Category Archives: curriculum; teachers

How can we make professional development more useful?

I (Clare) was recently doing a Meet and Greet for our newly admitted student teachers to Image_PDcartoonour Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program. I talked about how teaching is a journey and that you never stop learning. From our longitudinal study of teachers we know that teachers learn a great deal from each other and from reflecting on their teaching. I believe there is a place for formal professional development; however, many teachers (myself included) have found formal PD to be of little use. It is often so removed from daily practice, tends to be top-down, and is a one-off. Teachers need time and place for conversations about their teaching. There is a place for formal structured PD but the way it is so often delivered it is not effective. In previous blogs I have written about my teacher-researcher group which has been a very powerful form of PD because all of the teachers are working on a topic/question that is important to them. One of the students in my grad course sent me this cartoon about PD. Although I chuckled when I read it, I feel that is sums up the sentiments of many.

Catherine Snow talk

If you are in the Toronto area this talk might be of interest to you.  You can RSVP using this URL: RSVP (acceptances only): http://www.tinyurl.com/mccarthylecture

Image Catherine Snow talk

Using VR to Embed Indigenous Perspectives into Curriculum

virtual-reality-cree-syllabics
Source: http://www.cbc.ca

I (Pooja) wanted to share a new gaming technology used in classrooms that authentically highlights, honours and engages students in Indigenous world views. It is no surprise that Western world views and Indigenous world views do not always align (see link below); however, it is our moral imperative to educate ourselves and our students on different ways of knowing and understanding. This can be a tricky task if you are not familiar with perspectives outside of your own. How can we as educators authentically understand Indigenous world views so we can help our students develop this awareness as well? That is why I was excited to learn about a new gaming technology which Cree children in three James Bay communities are using to learn their ancestors language entitled Cree Syllabics Virtual Reality project. The 3D gaming technology immerses user in a virtual camp setting. CBC authors Wapachee and Little (2016) further explains:

Students put on headsets to enter a virtual camp setting where they meet a little girl named Niipiish and her dog Achimush. Using hand movements and buttons to move around within the camp, they go on a journey to prepare for Niipiish’s little brother’s walking-out ceremony, all the while identifying Cree words that describe the seasons, the environment and Cree traditions.

This immersive experience allows students to authentically engage with perspectives which they may or may not have grown up with. This is a powerful tool because students are able to arrive at new understandings through first-hand experiences. I hope to see this type of technology shared in classes everywhere soon!

Eight differences between Indigenous and western worldviews:

http://www.ictinc.ca/blog/indigenous-peoples-worldviews-vs-western-worldviews

Link to CBC article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/james-bay-students-learn-cree-in-virtual-reality-1.3835500

Defining Literacy

One of my (Cathy’s)  favourite first tasks for my new teacher candidates is to have them define the term  literacy on paper- written or drawn- no right or wrong.  I tuck this away for them and then give it back on the last day of our literacy course so they can it to compare their (hopefully somewhat)  altered definition.  For some the definition changes a lot and for some not so much.  The differences represent the teacher candidates  prior knowledge of literacy and literacy practices; their ability  to make adjustments; their open mindedness; and their ability to accept change.  Reshaping ones definition of literacy is a process and its actually quite demanding.

Every year I look for new academic, scholarly, or institutional definitions of literacy, or as I prefer to  refer to it- literacies- to share with my TC’s as their definitions shift and grow.  This year I will include the definition below.  It is from the Ontario government’s document Focus on Literacy (2013):

LITERACY – Kindergarten to Grade 12 Literacy is … the ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, speak, view, represent, discuss and think critically about ideas. Literacy enables us to share information and to interact with others. Literacy is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a democratic society.

Literacy involves the capacity to:

• access, manage, create and evaluate information

• think imaginatively and analytically

• communicate thoughts and ideas effectively

• apply metacognitive knowledge and skills

• develop a sense of self-efficacy and an interest in life-long learning

The development of literacy is a complex process that involves building on prior knowledge, culture and experiences in order to instill new knowledge and deepen understanding.

I especially like the last line.  I hope my TC’s do to.

http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesLIT/PayingAttentiontoLiteracy.pdf

 

 

Developing Visual Literacy Skills

As I (Cathy) prepare to teach my primary literacy class in teacher education at Laurier University, I have been reviewing the need to address visual literacy. Visual literacy is interpreting and evaluating images, animations, words, and symbols while also integrating sensory experiences. As students from K to 12 are constantly bombarded with images, it is essential that we incorporate visual literacy into the curriculum to allow students to develop comprehension and critical thinking skills that are specific to visual literary.

Sankey (2002) states:

Visual images are fast becoming the most predominant form of communication. Visual genres and mediums now dominate communication; photographs, television. film, video, the internet, cartoons, posters, t-shirts, comics, multimedia presentations and computer simulations.

The following diagram effectively highlights why visual literacy should be incorporated into our primary curriculum:

6946127

 

Personally, I find cartoons a wonderful source of meaning making and came across the following diagram supporting Blooms and cartoons.

blooms and cartoons

 

I also find cartoons useful in establishing a particular atmosphere in my university classroom and incorporate them weekly into my power points. I’ll use this one on our first day to introduce the topic of visual literacy and how 21st century classrooms may be somewhat different than what we experienced as children.

school-cartoons-2012

 

http://dovernewliteraciesproject.weebly.com/digital-vs-visual-literacy.html

 

 

computer notes

                                                                                  Versus

longhnd notes

I (Cathy) read recently that Massachusetts is one of several states that wants to keep penmanship lessons in the curriculum. I have heard pros and cons regarding this argument in Canada, but a recent blog post by Dr. Ainissa Ramirez on Edugains gave me pause to reconsider the practice of longhand writing in class.   Dr. Ramirez boldly suggests students not use computers and return to using longhand for note taking.  Please don’t misunderstand, Dr. Ramirez is not opposed to technology. She, in fact, is quite a proponent having been an engineering professor at Yale University for ten years.  She also received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in materials science and engineering and holds several patents, one of which was awarded MIT’s Top 100 Young Innovators award.

Dr. Ramirez states:

When students take notes with their laptops, they tend to mindlessly transcribe the data word for word, like speech-to-text software. But taking notes verbatim is not the point. What is lacking in their note-taking-by-laptop is the synthesis, the re-framing, and the understanding of the information. Students that transcribe with laptops have shallow connections to what’s being presented to them. However, those who are taking notes by hand are processing the information and representing it in a way that makes sense to them. They are learning.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that longhand writing is so 19th century. But we need to answer a question: do we want students to have a deep or shallow connection to the information we’re giving them? While we live in a world of short sound bytes where news is thrown at us unprocessed, this should not be the mode for schools. In the 21st century, the ability to connect knowledge in new ways is more important than the knowledge itself. So students with deeper connections to information can link it in new ways — they can create.

On further investigation I discovered that Ramirez’s  position is supported by a study  published in Psychological Science by Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles. Their study sought to test how note-taking by hand versus by computer affected learning. Mueller states:

When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can. The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.

This position is well worth sharing with students; however, I think it will be very challenging to convince students of the information age to forgo their computers and take up longhand writing. I’m willing to at least put forth the argument and it will also be a nice point of discussion for student teachers!

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/writing-by-hand-benefits-brain-ainissa-ramirez

 

Draining The Semantic Swamp of “Personalized Learning”–A View from Silicon Valley (Part 1)

I (Clare) read this post by Larry Cuban. I have long been a fan of his work because he is so “sensible” and really seems to understand education.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

No surprise that a catch-phrase like “personalized learning,” using technology to upend traditional whole group  lessons, has birthed a gaggle of different meanings. Is it  updated “competency-based learning?” Or “differentiated learning” in new clothes or “individualized learning” redecorated?  (see here, here and here). Such proliferation of school reforms into slogans is as familiar as photos of sunsets. “Blended learning,” “project-based teaching,” and “21st Century skills” are a few recent bumper stickers–how about “flipped classrooms?”– that have generated many meanings as they get converted by policymakers, marketeers, researchers, wannabe reformers, and, yes, teachers into daily lessons.

For decades, I have seen such phrases become semantic swamps where educational progressives and conservatives argue for their version of the “true” meaning of the words. As a researcher trained in history, since the early 1980s, I have tracked policies as they get put into practice in schools and classrooms.  After all, the…

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School’s Out. Move over Alice Cooper: A response to traditional schooling

What is good pedagogy? What works for student achievement? What engages students? What are our end goals for schooling? As another school year draws to a close I begin to reflect on what the school year looked like, what was achieved and if in fact the intended goals for student development were met.

Our team writes on a variety of topics associated with 21st century literacy and learning. The pedagogy, vision, and goals of 21st century learning differ from traditional literacy learning and teaching in many ways.  Sometimes tradition and contemporary methods connect and sometimes they clash. As Clive has written in past posts; the idea isn’t to contrast and compare or pick and choose one particular position; instead, there is value in understanding the purpose, strengths and outcomes of varied stances and consider our contexts and goals for teaching and learning.

I came across this interesting article that brings to the table a “newer” consideration for literacy teaching: makerspace.  Not an entirely new concept, and inclusive of several well known pedagogies and approaches, the maker movement does challenge more traditional ways of learning.

“Making is a stance about learning,” Martinez said. “It’s the landscape you create in a classroom or any kind of learning space where kids have agency over what they do and a large choice of materials that are rich, deep and complex.”

The link to the article is here:

How to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven

Now that “school’s out for summer” it may be a good time to think about how to improve our practice for student learning. It may be a good time to learn more about the maker movement, what it entails, and how we can learn from our students, from each other, and, more about the elements for achieving creativity, problem solving, collaboration, innovation, and literacy.

Try a Graphic Novel this summer…

As summer vacation time draws nearer and schools in Ontario prepare for the summer break, teachers often think of ways to encourage children to read over the summer.  Inspiring students who ‘hate to read’ can be quite a challenge.  The authors of the blog teachingauthors.com  highly recommend graphic novels. (Graphic novels are not to be confused with Manga novels which are a genre unto themselves).  Graphic novels are similar to comic books in that they rely heavily on illustrations to convey meaning and the text is short.

Author Mary Ann Rodman suggests the following novels for students:

Young Adult

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans—Don Brown

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir–Maggie Thrash.

Nimona-Noelle Stevenson

In Real Life–Cory Doctorow

Middle school

Anything by Raina Teigemeier (e.g., Drama)

The Dumbest Idea Ever!–Jimmy Gownley

Roller Girl–Victoria Jamieson

Sunny Side Up–Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Into the Volcano–Don Wood.

Flora & Ulysses–Kate DiCamillo, K.G.Campbell

The Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust–Loic Dauvillier.

The Lost Boy–Greg Ruth

If you haven’t read a graphic novel, I (Cathy) suggest you try one.  The experience may surprise you.  The content can be quite sophisticated and intense.  When I taught a teacher education focused children’s literature course, I used the book Persepolis to introduce my teacher candidates to graphic novels.  Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. (The title is a reference to the ancient capital of the Persian EmpirePersepolis). The book depicts religious, political, and economic struggle.  Simplistic, but powerful.

Try one this summer!

http://www.teachingauthors.com/

250px-Persepolis-books1and2-covers

Teaching vs Assuming

'My reading comprehension is so-so, but I do make up for it with my highlighting skills.'

 

While teaching a third year university course in the Early Childhood Program I(Cathy) caught myself making assumptions about my students’ levels of comprehension.  While working with with one student who seemed to lack a focus in her paper, I asked her to take the article we were examining home with her and highlight the important issues she noted on each page.  When we next met, I asked to see the article;  every paragraph was highlighed; every word was now encased in bright neon yellow.  When I asked her if she thought perhaps a point made in one paragraph could be more important than another she insisted that it was all important because it had been published.  Images of classes I had taught to elementary school children on discernment of text and critical thinking, and critical pedagogy flashed through my mind.  Was she never taught this?  I had assumed my third year students would arrive in my class with this skill. I was wrong. So now what?

I smiled at her . “Let’s look at the first paragraph together,” I said. I knew I couldn’t catch her up with her many lost years, but we could make a start. Such is teaching.