Category Archives: Learning

Texas: What We *Think* We Know…

One of the coolest things about blogging is that you meet people from all over the world. Mrs. Kriese’s class in Austin, Texas has really set the bar high on getting to know their global neighbours. They have been learning about bloggers in New Zealand, Serbia, and us in British Columbia, with whom they had exchanged comments. First they brainstormed what they thought they knew about us, and then did some first-class research to find out more.

Well, we think that is a great formula. Below are the notes from our brainstorming session. Mrs. Kriese and Grade 7s of West Ridge Middle School–how did we do?

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On the Dalai Lama, Shane Koyczan, and Back Channels

The Dalai Lama waved at us!

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

The Dalai Lama, sitting with his interpreter.

And then he bowed to welcome us!

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

The Dalai Lama acknowledging the participants.

Well, you may have figured out that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was not in our classroom–though somehow his gentle smile and warm laugh made him feel very near. He was in Vancouver to meet with students and educators at the Youth Heart-Mind Summit. The theme was Be the Village. Through the wonders of technology, we joined classes from many locations to watch and listen to a conversation he had with high school students. The topic was about cultivating kindness, empathy, and compassion in all people.  I have to say, I was very impressed with the poise of the grade 12 MCs and panelists. How very thrilling that day must have been. 

Can you imagine being on that stage?

As well, Shane Koyczan, a fabulous spoken word artist (I think “poet” works for me) performed. More about that in another post.  And more about Heart-Mind learning later.

Back Channel

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

Using Netbooks and Backchannel Chat during the presentation

We tried something new while watching. We had our first Backchannel Chat, an online private virtual conversation room which each student accessed via our Netbook laptops. The chat gave us an opportunity to discuss our thoughts, observations, and questions among ourselves. I purchased a year-long access to the features of Backchannel Chat for about $16.00 to give me access to all the features of the program. 

I learned a lot from this experience. So did the students, as you’ll see. Not everything was positive, but it was not a complete failure either. If other teachers have tried or are considering using a back channel, I’d appreciate your feedback.

Here are a few screenshots of the archived chat (click thumbnails to enlarge). I sprayed out the names as I promised the students this analysis was not about embarrassing anyone, it was about finding solutions.

We broke into groups of four and wrote Plus – Minus – Solutions posters. Students talked about and recorded their thoughts, then shared with classmates.

Plus-Minus-Solutions

Plus-Minus-Solutions

I’ve summarized their feedback:

Pluses:

  • It’s a great way to show what you’re thinking and see what others are thinking.
  • You can see what others think of your ideas–they can respond to you.
  • You can respond to the entire class more easily.
  • It stays quiet while a presentation is on.
  • Someone is able to moderate the chat.
  • As the chat went on, people were more serious and on topic.
  • We become more tech savvy.

Minuses:

  • Because the sound quality of the webcast was poor and because we are not used to the Dalai Lama’s accent, we couldn’t hear very well and comment meaningfully.
  • Some people didn’t know what they could write about.
  • Some students got off topic fast and began talking about battery life, naming favourite actors, injecting hashtags, and making other random, pointless comments.
  • A conversation about the Dalai Lama’s nationality, appearance, and ethnicity lead to misunderstanding and maybe some hurt feelings. (We processed this after the fact.)
  • Some students used texting language.
  • Too many one word comments reduced the usefulness of the chat and made information flow too quickly.
  • Some students logged in and out to change their name and their avatar, wasting time.

Solutions:

  • Create criteria for comments that everyone follows.  (Yes, that came from the students!)
  • Think before you type!
  • Run two different chats so people can read and respond to the comments. This would slow the chat down.
  • We need to work on writing complete, thoughtful, on-topic sentences.
  • Have more than one person monitoring the chat.
  • People who are disrespectful or off topic would be warned and then would be kicked out of the chat.

Final Thoughts
I learned so much from the experience of this back channel about my student’s strengths and needs. I had no illusions that it would be a flawless event, but I sense that taking a risk with this technology will be rewarding for us.

The next time we use Backchannel Chat as a learning tool, we will share our results here.

Do you have suggestions? Are there other tools that can help encourage dialogue about big ideas? Does communicating in virtual space improve or inhibit dialogue when we are  face to face? Please share your thoughts in a comment.

 

 

Remembrance Day, 2013

lest we forgetDo you have relatives who now serve in the armed forces? No doubt someone in your family was affected by World War 1 or World War 2–or another conflict since.  Your ancestors may have been soldiers, sailors, air crew–or men, women, and children who lived with war “on the home front”.  Remembrance Day is held at the same time as Veterans Day in the US, but is more like Memorial Day

In Canada, the United Kingdom, and through out the Commonwealth countries, poppies are worn during the days leading up to November 11th as a symbol of our remembrance and respect for those who fought and died in war. It’s also a reminder of how valuable peace is and how we are all responsible for creating a peaceful world.

We got together with our buddies at Climb High and shared our ideas about creating peace. We created this slideshow and presented it as part of our school Remembrance Day assembly.

Making a Peaceful World from Brooklyn Elementary School on Vimeo.

As well, Ryan and Tiana laid a wreath, and Luke, Heather, and Faith read their poems. Other students in our class were part of the choir.  

What do you, your family, and school community do to remember those who have fought in wars? Do you have other advice for ways that children and adults can create a peaceful world?

Photo Credit: hobvias sudoneighm via Compfight

 

Be More Awesome.

I will confess, I have often felt the word “awesome” is over-used. I had an awesome weekend. My bike is awesome. It would be awesome if I could borrow your pencil. Are those things truly awesome? If we say they are when other words are more accurate, does the word awesome loose its meaning and power?

Then this summer I traveled to a beautiful part of our country called Haida Gwaii. While on our journey aboard the 52 ft sailboat Sölskin we kept a journal called Our Book of Awesome fashioned after Neil Pasricha’s  The Book of Awesome in which he zooms in on those specific gems in the day that he calls simple, universal little joys .

Each day at dinner we would talk and then write about the special moments in the day that stood out for us. One day I wrote that it was awesome that I didn’t get seasick; on another I marveled at the beauty of the bald eagle I saw. Capturing with my camera its translucent eyelid as it blinked was awesome indeed. Then there was that time I was able to stand on my tippy toes and reach the perfect huckleberry. Awesome.

And here we are, at the beginning of new school year. We’re about to embark on ten months of learning together. I think we should be on the lookout for awesome. I am convinced it’s everywhere if we just notice it.

Let’s pay attention to those simple, universal little joys–those awesome moments– every single day.

Kid President  gives us a pep talk in the video below, reminding us that we are  all teachers and students. In his silly way, he invites us to think about what we’re teaching the world– and to be more awesome, because “life is school and you gotta show up”.

What do you think of his message? What do you teach the world? What are you learning from the teachers in your life? And what awesomes have you noticed since school started? Please teach us!

We Tried “Try a Trade”

“When I grow up, I want to be a….” Well, chances are you will “be” many things during your lifetime, by choice or by chance. The trades might be part of your future.  Most people think of the building or construction trades first (carpentry, plumbing, electrical and so on), but people also earn a good living through satisfying hands-on work in the  automotive trades, personal service (hairdressing, cosmetology), information technology, and as chefs. We learned more about the possibilities at Discover Trades and through our trip to Sandwick Technical Education Centre. Take a look at our video and read what some of our bloggers had to say about the experience, below.

Have you ever poured concrete to make a picnic table? How about wiring a light bulb? No? Well, now our class can say we have because we just went on a field trip to learn about future jobs we might want to have. We learned so much while we were  there.   (Elysa)

Sandwick [the career and  training centre we visited] is a great place for kids to learn about the trades and take a big part in them. I think it  provides a great opportunity for kids who like to learn with their hands and not just sitting in a desk all day. They give the kids what they need to do the job and what they have to practice to become a real master of the trades. (Kyle)

Mr. Grey [career and trades coordinator] was very informative and showed us a really good video on safety in the workplace. He also let us hang from the ceiling on a Fall Arrest. A fall arrest is a harness that you wear when working on a roof or any place that is high off the ground that breaks your fall so that you don’t hit the ground. We also did competitions where we had to hammer a nail in to a piece of wood, and put two pieces of metal together with a screw. (Melanie)

My group got to do construction and drywall. In construction we followed a plan for a little house. We then built one of the walls. After that we went on to drywall. In drywall we got to cut holes in the wall. We then learned how to fix it. Cut out a piece of drywall, the same size as the hole, then tape the remaining cracks, and apply the mud. Let it dry and paint over. Then your wall is as good as new! (Becky)

There many fun activities in each trades station. The one I enjoyed the most was a part of plumbing and it was soldering. Soldering is similar to welding but involves solder and a tiger torch. You melt the solder to where the parts of the pipes connect and it acts as a glue or like a weld. (Josh)

This experience has definitely given me a better idea of what the trades are, and what I want to do when I get older.  If I were to do a trade, it would probably be hairdressing or cooking but I think that I would rather do something that involves going back to school because there is so many options. But it was still nice to learn about all of these things so I can do it if I need to, instead of hiring someone to do it for me. This has also changed the way I see buildings and even my own house. I know how it was built and the effort it took for that to happen. (Sophie)

If you could have one job, what would it be? I could tell you one thing it might be. It might be a trade. As I had said, there are a lot of trades out there. Pouring cement is a trade along with welding. Mainly anything you do with your hands is a trade. Well. Almost everything. I don’t think playing video games is a trade… Yet. (Chelsey)

So, have you begun to think about what you’ll do in the future? You’re likely to have more than one job in your lifetime–perhaps one will be a trade. After seeing the video and reading about the trades, would you consider the trades? What do you think your career path will look like?