Our Mission

Our mission is to create models of learning that support and inspire collaboration in a cross-curricular, inquiry-based community.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Movers and Shakers with George Couros

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to attend the SD36 Movers and Shakers day with George Couros.  I left with a lot to think about, and a bit of homework.  Below is a post I wrote for sd36learns.posterous.com  Here you can find reflections from the people who attended the session yesterday.  It's worth a read.  These people have such a passion for learning and truly inspire those around them.

What I learned Today and what I will do Tomorrow:

I often feel a bit overwhelmed during pro-d when I am bombarded with information and tools to use in my classroom.  George’s presentation was different though.  The way he made us think changed the way I view my practice.  George asked us “Why?”  I always knew that I try new things, embed technology and try to be creative in my classes because it engages my students, but I never actually asked myself “Why?” and definitely never shared it.  Asking this question really stressed me out, because I couldn’t actually answer it right away. It made me feel as though I was just doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff.  When I started writing and talking with the people at my table, I began to realize that I have several reasons why I use technology, but George’s voice was echoing through my head: "I do it because it is what’s best for the kids.”  Isn’t that why we are educators?  They are using social media anyways, so why not teach them how to create a positive digital identity? 

It is also our duty to give our students a voice and motivate them to reach their full potential.  As George said, we need to give kids a voice and share their work with an authentic audience, otherwise, imagine all of the talent and creativity that goes unnoticed. 

I challenge myself to make this change in my classes.  I will give my students a voice, and work harder to do what is best for my kids because “Kids often defy expectations, if given the opportunity” (Shelly Wright, @wrightsroom)

Thanks George and everyone else for the amazing discussions.
- Jess Pelat

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Calgary Science School and ConnectEd Canada

While sitting on the plane I remember wondering what to expect.  I knew I was going to an innovative school, but honestly, I wasn't even sure if I knew what that even meant.  I have been working with a wonderful group of teachers on various projects around our school, but I always felt a bit restricted by different structures such as schedules and curriculum.  Needless to say, my visit to Calgary Science School opened my eyes to new possibilities, inspired me beyond comprehension, and changed the way I see education and how I teach.
But, I guess I should start from the beginning so that you consider my naivety, and thus understand the learning I experienced.
I was approached by my principal, Sheila Morissette ( viewfrommyschool.wordpress.com/ ) about 2 weeks before ConnectEd, asking me to accompany her and Elisa Carlson (http://innovativelearningdesigns.ca/wordpress/ ) on a trip to Calgary.  As a member of the FH Innovative Learning Design Team, I thought this would be a great opportunity to see inquiry based learning in action.  Two weeks later I was on a plane headed for Calgary.  About an hour after we landed, I was face to face with people I had only heard about on twitter.  This was my first A-Ha moment.
As a teacher of Information Technology, I have been working to help my students understand the educational power of social media.  I am new to twitter and blogging, but I worked with my classes to uncover the potential of these tools in research and collaboration all year.  However, I wasn't experienced enough to truly understand it myself, until now.
At the "tweet up" I met some of the most interesting people, who were just as enthusiastic, if not more, to witness innovative teaching practices.  Here, we not only met for the first time face to face, but also discussed some of our interests and ideas around inquiry based learning.  It is amazing how collaboration on twitter can create relationships, partnerships, and connections that can change your practice so profoundly.  I realized, in meeting these educators, that there were people out there who share a similar passion with me.  There are others who want to see change in education, and give students a chance to succeed.
The following day was spent at Calgary Science School.  Again, I had no idea what to expect.  I figured it would just be another seminar, where we sat in a room and someone told us about the "next best thing in teaching."  To my surprise, we were given an opportunity to walk around the school all day and actually watch collaborative, technology-imbedded, inquiry-based learning in action.  I was immediately struck by the way the school was organized.  Groups of students stayed together and moved from class to class.  The classes also incorporated several subjects in various projects.  In particular I was fascinated by the Humanities class that was studying Canadian History.  The project was to create a monument.  This was a project for which they were obliged to understand Canadian history, develop a symbolic representation of one aspect of it, draw and develop it using technology such as Walkabout 3D and Google Sketchup, and then enjoy the work that they had produced.  The kids were essentially given the learning outcomes and had to develop their project step by step, using various skills they had learned from their teachers.
The school, teachers, and students made me really contemplate my own practice.  I do a lot of project-based learning, and I try to collaborate as often as possible, but I feel as though it needs to happen on a wider scale.  I incorporate technology in order to engage my students more, but that isn't always what is best for the project, or my students.  My attempts to engage my kids often leads me to develop projects that incorporate play, and other popular themes that my kids mention along the way, such as my QR code scavenger hunt that was a massive hit, and a repeat is still requested almost once a week.  Yet, it all seems so miniscule.  I want to go bigger.  I want to incorporate more subjects, more skills, more brains.  I want to eliminate the structure of the schedule and develop a place where students are using their own brains (not one the expectations of the current education system have led them to assume is "'A' quality").  I want to create a place where skills and understandings are used to tackle real world problems.  I want my students to think for themselves.  I want my students to challenge themselves.
At lunch on Friday I was inspired, yet again, by another presentation.  George Couros blew my mind with his powerful words and emotional connection with social media and education.  George's passion for learning and teaching our kids the value of social media as a tool in education made me want to learn it, try it, and know it all.  I probably signed up for a dozen different things online, and quickly realized that I needed to just sit back, take it one step at a time, and not get overwhelmed with the possibilities for enhancing my (and my students') learning.  However, George reminded me of that passion I have for learning.  He reminded me that student engagement and choice in learning is necessary if I want my kids to be successful.  And most importantly he reminded me not to be afraid to share my ideas, my learning, my successes and my failures because that's the only way I'm going to grow as an educator.  Read George's Blog at  http://georgecouros.ca/blog/ and follow him on twitter @gcouros
On Friday night we heard from four amazing speakers: Susan Eaton, Dr. MaryAnn Moser, Dr. Alex Bruton, and Shelley Wright, who again made me want to do better.   And on Saturday we sat in various seminars and had rather enlightening conversations.  I was sad to have to leave early, but so excited to get home and start planning.  I am currently working to maintain many of the connections I made in Calgary via twitter, and can only imagine how this collaboration and this experience will improve my teaching practice.
I will end this post with one of the most memorable moments from CSS and ConnectED, which pretty much sums up the way this innovative school engages kids and guides them towards successful learning:  I was standing outside of a grade 4 class by myself, about to walk in, when a little girl walks out of the classroom and stares at me for a moment before very confidently saying "hello."
I replied and she asked me, "What are you doing?"
I told her I was about to come into her classroom to see what they were working on.  She stared at me for a bit longer and said "Well then come in.  I am going to show you what I am doing."  She walked me over to her desk, looking back at me and explaining some of the project to me with a steady voice and solid eye contact.  She then opened her computer and tugged on my arm for me to bend down to get a closer look. "This is what we learned, this is my project, and this is how my project explains what I learned." Amazing.

For more information on Calgary Science School visit www.calgaryscienceschool.com/
For more information on ConnectEd Canada follow #connectedCA on twitter or visit http://connectedcanada.org/
Thanks to @gcouros, @Neilstephenson and @ErinCouillard

Friday, 1 June 2012

Poetry - A Grade 10 and 8 Collaborative Project

Many teachers at Fraser Heights have been experimenting with more collaborative, cross-grade projects.  We have found this experience to be extremely beneficial for our students, not only educationally, but also socially.  They are able to not only learn from each other, but also build relationships with peers in other grades, and thus develop a greater sense of school community in the process.

The Project:
Ms. Pelat's Humanities 8 class paired up with a student in Mrs. MacRae's English 10 class to create a collection of poems which illustrate 4 themes: School grounds/nature/neighbourhood; people (students, staff, etc.); The school building; Events/experiences/things that happened.

For each theme, the 2 students created a poetry response, demonstrating their understanding of various types of poems such as: Haiku, Diamante, limerick, villanelle, sonnet, free verse, tanka, etc.  They were expected to figure out what form (if any) to use for each theme, and also decide how to divide up the wiriting tasks.  This lead to conversations around trying to figure out with each partner was thinking.

After a 30minute nature walk, and once all of the poems were written, each pair of students presented their work to the class.

Our Observations:
Many of my grade 8s had trouble parting from their friends.  On the field, they clumped together and nearly refused to speak to their grade 10 partner.  However, after much separation anxiety, they were eventually able to walk around and write some of their observations down.  Some students made instant connections, while others still struggled with the idea of working with someone new and older/younger. 

In the classroom, we encouraged students to sit alone with their partner.  I believe this is where much of the bonding happened.  Many of the grade 8s (who hadn't had any poetry lessons at this point) asked many important questions regarding rhyme, syllables and types of poems.  This was a great experience for the grade 10s because their knowledge was tested as "experts" teaching their partners.

The Presentations:
When it came time to present their poems, all groups were very well prepared.  They had agreed on who would type out the poems and who would read what.  The grade 10s usually took control, giving introductions to each poem, and also gave their grade 8 counterparts encouragement to speak as well.  The classes were both very attentive as audience members, and many of the poems included verses describing their newly established relationship with their partner. 

This assignment is a summative assessment piece.  Both classes were engaged in formative assessment activities prior to the project, so they brought their own knowledge to this activity.  This project demonstrated their understanding of various types of poems and devices, as well as an ability to share understandings and knowledge.  During the presentations, Julia and I marked our students separately.  We then read through the poetry together, and came up with a mark that both students were given.

This collaborative experience was quite positive for our grade 8 and 10 classes.  The students were able to build new relationships with students in grades they normally would not encounter socially.  Furthermore, the work that was produced was a joint effort.  The students were able to write about their experiences, as well and learn about someone else's.  They also had an opportunity to learn new styles of writing from their partners, and were motivated by their partner to complete the work creatively and with high expectations.

Now What?
Collaboration is a positive force in education.  Students and teachers are able to share ideas and understandings, leading to even greater learning.  As inquiry-based learning becomes more popular in education, collaboration is increasingly more important in the way we teach.  On a recent visit to Calgary Science School, I was inspired by the collaboration among teachers and learners.  See Learning from Calgary Science School for more info.  To learn more about my visit to CSS, check out my latest blog post on the fhsslearn homepage.  

Fraser Heights Secondary is working on various projects to increase collaboration in our school.  More and more teachers are working together to create projects, lessons, units and courses.  One example is a projects developed between our ELL course and Shop http://db.tt/EJYuTVMg You can also find a summary of the project on the fhsslearn "projects" page.

It is a constant challenge trying to engage all students.  With the availibility of technology, we are able to develop more innovative ways to do so.  Using the iPads with this project can provide students will an opportunity to showcase their work in an alternative way.  Rather than using pens and paper, students can take the iPads outside, record what they see, feel, think, and also take pictures and video to display their encounters during their presentation.  They can use programs like Keynote as a presentation tool, and also create digital storybooks of their poems with apps such as iBook Creator.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pelat's Civilization Revolution iPad Project in Hum8

(See project outline on “projects” page)
On May 2, 2012 my Humanities 8 class presented their experiences with “Civilization Revolution” (iPad version).  The task was to understand what leads to the rise and fall of civilizations, which is one of the key PLOs in the Hum8 curriculum.  For the entire year, my class has been trying to understand our world (past, present, future) using essential questions as our lens. 
Some of our questions so far:
1.       What makes us who we are
2.       What is power? Where does it come from?
3.       How does geography determine the success of a civilization?
4.       What leads to the rise and fall of civilizations?
As a class, my grade 8s are realizing the connectedness of all of these questions, which were visually represented in this game. 
To begin, I realized that the iPads were going to be a big deal when used for the first time, so after I went over all of the instructions, and after we developed a set of rules for proper use (which they were super excited about signing – to make it official), I gave the groups (of 3) the rest of class time to “PLAY” with the game.  They were so excited to get their hands on it, but the novelty wore off pretty quick and they couldn’t wait to start charting, brainstorming, answering the questions, and organizing their group ideas. 
My students are a rowdy bunch.  They get their work done, but it’s usually a very “enthusiastic” process, with lots of chatter and a ton of questions.  During the Civ Rev unit, I have never seen them so focused on their own work – usually they are interested in the groups around them, walking around, comparing ideas, but this time they were glued to the iPad and their group members.
I was so impressed, and ultimately surprised by the outcome of this “video gaming” project.  I wasn’t expecting the depth of the answers that were presented.  We used keynote as a tool with our Apple TV, which was really convenient and easy to use.  Each group stood up, connected, and shared their experiences with the class.  I couldn’t believe the connections the groups made, each one using their games as examples for successful and unsuccessful civilization development; but, what really got me, was when 3 out of 5 of the groups actually attempted to connect the game, the questions, and other lessons from earlier in the year, to their school and community! (I didn’t even ask them to do this!)
At the end of the class I asked some of my students what they thought of the unit and they seemed to really enjoy it.  One student said that they had such a fun time playing the game that they didn’t even realize they were doing work. They also looked back at a brainstorm they did in class a few months ago around the essential question and they compared their answers then to their understandings now.  It is clear that they now have a deeper understanding of what leads to the rise and fall of civilizations.  They have developed a one word list (leaders, beliefs, culture, etc) into a meaningful explanation, complete with visuals, historical examples, and modern day connections.  I have attached a copy of the project questions and guidelines for further reference.

Using the iPads - How do we maintain shared devices?

The Learning Design Team has been working hard to educate ourselves on iPad use in the classroom.  We are excited to try new things and share them with our students, however the only way to do that is to PLAY!  We have handed out 8 iPads to members of the learning design team (those who showed interest) and those people have been exploring various uses for about 2 weeks now.  We also had a Meet n’ Eat where we shared some of our learning and experiences with other staff members.  We are still trying to work out some of the “bugs” with shared devices (iPad cart) and are planning on expanding our classroom iPad protocol and maintenance education.  Jess has proposed to educate teachers (pro-d, meet n’ eats?) as well as give a talk at the beginning of the year at our grade assemblies on how to properly use shared devices.  Take a look at the great poster Vicki and Teresa found on Twitter (Go to the resources tab – it’s the first link).

Any FH teachers interested in familiarizing themselves with iPads, you are welcome to sign one out for the weekend (from the iPad cart – See Angela Monk in the Library) or if you are interested in creating a project and think you need a longer time to play around on it, find Jess Pelat in the IAT prep room as she has 2 available for sign out – these iPads are intended for innovative learning design and should be used to promote/develop collaboration and project-based learning.

Please keep in mind that these are shared devices that are maintained at a central location. Thus, please do not log in to your personal iTunes account as it causes problems for the facilitators and is very time consuming to adjust, delete, update, maintain.  Also, please make sure you delete any pictures or personal documents as anyone else using the device after you will have access to it.  Finally, it is advised that you do not log into your personal accounts (email, Twitter, Facebook) using the apps, as some people have encountered difficulty deleting accounts after due to various controls that are on our School iPads.  It is expected that this information is also shared with students when using the school iPad cart.  See Jess if you are having problems or have additional questions. 

Anyone with any ideas for apps to upload or purchase, let Jess know.

We are also looking for speakers willing to come and talk to us about ePortfolios for our students using SharePoint, as well as experts on project-based/collaborative learning.  Any names come to mind?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

21st Century Learning with Alec Couros

The learning design team at Fraser Heights had a privledge of sitting down with Alec Couros today to have a conversation about 21st Century learning. 

Alec Couros is a professor of educational technology at the University of Regina.  With regards to social media in education, we had many questions for Alec.  Below are some of the key points from our conversation.   

It seems as though there are many teachers who are resisting the shift into "21st century learning" and the use of social media because they are concerned about students losing traditional literacies. 
- How do we find a balance between paper/pen and technology integration in project-based learning?
- What if the course is content driven like ss11, in classrooms where the students and teachers are comfortable inside the box?  Do we really need to change?

What does 21st Century Learning really mean?
-          NCTE standards
-          Develop proficiency with the language and tools
-          Global communities
-          Manage, analyze and synthesize a multitude of information (multimedia text, multi-literacies)

Essentially, we need to start somewhere because education is changing whether we want it to or not.  There are new ways of understanding the world around us and they can be found with the touch of a button...not even a button...by tapping a screen!  Kids (and teachers) have the information right in front of us.  We need to teach them how to gain access to this information in a safe way.  We need to learn how to collaborate online and use the resources around us.  No longer do we need to teach dates and times of events in history.  We need to teach our students how to think about these things critically and how to efficiently access and share the information.
Struggles – what’s appropriate and what’s not? – Where’s the line?  What should be private (tweets etc)?

Do we need to worry about losing penmanship?

TED – Wade Davis
Looks at the loss of culture
What does it mean to be the last speaker of your own language?

What are we holding on to and why?  - you can never get rid of peer review it’s just done differently now – faster, more efficient, wider scale (more opinions)

Scott Mcleod @mcleod – "If you are not becoming digitally literate, you are slowly becoming illiterate"
      - What does this really mean?  What does it mean to be literate?  What is literacy?

Possible Solutions -

Using facebook pages?  Facebook.com/pages – that way you don’t have to add students to facebook – opens it up but keeps your profile private

Twitter is good for professional development resources – being social and fun is not a problem.  It’s ok – build your digital identity and show your students how to too!

There are problems that exist with technology in education BUT Don’t blame it on the technology itself – it’s the way it’s used and our understanding of that.

Learning how to use blogs in different ways? – School blogs are not social blogs - teach students the difference and teach them how to appropriately build their digital identity
-          What if we don’t have time to teach how to blog?  How do we teach the literary aspect without having to waste time with digital identity?

How do we assess the differentiation – are they really meeting criteria?  Make sure criteria is CLEAR…as long as it’s met, then delivery is up to the student – do a reflection at the end that explains learning – did you try something new?

Some tools worth checking out:

GoogleDocs – collaborative writing https://docs.google.com
PollEv - online polls for the classroom (great for intros, critical thinking, presentations, etc) www.polleverywhere.com
Remind101 – set up texting and class subscribes http://remind101.com/
GoogleReader – if class blogs, it becomes more of a portfolio (get students to subscribe to eachother) https://reader.google.com/
KidBlog.org (wordpress based) – shows up on one page http://kidblog.org/
#commentsforkids (post work to twitter and get feedback from everywhere)
Give kids the choice?  Publish for world or publish for private? Communicate with parents for consent

Pinterest – like a corkboard that allows you to pin things – art, picture, ideas, interests, school stuff???  Becoming very popular. Possibly used as a classroom bulletin board online?? http://pinterest.com/

Online social bookmarking – http://delicious.com/

"Let me google that for you" (search on google) – how to use youtube (for example)
"Real time world war II" - Tweeting the war day by day (6 years real time)
Google “my fake wall” – social media profile without actually having to go on twitter or facebook.
Foursquare – checking in using geolocation – “girls around me” (is anything really private anymore? ) The reality of our digital identity – make kids aware!  Share this with them to show how public their info really is, and the potential implications of that.

Some people who were mentioned who may be interesting resources:

Seth Godin – inundate Google with good stuff about us
Moving towards “the new social”
Scott Mcleod @mcleod
David Chrystal – texts and tweets myths and realities (youtube)

Kathy Cassidy – blog (innovative teacher award.  Moosejaw sask.)
NCTE.org (This gives a really good definition of digital literacy)
Danah Boyd – Public by default, private by effort

Wade Davis - Search on TED

You can’t control the conversation unless you are in it.  Get in on the conversation.

The internet has shifted from a place from which we can download stuff, to a place where we can now contribute to the conversation (web 2.0) – assignment idea: learn how to do something via the internet (eg. Play piano, speak a language)

Join the Conversation! Make mistakes! Share your ideas and don't be afraid to PLAY! 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

iPads and AntiBullying at FHSS!

These PSAs were completed entirely on the ipad. they recorded and then edited with the imovie app.  So these are the final products:

Troubleshooting was: How to get songs into imovie?
icloud - didn't work
dropbox - didn't work
itunes - this worked. If they had their own itunes account with the song they wanted in it, they could log in and import the song into the ipad to use it. The other methods didn't allow the song to be imported. Some kids held two ipads together and they played the song on one and recorded it on the other...that's why some sounded better than others but at least they learned to problem solve!
Other issue: one group's video clips got deleted by another class (we've narrowed it down to Pocock's...lol)

T. Oakland

Drama 9 – created on the ipads
http://vimeo.com/37191683    Iryna’s group  * *
http://vimeo.com/37207719   Gurvir’s group
http://vimeo.com/37207289   Amanda’s group
http://vimeo.com/37208054     Tara’s group 
http://vimeo.com/37207725      Parisa’s group