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Teaching and Learning are in my DNA

A recent call-out in our provincial Alberta Teacher’s Association newspaper caught my attention and had me mulling over an idea for a bit. The call out by editor Cory Hare was asking for anyone who had a family teaching connection story.

My reflections and discussions with my mom (Maman) took some time but eventually I had enough information that I could write my own Teaching and Learning DNA story.

My mother, Angéline, is a retired teacher. She started her professional post-secondary work in 1950 at Normal School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Up until 1970, those who wanted to become teachers in Canada would attend Normal School. In Manitoba, my mother attended this Normal School for one year and then took two years of Summer courses from the Department of Education to receive her Professional First Class Teaching Certificate. (Background on the Teaching Profession in Canada by Historica.)

She had an interesting teaching career which spanned a couple of decades and in a few different provinces. At the time she was a single French Canadian girl from a farm in St. Laurent, Manitoba who wanted to teach and see the world.

Teaching highlights:

  • Bourret (Catholic) School from 1951-1953. It was a one room country school in the Municipality of Morris north of Winnipeg with grades 1-8. My mother taught about a dozen children in five different grades and she lived next door in a Trustee’s house. The school was warmed up by a stove inside the building with no indoor plumbing, only an outhouse.
  • St. Eustache (Catholic) School from 1953 – 1955. This two story school near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba was run by the nuns in the region. Here my mom taught grade three. Being fluent in French, she also taught this subject to her students (who were also French Canadian), however this was quite controversial since English was touted to be the ONLY language studied in regular schooling. This would of course change in the late 60’s with the Official Languages Act.permanent-tchr-cert-maman
  • Flin Flon, Manitoba from 1955-1957. Here she also taught grade three. This public elementary school no longer exists as it was one of four schools that were condemned by the Fire Commissioner’s Office in 1975.
  • Dryden, Ontario 1957-1958. With two other Flin Flon teachers, my mother and her posse travelled to Ontario and worked at a public elementary school. Her duty was to work with grades 2-4 special education students that came from poor families. Unfortunately, there was not much support for these three teachers and the Superintendent’s leadership was abysmal, so all three left after one year.
  • For six months, my mother travelled to Europe, and worked in Winnipeg until tchr-cert-ontario-mamanlanding a job in Kenora, Ontario where she stayed from January 1959 – June 1961. It would be the first time she worked with grade ones and then looped with them to grade two the next school year. This was also the time that she met my father, Wolfgang Otto, who recently immigrated from Germany. The two were married in 1959. Both seeking to get away from the harsher winter Canadian climate, they moved to Lethbridge, Alberta in 1961.
  • St. Patrick’s Elementary School from 1961 – 1967. Under the Principal’s Berlando and Mahoney leadership, my mother flourished in grade three. Here, resources, professional learning and collegiality were accessible. Superintendent of Lethbridge Catholic School Division was Robert Kimmitt. See this overview by the ATA about teaching in the province in the 1960s.

leth-tchr

 

Even though my mother retired from teaching in 1968 (I happen to come into the picture, and my brother five years later), she continually advocated for teachers, students and parents. In 1978, the Lethbridge Catholic Separate School Division added a French Immersion track and my mother was on a committee that helped organize this transition, she also was the main contact to answer questions from parents and supported teachers in the French Immersion classes. She also was co-owner (with my father) of Otto’s Spudnut and Ice Cream Shop located in downtown Lethbridge until 2000 when they both retired from the business.

Throughout my schooling years, both of my parents have placed an emphasis on being an active participant in learning. They would look for resources, speak with teachers, council members in order to advocate for the best education possible for us and others in Lethbridge. I was also influenced by two other teachers in my mom’s family – my Aunt in British Columbia. and my Uncle (who is also an Oblate Father) in Manitoba.

I always liked learning and my first real job was as a City of Lethbridge Lifeguard and Instructor with the Recreation Department. At the same time I attended University of Lethbridge, then spent one year in Tours, France at the L’Institut d’Etudes Françaises and finally came back to the UofL to complete my two degrees – B.A. – French Language with Art and Math Minors and B.Ed. – Modern Languages.

Teaching highlights (more details found at LinkedIn):

  • St. Michael’s School, Bow Island (taught K-12)
  • St. Francis Junior High School, Lethbridge (taught French Immersion 8,9)
  • High Park School, Stony Plain (taught 3-9, Assistant Principal)
  • Stony Plain Central, Stony Plain (taught 6-9, Assistant Principal)
  • Centre for Education, Parkland School Division, Stony Plain (Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator)

In my 25 year teaching career, I have taught students from K-12 various subjects in both English and French, worked in the Special Education environment to support Individual Program Plans for students, stepped into two Assistant Principalship roles, completed my Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Lethbridge (2006) and now work to support staff as a Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator. I sit on a number of provincial committees that support curriculum development and the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF). And I facilitate workshops throughout the province to teachers, professors, educational assistants, library learning commons staff, I.T. personnel, parents, students and senior executives on a variety of curricular and educational technology topic areas.

I have worked and continue to surround myself with some amazing educators! They brighten my day, make me think, support my work, share and connect my reflections. I am truly blessed in my upbringing and in my educational journey.

I also strive to connect successful strategies with sound pedagogy as well as up-to-date research and neuroscience principles. Whether you are an educator or not, being a lifelong learner and relationship builder are key to continually staying relevant in the globalness of today’s society. I share my thoughts and resources via this blog and my Twitter feed (@nlakusta).

As I regularly speak with my mom about the vast amount of technological changes that have occurred in the classroom, she is amazed at how the world doesn’t seem ‘huge’ to students of today. With one swipe of a finger a student could be speaking with another student or expert in another country or another classroom.

bnme maman

And the teaching DNA won’t stop with me as my daughter currently is in her second year at the University of Alberta studying to become an elementary teacher. As well, scattered throughout Canada are cousins who are also teachers making a difference with the students they work with everyday.

 

Moving from Artificial to Engaging

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning conjures both positive and negative opinions on these terms. For those into gaming, the many multi-player games on computers and gaming systems have incredible reaction times and awe-inspiring environments. For this into TV games, IBM’s Watson made quite a splash on the quiz show Jeopardy in 2011 against former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. And for movie-goers, Terminator’s Skynet world domination over the course of five films.

In the world of education, opportunities for teachers and students to create and design reactionary systems have found a common place thanks to a renewal in coding and making. Now to take this learning to higher level, there are children’s toys on the market that learn from the children that own them, there are robot/webcam systems that learn facial expressions, software systems that recognize a human voice and there is a great game below designed by Google Developers that shows a method that programmers use to teach computers to recognize in this case, hand drawing. It is called Quick, Draw! and it is a game where a neural net tries to guess what you’re drawing.

Watch the video to get the gist of Quick, Draw!

 

Are you ready? Do you want to train a “computer”? Go to https://quickdraw.withgoogle.com/ and have fun.

Questions to ask students:

  • why would training a computer/system be important?
  • if you could create one yourself, what would you like the computer/system to be able to do?
  • besides the examples share in the post above, are there other movies, TV shows, articles, songs depicting artificial intelligence and/or machine learning? Share them with each other and on this post.
 

Keeping the Thoughts at Bay

notebook

Notes, note-taking, messages, information – it’s all important at different times throughout my day and work week. I use all sorts of tools to take notes, but for the short ones, like a quick stand up meeting, a voicemail, phone call or quick “to do” list, I have relied on a physical notebook for the work that I do.

Sure, I use GSuite applications and Notes iOS app on my smartphone and laptops, but my “go to” note taker has been the 9′ x 6′ (23cm x 15cm) notebook that I use each school year. Just like my previous teacher notebooks, when I was in the classroom, this one is in paper form and stays in my office. However, lately I have noticed that I want something more available to me, whenever the need arises. I turned to Google Keep for this.

gkeep

Being a school division that uses the Google Suite of Applications, it was an easy tool to turn to. I’ve dabbled with it, seen other teachers use it effectively with their students, but I did not quite have a continual and mindful purpose in using it.

Here’s how I’ve started to use Google Keep:

  • in Google Chrome settings > on startup > add Google Keep tab to the “open specific page or set of pages” during start up so it is ready for me to review when I sign in.
  • install Save to Google Keep chrome extension for this items of interest that I’d like to look further into (otherwise I use the Diigo chrome extension for blog posts, larger information for later use (no time limit).
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone. I love the audio note feature here as it keeps the audio while also providing a transcript.
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone to make a drawing. Whether it’s a quick description or a math problem, I’ll have it saved for later use.
  • within GKeep, create labels. Right now, I’m using monthly labels and color backgrounds. Gives me a quick overview of what’s occurred or occurring in a specific month.
  • within GKeep, you can easily add collaborators or save to a Google Doc. Information doesn’t just have to reside with me, crowd sourcing is easy here.
  • within GKeep, the Remind Me feature is getting a lot of use. Now I don’t have to highlight or sticky note my notebook to ensure things get done. I do use Google Tasks within my Google Calendar so this remind feature is fantastic. The reminder can be set for a date/time or even a location.
  • within GKeep, adding images, making lists, or just typing notes gives me some creative writing choices.
  • within GKeep, you’ll never lose a note. Just search for it! It even uses OCR so you can take a picture of a page with text (textbook, magazine article, etc.)  which will also be searchable.

After a couple of weeks, my digital notetaking is doing well. I do scribe some items in my notebook and transfer them to GKeep. I think that after Christmas Break I will “hide” my print notebook whereby I will need to use GKeep exclusively. We’ll see how that goes!

 

 

Behind Every Great Venue are….

Today, when we think of Rogers Place in Edmonton we see this:

and think of this:

Oilers salute fans at first NHL game in Rogers Place

Oilers salute fans at first NHL game in Rogers Place

 

Yet, my visit this morning was about this:

A behind the sceneslook of the video production, tech equipment, server room, 1250 screens and Media Centre in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

  • The state-of-the-art video production facility was designed and installed by Matrix Video, simultaneously with the Digital Signage/IPTV system.
  • The central equipment room consists of 18 full-height racks including Sony HD cameras, Fujinon lenses, Imagine Communications routing, Ross switching and CG, Christie’s Pandora’s Box for the extraordinary on-ice projection and a Blackcam specially designed track-camera that is under-mounted on the huge centre-hung scoreboard. The camera is on an 11-metre track and is capable of traveling up to 4 metres per second!
  • There are six (6!) Ross Xpression systems to drive the Arena’s remarkable LED system. That includes the multiple exterior boards, the spectacular screen in Ford Hall, both LED ribbons and the centre-hung scoreboard.
  • Matrix had staff from every one of their offices assisting in installing the over 1250 screens located in Rogers Place! No subcontractors here.
  • The main and upper concourses have over 200 screens that are in a 1×3 videowall configuration that allows for two separate advertising opportunities and for the game in progress to be seen at all times. This unique model required significant configuration to ensure that synchronization happens seamlessly over the network throughout the entire arena.
  • The Media Centre in the Hockey Hall of Fame is home to two 4×4 videowalls that were calibrated to produce the most colour-calibrated perfect image for television.

So you can see how “geeky” and giddy I was to walk through a building of this magnitude and really get an idea for how all of the signage works, what it can do, how it can be configured, and so on. As a season ticket holder of both the Oilers and Oil Kings, I was familiar with the facility, now, with this behind the scenes tour, I can appreciate how the “fan’ experience is enhanced with all of this technology. I also take away some ideas as to how I can share this within the school division that I work in. What kind of experiences with digital signage should we be looking into for our current schools as well as School 2 in Spruce Grove? What kinds of skills and competencies should we be developing in our staff and students? Also important is the working relationship and open communication between your IT department and other departments and school sites. I liaise closely with IT so they can understand the educational point of view, but I also get to hear and see the amazing work to ensure that our staff and students have access to resources and global/local opportunities to connect with each other electronically.

Rogers Place - TVs under scoreboard for Coaches

Rogers Place – TVs under scoreboard for Coaches

Ice School classroom

Ice School classroom

Interview platform and digital screen background

Interview platform and digital screen background

A sincere thanks to Matrix Video Communications and Rogers Place for the tour. It was unforgettable.

 

 

An Adventurous List – Would You be Game?

Skiing phenom Jérémie Heitz challenges himself to ski 15 of the Alps’ steepest 4,000-meter peaks in just two ski seasons.

Skiing phenom Jérémie Heitz challenges himself to ski 15 of the Alps’ steepest 4,000-meter peaks in just two ski seasons.

I make lists, most people I know make lists. Some are quick, some are longer. Sometimes they are checklists, other times they are steps to finalize a project. However, I came across a most adventurous list of an amazingly interesting person this week. His list is so ‘out there’ in terms of something people have not yet accomplished and his strength and passion for what he is doing was so compelling that I needed to write this blog.

I have added some ideas and questions that can be used in both English/French classrooms (the video is in French with English subtitles and some English).

TRAILER

La Liste TEASER 1 from TimeLine Missions on Vimeo.

Pretty fantastic!

I see this video being shown in middle years Language Arts and high school CALM classes as points of discussion. Overall the video is 47:22 in length, however, the questions that I created to accompany it may push the time to 90 minutes due to students composing and/or sharing their thoughts individually, in small groups and as a whole.

FULL LENGTH http://www.redbull.tv/video/AP-1PMT7S62N1W11/la-liste

QUESTIONS with timestamp (stop at the time and review the question)

Feel free to copy these questions into a collaborative document like a Google Document. Students could work individually or in groups to answer them and even use Read&Write for Google Chrome to assist in responses.

5:49 – Do you think Jérémie will ski all 15? Explain your answer.

8:17 – Who is Jérémie? What characteristics/traits were mentioned? Are there others that you would add to the list? Do you have any of these traits?

11:00 – Planning. What must Jérémie think about? (Factors – physical, environmental, technical, financial…)

14:29 – What is a high-risk activity that you have tried or would like to? Why?

20:30 – What kind of training is needed for steep skiing? Is it the same as downhill or cross-country skiing?

25:20 – Jérémie was excited to ski the same mountain peak as Sylvain 50 years later. Are there any other sports/activities ‘records’ that were similarly accomplished and/or broken that you can share? Is there a particular ‘record’ that you would like to accomplish/break in your lifetime? Describe and tell why.

29:25 – Hiking and sleeping on the mountain requires planning. What items, resources, and safety considerations must be needed? Share your inferences not just the facts.

32:00 – DO you think Jérémie will go back up this mountain and try again? Y/N. Would you?

36:20 – Conditions in mountain ranges can be extreme. Would you have the patience to wait like Jérémie? What does it mean when his friend says that Jérémie “has the strength to say no”?

41:21 – Jérémie was able to ‘redo’ a steep ski. How do you feel when you are able to redo a school project, assignment, or activity?

45:29 – Did Jérémie achieve his goal?

Overall, can you plot out on Google maps all 15 of the mountains Jérémie wanted to ski as well as their descriptions? Would you be able to suggest 2-3 other mountains in the world for Jérémie to tackle? Establish a criteria for a perfect steep skiing mountain.

What did you think of the camera and video production? Where there enough closeups, pan shots, etc? Would you change the video production in any way? How and why? Using a green screen, could you create an ‘adventurous’ steep skiing short video of one minute or less using some different video techniques?


NOTE

Whatever you do with this video in engaging your students, it certainly will be something they will never forget watching in class! And if you want to continue to see some other adventurous videos, check out http://www.redbull.tv/ (pre-screen videos before showing to students).

Feel free to comment on your experiences with this activity!

 

Outrageous Learning with Ozobots

INTRODUCTION

Ozobot is a tiny robot, measuring 1 inch in height and diameter, which comes with a photo sensor array for recognition of patterns, lights, colors, and codes, an automatic detection functionality for physical and. digital playing surfaces, and color sensing technology. Ozobot is a powerful tiny robot that expands STEM and computer science learning through a collection of game based activities and digital apps. http://ozobot.com

EARLY YEARS

MIDDLE YEARS

HIGH SCHOOL

 

 

Creative Construction with MakeDo

INTRODUCTION

Makedo is a simple to use, open-ended system of tools for creative cardboard construction. Using the saw, screwdriver, and screws, students of all ages can build imaginative and useful creations from everyday cardboard. Makedo facilitates an interdisciplinary, hands on learning experience which engenders a deeper understanding of concepts with application to real-life scenarios. What’s more, Makedo is accessible for all types of students and their differing learning needs, Makedo teaches students to value the learning process as much as the results and Makedo develops collaboration skills.

EARLY YEARS