Category Archives: teacher educators

Mobile Learning

Well, I (Cathy) changed mobile phone brands. I was an avid iphone user, but my son-in-law convinced me to switch  to an android.    I’m delighted to say the switch over  has been pretty smooth.  In truth, I see very little difference.  Both use apps.  Both are user friendly. Both take great pictures.  My messaging and contacts all remained the same. Mind you, I couldn’t answer my phone the first time it rang because I kept tapping the icon when I should have been sliding, and I didn’t set the alarm correctly the first time it used it and slept in.  But other than that, the learning curve has been quite minimal.  My favourite function of my new android  is the slide pattern security code.  So much easier than tapping numbers. Interestingly, I showed my new phone to an old friend the other day and she was horrified by the idea of not only switching phones, she wont give up her flip top. She said the new phones overwhelm her.  I’m relieved I have not been overwhelmed, in fact I am invigorated.  I’d like to try to use mobile phones more in my literacy class.  Yesterday,  I discovered our university does not have a class set of clickers for class feedback.  But on Google I discovered I can use an app called  Poll Everywhere for free with my class.

www.polleverywhere.com 

The video assures me any mobile phone will work, even flip phones!  Next week, its use your cell phone in class day.  Just hope I set the alarm correctly and don’t sleep in!

Good luck these first few weeks!

A number of my friends and colleagues experienced the scenarios depicted below.  Luckily, I  (Cathy) never did.  The transitions were smooth for us as parents and for our children.  As teachers, however, my husband and I would get anxious, whether teaching K or undergraduates: what will our students be like?; am I ready?; how will I get my classroom set up?; I don’t understand this new policy…  Parents I spoke to (that were not teachers) were surprised by this.  They assumed we had it ‘down pat’ and never even thought about it.  They didn’t understand that every year was a brand new set of challenges and joys and it would take a few weeks to get things settled in.

I wish all the teachers out there, elementary, secondary, and higher education a great start to their year.  May it be as smooth and fruitful!

All the best,

Cathy

off-to-school

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

 

 

‘Pokémon Go’ a Go in Education

I (Cathy) was initially confused when I recently started hearing the name “Pokémon” come up time and again.  I mean, isn’t that a bit outdated I thought?  The Pokémon game was first made popular in the 1990s as a video game, and my children loved it.  I soon discovered, however, the new Pokémon game, Pokémon Go, is an app that allows players to see and “catch” Pokémon characters in the real world through their phone screen and it has quickly developed into a cultural phenomenon. Personally, I haven’t tried it (yet) and find it rather amusing to watch grown people chase imaginary characters through the park or around buildings. But there have been educational insights into this new app that have intrigued me greatly.  For example Australian autism expert Craig Smith has devised a way of incorporating the hit game into his lessons to encourage autistic students’ social skills. According to The Independent:

Pupils at a school in Australia are being actively encouraged to use Pokémon Go in the classroom, after research showed the game could help rather than hinder their studies. Craig Smith, an academic specialising in Autism research, found that by allowing his pupils to use the augmented reality game in and out of the classroom, their social skills had improved and the children appeared more engaged with their learning.

Dr. Smith, who is also the Deputy Principle at the Aspect Hunter School for Children with Autism in Newcastle, New South Wales, said the game was unique in that it encouraged children with and without learning difficulties to play outside and engage with other students.

Smith said, “We wholly embrace whatever it is that kids are interested in and use that as a window into their world and bridge into further educational opportunities for them. For many of the children I teach it’s hard to engage in social activities – even going down to the shops can be socially overwhelming. But what we’re seeing with the Pokémon craze is the same students are making conversation and engaging in social activities through the game.”

 pokemon

With this in mind I am willing to give Go a go. Should be fun and give some else a chance to be amused at my chasing imaginary characters. I would also like to incorporate it into the orientation program of my literacy class!

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/pok-mon-go-classroom-help-autistic-children-australia-craig-smith-a7144946.html

Discovering New Pre-service Texts

I (Cathy) find myself skeptical of books or articles that use the term ‘activities’ in reference to assigning work to students in the classroom. I was once told the term activities infers no purpose or goal and can be viewed as ‘busy work’. Instead, I was instructed to use the term ‘task’ which infers a specific result must be achieved to accomplish the work.  I was therefore skeptical of a book I recently encountered titled, Pump It Up: Literacy Activities for the Classroom.  However, the caption on the book jacket read “specifically aims to help pre-service teachers learn to implement hands-on lessons for their content area.” So  I decided to take a closer look.  I quickly recognized the editors Joanne Kilgour Dowdy (Kent State University, Ohio USA) and Yang Gao (Kent State University, Ohio) required the contributing authors to include learning objectives for each learning ‘activity’ included in the volume.  I also realized the editors use the term activity to refer to a series of tasks that comprise a lesson.  For example, the activity depicted by contributing author Jessica Wilson explains, “This activity is devised to demonstrate how literacy and creativity can be achieved through all disciplines including science” and describes a free write lesson designed to encourage students to interpret key vocabulary words and develop appropriate syntax and discourse of key terms.

I was delighted to discover the activities or lessons in the book explore an array of disciplines and topics (e.g., health and physical education; drama and other arts; social justice; multiculturalism through children’s literature; literacy/language arts; and mathematics) and the disciplines appear to cross (e.g., using dram to explore science and journaling to explore mathematics). Further, I was intrigued by the sections earmarked Becoming an Artist and Embodying Social Justice.

Well, having now moved past my fear of the term ‘activities’, I have ordered a copy. I proved to myself I not only should not  judge a book by its cover, I also should not judge a book  by its title! As I will be teaching pre-service drama next semester and plan to include as many cross disciplinary ‘activities’ as I can , I am hoping this will be a nice addition to the book collection I will provide for my teacher candidates.  Can’t wait for it to arrive!

2832_222_167

Click here for a sneak preview of the book:

https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/other-books/pump-it-up/

 

 

The Joy of Technology

I (Cathy) have always appreciated and valued how technology, particularly Skype, can enrich our lives.  I have used it and other forms of real time communication (e.g., Face time, Zoom) in research to conduct interviews; in classrooms to allow my students to meet authors; and in my personal life to stay in touch with my children while traveling.  But this week, Skype took on a whole new level of personal meaning for me when my daughter prematurely gave birth, on the other side of the country.   Within a few hours of the birth, I could ‘see’ my daughter and knew she was all right.  Then my husband and I watched our new granddaughter. It wasn’t a still photograph, it was her in real time, moving and stretching, even crying.  What a gift.  To be able to be a part of something so precious, even when so far away. As a child I envisioned such things through The Jetsons cartoon.  I can’t even imagine what darling baby Everley will witness when her grandchild is born.  Beam me up, Scottie?  Perhaps.  Right now I am content to experience Skype and appreciate the joy it brings into our lives.

.  skype

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.

 

 

Fishers of Paradise: Canadian Novelist to be honoured

On June 9, Canadian author Rachael Preston will be unveiling a Project Bookmark Canada plaque for her novel The Fishers of Paradise, that depicts the struggling squatters that occupied Cootes Paradise in 1930. The plaque is to be installed along the Desjardins Waterfront Trail in Hamilton, under the second rail bridge. I’m proud to share Rachael was a member of my writing critique group, so I was lucky enough to see the book develop. It’s a fascinating novel and I highly recommend it. It sheds light on an aspect of Hamilton history that was truly buried until now.  Book clubs- take note!

Racheal and dog

Story Summary:

The boathouse community of Cootes Paradise is under siege. The squatters’ shacks that line the shores of Dundas Marsh stand in the way of an ambitious politician’s “City Beautiful” plans. When a handsome drifter settles there, Egypt Fisher and her mother both fall under his spell. No one expects Egypt’s gambling con-man father to return after a mysterious six-year absence. But he does and he’s furious. Unhinged by jealousy and a harrowing brush with the local mafia at a cockfight, he reveals a family secret that sets Egypt’s world off-kilter and poisons her relationship with her mother. When Egypt tries to turn the situation to her own advantage, her lies set in motion a series of events with devastating consequences.

Rachael Preston now  lives in Departure Bay, Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She moved to BC from Hamilton, Ontario, where we’d been for ten years. She has authored three novels, Tent of Blue, 2002, and The Wind Seller, 2006, both with Goose Lane Editions. In 2012, she self-published The Fishers of Paradise.After winning Arts Hamilton’sinaugural Kerry Schooley Award for the book most representative of Hamilton, Fishers, was picked up by Wolsak & Wynn and reissued in April 2016 under their new James Street North Books imprint.

Fishers

http://rachaelpreston.com/

 

 

 

A Constructivist Approach Requires Being Courageous

When we hear the term “courage” we often think of someone dashing into a burning building to save a child or an unarmed individual wrestling to the ground someone with a gun. Yes these are courageous acts but I (Clare) want to talk about an unsung group who I feel have the fortitude and tenacity to be courageous.

In our study of literacy teacher educators which we have written about on this blog we Image Courageous LTEshared some of our findings showing many examples of truly exemplary teaching. We are currently working on a paper about 6 literacy teacher educators who use a constructivist approach to their literacy courses. In this era where education is highly politicized with mandated national curriculum and oversight by external bodies it takes “guts” to adopt an approach that includes: knowledge is constructed by learners; knowledge is experience based; learning is social; all aspects of a person are connected; and learning communities should be inclusive and equitable.

Ahsan and Smith (2016) who advocate a social constructivist approach have identified practices that support learning based on the social constructivist theory

  • Social interaction and dialogue
  • Environment deeply rooted in culture
  • More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) helping students
  • Scaffolding
  • Progressing through the zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • Constructive and timely feedback
  • Collaboration among students (p. 134)

Constructivism does not mean that you discard traditional forms of teaching (lectures, assignments, and readings) but it requires the teacher educator to have an inquiry-orientation; not just model good teaching but unpack it with their student teachers often revealing their own vulnerabilities; willingly to admit that they learn from their student teachers; have courses that are organic because they respond to student teachers’ needs; and build a social and intellectual community — often blurring the traditional lines between professor and student teacher. Yes their courses can be somewhat messy because they create space for discussion which often veers off from the plan but they are addressing student teachers’ needs.

To teach in this way takes courage because they are teaching in a way that they most likely did not experience as a student. A constructivist framework which is both a philosophy and a pedagogy may be a more useful approach to reform than the endless lists of expectations. These literacy teacher educators trusted themselves and their student teachers. The next step is for governments to trust teacher educators. And we need to applaud their courage to think outside the box and truly focus on their student teachers.

OTF Supports Teacher’s Self-Directed Professional Development

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The Ontario Teacher’s Federation (OTF) recognizes that teachers need to direct their own learning and professional development. To support this need they now offer a professional development  problem-based learning model which encourages teacher teams the opportunity to create their own learning projects.  The model encourages teachers to: select a team to work with; develop a project; conduct the research; and evaluate the effectiveness.  If the proposal is accepted, the OTF also provides support for the project through a mentoring program. Each team is assigned an expert teacher who will act as their mentor, who assists the team as needed throughout the process.

Through this process teachers are given the opportunity to:

  • become involved in ongoing self-directed learning;
  • spend real time collaborating with colleagues of their choice;
  • work as a team on a project of they deem significant (within the specified areas of focus);
  • have release time to carry out the learning initiative;
  • develop and implement the project over a period of months;
  • deepen their practice and evaluate teaching enhancements generated through your research and discussions; and
  • share their knowledge and resources with colleagues.

This year they have suggested three areas of focus:

  • Using information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance teaching and learning
  • Supporting capacity building in Kindergarten
  • Supporting teachers in implementing revised curriculum
    • Grades 1-8
      • History and Geography
      • Social Studies
    • Grades 9-12
      • Canadian and World Studies
      • Classical and International Languages
      • First Nation, Métis and Inuit Studies
      • Social Sciences and Humanities
    • Grades 1-12
      • French as a Second Language
      • Health and Physical Education

Deadline for 2016  proposal applications is May 31.

Some  2015 projects were:

Assessment Technology in Primary Physical Education

Cross-Curricular Integrating Technology/Media Studies

iPads for Inclusion

I remember, as a classroom teacher, wishing my school board would allow me the opportunity to identify my own areas of strength and weakness and seek out professional development accordingly.  It is appropriate that the OTF is acknowledging this form of PD and taking a step in the right direction.  It would be helpful if teacher education programs could also offer similar forms of support for their own staff and faculty.

http://www.otffeo.on.ca/en/learning/teacher-learning-co-op-tlc/