My Grade Team and the 7 Cs

31 10 2010

Reflection 4

Reflecting on the Seven C’s

Take a moment to consider the context that you are currently teaching or working in. At this point, is there a particular ‘C” that appears to be most relevant to your class, school or work environment? Can the C’s be separated? Record your thoughts about the Seven C’s.

7 Cs: Culture of Learning, Communication, Collaboration/Cooperation, Connection, Continual, Community.

At the moment, I am grateful to note that my grade team is moving towards much more collaboration and co-operation both at a team level and in our teaching practices. For example, we have moved towards having weekly team meetings where we collaborate on creating common homework packages, which are posted on D2L for our students. We also co-operate on creating lists of websites for our students to get onto for extra practice (for example, recently, the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives and www.multiplication.com). We are also co-operating to have common testing materials and approaches, whereas we did not have this in previous years. This helps to create a community of uniformity in assessment. For our students, we are moving away from the passive consumer model for teaching Social Studies to a participatory and productive model. Students will be working together to find information, synthesize it and present it (they will be producers, not consumers in this scenario). We were having reading and testing — a stand and deliver approach to teaching Alberta’s natural regions — but now we have a megaproject in the works. Each or our classes is going to cover one of the regions, and then share the information with the other classes. Within each class, groups will work together, using a list of resource websites, to cover aspects of the natural regions – resources, climate, landforms, etc. This is the realization of a culture of collaborative learning for both our grade team and our Grade 4 students. We will be looking at different ways of mentoring students to use technology for communicating their information in presentations – Youtube, podcasting, videocasting, information from websites, such as the Glenbow Museum’s, etc. When all this is shared in our new Grade 4 learning community, it is really vivid that we are moving in the right directions when it comes to the Seven Cs and teaching/learning in the 21st Century. The BIG C that is so in the forefront at the moment is that my grade team is collaborating far more in the past, and we are certainly into the other six Cs. I perceive that the Seven Cs are very connected, and the only way to separate them is to pull them out and see where they are popping up in the learning community. The Seven Cs together seem to define Gestalt: a configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts.

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Connectivism in Education

31 10 2010

In a 40-minute chat on Saturday, four of our group members discussed the potentials and pitfalls of Connectivism. Essentially, there was agreement that 21st Century students need to be connected so that they can be producers in a co-operative network of learners, as the information shared in the D2L course Content sections repeatedly states. This is very simply and eloquently purveyed through the Connectivism in Plain English video clip, found on 2 d. of the Content page. When the CBE, and other school boards, put policies such as AR 1064, filters and limits upon choices of sites, learners have limits on connectability at school, whereas outside the school students can have wider accessibilities. There is no way to totally protect students from pitfalls and dangers in connecting to the world outside the CBE. What we can do is educate students to be ‘cyber smart’.

Inevitably, there will be a point where a few students will either see something they should not, or something of theirs (an image, or comments, etc.) will be shared by people with bad motives. The best way to protect students is to promote netiquette. The chat discussion had some focus on digital citizenship, and how teachers should prepare students to work in the virtual environment set out in the Content section resources.

Do policies, such as AR 1064 and Internet filtering, align with the practices laid out in the literature about Connectivism? Really, filtering does take some of the edge off the effectiveness of teachers who are meant to become, as the Connectivism in Plain English video clip describes, mentors who teach how to build networks, how to differentiate fact from opinion, how to vet information and how to communicate properly and respectfully. Having more access to resources to tools is important, but we are in the midst of a shift in learning culture. Students will need to be more familiar with netiquette in the near future, until they are independent enough to have full access to the World Wide Web.





The Stones of Forgiveness

24 10 2010

Every time I take a certain route on my walks in serene Nose Hill Park, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I visit these spiritual stones and take the passageway between them. I call them The Stones of Forgiveness, and I term the gap between them The Portal. When I stride through, I mentally ask the stones to help me to forgive others and myself, and to allow me to be renewed.

   Forgiveness is a hard choice to make for many people in this life. We hold onto old angers, hurts, resentments, regrets and worries too much, when we are merely creatures living on in an obscure periphery of the Milky Way. I pray to let go of these negative thoughts, and to let God take care of them. It is a journey, and sometimes I find myself remembering an old hurt from childhood, or after, and getting really nutty about it. Next, I end up realizing what I am doing to myself. It makes me think of Bugs Bunny in the Gremlins episode, where he is tapping a bomb with a hammer. The gremlins had driven him to that. He realizes what he is up to, and shouts, “What am I doing?” I can be just like Bugs Bunny in that episode. Do we all have these mischievous gremlins, clawing at our serenity? I have even, at times, gone to gaze at myself in a mirror after I have caught myself in a resentment brainstorm because this can help me come back to reason. Why is it so hard to let bygones be bygones? Why do these vivid memories of pain become so stamped into our minds? I think it is engrained in some of us, according to how we have been raised. My wife is much better at letting go of the past, and I can see why. She grew up in a very stable and loving family. When I was getting to know her family, I wondered what was going on after I left. Did the insane shouting, criticizing, insulting and humiliating recommence? No, it did not. It was never there. My wife does not need The Stones of Forgiveness, but I think I will need them for some time. I look forward to the day where I can go through them and simply be thankful.





Boreal Chickadees, So Friendly!

17 10 2010

Wow! What a fantastic day I had with family in Calgary’s city parks! In the morning, my eldest daughter, Ariel, and I went up the south side of curvy Nose Hill. The sky was a mixture of beautiful blues and the clouds were mottled splashes of whiteness. Ariel inquired, “The mountains don’t look real. Why are they blue?” I noted that the Rocky Mountains do seem blue, and that there was a song about that – The Blue Canadian Rockies. We observed hawks floating, gliding and dipping in the chilly wind. On the way down the hill, while looking for previously-seen deer bones, we scared up a grouse. The inevitable chatty magpies and crows were flitting in the crisp trees.

After lunch, I took the whole family to Baker Park, down by the eternal Bow River. We went armed with crackers and a camera. Chickadees are very friendly there, and come to land right on our hands when we offer up crumbs. Today we had a grand surprise! There were not only Black-capped Chickadees, but also some Boreal Chickadees! It was the first time we had ever fed the latter, and I can not actually remember the last time I saw one in the Calgary area. Today, the Boreal Chickadees were even more sociable than our Black-capped friends.





Avarice at Thanksgiving

10 10 2010

So, another gagging-dry-turkey Thanksgiving has come with all its cash outlay for the Franken food trimmings. How nice. I sure hope the bird we descend upon today, like indolent carrion crows to a carcass, has not been given numerous growth hormone injections, nor mega doses of antibiotics to keep it tottering about before its banal execution. The bird’s condition is so indicative of our money-hungry society. The massive poultry farm operation where the bird lived and perished miserably simply looks at the bottom line and is so thankful. The companies that came up with the growth hormones and antibiotics are also so, so, appreciative. Does anyone else think of how these birds are beheaded en mass by having them trussed, hung up by their feet and then placed onto a mechanical device that takes long lines of them to the beheading apparatuses? There is no rosy-apple-cheeked woman with a polka dot scarf on her head plucking the dead thing, either. Nor is this archetype happily holding grain in her skirts with one hand and tossing grain to content turkeys while singing wholesome songs. The modern reality of Thanksgiving does not reflect the warm and fuzzy images of happy turkeys found in colouring competitions. Really, it is all about profit. The butter-injected cooked turkey corpses are vibrantly purveyed to us through advertisers who, as everyone else involved with our avian friends, are so very grateful at Thanksgiving. Megastore owners are rubbing their hands with glee, gazing lovingly at charts showing profits versus costs! While we sit down to what we hope would be a Normal Rockwell-like Thanksgiving festive dinner, mechanical engineers are likely pondering how to create more efficient Turkey death camp contraptions. These Gears, too, are so gratified at Thanksgiving. Looking at the picture below, we can see that someone in the business of transporting turkeys is likely not thankful to find that profit margins have suffered. Perhaps there could be another round of injections snuck in, before the crippled cages are hurled into the smoke-belching trucks?





Leaves are Spiritual

3 10 2010

To some, a leaf is merely a temporary appendage for a tree that brings it food through photosynthesis. A leaf forms in the spring, is green in summer, and then decomposes in the autumn. The cycle can be specifically described in scientific detail. To others, a leaf is more spiritual.

          For me, feeling the stickiness of a budding spring leaf, hearing the wind rattle leaves in summer, and watching them drift down in golden splendor in autumn gives me a feeling of awe, and wholeness. To walk under trees on a crisp fall day, to experience the rich smells and sights of autumn, is a welcome severance from being another mere lemming-like city dweller blundering about en mass with the others on asphalt routes to mundane ends. What has more value, experiencing natural magnificence or pursuing non-tangible perceptions such as the economy? I feel a spiritual connection to trees, and leaves, as my Druid ancestors certainly did. There is much more to a leaf than its biological composition. I have very often picked up lovely leaves and pressed them in books and, years later, have opened pages of forgotten tomes to find them waiting there. They are always with me; I am always with them.

          One time, while living in Taiwan, I went to a small artificial lake by Tung Hai University in Taichung. I was going through a gloomy phase, following a break up. While I was walking down some stone steps on the east end of the area a curled leaf was spiraling in front of me, suspended in the air. I watched it, intrigued. After a minute or so, I tried to walk around it. It moved to remain in front of me, whether I went right or left, so I stood and kept watching it. I perceived a very slight breeze, and wondered how the leaf could continue to twirl like it was. No other leaves on the steps were stirring. Finally, it elegantly drifted to the ground. I picked it up very respectfully, knowing that it was a sign that my life was going to improve. It certainly did. I, by chance, met the woman who was to become my wife a few weeks later. I clearly remember the cherished leaf being on my dresser. It simply disappeared, just as all leaves do. Like all leaves it was transitory, yet eternal.