Monthly Archives: March 2014

Technology in progress

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Ok, so my professional development group now has a name:  Shop Talk! (as well as a fun new poster!)  I am in the process of finding its place here on the blog.  I am trying to carve out Shop Talk’s very own section, which I have mediocrely attempted to do, and in doing so I realize I have opened up an entirely new can of worms.  Can I even post on these extra pages?  I haven’t figured it out yet, so… I guess I’ve started with what’s not working!  Alas, it is in progress, and hopefully by next weekend will be accomplished.  By all means if you have the answer please save me the hours it takes to experiment and troubleshoot and either leave me a comment or send me a direct message and let me know :).

The role of technology in this project is three-fold: what it takes to get it off the ground and running, communication that precedes and follows each Shop Talk, and  of course the technology that leads our lessons and helps to guide and direct our learning/teaching.

Getting Things Started:   

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My plan is to continue the use of Impossible 61 as a blog format to hold my thinking, while also communicating my vision with the public.  If all goes well with my aforementioned task Shop Talk will have its very own page on the blog, dedicated to the communication with others about our progress (and possibly making outside connections), as well as the communication between members.

I recently came across a tool that has forever changed my life, well blogging life to say the least.  It’s called Canva and you can make posters for web or print completely free (there are some in use purchases, but you only have to pay if you use the graphics that are labelled as costing something).   Canva is SO simple and easy to use but makes really polished and professional posters for a wide variety of uses.  I highly recommend using this site.  You may have noticed I recently changed my blog header, I created the new header on Canva, and the Shop Talk poster above, as well as all of the graphics in this post are posters I created using Canva!

Communication:

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I see communication as having a fairly significant role in Shop Talk; the more we communicate and showcase what Shop Talk is doing the greater a presence it has in the identity of our school, and the greater its perceived value.   I plan on utilizing iMovie, and as  previously mentioned this site to keep other teachers, admin, parents and students in the loop with what we are doing.  Keeping track of what we are doing online as opposed to just offline will allow us to network beyond the four walls of our building and connect with other educators, and schools globally.

I plan on using an iPad to document teacher learning and to create mini information videos showcasing each pro-d.  I will utilize iMovie, an app produced by apple that is compatible with iPads.  The iPad and iMovie aspects are so user-friendly and intuitive to use that I am not overly concerned with the manufacturing or creating of the movies, however where I do anticipate a bit of a struggle is that our school uses PCs so sharing over the morning announcements, or trying to do any uploading could provide to be challenging as the mac/windows compatibility, while possible, is I’m sure meant to provide some frustrations and challenges (both devices screaming, “PICK ONE!”).

As mentioned, I plan on keeping impossible 61 alive and well,  despite some of the issues I have encountered with WordPress.  Through the process of blogging for 477b I have discovered WordPress’ annoying  inability to embed certain videos, posters etc. into the free site.  Through my exploration and completing posts in this course I have found  ways around some of those troubled areas (screen shots, and recoding through other websites).  One area I am already anticipating being an issue is embedding an iMovie clip into my post, but alas if all else fails I can upload to YouTube and link from there.  While more time-consuming and albeit annoying, it can be done!

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Fortunately, at this point in the project while I have encountered some issues (mentioned previously), I have managed to overcome them.   Where I anticipate to find the biggest roadblocks are:

1. Staff buy-in, both initially and throughout the year

2.)Establishing new topics each meeting that are generated from more than the typical 2-3 people

3.)  Keeping productivity, involvement and interest in times that people typically cop out (i.e. Pro-d days that come right before report cards or holidays).

In order to overcome these issues I have a very simple technique, and that is to approach and connect with key members of staff individually.   On any staff there are always those few who can shift a group’s perception, and encourage others to get on board with things (even if it is purely by not wanting to be the one left out).  I know it seems like a simple plan, but you have to trust me in my abilities to persuade people! ( I worked various sales gigs while in school)   People like to feel special, so personally inviting individuals as well as giving them a bit of background on the project 1:1 gives me a chance to share my passion and excitement, and from my experience, when you share your passion and excitement for a project with educators they want to get on board!  I believe in Shop Talk so much that I know once people have given it a chance it will speak for itself, and hopefully that excitement transcends through the staff and hallways of our school.

If I do not get the involvement I am hoping for from our staff I will tap into our family of schools and offer an invitation to them as well.  It may be a bit more difficult creating connections and asking people to share when they aren’t in our building, but as the slogan goes, nothing is impossible…

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Library Vision – Rationale

“Despite compelling evidence indicating that working collaboratively represents best practice; teachers in many schools continue to work in isolation.” (Dufour, 2004)

This quote really resonated with me, because I felt that it spoke to my own story. Being a teacher can be quite isolating, despite being constantly surrounded by people.  The first year I had my own classroom I felt very alone.  It didn’t hurt that I was the one and only classroom that was not located within the building, but out in the portable, or the Cabin as we later coined it.  The following school year things shifted, there was a new vice-principal, and a few new and keen staff members and somehow that small shift was the thing that opened up my world.  Connections were made, opportunities created, and friendships  emerged, which led to better more rounded teaching practices throughout all of our classrooms.  Developing relationships with other members of staff proved to be the best professional development I could do.  We shared what worked, what didn’t, offered support, offered solutions and learned to trust one another and be open to learning from the collective.  These relationships developed over professional development, through inquiry groups, and through social opportunities (running clubs, coffee dates etc.).  The result was a feeling of support, comfort (despite often being out of the “comfort zone”), trust, and through each other’s stories the drive for us all to want to be at our best, always.   I am the educator I am today because of a few key teachers and relationships that developed.  That experience drives me to create more experiences like the aforementioned  for both myself as well as members of staff.  I see collegial mentorship as being the single most underused and beneficial resource we can tap into (not to mention inexpensive), which is why this project is so important.

Beyond my little anecdotal story here is my WHY in poster form:

Click the Poster to see it in its original form at smore.com
Click the Poster to see it in its original form at smore.com

Library Vision – Brainstorm

My brainstorming process typically looks like chicken scratch that runs in several directions over several pieces of paper!  Once I effectively got that under control I decided to create a Prezi to beautify my thinking while also doing all of you a “solid” and making it legible!  (You’re welcome ;))

There are still lots of ideas  floating around in my mental atmosphere, but so far these are the key points I have identified.  Please let me know if you have any questions, or need any further explanation as sometimes what makes sense in my mind may be confusing for others, (I’m sure none of you can relate – ha ha).

 

After spending several hours trying to find the “easy” way to embed the prezi into my blog I  think I have figured it out, and it should play above.  However, I am not 100% convinced that it will work, therefore I have attached a link to the presentation here, just to be sure!

Reflection?  What? In a course for teachers about teaching?  Are you crazy?!

Poster courtesy of venspired.com – Click the photo to be linked to their site.

It is hugely ironic that certain teaching practices which we know to be beneficial and proven are often neglected (I’m talking verrry often neglected) when it comes to teaching adults.  That’s why when I saw the topic of this week’s blog post my literal reaction was shock, and awe, followed up with a very Full House “Duh!”.

It’s my generation, and I stand by my Uncle Jesse love!… back to the matter at hand.

We know reflection is so so so so so so so SOOO important in learning, it tackles where we’ve been, it helps us create goals around where we’re going and it reinforces what we have learned.  I feel like this course has been so beneficial to my professional development as a teacher, the assignments have been inquiry based and personal to my own interests, which has made the takeaway so much greater.

So, what is my biggest takeaway thus far?

I don’t know that I can say one particular lesson was most impacting,  the overall process of going in-role as the learner has given me new perspective.  The actual process in which we are being asked to explore, dig deep, connect and share has been so much more meaningful than pretty much any class I have taken, ever.  Why? Because the work I am doing is for myself, based on my interests within a given area or genre set out by Aaron Mueller, our fab teacher.  This is the most relevant and purposeful learning I have done in university.  Because of this, I recognize the need for more of these types of learning experiences within my classroom (and in everyone else’s too).  As much as I believed I knew this “lesson” before, I feel I know it and understand it in a whole new way through the process of completing the assignments for this class.  It doesn’t feel like I am actually doing work because I am enjoying myself!  However, unlike a personal project I am being kept accountable by the timeline and the great teachers who are also part of this course.  I have always believed that learning should be fun, engaging and relevant to the students, but through this experience I feel like I have some great frameworks for what this may look like on a broader scale.

Another big “ah ha” moment I’ve had with this course is the specific and thoughtful feedback we receive for each assignment.  I, like most of my students, am very grade oriented, once I put my heart into an assignment I am instantly attached to my work like it is my child, and I want it to be well received, and proof of it being well received is my grade (I see another side to this when I am the teacher, but that is another story).  Whatever the outcome it doesn’t really matter (or at least shouldn’t) as much as the understanding of what was good and what could be improved.  A personal reflection is not entirely possible if the teacher marking the assignment merely gives you a number, or a letter.  This has frustrated me with many university courses, especially the online ones, because I find often times grades are arbitrarily given.  (I am fairly certain that at the end of term when half of my assignments are all being marked at once and I am being given an 85 on each of them it is because the person marking knows it is a good enough grade that most people won’t complain or question, but not so good that when the majority receive it  your grading tactics are given away).  Ok, while I am a skeptic I am also a learner who wants to understand why and how I earned the mark I did, and really, anyone who has put any sort of level of commitment into an assignment deserves this acknowledgment and explanation.    In this course we have been given feedback in a way that makes me feel acknowledged for the work I have done, with some understanding or suggestion for how it could be improved.  Trust me, I understand from the perspective of a teacher that providing this feedback is challenging, and time-consuming (oh so freaking time-consuming) and often times those notes are overlooked just for the grade, but it is also one of the most important parts of the lesson and learning processes.

So, in summary, these are my two golden learning nuggets which have come from the role reversal of teacher/student:

1.) Providing learning opportunities that are personal and inquiry based within given parameters.

2.) Quality feedback acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of assignments.

What I felt resonated with me most in the student role were things I knew and practiced beforehand in the teacher role, however through this course my thinking was challenged, and deepened with the understanding of “why”, which could only have taken place by going back into the student realm for a little while (another argument for educators being lifelong learners).  This course should be offered multiple times, with opportunities to explore different avenues and pedagogy.  I only wish all classes could be this valuable.

Libraries: Supporting the Local and Global Communities

Library

Photo courtesy of Ellen Forsyth via Flickr

Libraries all over the world play an integral role in their communities, this is possibly even more critical in developing countries where libraries are becoming much more than a place that houses books.  Libraries in third world countries are often the gateway into the 21st century for members of the community.  Many libraries provide access and connection on a global scale that would otherwise cease to exist.  Organizations like the Gates Foundation, founded by Bill and Melinda Gates, have identified the need for equal access to technology and information regardless of geographical location.  Their goal is to ” …ensure that all people, especially those in disadvantaged communities around the world, have access to information through technology in public libraries.”  Because of foundations like these, access to technology is becoming more prevalent in places that may otherwise be left in the dark, literally.  EIFL, Electronic Information For Libraries, works in partnership with the Gates Foundation to “…encourage public libraries to reach out to their communities, partnering with local government, business and other organizations to assess local needs and develop new services.”  One of their unique projects that caught my attention took place in rural Ghana.

Photo from http://www.eifl.net

While reading the Gates Foundation’s blog Impatient  Optimists, (posts written by various authors including Bill and Melinda Gates) I stumbled across a post written by Nicole Baute entitled How a Modern Library Keeps Mothers Healthy in Rural Ghana.  In her post Baute discusses the significance the local library has in Tamale, a rural community in Ghana.  This library offers both access to technology, as well as classes outlining  basic technology skills.  The main topic of discussion in this post and perhaps the most significant contribution of this local library is the teaching and support they provide through technology for the pregnant women in the area who may otherwise not receive professional medical assistance.  The purpose of this program was to reduce maternal and infant mortality by providing information and advice” (EIFL 2013) because mortality rates in this area are  quite high access to the information via the technology provided by the local library is literally life saving.

The program “…uses information and communication technology (ICT), including computers, the internet, mobile phone text messaging (SMS) and radio, and hosts public events at which health workers give presentations and discuss women’s concerns…” (EIFL 2013).

Mobile Device Lineup - Mobile Recruiting

Photo courtesy of Geoff Peterson via Flickr

Through the use of technology (cell phones, and computers) this library is reaching out to its community to provide necessary health support and access to information that will have impacts that in some cases may last a lifetime.  The saying, “knowledge is power” has never been more true.
Moving forward “[t]he library will continue to offer free ICT access and support for health workers and the community in the Maternal Health Corner. The library’s resources and experience will be available to the expanded maternal health information service in the region, including a key role in the project’s monitoring and evaluation team. Impressed by the Technology for Maternal Health service and Northern Regional Library’s other ICT training and outreach activities with youth and officers of Tamale Central Prisons, the Ghana Library Authority is proposing an increase in the library’s overall budget by 23%, including further support for the maternal health service. ” (EIFL Impact Studies Results 2013)

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How [might] mobile devices  assist in this endeavour and what new affordances they bring to the developing world that will allow them to provide greater and more democratic access to information, unfiltered and uncensored?

While the library currently utilizes mobile devices within its Maternal Health Program, perhaps a continuation of their use beyond the MHP could also be impactful to other members of the community?  According to the Embassy of Ghana agriculture makes up 44% of the national GDP, so  I can’t help but wonder if access to mobile devices might also help farmers in the area reach out to global markets, and provide access to key information that may lead to  improving their crops and/or processes.

Learning about the current practices and opportunities the local library is providing to the Tamale community has been heartwarming and inspiring.  It definitely puts into question how our school libraries might be able to give back to our community, locally and globally.

Resources

EIFL knowledge without boundaries

Ghana Embassy

Global Libraries – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Impatient Optimist

The World Bank: Ghana