Journey into Media App Review: Remind

At the outset of this masters course we were tasked with using and reviewing a suite of apps that were either used by youth to connect with others or by teachers as pedagogical tools.  I chose to look at some apps that could help students with stress, help them stay healthy and promote wellness.  One of the apps I chose to review for my main project was Remind, formerly known as remind 101.  In essence this is a messaging app designed to aid communication between teachers and students.  It is quite simple in operation but has been very useful to me over the course of the past semester.  The app allows teachers, coaches, etc. to send instant messages to students and/or players regarding upcoming events, quizzes, or homework reminders.  Here’s how it works.  The app allows for instant messaging direct to students cellular device in real time.  Students may choose to message back but only if allowed by the administrator.  There is also the option to receive email notifications.  The app also includes a variety of useful features.

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Features

One of the most useful features I have come across is the ability to schedule announcements to be sent at a certain time.  This means that if you need an announcement to go out at 8:00 pm and will not be available to send it, the app will do it for you at the appointed time.  Another useful feature is the ability to send file attachments with your reminders.  I have used it to send homework attachments, or even notes or information sheets.  There is also a useful feature that allows teachers to post their available hours in order to be contacted.  This allows for greater connection to home and gives teachers some flexibility with regard to when contact can be made.  The app also allows for multiple users to be administrators on the site.  This way teachers can collaborate together to post content or reminders.  They can also see read receipts for which students have read the messages posted.  In addition, teachers can choose to allow students the ability to respond to messages as well.  Finally, there is an option to send group messages as well.  This can be a useful feature when discussing options with parent groups, having students discuss content or posting discussion questions.  I’ve used this app for both teaching and coaching and I was very impressed with it’s possible applications in a variety of situations.  As a coach I found it useful for posting when games were rained out or cancelled to avoid making phone calls to all the parents.  I also used it for planning purposes.  As a teacher it has been very useful especially in Wellness 10 where we might be in different locations from day to day.  I use it to post reminders such as, “be sure to bring your skates today” or “remember that we are starting archery tomorrow.”

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Terms of Service 

One of the biggest surprises when reading through the terms of service was the fact that students under the age of 13 need to have signed permission from a parent in order to use the app.  This is something to in mind if you are teaching in middle years or elementary.  In addition the terms state that as a user of the platform you are required to comply with the children’s online privacy protection act or COPPA.  In other words, personal information collected can not be used in any way.  It seems as though Remind takes these concerns seriously as they do not wish to be noncompliant with COPPA.  If privacy concerns become an issue, contacting Remind directly will trigger the company to look into the allegations and possibly to take further action if necessary.

Pros and Cons

I had very few initial concerns with the use of this app.  It is a simple yet effective way to send out reminders to students and allow for quick and easy communication as well.  Many teachers complain about answering emails at home and constantly feeling like they have to be on call.  However, with a tool such as this, I have found it allows for quick access to students’ comments or questions as well as a more immediate response to student needs.  The beauty of the app is that no phone numbers are used therefore there is minimal risk of privacy issues arising.  Some parents are concerned about messaging contact between students and teachers if they have not understood that there is no exchange of phone numbers and that the app is usually only one way messaging in large groups.  If there are parent concerns about privacy, Remind has also written a handy guide for parents which helps explain the app and its’ purpose.  With cell phones now in the hands of most students over the age of 14, this tool allows for assurances that messages will be seen.  For those who teach younger children, this tool may not seem as useful but would still apply in situations where teachers need to contact parents quickly and efficiently.  Another issue is the concept of digital divide.   The app is rendered somewhat ineffective in situations in which not all students have access to a device.  For example, I didn’t use Remind very much in my previous teaching assignment due to the fact that messages sent would only reach about a third of my students.  In considering the use of this app with parents, it is also important to weigh the pros and cons.  For instance, a school with a large immigrant and refugee population might mean some significant language barriers and therefore some difficulty setting up and using the app.  This could be addressed with a simple parent tutorial tech night for example.  However, if all students have access and can use their devices throughout the day, there should be no issues.

Overall Review

In speaking with students who have used the app, several things were mentioned in relation to the app.  Most students mentioned that they appreciated receiving updates on things like due dates and assignments.  Some also mentioned they liked the ability to post questions to the teacher or in a forum.  However, some did draw attention to the fact that since Google classroom has many of the same features as well as the ability to post assignments and grades, Remind seemed, at times, redundant.  One of the advantages of using Remind is that the messages stream seamlessly to students cell phones with no surrender of cell numbers.  This safeguards both teachers and students from potential privacy issues.  In general I have found this app to be very useful and simple to use as well.  Often I will find myself at home and suddenly remember that there is a piece of information that I needed to share with students before the next day.  The app allows me to send a quick message so that I know that we can hit the ground running with our next activity the following day.  In closing, I would give this app 5 out of 5 Luke Heads and would highly recommend it for teachers and coaches.

 

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Summary of Learning ECI 832

It’s hard to believe that I am doing my final summary of learning for my Masters Degree.  I feel as though I’ve learned a great deal during the course of my years in the Med Program and this class was no exception.  The course included discussions of key topics in Educational Technology such as ethics in a connected world, the role of technology in education, the right to be forgotten, etc.

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However, the ideas that resonated with me the most had to do with the discussion around digital natives vs digital immigrants, media literacy, and the the role of schools in teaching media literacy/digital citizenship to students.  In examination of the former topic, there was meaningful discussion around questions like; are the current generation of students born into a digital world as natives? What will the next generation look like in terms of digital integration?  Can those in older generations become a part of this new world or are they merely visitors?  I found myself wanting to place myself in the shoes of the younger generation.  This allowed me to look at technology in a different way.  As I stated in a previous post, because I grew up overseas, I was really not a part of the generation that grew up with technology at our fingertips.  Therefore, the examination of the these topics was very interesting to me as somewhat of a Canadian immigrant and a digital immigrant.

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The idea of digital identities and digital duality was also a large part of reforming my thinking on digital spaces and our place in them.  The role of the educator in this discussion becomes increasingly important as we examine what it looks like to conduct ourselves as professionals while modelling positive online behaviour for students.  Students are growing up with little distinction between their virtual world and their physical world.  Many would argue that there is none, therefore students need to be exposed to discussions of citizenship from an early age.  Critical thinking through media literacy then becomes the key to unlocking positive digital citizens.

Exposing students to different types of media as a practical way of teaching digital citizenship is a great way to start.  As students and teachers come together to examine issues like bias and ownership of content, positive digital communities will be formed in which true and meaningful learning will happen.

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Students and teachers can then engage in the creative process and tackle deeper issues as well.  This is something that needs to happen in the classroom and must be incorporated throughout the curriculum.  Building these types of communities that focus not on policing and prevention, but on engagement, reflection and critical thinking will foster growth of positive digital citizens that will be proud to continue the work into adulthood.  As classrooms across the world begin to take up these topics and conversations, students will need guides and mentors alongside them as they begin to navigate.  Scenes like the one below will hopefully become increasingly common.

You may be wondering how we as educators can undertake such a monumental task?

The proliferation of social media and new technologies does not necessitate a change in our pedagogical philosophy.  It simply requires that teachers continue to educate students to be good humans.

Below I have attached my final summary of learning.  I have enjoyed this course immensely and look forward to what the future holds.

 

What does Community have to do with Digital Citizenship?

Although much has been said about digital citizenship in education, what does it look like when it is truly introduced in a cross-curricular manner?  Although there is a great framework in place for Saskatchewan teachers as Krista and Kelsie pointed out in their recent video on the subject of digital citizenship, it is at times difficult to implement in a strategic and meaningful way.  In reflecting on the question of the educators’ role in digital citizenship, I realized several things.  First of all, digital citizenship has been largely focused on elementary students.  Due to the fact that high school students are ‘generally’ more mature  and have developed the technical skills to use technology, teachers and parents often  assume that they also know how to be responsible digital citizens online.  Secondly, I realized that in the 10 years that I have been teaching, digital citizenship education has almost exclusively been defined by the idea of digital safety.  The thought being that if we can at least keep kids safe while they are online, then we have done our jobs.  This is a strategy driven by fear and, as witnessed throughout history, the best laid plans driven by fear can have dire consequences.

Digital Citizenship education has to be about more than fear mongering and trying to keep kids from visiting certain websites online.  There several key aspects necessary for true digital citizens to emerge within a school.  To break things down I would like to examine 2 key questions.  Firstly,  What does digital citizenship mean?  Some common responses might be;

1. Being responsible and respectful to others in the community.

2. Caring about your community.

3. Being informed about the needs within your school and community.

4. Doing your best to make your community a better place.

It is clear that the common theme here is community.  The living, moving organisms that make up our physical and digital world.  The key to educating the future generation of digital citizens does not lie in strategies of protection but in community.  This is why schools with higher rates of belonging and connections with regard to school culture have fewer issues with social media and online bullying.  Understanding a school’s culture and climate are key aspects in enacting change in any fashion as pointed by Macneil in his study.    If a school has an existing culture and climate of positivity, community and engagement, good digital citizenship will follow.  It is crucial to understand that the digital world is simply a reflection of ourselves as human beings.  If positive school climate and culture foster community engagement and achievement, positive digital interactions will follow.  

A second important question to consider is this:

Why is digital citizenship important?

1. We need good digital citizens to make our school and community better for everyone.

2. It is our duty and obligation as digital citizens to do our part.

Just as we expect certain things of our administration, our teachers, and our students, we must have high expectations in our online interactions as well.  So often I find that students and many time teachers are unsure of what the expectations are for themselves.  What is considered acceptable to post online?  With whom may I have an interaction online?  How often should I be online?  How should I portray myself in online spaces?  In what forums may I speak out online about issues that matter to me?  These are questions that are not often discussed in schools perhaps.  The reality is that expectations for digital citizenship online need to be clearly defined in any school in order to foster caring and engaged digital citizens.  This is something I hope to address with our core teachers at my school in the near future.

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With the conditions of a positive school culture and digital expectations clearly defined, it becomes much more feasible to engage students in conversations around digital citizenship.  In many ways our Saskatchewan curriculum has many areas of crossover in which digital citizenship themes could be included.  If our province desires to be  a leader in this field, it will be important for schools to establish these expectations for students and staff.  As Quijada aptly pointed out in her TedTalk, themes like deconstructing media messages could be discussed in many different courses including Health Wellness, Psychology, Social Studies, or ELA.  Rob Williams points out that these ideas about media haven’t radically changed over time, we simply have more media content coming at us every day.  In his view, skepticism is the key to driving digital media education.  I believe this is an important piece of being a good digital citizen but it is somewhat simplistic.  As we learned through the discussion with Pat Maze this past week, there are often more grey areas than black and white.

On a more personal level, I need to be better about modelling what being a good community member of our school looks like.  I believe if every teacher commits to promoting a positive school culture and encouraging high expectations of digital citizenship, we will be on a steady path to where we want to be as a province.

Teaching digital citizenship should, in essence, be an offshoot of  what teachers are already doing all day, every day, anyway:  teaching kids to be good humans.

We are all in the business of raising up responsible and engaged citizens.  Keep encouraging students and modelling how to be the best they can be.  That is the role of teachers in digital citizenship education or as I prefer to think of it, Character Education!

 

Technology and Wellness: It’s Time to (Re)connect

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It’s been a while since my last post so I’ll start with a quick reintroduction.  I have been teaching K-12 in the French Immersion program in Regina, SK for ten years now and I have loved the challenges and rewards that have come along with it.  This is my final Masters course and so I’m very excited to be finishing my program in a fourth course taught by Alec Couros .   I used to consider myself somewhat tech savvy but have, in recent years, realized that I have only begun to scratch the surface.  In many ways it is becoming clear to me that the lives we live are inextricably linked to, and perhaps even defined by, technology.  The lines between the virtual world and the visceral world are being blurred infinitesimally.  As the younger generation makes its way through the doors and hallways of our schools, critical questions about the relationship between education and digital media/citizenship must be posed.  Today’s youth are connected in a way that previous generations could have never foreseen.  Content is being created and consumed at an unprecedented rate.  According to Youtube, 300 hours of new video are uploaded every minute and 500 billion videos are watched everyday.  It has never been easier to create, share and comment on media from all over the world.  Whether it be video, live streams, music, chat, images, gifs, etc, the world is awash with content.  So how do we curate and filter what we would like to consume? How do keep emotional, social, physical, and mental wellness intact?  More importantly, how do we teach youth to approach content through a critical lens?  One important caveat here is that to teach youth how to navigate these tidal waters of content, there must be an awareness of what is out there in the form of apps and websites.

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It is clear that the little social network that started it all (Facebook) has continued to gain popularity over the years and is growing in worldwide subscribers.  However, recently the now tech giant has struggled to attract younger audiences and a variety of smaller social networking startups have, one by one, risen to take the place of Facebook promising new features, live parties or greater connections with friends.  From Houseparty to Ask.fm to Sarahah to Vsco, apps fall in and out of favour with teens.  Some lasting a few months others making it almost a full year (or longer as in the example of Snapchat) until the next app storms the phones of the world’s adolescents. In the Fall, a CBC news story highlighted the dangers of apps that are secretive or ask for anonymous feedback reporting that cyberbullying and harassment levels are hitting all time highs among teens.  Common Sense Media gives Sarahah a rating of 1 out of 5 stars due to the potential risks involved with it’s use.  Some of the most popular apps among teens today are also causing the most psychological and emotional damage.  I agree that simply trying to limit or police the use of these apps is not really addressing the problem long term.  Along with teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy, modelling the proper use of apps and the use of technology to say healthy and well is crucial.   As Richard Louv suggests;

“Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. —LUTHER STANDING BEAR (C. 1868–1939)”
― Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

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As an educator who teaches High School Math, Health and Phys ed, I have to admit that my use of technology has been quite limited to use in the confines of the 4 walls of my classroom in teaching of math.  I have gotten quite comfortable using blogs and apps in the classroom both for assessment and instruction.  However, there exists a whole host of apps designed for use outside of the classroom as well.  Health and wellness apps need to strike a balance between ease of use and engagement in order to help users reconnect with themselves, with nature, and find balance.  I hope to explore apps that promote health and wellness for teens and which can be used in the Sask Health 9 and Wellness 10 curriculums.  I have a keen interest in the outdoors and have been doing a lot of reading around Nature Deficit Disorder and the loss of connection to outdoor spaces.  I hope to be able to evaluate and explore the possibility of using technology to enhance learning in spaces like the Gym, Fitness Centre and in the best classroom there is: the outdoors.

Fitness apps and wearable technology has seen huge growth over the last number of years and as students are increasingly unable to separate themselves from their phones for more than a few minutes, it seems logical to utilize the existing technology.  Even augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go have been instrumental in getting kids active and outside.  My hope is to explore the relationship between Phys ed/outdoor ed and technology through the evaluation of various apps and their potential educational applications.  Many proponents tout technology as crucial in the engagement of students in phys ed/outdoor ed.  Others claim that technology and outdoor ed are diametrically opposed and cannot be mutually beneficial.  I believe that technology can play a pivotal role in outdoor ed/Phys ed through engagement, assessment and fostering connections with others and with nature.  Apps that encourage health and wellness are also a great tool to keep parents and students accountable in an age when unhealthy habits are all to easy to form and bullying due to online anonymity is growing.  Let me know what you think?  Please fill out the survey below to help me get started on this.

As far as concrete next steps are concerned, I hope to:

  1. Explore apps that are used in the Phys ed/outdoor ed community using #pechat, #outdoored, #wellness and #PhysEdTech
  2. Compile a list of apps and catergories to work from including but not limited to; fitness, augmented reality, mental health, outdoors, assessment, mindfulness, organization etc.
  3. Chose 3 apps and become familiar with the use of these apps through their use during term 2 Health 9 and Wellness 10 classes this year.
  4. Document findings through blogging and videos in order to draw final conclusions.

 

 

And That’s the Way It Is…

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The famous Walter Cronkite would always sign off with the catch phrase, “and that’s the way it is.”  News anchors through the years have delivered summaries of important world events.  From Cronkite to Rather and of course Peter Mansbridge, trusted reporters deliver the facts.  So Krista, Liz and I thought it might be fun to try a  news cast for our summary of learning.  They are both colleagues, part of my core team and an incredible support for me in my teaching.  We had never worked with green screens before and it was a great opportunity to learn some new tech and have some fun. This semester has been an incredible journey and a great learning opportunity.  Gaining a deeper understanding of the theories behind tech implementation in the classroom was a big part of my learning during this class.   I had some previous knowledge of theory behind education but my practice has changed now to the point where I analyze each activity using tech to ensure the usage of tech for the right reasons.  Theory has also played a role in the ways that I examine my current practice and the ways that I teach.  In addition, The course created a great community of teachers and learners interested and engaged in pushing each other further along the edtech path.  Also, It offered a great opportunity to learn some new tricks, tips and tech tools to help us in our professional lives.  I especially enjoyed learning about the new technologies that may one day be the norm for teaching and learning such as virtual and augmented reality.  It seems as though the more we learn about edtech, the more there is to know.  I resolved as I was reviewing the course to keep 4 things in mind in the coming year.

  1. Evaluate tech tools based on theory
  2. Design the task and accompanying tech with authenticity
  3. Master tech tools that are useful in your practice
  4. Don’t over extend, take your time

There is no rush to the finish line in learning about edtech.  We are each learning at our own pace and doing what works in our own contexts.  The constant shifting in technology will always mean that we are trying to catch up.  Never forget where tech started.  Pencils and chalkboards were once considered cutting edge.  So I’ll simply end by saying, that’s the way it is…”

Please enjoy…

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Virtual Reality: Step into the Future

The intention of this week’s blog was to discuss a piece of educational software or media  and do an in-depth analysis of its potential and drawbacks in a classroom setting.  Since we presented this week, I had already done quite a bit of research into Kahn Academy and its ability to aid teachers in flipping their classrooms.  Since most of my limited readership has already been forced to listen to me for a full hour, I will look into a piece of tech/software that I think is very cool.  The idea of virtual reality is not something new but it is becoming more accessible.  In fact the New York Times just released a new film that can be viewed using a smartphone and Googles cardboard VR headsets.  Using a pre folded piece of cardboard, a smartphone, and Google VR Apps/Software, virtual reality can be brought into the classroom for little to no cost.  This is especially true for schools with higher socio-economic status due to the fact that most students will have their own devices to use with the viewers.  The possibilities are really endless when it comes to these virtual field trips.  However, are students simply consumers or can they interact in these virtual worlds?

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Many of the Google expeditions are based on the core sciences/social sciences and provide a different perspective to traditional textbook and lecture teaching.  Not only that, students can also capture and create their own VR experiences to share with their classmates and with the rest of the world.  Take Unity 3D as an example.  In this platform students can not only use an avatar to explore Egyptian or Mayan ruins, they can also build and create their own virtual representations to be explored by others.  In WiloStar 3D, students can take virtual secondary and post secondary courses in virtual environment using an avatar to interact with other students and professors.   Using the IOS or Android Apps from Google, sound and images are recorded in sync for others to enjoy in 3D.  Here are some other virtual worlds with an educational theme or focus:

It seems as if the rise in VR technology has pushed it into the mainstream.  Even in the 600th episode of The Simpsons, VR will make an appearance in the couch gag to open the show.  During the gag, a URL will appear on the screen which will direct viewers to the Google app in which they will be able to use their VR Cardboard viewers to enter the world of the Simpsons.

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The headsets can be ordered from Google or you can try your hand at making your own following the directions in the video below.  Here is the link to the template needed to make your very own headset.  With such an affordable tool, the possible benefits for students are many.  With the teacher as a guide, students can now visit world heritage sites, ancient ruins, archeological digs and much more.  Students can explore, analyze, discuss and get a true experience of what it’s like to be in these amazing places.  This software seems like it fits very well in the constructivist/connectivist school of thought in that it offers choice and freedom for students, allows them to build on preconceived knowledge, allows discussion and social interaction, and engages students in a meaningful way.  In addition, students will be able to interact with vivid objects in a sequential pattern that will mimic real world experience.  This will invariably lead to deep and meaningful learning experiences for students because they will see the effects of their chains of decisions within the VR app.

There are numerous advantages of using VR in the classroom and this technology may hold the key to the reason why our current system still sees many students falling through the cracks.  As William Win stated, “Since a great many students fail in school because they do not master the symbol systems of the disciplines they study, although they are perfectly capable of mastering the concepts that lie at the heart of the disciplines, it can be concluded that VR provides a route to success for children who might otherwise fail in our education system as it is currently construed.”  A second advantage of VR in the classroom addresses the all too familiar problem that arises when some students have mastered concepts being taught while others need remedial support.  VR allows students to literally become participants in their own learning which inevitably boosts motivation.  According to Dr. Veronica Pantelidis, “virtual reality allows students to progress at their own pace without being held back at a class schedule while also motivating them to learn.”

As an example, here is a tour of the amazing and historical Buckingham Palace.  On the screen you can click to move your view around the room as the tour is happening.  Using a VR headset, you can tilt your head to look around the room and advance to explore things you see or hear in the tour. Active rather than passive experience is a key benefit to VR in the classroom which is just one of many possible benefits including;

  • Immersive experience means no distractions
  • Immediate engagement: useful in today’s world of limited attention spans
  • Exploration and hands on approach aids with learning and retention
  • Helps with understanding complex subjects/theories/concepts
  • Suited to all types of learning styles, e.g. visual

So, why aren’t we all rushing out to spend money on this new technological trend?  Simply put, the recent rethinking of Ipads in the classroom has school divisions reevaluating what educational technology should look like.  Cost is a huge deterrent as well, even considering Google cardboard.  Finally, it is also clear that the technology may not lend itself as easily to teaching in some subject areas and depends on BYOD policies that can be problematic for some schools and impossible to implement in others.  Despite all of this, I do think that we will begin to see more VR in classrooms as costs come down and VR software specific to curricula is built.

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What do you think?  Is virtual reality the next trend in educational technology?  Let me know in the comments section below.

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A Journey Into the Mind

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For some reason I’ve always loved philosophy and the practice of reasoning.  I took Philosophy 100 as an elective in my first year of university.  The idea of thinking about the way we think is somehow very appealing to me.  From Plato to Descartes, being able to talk about metacognition is a fascinating insight into the power of the human brain.  Although the questions may seem somewhat existential, there is a very real link between philosophy and education.  Questions like “how do we learn?” and “when do we know something?” must be considered foundational pedagogical questions for any practitioner.  The answers to these questions are, in reality, the driving force behind how and why we teach the way we do.  It is why some teachers tend to lean toward lecture vs. hands-on teaching or inductive vs deductive reasoning assignments.  Even the way we assess students or have them interact with information is affected by the way we view learning/knowledge.  Of the major views on knowledge and learning I would say that I tend toward the Constructivist paradigm, although I have been more and more intrigued by the ideas of Connectivism and and Rizhomatic Learning.  I believe strongly that learning is a social construct and that we form ideas through interactions with others.  Building communities of learning with others helps challenge our preconceived ideas and build strong cognitive processes.  In an increasingly digital world, social/digital interactions are becoming a key piece of every young person’s life.  We need only to look at some of the connections that exist already between Canadian classrooms and students all over the world to know that this way of interacting and learning will be crucial in the 21st century.

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Although there are so many variables involved in looking at the way kids learn, I believe there are certain things we can observe about how students process information.  I don’t think we can discount what Maslow has posited that there needs to be a certain set of conditions present.  During my time working in a community school, this became very evident.  If students lack basics like food, proper clothing or the feeling of significance, they are not in a mental space to concentrate/learn.  Once these basics are met, the question becomes, how does this student learn?  In other words, do all students learn in the same way?  According to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, we can not apply a one-size-fits-all teaching method to our students.  There are some students who may display better retention of material through audio/visual methods, others may profit from hands-on tactile learning methods.  Even though differences in learning styles may be very evident, teachers need to be able to think about not only how information is taken up, but also how students analyze and process information.  For example, are experiences remembered in the same way as pictures or video?  Are students really constructing knowledge sets built of experiences?  Does the mind really work like a processor of information?  Can the mind be explored to understand true thought?  Or, are we simply reacting to what goes on in the world around us?  Perhaps it’s beneficial to take a cross-cultural view of knowledge and how we learn.

For example, in Africa, age is an  important determining factor and prerequisite for certain social tasks.  Everything is taught through doing.  Boys accompany their fathers or grandfathers to learn to hunt, collect honey, herd cattle, plant/harvest, or pick mangoes.  Girls follow their mothers or grandmothers as they thresh grain, cook, gather firewood, make fires, milk goats or make peanut butter.  The cycle goes as follows; observation of the skill performed by the older practitioner, skill practiced with help or close supervision, and then skill practiced independently until mastered.  These skills are needed for the well being of the family unit and so are given a high priority.  These are in many ways similar to the ways of knowing that are traditional among First Nations in Canada as well.          

In this short video by Dr. Martin Brokenleg, the Circle of Courage is explained as a philosophy of learning that is central to the ethos of First Nations life and culture.  The circle can be used to enhance learning in a different way.  The student consists of a mind, body, heart and spirit.  In order to have a complete and healthy person, he/she must have a complete circle made up of Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity.  I believe looking at learning from a more wholistic perspective definitely has some benefits.  We cannot simplify learning into a purely cognitive brain function.  To do so would be to say that emotion, interest or engagement plays no role in learning.  This is simply not true and we can often see that when students are engaged or are given some autonomy in the learning process, they flourish.  Building a sense of belonging, independence, mastery or generosity during the learning process will not only help students become lifelong learners, it will also help them become confident and capable members of our global community.  Isn’t that why we are educators?

After looking into the various learning theories, I have to say that I lean more significantly toward Social Constructivism.  I believe that human beings are social creatures and that we learn through constructing meaning from interactions and experiences.  I love the mentorship model that many native cultures around the world espouse.  I find it sad that we here in North America have forgotten what it means for a ‘village to raise a child’.  It takes a community of invested and trusting adults to raise up a child who has a complete circle of courage.  In the digital age, Connectivism is simply a continuation of this same theory.  Growing and learning together whether face to face or online.   It was Orange Shirt day yesterday and I was discussing with my Grade 9 class what reconciliation meant to them in the wake of residential schools.  I asked students to write down words that came to mind when they thought of reconciliation.  This is the list according to frequency that we came up with.  I think this is a good example of the ways in which knowledge and learning are enhanced by connection, support and community.  It is the only way to move forward in the face of difficulty.    wordcloud-1