Tuesday, 22 September 2015

BrockU EDUC 3P00 - Foundations of Curriculum


I am thrilled to be part of another teaching team at Brock University for the 2015/2016 academic year. This year I am a teaching assistant for the undergraduate course: EDUC 3P00 Foundations of Curriculum.

Image screenshot from current EDUC3P00 Syllabus 2015
The course consists of two hours of lecture every week 

Photo by: Monica Taylor, Sept 18 2015 

& one hour of seminar every week

Photo by: Monica Taylor
In seminar, students are expected to prepare for seminars in the following way: 

Image screenshot from current EDUC3P00 Syllabus 2015
In this week's seminars, we are exploring the first two readings by visually representing their content. The students were asked to create a poster that included the most important and relevant information for the concept given. There are six groups (teams) in each seminar. The weekly reading was easily separated into six main concepts. The thoughts of both Parker Palmer and John Dewey on curriculum and educational philosophy made two teams. The educational philosophies essentialism, perenialism, progressivism, and reconstructivism made up the remaining four teams. Check out some of the final products below from Seminar 2 (Tuesday morning)! The groups had such interesting explanations for some of the visual metaphors and illustrations! 

Friday, 11 September 2015

An Educator's New Years Resolution!

Have you ever felt that wonderful, exciting, fresh, new feeling when the new school year starts in September? 

As an educator I often find that my yearly big rejuvenation moment happens at this time of the year when I begin my new journey as both an educator and student. I like to think that for educators, the first day of school in September feels more like the New Year than January 1st! 

Following a classic New Year's tradition, I have decided to make five New Year's resolutions for the upcoming school year. I encourage you to think of some resolutions for the new school year. Or this may be a great time (half way through the year) to revisit the New Year's resolutions that you made in January and check in on your progress! 

Monica's 2015/2016 Resolutions

  1. Participate in an aspect of #edchat every day. Blogging, twitter, OSSEMOOC, pinterest, or writing content for Sakai or student websites. 
  2. Carry a bottle of water wherever I go! I am more likely to drink the right amount of water daily if I do not have to go get it when I am thirsty. 
  3. Respond to all e-mails and calls within 24 hours. 
  4. Take as many teaching opportunities as possible! 
  5. Work on my thesis research every day. Make at least one positive contribution to the project. 

What are your resolutions for this coming year? Please feel free to share in the comments below! 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Top 10 Twitter Accounts to Follow This Year: FOR EDUCATORS

Although this list is constantly being updated as I discover new and educationally relevant Twitter accounts, I am very pleased with my current Summer list of favourites. This list is for educators looking for awesome education related Twitter accounts to follow!

Enjoy browsing, retweeting, and getting inspired!


10. @LibraryLadyJane

WHY:  She is a hilarious librarian that contributes her wit and intellect to the very popular website theonion.com and their grammar infographics as well as maintaining her own twitter account. Check out her twitter for helpful and hilarious tweets!

9. @RochelleTkach 

WHY: Rochelle is a Masters student at Brock University and has dedicated herself to improving online education and technology communication and learning! Fantastic Twitter account. Full of a wide variety of #edtech.

8. @mrsbedor  

WHY: A former teacher at my high school in the Upper Canada District School Board. Creative, energetic, and motivational Twitter page with multiple avenues of education information. Looking for a Twitter account to make you smile? This is the one for you!


WHY: Such a great collection of resources for lesson planning. Twitter account offers suggestions, reminders, tips & tricks, as well as links to more in depth learning and information.

6. @avivaloca   

WHY: She is an Ontario based elementary school educator. One of the most involved and consistent users of Twitter in the classroom I have seen. If you are looking for inspiration for #edtech in the classroom, this blog is for you!


WHY: Librarians know best! Jen Theissen is a Librarian at Brock University and specializes in assisting Master and PHD students. Her Twitter is a great collection of tips for researching, writing, educating, and finding information!

4. @crutherford  

WHY: This Twitter account is well maintained by a Brock University Education professor! She posts a wide variety of informational and educational posts. Her blog is also a great read if you are looking for examples of a fantastic blog!

3. @hemremmem  

WHY: Insights from a DSBN Superintendent in 140 characters or less! Fabulous twitter account full of local and globally relevant posts about education, being a student, and succeeding as an education team!

2. @markwcarbone  

WHY: This account was one of the first I ever followed! Check out his contributions to #OSSEMOOC and the wonderful world of sharing information online. Comedic. Informative. Consistent. Always well-done!

1. @Jason_Ribeiro   

WHY: Jason Ribeiro is kind of like a personal research hero of mine. Heavily involved in the Brock University academic community, this grad student has made a name for himself by researching and sharing information about #edchat and online learning.

Thank you for reading! Check out my Twitter account and accounts under my Following tab to see who else I am following on Twitter! 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Designing a new classroom!

Early this spring, my students and I moved to a new classroom. The task of designing and decorating the classroom became a central focus of weekly brainstorming sessions. The students were very interested in being included in the decision making process for the content in the room.

I have been excited to share the before and after photos with my lovely readers. 

Student Suggestions 
When asked about what they would like to have on the walls, the top three (unanimous) suggestions were: 

1. Helpful grammar tips and tricks 
2. Inspiring words or messages 
3. Reminders for better reading and writing 

Before & After Design Photos 
Main work station - before and after 

Room divider (for two simultaneous tutoring sessions) - before and after 

Information wall - before and after 

Panorama View 

Designing the classroom with the students proved to be an amazing way to re-create the feeling of community at the school. With many of my tutoring students coming to the centre separately for instruction, many students do not get to interact with others when they are there. When the students know that they have all contributed to the design of the room they feel more connected to the whole student body, even when they are not there together.

All my best,

Ms. Taylor 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Pinterest, the Educator, and the Blog

As a new, twenty-something educator and researcher, one of the best lessons I have learned is to look everywhere! There seems to be no shortage of educated related information if you know where to look for it.
for information

At first, it seemed like an overwhelming task to begin searching through it all and make meaning and connections that relate to my own work, thesis, and teaching philosophy. I began choosing a few media platforms to investigate at the beginning of 2014 and decided upon Pinterest, Twitter, and Blogspot.com. This post will be dedicated to Pinterest.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a free, personalized media sharing platform that allows users to create themed collections of content (called pinboards) by uploading, saving, sorting, and managing images and other media content (called pins). Pinterest can be used to create and organize content for multiple purposes. Users can have one main use for their pinterest account (professional, research based, personal, informational, investigatory, promotional). Users may also choose to have multiple uses for their pinterest account. For example, a teacher may use his/her pinterest account to organize and find ideas for the classroom, for home decorating, for recipes, and for other miscellaneous interests.

How educators are using it?

Finding education related content is simple using Pinterest. You can start by typing 'education' into the search bar and exploring education focused users (Pinners) or specific user collections (boards/pinboards).

Once you find Pinners who are posting content that you are interested in, following them allows for their content to show up on your home page. Similarly, when you repin (a pinterest function that means re-posting another user's pin to one of your boards) related content will be suggested to you on your home page.

See The Teacher's Guide to Pinterest from edudemic.com. (Infographic photo credit from website).

How I am using Pinterest

I have been actively pinning for over two years! I originally began using Pinterest as a way to collect wardrobe, nutrition, and photography ideas. I began to see how useful Pinterest could be for my professional life as I began to repin from successful educators from across the world.

I completed my Bachelor of Education at Brock University in 2013/2014 and am proud to say that inspiration from Pinterest made it's way into all three of my teaching blocks. Now that I have been using Pinterest to inform my teaching practices (teaching assistant at Brock U, tutoring privately, and in-school teaching) I am actively mindful of ways that Pinterest can inform me and how I can use Pinterest to inform others! I have decided to start including two of my Pinterest Pinboards to the side of my blog. I have chosen 'Education' and "Tutoring' as the two boards I feel would benefit my audience best. A snapshot of my current education-related pinboards available on my page.

Happy Pinning!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Words of Wisdom: The Law of Balance

The Law of Balance: Finding the Middle Way 

If gravity is the glue
That holds the universe together, 
Balance is the key
That unlocks its secrets. 
Balance applies
To our body, mind, and emotions. 
To all levels of our being. 
It reminds us that anything we do, 
We can overdo or underdo,
And that if the pendulum
Of our lives or habits
Swings too far to one side,
It will inevitably swing to the other. 

Millman, D. (1995). The laws of spirit: A tale of transformation (p.9). Tiburon, CA: H.J. Kramer. 

(One of my 'happy places' on Georgian Bay. Photo reminds me to consider balance. 
Photo: Summer 2012. Photo by: L. H.)

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Research Rant: Getting Started

Where to start... where to start?!

This seems to be a problem that my fellow full time Masters of Education colleagues and I have faced. When it comes to writing our masters research paper (MRP) or thesis (what I am doing), it can be hard to pick a place to start. More often than not, this uncertainty leads to major procrastination or unorganized research attempts.

I have personally found that rationally telling myself that I have already started... that I have already jumped from the diving board helps to keep me motivated. It is often my highly detailed mind that wants my first 'jump into the thesis pool' to be calculated and 'just right'. This often keeps me from jumping because I worry that I won't be able to create something wonderful or 'perfect' if I start off on the wrong foot.

Some times you have to realize you are ALREADY in mid air! The decision now is not where, when, or how to jump but how to land!

(Personal photo: Our sometimes-brave dog Dover jumping into the cottage water 1997)

I decided to begin writing with my SECOND chapter (literature review) instead of the intro chapter. I find this makes more sense for how I needed to start gathering my information. I like to call this literature review phase the 'while I am still in the air' phase. While I am here (and it feels like I have been hanging midair for a few weeks now) I can see my landing (writing the intro chapter) much clearer. 


1. My advice to anyone out there writing.... well... anything, is to just start writing. Something! Anything! It is easier to edit, change, and add on to something that exists. It is hard to enhance and build upon a blank word document! 

2. My second piece of advice is to find a way to organize your research so you do not waste time going back to re-read or find accurate citations for the work you are doing. Be efficient. Be organized. More about this to come in an upcoming blog. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Tutoring with Taylor: Tyranny of Time

For the past year I have been working as a tutor for a private tutoring company in the Niagara Region.

My students range from grades 3 through to grade 12 (and up to fourth year University/College). Each student is tutored individually between 1-3 hours a week. Most of my students are ESL and have been in Canada for no more than 10 years (most from South Korea). 'Tutoring with Taylor' consists of a blend of English/ESL, literacy skills, conversational skill building, academic skill building, and a meta-cognitive approach to understanding and guiding their own academic paths. Currently I have 18 students a week each with a unique set of units designed for the summer. 

I have been looking forward to publishing a series of blog posts dedicated to my adventures with tutoring these students and this academic material. I have been enlightened and exposed to a new adventure of education and learning that has positively influenced my teaching philosophy.

One of my students has been writing a novel as part of our tutoring experience. We have been frequently discussing the concept of time and how there never seems to be enough of it. We began to pull that idea apart to discover what exactly the characters in his book (and us in reflection) are experiencing when they "do not have enough time". We are calling it our 'tyranny of time dilemma'. His character is struggling with not having enough time in each day to be as lazy as she wants, and as productive as she wants. I can certainly relate to that.

I am a big believer in effective and mindful time management. I have have worked time management skill building into my tutoring lessons with each student. I have found that the quality of homework has increased because students are actively planning time to complete homework AND to edit the work before submission.

I try as best I can to 'practice what I preach' and set time aside for writing (anything other than my thesis) and for being creative (taking photos or blogging). I am hoping to use blogging & photography as a component of my reflective teaching practice while continuing on this tutoring journey.

Here is a photo of a storm rolling across Brock University two days ago as I sat in the library and began to write this post on May 27, 2015. Posted on my twitter page.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Mind Over Mood: A Personal Literacy Story

Mind Over Mood: Using The Text 

As part of an education graduate course at Brock University, I was asked to engage in an interview with a class member to bring forth an understanding of my own literacy story. A series of open-ended questions were asked that allowed me to engage with recent literacy based events.

I found that I gravitated towards reflecting and expressing my thoughts about the cognitive behavioral therapy that I have been engaging with for the past six years to cope with a generalized anxiety disorder. I was able to articulate how effective and valuable the engagement with the text Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think was to my personal and teaching philosophies. The text became the scaffolding that structured my meetings with my doctor and allowed me to continue learning, exploring, and reflecting when I was on my own. This, being the goal of CBT, is to enable mind over mood as a self-reflexive practice in all aspects of your life.

Five Pillars of Happiness 

One of the exercises that resonated with me deeply from this book is conceptualizing, understanding, and creating pillars of daily happiness. The idea is to create five things that you feel are the most important to achieve or do in order for you to have a positive, healthy, happy day. There are many examples of 'ideal pillars/ scaffolded pillars' that may help you to create your own. 

Scaffolded Pillars:
1. Eating properly/ drinking enough water
2. Getting proper sleep 
3. Connecting with loved ones
4. Connecting spiritually 
5.Getting your heart rate up 

Monica's Five Pillars of Happiness:
1. Getting proper sleep 
2. Eating well/ drinking water 
3. Engaging with someone I love 
4. Engaging with something I love 
5. Engaging spiritually / self reflection 

I challenged my EDUC 1F95 Seminars to consider and create their own pillars of happiness. This is the brainstorming that both of my classes completed as part of 'Happiness in Education' week. 

What are your daily pillars of happiness? 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

New Year! New Research!

It is official! 

I have officially decided to pursue a MEd thesis instead of a major research paper. As a full time graduate student I have the privilege to complete research of my choice as part of my program exit requirements. I had the opportunity to decide during my first semester the topic and scope of my research interests by taking various master’s courses and speaking with members of the department. The master’s courses that I took in the first semester are as follows; (1) Teaching, learning, & development of education, (2) Introduction to Research Methodologies, (3) Innovative Practices in Curriculum/Assessment (K-16), & (4) Developmental and Educational Issues in Children and Adolescents. This semester I am taking (1) Qualitative research methodology, & (2) Theories of Literacy.

I had begun this program this past September knowing that the driving force behind the rationale for taking my Masters now was that I was passionately curious about the power and potential that dramatic playbuilding can have on Qualitative research literature available to researchers. I wanted to seize this opportunity to be academically encouraged and challenged to expand and explore areas of educational research that need some attention and TLC to bring it into 21st century relevance for our students.

In order to frame the posts that will likely be occurring over the next two years about my research I would like to include a condensed version of my official research thesis plan!

Research Proposal: Monica Taylor
About the Study: Research Interests/Rationale

In collaboration with a local school board, a qualitative research study will be conducted to explore the elements of environmental literacy that currently exist in school communities. The study itself will be between 8-10 sessions in length, whereby secondary students workshop, rehearse, and create a play about the environment and students attitudes towards it (e.g., how do they feel about global warming, sustainability, eco-responsibility), as well as how the environment is perceived or talked about in schooled environments.  Once ready, this play will be presented to junior division students (e.g., grades 4-6) in order to gain access to a more comprehensive scan of students’ ideals around environmental issues.
Participating in DART 3F93 Social Issues Theatre for Community Engagement with Dr. Joe Norris allowed me to see the potential level of engagement and meaning-making of playbuilding and applied theatre techniques for participants and audiences alike. Using playbuilding as qualitative research method will provide student participants creative freedom to explore environmental literacy from a individualized, arts-based perspective.
With a boom in inquiry-based projects in the 21st century, collective responsibilities to engage in a more environmentally active society are necessary.  This is particularly the case with notions of sustainability and environmental consciousness. My undergraduate degree in dramatic arts and geography lends itself to a curiosity about the effectiveness of literacy initiatives that can enhance students understanding themselves as active 21st century agents of change for the environment. Additionally, discussions regarding literacy and effective literacy engagement initiatives have led me to a desire to research with students to actively explore current school environmental literacy initiatives.

Proposed Research Methodology
            The study methodology that will be used for this study is Playbuilding (Norris, 2009; Tarlington & Michaels, 1995) with case illustrations/vignettes. I chose this qualitative approach because: a) I have a background in theatre and studied this discipline in my undergraduate degrees (e.g., DART 3F93 Social Issues for Community Engagement); b) playbuilding allows me to work with two diverse groups of students and collect data on both; and c) an arts-based approach invites all voices and perspectives to be included. 

As mentioned above, I will work with secondary students in the Niagara region to develop and produce a 45-minute play that will be performed to a younger audience (i.e., junior grades). Data will be collected on both sets of study participants to get a wider understanding of environmental literacy in schooled settings. Data sources will include: a) interviews, b) surveys, c) focus groups, d) video of the devising and the play itself, e) photography, f) student blogs, and g) student work samples. Data will then be coded and categorized into relevant themes. Vignettes will be selected—those that highlight these significant thematic patterns in order to triangulate the data.

If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments about the proposal I would be overjoyed to hear from you!