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Category Archives: Communicates to Inspire

Got Me a Blog, Now What?

 

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Hey Let’s Innovate!

#psd70 Middle years students using devices to create academic vocabulary on their class site.

Their images, video clips, text, audio, and research are all being crowdsourced.

 

OK, now I dun it! I’ve used the INNOVATE word and if you know me or follow my blog, you can associate this buzz word with the educational technology focus that I share so much about. Well, yeah, this time the headline is to catch your eye. To get you hooked into read further. Not that I don’t have something important to say when the headline isn’t using overused words/ideas, but I wanted subscribers or anyone who is reading this to think about INNOVATION (in education).

To innovate or not to innovate!

Really, that is not a question or a statement that teachers should be worrying about and education has been speaking about being innovative (with edtech) for the last decade. In an age where traditional educational systems value compliance, conformity and complacency, the idea of looking at innovative teaching and learning using technology has taken off because technology has found it’s way into everyday teaching and learning. It is now accessible in schools (some more than others), Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives have found their way to alleviate the stress on school divisions to keep up with access and vendors are coming up with classroom-specific tools.

Read what the Canadian Education Association was saying about Innovation in 2012 and some of the great questions they were asking.

So what about QUALITY LEARNING?

This year our school division Administrators and Teacher Leaders are working with the University of Calgary as we delve into Student-Centered Leadership. We are asking many questions, reading current educational research and looking at what we need to learn to promote the learning of our students. (Administrators are looking at what they need to learn to promote the learning of their staff.) So, can this work be innovative? Maybe some of the actions will be, maybe others will be remixes from previous work only better. We are continuing this learning by:

  • modelling effective teaching practices
  • engaging in professional conversations around student work
  • designing learning with colleagues
  • facilitating effective PLC, etc.

Here’s where I’m at with INNOVATION.

Although the definition of innovation is the action or process of innovating; a new method, idea, product, etc…. For me, edtech can be innovative in that it is either a support or service that creates value for our teachers and students. Nowadays tech tools are less expensive (who can remember a classroom projector that cost $10,000? Now they are much, much less and found in many classrooms today). Edtech satisfies a need and it benefits many. It allows for engagement, creation, discovery using different tools, mediums and avenues for learners. Edtech also has destabilized education where the teacher no longer is the “IT” person; the one with all the knowledge or access to it through print materials. Learning has become more open with Social Media, online communities, open educational resources, and edtech tools/cloud-based systems. So, with all of this available to me, why would I also start on an “edventure” within the Innovative Teacher Academy with AJ Juliani? I enjoy learning, but it is also the idea that I have some ‘homework’ to do, I have some learning to take on, and I get to learn with others outside of my jurisdiction. Co-constructing our experiences makes this Academy a rich learning opportunity. I hope to live up to it!

If you want to check out what some of us are sharing publicly, follow and/or search #ITA17. As you can see below, my Tweetdeck has a new column.

 

 

 

Innovation in Tech with Student-centered Learning

Here’s a brief overview of a ‘spark/ignite’ session that I did this morning with all of our High School teachers at one of our sites.

  • There are opportunities for staff to further explore creativity and the design process – read Innovator’s Mindset and Launch as they are two solid books with practical strategies that teachers can employ the very next day. (If you want to listen to George, Katie, John and AJ speak on this topic check out #IMMOOC Season 2 – Episode 1 video that was streamed just 5 days ago.) I had my ignite groups listen to 8:45 – 10:30 and then at the end of my session to 58:00+.

LTPF Policy Direction 1

Students use technology, online learning and digital learning media to access, share, and create knowledge.

  • With so many websites, apps, extensions out there sometimes teachers can be overwhelmed, check out edtechteacher.org/tools for vetted resources.

Students use technology, online learning and digital learning media to demonstrate the competencies.

  • Have you ever been to an Escape Room? What if you could bring that into your classroom and have students dig into the curriculum in a different way by problem solving, thinking critically, collaborating and communicating in authentic and engaging ways. Check out breakoutedu.com for basic information and games.breakoutedu.com/atoc to see an existing list of immersive games that you can play. (Password – showyourwork.)

Students use technology, online learning and digital learning media to demonstrate what they know and are able to do, through effectively using a range of resources and media.

  • All of our students have access to Read&Write for Google Chrome – for use in GDocs, .pdfs and websites. Many ways they can provide teachers with information.
  • GSuite of core services – GClassroom keeps getting better and better, students enjoy access to online materials whenever and wherever they are.

Students use technology, online learning and digital learning media to monitor their learning progress and inform decisions through the use of data and evidence-based reasoning.

  • There are many formative assessment tools, check out some of them below:

formativeassess

 

 

 

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.

 

Privacy, Digital Literacy & Networked Classrooms

In 2017, education, educators, students and parents are trying to keep up with the unstoppable pace of technological change in the classroom. It is no longer just about the devices nor the access but also looking at the profound impact on privacy protection for our students. We want them to have active and positive digital footprints while also protecting them from becoming soft targets for commercial data gathering and marketing practices by various companies.

I attended the full day in-depth workshop followed by the evening public lecture sponsored by the Educational Technology Council of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. The evening opened up a discussion on Canadian and American research on the privacy challenges posed by networked classroom technologies and educational software. It also shared new insights on education law and policy designed to protect students from cyberbullying.

The keynote and panelist speakers (biographies below) are renowned Canadian and American research scholars who shared new developments on the privacy challenges.  They also discussed new insights into education law and policy designed to protect Canadian students from cyberbullying.

 

Full Evening Public Lecture Video:

 

Speaker Biographies:
Dr. Valerie Steeves – Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa 

Professor Jane Bailey – Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Dr. Leslie Shade – Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Dr. Priscilla Regan – School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

Dr. Philip McRae – Alberta Teachers’ Association 

These researchers are also leading a national Canadian research study that is examining privacy, online behavioural targeting of children and youth, digital economy policies, and cyberbullying. Information is found at http://www.equalityproject.ca.

 

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!