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?