Tag Archives: learn

What’s Our Next Step in Spreading Great Practice Around #TELT?

In Ontario we know we have pockets of excellence when it comes to Technology-enabled learning and teaching.

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When I refer to “pockets of excellence”, I mean schools and classrooms where learning to do this, digging into doing this well, and supporting the understanding of how learning needs to change to meet the realities of today’s world, are front and center in their thinking and sharing.

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Progress in improving learning and instruction through the use of technology is not “by chance” in these spaces. This is where communities are working hard and inviting input into figuring it all out.

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The work of eLCs in Ontario has shifted significantly this year into a leadership role in boards to enable a better understanding of how we can use technology to enhance learning and teaching. As we worked to build capacity/capital in the eLC community, engaging them in conversations and learning with these ‘pockets of excellence” became a priority.

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Last week, many of the northern eLCs (Thunder Bay Region, Sudbury-North Bay Region, Barrie Region) went on a “field trip” to do school and classroom visits.

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ADSB eLC Tyler Hankinson listens to ASPS students reflect on TELT in their school.


Their generous hosts from Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, and Trillium Lakelands District School Board were as follows:

 

Ancaster Senior Public School, HWDSB (Principal Contact – Lisa Neale)

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SGDSB eLC Stacey Wallwin and eLO EO Margo Palmeter share learning with students from ASPS.

 

 

Innovation Centre (Holbrook School) HWDSB (Teacher contact – Zoe Branigan-Pipe) Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.42.56 AM

Dr. J. Edgar Davey Elementary School, HWDB (Teacher contact – Aviva Dunsiger)

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The Virtual Learning Centre, TLDSB (Principal contact – Peter Warren)

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Special thanks to host eLCs:

Paul Hatala (HWDSB)

Jeremy Cadeau Mark (TLDSB)

 

The connections, the conversations, the learning and the sharing were incredibly rich. The eLC visitors and the host schools have been sharing their learning through their blogs. Some of these are posted below (eLCs/hosts: please contact me when you have more visible thinking to add to this list).

Host Aviva Dunsiger: Class Learning  and  Personal Reflections.

Host Lisa Neale: Principal Neale

eLC Anne Shillolo: eLC Reflections

eLC John Gibson: eLC Road Trip

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So now what?

My work today is to determine next steps.

How do we continue to spread and share our thinking about how learning needs to happen for our students in a world where the industrial model no longer meets their needs?

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How do we create the conditions in Ontario to allow teachers to be researchers into best practices for student learning?

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How do we continue to deepen the conversations and engage all educators in reflective practice?

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How do we ensure that all of our classroom (bricks and mortar, and online) educators access the richness of learning available online 24/7? 

With the structures currently in place in Ontario, what needs to happen to ensure optimum learning for students in every class?

Your input is both welcomed and appreciated.

 

Twitter is a Public Library!

Earlier today, I read a post on the importance of the language we use when we talk about education.  It  made me think about some of the listening I have done this year when I ask educators why they are not using social media for their professional learning.

At the OPC/CPCO/ADFO Symposium in November, many school leaders at my table told me that they had not really found any value in using Twitter until they heard George Couros talk about it.

In December, I was honoured to be asked to spend a few hours with the Lakehead Public Schools Inspire Program, leading a session for educators on the use of social media in the classroom.  While I loved working with teachers, I still felt I was not really hitting the mark in demonstrating the value of Twitter for professional learning.

Just before Christmas, I was asked to work with another group of educators who needed to learn more about how to use Twitter.  This time, I really thought about the language I was going to use.  I knew from my earlier experiences that I needed to demonstrate value in order to get my point across and have the educators own the learning.

I wondered if the words “Twitter” and “social media” had so many other connotations that it was turning people off the idea of using them professionally.  Language is deeply connected to attitudes and beliefs.  If social media is considered to be “unprofessional” or Twitter is known as a “waste of time”, it’s challenging to reverse that way of thinking

I happened to read a post by George Couros that compared You Tube to a library.

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 10.48.17 PMEducators value and understand libraries as places where you go to find information.  When you think about it, that is all Twitter really is – a place where you go to find information.

Just like in a library, we need the skills to find what we are looking for.

If we think of Twitter as just a huge stream of information being sent out from people all over the world all the time, the value comes in understanding how to search Twitter to find what you are looking for.

Since I had only a few minutes to try to demonstrate how Twitter could be of value, I focused on thinking of Twitter as a library that is available to everyone 24/7.  I demonstrated how to use Twitter without creating a personal account.  I did this to save time, but also to address many fears associated with social media and digital footprints.  We were using Twitter while remaining completely anonymous.

We used the Twitter search page, and we learned the difference between searching for any topic (such as “Thunder Bay”, and searching using a hashtag (such as #TBay).

I compared using hashtags to learning to use the card catalog in a library.  You need to learn specific skills to find the information you need, and learning what hashtags to search is a valuable way to find out what is happening.

We learned a number of different hashtags that would be helpful in their work in Ontario education, such as:

#onted

#onpoli

#fdk

#ontedleaders

#ossemooc

#cdned

Using language associated with something that is valued (“library”) instead of feared (“social media”), and focusing on using Twitter as an open resource (rather than moving directly to connected, participatory learning) allowed me to quickly demonstrate that social media had value to educators.

While I am committed to the importance of connected learning and sharing, we do have to meet learners where they are right now.  The strategy of comparing Twitter to something that was already valued and understood (a library) helped several educators see that social media can indeed be a valuable resource for professional learning.

 

 

 

Why Do [Our Students] Need Connected Leaders?

This month, most of my writing time has been spent on a daily blog for OSSEMOOC, the project I co-lead with Mark Carbone in our current roles with OSAPAC in Ontario.

We say that “connected learners need connected leaders”.

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We work every single day trying to convince education leaders in Ontario that they need to become proficient in digital spaces and they need to become connected learners.

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License by Justice Beitzel.

 

Why do we say this?  Why are we so passionate about this work?

Why do we need educators to be connected leaders?

1.  Innovation isn’t cultivated through isolation.  Participating in open networks gives ideas opportunities to spread.  “Crowd Accelerated Innovation” is a concept explained by Chris Anderson in this TED Talk.  If we want to build innovative schools and systems in education, our leaders must be connected to the best ideas.

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2. Digital citizenship is not something to be taught in isolation as a “subject”.  Digital citizenship is a way of being, to be integrated into all that we do (@TanyaAvrith).

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Digital citizenship is part of who we are, and education leaders need an established positive digital footprint to fully understand this, and to embrace the digital world our students exist in.

 

3. Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 7.55.10 PMIf you don’t understand the digital environment, you are becoming illiterate.  Doug Belshaw explains the essential elements of digital literacies in his TEDxTalk.

 

4.  This quote from Dr. John Malloy, currently the Director of Education for HWDSB, reminds us of the critical importance of choosing leaders with the capacity to make great decisions about student learning in both physical and digital spaces:

Using technology is no longer an option for us.  We must support our students to succeed in our physical and digital world.  

Students who do not have this opportunity to learn in the digital world will be disadvantaged, something that we cannot accept.”

Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution - Share-Alike license by Eduardo Zarate.
Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution – Share-Alike license by Eduardo Zarate.

 

 

5. “Isolation is inconsistent with professional practice“.

Catherine Montreuil, Director of Education, BGCDSB, August 2014

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We can’t just “close the door and teach” any more.  The smartest
person in the room is the room, unless someone in the room is a connected leader, and then it’s the world.  We need leaders who bring the world to their schools and districts.

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6. Connected learning must be modelled at all levels.  Today, it’s no longer about content.  It’s about networks.  Leaders need to model networked learning for teachers and students.  Connected leaders demonstrate that networking is a priority. We need to show our students what our learning looks like.  We need to demonstrate to teachers how we learn.  We need to share our thinking, leave it open to conversations, and let it be questioned.

7. As leaders, our professional portfolios should be ePortfolios, online where we can model this practice for others, and demonstrating how our work aligns with the Leadership Framework.  George Couros has written about this extensively.

8. We have a moral imperative to share.  Sometimes, leaders are very fortunate to be able to travel to a learning event such as a conference.  All that learning needs to be shared!

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.15.44 PMLive-tweeting at the event is a great start, but why shouldn’t everyone could benefit from your learning?  When you share the learning on your blog, it becomes searchable to everyone.  Educators from around the world now have free access to that learning.

If nobody shares, nobody learns!  Put Open and Access at the centre of your learning.

9.  As a connected leader, you bring a world of learning to your practice.

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If leaders aren’t learning online, how can they make good decisions around what technology to purchase with public funds, and what learning is required so the teachers can make effective use of technology for deep learning in their classrooms?

From the blog "Principally Speaking".  Click on the image for the link.
From the blog “Principally Speaking”. Click on the image for the link.

Leaders must be participating in “deep learning” so they can understand what that learning looks like, and they can make valid, essential decisions about how to spend funds and time that are critical to moving learning forward.

If you are not a connected leader, there is no better time to start!  OSSEMOOC shows you how in 10 minutes a day.

Today is a perfect day to start connecting!

Resources:

A Wake Up Call for School Leaders: Eric Sheninger

Digital Literacies (Connected Principals)

Innovation and Intellectual Collisions – Bill Ferriter

5 Reasons why Your Portfolio Should be a Blog – George Couros

A Rich Seam - Michael Fullan

The Power of Professional Capital - Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan

Unlearning, Revisited.

The very first article I read on Zite this morning  was a blog post written by Dr. Chris Dede (incidentally the keynote speaker last week at #on21Clearn in Toronto).

Dr. Dede begins by reminding us that the knowledge and skills of teachers and classroom educators are the most important factor in student learning.  Having said that, transformative change means that much of what teachers know, believe in and do, will need to be changed, and this is a very difficult task.

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Photo Credit: Mike_tn via Compfight cc

“Professional development for transformative change is very challenging because participants not only must learn new skills, but also must “unlearn” almost unconscious beliefs, assumptions, practices, and values about the nature of teaching, learning, and schooling.  In this situation, too often teachers are provided learning experiences that are purely cognitive, but professional development that requires unlearning necessitates high levels of emotional/social support in addition to intellectual and technical guidance.”

Dr. Chris Dede, Education Week, Leadership 360, October 26, 2014

 Finland has included the “unlearning” of teaching strategies in its Teacher Education programs for many years.  The understanding of the importance of an intense teacher training program, with opportunity for research, extensive practice teaching with highly competent mentors, and graduate work, is at the heart of the Finnish teacher education system.  There is an understanding that initial teacher training is essential to a high performing school system.

“The basic aim of every teacher education programme is to educate
competent teachers and to develop the necessary professional qualities to
ensure lifelong teaching careers for teachers. Behind this aim is the belief
that initial teacher education is of paramount importance and that any
defects appearing in the programme will have consequences that will be
extremely difficult to correct later on.”

Pertti Kansanen

Teacher Education in Finland: Current Models and New Developments

Technology has the power to transform learning for students.  Indeed, there are pockets across the country and around the world where this is already happening.  But using technology without changing our thinking about learning will not result in the ‘deep learning’ we are hoping for.  We need to give up some cherished beliefs about schooling before change can happen for our students. 

“Transforming from presentational/assimilative instruction to this form of pedagogy requires from teachers substantial unlearning of mental models and emotional investments in them. These mental models have been developed through decades of being students themselves, receiving traditional instruction, and further years of building skills in conventional instruction.”

Dr. Chris Dede, Education Week, Leadership 360, October 26, 2014

“Unlearning” is unsettling.  As educators, we take pride in our work and we are emotionally invested in doing what is best for our students.  Realizing that our beliefs about what constitutes ‘great teaching’ does not result in the ‘deep learning’ our students need is emotionally challenging.  Rethinking and relearning requires strong support and affirmation as educators move forward in changing practice.

As we consider how we design learning opportunities for educators, we must remember that this is more than a cognitive shift.  It is a shift in a belief system, and from a belief system to an evidence-based, inquiry model of learning.  It requires modelling, and nurturing, at all levels of the education system.

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Photo Credit: Ken Whytock via Compfight cc

Further reading:

What will you ‘unlearn’ today?

Five things I’ve learned (Dr. Chris Dede)

Education policies for raising student learning: The Finnish approach (Pasi Sahlberg)

Finland’s secret sauce: It’s teachers

Teacher education in Finland (Diane Ravitch)

Nobody likes to hear it (Dangerously Irrelevant)

How Will You Make Your Own Mess? “Creating a Culture Not of Mimics But of Masters”

We have problems.  Big problems.

Our world is warming up at an alarming rate.  Child poverty is still a reality in spite of “promises” to end it.

Who will solve these problems?

What are we doing every day to move toward solutions?

Commander Hadfield asked this question recently as host of the CBC Radio program “The Current”.

Listen to the short clip here:
http://www.cbc.ca/video/swf/UberPlayer.swf?state=shareaudio&clipId=2508270671&width=512&height=126

“It takes individual action…

What can I do to understand this better, and then based on that understanding, what can action can I take to then help improve things for myself, for Canadians and beyond our borders.”

Commander Hadfield wonders what we are doing wrong in teaching science to our children.  Why does their curiosity disappear as they move through the school system?

 

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Shared under a Creative Commons Licence by timuiuc

 

This short clip might shed some light on the issues.

http://swf.tubechop.com/tubechop.swf?vurl=sXpbONjV1Jc&start=431.61&end=492.43&cid=2794897

 

We can ask the very same questions about math.

This short clip addresses part of the problem, but the full video below is well worth your time.
http://swf.tubechop.com/tubechop.swf?vurl=-tFCVa3lCds&start=366.33&end=539.64&cid=3754815

 

 

How will you help our students to make their own mess?

How are you making your own mess?

What strategies take us away from the path to a society of mimics, and down the road to a society of masters, poised to solve our big problems?

 

Who Are You Leaving Out?

 

Why would we want to exclude other educators from our professional learning network?

Stephen Katz, in his book Intentional Interruptions, discusses the problem of confirmation bias when it comes to professional learning.  It is our tendency to “only look for things that confirm rather than challenge our beliefs and practices“.

We need to make sure that we are not looking for our professional learning in echo chambers.  We need to find the people who will challenge our thinking.

When we hear, “Let’s build an online community so we can share our learning”, it sounds like a fantastic idea.  It is a fantastic idea.

But when designing how that community will work, ask who you want to exclude, because as soon as you put your sharing behind a password protected site, you are excluding other thinkers who might contribute to your conversation and challenge your thinking – exactly what professional learning needs to include.

It is easy to share your learning and thinking openly.

Consider, for example, the Inquiry-Based Learning Project in Ontario, and their conversations on Twitter under the #ontsshg hashtag.

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They have discussions, vote on topics, document their learning on a blog, and keep it in the open for anyone else to join in the conversation, make comments, search, read, and remix.

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While the conversations focus on Ontario topics, anyone is welcome to join, to share, to learn.

Similarly, Lakehead Public Schools chose to share their collaborative inquiry work with the world on an open blog rather than excluding readers who might learn from their work.

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Before choosing to participate in an online community that excludes learners, think about what you are able to share openly with other educators.

There is a need for protected spaces to share private information about student learning, but if your purpose is to share your own professional learning and to grow as an educator, why would you exclude others from the conversation?

Why not make your thinking and learning visible to all, and model that learning for our students?

 

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Related: Just Make It Public! by Mark W. Carbone:  http://blog.markwcarbone.ca/2014/08/05/just-make-it-public/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Child’s Best Hope

She hated me.

I didn’t know a lot about her, but I knew this for sure.

She hated me with every stare down as I walked through the halls, with every glare when I entered one of her classes, and with every silent meeting in my office – me talking, and her projecting her hatred  without saying a word, without cooperating in any way.

Once she stood up and punched at my face, expertly grazing my cheekbone so it didn’t cause damage, but it sent the clearest possible message.

I asked the school counselor what I had done wrong, what I had done to deserve such hatred.  She said, “Oh, don’t worry about her.  She hates everyone”.

Don’t worry?  If a 14-year-old hates everyone with that intensity, it is a huge cause for worry.

 

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Recently, while waiting to board a flight, I opened a free copy of the local paper – and there was her face, older but unmistakeable.  It was a selfie she had taken in happier times, her devilish smile betraying the torment that was under the surface.

The words below the photo did not mention suicide, but they didn’t have to. The two babies she adored were now without a mother.

As any educator would, I began to wonder if I could have done more.

 

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Mary Jean Gallagher often says that our job is to teach.  We are not social workers.  Our job is to ensure that children learn.

Catherine Montreuil emphasizes that no child in our classrooms can be stuck.  It is our responsibility to ensure that every child learns.  We don’t have to do it alone, we can get the supports we need to ensure learning happens.

Some of our kids need more than we can give.  It doesn’t mean we stop trying.  The structure of our schools makes it so difficult for some of our children to be successful.

 

I can no longer do anything for her, but I can keep working to make sure her babies enter an environment that embraces all cultures, respects and encourages all learning, and provides all the supports that all children need to be successful.

I owe her that.

 

Image credit:

mgaloseau via Compfight cc