Collaborative Novel Writing Presentations for MPTC

This is the presentation that I gave today for the MPTC Div II and III.  Collaborative ideas for all three sessions are in this post as well, so find your sessions ideas and get writing, due date is Friday March 14th.  If you have questions or concerns, please email me!

Class Novel for Division II & III

From the High School session this morning:

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From the Division III session this afternoon:

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From the Division II session this afternoon:

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Create a Buzz in Your Classroom {inspirational teaching, project-based learning, fun in the classroom}

Look, I know we many of us want that perfect room where anyone could walk in at any time and see peace, hard work and learning evident on the focused faces of our diligent students.  When I started teaching that’s what I thought I wanted, but the reality is so much more than orderly information dissemination.  In my classroom these days, the only time my students are quiet is when they are reading, and only because they can’t do that any other way.

Learning is messy stuff, and the best kind of learning requires some noise and movement to occur.  Think about the times when you really felt involved; either in learning, planning or at a meeting.  Were you sitting passively learning, or were you passionately debating, yearning for your ideas to be incorporated, arguing fiercely for your perspective? I am inclined to think the latter is where most of us fall.  So how can we argue that students will learn better with a litany of rules and a passive learning structure? I would argue that the best learning is done on one’s own terms, and with as little direct guidance as is required.  Enough background to understand, or know where to look, read, watch or develop the ideas, but also enough freedom that a student can go ask another student for support, can change the assignment to fit their interest, and a path to learning that can light a fire, not cause narcolepsy.

Take the time to ask what you can do with the curriculum, not how to cover it.  I would rather have my students take a step back from 200 lines of ‘must do’ items and tackle one ‘could we’ item that keeps them up at night thinking of the possibilities.

Like lighting a fire though, you must have suitable materials for learning, including a solid relationship with and knowledge of each student, otherwise you will have no idea what will strike a cord with them.  Also, you must know your curriculum, the expectations on you and your students, so you know how big the ‘dream project’ must be to encompass it.  Finally, you must let go of your fear; you won’t do it all right every time, but I can guarantee that quiet kid at the back who never gets in trouble because he is too busy with something creative in his desk didn’t get everything his teachers put out there either!

Thanks for reading!

Derek

Education in the age of change: A TEDx Talk

I gave a talk a week ago at TEDx RockyView Schools, and I wanted to share it with a little bit of context for it with you.  One of the biggest hesitations teachers often have when I am working with them on enhancing their practice and working with digital tools is that they are somehow losing in the process.  There is an overwhelming feeling out there that the more teachers ‘put out there’ of their work and skill, the less value there is of having them in the classroom.  I used to be unsure how to respond to that fear.

For a time I thought (mainly to myself) that if the world was changing in such a way that teachers could be replaced by online tools, then I would want to be aware of those tools, familiar with them, because someone has to know how to keep the ‘machine’ running.  If all of us were on the ropes, I would at least be as valuable as I could by understanding the new technology.  Then if the teachers were all ‘let go,’ I would possibly still have some value in the new system.  It was a naïve perspective.

In doing my research for this talk, I found that I do believe that we are in the midst of a change because of technology and that we most certainly need to become familiar with technology.  This is not because technology will replace us, but rather because it could replace us if we aren’t pushing our teaching practice to be as effective as possible.

Make no mistake, there are billions of dollars at work trying to figure out the ‘next way’ in education, you need only look to the United States and the various initiatives at work there to see how money and cost-saving can effect education.  However, if you look to Alberta, Canada, you will also see some amazing efforts by teachers to integrate technologies both personal and publicly purchased, to change practice based on current research, and the possibilities the democratization of knowledge has brought to a modern education system.  These changes have been brought about by an environment of research and study, willing to look at how to best blend the expertise of teachers with the innovation technology brings.  It’s not perfect, but it does inspire hope that instead of looking to replace teachers with some learning program or hardware solution, the answer will continue to be a blended, human approach to learning.

Enjoy the talk!

What the iPad represents in a New Generation of Learners

It makes me smile to read blog posts discussing how the iPad is not the panacea of education that everyone seems to think it is. It was never intended to be. After millions of iPads have been deployed around the world are they fundamentally changing education? Yes and no. I can point to great studies and examples of iPad use that are increasing student involvement, test scores, and teachers’ efficacy in education, and I can also point to articles showing the deficiencies of the operating system and how an iPad is not a ‘complete’ classroom solution. I see both sides, I get both.

A couple weeks ago I had a discussion on Twitter about technology integration, and many of the same points I have heard from teachers came up again. What is the point of integrating technology if I am getting good results? I am not an entertainer, I am a teacher. Students need to meet my standards, I am not lowering standards by using new toys. I am paraphrasing a bit, but the message comes through loud and clear: We do not need to change our methods of educating, students need to adapt to us.

I have heard the following phrase over and over this year, ‘Technology is only technology if it existed before you were born.’ I love this idea, because it highlights so many of the battles we are having right now around progress and change in education. How many of us still teach by candlelight? I seems an odd question, but there was a time when ‘false light’ was unnatural to people. I can imagine the first schoolhouses that were set up with this new technology, that there would have been excitement around it, but change also. Structural changes to a teacher’s routine, the school day, times at which you could read and learn.

I bring this up because in my lifetime I have never had to think about turning on a light, plugging in a TV, even computer use was becoming common by the time I had reached high school. Most of the research I did for my various degrees was done on computer. I didn’t think twice about it; I took books out when I needed them, and blended that with digital resources.

I did have a professor who limited the amount of online works we could cite for our papers, in an effort to get us to use the physical library resources the University had collected over time. I did the assignment, but it was one of my poorer papers, not because I was not good at library research (I spent literally days in the library building,) but because I didn’t have access to the best that was out there. The process of forcing ‘his method’ of research onto his students resulted in far lesser quality of work.

It is much the same for students and iPads, smart phones and computers. Students use these devices and are as comfortable with them as we are with a light switch. They want to use them, adapt them, and make them work for their education. Not every student, and not for every situation, but overall I think we are doing our students a service by allowing them to turn on their light instead of making them light our candle. I do believe we have to be responsive to ‘technology’ that changes, not because it is novel and new, and not to throw out the old ways and learning, but essentially because it is not ‘different’ to them, it is just what they know. They can blend their methods of learning with ours, and the results will be great. If we ignore that, we run the risk of missing the connections that make the learning we have to offer relevant to their lives, passions and future.

Lev Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development: A Lesson

During my Masters program, I had the fortune of doing some in-depth study of the work of Lev Vygotsky, particularly in the area of the Zone of Proximal Development. What I wanted to share today was a lesson that myself and my peers developed for teaching the concept to other Master of Education students in our class. It was well received, and I thought others might benefit from it as well.
We started the lesson with an overview of Lev Vygotsky and his life, including the development of his theory. We had the voice of Lev narrated by another student who is a professional voice actor, and animated Lev’s face to narrate his own life using the app Photospeak, which is a blast to work with. What we really liked about this part of the presentation, is that there really was a sense of the ‘history’ of Lev’s work in the presentation with his photo ‘talking’ to the audience.

Once the group had an overview of Lev and his history, We wanted to create some activities to highlight the idea of ZPD. My portion was a hands-on activity in whichI discussed with my students the familiar game ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors.’ We discussed that this was a common game that most people in our culture understand. I added that we were going to expand on their understanding by adding new options to the game. I showed the group this ‘instructional video’ with the basic rules.


One of the groups asked to see the video several times, and with each group I rehearsed the new learning by showing each of the options and asking the group which other option ‘beats’ it. After this rehearsal, I had each member of the group practice the new moves to ensure they were clearly shown, and then played a tournament to see who our ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock’ champion was. It took only a couple of rounds of hesitation before the new moves became fairly well incorporated in the game and the new learning was comfortable for the students.

Zone of Proximal Development Graphic

This image show the teacher’s role in the zone of proximal development for students.

Once we moved back to the classroom and we were able to debrief, I showed this image to the class and described that the linking to a common understanding (the initial game) was key to Vygotsky’s concept, and that the initial discomfort the groups felt as they watched the video and started to practice the new game was the zone of proximal development. I knew learning was successful for the group once they lost that initial hesitation and were able to complete the tournament.

We have to remember that learning is generally not a comfortable process, and is often downright frightening for students. If we are not linking and rehearsing new concepts, students may not even be willing to attempt the new learning. It is our approach as teachers, and our ability to scaffold students to the zone of proximal development that makes all the difference to learning.

If you wish to use any of these materials with a link back to this site as attribution, please feel free to do so.

5 Key Learnings From Intern Teachers: A Reflection

I have the good fortune of having an intern teacher right now, the fourth I have taken in my career. It’s not always a perfect match or scenario, but it is always a learning experience. I have taken some key learnings away from each of my intern teachers, and appreciate so much the benefit they bring to my classroom. So, in light of recently being added to the team of moderators at #ntchat and my reflections on my current intern teacher, here are five key learnings I have gained from having an intern in my room. My hope is that if you are on the fence about this process, some of these ideas may inspire you to take the plunge and share your room.

#1: New Paths

I am always shocked by the range of approaches one can take to any classroom process. Having an intern teacher means opening your mind to the new possibilities and approaches another teacher can take. I have gained so much insight into pedagogy by seeing an innovative approach or a new presentation method that I had never considered, that the intern would never have considered doing my way. You couldn’t buy that kind of teaching insight

#2: Risk

Intern teachers are not set into particular teaching habits yet, they consider everything they do, they are obsessed with it. However, due to inexperience they have to try new things to reach desired learning. Intern teachers will risk a lesson, a few minutes, a little paper, to try something new. How many of us established teachers are willing to go down a new path because it might be worthwhile? Too often our desire to simplify our teaching experience leads us to do what is expedient and easy, intern teachers have less comfort so they are far more willing to ‘shake things up.’

#3: Passion

Slice it any way you want, intern teachers are generally pretty excited to get in front of a class. They are excited about new lessons and their preparation, they are eager! I think I’m still pretty passionate about education (I mean, I do this blogging thing and all) but I have to admit that I still get fired up just seeing how much intern teachers enjoy teaching. It’s a wonderful thing to get that shot in the arm, and witness that passion, particularly at a time of the year when teachers start to wear down for the duration of the year. Having an intern teacher to connect with, share with and redesign learning with is a great inspiration.

#4: Goals

What is your current goal as a teacher? If you are thinking something to the tune of ‘making it through the year,‘ you may want to sign up for an intern. These individuals are busting at the seams just to get into our profession, they have a very clear goal, and they work hard to achieve it. Professionally, many of us can become so focused on the day to day that we forget that there is more out there for us. Interns connect us to that world and allow us to see new places we may wish to take our careers, new directions to move in. They give us pause to reflect and consider our own careers.

#5 Research

Okay, many of you know I am a research junkie. If you don’t, you do now. I love current research and digging for new discoveries. For those of you who aren’t about to start digging through University archives, intern teachers are generally filled up to the brim with current educational theory. You can ask them about current pedagogy, beliefs, thoughts on classroom structure and discipline. If they don’t know about it, many of them will go back and do the research or ask their professors so they know. However, I have yet to have an intern that didn’t have at least a cursory knowledge of current theory. This is wonderful to connect to, even if it only affirms what you do, as some of us have not connected with those places of higher learning where our careers were born in some time.

Clearly there are many more lessons to learn from intern teachers, and this is really just the start of the discussion. If you’d like to hear more from great intern teachers and those new to the profession, join #ntchat Wednesday nights on Twitter. We would love to have you join the conversation!

If you have any other learnings to share in your experiences with intern teachers, please comment below and we will keep the conversation going!

A Pedagogic Oath – What if we had one?

Upon their entry into the practice of medicine, doctors take an oath dating back to Hippocrates that has guided their service through the centuries.  As I was completing my Masters work and reading the works of Dewey, Vygotksy, Coelho and other educational thinkers, I began to wonder what an educational, or pedagogic oath might look like.  Here was what I believed to be the essential components of education.  What would your pedagogic oath look like?

A Pedagogic Oath

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

of those teachers in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to

follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of children, all teaching methodologies that are required, avoiding those twin traps of personal bias and judgement.

I will remember that there is art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh standard testing or ranking systems.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed to support student learning.

I will respect the privacy of my students, for their learning needs are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of assessed learning or grades. If it is my honor to facilitate great learning, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to harm a student’s self-esteem and self-value; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own inconsistencies.

I will remember that I do not teach a curriculum, a concept or an idea, I teach a human being, whose learning is linked to and affected by their community and experience, and that learning in our classroom may affect the student’s family, economic future and connection to society. My responsibility includes these re- lated areas, if I am to teach adequately any student.

I will create inquiry whenever I can, for curiosity is preferable to drill or rote learning.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those of higher education as well as those with more practical learning.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of teaching those who seek my help.

Derek Keenan
Developing Education

Leave a comment with your thoughts.  If you like the oath and you would like a more polished PDF version, head over to my resources page to download a copy.  If you are willing to take the oath, grab this badge for your site:

Pedagogic Oath

Simply copy the following code into the HTML on your website or blog:

<a href=”http://developingeducation.ca/a-pedagogic-oath-what-if-we-had-one”><img src=”https://mrkeenan.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/oath.png&#8221; alt=”Pedagogic Oath” border=”0″ /></a>

…and yes, that is Dewey’s moustache.