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Category Archives: Providing Instructional Leadership

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.

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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.

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.

 

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!

 

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


 

 

PeriscopePD – Get it in 15 mins!

periscopepd

I love learning! YES, love it! With the upsurgence of Social Media over the last five years, I can grab learning opportunities almost 24/7 if I wanted to! From specific subscription-based organizations like Discovery Education to WebEx webinars to Google Hangouts to day-long to week-long conferences to Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, teachers in 2016 can engage in learning just about anything to heighten and fill up their toolkits full of effective and engaging instructional practices. One of the neat parts about using Social Media for your professional learning, is that you really don’t do it alone. There’s always someone from somewhere that you’ve never met that will enhance the collaborative learning environment.

Periscope is one such online tool that I’ve used throughout the last school year to not only share snippets of what is going on in our school division but to also have scheduled online PD available. Another school year is upon us and I’ve returned to sharing some quick info via Periscope (almost) every second Wednesday at 3:45pm MT. Just install the Periscope app on your device, follow me (by either finding my Twitter name as @nlakusta or full name of Nicole Lakusta) and add some calendar dates to remind yourself to join in on the fun!

Dates and Topics (so far)

  • Sept 7 Chrome Apps for Early Years
  • Sept 21 Chrome Apps for Middle Years
  • October 5 Chrome Extensions for Early Years
  • October 19 Chrome Extensions for Middle Years
  • November 16 RW4GC Reading Tools
  • November 30 RW4GC Writing Tools