August 30

Learning By Heart

I spent some time reading the book ‘Learning by Heart’ by Roland S. Barth over the Summer.  The experience began with a certain amount of confusion as I came to realize that this book wasn’t by the more famous French Roland Barthes who I studied quite a bit in University Communications courses.  Nope, this was Roland S. Barth, a Harvard Professor and famous educator, NOT the world’s most famous semiotician.  I will admit I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t embarking on some radical and hyper complex read, but in the end I learned quite a bit anyway.

As I read the book I felt a lot of pride in knowing that the OJCS is travelling full tilt in the direction that Barth outlines.  Some examples that spring to mind are teachers taking the role of school leaders in a variety of areas, from student life to creating exciting prototype projects that will change the culture of the school in a really positive way.  One that I am personally involved in right now is creating outlets in the school for students to share their voices.  That is something Barth cites as critical to transforming a school culture for the better.

Another big one area that the OJCS is succeeding in is that staff and teachers have been offered more and more outlets to share ‘craft knowledge’ with one another, that is, our experiences of exciting classroom projects or ways to engage students, as well as things that don’t work or haven’t worked.

What really stood out for me in this book however, was the idea that the old-fashioned transmission-of-knowledge model, what Barth refers to as “Sit n’ Git” i.e. students sitting quietly while teachers lecture, doesn’t work.  Information retention was seen to be extremely low when anything is taught this way.  He suggests the ratio should look more like 15% teacher talk and 85% something else.  That something else is elaborated upon in subsequent chapters on Experiential Learning.  Barth states;

“I believe it is possible to create a school culture that is hospitable to human learning if we turn the tuning knob to stations that invite students and adults to take risks with a safety net, engage in novel and surprising experiences, enjoy a sense of adventure and purposefulness, share leadership with others, pose and solve problems for themselves, find the joy and freedom that comes with hard work, assume responsibility not only for their own lives but for the lives of others, and make a contribution to others.”

Whew, a tall order!  But one that I would love to fill as I approach the 2018/2019 school year.  This year I will be leading students in every grade through workshops on research skills and media literacy.  Sometimes students walk through the library door for a Research Skills workshop and have already decided that it will be a snoozefest just based on the topic.  It is my responsibility to ensure that the kind of work we’ll be doing in the library this year is deserving of eagerness and anticipation.

I will be sharing lots of pictures and videos here this year about the work we do in these workshops so keep checking in to see how we put into practice the excellent advice of the famous EDUCATOR Mr. Roland Barth.

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August 30

Grade 7 and 8 – Comprehensive Research Skills Workshop

March 2018

These two workshops with Rabbi Rottenberg’s 7 and 8s were the most intensive of the lot and covered it all, from exercises on forming effective queries in search engines, to learning proper MLA bibliography format, to examine credible and non-credible sites in research.

We parsed some searches to find out which keywords were critical and which were not necessary to our search.

This exercise was based on a great Google Searching workshop that is available free online.
Picking the Right Search Terms

We worked on creating effective queries for many interesting questions.

Grade 8 had the toughest job, not only did they have to create a mini-bio on the celebrity of their choosing, they had to critically examine the sites they were using as they were going.  The results were both entertaining and encouraging as students started fitting together key concepts

Overall these workshops have been incredibly rewarding for me and I hope to hear that the result of these workshops is that kids are handing in much better quality assignments and choosing their sources much more critically.

August 30

Grade 6 Research Skills Workshop

February 2018

When I met with Rabbi Rottenberg’s Grade 6s we examined a fake website and used a critical checklist to determine if the site was or was not credible. This is such a fun exercise and really forces students to develop their critical thinking abilities as well as do some supplemental research to see what they can discover elsewhere about the author or the purported “tree octopus.”

It was incredible how many kids could be so easily duped.

Luckily a few web saavy students knew it was a fake right away.

The checklist was a really great tool because it forced students to examine areas of the site that they might not otherwise have even thought twice about.

Is this website credible or not?

Web Evaluation Checklist

Authority YES NO
Is it clear who wrote the content?
Is the author an expert on the subject?  Does he have a good reputation?
Is there contact information that can be verified?
Do you believe that the content is true?
Does the information use correct grammar, spelling and sentence structure?
Are the photos real or potentially altered in some way?
Is the information presented in a balanced way?
Is all the information included? Have some things been intentionally left out?
If there are ads on the page, do they have anything to do with then content of the page?
Is there any date to show when the content was created?
Is there any date to show when the content was last updated?
Do all the links work?
Is the subject discussed in depth?
Do the links on the page lead to trustworthy sites?
Run a search on this topic.  Can you find two other credible websites?

I can’t recommend this Tree Octopus exercise enough for teachers of media and digital literacy!

August 30

Credible and Non-Credible Sources

February 2018

My second workshop was with Rachel’s Grade 5 class.  I wanted to have a discussion with the students about credible and non-credible sites.

This Google video was shared with the group.

To really get the message across, we worked on the following exercise;

Exercise: Two of these websites are news satire.  Two involve extreme bias based on the viewpoint of the source.  Two are from healthy news sources that generally are more centered or have not too much bias either way.  Identify them!   

Trudeau by the Numbers, They’re Bad

Justin Trudeau UN speech hailed as ‘not Donald Trump’s UN speech’

Canada has spent $110,000 to avoid paying $6,000 for indigenous teen’s orthodontics

Justin Trudeau is Deporting Illegal Immigrants…Hypocrite Much?

Justin Trudeau Unveils Plan To Meet Healthcare Needs Of Canada’s Aging Prog Rockers

Ukraine and Google playing Justin Trudeau’s ‘sock game’

Tips for searching the web to ensure you are using legitimate sites for research and news articles:

Where – Where is the content published?Who – Look for an author at the beginning or end of the text. Try and find out a bit more about the author if time allows.What – What kind of website is it? Business? News? Personal Blog? Entertainment? What is the purpose of the site? What is the point of view of this website? Is it biased? Unbalanced?When – Look for a publication date.
I urge students to use
If a source has extreme bias or is biased completely to the left or right, it is not
a great source for your news research.

If a source is more to the center, even if that means “left-center” or
“right-center”, then it is safe to use; Even the CBC is considered a bit left-center!
It was really interesting to observe just how much of a challenge it is for students to identify fake news.  I am looking forward to doing more work with students on this topic.
August 30

Research Skills workshop with Grade 3

February 26, 2018

In my first set of workshops, I guided Julie’s Grade 3 class on the basics of web searching and using kid-friendly search engines such as Kiddle.

I engaged them in a discussion about why shared sites like Wikipedia and YouTube are not recommended sources for academic research.  We went over a very simple bibliography and then I got students to team up and research bugs.  It was a fun project overall and the kids really got into their research subjects.

Here are some examples of the finished product:

I was very proud of these kids who had to pick up a lot of skills in a two period workshop.  They did great work!