Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Reflections

My summer goal was to have 12 posts published this year. if I can finish this entry in the next two hours, I will exceed that expectation - with plenty of time to see the puck drop at the Canada vs U.S.A World Junior hockey game. So, here is a quick reflection of some of the best things that happened to me in education in 2016.


I, along with a group of highly motivated colleagues from three Thames Valley schools, successfully applied for a grant through the Ontario Government’s Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP). With the money from the grant, I was fortunate enough to attend two conferences, the TLLP Learning Summit in May and then the Bring it Together (BIT) Conference in November. Additionally, we secured plenty of new technology (Chromebooks, IPads, Spheros, Ozobots, Dash & Dot) for our schools. We were also provided with release time to learn how to use them in our classrooms with an eye toward a  changing curriculum that necessarily embraces coding and computational thinking.

My understanding of both coding and computational thinking grew by leaps and bounds through this wonderful opportunity. I benefited greatly from the experiences of both my "Grant Colleagues" and from the many, passionate educators who shared their knowledge at these informative events. It has also helped me build my Professional Learning Network through Twitter and that has become an invaluable resource.

Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robots

I was also fortunate enough to be selected by my Principal to attend three, half-day, workshop sessions to learn about Lego Mindstorm EV3 Robots. Eight of these high-tech kits were purchased for our school and I have been asked to learn how to incorporate them into the Junior curriculum. After this year, I will provide the resources and support required for other teachers to share them in their classrooms. My students and I explored the  DRiVe Inquiry Approach supported by the Thames Valley board and took on a number of coding challenges. These included the navigation of a floor hockey stick maze and programming the robotic arms to throw a ping-pong ball. I am keen to expand my understanding in the first few months of the 2017 school year so that I have much to offer my colleagues when they explore the kits.

Feedback Driven Evaluation

For several year, I have been trying to move student focus away from “marks” and toward “feedback”. This year, I have had increased success. I have made it a priority to give prompt, written feedback with both "Next Steps" and constructive praise through
this version of a no marks rubric*.

(*A rubric is a document that articulates the expectations of an assignment. It often includes some form of mark)

Some challenges have persisted

  • Parents and students still think in terms of marks - the question: “Did I get an A?” is hard to shake.
  • Report Cards still require "Letter Grades". Consequently, I eventually have to quantify this feedback and distill it to a mark.
However, this approach has been most enhanced by two changes in my practice. The first is incorporating more “ongoing feedback" during an activity.  This is typically provided through Google Classroom and Google Documents. For example, a student completing a writing task will submit it after the completion of a first draft. I will provide feedback for some of the work and encourage them to review their work with my recommendations in mind. Google Docs "suggestion" feature is wonderful for this process.

Additionally, I have encouraged students to make a copy of the rubric and self-evaluate. If they are able to self-reflect and determine their own “Next Steps” they have time to make the changes. Not only does this encourage students to be critical of their own work, it also inspires personal celebration. Students benefit greatly from discovering the intrinsic value of work that is well done.

Well, “game time” approaches. I think I will end things here. 2016 was a year of growth for me and I experienced many successes. I enthusiastically look forward to 2017 and I hope to write my next post before the first week is over...however, with report cards looming, I make no promises.

Thanks for reading.
Happy New Year!