Get out of your comfort zone
I have once again been humbled and honoured by the opportunity to discuss my life and my thoughts about education and teaching with another amazing educator, Rolland Chidiac.
When Rolland asked me to participate in his podcast, I was taken aback (as you'll hear in our discussion about this in the podcast). I felt really inadequate as a participant compared to the other amazing people he had previously had as guests on his podcast. I couldn't imagine what I could possibly have to share that other people would want to listen to!
Rolland convinced me (I think he uses the word - strong armed?!) to join him for a chat about inspiration and I'm really glad I did. We had an amazing conversation and I got to share some thoughts on things that I love and am passionate about, especially in the realm of education.
Thank you again so much for this opportunity Rolland.
If you'd like to take a listen, you find find the Podcast - Rolland Chidiac Connects - Episode 35 here.
Here is what Rolland had to say about our episode:
This episode features Megan Valois, a High School Teacher at St. Pius X in Ottawa, Ontario. She is also a Mom, an Army wife, and a fitness enthusiast. With respect to teaching and learning, Megan is passionate about 21st Century Learning and the use of technology in the classroom (Edtech), Differentiated Instruction, Assessment for Learning, and a variety of other topics that make her an effective educator and an asset to any Professional Learning Network.
Listen in to hear what Megan has to say about how we connected, her current work as a High School teacher, working with English Language Learners, how it came to be that she became a teacher, past students who connect with/visit her, what she might be doing if she were not a teacher, what motivates her day to day, finding the time to eat well and work out, being married to a soldier and what it is like to deal with deployments, resources/support for military spouses and her volunteer work, the experience of parenting her 3 month old on her own for a period of time, what she would tell someone seeking motivation/inspiration, and fear of failure and the power of taking a step in a different direction.
Here comes the Sun... "Sunshine Blog"
First of all, I feel terrible about my delay in posting this. No excuse, other than being busy, and we all are!!
I was really humbled to be nominated by 3 people:
Michelle Cordy (@cordym)
Jeffrey Humphries (@itechteach)
Amy Bowker (@classcollect).
Michelle and I met online through Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat). Together, we worked our way through our Google Apps for Education certification! She is a resourceful, intelligent, and caring 1:1 iPad Grade 3/4 teacher who blogs at: http://hacktheclassroom.ca/.
Jeffrey is one of the awesome people in my PLN, who also happens to be from Ottawa... where I am!! He regularly participates in #cdnedchat, which I moderate, and I have learned so much from his contributions... especially because he is way more tech savvy than I am! :) Check him out here: http://www.technology4all.ca/blog.html
Amy and I met at #EdCampOttawa... she was one of the organizers. My favourite part was how we saw each other and both recognized each other from Twitter.... "Hey, you're @MsValois! Yes! You're @classcollect." Had some great conversations with her that day about DI and love what she is doing with education in her class. Her blog is just awesome: http://classroomcollective.tumblr.com/ Tons of resources and ideas!
Here is how it works:
11 Facts about Me:
1. I have a cat and a dog (German Shepherd): Fynn and Jack. I was terrified of big dogs until we got ours!
2. My favourite city to visit (of all time) is Washington, DC. I am obsessed. I went twice in 4 months!
3. I didn't get my first SmartPhone until last May!
4. This past summer, I read 1 book every 3 or so days! (Yes, I don't have children... haha!)
5. I run on coffee as fuel! My daily order from Tim Hortons is an extra large with 2 cream, half sugar and a creamy caramel flavour shot!
6. I don't like shopping; crowds bother me.
7. This year for Thanksgiving, I cooked my first ever turkey!
8. I rarely watch TV; I only really follow 3 shows: Homeland, Criminal Minds and Law and Order SVU
9. Except for two school field trips (last year and year before), I can't even remember the last time I went to a movie theatre! I am pretty sure the last movie I saw was the 3D Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey in 2009 with my Mom!
10. I am proud of my husband; he is in the Canadian Armed Forces and has twice deployed in service to the CAF.
11. If I had to choose between sweet or savoury, I'd always choose sweet.
11 Questions for me:
1. What Disney Character would you be?
Mary Poppins! Not a traditional Disney character but it is a Disney film! :) If I have to choose animated, Belle. I think she's the least "damsel in distress" of the Disney princess group; at least she shows some bravery and conviction.
2. What is the coolest app you have read about or use?
Right now, it's just Chrome Extensions in general.
3. Have you ever skyped in your classroom?
No, I prefer Google Hangout. :)
4. What twitter chats do you follow?
Too many to list but I'd be remiss if I didn't shout out to the chat I help moderate: Canadian Ed Chat. #cdnedchat - every Monday at 8pm EST.
5: What is the best thing about teaching?
6. What is your favourite stationary item?
Do Post It Notes count? Love those!
7. Cake or Ice Cream?
Cake, but only with butter cream icing... or else I scrape off the icing.
8. House Pet: Snake or Ferret?
I'd rather stick a pencil in my eye than have either. I guess snake.
9. Favourite Movie?
I can't choose one! Fried Green Tomatoes (I watched it more than 25 times when I was a kid... around 9/10 years old) and the Life of David Gale.
10: Best gift you ever got?
Hmmm. Probably the scrapbook my Mom made me for my 16th- symbolic. My parents also bought me a car (99 Sunfire!) when I graduated University with honours. That was pretty awesome!!!
11. Why did you want to become a teacher?
See answer 5. ;)
My "sunshine nominees"
Because I love DI, so much, I am differentiating this assignment for my blogging needs! ;) I am listing 11 people to follow on Twitter. If they have a blog, you can check out their blog too and they can answer the questions, if they choose. But there are some great people on Twitter who may not have blogs.... or active blogs.. and maybe this will be a reason for them to start blogging or continue! :)
I know that both Jennie and Jason have already been mentioned but I really had to include them both on my list.
1. Dana Ariss (@danaariss). Blog: www.daariss.wordpress.com
2. Theresa Wells-Taylor (@thecandydish)
3. James Petersen (@jpetersen02): Blog: www.mrjpetersen.weebly.com
4. Paul McGuire (@mcguirp) Blog: http://paulmcguire1.wordpress.com/
5. Nicholas Ferroni (@nicholasferroni): He writes for the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/
6. Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey): Blog: http://jmarkeyap.blogspot.ca/
7. Stephane Crete (@stephanecrete)
8. Rola Tibshirani (@rolat): Blog: http://learninginprogess.blogspot.ca/ and http://ensemble-together.blogspot.ca/
9. Shannon Smith (@shannoninottawa): Blog: http://shannoninottawa.com/
10. Moss Pike (@mosspike): Blog: http://cinisetfavilla.blogspot.ca/
11. Jennie Magiera (@msmagiera) http://www.teachinglikeits2999.com/
Questions for my nominees: (Some of these "borrowed" from other posts!)
Say what? All about perceptions...
Yesterday was the second part of my teacher performance appraisal (TPA) - some of you probably call these teacher evaluations. Ours is a multi step process: an initial meeting to discuss objectives/criteria and sharing session, in-class observation and follow up session.
For my TPA, I asked my vice-principal to come and observe two of my classes - my Grade 10 Applied History class and my Grade 9 Academic English class, as these classes have very different dynamics. My Grade 10 History class is a very energetic group. Sometimes we struggle with focus, attention and staying on task. This is all a part of the reality of teaching and so I didn't shy away from having this class as one of my 'observation' classes.
It got me thinking of something that Jennie Magiera said at the GAFE conference this week (Trust me... she said it better - she's way more witty than I am... but you'll get the idea). She said that she used to be so excited and proud when the principal would walk by her class and all the students were completing silent, working away in their rows with their books. Score one for the teacher being in total control! Woo hoo! And yet, she said that same thought now makes her shudder! The idea of someone walking by her class and seeing rows of children in complete silence is the exact opposite of what she wants to represent her as a teacher! And I feel the same way!
Why is it that we still have this outdated, archaic idea that a quiet classroom is always a better classroom? Sure, we don't want kids swinging from the ceilings, throwing things across the room and yelling obscenities! But, what about "productive" noise? Is it better to have rows of silent students pretending to do worksheets or is it better to have lots of noise coming from students who are learning?
Here's a little clip of my students engaging in "productive noise". Instead of doing "comprehension questions", we do "learning stations".
What does this have to do with my performance appraisal, you ask? I told my students that the vice-principal was going to be dropping in to observe the class; I didn't elaborate because I didn't want the students to act differently (better or worse!) based on his reason for being with us. I just wanted them to not be surprised when he showed up. I explained to them that I welcome admin to come visit us anytime to see the cool things that we are learning!
Before class started, a student approached me and said: "My brother made a bet with me that you are going to act differently today because the VP is here". What?! - I thought! I asked her to explain that to me. She said that they thought that I would be "more traditional" because admin was coming to my class! I assured them I would be doing nothing differently than I normally did!
At the end of the day, I asked him... so, did I act differently?
Well, PHEW! I would hate to think that because admin comes into my room, I go from energetic, bouncy, joking, smiling, modern connection making, team work loving teacher to some kind of robot... some "non tolerant" teacher! Strict? I don't need to be "strict" by the definition they go by... my students know my expectations! They know that my classroom runs on respect and relationships! I don't need to yell or tell them all to be SILENT; they know when to listen (usually! They are STILL kids - they have their moments!) and when to get learning! I have MY style that works for me and my students! It's not about what other people do or don't do... it's not a competition or a comparison! I know what is going on inside my four walls and I adapt my teaching and learning according to my class dynamic! I wouldn't change just for the sake of perception! We are who are! (Sorry, didn't mean to make a Ke$ha reference.... #edufail).
But I have to wonder... why did they think that I would change? Is my way of doing things so 'uncommon' and 'untraditional' that they think what I am doing is something I need to cover up or hide from the higher powers? Where do our students get the messaging about what teaching and learning looks like? Do they think there is only one style that is okay? Do they think that people perceive noise and movement as bad? And on that last question... are they right?
This was a very interesting experience for me; not only from an evaluation standpoint but because of what it taught me about my students' perceptions and certainly, it re-affirmed for me, that many of them enjoy the way I do things.
(Photo courtesy of Edutopia.Org via Lisa Dabbs. No copyright infrigement intended.)
The case for re-assessing PD
Here's something that I have been thinking about for a while... professional development. I have so many things to say about refining, revamping, re-assessing professional development opportunities for educators.... but I'll try to keep the focus narrow this time on one or two aspects.
The realm of professional development opportunities have been greatly opened, enriched and enhanced by the power of the Internet. Web searches, podcasts, resource libraries and sharing, websites, Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, virtual conferences, online libraries web 2.0 tools are just a small sample of the amazing ways that educators can connect online as never before, opening a whole world of collaboration and learning that was not available before!
I love my PLN. I have learned so much online through the amazing educators that I connect with. In fact, I love them so much, I wrote a thank-you letter in an earlier blog post! For that, check here: http://assessmentforlearning.weebly.com/1/post/2013/11/to-my-pln-what-i-need-you-to-know-ce13.html
But here's the thing... I appreciate traditional PD also. There are some really amazing conferences out there. This year alone, I can name 5 that I would like to have attended. What's the barrier? Funding. The biggest barrier, for me, is the lack of funding available for professional development opportunities. Take the GAFE summit in Montreal, for example. It's taking place on Saturday and Sunday, December 7-8. Transportation there/back (either fuel and parking, or train ticket) is about $100. Add in a night or two at a hotel (if I take the train, I'd have to go Friday night, because it doesn't leave early enough on Saturday) at $120 a night. Top that off with the conference fee of $249 and even eating thrifty costs money and a weekend conference costs almost half a grand! That's a weekend conference with no supply cost built in! ECOO happened in October in Niagara Falls. Again, same situation! Transportation, hotel, food, conference cost, supply teacher cost... you're looking at almost $1000. Don't even get me starting about ITSE in Georgia this year. The plane ticket alone is almost $500... add in 4 night of lodging ($600) plus food (~$200) and conference cost ($380), you're looking at closer to $1500.
The point? I can't afford $3000 in professional development costs a year. I wish I could. I am passionate enough that I will give up weekends and summers for PD (in fact, I often spend evenings and weekends at free PD, such as EdCamp Ottawa on November 23 of this year!) but I can't shell out that kind of money, on top of all the other expenses in my life and in my profession. When the only funding available is a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split every 2 years, I appreciate this but I can't keep up with all the new and amazing opportunities available without breaking the bank!
And I get thinking... so many other organizations provide opportunities like this free of charge. As someone with many close family/friends working at various levels of government, I know that they often go on all-expenses paid professional development, across the province, country and even world. They are not asked to pay conference fees... not even their own food cost or flight cost. Meanwhile, if I want to attend a really great conference... even if it requires me to miss NO days of work, I'm still shelling out $250-$1500. And I think this is an issue. I think it's hindering me from becoming the best I can be.
I think if you want teachers to be better versions of themselves, you need to provide tangible opportunities for growth and inspiration. And in my board, I am lucky that we have great consultants and board staff who travel to conferences and bring back learning but here's the reality: sometimes, teachers get tired of hearing all the great conferences that consultant X went to and all the great things that department X wants teachers to now use in their classes. If you want your teachers to get inspired and motivated and excited, you need to send THEM to these conferences. Let them network and see awesomeness (yes, I used that word) in ACTION! Let TEACHERS come back from these conferences and share their learning with their colleagues.... showing how they are implementing these great things in a classroom. And while it's important for consultants and superintendents to learn about these initiatives and share them with teachers, sometimes it's even more important for people who are in the classrooms every day to learn these strategies first-hand and implement them and share with everyone else: "this is what I'm doing and it's working and I can help you do it too!" Because lateral professional sharing and collaboration is powerful.... usually much more powerful than top-down sharing.
And I say this from experience. A few years ago, I had the amazing experience of an all expenses paid trip to a Ministry Differentiated Instruction conference in Toronto. And it DID pump me up! I came back SO inspired that I created this DI strategies booklet (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3R3CWEwwMLYMk1kRlp2b25seUE/edit) in one weekend! It has been shared with my staff, other schools in our board and even given out as a resource by the Student Success department at my school board to all DI teams. THIS is the power of PD!
And so I hope that maybe, someday, we are able to revamp and reassess the access to great PD that teachers have. Are we meeting their needs? How are we hindering students by not providing teachers with ways to access opportunities to improve themselves? What can we do to challenge teachers and keep them motivated, invigorated and passionate, like I was when I came home from Toronto and when I reached out to my online PLN.
Because sometimes, we need to remember that money spent on PD is not an expense, but an investment.
To my PLN… thank you.
As Connected Educators month wrapped up, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my journey in “connectedness”.
I turned to Twitter by happen stance a few years ago but was never very active online. I lurked, I posted a bit then abandoned it for weeks and months at a time. Finally, just over a year ago, I came back. I don’t even really remember the circumstances surrounding it but I decided to check out what was out there. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was grappling with who I was as an educator and where to go next. I'm a true Type A… perfectionist to a fault… and in many ways, I had begun to feel worn out and jaded. I didn't want to be THAT person. I wanted to learn more and do more. I was getting frustrated by negative comments about change and innovation. I wanted more than basic professional development workshops on subjects/areas that I felt comfortable in. I didn’t know what else was “out there” but I figured there must be more… and I wanted to find it.
And then Twitter opened my eyes. I started following “ed tech” gurus and learning about neat tools to try. I started using some of these tools in my classroom and experimented with them as a means of learning. I started to read and follow tweets from people who shared my views and beliefs and the passion that I once had and wanted to have back. I read thoughts that could have been my own… and then realized it had been retweeted and/or favourited countless times and I knew I wasn’t alone. I stumbled upon a new “chat”... Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat). I had never participated in a Twitter chat. A month or so later, Michael Quinn, one of the co-founders, invited me to help guest moderate a chat on Differentiated Instruction when I tweeted to tell him it was a passion of mine. I was terrified. I was worried that everyone would think I wasn’t good enough, well versed enough, tech savvy enough. I felt like a fraud. I was new to this online realm. What could I possibly have to offer? I will be so much less than everyone else, won’t I?
And then I met the #cdnedchat team and they were amazing. They were welcoming and open minded and great sources of information, learning and support. And I realized, we’re all on this journey and we all had to start sometime and somewhere. What was most important then, was that I wanted to be better and learn more and integrate innovative teaching tools and strategies into my practice. Not surprisingly, everyone was there to support and help!
I was blessed to continue my involvement in #cdnedchat, having been asked to join on the moderation team full time. Participating in these weekly chats fuelled my drive to keep learning as much as I could about new educational technologies and educational initiatives. It became a passion. I started learning more and more about things that I knew some, little or nothing about! Online literature circles, Google Hangouts, blogging, Google Apps for Education, digital portfolios, 1:1 programs, QR codes, Flipping the Classroom, project based learning…. the list goes on and on. And the more I learned, the more my passion returned. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with how much was out there and how little I knew, I began to feel invigorated that there was so much potential and that all I had to do was learn about it and make it happen! I would look forward to Google Hangouts with the team because I felt I had found people who were similar to me. I’ve called Dana Ariss my “edu soul sister” on more than one occasion because we see so many things from the same perspective and are passionate about so many of the same things.
I began to participate in more Twitter chats and reach out to #edtech leaders on Twitter to share and gather ideas and feedback. I became inspired by the amazing Angela Maiers and her “You Matter” campaign. It changed the way that I viewed my role as a teacher and how I began my school year (2013-2014) with my students. Instead of focusing on rules, I chose to focus on relationships. I am seeing a huge difference already.
I also spent more time learning about and integrating technology into my practice. I launched my professional website and started sharing my research and presentations, and even included a blog… this blog… as a part of it. I wanted to start sharing all the neat things that my students were capable of doing! I started using more #edtech tools such as Edmodo, Pinterest, AudioBoo, Google Drive (docs/forms), and more recently, this school year, blogs (Blogger), Remind 101, Socrative, QR codes, ExplainEverything and Geddit. (This led the way to using innovative teaching strategies like Genius Time and project based learning and the creation of my alternative learning space this year).
The ideas became endless. My mind would be racing after a Twitter chat and I could hardly sleep, thinking of all the great ideas I had heard - things I had never even thought of before - and how I could make these work for my students! And the passion began to multiply. I would bounce ideas off of educators trying the same things or wanting to. And I’d get feedback and advice from people who had been long doing the initiatives and using the tools and strategies that I was just taking on. And I teamed up with amazing mentors, like Michelle Cordy, who pushed me to make opportunities to better myself as an educator- to steer my own ship and find my own niche - and inspired me to do things that challenge me and scare me because I can and what do I have to lose? (And here I am, one exam away from having attained Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer - Qualified Individual status! I couldn’t have imagined this 2 years ago!)
And so, as we wrap up connected educator’s month, I am thankful that I faced roadblocks, frustrations and feelings of being jaded and alone because it forced me to make a decision; make a change or stay the same. I chose change. It’s scary, terrifying, exciting and inspiring all at once. It needed to happen and I’m glad it did. I’m glad I felt the push to look further to find something to challenge me to be better than I was. Something to make me better for myself, and thereby, for my students… because isn’t that what it’s all about? Being the best version of yourself?
A few of the key people that I have learned the most from are included in this post but there are many more who have impacted my journey…. some with one post that stood out to me and some, who with their every post inspire me, daily. Some of these people do not follow me and will never see this blog post. Some will. I am okay with both of those facts.
I just want to say thanks. Thanks to the PLN for helping to open my eyes to the amazing world that is out there. Thank you for showing me the endless possibilities in education. Thank you for reminding me why I have never wanted to do anything other than teach. Thank you for showing me ways to reinvigorate the passion that has never died inside of me. Thank you for being people that I learn from and thank you for inspiring me to be the best that I can be.
This past week, in CHC2P, we started with Genius Hour! If you're not familiar with Genius Hour (or 20% time), check this out: http://www.geniushour.com/
"Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. It’s not easy to determine where the idea was originally created, but there are at least two events that have impacted genius hour". The concept originated with Google: they gave employees 60 minutes per week to work on any project they wanted. The result? An increase in creativity and productivity! Google states that over 50% of Google products were created during this "20%" time.
In our class, there will be some minor adaptations.
a) Since I only teach my students one class per day, we cannot sacrifice a full 75 minutes (one class) per week. We can, however, use 30 minutes of one class period per week to explore new ideas.
b) Since I teach high school (subject specific), we must focus on History. That said, they are free to research, create, build, discover anything they want related to Canadian history!
As you can see from the photo above, our first "Genius Time" session was a success. I promise that this photo was not staged! Students were finding websites, videos, pictures, etc. about all sorts of neat things related to Canadian History using our school set of iPads!
I really like Genius Time for a few reasons:
1. In keeping with our school board priority of innovation and creativity, Genius Time allows students to explore their areas of interest and come up with creative ways to share their learning. Talk about active and authentic learning!
2. It ties into the Ontario School Effectiveness Framework; it provides opportunity for student voice, classroom leadership and assessment as and for learning, along with traditional teaching and learning opportunities. It allows students to share their learning, take initiative and responsibility for their own learning and interests and the skills to share this learning with their peers.
3. It supports the underlying principles of Differentiated Instruction and Growing Success. What better way to differentiate by needs, interests, readiness and learning style than to allow students to choose all of the above?! Genius Time allows students to work at their own pace, with content that is appropriate to their learning level/ability and present/share in a way that represents their learning styles.
I really look forward to seeing how Genius Time works over the course of the semester in my class!
Do you have insight to share about YOUR Genius Time? Drop me a comment! I'd love to hear about it!
Welcome Back parents!
I thought I'd share a copy of one of the letters that I sent home to parents of my classes this year. Yes, I teach high school! I still think it's important to send home letters to touch base with parents so that they know what is happening and what my plans are!
Welcome back! As we end this first week of the new school year, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you that it’s been my pleasure getting the opportunity to meet and begin to get to know your son/daughter. I am confident that we are going to have a great semester!
I feel that parent-teacher communication is exceptionally important to each child’s success and as such, for each class, I have created a separate welcome letter to introduce you to me and some key aspects of the course your child will be taking with me. I look forward to working with you, as a team, to help your child achieve his/her goals this year!
Your child’s Grade 10 Applied History class is period 1. They are also my homeroom class. Just a few reminders: student fees and course outlines should be submitted as soon as possible. All students have been assigned a locker to store personal belongings during the school day.
I am very active in professional learning and development related to the use of educational technology and am passionate about its uses to enhance learning! As such, all of my classes are encouraged to BYOD (bring your own device)! Many of your children own/have access to devices that can access the internet and I encourage them to bring these to class daily if possible. We have already, and continue, to discuss appropriate use of technology in class/creating a positive “digital footprint” and I am confident that together we can harness these tools as excellent supports to education and learning!
In CHC2P this year, students will not only be learning about history (my passion!) but they will also develop 21st century learning skills. Some of the technology we will be trying may include blogging, digital portfolios, Youtube videos, Edmodo, Prezis, using Twitter and Instagram – all to engage students and document student learning. The internet will serve as an invaluable research tool for this class! Students will create student accounts, using their “OCSB student” emails, keeping their personal accounts (if they have one) separate from class ones.
The majority of the work will be done in class; studying for tests/quizzes will be the students’ responsibility outside of class hours and some major assignments may require completion at home (but students will be given class time to work on these). To help students remember these key dates, I have subscribed to an educator service called “Remind 101”. It’s a safe and secure one-way text messaging reminder service for teachers to parents and students. I have attached the information sheet to this letter. If you have a cell phone and would like to be subscribed, please follow the instructions on the following sheet of paper.
If you would like to follow along with what we are working on in class, I will be posting updates to my professional blog, which is located in the “blog” section of www.meganvalois.com. Once our accounts (Twitter/Blog etc.) are set up, we will let you know the links to those so you can follow along with us!
Again, I look forward to a great year! If you have any questions or want to touch base with me, I can be reached at the school: ***************. Please note extra help is always available, by appointment, at lunch.
Why I am blogging with my students this year... and why I think you should too!
When I launched my website earlier in 2013, I decided to add this blog component to it. I figure, what better way to share and showcase the amazing things my school and my students are participating in. It also gives me a chance to reflect on my own professional learning and to share my experiences, insight, feedback, and suggestions about the initiatives in my classroom, in a far reaching way which will give me the opportunity to get feedback and responses from our global community.
This school year (2013-2014), I am going to start blogging with my students. I have spent a lot of time reading online about the benefits of blogging and connecting with amazing educators on Twitter who are part of my professional learning network and who are avid bloggers. (See below for some comments on a few who I think you should know about!). Being on Twitter has shown me the power of a global audience and network; many of the people I connect with on Twitter are spread far and wide across North America (and beyond!). This leads me to my first point....
There's a ton of different reasons and philosophies and pros and cons. But here are the reasons I want to try blogging this year, based on my learning and research.
1. Authentic experience
What better way to get students to understand the power of words and ideas than to have them share it on a forum which can be viewed globally? I love the idea of a worldwide audience to read and share with. This gives students the chance to create their own digital footprint while building on the skills of research, critical thinking, reflection, writing and editing.
2. Collaboration and Discussion
These concepts can be separate and can be intertwined. The idea of sharing thoughts, reflections, ideas, creative writing, videos, music, etc. with an audience and then having the opportunity to discuss, debate, re-think, analyse, reflect, apply and engage is inspiring to me. The option to peer edit or to work with a partner on a concept or idea is such a real-world, 21st century skill. The option to post comments and share voice or written comments/feedback gives students something they couldn't have with a typed and submitted essay or poster board. The opportunity to discuss and connect with those outside the walls of the school means a more diverse perspective is available and offers an exciting chance for students to connect with those living across the province, country or globe!
3. Creativity, Innovation and Ownership
Blogs allow students so many opportunities to be creative and express themselves in a way that speaks to who they are as individuals while still demonstrating the key knowledge that the teacher is looking to assess. Some students might create videos, others 'photo essays', perhaps poetry or equations or quite simply a written reflection. Students have the chance to take ownership for their own creations and expression. The ability to embed media, include podcasts, edit templates, and share understanding in a multitude of ways means that there's no limit to the creative expression of knowledge that a student can share! The students also have the pride (and responsibility) of ownership! The blog is his/hers and can be set up to reflect his/her personality, interests, talents and passions. As a huge supporter and promoter of differentiated instruction, I really love how many opportunities there are in blogging for students to show their understanding or apply knowledge in diverse and creative ways!
4. Supporting 21st Century Learning Skills
Of course, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity are 21st century learning skills that I have already mentioned. But the last piece is the technology piece of the puzzle. Helping students to feel more at ease with the use of technology and ways to maximize its potential. Digital natives are already tuned in to many types of technology - namely, social media. Harnessing the power of technology for educational purposes and integrating (yes, fully integrating) technology is a key for 21st century learners. Blogging provides the opportunity to develop web skills, understand digital citizenship and its responsibilities and build an online presence and experience that students will need to understand and be at ease with for their futures.
There are many different platforms out there that teachers can use to blog with: Google Sites, Weebly, Blogger, Edublogs, WordPress, Wikispaces and Blogspot, to name a few!
Visit the sites, test them out, ask around and find out which one is best for you!
I am really looking forward to my blogging journey with my students and I will most certainly be blogging about it myself, here on this blog!
In closing, here's a shout out to a few of the bloggers who I have learned from and have been inspired by this summer:
- @davidtedu David's #eduslam on blogging is far more powerful and eloquent than anything I could come up with! If you haven't seen his slam, I highly recommend you check it out here:
- @KLirenman - I have connected with Karen a few times on Twitter and am really impressed with what she does with blogging. I love that Karen has two blogs: her classroom one: http://www.mslirenmansroom.blogspot.ca/ and her own blog where she shares teaching experiences: http://learningandsharingwithmsl.blogspot.ca/. The fact that she blogs with Grade 1 students proves that it can work at any age!
@kathycassidy - Kathy also blogs with young students. I just love all of the photos and videos on her blog! It really shows experiential learning at its finest! http://mscassidysclass.edublogs.org/
@PaulSolarz- I will gush even more about Paul when I blog about digital portfolios (eportfolios). Had the opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Paul on digital portfolios and left it very excited and full of ideas! His blog is his own e-portfolio of what he does with his students. Check it out: http://psolarz.weebly.com/mr-solarz-eportfolio.html
What does it mean to be a leader... to show leadership skills... to lead? There are probably more answers to what is a leader or what makes a good leader out there than anyone one person could ever read. A Google search of the word "leadership" brings up 294,000,000 results!
This year, through my school board, the Ottawa Catholic School Board, I completed a course in the "Leadership Journey" series called "Leadership, Part I".
This course was a five part session in which a variety of leaders in our board came to speak about what leadership means to him/her. We learned about the different types of personalities and leadership styles and how these affect our journey to leadership and how there is no one "right" style of leadership or one "best" way to lead; that successful leadership is a package of many different, interconnected pieces, variable by person, role and situation.
One of my take-aways from the session was the concept of "small l" versus "big L" leadership; the idea behind this premise is that "big L" leader are those with official leadership roles - coaches, mentors, managers, principals, etc., whereas "small l" leaders may not be in a formal leadership role but still have the opportunity to impact change and inspire others.
Many of us in education are "big L" leaders to our students but "small l" leaders in our schools, boards and professions. When we think of leadership, we are so apt to think of the formal leaders that sometimes we can forget about those informal leaders who we meet everyday.
I, for one, as a teacher who is connected to many inspiring educators on Twitter, have come to see the true power and influence of small l leaders. I spent hours each day (yes, even in the summer... more than ever!) reading their posts, clicking their links, re-tweeting their tweets and researching the information they share to try to incorporate the innovative ones into my own professional practice. Whether these educators are first year teachers or twenty year veterans, they have taken the initiative to share their professional practice and learning with me. In doing so, many of them have inspired me to try something new or reflect on my own practice and find ways to improve or incorporate new things. If that's not leadership in the profession, what is?! They have not have formal titles of leadership but they are leading from within.
This is a very exciting time in education with the continual development of all sorts of new and engaging educational technologies. As with anything new... any change... there is always some reluctance, resistance, fear, etc. As always, we need leaders who are willing and ready to embrace the journey and help pave the pathway for others, offering guidance and assistance on the journey. Perhaps the most #edtech savvy person in the school isn't an administrator but a rookie teacher. Small l leadership at its best! What a great opportunity to connect with admin who may not feel especially comfortable with technology and find ways together to help expand professional development and learning!
For educational technology to be effective, we must be open-minded. We must accept that it is a vast realm that can be overwhelming and reach out to others for support. Developing a great PLN (professional learning network) online is an ideal starting point; connecting with others who have already been on the tech journey for months or years will help, as it has helped me. My Twitter PLN has opened my eyes and mind to far more educational technology opportunities than I could have imagined. Slowly but surely I am learning about more and more tools and practices in #edtech which I will pass on to those who learn from me, as I have learned from so many before.
Leadership isn't about having all of the answers; it's about having the open mind to try new things and find solutions.
At our final "leadership" course, the keynote speaker was the President of Algonquin College, Kent MacDonald. My favourite part of his speech was when he shared a sentiment of Michael Dell saying (I'm taking liberties here and paraphrasing...) "Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room."
A leader must always be willing to learn from others. If not, then why lead?
I leave you with two of my favourite quotations on leadership....
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
QR Codes in the classroom
Just connected with a fellow educator on Twitter and shared some ideas about QR codes in the classroom. I decided that since I'd already typed it up once, might as well share it here as well for anyone who might be interested!
I have used QR codes in a few ways in the classroom, depending on subject/academic level.
In CHC2P, we use a lot of fill in blank notes to study from for the exam but finding answers in a textbook or in a word bank becomes dull... so I've done this a few different ways.
#1 - Put "numbers" on the blank spaces on the worksheet. They find the same number QR code and write down the answer. (Could end here for elementary students). OR, once students have scanned the code, a CLUE about the word (a photo, a phrase, or scrambled letters) appears. They have to SOLVE the clue to get the word that they are supposed to write in the blank space.
#2 - Put QR codes up with the actual words that go in the blanks but no numbers! They have to scan all the codes, write down all the words and then use online, textbook, deduction skills, etc. to decide which word goes in which sentence.
#3 - Question scavenger hunt.
a) QR codes around the room/school reveal questions (big ideas usually) and the students then have to go online to find "digital" answers. Or, for something different, QR code "answers" ... provide an answer and the student has to create a logical question that would be answered by my QR "answer". This helps students understand how to formulate good questions and will help them when trying to study for tests and answer test/exam questions.
b) Have a question sheet and send students around the school to find answers. Each QR code gives the answer to a question plus a clue about where in the school to find the next code.
#4 - QR code matching.
a) Some codes reveal photos and some reveal words; students have to match the QR codes together. Ex: "Code 14 and Code 2 go together because code 2 said deciduous and number 14 was a picture of a maple tree." This helps develop thinking/application skills.
b) Some codes reveal vocabulary and some reveal definitions - great for English class! Match the definition to the word and then have students create and tweet or blog (!) their own sentence using the word with the proper context!
#5 - QR code solving - can't take full credit for this (not a Math teacher!!) but a twist on something that a colleague does! The teacher puts up an equation on the Smartboard; QR codes in the room reveal 4 possible answers. Students have to scan all the codes and analyze them against the equation. Then, they decide which answer is correct and justify it! Or... have students solve equations and then "scan" to see if they are right.
#6 - Some of my colleagues put QR codes on the bottom of worksheets (or around the room), with links to information to supplement understanding. Ex: Having trouble with question 5? Scan QR code 5 to watch a video about the Battle of Dieppe (to help refresh their memory).
Jerry Blumengarten on Twitter is a great connection; he has a massive amount of resources on his website. I didn't get a chance to use it last year but plan to use his site this year to come up with even more ideas!
Here's his QR code page: http://cybraryman.com/qrcodes.html
Hope this is helpful to new QR code users out there!
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!