Dear Teachers…

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Dario Demetlika during my whole career. He was, in fact, one of my ‘safe places’ during the highs and lows of my practicum experience (far too many years ago to share, ha!) and continues to be someone I respect and admire. He is a classroom teacher and also a Technology Support Teacher in SD43, and I decided to reach out to him and ask for some support.

One of the challenges we face when working to film, is finding a quiet place (we’re still working to use the audio equipment successfully) where there won’t be too much background noise. Initially we filmed in the classroom space, but that required us to engage in near-silent work which simply didn’t meet the needs of all our leaners. Our “Quiet on set” and “Filming in progress” signs became a sources of tension and the project was creating division instead of connection. I knew we needed a new plan… actually THEY knew we needed one, and the told me so.

So, I invited Mr. D to come help us ‘divide and concur’ and meet all our learning needs. The plan initially was the Mr. D would come hang out in the classroom while I work with the kids to film, but changed once I saw how excited they were to have a guest teacher join us. It renewed their excitement for the project, as they all wanted to ‘show off’ for and impress Mr. D with their skills, articulation, thoughtfulness, and outgoing personalities. It was such fun to see them become SOOOO animated, and so confident in the role of ‘leader.’ I thought this might be an interesting little side-experiment for my own inquiry:

“How might my learner’s responses change if I am not in the filming space?”

I wondered if my being in the space might inhibit, or influence the kids’ answers and filmed responses. Were they giving honest feedback, or were they filtering their ideas/thoughts to avoid offending, upsetting, or insulting me? I had hoped that all our work developing trust and connections with each other would be powerful enough that the kids would share their truths without concern for possible ‘backlash’… but I couldn’t really be sure… until now. I talked to Mr. D and asked him to coach the kids to “be honest” and give “real answers” so that I would have the opportunity to be one of the teachers they educate too. Instead of following our original collaboration plan, Mr. D and I switched rolls. I would stay in the classroom, and he would take them to film.

The novelty of a guest teacher was QUITE the draw – as evidenced in the photo below that documents a 5 minute time frame.

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So here was the new plan:

Mr. D + Ipad pro + Padcaster Studio + learner brainpower + “Dear Teachers” framework = LOTS of footage. Lots of AMAZING footage.

The kiddos were so articulate, and thoughtful, and I was delighted to see self-reflection through their eyes. What I valued most were the personal stories about how the kids utilized self-reflection independently and the impact it had on them, on their connections to others (and themselves). I was also a bit relieved to see that the kids were being honest with (or without) me being present – the content of their footage didn’t change much but the confidence, poise, and clarity of responses DID change. They were so much more confident when filming with Mr. D. I can’t say for certain what caused this change, but I know that Mr. D has a special gift for connecting with kids, and drawing out the things that make them shine. It was such a fun experience for us all. I had the opportunity to step back and see the kiddos through a new lens, Mr. D had fun playing with our new technology (which he LOVES, and wants to recommend to others as a TST), and the kids had a chance to learn with another teacher and share some of their ideas.

So, here is the first edited video from our most recent footage. More videos to follow shortly!

More Reflection about… Reflection?

We revisited our conversation about reflection because the kids started discussing how they reflect all the time and some of the kiddos probably don’t even know it. Enter Synonyms. It was a nice connection between two areas of learning – what synonyms can you find for reflection? Here is what we uncovered:

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The process was harder than we anticipated. Synonyms were tricky to find, but we could communicate LOTS of examples of reflection – the WHEN of reflection. After chatting about how and when we reflect, we started chatting about WHY we reflect? What is the purpose of reflection?

I won’t lie, my heart was supremely full during this conversation. I, like most educators, have my own insecurities. Engaging in this project, and honouring the authentic and ‘real’ voices of my students, has opened me up to some pretty humbling feedback. I had fully anticipated that when I asked the kids why we reflect, they would instantly respond “because you make us,” but they didn’t. I was delighted that they didn’t see reflection as a chore or something they are ‘forced’ to do, and doubly delighted to hear how much they valued reflection and how connected they were to the why.

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The finally bullet spawned another level of conversation too – talking about our feelings. How do we feel when we reflect? Is it a singular experience, or are there different feelings/emotions? Are there shared/common feelings? And this is what they shared:

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I felt so grateful for their contributions because each feeling/emotion was accompanied by a personal experience/example. I am keenly mindful that developing trust is an essential part of developing a reflective culture – who will share their inner conversations, feelings, and connections if they don’t trust their community and feel safe with them? This conversation was an affirmation that we are doing something right – there was a deep level of trust and the kids were exceedingly vulnerable as they shared their own reflective experiences and the emotions that accompanied them.

They are still keen to create video about reflection (which is a foundational part of the Core Competencies) to help teachers as they help students. I *think* I’m going to contact a trusted colleague and work on a collaborative video – stay tuned.

What IS Self-Reflection?

As our Term 2 Report Cards drew near, we started to think about how we wanted to add “Student Perspective” to help communicate student learning. I had ideas about some questions I wanted to include, but believed it was important that the kids have the final say on which questions were included, and which met the axe (ha!). In the end, this is what we agreed on:

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In the process of completing this self-reflection we also started to document our understanding of self-reflection. What is it REALLY? We knew it was something we do formally, but also informally. The kids independently recognized that it was an exploration in Personal Awareness, Thinking, and Communicating too. They are keenly aware of where the Core Competencies live in the work we do, and I am frequently impressed by just how aware they are.

I wanted them to invest their energy in their personal self-reflection so we didn’t make the anchor chat a formal discussion. Instead it was a ‘quick capture’ of our thinking as we prepared for the term-end reflection. Here is what we came up with:

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The kids want to make a video to teach teachers about self-reflection – what they need to know, what they need to avoid, and how they can use ‘kid friendly language’ to talk about reflection with kids. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Pepper – A Lesson in Social Responsibility

Our community welcomed a new member this week – Pepper!

Pepper is a service dog who supports one of the learners in our classroom. Knowing that both she and her handler need specific conditions in order to be successful, we worked together to create some visuals to help us understand the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog.

This distinction was especially important because our school used to have a much beloved therapy dog (Smoky) that worked with our school based counsellor. Smoky was always available for a little TLC, and could often be found relaxing in our classroom being showered with snuggles, pats, and love from all our learners. Pepper, on the other hand is off limits to everyone except her handler and we needed to reinforce this so everyone understood the limitations and expectations – their responsibilities.

As soon as we started talking, the kiddos almost instantly made a connection to the Social Responsibility (core) Competency. So, we highlighted that connection as we made our anchor chart together. It is important to me that we make anchor charts in real time, as a community, and that we document as many voices as we can. The charts need to be meaningful for the kids if they are going to independently utilize them in the future. Sometimes I’m able to make the charts ‘pretty’ but other times I can’t predict where the conversation will go, and can’t imagine a format ahead of time. Learning to embrace the potential ‘messiness’ of the charts has been pivotal for me – its about documenting voices, process, and developing understanding and not about being ‘Pinterest perfect.’

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I appreciated that the kids made a connection between one individuals NEEDS with our collective RESPONSIBILITY. The rhyme ‘all for one, and one for all’ came to mind (*warm fuzzy feelings*). We made this chart as a group the day we first met Pepper and her trainer Carol (who joined us off and on to help us all transition successfully) and we rarely needed to revisit it – the kids were so keenly respectful and responsible; it was beautiful.

The larger school community needed some extra education too though and giving them an anchor chart, one they weren’t involved in developing, seemed inauthentic and inefficient. We knew we needed to share this important info, but how could we do it in a way that would capture the attention of our whole school? While brainstorming with a small group it dawned on me…

Me: Hey M, what does Pepper’s voice sounds like?

M: Huh?

Me: If Pepper could talk, what would she sound like?

M: (without skipping a beat) like a lady chipmunk.

Me: A lady chipmunk?

M: Yep. Like this (mimicking a ‘Lady Chipmunk’ voice)

Me: Got it. I have a plan. Want to help?

And this is where the talking dog idea was born. Pepper’s handler and I downloaded every ‘talking pet’ app we could find for free in the Apple App Store and started playing with the functions and features each offered. Knowing that there was a LOT to explore we invited some peers to come help us. I was feeling especially grateful to have several new iPads as each of the kiddos could work simultaneously and maximize efficiency. In the end, they agreed that “Talking Pets” was the best app for what we needed. Pepper’s handler worked with peers to create scripts for the videos to ensure that they reflected the ideas that we had documented on our charts and to ensure that the scripts sounded like Pepper – authenticity was important to him. The group worked with the iPads to create ‘social responsibility’ messages which were then emailed to classroom teachers to be shared with their classes. Her’s an example – short, sweet, funny, and effective.

Digital Balancing Act

Continuing our Digital citizenship work has been really enlightening. My eldest daughter is the same age as many of my students and my eyes have been truly opened. Kids REALLY need to be TAUGHT about the digital world. They really are immeasurably naive, genuine, innocent, and egocentric. I thought I knew, but the more I know the more realize how little I know. Im really glad that we engaged in this project because I’ve learned a lot, and I am so grateful to be a student along side my students.

So, here is our updated board:

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We make an effort to document our learning as we go, so we can look back at shared experiences and learning, and there revisit it and make connections with new information we’ve learned. It’s a way we try to embrace the cyclical nature of learning. We’ve taken time to talk bout privacy, security, safety – passwords, private vs. public information, and how you literally lose control over anything that you post online (nothing can ever truly be deleted entirely). We’ve also talked about Cyberbullying at length (see previous posts).

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This week our focus was finding balance between the “real world” and the “digital world”. We use these terms with some push back because the kids feel as though the digital world IS their REAL world, but they appeased me for simplicity’s sake to use these two terms. Balance is such an enormous topic to explore: balancing screen time and face-to-face times, balance truth and lies, balancing who we are and who we pretend to be, balancing creating content and accessing content. It’s a doozie. So we started small with exploring how we find balance with our responsibilities.

We accessed the Common Sense Media’s digital citizenship curriculum again to help us focus our inquiry and make it more manageable. We started with exploring our Rings of Responsibility. “In the online world, we might think about how what we do affects ourselves. But what about others? In this lesson, students learn about a framework — the rings of responsibility — to understand how to balance their responsibilities as digital citizens. The key is in understanding how the ripple effect of our actions affects both ourselves and others. (Common Sense Education)”

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Then, we used the provided worksheet and contemplated some scenarios. I was really surprised how egocentric the kids were. They coloured in “yourself” for EVERY scenario. Admittedly, they made compelling arguments to support their answers, but I was really surprised how much our answers differed, and how much they differed from the provided answer key. I understand the reasoning behind the answer key and its answers, and I also valued that the kids were demonstrating independent thinking and meaning making. I wondered if our answers highlighted a generational gap, having developed very different relationships with digital media (and having grown up in very different times). So the kids took the sheets home, taught their adults, and got their adults to answer the questions TOO (more on that soon).

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Im not entirely sure what our next step is, but I think we’ll be living in the ‘balancing domain’ for a while… it’s such a BIG concept/theme. I’m trying to develop a provocation that will help them think beyond themselves in more significant ways, and to really consider the impact of balance in an digital age. More to come soon!

 

It begins!

Well, they love it. They LOVE to film, they love to BE FILMED, they love to share their ideas. I love watching them squeal with enthusiasm and delight!

The practical part of my brain (my ‘Type A’ side) knew that we needed to have a common language if we were going to communicate “on set”, and efficiently use the equipment in collaborative ways. Saying “can you twist the thing” wouldn’t do; we needed to develop a common language that enabled us to communicate in specifics. It’s funny because I thought the activity would be fast and functional and didn’t anticipate that they’d enjoy it so much.

The activity? Its pretty simple – watch the video, fill in the blanks. Truth be told, I thought the video would probably be too long and (relatively) boring for the kids, but they loved it. They watched and re-watched. They were so KEENLY interested in learning how the podcaster studio worked because THEY wanted to use it, not watch me use it. Ha! I love their enthusiasm and honesty. So, they were committed and they learned about the different parts of the studio.

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And once we had a common language… we started filming. We practiced as a group at first, learning how to move the equipment, centre shots, adjust the microphone and light levels. They took turns filming, directing, and ‘set-managing’ and we shared a lot of laughs. They decided to practice  using ‘powerful and emotive speaking voices’ by reading/speaking our recent #pinkshirtday poetry (see previous post HERE).

 

And THIS is were it got interesting…. they wanted to keep filming, they wanted to ‘make a movie,’ and they wanted to post this to our twitter account. So they did!

Infographics Part 2

Wellllll….We EXPLORED infographics in more detail, READ more infographics, INTERPRETED more infographics, TALKED about more infographics, but we didn’t actually get around to MAKING any infographics.

 

I really wanted to use our new iPads to access Canva and create our own infographics to represent what we’ve been learning out cyberbullying. The kids, on the other hand, had other plans.

I’ve learned to trust the kids, to trust their curiosities, to trust the process. If I follow their lead, we will learn all the things we ‘need’ to in authentic and meaningful ways. So, I followed… and we and they blew my mind… update soon!

Hint: They wanted to move beyond print, and into video!