Posts Tagged With: connected learning

EDCAMP Millennial – New Teachers Are Different

Most individuals entering the teaching profession today are different.

They’re part of the Millennial generation, born sometime after 1982 and before 2004, and are often referred to as Generation “Y” or Generation “Me.” It is widely believed that each generation comes with a set of common traits and Millennials are known, on the one hand for their confidence and tolerance, but on the other hand for a sense of entitlement and narcissism. Baby Boomers like me (who, by the way, consider ourselves to be work-centric, independent, goal-oriented, and competitive) often focus in on these more negative traits when talking about the Millennials. We have a hard time wrapping our heads around why they aren’t more like us.

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I recently read an article about the 5 Key Traits Millennial Consumers Share and started thinking about the large number of new teachers who are part of the Mentorship Program in my District this year. The 5 traits listed below are very evident in this group and our year of Mentorship has evolved into something completely different as a result.

  1. Millennials expect technology to simply work–so you’d better make sure that it does.
  2. Millennials are a social generation—and they socialize while consuming (and deciding to consume) your products and services.
  3. They collaborate and cooperate–with each other and, when possible, with brands.
  4. They’re looking for adventure (and whatever comes their way).
  5. They’re passionate about values–including the values of companies they do business with.

Our Mentorship program consists of a number of components throughout the year including 8 evening supper sessions where about 80 new teachers, mentors and District staff come together for sessions that support new teachers. A schedule is usually created at the beginning of the year based on new initiatives and feedback from the previous year. Traditionally, the sessions are led by District staff and the mentors are there to provide our new teachers with wisdom and advice.

Well this year something very interesting has happened. By mid year it became obvious that this particular group of new teachers wanted something more than ‘sit and get’ learning. They wanted more brought to the table. They craved learning in a way that’s highlighted in the 5 points listed above. So, in an effort to respond to their needs we stepped away from our traditional learning model and held an EDCAMP type evening this past February. I was familiar with the EDCAMP model after attending a few myself and organizing one when I was a principal earlier in my career. When the evening arrived I was expecting the mentor teachers to sign up and lead the majority of the sessions. After all, they were the ones with most of the knowledge and experience. By doing so they could then lead conversations that would engage the new teachers in a collaborative setting. But that’s not what happened at all. Fourteen of the fifteen sessions were added to our board and led by the new teachers. (see the board below) Our mentors were happy to step back and allow the newbies to take charge, sharing their learning and ideas. Not once during the evening did our new teachers appear uncomfortable with the format. In fact, they embraced it and were highly engaged the entire evening.

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The point I’m trying to make here is that this is yet another example of how we need to let go of our traditional beliefs around Education. Not only is learning changing for kids, it is also changing for these Millennials who are entering the teaching profession. If we want teachers who are life long learners and who are fully engaged in the transformation of our Education system we need to understand who they are and what makes them tic. My plan is to do that going forward.

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

My Essential Question

“Not by age but by capacity is wisdom acquired.”

– Titus Maccius Plautus

 

This year, as conceived by Assistant Superintendent Jessie Shirley and her team, our District is embarking on a PD model that will significantly change the way our teachers engage in their own professional growth. Working in teams with their grade level colleagues throughout the District teachers will create, research, and collaborate around an essential question designed to drive student learning forward. Through action research teams will identify promising practices, incorporate these strategies into their daily instruction, then come back to their team to discuss and refine. A list of suggested topics was provided as a starting point, however it was made clear that the list was not exhaustive, giving individuals autonomy in the selection process. Below is one list of ideas that was made available. The other two lists were around the themes of literacy and numeracy.

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Sample Differentiated Instruction Topics

As a District we have provided 12 Friday afternoons for our teachers to meet free from instruction, which will give them a solid 3 hour block of time to engage with colleagues who have selected a similar essential question. If we want teachers to learn and grow together we need to give them time to do it. A lot of work went into the District calendar to make this happen. At the end of the year each teacher will present their learning to the group as a way to demonstrate growth and make decisions going forward. I look forward to watching as this exciting new PD model plays out over the year. The ultimate goal is that it impacts student learning in a meaningful way.

By the way, our Superintendent Karl Germann added an important element to this new plan. He has asked that every certified teacher in the District, including principals and central office personnel, complete the Essential Question. He believes that we all need to embrace continual growth, no matter what our role is in the District.

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So here is my Essential Question:

How can building the instructional leadership capacity of our principals & vice principals allow me to engage every teacher in our District & drive learning forward?

I plan to work with members of our leadership team, both at the school and District level, to continue the work I started last year with Instructional Leadership. I should never forget that even my work in Human Resources is really about student success.

These are exciting times in Education and I’m happy to be part of a District where that change is being embraced. Let the learning begin.

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

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

Confronting Complacency

A few days ago I attended the Mighty Peace Teachers Convention where, for the second time in recent memory, Rick Wormeli was invited as a session presenter and delivered the opening keynote address titled, What we Could Do if we Were Brave Together. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Rick in the past and his unique gift of combining a quick wit with deep pedagogical knowledge once again had the crowd highly engaged for over an hour.

Rick seems to always hit on a few very important ideas and this presentation was no exception. Some of my key take-aways were similar to those in the past:

  • Don’t wave at your students from the edge of the pit; jump in with them.
  • It’s no longer either homework or school work; its just work.
  • Fair isn’t always equal.
  • Re-do’s are a good thing.
  • Think creatively to meet the needs of your students.

In this presentation, however, he spent a good deal of time talking about something I had not heard from him before. Standing in front of over a thousand teachers I watched as he strongly encouraged them not only to challenge themselves to transform their teaching but to challenge each other as well. “When we are brave“, he said, “we find the freedom, language, and spirit to confront complacency and ineffective practice, and, even better, to do something about them.” He went on to suggest that in order to push all of us closer to the kind of teacher we always wanted to be, we need to build a school culture that cultivates pedagogical courage. For about 15 minutes he drove this point home again and again.complacency

As an individual responsible for human resources, I want to sincerely thank Rick Wormeli for opening up this conversation with teachers in my district. There are many forward thinking and innovative individuals out there who I’m sure appreciated the challenging words of encouragement. In my role I’m fortunate enough to come across these trail blazers every day and have witnessed first hand many teachers who are quietly moving their practice to new heights while, at the same time, the colleague across the hall holds on to outdated and traditional methods.

Policy makers, district leaders, and school principals are really only a small part of changing teaching. If we want grass roots transformation in our schools, we need our trail blazing teachers to be brave and confront that colleague across the hall. Not only should you challenge them, you should offer to help them as well.

I hope and pray that Rick’s message will resonate with teachers and move them into action.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 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

My 1st New Teacher Orientation Day

Later this month I will be facilitating the “New Teacher Orientation” for 15-20 brand new educators who have chosen our district as the place to begin their careers. I’m both nervous and excited about the day because it’s an opportunity to get these young teachers off to a good start and to share with them our mission, which is to provide an excellent & inspiring Catholic education for our communities. Not only do they represent future promise for our schools, but if supported in the right ways will lead the education transformation agenda for years to come. I consider this to be one of my most important responsibilities the entire year.

So to better understand how the day should look, I’ve been spending some time reviewing the data from previous years exit surveys and have identified the most popular responses on the following two lists:

Things That Were Most Helpful

1. Presentation on Payroll/Benefits Q&A

2. Hearing from 2nd Year Teacher Panel Q&A

3. Hearing from a School Principal Q&A

Things I Would Change

1. Too much information. Please give less.

2. Need more time to talk/network.

An alarming statistic exists in Alberta where 40% of all teachers entering the profession leave within the first 5 years. The reasons include workload and stress issues, class sizes, issues with school administrators or local school board policies, and government educational policies. This study conducted by The Centre for Research for Teacher Education and Development at the University of Alberta offers 5 recommendations about what needs to be in place in order for teachers to thrive and choose to remain in the profession. What stood out for me in the report was that three of the five recommendations dealt directly with the need to provide multiple ways for teachers to experience ongoing collaborative professional growth, not just in the first year, but throughout their careers.

This has me thinking about including a short presentation about becoming a connected educator. This post I wrote last school year called The First Step in Connected Learning – Open Your Door might be a good place to start.

Here is my draft outline for the day:

8:30 a.m.        Breakfast

9:00 a.m.        Opening Prayer

9:05 a.m.        Welcome and Introductions

9:10 a.m.        General Session Overview

9:15 a.m.        Superintendent’s Address/Welcome

9:20 a.m.        What is Religious Education?

9:50 a.m.        Sharing of Important Documents

  1. Framework for Student Learning
  2. Inspiring Education
  3. A Great School for All
  4. Ministerial Order on Student Learning

10:15 a.m.       Nutrition Break

10:35 a.m.       Principal’s Talk Q & A

11:00 a.m.       Teachers Association Information

11:20 a.m.       Payroll/Benefits Q & A

12:00 p.m.       Lunch

1:00 p.m.         Divisions Focus for Improvement – A Conversation.

1:20 p.m.         Teacher Information Package Q & A

1:30 pm            2nd Year Teacher Panel Q & A

2:00 p.m.          Afternoon Break

2:20 p.m.          Mentorship Program – How it works.

2:30 p.m.          How to Become A Connected Educator (Interactive Presentation)

3:00 p.m.          Door Prizes and Closing Prayer

I hope the day is both valuable and inspiring for our new teachers. If it spring boards them into a culture of collaboration and continual growth, perhaps they will avoid an early exit from this honourable profession.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moving to Central Office & Staying Student Centred

Over the summer I will be transitioning from my role as a school based administrator and moving into a system wide, central office position. After 14 years as a principal I feel up to the new challenge, however along with all the normal feelings associated with any significant job change comes the realization that my new assignment will take me one step further away from direct contact with kids. This is not settling well with me because the reason I entered the teaching profession in the first place was to work (directly) with kids and to make a difference in their lives. Many would say that district level administrators, far removed from daily classroom life, are no longer in the best position to make important decisions that directly affect the students they serve. In the past I’ve remained tight-lipped as those in the trenches complained about directives being forced on them by the higher-ups who “Don’t know what it’s like to teach anymore.”

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This leaves me worried that it may be difficult to maintain a focus on student learning as I fall deeper into the role of Assistant Superintendent. What if the “administrative” stuff overwhelms me? What if I slowly but surely entrench myself under piles of paperwork in an office? What if I become exactly what those disgruntled were talking about not so long ago? That’s not going to happen to me! So, I’ve come up with a couple of lists that I will endeavor to live by in the coming months and years. The first is a list of the big ideas I hope to stay focused on and the second is a list of the little extra things I hope to do day in and day out.

List 1 – My Professional List

  1. Recruit and hire the most forward thinking, innovative teachers who will effectively engage todays students.
  2. Work with principals and teachers to develop collaborative and reflective instructional supervision and evaluation programs in order to build capacity in all teachers.
  3. Provide in-service to principals and teachers on ways to better engage today’s learners, focussing on the Framework for Student Learning.
  4. Model and demonstrate broad involvement and collective responsibility for student learning.
  5. When directing resources always consider the most at-risk students first.

List 2 – My Personal List

  1. Switch from a Dell to a MacBook Air because that’s what most students are using.
  2. Attend celebrations, assemblies, sporting events, concerts, and graduations.
  3. Conduct classroom walkthroughs in every school consistently throughout the year, talking to students about their learning.
  4. Consult with my two daughters (11 and 13) often and always.
  5. Keep Tweeting. Keep blogging.

I’m not sure exactly where the future will take me. I can only hope and pray that I leave this profession some day in the same way I entered it; making a difference in the lives of kids.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Need Ideas? Just Ask.

My grade 1-3 teachers have been planning for next year and are looking for creative and engaging ways to build a literacy intervention block into the daily schedule. Language Arts and Math would be scheduled every morning and then one teacher would be freed up to work with students that are just not up to par with reading, writing and comprehension. I’m quite impressed with their innovative thinking because in order to make this plan work the others will need to have substantially larger class sizes for Social, Science and other non-core subjects. The literacy intervention teacher would work with multi-grade groups of struggling students throughout the afternoon. In a school where many students find themselves below an acceptable literacy level, I like their thinking.

So when the teachers approached me, asking if I would consult with my PLN for high yield strategies that could be used for this intervention block, I was more than happy to oblige. I sent this Tweet out the next day:

My Tweet

My Twitter PLN, which includes over 3500 followers, has become one of the most important sounding boards in my professional life. By including only individuals who share the same passion for education, I am always learning new things and having my thinking challenged and stretched. Just look at the responses I received from this Tweet.

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Help yourself if there is anything here you can use. 🙂

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 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

Principals – Try Team Teaching

“What better way to model learning and pedagogy than to actually teach?”

This quote comes from an excellent article written in 2010 by , a school principal in British Columbia and key member of my PLN. The article, titled Principals ARE Teachers, suggests that school leaders need to find ways to cut down on managerial type tasks and spend more time actually teaching. In his case, teaching also provided him with the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from the excellent teachers in his school. “True leadership”, he says, “happens in the classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds; management happens in our offices.”

I think most principals agree with this statement and would welcome the opportunity to spend more time as the instructional leader of their school. The problem, of course, is that increasing responsibilities and limited resourses stretches principals in many different directions, making it difficult to place an emphasis on any one aspect of their school leadership role. Below, for example, are the areas in which principals are expected to provide effective leadership in the province of Alberta.

Full version – principal quality standard 

1. Fostering Effective Relationships
2. Embodying Visionary Leadership
3. Leading a Learning Community
4. Providing Instructional Leadership
5. Developing and Facilitating Leadership
6. Managing School Operations and Resources
7. Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

Most princiapls who teach, I suspect, don’t really do so for the reasons Chris speaks of above. I have always taught since becoming a principal 14 years ago, but mostly as a budgetary measure in order to provide prep time for my teachers. I’ve enjoyed teaching subjects like Phys. Ed., Health, Religion, Library, and Guided Reading but have definitely fallen short in the areas of co-planning and collaboration. It always felt more like managing resources than it did instructional leadership.

Well this year things have changed. I’m team teaching. This, I think, is the best growth as an instructional leader I have ever experienced. Here’s how it works. Each class, along with their teacher, joins me in our Library/Media Centre for a 45 minute block of what I like to call “21st Century Learning Time.” I work with the teacher to plan, carry out and assess the projects completed in each block. Each project addresses learner outcomes from a variety of subject areas. The teacher and I both bring something to the table. I bring my passion for technology integration and 21st century competencies and they bring their expertise and knowledge of their grade level curriculum. It’s a win for me because I’m gaining a much better understanding of curriculum, pedagogy, and teaching styles. It’s a win for the teachers because they transfer many of the tools and strategies to their daily practice. And most importantly, it’s a win for the students because they are better engaged in their learning. Often, the 45 minute periods turn into an hour or more. Some of the Web 2.0 tools introduced includ iMovie, Storybird, Glogster, Tagxedo, Twitter, Voki, Audioboo, Kidblog, and Skype.

If you’re a principal reading this I’m sure you’re thinking about time. Teaching, and all the important activities that go along with it, takes time. Time that must be shared with all the other responsibilities required of a school administrator. Well, I’d ask you to consider this – how many of the 7 areas of effective leadership listed above do you think I’ve addressed by team teaching this year?

Categories: Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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