Saturday, March 28, 2015

Professional Development and Constant Reinvention
As the semester comes to a close, I am absolutely baffled by how fast it went. Not only do the past 3 months seem to have flown but also the whole year seems like such a blur. I am happy to say that this year I have gotten to immerse myself in a variety of educational theories and experiences, leading to much excitement and nervousness for the Faculty of Education next year. With all of this learning in mind, my task with this blog is to somehow sum up exactly what I’ve learned and reflect on the process of learning about 21st Century literacies and skills. Hopefully in doing so I can also create a good reference for myself in terms of resources that will benefit me in my future teaching endeavors.
            As a major part of our class blogging this semester we were asked to follow different teacher blogs. In following these blogs there has been a great personal capacity for learning and reflection. In seeing how other teachers brand themselves, participate in a global discussion and share in the development of a 21st Century identity I have been incredibly fortunate to learn about the wide range of resources and support systems that are in place to help teachers all over the world. I have specifically been following three blogs over the later half of the semester, and will definitely continue to do so in the future. Although my initial blogs unfortunately went inactive, I was fortunate to come across three very distinctly different resources. The first blog that I have been following is Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of The Day.This blog is holds an abundance of educational resources curated by Ferlazzo, aimed at teaching ELL, ESL and EFL. Centered almost fully on web-based resources Ferlazzo makes it very easy to find a new technological resource for your students. I think that a lot of the time the digital world can be overwhelming, and knowing where to start in your search can be daunting. I believe that this potentially could be where a lot of push back comes from in terms of technology. It is great to integrate technology and websites into your lessons but if you don't know where to start it can be incredibly hard. I think that this is why Ferlazzo’s blog is so wonderful. Ferlazzo fully embodies many 21st Century skills and literacies in his blogging, tweeting and curating. With almost 45000 followers, he opens the educational boundaries and pushes to share information in our digital age. He looks to incorporate media literacy into the classroom for students, but also makes it an accessible construct for teachers. By connecting others so easily to the multitude of online resources, Ferlazzo reminds teachers that BYOD and other technological based educational lessons can be more rich than every imagined. If you don't know what BYOD is, check out this great informational video from the Peel District School Board. 

            The next blogger that I followed throughout the semester is BYOD, ASAP.  Although this blog isn’t updated as frequently as Ferlazzo’s, it offers valuable insight into the process of integrating the BYOD movement into your classroom. This blog is focused on a Secondary Math and Science classroom, where students are asked to be metacognitive about their own learning. The blog is separated into project ideas, teacher experiences and other thoughts and questions. Heather speaks frequently about student centered learning, and how teacher understanding can nurture this learning. Furthermore, this blogger is admittedly new to BYOD and is “ convert[ing] my classes over to BYOD, focusing on independent and proficiency-based learning”. By sharing the process and journey with her followers, Heather is creating accountability and transparency for the integration of 21st Century skills into her classroom. As an experienced teacher followers watch her work with new concepts and skills, and can see the ways in which students thrive in the BYOD world. If you get a chance, I would really recommend reading Pioneers” as it gives an incredible amount of information surrounding teacher and student reactions to BYOD integration. Heather contributes to the media and technological literacy of her students, while showing other teachers her process. In showcasing this process, I think that this blog shows that integrating technology isn’t the easiest or most streamline process. However, if you work hard at it and do it properly, the learning community that arises is absolutely incredible! 
            The last blogger that I followed closely over the semester is Heidi Siwak(The Amaryllis). Siwak is a middle school teacher from Ontario who is highly recognized for her teaching philosophy and strategy. She is a highly metacognitive thinker, who constantly reflects on her own strategies and how to foster similar understandings in her students. Her blogs are diverse in content but offer great insight into the ways that she is always adapting and developing herself as a teacher. Recently, Siwak has blogged about her experiences of teaching students to recognize how negative feedback can be used productively. She discusses how to take emotion out of the equation to positively adjust projects for the most efficiency. Another set of blogs focus on the projects that her students become immersed in, and how they are part of the assessment and learning process. She also admits that she is sometimes stuck on how to approach a concept or how to teach her students something in a meaningful way. In approaching this as a learning opportunity Siwak also discusses the importance of networking and learning from others. This incredibly diverse blog touches on an incredibly amount of the 21st Century skills and literacies. Student centered learning, project based learning, moral education, collaboration and technological understanding are just a few ideals that she grapples with in her classrooms.  I also really appreciate her insight into the Ontario classroom and seeing all the incredible learning she facilitates within bounds of the Ontario curriculum. It is incredibly inspiring to see that she is constantly bettering herself in the means of professional development, and constant learning.
            In following these blogs I have learned a lot. To see how other teachers are constantly reinventing their teaching techniques and strategies to benefit their students is incredibly inspiring. In seeing how each of these bloggers puts an incredible amount of thought and work into their own professional development, it really puts into perspective the ever changing world we live in. If you had told me when I was 12 that classrooms would now be using smart boards, or even computers to do complex projects I would have been baffled. And although I personally have some understanding of the 21st Century Skills that this generation is currently working with, I definitely need to continue in my own professional development. These blogger/teachers do not rest on the knowledge and skills they walked out of the faculty of education with, and I think that their transparency in the process of understanding new expectations is a great example for new incoming teachers.
            So… you may ask what I will take away from this semester of educational learning, and I can honestly say that I have learned a lot. I really appreciate our discussion surrounding branding yourself and creating an online footprint. Although I have been taught to be wary of social media and the negative side of it, I wasn't very aware of the positive aspects of these platforms. In creating your own footprint online, you are also creating a professional brand that allows for connection with educators all over the globe. As a class we have created our blogs and group Pinterest page while learning of the positive implications of other resources like Twitter and Cube for Teachers. In doing so, we have already begun to network with the ever growing group of educational professionals that are out there. In doing so, we have also learned that the educational world is a broad and welcoming community, and in this community is a wide range of peers willing and ready to help whenever needed. Personally, I think something that I have taken away from this experience is the unbelievable depth to the resources available for engaging and meaningful learning. In watching Susan Kwiecien create a QR code of her voice recording,  I had an epiphany. I have not even scratched the surface of meaningful ways to engage and identify with future students. The possibilities are limitless and I think that it has been an eye opening experience seeing the ways that teachers have to constantly adapt to new and developing students.

            And with that, I end my final blog for this course. Yet, I have a feeling that this wont be the end of this blog. As I find myself entering another summer job within a primary classroom, and of course the Faculty of Education next year I think that this will be a great resource for reflection and understanding. I look forward to continuing my experiences in the great online educational community, and can’t wait to see where this global community takes me next.


  1. Hi Allyson,
    What a wonderful way to sum up the course objectives and learnings from this semester in your final blog! I am so impressed with how your voice comes through your blog more and more and you sound even more like a teacher every time I read your blogs. You are clearly thinking positively about the future and assessing theories and ideologies and technologies that will surround you when you have your own English and Drama class. So despite your nervousness for teachers college I am sure you will do great because you are already going out of your comfort zone in order to progress and learn and integrate different online resource into your life and brand yourself online as a critical thinker and teacher. Your information about BYOD is really great and I loved the video inserted after your summary of Larry Ferlazzo's blog which emphasizes curating an teaching that pushed educational boundaries to incorporate media literacy into the classroom. I am also someone that has to go outside my comfort zone by trusting the internet due to our generation's upbringing and the constant anxieties of our parents about the dangers of getting hacked by posting on the web but I think the benefits outweigh the negatives due to some of the greta online resources that are out there. The video outlined some benefits of Bring your Own Device as students are able to easily collaborate with peers and their teachers and share information and access learning anytime and anywhere. The second blog you follow about secondary math and science in the classroom sounds great too because it focuses on metacognition and student centred learning the same way your third blog by Heidi Siwak does as she adapts and develops herself as a teacher. It is important that you notice the changes that are occurring due to the knowledge economy of the 21st century that includes smart boards and computers in the classroom and I too found the resources outlined this semester such as pinterest, twitter and Cube to be extremely helpful to gather information and learn how to create an online profile and branding as a professional.
    Thanks for the great post and conversations this semester,
    Kimberly Paisley

  2. Allyson, I have really enjoyed reading all of your blog posts over the past four months! You were able to clearly integrate the course objectives and individual aspirations within this blog, and I can recognize how following these teacher blogs has contributed to your future teachings. I was unaware of two teacher’s blogs that you mentioned: BYOD, ASAP and Heidi Siwak. You made a very accurate statement near the beginning of this blog post about the difficulties of where and how to begin using technology in the classroom. A lot of times, professionals talk and explain new “inventions” or the “latest trends” to use in the classroom but sometimes it is seems impossible to put these creations into practice. This is where I can see that Larry Ferlasso has offered some great advice. Especially when integrating both media and technological literacy, I have found it challenging to access resources that offer suggestions on how to implement these literacies into schools or communities that are not equipped with the newest technology (smart boards, 3D printers, laptops, IPad etc.). But after you highlighted Larry’s suggestion for “BYOD” I was really inspired. To be honest, I did not know what “BYOD” stood for and after watching the video it seems like a really engaging model to use in the classroom. But this just goes to show that when teachers become researchers (as suggested by Dean Shareski) we have the abilities to find, connect and share these creative ideas in order to inspire others just like us!
    I really like how you transitioned into your second teacher blog and appreciated that you followed a blog that was fairly new to the idea of “Bring Your Own Device,” as this will be us in the future. I do not think that integrating “BYOD,” will come easily (as Heather mentions) but neither will be any form of 21st century technological skills. Therefore, as both you and Heather mentioned, incorporating technology and these literacy skills within the classroom, but if teachers stay dedicated to the end goal it will all be worth it! Moving on, Heidi Siwak’s blog seems like one that I will definitely look into in the future. As I have found in past and present education courses reflection on your own teaching practices and developing meaning for the students are essential in and outside of the classroom. Your example of how Heidi educated her students on the concept of constructive criticism was such great idea and something so simple that as times teachers don’t take the time to go over. In addition, I believe as you stated that it is important for all of us to find new ways to continually develop professionally and consistently re – invent ourselves in order to discourage ourselves from falling back into old habits. As well, as future educators you raised some great points that education and teaching will constantly change and as teachers we need to change with it in order to offer our future students the most beneficial skills and strategies to succeed outside of the classroom. Overall, you really highlighted how we are all a community of learners and technology is a great way we can make the most of incorporating and encouraging 21st century skills and strategies in our future classrooms. So… Good luck with your future endeavours Allyson, I know that you will be an outstanding teacher and your passion for teaching truly came through in these blog posts!

  3. This looks like a lot of work but don't worry it will be worth it in the end! :)