Like driving a car

This is a response for the Ontario Extend module Teacher for Learning, specifically the Mastery section which looks at mastery of a subset of skills that educators deconstruct and teach, in order for students to achieve competency of the subset and the expected outcomes. The metaphor of driving a car is used to bring meaning to this notion of mastery learning.

So what skill is like driving a car in the field of teacher education? I’d like to look more closely at lesson planning and delivering a planned lesson to a classroom full of students. It’s really challenging when teacher candidates look at a lesson plan template and then teach from that plan for the first time. Once they sit in the seat, behind the wheel, the look of a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ comes over them, just like that teenager behind the wheel for the first time.

Lesson planning is not natural, but it is necessary. Learning the fundamentals ensures a confident ‘driver’ emerges in the end. Teachers who don’t go through the steps carefully, think critically about goals, success criteria, differentiation, cross curricular connections, strategies, questions to ask, assessment, student’s actions, management directions, or their own locations in the room, are doomed to crash that car. They think they know what to do first [e.g. put the key in the ignition] and where to start. But, once faced with the awesome responsibility of planning the lesson, then sharing that lesson with students in a classroom with a whole host of potential actions and reactions, it’s pretty scary. Lesson plans can look great on paper but crash and burn in the doing part! Some of the worst planned lessons can be jewels in the moment of delivery. Getting both parts right is necessary for safe and effective ‘teaching’ (driving) experiences.

With a graduated system of ‘licensing’ it’s a process of perfecting the lesson planning from the paper to the real events. It’s like starting the car in the driveway before taking the car out into the empty parking lot. It’s about having multiple, low risk experiences before going out to the #401 highway. In lesson planning, it’s planning for a small group instructional event before taking on the whole class.

It’s driving with a master driver before it’s done on your own, without anyone else in the vehicle. Being mentored with a practicing teacher is an essential part of the lesson planning system. It’s seeing lesson plans as the evolve from detailed, specific documents to free-flowing guidelines for actions. It’s seeing that what is written is often shifted in response to student needs, actions, reactions and interests. It’s watching from a master practitioner that the static plan on paper is a living, breathing opportunity for learning.

Is it a perfect system for figuring out how to write and deliver lessons? No. There are still places where accidents can and will happen in the lesson planing process – from paper to classroom experiences. And even efficient and effective drivers don’t always get it right. Reacting to the context, conditions, and the unexpected is part of the ever evolving process in lesson planning and in teaching those lessons.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that lesson planning and then teaching that lesson is sort of like learning how to drive a car, not like actual real life, driving. It gets easier to do. You get better with experience. You can transfer those skills to new ‘vehicles’ when you move from grade to grade. You don’t need to refer to the manuals each time you step in to do the deed of driving, just as you don’t need to refer to the curriculum documents every time you sit down to plan. You can drive further, farther, and in a variety of conditions, the more practice you get behind the wheel. Lesson planning is like that! Teaching from those plans is like that!

BUT, I’m not saying that teaching is like driving a car – that can never be said! Lesson planning and teaching is not like taking control of any kind of complicated machinery. Nope, not even like rocket science. It’s harder than that! Just listen and decide for yourself.

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Combining Strategies for #oextend

This is a response for the Ontario Extend module Teacher for Learning, specifically the Organize Knowledge section which outlines the purpose of providing students with better opportunities for note taking.

When I first saw the Cornell notes I had a deep reaction of distaste, probably from the memories of note-taking from lectures, rewriting book chapters while reading texts and then re-reading all those notes in preparing for tests and exams. This is still necessary in many subject areas where information recall is an essential part of the learning process.

After reviewing a few videos to learn more, and taking a look at variations of Cornell note templates, I decided to give it a try. I’m reading a text that I feel has particular importance for me so I’ve been sketch noting the chapters to visualize the content. My note taking practice now includes graphic images and icons. Then the video below caught my attention and I was convinced. Combining these two strategies may be just the  knowledge organization technique to make remembering meaningful and note taking less tedious.

Here is my combined sketch note and Cornell notes about this video.


Here is a sample of one sketch note from one chapter of the book I’ve been reading.

Functional Art Chapter 3 v1

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Mapping a course for #oextend

This post is a response for the Ontario Extend module Teacher for Learning in the Organize Knowledge section. The extend activity was to create a concept map of my course but since I’ve been using concept maps in course design, I’m pointing to the ones I’ve already created as examples.

All the maps for my current online course Critical Digital Literacy (CDL) can be found on the course site – overview of CDL, code breaking, meaning making, use and understand, analyzing, and persona. These maps outline the five resources for critical digital literacy found in the core reading from the course.

Each of these maps was created using my all time favourite concept mapping software VUE – Visual Understanding Environment. It’s a free, open source software produced by Tufts University. This software was easy to learn but also had exceptional depth in it’s ability to create visual presentations from the maps. I haven’t used this lately since the most recent updates were done in 2015 and I’m using a newer computer that may have compatibility issues.

I’ve done work in CMap, concept mapping software created at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) but would need to go back and relearn since it’s been a few years since I’ve used this digital resource. It’s full potential comes through the collaboration options available.

Because my students will become teachers in Ontario schools, I introduce them to Mindomo concept mapping. This is licensed for use in Ontario K-12 classrooms so, for my students, it is a FREE digital concept mapping resource teachers should know about. Students in my online course are required to create a concept map for their inquiry project which allows me to see what they are planning to do, what resources they may have found and I can identify potential gaps in their project plan. Mindomo can also be used collaboratively in whole class or small group maps depending on the purpose. Before the students do their individual maps, they explore Mindomo in a collaborative mapping task with no marks or grades attached, so they can become familiar with the software’s functionality and affordances.

Mapping is a great way to make learning visible and see how students are making connections but you need to give them time to play and explore before you attach marks to a map since their familiarity with the tool will impact their production. If you want to see other maps I’ve created as I’ve learned, you’ll find a collection of them on my electronic portfolio site for the UBC Masters of Education (MET) program.

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Analogy for ‘Learning’

This is a post for the Ontario Extend ‘take it to the bank’ activity ‘So Misunderstood‘ in the Teacher for Learning module. It’s a dip into understanding prior knowledge and how it can impede or enhance student understanding. One of the most challenging concepts new teachers need to grasp is how to know when students know ~ or in other words, what is learning?

Teachers need to be able to ‘see’ learning in the actions, reactions, and reflections of their students since learning is not visible to the naked eye in any other way. Teachers need to discern where learning has occurred through the products students create, tests they take, assignments they complete, and conversations they have. Learning is not an easy concept to understand.

I’ve used the analogy ‘As Easy as Riding a Bike‘ in one previous blog post where I explored my own learning at the end of a course. I used the Backwards Brain Bicycle video as a prompt for reflection and wrote about five things I know for sure about digital teaching and learning. The video helps students think deeply about their work in the course, the progress they’ve made over time, and identifying where their learning has happened. In this way, I too get a glimpse into their learning.

As a way to consolidate the ideas around ‘what is learning?’ I’ve used this video as a provocation for student thinking, both at the beginning of a course and again at the end of a course. The intended purpose is to revisit to review, reframe and revise prior knowledge about what learning is and ensure clarity of this concept as students venture into the field of education.

What is Learning? from CLRI on Vimeo.


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Extending into the Open #oextend

Getting started with Ontario Extend is one way to extend my thinking and extend my engagement into digital spaces that are new and interesting. Contributions to the Daily Extend, into the collection of resources in the Activity Bank and capturing the blog sites of others in the community using Domain of One’s Own will be the passion to drive extensions of my learning. At the end of this morning’s workshop, I’m exiting with new connections, new interests and opportunities to add purpose to my passions. I’m excited that this will energize my blogging. I’m extending my blog into the Ontario Extend ecosphere and hoping to learn from the work of others in this space over the next few months.

manuel-meurisse-350263-unsplashAs an exit ticket, I’m paying attention to the prompt: “Use words and pictures that paint the picture of the future of a world with you in it” and sharing an OPEN INVITATION to sit down, have a chat and share your thoughts as we start extending our steps into the OPEN together.

Check other Extend activities using  @OntarioExtend on Twitter and the activity bank link found here: Exit Through the Workshop – Ontario Extend Activity Bank

Follow other Ontario Extenders on this Twitter list.

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