Reflections of a Teacher-Librarian

Well, that seems to be another semester in the books!  Although there has not been another semester quite like it for me – I can now say that I survived a full time job, parenting /family-ing, and two classes! (A feat, that I am quite sure I never would have accomplished without the support and understanding of my family, friends and colleagues)!

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CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

As in previous semesters, I challenged myself to complete a Summary of Learning outside of my comfort zone, and therefore I found a new tool to test out!

Puppet Pals is a digital storytelling tool that is quite user friendly (both of my children 4 & 8, were able to create stories).  I liked the concept of creating a puppet show – and was able to purchase “full access” to the app for $8.  I was slightly disappointed because I thought I would be able to insert other objects into the show (pictures of items I was discussing), but I was limited to characters and vehicles.  There was some flexibility and customization available for the characters (which was fun to play with), but the types of scenes immediately available were also limited. Over all – great tool that could be implemented in a classroom!  I digress…

Please have a look at what I was able to create!

 

In the video I mentioned The Animal School by George Reavis – this is one place I wished Puppet Pals allowed for multi-media interaction (or at least would allow me to add outside objects into the platform).  If you have not heard of this story, I encourage you to watch the video version of it below.  I first heard this story in my Undergrad classes, and it greatly impacted my personal teaching beliefs – and it still holds true!

 

Finally, I wanted to provide an update on the Maker-spaces/coding project I am working on for my school.  I will be starting a Technology club this week, which will involve pre-coding and beginning coding tasks.  Following the winter break, I plan to implement a couple of ‘Maker’ afternoons with stations ranging from Lego building, cardboard design, hour of code activities, a knitting station, and sphero courses.  Additionally, I made a connection through a colleague, and may have an ‘expert’ (someone who codes, and develops apps for a living) who may be coming to our school to assist me in this endeavor!

I plan to start coding activities using Incredibox, once students are comfortable in that space, Daisy the Dinosaur is a great app to start with, Lightbot is another free site students can practice on, there is also Code which has countless variety of coding opportunities!

If you have any experience teaching students coding, I would love any input or feedback you have to offer!  If nothing else, I will try, I will learn from this, and I will do better next time!

Thanks for a great semester everyone – I’ve enjoyed learning from and with you.

Next Level: AR and VR?

How does one virtually augment their students reality in education?

This week, the ‘two man show'(Logan and Bill) did a fantastic job presenting and getting me to consider Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, something that’s been on the outermost edge of my peripherals (I mean, I knew it was there -who hasn’t seen Back to the Future?)

Back to the Future Part 2 (5/12) Movie CLIP - The Future McFlys (1989) HDmake action GIFs like this at MakeaGif

While reading Reede and Baliff‘s article this week, I found myself questioning, if virtual reality has been around and a possibility since about the 1950s, why has it just stayed on the ‘outskirts’ of the technology world?  Why is it just now starting to make strides in the Ed tech world?  And what are the implications of bringing this type of technology into the classroom?

One of the biggest things that concerns me, echoes Erin’s worry this week:  Who is being left behind when we move toward implementing these technological advances?  We know that a digital divide exists – so how can we effectively pursue these advances, if we do nothing to address the gap that exists?

One of the promising aspects of incorporating AR and VR within classrooms, is that there is potential for real-life problem solving to occur:

One of the major criticisms of instruction today is the low rate of far-transfer generated by presentational instruction. Even students who excel in educational settings often are unable to apply what they have learned to similar real-world contexts. The potential advantage of immersive interfaces for situated learning is that their simulation of real-world problems and contexts means that students must attain only near-transfer to achieve preparation for future learning –Dunleavy and Dede

That being said, I still question (and have been struggling with) how to appropriately scaffold the skills necessary to utilize this technology (including things like maker-spaces and coding), because, if I am implementing these things, my students are going to come with a wide skill set (from those who need to learn how to appropriately log into various devices, to those who are already able to execute these skills independently)?

Finally, after looking into VR and AR a little further, even though I’m questioning why it has taken so long to become prevalent, I found this TedTalk, which had me thinking a little more globally, and positively about the potential for growth in these tools.

It was this video, and the following quote from our readings this week, that have me thinking that perhaps we can aspire teach some higher level things with these tools after all.

Knowledge is embedded in the setting in which it is used; learning involves mastering authentic tasks in meaningful, realistic situations (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learners build personal interpretations of reality based on experiences and interactions with others, creating novel and situation specific understandings. Dunleavy and Dede

 

 

Assistive Technology and you (and me too)

This week, Benita, Heidi, Allison, Launel, and Holly shared some interesting tools and perspectives on Assistive Technologies.

Coming into this week, I was reflecting on my interactions with Assistive Technology, and aside from the FM systems, I didn’t think I had much experience with it.

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By ImGzOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

It was after reading Tyson’s blog, that I realized that I have worked with many more things, including PECs binders, wiggle seats, visual timers, as well as fidgets among other items in order to better help the students I work with.

Heidi’s blog, had me considering some other questions this week, when she mentioned that assistive technology can be for all learners.  This had me considering, what are things that I use as a learner which help me to focus/learn in a concise way?  What are things I already do to support learners in my space?  And- what else could I be incorporating to support all of the learners I am working with?

For myself as a learner, I HATE sitting still for long periods of time.  It is helpful for me to be in a comfortable space, and have the ability to move, if those things are not possible, it is important for me to have the ability to tap my toes, and if there is something I can fidget with, I will do it!

When I think about things I am currently doing for my students, my mind immediately goes to Literacy groups.  I make stations, we move from place to place, and change the focus of our brains (switch the type of activity we are doing), we change the mediums we work with (whiteboards, magnetic letters, pencils),  and I like to incorporate at least one station of listening to reading, so my students can see and hear the words being spoken.  I allow students to stand if it is difficult for them to focus while sitting.

However, I’m wondering, who am I missing?  What else can I be incorporating to assist my learners?  I’ve noticed one child I work with has difficulty distinguishing colours, are there different mediums and specific things I could incorporate to ensure they’re not missing out?

What are you doing to incorporate assistive technologies for all of your students?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

Will the most effective innovation strategies please move forward?

Formative, summative, diagnostic, benchmark… just a few of the assessment types that educators utilize on an ongoing basis.  Beyond that, there are the dreaded ‘standardized tests‘ which cause many to cringe.

The articles this week do a good job distinguishing the different purposes of each.

That being said, the video that we were asked to watch, was questioning the role of assessments (as well as the content) that we are teaching students of today.

That’s where the material this week took me (truth be told – it was the past few weeks of this class that have me considering the following)…

How are we preparing the students of today (my own children included) for their futures?  What specific things am I doing to move students forward with purpose?  How can we be sure that the skills we are working on with students are valuable to them as problem solvers and innovators?  How can we give students the skills they require for jobs that don’t currently exist?

innovate
uberof202 ff via flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

In the library, I have a unique perspective to consider these questions with.  I get to spend large portions of my time looking for engaging resources (books) that my students will love, fostering reading skills, as well as modelling a love of reading (at least this is what I hope I am doing in the time I spend in this space).  I still see that as necessary learning though, we need reading whether for purpose or pleasure to function and be successful in life.

Beyond that though, where does my role place me – and how do my lessons and assessments allow students to grow as problem solvers and innovators?  Do I balance necessary skill sets with the freedom to consider ‘real life problems’?

A couple of years ago, I started learning/talking to teacher’s about Genius hour.  The concept evolved from Google’s “20% Time” .  I’ve had many classes attempt this process once or twice, but to my knowledge, none have committed to it going forward.

 

 

After experimenting with Genius hour (without any real traction), I am going to continue to promote the concept with any classrooms who are willing to work on it, but it’s become a space that I don’t feel effective in, because I don’t have control over a classroom full time.

For the last year or so, I have heard more and more about Maker Spaces.  Initially, this concept really frightened me (it seemed super tech-y, and way out of my comfort zone).  When I thought of maker-spaces, I thought of coding and robots, and well, things that I have almost zero experience with.  Additionally, I was told it is expensive, so I started to back away from the concept.  Eventually (mainly through my PLN and Alec’s classes) I started hearing more about the maker movement, and the multitude of mediums it can include.

I think this is where education should be going (if it’s not really heading there already).  Technology is dictating that our future is uncertain:  it is not static and always changing.  It is because of this that we need to demand that our students are innovators and problem solvers – we need to expect this of them.  We make up part of the global economy now, and if we would like to compete on that large scale, standardized tests are not going to get us there!

This year, I have decided that I am going to hold a ‘maker day’.  This will be a day in which all students in my school have the chance to come to the library and ‘tinker’ and make things – both with technology (coding), and creating with their hands.  A minimal budget will be established for this first year, and it will be built on yearly as the interest develops.  With any luck, teachers will be asking when they can sign up for this and how they can implement it within their classrooms.

I’ll keep you ‘posted’ on the progress!

 

Still loading… Web 3.0

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By DarmokandOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Erin, Kyle, Naomi, Heidi S, and Angus left me thinking (and maybe feeling a little perplexed) about web 3.0.

I would say that I am a (fairly confident) web 2.0 teacher- for me, it was never a ‘choice’ to do it I, like my classmate Logan, grew up watching (and interacting with) this technology and these ideals as changed and evolved.

But after this week’s presentation, I’m left feeling like I’m in Scrooge’s shoes, and I’m being showed “Technology things yet to come”.  It’s a little daunting- and I’m approaching it with caution until I am better able to wrap my head around what it means on a whole.

As Erin summarizes:

Web 3.0=

  • reinvention of the web
  • community generated content
  • personalized, self-determined, interest-based learningA “good student” is someone who is a self-determined, interest-based, networked learner.

A reinvention of the web, involves considering how the trillions (potentially) of pages are stored, and accessed when we are searching.  It also involves how the web interacts with us (ie. it starts ‘learning’ about you and your behaviours to tailor results of the questions you ask it).  This video talks a little bit about that side of things, (it’s a little ‘techy‘ and not really focused on education, but still interesting).

 

If we consider the “good student” at this stage though – I have to question it, just a little.  Do all learners learn in the same way?  Is technology the only way we can make ‘good students’?  How can students be a ‘self-determined’ learner if they can’t read, or if they lack devices and access?

“The web influences people’s way of thinking, doing and being” Jackie Gerstein

Jackie’s thoughts are absolutely accurate here, in my opinion.  How could the web not be influential?  For the most part, it is at our fingertips, and it’s not often you can get through a work day or social outing without turning to the web for something.  Even those people who are against social media (SM) and choose not to get profiles, still (in my experience) have to find loopholes and ways to access those sites for information they wish to garner.  How could you not be influenced by the web and social media, it has become a part of what we do and how we live- so even if you are not a SM user, your life is still impacted by it.

Gillmor (2004) was quoted as saying , “In the past 150 years
we’ve essentially had two distinct means of communication: one-to-many
(books, newspapers, radio, and TV) and one-to-one (letters, telegraph, and
telephone). The Internet, for the first time, gives us many-to-many and
few-to-few communications.”

This, of course goes for students and their learning as well (even if they are not learning it in the classroom).  Gerstein discusses that Web 3.0 means students can demonstrate the things they learned in whichever way works best for them – but she specifies students using their own devices as an option.

In this model – who’s voice is not being heard?  How are students who don’t have personal devices effected by this?

 

Dabblers of everything – masters of nothing?

After this week’s great presentation by Andrew, Nancy, Jayme, Roxanne, and Ashley, I had to consider the impact of multi-tasking in our society.  Are we accomplishing more, or just fooling ourselves?

Ironically, as I type this blog, I have several tabs open (albeit they pertain to my blog), I am consuming my breakfast (it’s a write my blog at 5am kind of day…), but as for everything else (read: children, electronics) all is quiet.  This will be the most focused time of my day.

As soon as my kids wake up, I’ll be making lunches while making their breakfast, while brushing one’s hair, (you get the idea), so even if we take electronics out of the equation, I multi-task all day long.

In reading the article about email at work and productiveness,  I had to stop and think: is my email affecting how much work I am able to effectively complete in a day?  The answer I think may be yes.  As a Teacher-Librarian part of my role is to be a support person within the school.  I collaborate with others, gather resources – but I am also expected to manage the library and work within the Teacher-Librarian group to support with resources as well.  If we think about these emails alone (not to include the other resources from admin, boards, outside agencies…) anytime an email pops up when I’m in the middle of doing something else, I stop, evaluate and either deal with the email or deal with what is pressing at the time.  This takes time away from what I am doing at that moment in time.  So I wonder, if everyone thought about how they reacted to a new email, would their answers be similar?

In addition to the ironic wasting of time that inevitably happens while we multitask, I was reading that the increase in multitasking due to technology can have a negative effect on our brains, as it works to produce cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies.

Is it time we make a point to focus on Monotasking?

 

On the other hand…

I do have to say, this semester, I haven’t gotten all of my homework done at the peaceful hour of 5am.  Sometimes life doesn’t work like that, and I’ve hired a babysitter a couple of times so I can focus on getting through it.  The problem is, I proceed to a coffee shop during that time to work, and there are so many distractions, in addition to my phone and my computer, there is music playing, people coming and going, people talking all around.  Let’s be honest – I’m paying for the sitter, so this time has REALLY got to be productive!  So, in order to ensure I’ve been focused on ONE task (my homework), I have discovered that in a public place it takes two devices for me to focus, I have my computer running with whatever I’m working on ready to go, and then I found if I used my headphones and listened to music (classical instrumental)  I was able to drown out all of the distractions and able to complete a large chunk of work in that time frame.

Was it all in my head, or did multi-tasking help me focus?

Mindfulness

I have heard more and more about being mindful recently.  I’ve heard it as a phenomenon in classrooms as well as people recommending adults give it a try.

I gave yoga a try recently, and the first time  I did it, they had a few minutes at the end where you are just supposed to lay there with your eyes closed – I’m not going to lie, my brain was going a mile a minute, what am I supposed to be doing?  Are people getting up yet?  What am I going to make for supper- you get the idea.  My second time doing yoga, I realized that this was supposed to be an excersize in mindfulness, and I was able to do what Andy describes in the video (just be present), I have to say I felt a lot more relaxed after I was done than I would normally feel!

After considering my days of multitasking, emails and brief moments of mindfulness, I have to wonder -would limiting how long our email is open for in the day help to decrease multitasking?  And should we be combating the urge to multitask?