And the learning continues …

On April 8th, I received a tweet from Lindsay Kendall (@mirtyjo) telling me about an article that she read in Today’s Parent. This article was all about a teacher that uses technology in her Grade 4/5 class. Lindsay said that she would bring in the article to share with me, and she did. After reading it, I shared it with my principal, who wrote me a note and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could go and visit this teacher?” Thanks to the Internet, I was able to get this teacher’s email address, and I wrote her asking if we could come. She happily agreed, and today was the day that we went.

It’s always great to see another classroom and hear new ideas. Last night, as I was getting organized for today, I made sure to pack my digital camera, video camera, iPad, and Livescribe Pen because I knew that I wanted to capture as much of Edita’s classroom as possible. With all of the tools that I brought, it really was the Livescribe Pen that I used the most. I needed to avoid getting faces in photographs, so the camera wasn’t the best, but with the pen, I could go around and talk to the students and have a record of what they were saying too. Best of all, I could record a discussion within a group, and hear multiple ideas as well as the ideas generated as the students worked and talked together.

What I loved about Edita was how much she was willing to share, including what she still wanted to learn. As my principal, protege, and I conversed with Edita, her teaching partner, principal, and vice principal today, we all discussed our successes, but we also discussed our next steps. The learning never ends, and I love talking to other educators that feel this way too.

Thank you to Sir Adam Beck Junior School for allowing us to visit today, and a special thank you to Edita Tahirovic and her students for welcoming us into their classroom! After our visit today, my principal asked me, “Aviva, what are your goals for next year? What do you want to learn next?” I said that I would like to learn more about eBook options for the primary classroom, and how to use the iPads, iPod Touches, and laptops more as part of guided reading. Then I continued to think on my way home tonight. I would also like to learn more about how to incorporate literature circles into the primary classroom. I did some literature circles this year, but hopefully I can continue to improve on what happened this year, for next year.

So what are your goals for next year? How have other educators helped shape these goals? I would love to hear your thoughts!


Students Teaching Students

After gym time this morning, David Resijan, one of the Grade 4 teachers at the school, came to talk to me. His students have been learning about rocks and minerals, and they wanted to share their learning with another class before taking home their collections of objects. Since our two classes pair up for reading buddies, David wondered if my class wanted to come for a visit to see the collections. We arranged a visit before the second nutrition break.

Just before we left, I asked some of the students if they wanted to bring the iPod Touches, digital camera, and Flipcam to record their learning. Then two students suggested bringing the iPads too. I was skeptical, but my students thought that they could use the Audio Memos app to record some discussions with the Grade 4’s. Why not? We might as well give this a try.

Video Links – Video 1, Video 2, Video 3

What happened in David’s classroom really was incredible! Students were teaching students, and as teachers, we could just sit back and watch. Giving students these tracking tools (i.e., the cameras, iPads, and iPods), made them feel like they had an important role in the classroom, and they really took this role seriously too. The Grades 1, 2, and 4 students were asking questions of each other and engaging in meaningful dialogue. George Couros (@gcouros) and Shawn Ram (@sram_socrates) taught me about the value of shared leadership, but seeing what was happening today, really made me realize the value in this!

Congratulations to David’s Grade 4’s for being such fantastic teachers, and to my Grade 1’s and 2’s for asking such great questions and allowing the conversations to evolve. Have you had any similar experiences before? I would love to hear about them!


Who’s the teacher here?

As I’ve mentioned before, I have definitely changed a lot in the past year. Up until this school year, I was very reluctant to really give students control over their learning. I have always provided choices, and for years I’ve differentiated the activities in the classroom, but the ideas were always my own. I delivered the lesson, I outlined the assignment, and all of my students completed basically the same assignment in the same way, with just a few changes here or there. Thanks to the amazing educators that I learn from on Twitter, this is no longer the case.

Watching the students this week, I realized just how much I have changed. On Wednesday, my class had the incredible opportunity to present as the final keynote speaker at the CNIE Conference at McMaster University in Hamilton. Through the wonders of technology, we presented from our classroom to an auditorium of educators. When the presentation started, two of my students took the iPads back to their desks, and they tweeted about what we were doing. They even added the #cnie2011 hashtag to their tweets.

In the past, I would have been terrified to know that someone was filming these two students, talking about what they were doing, and even chatting with them, and I wasn’t directly overseeing things at the time. Now things are different. The students know what to do, they know how to problem solve when they get stuck, and they understand the importance of using these tools responsibly. They talk with ease about what they are doing and why they are doing it, and if I am with them or not with them at the time, I don’t need to worry: they can be the teachers.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Then Friday came. Angie Harrison (@techieang), a fantastic Grade 2/3 teacher with the York Region District School Board, has shared some lessons with me, and she inspired me to do a variety of mini-lessons on comics. Students have been exploring elements of comics, reading a variety of comics, and creating their own comics too. As a Friday Journal activity, my students worked alone or in partners to make their own comics. Students could use various tools from paper, to the Livescribe Pens, to Bitstrips on the computer, to Super Hero Squad on the computer, to Strip Designer on the iPod Touches and iPads. I briefly introduced the different tools and let the students get started. I really thought I had shared everything until I looked to see what two of my students were doing. They decided to take the iPod Touch with a camera, take photographs of themselves, and insert these photographs into Strip Designer. Then they could be part of their own comic strip. Amazing!!

Just when I thought that I had seen it all, one of my students asked if she could use an iPod Touch and a computer. I asked her how she was going to do this, and she said that she wanted to take photographs of characters from the Super Hero Squad website, take photographs of the results, and put these photographs into Strip Designer to finish off the comic strip. Wow!! A couple of years ago, I would have said, “no,” as soon as my student asked this question, and we all would have missed out on something great. No matter how I combine the tools or what I show the class, the students always surprise me with their own great ideas. They teach me just as much as I teach them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

This blog post is for my 21 outstanding students that never cease to amaze me with what they know and what they want to learn: thank you!! To other educators out there, what have your students taught you? How have you changed over the years? I would love to hear about your experiences too!


So Excited!!

Students Collaborating Using Technology on Twitpic

Students Collaborating Using Technology

I write this post right now almost giddy with excitement. My class has been offered an amazing opportunity to be the third keynote speaker at the CNIE Conference in Hamilton on Wednesday.

This is where technology still amazes me. Usually when you’re a speaker at a conference, you need to go there, and in this case, my whole class would need to go there. Not anymore though. Thanks to some amazing wireless video camera equipment, my class can be connected live to the lecture hall at McMaster University, and as the camera is moved around the classroom, the people sitting in the lecture hall can see and hear everything in the classroom. Amazing!!

I will be able to take these 100 educators on a tour of the classroom — showing and talking along the way — and they will never need to leave their seats. Even more incredibly, my students can be involved in this presentation. They can discuss how they’re using these tools in the classroom, and hopefully inspire others to use them too.

In the past, I would have been incredibly nervous about this presentation, and maybe I will be on Wednesday morning, but right now I’m just over-the-top excited! This is not a scripted presentation, and if things don’t go perfectly, then they don’t. Sometimes that’s the nature of technology. But that’s not a reason to stop using it. My students know what to do when technology doesn’t work perfectly, and the fact that they can problem-solve as they do, despite their young age, is in many ways due to the use of technology in the classroom. They are really taking ownership over their own learning, and as a teacher, I couldn’t be prouder!

On Wednesday morning, I hope that the 100 people sitting, watching, and listening to my class are equally as proud of these students as I am. Technology has allowed these young students to learn, create, and collaborate in new and exciting ways, and my plan is for the conference attendees to see all of this on Wednesday.


Positively Perfect: Our Incredible Identity Day

Last June, I read George Couros’ blog post about Identity Day. George is a principal at Forest Green School in Stony Plain Alberta, and he’s a very important part of my Twitter PLN. At the end of the last school year, all of the staff and students at Forest Green School prepared special projects about what matters to them. Throughout the day, George tweeted out photographs of these projects, and then he compiled these photographs and his thoughts about the day into numerous blog posts on Identity Day. I was inspired!

I thought that this was such a terrific concept that I brought it forward to the staff at my school, and they were eager to have an Identity Day too. Throughout the summer, I shared blog posts with the staff about Identity Day, including this fantastic presentation that George did for the Reform Symposium. When school started in September, we started discussing Identity Day more. Later a committee was formed, and the planning began. Throughout the planning process, other schools such as Chris Wejr’s school in British Columbia had their own Identity Day, and sharing their experiences helped shape ours too. Thank you!

The first week in May is always Education Week and Open House as well, and the committee thought that having Identity Day and Open House on the same day would be a great idea. That’s exactly what we did! Two days ago, Ancaster Meadow School had its first Identity Day, and it was a tremendous success!

Here’s my Top 5 List of What I Loved About Identity Day:

1) It builds community. Everybody at the school created an Identity Day Project. Projects were displayed everywhere – from the ones hanging on the caretakers’ door to the ones hanging on the wall in the hallway to the ones in the classrooms – and looking around the school on May 5th, it looked and felt like we all played an equally important role in the school community.

2) It builds self-confidence. Staff and students were sharing projects about what matters to them, and others were genuinely interested in these projects too. All around, you saw students that are usually quiet and uncertain, smiling, interacting, and enjoying themselves!

3) It teaches you something new about others. All day long, I heard students saying, “I didn’t know that about ________,” or, “Did you know that about ____________?” My class even reflected on what they learned about others based on the Identity Day Projects. I think that what students and teachers learned on Identity Day will help them connect with others for the rest of the year and into next year too.

4) It gets people talking. Oral language is so important, and I know that as teachers, we try to create meaningful ways for students to talk. Sometimes planning these discussions though just makes them come out as rehearsed. Identity Day resulted in real conversations taking place. Students were asking questions and engaging in discussions. What a great day!

5) It’s fun! Identity Day wasn’t about Success Criteria or test scores. It was a celebration of us. There wasn’t one right answer or one way of completing the project. Staff and students allowed themselves to be creative, and the results were amazing!

From the photographs and videos that my Grade 1 and 2 students took on Identity Day, here’s an Animoto Slideshow that I put together about this special day:

Click On The Image To View The Slideshow

A special thank you to all of the staff, students, and parents for making Identity Day such a fantastic day for everyone! Thanks for sharing a little bit of YOU with the rest of us.

What are your thoughts on Identity Day? Would you want to have another Identity Day next year? Why or why not? What could make this day even better? I’d love to hear your thoughts!