Tag Archives: Ontario

A Vision of Effective Mathematics Teaching and Learning

What is your vision of effective mathematics teaching and learning in elementary school?

This is a new question for me.  This blog is Learning About Learning, and I have a lot of learning to do about mathematics education.

I am hoping you can help me.

Here are a few of the things I am thinking about right now.  What can you add to this? What have you learned in your own practice? What do you think about when you consider a vision for teaching and learning mathematics?

I think that efficacy is critical.  Students have to believe they can achieve at high levels.  Teachers have to believe that students can achieve at high levels and that teachers have the capacity to  get students to that high level.

Is mathematics skills (as I was taught), or is it ideas (as Dr. Marian Small suggests)?

Is math about making connections?  Is it important that we work with big ideas rather than teaching skills and concepts only in isolation?

I think students have to be able to choose the tools and strategies they need to help them solve problems.

It isn’t up to us to tell them what tool to use, but to teach them how to use many tools effectively so they might pick the one that is right for them in each context.

Math needs to be fun.  Kids need to be the ones doing the thinking. Teaching through problem solving can be very effective (problems are not add-ons).

Teachers need to collaborate with other educators, to share their thinking openly, to challenge the thinking of others, to read and write blogs about their work.  Isolation is a choice, and isolation is unprofessional.  Kids need the thinking of many professionals, not just the one assigned to them.

As I work through #mathleaderNEO over the next few years, I plan to grow this thinking.

I encourage you to share your ideas too.

Featured Image: shonk via Compfight cc

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Simple Sharing and Organizing: Pinterest for Educators

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike license by Monday’s Child.

 

We talk a lot about the importance of openly sharing and curating resources.

One pushback I often hear is, “I just don’t have time”.  I get that.  The job of an educator never ends.  There are always more opportunities to look for that next practice that we could adapt for a particular student need.  There is always one more possibility to try to help a learner move forward.

But what if we could organize our own resources, making them easier to access, and share with others all at the same time?  We could save time for ourselves and for our colleagues – and isn’t that one of the things technology is supposed to do for us anyway?

Earlier today I stumbled upon this fabulous “how-to” video for teachers to help them use Pinterest to organize and share resources.  It is worth your time to watch even if you are using PInterest already.  There are several helpful tips here.

(The video was posted on this blog for primary teachers. Check out the blog for even more tips on curating, organizing and sharing with colleagues.)

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At OSSEMOOC (@OSSEMOOC), we have collated a number of resources on how Pinterest can be used for educators, including for school and system leaders.  I have posted them below for your reference.

 

Here is a quick look at some resources for education leaders:

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Click the image for the link to the OSSEMOOC post: https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/pinterest-isnt-just-for-crafts-leading-learning-happens-there-too/

 

Here is a step-by-step text guide to connecting and sharing through Pinterest:

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Click on the image for a “how-to” text guide to get started using PInterest for Professional Learning:https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-10-pinterest-is-for-more-than-just-crafts-and-recipes/

 

Here is a screencast that walks you through the resources included in the above text instructions:

 

 

 

Pinterest as a form of curation (this post includes the above screencast and further resources):

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The screencast and further resources can be found by clicking on this image. https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2015/05/24/may-24-2015-curating-with-pinterest/

 

Do you need further help in getting started with Pinterest for Professional Learning? Fill out the form here, and OSSEMOOC will add it to the agenda for the 2015-2016 plan for learning.

Searching for the Desire (to Learn)

What do we do about the educators who refuse to embrace change?

This question keeps bubbling up in conversations, on Twitter, and in blog posts, in different formats, but essentially this is it:  “How do we convince educators that they need to change their practice?”

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike license by Krissy Venosdale.

We have names and categories for those who resist change and cling to the status quo.

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Transforming School Culture, by Dr. Anthony Muhammad http://newfrontier21.com/store/transforming-school-culture/

But have we articulated what the “change” is leading to?

Have we co-constructed the success criteria of what this will look like when we are doing it well?

Simon Breakspear, at the 2015 Ontario Leadership Congress, challenged participants to think about what Ontario classrooms could look like three years from now.  What would we see, hear and feel as we walk into our students’ learning environment in 2018? What is our shared vision for the future of our children?

This is not a hypothetical exercise.  He wants us to set this out exactly as we expect to see it.  What are we looking for, and how will we get there?  It is only by doing this exercise that we can clearly communicate to educators what the path forward is, and what we expect to accomplish.

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Over the past 1.5 years, I have been working relentlessly, with my OSAPAC co-lead (@markwcarbone) on a project to help education leaders become adept in the use of educational technology.

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Why?

Because in Ontario we have a “renewed vision” for education,  and that vision includes using technology as an accelerator to change where, when and how learning can take place.

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Shared under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license by Giulia Forsythe. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/10310176123/

And if we are actually going to see this happen in our “classrooms”, then our leaders have to have a very good understanding of what technology enabled learning and teaching looks like, sounds like, feels like for learners.

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Image shared under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial share-alike license by Alec Couros (@courosa)

The world is changing rapidly and if our students are going to thrive, they need very different skills and abilities than the ones that worked for us.  It’s easy to forget how fast the world is changing when we are immersed in our bricks and mortar schools each day.

Are we leading and teaching for where the puck is now, or where it is going?

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Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/3046277/the-new-rules-of-work/the-top-jobs-in-10-years-might-not-be-what-you-expect

So how do you provide learning for leaders to keep up with the changing role of technology in learning?

We think we understand the learning needs of leaders who are already pressed for time.  We need many different entry points.  We have to appeal to a range of styles of learning.  We need learning opportunities that do not require a lot of commitment because of the varied schedules of those in leadership roles. Small chunks of learning have to be available so they can be accessed at any time.

We looked at a way to provide very, very simple access to opportunities to learn to become a connected leader.  That simple access includes:

  • one open website with no login or password required (ossemooc.wordpress.com)
  • Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 6.54.58 AMon that website, links to the blogs of formal and informal school and system leaders in Ontario so that this one site allows anyone access to the visible thinking of educators throughout this province.
  • on the website – a new post nearly every day, Tuesday evening open conversations,
  • on the website – a program to become connected in only 10 minutes a day
  • on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and other social media, a stream of information on learning and connected leadership

If any education leader in Ontario has the DESIRE to learn to become connected, OSSEMOOC (Awesome MOOC!) is just sitting there waiting for them to start.

It is free, open and simple with 1:1 support for anyone who WANTS to learn.

Our question is, what more can we possibly offer?

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Image shared under a Creative Commons attribution license by Alan Levine (@cogdog).

Is the missing piece the desire to learn?

This is an interesting problem, because leaders openly wonder why educators in their systems won’t embrace change.

We hear that the world is changing, the nature of education is changing, what we know about learners is changing, but some classroom educators refuse to change their practice.  How can we help them change?

Will they change if they don’t have the desire to learn?

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Shared under a creative commons attribution, non-commercial, share-alike license by Giulia Forsythe. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8716324040

So let’s solve this!  Why is it not a priority for leaders to become connected? What is it about this learning that leaders do not buy into?

If leaders personally reflect on why they don’t see the value in becoming connected digital leaders, why they don’t take advantage of opportunities to learn to lead in digital spaces, will it reveal some understanding about the challenges in helping resistant classroom educators change their practice?

Sometimes we refer to educators who are resistant to change as “fundamentalists”, based on the work of Muhammad, in Transforming School Culture (2009) (nicely explained here by Nicole Morden-Cormier).

What would we say about leaders who:

  • refuse to learn to use collaborative documents so that they can work asynchronously and at a distance from their colleagues?
  • don’t take the time to learn to use technology to download their own videos and make their own presentations shine, and even say “oh, I don’t do tech” (they would never say that about math!)?
  • don’t build a strong professional learning network so that they can reach out and find the experience and understanding they need to make evidence-based decisions around technology purchases, capacity-building and planning?
  • have not learned the skills needed to supervise and learn with teachers in online learning environments?
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Shared by Kaila Wyslocky (@kwyslocky) from her presentation on how she is transforming her online teaching practice, OTRK12 2015.

Are education leaders who preserve the technology status quo, “fundamentalists”?

Would we refer to leaders who refuse to make digital leadership a priority as “fundamentalists”?

Not likely, as we know that education leaders are learners.  We might say that they don’t have time, or that they have other priorities and interests.  But we see them as being learners.

Do we see resistant classroom educators as learners?  Are they only labelled as fundamentalists because they are not learning what we think they should learn?

Maybe what we need to do is find out what it is they want to learn, and start there.  Recognize that they ARE learners, and that what they are learning is valuable, and let them bring it to the table.

Find the mindset they already have – where learning is sought instead of provided – and discover what learning they are seeking, and harness this.

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Brainstorming Professional Learning

Fundamentally, our job as educators is to ensure that every single child in our care is learning.  There might be all kinds of research on what best practices are, but none of that research was done on that student in that classroom.  Only that teacher has the responsibility to ensure that child is learning, and once their repertoire of strategies is exhausted, it is that teacher’s job to connect with others to find the next best practice, to be the scientist for that child to find what will work.

The classroom educator is the researcher to find best practice for every child.

They need to know how to find out what others are doing, and how to adapt practices to each learner.

The shift is from a mindset where learning is provided, to a culture where learning is sought (David Jakes, 2015).

But since learning will only be sought where there is a DESIRE to learn, maybe that is the place we need to start.

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#makeschooldifferent: My Five Things We Need To Stop Pretending


http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2015/04/we-have-to-stop-pretending.html

Scott McLeod’s blog is a source of inspiration for me.

I know by the number of times that I have shared “The Lone Wolf” by David Truss that educators are a frustrated group of professionals, advocating relentlessly to change our public school systems so they align with the learning needs of our students in a world that does not resemble the one in which the school system was originally created.

I embrace the tone of the challenge: What are five things we need to stop pretending in our schools?

We are all part of these conversations.  We know what must change. We work relentlessly, but the pace of change inside our schools can be so much slower than the pace of change outside our schools, that becoming “dangerously irrelevant” is exactly where we are in danger of heading (read Simon Breakspear as well).  It can be heartbreaking work.

I have far more than five ideas to contribute.  We all have more than five ideas to contribute.  But this is a great place to start.

Please read the entire collection and follow #makeschoolsdifferent on Twitter.  Do your part to effect change.

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending…

1. That we know what school is for.

Until we actually ask this question, and come to some agreement on the purpose, we will continue to argue about what is best for our children.  It is NOT to give students the skills they need to find jobs that existed when they were born.  There will be far more graduates than jobs, and those traditional jobs are mostly gone.  “What is school for?” must be a constant conversation.

2. That it’s okay to determine access to future learning based on a two digit number assigned by a secondary school teacher to a graduating student.

Marks are not an indicator of ability to learn.  In fact, marks can be a detriment to learning. We pretend that the current system of determining access to university programs based on marks is acceptable.  Marks promote cheating. Check out all the youtube videos on how to convince your teacher to give you a higher mark. Marks promote classroom competition over collaboration. Marks turn school into a game of winners and losers instead of a place where learning is sought.

Let’s find a better way to encourage all students to keep learning.

3. That it’s okay for any student to be stuck and not learning.

It is not the job of a teacher to teach.  It is the job of a teacher to ensure students are learning.  Not alone – teachers have access to networks of educators and professionals to help – but learning must happen.  “He has the right to fail” is not an acceptable statement – ever*.

4. That it’s okay to bash teachers.

Stop.  The teaching profession is the most important profession in society. “Teacher bashing” is not productive. It turns great potential teachers away from the profession.  Our children need the best teachers we have to give them.  Let’s elevate the profession to a place where the best people are attracted to the profession of ensuring that the upcoming generations are able to solve the world’s biggest problems.

5. That it’s okay for only some people to have access to the internet and the world’s body of knowledge.

We need to stop pretending that all children are digital natives. Many children still have no access to the internet and the world’s best teachers, and we don’t have access to their voices.  That is not okay. What are we doing today to get access for these children and their families?  It is an enormous inequity that we need to solve.

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Please watch “The Loon Project” by clicking on this image.

I am tagging everyone in my PLN to share their thinking on the five things we need to stop pretending.

I am particularly interested, for purely selfish reasons, in the thinking of the following five people:

Ron Canuel, David Truss, Julie Balen , Mark W. Carbone, Stephen Hurley

Please share your thinking and add it to the growing body of ideas here.

My granddaughter, Chloe Patricia Avery, is two months old today.

Let’s make sure that when she starts school in September 2019,  it looks very different from the model that worked for her great grandparents.

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Chloe on her 1 month birthday.

Thank you for reading this.  What is your next?

 

 

*In the context of “earning a credit”. It is this thinking: “I taught him, he chose not to learn” that I object to, not the understanding that we learn from our failures as part of the learning process.

Resources:

The Lone Wolf: David Truss shares some inspiration with educators who are feeling like they can’t make the difference they want to.

What are the changes we want to see? #makeschooldifferent

The man who discovered the genetic link to cystic fibrosis, Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, did not have a standardized mind. He barely made it through the school system:

http://dfryed.tumblr.com/post/116635201423/the-man-who-discovered-the-genetic-link-to-cystic

Sharing with PQP: Why Do Our Students Need Connected Leaders?

Recently, I was asked to share my thinking with PQP candidates about why connecting as leaders is so important.

I wrote about this late last year, and I have presented workshops on the topic a few times.  

This time I needed to be able to share my thinking remotely, so I created this very quick, one-take talk on why I think that being a connected leader is critical.

How does a busy leader become connected? #OSSEMOOC takes you through “getting connected” in 10 minutes a day here.  (Scroll down and check out the right side of the page for 30 days of learning).

 

 

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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