Category Archives: EC&I 832

Final Project Reflection

As I look back at my major project, I am very happy with the learning that has taken place for myself, but more importantly, for my students. As noted in my first post, the aim of my project was to work with a group of grade 3/4 students on understanding their mental health and developing coping strategies.

One of the best parts of this project was exploring the Microsoft Teams Reflect app. Our students began each day checking in on their devices. The Reflect app gives them a visual and written description of a wide variety of emotions. Once students choose their emotions, teachers are able to see their entire class’ feelings on their dashboard. It provides a great snapshot of how everyone is feeling that day. This lets us know first thing in the morning who we need to check in with to see why they are feeling outside of the green zone.

As you can see it also shows their emotions from previous days, allowing you to track patterns. You can also see the most common emotions of the day.

This morning check in was extremely valuable. If I had one recommendation to teachers after this entire experience, it would be to use this app as a morning check in. It is extremely user friendly and only takes a minute to do. The information gained from it though, sets you up for the entire day.

One of the other main parts of my project was the development of three surveys. One for our primary students, one for our middle years students, and one for our parents. You can learn more about the surveys here. The purpose of these surveys was to gather some detailed information from our students and families, and turn that information into tangible action. I appreciated the participation and information we received as it has helped us to make decisions to better support our students. Perhaps the biggest tangible action has been implemented with our grade 6-8s. Many of them told us they did not like recess as that less supervised time was when conflict and inappropriate things were happening. They also told us we weren’t offering programs that hit the arts. So we decided to open our library at recess as a safe space for them to use their talents. It has been a hit! You can find kids drawing, playing chess, playing cards, practicing magic tricks, playing guitars, doing mathletics…at any given recess. I think this opportunity has allowed kids to grow friendships and explore their talents…which contributes to improved mental health.

The main goal of my project was for kids to learn a variety of coping strategies. Tools that they could use when they were feeling out of the green zone. The green zone is part of the Zones of Regulation, which is the first regulation technique we learned about, and became the basis of our language. When we spoke of further regulation strategies, we always used the language associated with the zones – what zone are you in right now – green, yellow, red zone. In a way I wanted to bombard them with strategies. I knew this came with a risk of overwhelming them, but I think it was laid out well enough for them to understand – you might have to try 10 things before you find one that works well for you – so we’re going to try a bunch of different things.

On that end, my students were amazing. They understood that some things were going to work for them and other things, not so much. At the same time, they knew that if something wasn’t for them, it might be just what somebody else needed. So they were always respectful and supportive of each other. Here is a quick rundown of the strategies we tried:

  • Breathing strategies – counting, tracing finger, smell the flower blow out the candle, box breaths…
  • Creating music playlists that calm us
  • Guided muscle relaxation
  • Meditation
  • Reading
  • Coloring

As part of a school wide Wellness Day (which just happened to fit right into my project – coincidence, I think not!) students were also able to experience:

  • Art therapy
  • Drumming
  • Dance therapy
  • Yoga
  • Laughter therapy

I am very happy with the wide range of strategies my students were exposed to. There is one more that we will get to in the coming weeks – working on a growth mindset. I believe this one will be very effective.

So what were the positives of my project? Well there are many. Personally, I exposed myself to a number of new resources that I will be able to use throughout my career. I don’t think mental health and emotional regulation challenges are going away any time soon. I am able to understand my students better now. I have a better idea of what makes them tick, what makes them upset and unsettled, and I have an idea of what to recommend to them to help them get refocused. Most importantly, my students have learned and grown. They have a deeper understanding of themselves and have built a toolbox of strategies to use when they are out of the green zone. When asked in a short closing survey, they overwhelmingly told me they understood their emotions more and were able to control their more than when we started a few short months ago. Success!!!

Where do I go from here? Well, there are things I still want to do with this group of students. I want to continue exploring new strategies. Particularly, I would like to explore some strategies using technology – perhaps diving further into relaxation videos and music, and exploring some mindfulness apps. From there the goal will be to move this project into other classrooms. I truly believe there is serious value in what was accomplished and more students and teachers need to be exposed to this type of work. Hopefully I can play a leadership role in that process.

Thanks for following along on my journey. Hopefully you were able to learn something along the way!

Ethical Issue – Acceptable Use of Technology Agreements

Each September, all staff and students of my division are required to sign an Acceptable Use of Technology Agreement. The agreement is vast in covering what technology is, privacy and tracing, and access to the division network. The agreement is in part to protect the division:

Inappropriate use of the Technology may expose the school division to legal liability and/or public embarrassment. The objective of this administrative application is to balance employee and student ability to fully benefit from informative technology against the school division’s need to ensure that all use of the Technology meets the school division’s legal obligations and upholds the Division’s reputation and public image.

It also lays out the consequences of not using technology appropriately, including discipline in the form of loss of access to technology use, legal action, and financial responsibility.

This agreement is very consequence based. This is what we expect you to do, and if you don’t this is what can happen. It is important to note the consequences. Ultimately, the division needs to protect itself, perception wise, legally, and financially. But there is not much mention of what students should be doing. Teachers need to focus on teaching responsibility in the classroom – here is what we want you to do when using technology. Similar to the positive behavior program we use at our school, we want to catch and reward students for doing the right things.

I wonder what our division’s policy would look like if it were rewritten in a responsibility format. Does anyone have examples of what this looks like in your schools/divisions?

Making Sense of Information

Like Brittney M., the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is scroll through my emails, messages, and the news. I check various news sites multiple times a day as I like to stay up with what is going on in the world. As such, over the past number of years, I have become fully aware of needing to determine what is real, fake, or biased.

Like many other negative things in this world right now, I blame Trump!! Just kidding. While kind of, but not really. There is no doubt that the Don shifted the information landscape with is campaigns of disinformation and compulsive patterns of blatant lying. (By this point, you are probably picking up on my bias towards him and his cronies. Oh well, my blog, my thoughts right?!?!)

We have spoken a number of times during this course about bias. It is human for us to lean a certain way on issues. I try to fully recognize my political and worldview biases. Therefore, one of the most important things I do during my news checking each day is to visit a variety of sites, purposefully visiting sites that are on both sides of the spectrum. When it comes to international news, my go-tos are CNN and Fox News. While I try not to be too political, in today’s landscape I would definitely lean to the left. Therefore I identify with most of the views held by CNN. I do get frustrated with how left they can lean because I try to critically evaluate what they are reporting, and sometimes they definitely twist things to fit their narrative. Conversely, I usually have to force myself to look at Fox News. As far as American politics go, I just can’t get on the Conservative, right wing train. Due to my bias, I find all that they report on is things to make the Democrats and Biden look back. To be fair, that is all CNN did with Trump, but I find them to be more fair and accurate in what they report. Regardless, the point I’m making is that I think it is important to look at stories from both sides before deciding what to believe.

How CNN And FOX Are Undermining Journalism By Shamelessly Backing Their  Candidates - DKODING

This may seem like an easy way out, but to be honest the best way that I interpret and analyze the news is by using common sense. I feel like I am up to date on most major things happening in the world, so if I read something that seems a little strange my spidey senses go off. When this happens I do some further research, usually through internet searches. At this point I look for trusted sources…well known media outlets, educational institutions etc. If I can find a similar story on a number of outlets I usually trust that it is true.

The Surveys and Where We Go From Here

I concluded last week’s post mentioning that I would go into the three surveys that we administered in this week’s post. So here goes…We developed three surveys to do some deeper digging with our students and families. We had a survey for our grade 1 and 2s, grade 3-8s, and one for our parents. We used Microsoft Forms as our platform as it offered multiple question formats, gathered and organized feedback, and included immersive readers for students who needed help reading questions. I have to say, Microsoft seems to be doing some great things. My experiences with Teams and Forms have been easy and exceptional.

We were very strategic in how we designed the surveys and in the types of questions we used. Our primary kids responded to multiple choice questions. Middle years students and parents had a mix of multiple choice, choose as many answers as apply, and short answer feedback questions. We hit a number of topics including self-concept, relationships, anxiety, depression, stress, safety, learning, talents and skills, and extra-curricular activities.

Our results were quite good in our primary end. They told us they are doing pretty well. The main hot spots, as predicted, were with anxiety, self-regulation, and coping strategies. Our middle years students results gave us some important information to move forward with. Anxiety, depression, and extra-curricular activities stood out from the rest.

Due to a variety of factors – Covid, home life – we have many students feeling like they are experiencing challenges related to anxiety and depression. We have a School Support Specialist who does amazing work and is connecting with many of these students already. She is equipping them with coping strategies and reaching out to their families offering support. We will also focus on some presentations to classrooms to offer coping strategies for students who are not comfortable coming forward individually. This Friday will be a large part of that process as we hold a school wide Wellness Day that will include various presentations on coping.

We had lots of students tell us that they weren’t able to use their skills and strengths in an extra-curricular setting at school. The arts, coding, animation, chess, music were all things many of our students were looking for. We felt the need to address this instantly. This week we began opening our library for students in grades 6-8 at recess. We invited students in to use their skills as an alternative to going outside. After two days, it has been great. We have kids drawing, playing chess, playing board games, learning magic tricks, playing guitars…the best part is they are self sufficient and well-behaved. Our few rules as a staff were to have a plan to know what they were going to do (i.e. no just hanging out), take care of materials, and treat the space respectfully. So far, so good. I am excited to see where some kids take this opportunity – learning new skills, teaching friends new skills. I think this space is giving many kids an opportunity to feel comfortable and is allowing them to find their ‘place’ within the building.

As for the parent survey, we haven’t dove in too far to the results just yet. We wanted to focus on the kids first. It appears that most parents are looking for information and resources on how to support their kids. They see many of the same challenges that their kids told us they had. Many have support systems in place, however many don’t know where to go or how to support their child. We have a couple ideas of how to support and bring info. to our parents. We are going to include some targeted helpful tips in weekly newsletters, explore some parent information nights, and do some advertising for what supports we have at school and what is available in the community.

I feel like our surveys were very useful. More importantly, our great team has already analyzed the results and put into place some tangible solutions. It will be interesting to touch base with the kids in a few weeks to see if they feel these ideas are working.

Thanks for reading and following along on this journey!

March 8 Update

Wow! I can’t believe it has been a month since I’ve provided an update on my project. Time flies! I am happy to report that I have had a busy and successful month of project work with my Grade 3/4 students. Over the past month we have:

  • continued our use of Microsoft Teams for daily check-ins with our feelings monsters
  • continued to learn about zones of regulation
  • discussed emotions related to anger, frustration, being upset
  • learned about stress
  • learned and practiced coping strategies for our toolboxes
  • administered three surveys – primary, middle years, parents
  • analyzed survey results and generated some ideas for the future to address needs

Let’s chat about all of this in a little more detail.

Our daily Teams check-ins continue to be extremely valuable. The kids are so into it and are so forthcoming with how they are feeling. It has really helped us touch base with students and identify who needs a little extra attention each day. The language and understanding the kids are using and showing is truly remarkable.

I mentioned in my last post that we learned about the Zones of Regulation.

Reflecting on the 'Zones of Regulation' - GREEN FISH LEARNING

Students have continued to use the language of the zones and can easily identify what zone they are in.

We have spent a lot of time talking about different levels of emotions. Emotions can be similar and related, but can also be at different levels, and therefore in different zones. A great example of this is the emotions related to being upset. We used a Ladder resource to get a visual understanding of this:

This visual helped students understand the different intensity of emotions. We put a focus on recognizing when we are experiencing emotions that are at the top of the ladder which lead to us being out of control and in a state where we are unable to learn and make good decisions.

In health, we did a unit on Stress – works nicely with my project doesn’t it?!?! Wink wink, nudge nudge! We learned what stress is, our stressors, how our bodies react to stress, and of course practiced some coping strategies. I have to share a story from today that demonstrates the learning of one of our students. He was having an off morning and was found hiding behind a door in the hallway. When asked why, he said he was walking down the hallway and heard footsteps and a voice behind him. In his words, “this caused my body to Fight or Flight and I flighted!” Great evidence of learning haha.

I am going to end this post with some of the strategies we have been practicing as we try to fill our personal toolboxes. The big goal of my project is to have students have a number of strategies they can use when they feel anxious, upset, stressed etc. Thus far we have tried:

  • a variety of breathing exercises – counting, box breathes, smelling the flower blowing out the candle, tracing your hand…
  • guided muscle relaxation – tensing muscles, exhaling as tension is released
  • coloring
  • making personal music playlists – check out this article for some interesting facts about music

We will continue learning and practicing more strategies as the weeks go on.

Okay, still with me??? I feel like this has been a lot. I am going to leave the survey details and results for an update next week. We plan to begin implementing some of our new ideas to address the student’s feedback next week. Please stay tuned for more to come…

Teacher/School’s Role in Teaching Digital Citizenship

I am going to approach this post as it pertains to one particular area of Digital Citizenship – informational literacy.

Christine’s article, What is media literacy, and why is it important? notes that kids “take in a huge amount of information from a wide array of sources, far beyond the traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines) of most parents’ youth. There are text messages, memes, viral videos, social media, video games, advertising, and more.” How students are interpreting all of this information and determining what is accurate and reliable is an important concern. Perhaps the most important part of the statement to me is the part about how different our student’s worlds are than their parents were when they were the same age.

We’re all aware of the fact that kids are often ahead of adults in their understanding and experience with technology and different apps. I think for a lot of parents you can compare their experience to doping in sports. The athletes who are doping are always one step ahead of the people who are testing. Therein lies the importance of teachers and schools. I don’t think we can ignore the role that we have to play in teaching students about informational literacy. I would be the first to say that we as teachers have a million other things that we could focus on. However, this is an important part of our students’ lives, and the reality is most students aren’t getting the skills they need to navigate this world outside of the school.

Informational literacy is the ability to identify, find, evaluate, apply, and acknowledge information. We live in a society where we want information right now, and we want to be able to share it as fast as possible. What gets lost in this speedy process is the researching and confirmation of the accuracy of the information we are reading and distributing. Fake news is definitely a thing these days.

Catchphrase You Are Fake News GIF - Catchphrase You Are Fake News Trump -  Discover & Share GIFs

We have to prepare our students to combat fake news and this has to be done in schools. The way to do this is to teach our students to become informationally literate. I can’t speak for all teachers and schools, but I am willing to say that most teachers can do a better job of this. I think there are many teachers who go as far as saying don’t use Wikipedia because it isn’t always accurate. This doesn’t begin to cover what needs to be covered. Students need to be taught how to identify trusted sources, perform research, understand sourcing, triangulate information, triage contested narratives and recognize the importance of where information comes from, not just what it says.

So what does the future look like? Dane Ward raises an interesting point in THE WAY I SEE IT: The future of information literacy: Transforming the world. “I see a new day when students will learn to use information skills to improve the world. It will be a day when information literacy instruction means teaching students about research while helping them to find value in the world and to participate in it.” Yes, we need to teach research skills, but we also need to make sure students find an interest in it and know why it relates to their lives. The fake news dilemma can be a great gateway to engaging kids and teaching valuable skills.

Reflections on Digital Identity

When initially thinking about digital identity, a few things come to mind:

  • It is complex!
  • What is my identity? Is it current/reflective of who I am today?
  • How does it change over time?
  • How do we help students really understand its importance and consequences for the present and future?
  • What will it look like in the future when my kids grow up?
20 Online identity ideas | identity, tech humor, today cartoon

On its surface, digital identity seems pretty straightforward. Underneath, as @Brendafredgirl points out, there is much more to it than I would have initially thought. As the Government of Canada says, “A digital identity is essentially the electronic equivalent of your identity in the physical world.” Simple right. It becomes a little more complex when you consider the implications of a digital identity – identification, authentication, security… My understanding of the concept is beginning to move away from the general what I post on facebook thoughts to more serious thoughts of passwords and identity protection.

My digital identity is much different now than it was when I go back 20 or so years to when it began. Years ago, I basically cleansed (I think? I hope!) my facebook timeline of old. Not that there were inappropriate things, I just didn’t find it necessary to have them visible anymore. All that remains are mainly birthday wishes from 11 years ago and older. I was in university before I got into facebook, so I thankfully missed out on it in my high school days. The only identity I had in high school was through MSN Messenger. I remember going into chat rooms and talking complete strangers about curling. It is scary to think that back then I would easily tell people where I was from and other personal details. I look back at myself in shame when I think about some of the things I did back then that I would never do now and would never let my own kids do. It does bring back some memories though!

Throughout and after university facebook was really the only social media platform I used. It, email, and texting basically made up my digital identity. For the most part, they were used as communication tools and time killers. Pictures to look at, ways to see what people from my past were up to. Towards the end of my university career, I opened a Twitter account for a conference I attended. I had to send out a tweet to be entered to win a prize. I still use this account personally, but that one tweet remains the only one I have ever sent.

While I still have a facebook and, now, two Twitter accounts (one personal, one professional), my digital identity in this respect remains fairly limited. My personal accounts are complete time wasters. I don’t post and I spend too much time on them procrastinating from doing real work. I am slowly dipping my toes into the water on posts with my professional Twitter account. While I want to use it as a platform to bring awareness to social justice issues that I find important I am still hesitant because of some of the conflict and opposing views that can come with doing that. @lovepreet7001 made mention of these challenges. I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with people who will attack me for my beliefs and ways of thinking. And I also don’t care to get into online debates with people whom I disagree with. Perhaps I need to explore how to use my social media for purposes of uniting people. Easier said than done?!?!

Perhaps where I need to take my learning next with my digital identity is into the world of identity protection and security. It is actually quite scary to think of how much of our lives are online and accessible. Banking information, health records, addresses, loved ones…they are all out there. I hope I am not too naïve in thinking that all of that information is properly protected. Stories like this one that happened right here in Saskatchewan scare me. I definitely need to check in to some password protection and security measures to make sure my information is as safe as possible. Bitwarden as referenced by Alec might be a good place to start.

As I look to the future, I almost fret to think of what digital identity will look like when my toddler is old enough to become part of the online world. Will he be prepared? What do I need to do to prepare him to understand his identity and how it fits into the overall picture of being a good digital citizen?

Major Project Update with a little Digital Citizenship

It has been a busy couple of weeks for myself and my students as we undertake our mental health learning journey. Our initial weeks have been filled with understanding our emotions. As I had mentioned before, the students in our grade 3/4 classroom check in using the Microsoft Teams Reflect App every morning. When they sign in to their account, this is what they are met with:

Students click on an emoticon and are brought to another screen with more selections:

We, as teachers, have live access to each students submission and can see a variety of ‘insightful’ graphs giving us a snapshot of our students that day. If you can relate to the Zones of Regulations, we can see how many students are in a green, yellow, or red zone. We can also see a class list of the exact emotions chosen. Furthermore, you can track each students history looking back over a number of days.

This is the feature I have used the most. It gives you an instant snapshot of how everyone is doing each day and allows you to identify who is not in a good headspace. This lets me know who I need to touch base with to see what is happening and how I can help prepare them for the day.

I have also been working with our students to do their own check-ins with each other. They have been asking each other questions to see how each other are doing and to learn how to support each other in the classroom, particularly when they are feeling out of sorts. I believe these are important skills to learn and they have been doing so great with it.

This past week we examined the Zones of Regulation in detail. Our students are familiar with them as they are commonly used in our classrooms. I used it as an intro. to emotions, as this upcoming week will involve some deeper studying of emotion. We are going to look at the difference between similar emotions (i.e. afraid vs. scared), and are going to study some in more depth (depression, anxiety).

In the coming weeks I will also be administering some surveys throughout our school and community. Myself and some other teachers are putting together three different surveys to dig deeper into the OurSchool Survery results we received earlier in the year. We are going to have surveys for our grade 1-3s, 4-8s, and parents. I look forward to sharing the questions with you when they are finalized this week!

I believe my project fits well with one element of Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship: Digital Health and Welfare.

  • Digital Health and Welfare refers to the physical and psychological well-being in a digital world. Technology provides many opportunities and enjoyment, but knowing how to segment use with the needs of ourselves and others is key to a healthy, balanced life. Educators, especially in 1:1 schools or classrooms need to ask the question of how much screen time is appropriate for students.

Part of my project is to teach kids how to use technology in a positive way – in a way that can actually improve their mental health. We are using technology as one of our main modes of identifying our mental health state, and in the future we will explore some digital resources that can help us improve our mental health. It is a reality that kids of are going to use technology more than we would probably like them to. Hopefully as part of this journey they will learn that it can be used in positive ways that can improve their, and others, health and welfare.

Where Should Education Go From Here?

I am a firm believer that there are lessons to be learned from everything that happens in life. How Covid-19 has altered education for the present and future is no exception. As Mme. Leah Bissonnette points out, we need to accept that there will be a new normal in education.

While some of the finer details of education change over time – curriculum, adaptations, pedagogy, assessment – many details have remained unchanged for decades. Kids go to a building, sit in a classroom, work on core subjects…rinse, wash, repeat. While there are many benefits and factors that necessitate this structure – learning of basic skills, socialization, childcare (let’s face it, this is a function of schools) – it is time for us to consider if this is the most effective structure moving forward. Our world is changing more rapidly than ever. It is time for education to take a long, hard look in the mirror to see if it is meeting these ever-changing needs.

You Are Seth Meyers GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

One of the most interesting changes that I think we need to consider is the idea of a central, daily building for teachers and students to go to. As the eLearning Industry writes in their article, 9 Things That Will Shape The Future Of Education: What Learning Will Look Like In 20 Years?, students of the future will need to learn at different times and in different places. Our experience with remote learning has taught us that not all learning has to take place in a physical classroom. There are ways to teach and learn virtually. I think this idea is one that we need to become comfortable with. Perhaps students (particularly older students) can complete their education partially or completely remotely.

This same article speaks to the idea of greater field experience. This works directly with the notion of not physically attending school. If students are not required to be in school daily, they may have opportunities to complete field work projects that promote on the job learning. Ultimately, this may better prepare students as they will develop on the job training and skills for future professions. I have been an advocate for more field work opportunities for years. I know high school has work ed. programs, but I think these experiences can be valuable for middle years students as well. I used to work in a inner city school and always thought getting those students real world experience would increase learning and motivation to want to achieve grade 12 graduation and pursue further education or workforce opportunities.

Speaking more to the skills schools need to deliver to learners, the University of Phoenix Institute has some important considerations in its Future Work Skills 2020 document. We have to change the way we think. I am a huge proponent of certain basic skills. I believe being able to write and do mental math is a hugely important skill. But an argument can certainly be made that there is technology readily available to do that for people. Is it necessary to force students to know their times tables when they will always have access to a calculator no matter where they are (I still think the answer is yes, but I know I need to be open to this new world)? We also need to teach students how to think outside of the box. The ever-evolving workforce wants problem solvers – people who can come up with solutions are creative.

It is going to be a tough sell to change the fundamentals of our education system. Policy makers, educational stakeholders, teachers (me included) can be very set in their ways. The reality is that our world is changing faster than it ever has before. Skills and teaching practices we are using today will simply be outdated in the not too distant future. We would serve ourselves and our students well to broaden our horizons and begin to explore a new normal.