Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reflections on the School Year That Was

Last year I was on sabbatical so it was the first time in 38 years I have not been in a classroom. This year saw a few changes in my workload, as well as picking up some of the courses I have previously taught. I enjoyed the year out of the classroom - first one in 37 years or so, but I also enjoyed being back. I also think this year proved once again that a person should be always learning, and reflecting on that learning. I have always told my students (aspiring teachers) that as a former Principal, if a teacher thinks they know all there is to know - I would not want them on my staff.

In Fall I taught my first graduate level course - Intro to Curriculum, not only that but it was online as well. I held biweekly zoom classes and Moodle in between. This was a big learning experience on many levels. I had students from 4 different countries and from across Manitoba. We had great discussions about curriculum and how it plays out in various jurisdictions. I am sure I learned as much as the students. I also will make adjustments in future grad courses from what I learned about delivery. One new thing I tried was to have the final major assignment an ignite style presentation (along with an annotated bibliography), the result was fantastic and the students agreed that they enjoyed them. I will continue to embrace different ways of presenting learning - and will include writing as part of it, but not all ;-)

Taken (by me) in July 2016 at Emerald Lake,
Yoho National Park,B.C.
In my B.Ed. courses (they were all ed tech courses) I continued to make use of blogs, as usual there was mixed reaction, but what was interesting was that some of the students giving push back, relented in their summary post and admitted the value - some even enjoyed doing them and vowed to continue the practice. I was considering giving more choice with alternatives to the blog, but I am now thinking of keeping the assignment but adding suggestions for posts for those who struggle with that. I also want to find ways to help students dig deeper in their posts and make it truly reflective. Some offer summaries of what we did - I want them to dig into topics of interest and how they may/have impacted their thinking about teaching/learning. Being reflective and thinking about practice is - to me - important in being a good teacher who grows and continues to learn, somehow I want to promote that, I think I model that - 38 years as an educator and I by no means profess to know it all and am always on the lookout for new ideas. One thing I can do better is take more time to read and write!

Another major assignment I use in my ed tech course is building (starting to) an eportfolio. I go over the why and give ideas for the how - we usually brainstorm what should be on it and I use example s(with permission) from previous years. Again I had some push back on this assignment form some, most of my students find it a useful exercise and something they can build on and use. The process also gives them some hands on creating a web site. I have been thinking though, that I should do some research and survey admin in the province to see to what extend these are useful artifacts, and what types of information they suggest is most useful for seeking employment.

One thing I do want to be sure to employ is more choice - I am a believer in giving choice
, but I want to allow more in a few major assignments ... but mostly I want to encourage and model deep and critical thinking about the use of ed tech.

One final thing, a few weeks ago I was fortunate to hear Yong Zhao speak in Winnipeg. While I am not sure his idea of entrepreneurship is the be all and end all, I really enjoyed his message and way of thinking. He is an interesting speaker and provides good evidence and prompts thinking. If you have not read his work, I encourage you to do so. While I have read and used his work before, I bought a few more of his books and am reading one now. I like his analogy of standardized testing, and standards in general - how educators are 'sausage makers' and despite all the talk and work about differences and embracing passions, we test to see how the sausages came out by comparing them to a standard. At one point, he answered a question about PISA and other standardized tests saying they might have some good aspects, but overall are destructive!

A break, some research work - and then back to planning these changes for next years' courses!

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