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A functional framework for learning needs to be creative, interactive and inspirational. I am finding all sorts of wonderful resources that inspire me to continue on my journey as a teacher. I find this course leads me off into the depths of cyberspace for lengthy periods of time collecting resources I never knew where so readily available. The Four Directions site is one I thought would be of particular interest to a few of our Curriculum and Instruction cohort.

In Life Skills, I spend a great deal of time teaching about how to identify with “I”, how to develop relationships within the community and how to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle. The Four Directions Teachings website is a wonderful resource that enhances the Circle Teachings Framework I use to assist the students in developing a form of resiliency, so they learn how to sustain healthy balances between their learning, their emotional well being, their beliefs, and their physical needs. The students appreciated these words of wisdom spoke by Mary Lee about the Cree Circle Teachings. After the presentation of the Four Directions site, we had a sharing circle and created a Wordle. I enjoyed hearing “the ways of knowing” the students shared. I continue to be amazed at how close to the surface their wisdom is when I take the time to scratch the surface and encourage the knowing flourish. Those interested in exploring the Moodle I am constructing please click the link and then click Churchill Community High School, click the Functional Integrated Program link and enter the classroom as a guest. The Moodle will continue to undergo construction for as long as I teach. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate your point of view, as I view the Moodle a collaborative project that will express the views and meet the needs of students, parents and educators. Have a great time with these resources.

Presently I am in the process of constructing a Moodle ‘virtual classroom’ for the life skills program I teach in. It has been a real learning experience and I definitely could not have done it without the help a dear colleague. I am not sure how to connect people to this Moodle classroom yet, but I will be investigating this process very shortly. I hope it invites the students and their parents to join in on the ongoing construction of the site, so it becomes a collaborative effort in creating effective curriculum and instruction using the ‘bottom up model’ of action research I have learned so much about over the past two years.

In the Moodle classroom, I used many Web 2.0 tools to address the ideas of differentiated instruction, learning styles, and multiple intelligences. While I have been learning how to use Web 2.0 I have also been learning how to us an Apple operating system. I love ‘my baby’ my MacBook Pro. Using this computer has inspired me to seek out laptops for each of the students in the program in the hopes of leveling the academic play field somewhat for them. I hope these computers arrive soon, because I did a bit of a test using three laptops owned by family members. The test demonstrated the students felt more independent, asked relevant and higher level questions, and found answers to questions in the material they were learning about. I am sold. “If we can put a man on the moon, then technology can be used to assist people with disabilities live a fulfilling life.” Quote from the lady in the video I posted on my blog. The Web 2.0 tools are a bonus that comes with a computer.

Now to comment on the tools. Where to begin. Oh yes, in the Moodle there are places to post the domains for learning, calendars to post day plans, forums for discussions, links to Google docs, websites, videos, and blogs. I synchronized my Touch Ipod using Icalendar, so I could access my day plan from anywhere I am that has connectivity to the Web. I want the classroom to be open ‘twenty four seven,’ day and night, three hundred and sixty five days of the year, so in a discussion forum I requested the collaborative ideas of the students and their parents. My collaborative idea didn’t stop there. I have taught the tutors in the Lifeskills program how to use the Moodle as well. They are connected and have access to input plans and their ideas too. After school, we have started to journal how the successful learning events that have occurred throughout the day so readers (parents and students) can communicated about all the wonderful learning abilities their children have. This idea I feel will help students enrich and transition skills, become more effective communicators, and strengthen their memory. In the Moodle classroom, I have learned how to construct a student self-evaluation tool which was derived solely from the students input, as to what they feel excellent effort is. This came out of a discussion we had at the beginning of the year about “What is the difference between a ‘Good Day’ as compared to a ‘Bad Day’. The students have been using this document, in paper form, to self monitor how they are feeling and to come up with what they can do to help themselves have a positive attitude every day. The student say they like their Effort Gauge because it is in their words. I love the Effort Gauge because it helps me feel like a “guide on the side not a sage on the stage” and I use it to keep myself positive too. The students use it after ever period to monitor how they are feeling. They set goals or choose a strategy to help themselves maintain a positive attitude or to assist themselves in changing their perspective, so they have as good of a day as they possibly can for themselves. By using Google Docs, the students can now click the amount of effort they have spent and click their goal or strategy they attempted to use, select how it worked and click submit. This information is then documented automatically on a spreadsheet and their amount of effort they have expelled is recorded. The students love this system on paper and continually are calculating their percentages using calculators. I have never seen any type of curriculum or instruction work so well for teaching self respect, cooperation and accountability as the power of the students self-reflection on personal attitude.

Another tool I used with the students was Comic Life. They loved having the opportunity to link a conversation to a digital picture where they were the main characters. While I was doing this I set up a Flicker account and learned how to use IPhoto and Photo Booth. Then I got into Digital Story telling and from our Chinese New Years Lunch video I created a video using IMovie called “Cracking Eggs and Communication.” This movie really demonstrates how being able to do things independently creates feelings of pleasure and accomplishment to the point where a person who has a severe speech disorder uses a multiple syllable word to describe their personal satisfaction in their abilities. Then I lost my clip about students mentoring one another and found it in Quick Time. Yes, I know like usual I am ‘all over the map,’ but remember I am just learning how to use a Mac. Well the lose caused me to upgraded my 7.6 version of Quick Time to the Pro version, and I set up Paypal account. LOL. I was able save the video and to compress its size, so I could share it by creating a file to link it into my online classroom. Well, this has been my experience with Web 2.0 and I think my next project is going to be a Voice Thread or maybe… Oh, who knows ‘the sky is the limit’ as long as we have access. Oh well, take care everybody and happy learning!

Richard Florida has an worthy of note point of view in the March issue of the Atlantic titled “How the Crash Will Reshape America.” Florida states,

. . . If we take as a first principle that we really have to invest in the creativity of each and every individual—and give people the right to express their creative talents in ways that they find interesting and relevant—then I think we will end up with a better future than we otherwise would have had…The phrase “great reset” really resonated with me, not only in the economic way he was using it but also in terms of K-12 education. He quotes Stanford economist Paul Romer, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” and I think that applies directly to the current situation in K-12 education. The current economic crisis only amplifies and exacerbates the current crisis we are experiencing in our schools, and if we continue to “waste public investment on bailing out [schools] of the past,” then we will indeed be wasting this crisis.

From my perspective I agree with Florida and Romer. I feel our education system is wasting many opportunities by neglecting to examine the vast amount of resources available to education on the web. Rather than having educators determine what is an educational resource the education system leaves it up to one technologist to determine what should be accessible to the students and staff in our school. Therefore, many Web 2.0 devices such as Google docs are frozen and inaccessible by the students and the teacher has only limited access. Many sites teachers want to use, as educational tools need a technician to view the materials. Then a technician has the power to curtail and delay the accessibility to the online educational resources. After this delay, the technician seeks the approval for accessibility from two local board members who are not educators. How does this inspire teachers to use their creativity to develop inspirational instruction and creativity in the students?

Educational video a teacher wants to use often requires written request for accessibility. This request is sent the technical department for approval. I apologize in advance for ranting, but I consider myself as a professional. I feel it is my responsibility to educate the students about what is responsible and safe use of online resources. I believe the present restrictive system is put in place to protect the standardization in the education system. Standardization in education may feel safe for some people but I feel it is a detrimental response to the reshaping of society and the development of creativity.

Fisch verifies a similar belief by stating,
I feel it is important to spend time investigating new ways to creatively account for the successes of the students. Accountability is necessary, but effective accountability comes when the students are required to reflect upon their own achievements on a daily basis several times throughout the day.

I teach in an environment where differentiated instruction is a necessity to individualizing students’ programming, thus there needs to be a component of differentiate evaluation to quickly spark, direct and if need be redirect students’ attitudes, motivation and creativity towards learning. I do not have time to ponder whether or not I will be allowed accessibility to the resources I deem productive tools of my profession.

In his blog, “The Great Reset: A Crisis (in K-12 Education) is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” Karl Fisch states,
Our [schools are] in the midst of a fundamental long-term transformation,” shifting away from a model that values standardization and conformity toward one that values creativity and differentiation. I would also suggest that “velocity of ideas” and “density of talented and creative people” is what we would ideally hope for in our schools, but I wonder if our schools – as currently structured – allow those talented and creative people to flourish and explore those ideas.

I believe there is a need to educate student about responsible use of Web 2.0 resources, but I encounter numerous restrictions placed on educational professionals’ access which I feel are discriminative in to my statues as a professional and detrimental to my creativity. I am finding the issue of accessibility is a challenge in my practice and an inconsistently used way of mediating what various schools have access to throughout the division. It is my hope that the division will allow unrestrained use of the resources offered in Web 2.0, so the professionals in education have the ability to creatively use these tools to create differentiated instruction and curriculum, such as would the ‘law society’ offers lawyers and the ‘board of ethics’ offers doctors. If society is to access creativity, promote socially constructivism, and design differentiated infrastructure to reshape and address societal needs, I feel my persistence to freely access worldwide online educational resources should be an openly accepted policy by the board of education and the public. I am an educational professional and would like to be treated as such, if I am truly expected to assist in the reshaping of school and society.

According to Fisch,
We should be taking this opportunity to “reset” our schools, to “create new patterns of” teaching and learning and “spend our money on the right kind of projects and the rights kinds of infrastructure.” We need to “take as a first principle that we really have to invest in the creativity of each and every [teacher and student] – and give [teachers and students] the right to express their creative talents in ways that they find interesting and relevant…While I think he perhaps underestimates the power of technology to allow that “agglomeration” and to bring together “human capital” in geographically dispersed locations, his argument for bringing together people in dynamic environments focused on creativity and innovation makes a lot of sense to me (whether they are geographically concentrated or technologically connected). How many of us would describe our school as dynamic environments focused on creativity and innovation? (The Great Reset: A Crisis (in K-12 Education) is a Terrible Thing to Waste)

Once again, I am a professional, and I want to continue to educate myself about the up-to-date resources available to me to create a hopeful pedagogy. I am not accustom to loosing when faced with a crisis. In a time of world crisis, I feel I am being forced into a loosing position by the present standardized educational process and hierarchy. On a professional level I would like to be recognized and valued enough to be part of the solution to assist in the successful emergence from this global crisis because I believe, as does Fisch,

At times of crisis, the eventual “winners” that emerge are those that are bold and seize the crisis to move forward, taking advantage of the altered landscape to achieve their mission in creative, innovative and powerful ways. Unfortunately, at the moment, I’m seeing very little evidence of bold thinking. So, in this time of multiple crises, I would challenge my school district, and all K-12 schools, to not waste this crisis but, instead, reinvent themselves and look forward, not back. If we do, then, like Richard Florida, “I think we will end up with a better future than we otherwise would have had.”

I believe it is going to take a bottom up approach to come up with productive innovative solutions, so those of us on the front lines of education need to be recognized for and allowed our professional right to practice education in collaborative way. This collaboration begins with access to technology, which holds the keys to the economic and social crisis education faces. As an educational professional, I am learning to challenge myself in creating inexpensive ways to motivate creative thinking to actually assure “No child is left behind.”
This is how I feel I will be able to maintain my integrity, as a professional in the field of education when blanket statements are being used to justify standardization, segregation, dependency and oppression rather than creativity, collaboration, self-determination and freedom.

Connectivism is rooted in the attitudes of the educators. I want to enable self-motivated learning in every student I meet. To me this video depicts the attitude I feel I need to have to ensure everyone is integrated in the twentieth century of learning. Patience and determination pave the way to develop answers using technology, so no child will be left behind.

Karl Fisch states,
“In order to teach it, we have to do it. How can we teach this to kids, how can we model it, if we aren’t literate ourselves? You need to experience this, you need to explore right along with your students. You need to experience the tools they’ll be using in the 21st century, developing your own networks in parallel with your students. You need to demonstrate continual learning, lifelong learning – for your students, or you will continue to teach your students how to be successful in an age that no longer exists.”

Guess what I did? I have a Moodle sandbox for the Life Skills Program now and look forward to planning, researching, and informing online. This will be a great place for parents to go, so they are informed on a day-to-day base about the activities their child is involved in.

I have taken movies and the students are very intrigued by seeing themselves on the television. They enjoy watching themselves and discussing how they are doing during the practical cooking lessons. I am learning a lot about how technology assists the students in becoming more involved in their learning process. We are truly learning together and at times I feel things are a little out of my control, but I really enjoy seeing the students involved in learning. Through technology we see our accomplishments and develop self-esteem. My actions to learn more about technology have shown the students how to create a positive identity of themselves for themselves. Likewise, the thirty people, staff and community members, who came to eat during our Chinese New Years luncheon saw how a collaborative effort and how the abilities the students come together to prepare a meal. These people saw how to work with people with multiple disabilities and how successful the students can be at acquiring constructive skill.

I believe, I am a social constructivist who teaches for the purpose of creating emancipation within my community, so people dealing with disabilities and those who are not disabled band together to lend a supportive hand to the best of their ability to create a liberating movement where everyone experiences privilege and value. Students with multiple disabilities have so much potential. My hope is that my community identifies with the students’ as having potential. I see technology as a means to open the window of opportunity and liberty.

Learning with the students is the only way I can begin to identify with their needs and abilities.  I am not sure what a virtual Life Skills Classrom should look like, but I think between the students, parents, tutors, special education coordinator, and myself we should come up with something wonderful that inspires learning.  I have taken my idea to a computer agency in our community and pitch this idea to them.  The thought it was great and they are going to provide a network a classroom set of laptops computers for the student and I to start the process.  As well, students will get a little older laptop to use between home and school, so they will be able to show their parents what they have been working on or if they do not have Internet service.

I feel like I have won a million dollar lottery.  The three stationary computers we had are spread out throughout the room and are virtually impossible to teach the skills the students need.   I picture resources to support parents, life logs of social skills strategies, student blogs of skills learned or learning, photo journals, digital storytelling, WOW the sky is the limit.  I just have to write the letter and see if the technicians will service the computers.  I am not sure if they will but if not I will try to learn how to do it.  The value of this opportunity for learning entails going the extra mile.  Every learning styem can be address and differentiated instruction is absolutely within my reach with this type of technology at our finger tips.

Often I am asked, “What happens in a Life Skills Program?  What do you teach in there?  How do you teach life skills?”  In response to these and many other question, I decided to video a cooking class I taught to prepare a Chinese New Years meal with my students.  In the video, I recorded how the students learned about the various traditions the Chinese people practice.  They enjoyed watching the a championship Lion Dance and learned how the Chinese people set traps for the legendary lions by stringing red money envelopes, lettuce leaves, gold streamers and mandarine oranges to trick the lions, so the people would have good luck and fortune over the course of the up coming new year.  The students had been cooking, serving and  selling meals to the school staff and other community members for several months, and we wanted to make this lunch a little more interesting for everyone.   They made their own trap to protect the good luck and fortune of everyone who attended their New Years luncheon.  We all felt we needed a celebration to escape the long dark chilling effects of winter, and we were fortunate to enough to find such a wonderfully cheerful cultural event to celebrate.  The students even decided everyone who came to the luncheon would need to place their payment into a red envelope  because the Chinese believed a red envelop brings fortune.  They would open these envelopes during their math lesson to discover what their good fortune would be.  Opening the envelopes appeared to be great fun and the students quickly named the bills independently due to the excitement.  

In the video, I recorded a segment chronologically documenting each part of this cooking lesson beginning with creating the lion trap, to preparing the food and then serving the guests.  We even had an actor and play-write from Corner Gas unexpectedly attend this lunch.  Anything and everything can occur when you teach in a Life Skills Program, so I try to be very calm and informative.  The students learned about eating healthy, food and kitchen safety, and comprehending directions.  The video was played during the luncheon and the next day I placed in the TV in the hallway for people to watch while they were waiting for their student, parent, teacher interviews.  I saw many people watching the students, tutors and I preparing for our luncheon.  I believe this will answer many peoples questions, help them understand what I teach and give insight about the potential of the students in the Life Skills Program.  

Over the lunch hour the students independently became very interested in how they did during the cooking lesson.  They watched the complete video examining their abilities, picking out the skills they thought they did very well and stating how they felt they would be willing to improve other skills.  Without encouragement they commented on their ability to work together as a group. I did not realize the learning opportunities which would arise out of playing a video where I taught students how to cook stir fry vegetables and make chicken fried rice.  I plan to use video to help the students reflect on their practices on a regular bases.  I feel it is much more effective to have the students identify what they need to do to improve their abilities.  “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so I think video has the potential to answer many of the questions raised about teaching in a Life Skills Program.  I noticed that students identified with autism have the ability to pick out positive social interaction they have demonstrated with their classmates, the tutors and the teacher.  I never  would have imagined how much fun learning would become by recording a video of my teaching.  I think recording my practices is a very powerful tool.  Reflecting create  many positive changes in the students, the community and most importantly in myself.

I have completed  teaching the first semester and the reporting sessions went well.  This year I have taken a new approach in the way I inform the parents about the lessons I have taught and the learning their child has achieved.  Rather than writing in a daily organizer, the students have the responsibility to write daily reflections about what they have learned on a weekly organizer.  The students reflections and recollections help  the students interpret what they have learned into thoughts they can tell their parents during the evening.  I want the students to try to tell their parents what they have learned or done on their own.  I have noticed that having the students reflect and evaluate their progress throughout the day helps most students share what they have learned.  Even though this process helps most of the student in the Life Skills program improve and transfer their communication skills between home and school, some students still have communication disorders which require a direct line of information to be established between the school and their homes.  By establishing an informational online Moodle site, I hope to encourage and develop communication skills for all the students I teach.  Hopefully the Moodle will provide a resource for the parents to see what their child is learning.  I hope the Moodle will help the students who have memory issues recall various events well enough they create conversation about their school day.  By talking about the concepts with their parents, I feel I can help the students, parents and myself develop a deeper understanding about the students’ abilities and the goal of the Life Skills program.  

The Moodle will provide a source of information which parents can readily access online.  Students and parents hopefully will learn how to access the Moodle to read about and keep up to date on the  life skills I have most recently taught.  This could assist in them developing more meaningful communication skills their child about what is being learned in school and assist in the transfer of these skills to life at home and in the community.  Students with speech impairments will have prompts that relate to help them talk about the skills and concepts they have learned about on a day to day bases.  I feel it is important the students take ownership in their education, so they are able to transfer the skills learned between home, school and else where in the community.  I was very pleased to hear some of the students are telling their parents about what they are learning and doing at school, but I would like to support all the students and parents associated with my practice with an opportunity to learn and share with each other.  The goal of the Life Skills program is to teach the students to be as independent as possible, and many times because there is a lack of communication the students never achieve their fullest potential because people outside the classroom are unaware of the concepts the students have learned and the students abilities to preform various skills.  Technology has opened my eyes to the endless ways of informing others about the opportunities a Life Skills Program can provide.

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