Teaching Between The Lines

A group of us just had a proposal accepted for AERA on teacher resistance, as part of a symposium on that topic. Our paper will be on how the teachers we are studying “teach between the lines,” finding ways to “live with” system mandates and teach (in varying degrees) in a holistic, constructivist manner.

I (Clive) just came across a very relevant quote in Nel Noddings’ 2013 book Education and Democracy in the 21st Century that will help us as we write the paper. She says:

“[In this book] we will consider how schools can help students to achieve satisfying lives in three great domains: home, occupation, and civic life…. [H]owever, I want to make it clear that I do not foresee dramatic changes in the basic structure of curriculum in America. We have to work within that basic structure. Sadly, I think we will go right on with English, mathematics, social studies, science, and foreign languages as the backbone of our curriculum. Indeed, if we continue in the direction we are now headed, the curriculum will become even more isolated from real life and its subjects more carefully separated from one another. It is this tendency that we should resist, and effective resistance will require collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.” (p. 11, my italics)

Wow! While talking strongly of resistance Noddings says we have to work within the system, which if anything will get worse. What then does resistance mean?

It can mean campaigning publically against the retrograde measures; or negotiating at the school level to modify their implementation. Or it can mean finding holes – or “interstices” as the post-structuralists say – within the system that enable teachers to teach the way they believe in, to the extent possible.

This third approach is important because it allows teachers to keep their jobs and continue to be there for their students. We mustn’t dismiss this type of resistance as mere compromise. Rather, we must join with teachers in looking for ways to teach well within the system. And teacher educators must discuss the challenges and possible strategies at length with their students, so they come to teaching prepared to teach between the lines, rather than having to figure it out on their own.



Explaining Explain Everything (App)

I (Cathy) find that one of the exciting aspects of teaching is learning from my students- especially about digital technology.    One of my student teachers, Drake, taught a lesson last week using Explain Everything.  With the aid of this app he successfully taught  a lesson in French which enabled his grade 6 students to engage in conversations about sports.  How he used the app was definitely key to the success of his lesson and I gave him full credit for cleverly scaffolding the sequence of the questions and answers so that that student conversations were set up for success.  Yet, Drake insisted it was the app that enabled him to teach the lesson so clearly.  Below are pictures of how Drake set up the lesson on his ipad and then mailed it to himself as a handout for his students.  Well done Drake!


Intrigued, I began to play with this app myself.  I discovered it has a wide range of  applications. It feels like a cross between a power point and a smart board, but completely doable on an ipad.   Very convenient.  Below is an link to a you tube video that demonstrates how students can use the app in a classroom.




What’s on a good research project site?


I (Clare) thought this post about a research blog would be relevant for our research blog. Terrific suggestions lots of which I will follow.

Originally posted on The Research Whisperer:

Old Story (Photo by Place Light | www.flickr.com/photos/place_light)
Old Story (Photo by Place Light | http://www.flickr.com/photos/place_light)

It seems to be the done thing these days to have a webpage about your research project.

In fact, I think it’s fair to say that it’s considered an increasingly essential part of research engagement and dissemination, and – really – it is so easy to set something up these days.


Well…yes and no. (Stay with me, I’m a humanities scholar and that’s how we answer everything)

I had a great chat recently with a researcher who was wanting to set up an online presence for his project. Part of the task of this presence was to recruit subjects for his PhD study.

It was a valuable conversation for him (or so he tells me…!) and also for me, because it clarified our perceptions of what was necessary, good, and ideal.

What I’m talking about in this post isn’t focused on what specific funding bodies…

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Happy Birthday Margaret Atwood

In honour of author Margaret Atwood’s 75th birthday on November 18th CBC Books is celebrating her life and work with a week of special features including archival interviews, infographics, and a selection of passages from her acclaimed books  in the searchable Essential Atwood Reading List. Follow link below:


For 75 surprising facts about Margaret Atwood see link below:



Using Instagram in the Classroom

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. That is probably one of the reasons why Instagram has become my social media app of choice. I love the simplicity of it. There are no words, simply photos. You get to see what your friends, acquaintances, and public figures (you choose to follow) are up to. My use of facebook has slowly dwindled while my use of Instagram has quickly ramped up. This seems to be the general trend across the world. As educators in this digital age, we think about how to integrate social media effectively into the classroom. Facebook, wikis, blogs and twitter have made their way into many classrooms; however, Instagram is rarely used. I found this very cool infographic for educators and the use of Instagram in the classroom.

All of the below suggestions can be used in K-12 classrooms. Some can be used in higher ed. Contexts.

***Note: Before using Instagram in the classroom:

  • I think educators should have separate Instagram accounts if they are also using it for personal purposes.
  • Also, as a class you should establish a hashtag. So, if your students want to hashtag a relevant picture it gets included in the class hashtag.



“Goodnight Moon” revisited

Many are familiar with the picture book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise.


In case you are not familiar or need a refresher, here is a link to the story:

It is a lovely bedtime story, rhythmical and calming.  Originally published in the late 1940s, and still selling strong today, millions of children have enjoyed the simple tale. It is a classic.

And then came a parody, Goodnight iPad.  Amusingly written by “Ann Droyd” the book is awesome.


When I (Yiola) first read the book I laughed and laughed and laughed. It is witty and clever while successfully maintaining the rhythm of the original.  It is a powerful message for 21st century learners: know when to unplug!  

Here is a link to the book.

Or for a flashier, more techy version, check out this link:

From the 1940s to today… the images and ideas that need a ‘good night’ have changed  drastically but a child’s wonder and desire to stay up has stayed the same.

I like how the traditional genre of the picture book captures the power of technology in our society so beautifully. A classic communication tool.

I plan to use this text as a closure piece on Technology Day next term.

“Goodnight gadgets everywhere”

Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn Stewart — Tools or Toys?

I (Monica) and my colleague Tiffany MacKay are just starting a new research project exploring oral and visual literacy learning with iPads for 3-5 year olds. Our research will be situated in both childcare centres and public school kindergartens in Ontario. Here is a bit more about our project:

IPadYoung children, aged 3-5 years, are exposed to many forms of digital technology (DT) both inside and outside of their formal learning settings, yet there is little research to guide pedagogical practices for early years literacy teaching. Many registered early childhood educators (RECEs) working in childcare centres are reluctant to introduce DT into their programs, while many RECEs and teachers in Full-Day Kindergarten are using DT in a variety of ways.


This research study will introduce educators and students in childcare centres and public kindergarten classrooms to one of two i-Pad applications, 30 Hands or Explain Everything. Both of these applications allow children to easily photograph their work with an i-Pad (e.g., painting, block structure, sand table creation, etc.) and then record their voice explaining what they have created, how they created it, and what they plan to do next, etc. This digital visual and audio file can then be shared with classmates, teachers, or parents via email. Teachers can archive this documentation for assessment and planning purposes.


Our objectives include: a) to understand educators’ comfort level and experience using DT for literacy learning with young children; b) to understand children’s use of DT as a means of communicating their work and ideas; c) to explore the value of DT for supporting young children’s literacy development.


Our hypothesis is that educators will become more comfortable having their students use DT applications that allow for active, creative, and open-ended literacy learning. Furthermore, children will be more motivated to articulate and share their thinking with the i-Pad applications and will become more competent with both their digital technology and oral language skills.


We will be interviewing the educators before and after the implementation of the software to determine their comfort level and experience with using DT for literacy learning and teaching, their current practices, and in the post-implementation interview, any changes that they observed in their students’ interest and ability with respect to literacy learning. In addition, we will be observing the students in their classes as they use the applications to record and share their work.

Engaging Students in Math

The day after Halloween, one of my (Cathy’s) student teachers, Megan, presented a wonderful lesson to a group of grade four students on probability.  She opened the lesson with a picture of herself dressed as an M&M.  (This was not really her of course, but the students didn’t know that).  She told the story of how she disguised herself as an M&M and went out trick or treating.  One nice lady gave her a whole bag of M&Ms because of her great costume.  Megan wondered aloud on the probability of pulling out red M&Ms as opposed to green M&Ms or yellow ones.  This student teacher had these children with the picture, but the M&Ms clenched it.  All of the students wanted to predict.   The students moved from large group work to small groups to independent work with ease.  Interestingly, Megan did not allow the children to eat the M&Ms.  They were data.  The children accepted this fact and made no protest.  The math remained the focus throughout the lesson.  The lesson was an absolute delight to watch.   Trouble is, I may never eat M&Ms the same way again.  I will always be calculating the probabilities of pulling that red one.


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Teachers Matter: The Letter Defending Educators @Time Wouldn’t Print #TIMEapologize #TIMEfail


Although this article is long I (Clare) found it incredibly interesting yet sad. When is the public going to “wake up” and realize the value teachers?

Originally posted on Cloaking Inequity:

To: Nancy Gibbs, Time Editor

From: Thomas L. Good,

Professor Emeritus

College of Education

University of Arizona

1936 E Fifth Street

Tucson, AZ  85719



The November 3 issue of Time magazine includes a sensational cover, an editorial statement and a feature story that systematically question the value of American teachers who often work in less favorable conditions than their international peers. The fifty million readers/viewers of Time will see the cover and millions of others will also view it at various airport newsstands. However, considerably fewer will read the editor’s comments and yet substantially fewer will read the article. So the take- away message for the vast majority of citizens from this issue of Time magazine is that poor teachers are rampant in America and that they are harmful to our children, economy, and future.

Consider the front page cover that brazenly and in bold print decries…

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Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of True Story of the Three Little Pigs

As the 25th anniversary of the picture book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs approaches author Jon Scieszka and illustrator Lane Smith recount the origins of their collaboration and the challenges of securing a publisher for the sophisticated parody. As Smith recalls, “some editors liked it but were a little confused and not sure if there was a market for it. Back at that time, children’s books were either serious, earnest books, or really funny books. But the sense of parody and irony that is rampant now didn’t really exist then…Viking put the book out very tentatively. They weren’t convinced of anything and did a small run that immediately sold out. It was all word-of-mouth from teachers, librarians and booksellers. They didn’t run ads or do a publicity push. Finally by the fourth or fifth printing the runs were more like 50,000.”

Follow the link below to read the full interview with Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith: