Connections and Learning

21 10 2012

I just spent a day at a teacher librarian’s conference where I was surrounded by people who are excited about change in education and at the same time scared stiff.  Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of West Vancouver School District gave the Keynote speech.  He talked about the role of teacher librarians in technological implementation in schools. I was intrigued by a few things that he said, so after reading his blog, I took a look at the work of Will Richardson, via this TEDxMelbourne presentation .

Richardson is a big voice for educational reform.  He has some interesting ideas, but one in particular made me crazy.  He said something to the effect of there is no point in learning facts, you can look them up on google.  I have to disagree, a lot.  Education is more than learning facts.  Could you google an article on foreign policy and read it if you had to look up every country, every politician and every big word?  I know I couldn’t. How about math? If you don’t know basic addition are you ever going to understand algebra? Calculus? Chemistry? No.

Education needs to be about training your brain how to find answers, not about getting them.  There is merit in learning basic facts, they allow us to make connections to other ideas and form questions.

I am very interested in the work of George Siemens who is the founder of the Connectivism: Open Social Learning theory.  He argues that learning is all about making connections. Something elementary teachers have been fostering for years.  This is not a new idea, but how we use it in a technological age is. Siemens talks about “Sensemaking not learning.” When learners have the tools of their sensemaking under their own control, they have the capacity to shape and direct the activities that they find meaningful.”

He says that Open Social Learning is:

  • responsive to the needs of the individual
  • adaptive
  • fluid, varied and contextual

I’m not convinced that this is not already happening in elementary schools.  We use “think, pair, share,”  we encourage group work and group learning, we take advantage of “teachable moments,” we adapt lessons and curriculum to the needs of the students, we try to teach in themes to make sure our students are learning in context. Perhaps our educational leaders need to be elementary school teachers instead of University Professors. That is one thing I do agree with Richardson about.  Teachers need to start screaming about what we believe in, and stop being so polite. Otherwise we are going to have an education system which is built by politicians and businesspeople.


BC Teachers Job Action

24 06 2012

If you are wondering at all about what the teacher’s job action is all about, this video is a good summary made by  Surrey Teachers.

Want to know how class size and composition affects your kids?  I have 6 diagnosed Special Needs kids in my class, and 2 who are waiting for testing – their parents can’t afford the private testing.

How this affects these kids – we have one aide, she does a great job but between the two of us, we don’t really get to many of the kids, the worst 2 get most of our attention, partly because it is a safety issue for the other children. Obviously if you are spending all your time with 2 kids, then trying to help the other 6 who have difficulty,  the “regular” kids don’t get the attention they deserve either. (don’t even get me started about the bright ones.)

I am frustrated beyond belief, and it doesn’t look much better next year.

We asked for more Learning assistance time from the “Learning Improvement Fund” but we got more CUPE (non-teaching) time instead.  The school district decided they know better than we do what we need. (or could it be because CUPE has already settled their contract?)

Only one more week.  I am seriously considering changing professions again.



Time for a Rant

1 03 2012

Today the teacher’s union in BC voted to escalate job action.  We have been without a contract since September.  When asked, a clear majority of teachers said that the biggest issue they wanted resolved was class size and composition.  Unfortunately the government took that out of our contract (illegally- per a supreme court decision) and it can’t be negotiated.

I am new to teaching, having had other careers including database management, banking and Export Management. I decided to become a teacher late in life because it was what I had always wanted to do, but was told that I was “too smart to be a teacher” or “would never make any money as a teacher.” I am fortunate to have a spouse with a good paying job, so I can pursue this passion.

I’m ok with my salary, I’m ok with Net zero, I’m ok with professional development being changed, I’m ok with the idea of having evaluations of teachers, and I’m more than ok with the idea that we should trust our administration to know who is the best candidate for the job rather than the person with the most years. (most of them find creative ways to do this anyway.)

I am NOT ok with removing restraints on class size and composition.  I have 27 kids in my grade 4/5 class, let me give you a little breakdown.

# of kids who can’t read at grade level = 3 (one who can’t read at all…)

# of kids who have to be given a personal invitation to begin each task, EVERY TIME = 3

# of kids who have a ministry designated learning disability = 5 (only one overlap with above)

# of kids who don’t have a designation because they are still on the “list” = 2

# of kids who have severe medical conditions which limit their ability to learn = 3

# of kids who are ESL = 2

Didn’t even get to the ones who have parents who are divorcing, are moving, don’t get breakfast etc. That is just “normal” these days.

Who is losing out here? The kids.  All of them.

Putting devices in kids hands

3 12 2011

I struggle daily with trying to figure out how to put internet capable devices in the hands of my students even a camera would be a great start.

We have a total of 34 reliable laptops for a school of 530 kids…it is a sad situation.

I had a bit of an aha moment when I asked my grade 4/5 class how many of them had either an iPod touch, an iPad, a 3DS or other hand held gaming system that accesses the internet. (they actually didn’t know they could access the internet on them which was another interesting tidbit) Most of them raised their hands to answer yes.

The problem I face is the “no devices at school policy.” How to get around it is the question.  I am thinking that I simply ask parents for permission to bring the device to school for use on a project and we go from there.  Has anyone out there done this? What did you do?

Techie friends are Important

10 11 2011

I have a new one on staff which is great.  Justine and I spent a morning this week preparing a “Technology Implementation Plan” for our school, which is a fancy way of saying we wrote down what we consider to be best practice on a piece of paper so that we could use it to fund some technology at our school.

This was a new experience for Justine, and it was great to have her bubbly excitement every time there was and idea between us. I am a little more jaded I guess, it felt like it was homework for my Masters degree coming back to haunt me in some ways.  Fortunately after doing that MET degree, this was pretty easy for me, just don’t look at how I did my citations…

In the spirit of cooperation, I am posting the plan here, in case one of you fellow techies need to write one.  It will give you a template to use or ideas to borrow or add to.  If you do write one using this as a template I respectfully request that you post it here as a comment so that we can all share.
Creative Commons License
Ross Road Technology Implementation Plan by Carolann Fraenkel, Justine Frazee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Busy People just get Busier

11 09 2011

School starts, new grade level (4-5), huge renovation starting, running a conference in April, so what do I do? Join a choir! Of course, (and knowing me) not one that I can just show up to and sing, I had to choose one with regular homework. I’m loving it so far though.

Also on the agenda is to lobby the school district for more tech for our school (yeah that will go well.) We are in a completely woeful state at the moment, with one functional laptop cart of 16 and one computer in each room. How can I share… there are 540 kids at this school. Something has to happen and fast!

This isn’t “our” Union

21 07 2011

The BCTF required my private email address for use only on “urgent” Union business, relating to contract negotiations. Union reps told us that the School Board could shut down our email to make contract negotiations difficult, etc.

I knew I didn’t like the idea then, and I know it was a bad idea now.

Today I received an email (very carefully worded) from Susan Lambert, BCTF President, explaining the union position on the HST referendum and telling me when to vote etc.

  1. How is this “urgent” union business? (or union business at all?)
  2. How is this not illegal? Are there not laws in this country about telling people how to vote without saying as much?

I have to say I was angry and outraged that “our” union would spam the membership for political posturing. This has absolutely nothing to do with improving teaching and learning, and everything to do with political games  that I want no part of.