Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Prep Course for Kindergarten Parents

Well kind of .........

We just had our Welcome to Kindergarten Night here at our school. This night was for parents to come and find out a little more information about the school and the full day learning program.

Thankfully for me this was not an opportunity to lecture the parents for an hour on why our school is so great (and it is) and what we have to offer. Our night took on a different format.

The best teacher(s) a child is EVER going to have is their parent(s). This is the angle that we approached learning from last night.

Our school board, Ottawa Catholic School Board is in a partnership with the Learning Partnership. The whole idea is that we want to make sure that students have the school readiness skills by the time they get to school. If students come to school for kindergarten with some key skills this is a very good predictor of their educational success down the road.

We also had community partners at the session to answer any questions that parents may have had. A nurse from Ottawa Public Health was here, a representative from First Words and someone from the Pincrest Queensway Resource Centre.

The Learning Partnership provided each parent with a take away bag that included:

  • picture books
  • foam letters
  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • pencils & crayons
  • glue stick
  • blow up balls
  • play dough
After the Principal's introductory address the prospective kindergarten students and their parents could move around to centres. These centre's were set up by our kindergarten team and that demonstrated some activities that parents could do with their children to help get them ready for school in September. Students played with play dough, used magnetic letters on cookie sheets and cut up flyer's and glued the favourite objects onto paper.

The entire night was a real success. Students and parents were actively engaged in all of the activities and were most appreciative of the hands on learning. We had 37 out of 43 registered students attend the session and we were amazed by the turnout! If the turnout from mothers and fathers is any indication of the level of parental cooperation and involvement that we are going to have over the next few years, we are very fortunate.

Let's hope all parents engage their children playing learning games and giving them lots of learning opportunities before they enter school. If they do this research shows that we will all be well on our way to meet the needs of our students.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The "Big Shift" in Education

I was having lunch the other day when I stumbled upon an #edchat about what the thoughts were on the "Big Shift" in education today. There were some great ideas thrown around surrounding best practices in teaching, technology, teaching to the test and so on. One "Shift" that kept being tweeted kept peaking my interest. It had to do with the HOW we are teaching our students.

HOW are we teaching our students?

Are many of us out there still treating schools as production facilities where all students are expected to exit the 'building' as a finished piece of work all resembling each other. Or are we making sure that the learning needs of each student is being met in our class or school?

Just what types of skills are being taught to our students today? This Sugata Mitra TED video at the bottom of the post raises some excellent points and questions.

Here is a question worth considering: The skills that we may be teaching our students may not be the ones that they are going to need in the workforce. Are the skills we are teaching lending themselves towards the workforce of today or yesterday? What kind of learning are we wanting to develop?

It seems I am asking more questions than I am answering. However, I believe that they need to be asked, discussed and dealt with.

When students leave school they have to be able to:

  • problem solve
  • collaborate
  • innovate
  • communicate
  • work as a team
  • be creative
This led to a discussion on how to go about teaching our students these skills. Teaching these skills will be a major change for teachers in how they run their classrooms and teach their students. A lesson, let alone a classroom, will have to undergo some pretty important transformations.

I know we are up to the challenge and we are looking forward to the opportunities that will arise for us on our journey.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Twitter Growing Pains?

Just finished a Twitter presentation for elementary and high school principals. The range if experience and comfort levels with Twitter really varied. Some had zero experience while others had a moderate comfort level. Some people had multiple accounts for school and home and others had an account but had never really done anything with it.

I've been at all these different levels. Five years ago I started my Twitter account. At first I had no idea where to start. When I did get going I became totally overwhelmed by the number of tweets that were flying around. Quickly I lost interest and put Twitter aside.

This is exactly where many of the principals seemed to be during this presentation. So the focus of my presentation became:

1. How to filter your tweets using hashtags.
2. How to make a list or follow a list.
3. Finding a niche and following like minded educators.

The moment that educators see the value of joining a Professional Learning Network (PLN) Twitter begins to make sense. The exchange of ideas, the answering of questions and the sense of community are all some of the things that make me keep using Twitter as my key online professional development.

I'd like to thank all those amazing educators out there that have have taken the time to answer questions when I pose them. As a result I always answer questions that other pose on Twitter if I feel that I can help out. Sometimes I can't, but know of someone that can and I point them in that direction.

Take a chance and ask a question. Better yet answer a question if you come across one that you can help with. It won't be long before you have created your very own PLN with people you check up on on a regular basis and probably share resources with.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Cool Ways to Use Google as a School Administrator

Over the past few months I have been reading some really interesting posts and comments on Twitter about using Google Forms in schools.

The past school year I have been trying so reach out to the school community and find out their thoughts and opinions about different things. Teachers, parents and even students have not been able to escape the questions that I pose. I think that this is a fantastic way to communicate with parents and find out right away thoughts and opinions of our school community.

I have been asked by quite a few people how we have incorporated this into school life and our communication circle. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget one or two of the great things that we are doing and I thought I had better compile a list.

Here are some examples of how we have been using Google Forms and Docs here at St. Rita this past school year:

  1. Creating class lists for the upcoming school year
  2. School Technology Application Form
  3. Help Mr. Slack Name his Fish - I also follow this up with a blog post called: Fish Naming Ceremony Turns into a Learning Experience
  4. LTP Parent Survey
  5. Winter Teacher Wish List
  6. Mr. Slack's Student Survey
  7. PLN Information Request
One of the things I am most interested in is communication and using this way to collect information gives me an awesome insight to what is going on and what people are thinking. I get immediate feedback and people get to have their thoughts, ideas and opinions heard. One thing that I have learned is that you have to make sure that you followup with these surveys or forms or they are worthless.

I am always interested to hear about different ways people are using google forms and docs.. If you have any ideas please make sure to let me know!