Category: Learning With Technology

Nobody Said It Was Going To Be Easy

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It’s the start of October, which means that last month was the hardest month of the teaching year. In September, is when I lay out the expectations, the groundwork and the flow for the learning in our classroom. With this comes the hardest and most frustrating aspect; getting the students acquainted with technology as a learning tool.

I have heard the gripes from fellow teachers and I myself used to say it too ” They don’t know how to log in! They won’t ever remember log-ins! How can I manage 25+ kids with different devices and access?” etc. The key I finally discovered was that it wasn’t hard for the kids….it was hard for ME. I switched my mindset around and started to focus on how to make it a smoother transition for all of us because I have seen first hand the powerful learning that can happen when a student is using a device as a tool to empower, create and explain their learning. It becomes second-hand nature to have that device ready to go when it’s needed.

I have been asked many times how I manage to get the kids ready to go so quickly and my advice is “Roll up your sleeves, and dive in.” It’s messy, it can be frustrating, it can drive you to insanity, but at the heart of it all you know that it is what is best for them and their future.

Here are a few tips I have experienced first hand that may help:

Use the expertise in the room

You are not the only expert in the room, and I am willing to bet that there are a few students in your class who have done this before or are quick and savvy learners. Put them to work helping their peers. I always tell my students “I am only but one Miss Ariss”, however there are some of you in here who can help me and your friends so we can learn this quickly. If you stand and deliver and expect every student to follow your exact move as you click on your computer…..you will be in for a world of mental anguish. I liken this to going to a PD session and the presenter hasn’t gaged the level of expertise in the room and treats us as if we are all beginners. I’ll be honest, if its something I know already, then I’ve started to tune them out. Our students are no different. You will have kids who know how to log in, who know how to make the @ symbol, and who know how to troubleshoot. Honour their expertise and build a collaborative, caring classroom community at the same time.

Set High Expectations

I know some teachers will print out their student’s emails or login info and passwords and give to them. I find that level of scaffolding to be great as a start….but at some point they will have to rely on themselves. With the exception of the students who I know need this scaffold, I post their log in info on the board and give them the responsibility of logging themselves in. At some point, after numerous trials and errors (with support by me,) they get it. Is it easy for them to memorize and copy their log in info, password and websites? Not a single bit, but they are learning perseverance, problem solving and building their confidence in doing this hard thing on their own. There will be tears, there will be stress, there will be anxiety…but there will also be triumph and pride.

Keep Everything In One Place

Let’s be honest…as an adult I can barely keep track of all of the websites, passwords, logins etc and I don’t expect my students to do so either. I start off small with logging into the computer system with their information and we practice going to our classroom blog. This in itself is a feat because learning that the Google search bar is not the same as the url bar when typing in a website address is just one big lesson. I keep all of the important links that they will need – Google Drive, Classroom, Creative Commons, School website, Government tests, et.- all on the blog for quick and easy access until we are at a stage where they are comfortable and strong enough in their technology use to type in other sites.

So yes, it might be easier to just hit print on the photocopier and hand each student a neat little packet without the hassle of the above, but is it what is best for them or for us? Are we living in a neat printed packet world or is our world digital, messy and requires us to push buttons and try new things?

Integrating technology in the classroom is not easy and it’s not meant for all tasks, but no one ever said anything about teaching being easy. We all just know that it’s worth it.

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Finding Strength Through Change

changeThe word “easy” has never been in my vocabulary as I continually seek those opportunities which lead me to be challenged and pushed to reach my highest potential. If those opportunities are not to be found, I often create them for myself.

This school year has given me those types of experiences, the ones which are challenging enough to grow me not only as an educator but also as an individual. I am not only learning about who I am as a teacher, but who I am as myself and how this influences everyone that I have the honour of working with and for.

I began this school year in a new city, in a new district, in a new school with colleagues I had never met and in a new grade with new students coming in from various other schools. To say that I embraced change would be an understatement, however I didn’t realize that when you leave yourself vulnerable and open to so much change, that it becomes about overcoming and learning from the challenges that come your way in order to truly grow.

The following excerpt was from my blog post entitled 2014 – My Year Of Change & Growth, I decided to include it here because it was the catalyst for me to finish off this school year strong.

“September 2014 – December 2014

When I first started this reflection I didn’t fully grasp or realize the amount of learning accomplished during the final half of 2014 until I started looking at the photos I had taken. I have grown immensely both personally and professionally in these past few months by being active in my new community and surroundings, by embracing the uncomfortable, by being honest and open about my strengths, strong passions and areas of growth but most of all in my own self-confidence as an educator.

I found myself surrounded by communities of support, expertise and varied experiences in an environment prime for growth. This is what I had hoped for and I knew it wouldn’t be an easy journey, but I have never been one for easy. I have come from close to 5 years of independent teaching in small rural schools. I have always planned, coordinated and constructed all of my own materials, units, and assessments based on my own student needs and most recently, students with whom I had looped with for three years and knew like family. I now was in a team of six grade five educators collaborating together on the learning for our students, in a school almost seven times the size of my previous.

Reflecting on the start of the school year, I see now that underestimated the transition into this. It has been years since I needed to share who I was, my true self, with other educators, as when working within a small district everyone knows everyone. My other collaborations have been with educators who follow me on Twitter or read my blog and have a strong sense of who I am. The individuals within my comfort zone, who are my rocks, all know my deep passion for learning, know how excited I get at the thought of planning a unit with my students and finding those connections for them, know that I am honest, genuine and will ask a lot of questions because I have a need to know the why behind everything I bring into my classroom, but that mostly I care…about everything and everyone all the time.

I learned that when working within a large group, fostering a relationship beyond work is essential for the dynamics because once everyone truly knows one another a foundation of trust and an environment where vulnerability is welcomed can be built, however that this also takes time. Effective collaboration doesn’t happen overnight, it needs to be built step by step by each individual party. My sheer optimism and strong will to ensuring meaningful things happen despite obstacles, is who I am however this is something that is shown over time through sincerity and action. I am learning how to communicate my passions, thoughts and ideas outside of my comfort zone and am pushing myself to hear (not just listen) and understand more and more.

These few months also taught me about the power of student connection and relationships. I had worried whether I would be able to connect with a brand new group, but as the weeks went on I started receiving hugs, drawings, jokes, stories from home, open discussions about their lives and genuine interest in mine, shared laughter and that feeling of knowing these are the amazing kids I am so lucky to know and work with every day. I love the community we have built and will continue to grow.”

The first half of this school year was a blur of learning and adjusting to everything that was around me. I felt lost and at times overwhelmed by the needs and expectations I had placed on myself to ensure that students were receiving the best learning, that my administration was proud of the learning happening in my community, that I was building strong relationships and that I was doing everything to the best of my abilities at all times. This type of pressure can be healthy if its pushing you to grow, but it can also become unhealthy if it becomes so much that you feel like you are barely keeping your head above water. My previous teaching experiences truly helped as I was able to find my balance and learned to create boundaries for myself. I began to make time for myself, to be ever mindful of my presence, to prioritize tasks based on student need, to delve deeply into one or two areas and alleviate the pressure  from others. Taking on a positive learning attitude without fear, worry or doubt (which can creep in when faced with a significant amount of change); to one with self-confidence and a focus on student learning will shift your perspective around.

The amount of learning the students and I had this year has been indescribable. Together we faced the challenges of being surrounded by “new” and grew wholeheartedly as a mini family. Any concern, issue, problem that came up whether in the world, at home or in class we discussed together as a group to solve. A level of mutual trust and respect was established between us and I am so proud of the work they accomplished this year. Their growth, happiness and well-being is what fuels me to keep pushing myself because in facing my own challenges I was helping them to face theirs.

As I had stated in my last post Forging The Path, I have grown a considerable amount this year and my focus has been on learning for students and for myself. I needed to take the time to be hands-on getting messy and experiencing everything that life was bringing my way in order to be authentic in my sharing and in my teaching.

So what new learning did we accomplish together you ask? Here is a brief list of everything we dived into this year all of which were new to my students and many new to me as well:

1. Chromebook use & integration as main resource and access to modes of learning for all students

2. Utilizing the Edublog system for blogging and creating individual student portfolios

3. Accessing Google Drive and creating individual student subject folders

4. Students learning how to blog, connect, use google apps for education, embed items into blogs, create links, group chats and copyright usage

5. Google Classroom facilitation for both students and myself

6. Book Clubs with audio recorded reflections which were then embedded into blogs

7. iMovie Book Trailers and summary videos

8. Multiple feedback loops across all subjects and projects

9. Use of in-depth authentic mathematics projects

10. Inquiry-based Problem of the Week projects for mathematics with detailed reflections and criteria

11. Socratic Circles in Social Studies on which region of Canada is best to live in

12. Full inquiry in classroom chemistry with the use of outside experts

13. Story writing in google docs and publishing to iBooks using Book Creator

14. Global Citizenship through Drama where we teamed up with Trickster Theatre on student research of child soldiers

15. Conducting deep research using media literacy skills and citing digital and print sources accurately

16. Paper Slideshows detailing impacts of Immigration

17. Experiencing the power of innovation and freedom to dream through Innovation Weeks and our trip to the Innovation Lab at our local library

18. Students utilizing metacognitive skills to purposefully reflect on learning

19. GoodReads for reading goals, reviews and connecting reading communities

I’m certain I’m missing more and when I look back at it now, I am in awe of what we accomplished this year. We took risks, we had many technical difficulties, we persevered when projects were taking long to finish, we asked for help when we couldn’t find the answers, we took breaks when our brains and bodies needed them, we cried from frustration at times but looked to the support from others around us but most importantly we faced these challenges and grew with and from them. They changed us for the better and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

 

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Not Another Game Of Bingo!

 

We complete a mini-problem every week focused on multiple strands of the mathematics curriculum as well as areas of student need for growth.

As we worked on our 2X2, 2X3 and even 3X3 multiplication learning, we were also moving towards division and I knew that a stronger understanding and focus on their multiplication facts was needed. I sought out ways to ensure their learning was meaningful, in-depth and not just rote memorization as they will need to have a strong understanding of multiplication in order to understand division.

My colleague, Jessie Krefting, forwarded me this problem called Multipingo. At first glance, one would think oh great, the students will roll the dice and play bingo, but that is not a way to grasp deep understanding of mathematics. While playing games is often a great way to engage students, the games need to be meaningful and allow them to think about what, why and how the things they are doing apply to their understandings. I decided to modify the problem to fit my student’s needs. I wanted my students to think, process and question.

What I also enjoyed about this was that it challenged them in the Statistics and Probability strand of our mathematics curriculum as well as problem solving and multiplication.

The following problem focused on:

  • Developing number sense
  • Understanding, recalling and applying multiplication facts to 9 × 9.
  • Describing the likelihood of a single outcome occurring, using words such as: impossible, possible, certain

What I watched happening in our classroom that day was incredible. The students were working in small groups and each provided with a blank 5X5 grid. Each group was also given two 9 sided dice. The first, and most important, task was that they choose a strategy to fill their grid with any products they thought would come up most when rolling dice and multiplying.

  • Some started inputting random numbers – 17, 23, 47, to which I posed the question ” What two numbers will you need to roll in order to reach this product?” The looks on their faces when they realized that no two numbers could ever multiply to reach these products was when the lightbulb moments began to occur. They then started to focus on their facts for possible products.
  • Some inputted products for the facts they knew which showed me which ones they were comfortable with. When I saw this, I asked them to input products they are not sure of. The goal was for them to expand beyond the basics to the more complex numbers.
  • Others began to get strategic. They were only inputting products to which multiple numbers rolled could bring about the same result. For example: 24 which is a result of 3×8 and 4×6 or 18 which is a result of 9×2 or 6×3 which increased their odds. This process required a strong knowledge and understanding of factors and probability.

They all were so heavily engaged in trying to fill in their grid with the best possible outcomes and working on factors, products, facts and probability that I couldn’t stop them, nor did I want to! They loved this challenge so much that the lesson extended into 3.5 periods that day with everyone fully engaged and learning.

They were also keeping track of which numbers rolled the most, which factors were more prevalent and why and what facts were correct on a separate google doc as they “played bingo”. Once their first round was completed, they then had to create another grid based on the information gathered from the first. Their task was then to change their first strategy using the new information in order to create a grid even more conducive to multiplication and probability. This required a deeper processing of information and statistics to which all then began to rethink their original ideas.

Upon completion, each student posted a reflection on their blog based on our problem of the week criteria.

Here are a few examples:

Ashley – Multipingo POW- Reflection 

Ian – POW Reflection – Multipingo

Kylie – POW Multiplication Reflection

I was very proud to see their growth especially as these concepts are some of our biggest challenges this year. They have come so far from just plugging in numbers and answers to actually breaking them apart, playing with them and understanding the relationships between them. This is an area that I hope to continue to grow and foster as we build a love of mathematics.

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Classroom Learning – Feb. 9 – 13, 2015

This month has been flying by as its been full of short weeks filled with a lot of activity! My students have been hard at work but we also made some time for celebrating the work and learning we have been doing.

Language Arts

We are well into our read aloud Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard. We have learned about the differences between gnomes, elves and trolls as well as wizards and witches. The students have been reflecting on their connections, inferences and predictions as well as other criteria as we move forward into this story. They have each chosen either a specific character from this book or a type of character and started brainstorming their profiles so that they can create depth for their character when we begin their narrative writing pieces next week.

This week we discussed juicy adjectives and descriptive words. Students researched a variety of words and then applied those to their peers in our Friendship Adjectives Hearts:

Each student left a descriptive adjective about themselves and their peers on their heart.
Each student left a descriptive adjective about themselves and their peers on their heart.

Students have also started their book clubs! I have never seen more excitement and enthusiasm for reading in all of my years of teaching so watching them jump for joy when books where distributed was wonderful! I credit this in part to the fact that they all chose their own books based on interest and abilities. They all decided within their groups as to how much they will read before providing reflections. Each group also created a collaborative Google Doc which they will record their questions, comments and information to share with me and the classroom.

Here are some photos from their meetings:

Reading!
Reading!
We use a variety of tools and resources. We read, converse and record our learning.
We use a variety of tools and resources. We read, converse and record our learning.

Mathematics

We are nearing the second loop of feedback for the student’s Resort Reports. I have asked that they each work on them this weekend whenever possible so I can provide them with additional audio feedback. They will be given more time next week to listen to feedback and apply to complete their work. I have loved using the add on Kaizena for the audio feedback!

Science

We completed a brief experiment together on growing crystals and students were able to observe their findings from last week’s  solutions.

Verifying our hypothesis and updating our observations.
Verifying our hypothesis and updating our observations.

Social Studies

The student’s jot notes and research skills are moving forward as they continue to research the two regions of the Arctic and the Great Lakes LowLands. I assigned each student a google doc for jot notes and one for a bibliography. They are loving using the add on Easybib to create their works cited. They are using both text and online resources and have learned how to cite each resource. They then also created two separate Google Presentations focused on each region of Canada and will compile their research into a personal presentation with a focus on guiding questions.

Starting our region research, creating our jot notes and answering our guiding questions!
Starting our region research, creating our jot notes and answering our guiding questions!
Students are required to use a variety of text and online resources for region research.
Students are required to use a variety of text and online resources for region research.

Art

Our Falling Backwards pieces have turned out amazingly! Some students are still finishing up and we will begin Dragons next week!

Some of our self portraits falling backwards...can you guess who we are?
Some of our self portraits falling backwards…can you guess who we are?

Valentine Buddies

This week we also gathered with our Grade 7B buddies to work on our collaborative art. We decided that this would be an awesome time for us to make our buddies some Valentines and they created some for us in return. We also set-up all of the treats brought in from both classes and shared while working on art together. It was so heart-warming to see them so excited in making, distributing and receiving Valentines. I truly believe one is never too old to celebrate love, kindness and friendship.

Distributing our Valentines and reading them!
Distributing our Valentines and reading them!
Our collaborative murals are coming along quite nicely!
Our collaborative murals are coming along quite nicely!
Cheers to lemonade, good friends, goodies and school!
Cheers to lemonade, good friends, goodies and school!

Skiing

We received some high praise from the ski instructors at Rabbit Hill Ski Resort on Friday. Two instructors approached myself and Mrs. Krefting at the end of the day with huge smiles on their faces and asked us if we were with the students from Greystone. We said yes, and they began to say how absolutely wonderful our students were. They said they have never had such an incredible group of kids who listened and were so respectful. They were so happy with them that they wanted to give them something and so they opened up another area for them that they normally never do. They wanted us to let our kids know just how much they were thankful to have worked with them today and they also said please bring them back anytime!

To say I am proud would be an understatement!

I tried to capture some photos of everyone skiing, however most were so far up on the hills that I was only able to capture a few in action.

Skiing at Rabbit Hill!
Skiing at Rabbit Hill!
Exhausted from a day of skiing but so very happy!
Exhausted from a day of skiing but so very happy!

We have had a great week! I can’t wait for the next!

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Classroom Learning – Feb. 2 – 13, 2015

February is a short month to begin with and we’ve added a lot of events which have also made for some short weeks. However my students know, a short week means even harder work and effort to ensure we continue learning.

Here is a brief overview of the past week’s learning and what we can anticipate coming up!

Language Arts

Student reading groups have been created and they have collaboratively chosen a book they will all read and reflect upon together. Reading time will be provided in class in addition to our daily Drop Everything And Read Time as I truly believe we need to provide our students with not only time for directed reading but also time for reading books of choice to build their love of books. We will be co-creating assessment criteria this week for their reading groups and get started! They have been so excited to begin and seeing this makes me realize that they love to read!

They have also been doing an incredible job updating their GoodReads and also sharing, reviewing and recommending books they have read. Keep it up guys!

We have started reading Wendell The World’s Worst Wizard together, which is a very detailed, descriptive Fantasy/Science Fiction/ Adventure book. This is a harder transition for students who are used to the more general Fiction reads and so we have  reviewed the characters and their roles as well as the settings of each section together to gather understandings. It is essential for students to connect to concepts in books in order to comprehend so its been quite interesting to hear their take on this story so far.

Our narrative writing pieces will start this week based off of Wendell. The students will brainstorm their characters and create brain cloud maps with descriptive details of their character. They will then create a draft outline of their story. This will all be in their Language Arts folder in Google Docs.

Mathematics

We hope to finish our Resort Report this week or early next week. This includes all of the student’s multiplication equation work in their duotangs as well as their reflections. Their entire completed project will be in their Google Docs accounts and also posted to their blogs along with their reflection on their learning and understandings of multiplication. I am so very proud of their work so far and some have even begun multiplying 4 digits by 4 digits using the strategy they feel comfortable with. However, any additional review of those facts at home would be immensely helpful! We will tie in this learning with Division which starts following the completion of this project.

Science

We’ve had a blast mixing and creating liquids and solids. The students engaged in multiple hands-on experiments last week and documented their findings in their Science folders.

Here are a few photos from last week:

Mixing liquids to observe what happens.
Mixing liquids to observe what happens.
They were excited to document the changes.
They were excited to document the changes.
Working together and discussing hypothesis of whether liquid and solid combinations will dissolve.
Working together and discussing hypothesis of whether liquid and solid combinations will dissolve.
We'll reevaluate our findings of the solutions this week.
We’ll reevaluate our findings of the solutions this week.

This week we will be working on an a project experiment called Fill’er Up where students will have to create a device, mechanism or find a way to move liquids across a solid.

Social Studies

We completed our See, Think, Wonders about both the Arctic and the Great Lakes Lowlands regions and these can be located in their Google Docs Social Studies folder. They were fascinated by Niagara Falls as well as the sizes of the Great Lakes. Each student then created two separate Google Presentation documents with each slide titled with a focus question, which they will have to answer with their research:

Examples:

  • How does the land shape life in the Arctic?
  • What are the challenges of developing natural resources in the Arctic?
  • How are Inuit ways of life traditional and modern?
  • How does climate influence quality of life?
  • Why does this region have the largest population in Canada?
  • What makes this region unique?

This week students will be shown how to effectively conduct research using the internet, how to cite their sources and we will review copyright practices and plagiarism. They will also be provided with written texts from which they will be required to pull information and re-word in their own words to ensure they are able to find the information they are looking for but also to create their own understandings of it. Their individual and completed presentations will then be posted on to their blogs.

Art

Art is one of our favourite subjects. We get to be creative, wacky and representative of ourselves. We have been working on a drawn piece called ‘Falling Backwards’. Students had to trace their hands and feet, in which ever perspective they chose,draw themselves, and then decide what would scare them the most if they were to fall backwards into something. They then outlined their drawing with a Sharpie and learned how to use watercolour paint to create texture. Their results are awesome and I can’t wait to showcase them with you once they are completed. Here are a few pictures of their work in progress:

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IMG_0941Stay tuned for more from LC5B!

 

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