Monday, October 7, 2013

Preparing to Present

A 'selfie' from ECOO 2012 I'll put in this year's PPT.
This past week, I spent a great deal of time preparing for some upcoming presentations: "Connecting the Blocks: Linking Minecraft to the Ontario Curriculum", along with my dear colleagues Liam O'Donnell and Denise Colby for the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario's annual conference, and an as-yet-untitled session on Learning Skills for my school's October 11, 2013 Professional Activity day. The latter session was a bit trickier to craft. The original intention was to have some of the wonderful teachers from the Halton District School Board that presented this topic at the Ontario Tribes Learning Communities Consortium do a modified version of their talk for my staff, but it took too long to find their contact information and invite them to come. Somehow, I became the workshop facilitator. In my experience, it can more be challenging to lead a professional learning experience for co-workers than it would be for strangers. Thankfully, Moses Velasco, an Instructional Leader with the Professional Learning, Training, and Leadership Development unit of the Toronto District School Board, was available to help me plan. As a specialist teacher, I was worried that what I had to say about learning skills would not be as valued, because I am not always directly involved with that portion of the report card - and there's the whole "prophet in your own land" piece to consider. What Moses recommended was to avoid lecturing or telling, and to be a co-explorer with my fellow teachers by using powerful questions to encourage discussion and thought. Moses helped me design some great reflection questions at various stages of the session to help the group unearth some findings and revelations about learning skills. We spent an hour refining the precise words that invited contemplation and when I showed my fellow chairperson the results of our plans, she responded positively. It looks like it will be an enjoyable and educational session.

This process led me to further reflection: it took an hour to create effective questions for a "lesson" that on paper is supposed to last for an hour. Do I spend equally enough time crafting effective questions for my students? Do I bounce ideas for good questions off teachers whom I respect and admire for their teaching skills (like I respect and admire Moses)? It may be near-impossible to spend that much time, but my young learners are equally deserving of thought-provoking questions as the learners with B.Ed. degrees are, so I should ensure I think carefully about what I ask in class, to get quality results. Thankfully, I have a lot more open flexible collaborative time in my schedule this year, and I have been co-planning with other teachers to create rich, engaging learning experiences for our students. They may not always involve Minecraft Creepers, but they look pretty exciting, all the same.

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