All posts by Donna Fry

I am a Secondary School Principal in Northwestern Ontario, currently on secondment with the Ontario Ministry of Education as the Provincial Lead for Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching, a proud member of OSAPAC, co-lead of OSSEMOOC, and a member of the Board of Directors of ECOO.

Are All Kids Able to Choose?

Recently, in my Primary/Junior Math AQ course, we examined process expectations in the Ontario primary/junior math curriculum document.

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Of particular interest to me was the process expectation around “selecting tools and computational strategies”.

The Ontario math curriculum document was written in 2005, five years before the first iPad was released, and two years before the first iPhone was sold.  In the 11 years since the curriculum document was written, we have seen exponential technological advancement.

The digital tools available to children in 2016 are beyond the imaginations of the writers of the current curriculum document.

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“Students need to develop the ability to select the appropriate electronic tools.”

How do they develop this ability?

As an adult, how do you develop this ability?

The ability to make that choice depends on1) the ability to understand how you learn, 2) knowing what tools are available and how they work, and 3) having access to those tools.

As educators, is it a priority for us to ensure that students learn to make good choices about what digital tools work best for them?

It isn’t about our comfort level.  We can’t wait until we are “comfortable” to make this happen.

And, we can’t teach for a world that no longer exists.

How would you rewrite the 2005 math curriculum document to ensure all students have access to the digital tools they need, and the ability to choose the best digital tools to help them learn?

 

Further reading:

It IS About the Tools

Toolbelt Theory – Ira David Socol

Featured Image shared by JingleJammer under a CC-BY-SA-2.0 Licence.

Are you Asking the Right Questions?

Yesterday, a colleague, Sean Mieghan,  posted a great little video that clearly demonstrates the importance of asking the right questions.

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“Life is Good” owners tell us that their ideas came from the questions their mother asked every day at the dinner table.  She empowered them to come up with ideas – lots of them!

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In the same way that task predicts performance, asking the different questions can change the learning. As educators, how often do we work at asking better questions?

Further reading: https://suedunlop.ca/two-essential-questions-for-reflection/

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Featured image shared under a CC-BY-2.0 licence by Alan Levine.

A Vision of Effective Mathematics Teaching and Learning

What is your vision of effective mathematics teaching and learning in elementary school?

This is a new question for me.  This blog is Learning About Learning, and I have a lot of learning to do about mathematics education.

I am hoping you can help me.

Here are a few of the things I am thinking about right now.  What can you add to this? What have you learned in your own practice? What do you think about when you consider a vision for teaching and learning mathematics?

I think that efficacy is critical.  Students have to believe they can achieve at high levels.  Teachers have to believe that students can achieve at high levels and that teachers have the capacity to  get students to that high level.

Is mathematics skills (as I was taught), or is it ideas (as Dr. Marian Small suggests)?

Is math about making connections?  Is it important that we work with big ideas rather than teaching skills and concepts only in isolation?

I think students have to be able to choose the tools and strategies they need to help them solve problems.

It isn’t up to us to tell them what tool to use, but to teach them how to use many tools effectively so they might pick the one that is right for them in each context.

Math needs to be fun.  Kids need to be the ones doing the thinking. Teaching through problem solving can be very effective (problems are not add-ons).

Teachers need to collaborate with other educators, to share their thinking openly, to challenge the thinking of others, to read and write blogs about their work.  Isolation is a choice, and isolation is unprofessional.  Kids need the thinking of many professionals, not just the one assigned to them.

As I work through #mathleaderNEO over the next few years, I plan to grow this thinking.

I encourage you to share your ideas too.

Featured Image: shonk via Compfight cc

Learning Math “in the Open”

We’re trying something new.

It’s an innovative approach to a challenging problem, and it has the commitment of leaders from throughout northeastern Ontario.

We are building our understanding of how to learn and lead mathematics in our elementary schools, and we are doing it out in the open.

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Embedded in our learning is a commitment to sharing openly in social media (#mathleaders NEO on Instagram and Twitter), and on our website.

We have made a conscious decision to avoid the use of an LMS.

We are not hiding our work behind a password unless privacy is necessary.   In this way, we are embedding the learning of digital literacies into our work.

We are also modelling practices that can be used by anyone to share, collaborate, and learn together.  We are supporting the integration of collaborative technologies to transcend the geographic barriers we face as a region.

We invite you to learn with us, to question our thinking and to push our understanding.  Watch our site and our social media presence for prompts, live-streamed events, conversations and challenges.

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*Featured image designed by SAO Tim Robinson of the Mathematics Leadership Network.

Do You Have Time?

We all have time.  But how much?

And how will we spend it?

As an educator, I struggle with doing too much.

As a teacher, I packaged content endlessly, provided feedback on everything, read tirelessy, reflected on everything.  It consumed me. It consumes many.  Balance, alignment, living a rich life away from school – all of these things can be hard when there are no “hours of work” or boundaries of work.  There is always more that can be done.

Many of us work really hard – too hard perhaps.  But the passion for what we do, for changing life trajectories, is hard for others to understand at times.

It takes intention to stop and rethink the effectiveness of the effort and the purpose in how we spend our most valuable resource – time.

RULER
John Sills and Ben Kelly share the career of Jim Fry, NWO Regional Director, MNRF June 2016. Photo by Kira Fry.

Recently, two dear friends spoke at my husband’s retirement celebration.  They shared a timeline of his outstanding career in protecting Ontario’s natural resources.  Then they focused on what is left in the timeline, and how we need to be intentional about how that time is used.

LEO
Leo Suazo shares his understanding about the value of time. June 2106. Image by Kira Fry.

 

Retired US Fish and Game Officer Leo Suazo spoke eloquently about the value of time, and how after retirement, we have the opportunity to choose how we will share our gift of time.  What life trajectories will we impact? What changes will we enable?

How will we use our time to support those doing good in the world?

Kira Chloe retirement
Kira and Chloé. Image by Jake Avery.
kyle shannon jim
Shannon and Kyle with Jim. Image by Kira Fry

 

So then, how does this help us decide how to spend that precious time? Perhaps a recent commencement address by Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan helps us think this through.

 

Dr. Ryan proposes five good questions we can ask in all that we do.

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From Five Good Questions by Dr. James Ryan http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/good-questions

The last question?

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Late Fragments, by Raymond Carver http://allpoetry.com/Late-Fragment

 

From Dr. James Ryan:

My claim is that if you regularly ask: wait, what, I wonder, couldn’t we at least, how can I help, and what really matters, when it comes time to ask yourself “And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so,” your answer will be “I did.”

 

How will you use your gift of time?

Featured image of Diane Corbett, Ian Anderson, Doug Hyde and Jim Fry (Ontario Provincial Peer Support Program) by Kira Fry, June 2016.

This post is dedicated to my father, Melville Charles Miller, who would have been 81 years old today, on this Fathers’ Day 2016.

His dedication to the natural resources of this province inspired many of the people who have continued that legacy.

References:

Good Questions

 

 

donna jim
Image by Kira Fry, June 2016

The Robots are Coming…. No, Wait, They are Here!

How are we preparing our students for the digital economy that is not their future, but their present?

How do we create the compelling argument that this is important, that this should be a priority in our school system?

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Walmart is mere months away from replacing their warehouse workers with drones and robots.

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More menial low-skilled standardized jobs lost to automation. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-wal-mart-drones-idUSKCN0YO26M

Automation is not new.  We have had the “robots are taking over the world” narrative in our minds for decades.

Have we become desensitized to it?

Because now they really are.

The extent to which robots are able to do menial jobs has grown exponentially, and artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction – it’s commonplace.

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Automation has become extremely sophisticated using AI to do jobs not previously thought possible. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2016/06/03/automation-isnt-new-so-whats-the-big-deal/amp/

 

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From http://chronicle.com/article/Robot-Proof-How-Colleges-Can/235057 by Joseph E. Aoun

 

But when robots can do standardized work, it creates new opportunities. New opportunities for creators, for coders, for those educated to take advantage of these new opportunities.

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by Joseph E. Aoun, Chronicle of Higher Education http://chronicle.com/article/Robot-Proof-How-Colleges-Can/235057

 

How are we embracing the opportunities robotics will bring to our economy? In Ontario alone, we will have a deficit of 76,300 digital economy jobs by 2019.

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Canada Labour Market Outlook http://www.vancouvereconomic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Labour-Market-Outlook-2015-2019-by-ICTC-March-20151.pdf

 

Or are we just going to continue to blame corporations for embracing the technology available to them?

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If we create standardized students, they can easily be replaced.

 

If we create unique individuals with the skills and competencies to rise above the menial and embrace new opportunities, we will be enabling our communities to continue to grow and  prosper in our changing world.

 

As a parent, do you ask your school how your child is being prepared to thrive in the digital economy?

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LEARN HOW TO LEARN

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Featured image shared by Robin Zebrowski under a CC-BY-2.0 licence.

 

 

References:

Technology Has a Language. It’s Called Code.

Are Robots Going to Steal Your Job? Probably.

3 of the World’s Top 10 Employers are Replacing Workers With Robots

What If? OPSBA 2009

A Vision for Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age OPSBA (2013?)

Robot-Proof: How Colleges Can Keep People Relevant in the Workplace by Joseph E. Aoun 

Canada’s Digital Talent Strategy March 2016

Digital Canada 150

Michael Geist: Digital Canada 150

Automation isn’t new, so what’s the big deal? by Jacob Morgan

 

 

Thinking Differently About Absent Students

Twice this year I have been fortunate to hear the very engaging Provincial School Attendance Counsellor, Tony Di Lena, speak about the persistent absenteeism issues in Ontario – northern Ontario in particular.

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Shared by @cogdog CC-BY-2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/6335663193

Persistent absenteeism is defined as missing 10% of school days – 2 days per month, essentially.

Last time, he was speaking to a group of parents.

Parents were quick to defend the absences.  In the north, it can be a 4-hour one-way trip to the orthodontist, and all of the children in the family have to go, because the parents cannot get home in time for school dismissal.

Sports days mean that students must take a full day – or more – off school to play a single game of basketball in the north.  Hockey tournaments need driving days.  Grandparents live far away and family visits are important.  Poor weather limits bus travel.  Reliance on the 2-lane Trans Canada Highway means access to school is frequently cut off because of accidents and bridge closures.

It’s hard to attend school regularly even when you desperately want to.

So why aren’t we connecting children with the school remotely?

Instead of purchasing school computers and devices, why not purchase devices – with mobile data plans – for kids?  A child in a car for 8 hours can attend school and learn remotely while travelling.  A child at home on a snow day can synchronously collaborate with the classroom.

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Image shared by @shareski CC-BY-NC-2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/shareski/14361257588/

 

And that child away for two weeks to visit grandparents in Texas? Think about how much that child can teach her class about Texas! She is a resource for classroom learning, not a “make work project” for the teacher who has to “send work” for her to do while she is away.

We can do so much more to keep students “in school” even when they physically cannot attend.  And we can start today.

Resources:

Supporting Minds, Ontario Ministry of Education