Posts Tagged With: 21st century learning

Sunday Morning Asynchronous Learning

This quick post is intended to highlight the power of Twitter as a way to draw a diverse group of passionate educators together around an educational topic.

This morning, just before 9 a.m. a teacher in our district posted the following Tweet:

Within seconds educators throughout our District joined the conversation in a wonderful asynchronous learning session that lasted more than an hour.

Asynchronous Learning

From Wikipedia,
Asynchronous learning is a student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people.

This is the beauty of Twitter and other forms of social media. These platforms allow individuals to join in when they want, where they want, and how they want. The reason for sharing this particular conversation is to demonstrate the diversity of individuals who have an interest in the topic of “Play.” This was our group this morning:

Trevor Prichard – High School teacher involved in Long Term Athletic Development

Danielle Dressaire – Grade 1 teacher in a rural school

Sue Miller – Pre-Kindergarten Instructor

Chantelle Napier – Early Learning Lead Teacher

Collin Dillon – High School Math and Physical Education Teacher

Greg Miller – Assistant Superintendent with the District

Tim Bedley – Co-founder of Global School Play Day

I often tell others they are missing out on an amazing professional conversation if they haven’t yet discovered Twitter. Click the Storify link below to see an example of what I’m talking about. You can also follow our District hashtag at #GPCSD.

Storify on Play.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Desktop is Dead…

Last week, while standing in my school district’s Boardroom talking to a colleague, my attention was drawn to a small table in the corner of the room. There, sharing a space with a landline telephone and a traditional analog wall clock, was the desktop computer we hadn’t used for months. It was as though these innovative tools of the past were gathering to remember their glory days and to commiserate about their rapid fall from grace and loss of relevance.

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This past September an Apple TV was installed, which effectively ended any need for the Dell computer and Smartboard. Instead, those who use the space for meetings and PD carry smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices that pretty much gives them everything they need. This little corner of the room has simply gone unnoticed.

This gets me thinking about how fast the world of learning has changed. In just a few years mobile devices have taken over as the primary means to communicate, but also as the preferred method to perform a variety of other necessary daily tasks. Would you not agree that we have come to rely heavily on our devices in both our professional and personal lives to research, organize, remind, compute, and play? We’re now at a point where young adults can’t even remember a time before technology. And school aged children can barely remember a time before mobile technology.

The New Media Consortium, in their 2013 Horizon Report has identified mobile learning as a trend entering the mainstream in education within the next year:

“After years of anticipation, mobile learning is positioned for near-term and widespread adoption in schools. Tablets, smartphones, and mobile apps have become too capable, too ubiquitous, and too useful to ignore, and their distribution defies traditional patterns of adoption, both by consumers, where even economically disadvantaged families find ways to make use of mobile technology, and in schools, where the tide of opinion has dramatically shifted when it comes to mobiles in schools. At the end of 2012, the mobile market consisted of over 6.5 billion accounts…”

It’s encouraging to see a movement toward the use of mobile technology in schools recently. From 1-to-1 initiatives to students being permitted to use their own devices; from the dismantling of traditional computer labs to the creation of Learning Commons’ with carts of laptops and tablets. It seems as though the education landscape is starting to shift, and more and more teachers are engaging their students with the tools of today.

As educators we have an important role to play in building life long learners who can use mobile technology to learn any time, any place, and in a variety of ways. We have the responsibility to prepare them for a world where that will be the norm.

The king is dead! Long live the king!

The desktop is dead! Long live mobile learning!

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Learning Goes Viral

This past Friday was my districts second Collab Day of the year. That’s right, Collab Day. That’s ourimages common language here – we refer to the district-wide professional development day as a Collab Day. It’s important to have a common language around professional learning in a district, don’t you think? I like that language because it suggests that whatever it is we are doing, we are doing it together as a team. Our focus for  Collab Days this year is Differentiated Instruction and I want to share the process we are using to make it successful in our district.

  • We have a wonderful lead teacher, Annette Rouleau, who eats, drinks and sleeps DI, and on any given day throughout the year is working side-by-side with teachers in their classrooms. That’s where it starts for us; with an innovative, relational, and credible teacher supporting her colleagues as they experiment with new approaches.
  • Each of our schools have a DI rep who attend sessions with our lead teacher throughout the year.
  • In the month leading up to each Collab Day our lead teacher takes school principals through an engaging presentation on DI, building their capacity and providing them with a template presentation that can be used if they wish, but they are certainly encouraged to make it their own and to put it into the context of their own school.
  • The lead teacher also works with the school DI reps for a day to prepare them for the presentation.
  • On the Collab Day, the school principal and DI rep work as a team to deliver the presentation in a way that works best for them and their teachers. This takes place in the morning and provides teachers with a base of knowledge that will assist them in moving forward with planning DI strategies in their classrooms.
  • The afternoon is more teacher driven. Teams of teachers work on developing instructional strategies that will be applied to their practice in the coming days. They will come back to the next Collab Day ready to share the challenges and successes they experienced when applying their new learning to their daily practice.
  • This cycle continues throughout the year.

It’s a great balance between a top down and bottom up approach to teacher PD. Not only do our teachers receive a high level of instruction from knowledgeable peers, they also have a great deal of autonomy in deciding where to place their focus in the afternoon. Although I’ve only been in the district for a few months, I’m witnessing high levels of teacher engagement which is transferring to innovative learning experiences for students.

To make things even better, this month it was suggested that a back channel be set up so learning could be shared throughout the district in real-time. Our Twitter hashtag (#GPCSD) was used to stream Tweets from across the district and I was quite amazed at the result. Both experienced and brand new Tweeps flooded the airways and by the end of the day we had a wonderful accounting of all that had taken place. One might even say our learning went viral that day.

Well done #GPCSD.

Here’s the archive:

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ed Reform – What About Parents?

When I think of parents and the degree to which they understand how education is changing, I’m reminded of this quote by American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomski:

IMG_0061Earlier this week I gave a presentation on Learning Commons to parent council chairpersons at a gathering organized by our district’s School Board. We provided the presentation so that parents would better understand our district initiative to bring our school libraries into the 21st century, and by doing so provide our students with a more relevant and engaging learning experience. As I demonstrated how a Learning Commons could be used to flatten the walls of our classrooms, give students more responsibility for their own learning, and encourage creativity and innovation, the parents in attendance seemed to welcome the opportunity to learn more about the changes to their child’s daily experiences in school. I came away from the evening, however, with a sense of concern with the disconnect between what parents think we are doing in our classrooms and what we are actually doing. Most in attendance had never before heard of the ideas I shared in my presentation.

As learning begins taking on a very different look, we have to remember to bring all our stakeholders along with us – especially our parents. As the first educators of their children, we can’t leave them out of loop if we are to make any significant progress with changing the educational experience for our students. Most people resist change when they don’t understand.

Here, I believe, are some of the reasons why we need to make a conscious effort to include parents in our conversations about education reform: 

  1. Most parents can only imagine learning through the lens in which they experienced it themselves.
  2. Most parents are digital immigrants, which makes them nervous about the use of technology and innovative approaches in schools.
  3. Most parents still want to know how their children are doing in relation to everyone else – with a number.
  4. Most parents don’t have the time to be directly involved in their child’s learning.
  5. Most parents turned out just fine with their schooling experience. What was good for them must be good for their children.

…perhaps some helpful ideas:

  1. Organize parent information sessions on a regular basis.
  2. Use the power of technology to share information with parents and collect their input.
  3. Invite parents into your classroom – often.
  4. Hold student-led parent / teacher conferences.
  5. Reassure parents that safety concerns are being addressed.

What are you doing to make sure your parents know what’s happening as things start to change in your classroom?

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

At Heart, I’m Still A Teacher

All of us who move into district leadership positions must remember that we are still teachers.

This past Friday I visited 4 schools in our district to present on Library Learning Commons. It was a busy and exciting day as I raced from school to school sharing my message and trying to convince teachers that an effort to bring our libraries into the 21st century was a worthwhile endeavour. These were the first 4 of 7 schools I’ll be working with as part of our district wide pilot. I recently blogged about our plans here.

In the days leading up to my presentations I made myself conscious of the fact that this could easily be seen by our already stretched teachers as one more thing being preached about from my soap box in central office. So, I decided to prepare a presentation showcasing projects that could be experimented with in the Learning Commons and possibly used to support the work they are already doing with their students. Using examples from my previous work as a teaching administrator, I tried to highlight projects that build important competencies and provide a platform for authentic literacy. I wanted them to see these projects as an “instead of” and not an “in addition to.”

Here are the projects I shared:

Grade 6 Iroquois Confederacy Webpage – Grade 6 students worked with their teacher to design, build, edit, and manage a webpage that covered their Social Studies unit on the Iroquois Confederacy. Students researched and created content over time and eventually completed this amazing resource that can now be shared with others. http://iroquois6gle.weebly.com

Public Service Announcements –  Grade 6 students used iPads and iMovie to create Public Service Announcements as part of their unit on the Charter of Rights. They were then uploaded to the teachers YouTube account and played on the Smartboard in the Learning Commons for all to see.

100 Word Challenge – Grade 4 students participated in the 100 Word Challenge, a website that provides some guaranteed comments on student blog posts. Pay particular attention to the comment towards the bottom where Cait connected with a class in Galway, Ireland.

Bullying Rants – Grade 5 students wrote and recorded rants about bullying in school, using their Kidblog accounts and the Audioboo App. Not only did they write from their heart, they also spoke with great passion and emotion.

Digital Stories – Grade 3 students created digital story books using Storybird, recorded themselves reading it, and then embedded it all into their blog. You can press play and then follow along with the book.

About Me – Grade 1 students created an Animoto  to tell their classmates (and perhaps even the rest of the world) about themselves.

Digital Portfolio –  Grade 6 students maintained a personal blog throughout the year, building a portfolio of their work.

Sharing these personal learning experiences and offering support seemed to go a long way. A number of teachers have already contacted me with questions about how to try some of the ideas I shared. We as leaders often see the value in moving toward something before our teachers do. Before moving themselves, our teachers need to see and understand the small practical steps that will get them there. I hope to find the right balance between the two.

My best chance of doing so is to never forget…

At heart, I’m still a teacher.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning Commons – It’s Not An Add On

In the coming weeks I will be working with 7 pilot schools in my district to begin a shift away from the traditional use of the school library and toward a Learning Commons model. I’ve been asked by our Superintendent to explore this area because I completed action research on this very topic a couple years ago and made the shift in my own school at the time.  Wikipedia defines a Learning Commons as follows:

Learning commons, also known as scholars’ commons, information commons or digital commons, are educational spaces, similar to libraries and classrooms that share space for information technology, remote or online education, tutoring, collaboration, content creation, meetings and reading or study.[1][2] Learning commons are increasingly popular in academic and research libraries, and some public and school libraries have now adopted the model.[3] Architecture, furnishings and physical organization are particularly important to the character of a learning commons, as spaces are often designed to be rearranged by users according to their needs.

Furthermore, Educause, a nonprofit community of IT leaders and professionals, provides us with their vision of what these spaces might look like:

The village green, or “common,” was traditionally a place to graze livestock, stage a festival, or meet neighbours. This concept of social utility underlies the philosophy of the modern learning commons, which is a flexible environment built to accommodate multiple learning activities. Designing—or redesigning—a commons starts with an analysis of student needs and the kind of work they will be doing.

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slide-6-728So my goal is to bring principals, librarians and teachers on board in such a way that they see the shift to a Learning Commons not as an add on, but rather as a way to support the initiatives that are already underway in our district. It is my belief that the Learning Commons can be used as the 5th corner of each teachers classroom as they continue to build their capacity in carrying out the districts two big initiatives, Balanced Literacy and Differentiated Instruction. If you look at the list above and to the left, what better place than the Learning Commons to move these initiatives forward.

So our Learning Commons journey has been unfolding something like this:

  1. In late August, at our first principal’s meeting of the year I presented on Learning Commons and Steve Clark, a specialist from Calgary spoke to us via Skype.
  2. At the beginning of October, interested principals were asked to complete this Library Commons Pilot Proposal.
  3. All 7 schools who submitted proposals joined the pilot and the principals and librarians will now gather to participate in a 3 part Learning Commons webinar.
  4. I will be providing a short presentation on Learning Commons to our local School Board in late October.
  5. I will be visiting each of the 7 schools by mid November and presenting to the staff on what a Learning Commons shift might look like and engaging them in conversation about the benefits of moving forward.

It is my hope that our school communities will see the value in transforming these beautiful learning spaces in the heart of their schools so that the needs of todays learners can be better served. I believe a Learning Commons model and philosophy will not only support our learners in more relevant and engaging ways, it will also provide our teachers with another option as they consider new approaches to teaching and learning in this ever-changing time.

I’ll leave you with this reflective quote taken from a literature review written by Judith Sykes of the Digital Design and Resource Authorization Branch with Alberta Education:

“The hallmark of a school library in the 21st century is not its collections, its systems, its technology, its staffing, its buildings, BUT its actions and evidences that show that it makes a real difference to student learning, that it contributes in tangible and significant ways to the development of … meaning making and constructing knowledge. (Todd 2001, p. 4)”

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Power of a Single Tweet

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Last week a team of three amazing educators from Randolph Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina spent two day at my little school in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. This unlikely relationship has unfolded as the result of the simple Tweet posted above, one that I answered with, “We might be interested”, when it appeared on my Twitter feed four and a half months ago. Shortly after responding to @techgirljenny and forwarding my email address I recieved a message that started out like this:

“My name is Matthew Weber. I am a French teacher at Randolph IB Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. I am emailing you today because something amazing happened to my school recently. Cam Newton, a professional American football player gave my school a donation of $50,000. We can spend this money however we feel best improves the academic environment of our school. Our administration has decided to focus this money on a project to expand the cultural awareness of our students through a partnership with a French-speaking school.”

Here is the full letter from Randolph where you can better understand the full scope of their project and see why it was something that caught my interest as the principal of a French Immersion school in Canada.

In February, after deciding to explore the possibilities of this relationship further, teams from each of our schools met via Skype to brainstorm ways in which our students could start connecting in a meaningful way. In the weeks that followed, blog commenting took place and a Mystery Skype was held using the french language. These engaging activities were a great way for our students to get to know one another and provided our teachers with an opportunity to determine whether or not a long term relationship should be forged.

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Grade 6 students taking part in a virtual tour while Randolph Middle School staff look on.

That brings me to this past week where two French as a Second Language (FSL) teachers and a tech specialist from Charlotte made the trip to Southern Alberta to see our school in action first hand, meet with our staff, and plan for next year. While here they took their students on a virtual tour of our school via Skype and some of our students returned the favor. They also visited a number of french classes and spent time with me discussing our schools philosophy around connected learning and 21st century competencies. Our superintendent, @cdsmeaton even joined us when we treated our guests to dinner one evening. All agreed that it was a wonderful experience and we are excited about learning together in the coming year.

To me it’s quite amazing that a public middle school of 1200 students, in a district of 240,000 has partnered with a Catholic Dual Track elementary school of 400 students, in a district of 4500. It’s equally amazing that the distance between the two schools is 3720 kilometers (2312 miles). And it’s even more amazing that this connected learning partnership was born in a single Tweet a few months back.

I wrote this post for those of you who have yet to discover the importance of Twitter and other social media platforms as a powerful way to flatten your walls and engage students in new and exciting ways. I’m reminded once again that it’s not the technology but what you can do with it that counts. Tweet! Tweet!

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Community Engagement, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Alberta’s New MO on Student Learning

On May 6, 2013, with little or no fanfare, ministerial order #001/2013 (Student Learning) was signed by Alberta Education Minister, Jeff Johnson; bringing into full force all aspects of Inspiring Education and repealing a very dated ministerial order #004/98 (Goals and Standards Applicable to the Provision of Basic Education in Alberta). It was last updated on February 10, 1998.

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A ministerial order is a decision made by a minister that does not require the approval of cabinet, or the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The power to issue a MO is typically written into an individual piece of legislation, and the MO itself must make reference to the authorizing legislation. MOs have the force of law. Unlike orders in council, ministerial orders are not automatically made public in Alberta. It is not clear why: given that they have the force of law, it seems they should be.

So how many Albertans know this new ministerial order has come into effect? How many know that the goal of this ministerial order is to ensure that all students achieve an extensive list of outcomes that will enable them to be contributing members of 21st century society? How many know that this order is in stark contrast to what was previously expected of the educated Albertan? This is big and it seems to have slipped in virtually unnoticed.

For awhile now I’ve been urging my teachers to familiarize themselves with documents such as the Framework for Student Learning and this ATA Transformation Document – A Great School For All, both of which align with the new vision for our education system. I’ve even suggested that they would be positioning themselves well going forward by referring to these documents when planning, teaching, learning, and assessing. “You’ll be ahead of the wave”, I’ve told them, “if you start making small changes now.”

I wonder how ministerial order #001/2013 will play out in the weeks and months to come. It looks really good on paper. It’s easy to write it down on paper; a bit more difficult to infuse it into daily practice, especially when curriculum, PATs and DIPs remain the same.

What an exciting time to be involved in education.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Try A Mystery Skype. Here’s Why.

If you’ve never tried a Mystery Skype with your class, you should. It’s a highly engaging way to build important competencies in your students. A Mystery Skype is just a simple guessing game at first sight, but it’s really so much more. Two classrooms arrange to connect with each other using Skype, and then take turns asking yes/no questions to try to discover each other’s exact location. It’s a great way to make an initial connection that may lead to further collaborative learning projects. Our students have participated in several Mystery Skypes this year, all of which have been easily arranged through my Twitter PLN. Here’s one from last month:


 

Take a look at the jobs students take on during a Mystery Skype. Then look at the competencies they are building and ask yourself why you shouldn’t give this a try. 

Greeters say hello and share cool facts about the class without giving away the location. (Leadership, Social Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Question Askers ask the questions and are the voice of the classroom. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Creativity, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Question Answerers answer the questions after consulting with others. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Think Tank sits in a group and figures out the clues based on the information they receive. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Google Mappers use Google maps to piece together clues and narrow down the location. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Global Awareness, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Atlas Mappers use atlases to assist the Google mappers. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Clue Keepers work closely with askers and answerers to help guide them in developing questions. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Runners run from group to group relaying important information. (Collaboration, Leadership, Decision Making, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Photographers take pictures during the call to share at a later date. (Leadership, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Tweeters share real-time play-by-play of the event on a class Twitter account. (Leadership, Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Videographers take video during the call to share at a later date. (Leadership, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Communication, Digital Literacy, Self-Direction)

Entertainers share jokes, songs, etc. during a lull in the action. (Collaboration, Leadership, Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

Closers end the call in a nice manner after one class has guessed the location of the other. (Leadership, Decision Making, Creativity and Innovation, Social Awareness, Global Awareness, Cultural Awareness, Communication, Self-Direction)

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Enough said.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Community Engagement, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Badges for Assessment – Why Not?

Ever since participating in a Blackboard Collaborate session with Doug Belshaw at ETMOOC 2013,  I’ve been wanting to learn more about badges as an authentic way for students to demonstrate and receive credit for their learning. With our province so heavily engaged in curriculum redesign, and with educators being called upon to consider new and innovative ways to plan, carry out and assess learning; I’m leaving no rock unturned in an effort to support them in their efforts. Badges, to me, looks like something worth exploring further.

Look here if you would like to gain a better understanding of the concept of badges. I encourage you to read the “Ten Things to Know About Badges.”

OPEN BADGES

I quickly became intrigued while looking through the Mozilla Open Badges platform, however it seemed as though most of the badges were designed for high school and adult learners, so, as an elementary principal I decided to see if there was anything out there for younger students, and in doing so, came across a free website called ClassBadges. I like this one because teachers can set up and manage a class account where each student has an individual login. Badges could be selected from an existing bank or customized for individual students or classes, and easily be aligned to academic goals, curriculum outcomes, or 21st century competencies. Teachers could work with students to identify areas of interest, then create criteria that would need to be met in order to earn that particular badge. The teacher would award badges electronically to students when they were satisfied the criteria had been met. Once awarded, the student would be given access to the badge, which could be displayed anywhere electronically.  Each badge, with its criteria could be added to the bank for other students who may be interested in earning that badge themselves. Can you see the possibilities here?

Sample Badge from

Sample Badge from ClassBadges Website

Sample Badge from ClassBadges Website

Sample Badge from ClassBadges Website

Badges, I think, could offer a way to document different types of authentic learning both inside and outside the school. Perhaps they could place an emphasis on important competencies such as global awareness, digital citizenship, collaboration, and creativity. Perhaps they could provide students with more control over their own learning and give a more complete picture of their abilities in relation to the program of study. Once earned, perhaps a digital portfolio (website, wiki, blog, etc.) could be used to house, display and share badges with others.

Sigh… there I go again with my pie in the sky thinking. It would be easy to list the many reasons why “badges” (and so many other forward thinking ideas) just won’t work, but to that I say, “If it’s important you’ll find a way; if it’s not you’ll find an excuse.”

I encourage you to explore badges and let me know what you think.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation, ETMOOC | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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