Monthly Archives: September 2013

Open House 2013 #Parents #treelineps

Come and gone is another Open House @treelinePDSB!  It is a long day but well worth the opportunity to meet parents of those students I will teach throughout the year to come.  Of course, there are the usual drop-ins (former students, those who loved to roam the hallways of their elementary school to gather that sense of nostalgia or feeling of I’m all grown up now).  Beyond meeting parents and updating students progress after the first few weeks of school, Open House is a chance for staff to share details about the upcoming school year, promote trips,  and answer questions parents have about the unknown when their child response with a “Nothing much” after there parents asks over dinner “So, what did you learn/do at school today?”  Other parents, come inquiring about the usual, how is my child behaving?  The honest answer after approximately 4 weeks for most parents is, “They are doing well, no difficulty so far.”

The fact is we are just breaching the end of the “Honeymoon” period.  Those students who might stray from meeting and achieving the expectations of their teachers are still trying to show off their better side, that which is present when they are not “distracted”, “bored” or falling into “old habits (procrastination, avoidance, etc.)”.   There might be a few students we have concerns about but it is likely that contact has already been made with someone at home who is responsible for overseeing the child, so that the child themselves sees that both their parent and their teacher are working together as a team to ensure a successful school year.

**To the students who might read this, your parent and I are not out to get you but rather there to help and encourage, to ensure that you are successful.  I will do whatever it takes during the hours of school to guide you in the right direction, while parent(s) must continue the guidance from the time you leave school each day until your return the next morning.  And in there is the time where you must display responsibility to ensure that you are successful.

To the parents who left work early, took time off work, skipped some event, squeezed in a visit. Thank you for supporting your child’s learning.  To the parents who were unable to attend, a call, note, message through our #Edmodo can provide you the chance to ask questions about the rest of the year and your child.

To another successful year!

#Project184 – A Fresh Look on an Old Idea!

It was Mid-February of last school year when I was looking for new way to have my students reflect on the learning that they encountered on a daily basis in order for them to gain a better appreciation of what we their educators were sharing with them within the confines of each classroom, it would also was a way for me to acquire feedback on my teaching practices.  Would the kids on my class reflect on what was being taught in my Language and Geography class or were they more likely to comment on the learning that they were doing in Science, History, Math or Art?  So I set out to my lifeline, the World Wide Web or those  educators who I followed on Twitter in search of ideas.  Of course, I came upon many suggestions the most common being #blogging.  But for myself #blogging was something I valued the benefits of but just never seemed to be able to dedicate the time to.  So I crossed that idea off the list.  The search continued, #twitter thats right “social media”.  Social media and education, are you kidding? Of course, why not? We could use #twitter and share our thoughts with a small following using a # (hashtag) created for the sole reason of sharing our thoughts about learning and the added benefit is that students could expand their musings with a greater audience by connecting with a hashtag such as #comments4kids.  That would be my plan through the remainder of the year.  I would consider blogging and the idea of #project184 in the new school year.

The #TLDW (Teaching and Learning in the Digital World) Conference, August 22nd and 23rd at Castlebrooke SS in Brampton lead by many innovative educators from @peelschools would be like the light switch that would turn on the blogging light switch both for myself professionally and for my teaching practices.   Of course I wouldn’t forget my close friends #twitter, #edmodo, and #google+ but I would turn myself toward the blogging world and my students this year would have the opportunity to be a part of #project184, a chance to reflect on and share about their learning experiences.

11 Days in, and I would have to say that my students are enjoying the opportunity both to blog and to share their learning experiences and it has not only told me much about my students as reflective learners but also as writers, where their interests lie, experiences that they have enjoy to date in this new school year and areas where they are struggling already.  They have done all of this by answering what would seem to be a simple question, “What did you learn today?”  I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of #project184, 11 days in.

Thanks George @gcouros #PSD70 and the #edu180atl project  your thoughts and sharing have been an inspiration for this project @treelinepdsb.  Maybe next year I’ll organize and school-wide or board-wide project sharing project.

Another new school year…

Three weeks into another school year, and the journey has already proven interesting.  Some may ask, why?  The answer is not so simple.  Every teacher spends any number of days over their summer break preparing for the return back to school following Labour Day, at least in Ontario most of us do.  We revise plans to meet newly released curriculum, we re-think teaching method to reflect best practices, we consider trying something new (e.g., Inquiry-based learning, genius hour), and we organize our classrooms in preparation for the new year.  And, that final weekend before school starts for many is the time to relax with family especially for those with children who are also returning back to school.  Everyone has hopefully managed to survive the summer without illness and our immune systems are in top shape to fend off the new breed of germs a class of 20 or more will throw at us.  I speak for myself, this year was like but unlike all of my previous returns to a new school year.  I was up late the night before the first day, thinking over everything that I would run through ad say on day one with my new group.  I was also returning to a grade that I had not taught in several years, so I was rehashing the whole years’ plans in the back of my mind.  Finally, I would lay down telling myself that sleep was needed.  My son, daughter and wife had all been sick over the long weekend and I figured I was in the clear, I was wrong.  I woke up and mentally tried to get myself prepared for the day ahead.  Mental preparing myself was one thing, but physically my gut was telling me otherwise.  I fought the feeling of nausea, there was no possible way that I wouldn’t make it to my first day.  I mean I had to set things straight on day one, or else I might find myself playing catch up with the whole classroom management piece that we work so hard to develop in week one of a new school year.  I arrived at school after and what would seem like a forever commute, looking according to others “a white as a ghost.”  Thankfully, I had first period prep, it was exactly the way I wanted the year to start, having my students be greeted by someone other than myself but it was a chance for me to gather myself and get a little colour.  I prepared my class with a little letter of introduction outlining some basic expectations and simple beginning of the year activities knowing that I wouldn’t be able to face them on this day one of the new school year.  I made my way to the office and asked my secretary if she could put a 1/2 day job in the system.  I would cross my fingers and hope that at 12 I could fight my way up the stairs to meet each of the 3 classes that I would teach this year.  I made it and I survived the afternoon though I am sure those who saw me would have thought otherwise.

Day Two – Rougher than the first.  How could it be possible to miss the 1st one and a half days.  I guess I would have to wait until day three to set into motion the wheels of learning for the year.

Day Three on….check back for a reflection on some new ideas for a new school year!

A message to parents…

Three weeks have passed so quickly, and your son or daughter is back into the swing of another school year.  They are probably super excited at this point to be in school with many of their peers that they may not have seen over the summer holidays.  As their teacher this year, I hope to maintain this excitement for school by providing them many unique and fun learning endeavours while preparing them for Grade 8 and beyond their time at @TreelinePDSB

As parents,I hope you are there to support your child in time of need/struggle, in time of celebration/success or when ever they come with a question.  There is no doubt that your son or daughter will experience challenges this year.  We set out to challenge them in their learning.  Be there to encourage and support them whenever possible for even a few minutes that they may ask of you.  It is challenges that they face that will foster their growth and will one day lead them to being a productive, contributing member of society, they will appreciate even a few minutes that you can provide.

As a parent myself of two young children, I know the days lie ahead where my son or daughter probably won’t run to me asking questions.  You may sometimes feel as though you do not know what is going on at school and although this might be the situation, it is quite common for pre-teen and teen children to forget to include their parents in what they learn.  It is my belief that children at this age have the following things (friends, playing games, sleep, eating, school work) on their minds at any given time each being weighted with a different value of importance.  I find that few students actually have it in their memory to go home and share with their parents what they learned on any given school day that is unless that parent themselves has initiated the conversation.  For this and other reasons, students in Grade 7 at Treeline will be participating in Project 184, where they are being asked to reflect daily on the question, “What did you learn today?”

Supporting those in #BYOD need

The reality was and the enthusiasm was, here.  Teachers and students @TreelinePDSB were bringing their own devices seeking out the new opportunities that would lie ahead but within the walls of every school are those students who do not have the opportunities that all of their peers have.  When speaking BYOD, there are those who do not have a personal device, those whose parents were not ready to embrace BYOD whether as a result of trust issues or as an understanding of how the devices would be used to foster a stronger learning environment.  Support would be needed for these students to ensure the was an equal opportunity for strengthening their learning.  The had always been the questions of, “What do we do with our fundraising money?”  The suggest came, “Let’s buy some technology!”  Our committee along with the support of parent council dove in, we made our 1st purchase of school devices (iPad 2’s, a mobile COW and a MBP for maintaining the iPad’s).  But we had to be patient, the order would need approval from the board, as no tender with Apple Canada was in place.  Some 6 weeks later a very large crate and 3 fair sized brown boxes arrived.  Those who knew what we had ordered were a wee bit excited.  But we still had to wait, protection was needed.  It would have been careless to put the devices out there without having some sort of case to protect them.  I looked to the Internet for some reasonably priced case that would fit into the slim slot of the Bretford iPad COW.  My research brought me to the Otterbox Commuter case on Amazon.  The order was placed and two days later the cases arrived.  The COW, the iPads and the case were swiftly unboxed by a small group of eager students in my homeroom class. We were ready to support students with our first purchase of mobile school devices.  But we were hungry for more, we would join together, a small collective group of those interested in strengthening our mobile technologies to write a proposal seeking funding to purchase additional devices.  Our target, our Superintendent of Education.  The result,a little bit of money and another mobile COW loaded with 25 Acer Netbooks.  Things @TreelinePDSB were looking up for ALL.

The new #BYOD challenge…parents!

Staff and students were enthusiastic about the opportunities that BYOD would bring to the classroom, and with a giant push forward by new face @JanetJackowski gave as she splurged with a purchase of iPads for staff to explore using mobile technologies in the class we dove in.  Parents…parents were an all new challenge, their children were convinced that BYOD was the new reality in school but with out the support of  parents there was no “OWN” in Bring Your OWN Device.  For students who did not already bring their iPod or Smartphone with them on the walk to and from school, to keep them connected with a parent or to listen to a recently downloaded song; there was the challenge of convincing a parent of the benefits BYOD could have on the learning environment.  Teachers knew of the potential benefits and surely had share these with the students in their class but for many parents, the word concern was synonymous with BYOD.  Concerns were valid and understandable but the allowing ones child to bring a device to school was not much different than allowing them to carry a device with them on a trip to the mall or grocery store to keep them entertained while they would complete some every so necessary  but no so exciting shopping.  The concerns were, “What happens if they lose the device?”,  “What if their device is stolen?”, “what if they device gets broken?” and many more similar questions about what if’s that if we still dwelled on would render BYOD a failed endeavour.  But as staff @treelinepdsb we talked to parents, listened to the concerns, and shared that we would work with students to develop a strong sense of ownership, responsibility and respect for their own devices, the devices of their peers and those that the school would provide for student use.  Parents understanding the potential learning benefits of BYOD would see the light.  The BYOD culture was growing, the learning environment changing, BYOD was in full-effect for a good part of the Treeline student population.  But how would we support those who were unable to BYOD?

A new reality…

AP’s now in place, and a sense that we could finally go mobile.  By we I speak of those who were ready to enter a world of bringing their own devices to school to use a teaching tools within out classrooms.  There were few of us yet the fire burned brightly.  A whole new world of teaching was on the verge of being breached.  The things that we could possibly do have various forms of technology (iDevices, smartphone, laptops, etc) at our finger tips and within our classrooms.  No longer would we face a problem that we would set aside and revisit after having time to explore further.  Creativity and creation digitally would become a norm.  Collaborative learning between classes within the school and between schools was a option.  Students and staff began embracing the freedom that wireless access and BYOD was bringing to the classroom.  But now we faced a new challenge…

The process continued…

There came a point when my secret was causing more issues than I could justify.  That outside world which I relied so heavily on was frequently “down” due to unknown issues.  I would take down the “router”, my mobility stagnated.  I had to do something about this jam I found myself in.  The only option purchase board approved AP’s (Access Points), they wouldn’t be cheap but they would bring the return of mobility for myself and staff who I began to encourage and express how valuable using their personal technology could when supporting learning in the classroom.  We started small, “coverage”, 10 AP’s spread evenly throughout the school in order to provide the greatest number with wireless access to the web.  We were no longer flying under the radar.  We were the innovators who would open up the world of wireless access in elementary schools for the Peel District School board.  BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) was becoming more of a reality.

The process…

I think 2007 or 2008 was the year.  I say this because with the addition of children to our home my memory has begun to slip me.  Back to my recount of events, it was 2007 or 2008, wireless and mobile technologies were readily available for almost anyone who knew what Bestbuy, Futureshop or Staples were, homes to the technology that we wanted at our finger tips.  And when I say we, I speak of all nerds and geeks who lovely everything technology.  I had a wireless home network that allowed me to venture almost anywhere within a 200 foot radius of this fantastic gateway bringing me information to my finger tips while sitting on my deck or in bed when I should have been sleeping.  During this same time period the Peel District School Board released the famous MyClass sites, a uni-directional means to share information with students at home.  Traffic on our MyClass sites at https://twitter.com/TreelinePDSB was explosive to the point that important people wanted to know what it was that we were doing in our classrooms.  At this time there were also the limitations within elementary level schools in Peel whereby connectivity to the web was only available through a wired network.  I couldn’t let this hold me back.  Configuring a wireless router was basic, the only difficult part would be to hide it from those who did not approve.  Connected to the wired Peel network and tucked away behind a desk with a hidden shelf my router began acting as my gateway to the outside world and a vast wealth of information that textbooks just could not provide.  Many times techs would visit the school to deal with unknown network issues expressing that a wireless router could be the cause.  My secret would stay with me and my teaching partner and BYOD was only a dream at this point.

It’s about time…

For years, I have been told by colleagues that professionally I should maintain a blog but the fact of the matter is, I am good at putting things aside waiting for that sunny day.   Well that sunny day arrived just a short few weeks ago.  I was a presenter and attendee at the Peel District School Boards #TLDW (Teaching and Learning in a Digital World) conference held at Castlebrooke Secondary School in Brampton.  It was at this conference that I found myself making contact with fellow educators within Peel who were all looking for answers to the questions they had about 21st Century Teaching and Learning.  Realization one, I needed to provide a place where I could share my experiences beyond the words that I would share at the conference.  It wasn’t that I had not been doing this via Tech Tours @treelinepdsb over the past year or two as our Administrators @_debpratt and @tinagodsoe sold us as a leaders in 21st Century education but I needed to create a point of reference for all who would visit and need to access information to support their journey ahead.

Learning About Learning

by Donna Miller Fry (@fryed)

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