Learning at the Children’s Museum, Madison WI

This summer my family traveled to Madison, Wisconsin USA.  I (yiola) found Madison to be a beautiful city filled with parks and bike paths, small shops and galleries. Among the many sites, we toured the capital building and the large farmer’s market on a sunny Saturday morning.  We also visited a most amazing place: The Children’s Museum. A three level building  on Hamilton St, just across from the capital building, the Children’s Museum is  a “hands on” facility where children can muck about and explore.

Included here is photojournalism to share our experience at the museum:

"Play"  as and for learning is the philosophy that guides the program at the Children's museum.
“Play”  as and for learning is the philosophy that guides the program at the Children’s museum.
My children Gallaway (age 3) and Sylvia Clare (age 4) gearing up to explore the museum.
My children Gallaway (age 3) and Sylvia Clare (age 4) gearing up to explore the museum.

Materials for exploring, creating, building and open, un-supervised spaces are provided for children of all ages.

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My son Gallaway urban planning.
My son Gallaway urban planning.
An enormous, creative indoor playground that includes climbers and slides.
An enormous, creative indoor playground that includes climbers and slides.
touch the bark, see the leaves, read about the tree
Open the door, touch the bark, see the leaves, read about the tree.
A large room focused on the Arts with several hands on activities (painting, weaving, exploring light, collaging)
A large room focused on the Arts with several hands on activities (painting, weaving, exploring light, collaging).

A roof top patio with animals, eco friendly systems and gardens.

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We learned about training pigeons to fly away and return and how they were used as messengers
Training pigeons to fly away and return and how they were used as messengers.
Architectural history
Architectural history
Political history
Political history
drumming in one of two historical huts
Sylvia Clare drumming in one of two historical huts
history of technology
history of technology

From toddlers to adults there was so much to see and do at the Children’s Museum. I was inspired by the way the learning philosophy was placed in action. The Children’s Museum is a wonderful model for learning, literacy teaching and so much more.

http://madisonchildrensmuseum.org

PS. For those who know Madison, WI you may agree that a stop at Ella’s Deli after the Museum was the icing on the cake that day!

http://www.ellasdeli.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teachers’ Contribution to Educational Inquiry

This past week I (Clive) had intense discussions with students in my Foundations of Curriculum graduate course; the topic was educational research and classroom-based teacher learning. Several were reluctant to accept that teachers are “researchers” and “knowledge generators” in an important sense.

I argued that teachers are in an excellent position to conduct inquiry because they are immersed in the classroom for ten full months, year after year: rarely do academics have such a rich context for educational research. They argued that teachers’ research methodology is not rigorous enough to produce genuine knowledge.

Thinking it over, I’ve decided to offer a compromise. I agree that education academics often have much to contribute because they are aware of other disciplines and other real-world contexts. Although they rarely have the same depth of educational experience as teachers, they often have greater breadth of knowledge in certain areas.

However, I will offer this compromise with three provisos:

(i)    Teachers’ inquiry is just as rigorous as that of academics, since they observe so carefully the processes and outcomes of their teaching: they have a vested interest in doing so.

(ii)  Teachers and academics have equal but somewhat different contributions to make to educational research.

(iii) Accordingly, the relationship between the two must be one of dialogue as equals, rather than “laying down the law” by one party or the other.

Of course, it is true that teachers could enhance their inquiry in certain ways; but the same is true of academics.

Teachers are not always conscious of what they have discovered through experience; it is often “implicit” knowledge. Hence, a major role of education academics is to study teachers and help make their insights explicit and available to others. But it is the teachers who discovered these insights and who must be given the credit.

I’ll try out this compromise on my students next week and see what they think!

 

 

How do you Know What To Blog About?

I (Clare) recently did a presentation to a group of teachers on a self-study I conducted with Connecting PeopleLydia Menna and Shawn Bullock on our efforts to integrate digital technology into my literacy methods courses. (Here is the powerpoint from that presentation. BERA + ECER-DT 2013in Dropbox) I talked about my initiatives which led to me showing how my efforts in my literacy teaching led to a greater use of digital technology in other parts of my life (e.g., using NVivo for data analysis). The success of my initiatives with my teaching gave me the confidence to take the plunge to do a website. My technical skills had improved and my identity shifted so that I now see myself as “digitally competent.” During the presentation I showed our website and one of the participants raised an interesting question: How do you get ideas for your blog? He recounted how he wanted to do a blog but did not know what to write about. I told him to just start! I believe that writing a blog is a different genre – it requires different writing skills than other forms of writing. Since we started this blog, I feel that my blog-writing skills have improved. I now focus on one topic in a blog; I am more comfortable sharing my insights; I will raise questions; I make links to other resources; and I no longer feel the blog needs to be perfect  (so what if there is a typo. We will survive.)  Blogging seems to have captured my interest and is a good match for me ( I have lots to say about education) and it is fun.  I keep a Word document with blog ideas which is always plentiful and when I come across something “interesting” one of my first thoughts is – Would that make an interesting blog? This thought is followed by – Would others be interested in this topic/issue? Doing our blog as a “team” has truly been the way to go. I have learned so much from the posts by my team (Cathy, Lydia, Pooja, Clive and our guest bloggers) about them personally and professionally. And their blogs give me ideas about what to write about.

I really see our blog as connecting with the broader education community which is social media at its best. Blogging is good for me because it gets me thinking critically and hopefully, our posts are of use to our readers.

Just for Fun- A Literacy Word Search

In the word search below, can you find…

1. The name of the theorist generally accredited with the origins of Social Constructivist Theory

2. The term used to identify a branch of linguistics which contends that meaning-making manifests through human interpretations of sign systems

3. The names of the two researchers accredited with constructing the four resource model

4. The term assigned to multiple modes of communication

5. The Literacy Theory that purports literacy and language are not neutral but political.

6. The name of a pedagogical approach designed by 10 scholars known as the New London Group in 1996

Scroll down for answers- but no peeking!

 

Z C X B N O L M R T Y Y I O P K
A C V N Q W R U T U J L A S D F
B V M N W E F L A S D F G H H J
Q Y W E M U L T I M O D A L O P
A G D G J K O I M N B V C X Z A
W O E T Y P U L U K J H G F D S
Z T X C V B N I M L H F D S A E
C S T G H K L T O U Y T E R W Q
V K N N L H O E I T R E W A Q P
R Y T Y U I P R I Z X C V B N M
Z L U K E M V A O P U Y T R E W
C X B N M L Q C R I T I C A L Q
Q W E R T Y U I I O P L K J H G
H G F D S A S E R T Y U I O M N
D F G H J K L S E M I O T I C S
Q S D C F R E E B O D Y C A T Y

 

 

Answers:  1.  VYGOTSKY 2.  SEMIOTICS  3.  LUKE, FREEBODY  4.  MULTIMODAL  5.  CRITICAL  6.  MULTILITERACIES

 

 

 

 

Facing Reality: New Teachers Working in Very Politicized Contexts

Those of us in education are feeling the pressure from external bodies to improve test Deakin Logoscores while teaching a standard curriculum (developed by “some” external body). This pressure is especially acute for new teachers who are trying to sort out teaching in general while figuring out their style, their particular goals, coming to terms with their changing identity … . In this politicized era trying to balance standards with what students actually need is a challenge for the most experienced and able teachers. I (Clare) read a fabulous article Professional knowledge and standards-based reforms: Learning from the experiences of early career teachers by Andrea Allard and Brenton Doecke. It is in English Teaching: Practice and Critique May, 2014, Volume 13, Number 1 pp. 39-54

http://education.waikato.ac.nz/research/files/etpc/files/2014v13n1art3.pdf

For those of use involved in teacher education this article gives voice to new teachers who find themselves in teaching situations that are a mismatch between the practices advocated in teacher education and the culture in their schools. It shows how these teachers try to negotiate the demands and come to terms with practices they feel are effective. It also raises questions about what we should be doing in teacher education to prepare student teachers for what they will face as teachers.

Here is the abstract:

This article explores the paradoxical situation of early career teachers in this era of standards-based reforms, beginning with the experiences of an English teacher working in a state school in Queensland, Australia and expanding to consider the viewpoints of her colleagues. Our goal is to trace the ways she and the other early career teachers at this particular school negotiate the tensions between the current emphases on standardisation of curricula, testing regimes and teaching standards and their burgeoning sense of their identities as teachers. We shall raise questions about the status of the professional knowledge that these early career teachers bring to their work, showing examples of how this knowledge puts them at odds with standards-based reforms, including the professional standards recently introduced by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and the National Assessment Program –Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

I found this quote from a new teacher, Nola, about her first few weeks at this school fascinating and distressing.

We did not do enough NAPLAN stuff [in the teacher education course] …Holy moley! –Coming into this school and it’s so NAPLAN focussed. Oh, it was like “What the heck? Yeah, I’ve heard about NAPLAN but — !” Everyone is like “NAPLAN, NAPLAN, NAPLAN” and I am just like–holy moley! I was not prepared for it. I did not know how to read the results or anything. I didn’t know what it meant. I was like “NAPLAN?” I didn’t know that NAPLAN was.”

Her distress is palpable!

Teaching as a Relational Practice

The Chronicle of Higher Education reporting on a survey of 30,000 college graduates, noted that graduates “had double the chances of being engaged in their work and were three times as likely to be thriving in their well-being if they connected with a professor on the campus who stimulated them, cared about them, and encouraged their hopes and dreams.” The article also highlighted both the sceptical responses to the survey as well as the potential value the findings could offer institutions of higher education.

See more at: http://m.chronicle.com/article/A-Caring-Professor-May-Be-Key/146409/

Teaching

Building New Habits

I (Pooja) am always looks for new strategies to build good habits (and break bad ones). An article by James Clear in Business Insider visually represents a few strategies for building new habits. I find these images to be simple yet effective as a daily reminder. They are already on my fridge :)

Here are two I particularly liked. To see the rest click on the link below.

Increase your habit in very small ways.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. —Jim Rohn

tiny-gains

When you slip, get back on track quickly.

The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control.
—Kelly McGonigal

never-miss-twice

Read the entire article here:

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-successfully-build-a-new-habit-2014-7?utm_content=bufferc2d44&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Interviews and the Research Process

I (Yiola) have used the method of interviews for data gathering for over a decade. I love it;the entire process is fascinating. From designing research questions, to finding suitable participants, to setting up interview dates, to meeting with participants, to reading the transcript and to sharing the transcript with the participants.

images

 

There is something special about qualitative interviews.  Perhaps what is special is the human connection, perhaps the interaction, perhaps the commitment demonstrated by the participants . I think perhaps all of the aforementioned make the interview process special. In my many years of interviewing participants,  what inspires me the most is the passion the participants demonstrate as they explain with detail and careful description their thoughts and experiences about education.  I can (and do) listen for hours. The participants I have worked with show appreciation for their involvement in the research and often express how much learning they receive from the experience. The latter is particularly true of participants in longitudinal studies.

The role of the researcher: what an honour and privilege to spend time with willing participants; to be privy to their time and thoughts. A special relationship develops between research and participant that is built on trust, respect and commitment.  This relationship takes time to foster and requires thoughtfulness.  The interview data is often the foundation of the research.  This data is built upon a deep understand of research literature, thoughtful research questions, carefully crafted interview questions, and committed research participants.  Relationship building is key when using interviews in the research process.

 

 

 

Teaching Good Manners: An Aspect of Way of Life Education

I (Clive) appreciated Leah McLaren’s column in the Globe & Mail on Friday. She reported that Tatler editor-in-chief Kate Reardon was recently “pilloried in the British press” for “a graduation speech at a private girls’ school…in which she highlighted the importance of manners over good grades.” Among other things, Reardon said that “if you have good manners people will like you. And if they like you they will help you.” McLaren commented that “as both a feminist and a mother” she agrees with Reardon, but noted that “[w]hen it comes to instilling basic values and good behaviour, parents have never been more on their own.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/the-importance-of-being-courteous/article19661557/

This should not be. Schools should support parents in this basic work (and they do to some extent). As I stressed in a recent posting, way of life (or values) education should be a major component of schooling, integrated into subject teaching and the life of the classroom and school.

The difficulty, however, is that we haven’t articulated a deep and comprehensive theory of way of life education. Advocacy in this area comes across as moralistic or, in the Reardon case, as old fashioned and conformist.

What could be more important than the quality of our way of life, in itself and in relation to others? It’s current neglect by advocates of “coverage” and testing is weird. “Good grades” as the goal of 12 years of schooling is totally inadequate. People should be pilloried for pushing such a position, yet it is so common.

Any goal can seem superficial when advocated in isolation. As educators, we need to develop for students, parents, and the general public a broad rationale for way of life (or values) education in terms of individual and societal happiness and what is ultimately important in life. We should help everyone – ourselves included – to stop fixating on narrow goals to the neglect of general human well-being.

 

 

Good-bye Michael Gove!

Michael Gove Although I (Clare) live in Canada I am well aware of the challenges teachers and teacher educators in England are facing. We have a number of literacy/English teacher educators in our study of teacher educators who have recounted the  challenges they are facing (e.g., funding reduction, stringent/ridiculous accountability measures). At our Symposium on teacher education in London participants recounted how demoralized teacher educators felt.

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, who was instrumental in bringing in a number of draconian measures in education has been demoted to Chief Whip. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cartoon/2014/jul/17/steve-bell-cartoon-michael-gove-first-day-chief-whip He wanted to reshape education based on his own experiences in elite private schools – or as I see it, drag education back to the 19th century. He seemed to be waging war on schools of education by creating so many alternative routes into teaching that he was stripping teacher educators of their place in preparing teachers. His inability or unwillingness to listen to reason and research led to him implementing a number of measures that are so wrong headed it is mind-boggling. He was never a teacher nor did he do research on teaching and teacher education so how did he think that he knew how to prepare teachers?  When you compare his approach to the one used in Finland (see blog post on Thursday, July 17) the contrast is glaring. Respect and trust were not his modus operandi.

On his first day of his new job as party whip he got stuck in the toilet! Hmmmmm…….. Read into that what you like!

Let’s hope that the path he set for education will be altered by his successor so that education and teacher education can get back on track and become relevant and appropriate for the 21st century. There is a growing body of research on teacher education which should guide policy. It is time for policy-makers in England to refer to it.