Lisa Noble is one Ontario educator that I interact with almost daily on Twitter. I like to think that she does it for the inspirational blog posts that I write but there are times I think that she just takes pity on my typing/grammar/spelling errors and is there to keep me honest. Regardless, she is one of the reasons why I have no hesitation sharing, with pride, that she’s a valuable part of my online community of learners.
Doug: OK, compulsory first question – do you recall when we first met face to face?
Lisa: I think it was either at ECOO/BIT14, or at another gathering of Ontario educators earlier in 2014. I remember you being as gracious and helpful in person as you are on-line. I had brought lemon squares, and you felt bad about turning one down (due to dietary restrictions) and you actually felt that you needed to explain why you didn’t want one.
Doug: Am I really that bad a writer/blogger?
Lisa: You are an amazing writer/blogger. I think, like many of us, that when you get passionate about something, your mind goes faster than your fingers can. And proofreading your own stuff is incredibly difficult. You see what you wanted to say, not what you typed.
Doug: In your day job, as this interview is done, you are a French as a Second Language teacher. Can you share a bit about that? How important do you feel having Second Language abilities is for students?
Lisa: I’m in transition to a new position for the fall, but I have been teaching French, in some part of my day, for the full 23 years of my teaching career! It can be incredibly challenging – I’m sure everyone has horror stories about the things that happened in your elementary or high school French classes – but it’s also phenomenally rewarding. Helping students realize that they can make themselves understood (even at a very basic level) in a second language is a pretty powerful lightbulb moment. I’ve really been working hard on the approach supported by our new curriculum, which focuses on the idea of communication as paramount, rather than having every verb tense correct. It’s a gradual shift, but it’s coming, and that’s making a difference for teachers, parents and learners.
Doug: You have AIM in your teaching toolkit. When did you embrace that? Can you share a story where it really paid off for students?
Lisa: AIM (or accelerative integrated method) is a methodology I’ve been using in my classroom for 10 years now. I was incredibly lucky to be part of a 3-year pilot project that my board ran. The pilot group of about 20 teachers were supported with resources, training and release time to work through ideas together. It was one of the best PLC’s I have ever been part of, and really helped me see professional development for teachers in a different light. I still have dinner regularly with a group of friends I “found” through that PLC
The biggest difference it has made for my students is their ability to genuinely express themselves in their second language, and to even start to develop real “voice” in their writing. I love it when parents come to tell me that siblings in their house are starting to speak to each other in French when they don’t want their parents to understand what’s going on. In the past 2 years, I’ve had 2 grade 8 students choose to do exchanges with students in France. They tell me when they come home that they’re amazed at how much they knew that they didn’t know they knew!
Doug: How do you use technology in your FSL classroom?
Lisa: For me, the use of technology in the classroom is all about how it helps students with their learning. We explore ways that technology can help us as second language learners – how do we go beyond Google Translate (great critical thinking opportunities when you’re trying to figure out the best definition)? Can we build a game in Kahoot to help other learners, after we’ve played a few?
We use different presentation tools that record students’ voices, so that they get a chance to hear themselves speak French, as well as allowing those who don’t want to present live to have a different option. My students are also encouraged to think about curation. If they take a photo of a class-created brainstorm, or a verb chart we’ve created together, they have to think about where they’re going to keep it, and how they’re going to access it later.
Doug: Is your school a BYOD school? How many students bring their own devices to class?
Lisa: My school is not officially a BYOD school, but my classroom definitely is. I can usually get to 1:2 in my classroom, and this year, I had my own bank of 12 netbooks in my room. Most of that time, that allowed us to get to 1:1 with BYOD and SEA equipment. I’m going into a new school, with less consistent access to devices, and that’s going to be an adjustment for me.
Doug: In addition to your regular teaching, you are also involved with coding with students. How does this work?
Lisa: I code with my students both in a classroom context and in an after-school club.
Doug: What sort of coding activities do your students get involved with?
Lisa: We use Hour of Code as a jumping off point – usually to create a French greeting card for the holidays. This year, I had my students build a game, and then write the instructions in French, to help us work on our procedural writing. My after-school coders do all sorts of things. I will often post a challenge for them for the week (like a 10 block challenge). Most of them really enjoy Scratch, but some have started to explore tools like codecademy.
Doug: Do you get a sense that any of them will continue their interests at secondary school?
Doug: Last year, at the BIT conference, you had a really interesting workshop. “I knit at #bit”. Slide deck is here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1NM-u8VIEBrBn_65rI0Ilc0fWGVAbc5z_eHxeLIGzWSw/edit
Can you tell us how it went?
Lisa: It was kind of amazing, and one of the favourite learning experiences I’ve been part of. I really wanted to bring forward the connections between knitting and coding. If you look at a line of code, and a line of knitting instructions, it’s pretty obvious that there are links. I thought that knitting a functioning QR code would be a great way to demonstrate the connections, and support the idea that knitting is binary. I put a call out on Twitter for anyone in my PLN to be a beta knitter. Helen Blunden (@activatelearn), in New Zealand, who I had met through #etmooc, volunteered. Our mutual learning process, and the learning and sharing she was doing around the idea of social learning, hugely informed the final workshop. The participants sat together, and learned, and knitted, and shared our knowledge – of knitting, and teaching and learning, and technology. If you were stuck, someone offered to help. It cemented my desire to try and bring that kind of open, trusting learning space to our classrooms and our staff rooms.
Doug: Do you have anything up your sleeve for this year’s conference?
Lisa: I do! I’m very excited to be taking part in MindsOnMedia this year, with an opportunity for people to explore which social media platform might work best for them, and create a first post. I’m hoping we can create a social learning space htere. As well, I’m going to be talking about coding in the classroom, and the activities will be applicable to Core French and English classrooms.
Doug: You’re well connected and engage regularly with all kinds of educators. What do these connections mean to you personally and professionally?
Lisa: That’s such a hard one to quantify. There are days when my PLN pulls me through a difficult situation and days when my PLN pushes me, sometimes reluctantly, to choose the “road not taken”. I have made some wonderful face-to-face friendships through my on-line connections, and broadened my own thinking. I think one of the biggest gifts of being connected has been finding a group of people who want to engage around issues of feminism. That was something that had been missing from my life, and I am so happy to have it back. On a personal level, my relationships with my PLN have helped me model healthy social media connections for my own kids (now teenagers). That’s been very valuable for all of us.
Doug: Be honest here. Did you proofread my questions?
Lisa: I probably did it without thinking – it tends to just happen as I read.
Doug: in all sincerity, I do appreciate the fact that you take the time to read this blog and keep my writing error free. What other blogs do you read regularly and would recommend to others?
Lisa: I am a big fan of what Royan Lee posts at The Spicy Learning Blog . So much of what he writes, as an educator, a parent, and a human being, resonates with me. Pernille Ripp at blogging through the fourth dimension appeals to me for similar reasons. I also really enjoy the way Colleen Rose shares her thinking at northern art teacher. She asks great questions. And there are so many more! Your Friday round up of Ontario education bloggers always makes my week! Outside of the edu world, my never-misses are smitten kitchen and Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars. My family would not eat as well without them (and yes, I proofread for Royan and Marisa).
Doug: Thanks, Lisa.