Sunday, 10 May 2015

Closing the Gap

Differentiation and celebration of diversity are essential factors in making Mathematics worthwhile for all. Differentiation is a teaching skill that is essential in providing an effective Mathematics program, one that would reach many students with various backgrounds and exceptionalities. Although there are several factors that can potentially can impact student learning and achievement; Gender, LD/Exceptionalities, Culture, Language Barriers and Socioeconomic environments, it is our role as responsible facilitators of learning to identify potential barriers and to respond appropriately and effectively. My Personal Mission Statement: I believe my role as an educator is to motivate, challenge and inspire those within my classroom, within the school environment and reach those who influence our students outside of the walls of our schools. To continue my own path of professional learning so that I am able to recognize and respond to the individual needs of all my students to ensure achievement levels in learning and living. As I read through the various topics on supporting our diverse population of learners I recognized a few common threads. • Knowing your learner – recognizing the needs of your students (early intervention) • Ongoing reflection – are your strategies working? Is your classroom environment meeting the needs of your students? • Truly believing in the abilities and potential and value of each of your students (this should be whole school community belief from Administration to the Custodian) • Proactive collaboration – with all educational partners both within and outside the school (i.e. family and community supports) It takes a village! I am presently working in a school with an extremely diverse population. Many of our students are new Canadians with language challenges, children of families from single family homes or living instead with extended family member due to a variety of issues. Many of our families are struggling to make ends meet and some of our students have all of those challenges and more. Although I have not had the privilege yet to teach math to these students I believe the following tool will help me in future practice to respond to the needs of my students. So how can we help? Action Plan 1. Who is this child? Be that teacher who truly believes in that child! I am sure we all remember “that” teacher. They knew who you were….really. They recognized things that were going on in your life that you brought into the classroom. They responded in such a way to make you feel valued, safe and respected. They knew your family. Maybe not in a “coming to Sunday dinner” way, but they created communication path that included the people that were important to you. What are the challenges? i.e. motivation, attendance, nutrition, self-esteem, level of parent education 2. Who can I talk to? Where can I find resources? Are there other educators involved, previous teachers, CYW’s, SERTS and community programs? 3. What are the interests of this child? What do the parents do for a living, what types of math do they do at their job? (Making those connections and involving parents as “educators”). 4. What can I do inside and outside of my classroom? • Provide a climate of mutual respect • Have high expectations for ALL students regardless of challenges. • Provide food through a school breakfast program • Have students involved as much as they can in their school community (they can make a difference!) • Homework clubs • Connect with Brother and Sister Programs • Form support groups for high risk students • Praise all accomplishments to build self-esteem • Provide a safe and positive learning environment with many resources and manipulatives to with. • Provide differentiated tasks and choices in activities • Set realistic goals and hold high expectations • Provide parents with support on how to help their children at home. I.e. If Mom is a cashier; provide activities or problem solving that relates to skills required for that job. • “Ethno mathematics” – creating a math environment that provides a variety of activities that build upon student cultures and everyday realities. Make math real to them. 5. Connect with parents – providing feedback on how strategies are working in the classroom but asking how the support at home is progressing. Providing that positive feedback to the home supporters as well. Value their support! “Low-income parents can complement preschool learning and help to provide a strong math foundation that their children will need in the future. Empowering these parents by offering explicit instructions for how they can take skills developed in the workplace home could go a long way in closing the math achievement gap. Low-income parents may have the tools. They just need more information about how to use them.” Barrett, Ben; North America, Ed Central” 6. Ongoing reflection of your own practice – Are things working, does the student see the value in these supports. What changes if any need to be made to continue moving forward?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Social Media - a professional journey of discovery and reflection

Just a few short months ago I viewed social media as a tool to be used simply to connect with family and friends. At best I was a infrequent Facebook user who had yet to see the value of tools such as Blogging, Twitter or Skype and had never even heard of Edmondo, Google Plus or Google Hangouts. I guess you could say I was still "old school".
My most recent professional development journey has provided me with the confidence to explore new technology and opened my eyes and my mind to the value of social media both as a professional learning tool, connecting me to global educators and expanding my professional network. Using social media as an meaningful instructional tool as well as providing a variety of opportunities for students to authentically connect, share, create, demonstrate etc., their thinking seems invaluable for my future practice. This journey of professional learning and discovery will continue as the world of technology is every changing. I am looking forward to the new teaching and learning experiences that will continue to develop in my future practice.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Integration at the Primary Level - how can we support teachers?

This weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in some great PD through the Global Education Conference 2013. As a primary teacher I was particularly interested in a session called "Integrating technology in primary classrooms from the learning theories" hosted by Taru Malhotra. Taru is a grad student at York University's Faculty of Education. This session attracted educators from all over the world and it was interesting to hear a variety of global perspectives. Taru work questioned whether or not learning theories such as Vygotsky were still relevant and relatable to our present classrooms with the integration of technology. As technology offers the benefits of increasing engagement, motivation, interactions, collaborative opportunities and meeting individual needs of students there are still issues with respect to teacher education and development for authentic implementation especially at the early childhood and primary levels. In her research she has found that many teachers are not using technology as an instructional delivery system or teaching and learning process due to lack of education, confidence or support. She points to Vygotsky's theory that a child's environment particular in primary years plays a critical role in a child's development. She suggests that teachers must understand that technology such as Ipads, Ipods, etc like other resources are just like and other "environment". She also pointed to Vygotsky's thoughts on scaffolding for students and how this idea is just as important for teachers. Training programs need to consider scaffolding for teachers and recognize the importance of collaboration, learning from others to transform our own beliefs of technology integration. One of the attendee comments was related to personal use of technology. It seems that the more we use technology in our personal life the more we are comfortable using within the classroom. Which made sense to me. As someone who is still working on being that "connected" educator I find that I need to be comfortable and confident and see the purpose in a product before I even entertain it's use in my classroom.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Intriguing uses of Audio in the Classroom!

After reading several articles, postings, tweets and even "listening" to several podcasts I realize incorporating audio into classroom routines provides a variety of teaching and learning opportunities beyond the "listening centre" with the giant headphones and the books on tape that I grew up with. There are many examples out there but I stumbled on a few ideas that caught my attention for my own future practice. AUDIO BOO Many call this Edmondo app the Youtube of Audio. Audioboo allow both students and teachers within an Edmondo Group to share audio files. Users also have the opportunity to search a variety of audio clips from trusted sources such as CNBC, BBC etc. Classes can created Podcasts called "Boos" to share within their own groups. Students can "show what they know" in a different format, auditory learners can share their ideas orally without the limitations of text. Teachers could use this tool to attach audio recordings of assignment instructions. Students could share poems during a poetry unit hearing emotional cues either written by their peers or pre-recorded poems accessed from libraries. There are also sites that you can download free audio books and poems such as POETSCOOP and LIBRIVOX. I loved the idea of downloading speeches from famous historical figures and playing "guess who" in the classroom or simply using them as a discussion starting point. USING MUSIC AS A TIMER - I have often used music to in my classroom with a stimulation or calming effect. I.e. faster music during math activities, classical music during some art and language activities. There are a variety of ways to incorporate the music in your classroom. I found a site called CLASS TOOLS A really great reference site for a variety of digital tools but I particularly liked the timer tool and the ability to attach your own soundtrack to the visual countdown. VOICE CANDY Voice Candy works on a Mac. It is a voice manipulation system. Essentially, Photobooth for microphones which changes the pitch and speed of your voice. Students and teachers can use this for dramatic effect, recreation of creative writings, historical representations in podcasts or performances. SOUNDFXNOW - I really could have used this site for my Halloween presentations! Really interesting effects, perhaps even giving students ideas of creating their own. Great to embedd in audio and video presentations or attach to text or photos.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

More tools to use in the classroom....

SKYPE - I have mentioned this tool in previous posts however the more I read the more I think it's potential is underestimated. The idea of connecting classrooms around the globe has always intrigued me. Back in the old days when I was in school we had class pen pals from around the world. I remember the excitement of getting those letters and artifacts from students in China or South America and realizing how similar we really were. Skype in effect provides that same global connection opportunities just in real time. Collaborative projects, data collection, research materials and even math games such as the "Mystery Number" game I referred to in a previous post. SOCRATIVE - Socrative is a free student response system. It appears to be very highly rated by global educators. It offers a variety of assessment tools from multiple choice quizzes, short answer responses and exit tickets (i.e. today I learned..tomorrow I need). Activities can be completed and responses/questions submitted collaboratively, individually and even anonymously. Teachers can add images such as graphs or pictures for feedback or answers to questions. Student reports are provided to teachers in an Excel file or Google spreadsheet. A way to enhance classroom management, assessment and personalization. CLASS DOJO - is a Behavioural Management Software. In reading reviews and articles it seems that many educators have replaced notations in their Google Docs for this free software. This software runs on stand alone and mobile devices which some might view as a con as opposed to paper and pencil recording which is readily available in every classroom. The Class Dojo "captures and generates data on behaviour that teachers can share with parents and administrators". This software provides instant feedback to students via their own devices, tablets or through interactive whiteboards. Students are able to instantly recognize the correct choices they have made. Class Dojo also provides the opportunity for teachers to provide support and encouragement to reinforce a student's understanding of skills and behaviours that are needed to be successful.

Learning about Google Drive and Open Office

This was a great assignment as I had only every received documents from people via these tools but never created. Google Drive (formally Google Docs) can be created via the web and no downloading is needed. Pretty fast and easy really. I immediately created a variety of folders i.e. computer and tech course. Zoe had already sent the syllabus via this mode so I transferred that document into my new file. Definitely, I see the potential as shared files can be available anywhere and anytime to students, parents, colleagues and they can be worked on and reviewed simultaneously. Great for a group project. As students add things others can see their changes. As I am learning, many are using "cloud computing" to store and share documents. As many articles have mentions the this is only as good and fast as your internet connection". Which at our school is extremely slow. In researching this topic I see that many school boards in the states are shifting from Microsoft Office to Apache Open Office for obvious financial reasons. Open Office is a free open source software with no downloading or licence fees and updates are free. Apache Software Foundation is actually a non-profit organization whose "charitable mission is to publish open source software for public use". This software can be used on a variety of operating systems both windows and mac and can also be run on a USB stick. The "free" component allows parents and students to run this program from home and it can be installed on a variety of computers at no charge. Similar to Office it offers a variety of programs such as a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation editor. In looking through the program I appreciated the design templates specific to education such as venn diagrams, rubrics, graphing sheets and presentation backgrounds. I can see the communication and collaboration value in the classroom, and I look forward to reading further examples of specific uses within the classroom and school community.

Educational Software and Media - Can we use it in our classroom?

As many of us are expanding our PLN outside of our own board to include global sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus etc., we are learning more and more about various tools and resources that are being used in classrooms around the world. After the initial reaction of “I can’t wait to use that in my classroom”, the question becomes do I have access to that software or tool. As a new teacher, I am learning where to find the answers to my plethora of questions! With respect to software I navigated through my Board’s Virtual Library . Under “Professional Resources” I found the link to Learn Ontario and then the Ontario Educational Software Service (OESS) link . This service provides a full listing of approved software, CD-ROM’s and DVD’s in alphabetical order. It even provides a tutorial and access and authentication information. i.e. when I clicked on Fotobabble it gave a description of how this software allows students/teachers to record commentary to web photos for projects that require short explanations. To save time you can add qualifiers to your search such as: intended audience, Ontario curriculum links, subject, operating systems etc. New software can be submitted to the Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee . Newly approved software and tutorials can also be found on this site.