Rose Couture

Aspiring teacher. “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward


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Hashtags, Tweeters and Bloggers

After spending amazing family time in Quebec during the holidays, I am now back in the Prairies. The routine is slowly starting back for everyone; going back to work, back to school, back to doing the activities you might of put aside for the holiday season. Unfortunately, I am not going back to the university this semester. I say it like it is a bad thing, but it is actually pretty amazing to have a little more time to breathe until fall comes around.

Since I will not be in school, I will have more free time and want to use it wisely. I want to follow up on hot education topics, follow my tweeters as well as participate in #cdnedchat, and I want to keep writing blog posts about topics that interest me. I noticed that my Twitter was kind of hectic, people I follow are not in specific categories, and I would like to organize people I am following in lists. This will be a long task but it will then be easier to organize my TweetDeck once this is done. I have started to add columns to my Deck with the hashtags (#) I want to keep an eye on during my time off such as: #cdnedchat, #regteach, #skteachers, #edchat, #edtech, #frimm, #langchat and #elemchat. Not quite sure this is the perfect list, but if you have any suggestions feel free to comment on my post or tweet me!

Furthermore, I would love to take the time and read more educational blog posts and write responses or reflections related to them. Reading and learning is important to me, it is important to shape the future educator I want to become. I have recently been offered a casual position as a special educational assistant with Regina Public Schools, and I am very anxious to see what I will learn from this experience. This is a great opportunity for me to learn, as I am not necessarily familiar with all the requirements needed for this position, and it is also a great opportunity to create more connections with students, teachers, principals and the community. Keep checking up on my blog, posts will come, and if you do not follow me on Twitter yet, do it right here. Wishing you all the best for 2014, cheers!


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My Summary of Personal Learning, A Learning Experience

For the past week, I have been debating what I would do for my final summary of personal learning in the course of ECMP355. I saw that many students decided to list the medias and programs they used or discovered during the semester, and described them, while other chose to do a screen cast type of project. I thought I would be original and draw a concept map, but it did not really touch everything I learnt this semester and I was a little nervous that I barely used any technology for my summary of personal learning. So I went on the hunt to find a program with which I could build beautiful concept maps and I fell upon iMindMap 7. I found the presentation video beautiful and I wanted to give it a try (they offer a FREE 7 day trial). I was a little discouraged at first because I did not know how to work the program and there was not too many tutorial videos for the iMindMap 7, but I was able to find one for iMindMap 6, which is basically the same as the new version, minus a few features. With this program, I was able to make a very appealing concept map and it gave me the option to turn it into a presentation. In presentation mode, you can delete the slides you do not want, you can move slides from left to right to change the order, and you can even switch from 2D to 3D! I had a lot of fun with it and I am considering buying the program as it is a nice presentation tool that is different from Prezi and PowerPoint.

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My Original Concept Map Idea

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My Final Concept Map

Since I have been using QuickTime to record my screen for different purposes this semester, I thought I would give Camtasia or Screenr a try, but it did not work so well. Every time it would tell me that I needed a Java plug-in and that it would not work with Google Chrome. So I downloaded the plug-in and tried it with my Safari browser without any success, I then opted for QuickTime. I also noticed that with Screenr I could only record for 5 minutes and I do not think it would have been enough time to cover everything I wanted to say (it took me a good 10 minutes).

I made a few mistakes during my presentation, but nobody is perfect. I would like to specify that Coursera does not only offer education classes, but rather a wide variety of classes, from English to Science. I noticed that I say “sweet” and “cool” a lot, nervous habit that I need to work on. I also froze when it came to the financial…. MEANS or just the money in general that some schools do not possess to go on constructive field trips. Overall I had a great semester and I have learnt things in ECMP355 that will follow me for the rest of my life, including a personal learning network!


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Communication And Students Are Key to Change Education

As I was reading Students Ask: Why So Few of Us at CEA’s Calgary Conference?I was shocked. Why wasn’t I aware of this Canadian Educators Association? Of course I knew there were teacher federations for each province in the country, but I had never heard of this one association. And they had this gathering in Calgary? So close to me. I would be interested in participating in such event, but their online upcoming events calendar does not seem to be working, so I am unsure of when and where the next events will take place. It was very interesting to find out that people who attend the conferences have name tags that only display their names. The titles and surnames of individuals are left out so that participants can have meaningful conversations about education matters without feeling judged or left out for where they stand in society. At each table, students, educators and others are mixed to have different perspectives and ideas. I really like this aspect as it represents really well the current approach in teacher education at the University of Regina about how important social justice is and how we are still far from this in today’s society. Everyone has an opinion and can bring meaningful insight even if they are not an important director of a district, board or school. Individuals are given the opportunity to have a voice and to bring ideas to the day light and discuss them with amazing educators, directors, teachers and students. I would personally love to attend one of these conferences as I would have the opportunity to grow and learn, even if I’m “just” a student.

The CBE (Calgary Board of Educators) students also mentioned the important lack of students at the conference. This poses some problems as students are in “training” to become open-minded and socially just educators that will bring change to the country’s current education system. The majority of students in the classroom hope to make a change, they want to change education for the best. Yet, most of the time they are not at those “important” conferences that focus on changing education and communicates these issues. Some students are not as privileged as others and unfortunately, are not informed about the importance of the changes that are made to improve the education system. I do not like to brag, but we are the future of education, we are important too. Tell us about these conferences, tell us about the changes, give us feedback, have meaningful exchanges with us. I have said it before and will say it again, feedback is so crucial! Feedback helps us improve ourselves, we learn and grow from it. Change can be scary, but who said it was going to be easy? Students need to be more involved in these meaningful events that take place all over the country. It might be a bit intimidating to go to one of these conferences, as you might not know anyone, but it is good to get out of your comfort zone and to make changes, you will definitely need to cross some lines and be uncomfortable. But guess what.. When we are uncomfortable, we learn. We all have a role to play into changing education for the best, we all have the power to make a difference, even if you feel you are insignificant. Things take time, but if we all get together and work together, we are powerful. We really can make a difference. Be involved, inform yourself, connect with educators (Twitter is great for that
) and do not be scared, your opinion matters.

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Active Learning All Around The World

I highly enjoyed this talk by Daphne Koller where she tells us about the importance of online learning communities, more specifically via online courses offered by big universities for free. This is possible through the online platform Coursera where 545 free courses are offered and already taken by 5,599,670 students. We explored this website with our professor in ECMP355 and I remember being amazed by the variety of courses that were offered and how you would even get certificates from some of them! Koller emphasized the importance and the amazing results of active learning in the classroom and with online classes. Studies have shown the increase in the amount of knowledge acquired/retained when the learning was actively done by the student. We cannot offer tutors to every single person who wants to learn on the planet, but we can give them the technology to have access to one, wherever they might be! This is one of the elements why I love education and technology, there is so many possibilities when you combine the two. If you have not watched this video yet, I suggest you give it a try 

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This also touches part of my personal learning summary in ECMP355 as this morning, I was browsing the highlights of the amazing things I have learnt throughout the course and came across Coursera. Since I will not be taking any classes next semester for personal reasons, I am considering following one course on the platform in addition to the continuation of my Italian language learning. I am curious of everything the world has to offer.


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Curriculum as Narrative and Community: How I Contributed to the Learning of Others

As the semester comes to an end, it is fairly important to look back on the interactions that were made with classmates, instructors and presenters, either online or during face to face discussions, and reflect. To reflect on the thoughtful and critical interchanges one has had with others and to find out how this might have contributed to the construction of their knowledge. Throughout the semester, I have had many interactions with the online community on Twitter and read many educational, critical and inspirational blog posts and articles that have contributed to my personal learning. Feeling inspired by these new discoveries, I wanted to share the information that had contributed to my knowledge with the people who surrounded me, as it might also contribute to their learning. That is what I did.

Many individuals are life-long learners. Here I say many, because I personally believe that there are still people out there in the world who have yet to discover the beauty of learning and the concept of the happy learner. The concept of the happy learner is something I have come up with on my own, although it might already be out there and I am unaware of it. I believe that an individual who is learning what he wants to learn will be happy. By learning things he wants to learn, the individual remains curious, and I believe that someone who learns content that appeals to them will incite them to learn about numerous other things in addition to constantly be challenged. Something that many of us need to remember is that we also are at different learning levels, that we are not ready to learn the same things at the same time. Me and a few of my classmates had a meaningful discussion after our seminar one week where we discussed how we are at different learning stages, even at the university level. We discussed on how some people in our seminar group and lecture group might be ready to learn about social justice, respect, professionalism, the importance of stories, oppression, but that maybe some are not. Both of these situations are possible and nobody will hold where you stand against you. Everyone has a different background or living situation that influence their learning stage and engagement. Certain students might not even really know what they want to be doing in life, unsure if they want to be a teacher or not, and that is fine. I personally went through hair school, modern languages in college, translation in university before I even knew what really appealed to me. You need to try something at least once to see if you like it right? Things take time. This conversation permitted us to put ourselves in our peers’ shoes and to imagine different perspectives and different reasons why learning is very different from one individual to another. It was nice to see that everyone had something different to bring in the conversation, making many connections with all the amazing things we have learnt in ECS 210 this semester. All-inclusiveness, openness, critical thinking, justice, equity are elements that were touched during the exchange and it is really great to see our thinking and imagination blooming and shining through our conversations.

During his presentation on November 26th, Grant Urban put emphasis on how important our narrative curriculum is. Through our stories of personal experiences, people learn. If we all share our stories, the knowledge is immense. About a month ago, I commented on jordanlynnes Teaching Treaties and Disrupting Commonsense, in which he questioned the teaching of treaties and aboriginal content in Saskatchewan classrooms while pushing aside common sense. I shared with him that I was as well not introduced to treaties until my final years of high school in Quebec, and that we only brushed the subject, the focus being on the aboriginal peoples that were closer to our territories. In this short sample of my feedback, Jordan learnt that I attended high school in Quebec and that the content of our history lessons was completely different from the one taught in Saskatchewan. He might of also found out that the aboriginal groups that were established in Southern Ontario and Quebec were different from the ones that were found in the Plains. Furthermore, I informed him of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission event in British Columbia, where the devastating event of residential schools was brought and discussed to the daylight, where aboriginal people shared their stories with the thousands of teachers and students who attended the event. Many people attended this fantastic event, because people are curious and they want to learn, they want to be informed of all the horrible things the government was hiding in those places. The B.C. Teacher’s Federation also had in place a $100,000 program to help educators attend the presentation as we need to raise awareness of the many injustices that took place in the society and how it still impact the communities of today. Me and Jordan both agreed on the fact that “introducing aboriginal history or content in grade 11-12 is too late”, the content needs to be taught earlier on. If we are able to introduce our students to critical thinking, social justice issues as well as racial issues in grade 1, why is it not possible to introduce aboriginal content in the early years? The cultural diversity in our classroom will most likely be vast as many people have chosen to get established in Canada. Discovering the history of the land and all of its people is interesting, but discovering about other countries, cultures and languages can be amazing. If our students want to share, let them share and raise issues, this way they will learn and feel like they have also contributed to the learning of their peers, that it was not only “the teacher’s job”.

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This semester, I have been particularly fascinated by the online community, but specifically by Twitter and blogs, thanks to my amazing ECMP 355 class which I suggest every educator at the University of Regina should take. Even if you are not studying in Regina, he often travels places to give presentations and he is very interesting to listen to. In Teacher As Learned Practitioner by Jordan Grebinsky, she raises points about how teaching should not be a “comfortable” profession and that students should not be “comfortable” in the classroom, as many of them learn better when they are challenged and found in an uncomfortable situation. I told her : “There is no way that we know ‘enough’ as our profession consists of constantly learning about new things and growing upon situations that will shape us, and our teaching methods. As a teacher, it is important to get out there and also connect with the aid of social media, which allows the discovery of new techniques and knowledge from all around the world”. Educators have a dynamic profession. Every single day students bring content from their personal “backpack” in the classroom and raise questions that we might not have answers to. But what better way to learn than looking for those answers together and visualizing the many outcomes or possibilities one can come up with. I have grown a lot in the past couple weeks by connecting with amazing educators on Twitter, reading their blogs and others’, as well as watching some inspirational education TEDTalks. I would love if some people would take the time to make those important connections that allow us to share, grow, to collaborate with others, and this also gives an amazing example to the children. Take the time to connect, you will construct your own knowledge and it brings us a very gratifying feeling. I can recall many occasions during the semester where I have told some of my peers to try to connect on Twitter, “just to see” and I know that some of my colleagues read my posts from ECMP 355 that teaches them or gives them more information about how technology is a powerful educational tool.

Overall, I cannot be sure of the ways in which I have contributed to my peers learning, but I know I have tried and they greatly influenced my personal learning too. I always look forward to feedback from my instructors or classmates and the questions they raise in their comments. I keep writing because I can see that some of you are reading and this motivates me to share, even though I do not always think that the content is “good”. It is crucial to remember that information, as insignificant as it might seem, can teach a lot to somebody else. Remember, learn and reflect.


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The Headaches That Standardized Tests and Curriculums Can Cause

Standardized tests and curriculums are elements that have been the focus of many educational debates. Curriculums are made by the Ministries and authority figures, and are filled with standards that teachers and students need to meet in order to succeed on the standardized test, which is meant to measure the student’s capacity to retain the right information. These tests and curriculums send a message that if you do well, score high and have the right answer, then you are a good learner/teacher. This is wrong on so many levels for both educators and students. By having to meet standards and make sure that your students meet the test requirements, teachers are under constant stress and pressure. Knowing they will be evaluated on how well their students do, they will want to teach everything that could possibly be on the provincial test. To achieve this, they might have to follow a very strict schedule to ensure that everything that needs to be “learned” is taught and having little to no time for real learning, understanding and deep thinking. Under stress and pressure, educators might feel the need to have absolute control in the classroom and have a teacher-centric method, which rules out student-centric learning as well as transferring their stress to the student body, making the learning experience painful. Standardized tests and curriculums cause more harm than good, although some students are really good at memorizing information that will be on the test, allowing them to have high scores, but a poor understanding of the content. Teachers have a choice regarding what they want to teach in the classroom, but there is always the big test in the back of their minds that they need to prepare their students for and they need to adapt their content for it. “If the students score low, then the teacher is not doing their job properly” is probably what a lot of people in society think today. I firmly believe that, in most situations, those teacher consciously choose to drift away from the standards to prioritize actual learning, understanding and critical thinking of the students. 

Having lived in a province where I had to take standardized provincial tests, I can assure you that it is a very stressful experience, because if you do not have the right answer, you fail, you feel like a failure and you do not get to go to the next grade. It is not how I want my students to feel and I still do not completely understand why Ministries and governments think that standardization is the way to go. I’d love to know more about your experiences with standardized testing and curriculums and how it makes you feel. Please share!

 


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Why Are we Stuck in 20th Century Learning?

After reading Tom Whitby’s 20th vs. 21st Century Teaching last week, I posted his article on our ECMP355 Google+ page and my prof asked me the following questions that I started reflecting on: “Tom does a good job of differentiating. So, why are we so stuck in 20th century learning? Is it because we teach like we are taught? Is it too difficult to break out of the routine? Is 21st century more difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts”.

While 20th century teaching is focused on teacher-centric learning, in the 21st century it sure seems like everybody is focused on student-centric learning, including myself. Although the schools are slowly changing to 21st century teaching and we are trying to teach new educators to go towards student-centric learning, many educators and institutions are still stuck in the teacher-centric learning era where students learn throughout lectures and whatever information teachers stuff them with, literally. As a university student who is taking a full load of classes, I can assure you that at least 3 out of my 5 classes are based on reading textbooks from cover to cover and listening to information the teacher is delivering to us, and we are expected to “memorize” this information and fully understand it. Not only is this boring, but I do not feel like I am actually learning anything. Yes, I remember some information, but I will probably forget all of it when the next semester will start and will be presented to similar classes where memorizing and brain cramming are dominant.

On the other hand, I have my education classes. I feel very privileged to be here in second year, as all my other classmates from the French Bac are in Quebec City. Because of this particular situation, I am required to take my education classes in the English program this year, which is amazing as it is a renewed education program. Every time I go to these ED classes, I feel inspired and I actually learn so much! Teachers present us some facts and general information and then we discuss it as a group, after some reflection. We are also asked to look at things on our own at home then post what we retained. By doing this, it allows us to do our own research and construct our own knowledge, and I personally find it easier to retain the information I found because I did it on my own. I would be curious to know how other students feel about those classes and if they like these education classes better than their complementary classes, as well as how their other professors teach them.

When I first started in the education program, when I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I did not know there was anything such as teacher-centric learning or student-centric learning. I just thought, like probably the majority of first year students’ that I would learn how to teach/give information to the students in my classroom and expect them to retain the information to pass their exams. Oh, how wrong was I! I believe that some teachers are “stuck” into 20th century learning because that is how they were taught in school and because they are comfortable with the way they are doing things. It is definitely hard to part with a routine where you feel comfortable, but we need to learn how to get out of our comfort zones and how to take on new challenges every single day. We learn so much more this way. Of course teachers will always be needed, as students need someone to motivate, challenge and support them. Giving little information to the students in order to trigger their curiosity is the most powerful learning tool. A child who is curious will be eager to learn, will be eager to find things on their own. I do not think that 21st century learning is more difficult. Yes it might require even more research, time, effort and learning of our own, but in the end it will make us feel good about what we have accomplished and students will remember the teachers that had an impact on their lives and what they learnt from them. I might be wrong on certain things I mentioned in my post, but it is my opinion and I am still learning about being an educator, as it is a lifelong learning process. I would love to hear your thoughts on education and if you have some ideas or feedback to give me, go ahead!

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