Understanding the (not so) New Math

https://en.wikipedia.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/

I will confess I am a social media junkie and like to participate on a daily basis.  I encourage our teachers to use twitter accounts to share classroom happenings and I put effort into keeping our Pleasantdale School twitter account and Facebook page up to date. I have always had an unwritten rule about social media, that I follow not matter what.  I do not allow myself to jump into negative discussions.  I do not feel that social media is the place to voice our misunderstandings and would rather go to the source and try to educate myself before jumping on a negative band wagon that I may not understand.

Earlier this week, however, I came across a Facebook post about the “new” math.  Now I put quotations around “new” because I personally feel it is “not so new”.  I understand why people call it new, because it is different approach to teaching and learning math than most adults have experienced. The Facebook post I am referring to is one many of you have probably seen.  It shows a simple math question being answered in one step and then goes to compare the same math question being solved in multiple steps, using what might be an unfamiliar strategy for many of us.  The post goes on to imply that the long drawn out answer is what makes our “new” math so ridiculous and nonsensical.  It also implies that all aspects of all math classes involve long drawn processes, rather than a simple algorithm solution.

Now, most of know that things in the media or, as an extension, social media, can be portrayed just a bit biased or out of the context of the big picture.  In seeing the post I felt myself being drawn into the discussion.  I explained my understanding and experience of math in the classroom on a daily basis.  I quickly, however, jumped out as the discussion continued on in a negative direction.  I could see that no one was wanting to consider any other perspective than the one they already had.

As a child my experience with math was a very negative one.  I would start each new year, with my new scribbler doing well with the first review unit.  I like my notebooks neat and clean and would line up my questions in neat and tidy rows, feeling confident.  However, my confidence was more often than not, soon dashed.  I did not understand numbers and my memorization of basic algorithms only took me so far. Soon my tidy notebook was a mess of erased spots, scribbles and re-written numbers.   I could not transfer my understandings from one context to another and soon found myself repeating the same memorization process while being secluding away from the rest of the class with others like me. Somehow repeating the same methods of learning, over and over again, never really worked.

My experience was so negative that when I was choosing where I wanted to go after high school I actually tried to find a future career that would not require me to do any math. I remember flipping through college brochures trying to find some career in which I could work with children but never have to teach them math.  Thankfully, my confidence in math did build as an adult and although I did not directly start my career to be a teacher and a principal, I was able to achieve these goals and I realized, as an adult, I could in fact understand and do math.

Grade 4, Understanding Multiplication
Grade 4, Understanding Multiplication

This story and confession leads me to why I wanted to write this post, rather than continue in a negative Facebook discussion.  I think that there are many parents, community members, and others who still wonder why we are teaching math in this “new” way.  I think we have tried to educate others about the need for our students to understand numbers and not just memorize algorithms in order to be successful in using math in many different situations.  I also think that we need to continue to do so.

I have countless moments of awe when I am hanging out in math classes with students.  As a matter of fact, my own math confidence continues to grow as I watch our student work in math classes demonstrating, for me, ways to break down and understand numbers I have never considered before.  I can relate to the struggle a non-confident math student goes through and it is a wonderful thing watching them reach understanding by allowing them to use other strategies and straying away from only memorizing basic algorithms.

Representing numbers, Mrs. Mukendi, Oxbow School
Representing numbers, Mrs. Mukendi, Oxbow School

One of the best explanations for our need to use “new” math strategies , that I have seen, is in a video Why is Math Different Now?  Posted by Dr. Raj Shah who is the owner and founder of Math Plus Academy in Columbus, Ohio.  I hope you will take a few minutes and an open mind to watch his explanation and consider his thoughts.

The things I think I would like to share about math in the classroom today are the following:

  1. There are many ways to arrive at an answer to a math problem, not just one.
  2. It will perhaps surprise some, that the “old” way of doing math is still a strategy taught to our students and used in the classroom every day, but it is not the only one.
  3. It also may surprise some to know that we do, in fact, continue to drill the basic math facts that provide the foundation to all other math.
  4. Many of the problems that will face our children, are not one-step, one solution kind of problems.  We will need our children to understand there are many solutions to most problems and have the skills needed to consider those multiple solutions.
  5. The thing that has the greatest effect on a child’s confidence in math is the attitude of parents or caregivers to the subject.  Positive talk about math, new or old, is very important to student success.
Grade 5, Patterns in numbers
Grade 5, Patterns in numbers

 

I think raising children and teaching are two of the hardest, but most rewarding things that we are blessed to be able to do.  I hope we will not keep adding new things to our already busy lives, but I hope we will never keep trying to get better at the things we already do.  If you are wondering about reasons we have moved to the processes involved in “new” math in the classroom today, please do not hesitate to talk to a teacher.

 

 

Journey to Genius

http://marinasandoval.weebly.com/genius-hour-curriculum.html
http://marinasandoval.weebly.com/genius-hour-curriculum.html

One of the things that I introduced my students to last year,  that I knew for sure I wanted to repeat again was Genius Hour.  I was so amazed at the ideas my students had when they could be in charge of their learning and in a lot of cases, I was equally as amazed by the things they learned and shared with others.

In September when school started, my, now, grade 7 students were already asking if we would do Genius Hour again and when we could start.  On the first day I asked my students to give me some feedback on what I had done last year that they really liked and what I had done that they hoped I would never ask them to do again.  What the majority of them told me that they liked, was the opportunity to do Genius Hour and learn about things they were passionate about.  I am not willing to share the things they hoped I would never do again, but you can bet I have taken their feedback to heart and will try to change my teaching to accommodate as many as possible.

 

So what is Genius Hour? To me Genius Hour is a set aside time dedicated to student driven and passion directed learning.  Students choose what they would like to learn about and teachers get out-of-the-way, basically, and let them follow the path to creativity and discovery.  It is learning from our mistakes, reflecting on how we could do things better, sharing and learning from each other in a culture of collaboration.  It is my job as a teacher to coach and advise them as they move through the process.  Some students require more support than others, but one thing is for sure…Learning is messy!

For our students to really learn, to learn vigorously, they need more than hypothetical questions, more than information, more than textbooks and tests.  They need to know how to dig in and really answer tough questions they have about the world, they need to know that it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them, that we need to open up our ideas to others and learn how to listen and learn from each other.  I was intrigued by a blog post I was reading the other day called What can I teach that a You Tube video can’t? It made me think about some of the things we spend time requiring students to learn and memorize that are easily at their fingertips.  Is this really the best use of our time?

The idea of Genius Hour was developed through many ideas from many people, but one of them was Google’s 20% time.  Many of Google’s products and innovations,  such as Gmail came from the 20% time their employees have to work on their own ideas.  It goes to show that learning and working do not always have to be directed from above.  Many good things come out of times when we are allowed to be creative and pursue our own thinking.  One could argue and prove through looking at history that we would not be where we are today without the opportunity for innovation.

Some of the ideas my students are working on right now are:

  • What role could Mind Craft play in the classroom?
  • Why do teenagers need sleep and have such a hard time waking up in the morning? (Stemming from a discussion we had in class about teenage brain development)
  • What are the origins of Halloween?
  • How does a bullet proof vest actually work? (Stemming from our recent tragedy in Ottawa)
  • What are optical illusions and how do they affect the brain?

I recently watched one of my grade 7 students present his ideas on Stan Lee and the Marvel Comics history.  He presented with such grace and knowledge there was not doubt in my mind he was passionate about his learning.  It was a very proud moment for me as his teacher.

Genius Hour Presentation
Genius Hour Presentation

As their teacher, I cannot argue the learning that is going on around me and I cannot deny the level of engagement in that learning.  I continue to think of ways to help them make the most of their time, help them dig deep and really find things out, help them know how to spread their knowledge and learning to others and use not only the experts in our classroom, but more importantly beyond our classroom walls to help them with their learning.

I can’t wait to see how many things I learn with my students this year.  I look forward to our Journey into Genius.

Striving to Make Learning Authentic

How many times have we heard the following questions in our classrooms?

  • Why do we have to learn this?
  • When am I ever going to use this in my life?
  • What is the purpose in learning this?

These seem like valid questions for us to consider.

I am an avid reader and because I am so passionate about education much of the reading I do is education related.  I have read and reflected on many topics related to change that is necessary in our classrooms today.  Our students are living in a much different world than many of us were when we were attending school.  They will spend their lives in a much different global environment created by our ability to communicate through technology.  They will need skills related to design, communication and the synthesizing of information. Classroom instruction needs to reflect these changes by moving from just “teaching content” to teaching our students how to learn.  They will need to be able to find and evaluate content, connect with prior knowledge and use that knowledge to solve authentic problems.

A real-world authentic connection requires that students see a reason to do what they are doing, other than the fact they were assigned to do it and will get a grade for doing it. Interests, experiences, significant issues, improving the real world, interacting with people we know are all ways to make learning authentic for our students.

I am not pretending to be an expert on anything.  I just finished giving my students a teacher report card to fill out on me.  Some of the feedback I received turned in the direction of providing my 13 year olds with nap time and play time.  When you ask young adolescents for feedback, it is important to be prepared that not all of it will be useful and thought provoking.

Math Olympic Problem Solving
Math Olympic Problem Solving

One the other hand, many of them did provide me with some very useful things to reflect on.  One of the things I took away from what they said was that I was not providing them with enough choice and I was directing them too closely perhaps, especially in the ways they were going to show and share their learning.  Listening to student voice is crucial to engagement in learning and I am planning to make some changes starting in our next class.

Grade 4
Grade 4

Our school has been working on an action research project this year.  We are trying to see if we can improve some of our math understandings and therefore math achievement by making  real world connections for our students.  It has been an interesting journey and I have been very pleased with some of the things we have been able to accomplish.  We will be sharing our results with other schools in our school division at the end of the month.

Kindergarten Students
Kindergarten/Grade 1 Students

Yesterday I was asked to judge a cooking contest taking place in grade 5 math.  The students have been learning about decimals and were creating their finished products using what they had learned and practicing ratios.  As I listened to the teacher describe what they had done,  I could tell a lot of authentic learning had gone into the process.  The finished products were all delicious, so perhaps the ratios were not too far out.  The students were excited and fully engaged in what they were doing.

grade5
Tasting our recipes.

 

There are many examples throughout our building of students moving away from textbook problems to the creation and sharing of authentic learning experiences.

One of the other things we have done is try and have as many parents, grandparents, community members as we could come in and talk to our students about how they use math in their jobs.  Our visitors have been great and our students have been very engaged in hearing that we don’t only do math during math class.

Many of our students have created videos showing their learning but also for the purpose of sharing and teaching someone else different math skills.

 

We have been looking for every opportunity we can to make connections for our students and try and make our learning authentic and connected for our students.  Over the course of the year we have been sharing our learning on twitter @PDaleSchool using the hashtag #reallifemath, we have had an Olympic Math Day followed by creating math problems using pictures and data collected during the afternoon and we had a family games night inviting our families to join us for some fun games.

We have yet to see if we were able to improve our actual math scores, but one thing is for sure we improved our engagement in math and were able to share with our students how we use math in our lives and work on a daily basis. Our next challenge will be to see what other ways we can continue to make our learning authentic.  Any suggestions?

 

 

 

Being Connected No Longer an Option

community1
http://wspucla.wordpress.com/category/you-have-the-power-choosing-courage-in-a-culture-of-fear/

Most people who know me know that I am passionate about engaging students with technology. Not technology for the sake of using it, but rather technology because we can and because we should and because and when it just makes sense.  My view on educational pedagogy totally changed a few years ago when I took my Masters Degree and was exposed to the ideas of people such as Alec Couros and Dean Shareski.  My first exposure was scary and I felt way out of my element, but the idea that we could connect, communicate and grow as a global community made me very excited about my future as an educator.

My journey of growth and “connectedness” has been going forward since then, slowly but surely, and of course not without road blocks and frustrations.  The outcome of my perseverance, despite the frustrations, is what keeps me moving in a steady direction towards what I know is right for students.

All too often I am still hearing things like “I don’t really like technology” or “I can’t do that, because I am just too old to change”, or “I don’t have time” or “I am not really interested.” When I am hearing these things I have to wonder if the option is even there for teachers to feel this way.  When we think about the digitally orientated world our students are living in, participating with and contributing to, can we really choose to ignore that world and the opportunity for our students to write and share with a larger audience?

I have had a few experiences in my classroom connecting my students with other learners on Skype in the Classroom, having my students working on projects with other classrooms, sharing the interesting things I find and learn from my PLN and using blogs, wiki spaces and other web tools.   I am not saying I am any kind of expert, quite the opposite in fact, but what I have learned from what I have been able to do so far is that I need to do it more.

In a recent post I was reading by Justin Tarte, Life of An Educator, “Who decides when it is no longer optional?”, he was asking some of the same questions I have to wonder about…

 When is the choice of reaching out to educators from around the globe to collaborate no longer an option?
 
When is truly differentiating classroom instruction and meetings kids where they are no longer an option?
When is taking ownership of your own professional learning and growth not a duty and responsibility of the district, but an expectation of the individual?

About a year ago I got brave enough to start actively participating in twitter.  Previously I had sort of lurked around the outside edges wanting to jump in.  I can remember my nervousness when I made my first tweet, wondering if I had anything to say worth listening to. My first tweet was a response to a question my grade 4 class had put on twitter asking about favorite novels.  It is nice to have teachers that are leading the way and helping me on my journey.

 

 

 Once I bridged the gap between being a lurker to a participator, I have never looked back.  It is the best professional development opportunity that I have had in my teaching career.  The things that make it the best for me is being real-time, tailored to my interests and the fact that I can grow and learn in my profession from wherever I want and whenever I want and can follow whoever I want.

 

I came across an article titled Connectedness: The New Standard, by Eric Sheniger, which he had posted on twitter yesterday.  In the article Sheniger writes about the ease of connecting because we have so many tools available to us that allow us easy access. He feels “Connectedness is no longer an option, but rather a standard and a professional obligation.” The power of being connected is hard to ignore. He encourages teachers and leaders to take advantage of the power of sharing.

 

I have to admit that when I am passionate about something, I don’t let anything get in my way and I have to really work on keeping myself in check so I don’t blast people over with my desire for them to join in my passions.  You can probably ask any of the teachers in my school and they can easily tell you what my passions are and what I desire education to look like.   I have learned to pull back a little and I have realized that everyone follows a different path toward the desired destination.

 

I just finished reading Kathy Cassidy’s book, Connected From the Start, for the second time.  When I read her descriptions of the learning in her classroom and the connections her young students are able to make it validates for me what we need to be doing. She describes her grade one students writing on the classroom blog and recognizes that this is the world her primary students are growing up in and will be working and living in as adults.  She feels she is not only helping them grow as writers, but they are learning how to write in public and safely create their online presence.

 

“Whether you are working with five-year olds or fifteen year olds, the student want to know that what they are learning has value.  Sharing learning online often produces affirmation of value-not just day by day but over time as a student’s digital portfolio grown and becomes public evidence of his or her advancing knowledge and skills.”  

 

 We can no longer ignore real world connections and opportunities for our students to be sharing with real audiences.

 

What an exciting time it is to teach and learn.  So many opportunities to connect and learn from each other and to make real word changes.  When are these things no longer an option?

Things Just Aren’t the Same

http://liz-green.com/2010/12/those-who-cannot-change-their-minds-cannot-change-anything/
http://liz-green.com/2010/12/those-who-cannot-change-their-minds-cannot-change-anything/

If someone who had not been in a school for a while walked into one of our classrooms I think they would be shocked by what they would see.  There have been so many changes on the educational landscape that nothing much remains of the typical classroom so many of us imagine and remember from when we were in school.

I think the first thing you might notice is the lack of desks and collaborative groups of students sitting around tables or working at various places throughout the classroom from the floor to any number of alternative learning spaces. There are a variety of different learning activities going on rather than the entire class focusing on one activity at a time.   Gone are the days when learning was an individual activity and the different subjects such as math, English and Social Studies were taught in isolation.

The next biggest thing I think people would notice would be the teacher not being in front of the room feeding students with the regulated chunks of material they were responsible for learning. In today’s classroom a lot of the learning is done through inquiry and the teacher is more of a facilitator, guiding students toward individual learning goals.

On Friday as I walked around the school I walked in on our grade 3 students during math class. The classroom was noisy and busy and the energy of learning could be felt. The students were working at various stations around the classroom. Some were at the SMART board doing math activities.

Math on the SMART board
Math on the SMART board

Some were playing multiplication war on the carpet and were very engaged in the competitive nature of knowing their math facts faster than their partner.

Multiplication War
Multiplication War

Some were working together at the tables using 3 dimensional shapes trying to figure out how many faces, sides and vertices the various shapes had.

Learning about 3 dimensional shapes.
Learning about 3 dimensional shapes.

The teacher and the educational assistant were moving around the room  helping where necessary and checking in with different students assessing their learning. I could not resist getting  down on the carpet to see what the students were doing.  They were getting good at math facts and were motivating each other to keep going in the spirit of competition.

I couldn’t help but think this was the very reason that children needed to be in school…that attendance is important…that not all things can be duplicated outside of the learning environment the teacher and students have created.

We often have children that are out of school for extended periods of time, sometimes a week, sometimes a month or more. Parents will want teachers to prepare work for those students when they will be away. This is a reasonable request and we certainly appreciate that it is important to parents to try to support their children’s learning.  However, when we were in school working through textbooks and workbooks from page to page preparing work for students might have been easier.  Now that learning is so active, student focused and question based, planning for students absent from the classroom is a much more difficult task. So much happens that depends on the learning environment, created by the teacher, but carried out by the students.

Things going on in classrooms today have changed in many ways. Expectations of learners have changed and teachers have made many adjustments to provide the best learning environment for our inquisitive, digitally confident, 21st century learners.  Different does not mean the way most of us learned was bad or ineffective, but changes are necessary to  meet the needs of today’s learner.

Please come and check out what happens in our classrooms on a daily basis- you are always welcome.  You can check out our grade 3’s on their blog or follow them on twitter @plesdale3 to find out what else they have been up to.

Co- Teaching Just Makes Sense

http://www.scoop.it/t/clil-teaching-ideas/p/2564865111/2012/09/01/tips-for-team-teaching-across-the-curriculum
http://www.scoop.it/t/clil-teaching-ideas/p/2564865111/2012/09/01/tips-for-team-teaching-across-the-curriculum

I was inspired to write this post after listening to a discussion about team teaching at our staff meeting on Monday. I had asked our RTI (Response to Intervention) teacher to talk about her experiences with co-teaching and invited a few of the classroom teachers she works with to share their thoughts as well. I was hoping they would share ideas and perhaps open up some thinking for some of the other teachers who have not tried co-teaching yet.

As I sat and listened to them, and other teachers in the room, share their experiences it seemed like a given that we should be taking advantage of team teaching opportunities. I have to admit that I was also surprised at the amount of team teaching that was going on in our school. I pride myself at being out and about in classrooms as often as possible, but apparently it isn’t often enough. It also validated for me what I already knew to be true…I don’t have to be watching for good things to happen because the staff that I work with prove that to be true every day.

Some of the co- teaching experiences they mentioned ranged from parallel teaching that involved initial planning and then working together doing guided reading groups, working together to plan and prepare lessons, taking turns teaching-one teach and one observe or cover the room, dividing the students into groups and teaching to specific ability or skill levels, having two teachers circulating while students worked in math stations and other methods as simple as having two teachers in the classroom just to have the added support for the students.

It seemed to me that things that might have initially been seem as obstacles or roadblocks to co-teaching were easily solved. They were using short periods of common prep time to accomplish planning and were enjoying many advantages for them and their students.

Advantages:

  • Extra teacher body in the room to assist students.
  • Less chance that students were being missed and were getting help before they practiced misunderstandings.
  • Having someone to share and discuss ideas.
  • Having a new or different perspective brought to curricular outcomes and planning.
  • Less experienced teachers having the benefit to learn from more experienced teacher.
  • Dividing preparation and teaching tasks to save time.
  • Allows for creative grouping, inquiry teaching and stations.
  • Flexible amount of planning time depending on level of lessons.
  • Many others were discussed that I am sure I have missed.

I am always amazed at the unexpected things I learn from the people around me.  Taking time to collaborate and improve our teaching will only benefit our students.  Again…together we are way better then we ever could be alone.

Getting Better At What We Do

http://www.lifebeyondhepatitisc.com/2012/06/hep-c-treatment-journey-day-73-progress-in-action/
http://www.lifebeyondhepatitisc.com/2012/06/hep-c-treatment-journey-day-73-progress-in-action/

I spend a lot of time thinking about improvement. Mostly about how I can improve my teaching and leadership and hopefully, in some way, have some influence on improvement in in our school and our system. Right now I am reading “Effective Supervision” by Marzano, Frontier and Livingston. The basis of the book is about building an atmosphere of collegiality in which teachers can share effective teaching practices. The hope is to try and help teachers, myself included, to become what is termed “expert teachers”. We all know countless research tells us the teacher in the room has the greatest effect on student achievement. I feel like we should never quit striving to improve our craft.

Today I followed a link on Twitter that led me to George Couros’blog, The Principal of Change. I was especially interested in a post he had written about making assumptions in education. As part of the discussion he writes, “Once you are done learning as a teacher, you are done.” I could not agree more. We do need to keep learning and we do need to keep striving to get better despite the obstacles that get in our way.

I am a strong believer in reflective practice and have a vision about education and what I think we need to do to prepare our students for whatever their future holds. I also believe in life long learning and never want to come across like I know more than any of the teachers and support staff that I work with. Together we are a knowledgeable and powerful team. We need each other to accomplish all that we do.

I am continually amazed when I walk around my building and watch my teachers in action. I see so many great things accomplished every day and our recent reading benchmark data and other assessments indicate that students are making improvements. It is in moments like this that I wonder if I can really expect more from my teachers and support staff then they are already giving?

Probably the biggest frustration teachers have is TIME. It seems like things are added to our plates on a regular basis and we often go home wondering if we will ever get caught up. How do we fit concentrated efforts for improvement in teaching practices into an already full load?

I was struck by another link posted on Twitter to a blog post written by Jordan Campbell, a fairly new and very wise teacher, who writes about letting go of what we cannot control and concentrating on the great things we do, especially the parts we really enjoy. I could not help but think that maybe this was one of the keys to finding time for improvement. Do we spend too much time on things that do not matter? The post encourages us to not waste time complaining about teaching, but instead, spend our time celebrating and talking about the good things that keep us doing the job day after day.

Leadership in education is about learning. The learning of myself and needs to be at the heart of my decision making every day. I think George in right…once we are done learning, it is time to go.

Meeting the Needs of Teachers

http://joeysblog27.blogspot.ca/2011/01/personal-learning-network.html
http://joeysblog27.blogspot.ca/2011/01/personal-learning-network.html

I spent my Friday meeting with most of my teachers for the mid year check in of their professional growth plans.  It was a great way to spend the day and I love spending time getting to know my staff.  We rarely have opportunities that are not rushed or focused on too many things.  We talked about their goals and how they thought things were going in their classrooms, with their students and in our school.  Our conversations often turned to professional development opportunities which got me thinking of the best way to meet all of their individual needs.

Our school division provides many opportunities for PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities). Teachers can apply twice a year for funding to support PLC learning opportunities and many of the teachers in my school participate in these groups. The feedback from these PLC`s are mostly positive, when the teachers have been allowed some freedom to take their discussions and learning in a self-directed way.

Most of the negative feedback coming from my teachers happens when they feel self-direction of the learning is not there and emphasis is put on planning and paper work expectations.

It is difficult for school divisions to plan large group professional development that meets the needs of all teachers. I find that often the learning and discussion is geared toward the group of teachers that are near the bottom with their level of understanding. I supposed it is planned this way with the hope that more teachers will gain an understanding of the presented initiative. The affect it often has on those that are beyond the level of the presentation is that they leave feeling frustrated and like their needs have not been met.

Very few teachers really have the opportunity to attend big, national conferences where you can join in conversations and pick sessions that are directed at your learning needs.

So what now…?

My thought is… why are we waiting for someone to provide learning opportunities for us that meet our distinct needs as individual teachers. As I stated in my last post, the best professional development I have is coming straight to me every day from the personal learning network that I have created. It is self-directed and conversations always circulate around topics directly related to my personal needs. I can join with my PLN at times that work well for me and the opportunity is always available to me to be learning from a wide variety of perspectives and experiences.

When looking through my twitter feed today I came across a link posted by Tom Whitby to a post he has written titled “Are Education Conferences Relevant”. In his post Tom stated, “We are professional educators who need to do a better job educating ourselves as educators. If we are to better educate kids, we need to better educate their educators.”

What I would advise my teachers to do if they really want to be in charge of their own learning is to start to build their own learning networks. It truly is the most valuable learning opportunity I have ever been involved in. Any thoughts?

Why I use Twitter…

http://technorati.com/
http://technorati.com/

At some point this year I set the goal of writing on my blog at least once a week.  That is a difficult goal when balancing work and family, but writing is something I enjoy that allows me a creative outlet for my thoughts.  Lately though, I have been to my blog, but feel like I have writers block. When this happens, instead of writing on my blog I will spend my free moments searching around on twitter, reading and sharing. I have a bit of an obsession with Twitter if you ask my husband.  As I sit listening to the wind howling today, searching around on twitter I was thinking about what twitter has added to my professional and personal learning.

One year ago 3 of the teachers in my school had the opportunity to attend #educon conference in Philadelphia.  It was exciting for us to be able to send them there because most teachers in our school division do not have the opportunity to attend big conferences such as this.  They came back with many great ideas to share and prompted all of us to start using Twitter as part of our daily routine in the school, in our classes and in our professional lives.  We spent time as a staff learning from them how to set up a twitter account and  getting some suggestions as to who to follow.  We set up a school Twitter account and starting sharing with our parents through Twitter.  Each of our classrooms have a twitter account and many share classroom happenings on a daily basis.  It has been a great communication and collaboration tool for our whole school.

These are the reasons why I use Twitter

  • Twitter is the best professional development I have been involved in for a long time.
  • It allows me to follow my interests, passions and interact with people similar to me.
  • It allows me to share my ideas.
  • It helps me answer questions.
  • On a daily basis I am able to find ideas and links that help me be a better teacher and administrator

@PrincipalSmart

Teach Less, Learn More?

I was recently lamenting about August 1 coming and the end of summer fast approaching.  Now I am already racing into September and my mind is whirling with thoughts about how we can make this year the best year it can be.  I keep coming back in my mind to the idea of “Teach Less, Learn More”.  I have decided that it will be my mantra this year.  I want to base my first year as principal of my school on that idea.

I am immersed in two of Will Richardson’s books right now: Personal Learning Networks and Learning on the Blog.  I am a huge fan of Will Richardson.  He writes about his children’s education a lot and will sometimes admit that he is a tough parent when it comes to the school.  I wish I had more parents like him.  Parents that would expect their children to be learning in ways that will prepare them for the future.

I feel like we have made a lot of progress as a staff and within our school moving our teaching from the traditional feeding of information to allowing our students to drive their own learning.  We have such a long way to go.  So my mind is whirling right now with the following questions:

1.  How can I keep developing my own personal learning network?

2.  How can I encourage and support my staff to develop their learning networks?

3.  How can we continue the movement toward student driven learning and get everyone to buy in but be comfortable along the journey?

4.  As a principal, how can I continue to put ideas out there and be able to support my staff without it becoming too overwhelming and people shutting down?

Any ideas for a new principal that would like her staff to “Teach less, Learn More”?