OTF Digital Literacy Workshop in Ottawa

If you would like to experience the ways of the digital world, OTF is offering a relaxed, fun-filled 3-day experience August 8-10, 2011 int Ottawa. You’ll learn to create a website to store and share resources, host your classroom calendar, set up a classroom blogging environment, find out just what is up with Twitter and many more ways to integrate the online world experience into your classroom. We’ll offer some Smartboard training, and present the leading Financial Literacy practices.

 Sign up here to experience how The Digital ClassWorks!

Syllabus here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Financial Literacy – The Medium is The Money

The integration of Financial Literacy throughout the curriculum is as ubiquitous as Media Literacy and the two are inter-related. Our students are bombarded with messages from the media, and most of the activities (i.e. social networking through Facebook, internet games) are fuelled by marketing. A quick look at Facebook shows it to be rife with games based on acquisition of goods, and real-world finances meet online games through redeemable coupons. The line between reality and artifice is blurry. Advertising Standards Canada is a great site to introduce truth in advertising and has a student-friendly video to that effect. The Media Awareness Network excels in the area of marketing tips and explains such techniques as: • credibility of information – critical eye • POV/Bias • advertising awareness • emotional/social triggers • social media isolation • brand loyalty • Buzz marketing – cool to be part of chat • commercialization of education They have a downloadable lesson for grades 6-9 on “Online Marketing to Kids” that discusses the similarities and differences between traditional marketing methods and online advertising and why the Internet is such a desirable medium for advertisers to reach young people. Student activities include a survey of the marketing techniques used on several commercial Web sites for children; the creation of a commercial Web site for kids that incorporates common marketing strategies; and an analysis of case studies about online marketing to young people.

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Using Big Ideas to Explore Financial Literacy

The intent of A Sound Investment : Financial Literacy Education in Ontario Schools is to raise awareness of Financial Literacy across the curriculum. Teachers thinking about how to incorporate this directive into their already crowded curriculum may want to consider Big Idea learning modules. These units go by many names – project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, student-centred learning, constructivism –  but the key component is a backward design driven approach which allows students to focus on the part of the learning process that they do best, and for the teachers to focus on the part of the learning process for which they have the unique skills and experience.

In Teaching the Digital Native, 2010, Prensky breaks that down thusly:


  • Find and follow their passion
  • Use whatever technology is available
  • Research and find information
  • Create presentations in text and multi-media


  • Ask the right questions (The Big Ideas) –  can be student/teacher
  • Guide, provide ongoing feedback
  • Contextualize material
  • Individualize (learning styles, needs, interests)
  • Create rigor and ensure quality

Criticial Thinking is

  • Evaluative – judgements
  • Criteria and evidence based
  • Reasoned and reflective

So let’s examine what this may look like in practice. Suppose your class wanted to participate in a Greening the Schoolyard project. What initial discussions could you have? The cost of trees vs plants, soil, labour, tools, community support all are rich conversation prompts and provide opportunities to integrate financial literacy. Next you would probably discuss how you would raise the money. A bake sale prompts discussion on what is the cost of baking cookies, how do we maximize profit and other their other ways to earn money that would be more suitable.

What other cross-curriculum activities that you are already doing can you enrich with discussions about real-world costs and implications?

Posted in Uncategorized

Financial Literacy – Intro

Financial Literacy

The new Ministry Document “A Sound Investment: Financial Literacy Education in Ontario Schools” provides a rationale to support integration of financial literacy into all subject areas, Grades 4-12.

The Working Group behind the document asked stakeholders “Why is it important for Ontario students to be financially literate”. The answers were:

  • to make more informed choices in a complex and fast-changing world
  • financial literacy education provides a critical set of lifelong skills
  • financial literacy can improve prospects for the success of the child
  • financial literacy contributes to the development of knowledgeable, compassionate citizens

The Key Findings from these discussions are:

  • financial literacy’s role in supporting student success and addressing social inequities.
  • the need to focus on core content and competencies (e.g. the concepts of income, money, saving, spending, etc, how the financial system works, and how to plan for life after school.)
  • supporting teachers in the classroom
  • establishing ways to measure progress,
  • engaging the community stakeholders
  • establishing leadership for the initiative


  • The need to optimize technology in support of financial literacy education

The document states that this can include simulations, assessment tools, and related resources, blogs and websites linked to consumer education media. I would add the importance of media literacy, website analysis and marketing awareness, collaborative inquiry using Cloud Computing, and real-world, project-based learning (e.g. fundraising for schoolyard greening initiatives, choosing the best method, consulting with the city, etc). Our students are being bombarded with massive amounts of alluring ways to spend their and their parents’ money and financial literacy offers comprehensive and relevant ways to engage the students in the context of their digital and social world.

My next few blogs will cover some of the tools and concepts needed for all teachers to understand and integrate Financial Literacy into the curriculum.

It only makes common Cent$.

Posted in Curriculum Connections

What’s in your Wordle?

What’s in your Wordle?

An interesting way to analyze themes in written text is to use a Wordle. What this application does is create a visual representation of the most common words used throughout the text and represent them according to size. The larger the word, the more it has been mentioned. There are various colour and orientation options.

But how can we use this device for critical analysis and reflection?

I copied and pasted the text from the articles I have written for the last year for the Technology Times into the device. I wondered if my musings reflected who I am as an educator and my predominant beliefs. I write these articles with a particular audience in mind, and I wondered if my message was clear.

This is the graphic illustration of my thoughts.

 I was pleased that the largest word was “students”, for this represents my over-arching priority which frames my philosophy of education. Next in size is the word “learning”. Great. That is not only what I believe, but the message I want to convey. As I looked deeper, I see many words like “differentiation” and “comments”, strong blocks in my pedagogical foundation. 

So here’s an idea for your students’ reflective portfolios. Have them copy and paste their writing into the Wordle, and de-construct the words and thoughts behind them. If they don’t have digital examples of their writing, have them choose a poem, or short story that resonates with their thinking or makes a connection to their world-view. They can’t help but think about what they have written, or read, look for the big ideas, and reflect on choices. Using a wordle can give feedback and affirmation. I know it just did that for me.

Posted in The Cloud Generation | 3 Comments

Lost and Found

The power of the personal narrative is strong as evidenced by posts from colleagues such as Shannon Smith and Chris Wjer. Both blogs give open access to feelings of disappointments, broken dreams and the strength to find your own set of beliefs. As educators we must embrace this message, and find our way through a system strewn with standards, competitions, and races that exclude and make judgments, despite all rhetoric and research to disprove this approach.

And we need to value differences and change, and give our students a chance to make their opinions about their world, and what it is they want to do with it, heard.

One such student was my son, who breezed through high school with his gaggle of friends, who I called the Lost Boys. There were bright, articulate and totally disengaged for four years. In a French Immersion academic program, he played the game well enough to get admitted to university. (Disclaimer, I filled out his application form). As a teacher, and an academic learner, I assumed all was going according to (MY) plan.

But this was the boy who told me in Kindergarten he wasn’t going to the “grades”. And he literally didn’t. First day Grade 1 was a mess.

Robert knew what he wanted to do, unlike many of his friends. He started working as a carpenter, did the go west young man thing,  thankfully came home in one piece (!) and entered an apprentice program. Today he is a licensed carpenter and owns his first fixer-upper in a neighbourhood on the move. He is 23.

What this child has taught me is to see others through their own lens, and do what I can to enable that path, not the one that works for me.

If I can do that for other children, then I will be doing what I love to do.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Collaboration – Staying Connected #cck11

Many of us are fortunate to attend great PD sessions and conferences where the conversations and enthusiasm reign high.  What isn’t always heard in these conversations is how to maintain and ignite the fires when we return to our busy school environments.

Are we able to incorporate  Inquiry and Critical Thinking into our next history lesson? Is the equipment available to our school capable of supporting a philosophy of connecting, blogging, tweeting, or media construction? Are our colleagues, administrators and parents in our schools ready for some new, BIG ideas? One thing we probably don’t think twice about is whether our students are ready for creativity and relevance. So how do you champion for change?

Dave Meister asked yesterday “Are You Willing to Connect?” and our networked community responded enthusiastically, on a Saturday afternoon! Aviva Dunsiger set up a Google Doc and we were off, in a flurry of brainstorming and idea-generation.


Quickly over 20 people were participating and there’s always room for more. Please contact @barbaram or @grade 1 for the link, or email me at barbaramworks@gmail.com .

Our discussion thus far focuses on some practical examples of staff PD, sharing best practices via Skype or Eluminate and having some fulsome discussions surrounding successes and challenges. There is a  palpable concern that this will be yet another discussion, and that echoes what we heard at the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21stC. While we engaged in terrific brainstorming about deep learnings and social connections, the hands-on portion on the third day really helped contextualize and reinforce concepts. Plans are underway to continue the OTF connections through Eluminate with session presenters.

Seems to me that we should be rolling some of this together, if possible, as we take the next steps toward Connecting, on the ground, and in the Cloud.

Posted in The Cloud Generation | 1 Comment