Glitter Pens & Pencils

Photo Credit: Ariel Grimm Flickr

Photo Credit: Ariel Grimm

When I was a grade one teacher and Early Literacy Coach I used to always bring in Glitter Gel pens. It seems silly but the concept of a shiny new tool to write with seemed to just be that spark to entice my learners to write. Eventually over time the glitter pen lost it’s shine and it just became another tool along with the not so shiny pencils and pens.

I wonder if we have gotten past the ‘shiny new glitter pen’ stage with technology. It’s exciting to see what is possible and how people all over the world are using technology to help kids learn. But I struggle with the fact that often I still have to sell it, prove why we should use this new technology.

Another story:

My grandmother has worked for Bosch for 30 years now in inventory. When they first moved over to a digital system ten or so years ago she refused to use it; she would retire before she would ever use a computer. This technology could never be better than her system. Why did she need it? It is funny to look back now as she sends emails and types away at 70. From being so resistant to a new tool, it now was just a part of her daily work. Like the shiny new glitter pens they have assimilated and become just a part of her environment.

That would be my hope for technology in the classroom. No more debates on if, when, how but rather just a tool in our environment that we intuitively pick up or put down based on the learning task. Maybe we are already there and I have missed it. Maybe we will never get there with the constant change of technology. And like my glitter pens the initial spark of something new is often beneficial to engage students in a deeper learning journey.

My worry: If we never move out of the ‘glitter pen stage’, our conversations won’t move past the digital in a digital learning experience. Just like my glitter pens in class they will continue to be seen as OPTIONAL.

I continue to think of Jesse Brown’s words from a few years back.

Am I off base? Where do you think we are at technology integration? Are we at the shiny glitter pen stage or just another tool stage?


The Goals of Education: Enaging the Whole Self


I have been trying and trying to share this blog post since we first discussed the goals of education In our first class for the Contemplative Practitioner in January. When the ideals of holistic education and timeless learning were shared I couldn’t agree more. I love the concept of a Thinking Heart: a blend of wisdom and compassion. As I looked a little closer in my daily travels to schools I could see the awe & wonder as well as joy & happiness. But I was left with many questions:

  • If I was to share these goals with others, what would I say?
  • How does it align with the curriculum demands many mention?
  • If I truly believed these goals what did I need to change in my practice?

Last night as I watched a colleague share her story along with her students, I think I got a glimpse of these exact goals in action. Airin, who teaches in a very diverse learning community in the downtown core, shared her learning journey with practitioner research and a special year long course she teaches. It is a sociology/philosophy course that also parallels a university sociology course the students participate in with a university professor that comes in (she explains it so much better-I’m not doing it justice). Instead of starting with the traditional backwards design and set plans, she follows what arises from the learners. Last night they shared the results of their exploration of identity. Their various representations from a sketch of an identity iceberg (what you see about me is just a tip of a much greater identity), to a student’s special stew recipe for himself (including a pinch of naughty) and dopamine molecules composed of the various elements that caused that reaction in a student took your breath away and more than once made me just slightly emotional. It was the epitome of differentiation but more than that you could see the pride students had in sharing their work, the depth of thought as they explained their choices like nesting layers of identity. Many mentioned the struggles they had to go through to answer the question posed, the discomfort with something so open ended, the need to pause and inquire into who they really are as individuals.

What brought me back to the goals of education was one passing statement. After sharing her long difficult journey from the Philippines to Canada, one student pointed out that identity and education are often two extremes that never interact in education and in this assignment she was able to go past just the academic. Her whole self was engaged.

Still addressing all the necessary curriculum expectations, I saw in Airin’s story a glimpse of what I would hope for: Learners whose whole self was engaged. You could see the sense of wonder, awe, joy and sense of purpose fall into place along with the skills being developed.

I know their stories yesterday have made me pause and reflect on how I am engaging the whole learner even with adults. I think I will start with listening more closely.

What do you feel are the goals of education? How are you engaging ALL of your learners?

Love to hear your thoughts!

Growth Mindset, Meditation and the Voices Inside my Head

As I sat in the first class of my final MEd course I felt a little out of place. The topic was completely outside my comfort zone: The Contemplative Practitioner and I hadn’t taken an in class course for several sessions now. As I saw a few familiar faces in the room, I was put at ease. We started through the syllabus with the goals and flow.

Then came the assignments. 

First on the list: meditate on a daily basis for 6 weeks. The panic set in immediately. I’m the person sitting at the back of the room annoyingly shaking the whole bench, the person pacing while waiting in line, the one who wakes up in the middle of the night with a to do list. How was I going to pause the thoughts in my head to meditate?

Then I remembered I’m an educator and I adamantly believe in a growth mindset (I should have known better right there). This would just be an opportunity to put my beliefs to the test and practice what I preach. I couldn’t meditate yet, but I was going to.

A few weeks later we tried the 8 different forms of meditation in class. Panic washed over me again and it was hard to catch my breath. How was I going to survive this? I found an app that would walk me through, a cheat sheet of sorts to help me get settled into the practice. I would start with 5 minutes a day hoping that I could eventually make it to 20 or 30 minutes. 6 weeks later, I never made it past 10 minutes. At times the scene must have been straight from a cartoon: flailing about, talking to myself. Despite the frustrations through out the experience I leave with several take aways: understanding the need to be more mindful and present, not let the voices inside my head take over and never throw the word YET around again.

For access to my complete journal, CLICK HERE.

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