Social and Emotional Needs: The Basis Of Successful Learning Design

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In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to think about, and reflect on, a misconception/misunderstanding about teaching and learning I have experienced, and how it has led to new insights and knowledge about my craft.  

The biggest misconception/misunderstanding I have experienced since I started teaching in 2006 is the realization that learning cannot take place before the social and emotional needs of my students are met first.  I used to think my role as an educator was to teach content to students based on a set of guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education, and students would attend class each day ready and able to learn – but I’ve learned the hard way that this is not always the case.  Before I realized the importance of attending to the social and emotional needs of my learners, I tended to open the academic floods gates at the morning bell and get straight to work.  I didn’t know any better.  I assumed that my students were ready, willing, and able to learn.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing.” – Dr. Stuart Shankar.

The ability of my learners to self-regulate is an important part of meeting the social and emotional needs of my learners.  Making time to explicitly teach skills around self-regulation (making our learners aware of conditions they need to be successful, teaching them how to deal with unexpected situations, and how to relate to others) has become increasingly important in today’s classrooms.  The best learning design in the world cannot reach the dysregulated learner.  One can design experiences, which engage students fully in the learning process, ask questions that lead to meaningful exploration of the topic, and allow time for students to follow their own line of inquiry, but unless we are able to decode our learners and understand their state of mind as they enter our classrooms we are fighting a losing battle.

Two Techniques To Attend To The Social and Emotional Needs Of Students:

1. Restorative Classroom Practices

By creating conditions where students feel safe to express their emotions and build community and support with their classmates, Restorative Classroom Practices can have positive effects on learner’s emotional needs.  The simple act of gathering in a circle at the start of the school day, checking in with how we are feeling, creating a sense of equality, and giving a voice to every student, Restorative Classroom Practices have had positive and meaningful impact on the student’s classroom experience.  Perhaps the biggest shift I have made over the years is that I have been able to shift decision making process from teacher to the students with remarkable success.

2. MindUp Curriculum

Using the latest research in neuroscience, MindUp curriculum provides educators with the tools to engage their learners in how the brain functions, what the optimum conditions for learning are, when the brain develops roadblocks for learning, and techniques to overcome these roadblocks.  Many of my learners struggle to attend to the ‘present’ while in the classroom.  They’re either reflecting on the past, or looking forward to the future, and this lack of attending to the present is having negative effects on their school experience.  Creating a ‘mindful’ classroom is not just a buzzword of 21st Century learning.  It is precisely because of the speed and the attention grabbing technological world we live in that students need to create time and space to disconnect, focus within, and calm their minds.  A mindful classroom creates a space for the dysregulated learner to find comfort and a sense of belonging.

It’s A Book, Jackass!: Technology v Attention

“The average time spent with screen media among 8- to 18-year-olds is more than twice the average amount of time spent in school each year.” (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010; National Center for Education Statistics, 2007–2008)

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Whenever I think about use of technology in the classroom and its impact on learning and attention, I cannot help but make connections to the book,  “It’s a Book” by Lane Smith.  The book centers on two characters.  One is a digital native and the other is an analogue learner.  The two of them are having different experiences with a paper book.  When I read it I think of the analogue learner as a grandfather and digital native as a grandson.

– CAN IT TEXT?

– BLOG?

– SCROLL?

– WI-FI?

– TWEET?

– No… it’s a book.

We live in a vastly different technological world than we did just 10 years ago, and advances in technology are unlikely to slow down.  Realistically, these advances are likely to tax our attention more and more.  We no longer need to ask the question Do advances in technology affect our learner’s attention? Because there is mounting evidence to support this.  In a recent New York Times article titled Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say Dr. Christakis showed that students saturated by entertainment media, experience “supernatural” stimulation that teachers might have to keep up with or simulate.  He further explained that heavy technology use “Makes reality by comparison uninteresting.”  Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, claims there exists the possibility physiological changes in the brain as a result of advances in technology, “Children I’m particularly worried about because the brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. It keeps growing until the mid-20s,”

The question we need ask ourselves as educators is “How do we continue to provide engaging and meaningful learning experiences for students with or without attention difficulties? Research conducted with the help of classroom teachers by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, shows that technology advances have affected learner’s ability to attend to a variety of tasks, but at the same time the research found an increase in learner’s ability to find new information and multitask effectively.  A recent Psychology Today article written by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. supports some of the findings in the Common Sense Media research by claiming that exposure to technology isn’t all bad.

Research shows that, for example, video games and other screen media improve visual-spatial capabilities, increase attentional ability, reaction times, and the capacity to identify details among clutter. Also, rather than making children stupid, it may just be making them different.”  

I think it is safe to say that in order to develop successful learners who are able to contribute meaningfully to society a balance needs to be established with the use of technology.

Attention In My Grade 5/6 Classroom

I have worked in the same grade 5-6 classroom for the last five years, and the majority of my students spend many hours interacting with technology by playing video games and watching YouTube videos.  It is difficult to establish whether there is a direct link between increased in screen time and a drop in learner’s ability to attend tasks, but what is clear is the difficulty I have in capturing and maintain attention in class.  It would be pompous of me to think I do not own a slice of the problem, and need to continue to work on improving my learning design to better suit the needs of my learners, but I work in a system that is slow to change and adapt to a different style of learner.

So How Do We Adapt To Attention Changes Within Our Learners?

  1. We can use stories to capture and hold learner’s attention.  Stories are logical, they have a sequence we are all familiar with, they promote questioning and inferring, and can create and convey strong emotions.

  2. Use visuals cues such as infographics to help students absorb information.  “Verbal and visual cues are processed differently by the brain….Unless someone has a vision or related impairment, they learn from visuals.” Dirksen

  3. Allow students to work in groups.  Group work creates a space for positive social interactions, support, and leadership.

  4. Ask questions that cannot be answered by a simple Google search.  Ask questions that require learners to interpret

  5. Put your students a state of cognitive dissonance.   Cognitive dissonance occurs when learners are present with an event that is contradictory to their own experiences.

Learning Design: A Memorable Learning Experience

In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to reflect on a highly memorable learning experience and link it to my understanding of learning and memory.

Sadly, I can probably count on one hand the number of highly memorable learning experiences I have encountered.  With this in mind, I don’t know why I am so surprised to see some of my students unengaged and unmotivated.  As it turns out, learning experiences are more often than not largely forgetful because it is a complex and individual experience:

“Learning is not simply a process of absorbing information from the environment. Rather, it is a process of making—actively and intentionally constructing—knowledge and understandings.” – Ormrod (2010)

One of my most memorable learning experiences occurred recently.  For six weeks in November of last year I attended prenatal classes with my wife and unborn child.  These six sessions, although highly engaging, did not involve a lot of ‘hands on’ work, nor was there time allotted to practice the skills necessary for a healthy, active, and participatory labour experience.  This contradicts some of the learning strategies we use in schools and classrooms around the country while creating robust learning experiences for students.

Why was this experience so memorable?

For two main reasons:

I was highly motivated about the content because I could see how the skills learned in the classes would help make my life easier during a transitional time in my life.  I had enough life experience to know that there was a real benefit for me to retain as much information as possible in an effort to retain a healthy work/life balance.  Retaining information is sometimes difficult for me.  Most of the time, especially during professional development opportunities my district offers, I do not move information from my working memory to long-term memory very effectively.  Why?  I think I am an automated learner, and are not actively engaged in my own learning – especially when my life is busy and my mind seems full.  In our text, Design For How People Learn, Dirksen talks the steps required to move information from working memory to long-term memory.  She uses the  example of ‘shelves’ on which information can be stored, much like a well organized filing system in the brain.  The more shelves one can place important information the better chance one stands of retrieving it when needed.  “Anything that you do remember becomes part of a series of associations – you don’t learn anything in isolation.” – Dirksen.

When it came to prenatal classes the information was easy to encoded because I had enough life experience to see a direct and immediate need the information.  It was easily retrieved during the lengthy labour process because I filed it away on many ‘shelves’ including being a support to wife, being a good husband, be an advocate for my wife during labour, and being able to care for a newborn.

Another reason why this was a memorable learning experience was because the content evoked strong emotions within me all the learners present.  The use of role-playing was highly effective during class, and helped a great deal prepare my wife and I for a very different birth experience than we had planned.  One of the last activities we completed in our prenatal class was to role play what it would look like if labour did not go to plan and an emergency cesarean section was required.  Our instructor, Michelle, did an excellent job of explaining how a cesarean section was vastly different from a natural birth.  She directed the fathers in the group to role-play what would happen in this scenario.  After the session I knew at what point a caesarian would happen, how my wife’s care would be transferred from midwife to obstetrician, that we would separated for a short period of time before and after birth, that the operating room would be full of doctors and nurses, that the room would be painfully bright, and that I would be with baby directly after surgery and not, ideally, my wife.

“Even though we know it’s not real, role-playing can be an effective way to create the feel of the emotional context, especially if you have effective playing the part.” – Julie Dirksen  

In summary, in each of the six prenatal lessons the information that caught my attention the most, information I moved from sensory register into short-term memory, was information that evoked strong emotions, and information I needed in order to be the best support I could be for my wife.  As working memory tends to hold information for only a few seconds I needed to encode this information into long-term memory, quickly.  I used many associations to encode the information as mention above.  I placed the information on several ‘shelves’ with labels such as ‘best practices for being a supportive husband’, ‘skills required to be a great first time father’, ‘baby’s needs’, ‘worst case scenarios’, etc.  Having numerous associations helped me easily retrieve information when I needed it, even under stressful and unexpected conditions.  “Learners are especially likely to retrieve information when they have many possible pathways to it – in other words, when they have associated the information with numerous other ideas in their existing knowledge.” – Ormrod (2010)

Learning Design In Practice

In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to consider why learning design is important and how it can be useful in my own practice.  Here are some of my thoughts:

 

When I use robust learning design to explicitly plan, structure, and sequence learning experiences for and with my students I find the quality of the instructional time to be high, and the user experience more satisfying.  One example that comes to mind immediately are the resources, curriculum, and lesson plans I use from Free The Children.  When I first partnered with Free The Children, in 2010, I used their resources in my social studies classes to raise awareness of local and global issues, but instead of adapting the resources to suit the needs of my learners I rolled out the lesson plans from the box, verbatim, and they failed.

 

Why did they fail?  They were after all well written, scaffolded appropriately, and supported with multimedia options, but that wasn’t enough.

 

After persistently and feverishly struggling through several lessons I took the time to reevaluate the experience my students were having and made some changes.  In essence, I started the learning design process.  The lessons were bombing because they were not my lessons; they were someone else’s.  The first change I made was to restructure the content and make sure I fully understood what I wanted my students to learn.  Next I evaluated the learning needs of my students and quickly found out they had a very limited knowledge of the geographical world around them, so I helped to quickly fill some knowledge gaps.  Finally, and most importantly, I moved away from a lesson plan format where I shared information, and we worked on the gradual release of responsibly on a specific task, to a much more hands on method.  My students have learned that the best way of understanding social justice issues and working towards positive change in the world is by creating awareness, educating others, and taking direct action.  My students now hosts assemblies to educate the school on the importance of education, they hold movie nights to talk about the importance of clean water, and they indulge in a day of silence in support of child rights.  Robust learning design has proved helpful in increasing student engagement and motivation.

 

Advantages of Learning Design

  • Can lead to student centered learning rather than teacher centered learning
  • Leads to differentiated learning – Blooms Taxonomy
  • Can connect learning to real-life situations
  • Keeps the learning experiences ‘honest’ – How does this lesson relate to the goal?
  • Creating learning experiences based on latest neuroscience and tailored towards how children best learn today

 

My Learning Design

One area of learning design that is most important to my own practice is differentiating the learning experience for my students.  Sometimes I use the excuse that I have such a challenging class with a variety of complex needs that I cannot possible create meaningful learning experiences for everyone, but with a more robust learning design plan I can reach more of my learners.  Through understanding the cultural, knowledge, and skills gaps in my learners I can tailor learning to suit the individual needs of all my learners in a more effective manner than trying to squeeze all learners down a path they may not have the skills and experience to navigate.

Education: Behind The Noise Of The ’21st Century Learner’

In my #tiegrad class, I was recently asked to consider whether or not our current schools/teachers/curriculum are preparing students for the 21st century?

I think it’s fair to say that schools, teachers, and curriculum want to meet the needs of their learners regardless of the century they occupy.  They want to produce independent thinkers who contribute to society in positive ways, and learners who are encouraged to reach their full potential.

Are they doing enough?

Probably not, but it isn’t from lack of trying.  Everyday I am surrounded by deeply passionate educators, who deliver curriculum in meaningful and innovative ways, work hard towards building robust relationships with students, in districts who desperately want to see successful children arriving at school doors every morning.

In order for curriculum to meet the needs of its learners it cannot be revised every 4+ years.  It’s in the area of curriculum where I find educators excel, and the work they do is sometimes under appreciated.  They have become extremely skilled at using curriculum as a guide before tweaking, contorting, and manipulating its content to make it relevant for their learners.  I don’t know a single teacher who isn’t working their socks off at making curriculum relevant.  It might not follow current ‘trends’ in education but who’s to say that it’s not meaningful to the group it’s being shared with.

By now it is unquestionable that our current education system was designed for a different era, and needs an overhaul.  Learners grouped by age instead of interest/ability, sat in desks for the majority of the day, learning a compartmentalized curriculum, and primarily focused on individual success and recognition.  The world is moving in a different direction and education is in danger of being left behind.  If our current education system operated in the business world, then it would have folded long ago.  In its defense, there isn’t the kind of money allotted to make the kind of sweeping changes that occur often in the corporate world.  Schools are asked to do more with less and strain is clear to see.  When high schools are so overpopulated that PE teachers are required to conduct their lessons in the hallways then there is an obvious problem.  Perhaps there are too many individual groups (Ministry of Education, school boards, school districts, DPACS, principals, parents, union, and teachers) within the system trying to advocate for their own methods of reform, that it is difficult to hear the message through the noise.  The British Columbia Ministry of Education is in the process of revising its curriculum through its much-touted BC Education Plan. Will it be enough?  Only time will tell whether it will support those asked to convey its new vision of a changing world and changing learner.  I agree with the BC Education Plan’s message that student’s need to be at the center of their learning.  In fact, the more I read about student centered learning from the likes of Angela Maiers’s The Passion Driven Classroom, Will Richardson’s Why School, and Daniel Pink’s Drive, the more I realize the importance of learner choice in education.  Learners need time in their weekly schedule to find their passions and follow their own learning path.  I particularly enjoyed watching Shelley Wright’s TED Talk about the power of student learning.  In it she talks about a pedagogical awaking under the guidance of Alex Couros.

“For the first time I began to realize that maybe my students could construct their learning.  That learning is constructed in community, and that maybe they would be the centre of it, maybe they would have something to say about it.…”  Shelley Wright.

Student centered learning promotes lifelong learning, stimulates creativity, fosters a healthy sense of inquiry, and leads to increased engagement in the subject matter.

As I continue to shape and reshape my own pedagogy through the experiences I have at school, my own lifelong learning, and the professional networks I have developed, I have come to realize certain facts about learners in the 21st Century.  I know that curriculum needs to be relevant and meaningful to its users.  I know that learners need time to follow paths of inquiry, and be encouraged to take risks. I know that the social and emotional needs of my students need to be met before any learning can take place, and there is a unhealthy fear of failure in our schools.  Most importantly, a robust, flexible, and rigorous public education system is more important than ever.

Does Design Thinking Have A Place In Education?

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In my latest #tiegrad course I have been tasked with better understanding design thinking, and to consider whether it could play a relevant part in my own instructional design process.  I wanted to share my initial findings as I seek a deeper understanding of the process.

If empathy, interpreting, imagining, planning, and testing are the principles of design thinking, then it is remarkably akin to the assessment cycle used in education.  They are both user centered, continuous, and intentional.  Perhaps design thinking is the new assessment cycle?  Regardless of your thoughts of the process of creating engaging, authentic, and relevant instruction in your classroom, I believe design thinking has a place in our education system, classrooms, and schools.

If “Design has a set of tools and methods that can guide people to new solutions.” (Nussbaum, 2009) and mainstream public-school education in Canada is having difficulty understanding the needs of the latest entrants into its system, then surely we can borrow some ideas from design thinking to inspire a new generation of learner.

I will be the first to admit that I struggle to consistently design learning experiences, which engage all my students.  I struggle with student apathy towards education, and I seem to focus so much of my day developing and maintaining relationships, understanding my learners, and meeting their socio-emotional needs that my current assessment practices need redesigning.  Can the design thinking cycle help?  I’m not sure yet, but I am certain that more time I spend with my learners working towards authentic, real life learning experiences the more engaged my class is, and the more satisfied I feel.

I see design thinking working across the curriculum.  In social studies, design thinking is idea for addressing many social justice issues such as hunger, education, poverty, and unclean water.  These global issues need a new approach and  creative solutions.  The collaborative nature and user-centered approach of design thinking can help.  This PBS documentary shows design thinking at work by highlight the work done by Stanford University’s Institute of Design (aka the d.school) students who created products that may save thousands of lives in Bangladesh, Indonesia and other developing countries they visited.

Teaching Students Design Thinking?

In contrast to the benefits of design thinking as a teaching tool in education, I enjoyed reading Debbie Morrison’s blog posting Why ‘Design Thinking’ Doesn’t Work in Education.  As an elementary school teacher working in an inner-city school with a disproportionately high number of at-risk students, I fully agree with her argument that design thinking has a place in instructional design but not in student curriculum.  She argues that design thinking, “… requires one to think of a problem from unconventional, even unlikely perspectives…”  and could be too complex for our k-12 education system.  My students do not have the school experience or life experience to deal with such abstract thinking.  Morrison further states that our current learners

“…have the creative confidence knocked out of them at an early age and little attention paid to developing their creative thinking skills thereafter. Any design thinking process would be greatly enhanced by people who have had the opportunity to hone their creative fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration.”

My learners are concrete learners.  How do we teach creative fluency, flexibility, and originality, when these qualities may not be supported/valued at home?

 

EDCI 335 Introduction to Learning Design

Hello Everyone!

My name is Christopher Lister.  Originally from England, I lived and worked in Canada for the last 15 years.  I am a little distracted in many areas of life right now as my partner and I are expecting our first child in the coming weeks. Together, we hope to figure out how to juggle the demands of school, work, and family life as the year progresses and our family grows.

I have been directly involved in education for close to 10 years now, and I am looking forward to deepening my understanding of student engagement, motivation, and generally working on having more fun with the students I work with.  I work in the Chilliwack School District (SD#33) and for the last five years I have worked at Central Elementary Community School in downtown Chilliwack as a grade 5-6 teacher.  I enjoy the incredible freedom I have been given to plan activities, lessons, and learning opportunities that motivate and engage my students, but wonder if this freedom has meant that curriculum/learning design has taken a backseat.

Instead of answering the question, “What would like to teach the world?” I feel more comfortable commenting on what I would like to share with the world.  In 2010 I was working at Central Elementary School, and my principal at the time, Scott Wallace, called me into his office one day to gauge my interest in an event called We Day.  He had arrange for me and my teaching partner to take our grade 6’s to the event in Vancouver.  At the time I did not recall the conversation as meaningfully as I do now, as this event, the spirit of We Day, and the impact it has had on the students who have bought into the movement is difficult to describe in words.  We Day is a movement to encourage youth to participate in social justice issue both locally and globally.  The message of We Day is loud and clear: There are many people in this world who, for reasons such as poverty, hunger, lack of education, lack of sufficient health care, and unclean water, are unable to reach their full potential in life.  When large numbers of youth get together, educated themselves, be empowered by mentors, and take action, they can create positive social change.  We Day changed the way I teach, it re energizes me when I get bogged down in curriculum, assessments, and meaningfully standardized testing, and it caused me to reevaluate how much I was contributing to the world around me.

How will I share this with the world?  Well, I plan to continue to present opportunities for my students to participate in events that relate to positive social change through a partnership with Free The Children.  Personally, I plan to evaluate how much I contribute to the word around me, and look for opportunities to enhance and enrich my local community.  In fact, I am currently searching for the right opportunity to increase my volunteer time.

EDCI 338 Final Project Overview: Building a Restorative Community

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Here is an overview of Suzanne Bartel and Christopher Lister’s joint EDCI 338 Professional Learning Project about Restorative Practices including Self Regulation.  

Project Goal

Our original goal was to create an online place for educators who are interested in using Restorative Practices in their classrooms to connect and share experiences.  Our plan was to take our existing Restorative Classroom Circles Wikispace and give it a facelift by adding the Restorative Practices philosophies, Compass of Shame, and the Social Discipline Window.  We also planned to engage our current Wikispace members and attract new members from our Twitter networks and local school district colleagues. With our existing restorative methods, we wanted to include more social and emotional learning into our curriculum.  We planned to introduce new concepts such as self-regulation (MindUP curriculum) into the Wikispace as a complementary addition to classroom circles.     

 

Adaptations of our Goal: The Learning is in the Journey, not the Project

This morning, we read a tweet from Mardelle Sauerborn that said “Cool how the projects are secondary to the journey.”  We couldn’t sum it up better ourselves!  Throughout our journey on this project, we have been constantly growing and learning in our EDCI #338 class discussions, school district collaboration group, Restorative Practices workshop, and our personal experiences with Restorative Practices in our classrooms.

After creating a polldaddy survey to elicit feedback from our Wikispace members and talking to colleagues already using Restorative Practices in their classrooms, we realized that we were not having much success using our Wikispace as a collaborative tool. We started to wonder if we were using the right platform to create a collaborative environment.  In one of our EDCI 338 sharing classes, we were introduced to the idea of building a Google+ Community from Jane Rees and Allison Galloway.  This platform meant that people could participate in our community without becoming a member.  They could also add their own content and participate in online conversations. At this point, we decided that our Wikispace might be best left as a resource for implementing Restorative Practices, and a Google+ Community could be used to encourage collaboration.

One interesting part of our learning journey occurred when we tried to deepen our understanding of Restorative Practices.  Several Google searches for “restorative practices” returned little useful information outside of International Institute for Restorative Practices.  We knew there was content out there but we had difficulty finding it.  Our original plan was use Diigo has a tool to collect and share bookmarks on the topic.  We attended a Hangout on Diigo hosted by Ed Tech Mentors Network and found that although it is a useful tool, it is limited in its ability to generate and evaluate content in the same that specific curation tools like Paper.li, Pearl Trees, and Scoop.it can.  We really liked the magazine style layout and ease of use that Scoop.it offered.         

 

Actions Taken:

 

Further Extensions to Project

  • After attending our Restorative Practices workshop, we realized the importance of explicitly teaching students the restorative process through storytelling.  We plan on creating a simple restorative storybook, embedding into our community, and potentially creating an electronic copy to be published on iTunes. Thanks to the expertise of Liane and Michelle

 

Reflections On Restorative Practices

Ever felt so busy putting out ‘fires’ in your classroom or dealing with challenging behaviour and classroom management issues that you felt a lack of personal connection with your students?

I have!

 

On the flip side,  have you ever felt such a strong connection with your class that you felt that you could challenge them to tackle the toughest learning obstacles without fear and anxiety?

I have felt this way too!

 

Right now I am somewhere between these two extremes.  Restorative Practices has been both my nemesis and saviour along the way.

One area of my own teaching practice that I have been focusing on this school year is building a stronger classroom community where students feel supported and support each other, where students can show vulnerability and feel safe to take risks, and where we are accountable for our actions and learn from our mistakes.  I am a firm believer that the social and emotional needs of my learners need to be met first before any academic learning and growth can occur.  That’s why I have been using the Restorative Practices framework in my classroom for over three years.

Since 2010 I have been following the Restorative Practices framework with mixed success.  Occasionally, I experience real and meaning classroom discussions, personal student growth, and culture change in my classroom, but more often than not, I have felt that my students just going through the motions.  Before attending the recent International Institute of Restorative Practices workshop in Port Coquitlam my understanding of this framework had plateaued and it was evident I was struggling to see the same value I had seen earlier in my career.

Halfway through the first day I suddenly realized what had been missing.  Bruce Schenk, director of IIRP Canada, shared some images from a picture book titled, A Restorative Story: Mary Finds Some Money about a girl named Mary who stole some money from her next door neighbour, and it suddenly clicked.  Not since the first year of implementation had I actually taken the time to properly introduce the design of Restorative Practices, or explained why this way of being was so important.  As an intermediate teacher, I know that students learn a great deal from storytelling combined with visual cues.  Soon after I returned from the conference I ordered a copy, and I am excited to share it with my students. I think it will help them to understand that building and rebuilding relationships is the essence of our community.

“Culture is like a story book; change

the stories and you change the

culture” – Unknown quote

The conference was also useful to refresh my understanding of two key concepts of restorative practices.  The Compass of Shame, based on Dr. Donald Nathanson’s work, explains how people react to shame.  Ever get the response, “It wasn’t me it was …” or the silent treatment from a student when you ask them what happened? That could be shame!  I learned that shame is not good or bad it just is.  We all experience shame to varying degree but it is how we deal with that is most important.  Nathanson explains that people who experience shame show it in one or more of the following ways; attack self, withdraw, avoid, or attack others.  Those who do not have opportunities to express shame in a safe and supportive environment may become disconnected from their community, whereas those who work within the Restorative Practices framework have a space to express their emotions and can lessen the intensity of them.

The Social Discipline Window, the work of Australian criminologist John Braithwaite, refers to the way we work with people, or in my situation how to work with students, staff, and families.  It works on the simple principle that people reacted better to leadership when leadership works ‘with’ people rather than does ‘to’ or ‘for’ them.  When I work ‘with’ students, I involve them in the decision making process and hold them accountable for their actions.  The environment is high in support and high in expectations.  This relatively simple graphic, now embedded in my mind, serves as a gentle reminder of the educator and person I strive to be.

“Human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.” John Braithwaite

 

With renewed energy I have made some plans for the future of Restorative Practices in my classroom:

  1. Return to explicitly teaching the restorative framework using Mary’s Story as an example, and remind students that the classroom is a place for building and rebuilding relationships.

  2. Attempt, in a more formal manner, to directly link restorative practices to an increase in student engagement and achievement.

  3. Continue to use classroom circles to connect each morning, and start to implement more academic circles.

  4. To be more mindful of using restorative language in all aspects of my teaching, work, and life.

Content Curation: Finding The Needles in the Haystacks

Digital Content Curation

In my #TIEgrad class, I have been learning about the value of digital content curation.  I used to think I had pretty strong curation skills because I used Diigo as a tool to collect and store important links.  Fortunately, having had the opportunity to deepen my understanding of content curation I have found the quality of content I now collect and share has increased significantly.  The process of curation is a noble one. Curating content on a particular subject also helps others find those needles in the haystack.

According to Wikipedia:

Digital curation is the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets.

Effective Content Curation

Consume

Between the dawn of civilization through 2003 5 exabytes of data was created…

but that much information is now created every 2 days, and the pace is increasing.

– Eric Schmidt, Google.

Online content can be viewed as a continuous stream of data cascading in front of our eyes like a powerful waterfall.  It is endless flow of user-generated content (blogs, video channels, social media platforms) and publishing (newspapers, websites) and it is ever increasing.  So how do we make sense of it?  Historically, we used search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, but even with advanced search algorithms developed by these companies results are at best ineffective.  No algorithm can compete with the effectiveness of an individual who is knowledgeable in a particular content area, collecting relevant and meaning information on a specific topic, and sharing it with a like-minded audience.  Consuming information, for the benefit of deepening ones understand of particular topic, is best served manually rather than using automated practices such as search engines.

Curate

More than merely collecting content on a specific subject; to curate is to make sense of the information we consume online.  Strong curation involves carefully selecting content and evaluating it for a specific purpose, topic, or subject.  It also involves making decisions about what is and is not useful to deepening understanding of the subject.  Content deemed useful can then be customized and personalized, by the curator, by adding ones professional experience to enhance it before sharing that curated content with one’s learning network.  Curating is a higher-level thinking skill.  In order to curate content that is useful for others the content needs to be synthesized, evaluated, and interpreted before being disseminated.  Well curated topics and subjects help to inform and allow learning to happen at faster rates.

Collaborate

Finding great content online is one thing, but being able to package it into a format that will help inform others is quite another.  Best practices on how to share content involve inviting others to contribute, disseminating curated content on a regular basis, and making sure that the content you share has been evaluated and meets the needs of your target audience.

 Once they find a quality, curated collection, they’ll stay for related offerings.

– Steven Rosenbaum

Difference Between Collecting and Curating

Collecting                                        Curating

– Independent                                                     – Shared

– Lower-level thinking skill                            – Higher-level thinking skill

– Consume content                                            – Add value and insight to content

– Less organized                                                  – Highly organized

– Closed learning                                                 – Open learning

5 Great Content Curation Tools

3 Examples of Content Curation

  1. Restorative Classroom Practices

  2. Self Regulation in Schools

  3. BC Education Daily

Robin Good’s Video Playlist – Content Curation

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