Communicating to Assess Student Needs: Rationale

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In evaluating the selection of resources chosen, that can be used to communicate with families as a means to assess student needs, I considered the following:

  • Authorship
  • Date of publication
  • Relevance
  • Accuracy and objectivity
  • Bias
  • Low or no cost to schools/district

It was not difficult to determine which websites/apps had clearly identified authorship. All of the resources I explored and selected for communication, in order to assess student needs had known authorship.  While exploring credible resources, if I were unable to identify an author or creator, I would be reluctant to use it. One of my primary concerns is with privacy. more specifically ensuring that communications and information collected is not public. Of the resources I curated, 3 are websites created by  British Columbians’, though I did not use location as a criterion. All of the apps I looked at as communication tools with students, educators and parents had privacy protection with either COPPA (Child Only Privacy and Protection), FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) or FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act). The provincial websites explored,(Inclusion BC and BCED Access) had information primarily for parents seeking support and resources for children with exceptionalities. While these sites are not directly designed for educators, I think they are worthwhile for gaining a greater understanding of communicating with parents.

The selection of websites and apps that I chose to explore  have up to date publications. I found some really great articles on the Inclusion BC website as well as on understand.org which are mature sites. Shelley Moore’s site is current and frequently updated. In addition, it was interesting to see which sites came up at the top of the Google search under “communication apps for home/school”. Classtings, Parentsquare, Talkingpoints and Remind were at the top of the list. Actually, Remind is an app that has come up in numerous searches and is one I am going to explore further for home/school communication, Remind more specifically for ELL (English Language Learners).

This was an interesting area to  evaluate in, because looking at “home/school communication” and “assessing students needs” primarily brought up apps and websites for improving parent and teacher communication. The sites highlighted articles on how communication could be improved between parents and teachers, but not necessarily the apps to support this. Additionally I did not find very much information on apps that could support home/school communication which could then be logged, or allowed message history to be exported. With the exception of Remind, which offers history export applications, translation features in over 100 languages and allows you to pull content from other applications. This app is hugely used in the U.S. and had a high privacy rating of 94% from the non-profit site commonsense.org  Despite the fact that I did not highlight Remind as an option in my curation of resources, further research and consideration has led me to think that it will be a great resource and fit well with the framework we wish to create around home/school communication, especially because it ticks the boxes for accessibility, equity and inclusion.

All of the apps explored were either completely free to access, or had options for upgraded paid features. Most of the sites several peer reviewed comments on usage and most had positive feedback, with the exception of Classtings that had numerous comments about too many notifications.

Not included in this list are resources curated to provide communication logs. The apps explored will serve to provide support to parents and educators for home/school communication and the gathering of data, however we will explore the tracking of communication further.  Next steps involve developing a framework for data collection and communication that allow translation apps to transfer communication history into live docs for communication tracking.

Home/School Communication for ELL: Literature Review

The focus of this literature review, was to examine research that identifies concerns around accessibility in communication for ELL (English Language Learners). In pursuing greater use of technology to support home/ school communication, the hope is that use of technology will lead to both increased engagement and academic success. Something of particular interest to the researcher is how technology will positively impact accessibility, equity and inclusivity for ELL students and their parents.

While exploring this literature, it became apparent that the implementation of technology, more specifically language apps, could bridge the gap of communication between educators, students and their parents.

The following research, explored the positive impact that language apps will have on improving home/school communication.

Guo explores the absence of ELL parents from school, which is often misunderstood as a parent lack of concern about their children’s education. “Communicating with parents whose first language is not English and whose children are struggling academically highlights the difficulty of home-school interactions in context of not only linguistic but also cultural differences between immigrant parents and Canadian teachers” (p.83). For many ELL parents, language poses a major barrier to communicating with teachers. He emphasizes that there is often a lack of available translation services available. “Parents avoid going to schools because they cannot communicate in English, and there is no one at school who speaks their native language” (p.162).

The research also indicates that ELL status has been shown to affect classroom performance (Sturtevant & Kim, 2010). ELL at different levels of language proficiency can experience different rates of language development (Mathison & Billings, 2008). Access to language apps can mean that ELL students are able to engage with lesson content and increase lesson participation. While both learned content, and vital communication is richly important, technology can allow students to express themselves and share their understandings. (Prince, 2017). Providing language apps that can support both two-way and one-way communication is paramount at all school levels.

Cummins (1997) acknowledges that there are general trends around levels of illiteracy within minority groups, and suggests those who have remained isolated from the mainstream continue to experience assimilation from their institutions. He suggests through his framework of research that power and status relations are directly related to achievement of culturally diverse students within the school context. He suggests further that, “categories of difference that define inter-group power relations (e.g. racism, sexism, homophobia, discrimination based on language, cultural differences or both et cetera)” (p. 423, 1997). This point emphasizes the need to approach both academics and communication in a way that supports students and their families, not further marginalizes them. This “bicultural ambivalence” or lack of cultural identification leads to academic failures. As we redefine the roles we have in the classroom, we shape new definitions that include empowering students and their families rather than disabling them.

Houk, suggests reliable translation processes that focus on establishing two-way communication on both sides that is reliable for both the parent and the educator. Locating and accessing translation and interpreting resources available in your district are essential. Being proactive in your communication by assessing parent preference to receive communication (phone, email, text message, etc.) and clarification of what the preferred language for communication is essential.

Ensuring that home/ school communication is reciprocal by ensuring that language barriers can be overcome through the use of translation programs and language apps can alleviate unnecessary challenges with parent engagement and participation. Access to this technology can positively impact accessibility, equity and inclusion for ELLs and their families. Exploring these challenges supported our decision to curate and create posts that use different tools that can collect, store and communicate information, in hopes of bridging the gap between parents, educators and schools. This identified need encouraged us to create a resource framework.

References:

Cummins, J. (1997). Minority Status and Schooling in Canada. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 28(3), 411-430. https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/stable/pdf/3196065.pdf

Guo, Y. (2006). “Why didn’t they show up”: Rethinking EAL parent involvement in K-12 education. TEAL Canada Journal, 21(1), 80-95. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v24i1.29

Houk, F. A. Supporting English Language Learners: A Guide for Teachers and Administrators. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005.

Mathison, C., & Billings, E. (2008). The effect of primary language advanced organizer Podcasts on English language learners’ academic performance. World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2008, 2008(1), 138-143.

Prince, J. (2014). Case Study of English Language Learners in a Digital Classroom: Exploring the Experiences of Students and Teachers Using iPads for Linguistic Development and Content Knowledge Acquisition.
https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu.etd/2127

Sturtevant, E. G., & Kim, G. S. (2010). Literacy motivation and school/ non-school literacies among students enrolled in a middle-school ESOL program. Literacy Research and Instruction, 49(1), 18.

Feature image credits

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EDCI532: Snapshots of Assignment 3

We have to stop delivering curriculum to the kids.  We have to start discovering it with them.

-Will Richardson

In the beginning…

At the beginning of this course I explored the metaphor, “To me curriculum is like a meandering river.” It bends and winds in a variety of directions. It allows students to explore the complexities and intricacies of learning. While curriculum has undergone change and transformation, so to has the process of learning itself. The “new curriculum” allows students to make connections across subjects as well as through real world experiences. As we as educators evolve, so does our curriculum. We see a shift not only in how curriculum is delivered, but also how it is received.

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Curriculum should help children make deeper and fuller understanding of their own experience.

-Liilian Katz

Historically, we have seen curriculum viewed as information that is delivered and received. With so much flexibility, individual choice and exploration, students can now access curriculum in a variety of ways. I might suggest that the “how” becomes equally or more valuable than the “what.”

Mind shift…

After much of the readings presented in class and discussions with my peers I have come to view curriculum in a new light. My metaphor has changed and my overall views on how I perceive curriculum has changed. To me curriculum is like a kaleidoscope. Our evolving curriculum has been shaped over time, recognizing learners’ strengths, interests as well as the cultural foundations which make it unique. While there is no argument, that there is still great work to be done in terms of creating curriculum that provides equitable representation, it is viewed with a much more diverse lens then ever before.

To me curriculum is like a kaleidoscope in that it reflects the diversity of all peoples and is guided by the interests, passions and experiences of our learners.

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Making connections…

As Dwayne Donald points out in his web article, Unlearning colonialism to overcome the climate crisis, that we have a challenge facing us around how our students view themselves in relation to what we are teaching them. This is such a poignant statement as we consider moving curriculum away from the westernized, colonial systems in place and embrace approaches to knowledge that do not conform to traditional educational models.

Egan on the other hand, while trying to engage in conversations around the “how” rather than the “what “of curriculum, appears to paint a westernized outlook on education. While he encourages educators to determine both the “what” and “how”, it is hard to see student choice reflected in his point of view. Additionally, his approach to curriculum development lacks personalization and multiple perspectives. It would appear that the only perspective represented in his curriculum is that of the western world. (Egan, 1978).

Blades on the other hand, paints a different perspective in his paper, “Recognizing the beauty: Aesthetics in science teacher education”. He explores how his students created a working definition of science to use in class. They describe this definition as, “an on-going exploration of relationships in the natural world through hypothesizing, observing, theorizing and experimentation.” (Blades, 2015). In some ways I think this is a great working definition for much of the curriculum we teach, something that is developed, observed, experienced and then reflected on.

Curriculum is like a kaleidoscope,  it creates intricate patterns by repeated reflection. The more that “we” (educators, students and those involved in curriculum design) can reflect on past practice, future aspirations and meaningful learned experiences, the more our curriculum becomes a reflection of us.

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Final thoughts…

While I feel that my views on curriculum have changed, I still can’t help but question the “how”. Who should be responsible for determining this? While I do feel that the “how” should be left out of curriculum and left to the discretion of educators, I do think that it should also reflect student interest and experience.

Dewey brought to light the importance of respecting the experience of the learner while also considering social aspects. Perhaps he was trying to show us, is that all knowledge gained from the learned experience guides all future curriculum.

Feature image credit:

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Setting Up Communication: Rationale

Both in our own experience, and in dialogue with colleagues, we uncovered various ways educators log, store, sort and retrieve communications. Each educator has their own rationale for the tool or framework chosen for their system, and a rationale as to why communication should be tracked. However, we could not find ANY available framework in the curated resources that spoke to, or had as exemplar, a log and/or tracking system for communications, or a tracking system which can assist with assessing student needs. The majority of discovered examples of tracking systems for communications were designed to help inform school-level decision makers, administrators, technology department heads. Therefore we decided this was the gap in available educational resources to be filled and created from scratch these resources.

For the combination of the communication tool and the communication tracking tool, we chose to focus our attention on the most positively reviewed tools – as reviewed by an unaffiliated, non-profit, and research-based organization Considerations were also taken on issues of ease-of-use, availability, privacy, security of data and accessibility. Options for storing data locally are given for each case. However the district/division of each educator may have preferences as to how and with which tools this information is collected and stored.

OneNote 

OneNote is a well-known and free software by Microsoft Corporation. As a communication tool, OneNote allows for collaboration and communication between teachers, students and parents. Created notebooks, folders and files can be accessed on desktop or through mobile devices, and can be shared with others through invitation, with or without password protection. It can be used as a desktop version only or within a network, or can be connected to a cloud storage system. While OneNote was favorably reviewed by the independent non-profit site commonsense.org, it was not evaluated for privacy and data security; however, according to Microsoft, data can be encrypted, is not shared with third-parties, and is deleted from cloud storage after 90 days of discontinuation of service. In consideration of accessibility, OneNote also exists as a mobile app, and has a built-in immersive reader, a built-in translate feature which can convert text into 65 different languages, and a built-in accessibility checker for all added documents and work.

Remind

Remind is a well-known messaging software that enhances communication between teacher, student, and home. In terms of educator accessibility, it is a free app that can be used as either one-way or two-way enabled communication, and also has a translation feature – giving it flexibility as a communication tool. It allows for updates of text, files, and audio or video to individuals or groups of people and integrates with the major educational software by Microsoft and Google. It is currently in use in more than 70% of public schools in the US. In terms of privacy and data security, Remind connects users through shared links or access codes which can be easily protected, and a parent or guardian must provide verification for students until 13 years of age. Remind received a 94% Privacy Rating on the independent non-profit site commonsense.org. All data is encrypted and users retain ownership of their data. Some personally identifiable information is collected but opt-in consent is requested, users can control privacy settings, and use is limited to product requirements. Disappointingly, some traditional advertisements are displayed, but data is not shared for advertising or marketing. For safety, users cannot interact with uninvited people, personal information is not displayed publicly, and interactions are logged and can be downloaded – a feature that makes it particularly useful for tracking communication with families.

The created frameworks (K-8 and 9-12) and suggestions are ours, created from our experiences and our research. Collectively, we have 25 years of teaching experience, and more specifically, have joint experience as educators in both the general population of students and as educators within ELL programs and working with students with exceptionalities. This gives us both conventional credibility on this subject. Additionally, we created these after searching the literature for research and support on these topics, giving us some borrowed credibility. Format was difficult, as a grid or table system is the most efficient way to collect family data for clarity; however, we understand that a table is less accessible. Trials were done with Microsoft’s immersive reader to assure it would read appropriately, but this functionality is more cumbersome to access when converted to Google Doc – this point is mentioned in the blog post.

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Decolonizing Curriculum in British Columbia

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We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something provided for us, and towards the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.”- Stephen Downes

Indigenization is best described as “the transformation of the academy”. (Pete, 2016). When we explore the notion of decolonizing curriculum, we promote the notion of indigenizing curriculum. I feel that both decolonization and indigenization go hand in hand. The notion that we challenge the replication of dominant ways of knowing. Historically, our colonial education system has always been one in which we follow, do not question, as we “check boxes” to meet the status quo. If we say our plan is to decolonize BC Curriculum, we need to acknowledge the importance of not just simply adding indigenous content, but rather challenge the colonial dominance we have come to recognize as “normalized” education.

While I agree that it is important that we move forward, focusing on decolonizing educational spaces, we need to be cognizant that we are not over indigenizing curricula. As we recognize the importance of the cultural tapestry that makes up British Columbia, we run the risk of implementing a disingenuous curriculum that borders on tokenism which is not what decolonization and indigenization is about.

In our classrooms we explore curriculum as a well- known concept. This curriculum that we use, dictates what we teach and what our students learn. What has been labelled as the “new curriculum” for many classroom teachers is reinvented curriculum and implementation ideas that have been used for many years. While I don’t think all of the “old” curriculum is invalid or no longer useful, I do think that we need to include a curriculum that recognizes the strengths of all peoples and that creates space for conversations. It is so important that every student we teach, see themselves reflected in the diversity in which we live.

Shauneen Pete explores in her article, Decolonizing Our Practice- Indigenizing Our Teaching, that in order to decolonize education we need to indigenize it, in a way that re-centers and asserts indigenous knowledge within the subjects we teach. (Pete, 2013). She speaks to the importance of decolonizing ourselves, our classrooms and curricular content. She does this by drawing upon the use of indigenous scholars, by recognizing and confronting privilege as well as confronting racism. I think she brings up a really valid point, in that much or what we have seen in mainstream curriculum is evidence of institutional racism. The misguiding’s of our curriculum with what we teach about Canadian history, as well as the lack of representation of indigenous content leads to the colonial oppression. When we decolonize the curriculum by indigenizing our teachings, we need to be purposeful with how we confront racism and stereotypes.

To explore this further I would encourage you to look at the following resources:

Battiste, M. (2013). Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit. Saskatoon: Purich
Publishing Limited.

King, T. (2013). The inconvient Indian: A curious account of Native people in North America:
Toronto: Anchor Canada.

King, T. (2003). The truth about stories: A Native narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press.

Pete, S. (2016). 100 Ways: Indigenizing & Decolonizing Academic Programs. Aboriginal Policy
Studies, 6(1), 81–89. https://doi.org/10.5663/aps.v6i1.27455

Pete, S., Schneider, B. & O’Reilly, K. (2013). Decolonizing Our Practice- Indigenizing Our Teaching. First Nations Perspectives 5, (1), 99-115.

I would also encourage you to look at the contributions of Jo Chrona, who has been instrumental in the transformation of the BC Curriculum, especially where indigenous education is concerned.  A sample of Continuing our Learning Journey: Indigenous Education in British Columbia- Module 1 can be found here in this YouTube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-pQ_UqBwkI&feature=youtu.be

https://firstpeoplesprinciplesoflearning.wordpress.com/about-the-author/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expectations for Communication

Making communication clear, concise and explicit means that everyone understands  your intentions. When we make our communication explicit,  we create a process that is less likely to result in problems that stem from communication failures. While we may still need to navigate through language barriers, we need to be thoughtful in our consideration of how we provide expectations for communication and connectivity between students/ teachers/ parents. Parents/ guardians then understand our intentions and the direction in which we are going.

Providing parents with support about what “at home” learning looks like is important as we pivot to the “new normal” of online learning. Parents may have unrealistic expectations for their students so it is paramount that educators provide them with a clear understanding of what communication between home and school will look like.

Provided below are a selection of resources that I found particularly interesting to assist educators in supporting families with expectations of communication.

http://www.kathleenamorris.com/2019/01/15/communicate-parents-2019/

Blogs

Kathleen Morris talks about the 8 ways parents are teachers can communication in 2020. She outlines lots of great examples of ways to connect with lots of links and resources to explore. Such communication tools include: radio or podcasting, videos, email, social media, voice tools, communication apps and in person. This blog was particularly helpful and she provides a wealth of examples for educators to draw from.

https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/the-role-of-parents

This site would be a helpful tool for teachers to share with parents so they have a better understanding of the role that they play in their child’s development and learning (while both at home and at school). This site provides lots of suggestions and ideas for parents to support at home learning as well as provides a break down for milestones by topic including: social skills, emotions and self-awareness, literacy and math, just to name a few.  The site focuses on the important role that parents play in their child’s learning and development.

https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/7-ways-to-improve-parental-involvement-in-the-classroom/

7 Ways to Improve Parental Involvement

I found this helpful as a tool to guide teachers in improving parental involvement in the classroom, but also thought it could be used to guide home/ school communication. In order to establish meaningful communication, relationships need to be built. Getting parents involved in student learning is more crucial then ever as we continue to embark on online learning. These 7 ideas to improve parental involvement can be found here:

https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/7-ways-to-improve-parental-involvement-in-the-classroom/

Charts, Tracking Sheets, Contracts:

This website provides numerous samples of charts, tracking forms and contracts designed primarily for parents, however there were a few good examples of parent contracts that could be used to facilitate conversations between teachers and parents about what the expectations are for their involvement with at home learning. Teachers may find the section on goal descriptions useful as new goals may need to be established to work on from home.

https://www.parentcoachplan.com/parenting_contract.php

A few additional sites to explore that focus on effective communication strategies and supports to guide meaningful conversations between educators and parents can be found below:

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/five-keys-successful-parent-teacher-communication

https://www.readingrockets.org/article/building-parent-teacher-relationships

http://sarahteachingportfolio.weebly.com/effective-communication.html

 

 

Curation of Online Resources during Covid-19

During our school’s Covid-19 experience and return to a blend of both in class and online learning we engaged in lots of opportunities to share resources. We would often share out at staff meetings, which we conducted over zoom. With lots of resources coming in at every angle, one staff member suggested that we collate our resources in a google doc. that everyone could add their contributions to. A great idea, which has allowed the sharing of materials in a much easier and more accessible way. The home learning online resources are organized in sections:

  • General
  • Literacy
  • Math
  • Science
  • STEM
  • Fine Arts
  • PE/ Health Education
  • S’malgyax
  • French

The google forms can be located here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NkYl8y4LFUy_sVnf4VHmMuLRmY_kOOXigXhB14nh8e4/edit?usp=sharing

Please feel free to take a browse, perhaps your schools have done this as well. If not it was a great way to collect resources and share everyone’s contributions.

Considerations for Home/ School Communication for ELLs

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English Language Learners (ELLs) often have unique needs when it comes to language acquisition, which can make home / school communication a challenge. It can be difficult for these students to participate in whole group activities, especially now when so much of what we are doing is online (through Zoom or Blue jeans for example). Whole group conversations can be challenging to navigate in person, and adding the layer of online learning only complicates things for students who are not yet English speakers.

While there were lots of great resources out there that I could find that support language in general or add in communication between students, teachers and parents, I was surprised that it was actually a little more challenging to find resources specifically for ELLs.

There are a few considerations to think about before selecting which tech you will choose to use in your classroom to support your ELLs.

  1. Consider whether the technology you want to use for your ELLs is something your already using.

Some examples of great examples which provide differentiated instruction for a variety of learners, and additionally support ELLs include:

These resources provide leveled texts, scaffolded tools and include audio versions of the texts provided.

  1. Consider building your technology use into your everyday teaching practice.

Both translation tools and note-taking tools with recording features will be helpful in adding with both online course work as well as home/ school communication between educators and parents. A translation tool might seem like an obvious choice, and there are a few to choose from, however it get proficient with many of these applications it is important that they become apart of your ELLs everyday practice.

Examples of these types of applications include:

  1. Consider how alternate modes to demonstrate learning can be creative tools to assist ELLs of all ages.

Storytelling for example is a great digital, interactive option to build on language development while supporting learners of all ages. Digital storytelling and social stories provide options for learners to express their understanding and build on their language knowledge. They provide options for creative projects and also offer opportunities for creativity when explaining difficult or abstract concepts to parents and students. I think the applications listed below provide lots of opportunities for parent and student learning together in a way that is fun and interactive.

“Explain Everything for iPad Screen” by Wesley Fryer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  1. Consider finding tools that are specific to ELLs needs.

There are some tools that are specifically designed to support ELLs and offer a more comprehensive approach, which aim to improve language development (and focus on both receptive and expressive language) starting at beginner levels that build up to advance levels. The resources that I have selected I have previously used with ELLs and have found that they support students well using an in class instructional model as well as for independent practice.

“Screenshot: Home” by brainpop_uk is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  1. Encourage students and their families to explore language- learning tools.

Again, this can be something that will aid in your communication between home and school. There are so many great language learning tools available, and many are as simple as downloading an app on your phone. These tools often are used to bridge gaps in communication for travellers, however can be very helpful with classroom instructions as well as home/ school communication. While you have to really spend some time finding language- learning tools that will appeal to your students (depending on the age), there are a few that you may find helpful to use when communicating with families who are not English speaking.

“Easy to learn Duolingo” by apkmart000 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Whichever online tools you choose, keep in mind that the technology should reflect student and parent communication needs, also taking into consideration accessibility, usability and cost (if there is one).

Metaphors of Curriculum- Assignment #1 EDCI532

Metaphor of Curriculum:

To me curriculum is like a meandering river. A meander is a loop in a river channel. The meandering river winds back and forth. It does not follow a straight course. Curriculum is very much like that. It winds, it bends, it loops and turns in a variety of directions. When you explore its complexities and use it creatively to spark students love of learning and engage students its directions are endless.

While in the past, curriculum to me has felt rigid and inflexible. The “new curriculum” allows students to explore learning processes and curiosity, make connections and take ownership for their learning. Like curriculum, a meander is produced by a stream or river swinging from side to side, eroding the sediments from the outer banks. The old curriculum is washed away with checklists of PLOs, making room for Big Ideas, learning outcomes and opportunities to engage in cross curricular learning.

The meander allows the stream to shift its channel, similar to curriculum where the journey and process of learning is more important than the final destination. This is the “how” rather than the “what” of curriculum.  This is something I have personally struggled with, as so much focus on learning has been on creating the finished product, rather than the process or learning journey itself.

Curriculum is like a meandering river in that it guides the directionality of student exploration. It motivates the students to take ownership in their learning journey, by selecting the path or stream they will take. Teachers provide students with encouragement to choose their learning path and act more as facilitators to support them through their steams of knowledge.

The concept of the medicine wheel illustrates the knowledge needed to create a space that is culturally relevant, the pedagogy and environment for embedding indigenous education and the four directions which represent the importance and appreciation for the interconnectedness and interrelatedness of all things. The medicine wheel can be a helpful tool, similar to a compass, to support students as they navigate through the meander, this curriculum which guides the pedagogy for teaching, learning and exploring the world around us.

https://www.edcan.ca/articles/teaching-by-the-medicine-wheel/

My Teaching Context:

I work at Pineridge Elementary School in the small community of Prince Rupert, where I currently work as a Learning Service Teacher with a small administrative piece. This upcoming school year I will be returning to teach grade 4/5. Previously most of my teaching experience has been spent in the Special Education. I have enjoyed engaging with what we consider the “new curriculum”, although I don’t really see it as being anything new. Much of what has been considered “new” isn’t really… it’s what many of us have been doing for a quite some time.

While I do appreciate the sentiments discussed in class, academically, I think I am always exploring things with a critical lens, in particularly looking for the practicality of what I am learning. I design my lessons around how I can make things engaging, meaningful and applicable in the world in which we live.

Exploring Egan & Blade:

Looking at Egan’s article What is Curriculum, he argues the importance of creating parameters that will in turn prepare our students for the future. Egan argues that it is up educator(s) to determine the “what” of curriculum, as well as the “how”. (Egan, 1978). While I can appreciate this focus, I do question how much student involvement or choice Egan would say should guide the “how”? What kind of autonomy would Egan suggest is given to the student to guide the curriculum?

Egan is concerned that by including the what and how, curriculum becomes too broad and suggests the focus should be primarily on the “what”. I say this because his ideas and references are rooted in Western education and theory. Historically, we have seen curriculum become very compartmentalized, lacking personalization. This fits with our understanding of colonization, wanting students to learn in the same way, the same information so that they may be productive members of society.

While I can agree that focusing on the “what” within curriculum is vastly important, coming from a Special Education background makes me shift my focus more to what students need to learn, how they learn and how to keep lessons engaging and accessible for all types of learning. Curriculum is something that needs careful examination not just with regards to content, but also with regards to delivery and accessibility.

David Blades’ (2016) Recovering Beauty Through STEM Science Education: A Letter to a Junior Colleague speaks to the importance of teacher voice with regards to curriculum design and delivery.

” Teachers’ view and approaches to teaching matter in curriculum change. Any attempt to circumvent teaching in the change process will invariably find that teachers modify, adapt and sometimes completely deviate from what the curriculum designers expected.” (p. 26)

While I see that provincially the curriculum is developed and designed with consultation from numerous stake holders, the “how” of curriculum delivery and exploration should be left to the discretion of teachers and students who choose to be active participants in their learning journey.

I believe that as educators, we should have the professional autonomy to choose how we navigate through the meandering river we call the curriculum.

References:

Blades, D. W. (2016). Recovering Beauty Through STEM Science Education: A Letter to a Junior Colleague. Journal for Activist Science and Technology Education, 7 (1).

Egan, K. (1978). What Is Curriculum? In Curriculum Inquiry (1st ed., Vol. 8, pp.66-72). Blackwell.

To me curriculum is…

To me curriculum is like a meandering river. A meander is a loop in a river channel. The meandering river winds back and forth, rather than following a straight course. Curriculum is very much like that. It winds, it bends, it loops, it turns in a variety of directions. It allows the learner to consider different directions, especially when encouraging  student creativity and exploration of learning.

While in the past, curriculum has felt rigid and inflexible, the “new curriculum” allows students to explore learning processes and curiosity, make connections and take ownership of their learning. Like curriculum, a meander is produced by a stream or river swinging from side to side, eroding the sediments from the outer banks. The old curriculum is washed away with old teacher checklists of PLO s, making room for Big Ideas, learning outcomes and opportunities to engage in cross curricular learning.

The meander allows the stream to shift its channel, similar to curriculum where the journey and process of learning is more important than the final destination. This is something I have personally struggled with, as so much focus on teaching and learning has been on creating the finished product, rather than the process or learning journey itself.

Curriculum is like a meandering river in that it guides the directionality of student exploration. It motivates the students to take ownership in their learning journey, by selecting the path or stream they will take. Teachers provide students with encouragement to choose their learning path and act more as facilitators to support them through their steams of knowledge.

https://www.edcan.ca/articles/teaching-by-the-medicine-wheel/

(An Anishinaabe framework for Indigenous Education)

The concept of the medicine wheel illustrates the knowledge needed to create a space that is culturally relevant, the pedagogy and environment for embedding indigenous education and the four directions which represent the importance and appreciation for the interconnectedness and interrelatedness of all things. The medicine wheel can be a helpful tool, similar to a compass, to support students as they navigate through the meander.

This metaphor curriculum is like a meandering river, guides the pedagogy for teaching and both teacher and student learning. Curriculum is fluid and every changing, allowing us to explore the world around us.

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