I regularly prompt them to go play outside.  Yet, when I step back, they are collaborating on best strategies to use in the game or mediating turn taking.  When my nephews explained their fascination with the world of Minecraft, I finally came to the realization that higher order thinking skills were at play.  They were engrossed in the possibilities before them.  They were not focussing on the academics preferred by educators but they were learning things that mattered to them.

Roy Lichtenstein – Girl with Ball – 1961
Assuming a playful stance is engaging in structured play activities and more.  It reflects a belief that having sense of curiosity and engagement and wonder and appreciation of successes along the way allows us explore new pathways to learning.  Show me someone who is playful and I’ll show you a learner.  I’ll show you someone who is having fun!

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   Welcoming Syrian Refugees

 

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I love December 10th. On that day in 1948, many nations came together to sign The United Nations Declaration of Rights and Freedoms. It is an annual reminder of the acknowledgement that human rights exist, despite what we read in the newspaper, see in the media, and witness all too often in daily interactions. It is also another reminder to have the conversation with our schools about human rights.

The quality of the conversation ranges from surface to particularly moving depending on the year, the person negotiating it and the students.  This year has been magic.  One of the teachers was reading Hannah’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, about the Holocaust with her 6th Grade students.  I was reading Playing War by Kathy Beckwith , to explore why war isn’t a  fun game for students coming from war torn countries with 3rd grade students.  With the help of a grant from Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children, the conversation morphed into a project to welcome Syrian refugees.

I went down to the storage locker to pull out my Christmas decorations and an old suitcase that Ms. Collins and her 6th graders could use to decorate with images and hold all our messages to welcome the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  The suitcase holding some of my most precious and breakable Christmas decorations caused me to pause.  My paternal grandmother had gotten the suitcase on a trip to Russia.  She used it to take flight several times with her four young children away from the front line of war in Germany during WWII. Her brother sponsored her and her two sisters and all of their children to come to Canada in 1947. Margriet’s suitcase took her on to the Voldendam to travel to Canada and start a new life.

I am an administrator in a school where many families have made sacrifices to come to Canada with the promise of starting a better life.  At the Winter Potluck dinner, messages of support and advice were written to the Syrian refugees coming to Canada.  Ms. Collin’s Grade 6 students have been at a booth to tell people about the Syrian refugees and encourage them to write messages to add to the others in the suitcase.  Mable Elmore, our MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, has come to talk to students about her job and work with refugees.  Yesterday Ms. Collins, on the busiest shopping day of the year, with her daughter in tow, arrived at a community forum to discuss how to support the Syrian refugees that may be arriving in our area.  The conversation deepens, the project expands and the possibility for learning and caring expands exponentially.

Inspiring Artistic Expression In Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia

I was welcomed into the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia with over the top friendly and helpful Maritime graciousness. Maritimers bring the Canadian “nice” to a whole new level.   I gravitated first to what I was most anticipating, the Maud Lewis Gallery.  To my delight her entire house with all of the surfaces, including a good part of the stove, is covered with what is now iconic Maritime folk art.  Learning about the person and her challenges with childhood arthritis brought a new level of understanding to art for the pure delight of creation and celebration of everyday surroundings.  Her art didn’t emerge from limitations on her life due to her physical challenges but her ability to delight in the life she was living.

The gallery tour started at 7:00 pm but many regulars had decided to wander through the gallery on their own.   The docent was a gentlemen named Ian (I think) and had a wealth of background knowledge and had met many of the artists showing in the gallery.  The tour started as a consideration of the show by the well known Nova Scotia artist, John Greer and his show “Retroactive”.   In the very best of teaching strategies, Ian provided not only the background, but shared stories about the artist, the installation of the show and posed questions about the works.  I learned that  John Greer also has a studio in Italy and gets his marble from the same quarry as Michelangelo.  Imagine there still being marble left!  Ian was able to encourage close consideration of the art by evoking thinking with “I wonder” and prefacing questions with “There is no right answer but…”.   What began as a standard gallery tour emerged into one of the most amazing discussions of art.

Alex Colville's Prince Edward Island inspiration
Alex Colville’s Prince Edward Island inspiration

The “Terroir:  A Nova Scotia Retrospective”collection drew me in immediately with the wine references.   The permanent collection of Nova Scotia is explored in relation to the soil, topography and climate.   Early paintings of the Maritimes and early contact with the Mi’kmaq nation were done in Europe by artists who were using early maps and records of battles by early explorers and traders.  They were followed by the work of Arthur Lismer, Alex Colville, Christopher Pratt, Mary Pratt and so many other interesting and reknown Canadian artists.  A great addition was the Contemporary First Nations Arts from artists such as Ahmoo Angecomb, Carl Beam, Edward Ned bear, David Brooks, Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Jane Ash Poitras and Alan Syliboy.   Ian ended off the tour by asking if I wanted to see his favourite piece in the gallery.  It was both an honour and a privilege to be asked.   To my amazement 1 hour and 40 minutes had passed in what felt like a mini-course on Canadian art.  Hands down the best gallery tour that I have ever taken.  If I had been more on the ball, I would have taken down his complete name so I could send a personal thank you card.

Ian underscored the importance of engaging in the stories of the art that is created and selected for showings.  My daughter recently moved into an old house with a friend and promptly started painting the wall of her little “studio” off her bedroom.  Like Maud Lewis, it is an exploration of her own creative impulses and making sense of her world.  This is what I want for the students under our care.  How can we provide the opportunities and experiences so that they have the basic skill and confidence to explore their ideas and express themselves artistically?  I have “DuckDuckGo’ed” and will be looking at ways to expose our Tecumseh students to some of the opportunities in Vancouver to expand their artistic horizons in Vancouver.   I have always encouraged parents to attend Super Sundays at the Vancouver Art Gallery but this year, we will be heading to the Gallery this fall for a start where I can start sharing some of my stories.

ProD Inspiration

Professional reading on the topic of professional development largely espouses the view that much of professional development for educators is not worth the time or money. Large-scale conferences or filling the room with a speaker does not serve the attendees in the room. This has not been my experience. I am a whole-hearted enthusiast of professional development in a variety of forms largely because I’ve experienced the direct benefit.

I have actively engaged in “teacher research” or “reflective practice” or “inquiry based practice”, since it was introduced to me under the label of “qualitative research” at Simon Fraser University in pursuit of my MA. I was in my Kindergarten class, creating a body of research with my questions and my students. Maureen Dockendorf popularized this process for wide-spread participation of teachers in Coquitlam.  Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser’s work and subsequent book, Spirals of Inquiry (2013), has continued to provide a philosophical frame and structure for educators to find answers to their questions while maintaining a focus on student learning. There is no limit to the power of asking questions, focusing on our classrooms and engaging in a conversation with colleagues about our practice and the implications for student learning.

Implicit in the asking of big questions, is the quest to find the answers. That doesn’t just happen in the microcosm of our classrooms. Some of my recent questions have come out of the work with the Grade 3/4 class I enroll on Monday and Tuesdays and my computer classes with intermediate students.   I’m working with a small group of colleagues trying to integrate digital technology into our practice to develop language proficiency and extend thinking skills. Our inquiry group has been supported by Audrey Van Alstyn and the VSB PILOT initiative – Professionals Investigating Learning Opportunities using Technology.  We have had access to planning time, regular practical instruction, discussion of pedagogy and the SAMR model with Dr. Reuben Puentedura, the support of literacy mentors in our classrooms and the opportunity to learn from others involved in PILOT via Speed Geeking and The Digital Fair.   The learning curve has been steep, and at times daunting, but always exciting. However the learning does not happen in a vacuum. We are constantly drawing on the background knowledge and ideas of specialists in the field.

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Much of my thinking has percolated on the ideas from professional reading, professional development and the subsequent conversations in person and via social media. I am energized by professional development and I have been involved in many different forms. I would like to discuss the impact of three professional development opportunities that would meet the criteria for a stand and delivery professional development.   Even though interaction is built into the presentations, according to popular research, it would render this style of professional development as obsolete.

LEARNING AND THE BRAIN CONFERENCE (May 2014):

The research on the plasticity of the brain opened up interesting conversation with my father, a retired neurosurgeon and fueled a fascination with the implications for education. When faced with the opportunity to attend a Brain Research Conference in New York, I jumped.  The power of neuroscientists and educators coming together to define best practice is probably one of the most powerful opportunities at our disposal today. Yes, I was one who lined up to have my purchases signed by the “rock stars” of educational research. And yes, then I proceeded to read the books and look for connections with my practice and applications in my educational context.  I have even participated in the follow-up monthly online chats.

INTERNATIONAL READING (NOW LITERACY) ASSOCIATION (July 2014):

I first became involved in The International Reading Association as a beginning teacher in Abbotsford. Level of involvement fluctuated throughout the years, but my role, as a literacy teacher and learner remained constant and the International Reading Association has always been the “go to” place for practical application of educational research. The International Reading (now Literacy) Association Leadership Convention in Tampa, Florida brought together literacy leaders from North America and beyond to share our work with our provincial /state and local literacy councils. I attended in my capacity as the Provincial Coordinator interested in supporting research based literacy teaching.  The connections made with colleagues of like mind has provided a bank or ideas and support to continue with my work in literacy learning and leadership.

PHI DELTA KAPPA – UBC CHAPTER

My involvement in PDK has come out of a love of the cross-pollination that comes from engaging in conversation about educational leadership with people engaged in a variety of education contexts, from a range of school boards and educational institutions. PDK is a professional organization that is founded on the premise of research, generally organizing 3-4 dinner meetings and featuring a speaker or panel to discuss an area of interest to our members. In April (2015), George Couros and Jordan Tinney presented a session: Report Cards and Communicating Student Learning: Leadership & Learning in a Changing World. The room was filled to capacity within the week and the waiting list started to grow. Tinney and Couros engaged participants in a discussion of the possibilities for innovation that exist in the educational context in B.C. to engage and empower students as well as teachers, utilize social media and create digital portfolios to document student learning.   They created electricity in the room. Ideas were also processed via twitter (#PDKedchat )during the presentation and allowed people outside the room to participate as well.

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In each of these contexts, people of like mind and a growth mindset flocked to sessions to discuss the ideas and make sense of the presentation in light of their own educational context. The conversations would continue long after the actual presentations within professional networks, in blogs and via twitter. The connections with other professional development was be processed, questioned, discussed, embraced, dismissed or implemented in hybrid form.

James Paul Gee presented a talk called: The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Literacy at The Learning and the Brain Conference in New York in May 2014. I was inspired and had a template to build my understanding of what digital literacy needed to look like in my context. At a breakfast meeting in Tampa with Marcie Craig Post, the Executive Director of International Literacy Association, the discussion continued about the need to provide students not only with the scaffolding so they can learn to talk, read and develop thinking skills but the importance of “talk, text, and knowledge (TTK) mentoring” required to use digital tools effectively for literacy development. Tinney and Couros pushed the card with the possibilities for implementation of meaningful assessment and evaluation practices.

When presentations resonate with educators, the conversation continues. Listening to a presentation brings a depth of understanding that doesn’t always come from reading the book, a blog or a twitter post. When people I respect recommend titles of books, I read them or at least aspire to read them! When they ask a question that captures my attention, I think about it. Perhaps I use it to frame my next inquiry project.  I have been lucky to have many opportunities to learn new ideas, consolidate old ones and ask questions. I’ve had the good fortune to listen to amazing professionals with breadth of background knowledge and experiences. They stood, they delivered, they engaged the audience and made me think.   I left the room with new tools, more questions, a sense of efficacy and the inspiration to act. I strongly believe the appetite for this mode of professional development is not going away anytime soon. It represents one necessary part of my professional development appetite.

Lit Circles Meet iPad Revisited

My grade 3/4 students were given a new assignment posted on Showbie.  I love being able to post the text and then add the voice note.  The assignment was inspired by the article “Literature Circles Go Digital” by Karen Bromley , and her several grad students at Binghamton University in New York, ” in the November 2014 edition of The Reading Teacher (Vol.68 Issue 3).

I’ve have usually framed four roles for Literature Circles: Discussion Director to encourage global understanding of the text; Word Wizard to focus the reader on vocabulary; Friend of a Character to encourage a focus on characterization in the novel; and Connector to activate background knowledge and relate to the text. Each reader would prepare for one role for the literature circle. The next time, he/she prepared a different roles until all roles have been experienced.

Karen Bromley et al, offered a greater range of roles to their students:  Discussion Director (3 thinking questions); Illustrator (picture, diagram or graphic organizer with at least 5 words as labels to show something that happened); Investigator (Find information about the story, setting, author, illustrator or something important); Literary Luminary (funny, favorite, powerful, or special parts to read aloud); Mapmaker (create an action map or diagram that shows plot or describes setting); Connector (connections between the book and the outside world); Vocabulary Enricher (find interesting or unfamiliar words and find the meanings in a dictionary); and Summarizer (Write a paragraph or make a list that is a brief summary or overview of the main ideas and events in the story).

Leila Khodarahmi, my teaching partner (Wednesday to Friday) has worked extensively with our Grade 3/4 students using R5 strategies to respond to text.  I have worked with students (Monday, Tuesday) on developing their ability to express themselves in the writing process.  My expectation was that with the motivation of the technology, they would be excited about generating a response that was thoughtful and perhaps even “better” than what I would generally receive in a typical response log.  My goal was to prepare students for small group discussion by completing tasks to deepen their comprehension.   The technology allowed them to quickly generate a response that took a small piece of the text and generate a response, that may or may not have involved critical thinking skills.  For example,

Response 1:  Literary Luminator

Text is cut and pasted into BookCreator.  The student reads the text aloud and downloads pictures.  Their is no rationale for why the piece was selected  or why it is important to the global understanding of the text.

Response 2:  Illustrator

The student draws a picture on Draw and Tell.  The audio is used to briefly describe the picture.

Response 3:  Discussion Director

The student uses WORD to write three questions about the text.

Response 4:  Connector

There is one phrase written on BookCreator loosely referencing a personal connection with the book.

Response 5:  Vocabulary Enricher

Several unfamiliar words are listed with dictionary definitions and downloaded pictures.

During the literature circles, the responses on the iPad were presented to the group and students were impressed with the features of the technology but the responses did not generate discussion.  The response was generally “easy, peasy, done”.   I prompted students to share their thinking and make connections to the text.  It wasn’t clear whether all of the students had read all of the text or understood it.

My intention was to utilize technology to achieve a greater amount of engagement in the task which I hoped would result in a higher level of critical thinking and understanding of the text.  This was not the case.  Students took the path of least resistance to do the minimal amount of work to fulfill the assignment.  They reported they liked doing responses this way because “It was really easy” and “It was SO fast.”  It did not reflect an understanding of the text or an engagement in the task.  They were proud of their responses because the technology included audio or pictures that they could use the technology to get the work done and they thought were pretty impressive.  The focus was using the technology rather than understanding the text.

Dr. Ruben Puentedura and Dr. James Paul Gee have both given me a good starting point for reflection.  I have heard Dr. Puentedura speak on the SAMR model twice.  Although the academic description was interesting, it was having Dr. Puentedura working through the possibilities of applying the SAMR ladder to a series of lessons that I had completed, that was most thought provoking.  Essentially I had not redesigned the literature circles with the technology in mind.  Although students were familiar with the APPS and with responding to text, their focus was on completing the assignment.  I had simply substituted written response with APPS.

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Dr. James Paul Gee has done a lot of writing and presenting about creating smarter students through digital literacy.  Gee discusses the importance of “talk, text, and knowledge (TTK) mentoring” required to use digital tools effectively.   Obviously I need to provide more scaffolding for students to learn about creating meaning in the digital world.  The question is how?

What are the applications that will require my students to use technology to create meaning in complex and thoughtful ways?

What will allow them to create connections with others to help them in finding the answers to their questions or ask new questions?

Are my expectations of digital technology based on the best responses that I was able to cox out of my most responsive students during Lit Circle?

The process of learning continues…

Student Led conferences via iMovie

Student led conferences with a twist this year.  Joanne Carlton, our VSB iMentor was fortunately available to come to the classroom to guide our learning in Division 11.  She has a considerable amount of background knowledge in literacy instruction and technology.  As luck would have it,  Zhi Su, the VSB iMovie expert was also available to come as well.  We had planned in advance of their arrival so we could make the best use of their time.   The previous week, I has attended a session for teachers and administrators participating the iPad Cart inquiry with my inquiry colleagues.  Although I’ve had some experience with iMovie, the facilitators broke down the process so that we were able to take photos and a short videoclip, then add voice and a music track.  Very impressive for an after school professional development session.  I posted the assignment for students (the list of photos and videoclips for students to collect) on the Showbie APP and explained the purpose with a voice note.  Most of the kids are now able to log onto their Showbie account independently. With student led conferences on the horizon, my Grade 3/4 class were excited about sharing the Winter theme books they had created with their photos from the playground, their winter sense poetry, downloaded images and audioclips.  However I decided to tap student interest in the iPad technology and allow my Grade 3 and 4 students to use the iPads to demonstrate and talk about their learning this term with their parents.   Many parents at the first conferences of the year had expressed they wanted their children to spend less time using technology.  I very much wanted them to understand the importance of being deliberate with time spent on screens.   Students had each collected:

  • a photo of himself or herself
  • a photo with the friends he/she particularly works well with in class
  • a videoclip of himself/herself doing gymnastics
  • a videoclip of himself/herself reading a favorite passage from the book he/she was currently reading
  • a photo of a piece of writing from his/her Thinking Book or Writing Book
  • a photo of the the province/territory or Aboriginal group he/she is researching

Zhi took the leadership of stepping the students through the process.  The first thing he did was show them how to pull up the picture of himself or herself and write their name on it.  Students learned to share group photos via airdrop, add music and shorten video-clips.  Many of our students attend Chinese School and decided that their Chinese calligraphy had to be part of their iMovie.  The more proficient students in the class have been teaching the others Chinese writing to create Lunar New Year cards to deliver to the mostly Asian business owners down Victoria Drive on February 19th.  Many students were proud to share their skill with their parents. We had lots of adults in the room helping the students and inquiring about their learning.  However the sharing between students was readily apparent.  If one student in a working group had music, then it was likely all of them did.  Myles LOVED the ability to airdrop and single handedly taught most of the class.  Jason, a big ‘”Frozen” fan downloaded an image from the movie as the final frame of his movie with the caption “Bye”.  One group of students downloaded applause for their iMovies.  The process was not without it’s glitches.  However everyone had a movie and one more way to open up the conversation about their learning with his/her parents.  Fortunately Henry emerged as our Grade 3 techno-wizard in the process of getting everyone ready for conferences once the mentors were gone.  He became the expert on downloading from iMovie to Showbie so we could share the iPads with our other inquiry classes on conference days.   Parents were simply amazed at how smart their children are and how much they have learned.  As the teacher, the iMovies helped me to learn about my students and determine some of the focus areas for learning.  The possibilities are endless and exciting! IMG_0246

Blogging for Thinking – Reboot

As you may remember from the earlier Blogging for Thinking post, Virginia Bowden and I started our inquiry project in February of this year with two groups of students identified as gifted. These students were participating in two different district programs at an elementary school in Vancouver. Our quest was to use blogging as a means to develop writing skills and critical thinking skills in our students. We posted this entry on the Kidblog sites we had each created to guide our classes.

***** Blogging for Thinking Post on Kidsblog *****

Technology is a tool just like a pencil or pen. We are using blogging as a tool for two reasons. Kidblog allows your teacher to adjust the security settings so only your classmates, parents and teachers can read and respond to your blog. It allows you to creatively personalize your space and learn about blogging before you start posting in a public space. Blogging is also one way to develop and extend your thinking through writing by reflecting on your learning in and out of the classroom. Because you are not able to use your facial expressions or other body language to communicate, your words must clearly express your ideas. You also have the task of using your creativity and language to grab the interest of your audience.

Throughout your learning, we are using the following questions from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser (Spirals of Learning 2013) to keep us moving forward.

  1. What am I learning?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. Where am I going next with my learning?

We will be using the following a rubric based on the article “Responding to the imperatives of learning in the 21st Century” (The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2011) to evaluate your progress.

  1. Developing Self-regulated learning: The goal is for you to be able to say: “I am in charge of my learning and motivated to carry out my work in personally responsible, self-reflective ways and to exercise reasoned judgment to meet my goals”.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

I depend on others for almost all

decisions about what,

how and when I learn; I follow the teacher’s directions but I don’t add my own thoughts, ideas or interpretations.

I demonstrate personal

responsibility to take charge of what, how and when I learn but I need the teacher to provide specific options to choose from.

I exercise thoughtfully

informed judgments in the pursuit of agreed-upon targets and self assess my work according to teacher provided rubrics..

I put a lot of thought and planning into setting goals and a plan to reach them.   I self evaluate how my learning is going and where I want to go next.

 

  1. Developing my Thinking Skills: The goal is to develop your critical thinking skills. The word “critical” does not mean finding fault in this case. It means that you are not just “parroting back” information, but demonstrating proficiency by making connections, analyzing evidence, and making judgments.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

I report back what I heard, did, or read during class or out of school learning experiences.

I report back what I heard, did, or read. I make connections between my learning experiences at school or home.

I consistently describe my learning and express why my learning matters. I understand where I am going next with my learning and come up with an efficient and effective plan of action.

I understand the value of my learning and where I want to go next with my learning.   My plan, conclusions & opinions are based on careful analysis of my experiences and a variety of evidence.

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The Blogging for Thinking post reflected how I had come to use blogging in my professional practice.   To post information. An online newsletter. When I started the process of developing personal blogs with my students, I shared several blogs with a range of purposes. We discussed the intent of the blog. The existence or non-existence of “voice”. Establishing credibility as an author? The theme holding together the blog entries. The role or comments in pushing thinking or shutting it down.   Great conversations ensued with students who were adept online.

It was no surprise that the writers in my class and those students with clearly defined passions, immediately took to blogging. Some students played around with a variety of ideas before settling on a theme for his/her personal blog. Some students decided in their self evaluation that they didn’t really see the purpose of the assignment until they saw where some of their peers had gone with their blogs.

As Virginia and I shared student blog entries with each other, our hearts palpitated with powerful pieces of student writing. Not only did these blogs reflect well-developed background knowledge, they demonstrated an ability to skillfully use language to convey a message that mattered, as well as an ability to engage the peers who were able to view the blog.

In the midst of reflecting on blogs of our students, I could hear Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser’s voices in my head with the mantra…What are you learning? Why does it matter?…What next?…   Add Jim Gee to the mix with the challenge to consider our responsibility to provide “talk, text, and knowledge (TTK) mentoring to our students to guide them beyond “the entertainment only “ aspect of the digital world. Add the discussions of the expanded definition of literacy at The International Reading Association Leadership Conference took place in Florida this July.   I certainly had the front end loading to write many, many blog entries.

Meredith Kezar catapulted me into the world of blogging 5 years ago by providing an example of what it could look like. She insisted I delve into her blog and showed me the possibilities for my upcoming trip to China. I was on my way to teach English and BC methodology to Chinese teachers in Fuyang. I started a travel blog to keep very specific groups of friends and family up to date on my adventures. It was fun to write, had strong “voice” and I got lots of positive reinforcement.   Many of the blogs that I have done since then have been a way of sharing information with a specific audience. More or less a group send without the hassle. However it had stopped there.

My vague goal this summer was to write widely. Stephen King’s book hit home with the need to be disciplined about carving out time to write.   I always think of Margaret Atwood and the dentist sitting beside her at an awards dinner saying “When I retire, I’m gong to become a writer” and her hitting back with “Oh, really. When I retire, I’m going to become a dentist.” My summer goal was to focus my attention of both personal and professional writing as a way to live life.

Art Markham’s work has been a good reminder about how the brain forms new habits. Where my journal writing often happened on the beach or in a café, my disciplined focus on writing required early mornings at home with no distractions.   I decided to use blogging as the tool to develop my background knowledge of digital media and develop my professional writing.   I stepped away from the blogs that I had used to share information with a tightly defined audience. I reframed three previously established blogs to explore unique purposes.

The blog that I had developed as The Provincial Coordinator of BC Literacy Council of The International Reading Association (BCLCIRA) became Inquire2Empower  CarrieFroese.wordpress.com Initially I started it when I became Provincial Coordinator, of The BC Literacy Council. The purpose was to create community with literacy educators who were International Reading Association members. It is now emerging into a tool not only to provide information, but also to engage a wide range of educators in asking questions and reflecting on learning. It put the onus on me to engage in regular reflective process about my reading, writing, perspectives, conversations and invite feedback.   It was empowering to have Art Markham responding to my comments on his book and learning about creating “unanticipated community”. It’s interesting to learn which issues and ideas resonate with other people. How does this inform the professional offerings we offer through BCLCIRA and PDK in Vancouver?

My Hobbit travel journal came to with me on my first 6 week trek to Europe when I was 17 years old. It is filled with descriptions of what we ate and drank. Some things don’t change. My seriousindulgences.wordpress.com blog reflects that enduring fascination with food and drink. Entries come naturally and much of the writing has been done at Kit’s pool between laps, on the beach, in hotel rooms or in cafes. It has really pushed the development of my technical knowledge about digital media: Format; mobile posting to Facebook; Posting to Pages as opposed to timelines; Twitter; Instacollage; Pinterest… Because I like to travel, eat out and go wine tasting, posts are frequent. This lends itself to considering timing and frequency of posts to reach a vaguely defined audience. So much to learn about the how to’s and why’s and really’s?

I have been on the board of directors for Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children Society of British Columbia www.wartoystopeaceart.com for many years. Susan Ruzic, Sandy Murray and myself set up a blog cultureofpeace4kids.wordpress.com site last year. Our intention was to create a dynamic site that allows multiple people to post projects and publicize funding for peace art projects with children.   My summer goal has been to develop a standard for posts that will invite active participation to report projects funded by PC2 (Promoting a Culture of Peace for Children), keep our eyes open for ideas for other possible projects and perhaps attract funding.   Although this site has the least activity, it does open the possibility of redefining how the board functions and invites participation from others in a noble causeJ

As my holidays come to a close, I feel energized by my summer learning. Although blogging is defined as public due to the nature of the audience, the actual writing and subsequent growth is extremely personal. This spring, Virginia and I were trying to teach our students to apply and develop their writing skills and critical thinking skills. That is just what I did as I carved out time for regular reflective practice, wrote for a larger audience and broadened my perspective on the possibilities of social media. The PDK professional development with Chris Kennedy and crew, the journey of literacy practitioners to expand the definition of literacy, the quest of neuroscientists working with educators to bring new understanding of learning, all came together for some very powerful personal professional development.

Transforming Lives Through Literacy

The International Reading Association, like many organizations, is experiencing challenges due to retirement of baby boomers, the downturn in many economies, and competing interests for the time of literacy educators.  Although the name is changing to The International Literacy Association, reading remains at the core of the mission and purpose.  The broader term “literacy” has the advantage of being less reductive and reflects the reality that literacy professionals deal with a cluster of skills that also include speaking, listening, writing, and presenting.

The Mission

The mission of the International Reading Association is to promote reading by continuously advancing the quality of literacy instruction and research worldwide.

The Goals

Professional Development

  • Enhance the professional development of reading educators worldwide
  • Organize and support IRA Councils and Affiliates as networks of reading educators
  • Promote a broad view of literacy
  • Help educators to improve the quality of literacy instruction through publications and conferences
  • Prepare educators to assume different roles as reading professionals
  • Provide leadership in the continuously changing nature of reading in a digital age

Advocacy

Advocate for research, policy, and practices that support the best interests of all learners and reading professionals

  • Foster life-long literacy habits
  • Promote high quality teacher and student learning to improve reading instruction
  • Keep policy makers informed about IRA’s positions
  • Develop policy and position statements
  • Provide members with background information and resources
  • Collaborate with national and international policy makers

Partnership

  • Establish and strengthen national and international alliances with a wide range of organizations
  • Work with governmental, nongovernmental, and community agencies; businesses, industries, and donors
  • Develop and support IRA councils and affiliates around the world
  • Collaborate with a range of partners on long-term efforts to improve literacy

The British Columbia Literacy Council of IRA (BCLCIRA, more commonly known as Readingbc) has just passed a slate of dedicated International Reading Association members to carry on the work in British Columbia from the ranks of public schools, private schools and retired teachers.  We’re particularly pleased to welcome Mike Bowden, to bring the voice of teachers in Central BC to our provincial council.  The latest coup of this IRA council has been to secure the commitment of Kristen Ziemke, co-author of Connecting Comprehension & Technology:  Adapt and Extend Toolkit Practices to present at our fall conference on Oct. 24th, 2014 – provincial professional development day in British Columbia.  Her presentation & book, co-authored by Stephanie Harvey, Anne Goudvis and Katie Muhtaris, was very well received at the IRA AGM this past May.

In my capacity as provincial coordinator, I will be attending an intensive multi-day program in Tampa from July 10-13, which is designed to provide Council Leaders with training in the areas of governance, finance, advocacy and strategic planning.

 

Blogging for Thinking…The next step

Virginia and I are continuing our inquiry project with our students, two groups of students in district gifted programs.  This is the Kidpost entry given to our students to allow us to be very specific about the learning intentions of our blogging project.

Blogging for Thinking

Technology is a tool just like a pencil or pen. We are using blogging as tool for two reasons. Kidblog allows your teacher to adjust the security settings so only your classmates, parents and teachers can read and respond to your blog. It allows you to creatively personalize your space and learn about blogging before you start posting in a public space. Blogging is also one way to develop and extend your thinking through writing by reflecting on your learning in and out of the classroom. Because you are not able to use your facial expressions or other body language to communicate, your words must clearly express your ideas. You also have the task of using your creativity and language to grab the interest of your audience.

Throughout your learning, we are using the following questions from Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser (Spirals of Learning 2013) to keep us moving forward.

  1. What am I learning?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. Where am I going next with my learning?

We will be using the following a rubric based on the article “Responding to the imperatives of learning in the 21st Century” (The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2011) to evaluate your progress.

1. Developing Self-regulated learning:  The goal is for you to be able to say: “I am in charge of my learning and motivated to carry out my work in personally responsible, self-reflective ways and to exercise reasoned judgment to meet my goals”.

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
I depend on others for almost alldecisions about what,

how and when I learn; I follow the teacher’s directions but I don’t add my own thoughts, ideas or interpretations.

 

I demonstrate personalresponsibility to take charge of what, how and when I learn but I need the teacher to provide specific options to choose from. I exercise thoughtfullyinformed judgments in the pursuit of agreed-upon targets and self assess my work according to teacher provided rubrics.. I put a lot of thought and planning into setting goals and a plan to reach them.   I self evaluate how my learning is going and where I want to go next.

 

2. Developing my Thinking Skills: The goal is to develop your critical thinking skills. The word “critical” does not mean finding fault in this case. It means that you are not just “parroting back” information, but demonstrating proficiency by making connections, analyzing evidence, and making judgments.

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
I report back what I heard, did, or read during class or out of school learning experiences. I report back what I heard, did, or read. I make connections between my learning experiences at school or home. I consistently describe my learning and express why my learning matters. I understand where I am going next with my learning and come up with an efficient and effective plan of action. I understand the value of my learning and where I want to go next with my learning.   My plan, conclusions & opinions are based on careful analysis of my experiences and a variety of evidence.

 

 

 

 

“Blogging” For Thinking

I have the great pleasure of working with Virginia Bowden at Tecumseh this year.  Through her work with students participating in The District Gifted/Enrichment Seminars and my role as Computer prep teacher with the District MACC students, we have arrived at convergent inquiry interests.  Thanks to the mentoring of Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser – through both Vancouver sessions and their book, Spirals of Inquiry, we are making our way along the path toward framing our inquiry question.  When we first sat down to scan what was going on for our kids and the experiences we were providing, we came up with some similar experiences and perceptions.

Both of us were exploring how technology could be used to not just replicate tasks done offline but help students to apply their background knowledge, make connections and actually deepen student thinking and reflection.  Yes, and spark their interests, passions, and develop writing skills!  Providing the assignment or conveying information through interest focused blogs (ie. http://tecumsehcomputerwhiz.wordpress.com/)  became very teacher focused and invited conversational (chat-like) responses and comments not doing much more than scratching the surface.  Our hunch was that blogging could be a way to allow students to go deeper by pushing their thinking – either in reflective responses or the ability to engage their audience in their writing.  The quest is to discover the route.

I’m wondering about how student choice over the theme of their blog will impact the investment in creating thoughtful blog posts?  Virginia is thinking a lot about how much class time is required for students to be able to reflect on their day in a way that pushes them to use their higher order thinking skills?  Both of us wonder how thoughtful comments from peers can extend thinking?

In order to teach students about blogging in a somewhat protected environment, Virginia started using Kidblog.  We both now have our groups set up in classes so students can write their own blog posts and invited comments from classmates without it having to be moderated by the teacher or necessitate use of pseudonyms.  We’re also exploring the privileges that are extended to parents and guests.  Virginia is focusing on daily reflections of learning throughout the day.  I am focusing on developing student voice and ability to engage their target audience into blogs that reflect their own interests.  We’re both still considering where we are going with our learning and what our students need from us to use technology to extend their thinking in thoughtful ways..