Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Start of My TLLP Journey

About a year ago, my principal approached me and asked if I was interested in getting involved with a grant proposal. Thinking back on that day, I have a vague recollection of this having something to do with technology in the classroom (an interest of mine). I also remember that there was mention of a “guru” from another school that was going to do a lot of the initial paperwork. (That's a plus!)

“Would you be interested?” my principal asked. All she needed was a commitment from a few staff members (including me) and a signature on a document.

At the time, I was intrigued, but also distracted. I’ll admit, "distracted and curious" is modus operandi for me at the best of times. Staff at my school will attest that I am regularly staring at my phone as I walk down the hall. Typically, I am reading an article, perusing the news or scanning my PLN on Twitter.

Looking back on that day, I suppose I realized that I would have more time to evaluate this opportunity at a later date. So, I signed the document and moved on.

I should mention that this event coincided with some significant challenges in my teaching career. At the time, I was moving to a new classroom and changing my assignment from Grade 4 to Grade 5/6. Consequently, I had been pouring over unfamiliar curriculum documents while trying to incorporate more technology into my classroom. WiFi had recently been installed at our school and I knew I would have increased access to Chromebooks. I really wanted to step-up my efforts to be a Google Educator.

Additionally, I was a Workplace Steward and we were navigating the challenges of increased job actions due a year long contract battle with the government. There was also volleyball season (I was a coach and a regional convenor). Needless to say, in the chaos of first few months of the new school year, the “grant” had slipped my mind.

Early this spring, I was reminded of my commitment. This time, things had settled in my world and I was less distracted and far more intrigued. I found out that the grant was part of an ongoing project. It was geared toward experienced teachers who are passionate about their practice and want to share their ideas with others. By choosing to participate, I would be provided with release time to hone my professional practice and my skills. I would also have access to additional funding to spend on technology for use in my classroom and at our school. More information on this grant can be found here. Needless to say, I was glad I had signed up and was delighted to understand fully that this was the type of opportunity for which I had been looking.

A few weeks later, I learned that I had been selected by my administration to attend a three day conference in Toronto as the representative from our school. If I didn’t have enough incentive before - I certainly did now. There is something wonderfully energizing about being trusted through a generous opportunity. I began to investigate our grant with renewed vigour. I got a chance to meet with the aforementioned “guru”, Michelle, and I also got to meet my conference partner from our companion school, Kari. I looked at the initiative with fresh eyes.

The long version of our grant proposal reads as follows:

We hope to explore, implement and evaluate coding and computational thinking in the K-8 classroom. Computational Thinking (CT) includes computer programming (ie: coding) and means problem solving, understanding and designing systems and understanding human behaviour (Wing, 2006; 2008 p 3717). We will investigate how CT can be useful for learning the mathematical processes outlined in the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum as well as the 21st Century Skills championed in Ontario and around the world. Complementing our board’s recent initiative with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math (S.T.E.A.M.) this project will investigate four pedagogical phases CT: unplugged, making, tinkering and remixing. (Floyd, Kafai, Khan, Kotsopoulis, Morrison, Namukasa et al 2015) . We will also explore how CT manifests in the physical world through tangible materials such as robots, circuits and micro-controllers.

In my next entry, I hope to distil that to 25 words or fewer and update my experiences at the 10th Annual TLLP Conference in Toronto.

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