Thursday, 27 November 2014

What are Your Big Three?

This post was inspired by 8amber8 and her blog  Amber posted about what her big three are when it comes to admin. I thought I would come up with something new, something brilliant. Then I realized I am me and that's simply not possible.

I then returned to the tag line of my blog, these are and will be my big three:

Instruction LEADS, Relationships ENGAGE, Technology EMPOWERS!

Instruction leads the learning for staff and students in a school. Learning is the cornerstone, the foundation for everything we do. If we are not all learning effectively, what is the point? We need to ensure that we keep this focus when the maelstrom of issues get thrown at us, if we do this we will always have a focus and clarity to see us through to our goal.

The connections we make, the relationships we development with students and staff are the next most important thing we can do. It is the WHO we are, not the what we do that will bring our reluctant learners (students and staff) into our building, into our learning. These connections, both virtual and realtime, are truly what will help us maintain focus and direction in times of crisis or disruption. When we are able to show students and staff the relationships/connections between ideas and knowledge real learning happens.  Relationships/connections matter.

Once we have our learning, our instruction, our relationships and connections created we can truly empower learning for all. This empowerment can come from our use of technology as we give everyone in our school a voice. A voice they might not have had if it were not for our instruction, or relationships and if we did not empower them through the use of technology. Student voice will come from their ability to create tremendous products of their learning.

While I have a continuum for my big three, could I put them in a hierarchy? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What 21st Century Education Means to Me

Over the last several years, I have engaged in some professional dialogue and at times heated conversations regarding what education should look like.  More often than not I have pointed to the remarkable amount of change our world and society has seen over the last 200 years, yet how little the education system has changed.  As I enjoy this installment of the #peel21st blog hop, I am looking forward to seeing what learning should look like today.  Please don't forget to check out the other blog posts found at the bottom of this post.

Education needs to be about students and teachers being:

Teacher as:

Context maker,creator,  knowledge interrogator, skill coach.

Student as:

Content maker, creator, knowledge inventor, skill development driven. 


Through a co-learning approach where we synthesize and evaluate ideas  in order to create new information and new ideas.   

We become change makers as we discover connections between ideas, available content and people.  We are living the words of Alvin Toffler  - we learn, unlearn and relearn.  

We need to make:

A shift to real world experiences, where we engage in project based learning in both face-to-face and virtual environments to make connections between new ideas and connections with each other. Through this interaction, we will find relations between things we have tried too long to keep apart. These projects, connections and relations need to be grounded in a framework of critical thought that allows us to synthesize and evaluate the new information before us. 

That's it, that's all...I wrote this whole post without saying 21st Century or technology! Oh darn I just did!

Other blogs involved in this blog hop:

Susan Campo –
Josh Crozier -
Jim Cash –
Shivonne Lewis-Young –
Greg, Pearson –
Phil Young –
James Nunes –
Donald, Campbell –
Ken Dewar –
Graham Whisen –
Heather Lye –
Lynn Filliter –
Debbie Axiak –
Alicia Quennell –
Jonathan So –
Jim Blackwood –
Jason Richea –
Tina Zita –
Heather Lye @MsHLye
Engy Boutros @mrsboutros
George Couros @gcouros

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Once again technology is about connections

Last week I attended #BIT14 with a team of teachers from my school.  It was a great conference and my attendance at this conference once again reminded me that technology brings us together and it doesn't drive us apart.  Technology (social media and twitter et al) is about connections.

At this conference I was able to find several teachers I had taught with over 10 years ago by finding them on the #BIT14 hashtag.  I would have never looked them up had it not been for a conference on technology.  I found them using technology.

I renewed a friendship with a colleague from another board that I worked with on OHASSTA.  I think it had been about 4 years since we last talked.  Lots of great face-to-face conversations occurred and great ideas shared once technology let us find each other again.

Even though I work in the same school board as many of the attendees at the conference and have had twitter convos with them, it was our common desire to effectively use technology to reshape education that brought us together.  Twitter helped us find each other when we were in the same workshops together.

Finally, people I had followed and have been followed by on twitter were able to find me, and I them. I was able to meet people from across Canada, people I would not have known even existed if it were not for technology.

Technology brings people together, so that we can share ideas and learn from each other.

More than just a FLASH in the pan - professional learning and DEEP impact on teaching and learning

How do you ensure the excitement of learning from a conference, staff meeting, guest speaker or keynote moves beyond the event and gets embedded in your school?   How do you ensure deep impact?

Our school team just returned from BIT14. What a great conference with loads of exposure to new ideas of how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom. Our staff was pumped and their excitement only continued to grow as the the conference continued. Staff came back talking about what they learned, were tweeting out about their learning and even after the conference emailed and called me with their plans for implementation once we got back to our school.

As I sat at home on Friday evening, I started to reflect on our plan to stretch this excitement out to ensure that the knowledge gained at the BIT14 conference has a meaningfully impact at our school. Too often staff excitement that builds while they are immersed in professional learning at  a conference gets quickly eroded away as they return to school and the demands of our job (report cards, lesson plans, student issues, etc) way heavy on our time and we forget about what we have learned. I get it, I was there. So how do we get this learning and excitement to be more than a flash in the pan?

As we were at the conference, we would sit and debrief our learning over breakfast, at lunch and during dinner.  I started the conversation early over how do we bring this back to school, how to ensure our participation at the conference, our excitement and our new leanings has a long-lasting  and meaningful impact on our school.  I brought up the idea of 'first-followers" with our staff.  We discussed their role to bring the other teachers along at our school.  I talked about Derek Shivers' video, Leadership Dancing Guy, as a good example:

While our first followers are the ones that are already won over, it is the 2nd, 3rd and fourth followers who are even more important.  How do we get these staff involved?  For me this question and the answer, is important in stopping the flash in a pan syndrome.  This is our task, myself being the leadership dancing guy and those staff who attended, BIT14, the first followers need to accomplish.

Our Ideas (they are not in any order of significance):

  • Admin Support

Heck our principal approved staff attendance at the conference and is always willing to find creative ways to support staff in their learning.  Our admin team has a highly consultative process and reach out to staff in order to determine their professional learning needs.  Our Principal even wants to try an edcamp style staff meeting.  The support is there, the modelling is there, the direction is there.

  • Professional learning opportunities for all staff

We are hosting a series of connected lunch and learns using Microsoft Lync 2013.  This provides teachers access from their classroom, during their preparation periods or after school.  We took staff input on what they wanted to learn and will provide a series of workshops that are leveled (from noob to expert) in order to meet staff where they are.  We are creating a great collaborative culture where staff can learn from each other.  We have created groups of staff who are exploring Learning Management Systems to ensure they can support all of our staff. We work with our Instructional Technologies Resource Teachers to ensure they are available to directly support staff in their learning and teaching.  We have Professional Learning days, with dedicated teaching with technology time. This is also the same for an early release day as well.

  • Build a SAFE environment for staff

We are encouraging some risk/chance taking for staff.  We are encouraging staff to step out of their comfort zone. We are encouraging them to be creative and look at things from new perspectives.  Staff are supported in these adventures by admin and we have made it clear that while we will have the best intentions things will not always turn out the way we expect.  THAT IS OKAY!

  • Setting of goals for staff:

We have set four goals for first semester for staff to use as a target to shoot for.

  • Shift from focus on Technology to a focus on Teaching and Learning

Good teaching will always be good teaching and this needs to be our focus.  In good teaching the needs of the learner needs to be our focus. We are moving our focus to skills first technology second. We need to provide students with meaningful learning opportunities that engages them in a process of content creation rather than content consumption.

  • Regular and ongoing communication and planning with the Teaching and Learning Committee

This used to be out Technology committee.  Technology cannot be an add on, an extra.  We need to focus on the structure of our learning opportunities for students and to do this our team will meet on an ongoing basis to determine direction and the effectiveness of our efforts.

It is through these efforts that we hope to avoid the flash in the pan phenomenon of professional learning and that our efforts with Teaching and Learning have deep impact on our school.

What are your thoughts and suggestions on ensure deep impact from professional learning?

Monday, 6 October 2014

What did I learn today?

This is a cross post that also appears on  The goal of this project is  share our stories and promote 21st Century learning. The goal is to have as many of our voices heard from students, teachers, administrators, superintendents, Educational Resource Facilitators, Early Childhood Educators, parents and any key players in our schools.

What did I learn today?

Every day that I get to work with students, I learn how incredibly resilient our students can be.  

Today, I was reminded of this as I was with my family at Canada’s Wonderland.  As my car was heading out on the Leviathan, I thought I had heard my name called.  I asked the person I was with if he had heard my name being called and he said that was just my nerves talking.
After my 3 minute ride we pulled back into the station and once again the announcer was talking and at the end of his announcement he said, “ and Mr. Pearson, I hope you enjoyed your ride!”  This time I know it wasn’t my nerves talking, I looked into the booth and there was a former student, smiling behind the glass at me.  We had a brief moment to catch up.  He is now training to be in the military working on jet engines.  A goal he had stated to me 4 years previous.  A remarkable accomplishment for him, as I look back and consider what this student did to get to where he is today.

My memory might be fading at this point, but here is the long and short what he had to overcome: multiple school changes, over an hour and a half bus ride to come to school, multiple suspensions, multiple issues with teachers, multiple issues with me and multiple issues within himself.

In my three years with this student, we took the time to get to know each other when times were good and we built that relationship where he still felt safe when times were not so good; when he need to be cooled down, or even sent home.  He knew he could come back and that he would be held accountable for what had happened.  We took the time to work through his mistakes together, it is what he needed, and really what all students need.  Together we created a relationship where he felt comfortable to learn from his missteps, to reflect on what had happened.  He learned to never give up, he learned that failing was okay.  Most importantly, he learned that he had someone that he could lean on and trust.  I also have to say that he taught me so much as we went through his time in high school.

This student came to believe in himself, that he could grow both academically and personally and this is what helped him overcome the obstacles life presented him.  This strength or mindset is what will see him through to his goals. He believed that he was not fixed in the die that life had cast for him.

Today, I was reminded that the amazing students we work with can:


It’s funny that I remembered all of this after a roller-coaster ride of up’s and down’s, much like life can present us with. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

My Diigo Links of the Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Can't find should've put it in your POCKET!

Using twitter has been a great professional learning experience.  Twitter has helped build relationships over wide geographic distances and within the mighty PDSB.  I get to share ideas and resouces with people who's paths I might not have crossed without twitter.  This post is a result of these connections and relationships.  It is part of the first #peel21st blog hop.  Please check out the other blogs listed at the bottom of this post.  Enjoy!

So we have all been there, we have been with a colleague who tells us about a great teaching tool or we have found resources online and we want to save them so we can read and use them later.  This is long after we have finished marking, writing report cards and then we have performed our parental/family duties when we are finally at home.

So what do you do with these finds?  Do you write them on a piece of paper? Put them on a sticky note that gets stuck to your monitor? Email yourself the link or bookmark the resource on the computer your are using?

We all know how successful these methods are; the piece of paper gets washed, the sticky note falls off and gets stuck to something else, you suck as an email ninja and your hopes of inbox zero had officially faded with email number, 3000 in your inbox.  The bookmark idea almost works, but then when you try to find it you discover your were logged in under someone else's username, or you cannot access the bookmark because you are on a different device.  

I know your frustration, I have been there myself, or should a say, used to be there.  My advice to you, you should just put it in your Pocket!

So, what is Pocket?

Pocket is a cross platform, cross device, visual bookmarking service that will help turn you into an Web 2.0 ninja.  Pocket can be used on almost any device, using almost any operating system that will allow you to easily save, but more importantly retrieve articles when you have more time, or when you actually need them.

How do I put things into my Pocket?

In most cases things can be put into your pocket with one click, touch and swipe using extensions in Chrome or by using bookmarklets on iOS.  Once these are setup, it is one touch on the tool bar, or one touch on the share icon and you can automatically send things to your pocket for when you have time to read them later.

What does Pocket do with my finds?

Pocket will parse the articles and remove unwanted adds and distractions that will help you read items at a quicker pace.  Pocket also archives the articles so you can have offline access to blog posts or articles and this even allows access to the content when the host site is down, the article has been move, or even worse, the article has been deleted.  Pocket lets you view your items in either the streamed lined list view or the graphically stunning thumbnail view.  As a visual person, I enjoy using thumbnail view the most, but when I am in a hurry I revert to list view.  Pocket even has different colour themes for you viewing pleasure.   I like to use the dark theme so I can easily read articles at night without the bright glaring screen of my tablet.  Further to this, videos can be played directly from within your Pocket. Talk about time saving.

What do I do with articles once they are in my Pocket?

You read them!  Besides this obvious remark, there are some great functions within Pocket that allow you to sort, filter and organize items to make finding them easier when you need them.  The most powerful tool in Pocket is the tagging feature, this allows for quick searching later.  You can add tags as you find and read articles.  If you have made a mistake, you can delete tags as well.   Actually if you made a mistake in saving an article, you can simply delete it from your pocket as well.  You can also search your pocket by keyword, article title and resource title. Once you have reviewed an item, you can check it off as read and it will send it to your archive for access later. This saves some room in your pocket for even more great discoveries.  You can also favourite articles you have read, for easy access to your top finds.

What else can I do with Pocket?

Pocket is integrated with over 500 different apps, which makes it uber easy to send items to your pocket and share items from your pocket.  Pocket integrates with Twitter, Zite, Feedly, and Evernote to name a few.  In most cases you can once again use pocket to share with one click, touch or swipe to many of your favourite networks like Facebook or share to public booking sites like Diigo (my fav) or Delicious.   Adding the Web 2.0 service IFTTT automates many things and makes both the finding and sharing of items even easier from Pocket.  You can even use IFTTT to automatically send new posts or articles from your favourite bloggers or news sites, so you never miss anything.   I have also started to further archive my Pocket by integrating with Evernote.  I can send items, along with their tags for always and ever access in Evernote.

What doesn't Pocket do?

I wish I could say it does everything, but I am still waiting for Hootsuite integration to come.  

In the end...

So do yourself a favour, leave the paper, the sticky notes, the emails and the browser bookmarks behind.  

Just start putting things in your Pocket.  You can find your Pocket at:

Get pocket and start taking a drink, at your own pace, from the waterfall of information on the web!

Don’t forget to check out the other blog posts in our Blog Hop!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

My Diigo Links of the Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My Diigo Links of the Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, 25 August 2014

My Goals for the 2014-2015 School Year

I want to share my goals for the coming school year, in the hopes that others will do the same and these others will also take the time to help me reach these goals.  These aren't our school goals, they are just my personal goals.  Not SMART, Not necessarily measurable.  But DOABLE!  They are not in any order

  • Continue to build relationships that will allow us all to achieve our goals.
  • Help staff and students see that change does have its benefits.
  • Successful integration of 21st Century skills for the entire school.
  • Help our teachers and students adopt a Growth Mindset.
  • Help staff adopt web 2.0 tools and a better understanding of new technology to their teaching and professional work.
  • Help students and staff realize their awesomeness!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Getting Comfortable with Change, I mean TRANSITIONS

I am just going to put it out there - Change is good!  This is the perspective every modern leader needs to have.

As I look back over the last school year and a half, I have gone through:

  • 3 principals
  • 3 Superintendents
  • 3 Schools
  • 6 vice principals.
  • Sharepoint rollover
  • Office365 Implementation

In fact in the last year our staff moved our entire site from one location to another.  These are just small examples of the amount of physical changes we go through as digital leaders.

Many say I should have fallen apart with all of the change, besides the fact that I had a great staff keeping it together and I more than loving and supportive wife at home, it was my use of technology schools as well that helped me stay on track and not loose focus.  The use off technology remained as everything around me was changing.  The apps that I used to help me lead through the change were indispensable in my success.  Here is a brief list of them:

Evernote - notes from meetings, ideas, thoughts (@evernote)
Pocket - collected all the information and ideas I would need to be successful (@pocket)
Wunderlist - My second brain and essential task manager/to-do list (@wunderlist)
Twitter - connecting with other educators to seek advice through my PLN (@twitter)
Hootsuite - to manage all of the information as it was coming at me (@hootsuite)

The above apps were essential in managing the transitions that I have gone through, the many changes I was able to lead through.  Our students are also going through change.  Rapid change, but they have not be taught how to manage it.  They have not had the opportunity to have change management modelled for them.  We can show them how to manage the change with web tools.

Change is good.  Our students do not always realize that.  Think of when are students have the hardest time with things, the days leading up to holidays standout for me.  Students have a hard time managing through change and we need to model this change for them.

The first thing that I like to do is switch the term from change to TRANSITION.  A change is more like doing a u-turn on a highway or a complete stop.  A transition is more like a lane change, a slight shift in direction.  By modeling these transitions for students, and in fact staff as well, we are showing true leadership.  Whether it is some of the physical school changes I mentioned above or a shift in pedagogical direction we can help students and staff though them by taking the first steps.  We can show them that the more transitions we make the better we are at handling the transitions of life, such as moving houses, changing schools, or even changing friendships.

We also need to highlight how, over time, when you keep doing the same thing we wear a path into the ground where we have been.  These paths in the grass may become deeper the more we walk over them and eventually become ruts.  As we know people can get stuck in rut and have a harder time getting out.  We need as leaders to model how we can stay out of ruts and stay in the groove.  This groove is more of how we manage our daily lives a process rather than a track.  We can show how to go with the flow and take control of our situations and better handle our transitions.  The last thing we want our students and schools to become is stuck, embedded in the mud.

As leaders in a modern world, it is important for us to model effective change management or transition control for our students.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Nobody Said It Was Easy...

Today here is a soundtrack from my mind as a read a blog post, here are some lines from Coldplay's, "The Scientist":

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start.

This chorus came to mind after reading the blog post entitled, "The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher" by Steven Conn and posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Thanks for the great writing that caused me to reflect on my practice and the purpose for what I do.  The following are my thoughts on point from Conn's post, so perhaps read it first.
Just some of my thoughts  as I read the blog are below.

So you don't use rubrics, not at post secondary education? Now, not everything requires a rubric, but major assignments/tasks should at least be put forth with, at the very, very, very least a set of expectations so that students know how they will be evaluated. Scaffolding anything we do provides the structure for success and better student product. Even when we evaluate teachers it is an open conversation where we inform the teachers of the domains we are looking at.  I even allow teachers to select several they would like me to pay particular attention to.  Its not just about rubrics its about information and everyone knowing how they will be evaluated.  I expect this for myself and I will ensure I give it to teachers and students.

As far as failing, there is nothing wrong with students struggling and failing, as long as they learn why they failed.  If you do not provide them meaningful feedback then how will they improve.  If they do not know how they are evaluated how will they learn? We need to ensure we nurture a growth mindset in our students, so they can see where they fell short when measured against criteria and how to improve for the future.

Yes technology has opened the lines of communication.  However, we need to take control and set limits of when you are available on email, twitter, FB or a chat room in a LMS.  We still have the control to set reasonable limits for students.  Students need structure, they crave it.  If you set ongoing communication framework for students, and have regularly scheduled hours for this communication to occur, then we can avoid the last minute rush of panicked emails, texts and DM's!

Face-to-face meetings with my prof?  That was horrific time for me, I would have prefered to build my relationship first and then move towards face-to-face interactions.  This is what technology allows us to do.  It is an evolution not a de-evolution!

When I was a student in school I was ahead of most, not because of my intelligence, not because of my time management skills, not because of my prioritizing, but because I learned how to play the game.  I was engaged only when I needed to be.  I drove teachers nuts.  Loads of potential but no motivation to play the game 24/7.  I did what I had to do in order to get by, I wasn't engaged.  I had figured out a framework for success without it being shown to me.  I was luckily, all my classmates were not.  By providing students with outlines of how they will be assessed or chunking larger tasks into parts we are providing a framework and structure for students who haven't figured out the game.  We are merely leveling the playing field for all, not spoon feeding.
When Conn states, "I can teach in a meaningful way only if students are prepared to learn" I can agree.  However that's where my agreement ends.  It is our role, our job, our task, or moral imperative to ensure that students are prepared to learn and are ready to learn.  Simply put in the words of Coldplay, nobody said it was easy.  We cannot just throw our hands up and blame students, parents, government, technology or the education system.  We must make all of these work together for student success.

We can do all the above, while still challenging our students with intellectually stimulating tasks. All the while, providing rubrics in order showing them what to do and how to do it.  This is our task. This is our job. This is what we signed up to do!  Conn is right, we cannot drag them around the dance floor, it takes more than two to do the educational tango.  However, engaging students in the learning process through rubrics, descriptive feedback, open communication, critically thoughtful assignments and providing frameworks for success are all steps in that dance.  Remember, nobody said it was easy...

Feedback and thoughts please....

Sunday, 3 August 2014

My Diigo Links of the Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Bringing down the SILOS in education

Confidence is what I am really talking about.

At times this is an issue with all staff in education and it surely includes administration and teaching staff.

Why is it that we as educators are so hesitant to share in our process, our ideas and our product?  Why is it that we feel so comfortable in our silos?

Getting rid of these silos is paramount to student success.  As Fullan has suggested, student learning depends on each and every teacher, learning all the time and if students and teachers are going to be successful than we need to ensure that the doors of schools and classrooms are opened and the walls are taken down. As educators, we need share and learn from each other.

We need to engage in the difficult task of if changing this culture in education.  Even in my 14 years of education, I have come across the reluctance of teachers to open up their practice and share with other educators.  As and executive member for the Ontario History and Social Sciences Teachers' Association (OHASSTA) I was the webmaster and created an online data base that teachers could upload and share lessons they created.  Aside from workshop materials that presenting teachers sent to me, rarely did teachers willingly post teaching materials.  This reluctance to open at least a window into their practice is a sign of teachers being unwilling to share, to open doors, to take down walls.  As educators we are standing in the way of a culture change and shift in practice.

So why aren't more educators willing to share?  Willing to open up our classrooms and schools?  I think there are two reasons.  One George Couros touched on and that is the competitive nature of teaching. Second, is a lack of confidence on behalf or educators.  If we can address these two areas, perhaps we can turn doors into windows, and start to bring the silos down.

In his post, "Our Kids", George touches on the competitive nature of schools as we fight for students in our course, our programs, our departments and even our schools.  As we fight to keep our competitive advantage we keep our ideas in, what is working quiet and in the end this is detrimental to all of "our kids." Further to this, the competitive nature of education is directly tied to how we are funded, staffed and resourced; on a per student head basis.  This is why educators fight for students, and do not want to share as a way of keeping their competitive advantage.  Is it time we look at changing our funding model for education?  A question to be answered in another post.

Couros, goes further to discuss the humble attitude of teachers and how they perceive what they do as being insignificant in his post.  I agree and would take this point further  and also suggest a lack of confidence on the part of teachers as an additional factor behind the lack of sharing amongst educators.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in her book Confidence, highlights how organizations have tremendous talent, but they are not able to carry that talent over into becoming winners because they lack the confidence in themselves to do so.  Our duty as educational leaders is to build confidence in our staff and in order to accomplish this we need to focus on four areas suggested by Kanter;  1) Self-Confidence - let teachers know what they are doing is noticed, that it matters and is having a positive impact;  2) Team Confidence - build strong relationships within a staff so all know they are respected, valued and trusted by all members; 3) System Confidence - develop the same qualities as listed before in our school board.  Staff need to know structures are in place that will lead to collaboration, that will help drive innovation and that there will be accountability; and 4) External Confidence - this is based on the previous three areas of confidence and through the positive outcome of these there will an investment in what is going on in a district, board, school or department.  Kanter's work is critical in this area and I highly recommend getting your own copy of Confidence.

So in our schools if we can develop the confidence of staff perhaps this will help to turn the focus on staff from us, as we fight for students to a we as strive to do what is best for all students.  We can start to tear down those silos and build windows into each other's classrooms and buildings and begin the sharing process. I will leave the funding model for another day.