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.

First week

Some rights reserved by atibens

Wow, the beginning of the school year flew by.  The first week is over (almost) and the real fun is just starting.

This week I tried to focus on making good relationships, with my team and my kids. I really believe that this will set the whole year up for success. If we trust each other and believe in each other we can work things out together and with each other in mind.

Maybe more cynically I’ve been reading and listening about how people make decisions, and for good or ill, we make them based on our identity and usually our identity revolving how we see ourselves in a group.

If this is true then we need to make sure our group feels cohesive. We need to make sure we feel united so our decisions reflect how we can best work together. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s been a good start.

Perspectives and biases

 Some rights reserved by eatnutmeg

Our unit right now looks into the “ethical implications of science”. Recently for my doctorate we’ve been talking about the hidden curriculum or the null curriculum and how that effects how and what we teach. I wanted the class to explore either the ethical implications of school, or the ethical implications of science.

It was a loud hour. I remember one of my PD opportunities when I was in Australia.  The leader had some balls, we were in a circle and he was trying to explain something to us while we had to move the balls around the class.  It turned into a very loud exercise.  The leader reminded us this is sometimes what it’s like to learn. By bringing in new thoughts and new concepts we often had to communicate loudly, or talk it out in order for it to make sense to us.  So I didn’t try to disrupt the loudness too much, instead I just reminded them we had to talk about it before the end of the period.

Despite the noise there were many thoughtful responses to what is being done in science and school, the conversation (happily) didn’t end when the class ended either.  Students were really digging deep to wonder why the believed something, and if what they were doing was “good”.

We’re moving from this unit into our exhibition where we are trying to sort out our values and beliefs and how we express them in our everyday actions, so I think this is a pretty good stepping stone, plus I learned a lot about how and what my co-learners are thinking.

What is curriculum?

 Some rights reserved by hugojcardoso

During my course we looked into “what is a curriculum” so we could learn about how we talk about things. We were looking from a perspective of could there be one definition or should there be one definition?

We wanted to know if post-modernist thought was somewhat useful in a real world educational setting, and I guess as any good post-modernist, why is that good.  Our small class all had different viewpoints on what they thought curriculum was, and all of us could see success (especially if criteria of success was well defined when explaining curriculum).

This made me think a lot about how team meetings are structured (more at an IB school, or a school where teachers are more in charge of creating the day to day curriculum).  If we lay out our values at the beginning of the year, and we talk about the similarities we have, I wonder if our meetings throughout the year will be more effective.  It seems to me that most of our conversations that block us from effective co-planning are due to a difference in opinion about the why behind what we are teaching, not the actual things we are teaching.

Any thoughts?


Jackson, P. W. (1992). Conceptions of curriculum and curriculum specialists. In P. W. Jackson (Ed.), Handbook of research on curriculum (pp. 3-12). New York: Macmillan.



 Some rights reserved by Ken Whytock

This week I’m starting my professional doctorate. Exciting times for sure. During our introduction to the process we discussed what it meant to be a teacher/researcher.

Many of us follow curriculum or try to implement pedagogy. But not many of is (myself included) actually look at what it is like to be a teacher/researcher. To be both at one time, to teach and practice working with the students, but also to try to do new things, document that practice and then share our findings.

This goes on a little bit from my last post about the importance of sharing. I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of learning, the how and reasons behind what we learn. When I think of the importance of sharing, or publishing, I wonder why (other than the perception of time) so few of us engage in this practice.

We have blogs, twitter and other forms of social media designed to make the practice of sharing our findings easier.  I wonder why we don’t all actively share what we are doing in our class. Why do we not think of ourselves as researchers?

My methods class and focus on curriculum is starting this week. I’ve done most of the readings, and it is sparking a renewed passion for learning. I consistently think of myself as a learner, but sadly as someone who mostly consumes. I’m excited to act more through this process and research intentionally and purposefully.

One of our guest lecturers talked about the decline in the perceived importance of academe in North America.  There is a distinction and at times a fear (?) of people who dedicate their lives to knowing and researching. I wonder where these thoughts come from, how were they (socially?) constructed and how we can move more people to actively research in their classrooms.

Welcome back

AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Amarand Agasi

We tried to change our domain over the summer, and we misplaced a whole a significant number of google docs.  It hasn’t been great, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the opportunity for redefinition.

Way too often we rely on what we did last year, we change it, make it slightly better.  I wonder about the opportunity to do great, rather than the chance to do less bad.  We can make a mediocre unit slightly better, but do we take the opportunity to really change what we’re doing, and make it as great as possible, I’m not sure we all have the courage. 
When we lost our documents, I thought this was the opportunity to do such a thing, but people are relying on former paper copies to reconnect what we’ve already done, so it’s not ideal right now. 
At international schools we change teachers pretty frequently.  Teachers go to different grade levels, different teachers come from different places, but at the beginning of the year, we’re not always open to these new ideas. More often, we want to stay with the status quo, and just keep what was going okay going. 
Since we’ve misplaced some data, I know that teachers are a little more hesitant to use computers.  I think this image really makes me think of computer literacy. If we were all a little more literate, I’m not sure we’d have misplaced this information.  The more people know, the more likely we are to save our data (not that I want it saved in this particular instance).  
So for me, at the beginning of the year, I just want teachers to take a risk to be more literate online.

Spin me right ’round

AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike
 Some rights reserved by dbr Atl

I’ve been wondering about how important “flipped learning” or “reverse instruction” can be for learning for our classrooms.

Initially, and still really, the idea seems obvious to me.  Of course we want students doing, creating and making while we are with them.  Not only because Bloom’s Taxonomy says it’s a higher level of learning, but because that is the part of teaching that I enjoy the most. 
I’ve wondered how we can do this in the Primary Years Program as well.  I think that when we are looking over concepts and ideas, we can introduce these at home (through videos). I know that at our school our home learning does not always connect to our daily lives in the classroom.  Our math work is often practice sheets, we have traditional spelling assignments at home, which is not what the teachers I work with do in their classrooms.  I think that providing videos to “tune in” to the day or week’s tasks would be incredibly helpful for learning, and overall classroom enjoyment.  More than that, the parents would get a bigger sense of the concept based approach we take at our school. 
This article resonated with me because of the “pitfalls” section.  This is more than just changing a way we teach, it’s changing the way we learn and the culture of schools.  These changes can’t happen immediately for everyone, we are shifting the culture of what it means to be a leaner, and it’s all very exciting. 
I use videos with teachers, for my instruction with them, and then we work together on their projects.  By giving them the main concept of what we want them to know, our face to face time is set on pedagogical approaches to learning and changing classroom culture.  I’m also modelling a basic flipped learning approach. 
We use blendspace to  get teachers used to our google apps approach before school starts. All incoming teachers are asked to go through some short “courses” if they are familiar with google apps they can just take the quizzes.  These short quizzes allow us as Edtech coaches to zero in on what each teacher needs help with, so instead of doing an hour or two on google apps, we can go into individual teacher’s classrooms and work with them on the specifics of things they need to be able to do. 
Blended and flipped learning really help us zero in on specifics and get students working their ideas out.  Creation is the most engaging aspect of learning, and a flipped classroom helps us get to the heart of creation. 

Unselfishness – How Michael Richards inspired me.


Over the break, I got a little into Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  I think I saw someone post it on twitter or something, but started with Louis C.K. and just worked my way backwards.

Lots and lots of funny moments with funny people, some good observations on life, with Jerry Seinfeld who knew right? Most of it was just something to enjoy, right up till the Michael Richards episode.

Anyway, he was talking about that one night he verbally abused some guy and walked out.  He was reflecting, openly and honestly about a mistake he made. The word he used was selfish, he was being selfish about his act.

This made me think about teaching.  How often am I selfish of my lesson, or what I want the take away to be?  I don’t think it is that often, but it made me set my resolution this year to be totally focused on student learning, and from their perspective.  What is it that they want to take from the lesson.  How can I empower them to start directing their own learning, and allowing them to think whatever they want about my teaching.  I see this as an opportunity to be a better learning, and technology coach.

When working with the students this week, I’ve been working on developing their voice in their blogs. I adapted some of George Courus’ work on blogging to present to the teachers about why we should be blogging with students. With our migration unit, the grade four and five students are thinking deeply about why and how people migrate. I’ve also been really happy with the sharing of the writing. Blogs have made sharing so much easier for my students, and the immediacy of feedback has really inspired some to write more. 

When working with teachers this week I’ve been much more patient.  For the last month or so, I’ve been focused on achieving the school goals, while this is really important, I wanted to focus on each teacher’s perspective and ability this week.  It’s been great so far, I have the goals we set at the beginning of the year, and while we have been progressing, I took this week to review our goals and make some changes.  It’s great to see where they are in applying the SAMR lingo to their lexicon, and even more inspiring to see how redefinition of integration is constantly being modified.

Anyway, a fantastic episode and an inspiring start to the New Year.

Permaculture Principles

I’ve been reading this book on permaculture recently.  I’ve looked through these ideas before, but one of them really caught my attention this week.

The edge of the Pacific Ocean

To me, especially when teaching, I feel like my colleagues and I don’t do enough of this.  Too often we are trying to really focus on teaching the bulk of students and making the curriculum work. We don’t often look towards the edges of our students.  I also wonder how often we look to the edges of our teaching and learning.  How often are we just looking towards accepted practice rather than trying to try something new?

I do realize that with students we need to make sure we are doing the best we can, and often parents have  a memory of school that they want to see in the classroom.  So, what does teaching on the margins and edges look like?

More than that I guess is what are we doing as teachers to have students look to the edges?  I want students to be able to see the great things that are happening at the edges of our natural worlds and our tech worlds.

I guess more than anything this idea of looking towards the edges really gave me hope on mixing my two passions.  Where two things meet is an opportunity to discover great diversity. Having people who can see two different worldviews (embracing permaculture principles as well design technology) is the way I want our world to exist. I think it is here where design will change the world.

Please message or post about how we can use the edges and margins to enhance education.