Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The First Few Weeks as an Occasional Teacher

It seems my life has been a whirlwind since graduation from Brock in June.  From getting engaged to going through the rigorous interview process for an occasional teaching position with the Thames Valley DSB to being hired and completing my first supply teaching days; I can definitely say it has been an emotional roller coaster, as well as an extremely busy part of my life (which is why this has been a bit neglected over the past few months ... sorry!)  But I am back now!

Thus far, all of my days, except for one, have been prearranged, which is extremely beneficial when prepping and getting prepared for where to be and what I will need.  My one call in, I actually got at the time they needed a teacher in, which was an experience in itself.  Luckily I lived very close and quickly got myself ready for the day and made it over as the recess bell rang!  So far, I am enjoying every single minute of my experience as an occasional teacher.  Although I definitely was nervous for my first day, once back in the classroom, I quickly fell back into the role that I had missed so much over the summer and while continuing to volunteer in a classroom at the beginning of the year.

I have also definitely learned a lot over the past few weeks of supply teaching, some of which I was extremely surprised about.  I enjoy the fact that there is a new learning experience each day with all the new classes and schools I enter, whether it be from the students themselves, the other teachers or the amazing work that is presented in the classrooms.  There are also so many opportunities to meet, connect and build relationships with different teachers and administrators which is invaluable in so many ways.  I can also truly say that everything I have learned thus far, whether it was during my BEd at Brock or through the AQ courses I have taken since graduating, have definitely been useful and I look forward to continuing to learn through further AQ's and ABQ's, as well as keeping an open mind and open eyes in every classroom I visit!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Educational Technology Fails to Create Widespread Changes in Education ...

The idea of incorporating technology into our classrooms appears to be a simple idea to most people, as easy as installing a SMART Board or having laptops in the room.  However, these things have happened, but the changes that were expected in teaching and learning have mostly, stayed the same.  I believe this is because teachers lack the training to utilize these 21st century technologies to enhance their lessons and utilize them to their full potential.  Although teachers may be trained on how the technology works, they are not trained on the many ways these technologies can be used to create more engagement in the classroom and help students attain the 21st century skills they will need to be successful.  Many teachers will use a SMART Board if it is in their classrooms, but they use it in the simplest way they have been taught, to show a PowerPoint presentation or as a white board.  Many teachers do not take advantage of all of the interactive ways the SMART Board can be used to get students up and interacting in their studies.  Another reason these changes are slow to take place because the technology available in every school varies, meaning that not all teachers have access to the tools.  If we want change to occur, we need to make an effort to have technology in every classroom across Ontario.  This will create a larger network of tech-enabled teachers and some of these teachers will become technology leaders which will provide further support for the teaching community. 

Although these resources are being provided to teachers, they are still stuck in the traditional methods of teaching, so they chose not to use them and if school or school boards do not implement proper training both on how to use the tools and ways to integrate them into the classroom effectively, they probably never will.  Maybe it is time for school boards to make a change in the expectations they have for their teachers.  If the education system is going to shift and change for the better, then there needs to be a shift within the expectations we have of teachers and how they teach in the 21st century classrooms of today.  Teaching is an ever-changing profession and teachers need to embrace the life-long learning that the job requires.  This means that they need to be properly trained on 21st century teaching strategies and the 21st century tools that can assist them.  In order for widespread changes to occur with educational technology, the Ministry of Education needs to make implementation of technology in all schools a priority and teacher training involving both use of the tools and integration of the tools mandatory.  I think by making these changes and making technology a priority (especially since it is a vital part of how we live today and sure to be a vital part of our future) we can promote change in teaching and learning which enhance 21st century skills that our students need for the present and the future ahead of them.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Popplet & Google Sites PD Session

This morning I participated in the Tech Showcase at Brock University's Hamilton Campus as a presenter on using Popplet and Google Sites.  It was so exciting to interact with teachers, principals and other teacher candidates and share with them the exciting things that Popplet can do not only for their students, but for them as well.

Popplet is a web 2.0 tool that you can use to explore and share your ideas and thoughts via a concept map.  The great thing about Popplet is that you can add videos from YouTube, images (from Flickr, Facebook, or your computer), draw pictures or simply write text all directly within a popple (or a bubble).  Popplet is also very collaborative in that more than one person can be working on the Popplet at one time (collaborative learning!) via a sharing with a collaborator option.  Once the Popplet is finished, you can easily embed it onto a Google Site which is a great option for sharing your finished product.  But it doesn't just stop there, Popplet can also be downloaded in .pdf or .jpeg format to share offline, it can be posted directly to Twitter or Facebook, the link can be copied and shared AND you can e-mail your finished Popplet to friends.  To show the session participants we created a Popplet entitled All About Popplet, to share the things you can do in visual and text (concept map) form.  For the handout we

There are endless opportunities for Popplet in the classroom, whether it be for the students or for teachers and principals as well.  Personally, I used Popplet for my first placement to organize and plan my entire Grade 5 Science Human Body unit.  I found that this was useful in terms of backwards design because I knew what my culminating activity was going to be and could figure out how my students were going to get there and be successful by the end of the unit.  I am also a very visual person, so I found this helped me to actually see all of the different body systems I wanted to cover (or lesson focuses) and thus create different lessons off of those focuses to help the students gain knowledge.  I also found it was easier for me to plan out how many lessons I would need to finish the unit before my placement was over!  Overall, I believe that Popplet is very useful because unlike other concept mapping programs, this web 2.0 tool is available to students after they leave the school at the end of the day and it is also collaborative which is a critical skill that our 21st century students need and want to use in their learning.

The handout provided to the Technology Showcase participants

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Leadership and Making a Difference

When I think of a leader, I think of someone who inspires change in people, whether it be in their actions or just in their thinking.  A leader inspires people to think differently about something or just begin to ask questions that may lead to a change in actions.  Leaders are people who want to make a difference, whether it be in a small way or a big way and actually take action to making that change.  Individual leaders have a passion in themselves that inspires them to make a difference.  This passion exudes from their very being and therefore intrigues others which gets them interested.  I have never met a leader quite like Dr. Smith but from the moment we did meet, I could tell he had passion for teaching and passion for his students.  As can be seen in the video, he believes that there needs to be a change in education, and he is the only professor that I ever encountered at the University of Western Ontario who is doing something in his classes to change his teaching for the better; utilizing the typical lecture method of a university class in engaging ways that keep students interested for a two hour class.  He is someone who exudes passion and fights for a change in education.  He makes students think, ask questions, be creative and actually learn and in doing so is one of the most awarded and favoured professors at Western.  A leader in education is someone who vitally cares about students and their learning, someone who wants to enable today’s students to be successful in the 21st century, someone who has a passion for teaching AND continuous learning.  Leaders in education can inspire change in today’s classrooms which will allow for student engagement, integration of technology and learning that will actually be retained by the students.  I want to be an educational leader as a teacher and aspire to bring the things that I have learned from Dr. Smith, as well as the things that I have learned throughout my year at Brock University with me into the classroom and inspire my fellow teachers and my students to continue the change for the better.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What 21st Century Teaching and Learning Means to Me

When I envision a 21st century teaching and learning environment, I see something completely different than the classrooms that I grew up learning in and a lot of the classrooms that I have seen through volunteering and placement.  To me, 21st century teaching and learning incorporates collaboration and inquiry into the learning environment.  This means that teachers utilize the vast amounts of knowledge available to them by creating Personal Learning Networks and collaborating with other educators; whether these are with teachers in their own school community, school board, province, country and even the world.  Social media now allows teachers to connect with different educators across vast space which provides them with even more learning opportunities and ideas for the classroom.  In my own experience, I have seen how Twitter and Google+ can be used to create vast bodies of knowledge for me as a teacher; whether it is gaining insight on websites that have resources on particular subjects or topics or just having someone to connect with that shares the same values and passions that you have.  If teachers are collaborating, they are more likely to see how valuable this can be for the classroom.  To prepare students for the 21st century, they need to be able to actively work in groups.  This means that we, as teachers, need to teach the necessary skills to students so that they can function in groups.  Collaboration means more knowledge for students because everyone brings something with them and more learning for students because they can build off one another and may be able to explain things better through discussion.  Inquiry is a necessary part of the 21st century classroom because it allows students to engage and be interested in what they are learning about.  Although it is a more difficult type of learning for teachers to facilitate and plan for, the overall benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.  Students are able to expand their learning based on something they are interested in and are therefore more likely to engage in learning outside of the classroom as well.  I think inquiry based learning allows for better integration across subject areas and creates a more favourable classroom environment not only for the students, but for the teacher as well.  When I see students genuinely interested in what they are learning, asking questions and making their own discoveries, it makes me realize why I want to be a teacher.  My vision of 21st century teaching and learning is creative, ever changing and has a deep focus on critical thinking.    I was not introduced to these concepts until my third year of university where I enrolled in a class with a professor who is passionate about 21st century teaching and ever since then I have been hooked.  He showed me how to make learning engaging and fun but still rich with content.  He was the first teacher that taught me how to effectively critically think and ask questions to divulge the truth.  He was the first teacher to ever show me that it was possible to make a differentiated assessment that catered to everyone’s individual strengths.  From my experience I discovered that 21st century students need to be made aware of all the information they are being bombarded with and how to critically think about it before making decisions.  It taught me how to make tests accessible to all students but still ask the same questions.  My experience in his classrooms were filled with creative assignments that allowed me to critically think, reflect, problem solve and develop my own learning and this showed me how to do the same for my future students.  I also believe that 21st century teachers are passionate and truly engaged in their classrooms; they are the teachers that make a difference in students’ lives.  If teachers do not have these qualities, I believe it makes it more difficult to facilitate 21st century teaching and learning because passionate teachers are the ones that keep students engaged and interested in their learning.  
When I think of 21st Century teaching and learning I think of this video.  It encompasses everything I think needs to change in today's classrooms in order to teach the 21st century student!