Student Leadership Project – OERS

It is my pleasure to this week present the work of my board in our “Student Leadership” project as a poster presentation at the Ontario Education Research Symposium in Toronto.

The materials displayed at the symposium are linked and shared below:

GECDSB Student Leadership Poster

GECDSB Student Leadership Leaflet

LNS Student Voice Monograph

and below is the summary video of the project.


A Context for iMovie

In common with most school districts in the world, mine has been struggling with how to support iPads in a shared environment of a system level. We have also made considerable efforts to ensure that the use of technology in the classroom is embedded in the curriculum and student learning experience, not merely an add-on or a flash new toy. The SAMR model continues to be valuable tool in guiding this conversation.

One of the benefits of the iPad in the classroom has been the ease of use, and nowhere is this more evident than in iMovie. This is my preferred “introduction to the iPad” app during PD session, simply because it gives novice users a sense of how to handle the iPad, how to use the camera features, and the confidence surge at the end in terms of how professional the finished product can look. I also make it very clear that simply making a movie is not necessarily addressing curriculum, and that a lot of context and conversation is needed to take this from being a fun to use app to being an app that positively impacts learning outcomes. Teachers understand this and we often move quickly to a conversation about how movie trailers support that same strategies we look to develop in our readers. For example, it is very difficult to make a movie trailer without summarizing a bigger idea, and implying certain details. At the same time when viewing a movie trailer, we engage in prediction, inference, and visualization.

At this point the search is on for “context”. By this I mean a valuable link to curriculum, or a defined purpose for the trailer (which addresses expectations around purpose, form, and audience from the media curriculum). I have seen many great examples from our system of iMovie trailers based on books being studied in literature circles or class novel studies, to create previews or summaries of units such as Medieval Times in grade 4, or to promote events within the school such as the Eco-Team, intra-murals, or extra-curricular clubs.

This week I was sent two great examples from Anderdon Public School. These student-created videos were made for Kindergarten open house and show not only the professional-looking product the students are able to make using the iMovie app on the iPad, but also the quality of work they can produce when given a meaningful context for their media creations.

What are the ways you use iMovie linked to curriculum? Feel free to share in the comments!

Focusing on “Next Practice”

I spent two days this week attending the London West Regional SIM (System Implementation and Monitoring) sessions. As is often the case, the conversation and debate at these sessions had a direct parallel with our work with integrating technology.

My team spent the first day of the meeting pondering school and system monitoring, and what it looks like when it is done well. The same as when we have this conversation about technology integration, the goal always seems a long way off, and the route to get there paved with hurdles and uncertainty. For the most part, these conversations lead to participants trying to define “best practice”. The work of Steven Katz is an essential anchor to conversations like this, as “best practice” really shouldn’t be how we define a plan, rather focusing on “next practice” to make the steps more manageable and to ensure that at every step of the process we are acting upon what we learn, rather than continuing to pursue a “best practice” vision devised at a time when we knew less about the work. The second day of our meetings was a lot more introspective and focused on the question of “what will I do next now that I know this?”. This allowed my team the chance to turn our lofty conversations into a realistic, focused next step. The continuum of “next practices” will take us to our “best practice”.

Steven Katz – Leaders in Educational Thought

The link I made throughout this was to technology use in the classroom. People always ask for examples of where things are “done well”. What is the impact of the classrooms, schools, or practices that we showcase? Do we sometimes hold up examples of “best practice” for people to aspire to and set the bar too high? Instead of encouraging people to visit places “where things are being done well”, should we be encouraging them to visit places where “we are learning about…”? Our choice of language is powerful, and as much as visiting other classrooms or schools can be inspirational, it can equally be intimidating. Do we focus on “best practice” rather than “next practice”, and if so does that set a standard to aspire to or make success seem so far away as to be unobtainable?

At the end of the second day, my team left with a very clear next step in the work that we do. There is an overall goal of being better at monitoring our work, but we are going to focus on our “next practice” rather than trying to define the “best practice”. Once we have done this, we will know a little more and then look again at our “next practice”. One day we will reflect on how far we have come and realize we have achieved what we set out to do, but until then we need to keep focusing on what we will do next rather than what we will do ultimately. There is a valuable lesson in this for all learning, and for leading and participating in change – a commitment to a cycle of continuous, incremental learning and reflection will get you further than aspiring to a lofty goal and trying to achieve it all at once.

Real-Life Connections to Math – Winter Olympics

We have all heard students who ask “why will I ever need to know this?” when faced with a math problem. Students strive to make connections between what they are learning in math and the practical application to the world around them. This month offers us a valuable opportunity to do this through an event that many of our students will follow very closely – the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Before we even think about the events themselves, consider the logistics of putting on an event of this magnitude. How many countries? How far did they travel? How large is their team? What would it cost them to fly to Sochi and stay there for the duration of the games? Which team travelled farthest to be there? How much gold, silver, and bronze will be needed to make the medals? How much will this cost based on current market rates? How many venues are there? What are their capacities? How many people will attend the games and how much will be generated through ticket sales? Could we organize a school Olympics?

Once we get into the events, there are even more applications for math. These may include:

Hockey – positive and negative integers for player +/-
Figure Skating – decimals, mean, mode and median
Bobsleigh – elapsed time, comparing decimals numbers
Curling – angles
Ski Jumping – measurement of distance
Luge – velocity, rates of change

I am sure if I knew the sports in more depth there would be many more examples!

It is important that we tie the learning in our classrooms to the world outside and show the students how it can be relevant in the world around them. Take the opportunity to look for the math at the Olympics and bring this into your classroom.

A Story About Voice

*Apologies to work colleagues who already read this in Office 365!

We have all reflected at some point or another that children today are different from our generations. This isn’t due to any great biological or anatomical evolutions, simply that the world they live in is different to the one we experienced as children, and how they view themselves and the world around them makes them different from us in our youth.

Over the last few weeks my daughter (a 6 year old SK) has become fascinated with one the latest trends – “Rainbow Loom” bracelets. Anyone who has noticed me wearing more elastic bands than a man in his thirties should may have seen some of the results of this new hobby! Anyway, I have been fascinated with how she has picked up this new skill. After first playing around and following the print instructions to create her first bracelet, she progressed on to watching other kids on YouTube show how to make anything from a simple single loom bracelet to such wonders as the “Star Burst” or “Hexi Fish”. We’ve tried them all at this point!

Today, my daughter discovered she could make a bracelet using just her fingers and not the loom. Her reaction was the interesting part that shows just how different the world of an SK today is. She realised she had done something she had not seen a video for yet. To her this meant only one thing – make a video! Once she had recruited a cameraman (guess who?!), she set up her equipment and we hit record. One take was all it took, and in that one take I learned so much about being a child today and how much they take in from the digital formats they are exposed to, right down to her unprompted request at the end to hit “Like” and come back for more videos!

I like to think my daughter is pretty typical of the other kids in her class, of her age, and in her generation. If the children coming in to our schools today know they can learn any skill or research any piece of information just using an internet connection, and if they have an answer they think someone else in the world may be looking for they know that they have a vehicle and voice to make that information known, what does that mean to the classroom? If this is how they see themselves and the world around them, what is the impact on me as the teacher to keep learning relevant to them? Is it any wonder we have disengaged students when the place they go to learn every day does not fit their understanding of what it is to learn? How does the role and responsibilities of the teacher change if these are the students in front of us every day?

Please take a second to click play on the video below, and know that if you “Like” you will confirm to this 6 year old just how far their voice can travel.‚Äč