Tuesday, December 31, 2013

PLN Blogging Challenge

I have been fortunate enough, in my first year of blogging and exploring teacher connectivity on the Twitters, to be nominated to complete the PLN blogging challenge not by one colleague, but two! I've been slacking on the blog front recently, so I'll ease back into things by happily obliging. Here are the rules:

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers you would like to nominate for this challenge.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you. That's just a vicious cycle waiting to happen).

Julie Balen (@jacbalen), a fellow educator here on Manitoulin Island, was the first to nominate me. She is one of the most connected-while-remote teachers I know, and has been instrumental in helping me navigate through my first MOOC (#OOE13). Drew Frank (@ugafrank) nominated me just a few days later. He and I are both taking up the #blogamonth challenge to regularly contribute to both our blogs and others' throughout the coming year.

1. My academic background is in astrophysics. Sometimes I toy with the idea of going back and doing my PhD, but there's a lot of calculus I'd have to relearn.

2. I hold a brown belt (ik-kyu) in the martial art of Kendo, and will be grading for my black belt (shodan) in June 2014.

3. I've recently been enjoying reading about Russian history. Someday, I think I'd like to visit St. Petersburg, Veliky Novgorod and Moscow.

4. I say "I think" in the above statement because I hate flying.

5. When I was young, I wanted to live in a house in which I could see the stars from my bed. I'm glad to say that little dream has come true.

6. Chris and I have a goal of camping together at every provincial park in Ontario. We've done about 25 of them... only about 100 to go!

7.  I competed gymnastics in high school, and now coach our school's gymnastics team.

8. I love to cook and bake, and wish I had more time to do so. I got ninja cookie cutters for Christmas and can't wait to try them!

9. I started running a few years ago, and now really enjoy middle distances (5-10km). Someday I'll try a half marathon. Someday.

10. I am a cross-stitching fiend!

11. Attending a French elementary school for seven years and taking three years of Latin in high school has contributed to a love of languages. I really enjoy looking for patterns in (and making connections with) syntax, structure, voice, etc.

I didn't want to answer 22 questions, so I took half from Drew and half from Julie...

1. What do you do for fun? Hobby?
I love to sing, and I have performed recently with the Island Singers, Voices North, The Simple Life and Western Migration.

2. Cat, dog or goldfish? Why?
Cat; we have two of them. They offer more affection than a goldfish, but require less attention than a dog (we're both pretty busy and aren't home much).

3. How do you caffeinate?
Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

4. Favourite Twitter chat?

5. Best place you've ever vacationed?
Vienna, Austria. It wasn't really a vacation - I was there as part of a choir tour years ago - but I absolutely loved it.

6. Favourite television shows?
I'm always good for hockey. Lately, I seem to be watching a lot of Castle and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I really need to watch more Nova.

7. Satellite vs. Netflix?
Satellite. We are remote and our Internet is pay-per-use, so Netflix isn't an option at the moment.

8. Movie or novel?
Novel. I didn't grow up going to the movie theatre (there wasn't one in our community), so movie-watching has never been a big deal for me.

9. Favourite wild flower?
Alberta's wild rose.

10. What educational event do you REALLY want to attend?
ISTE2014, hands down.

11. List three high points of 2013.
-Seeing Chris win a Board award
-Spending more time with my family
-Attending a 6-day mindfulness retreat for educators with Thich Nhat Hanh

Some edufriends, some #ooe13, some #BYOTchat...

Naomi Aubé ~ @celestialnaomihttp://bateaumooc.wordpress.com
JD Ferries-Rowe ~ @jdferrieshttp://geekreflection.blogspot.ca
Jovette Francoeur ~ @FJovette  ~ http://educ-actions.blogspot.ca
Debbie Fucoloro ~ @debbiefuco  ~ http://theeducatorscafe.com
Anna Katterjohn ~ @katterjohn  ~ http://katterjohn.blogspot.ca
Marcie Lewis ~ @marcielewhttp://marcielewis.wordpress.com
Heather Lye ~ @TchngPassion  ~ http://www.teachinginspirations.blogspot.ca
Steve Mefford ~ @meffsciencehttp://meffscience.blogspot.ca
Andrea Wilson Vazquez ~ @wilsandrea  ~ http://techiestateofmind.blogspot.ca
Alena Zink ~ @ZinkEd_uhttp://blogs.forsyth.k12.ga.us/azink/
Brandon Zoras ~ @brandonzoras  ~ http://mrzoras.wordpress.com

Your turn!
1. What is one of your professional goals this year?
2. If money was no object, would you go into space?
3. Your one superpower: what would it be?
4. Real or fake Christmas tree? Or other?
5. Who is your favourite superhero?
6. PC or Mac?
7. Summer or winter? Don't mince - you can only choose one!
8. What is the furthest north you've travelled? Furthest south?
9. Can you play any musical instruments?
10. Do you have a favourite comfort food? What is it?
11. What is one of your new year's resolutions (if you make them)? Happy 2014!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

They Always Come Back to Paper

Though I had heard of the SAMR model before, I didn't really try to apply it to the tech in my classes until this year with our BYOD focus.

Without getting too much into it, the SAMR model is a spectrum of technological use in the classroom, depending on what you want the technology to accomplish. How effectively am I using the technology I have?
  1. S for Substitution - the technology performs the exact same role as a more traditional tool, but is not necessary.
  2. A for Augmentation - the technology offers some functional benefit, but is still not necessary.
  3. M is for Modification - the technology is necessary in order to create a new product.
  4. R is for Redefinition - the technology is necessary to provide tools for students to explore, collaborate and guide their learning.
In the BYOD course, we have played quite a bit with new tools in line with the "M" and "R" parts of the model, and I've been trying to encourage the students to try new approaches to their tasks. We've done a lot with graphing calculator apps and websites (the students LOVE desmos.com), experimented with the collaborative power of Google Docs and Presentations, and I've gently nudged students working on various things toward slow-motion camera apps, screen capture possibilities, photo collage websites, augmented reality apps... 

...but in the spirit of true differentiation, I have been trying to always allow my students - where possible - their choice of how they want to present their knowledge.

With all the benefits of having technology at their fingertips, I expected great final products. What I did not anticipate, was the number of student who would revert back to handing things in... on paper.

On this project, I expected most students to graph their periodic function using one of the graphing calculator tools we've been playing with all semester, but instead many chose to graph by hand. On the photo collage option of this assignment, I was hoping students would simply email me a link to their collage (or create a .jpg to send to me), so I was surprised when many couldn't figure out how to create captions and chose to print out their collage to hand in on paper.

On an assignment which required a graph, some images, some calculations and text, very few students chose to even use a word processor (or equivalent app or website); pretty much all of them came in on lined paper.

With so many tools at their disposal, why do my students revert back to "old-school" methods of demonstrating their knowledge? 

Is there comfort (or security) in reverting back to what they've always done in school? Are they intimidated by the possibilities technology brings? Do they lack the resiliency needed to try new things and work out the kinks? 

How can I encourage them to push their limits and create something over the top with the devices they use on a daily basis?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Uncharted Waters

I've been picking away at different aspects of BYOD teaching and learning all semester: independent learning, trying new online tools with my classes (discovering some great ones, and some not-so-great ones), and encouraging students to take risks and go out on a limb (in a somewhat controlled fashion) to demonstrate their knowledge. 

It's scarier than I thought it would be - as a self-labeled control freak, it's hard for me to give a lot of the control of the class and the assignments over to the students. 

Apart from just knowing the material, I also find it near impossible to properly "prep" for any given day. Most of the class is spent assisting, assessing and checking in with students as they become more comfortable with a proficiency-based format, instead of controlling the pace of the learning.

For the final project in our third unit (trigonometric functions), I've mustered up all my courage and laid it all on the line: a completely open project where they get to pick and design the experiment, collect the data, collate all the information and then present their findings using the method of their choice.

The BYOD teacher in me says "WAHOO!!" The traditional teacher in me is pretty darn nervous, but definitely optimistic.

Using a slow-motion camera app to observe the periodic motion of a mass on a spring

The learning goal is well suited to this type of activity: "I can collect data that can be modelled as a sine function, and can identify periodic functions that arise from real-world applications," so it seems a natural fit. I'm looking forward to seeing what the students come up with, and I love the fact that they will truly own this task.

As my husband (also a secondary school teacher) noted - this is almost completely opposite to what we've been taught to teach: no well laid out instructions, no exemplars from years past, not even a differentiated list of approaches for students to choose from. I feel like I'm venturing into uncharted waters.

Here are the guidelines I used to get them started: Unit 3 Project. I would love to hear suggestions, or see how other teachers have tried projects like this in their courses. Anchors up!