By Kyle Laughy
Last year I started my kids blogging on a site called “kidblog”. Kids would blog their weekend writing and would post comments on each other’s work. This year I’m excited to do even more with Edublogs. I’m hoping to not only have students post their weekend writing, but also their other writing projects along with pictures of other classroom work they have completed. Later on in the year, I plan to pair up with another grade 4 class and complete a writing project with them where students from different schools can learn from one another. The kids seem excited and so am I.
By Christine Quong christinequong.ca
Having dedicated time to plan with another teacher or several teachers has been one of the best parts of my job this year. As a Lead Collaboration Teacher, I get to work with teachers who request to work with our team. Using Jennifer Katz's 3 Block Model our team has recently been focused on Block 2, which is instructional design. Planning sessions have involved UDL focused unit plans as well as cross curricular unit plans. I have to admit my plans from the past look nothing like the planning I have had the opportunity to be a part of this year. When working with small groups of teachers to plan it has become clear to me that I have been missing out when planning in isolation all these years. I have always had a great team that shares ideas, but only a few times have we sat down to really plan out full units. I always felt like a didn't have time. Teachers are busy at least that was the excuse I used. Who had time to plan with others when you have phones calls to make, reports to write, materials to get ready for class, work to mark and on and on. Really, what was I thinking? The quality of the plans made in collaboration with others has been amazing this year. Everyone has different strengths to bring to the table. The more diverse the teachers in our group the more diverse our lessons were. I was always happy to have someone who was strong in music and math as these are not my personal areas of strength. I have my own strengths to bring which I think are integrating technology and (to use the kid friendly language I use with students) picture and people smarts. Having people to bounce ideas off of, I have learned, is invaluable.
Other avenues I have explored to reach out and collaborate with educators is Twitter, Edcamps and Moocs. For the past few years, I have found using Twitter to connect and collaborate one way that I can find other educators who push my thinking and help me reflect on my own teaching practices. I check to see what others tweet out. Tweets can link me to blogs, articles, and links to resources they are using with their class. I then take some of those ideas, tweek and adopt the ones that work for me and my students. Twitter has become my main source of PD. I love it because it is PD on my time and PD that I choose. I have attended Edcamps such as Redcamp and EdcampEdmonton. I first heard about Edcamps through Twitter. By following other Alberta Educators, I came across a Redcamp tweet. I had no idea what an Edcamp was so I investigated further online. An unconference to meet others interested in education in Alberta, I was in. I attended #Redcamp12 and met other passionate Alberta educators face to face like Joe Bower, Sean Grainger and Verena Roberts. RedCamp opened with a short keynote from Joe Bower and all participants had the opportunity to propose a topic that they would be interested in learning about. You could start a new topic or tag on to a topic posted by someone else that you were also interested in. Topics were constructed by the participants that morning. It was a type of PD I had never experienced before. Not only did everyone have a say in the topics but they were not sit and get type sessions. They were conversations! The one session I attended, that stood out for me, was on Provincial Achievement Tests. Not only were educators there but I believe there was a city councilor that attended. It was great to be able to have these conversations with various stakeholders and see the perspective of others. I really love the format of Edcamps and loved the opportunity to meet face to face with other passionate educators I follow on Twitter. Last year I attended EdCampEdmonton. There I connected with more Alberta educators like Karla Holt, Jen Deyenberg, Kelli Holden and Catherine D. With Karla I share a passion for educational technology and I have been fortunate to be in a few classes with her. If I need to know about iPads, Karla is my go to person. Jen is the queen of all things games based learning and shares my interest in Universal Design for Learning. Kelli and Catherine were both grade 4 teachers, which happened to be the grade I taught. Catherine also took some of the same 3Block Model of UDL sessions with Jennifer Katz so when I have a question about that or even want some feedback on lessons or units I have been working on, I know I can ask her. Working in my current role, I do not have a class of my own but I continue to follow and learn from them whenever I can. Edcamps have allowed me to connect and learn face to face with educators that share the same interests. Many times these connections continue online and or face to face. These are some of the people that make up my Personal Learning Network. Whenever I am stuck or have a question, these are the people I know I can reach out too. Often I will tweet out a question and someone in my PLN will respond to help, or point me in the direction of help. The first Mooc I participated in was the #DCMooc. It was a Digital Citizenship Massive Online Open Course facilitated by Dr. Alec Couros. I took it because I was interested in the topic, it was free and I could participate as little or as much as I wanted. This was perfect because I was not sure how much I could commit to the course. I had never taken a Mooc, was working full time and was not sure what to expect. There were some weeks that I could not make the webinars or Twitter chats but I could always catch up, when I had time. Many sessions were scheduled twice, once in the afternoon one day and then again in the evening on a different date. The webinars were recorded and archived on the #DCMooc site and I could watch them whenever I had time or not at all. The choice was mine and it was what worked best for me. People could connect and share their learning in the Google+ Community or Tweet and follow the learning using or searching the #DCMooc. It was a great learning experience. A few weeks ago, the opportunity to join on as a Co-Conspirator for the #oclmooc, came up. It is a Connectivist MOOC for Alberta Educators...& other interested trainers, teachers and learners. I could not turn this down. Many of the educators I have met along the way of my Twitter, EdCamp and MOOC journey are also involved in the project. #oclmooc is open to all learners but I am particularly interested in how we as Alberta Educators can connect and collaborate more. Working in a smaller rural district it often challenging to provide meaningful professional development for ALL. Many times teachers are working on an island with nobody to connect with about the ideals or disciplines or subject matter that is important to them. With the technology that is available now there are so many ways anyone could connect to others with shared interests, despite distance. I have had the privilege to witness many great teachers over the years and even more so in the last year. How can we better share our wealth of expertise already here in Alberta and learn more openly? How many other Alberta educators out there feel like they are learning on an island? If you are one of these people, check out the #oclmooc. Start or continue building your own Personal Learning Network through the oclmooc. If you are not on Twitter, have not participated in a webinar or joined a Google+ community, not to worry. Now is your chance to learn...check out our getting started page. If you have questions at anytime ask a Co-Conspirator. I am excited for the learning and connecting to come in #oclmooc. How are you creating opportunities for more teacher collaboration in your school or division? Would love to hear from you in the comment section below.
This fall we have an exciting new online resource that is available to all of our teachers in PHRD.
CORE is a resource repository that takes a lot of the resources many of us have already been using, and puts them together in one place. No longer do I need to go to Learn Alberta and then Discovery Education and then 2Learn and do three separate searches to find learning resources. CORE lets me run one search and find resources from all of these difference sources. It brings all of my favourite resources together in one spot. I can search Discovery Education, Learn Alberta, CBC Resources, MIT OpenCourseWare, Iris Resources, Pearson Resources, eTexts, Destination Imagination, and so much more! Once I find what I’m looking for, I can save it to my favourites and it’s there for me to use in my classroom at any time.
To make it even easier to find what you are looking for, you can use the “PHRD Power Search” which lets you narrow your search parameters by subject, grade, resource format, resource provider, and language. You can also use the “Browse by…” button to browse materials by grade, by subject and by format. Enter your keyword, and CORE will find a wealth of information for you to look at. Each resource comes with a brief description that will help you to decide if the resource is right for you and your students.
To get a brief overview of CORE and how you might consider using it, you can check out the video below. It was created by CORE and CBE to help explain what CORE is and how teachers and students can make use of it. Just click on the link below and it should take you to the video’s site in CORE.
Core 5 minute Video
Another feature of CORE is that it contains teacher made materials as well. A bit like “Teachers pay Teachers” or “LessonPlans4Teachers.com,” CORE is a place where teachers can upload material and make it available to other teachers within the CORE community. I can find lessons materials on a number of topics and course materials created by other teachers right here in Alberta. For example, when I type “digital citizenship” into the search bar, I find an entire bundle of information for “Digital Citizenship Week” that was put together last year by teachers in Calgary along with the help of George Couros from Parkland School Division. The bundle includes a recorded webinar aimed at junior high and high school students, student and teacher version of a passport to the internet, a planning template and an Ed Talk. This material has already been used by other teachers, and it has been shared in CORE for me to use with my students. In the future, as I develop some of my own learning materials, I will be able to upload them to CORE and share them with teachers in PHRD and in the other participating Alberta school jurisdictions.
Digital Citizenship Resources
One more way to use CORE, is as an online database. All of the online reference center materials from Learn Alberta are available for use through CORE. You can access Bookflix, World Book Kids, Culturegrams, BrainPOP, Britannica School, Shakespeare in Bits, Lit2Go, Visual Dictionary Online, Art Encyclopedia, CN Images of Canada Gallery, The Atlas of Canada, Amazing Animal of the World, World Book Advanced, Visual Thesaurus, The Alberta Online Encyclopedia, CBC News in Review, Grolier Online Passport, and so much more. It’s a great place to take your students using your SMART board and show them how to search for information. I like to use World Book Kids when young kids are researching owls or penguins. For older kids, you can get “Coles notes” type study guides and animated version of “Hamlet” through Shakespeare in Bits, and the CN Images of Canada Gallery would be great for Grade 7 or Grade 5 Social. Eventually, the plan is to make CORE accessible to our students as well. When this happens, you can set up a link to Grolier Online for your students to use when they need to do some research in class. It’s great for younger kids who can get lost trying to do a Google search.
If you haven’t already had a chance to check out CORE, you might want to take a few minutes to run a search or two and see what you can find. Just go to alberta.core.ca and login. If you have any questions, please send me an e-mail. I would love to help you get started with CORE.
This blog and resources website has been developed through the work of various AISI coaches in PHRD. The lead collaborative teachers for the 2015/2016 school year, Cheryl Frose, Christine Quong and Tammy Tkachuk will continue to update this site. If you have resources you would like to share or would like to contribute to the blog, please contact us.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.