Thursday, 26 January 2017

First Peoples Principles of Learning In Action

This video was recently created to highlight some of the exciting approaches being used in classrooms from K-12 in SD67.  Teachers who are intentionally working to bring the First Peoples Principles of Learning (FPPL) into their practice are using engaging activities such as taking their kids outside, partnering students of different ages and grade levels together, bringing in more experiential hands-on elements, connecting with members of the community, and helping students connect their learning with their personal strengths and identity. A focus on the First Peoples Principles is creating classrooms where teachers and students are finding learning more meaningful and relevant.

While it is essential for teachers to acknowledge that what they are doing connects with the First Peoples Principles of Learning, it is equally important to recognize that we are only in the beginning stages of understanding the complexity and historical context of Indigenous educational approaches. The main purpose of this video is to help teachers recognize the potential for incorporating these ideas into their own teaching, but it simultaneously runs the risk of oversimplifying the FPPL.

In our work we sometimes hear the comment “Isn’t this just good teaching?"  or "What makes this Indigenous?"  Here are some things that are important to consider as we move forward.

1. The First Peoples Principles of Learning originated from Indigenous communities and societies.  These are methods and philosophies of teaching and learning that have been practiced for as long as Indigenous communities have existed which long predates the creation of our current educational system.

2. It is irrational to infer that our North American education system has historically reflected the philosophies and approaches represented by the First Peoples Principles of Learning.  Educational practices that have traditionally been used in North America and Europe bear little resemblance to the FPPL.  Traditionally, our system has focused on control, compliance, competition, regulation, production and standardization.  The goal has been to been to educate the largest number of students as efficiently as possible.

3. While it is certainly encouraging that current research on optimal learning environments (from groups such as the CEA and OECD) is compatible with the First Peoples Principles of Learning,  it is important to recognize that these principles have always been recognized by Indigenous societies and it is only now that these approaches to learning are being widely acknowledged by Eurocentric educators and researchers.

This video is an exciting example of positive things that are happening in our district when the First Peoples Principles are embedded within our current framework.  We want to continue to celebrate and support teachers in this work, while also acknowledging that this is just the beginning.

Note: A highly recommended resource for developing a greater understanding of the First Peoples Principles of Learning is Jo Chrona's Website.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Transforming Physical Space

 This year, the Social Studies department at Princess Margaret bought a small can of vibrant green paint and painted one of the walls in a vacant classroom. Now it is a multimedia center. Students with cellphones can now “green screen” video themselves to any location in the world. Using an ipad with a free app, students can stand against the wall, or sit at a desk in front of it and deliver newscasts with live footage and cool locations in the background.  

The green screen wall has so far been used by Social Studies and Geography classes; and now the French and Art classes are clamoring for the room. The green screen wall has become so popular that at times, we are competing for its use.  Some teachers have taken long sheets of green paper off of the rolls in our supply room and put them up on walls or onto bank of lockers and then take it off when done. Instant pop-up green screen!

The use of the green screen has also made me think about  other ways we could transform
the physical structure of our classrooms into  better learning environments. Wouldn’t it be cool if instead of regular linoleum, we could get linoleum stamped with a world map? Or periodic table?  At some universities, there are no chalkboards or whiteboads in some rooms. Every wall is covered in “Idea Paint” (basically, painted floor to ceiling with whiteboard covering) which means every wall can serve as a projection area or as an area to write upon! What a cool step in the right direction.

Submitted by Jeff Fitton