Online Learning – Connecting Kids



I am inspired by fellow educators who are busy figuring out ways to continue connecting and working with students. I am grateful to be in a profession such as this.

We’ve had an abrupt and dismaying change in our lives, yet my colleagues are determined to move forward with learning in a new way. Sometimes it just brings me to tears. Which may also be part of my emotional state at the moment.

How to get started with online learning?

You already have the best start ever.  Why?  Because you know your students.  You have had the opportunity to see their faces every day.  You know their quirks, their strengths their interests and nothing, nothing is better than that.

You already have a community of learners.  So take a breath and think, how can I keep that connection going?

What tools can you use?  Start as simply as you can with an online tool that you are familiar with.  Your students need to learn how to use that tool, so begin there. That’s the first step, and if they’re young learners, as mine are, they will need the support of an adult to navigate this way of connecting.

Maybe create a video that shows them how to access and use the digital connection you want to use.  And when it comes to videos – it’s you they want to see. You are their teacher so be yourself and if the video isn’t perfect – great! You will bring a smile to your student’s faces.

When I first began teaching as an online educator I felt that this computer was a barrier to connecting with my students.  It was a challenge to overcome. It’s true, that things may take longer to establish in an online learning environment, but you will once again have opportunities to see the spark of joy that comes when students learn new things.

If there is one thing I have observed, it is that young learners are very capable of using digital tools for learning, and this has changed the way I teach. Digital tools have become more intuitive and friendly, and young learners are also increasingly familiar and adept at using technology in their lives.





Co-Creating Learning Stories

Talking , photographing and thinking about our story.

Inspiration!  Once again gathering with my colleagues, participating in great sessions and connecting to new ideas, meant that this was another enjoyable and worthwhile teacher’s convention.

I use photographs in my classroom as a way for students to share what they have learned and as a jumping off point for stories and further reflection. Our lives are filled with stories and each day our learning is a story of its own. Kristy Wolfe’s session, Making Learning Visible: Photographing and Co-creating Learning Stories, had appeal from the start. Kristy Wolf, a woman with a passion for photography and story telling shared her knowledge and her love of kids’ learning through imagery that tells a story.

To tell the story in a meaningful way, begin by thinking about the photos you need, before your eyes look through the lens. Think about the shots that will capture the moment.  Look for opportunities to capture these parts of the story.

  1. Set the scene
  2. Introduce the characters
  3. Process the details
  4. Portrait of the characters
  5. Connections
  6. Final product or creation.

Consider the action, the individuals and the group. What is happening?  Who is interacting with  another or the project?  And even, who is on the outer edges looking in? Composing a photo is always the trick. Just what do I need to include in that image?  What angle?  What lighting? What is the relationship in the moment? What will this image say to viewers? How will the elements of this scene offer new ways of understanding and perspective?

Kristy suggested  using 10 to 15 images to tell the story and to aim for visual variety.

Now imagine that it is not you, it is the students making these decisions about how to tell their learning story. Have students write about the photographs, they chose.  I’ve had fun doing this with my students and just as Kristy mentioned, students don’t chose the photos that you think they might pick. They have their own ideas about what counts. Which makes me think, to whom do we make learning visible? Co-creating learning stories, was the part of her session title that grabbed my attention. It excites me to think of using photography to help students make their learning visible to the most important person of all, themselves.

Saturday Morning Reflections from Twitter

My colleagues often hear that one of my best sources for professional learning is Twitter. Well it’s true. Here are some Saturday morning reflections.

When I read this I had an ‘ah ha’ moment about where we have come from and where we are going in education and online learning. Here is a quote from this article, Constructionism vs. Instructionism.  The subject in the quote is mathematics but we could be talking about any subject, the point is the distinction between teaching and learning.

“What I was going to talk about if I had been there, is about how technology can change the way that children learn mathematics. I said how children can learn mathematics differently, not so much how we can teach mathematics differently. This is an important distinction.” Seymour Papert

I think this explains something that’s very helpful.

Many online programs were developed because technology enabled us to teach differently. The focus was on teachers doing things in new ways.  It was exciting and innovative. How do we put ‘curriculum’ online?  It is, was, a lot of work, there is no doubt about that. I recall reading news articles on how technology will change the way we teach.

As teachers we know that our work is really about student learning and we certainly have integrated many effective practices into online courses with that focus. Yet, I think we could reflect on the work we do and see where we got stuck on,  ‘technology changes how we teach’.  We need to ask ourselves have we taken full advantage of how technology changes how students learn?

Technology enables kids to learn differently and that’s the direction we need to go or educators will be left behind by students who are already learning in new ways. Take a look at this TEDxWestVancouverED talk.

There are several articles here  Constructionism vs. Instructionism. All well worth reading.  I also liked this”

So, in a way, the computer becomes invisible. The computer becomes just an instrument. I said if you asked that child making the picture, “What are you doing?” she would have said, “Making a picture, making a bird.” It’s interesting to compare this — imagine going to a poet and saying, “What are you doing?” You’d be very surprised if the poet said, “I’m using a pencil”. The poet would have said, “I’m writing a poem,” or, maybe, “Just leave me alone, I’m busy.” Of course the poet was using a pencil, but that’s not worth mentioning, and the same should be true of computers.” Seymour Papert

It’s a scary mathematical world out there! Hmm… really?

Math, math, math, what are your thoughts on this subject?

Is it true that math is portrayed as a hard subject? As a student have you ever received the message that  some people are math people and others are not?

Do we hold stereotypical messages about gender or race and ability to do math?

When you were in school what did you think about your own ability to do math?

You might be surprised to hear:

“All students can achieve at the highest levels in maths at all levels of school right up to the end of high school.”

Yes, there are countries in the world where this is the expected norm.

This summer I am using this blog to reflect on my learning in the course: How To Learn Math by Jo Boaler. This course is intended for teachers and parents and presents new research ideas on learning, the brain, and math that can change the way you think about math and how we learn.

The ideas on this blog will be a combination of my reflections and notes from the course.  My hope is that along the way I’ll add clarity, and a deeper understanding to what I already know about math instruction and gain new ideas on how enlarge and enrich the world of math for my students. I hope you’ll join me in this adventure.