Final Reflections

It’s definitely been a year of growth in my use of technology, particularly as I was working with a younger group of students in my new Grade 1 position. I really appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my own professional use of technology through this Learning Leader Project, and also on the potential of my students’ use of technology.

I have benefited from the chance to read about my peers’ professional learning through this blog and Twitter this year, and it’s encouraging to see all the directions that the Learning Leader Project has taken teachers in. I am grateful that PSD has made this type of initiative possible, and that our growth as teachers is a clear priority.

While I’m possibly not destined to become a Twitter-fiend like some of my colleagues, I’ve continued to hone my teaching and discover innovative approaches to teaching through my use of Pinterest this year. Having an iPad at home to explore teaching ideas, and in the classroom to open up a world of opportunities to my students.

We’ve been fortunate to have all the staff at Millgrove sharing apps this year, and I’ve learned so much from how my colleagues are using the iPad in their classrooms. Here are some of the Apps we use at Millgrove:

Haiku Deck

Used for Social Stories with children who require pre-teaching for a fieldtrip or cultural event

iMovie

Great for learning Math for example going on a shape walk in and around the school and making a movie of those things that are similar

Endless Alphabet

This helps children learn the letters and build vocabulary at their own pace

Bad Piggies

This app allows students to use critical thinking, problem solving skills and cooperation

Number Rack

Here is an app that is open-ended and uses Base 10 beads. We use is for “How many ways?”

Dolch Words

Students read the words, trace them and can complete a voice recording

Felt Board

Inspired by flannel boards, Felt Board is an app with hundreds of flannel pieces in digital form. It has enabled students to collaboratively illustrate scenes from a story, and has inspired student writing as well. It’s great for use in a literacy station where students can create a picture and then write about that picture. The illustrations can be saved to the iPad’s photo roll, and is great fodder for beginning story-writing.

Story Buddy 2

This user-friendly app enables beginning writers to publish their own polished, illustrated books. Students can include pictures from the iPad’s camera roll or from an internet search and even allows students to include an audio recording on the pages. The book can be saved as a PD and is a great way for students to showcase their writing and learning.

A-Ha Moments with Social Media

We see the value of Social Media to enhance our teaching by connecting us with fellow colleagues around the world. We also see how articles are found and conveniently retweeted. This cuts down the search time and links us directly to relevant information.

Sharing With Staff

On the November PD day, we hosted Learning Leader iPad centers. Staff was invited to explore the various apps and learn how different grade levels used this tool. This hands on, interactive session was well received and more time was requested.

In March, we hosted the Tri -School PD morning. We supported our staff from the Tri-Schools at the tables by sharing how the iPad works in our classrooms. We also shared apps that are our favorites when working with our early year students.

During PLCs throughout the year, there was consistent collaboration at each grade level. It was very helpful to have a learning learner represented from each grade to attend those meetings.

The Power of Introverts

It was challenging to choose one Twitter-find to blog about, but being an introvert, this TED Talk by Susan Cain was particularly interesting. Cain recently published a book on the lost role of introverts in our media-rich, increasingly connected world. She explains in the talk that throughout her school years, she got the message that her “style and way of being was not necessarily the right way,” which led her to make “self-negating choices.”

In the video, she describes today’s schools as being primarily designed for extroverts, and for their need for a great deal of stimulation. Although I believe that a social constructivist approach to education has certainly brought curriculum to life for many students, I feel that as teachers we must also be mindful of students who might learn best in an environment of solitude. Just as teachers structure their classrooms to be inclusive for a variety of learners, I think that we must also include space for students to think and create independently.

Cain argues that too often we have bought into the idea that group-think trumps individual creativity, an idea that research has clearly disproven. Indeed, science has demonstrated that “solitude is often a crucial ingredient to creativity.” She suggests that children are often expected to act as committee members. While this certainly caters to the needs of the extroverts, but this is often achieved at the expense of introverts. As she states in this talk, one third to one half of all people are introverts, and we cannot neglect their needs in our classrooms.

In her book, Cain proposes that it’s only recently that we’ve begun to ignore the power of solitude, but that “the more freedom that we give introverts to think for themselves, the more likely they are to come up with the solutions for the problems that we have today.” The key for us as teachers’ to maximize our students’ potential is for us to nurture environments where they thrive, which I believe means intentionally structuring learning that is sometimes social and sometimes solitary.

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

I came home from our first Learning Leader session extremely excited. I often miss the university context where learning was my focus, and am thrilled at the invitation to be engaging more as a professional learner. As a second year teacher, the learning curve still feels somewhat steep for me in my career, but this project has framed that learning as more of an opportunity and collaborative process.

There’s an image that has been floating around Pinterest this month about “the magic” that takes place only outside of our comfort zones. While I truly believe that we need to play to our strengths as teachers, and hope that my students would say that they are impacted by my science instruction where I feel most comfortable, I think there is some truth to this notion. With a new wealth of connections to educators around the world and access to innumerable online resources, there is so much potential outside of my comfort zone.

I look forward to challenging myself this year as a teacher and a learner. I am quite comfortable being an online “lurker” as George would label me, absorbing content from Pinterest, Twitter, and blogs. What takes me out of my comfort zone is posting ideas on Twitter without knowing if I will have an audience, and limiting my often verbose writing to 140 characters. I am intimidated by the thought of Skyping with experts and other classes, and sharing my (sometimes strong) opinions on this blog, but I want to push myself in those areas because I believe it will be worth it.

I have already experienced some of that exhilaration that stems from stepping outside my comfort zone. I was doing a happy dance down the hallways of my house on Thursday after receiving Tweets from a couple of educators who I admire, and after exchanging thoughts on technology with my colleagues. This is why I am passionate about being an educator. There is so much space in this profession to be creative, to push myself and my students as learners, and explore possibilities for learning and growth. I feel privileged to belong to a school division that not only encourages but equips its teachers to engage in lifelong learning professionally.

Cait Barker (@caitjane)