Episode 33 – Modern Family

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In this episode, we interview Emily Farkas and Nicole James who are both Modern Learning Resource Teachers and will be taking over the EML podcast in the new year. Emily & Nicole share what parts of the Empowering Modern Learners vision document speak to them as well as about the amazing things that are happening in some of their schools.

What’s New in EML This Week 

Jim shared on ongoing, five month project at a few of the schools he supports. Teachers chose a specific element to focus on and then began to research and extend their understanding and application around ideas within that element. The project goal is to create a two-minute video at the end of the year that shares details of how student learning was improved after innovations were made within a focus element:

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For example, if the focus is Learning Environments, a teacher might explore in greater depth how the physical space affects learning, research concepts such as the ‘third teacher,’ and looking more intentionally at the use and placement of tables, seating, positions, walls or dividers, access to materials, floor areas, colours, zones, and so on… and not just the physical space but also how those physical spaces are used. The focus question for the two-minute video is: How did the changes/innovations you made within the chosen element empower students and improve learning? One of the biggest ‘take-aways’ shared by teachers is a new level of understanding of the extent to which the six elements are intertwined and how deeply they interact with each other. 

Here is an example video from a teacher at Kingswood Drive PS:

 

Amit shared the work that Sapna Khosa’s grade 6 class at James Grieve did when they were presenting their business to the grade 10 students from Mayfield Secondary School. The students used the Global Goals for Sustainable Development to create their businesses and then created a 3 Slide Deck Pitch and a website to present to their authentic audience.

 

Links from the Interview with Emily Farkas and Nicole James 

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Shares for the Week

Nicole share an article called The Key to 21st Century Classrooms Isn’t Tech. It’s Evolved Teaching. She also shared more details about the summer conference: EML Summer Conference MLP Sign Up

Emily shared details regarding the annual PDSB parent conference and invited interested teachers to share their ideas at the conference: Parent Conference – Call for Facilitators

 

Episode 32 – The Office

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In this episode, we interview Claudine Scuccato who is the new Coordinating Principal of Modern Learning here in Peel. She shares her own journey with Empowering Modern Learners as well as some advice for teachers and administrators on how to get things going with the Empowering Modern Learners vision.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim shared the notion of learning concepts through immersion. Seymour Papert often spoke about creating an environment, a Mathland, in which students had a variety of opportunities to think, speak and create mathematically so that they could learn the language of mathematics as easily as a child who grew up in France could learn French. Jim shares a little of the discussion he had with some teachers who were talking about times in their lives in which they learned things through immersion, not through courses or school. Some of the ideas were:

  • Finding happiness
  • First using social media
  • Collaboration, working together 
  • Parenting / raising children
  • Finding one’s way around a city after just moving there
  • Rules in sports through playing
  • Fractions – one teacher who grew up in a family with 7 children said she was always thinking about what would be her share or portion of whatever was being given the children

Amit shared the work that he is doing over at Alloa Public School with Julie Vandendool, who was featured in Episode 19, in the school’s Library Learning Commons. He talked about how you can create a space that is inviting for students from K-8 and mentioned that trying to incorporate student voice as much as possible is important.

Links from the Interview with Claudine Scuccato

In her interview, Claudine talked about:

Shares for the Week

Jim shared a few paragraphs from chapter one of Lifelong Kindergarten in which Mitch Resnick recounts a 2013 meeting with Chen Jining (the part of the chapter Jim quotes has been made available via the Learning Creative Learning free online course from MIT). Jining was the president of Tsinghua University at the time. The most interesting part of the passage to Jim was:

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Jim really connected to the ideas in this paragraph and the point that Chen Jining made about students not demonstrating the creative, innovative spirit needed to succeed in modern (and future) society. This is one of the underlying goals of the Empowering Modern Learning vision and is the rationale behind the moral imperative.

Amit shared a video entitled “Women of Colour Share Their Imposter Syndrome”

The video defines Imposter Syndrome as “feelings of inadequacy or phoniness that make one believe that they are undeserving of success”. It goes on to state that “factors such as racism and doubts about one’s abilities due to race, gender or background can lead to the development of imposter syndrome.” Amit reminded listeners that as educators we have to be flexible and responsive to our students’ needs and that ultimately means we need to have a deep knowledge of who our students are and make sure they are at the center of what we are doing.

Episode 31 – How It’s Made

Joe

In this interview we interview Joe Dallaire who is a Science teacher at Stephen Lewis Secondary School. He shares the work that he is doing with the collaborative inquiry process with his students. He also talks about the work he is doing with the Peel Science 9 Resource.

What’s New in the World of EML 

Jim shared some of the visioning and planning going on at one of the middle schools he supports. The grade 7 team is looking at ways to make learning more powerful and relevant by integrating curriculum areas but focusing on a few big questions or themes that connects the topics. They are looking at competencies, and discussing how skills and competencies could be more of a focus by using the curriculum content as the context in which they are developed. Most of the big picture thinking is complete and currently they are planning the nuts and bolts of how it is going to work with timetables and resources. 

Amit shared the work that he is doing with the teachers at Castlebrooke Secondary School around Feedback Based Assessment. There were 6 different departments all collaborating to ensure that they are all on the same page delivering a consistent message to all of the stakeholders who are involved once they start their pilot in September.

Links from the Interview with Joe Dallaire 

Shares for the Week

Jim shared some exciting inquires a grade 5 class were involved in. Students were exploring different aspects of designing and building a structure with the end goal of being a strong structure able to withstand various forces, such as a bridge supporting a load moving across. Students were experimenting with different methods of attaching wooden popsicle sticks together (wood glue, hot glue, tape, etc.) and then testing each method. They used a free app called Hudl Technique to record the forces acting on the structure until the point of failure. The app made it easy for students to step through the frames and investigate how and why the structure failed. Then, an improvement was made and another iteration took place in the design process.

Amit shared Jim’s Blog Post entitled Scratch vs. Swift Playgrounds where he talks about the differences between the two platforms for coding. Amit shared how he feels Scratch allows more of a coding to learn rather than learning to code with Swift Playgrounds. He also talked about the Grasshopper app which also has a place, but he felt that using Scratch allowed for a bit more creativity.

Episode 30 – Cheers

Katie Novak

In this episode, we interview Katie Novak who is the author of UDL Now! A Teacher’s Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning in Today’s Classrooms.  Katie shares some great strategies that teachers can use when they are planning for their students using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lens.

What’s New in EML?

Jim shared some of the major themes that were discussed in his workshop at the recent Aylesbury Modern Learning Summit on May 16, 2018. His workshop involved looking at how coding can help students play with and visualize mathematical concepts and processes. Some of the key points discussed were:

  • Coding makes abstract thoughts concrete. Ideas become “manipulatable”, discussable, and visual 
  • Coding allows students to access a level of complexity in mathematical and logical thinking that might not be attainable from other methods 
  • Importance of curriculum content but questions arose about the arbitrary nature of various concepts assigned various grades within some linear sequence… using coding as a thinking and design tool is an open challenge to that kind of rigid structure.forever imagine prog share
  • Scratch is the right place for coding – it’s a learning environment, first and foremost (not just a coding environment), it supports PBL, it supports social interaction and discussion, it supports a very wide variety of projects which can be highly personalized, and it can be used to create very simple or very complex projects, and everything in-between. 

Amit shared the workshop he ran with the teachers at the Aylesbury Modern Learning Summit around docAppender and how it can be used as a tool to help with pedagogical documentation using Google’s CS First Program. This is a great tool for teachers to use as it not only has its own curriculum built in, but there are different themes that teachers and students can choose from.

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Links from the Interview with Katie Novak

Katie shared a number of resources including:

Shares for the Week

Jim shared the tool we used to record Katie Novak’s interview, who joined us from Massachusetts for the live recording. We used Zencastr. Jim talked about the potential for students to use Zencastr collaboratively to create podcasts, documentaries or dramatic presentations (and the tool allows for students to be in different locations for their recording). Zencastr could also be used to connect classes of students living in different parts of the province, country or the world to discuss ideas, conduct interviews, play music, sing, or share audio that is unique to the locations where each class lives. 

Zencastr used a technology called voice over IP which means that voices and other audio are carried as data on internet-based networks, not traditional telephone networks. After sign up initially, you get a complimentary “Hobby Pro Trial” account for two-weeks which provides access to higher sound quality and a few more features than the free version. 

 

Amit shared a blog post by Erica Armstrong which talks about how you can use Google Sheets as a tool to help make math thinking visible. He talked about how Erica, who was a guest on Episode 7, provides some very helpful videos to help teachers navigate through the tool. He also mentioned Sapna Khosa, who was a guest on Episode 5, and how she uses Google Sheets to create Pixel Art with her students.

Episode 27 – The Day After Tomorrow

Sayema

In this episode, we interview Sayema Chowdhury who is a Climate for Learning & Working Resource Teacher in the Peel District School Board. She shares how in her work she helps build relationships with all staff so they can be their best selves in their learning environments.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim has been working with some teachers from Wilfrid Laurier PS who are at the very beginning of transforming the library space into a modern learning space, aligned with the Empowering Modern Learners vision and Together for Learning. It’s exciting to think, rethink, redesign, vision, plan. One of the key principles we are thinking about is the idea that the space will continue evolve and change in response to students and learning needs. One of the many very interesting / inspiring messages in Together For Learning are the pedagogical shifts inherent in the learning commons (page 35) and these are being reflected upon very carefully at these early planning stages:

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Amit shared the work he is doing with a grade 3 teacher over at Larkspur Public School around Design Thinking and using an Empathy Map. The students watched the film “Soar” and worked through an Empathy Map in an effort to prepare for designing their outdoor learning environment that is coming to the school soon.

Links from the Interview with Sayema Chowdhury

In her interview, Sayema talked about:

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Shares for the Week

Jim continued to build on Seyema’s theme of relationships and learning together. She talked a lot about creating spaces where student voices are heard and where we are building relationships so that student feel safe and can bring their authentic selves into the space. Again, as described in Together for Learning, the Learning Commons provides a space where everyone in a school can work together. Teachers, teacher-librarians, principals, technical staff, students–all can collaborate in learning partnerships. And it is place where the school community can switch the emphasis from teaching to learning. With everyone learning together and sharing how learning happens consistently, the learning process will become a natural part of a student’s being.

 

Amit shared the Findings and Recommendations from the Independent Review of Assessment and Reporting that can be found here. He mentioned the different overviews and recommendations that were made to make changes to both Growing Success as well as EQAO. He was pleased to see the links between the work of Empowering Modern Learners and the recommendations that are being made to the Ontario Government for changes to assessment and reporting. 

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Episode 24 – The NeverEnding Story

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In this episode, we interview Jael Richardson who is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, A Father’s Life which is a novel about her father Chuck Ealey. Jael is not only a former Peel student, but she is a celebrated writer who was a Toronto District School Board Writer-In-Residence in 2013 and 2016. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph, and she lives in Brampton, Ontario where she founded and continues to serve as the Artistic Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim shared some of the work he is doing with a team of teachers from Turner Fenton who are passionate about changing and improving how they are assessing students. One of the key themes that came of out the work was that one of the most productive and useful conversations between staff was to share how teachers in different departments and courses are finding, recording and organizing the different kinds of evidence of learning from students in their context. Triangulation methods are not identical between different classes and subjects.

Amit shared the work that he was doing with some English teachers over at Humberview Secondary School around assessment. He mentioned that they started their work around looking at docAppender as a tool to collect evidence of student learning, and that brought them to a point where they started having conversations about why they are doing some of the assessments they currently have. He encouraged teachers to continue to take a step back and examine the why when it comes to any assessments to ensure that the assessments themselves are empowering for students and that they offer them a chance to build on skills.

Links from the Interview with Jael Richardson

Jael shared:

Shares for the Week

Jim shared an Edutopia article entitled Finding Students’ Hidden Strengths and Passions written by Maurice J. Elias. One way we can ensure that students feel empowered is to foster learning that grows from each child’s interests and passions. But, sometimes, that information is not clear to the child or to the the child’s teacher. The article includes some simple advice to help teachers take action in order to find out:

  1. have all your students tell you about their hobbies or other things they really like to do or are very good at
  2. ask students to talk about times when they found out something surprising and good about someone else
  3. have students talk to their parents or guardians about “hidden talents” (you may want to use this exact term)

…action must be taken to find what is hidden. Let’s be sure we are taking those actions so that our students do not lose some of their most deeply treasured possessions: their strengths and passions. —Maurice J. Elias

Amit shared his visit to the Google Offices in Kitchener that the GEG Ontario Group hosted as a kick off to the EdTech Team‘s Ontario Summit this past weekend. Here are some of the images he captured on his tour:

Episode 22 – The Director’s Cut

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In this episode, we interview Peter Joshua who is the Director of Education in the Peel District School Board. Peter shares his passion for teaching and learning in a new age, and offers encouragement for teachers who are trying to empower their modern learners in their classes each and every day. He talks about how classrooms are constantly changing, and shares how he has been inspired by the work being done in Peel by our teachers, students, administrators, superintendents and trustees.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim shared an a-ha moment he had recently where he thought this is it – this is what empowered students do. Working with another teacher in a grade 5 class, Jim noticed and took note of, the quality of the interactions between the students and their teacher. In every case, when students approached the teacher, they did not have questions about what to do, how to do it, what should they be doing next, or saying that they were done.

Instead, the questions students were asking demonstrated they were driving their learning and their actions. Questions were more about asking to leave the room to go get a resource, or if they could borrow her phone for an experiment, or if they could bounce some ideas off her to receive some input, or ask when some supplies would be delivered because it was part of the project they were working on. Interactions that were initiated by her were open-ended, asking questions such as: How’s it going so far? What’s coming up? How did you solve that issue you had yesterday?

Jim’s reflection was that paying close attention to the kinds of questions and the quality of interactions between students, and between students and teachers, reveals crucial information about the level of empowerment of students. 

Further reading: Empowering Students to Find Their Own Way

Amit shared the work that he was doing with the “Modern Family” Department at Mayfield Secondary School. He talked about how a conversation about Empowering Modern Learners led to conversations about assessment and then revamping major components of the course itself. He advocated for teachers to be given this time to be released together as there was so much they were able to accomplish in one day as they were offsite and together.

Links from the Interview with Peter Joshua

If we teach

Shares for the Week

Jim shared an excellent video created by Education Alberta. It was created to serve as a brief but informative introduction to Universal Design for Learning principles. Jim also discusses UDL’s application to teaching practice and how the Empowering Modern Learners vision aligns with UDL principles.

Amit shared a video from the World Economic Forum about the innovative ways that India is working toward reusing plastics to make roads. He talked about how important it is for teachers to provide opportunities for their learners to be creative and innovative in their learning to prepare them to be creative, innovative thinkers when they leave school.

He also talked about the Call for Facilitators for Peel’s first Digital Toolbox Summit. Digital Toolbox Summit Image (1) (1)

The Summit is just for educators in the Peel District School Board, so if you are looking to facilitate a workshop for the day, you can find the information here and/or you can apply here. You can email Amit at amit.mehrotra@peelsb.com if you have any questions.