Know Your “Why”

child-646149_640Recently we had session 2 of our Communicating Learning via ePortfolios Team. When I wrote up this session to post for the group, it struck me that these thoughts applied to everyone especially at a time when we’re all focused on assessment, report cards and all the things that come with the process. 

  • Learning is doing
  • Learning starts with the learner’s own ideas
  • Learning involves getting personally involved
  • Questions drive learning and are also outcomes of learning
  • Learning involves uncovering complexity
  • Learning can be a group process and a group outcome
  • Learning and thinking can be made visible

How might these ideas affect the way you approach a Fast ForWord learning environment, an assessment environment or what this means to think well (critically, creatively)? If you know your “why”, it’s easier to frame the assessment. I’m especially captivated by “questions drive learning and are also outcomes of learning”. Not the teacher’s questions but student’s questions. 

We’d love to have your thoughts on this through the comment feature here. 

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Summer Time

One thing we’re always doing is reflection. The end of year offers a chance to review our year and think about next steps. What is front and center is the work you’ve all done to support students. In whatever role you do, our students are the heart and center of everything. It is why we do what we do.

With great gratitude for your energy and efforts but mostly for your care…

There is much research on the brain’s need for downtime to solidify pathways, to reorganize itself, to sandboxencourage creativity. While the brain is never idle, in this fast-paced society it is important to shift gears. What better time than summer? What are you going to do to care for yourself?

It’s time to play in the sandbox, out of the sandbox, travel the world or maybe be a tourist in your own city. Whatever your summer sandbox looks like, have fun.

Thinking Math Supports?

In partnership with Ron Coleborn (Math consultant), we are pleased to announce two Math softwares available for teachers:

  • Dreambox Learning (Math)
  • Skoolbo (Math and Literacy basic skills) (Canadian version)

dreamboxDreamBox is an online Math resource (K-8) intended to support personalized instruction for students from intervention to enrichment. The ongoing formative assessments within the program can align classroom practices and lessons creating a blended model of instruction. Some of our schools have been using the program in pilot and can share their stories. A small number of purchased student licenses are available. More information can be found on our Learning Technologies site (WEB RESOURCES > DREAMBOX LEARNING).   Teachers who are interested may apply on our FORMS page.

skoolbologoSkoolbo (Canadian version)(K-5) is now available for those who are seeking practice in basic skills in Math or Literacy (building blocks). This is an online resource that provides a “game type” environment to hone basic skills. Create your avatar and the program can take you through the skillsets (based on a set of pre-tests). Or a teacher can assign specific content where practice is needed. This may enhance (RTI) Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports. We’ve registered all schools (elementary and secondary). More information can be found on our Learning Technologies site (WEB RESOURCES > SKOOLBO).   Teachers who are interested may apply on our FORMS page for a class account.

Watch for a full launch in September. Perhaps I see a coordinated song and dance in the future?

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Learning on the Edge – Reflections on Pro-D

northvikingbandWe just finished a districtwide Pro-D, where for the first time we squeezed 2000 people into one building. So parking was quite hairy and the deluge of rain didn’t help matters. Once inside, the atmosphere was positively electrifying (thanks to the facilitators and participants). Our opening started with North’s own Viking marching band, keynote Abe Fernández (Director of Collective Impact, the Children’s Aid Society and Co-director of South Bronx Rising Together) and then hundreds of workshops and ‘edcamp-ish’ conversations to choose. My team of three led four sessions – a crazy rewarding day of connected energy.

Here are some things I learned:

  • Building community and togetherness is everything even though the only building that can handle the numbers is a very old one! Crossed our fingers as fuses blew…but all was wonderfully organized. North’s school staff and students were amazing!Comfort Zone Quote
  • New experiences have to be connected to what you understand and then move from there
  • Individuals make personal conscious decisions to learn new things. What is ultimately worth learning is difficult and messy. It takes courage to make the leap.
  • Sometimes people will try something only because they know you will support them
  • When you see something with a new lens, you can never go backmyquote_changethelens

 

Pro-D, while meant as a learning experience, is really an event. How will you carry these ignited sparks and these challenges to thinking into your classrooms and offices? That’s where the magic happens.

Assistive Software – Inclusion in the Classroom

There are a number of assistive-type softwares that may help students with access to learning in the classroom. The following focuses on writing, reading, and vision supports. Most are free and can be easily downloaded by the student.

  • EASE of ACCESS: This group of tools offers simple word prediction through the on-screen keyboard, magnifier (for vision support)… Click here for instructions. Note the different ways to gain access whether you are a teacher or student.
  • SpeakIt:  Google Chrome extension that provides text-to-speech for most web content. Has a range of voices and languages to choose. Options are available to adjust the speaking rate and pitch of voice. This is a good one!
  • ClaroSpeak_chromeiconClaroSpeak: Google Chrome extension is a simple text-to-speech reader with word prediction, editing, proofing and speaking dictionary. There is also a more powerful paid app for ipads that includes access to pdf.
  • Rewordify: This is a site that I’ve written about before and is well worth repeating. (Click here for previous post) Any text can be pasted into the box and it will return a simplified version – very quickly I might add. One of the options deserves highlighting. Retaining the original word within the text, while offering a simpler form provides two things: increase of comprehension and increase of vocabulary. Sitting side by side, relationships between the difficult term and easier one is visually connected. As well, the integrated dictionary allows access to almost all of the words in the selection. Finally, the content can be printed and stored.
  • Word Talk on MSWord:  Text-to-Speech toolbar is part of computer images (click on the tab, ADD-INS). This toolbar provides reading support as well as a simple word prediction dictionary.

wordtalk

  • Kidspiration and Inspiration (graphic organizer to writing):  While this is not technically assistive software, it does have a sound recorder that can support memory or as an audio file embedded within the graphic organizer. The recorder will also show up in Outline Writing view. This provides a seamless process from ideas generation to written output.  All sd41 teachers can have a personal full copy of the software for home use. (See our FORMS page for information on TAKE-HOME software.)
  • Kurzweil 3000: This software is the cadillac of assistive softwares. It will read almost any digital information (print, electronic, pdf or the Web) in clear, synthetic speech, while a dual highlighting feature adds visual reinforcement.  This provides a digital means of engaging with text and supports those students who require alternative methods for accessing, writing and recording information. Click here for more information.
  • iWordQ-CA ($29): This is an ipad app that mimics a simple version of what you would expect from the more robust Kurzweil 3000. In writing mode, text editor includes word prediction, spell checker, dictionary and speech recognition. In reading mode, text-to-speech offers proofing and reading options.
  • Add language keyboards to Win7 devices – access other languages through added keyboards. Click here for instructions.

Do you have any favourites that integrate with reading or writing? Drop a comment in the box below. I’d love to add to the list.