Category Archives: Uncategorized

Missing the Grade

Writing Essays

I used to believe that I have strong intrinsic motivation. Why else would I have dedicated countless hours to studying for that biology test or pouring through library books in order to write my essay. I absolutely love school, I am a nerd and I can admit it. I loved my English classes in university, I enjoyed class discussions above all but I also enjoyed the satisfaction of finishing an assignment. Whether it was an essay or a project I loved looking at the completed piece over and over. And then I would hand it in.

I used to think that I was motivated by the process of completing the task. But that can’t be the case. When I try to convince myself that I have a task to complete outside of ‘school’ I can’t seem to motivate myself to do it. I have bought many a canvas and paints to go along for the purpose of painting just for the joy of the process, but I can never bring myself to finish a painting… oftentimes I can’t even motivate myself to begin it. I want to go through my notes from the past 2 years of university and organize them, to pull out the pieces of information that I feel will apply to me in my upcoming career as an educator, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

And why? If I am so intrinsically motivated what is missing? Where is my motivation?

I think the truth is that I have been motivated by something outside of myself. I have been motivated by feedback, and often that feedback comes in the form of a grade. Now I don’t really mean I am motivated by number grades, I always hated being handed an assignment back with nothing (and I mean nothing) but a number written on the top. I didn’t care if that number was 100%, if it wasn’t accompanied by at least a bit of an explanation as to why I deserved that number I would get annoyed. But really, I think I am realizing that I have been motivated by the fact that my assignments have ‘counted’ for something. If I did well on the assignment it would translate to doing well in the class. If I did well in the class it would translate to passing the grade/the semester. If I did well on all my semesters/grades combined, I would graduate.

And why am I motivated in this way? Can I blame the school system for ‘schooling’ me to be this kind of achiever? Or is this just who I am?

Now that I’m stepping into the ‘real’ world this kind of motivation will diminish. I’m learning that feedback comes much less often as an adult than it did when going through school. And especially as an educator, it is more likely that my students will be the ones ‘evaluating’ my projects (lessons) but in a much different manner than I am used to. I fear the feeling of my work being empty because I will not be ‘handing in’ my assignments and receiving immediate feedback. I will not be able to see my accomplishments neatly explained through a percentage written in ink on the top corner of my pages. I will have to adjust to a different kind of feeling of accomplishment, I will need to celebrate the accomplishments of my students rather than of myself. I fear losing motivation because of the lack of “my kind” of motivation, the lack of a grade.

I am going to miss being graded.


And the pendulum swings again…

35 - Get Ready, Get Set, Write

The government of Saskatchewan has launched a “Renewed Approach” to assessing student achievement. The details on how this approach will be administered or what sort of test format it will take are hazy, and the government does a tremendous job at tiptoeing around their “Renewed Approach” so as to not come out and formally call it what it is – standardized testing. The way the “Renewed Approach” is presented makes it sound like a heaven-sent program. Clearly the SK government has hired a masterful research and marketing team at an attempt to disguise the truth behind this “Renewed Approach”.

Admittedly some of the aspects of the assessment do not sound terrible. The fact that the government is attempting to cut down on redundant assessments made by teachers sounds nice, because the more time I (as an educator) can have to focus on guiding my students in learning, the better. And the fact that assessment could potentially be transferable from one school to another for those students that move around a lot is also appealing, it would (hopefully) cut back on some of the inconsistencies in instruction and assessment for transient students. Even the idea of sharing the assessment score with parents and students is great…. granted I would hope this is happening currently- in my opinion this practice should be happening on a consistent basis with or without a mandate from the government.

But, even though some aspects of this “Renewed Approach” sound nice, of course it is never that simple. In my understanding of standardized assessments, the proposed purpose for them is often far from how they are eventually utilized. The whole idea of ranking students and schools against each other often ends up being a large part of how those scores are used. And it appears as though the SK government definitely plans to utilize these assessments in that way. In the News Release from May 16 Education Minister Donna Harpauer said, “We see our scores in international and national testing falling below the Canadian average.” To take on the mentality that we must ‘raise our test scores’ to be on par or better than the national average is a slippery slope to step up to. This sort of mentality leads to stress on every tier of the education system. The Ministry of Education will put stress on the divisions to see better test scores, the stress will trickle down to the Directors of Education which will end up being stress on the teacher’s shoulders to ‘pump out’ super genius children. (And how per-say does the SK government expect our teachers to do better than they are doing now, when in fact the government has currently cut exorbitant funds from the education system, which will lead to higher student to teacher ratios, fewer Educational Assistants and an all around less-ideal teaching/learning situation for teachers and students). Due to this stress some teachers will undoubtedly resort to ‘teaching to the test‘, meaning school will become ultra-academic focused with less room for free exploration and learning through inquiry. The “whole child” approach will be forgotten, a well rounded curriculum will be left behind for a more stringent agenda focused on the areas where students are “falling below the Canadian average”. And most sad of all, the stress will ultimately fall on the students.. who instead of being instilled with a joy for learning and inquiring will become jaded by a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to school. Keep in mind that these ‘standardized assessments’ are extremely biased to children of the dominant culture. Immigrant children, whether first, second or third generation are at a huge disadvantage for many standardized assessments. I have heard that in some situations, schools that are falling behind in their averages will find a way to omit the weaker student test scores from their school’s over all average… sometimes the child is simply asked to stay home that day.

I have many fears with the SK government’s “New Approach”. As a new teacher, I do not look forward to taking the fun out of learning so as to appease the governments desire to see better ‘scores’ coming from the students. With all that I know of the issues surrounding standardized assessment, I cannot help but wonder: Is the government really concerned about the well-being of the students…or is this all a numbers game?

Is gender neutrality possible?

After reading this article on Sweden’s gender neutral pronoun ‘hen’ I will admit that I am torn on the idea of gender neutrality. I understand the desire to replace gender stereotypes in language, and in early children’s play to encourage gender equality and stop perpetuating a patriarchal system. And really the only way to affect change is to go to the beginning of the issue and make changes at the root (in children and in the language permeating society). I get it. However, I don’t know if the changes Sweden is attempting will succeed in washing out billions of years of gender stereotypical behaviour. Children may be encouraged to play gender neutral games, but when they go home at the end of the day, unless their fathers are cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry while their mothers are fixing the truck and watching sports, it is likely that gender stereotypes will prevail in society. The fact that the preschool teachers have to limit free play because it result in gender stereotypical play speaks to the fact that (at least for this generation of children) gender-specific activities are natural and accepted. [And besides as an early childhood educator, I feel a bit of a pang at the idea of forcing children to play in a way that I (as the authority figure) want them to and not letting them have free choice or free expression. There is a way to encourage non-gender-stereotypical play and have a positive environment for all genders without being oppressive.]
Girls can play with trucks

I think at the heart of the issue are some very big questions: What is gender? (answer found here?) Is gender an innate part of a person? Or is it constructed by society? It seems that Sweden is of the opinion that it is constructed by society, that if they make changes to the way their society reacts to gender, it will in essence change the definition of ‘male’ or ‘female’. But this is getting into some hot water. What about LGBT? If gender is constructed by society, are they essentially saying that people’s environments ’cause’  a person’s gender?… that environment impacts whether a person ‘becomes/is’ LGBT or not? I have always been encouraged to believe that an LGBT person is born with their gender identity… so the idea that environment leads to LGBT (although not entirely impossible) is a bit too conspiratorial to me.

The article raises the point that having ‘three’ genders in language would be too confusing for young minds  to understand. I don’t know a lot about language studies, but I do know that there are languages that have three genders as part of their regular vocabulary. In my first two years of university  I studied German, and as it turns out the language uses ‘den’, ‘der’ and ‘das’. Das being the neutral gender. For me this was extremely confusing, but I imagine that is because I am not a native German speaker. To the native German, using three genders would be second nature. My point being that the argument of adding a third gender being too confusing for the young generation learning Swedish is void, if consistently utilized, the third gender would very easily be adapted by the young language learners (it is likely that the issue of adapting to the change in language would actually occur among the older learners who have always used only two genders).

I don’t have issue with gender equality, in fact I do agree that much of our society is perpetuating a paternal hierarchy which in my opinion would be beneficial to change. However, I’m not entirely sold on the way that Sweden is going about this change. I have no  issues with the use of the gender neutral noun, but I do find fault with forcing children to play a certain way. Although it is true that radical change may need to occur for society to ever shift from being paternal, I don’t agree with that change being limiting or oppressive to the developing generation. In fact, it seems a bit ironic that in order to reach a society less oppressive to the non-male individuals, there must be oppression in other areas to meet those goals.

Where do you stand?

Final Project: Grade 1 Tech Infused Project

For my final project I created a technology infused project/unit aimed at the grade one level. To showcase my project in an organized way I created a website using weebly. I found weebly to be a very easy website-creation tool, you simply drag-and-drop the elements you want to add to your pages. It is limiting when it comes to photo placement (as are many of the sites I’ve been working with like wordpress).  With weebly I couldn’t figure out how to have an image right beside or integrated into a text box, it wasn’t a big deal, but I do like to have as much control over the aesthetics of a site I’m creating as possible.

The grade one project I created is on the topic of “My Family” and is based off of several Saskatchewan curricular outcomes in the grade one curriculum. The main goal of the project is to incorporate technology into the students’ learning. This is done through a class mind map/idea web activity, several opportunities for students to share about their families through digital storytelling including a video and sharing the progress of the project through a class blog. Teachers are encouraged to employ the help of parents or other volunteers especially if the students are unfamiliar with using computers. The project wraps up with a celebration of learning where students have the opportunity to share their favorite creation with their classmates, friends and family.

Part of the process of finding resources and digital storytelling tools was getting to sample them. I created many example stories about my own family so that I could determine if a site was ‘grade one’ friendly or not. Trying out all the sites was very time consuming, but I had a lot of fun with it! My resources for creating this site and this project came from our class Social Media Resource list and from cooltoolsforschools. I also reached out to my twitter PLN with regards to what sites to use when setting up a class blog, and what tools are appropriate for students in grade one:

From this, I was able to connect with educators who were gracious enough to let me share their blogs on my site as examples of class blogs.

Its been a good experience creating this project, if I teach grade one I could definitely see myself using and adapting this project for my own students. Feel free to use and adapt what I’ve created and if you feel the site/project needs any major changes, or if you really like what I’ve done, I’d love to hear your feedback- send me a comment here or on the comment page of the project site.

Happy teaching!

Summary of Learning in ECMP 355

In ECMP 355 I was introduced to many online resources and tools that I was previously unaware of. I used the class Social Media Resource List a lot to try out new sites and find sites to use for my final project. I also used the cooltoolsforschools wiki to find further resources and sites. I began to establish my Professional Learning Network through Twitter. This course also helped me to better understand how to use the web in different ways (ie. as ‘me’ vs as an educator). It has even changed the way I compile posts on facebook. I won’t go into much detail because most of what I want to share is covered in the above video.

Throughout my time in ECMP 355 I have contributed to the learning of my fellow classmates and to the learning of ECMP 355 students from other sections (see: quote, Twit all about it, Rhythm learning, Facebook Parenting, Craft Ideas, Squares, Problem Behaviors, Light Photography, re:India). I have also reached beyond our ECMP 355 group and have commented on bloggers across the world, including some student blogs (see: teaching so far, Equal Society, SexEd Bill, CCR, In a pocket ). What I find most interesting is when I contribute to people’s learning and do not even realize it! I’ve had my blog posts mentioned in other people’s blogs, and most recently excerpts from my post “Live teacher Conference” were included in the Teachers Teaching Teachers post detailing their chat from March 28th. It’s really awesome that they found my post and linked back to it- getting my blog more “out there”.

ECMP 355 has been a wonderful learning experience! A huge thanks goes out to Alec for helping us all develop and hone our technological literacy and digital skills.


Rough & Tumble Play

IMG_2178 Smother Kevin_4071 Scuffle

Should kids do it?

I recently participated in creating a project for my Early Childhood Education class at the University of Regina. I worked together with two fellow classmates. We wanted to interview individuals (children and adults) and find out what their opinions and experiences of rough and tumble play are. The definition of rough and tumble play that were working off of was from Play Development and Early Education (Johnson, J., Christie, J. and Wardle, F. 2005) and is:

“In rough and tumble play the bodies of playmates and the actions of playmates become a focal object of play, and children pretend to hurt each other rather than engaging in real aggression. That is, rough and tumble play is play fighting, not actual fighting. This form of play aggression may involve physical movements such as mock wrestling, running, chasing/fleeing, kicking, pouncing, piling on, pushing, open-hand hitting, and poking, as well as loud noises.”

What do you think about rough and tumble play? Should rough and tumble play be something that children are allowed to participate in? Why do kids play like this? Is this a negative or positive kind of play?

Live teacher conference

Although you're far...

Tonight I participated in my first live educational conference online through EdTechTalk. The conference is called “Teachers Teaching Teachers” and takes place every Wednesday night. I did not join the group via video, but rather just watched/listened to the other participants and participated through a live chat feature. I didn’t feel comfortable joining as a video participant because I wanted to get my bearings first. However, I think I would have felt more connected and I would have gotten more out of the experience had I just bit the bullet and joined in.

It took me a while to catch up to what was being discussed. Participants were throwing around the term “Youth Voices” and I thought at first that it was just a cool catch phrase for high school kids who were blogging. It wasn’t until i joined the live chat that I got a better idea of what Youth Voices is. Youth Voices, it turns out, is a huge site where the main purpose is to offer a space for youth to participate in discussion. It is a place where youth can post their thoughts and comment on other youth’s thoughts. It is used by many middle years and high school teachers to give their students a forum for discovering their identity in the online community. One educator I connected with was Chris Sloan, who gave me insight through the live chat into the basics of Youth Voices and how he and his students are using the site.

One of the discussions among the video participants revolved around how teachers should/are assessing their student’s contributions on Youth Voices. One educator shared how she is setting guidelines for how much/what her students need to contribute to Youth Voices within a specific time frame. For example, she will stipulate that her students need to write one post and make one comment within a week, and if they do both they get the marks for it. This particular educator works at a school in the Bronx and has found that participating in Youth Voices has empowered her students to have their voices heard. She noted how much time and effort can be put into a short comment, because the students are very aware of their online presence and ensuring they present themselves appropriately.

Although I was ‘there’ I had a difficult time being fully present in the conversation going on. I think that a lot of this had to do with being a listener, but not a participant. The fact that I was also trying to eat dinner at the same time probably served as a distraction as well.  Also, I found the constant switching from video to video to be distracting at times. I don’t know if it is set up that the moderator of the group chooses who to focus on, or if it is set up as an auto detect where the video switches to whoever is making noise. Whatever the case, it was odd for the focus to switch around to other screens than the person who was talking. I also found it difficult to follow the conversation because there wasn’t really an introduction into what the topic was. I guess the participants must have all been very familiar with Youth Voices…again, I’m sure that if I had joined as a video participant and been open about my naivety to the topic, the conversation would have been shaped much differently. But regardless, because I was lost on the main gist of what was being discussed, I couldn’t really follow many of the details. Despite my not being able to get much out of the conversation, it was an interesting experience to view it. I think the biggest thing I got out of the experience was that I was also able to network with educators from far and wide- always a positive when you are working on developing your professional learning network.

With regards to the idea of having live conferences/conversations via EdTechTalk, and other sources such as Classroom 2.0 , I think it is a really easy and personal way to connect with fellow educators. I would love to come back to join in a conversation in the future, especially if I am looking for information specifically related to the topic being discussed. I am curious to know whether there are any live educator chats/conferences specifically for Early Childhood Educators. If you know of one, pass it on!