What a week! It was so warm hot here. I guess that I can’t complain too loudly though. The Sun Parlor was not the hottest place in the province. It looks like it’s going to get cooler for the weekend. Isn’t that doing things backwards?
This post comes from the mindfulness side of the Stillnesshub blog and written by Safina Hirji.
I’ve read a lot of blog posts recently about how to re-open schools. They’re typically full of ideas about the mechanical and logistical side of things. All of that is really important for safety and I’ll admit to reading many of them.
This post takes a different tact though.
It focuses on students. What a concept! But, it’s not the sort of thing dealing with assessment and evaluation, content, and other teacher things. True to the theme, Safina deals with student mindfulness. She touches on four areas.
Mental Health and Well-Being through Mindfulness
Individualized Learning Opportunities
Mindfulness with acquiring knowledge and building skills
Accessing the right Tech Tools for Collaborative, Synchronous Learning
It’s a good read and a powerful reminder that opening schools is more than unlocking doors.
From the Our Dad’s Shoes blog devoted to issues about Fathers and Fatherhood comes this post, from Will Gourley. It is actually a post he’d written in the past and brought forward at this time. It fits nicely into the theme.
He discusses four attributes of fathers:
and does a great job about it and offering a tribute to his father.
There is a natural connection to teaching because, as we all acknowledge, our first teachers were our parents.
From the Self-Regulation blog, Aviva shares a list of things that she’s learned about self-regulation and herself at these trying times.
Too much social media
OK to put yourself first
Social stressors are online
Why and why now?
Stress behaviours multiply online
Importance of routine
Aviva joined Stephen Hurley and me as a guest host on This Week in Ontario Edublogs, did a nice job and got a chance to elaborate. There were three of these topics that I singled out to hear her speak about, in addition to writing about it.
Fidget Toy – she sees a need for one of these in her future as she hesitates to jump into discussions with students. I had to smile, I play with my mouse when I’m listening to others
Social stressors are online – we all know about the stresses due to social media but what about the social interaction that goes on in the online classroom. When to jump in, when to lay back, …
Saying hello – Aviva notes that it’s OK for some students to jump into a class and not necessarily be active for the entire session. It’s OK just to say hello and sit back and watch. Just being there can be enough at times
I know that Tim King speaks for thousands of teachers in this particular post. He lashes out at many things, many people that are players in this “absolutely terrible school year.”
I like the success story that he shares (and had pictures on Facebook documenting it) when he and family were allowed into the school to put together some computers for colleagues.
I can understand his feeling of exhaustion but was taken aback when he indicated that he was feeling defeated. I’ve never heard that from him. Then I look at my own household. My wife is delighted when she needs to leave the place to address some essential service in town.
There are so many lessons to be learned from those on the front lines during this time. As Tim notes, our leaders had assumptions about the readiness for a shift in teaching and it’s been proven wrong over and over again.
For me, the low point of all this was the political statement about expecting teachers and students to be regularly engaged in synchronous communications. For that to work, so many assumptions had to be made. I know that many teachers have tried and some have been successful but I suspect they would have been successful without the directive anyway.
Please click through and enjoy these posts in their entirety. There’s so much great thinking.
Then, make sure that you’re following these folks on Twitter.
Neerja Punjabi is currently seconded to TVOntario as Director, Educational Partnerships K-12. Previously, she was a principal in both the Peel District and Toronto District School Boards. During this very different time, she took the time to have a discussion with me.
Doug: My first question is always this – do you recall when we first met?
Neerja: I have been active on Twitter since 2011, which was my first year as a new elementary school principal. I wanted to learn and connect with educators who were sharing ideas in an open forum. I started following you on Twitter during that time because you posted amazing professional learning resources, which I was interested in reading and learning from. You have always modelled the #NeverStopLearning philosophy.
Doug: You seem to be a regular on #FollowFridays which is always an indicator that you’re actively sharing content. I’m guessing that our connector in common would have been Urs who I worked with in OSAPAC days. Would that be your guess, or was it someone else?
Neerja: I met Urs Bill when I joined TVO last year. But you Doug have been a big part of my professional learning network for a very long time, even though we had never formally met. The #FollowFridays feed was another reason for the connection to meet like-minded educators who added value to my professional growth.
Doug: I’m always in awe with people that manage to converse in multiple languages. You would certainly be in that category. Can you share your level of fluency and your languages spoken?
Neerja: I was born and brought up in Hyderabad, India, and we had to learn at least three languages in school. Attending a convent school where English was the medium of instruction, we also learnt Hindi and Telugu as second and third languages. I am very fluent in speaking these languages. In addition, Punjabi is my mother tongue, and I learned it at home. Urdu is very similar to Hindi, and because of that, I can speak it very fluently.
This article from @npr resonated with me. It specifically mentions a research study done in Hyderabad, which highlights my upbringing and exposure to several languages:
Doug: Wow, that is so impressive. As a former principal, how was your fluency in these languages an asset?
Neerja: Being fluent in all these languages was a definite asset for me as a principal in Peel District School Board. It helped me to build meaningful relationships with parents and grandparents in the community. I could share my experiences and stories of resilience as a new immigrant with new families immigrating to Canada, particularly from South Asia, giving them a message of hope and a sense of optimism. Speaking in one’s native tongue helps build trust and creates a sense of mutual respect.
Doug: Now, you’ve been seconded to TVOntario, one of the real education gems in the province. Your role involves Educational Partnerships. What does this involve?
Neerja: I would like to give you a little bit of background first about why I decided to take up a secondment with TVO, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary – ‘50 and Never Stop Learning’ this year. TVO has held a very special place in my heart. As a new immigrant coming to Canada 31 years ago, I was fascinated by the broadcast programs which were offered by TVO. When we decided to immigrate to Canada, we knew we had no friends and family here, and the one TV channel we relied on was TVO. Saturday Night at the Movies was a weekly television series on TVO, the public educational television network in Ontario with Elwy Yost and my husband and I watched the two back-to-back Movies. We have many fond memories. Also, my children were avid watchers of the Polka Dot Door (with Polkaroo) and Arthur which were very popular programs. They learned so much through these two shows. TVO played a big role in supporting our immigrant family’s successfully acclimatization to the Canadian values and culture.
My secondment to TVO has been a wonderful learning journey. As Director, Educational Partnerships, I have developed and led TVO’s strategy to coordinate partnerships and outreach activities across the K-12 educational community, including communication and liaising with school districts, federations, affiliations and employee group partners, EDU, and Faculties of Education. We have promoted awareness and adoption of TVO and TVO’s digital products and services in targeted professional learning sessions across the province.
Doug: You and your team had a big presence at the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls last November. Who is on your team and what are their roles?
Neerja: Our ‘small but mighty’ team comprises both TVO employees and educators who have been seconded from either a Board of Education or from the Ministry.
Here is a list of our phenomenal team members:
Urs Bill, Manager of TVO Mathify and Educational Outreach (seconded from the Ministry of Education)
Natalie Perez, Outreach Support Officer
Jenny Cadena and Tony Yeung, Resource Coordinators for TVO Mathify
Albert Wisco, Community Manager for TVO Teach Ontario
Kyle McCreight, Digital Media Producer
Jennifer Montgomery, Education Officer (Seconded from YRDSB)
Leah Kearney, Pedagogue/Instructional Liaison (seconded from TDSB)
Maureen Asselin, Instructional Liaison (seconded from HCDSB)
I’ve been an exhibitor at that conference, and I have a not-so-fond memory of exhaustion from standing so long and repeating the same message over and over. What is your memory from the event? Was this your first time at this conference?
Neerja: First, let me thank you for sharing our blog on your WordPress and Twitter. Your support has meant a lot with expanding our outreach efforts across the province.
In 2019, I attended the BIT conference for the very first time. My team members who had participated in the conference before were very enthusiastic about this opportunity for networking and connecting with so many like-minded educators who were the early adopters of digital learning. There were so many teacher-leaders who participated in drop-in sessions to learn more about TVO resources. Many explored the TVO carousal and registered for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify. Many educators were inspired to join our TVO outreach team as TVO Ambassadors to continue to spread the word.
Doug: TVOntario hosts so many wonderful resources for education. Can you share a link to where they are and a quick overview?
Neerja: Here is a link where you will find copies of one-page support guides (toolkits) for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify, as well as a one-page overview of all TVO resources:
Doug: I’ve always been a fan and supporter, in particular, of the Mathematics support that TVO offers. Can you give an overview of those specifically? I think that, in these times, they are even more important.
Neerja: I will talk about two TVO resources in particular that offer support in Mathematics.
TVO Mathify is developed for Ontario students and educators, and this resource seamlessly supports the learning of grade 6-10 math. Mathify helps educators to boost math engagement, confidence and reduce math anxiety. It enables students to extend or support their own learning through live, individualized 1:1 math tutoring sessions with TVO Mathify tutors who are also Ontario Certified Math Teachers.
TVO Mathify addresses and accommodates the different scheduling needs of you, your students, and their families during this time. Teachers and students can engage in math lessons and learning at times that work for them and their schedule – over and above any pre-planned lesson times.
TVO Mathify is also:
Intuitive to use for teachers and students. No big learning curve required.
Safe and secure. No ads, no pop-ups, no purchases, no downloads, and no one collecting data on you or your students for potential sale to for-profit organizations.
FREE to Ontario teachers and students and available.
24/7 access to prepare, post or access questions
Extended tutoring hours for students:
Mon-Fri 9 am-9 pm ET
Sun 3:30-9 pm ET
TVO mPower: is a fun and innovative online game-based resource that builds problem-solving, critical thinking and math skills for students K-6. It is an award-winning, ad-free children’s content that supports the Ontario curriculum, developed with a commitment to diversity. Creative online math games support the development of foundational K-6 math & STEM skills in the classroom and at home.
We use a variety of resources to develop TVO mPower; these are foundational to our work: Curriculum Documents – The Kindergarten Program, The Ontario Mathematics, Science and Technology and Social Studies Curricula are used in the creation of the math games, STEM games, and TVO mPower narratives. This ensures the alignment with Ontario curriculum expectations and best practices. The game iterations are based on feedback from classroom teachers, ongoing playtesting and the ongoing research and development process at TVO.
In summary, TVO mPower has 65+ free, creative online games that support the development of foundational K-6 math and STEM skills while fostering positive attitudes towards math. TVO mPower is:
A safe, advertising-free play space
Free for all Ontarians
Available on laptop, desktop computers and tablets
Doug: Have TVOntario and your team ramped up your resources and support during these times of school closures?
Neerja: Educational partnerships team continues to be innovative in providing outreach virtually through webinars. We have conducted several online webinars for interested educators. Recently we have been asked to deliver two webinars to over 100 educators from a Board of Education to their educator community. Also, educators can access support by registering on TeachOntario
-an online community for Ontario’s educators. We share our resources, and new content is posted regularly. We also share our resources through social media.
Doug: Is it safe to say that you and your team are working from home these days?
Neerja: Yes, you are right – we are currently working from home. We use digital collaboration platforms for our meetings within the organization, and we connect with educators across the province through scheduled synchronous and asynchronous webinars. TVO TeachOntario has been an incredible resource for connecting our team and connecting Ontario educators. In terms of the bigger picture, here is a Blog which highlights some of the ways TVO is conducting business as an organization:
Over the past few months, these FREE TVO resources have had a significant impact and benefit on our educators, students, parents, and guardians. Many students continue to actively use resources such as TVO Kids, TVO mPower, and TVO Mathify. We will continue to serve our communities during these difficult times and have our resources available for anyone who needs the support.
Doug: During all this, you remain connected to your network on Twitter. What value do you see in staying connected?
Neerja: Twitter is a platform where I am continually learning, sharing and connecting with educators. At TVO, we share a commitment to lifelong learning and the belief that learning has the power to ignite potential and change the world. My engagement and use of this platform truly align with this deep-rooted value to #NeverStopLearning, which I fully imbibe.
Doug: I asked Superintendent Hazel Mason this when I interviewed her
– if you had to identify 10 “must follow” users on Twitter, who would they be?
Neerja: I was overwhelmed when I saw my name mentioned on this list from Hazel Mason (@Hmason36 on Twitter) in June 2017. Hazel was my Superintendent, a fantastic leader who had high expectations for all her team members, and I hold her in very high regard.
There are so many phenomenal educators and leaders that I continue to learn from regularly on Twitter. Here are the names of those who have helped me and continue to help me on my learning journey:
Rose Pillay, @RosePillay1
Bill Ferriter, @Plugusin
Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein
David Culberhouse, @DCulberhouse
ONT Special Needs, @Ontspecialneeds
Zohrin Mawji, @ZohrinMawji
The Agenda/TVO, @TheAgenda
Edutopia – @Edutopia
Mindshift – @MindShiftKQED
NCTE – @ncte
Doug: I know that you’re a very positive person. When do you see us getting back to normal, or whatever “normal” will become?
Neerja: Thank you, Doug, that is very nice of you. Yes, I am a positive person, and from what I know is that this too shall pass. In the meantime, we need to focus on ensuring that all safety measures are in place and follow the Public Health advice diligently. By taking personal responsibility, we can collectively flatten the curve. In addition, we need to keep track of the regular updates on COVID-19 shared on the Ontario.ca website. It is an excellent idea to be mindful of what is being expected to keep us all safe.
Doug: If you were returning to one of your former schools as principal, what sorts of changes do you see having to be made for everyone’s safety?
Neerja: I understand that returning to school at this time would require a deep reflection and a call to action to support all learners, especially those who are underserved and who may have big gaps in their learning. Providing students with the best learning opportunities will be the highest priority for me as the lead learner in the school. In addition, my focus will be on building positive and trusting relationships with my staff, students, parents, guardians, and extended community partners.
Doug: Thank you so much for taking the time during all this to share some of your thoughts, wisdom, and insights. Stay safe.
You can follow Neerja on Twitter at @PNeerja
Make sure that you check out the TVOntario resources at the link above.
Sue Bruyns is just steaming ahead with her goal of writing daily for the month of May. This post caught my eye because she made reference to a post that I had written for a Sunday “Whatever happened to …” post as she was inspired to blog about drive-in theatres. I’m humbled that she remembered the post from two years ago.
Drive-in theatres make a great deal sense as a way to provide entertainment and yet still maintain social distancing. After all, you’re in your car and only exposed to those who are with you. What was nice to me, in reading this post, is to see Sue be retrospective to drive-in theatres from the London area. I remember them as well as the one near Grand Bend that see alludes to.
Of course, the technology has moved on from VCR to DVD to pay per view to streaming … but there was still something special about going to the drive-in. Ramona Meharg joined the social media conversation as she grew up in the same area. That led to some interesting reminiscing back and forth.
Like any outings will be though, the elephant in the room will be what to do when nature calls. As long as you have an empty tub of popcorn, guys won’t be too hard pushed but Sheila Stewart sealed the conversation with an exclamation point and a costly option.
This is a good question. Students wonder about it all the time. Teachers should wonder as well.
In fact, I suspect that we all wondered when, as students, something would be placed on the blackboard for us to do.
So, he posted this as a question for his students in their learning management system and shortly received 21 answers.
As a teacher though, wouldn’t you like to think that anything you’ve taken time to have planned, decided what expectations it addresses, and the be prepared to allocated your precious resource of time towards assessing it, is meaningful?
To help determine this, you might want to ponder this…
“Work that overlaps with real life skills by putting on individual talents and interests”
In the seemingly never-ending blog post series by Shelly Vohra, Part 13 lets her take the time to think about what the future of education looks like. She addresses five things in this post.
Wellness / Social and emotional learning
Assessment and Evaluation
Teacher professional learning
She addresses each of the topics thoughtfully.
It’s the last two that I think need special attention at this time. It’s during conferences and professional learning opportunities that all else can be addressed.
When I was president of ECOO, I introduced the concept of the #ECOOcamp. We know that the big conference can be a challenge for some people in terms of release time and costs. Our concept was to offer the same sort of experience on a smaller, local basis. Unlike an EdCamp which can be a hit or miss proposition, the #ECOOcamp had a defined schedule with topics so that you knew what to expect when you devoted a day (we chose a Saturday) to the event. We had a successful event the first year in Owen Sound, and it was repeated a second year there and expanded to include another event in Peterborough. The current leadership of ECOO showed no interest that I could see in continuing this year and, of course, now that we’re all bottled up, travel just isn’t possible.
But great minds should be able to come up with all kinds of alternatives. We certainly have a province of people becoming familiar with the concept of presenting/teaching online! OAME has already done a virtual conference. Connect 2020 is offering its conference online. I’ve registered for that.
It’s time for all subject association and school districts to come forward with an explicit description about what value they assign to their conferences and their support of professional learning for their members.
As if I wasn’t editorializing enough, I find it frustrating to watch colleagues throughout the province trying to work with different learning management systems. Why wasn’t the Ministry tasked to license a common platform so that everyone could learn and grow in the same space?
</rant> Shelly promises to develop her thoughts on these topics as she continues to share her thinking. I look forward to them.
Heather Swail writes a pair of posts on a theme that everyone is experiencing right now; I’d never thought of the term “The Long Spring” but it is so, so appropriate.
During this Long Spring, Heather is spending it with teenagers. You know, those “Digital Natives” that take to technology like ducks to water because they grew up with it. It’s us old people that have challenges because we immigrated to this environment. I never agreed with Prensky’s model – then or now.
Yes, these natives may know how to use technology but education is more than just using technology and Heather shares her observations in this pair of posts.
Fluency is in short supply and fancy is in quarantine. All my energy goes to the screen. The Silver Screen? The Silent Screen. Like everyone else, I am trying to find a way to make virtual personal, and engage across spaces that are physical, emotional and existential. By 4 pm, I do not want to even see a screen door. I do not want to see my phone. I do not want to write.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned with teens on screens (and middle-age teachers on screens):
Leave your Doritos and trail mix (at home?): crunching on an open mic is really loud and distracting
Watch your mic: whispering loudly to your hovering mom that “this sucks, how long do I have to stay on?” when your mic is on – not great for your teachers’ self-esteem
And that’s just the start. Click through and read the rest. As teachers, we all observe what’s going on. I love Heather’s observations. It also makes me a little more thoughtful when I have my Friday afternoon Zoom Beer with friends.
If you think Zoom teaching is all pyjamas, coffee, little windows, digital assignments, digital marking, and then call it a day, you’re not paying attention.
I’ve had friends share with me the challenges that they’re experiencing every day. It’s not going well for everyone despite the success stories that we’re hearing all over the place. I wonder if all this glad-handing isn’t being interpreted by some as confirmation that online courses are a good thing for everyone.
Learning is damn hard; learning online is even harder.
I have to give a shout out to Chris Vollum for putting this story out there for all to read. And, I hope all those who think that everything is just rosey takes the time to read and empathise.
Chris describes a Zoom session that started out like so many and maybe even threw in some extra goodies for the whole experience.
Then, for one young lady things went wrong, terribly wrong.
Read the post and see how Chris arrives at the conclusion
Thirty students from different schools with all grades represented taught me – and each other – a great deal; that there is no substitute for human connection. And that the new normal is a massive adjustment that swings opposite to every instinct we have about the innate need to connect, in-person with one another.
Please take some time today or on the weekend to click through and read these terrific blog posts. You’ll be glad you did.
Then, make sure you’re following these bloggers on Twitter.
It’s the spring of the year, and under normal conditions, things would be ramping up towards graduation celebrations in schools. In this post from Sue Bruyns, she reflects on what it might look like for Grade 8 students. It’s a big deal to move from Grade 8 to Grade 9.
That’s not the only graduations that happen in our schools though. There’s kindergarten graduations as they move to Grade 1. Grade 12 students moving to whatever is next for them. Colleges and universities graduate students from there as well. And, quite frankly, there’s a sense of celebration at the end of any grade level as students move on to the next.
Depending upon the school, Sue describes a range of ways that formal celebrations take place. Even in Sue’s district there are a number of different types of celebrations, often based on history and also economics. Another set of big events are the big school trip as well.
So, Sue wonders if this is the opportunity for school districts to sit back and consider just what is happening at this time of year. Is it time to change the “business as usual” format to something more consistent. It’s an interesting look and topic to consider. I’m sure that Sue would appreciate hearing from you and what’s happening in your school.
In many classrooms, things are quite different and often teachers and students are learning from day to day. I’ve heard reports from some teachers that there are students who aren’t checking in as often as they might. I heard it first hand from a couple of kids that dropped by for a patio visit “We didn’t do anything … it’s boring!”
Noa Daniel has long used this very sophisticated approach for students doing their research and presenting results to classmates. This year, the focus is on the 17 Sustainable Goals. Since we live in different times, the regular face-to-face mode just won’t happen. Instead, elements of this might well be face-to-Zoom. They’re going to experience first hand what it looks like to present to the audience in this different mode!
The other thing that is apparent when you try to visualize this is that is not a short term event. There are many different things that are happening here and a student shouldn’t want to miss a step along the way. Noa’s approach has always intrigued me; it will be interesting to see how it plays out in today’s reality.
In addition to all of the planning that Noa shares, she includes a nice collection of student observations. They get it.
What impresses me about this post and the two previous ones is Terry’s focus on providing opportunities for students to share their voice.
It’s not something that we normally associate with higher education. I know that my own experience was rewarding but in a different, more traditional way.
As you work your way through Terry’s post, you’ll note all kinds of links to supporting documents and observations/recordings.
If you follow one link, I’d suggest this one to a slidedeck.
Here are the slides again from the session. The simple goal was to talk a bit about the who, what, when, where, why, how of it all and then to do it for real in a mini-interview from start to finish with the same mini-interviews we used in the Ideate session so that attendees could see it happen live.
You know, my heart goes out to Heather Swail. She’s been very open about the things that have happened this year, her last year, in education. First there was all the work stoppages and now the whole teaching at home thing.
I follow Paul McGuire on Instagram and lately he’s been posting pictures of their walks showing off the empty streets. It looks lonely, sad, and yet very artistic.
Back to Heather, this is a heart-warming post describing how she celebrated a birthday, a very special birthday. Head over to read how she celebrated the event and some of the unique gifts that she received.
And while you’re there – wish her a Happy Birthday.
From Diana Maliszewski, a rather long blog post but it’s OK because she posted it to three of the blogs that she contributes to.
Never having played the game, I found her post and description both engaging and intriguing. She calls the use of the game as cross-generational in its appeal. I was quite impressed with the 3D representation and lifelike depiction of characters in the game. It’s a long way, at least in appearance, from Minecraft, her previous love.
Of real interest to me was her observation about the values that are conveyed via the environment.
What does it mean to be a good citizen? This message is shared in so many ways in ACNH. Good citizens pick up litter, like fallen branches. They chat with their neighbours and bring them medicine when they are sick. They are active and wander the island. They donate items to the museum. They contribute to the prosperity of the island by buying and selling items from regular vendors (Timmy and Tommy, the Able Sisters) as well as visiting salespeople (CJ, Flick, Leif, Kicks, and even “shifty” characters like Redd the Fox who sells authentic and fake pieces of art).
I think any activities, even games that engage, and can work values into themselves should deserve a second look.
Right now, you can see organizations and people with websites publishing lists of resources for classroom use during learning at home initiatives.
Quite often, little thought goes into the curation of these. Here’s a link, here’s a link, here’s another link, … I addressed the concept of privacy of email addresses in a product (Private Relay) under development by Mozilla in my blog post yesterday.
Michelle Fenn’s post on the Heart and Art Blog took me back to the days when I evaluated and shared resources with my colleagues for a living. It’s not a copy/paste activity. There are so many things that you really should consider before your recommend others use it and have them used with children. Privacy, cost, longevity, and much more. Michelle has a list of 10 things that people need to consider while evaluating a resource.
I would add one point that I always argued strongly when I was on the OSAPAC Committee and that the language needs to be Canadian with Canadian spelling. I strongly objected to recommending a product that would have a student sit down and be faced with text written in another language.
I really like that Michelle considers Canadian software developers first (which should but doesn’t always result in Canadian spelling) and importantly that any information is stored on servers in Canada.
You know how your feet hurt when you get a new pair of shoes?
It might be that you’re experiencing different pain now as a result of teaching online from at home. I suspect that many people will be jumping in worried about teaching, worried about kids, worried about isolation, worrying about a lot of things except their own well being.
Will Gourley gives us a sense of the pain that he’s feeling in his particular work situation, along with pictures of folded clothes indicating that his desk doubles as a laundry space or that after allocating all the good spaces in their three stories to others, he’s left with this.
He offers five good suggestions for taking care of yourself and they’re all worth considering if you find yourself dealing with discomfort or outright pain these days. Or, use it as a check so that you don’t end up in that case.
What he didn’t include was taking a break and folding laundry…
As I said during the This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast, Melanie White could be a poster child for effectively trying to engage all students.
She’s pedagogically savvy enough to try and ensure that all students are engaged in class activities and technically savvy enough to recognize that it may take more than one strategy to reach everyone.
I love this image from The Mentoree that she includes in the post.
I really appreciated the fact that she shared how all students don’t follow the formal conventions of writing when using email. I think it’s a nice reminder that the technologies that are often available and in use are our technologies and may not be the ideal solution for a new generation.
Of course, everyone just got thrown into the middle of this; it will be interesting to see if more relevant tools emerge that are more easily embraced.
When I think back at the Mathematics that I studied (and I studied a great deal of it), there really was a focus on Algebra and Geometry. For the longest time, Geometry was really about two space and it wasn’t until the later years that we got into three space.
Ironically, though, three space was represented in two space via the blackboard.
This post, from Mark Chubb, offers up free materials that he’s made to help students with the understanding of space. They’re called Skyscraper Puzzles and a link will let you download and work with them. The resource is in PDF format.
By itself, that would be worth the read of the post. But, Mark takes it to a new level. He indicates that he had some helpers with the work. Anyone who believes in the maker concept will immediately realize that they just wouldn’t be creating materials – they’d be learning the concepts as well. As we know, you never really know something completely until you teach or make it.
Anyone teaching from at home at this time will definitely identify with this observation from Marius Bourgeoys.
The comfort zone has left the building.
Marius includes a number of observations that are hard to disagree with. Towards the end of the post, he offers 12 suggestions for checkins with students.
I found number 7 particularly interesting.
Quelles nouvelles responsabilités as-tu à la maison?
We all know that it’s not life as usual. In some cases, though, it may be substantially different for some students other than just taking their schooling online.
Mom and Dad may be essential workers and that student is picking up additional responsibilities to make sure that the family continues to thrive. I think it’s a very powerful question to ask student and could easily be a great writing prompt.
There have been a lot of memes circulating about the learning at home situation and one of the funniest was a couple of kids complaining that not only were they being schooled at home but that their mother was a math teacher.
Lots of that ran through my mind when I read this post from Lisa Corbett. Her son’s doing the math and she’s giving us a blow by blow account of how it’s going. And, they have a blackboard to do math on. Who has a blackboard at home these days? Got to be a teacher!
It’s a good accounting of what’s happening. I think there will be a big payoff when all this is over by re-reading blog posts and learning about the learning that everyone experienced. Journaling this experience is good advice for everyone. They didn’t prepare you for this at the Faculty of Education. You’re living history as it happens so why not document it.
There’s another element to this that can’t be lost. Not only is she working with her own kids schooling at home, but there’s still those from her day job that are learning at a distance too. Double-dipping.
This post, from Albert Fong, goes back to the beginning of March. It seems so long ago now.
Speaking of a long time ago, Albert relates a story of a youngster coming to Canada and learning to grow up in his new reality in different schools. This new reality includes fighting amongst schoolmates. That part, I could relate to. I suspect we all can.
But, what happened when an older student got involved was not something that I had ever experienced.
Albert learned from that moment and that experience and had an opportunity to apply his learning when he was a bit older.
For a Friday morning, please click through and enjoy these blog posts. There is some great inspirational reading to be enjoyed here.
Beth Lyons shares a reflection about life as a school librarian who isn’t going into a physical library these days.
And then she asks
Am I still a teacher-librarian?
It’s an important question to ask. For many of our who were out of the classroom during major disruptions to the normal, it is something that we always pondered “You wouldn’t know; you’re not in the classroom”, “You don’t have to do report cards”, …
I think it’s natural to see yourself as having a bulls-eye on the forehead at times like this and to do some self-examination.
But step back a bit. There are thousands of teachers who aren’t in their traditional classroom. That doesn’t make them less of a teacher. More that ever, being in a school isn’t the defining factor of teacher. Similarly, being in a library doesn’t define who is a teacher-librarian.
The rules have changed, to be sure. But the things that make a school a school continue. The same applies to Teacher-Librarians. While a classroom teacher knows her/his curriculum backward and forward, a Teacher-Librarian typically knows everyone’s expectations. It seems to me that they can be the best resource a teacher working with a class online can have. While all the resources many be digital for a while, the Teacher-Librarian can be working harder than ever providing research and assistance for colleagues. Beth shares what she’s doing in the post.
I think it’s normal for everyone to ponder their abilities with these new situations. Now is not the time to pull back; it’s more important than ever to be visible to others and supportive like never before.
Alanna King shares an insight to the learning space that is carved out of the King household where she and Tim are now working with their classes.
This post is a wonderful story and truly answers the question “Can students get involved in community service during this time”?
And, it comes from Tim King’s Computer Engineering students. He shared a form with staff members indicating that his students could offer some technical support. In Alanna’s case
I would like a secure Google Doc/Form way to communicate mark updates with students. I’m wondering if we can use something like DocAppender on a spreadsheet to mail merge a column to users with a specific email address e.g. 72 goes to firstname.lastname@example.org and then to have the recipient create a read receipt/digital signature to confirm that they have read it.
One student stepped up with a solution and documented it via a YouTube video.
In these days with all kinds of stories swirling, this is just so inspirational. I hope that the rest of the staff is tapping into this resource. It just has to lighten their load and put their mind at ease knowing someone has their back if they run into problems.
Sometimes, it definitely are the little things that we take for granted and Sue Dunlop reaches out with her experience during the lockdown in her section of the world.
When you think about it, Education is all about timed events. The morning bell is at #.##, National Anthem and announcements at #.##, Every class is ## minutes long. You have exactly # minutes to travel from one room to another otherwise you’re going to be marked late. Lunch is at ##.## and final dismissal is at ##.##. Everything is programmed and timed down to the last minute.
If you’ve ever tried to make an appointment with a superintendent at her/his office, you have to go through a support staff person and will be given a time slot during the course of the working day.
For the most part, the classroom or office door is closed (literally or figuratively) while work is happening. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve done since kindergarten. Education is no place for a timetable non-conformist!
In light of all this, there are special moments and that’s the point of this post from Sue. You go to the mailroom or the staffroom or out into the hallway between classes or a whack of other quick moments when you’re not switched ON. Those happenstance moments are what Sue is missing at this time.
She’s trying to replicate it during lockdown. And yet, it’s still not the same. Even to have an informal chat on a video conference, you typically have to schedule a time when all participants are able to be there.
Sue concludes with a call to action for leaders to contemplate once they’re back together. I suspect it will be a part of a long list of reflections about this experience. If nothing else, I’ll bet that we all have a deeper sense of appreciation of those moments.
When I coached football, we had three quarterbacks and one of them was left-handed. We had one play that required a “pivot” and what should have been simple (I thought) wasn’t for everyone. One took too it easily and the other two had challenges. It didn’t come across as a natural action for one and for the left-handed one, it was difficult to even describe because the play was a mirror reflection. I am right handed and there’s no way that I could gracefully demonstrate what was needed.
I learned there that things aren’t always easy and transferable. Peter Cameron has a very distinct edge in voice with his advice to the Minister of Education calling the transition from regular classroom teaching to “Emergency Distance Learning” a simple pivot. His words brought back that football memory immediately. It was almost surreal because I can’t remember the last time I actually ever used the word pivot.
If I had to select an educator that I would think could make the move to distance learning relatively easily, Peter would be high on my list of choices as I consider him well connected. But, like so many, he notes that his misses the daily interaction with students. So, he definitely hasn’t simply pivoted to the new reality.
In other news from Peter, he shares a reminder of the upcoming MAD (Make A Difference) PD event this weekend. Details are here.
David Petro is always good for some resources for Mathematics and, with his deep understanding of it and the Ontario Curriculum, shares resources and ties them directly for classroom teachers.
This week’s collection resources, video, and images featured a flash back to FEUT Professor Fraser who was part of my teacher education. He shared this puzzle…
It was a wonderful puzzle and I was thinking about coding a solution when I scrolled down and saw that someone had created a moving example illustrating why it works.
The other important takeaway from David’s post announces that, although the annual OAME Conference is cancelled, there will be a “virtual OAME” in its place. Everyone is invited and it’s free.
I look through the sessions and was proud to note some names from my former school district and most certainly many folks that are part of my #FollowFriday posts. It’s a nice replication of the traditional conference including door prizes.
DigCitTO had dropped off my radar. It’s a short duration event normally held face to face. Driving all the way to Toronto, finding parking, etc. really makes it prohibitive.
But, the organizers went ahead and held the event anyway, shifting to the online world. Editorial Note: microwaving something from M&M pales in comparison from the great downtown Toronto food.
As it turned out, I could only drop in a couple of times for a few minutes to see what was up.
In this post, Diana Maliszewski shares her conference attendance (or partial attendance) including a session that she co-presented. All in all, good reading.
She did close with some musing about the future of conferences. Some, perhaps, could live in an online presentation world. I think that those of us who have attended sessions know that online that they can easily turn into a “sit ‘n git” with the worse of them. It really takes a skilled presenter to bring interactive elements into such a session. I look to Speaking Bureaus to provide learning into engagement techniques because this will be our future for a while anyway. Diana has a question mark beside the OLA Superconference. Gulp.
Regardless, there are so many things that I would miss – exhibit halls, interactive sessions, hugs from friends, first meetings with new friends, walking a strange city, finding old friends and meet up for dinner, sitting in a pub or bar sharing war stories and so much more. Organizations use the opportunities to foster partnerships and use attendance fees to fund themselves. So much would change if this format was lost.
Shortly after I scheduled my post for Re-opening questions, I got a message from Deb Weston that she had written this post.
Like my crystal ball, Deb took the opportunity to envision what classrooms might look like once teachers and students are able to return to them.
She has a nice discussion on the various elements as she sees them. There are just so many concerns and decisions that have to go into the planning. While my approach was largely from my thoughts in a secondary school background, she brought into focus what an elementary school might have to plan for.
What comes through in both of our posts is the concept that schools are a large mass of humanity compressed into small facilities. Bizarrely, the media seems to be spending more time reporting on how baseball might open or hockey might wind down than what schools re-opening might look like.
The biggest cost item (other than hand sanitizers) would be staffing and she takes some time doing the mathematics and predicts that a 42% increase in the number of teachers would be needed.
I’d like to suggest that both posts would be good reads and “look fors” when the bell rings. You can’t just flip a switch.
Please find some time to click through and read the original posts. We live in interesting times and there are some great thoughts generated.
Paul McGuire shares an interesting observation in this post
There is no balance in the time of COVID -19. There are highs and lows and all are good.
We probably all go through this on a regular basis but being permanently at home only serves to amplify them. Paul isn’t the only person to make this observation that I’ve noticed this week. I would think that the real problem would come when a person is unable to distinguish between them.
So, Paul is aware of what’s happening in his world and shares some observations of life going on outside it. I found it interesting and like that Paul’s coping mechanism can be so powerful – just write.
Whether it’s a blog, an article, a journal, a note … it’s a way of getting the weight out and that’s always a good thing.
Don’t freak out at the image on the landing page of this post. Sometimes, the silly just takes over.
It was refreshing to read this admission from Deb Weston.
I’ll be honest with you, reader, I’ve had some lasting moments of being completely overwhelmed with the circumstances we are going through as teachers. Isolated in our homes, we deal with steep learning curves while worrying about our students in their lives and in their learning.
I’ve read so many things about how well learning is going; the kids are really excelling and all that. You just know that that may well be a bit of an exaggeration.
I suspect this article was written before the announcement by the Ministry of Education about the purchase of iPads and Internet access for students as she does identify a lack of these as part of the frustration that’s happening. But, even dropping off technology with “no touch” isn’t an immediate solution to a problem. It’s an attempt to level the playing field and will get better over time, I hope. I’ve got a blog post of my own about this in brainstorming mode.
(update: I’m reading now that this purchase may not be for new technology and I’m researching)
It’s also not just access to technology that is at hand here. Deb correctly has sympathies for those students who would normally handle things in Special Education settings but now are unable.
I thought that this post from Michelle Fenn tagged nicely after Deborah’s post. So, you do have access to the internet. We all know that you can find absolutely anything and everything out there.
However, finding and using it can be two different things…
In the post, Michelle addresses:
Posting YouTube Videos
Reading Books Online to Students
FairDealing and Copyright
Privacy Policies and Statement
She touches the surface on these. It’s difficult to address them all here so make sure that you check out her post. Michelle does give an excellent piece of advice because not all resources are created equally.
Be proactive and check with someone in the Instructional Technology department at your school board to ensure that you are following recommendations before asking students and parents to sign up for a digital tool.
And yet another post from the ETFO Heart and Art Blog. This one comes from Kelly McLaughlin. Here, she lays out her plan for Week One that she has for students that address Mathematics, Literacy, Geography, and Science.
The activities were to be done asynchronously and she let the students know what times she was available for assistance.
There was an element of concern and empathy that I thought was important to note. Using the tools, she polled her students to see how they were doing in the various subject areas, on a personal basis, and as learners.
I could see this feedback as being very crucial for future planning. The response would inform her as teacher as to how the students are coping and would allow her to adjust future learning activities accordingly.
It’s hard to argue with any of the things in his list.
Social Distancing – we’re starting to see districts outside Ontario planning to open schools. The good thing is that many of the schools are not planning for school as usual. Schools are build for the masses; they line up to go in, they mob the hallways, they get squashed into classrooms
Online Learning – if we learn one thing about using technology and learning, it’s that you can’t just flip a switch and move from face to face to online. Look for a move for more blended learning approaches
Self-isolation – I liked his observation here, particularly is it applies to the use of social media. We’ve always know that there was bullying online but when online is your only answer, it only follows that so does the bullying
Quarantine – he takes an interesting look at this concept in a different way. It was the concept of racism and speared by the leader to the south of us. There is a history of naming viruses from their place of origin and, even though it hasn’t been conclusively proven, COVID-19 has been referred to by location. And, it’s not the use of the location, it’s in the way that it’s pronounced
Super Skepticism – we live in a day and age where you can turn and find resources to find any opinion that you want. A good global citizen will definitely stand and question everything
I really, really liked the items that Matthew has identified and he takes them on in his particular style.
On the TESLOntario blog, Paula Ogg talks about her inspiration to join the board.
I am passionate about creative problem solving, design thinking, and design-based research, so I hope in the future I will be able to share and use these tools and techniques to give others a voice in TESL leadership.
While I’ve never been a TESL teacher, I find that whole group of educators very interesting and inspirational. The TESLOntario website does a wonderful job of collecting and sharing resources.
If that’s where your interests lie, you may wish to get further involved.
Zoe Branigan-Pipe shares a card game that is played in the Pipe household and in her class. I think a lot of people are playing games to while the time and keep things under control these days.
At home, I play this with my family (ages 16, 17, 20 and adults). I also have an ELL student living with us who loves using this game to learn vocabulary. He uses a translater to help him express his ideas.
Then, she gives us a big long list of educational things that she sees from playing the game and using it in her classroom.
Zoe, I’ll leave you with a quote I get from my kids
“Daaaad, you’re such a teacher”
I always take it as a compliment.
Please take a moment to check out these posts and read the complete insights from these great bloggers.