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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Final Learning Project Assessment

As the semester comes to an end, many projects are due and the majority require reflections and assessments on the acquisition of knowledge. For my ECMP355 learning project, I chose to learn the Italian language. I planned on doing so with the help of a Google App named Duolingo, in addition to trying to connect with others online to find more resources. For the most part, I used the application weekly and went through the learning units like a “good” student would. I cannot say that I have learnt how to be fluent in Italian or that I  know how to have a conversation with someone, but my vocabulary is broader than it was when I first began and I can pick up words and general meaning when listening to Italian “conversations”. With Duolingo, I learnt:

  • To conjugate a total of 48 verbs from andare (to go) to volere (to want);
  • 56 markers of dates and time such as: months (dicembre, gennaio, febbraio), days of the week (domenica, lunedi, martedi, mercoledi), seasons (primavera, l’estate), hours (ora), time of the day (mezzogiorno, mezzanotte), etc.;
  • 82 words that have to do with food, including how to say lunch (pranzo) and dinner (cena);
  • A total of 28 animals, my favourites are penguin (pinguino) and turtle (tartaruga);
  • 28 words to describe clothing so that I can now say: Io porto un capotto e i guanti a l’inverno (I wear a jacket and gloves in the winter);
  • 26 preposition words, 13 question words (che, come, perché), 13 colors (arancione, giallo, grigio), 13 conjunctions as well as 12 common phrases (arrivederci, grazie, ciao)
  • For a total of 375 words

I have learnt quite of bit of vocabulary with Duolingo, but I realized at the end that I needed to “hear” it more. Yes, the lady recited the sentences as many times as you wanted, in addition to giving you the correct answers/translations, but they were for the majority short sentences that always had the same structure. I read that one of my classmates Ashley also had a similar dilemma (she was learning ASL) where she learnt a lot of vocabulary, but not enough sentences and/or discussions. One of my readers suggested that I look online for Italian radio stations where they play the “typical pop music”, but where all the commercials and dialogues were in Italian. I made a quick Google search on these Italian radio stations, but did not find anything right off so I decided to stop digging. Bad move. Today, while I was summarizing what I learnt with Duolingo, the vocabulary discussion question came to me and I remembered the comment from my reader. So I went and looked again for Italian radio stations, in addition to Italian podcasts, BINGO! This is when I fell upon this News in Slow Italian website, which I really wish I would have found way before today (I made a post about it too) as it seems to be an incredible learning tool. Maybe after listening to conversations for a while and increasing the speed, I will be able to finally watch a movie in Italian without thinking about how fast they are talking and how I cannot understand anything.

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I was the most happy to have completed my Prepositions unit, as this was my biggest challenge and I did have to dig on YouTube to find additional resources to completely grasp the material that was making me flustered. I completed a total of 16 units like the ones in yellow you can see above, that were made of a total of 73 lessons. I had to try each lesson at least twice, if not more in the difficult ones to unlock the following lessons, which in turn unlocked the following units. One of the things I liked the best was that I was able to practice the lessons as much as I wanted to if I did not feel confident with the material, and I was able to learn at my own rhythm, without fearing a test or having someone quizzing me on the spot about Italian expressions, words or verbs. It was not a stressful experience and this is one of the reason why I will continue learning the language so that I can achieve my dream to one day visit Italy and its thousands of treasures!

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Italian Lessons

After much struggling during my last “preposition session”, I went on YouTube to try to find Italian lessons that related to prepositions, successfully. The first video contained really simple prepositions that I already knew how to use, but it was still helpful to watch it and review before attempting to complete my unit.

Not being able to find what I did not grasp at the time, I found another video. Lengthier, but it contained everything I was looking for. I skipped to about 6:00 minutes because the content was a little repetitive from the last video I watched. In this video, the instructor explained how del, delle, della, dello were formed and when to use them. It helped me a lot and I was then able to complete the rest of my prepositions unit! I think that from now on, when I do not completely understand some terms or grammar rules, I will turn to YouTube as there are many videos available that can help me in my learning process.


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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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Class Curriculum, My Curriculum, And Learning Through Crisis

At the beginning of my ECS 210 course, we were asked the following question: What is curriculum? As a classroom, everybody raised their hands in turn to give a characteristic of their own definition of curriculum, what curriculum meant to them. The prof in front of the lecture theatre wrote these on the blackboard and came up with a group definition/representation of curriculum.
Curriculum includes multiple documents from the ministry of education that are mandated. These documents form the fundamental basis for teaching and provide a framework or guideline for what should be taught including outcomes and indicators for learning. Curriculum is provided/shaped by the environment – context and culture matter. While curriculum does change, and can be adapted it also facilitates continuity across education systems. In curriculum, time matters; material must be able to be taught/tested within a timeframe. Curriculum includes what we choose to teach and what we don’t teach. Curriculum can be directed more broadly to being inclusive and directed to different types of learners and can be thought as contributing to success in life and the development of a well-rounded individual.
This week, we were asked to rewrite this definition on our own, so that it reflects our own sense of the idea of curriculum.
Here is mine:
A curriculum is a set of documents containing outcomes and indicators that were previously agreed upon by educators, directors and the Ministry of Education, before finding its way into the classroom, where the teacher will have to follow the “mandated outcomes”, within a time frame in order to test the students’ knowledge. These documents are seen as the fundamental basis for teaching and follow the teaching norms, previously established by government, ministries, educators and directors. A teacher has the choice to follow learning indicators that will help reach the numerous outcomes, or to come up with their own methods to achieve the same objective. While curriculum has been implemented to assure continuity across education systems, curriculum is different in every single classroom, in every single school, in every province across the country. It is believed that if educators follow all these outcomes and fundamental rules, they will produce a well-rounded individual, a student filled with knowledge. Curriculum is formal and hidden, as what we teach and what we choose not to teach, sends different messages in our classroom community. We also have the possibility to adapt the curriculum so that we are inclusive of the variety of students present in our classroom.
SK Curriculum for Social Studies Grade 9

SK Curriculum for Social Studies Grade 9

In this definition, I will have to admit that there is no room for ‘crisis’ and ‘learning through crisis’, which is not a good thing. It seems to me that many people see education as a ‘production’ process. We have students in our classrooms, we want them to learn and to pass standardized tests, and go on to the next level, they graduate, and we feel accomplished. Schools should not be seen as factories. As we know, schools are much more than factories, they are where students will feel inspired, where students will want to learn, where they will be challenged, and given the right support and resources to surpass those challenges. Curriculums are pre-determined, they are constructed in a way where an instructor will have to follow a tight timeframe, not allowing any room for crisis. As every single minute of our lives are different, every single minute in a classroom should also be different from one time to another. If you are teaching something and a student raises a good question that sparks interest in his colleagues, will you just pass on that opportunity because you are on a “tight” schedule? Many problems, ideas, and events that would benefit student learning may occur in our classrooms, but we have not necessarily planned time for these and might feel obligated to continue on with the objectives that were pre-determined by authority. I am not saying that curriculum is bad overall, I am just trying to show how so many events that could benefit our students in their identity and knowledge construction are often put aside to follow the rules, the “more important things”. Maybe curriculum should be examined even more in-depth, what are these fundamentals and curriculums saying about the individuals who created them, about the individuals we are, and the ones we want to help shape? What are your thoughts on crisis and curriculum in general? And education, is it really a production process?


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Curriculum as (Online) Community!

First of all, I would love to say that this is a subject that I find very interesting as I am currently learning about many technological tools that I can use in a classroom in the course of my ECMP355 class. The learning process is currently shifting. As preservice educators, we are currently learning how to engage in social justice and anti-oppressive education in the classroom. In addition, having future students developing their critical thinking and creativity is another goal some of us want to achieve. Technology is a magnificent tool that is presented to us on a silver platter. (Note: As much as I am “for” technology, I believe physical activity is more important, finding a good balance is suggested.) This tool allows us to connect with people who can then share information or knowledge with us. From this new knowledge that is acquired, we are able to build upon this meaning or to create a new one, allowing us to grow. Both teacher/learner and student/learner  benefit from technology. By connecting and sharing, we are exploring the many possibilities that are underneath the surface waiting to be discovered. Inspiration is key to motivation.
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Learning with technology is something we can do anywhere. Literally. Nowadays, most of the population is able to access online resources and media through a portable device, at home or school, allowing us to learn on-the-go (anywhere we might be) and letting us choose what we want to be learning as well. Some individuals might be worried about how the online community and technology can be harmful or “too much” for kids to be able to handle on their own. The online world is accessible nearly everywhere, including away from parental or guardian supervision, another factor that can influence individuals’ openness to kids learning and having access to technology. As educators, we have the responsibility and opportunity to explain the “netiquette” (this link is from an education website and could be a good start to make up your own “netiquette” in the classroom) to the students in our schools. By offering them valuable resources to aid them in the online world, students will then be conscious of the “right” decisions to make online and to whom they can turn for additional support.

Overall, I think technology is a great tool for both teacher and student learner, in moderate ammounts, while following a good “netiquette”. It is available for everyone to access and to empower you into making a difference. What are you waiting for?