Saturday, 16 November 2013

While Walking to Work the Other Day...

First off I know... I am really bad at blogging on a regular basis! Need to be in the mood I guess. Anyway...

I was walking to work on a beautiful sunny Melbourne day last Friday and as I usually do, I was thinking about what lessons I had planned. Periods 1 and 2 were Reading Groups where the students were reading plays to focus on intonation and fluency, and periods 3 and 4 were Science (infused with writing) where my homeroom group would finish a recount on a science excursion they had on Tuesday. Sounded good. Easy day. BUT WAIT! Was that going to be an inspiring day? Was it really engaging? And the biggest question of all I kept thinking, "what value would these lessons have in the long run?"

I was satisfied with my Reading Groups lesson plan... the students were excited about the plays, it would be engaging, and while most of them were preparing to present, I could follow up on some assessments on students that had been away on holidays or ill. Reports are coming up and I needed to get all of it done, which I did! My idea of my Writing class finishing up their recount on an excursion didn't sit well though. I felt like it would be boring. I thought to myself, "would I even want to do this?"

This next bit is just a rant so skip ahead if you want...
FACT: all of my students know how to print and most can join write (aka cursive in North America).  Neatness on the other hand varies greatly. On a side note, who has neat handwriting by the time they finish uni? By that time, we can all write neat if we really want to. Usually we write a bit sloppy because note taking needs to be quick, and no one submits written essays or stories anymore. So when students in my class need to handwrite work, I don't fuss greatly over the neatness as long as it's legible because it hinders their ability to write me the story which is the main focus of the class. Handwriting neatness and join writing is ultimately focused in the, "Handwriting Lesson."

I heard the other day that riding a horse was a part of school curriculum way back in the day but that it's not anymore because it's not necessary. As schools increasingly become digital, I think handwriting will go out the window. Yes we will teach them how to do it, but after a few years in primary they will be typing everything up. I felt like asking my students to handwrite a recount was neither engaging nor efficiently a learning task that would support them greatly in the long run.

So here's what I did. I got my hands on the class set of laptops, had the students login to their google apps for Ed account, got them to create a google doc and share it with me, entitled: [Student's name]'s Science Recount. They loved it! They became so excited to type up their work from scratch rather than write it. Neatness and legibility was not an issue anymore, spelling became less of an issue when I showed students how to highlight and check their it using google, they could login later and finish it up if needed (even from home) and I felt like having them type it up was more realistic since that's what people do these days! I feel that we need to remember we are preparing students for the future. To top it off, students loved how I could sit at my desk while editing and commenting on their work as they were also typing it up. Sending comments like, "[Insert student's name] that's a great first paragraph, don't forget your capitals though," only to see them turn around with a huge grin because they thought it was so cool I could do that.

Most of all, it satisfied those questions I had in my head while walking to work that day. It was engaging, it motivated every student, it focused on an equally (if not more) important life skill, and it enhanced their digital citizenship (sharing docs online, real time teacher editing, using an online word processor, spell checking work etc...).

It can be hard to make every single lesson engaging to students all the time, but we can't get stuck in conventional methods for too long. We need to reflect, innovate, improve, and inspire.

Friday, 4 October 2013

It's Been a While...

It has been just over a year since my last blog post.

A lot (or should I say heaps) has changed over the last year. To summarize, I have moved from Hamilton, Ontario to Melbourne, Australia. The purpose of this move was primarily fuelled by the passion to start a career in teaching and I've always been interested in seeing the land down under. I came to Melbourne with a teaching agency, did some supply work, or CRT'ing (Casual Relief Teaching) as it is referred to here, then applied for and was successful in obtaining a 1 year teaching contract. I now teach grade 3 at a beautiful school located in Preston which is a suburb of Melbourne. Looking back, I have been able to do what I had hoped for when moving to Australia. I have begun the career that I love.

There are 5 grade classes and team planning is a huge part of the way the school operates. I wasn't used to that when I came here since schools in Ontario that I have been to hadn't operated in that way, but I really enjoy it. It makes things easier, especially for graduates like myself and it is a great opportunity to be collaborative. My team is fantastic and really makes me enjoy coming to work. They are very supportive and easy to talk to. It is probably the best way a graduate can start their career in many ways.

The grade 3 classes have access to a class set of ipads, laptops and with a bit of my help I am proud to say, a document camera for each class. These technologies are often used in every lesson. I also use a projector (unmounted) and portable speaker system daily. I do use my bamboo tablet when teaching sometimes. I should mention that the whole school has wifi and that each student can connect to a student server to save and share files. The grade 3 classes this year have also begun using google apps for Ed for their digital portfolios. We use Mathletics, we have used Edmodo (my students really like this) and we have even made a Harlem Shake video just for fun.

My goal is to share my learnings with educators back home in Canada and around the world as I learn more about becoming a teacher and as I experiment with different technologies and teaching strategies.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

5 Days Til Melbourne

I have graduated and I am now a certified teacher in Ontario, Canada, and (after alot of paperwork) Victoria, Australia. The summer has been fantastic but now I will be embarking on an all new journey as a teacher in Melbourne. I arrive August 29th 9:30 am Melbourne time. I am extremely excited! I finally get to live the dream of being a teacher while also exploring the land down under, a place I have always wanted to go for as long as I can remember.

Taking the experience and knowledge I have gained in the EdTech cohort at Brock and blending it with the schools in Victoria will be fascinating to say the least. This blog will serve as a journal of my teaching experiences while there. 5 days til departure.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Gamification of Learning and The Ultimate Gaming Challenge

This past weekend was an amazing experience. My fellow Brock Ed Tech and Leadership graduates and I presented at the Ultimate Gaming Challenge in Niagara Falls in partnership with the DSBN and Microsoft.

It was great to see so many students interested in the value of educational gaming. While the main attraction to the Ultimate Gaming Challenge was the competition being held, we attracted a lot of traffic for the Gamification of Learning.

The conference was a great opportunity for me to show people how I have been using the Xbox Kinect in the classroom to support student learning. While the application of any game is open to the imagination, there are some games that are directly related to the Ontario curriculum. As an example, during the conference and two weeks ago I was using a game called Brain and Body Connection to support students in preparation for grade 3 and 6 EQAO. This game is full of "mini games". One game shows students a number sentence with a missing term, and the students have to kick the ball with the correct term to answer the question.
My grade 3 students practicing math on Kinect during my practicum.
Student engagement is 100% as one student is actually playing the game the other group of students is participating by watching and trying to answer the questions themselves. Important to note the promotion of kinesthetic learning in these activities (mirror neurons).

Another game that I use in the classroom is Just Dance Kids 2. Easy connection to phys Ed and DPA. The Students love it, and without even asking, everyone gets involved in the activity. (Lots of fun on rainy days!)

During the conference I asked students what kind of games they would like to play in the class and how they thought it would relate to student learning. They were so eager to give me an answer and you could see the excitement in their eyes because they thought it was so cool. I got a lot of difference answers and some really interesting reasons for using it. They gave me suggestions for history, math/stats, procedural writing, point of view, and visual arts. I think it's so important to find ways to integrate gaming in the classroom because it's something today's students spend ALOT of their free time doing!

Overall, I had an amazing experience and I look forward to presenting at the DSBN Connect 2012 event this week. Thanks goes out to Dr. Camille Rutherford and Dino Miele for giving my Brock colleagues and I this opportunity.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The End of One Journey, The Beginning of Another

My journey through the Faculty of Education at Brock University as a teacher-candidate is now over, and what a journey it was. It's hard to believe how fast the experience has gone by, and it's amazing how many people I have met along the way. I have completed all the course work and the practicum experiences. The last thing that I await is convocation and to be recognized by the Ontario College of Teachers (and of course to be hired!).

I am proud of myself for taking this step and for all the hard work. But now that I am finished the schooling I realize the journey has really just begun. Now I have to find my own class, with a whole new set of students to teach and inspire. I know I will be successful but the pressure is on. When you love what you do, inspiration is everywhere...

Today I went back to the school at which I just finished my practicum and as soon as I walked in I got that feeling. The feeling you get when you know this is where you are meant to be because you love what you do, because you love your profession. The students from my grade 3 class were eating lunch when I walked in and were really excited to see me! Instantly, another familiar feeling kicked in. The feeling that, I have to do well because they look up to me, because I was their teacher, and because I can't let them down. It's a strange feeling to describe but it drives me to be better and to succeed.

A new journey begins. A new challenge awaits. I am done teacher's college and ready to fly solo.