My Learning Project

This semester I’ve begun a learning project in which I am attempting to learn Japanese.  I’ve been documenting my progress via  Voicethread (clicking here you can check it out and see my progress). This originated as an ECMP 355 assignment but I am interested to see where it will go from here.  For the assignment we were required to spend at least 25 hours on our project and I quickly learned that this is not enough to learn a language.  What I have learned though is that within 25 hours while someone may not be able to learn a language they can begin to get more familiar with a language.  I have begun to learn some of the differences between Japanese and English and have learned a bunch of key phrases in Japanese that I can identify and respond too.

I’ve used Youtube videos, other blogs, Twitter, and my smartphone so far in order to learn what I have.

Through this learning project I have learned, on a small scale, what it might feel like to be a ESL student.  I’ve begun to understand how different English can be in regards to sounds and general meanings/ contexts in relation to different languages.  One thing that struck me as very different with Japanese is the differing levels of formality that are difficult for an outsider to understand.  I learned that there are some phrases that I can only use at say this time, or only in this place to only this type of person.  This seemed foreign to me but I could see how a native speaker, immersed in the language, would just understand these intricacies in the same way that some things in English are just ‘common sense’ to me and not others.  I could just imagine how difficult it would be to be in an environment where all this would seem new.  Although my learning curve would be greater, being immersed in the language, there would be so many differences that starting out I could see it being quite overwhelming.

My learning project is by no means done.  I decided on this in the first place because it has long been a pursuit I have been interested in and ECMP provided the push I needed to get started.  In the short time that I have done it so far I have begun to understand the sounds, subtleties, and developed a basic foundation of the language as well as develop an appreciation for different perspectives.  I plan on continuing this project and am excited to see where it may take me and what obstacles I may run into along the way.

My buddy Dan and I in Japan.


What I’ve Learned About the Internet

This entire semester within ECMP 355 our class has been basically focusing on learning and sharing.  When I began this class I was under the impression that I was going to learn all about the tools and technology that are currently being underutilized in the classroom.  I would learn how to use this stuff and I was going to be a better teacher because of it.  Oops,  I think I may have oversimplified things a little bit.  Our class did cover some of these issues however what I have found is that a majority of our focus has been on community and learning instead of just useful tools.  I have come to understand throughout this class that it is not necessarily the tools I am going to bring into the classroom that are going to make me a better teacher but instead it is the massive global community available to me that will help me succeed.  It has been eyeopening to see how many resources are available to me be it other educator’s blogs, #edchat or other people willing to take time out of their day to help me out.  I have found that there is indeed a global community available to me where I can go for suggestions, support, resources, and feedback in order to help me succeed as a teacher.

ECMP 355 has introduced me to a community that I intend to use for the rest of my life be it everyday or in the classroom.  In what I have experienced within the last couple months I have come to understand the importance of sharing when it comes to learning and the importance of community as it applies to my development as a teacher.  I have learned how powerful learning can be when it is self directed and I have also learned the importance of other peoples help, feedback, and support when seeking to learn in this way.  I am very grateful for what I have learned in this class especially the importance of community and support that I experienced first hand from my classmates as well as other educators online.  I hope that I as I continue I can make a meaningful contribution to this community and impact the learning of others in the same way that mine has been impacted over this last semester.

Photo by: Cayusa

Beauty is…

On Tuesday I taught a Grade 7/8 Health lesson on body image during my field placement.  I tried to just introduce the topic and then allow my students to examine it further on their own.  I would of never of thought of trying this during one of my first visits but the more I’ve been visiting this class I have been learning the classroom management that I need in order to have my students succeed at activities such as these.

I began the lesson by showing a quick commercial produced by Dove:

After this video I split the class into groups of three and gave each group a marker and a sheet of poster paper.  (I split them into groups myself beforehand in a way that combined different styles and personalities in order to make the groups as productive as possible.  I strongly suggest this for any type of activity like this until you have developed the skills in your students that they need to succeed at this kind of thing.).  I then had them list first all the ways that the model was altered in the commercial and then list other examples of unrealistic representations of beauty they have seen in media.

The groups then took turns presenting their posters.  I thought this worked great especially in regards to the second question I posed them.  A couple students had been to Disneyland recently and so this sparked a discussion about the amount of makeup that the Disney princesses had on at the park.  All the students were engaged and seemed to be very interested in what some of their classmates had discovered during the activity.  I definitely felt like this provided me a great chance to try some structured inquiry and also to examine some representations of beauty in media.  I would definitely do this again and even had some of the students saying “great lesson” to each other as they left for recess.

My Pecha Kucha

Next ECMP 355 class my class is getting together face to face in order to share some food and what we have learned this semester via modified Pecha Kuchas. I feel like I have grown so much over these last couple of months in so many different ways and am excited to share what I have learned and also see what others have been learning.

I developed my presentation using Sliderocket.  I thought Sliderocket was super cool in how I was easily able to incorporate Youtube videos, creative commons pictures, and even Twitter feeds.  This is definitely something I am going to use for presentations in the future.  A great way to easily create engaging presentations.

Click the link below to check it out:

The Importance of Feedback

Playing volleyball through the years I came to understand the importance of feedback in order to get better.  Sometimes you are too close to a situation to see what you need to do differently or improve on.  Having someone that can point out what you are doing wrong helps to identify what you can fix to be better.

Last week I posted some more of the progress that I was making in my learning project. I’ve been compiling everything into my Voicethread and slowly felt like I was making progress.  It’s been hard without any feedback so the only person I’ve really had to be accountable to was myself.  Luckily last week Trina from my ECMP 355 class directed her friend Mayo Takeuchi towards my project.  Mayo provided me with so much feedback, something I needed very badly, and also provided me with things that I need to improve and where I can go on the internet to work on those things.

Thanks to Mayo’s feedback I have been focusing on the importance between the different sounds in Japanese, kind of  the basic building blocks of the language.  (There is an awesome post on Mayo’s blog that explains these differences, just click here.) I was also directed to @japanespod101 on Twitter by Mayo, another great resource for learning Japanese words.

It was cool having Mayo take the time to listen to my progress and give me the feedback I needed as well as suggesting resources that could help.  Moving forward this gives me a good indication of what I need to focus on and what I need to do better at.

Thanks again to Trina and Mayo for all the help last week.

Some More Japanese

I added to my Learning Project Voicethread (click that hyperlink to check it out) today.  Its neat to be able to listen to the progress that I am making with my learning project.  Although realistically I am no Japanese prodigy it has been nice having my Voicethread as a sort of tangible way for me to see what I learn.  Its encouraging to see my Voicethread getting longer and longer each week and I think this has been important to me because it shows me that I am progressing in my project. I even find myself having to watch the subtitles less when I’m watching One Piece.

Image by: pppp808

I think that a physical way to keep track of progress is important not just in this project but in learning in general.  I could see something like this being useful for some students that may find a certain subject discouraging.  Physical evidence of their progress would help to prevent them from becoming discouraged as well as helping them set personal goals.


Last week in class we received an awesome crash course in how to use Smartboards.   I took a lot away from this and plan to apply it in my field experiences to come seeing as almost every class I’ve been in has a Smartboard.  I went looking a little further in an attempt to find some Smartboard activities that I could use as a high school science teacher.  More specifically I looked at Outcome RE 9.2 of the Saskatchewan Curriculum.  This outcome covers meiosis and mitosis in grade 9. I found these websites containing Smartboard activities specifically for meiosis and mitosis:

Connecting Technology @BHS

Gallant’s Biology Stuff

Lesson Planet

These activities provide a great way for students to interact and explore meiosis and mitosis further.  I think it is important that students are encouraged to learn on their own so some of these activities can be used in that sense while others can be used to show knowledge and help with retention.  I think a Smartboard would be an excellent tool for teaching meiosis and mitosis especially because these topics are best understood visually which the Smartboard allows while also adding in the interactivity aspect.  By visually stimulating students and allowing them to interact with this as well the Smartboard can be a terrific school for not only mitosis and meiosis but any subject.

Photo by: Michele Banks

O Canada!

These last two weeks for my ECS 300 field placement I have done a two part lesson tying O Canada together with Remembrance Day.  These lessons helped me to learn a lot about what it means to teach from the students perspective.  To begin the conversation I showed this video from the Oilers playoff run a couple years back:

I used this to discuss what feelings of nationalism can feel like and to begin a discussion on what O Canada can mean to different groups of people.  After some discussion time I then showed the students a video of First Nations Veterans talking about their experiences in World War II. I used this video in particular because of a discussion we had in class a couple of days earlier where Joanna Landry from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner came in to talk about the importance of incorporating First Nations content into our lessons. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to do so and the students were all very interested.

After this video we had some more time for discussion and then I told them to keep the idea in mind that different people have different perspectives when it comes to Canada’s anthem/ Canada.  The next week in class we began with a discussion where many of the students said that they were more mindful during O Canada of other groups sacrifices for their freedom.  I then introduced an assignment which took the rest of the class.

For this assignment I divided the national anthem into individual lines and randomly distributed them amongst the class.  The students then drew a picture of what that line represented/ made them feel.  I told them there was no right or wrong answer which they seemed to struggle initially with this but in the end they all did a great job.  My plan now is to use a digital storytelling tool to combine their pictures into their own version of O Canada.

A couple of things I learned with these lessons:

– It’s important to understand the students perspective.  For example not many of them were old enough to remember  the Oilers playoff run.  I just assumed that it was common knowledge but found myself having to go back and kind of set the stage when I received a bunch of blank stares.

– Also these students had a hard time just expressing what they felt on paper.  I encouraged them to brain storm and gently nudged them in the right direction but as a teacher it is important, I think, to scaffold some of the skills required for this kind of exercise beforehand.

-Classroom management is so important.  I don’t think I could of gotten through this lesson just starting out because I didn’t have the classroom management skills  that I needed.  As my classroom management gets better, I find it easier to make a connection between the material and my students.

Here’s my lesson plans from the last two weeks:

Part 1

Part 2

Days of the Week

My learning project is slowly progressing and although it looks like I won’t be fluent anytime soon I am learning more and more useful words every week.  In my ECS 300 class we had a guest speaker in who works with language and she said typically it takes 4 years immersed in a language in order to become fluent.  That kind of put this project into perspective for me.  I realize that within this semester I’m not going to become fluent, which I expected at the beginning.  However I do want to learn the language and am curious as to just how long it will take me.

I’m treating this semester as kind of an experiment, where I find what techniques are going to be useful in my pursuit of this goal.  This project will continue long after December is finished and I’m looking forward to it.

Click the image below for my progress so far.  I added ‘Days of the Week’ and ‘Fruits’ this week.  Mata nei!

Photo by: ntr23


Games and Education

Last week our ECMP 355 class had the privilege to talk to Sylvia Martinez about educational games.  From my perspective I grew up with a connection to educational games.  My parents did not allow us to have a gaming system (N64, Dreamcast, or Playstation) growing up and as much as I disliked it then it was probably for my benefit.  Because I did not have a system at home I formed a connection with ‘educational’ games at school such as Oregon Trail, Cross Country Canada, and my favorite…..ECOSAURUS.

As you can quickly see Ecosaurus was by no means the pinnacle of gaming however I found it to be entertaining enough and I eventually recycled enough stuff to build a spaceship and get out of there.

Listening to Sylvia I thought it would be interesting to check out some educational games that are out there today.  I feel with how far a long gaming systems have come there must be some kind of disconnect between students today, with the gaming experiences they receive from Xbox360, PS3s and Wiis, compared to ‘educational games’.  As Sylvia stressed usually the first thing to be lost in an educational game is the fun factor.  I put this to the test and played a variety of games from Wonderville,  a educational site from Alberta, focusing on one game in particular called CO2 Connection.

This game was okay, and in my Ecosaurus years I would of been enthralled.  Looking at the game critically as an educator however I found that the amount and quality of content I actually learned did not really seem to justify the amount of time that it took.  On top of this the game play was very easy and basically fail proof in order to move the player onto the next level.   Most of the other games I played from that website seemed to follow the same trend.  I’m curious to see if there are different, more effective games out there and intend to begin forming a list of ones I may want to use in my classroom in the future.  Sadly CO2 Connection will not make the cut…and probably not Ecosaurus either.

This all being said I think there is definitely a place for games in education.  The important thing is to be selective because although a game may say ‘educational’ in many cases they sacrifice to much in the fun or educational departments to be truly meaningful.  If I can find the right game and apply it in the proper situation it will be beneficial and contribute to meaningful learning in my classroom.

In closing I leave you with a video of Ntiedo Etuk, a teacher who found a way to help his students overcome a fear of failure in math class by incorporating video games into learning.