Teacher Feature #41 – Never Stop Learning

Food for Thought, Reflection, Teacher Feature No Comments »

I first began teaching Mathematics to Grade 7 & 8 students more than 45 years ago. I must admit that I was convinced that all the learning on which my students focused, would be found in the Mathematics textbook that each student was issued  at the start of the school year. Somewhat naively, I thought that the vast majority of the students’ learning would come to a grinding halt over the summer months as the books were forgotten and holidays started.

Today, upon reflection, I realize just how much students learn outside the conventional classroom and just how many opportunities there are to learn over the summer months.

 Learning Over Summer-400x300
Teacher Feature #41 – Unknown – July, 2014

I am convinced that as adults, we should take more time to explore those magical “teachable moments” with the children in our charge. Whether it be … how to catch and fillet a fish, how to throw a football, or how to ride a two-wheeler, these are rare opportunities to teach interesting skills that may be retained long after the student has forgotten, for example, how to solve a quadratic equation.

Learning to downhill ski was important within our family. Although our two boys enjoyed competitive downhill racing in Manitoba, they eagerly looked forward to their school Spring Break holiday in March. This was when our family drove out West to ski in the mountains in Fernie, British Columbia. Our boys often wondered why other Manitoba ski families seemed to always arrive in Fernie before us, although we often left Manitoba on the same day. In that my wife was also a teacher, we often spent time “learning along the way”. Other families might travel in the most direct route between point A and B but we always took side trips to explore other interests. Whether it was exploring the life of the North-West Mounted Police at Fort McLeod, discovering the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, or investigating Canada’s deadliest rock slide at the Frank Slide, our family took advantage of these holiday opportunities to learn more about the history and related stories that may not necessarily have been found in the textbooks that our sons were studying in their respective classrooms.

I think back on these amazing opportunities that our family shared and I know our sons are richer for these additional learning experiences.

Perhaps Jiddu Krishnamurti captured the essence of this “Teacher Feature” when he said:

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Teacher Feature #39 – Start Today

Food for Thought, Reflection, Teacher Feature No Comments »

I admit it … I procrastinate. Even this month’s “Teacher Feature” is being posted, as evidenced by the above date, on the last day of the current month.  As a teacher and Educational Technology Consultant I found that the classroom structure and my commitments kept me focused on making deadlines. However, now that I am retired, I find it more challenging to regularly write and share ideas in a timely manner.

When I serendipitously came across Karen Lamb’s powerful quote below, I knew I had to share it with readers as it has particular relevance for both students and teachers.

Start Early - TF#39 - 400x300

Teacher Feature #39 – Karen Lamb – May, 2014

As the school year draws to a close, many students will be faced with completing major projects or even writing final exams. As a procrastinator, I often played “visualization games” with myself, whenever I prepared for exams or when I had to finish a major project or assignment. I would try to visualize what needed to be done to achieve my goal. For example, if it was June 1st and I had an exam or major assignment due on June 10th, I would pretend that today was actually the day before I wrote the exam or my project/assignment was due. In other words, I now had only 24 hours to prepare. I then would ask myself what were the critical tasks that needed to be done. In addition, I considered that, if I had more time, where should I have focused my energies? This strategy always helped me determine what was critical and what additional tasks would improve my final evaluation. It was then that I could imagine how lucky I was, to not have only 24 hours to prepare but several days to implement my necessary tasks. Regardless the key to such success was starting immediately.

When I was teaching a class of students, I was lucky that I could focus on the curriculum. However, today’s teacher has so many other responsibilities beyond the curriculum. Not only are they using technology to effectively engage their students, they are often so busy with many additional tasks which I will simply categorize as “administrivia”. It’s no wonder many teachers today lack the heart to try new initiatives or to attempt to learn with their students to use technology in new engaging ways.

However, I want educators to examine Karen Lamb’s statement and ask yourself …  Is there one additional change that I might implement which will improve my teaching or engage my students better next year? For example, I recently asked Zoe Bettess (@zbettess) at the “Riding the Wave of Change” Conference, what one technological innovation did she think had the most impact on her elementary students. Zoe felt that creating a classroom blog, using the free Kidblog, application, provided her students with a very powerful new learning tool.

So, as the current school year draws to a close, I ask my educational readers to reflect. I believe that reflection is a very important process that educators need to go through each year. Although there is only one month of classes left for most students in Manitoba, I encourage you to reflect on ways this year might have been made better. It’s unlikely that with only one month left, you will be able to make significant changes or improvements. However, I want you to play your own “visualization game”. Pretend it is June, 2015 and you have had an exceptional year where you and your students have learned together in a wonderful, supportive “family atmosphere”. What changes did you make during the 2014-15 school year that fostered such improvements? Were there any other changes or strategies that you could have employed to improve the learning even further?

The good news is that rather than having only one month to make these changes to improve learning in your classroom, you indeed have an entire school year.

The key is to start thinking about it today so that “a year from now”, it will be reality.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Teacher Feature #35 – Curiosity

Problem Solving, Teacher Feature No Comments »

“Information at your fingertips” can be a detriment to teaching. Don’t get me wrong. As an educator, I appreciate the ease at which Google, and other search engines, serve up results to the inquiring minds of today’s students. However, I believe there are times when students, who are engaged in a problem-solving task, should have to struggle to find the answer. Too often, students who need to hone their problem solving skills are too ready to give-up and search for the answer on-line.

Some of my fondest memories of classroom teaching involved activities where students struggled to find a solution to a problem and explored a variety of paths before selecting a final outcome. I still remember the glint in their eye as curiosity motivated students to seek out a solution.

Teacher Feature-35-Curiosity-400x300

Teacher Feature #35 – William Arthur Ward – January, 2014

Over the next few weeks, I hope to be able to share with you some problem solving activities which I believe will engage your students. Undoubtedly, you will have to insist that all your students turn-off their cell phones and refrain from going on-line in an attempt to solve these challenges. However, it is my hope that you, too, will ignite the flame of curiosity in the eyes of your students.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Brian Metcalfe: A Life-Long-Learner

Application or Web App, ETMOOC, Info, Reflection 10 Comments »

The Educational Technology and Media #ETMOOC, that I recently joined, suggested that participants introduce themselves in a unique manner. Following in the creative steps of Jess McCulloch, I decided to try my hand at writing and narrating a poem to help others better understand my learning journey.

Learning Journey Poster

Once my poem was created, I thought that I would read it and share it as an audio file through SoundCloud. Readers should be able to hear my narration by clicking on the “Play” button below. Should the orange “Play” symbol not display, readers may have to click on the hyperlink to transfer and play my narration from the SoundCloud web site. I have also included the text of my poem so that one may more easily follow along.

[https://soundcloud.com/brian-metcalfe/brian-metcalfe-life-long]

Brian Metcalfe: A Life-Long-Learner

Here’s an audio introduction
to a Metcalfe, named Brian
who keeps on learning each day,
without really tryin’.

My educational career
spanned 40 great years!
I shared resources and ideas
with any, and all my peers.

I taught grades 7-12 students
Computer Science & Math,
and for my last 25 years
took on a new, career path.

Towards Educational Technology
in a consultant’s new role,
To help K-12 teachers
use technology was my goal.

I created a monthly newsletter
which was called “Bits and Bytes”.
For 23 years I shared resources
and worked on it many long nights!

Some say I’m somewhat anal ;-)
with a perfectionistic passion.
I believe in … a “job well done!”.
I trust it’s still “in fashion”.

I really value family and friends
and am truly lucky as well,
that my “best friend” is my wife
with a family … that is swell!

My teacher-wife & I retired together
and are no longer wage earners.
So I created an educational blog
which is called “Life-Long-Learners”.

I’m now enrolled in a MOOC –
a massive, open, online course;
where one gets to choose assignments
where engagement is the force!

When you start to chart your own path
MOCCs make learning fun!
Supported by a creative community,
Your learning’s never done!

So I ask … what do you value?
What can you share
with educators world-wide
to show that you care?

So I’m passionate about sharing
and learning for me is beguiling.
So I’ll sign off, as always, with
Take care & keep smiling :-)

***

Credit: The “Learning is about the journey …” image was created by Krissy Venosdale and is available from her {Free} Posters web site.

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Are eight-letter words twice as offensive?

Bits and Bytes, DS106, ETMOOC, Reflection 4 Comments »

What does one do when time is a critical factor and one is challenged to accomplish two different tasks in two different environments? Well … some might get uptight and vent their frustration, by swearing, using profane, “four-letter words”.

In my case, I chose to focus on common elements that satisfy the needs for both entities. Let me explain. I’m currently enrolled in two different massive, open online courses or MOOCs. This year, I am returning to Digital Storytelling – DS106 and thanks to information shared in this learning community, I signed up for Educational Technology & Media. Both of these MOOCs have certain unique expectations.

For example, in today’s  DS106 “The Daily Create” (#374) assignment, I was asked to “Take a picture of your favorite thing in the world to do, however simple or complex.” At the same time, ETMOOC facilitators are asking participants to “Tell us a little bit about yourself – perhaps, where you’re from, what you do, or what you want to be when you grow up – and let us know what you’d like to gain from #etmooc?”

My challenge is to try to meet both of these tasks without uttering any “four-letter words”. Perhaps one might assume that since I have twice the challenges, from the demands of two different MOOCs, my favourite “four-letter words” should increase or double in character length. That is indeed true. In fact, my favourite pastimes can be best described by the “eight-letter word “learning” followed by its slightly shorter, but equally important task of “sharing”. I trust that these two words are demonstrated in the following picture where I glean information from books, magazines and the Internet and share my findings in my educational blog called “Life-Long-Learners”.

Learning & Sharing

[DS106 - TDC #374: My favourite pastime - Learning & Sharing]

Although I am a retired K-12 educator, I’m still passionate about learning. About a year ago, a good friend and innovative educator, Darren Kuropatwa, suggested that I should sign up for the DS106 MOOC. He felt that the innovative learning style, where one can choose his/her own assignments, would challenge and engage me. Darren felt that I would use my blog posts to reflect on what, and how, I learned and share my journey with others. Furthermore, he knew that I would make connections with other like-minded participants and, through mutually supportive blog comments and tweets, extend my Personal Learning Network (PLN).

When I returned to DS106 this year, Ben Rimes (a talented Michigan educator whom I have never met face-to-face) shared in a blog post that he was about to sign up for #ETMOOC. So when another learning opportunity presented itself, be it in a somewhat serendipitous manner, I signed up.

As a former Mathematics/Computer Science teacher, I was always sharing resources with colleagues throughout our school division and our province. When I became an Education Technology Consultant for the Winnipeg School Division, I decided that the best way to help K-12 teachers and their students harness the power of technology was through a monthly educational newsletter. For 23 years I wrote and edited “Bits and Bytes” whose focus was “to provide educators with tips and techniques to help them integrate technology to enhance learning in K-12 classrooms”.

I believe that my philosophy about sharing and the importance of belonging to a PLN can best be summarized in my previous post, and video, entitled “My PLN: A Teacher’s Treasure”.

One of my favourite quotes, that I re-mixed in my first “Teacher Feature” is by Margaret Fuller, who stated “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” I think that as professional educators, we should strive to share our knowledge with others. Today, the Internet makes it so much easier.

In closing, I’ll end with the following two, “four-letter words”:

Take care :-)

Larger Images are available on Brian Metcalfe’s Flickr photostream at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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Learning – Motivated by MOOC Madness

DS106, ETMOOC, Professional Development, Social Networking 6 Comments »

I believe in serendipitous learning. For those educators who are connected online, or consider themselves to be part of a professional learning network or  PLN, such learning opportunities present themselves with regular frequency. Readers who have followed my blog for the past year know how excited I was when Darren Kuropatwa sent me an email suggesting that I might like to participate in a free, “massive open online course” or MOCC called Digital Storytelling – DS106. Those wishing to learn more about my amazing adventure, need only click on the DS106 category link on the right-side menu to filter out more than three dozen posts that share my excitement as I became engaged in this free, online learning environment.

Learning - The Ultimate Game

I was so excited about the learning and networking opportunities that were afforded me through my initial DS106 exposure last Spring, that I again enrolled in DS106 this January. This action exposed me to Ben Rimes and his informative blog called “The Tech Savvy Educator” where he announced in early January that he had “also signed up for #ETMOOC”. I was intrigued and searched out this Educational Technology & Media MOOC. Like DS106, participants choose their own learning goals, engage in dialogue with other educators, share ideas and resources, and reflect through their individual blogs posts. All tweets with the hashtag #ETMOOC and blog posts with the tag or category ETMOOC will be aggregated centrally thanks to the dedication and hard work of Alan Levine (aka cogdog) and his team. Needless to say, I was intrigued, so I signed up for ETMOOC and officially start this unique learning adventure tomorrow with over 1200 participants representing 67 countries around the world. Future blog posts relating to this unique endeavour will be classified and listed under the newly created ETMOOC category found in the right-hand menu.

My second serendipitous learning opportunity occurred last night while I was scanning some of the aggregated tweets from ETMOOC participants. One individual (who I unfortunately cannot remember, so as to give credit) commented about the creativity of the educational posters created by Krissy Venosdale. As luck would have it, I searched through Krissy’s posters and thought that the image that I included above represented well my love of learning. Thanks Krissy for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits:
–   Flickr – Creative Commons image “Learning”
by Krissy Venosdale – http://www.flickr.com/photos/venosdale/7051065819/

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Pizza, Pedagogy & P.D. – ManACE TIN – Nov. 8

Activity, Info, Professional Development No Comments »

Want to be inspired by practical classroom pedagogy over a supper of pizza this Thursday? If so, make certain to register below for the Technology Information Night (TIN) hosted by the Manitoba Association for Computing EducatorsManitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE). This opportunity is being held in Winnipeg on November 8, 2012 at St. John’s-Ravenscourt, 400 South Drive, from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm. While it is free to register for this learning and sharing opportunity, $5.00 will be collected per person at the door to offset the food costs.

Innovative educators will share their ideas and resources through the following three presentations:

Window to the World
Facilitated by Erin Malkoske & Leslie Dent Scarcello
This presentation will provide an overview of blogging with early years students.  Whether you’re considering a classroom blog or individual student blogs, Erin & Leslie will show you how easy it can be for you and your students to break down the barriers imposed by classroom walls by using your blog as a window to the world.

Creativity & Collaboration – Making Video Mashups
Facilitated by Christin Mackay
Bring a little joy to your classroom by enabling your students to demonstrate their creativity when it comes to producing collaborative video projects.  In this presentation, Christin will demonstrate how she and her Grade 4/5 students recorded and produced a short video that was inspired by viral video techniques.

Rocking the Airwaves
Facilitated by Matt Henderson
As recipients of a ManACE SEED Grant last year, Matt and his students will highlight the ways they’ve taken to the airwaves to amplify student voice.  Whether you’ve caught a CSJR broadcast or you’re looking to broadcast the learning that’s taking place in your own classroom, you’ll want to tune into this presentation.

To register please visit: http://manace-nov8tin.eventbrite.ca

Come out to learn and network with some very dedicated and creative Manitoba educators.

Please help spread the word about our upcoming ManACE TIN within your school/division.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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“Tools For The 21st Century Educator” – P.D.

Application or Web App, How To, LwICT, Professional Development, Tutorial No Comments »

Sisler High School, the Winnipeg School Division, Eyeconic Media and Microsoft Canada will be hosting a five day Professional Development session on cutting edge ICT skills for digital learners during the week of July 9 – 13, 2012. Our goal is to engage and empower educators through hands-on workshops.

Although the cost for each workshop is $50.00, anyone may sign up for individual morning or afternoon workshop sessions which are of interest:

  • Workshop 1: The Cloud Classroom – Monday July 9th, 9:00 am -11:45 am
  • Workshop 2: Web & Gaming Graphics – Monday, July 9th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 3: Video Conferencing in the Classroom – Tuesday, July 10th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 4: Video Editing for the Web – Tuesday, July 10th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 5: Photo-imaging for the Web – Wednesday, July 11th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 6: Introduction to Web Design – Wednesday, July 11th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 7: Web Graphics & Animation – Thursday, July 12th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 8: Audio Composition – Thursday, July 12th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm
  • Workshop 9: Game Design for the Web – Friday, July 13th, 9:00 am – 11:45 am
  • Workshop 10: Online Teacher Presence – Friday, July 13th, 12:45 pm – 3:30 pm

Additional P.D. details and specific workshop content can be found in the E3 Workshop Booklet which may be downloaded in PDF format.

There are still some workshops seats available, so register as soon as possible at: Eyeconic Media (www.eyeconic.ca)

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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ManACE “Seed Grant” Available for Schools

Info, LwICT, Project, Tip No Comments »

The Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) has always supported teachers and innovation. In keeping with this vision, this organization is providing “Seed Grants” which will fund up to two initiatives of $1200 in each of the three grade classifications of early, middle, and senior years. If you, or a colleague, are engaging students and promoting Information and Communication Technology (ICT), you should investigate this unique funding opportunity.

I encourage readers in Manitoba schools to investigate the ManACE Seed Grant funding opportunity by exploring the specific details found at:

http://www.manace.ca/seed_grants.htm

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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DS106 will make my learning transparent!

DS106, Info, Professional Development, Reflection, Tip 5 Comments »

The purpose of this post is to advise my readers of an important writing style transition in some of my upcoming blog posts. In past, I have struggled “behind the scenes” drafting, editing, and proof-reading each blog post before I felt it was “ready for prime time” and could finally be published. Perhaps some might say that the published posts or articles were finally “polished” (albeit too long, which is a curse that I continue to struggle with).

Perhaps my “polished” blog posts are similar to the traditional “polished” appearance that many teachers display in their classrooms. For example, have your students ever asked you a question about the subject matter that you teach and failed to get a correct answer? Do you ever make mistakes in front of your students and acknowledge such errors? In other words do your students think that you know “everything”? Are you “too polished”? Perhaps we, as teachers, need to be more transparent in our learning.

I must admit that when I first taught Grade 7 & 8 Mathematics, I prided myself on the fact that no students could ask me a math-related question or problem that I could not solve or explain how I arrived at the correct answer. Furthermore I, somewhat naively, thought that all students arrived at the correct answer following the same algorithm or process-path that I used. It was not until I started teaching Computer Science that I realized that there were many different ways to write a computer program albeit some were more efficient than others. However, it was the diversity of student programming solutions that started me to appreciate the variety and ingenuity in my students’ creative thinking. It was then that I started engaging in what I will call “transparent problem solving” with my students. I would often share a puzzle or problem and have students work in pairs or triads to come up with a solution. Knowing there were a variety of ways to solve such problems, I wanted the participants in small groups to learn that their colleagues perhaps didn’t approach the problem or its solution in the same way they did. Furthermore, I started asking students to verbalize or think “out loud” so that others could appreciate and learn to solve problems in different ways. I recently shared with my readers one of my favourite problems in an earlier post entitled “Problem Solving: Where does the ‘F’ go?“.

“DS106″ tag is the key
In a recent post, I stated that I have enrolled in a free, 15 week digital storytelling MOOC (massive, open online course) known as DS106. Participants are expected to engage in the learning process through reaction, reflection and construction of creative assignments. One of the most critical parts of the entire learning process is for participants to document their ideas and struggles as they work through this online course. These reflections and solutions are to be shared on one’s blog. So readers of my blog are going to be exposed to additional posts where I document my DS106 learning journey in a much more transparent manner. Such DS106-related posts will have a “DS106″ tag displayed at the bottom of the post (as illustrated below). For example, my last post on January 4th, in which I shared information about the “hieroglyphic typewriter”, was created for my traditional audience of K-12 educators. As such, there was no “DS106″ included in the seven tags associated with this post. On the other hand, the January 3rd post describing “My new learning adventure” included “DS106″ as the third tag at the bottom. The news aggregator software, used by the facilitators of the DS106 course, simply scans all the blogs of all student participants in this course. Only those articles or posts that include the “DS106″ tag will be filtered and shared within the community of learners at Mary Washington University which facilitates the DS106 online course

I encourage readers of my blog to peruse all my posts but if some future content seems to be somewhat unusual or different from my standard format, I trust that the post will have a “DS106″ tag associated with it.

So please consider this to be fair warning faithful reader. Some of my upcoming posts may be somewhat technical (as my next DS106 post); a few may expose my frustration or difficulties that I encounter; some may be quite reflective; while hopefully others may share my successes. However, I can assure you that some of my future blog posts will, like a diary, become somewhat personal. No doubt you will see me with less polish and more tarnish, as you witness and share my transparent DS106 learning journey.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits:
–   Flickr – Creative Commons image
When we make our learning transparent, we become teachers
by langwitches – http://www.flickr.com/photos/langwitches/3500044331/

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