First Draft

I’ve been working on a brief fifteen minutes sense of place presentation for a conference in a couple of weeks.  Most of what I focus on is images, and after going over this a couple of times. I really notice that my font choice needs a lot of work (that will come in the next two weeks for sure).

Regardless it’s allowed me to really think out what I believe and try to condense that down into fifteen minutes and I need to entertain other educators as well.  The process is really helpful and this is now my fourth presentation and I can feel my story becoming more focused and clear.

One of the benefits of me doing an image focused slide show is that it helps me tell a story, and the images work with the words to create some new neural pathways.  One of the detriments is that it doesn’t make much sense without the story.  However, I’ll embed it anyway.

Deep learners is one of my favourite conferences because after the two fifteen minute sessions people choose what they want to spend an hour on in the afternoon.  So the deep dive will be more hands-on based where we can try to sell our favourite places, and maybe dig into some conservation photography.


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This year we are changing some of how we do Professional Development.  What we are thinking of doing is offering drop in sessions during Recess and Lunch and making it more relatable to what the teachers need on demand.  We are always here to help, but this is a less intimidating way to work with larger groups of people.  
We are calling our sessions >Towards Wicked (based on the New Horizons Report). What we are looking to do (eventually) is address some of the truly wicked problems we as teachers face. So the name came from there. 
I’ve been spending more time outside with teachers as well. We are getting more buy in for the mix between environmental education and technology integration, so that is really exciting. We have many teachers out there using the iPads to uncover some of what they could be learning in the classroom. 
Happy days. 

Launching our Enviroed

A group of us here have been working on reading this book for a book club.  We’ve started chapter one, and it talks about some of the barriers to growing, but also to the opportunity for success.  We need to make learning real, and meaningful for our students.  The authors suggest that one of the best ways to do this when making something is to actually release it to the public. 
As always I think back to how does that work for environmental education.  What does that mean for people who don’t have a product? 
So I thought that instead of launching a thing, we launch our place.  We need to get our community involved in our place, and how we grow with it, and for it.  By bringing in parents, grandparents and people throughout the community we are sharing our learning and wondering in a more real way, something that transcends the classroom. 
I’ve been thinking a lot about intergenerational learning in an international school.  Can we show different gardens from around the world, have people walk through their gardens on skype or something and talk about them, why they grow what they grow, how they do it, what their soil is like, how to know when to harvest. 
Bringing people together is so important, with the Launch mindset we need to somehow launch our learning space, and our ideas, get feedback from the community and work on building our community, rather than building a product. 

Shaping our class

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I was just talking to one of my colleagues about this lately.  How can we shape our classroom, and our classroom culture differently.  

I was mentioning Lakoff, and how metaphors help shape our reality.  Today reading Creating Cultures of Thinking I came across the same idea.  Often we refer to school as work, especially for students.  How does this shape how they go about their day? 
I remember Sir Ken Robinson talking about teachers as gardeners. 

How powerful can we be if we start changing our metaphors? How do we start this? 
When we think about vision of a school and the places we want to go, we don’t often address how we shape our school through language.   When we think about brands and story telling and the whole image of school, we as teachers need to start shaping it through our daily interactions, the metaphors we create and the language we use. 
I’m not sure gardening is the best metaphor (although it fits nicely with my environmental beliefs) but the idea that growth is always possible and that there are seasons of better growth really resonates with me (actually now I wonder if this is something we have to differentiate as well). 

Checking out the back end

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Orientation week is always interesting when you have been at the same school for awhile. You get a sense of what people will be stressed out about, you kind of understand what might help them, but for the most part you just are there to respond to specific stresses and develop and manage relationships. 

This week has been reconnecting with some team leaders and admin and has been really good. I’ve worked with some of my new teachers which has been great and I’ve been diving into the backend of our learning management system. 
So far it’s alright, making some sites, working on my.cis and trying to get things sorted for the upcoming year. It’s interesting to see how (well a limited how because I’m not into code or anything yet) something works.  It is great when working with teachers and having to break things down, it really reinforces some good teaching practice.  You have to respond to a knowledge gap, fill things in at their level and try to support them as they make sense of a new world.  Also it’s interesting to work with some higher level people and say, well here is how I’d work through it.  I don’t fully know your answer, but here’s how I would find out.  I think I’m going to adapt this with more of my students this academic year. 
It’s also interesting to see a lot of technostress, some teachers are so stressed out about not understanding.  Not knowing is such a huge part of my world, so it’s strange why people would be stressed out about it.

How do we create wonder?

Pancho wondering

In part of Place * Being * Resonance it discusses the power of technology.  The worry presented is that when we use technology we attack a problem from one point of view, and using one solution in mind.  Regardless of the multitude of options technologically we are still thinking from a technological standpoint, and therefore think about an anthropocentric solution. 

How can we as teachers use technology to enhance education without limiting our options?  The more I think about it the more I wonder if this is what the Redefinition aspect of SAMR could be all about.  How can we really redefine our thinking regardless of the tools we use? 
Derby posits that we must always be open to other ways of thinking and listening to other ways of being without being focused solely on humans and how we interact with the world.  We need to listen to language that isn’t always our own (maybe coding) and learn to create, and use metaphor to embody other living things. 
Anyway, I wonder about the power of ipads in situations like this, we can use them to create (always movies or books) that can use examples of this other-mindedness. One of my goals this year is to really try for this.  Capture images (although there is some argument that just looking at images negates the importance of actually being outdoors) create stories that bring about other points of view.  I want my students to really strive to be open-minded and other-minded, and I think using the iPad can help. 
The base of this (I think) is to wonder, actually wonder, critically wonder, Derby would say ironically wonder I think, but really question what we are thinking and why we are thinking it, and wonder about what other voices are being missed.  As always going outside and actually seeing other things is the first step. 

Changing our language

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Rarely do I think about poetry and it’s opportunity to create relationships by making metaphors.  I’ve been slowly (but diligently and thoughtfully) reading this book.

you can buy it here

It continues to change the way I think, and how I want to grow as an educator.  The whole idea of slowing doing, and really creating those deep connections is so important.  This book calls for a change in approach to how we view aspects of environmental education.  Specifically I enjoy the opportunity to engage more in poetry (which is something very new for me). 

The argument is, in order to create connections we have to foster a feeling (which I have read so many other places and firmly believe).  Before we actually get to know something, we need to feel something about it, and this is where poetry and metaphor come into play.  Instead of learning about a plant scientifically first, we have to create that awe, and that connection.  Here is where we use poetry.  
For the past week and a half I’ve been talking the grade 1 teachers and students out to the garden. First we look at something and draw it, then we listen to the world around us, and then (we don’t label) we write some poetry.  Try to fully describe our thing beautifully.  We don’t have to know the correct names, we don’t label the parts or explain what it is or does (this will all come later in the unit) we just write about it, how it looks, feels, smells, sounds and how it makes us feel.  
It’s been a really interesting exercise so far.  Everyone enjoys being outside (even if it is a little hot from time to time). The focus on the change in language has made learning more accessible for the younger students. They aren’t as worried about being right, they just need to talk about how they feel, so it’s easy for them to start.  Once we’ve made some connections then we start the deeper understanding (which will be easier because we actually care). 
It’s a great start so far.

Why so slow?

The end of the year is quickly approaching, and this is a time I find when teachers are definitely trying to speed things up.  We want to get all of the content in before the students go to their next great, before they try to get things presentable to parents, and before we rush off to our summer vacations.

At our school at least half of the grade levels I work with are finishing the year with sharing the planet, so I’m pushing for a go slow movement for the next six or seven weeks.  We need time to fully experience what it’s like outside in order to actually make those connections (something I feel I talk about all the time).   I now have four classes I take outside every week.  It’s a start (one class is trying to move to everyday next year), but we are moving forward which is great!

We are taking the time to wonder and think, something that is difficult for some teachers.  We have to talk about connections and thinking deeply about how things work together (which is the central idea for most of our units, but never really adressed this way).

All in all, in just one week I’ve seen more excitement about the unit. Students are actively engaged and posing good questions.  This week we are trying to “look closely” to see how things work and what things look like.

Going slow is great for us right now, hopefully I can convince some teachers to keep it up after these seven weeks.

Back at it

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We just returned from break, a wonderful time but before we left I didn’t have time to write about our excursion week. 
I was really worried before we went about the quality of environmental education that we would be receiving. We had outsourced the week so a company would be working on the activities and preparing our kids for learning about Malaysia.  
It turned out way better than I thought it would.  We had lots of time to just sit and be present in nature. Some, but not many of the students went out to the ocean and played in tide-pools, so this is where I spent most of my time. 
We were just looking at life, observing, documenting with technology and then researching later on about what we were seeing and thinking and wondering. 
Now, back in the building. Things are alright, winding down.  
Been reading a lot about different interview techniques and styles.  I’m trying to support some teachers for their bid to apply for new jobs next year. Talking about redesigning infographic style resumes, how to make sure their websites are up and running and looking good.  Exciting times for sure.