Today 82 students from Toko High School visited our school. They were paired with Fraser Heights student buddies who toured them around then took them to their classes. This afternoon the Toko students put on a cultural fair to teach origami, calligraphy, and a variety of games. The visit brought such a positive vibe to the school. What great hosts our students were buying Tim Bits for their buddies so they could have a Canadian experience. It was such good learning and a positive exchange.
On May 25th I had the opportunity along with Jessica Pelat, Humanities and IT teacher, and Elisa Carlson, Director of Instruction for Surrey School District to visit the Calgary science school. This was part of the ConnectedCa conference. This public charter school in Calgary has grades 4 – 9 with about 650 students. There are long waitlists of students wanting to attend this school. They are using an inquiry based approach to teaching and learning. We were welcomed by students and staff to freely visit the school and drop in on classes. The school has a 1:1 computer for each student. These are Mac laptops or ipads. Students pay $65 year to rent and insure their computers. They can purchase the laptops fairly inexpensively when they leave the school. Students were deeply engaged in their learning. I tweeted out many of the lessons I saw that were most impressive. Inquiry learning involves students tackling real world problems, having students beginning their learning with their own questions, collaborating within and beyond the classroom, and sharing their work and learning publicly. Inquiry learning is an umbrella term to project based learning that we are beginning to dabble in at Fraser Heights.
The learning was fun and engaging and had little to do with memorization of facts or traditional teaching, testing, and quizing. Instead the students got involved with projects that were everything from using foam sort of pool noodles to make rollercoaster physics, to plastic water bottles becoming wind turbines, Grade 7 Humanities project on Canadian History using 3 D walkabout app to create monuments that memorialized a figure from our history, Grade 8 Humanities Renaissance project that linked experts in Calgary’s oil patch and compared them to the Medicis. Grade 9 math used manipulatives both real and virtual. A grade 8 physics lesson used algodoo machine simulation software. Math class had students balancing equations using software from the University of Utah.
We met with the conference organizers: George Couros, Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning in Parkland School Division, Alberta @gcouros georgecouros.ca, Neil Stephenson who worked at CSS but is now District Principal of Innovation and Inquiry in Delta School District @Neilstephenson www.thinkinginmind.com, and Erin Couillard who is the full time Professional Development and Outreach Coordinator for Calgary Science School @ErinCouillard www.calgaryscienceschool.blogspot.com/
I intend to blog about the ConnectedEd conference in another post. The learning was fantastic but almost overwhelming. The blogging will help me to sort through my learning. It was some of the best professional development I have ever attended. Here are some pictures of the students at the Calgary Science School.
On May 3rd Spanish teacher, Mr. A. Gonsales used the double blocks in the morning and afternoon to cook paella with his students. Using 2 giant paella pans and propane burners the students prepared and stirred the food. It is a long slow process that is really a labour of love. What a great way to build a love of Spanish culture, food, and language. Many enjoyed the dish. Its a mix of rice, saffron, chicken, cuttlefish, and shrimp. Wonderful! Muy delicioso!
I was pleased to attend the Surrey Foodbank 10th annual fundraiser earlier today. There were 700 community supporters there to lend their support. This is really a large event. I was proud to see 20 Fraser Heights students there volunteering their time to help serve. This was great support and a real helping hand to those in need in our community.
Thank you to Sheida Shakeb Zadeh our PAC president who invited me to attend.
Yesterday 26 members of our teaching staff came together over lunch to do some learning together. They call their time together “Meet and Eat”. Our longer lunch hour of nearly one hour helps facilitate this learning time. IT teacher and Learning Design Team leader Jessica Pelat did a demo using the ipad and Apple TV of an I book creator project she did with her Humanities 8 class where they created a book together. She said the students loved this project and this generated a lot of interest as teachers could see lots of applications in their classes. Students save their books in Dropbox or ibooks on the ipad. She is also using an app called Civ Rev. There was also discussion of ipad ettiquitte. We realize that we need to teach our students to look after the ipads on our cart so that they can easily be used by multiple classes all day long. We have been having some problems with students changing the language on the ipad as well as putting their own apps on them. All growing pains as we learn to manage our ipad cart. Teacher Librarian, Angela Monk also demonstrated Quizlet which is a quiz and game generator that some teachers have been using with success.
About a dozen of our teachers were able to have a wonderful conversation on April 10th with Alec Couros, professor of Educational Technology, at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. The first thing Alec Couros did when he arrived at Fraser Heights was check in on Foursquare and check out our open wireless campus. He was very pleased at how open our wireless is as he was able to access everything he was looking for and he knows that our students can do the same. What a treat it was and what rich conversations we had. Dr. Couros was in the Surrey School District for a few days to meet with teachers and administrators about 21 century learning. His session was called: Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone: Transitioning Toward 21 Century Learning. Our informal conversation at Fraser Heights covered lots of ground. Its safe to say everyone in the room found the conversation stimulating and engaging. It was at times challenging and provocative and really stretched our thinking. We talked about a quote that I thought was from Alec’s brother George @gcouros who also recently visited our school district but the statement is actually from Scott Mcleod @mcleod and it is “If you are not using social media, you are slowly becoming illiterate.” We discussed what is meant by this and how our definitions of literacy are changing. For example if you or our students do not know what a hashtag is or a retweet then you are slowly becoming illiterate. Alec Couros showed us the new standards of literacy developed by NCTE National Council for Teachers of English framework for 21 century curriculum and assessment. The standards for literacy are changing in what some would call a post literate age.
Our conversation also lead to assessment practices. One teacher asked how you can assess a blog vs a powerpoint vs an imovie for example? Dr. Couros suggested we ask the students which we are more able to learn from and why.
Some of my other new learning from the conversations with Alec Couros includes: Commenting is as important as blogging. We often encourage our students to blog but students can learn just as much from commenting on others blogs as from their own blog writing. That we need to ask our students how did they contribute to the learning of others? That learning is social and that it needs to be shared. How are we teaching digital citizenship in our schools? We saw examples of what 21st century learning looks like. We also saw examples of student’s work whereby students were are able to share their learning in a variety of media. Sometimes they shared learning where the learning all came from the web or YouTube. He told us that reading and writing changes in the post literate generation. And that hypertext changes everything about learning. Books are no longer one dimensional. We watched a YouTube video of Joe’s non-netbook.
Here was an interesting teaching idea for an English teacher to use twitter. Ask students ” What would Hamlet tweet?”
Our conversations gave us many new ideas for teaching and learning in this digital age. We are grateful to Dr. Couros for his visit to Fraser Heights Secondary and to the Surrey School District. We have a new friend who has given us a lot to think about.