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Category Archives: Providing Instructional Leadership

Harnessing Skynet for Good: Using AI in the Classroom

When we think artificial intelligence, it is very likely that we conjure up scenes from franchised science fiction thriller (Terminator) or complete infatuation with a computer (Her) or even autocorrect on our own smartphones.

Check out a basic video overview on Artificial Intelligence. (5:27)

Examples in Everyday Life article and more HERE.

 

How teachers can utilize AI in engaging student learning with next practice strategies?

AUTOMATION: assistance with grading. Here teachers can give quick feedback to students through a survey that is autograded. Opportunities for exit tickets, anticipatory knowledge gathering of a new concept/topic or just general interest will give both teachers and students a baseline of information to work from.

  • Chatbots like those found on Snatchbot (https://snatchbot.me/) can be created by students and teachers. Examples like Mitsuku, WestJet’s Juliet and Snatchbot gallery.
  • Chatbots for students – these at https://goo.gl/wtu7M6 can be used to get organized or to have a conversation.
  • Siri is found on an iOS device in Settings > Siri & Search. Allow “Hey Siri”.
  • Cortana is a digital agent for Windows 10.
  • A caution for teachers in using Voice Assistants like Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home in their classroom. Currently these smart speakers connect with a personal account which would not use a school division’s filtering system. Once these smart speakers are able to utilize or be connected to a hosted O365 or GSuite Apps for Education teacher account, they would be more secure and safe to use.

Such as text-to-speech or speech-to-text online systems that reinforce and provide tools to remove barriers for students so that they may demonstrate their learning.

 

Artificial intelligence resources in education are great in providing secondary sources of information and support for learners. The above examples are a small sampling of what teachers can do to provide students with access to machine learning in a purposeful way. Yet it is important to note that AI does not provide the humanity and emotional-social support that is so important in the classroom. School staff are an integral part of making a learning environment the most engaging, safe, imaginative and creative it can be.

 

Learning Today in a 24/7 Connected World

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Photo Credit: Kellie M. Simpson Flickr via Compfight cc

Like a traditional board game, learning has moments where all the experiences connect into some genuine learning wins while other times it seems like there are not enough resources and/or supports (like board pieces) in place to be successful. This post reflects on the many discussions, resources, and ideas that Will Richardson, renowned blogger, author, and outspoken educational advocate,  shared during his two keynotes at the BlendED Alberta 2018 Symposium in Edmonton. 

Whether in an Outreach program, learning centre, distance learning program or classroom, teachers are using the online environment to expand and extend learning opportunities, building flexibility to student learning.  The blendED Symposium is designed to share emerging practices while providing opportunities for networking with sessions that will inspire and provoke delegates to think outside the traditional learning environment.

With today’s society changing at a rapid pace in all aspects of work, life, and general society, what are schools doing to prepare students?

An important question to ask ourselves is: what is PRODUCTIVE learning?

How do we set up a learning environment that is relevant, active, engaging and supports the needs of all our students?

Sarasenlearning

What is your belief? How does your school or even school division support this work?

Another book to put on your professional reading list is Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a collection of essays, many of which build on articles for the New York Times, Bloomberg and elsewhere. This book follows a similar use of evolutionary psychology as self-help as his previous two books. The world is a scary, fast-changing place, so it’s no surprise our primitive brains struggle to navigate through it. We simply haven’t evolved to cope with automated checkouts and emailing after 7pm. Harari points out that humans are endlessly creative and sometimes we solve problems by changing the question rather than answering it. Hence, the large role that lifelong learning plays in each of us!

What are the contexts and conditions for this to occur?

Teacher answers around the world:                What people never say:     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further reading, check out Timeless Learning a book written by an award-winning team of leaders, Chief Technology Officer Ira Socol, Superintendent Pam Moran, and Lab Schools Principal Chad Ratliff who demonstrate how you can implement innovative practices that have shown remarkable success.

 

How do we come up with the skills to address an algorithm-driven online existence?

In Alberta, some jurisdictions are already using gradeless report cards. Our own school division uses achievement indicators in grades 1-9 as seen HERE. Joe Bower, a former central Alberta teacher, shared the many ways he went gradeless in his classroom. His blog continues to be a great “go-to” for teachers to reflect on his experiences as well as update some of their own assessment practices.

Modern Learning

Some things to ponder:

  • What is learning?
  • What is “blended” learning?
  • What is our mission? Why “blended”?
  • Are we doing blended learning or blended teaching?
  • What is the most important role of the teacher in blended environments?
  • Do we have full empathy for the student experience in blended environments?
  • Are we co-constructing curriculum with students?
  • What opportunities are we creating for students to fulfill their greatest potentials?
  • How are we a model for blended learning?
  • Is our practice in “perpetual beta”?

Compare those questions with those directly from Richardson’s 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning. What do you think about being in “perpetual beta”? Is this a comfortable way to learn for teachers and students? How can we introduce this concept in the classroom? It certainly points to showing that nothing (like learning) is ever finished, rather knowledge is a constant conversation in the modern world. Have a peek into Peter Senge’s Schools that Learn (revised and updated) book.

What is the best way to provide a framework for students to show that productive learning is worthwhile?

Let’s make a move from Genius Hour and change it to Genius Learning; from Tinkerlab to tinkering our learning anytime/anywhere. We need to continue our professional conversations and provide the most inviting learning environments as possible. I look forward to seeing the influence that the new concept-based curriculum has in not only the K-4 classrooms in Alberta and also the upper grades as new curriculum rollouts will be seen over the next few years.

So, while we all like playing a “game”, it’s really not the games themselves that improve learning, but rather smart game design and its impact on the brain. Teachers and administrators want to provide students with modern productive and engaging learning activities.

 

 

Get Techy w/ Geography

Take a look at these resources when you are planning those memorable Social Studies activities in the classroom:

SEARCHING

  • images.google.com/  Arguably the best image search engine in the world.  Try finding a picture of something today. Then choose Tools and change the Usage Rights to labeled for reuse.  If you are working with a Google Document, you can click on the Explore button (bottom-right corner) and it will take you to an already filtered search engine. Also take time to filter even further and use different image types, colors and sizes.

  • news.google.com  Need a current event?  Forget about the newspaper, use the internet to find stories that are only minutes old.

EARTH-BOUND

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • GeoGuessr – Play a geography game where you guess the location based on a randomly chosen Google Street View map.

INFOGRAPHICS

Have students create great infographic summaries using a Google Slide icon board. This simplifies the infographic process. You can also insert Google Drawings. Make a copy of the Slide icon board for each student (or groups). More icons can be found via the GSlide add-ons Icons by Noun Project and Insert Icons.

 

Get Techy w/Building and Science

Students always love creating and designing and these resources hit the mark!

  • TrussMe! uses real algorithms and simulation techniques practice be aerospace, mechanical and civil engineers to test for stress and structural failure. Students can design and test structures in a realistic virtual environment. There is also a Teachers section. iOS – $1.99, Android – free.

  • LEGO Life is an app-based social network that allows LEGO fans, typically children, to share their LEGO creations in a community in which the children are anonymous. LEGO has created a new language for children to communicate instantly, and a team of trained moderators oversees all images and text comments to ensure that children remain safe while learning how to be responsible on social networks. Children can use LEGO emojis to communicate with one another or to comment on their LEGO creations in LEGO Life. Free for iOSAndroid, and Amazon devices.

  • NOVA Elements – Learn the periodic table of elements with this interactive table, game, and two-hour NOVA program. Free iPad app, Mac and Windows program. Grades 6-12.

 

Get Techy w/Graphic Design, Team Tools, ELA, Note-taking

Photo Credit: palmerion Flickr via Compfight cc

 With access to a variety of digital tools and resources, students have the opportunity to consume, collaborate and create some pretty memorable learning. Check out the 4 specific resources below:

  • 7 Creative Student Design Projects to Try with Canva – a web-based graphic design platform (including apps for iPad and Chromebook) and a great tool for teachers to introduce and explore visual literacy. It also has a drag-and-drop functionality that makes the design process simple. Teachers and students can create sharp-looking presentations, posters, multi-page documents, marketing materials, social media graphics, and more using Canva’s 1 million+ photos, icons, and layouts.

Teachers should visit Canva for Education to get how-tos, lesson plans, and teacher-oriented advice. One of my favorite features: Student designs can be shared, allowing teachers to view and add comments.

 

Padlet (with new features in the last six months!) – With padlet you can create an online post-it board (with photos, documents, web links, video, and music) that you can share with any student or teacher you want. Just give them the unique Padlet link. Use it to brainstorm a topic/idea, a question parking lot, input student work in one place, online portfolio for projects or school year, exit ticket, icebreaker activities, mind maps, parent/school communication, book discussions, analyze a quote/poem/lyrics, current events discussions and sharing, complete the story, and so on.

Todaysmeet is an online backchannel that is quick and easy to set up and use. Pick a room name, choose to have it ‘open’ for one hour to one year. Use it for class discussions, sharing of information, questions, taking notes during speaker/meeting events, brainstorming, group discussions and sharing. Project it for all to see and even copy the transcript at the end of the event/time slot.

Socrative is an online classroom feedback tool. It takes a little bit more effort to set up but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty versatile! Quickly assess students with prepared activities or on-the-fly questions to get immediate insight into student understanding. Then use the auto-populated results to determine the best instructional approach to most effectively drive learning. There is a Teacher and a Student app/website login.

 

From online videos, movie-making to virtual reality there are some fantastic ways to engage middle years and high school students.

  • The TurboNote Chrome extension enables students to take notes while watching any video. To take notes students just need to click the TurboNote extension icon in their browsers and start writing notes in the notepad that appears on the right-hand side of the screen.
 

Design Challenge: Create an Inclusive Playground/Theme Park

Overview

“Children with disabilities are often excluded from, or restrained in, play activities because of the physical barriers of play structures and the surrounding environment” (Ripat & Becker, 2012).  According to the United Nations, 10% of the world’s population has a disability.  Canada and the United States report the rate of disability closer to 20%.  It was reported that only 17 parks and playgrounds in British Columbia were identified as being fully accessible (Accessible Playgrounds, 2014).

 

Design Rationale

Canada is often described as being a civil society.  We pride ourselves in our inclusion of others and our respect of diversity.  However, 1 in 7 Canadians are excluded from enjoying our playgrounds and municipal parks.  We need to revisit the notion of accessibility and ensure our play areas are inclusive for all users, including the disabled and the elderly.  

 

Problem Scenario

Your team has been selected to develop a prototype of a structural element or component of a playground that is inclusive, safe, fun, and engaging.  It needs to foster fitness, flexibility, and a joy of play.  Your team needs to consider issues of mobility, access, sensory challenges, etc.

 

Your playground structure must be a small-scaled prototype of a structural element or component that could be found in a playground or theme park. It must satisfy two of the following identified concerns:

  • Be accessible for someone with mobility issues
  • Be accessible for users of variable heights / sizes
  • Be accessible for someone with sensory issues
  • Be accessible for someone with cognitive challenges
  • Enjoyable for users of all ages

Success will be determined by

  • Uniqueness
  • Alignment of the prototype with the design sketch
  • Ability of your item to help the user enjoy play
  • Ergonomic design
  • Colorfulness to match environment and attract users
  • Intriguing enough to hold users’ attention
  • Degree to which it Is intuitive to all users
  • Functionality
  • Ease of long term maintenance
  • Alignment to design motto: “Make it smaller, stronger, do more, be easier to use, be cheaper, be clean, be greener”

Parameters

  • You must use some of all the items in tool kit in some way  
  • You must consider how to make your prototype colourful, intriguing and ergonomic.
  • You must prepare a group display which includes your design notes, your design thinking sketches and your prototype.

For teacher’s please read through the Facilitator Guide.

And here is the Napkin handout, the Placemat handout. (These resources were accessed from Innovative Learning Centre’s Taking Making into Classrooms.)

BELOW is an ingenious theme park, this video may be shown before the challenge or after. Is this theme park inclusive?

 

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.

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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.

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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.