Where is inquiry in the Ontario curriculum?

Inquiry_and Ontario Curriculum

It is amazing how having a different idea in your head, or lens if you will, can totally change how you interpret and experience a text.  I had this experience today when I re-read the front matter of the Ontario Language Arts Curriculum.  Think about inquiry, and read the following quotes from the language document: 

“this curriculum promotes the integration of the study of language with the study of other subjects”

“language curriculum is also based on the understanding that students learn best when they can identify themselves in their own experience in the material they read and study at school”

“It is also important to give students opportunities to choose what they read and what they write about, in order to encourage the development of their own interests and pursuits.”

“Students develop their literacy skills when they seek out recreational reading materials and multimedia works that relate to their personal interests and to other subject areas, and when they engage in conversations with parents, peers, and teachers about what they are reading, writing, viewing, representing and thinking in their daily lives.”

“Students should be given the kinds of assignments that provide opportunities to produce writing that is interesting and original and that reflects their capacity for independent and critical thought.”

“Students need well-developed language skills to succeed in all subject areas. The development of skills and knowledge in language is often enhanced by learning in other subject areas.”

And, best of all:

“Inquiry is at the heart of learning in all subject areas.”

inquiry is at the heart

Inquiry is at the heart of learning in the Ontario curriculum, everywhere except Native Languages, where the inquiry is nowhere to be found, which I think is puzzling since it is found in the Language and FSL documents.

What is inquiry-based learning?

Perhaps you read my previous post on inquiry after the BIT14 Conference? What is inquiry? I decided that an Ontario teacher could and perhaps should turn to Ontario resources to answer this question. There are two Ministry of Education monographs on the topic of student inquiry Inquiry-Based Learning and Getting Started with Student Inquiry in which inquiry is defined as follows:

Inquiry-based learning is an approach to teaching and learning that places students’ questions, ideas and observations at the centre of the learning experience.”

For students, the process often involves open-ended investigations into a question or a problem, requiring them to engage in evidence-based reasoning and creative problem-solving, as well as “problem finding.””

For Educators, the process is about being responsible to the students’ learning needs, and most importantly, knowing when and how to introduce students to ideas that will move them forward in their inquiry.”

Inquiry Based Learning and Problem Based Learning

These are two approaches that get me very excited. I am striving to provide experiences for my students that I think are nested under these headings.  I think the essential piece here is that we are making the sometimes smooth and easy (read boring) intellectual terrain of the classroom more rugged, bumpy and interesting by problematizing the curriculum.  Whether we do this by listening, watching, interpreting, reflecting or responding to students or whether we take a more teacher centred approach of setting the problem and inviting students in, the outcome is a richer and deeper learning experience.

Why do I feel it is especially important to think about IBL/PBL in the primary grades now?

I suspect, that our youngest learners at school are going to have different expectations of primary teachers. Our FDK learners will enter grades 1, 2 and 3 having had experiences with play-based learning where their questions were heard and honoured. These students are accustomed to many opportunities for student directed inquiry.

Below is a table from The Full-Day Early Learning – Kindergarten Program (Draft Version 2010-2011)

The Inquiry Process in Early Learning–Kindergarten Classrooms

 

What is a good model for inquiry-based learning?

Do a quick google search of inquiry models and you will see that inquiry comes in all shapes and sizes and with varying number of steps. What they all have in common is that they are usually circular in nature. Even the FDK model above is recursive. When the teacher listens to the children this is feeding forward to a potentially new investigation or going deeper.  Harvey and Daniels (2009) outline these steps for inquiry: Immerse, Investigate, Coalesce, and Go Public.

Inquiry-Cycle_Harvey and Daniels

Source: http://schools.spsd.sk.ca/curriculum/techyteacher/category/inquiry/

Immerse – building curiosity and background knowledge
Investigate – students research the subject matter; they ask questions, look for and find answers
Coalesce – more succinct searching occurs, summarizing, and building new knowledge
Go Public – students share what they have learned with other students

It’s about students posing questions, finding answers and taking action.  Teachers and students are co-authors of the learning in the classroom where we balance student and teacher agendas. Students plan, teachers monitor, and we all reflect.  Students have opportunities to ask questions and share their own theories on the world and how things work. These ideas are tested, fact-checked and then new theories and ideas emerge.  Students become very active and engaged learners with freedom, power and agency over their own learning.

Did you know?

27 to 1 teacher to student questionsFor every question a child asks in class, a teacher as 27 questions? (Source: Cecil & Pfeifer 2011).  These teacher questions are related to classroom management and are often low level questioning. To be fair, this comes from very, very old research. But, it made me reflect on the teacher question to student question ratio in my class as well as the depth of the questions posed.

Teachers and Students Learning to Ask Better Questions

Recently, Tony Vincent made an excellent post titled Crafting Questions that Drive Projects with great ideas.

Harvey and Daniels (2009) identify three types of questions for content-area reading that I think would be helpful in the inquiry process:

The Definition Questions:

  • What is it?
  • What is happening?
  • What is going on?

The Consequence Questions:

  • Why does it matter?
  • What difference does it make?
  • Why should I care?

The Action Questions:

  • How can we get involved?
  • How can we help?
  • What can we do about it?

There is, of course, Bloom’s Taxonomy too. But, what I didn’t know is that Bloom produced three taxonomies: cognitive, affective and psychomotor.

Source: http://gramconsulting.com/2009/02/fun-with-learning-taxonomies/

Source: http://gramconsulting.com/2009/02/fun-with-learning-taxonomies/

 

I know about thinking of questions from the Cognitive taxonomy and this works well for science and “efferent” reading which is the reading we do to learn. But when we are reading to be transported we are reading aesthetically (Harvey and Daniels, 2009, p.91).   In this case, would an affective structure for asking questions be more appropriate?

I do know that more thinking on questioning is in my future.

Resources and Further Reading:

Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension & collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Cecil, N., & Pfeifer, J. (2011). The art of inquiry: Questioning strategies for K-6 classrooms (Second ed.).

 

I am starting to feel more confident with teaching through inquiry based learning and problem based learning. One challenge can be getting started and deciding what to focus on for inquiry.  Though models of inquiry hint at starting points, I have 6 ideas in this post that came about through reading these sources.

Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension & collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Barell, J., & Barell, J. (2007). Problem-based learning: An inquiry approach (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Stacey, S. (2011). The unscripted classroom: Emergent curriculum in action. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Capacity Building Series (2011) Getting Started with Student Inquiry

1. Use a factoid to invite and provoke student questions

In Problem-based learning: An inquiry approach (2nd ed.) the authors suggest starting with provoking factoids and then asking students to observe, think and question.  Use the factoid to get kids asking related questions.

For example, what questions come to mind when you read this factoid?

Tornadoes are nearly invisible whirling winds until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms inside the funnel.

Questions come to mind about vocabulary, but also about the shape and colour of tornadoes. Including a picture also helps students access prior knowledge and start wondering.

2. Quality Responding

Instead of thinking about what good questions a teacher should ask, think about asking students questions in response to their ideas. Ask students to expand and elaborate.

Teachers could try pushing student thinking forward by asking:

  • What do you wonder about now?
  • Does this suggest any new approaches, ideas to you worth investigating?
  • What kinds of connections can you make?
  • Where do we go from here?

3. Slow down

Both Susan Stacey, author of The Unscripted Classroom: Emergent Curriculum in Action and this Ontario monograph titled “Getting Started with Student Inquiry” suggest teachers slow down.  Observation is essential. Slow down and watch what children are doing. Reflect and interpret what you see. Then try to provoke a next step.  Slowing down and taking time to reflect and interpret is the fulcrum on which we can balance student’s authentic questions and theories with teacher’s agenda and the curriculum. We do not need to pit student interest and freedom in a fist fight with the curriculum.  If we as teachers know our curriculum and take time to reflect and interpret what our students are interested in, there is a way to honour their interests and curiosities. This is a chance for teachers to get creative and innovative.

balancing T and S agendas with time

4. Be on the look out for student’s questions, theories and persistent interests

Student driven inquiry does not need to start with a question. It can start when a teacher notices a student has a theory about something. This can be challenging since students are often bringing a lot of ideas, questions, and interests forward. Which ones do we focus on as educators?  When we notice that a student or a group of students are consistently interested in a topic, we should head in that direction. It’s best to focus on ideas that have some persistence according to Stacey (2011). Or, if you aren’t sure the idea merits moving forward with inquiry, test it out by provoking students with materials and resources and see if they take the bait.  The teacher can not and should not respond to every question and whim in the classroom. Or else, he or she will be like the golden retriever in this video, chasing after every little flash of student interest.

5. Use previous activities to feed forward

Don’t let the learning come to a full stop. Let investigations and units propel new topics. I need to work on this in a major way. So far this year we have taken a PBL or IBL approach to learning about magnets, friction and extreme weather. When the final assignment was in and graded that was it!  I didn’t go back and reflect. I didn’t go back and ask the students to look at each other’s work and see if there were some new questions to move us forward. I was the driver.  I was leading teacher directed PBL and IBL.  Now I know.

6. Help students make sense of non fiction text

Reading about an interesting topic is a great way to open up new questions. Help students use a coding system to monitor their thinking as they read. With paper books sticky notes work great. If iPads are available, Good Reader is my preferred markup app. This strategy comes from Harvey and Daniels (2008) Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action.

coding as we read

Make better Movies

Thanks to Jose Martinez, my students and I will make better movies. We might even feel brave enough to call them films! His session (description here) was called “Lights, Cameras, Action!” and you can find all the key information, with examples, on his blog.

Key Learning:

  1. Plan! Story board first. Don’t pick up the camera until you have your shots planned out.
  2. Have kids name camera angles in their work. Great idea for being consciously skilled and assessing media literacy conventions.
  3. To get students to make watchable videos, give them a theme and keep it short. As in 20 seconds!

Thank you also to Ernest Agbuya and Daniella Marchese for their session called Storytelling with the Moving Image. I learned that there are professional development opportunities through TIFF and there is an Kids Film Festival through TIFF too! Imagine!

Passion and Compassion

Colleen Rose might be one of the kindest people I’ve met.  She’s brilliant, smart and incredibly tender and responsive to her students’ needs.  Her session about Personalized Learning through Assessment was a poignant reminder of how we can reach out to kids while working through the curriculum and the school day. All her resources from her session can be found here.

A New Tool

Thanks to Tim Hawes I walked away from Bring IT Together with a great new tool!  His session New Ministry Licensed Web-Based Graphic Organizer focused on a rad new tool Mindomo. Think Mind Mapping software + Popplet + Padlet and more.  Fab!

Scratch and nkwry

Thank you to Brian Aspinall and for the great session on Coding in Math. Learning about algebra and variables? Get kids using Scratch to apply these concepts in a practical setting that is fun too! He’s a clever lad and a programmer in his own right. He has developed a Pinterest type web-based app for helping students curate information, check out nkwry – amazing stuff!

Bringing people together

This is what it’s really about!  My PLN is so amazing. Thank you to all of you, and big thank you to my new pal Brian Smith for making this wonderful picture of friendship and collaboration!

Photo by Brian Smith

Photo by Brian Smith

November 5-7 was the Bring IT Together Conference in Niagara Falls.  Here are some of the most discussed key words.  This graph shows how many times these words appeared in presentation write ups.  For what it is worth, innovation came up only 18 times at 7% of key words found in session titles and descriptions.

Key Words at BIT

I attended 6 totally different sessions on Inquiry

I attended six sessions on inquiry and they were all different.  In fact, if you were to get all these people and put them in the same room but ban them from using the word inquiry, I bet they would have no idea that they were interested in the same topic.

What is counter-intuitive, perhaps, is that each of the sessions was excellent and compelling.

But, if each group had a different take on inquiry, then, what is inquiry?

I am unsettled by how differently each presenter perceived inquiry.  What does it mean that each of these sessions was so completely different? Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? What is inquiry in Ontario schooling today?

What is inquiry?

According to a paper in the Journal of Science Teacher Education by Barrow (2006) and another article in ZDM Mathematics Education by Artigue and Blomhøj (2013)  inquiry can be any of the following:

  • a teaching strategy (teacher posing questions for inquiry)
  • a set of student skills
  • knowing about inquiry
  • being inquisitive and taking action
  • engaging students
  • hands on and minds on
  • manipulating materials
  • stimulating questions by students
  • learning to act like professionals in the field

Why is inquiry important?

From the same articles, the purpose of inquiry can be:

  • helping students prepare for a world of work and careers
  • fulfilling a personal need
  • fulfilling a societal need (critical thinkers)
  • helping prepare students academically
  • generating greater awareness
  • experiencing the discipline like real mathematicians, scientists, sociologist etc.

Inquiry as hands on investigations

Louise Robitaille and Peter Douglas presented on their classroom work about inquiry-based learning. They have compiled lots of resources here. Peter described spending a couple of weeks going deep into one theme or building project such as go carts. While he keeps his math separate, he lets the students engage in extended periods of creating, building and hands on learning.  From what was shared at the session, these two take the perspective that inquiry is about hands on to get the minds on.  It seemed like the purpose for inquiry was to engage and fulfill a personal need.  Here learning is a bi-product of a busy, unstructured and bustling with activity classroom.  The advice was to relax, let go and embrace where the students take you once you have provided a guiding question or a bunch of materials to inspire.

Read their session description here.

Fabulous session. Lots of honest talk about Peter’s classroom and the wonderful opportunities he provides.

Inquiry as a teaching strategy and a mindset

Aviva Dunsiger and Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper presented a half day session on inquiry.  What a great opportunity to go deep! They brought tonnes of examples of teacher work and student work.

They curated resources here and invited participants to crowd source even more information in the documents!  Their session was called Inquiry into Action and the description can be found here.

With a focus on the new social studies curriculum in Ontario, Aviva and Jo-Ann took inquiry to be a teaching approach that would leave students into thinking and taking action.  They saw their role to prompt and provoke. Next, they would guide students to ask their own questions and seek to find answers. They were comfortable with letting students ask questions they did not know the answer to and then made it their mission to support the students in finding out. I love that their was an emphasis on taking action and social awareness.  Another impressive session. But, a totally different take on inquiry.

Engaging Students

It is clear to many, including the thoughtful and nuanced thinker and educator Brandon Grasley, that engaging students can be achieved by inviting and supporting students own questions. His thoughtful blog post on engagement is also, as a side note, another write up on how challenging it is to grapple with these hot words of the day.

Then there was Inquiry Based Learning and E-Portfolios in FDK  (session description here) by passionate teacher-librarian Ray Mercer.  Students dressed up as astronauts and told stories of their learning journeys with the use of technology.

His presentation can be found here.  He has just received technology to augment inquiry learning with FDK students.  I wonder how that might change his approach to inquiry?

Hands on technology to inquire

Learning to act like professionals in the field

Inquiry Science Incorporating Technology was a session by secondary teacher Colin Jagoe.  The session description is here. Among other things, his students used Minecraft to do investigations to measure force of gravity in a Minecraft world by having Steve jump off towers. Here is an example I found online.  Colin presented his student’s work and shared how it was important that he let go and allow students to conduct investigations in contexts that were personally meaningful and interesting, like real scientists!  Did he plan the minecraft thing? Apparently not. But did he support it? Yes!

Amazingly, his students had done the same thing as a legitimate physics researcher. The only difference? The physics researcher has a PhD and published his findings in a peer-reviewed journal, here.

Impressive. Also, another totally different take on inquiry.

Inquiry in Ontario?

How important is inquiry in Ontario? Below is a chart representing the number of times the word appears in each of the most recent curriculum documents.

Inquiry Word Count

 

The mathematics curriculum word count is low. So, I checked problem solving (28 times) and solve problems (83 times). It would seem that problem solving and inquiry are perhaps synonymous.  Are they?

In closing, I am uncertain about what inquiry is and what it should look like in Ontario.

 

 

Constructing Modern Knowledge CMK14

Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) provided a summer stopping point at the intersection of learning and maker culture right in the heart of constructivism.The crowd was pretty special: whimsical, intelligent, techy, artsy, and hip in the way that people who reject hip are hip (read: geeks).  It was a group of way finders who seemed to be happy being at the outer edge of the world of education and meeting up to make a community and create some nifty projects in a 4 day period. CMK was a 4 day event held in Manch-Vegas (Manchester, New Hampshire) July 8-11 2014.  It’s taken this long for me to let this blog post free.  I have great respect for Gary Stager and his collaborators. I am also unsettled about the place of make, invention and programming at school. I want it to work, but it continues to make me uneasy.  Join me in revisiting this event and indulge me by reading my thoughts about programming, constructivism and constructionism. Thank you.  If you make it through this post, check back later this week for another on CMK14 keynote speaker Pete Nelson, Treehouse Master.

Who? Papert et al

It was perfectly clear that Seymour Papert is the patriarchal figure of CMK.  Gary Stager made frequent mention of Papert and Logo with fond affection, great loyalty and zeal.  Papert is the intellectual father and even his descendants were honoured faculty at the event.  Artemis Papert was there with her family Brian Silverman and daughter.  Authors of the authoritative book on Logo, Learning with Logo Dan and Molly Lynn Watt, also point to the lineage of this gathering.  They are elders of the community that shape the narrative by way of oral and written history.  They are also sharp minds ready to assist with the more recent incarnations of programming languages for students such as Mitch Resnick and MIT’s Scratch.   During Stager’s opening address he made so many references, both direct and indirect to Papert that I wish I had started a tally. IMG_1327

Where’s Papert? Who gets credit and who doesn’t.

Stager is not only honouring the intellectual past of programming in education, he seemed to be fighting for recognition for Papert and Papert’s contribution. He indicated several times that Papert has been systematically erased from the story of programming in education.  I was not able to get to the bottom of this sentiment expressed by Stager, but my sense is that perhaps it isn’t only Papert that has been underemphasized but also Stager and Martinez.  The two have authored a super successful book Invent to Learn and have a long history of contributing to educational circles.  They are riding a wave of enthusiasm for maker culture, hands on learning, and STEM/STEAM education.  If the maker movement is a passing fad, Gary and Sylvia will be championing constructivism and constructionism and the hard fun of invention with and through programming long after the last LED stops blinking.  After all, they and their merry folk have been around before Make was spelled with an uppercase M and followed by the familiar TM.

Constructivism Constructionism Double Take

The event is called Constructing Modern Knowledge and I am wondering why I was at all surprised by the heavy constructivist approach.  The theoretical underpinnings are from the constructivist tradition and the play and materials people.  Piaget, Patri, Montessori and Reggio Emilia are big influencers.  This is apparent from the talk and the library collection.  Michael Hyde, my friend and fellow attendee points out to me that constructivism starts to look, feel and sound a lot like constructionism. Indeed it was Papert who hand-crafted his own educational theory with the notion of constructionism. When touring the projects there was a lot of building and making and crafting and construction.  Edith Ackerman, one of the guest speakers, even suggested in her talk that perhaps “the maker movement takes hands-on too literally.”  Is a constructionist approach too literal? Is it possible that taking constructivism too literally leads to constructionism?

I love the giant robot hands.

I love the giant robot hands that one team built. IMG_1359 They were huge, glorious, well crafted.  They even worked like real hands with stringy tendons and fingers.  They were marvelous.  They are proof that making is marvelous.  But is construction enough to achieve the objectives of constructivism and play?  Would adding an arduino and some programming make it even better or would it simply be animating an inanimate object? It’s so marvelous, the picture doesn’t even begin to show the magic. But, is this constructivism or constructionism? Is one better than another? Does it matter which?

Mind your Ps and Cs (Hot words of the 21st century)

I think if we are moving our pedagogy and our curriculum towards incorporating all the illustrious C words of 21st century learning as well as the P words, than both constructivism and constructionism will have a place.  Where play, passion, peers, projects and process (The 4Ps behind Scratch) are the mega goals and values of the classroom or school then bring on the cardboard, 3D printers, scanners, arduinos and whatever-else-you’ve-got.  Edith Ackerman supports the notion of making, but also encourages us to consider making-do as in reclaiming an age of domestic arts where fixing, repairing, improving and repurposing are as valued as inventing something out of nothing. I feel in my heart that there is value here, but I also feel a trap.  Edith Ackerman is interested in the relationship between the mind, the hand and the tool.  She says that it is not about success or failure but rather the ability to determine the next step.  She also calls on us to stay with these innovations long enough to see if we were seduced by a quick thrill or whether something greater and more important emerges from the intersection of the tools and the way they are appropriated by people and communities.  CMK is an epic win because it is this kind of intersection.  One with a pulse and a heart.  Like Michael, Greg and their team’s creation (pictured below).  It can be beautiful and meaningful all at once.  But, it is confusing.  It’s closer to art than to the school I know, but I am pretty sure that’s a good thing.

Heartbeat Wall from CMK 2014 on Vimeo.

 I feel it.

IMG_1298

“I do not remember the school ever staying with a beautiful idea long enough to have it become part of children’s lives.”

-Angelo Patri

 

iOS 8 is a bit of a bummer.

September 20, 2014 — 6 Comments

iOS 8: A total bummer, but not for the reasons you might expect.  (This blog post was updated 10 minutes after posting thanks to Greg Garner and John Shoemaker. Thanks guys).

Short/TLDR version of this blog post.

Girl buys new iPad and expensive case.

Girl realizes that new iPad doesn’t have enough space for iOS8.

Girl feels old when she realizes that 16G used to be massive, but is now tiny.

Girl thinks she should refer to herself as lady or woman, now that she knows she is old.

Woman decides to refer to self as womyn.

Womyn spends hours getting new iPad 36G from Apple Store, updating 16G iPhone to iOS8 and. then. it. happens.

Womyn realizes that she is going to have to update 50 iPads at school on bad wifi.

Womyn realizes she may only have one more good year with her current set of iPad devices.

Panic. Heartache. Frustration. Fear. Sadness. Realization-of-first-world-problems. Dinner. Hope.

Womyn writes blog post.

I am not going to write here about new features. I did that this morning on Twitter.  Read Tony Vincent and TechChef4U for her blog post and Listly on features and articles.

The day 16 G became teeny tiny.

On September 8, twelve days ago at the time of this writing, I purchased a new iPad Air. I spent the extra money to go for the Air and not the Retina display. But, I couldn’t bring myself to spend another $100 for the 32G, so I settled for 16G. Plenty, yes, plenty of space. I splurged on a gorgeous case from Grovemade instead of getting a 32G. Life’s all about choices.

I only partially regret that decision.

Today, Saturday, September 20 rolls along and I go to update my new iPad to the biggest iOS release ever and I see:

ios-8-installation-requirement

 

When did 16 G get to be so small? Realizing 16G is small is about the same thing as realizing that I may need reading glasses or longer arms. This is not a happy moment.

And. It. Gets. Worse.

This is the complaining part of the post, you’ve been warned. It took me bits and pieces of a perfectly good Saturday to update my devices. After pleading with the Apple store people to let me exchange for a 32G, I had to figure out how to update my 16G phone.

How to Install iOS8 on your teeny-tiny-eensie-weensie 16G iOS device OTA.

OTA = Over the air.

Step 1: Backup your iDevice Settings>iCloud>Backup to iCloud

Step 2: Reset your device to factory settings Settings>General>Reset>Erase All Content and Settings

Step 3: Set up your iPad as if new (do not back up from iCloud) and Install iOS8 Settings>General>Software Update>Download (let it download for 30 mins – 1hour)> Install

Step 4: Reset your device to factory settings *Again* Settings>General>Reset>Erase All Content and Settings

Step 5: Set up your iPad as if new and restore from iCloud backup

Why the tedious process?

Well, iOS8, if you haven’t heard is a *big* update. It takes over 5G to install, but once installed only requires about 1G. It’s like an incredible-shrinking-iOS. It’s acting a bit like Alice might.

alice04aalice06a

What this means for my classroom.

This is my third year of running a one to one iPad program. Each student in my class has an iPad assigned to them for the year. They do not take them home, but they access the device throughout the day. I speculated that I would get 5 good years out of the devices before I would no longer be 1:1. I expected that some would be damaged so I wouldn’t have the ratio. Or, I expected that after 5 years I would no longer be able to update to the new operating system. Like a hole in your favourite sweater, I expected things would unravel from there. Old technology doesn’t feel cozy like ripped jeans. Old tech feels heavy and cumbersome like storing a friend’s furniture or pet sitting for your parents. Old tech isn’t terrible, it’s just that it starts getting in the way instead of enabling. Five years. I thought I would have 5 years to deploy and innovate. But, I feel like for two I have deployed and wrestled with the devices and now at the beginning of year 3 it’s going to take a massive amount of work to update 23 devices and the new 23 I just purchased. And what happens next year when iOS9 comes out? I suspect that I will not be able to update the 23 iPad (iPad 3, 30 pin). And then, how long after that will the devices still be powerful? How long after that will they feel like an enhancement instead of a burden? Will future version of Apps I love be backwards compatible?

Update:  Maybe it’s not all that bad.  Greg Garner suggests:

“Plug one into an Apple computer and back up to computer choosing “download only” for the update. Once backed up, update the iOS. For each subsequent device: plug in, back up, click update. It won’t need to re-download the OS, since it is already on your computer.”

Am I telling you not to buy iPad tablets? No, that is not the point.

I still think iPad is the best tablet. This is not an Apple problem, this is a problem for every tablet. Actually, I suspect iPad and Apple devices will have the longest life of any of the tablets out there. I do know that Apple products are the most eco-friendly and environmentally conscious technology products available. I promise the same will happen with other tablets too, even less expensive tablets that have an operating system that largely based online.

The solution

The solution is not to stop buying iPad devices, or to stop buying tablets altogether. That would be like Alice leaving Wonderland before she had an adventure and learned the true meaning of her life and place in the world. No, we who have jumped down the rabbit hole don’t get to jump right out. And, AND, we must continue to encourage others to jump down into edtech with us to make sense of this mess. Teachers especially have to be engaged. If not, powerful companies and uninformed district personnel will decide our tech fate for us.

The solution is to, more than ever before, really honestly drink from the cup of pedagogy-before-technology. We must push ourselves to be more than our devices. We must push the technology to it’s edge, to the point where it will break and then go one step further. Then, we must write honestly and openly and publicly about our trials and tribulations.

Anyone who is writing about how Edtech is easy is lying. They are (or should I say “we are”) not lying in the sense of telling untruths, but the simplicity of the message is a lie by omission. And, it’s not helping anyone.

Womyn goes to bed. Decides to post without editing. Why bother checking my post over for spelling? (I hear your collective gasp you English teachers who actually read entire blog posts).  Predictive text should be better soon, editing is so iOS7.

Creativity and storytelling are very important to many technology educators, and especially important to most Apple Distinguished Educators. Many ADEs share their learning, their story and document growth, through photography and videography using iPhone, iPad and many iOS and OS X features and tools. During the Apple Institute July 13th-19th I was a double camera slinging photographer with my Canon Rebel t3i and iPhone by my side. I took every opportunity to ask people questions about the tools, the gear and the art of picture making. Also, we were very fortunate that Bill Frakes and Laura Heald were present at the institute both to caputre the event but also to share some of their wisdom with the group. This blog post is about lessons learned about photography and picture making throughout the 2014 Global Apple Institute.

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After hearing about the excursions planned for the week to Torrey Pines State National Reserve, San Dieguito Lagoon, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Scripps Institution of Oceanography we were also informed that we would augment these experiences with an iTunes U course and a series of biology texts called Life On Earth by E. O. Wilson.

Then, much to the delight of everyone there, biologist and researcher Edward Osborne Wilson, also know as E.O. Wilson, took to the stage and sat in a leather seat unfolding his prepared notes. An incredibly dignified and generous man, Wilson spoke to us for an hour about biology, the importance of science to the human condition, and achieving excellence.  He even spoke boldly and unapologetically about religion.

E. O. Wilson Wilson, a highly successful, prolific and decorated scientist, focused on the study of ants, known as myrmecology.  He says that studying a single organism can lead to a great breakthrough.

“For every organism, there are advancements to be made that couldn’t be made from any other discipline.” ~ E. O. Wilson

To him, biology will help humanity and lead to better self understanding.  He invites all of us to take up membership in the scientific community as a natural and normal extension of our humanity.  It is not only our duty to take an interest in the natural world, but an unavoidable need we should not suppress.

Near the end of his talk he veered off the path of biology towards achieving excellence and nurturing excellence in young scientists.  He says that the successful scientists he knows did not have the highest IQ.  Wilson spoke of his friend Watson (as in James Watson, as in Watson and Crick as in DNA) who did not have the highest IQ, but more importantly a restlessness and an entrepreneurial obsession.  The great scientists had a desire to do something big.  They asked themselves “What hasn’t been done?”  and “What is extraordinary?”  As teachers, he asked of us to look for children who have this restlessness and desire for science and to encourage them on the path to owning their part in the scientific community.

E.O. Wilson has authored and led a team to create the highly interactive iBook series, Life on Earth.  These books are incredible.  Amazingly, they are also free.

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 1: Unity & Diversity of Life on Earth

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 2: Guided Tour of the Living Cell

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 3: Genetics

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 4: Animal Physiology

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 5: Plant Physiology

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 6: Guided Tour of Biodiversity

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth Unit 7: Guided Tour of Ecosystems

 

I am feeling inspired by Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work and so I thought it would be fun to post some pictures from the making of my Google Teacher Academy application video.

Here is the video:

1st Shot: White background and desk.

This is taken in my basement with a white screen I often use in my class for video and for teaching about light to my grade 4s in our photography/light unit.  The slider for my camera made all the difference in each shot. The cam slider was much more effective then your regular Ken Burns effects within iMovie.  Though this was the last shot that I filmed, I wanted to start with just the desk to be sure it popped in each picture.  I want to create a continuous story with this visual as my anchor.

white screen

2nd shot: Jet Aircraft Museum

Thanks to my partner, Greg Marshall, we got access to the Jet Aircarft Museum here in London. Greg is learning to fly a plane so he was a natural at approaching the very kind and generous staff.

JAM Jet Aircraft Museum

3nd shot: Grand Bend, Lake Huron

This shot was taken in early May just after the Google Teacher Academy opened applications. It was really, really cold! I am wearing a full on puffy liner and parka!  I like the images that contrast nature with technology to remind us of the bigger picture.  It was funny to lug around the desk and all the stuff inside the desk. Each time I tried to make sure that the contents of the desk were in the same position.

beach Grand Bend

6th shot: The ARTS Project

After being turned down by Museum London, we turned to the friendly folks at The ARTS project who were more than happy to support the project.

Art Project

4th and 9th shots: Komoka Provincial Park, Thames River

One of my favourite places to run and play.

Komoka Park

10th shot: Fanshawe Pioneer Village

I love the old school compared to new school. It’s funny to think about continuity and change in education. Has it really changed that much from the days of the one room school house?

Pioneer Village

11th shot: Museum Of Ontario Archaeology

This is really my favourite shot.  The way the light comes in from the far door feels like magic to me. Plus, it was fun to climb up high to nab a shot from a different perspective. Can you spot me in the photo?

Long House

Reflections

I loved this process. I learned that when you tell a story, you tell it to yourself too.  This is a message I believe with my entire heart, and it took making the video to really let the message come out.  I loved telling a story and creating something beautiful.  I am very proud that I was able to give my perspective while still meeting the condition of the application (talking about innovation and positive change).  Next, I want to create another video that is unrelated to any application process.

Thanks

Thank you to Mark Hammons @mhammons for the most specific and honest feedback. For being so positive too.

Thank you to team Voxer and PLC friends for discussions and for being in the video: Greg Garner @classroom_tech, Jaime Vandergrift @JaimeVanderG, Tracy Clark @TracyClark08, Jon Samuelson @ipadsammy, Megan Valois @MsValois

Thank you to staff and students at my school.

Thank you to epic BMX riding of Kevin Gauci and his friends.

Thank you David Malone @dwmalone, Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth, and Tanya Avrith @edtechschools for leading the way and checking in with me throughout the process.

Thank you, most of all to Greg Marshall @mr_marshall grip and most inspiring human I know.

 

Skating Covent Garden London

Today Shannon Robb and I co-taught to kick off a new unit in Social Studies.  Through the picture above we were hoping to provoke students to think about aspects of daily life including:

  • Recreation
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Role of Children
  • Work
  • Religion and Spiritual Practices

 

 

We used a visible thinking strategy: I see, I think, I wonder.  Or, if you’re really fancy: I observe, I infer, I wonder.  The students wonderings are recording on this table below.

Student Number Wondering
20 I wonder if they are skating?
15 I wonder if they person with the white jacket was teaching the other guy.
8 I wonder if there is a restaurant?
19 I wonder if it’s London, Ontario
17 I wonder if it’s in London?
6 I wonder if it is Christmas time?
12 I wonder if the Christmas lights are in downtown London?
23 I wonder why there is snow.
14 I wonder if the snow hasn’t melted yet.
2 I wonder if it’s cold.
18 I wonder why they are skating.
5 I wonder if it’s fun to go skating there.
13 I wonder if it is a mall or something else.
9 I wonder if they are having fun?
10 I wonder if you can learn to skate there.
7 I wonder if I’ll know what’s the tallest building?
11 I wonder what the big A is for (The sign with the big A).
22 I wonder what is inside the buildings.
3 I wonder what the building in the background are for.
21 Absent.

We are going to keep track of the students wonderings and see how we can get our students to think more deeply over time.  Here are the themes that emerged from this first attempt.  Students wondered about:

Skating and Recreation/Fun  (N = 5)

Location (N = 2)

Celebrations, Religious and Spiritual Practices (N = 1)

Housing & Work (Infrastructure/services/buildings) (N=6)

As you can see by the themes that are in bold, some items from our list did come up.

Our next steps are to work with students using a shared inquiry model to focus on Religious and Spiritual practices in our daily lives. Shannon and I are leading with this one because we felt it was the most challenging and potentially would put students in an uncomfortable position of feeling as though they had to be ambassadors for their religions.  We want to facilitate sharing and students being able to see and learn from one another.  We decided to lead this one to ensure many voices are heard, model inclusion, empathy and appreciating different points of view. This will serve us well when students form inquiry circles to study the other aspects of daily life in the present day. We will guide the students to live like researchers and consider many different perspectives and points of view. They will also have to engage in social studies research methods to confirm or disprove what they think they know on various topics. This different forms of thinking and research will include: looking at artifacts, interviewing, studying pictures and other more traditional means of research including web search.