Tag Archives: learn

The Key to Innovative Practice? More Ideas!

For a long time in Ontario, we have relied heavily on standardized test results, and the tested ideas and strategies grounded in research to inform our educational practice.

But does this kind of thinking short-change our kids?

Dr. Chris Dede talks about the importance of spreading pockets of excellence and adapting successful practice into our context.

In “Great to Excellent: Launching the Next Stage of Ontario’s Education Agenda“, Michael Fullan stated (p. 12)

“What Ontario educators and leaders have accomplished in the last nine years is truly remarkable and impressive on a world scale. Yet it is also disturbingly precarious without the focused innovation required for excellence.”

How do we accelerate the use of innovative practices in our classrooms?

In Eureka! Mapping the Creative Mind,  we learn that one of the best ways to have a great idea is to have lots of them (Linus Pauling).

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Shared under a Creative Commons attribution license by Celestine Chua


Chris Anderson argues that Crowd Accelerated Innovation results from our ability to access a global community of ideas online.  “Radical openness” works to spread ideas.  Innovation emerges as groups of people “bump up” the best ideas.

Our reality is that we are part of a global community.

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The role of a teacher is to ensure that ever single child in the classroom is learning.  Teachers are researchers, searching for the best practices to meet the learning needs of each child.  Focused, disciplined innovation results from modifying and adapting strategies and ideas that have been successful in other contexts.

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Isn’t it important, then, that all teachers know how to effectively access, and contribute to, the global community of ideas?

Learning from Singapore: Pak Tee Ng and the Focus on “Teach Less, Learn More”

#uLead15 was an opportunity for educators to hear from some of the leaders in education where PISA scores are consistently the highest.

It was obvious that the leading PISA countries do not use strategies like practicing test writing, teaching to the test, focusing on “moving the high level two students to level three”, data walls, SMART goals, common core standards or tying teacher pay to student “achievement”. In fact, the words “student achievement” are rarely used in relation to test performance.

Overall, there is an agreement that valuing education as a society, having very high-performing and highly-respected teachers who learn to teach in a highly selective, focused program of education, and viewing education as an investment rather than an expenditure, are critical characteristics of the people living in the countries where PISA results are consistently excellent.

Personally, it was my first opportunity to learn about education in Singapore.  Here is what I learned from the fascinating, highly entertaining and widely respected Dr. Pak Tee Ng.

(I have included a number of Tweets from his presentations.  Click on the tweets to follow the conversation on Twitter.)

What are the characteristics of education in “high-performing” Singapore?

1. Manageable size – Adaption/adoption and spread are facilitated by the small size of the country.

2. Stable education funding – Education is an investment and funding is never cut.

3. Highly skilled and educated teachers who are well-respected in the nation.

4. Education is valued by all as the way to a better future.

5. Equity is at the centre of the education system. Everyone has access to the same public education system.

6. Teaching is seen as complex, and inquiry, including adapting methods from other contexts, is ongoing, always.  Change from a position of strength is preferable to, and more mindful than, change made out of desperation.

7. Courage and tenacity to stand up for what is best for children is valued and encouraged.

8. “Teach less, learn more” is a central concept.

9. Creativity is in children already. Schools should strive to leave it there!

10. Children are individuals.  They were not meant to sit in desks all day.  Play,  joy and love of learning are essential to their well-being.


Singapore itself is a very tiny country.  There are only 400 schools and one university for teacher education.  This reminds me of the work by Ken Leithwood on the characteristics of strong districts, and the learning from Andy Hargreaves on the importance of the size of the political unit when considering the impact on student learning.


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Pak Tee Ng is a master at the use of metaphors.

He asked us to consider the loving mother, cooking food for her child, slaving over the stove and selecting the items she knows are best for her child.  When she tries to feed the child, he says no, I am not eating any more.  Then what?  She tries to stuff the child.  She makes more food.  The child wants no more.

This, Pak Tee says, is the ‘teach more learn less’ model, where conscientious and well meaning teachers work hard, trying to organize information for students, then they try to stuff it into their heads.  The students hate it and want no more.

Instead, what if the mother cooked a few wonderfully interesting food items.  Students tried them and wanted more?

This is like the ‘teach less learn more’ model, where the teacher is the master chef, creating interest, and leaving the learners wanting to learn more, and to learn how to feed themselves to get more.

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It’s precise teaching – inquiry into what works – that is important.

When you go to the doctor, does he say “take two aspirins and call me in the morning” no matter what your symptoms are?

Similarly, why would we ever prescribe exactly the same learning for every child?

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Continuing to do the same thing that we know doesn’t work, makes no sense.

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We work very hard to educate our teachers and education leaders to be the best they can be for every child.

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It is NOT about test scores.  It is about children, and our future.

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Why do we think we need 21C Skills?

What has changed?  Isn’t it still about the best learning for children?

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We don’t need to teach creativity.

We say we want our children to graduate from school as creative and innovative individuals.

Our children enter school this way.  We just need a school system that doesn’t take this out of them!

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We need to recognize that both form and substance are important.

Practice is important, but it is no good to only practice.

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There must be joy in learning.

We have to remember that we are teaching children.  It is against the nature of childhood to sit still and quiet.

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Do we really want to create a student body that is just becoming more tolerant of boredom?

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Every single child must be educated to the best of their ability.  We don’t need a slogan like “No Child Left Behind” because it would never be any other way.

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There is no magic bullet – education is complex!

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Teachers are the most important people in society.

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Educators need courage and tenacity to stand up for what is best for our kids.

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Courage to make the right decisions must be balanced with wisdom so that we are always doing the best for our future through our children.

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Education is an investment, not an expenditure.  We have long term stability in education funding so we can plan and continue to make our education system excellent.

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We must get Pak Tee Ng on Twitter!  There is so much to learn from him!

Here we are trying to convince this man, trending 2nd in Canada on Twitter, that he needs to be there!

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Learning from #uLead15: Pak Tee Ng

After attending a learning opportunity like #uLead15, there is an imperative to share the learning fully and quickly.  I am still travelling – not quite home from the event yet – so my first share is a Storify of the twitterfeed during Pak Tee Ng’s presentations.  I know you will be fascinated by his thinking, and I will expand on the learning once I arrive at home!

Thanks to Dr. Pak Tee Ng for being such an excellent educator in sharing his thinking with us over the past few days.  He was trending #2 in Canada at one point, which tells you just how popular his message was!

[View the story “International Leadership Learning at #uLead15: Pak Tee Ng” on Storify]

International Leadership Learning at #uLead15: Pak Tee Ng//

International Leadership Learning at #uLead15: Pak Tee Ng

Some of the key learning from #uLead15 with Pak Tee Ng from Singapore

  1. Concern for our next generation should drive us, not international results like PISA -Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  2. #uLead15 Perspectives on Leadership-Pasi Sahlberg,Pak Tee Ng,HonGordonDirks,Illugi Gunnarson and Simon Breakspear.
  3. I added a video to a @YouTube playlist  http://ln.is/www.youtube.com/aoslU  Pak Tee Ng – Singapore: Teach Less, Learn More
  4. Pak Tee Ng – “PISA is important? Yes and no. Our children is what is most important.” #ulead15 #thereasonweteach
  5. We should be driven by our concern for the next generation not by #pisa results. Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  6. From Pak Tee Ng – It is the future of our children that drives our inquiry. Just because PISA is good we should not stop improving #ulead15
  7. From Pak Tee Ng: PISA is just a measure. That is all that it is. #uLead15
  8. Pak Tee Ng “much more concerned about the education of our children… it is not about ranking, it is about education” #PISA #uLead15 #abed
  9. From Pak Tee Ng -> Back in the last century did someone say “20C skills” then we developed people accordingly? #uLead15 Why 21C skill?
  10. We didn’t focus on 20th century skills to get successfully to the 21st century – Pak Tee Ng of Singapore. #ulead15
  11. Can someone please get Pak Tee Ng a Twitter account. His message needs to be heard by all! @SimonBreakspear #ulead15
  12. Pak Tee Ng:The real question isn’t “How do we teach creativity?” Kids have creativity. It’s “How do we not kill it?” #ulead15
  13. Students have creativity! Our job is to tap into that, provide opportunity and not kill it! Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 http://t.co/7yMNM8U4Vk

    Students have creativity! Our job is to tap into that, provide opportunity and not kill it! Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 pic.twitter.com/7yMNM8U4Vk
  14. From Pak Tee Ng – #ulead Teachers are irreplaceable. Teaching is about impacting lives. Teaching is about modelling.
  15. Pak Tee Ng: From quotable quotes to tweetable tweets: How quickly our world is changing #ulead15 @albertateachers @HargreavesBC @philmcrae
  16. A tweetable tweet is modern quotable quote! Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  17. It takes an expert teacher to know what is important and not important -Pak Tee Ng. #ulead2015
  18. Teaching is about impacting lives- lives impacting lives- relationships and love #ulead15 @SimonBreakspear Pak Tee Ng
  19. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 Is learning a task or a joy?When it is a joy, we do better. @shareski
  20. Pak Tee Ng: (from Confucius) Is it not a JOY to learn? In some of today’s rooms, Is it not a task? #ulead15
  21. Pak Tee Ng says learning should be joyful instead of being a chore or task. #uLead15
  22. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 We are making kids who are becoming more tolerant of boredom!!
  23. There is great joy in learning! If we could make this our culture we would be successful educators and leaders. Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  24. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 Kids are like a homing device for interesting things. What if there is nothing out there? Let’s all teach better
  25. Pak Tee Ng We turn on our radar to look for something interesting – then they are engaged. Son’t let students find nothing. #ulead15
  26. #ulead15 Kick boredom out of your classroom…be an interesting T. Change things up, teach w/ passion. Pak Tee Ng thx 4 modelling this!
  27. Packed room for Pak Tee Ng in concurrent session. He could sell out the main hall after his panel talk. @SimonBreakspear #ulead15
  28. The room is full. Time to get Pak Tee Ng a twitter account! #uLead http://t.co/EDxmOuyxlB

    The room is full. Time to get Pak Tee Ng a twitter account! #uLead pic.twitter.com/EDxmOuyxlB
  29. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15: Why what and how of teaching – at the teacher level. At the student level we want students who love learning.
  30. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 – Move students from an ability to do exam questions to understanding, application and appreciation.
  31. Pak Tee NG quality is teaching for understanding and appreciation #ulead15
  32. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 Instead of just being able to do stuff, we need to understand stuff.
  33. Let's not focus on debt- focus on quality - higher levels of on task learning Pak Tee Ng #Ulead15 http://t.co/2sYI0Wfxpc

    Let’s not focus on debt- focus on quality – higher levels of on task learning Pak Tee Ng #Ulead15 pic.twitter.com/2sYI0Wfxpc
  34. Essence of teach less learn more in Singapore...shifting from quantity to quality. Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 http://t.co/OVBbg6Hk5n

    Essence of teach less learn more in Singapore…shifting from quantity to quality. Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 pic.twitter.com/OVBbg6Hk5n
  35. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 As a country, getting the answer is NOT good enough. The thinking, understanding and appreciation is important.
  36. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 Being really good at not knowing what you are doing is very dangerous.
  37. Pak Tee Ng: very dangerous to be real good doing something you dont understand :) #uLead15
  38. If we focus on understanding how students learn, then students will learn more and better. Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  39. Pak Tee Ng: we should challange our own mindset about how to teach. Do not kill childrens creativity #uLead15
  40. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 We don’t need a drama club! We naturally dramatize things. Just don’t kill this!
  41. Pak Tee Ng speaking reminds me of Reggio Emilio approach- children have 100 language, we take 99 away from them #uLead15
  42. Try not to kill student creativity thru schooling- Pak Tee Ng #Ulead15 When students are young they ask Qs Play is an act of creativity-
  43. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 PLAY! (we call it collaborative learning, cooperative learning, values education, drama class, storytelling)
  44. Must “Challenge our thinking regarding what effective teaching methods are”-Pak Tee Ng Sounds like a job for #instructionalcoaching #ulead15
  45. Pak Tee Ng The ability to get the right answer – but not know why – is not good enough. Changing pedagogy in Singapore #ulead15
  46. Pak Tee Ng: Its not just “play”… It’s living a created narrative, problem solving, collaboration, ethics education, and more! #ulead15
  47. Implicit in all children is cooperation, collaboration, imagination, curiosity, creativity, ethics. Pak Tee Ng #ulead
  48. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 Kids are all the things we say they should be when they arrive, then they do school & they lose it all. Why?
  49. As adults we get so schooled in adulthood that we forget childhood. Play is important! -Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 #hs4
  50. Pak Tee Ng Singapore challenge — Don’t kill creativity through schooling. #ulead15 #psd70 #muirlake
  51. "We have gotten so schooled into adulthood we have forgotten childhood. Learn from children" #ulead15 Pak Tee Ng http://t.co/tGfBaJvLaK

    “We have gotten so schooled into adulthood we have forgotten childhood. Learn from children” #ulead15 Pak Tee Ng pic.twitter.com/tGfBaJvLaK
  52. Teach less doesn’t say teach nothing. Concentrate on what’s important. Facilitate when appropriate. – Pak Tee Ng. #ulead15
  53. "Teachers need to be good teachers first and then they can be better facilitators" Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 http://t.co/bV4ouqeqiY

    “Teachers need to be good teachers first and then they can be better facilitators” Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 pic.twitter.com/bV4ouqeqiY
  54. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 Teach less learn more is not teach nothing! Concentrate on important. You can’t facilitate everything!
  55. #ulead15 Pak Tee Ng. Our teaching is sometimes is delivered regardless of our students. Like a dr prescribing 2 aspirin for all ailments
  56. Pedagogy is an integrated concept that makes it important to tailor learning to students. – Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  57. More teaching and more of the same teaching is not the solution to a learning problem. – Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  58. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 Conscientious teachers wear themselves out in the teach more learn less model.
  59. #ulead15 The same methodology for all disregards the learner – like a physician prescribing the same cure for every patient. Pak Tee Ng
  60. Pak Tee Ng – The professionalism of teaching is “that we know how people learn”. #ulead15
  61. Pak Tee Ng – methodology must not be regardless of children. No two aspirin three times a day approach for every child! #ulead15
  62. Traditional model. Prepare food and feed. Prepare info (units, lessons) feed child Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 http://t.co/f1Mqv0eQHF

    Traditional model. Prepare food and feed. Prepare info (units, lessons) feed child Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 pic.twitter.com/f1Mqv0eQHF
  63. From Pak Tee Ng #uLead15 The people with extensive formal education are not always the most creative teachers.
  64. #ulead15 Twitter name for Pak Tee Ng? How about @Mr.PakTee ...PITY THE FOOL who teaches more! http://t.co/o75At8ErtV

    #ulead15 Twitter name for Pak Tee Ng? How about @mr.PakTee …PITY THE FOOL who teaches more! pic.twitter.com/o75At8ErtV
  65. This guy is the star of #ulead15 and I totally interrupted him in the lobby to get a selfie with him. (Pak Tee Ng) http://t.co/Tr70IJGiqd

    This guy is the star of #ulead15 and I totally interrupted him in the lobby to get a selfie with him. (Pak Tee Ng) pic.twitter.com/Tr70IJGiqd
  66. Mr Pak Tee Ng: Closing Keynote The Paradoxical Policy of "Teach Less Learn More" in Singapore #uLead15 #vsblearns http://t.co/GJR5AMLYfp

    Mr Pak Tee Ng: Closing Keynote The Paradoxical Policy of “Teach Less Learn More” in Singapore #uLead15 #vsblearns pic.twitter.com/GJR5AMLYfp
  67. Practice is not wrong. By itself, it is insufficient. – Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  68. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 We can and should learn from others, but we should be mindful of contextual differences.
  69. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 The ticket to success now will not be the ticket to success in the future.
  70. Change from a position of strength rather than a position of desperation. – Pak Tee Ng #ulead #ecsrd
  71. Lessons from Singapore and Pak Tee Ng: Education is an investment, NOT an expenditure.
  72. #ulead15  @gordondirks Pak Tee Ng has a good point.  In times of econ downturn, it is prudent to invest in education. http://t.co/6562SHQfex

    #ulead15 @gordondirks Pak Tee Ng has a good point. In times of econ downturn, it is prudent to invest in education. pic.twitter.com/6562SHQfex
  73. Mr Pak Tee Ng Teach Less, but Teach WELL...LEARN MORE Move from Quantity to Quality #uLead15 #vsblearns http://t.co/6FLQ0xq5TN

    Mr Pak Tee Ng Teach Less, but Teach WELL…LEARN MORE Move from Quantity to Quality #uLead15 #vsblearns pic.twitter.com/6FLQ0xq5TN
  74. More of the same teaching that didn’t work the first time is not exactly the way to inspire learning. – Pak Tee Ng #ulead15
  75. Dr. Pak Tee Ng: Teaching is the ultimate form of ‘Pay it Forward’.
    #ulead15 #regteach
  76. More of the same teaching is not the way to inspire learning – wise words from Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 #TeachLessLearnMore
  77. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 “One day, my hope is that you will do this better than I.” This is a teacher.
  78. Dive, dive, dive. RT @amdesb: Pak Tee Ng – Teach less, Learn more – move from quantity to quality.
    #ulead15 #gppsd
  79. Everybody deserves a good future! One failing school is one school too many. Pak Tee Ng#ulead15
  80. Pak Tee Ng: In Singapore, we don’t have a policy called ‘No Child Left Behind’, we just practice it, that’s all. #ulead15
  81. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 It is about having courage to change. We need the courage to put away the ladder while we are on it. @RonCanuel :)
  82. Dr. Pak Tee Ng : “take responsible calculated risks, be careful… our children are real people.” #ulead15
  83. From Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 Educational change is about people thinking carefully and then having the courage to make decisions to move forward
  84. Loud and clear theme between @dennisshirley @pasi_sahlberg and Pak Tee Ng of the importance of being human, love, and tenacity #ulead15
  85. MT @KenSampson1: Tenacity – think long term, think deeply, then bight the bullet. Pak Tee Ng. #ulead15 #abed
  86. Pak Tee Ng: “Despite it all, shall we go on?” Courage and tenacity from teachers to continue on despite being out of comfort zones.
  87. "Education is the human enterprise of paying it forward" Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 BEAUTIFUL #abed #epsb @SimonBreakspear http://t.co/h5IVDUKDbh

    “Education is the human enterprise of paying it forward” Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 BEAUTIFUL #abed #epsb @SimonBreakspear pic.twitter.com/h5IVDUKDbh
  88. Finally!!! Thank you Pak Tee Ng! Word Courage was openly stated. Folks the blunt truth is that No Courage means No Change #ulead15 #edchat
  89. @JRStrum: And with a Teacher’s heart beat there shall be hope for all children #ulead15 Pak Tee Ng’s closing thoughts.” Love this!
  90. #KCA #VoteJKT48ID thescamdog: In Singapore, education is an investment, not an expenditure. Invest more when times are tough. – Pak Tee Ng …
  91. RT: “@philmcrae: "Education is the human enterprise of paying it forward" Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 BEAUTIFUL #abed #hs4  http://t.co/AZe3olcxEX”

    RT: “@philmcrae: “Education is the human enterprise of paying it forward” Pak Tee Ng #ulead15 BEAUTIFUL #abed #hs4 pic.twitter.com/AZe3olcxEX
  92. #KCA #VoteJKT48ID MarkATAPres: We must spend prudently. In good times or bad investment in education must remain stable. Pak Tee Ng #ulead15


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?

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.

Some further examples:

Using twitter to survey the world, and connecting with other classrooms: http://byodasap.blogspot.ca/2015/03/a-global-survey-electricity-usage.html @HTheijsmeijer

Using twitter in eLearning to survey the world around water treatment:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/15YmGqJQphAr35ghoOZnhsDcrIow7c5VO6ByZaT6k20E/viewform?c=0&w=1 @lauramitchellwa

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:







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!


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)