Monthly Archives: April 2013

We move our practice forward by sharing with others

“Those who want to make a difference in teaching practice, need to share their expertise with others. It is by working together that we become better educators”

– Chelsea

I am a firm believer that in order to improve education, teachers need to share their previous and gained knowledge with others. It can be self-fulfilling to improve one’s own practice, but we become better teachers by working together and sharing what we have learned. How can we make a difference? Start finding ways to share and learn with others. Twitter is a great micro blogging tool where educators can find like-minded educators and organizations to follow. Once you start following people of interest, you can read posted links to websites and blog pages as well as hear their thoughts on issues in education. You may also consider sharing your own thoughts about education. What are you passionate about at the moment? Do you think what you have learned or the way you are teaching will benefit other teachers? Will they find this information valuable? Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and maybe start a blog of your own.

Others ways to share among colleagues is to partake in facilitation or presenting roles. The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and the Alberta’s Teacher’s Association (ATA) provide opportunities for educators to share. In fact, this year alone, I have been fortunate enough to present on mobile learning at the Calgary’s Teacher’s Convention; facilitate a discussion on blogging at edcampyyc (Calgary); and share my best practices on both mlearning & blogging at the Web 2.0 Symposium hosted by The CBE Innovation and Learning Commons. Even within our own PLCs, I have taken my colleagues through a “tech and learn” on newer mobile apps for grade 3. It is through these discussions that I have been able to motivate teachers to approach ideas they may never have considered before and brainstorm ways to integrate technology into their pedagogy.  What’s one way you would be willing to share with your staff or school board? I encourage you to take the first steps in talking about best practices in education.

Resources:

Screen Shot 2013-04-30 at 10.54.29 PM Twitter – http://www.twitter.com

Blog platforms (more personal styles) – http://www.wordpress.com; http://www.blogger.com

Edcamps (Facilitated Discussions on education) – #edcampyyc, #redcamp13, #connectedca

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Mobile Apps are in the classroom, but is everyone on the same page?

Many teachers will tell you that they have tablets, iPads or iPods in their classroom and that they know how to use them, but my question is, are they being used to their full capacity? Mobile apps can be used for product, process or product/process reasons. Product-oriented teachers are those who primarily use mobiles app to revise and support curriculum. This may be through word searches, vocabulary building, math equations, etc. Their main objective is to have students using technology in their classroom more on an individual or by groups of two to support learning outcomes. If this is the case, why not use curriculum supported websites instead? It is meeting the same outcome and does not require a class set or a few iPads for the classroom. Classroom laptops can be just as portable and flexible with some learning. I believe some teachers fall into this category because they are unaware of the real potential of mobile apps or do not have the time to fully understand how mobile apps can be used to support learning.

The process-oriented teacher is a teacher who is not concerned if students bring in their own mobile devices, in fact, they encourage BYOD. Students learning with a process-oriented teacher allows room for personalization. Students are not mandated to all use the same app, they can be given a variety of app choices that meet the same objective. As teachers know, students learn in multiple ways (audio, visual, tactile…), so why not allow their mobile learning to be diverse as well? Since the process is at the heart of learning, teachers do not concern themselves with uploading and finding ways to download all of the student’s work. Sometimes learning is about how to get to the end, not to show proof that they have arrived at the end. If they have mastered the skill, and have demonstrated the steps to get there through opportunities of sharing, shouldn’t that be just as efficient? It’s another way to gain formative assessment on your students.

The product/process-oriented teacher, understands the benefits of both systems and believes that they both have value in learning. I fall into this category as I believe that students do need the time practice some skills without working through a process, whereas other times they need to experience several ways to achieve the same goal. With the right balance, students will get what they need out of mobile learning. Teachers who are product-oriented, need to remember that process is just as important and should take some risks to ensure that mobile learning stays interactive and collaborative, and not be used solely as a reward system for good behaviour or to practice rote memory.

Product vs Process

Selecting a Blog Type

You want to blog, but don’t know where to start? Everything is blog-able and blogging can be used in any subject area in different ways. Before going ahead to blog, it is important to determine the purpose of blogging. Do you want students to have more opportunities to collaborate and interact with each other? Do you want to showcase the brilliant work that is created in the classroom through writing, art or discovery? Here is a simplified table that I have created listing some of the types of blogging and what objectives/outcomes they can achieve:

Blog Type

Associated outcomes

Showcase (e-portfolio) –       Broader audience

–       Reflective thinking/metacognition

–       Personalization of learning

–       Integrates technology

Literature Response –       Critical & reflective thinking

–       Broader audience

–       Writing becomes social

–       Improved reading & writing skills

–       Personalization of learning

Mirror (explain concepts seen in class) –       Critical & reflective thinking

–       Metacognition

–       Interaction and collaboration with classmates

–       Improved reading & writing skills

Podcasting (audio blogging) –       Personalization

–       Writing becomes social

–       Improved oral language skills

–       Broader audience

Classroom News/Event News –       Integrates technology

–       Broader audience

Group blogging space (Mixed blogging types)

All of the above outcomes

Still don’t know what blog type to select? As an elementary generalist, my preferred blog type is the group blogging space where I used a mix of different blogging types. There are times when I will use the literature response, where I will ask students to give me their feedback/opinion on the book Charlotte’s Web. I have used the mirror blog when asking students to discuss a concept seen in social studies such as comparing and contrasting schools in Calgary and around the world. I like to allow the option for podcasting to make the blogs more interesting, but also to target students who prefer to talk instead of write. I have yet to use the blogging platform as an e-portfolio space, but am considering trying it out in the near future to see what can be done to share and celebrate their learning online.

There are many things to blog about with your students, the key is to find a blog type that meets both yours and your students needs.

Happy blogging! 🙂

EdcampYYC

I am happy to say that I have had the privilege to attend the first ever edcampYYC (Calgary) at Elboya school. For those of you who couldn’t make this PD session, it was run through facilitated discussions. Participants could choose 3 sessions of their choice and participate in meaningful discussions. The session I facilitated was on student blogging. It was nice to be able to share some of the research I have conducted this year. If you missed my session, here is an overview of the associated benefits from blogging with your students:

  • Students develop reflective and critical thinking
  • Writing becomes social through student interaction and collaboration
  • Writing becomes purposeful as students are discussing with an authentic audience
  • Blogging allows for personalization of learning
  • Blogging allows for integration of technology
  • Students develop reading, writing and language skills

Blogging
Edcamp was an engaging format that would be enjoyed by many. It’s a place to start a discussion or spark an idea and carry it on in the classroom. I am hoping another school will take on the task of hosting an Edcamp next year. I’d love to be able to attend some of the sessions I missed today. Maybe some facilitators will consider presenting at teacher’s convention next year.