Gifted and Learning Disabled – The dichotomy in learning

DSC_0086 (2)I have students attend my After School Program (STEM focused Makerspace)  every Wednesday who struggle in their regular school. Many of these students struggle academically and socially. Yet, these same students, at the Makerspace,  perform skills and engage in social and academic activities that demonstrate knowledge of math, science, engineering and ARTs  with a proficiency beyond their age and grade level and with a strong level of motivation and confidence. It is often confusing for them for their parents. It got me thinking about the amount of Learning Disabled and Gifted students we see on a regular basis. Students that struggle to find and demonstrate ways that show what they know.

I had a conversation with two students this week,  both from different areas of the city, different grades and from different school districts and yet both had the same story to tell.  I highlight these conversations here to demonstrate the dichotomy with how students are performing in regular classes and how they are performing in self-driven Makerspaces  outside class time.

Note: A Makerspace is defined as a learning environment that is designed around the concept of making, creating, designing and innovation. These spaces bring in the ART with Math, Engineering, Science and Technology and allow for a good degree of autonomous, self-paced and passion passed learning.

I write this post in hopes that parents and teachers read it and begin  take a second look at the child/learner in front of them. What if the student is LD (Learning Disabled) but is also highly intelligent, highly gifted, highly creative? What if WHAT the student needs is to be surrounded by other students and learners how are engaged in hands-on learning activities? What if the student’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) could be based on STRENGTHS instead of WEAKNESSES?  Regardless of the test result (CCAT, Report Card, EQAO) could the child be Gifted?


 

ART“My teachers thought I was dumb”.  “I thought I was dumb” – Grade 10 Student.

Interestingly,  in their middle school years, the students I spoke with, were tested as “highly Gifted” and both were deemed as “Dual Exceptional”.  This means, that they were both Gifted as well as Learning Disabled.  You can compare the LD (Learning Disabled) to wearing glasses. Without the glasses, many people would be debilitated, wouldn’t perform, would be unable to complete tasks.

 

The idea of dual exceptional students is confusing for teachers or parents since LD (Learning Disability) is often affiliated with intelligence (even though this is incorrect).  If a student is not completing their work, cannot make decisions, struggles with problem solving or self-regulation, is impulsive or behaviour,  is slow in grasping a concept and has high anxiety, how could they possibly be Gifted? Shouldn’t they know better?

To complicate matters, the GIFTED student with LD may need specific accommodations but the content, the grouping, how the content is delivered, the level of content might need additional modifications. Are we accommodation for the Learning Disability as well as the Giftedness?  Many times, these LD gifted students require opportunity to work with other Gifted Students.  But many times, because of there LD, the teacher may be focusing on assisting the student with these deficits rather than enriching the curriculum, instruction and learning. Thus, the student is working with their LD counterparts rather then there Gifted counterparts. 

This article gives some great insight about Gifted and LD students: “What teachers need to know”

http://ldatschool.ca/assessment/gifted-students-with-lds-what-teachers-need-to-know/

 

This article shares research about the value of homogenous classes and how these congregated classes server the needs of Gifted students, differently than other types of homogeneous special needs classrooms.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02783190209554146

 Intellectually gifted individuals with specific learning disabilities are the most misjudged, misunderstood, and neglected segment of the student population and the community. Teachers, school counselors, and others often overlook the signs of intellectual giftedness and focus attention on such deficits as poor spelling, reading, and writing. (Whitmore & Maker, 1985, p. 204)


 

One student shared his story with me. In elementary school, his teachers were so concerned about his ability to learn as well as his lack of motivation that  they recommended he be put in a self-contained/congregated class for Learning Disabled and ‘Developmentally Disabled’ students. According to his teachers, his reading and writing were far behind the other students. He didn’t read until after his first grade  and was seen as being far behind his peers in Math. The problem wasn’t his understanding of the concepts, but instead HOW he learned them. He couldn’t retain information (working memory) and he processed information with difficulty and very slowly but he could spend hours focused on learning one specific task. So, he was described as being “Slow” and of course this was reflected on his report card and also reflected how the teacher treated him as well as programmed for him.   He tells me that even from an early age, he was drawn to creative, hands-on activities – especially those that focused on building (lego, for instance) but these tools and choices were only provided when his other work was complete (which was rare).  The psycho-educational assessment eventually identified him as being Gifted with a Learning Disability. The student laughed aloud when he shared this with me. He thought it was a joke. He was always seen as the ‘dumb one’. He looked around the room and noted that he wasn’t the only one with this story.  Today, this student is a lead programmer and builder for an award winning Robotics team. Many would argue, that while he continues to struggle in some areas of academia, the expert computer science , engineering, and programming skills are those that are needed more than ever in our society.

Still, what I notice over in over in my job as a teacher for gifted is a dichotomy between the assessment and evaluation (and consequently programming) of the student and what the student actually knows and is capable of, his/her level of thinking. The evaluation is sometimes focused on the learning disability rather than what the student knows about the material (the how versus the what).

I wonder how many VERY INTELLIGENT, CREATIVE and OUTSIDE THE BOX THINKING  students are misrepresented because they are seen as behavioural or slow?

It is important to understand that Gifted isn’t just about being smart.  While there is no universally accepted definition of Gifted, the National Association of Gifted states, “Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).” Read NAGC’s position paper, Redefining Giftedness for a New Century: Shifting the Paradigm. – See more at: https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/definitions-giftedness#sthash.fYgGWaDk.dpuf

Another student (she was a visiting alumni currently in her first year of college) made the point that many of the students here (she was referring to the Robotics Team)  the very students that are designing, programming and competing in world-wide robotics competitions struggle academically. She was the media representative and wrote speeches, articles and created media presentations to access funding. Her grade in English was mid-60’s. She would often be writing a speech for her team while also having to write an essay. Her speech would receive an award grant her team funding, while her essay would get an low average mark.

IMG_0442I asked the students I was working with that day (Grade Eight Gifted Students, Grade 9 – 12 Secondary Students)  if the same  level of engagement, trust, autonomy and safety that they felt in their Robotics Makerspace also existed or connected back into their regular classrooms.

One of them explained – when grades and assessment are dictated by the teacher or school, rather than through their own errors (like in robotics, programming) it changes the mindset of the activity and the authenticity fades. They don’t do it because someone is grading them, but instead because it is important to them personally. Students’ self-accommodate and modify as needed by using the people, tools and devices around them to help them. The students explained that there was very little connection to what they were doing with their Robotics Team and academics, and yet, many academic professionals come visit and observe to try to learn from them. They identified this dichotomy quite well.

For these dual exceptional students, teachers and parents need to be willing to think outside the box when it comes to programming and assessment. We need to be understanding with these students doing things differently and be willing to find a variety of ways for these students to show what they know, even if it means taking unplanned opportunities for assessment or evaluation.

Teaching – Not a Profession? Something to think about…

I participated in an Elluminate session with Guest – Linda Darling-Hammond, moderated by Steve Hargadon tonight. An Engaging discussion – it was.

In particular, I found it interesting how Linda described the teaching field as “not a profession’. In this, she provided the three main characteristics of a “Profession” –

1) There is a moral commitment to do what is best for clients and make decisions, ie: Doctors make a pledge to do no harm or Engineers insist on safe standards (regardless of government cutting costs).

2) There is a common knowledge base – shared by all members of the profession. She gave the example that you can count on the fact that all doctors, engineers, and accountants will have specific training.

3) There is a definition of the profession and the standards are enforced.

Darling-Hammond stressed that many teachers DO behave as professionals, however, the occupation as a whole does not. She says, “We invest so little on preparation and don’t provide quality access to specific knowledge bases (special education, language learners)”. She also noted that because schools are political managed, there is so much governance outside the knowledge base – which may not always be good for students. Along with a few other participants, I couldn’t help but reflect on the impact that standardized testing is doing to our students- and teachers for that matter. But we do it because we have to – it is what our politicians tell us to do.

This brought about backchannel discussion specifically about teacher education programs. One participant (Elizabeth) stated, “The EDUCATOR PREPARATION programs (for teachers and leaders) must deliver a more coherent, focused preparation program that delivers the workforce needed in today’s world. Why is this knowledge not being uniformly transmitted in colleges and universities?”

Participants also voiced their concerns about in-school professional development and many people asserted that teachers, like students develop a different paces and with different needs. This supports the research that our students today are a generation of customization. Don Tapscott points out in his book, “Grown Up Digital” that this generation of learners has been accustomed to customization – of just about everything. We customize our phones, our ring-tones, our avatars, blog pages, twitter backgrounds. We customize music folders, Youtube channels and our networks. Most recently, we are customizing our learning -who we learn from, when we learn, how we learn, what medium we learn from. So why can’t we have more input and customization of the PD that is happening at our schools on a day to day basis?

The session ended with one unanswered question – not mine – but one to think about,

“What role you think the personal learning networks and networked learning communities can play in strengthening the teaching and administrative troops so they can better meet the needs of their students?” (Lisa Mireles)

The Kitchen Table

Bring the Home into the Classroom – Literally!

cuvbcmxwiaafxweWhat is one artifact or symbol that can literally make students feel “at home” in the classroom? An artifact that can ease stress, encourage conversations,  build relationships, have no limitations of age or ability and be completely  diverse in nature?

A KITCHEN TABLE!

In our home, The Kitchen Table is not just where we gather for meals but where we gather to talk about our day. It is the first stop when getting up in the morning, returning from a walk or coming home from work.  Where we throw down our keys, where we pile up our books and add to the week’s worth of newspapers. It is where we charge our phones and open our computers and play our music. It is our card table, our game table, an art centre and a sewing station.  It is where the mail gets read and sorted and where the bills get paid. The table is a space for food preparation, for sorting groceries and for sharing surprise snacks.  Sometimes, the table is our refuge after a long day- a safe place to sit and gather, where we talk and plan and discuss and cry.  Our best arguments happen around the table and our best apologies follow. Sometimes, it is a place to sit together in silence reading or writing.

Whatever it is and whatever time of day – it is always a safe place to be ourselves, to take risks, to be honest, to be vulnerable and to love one another.

And so, in effort to create an environment of trust, we brought the Kitchen table (literally)  into the classroom and  built a kitchen around it. We created a situation –  a small space, a “feeling” where students could be vulnerable, tell stories, laugh, cry and be themselves. The following 2 minute video gives an excellent description of why we start and end our day at the Kitchen Table. 

Our Kitchen Philosophy

We strive to connect MIND, BODY & SPIRIT by connecting what we study with  HOME. FOOD is a NEED that connects Families and develops COMMUNITIES. The development of a COMMUNITY of learners allows students to take risks, be mentors, have leadership opportunities and push the boundaries of their learning.

We address the role of the family and the community in our daily living.

We value our connection to the land by creating and sharing healthy snacks and meals.

We offer experiential learning opportunities.

We discuss respect for the group process and the significance of balance in all aspects of our lives.

 

When we are HOME we feel free to be ourselves !

We all can LEARN & GROW together!

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.

How I INVOLVE them (and make the entire process a bit more authentic)

1) Ask for Student Input when developing the IEP. Of course, this would depend on the age group and how you structure the questions and interviews.

Around the second week of school, I handed out the IEP’s to the students and had them go through and add, edit, and comment on each of the sections.  Most of them had neither see or heard of the “IEP” before so it took a bit of time to explain the terms (accomodations, modification, strategies, methods).

2) Meet with the students individually and go through the IEP’s with them explaining how and why this document came to be.  Help them understand their own identification and what they need to best succeed.

During the first month of school students did research on their own exceptionality. Many of the students wrote blogs about what it means to be “Gifted” or as they often see it, “Labelled”. One student (Nicola) writes,

“Those who are deemed gifted still need support; they need to feel like they are not the only ones with this label. Remember, never judge a book by its cover. Anyone can change the world, whether they passed a test or not. Everyone is equal, and that’s what’s most important to know. Like I said, to be gifted can mean a bunch of things. What does it mean to you?

3)  Set aside time for students to continually develop and alter their own programs. Don’t let this be a “one off” lesson. Build this into a weekly plan. Build it around their Learning Skills.

We do this every week with tea.  We try to discuss one area of need or learning skill. What does it mean to be responsible? How much independence should students have at what age? What is fair and equal when it comes to learning? How to advocate and ask for feedback.

4) Provide a organized system for students to view and edit their IEP’s as needed.  Of course, since some parts of this document may be highly confidential, the template would need to be altered.

 

 

5) When updating the IEP’s each term, send home the “working copy” along with the formal copy to allow the parents and families to see how much student input is valued

 This IEP development strategy takes a lot of trust and relationship building to work. Students need to feel safe and free to express their honest feelings and advocate for themselves. One students said to me after reading his IEP, “Wow, I sound like an anti-social nerd that has no friends”.

 

After implementing this student centered strategy with the students in a self-contained gifted classroom, I wonder if a similar strategy would work with NON identified students. Since we know that all students work better when they have input and when they are engaged in their own learning goals, then couldn’t we implement this in a regular classroom as well? I also wonder, at what ages this would work best? Students are very self-aware at the Middle School level  which certainly makes sense to have them identify their own strengths and weaknesses. How could their other teachers be involved in this process? Will they have input as they travel into other grades? I wonder.

To Bring “IT” Together 2018 – with Love, Zoe

2018 will mark my 15th ECOO “BIT” Conference. Once again, I leave feeling inspired, recharged and committed to being a strong, caring and innovative teacher.  LOVE was a dominant theme – woven through the presentations and conversations. LOVE.

I had an opportunity to view the film, To the Orcas,  with Love (LINK)   by a local filmmaker, Natalie Lucia.  In her film, Natalie emphasizes her goal – to inspire children and adults to fall in love with the world or some part of it, at least. She shares her journey (and passion) of working and living amongst the Orcas in British Colombia, Canada and how it changed her. Her motivation to inspire all people to reflect on our own role in the environment and the world,  and how everything – every choice, action, relationship, discussion, and goal has connections to something else. She reminds us all that we can make a difference.

The film and resource have been made free for teachers to use in the classroom


Talking about Love….  I had a wonderful talk with a friend, Lisa Noble. I see her more often online at    @nobleknits2 where she relentlessly and constantly shares  – not about her own work (which is inspiring by the way) – but about the work of others. Her support, kindness, and genuine caring for others have been incredibly appreciated and needed. I have had a tough 18 months (grief, depression) and over and over Lisa has reached out to show her love and compassion. I am full of gratitude and was pleased to have had a chance to talk.


Another conversation led me to talk about Love and Kindness was with Peter Skillen @peterskillen.  “Just bring Love”, he said.  Admittedly, I did feel a bit of tension and stress at the conference. People feeling uncertain about their jobs, about where education is going. People expressing worry about children, students, and their future in Education.  People struggling with their own mental health and stress. Optimism was not prevalent.  Peter, an advocate for Child-Centered learning pedagogy noted, more than ever, we need to be kind and loving to one another – work together and care.


 

 

Now, THIS is true love. Sue @suekwiecien and Andy  @AndrewKwiecien searched and found me in aimlessly walking around the conference centre – to give me huge hugs and homemade SCORPION PEPPER Hotsauce.  I cherish these moments! Running into old friends (not old as in age) like @aforgrave and finding time to chat about our kids, family, and well-being was the best part of the conference. It’s family you haven’t seen in a long time.

 


Finally, I got to share some of my work. In Oct 2017, I finally finished my own Graduate Thesis (which took way too much time).It is humbling to present to other innovative and creative Educators. I don’t think I could have ever completed my Masters of Education without saying thank you to some of these folks – who inspired me from the beginning.  Influencers such as Will Richardson (@willrich45); Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep); Ben Hazzard (@benhazzard); Kathy Cassidy (@kathycassidy); Dr. Alec Couros (@courosa); Dr. Camille Rutherford (@crutherford); Jenny Ashby (@jjash); Doug Peterson (@dougpete); Andy Forgrave (@aforgrave); and Dean Shareski (@shareski). 

Sharing of my Session Slide (although the context and talk aren’t there so it may not make sense).

LINK

To ECOO,

Thank you for the many hours of work you have put into this conference and for supporting educators like myself. I saw many of you helping participants, guiding them, working with technology and helping them with their sessions. I know how much work – planning, organizing and prepping that goes into the conference behind the scenes. You are incredibly inspiring and know that this work impacts so many children! 

Sincerely,  and with Love, 

Zoe

 

Sharing Away! Cross-Post and let the learning be transparent! Why Not?

I am currently teaching the Junior Additional Qualifications Course at Brock University, as I have been for the past 6 years. While the course design is always in process – I have included opportunities for the participants to explore their own strengths, passions, and pedagogies instead of just answering post after post after post…

The interesting thing about this course is that the participants consist of both, very new teachers (usually working at the Secondary Level)  and very experienced teachers, often consultants, coaches or leaders in their school.   The experienced teachers are usually headed toward a formal leadership position like Vice-Principal or a “Department Head” and the new teachers are often exploring their options, potentially opening up an opportunity to teach for the Elementary Panel (moving from the secondary panel).

The best part of the course is the number (and varied types) of resources collected and shared. I try to remind the students enrolled, over and over (they probably get tired of it) to post their “forum reflections” in a blog somewhere – that their voices, experiences, and resources matter to the greater community of learners – parents, teachers, students and others in the business of education  (which is pretty much the entire world).

I’m going to take the next few weeks to model the sharing and work done with these students by also posting my reflections and resources.

LINK TO OUR COLLECTION OF RESOURCES

 

2017 CANeLearn Symposium Presentations

2017 CANeLearn Symposium

Over the next three days, I’ll be at the CANeLearn Symposium in Vancouver, British Columbia! Sweet!

I’m sooooo looking forward to the opportunity for  conversations and face-to-face connections with the many friends and colleagues of whom I’ve only connected with online – OR maybe I just haven’t seen you in WAY TOO LONG.  You know who you are! This will be the best part!

I am completely honoured, humbled, inspired and energize to be a featured speaker – along side such forward thinking and creative educators and leaders. Thank you so much to the CanELearn Team, Volunteers and Leaders for organizing such a fantastic event!

  • Remi Kalir, Assistant Professor of Information and Learning Technologies at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education 
  • Michael Furdyk of TakingITGobal
  • Dr. Sean Lessard (Assistant Professor of Indigenous Education and Core Studies at the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education)  Recipient of the CEA Pat Clifford Award 
  • Alanna King (@bannana29), another Ontario Educator is sharing her experiences and knowledge in a session called The Frontierland of secondary school E-learning, conquering fear and fostering courage. This is a MUST attend session. Alana is not only an incredible educator, but she is funny, kind, and generous and doesn’t need to work hard to inspire those around her. It is just natural.

My presentations:

I will present my own story as a Maker Teacher and how I have made connections between practice and pedagogy and in particular how this has shaped a second Makerspace classroom (2017), one that is not just rich in technological resources, but also promotes social justice, global awareness and community action. I will describe and share how my team and I developed a classroom as a mix between a cafe, a living room and a Makerspace – all intentionally designed around collaborative, safe and comfortable spaces.  I will explore and reflect on my own experiences as an educator and how I have used a variety of frameworks to connect teaching and learning to topics of  Social Justice, Indigenous perspectives and Inquiry based-learning to the Maker or Do it Yourself (DIY) Culture as we see it today.  In sharing my own journey as an innovative teacher and leader, I will discuss how adversity, pushback and isolation impacted me in the process of standing up for education system that is not only fair and equitable for all learners, but one that promotes critical thinking and constructivism – which is at the heart of a Makerspace environment.

Thursday April 6th, 1:30

I’d like to think that I am a facilitator, but TOGETHER we will all be sharing! The UN Development Global Goals provides context, in all areas of education, for teachers and students to ask questions. In this session, I will share simple strategies for anyone interested in enhancing an inquiry driven classroom, one that is student-centric and has a strong emphasis on Maker Culture, Social Justice, and Experiential Learning. I will talk about the role of self-directed learning, health and well-being, and how we can use a variety of tools, spaces, and lesson types to engage students to think deeply about the world around them.

Friday April 7th, 11:15

Can you imagine a learning space where nature, music, art, and literature are infused in the design of the STE-A-M focused classroom? A kindergarten classroom for students of all ages? A place where tea is served at the start and end of each day in beautiful porcelain cups – where there are no bells or specific transitions and subjects are infused by “Big Ideas or Themes”? A classroom that celebrates community through nutritious food prepared each day by students who gather at a cafe bar or surround a kitchen table and prompted by deep discussions of innovation and creativity?

We will talk about it and find out what the research says. Why Tea? Why an indoor garden? Why a cafe bar? Why Knitting or Sewing? Why Cooking? Why Art? Why Chess or Games? Why Guitar/Piano? Why Kitchen Table? Why Livingroom? Why 3D printer? Why 1:1 Computers? Why light? Why Music? Why Blogs? Why Programming?

When it is time to drop your lesson and talk about world events….

What is your lens?

Maureen Wilson, from Hamilton, Ontario shares her experiences at the Women’s March of Washington

We had to be ready to change our pre-planned lesson…Students wanted to talk about what was happening in the world. The following posts describes why we altered our plan and shares the alternate lesson!

Critical literacies involve people using language to exercise power, to enhance everyday life in schools and communities, and to question practices of privilege and injustice. (Comber, 2017)

Flag at Dr. Davey school is half mast to pay respect to victims at Mosque shooting

Huge events unfolded across the world over the past two weeks which prompted our teaching team to change a “pre-planned lesson” to focus on current issues of Social Activism – locally and globally.  On January 20th, Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration took place. The next day, January 21st, together, over 60 countries – men, women, and children, joined in solidarity to March for human rights – “The Women’s March on Washington” was declared the largest global protest – ever. Then, on January 28th a Mosque in Quebec, Canada was brutally attacked and many innocent people were killed. January 30th – Thousands join together to show support and to honour the victims of the Mosque shooting.

 


Knowledge Circle at Enrichment Centre

It is difficult for the most well-rounded, emotionally and socially strong of people to handle the immense mix of emotions resulting from these events. Regardless of your point of view of Trump (or the platform), or if you are a woman or Muslim – we are all impacted – not just by injustice, hate and fear – but also by the joy, and relief that comes with solidarity and community actions. We are affected by the conflicting and confusing media.

 

Our young people are especially affected.

People in positions of respect and power have made accusations about journalists not being truthful and Journalists have made accusations of people in power not being truthful to the people. The idea of “fake news” has been spread across the inter-webs like wildfire. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are overwhelmed with political posts and emotions are high.


After watching the powerful poem by Royce Mann, we started our INQUIRY through a discussion of “Privilege and Power”. 


The following lesson is an overview of how we approached these topics as an Inquiry:

We started with the “Big Idea/Inquiry Question”:

  • How can global events impact local/community action and local/community events impact Global action?
  • What is my lens when approaching these issues?
  • How am I privileged?
  • What does it mean to be “in Solidarity?”

We shared the “Culminating task” what  will students do by end of lesson?:

  • Complete a Blog post that focuses on an idea or concept that uses the Women’s March on Washington as a prompt. Write through an optimistic lens, utilize a variety of media and provide questions for further thinking/discussion
  • Create a short podcast that focuses on one aspect of Social Justice and  Solidarity and the impact of positive activism.
  • Create a video that uses a specific lens/perspective showcasing the positive aspects of humanity, people, and social activism.

We used the Curriculum Standards as a guide:

  • Critical Literacy: Opportunities to relate knowledge and skills in language learning to wider contexts, both across the curriculum and in the world beyond the school, motivate students to learn and to become lifelong learners. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p. 12)
  • Students must be able to differentiate between fact and opinion; evaluate the credibility of sources; recognize bias; be attuned to discriminatory portrayals of individuals and groups, including women and minorities; and question depictions of violence and crime. (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, p.13)
  • Reading – Point of View identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives (e.g., determine whether an author’s choice of voices to include seems justified and suggest how the meaning would change if different voices were chosen) (The Ontario Curriculum, Language, Grade Seven,  p.128)
  • Point of View – Demonstrate understanding that different media texts reflect different points of view
  • Making Inferences/ Interpreting Messages -Interpret increasingly complex or difficult media texts, using overt and implied messages as evidence for their interpretations

We made connection to UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Goal 5 – Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 10 – Gender Equality
  • Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

We made connections to ISTE Standards and 21st Century Learning: https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

  • Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
  • Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
  • Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.  

We invited community members to join our class and share their experiences:

Mary-Louise Pigott shares her experience attending the March on Washington


For the lesson…. Read on!!   Continue reading When it is time to drop your lesson and talk about world events….

Just starting a Makerspace in your school? Tips on where to start!

 

Kristy Luker working teaching a student to knit

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to co-create two Makerspaces (from Cafe Bar to Makerspace)  within my school District – both very different and yet both fall under similar approaches and philosophies that were inspired by the town of Emilia Reggio  which is “based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach 

 

Some students using Sphero and some students sewing.

Our Makerspaces  include a vast assortment of  technology tools and robotics as well as hands-on building and craft material and textiles (sewing machines), arts and music , and content producing tools (camera, computers, tablets). But more important, the spaces are facilitated by trained (and interested) teachers who spend a good deal of time creating “situations” and “opportunities” to collaborate and innovate. This means, paying attention to the surrounding and how it “feels”. 

 

“Third Teacher”. Educators and leaders who put value on the Reggio Emilia place a high value on the aesthetic and physical environment of the school, often referring to it as the “third teacher” (Gandini, 1998, p. 177).

Is the space inviting and inclusive?

This is not to say that Makerspaces cannot be created in a multitude of ways. There are pop-up makerspaces, shared spaces, Makerspaces in classrooms, libraries, community centres, coffee shops, shared Makerspace kits (portable).. and even in households (garages, basements). But, it is important to recognize the collaborative nature of Makers and the role that SPACE, SET-UP, ORGANIZATION play.

Just starting out??  

  • I suggest that you tap into the skills of your colleagues and staff.
  • Be Inclusive. 
  • DO NOT necessarily start the space by ONLY bringing in complex robotics, programming or computers.
  • Scaffold. Differentiate. If it is just about one thing, you will miss the opportunity to engage a variety of minds and innovators.  
  • RE ENGAGE teachers/parents/students that may feel alienated by technology and bring them on board but tapping into their interest!
  • Make Connections to all types of Making – There are many similarities between some programming languages and knitting or stitching, the arts, music and of course it can ALL connect to curriculum.

Ask: Who on staff can Sew? Crochet? Knit? Cook? Change a car tire? Change a bike tube? Who has any lego and loves to build? Who can draw? Who knows programming? Who owns a robot?

Interestingly, sometimes the best Learning and Professional Development happens around Making and Doing. The environment of collaboration is natural, organic and inspires community which then alleviates the pressure. People are laughing, sharing, helping each other and “formal” leadership disappears – letting everyone feel like they have a place – an important role to play. People are bringing in different perspectives, different skill sets. Once everyone is talking, sipping on tea, helping each other ‘make’ (that relationship building stuff), then a leader/facilitator can slip in the Professional Development. Bang! As an aside, in fact, this is often how we teach curriculum to students – by getting them engaged in play, making and a collaborative task. Have question prompts and assessment questions ready to go (we just index cards and place around the room)! Bang!

Finally – is there interest in creating an atmosphere of making? Does the room/area talk about pedagogy – what is the philosophy behind it?? Can a work table be brought in? Can a community group be put together to come in on a Saturday and set it up?? Can couch or two be brought in- with coffee table? Is there small plants for growing/eating? How about a whiteboard for designing, writing? Does the environment make kids and adults WANT to be there?

Let’s say you have $1000.00 to spend for your startup. What would you buy? Survey your staff – (Teachers, Education Assistants, Consultants, Coaches) to see what would be the tools/products that would bring in the community. Is anyone interested being the ‘resident’ expert? Through a shared document (OneNote or Google Drive), ask them to add to the list or just sign up. The space doesn’t need to be about one thing or one person.

Don’t forget about the Parents and Community! You might be surprised at how many people have things laying around the house and would LOVE to donate these to a COMMUNITY SPACE. Lego, puzzles, rubic cubes, small tools,

This might be something that could be sent to staff/community. This is only a very small example (but I did say that we only had about $1000.00 to spend). There are many many products and tools that could be added and would depend on school community and staff –>

Maker Tools or Activity Skill, knowledge building Estimated Cost Staff Interested
Electric Sewing Machine

Material and supplies

Sewing Materials

Math – Applied understanding

Measurement, Geometry, Patterning, Algebra

PROJECT BASED LEARNING

150.00 each

100.00

Does anyone have anything to donate?
Knitting/Crocheting Materials

(Yarn, needles)

Math – Patterning, Geometry, Spacial, Ratio, Symmetry $100.00 (approx)
Does anyone have anything to donate?
OZOBOT
Robotics
Great for ages 5 – 99

Coding through colour or block programming

Lots of great challenges and an amazing website to help teachers

$100.00 (approx)
MAKEY MAKEY Circuits and manipulation of wires/circuits to control a computer

Great for exploration, play and making connections to “how things work” and electricity.

$50.00 (approx)
(buy at least two)
Hyperduino An excellent kit that teaches students to code with a purpose and how they can combine coding with presentations! $100.00
Sphero I highly suggest this fun robot. Not only do students learn how to drive and manipulate the robot but they can also use blockly programming! This is one of our favourtes and learners of ALL love the Sphero.   $150.00
Art Bean Art  – Use Pulses (dried beans, chickpeas, lentils…etc.) and have students create beautiful tactile art $100.00 (approx) for a few easels
Sketch Pencils and notepads
Chess… $100.00
Puzzles…
Crafts…

Links to further resources:

Help, My Principal says I need to start a Makerspace… http://search.proquest.com/openview/79ef65b2aedc529a0db3f6c33497b458/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=38018 

Launching a Makerspace: Lessons Learned From a Transformed School Library

From Classroom to Cafe Bar – A Makerspace, Reggio Inspired Learning Space

Bauhaus book & coffee shop in Seattle, a gathering of solitudes from: iamkatia.deviantart.com

In every city or community around the world, the cafe/coffee shop is place for gathering with friends or colleagues, catching up on daily reading, playing games, engaging in the art and music culture, knitting, writing, planning, creating, organizing, designing and learning – and of course, sharing in food/drink.  Drawing from hundreds of examples of cafe community gathering hubs across our own city, Hamilton (A coffee shop for every mood) or Toronto (Top 10 Places to work or study in Toronto), or New York City (The Best Coffee Shops for getting work done), we created a classroom space with similar characteristics.

 

The coffee shop as office: Coffee shops are the unofficial offices of an army of modern workers thanks to free wi-fi, good company and caffeine on tap. But, says David Crookes, cafes have been places of business for centuries (Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/thirsty-work-the-coffee-shop-as-office-2290725.html)

At a Public School?  

Can you imagine a learning space where nature, music, art and literature are infused in the design of the STE-A-M focused room? A space that celebrates community through nutritious food prepared each day by students who gather at a cafe bar or surround a kitchen table and prompted by deep discussions of innovation and creativity? A space for people of all ages? A place where tea is served at the start and end of each day in beautiful porcelain cups – where there are no bells or specific transitions and subjects are infused through Big Ideas or Themes?

In 2016, The HWDSB Enrichment and Innovation Centre was awarded the Canadian Education Association (CEA) Ken Spencer Award (First Place) for Innovation and Creativity in Teaching and Learning.  This accolade prompted the creation of a second Enrichment Centre that was designed using the Reggio Emilia Approach and would recognize that the learning environment is fundamentally important to the program (referred to as the child’s “third teacher”)

“In order to act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: it must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers in order to remain up-to-date and responsive to their needs to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge.” (Lella Gandini,1998)

The importance of the environment lies in the belief that children can best create meaning and make sense of their world through environments which support “complex, varied, sustained, and changing relationships between people, the world of experience, ideas and the many ways of expressing ideas.” (Cadwell, 1997). “Bringing Reggio Emilia home:An innovative approach to early childhood education.”.

 The room design is  also inspired by Seymour Papert’s  Constructionism learning theory,

(Papert, S. & Harel, I. (1991). http://www.papert.org/articles/Situating Constructionism.html

 

The constructionist teacher takes on a mediational role rather than adopting an instructional role. Teaching “at” students is replaced by assisting them to understand—and help one another to understand—problems in a hands-on way. 

 

 

The HWDSB Gifted Program partnered with a team of Undergraduate Students from McMaster University in a Design Thinking Project with the goal to create a learning space inspired by both Reggio and Papert.

“Design is the action of bringing something new and desired into existence—a proactive stance that resolves or dissolves problematic situations by design. It is a compound of routine, adaptive and design expertise brought to bear on complex dynamic situations.”
—Harold Nelson, The Design Way

Thank you to Lee Wood Company, James Street North for the donation of the beautiful, custom, hand crafted bar top.

This area will provide a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, mentors and leaders to gather, talk, celebration and build innovative and creative ideas.

The “Bar” area replaces the teachers desk. There is enough seating for 15 students to surround the bar. The teacher or student can be in front or behind the bar area to facilitate discussion.

There is a large collection of plants, herbs and sprouts in the classroom. Growing plants in the classroom connects students to nature, to outdoors, to the world around them. Plants clean the air, teach students about sustainability and allow students to observe and document natural patterns.

Bringing Nature in the classroom: https://www.plt.org/story/bringing-nature-into-the-classroom/

American Society for Horticultural Science. (2009, September 6). Greening University Classrooms: Adding Plants Increases Student Satisfaction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 3, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163947.htm

Parents are a vital component to the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Parents are viewed as partners, collaborators and advocates for their children. Teachers respect parents as each child’s first teacher and involve parents in every aspect of the curriculum.

Our doors are open and community (Teachers, Parents, leaders) are welcome to join us, have a tea and use our space.

 Where there was once just a window sill, we added another bar top and stools. The natural light and city scape provides an amazing escape – a place to immerse into ART, listen to music, write poetry or simple sit and “people watch”.

Music is spread across the room. A piano, keyboard, computers for composing and of course guitars for “jamming”. Anyone can play or create ANYTIME.

We got rid of student desks. Natural collaboration spaces were created to emulate a living room. A safe place where family gathers. A place where people can be in a collective but be in their own zone – reading, drawing, knitting, planning, designing or wondering. There are enough PLUGS/OUTLETS for 20 computers in this area.

An area was created to “do”.  Students can use the Interactive Whiteboard to showcase their designs, collaborate on ideas, or mentor one another, whether it be about Coding the Robotics, Programming Arduino sets or building in Minecraft.
There is flexible seating that can be moved or changed depending on the needs of the individual. This area is for small groups to code/program and engage in DESIGN challenges. A great spot to engage in ROBOTICS!


We hope that our experiences in this learning space can serve as examples and models to others wishing to move in this direction. We believe that students can be self-directed when provided with the right learning conditions, including an environment that is natural, organic and is designed in a way that builds relationships and community.

Reggio teachers provide children different avenues for thinking, revising, constructing, negotiating, developing and symbolically expressing their thoughts and feelings. The goal is for the adults and children to better understand one another “North American Reggio Emilia Alliance”. Retrieved 9 April 2013.