The Road Map for 21st Century Learning in Ontario: The Catholic Graduate Expectations

Catholic and non-Catholic alike can take great value from the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations


Educators globe-wide have set out to find a road map for the 21st century, regardless of being almost 15 years in. Whether you are a parent, educator or business, you are looking for quality people that will execute quality work. But on the journey to execution of this great work it’s the way we treat people,  the relationship and the long-lasting, sustainable partnerships that make all the difference. Great work and its effect is rooted in relationships.

Students of the Catholic school system here in Ontario Canada have been exposed to the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations for well over a decade and the effect of these expectations have been measured in the latest study conducted by the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  Commissioned by the Institute for Catholic Education, the
study provides data that sustains the need to continue promoting the OCGE’s.  

The expectations have been crafted in such a beautiful way that it doesn’t take much to be circumspect about how you could apply them the 21st-century living. Rooted in Christ’s teachings, they are easily interpreted and so overarching that people of all faiths and denominations can reflect on their application with ease.

All around the world there are instances of the perfect skill set for 21st century learners, but take a look at the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations and you will come to realize that we’ve been sitting on the perfect roadmap for close to a decade. A roadmap that takes us through the exact quality of a person that we want to contribute ideas to, share opinions with, innovate for and form a sustainable bond with 21st-century society.  

In Ontario, the Institute for Catholic Education governs the CGE’s. The original documents may be viewed here.

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1. The Discerning Believer

Believe it or not, we as Catholics are encouraged to reflect, to question and to reform our beliefs and our faith. But in doing so, we are called into action, which is the key element of discernment. Only when we take action for a just cause can we call ourselves ‘Discerning Believers’. Reflection without action is not discernment, it is simply reflection. One could compare it to a social media revolution that takes no hold in the physical world. Until there are tangible, measurable results that come from a course of action, there can be no real change. 

2. The Effective Communicator

The entire world of education agrees that the skill of Communication is one that the graduate of 2030 and beyond will need to master in order to be a contributor to society. Looking at the graphic, you will notice that the ears are quite exaggerated to show how important a role listening plays in communication. Now more than ever, we need people who are honest and clear about their ideas, and who integrate their faith in the use of arts, media and technology.

3. The Creative and Holistic Thinker

I’m not entirely sure this one needs to much explanation. Creativity always tops the list of needed skills for 2030 and beyond. It’s when we add the beauty of holistic thinking that we solve problems in an innovative and responsible way. This thinker cannot be trapped within one subject area – this thinker longs to integrate all parts of the whole.

4. A Self-Directed, Responsible, Life-Long Learner

Yet another skill that educators have identified to guide our future into 2030 and beyond. Leadership, innovation, initiative, flexibility and adaptability. This skill helps develop confidence, respect and dignity for one’s self and others. This skill resides in those who constantly self-reflect, self-evaluate and make changes to improve. Our future depends on this skill more than any other for the sake of balance and a higher standard of living for us all. This is every educator’s dream…

5. The Collaborative Contributor

It has become the mantra for all of education to call for our schools to provide more and more opportunities for collaboration. Yet, time and time again they fail to provide the ‘HOW-TO’ of collaboration – especially for the youngest members of our society. What does it mean to be interdependent, to think critically and to not only work to your own potential but to help those around you reach theirs? There must be respect and appreciation for originality and integrity especially in the 21st Century. Contributions made to the growth of the team are just as important to the growth of the project.

6. A Caring Family Member

It would be very hard to argue that the family structure is under immense pressure to stay together. Words like compassion and love are only effective when they are bound by respect – not the bottom dollar as so many clever marketing campaigns will have us believe. Intimacy and love are bound to value and honour within the family context. Unity, strength and honour bind the family together and that strength feeds the community in the light of our God-given gifts. What a beautiful and critically important principle.

7. A Responsible Citizen

When we look at some of the horrible things that streak across the web, it’s hard not to panic. Cyber-bullying, harassment, defamation and degradation can all be weakened, if not eliminated if we embrace the basic principles of accountability, equality, democracy, peace and justice. The responsible citizen in our Catholic view, should find it difficult to walk away when there is someone in need, seeks and grants forgiveness but also respects and affirms diversity of our world’s people and cultures. This is all done in the formation of Catholic traditions.

I realize that it may not be ‘trendy’ to use faith as a TOP 10 article but let me tell you something – if it’s right, it’s right and if it works, it works.  No system is perfect, but this one has such beauty and a positive outlook that is hard to overlook.

 

3 Reasons Why Planning Actually Works!

 Having had to stand in front of thousands of educators and educational leaders over the last year, I’ve endured my share of skepticism and criticism about true integration of technology in the classroom. I use ‘true‘ as it relates particularly to Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s model for Technology Integration – SAMR. Too often, colleagues in the profession have satisfied themselves with a very basic use of technology – that of a mere SUBSTITUTION. Digitizing a text book or putting a test online is not really what we’re talking about here.


With my arsenal of rebuttals depleted, I finally came to the conclusion that many of my adversaries had utterly dismissed the notion of creating a plan for true integration. I realized quickly that I had to shift my focus from actual use to planning for use!

Teachers, Principals, Vice-Principals and Superintendents – here is why you are doomed to fail if you have no plan.

1. A Contract Between You and Thyself – A Vision

Let’s face the well known fact that if it’s not in writing we hold an idea or promise to no account. The first step to any successful change begins with a visualization of what the learning activity will look like. This visualization can only be achieved when it has been articulated, in word or picture or recording. The plan is the first step towards visualizing what a successful lesson will look like from beginning to end. Without this contract – we let ourselves off the hook if we don’t get around to the lesson because it becomes too intimidating. Visualization is the true means to success.

2. Guaranteeing More Than Substitution:

If your plans are older than 3 years then they are already outdated. The plain fact is that most tenured educators and educational leaders are doing what they’ve always been doing. Unless you examine your plans, you will never really find opportunities to move them along a spectrum of evolution. A lesson from 1990 that sits on Power Point instead of an overhead is really a poor excuse for a 21st Century Lesson. The existence of a plan ensures a deeper examination of engagement and results attained by true integration – and a move towards evolution. 

3. An Opportunity to Improve

Even if the plan disintegrates into a furious ball of chaos (which it may…) it still provides a backbone from which to add new approaches and new ideas. No plan – no real new opportunities.

I know it’s not revolutionary, but like I used to say to the kids in my swim classes about practice – it’s not flashy – but it works.

Top Apps for FDK

Tried, Tested and True Apps for Kindergartners!

Looking for apps to integrate into your FDK classroom? Think about your purpose and see if any of these will do the trick. Carabache Kids Certified!

Some are free and some are paid, so be sure to check. All of the paid ones featured here are worth every penny and then some.

Exploration, Practice & Immersion

Exploration, Practice & Immersion

Exploration, Practice & Immersion

Exploration, Practice & Immersion

Exploration, Fine Motor & Problem Solving

Creativity, Story-Telling

Read Aloud

Exploration, Practice & Immersion

Exploration, Fine Motor & Problem Solving

Exploration, Fine Motor & Problem Solving

Read Aloud

Read Aloud

Exploration, Fine Motor, Problem Solving & Creativity

Pedagogical Documentation

Pedagogical Documentation

Exploration, Practice & Immersion

 

 

1 Simple Tool for Pedagogical Documentation

Lately I’ve been asked many questions by educators about tools that can be used for pedagogical documentation – particularly Kindergarten Teams. Well, it just so happens that a friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Lyn Vause of the Ontario Elementary Catholic Teachers’ Association, Professional Development Dept., brought this really simple app to my attention.

Introducing Three Ring

3ring

I’ve been testing it out for about 3 weeks now and have yet to find anything that would stop a teacher from successfully implementing its use in the classroom. The app is available for iOS and Android as well as online here: http://threering.com/

Download the free app, create a class and setup your students.. That’s all there is to it. Teachers and students have the option to tag their work with keywords to make events easy to find. Check out the quick start-up demonstration below.

 

3 Things That Make Kindergarten Teams ALL 21C

The image below is taken from: http://eiagallo.blogspot.ca/?m=1

Want ideas and resources?  Visit this teacher’s site! Follow her on twitter: @ElissaIagallo

Yes… I’m aware – this is a top ‘something’ article… and yes, I’m aware that I haven’t been the biggest proponent of ‘top something’ articles… but I can assure you.. I’m not a content farm… so here it goes!

Last week I blogged about how the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations provide a solid, attainable recipe for the acquisition of 21st Century skills. This week I’m going to blog about how kindergarten teachers and ECE’s across the country are really the pioneers of implementation of 21st-century practice. Over the past six months I’ve had the honour and the privilege of working with my school board’s Early Years Team and I have learned so much about what it really means to be a 21st Century Teacher! I thank @tulimari @tpucci13 for bringing me along this journey!

 

3 Key Challenges That Kindergarten Teams Face Implementing FDK (My Perception)

#1: Implementing the notions of play-based learning and student-driven curriculum within the confines of 100 years of tradition. Most of our kindergarten teams face the misconception that play-based learning is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. In reality, there is ample evidence to show that play and gamification develop and reinforce new neurological pathways in the brain and lead to development of self-regulation and problem solving skills. For more information check out the Kindergarten Guide found here and the subsequent sources cited within.

 

#2: To stray from the curriculum will certainly doom us all. Kindergarten teams have been tasked with bringing children to the curriculum – not the other way ’round. When a child arrives at school with a burning question, it could very well drive the learning of the day. It is then up to the teacher to make connections with the curriculum and provide feedback to guide. Imagine how risky that really is!

 

#3: Kindergarten teams know all-to-well that there is a low chance of teachers in subsequent grades continuing this approach once they leave the annals of the kindergarten classroom…. for now.

 

Do not doubt that kindergarten teams have had questions about implementation and they have questioned the ideas behind the full day kindergarten program, play-based learning, and inquiry-based learning. But they have questioned it for the benefit and the growth of their mission to show that this is the right way to approach education.

 

And so…. the 3 Things That Make Kindergarten Teams ALL 21C

 

1. Flexibility of Environment:

 

With FDK being implemented across the province, many of our teams have had to flex their environment to adapt to the new play-based stations and some have had to face rearranging their rooms regularly to find that different configurations serve different purposes. Imagine the mind-set of a teacher who is willing to make those changes for the sake of student learning. Imagine how you would feel if there was an expectation to adapt your learning space regularly to suit student learning. Many of our Kindergarten teams face that challenge everyday and have learned to provide that flexible environment.

 

2. Student Voice Drives Learning

 

"Bring the child to the curriculum… not the other way ’round." I am completely amazed at how many of our kindergarten teams are willing to guide learning based on what the children bring to school. Considering this requires teachers to leave the ‘tick-box’ specific curriculum expectations behind, it entails a risk and one worth taking. Children across our great province are arriving at school with questions and curiosities that drive an entire day or even week of learning. Such learning not only meets expectations, it exceeds and crosses curricula in ways you could never imagine. This is also when visual documentation of learning and the process of learning becomes paramount! These opportunities become ample and provide growth opportunities for teachers themselves. The children become the ‘living curriculum’.

 

3. Relinquishing Control:

 

Above all else, the sense that there will be chaos without regimented control must be put to rest. For there to be true organic learning Kindergarten teams have come to understand that in many cases, the plan enters when the first child enters the room. Or, the plan is altered as soon as an inquisitive question arises from the floor or the group exercise. By far fear of losing control dominates many teachers’ minds, but really, once we embrace chaos – or what we perceive to be chaos – incredible things happen.

 

 

DatalyzeMe – Our First Infographic

Slowly Gaining Momentum

The DatalyzeMe App is just about to undergo its first makeover. As a teacher, tinkering with this thing has pretty much taken over my life! Adding major elements of gamification and more opportunities for students to see how they spend their time graphically top the list of modifications this round. In the meantime, here is my first infographic based on the data collected to date:

DatalyzeMe User Infographic

Our next infographic will display just how students are using their time after school…

Three Steps to Creating the 21st-Century Classroom.

Step #1

I think we can all agree that collaboration is a key 21st-century skill. We will leave the matter of defining collaboration and examining how do execute it for another blog but in this case let’s talk about setting the classroom up to make collaboration viable. The environment has to allow for collaboration and so we must consider furniture that can be rearranged without damaging the floor. (Yes! Break out the tennis balls!) If the student feel it necessary to change the layout of the classroom then the furniture should allow easy change around without too much effort.

Step #2

When you do rearrange the classroom you still have to take the responsibility for maintaining a safe environment. I know this not a very trendy topic but we must consider that anytime we move our classroom furniture or important your furniture into the classroom. I think a safe and simple rule to have in your room is just to ensure that all exit paths are clear and free of cable, wires or any other clutter.

Step #3

By far the most challenging of all three steps is for the teacher to look at the classroom as a work in progress. There may never be a perfect layout or configuration for collaboration however there must be the flexibility and understanding that we can try different things before we arrive at our final destination. The students should also feel stress-free as they try new configurations as well. Not all students will be able to accept the change on the fly so prepare students ahead of time either by a schedule or let them know 3 to 4 days in advance that you will be changing the layout of the classroom with their help.

Having said that, the true 21st-century classroom will of course allow for student input into the physical layout of the classroom. The layout is the first step of ownership over what the classroom looks like for your students. Give them as much input as they feel necessary for each and every configuration in the classroom. In this way they will take ownership over their area of learning and become more involved in their own learning.

Make note I have made no mention of the technology when it comes to the 21st-century classroom… Yet 😉

Why Catholic Education in Ontario Got 21st Century Learning Right… 10 Years Ago

This is NOT a Top 10 Article

As the world of education continues its search for skills that transcend convention, we scour the web for a package of ideas that come ready made to help us prepare our children for  the future. Everywhere we look, there is one content farm or another publishing the top 5, 6 or 50 tools and strategies that we need in education to become ’21st Century Teachers and Learners’. Unfortunately I find them lacking, published only for tweets, hits and advertising. That is not what education should be about.

As a Catholic educator in Ontario, Canada, it was far from my mind to explore a document that was well over a decade old until it was brought to my attention by a friend, colleague and mentor – Michael Wetzel, the Principal of Blessed Pope John Paul II in Toronto.  In fact, as I began to focus on the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations (the CGE’s),  I began featuring the seven guiding principles in my talks and workshops across the province. You see – when educators sit in one of my audiences, they tend to expect a razzle dazzle workshop that urges them to begin using tech in the classroom. But when my audience is presented with the CGE’s, there is now an immediate sense of surprised relief as they begin to understand how simple it is to navigate 21st Century teaching in the light of these expectations.

Take a look below and compare these 7 concepts to how you approach 21st Century Education. In Ontario, the Institute for Catholic Education governs the CGE’s. The original documents may be viewed here.

 

1. The Discerning Believer

Believe it or not, we as Catholics are encouraged to reflect, to question and to reform our beliefs and our faith. Our calling here is NOT ONLY to promote social responsibility and solidarity, but to also respect ALL faith traditions, world religions and the life-journeys of ALL people of good will. This expectation calls us to be critical and responsible, not recluse or easily led.

2. The Effective Communicator

The entire world of education agrees that the skill of Communication is one that the graduate of 2030 and beyond will need to master in order to be a contributor to society. Looking at the graphic, you will notice that the ears are quite exaggerated to show how important a role listening plays in communication. Now more than ever, we need people who are honest and clear about their ideas, and who integrate their faith in the use of arts, media and technology.

3. The Creative and Holistic Thinker

I’m not entirely sure this one needs to much explanation. Creativity always tops the list of needed skills for 2030 and beyond. It’s when we add the beauty of holistic thinking that we solve problems in an innovative and responsible way. This thinker cannot be trapped within one subject area – this thinker longs to integrate all parts of the whole.

4. A Self-Directed, Responsible, Life-Long Learner

Yet another skill that educators have identified to guide our future into 2030 and beyond. Leadership, innovation, initiative, flexibility and adaptability. This skill helps develop confidence, respect and dignity for one’s self and others. This skill resides in those who constantly self-reflect, self-evaluate and make changes to improve. Our future depends on this skill more than any other for the sake of balance and a higher standard of living for us all. This is every educator’s dream…

5. The Collaborative Contributor

It has become the mantra for all of education to call for our schools to provide more and more opportunities for collaboration. Yet, time and time again they fail to provide the ‘HOW-TO’ of collaboration – especially for the youngest members of our society. What does it mean to be interdependent, to think critically and to not only work to your own potential but to help those around you reach theirs? There must be respect and appreciation for originality and integrity especially in the 21st Century. Contributions made to the growth of the team are just as important to the growth of the project.

 

6. A Caring Family Member

It would be very hard to argue that the family structure is under immense pressure to stay together. Words like compassion and love are only effective when they are bound by respect – not the bottom dollar as so many clever marketing campaigns will have us believe. Intimacy and love are bound to value and honour within the family context. Unity, strength and honour bind the family together and that strength feeds the community in the light of our God-given gifts. What a beautiful and critically important principle.

7. A Responsible Citizen

When we look at some of the horrible things that streak across the web, it’s hard not to panic. Cyber-bullying, harassment, defamation and degradation can all be weakened, if not eliminated if we embrace the basic principles of accountability, equality, democracy, peace and justice. The responsible citizen in our Catholic view, should find it difficult to walk away when there is someone in need, seeks and grants forgiveness but also respects and affirms diversity of our world’s people and cultures. This is all done in the formation of Catholic traditions.

I realize that it may not be ‘trendy’ to use faith as a TOP 10 article but let me tell you something – if it’s right, it’s right and if it works, it works.  No system is perfect, but this one has such beauty and a positive outlook that is hard to overlook.

 

 

Why Every Educator in the World Should See The Lego Movie

Spoiler Alert!

Father of 3 and soon to be 4, I often find myself standing longer than a grown man should in the toy aisle. Reminiscing at the same time as reliving childhood fantasy I gleefully watch my children engage their imaginations at play. But when I opened my first ‘non-80’s’ Lego kit I was thrown abruptly into a harsh reality of rigid conformity. It was like a bucket of cold water…

I opened the box with my then 4 year old son and my hands began to tremble as I slowly tore the plastic bags that neatly organized hundreds of obscure parts that I had never seen before…

Each bag numbered precisely as it coincided with specific instructions that held no less than 50-60 steps to build the pictured toy on the cover. My forehead beaded with sweat as confusion rushed into the grey matter.. I was trapped… I was panicking.. I was being forced to conform.

Now of course being an 80’s child I never followed the instructions on a Lego box – they were only suggestions. And the blocks were usually large and easy to manipulate compared to the myriad of minuscule morsels they sell now for an arm and a leg. But this experience, this love, this passion that once resided in this master builder was now being questioned by a 4 year old who demanded to know why he should build something without using the instructions!

“But Julie” I would say (his name is Julius) “Building from your imagination is so much better!!” But even so, his peculiarly sharp mind became fixated on the instructions. It wasn’t until a campaign of about 6 weeks did he finally let go and now… He has become a budding Master Builder himself.

The movie is really a strong commentary on conformity and how it has crushed creativity throughout the ages. Though the movie is meant to be timeless the presence of an older lego set – the astronauts whose helmets always split at the chin – was a stark reminder of how it ‘used to be’. You see even Lego was making fun of itself as it examined how inflexible it’s current kits really are. The movie also depicts the creative Master Builders as a hidden rebellion that seeks to undermine the status quo. The movie does so well to build that antithesis yet all the while it makes Emit – a conformist – the actual hero! Now Emit does contribute the virtues of collaboration and compassion to the adventure so there appears to be some reconciliation. It really wasn’t until the astronaut was finally allowed to build a space ship his way that our hero was finally removed from grave danger.

In the end the movie moves into a true life reality that sees a father and his young son argue about how to play with Lego… But in this case it was the opposite of my situation with Julius. In the movie the father’s use of Lego was rigid and grounded firmly in the instructions. The child wanted the freedom to create. In one of the proudest moments of my life as a dad – my son and daughter both rose up in the middle of the theatre and began shouting at the screen, demanding of the father to allow his son to use his imagination!! And I let them scream to their hearts delight!

Think about what we do as educators. When we teach do we think the lesson is ours? Or is it theirs? Is the classroom our space or theirs? Our values or theirs? Who are we to constantly instruction their imaginations to oblivion?