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 29 – Daredevil

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In this episode, Jim and Amit provide some commentary and connections to Empowering Modern Learners after listening to various guests who stopped by and shared their thoughts at the Digital Tool Summit that took place at Central Peel Secondary School on Saturday, May 12.

In order of appearance, here at the guests who stopped by to chat at the summit:

  1. Kyle Pitman – @MrKPitman
  2. Nicola Bailey-Bennett
  3. Manroop Virk (SAC President)
  4. Ruthie Sloan – @Roosloan
  5. Kevin Murray – @everythingkevin
  6. Shilpa Sharma – @shilpasharma__
  7. Sylvia Moll – @SylviaMoll4
  8. Saloni Ohri – @saloniohri
  9. Suril Shah – @thrillsuril
  10. Ana Dhanoa – @anadhanoa
  11. Colleen Hartman – @MmeHartman

Please note that each interview was several minutes long but we chose one idea from each guest to highlight in this podcast.

Episode 28 – Wings

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EML BeliefsIn this episode, we interview Thanh Trieu who is a Grade 5 teacher at Cherrytree Public School. She shares how the EML Belief Statements and the three words in the vision of “Inspire, Innovate and Ignite” have really helped to shape the amazing learning environment she has created with her students. Together with her students, they have created a proposal to seek funding from the Board for an Outdoor Learning Space, and Thanh speaks about how she has helped to nurture the creative side in her students.

What’s New in EML

Jim shared the work the he is doing at Madoc Drive Public School with various teacher teams who are producing their own mini-documentaries exploring modern learning. Each collaborative team has chosen a focus, one of the six innovative elements, and are making changes to practice in their classrooms. The 2-minute video being produced, and eventually shared at the end of the year, will communicate how those changes and innovations have improved learning and/or how student interest and actions have been inspired or ignited. Teachers are finding this to be a fun activity and one that useful strong professional learning.

Amit shared the work that he is doing over at SouthFields Village Public School with a team of Grade 4 teachers. They met earlier in the year to discuss what tools they could use to help with their study of geometry, and they began to explore Scratch together. Amit shared about the co-teaching he did with the team and the Instructional Coach, and how students went from having fun, to thinking the activity was hard and then having the feeling of both: “hard fun”. It was a great opportunity for learning for the students and the teachers.

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Links from the Interview with Thanh Trieu

In the interview, Thanh mentioned:

  • AJ Juliani
  • She mentioned really liking a lot of his books
  • She also mentioned being really inspired by his podcast

Here is a recent image from Thanh’s class with students sharing their outdoor playground proposal:

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Shares for the Week

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.38.01 AMJim shared a book he is reading called The Play’s the Thing: Teachers’ Roles in Children’s Play (Second Edition) by Elizabeth Jones and Gretchen Reynolds. He is enjoying the book because he feels that play and learning are nearly synonymous and is always looking for ideas that help teachers and adults be more effective in contexts where children are taking an active role in their learning. Jim thinks that models of learning like project-based learning and inquiry-based learning, making and designing–all of these are still play-based but the play just looks different than it would in an ECE context or a Kindergarten context. Jim likes the ideas in the book because they focus explaining on various roles that teachers can play and why those roles are important.

Amit shared the Digital Toolbox Summit that is coming up on May 12th at Central Peel Secondary School. He wanted to make sure he mentioned all of the people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this Summit come to life:

You can see the various sessions being offered on the website for the Digital Toolbox Summit.

If you are attending the Digital Toolbox Summit, be sure to drop by the front foyer at the beginning of the day, or during session 1 or 2, and share your modern learning moments / thoughts / experiences on our podcast. We will edit together various selected conversations into a podcast (or two).

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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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