CILP [Collaborative Inquiry and Learning of PADI Online Diving Course]

As I make my way through the 15+ hours of online learning prior to become certified for closed and open water diving with my family (holy time commitment Batman! Sounded like a good idea at the time when we booked our trip…), we find ourselves having an obscure out of body experience of sorts. As we read through and listen to the content, watch the ‘at point of use’ videos, branch off to outside links should our interests take us there, we have collaborative a-ha moments where we realize maybe THIS is what personalized learning is supposed to be???

The PADI online course, but my favourite feature is the short checks for understanding that I get to do after short chunks of new learning. Learning goals are stated right up front for me as I move along to the next set of ideas, and there are guiding questions in the top right hand corner of the screen where the content can be found. I have been called ‘old school’ in my approach to learning, because I still find it necessary to take notes on pencil-paper (my kids don’t do this, and interestingly enough, neither does my husband), but this system works for me.

After I complete each section, the program provides me with a summary of BIG ideas that I then compare to my own notes. The little quizzes help prepare me for the larger end of unit assessment and when I score 100% I feel great. I really like the way the automated-scoring final assessment works too. With each answer, I get more information about why my answer is correct. If I answer it incorrectly, this feedback box tells me why my answer is wrong, provides me with the correct responses AND directs me to the whereabouts in the course I can review to consolidate my learning. Imagine if students could be provided with such timely feedback? Imagine what I could do as an educator, seeing how many times certain students needed to revisit certain concepts? This would be so helpful for guided instruction…

I’m only on module 2 of 5 but I can’t get over how each of my 5 family members is going through the course differently. The boys click on videos whenever they are available, whereas Julia and I are task masters, want to keep a steady efficient pace, and so we avoid the extras but keep notes to be accurate. Gender difference maybe, hmmm?

To date, because of individual extra curricular and work schedules etc…, we have not worked on the online course work simultaneously. I think it’d be interesting if we did because we could experience the benefits of ‘blended’ learning. Due to the number of computers in our house, this would require someone doing it on a mobile device. Wonder what that would be like? If we completely the modules concurrently, I wonder if they will turn to discuss ideas with one another? Will save those thoughts for the next CILP reflection…

Sure has been an interesting snapshot into how we each approach the task differently. PADI has got it right: technology is allowing us to customize the learning experience.

Yours in SCUBA newbie-ness,
Tania

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Finding the balance…

Had an interesting experience last week.

Our school leadership team had the opportunity to finalize our school improvement plan and meet with our Superintendent of Schools to discuss next steps.

We had been provided a list of guiding questions that our SO used during a rich 1.5 hour  focused conversation. A number of voices were invited around the table to ensure multiple perspectives were represented, and people spoke very frankly about the progress, challenges, and work that still remains to do to improve student achievement in a few areas as identified from a variety of different data sets. At several points, it did not even feel like a meeting; rather we were discussing educational change very honestly and openly. People listened, opinions were welcomed, colleagues offered support and extended ideas, AND some even disagreed agreeably. Nice!

When it came time for the rubber to hit the road and define our immediate next steps, the need to differentiate teacher professional learning offerings became more apparent than ever. As I am sure is the case on many school staffs, we have people at very different professional learning comfort levels. As the co-facilitator of our weekly TLCP sessions, I have also come to appreciate that there is the work that teachers feel needs to be done based on their perspective, and then there is the work that admin feels is required to move students and teachers along in our critical thinking and mathematics journey. While some might feel they know what the nature of the work is that needs to be done next… teacher buy-in is not a given. The Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) research of Hall and Hord has taught us for decades that unless we value the need for the perceived change, change will take longer to achieve and chances are it will not stick…

The good news is we have SEF days to access. Now we need a professional learning menu that offers choice if we really want to empower teachers to self-direct their job-embedded learning.

There are some excellent online resources available through our district online training and learning repository, PLUS this Fall, the Ontario Ministry of Education came out with some incredible monographs and webcasts DVDs that align directly with our areas of focus. So, the WHAT TO LEARN? syllabus is already there… at our finger tips actually.

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So here is the balance challenge:

I suggested allowing teachers to experience inquiry-based learning by having them sign up for their own professional learning focus and then, based on a set agreed-upon schedule, they would meet with those colleagues interested in the same topic to design their own learning adventure. We could assemble a variety of applicable learning resources from which they could read, discuss, study…

However, members of my leadership team feel this is too open-ended and teachers need more direct instruction and facilitation.  Hmmmm??? At what point do we allow teachers to experience curiosity and inquiry on their own without direct-facilitation from others?

I want to read the recent Natural Curiosity publication from the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (Natural Curiosity) OISE to find out more about instilling meaningful inquiry and curiosity in play-based early years programs.

Maybe everything we need to know, even about facilitating meaningful job-embedded teacher professional learning, does stem from Kindergarten?

Would love to hear what others have done or think…

Coffee that binds…

It isn’t every day that you come across a group of colleagues with whom you gel 24/7, but this year, I have had some defining moments of professional insight that have been spurred on by remarkably passionate and smart people inside AND outside my building. And when this happens, the potential for magic in teaching and thinking exists!

As I am sure was the case for many an Ontario educator, this week felt like one of the l-o-n-g-e-s-t so far this year for a wide variety of reasons. In my particular case, our progress reports went home this week on the same day that we hosted a dozen visiting P’s, VP’s, and SO’s as part of the province’s School Effective Framework (aka SEF) process. While we were ensured from the get-go that there was nothing extra to prepare or do, teachers being teachers, we all wanted to show our best work for our guests and have our students shine. Translation? Major extra stress during an already jam packed week which concluded with student-led conferences Thursday evening till 8 pm and Friday morning.

As the week went on, more and more teachers seemed to be getting sick too: raw throats, running noses, sleepless nights, and overall fatigue. Student behaviour referrals peaked in the office as well because we all know, just like with parenting, when teachers are stressed, kids sense it and act up! Staff morale seemed at an all time low Thursday to the point where I had to get a breath of fresh and I decided to go out for lunch. For that extra push to get through what would turn out to be a very long night (finally left at 8:30 pm), I picked up my signature grande latte, and treated two of my fellow coffee loving colleague to a Dopio Espresso and an Americano. Upon my return, I discovered they had skipped out for lunch themselves. A quick text message confirmed they were on their way back and would join me for coffee talk in the library (one of my favourite job-embedded professional development models) while they’d scarf back their impromptu sushi.

And as usual, this Thursday’s talk did not disappoint! When the three of us talk about the awesome lesson we had that day; how a particular student rocked our world with a piece of art they created; what’s broken in education; or an idea on how we can change the world, I swear I am teleported to another learning galaxy. This week I termed it as a “MOMENT” unlike any other. A moment when, spurred on by our overpriced hot Starbucks beverages, our passion for learning and our shared philosophy reached new heights and clarity all at the same time. I find myself so much more grateful than usual for the collegiality, professionalism, trust, and respect I have with these 2 fine educators, and I encourage you to read Kevin Sebastian’s and Jonathan Lewis’ (@j_lewie) excerpts in David Booth’s new book, Caught in the Middle, to know what I really mean.

Even though I am spent energy-wise this Friday night, I realize how much I treasure the moments when we really get to know the real person behind the grade level or subject; when I develop an appreciate of the full narrative that they each bring to my experience at school everyday. Deeper insight into the people I work and lead with provides me with clarity of the individual strengths, talents, and passions that can be leveraged/harnessed to mobilize positive social change in our school community and beyond…

We take long strides to get to know our learners, but how well do we really know those with whom we spend our working hours each day of the week? How many teachers’ passions and talents go untapped because no one ever asked or shared?

Hugs to fellow Ontario educators-we made it!

~Tania

Grieving 2.0

Please don’t let the title scare you off… If “I am what I share” is true, then I simply must write about the emotionally charged week I just had in the hopes someone may gleam some strength and inspiration from my post.

Having lost my 86 year old amazing Babcia (Polish for Grandmother) to a sudden stroke on Hallowe’en evening this past Monday, as the eldest grandchild, I had the honour of preparing and delivering her eulogy at the funeral on Thursday. If you knew my Babcia, Kazimiera Mizaek, cramming all of her life’s experiences and character traits into a 15 minute address was no small task. I have never written a eulogy before, so I did what most would do to get started and conducted an online search for ‘writing a eulogy for grandmothers’. The results were very helpful in that they gave me a great start point. But then I got to thinking: I am not the only one who was inspired by my Babcia’s life; surely there were others.

So, as a connected educator and citizen, I tapped into my social network via Facebook by posting this on my wall: “I have the honour of preparing and delivering my Babcia’s eulogy at her funeral tomorrow and could use some help from family and friends. If you had the pleasure of meeting my Babcia, pls post memorable Babcia moments, sayings, etc… here. Thank you/Dziękuję :)”

Literally within minutes, family and friends were sending me anecdotes, stories, memorable Babcia moments and thoughts of how my Grandmother left lasting impressions on their lives! I had all the content one could ever dream of…

Stitching everyone’s ideas together was the only thing left. For some reason, once I read over what others had to say, the BIG IDEAS of her life rose to the surface immediately, and the eulogy flowed from my tears through my fingers. I even included a few lines in Polish thanks to my aunts (aka Ciocias) at the visitation. I wanted to make Babcia proud, and convey to everyone just how much she meant to all of us!

As the priest delivered the funeral mass, I was anxious to have my turn to tell Babcia’s true story. Finally, my turn had come, and with Babcia at my side (literally and spiritually), I read through all 1600+ words without crying except for the final paragraph!

Until now, I had only leveraged web 2.0 tools for professional purposes, but here was an example of tapping into my social network for something that was so much more meaningful and precious to me. I thank others for ‘being what they share’ with me! Their contributions helped me tell a much more complete story of the life and influence of a remarkable woman named Kazimiera Miazek, born July 25, 1925, who sadly departed from this Earth on Monday October 31, 2011.

Tania