Reviving the blog – a little update

Seems like I’ve had quite a long blogging break, but I am very excited and energized to get back into the mood and routine of writing. A little update on me… I’m now teaching at the Linden School here in Toronto. My work here focuses around 4 areas:

  1. Planning and teaching the Computer Studies courses (Grade 7-12)
  2. Revamping the communications strategy and initiatives for the school
  3. Supporting faculty and staff in technology integration and innovations
  4. Working with our IT consultant(s) to improve IT infrastructure and administration processes

It’s been a beautiful start to the school year – looking forward to sharing the stories with you.
-M

Media Coverage #4, includes interview

Here’s a Digital Journal feature article about me, my platform, and some of my perspectives on TDSB & the Trustee role, written by Andrew Moran.

TDSB Trustee candidate Monica Batac wants to innovate classrooms
Full URL: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/319209

Excerpt:

During municipal elections, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee contests usually do not garner much attention from voters or media outlets, but that could change this year as two by-elections are being held in Ward 17 Don Valley East and Ward 20 Scarborough-Agincourt.

Ward 20 voters will have 14 candidates to choose from on Feb. 27, including an exuberant Monica Batac, a classroom teacher who is completing her Master of Teaching degree at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute of Studies in Education.

DigitalJournal.com spoke with Batac to find out what makes her qualified to become a school trustee, understand the importance of such a position, what the TDSB can do to improve education and public awareness of trustee elections.

Read full article here.

Media coverage #2 – campaign

Ontario educator and blogger Doug Peterson wrote this article on me, entitled “Yoga and Politics.”  Some of the things he highlights: how we met, my experiences and perspectives, my social media and technology use, and what I bring to the table as Trustee for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Excerpt:

The use of social media just at election time is disingenuous.  I know that it’s a relatively new phenomenon to some but I think that I would really have a great deal of respect for someone who promises during her/his campaign to stay connected after the election to provide information directly to we taxpayers.  In fact, anyone who promises to live-tweet or live-blog during debates on bills would be guaranteed to get me to look strongly at their candidancy.

Even more impressive would be someone who is a known user of social media to spur conversations, debate issues, take a stand, etc. BEFORE the election.  For them to have a position already established and then to slide over to election mode would be the best possible scenario.

Voters in Scarborough-Agincourt have that opportunity in candidate for board of trustees, Monica Batac.  Monica is a an established social media user.  I first met her at the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia where she was just another Ontario Educator in the pack of us that learned and dined together.  At the time, she was going to school to get her Master’s Degree in Teaching.  We met up again at the ECOO Conference in Toronto.  What I particularly like about these events and the Ontario Educators that went to these two events is that the conversation is certainly not an echo chamber.  In our discussions, we talk and push each other to think about the WHYs that go with what we’re doing.  That is so helpful.

It was with a smile that I read that Monica was planning to run in Scarborough-Agincourt.  Monica has strong ideas and opinions about education and isn’t happy with the status quo.  I think that she’s perfectly placed to take on the challenge of representing people in that huge school district.

Many who head into political office do so with a machine behind them.  Monica’s working to build a social machine.  Whether it’s through her Facebook fan pageTwitter account, orpersonal website, she’s doing her best to build community to help spread her message.  Reading the content recently, she does have friends and followers, but not necessarily in Scarborough-Agincourt.  Hopefully, that grows as she heads towards the February 27th election date.  She did get a little bit of traditional media coverage which can be a challenge in a by-election.

So, how does a first time politician get money to run?  There have been a lot of fund raisers that I’ve heard of before but how about attending a Yoga Class together?  Is this a sign of new thinking to come?  Her friend Colin Harris already has blogged about her thoughts of planning and expecting excellence.  These are the sorts of things that we need driving education towards the future.

It would be terrific and a positive sign for the future that candidates who know and use the technology are taking the time to get elected and move the educational system forward.  I just wish that I could vote for her.

See full article, click here.

The new year brings a new trustee – my campaign begins…

On our first day of 2012, I would like to share an important message with you.

It is with the overwhelming support of my family and many colleagues, friends, and mentors that I will be running in the by-election for Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee for Ward 20 – Scarborough-Agincourt.  I am excited & encouraged for the next two months of campaigning.  I hope you will come along for the ride.

Over the past few months, I have considered the range of career opportunities available after graduation. Anything and everything under the sun has been suggested- from oversea teaching gigs, employment with local boards, to tutoring.  I’ve considered continuing my studies or entering the private sector.  As some of you may know, I have not been 100% convinced that one opportunity was better suited for me than another.

I have spent the last two years navigating and switching between my identities as student, teacher, educator/mentor, researcher, community member, and advocate.  Yes, I am a multi-purpose, multi-identity stakeholder in education.  Becoming the Trustee for Ward 20 would allow me to continue this often messy, complex, yet invigorating work.  This time though, it is beyond informal conversations with peers or teachers – it is with the stakeholders themselves and with some weight in decision-making.

My reflections, learning, and experiences have always brought me back to the big picture, the critical implications of our definitions, practices, and values of teaching, learning, and education.  Would you agree there is dissonance in what is and what could be?

We all know we’ve got work to do.  Let’s get the votes.

ECOO11/Minds on Media: Playing around with Stop Motion Animation

Better late than never, here are two videos from our playful exploration of Frames, an Animation and Digital Storytelling software (available through OSAPAC).  We were at the October 22, 2011 Minds on Media event/ECOO.  The wiki from the day is available here.

Special thanks to Kent Manning, he ran the Frames workshop.  The Wiki page dedicated to this workshop is here.

We did this under 15 minutes with lots of room for improvement (see the still shots of our hands?).  I recorded this with my iPad 2 and as you can tell, it was a little tricky.  I opted for this instead of a screen shot because it’s quite nice to see teachers get silly during “PD” play.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_IvOszwn_Y&w=420&h=315]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPeUPqx3d_o&w=420&h=315]

 

Exploring race & assumptions – initial work & reflections

I’ve spent the past 4 weeks immersed in a Grade 3 classroom, and while I would like to blog more generally about the experience, this post is about an isolated, introductory activity in anti-discriminatory education.

I began to plan some instruction and learning regarding Aboriginal Education and anti-discriminatory education.  The students, with the host teacher, had been immersed in a “Pioneers” unit for the past 2 months with brief mentions of the Aboriginals/Natives who lived in the land we now call Canada well before any of these early settlers.  In teaching the “Aboriginal” side to the unit (I have huge objections to the curricular and instructional divide in the first place, but that’s another discussion in and of itself!), I wanted the students to embark on an exploration and understanding of contemporary Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples.  I wanted to address our ideas about Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples within our own Canadian/Toronto context.

So I began by getting students to brainstorm, draw, and/or write about their ideas of Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples today. The verbal prompt was “When you hear the words ‘Native people(s) in Canada today’, what do you think of? What comes to mind?”

Here are 3 examples of students’ responses:

The students expressed a range of responses – everything from socially awkward encounters to notions of dark skin, hunting, living in teepees, using bows and arrows for tools, wearing animal loin cloths and red feathers.

Afterwards, I told the students that we were going to watch a video about a First Nations boy who lives in Toronto today.  The clip, roughly 20 or so minutes is entitled “Positively Native” from the Many Voices (1991) television series from TVOntario (a resource I strongly recommend for Ontario/Canadian educators for diversity/anti-discriminatory education). I didn’t do much questioning or prompting in terms of how to interpret or analyze the video, as I wanted to see what the students would get out of it.  We did a short whole class discussion, where students started to compare what they thought prior to and after the video regarding Aboriginal/First Nations/Native peoples today.  I wanted them to write down their thoughts right away without too much group analysis or instruction/guiding on my end.  The prompt was “After watching the video, have your ideas changed? Would you change on your brainstorm?”

Here are the same three students’ written responses after watching the video:

The students then went home for the day and I didn’t get around to looking at these responses until a few days later. I was both surprised in good ways and shocked in uncomfortable and unsettling ways with the range of responses.  The third example is that ideal – the student is able to compare previous, preconceived notions to one’s informed state.  The 2nd example shows some evidence of this thoughtful reflection, with some minor misconceptions remaining (tapping of mouth was not discussed as a “call” but rather a stereotype and derogatory action by others).  The first one was one of the shockers.  Despite learning about a young boy around their own age who was living in the same city, despite learning of his story of being bullied, despite seeing ignorant, misguided, and uninformed mass media portrayals & assumptions of his cultural heritage and practices… nothing has changed to alter this student’s perspective of who “Natives” are.  This specific example is most troubling to me – by getting to know one Native, the student has now made sweeping generalizations, that “I already knew about Natives because I knew someone who was Native… she was in my class.  She was very quiet but sometimes disturbing.”

Given the time restrictions of the course, I did not have the opportunity to revisit this particular lesson, but we did spend time Skyping with First Nations students from New Zealand and well as letter (with pictures) writing/sharing with a class on a fly-in reserve in Manitoba.  Here the students spoke directly to/saw these students – recognizing they act, talk, dress, and live very similar to us, that they are not as “foreign” or “different” as they imagine.

After all is said and done, what remains with me is an unsettling feeling.  As an educator, I must prioritize anti-discriminatory education.  The variance in the developments (or stagnation) of these students’ perspectives on another culture proves to me that this type of work needs to occur on a daily basis.  I wish I had more than 2 weeks to explore Aboriginal identities/cultures, let alone the students’ own exploration and construction of self-identities.

Thoughts or responses? Please share.