Category Archives: EDCI515

Lit Review Ramblings

Quick post tonight on the status of the lit review. The binder of articles is sitting in front of me and I can almost hear it whispering, “Read us. Read us” to me in a creepy, sinister voice. I almost feel guilty now if I lay on the couch for a bit without a research paper in one hand and a highlighter pen in the other.  I have learned a lesson that I will share with future Masters students: Don’t change your plan 3 months before the first draft of the lit review is due. I mentioned this to a friend who did her Masters a couple of years ago, and her response was, “No. Don’t change your plan mid year.” But I did, and, boy, it was a challenge to find articles with the terms I was using. Thankfully, over Spring Break, I got some sleep, cleared the murkiness of my mind and was able to finagle some keywords and search terms that actually made sense to me. For example, while searching for information on the increasing use of devices and screen time, don’t just search for “Increasing Screen Time Usage”. Nay, nay, You must be specific! How about “Screen Time and Young Children”, “Student Time On Screen” or the real bonanza “Increasing Screen Time Use on Young Children” in the psychology database? Yay!

Oh, and then let’s just talk about the word NATURE. Adding that word to any search brings up a LOT of information on the “Nature of this” or the “Nature of that”, but not usually on actual trees, dirt, insects and you know…Nature. So, the jiggery pokery of search terms began again! Eventually, “Outdoor Learning and Young Children” came up with the best results.

This process has really shown me that the choice of words is key. That one has to look at the term or the subject from many different views before you find the keywords that just hit that perfect “zing” moment. The problem with defining those perfect terms for me though? I got distracted. Something shiny popped up in the search and I had to quickly scan that and see if I could use it to defend a classroom practice, or I found an article that a friend could use, or there was this book that someone else mentioned and I wonder if they have it at the UVIc library? I better go and …. SQUIRREL! (by this point in the process I was starting to wonder how I ever got my undergraduate degree.)

It’s the end of March, classes end on Thursday, and I have admitted to myself that I won’t have the first draft of this Lit Review completed. If I had another week off, maybe. But not at this point. I’m still plugging away, in the hopes that I can get some sort of information slapped together in the roughest form possible. Can a lit review be done as interpretive dance?

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Long Overdue

I’ve been avoiding this blog post for a while now. I need to give an “update” on my lit review, and I kept hoping that inspiration would strike in the late hours of the evening. Alas, that did not occur, and as term comes to an end, I know I have to write this.

My lit review took a major stall in January, when I caught the cold/flu virus from Hades. I had to take almost 2 weeks off of school, and getting back into the swing of things was difficult. I then decided I wasn’t far enough behind, and had a moment of utter doubt in my topic, followed by what I thought was a moment of “Clarity”. It wasn’t as clear as I thought.

In February, I dawdled. I knew I had to meet up with people in the know and ask for help, but that is something I find very hard to do. I have become better at seeking help, but I tend to have a small group of people I will go to for help. I reached out to my cohort and they really tried to talk me off of the ledge. I was able to touch base with Valerie, and had a really great chat with her about my ideas and where I thought I was going. I had focus again, and I was ready to start researching at warp speed. But life, frustrating, wonderful life, once again stalled me. Report cards had to be written, a new system had to be learned, and I once again was distracted by something shiny. I skipped my February update figuring, I could get to it tomorrow. Well, my tomorrows have caught up to me.

Spring Break was around the corner and I thought I could get a significant amount of researching done online while I sat and listened to the riveting pension statements, guest speakers and campaign speeches of the AGM. I tried, but my attempts at accessing the articles were blocked by really bad hotel WiFi. There went another week.  When I returned home, I knew there was going to be a problem if I didn’t get busy.

I’m on day 4 of my marathon research search. I finally found a decent selection of articles on Place Based Learning, another good selection on Outdoor Learning, and today I begin the search for Screen Time statistics. I have a feeling that this will not be done by the deadline. It’s my own fault. But I’ll be working hard to get something ready. It will be far from ideal, but it’ll be a start.

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Cameras and Kindergartens

IMG_0036Today I learned a valuable lesson: if you want to see what your students see, give them a camera. Today we went outside and took the school iPads with us to photograph what we see. I am truly awed by the images some of my students took, and I am laughing at some of the videos they filmed. I can’t post the videos on here, but let me tell you, I have some funny kids in this class. I didn’t help them with the images and none of them are edited. These are simply the things my students saw through the lens today. It has inspired me. Enjoy.

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Failure Is Not An Option

Kranz at his Console

ConsoleKranz” by NASA Licensed under Public Domain

“Failure is NOT an option” is a phrase I remember from my teen years. The movie Apollo 13 came out in 1995, two years before I would graduate from high school. Hearing Gene Kranz, played brilliantly by Ed Harris, utter those words stuck with me. (To be fair, the phrase was written for the move; Kranz admits he never said it.)  At the time, I was preparing for entrance into University, I was determined and I had been conditioned to believe that failure was a shameful thing. Fast forward a couple of decades, and I still struggle with the idea of failure. I love the new acronyms being posted online for the word FAIL; First Attempt At Learning is probably my favourite one. I, however, haven’t managed to master that mindset.

In the middle of February, Tiegrad classmate, Jake Main did something I found incredibly brave. He admitted that he was overwhelmed. He put into words, the feelings that I have been struggling with since the end of January.  I had decided to take up a MOOC this semester as a learning project for EDCI 569. The MOOC itself is one about MInecraft for Educators. What I have found time to read and learn about MIneccraft has been interesting and educational, but I realized by the end of week 2, that all of my time was going into MInecraft. That is not my focus right now. I was spending the time allotted for 569 and 515 (my courses for the term) reading Minecraft, watching videos on Minecraft and trying to keep up with the conversations and community on the MOOC. When I got sick in January, I realized something fundamentally important. I simply cannot do all of this.

I ran away instead of facing my overwhelming feelings that I was a failure. I started watching Star Trek: TNG during my illness, and I continued to escape into that for at least an hour every evening. I started to play my absolute favourite computer game, SIMS 3, again. I escaped the overwhelming reality by running away into “happy places” and then had pangs of guilt later for not dealing with my reality. I even considered dropping out of the MEd program so that I could go back to a reality where I didn’t feel confused, lost and overwhelmed. My classroom became, for those 2 weeks in February, the only place I felt in control. Then I had THE day. As a Type 1 Diabetic, everything exploded. My blood sugars had a 24 hour period fo rampant 20’s. They should be between 4-10. I had high ketones, a condition called ketoacidosis was close to occurring. I “woke” up when my endocrinologist called with real concern for my readings.  My body was telling me something: Get It Together!

I’ve taken a week to really think about what I am doing and where I am at. I am not willing to drop out. I have worked too hard, made too many sacrifices and am enjoying the learning and camaraderie of my tiegrad cohort. But I am, despite the online presence of friends and the supportive words of my IRL friends, doing this on my own. I have no family to support me in my efforts, and I have to take care of myself first. SO I am dropping the MOOC, and I am releasing the guilt I feel and the sense of failure. I hope to take it again, when I have time to really investigate Minecraft and what can be done with it in a educational setting. I made a commitment to myself on August 20, 2014 and I’ve decided to recommit myself here. My Personal Learning Journey had begun before EDCI 569 started, but I was too scared to share it here with the people who I know will treat me gently. I know now that I need to share it here. I need to let my cohort into this part of my life see the other side of who I am. It’s not a FItbit journey, nor a meditative one, and it isn’t one about healthy eating. It’s my life journey.  My skill I’m learning isn’t just for 569, it’s for my life. So my new tag and my new category will be #Liane’sLife. I suppose the title could be: How Failure Became a Search for Balance. I hope you can help on my journey.

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Clarity and Confusion

I have had clarity in my plans for my Masters since almost day one. There was a hiccup after Stacia spoke to us last fall where I thought my focus on nature and young students was perhaps not my passion. I had concerns, until a fellow classmate talked me off of the ledge of confusion and back onto solid ground. Since that hiccup, I have been clear. I have taken my students outdoors, reflected on their activities, recorded conversations and discussed my ideas with fellow teachers and administrators. My goal has been to create a guide to help urban/inner city teachers of Kindergarten/Grade 1 students get outdoors and utilize the nature found in their communities. I focussed my bibliography last summer on technology with young children with a plan to link technology to the outdoor play activities that every child should have. I wrote my original research folder with my outdoor focus and I had my plan in mind with every step I took.

Last night, we had our break out room time in 515, and I had this shocking realization from the nowhere, that I had written it up wrong. That my thought process was not where it should be and my research topic was written from the wrong perspective.

My original idea for a guide is not the problem. I did however look at my topic of Environmental Education, and I realized that getting kids in urban centers out into nature wasn’t Environmental Education, but Self-Regulation. I am not talking about Self-Regulated Learning, but behaviours. The simple fact I realized is: my students are practicing their self-regulation when we are outside in nature. I know that play and nature are integral to the development of children. I know that teachers are concerned about taking children outside during instructional hours. I know that I get asked questions on how I cover curriculum while taking kids outside. I know that I still want to help teachers get outdoors with their students.But I also know, it is not about Environmental Education or Stewardship.


Today, however,  I spent an hour sitting in front of the UVic Library site pondering search terms and coming up blank. It feels almost like starting anew. I know I don’t have to begin completely again, but I have to find some time to sit down and really think about where I am going. It almost feels like a period of letting go.I am not a person who can switch gears from a plan quickly; I need to think, and let it all come.  I know the members of my fabulous cohort will have advice and I welcome it. I realize that I need to talk again with Valerie, organize a meeting with the librarians, and take down the big chart in the hallway where I have mapped out my plan. I’m back to my previous mantra of “Breathe. It will all be okay.”

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Muddy Buddy

Today when I walked into my classroom, I noticed a large Home Depot box. I was a little confused, as I didn’t remember ordering anything from the home renovation place, so imagine my surprise when I found out our Muddy Buddies were inside!

For those of you unaware of what a Muddy Buddy is, imagine a waterproof onesie with one zipper from the left kneecap to the neck. It has Velcro adjustments for the cuffs and the ankles. When this outfit is on and done up with boots, the little person inside can go outdoors and run, jump, splash, roll, dig and basically be in nature without worrying about getting wet, dirty or scuffed. Some people may wonder why I wanted these so badly for my kindergarten classroom. Easy answer: 20 kids with wet clothing all needing to change or call home. The Muddy Buddy lets us go and get dirty without worrying and being uncomfortable.

Muddy Buddy

The kids all tried one on and were given one for their hooks. After lunch, it was time to take them out for a trial run. People may not realize this, but part of Kindergarten is learning simply how to dress oneself. The first 15 minutes for Muddy Buddy time was simply figuring out where ones legs go, how to zip up an industrial strength zipper, and what to do with the Velcro. This lesson will need to be repeated many times before we all know how to get into the suit, but once they are in it, we are ready to roll (literally).

We started off out outdoor exploration today by finding our tulips and daffodils that we planted back in October. Unbelievably enough, they are coming up. The observations included:

  • I planted mine over here and there is nothing there. Why not?
  • Look at how there is one stem here and 3 over here.
  • This one has paper peeling off it.
  • Why isn’t the pumpkin we planted growing?
  • It looks like a water plant.

There was so much comparative language going on over height, number, and even colour of the sprouts. I only pray that we do not get a sudden freeze and kill all of them.

Is it Spring?

Is it Spring?

We ventured down to the lower field where we do most of our explorations, and today I had set the intention of our outside time. Our big question: What can you do in the Muddy Buddy?

Interestingly, there was actually quite a difference in their behaviour today. The kids seemed more willing to take some chances and weren’t as concerned when they toppled over, climbed a tree or were wrestling with a friend. Some ELL boys who have never attempted a tree climb decided to give it a go today, and ended up discovering a “dragon cave” in one of the big evergreens. It developed into a game of “Don’t Wake the Dragon”. Some of my girls were finding large rocks that reminded them of eggs, and started to create nest like hollows in the dirt where they could hatch the eggs. They were sitting in the dirt and leaning on the trees without concern. My little G stumbled at one point. He picked himself up, brushed himself off and claimed, “I’m okay. The Muddy Buddy is tough and it doesn’t hurt.” Another little one told me that falling doesn’t hurt as much in a Muddy Buddy. Who knew these articles of clothing had such power?

Exploring

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Finally we all lay down in the damp grass, and gazed at the clouds to discuss what we saw. I think they were hungry, as I heard “Cupcakes! Cotton candy! Ice Cream! Marshmallows! A donut! Bacon!” Yes, bacon. It was an experience to remember and treasure.

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Searching The Evergreens

Please excuse the lack of photos in this post. They are currently trapped in my classroom, as I forgot to upload them before I left today. This post wouldn’t stop rolling about in my head, so I needed to get it down. Pics to come later.

Evergreens is a non-fiction book I picked up through the Scholastic Canada November order. I wasn’t going to purchase any more books for my ridiculously large library, but I desperately wanted some new, non-fiction pieces to inspire us to look closer at the everyday objects around us. The book is not a long piece of writing, but the photographs are beautiful and showcase a type of tree which my students see around them every day. I shall, in all honesty, admit that I wasn’t going to read the story before our planned Monday “Outdoor Exploration” time. I simply saw that the students were finishing their lunches, and what better way to finish eating an apple, than having a story read to you. I won’t go into the details of our discussion concerning pine cones, needles and resin here. Connections were made between bark and skin. A deep discussion over the differences and similarities between resin, sap and blood occurred. Questions were asked that will require further research and exploring. One student exclaimed, “we have an evergreen at home!” Well, the floodgates opened with comments about the trees at school, and it was decided by the kids and myself, that a scavenger hunt was in order.

We grabbed our jackets and boots, and headed out. Shock erupted when we saw the school pruners cutting up the trees at the front. There was deep concern and much reassuring that the workers were not going to cut down the trees, especially “our tree”. (Our tree is a tree we adopted and have been looking at since October.) One of the munchkins asked, “Does it hurt the trees when they are cut like that?” There was such deep concern for the trees from this little one, that we had to stop and discuss whether trees have feelings. Finally a decision was made that being pruned, may be like getting a haircut. It doesn’t hurt, but you miss your long hair.

Eventually we made our way over to our big messy field where the evergreens grow. Right away, the searching began. They had a short list of things to find: an evergreen tree, pine cones, needles and resin. What a treat it was to watch the excitement over the discovery of a pine cone, of a branch that had fallen but was still covered with green needles. A tree was found with some bark ripped off and the brilliant red from the cedar tree drew much attention. Comparisons occurred of pine cones: is yours smaller, mine is bigger, I have one that is open and yours is shut, look how tall yours is, and on it went. Then we hit the mother-lode: resin. The shouting began when we found resin drops from the tree bark and a large, crusty gathering of the stuff was investigated with magnifying glasses.

We were out there for maybe 30 minutes today. Not once was there a child acting up or behaving like a turkey. The students were engaged. At one point, I pulled my ancient iPod out and gave it to a student so she could take a picture of her resin discovery. Well, the kids all wanted a turn, not at taking photos, but at pointing out discoveries for her to document. I cannot wait to take the iPads outside for them to document their play and their discoveries.

You may think that these students of mine are outside all the time in their home hours. You may think they are used to being outside in the rain and mud. They aren’t. These are indoor city kids. At recess and lunch, they are on a concrete playground, and not in the mud and dirt as they should be. Getting them used to being outside and being aware of their boundaries outside took time, trust and even a few phone calls to the office. But it is worth it. Each child, on their own today, decided to bring back a treasure. A stick, a pine cone, a branch, some bark were the treasures they wanted to take home, How could I say no?

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Binoculars, Bears, and Campfires- Oh My!

Last week we went outside. Don’t get me wrong, the kids go outside every day for recess and lunch in the cold, the wet and the horrible. We tend not to have inside days at our school, and have adopted the mantra of “You are not made of sugar; you will not melt.” But last week was beautiful: clear skies, sun shining and, for us, cold. With the wind chill, it felt like -15 on certain days. On this particular day, we were at a nice, warm, breezy 0 degrees.

I need to take a step back to earlier in the day. Our letter of the week was B. We were learning about bears, the colour brown, bananas and of course, we made binoculars. Let me tell you, 2 toilet paper rolls hot glue gunned together can actually make binoculars. In the imaginative minds of the 4 and 5 year olds, those binoculars worked. I mean, they really worked. Add a piece of string to wear them around your neck and those things are golden. Of course, the next question from every single child in my class was, “Can we take these outside for recess?” Well, I had bigger plans.

       

After lunch, we put on winter coats, mittens, hats, and scarves and we looked like we were heading out into the frozen wastelands instead of just the bottom field. A guest was with us this time. Our wonderful First Nations EA was coming outside to teach us a song about a bear, complete with sign language. Doing music outside was a gift. Our voices could be as loud as we wanted with no one shutting the door on our melodious singing.  It was quite exciting to have new binoculars, a new song in a new language and a glorious weather day.

Once released to go off and explore, my amazement at my small humans grew. My ELL boys decided they could see everything through the binoculars, and the vocabulary they were using made me smile. Apparently, 2 toilet paper rolls could help them see the lights at the buildings across the street, the wings and beaks on the geese flying overhead, and the waving hands of passengers in the plane who may or may not have been flying to India.  Other children could see the birds hiding in the trees, the squirrels hiding their winter “stuff”, and even the treads on my rubber boots.

At this point, I noticed my one 4 year old girl, kneeling in the mud with some sticks. I went over to talk to her, to make sure she was okay. What I found, reinforced my belief that we must, as teachers, get children outside. She was building a campfire. No, not a real one with flames and dangerous sparks, but this creative mind was trying to bend and balance sticks on top of each other to make a dome for her campfire. Slowly other children came over to check her campfire out, and the collaboration began. Bricks of frozen mud were chiseled out of the ground to support the wood, rocks were brought in from the gravel pit, and eventually 3 different campfire sites were created by these fabulous minds.  No, not every child was engaged in this, but the others had discovered that you could create a gravel angel by lying in the rocks just like you do in the snow. Some were climbing trees, and some were solving the mysteries of why the mud was frozen.

                      

People passed by our school while this 80 minute exploration was occurring. Many probably saw children playing on a sunny day, and I am sure that some even thought, “Why aren’t they learning?”   I honestly believe that the development I witnessed on the lower field that day cannot be replicated in a classroom.  It needs the room, the fresh air and the freedom to explore that outside affords. I witnessed collaboration between students, a bravery to reach out and create with someone they didn’t know very well. I heard language and vocabulary that I didn’t know these students of mine had.  I saw negotiations, reasoning and engineering achievements.  And all of this simply grew on a field of frozen grass and mud, beside a bunch of gravel and a few big trees.

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Keeping My Feet On My Path

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien

I can connect to Bilbo’s words of wisdom to Frodo in many aspects of my life, but recently, this quote has been rattling in my brain with regards to research. This summer, I started out my research door on a path of discovery in one of my University of Victoria classes. I was given the opportunity to start working with and discovering the world of academic research. I admit, I often stayed upon the comforting “digital” path of UVic’s great library resource, Summit. I timidly entered search items and was delighted with the numerous articles, books, and reports on the topic of choice. It was fun to search for topics not related to my current area of study, but just to see what has happened in the academic world of Early Childhood Education while I have been developing as a teacher in my classroom. I was definitely swept off on tangents as new interests grabbed my attention, and I often ended up not knowing where I had gotten to. It was exciting, though, and I thought I was navigating this world with expertise.  I had no idea how wrong I was.

In November, Scott Johnston, a University of Victoria Graduate Studies librarian spoke to the tiegrad cohort about navigating the world of academic research, and my eyes were opened. Thankfully, he reviewed the basics of Summit, but showed us some fabulous features that can be found on almost all of the databases I would need to search. I never knew the left hand column in Summit could help me so very much. I just have to click off a few boxes to limit my searches to find an article that is:

  • peer-reviewed
  • between 2010-2014
  • limited to education journals
  • contains specific subject terms.

I had suddenly been given the tools to take the 486, 435 results I had from typing in “Outdoor Education” and was able to narrow it down to 1, 927. Yes, it is still a lot to go through, but Scott went even further by going over the “and, or, not” terms which most likely help me to further narrow my results.  We weren’t done yet, though.

Our esteemed guest very nicely showed us the many databases we had access to. I know I could spend hours travelling down many divergent paths, but I will do my best to stay the course I am travelling. Between ERIC, Ed/IT, PsychINFO, Google Scholar and Web of Science, it will be very hard not to do a side search somewhere on Reggio, Orff, Kodaly, Hawkins and more. Oh, and did I mention that Scott also talked about Infoline?  Yes, I found out that I have access to the books in the library, and that I can get them delivered to my house. Oh, the reading I can do!

Many thanks, Scott Johnston, for a great presentation and discussion to our cohort. Your wisdom and insight into the world of databases and libraries will definitely help me to keep my feet on this path.

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