42: Professional Training Wheels

This week, we had Donald Girouard and Shannon Horne present to our #I4Ed class at BU. Both individuals are the respective consultants for the Instructional Design, and Implementation of Web-based Courses (Manitoba Education Distance Learning).

Their presentation informed the class of courses available online, that could be used in three different ways: Distance Education, Classroom-based, or as a Teacher Resource. The recent iteration of the site our class was introduced to is easy to navigate, and has accessible, approved, course-related, outcome-based content. Apparently, alternate versions were available in other incarnations for the last 10 years or so. I was thrilled to be introduced to this intuitive version.

I’m not sure if anybody else in class realized the importance of this as a resource (mostly because I’m not telepathic). However, I do, based on my experience: I was hired 7 years ago to teach a course that I specialized in. After that first year, I was shuffled over to teach other courses. Not an ideal situation, but conflicted thoughts were easily resolved by acknowledging that a good teacher is student-centered, not subject-centered. That being said, I was not an expert in the content of the subject area I was to teach. To complicate matters, finding resources proved difficult: interpreting past teacher notes (kind of like walking in used shoes without laces), inheriting textbooks that were already nostalgic, and trying to determine outcomes for the course—all in the beginning years of a career. The stress was unbelievable, and the hours spent acquiring knowledge was incomprehensible.

Word of caution: When signing up for the Blackboard access, hit the submit button only once, or else you’ll run the risk of receiving multiple acknowledgements (in a day or so) in your e-mail.

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Next year, I hope to teach ELA as a course of choice in a secondary school. I also know that the ELA curriculum is under review. For now, as a teacher about to teach a new subject and knowing that there is a resource such as this available, I can’t help but feel secure about accessing established content. Once the base is established then I can continue to grow as an ELA teacher and eventually pick and choose relevant content to achieve outcomes.

All-Stars

This past week-end I attended a highly informative information session. Attending the session was part of my responsibility as a member of the Teacher Action Cohorts for The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. The topic of the session was how schools can strive to be more inclusive for members of the LGBTQ community.

In my past, I have had friends or, friends of friends, who identified as part of these groups and I considered myself informed. I was wrong, there is so much more to be aware of and the terminology provided at this session was helpful (I can now correctly identify myself as a heterosexual cisgender male).

However, there was one exercise in which paper stars were handed out to the group. In the middle of the star each participant was required to write down the name they wish to be addressed by, and on each of the five points:

  1. their best friend whom they confide in with everything,
  2. trusted family member,
  3. community they feel they belong to,
  4. career that they want, and
  5. their deepest desire or wish.

Each participant had a different colour star, and was asked to pretend and silently “identify” as a member of the LGBTQ community. When the individual pretended to “come out”, the following happened:

  • Blue star, every point on the star was kept and this meant accepted by friends, family, community, career, and free to pursue dreams;
  • Orange or yellow star, some points were folded over and this meant that family friends, etc may be angry or upset, but have the potential to accept;
  • Red star, all points were ripped off, and silently dropped to the ground. At the finish, the name itself was ripped up.

This final act was powerful enough to have some participants empathize with visible emotion. Understandable, considering the silence requested during the act to assist contemplative reflection. The misanthrope in me blamed society. The pessimist in me counted all the pieces on the floor. The educator in me lamented for the loss of child’s identity. Finally, the realist in me saw the opportunity for a new beginning.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s the fact I gave up my former career path to become a teacher. Maybe it’s because I choose to leave family and friends behind to pursue a career in another city. I certainly didn’t have the blue star in my own life, but my choices were made as an adult—if someone told me my lifestyle was wrong, I knew enough that they were the a**holes for judging (spend 20 min in an online debate with a postmodern writer, if you want to experience supercilious judgement—yeesh).

Or maybe it’s simply because I’m slowly shaking off archaic heteronormative views, and hoping today’s LGBTQ students know that everybody on this earth are a lot more alike than dissimilar. After all, every student has the fundamental right to a safe education within public schools.

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Any Change is as Good as a Holiday

I was offline for the end of the school year, and the beginning of the summer (professionally, at least—you won that one FB). Overall, I found the simple kinaesthetic acts to be largely rewarding. Painting, taping, constructing, mechanical work, and the like resulted in immediate reward. Visible results of effort.

Alas, it is August, and judging by the many consumer reminders of “back to school” specials, I should quit procrastinating, and start to create/tweak my courses for the new year. While doing so, I will begin to post any discoveries along the way.

Stay tuned.

Adobe Creative Cloud Rains on Education

I recently read about how Adobe plans to move it’s Creative Suite into a licensing agreement structure. “Interesting, I wonder how this will play out”, was my first response to the information posted on a friend’s social media account. After ruminating on it for about a day, and talking with a colleague at work, the concept was brought up how the license is available to teachers and students individually.

Do the math: It appears as if a graphic design course in Canada with 40 computers was to sign up, then the price tag of $29 per computer was to pay this rate for 12 months, and it adds up to approximately $13, 920 per year. That’s not including the exchange rate.

I know for sure that our school budget for the graphic design program can not support this. We won’t even mention how most school divisions are leery about trusting cloud security  when it comes to legal privacy policies and youth.

Speaking as an educator: Congratulations Adobe, you’ve  eliminated your product from helping educate young minds. Speaking as someone  with experience in a former career of marketing: Adobe, you’ve ruined your chance of exposure to potential future customers.

The think-tank behind this pricing strategy obviously has their head in the clouds—and not one single educator in their midst.

Measured Thoughts, Shared

It’s no secret that I’ve previously worked for The Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) as a member of their support staff. As such, I am well informed of what they do, but I never really appreciated why they do until I actually became a teacher.

I spent time at another MTS Teacher Action Cohorts (TAC) meeting last Saturday, March 9. TAC are a group that talk with teachers regarding issues of educational interest. Issues that are currently explored, can be found on the mbteach.org website. TAC participants were introduced to additional skill-sets, provided by the experience and knowledge of Ms. Debra Radi. I truly appreciated the quality of information presented, regarding facilitation and leading groups of professional adults.

At our TAC meeting, it was noted how MTS is much more than collective bargaining and legal advice for its 13,400 Manitoban teachers. On the ride home, I was able to reflect on the session, and realized I am proud to be a part of one of the many pro-active aspects of MTS. I have to acknowledge the experienced shared by members of the TAC group, who are each from varied schools, levels, divisions, educational roles, and career spans. This is where I find the bulk of wealth in TAC meetings, where the experiences are shared, measured, and employed again. MTS is much more than a static “due on a paycheque” for the average professional to take note of. MTS is active, and educators benefit. I also wondered on the same ride home, in the context of the strife other provincial teacher organizations are experiencing, how many Manitoban teachers truly understand why they should be more involved in their local associations?

In my studies to attain teacher certification, it was once stated, “To be a better teacher, become a better person”. If I am truly becoming a better person, then I can’t think of a better group of teachers to learn from than my fellow cohorts.

37: Engrade and AlwaysPrepped

Two new sites to consider: Engrade.com appears to be a cloud-based plan book, while Alwaysprepped.com purports to aggregate information from multiple online educational sites. As an educator, I really appreciate the ease of use for teachers that these site are striving towards. As an individual interested in social media, I’m also quite cautious of placing student information on a cloud-based system.

With all the online teacher-assist sites that are emerging, sometimes I wonder if the ‘flipped classroom’ model will eventually become the norm.

36: More about Ning

As I mentioned, I’m preparing to inform colleagues about what a Ning is, and how to set one up. As a result, some of my web sleuthing discovered this handy little Ning Prezi. Enjoy!