To Livingstone Grade 7’s as Your World Expands

Grade 7 Leaving in Hollywood Style

In June 2020, we tried to replicate the Grad Ceremony in an online meeting. This year we tried to create a celebration for our Grade 7 students that would capture their interest and excitement. This was my farewell speech to our David Livingstone Elementary Grade 7 students as their principal.

Students, teachers and our online viewers, welcome to Hollywood North!

You are leaving the smaller pond our elementary school and swimming into the much larger pond of secondary school.  However you are taking with you the background experience unlike anyone who has come before you.  Last year, Grade 7’s left under the haze of COVID starting in March 2020 but a year filled with fairly typical Grade 7 experiences until that point in time.  You are leaving with the previously undefined experience of fear, caution, lockdowns, expanded online learning, physical distancing, masks, cohorts, restrictions, air high fives and air hugs.  Previously uncharted terrain for your typical Grade 7 student.

As people are being vaccinated and cases of COVID lessen, there is less focus on fear and apprehension.  There is more focus on looking forward.  People are already writing books about what it has been like to live through a modern day pandemic.  But what is most significant is that YOU can write that book.  All of your experiences and the feelings could fill many volumes.  Of the 36 students leaving Grade 7, there are 36 versions of that book.  Each version carries its own truth.

I’m currently reading a book called Think Again by Adam Grant.  The subtitle – The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.  What is most intriguing about the book, is the fact that it isn’t the smartest people who are most able to cope with adversity or change.  It is the people who are able to rethink the situation and pursue a different pathway.

Mike Lazaridis dreamed up the idea for the Blackberry as a wireless communication device for sending and receiving emails.  In middle school, he made local news for building a solar panel at the science fair and won an award for reading every science book in the public library.  In his eight grade yearbook, there is a cartoon of Mike as a mad scientist, with bolts of lightning shooting out of his head.  By 2008, his Blackberry company was worth $70 billion dollars.  By 2014, the market share had plummeted to less than 1% of smart phone users in the US.  What happened? 

In 2010, when one of Mike’s colleagues pitched the idea of sending encrypted messages. He passed.  What’s App saw the potential of text messaging to the tune of $19 billion dollars.  When the idea of typing on a glass screen rather than on the tiny keyboard emerged with thumbs.  He laughed.  Steve Jobs saw the potential.  Apple was off and running.  Clearly Mike Lazaridis was a smart guy.  He just couldn’t rethink or adopt another perspective.  He couldn’t unlearn what he already knew. 

Adam Grant talks about four approaches to the way people think and live their lives: 

  1. The first type of person digs in their heels and argues their point of view is right.  They ever question their ideas.  This type of person takes offence at other perspectives or anyone questioning their conclusions.
  2. The second type of person completely focuses is on proving others wrong.  This person focuses on discrediting rather than discovering.
  3. The third type of person will appease the audience at any cost.  This is the politician in the group.  Popularity rather than accuracy dictates their views. 
  4. The final type of person assumes scientist mode.   This person is actively open minded;  searching for reasons why we might be wrong;  not for reasons why we must be right.  Revising views is based on what is learned. Changing minds are acts of intellectual integrity for a person in scientist mode.

Intellectual curiosity and openness to new discoveries.  This is the skill set you’ve been taught since kindergarten.   This goes hand in hand with curriculum in British Columbia. All those inquiry studies.  All those questions to pursue.  All that predicting and testing hypotheses.

The COVID pandemic has certainly thrust you into the full understanding of uncertainty.  Yet, you are equipped to not only handle it but to pursue your very own version of truth.  I look forward to reading about it.  Or perhaps watching it on a screen in Hollywood, California. With that,  I wish you all of the very best as you swim off into your next pond. 

Breathing Life into History

Walking in downtown Charlottetown is like being part of those Murder Mystery board game where everyone dresses up and assumes a role.  Actors dressed in period costumes assume the roles of the a Fathers of Confederation and Victorian women and wander around The Province House area where the notion of a Canadian Dominion was conceived in 1864.  The Historic Queen Square walking tour was well worth the $5.00 and the young actress playing the daughter of George Coles, the 1st Premier of P.E.I., gave a good sense of the politics of the day.  She also took us into the Confederation House Art Gallery to see the historic 1765 map of P.E.I. on loan from England.

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The surveyor-general of North America at the time,  Samuel Holland, made the map from his base camp at Observation Cove and a boat travelling around the island which matches the satellite images today.  So very difficult to fathom.

I also loved the follow up film in the Confederation a House.  The dramatization credits the inspiration and vision of Sir John A. Macdonald in Upper Canada and Sir Etienne Cartier in Lower Canada  in being able to broker a deal for a unified Canada in what started as a conversation about a union of Maritime provinces.  It also acknowledges the problematic absence of the voice of Aboriginal people and woman.  Overall a great model of how we can tell the stories of our past in a way which fuels the imagination.  Last year we celebrated Sir John A Macdonald’s 150th birthday at our school.  This year I have several ideas bubbling!

Book Review: If Kids Ruled the World by Div.11 Inspired by Bailey and Huyck and iPad minis

Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by David Huyck

Linda Bailey has created another fun book to engage young readers in reading and writing. Just like the Stanley series, it pulled my students into using their imagination.  Linda Bailey has played with rhyme.  We used the Draw and Tell app on the iPad minis to speculate about exactly what students would do if they ruled the world. Each child saved their pictures into the Draw and Tell App.  They had some great ideas:

If Kids Ruled the World…

It would rain $50.00 bills.

Everyone would get to go to the beach everyday.

It would REALLY rain cats and dogs.

Everyone could have All You Can Eat instant noodles for breakfast. lunch and dinner.

Crustaceans would be pets.

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PILOT – Professionals Investigating Learning Opportunities with Technology

Four teachers at Tecumseh Elementary committed to working together on PILOT. Our job was to engage in an inquiry using technology with our students. We were provided with an iPad cart with 20 iPads for class use, 3 iPads for use of Resource teachers, 5 desktop computers in the library and Apple TV.

Students and parents in all of the classes were taught about iPad care and signed a use agreement.  For much of the term, teachers explored the technology with their classes with a focus on the tools. We had general discussions about developing writing and thinking skills but specific definition of an inquiry question was vague and the focus was how do you…

It was once we started to share what we were doing that our learning intentions became more defined. On teacher had started writing a Seasons Book with her Kindergarten students using Book Creator. Marion Collins started working with her Grade 6 students using keynote and Book Creator.

Virginia Bowden continued the work she had started with Kidblog with the Gifted students attending pull out Gifted programming in the district, used iMovie to have students create trailers on themselves and Prezi to develop research skills.

I continued the word I was doing with the Gifted students (in the district Multi-age Cluster class) during computer prep to develop their own blog on Kidblog and focused on having my Gr 3/4 class use Raz-Kids to support home reading and Book Creator to develop writing skills and explored search engines to answer questions.

Initially the focus was on learning how to use the tools and it looked like each of us were taking some very different directions. We narrowed the common elements down to the focus that each of us had taken in developing literacy skills.

Our discussion and questions were great:

  • How can we develop fluency in writing?
  • Adding pages encourages younger or less proficient writers to extend their writing. What about older and more proficient writers?
  • Does a lack of a keyboard limit the amount that students write?
  • Are templates available for report writing in Book Creator?
  • Is Book Creator more conducive to writing picture or poetry books?
  • Is the best way to teach note taking still having students write phrases with facts on paper; outlining / sort facts into groups, and creating their own paragraphs?
  • Are library books still the best way to match ELL students with reading material at their own level?
  • How can we get students to question the source of the information they read online? Hear on media or read in books?
  • Does using iPads break down gender barriers in oral communication?
  • Does adding sound clips lend itself to developing expressive reading skills?

Our inquiry question is still broad enough to let us pursue our individual interests but narrow enough to focus our discussion on how we are using the tools to support the language development of our English Language learners. Our intention is to make observations and reflect on the ways that technology is being used in our classrooms to develop oral language skills, reading skills, writing skills and the ability to represent ideas in visual formats. We have a general direction. The thinking and focusing continues. We’ll keep you posted.