Over the course of the week, I have been thinking a lot about our EC&I831 class topic of sharing. My students created Radio Plays for Halloween and shared them with the class. Although this was a great experience, I thought about how inspired I was after reading Dean Shareski’s wife Paula’s blog and seeing how much she is sharing with her students’ families via her blog. The Radio Plays lent themselves perfectly to being recorded on a Voicethread, as this allowed my class to write for an audience, and then record the plays, as they were originally intended! The students were really excited to record their plays, and the ones who finished today had their plays posted on the class blog. I had not previously used a Voicethread with my students, so I think I am probably more proud than they are!
I really want to share a resource that I have been using extensively…Pinterest. (Simply going to the site to copy and paste the link here caused me to stop and get distracted by everything that everyone was sharing. My addiction has become full blown!) I know, I previously blogged about my obsession with the site, but like many of the social media tools that we are learning about, I have discovered what an incredible teaching resource this site really is. First off, if you are like me and read a number of different blogs, and then save pictures, recipes, and projects from the blogs for future inspiration, Pinterest is A MUST. It allows you to graphically organize pictures that link to the website that you wish to bookmark, in the fashion of a bulletin board. However, the best part about Pinterest is that as people “pin” new pages, they are shared with everyone who accesses Pinterest. You can choose to follow certain people who have similar interests, follow your friends, or search through categories or boards. Here’s where the educational connection comes in…if you search by the category of “Education,” you can find countless teaching ideas that others have pinned, commented on, and shared via Pinterest. I have already found a plethora of new art ideas, an excellent strategy on teaching long division, and amazing (and simple) science experiments. You can follow other teachers and view what they have saved to their boards, ask questions, and comment back and forth. I HIGHLY suggest signing up for Pinterest, especially if you are an elementary school teacher. I was thinking of those of you in our class who teach primary, as there are SO many excellent craft ideas on Pinterest. Furthermore, when you find an idea that you would like to share, you simply click the “Pin” button that you easily install to your bookmark bar. You can also upload pictures of ideas that you have created. I am absolutely addicted to this sharing site and blame Pinterest for part of the reason why I have a cold right now – I am not getting enough sleep due to searching the site every night! If you wish to sign up, just Tweet me or comment your address below and I’ll send you an invitation. I only have four left, but you can also request to join and you’ll be sent an invitation by the site. (That is the only thing that I’m not a fan of – I think that anyone who wants to join should be able to without the exclusivity that I feel being “invited” entails.) Enjoy!
I am editing this to include a tutorial on how to use Pinterest. Hopefully that helps!
…as demonstrated by these insanely cute guinea pigs!
Last night, our EC&I 831 class was treated to a presentation by Dean Shareski. I had viewed the link to that Alec had suggested, as well as the awesome video that he had created for Alec’s birthday. Anyone who can put something together a video of that magnitude would probably be a pretty great presenter! He did not disappoint! (See his blog for more interesting and entertaining posts!)
When I read “Dean Shareski” listed beside a presentation about The Importance of Sharing and Learning, I have to admit that I thought that “Shareski” was a nickname that had been given to Dean due to his love of online collaboration and social networking. Turns out he was gifted with a name that suits his personality…or maybe his personality suits his name? Whatever the case, our class participated in a worthwhile presentation that had me thinking today about how much (and how little) teachers actually share, why we share, and how we can share with others.
Sharing…it’s a very simple concept that we learn as toddlers. The reasons why we share as adults are much the same as when we were young – to make people happy, to help others, to give back, and to learn. With each passing class, I find myself becoming more and more aware of how much I share and I receive online. I posted last week about my feelings regarding the lack of links I have posted to our Delicious stack. I feel like I’m in a lop-sided relationship with Delicious, as I have taken far more from our class stack than I have contributed, but I really am always on the look out for things to add, honest! Before this class, I was not as cognitive about how much I share online. Now, I hear friends or colleagues make statements and then find myself thinking, “We talked about that in class!” For example, one of my husband’s friends said that I post more pictures and links on Facebook than anyone he knows. He did not say that negatively, but simply as an observation. I am very aware that I post a lot of pictures, and whenever I find something that I think someone would enjoy or be interested to read, I post it on Facebook. (I am now posting much more of these articles on Twitter as well since starting EC&I 831). WHY do I share so much in this way, I wondered? Dean answered many of those questions for me last night. He made statements such as:
“The internet is not just a place to ‘look up stuff’; it’s a place to connect with people.”
“Commenting is as important as blogging.”
“We share to make people happy!”
Each statement resonated with me, as these are the reasons why I enjoy sharing articles, pictures, and websites with others. When sharing educationally with colleagues and other teachers, I do so because I know how much I appreciate when someone shares with me. Our days are already busy enough, and it makes everything a bit easier when someone is willing to share their work. Besides, it is like a good recipe – if someone is willing to share a teaching resource with me, I can usually be sure that it will work and will be worthwhile.
Dean asked a question that I have been thinking about all day. He asked us, “What is your best work, and where can I find it?” Artistically, my best work is in my house, such as paintings on my walls and projects that I have created. Some of the jewellery that I have made has been some of my best artistic work, and some of the neatest moments for me are when I see my jewellery being worn by people whom I have never met! Academically, however, most of my best work sits in files in a boxes in my basement, and that is quite sad to me. I have now made it a goal to publish some of my lesson plans online, either on my website that I am creating for my final project, or in our staff documents library so that other teachers can use them. As a start, I would like to share a Webquest that I created that I feel is one of my best projects. This Webquest began as an undergrad class project in my last year of university. At a garage sale one day, I found a 90-year-old autograph book that had no information regarding the owner other than the messages to her. While reading through it, I inferred that she was a nurse in Saskatchewan who contracted tuberculosis, but recovered and continued nursing. The autographs span over 40 years, and I thought that if I enjoyed reading through the book this much, students would probably love playing detective, too. It took me FOREVER, but I scanned almost 100 pages of autographs on my old, primitive scanner back then, and made them into a Webquest. (I have the real book that the students take turns looking through, too.) I have used the project in Social Studies while teaching about Saskatchewan, in Health for Communicable Diseases, and in Reading to teach strategies such as inferring and making connections. If I had the time, I would re-do the site, as it looks kind of outdated now. I also would like to re-scan the autographs or simply take pictures and upload them, as the scans are small and grainy due to my scanner that I used eight years ago. However, I have added to the Webquest, created additional lessons, and modified for my EC&I 833 class. I have used it every year with my class, no matter what grade I have taught. It is one of the most well-received projects that I have taught, and the students buy into it hook, line, and sinker! When Dave Cormier was speaking to us last week on Rhizomatic Learning and teaching students as nomads rather than workers, I thought about this project. I had a student who was the epitome of a nomad. He was very smart, yet completely clashed with many of this teachers. He and I clicked, however, and he excelled at projects like this. He worked on the Webquest at home each night and when he had completed it, he actually tracked down the last person to sign an autograph, and with his dad’s help, he phoned and interviewed her about the autograph book. He found out that the last person to sign the book in 1952 was the niece of the owner, and she provided him with a plethora of information, pictures, and stories. He presented all of his findings to the class, and we compared how close their interpretations of the real owner were to what the student had discovered. The class was amazed to see how accurate their inferences were, and I was so impressed by how this student had gone above and beyond the project’s requirements.
Dean’s presentation also made me think about the importance of having my students share their work. Tomorrow, my students are presenting “Radio Plays” that they have written. Rather than simply present to the class, I am hoping to have each group create a Voicethread that I can post on our class blog next week. I will let you know how this goes! In the meantime, I am interested to hear where your best work can be seen – whether it is your children, as some people said, a specific document, an artistic achievement, a website, or anything else!
In the meantime, I will leave you with an interesting clip pertaining to the 7 billionth person being born recently. Are you typical?
I am currently home sick, so I thought that I would take advantage of some time to read everyone’s blogs. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know everyone, read their opinions, and gather new resources. I check the Delicious stack often, and I feel that I rarely have any great, new resources to contribute….yet. I am always keeping my eyes peeled, but as for now, please know that I am using what YOU suggest and passing the links along to others!
Speaking of sharing, I am hoping that I can tap into your knowledge and expertise in two areas. First, my final project. I have been working to create a website through which the staff at my school can easily (key work – EASILY) incorporate the Moral Intelligence virtues into their daily teaching. Incorporating the Moral Intelligence virtues into our classes each month is an initiative by the Regina Public School System. I have created lessons, combed through various resources and websites, and put it all together into a site. (Please keep in mind that it is by no means complete.) My plan is to have each month’s virtue online before the month arrives so that teachers can incorporate the virtue into their classroom through a variety of different lessons for different grade levels and learning styles. My goal is to share this site with as many teachers as possible, especially since moral education can be taught in any city, province, or country. If you or anyone you know would like to use this site, please note that it is still “in production,” but I would love it to be shared! Also, please feel free to comment or leave feedback if you have any questions! Now, for my question…I have been using Google Sites to build this site. For the most part, it has been very easy to use. However, the themes are so primitive, simple, and drab. The theme that I have chosen is the most graphically appealing one that I could find. Does anyone know if there are ways to improve a Google Site’s layout and theme, or if I am limited to what is given to me when beginning the creation of the site? Any tips on how to make the site more appealing, other than adding more graphics (which I am planning to do in the near future)?
When having the students work on the computers at school, I have previously always used Dropbox to have them save their work, then access it at home. Sometimes it works, but when often, the students are unable to access their work if they use a different version of Word at home. I want to get them started on Google Docs instead, but I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions of something that works well for their students. I would love to hear any suggestions!
Thanks a lot!
Before I begin my post about last night’s EC&I 831 class, I have to share something that demonstrates the endless possibilities of online learning. I was talking to a student after school and asked her what she was doing tonight. She is Muslim, and she informed me that she has prayers for two hours tonight. I asked her if she worships at home or at a Mosque, and she said that she does her prayers online! I asked her about it and she told me that she and her siblings follow an online teacher who leads their prayers from 7:00-8:30. Students from all over tune in so that they can participate. I found it very fascinating that a formerly very “traditional” practise is being taught online, making it more accessible to children and adults alike. It was also neat to see that children ten and under were participating in their own online community. What a great time in which we are living!
Last night, we were lucky enough to have Dave Cormier present to our class about Rhizomatic Learning. Prior to class commencing, I read Dave’s blog about Rhizomatic Learning so that I could be more prepared for his presentation. I recommend checking out his blog, as I ended up spending time reading about more than just Rhizomatic Learning!
Dave began by asking us why we educate. After a number of responses, he informed us that there are three kinds of outcomes within our education system – workers, soldiers, and nomads. He said that we originally began to educate to produce workers – people who were obedient, passive, and their learning could be measured by our standards. This was the traditional way of educating, often referred to as the “assembly line” method. Next, there are the soldiers. The soldiers know more than the workers; they are in charge of establishing what is to be learned, what competence is, and how we will measure that competence. The soldiers are essentially the teachers. Dave writes in his blog post defining the roles of the three outcomes and explains that “[The soldiers] are the defenders of memory. They are the ones who establish what things we currently know that the worker should remember, and then establish the system by which we will measure that knowing.” The more we study in this class, the more I question what I teach. How much of what we teach is now important? It used to be that we needed to remember information. In today’s day and age, we have access to facts at our fingertips. Thus, we must teach students HOW to obtain knowledge, solve problems, and discern what is truth and fiction from all the data to which they have access.
Our traditional school system has been based on soldiers training the workers. Dave’s third outcome, however, is one that is less common in our society – that of the nomad. The nomad is a creative thinker who is not afraid of divergent thinking. Nomads carve their own paths, create their own meaning, and learn things because they need to, not simply as an objective or a memory test. The nomads do not learn from rote memorization, but from the knowledge that comes with experience.
After establishing the three outcomes, Dave explained the definition of Rhizomatic Learning. Before we understand this learning style, it is important to understand what a rhizome is, as Dave uses the rhizome as a metaphor for his proposed learning environment. I was unfamiliar with this term, so let me explain. A rhizome is a type of plant that is incredibly resilient, aggressive, and chaotic. It is difficult to contain, follows its own path, take off in random directions, and cannot be controlled. I guess it is like twitch grass to the extreme! When given the chance, a rhizome takes off on its own, and its roots are incredibly deep. Dave compares the rhizome to the learning environment suitable for nomads. This class gets chaotic, can move in multiple directions, and it is unpredictable. It is open-ended, experiential-based, creative, and not based on memory, but on forming knowledge. There is no curriculum because learning from EACH OTHER is the curriculum.
As I was learning about this theory, two thoughts were going through my mind. The first was that I would love to have a classroom of experiential learning at all times. I thrive on creativity, and I love seeing my students be creative and “in it,” as Dave referred to the real, true grasping of knowledge. Having ended yesterday’s school day with a hands-on, messy science experiment and watching my students really understand and be involved in the concepts we were studying, I agreed with how important and exciting this Rhizomatic Learning can be. I also understood when Dave explained this kind of learning as messy (it was!), loud, less structured, and much more difficult than a worker-soldier type of classroom. This kind of learning is what the students remember because they CHOOSE to remember it, not because they have to. This part of me was all for Rhizomatic Learning.
Then, there’s the Type A part of me that says, “But what about the curriculum? I can’t just teach whatever the students feel like learning or where the discussion takes us. I have content to cover! What about my DNA, RAD, and school goal scores? All of this chaos will be so tiring and quite frankly, somewhat scary!” Then, Dave said something that I feel was the most important part of his presentation. Someone (I think it was Kelly?) asked him how it is possible to teach in this fashion when we have the K-12 curriculum to cover. Dave replied, “Do it when you can.” I felt much better and more confident hearing that it ISN’T completely possible, nor effective, to completely throw away the curriculum. Instead, we SHOULD have a guide to follow and parameters set, but that we should also leave room along the way to let our students learn things that are interesting and important to them. I think that Dave was saying that we shouldn’t always be teaching them WHAT to learn, but giving them situations to figure out HOW to create their own learning.
In my teaching, I feel that establishing a relationship with my students is extremely important. Not only does that allow me to understand their personalities, family situations, and needs better, but I am able to understand what is important to them. I cannot build an entire curriculum around their every desire, but as Dave explained, I can fit their interests into my plans whenever possible and allow that to become part of the curriculum. I have been working more with inquiry-based projects, where we study a certain concept, and the students can work on a project of their desire in the way that works best for them. For example, I had a class last year who were quite difficult. However, they were intensely interested when stories of animal cruelty were brought to school during our daily Current Events discussion. (I find that a ten minute discussion each morning pertaining to the world’s events can lead to excellent discussion and can allow me to understand what the students are passionate about.) I decided to take hold of that interest level and planned my writing lessons around animal cruelty. The grade six writing outcomes stated that I had to teach persuasive writing, so why not make it about something that mattered to the students? We researched a lot of animal cruelty incidents as a class, and then they were free to create a project that educated others about animal cruelty. The students completely ran with the project and wrote letters to MPs, baked dog treats to sell to raise money to donate to the Humane Society, created posters to present to other classes, made t-shirts, and wrote reports to read to friends and family. This was far less structured than a ‘typical’ writing class, but the results were much more thorough, creative, and meaningful for the students. It was definitely Rhizomatic Learning at work. The students’ interests dictated where we went with the project rather than the outcome telling them where they should go.
Dave made another statement that resonated with me. He said that “people always want to know what success looks like in order to reach it.” We then discussed how this kind of thinking stifles creativity, as the only objective is to do what is deemed successful by the assessor. I really struggle with this concept because of the standardized testing that we have to complete each year. We have a reading assessment (RAD) and math assessment (DNA) that are completed at the beginning and end of each year. I will not even go into detail about these tests, as it will turn into pages of me ranting about the reasons why I feel they are so ineffective. I just feel that in university and in our graduate studies, we are taught to teach with nomads, rather than workers, in mind. When we get into the school system, we are so stifled by so many standardized tests, objectives, and outcomes that must be met or else we look incompetent as teachers. I will try to keep Dave’s statement of doing what we CAN do in mind when I feel frustrated by the school system’s objectives. I am wondering what anyone else does to balance the demands of meeting objectives and standards with trying to create a more rhizomatic learning environment?
A Friday night gab session with a friend turned into fodder for a new blog post. Most productive phone call ever! It seems that no matter what the topic is and who I am talking to, somehow conversation always ends up being about Facebook. Tonight, we were discussing the act of “creeping” – our friends who lay low, never post anything, but are very vigilant as to what everyone around them is doing on Facebook. We were discussing how some of our mutual friends are always on Facebook, yet never make their presence known until every once in a while, they will say something like, “Yeah, I saw that you posted about that on Facebook.” When that happens, we both said we’re caught off guard because we forget these people are even viewing what we are posting, and we wondered why they choose to view, but not share or participate. Personally, I said that I simply have more fun on Facebook when I comment, engage in discussion, and post pictures. My friend, on the other hand, said that she viewed the “creepers” as judgemental, silently forming opinions about what she posted. Having been thinking about online identity since our Tuesday night class, I asked her if she thinks that her digital identity is similar to her real life identity. She said that she was definitely more herself in real life and that she felt that online, she had to be guarded and felt that she could only share part of who she is. I feel, however, that she is a very guarded person in real life as well, and that this spills over into her online persona even more.
I have been thinking quite a lot about how I portray my identity online, and I came to the realization that I am very open and very much myself through my digital identity. Unlike my friend, I do not feel the need to be guarded, nor do I feel like others are judging what I say and do. I post my opinions and feelings on Facebook, Twitter, and in my blogs, I share a plethora of pictures and articles, and I comment often on other peoples’ postings. Do I feel the need to filter myself online? No, for I have come to the realization that I do not filter what I share, but I filter who I share it with. Moreover, I realized that in many aspects, I feel that I can be MORE of myself online than in real life BECAUSE of my control over who gets to know the real me.
Since kindergarten, I have witnessed what it was like to be somewhat guarded. I attended the same elementary school where my mom taught, so we lived in the same community where she worked. It was an unwritten rule that my brother and I should behave our best, even outside of school, because everyone in the community would know if we were in trouble, and it would reflect poorly on my mom as a teacher at the school. Not to worry – we did not grow up in some rigid, uber-strict household, and my elementary school days were extremely positive. I was even fortunate enough to have been in my mom’s class, and it was one of my favourite years ever. Throughout school, however, I was aware that if I misbehaved, my teachers would tell my mom, and as I grew older, I realized that it would be embarrassing for her. It was interesting for me to find out this weekend that a colleague of mine attended the school where her dad was principal and her mom was a teacher, and she said she felt the exact same way while growing up.
Coincidentally, I am now teaching at the same elementary school that I attended and that my mom taught at for 23 years. I feel the exact same need to be guarded as I’m sure my mom once felt, and I do not even have the addition of my own children attending the school. I feel that as a teacher, I must constantly be a “good role model,” even when outside of the school. Many of the parents at my school are highly involved in the lives of their children to the point of being dubbed “helicopter parents”, as they are constantly “hovering” around the teachers and their children. Some are excellent parents, while others literally will watch in your windows while you teach. Our school is actually developing a reputation of being one where the parents are overly difficult to deal with, and I have found this to be true on numerous occasions. *Warning – this post is about to enter ‘teacher-rant’ territory.* Quite honestly, some of the parents at my school are far too involved in the business of the teachers’ personal lives. Here are a few examples in which I wish I had a “block this user” option in real life for dealing with parents:
Exhibit A: In past years, many of the parents on the school council spent much of the meeting talking about the teachers. We have new parents on the council this year, and I am hoping that they are more concerned about the school than they are about gossiping. At one meeting that a colleague of mine attended, she informed me that the parents were discussing which teachers were taking their Masters or second degrees. They were speaking negatively about this and how this would mean that we would have less time to spend working on our jobs. Little do they know how much we are using FROM our classes to benefit our teaching. One parent once complained to the principal that our VICE PRINCIPAL, who was taking her Masters and doing training to be a teacher leader, was jeopardizing the students’ learning because she was spending six half days receiving leadership training. Ridiculous.
Exhibit B: After I had gotten engaged, a parent of a child whom I had never even taught said to me, “Congratulations! We heard you just got engaged!” I thanked her, to which she said, “So your fiancé is from Seattle? Is he moving here?” I replied that no, he was not from Seattle, nor had he ever lived there. She said, “Oh, really? That’s what everyone is saying. Has he been there recently?” Everyone is saying that? Why? How did they even come up with that information? Why do they even care?
Exhibit C: After my wedding, I took my pictures to Walmart to get them developed, not knowing that a parent (again, of a student whom I had never taught) was working in the photo developing centre. When I came to pick up my photos, she had actually looked through all of my photos and commented to me about which teachers were at the wedding, how they were partying, and other comments that angered me simply due to the fact that she had looked through my photos without my permission. Had this been Facebook, I could have had control over who had seen these photos, and it would not have been a parent. I do not even know why I was so mad. There was nothing that I needed to hide, as I was very proud of these pictures and was showing them to everyone. However, I could show them to WHOM I wanted, and I would not have chosen a parent who has no business going through my photos.
Exhibit D: My coworker was driving in the same area where we teach, and she had flowery decals on her car, making her car easy to identify as hers. That day, she turned left on a yellow light to avoid being stuck in the intersection. The next day, her middle years student said to the class, “My mom said that she saw you driving yesterday. You turned left on a yellow light and that’s really dangerous. My mom said that you could have hit someone or caused an accident.” She promptly took the decals off of her car so that it would look less conspicuous.
I feel that as a teacher, I must always be aware as to who is “watching” me. I love that online, I can filter to whom I present myself. I CAN post my wedding pictures and state my opinions without worrying that they will be taken the wrong way. I am fully comfortable on Facebook, my blog, and Twitter because I do not have to filter myself because I have chosen not to have parents, students, or anyone under the age of eighteen as my friends. Yes, I know that there are ways for others who are not my friends to view my content, but I do not post anything that I feel that I will regret. I find it interesting that when I first started using the internet and engaging in message boards and chat rooms, the big precaution was how easy it was for one to assume a false identity. Who would know if you were faking to be someone else? Nowadays, I rarely even think about that at all. I recall Danah Boyd discussing in her presentation that people use Facebook to connect with friends, not to meet new people. There is no need to pretend to be someone we are not when on Facebook – everyone knows everyone’s business already so it would be pretty difficult to pretend to be someone else!
My friend and I had such differing opinions about how we present our identity online. I am interested to know if your online identity and real life identity differ, or if you are relatively the same person in both aspects of your life.
I found it interesting that minutes after posting my last blog entry, this video was Tweeted. Talk about trying to make sense-make! This one-year-old is trying to figure out why the magazine will not operate like an iPad! It blows my mind that from such a young age, this generation will most likely be as comfortable with technology as with print!