Monthly Archive: October 2019

Building Collaboration Opportunities

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

This first time I ran a PD was last year at Learning 2 Asia, it was only a quick one-hour teacher-led workshop but it was still something new to me. What I learned from this experience was that everything needs to be structured and intentional and that there has to be time or sharing, reflection, and working together to help generate ideas for educators to take away something they can use to improve their own practice.

Whenever educators go to PD (Professional Development) we always want something we can take away and use the next week or the next unit. That was how we began to approach this project, by giving educators time to plan and create something they can use shortly thereafter. This was something that we felt necessary to be included while we were thinking about the learning experiences and the idea of promoting collaboration. The second thing that we thought about when planning was the idea of agency and how to promote agency through PD. I have been to a couple of PD opportunities through my school where we choose beforehand what we want to inquire into and follow that road with educators from other schools. I believe that this increases engagement with the material just like we do with our students right? 

So we created a final project that gives educators both, time to collaborate and an opportunity to create something to use in their own schools.

Our final project outline

The challenge then arose about how do we allow for educator agency but still promote collaboration on a larger scale, through planning reflection and closing protocols we hope to accomplish this. We chose these protocols and reflection experiences for a few reasons:

  1. They help to show protocols that can be used in any classroom, hence, promoting thought about what experiences these protocols would work well for.
  2. To allow for opportunities to collaborate and seek feedback face to face.
  3. To introduce online tools to help facilitate digital collaboration and introduce new methods of using tools for students. 
  4. To achieve ISTE standards for educators

We chose the topics to explore in the PD sessions because we felt they were important takeaways for us from Course 3, and also that they allowed for lots of time to creating, seeking feedback on, and reflecting on. I particularly enjoyed learning about digital hierarchy and how we display information and thought that it is important for others to learn about this. I have always been interested in learning about how the environment impacts student learning. The media we are presented with is no less part of that environment and teachers need to be cognizant of how they present information to the class in visual form. We all decided to expand on this section for our PD section (the link to the presentation is below the picture).

Our extended section slideshow.

Comments, comments, comments.

Working collaboratively while we are not at the same time or place does have a few challenges when it comes to talking live to each other while working across three time zones. We collaborated using Google docs, slides and mail to generate ideas, give feedback, tweak the wording, decide on resources and think about the flow of the sessions. There were a lot of comments, lots of resolving, and lots of emails. We had a couple of FaceTime calls with one or the other but I think that Boramy was the hub of this project as she was geographically in the middle of Mike and I.  I was skeptical at first of being able to design a project without meeting face-to-face and although I still prefer being in the same room, with a little organization, technology makes us pretty close.

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Connecting to the world and each other.

When I first saw the assignment this week I had to admit I was a little nervous. I don’t like videotaping myself, hearing myself speak, or even taking photos. For my mother, there were many disappointing trips home from the photo developers from the pictures I had ruined. While I understand the value of taping yourself to view your practice or focus on how I use language I just don’t feel comfortable doing it. So, of course, I have to move out of my comfort zone this week if I want my students getting out of it because that is where learning takes place right?

I have seen the language teachers using Flip Grid all of the time and I would like to get into using it more. There are so many opportunities to build fluency of language, planning speaking skills, responding to new vocabulary, reflecting on a learning experience, debating statements, summarizing ideas about literature or numbers or helping them brainstorm ideas for maker time. But some students also hate recording themselves. They love to write their ideas and reflections on their learning journal posts, but will never record themselves as listening to themselves is “weird”. So again the question arises, how to get out of a comfort zone?

What I have also been thinking about Flipgrid after this week’s reading is how it could be used to bring about change. From simple questions about changing our classroom environment, to how you experienced bullying, to even how can we enhance service-learning at our school we can bring ideas of social justice into our classroom. We need to get out of our comfort zone, to be agents of change and break the cycle as we read about in Harro’s writing.

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

I connected to Harro’s article this week during our family movie night. We watched the new Aladin movie. A film about three characters getting out of their comfort zone. They were breaking their cycle of socialization, one a victim, one an agent, and I am not sure what the genie is the catalyst? Is the carpet the vehicle for the change? This made me think about we can use examples from student-friendly media to address social inequalities. No Disney photos here hence the Persian rug.

I am part of the privileged group. I approach these conversations from the position of a white, heterosexual, middle-class, male and I understand my responsibility.  I remember Harro’s model from my undergraduate years ago. Examining social constructs through a Marxist / Feminist perspective helps us view the systems of oppression that are self-perpetuating, discreet, and inherent in a capitalist society. I wonder more about the economics at play in maintaining this system?

I can be an agent of change through how I raise my daughter, through how I coordinate service learning in the elementary school, through how I interact with students who feel disenfranchised and help others stand up. I guess I have to really get out of my comfort zone, speak up, speak out and create a whole new world.

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Feedback and visual aids

No, it is not deja-vu, there is no glitch in the blog, you are seeing the same image at the top of two posts in a row. For this week I decided to improve my infographic about how to create a learning journal. Last year I thought about how to help students understand the agency they have over their learning journals and how to use it so I thought I would create a visual aid for the classroom, not a large poster, but something that could be up on a couple of walls, or even taped on the desks. Last week’s post was about the construction of the learning journal infographic (see last week’s post).

The before: my first attempt

My first attempt

Those who gave feedback.

There is always room for improvement is something we tell our students so often, so why not model that behaviour in ourselves? So I had a chat about it with my students about the poster they started using. I used an assignment we are working on about design and creating digital artifacts as an intro to bring in how we can give feedback and improve our work, and as the students love to tell you your mistakes they had no problem picking out some ways for me to improve.  I was also at a workshop last week and I asked some teachers from other schools what they thought, liked, and would change. Our instructor Tanya also gave me some feedback about my infographic. 

Changes made

  • Align the icons to demonstrate continuity and consecutiveness between the sections.
  • Get rid of the orange colour as it is a bit too distracting.
  • Add an icon for the title.
  • Demonstrate flow between sections to show steps.
  • Change the title to enhance the message of what learning journals are all about. 

My students were not happy with the title area, they found it a little wordy and wanted more images. So I used the noun project to find something that can also help illustrates the nature of a learning journal, and that it is about sharing ideas, getting, and giving feedback about learning to extend learning. I decided to keep the school colours as they contrast nicely with each other and the white text.

The second draft…

The resources for this week came at an interesting time. I made the mistake of watching How to avoid death by Powerpoint on a dinner break right before back to school night. The sudden panic of worrying about putting everyone to sleep, and then getting more emails about the information I planned on imparting set in as I frantically made edits to include more elements of visual hierarchy in my presentation, change the background from white to black,  work with titles and text sizes, and created new slides as simply photos as talking points. I mentioned this to the parent community and they gave me positive feedback on my presentation. This resource was another motivation for part of the enhancements to my poster. I wanted to create a flow between the steps, and really guide the reader along the path of creating an authentic learning journal post.

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