Welcome back

Hope everyone had a great summer. It looks like the warm days aren’t quite ending just yet. I always look forward to beginnings and school startup is no exception – lots of interesting things to learn and new people to meet. With all the changes happening, the dates for Fast ForWord learning series are set. This year, all sites will be able to take advantage of Reading Assistant in their repertoire. Whether you are a returning teacher needing a refresher, a new teacher taking on this role, set your calendars for Tues October 3, October 24, Tues November 7th. If you are new to Reading Assistant, this will be held on Thurs October 12th

Registration for all sessions are in the Staff Development Calendar (in the Learn Portal). 

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.

Connectedness & Relationships

belonging

 

Welcome back. Exciting things are afoot… This month is all about connecting and relationship building. Behind every one of those faces are stories waiting to be heard.

Changes to both our infrastructure and Fast ForWord content is going to make this an exciting year. If you are interested in having this program in your building, please contact me (there will be training in October).  If you are a continuing site, here are some possibilities to consider:

  • new 3 day protocol with 40 minutes or 90 minutes available (*consider getting as close to 200 minutes/week as your goal for success). This may provide timetable flexibility to some sites.
  • new reports – detailing immediate achievement
  • Raz-Kids (our famous online support for reading fluency and comprehension) has changed its weblink and management look. New weblink is: kidsa-z.com (Please ensure that you have changed your links on class blogs and school websites.) This program is great for classroom teachers. Applications are found > FORMS
  • ARC-BC – register for a new year. Information and training: http://www.arc-bc.org/
  • New BC curriculum – get the latest to explore –  https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/

When Opportunity and Resources Meet = Success Happens

newyear2015Connecting a ‘just right’ opportunity to engage in independent deeper thinking and a resource that allows that to happen is a challenge. When the two meet, it’s almost magical, especially when it can include students who struggle with reading and writing. For these, time is spent mostly on the mechanics of reading/writing, leaving little cognitive energy for deep thinking. While some resources require a strong commitment to mastering the tool (I’m thinking Kurzweil 3000 – still the master of all reading/writing supports – click here for information), others may offer similar experiences with less need for front-end learning.

I wrote about Rewordify before in a previous post so I won’t go into the ‘how to’s here.  Upon first blush, the online site may look rather simple. Dig a little deeper and you will find other layers worth exploring. Its basic premise is that 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. And finally, the content can be printed and stored.

rewordify_result

If you have not had a chance to explore this application, you may be surprised at how useful it can be for many students. It is free, though it requires access to the internet. (*Note: You do not need to register to use the site.)

Writing is another challenge that some of our students struggle to get their thoughts down on paper. While I believe that access to computers provides a wider range of choices, there is an application using ipads that offer a basic level of support with regards to word prediction and integrated reading (*this is not speech-to-text).  For those of you already using the computer version (you’ll see this as similar), GoQ Software has developed an ipad version. Named iWordQ Ca (I’ve been waiting for the Canadian spelling and French is included!), the cost of $25 may be worth it. iwordq_writeIt offers a very simple text editor (no images) for writing connected with anticipatory word prediction software. Definitions with examples, pop up with a tap of the finger. You can even add your own words into the lexicon thus including any specialized content vocabulary (think science, social studies). Typed words and sentences can be read back giving you a bit of quality control on the actual writing.   Reading mode gives the writer a chance to do some more proofreading as well as revision.  You might also use it for oral practice by speaking alongside the reading mode, if the end goal is a presentation. (*Note: Speech recognition is only found on the newer ipads. Need wifi access for this app to work.)
For those of you who know me really well, you’re waiting for why I like this app over the many that are out there. That can be seen in the Export feature – multiple ways. Writing is a complex form of communication needing opportunities to engage in a variety of other formats. iWordQ Ca can save files in the app, send to a Dropbox account as well as open in many other apps such as Google Drive! Our Google Apps for Education accounts marry nicely with this process, thus allowing for the inclusion of collaboration and dialogue, images, hyperlinks, charts or slides. Oh, did I forget printing too?

question mark personOur goals drive the use of any application. These apps add to the communication realm. However, I wonder if we should be asking wider questions such as… how will these serve to enhance deeper thinking processes, how will they create independence for the student, how will they bring connectedness and collaboration with classmates, how will they support self regulation?
Hope you get a chance to explore these or cause you to ask more questions. I’d love to hear how you’re using these applications or other apps in your classroom.

Welcome Back!

autumn-leavesStarting a new year is always exciting and this year cannot be any different. We’ve done some updates to the blog – please take time to familiarize yourself with the organization (you’ll find new consent templates, Admin section now under Program…). New training sessions (for new sites and any teachers new or nearly new to program) are set for October-December.

More importantly are the relationships and connections made with students, staff and parents. It is relationships that are the foundation to risk-taking. Relationships that serve to understand one another and support one another in facing joys and addressing challenges.  This is no different when using Fast ForWord. The program is only the program (though powerful on its own). It is being connected that promotes significant perseverance when faced with “mountains to climb”.

As we start this year, a ‘thank you’ to each of you for creating the conditions for connections, relationships, and risk-taking.

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