Tag Archives: Microsoft

Get Back

How appropriate to end an amazing night and an incredible week with the Beatles song, “Get Back”. It was time to say goodbye and go back to where I once belonged.
But I go back a different person. It would be impossible to go through a week of working and learning with 300 geniuses without being changed by the experience. I have learned so much this week that at times it felt as though my brain would explode.
One of the most powerful aspects of the week was the opportunity to listen to the stories of teachers from around the world and their projects. I was honored by their willingness to share their experiences, knowledge and challenges. My eyes were opened to a whole new reality, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for the courage that these teachers demonstrate each and every day as they do their job of working with learners and making them the best they can be. I was humbled by the bravery so many showed as they struggled to express their ideas in an unfamiliar language. But what they had to share was so important that they were willing to take that risk. Going back into my classroom, I want my students to have that same passion about their skills and knowledge, and know that they too need to share their genius with the world.
I have a new perspective as I go back to where I once belonged on Monday morning. I can’t wait to share the incredible feeling of connecting with so many people. I know how important it is to give my students that same experience. I couldn’t bring them with me to Redmond, but I can bring the world to them through the power of Skype. I can’t wait to see my students’ reactions as we reach out to their counterparts in places like El Salvador, China, Croatia, Singapore, South Africa and more.
Although I have always valued connecting our classroom to the world through Skype and social media, I know now that there is an even greater importance to do so. There is so much power in knowing that you belong to a global community of learners. My students need to be aware of a much bigger picture than just our beautiful classroom with all the advantages that living in middle class Canada brings. These connections teach them so much more than just curricular outcomes. When they share in these stories, they feel what it is to be compassionate , empathetic, courageous and brave. After this week, I know it is imperative to share these experiences.
I have so many people to thank. Thank you to Microsoft for this incredible opportunity. Thanks to Ziauddin Yousafzai and Angela Maiers for their inspirational stories of bravery and courage. Thank you to Marilyn Steier for your continued support and the push!
For their support and comradery throughout the week, thanks to all our Team Canada members.

team canada

Finally, thank you to the collaborative and hardworking members of Team 1, Lidija Kralj, Andy Ng, Warren Sparrow and Wei Wang. I am so very happy to have met you, and now to continue working with you on Project Courage!



Making Differences Ordinary With Minecraft

Minecraft Group 3 Day 1
Last week I read a post “Making Differences Ordinary” by Leah Andrews that really resonated with me.  In it, she wrote

For many students with learning difficulties, we know two things: routines are critical for them to be successful, and it is often difficult for them to develop meaningful relationships.  When we ask students to go in and out of the classroom for various interventions, this disrupts the students’ routines.   It also makes it more difficult for these students to develop meaningful relationships with their peers and their classroom teacher when they are being pulled in and out of the classroom setting. Do these unintended consequences outweigh the benefits of a pull-out intervention? Is there another way?

Leah talks about the unintended consequences of pull-out interventions during class times and the importance of student routines, and I agree completely.  However, there is one major school routine called recess that can be a huge obstacle for some students, especially those already dealing with learning difficulties. For these students, developing positive relationships is a challenge, one that is made even more so in the unstructured setting of the outside playground.  Others need to know that their relationships are real and based on meaningful activities, not just babysitting.  I work diligently to create a safe classroom community that includes all learners but then the bell rings – and for some stepping outside of the room for recess can be that pull-out with unintended consequences.

I was fortunate to work for several years with the very wise Susan Weisenburger who created a recess Friendship Club in her office for just those reasons.  Students who experienced difficulties on the playground were able to have their break with her and bring a friend. They played games, Legos or just sat and visited.  I loved walking by the room and hearing the hum of happy voices and seeing smiles on their faces.

I want to recreate that experience of growth and positivity that can come from a smaller scale, safe recess setting. In my class there are students who need help establishing positive friendships, and others who would benefit from participating in meaningful activities. I am using Minecraft to provide a safe setting and establish common interests as the beginning of friendships and building positive relationship skills.

I know that having meaningful connections and relationships with peers is a critical factor in student success at school.  Just as I plan provocations and activities to build reading skills, I also need to provide strategies and scaffolds for students to assist in relationship building.  This year I can use the Minecraft club for students as a means to do so. For a student with limited mobility, outdoor recess is a challenge.  Providing the opportunity to remain inside with friends is necessary, but so is the need to ensure that they are engaged in activities which allow all equal opportunities.  Playing Minecraft does just that.  All the students are very invested in creating the world.  The focus shifts from staying inside at recess to the conversations and discussions about the requirements of their world. When this is in the forefront, individual differences fade to the background.

Leah asks “How do we continue to strive to make differences ordinary in the everyday classroom? ” I am excited about using Minecraft as a tool to do exactly that!