Author Archives: themusingsofmoffatt

OPEN to the Possibilities!

The power of technology and the possibilities that technology opens for education are boundless.  We were recently reminded of this during our EC&I 831 class with guest Dr. Verena Roberts.  With my classmates, professor and our guest scattered over three provinces, we were all able to “meet” in our virtual classroom and learn together.  What a time to be alive!

Truly, everything I have learned in taking Dr. Couros’s EC&I classes has changed my professional life – the infusion of ed tech, the collaboration of ideas, blogging, using Twitter to build a PLN, attempting new apps and programs, becoming more comfortable with stepping outside of my comfort zone to help engage learners… I am so thankful that I enrolled in these classes.  But the biggest paradigm shift for me has occurred around the topic of Open Education.

A Quick Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)

According to the OER Commons website, “The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions.”

I have been grateful for the sharing and collaboration I have enjoyed with friends and colleagues over the course of my teaching career – using the internet to expand our knowledge and collaboration opportunities has opened up numerous possibilities.  From pen pal projects to having “experts” join our classes… and perhaps, most importantly, the opportunity to see how other teachers teach.  As an educator, time is our most precious commodity – and it has a price tag.  Having the time and ability to witness other teachers in practice is a luxury not many schools or school divisions can afford.  With technology opening up these possibilities, it has created an even more connected world for us.

I recently joined a Facebook group that is specifically for Advanced Placement English Literature teachers.  The sharing and collaborative aspect in this group is astounding.   I am absolutely learning so much from the discussion and sharing of resources with these educators, with the only stipulation being “please use and adapt as you see fit.”  Some ask that if we use, we mention them as the original creator but we can adapt as needed.  Some don’t mind if they receive no attribution at all.  Though some of these educators do sell their products on Teachers Pay Teachers or directly on their own websites, for the most part the resources and ideas that are shared within the group are without limitations.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them.” (source)  When we utilize and share what others have created, students truly reap the benefits.  Being able to adapt or remix lessons and content shared freely by other educators means that I maintain small shreds of my sanity and can fool myself into thinking that I may have achieved a minuscule shift in the work/life balancing act.

I have been extremely thankful for Open Education over the past few months as I embarked on my learning project for EC&I 831.  I enrolled in a MOOC on Indigenous Canada.  Through videos, readings, and quizzes, the MOOC lead me through a series of lessons and gave me a good background on the history of Indigenous peoples in the comfort of my own home, at a pace dictated by myself, and – best of all – it was free.  Cost does not have to be a discriminatory factor for learners any longer – many of the MOOC topics I have investigated over the last few years have been available free of charge.  Granted, sometimes you get what you pay for … but my experiences with the three MOOCs I have taken have been very positive.  The learning platforms were easy to use and I found that even though the MOOCs I was enrolled in were non-connectivist, learning a topic of interest in a self-guided environment was beneficial to me.  My interest in the topics and my desire to learn made working through the courses enjoyable.

One of the drawbacks to Open Education, as my classmates Daniel and Loreli both mentioned this week, is adequate access to technology, both within school and outside of school in the community.  This may continue to be an issue for some learners, simply due to socio-economic reasons, or where they are geographically located.   It could also be an issue where schools or school divisions have restrictions on the types of websites, programs, or resources that they will allow students (and teachers!) to use within their learning environments.  This is definitely one area where our school divisions have not caught up to what might be considered best practice for student learning.

Because Verena’s chat with our class really got me thinking about a few different aspects of my teaching (specifically the development of a new online class), I read a few of her blog posts.  One of the posts that made me really excited and hopeful that I may be on the right track is Proposing OLDI (Version 1): An Open Learning Design Intervention for K-12 Open Educational Practice.  The post discusses the the K-12 Open Learning Continuum as “an ongoing, iterative continuum that has formal learning on one end, non-formal learning on the other end and a pile of learning in between” using Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory of social interactions as the basis of learning with four iterative cycles:

Stage 1: Focus on Learner Context – Build Relationships

Stage 2: Development of Digital Literacies

Stage 3: Find Your Yoda

Stage 4: Be a Yoda

Focus on Learner Context – Revisit Relationships

Image result for stages of Open Learning Design Intervention

 

All of the things I am learning about Open Education make me question my face to face teaching practices and learning design.  Knowing what I would like to accomplish within my online course and the parameters within which I must design it is also frustrating!  For the time being, I will have to abide by the wishes of our school division and the tools it has the capacity to support for our students, and be thankful that I have colleagues who are willing to share and collaborate with me.

Do you have experience in developing Open Educational Resources or do you have experience with teaching online and developing online content?  I’d be very interested to hear about which LMS you use and why as well as what you would use “in a perfect world”?

 

Residential Schools

First learning about residential schools in Canada during my undergrad degree is a defining moment in my life.  I discussed this in detail in my blog post Starting a Journey of Reconciliation.

I recently re-read sections of the two primary sources I used for a major research essay in my undergrad class:  Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools by J.R. Miller and A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1996 by John S. Milloy.  As someone who is fascinated by history and how it relates to our society today, I can honestly say that these books are both illuminating and devastating.  Miller’s book juxtaposes Chief Shingwauk’s vision of education – a teaching wigwam where his people could acquire the necessary educational tools of modern society while honoring the values of their culture and traditions – with the Indian Residential School system that was developed by the federal government and run primarily by religious groups.  Milloy’s book uses the paper trail of memos, reports from field inspectors, and letters of complaint to expose that the residential school system was horribly underfunded and mismanaged, affecting the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.

In recent years, witnessing the stories told by survivors of residential school has been both heartbreaking and healing.  The vulnerability, courage, and strength shown by survivors is inspiring.   I use many of these stories in my classroom to encourage truth and reconciliation.  Orange Shirt Day (which I blogged about earlier this week) is the result of Phyllis Webstad sharing the story of an incident she experienced in residential school.   The documentary We Were Children tells the stories of Glen Anaquod and Lyna Hart.  In his memoir The Education of Augie Merasty, Joseph August Merasty tells of his experiences.  His humour in the midst of telling the horrors of his experience is inspiring.

These resources make me feel the weight of injustice, but they also leave me hopeful that healing can occur.  Sharing the stories is an integral part of a healing journey.

“There is no concept of justice in Cree culture. The nearest word is kintohpatatin, which loosely translates to “you’ve been listened to.” But kintohpatatin is richer than justice – really it means you’ve been listened to by someone compassionate and fair, and your needs will be taken seriously.”
― Edmund MetatawabinUp Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History

It is not about justice but about growing a mutually respectful relationship for the betterment of all who dwell in the land we call Canada.

Click HERE to access a Wakelet collection of Residential School resources I use and recommend.

Kintohpatatin.

Orange Shirt Day

The last few weeks have been JAMPACKEDWITHACTIVITIES and I have fallen behind on posting about my journey of reconciliation.  That is not to say that I have been negligent in my learning.  I have been doing quite a lot of learning, often staying up way past a normal bedtime to finish just one more module of my MOOC or to read one more chapter or listen to one more podcast or read one more short story or poem or add one more resource to my Wakelet collections.  You get the drift.  I’m learning… but now I need to organize my thoughts so I can blog and share it with you!

Today’s post and Wakelet is to help commemorate Orange Shirt Day.  September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day annually, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well being, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.

Here is a brief video of Phyllis Webstad explaining Orange Shirt Day:

 

The picture book The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Webstad (illustrated by Brock Nicol) is the perfect way to introduce the topic of Residential Schools to students of all ages.  From there, it is simple to branch out into whatever direction in as much detail as the teacher chooses.

There are a plethora of resources to use for Orange Shirt Day.  Two collections I have found that are the most useful are these from Manitoba Teachers’ Society and – of course! – the collection from the Orange Shirt Day website.

Because of our EC&I 831 class’s recent discussions on Open Education and the importance of sharing resources, I am making all of my Wakelets for my learning project public.  I am also open to adding contributors to my Wakelets, so if anyone is interested in sharing, please let me know!  Our combined good finds will help me to curate the most thorough and meaningful compilation of resources, and I would be grateful!

Click HERE for my Wakelet of Orange Shirt Day resources.

 

Share the Wealth (of Knowledge)!

Like most people, I wear multiple hats:

  • Related imagewife
  • mother of three (two teenagers at home and one grown and on her own!)
  • full time teacher – face to face 40% and online classes 60%
  • competitive cheerleading coach/advisor (five teams at my club and four teams at my school)
  • graduate student
  • sister
  • aunt

I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone that some days are hard – being committed to others and having responsibilities can be overwhelming.  As a mom, I always feel I need to be “on” – there is no vacations or time off from being a mother!  As the oldest member of my family (my parents both passed away within the last two years), I feel a big responsibility for my siblings, even though they are all “grown ups” who can manage just fine on their own.  As a teacher and coach, being prepared is vital to the success of my students or athletes, as well as nurturing their emotional and social growth.  With so much going on in my world, you can imagine that things can get hectic at times.  It is absolutely essential for me to have systems in place to manage all the different aspects of my life successfully.

First and foremost – my people.  There is a reason why elders are revered in so many cultures; they hold the most wisdom!  I learned how to be a mom by watching other mothers in my family.  I had a huge support system of grandparents, aunts, and uncles to call on for advice and guidance.  Being from a small town and having a supportive community was another bonus when I was growing up and has guided me in raising my children.  Having other humans to rely on for information, support, guidance, and food/coffee delivery was (and is!) critical to my success.  No one has asked me for a dime for the lessons I learned from them (not yet, anyway!).  In addition to having these role models in my personal life, I have also been privileged with some exceptional mentorship in my professional life as well.  Without the support, guidance, and shared knowledge of those educators, I would definitely not be the teacher I am today.  Those who have been willing to share, collaborate, and plan cooperatively are the real MVPs of the teaching profession! Infinite high fives!

Since I entered the education system in 1980 at the age of five, there has been a (r)evolution in educational theories, especially since the internet became more easily accessible.  It has lead us to the present day where Open Education is becoming more common and connects all learners who are willing and able (and who have the technological tools to participate).  In the video Inspiring Leaders, Tony Bates answers a series of questions posed to him about Open Education.  He says that as instructors, we need to be aware of what kind of skills students will need to move forward and be successful contributors to our society.

Tony Bates’ book Teaching in a Digital Agerecently updated (October 10, 2019), is an important read for today’s educators.  Bates writes “Although the book contains many practical examples, it is more than a cookbook on how to teach. It addresses the following questions:

  • is the nature of knowledge changing, and how do different views on the nature of knowledge result in different approaches to teaching?
  • How do I balance the demands of my discipline with developing the skills that students will need in a digital age?
  • what is the science and research that can best help me in my teaching?
  • how do I decide whether my courses should be face-to-face, blended or fully online?
  • what strategies work best when teaching in a technology-rich environment?
  • what methods of teaching are most effective for blended and online classes?
  • how do I make choices among all the available media, whether text, audio, video, computer, or social media, in order to benefit my students and my subject?
  • how do I maintain high quality in my teaching while managing my workload?
  • what are the real possibilities for teaching and learning using MOOCs, OERS, open textbooks?”

According to the website opensource.com, “Open education is a philosophy about the way people should produce, share, and build on knowledge.  Proponents of open education believe everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources, and they work to eliminate barriers to this goal. Such barriers might include high monetary costs, outdated or obsolete materials, and legal mechanisms that prevent collaboration among scholars and educators.”

Image result for Open educational resources

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, adaptation, and redistribution by others.  With the internet, universal access to education is possible, but its potential is hindered by increasingly restrictive copyright laws and incompatible technologies. The Open Education program at Creative Commons works to minimize these barriers, supporting the CC mission through education, advocacy and outreach on using the right licenses and open policies to maximize the benefits of open educational resources (OER) and the return on investment in publicly funded education resources. Our work cuts across all levels of education (primary – secondary – tertiary) and sectors of industry (non-profit – corporate – government).”  ~source

This short video explains a bit more:

Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

 

As fabulous as Open Education is  -and it truly is remarkable! – it also has some drawbacks.  It is the so-called “business” of education where I am most torn.  We pay a lot of money for a university education that allows us the opportunity to become educators.  We learn from others and use various resources to further our own knowledge in the hopes that we will get that “permanent contract” and make a living by making a difference in the lives of our students.  We pour hours of hard work into our lessons, developing our resources, and figuring things out for our students.  My classmate Amy also discussed this in her blog post.  She wrote:

“A quote that is often used amongst my colleagues and I is “sharing is caring.” … Sharing resources with each other is just a common thing that we regularly do. However in recent years I have become more conscious of the amount of time, effort, and resources that are going into those projects, assignments, and lesson plans that I have been so freely sharing while others are posting similar content on Teachers Pay Teachers and getting paid for their work. I am now conflicted on whether or not resources in education should be open and free or whether they should require some form of acknowledgement, copyright, or payment. “

I feel very similar to Amy!  Using the work of other teachers, tweaked to fit my circumstances, has saved my sanity more times than I can count.  Am I critical of these resources?  Not the way you might think!  I look for the “good bones” within a resource that I come across all while thinking about what I might need to do in order to make it work for my students within our learning context.  But still, even knowing that I am profoundly grateful for all who share their resources with me, I am very hesitant to share anything that I have developed.  Not because I want compensation (although that might be nice every now and then!) but because I don’t feel like what I have created is “good enough” for anyone else to use.  It is likely my own perfectionism that prevents me from sharing the resources that I’ve developed.  My classmate Dean says on his blog on this topic “sometimes you just have to let go and enjoy the learning experience for yourself and more often than not the material you share will reach at least one person ‘out there’ even if you don’t get a response.”

I currently have an amazing intern working alongside me, sharing her knowledge with my students, and teaching this old dog some new tricks.  She is the fourth intern I have had in my eleven years of teaching.  Each had their own strengths and brought so many great things to the classroom that I have incorporated into my own teaching practice.  I remember being in their shoes – it really wasn’t that long ago – and I had various experiences.  Some veteran teachers were more than willing to share their resources, but others were hesitant or outright refused (even locking their filing cabinet so I couldn’t peek at their materials!).  My classmate Dean had a similar experience early in his career as well.  It really makes me wonder if those veteran teachers were also fearful of being criticized.  It is for those reasons that I am completely open to sharing with colleagues and interns, but always with the disclaimer “this might be total crap, but you are more than welcome to use it however you see fit!”

Having access to information and to human resources is absolutely critical to my success.  I am thankful to all the teachers and coaches in my life who have so freely shared their time, their information, and their resources with me, especially my colleagues in the ELA Instructional Team at Weyburn Comprehensive School.  Sharing our knowledge doesn’t deplete our wisdom; instead, it expands our potential for learning and growth.

A few folks have shared their knowledge and resources with me over the years, and many of them went above and beyond to help me on my journey as an educator.  My immense gratitude to:

  • my high school ELA teachers – Randy Bangsund and Brenda King
  • incredible university instructors in my undergrad and certificate courses – Ken Probert, Therese Durston, and Valerie Mulholland
  • an amazing cooperating teacher during my internship – Cori Knelsen

In addition, Alec Couros’s EC&I courses and his approach to open education has literally changed my career – before taking his classes I never would have considered becoming an online educator.  Thank you, Alec!

There are many others, including my classmates over the course of my grad studies, who have been supportive, encouraging, and are always willing to share.  Thank you all!  I love how technology makes sharing with my PLN possible.

Who has shared their wealth of knowledge with you?  How will you pay it forward?

 

Keep Calm and Share your knowledge

Enrolling in MOOCs and Enjoying Live Music

The past week has been a big week for me with respect to my major learning project, which I discussed in my blog post Can I Be a Witness and then narrowed down in Starting a Journey of Reconciliation on October 8.

Module One Complete!
Module One: Worldview – COMPLETE!

First, I enrolled in a MOOC (on Coursera) from the University of Alberta entitled Indigenous Canada.  The U of A has an extensive listing of Indigenous Resources – check it out here!  I chose the free option, but there is a certificate version as well which costs about $70.  The twelve module course explores Indigenous histories from an Indigenous perspective and touches on issues important for understanding past and current relationships between Indigenous and settler societies.  So far, I have completed the module for Week 1, which deals with Indigenous Worldview.

 

The remaining eleven modules are:  Fur Trade; Trick or Treaty; New Rules, New Game; “Killing the Indian in the Child”; A Modern Indian?; Red Power; Sovereign Lands; Indigenous Women; Indigenous in the City; Current Social Movements; and ‘Living’ Traditions – Expressions in Pop Culture and Art.

So far, I’m really enjoying the MOOC.  It is pertinent and relevant information, presented in a variety of formats.  There are instructional videos that have transcripts, as well as readings and quizzes.  There are MOOCs from other institutions (such as this one from UBC) that I will pursue after I have completed this online course;  however, I chose the one from U of A for my initial course to enroll in based on the historical range of topics and the relevance to my project as well as my teaching.

I’m a bit of a nerd – I really like taking classes!  But I also enjoy attending live performances, which leads me to the next part of my learning this week – I attended a concert at the Conexus Arts Centre:   Jeremy Dutcher with the RSO.

A member of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, Jeremy first did music studies in Halifax before taking a chance to work in the archives at the Canadian Museum of History, painstakingly transcribing Wolastaq songs from 1907 wax cylinders. ‘Many of the songs I’d never heard before, because our musical tradition on the East Coast was suppressed by the Canadian Government’s Indian Act.’ Jeremy heard ancestral voices singing forgotten songs and stories that had been taken from the Wolastoqiyik generations ago.  As he listened to each recording, he felt his own musical impulses stirring from deep within.  Long days at the archives turned into long nights at the piano, feeling out melodies and phrases, deep in dialogue with the voices of his ancestors.  These ‘collaborative’ compositions collected together on his debut LP Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.  ~ taken from the artist biography in “Encore”

Dutcher won the Polaris Prize and the award for Indigenous music album of the year at the 2019 Junos for Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.  If you happened to watch the Junos, you would have seen him get his acceptance speech cut off, and then (if you watched until the end) you would have seen rock group The Arkells give up their time and invite Dutcher back to the stage to finish what he started – CBC’s segment on this can be viewed here.  It was a powerful moment and you can read the transcript of his speech(es) here.

 

The cover of “Encore” featuring a photograph of Jeremy Dutcher.

 

 

 

 

 

The song list for the evening – every single piece was by Indigenous musicians or was influenced by Indigenous traditional music.

 

 

In his message within “Encore,” Jeremy explained

an elder from my First Nation asked me to help bring our songs home.  These traditional songs had been recorded on wax cylinders over a century ago and now reside at the Canadian Museum of History.  It was her greatest hope to hear these songs live among the people again; She told me, “When I hear those old voices qoss//son, I hear symphonies.”  I did too, and thus began the work which lead to this evening.

I have lived my life at the intersections.  Where white meets native, classical meets traditional, old meets new meets future.  What I understand now is that #ourmusicbelongs to all.  Our songs carry the beauty and passion of an opera aria and our stories rival any great european drama. Thank you … for opening your ears and hearts to the sounds of my nation.

 

The first of Jeremy’s songs that was played was “Honour Song.”  My other favourite of the night was “Mehcinut.”  I’ve linked the official video version of “Mehcinut” for you … as it is a must watch.  The orchestral arrangements, the use of the original wax cylinder recordings (in digitized form) throughout the concert, and the choice of accompanying music when Dutcher was not performing – all perfection.  We heard orchestral selections from Cris Derksen (“Round Dance“) and the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie.  Dutcher also sang Sainte-Marie’s song, “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” accompanied by the RSO.  Incredible.

 

I’ve been a subscriber to the RSO Shumiatcher Pops series for several years, and I have never heard anything quite like this concert.  I tweeted about it that night when I got home because I was just so moved (Jeremy Dutcher was the first to like my tweet, so that was nice!).  It was an emotional and magical experience.  Woliwon//Thank you.

 

The music of Buffy Sainte-Marie is already something I use in my classroom.  She has such a broad range of work and it can fit into a variety of contexts within my senior ELA classes.  I’ve used it within Creative Writing, too!  I am excited to add the music of Jeremy Dutcher – currently brainstorming ways to incorporate the story of his work with the wax cylinders that resulted in his album, as well as his recordings.

(His work is available on vinyl – oohhh how amazing vinyl sounds.  I wish more albums were available on vinyl)

Thank you for reading and following my learning journey!  Do you have some favourite indigenous musicians whose work you use within your classroom?  I’d love to hear your ideas and how you incorporate them into your curricula!

 

 

 

Musings on Anchor

Wow.  That was easy!

The task for this week was to find a tool or app that I haven’t used before that could be used to make learning visible (either for me or for my students).  In thinking about an area of my content delivery that is perhaps a bit lacking, I quickly decided to search for a way I can create audio content and make it easily accessible for my students. After looking at a few possibilities, I decided on Anchor after going to their website and seeing that they provide their services for FREE and will not ask for my money.  As a thrifty (cheap?) teacher, I appreciate that value!

Nothing technological has ever come very easily to me… but I can honestly say that Anchor is the one of the easiest tools I’ve ever used.  From start to finish, it took me a very minimal amount of time to create my content.  Which is perfect, considering my schedule last week and this week have left me with very little time to explore or spend too much time on something.  I think possibilities abound for classroom content with Anchor!  There are some legal or copyright issues with recording entire books, I realize, but creating accessible audio files of articles, poems, stories and such seems to be okay based on my brief research.  Please correct me if I’m wrong!

I am excited for the possibilities this could mean for my online students as well as my face to face students who miss class, and especially for English as an additional language (EAL) learners.  Comprehension of content often increases with multiple modalities and this is especially true for EAL learners.  Not only does providing an audio help students with pronunciation, having an audio file (as opposed to me reading something aloud in class) enables the learner to repeat the audio as many times as needed in order to fully comprehend what is being presented.

I can already see where I can improve some areas of the podcast.  First, I can get a microphone instead of relying on my system microphone.  That will help to enhance the quality of my recordings, which will increase the understanding of the audio.  I can use Freesound to add effects to my recordings!  That will be a fun tool to play around with!

My classmate Amanda talks about her adventures in podcasting and gives a really great breakdown of Anchor’s features this week in her blog!  I agree with almost everything she lists as positives and shortfalls.  I easily tweeted my podcast, but the embed code provided to embed it in my blog did not seem to work no matter how many times I tried.

 

In her blog, my classmate Catherine also wrote a great review of Anchor.  Her blog inspired me to check out and listen to some podcasts – something which I am a bit ashamed to say I have NEVER done.  My friend is always talking about how great The Business of Life podcast by Jann Arden and Arlene Dickinson is, so that may be first on my list to check out.  I will also check out Serial, since true crime is fascinating to me (thanks, Dad, for making me watch Unsolved Mysteries and The First 48).

Students can use podcasting in many ways, so by becoming familiar with this podcasting platform, I can help provide my students with another resource to share their learning in addition to providing them with content in an alternate format.

What are some ways you use podcasting in your classroom?

 

LISTEN TO MY PODCAST HERE: https://anchor.fm/kyla-moffatt/episodes/A-history-of-residential-schools-in-Canada-e7mgep/a-asqte8

Becoming Knowledge-able

Have you ever taken a teenager’s device away from them?  Or expected them to shut it off or go without it while they are in your classroom?  I have teenage children.  Those devices are their lifelines.  They would rather gnaw off their own limbs than give up their phones.

Addicted to technology
For teenagers, the shackles may be Snapchat, Tik Tok, Youtube, and Games.

I used to teach Media Studies 20 (until my school cut it… which is a whole other conversation).  At the beginning of our digital citizenship and digital literacy unit in MS 20, I asked the students to “unplug” for 24 hours.  Essentially, the students were asked to give me their cell phones and I locked them all in the school safe for 24 hours – my phone included.  When I introduced the experiment, I got all sorts of reactions.  Some students smiled – “piece of cake!”  Some students hyperventilated.  A few students cried.  One student threw her binder across the room and walked out of my class to the office and demanded to drop the class (she was denied).

HOW DARE YOU ASK US TO DO SUCH A THING?

 

I sent a letter home to parents explaining the experiment we wanted the students to participate in.  To earn full marks, they had to agree to give up their phones for the entire 24 hours.  For partial credit, they could give the phone up for the school day – from 8:30 until 3:35. The reactions were varied.  Some parents wrote me letters asking me to excuse their child for “safety reasons” – they had to travel on the highways, or babysit, or they had medical issues.  (Not sure how we all survived without so much as seatbelts in the 70s or with all the horrible hairstyles in the 80s, or riding bikes without helmets, not to mention that the school still has a LAND LINE that students can use to call home).  No problem.  Take your partial credit.

A few parents called the school to complain about my use of power over their kids.  One parent called and told admin that what I was asking was against the law.  Admin backed me up, bless their hearts – one of the VPs even threw his cell phone in the safe with our class phones for a sleepover!   A few parents thought it was such a valuable idea that they sent THEIR phones to school to be locked up with their kid’s phone and planned a family game night!  Boy, were those kids thankful for me and their parents!

Of course, all of the reactions (overreactions?) were discussed.  Students learned SO MUCH from the experiment.  They journalled about their feelings when the experiment was introduced and answered a series of questions when the experiment was over.  Many found that they actually enjoyed the time being unplugged, after they got over the initial feeling of having lost a part of themselves.  The experiment was intended to make the students think critically about their use of technology and about the power media has in our lives.  Critical thinking is EXACTLY what students need to learn in order to be successful in our digitally reliant society.

We live in a time of instant access to information.  It’s a blessing in many ways and can make life easier for some people.  However… there is a huge gap in access for many people as well.  As educators, teaching in a world where knowledge is obsolete can be daunting.  It isn’t how we were taught, for starters.  I graduated high school in 1993.  My teachers during high school, for the most part, had an Objectivism approach.  Upon entering the Faculty of Education, my instructors were more in the realm of Constructivism.  I talked about this in a blog post last fall when I was taking EC&I 833.  Today’s learners rely upon a Constructivist/Collaborative approach.  They really need to know what to do with all of the knowledge that can be found at their fingertips.

Epistemological Perspectives

In his Ted talk “Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able,” Michael Wesch says “What’s in the air is … the digital artifacts of about two billion people on the planet connecting and sharing and collaborating.  We need to move our students from simply being knowledgeable (knowing a bunch of stuff) to be knowledge-able — able to find, sort, analyze, and ultimately criticize and even create new information and knowledge.”

Being critical thinkers goes hand in hand with being good digital citizens.  My colleague, Curtis, talked in his blog post about how the Tech Team in our school division is a big proponent of digital citizenship and promoting a positive digital identity.  “In addition to knowing what is positive, safe, legal, and ethical behavior online, respecting intellectual property, managing personal data, maintaining digital privacy and security, and being aware of data-collection technology…  will become the building blocks for students in an online space.”

As the NCTE state in their definition of 21st Century Literacies, “[b]ecause technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable.

Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

My favourite site for resources with which to achieve these outcomes is MediaSmarts.  There are so many ready-to-use resources and lessons that can help educators, especially those who may have grown up in a different era (ME!), teach the students who are in our classrooms today.

And, because I loved the original advertisement and all it taught me as a child, here is House Hippo 2.0.  A fantastic, quick watch to help start a conversation with your students about what is real and what is fake in our digital world.

https://youtu.be/5R_tOSRynZU

What do you do to help students develop critical thinking skills in a society that bombards them with media?

Starting a Journey of Reconciliation

I love school.  As a child, it was a safe haven, a place of discovery, and those experiences helped me develop a love of learning that endures today.   My childhood was far from perfect, but my experiences with school and with teachers led me to my chosen career as an educator. I graduated high school in the early 1990s without having ever learned one iota of information regarding the government sanctioned genocide known as Residential Schools.

In fall 2005, I finished the undergrad courses needed to complete my Bachelor of Education degree.  As one of my final classes, I took Indigenous Studies 100 and it was in this class that I first learned about Residential Schools.    As a requirement for the class, I wrote an essay comparing the sanctioning of the schools by the government to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.  Two of the primary sources used for my essay were Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools by J.R. Miller and A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1996 by John S. Milloy. These books and the chapter of Canadian history that they illuminated for me continue to haunt me.

The horrors I read about in Miller and Milloy’s books made me feel so sad and a deep sense of responsibility.  How could the federal government allow such a thing to happen, much less be completely responsible for it?  Everything I had ever thought or “known” about Canada as a welcoming, multicultural country was turned on its head.  My white privilege was overwhelming and heavy and left me feeling an immense sense of guilt.  It also left me feeling powerless.

In 2016, a friend and I visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.  One of the most moving and inspiring exhibits in the museum is the permanent Truth and Reconciliation exhibition on Level 7 (which is aptly called Inspiring Change).  Though the entire museum is moving and awe-inspiring, there was just something about this exhibit that grabbed me by the heartstrings and wouldn’t let me go. The museum’s website contains a section on the history called Childhood Denied.  It is a good place to start learning about Residential Schools as a tragic piece of Canadian history.

It took many years for me to arrive here, at a place where I feel not only compelled to participate in a journey of reconciliation, but have the tools I feel I need to embark on the journey in a respectful and supportive way to encourage healing – healing not only for myself but for all those around me.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recognize that in order for healing to occur, four things must happen:

  • awareness of the past,
  • acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted,
  • atonement for the causes,
  • action to change behaviour.

 

Image result for path quotes

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission published ninety-four Calls to Action.  Four of those calls to action are specific to Education and call upon the various levels of government to fulfill their responsibilities.

Education for reconciliation

62. We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to:

i. Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.

ii. Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.

iii. Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.

iv. Establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.

63. We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:

i. Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.

ii. Sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history.

iii. Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.

iv. Identifying teacher-training needs relating to the above.

64. We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.

65. We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.

 

Of particular value to me as an educator is building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.  With that in mind, I began my journey.  Starting a journey of reconciliation can be completely overwhelming. So far the journey has brought feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and intense loneliness for me. In order to be a witness and to ensure that I am doing my part to promote healing, it is worth the emotional journey.

Over the next few months I will be documenting my journey of reconciliation.  I will gather resources and organize the information in such a way that I can share it with my students, my school, and my community.  I hope following my journey will encourage others to follow their own path towards reconciliation, and that the resources I share will help them find their way.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  – Lao Tzu

Can I be a Witness?

Our task this week was to decide upon one of two options for our Major Digital Project.  After a tortured week of thinking (so dramatic, right?) I decided on

Option B: Based on the idea that individuals are now more able to learn and share online, you will choose something significant that you would like to learn, and you will share your progress openly in an online space. 

But what will I learn and how will I share?

To explain my choice, I need to take you on a little journey back to July 2019 when I was enrolled in EC&I 804.  It would prove to be one of the most rewarding, challenging, and exhausting courses I’ve taken.  The content was fascinating to me… and made me wish I’d taken it sooner in my Masters journey.  But things happen for a reason.  Here’s a bit of my  “WHY” for my project choice.

Touring museums is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, particularly if the exhibits contain stories of people.  Animals, dinosaurs, natural exhibits… all those are cool, too.  But stories of people – that’s my thing.  I love stories.  I love telling them, I love hearing them, I love reading them, I love writing them.  My favourite way to connect with people is through stories.

So, it was with my love of stories and with my metaphorical backpack of curricular theories in tow that I headed to the museum with my EC&I 804 classmates on July 11.  Our time at the museum was brief but made me feel heavy, like there was some kind of emptiness in my soul so to speak.  I was also reminded of how much I admire First Nations people who have striven so hard and sought to maintain connections to their culture.

A phrase I heard at the museum was “in blood memory.”  From my understanding it broadly means that the land is the connection through which First Nations people can explore their culture and start their journey of identity, healing, and reconciliation.  I feel jealous of this.  I attempted to articulate my jealousy and my feeling of disconnect during our discussion back in the classroom when we were sharing our museum observances and was reminded of my place in the discourse as a European white female.  I carry that white privilege around with me all the time and oftentimes I do forget or realize it’s there.  I just feel heavy with the weight of it and feel like I will never get to the bottom of it.  Peggy McIntosh describes this in her work “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”

Driving home from class that day, I began to think and reflect and talk out loud to myself about what I experienced at the museum and afterwards in our discussion.  Why do I feel jealous? Where do I fit in as a white female?  Where do I belong?  What does it mean when I don’t recognize my heritage or cultural background?  If I didn’t live the experience of my heritage or if I don’t connect to it, what does that mean?  Can I call myself English/ Irish/ Polish/ Ukrainian/ Russian/ Swedish?  In retrospect I don’t feel I was represented in any part of the museum. Where do I fit in the picture?  Did my ancestors have anything like what the First Nations refer to as blood memory – a belief system, a connection to land or sky or air or something – that I can now hold onto or use to ground me?  If this is the way I feel with my white privilege, how on earth does a whole culture move forward and heal from the attempted cultural genocide known as the Residential School system?   And how can I help?

These were my actual thoughts and they were accompanied by a sudden and uncontrollable urge to cry.  Which I did, unabashedly.  We were warned that we would feel uncomfortable over the course of our learning … and that it would be a good thing.  But my emotional, visceral reaction to a walk through the museum left me feeling incredibly raw, vulnerable and exhausted, like I know nothing and have so very much to learn.  I feel unsettled.  I feel sad.  I feel responsible.  I feel the need to apologize for oppression.  I feel I need to “fix” what is wrong.   I feel overwhelmed. I feel survivor’s guilt.

I thought about changing my course-based Masters program to a thesis route… for about five minutes.  It’s just not in the cards for me with everything else going on in my life right now.  But somehow the nagging feeling that I need to commit myself to my own personal journey of reconciliation keeps rearing up when I least expect it.  Like NOW.  So… that’s it.  The something significant that I would like to learn about is First Nations cultures, particularly their education, or lack thereof, at the hands of the national government.

In essence, I am embarking on my personal journey of reconciliation as a witness.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission states “[t]he term witness is in reference to the Aboriginal principle of witnessing, which varies among First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Generally speaking, witnesses are called to be the keepers of history when an event of historic significance occurs. Partly because of the oral traditions of Aboriginal peoples, but also to recognize the importance of conducting business, building and maintaining relationships in person and face to face.”

I think this fits the assignment guidelines in that it is complex to learn, worth learning about, and is of great interest to me.  I will use online sources to guide my project – I’ve already started compiling a list and doing some research and reading – but I will also consult community resources, such as the FNIM consultant in our school division and hopefully an elder in our area.

To document my learning, I will blog about my journey as well as compile a list of resources that I come across that are helpful or insightful.  I could focus on how to incorporate the resources into my ELA classroom, could describe how the resource fits into my journey, or I could simply critique the resource.   Perhaps my collection of resources will be shared online somehow – not sure yet if it will become an open course or a website or something of that nature.  I hope that as a result of my journey of reconciliation that I can become a witness within our classrooms and communities.

What Is Reconciliation from TRC – CVR on Vimeo.

 

I’m unsure if I have enough “structure” to my project – likely not.  What do you think?  I will welcome your feedback and your guidance on how to best make this journey meaningful and rewarding. I already know it will be difficult… but I also know it will be worth it.

 

We Were on a Break!

Social Media.  Love it or loathe it, there seems to be no escaping its influence.  I remember a time before the internet was even a thing… and all the stages in between. Some of my fellow classmates are probably too young to remember the good old days of dial-up!   ICQ, MSN Messenger, MySpace, … my goodness how far we have come!

Image result for social media
Does your personal device look like you are consumed by social media?

The negatives of social media can seem overwhelming.  It’s a bit like a vampire, sucking time and energy from our lives.  In the wrong hands, it can be dangerous – cyberbullying, fraudulent interactions such as catfishing or even identity theft.  It is scary to think about all of the personal information that we release just by picking up our phones and scrolling through Facebook or by having our locations tracked in Snapchat (which I do not have and will NEVER download) or … is there any danger with Twitter other than I can blink and an hour has gone by while I read people’s rants on politics or get chatting with colleagues in my PLN? 

Though I feel social media is a necessity for our cheer gym and for me as a personal networking tool, I worry about the privacy of my own data and that of our students who may not be the most savvy of digital citizens.  I feel pressure to answer messages right away or to be checking my social media platforms continually.  As a result, I schedule regular “power downs” and completely disconnect from all social media for at least 24-48 hours.  In the summer, I’ll often go longer.  Does anyone else require frequent breaks from social media in order to protect their own sanity?

But, despite the dangers and all of the not so wonderful things about it, social media can also be a fantastic way to connect with others across great distances.  It is a fantastic collaborative space where I can get inspired for my lessons, find new resources, and connect with other classrooms or educators around the globe.  My best friend met her husband in a chat room in 2000… so I do know that connections forged online can be lasting and meaningful.  The power at our fingertips is absolutely incredible when you think about it.

Professionally, social media is an absolutely critical component of my learning and growth as an educator.   As so many of my fellow EC&I classmates have said, the connections we have with one another online help to strengthen our practice.  We can be continually learning and growing professionally with access to MOOCs and the interactive nature of social media.  But that also can bring a bit of a negative – continually comparing oneself to others online and feeling inferior.  As my classmate Amanda said in her blog post, “When I see all of the creative, thought provoking, and engaging things that other teachers are doing in their classroom, it’s hard not to compare myself to them.”  I totally agree, Amanda.  And a small part of me wonders if somewhere out there, maybe someone feels that way about my posts.  I hope not… because I am fully in the “fake it until you make it your reality” school of life. 

Though the following infographic is slightly dated (RIP Google+), I found this to be pretty spot on for the pros and cons of some of the most popular social media.  Facebook, Instagram and Youtube are the ones I use the most, and Twitter now that I’m getting used to using it (still hate it on a mobile device).  

pros and cons of social media
Which platform is your personal favourite?

Probably the most incredible thing about the power of social media for me, so far, has been the ability to connect with others and grow in my confidence and abilities as a teacher.  An inquiry I jokingly made last semester when I was in EC&I 834 – “How the heck does a person become an online teacher around here?” – has led me to a slight change in my career this year, all thanks to social media and a few awesome people who pushed me in the proper direction.  

How has social media affected your personal or professional life in positive and/or negative ways?  I’d love to hear your stories!