Although learning never stops, there are 194 days of learning in the 2015-16 calendar for the Simcoe County District School Board. Our fantastic team of resource teachers see so many amazing things across the county, we are going to use this space to document and share some of them with the world!
Post 194 is a thank you and a reminder. The thank you -
Thank you to all of you out there in SCDSB who tried something new this year. By "all of you" I mean all of you - from the classroom to the boardroom - students, parents, educators, administrators, community members, support staff, facilities, human resources, operations, budget, purchasing, communications, information technology services, health and safety, corporate risk, student services, senior admin and trustees - to all of you who took a risk, questioned the status quo and tried something new to make things better for students and for each other. Thanks!
The reminder -
This is a learning organization. It has to be. Every member of the SCDSB community has a role to play in supporting learning. Sometimes, the further away we get from the student desk, the easier it is to forget our ultimate purpose. We all have roles, responsibilities and guidelines, but we can't mistake them for our purpose. These roles, responsibilities and guidelines are all means to an end, all in service of learning and well-being for all.
Have a great summer.
Take some time to look back on all the learning documented and celebrated here on SCDSB's 194 Days of Learning Blog. Special thanks to everyone who contributed this year!
One day at the beginning of French class a student who is often quiet had a virtual reality (VR) headset with him. Of course, he put it away and hid it as class got started. There was a buzz in the room, as other students showed interest and we decided to run with it. With the entire class prompting and asking questions this student started to lead the discussion. He proposed that we could all make our own headsets and use them to travel around the world.
After two periods of problem solving and construction, we ended up with some devices that worked. Kind of. While the devices we made don't work perfectly, the skills developed by students through the process included critical thinking, communication and collaboration. One of my observations was how "out of their element" many of these students in Academic French were while constructing the devices. Leaders transpired through the process who were not always our traditional class leaders. The activity empowered students to work together and value each others unique strengths.
With the initial excitement of testing the devices done, our next steps are to use a combination of purchased and created VR headsets to tour French landmarks such as le Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Versailles. After completing their virtual tours, students will communicate their learning, observations and opinions to classmates in structured conversations within small groups. I will circulate using a Google Form to document my observations of student learning.
As an extension, students will spend some time exploring the tours available and bring one of interest in to class for discussion.
A month ago a student came to the library here at Portageview Public School, looking for information about a specific rock as she was gathering research for an inquiry in grade four on Rocks and Minerals.
Together we composed a tweet and sent an email to Science North/ Dynamic Earth in Sudbury.
A quick reply was received. The response from Science North led me to wonder if they would be interested in connecting with the students at Portage View to discuss and answer additional questions about rocks and minerals. Through email, they explained that they didn’t yet have an e-workshop for rocks and minerals but that they did have one for Gears and Pulleys. A phone call was set up between the two grade four teachers at our school and Melanie Smith a scientist from Science North to discuss this opportunity.
Through this communication, we learned that the Gears and Pulleys workshop not only was available but was also free at this time as it was being subsidized. We were very excited to hear about this program and set in motion the steps necessary to take part in this program. A date was arranged, materials were sent and arrived from Science North and a check to ensure that the online conferencing we would use for our meeting (Zoom) would work. We were now ready to go!
In April, the grade four students arrived in the library with their ipads ready to take part in this online workshop. Scientist Melanie from Science North facilitated the program from her office in Sudbury.
The grade four students used ipads throughout the workshop to document their learning and then used Book Creator to create a finished product to share their learning. We have been asked to share some of these with Science North.
Below is a video of one of the recounts created by a group of students:
This experience was an excellent opportunity for the students at Portage View to participate in hands-on learning, connect with a real scientist and ask questions to an expert in the field!
Next week is June first. I can't believe it, but it is that time of year. June is a time for endings and beginnings, grief and excitement. For me, it is a time of reflection. A time to look back at the work we have done and the impact it has had. This year, nothing has given me more gratification than the transforming learning spaces inquiry. It has been a privilege to work with incredible educators who have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones to meet the learning needs of their students. This was a true inquiry, we didn't really know how it was going to go. We certainly had no idea the spread it would have. We started with a small group of teachers and it organically grew to touch schools in all areas of our Board. It has become a constant conversation and starting point for many other inquiries. Educators are seeing the connections between transforming their spaces and it's connection to STEAM, Inquiry and play based learning. When space is transformed so is the learning. We have heard from students and staff that changing the space has created an environment that has allowed students to make decisions. They need to think about the working space that works best for them. Moving to community space rather than individually held real estate has fostered collaboration, a sense of team and empathy.
Mrs. Sweeney's Door!
We are also seeing that having a variety of spaces is having an impact on movement. Students are moving and being active in their learning significantly more than they were with traditional desks and chairs. We know this is important, "Amazingly, the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning" (Jensen, 2005) For more information on the movement/brain connection, check out this link; Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Eric Jensen. We are seeing students who are now motivated to come to school and engage in learning in ways they never have before. We have learned a great deal about the importance of physical space on student learning over the last few months but this is just the beginning. We are encouraged by what we are hearing from the participants of this inquiry. We have also been inspired by spaces in Private Industry. Tyger Shark digital media welcomed us into their thoughtfully considered space in downtown Barrie. They have designed their space to foster creativity and collaboration. Between their space and their message of, "we need people who are hungry to constantly learn" we felt inspired and affirmed in our work.
This work is challenging and there are often more questions than answers but when I walk into a transformed space and feel the learning, I know it is worth it. This year, I feel like June is only a launching pad for the incredible learning and work to come. The little inquiry that could is no longer little and it will only continue to gain momentum. I couldn't be more proud to part of this team that is changing learning environments for the better.
For 7 weeks this Spring, over 90 Grade 5-8 classes from across Simcoe County read the same book during our first ever SCDSB Read Aloud. The inspiring novel that was chosen for this exciting event was Walking Home by Eric Walters.
The story is about a thirteen-year-old boy and his younger sister who, as a result of political unrest, go on a journey of over a hundred miles across Kenya to find their relatives. The children encounter many challenges along the way. A companion website brings the novel to life, through photos, videos and maps.
This project came about after a small group of teachers and teacher librarians were inspired by the Global Read Aloud and wanted to do something similar here in Simcoe County. After choosing the book, it was decided that all Grades 5-8 classes would be invited to participate. Melanee Vandermolen's Grade 5 students at West Bayfield Elementary School created promotional posters as part of their Media Literacy program, which were copied and sent to all schools to promote the project.
From the beginning, the organizers felt strongly that they wanted to be inclusive of all Grade 5-8 teachers and students, regardless of their comfort with technology. The priority of this read aloud was to put the focus on the book itself, rather than the technology tools used for exploring and connecting. Just over 90 teachers responded to the email invitation by signing up on a Google Form. From there, the organizers used that list of contacts to keep the project moving forward. Teachers were asked if they wanted to connect their classes with another one and share ideas about the book.
The culminating activity was a very special video conference on Google Hangouts on Air. In preparation, the teachers were asked to work with their students to come up with rich questions and share them with the organizing committee. A few classes were chosen to go "live" with Mr. Walters and ask the questions submitted on behalf of the contributing classes.
Photo by S.English - used with permission
If you missed the conversation with Eric Walters and would like to watch a recording of it, click below to access the video on YouTube:
Be sure to follow us on Twitter to watch for updates for next year. The organizers welcome others who wish to join in so that the SCDSB Read Aloud can be expanded to include more grade levels. Be sure to complete our feedback survey if you participated in the Read Aloud in any way this year. We want to hear your voices before making decisions about next year's project.
A big thank you to all the classes who participated, especially to those teachers and students who shared ideas with others.
Students! Teachers! Teacher Librarians! Please leave us a comment. What did you like most about the SCDSB Read Aloud?
There are 14 schools in SCDSB participating in New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL) initiatives. These schools are pushing the envelope with innovative ideas. On Thursday May 19th school teams are getting together to share successes and lessons learned throughout the year. Teams will include students, parents, teachers and administrators.
This hangout will be a station in a carousel of sharing at our Deep Learning Lab. Please excuse any 'dead air' moments as we transition between different teams. If you have any questions for the schools sharing, please feel free to tweet them with the tags #SCDSB #NPDL. We'll do our best to get the questions to schools as they are sharing.
You can watch the live event right here at 10:45 - 11:30 am on May 19th, 2016.
Tonight, we held a celebration and screening of films created by students for our SCDSB Student Film Festival. The theme this year was "What Does Belonging Look Like?". Getting the chance to hear students explain the messages in their videos and what they learned in the process was very powerful. Some of these explanations included;
that he hid a message in the credits about gender neutrality
her powerful metaphor for equity
how in creating the video she felt that students in her school really reflected and therefore felt as though they belonged even more than before
how he was now belonging in his new school after creating the video about his friends before leaving his previous school
how he shared the message supporting others in making new friends with humour
how they connected with students across the world
While we celebrated by watching the products, the real work was in the process for this Film Festival. Students all worked through a feedback cycle where they provided feedback on all the other films before the final submission date. Many students worked this feedback into their edits expertly.