Category Archives: Uncategorized

Holland Bloorview: Another School that Shows what is Possible

Holland Bloorview is a remarkable place.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital focused on improving the lives of kids with disabilities. 

Holland Bloorview is a global leader in applied research, teaching and learning, and client and family centred care. 

Our vision is to create a world of possibility for kids with disability.

We pioneer treatments, technologies, therapies and real-world programs that give children with disabilities the tools to participate fully in life. We see children with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, epilepsy, spina bifida, arthritis, cleft-lip and palate, autism and other developmental disabilities. A small number of our clients have complex chronic diseases that require round-the-clock medical care. 

Holland Bloorview is a world-class teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. We are home to the Bloorview Research Institute and the Teaching and Learning Institute which are both located onsite, allowing us to integrate cutting-edge research and teaching with frontline care to improve children’s quality of life. 

Our state-of-the-art building has been recognized by the International Academy for Design and Health as an inspirational building which speaks to a child’s right to participate in our society.

To find out more:

http://www.hollandbloorview.ca

What’s more is there is an Integrated Kindergarten program at Holland Bloorview. This kindergarten program integrates typically developing children with children with disabilities.  Here is a link to their website that includes a short video about the program:

http://hollandbloorview.ca/programsandservices/ProgramsServicesAZ/Integratededucationandtherapy

Holland Bloorview has close connections with the Laboratory School at the University of Toronto (the school I wrote about in my last blog post) and to our faculty as well. Our student teachers in the Child Study and Education Program have had the privilege of learning to become teachers through practice teaching at in the Integrated Kindergarten and have found the experience to be remarkable.

The program may be at risk of closing. I came across this link and encourage anyone interested in supporting the continuation of the program to take a look and participate.

https://www.change.org/p/keep-the-bloorview-integrated-kindergarten-program-open

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Changing How We See the World

For as long as we can remember the map of our world looked like this:

map1
Source:

http://geology.com/world/world-map.shtml

This is the map represented by the Mercator projection created hundreds of years ago. In recent years, however, the Mercator projection has been considered to be misleading. For example, Greenland and the continent of Africa appear to be roughly the same size when it actuality Africa is over 10 times the size of Greenland. As a result, the Gall-Peters projection has been considered a more reliable representation of the world. You may notice it is quite different than what we are used to:

map2
Source: 

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/19/boston-public-schools-world-map-mercator-peters-projection

The Boston school district recently introduced this new map as the standard and needless to say students were pretty shocked. Joanna Walters (2017) from the Guardian reported on the new map rollout noting some of the most obvious differences:

The USA was small. Europe too had suddenly shrunk. Africa and South America appeared narrower but also much larger than usual. And what had happened to Alaska?

Walters believes the new map standard will lead to a paradigm shift and a step towards decolonizing the curriculum. She explains:

The result goes a long way to rewriting the historical and sociopolitical message of the Mercator map, which exaggerates the size of imperialist powers.

“This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools,” said Colin Rose, assistant superintendent of opportunity and achievement gaps for Boston public schools.

I believe it would be a powerful exercise to have students compare the two maps and analyze the differences.  Integration of a new and more reliable map standard is truly important step in working towards a socially just curriculum.

 

 

 

Une École des Emotions/The Possible School

We are fortunate at the University of Toronto to have the Dr. Eric Jackman Laboratory School (Jackman ICS) as part of our community. “The Lab School” is a small elementary school that has just over 200 students from nursery to sixth grade. I (Yiola) have had the privilege of working with and learning from the teachers, students and administrators at the school. Together we teach pre-service teachers in our Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program and student-teachers practice teach in the classrooms,  I have conducted longitudinal, observational research at the school and have been so deeply inspired by the daily teaching of young children. The children — oh the children — are truly the evidence of what is possible when a school community focuses on the child.
Recently a documentary film has come out that gives a small glimpse into the life of the school.  Jackman ICS was featured in a documentary film by Daisy Gand, a Masters student from France who visited Jackman ICS last year and is titled, “Une École des Emotions”/“The Possible School”. The link to the film is here and it is a must see:
Principal Richard Messina states:
At the Jackman Laboratory School, the student, parents, and teachers all benefit from the secure learning philosophy and pedagogical approaches that inspires deep understanding, creativity, curiosity, and confidence to flourish.  Our environment honors diversity and values an interconnected community, in which all members feel known, respected, and supported as active, engaged participants. 
 Children currently in our Early Years classes will graduate in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century, an era that will demand creativity and ingenuity, responsibility and compassion.  Their ability to thrive depends largely on the experiences they have at school.  
The latter part of Richard’s statement reflects the sentiments of Clive’s blog that was posted just yesterday… children need to experience “real life” at school in order to feel a sense of purpose. The laboratory school does this in so many ways: through its pedagogy, philosophy, curriculum, and approach.
What happens at the Jackman ICS can happen in any school and classroom;  yet, public schools often struggle with an inquiry-based pedagogy that places the child at the centre of the learning.  All students should have opportunity to learn at a “possible school”.  In light of this the Lab School is working hard to broaden student admission and retention policies that support all forms of diversity in equity and accessibility.
To make this happen the school has a fund that offers tuition support that accounts for  economic diversity.  Please see the link below if you would like to learn more about the fundraising efforts and support the work of the Laboratory school.
 This is JICS’s biennial fundraiser for tuition support.  Please purchase your tickets here:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/jackman-ics-diana-rankin-tuition-fundraiser-gala-tickets-32296391376?aff=es2 or donate to the JICS Diana Rankin Muncaster Family Tuition Support Fund at https://donate.utoronto.ca/give/show/40

Continuing to See Ourselves and Our Communities on Sesame Street

I, like many other kids, grew up watching Sesame Street. The brightly coloured characters with distinctly different personalities has made the television show a staple in households across the world for decades. What I recently learned is that a large part of their success is due to their approach. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the show; rather, the show reflects the current needs and issues of the period and context. Several co-production teams have been put together to first understand the context of a nation and then tailor the show based on the country in which  they will be broadcasted. For example, in the Bangladesh production, called Sisimpur, the show depicts village life and is  physically centred around a Banyan tree surrounded by familiar shops (e.g., sweet shops) rather than the street lined with North American version with brownstone townhouses. Further, a key focus of the show is to promote girls’ education; Tuktuki is a 5-year old character who has a deep love for learning.

sisimpur
Sisimpur

Most recently, Sesame Street North America has introduced a character Julia who is their first character with Autism. In a CBC article, the puppeteer for Julia commented on her hopes Julia’s character:

My hope is that kids will understand some autistic behaviours a little bit better and they won’t be at all concerned or worried about them, that they won’t be scared of them, that they’ll see a child in their own community who might behave like Julia, or have some of the characteristics that Julia has, and they’ll see that as just another kid.

And they’ll be able to go up to that child and go, “Oh! That kid might be a little bit like Julia, and Abby [another Sesame Street character] plays with Julia and I can play with this kid too.”

Julia
Sesame Street’s new character: Julia

I applaud Sesame Street for continuing to reflect our communities and approach issues head on.

Link to CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-friday-edition-1.4039714/sesame-street-puppeteer-hopes-new-muppet-with-autism-will-help-kids-understand-each-other-1.4039728

 

Literacy/English Teacher Educators — Goals for Their Courses

Along with my research team we have been studying literacy/English teacher educators. Through this work I became very fascinated with a notion of a pedagogy of literacy teacher education. In the second interview we asked  them to define the goals for their courses. We then categorized and tabulated the results. As the table below show not surprisingly building knowledge of literacy was their first goal.

Goals for course Number who identified this goal
Build knowledge of literacy 28
Build knowledge of pedagogical strategies 25
Student teachers adopt a professional role 18
Student teachers develop a critical stance 16
Build knowledge of government initiatives 13
Build knowledge of digital technology 11
Focus on student teacher growth 10

When the specific goals for their courses were analyzed using NVivo a more nuanced picture emerged. Their vision for literacy varied tremendously. Regarding literacy although learning about literacy and acquiring pedagogical strategies were common goals, interpretations of what student teachers need to know about literacy theory and teaching strategies varied.

Some like Melissa, Dominique, and Maya (pseudonyms used img_1030.jpgthroughout) focused on critical literacy while Amelia and Jessie had multiliteracies as the framework for their courses. Jane and Lance focused on children’s literature, while Sharon and Margie had the writing process as their priority. One LTE focused her course totally on phonics and phonological awareness.  Justin commented: “I see our work as being about the development of teachers as public intellectuals …  not simply to prepare beginning teachers for whatever the particular curricular or pedagogic demands of policy here now are but for a lifetime in teaching and this involves them being able to be both critical of initiatives that are thrust on them and creative in their approaches.”

It also became apparent the teacher educators’ broader goals for teacher education were quite different.  For example Justin believed that he should “prepare student teachers for a lifetime of teaching; prepare them to be public intellectuals; see schools as an emancipatory space. Caterina aims to have her student teachers “themselves as professionals not college students.” Emma has very specific goals: “understand current curriculum …  develop skills to plan and asses … be independent thinkers who are not just teaching for the schools we have.” Bob by contrast has broader goals “student teachers learn to focus on the students … to unpack their beliefs  [about schooling] … and to develop an identity as a professional.” While Martha Ann focuses on the individual’s development “develop a sense of self-efficacy … learn to take initiative … …. know children’s literature … empower students.” The lack of consistency in literacy methods courses (content and pedagogy) in teacher education is a concern because student teachers may graduate with markedly different understandings of literacy and may have been exposed to a particular set of literacy theories and pedagogies.

In my next blog post I will present the framework for a pedagogy of literacy teacher education.

A Letter From 30 Scholars on Learning Styles

images

In recent days there have been a flurry of news articles revisiting the legitimacy of learning styles in the classroom. Thirty scholars from the areas of education, psychology, and neuroscience crafted a letter to The Guardian newspaper  asserting that there is a severe lack of evidence to back the idea of learning styles (see link below). The notion of learning styles is commonplace in many K-12 classrooms, as well as teacher education programs. The premise of learning styles is that an individual can learn better when presented information in a certain format (e.g., visual, kinaesthetic, auditory). However, there has been a lack of sufficient evidence, which would indicate that tailoring content delivery in a one particular format would result in deeper learning. The letter explains:

There are, however, a number of problems with the learning styles approach. First, there is no coherent framework of preferred learning styles. Usually, individuals are categorised into one of three preferred styles of auditory, visual or kinesthetic learners based on self-reports. One study found that there were more than 70 different models of learning styles including among others, “left v right brain,” “holistic v serialists,” “verbalisers v visualisers” and so on. The second problem is that categorising individuals can lead to the assumption of fixed or rigid learning style, which can impair motivation to apply oneself or adapt.

Finally, and most damning, is that there have been systematic studies of the effectiveness of learning styles that have consistently found either no evidence or very weak evidence to support the hypothesis that matching or “meshing” material in the appropriate format to an individual’s learning style is selectively more effective for educational attainment. Students will improve if they think about how they learn but not because material is matched to their supposed learning style. The Educational Endowment Foundation in the UK has concluded that learning styles is “Low impact for very low cost, based on limited evidence”.

Adhering strictly to learning styles can be reductive; however, they continue to appear in educational settings. The notion of learning styles have been repeatedly debunked over the year, yet why do you think learning styles still are still used so widely?

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/12/no-evidence-to-back-idea-of-learning-styles

Greetings from Limassol, Cyprus

“Yeia Sou! Kalo sorises.”  Hello! Welcome.

I (Yiola) am writing to you from the beautiful island of Cyprus. A small Mediterranean island so strategically placed its location is ironic.

Caught between European and Middle Eastern influence (and a long history of varied occupation) I dare to claim that Cyprus is one of the most unique places on earth.

Last week’s blog about language as culture and language as power came to you from my short time in Vienna. This week I find myself in a country where I speak the language (Greek). I can communicate (sort of) and can identify with the culture (sort of). As a visitor, I feel welcomed and because I have some knowledge of the language I have a sense of knowing, of so many things, and a sense of belonging.  Language is power.

Of course, it is not so simple. The nuances and complexities of culture and its constant evolution make it challenging for anyone not living in its place to fully understand. The beauty of travel is that we can experience and through our experiences learn something new and refreshing about the world and ourselves.

Some images of Cyprus:

17203221_10158519375885121_7027915947110758556_nA map of Cyprus — my father pointing to Limassol (which is where most of the images below were taken)

17309424_10158519375725121_8451982945569193760_n
a city view from the Limassol castle

yermasoyiasmall villages in Limassol

17201024_10158512793775121_7776979033193949503_n
a historical Cypriot home in one of the villages

17190912_10158524077520121_6422749005511709267_nThe island’s most popular attraction: beautiful beaches.

My daughter Sylvia Clare and I sending warm greetings from Cyprus!

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

Delightfully Surprised

I (Cathy) was in the mood for a mystery thriller and happened upon a novel called The Passage by Justin Cronin.  As i like to be surprised, I didn’t read the book jacket.  Indeed i was surprised.  It was a horror thriller with characters akin to the Walking Dead zombies, but with more life, strength, and smarts.  In other words the human race didn’t stand a chance.  I admit when this was first revealed, I was a bit skeptical, however, the writing was suburb and the characters wonderfully rich and complex.  I ended up getting hooked and also listened to book two and three in the series, The Twelve, and the final book, The City of Mirrors.  All excellent.  It was after the first book I read a review:

“Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.” (Stephen King)

And he was right.  It was consuming until the very end. So, I think I’ll it start again!

passage_

A Listening Party for We Are the Halluci Nation

A Tribe Called Red just released their much anticipated album entitled, We Are The Halluci Nation. The Tribe Called Red is the Canadian-based music group comprised of First Nations members who merge electronic music styles along with contemporary powwow music. Their latest album features many artists (both Canadian and international) and focuses around the themes of decolonization and unification.

After listening to this powerful album several times this past weekend, I decided to incorporate it into my course Building on Reflective Practice. Since we have read some of Freire’s work about “reading the world” I thought analyzing this powerful and politically driven music would be an excellent way of tying together theory and practice. Students will be asked in pairs to “read” a song of their choice by analyzing, interpreting, and synthesizing.

Probe questions will be asked such as:

  • What story is being told?
  • How does the work compare with other similar works?
  • What cultural, economic, or political forces influence the work?
  • What historical forces influence the work?What can you do in your daily life/classroom to contribute to shifting the narrative of colonization?

This will be followed by a listening of the album interspersed with insights and discussion from the groups and whole class. Below I am including the official video for the first song off the album.