Collaboration is a concept that everyone is aware of and participates in, but has a hard time defining. My working definition of collaboration is:
A reciprocal exchange of information during the process of two or more people working together in order to achieve a common goal.
In the education sector, there are many forms of collaboration, such as: teacher-teacher collaboration (working to improve practice, share strategies for supporting students), student-teacher collaboration (providing information and sharing strategies to help guide learning experiences), student-student collaboration (working to solve academic challenges and goals), and teacher-parent collaboration (discussing ways to best support student).
The article “Collaborative Teacher Inquiry” from the Capacity Building Series outlines 7 characteristics of teacher Inquiry:
Relevant → Student learning guides inquiry
Collaborative → Teacher inquiry is a shared process
Reflective → Actions are informed by reflection
Iterative → Progressive understanding grows from cycles of inquiry
Reasoned → Analysis drives deep learning
Adaptive → Inquiry shapes practice and practice shapes inquiry
Reciprocal → Theory and practice connect dynamically
There are correlations between my working definition of collaboration and these characteristics of teacher inquiry. Collaboration is relevant in that the individuals working together have a common goal; they both have something invested in the process, such as a teacher and parent both wanting the learner to succeed. This, in turn, makes it a very reciprocal experience as all individuals have something to contribute and/or gain from participating in the collaboration.
It was interesting to consider reflection as an ongoing part of the collaboration process, as we typically think of reflection as an action after the collaboration process has been completed. However, we know that learning is an ongoing process and therefore, there will be many moments of reflection throughout in order to guide future actions. It is especially important for educators to find time to reflect with each other, whether that be with another classroom teacher, Special Education teacher, administrator, educational assistant, or a consultant. “When engaged in collective reflective practice, teachers question, reason and probe ideas in order to push thinking of the group further” (Collaborative Teacher Inquiry, 2010, pg. 4).
With coding being a relatively new addition to many classrooms across the province, there continues to be much work that needs to be done in order to reach equity and inclusion. Many families value mathematics and literacy as the core foundations of education, and therefore place a large amount of emphasis on these subjects. However, many parents were not formally taught coding throughout their formal education, and therefore may be unaware of its inclusion and importance within the mathematics curriculum. It is important to explain to parents and students the “relevance and meaning in what they are learning, to make real-life connections to the curriculum” (Ontario Mathematics Curriculum, 2020, pg. 48). This involves first explaining what coding is (a digital language that tells electronic devices what to do), then explaining where it is used in their daily lives (virtually every electronic device that they use), and finally highlighting the purpose of learning it. Once students are aware of what coding is and why they should learn it, they will feel more included and invested in their learning.
As with all subject areas, it is of utmost importance that our students are represented in what they are learning. “Educators have an obligation to develop and nurture learning environments that are reflective of and responsive to students’ strengths, needs, cultures, and diverse lived experiences, and to set appropriate and high expectations for all” (Ontario Mathematics Curriculum, 2020, pg. 48). When we provide an open forum for students to showcase their coding skills, they can organically represent themselves in their work. For example, when asking students to code a scene on a program like Scratch, students can choose a sprite (a character) that looks like them and adjust the scene in which the sprite is shown. This provides ample opportunity for students to integrate their culture into their work and create a media that represents them.
Coding is typically a new concept that students begin exploring at school before they do so at home, especially with it being included in the mathematics curriculum starting in Grade 1. This puts most students on an equal playing field as they begin learning this concept. However, over time, as students with regular access to technology begin to explore these themes at home, the potential performance gap may continue to widen. This highlights the need to provide equitable access to technology to our students, especially for concepts that can be heavily technology focused, such as coding. It also challenges us as educators to find ways in which we can help develop coding skills with students without relying on technology. One solution that educators can implement in situations where the access to technology is limited is unplugged coding. Unplugged coding activities can provide students with examples of coding that they can continue to practice without the need of a device, such as games and crafts. Kodable offers many unplugged coding activities that would be a hit with students: https://www.kodable.com/learn/unplugged-coding-activities/.
Unfortunately, access to technology is not the only area of inequality that needs to be addressed in order to create a responsive learning environment. Studies show that the percentage of women that fill computer science jobs continues to decline, falling at only 24% in 2017 (GirlsWhoCode.com). This indicates a large inequality in this sector of mathematics and science. A way that my teacher colleagues and I could promote coding equity and inclusion on a school-wide scale would be to create and facilitate a coding club for female students. This club could be facilitated informally, but offering drop-in times for students to practice their coding skills and have access to the school’s technology. It could also be run more formally structured by offering tutorials and lessons to truly deepen their understanding of coding concepts and providing them with the opportunity to develop these skills in a safe and fun environment. There are many resources available online to begin a coding club, such as Girls Who Code (https://girlswhocode.com/get-involved/start-a-club).
By being aware and truly understanding the potential inequalities that are associated with coding, we are in a position where we can work together as a teaching staff to address these concerns. Ensuring that every student has access to technology may be a challenge, however, there are steps that we can take to ensure every student has access to learning opportunities, such as unplugged coding activities or coding clubs. My hope is that by addressing these inequalities, we can create culturally responsive learning environments that support all students!
When we think about the cultural diversity of our classrooms, we often think about the people within the classroom: the teachers, students, and support staff. But how often do we stop to think about the physical classroom environment itself? Does our classroom showcase cultural diversity? Does it provide a safe and inclusive place where students see themselves represented? The classroom environment – The Third Teacher – provides a physical space that can either foster or hinder the cultural diversity of the people learning within it. A strategy that teachers can use in their school communities to foster an approach of culturally responsive teaching and learning is to reimagine The Third Teacher.
The first step that we can take when reimaging our classroom environment is taking an audit of our classroom materials. Let’s start with our classroom libraries: Can each of our students see themselves portrayed in the books? Are there books with characters of various genders, cultures, races, physical abilities, and orientations? Or have our own implicit biases led us to stock our bookshelves with reading materials that only reflect us?
We can also look around the room at the posters and bulletin boards we display. Do these posters hold value and reflect the diversity of our students? A great way for the diversity of our students to be showcased in their learning environment is to have them create displays around the classroom. This could be student work that they are proud of, art pieces that reflect the diversity of their interests, or even family photos to remind us of the various value systems, languages, religious beliefs, and ways of life that also contribute to their self-identity. Students need to see themselves reflected in their classrooms in order to feel that they belong and are accepted.
After considering the physicality of our classrooms, we should also reflect on how we use our classroom space to be more culturally responsive. It is so important to empower students to take ownership of how their learning environment should function. Community circles are a simple and effective platform for students to learn while building positive relationships with their classmates and teachers. Early on in the school year, community circles can be used to discuss with students what they feel they need in order to be successful in their learning and how they can make those needs a reality. This essentially takes the place of a teacher outlining the rules and guidelines of the classroom, providing ownership to the students and asking for their voice in the ways in which they want to feel respected, heard, safe, and included in the classroom. The responses can vary greatly based on the diversity of student needs, but it ensures that each student voice is heard and valued, and that their environment is reflective of the student population.
We can learn so much about each other and our own cultures through respectful communication and interactions. Our classrooms should foster an environment that promotes sharing and listening. Welcoming and encouraging conversations about feelings, beliefs, and values are not only a great way to develop student voice, but it also provides an opportunity to learn from the varying perspectives and experiences of our classmates. Activities that allow students to celebrate both their cultures and those of their classmates within a safe and welcoming classroom environment are crucial in culturally responsive teaching.
In summary a strategy that teachers can use in their school communities to foster an approach of culturally responsive teaching and learning is to reimagine The Third Teacher. We can do this by completing an audit of our classroom supplies (books, posters), having students showcased in their learning environment (student work, pictures of families), and encouraging a learning culture rooted in student voice and collaboration.
After reflecting on my role as a leader in a school setting, I feel as though there are two main strengths that make me well equipped to be a math leader. While these leadership qualities may not be specific to the subject area of math, I believe that they are crucial skills for any leader to have.
The first leadership strength that I possess is approachability. A leader can only lead if others are willing to engage and/or collaborate with that person. I always want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming to me for support or advice. I make a conscious effort to check in with others, whether personally or professionally, to show that I care and I am here for them. My social circle within my staff team extends beyond my same-grade teaching partners, which is something that I am proud of. There have been times when Intermediate teachers have come to me for support when teaching a specific subject area, even though I am currently teaching in the Primary division. This is a true testament of the importance of being approachable; your age, experience, or grade level does not necessarily matter, as long as others know they can come to you for support!
My second leadership quality is my willingness to try new things. I believe that this is a crucial leadership skill because it models the importance of personal and professional growth, as well as an openness to making mistakes and failing. An expert is only an expert because they have tried something new, learned from it, and is now equipped to teach others. I am excited when learning new types of coding technology, such as online programs or physical robots. Sometimes, it’s the students who are teaching me, rather than the other way around! Is the learning experience always a smooth one? Absolutely not! But the only way to learn is to try… and try… and try again. My willingness to try new things also involves trying new teaching methods. Social pedagogies, such as a thinking classroom style of teaching/learning, took some time to adjust to, but has paid off greatly in my teaching practice.
A long term goal in which I feel I would be able to best utilize my leadership skills would be becoming my school’s math lead teacher. This role would allowed me to work under the direction of our school board’s math consultant, learning from them and providing math coaching on-site to teachers. I think this would be a valuable position in that it would help me to improve my own teaching practice, while also being able to support, learn from, and co-teach with my colleagues.
As I am on parental leave at the moment, I was not able to put my name forward to be our school’s math lead teacher for this school year. However, there are steps that I can take this year to prepare myself for this role in the future. It is important that I continue to check in with my fellow educators, especially on the topic of math (i.e., curriculum, instruction, best practices, types of assessments, etc.). Another short term goal would be sending out valuable resources to my staff as I come upon them. This would allow me to be an informal leader in my school before any formal position is assigned. Lastly, I will continue building upon my own competencies as a math teacher by continuing to seek professional development opportunities about teaching math.
A math concept that I am interested in doing a deep dive into is “coding skills”. While coding is something that some teachers have been informally teaching for many years, it is now officially a new addition to the math curriculum. My first experience with learning coding in the classroom was when I took a Grade 10 Computer Science class. I am thrilled that students as young as Grade 1 will now be learning coding skills and building upon them throughout their educational journey. I am interested in exploring the continuum of curriculum expectations throughout the elementary grades, discovering new resources, and developing more teaching strategies that I can incorporate into my own teaching practice and share with other teachers as a math leader.
This past year has come with a great deal of professional learning. As I navigated through my first year as a permanent teacher, I made an effort to try new things, get uncomfortable in my teaching, and integrate more technology into my teaching practice. Little did I know that COVID-19 was right around the corner, waiting to make everyone in education try new things, get uncomfortable, and use more technology. By taking the Additional Qualification course Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom Part 2, I was able to reflect on how I responded to Distance Learning, while also preparing myself for the unknown teaching climate of the near future.
A significant topic explored in the course was that of the SAMR Model. This model outlines the depth of technology integration throughout the learning opportunities provided to our students. While the purpose of this model is not to force educators to teach primarily in the Redefinition stage, it does provide a framework in which we can reflect on our own current usage of technology while thinking critically about how we can improve.
This model also sparked some good discussions on Twitter. Some fellow educators were not so keen on the use of the model, as some schools were beginning to use it as an evaluation criteria for their staff. Others were concerned over education apps/programs being categorized into the SAMR model. Both of these situations were not the intent of the model, nor the takeaway message that I gather from learning about the model. I find that this model challenged me to analyze how I have been using technology in the classroom, made me evaluate ways in which I can take the learning opportunities further, and think about how I can foster further innovation from my students. At the end of the day, reflection on our professional practice and the learning opportunities that we provide to our students is the goal, and the SAMR model provides one opportunity for just that.
Throughout the IICT Part 2 course, we were asked to analyze, utilize, and evaluate many different tech tools. This in and of itself was a very beneficial moment of learning for me. I often find that I’ve read about or have seen other educators using different digital tools, but it takes me some time to actually take the jump and try it myself. One way that this course has helped me to branch out of my comfort zone was seeing my instructor practice what he preached! He regularly used the program Loom to provide personal and detailed feedback on the various course work that we completed. This not only made it much more engaging than a written post, but it also provided direct visuals and examples from our course colleagues.
One way that I was able to integrate this practice into my own assignment was by using Loom to record a tutorial on how to use Tour Creator – Google VR. I had recently used this program and was prepared to write up a tutorial about how to use it, but after seeing my instructor regularly use Loom, it made much more sense to record a video tutorial. I feel as though this video tutorial was easier to follow than a written set of instructions, and it provided real-time images that would have otherwise been screenshots in a document. Beyond this assignment, I feel more comfortable using Loom and/or other screen recording softwares in my teaching instruction, especially if we return to Distance Learning. Take a peek at my tutorial for Tour Creator – Google VR below:
As partners in education, our course colleagues were able to connect and discuss many topics related to the integration of technology in the classroom. I have begun following and communicating with others on Twitter, adding them to my continually growing PLN. Through Twitter, visiting their blogs, and participating in online discussions, I have been able to see and read about many examples of ways in which technology can be used in the classroom. Above all else, this has been a significant takeaway for me, as I am not equipped with numerous ideas and activities that I can implement throughout the school year.
We were also able to connect digitally on a Google Meet! In this meeting, we were able to share our learning experiences from the various MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that we attended. Not only was this beneficial in learning from others about their takeaways from the courses, but it also taught us about the many MOOC providers around the world. Not only are many of the courses free of charge, but some are live, others are posted after the live session, some are short and quick, others have modules that span over a few weeks… The learning opportunities are essentially in our hands and we are able to pick and choose a topic and a platform that best suits us! There is a wealth of learning available through MOOCs and PLNs, and I am excited to continue my self-directed education as I continue “learning about learning”.
One of the next steps that I hope to take to further explore my interests in technology is building upon cross-curricular ways to integrate robotics/coding into teaching practice. Sometimes, as these types of activities are typically brand new for the students coming into my Primary class, there is a lot of time spent on coding as a separate entity. My goal is to move past using “coding to code”, and finding ways in which it can be so ingrained in our learning that the focus moves towards a deeper outcome. This would allow students to continue developing their coding skills, while also connecting it to other curriculum areas (e.g., angles in Math, story animation in Language, environmental innovations in Science, etc.). This learning curve for students could be shortened by encouraging other teachers to use coding in their teaching practice and helping to guide them in their own professional learning. Students would then come to my class knowing the basics so that we can spend more time on the deeper learning tasks.
My hope is that through my professional learning gained in the Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom Part 2 Additional Qualification course, coupled with my passion for teaching with technology, I am able to further my student’s abilities to use technology effectively and efficiently in their own lives. I mean, that’s the goal of any of this, right? As an educator, I hope to provide my students with the knowledge and skills required to be the best person and member of society as they can be. In order for me to do so effectively, I must continue my own lifelong learning, gaining new insights and strategies that will directly benefit my students. And that’s just what I’ll do!
Throughout my life, two things have remained constant: my unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and my desire to become a teacher. As a person of Eucharist, I feel it is my duty and privilege to assist in the spiritual development of our youth, allowing me to combine my Catholic faith and passion for education into one cohesive vocation. This course has allowed me to continue growing in my faith, which, in turn, will directly impact my teaching practice.
One of the first insights that I gained from this course was a deeper insight on the historical context of the Bible. Typically, when I read the Bible, I recognize that the stories took place in a time long ago, but I would typically leave it at that. I was always consumed with the story and the message being delivered that I never really thought pragmatically about the timeframe. While this may not be the focus of the story, I have come to realize that there is more to learn by truly understanding the rules, lifestyle, and history of the people and places in which the Bible stories occurred. Noel Cooper’s text, Language of the Heart, provided many insights about the rulers of the time, the religious beliefs and conflicts that occurred, and the customs (e.g., age to get married, life expectancy). By learning more about the historical context of these stories, I have found comfort in knowing that the people of that time had many similarities to us.
One of the main insights for me throughout this course and Noel Cooper’s encouragement to read the Bible for deeper meaning. Oftentimes, when I would question parts of the Bible for their validity, I found myself looking at the story through a factual view. Cooper discourages reading the Bible through the lens of fundamentalism, as we often lose sight of the actual purpose of the story being recorded. Whether something was embellished or written with a creative writing spin, it is important to recognize what truly matters – the lessons we can learn through the author’s revelations with God. The creativity of some of the stories, such as Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark, have truly encouraged me to use more figurative activities in my teaching. Not only will this engage my students, but it will also help to promote the idea of reading for meaning, not for facts. Through various discussion posts, I have been able to find some really great lessons that will work in my teaching practice, such as missing a bullseye target as a symbol for sin or the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly to symbolize transubstantiation.
Lastly, through various studies on morality, ethics, and teachers as sacraments, I have come to truly appreciate and see the deeper importance of the vocation of being a Catholic Educator. We are way more than just teachers; we are called to provide a holistic education to our students in which we nurture their body, mind, and spirit. Catholic education, especially the Catholic Graduate Expectations, are of crucial importance today in a society that tends to view life and learning as separate entities, which isolates religious faith from other areas of human life. Catholic education is not just a subject, but rather a way to view the world that speaks to the interrelationship between faith, knowledge and action, thus leading to the holistic development of the Catholic youth. Education in Catholic schools, through the lens of the Catholic Graduate Expectations, creates the reality where faith and education can, and is, lived out simultaneously. This course has truly cemented my belief that I am called to the vocation of teaching and that I have a purpose that far exceeds the curriculum.
This course has allowed me to continue to develop in my own faith formation, as well as encouraged me to foster many meaningful conversations about faith outside of the course. I have gained many valuable insights through reading the bible, reading Cooper’s text, and the online discussions and I know that these learning outcomes will greatly impact my teaching. I feel that the most beneficial aspect of the Catholic School System is that it contributes to a holistic education, allowing the body, mind, and spirit of the students to develop as one. Under His guidance, I will strive to incorporate the teachings of the Catholic faith into all areas of learning, demonstrating the relevance and importance of Catholic values to our future generation: the students. Ultimately, this will challenge me to continue to evaluate and grow in my own faith life.
The integration of technology into our classrooms serves many beneficial purposes. From new and innovative learning opportunities, to the development of crucial competencies required when working in the 21st century, technology is becoming a requirement in the world of education. When we think of technology in the classroom, there are many different mediums that we use: desktop computers, interactive whiteboards, robotics, Chromebooks, iPads… the list goes on and on! It is interesting to dig deep and investigate the businesses behind the educational technology that we use.
When I think of the technology that I use in my classroom, as well as the technology that the school boards in my region endorse, there are two main contributors: Google and Apple. While both companies provide many educational tools for students and educators to use, they vary in their capabilities and overall scope of applications. Let’s first explore the main two products that these companies provide to assist students in their learning.
Apple’s main product designed for educational purposes is the iPad. It is a sleek, easy-to-use tablet that even the youngest of students can quickly learn how to navigate. One of the most appealing features of the iPad is it’s touchscreen. This allows students of any age or learning stage to touch images and drag-and-drop information. Even in the upper grades, students can use apple products to create videos on a variety of Apple curated apps, such as iMovie. Just last month, I used iMovie to create our elementary school’s virtual graduation ceremony! While things may have changed in the last 10 years or so, when I was in high school, Apple products were heavily used for design type courses, such as photography, yearbook, media courses, etc. Apple has a solid product and a bunch of applications to provide a slew of learning opportunities for students.
Google provides their Chromebook product as a versatile educational tool. Chromebooks have a common computer feel with its trackpad and keyboard, however, some models are equipped with a touch screen to bridge that gap between using a tablet and using a computer. With Chromebooks, “student accounts are linked to the individual school” or the school board, providing them with “full administrative control” (9to5Mac). This would be one of the main differences between the Chromebook and the iPad. With the Chromebook, you are able to sign into any Google account, instantly linking them to their profile and schoolwork. This means that the device is just the vessel to the learning, rather than being a single-source resource (i.e., each student needing to use their own iPad to retrieve their saved information.
(Adapted from Brave in the Attempt)
As we compare the various products, we have to remember that there is a business behind each of these tools with a price tag associated with it. Our school boards, too, have to consider the cost of the products, which plays a large factor in determining which tools will be purchased for classroom use. In the simplest of terms, “iPads are relatively expensive devices” while “Chromebooks, in contrast, are cheap” (9to5Mac). Perhaps, in conjunction with the large amount of product capabilities and applications that Google provides, this is why Google has surpassed Apple in the realm of education devices. As of 2018 in the United States of America, “Chromebooks had 60 percent of the market share” (Digital Information World).
(Digital Information World)
While I have used both Apple and Google products in my own teaching practice, I will admit that I primarily use the Google platform. Not only are Chromebooks a solid product, but I find the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) to be of immense value for my students. Knowing that the schools boards in my area were users of Google products, I became a Google Certified Educator Level 2 before graduating from by Bachelor of Education to prepare myself with the knowledge necessary to not only use these applications properly, but to also be able to integrate them into my teaching practice.
Within the classroom, I use Google apps to help with content delivery and student products, such as making presentations, answering questions, recording research, drafting narratives, etc. As COVID-19 unfolded and Distance Learning became a reality, I heavily relied on GAFE. Students are able to access their schoolwork on an infinite number of devices, whether it be a Chromebook at school or logging into their Google Account at home, due to Google’s “unlimited Drive cloud storage space” (ITC Evangelist). This made it that much easier to transition from school to home learning. The Google products available through the student’s Google Accounts are very compatible with our digital Google Classroom platform, which makes it easier to use, and be loyal to, a brand of products and it’s multitude of capabilities. For example, Google Classroom has integrated capabilities within it to create a quiz on Google Forms or attach a lecture presented on Google Slides, therefore seamlessly weaving together many of the GAFE.
As with any pedagogy, it is better to draw resources from multiple sources rather than limit the students’ exposure to one thing. With that being said, perhaps there will remain a place for both companies in the world of education. Each tool provides students with learning opportunities that prepare them with a breath of 21st Century competencies for whatever their future holds for them. Who can say whether the company that they will work for one day will use primarily Apple or Google products. Or, maybe they will work for a Microsoft company… Uh oh! Luckily, both Google and Apple have programs/processors that prepare students for that cross over (Word, PowerPoint, Excel vs. Docs, Slides, Sheets vs. Pages, Keynote, Numbers). At the end of the day, as long as we continue to discern which digital tool will help to best enhance our teaching instruction, promote engaging learning, and enrich the minds of our students, then we are doing just fine. Keep bringing on the new technology!
In a Grade 2 classroom, as a connection between their preparation for receiving the sacrament of the First Holy Communion and their study in Science on the life cycle of an animal, the Eucharist could be taught in comparison to that of a butterfly. First, students could either draw a picture of butterfly, or they could draw out the life cycle of a butterfly, from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Then, each student could share their butterfly pictures. The teacher would then ask them these questions:
Where do butterflies come from?
Can anyone explain how they are transformed?
Did you know that there is a transformation at Mass, too? What is it?
How is a butterfly’s transformation similar to the transformation at Mass? How is it different?
This provides an opportunity to explain transubstantiation and how this will relate to their receiving the Eucharist for the first time. This conversation will allow students to see that the Holy Eucharist is more than just a piece of bread; it is the body of Christ that helps to nourish our body and spirit.
The word Eucharist comes from a Greek word, eucharistein, which means “thanksgiving.” Not only does receiving the Eucharist remind us of Jesus and the sacrifices that he made for us, but it allows our body and soul to be nourished through the presence of God within us. Celebrating the Eucharist challenges our way of being in the world in that it reorients our life to be more in tune with the presence of God. This removes the worldly distractions around us and allows us to focus on being the best disciple of Christ that we possibly can.