This is my second year participating in #pb10for10. I hesitated in taking part this year because I have returned to the secondary classroom after a three year stint as a K12 literacy coach. Naturally, the majority of the participants in #pb10for10 are primary teachers, and I thought that I really wouldn't have much to offer them.
And then I saw this tweet.
That's Cathy stirring the pot.
So I re-visited the idea of using picture books in my teaching. I love the layers of meaning that emerge from the illustrations by themselves and in combination with the text. I delight in the author's dexterous use of language. Often so simple, yet it can pack a whopping punch. I welcome the opportunity of multiple rereads that picture books offer.
I am planning the first unit for my courses even as I write this post. Most of my students will spend the first six weeks of the school year immersed in ideas in and around global dignity (which will culminate with Global Dignity Day on October 16th). As I considered the content for this unit and the potential gaps in my students' prior knowledge, I realized that picture books are perfectly suited for our needs.
Here then, I present to you ten titles around the general concepts behind global dignity. Some are non-fiction, some are fiction. Some titles I own and know well, others are new to my library. And one isn't a book at all.
This best selling book
is now out in 2nd Edition with new content, insights, statistics and activities. Written byDavid J. Smith
and illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
, this classic text makes the size of the world's population understandable. If the World Were a Village
imagines the 6 billion people of the world as a village of just one hundred.
In this village:
22 people speak a Chinese dialect
20 earn less than a dollar a day
60 are always hungry
24 have televisions in their home
When statistics are translated into numbers that are meaningful and can be worked with, students become engaged in what the data tells them. Thinking and questioning are at the heart of inquiry, and this book is sure to surprise and motivate many of my students.
A Life Like Mine
by DK Publishing
will help students consider what the characteristics of human dignity might be. Structured around the essential elements of human needs: water, healthy food, a safe home, education, protection, love, freedom of religion, expression, etc., this text explores the lives of young people from around the world, and how they cope with not having one or more of these basic needs met.
We Are All Born Free
by Amnesty International
beautifully and powerfully illustrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was signed on December 10, 1948. This simplified version of these rights are perfect for older students to start with, as a scaffold to the original document. Conversations about word choice and synthesis of ideas for the illustrated text can help students understand how language choices effect meaning. Discussion about the central concept of rights for all, not just for some will ignite young people's empathy and lay the foundation for thinking about the challenges that must be overcome to attain human rights and dignity for all.
The Wall: Growing up behind the Red Curtain
by Peter Sis
is a new discovery for me. I have not yet taught with it, but it will find a home in my library as it tells an important story that is contemporary and visual.
Here is the Amazon.com entry. “I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side—the Communist side—of the Iron Curtain.” Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ’n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities—creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.
By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art. The Wall
is a 2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year, the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe - Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and a nominee for the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.
This selection is not a book, not even an online book, but it may be described as a cousin to the wordless book. A photo essay is a series of photographs that are intended to tell a story or evoke an emotional response.
If you have not yet come across Boston Big Picture
, then you are in for a real treat. Boston Big Picture
is news stories in photographs...gorgeous photographs, even when the content is gruesome. Features include the ability to comment, share, and search. There is an abundance of visual text here that relates to current events, seasonal events, and/or history, traditions, and celebrations from around the world.
This photo essay is on World Refuge Day 2013
, which is June 20th.
Now for the fiction picture books.
Beyond the need for prior knowledge about human rights, and the elements of human dignity, I need students to appreciate other perspectives. Voices in the Park
by Anthony Browne
is a perfect book to initiate conversation around our different views and how, hopefully, we can find the commonalities beyond them.
The four seasons in a city park are represented by apes in human clothing: a rich, uptight woman in the fall; a sad, unemployed man in the winter; the woman's lonely boy in the spring; the man's joyful daughter in the summer. Each one sees the place and the others differently, yet together the voices tell a story. A great addition to writer's workshop and lessons on voice, I think Voices in the Park is suitable for grade two and up. Here is an interactive version of the story.
by author Christophe Gallaz and illustrator Roberto Innocenti
is a stunning tale with powerful and realistic paintings. It is the story of courage, prejudice and tolerance, and compassion. It is about the horror of war, but it is also about our response to horror. For young readers, this story may be a difficult read. For all readers, it is unforgettable. For my students and I, it is a story that will ask us about the role of compassion in human dignity and our own ability to be a Rose Blanche. [
The Rose Blanche was a group of young Germans that protested the war. Like the heroine of this tale, they were unduly executed for the crime of thinking differently.]
by Patricia Polacco
is another new title for me. It is the story of innocence and friendship at a time when cultures, neighbours, and families were separated by the boundaries of war.
For young readers, The Butterfly
is a good introduction to war and racism. For older students more challenging conversations will emerge. The main character's mother hides a Jewish family in her basement, which puts both families at risk. What motivates individuals to take such risks? Whose dignity is being protected in the story?
A third and final new title for me is Shi-shi-etko
by author Nicola I. Campbell
and illustrator Kim LaFave
. From Amazon: Shi-shi-etko just has four days until she will have to leave her family and everything she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last precious days at home treasuring and appreciating the beauty of her world — the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather’s paddle song. Her mother, father, and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.
LaFave’s richly hued illustrations complement Campbell’s gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss — a loss that native people have endured for generations because of Canada’s residential schools system.
As many of you know, I teach for a First Nations Board of Education. My students are Anishnabe and this story comes from the Coast Salish (British Columbia area), but all First Nations and Inuit peoples were affected by the residential school system. It would be remiss not to include the reality of residential schools and the subsequent consequences of that program on my students' families and culture in our discussion on dignity.
When I was Eight
by authors Christy Jordan-Fenton
and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
and illustrator Gabrielle Grimard
is a condensed, illustrated version of Fatty Legs
, which tells the story of an 8 year old Inuit girl who chooses to attend residential school in order to learn how to read. Her dream will cost her her Inuit name, her long hair, and constant cruel treatment by one of the nuns. In the end, the determined girl does learn to read and her victory illustrates the power of human dignity.
Thanks to Cathy Mere
for hosting this event. It is a terrific opportunity for teachers and librarians to jump into online learning.
This is the final day for the incredible book study on Alan November's Who Owns the Learning?
for #cyberpd 2013. This event is hosted annually be the marvellous Cathy Mere
, Jill Fisch
, and Laura Komos
. To read what others are saying see the Jog the Web
that houses the #cyberpd blogs.
November's message is that students must have the opportunity to experience purpose and ownership in their work. We can create such opportunities by incorporating roles or jobs for students that enable them to contribute to the learning of all. When students are tutorial designers, scribes, and researchers for their peers in their classrooms, and importantly, beyond their classrooms, and their work is available on-line, they leave a legacy of their contribution. How exciting and engaging is that!
My personal goal for this summer is to become better versed in creating visual content. I have where ever possible to represent my thinking about Who Owns the Learning?
visually. A few posts back
, I wondered about the learning that would emerge by annotating an existing video in Popcorn Maker
. What I discovered was that not only did the process of annotation deepen my understanding of the content, it also extended my editing skills.
By chance, I came across a post by Kim Wilkens
in her Google+ community Women Learning Tech
about using Popcorn Maker as a collaborative tool. She asks "What does open and closed mean in the digital age? Members of the community were invited to view her video and then to add their thoughts. What do you think of their collaborative experiment?
This remix represents two contributors. There were more, but the challenge in making this a collaborative project is that each participant needs to 'pick up' the most recent remix to add his or her thoughts, not the original version.
I decided, since Chapter 5 is on the student as global communicator and collaborator, I would give Popcorn Maker a go with the #cyberpd crowd. I Tweeted out the idea, and Amy Rudd
jump into the project. The first portion of this video is mine, and Amy's portion is the VideoScribe.
If you would like to try your hand at Popcorn Maker and at collaborative content creation, click on the remix button found at the bottom of the screen below. Add your ideas, save, and Tweet out the new remix.
Reflection: I do like this idea, especially for assessment as learning. I envision my students each creating 30 seconds of video (either in Popcorn Maker, an Animoto type tool or in Movie Maker) and then annotating the video with links and text that illustrates their big learning (synthesis) of a unit. Students can post their individual Popcorn Maker video to their blogs, but we can also connect them all (remixing) and post the class reflection on a wiki. Thanks to the #cyberpd folks for engaging in this book study in such creative style! We have definitely moved from thinking and writing about the ideas, to creating visual content too! Thanks to Cathy Mere for gathering our posts at Jog the Web and for initiating our own board on Pinterest.
Darren Kuropatwa speaks about the shift of control from teacher to student as we ask our students to take on more of their learning responsibilities. Central to ensuring that this is a successful shift is preparing our students to cope with the volume of information to which they have access. If I am no longer the disseminator of the content, then I must ensure that my students have the strategies and the critical thinking skills to find, filter, assess, and attribute information.
The Process: I have made many Glogs over the years. I use Glogster when I need to create layers of information that my audience can choose to access. As you scroll over the Glog, those elements that are linked to on-line text will have a WWW appear. Click, and you are whisked away to relevant, supporting information. Normally, I would have the Joyce Valenza video embedded in the Glog, but it is in Vimeo, and for some unknown (the temperamental nature of the tool) reason, Vimeo was not going to embed for me today. I first made this Glog in a horizontal template, forgetting that I wanted to embed it here. Although, you can chose code for a blog size Glog, it still appeared squashed. So, I reconstructed the Glog in a vertical template. As an aside: My grandmother used to say "stupid head makes for sore feet". I need to update this saying to reflect the consequences of not thinking through my on-line work! The Reflection: I have spent hours on the ideas emerging from chapter 4 because in spite of being a teacher who has always taught researching skills, the shift of control that I want to happen in my class room means that I am not the sole purveyor of content. I want to teach with student inquiry. I want students to decide what part of "Why is global dignity important?" (for example) is meaningful to them. I want them to engage in the research process- find, filter, choose, create, attribute, share-because the work is meaningful to them. I want students to be excited about learning. Questions I am thinking about:
- How do I gain the attention of students who already think they know how to research?
- How much time will each step in the process need?
- Where will students think about their work as researchers? Journals? Blogs? Wiki? Is there choice here for students?
- What tools will students use to gather their research? Paper? Google docs? Wiki? Word?
- Will they work collaboratively? And if so, how will that happen? Google docs? Wiki?
#Cyberpd is an annual on-line book study hosted by Cathy Mere, Jill Fisch, andLaura Komos. Today begins the sharing of our thinking on
chapters 3 and 4 of Alan November's Who Owns the Learning?, although in this post, I will tackle chapter 3 only.
"The Student as Scribe" is all about how our students can work collaboratively everyday using the various tools that are available to schools now. But I so appreciate Kuropatwa's point that this work is not strictly about the technology, but about pedagogy. He explains how deliberate and intentional he is in introducing the collaborative tool students will use for scribing. "That time can involve going over the goals for the scribe posts, outlining how to set up the blogging or other program, reviewing the basic option settings" (pg. 46). And, he is equally intentional about ensuring that his students do receive feedback from a global audience. This is the work that is before us. The way we plan has to change, the way we assess has to change, and the way we teach has to change. Thus, we have the "shift of control". Since one of my goals for this summer is to become better acquainted with visual tools, I decided to push myself here to create a video, and then to annotate the video using Mozilla's Popcorn Maker. These tools support the work our students need to do to read deeply, make connections, synthesize main ideas, and consider audience and purpose.
I used Sparkol Videoscribe
(the 7 day desktop trial version) to create the initial video. I then uploaded that video to Popcorn Maker
. There I added the pop ups, the thought bubbles, the images, and the Wikipedia page on Alan November.
I created the videoscribe quite quickly this time, although I did run into a problem at the video rendering stage where the process got hung up at the zero mark. After many attempts at finishing the video, I did consult 'them' and I discovered that in fact this is a problem for many people. Finally, by re-saving as a new file, I was able to render the video and upload it to YouTube.
Popcorn Maker is quite straightforward to use. There are a number of tools, or Events, with which you can annotate a video. The only glitch here was that in the tutorial on Popcorn Maker one of the Event choices was Twitter, but Twitter did not appear in my list. I did consult the Google + community Making Learning Connected (#clmooc), and according to one member, "Twitter recently changed something with third party apps and sites. I've been hit and miss with some sites & Twitter working." Very odd. The Reflection:
Chapter 2 (Students as Tutorial Designers) and Chapter 3 (Students as Scribes) are merging for me as I consider these tools. In both tutorials design and in scribing (if students create a video as the note), other students in the class can annotate the video to include their own understanding of the key concepts or examples. Another idea is to have the scribe take the back channel conversation generated while viewing a content area film or a film adaptation of a novel and annotate the film using the main ideas that emerged from the tweets.
The salient point is that students must be generating their own content. Videoscribe and Popcorn Maker are superb tools to help teachers and students do exactly that.
This week's host is Jill over at My Primary Passion
. Head over there to link up with all the terrific conversation around Alan November's Who Owns the Learning?
Finally, a video scribe! I have made many excuses for not not creating visual texts, but as I am returning to the classroom in September, I really need to push myself this summer to acquire some skills in this area.
The tool: Sparkol VideoScribe
VideoScribe is fairly straightforward. I used the 7 day trial version and there are enough features included to make a decent story. I did access YouTube to view a few tutorials (irony is not lost on me here!). I discovered too late in the process for editing, that you need to use a lot of space for each 'scene'. A scene is comprised of a group of elements that all have the same camera setting. If the elements are too close together then everything shrinks.
Beyond ensuring generous use of the canvas, the more elements you include, the more time consuming the process, which makes sense, but it also means the harder it is to edit. In my case, half way through, I realized that I needed more space and that the elements should be larger. However, to edit would mean shifting the whole story element by element. Next time. The reflection
Throughout the process, I thought about the value of this tool for my students' learning. I discovered that just like the students' Alan November describes in Who Owns the Learning?,
I spent far longer on VideoScribe than I had planned as I considered what elements to include to best tell my story. What's more, my understanding of chapter 2 at the end of the process is much deeper than it was after having read the chapter. In the SAMR model of technological transformation, VideoScribe definitely comes in at the redefining level if students are generating the video. The student is the creator of the content and as such is the teacher. The task of reading, synthesizing the reading, and presenting content that is remixed. The questionsI produced this text on a laptop. How is the process different on mobile devices? Does the app work in the same way?What would happen if a VideoScribe text is further remixed in Mozilla's Popcorn Maker?
Today begins the third annual #cyberpd event hosted by Cathy Mere
, Jill Fisch
, and Laura Komos
. This is an online book study that offers up deep reflection and wide-ranging discussion across grades, disciplines, and time zones.
This year we are discussing Alan November's Who Owns the Learning?
It is important that I finally read Alan November's Who Owns the Learning
? because I have been playing at the edge of his thinking for the past year. I happened upon his TEDxNYED
talk first, and was compelled by his stories of transformed classrooms; of what the buzz words "authentic" and "relevant" and "meaningful" learning could look like. He describes how students tackling real problems in their communities and working towards finding real solutions are not simply engaged in the tasks, but that they are 'owning' it.
November establishes the analogy of the family farm, where everyone had a role and all contributions were meaningful and purposeful, to assist us in understanding how we need to shift our roles in our classrooms. As it was essential for the success of the farm that everyone, including the young people, contribute, so too is this true in our classrooms. November posits that "the power of purpose and meaningful contribution has been missing from our classrooms and our youth culture for some time" (p. 5).
This rings so true for me.
Consider the rise of the maker movement.
It is a reflection of people's desire to "get real"--to make, to create, to produce. From arts and crafts to robotics and coding, maker fairs
are popping up in and out of schools to help us reconnect our lives in physical and productive ways. But November's point is not just about productivity. It is importantly about the power of purposeful and meaningful contribution, not just "look what I made", but "look how I have solved this problem."
The Big Question:
Will the work survive beyond the student's time in school?
When my youngest son was in grade eight (2007), he won the regional Heritage Fair
with his project on the historical architecture of homes on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. He built a replica of the buildings and mounted them on plywood. Later, the local museum requested to include the project in its display, and there the Heritage Fair Project remained until the museum renewed its exhibits.
Was this a terrific experience for the youngster? Absolutely.
Did the project solve a problem? Contribute to the knowledge of the world?
No. Once its usefulness as a static exhibit had run its course, the work became trash.
The issue, then, is one of curriculum design. How do I understand the curriculum expectations
through the Digital Learning Farm lens? How am I supporting students' development in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in a way that is purposeful and meaningful? This must be curriculum design that goes beyond having students write reviews for GoodReads
or construct comments for online news articles, beyond running a Today's Meet
back channel in class, beyond writing reflective blogs, and beyond writing essays or collaborative poems in Google docs.
This is curriculum design that fuses the gradual release of responsibility
, the student inquiry and deep questioning process
, the sophisticated integration of information and communication technology
, and November's concept of the Digital Learning Farm
This is curriculum design that breaks the traditional game of school.
Although #cyberpd has chunked chapters one and two together, I want to think through each of November's four roles for students and what they might look like in my classroom, so I will post a second entry on "The Student as Tutorial Designer" separately.
I look forward to reading what everyone else thought about this week's reading.
Thank you to Cathy
for hosting this week's #cyberpd blogs. Don't forget to stop by Jill
's blogs in the coming weeks to keep the discussion going!
Here is my potential list of reads for this summer. It is long, but I am an optimist. And these titles cover a range of topics. Diversity is the key here.
I will be focusing on thinking in all of my teaching next year and I have heard great things about Making Thinking Visible.
Next up, Notice & Note. I absolutely love annotation strategies that help students dive more deeply into texts. But there are always some students I don't seem to reach, and they continue to struggle to create meaning with the text. Notice & Note promises to support that during reading stage for grades 4 to 12 students, and of course, Kylene Beers' reputation in her previous work on reading precedes her.
Harvey and Daniel's Comprehension and Collaboration is a must read for anyone thinking about student inquiry.
I am intrigued by the maker space
movement that is emerging across the globe. I belong to a family of makers (long before it was chic). We build, bake, grow, construct, assemble, sew, and create , and I have in the past brought my predilection for making into my classroom. I am looking forward to adding to my repertoire with Invent to Learn
This book has been on my TBR list since in came out last spring. I have been inspired by November's videos
and his latest book will, I am sure, support my thinking about learning in the modern world.
I teach adolescents, many who struggle with the learning process. How can I resist giving Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain a go?
Love Dan Pink's interdisciplinary approach to life. I know he is a business writer by trade, but his ideas do crossover to education and our personal lives. As my children are growing up and moving away, I have looked for ways to keep us involved in each other's lives. Having a family book club is one thing that we do. To Sell is Human might be next on our list. I know educators are reading it, and I am hopeful that it will also appeal to the mechanic, the solider, the dancer, and the musician in the family.
These two books by Peter H. Johnston are on my list every summer as re-reads. Changing the way we speak to our kids and each other, and re-configuring our approach to learning takes time and it takes support. Each summer I take some time to reflect on Johnston's words and on how I am faring. From last summer...
on Opening Minds, first read
Create space and time for dialogue.
No rushing in with the answer,
allow uncertainty to feed wonder and discovery.
Make room for confusion in conversation.
Give it permission to spur dialogue,
to build collaborative thinking
to create knowledge
Remember that teaching changes worlds.
How will I know?
Listen to the students. What are they talking about?
There is the answer.
This past year we - a grade 2 teacher, a grade 5 teacher, a grade 6 teacher, and a literacy coach - joined the Ontario Ministry of Education's Leaders of Literacy Collaborative Inquiry for the first time. It took us a long time to get going....months in fact. We read and researched, and met and talked. What did our data tell us? What learning did we have? What were we genuinely curious about?
We knew that our students needed to think more deeply about the texts they read, view, and listen to. We thought about how much choice students had in our classrooms, and how engaged they were. Would students become intellectually engaged if we gave them more choice of tasks that were open, authentic, and meaningful? And really, how do we do that?
The above Glog houses evidence of the learning. Pictures, video, and Padlets all document the reading, writing, thinking, and reflecting that came out of the student inquiries. It also reflects our beginning efforts in less traditional pedagogical documentation.
But the most important evidence never even made the Glog.
Grade 5 teacher: I am going to a workshop tomorrow to share what you are learning.
Student: And you'll share your learning too?
Grade 2 teacher: Tomorrow I will be sharing our learning with other teachers.
Student: We should be coming with you because it is our learning.
And yesterday I received this email from the grade 2 teacher:
Guess what? I had a parent come in today to inform me that her daughter and another student in our class were hanging out together this past weekend. I guess they were observing baby chicks, asking questions among themselves and wondering which ones would be good inquiry questions. The mom was listening in and was so blown away that she had to come tell me. Awesome, eh???
I started teaching directly to digital citizenship this year in conjunction with the Flat Class Project
one of my colleagues was running in her leadership class. I also ran the same lessons, more or less, with a grade 6 and grade 8 class who participated in Global Read Aloud 2012
, I have to say that those lessons just scratched the surface of the conversations teachers have to have with students about navigating the social media landscape. The problem with that thinking is it assumes that the teachers understand the conversation themselves, and after witnessing a week dominated by intense back and forth discussion, critical questions, and deep reflection by educators who are well-traveled in the social media landscape, that thinking couldn't be farther from the truth.
That it is paramount for teachers to be involved in social media is clear to me, and I have been chipping away at their resistance to engaging in social media through holding Tweet chats and Google Hangouts for various book studies, and modeling the use of creation and curation tools in their classrooms. I need to do more though. I need to unpack the lessons learned from #ontsm and connect them to the curriculum. I need to demonstrate that this is not a stand alone lesson or unit. Rather, our consideration of social media must be woven throughout all of our teaching.
Here is some of what I've learned this week.
Social Media & the Curriculum
1. The importance of understanding the conventions of any text form.
2. Understanding the power of word choice. What is derogatory language and how can we ensure that the language we use is not hurtful or distracting?
3. Creating media products in all content areas to summarize and synthesize.
4. Incorporating critical literacy across the curriculum
5. Digital literacies (here I am referencing Doug Belshaw's work used in a prior post)
“Once we see that online texts are not exactly written or spoken, we begin to understand that cyber literacy requires a special form of critical
thinking. Communication in the online world is not quite like anything else.” Gurak (2001)
Evidence from #ontsm
The hashtag: why and how it's used. See Brian Harrison's explanation here.
Some language used in tweets and posts may have caused many to wince: "teen-like" and "coming out of the woodwork"Andy's Scoopit!
and Alanna's Storify
All of the posts and tweets surrounding the corporate agenda. But for me, especially Jane's comments on media literacy.
To recognize as Stepan
does that even in the social media landscape we are human and that relationships matter.
We need to pay attention to the inevitable gaps that appear in our 140 character conversations.
And finally...beyond what learning I can transfer into my practice from this social media conversation, I have questions about the process of consultation in educational change. One of the hottest topics in the province centres on student voice and inclusion, and yet in this conversation the issue of diversity did not venture beyond credentials. Did Pearson include the voices of minority populations? ELL? Special Education? First Nations? Rural? How can we work towards having not only a common curriculum in this province, but also common representation?
I have been thinking about constructing a post to introduce myself more officially to some Ontario educators I have met online for a few weeks now. This move is important because relationship, connection, and community is the be-all and end-all for me. Of course, it takes time for meaningful relationships to form, but at the very least we should be able to answer the basic question, "Who the heck is this person anyway?"
This is how one draft began...
I am a high school English teacher by trade, but as of 2010 I began working as the K-12 literacy coach for the Wikwemikong Board of Education
. I have spent many years teaching and learning about teaching in isolation. But I am not speaking of teachers closing the doors of their classrooms because I didn't. Nor am I speaking about being physically isolated as many First Nations schools are because we aren't.
Nope. I am referring to being professionally isolated from other educators, school boards, and the Ministry of Education itself. First Nations schools are federally funded and until very recently were not included in provincial initiatives. With the opportunity to connect face-to-face limited to the rare conference, we were left to our own devices to move our practice forward.
When I heard about Twitter, I immediately signed up. It was April 2009. However, without the connections to subject associations (the English Association is quite inactive), unions, or the ministry, I could not 'see' anything happening in education, so I moved on. I played around with Facebook in the classroom, certified as a Flat Classroom teacher
, and then ran into #etmooc
where I did begin to connect with Ontario educators. (This is the end of a draft post.)
To this point, my thinking in this post was really about how hard it can be to find people to connect with, who share enough of the same context as yours so that the engagement is meaningful and relevant. Through #flatclass
, I made lots of connections to educators both globally and nationally, and I appreciate the conversations I have with this part of my PLN, but I did wonder where my fellow Ontario educators were. #Ontsm
answered that question, and what I learned from a week of public thinking and reflecting on social media can be found here.