All posts by Donna Fry

I am a Secondary School Principal in Northwestern Ontario.
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Day 18: What Are We Trying To Do Here, Anyway?

fryed:

Here is the writing that I published on the “30 Days of Learning” Project on the #OSSEMOOC website (ossemooc.wordpress.com).

Originally posted on Ontario School and System Leaders Edtech MOOC:

Written and shared by Donna Miller Fry

If you are like me, you sometimes hook on to ideas and run with them.

The excitement, the possibilities, it all pulls you in and you just go with it.

But those around you may not be entirely sure of what it is that you are trying to do.  Being able to clearly communicate, at a level where everyone understands your thinking, is an important component to effecting change.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to present the #OSSEMOOC concept to a group of interested people.  Luckily, before my presentation, a colleague worked with me to help me distill the concept down to its key components, in a language that was meaningful to educators at all levels.

As we begin to work on our next projects in response to user requests and feedback, I think it is a good time to take a step…

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Stories of Open Sharing – And Why It Is Important

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Alan Levine (@cogdog) is a champion of open storytelling.

I followed Alan for years on Twitter before finally meeting him in person first in Terrace Bay (video below) and then again at Unplug*d12.

He asked me for our story about the time Commander Hadfield tweeted me to say that up in the ISS, he had watched the video my students helped create.  You can read the story here, but the full version, including the connections that led to the connections that led to the event, is told below.

Alan’s version can be found here.

I hope this inspires people to open their practice and put learning for all at the centre of everything they do.

Alan Levine, thanks for pushing me to do better, all the time.

Dean Shareski, thanks for modelling open and connected in all you do.

How I met the cogdog!

What Am I Doing Here?

It’s the first morning of #OTRK12. 

There are over 80 workshops for educators to attend over the next 2 days, and some of those presenters are waking up this morning and asking themselves, “What am I doing here?”.

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Presenting can be scary.  It can be intimidating.  We, as educators, can be evaluative. We all want to do well.  It’s our culture.

 

What are you doing here?

You are modelling best practice.  You are sharing your learning.

You are enabling others to learn.

You are connecting learners.  You are enriching lives. You are demonstrating courage.

You are walking the talk. You are Leading Learning.

 

What are the rest of us doing here?

We are here creating a culture of learning – a place where it is safe to share, where sharing is valued, and where the people with the courage to share are encouraged and applauded for putting themselves in that vulnerable position for our benefit.

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We are nurturing all learners.

Congratulations, and thank you, to every single educator who has stepped forward today and tomorrow to share learning with the rest of us.

Image credits:

Fear -the Italian voice via Compfight cc

Courage - DimitraTzanos via Compfight cc

 

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Focus on Beginners: What do you Need to Start Connecting?

Originally posted on Ontario School and System Leaders Edtech MOOC:

As we have travelled throughout the province this week, we have heard loud and clear that we need an easier entry point for our education leaders to start the connecting process.

Last Tuesday, connected leaders met to discuss how they became connected leaders – the catalyst that got them started.  Here are some of the things we learned.  Which of these do you need?  Which of these can you bring to a leader you know to help them connect?

1. TIME!  When can we possibly find the time to connect?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/76818399@N00/4536146692/

Educators are busy.  Nobody disputes that!  But could connecting actually make your life easier?  YES IT CAN!  You can pose a question on Twitter 24/7 and get an answer in minutes.  We have heard many stories with this theme.

Learn to make time.  Start with 15 minutes each day.  Some of us do “Tea and Twitter”,  some of us start…

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EdCampWR (part 2) – Everyone Has Something IMPORTANT to Share

This past week, I have been explaining the concept of “EdCamp” to a lot of people.  It’s on a Saturday, it’s free, it’s open to anyone wanting to learn, and “everyone has something to share”.  The program is driven by the learning needs of the people in attendance, and the smartest person in the room is the room.

What I love most is the “hunger to learn”.

Recently I attended #Educon in Philadelphia.  While sessions are determined in advance, it does rest on the principle that “everyone has something IMPORTANT to share”.  This is captured very clearly in this video.

A few of my favourite quotes that capture some of the thinking from #Educon:

David Jakes: “The first step in redesigning a classroom is discarding the notion that it has to be a classroom.” (2:36)

Chris Lehman: “What schools can become, are the places where we come together to learn…” (4:14)

Jose Vilson: “Trying to get education to be more about what kids can do instead of what they can’t do…” (5:30)

Ayla Gavins: “..I would eliminate ACCESS as the reason for not choosing to use technology.” (6:23)

Diana Laufenberg: “The one thing that teachers can do proactively is to share, everywhere possible, the positive things that are happening with our kids…” (7:14)

What is #Educon?  It’s a global tribe of support – 24/7.

It’s what EdCamps can be too.  Passion, learning, sharing, bringing hope for positive change to make our schools places where we support communities of learning.

What is the Purpose of School? Nova Scotia Considers Its Future

It’s perplexing to me that as Canadians we can unite at ungodly early morning hours to cheer on our hockey team as a country, yet when it comes to education we live on seemingly unconnected islands.

In my province, Ontario, we have just completed a “visioning” exercise, looking at how to move our public education system from “great to excellent“.  In the meantime, in what feels like a different country (because we rarely connect and share what we know), the province of Nova Scotia is about to embark on an education review.

Last week, the Province of Nova Scotia launched its urgent call for change.

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http://noworneverns.ca/
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http://noworneverns.ca/

The report states that a crisis exists that threatens the standard of living of Nova Scotians.  It outlines 19 goals and 12 long-term strategies that are needed to turn the economy around and stop the current decline.

Robert Sutton, in his recent publication “Scaling Up Excellence” demonstrates that using logical arguments to spread the need for change are often not effective, and we need an emotional attachment to an idea to really move change forward.  The Ivany Report, with the focus on Urgency and Mobilizing Strengths, has created this “hot cause” to “stoke the engine”.

However, critics say that the report, while strong on ideas, lacks concrete policy.

As an educator, I read the report looking for how the education system would be redesigned to meet the goals of “One Nova Scotia: Shaping our Economy Together”.  With a quarter of the population under the age of 19, it would seem that transforming an economy would certainly require a transformation in how young people were educated.  But there is very little in the report to suggest how this might occur.

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A small section entitled “Excellence in Education and Training” (combining those terms is concerning) suggests that a “rigorous curriculum review” and “setting the bar high” will hold Nova Scotians accountable for reaching their goals.

There is essentially no conversation on how a system of schooling, created with an industrial mindset, could now produce young adults who thought like entrepreneurs rather than obedient assembly line employees.

So what, then, should be the purpose of Nova Scotia’s upcoming comprehensive review of the education system?

In Ontario, we have learned that public support of public education is critical.  In our three priorities, raising the bar, lowering the gap and securing accountability, we have focused on how, as a province, we can believe in what we are doing as being the best for our students.

At the same time, research must be central to learning.  So what, then, is the role of public consultation?

Perhaps the real question Nova Scotians need to answer is “What is School for?” How can we possibly determine what is working, and what needs improvement, if we aren’t in agreement on why we have schools in the first place?

Once we know what schools are there to accomplish, there is a world of research available to help move those goals forward.  High yield strategies like assessment for learning, and student-work-study teacher initiatives are well-documented.

The citizens of Nova Scotia,  faced with the findings of the Ivany Report,  now need to deeply consider their expectations, their beliefs, and their understanding of the purpose of the school buildings in their communities, and the reasons for the hours that young people spend there every day.

What kind of person emerges from the years in the school system, and what kind of province results from that education system?

As Canadians, what do we see as the purpose of school?

Further reading:

The Future of Schooling: Are Students Being Prepared to “Dance with Robots”?

http://educhatter.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/the-future-of-schooling-are-students-being-prepared-to-dance-with-robots/

Stop Stealing Dreams – Seth Godin

http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/docs/stopstealingdreamsscreen.pdf

What should a school be?

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/13/what_we_talk_about_when_we_talk_about_public_education_partner/

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After #EdCampWR ~ Where To Now (Part 1)?

What an exciting day!

Educators gave up Saturday to meet in a school and learn together, and shared the learning online for all who wanted to join in the conversation.  It’s powerful stuff, and as we all reflect on how best to meet the needs of all learners in the system, these success stories move our thinking forward.

What did I learn? Lots!  Here is part 1: the morning…

First, Mark and I learned lots about technology.  Mark has been playing with combinations of video and livestreaming, figuring out how he can be a catalyst to spread this f2f learning around the province and indeed the world.  As we know, the one doing the work is doing the learning, and Mark did most of the tech learning, but I still needed to figure out how to best follow the day on my end.

There is other learning that is easily overlooked.  Just seeing the board showing the sessions helps me to understand what people want to learn about.

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As I watched the LiveStream for the first session, I heard someone talk about the immensity of the difficulty to effect change at the system level.  Where do you start?  How can you be effective?

Mark and I texted about this thinking and we believe this would be a great #OSSEMOOC question.  It’s also a terrific topic for a blog post – something to reflect on current thinking, then build as I learn more and as my thinking evolves.

And here is a key point – *access*.

Access is vital.  Fullan, in “A Rich Seam“, often cites internet access as the critical piece in moving to “excellence”.  WRDSB obviously understands this.

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I was able to listen to/watch much of the Digital Citizenship discussion and these are my key learnings:

edcampwr digcit stream

  • Students have capacity. Student voice must be central in our work on digital citizenship.
  • The concept of digital citizenship continues to evolve and change. It is not static. We need to keep up.
  • So much of our work in #digcit is reactive.  Let’s make it proactive and positive (including modelling) instead.
  • How do we support/create digital leaders in our schools?
  • Where do we start on all of this at the system level?

(Incidentally, I curate #digitalcitizenship resources as part of our ongoing OSAPAC work on creating a valuable #digcit resource for Ontario teachers.)

Key Learning from #EdCampWR

I was quite disappointed to miss #EdCampWR in person, but thanks to Twitter, and Mark’s Livestreaming, I was able to participate from up north!

If you have never organized an EdCamp, here is a taste of some of the work that goes into hosting a successful day of learning for educators!

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It was great to see all the anticipation.

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The #OSSEMOOC crew were determined to spread the learning…

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…. and to spread the word about #OSSEMOOC!

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Mark did a great job of ensuring anyone could learn today!

But back to the business of EdCamp: Self-directed learning for educators by educators on a day off!  What more could you ask for?

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And here is how it begins:

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Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 4.29.58 PMConversations, ideas, and then topics to learn about…Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 4.31.52 PM

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And some great kids, showing how it’s done.

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But back to the adults.  Here are some of the key topics emerging from EdCampWR today:

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A great day of learning.  I was honoured to have to opportunity to participate.

Thanks Mark, and the whole #edCampWR team!

When Learning Has Nothing To Do With It

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 1.38.53 PMLast week, Jan Wong, currently an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Communications at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, wrote an article for the Chronicle Herald outlining her concern about her Journalism students cheating on quizzes.

The sentences from her post that most resonated with me are below.

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It should be no surprise at all that some students at a university are “conditioned to work for marks and only marks”.

The only criterion for acceptance to the university is “high marks”.

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When universities filter applicants based on marks, so that only students with really great marks can enter the institution, the students who arrive and attend class there will include those who have learned to play a game very well, and who will continue to play that game when they arrive.

Any senior high school teacher can attest to the fact that learning is not the priority for many grade 11 and 12 students.  The priority is getting the highest two-digit number possible through whatever means are necessary so that he/she can get access to a university program.

The ramifications of this selection process are numerous, and often do not relate to learning at all.  Some are, in fact, very negative.

  • Parents may bully the teachers who don’t give the needed or expected grades.
  • Students may select courses based on who they know will give them the marks they want.
  • Parents will track down a Principal in the summer and demand that their child’s marks be changed.
  • Students tell teachers that the mark they have received for their assignment is “unacceptable” and that they will need something higher.
  • “Cheating” is rampant on tests, exams and assignments.
  • Students learn to seek out exams from previous years, tests and student notes from previous years.
  • They learn how best to get as many marks as possible on every test and exam.
  • They will do almost anything for “bonus marks”, and they learn to manipulate a teacher to offer those “bonus marks”.

Students and parents figure out how to play the game.

Alfie Kohn has been writing about the problem with grades for many years.  One of his best articles is “From Degrading to De-Grading”  (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/fdtd-g.htm), where he explores, among other things, the observations that grades reduce a student’s preference for challenging tasks, the quality of their thinking, and their interest in learning.

The lack of interest in learning by students who have been told that marks are what matters is well-documented, as in the observation below from Janice Fiamengo:

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http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-unteachables-a-generation-that-cannot-learn/?singlepage=true

Those who do well are called “good students”.  Some schools give out awards to students with the highest marks, encouraging competition instead of collaborative learning, and reinforcing that marks are what is really important at that school.

While there is a large and growing movement to put learning at the centre of the what school is about, as long as that final mark is the only requirement for university entrance, marks will remain the focus.

And universities will get what they have selected for.  When students don’t get the marks they want at university, they will react exactly as they have learned to react.

Once again, Janice Fiamengo:

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http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-unteachables-a-generation-that-cannot-learn/?singlepage=true

Fortunately, even the straight-A students are questioning  their school experience and why “marks” are seen as so important. Afraj Gill from “An A+ Student Regrets His Grades“:

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Learning to manipulate teachers to get good grades becomes an art form in itself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8s13_yOLeE

We need to deeply question a system with these values.  Is this the best way to graduate innovators and entrepreneurs?

I believe that we are rethinking what schools are for, how to nurture natural curiosity, and how to use focused innovation in our teaching in the K-12 sector.  I also see evidence that some post-secondary schools are beginning to understand that marks are not the best predictor of learning.

But as long as marks are the sole filter for entrance to university, we will be challenged to put learning, not grades, at the centre of what schools are for.

*Add-On -> A favourite post from @KarlFisch: http://thefischbowl.blogspot.ca/2013/10/your-gda-is-more-important-than-your-gpa.html

@sethgodinblog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/02/doing-what-gets-rewarded.html

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http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/02/doing-what-gets-rewarded.html