Saturday, March 28, 2015

Professional Development and Constant Reinvention
As the semester comes to a close, I am absolutely baffled by how fast it went. Not only do the past 3 months seem to have flown but also the whole year seems like such a blur. I am happy to say that this year I have gotten to immerse myself in a variety of educational theories and experiences, leading to much excitement and nervousness for the Faculty of Education next year. With all of this learning in mind, my task with this blog is to somehow sum up exactly what I’ve learned and reflect on the process of learning about 21st Century literacies and skills. Hopefully in doing so I can also create a good reference for myself in terms of resources that will benefit me in my future teaching endeavors.
            As a major part of our class blogging this semester we were asked to follow different teacher blogs. In following these blogs there has been a great personal capacity for learning and reflection. In seeing how other teachers brand themselves, participate in a global discussion and share in the development of a 21st Century identity I have been incredibly fortunate to learn about the wide range of resources and support systems that are in place to help teachers all over the world. I have specifically been following three blogs over the later half of the semester, and will definitely continue to do so in the future. Although my initial blogs unfortunately went inactive, I was fortunate to come across three very distinctly different resources. The first blog that I have been following is Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of The Day.This blog is holds an abundance of educational resources curated by Ferlazzo, aimed at teaching ELL, ESL and EFL. Centered almost fully on web-based resources Ferlazzo makes it very easy to find a new technological resource for your students. I think that a lot of the time the digital world can be overwhelming, and knowing where to start in your search can be daunting. I believe that this potentially could be where a lot of push back comes from in terms of technology. It is great to integrate technology and websites into your lessons but if you don't know where to start it can be incredibly hard. I think that this is why Ferlazzo’s blog is so wonderful. Ferlazzo fully embodies many 21st Century skills and literacies in his blogging, tweeting and curating. With almost 45000 followers, he opens the educational boundaries and pushes to share information in our digital age. He looks to incorporate media literacy into the classroom for students, but also makes it an accessible construct for teachers. By connecting others so easily to the multitude of online resources, Ferlazzo reminds teachers that BYOD and other technological based educational lessons can be more rich than every imagined. If you don't know what BYOD is, check out this great informational video from the Peel District School Board. 

            The next blogger that I followed throughout the semester is BYOD, ASAP.  Although this blog isn’t updated as frequently as Ferlazzo’s, it offers valuable insight into the process of integrating the BYOD movement into your classroom. This blog is focused on a Secondary Math and Science classroom, where students are asked to be metacognitive about their own learning. The blog is separated into project ideas, teacher experiences and other thoughts and questions. Heather speaks frequently about student centered learning, and how teacher understanding can nurture this learning. Furthermore, this blogger is admittedly new to BYOD and is “ convert[ing] my classes over to BYOD, focusing on independent and proficiency-based learning”. By sharing the process and journey with her followers, Heather is creating accountability and transparency for the integration of 21st Century skills into her classroom. As an experienced teacher followers watch her work with new concepts and skills, and can see the ways in which students thrive in the BYOD world. If you get a chance, I would really recommend reading Pioneers” as it gives an incredible amount of information surrounding teacher and student reactions to BYOD integration. Heather contributes to the media and technological literacy of her students, while showing other teachers her process. In showcasing this process, I think that this blog shows that integrating technology isn’t the easiest or most streamline process. However, if you work hard at it and do it properly, the learning community that arises is absolutely incredible! 
            The last blogger that I followed closely over the semester is Heidi Siwak(The Amaryllis). Siwak is a middle school teacher from Ontario who is highly recognized for her teaching philosophy and strategy. She is a highly metacognitive thinker, who constantly reflects on her own strategies and how to foster similar understandings in her students. Her blogs are diverse in content but offer great insight into the ways that she is always adapting and developing herself as a teacher. Recently, Siwak has blogged about her experiences of teaching students to recognize how negative feedback can be used productively. She discusses how to take emotion out of the equation to positively adjust projects for the most efficiency. Another set of blogs focus on the projects that her students become immersed in, and how they are part of the assessment and learning process. She also admits that she is sometimes stuck on how to approach a concept or how to teach her students something in a meaningful way. In approaching this as a learning opportunity Siwak also discusses the importance of networking and learning from others. This incredibly diverse blog touches on an incredibly amount of the 21st Century skills and literacies. Student centered learning, project based learning, moral education, collaboration and technological understanding are just a few ideals that she grapples with in her classrooms.  I also really appreciate her insight into the Ontario classroom and seeing all the incredible learning she facilitates within bounds of the Ontario curriculum. It is incredibly inspiring to see that she is constantly bettering herself in the means of professional development, and constant learning.
            In following these blogs I have learned a lot. To see how other teachers are constantly reinventing their teaching techniques and strategies to benefit their students is incredibly inspiring. In seeing how each of these bloggers puts an incredible amount of thought and work into their own professional development, it really puts into perspective the ever changing world we live in. If you had told me when I was 12 that classrooms would now be using smart boards, or even computers to do complex projects I would have been baffled. And although I personally have some understanding of the 21st Century Skills that this generation is currently working with, I definitely need to continue in my own professional development. These blogger/teachers do not rest on the knowledge and skills they walked out of the faculty of education with, and I think that their transparency in the process of understanding new expectations is a great example for new incoming teachers.
            So… you may ask what I will take away from this semester of educational learning, and I can honestly say that I have learned a lot. I really appreciate our discussion surrounding branding yourself and creating an online footprint. Although I have been taught to be wary of social media and the negative side of it, I wasn't very aware of the positive aspects of these platforms. In creating your own footprint online, you are also creating a professional brand that allows for connection with educators all over the globe. As a class we have created our blogs and group Pinterest page while learning of the positive implications of other resources like Twitter and Cube for Teachers. In doing so, we have already begun to network with the ever growing group of educational professionals that are out there. In doing so, we have also learned that the educational world is a broad and welcoming community, and in this community is a wide range of peers willing and ready to help whenever needed. Personally, I think something that I have taken away from this experience is the unbelievable depth to the resources available for engaging and meaningful learning. In watching Susan Kwiecien create a QR code of her voice recording,  I had an epiphany. I have not even scratched the surface of meaningful ways to engage and identify with future students. The possibilities are limitless and I think that it has been an eye opening experience seeing the ways that teachers have to constantly adapt to new and developing students.

            And with that, I end my final blog for this course. Yet, I have a feeling that this wont be the end of this blog. As I find myself entering another summer job within a primary classroom, and of course the Faculty of Education next year I think that this will be a great resource for reflection and understanding. I look forward to continuing my experiences in the great online educational community, and can’t wait to see where this global community takes me next.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Building A Community Among Educators

As I come contemplate the ending of my undergraduate degree, I am becoming more and more aware of how nervous I am about teachers college. In the concurrent education program we are beginning to get more and more information about how teachers college will run, and with this I will admit that I have a fair amount of apprehension. I believe that this comes from a lack of practice with lesson planning, unit design and the understanding of curriculum documents. I am very thankful for the practice I have gotten through a few educational based classes; however, I do wish that I had even more practice. I am aware that a lot of my peers are also feeling the same way, but that doesn't stop a lot of my questioning surrounding my potential merits as a teacher.

Last week, our Education class was very fortunate to have a guest speaker come into our lecture. Susan Kwiecien (along with a business partner) discussed with us her personally created resource Cube For Teachers. This educational database invites teachers (working within the Ontario curriculum) to share resources with other teachers, broadening the database of activities, ideas and lessons available to the Ontario Teacher. What is so wonderful about this, is that all the sources are verified to be in line with the Ontario Curriculum guidelines, and allows for teachers to effectively find and manage their own resource base online. Honestly, I was so excited and thrilled to look deeper into "The Cube" and fully understand its capabilities. In the broad horizons of the 21st Century educational skills we have been studying in class I have been very focussed on how 21st Century skills and literacies can positively benefit a student yet, I failed to fully imagine how these tools and resources can also benefit a teacher.
As I continue to find myself unsure about my prospects in teachers college, finding resources like "The Cube" help to reassure me that we are not alone in our place within the educational system. Seeing the ways in which teachers from across the province (and country) can positively affect each other as well as their willingness to share is a very positive notion. Gone are the days of long Google searches where individuals were asked to find their own resources and situate them within a curriculum approved context. Instead comes an online community in which teachers help each other to situate these resources, where teachers themselves become the curators if their own online platform. In learning about these resources something hit me. That as teachers, we will not be alone in our work.

It sounds silly, but in my trepidation surrounding my future career, it never occurred to me that there is a very prevalent social support system within the education world. Not only will we have our peers and professors during teachers college, but every placement and volunteer opportunity can potentially lead to the creation and development of ones social network. Furthermore, with the emergence of online communities such as OSSEMOOC or Cube For Teachers, educators and teacher candidates are invited into a conversation with a broad and welcoming network of peers. In the 21st Century context, educators are asked and able to integrate technology into their classrooms. In the BYOD generation, where most students have some sort of technology teachers are asked to make learning come alive with technology. Teachers; however, forget about the capacity for professional development as a result of online resources and communities. In seeing Cube For Teachers I think it is plain to see that the capacity for technological learning does not stop with our student, and instead extends into the pedagogical approaches and support for ourselves as well.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Day of Online Learning

In my University career, I have only a few times come up against assignments and projects that were open ended. In these open ended projects many a times we have been given very basic outlines (for example use at least 3 drama conventions) to create a sort of assignment that fits your own learning style and personal story. Every time I get these project outlines, I automatically find myself in a panic. When given the freedom to define my own learning and look for content that fits me in the context, I find the possibility of finding something that is “good enough” to be incredibly overwhelming. I am finding this right now in one of my English classes, where we have been asked to create our own presentation about anything to do with a specific genre. I think what I am having such a hard time with is the open ended nature of the assignment, and the possibility of not fully being able to find what really interests me in terms of this genre.
How does this relate to education? Well this past week our education class was asked to access a variety of online educational resources that better showcased some of the front-runners in educational development. In doing so, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many great videos and blogs from educators and policy makers surrounding new and inventive fashions to engage students. One major aspect of a lot of these websites was “Project Based Learning”. In this kind of learning students are asked to ask questions and investigate an authentic area of discovery. An example of this approach can be found at the “Inquiry Hub” website, where students are asked to frame their learning within 1 of 3 themes or streams of study. These are Community and Global Issues, environmental sustainability, and media arts and technology. Furthermore, instead of having a “old story” lecture style set up, students are given the ability to inquire through workshop and collaborative practice. It is in this new distinct style of schooling that students are able to base their understanding in authentic open ended questions, with complex and ever changing answers.
            Looking at all the incredible resources in terms of Project Based Learning in sighted a questioning for me. Why at the University level do I so dramatically reject the notion of authentic learning, and the ability to decide my own questioning? I remember first coming to University and being very thrown off by the possibility of making my own choices in regards to educational discipline and assessment. Was I trained in the “old story” to only follow directions, and engage in unauthentic educational possibilities? And if so, did my ability to critically think and work through complex issues become dejected? Personally I think that it takes practice, but eventually we as “old story” learners will be able to develop into the “new story” and away from inauthentic education.

As a future educator, I can really see the merit in authentic and inquiry based learning. When looking at how students can engage so deeply in their inquiry based projects, it is amazing that many of these models are not more fully integrated into the curriculum. I really am excited to attempt to use some of these great ideas with my own future classes. Check out these great resources!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Helping Students With Learning Disabilities
This past week I was perusing the internet to find some fun activities for a few of the children that I tutor, and came across an incredibly interesting article. The article is about a Dutch graphic designer who created a new typeface called "Dyslexie". This new font hopes to help individuals (like himself) with dyslexia. If you are interested, this is a great video fully explaining the scope of the font, and how it works for individuals with dyslexia.
As you can see above, the way that the "p", "b" and "d" are created are slightly different; however, for an individual with dyslexia they can make a huge difference in the way that one can read. Furthermore, in having a new accessible typeface students will hopefully develop a higher sense of confidence and self esteem in regards to their reading and academic abilities.
              To me, I think that this new design really seems to fall into the realm of 21st Century educational skills as well as 21st Century advances. I think that it is incredible, that we live in a world where something as simple as a font size can so drastically change the life of a student or person with dyslexia. As we often discuss in education classes, making accommodations for students (while not always easy) is so incredibly beneficial to their own education and outlook on education. With so many new technologies, and understandings in terms of learning disabilities and other exceptionalities this font is just one example of the strides being made towards an inclusive and beneficial system of schooling for all.

The full article can be found on;

Monday, January 26, 2015

Starting A New Chapter: 21st Century Literacy
Im back! I will admit that at the end of last term I was contemplating the idea of continuing this blog; however, life got a little busy and I but it on the back burner. Therefore, I am quite happy to be writing blogs again for another education class at Brock University. This next set of blogs will be more focused on concepts I am learning relating to 21st Century Literacies and the different ways that we can integrate them into our own teachings. To start off I will admit that I didn't know very much about 21st Century Literacies when I signed up for this course. I originally thought that it would maybe deal with English literacy, and somehow relate to my teachable subjects English and Drama. Although I was quite wrong on the English side, I do now realize that all the different literacies we will be examining throughout the term have broad implications for every teachable subject and every learner.
         This week, I was asked to prepare a presentation surrounding financial literacy. Now when I chose this topic, I didn't really put much thought into it and upon further reading I realize that my breadth of knowledge in this specific literacy is very limited. Furthermore, there was a very poignant example in an article by Adrianna Kezar and Hannah Yang entitled "The Importance of Financial Literacy" that centred around a fictional University student and the financial problems he found himself in. In this article Kezar & Yang discuss "James" a student who eventually drops out of his University as a result of financial hardships. Kezar and Yang cite poor budgeting, understanding of economy and ultimately poor financial literacy for James' problems. Although the article continues to discuss procedural adjustments useful to University and College students already at school, we can also look at financial literacy and education as important starting as early as grade 1. Financial literacy is more than a ideal to financial problems, but rather the purpose of financial literacy is to act in a preemptive, preventative fashion, saving students from issues later on in life.
         Here  is an info graphic that outlines the current American economic status, especially in young people. As you can see, by factoring in the current trends and problems with finances (especially in young people and their habits) it is important to develop financially literate citizens to foster a more positive financial economy. At this point in our  economic states, it seems as if financial literacy  is more important than ever. 
Financial literacy itself can be defined as "“The improved understanding of financial products, services and concepts so students are empowered to make informed choices, avoid pitfalls, know where to go for help and take other actions to improve their present and long term financial wellbeing" (Kezar & Yang 2010). To further understand how financial literacy can be integrated into the classroom, check out this youtube video that was located on Edutopia.
I bet you're wondering why I have gone into so much detail about financial literacy! Well firstly, it is fresh in my mind and something that I really wanted to talk about. But secondly, financial literacy in itself is something that was lacking from my education. I am not sure if I missed out because I took more fine arts and social science based courses in high school (although the Ontario Ministry of Education outlines how to integrate financial literacy into all areas of learning) or simply it wasn't taught. But this is something that I know I struggle with now, and something that I wish my education had centred around. Budgeting, financing and bank loans are all areas in which I struggle to understand and excel in. Furthermore, at this point I personally feel very behind compared to my peers in understanding economy and how to keep finances in check. Just like all the other literacies we have studied so far, I would argue that financial literacy is an integral life skill, and that not being aware of the aspects of financial literacy can have a detrimental effect to overall quality of life. 
        I really look forward to learning more about the different 21st Century literacies, and how to integrate them into our future unit and lesson plans. Although these concepts are very new to me, I think that because they are so rooted in life skills with real life connections they will become incredibly important to our education as future teachers. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Finding Your Passion

Wow, I can’t believe how fast this semester has flown by. As we come to the end of this semester we also come to the end of our blog entries. Throughout this experience I feel like I have been able to learn so much, not just from my personal understandings as a result of reflection, but also from the discussions had between my blog group members. I am so happy that we were able to get together and discuss our blogs in detail, allowing for further understanding throughout the semester. Furthermore, because of this discussion time I feel as though I really have been able to grow in my understanding of different facets of education. As each of our group members comes to the table with different perspectives, experiences and goals it becomes evident through reflection that there is so much more to the process of education than I ever dreamed.

Last week as a class, we were asked to participate in genius hour (a period of time where students were allowed to research and explore anything within the educational filed that interested them). We were then tasked to present these findings to the class in smaller groups. Although I will admit I was skeptical about the use of my class time for collaboration I was so pleasantly surprised by the presentations that we got to see. Just as our blog groups allowed for further understanding in a variety of different subjects, perspectives and focuses so too did this genius hour. By getting to just enjoy some of the research that other class members did, we were able to really immerse ourselves in the learning, understanding and work that everyone brought forth. Furthermore, we got to see what really interested our classmates and where their passions lie.
After reviewing my own blog from this semester I think this idea of passion is what is evident throughout. I don’t think I fully realized how much I enjoy and love dramatic arts, and how much they really have make an impact on my educational philosophy. In the past, I only thought that drama was useful in a performative aspect; however, in my experiences this semester (both in my drama class and in this education class) I have been happy to realize the other uses for these conventions. Drama truly has become a passion that far exceeds my expectations, and I think this is a large part of 21st Century learning.
Through every exercise and assignment we have completed this semester in EDUC4P19, the focus on 21st Century learning skills has been evident. These skills include following your passions, literacy in a variety of 21st Century technologies and techniques, and finally the shift from the new to the old story in education. I think that for me, one of the main take aways from this class will be how to make learning fun and how to find the balance between the strict confines of the curriculum and the needs of the student.
To end I will include the Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson that catapulted my Genius hour last week. This talk focuses on creativity, schools and most of all some of those 21st Century learning skills we have been so focused on.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The "Merit" of It

                               The Brock Volunteer Group at CODE 2014 (Photo: Rory Vanderbrink)

As we come closer and closer to graduation and in extension teachers college, I find myself constantly bombarded with two central questions. The number one thing that I am asked when I tell someone I am becoming a teacher is “you know there are no jobs in teaching right?” with the second most common being “why did you pick Drama? French or Math would have been so much more marketable.” After almost four years of having to answer about why this profession drew me in, and why I followed my own passions in terms of 
choosing my teachable subjects I really felt like I had had enough. So often am I reminded of the distinction between “academic” and “easy” courses, with this even linking back to my own High School Education? So often was I told by many of my friends that I wasn't taking anything “hard” or “real” when I was following my passions in the fine arts, in the social sciences and in the English Language.  But what constitutes a “real” path in education? What gives one course of field of study merit over another? And how do students end up in this mindset of one area of expertise being more important than another? Too often I myself have fallen into doubts in terms of my own educational abilities, all as a result of the girl that once told me drama “didn't matter”.

On the weekend of October 17-18 I was given the incredible opportunity (along with a few other class members) to attend the CODE 2014 conference in Ottawa. CODE is the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators ( See, who organize conferences to discuss methods, merits and technologies to enhance a student’s engagement and learning through dramatic and dance conventions. The conference this year, entitled “Mirrors: A Journey to Identities” featured a variety of workshops, performances and round table discussions that discussed diversity, identity and the place of drama and dance in the Ontario curriculum and beyond. By volunteering at the conference, I was lucky enough to attend a variety of workshops that allowed me also to meet a variety of educators from across the province. In meeting these teachers, I really experienced a moment of epiphany. These teachers full heartedly believed in the merit of their craft, answering to all of those kids in high school “why are you taking only easy courses?” – well because they aren’t as easy as you think! Drama and dance have the possibility for true epiphany and for true learning that goes far beyond a classroom. They do not seek to demerit one field of study but rather promote the positive things about theirs. Furthermore, they acknowledged that sometimes their place in a school may be lonely, but there is really a purpose for them being there.
Now I promise that this blog does connect to 4P19, and this is in the discussion surrounding integrated curriculum. One of the round table discussions that I attended was called “Drama and Dance Initial Teacher Education – Challenges and Possibilities” Led by Michael Wilson. In this discussion, there were a variety of drama and dance educators (both at the University and High School level) who all came together to discuss the 2-year expansion of teacher training, and its relation to Drama and Dance in the curriculum. In this discussion, the notion of integrated curriculum came up in terms of integrating drama and dance into other classes (this was more geared at the P/J and J/I educators). It was discussed that in this capacity, although Drama and Dance are being integrated into Language Arts or French (for example), they are not being integrated adequately. By doing a play in one French class, or one day of dance in Gym many of the speakers feared that this constituted the whole terms grade in respect to these art forms. Furthermore, in doing this many teachers were not feeling prepared or confident to teach drama or dance in their classrooms. Without much support for the arts from administration, it becomes a problem to get any sort of proper arts integration into the classroom as many times these subjects are seen as superlative and not necessary.

I know that I am biased because I am passionate about drama, but I think that there is a lot more merit to the arts than many give them credit for. The arts have the possibility to transform, allowing students to play, try different roles and explore empathy and compassion in a safe, distanced environment. In drama you can explore leadership, power, feelings etc all through a distanced and therefore safe context. I have sen this in my own experiences in drama- even this year. There was a moment a few weeks ago that I was truly able to leave my own context and enter the world of the drama. In exploring an especially difficult topic (in this case it was domestic violence) through the dramatic lenses, our class was safely able to explore power dynamics and roles through a dramatic convention. I have never felt so moved in my life by the roles that were being explored. Never before have I been so into a dramatic play, and seeing how much this one moved me, I then fully understood the ways that Drama can move someone, make someone think or make someone feel. If you are interested in learning about more "Transferable skills" or the ways that Dramatic Arts can inform you in the real world check this out!

So as I come to the end of this blog, I want to call all of those that told me drama “doesn't matter” and let them know, that it has more possibilities than one can even fathom. It is in this “easy” class that a real amount of learning can happen.