Author Archives: esthermaeers

Creative Practice #4- A Spot with a View

Today we ventured further along my route from home to university and found a spot with a view. My boys and I drove to the Conexus Art Centre and then walked along the bike path nearby. We searched for a place that we could sit and take a moment to be still. Around the bend in the path we spotted a clump of trees and decided to take a closer look. Both boys agree that this was our spot.

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We settled down on the grass and took out our notebooks to record what our senses were taking in. I asked my boys what they could hear, see, feel and smell. We each recorded in our own way. My older son, Cohen decided to draw a picture. My younger son, Caius wanted to know how to spell the word boat and I wrote down the words that came up for me.

As we sat on the grass, I could hear the loud honking of the many geese near by. Some were flying over head, some were floating on the lake. Every so often, we could hear a duck quack and a car drive down Wascana Parkway in the distance. We were sitting right next to many cattails growing up from the marshy shore. I could hear the wind moving through these plants and creating a rustling sound. The grass that we were sitting on was covered in fall leaves that crunched under our bodies. Cohen commented on the car noises and seemed disappointed that we could hear those sounds from our spot.

As I looked out at the lake, I could see small waves which carried the geese gently up and down. I noticed that some of the cattails near by were exploding with fluff and that the gentle breeze was transporting some of that fluff to other locations. Across the lake to the east, I could see Douglas Park hill with a few tiny cars at the top. Perhaps the occupants are enjoying the view also. To the south of us I could see the tall stark buildings of the U of R. They both stand out and blend in to the surroundings. The materials used to create the buildings are a neutral colour that isn’t in competition with nature, however, the institutional feel the buildings project is a reminder that we are still within an urban center.

As my boys and I sat quietly reflecting on where we were, many people bustled by on their way home from work. Some were walking, some were riding bikes and some were glued to their phones oblivious to the world. I wonder, how often that person is me. How often do I check my phone and miss something? How often do I take a picture of a moment to memorialize it but in doing so I miss the real moment?

It was so peaceful in this place with the sun on our backs and the trees, wild life and fresh air all around us. Caius ran over to a tree to taste it. He licked the tree and proceeded to tell us that it tasted just like a tree. Oh how I love the unpredictablility of children, their wild spirits and their freedom to be in the moment. Again, I am grateful for this opportunity to sit and reflect with my two boys. So often we are caught up in the crazyiness of our days and lose this kind of connection.

Before we left, we decided to collect some of the items we saw on the ground. Caius finds image1-23a pink feather that is very out of place here. Maybe someone walking by had feathers in their bag for a future craft project. We collected dry leaves, small pebbles, cattail fluff and tiny flowers. As we walked back to our car, the boys ran ahead and found a trail of pink feathers, perhaps a treasure hunt.

 

 

This spot with a view that we found nestled along the walking path, reminded us that even within our city, we can escape into nature.

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Creative Practice #3- Snowy Park

Today I took a slow drive to the university with the hope to find something unexpected. I had planned to stop along Wascana Parkway to sit by the lake, however, I found a place that I had not noticed before. As I drove along 23rd Avenue, I image1-20noted some benches and a walking path to the East of the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre. I was intrigued so I stopped to take a closer look.

Because it was so blustery and chilly out, I decided to do a walking meditation instead of sitting in one spot. I began walking along the path and to my left there was a murky pond. The pond had muddy water which made me question if it was meant to be a pond or if it was a place where rain/snow collected.Within the murkiness grew a variety of plants and could possibly be home to many little creatures.

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I immediately noticed the smell of evergreen trees, which I love. I inhaled deeply to try and soak the smell in. As I looked around, I could see many types of trees growing nearby (although unfortunately I don’t know the names).

I imagine that this place could be a small retreat for the patients and staff of the rehab centre. This park invokes a feeling a calm, a sense of relaxation within the busy city limits. As cars rush by on the busy street, this place is a little slice of quiet and a small piece of natural beauty within this urban setting.

 

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I continued to walk and came across a little squirrel who seemed as interested in me as I was in them. We looked at each other for a minute or so before the little creature bounded through the tall grass and up the trunk of a tree.

I took my gaze upwards to follow the squirrel and was struck by the beautiful fall colours of the leaves. Just having celebrated the fall equinox with my son’s school, my sense of the changing seasons is heightened. Looking around though, snow and fall leaves are mixed together which causes me to worry that fall may be skipped with winter’s hurry to take over.

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My walk led me to an unexpected structure. This structure was fabricated from steel and stood in stark contrast to the natural surroundings. The plaque gave a provocation to its readers to view the structure from two opposing perspectives, tension or comfort. Can one feel both tension and comfort at the same time? Or are these incommensurable emotions? The structure was standing tall with large rocks around it just inviting someone to sit and spend time thinking here.

Click to view slideshow.

My walk today was unexpected and therefore I did not dress for the weather. I felt the cold wet snow hitting my face and covering my glasses. All around me I could hear the water dripping off the trees and the snow slopping under my shoes. My body was beginning to feel cold which caused me to look forward to going home and having a nice warm cup of coffee. I am so glad that I sent my son to school with lots of warm clothing today, so that he can enjoy the outdoors without worry. It is interesting to me, how tough it is to just be present in this moment. I am constantly bombarded with thoughts of family, thoughts of the past and worries for the future. It is a battle to remain present, to enjoy my surroundings and relax into just being.

The park that I have found, is called Arboretum Park, which means “a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes” (taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary). I wonder what sorts of things this park is used for. Do children come here to learn? Do scientists from the nearby university use this place as their laboratory? My hope is that in the process of learning, this park is taken care of and these trees and plants are respected. I look forward to taking my sons here one day to learn from and with this place.

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Creative Practice #2: Mushroom Surprise

As we wandered down the street from our house, my boys and I looked around at our surroundings in search of the unexpected. Interestingly, we were mostly looking upwards. As I glanced towards the earth, I noticed a line of mushrooms which had sprouted in the open grass. We decided to dwell in this spot and examine the mushrooms further.

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My son, Caius, began to count the little mushrooms and found that there were 12 all in a line one after the other. They were all so smooth and wrinkled, perfectly formed. They grew like little tiny umbrellas sheltering the ground beneath.

I began to think about these little plants…

Why did these mushrooms choose this spot to grow? They seem so vulnerable and fragile here out in the open. If we hadn’t looked down, we could have easily stepped on them, crushing their fragile structures. As I looked down on the mushrooms, I wondered how the world looks from their perspective. I decided to try and take a photo from right down beside them.

My sons were reminded of a CBC children’s program, Beat Bugs, as they took time to think about this place. They remembered in the t.v. show that everything was from the bugs’ point of view. In this perspective, the mushrooms, the grass and the yard equipment looked gigantic. Using this change in perspective we thought about how big and tall we must seem to the little mushrooms growing in amongst the grass.

As we sat in this moment of slowing down, I noticed a man on a bike riding by. He glanced over at my boys and I and gave us a smile. He seemed to say through his smile, that he appreciated what we were doing, that as the busyness of life zoomed by us, we had chosen to take a moment to dwell within this place.

 

Creative Practice

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Photo by sohail na on Pexels.com

At first, I thought I would drive to a spot next to the lake to find something I hadn’t noticed before. After reading this week’s articles about place and the significance of walking, I decided to walk the route that I usually drive to the university. Through walking I am able to slow down my experience and truly take in the details that I miss when in my car.

I have often felt disenchanted about living in this place. I often viewed living in Regina as only temporary until I was financially able to move elsewhere, but that has not happened. I need to look for the enchantments within this city. (Macdonald, 2017)

I have been trying to find moments when I can go wandering alone but this is difficult when you have young children. Instead I decided to complete this assignment alongside my two boys, who are three and half and eight years old. We took note books, pencils and cameras and began our trek down the busy street that we live on. What will we encounter? Will we be enchanted? Will we find nature?

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Photo Credit- Caius Shumay, age 3.5 years old

 

 

 

 

Reference:

Macdonald, J. (2017). Curriculum encounters through walking the city. JCACS 15(2), 20-33.

Summary of Learning

I can’t believe this course is already coming to an end. I have learned a lot and I have been introduced to many different perspectives on the use of technology in the classroom. Thank you Alec and thank you classmates. Below is my summary of learning…

Is technology an equalizing force in our world?

Before our class debate #5, I thought that yes technology could be an educational tool that brings with it equity and opportunity. Both debate teams did a wonderful job and were very convincing but my perspective shifted to the disagree side. Technology has the potential to be an equalizing force, however, people design and implement it and with that brings flaws.

Jen, Dawn and Sapna were on the agree side of the debate. Through their arguments they stated that technology is bridging the digital divide and providing opportunities for people who were excluded in the past. They explained that open education in the form of virtual classrooms and online educational resources are providing fair and inclusive opportunities for all people.

Rakan and Amy S. were on the disagree side of the debate. They argued that technology is designed in ways to promote gender inequality, racial inequality, digital colonialism and economic inequality. I guess I never took the time to really think about how technology can actually promote inequality! Thank you for the eye-opening facts Rakan and Amy S.!

Daphne Koller is the co-founder of Coursera, a free online university level education site. She explains in her Ted talk that to provide free accessible education to people around the world, will help to make the world a better place. It is so true that technology has the ability to provide equitable opportunities for all, however, as Amy S. and Rakan explain, tech is designed by people who have bias and racism embedded within them. I have personally taken a course through Coursera and although it was very informative it is not completely accessible to all. Upon completing the required assignments and quizzes you are then prompted to pay a fee in order to receive your certificate of completion. Again there is evidence of economic inequality at play. Koller also states that this format of education can provide opportunity to anyone who is motivated to learn. This statement does not take into account the many people who may be motivated but have barriers to even accessing free online education. Oppressed and abused women come to mind here. These women may desperately want an education however, they are unable to access it.

Layla Bonnet explains the effectiveness of Open Education Resources in remote villages in Alaska in her article Analysis: How OER is Boosting School Performance and Equity From the Suburbs of Alaska. She states that OER is allowing teachers in remote parts of Alaska to access resources that in turn help to elevate test scores and reading levels of students. Although it is wonderful that resources are now accessible when in the past they were not, I worry that these Indigenous children are still being taught what mainstream society deams important. The article states that budgets are being cut and high quality education is hard to come by but what about the teachings of the Elders and of the land? So yes westernized education is more accessible, however, Indigenous education has always been there but under utilized in mainstream schools.

Lizzie O’Shea writes about unraveling the idea that technology is neutral in her article Tech has become another way for men to oppress women. O’Shea explains that in “…Melvin Kranzberg’s first law of technology tells us that technology is neither inherently good nor bad, nor is it neutral. As a black mirror it reflects the problems that exist in society – including the oppression of women.” Again the idea that technology is not the problem but that society’s ideologies are being perpetuated through its use. Word association algorithyms inherently pair words in ways that keep women in oppressive positions. Through Facebook etc. abuse victims can even be put in danger, as O’Shea explains.

Digital colonialism in the form of Facebook’s Free Basics was described by Olivia Solon in her article ‘It’s digital colonialism’: how Facebook’s free internet service has failed its users. Facebook developers state that the goal was to bring the internet to people who were not connected before but as Solon writes that perhaps there are more sinister underlying purposes to its implementation. Digital colonialism is a new term for me so I did some research and found this interesting talk…

 

It is quite a lengthy discussion on digital colonialism. At about 8:08 Nanjira Sambuli states that it feels like social media etc. is being created for us and not with us and that its developers feel that we should all be grateful. The panel speakers also discuss the idea that now colonizers have no boundaries, they can impose their ideologies on a much wider scale.

On the one hand technology provides education to a much wider population but on the other hand colonization is able to reach global proportions. Again, we as parents and educators must guide our children and students to be critical of content and to use their voice to speak out against oppressive ideologies. Through education, activism, and intentional use perhaps technology can begin to reflect a more just society.

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I would love to hear your thoughts around digital colonialism? Is this new to you? Have you experienced digital oppression? How would you as an educator breech this subject in your classroom?

 

 

 

Children and Social Media- A good mix or a recipe for disaster?

We heard some great arguments from both sides of the debate this week on whether or not social media is ruining childhood.

In their opening statement video, Melinda, Alyssa and Lori explain that social media could be contributing to depression in children and causing risky behaviour online such as sexting. They also state that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed in children. This part of the brain is responsible for decision-making and social behaviour, therefore social media is not appropriate for children. Cyberbullying, negative and permanent digital footprints and online predators are all reasons why children should not be using social media.

On the disagree side, Erin, Brooke and Daniel have many great points in their opening statement video. They explain that social media in fact strengthens relationships and creates a sense of belonging because we are now able to interact with the world in ways we couldn’t in the past. Social media is described as a means of support for children dealing with challenges in their lives. They explain that social media can encourage learning by combining facts with reflections. Social media is also a means for children to make the world a better place. This team explains that social media is a tool that requires adults to educate youth on appropriate ways it can be used.

Upon further reading, I came across Helen Knauf’s article explaining the use of social media in a Kindergarten classroom. The teacher in this classroom uses social media as a way to connect classroom learning with the wider community. Social media is used as a communication and learning tool with parents and people throughout the world. The young children in this classroom are not left to use social media on their own, their teacher is directly supervising the use and the content that is going back and forth. In this sense, I feel that social media is benefiting the children’s learning and confidence.

In Michael Niehoff’s article, he points out 9 great ways that high school students are using social media to further their learning. Collecting data, projecting their digital portfolios and ideas, as well as collaborating with peers and seeking support from teachers and experts are all wonderful benefits for the use of social media in the classroom.

Children and teens using social media strictly for school purposes seems to be a positive tool. However, social media can creep into everyday personal lives and that is where there is a problem!

Gwen Schurgin O’Keeffe and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson discuss the benefits and risks to children and teens in their article, The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. The risks are high for cyberbullying to occur on social media sites without the knowledge of parents. I love the idea put forth in their article, to have regular family meetings about social media rules and the topics that are being discussed online. Parents need to be proactive and talk to their children before challenges arise. However, if cyberbullying goes unchecked it can have dangerous consequences.

So where do I stand on this debate? I have included a vlog below with my personal thoughts. I would love to know where you stand! Comment below with your thoughts, ideas and experiences using social media with students and/or your children at home.

 

 

Should educators be sharing so much online?

I was part of the disagree team for this week’s debate topic: Is openness and sharing in schools unfair to our students? We took the stance that openness and sharing is not only fair to our students but it would in fact be an injustice to students if educators did not use this tool to promote their work. At first this angle was a stretch for me. I can see all of the negative aspects to this topic, such as the infliction on privacy and safety rights for our children. However upon researching the topic further I now agree that educators play an important role in modeling intentional posting for students. There’s always a but though…

As we demonstrated in our opening statement video, Kari, Shelly and I provided three main reasons to demonstrate that sharing online is fair to our students.

  1. Online sharing does not ruin childhood but enhances it.
  2. Sharing helps to connect schools, communities and families
  3. Educators can aid in the curation of positive digital footprints.

The agree team did a fantastic job! Thanks for a great discussion Dani, Joe and Amy R. Here is their opening statement video. They had some great and scary points about safety concerns surrounding over sharing of photos and info on social media. These facts create fear and caution surrounding this whole debate topic. No parent or educator ever wants to put their child or student into harms way. I keep thinking about the story that Alec told us, about how he found out that a ballet photo of his daughter ended up on a suspicious site. “50% of the images posted on paedophile sites were sourced from parents’ social media profiles“, yikes that’s scary! The agree team sure got me re-thinking my new stance on this topic. What’s a parent and educator to do?

 

Yes there are Dangers of Posting Online however, there are also dangers when travelling by plane, going to school, driving a car, eating anything etc.

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We need to respect the dangers and move forward using our smarts. Educators and parents can follow the STEP approach as outlined by Mike Ribble in the article Building and Keeping a Positive Digital Identity: A practical approach for educators, students and parents, to ensure that we are posting intentionally and respectfully.

In our debate group we chose to focus on the positives of posting online. Parents and educators have a responsibility to model the curation of positive digital footprints for the younger generation. Children/teens today are online and posting already, so in order to protect them we need to educate them and their families on the ways to promote their positive image, through highlighting their talents, interests and future goals. Through the curation of a positive digital footprint we are helping our children and students to become aware of the permanence of online posting and also the power of online posting. The younger generation have a lot to say and their voices can be heard globally through social media, and that’s a wonderful thing! Little Simon Link speaks out about recess and his speech is broadcasted through YouTube. This powerful message will be received by a wide global audience because it was shared online.

 

As a parent, I love seeing the pictures that my son’s teacher posts to her private Facebook group. These pictures help me to ask specific questions about what he is doing at school. School and home can be connected through sharing online. Parents can be a part of their child’s learning in a bigger way through this medium. Yes there can be situations which warrant zero online posting. Religious beliefs and legal cases must be respected by educators. Parents and children must always be consulted before anything is posted online. Consent must be given by all parties involved. Posting student photos on the Web: explains the legal complications of when and when not to post photos of students.

I think back to when I use to make scrapbooks for each of my students. I would collect all of their work throughout the year and once a month I would meet with each child and they would select their best work to go into their scrapbook. These books would be taken with me on home visits around report card time, as a way for my students to show their work to their parents. At the end of the year the scrapbooks would be sent home as a keep sake. Posting to a digital portfolio like Seesaw, is much the same. This is a fantastic way to document learning and highlight great student work and achievement to show parents. The difference with this new technology is that parents can give feedback and comments right away, instead of waiting until report card time. Seesaw and other technological tools must be used appropriately and respectfully. There is always a risk that a teacher or parent will use one of these online tools to demean or embarrass a child, as explained by Kari in her latest blog post and that is why I implore that educators and parents always receive consent before posting online. A child and his or her family should have a choice about how they are presented online.

In closing, it is important for educators to model positive posting etiquette for their students/ families because the benefits are huge! Connecting families, communities and global citizens should always be the goal. We do not learn in a bubble, we need to show our children that. We all need to be exposed to many world views and have the power and confidence to create change in the world.

Just had to add the full rap in here, cause it’s so awesome…

What should teachers be teaching?

Our class debate in EC&I 830 this week was centered around the question- Should teachers teach anything that can be Googled? After hearing both sides of the debate, reading through the recommended articles and watching the videos my thoughts are slowly formulating. Pavan Arora explains in his TED talk that 65% of our students will have jobs in the future that we have never heard of. Ackboff and Greenberg (2008) describe schools as places of incarceration and state that perhaps teachers are the ones learning and not the students. When these two modes of thought are put together we can see that schools are not doing their job. They are not empowering children to learn for themselves. Education has evolved a bit from the lecture style, teacher at the front form of teaching, however, we still need to do better! Can allowing students to goggle their learning really propel education into the future? Nicholas Carr asks the question Is Google Making us Stupid? in his article. He goes on to explain that he has noticed his reading and thinking skills have changed with the onset of online skimming. So on the one hand schools need to educate for the future and on the other hand what skills are we losing in the process and is that ok?

I am a low tech girl, I have only had an iPhone for about a year, I have just recently (like in the past month) started tweeting and blogging and I still can’t always figure out how to turn Netflix on (we have so many remotes!)

I tried to resist bringing more tech into my world because I see what it does to people, it seems to create disengagement in families and dissatisfaction with just being in the moment. I have just recently begun to see how tech can enhance learning and create new opportunities in early childhood settings.  Teachers have a responsibility to their students, to provide opportunities for children to learn the skills that they will need for their future. Intentionally using google and other technological tools to change their teaching content, pedagogy and role is vital.

So what does this change look like in a Prekindergarten classroom? Although changes are inevitable I feel that many of the components within this program can not and should not be replaced with technology, only enhanced.

During our debate in EC&I 830 this week, I heard the argument that children still need to memorize certain things and that they need to be given time to pause and be curious. I strongly feel that young children should be encouraged to discover answers to their questions, in the world around them, in nature, in art, in conversation. I would then use google etc. to enhance the learning experience of my students. I would use google to perhaps find answers to questions that have been explored with our class but need further information. Young children are not in a place in their development to have their learning solely online or solely in their own hands, however through uninterrupted play children can begin to build skills that will help them to navigate their world now and with the flexibility they will need in the future. Teachers in early childhood education have the responsibility to slowly step back and allow children the space to explore their own ideas and interests.

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Joe Ruhl talks about teaching methods that inspire. He demonstrates that teachers need to become a “guide on the side” that work to coach and inspire their students. Students need to be provided with choice for learning topics and learning tools. Students need to learn how to learn, how to find and gain knowledge in multiple ways, how to adapt and work with many personality types, how to critically think about content, in order to be flexible enough to succeed in an ever-changing world. We cannot predict what the future will hold for our students, for this reason we can never teach enough to keep up with the times. Instead we need to teach children how to become resourceful independent learners who can navigate technology but who can also navigate working outdoors, in offices, in teams, independently etc. We need to give children the freedom to explore interests, questions, and topics using many different tools so that when they leave school they know what they enjoy doing and can look for careers in those areas. Children need to be given space, freedom and tools to formulate their own ideas and opinions about the world around them and they need to have access to the ideas, opinions and work of people around the world through the use of technology.

I believe that we can not shy away from using technology in our classrooms. Children require these skills for the present and the future. Using google to provide am tool that children can use to explore their ideas and questions is vital. Educators need to become facilitator of knowledge instead of holder of knowledge as Shelly states in her blog. Children also require space and time to explore in many other forms. Google can not be the only form of learning but just one tool in the toolbox.

I like what Dani writes about in her blog when she states that it is important to add a unit in Health on digital citizenship. I think this type of unit could be adapted from Prekindergarten all the way up to grade 12. It is vital that children of all ages learn how to navigate the online world safely and intentionally. Also I agree with Wendy as she questions what form learning should take within our schools. Upon reading about this subject, it is very clear that education needs to be updated and pedagogy needs to be reviewed. Educators are vital and always will be. Our roles may be changing but we are as important as we have ever been. Although children need to be able to become independent learners, they still need a guide to ensure that they are accessing appropriate information and someone who will facilitate deeper thinking. So in conclusion, I do agree that teachers should be providing opportunities for their students to google their learning, but they should also be providing opportunities for many other forms of learning.

What do you think teachers should be teaching? I would love to hear your thoughts.