Write to Give (Kenya, Africa)….was so much more!

Well…its been a week since returning home and yet I am still overwhelmed with the experience and floods of emotions I am continuously revisiting. This trip to Kenya, Africa took me places that I did not know existed….not physically but emotionally, sentimentally and life altering.

The true beauty and physical nature in Africa was beyond words and truly incredible, and a friend told me once down there, something would always tie you and pull you back. Its only a week and as amazing as it has been being back home with my wife and kids, I would be lying if I said I was truly glad to be home.

I think the tie and or emotional attachment occurred once arriving at the schools; Shalom Primary and Ndatho Hope Primary School. There is a saying that goes, “Seeing is believing” which I am beyond humbled and proud to say I witnessed first hand the true power of a global connection, the invincible tie of the human spirit and powerful bond between two Nations coming together for a community to ignite, create and inspire HOPE.

Amy and Stu McLean has created something transformational! Being part of this inspiring adventure across the Ocean has lead me to new notions and beliefs on life. Amy and Stu created a movement 7 years ago with only $350 in a non-profit bank account, which has brought many Schools into International Displaced Communities throughout Kenya, Africa.

The mission from Write to Give was; to build confidence in children’s reading and writing, build global awareness for cultural differences and help other children in developing nations. The actual outcome….so so much more!

Walking into the school community seeing the students, teachers, parents and people you could truly see, but even more so feel the true impact that their inspiring movement has brought to the people of the community. People gathered by the hundreds when we arrived, welcomed us singing and joining hands to take us to their newly built school. Tears were seen throughout all that exited the vans, emotions flooded our souls and changed us in that moment! What we didn’t know nor understand was how the next few days would change us and move us in ways that were unforeseen!

Building days were particularly emotional whether it was the fathers from the community helping to build a path that would later be paved to the outdoor washrooms from the school, painting with the Momma’s or planting the hundreds of trees on the school grounds people from two drastically different Continents / Cultures and Race came together as one. Language barriers became obsolete, emotional bonds were created through blood, sweat and tears of pain raising 80-100 lbs stones that would line the path to the washroom, holes that were dug and sanding that was done on the wall within the school. The kids began working alongside each other white and black with the same mindset; ‘Together we CAN do it’.

One of the most incredible moments and something I still see, hear and feel more then a week later was when one Momma and a North American Donor found a common ground and love of the song ‘Amazing Grace’. They sang together in two languages, the crowd gathered and at that moment it was as if time stopped, as if humanity said “We are one, we are strong and we can do anything together”. Words cannot express the true moment in time…..you just had to be there!

One moment for me that was sentimental was being told I would get the oppertunity to share some of our Write to Give books with the teachers and students for their schools library. I always thought it was a fantastic concept and notion to Write for others and give back somehow, but being able to walk up to the schools bag in hand with 20+ Write to Give books, authored by Lakewood and Hagersville Elementary School children amongst’ other Canadian and America children and teachers was beyond fathomable! I am still trying to absorb that moment and cannot describe it and do it justice! I fought back tears, quivers of emotion during the 10-15 minute span that was touching, emotional and inspiring.

The kids were so incredibly excited to see brand new books! I actually seen a few roll the pages through their fingers, nose sniffing the smell of the new books, inhaling as if it was Grandma’s Thanksgiving Dinner. The Kenyan teachers eyes filled with tears of joy and pride when receiving the Write to Give books, I was embraced as if I was a long lost family member for bringing books…..seriously bringing books! Some of the kids actually tried running away with the books, but others stopped them and motioned for them to return them to the teachers so everyone could enjoy them within the schools library of roughly 100 books.

This was my piece of the pie that took me into something that I didn’t foresee; this moment bonded me and tied me to the school, the teachers and kids. My friend was right; I was tied and emotionally attached to Kenya and Africa in that moment! I cannot say enough about hope grateful and honored to be part of this incredible, inspiring adventure! Thank you soooo much Amy, Stu and Carey!

Looking ahead into this Write to Give program I want to share and say that for anyone intrigued and interested, take a leap of faith and just do it! The back end of things is beyond worth it. What I was able to experience has inspired me to do more and without a shadow of doubt this program is making a Village Impact

Amy and Stu had re-branded their non-profit to ‘Village Impact’ prior to this trip, such a fantastic name! The impact within the school communities is beyond words…but I did hear through one amazing kid; Eriksson (whom is 19) that “What you all have done is brought back HOPE to our communities”. Hope….this is still trickling through me.

Hope is described as; “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” or “grounds for believing that something good may happen in the future” and yes, there is a new hope within these incredible communities; an inspiring movement where the children and families can experience education, learning and the world at their fingertips. Hope that they can be anything and anyone with the education they are obtaining. Hope to become one whom will inspire and give back to their communities, extend outward into the Country, Continent and even throughout the Globe! With hope, anything is possible, everything is a possibility and the sky is the limit!

While flying above the clouds on route home I had this glimmer or hope myself that I would return one day in the near future with my family to share this experience, but within a different role….I know deep down that from seeing the hope and belief within the eyes of those Kenyan kids that I will return one day, they will make the days ahead challenging yet emotionally worth it as I find a way to make an impact myself. This has been an experience of a lifetime, a journey that was life altering and has motivated me to pursue new creative and innovative concepts to reach out and help others to continue this movement of Hope alongside Village Impact!

I came to Kenya, Africa on slightly different terms then others, yet left inspired by the Kenyan’s and North Americans alike! I have never met so many incredible people with hearts made of gold, mindsets similar in nature to my own. Winning this trip was incredible, but I have to say I whole heartily believe that it was meant to be! I’ve been inspired and emotionally charged like never before….a new mindset and outtake on life itself and motivated to take a leap of faith and try the entrepreneur route in order to give back like they had, and even more so got the opportunity to see them all experience!

I need to do a big shout out to a few incredible people on the ground in Kenya, Africa; Edidah, Samuel, Philip and Irene! What you guys do is amazing, continue to push the limits and boundaries and do what you all do best! Hope starts with you all, inspire others with your work and hard effort everyday!

To all the incredible people I met along the way; thanks for taking me into your group, you are all inspiring and incredible in so many ways! I absolutely come home to Canada with a newfound faith in humanity for doing what is right and good throughout the globe because of you all!

Finally a huge thanks to Amy, Carey and Stu for all that you do….there are no words, just continue your cause as it truly has made a Village Impact!

Village Impact Trip (July 2018)

Jambo (Hello) Friends!

Wow, I cannot believe I am 11 days out from leaving on a trip of a lifetime with Village Impact (formerly known as Write to Give). If anyone is unsure or even unaware of this incredible foundation a former Port Doverite; Amy McLearn founded and would love more information please visit Building a Better Future and Village Impact (you can also make contributions on this site if you wish).

I have been looking at this experience and thinking constantly over the last year since winning this opportunity, and I still am numb and cannot believe its officially happening soon!

I became involved with this project through twitter, when I heard of the incredible impact it was having on people overseas through Write to Give. This is a fantastic program that I have been running within my classrooms for the last two years where my students and four other classrooms get together and create a book focusing on a character attribute designated to us. The books are then published by Scholastic which then can be purchased online for $15, which then goes directly to Amy’s foundation building schools in Africa. The writing process is incredible with your students (I cannot say enough about the totality of the entire experience) and best of all they become published authors! I am hoping to find their Published Books within the schools I am visiting shortly!!

This year over 50 students (Grade 5/6 – Archer’s and 2/3 – Samborski / Dubinsky) from Lakewood Elementary became published authors writing The Adventures of Mr. Waddles (please see the link to purchase that particular book in Hardcover, Softcover, Ebook or Audiobook format) as my students worked with our French Immersion Reading Buddies, Mr. Jonathon So, Mrs. Maureen Richardson and Mrs. Kristine Hollway classrooms all from Southern Ontario within our Collaborative OneNote Binder for this project.

This trip itself is 11 days of pure ‘Impact’…I love the new branding they decided upon as I know it WILL have a huge impact on my life during and afterwards as well! I am still trying to think and consider what could / would I do to have an impact afterwards and I know right now going into the experience that something will come alive and be discovered during the adventure!

At Lakewood this year Liz Cavers and I hosted Lakewood Elementary’s first ever ‘Cardboard Arcade’ (If you have not heard about this please visit Caines Arcade and of coarse my good friend and daredevil educator Lee Martin for more information and resources for your classroom). During which, the students decided they wanted to find a way to help / support and make an impact themselves on Students in Africa. As a school Lakewood raised $250 from this event where students donated $1 for a ‘Fun Pass’ to experience the Cardboard Arcade games Liz Caver’s and my students created using ‘Old School Arcade Games’ and their creative flare! These funds will be used to purchase pencil cases full of school supplies for the kids in Africa…..I cannot wait to share photos when I arrive at Ndatho Hope Primary School with our students!! This week I will be visiting Port Dover’s; Lakeside Savings to purchase the items for the pencil cases for the students (its always important to support local business’ whenever possible).

This is a link Africa; Village Impact Trip to the OneNote Binder I created for this particular trip. I love sharing and would hope that my personal experience can lead to some ‘impactful thought’ for others, which is why I created this binder to follow alongside the journey I am taking.

I will try my best to utilize the time to share / document (photo’s / video’s / etc…) during the trip for all to see and experience! You can follow via Twitter; @ArcherJoe or Facebook; Joe Archie as well.

Kwa heri (Goodbye) and Asante (Thank you!) for following along!

 

Micro:bits in the Classroom

Hey everyone!

Hope you are all enjoying the start of the summer! Looking forward to presenting tomorrow at MakerEdTO on ‘Micro:bits in the Classroom’

I have been thinking and contemplating how and what to really share and show; however I know walking away from these amazing ‘retreats’ or as my wife loves to call them; ‘Nerd-fests’ …. (yes I am a nerd and geek and proud of it) I always come home engaged yet thoroughly overwhelmed and exhausted from all the incredible learning. Therefore, this year I am taking a more passive voice with things and sharing material, resources and options to explore throughout the summer!

Included within my presentation deck are many, many links and resources to all things Micro:bits that I have gathered and obtained over the last couple of years! I will discuss and share a few cool projects I completed with my students in the classroom, but otherwise leave it entirely up to each individual to explore, take a leap of faith and try out something incredibly wild and crazy and engaging for all within your classroom next year!

I wholeheartedly believe that we learn more what we WANT to learn or that we are ENGAGED in, therefore passive is the action I will be taking….I will introduce, share the basic ‘how to do’s’, show some cool options and resources to support each persons individual learning and let you all explore!

Here is a copy of my slide deck: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1W0aSmTSRREkOgTOTbYgDUq06Vh-w1GAKHtH193NaCZE/edit?usp=sharing

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

NTIP Mentoring

As an Educator, we sign up as life long learners, people whom transfer knowledge, trades, manners and employable skills to those that was within our schools and classrooms. Walking into my 10th year of teaching I am still learning, but also beginning to master the art of mentoring.

I love receiving our ‘Professionally Speaking’ magazine on a monthly bases, and in this months copy there is an article that hit near and dear for me! Jennifer Lewington wrote ‘Sharing Wisdom; The Power of Teacher Mentorship’. Mentoring is something near and dear to me, especially the NTIP program! This is currently my 3rd year being involved as a mentor, which extends my mentoring from, Highschool Co-op, College (Mohawk/ Fanshawe E.C.E programming), University and Student Teaching from various institutions.

Looking back at my time learning the art of teaching I had amazing educators mentoring me, which is why I give back today. The experience I had was incredible and I to this day feel that I am where I am because of all the great support I had from various people during my high school co-op, college placements, university work placements and teachers college student teaching.

I love how Ms. Lewington referred to the professional learning relationship between the ‘seasoned practitioner’, whom shared experience-infused insights with a classroom newcomer. The theme of mentoring throughout the NTIP program not only supports the newcomer, but also “Fosters an exchange of knowledge” as Lewington shared. I see the exchange of knowledge a ‘joint effort’ as a seasoned teacher now I gain so much from my mentee’s as they may from myself. I love the concept of ‘Habit of Mind’ that Lewington shared; the mindset in which I call ‘Growth Mindset’ from George Curios, in that the pwoer of educators is a collaborative process. We Educators are creators of habit; we work on a daily / weekly schedule before, during and after hours. Habitual experiences become stale and without constant learning could become detrimental to pedagogical practice!

The true power behind the NTIP program is a partnership of professional learning community. In its simplest form a partnership, but in totality is the beginning of the process for the mentee at creating, maintaining and utilizing other educators as a professional learning community. For me twitter helps me stay connected, helps me reach out for support, share successes and learning from failures.

The article within ‘Professional Speaking’ shared that; ‘Over the previous 3 year period it found new teachers experienced sustained professional growth in four very key areas; confidence, efficacy, instructional practices and commitment to continuous learning’. This is also what we try to instill within our students as well, which is ironic we are seeing this with our new teachers, therefore we must be on the right path! This also reflects the pillars within the Ethical Stands for the Teaching Profession (care, respect, trust and integrity) and the Standards for Practice for the Teaching Profession (commitment to students, leadership and professional knowledge, practice and ongoing learning). NTIP has aligned nicely with our students and new teachers alike!

Finding the right people for a professional learning network (PLN) is key. There are and will always be strengths and weaknesses in everyone, for me it is math. It is the PLN that helps support our weaknesses, which is my twitter PLN incorporates many, many math icons in the profession. They have encourage professional learning online, face to face and shared articles, reflections and resources to help reduce my weaknesses and change my mindset still to this day, 9 years after completing the NTIP program.

I recall one conversation with my mentor; Mark (whose wife I am now working with at Lakewood) said “We can always learn something everyday, we will always need to adapt and change our pedagogical practises throughout our career, stay fresh stay networked and connected” and I would hope that Mark would be proud today as I am very much still learning, very connected (3000 + on twitter, facebook, microsoft community, etc…) and always reading; much of which comes from Dave Burgess Publishing for various educational materials.

My message I share love to share is strikingly similar to my mentee’s; get networked and connected, be reflective in your practice, ask questions and take risks, don’t be afraid of failure as it is the first steps in learning. I look back on those that worked alongside me; my mentee’s (I never see things as one way either) professionally we are all equal, we are all educators whether we are teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators or administrators……we work hard for the students walking through the school doors.

NTIP allows me to begin instilling the passion for life long learning, networking, connections, teamwork, collaboration and most of all a growth mindset into fresh faces walking into this amazing career. This is and will always be one of the most enjoyable and meaningful aspects within my career!

NTIP mentoring is something I am extremely proud to be part of….after 25+ years of teaching I would love to reflect and say not only did I make an impact with the students coming into my classroom BUT I also made an impact within the practice itself of education! My footprint will be heard, shared and passed along from my mentee’s as I have from my mentors…..and from my mentee’s, mentee’s in the future as well (at least I hope) as my message is and will always be, don’t thank me in gifts, thank me by inspiring the next generation of teachers and the students walking through your doors as I have done for my past mentors; Dennis Wright, Mark Smith, Karen Baldwin, Diane Clark and Janice Hughes and for my current mentors; my students, Brian Aspinall, Martha Jez, Derek Tangredi, Johnathon So, Lee Martins and so many more via twitter!

In closing; inspire and infuse a passion for life long learning!

CodeBreaker Rocks!!

Oh boy, finally have a wee little time to finally do this…

I was incredibly excited to hear that; The One, The Only, Crazy Rockstar Educator Brian Aspinall wrote a fantastic book called; Code Breaker!!

Also for those of you whom do not know he has a Tweetmeet tomorrow at 9 am EST at #CodeBreaker, which I was incredibly excited to join as a host a couple months ago, as I absolutely love incorporating Coding within my classroom!

So, this is more of a shout out then anything for this INCREDIBLE book! Brian takes such an abstract concept and idea and makes it REAL for all, whether you are a newby or more advance this book has something for everyone!

I love his QR links to his remarkable Blogs, Lessons, Activities that you can adapt and use within your classroom tomorrow! That’s right you heard it, tomorrow people!! With or Without ANY PRIOR KNOWLEDGE you can and will be successful IF you take the leap and get this book at https://amzn.to/2K1R3m0

I love George Couros’ comment ‘Brian puts a human face on coding and helps the reader understand it not just for computer geeks…’ so true, Brian takes his witty yet inspiring philosophy of learning with computational thinking using Scratch and various other means to bring coding down to earth for everyone and anyone!

Curriculum is always at the heart of the classroom learning, and Brian takes his passion in coding to engage his audience whether it be young or old. He demonstrates various means of using coding for assessment but in a meaningful, thoroughly engaging manner for students!

Best part of any book is personalization within the book from the author; this book takes you to the beginning with Papert, to a peak within Brian’s classroom, to pooping babies algorithms (don’t ask just buy it…..so worth it), to developing a growth mindset in students learning and work to instill resiliency in learning to trouble shoot, problem solve and overcome failures! He explains how failures are fantastic opportunities for learning as it IS about the process more-so then the product!

Within this engaging, witty read you will find yourself within coding projects, dabbling and trying things out! Jump in and learn alongside your students….become a Coding Ninja as Brian takes you into the incredible world of Coding!

Looking forward to seeing posts of peoples journeys!

Thanks Brian for continuing to inspire!! You ARE The Man!!

 

#MSFTIncludEd; The Future…

Well, its that time again…I was hoping some inspirational would have occurred to launch into this blog from the Olympics, but something else caught my eye a bit…the Florida School Shooting….inspirational, I think not, sad? Yes, could have been prevented? Without a shadow of doubt! So, #Launching (this will be explained in a bit) into the future I see Microsoft at the forefront of things.

Currently I am a huge supporter with Microsoft; I see so many valued, inclusive aspects into programs, applications and whatnot for diversity in learning and accessibility / inclusive education. When I find something I love, I get behind it and help, support, promote it as much as I can! There was a recent blog posting from another key Team / Company; Fair Chance Learning shared on Twitter;

Yes, an oldie but definitely good! This article explains 5 key things assistive technology can do for kids;

  1. Gives kids confidence (Text-to-Speech / Spell Checking etc…)
  2. Students can better reach potential (Voice Synthesizers etc…)
  3. It can help them become more independent (Speech Recognition and LiveScribe pens)

#MSFTIncludEd (Present) Inclusion

So, being that we are working within February a fantastic month for inclusive education as we also have the accessibility / inclusiveness embedded within the 2018 Olympic Winter Games too. I was watching the new on TV this morning and Tom Renney (Hockey Canada’s President) and he was congratulating and setting up for the announcement of Canada’s Sledge Hockey Team heavily favored to win this year in the Olympics!

I was very humbled and honored to be Canadian in that moment as family, friends and people from from around our Great Nation celebrated and honored our representatives in a sport near and dear to my heart in hockey! Our Country speaks volumes to accessibility and feature of inclusiveness from coast to coast!

So, with that I now lead into my months exploration into exclusiveness….last week I reflected upon the past in my blog http://sites.granderie.ca/jarcher/2018/02/04/146/

This posting is on a current situation occurring within my classroom….actually two as I am having trouble deciding upon which would be best to share. So, let start with my friend ‘R’….whom is on an IEP functioning in a low grade 1-2 grade level in reading and writing. Very few sight words are easily recognized within print, which makes decoding extremely difficult when he sounds words letter by letter, as blends and whatnot do not work well for him too. Therefore, we regrouped and really focused on his comprehension strategies, as technology now can read aloud for him, while using classroom tablets and now his own personal device using Office Lens (with OCR scanning capabilities) OneNote Learning Tools and now even Word. His comprehension skills will be something he will require now and also in the future.

R has become very proficient at utilizing Office Len and OneNote….handouts, worksheets are independently scanned inserted within a Classroom OneNote student section where R then dives into the Learning Tools features to have his document / reading / article (which ever it is) read aloud. He then is able to highlight and control what sentences are being read, paragraph by paragraph, question by question and then using voice dictation inserts his answers to questions as if there was no need for an IEP or previously required scribes to complete any given task. Seems intense, yet with a fair amount of training, re-training, failures, re-builds, and finally complete and utter happiness being able to fully independently do all this on his own….R can now partake in literature circles, classroom discussions and book clubs! R typically kept to himself and was really shy I think because he couldn’t partake before and be one within his class without requiring direct one to one assistance to complete anything. As we know this is far from ideal in grade 6, therefore self confidence and self-esteem has drastically changed and altered….he was also a frequent behaviour problem as well, mostly because he couldn’t partake and instead of being identified as unable or in kids minds ‘stupid’ he choose to act out.

Now, this fella is a big part of our classroom. His simple BYOD cell phone, which ONLY has access to Wifi allows him to be immersed and involved in all classroom inquiries and activities….actually a sought out partner by many as his friends love the ease of access to information his phone can now provide him with. His skills in OneNote with Learning Tools have now been transferred into Word with the Immersive Tools now within those as well….even better that they are also in Apps now too! This guy used to wear a hood over his head within the classroom, not confident at all, shy very quiet. Now after walking within the classroom, he pulls his hood off….this is the ONLY sign I need to see after all the hard work put in with R this year! Successful, proud teaching moment each day when he walks to our door with his hood on, but pulls it off once seating within the classroom! Yahoo

Now my other friend; D. Again an IEP student for reading and writing. I tried hard to lump D and R together into the same mix using the same tools but D was not taking to things as easily and eagerly as R, so I did what all great teachers do…..regrouped…walked away thinking, watching and learning this guys interests and found it in technological aspects in Coding with Micro:bits and also Minecraft….be patient on this one as I try to explain.

Starting with Micro:bits D found an extreme love and fascination with these cool little devices instantly (actually asking to write an interest talk on Micro:bits), which was fantastic as he avoided writing tasks before! Best part…..he wrote his talk within the programming and used the Micro:bits LEDs to share his messages….with simple ‘when A pressed…’ he had it display ‘this’ or ‘when B pressed….’; it displayed ‘that’….(all written out….edited and spell checked as I said we CANNOT show and share errors on this awesome devices). He also dived deeper into the programming, adding in his voice which read his written script he wrote out and recorded. D programmed his Micro:bit ‘When tilted left / right / up / down / shaked’ to say various things he learned about it during research with another web based tool he used on his SEA equipment; Microsoft Edge. Edge allowed him to screen shot, read within the browser, highlight key points he liked and copy / paste into a new word doc….which then using the immersive reader read his script to him in one ear while he then repeated it into the Micro:bits Coding. D also used alligator clips and attached them to ear buds for his audience….one at a time (myself and a few friends). This is one of two events I want to share about this guy!

Second one; Minecraft. We tried a Terry Fox ‘Point of View’ writing task, which was slightly painful for D! Pencil and paper are not his strengths, his writing is legible and spelling is good, but he has no interest in it. So, one day I had a fantastic Skype Lesson / Meeting with Katja Borregaard whom showed us how to use blackboards, NVP’s, Portfolios, Selfies and so much more. D walked away from this Skype lesson excited! He was not 100% sure on how to do some of the things Katja shared so we explored them that week together. Gathered a few Minecraft Masters (expert students) whom taught both myself and D how to using and incorporate them into his world.

D went to work one day, math was coming up (a BIG strength of his and he always eagerly looks forward to math) and D came up to me and asked if he could keep writing  and skip math that day. Now, my first thought was no, but I was also taken back upon the request that he wanted to keep writing! So, I thought what the heck! He is strong enough in math to miss one, so for S&%$s and giggles, I let him go at it……so thankful I did! D not only wrote from Terry Fox’ point of view but mapped out his route in Minecraft with signs of roads and a few highlights along the route for big events. Along the way Terry NVPs told his POV of the run….the thoughts and feelings, anxieties, hopes, fears and pain. I have to also mention this….of the grade 5/6’s (some of whom are gifted), D’s work was within the top 5 for this given assignment. Now being the rather ‘odd’ teacher that I am not providing grades, my feedback and conference with him brought tears to my eyes and his as well! He was ecstatic too…..now my troubles with D is trying to get him to try other things outside Minecraft….as you can imagine being autistic is difficult enough!! (I know eh….I wanted to share that earlier but I thought the impact would be more powerful now).

So, my ‘Present’ Accessibility / Inclusive Ed blog posting concludes….I am working on parents a bit to share more from these actual events, however being individuals whom struggled with the education system, its not quite a leap they are able to take at this time.

Next week I dive into the future of accessibility / inclusiveness in education…I cannot wait to watch and see if I can pull in some Olympic Magic into that posting….I always love the closing ceremony, especially when the torch / flame is passed to ‘The Youth of the World’ to meet again in four years….fitting I believe as a walking in point!

Until then, looking forward to hearing more from others!

#MSFTInclusED Reflection Upon the Past with Inclusive Ed.

February is one of my favourite months of the year, report cards go out…get a little relief and some new units, inquiries, experiments and whatnot going within the classroom. Just that first rejuvenation, and or breath of new fresh air is a relief….not to mention the days get a little longer as the sun begins to go down a little later in the evening as well!

This year its a little more so pleasant as I begin reflecting and thinking about what Microsoft Canada is promoting and getting behind with its #MSFTInclusEd program http://bit.ly/2BURpp7, Which you can check out here. So, thinking ahead throughout the month I want to make the #Inclusive Education piece prominent as an educator it is so key and so important. Therefore I was thinking a reflection upon the past, present, future and finally a final reflection during the four weeks of February, based upon Inclusive Ed and Accessibility for students.

Before I jump into my first reflection piece from the past I want to briefly share a blog posting by Luara McKenna on edutopia.org (which is a fantastic sight for educators to read, reflect and think). Here is the link shared by my friend Brian Aspinall; http://bit.ly/2BTIxjK

based on ‘Will Letter Grade Survive’? I know, I know at first thought you are probably thinking how does this apply to Inclusive Ed…well here it comes. Within the blog it indicates; “Competency-based education is a growing movement driven by educators and communities focused on ensuring that students have the knowledge they need to flourish in the global economy” and an executive officer indicating that; “The future of jobs and the workforce will demand a new set of skills, and students capacity to solve complex problems for an unknown future will be essential” which if anyone whom knows me I totally agree! This is why I love the computational thinking and coding movement as it exemplifies and provides a fantastic means for students to begin using, working with and learning new 21st competencies (which can be found here http://bit.ly/2nnuOxv)

As Laura indicated within her blog; “Grading systems right now are demoralizing and is designed to produce winners or losers” and that; “The purpose of education is not to sort kids – its to grow kids…..but with grade, teachers turn into judges”. My theory has always been student first, recently in the past two years I have adapted my professional pedagogy to provide feedback and not grades. That is not to say I do not grade students; I do but they need not to know the final grade, they read into the feedback. The only time they see a grade is IF parents let them see their report cards; which I strongly encourage parents not to do, only provide feedback as well. Now, my leap into the past for the #MSFTInclusEd piece….(I may sound like a leap into something else but keep reading please).

I remember one of my very first experiences in education in a very difficult classroom of Mixed Exceptionalities (anything from behaviour to Learning Disabled, MID, Developmentally Delayed, Austism etc…the list goes on and on) also grades 4 to 8. This was an eye opening experience for me, but the beginning of when and why I used my Masters Thesis; Education for ALL using Technology.

So, now my case study; I remember one unit we dived into like it was yesterday. We were investigating the future and jobs students wished they could and would consider doing. One lady was really struggling, which caught me off guard a bit as most kids love the fun police, fire fighter, doctor, vet type jobs….but she couldn’t decide. She was caught in a moral dilemma, as her grandmother, mother and elder sister all were unable to perform in school due to minor intellectual struggles and could not obtain a highschool diploma nor ever hold a job. They all receive government assistance to live and this girls ultimately said I will never amount to anything, therefore I will just do what my family has done in the past.

Yikes, heart dropped, then broke and I really struggled with the notion of early defeat and not an ounce of hope. It was my mission from that point onward to make the possibility of an education hopeful for this student.

Jumping into the inclusive education pieces years ago is a bit of a struggle as we did not have the many resources and applications that Microsoft O365 suite now offers use, but there was technology….simple things such as word and the ability to spell check was key. We also used Dragon Voice Dictation to place thoughts, feelings and brainstorming ideas on paper (as she could barely write a 4-5 word sentence in grade 4). These two simple tools became her go to’s, however she was reluctant at first, but lots and lots and lots of persistence from me, she began to use them daily! She actually started training others within the class in the same manner that she was with me. She started to obtain a voice within herself, begun advocating with other teachers during ‘integration’ periods for gym / health and science. They seen a new ‘student’ then what they previously knew.

These two simple yet powerful tools to provide her with the ability to be included eventually lead her to a 90% inclusion by the end of the first school year with me in regular classes….the other 10% was always a check in with myself and my EA’s at the time. The inclusiveness became empowering and this girls self-confidence, self-esteem and even the way she walked altered drastically. I remember asking her at the end of the year what she wanted to do as a job when she grew up; the answer was instant…..so many things! She went on and on for five minutes and then stopped….and said much more then before Christmas eh?!!? Enough said….

Now going back to the notion of grades. This particular student was obsessed and so driven by past failures and told she was / would never amount to anything…..it was ingrained within her! She was instilled and thoroughly believed there was no hope for her! So, my question is why define kids by a grade…..what are we actually doing by giving kids an actual letter or numerical value!?!? Nothing but problems….it was demoralizing for this girl and designed her to be a consistent loser. We need to dive into the unique abilities of each student within our rooms, provide them with the means of becoming inclusive dispite struggles and or issues they may have…..empower and be that person for them!

My goal has always been to be that teacher; I remember Mrs Kinnear, Mr. McAurther, Ms Field and all the things they did for me when I struggled as an IEP student myself. I spent most of the time in the resource room. Becoming that teacher allowed me to meet the needs of all my students; and in this case got me an invite to grade 8 graduation even though I left the school two years before. Watching her strut across the stage with her certificate was awesome especially seeing the smile on her face….best part was she told me she was going to be integrated into regular classes in highschool when she started in the fall because SHE requested it and proved to her teachers whom advocated on her behalf too!

The power of Inclusion is remarkable! It can make a significant difference in peoples lives…I am looking forward to this Spring….it will be this gal’s final year in HS, I am hopeful, wishing I get that call again to see the ear to ear grin as she gets her diploma this time around proving to her family and others, but mostly to herself that hard work pays off and that SHE CAN amount to anything she sets her mind too!!

Thanks for listening!

 

 

#CodeBreaker Tweetmeet…

Well I wish I could say I was surprised….but as always Brian Aspinall never let us down! If you do not already follow Brian I would highly suggest it, you can do so here https://twitter.com/mraspinall Within his twitter handle you can also find links to his website which contains endless resources, videos, blog postings etc…as well!

After writing and getting his amazing #CodeBreaker Book published he launched the first ever #CodeBreaker #tweetmeet this morning at 9 am (You can order here) http://amzn.to/2DxFjHG

This tweetmeet was awesome, meeting more people and listening to how they are exploring and using #coding within the classroom! The host was none other then THE MAN Steven Isaacs whom is a legend in my opinion! Here is the Storify of this meet if you missed it….https://twitter.com/mraspinall/status/954728123773411330 It was even trending on Twitter….I had mentioned to Brian before hand wouldn’t it be cool if you get a Best Seller Book (which he did) AND get the First ever #CodeBreaker Tweetmeet Trending (Which he did as well) in one year?!?

Brian will be continuing #CodeBreaker Tweetmeets every 3rd Saturday at 9 am for 30 minutes of stimulating conversations, sharing and showcasing the world of #Coding and #ComputationalThinking

Working within Grand Erie District School Board and infusing a love and passion to explore Computational Thinking and Coding is a passion of mine! I see so much value and endless possibilities to provide incredible learning experiences and possibilities for future careers and success in all aspects of life! You learn so much from coding, such as decomposing hard tasks into manageable problems to tackle, seeing pattern recognition and how to apply pre-learned material to and throughout other aspects of life and problems in coding too, abstraction, algorithms and iterations as my friend Derek Tangredi loves sharing and talking about. Most of all for me Coding and Computational Thinking teaches kids that while in the process of learning (all aspects and curriculum areas) it is totally ok and common to fail, and fail often….within those failures we explore and learn deeper and be able to apply this learning later in life! Failure is attempts in learning as I learned from friends….I see its value now and I am passionate about sharing this with others and infusing / instilling this into Ss, Ts and people in all aspects of life!

When life throws you lemons, you don’t get handed lemon aide for free! You need to face those challenges and the ‘vehicle’ of #coding #computational thinking provides you with the ability to use those Transferable Skills to anything and everything you face throughout your life! People….you are NOT ENTITLED to ANYTHING! You need to WORK FOR EVERYTHING therefore, fail but BE RESILIENT in doing so! This is the #OneWord (please see this blog posting http://sites.granderie.ca/jarcher/2017/12/31/my-oneword-for-2018/)for my #Oneword.

Coding teaches kids, adults and all learners to be RESILIENT and IF nothing else, this should be more then enough for ALL Ts and Parents to inspire to try, and infuse a passion in their children and students to try too!

I am incredibly excited for the next #CodeBreaker Tweetmeet on Saturday Feb 17th as I will be hosting for Brian! Looking forward to some awesome chatter and showcasing some cool projects Ss created and items that people can take away and try out immediately within their classrooms!

So mark those calendars; Saturday, February 17th, 9 am (30 minutes) @ArcherJoe hosting #CodeBreaker Tweetmeet # 2…yahoo

Until next time…

Write to Give…

Here we are now into the first week of Write to Give. This year I have again taken on the Ambassador role and devised, pulled together a dynamite team of educators in Maureen Richardson, Kristine Hollaway, Johnathan So and our reading / coding buddies classroom for the illustrations.

As, the last couple years; this year I am diving deeper into the meaning behind the words we are using within our section ‘Characters and Setting’ as we set the tone, and pace, events within the descriptive words used will writing our section for the rest of the book….to some degree! I am excited to share and see what comes from our ‘subtle inferred meanings’ behind the words and seeing / wondering if other teachers / students ‘see / recognize’ what we could be trying to do!

Another thing I want to try out this year is providing a dialogue between classrooms via OneNote and Skype while writing the book within given parameters. So, for instance once our section is completed it gets submitted. The next and ONLY the next classroom can see that. On the following Friday (next Friday) I would love to touch base after that classroom submits there section, and discuss the outcome. Provide our ‘brainstorming thoughts and feelings’ (Section within our Tab in the OneNote) and see if that teacher / classroom read between the lines and analyze whether or not our ‘subtle inferred meanings’ were indeed deep enough or slightly weak. Also a discussion on why or why they did not go with what we were thinking as well!

This process; otherwise known as the editing process ‘as editors’ will allow me to help support my students, other classrooms as well in character, plot development in their own writing as it did last year when teaching in grade 3 at Hagersville Elementary.

I love Write to Give! I think there is so much we can pull out of this experience for all students; mine and those in Africa and those involved from the other classrooms as well!

What makes this year that much more special is the fact that this July 2018 I am travelling down to Africa alongside Amy and Carey from Write to Give to visit some the of the school’s being built from the effort and teamwork of our students!

Anyways, Write to Give has officially launched and thoroughly looking forward to this event, process and the outcome at the end for my schools and those in Africa!

Until next time…we all have a ‘Write to Give’ back or to those less fortunate…how will you, your students and school pay it forward in the duration of the school year?!?!