Opinions

Vow to Become an Ally

My heart hurts.

That’s about the extent of my ability to explain how I am feeling today.  Our current reality in North America is so messed up.  I find it difficult to articulate what emotions and fears are surfacing within me.  Humans are treating each other like garbage.  It’s 2020 for heaven’s sake.  What in the actual f*** is the matter with people?  Have we all lost our humanity?  Did we fall into a dystopian land in some kind of cinematic apocalypse?  Can I return this video to Blockbuster?  I am not satisfied with the storyline.  I wish I could re-do the story with alternate endings, as I could in the Choose Your Own Adventure books of my childhood.

I am a white woman.  I carry the privilege of my whiteness in an increasingly heavy backpack a la Peggy McIntosh. Like most of the world, I’ve seen the video of George Floyd.  I couldn’t wipe my tears fast enough.  The pain was so evident. After a minute I stopped seeing Mr. Floyd’s face and many other faces flashed in front of me.  Students, colleagues, athletes, friends… all the beautifully-coloured people of every shade and hue whom I know and love.  I have looked at the stories of the black people who have been killed by police – the numbers are staggering and each name feels like another rock in my backpack.  I may not have known them, but their lives should be equally as important as mine or yours.

When I find it hard to articulate my feelings, I turn to literature.  Usually poetry.  Sherman Alexie wrote “Hymn” in response to the 2017 Charlottesville protests and the death of Heather Heyer.  Eerily and sadly, it also fits what is happening right now.  In the excerpt below, which is the final quarter or so of the poem, there is a call to action that strikes me to my core:

So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet

For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?

Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I’m not quite sure what I should do.
I’m as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamiliar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

 

Maybe the pandemic has people realizing what really matters (or what SHOULD really matter) and they are becoming more vocal, willing and able to stand up and speak out against injustices.  “Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.”  That’s powerful.  But instead of becoming the collected, people are choosing sides when what is really needed is to start the conversations that are so desperately overdue.

I don’t know (nor will I ever profess to have) any of the answers.  What I do know is that I CAN SPEAK.  Even though as a woman my voice often is considered inferior, I still have a voice and those of you who know me… well, y’all know I have a big mouth.  I will speak out against injustice, even if I’m the only one talking.

I can identify my privilege and I can speak out and help others in becoming educated so they understand what they may not yet recognize about themselves or their friends or their neighbours or their elected leaders.  Enough with the “All Lives Matter” response.  It’s hypocritical and ignorant.  ALL lives do NOT matter to all people … and that is the issue.  THAT is what is causing unrest.  People can only stay silent and still for so long.  That energy must go somewhere.  It cannot just evaporate.  We must LISTEN!  And then, when we listen and learn and understand, we must speak out.

As an educator committed to truth and reconciliation and to being an ally to all people of colour and all who are marginalized… I vow to learn more, do better, BE better.  I will take my responsibilities as an ally and an advocate very seriously.  I commit to having the hard conversations – in my home, my classroom, my community, and beyond.  

Please, think about your part in this, because we ALL have a part.  There is so much sadness and anger right now … and if you don’t know or understand why people are sad and instead focus on the anger and the hatred, you might be part of the problem.

Sending love and light to all in need…

K

EC&I 831, Major Learning Project - EC&I 831

The End is only the beginning. The Journey Continues…

I am sad that this semester is at an end.  I looked forward to the EC&I 831 Tuesday night Zoom sessions and catching up with my classmates/colleagues on Twitter each day.  I’m sure the Twitter relationships will continue, but I am going to miss having our weekly session!  It would be fabulous to just open my classroom door and go visit these amazing folks to see what they’re doing with their students and collaborate on a more frequent basis.  Our PLN has been an incredible gift the past few months.

 

Continuing my journey

One thing that I know will not be coming to an end is my major learning project, because there is simply no end to my journey for truth and reconciliation.  There are important milestones to reach within the journey I have undertaken as an educator; what I have learned thus far has changed my approach to learning and teaching.  Since deciding to undertake this journey (which I blogged about in Can I be a Witness? and Starting a Journey of Reconciliation) I have immersed myself in history and witnessing all I can possibly witness within the time I have available.

Here, then, is a brief summary of my learning journey…

Reading

I re-read large sections of Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools by J.R. Miller and A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1996 by John S. Milloy – books that I read years ago during my undergrad degree.  Simply put, I have found these two books to be quite an extensive history of the Residential School System in Canada, and they are excellent primary sources for any questions I have (or my students have) about the schools.

I also read a variety of novels and plays and began incorporating them into my teaching.  Some of my new favourites:

I’m also reading Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline… and it is likely to be on my favourties list in the near future.

Enrolling

I enrolled in a MOOC through the University of Alberta entitled Indigenous Canada.  I have completed 10 of the 12 modules (13 out of 15 course hours) and am really looking forward to finishing the course.   In my research and my curation of content for my Wakelet collections, I’ve found another MOOC through the University of Toronto that I intend to enroll in for next semester entitled Aboriginal Worldviews and Education.  I’m very thankful for the Open courses that are allowing me to learn so much from the comfort of my home without high tuition charges.

Collaborating

I joined a Truth and Reconciliation PLC (Professional Learning Community) in my school division, thanks to Curtis Bourassa and our FNMI consultant Raquel Oberkirsch.  We met for a full day of sharing and working together, with more meetings to come over the course of the year.  We are, collectively, working with resources and developing connections to curricula.  The high school (grades 10-12) teachers in the PLC have been tasked with examining the Treaty Outcomes and deciding which course(s) they best fit with to ensure they are thoroughly and respectfully embedded in appropriate content areas to provide meaningful treaty education.

 

Witnessing 

There were two major cultural events that had a large impact on me during the past few months – the Jeremy Dutcher concert on October 19 and the chamber opera, Missing, on November 8.  I blogged about the Jeremy Dutcher concert in Enrolling in MOOCs and Enjoying Live Music and discussed the opera in Where are they? MMIWG.

A new thing I learned is the making of Tobacco Ties or Prayer Ties.  Raquel (our FNMI consultant) demonstrated how to assemble the ties, discussed the colours of cloth and string, and we talked about the preferences a knowledge keeper or elder may have surrounding these.  The basics of making Tobacco Ties can be found HERE.  The most important piece to remember is that the making of Tobacco Ties or Prayer Ties should be done with reverence and respect, with good thoughts for the intended recipient.

Tobacco Ties
An example of Tobacco Ties

 

Another treasure I found is the movie The Grizzlies, based on a true story.  In a small Arctic town struggling with the highest suicide rate in North America, a group of Inuit students’ lives are transformed when they are introduced to the sport of lacrosse. (source)  With suicides among First Nations in the recent news, the movie is an excellent vehicle to get students to think about this critical issue.  The movie is powerful and moving.  Besides being an excellent film, the story about how the film was made is also inspiring.  Everyone involved in the project was committed to portraying the story in as authentic a manner as possible, from choosing the setting to casting the actors.  (To learn more about the making of the movie, see the article HERE).

 

Meeting

With my love of writing and stories, which I’ve discussed in numerous blog posts over the last few years, I was thrilled to meet and listen to Ernie Louttit.

“Indian Ernie” – a name he was given on the streets – is the author of three books.  In his talk with our students, he described how:

  • he joined the military and became a police officer despite being on his way to the bar!
  • language is power and he has a huge love for learning.
  • to be a good law enforcement officer, one must be a good story teller and have the ability to use words to recreate and tell the story about an incident.
  • being able to communicate effectively is important for ALL future goals and career aspirations.

As one of the key figures in seeing that justice was served in the Neil Stonechild case and who was instrumental in bringing down the “big guys” in the solvent huffing epidemic in Saskatoon, Ernie stated that he “doesn’t care who gets the credit, just so long as the job gets done.”  He challenged our students to “Be a Leader every day!  Encourage the people around you!”

 

Curating

Learning about Wakelet has been an absolute game changer for me both personally and professionally.  Saving tweets, teaching ideas, resources, articles to read, coaching ideas, Instagram posts… I have 25 collections right now with over 366 bookmarks.  I’ve downloaded the app on my mobile devices and added the extension to my Google browsers on each computer I use.

The collections I curated to document and enhance my learning project are all set to “Public” and can be copied for anyone wishing to use the resources I have collected.  I am adding to the collections as I discover new resources that I can use with students in my classes and would love to have contributors to my collections – please reach out to me if you would like to be a contributor to any of my collections and I would gladly add you!

Here are the links to each of the Wakelets that relate to my learning project:

It looks like a long list, but quite honestly, I feel like I have only scratched the surface and there is so much left to learn.  But, I have a lifetime in which to learn and I know I will continue to add to the collections as part of my ongoing journey.

 

Teaching

“When we know better, we do better” as the saying goes.  I don’t know if I’m a “master” teacher yet or if I will ever get there.  I still make a LOT of mistakes, lessons sometimes flop, I lose track of time, my pacing isn’t great sometimes … but I’m pretty good at learning!

The truths I have learned and the amazing stories I have witnessed over the past couple months while on the journey of my learning project will be shared with my classmates, my students, my colleagues, and anyone who wishes to use my Wakelets.  I hope that the collections can teach others and help them with their own learning journey.

As an educator committed to truth and reconciliation, I will use what I have learned to aid in building students’ capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.

Thank you for this opportunity to learn.  

 

P.S. Visit me on Wakelet!

EC&I 831

The End of a Journey: Summary of Learning

The making of my Summary…

Maybe because I’m a bit nuts, I have always challenged myself to use a new tool for the Summary of Learning projects I’ve done for my grad classes with Alec.  This go-around was no exception.  I narrowed my choices down to two: Genial.ly and Sutori. Ultimately I chose Sutori because it had the least amount of options for creation!  Both can be used as presentation tools… but Genial.ly has WAY more capabilities than just a presentation tool and I did not want to fall into a rabbit hole.  Check it out for yourself!

Because I knew I wanted a way to include links to some of the content but still needed a way to share my learning in a “watchable” format for class, I “presented” my Summary of Learning on Sutori and captured it using Screencastify.  The link to the presentation on Sutori is here –SUMMARY OF LEARNING PRESENTATION.   When you view it as a presentation, you will notice the arrow beside some text.  Click on the arrow and it will open a hyperlinked site for you. 

The one link that I think everyone needs to explore is Top Tools for Learning 2019.  We have talked about or used a variety of these within our class this semester, but some of them are new to me and I am looking forward to exploring them.

As mentioned in my Summary and on Twitter, I curated a Wakelet of some of the Ed Tech we used this semester in class – check it out HERE.  I’d love to have more contributors – shoot me a message!  (and yes, I know I have a grammar error in my Tweet.  Ugh.)

As I mentioned, I used Screencastify to capture the entire presentation as well as to record a Star Wars Intro Crawler I created using part of our course syllabus.  Unfortunately this got cut from the presentation because my video became too long!  So, for your viewing pleasure, here you go!

 

 

A couple more tools:

I used Bitmoji for the cute little avatar likenesses – Bitmoji Kyla is way more put together than Real Life Kyla this last week, that’s for sure!

Bitmoji Image

 

and I used Canva to create two of the images in the presentation:

The Big Four – EC&I 831
Social Medium Exploration

 

Those are the highlights!  I hope you enjoy my summary of learning as much as I enjoyed my time in class this semester!

KYLA’S TOP TAKEAWAY from class:  Wakelet.  It has changed how I organize information in all aspects of my life.  Seriously.

 

Riding the #wakeletwave

 

I humbly present my Summary of Learning for EC&I 831.

Disclaimer:  I have a terrible cold and my nose is red and runny… hence, no webcam views of me.  You’re welcome.

 

EC&I 831

Spreading Kindness Through Social Activism

The word “activist” has, in the past, had a negative connotation for me.  I pictured protesters and angry people (this is a similar reaction to my classmates Catherine and Melinda).  I follow some really amazing people on Twitter and to see how humans treat one another in online spaces or on social media – truly cringe-worthy exchanges at times – makes me feel like not one person has been taught any manners.

Angry Birds mob

All the chirping can be a bit overwhelming and has a tendency to make people feel disappointed with the lack of empathy, lack of respect, and sometimes even the lack of common decency towards other people.  Heck, even Thumper told us how to treat other human beings.

Image result for if you can't say something' nice, don't say nothing' at all

But… I’ve recently started to rethink that connotation, mainly thanks to the learning I am involved in through my grad studies and the incredible EC&I 831 classmates that I now consider part of my PLN.  We have created such a great group who share and tweet ideas to each other, and work together to support each other’s projects and personal learning goals.  It is these interactions which have started my shift in thinking, just as there is positive social activism that is restoring my faith in humanity.

A social activist, according to the Oxford dictionary, is “a person who works to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organization with particular aims.”

Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile?

Absolutely it can!  There are even awards for the best social activism campaigns.  Check out the Shorty Awards, which honours the best campaigns supporting social activism movements and cultural moments.

Hands down my absolute favourite digital campaign in the past few years has a message that really hits home for me.  I lost my mom in 2017.  She was only 59 years old.  No matter what she was going through – two bouts with cancer, living with COPD, raising five kids, living with an alcoholic spouse – she always looked on the positive side and encouraged everyone around her to “Be Kind Always.”  I miss her every minute of every day.  When I learned about the “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” campaign, I was moved to tears.  It is definitely a sentiment that my mom embodied, often volunteering her time and energy to helping others without any thought for herself.  She believed that being kind to others was the single most important thing you could be in your lifetime – that sending out kindness meant that the good vibes would just wash right on over you, too.  My momma was a smart lady.

“The Won’t You Be My Neighbor? #BeMyNeighbor digital campaign sought out to honor Mister Rogers’ legacy by encouraging everyone to spread kindness to every corner of the world. To offset the negativity on the internet, the campaign leveraged multi-platform and real-world activations.  The goal was to bring back the nostalgia of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and inspire the online community to take action and show a little kindness can make a world of difference. This universal message crossed generations, cultures and backgrounds, and became the foundation of the campaign.”

 

The #BeMyNeighbor campaign took the internet by storm, and the message of kindness resonated with everyone, garnering support from fans, influencers and celebrities alike. The impact of the film extended beyond the digital campaign, and prompted spontaneous acts of kindness across the country. People donated to local charities in Mister Rogers’ name, school groups started clothing and shoe drives, and theater chains provided postcards to moviegoers to write kind letters to their neighbors. source.  There was even a contest:

Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?

Yes.  Part of having productive conversations is being a digitally responsible citizen.  Knowing how to have an appropriate conversation online is a skill that doesn’t just happen – it is a learned behaviour that must be practiced!  We would not expect a baby to be born knowing how to communicate – they learn communication skills by observing and practicing.   Teaching students how to be digitally responsible citizens and participate in effective and respectful online communication is being embedded into curricula at all levels.  Many adults would do well to learn this, as well.  Sites such as MediaSmarts and Common Sense Education have wonderful digital citizenship lessons designed for a variety of grade levels which are ready to use for busy teachers.

Change is hard and doesn’t happen overnight.  The difficult and important conversations need to happen.  I am learning this now with my learning project of Truth and Reconciliation.  There is much to learn and do and it is very overwhelming.

Change neon light signage

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

 

What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?

Whatever you do, think about what other people need, too.

In the article “The Internet and the Next Generation of Activism,” Nick Espinosa wrote “So if the future is being shaped by immediate access to all thoughts and niche populations, how do we as a species move our own evolution forward…?  The short answer is the next generation of educated students who will soon begin assuming power in society.”

The following clip, from September 2019, discusses recent uses of social media by young people such as Greta Thunberg and surviving Parkland students to mobilize fellow activitists and supporters.

Many young people today are educating themselves on an increasing level.  Alexa Chukwumah talks about how she used her education and influence as a call to action to start Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls in her Ted Talk.

 

How do we, as educators, help our students to become social activists or to enact social justice?  On her blog, Cult of Pedagogy, Jennifer Gonzalez shared A Collection of Resources for Teaching Social Justice.

 

A Cautionary Tale? 

With the use of technology can come some dangers, such as invasion of privacy, identity theft, and catfishing (right, Alec?).  There are, however, various groups at work who are like crusaders for protecting the technology that is being developed and used for the public interest.  During my research for our topic this week, I found a social activism group called   #PublicInterestTech.  Essentially, this group works to ensure technology is being developed to meet the needs of the public. “Not just what’s latest, and fastest and cool, but what is serving the greater welfare of society. Too many people – particularly those historically excluded or marginalized– aren’t able to access, benefit from or influence the technology that is present in our lives.”  source

 

Public-Interest Technology Resources is a website maintained by Bruce Schneier as a resources page for public-interest technologists with a public policy focus.  This is going to become increasingly important as more of what we do in our lives become technologically dependent.

 

 

So what are we waiting for?  Anyone with an internet connection and a passion to do something great can inspire social activism.  What is your passion?  How could you use the internet to raise awareness or do something for the greater good?

 

Do Something Great neon sign

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

EC&I 831, Major Learning Project - EC&I 831

Where are they? MMIWG

People were appalled when the truth about serial killer Robert Pickton came to light.  In 2007 he was convicted of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women; however, he confessed to 49 murders.   The majority of Pickton’s victims were Indigenous women who had high risk lifestyles, namely addictions or working in the sex trade.

But, before Robert Pickton, the case of little Tamra Keepness broke our hearts right here at home in Saskatchewan.  Tamra was five years old when she went missing from her Regina home on July 5, 2004.

From 1980 and 2012, Indigenous women and girls represented 16% of all female homicides in Canada while representing only 4% of the female population in Canada.  A 2011 Statistics Canada report estimated that from 1997 and 2000, the rate of homicide for Aboriginal females was almost seven times higher than other females. (source)

We will find the truth by gathering stories from many people. (Mission of The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls)

The National Inquiry intro Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls began in December 2015 and concluded on June 30, 2019.  The Final Report states that ongoing persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind the horrific violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

More than 2,380 family members, survivors of violence, experts and Knowledge Keepers shared their stories over the course of the inquiry.  The Final Report delivers 231 individual Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians.

“As documented in the Final Report, testimony from family members and survivors of violence spoke about a surrounding context marked by multigenerational and intergenerational trauma and marginalization in the form of poverty, insecure housing or homelessness and barriers to education, employment, health care and cultural support. Experts and Knowledge Keepers spoke to specific colonial and patriarchal policies that displaced women from their traditional roles in communities and governance and diminished their status in society, leaving them vulnerable to violence.” source

On November 8, I attended the chamber opera Missing at the Regina Performing Arts Centre.  It is a masterpiece about Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, set in Vancouver and along the Highway of Tears.  It was brought to Regina by the Regina Symphony Orchestra and Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services to commemorate the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women.  Tissue boxes were provided throughout the audience because of the emotional content.  Cultural and mental health support workers attended the performances as well to assist audience members experiencing trauma or trauma triggers.  There were survivors in attendance and families of those who are still missing or murdered.  It was a very emotional experience and a powerful way of acknowledging the reality of so many families while raising awareness about MMIWG.

There are also several events and exhibits that take place to bring awareness and honour the missing.  Several years ago when I was at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, I saw the REDress exhibit.  Jaime Black, a Métis artist from Winnipeg, collected hundreds of donated red dresses from the community since she first created the project in 2011. The art installation has been displayed in museums and university campuses across Canada.  Black has said she chose the color red after a friend explained that it was the only color spirits could see. In that sense, the color, she said, is a “calling back of the spirits of these women”. source

Another event that takes place is Walking With Our Sisters, a commemorative art installation of over 1700 moccasin vamps (tops).  It was created by artist Christi Belcourt to remember and honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

There are supports in place for families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  In Saskatchewan, the FSIN Family Information Liaison Unit (FILU) has a service for families of MMIWG.  Family Information Liaison Officers are committed to work with families in a trauma informed manner, practicing traditional protocols to support individuals, families and communities for mental wellness and healing.  Those eligible for services include family members, both blood relations and those who are non-blood relations such as adopted family, as well as those considered kin and street family.

Tamara Bernard’s TedTalk encourages hope, love, empowerment and igniting a new way of learning together as a nation.  Personally connected to her topic through her great grandmother, she has been speaking out about “Decolonization of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women”, giving a voice to the voiceless.

I have introduced my students to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls with the poetry of Nickita Longman and have tried to help my students understand the systemic oppression of centuries of indigenous rights that has resulted in this reality.  I have curated a Wakelet of resources that I use in my classroom – MMIWG Wakelet .  Please feel free to use it, share it, or contribute to it.  The conversations are difficult, but necessary.  All Canadians who embark upon a journey of truth and reconciliation share in the responsibility to bear witness and to bring peace and justice to the missing, the murdered, and their loved ones.

EC&I 831, Major Learning Project - EC&I 831

Land Acknowledgements and Understanding Treaties

Until this school year, we did not have a formal land acknowledgement in our school division.  Many people have no idea why land acknowledgements are done or how and why they are important.  Serena Mills in her article “What are land acknowledgements and why do they matter?” explains “Land acknowledgements are an honest and historically accurate way to recognize the traditional First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit territories of a place.”

Mills says that land acknowledgements are an important step in recognition of the government’s attempted genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Night lake scene with quotation overlaid on it

 

In a recent memo to staff,  South East Cornerstone Public School Division (SECPSD) states that “A land acknowledgement is a statement that recognizes the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous peoples and their traditional territories. It is a way to insert an awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life.”

Treaty Map of southern Saskatchewan

SECPSD has schools on Treaty 2 (blue area on map) and Treaty 4 territories (yellow area on map). These are the traditional territories of the Cree (Nêhiyawak), Saulteaux (Nahkawé), Nakota, Dakota, Lakota, and the Métis peoples.  While Saskatchewan includes a portion of the Treaty 2 boundaries, there are no Treaty 2 First Nations in Saskatchewan. This means we have some Treaty 2 land, but no Treaty 2 people.  So my land acknowledgement might look like this:

I acknowledge that we meet today as part of South East Cornerstone Public School which has schools on Treaty 2 and Treaty 4 territories.  These are the traditional territories of the Cree (Nêhiyawak), Saulteaux (Nahkawé), Nakota, Dakota, Lakota, and the Métis.  We all benefit from the Treaties because they allow us to live and work on this land.  It is also a reminder that because we are all Treaty Partners, we have a responsibility to do some work.

The work is happening – teachers and students in our division are embarking on some meaningful reconciliation journeys in their classrooms.  Whether we are reading a book by an Indigenous author, “unlearning” some of what we of the older generations were were taught in school, or integrating Treaty Education into our classes in fun and meaningful ways… the learning is occurring.  Our division goes on to challenge us to continue the work and I challenge you with the same.  Investigate your own family’s story and find out how they came to live on this land, dig into the history and effects of residential schools and colonization, or learn more about the Treaty areas that you are situated on.  I have created some Wakelet collections of resources that I have found useful to use in my classroom and for my personal journey of reconciliation.

To fully understand the land acknowledgements and why these are an important part of the 94 Calls to Action, we must also understand the Treaties.  The Office of the Treaty Commissioner has a variety of great resources for personal learning and for use within the classroom.

I invite you to view, copy, and share my Wakelet collection Land Acknowledgements and Understanding Treaties HERE.

What work are you doing to fulfill your responsibilities as a Treaty Partner?  What are you compelled to do as an educator or a  school because you are on Treaty land?

EC&I 831

OPEN to the Possibilities!

The power of technology and the possibilities that technology opens for education are boundless.  We were recently reminded of this during our EC&I 831 class with guest Dr. Verena Roberts.  With my classmates, professor and our guest scattered over three provinces, we were all able to “meet” in our virtual classroom and learn together.  What a time to be alive!

Truly, everything I have learned in taking Dr. Couros’s EC&I classes has changed my professional life – the infusion of ed tech, the collaboration of ideas, blogging, using Twitter to build a PLN, attempting new apps and programs, becoming more comfortable with stepping outside of my comfort zone to help engage learners… I am so thankful that I enrolled in these classes.  But the biggest paradigm shift for me has occurred around the topic of Open Education.

A Quick Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)

According to the OER Commons website, “The goal of Open Educational Practice (OEP) is to build the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that support and improve teaching and learning. Using open educational resources (OER) presents unique affordances for educators, as the use of OER is an invitation to adapt, personalize, and add relevancy to materials that inspire and encourage deeper learning in the classroom and across institutions.”

I have been grateful for the sharing and collaboration I have enjoyed with friends and colleagues over the course of my teaching career – using the internet to expand our knowledge and collaboration opportunities has opened up numerous possibilities.  From pen pal projects to having “experts” join our classes… and perhaps, most importantly, the opportunity to see how other teachers teach.  As an educator, time is our most precious commodity – and it has a price tag.  Having the time and ability to witness other teachers in practice is a luxury not many schools or school divisions can afford.  With technology opening up these possibilities, it has created an even more connected world for us.

I recently joined a Facebook group that is specifically for Advanced Placement English Literature teachers.  The sharing and collaborative aspect in this group is astounding.   I am absolutely learning so much from the discussion and sharing of resources with these educators, with the only stipulation being “please use and adapt as you see fit.”  Some ask that if we use, we mention them as the original creator but we can adapt as needed.  Some don’t mind if they receive no attribution at all.  Though some of these educators do sell their products on Teachers Pay Teachers or directly on their own websites, for the most part the resources and ideas that are shared within the group are without limitations.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them.” (source)  When we utilize and share what others have created, students truly reap the benefits.  Being able to adapt or remix lessons and content shared freely by other educators means that I maintain small shreds of my sanity and can fool myself into thinking that I may have achieved a minuscule shift in the work/life balancing act.

I have been extremely thankful for Open Education over the past few months as I embarked on my learning project for EC&I 831.  I enrolled in a MOOC on Indigenous Canada.  Through videos, readings, and quizzes, the MOOC lead me through a series of lessons and gave me a good background on the history of Indigenous peoples in the comfort of my own home, at a pace dictated by myself, and – best of all – it was free.  Cost does not have to be a discriminatory factor for learners any longer – many of the MOOC topics I have investigated over the last few years have been available free of charge.  Granted, sometimes you get what you pay for … but my experiences with the three MOOCs I have taken have been very positive.  The learning platforms were easy to use and I found that even though the MOOCs I was enrolled in were non-connectivist, learning a topic of interest in a self-guided environment was beneficial to me.  My interest in the topics and my desire to learn made working through the courses enjoyable.

One of the drawbacks to Open Education, as my classmates Daniel and Loreli both mentioned this week, is adequate access to technology, both within school and outside of school in the community.  This may continue to be an issue for some learners, simply due to socio-economic reasons, or where they are geographically located.   It could also be an issue where schools or school divisions have restrictions on the types of websites, programs, or resources that they will allow students (and teachers!) to use within their learning environments.  This is definitely one area where our school divisions have not caught up to what might be considered best practice for student learning.

Because Verena’s chat with our class really got me thinking about a few different aspects of my teaching (specifically the development of a new online class), I read a few of her blog posts.  One of the posts that made me really excited and hopeful that I may be on the right track is Proposing OLDI (Version 1): An Open Learning Design Intervention for K-12 Open Educational Practice.  The post discusses the the K-12 Open Learning Continuum as “an ongoing, iterative continuum that has formal learning on one end, non-formal learning on the other end and a pile of learning in between” using Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory of social interactions as the basis of learning with four iterative cycles:

Stage 1: Focus on Learner Context – Build Relationships

Stage 2: Development of Digital Literacies

Stage 3: Find Your Yoda

Stage 4: Be a Yoda

Focus on Learner Context – Revisit Relationships

Image result for stages of Open Learning Design Intervention

 

All of the things I am learning about Open Education make me question my face to face teaching practices and learning design.  Knowing what I would like to accomplish within my online course and the parameters within which I must design it is also frustrating!  For the time being, I will have to abide by the wishes of our school division and the tools it has the capacity to support for our students, and be thankful that I have colleagues who are willing to share and collaborate with me.

Do you have experience in developing Open Educational Resources or do you have experience with teaching online and developing online content?  I’d be very interested to hear about which LMS you use and why as well as what you would use “in a perfect world”?

 

EC&I 831, Major Learning Project - EC&I 831

Residential Schools

First learning about residential schools in Canada during my undergrad degree is a defining moment in my life.  I discussed this in detail in my blog post Starting a Journey of Reconciliation.

I recently re-read sections of the two primary sources I used for a major research essay in my undergrad class:  Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools by J.R. Miller and A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879-1996 by John S. Milloy.  As someone who is fascinated by history and how it relates to our society today, I can honestly say that these books are both illuminating and devastating.  Miller’s book juxtaposes Chief Shingwauk’s vision of education – a teaching wigwam where his people could acquire the necessary educational tools of modern society while honoring the values of their culture and traditions – with the Indian Residential School system that was developed by the federal government and run primarily by religious groups.  Milloy’s book uses the paper trail of memos, reports from field inspectors, and letters of complaint to expose that the residential school system was horribly underfunded and mismanaged, affecting the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.

In recent years, witnessing the stories told by survivors of residential school has been both heartbreaking and healing.  The vulnerability, courage, and strength shown by survivors is inspiring.   I use many of these stories in my classroom to encourage truth and reconciliation.  Orange Shirt Day (which I blogged about earlier this week) is the result of Phyllis Webstad sharing the story of an incident she experienced in residential school.   The documentary We Were Children tells the stories of Glen Anaquod and Lyna Hart.  In his memoir The Education of Augie Merasty, Joseph August Merasty tells of his experiences.  His humour in the midst of telling the horrors of his experience is inspiring.

These resources make me feel the weight of injustice, but they also leave me hopeful that healing can occur.  Sharing the stories is an integral part of a healing journey.

“There is no concept of justice in Cree culture. The nearest word is kintohpatatin, which loosely translates to “you’ve been listened to.” But kintohpatatin is richer than justice – really it means you’ve been listened to by someone compassionate and fair, and your needs will be taken seriously.”
― Edmund MetatawabinUp Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History

It is not about justice but about growing a mutually respectful relationship for the betterment of all who dwell in the land we call Canada.

Click HERE to access a Wakelet collection of Residential School resources I use and recommend.

Kintohpatatin.

EC&I 831, Major Learning Project - EC&I 831

Orange Shirt Day

The last few weeks have been JAMPACKEDWITHACTIVITIES and I have fallen behind on posting about my journey of reconciliation.  That is not to say that I have been negligent in my learning.  I have been doing quite a lot of learning, often staying up way past a normal bedtime to finish just one more module of my MOOC or to read one more chapter or listen to one more podcast or read one more short story or poem or add one more resource to my Wakelet collections.  You get the drift.  I’m learning… but now I need to organize my thoughts so I can blog and share it with you!

Today’s post and Wakelet is to help commemorate Orange Shirt Day.  September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day annually, in recognition of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well being, and as an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.

Here is a brief video of Phyllis Webstad explaining Orange Shirt Day:

 

The picture book The Orange Shirt Story by Phyllis Webstad (illustrated by Brock Nicol) is the perfect way to introduce the topic of Residential Schools to students of all ages.  From there, it is simple to branch out into whatever direction in as much detail as the teacher chooses.

There are a plethora of resources to use for Orange Shirt Day.  Two collections I have found that are the most useful are these from Manitoba Teachers’ Society and – of course! – the collection from the Orange Shirt Day website.

Because of our EC&I 831 class’s recent discussions on Open Education and the importance of sharing resources, I am making all of my Wakelets for my learning project public.  I am also open to adding contributors to my Wakelets, so if anyone is interested in sharing, please let me know!  Our combined good finds will help me to curate the most thorough and meaningful compilation of resources, and I would be grateful!

Click HERE for my Wakelet of Orange Shirt Day resources.

 

EC&I 831

Share the Wealth (of Knowledge)!

Like most people, I wear multiple hats:

  • Related imagewife
  • mother of three (two teenagers at home and one grown and on her own!)
  • full time teacher – face to face 40% and online classes 60%
  • competitive cheerleading coach/advisor (five teams at my club and four teams at my school)
  • graduate student
  • sister
  • aunt

I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone that some days are hard – being committed to others and having responsibilities can be overwhelming.  As a mom, I always feel I need to be “on” – there is no vacations or time off from being a mother!  As the oldest member of my family (my parents both passed away within the last two years), I feel a big responsibility for my siblings, even though they are all “grown ups” who can manage just fine on their own.  As a teacher and coach, being prepared is vital to the success of my students or athletes, as well as nurturing their emotional and social growth.  With so much going on in my world, you can imagine that things can get hectic at times.  It is absolutely essential for me to have systems in place to manage all the different aspects of my life successfully.

First and foremost – my people.  There is a reason why elders are revered in so many cultures; they hold the most wisdom!  I learned how to be a mom by watching other mothers in my family.  I had a huge support system of grandparents, aunts, and uncles to call on for advice and guidance.  Being from a small town and having a supportive community was another bonus when I was growing up and has guided me in raising my children.  Having other humans to rely on for information, support, guidance, and food/coffee delivery was (and is!) critical to my success.  No one has asked me for a dime for the lessons I learned from them (not yet, anyway!).  In addition to having these role models in my personal life, I have also been privileged with some exceptional mentorship in my professional life as well.  Without the support, guidance, and shared knowledge of those educators, I would definitely not be the teacher I am today.  Those who have been willing to share, collaborate, and plan cooperatively are the real MVPs of the teaching profession! Infinite high fives!

Since I entered the education system in 1980 at the age of five, there has been a (r)evolution in educational theories, especially since the internet became more easily accessible.  It has lead us to the present day where Open Education is becoming more common and connects all learners who are willing and able (and who have the technological tools to participate).  In the video Inspiring Leaders, Tony Bates answers a series of questions posed to him about Open Education.  He says that as instructors, we need to be aware of what kind of skills students will need to move forward and be successful contributors to our society.

Tony Bates’ book Teaching in a Digital Agerecently updated (October 10, 2019), is an important read for today’s educators.  Bates writes “Although the book contains many practical examples, it is more than a cookbook on how to teach. It addresses the following questions:

  • is the nature of knowledge changing, and how do different views on the nature of knowledge result in different approaches to teaching?
  • How do I balance the demands of my discipline with developing the skills that students will need in a digital age?
  • what is the science and research that can best help me in my teaching?
  • how do I decide whether my courses should be face-to-face, blended or fully online?
  • what strategies work best when teaching in a technology-rich environment?
  • what methods of teaching are most effective for blended and online classes?
  • how do I make choices among all the available media, whether text, audio, video, computer, or social media, in order to benefit my students and my subject?
  • how do I maintain high quality in my teaching while managing my workload?
  • what are the real possibilities for teaching and learning using MOOCs, OERS, open textbooks?”

According to the website opensource.com, “Open education is a philosophy about the way people should produce, share, and build on knowledge.  Proponents of open education believe everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources, and they work to eliminate barriers to this goal. Such barriers might include high monetary costs, outdated or obsolete materials, and legal mechanisms that prevent collaboration among scholars and educators.”

Image result for Open educational resources

“Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, adaptation, and redistribution by others.  With the internet, universal access to education is possible, but its potential is hindered by increasingly restrictive copyright laws and incompatible technologies. The Open Education program at Creative Commons works to minimize these barriers, supporting the CC mission through education, advocacy and outreach on using the right licenses and open policies to maximize the benefits of open educational resources (OER) and the return on investment in publicly funded education resources. Our work cuts across all levels of education (primary – secondary – tertiary) and sectors of industry (non-profit – corporate – government).”  ~source

This short video explains a bit more:

Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

 

As fabulous as Open Education is  -and it truly is remarkable! – it also has some drawbacks.  It is the so-called “business” of education where I am most torn.  We pay a lot of money for a university education that allows us the opportunity to become educators.  We learn from others and use various resources to further our own knowledge in the hopes that we will get that “permanent contract” and make a living by making a difference in the lives of our students.  We pour hours of hard work into our lessons, developing our resources, and figuring things out for our students.  My classmate Amy also discussed this in her blog post.  She wrote:

“A quote that is often used amongst my colleagues and I is “sharing is caring.” … Sharing resources with each other is just a common thing that we regularly do. However in recent years I have become more conscious of the amount of time, effort, and resources that are going into those projects, assignments, and lesson plans that I have been so freely sharing while others are posting similar content on Teachers Pay Teachers and getting paid for their work. I am now conflicted on whether or not resources in education should be open and free or whether they should require some form of acknowledgement, copyright, or payment. “

I feel very similar to Amy!  Using the work of other teachers, tweaked to fit my circumstances, has saved my sanity more times than I can count.  Am I critical of these resources?  Not the way you might think!  I look for the “good bones” within a resource that I come across all while thinking about what I might need to do in order to make it work for my students within our learning context.  But still, even knowing that I am profoundly grateful for all who share their resources with me, I am very hesitant to share anything that I have developed.  Not because I want compensation (although that might be nice every now and then!) but because I don’t feel like what I have created is “good enough” for anyone else to use.  It is likely my own perfectionism that prevents me from sharing the resources that I’ve developed.  My classmate Dean says on his blog on this topic “sometimes you just have to let go and enjoy the learning experience for yourself and more often than not the material you share will reach at least one person ‘out there’ even if you don’t get a response.”

I currently have an amazing intern working alongside me, sharing her knowledge with my students, and teaching this old dog some new tricks.  She is the fourth intern I have had in my eleven years of teaching.  Each had their own strengths and brought so many great things to the classroom that I have incorporated into my own teaching practice.  I remember being in their shoes – it really wasn’t that long ago – and I had various experiences.  Some veteran teachers were more than willing to share their resources, but others were hesitant or outright refused (even locking their filing cabinet so I couldn’t peek at their materials!).  My classmate Dean had a similar experience early in his career as well.  It really makes me wonder if those veteran teachers were also fearful of being criticized.  It is for those reasons that I am completely open to sharing with colleagues and interns, but always with the disclaimer “this might be total crap, but you are more than welcome to use it however you see fit!”

Having access to information and to human resources is absolutely critical to my success.  I am thankful to all the teachers and coaches in my life who have so freely shared their time, their information, and their resources with me, especially my colleagues in the ELA Instructional Team at Weyburn Comprehensive School.  Sharing our knowledge doesn’t deplete our wisdom; instead, it expands our potential for learning and growth.

A few folks have shared their knowledge and resources with me over the years, and many of them went above and beyond to help me on my journey as an educator.  My immense gratitude to:

  • my high school ELA teachers – Randy Bangsund and Brenda King
  • incredible university instructors in my undergrad and certificate courses – Ken Probert, Therese Durston, and Valerie Mulholland
  • an amazing cooperating teacher during my internship – Cori Knelsen

In addition, Alec Couros’s EC&I courses and his approach to open education has literally changed my career – before taking his classes I never would have considered becoming an online educator.  Thank you, Alec!

There are many others, including my classmates over the course of my grad studies, who have been supportive, encouraging, and are always willing to share.  Thank you all!  I love how technology makes sharing with my PLN possible.

Who has shared their wealth of knowledge with you?  How will you pay it forward?

 

Keep Calm and Share your knowledge