As a kid, I always loved staying up to watch the Late Show with David Letterman. And after spending some time tonight working with the organization team for our upcoming EdCamp35 in Langley and then watching David Letterman to unwind, I've come up with my own Top Ten List. Here are the top 10 reasons why you should attend an EdCamp ...
The focus is on conversations, not presentations ... no one stands at the "front of the room."
It's free ... and everyone can afford that.
You get to put a face to your PLN ... and see if they actually look like their profile picture.
You will experience first hand the power of sharing ... what's my best practice for learning can become your best practice for learning.
There are prizes ... and who doesn't like to win prizes???
You get all the stakeholders for education together in one room ... and we all know what change can come from a group of dedicated, passionate and invested people.
You will connect with other people who are just as passionate about education and learning as you are ... and as a result, your PLN will grow immensely.
You get to ACTUALLY employ the "law of two feet" ... and I know there are lots who have wanted to use it in many other educational meetings.
The sessions are suggested by you, voted on by you and facilitated by you ... Now that's personalized learning.
They're FUN ... I mean seriously, all these people gave up a Saturday to further their learning for student success!!
There are EdCamps happening all over Canada, the United States and around the world (Click here for a list of upcoming events). If you have ever been to one, you are nodding with the list above (and adding your own reasons). And if you've never been, you will only need to once to see the power of this organic, energizing and powerful form of educational professional development.
We've all had that phone call from a parent ... "My child is going to be away from school today, can I please come by and get the work they will be missing." In fact, as I'm typing this post, I can hear my administrative assistant fielding several calls along those lines. And it wasn't until a staff member came into my office after getting one of these requests, that I realized how far we still have to go when it comes to sharing with parents how much learning in the classroom in which that learning takes place has changed in the past 5 - 10 years.
When I was a kid, being away usually meant that my younger brother would be bringing home a file folder, labelled "While You Were Away" that was full of worksheets that needed to be completed. In addition, there was usually a couple textbooks that were attached (which my brother hated carrying) with yellow Post-it notes letting me know what pages to read and what questions to answer. I would diligently complete as much as I could (since I could never play outside after a day of missing school anyway) and with any luck, would return the next day being right where the class left off.
Fast forward to today, where learning in the classroom has moved far beyond worksheets and textbooks. Now don't get me wrong, there is still a place for those forms of learning, but few would argue that learning today is a much more dynamic, interactive, collaborative and social process. If one could be a fly on the wall in today's classroom, they would see students learning math concepts, grammar and social responsibility all during a 30 minute calendar time on the carpet. They would see an in-depth conversation among middle school students about what social in-justice looks like around the globe, complete with online and textual research, Skyping with other classes and group role playing games to help model the experience. They would see a senior writing class not only peer editing their writing, but also getting feedback on its content from their younger buddy class as well as the larger global community through an interactive blog. And these are only a few examples.
And in knowing all that, it begs the question ... how is it possible for a parent to "pick up what was missed" when their child is sick. Are there ways for children to be learning at home? No question about it. And are there ways for learning to be connected between school and home? In this day and age, I would argue absolutely. But hopefully, gone are the days when a student misses a day of school and is able to make it up by simply finishing what is in the "While You Were Away" folder. Learning in the classroom has come a long way. And with these changes in what school and learning looks like for our students, comes the need for teachers to change how they compensate for a child being away. But also what needs to be adjusted is a parent's expectation that picking up the "work that was missed" will in anyway replicate the learning that happens during the day at school.
So I've been fighting this post for a while. At West Langley, we are lucky enough to have many devices we've been utilizing to fulfill our goal of "engaging students in authentic learning empowered by technology." And when I talk with other educators, they often want to know what apps we are using. For us, it is not so much about the apps, but the learning we want to accomplish with (or without) the those apps. So my usual response is to try focus more on what educators want to have their students learn before ever talking about specific apps. I mean I know it's cliche, but there truly is an app for everything and if we get hung up on the apps, we can easily lose sight of the actual learning we want to occur.
But having said all that, I do appreciate that others are curious about what apps we are using here at our school. So this post is for you! While we use a variety of apps depending on the learning situation, I've compiled a series of screen shots based on three different areas in our school:
1. Mrs. O'Byrne & Mrs. Bentley's Grade 2 class which currently has a student:iPad ratio of 1:1
2. Ms. Olson & Ms. Johnston's Grade 3&4 class which currently has a student : iPad ratio of 2:1
3. Ms. McLeod's Grade 5&6 class which currently has a student:iPad ratio of 1:1
(You can click on each image to enlarge the picture.)
Mrs O'Byrne & Mrs Bentley's Grade 2 Apps
Ms Olson & Ms Johnston's Grade 3&4 Apps
Ms McLeod's Grade 5&6 Apps
I'm always happy to answer questions about what we are doing at West Langley Elementary and help other schools/teachers in any way we can. And we are also looking to see what other innovative ways educators are using technology to enhance and empower the learning of students. Please share your thoughts below.
There has been so much conversation lately about engaging students in their own learning. In fact at my own school, West Langley Elementary, our mission statement has that concept right in it ... "Engaging students in authentic learning empowered by technology." And as I think more and more about what "engagement" in learning actually means, I am often drawn to the two things that motivate me to learn something - NECESSITY and PASSION.
When I think about the times in my own life where I was fully engaged in learning, it is usually one of these two ideas that is at play. When something breaks on my car (and I am too cheap pay to get it fixed), it becomes a necessity that I learn how to repair it. I need my car to get around so I find myself in a situation where I need to learn the specific skills to repair it. As an adult, I tap into the many learning resources I have. I might ask a friend who has some expertise in this area, I might find a book or "how-to" manual or go online to see if there is a teacher out there that has the specific learning I need. But at the end of the day, it is the need to learn how to fix my car that motivates me to learn.
And I would suggest that for children, necessity is an important learning motivator as well. Although they probably don't know it, there are some concepts they NEED to know and understand. As the adults in school, we have a responsibility to narrow down for students these core learning outcomes and put them in a context that helps a child understand how this learning is important or even essential to their well-being as they get older. And I recognize that there is much debate on what these core outcomes would include however, necessity is a motivator for all humans...adults and students.
The other driver in my own learning is PASSION. And this is the one I enjoy the most. When I first started to play golf, I was drawn to the game for many different reasons. There was a certain intellect to the game that appealed to me. And from this passion, I began to learn and learn and learn. Like with the car, I tended to tap into the same types of resources. I had my friends show me what they already learned, I read magazines and books and even used YouTube clips to improve my swing. No one told me I had to learn all of this. It was my passion for golf that drove me to engage in hours of study. And while many of my golfing friends would tell you it often appears that I haven't learned a thing about the game, the motivation to continue learning and improving comes from an internal passion and not based on any outside factor.
Again, I think there is a direct correlation to what happens in schools. Students have spent a lot of time being motivated by "necessity." However, we know that when a student has a passion for a particular topic, the teacher, parents, etc need to do little to move their learning along. We end up being facilitators to guide, but they want to learn. What is exciting is that educators are embracing this idea of passion as motivator for learning more and more. The rise of things like Genius Hour, Passion Based Projects and Inquiry Learning, is evidence that we are understanding the importance of passion when in comes to the learning of all humans.
And there are even times when they occur simultaneously. Or more likely, where one (necessity) precedes the other (passion). Sometimes in life we begin to learn out of necessity and that transforms into a more passion based learning. How many times have we started off by needing to fix a broken timing belt and once we got under the hood of a car discovered how much passion we had for mechanics. And then the next thing we know, we are buying old vehicles on Craigslist and spending hours and hours rebuilding them back to perfection, with incredible learning along the way.
I think when we draw the analogy to schools, this is the biggest area where motivation for learning occurs. We often introduce students to concepts they NEED to know, unaware that they have a PASSION to learn even more. And as we give them a chance to continue down the past of a particular topic, the learning for students becomes great internalized as it transitions from necessity to genuine passion.
At the end of the day, we need balance when it comes to learning. And perhaps narrowing it down to only NEED and PASSION as the primary motivators for learning may be too simplistic. But on the other hand, maybe we sometimes make it more complicated than it needs to be. What do you think motivates students to learn? Is there more than just need and passion?
I had a great conversation while out on morning supervision with one of my staff at West Langley Elementary about the importance of having "YES" days in our classrooms. And while it seems like a simple enough idea, I'm not sure we give ourselves permission to actually do that. And at a time when change in education can be overwhelming and learning time can feel like a scarce commodity, this idea of saying "yes" when working with students is even more important.
One of our Kindergarten teachers, Ashley Wong, has been working with her class on using more inquiry based learning as well as connecting with other classes through Twitter. A project she is currently working on is based on the book Snowmen At Night. Her and another class in Chicago, IL have been Skyping with one another to share what they are thinking and learning about the book. As part of their learning, her class talked about what Snowmen do as a job during the day. They then created a visual representation of their snowman doing that job using any materials they wanted. She simply supplied a variety of things and even got materials if the students asked for them.
And in sharing this lesson with me, she said something I thought was very powerful and really resonated with me. She said, "it was so nice to say yes to the students. We spend so much time saying no, it was exciting and fun to be able to say yes when they asked, 'can I do this.'" And while I was interested in the project itself, the inquiry based learning and authentic connecting, I was intrigued by her notion of "saying yes."
We just don't do it enough. Now granted, there are times we need to say no to students. That is an important part of the learning process. But I think we forget sometimes how important it is to say yes to them as well. To allow them to be creative, to inquire and explore and to engage in things they are passionate about. And as educators, saying yes sometimes gives us a different perspective on how a particular child learns. Creating an environment where barriers are removed may show us talents we never knew existed. I know in looking at the snowmen created by Mrs Wong's class, saying "yes" made for some amazing learning and highly creative final products.
I wonder how classrooms could look if we said "yes" more often. And how do you say "yes" in your classroom? And if you feel like you don't get to enough, what are the barriers to being able to do that? Please leave a comment below sharing your ideas, thoughts and reflections about saying "yes" when it comes to learning.