Phipps Files

Live. Laugh. Love. Learn

Success November 24, 2011

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As this class comes to a close, I am, like a lot of classmates, saddened by the end.  As I have posted on some blogs, I take this as my beginning. I have learned so much, and especially since I am now done my Master’s, I can’t wait to apply this new learning. For my major digital project, I wanted to get my students involved in Social Media, and therefore decided to get them blogging as well. With a lot of bumps (and bruises on my part) I have this blog page up and running. At one point, I posted a blog about success (which really served as an outline for the students next assignment). Most of the students completed this assignment and had great thoughts, ideas and opinions to share. But here is success to me. I have a student who is difficult to motivate and get his assignments done. However, he loves technology and has really come a long way in the few short weeks I have encouraged him to bring his laptop to school. Here is success. I think by reading his blog post, you will understand.


Echoing some similar thoughts November 22, 2011

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As I think about last week’s session with Alan Levine and the amazing Storytelling tools he shared with us, I find myself echoing some of the same thoughts as classmates. At first, I was ecstatic that there were so many great tools and so well organized. I cannot wait to use so many of them with my students. But, at the same time, with this time of year, final projects, report cards, interviews, internship block, 2 kids, cruise to plan, it seems like I am running out of time. However, I can honestly say this is the most useful class I have taken in my whole Master’s program. I know that even when this class is over, I will continue to blog, read others’ blogs, track with Delicious, tweet and share, as well as use these new tools with my students. Like Chelsi, I have started creating a list of ways in which I can use certain tools with my curriculum and class. I  know I have said this before too but I LOVE that I can use these tools with my French Immersion class and it will definitely serve as motivation. I even have my class blogging in French. To check out our page, click here.


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…


Step 2 October 24, 2011

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Today, the students did their very first blog post- About me. At this point I am still screening all posts and approving all comments as well. One thing I am struggling with is the spelling, grammar and structure of the student posts. I don’t know how far I need to correct them before they post. Some students have few mistakes and others have so many I can’t understand what they are saying. I know this will be worse in French! Instead of submitting the blog, I am just going to have them raise their hands and I will read so they can make corrections right then and there. I don’t like having to read the post and email the student changes. I do know that I can make corrections and revisions, but at the same time I do not feel like this is my job, my place or helping the students learn. I am wondering what other teachers do for their blogging students?

I took some pictures today of my students (as seen above with permission from his parent). They were so engaged! After blogging, we used the computer for Science. The students needed to find 3 French definitions and examples. It was really nice to see them doing research in French and working together to create working definitions. I am definitely going to have to get them all set up and used to using google docs because the panic at the end of the class to save the Word document and then email it home to themselves is just too ridiculous.

Presently, I have two laptop carts in my room with 26 computers charging. I know I am supposed to share with the school but if no one else books them out, I might just house them permanently!


Everyone’s talkin’ ’bout it October 8, 2011

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson by stevegarfield, on Flickr
Most recently I have been very dissatisfied and quite disturbed by my regular radio station, Z99. I am noticing more and more, especially with my children, that their music is typically sexually explicit and very inappropriate for children and youth alike. The other day my four year-old, who remembers and repeats everything, told me that he heard damn, bitch and ass on the radio. Great! Therefore I have resigned myself to either listening to Raffi or CBC radio.

Tribute to Michael Jackson (Wallpaper) by guidosportaal, on Flickr

Today, I decided to improve my French skills and listen to Radio- Canada. I was honestly a little shocked that the radio show to which I had tuned in was discussing Web 2.0. That’s right. Everyone’s talkin’ ’bout it! I also have to admit that at times, I found myself lost in the technology lingo. I don’t often speak tech in French. The topic of conversation was digital eulogies. More specifically, thanks to Web 2.0, how we are able to participate in tributes to those who have passed and to acknowledge their importance to us. We are in essence creating a community of mourners. Specific examples of this are when Michael Jackson, Jack Layton and of course more recently Steve Jobs passed away.

The disk jockey put the question out: How did you commemorate Steve Jobs using Web 2.0? Here are some of the most common answers:

– saw that he died on my iphone, which is a tribute to him!

– sent tweets out on twitter

– posted a status update on facebook

– watched youtube videos of him, and quoted his sayings

I have to admit that I did not even know who Steve Jobs was until he died. *Insert horrified GASP here.* I know this is probably ridiculous to some, but please keep in mind I am relatively new to this whole Web 2.0 world and until a month and a half ago did not even own an apple product. I do now appreciate who this man was and all the many things he did for us. Thanks to twitter and facebook, I was able to learn very quickly who he was and what that means to society. This was my tribute to him- new knowledge, appreciation and now application of his tools.

My first question to all of you, is how did you commemorate  or pay tribute to Steve Jobs?

At the end of the radio show, there was a brief discussion about twitter. It was more like tips about twitter. There was something about ffs? I think this was explained as Friday follows. If anyone knows anything more about this, let me know.

Secondly, the speaker said users should limit the amount of people they follow. He said that if you follow too many people the conversations get missed and so does meaning due to lack of context.

Lastly, he said that all users should share, advise and inform but leave room for retweets. Now that I am more knowledgeable and comfortable with twitter, and would love any other pointers or suggestions.


Web 2.0 October 2, 2011

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Another coincidence in my learning happened today when the second article I noticed in the Middle School Journal was dealing with Web 2.0 applications in the classroom. I find it interesting that the article calls the children of today, digital natives, meaning that they have grown up using digital technology on a daily basis. It is in fact a natural part of their lives. The article states that most teachers ask students to “power down” when entering a classroom because we do not incorporate this natural part of their lives into the daily routine of learning and communicating in the class. The article goes on to discuss some of the benefits of Web 2.0 applications as well as look at two concrete examples in a middle school environment.

Here are some of the advantages to using Web 2.0 technologies:

– they combine face-to-face interactions with the virtual world

– they are versatile, affordable and widely available

– they allow educators to infuse digital literacy experiences into their classroom

– they allow active involvement of the participants

The first teacher in this article uses a wiki as a forum for discussion, thoughts, and opinions about books the students have read independently. This is an advanced English class for grade 8. The students involved loved this experience and found it beneficial to their learning. Some benefits mentioned by students were that the wiki was fast and easy, it was fun, it let them see each other’s feelings, it’s more open, they all get a chance to say something and using technology helps them learn better. These seem like great responses to the project. I really feel like this is something that I could do in my class (with a little help from my IT department of course!).

The second class is a group of students who were struggling with reading and needed help to achieve a higher level of reading comprehension. The project was much the same except that all literature was read together in class as opposed to independently in the first class. Prompts were posted on the wiki. The first few discussions were held in class and once students got the hang of it, the next discussions were held at home. In both classes, the primary focus is on helping the students make personal connections to the text.

The great thing, in my opinion, is that students are enabled to answer higher level questions about their literature AND actual conversation builds from their responses leading them to go back and forth with their opinions and thoughts. The wikis were also used later with debate questions where the students had to choose a side. As the debate continued online, students either cemented their opinions or changed them based on arguments posted by classmates.

It is amazing to me how wikis, and technology in general, can help open up discussion and incite participation on behalf of all students. Even those who are typically shy or withdrawn in class have the opportunity to express their feelings and opinions in a safe and fun environment. The idea that everyone has the opportunity to be an ACTIVE participant is awesome for me as a teacher.

Lastly, the article outlines some great ideas of how to establish rules and guidelines with the students about appropriate social networking. Even included is an example of a student contract (that I may or may not have photocopied for future use). This contract outlines the responsibilities for teachers, students, and parents for online participation.

I am left feeling very motivated to try some of these activities with my own grade 8s and I love that these ideas are easily transferable to French Immersion!