The Best bits of #BIT16Reads

Today marks just 16 days away until the big event…the most stellar education technology conference in Ontario: Bring IT Together #BIT16

As such, I’m going to revisit 16 of the best conversations we’ve had inside TVO’s TeachOntario.  I enter into this idea with the same ideas that support #BIT16Reads:

  • to grow through my professional reading
  • to grow and strengthen a community of educators

…so please feel free to grow the conversation again.  I look forward to your thoughts.

#BIT16Reads: Garfield Gini-Newman joins us for a Hangout on Air

 We’re midway in our August book “Creating Thinking Classrooms” and author Garfield Gini-Newman has agreed to join us for a lively discussion on this topic: How schools need to refocus the goals in order to better prepare students. Join us here live at 2:30 ET or via the Twitter stream at #BIT16Reads .

#BIT16Reads: Multiple entry points

I attended TEDxKitchener last weekend and the first speaker of the day, Dina Pestonji, reminded me that learning has multiple entry points.  Likewise, our online book club #BIT16Reads has multiple entry points.  Here are some of the planned places where you can jump in:

June 1, 2016: Begin discussing Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

July 1, 2016: Begin discussing The Innovator’s Mindset 

August 1, 2016: Begin discussing Creating Thinking Classrooms

September 1, 2016: Begin discussing How We Learn

October 1, 2016: Begin discussing Building School 2.0

November 9 – 11, 2016: #BIT16Reads meet up at the Bring IT Together conference, Niagara Falls, Ontario

After #BIT15Reads last year, one of the most common comments I heard was “I’m so sorry! I joined the book club but I didn’t keep up and then I felt embarrassed that that I couldn’t keep up and so I just stopped participating…”

is completely contrary to The Point of BIT16Reads

The point of #BIT16Reads is

  • to develop a community of learning educators
  • to support each other beyond our annual face-to-face meet ups
  • and above all to enjoy it (there will be no public floggings).

The book club is an idea experiment in itself wherein we have a common text to move our discussion forward.  So if you read our first book Participatory Culture in a Networked Era and throw it across the room after 35 pages, that is your democratic right!  All I ask is that you tell us about it somehow, somewhere and tag it #BIT16Reads so we can see it.

If you want to find us, we’ll be on multiple social media platforms but I encourage you to REGISTER so we can find you!

TVO’s TeachOntario: https://www.teachontario.ca/docs/DOC-3594 

and outside Ontario in Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/170190-bit16reads

The pillars of my teaching are shifting

I’ve only read Chapters 1 and 2 (and 10) in Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case’s Creating Thinking Classrooms, but I can feel the foundation of my beliefs, the pillars of my teaching and the roof of my practice shifting.  I’m looking through two of my school roles as I read this book.  Firstly, I have to look at the whole school and especially how our teaching with technology is (or is not) changing. Secondly, I am both librarian and e-learning teacher and I want to make sure that my library goals align with the thinking goals of my online classroom self.  There are some practices that have definitely affected the way that I teach (backwards design) but there are lots of other practices that are muddy.

So in Chapter 1 when the authors describe the number of initiatives that are happening in any one school building I naturally asked “Which of the operational components is most accurate in regards to the purpose of schooling?”  My Directions Team spent an entire afternoon trying to align our core values or Finding our Why (Simon Sinek).  It’s so difficult!  When we brought our work to the next group of department heads, they tore it down to the beginning again.  Yet I know that it’s a worthwhile exercise because, as the authors say on page 16, we can’t rush to the practical.

I fear that the digital technologies that we have rushed to put into the hands of students and teachers are just sustaining existing principles rather than transforming them.  I see all the time that Inquiry tasks performed about Google-able answers are minimally impactful on student learning.  For the first time in 3 years, we are suddenly having a scarcity issue of devices again but I’m not convinced that a) our wireless infrastructure can handle more devices and b) that we want them.  We are convincing our students through our repetitive actions that they can rely on the school’s tech rather than to begin exploring their own.  I’m especially thinking of our graduating students who need to get comfy with making their own decisions about which tech tools to use for which purpose.

I never questioned before if student-centred learning had any disadvantages but of course the two things I see everyday as a librarian are clear disadvantages!  They are that the curriculum is often underrepresented or not represented at all in student-centred learning; and that students choose safe/known topics.  One of the frustrating reasons that inquiry continues to be less impactful though is because or our grading system which I know I constantly use as a stick to beat our students into motivation!  After reading Implications for personalized learning I am left with the question How can we separate grades for measurement from grades as reward?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if students found that the learning was the reward instead of the number on their report card?

In my elearning environment, I’m currently playing with the new badges tool where I can recognize students’ behaviour and achievement with a badge.  I know this isn’t a strong motivator at the grade 12 level that I’m teaching, but I want to recognize when a student achieves a technology skill; a foundational skill and a social skill that will serve them well in the environment.  My ultimate plan is to tie more badges into the competencies that are outlined in the curriculum to see where my teaching weaknesses are and also to make sure that my students have a solid foundation when they finish the course.  As a librarian, I think my career goal could be “Sense-making must be grounded in rigorous investigation.”   I like the examples given of inquiry on pages 38 and 39 but I’m hoping there will be more of these in less content-based circumstances as we go through the book.  Although these models gave me a clear point of view when we’re teaching a concept, this format doesn’t always apply to English or the Arts which are often based on skills-based learning.

#BIT16Reads: Branching out