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Why Innovate West?

-by Erin Piper

As a charter school, it is one of our mandates and goals to connect and learn with other teachers and school jurisdictions. Innovate West, most recently held May 23-25, 2014, is one of the ways we facilitate in bringing together a growing community of innovative educators to celebrate the many great things happening in education today. We believe that this event, and the people involved, truly reflects the vision and values of Inspiring Education.

This short video depicts how this experience resonated with participants:
For more information on the most recent conference, see this blog post.

Innovate West Wrap Up

by Dan McWilliam
Our school is still reverberating from the energy and ideas at Innovate West this past weekend (May 23-25, 2014). This was our third year hosting a connected group of innovative educators from Western Canada and beyond. These educators are the 'grassroots' who have developed a social support network online and Innovate West provides the physical meet up of the social network.

The Conference celebrates people and provides them the time and space to share, discuss and develop innovative ideas for education. The conference format begins with a tour of Connect Charter School classrooms on an operational school day where students and teachers share what they are working on and are available to conference delegates. Facilitated discussions are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday with an emphasis on participation. This connected group of educators continue to work together and inspire each other through the year via social media, Edcamps, networking days, and more.

Learning Freedom

-by Carly DeBoice   (Connect Charter School Student-teacher Alumni and Substitute Teacher)

Occasionally, how students articulate an idea is much more eloquent than that of the teacher. So, I’ll use their words to help me explain the concept they coined today, “Learning Freedom.”

This arose out of a request for each class to nominate two students to join a team who will help visitors during the upcoming Innovate West conference. Choosing a few students can be a tricky task for teachers. To find a handful of students who were genuinely up for the task, students were asked answer the following question, “What is your favorite thing about Connect Charter School?”

It is important to note that the students wrote individually, without any discussion or prompting. The similarity of many student responses was fascinating. George was explicit, saying, “My favourite thing about Connect Charter is the freedom we are given. Connect Charter lets us have freedom to solve problems any way we want.” Rowan takes this idea further and explains, “I love the freedom because we give you the freedom of how to think, how to feel, and how to learn. In this school everyone is respected for their learning choices. We think this is important because everyone has a different learning way. We believe that everyone is different, and we should have the freedom to be different!”

Grade 4 Folk Song Unit: Making Alberta's History Sing (Part 3: Sorting Out)

-by Heather Fawcett and Jessica Kelly

Through their guided research, students have compiled a wealth of information on an important element of Alberta's history. So, now what? Determining what information is important is a valuable research skill and this is what students are now doing. By giving students the challenge of creating songs, they must make some thoughtful decisions about what information is included in the lyrics. The success of their song hinges on their ability to extract the information that matters most, so sorting it all out is a crucial step in the process.

Students are beginning the song creation process by constructing their chorus. To support them in this crucial step, teachers have enlisted the help of two local singer/songwriters. Tanner James and John E. Buckle spent time working with students to help them construct their song's chorus. The conversations between students were not only helpful, but highly sophisticated. Students were using the language of historians as well as musicians.

Once students have a chorus, they will be building verses to further communicate the story of their historical topic. It should also be mentioned that students are being challenged to approach the story from different perspectives. Considering multiple perspectives is a main focus of the Alberta Social Studies curriculum, and the songs will honor at least two perspectives through their lyrics. How teachers will be assessing student learning will be topic of the next video.

Grade 4 Folk Song Unit: Making Alberta's History Sing (Part 2: Finding Out)

by Heather Fawcett and Jessica Kelly

 In Part 1 of “Making Alberta’s History Sing”, students were tuning in to topics for their folk song projects. Part 2 of the project challenges students to assert their research and questioning skills by compiling information on a chosen historical topic.

After a full day of exploring the various exhibits at the Glenbow, students had a variety of observations and questions about what they experienced. Through a teacher-led class brainstorm, everyone shared the topics that they found particularly interesting. The next step was to conduct some research into each of their options to see which stories had enough information available to support their song idea. Using guiding questions, students visited a variety of reliable digital resources including the Glenbow Museum archives.

With a primary song concept in mind, the focus of their research then shifted towards folk songs. Students were asked the question: What is a folk song? After listening to a variety of folk songs, students thought critically about the various elements that they heard. Students generated questions about folk songs which further guided their own research into this unique musical genre.

Connecting with experts is an important step in the inquiry process, so visits by local musicians Tanner James and John E. Buckle were arranged. Working with actual musicians went even further in helping students acquire a sound understanding of what makes folk songs unique. In addition to answering students’ questions, each artist performed a variety of songs and explained how they take a song from conception through to completion. This co-constructed criteria of a folk song will become the basis for their own work.

The first phase of the “Sorting out” process will challenge students to construct a catchy chorus using a 5-8 sentence summary of the event. Students will liaise with our musical experts during this step since it will involve some sophisticated and specialized language skills and knowledge. From there, the students will develop the verses using relevant historical information gained through their research.

Student Learner Profiles: Student Voices

A Path to Digitial Student Learner Profiles: Student Voices
by Tanya Stogre and Abby Saadeh

At approximately the midway point of the Student Learner Profile Pilot using Pathbrite, we wanted to ensure we were hearing what students had to say about their experiences. We endeavoured to include a range of student voices. In an informal conversation, we asked students the following questions:

• Do you like using Pathbrite, why or why not?
• Do you think using Pathbrite for your Student Learner Profile (SLP) has or could help you understand more about yourself as a learner?
• If your teacher next year said that they would be using Pathbrite to continue the work you have started on your SLP, how would feel?

After conversing with 11 Grade 7 students, several insights emerged from our discussions. One of the key ideas arising was that Pathbrite was user friendly. One student commented, “It’s easier than most other websites that we used. It’s more simple than others and straightforward. It doesn’t have a bunch of unnecessary items that you won’t need or ever use.”