Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Use of Social Media by Teachers

Social media has taken the world by storm.  A day doesn't go by where I don't check my Facebook, Tweet about something or scan through Pinterest.  In my Tech class at Brock University, we were encouraged to use Twitter, Google+ and Blogger to explore using social media as a teacher.  This has proven to be exceptionally valuable to me.  I've participated in #ntchat on Twitter the past few weeks and have found so much support and gained awesome resources as a future/new teacher.  I can see this being a valuable resource for any teacher or professional in the field of education, as the possibilities for collaboration and expansion of learning are extremely powerful.

The Ontario College of Teachers released a professional advisory on the use of social media by teachers in April of 2011.  The advisory touches on how great it is to use social media but also that teachers need to be wary of the risks involved in creating and maintaining a permanent digital footprint.  I think that the bottom line is that teachers need to compose themselves online as they would in the professional world, just as this advisory states.  Watch your language, do not discuss confidential or personal details about students, colleagues, or anyone for that matter; and use it as a professional forum for the sharing of ideas and advice.  Furthermore, as I've mentioned in earlier blog posts, we need to transfer this wariness to our students so that they are aware of the risks and dangers involved in using social media and the 'netiquette' required to uphold a respectful, appropriate, and effective online persona.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Using Tagxedo as a Learning Object

Created using
In my Teaching and Learning with Technology class, our instructor, Zoe Branigan-Pipe, asked us to create a learning object.  A learning object is basically a method of using a Web 2.0 tool to teach a part of the curriculum.  To try this out, I chose to use Tagxedo, a very fun take on a Wordle, to display the characteristics of a Fair Weather Cumulus Cloud.  I thought that this would be a creative way to approach the Ontario Ministry of Education's Grade 2 Science & Technology curriculum, under the Understanding Earth and Space Systems strand and the Air and Water in the Environment topic expectation:

  • 2.5 investigate water in the natural environment (e.g., observe and measure precipitation; observe and record cloud formations; observe water flow and describe where it goes; observe a puddle over time and record observations)

I'm not sure how in depth this curriculum goes into the various types of cloud formations, but I do recall students learning about cloud formations at some point in elementary school!  Please correct me if I'm wrong about the curriculum expectation this could be used for, or if I'm off-base about the whole thing :)

Regardless of the accuracy of my Tagxedo example, I think using Web 2.0 tools to "teach" curriculum is an awesome idea, but only if it is done appropriately.  I believe that in order to use these tools appropriately, we cannot rely on a tool to teach our students.  We could use these as a means to summarize the key points of an upcoming topic of study, or to consolidate the key concepts discussed in a particular unit.  As usual in the world of technology, the opportunities for using Web 2.0 tools in education are endless - the ability to teach through the use of these tools provides a creative, interactive way of allowing students to actively participate in their own learning.

Main point to take away from this blog post:  Give Web 2.0 tools a try!

P.S.  Information about Fair Weather Cumulus Clouds gathered from University of Illinois' WW2010 website.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Fabulous 4s!

Yesterday I had my first Observation Day at my new placement in a Grade 4 classroom.  This is what I was greeted with:
First of all, I have my own little desk!  Like a real teacher!  But second of all, and most importantly, the little Valentine's package and card are from the Kindergarteners I taught in my first placement!  My first associate teacher really knows how to make a Teacher Candidate feel like a real teacher that did make an impact :)  I hope I can one day do this for an aspiring teacher!  It's one more thing that reminds me that I am in the right profession and that I CAN do this.

In other news, I absolutely adore my new placement - the Grade 4s are so sweet and have shown a genuine interest in having me in their classroom.  My new associate teacher is phenomenal.  She's so nice, organized, and really cares about her students and helping me become a better teacher.  She's already offered me the chance to teach my first lesson next Friday and I can't wait!  We'll be doing an art activity of some sort, not exactly sure of what yet but I'm excited to figure it out and give it a try.  

Every day I'm reminded that through learning about teaching and learning to become a teacher, I'm becoming a better student as well.  So, let the learning begin!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Teaching from the Heart: My Philosophy of Education

This is a puzzle I created to represent my philosophy of education.  I thought I would attach a written explanation of why this puzzle is representative of my beliefs and values so that it makes a little more sense than a bunch of words and pictures!  Also, I picked up the blank puzzle from Scholar's Choice - amazing teacher resource centre!  A teacher's heaven to be more specific... next to Dollarama of course.

My philosophy of education is that of a puzzle which require many pieces to arrive at the whole picture. When I began my studies at Brock University’s Teacher Education program, I was learning about so many ‘pieces’ that I had trouble making them fit together. However, over the last six months, those various pieces have now come together to create my understanding of the education system. My understanding of the education system along with my own personal beliefs and values has created my philosophy of education, which revolves around the heart. Hence, I have drawn a heart and placed it at the centre of my puzzle to represent how important I believe it is to have a heart and be compassionate when working in a classroom, a school, and the field of education.

In order to have a heart in the field of education, I feel strongly that a sense of community must be present and be of utmost importance to those who have the opportunity to build it in their classrooms and schools. I have drawn the Tribes Learning Community logo in order to represent my understanding of how to build community within a classroom. I was fortunate to be trained in Tribes this past year, and the strategies I have learned are invaluable and I truly believe that they will help me build an inclusive, fair, and safe environment where my students feel comfortable to learn and take risks. Tribes encourages a fun approach to learning, one that can engage all students and make them see how wonderful learning can be.

In conjunction with the building of community, I believe that equity is something that all teachers must strive for in providing for their students, who are so diverse in their learning styles, personalities, backgrounds in terms of both culture and family composition, and simply where they are coming from when they arrive at school each day. In order to provide for these diverse students, I uphold the belief that differentiated instruction is paramount in having a preventive, equitable approach to education, believing that all students can be reached and all students can learn if we give them the opportunity. Thus, I have drawn symbols to represent Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences and a globe to represent diversity.

I have added a few words and pictures to represent myself as the teacher in my classroom and school. I believe that regardless of the diversity, number and ability of the students, a teacher must believe that he or she can provide for those students and have the desire and ambition to do so. Students must be the focus of a teacher’s energy because they are the ones we want to change the world for and inspire them to continue to change the world and make it a better place. To do this, I believe teachers must be reflective and realize the power of collaboration. I will always work to involve as many people and resources as possible in my classroom because there is so much for students to experience outside of what one teacher can provide. I am naturally a very reflective person and so I will always work hard to reflect on what I am providing my students and find ways to improve, especially through collaboration and encouraging my students to do the same and build a sense of metacognition.

Finally, all of the aforementioned characteristics and qualities that I believe are important and contribute to my philosophy of education come back to the centre of my puzzle – the heart. Teachers need to care about and have compassion for their students. They need to have a sense of humour to show how fun learning can be if we all do it together and learn from our previous experiences. They need to have a heart and inspire their students to use theirs.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

eBook: AC at the Zoo!

This is my first attempt at creating an eBook, and I have to admit that it was going pretty well... until I realized that there are some difficulties when trying to upload a PowerPoint presentation to Blogger or any other type of website.  So, after many trials and tribulations, I decided to take a video of my PowerPoint presentation in action with my iPhone and then upload that into iMovie, edit it, and export it as a .mp4 file.  I've learned my lesson... will stick to SlideRocket next time or some other form of eBook-making option.  Alas, I have a pretty not-so-good-quality video but the transitions look FABULOUS :) Under the video, you'll find an explanation for AC Bonkers and all the awesomeness she brings to Brock University's Cohort F! 

One of our Cohort F advisors, Gail Phillips, introduced us to AC Bonkers very early on in our Teacher Education year. She is an adorable frog that students in a Primary Language Class at Pilgrim Wood Public School in Oakville love to read and learn about. Cohort F Teacher Candidates were given the opportunity to be pen-pals to these wonderful students and we exchange letters and other fun activities occasionally to help each other out through the (sometimes) stressful school year! We also have the opportunity to take AC home for a weekend to document her "adventures" and then create a book based on them that could be used in the PLC program. I was lucky enough to steal AC away for Thanksgiving weekend of 2011, when my family and I decided to spend the beautiful (almost summer-like) day at the Toronto Zoo. AC met a ton of fun animals and had a fantastic time! I created a book of AC's adventures and thought that these photos would provide a great opportunity to create an eBook for not only my Tech class, but to send to the students in Pilgrim Wood's PLC as a way to show them how they can have fun with their reading and writing, too. I hope it works!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Diving into #ntchat

Tonight I joined the infamous #ntchat on Twitter, which features several master-educator moderators, such as Lisa Dabbs and Paula Naugle, and new teachers from around the world.  I was timid at first - would my ideas be good enough?  Would I say something inadequate?  Two minutes in and I knew this hashtag was gold for any newcomer on the education scene.  The amount of support and resources being shared was inspiring and reaffirms that I'm in the right profession; a profession that won't leave you hanging by a thread if you feel lost.  I also met a Cohort F alumni, Natalie Dunn, in #ntchat which was a real-life, meaningful experience for me.  She only graduated last year and she's already made her mark on the world of teaching.  Check out her website, The Rookie Teacher!

Looking forward to joining #ntchat again next week.  If you're a new teacher, Teacher Candidate, or someone with information and support to share, tune in to #ntchat Wednesday evenings 8-9pm EST.  Let's Tweet it up!

Blogging FOR the Classroom

For my Tech class, we had to create an "EDUBlog" where we role-play as a teacher.  Mine is Miss Eakins's Class News - feel free to check it out!  Creating a blog for a "pretend" classroom  has been an interesting experience.  Originally I thought it would be extremely difficult to imagine that students would be reading this on a daily basis and using it to enhance their learning.  However, I then thought about it being like creating lesson plans for imaginary students in the Teacher Education program and how these are not meant to be perfect, but a way to experience what it would be like in the real world and learn from it.  That's what I did with this blog.
Photo credit:  alamodestuff
Keeping a blog for students is very useful because children of extremely young ages are using technology to learn and experience their world.  If I can bring "their world" into my classroom, then their learning can only improve and become more engaging because it is more meaningful. 

Differentiated Instruction is something I've heard a lot about this year, and maintaining a classroom blog can reach students of various learning styles.  Adding a variety of videos and audio clips is one way to engage your visual and auditory learners, and to add in interactive websites where students can drag-and-drop objects or type in text boxes is a way to engage kinaesthetic learners.  Even better, these things will benefit all students - which provides further evidence that a Universal Design for Learning is effective and very attainable.

A classroom blog can be a convenient way to combine various curricular subjects.  Websites such as BitStrips and SlideRocket can combine Language, Visual Arts, and Technology all into one performance-based task.  Webquests or Scavenger Hunts can allow students to explore an endless variety of educational websites while recording their findings on a website like Popplet, which could aid them in creating a piece of writing that is research-based.

Finally, updating a classroom blog can keep students and their families up-to-date on current classroom and school events, which eliminates having to e-mail parents or send out paper newsletters - it's eco-friendly! 
I can't wait to be able to create a blog for a real life classroom one day!