There Are Some Things Technology Will Never Replace.

“Dad, I want to play scramble” requested Eva, my eight year old daughter.

“You want to play what?”

“Scramble. I want to play scramble” she said again.

“What’s scramble?” I asked, wondering if it was a tag game or some sort of online game she’d heard about at school.

“You know, scramble, where you spell words”

“Oh, Scrabble” I said.

“Yes, Scrabble, I want to play Scrabble” she pleaded.

I’m not sure where she’d heard of or seen Scrabble, but she was adamant that we would play the game that night. After supper was done and the dishes were cleared away, Eva found the Scrabble game at the bottom of our board game pile. She opened the box, set out the board, gave one tile holder to me and kept one for herself. Then she asked, “what do we do?” Wanting to make sure her first Scrabble experience was a fun one, I decided we’d play without keeping score, just focusing on creating words. We each picked 7 tiles and the game was on. I invited her to start the game and as she sat staring at her letters she told me she didn’t know if she could spell a word. Just as I was about to help her, she sat up with excitement and said, “I got one, I got one!” Slowly she set out the tiles one by one. T E A.

Smiling, she retrieved three tiles from the bag and the game was officially on. Back and forth we went building words. She would struggle with a few rules of the game, placing tiles where they shouldn’t be, but overall she caught on very quickly. I was so proud. Growing up, Scrabble was a staple on a Saturday or Sunday night in the Mellesmoen house. My mom still has the tattered old box with the faded board and well worn letters. Along with Scrabble were other games, like Stock Ticker, Cribbage, Rummy, Yahtzee, and Crokinole. As I reflect on the games we played as a family, I cannot help but think of the basic academic skills I was building (to this day I’m a whiz at adding to 15 because of the numerous Cribbage matches). The game of Scrabble with Eva reminded me of how wonderful that game is for not only a person’s spelling and vocabulary, but for one’s numeracy as well (for you Scrabblers, what is Q U I Z worth if it lands on a triple word score?).

In a time defined by YouTube, Netflix, Fortnight, and other online forms of entertainment, there is something to be said about sitting down across the table from someone for a good, old fashioned board game. Please, do not misinterpret what I’m saying, my children love their technology, and I am very guilty of hiring the electronic babysitter on several occasions. But it is important to remember the impact of games like Scrabble.

This makes me think about the time honored traditions that go into our craft as educators. With all of the technology at our finger tips, one might be tempted to simply log on and then step back while the kids learn online. Thankfully I have not seen this happening at our school, rather I am seeing you use technology as a tool. I am seeing:

  • Kindergarten kids dancing and singing along to the video on the SmartBoard, learning all about letters and numbers
  • Teachers helping kids share their learning with their families via See-Saw, FreshGrade, and Class DoJo
  • Students accessing teacher made tutorials on YouTube to learn about certain drafting skills they may have missed while they were away from the school
  • Adults Tweeting out images that celebrate learning
  • Teachers ‘dipping their toes’ into the world of 3D printing
  • Teachers using random group generators to group students for cooperative learning activities
  • Students making movies to share their thinking
  • Teachers thinking about ways to use Rosetta Stone to help students who are reluctant to speak in class learn about communication skills
  • Teachers using online simulators to help kids visualize the impact of heat and pressure on gases
  • Teachers wanting to Skype with authors and other classes

I am seeing technology being used as a tool to support you as a teacher, not replace you as a teacher. Reading MPSC and looking at the new graphic (here), the word technology appears a grand total of zero times, and (if you count the telescope as a piece of technology) appears only once in the graphic. It is clear that deep learning does not depend on technology, rather technology can be used along with many other tools to help create opportunities for deep learning. What counts is you, the artist. You combine your passion for learning with your deep knowledge of curriculum with your skills as a facilitator of learning, all to create an experience for your students, and you do this multiple times every day!

Of course technology is a reality, and we all know how it can be used to help us in our craft. As you think about the work you are doing and how it fits with our school goal (every adult at Waldheim School will develop a deep and thorough understanding of every child they work with as a learner) how does technology support this? Thinking about our current focus on assessing the whole student, how has technology supported your work?

Our devices will continue to evolve, becoming ‘smarter’, faster, and more affordable. Advances in technology will continue at a break-neck pace, threatening to leave aging adults (like myself) in the dust if we choose to be left behind. Innovations and creations that one can only imagine will soon be a reality, however, just as there will always be a need for side-by-side learning, I truly believe there will always be a place for a good old game of scramble.

Here’s what is on the horizon for this week:

Monday:

  • crazy sock day
  • we are excited to welcome a group of teachers from Blaine Lake to learn alongside Shantel & Brittney
  • all teacher staff learning meeting (agenda) after school (Jade, can we use your room?)

Tuesday:

  • Taco in a bag (7-12)
  • Nike vs. Adidas day

Wednesday:

  • wacky hat day

Thursday:

  • Taco in a bag (K-6)
  • Disney day

Friday:

  • 1-6 progress reports sent home
  • Raider pride day

As always, create a great week!

 

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Where Are You Pointing Your Telescope?

It was a perfect night for star gazing. Not a cloud in the sky, the fall air was crisp and cool, and the moon shone brightly over the city. Bobby’s teacher,  @blaine_gaudet had arranged for the grade 6 class to meet at the observatory at the University of Saskatchewan on Friday night as they continue to study the solar system in their science course. While they were there, the students had the opportunity to view many of the displays and artifacts in the observatory. They were able to speak with two experts (U of S astronomy students) who would answer their questions and extend the kids thinking with questions about space. It was a fun night, and Bobby wanted to share this experience with his aunt Susan. My sister, who teaches in Saskatoon, has always been close with Bobby, so it was no surprise when she agreed to come along on the field trip.

Upon our arrival, we were’t sure what to expect. We didn’t know how many other students would be joining the group, nor did we know exactly what we’d be looking at through the telescope. What we did know, however, was that we’d have an opportunity to learn through looking, listening, and asking questions. We were curious about things. Bobby asked, “I wonder if that’s a planet or a star beside the moon?” My sister wondered where the space station was, and if it were observable that night. I wondered if Starbucks would be open late enough to get a cappuccino after. I actually wondered if we’d be able to catch a glimpse of Saturn and her beautiful rings. We enjoyed our time, learning many cool things. For instance, it never dawned on me that the telescope through which we were looking was constantly moving, just ever so slightly. This movement is designed to keep time with the movement of the Earth, thus maintaining a focus on the target. We did get to look at Mars and the moon, but alas, not at Saturn. It was an amazing time, and one I’m sure we’ll do again in the future. What struck me was the conversations that occurred on the ride home. We were actually filled with more questions than when we first set out for the evening. We looked at the night sky in a different way, and noticed things that we may not have prior to this.

It was a night of real learning.

I then started thinking about the learning that is happening on a daily basis in our school. Are students walking in with a rough idea of where they are going for each class? How can this mindset benefit them? Are students able to build on prior learning, or is everything ‘new’ each class? I wonder about where you ‘point the telescope’ in your room? We looked at 3 things, just 3, and it was plenty for a 90 minute session. How often are you moving your ‘telescope’? We were all able to look and learn, the facilitator did not say, “students you only get to look at the moon, parents, you get to look at the Pleiades”. What are the ways you are inviting #allstudents to look at and learn about ‘the Pleiades’ in your classes?

It was cool to see a kid (anyone now in their early 20’s will be known as a ‘kid’ to me) from the U of S, with no formal teacher training bringing MPSC to life. I was reminded of the simple ingredients that were brought together to create an authentic, engaging learning experience for all 30-plus people who were there that night. No desks. No notes. No SmartBoard. No worksheets. There was plenty of choice, a lot of conversation, tons of side-by-side learning, and a lot of freedom for the kids and parents to learn in many different ways.

What a great night!

Here’s what’s on the horizon this week:

Monday:

  • Bus driver meeting & bus evacuation drill 9:00 am
  • 9 – 12 Staff Meeting
  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Wednesday:

  • Dental screening (gr. 1 & 7)
  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Thursday:

  • Picture retakes
  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

As always, create a great week!

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I Wanted to be a Comedian.

Waiting for the bus

My twins are absolutely loving Kindergarten, and it’s only been a couple weeks. Stories and samples of work are shared on a regular basis, and Charlie loves to ask me questions like, “dad, what does B stand for?” I play along, of course, and reply, “no, what does B stand for?” With a smile he says, “buh, buh, buh. Ball.” He’s been having fun learning all sorts of interesting things, some he learns at school, other lessons he learns on the playground and on the bus. One thing he has learned is that the bus ride is not what he had thought it would be. He tells me it’s loud and it smells funny.

Something I’ve noticed with my twins is that so far making mistakes does not really bother them. When they print their names, if they reverse or miss a letter and we help them fix it, they do not get upset. I see this a lot in our youngest learners at #WaldheimSchool. There is no fear or hesitation as they learn a new song or dance in Kindergarten, or create a unique pattern or poem in grade one. As I visit classrooms in our K to 12 school, something I notice is that as I move into middle years or high school, students become a little more reluctant to take a risk with their learning. We’ve all seen kids take risks in other areas, and it reminds me of a mindset I had as a middle years student; I’d rather look funny or silly in front of my peers than look stupid or ill-informed. As a result of this, I would never take a risk with my learning, even if it meant passing up on opportunities to explore things I was curious about. I remember a learning task our grade 9 ELA teacher asked us to prepare for. This assignment was to write and perform a quick comedy routine for the rest of the class. I’ve always loved comedians, and was secretly excited about this opportunity to perform an original piece. Not being the first to perform, I quickly noticed the ‘cool’ kids were simply reading Laughter is the Best Medicine, one of my favorite sections from a copy of the Readers’ Digest. I was disappointed and scared at the same time. There was no way I was going to buck that trend, even though I secretly wanted to. When it was my turn, instead of taking a risk, I grabbed my friends Readers’ Digest and quickly read a funny story and returned to my chair.

Learning opportunities for all students are characterized by high expectations
(rigour), personal and purposeful application (relevance), collaborative learning
environments (relationship), risk-taking to consider alternative instructional
approaches (innovative) and student choice (engagement).

You will recognize the above quote from our guiding document, MPSC. When I think about the teacher’s intentions for our class, I recall being surprised by such an innovative (although I didn’t use that word at the time, I think I thought it was cool) approach. I still remember that lesson and how excited and engaged I was, and ultimately how disappointed I was. I often wondered what our teacher thought about that lesson. I wonder if he felt like he failed. He took a risk, and it was through our actions as students that it did not work out as I’m sure he’d hoped it would.

What have you tried that may not have worked out as you had envisioned? What risks have you taken that ultimately came up short?

The fear of failure can stand in the way of all of us, from administrators to teachers to support staff to students. So what can we do about it? As I think about my grade 9 ELA class, it was not a safe environment for risk taking. In fact, the more I reflect, our entire school during the early to mid-eighties, was not a safe environment for risk taking. That’s where I feel we need to start, creating a safe place for students to take risks. In his article, Youki Terada states,

despite how common mistakes are, students often perceive them as negative and as a potential threat to their self-worth. A positive classroom climate—one where the teacher and students treat mistakes as learning opportunities—can create better conditions for learning.

As we continue to grow, we need to keep looking at our learning environments and ask ourselves if they are a safe place to take a risk. What are your students telling you through their words, actions or in some cases, lack of action? I know I’ll be asking myself that at our staff learning meeting on Monday.

Here’s what is on the horizon this week,

Monday:

  • all staff meeting after school (see agenda sent out Friday)
  • SACL presentation 6:30 pm

Tuesday:

  • Bruce at PD planning meeting (1:00 pm) ~ tentative

Wednesday:

  • Carnival preparation

Thursday:

  • Elementary Carnival (4:30 – 6:30)

Friday:

  • PD/Prep Day

As always, create a great week!

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What Will You Hear? March 19 – 23

Last week Brittney and Amy hosted a Read-a-thon for the students in their classes, and the result of opening the doors and inviting the community in created an incredible buzz in their wing of the building. As I walked around, there were kids with parents and grandparents sitting side-by-side enjoying a good book. They were on the couches, at tables, on the floor, in the hallways, they were everywhere! And while the group was free to move about as they wanted, it was not chaos, rather it was a relaxed atmosphere where kids and adults were fully engaged in the activity. As I watched, I wondered:

  • what are the parents learning about their kids as readers?
  • what are the kids learning about their parents as learners?
  • what are Brittney and Amy learning about their students as they strive to meet the goal of developing a deep understanding of every student in their class?
  • what are other teachers in the building learning about risk taking?

This week we have another opportunity to invite our families into the school as we open our doors for our parent/student/teacher conferences. When I think about the way we have typically conducted these conferences, I wonder  if there are more opportunities for #Innovation as my friend George Corous (@gcouros) would ask. Do these conferences need to be a time for parents to sit and hear from you, or is there an opportunity for more side-by-side-by-side learning to occur? One such innovation that we will see is in how Leah is going set up learning stations for the parents, basing these on her students’ #GeniusHour creations. What she is doing is taking the typical parent/teacher interview and flipping it on it’s ear, allowing the students to lead the conversation through a celebration of their work. Another unique approach to sharing student learning that I’ve seen is how Sharlene has used #FreshGrade to showcase the work her students are doing as readers, as writers, as mathematicians, as wonderers.  This article may offer you more ideas or things to try for your time together with parents. As you prepare for Wednesday and Thursday, I’d invite you think about:

  • evidence…how do you know your students as learners, and how can you share this with their parents?
  • voice…will you drive the discussion, or will you facilitate a discussion between parent(s) and student?
  • goal…how can the time we are sharing be as valuable as possible to the success of each learner?
  • feedback…how will you know if the parent(s) have a deeper understanding of their child as a learner?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • staff meeting, an opportunity to learn alongside Katharine, Marla, and Cara
  • classroom visits: what does side-by-side learning look like, sound like?

Tuesday:

  • classroom visits: what does side-by-side learning look like, sound like?

Wednesday:

  • classroom visits: what does side-by-side learning look like, sound like?
  • P/T Conferences (supper provided)

Thursday:

  • grade 6 basketball tournaments (girls to Stobart with Jesse, boys hosting here with Bruce)
  • P/T Conferences (supper provided)

Friday:

  • Day in lieu

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November 20th – 24th

A relatively quiet weekend around our house, as November colds have caught up to a few of us, but that does give one a good excuse to watch football, even if it was a heart breaker. Like the Riders, our volleyball teams have wrapped up their seasons as the senior boys finished their year in Langham on Saturday. It was nice to see such involvement from so many kids at the junior and senior level, and it looks like it will be a similar story with the basketball teams who get rolling this week.

I’m very excited about our staff meeting (gotta think of a better name for these…suggestions?) and the sharing that will be taking place tomorrow. Joanne, Cara, Shantel, and Amy all have amazing things for us to learn about, and I’m so thankful that they have agreed to share what they have been learning about recently. I saw a post today on Twitter that caught my eye, and it was a link to an  interesting website (found here) that views Bloom’s Taxonomy through the lens of digital learning. What I noticed in the planning verbs is that they are not only at home in our classrooms, but in our staff meetings (any thoughts on a new name yet?) as well. I’m wondering what planning verbs from the list will be used at tomorrow’s meeting.

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting 3:15 (Mr. Derksen’s room)
  • NOTE: the team meeting previously scheduled for 9:00 – 10:30 in the library has been postponed, the library will be open all day

Tuesday:

  • Steve & Brenda at LF meeting

Wednesday:

  • Team meeting 9:00 (Brenda’s room)

Thursday:

  • Business as usual

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees school visit

As always, create a great week!

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