Monday, 27 January 2014

Technology in Kindergarten

I am so excited to have the opportunity to share with all of the kindergarten teachers in our district regarding technology in the classroom.

This is the presentation I will share in February on four occasions:

There are any number of IPad apps that could be technological worksheets, but to truly create, try one of these:
1.       Puppet Pals (my 4 yr old grandson could manage this app).  Create scenes with provided characters or take pictures of people in the class and use them to tell stories.  $2.99 gives you many characters and backgrounds.  Students record their voices while manipulating the character.  A second version is available for $4.99 for even more characters and backgrounds.
2.       Little Bird Tales  (I think it is $2.99). Students draw pictures and then record their story or write their story if they can .  Great for students who are ELL or not yet writing. Also available at your desktop: here
3.       Explain Everything.  Students can use this to draw their understanding of a concept.  Could be a letter, could be a math concept or it could be something else.   It is free.
4.       Sock Puppets (two versions: 1.99 and 3.99). Similar to puppet pals.  Create puppet shows with virtual sock puppets.

Other Tech Ideas:
1.       Great web page:
This web page is no longer being kept up because Kathy has a new class blog here:
While she is teaching grade one this year, in speaking with her last week, she asserted the intent for this is primary including kindergarten.  She blogs with her students even at the beginning of the year when they cannot yet write.  Take a few minutes to look at the entries of the students.  She uses this as a digital portfolio for each student to demonstrate their learning.  She often uses “Explain Everything” on the IPad to demonstrate learning.
2.       Check out this ebook :  Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades by Kathy Cassidy.  You can find it here:
This book demonstrates the use of Skype in the classroom to connect with learners around the world.  She talks about using blogs to collect data on student learning and to connect with other learners.  Finally, she demonstrates how Twitter can be used in the classroom.
If you aren’t on Twitter and/or pinterest, here is a tutorial on how to use this to learn:
Here is a youtube video about Twitter:
Some people to follow:
@bgiourme (that is me!)
There are so many other great people to follow.  Just check out who these people follow for ideas! 

I will let you know how the PD goes and if you have any other suggestions, feel free to share with me with your comments!  Thanks.

Where has the month gone?

I looked and was surprised the last post I wrote was January 2.  Where has the time gone?  It has been a very busy month of meeting with schools and moving the work forward.  I had a lovely chat with a teacher who teaches in a Strategies class.  This is a segregated class for students with identified learning disabilities.  She was excited to tell me she would graduate a student out of her class because he had all the necessary strategies to be successful in his community school.  When I said that was great that the student wasn't a "lifer" in a segregated class, she expressed that there were two or three more who would soon be ready to leave.

I think that was the idea of segregated sites in the past.  We would help students find the strategies needed to make it in the community classroom.  That is not what many segregated sites have become.  They have become holding places for students who have no hope to be back with their peers.

I had another conversation in the past month with a principal about a new student who arrived at his school from another site (a behaviour site whose principal didn't think he belonged in).  This principal had dropped him in his opportunity class ( a class for students with an full scale IQ between 50-75).  This student didn't belong here either.  So after reviewing the student's files and completing some additional assessments, it was clear this student was on the Autism Spectrum and would need support in the classroom.  The principal's first questions was, "What Autism site can he go to?"  My answer was that it was important for the principal to share with the family that the community school was the first suggestion.  This was a bit of a surprise for him. I am surprised that this would be a surprise today.  BUT it still is.  We are so quick to want to move a student with any disability elsewhere than the regular community classroom.  I could only share the success stories I know with regards to students with needs in my regular classrooms and how they grew both academically and socially by being in a classroom with their peers.

My hope is that through regular discussion and education, I can change some of those opinions and understandings and move all of our principals (because we do have very inclusive schools too!) toward thinking more inclusively.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Looking Back or Looking Forward

There are times I look back and hang on for dear life to the wonderful accomplishments of 2013.  I love to reflect on the growth shown by staff to embrace all students, including those with identified disabilities - the "aha" moments when staff realized the tics and anxieties in Tourette Syndrome could not be controlled and it wasn't just behaviour after all! - to the joy when a little one with Autism signed his first sentence (because we knew he could do it all along!) -to the moment a teacher showed me the writing of student who used Word Q to produce a full page of writing when "he would not even attempt a sentence before!" - to the excitement of a class doing a Mystery Skype for the first time with Krissy Venosdale's class in the US (even though a student blurted out 'Canada' because of his excitement!) - to viewing the Storybird created by a student who was SOOOO reluctant to write - to seeing the total engagement of the grade 3 students taking part in two Genius Days while the grade 4s went to Drumheller on their annual trip (I had to teach them something!) - to one student with severe sensory issues taking part in gym (because we let him address it at his own pace) - to grade 6 Leadership students using the bus borrowed from a neighboring junior high to make the trek down to Calgary for We Day and their complete excitement about changing the world when they returned! - to our super fantastic, amazing, cool, and brilliant Leadership Day  and our first ever Leadership Luncheon as part of the Leader in Me Program - to our Morning Mile daily walk (the first school in Canada to take part!)- to the completion of identifying our essential learning outcomes and collaborative planning for student success as part of goal to become a professional learning community - to expanding our intervention time in the gym (all students in the gym with me so teachers could work with individuals or small groups who did not understand outcomes being taught)- to all of the amazing things that happened in our school journey throughout the year.

I took a course about Assistive Technology and learned so much about how to give students their voice! I am so excited by this learning that I just want to share with everyone (and some might think I am a bit crazy when I give them all the new tech ideas I have!!).

All that and I accepted a new position with the district that offered a wide variety of new opportunities to spread the message of inclusion.  What a year!  In the first four months of my new position I have had the good fortune to visit many schools and classrooms.  I have been able to offer suggestions based on my past experiences and have had rejection of such suggestions (because "we already tried that before - it didn't work").

There are times when I want to just revel in what has been and stay there, enjoying the ambience of success (of course, forgetting all the hard work that got us there!).  But I know I must forge ahead.  I am excited to look forward at the work our team is doing with the ISP classes.  I look forward to working with folks in my PLN to make these learning spaces better for students, complete with real learning to be had!!  I look forward to working with teachers and educational assistants as we work to make each classroom a welcoming space for all learners in our district - for equitable education for each and every child who walks in the door of our school.

I look forward to working with Renee Laporte to explore the creation of a whole school inclusion "IPP" and to present this idea to other "thinkers" at Redcamp2014.  I mean, what a concept - something beyond a simple checklist to see if your school is really inclusive.  Paula Kluth gives a great list of Must Haves to be an inclusive school, but how could a school write this as an IPP complete with goals to work toward? I am excited to work with Renee to explore the possibilities.

I am sure this will be a great year, both personally and professionally as I seek to expand my horizons, to dream as I never have before and to work with a vast array of educators for equity in education.

A book I am excited to dive into this year is "Rethinking Equity - Creating a Great School for All" by J-C Couture and Stephen
This book, authored in Alberta, promises to demonstrated that any change in Alberta schools needs to be systematic and draws comparisons to schools in Finland.  Should be a great read as our government proposes an inclusive education system complete with equitable learning for all.  I am interested to hear the opinions of the authors (whose book was supported by the ATA) regarding what steps the government is taking to create such an inclusive environment.

I am not sure where my path will lead this year but I know that I can only see change happen if I step off my beaten path, if I try new things, if I expect that sometimes I might fail and that is okay because I will learn!