To Become a Baker Extraordinaire

For my Learning Project, I decided to improve my baking skills, specifically with French desserts.

In my last post, I mentioned that I had found a gallery of French desserts and I would pick ten of the desserts to try over the course of the semester.  I made sure to pick desserts that I’ve never tried to make before.

I wanted to scale my learning, so I decided to try and categorize the desserts from easiest to hardest.  Using The Cordon Bleu PDF I found online, I was able to categorize half of the desserts based on which module they fell under. For the other half, I looked at some recipes online and moved them into a category based on the ease of the recipe.  The three categories I used are the three courses offered by the Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Basic (Easy), Intermediate (Medium) and Superior (Hard).

Here are my desserts, categorized by level:

Basic French Desserts 

Chocolate Mousse

Crème Brulée

Napoleons

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Photo Credit: rofi via Compfight cc

Intermediate French Desserts

Gascon-style Flan

Chocolate Truffles

Madeleines

Macarons

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Photo Credit: Pimoo via Compfight cc

Superior French Desserts

Chocolate Soufflé

Fruit Tarte

Croquembouche

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After I had decided which desserts I would attempt, I turned to my trusty Pinterest account, to find some recipes for each of my desserts. Now I should be all ready to begin my learning project!

But!

I have to establish a baseline!

I wrote last time that my friend thinks that I am an awful baker, but honestly, I have practiced quite a bit. My baking usually turns out for me.  I follow a recipe, read all the directions and usually, a great dessert appears at the end.

In order to establish a baking baseline, I decided to make a cake from scratch, with no recipe at all.  From previous experience, I knew what to put into a chocolate cake.  I wrote my list down and added amounts beside each item. (Kind of feeling like this mini chef.)

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Once I had created my own recipe, I decide to record myself making the chocolate cake! My inspiration for the video is from the Tasty videos that have been appearing on Facebook quite often.

Here is my no recipe chocolate cake!

It turned out really well! Turns out I needed more milk than I had originally planned, so I added more off-camera at one point. But otherwise, no movie magic! It tasted as good as it looks. I brought it to my inlaws for supper and my father-in-law had seconds! (He’s a picky eater, so this is a clear marker of my success!)

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With this recipe under my belt, I am excited to try my first French dessert. I’ve decided it will be Chocolate Mousse! Stay tuned!

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Developing a Personal Learning Network

This week one of my goals was to continue to expand my personal learning network.  I have been a member of Twitter since 2011 and have steadily used it more and more.  At first, I used it primarily to follow companies like Cracked, or Buzzfeed.  I also followed news companies like Time or CTV.

In those early days, I enjoyed reading through the curated list of entertaining articles and new stories.  Like a colleague of mine, I slowly got used to twitter by “lurking” instead of posting my own content.  It took six months for me to write my very first tweet.

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It was an auspicious first post, you can be sure.

Since then, I have used Twitter to connect with other like-minded people and now the accounts that I follow are comprised, for the most part, of other educators.  I now attempt to be part of the conversations and participate in various Twitter chats. I’m still learning, but I am enjoying feeling more connected.

This shift in my Twitter feed is mentioned in Howard Rheingold’s Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies.  In the article he talks about Reed’s Law:

The linear value of services that are aimed at individual users, the ‘square’ value from facilitating transactions, and the exponential value for facilitating group affiliations.

Quote: David P. Reed via Beyond Metcalfe’s Law to the Power of Community Building

Essentially, there are different ways to connect using networks.  You can use them to tune in, you can use them to connect peers and you can use them to create and join.   This scale seems to work with Twitter. You can be a passive observer, where news media, celebrities and entertainment sites generate content for you to tune in to.  The next step on the scale is to connect with others, sharing similar backgrounds or ideas.  The third scale would be creating new groups and content.

This article reminded me of Blooms taxonomy where, again, the top scale of understanding is creating, or generating new content.

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Photo Credit: Bloom’s Taxonomy

Another colleague of mine discussed the challenge of having deeper learning or conversations on Twitter in a recent blog post.  At first, it was hard for me to think of all the ways to use Twitter to learn from others. But, as you participate more and more on Twitter, you start to have conversations and learning takes off from there.  I love participating in Twitter chats and getting to hear ideas from other people. When I have conversations with them, I inevitably end up on their blog and learn more of their ideas beyond the 140 character limit of Twitter.

So far I have participated in #saskedchat and in #fslchat, both of which have helped me join the communities of Saskatchewan teachers and French teachers, respectively. I look forward to continuing to expand my personal learning network!

Let them eat cake!

A party without cake is just a meeting – Julia Child

It took me a long time to decide on my learning project for my EC&I 831 class.  I had numerous ideas that I wrote down and debated – with myself, with my husband, with coworkers and friends.  Until a friend, staying with us before her trip to Cuba, laughed and said “You should learn how to bake. You’re terrible at it.”

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I protested, because she’s known me since I was 8 – “Hey! I’ve learned how to bake! I’m okay at it now!”

Again, she laughed. And proceeded to tell my husband the story (again) of how I once made a cake and instead of adding 3/4 cups of water to the recipe, I added 3 or 4 cups of water.  I made the rest of the recipe correctly and I somehow pulled an inedible cement block of cake out of the oven later.

She came over to my house the same day of the cake incident and my mom told the two of us to go outside and do something.  We took the cement cake to the barn (as 12-year-olds this was a good idea.) When we threw the cake against the barn wall, it didn’t even break. (My friend has this story down pat, trust me.)

Now, some fifteen years later, I’ve honestly learned how to cook. I can even bake a little.  I have a Pinterest board, full of recipes of food. Some of the recipes are even desserts. They are mostly near the bottom, since it was fun to pin them at one point. A long time ago.  Out of all of the dessert recipes I have on Pinterest, I have made maybe five of them.  If they worked, I’ve made them again – some of them multiple times.

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Photo Credit: Elton E Photography via Compfight cc

So, after reflecting, I decided that I wanted to learn how to be a better baker. Specifically, a better French baker.  Essentially the opposite of Heather’s amazing idea.  My goal is to pick a few French dessert recipes from the internet and try to recreate them at home. I have a list to pick from – I know how much the internet loves lists. I found this one – 50 French Dessert Recipes.

For my project, I intend to pick ten desserts from the list and arrange them in order of easiest to hardest, trying to scaffold my French dessert learnings.  I’m still working out how to rank them from easiest to hardest. I found the Cordon Bleu of Ottawa’s PDF online of the requirements for their Diplôme de Pâtisserie. I thought that maybe I could see where the ten desserts I picked would fall in the modules – basic, intermediate or superior.

I am excited to use Pinterest, videos, cooking blogs and websites in my quest to learn how to make delicious French desserts!

 

Kindergarten Lens

I find myself looking at our readings always with a lens of a Kindergarten teacher.  I have had other roles since I’ve become a teacher.  (I currently teach 2/3 Education Artistique, 3/4 Arts Ed, 3/4 Core French and 7/8 Education Artistique in addition to my Kindergarten class.) However, I often find that when reading new information, I relate it to my five-year-old learners the most.

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I’m not certain sure why I think with a Kindergarten lens, (especially since my university training was that of a high school Core French teacher)  but 50% of my day is spent with five-year-olds, so I’ll roll with it.  When I listened to Pavan Arora’s talk about how Knowledge is Obsolete, I agreed with most of his points.  It’s true that the job landscape is changing very quickly.  The learners we produce need to be incredibly flexible.  I remember reading an article in my undergraduate classes about the fact that the average person will have ten different jobs before they are 40.  That number is even higher for the millennial generation.  I would assume that the number would be even higher for the kids who are currently in my Kindergarten class.

Now, find a job!

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One thing that Arora’s speech made me think about is the line “We’re going to have a Quantum Leap in Education. Finally.”  He’s referring to the fact that with the new technologies and innovations, we are finally going to have to have some sort of change to the education system.  Which is great.  I fully believe that we need to use and adapt new technologies into our every day plans in the classroom.

And then that one thought crosses my mind: Where does it start?  In Pre-K and K programs in Saskatchewan, the curriculum is that of play based learning.  We look at science concepts and art and even writing from a “playing” perspective.  And then in Grade One “real work” starts. No more play. Homework happens. Kids need to buckle down and learn to read.

This is where I start to have questions. I agree that we need to change, the system needs to be more flexible, adapting to the needs in our classroom and incorporating new technologies and knowledge as needed.  We need to provide students with the tools to access their own information and create new pathways to new knowledge. However – we have to start from somewhere. Do we need to stop, disconnect and teach children how to read before anything else amazing can happen?

Then I remembered reading about project that put computers into the hands of illiterate children and after a few months, they had taught themselves not only how to use the computer, but how to use it the way they wanted – for fun, for literacy, for knowledge. It would seem that kids, when given the opportunity, will use tools to teach themselves the skills they want to know.

However, this is not a complete “cure-all.”  Even before the previous article was written, there were already articles about studies showing that the laptops do not improve test scores.  (Although judging value of laptops based on test scores might not be the best idea) What the article mentions, though, is that guidance and leadership with these devices is what is really important.  Having children attend school regularly, with a teacher who is able to help them learn is incredibly beneficial.

Another article, Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0, added weight to these thoughts.  There is so much available online – from YouTube to Wikipedia. Students need a mediator, someone who is willing to guide them on their own path to their knowledge.

So back to the Kindergarten lens.  From what I see, I need to be able to equip the children in my class with the skills needed to go forth and learn things themselves. As Californian researchers Brown and Adler said, students need to be able to decide what to learn and then get that information, rather than teachers deciding what will be learned and then forcing that upon students.

We now need a new approach to learning—one characterized by a demand-pull rather than the traditional supply-push mode of building up an inventory of knowledge in students’ heads.

Quote: 2008 John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler

This, like Pavan Arora said, needs to be something that changes in our education system quickly – a Quantum Leap forward so that the five-year-olds in my class are not already left behind.

Redshirting (Not the Star Trek Kind)

This week my goal was to have chosen my Major Learning Project in my EC&I 831 course. By Tuesday.  And the deadline came and went.

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It’s not that I’m procrastinating starting the project, but that I have so many ideas of what to do. Of course, now that my colleagues are starting to post their ideas and share the beginnings of their projects, I’m overcome with jealousy (AKA why didn’t I think of that? That such a good idea!)

So, instead of writing another pro/con list about my potential project, I turned to the internet.  (Essentially procrastinating, yet under the guise of research!)

Two days ago I came across an article on Quartz about how we are sending kids to school too early.  The article talks about how a lot of parents are choosing to keep their children out of Kindergarten an extra year in order to help them in the long run.

We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73% for an average child at age 11

Quote: Thomas Dee

The article really hit home with me, as a Kindergarten teacher.  The timing of it was also crazy since I read about it the day after getting all of my Kindergarten registration things in order.  My school division recently changed the attendance boundaries of certain schools and my school happened to be one with an increase in boundary size.  With this new boundary size, I expect to have more Kindergartens in my classroom in the fall.

But according to this article, these Kindergarten kids that will be arriving this fall are a combination of kids who are still, technically, too young for Kindergarten and kids who have been “redshirted” and held back a year in order to be a little more ready for Kindergarten.

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My very own classroom!

And then September happens: the two groups of kids mix and the school team deals with the fallout. Kids who can’t hold a pencil or sit still long enough to pay attention are right beside the kids who have matured socially and had more time being children and are now ready to learn how to read and write.

Redshirting is definitely happening. I have two kids in my current Kindergarten class who are technically supposed to be in Grade One.  When parents choose to do it, they are sometimes pressured into putting their children into the age appropriate grade.  If your child is six years old, they are supposed to be in a Grade One classroom.  Even if they haven’t yet attended Kindergarten.

Our school division has asked the question this year of “What is Kindergarten Readiness?” It’s a question related to our strategic plan. There is a great divide when we are choosing to hold back some kids so that they can be “ready” for Kindergarten but are unable to hold them back when they are “not ready” for Grade One.

But, that is probably enough procrastination.  Time to get back to the pro/con list for my Major Learning Project. I definitely can’t redshirt this project – it’ll happen, ready or not.

Beginning a Blog

Welcome to the very first post on my “grown up” blog.

I have been teaching in Regina for five years now. I’ve taught Kindergarten to Grade 8 as a specialist – Phys Ed, Heath, Arts Ed, Core French and LLI. I’ve also been a French Immersion Kindergarten teacher for four of those years, half time Kindergarten, half time specialist.

I’m excited to use this blog in general and also as a tool to help me with my first Masters course ever.  I’ve blogged before – as a member of the millennial generation,  throughout my high school career (2004 – 2007) I was active online and chose to write my thoughts down in cyber space instead of using a pen and paper journal.

Getting to university, I deleted and changed and tried to erase online things that didn’t fit into the Professional Teacher Online Identity that I was trying to create. I’ve always been interested in technology and have belonged to almost all the popular social media sites at one point or another.

When I started teaching Kindergarten, I wanted a way to communicate with parents. I find that a lot of parents are stressed about their children entering the schooling system. More so if it’s your first child, but even with second and third children, every  new start is different and difficult. Therefore, I started a classroom blog as a way of digitizing a newsletter.

Every day I update exactly what we did that day in Kindergarten. I say what French vocabulary words we worked on or learned. I mention that library books are due tomorrow. I post pictures of children who have media releases signed and returned. Occasionally we will record a video and I’ll also include that on my blog.

Parents seem to love it. The only negative response I’ve had in the four years of writing the blog was one dad who “didn’t use the internet.”  Most responses are positive and parents check the site often.  So does my dad – a former teacher and principal – he enjoys the look into my crazy morning of French Kindergarten.

That being said, I guess I can’t define myself as a tech or blog newbie, even if I am using them in a way that I’ve never done before.  I am looking forward to the next semester and growing both as a teacher and a learner online.

Merci,

Ellen Lague