Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ECOO 2012 in Photos

I could've kicked myself - how could I attend the Education Computing Organization of Ontario annual conference and NOT bring my camera? Luckily, I brought my new iPad along with my laptop and I snapped a few shots during the afternoon. Here are a few to share.

This is a shot of Royan Lee's students playing on the GamingEdus server.
Here's Liam addressing the crowd at the beginning of the session.
I couldn't fit the whole scene in, but there a lot of people there.
Here's Denise explaining, while our creeper stalks her in the background!

The visitors were able to ride the rails to the Wolf Zone / PVP area!


Monday, October 29, 2012

ECOO 2012 - Learn in the NOW Century

As is tradition, here is my reflection on my experiences at the most recent ECOO conference. Thanks to all the organizers for another great educational experience. I'll post the (very few) photos I took in a separate post.

Educational Computing Organization of Ontario

“Learning in the NOW Century”

Conference Reflections by Diana Maliszewski


Friday October 26, 2012 8:30 a.m.

Learning, Meaning, and Values in the Age of the Data Map with Nora Young

Summary = The Friday opening keynote by @nora3000 dealt with information, privacy, and digital trails. Traffic was busy so I was unable to attend the talk but the talks are archived on www.ecoo.org . I was able to connect briefly with Diana Hong, a teacher at my school also attending the conference.  There were many other familiar faces at the conference that I was happy to see and speak with, albeit briefly.

Friday October 26, 2012 9:45 a.m.

Innovative or Novel with Shannon Smith and Brent Smith

Summary = These two principals from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board wanted to know how to create learning communities where creativity thrives. OCDSB surveyed their employees to see how was happy; some didn’t feel honoured & so the board worked on celebrating the ideas of folks in the Plant Division, for example. In their interactive session, we discussed the differences between innovation and novelty and shared ideas on how nurture creativity.

3 Key Points

·         When it comes to innovation & technology, remember that you can do old things in old ways, new things in old ways, or new things in new ways > strive for the  third option

·         Tinkering, aka PLAY is a gateway to meaningful transformation (play is not a process, it’s a way of being where uncertainty is celebrated, it’s intrinsically motivating, open to possibility, cooperative, adaptable to change) > see the TED talk by Beau Lotto and Amy O’toole

·         You don’t need permission to try and it’s okay to fail (failing is data about learning, not that you are a bad teacher); repurpose space, differentiate, try creative labs or student-led seminars

So What? Now What? = Clubs are a great way to nurture creativity but in the past I felt like I was inundated with requests to run many different clubs and teams – with the “creative labs” concept, multiple types of clubs could go on simultaneously (at J. H. Putnam P.S. their creative lab time is in the school library/lab space and they have 60-70 kids doing things like Minecraft, Glee Club, Photography, moving making, etc.). Once we are done with all this contract negotiations and we choose to run clubs again, this would free me up to offer more without sacrificing too much of my precious little time.


Friday October 26, 2012 11:00 a.m.

Inquiry, Innovation and ICT with Rick Budding and Brian Smith

Summary = Encouraging developing and facilitating student inquiry is key. The sessions shared “strategies for making inquiry central to learning tasks and look at ICT tools, templates, and techniques that classroom teachers and teacher-librarians can implement collaboratively as they guide student inquiry in a variety of elementary grade levels and subjects.”

3 Key Points

·         Move away from fact seeking and you can use IT tools for all four stages of the guided inquiry process (see OSLA T4L) > for instance, at the explore stage, use curation tools like Scoopit, Pinterest, Pearl Trees, Storify, Diego, Dropbox, etc.

·         If you have a Google account, you can create a customizable search engine (www.google.com/cse)

·         There are many options for the 4th stage of inquiry, think beyond the typical ones > for instance, Popcorn (described on a TED talk as dynamic remixable video), Kickstarter, Indigogo, Goodreads, Twitter, (fake) Facebook [Facebook doesn’t allow fake people accounts), Voicethread, etc.

So What? Now What? = I know and like both presenters. They were kind enough to give me and my ECOO session a shout-out during their talk. At times the list of possibilities was overwhelming (how do you choose?) but they tempered that with specific examples used in (Brian’s) classrooms. I’m working on a unit with my junior division students on how to determine if something online is true, and Brian’s reference to a “feline reaction to bearded men” website would be a great addition to my repertoire. I also want to check out the Marvel Superhero creation tool – I know many students that would love to use it.

Friday, October 26, 2012 1:15 p.m.

Play with TNT & Other Lessons from Minecraft with Liam O’Donnell, Diana Maliszewski & Denise Colby

Summary (excerpt taken from program description) = Join the GamingEdus, three TDSB teachers, as they talk about the successes and challenges behind their Multi-School Minecraft Server Project, a single virtual world open to selected low-performing TDSB students from three schools. Learn why Minecraft (and other video games) are ideal at teaching when schools seem to fait at it, get the basics on running your own Minecraft server and see how educators can use Minecraft in a student-led, inquiry-based approach that fosters authentic learning and critical thinking.

3 Key Points

·         Embrace games and learning but avoid gamification (gamification is the use of game design techniques and mechanics to enhance non-games)

·         Things like social etiquette, economics, architecture, reading, writing, all are learning experiences that came out of playing Minecraft – teachers didn’t go with these specific lessons planned, all came out of the experience of play > stories shared

·         If you want to try Minecraft with your students, you need to try it yourself (play is good for adults and kids alike) – lots of time was set aside during the presentation for people to play

So What? Now What? = As I’ve said before, it is difficult to objectively assess how well a session I’ve led has gone. The room was packed with people and the best part was that students that were there to present at a different workshop came in to play on our server and the computers we had set up. Liam, Denise and I met after the conference to reflect on our session. Our next steps involve creating business cards for the GamingEdus (people wanted to contact us to try playing later and promote our server), making clear the distinction between the Gaming Edus server and the EDGE Lab / Minecraft Club Hub server, bringing the creeper costume to future talks (it was a popular prop and PR tool) and holding another Open House in the near future.

Friday October 26, 2012 2:30 p.m.

Engaging at-risk boys through the use of video games by Jeff Pelich

Summary = This teacher uses video games regularly with his intermediate behaviour students. He shared several games that his students use, let volunteers play them, and showed how he connects the games to curriculum expectations, especially related to writing. Opportunities were also given for participants to brainstorm other ways these games could be used in the classroom.

3 Key Points

·         Many of the games Jeff uses are iPad games that they play as a group (he has 4 iPads & uses the SMART Board); he says it lessens their anxiety when the player has a supportive audience there to watch and help, and playing together works on the social skills many of his boys lack

·         http://jeffstechlinks.wikispaces.com is his website where you can find a list of all the games he uses / has used (like Plants vs Zombies, Fishing, Wipeout, Gehsundteit, Scribblenauts, etc.)

·         Playing games teaches the kids patience and engages them much more than other means (e.g. he used the game Mechanarium as a novel study)

So What? Now What? = I was a bit put-off at first by the presenter’s philosophy (“I’m not a gamer”) but agreed with many of his other points (e.g. edu-games aren’t as good as “real” games). Once I got home, I immediately downloaded Gesundheit (but was sad to learn that Mechanarium is only for iPad2 and newer). My son loves it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Annual Learning Plan pondering

The classroom teachers in my school have a lot of things due on/near the same day: focus student forms, DRA/CASI results, progress report cards, and personal annual learning plans. As a specialist teacher, this year's directive regarding focus students recommends that I choose a student already selected by a classroom teacher to support their observations and interventions. I don't have to worry about DRA/CASI and my media marks for the Grade 1-4s and technology comments for the Ks are not too onerous to complete. This leaves me with my annual learning plan, (ALP).

I've said this before but it bears repeating: I really admire Aviva Dunsiger, @avivaloca on Twitter. I read her blog regularly and was delighted to meet her last year in person at the ECOO conference because I discovered that she is just as nice in real life (IRL) as she seems to be online. Aviva takes her ALP very seriously and it guides a lot of her thoughts and actions. Here's just one example of Aviva thinking about her ALP as she switched grad assignments. 

I take my ALP pretty seriously as well. In fact, I took to Twitter to try and contemplate how to gather parent feedback that would inform my teaching. These are some of the responses I received.


These are all pretty good suggestions. In the end, I used www.ratemyteacher.com (I know it may not be an ideal source - there can be a lot of vitriol on the site and it's banned from accessing on my board's computers) but I wasn't convinced I could collect authentic responses from parents in such a short time frame. (The ALPs are due at the end of October.)

Another aspect of the ALP that I thought long and hard about this weekend while writing it was my goal. A comment by one of my students led me to switch gears.

Remember that success inquiry I'm embarking on with my grade 7-8s? In ICT class one day, I had just finished explaining about the concept of a personal bank account and metaphorical withdrawals and deposits, as outlined in the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers. I was feeling pretty content about how the lesson had proceeded, when an ESL student came up to me and asked what exactly they were supposed to do. Ouch! In my enthusiasm for the task, I totally forgot to consider my English language learners. Although I had used the blackboard as well as oral instructions to explain the task, it still wasn't scaffolded enough for the ESL students to comprehend significantly enough to attempt the job.

That interaction made me realize that I need to set a teaching/learning goal for myself that is very practical and will help my students achieve success (and wasn't that part of the unit's goal to begin with?) I realize that I have a lot of goals I want to accomplish this year, but I settled on two major ones. (I base my goals on two of the three primary roles of the teacher-librarian: instruction and leadership.)

Professional Growth Goal #1: Work on a cross-Canada literacy research project (on whether or not student choice awards influence reading engagement in students) and participate in new presentation opportunities; in-school leadership will focus on enhancing communication by students (TLCP) and my own as well as continued personal exploration of Games Based Learning. (Leadership Role)

Professional Growth Goal #2: Focus on accommodating and modifying library, ICT, media, and dance/drama lessons for ELL students, through advanced planning instead of just-in-time alterations. (Instructional Role)

Some of the ways I plan on achieving these goals involve conference attendance. This coming week will be the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) conference. I'll share my insights in next week's blog post.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The director is coming! The director is coming!

Next Monday, our board's director of education will be visiting my school. At our admin team meeting, I asked if there was anything special we needed to do to prepare for his arrival. My principal reassured me that we should just be who we usually are and not do anything out of the ordinary. He said he did not want to turn the director's tour into "a dog and pony show".

I agree with and understand my principal's position but it's difficult not to pull out all the stops when special guests enter the school. When I had my last Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA), I arranged for my last principal to see the culminating task for one of my favourite collaboratively taught units - the NADCAA auction after our Grade 4 research study on Canada's natural resources. Although it is not necessarily indicative of the type of daily activities I undertake, it is a better observation of what my students are capable of as learners and what I am capable of as an instructor/facilitator.

I realize that he will only be in the building for an hour or so and it's not a TPA scenario, but I thought I'd list three things I wish my director could see in my school library.

1) My Primary classes working on their TV shows

The folders contain our related media texts.
I teach media literacy to all the K-4 classes. The Grade 1-4 students have been working on creating a TV show that we plan on posting to YouTube. The purpose (or main message) of our shows is to teach viewers a simple definition of media. This unit was inspired by Colin McCauley (@cmcauley on Twitter) who asked me if my action-filled definition was available in video form. The students and I have realized that it takes a large group of people a pretty long time to produce a TV show. They've also realized how crucial writing is - we could not begin anything until we had a script in hand and this script (along with the directors'/producer's vision) guides the various decisions that must be made with everything from wardrobe choices to camera angles. Each group selected a different method of filming their TV show, and we are now at the exciting phase where the groups are preparing to film. For instance, on Friday, the wardrobe, makeup, and prop departments for a Grade 2-3 class were busy creating Media Man's logo for his superhero suit and spikes for Bowser's shell, while I helped the camera crew, directors, and actors in the same class practice their scenes. I'm delighted when I hear the students say "Is it media time? I looooove media class!" I hope my director could see the level of engagement and teamwork.

2) My students using Minecraft

One of the classes that have media with me chose to use Minecraft as the vehicle for their production. I had some trouble with opening the LAN so the students could build the sets needed for the show and one day, a recent graduate came by to volunteer. He showed me how to get the LAN connection to work and changed all the character skins to match the requirements of the screenwriters and wardrobe crew. Word must have spread because the next day, three of our former Minecraft Club members that are now in Grade 9 were waiting after school to see if I needed any Minecraft-related "help". Although Minecraft Club is "paused" right now, I wish the director could see the incredible creations our students build while in Minecraft.

Technascribe built this medieval church in our GamingEdus server.
3) Book Selection during Book Exchange

Book exchange is often boring to watch. I tell my students that if we only did book exchange during our library time without lessons, then they wouldn't need a teacher-librarian with the training I have. However, there are times where it would be lovely to have people witness what occurs during some book exchanges. Public librarians call some of these moments "Reader Advisory" - that time when someone approaches and asks for a recommendation. Then there's the conversations that occur about how to find desired books (which often lead to individual review lessons on the online catalogue) or on whether or not students are permitted to borrow certain books (which they then reference the strategies list for selecting books on a semi-permanent bulletin board). These kinds of interactions happen when I have a library assistant or one of my adult volunteers manning the circulation desk, leaving me free to circulate myself and be available. I wish that the new shelving unit we ordered for our graphic novels would be there for his visit, to showcase the great collection of comics we own - I suspect we have the largest collection of graphic novels in any elementary school in our board (and this wasn't noticed by the team that conducted our District Review, to my chagrin) - but maybe seeing the students rush to this area, cobbled together with tables and metal stands, will show that our school still has needs as well as successes to share.

I've been working with my students on articulating what and why they are learning, related to our division inquiry questions (on control for primaries, truth for juniors, and success for intermediates). We'll see how it goes next Monday.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Learning Goals Samples Part 4

More learning goals examples - this is a hall display near the Grade 1-2 class. It accompanies the language and art work they posted after their trip to Downsview Park.

Here's another listening-related learning goal - this is in a Grade 6 class, if I remember correctly. I like the little symbols drawn next to the words.

Here's ANOTHER couple of learning goals and success criteria (notice they don't always have to be labelled "Learning Goal" and "Success Criteria"). This comes from a kindergarten class. The left side is about listening and the right side is about tidying. Once again, there are little drawings to help with comprehension.

This is one that I worked on in a dance-drama class for Grade 1-2s. I respected the ideas the kids brought forth - for instance, I felt that changing pitch, volume, and speed are all elements of how to make your character's voice different from your original voice. It's also missing something that it's hard to capture. We have done several different tasks and referred back to this chart. During one class where my intent was to provide detailed descriptive feedback, the students had to converse with me as if they were a toy I placed in their laps and we sat right in front of the anchor chart while doing it. When the students wrote 3 clues for their "Who Am I" task and then we recorded them reading it in their character's voice, we picked some of the best ones and justified our opinions by using the chart.

Here's a sample from an intermediate classroom, on accountable talk. I was delighted to see this because it tied so nicely with my Grade 7-8 inquiry question: what is success and how can I attain it?

People have posted a couple of new learning goals so I'll have enough for a final installment of "learning goal samples". Don't get too accustomed to daily Monday Molly Musings, okay?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Learning Goals Samples Part 3

I didn't expect that I'd have three days worth of material to share on this topic, but learning goals and success criteria are very popular teaching strategies in Ontario right now. I hope these images help people see what real-life examples are like. They aren't perfect, because they are co-created by children and teachers, but I think they can show a variety of methods and presentation styles.

Our primary division teachers try very hard to teach similar units and use similar language, so a student in Grade 2 in Room 115 gets a similar educational experience to the Grade 2 student in either Room 116 or Room 117. On Monday I shared the art learning goal from a Grade 1-2 class. Here's one on the same topic of line art from the Grade 2-3 class.

 The primary division teachers noticed that our new Grade 1s sometimes have difficulties finding safe and fun activities to do at recess. (In kindergarten, their snack time is in the class and free time means there are bins of toys and centers to visit.) This is a social learning goal in Grade 1-2, with different options - don't worry, they don't have to complete them all in just one recess!
Here is a follow-up learning goal about recess conduct, complete with photos of the types of desirable behaviour.

Wow, all of my samples today come from the Grade 1-3 classes!
Here is another language-focused learning goal, a huge one for early writers. This is posted in a Grade 1-2 class. I'm sure the teacher has (or will) talk about alternatives to the period such as question marks or exclamation marks - and that's how success criteria can be modified as the students learn more.

Here's a retell learning goal mixed with art! The children read a version of "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" and used their art props to retell the narrative. This one has only two success criteria and has been modified by the red words "to a friend". There's no hard and fast rule about how many points need be in your success criteria - as long as it's not too many! More photos coming tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning Goals Samples Part 2

As promised, here are some more samples of learning goals and success criteria from the various classes in my school. Once again, I won't spend time critiquing them - instead, I'll describe the grade and context.

This is from a kindergarten class and, unlike the one I posted yesterday, I can read a few of the pixelated words. The title is "Readers Respect" and their goal is stated as "We are learning how to read." The lower right criteria says "I can look at the pictures and words." The lower left says "I can be gentle with the book ..." - okay, so much for being able to read my privacy-protected photo!

I admit, I still get retells and recounts mixed up in my head.
This is a recount writing goal in a Grade 1-2 class. The interesting thing is to compare this with the next two images, of a recount writing goal created by another class, and of a retell writing goal. The retell and recount learning goals with the coloured words are from a Grade 2-3 class, and the retell is from the same Grade 1-2 class that this recount came from.

Looks like I'll try to do five photos per day. More coming on Wednesday!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A School full of Learning Goals

Happy Thanksgiving Canadian readers! I am thankful for many things and today's post will mention several of the people and things I am so grateful to have in my life.

I attend the CSAC (Catholic School Advisory Council) meetings held by my children's school and at the last one, I was elected the Parent Council Chair. "Elected" is a misnomer - it's a very small school and since the other three parents had already had a turn at the helm, I agreed to do it this year. I really like the principal my children have - she's caring and honest, two very good traits. She said that her teachers were beginning to use learning goals and success criteria, and I offered to share any resources I could obtain that might help.

I am lucky to work at a school filled with very hard-working professionals. We've had Professional Learning Communities long before they were mandatory. We are fortunate to have great access to technology (everyone has a SMART Board in their room) and we've been employing learning goals and success criteria anchor charts for several years. I decided that the easiest way to provide some real-life examples of learning goals and success criteria was to wander my school, digital camera in hand, and take photographs of the different examples I could find. To the best of my knowledge, all of these learning goals and success criteria lists were co-created with the students. With each picture, I'll briefly describe the grade, the location of this chart/display, and any other relevant details.

 The first two learning goals you'll see here are for lining up.
The first one was co-made with Grade 5 students who are now in Grade 6. I was the teacher that made this anchor chart with them, after a particularly long time spent waiting for a decent line. The classroom teacher has this chart on her easel and still refers to it.
I'm not going to criticize any of the learning goals / success criteria except for the ones I made; I did not think it would be fair to ask for work samples and then dissect them for imperfections - would you volunteer your things if that was the result? If I were to do this chart again, I'd be tempted to ask illustrations, because even though it's a Grade 5 (now 6) class, there are ELL students that could use the visual clues, like the ones in the line up example #2 below.
I pixelated the display to protect the identities of the students shown. This kindergarten teacher likes to use photographs of her students demonstrating the trait or criteria she is discussing. Just in case you can't read the text alongside the photos ... well, a little technical "oopsie" on my part meant I didn't save the original photo, so I can't read it myself. I'll post the proper text as a comment to this entry.

This sample focused on art in a Grade 1-2 class. The Long Term Occasional teacher in this room told me that in her previous school, nothing was allowed up on a bulletin board unless it had a learning goal and success criteria attached! I think that might be a bit extreme but I can understand the motivation behind the edict. 

I've read, both in my Tribes TLC (R) book and in the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens that listening is a skill we often presume people have but rarely teach. This is a sample chart from a Grade 2-3 class.

The Teaching Learning Critical Pathway that the junior-intermediate division is undertaking as part of our Professional Learning Community has to do with communicating effectively in math class, especially during math congress. We just completed our pre-assessment piece and I think the group used a very creative and helpful method to examine the level of clear communication from the students. They used their Flip video cameras to video tape their students (especially our focus students) as they explained how they came up with their solution. It was very insightful to hear the actual words students said and the actions they used (such as pointing to certain parts of their written work) to clarify. This is a learning goal / success criteria found in a Grade 6 class.

I realized that with all the photos and explanations I have, this needs to be a multi-day post, broken into chunks so each example can be highlighted. Watch for Part 2 of a "A School Full of Learning Goals" on Tuesday.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Badged Myself & Failed

One of the areas in my life that I need to improve on is my level of physical exercise. I used to play on my Wii Fit, long ago, but my long hours working on my Masters of Education final paper in 2010 ate up the time I devoted to exercise and I still struggle to make it part of my routine. My parents bought me a treadmill last Christmas and I walk on it sporadically but I wanted to make it a habit. I decided to try and use a technique many other people swear by to see if it would inspire me to use the treadmill regularly. I "badged" myself. For every day that I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill, I'd give myself a sticker in my agenda. It'd be great to look at my agenda and have a visual reminder of all the success and devotion to a daily physical regime, right? Well, here's my agenda for September.

Just in case you didn't notice, last week was totally blank. I had a Catholic School Advisory Council meeting on Monday, so I skipped Monday. We had to take the chinchillas to the vet on Tuesday, so I didn't bother with Tuesday. The excuses and the blank spots just kept piling up until the week was over and I hadn't climbed on the treadmill at all. I guess I didn't really care that much about having all those cute turtles sprinkling my book. I read on Cracked, a humour website with a lot of insight, that bad habits are particularly hard to break and that it can take two months of doing the preferred behaviour daily before it sinks in and becomes routine. No time off for good conducts, no sir. Willpower is a finite resource and using extrinsic rewards isn't a guarantee that it will continue. I don't mind being on the treadmill once I'm there, but getting me to turn it on and climb on is the hard part.

What does that mean for our students? Ten weeks of daily practice isn't always feasible, because we've got those weekends in between the school days. How can we instill good habits (such as daily reading) if bad habits are so hard to break? Reward badges didn't work for me, and I recall the trials of toilet training my children, which proved to me that rewards didn't necessarily work for my own children either. (I vaguely recall my daughter telling me "Grandma will just buy me what I want anyways.") Intrinsic motivation is a tough thing to develop - any tips, folks?