Recently I was at a symposium where the keynote speaker made a statement that caught me off guard: “It isn’t that we measure, it is what we measure that is the problem.” I couldn’t agree more but to measure something we have to understand what we are looking for. As we advocate the 6Cs of 21st Century learning represented in Fullan’s From Great to Excellence report for the ministry, what did we understand each C to represent? So I hit up a few great folks and asked if they would join me on this journey to clarify each of the terms. As we tackle a different one each week we hope that we can start a conversation and build a better understanding of what we are looking for and how to assess it moving forward.
Earlier this fall I was asked if I would to participate in a blog hop where a few of us would blog about our favourite apps. How could I resist working with such a wonderful group! Below I have shared one of my favourite open ended apps for early learners:Soundbrush. You can then continue the blog hop by following the links below the post.
Soundbrush: Painting A Song
I was in search of an open ended app where even our earliest learners could explore and create.
Although it’s first edition was a paid app, the current update can be installed for free with in app purchases.
It’s quite simple really. You choose your instrument from the top left toolbar and use your finger to paint your music on the screen. Play your music back by using the controls in the middle top toolbar.
Are you proud of your creation? You can share your musical creation by emailing the sound file or uploading it to their site and sharing the link.
Click on the circles in the top left to add more instruments. The app gives you a set of 4 instruments for free if you tweet out your support. Additional sets can be purchased including a rock pack, jazz pack, orchestral pack and synth pad pack. You choose the colour for each instrument. If you want to channel your inner DJ/musician tap on the synthesizer or wrench to further edit the sound.
So much is possible with the app as you can see in the company’s overview. Your creativity is really the limit! What I love about the soundbrush app is that there is little to no instruction required. Place the iPad in front of the learner and they can begin exploring, interpreting our world in new ways.
The app pulls our young and curious learners into exploring the possibilities, playing with sound and how various sounds interact.
If you like the soundbrush app you may want to explore Musyc or Garageband as well.
Make sure to check out the other blog posts of our Coll-APP-orative blog experience:
Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? You know those moments where it’s a bit like a neon light flashing through the dark night or a billboard you could have sworn you already saw 5 times. At first you are annoyed for the harsh interruption, the repeated message, but after a while it stays with you. You can’t shake it.
For me that flashing light has been RELATIONSHIPS. It seems I can’t avoid it. From keynotes, conferences to workshops, blog posts, news articles to conversations and even readings for my Masters program, the message has been clear that relationships are foundational to learning. I think James Corner said it best:
“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”
Seems simple enough.
To be completely honest building relationships was much easier with 6 year olds. As I played and chatted with some friends this week in @K5Kinder I was reminded how children seem to have this blind trust and brutal honesty that makes personal
relationships just that much easier. How do we build that same trust and honesty as professionals?
As much as I value the role of relationships in learning and change I worry that I am rushing through, letting the busyness of life and work take over. I have always loved Gandhi’s quote “actions express priorities.” Are my actions expressing my priorities?
- Am I taking the time to really get to know people?
- Am I pausing, listening, encouraging, not just rushing to meet learning goals?
- Am I taking the time to build trust and forgive when that trust is broken?
In my current support role, I know that if I want to be part of a change moving forward the best investment of my time is in fostering and building meaningful relationships. I also know that as much as I encourage those networks, communities and relationships for others I have to build that support for myself. I need those trusting friends who will tell me when to blog (thanks @MatthewOldridge), tell me when I need to stop and reflect, challenge me to turn off my devices every now and then or just ask if everything is ok.
Then came Bill Rankin’s keynote at #eli2013 and I took away one final piece of learning about relationships, the fear of a mono culture. I not only need to foster meaningful trusting relationships but I have to make sure that the ecosystem of relationships is diverse and vibrant.
So October may have been connected educators month, but November is the month of relationships for me.
When I first became an Early Literacy Coach I sat through training on coaching and change. I was extremely grateful. It was intimidating to think of encouraging change with colleagues. Fast forward 9 years later and I still am intrigued and puzzled by change and the role I play. In my M.Ed. course on Curriculum and Change it felt like a lot of the conversations always came back to who or what to blame for a lack of change: “It has to start with the teacher.”, “follow these steps”, “system structures need to be in place”. I didn’t disagree but I felt like something was missing. Change wasn’t so neat, so isolated or so simple.
So one evening this summer, as I stood on the edge of a cliff 30 feet above the ocean and watched wave after wave crash into the rocks, I had an epiphany: that is the change I want to be a part of. A wave so powerful you can see and hear it feet away and yet so calming it instantly makes sense. A wave that isn’t a product of just one right element but many that have come together at just the right time.
Proud of myself and my aha moment I trudged along and then George Couros came to speak to our board this week around system change. My beautiful illustration seemed to be a little rocky. While chatting with a colleague (@susancampo) I realized perhaps I was mesmerized by the waves of innovation that I was missing system change. It’s hard not to watch the waves rolling in, to celebrate those brilliant moments that you have been waiting for and encouraging, but is system change really that glamorous? Does it come in one fail swoop or is it a little more like the beach glass underneath that changes after being hit time and time again by the crashing waves.
Am I so focused on the waves of innovation that I am missing system change?
The hard part is that the beach glass takes years to produce, the waves come much more frequently. It also takes more time and effort to find the beach glass. I’m afraid impatience takes over at times. Both are important, both are marvelous to watch. If I truly want to be a small part of change moving forward maybe I need to give them both an equal amount of my attention. Sometimes I worry that I focus so much on the waves of innovation that I’m missing the beach glass.
Maybe I just need to sit back and take in the whole landscape.
Love to hear what you think!
I read the Globe and Mail article Classroom fads and magic beans a little while ago and I have to admit that there was some screaming at the screen on my end (Ok, well it was more like mumbling under my breath at my cell phone). Debunking research with one source didn’t seem very critical but everyone is entitled to their opinion. It wasn’t any different than the conversations I experienced while visiting family this summer:
- “Kids today don’t know how to do math.”
- “All these new ways…”
- “What’s wrong with how we used to learn?”
I learned early on in my career that when it comes to education, everyone seems to have an opinion (including those in the field). Responding with research or facts has never really worked for me (maybe I don’t have a stern enough voice) but sharing a classroom success story always guaranteed a thoughtful ending.
Last week I stumbled upon the WSJ article Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results on Twitter and I was torn. Not because I was longing for the good old days, but because there were nuggets that I agreed with. I couldn’t understand why I felt so conflicted and then I realized that perhaps we were speaking a different language. I agreed with many of the terms but they seemed to be associated with actions and understandings I wouldn’t want for my learners.
Assuming positive intentions I thought I would clarify with my experiences. So for those of you longing for the gold old days please understand…
- When I mention a positive classroom community, that does not mean the kids in my care run through the halls throwing items. There are still rules; structures; guidelines but most importantly there is respect. Respect on the part of me as a teacher understanding my learners (whether 5 or 35) and respect on the part of the learners for their classmates and myself. Please don’t confuse respect with compliance. I can make kids sit in rows that does not mean I have respect. I think you can also agree that it is hard for me to show respect while insulting, belittling or demoralizing any learner. We can spend up to 7 hours a day together, relationships come first and no one has articulated it better for me than Carol Ann Tomlinson.
- I believe in a balanced approach. There is both time to understand a concept as well as build skills. Let’s be clear, building skills is not the same as a worksheet. I took OAC Calculus for the fun of it. Seems absurd now. I did pretty well in the course. Hundreds of textbook questions later and I can’t remember a thing. We never really discussed the concepts and there certainly was no connections made to my life. What I learned from OAC calculus is that without the concepts or connections, skills get me no further then the end of the course.
- I know grit is a popular term. I agree whole heartily with the concept but I can’t help but think of the old westerns like Rooster Cogburn. Maybe that is the confusion between strict routines and a passion for learning. Learning is hard and kids need to learn to persevere through it. They need to understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process. I build perseverance by having high standards but also have spent the time to make sure the challenge isn’t insurmountable. Constant failure breads a loss of hope. If you have ever worked with a child that has given up hope, a child that believes there is no way for them to succeed you know it is the most heartbreaking experience and the hardest to revert.
- Creativity is the hardest one. I’m still struggling through the nurture/nature debate myself but I know one thing for certain: you can’t force creativity. It isn’t a command, a task to be completed. If you have spent time with a 4 year old you know they are full of questions. They see the world through beautiful rose tinted glasses where their parents are superheros and purple elephants are completely plausible. They will take risks we would over analyze for a month (maybe that’s just me). Maybe you don’t consider this creativity but part of creativity is not seeing the limitations, thinking of the impossible, not being fenced in by rules. Why would you ever want to rush them to reality? Couldn’t we learn a thing or two from them?
Ok, I’ll admit I’m an idealist. I am the glass half full, every child can succeed, love my job, educator. It’s hard to accept a longing for the good old days when we have learned so much and I have seen the bright moments: the moments where a child’s eyes light up because they just read a book all by themselves, when they are so proud they taught a friend how to animate or when a child finds an audience for what they have to share through a blog.
It’s more than wanting my learners to think that I was nice. When they think of me I want them to believe I pushed them further, fueled their spark for learning and helped them be just a little bit better.
It isn’t that we can’t learn lessons from the past (I learned the above from my teachers ) but I fear our longing for the good old days is stopping us from looking at the potential at the horizon.
So no more ‘Good Old Days’ debates please, just Good Days to Come.
“Everyday, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.” Sir Ken Robinson
This Friday afternoon I was procrastinating like I usually do and stumbled upon an awesome series on Soulpancake’s Youtube Channel called The Science of Happiness. Whether in education or not, it’s easy to get bogged down in the negative in the world.
The first episode I saw, An Experiment in Gratitude, challenged me to reflect on what and who I am grateful for. As I’m inspired by educators I work with each day, I am reminded of the many lessons I learned from the wonderful educators who taught me. I wish I was better with names (I can describe the picture in my head) but since I can’t tell most of them personally how grateful I am I’ve shared my thanks below.
Here it goes!
- Thank you to my grade 2 teacher in Germany who took the time after hours when I first arrived to sit and try to teach a Canadian kid German words. It took a few months but the hard work paid off. You modeled a growth mindset and reminded me to never give up on a child.
- Thank you to my middle school teacher in Italy who took the time to come check up on me in High School. While drowning in Latin classes (hard to translate from one language you don’t know to another you haven’t quite mastered) it made all the difference to see a friendly face. You are a constant reminder to take the time to connect with learners.
- Thank you to my grade 13 English teacher who let me tell him there was no way I would make it through a book since I had already fallen asleep 5 times. I was naive at the time and didn’t quite know that isn’t want you do! You listened to my opinion and taught me the value of listening.
- Thank you to the great administrators I have learned under and with. You always pushed me past my comfort zone to opportunities and roles I never would have imagined. You taught me the power of a push at just the right time.
There are many more I could thank but there just isn’t enough time. I may have been luckier than most to have such wonderful educators over the last 30 years of schooling. I don’t know if they did play based learning, genius hour or used non traditional texts but I do know they all demonstrated CARE in their work and the learners they were entrusted with.
If I do nothing else, I hope that is the legacy I leave for the learners I interact with each day.
Ok, off to write more letters of gratitude. Who are you grateful for?
It was so much easier to admit to a problem then making resolutions. Balance has never been my strength (I think it is listed as an area of improvement in every work appraisal since I was 16). But on the eve of a new school year I’ve written myself reminders in hopes of finding better balance. They may seem silly to some but I am hoping if I put them in print someone will hold me accountable.
1. Do not forget to eat.
I find in the busyness the first thing that goes for me is eating. Much easier to count a can of coke as a meal or crackers and cheese as dinner. As I get older, my body seems to be revolting on me. I may actually have to bring some veggies in to my diet.
2. Get outside!
I find it hard to shut off. The list of things to do, emails to answer, new ideas or things I missed seem to loop. There are only a few places where I feel everything stops. Something about an upbeat playlist and the lake or walking my brothers 75 pound energetic dog that makes my brain stop.
3. DO NOT, I repeat do not check emails or tweets in the car.
I know this is the law and all but it’s oh so tempting when you are stuck in city traffic to look down and hit the refresh button. I have to remember it can wait. Nothing is that important!
3. Read something not required.
I love to read, or I should say I used to love to read before my M.Ed. While most of the assigned readings are insightful, they are also dense and challenging (Curriculum Foundations comes to mind). I need to remember to read something I want to read that ideally is longer than a picture book.
4. Learn something new (not work related).
I have said for years I would learn how to take a better photograph or do a 5K (downloaded the app in the spring). I guess this is the year.
5. Take a tech Shabbat
I was reading about the concept in Fast Company’s 8 Ways to Bring Sanity to Your Crazy Weird Life. Now I don’t know if I can make it a whole 24 hours at this point but I can start with a morning a week without going straight to my device to check in.
6. List 2 positives before a negative.
After every workshop or session I often go straight to what to fix for next time. This year I will make a conscious effort to list at least 2 things that went well before listing next steps.
7. Listen closer & Remember Names
I love connecting with people but sometimes in the busyness I feel I haven’t been as attentive in my listening. That to do list pops up again and I find myself listening for how I can help and not just listening to listen. This summer I have been reminded of how powerful it can be when someone knows your name and shows a sincere interest. Always an area for improvement.
8. Play more
Maybe it is the first child syndrome but I always feel guilty when I play. As the year goes on I need to remember that it is ok to not have to play, inquire and explore. Hanging out with 4 year olds and trying out new apps is always enlightening.
So what do you need to remember this school year?