Week of learning


This week was full of learning. Our conferences with students and parents were on this week. I learned a lot about what their shared goals were, how the parents interacted with their kids, and it’s always interesting to see how the learners interact with their parents (and two teachers) around.

After that was PD. This year was pretty good, we had some exciting speakers, and I’m interested in seeing how I can apply more critical thinking into my classroom.

On the final day in the final session I presented the above slideshow. One of the exciting things about working in such a large school is that you don’t always know who will be in your presentation and that person’s job will be much different from yours (or sometimes the same).

I knew as a school we wanted to focus on assessment and how to record it in a meaningful way.  I’ve been using forms for about four or five years to really show the depth of the conversations I have, and how that relates to learning or goals. I’ve embedded Victor Wooten’s video outlining the idea of economy of motion. At school we’re always trying to get so much done, but often we can do the many things in one or two motions, we just need to practice doing those motions.

Anyway, it was an interesting time, and I hope the participants had enough time to really work on what they needed to work on so their forms help students learn more effectively.

Can phenomenology be online?

The Lived Experience 

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Phenomenology is the idea of making meaning from your lived experiences (basically). During my master’s research I used this methodology to dig deeper into my understanding of what it meant to be an environmental educator. As a teacher, I believe in the idea of constructivism, and making meanings based on your previous experiences. So much of learning for me is experiential based, we learn by doing, and reflecting on our actions (either in groups or on our own).  With this idea of knowledge as being, I wonder a lot about gamification in the classroom.

What’s Real? 

My main questions when thinking about gamification or anything really online, is what is real? If we learn from our experiences, what is an “actual” experience. I think this video is pretty powerful, and I think it’s something we have to think about as educators, especially when we are moving beyond “connections”.  So as educators when we are thinking about gamification, we have to think about creating authentic gaming experiences.

Gaming versus Gamification 

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Frustrations first, earlier this year we had a math website rep come to our school and talk about how their website gamified education, we had a lms platform come in saying they gamified learning.  They did this through badges and scores.  It totally put me off.  Badges, scores, etc. don’t make a game.  A real purpose or challenge makes a game. Through this real purpose you can have opportunities to level up, or earn points but clicking a button to “practice” math skills is not a game. It’s clicking a button (that has no real learning value).

I struggle with gamification, because I don’t think I like the term.  Apple uses challenge based learning, PYP uses their performance task to illuminate their central idea, and using pedagogy like this to engage your class can create a game like atmosphere.  Setting challenges for students to complete before they meet the next challenge is more what I think of when I think of gamification.  
I loved the minecraft history project video. No where was the teacher trying to create a game like atmosphere. There was a question posed (create a sustainable city) and different ways to reach that goal. I personally have a hard time imaging someone doing a more in-depth job than the student who used Minecraft, but I’m not sure using Minecraft on it’s own would’ve gamified the situation. 
In the “Raising Engagement in e-learning through gamification” there is an emphasis on fast feedback that I believe is crucial.  In games you quickly get a sense if you’re winning and losing.  Using connectivism to interact with other people can help you correct your actions.  This formative assessment is crucial for engaged learners. 
One of the quotations from this week that resonated deeply with me was:

“It’s not about the technology; it is about new ways of thinking. The barriers are in our heads,” Harrison says. “Learning is not about content, it is about creation. Isn’t that our job: to help kids learn how to do things? Our job is to prepare children for the world that exists.” – Nick Morrison
We need to change how we think about learning, not just gamify something. We need to encourage students to create and engage in their learning, not just consume by clicking buttons.  A program or an app can’t do this. Teachers need to do this, and I think creating authentic learning experiences (online or otherwise) is the most difficult part: however, it’s likely the most important part. 

Being on the other side

It’s the time of year where teacher appraisal is happening, this is the first year where I have been on both sides of the process (thanks to the tech goals our school has and my role as tech coach).

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Like most things, I’ve been totally unaware of how others approach the idea of appraisal. I have been through a number of appraisal methods, and to be honest, none have really worked for me. Regardless I have tried to make the most out of each method and I feel I have grown personally and professionally in all my jobs. 

Being on the other end and being responsible for appraising is much more difficult than I originally thought.  Everyone I work with approaches their appraisal different.  Some just want the box checked and do it superficially, some write out everything they do, some have meaningful reflections but about things I haven’t thought of, or thought would be on an appraisal sheet (I do find them incredibly interesting though), in short I guess, I’ve learned a lot more about being on the other side. 
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For almost anything, being able to empathize and think about where others are at help us to grow and develop.  I talked to a colleague last night about the importance of qualitative data when doing appraisals.  For me, qualitative data is just so much more important than quantitative.  By having teachers write what they’re thinking, without it being in a small little box, we can really think about how we want to develop, get away from the traditional appraisal system and create ourselves. 
Reading the qualitative reports from my colleagues helped me to understand them better, but also helped me to reconsider my goals and ambitions. I fully believe my reflection process has improved as a result of this process, so I’m really thankful. 


Yesterday was a bit frustrating, when I got home I thought about the whole tech world and teaching… I reflected about the conversations I had this week where tech had enhanced student learning.

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One of my biggest finds this week was using OCR-image to text. Some of my students have reading struggles and this app has helped them have access to any book.  Often teachers are constrained to digital books, or audio books, but students can use this to capture the text, and then using the accessibility features of the iPad have it read to them.   Is it perfect, nope, is it pretty amazing, yeah for sure.  It has put huge smiles on the faces of these students.

Nature and exploring the outdoors is a passion of mine, and earlier this week I found this site on twitter.  14 Apps That Will Revolutionize Your Walk in the Woods. Again, I felt that at times our tech could enhance, not just what we do at school, but what we do everyday.

These apps can help us develop our passions.

This week has been three way conferences, and traditionally the parents have not often talked to the tech teachers.  This year has been different, and the conversations I’ve had with parents about apps, programs, and hardware that enhance learning has just been incredible.