The Revenge of Analog by David Sax

IMG_7586.JPGMaybe it’s because I am reminiscent of my youth and was craving a walk down memory lane that I decided to read this book? Or maybe it’s because I wanted to know that all things I love were returning into today’s mainstream? Regardless of why I ended up with this title, I now wish it  lived on my bookshelf and I didn’t have to return to the library. Just looking at it reminds me of my favourite records and drawing with my family members at the kitchen table before dinner.

The Revenge of Analog by David Sax was a beautiful follow up to Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation. It was as if the book fairies aligned these two reads so I could continue this idea I constantly return to – slow down, live simply and disconnect from all things technology – even if just for an hour.

There are chapters about vinyl and its intimate production process, paper and its ability to enhance our creativity, and the ability of board games to connect us conversationally – all ideas that resonate so deeply with what I believe and what this year away from work is all about. For those of you that know me, I have a deep love for paper and pens and there was even words written about Moleskine notebooks!

IMG_7590.JPGAnd then I get to Chapter 8: The Revenge of School and there is this need to share with everyone digitally! An ironic turn of events, but a necessary share to get all of my readers thinking about bringing purpose to all things in their classroom, even when it comes to how we use technology.

David Sax (@saxdaviddigs into the insurgence of SmartBoards and their slow demise. He speaks of MOOCs (massive open online courses) as “one of the greatest promises and failures of the educational technology movement.” I couldn’t stop reading this chapter and re-reading certain sentences. What all of these technology advances have in common is their lack of connection with humans and their inability to be manipulated with more than a swipe. Educators who can be responsive in the moment and peers you can collaboratively think with bring an experience to learning that is far beyond that of any device.

“Teachers are the key to analog education’s past, present, and future, and no technology can or should replace them. Not because they have the most knowledge, but because without them, education is no more than facts passed back and forth. If you want facts, go read a book. If you want to learn, find a teacher.” (p. 202)

I have mixed feelings when it comes to technology as I sit here writing these words to you on my computer. What I know for sure is that we all need to slow down, learn deeply and connect with each other collaboratively. We also need to incorporate technology at appropriate ages and in meaningful ways that enhance the learning of our students. I agree with David, I do not believe that technology has no place in the classroom, I’m just trying to figure out what its place can be so that it doesn’t disconnect our students from each other and decrease children’s curiosity.

At the end of the chapter, David Sax (@saxdavid) quotes Benjamin Peebles, an educator at the Jackman Institute in Toronto:

“One thing that I have taken away is this: whatever technology is being used, the success or failure comes down to the interaction between the student, the teacher, and how the teacher manages that relationship. How that teacher poses questions. How they orchestrate their classroom. How they direct the dialog along lines of learning. What it comes to taking kids from point A to point B, no digital technology can do that”, Peebles said, stopping every few breaths to say good morning to another student. “That’s still the job of the teacher.” (p.204)

A wonderful read, from start to finish, that I highly recommend to everyone.

Yours in reading,

Laural

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Talking and Listening

I think it is one of my favourite things to think about when it comes to education, especially when I am in classrooms: Are the educators and students talking and listening to each other?

It is all to common in a classroom for students to be interrupting each other or never getting a word in because, we as educators, are speaking too much. It is a difficult skill to speak and listen that we assume should simply happen, but who is the one educating our students about these skills?

I bring this up as I have been revisiting all my Educational Leadership Magazines on my year off and actually reading them! And secretly, I made a pact with myself that I am not allowed to buy any more magazines until I read the ones I have at home. I believe I won’t be buying magazines until sometime next year 😉

IMG_6824The November 2014 issue entitled Talking and Listening has to be one of my favourite issues. I revisit this issue when I am coaching with an educator and they are thinking about improving the discourse in their classroom or trying to become better facilitators of learning instead of the “sage on the stage”.

There are wonderful strategies and thinking throughout this issue, but one statement hit home with me in the article called Spinning the Web by Alexis Wiggins:

“For years, I had given As to students for participating when all they did was monopolize discussion, and I had given Cs to students who were just too shy to speak.”

This is when I recalled every report card I ever wrote and the catch-all phrase that “so-and-so is encouraged to participate in class discussions.” It was then that I had my aha that I was responsible for that student’s lack of participation and did nothing in service of that student becoming better at talking!

I then ventured over to Alexis Wiggins website where there are a number of links and ideas you can check out for yourself.

Her method of discussion is one I definitely want to try next year. All students sit in a circle and discuss/debate an idea or question that has been posed by the educator. Then the educator sits outside of the circle and records, using the web idea of Alexis’, what occurs. I found this image on the internet:

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Spider Web Discussion as Formative Assessment by Dayna Laur

A simple visual that speaks volumes about who is contributing to the discussion. Wiggins also uses various letters to indicate if the students has used text evidence (T) and if interruptions occurred (I). If you check out Alexis’ website, there is a link to a video where you can watch a Spider Web Discussion in action.

Another aspect of this article I appreciated was that the whole class will get the same grade for the discussion. It would be interesting to see if students then made more effort to ask questions to those not speaking to encourage participation. It may take a while to get to a place where this is effective, but it would be lovely to be on the outside watching your students engage in a great discussion!

Yours in learning,

Laural

A Little Piece of the Pi of Life

Throughout high school, I saw myself as a “math person”. I followed the formulas, paid attention, and achieved great grades. My love for the subject had me apply for mathematics in university because I knew that it was an asset to my resumé and I wanted to continue playing with numbers.

To my surprise, first year of algebra and calculus at McMaster University annihilated my confidence and it became my first experience with failure in mathematics. It devastated me. To have to leave a subject to ensure graduation was a lot to bear my first year. I still look back on that experience and wish things had been different.

Being an educator for elementary students and engaging in a lot of professional learning around mathematics, I now understand that how I was taught hindered my ability to understand the maths conceptually. I would repeat the same operation and follow the steps and then complete assignments or a test that was identical to what we had practised over and over and it became ingrained.

41zhn+sp1KL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_As I sat reading Sunil Singh‘s book, Pi of Life The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics, I was constantly reminded of this. There is so much I do not know about mathematics and will never know. The beauty of mathematics is just that. When Singh spoke of individuals within the mathematics realm spending years upon years solving one problem, I asked myself how is that we can teach 5 strands of mathematics in 10 months and do it justice? We need to rethink how we facilitate mathematics learning while remaining within the boundaries of the curriculum. I believe it is achievable.

I am not going to recall what was written in the book because I believe it should be a required read for educators coming into the profession and those currently in the profession. The Pi of Life is eye-opening, thoughtful, practical and the words flow with an ease. I will point out that there are some mathematical concepts Sunil Singh spoke of that challenged my thinking or that I wished I had had a math buddy to solve the problem with to truly understand it!

Check out Pi of Life The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics by Sunil Singh if you are on the cusp of transforming your mathematics programming and want to put a spark in your own learning.

Yours in learning,

Laural

Using Data The First Week Back!

 

IMG_3987I am an avid fan of Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stephanie Posavec and you can read my blog here about their fantastic book. I came across this link “How to Draw Your Own Selfie – Using Your Personal Data” whereby Giorgia Lupi expresses how she wants us to change the way we think about data and how we see or represent it. Lupi provides step-by-step instructions for us to create a visual representation of who we are as individuals! So cool 🙂

 

I decided to give it a whirl and post it here.

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I thought I would share my visual because it would be a great way to start the new year in your mathematics and arts classrooms.  The only thing I regret is not drawing some of my shapes larger so as to fill the page more effectively! Some of the questions may also have to be modified for a younger audience.

Too often, when I was teaching data management, I spent more time making bar graphs instead of having my students learn how to read and understand the data. We have all been guilty of sending our students into other classrooms to collect data on a classes favourite animal, so maybe it’s time to reconsider how we approach data and this is a wonderful way to start!

Yours in learning,

Laural

It’s Been A While – 30 Day Challenge

So it’s ironic that I open up my WordPress account and the first post in my reader is that from George Couros entitled “3 Ideas to Help You Blog”. George writes about how he forces himself to write three times a week for his blog and provides useful strategies for posting regularly. This gave me a little boost to write a little ditty for my lovely readers, you. Thank you, George 😉

This year, I gave myself the gift of time by taking a self-funded leave for an entire school year. What I had envisioned for this year drastically changed when my life drastically changed. So this time that I have given myself has become a very self-reflective moment in this life journey of mine, which can sometimes make for writing a blog post difficult.

I have spent my time finishing things that I never thought I would finish, reading books that have little to do with education, renovating my house and spending quality time with people I adore and love. I am full of gratitude and have no regrets about giving myself this precious time.

The one thing I truly wanted to share this evening that has come into my life, thanks to Austin Kleon, is the 30 Day Challenge. I know we have all heard of this idea to challenge ourselves, but I decided to commit to it.  What I liked about his approach, when I first started, is the lovely gift we give to ourselves if we nail the challenge.

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Austin Kleon – 30 Day Challenge

My commitments were simple:

  • Workout everyday – no excuses.
  • Meditate everyday.

I am writing this to let you know how this commitment has made me understand its brilliance. “They” say it takes 21 days to form a habit and I would like to argue that 30 days worked for me. My commitments are now something I look forward to the night before and make me feel good about me. It’s no longer a chore, but a lifestyle change that is helping me in more ways than this blog, and your time will allow. My days are more productive and have more clarity because of my commitments. I even got myself a cool running jacket that I have been eyeing for 6 months. I would also like to say that I am 36 days and counting!

I then did the mathematics of my commitment:

  • 24 hours a day = 720 hours for the month of November
  • I work out only 30 minutes a day, sometimes 1 hour = approximately 18 hours of my month.
  • I meditate 10 minutes every day = 5 hours of my month.
  • 23 hours of my month!!!

When I calculated the time I allocated to my commitments, it seemed silly that this wasn’t a commitment to myself sooner.

Maybe before the New Year’s resolution of 2018 comes and goes, like it does for most of us, we should all make a commitment to do something that is good for our soul, mind, and/or body. Pick up that book everyday, go for a walk, have dinner as a family, write! Maybe you and your students could do this too??! The best part of my new commitment is that I don’t need the gift to inspire me to keep going every month:)

And remember to check out Austin Kleon for creative inspiration! I love his work!

Yours in living,

Laural

Dear Giorgia, Stefanie, and Maria :)

fb_thumbnailI have this ritual every morning and it begins with a velvety, homemade cappuccino that warms my soul and makes for simple pleasure. Once my cappuccinos are made, I sit in front of my computer and open the weekly emails from Maria Popova (@brainpicker) BrainPickings. This cerebral experience has exposed me to authors and ideas that I have never known and directed me to books I am happy to have crossed paths with; in fact, have fallen in love with. If you haven’t checked it out, it is a must.

IMG_3987One such book is Dear Data that was written by Giorgia Lupi (@giorgialupi ‏)and Stefanie Posavec (@stefpos). (Read Maria Popova’s BrainPickings about the book here). As you read the book or skim the pages, you can watch the friendship of two women change and grow as they share postcards with data from their week. I cannot tell you how enjoyable this book is and how it will be skimmed, scanned and read many times over.

As someone who loves visual data, I couldn’t help but stare and compare each sets of data and how two people represented ideas so vastly different. You can also see how they evolved as data collectors and how their visual representations and legends changed. LOVE IT!

 

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What do you wonder? What do you notice? What could the data be?

 

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What do you wonder? What do you notice? What could the data be?

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I just couldn’t help but think of all the wonderful ways in which you could use this text with students and how you could simulate an experience similar to what Giorgia and Stefanie had! Thank you to Maria and Giorgia and Stefanie for bringing such an enjoyable read to my life and library. You need to add this to your must have list of books educators!

Yours in reading,

Laural

 

Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez

1551526778I haven’t reviewed a book in a while and it was only by chance I happened to be listening to CBC Radio where they were discussing this book: Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez. Fast forward a month or so, and by another chance, I was perusing the shelves of the Calvin Park Public Library and was excited to come across, and remember this title, so I picked it up.

As an educator, it’s hard not to draw similarities to novels or be inspired and this novel is a must-read for all educators.

Without giving too much away, Hernandez tells the story of various characters who live in the Scarborough area who are struggling with poverty, racism, mental illness, and a lack of resources, among other things. The way in which each chapter speaks from each characters’ perspective is captivating. I was especially drawn to the emails sent by Hina Hissani who is the program facilitator for the Ontario Reads Literacy Program at a local school; I looked forward to the different font and layout of these pages.The obstacles she faces and continues to throw in her superiors face, is sometimes all it takes, or doesn’t, for people to understand the struggles of their community and profession.

It is this character, Hina, who reminds me that in our profession all it takes is one person, champion, or advocate, to change the trajectory of a child’s life for good or bad. We are in such a challenging career, and we must remember that we do not know what goes on in a child’s life outside of the school walls and that how we treat each of our students is of the utmost importance. Or maybe, we need to get to know our students better and figure out how to connect with the community members outside of the classroom?

There are so many quotes that I would want to include in this post, but I settled on one that I reread a number of times:

“If you were to ask me exactly where I feel things when a cop is around, I would tell you I feel it between my ears, on the flat of my chest, the centre of my palms, and on the back of my tongue. Between my ears because I am thinking, stay calm. On the flat of my chest because I’m reminding myself to breathe. The centre of my palms because, in truth, I really wish I could slap somebody each time I’m stopped by a cop.  And on the back of my tongue because I’m trying to strategize what to say when they ask me what I am doing.” ~ Victor from Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez

If you are an educator in a high school looking for book club titles or need a novel that will hit an array of issues, this book is for you and your students. It is also lovely that it is about Canadian people and written by Catherine Hernandez (@theloudlady) who is also captivating! I would love to see and/or hear the discussions of our teenagers while reading this novel.

Yours in reading,

Laural