Tag Archives: technology

#BIT15: Principals Leading Innovation with Technology

Principals Leading the Innovative Use of Technology for Learning and Teaching

A session at BIT15 – Bring IT,Together 2015

Thursday 5th November, 2015

11:00am to 11:50am (EST)

Technology is a tool that enables innovative approaches to deep learning and student assessment. As lead learners, how are school leaders across Ontario integrating technology and pedagogy into classroom practice? We will hear from Principals across Ontario who will share how they are successfully leading TELT in their learning environments. We will crowd-source this question prior to and during the presentation, and we will share the stage with principals f2f and through Google Hangout and Skype.

So as a Principal, how are you leading the Innovative Use of Technology for Learning and Teaching?

Share using the hashtag #PVPTELT

Join us at #BIT15 on Thursday, November 5 at 11 a.m.

Thanks to Kim Figliomeni and Katie Maenpaa, Greg Pearson, Lisa Neale and Shannon Smith for sharing with the group.

Ten Years Ago, Ten Years From Now

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Today is my dog’s 10th birthday.

Technically, he isn’t really my dog.  We bought him for our son 10 years ago.

“Basso”, the beagle, was my son’s Christmas present in 2005.

A beagle was the #2 item on my son’s wish list.

Item #1 was an iPod, but everyone wanted an iPod in 2005, and all of the stores were sold out.



An iPod.  An iPod with video playback – new technology in 2005, and the cool accessory for a grade 11 student.Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 12.17.32 AM

As it turns out, we found an iPod as well, just before Christmas, in a pop-up tech store in Vaughan Mills (which had only opened about a year earlier).

Basso the beagle has seen so many changes in technology in his 10 years with us.  We have pictures of this dog on such a wide variety of devices – including that first iPod.

Basso still hides his face when he sees any device.

His earliest experiences with camera devices always involved infrared lights and flashes that hurt his eyes.  Even today, as I tried to take a birthday picture, he closed his eyes and then hid his face under his blanket.

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In April 2006, when my school board sponsored teachers to purchase technology for Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 11.54.33 PMtheir classroom use, I bought a beautiful Canon PowerShot A700 digital camera for just under $700.00. The very first picture I took is still my favourite picture of Basso.  Since then, Basso has had his picture taken with an iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 6, and 6s.  His picture has been displayed on an iPad, iPad2, iPad3, iPad Air, MacBook Pro and MacBook.

The worst technology Basso ever experienced was that  5th generation iPod back in 2005.



Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 11.55.28 PMI needed that camera because my ultra-cool blackberry 7750 cell phone/smart phone didn’t have one.  We weren’t thinking about taking pictures with our phones 10 years ago.

Back then, my son was loving his time in grade 11 – at least the part that was high school hockey.

He was dying of boredom in his physics class, and a few other classes as well.  The content was utterly irrelevant and uninspiring. He saw no purpose in memorizing formulas for tests or trying to figure out the “type” of problem so he could determine what formula to plug the numbers into.

Since then, he has gone on to a brilliant career first as a national team athlete, and now as a science-based professional – a choice that required surviving many more (very boring) physics classes.  It certainly was not his physics classes that inspired him to have a career in science, where he does more physics every day than his teachers have ever experienced.

So I wonder, are the students in that physics class today still reading from a textbook, going home and answering questions for homework, and then being tested on their ability to memorize the formula or choose the right formula given some made-up problem?  Or are those students now solving real-life problems, networking with people who actually work in the field of physics, and learning about the amazing opportunities available to them in science?  Has the 10 years of explosive technology change had any impact at all on students in a grade 11 physics class?

Unlike with Basso, when I hold up my iPhone 6 to take a picture of my granddaughter, she knows that she is supposed to smile!


Ten years from now, when she is in Grade 5, that iPhone 6 will be her blackberry 7750.  She will laugh at what I took her baby pictures with.

It will be the worst technology she will experience in her life.

I wonder, will her grade 5 class still look like the grade 5 class of today?  Or will our school system finally have entered the pace of change that is the world now?  Will her grade five class be mirroring her world and her life, or will it still be focused on her grade 6 EQAO scores and preparing her well for the world her grandparents grew up in?

We laugh at the technology from 10 years ago.

Do we laugh at what we thought classrooms should be like way back then too, or do they still look exactly the same?


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What’s an Education That’s Worth Having?

[In 2014, I wrote a post on technology and pedagogy that was recently circulated on Twitter.  It reminded me that it is time to update the thinking in that post.]

Simon Breakspear asked the question, “What is an Education That’s Worth Having?” at #uLead15 three months ago.  The answer is complex, and context driven, but, I think we have some ideas.

What's an Education Worth Having?

For me, in 2015, that education includes digital literacies.

We often hear educators say that technology is “just a tool”.  In some situations, this is true.  Technology can be a tool to help students learn traditional content.

But it isn’t true in all cases.  Technology is so much more than a tool. Because of technology, we can now exist in both physical and digital spaces.

The competencies required to thrive and succeed in digital spaces are different from those required to succeed in our physical world, and more and more, these two worlds are inseparable.

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Our children exist in digital space and physical space seamlessly, except, in some cases, in school (and, except for those children who still have no access to the internet or to devices).

The Future of the Principalship in Canada

A recent study of the role of Canadian Principals shows that cyberbullying and policy issues related to social media is the #2 concern across the country.

Why is this the case?

I think we have done a huge disservice to our children.  We’ve known for a very long time that kids can communicate, access photos and share online, but by prohibiting this behaviour in schools – by taking the stance that it is not okay to use devices in school – we have neglected to teach them the competencies required to be successful citizens in the online environment.

So who will teach them now?

Unless we truly believe that digital literacies are important and that the competencies required to be successful in the future must be taught in school, nothing will change.

We need to ensure that our education leaders have these competencies.

Teach and Learn for Diversity. Use Technology to Engage Student Leadership.

Use technology for creative learning and good citizenship

Full immersion in digital spaces is arguably the best way for people to develop these competencies (Doug Belshaw, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies) and to understand how best to develop them in others.  This requires the use of a number of devices (and reliable access to the internet). Deciding what device is best for what purpose is part of the learning.  It also requires time to immerse and try and play and network and learn.  Educators need these opportunities.

If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.

We can’t let our children continue to play online without the knowledge and skills to be safe, to be responsible, and to lead change in the digital environment.

The change begins by building confidence and competence in digital literacies with our education leaders.



Doug Belshaw, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Identifying, Scaffolding and Credentialling Skills in an Ever-Changing Digital Environment (Doug Belshaw)

Digital Literacies Wiki (Doug Belshaw)

Mozilla Web Literacy Map

Mozilla Web Literacy

Digital Literacy on #MNLead (June 28, 2015)

Tweets mentioning @simonbreakspear, #uLead15

On Twitter – #digilit

Tom Whitby: The Myth of Innovation in Education

Health and Wellbeing: The Importance of Digital Literacies (from JISC)


Intergenerational Digital Literacy

This past week, I read a blog post by Jennifer Casa-Todd: Childrens’ Rights in a Digital World

It is based on this UNICEF publication: Childrens’ Rights in the Digital Age

This is the quote that first attracted my attention:

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“… digital literacy across generations..”

I immediately thought of Ontario’s Renewed Vision for Education.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 9.34.37 AM “Our children, youth and adults will develop the skills and the knowledge that will lead them to become personally successful, economically productive and actively engaged citizens. They will become the motivated innovators, community builders, creative talent, skilled workers, entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.”


When children attend a school, their experiences should not be limited by the knowledge and skills of the adults in the building.   The educators, as digitally literate, connected professionals, should be able to bring the world to the children.

[Edit: Please see the comment below suggesting a rephrasing of the above statement – 

My thinking: “The educators, as digitally literate, connected professionals, SHOULD BE ABLE TO FACILITATE THE CHILDREN’S LINKING THEMSELVES TO THE WORLD.”]


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The school building can be a community hub for all to access the world outside the community.  This concept of connected learning is well-explained in the short video below.

The importance of being part of a connected world is emphasized in a recent OECD Report – Connected Minds: Technology and Today’s Learners.

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From OECD: Connected Minds: Technology and Today’s Learners http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/connected-minds_9789264111011-en#page23 (Page 23)

So how do we help adults improve their digital literacy?

Earlier this week, HWDSB Grade 1 teacher Aviva Dunsiger led a discussion in the OSSEMOOC session demonstrating how she empowers the parents of her students through the use of technology.

Aviva uses technology to share her students’ learning throughout the day, and provides parents with simple suggestions for how the learning can be extended at home.

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From Slide 15 by @dajbelshaw (Doug Belshaw) http://www.slideshare.net/dajbelshaw/sssc-digital-literacy-workshop

During the recent Google Education On Air Panel Discussion (14:00), Zoe Tabary (from The Economist, Intelligence Unit) reminded us that there is no “extra” time in the school day to add digital literacy. Digital Literacy learning must be integrated into the current curriculum (Sean Rush, Junior Achievement Worldwide).

The recent report (Driving the Skills Agenda) from The Economist states that only 44% of the students surveyed (ages 18-25) feel that schools are providing them with the skills they need to enter the workplace, and while teachers report that technology is changing the way they teach, 77% of students report that schools are not effective in using technology for instruction.

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from Driving the Skills Agenda: Preparing Students for the future. http://www.eiumedia.com/index.php/latest-press-releases/item/1853-education-systems-are-not-arming-students-with-21st-century-skills-eiu-study-finds

How, then, does Digital Literacy for all become an integral part of learning in our schools?

If we are educating learners in our communities to be full participants in society, digital literacy must become a priority.

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From Slide 22 by @dajbelshaw (Doug Belshaw) http://www.slideshare.net/dajbelshaw/sssc-digital-literacy-workshop

Further Resources:

Critical Literacy: Is the Notion of Traditional Reading and Writing Enough? (Langwitches Blog)

Literacy Redefined (Jennifer Casa-Todd)

Driving the Skills Agenda (The Economist)

Looking for the [Student] Learning Intention

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, Share-alike license by Waag Society https://www.flickr.com/photos/waagsociety/16508212342/


Online every day I see what appear to be amazing things that educators are doing in their classrooms.  As a connected leader and learner, I tend to be quick to praise, to share, to encourage and to promote practice.

But is this my best practice?

Do I know enough about what I am encouraging?

Recently, I have been exploring the impact of the “enthusiastic amateur”.

The term “enthusiastic amateur” refers to educators who have “emerged from the cave” and who have embraced the power of technology in the classroom.  The are often loud with their enthusiasm.  They are excited about their learning and they share share openly.

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Image shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license by Giulia Forsythe https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/5617449053/


This can be a step in the journey to understand the power of technology to change learning in the ‘classroom’.  We are all on the path of learning as we integrate the use of technology into our school system.  However, at all times, student learning must be at the centre of our practice.

Andy Hargreaves explains the concept of “innovation without improvement” very nicely in this video.  Michelle Cordy has explored this idea more concisely here.

Certainly we want to encourage educators to learn about how technology can be leveraged to enhance where, when and how learning can take place.

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Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike License by David Jones https://www.flickr.com/photos/david_jones/5615150900/


How do we best ensure educators are using technology to to deepen learning aligned with the learning intentions for the students?



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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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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Disrupting Content Delivery in Ontario

We have come a long way in Ontario from the idea that eLearning required a “learning management system” to deliver content, to the understanding that building relationships is at the centre of all learning (f2f or at a distance).

Slide shared by Dean Shareski http://www.slideshare.net/shareski
Slide shared by Dean Shareski http://www.slideshare.net/shareski


Slide shared by Dean Shareski http://www.slideshare.net/shareski
Slide shared by Dean Shareski http://www.slideshare.net/shareski

As we work with eLearning teachers through their collaborative inquiries into best practice, I often wonder about how best to “spread” some of the  great online pedagogy I see around the province.

Then yesterday, I saw this tweet:

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It’s a quick post, an idea that came out of some work with  #GEDSBLead, and a great catalyst for sharing, connecting and elevating online learning.

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Shared by George Couros here: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5093


So what if we change this a bit?  What if every eLearning teacher tweeted one thing they did each day in their online “classroom” to the hashtag #eLonted – and then took 5 minutes to read each others’ tweets?

We know that connecting online educators works.  We know that networking online educators is essential.  We know that eLearning teachers want to share their practice.

This could help us do all three.

Are you in?