Are students Accountable for their I.E.P’s?

Each student in my class has an I.E.P…..  It varies how long the students have had a formal identification and it varies what type of identification, although all of them are identified as “Gifted”.  During the first week of school, I began reviewing their files and updating their IEP’s, however, I struggled with this daunting task, since I barely knew the students. In fact, most of their IEP’s looked closely to the same – the same modification (s) , the same accommodation (s), the same test results, the same strength and weaknesses. I How could this be that they were all the same?  These documents, created on templates, with drop down menus were not telling of who these children are. Continue reading Are students Accountable for their I.E.P’s?

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A little Kindergarten and A little Starbucks – Universal Classroom Design

We designed our learning space with a little Kindergarden and a little Starbucks  – Here is how it happened: In June 2014, we were informed that we would be moving to an empty/unused classroom at Holbrook School (HWDSB). We were also informed that our proposal for new technology was granted which included 1:1 computers, projector, interactive whiteboard, doc camera (microscope), tablets, 3D printer, and NXT Robotics. Regardless of the fact that we were at the mercy of the physical space and size, including windows, electricity and lighting, we were absolutely pumped to design our “dream” classroom space that was Universal  for all learners.   From the onset, we wanted a space that not only engaged students to be active Continue reading A little Kindergarten and A little Starbucks – Universal Classroom Design

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The Road Not Taken – Making, Crafting and Constructing Meaning in Minecraft

The Road Not Taken – Making, Crafting and Constructing Meaning in Minecraft  Designing lessons that foster creativity, collaboration and depth in thinking is multifaceted. We need to use tools that provide an opportunity for interaction and collaboration. This includes a method for students to help one another and provide feedback. The context needs to be relatable and flexible. The content, whatever it is, needs to have value and personal connections and it needs to matter -and if it does, it will have depth and purpose. I offer the following as an example. Summary of Lesson: As a whole class, students would create (Yes, actually build )  the poem “A Road Not Taken” using Minecraft as a Medium (using a Continue reading The Road Not Taken – Making, Crafting and Constructing Meaning in Minecraft

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World of Sand Challenge – Problem Solving, Inquiry – and fun.

“Salt and water combine to form salt water, which sinks below pure water. Heating up salt water causes it to split back into salt water and steam. Steam rises and condenses, eventually forming water droplets. Plants drink water and grow, but die if exposed to salt water. And that’s just three of the nineteen materials available for you to draw.” – World of Sand What I’ve discovered most about my students in this Gifted program, is that they want challenge. Not just any challenge, but a challenge that doesn’t have just one answer, but a myriad of possibilities. They want a challenge that can be done, and re-done over and over, with different results or possibilities. They want to Continue reading World of Sand Challenge – Problem Solving, Inquiry – and fun.

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MY TOP 10 LEARNING SPACES – A Universal Design, in a Gifted Classroom

The learning environment is what will help create community. Before anything, students need to feel safe. Not just physically safe, but safe to learn how they learn, safe to think “outside the box”, safe to ask questions, safe to make mistakes, safe to be who they are.  I recently read a post by Jackie Gerstein, a friend and mentor who talks passionately about the importance of community in the classroom (It’s About Connections Not Content). Below, I talk about the learning spaces to honour all learners.  It is my intention to help these students find their passions, their gifts, and their understanding of themselves. The Circle Each day, we start off in a large circle. We might play a game, Continue reading MY TOP 10 LEARNING SPACES – A Universal Design, in a Gifted Classroom

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My “Top Ten” Voicethread applications

 VOICETHREAD IS A UNIVERSALLY DESIGNED TOOL ALLOWING EVERYONE TO CONTRIBUTE. STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND COMMUNITY CAN USE ANY MEDIUM TO SHARE, DISCUSS, POST, REFLECT AND PRESENT. OPEN DOORS TO OUR LEARNERS!! A couple reminders that might ease your mind about using this OPEN and FREE tool….. * Voicethread provides tutorials, ideas, and examples. Give yourself some time to explore and PLAY * Voicethread comments can be moderated by the owner * Voicethreads can be public or private and can be shared with one or many people * Voicethread tool is free and is accessible on computers, iPods and iPads *Voicethread can be uploaded to a website or blog using an EMBED code. * Voicethread has been around for about three Continue reading My “Top Ten” Voicethread applications

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Leaders – do you know your staff’s learning needs? Does it matter to you?

Over the last 10 weeks, I have had the most humbling opportunity to influence pre-service Teachers during their final year before they enter the profession. Having had a taste of instructional leadership in my grad studies, and within a school district and now in a Faculty of Education, I have noticed that the approach to adult learning differs greatly once these adult learners enter the field. Let me explain.   Just like in the classroom with children, these pre-service teachers differ greatly in their learning needs. In every one of my classes, I have some students requiring specific accommodations and/or modifications (even adults are on an IEP). I have noticed huge disparities in knowledge and understanding of tech use Continue reading Leaders – do you know your staff’s learning needs? Does it matter to you?

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What is the Ultimate Learning Space?

Learning Spaces A couple of years ago, I landed an incredible job at a brand new school. The school was equipped with a Smartboard in every room, a Front Row amplification system in every learning space, wireless Internet throughout the school and mini computer pods attached to groups of rooms. I could hardly wait to start teaching that year. At first glance, it seemed like a perfect teaching and learning space for the 21st Century. Today, I would argue the opposite. It first started with a conversation I had with my students, who, in a podcast, describe their “ideal” secondary school. They didn’t mention technology as being essential (although for them, that is a given). They mentioned collaborative spaces, Continue reading What is the Ultimate Learning Space?

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Teacher Engagement – Leaders – and the Netgens

As educators, we so often talk about student engagement and what it really means to be engaged. According to Wikipedia – Student engagement occurs when “students make a psychological investment in learning. They try hard to learn what school offers. They take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success (grades), but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives.” (Link) In a classroom with kids, engagement requires a rich inquiry based learning environment. Every students needs a purpose and every student needs to to feel safe to make mistakes. Collaboration is essential in discovery and learning as is presenting to an authentic audience. As an educator, teacher engagement has become essential to Continue reading Teacher Engagement – Leaders – and the Netgens

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Inquiry Based Learning – A TedxOntario Theme

WHY AN INQUIRY APPROACH? Many years ago, during my teacher training, I was asked to write my philosophy of education. As a new teacher, this was a daunting task because I had not yet tapped into a philosophy. At that time, the only thing that I could do was reflect upon how I learn. I was always driven by inquiry. I asked lots of questions and when I got the answers, I asked more questions based on the answers. I liked to create my own assignments and I often neglected the required ones. I wanted to be in control of my own learning. I was the student that asked, “what’s the point of this?”. I was not good at Continue reading Inquiry Based Learning – A TedxOntario Theme

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