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?

A Glimps into Living With Schizophrenia

This week my Innovation and Change Coursera Course asked me to ask the customer what they need. For me as a school counsellor, my students are my “customers” and it’s important for me to keep in touch with what they need.

I really appreciate the following video I found about living with schizophrenia because it allows me an opportunity to develop empathy towards students with this condition. I would also recommend it as a resource for sharing with high school students who might need to learn more about this illness.

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

Big Bug in the Bathroom

I got freaked out by a large cockroach in my bathroom before bed last night. I went to pick it up to throw it out the front door and it flew at my face so I screamed and then slammed the shower door (so cockroach is still in there). I had trouble sleeping because I was imagining the cockroach was coming upstairs to get me. Finally fell asleep at 2 and must have been tired as there is a clock in town that rings at 7 and I totally didn’t hear it.

There are lots of products around here that have pictures of roaches on them. I’ll have to ask someone for a recommendation

My strategy is normall to try and drown any bug that I see in the bathroom but this cockroach was crawling up my wall and he didn’t care if he got sprayed. Over the last month I have also thrown towels over large beetles and picked them up and set them out the front door , but flyying insects are new to me. Somehow when something is that large I just can’t kill it. But then I worry about it too.

 
My best friend Lorrianne had the following suggestion:

I saw on Pinterest somewhere that you take a pop bottle – cut it in half and invert the top and tap it back into the bottom – put some attractive liquid inside and they come in and can’t get out…pretty cheap solution

You don’t kill the bugs? You are such a humanitarian…

Anyone else have any other advice, or I will be a very smelly teacher

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

Teaching the Tough Topics

The Fellowship of the Open Spokes are planning to tackle some “tough topics” this week. Please check out the following blog writen by my fellow openspoker Jeremy .One of the things I believe is that these themese need to be embedded in everyday life and not just a single lecture. The following are examples of cirricula I’ve found to support Social Emotional Intelligence as a whole school initiative, and not just the job of the counsellor or parents.
http://casel.org/why-it-matters/benefits-of-sel/
http://www.resiliencyinitiatives.ca

Inscho In School

In every age there are those topics that are the “tough” ones.  We know there are valuable lessons there, but the content isn’t directly in the curriculum.  Sometimes we skirt around them because they’re often controversial.  They deal with the important life lessons, and the content contained within them is not only controversial (at least to be talking openly about it) but sometimes graphic. Topics vary from sexual health, to aboriginal education, cybersafety, bullying and LGBT rights.  Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but each of these brings up so many questions:  Should we teach about (or through) these topics?  Should we leave it to parents to broach the subject?  Should we inform parents ahead of time if we choose to “go there”?  Should there be some sort of protocol for dealing with these types of topics and appropriately preparing students, and debriefing afterward?  There are no shortages…

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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