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October 4, 2018

How do our environments affect competency development?

I just got back from a rapid-fire three days at the annual #recitqc gathering. It is called the Formation conjointe et collaborative, which roughly translates to joint, collaborative training. Each year, it is three days where about 150 consultants in the recit network come from across Quebec to learn together. We organize workshops for and with each other and I love the conversations I get to have with my colleagues from all across the province about how we support teachers in their work.

I also love the flexibility of the event. There are tons of workshops and social events scheduled, yet when I need a mental break, there are also many quiet spots scattered around the event venue where I can go to take a break or work quietly alone or with some colleagues.

It’s within this flexible structure that I can really feed and develop my own competencies as a consultant.

This year I had the opportunity to experience the FCC with a new colleague. We worked together with two others to create a flexible workshop that invited participants to think and talk beyond the new equipment that is coming into our centres under the rubric of the Digital Action Plan for Education in Quebec. It is easy to get caught up in the new, shiny tools so we invited participants to ask each other – what else is this digital action plan allowing us to do? How is teaching changing? How is learning changing?

Of special interest to me is how our teaching and learning environments – our classrooms – are set up to support competency development in our students (and ourselves!). We decided to include a standing table in our session and it helped to provide a welcome break from sitting as well as to redistribute the noise from multiple conversations across the space.

As I wrote earlier, I was able to benefit from the flexible learning environment at the FCC. Being able to find quiet spaces to think at different times helped me from getting overwhelmed by the activity and noise of many people learning together. Having a conversation station at the standing table in our session also allowed us to have a conversation above the noise of the other conversations in the room, which made communication so much easier.

How can we create similar conditions in our classrooms? I ask that question in this video (French & English versions) (Merci, Marie-Ève, pour la super traduction!)

If you are interested in pursuing these lines of questioning, all of what we did, including these videos as well as feedback from participants, will always be available at this website.

October 3, 2018

New E-book – Giving a Shift: Sharing classroom practice around change

Kish Gue (EMSB, youth sector), Avi Spector (RSB, adult sector), and I (CSSMI, adult sector) are excited to launch our new, self-published, e-book, Giving a Shift.

http://bit.ly/givingashift

In it, we describe how we organized a day-long workshop for teachers… a little bit differently. We describe what we planned and our intentions behind it. We also share images and videos that we took throughout the day as well as our reflections after the fact. Some of my favourite parts of our book are the videos of teacher testimonies taken throughout the day. They give me hope in the work I do.

Both the workshop and the book were labours of love for us and our hope is that it can inspire others as well! It is available here – please share with your colleagues and friends!

Posted in: News
May 22, 2018

What technology do we need to get?

**Update: The digital action plan for education was released on May 30. You can read it here (in French). My understanding is that an English translation should be available in October. Keep posted for my (unofficial) synopsis of it in English in the near future.***

There is no one easy answer to that question. I’d say it depends, as does everything we choose for our classrooms, on our goals.

Right away though, I’d say DON’T buy a whack of devices to put in one room. Remember computer labs? **insert crickets here** I know that some schools and centres still have labs and when asked my opinion, I suggest to take them down and divvy up the machines amongst your classrooms.

Is it time to dismantle the computer lab? How often is everybody ready to use a computer at precisely the same time every Friday?

I would also warn away from putting all of your devices on a cart that needs to be reserved ahead of time.

Many of our schools and centres are moving towards flexible learning environments based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning – this requires flexible access to technology for learning, too.

The best use of technology is when it is available when you need it. If you redistribute the 20-30 computers that are in your computer lab, you can have a few per classroom. And if you have the luxury of purchasing some new devices (and we DO have that luxury this year in Quebec with our plan d’action numérique!) then you can add to those numbers. If you are contemplating a cart for devices (tablets, chromebooks, laptops…), I’d suggest to make sure that each classroom has some devices first and to use a cart for extra devices, when a group does need to all have a device at the same time.

What if each of your classrooms already has a number of devices? Then you may be interested in exploring some of the other items you can purchase to add to your curricula through robotics or open creative spaces. In fact, the only time I would suggest putting a lot of material into one room would be if your school or centre is in the process of developing a culture of shared collaboration and creativity through an open creative space (also known as a maker space). So that room would not be like a computer lab to go sit and do research or type a final copy of something but a room where students and teachers can learn together as they test out new ideas and create new solutions.

Posted in: Blended Learning, EdTech
May 1, 2018

More than just a pretty space

A recent edsurge article talks about how the race to buy fancy furniture is turning flexible classrooms into a fad.

What then happens is instead of designing classrooms that positively impact students, we are decorating classrooms, celebrating the new, and then moving on to the next shiny thing. Pinterest-pretty classrooms bring instant gratification, but little else.
from: How Furniture and Flexible Seating Is Turning Classroom Design Into a Fad by Robert Dillon, Jan 4, 2018, on EdSurge

And that is true.

As I like to say – flexible classrooms are so much more than just a pretty space.

Flexible learning is so much more than just a pretty space

If we focus on good pedagogy and design our classrooms according to that, we can stay away from jumping on a fad that will soon disappear when we ultimately discover that it isn’t a magic bullet on its own, just like any number of other education fads – remember differentiation, flipped classrooms, multiple intelligences, teaching to learning styles, technology infused learning, *insert education fad here*…

But what is good pedagogy? Even the term pedagogy is thrown around so much that its become jargon.

I think that terms like pedagogy and ideas like good teaching and learning are fluid. My belief is that good teaching and learning need to be based on theory, yet are then made very personal as they relate to each teacher’s classroom and practice.

It is no secret to those who follow my writing here or who have been to my classroom or workshops, that I define ‘good pedagogy’ as access to learning for our students. And for me, that is closely connected to how we design our learning environments.

The way I see it, it comes down to these things:

As long as we keep our goals in mind when we begin to design our learning environments we are off to a good start – and these goals need to be strongly intertwined with whatever program goals we are committed to teach

Then, if we ensure that the largest number of our students can access these goals we are off to an even better start. We can do that by providing diverse resources, diverse ways for students to see the course goals, and examples of how we can achieve these goals (processes and strategies). Actually, it is not enough to just provide them. Explicitly teaching students how to access all of this (and/or getting out of their way when they figure it out!) is an important step.

I can’t just expect success to happen. I explicitly design for it.

Build it and they will come? No. We need to change the conjunction –> Build it SO they will come.

—-

My ideas are heavily influenced by this article by CAST as well as the experiences of teachers across Quebec, some are seen here: bit.ly/qcspace and on PD Mosaic – UDL + flexible environments. A special thanks to Avi Spector, of course – we explore these ideas together a lot!

February 23, 2018

Learning situations

Here we are, a few short months away from mandatory implementation of many of our new secondary 3 – 5 courses in Quebec Adult Education and I still find myself asking questions about learning situations. What about you?

My latest line of questioning had to do with the distinction between a learning situation (LS) and a learning and evaluation situation (LES).

Sonya Fiocco confirmed that the LES included some more formal evaluation components (for formative evaluation purposes, remember, our courses have 100% exams) where the teacher would want to track student progress compared to the end of course outcomes and provide them some tools for assessment, like ‘I can‘ statements or rubrics or criterion-referenced checklists.

Essentially, the LS and the LES are the same in terms of the content of learning. The E in the LES has to do with evaluation tools that are integrated into the learning context. And that these evaluation tools would be similar to those used for final evaluation purposes.

This is where my questioning became evident for me. As a teacher, I am always doing formative assessment. I can’t imagine putting my students in learning situations without assessment tools built in throughout the situation.

What about you? How are you implementing learning situations in your centres and classrooms? Is formative assessment always a part of your process? How (and when) do you know where students are in relation to the end of course outcomes?

Coincidentally, this morning I stumbled upon some old DevPro videos about learning situations from back when they were first being introduced to adult education with our Common Core Basic Education (CCBE) programs a number of years ago.

Here they are – you may recognize some of the speakers! (If you are reading this in your email inbox, please visit the blog post via the link at the bottom of the email to see the videos. Thanks!)
The 3 Rs of a learning situation

The anatomy of a learning situation

The learning situation pretenders.

What is an LES? Avi’s take.

What is an LES? Marc-André’s take.

The LES: one way to stimulate learning