The Adventure of My Inquiry Project

The assignment was to think of something you want to learn. Ok, not so bad right? Well I went into panic mode first. All I could think of is there is nothing new I want to learn to do, I only want to learn about what I already do but to do it better! I have no time to learn something new! I work 2 jobs, take courses, instruct, I have no time for this!! Fear, frustration and panic were  at an all time high at this point.

Next step was to settle down and think about what I am interested in. I hate knitting, I already know how to crochet but in my own way as I am not patient enough to follow a pattern, I have dabbled in a few other things over the years but then it came to me. I have always wanted to write, to actually be a published author.

Growing up I was always reading Nancy Drew books. In elementary school I actually started an outline for my own version. It dod not make it very far. oVer the years I have often thought about writing books for my profession or mystery books, or articles for a newspaper.

Topic picked, now what? I knew people! I knew published authors! I contacted local authors; Linda Ducharme, Nadine Dobbin. I contacted Amanda Wang who ghost writes for others.  After picking their brains I also checked out the multitude of groups on facebook.

As I talked to Linda and Amanda I certainly had feeling of defeat. Becoming an author is not an easy venture. There is a lot to know about, a lot you have to do for yourself, and publishing has changed so much over the years from what we used to view it as. There is a need for authors to be able to navigate the various types media and technology all on their own now.

I was able to gain so much more knowledge on this topic even though I never actually sat down to write a word for an actual book. I was able to experience doing all kinds of research; talking to people, college courses, internet programs such as facebook and Linked in, Google searches for tips on writing, Twitter, etc. I had an idea as to where to look and each search took me to another place to find more information. I could have gone on for several more hours. The information really is endless.

As a student through this process, I can see how easily the students can become overwhelmed by just choosing a topic. My students are always telling me they want specific options or direction, not a wide open option. For some of them I think it goes back to focusing on the mark more than the knowledge gained from doing research. As an instructor I can be more supportive and give more specific feedback as they go through this type of process. I think the majority of them need that kind of support to reassure them the mark is secondary to the knowledge they will gain.

Will I write? After doing this project, yes. I am going to start by resurrecting my sad blog and then go from there. (I still need to learn how to attach it to my  Twitter account)

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Digital Storytelling

I was immediately attracted to this topic and the more I researched it the more I knew this was going to be a tool my students would be able to use not only in class but also out in the field!

I began by looking at the components of what went into creating a digital story.  The first video I watched,  7 Elements of Digital Storytelling, showed me what went into a good digital story. The article also explains the ins and outs of digital stories as well.

As early childhood educators we teach our students how to use  learning stories to communicate activities and learning that the children have been involved in to the parents. We do it old school. We either use poster board and photos we have had developed at a business that provides this service. Then we create the board; pasting pictures, adding typed or hand written descriptions sharing what the children were involved in as well as what and how they were learning. We end it with where we are going to take the learning to next. This is then posted on the wall in a place where parents come in to try to ensure they see it. The other way these stories are created is through the computer. It is all done on 1 page and it is printed. Then, like the poster board version, it is posted in the centre for parents to hopefully stop and read.

As an instructor I would love to see the students create a digital story of the activities and their own learning. We would then scaffold that practice to creating digital storys of the learning their children in their centres are engaged in.

There are so many different tools out there for them to use. As I researched the different ones I found several I would encourage them to look into. I really liked Smilebox. It is easy to use and there are tutorials on you tube. The students can use photos, pictures, add text or voice as well as music.

Ece’s are always looking for new ways to get the parents’ attention and communicate with them about their children and all they are involved in as well as their development. It is hard to get parents to slow down at the end of the day to read anything on the wall. They just want to get their children and get home. Everyone is tired. With this in mind, as a parent if I was to receive a digital story about my child I would stop everything and watch it. I would then probably share it with all my family and friends. Now that is a lot better then a quick look at the poster on the wall as I am hurrying home to make supper and get everyone ready for bed!

Flipping the Classroom

When I was first introduced to the term ‘flipping the classroom’ I thought I knew what it meant. I thought it meant that the students are sent to research a topic and then they bring their findings and ‘teach the class’.

I have since discovered it actually means the students homework is to watch the lectures or other material and come to class prepared to discuss the material, ask questions, or complete assignments about the lectures they watched at home. They then are able to get the help they need while doing assignments or questions right away from the teacher. I think back on my own time spent over the years as a student. This technique would have saved me many hours of frustration trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing or what I was doing wrong while plugging away at my homework at the kitchen table.

This then brings me to today. I think of the homework I just assigned my own students at the college. I wonder how many of them will struggle with it or will they have success without having access to myself for questions or clarification.

I can see the real value in flipping the classroom. Not only are we providing a situation where more students can be set up for success but we are also embracing technology. Technology that our students and future employees will need to be able to navigate. The video lectures give students more control over the material they are learning about. The can replay it or they can rewind it and go over a section they are struggling to understand.

Once back in the classroom this article regarding tech free strategies for engaging the students lists 3 effective ways to get students thinking about the learning material and looking at how well they understand it. It also helps them be able to identify what they are struggling with. These are very creative ideas that get students up, moving and being an active participant in their learning. The students are ultimately steering their own boat.

I listened to an interview on How I get my students to own their own learning . I was intrigued as the teacher spoke about the students needing to “prove to me you understand this”. It put the responsibility on the learner to  show how he/she understood the material. The students were active in the learning and they discovered how to use each other as resources and to work through questions and assignments but had access to the teacher if needed. This was a classroom in middle school but I think it would easily transfer to college learning.

As I look at using this technique, I do wonder about the quieter students. The students who are not as self assured and confident enough to speak in class. How do I ensure they are succeeding and feeling confident in their learning?

Student Centered Learning

The article,  Student-Centered Learning: It Starts With the Teacher, had several points that spoke to me as an ECE instructor.

We teach students how to observe and document children’s interests and then create activities or offer materials that build on that particular interest identified through our observations. By offering these types of activities and materials, they are encouraged to continue to explore and build on their present knowledge. We as instructors and teachers need to be able to expand this type of process from infant and preschool children to the school setting; elementary school through to post secondary.

I think we need to be creative in our teaching methods and open to letting the students have a say in how they learn the material. As a student myself, if I don’t see the value in a lesson then I have hard time focusing and completing the tasks assigned. Feeling empowered to be able to take charge of my own learning motivates more then listening to the ‘sage on the stage’ for hours and then having to write a huge paper. Understanding we all learn in different ways helps us as instructors let go of the reins a bit and let students make some of the decisions.

Motivation is so important in learning. The carrots and stick method doesn’t work very well or for very long. Students need to be motivated from within to push themselves to achieve greater understanding of a topic or become more competent in a particular skill. I believe giving students some control over how they achieve these goals is going to be more of a motivation than the promise of a ‘good grade’ at the end.

We all have learning objectives that need to be taught. How do we transfer this practice into our own classrooms while ensuring our students leave us with a good understanding of the learning objectives and the ability to preform the job they will be hired for?