Friday, December 28, 2012

Nonna....Rest in Peace

With some of her children

I usually keep this space reserved for professional reflection, learning and input. This post is about something more personal.

About a month ago, while I was on an airplane heading overseas, my grandmother, my nonna....passed away.

The message from home left a deep feeling of helplessness. I would miss being with the family during this difficult time. I would miss the funeral.

With some of her grandchildren
Since that time I have felt a bit restless about not being "present" for her funeral. This is the eulogy I never had a chance to give.

This is dedicated to Nonna Carmela

Nonna emigrated to Canada over 60 years ago. She was a faithful and devoted wife to her husband. She was a caring and nurturing mother to her children. As a mother in a young immigrant family she knew that her role was to care for the needs of the household - her incredible success is evident by how she and my grandfather (nonno) raised and nurtured their own children to be responsible nurturing parents themselves.

When I look further at the faces of all the grand children and great grand children, I see Nonna's legacy of love and nurturing imprinted on their hearts as well.
With some of her great grandchildren

Nonna loved all her grand children. For many of them she became a second mother - the primary caregiver and babysitter to so many. Whether it was changing diapers, preparing food, delivering forgotten lunches to school, reprimanding or wiping away tears - she was like a mother.

Who could forgot the traditional Sunday dinners at Nonna's house. With the finest tomato sauce and THE finest hand made pasta in the world. No joke - the best.

As a role model for my own daughters and the other grandchildren and great grandchildren, Nonna will be remembered for her commitment to love of family, her nurturing presence, her sense of self respect, her commitment to friends, her sense of humour and life giving perspective on life.  

Nonna did everything fast. Her quick lips would have made her a fine auctioneer - if you could understand a word she was saying.  This "need for speed" caused her to break more plates and dishes than if she was at a Greek party. You knew nonna was cooking in the kitchen by noise of slamming cupboards and falling dishes.

But here is the salient point - no matter how many spills or goof ups she made - she always did it with a smile on her face! Nonna's ability to laugh at herself made us love her even more. She had an innate and instinctual understanding that in life we are not to sweat and stress over the small stuff.

This is one of Nonna's main lessons for me.

Nonna leaves behind a tremendous legacy - one coated in love and nurturing and profound understanding that in life we need to laugh at ourselves

All of us will miss her. She has now taken her rightful place in heaven with her husband and daughter and all those that have gone before her.

Nonna, thank you for everything you did for me. I  miss you and love you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Technology Embedded Pedagogy

I get a little frustrated when I  hear comments that continually relegate the use of technology in education as something supplemental to teaching learning.  I suppose videos like the one above don't help this situation - although the idea of "Learning empowered by technology" makes me feel better.

Nonetheless, I wonder when we will stop seeing "technology" as an "add on" to sound teaching pedagogy.

If we agree that we live in a technology and information rich time, then schools, as places of learning and teachers as agents of learning, need to shift their respective culture and mindset surrounding technology.

The "how" of teaching needs to be embedded, when required and necessary, with technology (it is appropriate and necessary to NOT use technology at times)

My twitter stream is full of #edtech tools and suggestions.  But without the necessary pedagogical immersion, we will continue to relegate technology to the equivalent of the annual field trip.

A few weeks ago I came across a tweet by Bill Ferriter @plugusin where wrote
Crappy #edtech choices= schools start by asking, "What do we want to BUY?" instead of, "What do we want kids to DO?"
Brilliant!  Starting with what students are "doing" with technology is rooted in pedagogy.

So how do we get to a place where technology is embedded within the pedagogical repertoire of teachers?

Here are some things that have worked and things that have failed for us:

What's worked
  • Making the case for a technology embedded pedagogy, supporting teachers with time and resources to learn while at the same time respecting a teachers right to minimal intrusion when it comes professional learning.
What's NOT worked
  • Making the case for a technology embedded class and prescribing how to do it and not providing the necessary supports for teachers to learn  
What's worked
  • When teachers think about how technology can assist with specific teaching strategies such as: Identifying similarities and differences, Summarizing, note taking and creating, Homework and practice, Cooperative learning, Setting objectives and providing feedback, Generating and testing hypotheses, Cues, questions, and advance organizers.  
What's NOT worked
  • Using technology only to present material lecture style 
Whats Worked
  • Explaining and demonstrating the pedagogical rationale for technology with vivid examples of success.
What's NOT worked
  • Showing specific tech tools without the explaining its purpose or rationale
What's Worked
  • Being patient and not forcing it down peoples throats.
What's NOT Worked
  • Buying the same technology for everyone at the same time
What's Worked
  • Creating the conditions for a technology appetite among teachers and having teachers "knock down my door" with personalized technology requests.
What's NOT Worked
  • Buying the same tool or gadget without the proper buy-in - only to have those gadgets either underutilized or not used at all.
What's Worked
  • Giving teachers time and resources to learn among themselves for themselves.  Creating a climate of "expertise and experimentation" on staff.
What's NOT worked
  • One day, one size fits all workshops
What's Worked
  • Being OK when things go wrong
What's NOT worked
  • Over reacting when things don't go right
As we continue to find ways to make learning more relevant and engaging for our students, I hope that we will move away for seeing technology as a mere tool or add on - but an embedded pedagogical reality.