Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Many "Miss Barbara" Teachers of this World
This article by Bob Greene, CNN contributor, is a tribute to Miss Barbara Drugan, an exemplary elementary school teacher in Bexley, Ohion who passed away recently. For 32 years, she taught kindergarten and had an uncanny ability to recall the names of all her students and then later, all their families . At the end of her teaching career, she became the crossing guard for the neighbourhood where she taught. Surprisingly or not, she was the only one who applied for this position. Her love and care for students continued on but from a different vantage point.
So fittingly, when Miss Barbara (as the whole community called her) died, the entire town mourned her passing and celebrated her life and contributions to many generations of men and women with a ceremony held outside the window of her kindergarten classroom.
I contrast this with recent articles featured in the Toronto Star that headlined on the front page "bad teachers", the tiny minortity who unfortnately have tainted this honourable profession. Why is it that good news teacher stories such as the many "Miss Barbaras" of this world are rare, or even if they do appear, are small articles hidden in the recesses of newspaper pages. Yes, they are usually out of sight and readily overlooked! But news features such as these recent negatively charged ones are splashed for everyone to see and all teachers feel the sting!
This for the simple purpose of selling newspapers! It is unfortunate that disparaging or shocking news items sell papers. The feel good stories do not. We need those feel good, "warm fuzzy" stories that celebrate public education and the quality of our education system so aptly delivered by thousands of caring, dedicated teachers who love being in the classrooom each and every day changing lives and touching hearts. Hurrah to these educators are unsung heroes!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Discovery Education: Canada Day of Discovery: Sept. 23, 2011.

A few days ago, I registered for a webinar offered by  Discovery Education, an arm of the Discovery Channel. It aired on Sept. 23 but circumstances didn't allow me to watch it streamed live; however,  I did enjoy looking at it through their archival collection. The session was titled "Learning to Speak Native: How Education is Being Transformed in 140 Characters or Less". In a nutshell, the webinar examined some features of Web 2.0 as a new way to connect with today's child who very early on  is exposed to technology and is intrigued by it. In fact the speaker Steve Dembo's two children are now growing up with Web 2.0 where the 6 year old is blogging daily and his newborn has been exposed to Web 2.0 features that have been installed on her crib attachments.
Two key quotes caught my attention:
"I no longer give my students assignments; I give them creative briefs". This is from a teacher who encourages his students to explore and select from a range of options such as creating a Wordle, a graphic novel, a blog, a lab and yes, even some more traditional ones but the choice does address the move toward digital presentations.
The other quote was by Marc Prensky who said,"If Digital Immigrant educators really want to reach Digital Natives, they will have to change." The change that was encouraged here was not an overnight radical shift; rather, it was taking that key step to make one move to incorporate educational technology into the classroom until you  feel comfortable with it before you move on to another one. This kind of change is manageable and less intimidating.
The next Discovery Education feature will take place on Oct. 23. It will be a virtual conference and I am looking forward to it.

Kinect in the Classroom

I took some time to view the various links that Camille Rutherford added to her most recent email to our TLC. Bring a Wii user, I know the attraction and motivator that this kind of gaming strategy can be. A close friend of mine was using her Wii for part of her fitness regime; this is how I got hooked on it. However, when Kinect came onto the market, she switched platforms immediately. Now I can see why although I am not willing to make the leap just yet.

For kinesthetic learners and special needs autistic students, the Kinect has solid potential. Furthermore, the gaming strategy is very highly motivating for today's learners who enjoy the challenges of virtual learning and even  augmentative reality. The videoclip using an AR approach is quite mind-boggling especially where you can explore 3-D models that have been downloaded from in concert with Google Earth. This takes the Kinect game to a totally different level.
The sample classroom applications were intriguing although what I saw with music, the thinking involved was fairly basic and low level. The strategy was much more impressive than the content.
This is where we need to be aware of how best to use technology in the classroom. Bells and whistles may mask the content of a lesson to the point that it may not be readily apparent that higher order thinking and/or critical problem solving opportunities are not been addressed in the lesson.
I realize that some basic experimentation is required at these initial application stages. This can and likely will lead to better quality application possibilities in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why a Rabbit in a Tree?

Wondering why I have this picture of a stuffed rabbit in a tree? In 2009, I spent a week in Paris and took along this favourite childhood toy called Bunny. I posed him in some key picturesque locations in Paris and captured a variety of shots. One day, I will create a picture book about his adventures in the City of Lights. His image in my blog is a reminder of a project that is pending.

SmartBoard Training Sessions

Sept. 15 and 16 were exciting days exploring further the creative possibilities behind Notebook 10. Although I have taken a few other SmartBoard sessions before including one onsite in Mississauga, these two days were much more beneficial likely because I was able to build on top of my previous knowledge base. Learning through layering is what works for me. Kyle's approach with this tech group was very non-threatening. His pacing was good and he allowed ample opportunity for everyone to experiment with hands-on applications in between his presentation segments. I was very impressed with the speed that most were able to pick up on this software and figure out connections and applications. It is unfortunate that Notebook 10 is not compatible with Google docs as is Powerpoint.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Session 2: Diversity

A great Session 2 for 8D09! I was very impressed with the opening and closing circle activities planned and run by Natalie Gilbert and Candice Shaw respectively. It is heart-warming to see the bond and interplay developing amongst our cohort members in these and other session activities. The closing circle with the tea candles was especially moving. There was a sense of peace as well as trust in the room. People felt comfortable enough to honestly share their main concerns even at this early stage of the school year. Yes, time management seems to be the underlying issue with most. Finding that fine balance between personal and professional responsibilities is another one that resounded around the circle.
Finally, there was excitement as each person was placed into their internship groups to peruse their school's website. Next week, they shall discover more about their placements. Lots of good school website digging was done to discover some initial information about their school's diversities. I am looking forward to reading their blog entries to this question: " How does today's session on diversity help you in preparing for your internship school?"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sept. 8 Ed Tech Session - The Hardware

What a full day! We bounced from one ed tech tool/device to another...Livescribe pens, LCD projectors, document cameras, clickers, digital recorders. It is truly amazing how much these kinds of equipment have changed in just 5 years. So many new capabilities! So many new developments! What will the next 5 years bring? The digital age has drastically changed how we communicate much like the printing press did hundreds of years ago.
Kyle Tuck, our Brock IT guru, guided us through this all-day session. He was patient and did extremely well at putting the teacher candidates at ease for surely these sessions can be intimidating. Thanks Kyle for walking us through this day in a gentle but encouraging manner.
Now I will forge ahead and further explore the Livescribe pen's capabilities and try to create a video to upload to YouTube. With these steps, I will most definitely be charting what is new territory for me at this point.