MTS PD Day 2017 – Matt’s Pick

MTS_PD_DAY_2017_FrontEvery year as educators we are fortunate to have one day when we can all get together in order to share ideas, learn from each other, and begin new and exciting projects. I love MTS PD Day — or SAGE — or SAG, or…!

No matter which special area group I attend, whether it is Mathematics, Middle Years, MSLA, ManACE, MSSTA, or any of the other amazing groups of educators, I am always blown away by the incredible knowledge and wisdom possessed by my colleagues throughout the province.

This year, I am attending the Manitoba Social Science Teachers’ Association PD Day. (Although I am still lobbying to change the Social Science part of the group as History is a huge component of the day — and History is not a social science (I digress)). Whether you’re an Industrial Arts teacher, a school principal, a Physical Education specialist, or a Spanish language educator, I think this year’s MSSTA conference has something for all of us. Here’s my pitch:

The Keynote — What can I say?! The folks at MSSTA have secured Stephen Lewis as the keynote speaker. As former leader of the Ontario NDP, the founder of the Stephen Lewis foundation, and of course Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations. If you profess to want your learners to become global citizens, this is a must see keynote from an incredible example of what it means to be a global citizen. He is also the father of Avi Lewis and father-in-law of Naomi Klein, founders of the Leap Manifesto.

Morning Session — A must for the morning session is also the session devoted to Model United Nations. (MUNA.) If you teach Grade 9 Social Studies (Canada in the Contemporary World) or Grade 12 Global Issues, this is essential PD for you. Model United Nations, which takes place every May at CMU is possibly one of the most educative experiences for young people and educators to take part in.

coverAfternoon Session — If you’re a teacher of the History of Canada, the session on Western Canada at War is for you. In this session, the Manitoba Historical Society will provide a free copy of its journal from last year with a resource package. Participants will be asked to help create learning experiences, using the Six Historical Thinking Concepts, so that we can launch these into to the ether. (Psst…the Big Six are part of the Manitoba Curriculum and we have to teach them.)

This is a free resource and an opportunity to jam with other history teachers.

So there’s my pitch! Take it or leave and we’ll see you all out-and-about on October 20th!

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Teaching Canadian History

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Over the past few months, I have been asked by a handful of fellow educators how I go about teaching Canadian history. As I am moving away from classroom teaching into an administrative role, I am somewhat saddened that I will not be directly designing learning experiences for learners, but grateful that these educators have prompted me to reflect on the past eight years of learning design.

When designing learning experiences related to the history of Canada, I tend not to start where I am at. I try not to inject my interests or experience into the design. As such, I angle away from the idea of beginning at a certain point — say Confederation — or from a thematic perspective. These two ideas seem to resonate as the central pillars in instructional design, but not necessarily in learning design.

Where I try to begin, and I should say that I fail often, is with two key ideas. The first is the experience of the learner and the second is with the very idea of history itself. In terms of the experience of the learner, I believe that it is critical that we come to know our students deeply before we begin to design learning experiences that are meaningful and educative in nature. This might well mean that our exploration of Canadian history might not delve into areas where we deem ourselves as experts. In fact on many occasions, I have been forced to leap out of my comfort zone and engage in discussions about areas of history that quite frankly I was ignorant. These are always the most fruitful explorations!

Learning about the experience of our learners also allows us to design with place in mind. Understanding what our learners understand about their territory, their city, the local ecosystems, and the biosphere itself, can help us plan future experiences. I often begin each year with an exploration as to what my learners know about Red River. Our exploration of Canadian history generally stems from a discussion about the rivers, the land, and their experience with the geography. From there, I often introduce Joseph Boyden’s Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont as a means of exploring the geography in an historical way. This also means that we need to get out of the classroom, explore the Forks, Fort Garry, and Union Station to begin to see how the landscape changed over the past three hundred years. (This is also a good time to introduce the historical thinking skills.)

Joel Westhiemer, in What Kind of Citizen?, suggests that understanding the roots of our learners is critical to learning design within the humanities. He suggests that what is important is “Root instruction in local contexts, working within your own specific surroundings and circumstances because it is not possible to teach democratic forms of thinking without providing an environment to think about.” (p. 80). For many of our young people, place is a central experience and something that they are attached to.

This emphasis on place has taken past learning communities I have been associated with on explorations of the HBC, feminist perspectives, and the Winnipeg General Strike. All of these bring in the notions of theme and chronology, but most importantly, become driven by the learner’s passion and experience.

Second, I have relied heavily on the contemplation of what history is to drive our learning and learning design. The Manitoba curriculum places emphasis on answering “What is history?” and this is a theme I try to introduce in each meeting. This is a fantastic question to really assess where learners are coming from, and when they reach the point of disequilibrium and frustration, I generally nudge them in the direction of Desmond Morton, who in his book A Short History of Canada, offers this as a definition:

“Whatever our future, we should understand how Canada has travelled through its most recent centuries to the present. If we follow that voyage, our history will give us confidence to change and compromise and in some enduring truths about communities and families and human beings. It should also tell us that no ideas, however deeply held, last forever.” (p.ix).

As such, Morton suggests that history is about a collective and very human experience. It is not simply a study of the past, but it is a quest to understand why it is we exist on this planet. What greater voyage could we embark on with our learners? Pulling this idea into every meeting grounds learning communities into a quest that reaches far beyond tests, quizzes, and the regurgitation of someone else’s story. History becomes a quest of sense making and a search for meaning.

So for those incredible educators who have been toying with how to design their learning experiences this year within the context of Canadian history, I leave you with these tiny nuggets from my past experience. Listen to your learners and challenge them to make meaning out of our collective and short experience on Earth.

 

 

 

 

PechaKucha Youth Night

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On June 16th, PechaKucha Winnipeg is inviting youth in the Global Issues course to participate in the first ever PechaKucha Winnipeg Youth Night. The evening will take place at the Park Theatre in Winnipeg.

PechaKucha presentations require presenters to create 20 slides which move every 20 seconds, whether they like it or not. These types of presentations have proven highly effective and rigorous and are a perfect fit for the Grade 12 Global Issues course. All students in Manitoba who take the Global Issues course are tasked with an inquiry project called a Take Action Process. Many educators have found that the PechaKucha presentation is a perfect vehicle for learners to discuss their planning and process while presenting their action in a compelling manner. (See an example below.)

Ad Culture to Permaculture – PechaKucha Victoria #10 from Christopher Heffley on Vimeo.

If you are a teacher or parent of a Global Issues students or if you are a Global Issues student and want to present you Take Action Project on June 16th at the PechaKucha Youth night on June 16th, please fill out the following form. Deadline for application is March 16th, 2016.

 

CBC Resources of the Week

420px-CBC_Logo_1974-1986.svgIf you teach a Grade 9 Social Studies, or Canada in the Contemporary World, in Manitoba, the CBC essentially taught the course in one weekend.

Here are some highlights that I will be using this week:

CBC The 180 with Jim Brown interviewed Mark Jarvis from the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto. Jarvis has created a map that essentially looks at statistics related to wellness of Canadians based on the incredible US version created by the New York Times.

Jarvis found, however, that it was really difficult to create a similar map for Canada, given that there is a limitation to our data. He suggests that is is due to the cancelling of the long-form census of the Harper Government. Here is the Mowat’s Centre’s Map, complete with areas in grey that have no data. (Note how much of Manitoba is in grey.)

Mowat Centre: Where are the Hardest Places to Live?

The map itself can help students tell the story of Canada in terms of colonialism, resources, physical geography, climate, drainage basins, etc.

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On The House with Evan Solomon, panelists weighed in on the fact that the Conservatives have announced they will not be participating in federal debates organized by the media consortium. Mark Kennedy and Jennifer Ditchburn discuss the rationale behind controlling the debates and the affect this might have on the voter and democracy.

The At Issue Panel on the National also weighed in on the Conservative plan: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/at-issue-the-debate-over-debates-1.2974978

haulin-oatsIn terms of Law, Terry O’Reilly, host of Under the Influence, had an incredible show on famous lawsuits, Tort Law, and the entire area of Civil Law. I think I might use this by having students create statements of claims and defences, assuming roles for either the plaintiff or the respondent.

On Spark with Nora Young, they looked at how video games of the future will be focusing on empathy as a major outcome of the gaming experience. In the game War of Mine, students can contemplate the role of media/games in society and also learn about the conflict in Bosnia, about Canada’s peacekeeping role, and about genocide.

Lastly, again on The 180, Jason Kirby of MacLean’s Magazine provides a reality check on Canada’ economy, revealing some surprising facts and limitations of our economic foundation. Interestingly enough, Canada exports more fur to China than vehicles. Who knew?

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Canada’s Response to ISIS

Photo taken form the Guardian.

Photo taken form the Guardian.

As we know, Parliament recently voted to send support to help with the fight against ISIS in northern Iraq. As we read in the Globe and Mail, this amounted to six CF-18s, two bombers, and a refueling plane (not to mention 600 personnel).

The debate in Parliament has created a debate across the country as to what Canada’s role should be in the world.

Robert Fowler, a former diplomat and representative of Canada to the UN, has recently suggested that Canada’s plan will actually be destructive to the movement against ISIS. Below you will find an article from the Globe and Mail and an interview he performed on the CBC’s As it Happens.

CBC – As it Happens – October 6th, 2014

Folwer – Half Measures in the Fight Against the Islamic State…

What do you think? What should Canada’s role be in the fight against ISIS? Do you agree with Mr. Fowler?

In response, be sure to have a strong research question and thesis and use evidence to support all claims that which you make. Respond to your colleagues with dignity and decorum.

Bio on Fowler from the Globe and Mail:

Robert R. Fowler is a Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the author of A Season in Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda. He has served as a foreign-policy adviser to three Canadian prime ministers, as personal representative to Africa for three others, and as deputy minister of national defence, and was Canada’s longest-serving ambassador to the United Nations.

Robert Fowler – A Season in Hell from Matt Henderson on Vimeo.