Meeting teachers where they are.

These images of Helen’s keys illustrate how busy and multidimensional teachers’ lives are. To be effective, instructional technology support has to take this into account.

At a few of the schools I support I have established a bimonthly coaching day. Teachers know that one day every two weeks I will be available for one-on-one or small group support on the teachers’ prep period or lunch. The response has been very positive. Teachers really appreciate being listened to and involved in their learning. It’s specific, personal and timely. Also, I can check in with the teacher on the next coaching day to follow-up and address any issues.

One of the biggest difficulties I have when facilitating larger group instructional technology workshops is that there is such a range in teachers’ skills and exposure to technology. Some teachers only need an overview and then time to explore. Others need more specific and ongoing instructions. I always want to honour people’s time by making it relevant to their subject area and experience. In addition, if the technology or computers are not readily available in their classroom, teachers find it difficult to practice their new skills and frustrating to have to relearn later. One size fits all is not appropriate for students or teachers.

Every time I work with a teacher, I learn something new. Teachers know their students and their subjects. They can see the possibilities; they just need support to realize their vision. Often, a teacher presents me with a situation I have not encountered before and we work together to solve it. Other times, teachers are surprised that I don’t know about a website or technique. I leave every coaching session with more to offer the next teacher. Working with Helen today reinforced the value of these coaching sessions and I finally got time to learn how to use a Flash plug in to display a (non compatible) document camera image in Smart Notebook. Tomorrow, I’ll show Nancy–Thanks Helen!

Blogging with Manny

I am really enjoying working with “chefmanny” on his new blog! He has so much experience and passion for his students and food.  Check out this goat cheese and roasted pepper appetizer! 

His students recently competed in the Ontario Skills Competition in Waterloo and received THIRD PLACE in Ontario! Congrats to the Turner Fenton Hospitality department.

Check out Manny’s blog at: chefmanny.edublogs.org

Bring your own device

This Popplet was created for a PD session on the use of personal devices in classrooms. By no means is it an exhaustive list of activities that incorporate students’ devices–just a few suggestions. Pick one and start!

Rainbow Rose

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This is a test post to use my iphone to post. BYOD is becoming more prevalent in our schools as we move to widespread wireless access. It’s an exciting time in education!

What quote defines you?

I am always interested in reading the quotes that people put in their email signatures. It seems to be a way to define yourself, a logo or mantra. I have never been able to choose just one quote because I feel like a different person each day. So I have just a plain name, title and contact information in my signature. I’m looking for a good quote though. Any suggestions?

The quotes below are gleaned from the last two days of emails.*

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Winston Churchill

“Everyday, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.”  Sir Ken Robinson 

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” Albert Schweitzer.

” Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; Education is life itself.”      John Dewey

“I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge…” –Seymour Papert

 “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”  ~  Theodore Isaac Rubin 

‘Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.’ Buddha

Sent from my iPhone

*I have not verified these quotes…just copied them from the emails.

Poetry Contests

These poetry contests might inspire the next Earle Birney or Margaret Atwood…

Canada Writes Poetry Prize

Sponsor: CBC Books

Deadline: May 1, 2012

Prizes: First Prize $6000 + publication, 4 Second Prizes of $1000 + publication

Topic: Any

Format: Poetry, 400-600 words

Open to: Canadians of all ages, $25 entry fee

Link: http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadawrites/literaryprizes/poetry/

Kisses and Popsicles Spring Poetry Contest: 

Sponsor: Pandora’s Collective

Deadline: May 15, 2012

Prizes: Varies between $30 and $100 depending on age, and publication

Topic: Any

Format: Poetry, Maximum lines is 50

Open to: All countries, all ages (3 age categories), $3-$5 per entry

Link: http://www.pandorascollective.com/what-we-do/contests

Refugees and Human Rights Child and Youth Poetry Contest

Sponsor: COSTI Immigrant Services

Deadline: May 16, 2012

Prizes: 3 First Prizes of $200.00 each.  3 Second and Third Prizes of $100.00 each.

Topic: Refugees and Human Rights

Format: An original poem 24 or fewer lines

Open to: Canadian, Grades 4-12, no entry fee

Link: http://www.costi.org/sys/anno_detail.php?id=41341

Express your Canadian side, have fun and win some swag!

Looking for authentic writing opportunities for your students?  Here are some contests and other opportunities to give them real life exposure. They are in order of deadline. The last two are contests for teachers!

Our Canada Magazine

Sponsor: Reader’s Digest

Deadline: ongoing

Prizes: Free year subscription and publication

Topic: True life Canadian stories, humorous anecdotes, pictures and more

Format: up to 600 words

Open to: everyone

Link: http://www.rd.ca/ourcanada/contribute/contribute_2009.php

Hilroy Spread the Word Environmental Award

Sponsor: Hilroy

Deadline: May 18, 2012

Prizes: $5000 RESP

Topic: Environmental Action

Format: “Like” Hilroy on Facebook, then submit essay-max 250 words, and picture

Open to: Canadian Students (10-18) who need to be nominated through Facebook by someone 18 or over

Link: https://www.facebook.com/hilroy.ca/app_218359844932047

Teacher Talent Contest

Sponsor: Teach Hub

Deadline: April 30, 2012

Prizes: $1000 for First Prize, $500 for Second Prize, $100 for 3rd, 4th and 5th

Topic: Teaching or any other talent

Format: Videos up to 5 minutes

Open to: American teachers

Link: http://www.teachhub.com/teacher-talent-contest

Instructables Education Challenge

Sponsor: Instructables, Autodesk Inc.

Deadline: June 4, 2012

Prizes: MacBook Air and VGA adaptor for First Prize, other prizes available

Topic: Project Based Learning activities

Format: Videos, Photos and/or Guides

Open to: Teachers in USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Belguim, China, The Netherlands

Link: http://www.instructables.com/contest/education/?show=INFO

 

Why I think students need to memorize.

Yesterday I watched a TEDx video from Jeff Jarvis who said that students do not need to “memorize in the age of Google”. Why would you need to memorize things that can be looked up in a moment from a device we carry in our pocket? I have often heard and agreed with this comment in the past. While “rote” memorization is generally a thing of the past, I am now rethinking the idea that students do not need to memorize. Students need to remember enough basic knowledge to be able to innovate. They also need to be able to critically examine data they find on the Internet—this requires background knowledge and experiences.

Google is apparently increasing our ability to remember how to find information on the internet or stored on our computers. Recent studies of post secondary students have shown that they remember less information when they know that they will have access to the information in the future. However, they were better at remembering how to find the information a second time than those who were told they would have no access. In addition, we are developing a shared memory with our social network and the “web” similar to how “one partner in a married couple might be better at remembering birthdays, while the other might specialise in bank details. Together, they have a ‘transactive memory’, a collective store of information that each can draw upon.”

However, are we able to access the best information? Google does not provide the same search results to different people, even with identical search terms. The results are filtered by algorithms based on which browser you use, the past searches you have made, where you are, and which computer you are using, along with over 50 other “signals”. For example, one person might type in the word “Egypt” and the search results on the first page would be factual items like Wikipedia, travel sites, and the World Factbook.  Another person with the same search using only “Egypt” might get items on the riots and crisis in Egypt of 2011 along with the factual information.  This personalization is happening in many other places on the Internet like Facebook and many news sites. We may be getting information that suits our preferences, but are we getting the information we need to understand our world and differing perspectives? Until there is some sort of Internet news “watchdog” that ensures objectivity or civic responsibility, our students need to be able to remember enough factual information to judge the reliability of the information they are receiving.

Creating new ideas also requires an abundance of background knowledge and experiences.  We can get the students to research an issue before brainstorming solutions. However, in order for students to write about that solution, they need to have a large vocabulary. You can think of an idea and search for a word to match that idea, but it is doubtful that you will always be successful. Memorizing the periodic table seems illogical, but students often do not know what they will do after high school. They may want to become a pharmacist or a bioengineer. In that case, they will need to memorize at least the first 20 elements of the periodic table. You can have a periodic table in front of you at all times (on paper or device), but will you be able to make any significant discoveries if the information needed is not readily available in your mind? I believe creativity requires knowledge and experiences from many diverse subjects in order for the mind to be able to transcend the obvious and create something new.

Regardless of whether we think Google is destroying our mind’s ability to remember or not, it’s here to stay. Personal devices are only going to increase in number and functionality. That’s why it’s important to teach our students how to access quality information. They need to be able to critically examine both their search results and the sites they visit. It’s hard to be critical of someone else’s ideas without any background knowledge—memorized or at least familiar. That being said, I am not suggesting that students memorize lists of vocabulary words, multiplication tables or elements. It is not the simple memorization of facts that will improve our students’ ability to innovate and think critically. Authentic, rich tasks create experiences and connections that deepen memory. These tasks also increase students’ problem-solving and communication skills. Teachers need to design learning opportunities that help students remember or “memorize” knowledge to ensure their success as citizens of the 21st century.