December 7, 2017

The Magic of Flexibility

(if you are reading this in your inbox, please go see the original article on PdPractice in order to see the videos and other media. Thanks!)

Last Friday, Avi Spector and I facilitated two very intense professional learning sessions with two very different groups of teachers in two very different parts of town.

On a Friday.

When I started the day, I felt exhausted and thought to myself – 8 hours until the weekend! But by the end of the day I felt invigorated. THIS is the magic of working in stations and offering flexible opportunities for teachers to talk about what matters to them. If I had gone in there to present a fancy slideshow, I would have ended the day even more tired from talking all day long.

Listening to teachers talk, watching them interact at different stations, seeing them use technology as par for the course, and hearing their feedback on the different activities, such as this reflection activity using flipgrid, was absolutely inspiring and affirming.


Click here to view the full grid

Friday’s sessions were two in a long line of different PD opportunities since August. Each of them represent another chapter in this year’s story about learning environments. More and more, both Avi and I are examining how we embed the principles of UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in what we do as we redesign our professional learning environments. Because – if we want to see this in our classrooms, we want to model this in our PD. I believe that, deeply.

So here are some highlights from various sessions since August.

We arrive early in order to set up our space. We want to model flexible learning environments that include different stations to facilitate small working groups as well as opportunities for personal learning & reflection. The stations tend to look something like this:

  1. Design Station: a station where teachers are invited to design a learning space, choosing specific design criteria from a booklet of 3 different choices. Sometimes we ask teachers to take pictures of their spaces and share them at the teacher station or on twitter.
  2. Resource Station: a station where teachers can view different resources on PD Mosaic and other platforms, and write or talk about what they learned. We usually offer a lot of choice here, so people can choose the resources they view.
  3. resource cards to choose from

  4. Presentation Station: a station where teachers guide themselves through our presentation and have a discussion or take notes about what they view (we usually have a presentation, we just don’t present it ourselves!). I learned this strategy from Natasha, a teacher in one of our adult centres.
  5. tweet about collaborative presentation notes

    presentation station

  6. Reflection Station: a station where teachers can reflect and respond to different prompts. Sometimes it is an article or a set of questions. Sometimes the reflections are done individually or in pairs. We are starting to use flipgrid to structure these responses.
  7. Teacher Station: a station where teachers can talk to the workshop facilitators about any ideas or questions that come up from the other stations. In the classroom, this would be a great place for some conversation-based formative assessment.
  8. An instruction card from one of our teacher stations.

    teacher station instruction card

Here is an example of what our spaces might look like before we set them up:

And this is what our learning environments tend to look like once we set them up:

We are very intentional in our planning for these kinds of workshops. We design each one based not only on our subject matter but we want to make sure we differentiate our content and activities so that each of our participants can access what we are offering to them according to their comfort level and background knowledge.

To help us do that, we cycle through these orientations, adapted from CASTs 5 tips for designing learning environments:

Design the space to match the goal

Provide resource areas that everyone can access (This includes technology & digital resources)

Make learning processes visible in your environment

Make learning goals visible in your environment

In my next article, I will write about these orientations in more detail. They are becoming super influential in how I approach the learning environments in which I work.

June 14, 2017

Transforming thinking with Ayodele Harrison

One evening back in April, I came across a tweet about a Facebook live professional development event given by Ayodele Harrison.

I was intrigued by the title – Strategies & tools to engage disconnected students who hate learning math. Free online PD – so went to check it out. I came in towards the end of the session and knew that I had found a kindred teaching spirit in Ayodele!

Ayodele had not been one of my Twitter contacts before that night so it was sheer serendipity that I found that tweet in my timeline. We are now connected on Twitter and if you have an account, I suggest you click on his picture here and follow him – his tweets and resources will be valuable additions to your professional learning practice!

His message is one of relationship around learning. As teachers, we have the power to design learning situations and create an environment that will allow our students to talk about math and, through conversation, become more engaged in their math learning. Ayodele does work in the area of teaching and learning strategies as well as in an area that is strongly connected to our ability to use and adapt to new strategies – and that is through our own sense of self-efficacy in teaching.

What I just described is a very rudimentary description of what Ayodele can offer. I connected with his message and his delivery so much that I asked if we could use some of the Facebook live footage on PD Mosaic. Lucky for us – he agreed!

He is in the process of turning the hour-long event into a series of shorter videos, each one framing a specific aspect of his message about transforming mathematical thinking in our students. The first two videos are already live on PD Mosaic and the others will be added as they are completed. They form part of a collection of resources called Rethinking Math Teaching and Learning. Click on the image below to go directly to this collection.

Rethinking math on PD Mosaic

I invite you to watch the series as it unfolds on PD Mosaic. These videos are designed for Math teachers however Ayodele also provides great resources for ALL educators. Besides through his Twitter link above, you can connect with Ayodele at the following spots:

  • Ayodele’s YouTube channel – what a wealth of online learning!!
  • His website – “Educating is about positioning all learners to discover, understand and walk in their greatness.“- Ayodele Harrison
  • Ayodele’s Facebook page – Like his page to receive updates about future online PD sessions and other resources!

I am so happy to have created this connection with Ayodele. As I often say – we can only truly get better together!

Posted in: News, PD, Teaching Resources
April 27, 2016

My AQIFGA 2016

Throwing John by Chuck Burgess on Flickr CC BY NC NDThe great thing about AQIFGA is that it holds an annual conference that focuses on Adult Education in Quebec.

Every single speaker and workshop highlighted an aspect of adult education …and that is really rare to find! We are usually left grappling with transferring ideas for youth sector to the adult education context. This is not a horrible thing but it is nice to have a place where this doesn’t have to happen.

In total I participated in four workshops – two as presenter and two as participant – and I was super happy to see a growing number of English sector teachers from across Quebec at AQIFGA this year!

Here is a summary of those four workshops:

Can One Teaching Strategy Respond to Many Needs? Yes!
PresentersDaniel Afriyie, EMSB Math and Science teacher and Tracy Rosen, CSSMI Provincial RECIT for Adult Ed

but really, Daniel was the star of the show here. I jumped in once in a while to go into detail about why I love and respect different parts of his process. Earlier in the year I put together a couple of videos about how he uses his interactive white board to record his lessons and share them with his students. This workshop was an opportunity to go deeper into the idea – he talked about the why as well as the how…and he modeled the process by recording the workshop using the interactive white board in the room where we presented. He also talked about where he wants to go with the concept from here.

I loved that, though he presented about how he teaches math, the participants actively talked about how they could use this technique for teaching other subjects. It is such a meaningful way to use technology to improve learning and the teacher/student relationship. Thanks, Daniel – great job!

Here is the presentation from that workshop, if you are interested.
http://bit.ly/1strategyAQIFGA

But I’m Not a Math Person, so I’ll Never Get It.
PresentersInes Renner and Jordan Venne, LBPSB Math and Science teachers

In this workshop Ines and Jordan challenged assumptions about Math and demonstrated how our own attitudes towards the subject can affect our students’ attitudes. They focused on developing a positive, growth oriented mindset in Math and how that is what ultimately affects student self-confidence, progress, and learning. I was so impressed by their presentation that I want to work with them to create resources to share with all of you…stay tuned!

Promoting Oral Interaction in the Adult Literacy Classroom
PresentersYusimy Dominguez Travieso, Maria Cristina Toro, and Farideh Raygan, RSB Language teachers

The workshop focused on different strategies to teach second (and third…and fourth…) languages to diverse groups of learners. The strategies were a mix of technology, role-playing, and game based strategies and the consensus was that whatever we do with our learners it needs to be relevant to their realities. I really appreciated the conversation around culturally relevant teaching – how it is not enough to just teach a language but we need to be aware of who our learners are as well as what is happening in the community around us and integrate that awareness into our classrooms in order to make learning stick.

Culturally relevant pedagogy has theoretical roots in the notion that learning is a socially mediated process and related to students’ cultural experiences. Culture is an important survival strategy that is passed down from one generation to another through the processes of enculturalization and socialization, a type of roadmap that guides and shapes behavior. If new information is not relevant to those frameworks of culture and cognition, people will never remember it. If the information is relevant, they will never forget it. http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-36-fall-2009/feature/relevant-beyond-basics

The ideas they presented fit in so nicely with the CCBE as well as the DBE program philosophies!

Have You Thought About Stations in Adult Education?
PresentersAvi Spector, RSB Regional RECIT for Adult Education and Tracy Rosen, CSSMI Provincial RECIT for Adult Ed

We offered participants a chance to learn about using stations in their classrooms by experiencing stations. We blah-blah-blahed for about 15 minutes before jumping right in to the experience. We offered three main stations – a teacher station, a video station, and a reading station – plus an extension station for anyone who finished a station activity early (ha! With 15 minute rotations between stations there was not much time to extend the learning during the workshop 🙂 ). The two of us sat at the teacher station in order to model how it might work in a classroom where there isn’t the luxury of an extra body to make sure all is going smoothly at the other stations. In order to ensure that things DID go smoothly, we left printed instructions at each station.

nobody listens to instructions anyway

I had a GREAT time at my own workshop! The beauty of cycling students through stations is the quality time that each group gets to spend with the teacher. Both Avi and I reflected that we had a richer experience as presenters because we had the opportunity to sit and connect with each of our participants in a small group setting as opposed to talking at a big group, which is what so often happens at conferences and in our classrooms.

Another reason I love using stations is that it helps to facilitate the concept of flipped learning i.e. using video to present material. The fact that we did this at one of our stations allowed us to flip within the classroom – freeing up teacher time to address questions, gauge understanding, clarify misconceptions, etc…

Here are the resources from our workshop:
Workshop Slide Showhttp://bit.ly/stationsfga – Some of this was presented in the initial intro and a lot was addressed at the Teacher Station as well.

YouTube Playlist: Emilie on Stationshttp://bit.ly/videostation – These were the videos we asked participants to watch at the Video Station. They were accompanied with a reflective journal activity (described in the Workshop Slide Show above).

Reading Station – participants could choose to read one or both of the following articles and then interview a partner about them (described in the Workshop Slide Show above).
Create Small Learning Communities with the Station Rotation Model by Catlin Tucker
Les Centres d’Apprentissage by Patricia Munante

So that was my AQIFGA 2016. Did you attend AQIFGA this year? What were your highlights?

***The image at the top of the blog post is Throwing John by Chuck Burgess on Flickr CC BY NC ND

Posted in: Blended Learning, PD
February 8, 2016

Talking about … Or doing

I’m at #lceeq2016 and let me underline the fact that I am super stoked to be here. I’ve been looking forward to these 2 days for weeks. 

Yesterday I read about Russel Quaglia and thought – oh yeah, he’s all about student voice and teacher voice. Squeeee! 

And now I’m here and I worry that once again we’re at a conference that talks about the importance of something. 

  
The speakers are all ‘experts’. Shouldn’t the speakers be teachers and students? 

It seems to me that listening to teachers and students would be the easiest way to highlight their voices…no?

To be continued after the day…let’s see how this unfolds.

Posted in: PD
January 17, 2016

Have you looked at PD Mosaic lately?

Some of you already know PD Mosaic as a website where you can find articles and resources for the professional development of teachers and other educators.

pdmosaic_website

Click on the image to go the website.

Recent developments and next steps
This year, I am focusing on sharing teacher stories and adding those to the resources on the site. I consider PD Mosaic in constant development because we are always honing our craft – always looking for ways to connect our students to their learning, to manage our classrooms, to make things more interesting, to make things better. A big part of my job is listening to you – teachers, consultants, directors, support staff – and making sure that the resources you need and want are available. Last year, a number of people said that it would be great to see concrete resources that relate directly to Adult Ed in Quebec. So now, I am working on a series of video capsules showcasing teachers in Quebec’s Adult Education community doing some pretty great things with technology. Here are the PD Mosaic tiles that include the stories we have so far – click on the images to go to the tiles on PD Mosaic.

pdmosaic_motivation pdmosaic_reflective pdmosaic_blended

In the works are tiles on Formative Assessment, Stations, and Digital Citizenship – all with an Adult Education focus and concrete examples from centres in Quebec.

If you have ideas for specific tiles or resources to add to existing tiles – please contact me. I would love to talk with you about them!

Some useful features
Anybody can use the site as a guest but when you register to the site, you can access a few other features that you may find useful.

Useful feature 1 – language switcher
PD Mosaic was initially developed in English but it now houses tiles in both French and English. You can also access it in English as PD Mosaic or in French as Pedago Mosaique. If you are not logged in, you can switch languages at the top of each page but if you are logged in you can select your preferred language in your account settings. At all times, you can access both French and English resources.

Useful feature 2 – organizing
The resources are organized in tiles and, once you register, you can group tiles together in two ways – as ‘Want it‘, for the things you want to learn more about, or ‘Got it‘, for those things you already know a lot about. Each of these groupings then, become your own Professional Development Mosaic.

Why is this useful? If you are interested in creating a portfolio of your professional learning, for personal use or to share with others, this can be a great way to organize where you are and where you want to go in your PD.

Useful feature 3 – Note taking
As you work through the tiles that interest you, you will notice a new area on the right side of your screen for note taking. If you have not yet made a note on that tile, it will look like this Click on the image to see it larger.

pdmosaic_nonote

If you do have a note it will look like this, Click on the image to see it larger.

pdmosaic_note

You can also see and edit all of the notes you have created in one central area, like this Click on the image to see it larger.

pdmosaic_notesview

Why is this useful? It’s a great way to remember your learning, your aha moments, your ‘ugh, this will never work’ thoughts over time and keep everything in the same place to reflect on at different times in the school year or over many years.

Useful feature 4 – Survey
Some of you may remember a tool that the RECIT created called My ICT Ease. Basically it was a questionnaire to guide a reflection on where you were in terms of using technology for teaching and learning. That tool is no longer available and some people have asked for something similar. So we developed a new questionnaire to guide a reflection on your teaching practice in general and then how technology fits into that practice. Like My ICT Ease, the survey can be answered multiple times and you can compare earlier results to your latest results. Click on the image to see it larger.

pdmosaic_surveysample

Why is this useful? If you fill out the survey, PD Mosaic can then suggest relevant resources based on the answers you provided. It can also fit nicely into the idea of keeping a professional portfolio as it includes visual representations of your answers at specific periods in time. Click on the image to see it larger.

pdmosaic_surveyresults

***You may not be interested in filling out the survey. No problem! It is not at all mandatory.***

And there you go – some of PD Mosaic’s recent developments and useful features that you might not have known about!

Posted in: PD