Post by Sylvia Duckworth
A couple of weeks ago, thanks to my friend Sandra Chow, I was invited to experience Google Expeditions at Lawrence Heights Middle School (TDSB) in Toronto.
(Photo courtesy Julie Millan)
My first thought as the day unfolded was that the hype about Google Expeditions is well-deserved: this is one amazing tool. Students and teachers alike were enthralled from the beginning of the day to the end. Led by Chris Zhu from Google, teachers were able to choose from a list of about 100 different expeditions to try out with their students and we were given a brief training on how to use the app prior to our sessions.
Check out the excitement of these Joyce PS students!
The premise of the app is that you can take your students on virtual field trips around the world. The places we visited included: The Great Barrier Reef, The Moon, the Seven Wonders of the World, a rainforest in the Congo, and much more (in the rainforest, the students came face to face with a gorilla which provoked a lot of screams!)
However, you DO need the Google Cardboard viewers and devices (smartphones) to insert into the viewers to experience virtual reality. Fortunately, the Google Expeditions leader supplies these for your students: Chris came with 60 viewers and devices for us to use, so we were able to rotate many classes during the entire day.
Unfortunately, the Expeditions kit is not yet available to the public: Chris told us that it won’t be available until the end of the year. This means that the only way that you will get to experience the full Google Expeditions repertoire is if a Google rep comes to your school to demonstrate it. Many schools have applied but only a few get chosen.
If you are going to the EdTechTeam Ontario GAFE Summit on April 9/10 in Kitchener, you can experience Google Expeditions yourself! Yup, you read that right. Thanks to Google head office in Toronto, we have managed to secure a full kit of Google Expeditions (30 Android devices, 30 Google Cardboards, 1 teacher’s tablet) for the entire weekend. Sandra and I will be providing sessions all weekend long, allowing teachers a hands-on experience with the Expeditions app and Virtual Reality.
If you can’t make it to Kitchener, however, we have put a mini-presentation together with links to many Virtual Reality apps you can explore right away (but no Google Expeditions). For more information, you can also read Holly Clark’s blog post or Rolland Chidiac’s blogpost. In addition, Molly Schroeder has some great resources here, and Jim Sill’s resources are here.
Below are some photos taken of Lawrence Heights Middle School and Joyce Public School students and staff: What a great group! Thanks Julie Millan and Sandra Chow for sharing the images
"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently" -- Henry Ford
This is it – the start of a brand new year! I spent some time over the winter break coming up with my mantra for the new year: FAIL. This is the year I want to encourage students and teachers to FAIL. Now, before you start questioning whether lack of sun exposure during our cold and cloudy Canadian winter is making me talk crazy, check out my favourite definition of FAIL in the image below:
You need first to fail in order to learn. This is true whether in terms of trying out a new teaching methodology, designing a new unit, or using new technology in the classroom. The great thing about our profession is that we get to start fresh all the time - new units, terms, semesters, and every new school year. We keep what has worked, and learn from what has FAILED in order to plan for an even better learning environment in our classrooms. FAILing = future success, so long as we learn from our experiences and use the information gained to iterate and improve!
We expect our students to fail. We know that we are exposing them to new content and concepts, and that they might make some mistakes or experience some frustration before they come to that “a-ha” moment where the light bulb goes on and they actually “get it”. We encourage them to keep trying, because we know that with each failure they are actually learning what DOES work as well as what doesn’t, and that eventually this will help them put the puzzle pieces together in their brain in a way that makes the content make sense for them. Failure is the foundation of inquiry, of invention, of innovation, and of all meaningful, internalized learning. Failure is good!
As educators we often have such high expectations of ourselves that we won’t give ourselves permission to fail, especially in front of our students. I especially see this in terms of trying out new technology tools to help achieve learning goals in the classroom. We won’t use the SMARTboard that is hanging right on the wall in our classroom because we feel that we are not yet an “expert” at using it. We decide against doing a super-engaging video editing project with our students because we have never used YouTube Editor ourselves. We shy away from trying out Google Docs for an amazing, collaborative group project because we aren’t as comfortable with it as much as a more traditional, desktop-based word processing program. Why the double-standard, friends?! If we want our students to fail in order to learn, why won’t we be kind to ourselves and expect the same in our own learning? You don’t become an “expert” or even “comfortable” with a new tool without trying – and yes, failing – at using it a few times. If you allow yourself to try and fail, especially in front of your students, you might find that you actually improve the learning situation in your classroom. It is not only beneficial to model lifelong learning to your students, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate ways that you problem-solve and persevere when a concept or answer does not come easily on the first try. In a culture often focused on instant gratification and easy (not best) solutions, by failing in front of your students, you would actually be teaching them important virtues such as creativity, determination, flexibility, and patience. What a gift!
I hope that you FAIL a lot in 2016, and that you encourage your students to do the same. I especially hope that you give yourself opportunities to FAIL with new technology and tools that will help you achieve intended learning outcomes/standards in your classroom in new and creative ways. Make this a wonderful year….. try something new and FAIL!
Sketchnote done by the amazing Sylvia Duckworth @Sylvia Duckworth
I am a Canadian gal and I want to give advice on how to survive winter. Not literally. I mean those winters we all experience in our lives. Those seasons in our minds when our ideas don’t flower. This is how to notice the signs that you are in a creative cozy time and how to come out the other end.
In Ontario, Canada (where I live) winter has finally arrived to put the other seasons to bed and tuck us all inside for most of the day. I love this cozy time, but in truth, I have been in my own state of hibernation since September. And now, with winter setting in, I am ready to come back into the world. Maybe not fully. After all, winter allows us to live like we are on a ship looking out a porthole or standing on deck for just a moment before returning to the cabin.
My friend Jeff asked me to write a blog post here for MapleSyrupEdu months ago. But, I had no words. Not one. I only had retweets, likes, reposts and the occasional picture on Instagram. My head was silent, not empty, just resting.
I was not burned out.
I was not recovering from anything.
No, nothing bad had happened to me personally or professionally.
I just wanted to cook and read and workout. I thought for a moment that maybe this was burnout or even depression. But, I only felt depressed when I started to worry that I might be depressed. No, it was part of a natural flow of any life and I am glad I didn’t fight it. If you listen to your body-mind, you know when it’s time to sit back and shut up for a while. Here are the signs that you are NOT burned out, but ready to sit back and get cozy:
Ideas 1 through 4 could sound like burn out. They’re not. Don’t get worried if your ideas go quiet and your passions cool slightly. It’s not a slump, it’s not the end of your creative juices, and it’s not depression (unless it is than by all means talk to someone). What is it? A normal part of living. Just part of the ups and downs of a thinking person’s life.
You will miss your passion. You will miss part of yourself that is resting. So, what to do? Well, I suggest you turn to your curiosity. Passion is young and youthful and full of fire and flames. Passion comes and goes. Curiosity is a more stable creative source. If passion seems to have left without a trace, pay attention to what you are curious about.
If your passion has taken a temporary leave, here is how you can stimulate your curiosity. If you nurture your curiosity, that wonderful heat and exuberance of passion will likely return. Here is how:
As you roll back into routine and try to get going on those things you promised yourself you would do in 2016, go easy on yourself. Maybe you are good to go and have a good supply of passion to power you through new projects. But, I’m guessing that if you have read this far in the blog post, maybe you have experienced what I experienced. Not burnout. Not depression. But definitely a lack of something. That’s okay. Steady work and staying curious are good strategies for the long game. And I’ve learned that ballet and bacon do wonders for the creative spirit. And if they don’t, they are life’s great pleasures so enjoy.