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Showing posts from 2015

STEAM Acronym Conversations I've Had Lately

This year, every school in our board will be participating in an inquiry to explore STEAM education. Two weeks ago we launched this initiative with a kick-off event for secondary teachers at the Education Centre.
STEAM is part of my job title; it is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. We anticipated some uncertainty about what this would look like in schools, particularly in secondary schools where we naturally separate the subjects into different rooms, hallways, or wings of our school buildings. I am proud that this acronym is part of my title, though I might add that I've had my fill of STEAM puns and jokes for the time being. (These include, but are not limited to 'STEAM rooms,' 'getting STEAMy,' references to trains and conductor's hats, and the use of phrases like 'full STEAM ahead!'...I'm sure you get the idea.) 
I have had many conversations with teachers in the two weeks since the secondary STEAM launch. There are …

We Are All Learning

(This post also appears in our SCDSB 194 Days of Learning Blog!)

About eight months ago, I blogged about the challenges of supervising my daughters' daily piano practice. The post described how we were all learning something from this shared experience, particularly about grit and perseverance.

The last week has brought about an interesting development in our family piano journey. I have agreed to take on the role of piano accompanist for a community choir I belong to. Our previous accompanist had moved on, and although I didn't volunteer immediately and enthusiastically (I have lots on my plate!) I knew that I could fill the position if they needed me to. 

It has been several years (read: more than 10) since I did any work as an accompanist, and I do not practise piano regularly (read: almost never). The challenge of jumping back into this type of role was attractive to me; an opportunity to shake off the cobwebs and see what I'm capable of. 

Now I find a little bit of time e…

The Hologram Story

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(This post also appears in our SCDSB 194 Days of Learning Blog!)

I work with a phenomenal team of people. We don't always see a great deal of each other throughout the week as we pop in and out of the office on our way to and from schools across the county. One way we keep in touch is through Twitter. (You can see what our entire team has been tweeting by checking out Pat Miller's list here: https://twitter.com/pmillerscdsb/lists/pit-2015-16).

Tuesday evening, I saw this tweet:
Turn your Smartphone into a 3D Hologram | 4K @szwildcat guess what we're making tomorrow! #steam@scdsbmathhttps://t.co/qYdZwhlGbq — SCDSB Arts (@jamilamonahan) September 22, 2015
Turn your Smartphone into a 3D hologram? Let's just say this: if you want to do an 'upcycling' project to create a device that turns iPads and smartphones into hologram viewers, you don't need to twist any arms in our department. Those of us who were going to be in the office Wednesday morning offered to bring su…

Library Evolution

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(This post also appears in our SCDSB 194 Days of Learning Blog!)

Today I had the privilege of visiting the library at Baxter Central Public School. Last spring I had corresponded with the librarian, Andrew Morrison, about transforming part of his library into a 'Makerspace.' 

Makerspace has become a bit of a buzzword in the last couple of years; many people are curious about them and wondering how they can create one in their school. Our teacher librarians have a key role to play in this venture as we see many 'learning commons' being transformed into multi-purpose spaces, and Melissa Jensen has been doing a phenomenal job sharing her expertise with all of our librarians as they consider their changing roles in our schools. The arrival of the green screens in schools last autumn was probably one of the first indications that our libraries were becoming key locations for students to engage in hands-on creation.

After our short exchanges in the spring, I was thrilled to hea…

AEIC 2015 - We Love Learning!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping host an Arts, Equity, and Innovation Conference for teachers. This was the third Saturday of ‘free PD’ that has been organized and hosted by members of my team during this school year. (You can read my posts about EdCamp and the PUSH Conference from earlier in the year.) These events are playing a key role in transforming mindsets about professional development and innovation in education. They have certainly opened my eyes to the importance of providing venues for teachers to learn and share, an area I have identified as important as we try to find ways to #makeschooldifferent.

Yesterday’s conference had a special vibe that is only felt in the presence of artists. Attendees learned about drumming, silk screening, printmaking, strumming, dancing, and drama. Sessions focused on things like assessment, student voice, equity, and social justice. A variety of vendors and guests energized our innovation space with gorgeous examples of art making and…

Ideas and Action (after the Anger)

I have been reflecting about the power I have to drive positive change in my school board - the ‘action’ part of the #makeschooldifferent conversation. I enjoyed reading @Dunlop_Sue’s ‘So Now What?’ post that addresses this issue, and thought that I should write explicitly about what I can do to address some of the issues I raised in my original #makeschooldifferent post. Although I am one person, my central role gives me the potential to reach a large number of teachers and students, and I want to make sure I am carrying out my work with purpose.
The following is a list of four things that have become important to me in my work with teachers this year. These are things that I have grown passionate about. These are things that I love to discuss and debate with my colleagues. These are the things that I read about in my spare time. These are the things that I want to focus on in the months to come.

Professional Learning for the Love of It! One of the frustrations I have voiced this year i…

#MakeSchoolDifferent: Is it OK for anger to drive change?

I have enjoyed following the #makeschooldifferent discussion on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Scott McLeod (who initiated this conversation) has been working hard to compile responses to the ‘5 things to stop pretending in education’ prompt in this document. Take a minute and read through some of the list right now if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about. (Then come back here, please.)
When I took the challenge to add my voice to the #makeschooldifferent conversation it felt really good to speak honestly about some of my current areas of concern in my work with teachers. A few days after that post I was reading some other teachers’ posts when I became concerned about the tone of some of them. I revisited my own post and realized that it could be interpreted as being very negative.
After some reflection I decided to stop worrying about how my tone might be interpreted. Passionate opinions are required to drive positive change. I was reminded of this TED talk. In the talk, Nobel Laur…

Let Students Help Drive Change

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our efforts to consult with students to plan a large event as part of our board’s commitment to the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global partnership. A group of 40 students from 13different schools ranging from grade 4 to grade 12 gathered in a sunny library to discuss the meaning of deep learning and work on some guided inquiry projects while their parents, teachers, and administrators met elsewhere in the building.
As facilitators we did not know what to expect from these students. We did not know the majority of them personally and did not know what skills they were bringing to the table. We were not sure how much guidance they would need to use the computers and iPads, perform research, or create presentations to share their learning. We were not sure whether they would come to the event with inquiry mindsets, collaboration skills, or curiosity. Faced with so many unknowns our planning was uncomfortably open-ended; there were more question mar…