Enactus

Enactus

This organization seems to be a great fit with many of the socially-responsible, forward-thinking activities taking place in classrooms across our Board. Enactus Canada…” is shaping generations of entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate about advancing the economic, social and environmental health of Canada.
As a national charity and a global network, we apply our passions, talents and ideas to impact individual lives. We work side-by-side with people to create opportunity through our community projects and student entrepreneurs so every person and community we touch is empowered to live up to their fullest potential.”

Check it out through the link above.

Communication, Engagement and Creating Space

There are three things that technology does well in the classroom. Just three.

The first is communication. Most people would admit that technology has been an important factor in modern communication. The telegraph, the telephone and other devices have provided the means to get connected to people around the globe. The quality of those communications are up to the participants, but the tools work.

In classrooms, this means that teachers and students can communicate with each other in powerful ways. Teachers can gather student work, their ideas, their understanding, both quickly and accurately. Students can collaborate in class and from separate homes. Other teachers can be accessed online and a world of information is at everyone’s fingertips.

It should be noted that, at this point in time, computers are not very good at complex communications. Understanding the nuances of human interactions is currently beyond machines. Emotion, passion, and the illogical behaviours of people are not understandable. They just don’t compute. Fortunately for employed teachers, students are always ready with emotions and illogical behaviours.

The second thing technology is good at is engaging students. The power of technology often lies in its ability to draw in the user. Users feel the power of the tool and revel at what they are able to do with the tool in their hands. This can be a well-balanced paintbrush or a new iPad. The hook is the places you can get to, once the tool is in your hand.

Our students are engaged as soon as they hear the iPads are on the way. They see iPads as fun. They think about games, and online searches. They think about being successful and exploring topics of interest. The teacher can be an important guide in this process.

Teachers can use this engagement in the tool to facilitate an engagement with the curriculum. Students need to see that the real engagement comes from the creations they make and the new learning they can accomplish. I often tell teachers that we never put the artist’s tools on the wall, just their art.

Technology can bring kids into the classroom in a new way. It gives them new tools to explore and create. With a little direction, the tool quietly disappears and the content comes alive.

The third thing technology can do is build creative spaces. This includes creative classrooms and digital spaces.

From ancient Greece to modern times, the place where people learn has always benefited from technology. From drawing with a shaped stick to the iPad, creative spaces are supported by technology. Mobile technology has asked we make changes to the physical setup of our classrooms. This has included changing libraries into learning commons. Further, the classroom has been rearranged to suit digital learning.

Desks are on wheels. Tables are replacing desks. Video booths and green-screens are popping up. Teachers are recycling their old desks and moving out into student spaces. Having one-to-one, mobile, connected, digital tools is reshaping our ideas about classrooms.

The modern classroom also benefits from virtual spaces. Students can write, video, draw and express their creativity in an online environment. These “digital workshops” allow students new tools and spaces to be creative. I find that digital spaces allow students to express themselves in novel ways. They fly through Minecraft worlds of their own creation. They publish words for a global audience. The digital spaces seem to be without-end.

In the end, people make a classroom. Their complex, nuanced relationships allow for learning. The emotions and illogical behaviour are just part of the learning that takes place.

Technology does three things in a classroom. Just three.

Using Google Drive to Streamline Documentation of Student Learning

This blog post, will, I think, have a bit of a tone of the confessional to it…that’s right – I’m going to admit to doing the same thing, poorly, not to mention repeatedly, for the past 20+ years…. Why do this, you may well ask? Well… besides the fact that confession is, allegedly, good for the soul – I’m sharing this because I think I have finally come up with a system that approximates the one I’ve been using (badly) all these years, but this one actually seems to work!

Every August, not to be dissuaded (or informed, even…) by past failures, I dutifully set up “The Binder” – “The Binder” is a massive (3 inch minimum) file – with dividers that allocate a section for each student.  I always started off well (in August, by myself, with no actual students around to distract me from the work I was trying to do…) – I’d write each kid’s name on his/her tab, insert the page of notes I took while reading the OSR, add a section for Contact Information and… (here comes the confession) – for most kids…. except for running records, and the occasional note from a writing conference, that was as populated as their section of the binder ever got.

My intentions were good (aren’t everyone’s?) – the plan (which never changed, despite how ineffective it proved to be, year after year) was this – I was going to record all of my anecdotal observations about what my students were learning and doing at different times during the day, and store them in the binder. 

Why didn’t it work?  For lots of reasons – like most teachers, my days fly by in a whirlwind of activity; if I actually have the opportunity to sit down with a student and work 1:1 with him or her, I feel like it’s more important that I listen to the kid – have a genuine conversation with him, without the distraction of writing down what was being said. 

I tried various methods – sticky notes on a clipboard  – which worked wonderfully – IF I could read them (my handwriting is illegible at the best of times, never mind standing in a classroom, being jostled by students vying for my attention),  IF I remembered to put the kid’s name on them, IF what I wrote made any sense to me 3 hours later when I read it again, IF  I actually got around to sticking it in “The Binder”, and  IF I ever managed to write about anyone other than the same 5 kids who seemed to occupy 90% of my time.

I tried selecting 5 or 6 kids each day to be the focus of my note-taking ventures… read as “Wow…. that was amazing – sorry kid, too bad it’s not your day to be noticed!”.  I tried to force myself to take 30 minutes at the end of each day to write notes – no doubt there are those of you reading this who are far more disciplined than I am – but I couldn’t make myself do it – by then, the memory of what I had observed had faded, and I often couldn’t remember exactly what I had wanted to write in the moment.

Now… that was such a long lead in, I fear I’ve set myself up to make a “grand reveal” – and worried that I may let you down.  The system I have developed, over the past few weeks, for recording my thoughts and observations about what my students are doing during the school day, is not revolutionary, nor is it flawless… but it is much easier than what I have described up to this point,  and for the time being, I am actually using it – that, in itself, makes it a big improvement on “The Binder”.

For those of you who read this far, who are still interested in what this system is…. I’ve described it below.

I’ve included screenshots to illustrate what I’m saying,  but using “made up” folders, rather than the actual ones I use for my own students, so that I don’t violate their privacy by publishing their names here.  If you need to enlarge any of the screenshots to read the smaller print – just double click on them.

Set up a Folder in Google Drive for your class, then create sub-folders within it – one for each student (I know… I know… sounds suspiciously like “The Binder” – the similarities are there… it’s in the use of the thing that the differences emerge.)

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Within each sub-folder you can add additional folders – the trail of “breadcrumbs” is noted at the top of the page:Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.36.05 PM

Adding the folders is easy – click on the red “NEW” button and then select what you want to create from the drop-down menu.  

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.38.21 PMYou can also upload existing files and/or folders from your computer.

Once you’ve set up your folders in Google Drive, make sure you’ve added the Drive App to your iPad.

Throughout the day, take photographs of your students while they’re engaged in learning.  Try not to take dozens – be selective – consider why you’re taking each photo – what is the student doing, saying, demonstrating, that you want to capture?

At some point each day, take some time (I can usually get this done in 15 minutes or less.) – skim through the photos (this is why you don’t want dozens of them).  The images will spark your memory – especially if you were very purposeful in taking the photos.

Open up an Explain Everything project on your iPad.   Tap the “+” button to insert an object, and tap “Photo, Video or File”.

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Select (and edit, if you wish – I usually crop out everyone except the one student I was focused on when I took the picture) the photo you want to add – it will appear in your Explain Everything Project

Tap the “A” to add a text box, or the Pencil, to add a hand-written note: (I’ve covered the student’s face to protect his privacy on the NGL blog, but wouldn’t need to do so to place it in his folder on my Google Drive)

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Repeat this step with each photo that you took during the day, that you want to preserve and add to a student’s file.

When you’re done with the photos you’ve taken, delete them from your Camera Roll, so that you know where to pick up when you start again tomorrow.

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Tap the “Export Project” button on the bottom right corner of the Explain Everything screen.

You can choose to export the project as a video, PDF, image or Project – I usually choose PDF, as PDF files are the most easily transferrable from one platform to another.

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Before you export to Drive, select the slide you want to export.  If you export all the slides as one document, you will have many different students’ photos in each student’s file.  To avoid this, export the document one slide at a time – by selecting the slide you wish to export.

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Once you’ve selected the slide you want to export, tap “Confirm” in the top right corner – this will take you back to the Export page.

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Tap the icon for Drive – this will take you to your Google Drive (assuming you have signed into Drive on the App on your iPad) – from there, you can select the folder where you want to send the PDF – In this case, I selected the Geometry folder belonging to the student who appeared in the Photo. (His name has been blacked out to protect his privacy).

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I then delete the photos from my camera roll, and the project from Explain Everything, to preserve storage space on my iPad.  After all – I don’t need to store any of it on my iPad – it’s all in my Google Drive.

It seems like a lengthy process when it’s all written out, but once you do it a few times it’s very quick.

I take a half dozen (ish…) photos each day – and it takes me less than 15 minutes to drop them into an Explain Everything Project, annotate them , and file them in the folders I have created for each student on Google Drive.  I’ve only been doing this for a couple of weeks, and my “virtual binder” has far more documentation in it than any of my  “real” ones ever did.  I’m hoping the notes I’ve taken there will be useful to me when I come to write reports – I know they’ll be useful during parent interviews.

Give it a try… and if you have any questions, (or if you make any discoveries) – please, send me an e-mail.

Amplifying Our Learning

What a thrill it is to sit with this large, focused group of Grade 6 Teachers that are committed to modifying their practice as we share their learnimarshall-amp-fridge-1ng, and the learning of their students by blogging.

As we learn together, we will be able to ‘amplify’ our learning by reaching a larger, authentic audience.

Your school-based trainers and NGL Coaches are here to support you in your blogging adventures.  Turn it up!

The Final Days of My Science Textbook

I love textbooks.  I have always loved textbooks.  When starting University (dinosaurs roamed a dark and fiery Earth) I purchased my first texts.  When I was in high school I was given textbooks. But these had missing pages, rips and a list of scribbled-out names from the eight previous “owners”.

My first purchased textbooks were all mine.  They were about topics I was excited to learn.  The covers were glass-hard and the pages were crisp and smelled fresh-printed and new.  For a geek, this was a great time.

One of these texts had an important diagram, which is one way of picturing the entire universe – unalterable and timeless.  This picture is the Periodic Table.  I still find myself capitalizing the term, because of its importance as an edifice of human understanding.

Today, several tens of millions of these textbooks became out-of-date.  Today a group of Russian, American and Japanese scientists completed the seventh row of the Periodic Table by reporting the discovery of four new elements. Besides being a great accomplishment of modern science, this event also has implications for how we think about knowledge / content in a modern world.

For me, this event underlines several important points.  Technology is out-pacing traditional ways of communicating content.  Science texts are out-dated before they are printed.  Further, because this content is communicated globally and instantly, I don’t need a traditional teacher to find and disseminate this information.  Instead, I need a guide to help me through the implications of this new information.  Finally, I need to think about how new technologies and scientific breakthroughs are changing the world.  This includes changes in media, computing, student needs, classroom development and the use of textbooks.

I recently cleaned out my storage room.  I found those University texts and flipped through a few of them. I threw most of them out. Although I felt a little sad and nostalgic, I knew it was for the best.  They were a little mouldy and out-of-date. The pace of change needs a digital format to keep up with all the changes. I suppose a new love of mine is the internet.

So, I suppose I love (and loved) the information more than the form it comes in.

Four New Elements

Stella’s Stunners – Non-Routine Problems for Grades 6-12

One of the prevailing themes at the Ed. Tech Teacher iPad summit that the NGL Tech Coaches had the privilege of attending in November, was the concept of “indispensability”  – that sought-after state of being able to do something that is not only key to being successful in your job, but that also cannot be done by someone (or something) else in a more efficient, less expensive manner.

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“Am I indispensable”? – I guess it depends, to whom and in which context I pose the question…and honestly, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to ask it out loud… but it is a question that bears asking in a society on the cusp of another industrial revolution.  We find ourselves in a world where technology allows us to do for ourselves many things that, previously, we would have paid someone else to do for us – pump and pay for gas; scan and pay for groceries; edit and produce video recordings; send files, images, and documents to anyone, anywhere,  in a matter of seconds… the list grows longer as advances in computer technology abound.

In the not too distant future, the best-paying, most secure, most satisfying jobs will be reserved for those who can corner the market on indispensability – that is, who can do things that computers cannot do faster, more efficiently, more accurately and with less expense.

Of course, there are many things that human beings, with their instinct, intellect, emotional intelligence and nuanced communication skills can do, that machines will never be able to do.  One of the many skills that humans have that computers cannot be programmed to mimic, is the ability to solve non-routine problems.  Non routine problems are those that cannot be solved by the application of a set of procedures (an algorithm), but instead require the application of a range and variety of strategies  or “heuristics” that may lead us to a solution… we engage in “non-routine” problem solving when we don’t know what to do, where to begin, or if an answer may even be found.

Non-routine problems “are presented with no hints as to what methods or skills will be needed to solve them. Some may seem to have insufficient given information or even contradictory information. They are not straightforward, and it is not always clear that they even have a solution. Thus they are intended to leave the solver not knowing, at first anyway, what to do. Note that the problems society faces — providing a trustworthy voting process, feeding the world, getting out of Afghanistan, or cleaning up oil spills — reflect exactly this sort of quandary, problems where we do not know, at the outset, how to go about solving them, or whether they can be solved at all.”  (Crawford, Rudd.  What Students Can Gain From Problem Solving.  Retrieved from http://www.ohiorc.org/for/math/stella/background/problem_solving.aspx.

Connie Ransberry (Grade 4/5 teacher at Milverton P.S.) recently shared with me an outstanding resource on the topic of non-routine problems.    Check out “Stella’s Stunners”  (link below) – a collection of Non-Routine problems,  with sample solutions,  posted by the Ohio Resource Center :

Stella’s Stunners – Non Routine Problems for Grades 6-12Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 2.17.16 PM