Tag Archives: technology

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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?

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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.

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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:

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  • 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.)

My Definition of Good Pedagogy Includes Technology

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Last night during the Learning 2030 rebroadcast, one of the tweets that came across my screen was a statement that said, “Technology does not replace good pedagogy”.

I see this quote quite frequently in my work, and I worry about it a bit.

I worry because in the same way that “good” standardized test scores can be used to keep technology out of classrooms, I think that this quote can be used by educators to justify avoiding change.

Let me explain…

It might surprise people to realize that there are classrooms, and in fact entire schools, where technology is not being used in learning.

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Night Owl City via Compfight cc

How to help those teachers, schools and school boards embrace technology-enhanced learning is the topic of much discussion and much interest.

I have said many times, that I don’t believe in 2014, that our kids can possibly go to school and not have access to technology.  I won’t go into the arguments why right here – that is another blog post – but technology needs to be there.

When a teacher who is not using technology in his or her class sees this quote, they can use it to justify what they are doing.

“Oh yes, I am a great teacher, so I don’t need technology in my classroom.”

It’s the same as seeing entire schools misuse standardized  test scores to justify avoiding change.  “We have great test scores so we are doing everything right, we don’t need to change.”

Quotes like this are dangerous.

I would ask the question, “In 2014, can good pedagogy exist without technology?”

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I would also ask the question, “Does technology replace poor pedagogy?”

I think we need to be very careful about our choice of words.

When we look at the SAMR model, we see that technology-enhanced learning can be so much more enriching.

If we are not allowing our learners to connect and build learning networks, what exactly is our excuse?

#etMOOC +1: The Power of People

As we celebrate the first anniversary of #etMOOC*, I am overwhelmed with the stories of growth and sharing and learning.

* For those who hear about how MOOCs are a trend, a fad, a failure or a passing phase, here is the kind of MOOC I am referring to:

#etMOOC connected people.

It wasn’t about content.  It wasn’t about assignments.  It was about experiencing the world of people out there who care about learners, who advocate for change, who take risks, who share their learning every single day.

It was about creating together, playing together, learning together.

I am fascinated by how the experience blurred our professional and personal lives.

We didn’t draw a line between the two.

We allowed, and continue to allow, our best traits, our life experiences, our travels and our learning to inform our time together, be it online or f2f.

We learn together whether we are “on the clock” or “on the road”.

We model what learning can be: self-directed, shared, always available.  Supported, stretched, generous and courageous.

#etMOOC brought out the best in us.  #etMOOC brings out the best in us.

Happy #etMOOC anniversary.  Keep learning and sharing.

Find the Right Inch

It’s that time of year when almost any outdoor activity during the work week requires an additional accessory – a headlamp.

Last night, when I paused for my beagle to grab a drink at the water’s edge, we could see a ribbon of light on the horizon as the sun faded for the day.

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I live in a part of northern Ontario where every day, something grabs my attention and makes me just stop and gaze in awe at its beauty. As I stared at this sliver of light,  the interplay of colour along it was so complex as the sun set, it captivated me.

My focus on such a tiny, intriguing part of the sky reminded me of the work by Stephen Katz on “finding the right inch”.  He reminds us that thinking ‘big’,  and creating blanket, one-size-fits-all, mile-wide inch-deep school improvement goals is not  the right approach.  Finding the real problem, and going deep with a meaningful solution, is far more effective.  But first you have to find the real problem, the urgent learning need.

Last year I had the opportunity to work with Robert Dunn and Stephen Katz on a Case Management Project.

Student attendance at our school was a huge concern, and school-wide efforts had not been effective.  Instead of trying to solve the problem for everyone at once, we focussed on learning deeply about three truant students, then addressed the reasons why they were not attending.

We learned that the reasons for non-attendance were vastly different for each student.  No blanket school effort would ever work for these adolescents.  It was only by digging deep into individual situations that allowed us to begin to fully understand their needs and respond accordingly.  It helped us to deepen our understanding of the complexities of the issue of non-attendance.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to work with educators who were looking at how we teach math in our schools.  They worked on solving a problem, posed by the presenter, that students in grade 9 might encounter in a math course.  The thinking and reflections were very revealing.

One teacher reverted immediately to the “formula” he memorized when he was in high school.  When that didn’t work well (because the numbers were not “friendly” for calculations without a calculator), he really didn’t have any other strategies to go to – except to hunt for a calculator.

Others in the room used a variety of strategies – proportion tables, lowest term fractions, sharing ideas and working with a partner.  When we debriefed the exercise, I was surprised by how many different strategies people had used, and how sharing their thinking helped us to consider many approaches to the same problem.  Our understanding grew as we spent more time listening to each other.

The teacher who used the formula told me that he was always “good” in math in school, and he continued to believe he was “good at math”.  In reality, he suggested that he was actually good at memorizing formulas and at knowing what numbers to plug into them.

How often do we give people a false sense of competence when we just scratch the surface of topics, and then make them write a test?

How many people get left behind in this system that focuses on teaching (rather than learning) and the length of the semester (to achieve a credit)?

Math is not a performance activity. Focusing on performance (test scores) takes the focus away from what it really is, an opportunity for learning.

Instead, when we take the time to go deep, to focus, to slow down, and to observe carefully, we create the conditions that allow for real learning to happen.

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When Knowledge and Belief Collide

Recently I had a second opportunity to listen to the Director of Education for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, John Malloy, speak at a conference (#NOELonline).

Below are my notes (with personal annotations) from his presentation.

What are our beliefs as educators?

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Photomatt28 via Compfight cc

We have beliefs around what classrooms should look like and what should happen in schools.  Parents have beliefs around what they expect for their children.  There is a shared experience of what school is, and the ‘one size fits all’ approach is essentially the universal past experience for adults.

These beliefs have a stronghold on our vision for schools.

We KNOW that the current approach and structure are not adequate.  But shifting our beliefs to align with what we know is very challenging and tough work.  Changing the ‘rules of the game’ is most threatening to those currently winning at the game (just try to remove competition from classrooms and awards ceremonies for ‘top students’).

If we are going to shift, we need to support teachers.  They need to learn to use technology meaningfully to engage students and enhance instruction.  They need training in 21C skills, or should we call them 22C skills now that we are almost 15 years into the 21C?  There can be no easy outs.  We have to do the work and stop making excuses.

Teachers need to deeply know their students.  They need to understand their passions, strengths, and especially their needs.  Teachers need an inquiry stance that asks what they can learn from their students.  It takes a genuine process of integrating student voice into school planning.  How will we authentically know, engage, serve and learn from students?  What has to change to really do this?

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Kerri Lee Smith via Compfight cc

A student-centered approach to teaching and learning is only possible where the culture of the entire system is supportive.  What does this look like?  Focusing at the student level means that classroom decisions are key, learning must be personalized, and teachers need exist in an environment that allows them to do the work.  Classroom work must “bubble-up” and inform work at the system level to support teachers in determining and responding to the greatest needs of their students.

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If we want a culture at all levels that encourages continuous improvement (and we really need to think about that because it means constant change), then the culture needs to  promote and embrace risk-taking.  Educators are a vulnerable group because they have been seen traditionally as those with the knowledge.  Teachers need to understand that they don’t have to (and can’t) know everything.  They need to feel safe learning how we expect students to learn, taking risks, receiving feedback, and growing within that supportive structure.

Does your system work like this?

Teachers care.  They are maxed out on dedication and time they put into their profession.

We need to work differently, to think differently about the type of instruction, the learning conditions, and support teachers in the learning process.

“The only way to provide what our students need, is to collaborate together to learn from one another, to take risks, ask questions, experiment and respond to what our students are saying, creating and doing.  Support each other to be brilliant.”

Photo Credit: Luz Adriana Villa A. via Compfight cc

What Are You Thinking?

Photo Credit: jDevaun via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jDevaun via Compfight cc

Recently, this post was shared with me on Twitter:

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It’s a very good look at the need to communicate and respond in many ways to all the stakeholders in the school community.

I would add another item to the list: Blogging

Why should education administrators blog?  For the same reasons we want teachers and students to blog.

#1: Make Learning Visible

Through blogging, educational administrators at all levels make their thinking visible to their team.  Learning is shared and open.  Conversations about learning become widely shared and asynchronous.  Anyone can join in.  Learning is enhanced for everyone who participates.  Introverts who may feel uncomfortable having a conversation with an educational leader face to face, can carefully consider their comments and share them in a way that makes them comfortable.

#2: Encourage Others to Make Learning Visible

When administrators share their learning, they model the practice of making thinking visible, encouraging all members of the school community to do the same.  They show that risk-taking is valued, that failing is a catalyst for learning, and that learning is important for everyone in the school environment.

#3: Share the Learning

How often do we hear that Principals are out of the building too often, and that Supervisory Officers are never in the school?  Blogging allows administrators to share their learning with others.  It is a built-in accountability that their time away is well spent and that the learning can be used to build capacity in the entire system.  What personal professional learning are you currently engaged in?  What books are you reading?  Share your learning with your school community and your PLN.  Model personal professional growth while encouraging your staff to do the same.

#4. Organize Your Thinking

A teacher who recently started blogging was preparing for a position of added responsibility this year, and she remarked at how easy it was to organize her thinking.  It was already organized on her blog!  Education Administrators who are called on to make presentations have easy access to the material they may need as they have already presented their thinking and learning in their blog.

#5. Connect With Other School Leaders

By following the blogs of school leaders around the world, you can engage in conversations and learn from their learning.  Be a part of the Professional Learning Network that believes in sharing, in challenging thinking, and in making thinking visible to all.

Going Deeper with Twitter

Whenever someone is presenting on the value of Twitter for teachers and educators, and there is a shout out for “tell us who you are and why you love Twitter for education”, there is always a flurry of people talking about how they love twitter for connecting with other educators, for conversation and for sharing ideas.  But how often is that really happening?

Image from slideshare.net courtesy of Donna Fry and Colin Jagoe.
Image from slideshare.net courtesy of Donna Fry and Colin Jagoe.

The most valuable moment in my growth as a twitter user came several years ago when I posted a math resource.  Ira Socal (@irasocal) replied that he didn’t think I was the kind of educator who used resources like that. It caught me completely by surprise.  I had not critically judged the resource I shared.  It was being used at my school.  A teacher had recommended it.  I tweeted it. But I had no idea if it was effective.

Image from SlideShare.net courtesy of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach).
Image from SlideShare.net courtesy of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (@snbeach).

How often do we share without thinking? How often to we quickly scan something and share? There is so much information out there.  How often do we take the time to read, think, reflect, and ask questions of our PLN? How often do we engage our PLN in critical thinking, or in conversations that challenge our beliefs?

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Stephen Katz talks about the importance of not trying to cover a “mile”, but to pick the right “inch” and then dig in deep.

There is nothing wrong with sharing.  I hope that what I put out there is useful, that it provokes thought and helps kids.  But it is worth taking the time to really read something carefully, to reflect on what is being said, and to challenge the thinking of others.

So how do we start digging deeper into what we are learning from our colleagues on Twitter?

Think about taking part in a chat.  Everything you need to know to take part in a Twitter chat can be found here: Cybrary Man’s Educational Chats on Twitter. If you want to see samples of chat discussions, check out the #edchat archives here.

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Photo from Slideshare.net courtesy of @thecleversheep (Rod Lucier)

Or, just read something that is posted.  Blog about it. Ask questions about it. Think more deeply about it.  Who would use this? Do you agree with it?  Does it align with the Strategic Plan where you work? Do you have experiences to add to it? Can you refer to it in a discussion on another topic?

There are real people with great brains behind those Twitter handles. Let’s make sure Twitter is more than an “echo chamber” and instead, a place where we can challenge each other to think critically about our practice.

OTRK12: The Learning


I am in my second last session of the OTRK12 Conference in Mississauga.  As the twitter feed flies by me I am reflecting on how much I have learned and how much I need to share.

Here are some of my notes from this morning’s chat with John Malloy, Director, HWDSB.

@malloy_john  HWDSB Director
@malloy_john HWDSB Director

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Some of the other thinking during the session:

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