This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to Friday and it’s a 13th too.  Check out some of the great reading that I enjoyed this past while.


SOCIAL MEDIA & DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP

So much in this post that Rusul Alrubial references from an article in the New York Times makes so much sense.  She nicely summarizes it at the bottom of the post.  Schools that wish to send home a message to parents about their involvement with social media would be well advised to take a read and incorporate it into their message.  Basically, it means that kids can definitely figure out the technology given enough time but it’s the parent and school interaction that add the “social” and the “responsible” part into the mix.

I think that this table from the post deserves more than a passing glance.  There’s much to be read into it and many takeways.


The Best Gift

Diana Maliszewski started the post in a fun way talking about a Christmas gift that she received.  Rather than run out and spend all kinds of money, it was created by her sister and shipped just in time for gift opening.  It was a nice, warm start to the post.  There was a bit of librarian critique to the content that was interesting to note but then it got a bit serious.

After a flurry of texts exalting her amazing gift, we discovered that there were actually more comics that she had created using Bitstrips, but when the site closed, she was unable to access or upload her work.

It was, for me, a sad reminder that the Bitstrips application was no longer available to Ontario Educators.  Acquired through the OESS process, it made a huge difference in how educators used technology in the classroom.  It was a creation, making application available to all long before the current focus on “creating”.  It was central to so many workshops and presentations that I gave.  Then, with a message on the OSAPAC website, it was no longer available.

In its place is Pixton for Schools.  Will it have the same impact?

Sadly, it wasn’t the focus of any presentations at the Bring IT, Together conference.  That’s too bad.  Back in the day, Ivan or Danuta and I would have made it a part of our “Freshly Minted Software” series.

Hopefully, school districts are rolling on professional learning for this application so that teachers can continue to enable students to create in the classroom.

In the meantime, I really feel for Diana.  I think we all know what happens when a favourite application is no longer available either by licensing or updates or closing.  All that time and effort learning its uses and nuances shot.


Professional Learning: Does it work?

Speaking of Professional Learning….

Deborah McCallum takes on this question with a well reasoned post.  I like her summary of strategies to avoid change.  My context is, of course, in education.

I think she’s nailed it with these points.  She concludes with a question.

What are your personal insights on this?

A topic near and dear to my heart.

My answer is “yes” but I need to qualify it with an “only if” …

Sadly, I think that schools and school districts by their action plans put into force a system where it’s so easy to avoid the change.  If Professional Learning is limited to the big one day PD Day and you get to spend an hour on a topic, you’re guaranteed to fail.  Attendance at these events are compulsory and an opportunity to put a check mark on the chart that says “Provides PD”.  Maybe next year, we’ll get to Step 2.

Professional Learning and change to practice needs to be ongoing.  Teachers are not adverse to it.  Success happens when school districts offer ongoing, continuous sessions on topics that allow for grow in confidence for whatever the topic is.  Once the confidence happens, change is more likely to take place.  It doesn’t have to be formal either.  In fact, it may well work best when it’s not formal.  Maybe it’s me but when the memo would arrive that “Tomorrow is PLC Day”, I just knew that I had other things on my mind.  Why couldn’t it be done on my terms?  Some of the best change I ever did for myself was to meet with colleagues for breakfast at 6am to share our thoughts.  I know that others met informally for book talks.  In my case, it was software talks.  I remember a superintendent telling me once that they was afraid that it was a subversive activity and that all PD had to be controlled centrally.  That way, the message could be controlled.

Sigh.


Instead of “Rich Tasks”, Try “Variations on Tasks”, or “Classes of Tasks”

As I read this post from Matthew Oldridge, I was so much in agreement.  The notion of a “Rich Task” has always bugged me.  We talk about differentiating instruction, working with students at their level, meet them where they are, and then throw a “Rich Task” into the pedagogy bucket.

Does the same level of “richness” apply to every student?  I sure hope not.  Of the alternatives, that Matthew provides, I prefer “Variations” the best.  It doesn’t imply that we’re ranking the tasks somehow.  I like the thought that variations show that there are many ways to approaching topics.

Many of these short and simple questions wouldn’t be considered rich tasks on their own, but then again, what is. There are no rich tasks without thinking classrooms full of talking, thinking, conjecturing, and wondering students. Context is everything. When we say context, with respect to classrooms, we might really be talking about culture. What sorts of classroom cultures promote richness?


A Review: Professional Capital:Transforming Teaching in Every School

Stacey Wallwin read the book so you don’t have to.

Or, perhaps because of this post, you’ll ask your teacher-librarian or principal to add it to the professional library at your school.

I liked her summary of the takeaways she had from reading.

  • You can’t do it alone.
  • Teachers need to be a part of authentic, professional learning communities that both support and challenge their  ideas and contribute and support ongoing professional growth.
  • To support the rich potential of a PLN/PLC educators need to have a voice in the implementation.
  • It is morally imperative that as educators we see all students as own and make ourselves accountable to the learning of all these students.

In summary, she shares some of her thoughts about the rules of empowerment.  I couldn’t help but wonder – we talk about students owning the learning; shouldn’t the same apply to teachers.  As Stacey notes, success won’t come as a result of budgets or top down edicts or chasing the latest and greatest.


Numberless Word Problems

Jonathan So had moved his blog from Blogger to WordPress and was good enough to let me know so that I could update my Ontario Edublogger list.  I figured that the least I could do is check out his latest writing and he does share a good one.

There’s no more depressing textbook than a mathematics textbook.  Only there in education can you work for 15 minutes on a problem, then turn to the back of the textbook, look for page 146 and then the answer to question 27 only to find that it is 6.  You didn’t have that; so you’re clearly WRONG.  How depressing.  Fortunately, as students know, they can still get partial credit for showing your work and your thinking.

What if you took all the numbers out of the equation and just focused on the problem?

That’s the message in Jonathan’s post.  It’s filled with lots of great ideas and I’ll bet that you know the ferris wheel that’s at the heart of it.

In a world where you’d have some “experts” telling you that computational thinking is a separate entity, you’ll be inspired with the record of discussion that ensues.


As Technology Advances…

creating-a-culture-of-collaboration-as-technology-advances

Mark Renaud starts this post with a bit of wisdom that it never hurts to revisit and share with others.  I’m struck with the number of new teachers entering the profession with only a bare minimum of “effective learner” tools.

It’s not necessarily their fault.  They typically have relatively good computer skills but that’s not enough any more.  Of importance is staying abreast of new advances of both technology and the latest insights into effective pedagogy.

There were a couple of other posts above devoted to professional learning.  They make a nice bundle to read.

When was the last time that your principal expressed these concerns like Mark has?


It’s been yet another great week of sharing from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a few moments to click through and read the entire posts mentioned above.

Until next week!

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