Let’s Get Together presents a Virtual Parent Expo

Let’s Get Together presents a Virtual Parent Expo

So, how do you cover a virtual event live on the radio. Well, we’re going to find out today as Toronto-based Let’s Get Together takes its popular Virtual Parent Expo online for the day.

Let’s Get Together is a charitable organization that creates opportunities for parents, youth and communities to access learning resources that provide educational assistance and support student well-being. The mission is to empower parents to become more engaged in their children’s education and inspire youth in their learning while making it more equitable and accessible.

Today, November 16th, they are posing the question, “What comes after high school?” It’s an effort to gather ideas, resources and perspectives that will help parents consider options and pathways for their child’s post-secondary journey—whatever that happens to be.

voicEd Radio is pleased to offer full coverage of the sessions throughout the day. We begin our broadcast coverage at 8:30 am EST and will be with the Expo until its conclusion at 3:30 pm. (Note: We will be breaking away at 9:30 for our weekly live broadcast from the Blue Sky Schools, Ottawa.

So, check out the Expo schedule, register to be part of the event and listen in live at voicEd.ca

What’s The One Thing In Your Teaching Life?

What’s The One Thing In Your Teaching Life?

This evening’s #ONedMentors was brought to you by the film City Slickers and, in particular, one brief minute from the film featuring Jack Palance and Billy Crystal. It’s the scene where Jack gives Billy, in a rather poignant way, gives Billy “the finger”:

This evening, we used this clip to inspire a conversation about our one thing as teachers. If you were to strip away all of the strategies, all of the technologies, all of the paraphernalia that accompanies the teaching life, what would be left.

So, for Sarah Lalonde, our voicEd Community Manager and a second year teacher candidate at U of Ottawa, the one thing was respect. Florida educator, Brad Shreffler identified change as his one thing while I declared connection as the thing that has defined my teaching life over the past number of years.

What would that one thing that defined your vision, your energy and your life as a teacher. A difficult question for some, if not most of us. But the attempt to answer it might provoke some good personal thinking and, possibly, some good staffroom discussion.

What might happen if you were take that statement of your one thing and post it in a place where you could see it every single day for the next year? How might it help you to stay on track and in line with what you believe about your work?

Here’s the conversation from tonight, but we’re hoping that this not be the final answer but, instead, the beginning of a lively and dynamic conversation about the one thing in your teaching life.

Feel free to add a comment here or, if you would prefer, write a blog entry of your own. Let us know where we can find it and we’ll link to it!

A Word in Progress—Unpacking the Technologia

A Word in Progress—Unpacking the Technologia

I’ve been fortunate to walk alongside Derek Rhodenizer since the start his latest Sunday night program on voicEd Radio. A Word in Progress seeks to dig deeper into some of the words that have become part of our discourse as educators. They are all very familiar. They roll off our tongues with ease. In many ways, they have become the tools of the trade and the foundations of our practice.

So Derek is looking to challenge our level of comfort with these words in an effort to define, refine and, in some cases, confine their use so that they actually have some actual meaning for us. It’s a lofty goal. Maybe that’s why I look forward to Sunday evenings so much.

This past Sunday, Derek invited Andrew Campbell onto the show to unpack the word technology. 

“Wait,” I hear you say. Technology? Isn’t that one word on which we can all agree. Surely the only act of unpacking that needs to be done is the one that involves anxiously tearing at cardboard boxes and bubble wrap? You would think!

In fact, when Derek announced the word of the week, I assumed that we would get the definition out of the way quickly and get into a conversation about how best to use technology in our varied contexts. As it turned out, I could hear more than one penny drop in my own tiny brain.

It probably wouldn’t surprise many if I suggested that technology has had a relatively short history in the our lexicon of edu-talk. The Google Ngram below would seem to indicate that, in fact, the use of the word on a more general level began to come into its own about 50 years ago.

But that didn’t stop the etymologist in me from digging a little deeper, only to discover that there the word technologia was used in the world of the ancient Greeks to describe a systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique.

I carried that little nugget into Sunday’s broadcast with me, thinking that I was going to rock the conversation with an insight. Instead of having a systematic knowledge of the tools that we think of when we refer to technology—instead of being true techno-logistsI suggested that many of us (myself included) had become techno-philes: lovers of technology. Well, as you’ll hear, that argument didn’t go over too well.

And for good reason.

As the conversation continued, Derek and Andrew helped me understand that the art, craft or technique to which the ancient use of the word might refer had little to do with the tools that have become so closely associated with our conversations about technology. Instead, the art, craft or technique to which our attention should really be directed (and frequently redirected) is that incredibly beautifully complex practice of teaching. This is where we need the systematic treatment. This is where we need to continue to dig deep, both as a profession and, as professionals. Now, it would be very difficult to remove all of the technology from our lives as educators—to really clear the decks. But, I think that we can play with the idea conceptually, asking questions about the what, the how and, most important, the why of our technology use.

As a point of reflection, we could sit down individually, in small groups and in larger gatherings and think about the five principles that we have found to lead to effective teaching for us. When have we been at our best as educators? When have we seen the best results from our students? When has the teaching/learning dynamic been at its peak? When have we felt the greatest sense of efficacy? Once you have listed the five principles that, you believe, have contributed to your effectiveness and the effectiveness of your students, look around and ask the tough questions about what tools you need to make those moments happen more often.

Many of us could find multiple ways to use practically any technology that is put in front of us. Sometimes we can even become overwhelmed by the sense of possibility that seems to be presented to us. But what would happen if we reclaimed that ancient meaning of the word technology and spent some time focusing on the core principles that enliven our work as educators? What technology (in the modern sense of the word) would we need to make our classrooms tick?

So, if you missed it, here’s Sunday’s episode of A Word in Progress. Enjoy!

You can catch the show live on voicEd Radio every Sunday evening at 9 PM EDT and in the ON DEMAND section of our website a few hours later.




A Word in Progress: Technology—Breaking Down is Hard to Do!

A Word in Progress: Technology—Breaking Down is Hard to Do!

It’s Sunday afternoon and Derek Rhodenizer, host of A Word in Progress, is likely getting ready for this evening’s show. It’s one of my favourite times of the week—a chance to dig a little deeper and thinking a little more critically into the language that we use in education. And, no matter where on the education landscape you hang out, you know that its a bit of truism to say that there is plenty of language that needs to be interrogated!

This evening, Derek gets ready to unpack the word technology. At first blush, it’s a strange addition to the mix. Previous explorations of words like relationship, collaboration, connection and grit have provided plenty of real estate to map. But technology? Don’t we know what we’re talking about when we talk about technology? Is there anything contentious about the word, itself.

To be sure, the effective application of technology in the classroom has received plenty of airtime. Even here on voicEd Radio, you’ll encounter entire podcasts dedicated to the topic. But that’s not really the point of Derek’s show. It’s not a show about practical applications. He’s trying to untangle the words themselves.

Well, as the chief etymologist for Word in Progress, I would like to suggest that there is plenty of reason to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty when we’re talking about the word technology.

But I’m not going to tip my hand.

instead, I’ll invite you to do a bit of pondering throughout the day and then join Derek Rhodenizer, and his special guest, Andrew Campbell on this week’s episode of A Word in Progress—9 PM EDT, Sunday—only on voicEd Radio.

And if you listen live, you’ll be able to catch it in the ON DEMAND section of voicEd.ca. Also, you can follow the twitter conversation during the show: #wordinprogress

voicEd Radio Spotlight: Paul McGuire and the Importance of Getting Out of School

voicEd Radio Spotlight: Paul McGuire and the Importance of Getting Out of School

Many of us long for versions of school that acknowledge the power of community involvement, if not engagement, and the wonderful things that can happen when the insights, experiences, resources and stories that are living within the spaces surrounding our schools are drawn into our classrooms and into our ways of thinking about curriculum. Often these aspirations are embedded in our visions for both vibrant systems of education and dynamic communities.

This morning, I had a live conversation with Paul McGuire on voicEd Radio and, while he acknowledged the positive impact that participation in schools can have, he effectively turned the idea on its head when he told us some pretty powerful stories where, as a principal, he ventured out into the community, meeting parents, business people and community members where they lived. For Paul, being able to get out of the school, allowing what he heard and what he learned about the community to inform his vision for the work being done back at the school, paid dividends, forged new relationships and offered everyone a different perspective.

Instead of seeing communities as a part of the school, Paul helps us understand that, in fact, schools are part of the community. (In reality, holding both perspectives simultaneously will likely yield the best opportunities for growth!)

But as Paul was telling his stories, I could literally sense a change in my breathing as he inspired a possibility in my mind. What might happen if, as a staff, we were to designate one PD day a year to do just what Paul did—get out of school and head out, two-by-two, out into the community. What if we were to head to the local shopping mall, the coffee shop, the library, the places of worship, the rec centre, the seniors residence, the local businesses and municipal offices to talk to people. Not all of them would have children in our school, but I would venture to guess that all of them would have something to say about their hopes and aspirations for their community.

Imagine how this “environmental” research might influence the way we see things once we got back to the schoolhouse. Imagine how it might refresh our vision for our work and its importance in the larger context of where we live.

Why not grab a coffee, find a comfortable chair and listen to my conversation with Paul McGuire. And let us know what insights and ideas begin to emerge for you!

Out of My Mind—and Into Theirs!

Out of My Mind—and Into Theirs!

I’ve always been a sucker for a good metaphor. A well-used, provocative metaphor can go a long way to helping to both deepen and broaden our understanding of the world in which we live. So to say that Cathy Fosnot had me at landscapes of learning would be a bit of an understatement. In fact, as we continue to move through this nine-week #notabookstudy project, it is her idea that mathematical learning takes place across a landscape, and not along a straight and narrow highway, that has breathed so much life into the way that I see my own mathematics story and my growing relationship with the numbers, patterns and connections that are part of the world in which we live.

Beyond my own personal journey, however, the landscape metaphor has opened my eyes to the learning lives of my two boys, Luke and Liam. I’ve always seen Luke, age 10, as a bit of a conformist. He likes to know the rules regarding many things. He loves puzzles, codes and mysteries. He’s a figure-it-out type of guy. Liam, on the other hand, is a little bit of an enigma. He’s imaginative and curious and loves to dwell in a world filled with questions, possibilities and…well…costumes. Together, they’ve provided me with the perfect “testing ground” for some of the ideas and concepts that we’re talking about in this #notabookstudy.

On the way home from school last Tuesday, a few hours before our weekly broadcast with Cathy, I decided to try out some of the things that I had been reading about in Chapter 6: Algorithm vs. Number Sense. As we walked along, I posed a simple addition question to both of them at the same time. “What’s 34 plus 26,” I asked, realizing that I might have taken more time to place the question in some sort of context. But I was curious about one thing—how they would proceed in their computation.

They both came up with the same answer at the same time and so I turned to Luke first, asking him to explain to me how he went about arriving at the answer ’60’.

“Well, it was easy. I added the 4 and the 6, which gave me 10. I knew that I had to carry a one which gave me 3 + 2 + 1. So that’s 6 and the answer is ’60’.”  It was clear to me that he was using a mental image of the algorithm that he had been taught in school.

Liam waited patiently for Luke to finish and then he began his explanation. “I got the same answer as Luke, but here’s how I did it. I knew that 30 plus 20 was 50. I also knew that 4 plus 6 was 10. So I just added the 50 and 10 and got 60!”

I tucked the story away until I had the chance to share it with Cathy during our Tuesday night conversation. But it wasn’t until our broadcast was nearly over that it struck me. I became curious about the way Luke and Liam actually imagined the computation question in the first place. When Luke thought about my question, did he naturally stack the numbers, preparing to work his algorithmic magic, or did he first think of the numbers in a horizontal line? And how did Liam picture the same set of numbers and the same question?

I began to wonder whether the way that we hold numbers, number sentences and equations in our mind has an effect on the way that we go about figuring things out. So, the next morning, I asked the boys the same question, but instead of doing it “in their heads”, I asked them to write things down. And here are the results:










There’s likely a lot that I could say about these two images. I could wonder about whether Luke recognizes the power of place value in the algorithmic approach. I could marvel at the progress Liam seems to be making towards understanding the distributive property. (I could even ask why Liam continues to reverse his “5’s”). For me, however, the real power of these two images has to do with the assumptions that I make (and have made for many years) about what is actually going on in the mind of our learners. What happens in the spaces that occur between my communication of a mathematical idea, question or concept and how it is perceived and interpreted? How could the way a simple equation is written affect the way students start to think about it? How do different minds construct mathematical models?

I have to admit that I tend towards algorithmic thinking in my own life. If you must know, I’m a stacker. But what would happen if, as a parent, I took Cathy Fosnot’s landscape of learning seriously and made a conscious effort to get out of my own mind—my own ingrained way of thinking—and stepped into the mind of another traveler on the road?