Tuesday, 2 June 2020

#Summer2020BlogFest

So I follow Laura Gibbs regularly on Twitter @OnlineCrsLady. I was first introduced to her work while I was taking #etmooc and her knowledge, advice and approach to education always encourages me to explore an issue more, engage more or just rethink an issue. Or it can reinforce what I am already thinking is the right way to go.
And having students create the content is always the right way to go. No matter what grade level. After all, you as the educator already have your formal education- you're making sure your students work through the process of completing their formal education. And what better way than to have them articulate, through a blog, that process because that is what you as an education do in formal education, you evaluate.
The questions you need to ask and answer are:

  • Has your student engaged in the process of understanding the subject matter?
  • Can they demonstrate that they have internalized this understanding and can apply it? 
  • If you ask them a question about the subject matter can they answer it?
A blog can act as both formative and summative evaluation in an education setting.  Perfect for building an online course! You can add video, memes, table and graphs, equations, photos etc. All formal areas of education, including STEM require a student to articulate their learning and what  better place than a blog? Where they control the input and output? True student agency.

Something to think about.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Remote Elementary and Secondary Teaching

It's been awhile so forgive me for the long post but I feel I have to write something in the age of Zoom and remote emergency teaching because I am hearing a lot of horror stories coming from parents about what has been sent home and how much screen time students at all grade levels are being asked to consume. About children crying, about parents crying and teachers too.

So let's all start by taking a deep breath. And then just read and breathe.

1) Online/remote emergency teaching is not going to mirror classroom teaching ever. So don't even think it will.

2) As a teacher, if you are relying on old lessons plans that you've used for years, stop. While the material might be solid the delivery method isn't. Forget worksheets, fill in the blank and colouring sheets.

3) How long are you expecting your students from Grade K-12 to be online? Here is a visual guide for the amount of screen time students should be consuming from all media. And you are now, as a teacher using online teaching, part of the time usage for consumed media. So don't expect to lecture for three hours to students and expect them to absorb this information. It's not going to happen.

4) Students are on lockdown. They are worried and they are scared. Their parents are worried and they are scared. And you are worried and scared. Remember everybody's emotional and mental health in this time.

So what are you going to do to deliver the curriculum?

1) Remember nested units? These are your friend. A little more complicated to deliver but much easier to have students work at from home. My advice? Nest art or ICT curriculum into every activity. Most students will find it easier to complete this way. Why art? Art actually has a huge amount of procedure and technique involved in developing competence. ICT curriculum is the same. And what is easiest to teach online? Procedure based tasks. So hang all work off of procedural based tasks. Remember when a student creates a video or audio recording of an assignment this requires creative thinking, problem solving and the understanding of procedure on their part.

2) If you are going to teach online create no more than 5 minutes of video of what you want students to learn. Show an actual example and walk your students through the procedure/task/concept you want them to master. Use lots of pictures, examples and diagrams. Send up a follow up email with all of the tasks you want then to do listed so if they didn't understand the visual /audio cues in the video, they have it in text form. If this is high school coordinate with your fellow teachers as to when an assignment is due so as not to overload anyone. Why do this rather than face to face through Zoom? Online meeting are exhausting both physically and mentally for both you and your students. By creating online videos and or PDFs this allows students and parents to make the decision on what time is right for them to do classroom work according to their schedule. And it means the student can review the video or text over and over again.

3) Use the time you were supposed to be teaching in a classroom to make one on one connections with your students and parents. Where are they having problems? Is there anything you can clarify? Be available by email, Skype or Google Hangout. Zoom unfortunately has privacy issues. Make a weekly or bi-weekly calendar and have parents and older students sign up for a 5 to 10 minute chat. Make sure you contact every student if only just to check in and maintain the bonds you have already forged.

4) Be creative. But there are lots of teacher created videos and material on the web. Not everything has to be created by you. You need to be kind to yourself too.

5) Take advantage of online supports that already exist. For instance, the National Writing Project in the USA is celebrating National Poetry Month in April.  The poetry prompts start April 6th. In Canada, Indigenous Arts and Stories provides resources for teachers at all grade levels. There are tons of great resources just waiting for you.

6) Use this time to master a few online tools that will make your life easier. Where I learned a lot of the tools I currently use now was here and here. Seven years later I am still using many of the tools that were taught in these two courses and I am still in communication with many of these brilliant people. When you look at the list of who put these courses together some of the best educational thinkers today were way ahead of the curve. It wasn't just mastering the technology, but showing how to incorporate it into my practice that was so useful. It's okay to try and fail with this stuff, because it is how we all learn.

7) Embrace the online design experience. To teach online content you need to be very clear in your own mind about what the outcome is to be. What do you want the students to learn? Good online design means thinking about what you want to achieve first, then how are you going to measure that achievement and then creating the content that will get students to the place they need to be. It will actually improve your face to face classroom teaching when you get back.

And if your stuck? Don't know what to do or how to do it? Sign up on Twitter. And then post a tweet to someone in the #etmooc #clmooc world. A Great Teacher will get back to you soonest and help. I know. I reach out to them all the time.

Be safe and stay at home. 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Wild West and the Feminine Role

So Western106 is winding down. The sun is setting as we ride out to the range one last time. I sat on my front porch and watched the cattle be driven by my door but didn't help in the round up of the herd.

The West should have been a great topic to have fun with. It has great visual images, readily identifiable characters and has had great staying power as a genre, plus all that lovely language! Yeller belly, the Code of the West, hog tied, a lick and a promise, stop yer bellyaching, fit as a fiddle and reach for the sky to name a few. There are tons of websites out there to help you get the language right.

But as many have noted, it really is a man's genre. This is not to say there haven't been some strong women interspersed here and there throughout the genre, but we're like vanilla extract added to a chocolate cake. It enhances the flavour, but it is so subtle that you don't notice it.

If you're a woman, you've noticed it I am sure. It's like women in history generally. If you're not a queen, filthy rich, a poisoner or great beauty, well you're just part of the great unwashed. (Unless you're a witch. Men fear witches. Burned a lot for 400 years+. But that is another story.) Women are like wallpaper in history. Just part of the background. In the Western, it is the man, his battle with the elements or other men that is the focus. It's a war movie, but instead of fighting for king and country, it is more individual because you are fighting over your cattle, your land and your gold. And your women. We're just another type of reward for the conquering male hero in the Western.

So I feel limited as a creator in this genre, more than any other I have participated in in DS106. Horror, fantasy, film noir, gothic, mysteries would allow me to be a strong female protagonist but I feel that in this genre it means that my role could only be a violent one (or a wilting flower). And I just didn't feel like strapping on the gun. Or analysing the genre. Perhaps because I just didn't want to see that society and the gender roles within North American society haven't changed that much since the Western started rolling out 200 years ago.

I appreciate, as always, the DS106 communities support of my level of participation and the opportunity to express my views.

Riding off into the sunset....




Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Caribou Trail and the Western Genre

So I should probably confess right up front that the Western Genre is not a personal favourite of mine. Or should I say certain aspects of it aren't. What are those aspects, you ask? Well The Caribou Trail was probably the worst possible movie for me to watch to get myself into the mindset for #western106. This is not to say I haven't watched a few westerns in my time. Two Mules for Sister Sara, True Grit, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, Little Big Man, Blazing Saddles. And some Westerns were very, very good. But unlike film noir, which are often small, focus, character driven movies set in the time period of the viewer when first produced, westerns are based on historical "facts." And history as we know is written by the "winners". And there was a lot of stretching of the "facts" in these movies and others.

Let me list the reasons why Westerns don't do it for me:

a) Lack of Historical / Geographical  Accuracy: Westerns take great big historical liberties. The Caribou Trail is a prime example. This movie takes place in the northern interior of British Columbia. A beautiful province that had a gold rush in the late 1850's. The hero is a cattleman from Montana hoping to settle his cattle in the area. Well Montana wasn't really settled yet in the late 1850's and there weren't herds of cattle there yet as the Americans hadn't finished off killing the buffalo by then. The cattle could and did come from California up to the Caribou but maybe California isn't "Western" enough? (Though we all know geographically speaking it is a lot further west than Montana.) The Caribou Trail really got started in the early 1860's and while a few Americans moved up the Caribou Trail from the Fraser Valley gold rush it was mostly Canadian and British who participated in the Caribou Gold Rush.  Last but not least, the movie was filmed in Colorado.

b) Racial Stereotypes: Every Indian is a "bad" Indian in a Western. And every "Indian" is usually a Blackfoot. They wear "war paint" and live in "teepees". There is a "Chinaman" who cooks and cleans and takes care of everyone. Now I know this isn't a big deal for some people, but for me this is huge. This type of stereotype is harmful and continues to be perpetuated. Canada has just finished going through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where it was found that the Canadian Government deliberately committed cultural genocide starting in 1880. It was part land grab, part "You need to be English or French but not Indian." Residential schools have been operated during my lifetime. It was part of government policy. And it has harmed thousands of people.

For many years the Chinese were also discriminated against in this country. We needed them to help build the railway that united Canada, but wanted them to go home when we were done with them. We had multiple Immigration Acts that controlled the number of Chinese that could come to this country. Even into the late 1930's white women were jailed for having relationships with Chinese men.So yeah, the stereotypes make me cringe.

c) Guns and Violence: They are everywhere in the Western and in this movie. Is the Western really a romance in disguise about people and their guns? Is the reason Westerns resonate is because of the American love affair with their weapons? If you look at the opening of the west, from the time Daniel Boone crossed over the Appalachians into Kentucky in 1767, the opening of the west was just a giant land grab from the natives. Everyone wants to pretend that the Americans fought for their freedom from "British Tyranny" for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but in truth the real reason that the American Revolution was fought was for land and taxes. After the French Indian War was resolved through treaty settlements, the British wanted financial contributions from the states to help pay for the war (through taxes) and also to appease their native allies by restricting American access to their lands west of the Alleghenies. But land was wealth and natives were in the way. The idea that might (and the gun) was always right seeped into the American conscious and has been firmly lodged there ever since, regardless of the fact that it was not ideals that propelled a nation into being but greed for land.

d) Women and Violence: I am not sure I even have to write anything here about this. A woman in the Western genre falls into the same stereotypical slots she always does: A mother, a wife, a hooker. And if she is able to look after herself she has a gun.

e) The only person who looks good in a Western are the white men.They always win.

From an educational perspective, I feel uncomfortable promulgating these myths and stereotypes. So I am going to have figure out a way to participate in #western106 that doesn't make me feel like I am helping promote these ideas. Ideas on how to do that without spoiling everyone else's fun is very much appreciated! Maybe I'll just do an updated version of Blazing Saddles!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 in Review

So 2015 is on its last legs. What have I got done educationally this year? I didn't participate in any moocs, but I did stay connected with DS106, Postetmooc and TVSZ. So nothing new, just the maintenance of existing relationships. What did I do instead? I turned inward. I explored where I was with my own education. Was I happy with my level of education? Should I go back to school and do my PhD? Did moocs have a place in my life still? What aspects of my skills as an instructional designer should I develop? Should I branch out? Should I remain an instructional designer, when I am chained to a desk all day and feel it is not physically healthy?

So what are the answers to these questions? I would like to say that I have them, but I do not. I am not leaning towards doing a PhD, feeling the way I do about higher education, but I do so love exploring new ideas with people. So moocs may still be part of the picture. I recognize that this was not a year that I stretched myself intellectually but it was a year that I stretched myself artistically. I am still exploring whether that is more important to me than continuing to put letters behind my name so I can have the opportunity to teach. 

I am still enjoying exploring my options! As always, I am more than willing to participate in learning new things. Bring on the new year. 

Wishing all the very best for 2016 to you all!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Etmooc Third Anniversary Challenge Part 2

Okay, I love Etmooc and how it continues to morph and change. Just read a post from Alan Levine (two posts actually) and as usual they were a hoot! The CMOOC that wouldn't die! and the accompanying poster looking at the long life of Etmooc. Well, there is a reason for that and today's nominee is one of those reasons.

Rhonda Jessen has influenced my thinking, kept me engaged (even when I want to curl up under a blanket and read rather than post) and is one of the founders of Post Etmooc, a fellow zombie and a DS106 cooking partner.

Little did I know when I started Etmooc, that I would find a great educator to share the experience of immersing myself in multiple online communities. Sometimes I think that is the secret to collaborative learning; that of finding not necessarily like minded people, but people who are willing and giving of themselves, to share an exploratory journey fearlessly. Three years later I know I can send an email and ask, "Do you have time to do a radio show?" "Feel like being a zombie this weekend?" or a "I am swamped and can't make it!" and know that I will get an encouraging response. This has been especially important this year as I have not been engaged online as much as in the past. Knowing that I can still reach out, even after a few months of no contact, allows me to be present fully in both the physical and digital space without it impacting negatively on each other, without stressing about performance and participation. Once again, it comes down to remaining engaged positively and keeping a good life balance.

Thank you Rhonda for that positive engagement!


Rhonda Jessen in Sydney, Australia

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Etmooc Third Anniversary Challenge Part 1

So Susan has sent us all a challenge.

My first selection is Alan Levine and his post All A-mazing.

Why this post and this Etmoocer?

First because this post speaks to me about the importance, not just of elementary teachers and the first years at school, but the power of setting goals for students and demonstrating that you, as a teacher, believe that every student can succeed and meet goals with support, encouragement and love. I truly believe that this magic formula works. I saw it happen in the schools I taught in. I also saw when it didn't happen, when teachers didn't embrace the joy of learning, or as the blog mentions, when teachers have discouraging, self-defeating outlooks about their students.

Students all know when you don't think much of them.

Second, Alan Levine was a presenter in Etmooc and introduced us all to DS106. I'd like to say that I DS106 everyday (I don't, wish I did!) but I value the time I do spend on any project with fellow DS106ers, particularly radio projects! He has been generous with his time to his students and fellow DS106ers and is a living, breathing embodiment of all of the great qualities a teacher should have. Thank you Alan.

Finally, this post struck a chord with me because I didn't have a Miss Apple Daisy of a teacher for Grade 1, in fact I had one of the discouraging types of teachers. I never have forgotten her name. And maybe it is time I say "thank you" to Mrs. Lynch because I have made sure throughout my teaching career (and all of its twists and turns) that I teach in a positive, uplifting manner and respect my students and their learning.