Monday, April 29, 2013

OTLCC Conference

Twitter has been abuzz this weekend because of the Pearson Canada's Ontario Social Media Summit. Andrew Campbell has an excellent blog post about it, complete with many comments and discussion. I was at another conference in Stratford, Ontario. The Ontario Tribes Learning Community Consortium Conference was a three-day event but I was only able to attend on Saturday, April 27, 2013. This convention may not have the same clout that the #ontsm or #gafesummit (Google Apps for Education Summit in Waterloo the week prior to this) would have, but I wanted to share my notes, my photos, and my learning as I continue to process it all. (I may spread this post over a couple of days, to share photos that might not fit the words or include other reflections.)

Ontario Tribes Learning Community Consortium

Welcome and Inclusion Activity by Linda Groen / Melanie Douglas

We used the strategy "What's In Your Wallet" with a new twist: you can share an item in your wallet/purse or from your cell phone. I was pleased to meet Justin, a classroom teacher turning administrator from the Durham District School Board, Laura and Sherry who traveled all the way from Fort Francis to attend.

Keynote Address by Barrie Bennett

SUMMARY: Barrie's topic was Effective Group Work, Beyond Cooperative Learning. Barrie likes to tell stories to get his points across. He described his first cooperative lesson (taught in 1982) which bombed spectacularly, and joked that he's probably gone through the Tribes training more than any other individual (6 times - the 1st time he didn't like it [because as a secondary teacher, the passion he had for his teaching subjects weren't honoured in the training], the 2nd time he got it, and the 3rd time he said that Tribes didn't get it).

  • cooperative learning is not a strategy; it is a belief system about how kids learn and it's a complex system to understand and implement (so much so that Bennett attends workshops as a participant so he can learn more about cooperative learning) > e.g. jigsaw is a strategy and cooperative learning is a concept
  • less powerful methods are crucial to more powerful processes > you cannot do problem-based learning or inquiry learning in a class that lacks inclusion and influence (Tribes allows us to push processes to more complex thinking while building safe spaces, Tribes strategies connect to non-Tribes tasks like concept attainment and makes them work better, and connects to other methods / ideas like Johnson, Kagan, and Bloom)
  • Even the youngest of children can play with complex processes and work at all six stages/levels of Blooms Taxonomy; it is the adults, the teachers, that are the problem 
SO WHAT? NOW WHAT? There were a lot more points than just 3! I loved how Barrie taught while he talked. He demonstrated how mutual respect is played out in so many ways, by simply contrasting a pointed finger at a student to an open-hand invitation to a open-palm gesture that includes multiple people. He had us do an activity where we did a jigsaw-type task (brainstormed attributes of effective group work through a think-pair-share, then examine and chose our top three, then marked ourselves on "equal voice", and afterwards shared with a Marco Polo-esque motion [A stays, B strays], followed by a return to the home group to re-examine our top 3 list and then evaluate the strengths and make suggestions to improve the lesson plan he delivered). It made me want to ensure I used certain strategies with purpose, deliberately choosing what and how to do certain activities. I need to be intentional (and label) when I want to push to a higher level of thinking. I think I need a copy of Blooms posted in my library. 


Illustrating why co-op learning isn't a strategy

Blooms Taxonomy, in case I forget again!

The argument to support PLCs: skill augment & transfer

Side A are strategies where you decide, Side B are pre-ordained thinking levels

Breakout Session #C3: Teaching and Assessing Learning Skills Using the Tribes Process by Meaghan Muir, Sherryl Tuttle, Andrea Brown, and Anita Macdougall

SUMMARY: The Growing Success document sent some teachers into a tailspin, because it changed how we were supposed to write report cards and examine learning skills. These four teachers from the same school were part of a team that used Tribes to help everyone teach and assess learning skills.

  • Learning skills are not character traits - we must examine how we are teaching learning skills and where we get the data to support the evaluation we provide on the report card (e.g. in their report cards, they directly cite strategies like community circle, I messages, etc. in their comments)
  • Using a version of "I used to ... And now I", the participants used stickers to rank where they would be on the report card for learning skills as a child and as an adult - this led to some deep discussion (e.g. it's okay for teachers to share that they have a goal area themselves [like for organization "I'm a piler, not a filer" but important to demonstrate to students what strategies and supports you can put in place to help you grow)
  • This has been a 4 year process for this team and they are still toying with it. They examine which collaborative skill will help them get to a particular learning skill, and examine the possible causes why someone might be struggling to improve in a certain learning skill (e.g. if I am weak on collaboration, is it because I don't listen enough? because I want to be the boss? because I want others to take the lead?)
SO WHAT? NOW WHAT? I was very pleased with this break out session. Everything the group of presenters did demonstrated that they understood the Tribes principles deeply. I want to copy some of the techniques they had (such as when encouraging kids to choose someone other than their friends to partner with for a think-pair-share, they'd say "add a branch to your friendship tree", or "put on your superhero cape and TA DA, be brave and find someone in need"). They were considerate of the group - they knew they were running out of time so we did a closed-eyed vote to decide what the final task would be, and when it turned out to be a tie, they modified their plans so both tasks ran simultaneously. When someone questioned why we were sorting strips if "the pink sheet already had the answers", they didn't get mad - they explained that the results would be different because school culture interpreted Growing Success guidelines differently and they didn't feel like their compilation was the only right one. 


Participants grading themselves on the learning skills

A sample chart - notice any trends?

The strips = growing success goals, the paper =  the petals of the Tribes process

Breakout Session #D4: Building Inclusion through Technology - How Tribes can engage the 21st Century Learner by Heather Michlik and Jan Marconi

SUMMARY: (taken from description) During this session, participants will explore new technological tools and discover ways to implement them that promote the Tribes philosophy in our classrooms. With particular emphasis on community agreements and building inclusion, we will make connections to ways that we can teach the 21st century learning as we journey through the Tribes trail. We will share strategies, student voices, and experiences; together, we can brainstorm ways to facilitate the safe growth of our students as we embrace I.T.

  • community agreements, collaborative skills, and the Tribes trail all fit with technology norms - it is important to establish and constantly review the norms so things like teasing and bullying do not happen 
  • technology allows differentiation and engagement (invite your students to put their devices on the table so you can see who has what) - must also consider how to deal with students that do not have technology
  • focus on the feature instead of the specific device (i.e. back channel or polling using www.polleverywhere.come or or Google form or or / photo or video gathering using class community on YouTube or Vimeo)
SO WHAT? NOW WHAT? This was not the original session I was supposed to attend (instead I was scheduled for "Bringing the 5 Es to Life in Your Classroom - Develooping an Inquiry Group with your Class. Yes it can be done!"). I felt disappointed when my table group and I were scolded by one of the presenters when we asked for a repeat of a URL. Although the presenter celebrated the diversity of problem solving the tables undertook when she publicly addressed the whole assembly, this was not the emotion I sensed when in the small group. This disconnect with the Tribes process repeated when we were asked to stand when sharing the attitude to student-led technology (someone did not want to stand and expose that her board banned all devices, but this view wasn't respected). I'm afraid this affected my impression of the workshop. I might like to try Poll Everywhere.


The ISTE Nets and 6 Cs

The benefits of tech outweigh the problems

Closing Reflection by Jeanne Gibb

Jeanne Gibbs is Tribes personified. She spoke with dignity, grace, humility and humour, about her many attempts to retire (and her realization that she can't because there's still so much to do), the way gatherings like this sustain, energize, and inspire her, and how we, she, and Tribes need to change and continue. It was such a thrill to see and hear her in person.

More on the conference later!

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