All posts by Donna Fry

I am a Secondary School Principal in Northwestern Ontario, currently on secondment with the Ontario Ministry of Education as the Provincial Lead for Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching, a proud member of OSAPAC, co-lead of OSSEMOOC, and a member of the Board of Directors of ECOO.

What’s the Professional Reading List for Educators? The Shift…

“The reading isn’t merely a book, of course. The reading is what we call it when you do the difficult work of learning to think with the best, to stay caught up, to understand.

The reading exposes you to the state of the art. The reading helps you follow a thought-through line of reasoning and agree, or even better, challenge it. The reading takes effort.”

Seth Godin


What do we need to read to stay caught up in our profession?

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 6.53.58 AM

The Ontario College of Teachers sets out the Standards of Practice for the profession in Ontario.

One of the Standards is Professional Learning:

Ontario College of Teachers:
Ontario College of Teachers:


Seth Godin:
Seth Godin:

Do you know where to go and what to read to keep up in your profession?  Recently, Seth Godin commented on this.

Many leaders in education will tell you that they most certainly do know what to read to stay current, and to share with other educators.  Books, research – all important to the foundations of our learning for our profession.

But we also must be willing to be disturbed in this thinking, because in 2015, we need to be much more agile and flexible in our learning, as thinking changes and innovation happens much faster than books can be published and research papers can be finished.

This is Seth's Blog:
This is Seth’s Blog:


In choosing what to read, we have to consider,

“What is the core role of a teacher?”.

Catherine Montreuil, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education in Ontario, explains this better than anyone else I know.

Our role is to ensure learning – that progressing toward learning goals –  is happening.  It is not okay for any child to be stuck and not learning.

We do not have to do this alone, but we have to ensure that we are doing everything we can for every single child in our care.  We know our best practice.  When that isn’t working, we have to find our next practice.


Finding our “next” practice: Our ability to share our practice with others has changed exponentially over the past decade.  Our ability to find out what others are doing – the practices that are working elsewhere – now requires digital literacies, the ability and understanding of how to leverage online tools to access the curated stream of information that can lead to our next practice.

In the same way that we once had to learn to use the card catalog in the library, we now must know how to access digital spaces to find the content we need.

This is Seth's Blog:
This is Seth’s Blog:


The reading list for educators has shifted.

The reading list now includes the blogs where other educators are sharing, and the tweets where other educators curate and share the information that is valuable to them in their professional practice.

And the culture is participatory.  

If you are an educator, there is a moral obligation to use your digital literacies and share your practice with others, so that all of our students benefit from the collective work of our profession.


Challenging the Status Quo (Safely)

At the end of #YRDSBQuest, Michael Fullan told the educators in attendance that they need to go back and challenge the status quo.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 8.27.08 AM

I am documenting the ongoing conversation about how to do this safely.

We rarely talk about it, but in our work, many educators have told us they won’t blog because they are afraid it will show others “what they don’t know”.  They see leaders in education as people who will label them as being inappropriate for leadership roles.

We talk a lot about how we want a growth mindset for our students, yet conversations with aspiring leaders demonstrate that challenging leaders can result in a label – “not moving up in this organization”.

How do we build a system that values challenge to the status quo? How do we challenge the status quo without jeopardizing our careers in the current environment?

Below is the conversation currently developing.  Please add to the conversation and help push our thinking about how we can best effect change – how those wanting to challenge can do so effectively.

You can continue to follow the tweet replies here.  We encourage you to also join the conversation by commenting on the blog.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 7.59.38 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 7.59.55 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 8.00.04 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 8.12.51 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 8.11.38 AM


Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 8.11.57 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 8.12.13 AM


In addition, Seth Godin shared this post on his blog this morning:

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 7.43.43 AM
Shared by Seth Godin on his blog here:

How Do We Tackle “Crippling Incrementalism”?

Thank you to #YRDSBQuest for streaming keynote presentations and encouraging the sharing of learning on Twitter.  It makes it much easier to learn from a distance.

While working near Thunder Bay on Wednesday, I was able to keep in touch with much of the learning.

I also spent time last Sunday and Monday following the Tweets from the OPC event with Dr. Michael Fullan.  I found some relevant work like this:

But I also worried that leaders were once again embracing a lot of conceptual information, like this:

This year, I am wondering about how we can move learning forward.  I think a lot about Simon Breakspear’s plea for us to get out of the conceptual and into a very clear, specific vision of future practice.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 7.41.41 AM
Original video and comments here:

So after reading all the Tweets from Day 1 of #YRDSBQuest and watching the keynotes streamed, I came to this inquiry question:

I feel as though we have spent a lot of time in Ontario working on “building relationships”, building our emotional intelligence, talking about innovation, talking about 21C, reading books about the secrets of change, drivers, instructional core, sticky ideas and mindsets.

Isn’t it time now to take some action?

“We are now better than fifteen years into the 21st Century and educators are still discussing what role technology plays in education.”

Tom Whitby, My Island View, How Do We Stop Illiterate Educators?

Let’s look at the last bullet on the slide above:

“Ultimately you need people to take charge of their own learning…”

What if we invested in putting a simple, reliable mobile device into the hands of every educator (especially leaders), and provided reliable connectivity, then offered some basic instruction into how to self-direct their learning

…. imagine what would happen if every leader committed to learning and sharing openly, if every educator openly reflected on learning and practice on their own blog/website in a searchable, open way.

Think of the spread of best practice – next practice that could happen if all educators were simply empowered with those simple three things:

  1. A simple, reliable mobile device
  2. Reliable connectivity
  3. Basic instruction on self-directing their learning in open collaborative online environments.

How well would we then understand the critical needs to ensure that our students are able to self-direct their own learning in this world where knowledge is ubiquitous?




See how some Ontario Educators are taking the next steps in self-directing learning:






#FutureLearning – Students Wonder What School Could Be

I was so fortunate to be asked by the students of 3UU at Cameron Heights School in Kitchener, to sit on a panel to discuss with them the Future of Learning.

Here is a wonderful explanation, written by the class, of what their class is about:

“3UU is an extraordinary class, it is a Future Forums style class (a WRDSB initiative) that is worth two credits combining English, Sociology, Anthropology, and Psychology. This class allows us to express the way we learn and present our thoughts in our own personalized way of showing the knowledge we possess (through different mediums, such as videos, class discussions). We learn at different paces and take in information in various ways, therefore it’s easier for us to understand. In this environment, we function in a more self – directed style. Finally, we work more on developing skills that will help us in the future, rather than just focusing on what will help us pass this class.”

This is what they were hoping to achieve:

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 1.36.31 PM
from an email from the Cameron Heights school 3UU class, November 16, 2015.

Thank you to teacher Ms. Jamie Reaburn Weir  (who shares her reflections on her work here) for the invitation to join the panel.

Other panellists for the event included:

Geoff Williams

Dean Shareski

Karen Beutler

Brenda Sherry

Mark Carbone

The Storify of the event is here.  The recording is below.

I will add links to all of the mentioned resources later today.



OECD publication – The Case for 21C Learning

What is School For? Stop Stealing Dreams (Seth Godin)







Why Should Educators Understand Social Media?

Educators must understand social media, because this is where our children are:

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 1.26.52 PM

Is shutting down the device the answer?

Do our kids, and our teachers, understand how powerful social media can be for LEARNING?

Isn’t it ESSENTIAL for our school and system leaders to be fully digitally literate?

Here is a great guide to digital life for teens.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 12.54.48 PM
This Guide to Life Online is Produced by and available free by clicking on the image.

As school and system leaders in education, how are we preparing our youth to be digital leaders in online environments?

How are we modelling the skills,  aptitudes and behaviours that are appropriate in digital spaces?

Sharing from #BIT15: Heidi Siwak’s Keynote Address

If you were unable to attend Heidi Siwak’s closing keynote at #BIT15 this year, you missed an amazing learning experience.

Let’s see if we can share the important points.

Here is Heidi’s link to the resources.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.29.34 PM


Here is the storify of the Twitter chat for the event.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.27.31 PM

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.19.58 PM