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Sunday, 1 November 2015

It Should NEVER Be About Whether It Is Right Or Wrong!

Just have to weigh in on this one. It has gone completely viral, and everyone is talking about it. How awesome is that? All of social media is united in discussing the commutative property of multiplication!

Why 5 x 3 = 5 + 5 + 5 Was Marked Wrong

I think this whole debate underlines our assessment issues in Math today. Educators should not be marking questions like this as "right" or "wrong".  The point of math questions should not be about discovering who is right and who is wrong, but about uncovering student thinking. That is why it is far better to provide feedback rather than a "mark" on a question like this. Better still, use it to promote a class discussion. It isn't social media that should be discussing this math question, but the very class that was asked it.

We don't know what the student was thinking here. For question 2 the child drew an array, we don't know how the child was visually looking at that array without having a conversation with him or her about it.

Let's stop telling children they are right or wrong and start asking them to tell us about their solutions! They might surprise us all!

Who Is In Your Class? New Role - New Learning

I have a new role this year. I am a Vice Principal in a K-8 Elementary school. Some might see this as a "logical next step" or the "natural progression" of a career in Education. But in all honestly, Administration was NEVER on my radar. Those who know me know that I am passionate about children and I am passionate about learning. I have never been interested in management and I have always thought of administrators as managers.

Working in Curriculum, however, I had opportunities to go into many different schools, and it became quickly apparent that the schools that had a culture of learning, the schools that moved, were the schools where the administrators saw themselves as "Instructional Leaders". These administrators knew how to empower their staff and students to make learning happen.

How did they do it? Could I do it?

I strongly believe that the way we "do school" needs to change. I've been trying to find the best place I can be to support that change on a larger scale, because a great classroom here and there is not enough. Every child should have the opportunity to learn, to be motivated and interested, to be curious and to feel successful.

I had the pleasure of seeing Steven Katz speak last fall. He gave me lots to think about. According to Katz, the connection between changes in teacher thinking and practice and student achievement is very strong. But the connection between professional learning and changes in teacher thinking and practice is much more fuzzy.

What does this mean to me?

- Sending a teacher to a professional development in-service does not ensure changes in thinking or practice.
- Change in teacher practice is not enough - compliance does not beget improvement in student achievement. There needs to be a change in teacher thinking for the change in practice to actually have a positive impact.

So basically, whoever is doing the thinking is doing the learning. If the "System" is telling teachers what to do and how to do it, teachers aren't doing the thinking, the System is, so teachers are not learning. They may be compliant, and so it might look like their practice has changed, but unless they believe in that practice, it will not be enacted with a fidelity that leads to improvement for students. Nor will the change be sustainable.

What we need to do is provide the time, space, resources, and permission for teachers to do the heavy thinking. And we need to join them in it. Administrators need to learn with their teachers.

So, this year, my learning is all about how to do this best. Steven Katz asked us "Who is in your class?" And suddenly I realized I could be an administrator. It is not about being a manager (although those pieces need to happen as well... perhaps more on that in the next post). It is about building relationships and empowering people. It is about creating a culture of learning where it is safe to take risks and where we believe in one another's ability to do what is right and necessary.

If I believe that students should own their own learning, then I must also believe that teachers must own theirs. Steven Katz said that to be a good administrator is to "influence people to change". I think it is even more than that. To be a good administrator is to inspire and empower people to grow and to create the conditions necessary for that growth to happen.

That is what I am hoping to learn over the next few years. How do I create the conditions necessary for learning and growth? I'm blessed to be with a principal who has created a culture of learning in her school. I plan to pick her brain, question her every move, and take some risks of my own.

I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Teacher Agency - Who Owns the Professional Learning?

This morning it feels as though my brain is going to explode. Actually, it feels like that most days lately.

In September I took a secondment with the Student Achievement Division on the Capacity Building Team at the Ministry of Education. In the past six months I've had the opportunity to learn from so many deep thinkers in education. I've been participating in wonderful reflections, discussions, and heated debates on teaching and learning and most of the time, my head is spinning and moving in so many directions that is difficult to tease all of that learning apart into specific threads.

But one of the threads that I keep coming back to is the notion of "agency". In January, they posed a question on the OSSEMOOC blog that I follow: "What is your #oneword for 2015?" Without hesitation, my immediate thought was "agency".

I first came across that word about a year ago, and I brought it up at one of our recent planning meetings at work. This word alone has inspired great on-going discussion and led to shifts in our current thinking on learning.

Agency ... is an individual’s sense of what they can do and what they think they can do. Duggins, Shaun D., "The Development of Sense of Agency." Thesis, Georgia State University, 2011.

Agency is the power of the individual to choose what happens next. (Lindgren, R., & McDaniel, R. (2012). Transforming Online Learning through Narrative and Student Agency. Educational, Technology & Society, 15 (4), 344–355.)

I first became intrigued by the notion of student agency when I saw these images on Twitter.

Images courtesy of flickr user Bill Ferriter

These images can be found on Bill Ferriter's blog The Tempered Radical where he distinguishes between the notions of engagement vs empowerment. I believe that "agency" is more than just being engaged in the learning; having a sense of agency is about being empowered to doggedly choose to pursue learning.

I've also been inspired by the work of Alan November and his book "Who Owns the Learning". Alan November explains that with the advent of educational technology we are living in the
"Age of the Empowered Learner". I have written a fair bit on how using blended learning in a grade six classroom really empowered my students and helped them to take ownership for their learning.

But in my current role I am not working directly with students. I support the learning of adults. To be specific, I support PROFESSIONAL LEARNING. I've been interested in professional learning for a long time. It is actually a rather elusive term for me. We tend to call any event where we pull educators away from their regular work to tell them something new "professional learning", but I often have my doubts that much "learning" is actually taking place. In fact, I wrote a blog post about the difference between professional learning communities and professional learning networks because I have sometimes been frustrated by the PLC's that I've been involved in (which you can find here). 

I believe we need to start considering the term "agency" more deeply when it comes to teacher learning. This question was posted recently on the OSSEMOOC blog:

"How does shift occur from a mindset where learning is provided to a culture where learning is sought?"

As I ponder the idea of teacher agency and reflect on our current professional learning practices I end up with so many more questions:
  • Millions of dollars are spent each year on professional learning in the province of Ontario, how do we know what impact it has on changes in teacher practice and student learning? 
  • How do we differentiate the learning of our teachers since we know that they all have different experiences, skills, strengths, interests, and most importantly - students with different needs?
  • How do we provide system level and school level professional learning and yet still provide teachers with voice and choice in their learning? 
  • How can we leverage the use of technology to empower our teachers to be innovative learners?
My friend Regan and I have had frequent conversations about professional learning. We often question our own beliefs about learning and teachers' motivation to learn. There is an expression in education that is "Go with the Goers". Some teachers are seen as "Goers" - they exhibit a learning stance, believe they can and should be constantly improving their practice, and seek out new learning on their own. I often wonder why it is we should go with the Goers if they are going to get there anyway? Isn't it the slow starters we should be focusing our attention on? 

This in turn leads to more questions:
  • Can we help teachers develop an inquiry stance about their teaching practice if they currently don't have one? If so, how do we do that? 
  • Can we impact teachers' motivation to learn? 
  • Can we develop in teachers a sense of agency? If so, how do we do that? 
  • How does our current professional learning practice either foster or inhibit a sense of agency in our teachers?
These questions are really important because research indicates that teacher efficacy directly impacts student learning, and teacher efficacy is tied closely to teacher agency. 

"Teachers who set high goals, who persist, who try another strategy when one approach is found wanting—in other words, teachers who have a high sense of efficacy and act on it—are more likely to have students who learn (Shaughnessy, 2004)" ~ as quoted in "Teacher Efficacy and Why Does It Matter".

I realized as I reflected on these questions that I had a fixed mindset about this topic. I believed that some people are more motivated to learn than others, some educators have a learning stance, and others don't. In fact, teacher agency is often defined as an innate quality.

Teacher agency is typically viewed as a quality within educators, a matter of personal capacity to act (Priestly et al., 2012) usually in response to stimuli within their pedagogical environment. It describes an educator who has both the ability and opportunity to act upon a set of circumstances that presents itself within that individual’s leadership, curricular or instructional roles. The educator described would then draw from acquired knowledge and experience to intercede appropriately and effectively. Agency is increasingly rare in the educational world of prescriptive improvement, and the term is too “often utilized as a slogan to support school-based reform” (Priestley, Biesta & Robinson, 2012, p. 3). Teacher Agency in America and Finland By Roger Wilson, GVSU Faculty

As I've been exposed more and more to the work of Carol Dweck, however, I realize that the definition above is very much a fixed mindset. Do we believe that all educators are capable, competent and curious? If so, then the old adage "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire" by Yeats is as true for educators as it is for students. So the question for educational leaders becomes not "What should professional learning look like?" so much as "How do we light a fire in our teachers?"

How, then, do we (in the words of Lucy West) create a multi-generational learning culture in which educators - including ourselves - and students become learners in the company of one another?

Kristen Swanson poses the following question on her blogpost #HackPD:

What if the only PD ever offered by a school was "How to Learn Something When You Want to Know Something?"

It is time to re-think professional learning, to look closely at its impact on students and teachers, and perhaps to redefine it. We need to be thinking about why teachers need to own their professional learning and what that will look like at both the school and system level. We need to start thinking about how we are going to develop agency in our teachers and think less about what content, skills and strategies we need to be teaching them.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

What is "New Math"?

Last week my father emailed me to ask what I thought of Mr. Anthony Quinn who is running for one of our School Board's Trustee positions. I told my dad I would look up Mr. Quinn and then get back to him with my opinion. I found the following from one of Mr. Quinn's campaign newsletters that I would like to discuss here.

This "news" piece really bothers me because it is rife with misconceptions and incorrect information. The current Math curriculum that we use in Ontario was written in 2005 and is an updated version of the older curriculum written in 1999, so why it is being called "new math" is something I am having trouble understanding. An analysis of curricula of high-achieving regions around the world indicates that our Math curriculum is aligned with those that are the most successful in the world. But in addition, it is my understanding that the gap between our highest achieving students and our lowest achieving students is smaller than anywhere else in the world. 

I am also struggling to determine where the term "discovery math" comes from. I have been an Elementary school educator for 13 years, and until now, I have not heard that term before. I did a search of our Math curriculum document and I found the word "discover" in two places:

Students who are willing to make the effort required and who are able to apply themselves will soon discover that there is a direct relationship between this effort and their achievement in mathematics. Pg. 4 of the Ontario Math Curriculum, 2005


Graphs and statistics bombard the public in advertising, opinion polls, population trends, reliability estimates, descriptions of discoveries by scientists, and estimates of health risks, to name just a few.
Pg. 9 of the Ontario Math Curriculum, 2005

Certainly, as you can see, the term "discover" does not figure largely in our current Math curriculum in Ontario. However, Mr. Quinn seems to be under the misguided notion that students are expected to "discover" math concepts on their own, which is very much NOT the case, and he would know this if he were to have a look at our Math Curriculum document. In fact, if he were to scan the verbs used in our overall and specific expectations for Math he would find terms such as: identify, describe, construct, create, analyse, compare, connect, extend, and determine, just to name a few. 

Mr. Quinn also has an italicized quote that suggests that students are not expected to know their multiplication facts. Quite the opposite is true. Here is an example of an expectation from our Grade 4 Number Sense strand:

– multiply to 9 x 9 and divide to 81 ÷ 9,
using a variety of mental strategies (e.g.,
doubles, doubles plus another set, skip

If someone were to ask me what is the difference between the expectations in the Math Curriculum currently being taught from what was taught in the 1970's I would have to say that when I was growing up, I was expected to have rote memorization of my multiplication facts whereas students today are expected to have conceptual understanding of mathematical operations and can represent them in a variety of ways, as well as use them to solve problems. 

Students today are not only expected to solve questions like ¾ ÷ ½ = ?, they are also expected to be able to represent a real-life situation where that expression would be needed to solve the problem. I wonder how many people educated in the 1970's are able to do that? I was taught "Yours is not to reason why, just invert and multiply". Students today ARE expected to reason and they are expected to be able to explain why multiplying by the inverse fraction provides the solution for the division of fractions. 

I have spoken at several schools' Family Numeracy nights as well as at the Halton Catholic Parents Conference and each time I begin by asking how many parents in the audience think of themselves as "Math People". Invariably, less than half of the people in the room raise their hands. I want ALL of our students to see themselves as "Math People". Learning Math the way I did simply did NOT achieve that result. So I disagree strongly with Mr. Quinn's statement about "fixing something that wasn't broken"; there was something very "broken" in the way that Math used to be taught thirty and forty years ago. 

As Dr. Christine Suurtamm said at a recent symposium I was fortunate enough to attend, the mathematical thinking we are teaching is so complex, we definitely do not support "discovery" learning. But we do support the generation of student algorithm. We are supporting students actively participating and thinking, not just being passive consumers regurgitating and performing rote procedures. Kids need to do the math to learn the math. They need opportunities to makes sense of the mathematical skills they are learning. If you look at the curriculum, you will see it includes traditional algorithms and mental math, and in addition, the thinking involved in doing the math. 

Our current EQAO data indicates that students are actually doing quite well in using procedural knowledge. The area they are having difficulty with is in solving multi-step multi-strand problems. No amount of rote procedural knowledge is going to help them think their way through these types of problems. Students need to have deep conceptual understanding of number sense, including operational sense, place value, and proportional reasoning to be able to successfully solve the types of problems they are currently struggling with. They need to develop a facility in composing and decomposing number.

Our students need procedural fluency, which implies much more than merely knowing their Math facts. Yes, they need to know those facts, but that is not enough. Procedural fluency is the ability to perform math operations flexibly and see the connections between those operations. Rote memorization of a procedure does not mean that you have conceptual understanding of that procedure. 

Do we need to learn more about teaching and learning Math in Ontario? Absolutely! We need to support our teachers in developing their own conceptual understandings and pedagogical knowledge in Math because they are victims of what I will call the "old Math". We need EVERY student to achieve at high levels in Math in Ontario and we are not there yet. I'm sure if Mr. Quinn took the time to read the Board's Improvement Plan, he would see that a philosophy of continuous improvement exists and that no one is suggesting "there is nothing we can do".

I am sure that if Mr. Quinn is elected as a trustee he will dedicate himself fully and devote himself to representing the voice of our parent population. I hope that he, and all of our trustees, will take the time to look at our Math curriculum so that they can provide the informed support that is very much needed if we are to improve student learning in Math.

I will leave you with a typical question from the Junior EQAO Math Assessment. I ask you to consider - could you have solved this question when you were in Grade Six? Can you solve it now? 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Things We Learn From Our Students

Every year, in June, our school board has a special event called Staff Recognition Night. During this auspicious occasion, we honour those staff members who are retiring. Our retirees are asked if they would like to make a speech, and many of them do. I love hearing those speeches and listening to how our various staff members have been modelled and shaped by their careers in education. 

One of my favourite speeches this year was by a Secondary teacher named Mark Whinton. Mark taught Tech as a Department Head at one of our high schools for twenty years. In his speech, he shared how he was influenced and supported by his many colleagues. But what I really loved about his speech was how Mark shared what he has learned from his students over the years. 

I've asked Mark if I could share his comments here on my blog and he graciously agreed. 

CC licensed photo  shared by Flickr user DigitalRalph
From my students I've learned a few things over the years, primarily about technology;
            1. Be an early adopter of technology - while students were learning Facebook back in 2007 the             Board was busy blocking it on our intranet system so they couldn't use it but a                                         student showed me and others an easy way around it. - As of last August the Board now has its             own Facebook page and it can be accessed from school - who is teaching who here?
2. Go to YouTube (now the third most visited place on the planet) was the “go to” place if you wanted to fix something.
3. What they were interested in was all self taught and they didn't do it for a credit or money but simply because they were interested in learning it. - texting, developing, editing and sharing images, videos and music. Creating and using social media sites developing websites and blogs etc. Amazingly I realized they had created nothing short of a new system of knowledge. This system is so prevalent and undeniable that in today’s society the primary source of knowledge comes from a system of digital news not a classroom, not a newspaper, not a book and not a teacher. It comes from everyone and anyone at anytime.
So in my retirement I see myself putting to good use the lessons I have been taught by my students by creating an HCDSB NEWS site for former students, and staff, something I hope that will keep me connected to my former students and my many friends at the HCDSB.

When I suggest to some teachers that they tear down their classroom walls by encouraging their students to connect to the world outside of the classroom, they tell me they are not yet comfortable with the technology. I think they need to learn from Mark Whinton's experience. Students are teaching themselves how to use social media to share, connect and learn from one another, not because they are being told to, just because they are interested in learning how. We need to jump on that bandwagon. We don't need to be comfortable to do so. Our students, even the youngest ones, will teach us! We can and should be learners together in the classroom. 

We need more teachers like Mark Whinton who recognize that in education we can't afford to be the last ones joining in the digital world. We need to be the early adopters, the trend setters, the ones willing to take the risks. That is what we need our students to become when they get out into the world to take care of us in our retirement, the innovators and problems solvers. We need to start promoting that now!

As you step into your classroom in the next few weeks, please think about technology. How will you make it available to your students? What would you like them to teach you about their digital worlds? How will you use the ability to connect with others outside the classroom to stimulate and empower your students this year?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Exploring Fractions with a Growth Mindset

I love summer. I love it for so many reasons. One of the reasons I love summer is because it gives me the opportunity to tutor students at my own pace with no "curriculum" other than what I believe to be good instructional practice to follow.

This summer I'm tutoring a 10 year old who has just finished Grade Five. I have worked with this student before, (I will call her Grace because she's an incredibly graceful young lady), and I know that she has struggled with Math for the last few years. Grace is pretty typical of many students that I have taught. Traditional math instruction is not that effective for her. She is quiet, and if something doesn't make sense to her she won't ask questions, preferring not to single herself out. 

Grace also has some issues with her short term memory. Many of her teachers have expected her to learn her addition and multiplication facts by rote memory. That is just not a realistic expectation for Grace. She has difficulty memorizing facts. Last summer, Grace and I explored repeated addition, skip counting, and making groups. Although she doesn't know her facts with lightening speed, she can figure out any multiplication question using strategies that makes sense to her. She understands what multiplication means. But some of her teachers don't value this, and as a result, at the tender age of 10, she does not really see herself as a "math person". 

I also love the summer because it gives me time to work on my own professional learning. In past summers I have taken Marilyn Burns' Math Solutions course and attended our Ministry's Math Camppp. This summer is no different and I am currently taking Jo Boaler's MOOC How to Learn Math. (You can watch the Youtube videos here). There is a common thread through all of the learning - Math is not a textbook subject! You don't develop deep understandings of mathematical concepts by completing worksheets or workbooks. In order to develop conceptual understanding in math, in order to see connections between concepts, in order to love math and think creatively in math, students need multiple opportunities to explore math. I love the summer because I can work one on one with students, give them those opportunities to explore and construct their own understandings, and watch and listen to learn how they learn. 

I knew that Grace had had trouble with fractions this year, so that is where we started this summer. 

This was an SOS I got from Grace in the Spring

More than ever, I've been trying to use Growth Mindset language. I've been using "traffic light comprehension" with Grace, asking her frequently if she is red, yellow or green light in her understanding, and asking her to really pay attention to her own learning. I'm being careful about the language I'm using, drawing attention to how successful she has been with her persistence and hard work. I'm also making sure that if she doesn't get something, we add the word "yet". I give her lots of time to explore her understandings and allow her misconceptions to "float" out there, merely asking questions that allow her to re-evaluate her own beliefs and re-adjust her understandings. 

We've spent three 90 minute lessons just on representing proper fractions using fraction circles, fraction strips, sets, area models and number lines. We compared these representations looking at the connections between them. I've been encouraging Grace to name her learning so that she can see her own growth and take ownership for her understandings. Grace has concluded that:
- the numerator counts how many parts you have (or are discussing)
- the denominator tells how parts make up the whole
- a proper fraction is always less than one
- in a proper fraction the numerator is always less than the denominator
- different fractions can represent equivalent amounts e.g. 1/2 is the same as 5/10 which is the same as 0.5
- the equal sign (=) means "the same as"or "is equivalent to" and not "the answer is..."

Grace doesn't have to memorize these things because she came to these understandings on her own. 

During one lesson while exploring proper fractions Grace said "My teacher kept giving me questions like this: 2/3 = ?/6.  I didn't know how to answer those". Those questions had absolutely no meaning for Grace at all.  She did not know what the teacher was asking or looking for. I pointed to the number line we had created and how we had divided it up many different ways. I pointed to the half and asked "How many ways could we name this fraction?" She said we could call it "1/2 or 5/10". Then she went to the fraction circles we had on the fridge and said "It's like 1/2 is the same as 2/4 and 3/6". I explained that is what the teacher was asking, that she was asking what fraction with a denominator of 6 was the same size as a fraction of 2/3. All of a sudden the question made complete sense to Grace but she needed to connect the question to a visual representation. 

 Today we began working on improper fractions. I could not believe how quickly she picked it up.  I guess it was easy after all the work we had done on proper fractions. Grace had such a deep understanding about the role of the numerator and the denominator she quickly deduced that if the numerator was greater than the denominator we were talking about a fraction greater than one. She had no trouble representing them in any format. Next week I will show her how to write an improper fraction as a mixed number. This should be easy for her to understand since she's already been naming them out loud as "two and a quarter" for example because she can see them pictorially as a combination of wholes and fractions.

Along the way we've been comparing fractions. As we put the fractions on the number line, as we use the fraction circles on the fridge, and as we draw our area models, I'm always asking "What do you notice about these two fractions". Eventually, I will teach Grace about common denominators, but not for a while, not until she has a really solid understanding of fractions, and has an idea of benchmark fractions on a number line so that she can estimate the relative size of a fraction. I want Grace to have many ways to compare fractions. She has already noticed that the larger the denominator, the smaller the fractional piece. I want her to realize that 7/8 is less than 9/10 because each fraction is missing only one piece but the tenths are smaller pieces, so 9/10 represents more. I want her to know that 9/20 is closer to half than 4/10 is, and I want her to know this without having to use a common denominator because she understands fractional parts.

I'm really enjoying the Jo Boaler MOOC. One thing that Jo said was that intuition is an extremely important part of math competency. I've often thought that having mathematical intuition was a genetic gift - I guess you could say I had a Fixed Mindset about math ability. But Jo has conducted research to show that it is mathematical understanding that helps a person to develop mathematical intuition. And having mathematical intuition, in turn, helps a person to develop their mathematical understandings. Jo Boaler explains it as an iterative process. This makes total sense to me. I'm helping Grace to understand fractions. I'm hoping this will help her develop an intuitive sense about proportional reasoning. Once she has honed this intuition, it will help her solve problems and make sense of problems involving fractions, decimals, percentages, rates, and ratios. It is my goal that Grace sees the connections between all of these beautiful math concepts.

Graces always texts me before she comes over. I told her I had bought her some fraction circles she could take home. She wrote "Do the fractions stick on the fridge?"She wants some like mine so she can play school at home and use them for math homework. Then she wrote "I can't wait". She clearly loves math, she just doesn't love it at school. Isn't that a shame?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Getting Your Technology to "Bing"

Four years ago I got a Kobo for my birthday.  I was really excited to have an e-reader, but after downloading my first book, I actually found it kind of hard to read on the Kobo. I had trouble navigating the pages, I'd try to turn the page but instead the menu screen would pop up. Sometimes the screen would freeze on me too. I couldn't figure out how to use the highlight or search features. So, while I read the occasional book on my Kobo, I mostly continued to read conventional books.

Then, two years ago, I went on an extended European holiday. Traditional books would be too heavy for my suitcase so I loaded up the Kobo and I've been using it ever since. But the other day I stumbled upon a book titled "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" in a book store; I was so intrigued I bought the book on the spot - in hard copy!

Harold did not let me down, it was a great read, but the whole time I was reading it I was quite frustrated. I couldn't highlight or bookmark the pages the way I had finally learned to do with my Kobo. I had also gotten into the habit of emailing favourite quotes I'd highlighted to my friends. I couldn't do that with a traditional book. While reading "Harold Fry" I suddenly realized that all of the things I used to find difficult and frustrating when using the e-reader had now become automatic. I guess it had happened so gradually, that I didn't even notice that I had moved to that level of not just being comfortable with my Kobo, I actually preferred it, and why wouldn't I? I can do much more with the Kobo than with a traditional book. I can search for a line or even a word and find it in seconds and my Kobo tells me exactly how many hours it will take me to finish my book. With my Kobo app on my phone and iPad, I can read my book wherever I happen to be waiting, and it asks if I want to sync my devices so I never have to search for my page.
While reading "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" I had to keep sticking tabs in for my favourite quotes, and I couldn't forward them on through email without first typing them up!

Learning how to use new technology is exactly that - it is learning. Learning can be uncomfortable and it requires lots of practice. With technology, you have to put in enough practice time to develop a level of automaticity and fluency to actually make using the technology worthwhile.

It is June now, and in the world of Curriculum, it is time to purchase textbooks. I've asked teachers if they would prefer to have a digital text - a text that includes a PDF version kids could download and print if they truly prefer a hard copy, but also includes online quizzes, videos, highlighting features, note-taking features, interactive activities, links to online resources, a calendar, and options for teachers to push notifications through to students. But the teachers I've offered this option to say that they, and their students, prefer to have a traditional text.  I couldn't understand at all why.

Then I thought of me and my Kobo. I actually preferred reading my traditional books at first too. Why? Because I was fluent at reading a book, I could get right to it and there was no new learning involved. But once I made the effort to learn how to use my e-reader, and got over that initial learning hump, I discovered that I preferred to read on my Kobo hands-down. There really was no competition.

I can remember back in the Seventies my grandmother telling my mom she didn't need an automatic washer, she preferred her wringer washer. I thought she was crazy, but now I realize she was afraid of the effort involved in learning something new.

Can you imagine using a wringer washer now? Or a rotary dial phone? Or getting up to change the channels on the t.v.? Making the switch to an automatic washer, a remote control, a tablet, a smart phone, all require new learning and are uncomfortable at first. (It took me a year to get comfortable at using the remote to switch from the DVR to my Apple t.v. or the Blue Ray). In the end, making the effort to learn is always worth while!

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? You sure can. I got this iMessage from my 73 year old mom the other day.

My mom meant to send this message to her 76 year old sister Eleanor. She was trying to help my aunt turn on her notifications button on the iPad. I think it is a beautiful example of learning made visible and persistence when something is uncomfortable and difficult. I think I owe my love of technology to my mom, she has every new gadget known to man, and won't sleep until she can get her newest gadget up and running, whatever it may be.

Making the switch to new technologies requires new learning, whether it's moving to a digital text or a Learning Management System. But in the end, we know that the tools and features they provide offer more and better opportunities for our students to learn.

As a teacher, are you making sure you are keeping up with the new technologies available to help your students get the best learning experience possible?