Music and Learning

Yesterday while I was driving around doing errands I was listening to Day 6 on CBC radio.  This episode the host was interviewing the music therapist who worked with congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford to help her to regain her speech. It was a fascinating discussion about how the therapist Maegan Morrow, used simple familiar tunes to begin re-engaging Gifford’s right brain in locating vocabulary. To learn more please visit the site linked to this post.

Licensed under Creative Commons by Institut Douglas (some rights reserved)

What struck me, however, was the similarity to techniques used in primary classrooms daily to engage students in oral literacy. I remember when I first began teaching in a grade one classroom how I would “sing” attendance with my students. I did this to capture their attention, keep them focused and to assess their musical ear and sense of rhythm.  Not knowing anything about brain science, little did I know I was helping them to embed language in different areas of their brain. I’m glad to know that what I felt was the right think for early learners, actually was 🙂


End of a year, start of another….

The holiday season is always a time to reflect upon the past year.  The activities and accomplishments of the past year are always interesting to think about but it’s a great time to begin planning forward.  I have had a very busy fall working with educators across Ontario as they work to embed technology into their classroom practice as part of their daily practice.  Shifting from a paradigm of the technology “event” to effective learning that happens to use technology.  We have some wonderful educators in the province who are doing great things with their students every day.

The challenge is in moving our system leaders forward to ensure that we move from pockets of exemplary practice to school and system wide foci.  It’s difficult striking that balance between the data, the practice and the professional learning.  I honestly believe that we have to involve our system leaders, and classroom teachers in learning that looks like what learning should be in 2011.  Heck, we are ten years into the 21st century, what are we waiting for?

As educators we need to join the rest of the world.  Digital literacy isn’t really new, it’s literacy reflected in a variety of different media, if you are an educator in this day and age and don’t get this I’m a little worried.  21st century learning is now, not something to plan for, when do we stop referring to this like it is some rare breed of learning and just start engaging in it?  New media that we refer to isn’t so new, education is just slow to notice and embrace it.

I think this is an exciting time for learning, we have such easy access to information and such opportunity to shift learning so that students of all ages can participate and direct their learning needs.  It’s a shame that systems are so slow to change.  Yes, change is scary but it is inevitable so why not give it a shot?

The new year will bring me challenges and changes and I welcome them.  I look forward to my own learning in the coming year and can’t wait to share with all of learning colleagues.

Photo licensed under creative commons

David Booth on Literacy

Today was day one of our district’s Literacy Fair, an opportunity for educators in schools across the district to share their collaborative inquiries with other teachers.  It began with a wonderful keynote from David Booth.  Everytime I hear David speak I find him wry, very witty and yet to the point.  His topic was redefining literacy but insisting that we remember that literacy is at the heart of everything we do as educators.  He reminded us that all text forms must be used for literacy instruction and that our job is to help students make the most meaning with every text they meet so that they may use these processes to meet their future needs.  Future needs…meaning that digital literacies are here so embrace them!

Throughout his talk I kept writing down short quotations that were very powerful:

“Technology has given men the freedom to read”  “In gaming, you get better if you practice” Shinizi Suzuki “you’ve got to have a tune” “technology doesn’t dumb us down – it’s changed our minds”  AND he also shared how he “loved teaching in the online environment because everyone has a voice and everyone shares”  I nearly stood up and cheered!!!!!

However, I couldn’t help but hear the repeated theme that I have been hearing in the PQP course, in leadership reading and learning:  everyone has a narrative and we need to learn it.  It’s the relationship that is important, we need to learn about the child to help them learn, we need to learn about our staff in order to learn to lead.  He concluded with the statement that “literacy is about life”.  He really humanized how educators are being asked to approach literacy across all curriculum.

I really hope we see more teachers walking David’s walk, including technological literacy in instruction across curriculum and being non-judgemental about the choices of text that our student’s make and embrace them to engage kids in learning.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Some articles to read:

Newsweek:  Books aren’t dead

Time MAgazine:  How to Build a Student for the 21st C