Monthly Archives: October 2015

Life is a Learning Process

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I am one of those people. One of those who believes that life is always teaching you something. That everyone you meet comes into your life for a reason, to teach you something about the world, about yourself. Whenever I read an article, a book, a newspaper, watch television, meet new people, visit new places, I learn something new. Some things I seek to learn and others I learn through experience or even by accident.

Reflecting on this few days I can identify many things which I have learned in both my professional and personal life. While I have learned many new things recently, I will focus on a couple:

  • I learned about Violent Threat/Risk Assessment.
This I learned in a formal setting from an experienced and knowledgeable presenter, Theresa Campbell. I attended a two day training session, ERASE Bullying, with colleagues and came away with a wealth of new knowledge. It was thought provoking, informative, intense and was very meaningful for me as a principal, educator and parent.
  • I am in the process of learning how to Sketchnote. Below is a copy of my first attempt:
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The topic, Framework For Decision Making, came from my professional growth plan. As an administrator, I have to make many decisions which often affect many different people. I have been researching different frameworks for decision making and have settled on one which I then decided to depict through a Sketchnote. The learning involved in the act of designing and producing a Sketchnote was Tangential learning which is ” the process by which people will self-educate if a topic is exposed to them in a context that they already enjoy.” Through the building of my PLN, I have been inspired by Sylvia Duckworth to try Sketchnotes and am finding the creative challenge to be interesting and engaging.

  • I learned how to use Google Slides

After attending the ERASE Bullying Training session I decided that I would like to share what I have learned with my colleagues who did not attend. Though I am familiar with PowerPoint and Prezi, I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to learn about Google Slides so I took some time this weekend to prepare a Google Slides presentation.

Each day we learn something new and if you take the time to reflect at the end of your day you will be able to recognize the value in these lessons. They don’t have to be big, life altering lessons, believe me, some days I look back and wish I had not learned a thing. After all, not all lessons are pleasant, some can be painful. But either way, we learn. All of our lessons come together to form the person that we are.. and will be.

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Solidarity vs. Solitary

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Solitary: existing without others, going it alone.

Solidarity: mutual support within a group.

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As educators, we have to be careful that we don’t become solitary. At times, we can find ourselves going to work, avoiding the staffroom, going into our classrooms and closing the door to the outside. After all, we went into education for the students and not for the interactions with other educators. Our classrooms become our second home. We have all had an experience where a student sees us outside of school and appears shocked and surprised that we actually have a life outside of the school. (Those people in our lives who know us well though, know that sometimes that is not too far from the truth!)

With a lot of the politics that goes on in the education system, it is understandable that, over time, you can succumb to being solitary. To cut yourself off from what goes on outside of the four walls of your classroom. Maybe its what you hear in the news during job action that starts the process. Maybe its a person on staff who seems to live to promote negativity and you become tired of that. Maybe its your life outside of school, when your children are little and your lack of sleep has an effect on your energy level. You need to conserve your energy for the students in your classes and not a whole lot is left over for fostering relationships with colleagues. Maybe you are focussing heavily on the lesson planning, the marking, the new technology that you want to learn about and utilize. Either way, you forget that other people are right across the hall and may be experiencing the same thing…going it alone.

If you recognize any of this in yourself, now is the time to make a change. A conscientious effort to open your classroom doors, allow the walls of your classroom to be permeable. Start sharing your ideas, successes and challenges with a colleague. Open the dialogue. So many folks will say, I simply don’t have time for that. Well, I say, you have to make time. The reward will far outweigh the effort it takes to engage in meaningful discussions with other educators in your school. Our schools are filled with people who have a wealth of experience. We have so much that we can learn from each other. After all, don’t we encourage our students to work collaboratively all the time. Haven’t you ever heard yourself say to a student “We have to learn to get along, to work together” ?

Of course, all of this is much easier to accomplish within a building where trust, transparency and risk taking are cultivated and promoted. There are people on every staff who you can identify as the leaders, the igniters. Who are willing to try new things. Start by reaching our to those people, or maybe you are one or used to be. Take that first step, be proactive. Invite someone into your class to see the learning that is happening. Not to watch you teach but instead to watch students learn.

Ask yourself why you got into teaching in the first place? More importantly, ask yourself, at the end of your career, how will you know if you have accomplished your why? You may be interested in certain topics in education, subjects, strategies. Share your passion. Encourage your colleagues to share with you. Together we can do so much. Go to a professional development event and sit with a groups of educators that you have never met. Step outside of your comfort zone. Engage in positive conversations around learning and foster your own growth mindset. When you return to your school, take the opportunity to share what you have learned with your colleagues.

You just may find that solidarity is a whole lot more fulfilling and energizing that solitary ever was.

The Order of Things: Disrupting Bloom’s Taxonomy

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Anyone in the education field has, at some time in their training, encountered Bloom’s Taxonomy. blooms_taxonomy

Since its original conception in 1956 there have been many papers written about it and there have been many modifications introduced.

 The merits lie within the levels of learning and the identification of the cognitive thinking skills involved. However, in keeping with the movement towards the flipped classroom, it has been suggested that we should be revisiting Bloom’s Taxonomy with an open mind and a more modern view. While the levels of learning are agreed upon, the order in which information is presented and acquired should be explored and disrupted.

In her article on Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy, Shelley Wright talks about changing how we look at the pyramid and suggests that the levels should be flipped. She calls this Bloom’s 21, with creating being at the bottom and remembering at the top.

Many people in education start a topic something like this:

  • Here is a new term/concept that we need to learn
  • This is the definition or an explanation of the term
  • Now, here are some examples

This method suggests that knowledge is the most important step, with emphasis being on the retention of factual information. Today’s learners need to know how to use that knowledge, the emphasis in our technological world being on learning how to learn. We are trying to move away from the idea that education involves a teacher telling the students what to learn and then testing the students to see if they can recall the correct answers.

For many students, the climb from the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy to the top is a difficult one and along the way many students get lost. When I was in school, a student’s ability to make it to the higher level of thinking was not so much taught, practiced or cultivated as it was seen as inherent.

As Shelley Wright suggests, the original pyramid implies that creativity is a rare commodity and can only be reached by those who master the lower levels of cognition. Educators know that this is not true. Students have infinite curiosity when they enter the school system and if that curiosity is cultivated, the potential for creativity is limitless. Wright tells us that we should begin with creativity and move towards knowledge.

I recently read a book called, 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong by John V Antonetti and James R Garver, where they talk about the importance of a shift in “the order in which students interact with content”. This requires the teacher to start a lesson with the focus being on in the middle of the pyramid, somewhere in the analysis or application levels. If you start with examples, have students work in pairs or small groups to develop the idea and then finally provide the term that is the focus of the lesson, students are more likely to be engaged and able to move to the high levels of thinking.

When I reflect back on my years in the classroom, I realize that the more I did to provide the knowledge, the less the students were able to retain the knowledge. I was working harder on review than they were. I was being “too helpful”. I now realize that, by starting elsewhere in the pyramid, whether that be where Wright suggests, at the creating step, or where Antonetti and Garver suggest, in the middle, would provide for a more engaging experience and cultivate curiosity.

Of course, this would take time and thought on the educators part, deciding the thinking level on which you would like to begin and developing a plan to get to your learners to where they need to be. This does require a paradigm shift. By providing students the direction, allowing them to work and sometimes struggle together, will foster greater engagement and allow for them to experience the spectrum of Bloom’s taxonomy.

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