Phipps Files

Live. Laugh. Love. Learn

Getting to know you November 8, 2011

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The further we get into this class, the more I feel like I am getting to know everyone. However, I am finding this connection weaker than if we were in a class together physically. I wonder whether we wouldn’t know each other better if we physically sat at the same tables in a class once a week. I realize that part of getting to really know one another is based on how much we all individually share and that perhaps for sharing purposes in education, it isn’t necessary to know one another on such a personal level. However, I do know that we are human, we all have “things” going on in our lives. In our class, we have pregnancies, new babies being born, people with health issues and perhaps even people going through divorce or other heartache that we don’t even know about. For some reason, on a personal and social basis, this bothers me. It is disturbing to me that these great and not-so-great things are happening and we are not “there” for one another. I don’t know the answer to this question either. I have gained a lot from this group of people and I guess it is just troublesome that we aren’t a community; there for one another. It’s weird for me to think that we are all living our lives and we have affected one another, yet we really don’t know each other or what’s happening d the computer. Thoughts?


Who’s YOUR teacher? November 3, 2011

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Sharing by bengrey, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  bengrey 

Our session with Dean Shareski had me intrigue and interested before it even started. I had seen loads of tweets and comments about this Dean Shareski guy. In fact the day before the presentation, I asked Honni “who is this guy?” All I knew was that people respected his opinion and were quoting him and tweeting about him.

When I saw that our discussion would be about sharing, the first thing that came to mind was the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. I often find myself quoting this book to my students and in my parenting. I also used it last year in my administrative address to our grade eights at farewell. I was very happy to see Dean using this book in his presentation, with the emphasis obviously being on sharing.

One of the very first lessons we teach our children as parents is to share. Share your books, share your toys, share with friends and siblings. I knew this was a learning lesson but I never thought of sharing as learning that continues. This is a powerful statement and really struck me!

apple tree growth by _foam, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  _foam 
And, I can’t believe that I never really thought about the fact that when we teach we are SHARING our knowledge. It leads me to wonder then why it is so hard for teachers- maybe just some teachers- to share ideas, units and lessons. I think that in years past this profession has mainly been done in isolation. Teachers maybe felt like they were on their own little island just trying to survive. Now with the introduction of PLCs and PLNs as well as technology for sharing, we teachers need to wrap our minds around the fact that this professions should be about sharing our knowledge not only with our students but with all students, parents, teachers and community members. I am excited by the idea of setting up a youtube video where I am teaching a lesson in French that I can then share with those who see its usefulness. I am even more excited by those who are willing to share with me!
Earlier this week, I had a discussion with a friend and colleague, who teaches kindergarten about her sharing. You see, I consider her an AMAZING kindergarten teacher ( I am secretly wishing and praying every night that she gets assigned to my son’s school for September when she is off maternity leave) and I think a lot of other people appreciate her knowledge and wisdom as well. She was saying she found it strange to return to her daughter’s kindergarten class as a parent helper to see that the stations being done were her creation. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She was honoured that people valued her work enough to use it but yet for some reason because it was here creation there was this sense of privacy or ownership. I explained to her that I thought it was an honour to have so many teachers using her creations. I said she should think of it as her having a hand in educating all the kindergarten students using her materials. I think this helped her and I think it is helping me when I think about sharing. I am hoping to try to promote this sort of belief among our division’s schools. Just need to figure out how and when!
I also enjoyed the part of Shareski’s presentation when he started talking about filters. We have a need to connect to others. This connection is now often being made though the use of social media. One of the complaints I often hear from friend, family, and collegues is that there is too much to read and too much information being shared. This is a negative factor of social media for some and at times results in people not using these great tools. I love the idea of building and using our own filters. We should share all that we want and the readers then can filter all they want. I have learned on twitter and facebook, that it is not necessary for me to read every single post but rather learn what is important to me and read what I NEED. At our staff meeting this week, I began using the word filter to help colleagues realize that we can be choosy about what we read and what we subscribe to. This may even mean that we are filtering whom we follow. If we don’t care about the Kardashian sisters, then don’t follow them. I am trying to encourage and demonstrate how useful these sites can be if used for the desired use.
We also discussed the concept of feedback. When blogging, Shareski says that commenting on blogs is just as important as posting on your own blog. I never really thought about this until my class started their own blogs. The students were definitely more interested and intrigued when others posted on their blog. I think they took comments as some sort of validation. I guess I do too. You know you have written a good post when others feel compelled to comment back! It is so interesting to me to share this experience with my students, knowing that I, as an adult learner, am just as excited (and sometimes giddy) as they are with their learning. Tomorrow, when my students and I discuss their next posts, I want to let them know what Shareski shared with us-  a comment or post is just the beginning of a conversation. It needs to be enticing and intriguing! I also like the imagery that one comment can be like a pebble in a pond.
At the end of our discussion, Shareski listed why we share. Here are his ideas:
– to build community
– to reciprocate
– because I’m lazy
– because reinventing the wheel is dumb
– because you never know
– to make something better
– to learn
As I finish this blog, a day after I started it, I am left wondering where and how do you share?

Weeds are taking over October 25, 2011

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Rented rototiller by jpmiller, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  jpmiller 

Tonight, we had the privilege of listening to and discussing with Dave Cormier on Rhizomatic education. He began by asking us why we educate students. My answers were: we educate for the future, for our benefit and the children’s, to develop creative thinking & problem solving, to open new doors and new possibilities. Cormier stated that all these ideas of teaching a prescribed curriculum means that someone needs to decide on the outcomes of learning. So, who gets to decide on the outcomes and how do we decide? Personally, in my teaching the outcomes are decided upon by the Ministry of Education. I work with outcomes every day. In fact, we are so focused on learner outcomes that we are now working with the backwards planning model, which emphasizes picking the outcome first and basing teaching and learning on the outcome.  To me this implies that the outcome is completely out of the learner’s proverbial hands! Therefore, I really don’t think this is what Cormier is encouraging us to do in education. More on this in a moment.

Cormier stated there are 3 types of people or learners: the workers, the soldiers and the nomad. Workers by nature understand and obey the system. Soldiers defend the status quo and try to replicate the system we have while Nomads are the creative thinkers. These are the people able to do the investigating, divergent thinking and hopefully change the world. These are the learners who challenge the answers! These people are purposed and mindful discoverers. Immediately, I knew this wasn’t me! How sad. I am totally a worker. I like to know what to do, how to do it etc etc. Cormier stated that we (society, teachers etc) slowly start to eliminate creativity in our children and in students. Again how sad to think that I am part of the stifling of creative, imaginative young minds. For me, it comes back to creating a safe, respectful environment where the students (and I) are comfortable to explore, create, and make mistakes. This means that as a teacher, it is important for me to be the mentor and not the knowledge keeper. I also try to remember this when working with my intern this year. It is definitely a fine balance giving enough feedback as a mentor and learner myself and pulling away to let the lessons be learned themselves. I caught myself thinking about this today in Social Studies as I tried to explain the role of an Elder in educating the youth. There are lessons and stories shared that have been part of oral tradition and history for hundreds of years, but at times, the young ones must be allowed and encouraged to learn a lesson for themselves.

I do believe in education, at least in my division, we are moving away from the memorization model of school where the “best” or “smartest” students were those who could retain and regurgitate facts. We no longer look for a student able to repeat facts, but rather students who can apply their knowledge in an applicable way to become someone different. When thinking about old vs. new ways that we try to teach, I always think back to my math education. I could subtract multiple digit numbers like nothing. However, I never really understood why I was doing it. The concept of place value when dealing with ones and tens never clicked. It is sad to say that I really didn’t have anyone communicate this concept to me well enough to grasp it until I was in my teens! I would like to believe that had I had the opportunity to explore subtraction, I may have actually understood what I was doing.

A rhizome is a plant that will basically take over the whole garden. He says they are aggressive, chaotic and resilient. They are difficult to contain and they follow their own paths. This is how our learners  should be. They should be allowed and encouraged to make noise, try new things and follow their own learning journeys. I have tried to take on this attitude towards learning, especially in science. I gave the topic of the water cycle and directed the students to start learning. They have found definitions, led discussions on the various states of matter and are building a 3D model of the water cycle. It is most definitely chaotic and loud but there is no doubt that learning- their own learning- is taking place. Now if only I could actually envision how this works in all subject areas.I really appreciated when Cormier stated the community becomes the course. The learning that takes place and how it takes place should be based on the students. At a basic level, I am not going to teach the kids how to add 2 digit numbers if they have mastered this skill. I really want to know what they want/need to learn and teach to them. That being said, I have realized that this (me teaching, them learning) is not very rhizomatic. It should be more so me mentoring and allowing them to find their own path. Hmmm… still thinking on the balance of this one. It does however bring me back to that Canadian Heritage Moment when I was a kid of the medium is the message. See if you see the similarities here.

Ironically enough the first line is talking about technology sucking the brain right out of the skull.

Lastly, it really resonated with me when Cormier stated that moments of knowing- really knowing and having learned something- change the person. Learning should be a process of becoming or of coming to understand. Since we are all different, and to our learning we bring different baggage, our knowledge must not be considered outside of us, but rather must become part of us. In my head, I am anticipating all the resistance. Not because I do not believe in this, but rather I know so many people will be the soldiers discussed earlier. In the end, Cormier says that there will be resistance but that new ways and new responsibilities are not easy. This is learning!

I am going now to rototill everything I know and try to find a nomad roaming some rhizome…