Spirit Week

I have the honor and the privledge of working at Bishop Carroll, one of the most fantastic schools in the city. We have a reputation for being one of the most welcoming high school communities. One of the ways we foster this sense of community is through relationship and team building opportunities.

This past week we offered a SPIRIT WEEK for our students. Each day was filled with opportunities for students to interact and have fun.

Monday- Casey the our mascot was around the building. We also hosted an In -province Post Secondary fair in the afternoon.

Tuesday-  Carroll Apparel Day. Students were encouraged to wear this years school shirts. We also had a school opening mass.

Wednesday– Clubs Day- Over the lunch hour students were invited to the gym to check out displays from our over 22 clubs. I am pleased to be one of the teacher sponsors for the anime club this year, and was proud to watch my team sign up over 30 new members.

Thursday- We had a fall sport pep rally. After school students who wanted to attend the football game were able to gather before the game to create a cheering section.

Friday- Carroll Carnival. For the last two hours of the day students were able to participate in a variety of sports and amusement activities.

553832_625906890793557_838042950_n

This week provided many opportunites for chats, laughs, smiles and general enjoyment. I feel that it has a fantastic impact on the school moral and cohesiveness.

How do other school build a sense of community in their buildings? I look forward to learning from you and reading your responses.

Dr. Alec Couros- continues to inspire me

 

January 14, 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

 

As a former student participant in #Etmooc2013 I would love to nominate Dr. Alec Couros for the Teaching Award of Excellence for Flexible Learning. I joined #Etmooc in January 2013 as a relative rookie to the field of educational technology. As a high school counsellor from Calgary, I had no formal training related to educational technology but had wanted to learn how to connect with my students in a meaningful manner. I was very nervous to jump into a world I had never known, and wasn’t sure if I belonged. Thankfully I entered an environment where we were encouraged to ask questions. We could go back and review videos, Google Hangouts, Blackboard Collaborate sessions and Open Source course notes as often as we wanted and on our own time lines. This helped individuals like myself who were full time professionals and parents, explore their new environment on their own terms. Dr. Couros and the rest of this team had a very approachable demeanor which was always patient. The key phrase was “take what you need, when you need it”.

 

 

They say that a manager directs and a leader encourages those around them to stretch their wings and become all that they can be. By this definition I would definitely say that Dr. Alec Couros is a true leader. Dr. Couros encourages all of his students to take what they learn from the experiences he facilitates online and go out into their worlds and apply their skills. Since the end of #Etmooc I have continued to connect with my colleagues through a number of off-shoot projects which developed based on connections I made through #Etmooc. First I am a regular vlogger for the Fellowship of the Openspokes https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/116395158372553895482 . A community of vloggers from around the world who ask questions and offer support to each other around teaching and learning.
Second I was involved in the planning committee for another cmooc the Open Online Experience OOE13 https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/102207059956192791361 This project was inspired by #Etmooc with many of the participants being both former students and professionals recommend by Dr Corous.
Finally we, the students of #Etmooc, have maintained an active Post #Etmooc community https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/111431081834171225314 which has continued to connect through twitter chats, hash tags, Google + and Google Hangouts. We organize both twitter chats and Google Hangouts to continue to maintain and facilitate the personal connections that Dr. Couros modeled were so critical to educators during our #Etmooc experience.

 

My connections with Dr. Couros continue to impact my career. This year I have taken a position as an English teacher and coordinator of international relations in Tarui, Japan. The PLN (professional learning network) that I developed under Dr. Couros’ tutelage, continues to provide me with support and suggestions on the other side of the world. I am truly grateful that I was able to learn the skills to connect online before my move as I can not image how much more isolated I would feel without them.

 

Dr. Alec Couros is a leader, a visionary and a role model. I am truly honored to have participated in one of his courses and I feel that he has demonstrated exemplary skill in providing flexible learning.

 

Sincerely,

 

Erin Luong

October is Connected Education Month

October is Connected Education Month and I am super excited.

It was less than a year ago that I learned in #etmooc what it means to develop my own PLN (personal learning network).

Since then my PLN has become a major part of my life. Participation in groups such as the Fellowship of the Open Spokes

And the collaborative development of the http://www.ooe13.org/

Are a few ways I connect.

How about you? How do you connect?

Making Ripples Around the World

Gandhi

I am working in Japan this year and I have chosen to take a MOOC on Social Psychology while I am away. Now I chose the course before I decided to move, but I think that fate stepped in because the content of this course seems so relevant to me right now.

Every little positive thing we do, no matter how insignificant it might be has the power to create a powerful change. The following TED talk clearly demonstrates this.

Life is about more than forcing your own position, its about trying to find a clearer view of both sides. I often tell students that as a counsellor I am a helicopter flying above their forest of trees.

This week I am helping a Calgary student start a ripple right here in Japan. Before I left Calgary I was told about the Marisa Project http://www.themarisaproject.org/ and given a book to bring with me. The theme of the Marisa Project is: Dreams aren’t only for sleeping. This morning I shared the book with my staff at Fuwa Junior High. They have agreed to participate and help me fill a book of dreams to bring back to Canada.

I am excited as this little ripple will strengthen the bond staff and students feel between Calgary and Tarui.

Moving to Japan and Reflecting on Compassion

My day of compassion

 

On Friday September 6th,2013 I attempted to complete my day of compassion. For this project I will refer to compassion as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion

). I had two main goals for myself: 1) to be aware of the needs of my husband, son and daughter who had just moved to Japan two days earlier, and to respond to their fears and concerns with patience, compassion and understanding. 2) to be aware of the needs of the students I would be teaching English to in Tarui,

 

Background:

I moved to Tarui, Japan on July 30, 2013. I was hired to be an assistant English teacher and Coordinator of International Relations between my home school board the Calgary Catholic School District in Canada and the Tarui School Board in Japan. The partnership between Calgary and Tarui first began 25 years ago. It involves encouraging students from each country to learn about the other students language, customs and culture in order to create social awareness. My position this year is to work with the Japanese English teachers, as well as coordinate the 40 Japanese students who will be visiting Calgary in March as part of a homestay experience. I am particularly excited to have this position because 22 years ago when I was a junior high student, I had one of the first set of Tarui students stay at my home in Calgary. Now, as an adult, I have the opportunity to allow other students the same wonderful experience.

 

In order to accept this position I had to be willing to relocate to Tarui Japan from Calgary, Alberta Canada for one year. I discussed this opportunity with my husband (39), son (8) and daughter(5) and they all agreed that it would be a great opportunity for our family. In Canada we were used to being a member of the majority and had never really experienced what it might be like for the many immigrant families  who are new to Canada and do not speak the language, read, or understand our customs and traditions. Moving to Japan would be a real eye opener for us all.

 

We had decided that the best way to do this would be for me to move to Japan at the start of my contact on July 30th, and then my husband and children would come to Japan on September 3rd

after spending the summer with friends and family. This also allowed me to come to Japan first and to make sure that the house, schooling and other necessities would be ready for my family when they arrived.

Goal 1:

When my family arrived in Japan on September 3rd, I had already been in Japan for one month and had started to adjust to the culture shock. I was starting to understand how to read certain signs, how to ride the subway and even how to turn on the gas stove at our house. For my family, however everything was brand new and overwhelming. They had many questions about how and why to do everything. Sometimes the questions would feel frustrating because even after only one month I already thought that the answer was obvious, I needed to be very aware of the tone of voice I was using to explain everything to them because when you are new to a situation everything feels more threatening. I needed to make a conscious effort to slow down my speech, explain things multiple times and allow them the space to feel just as scared and overwhelmed as I had felt, without shame.

 

I never told my family about this project before I started, it was just a gift that I wanted to give to them, yet even with my best intentions I found myself slipping every once in a while back into an impatient tone. For- example- my husband asked why we had to fold the futons up every day.  Instead of patiently explaining that folding the futons would create more space in the house and reduce the likelihood of mold, I responded shortly `just because ok`. This response was uncompassionate and I felt guilty after saying it, especially as I was aware that I had set the goal to be more compassionate. I noticed that when I was rushed (trying to head out the door on my way to work), or speaking to my husband from another room, I was less likely to respond in a compassionate manner. However, when I took the time to slow down, look into the faces of my family members and actually think about what they might be feeling I was able to remain true to my goal. The more connected I felt to my family the more compassionate I seemed to be able to be.

Goal 2:

Part of my position is to work in the Junior High schools to teach English. For non-native speakers English can be a very confusing language which is difficult to learn. The pace of speech and vocabulary can also be very challenging for students. When I am working with students I want to be able to create the best conditions possible to help them to feel successful as learners.

 

Students started back to school from summer vacation on Sept 2. Starting September 5th I had been asked to go into the various classrooms and introduce myself to the

students and speak about my family and life in Canada. I had made a power point presentation to use for this introduction.

 

The first presentation that I did for a class, on Thursday, went ok. I had not consciously reflected on the speed and level of language and the teacher told me that she thought the presentation might have been a little too difficult for the students in the class. I decided to revamp my presentation to be able to meet the needs of my students.

 

On Friday Sept 6, 2013, I entered Fuwa Junior High with my second day of compassion goal in mind to be aware of the needs of the students I would be teaching English to in Tarui,. That day I had three presentations to do and after each presentation I reflected on what had happened and made some more minor adjustments to accommodate my students.

 

The first class, I used the same power point as the day before, however I significantly slowed down my speech and simplified my vocabulary. The students appeared to be following along with me fairly well. I asked the teacher for feedback at the end of the class and she said that she could tell that I was working on my language and speed but that asking the students to image different ideas was a little bit difficult.

The second class I continued to use the simpler speech and speed. In addition I tried to ask questions to help the students related to the experiences of students in Canada. For example: In Canada we have snow (point to the photo), Do you have snow? Please raise your hand if you have snow. (this allowed the students to respond to the lesson without having to think of all the words for the sentence). I noticed an improvement in the quality of the interaction between myself and my students, but I still wondered if there was more I could do to help facilitate the connection.

 

For the third class I decided to speak to the teacher before class and ask for any advice that she might have regarding teaching her students. She said that students may have trouble thinking of questions to ask me on their own so if we gave them an opportunity to brainstorm in small groups I may have a better response. In order to allow time to brainstorm I also created a shorter power point presentation.

 

The third class was by far the best and most interactive class that I taught that day. By being aware of the students nervousness to ask questions, and working to alleviate that stress by allowing them an opportunity to develop and practice asking questions in small groups before Iasked them to respond in front of the whole group I was able to create a positive learning experience for both myself and my students.

The Day of Compassion project was personally very beneficial to me as it taught me a few very important factors about myself that I should easily be able to implement to help me to continue to live my life in a compassionate manner.

1)     I need to slow down and look at my family before I respond to them. Similar to the experiment with the seminarian students (lecture 3.2) I need to be reminded of my emotional connection to my family. They are important to me and should be a priority.

2)     Pace, language and vocabulary is important. Students need time to process the new language that they are learning.

3)     Allowing students opportunities to practice in non-threatening situations (small group) before moving them into more threatening (large group) situations will alleviate their discomfort and result in more academic growth.

4)     Finally, my experience in Japan in general, has taught me of the need to slow down and look around. Sometimes people require reassurance even if they don`t ask for it directly.

 

 I am very
happy that I will be able to spend the year in Japan. I believe that this
experience of being new and an outsider will increase the compassion I will
feel towards families new to Canada. This experience will impact my practice as
a school counselor in Canada in many ways including the fact that I will always
try to make sure I book a translator to attend any meetings that I have with a
family whose first language is not English

Summer is a great time for reflection

This week I had a lot of fun tinkering around online, thanks for the great ideas Open Spokes. I was  trying out new ideas while reflecting on what I want to teach my kids. 

I started out playing with the new haiku deck app… see the following link,
http://www.haikudeck.com/p/mQBhZc6BTC/what-i-hope-my-children-will-learn-from-me
Slide01

I was then able to import my haiku deck into a powerpoint.

From here I was able to import the power point into imovie.

I added some creative commons musics using the site http://www.jamendo.com/

And my final product turned out like this:

Connecting the World’s Classrooms Through Online Collaboration

One of the things that I love most about #Etmooc (yes, I know it’s been three months but I’m still singing its praises) was the way it encouraged all of us to become reflective practitioners and life long learners.

I try to think: What I’m currently doing in my classroom might already be working well- but we need to be constantly playing around to find ways to make it better and more relevant to my students http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/Letter_from_a_Hybrid_Student.html

In the spirit of lifelong learning and collaboration a number of us have come together to form a post #etmooc reading group which chooses monthly themes and topics to read, reflect and discuss. Over the past month we’ve been contemplating 21st century publishing at all grade levels. It sometimes amazes me how much educators from the wide of a range have in common, as well as some of the differences in openness and access each age group must account for when they plan their lessons and student learning assignments.

This morning I was fortunate to be able to participate in the post #etmooc group hangout (which I must thank Rhonda Jessen @rljessen for moderating).

I loved this meeting as it involved educators from elementary all the way up to post secondary- as well as a few members of the HYBRID PEDAGOGY digital journal team, Jesse Strommel and Sean Morris. If you are not familiar with the HYBRID PEDAGOGY digital journal, I would highly recommend checking out the link below. http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/CFP_K12_Dialogue.html

As well, if you have a topic you are passionate about related to educational pedagogy I would recommend you submit an article to the publication. This team is willing to review any article, whether from elementary, secondary or post -secondary, and work with the author until you have developed a publishable piece of work.

Next month I will be leaving for a one year contract in Japan. The purpose of my position is to liaise between the Calgary and Japanese school boards. I am hoping that one of the ways that I can facilitate this is through collaborative projects between my Japanese and Canadian students.
tarui2
One of the things that I appreciate most about my #etmooc pln is the safety I feel in being able to ask for help and suggestions. Since I had access to amazing minds spanning from many backgrounds and areas I decided to ask the group if they had any suggestions. I received the following ideas which I will try to explore over the next few months:

1) Using Google docs
http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/10_Tips_for_Google_Docs.html
Some of the benefits of google docs are that they allow for asynchronous collaboration from a variety of sites. As well, if given the link, students can contribute to the document without having to register as a google member.

2) Etherpad

http://etherpad.org/

This program is similar to a Google Doc. Etherpad allows you to edit documents collaboratively in real-time, much like a live multi-player editor that runs in your browser. Studnets can write articles with peers from around the world, all working on the same document at the same time.
3) Draft
https://draftin.com/
When using Google Doc, collaborators overwrite the master copy. However, when you share your document using Draft, any changes your collaborator makes are on their own copy of the document, and you get to accept or ignore each individual change they make.

4) Blogging
There are a variety of servers which can be used for blogging.
http://kidblog.org/home/
Kidblog provides teachers with the tools to help students safely navigate the digital – and increasingly social – online landscape. Kidblog allows students to exercise digital citizenship within a secure, private classroom blogging space. All blog are private only to the class by default, teachers can then choose which items can be shared publically.
http://edublogs.org/
Edublogs lets you easily create & manage student & teacher blogs, quickly customize designs and include videos, photos & podcasts. This account appears to be easier to use than word press.
Once you register for an edublog account teachers can create a class and monitor/moderate all content, forums and threaded discussions, Wikis, ePortfolios, and more
http://wordpress.com/

The blog site that I am currently using, it is not overly secure for classroom use, however I am planning to have my son blog about our experience in Japan to practice his English writing while we are away. He’ll be in grade 3 next year and would love to share his work with others. Check him out at http://erinluong21.wordpress.com/

5) Skype
https://login.skype.com/login
Skype; is a popular, easy to use and reliable (Voice over Internet Protocol) program, that allows you call and talk to other Skype users, video chat; and more for free over the internet. Skype supports conference calls up to 25 people at a time. Skype also supports video chat between two people for free. Screen sharing and group video calling is available for Premium subscribers between a maximum of 10 people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype

As I am open to collaboration and connecting with colleagues from around the worId I may also want to look into applying for a flat classroom, collaborative project for next year. http://flatclassroomproject.ning.com/

I am so excited about being able to experiment and play.

If you have any others suggestions or words of wisdom around student collaboration feel free to drop me a line and share.

Sayonara for now

Reach Out- Social Media Helping to Relieve Tension in Times of Pressure

Yesterday I woke up to a surreal situation. Calgary, Alberta, Canada, my hometown, the place where I have lived since birth, was declared to be in a state of emergency due to flooding. I heard it on the news and then went straight to my twitter account to gain all the latest up to date information.

The first thing everyone I know did was touch base with each other and make sure that everyone was ok. – Thankfully everyone I knew was safe, even if they had to be evacuated. I had many conversations like the following:

Verena Roberts ‏‪@verenanz‬ 20 Jun 

‪@deirdrebailey Just checking in on you… ‪@ErinCouillard ‪@EHordyskiLuong ‪@SSpellmanCann ‪@Stephkrammer
Expand 




. Erin Luong ‏‪@EHordyskiLuong‬ 21 Jun 

‪@verenanz thanks for checking on… How about u?
Expand 



.
Susan Spellman Cann ‏‪@SSpellmanCann
21 Jun
‪@verenanz ‪@deirdrebailey ‪@ErinCouillard ‪@EHordyskiLuong ‪@Stephkrammer thx for checking hope all are safe

Thanks to the power of social media, my family from all over the world had heard about the flooding (even my father in Kuwait and uncle in New Zealand had heard the news), but I was also able to reassure everyone that my family was ok.

My mom and stepdad live on the opposite side of the city. Flooding made it impossible for us to physically reach each other, but texting and phones helped us feel connected.
sandy beach
An uncle from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, called to give our family advice around plumbing and keeping our drinking water safe. I was very touched that he took the time to reach out to us, and also awed by the power of social media.

Throughout the day I was constantly receiving updates via twitter, Youtube, Facebook, and email not only about the tragedy and loss of property and park space (here are a few pics from a few blocks from my house) …

mckenzie fish creek

mckenzie golf coures

mckenzie lake
But also of inspiration and hope as I learned about other citizens, as well as students from my own high school I teach at, who were coming together to support our community.

student

rescue

I had forgotten that the military does more than go over seas. I was so grateful to see the tanks driving in to help out.
army

Volunteers were helping out all over supporting our vulnerable citizens and animals around the area. The big cats from the Calgary Zoo were even moved into the court house for safe keeping as Princess Island is totally under water.
lions

Requests for volunteer support were both given and accepted on social media sites such as Twitter and Kijiji. An email from my church in the evening asking for sleeping bags and supplies was met with a quick response.

Now 24 hours later I can’t imagine how much more isolated and scared my family would have felt if we did not have all of these 21st century connections. Personally I am thankful that my family is both safe and plugged in this evening.

Sending love and prayers out over the net to all those affected by the Alberta floods.

Erin

Am I looking for students to experience “Failure” or to realize that somethings are worth working for?

Today I read the following excellent blog post WHERE DOES FAILURE FIT http://somewherefromhere.edublogs.org/2013/05/28/finding-the-freedom-of-failure/#.Ua35T5GtC1g.twitter

After reading Kirsten’s thoughts I began to wonder? “Am I looking for students to experience “Failure” or to realize that somethings are worth working for?”

I decided that the next thing I need to do was reframe my perception of failure, and to do so I should look up a few synonyms.
DISAPPOINTMENT
LET DOWN

When I looked up the synonyms for failure the following statements popped up in my minds eye.
It’s not the end of the world?
Try going on another path?

How can we encourage students to find those other paths?

Tony Wagner suggests the following 7 survival skills http://www.tonywagner.com/7-survival-skills
• Critical thinking and problem-solving
• Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
• Agility and adaptability
• Initiative and entrepreneurialism
• Effective oral and written communication
• Accessing and analyzing information
• Curiosity and imagination

I would suggest promoting RESILIENCY