Category Archives: Events

Travel is an Education

When I (Cathy) was a grade school teacher, there were times when parents took their children out of school for a family trip. Often, a parent would ask if they could borrow a math or language text book to bring along so the child could “keep up”. I begged them not to. “Please,” I would say, “have them keep a journal. Draw what they see. Describe the people they meet. Take pictures and keep a record of them. Videotape a special event. Make a scrap book. Record the weather. Calculate the distance you travel every day. Follow the map. Plan an excursion.” In other words, I would ask the parent to use the trip as a resource.  I would also suggest the child prepare to share some of their experiences with the class when they retuned, so we could all learn from the


I was alarmed to think they would imprison their child in a hotel room or trailer to keep up with what we were doing in the classroom sometimes hundreds of miles away. There was so much to see and learn from the incredible world around them!child videotaping

Now, the affordances available for a child to investigate, record and share a trip are so much more interesting! A colleague of mine asked a grade one student of hers, who was going to the Olympics, to Skype the class every Tuesday morning from wherever she was and share her experiences. Her class loved it. They felt like they were there with her. After the Skype meeting the class would research the people and places she talked about. That one student’s trip became a class project.

This past summer, I travelled through Greece with my husband. I was delighted to see so many children capturing the sites we visited on an tablets and smartphones. I wondered if they would share any of it with classmates. I would still encourage a parent to not use a text book on a trip. The real world is just too interesting and there are so many creative ways to explore it. It’s all learning.tablets

World Cup: A Global Celebration

FIFAMy (Clare) work productivity has taken a real tumble the past week with not much hope of it improving for the next three weeks. Watching the World Cup seems to have become my main occupation. For many years I have been a real fan of the World Cup. I was introduced to the World Cup in 1988; however, at that time, few games were broadcast because the television market in Canada was miniscule. Oh how things have changed. The entire tournament is now broadcast (and repeated throughout the night). The World Cup has its drama – questionable calls by the refs, diving players, FIFA’s “unusual” decisions, and rowdy fans. Nevertheless, I love the way the world comes together to cheer their team and join in a global celebration.

Italian teamAt this point, I am not celebrating my team — Italy. Their recent play was lackluster as they lost to Costa Rica. But I will be watching them on Tuesday (probably on live feed on my computer at work) and if disaster strikes I will transfer my allegiance to another team. One of my dreams is to attend a World Cup game. I will probably never see Canada on this stage but I am still rejoicing in this amazing show of athleticism and strategy. In Toronto – the most multicultural city in the world – every team has a fan base. Many cars have flags attached to their car windows revealing their allegiance. I love that some cars wave flags for a number of teams. What team are you cheering for? Who do you think will win the tournament? (With Spain and England packing to go home the field has opened up.)


Reflecting on my time at the International Symposium for Digital Technology and Literacy/English Teacher Education

I (Lydia) feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the symposium last week as many of the issues raised resonated with my current research examining student teachers’ experiences with contemporary literacy teaching and learning. The issues highlighted during the individual presentations and accompanying discussions offered rich insights into the status of teacher educational internationally.


I’d like to share a few of the questions raised during the symposium that remained with me and will continue to inform my research in literacy teacher education: What should a curriculum of contemporary teacher education include? In what ways can a curriculum of teacher education provide the space and quality time necessary for student teachers to truly engage as learners? How does power continue to operate in the curriculum? How do digital tools and social media spaces construct reading and writing? What do these digital spaces permit and what do they restrict? How is knowledge constructed, represented, and distributed within digital spaces? What are the pedagogical consequences as students engage with different modes within digital spaces? These are just a few of the questions I continue to consider upon my return from the symposium. Having the opportunity to consider the complexities and issues relevant to teacher education with international scholars was truly inspiring. I look forward to continuing our rich conversations.


International Symposium on Literacy/English Teacher Education: A Focus on Digital Technology

With the symposium a few days behind us, I (Pooja) have had some time to reflect on what was discussed in London, England. Clare wrote a reflection post on day one of the symposium (, so I want to reflect a bit on day two. Day two started off with mini-presentations which asked presenters to focus on a central question: What is happening with digital technology in your context?


Shawn Bullock, assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, raised some interesting issues related to digital technology and education:

  • Technological Determinism: A theory which asserts we need to stay current with technology to stay relevant in society; technology determines cultural values and society’s structures
  • Digital Publics: The theory that the nature of public space has changed significantly over the past years. The nature of public space has gone from persistent to replicable to searchable in the past few decades:

o   Persistent- recording (video, audio) events changed the nature of public space;

o   Replicable- recordings became replicable;

o   Searchable- today we can search for any recording

(danah boyd)

Understanding how the nature of public space has drastically changed over the years, Shawn posed an important question to the group: What is the role of education in theorizing privacy in the digital age?


As the symposium was coming to a close, we were guided to reflect on the past two days. Many people realized that the rapid increase of standardization and data driven initiatives was happening across all contexts. However, many individuals commented that the conversations over the past two days were “energizing.” Being in conversation about big issues across international contexts made many teacher educators realize they were not alone. In fact, many commented they wanted to keep up the momentum by further collaborating and “making some noise” in teacher education.




Once again, we’d like to thank TUG Agency for so graciously hosting us. TUG provided a vibrant and exciting atmosphere for our symposium to take place. Check out their website at:

Thank you!!!

What’s in a word?

Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, has teamed up with the Girls Scouts USA to start a campaign that calls for a ban on the use of the word bossy in everyday language. Sandberg suggests that referring to girls as “bossy” can limit their full leadership potential.  The website of Sandberg’s non-profit organization LeanIn.Org states,

“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded bossy. Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead. Pledge to Ban Bossy”. 

Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” initiative has recruited an ensemble of spokeswomen, including Condoleezza Rice, Diane von Furstenberg, Jennifer Garner, Jane Lynch, and perhaps most notably megastar Beyoncé.

The Ban Bossy project highlights how a word can come to signify particular social and cultural dynamics.  While I do understand the goals driving this initiative it makes me uneasy when a group advocates for the banning of words no matter how well intentioned their motivations might be. Words carry with them a history, at times a history of injustice and painful disparities, but an awareness of history is critical if we hope to effect systemic change.  Perhaps, an alternative to “banning” is reclaiming words in an attempt to shift the negative connotations associated with a particular word.

Re-Conceptualizing Multiculturalism in Terms of Diversity and Individual Identity

In a blog in January, I (Clive) argued against teaching multiculturalism in a way that leads to Ishrad Manjistereotyping, thus undermining students’ individual identity and well-being. In interviews this weekend after giving the 2014 Bluma Lecture, author and NYU professor Irshad Manji spoke eloquently of the dangers of a misguided approach to “multiculturalism,” expressing preference for terms such as “diversity,” “global citizenship,” and “individual identity.” In the Toronto Star she said:

Multiculturalism is about preserving a group mindset, which amounts to labelling. Diversity, on the other hand, is about…different points of view…. If you listen seriously to a new generation of Torontonians, multiculturalism’s time is done. Enough of hyphenated identities. The next stage in our city’s evolution is this: global citizenship.

Manji would like to see more emphasis on individual identity. In the Globe and Mail she commented:

[Mr. Trudeau] basically said national unity must be founded in one’s own confidence in one’s individual identity and from that we can begin to engage with others…. We don’t have that kind of multiculturalism today, in my view. What we have is more a fear of engaging based very much on feeling intimidated that I’m going to say something wrong or that somebody is going to be offended.

She is especially concerned about the impact of prevailing approaches to multiculturalism on vulnerable community members, notably women and children. In the Star she stated that “the vast majority of the world’s known cultures are patriarchal,” and in the Globe she said:

By giving rights to cultures, not just to individuals, what we wind up doing…is giving more power to those who are already powerful within certain communities. We give them more power to dictate what customs are to be respected and which customs are untouchable. The next time you’re told you must respect such and such a custom, ask yourself, “What does my respect for this custom do for the most vulnerable in that community?” And the most vulnerable tend to be women and children.

Whether or not the term “multiculturalism” has outlived its usefulness is something we should ponder; and if we’re too afraid to say it has, we prove Manji’s point. But whatever words we use, we can support Manji’s approach in teaching and teacher education by stressing the diversity and power differences within cultural communities, the commonalities across communities, and the importance of individual identity and well-being.

Grade Two Flash Mob

I (Cathy) love Flash Mobs.  Someday, I hope to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to witness one. Members of a symphony orchestra  in Sabadell, Spain clearly excel at creating them.  There are many clips to be found on Youtube by this group, but my favorite is the one set up for a grade two classroom.  In the link below, the classroom flash mob is embedded with several others.  Just keep watching.  I love the look on the children’s faces; their reactions as they get lost in the music; and, their ability to conduct!  Ah, the joy of it.  I wonder how many of these children will dabble in music after this experience.

Congratulations Tiffany Harris

Tiffany Harris and Clare Kosnik

Congratulations to Tiffany Harris (member of our research team) who successfully defended her PhD thesis yesterday. The thesis, Multiliteracies Theory into Practice: An Inquiry into Junior-level Literacy Classrooms, was a study of classroom teachers (grades 4 – 6) which examined their understanding and use of a multiliteracies approach in their teaching. The thesis is outstanding because Tiffany closely studied her participants’ views of literacy, their practices, and the challenges they face. The analysis is outstanding because Tiffany is both a very accomplished classroom teachers and an excellent researcher. She brought to bear on her work her understanding of the work of teachers and her extensive knowledge of multiliteracies theory. As a result, her work will definitely contribute to our understanding of how literacy is evolving and how teachers are adjusting their teaching. It is rare to have a study that moves so effectively between theory and practice. Her thesis will soon be available through the Proquest Dissertation Database. Congratulations Dr. Harris. Attached is a picture of Tiffany and me (Clare) after her thesis defense.

The Power of Believing

Building on Clare’s blog from yesterday and the notion of connecting well-­‐being to schooling, I (Yiola) feel compelled to share with you the story of Simon Marcus. He is a member of my extended family and one of Canada’s top athletes in the sport of Muay Thai. In fact, Simon is a 5 time World Champion.

Simon’s story is not uncommon: a Black, male disengaged with traditional school. As a child, he was an active boy and excelled in sports but had very little patience and interest for learning inside the classroom. He has shared his schooling story with me numerous times and the story has been consistent, “It is not that I was not capable of doing the work, I just had no interest or motivation”. As his schooling years progressed he found himself deeper and deeper in spaces of alienation and low expectation for successful schooling. And then, he met Master Suchart, a Master teacher of Muay Thai.  Through a pedagogy that engaged him (physical literacy), a teacher that knew how to connect to his well-­‐being, and a developing belief in himself as a learner and a winner, Simon went from detentions and failure to being on top of the world. The one statement that rings in my ears about Simon’s journey to success is this turning point, “I knew Master Suchart believed in me. His belief in me made me believe in myself”. The ideas of well-­‐being, trust, care and belief paved the way to Simon’s success. A teacher’s role in the well-­‐being of a student is key: the social conditions created in a classroom, the relationships fostered and the pedagogical decisions a teacher makes are key.

From my own experiences as a Muay Thai fighter, I can say it is much easier to prepare for and pass a science test at school than it is to prepare for and step into a Muay Thai ring and yet the big questions worth exploring are: how did the teaching and learning at the Muay Thai school connect well-­‐being to schooling success? What process took place for Simon to connect with the learning, embrace the teacher and believe in himself? Perhaps the kinesthetic element of the pedagogy, perhaps the content, perhaps the teacher as role model and unconditional supporter, perhaps the challenge and, very likely the overheard whisperings of his teacher: “see that  boy over there, he’s my future champion”.


Simon’s victory in Buenos Aires, Argentina against Argentina’s #1 fighter.

yiola 2

Simon with his teacher, celebrating a victory together.

Canadians Will Be Cheering Their Canadian Hockey Team

On Sunday, many Canadians will be cheering the men’s hockey team who are playing Sweden for the gold medal at the Olympics. For those who are not following the Olympics, the Canadian women’s hockey team won the gold medal on Thursday. It was a very exciting game with Canada coming from behind. In 2010 when Canada played the US for the gold medal 27 million Canadians (population 33)  million watched the game. Thought you might enjoy the cartoon below. Clare

Men's hockey team being told to play like girls.