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

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Drawing a Line in the Sand

According to Wikipedia “a line in the sand” is a metaphor with two similar meanings:

The first meaning is of a point (physical, decisional, etc.) beyond which one will proceed no further.
The second meaning is that of a point beyond which, once the decision to go beyond it is made, the decision and its resulting consequences are permanently decided and irreversible.line-300x202

On a recent trip to Toronto I was fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to Dr. John Malloy, Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Dr. Malloy gave an enthusiastic accounting of the 1-to-1 iPad initiative currently playing out in his Districts’ 100 plus schools. In the initial year of a five-year plan they have placed iPads in the hands of every student in seven elementary schools, in one secondary school, and in the assistive technology used in two other secondary schools. If the roll out goes according to plan, every student will have the full time use of an iPad by 2019. The plan, titled “Transforming Learning Everywhere”, is strongly supported by their School Board and will be resourced heavily through ongoing teacher professional development, adequate wireless bandwidth in every school, and a team of individuals to support and maintain all aspects of the project. Wow!

Then Dr. Malloy shared what I thought was the most brilliant part of the entire initiative. He used the metaphor of “a line in the sand” to describe the plan they had to reduce paper in schools throughout the District. As more iPads are deployed, more paper will be removed. “If we are going to continue to provide access to the old way of doing things”, he said, “how are we going to get our teachers to buy into something new? We can’t afford both.” By 2019 Hamilton-Wentworth will be 95% paperless. This is written into the strategic plan.

Here is the problem that exists most everywhere. All too often School Districts continue to allow outdated practices to exist at the same time they introduce something new.Unknown When this happens many teachers simply opt out of risking the new practice and retreat to what is most comfortable to them. For system leaders, resources are scarce so if they aren’t able to build a coalition of the willing, real change rarely occurs.

I think everyone can agree that the Education landscape is changing more rapidly than ever before. Our students were born into a different world than we were. They learn differently and will require a very different set of skills in today’s society and workplace. Transforming pedagogy should not be an option but rather a requirement of all teachers. All available resources should be used, not on maintaining the old, but on building the new.

We need more leaders who, like Dr. Malloy, are not afraid to draw that line in the sand.

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

What Do We Do With What We’ve Got?

Recently I attended the Apple Education Leadership Institute in Toronto where school system leaders from throughout our country and around the world gathered to network and share innovative and forward thinking educational practices. The highlight for me was hearing from Apple’s Vice President of Education, John Couch, who not only has grown Apple Education to a $9 billion per year business, but was a close friend of Steve Jobs and assisted in programming the first ever MacIntosh software. Sitting next to him was pretty cool. Even though part of Couch’s keynote address was about how the “Apple Ecosystem” is the best way forward for education worldwide, it was nice to hear him talk about his 4 year old grandson and how worried his family is as he begins his education career next year. Couch spoke a lot about the kind of teacher we need if our schools are going to remain relevant in the years to come. As an individual directly involved in human resources in my District his words resonated with me as it is my responsibility to secure the most capable, forward thinking and innovative teachers for our students.

As the conference continued there were a number of break out sessions to choose from (mostly led by teachers and school leaders who are transforming learning using Apple products) and I became increasingly aware of the single most important qualification each of them held. There was no reference to B. Ed., M. Ed. or Ph. D. after their names. Instead each held the highly sought after qualification known as ADE or Apple Distinguished Educator. To date there are approximately 2000 ADEs worldwide, each of whom “is recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that each of the presenters are doing some wonderful work with students but as I travelled home I began thinking about the teachers I know who are also engaging their students in new and exciting ways. And they are using a variety of tools to do so, not just iPads, Apps and Apple TVs. I would never take anything away from an individual who wants to become an ADE or a Google Certified Teacher (or receive any other additional certifications for that matter) because anything we can do to build our capacity in meeting the needs of today’s learner is important. But I would challenge each of us to take a close look at this wonderful graphic via Jeff Dunn and ask ourselves if our practice is in alignment with these characteristics.

21st_Century_teacher

 

In my opinion our work is less about what we have and more about what we do with what we have. If we are not a risk taker, collaborator, adaptor, learner, and visionary does it really matter what our qualifications are. I know many teachers who are highly qualified but are unwilling to risk new things to move their practice forward. At the same time I watch with great pride as some of our newest teachers push the envelope every day. Today, every teacher has a responsibility to learn and then to act on what they learn.

My colleague George Couros writes this excellent article on what it is to be a Master Teacher. The 10 qualities he puts forward are more about competencies and processes and less about products and outcomes. This would support the idea that you have never ‘arrived’ at becoming a Master Teacher. Instead, you are always on your way to getting there. The best teachers already know this.

There are many opportunities for teachers to improve their practice through wonderful platforms like Apple and Google. Along with this, embarking on post graduate studies has become more accessible than ever. This, however, is my question and my challenge to you; What are you doing with ‘what you’ve got?’

 

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

Great Teachers = Great Schools. That’s It.

“If you don’t have great teachers, you don’t have a great school and nothing else is going to change that.” – Todd Whitaker, What Great Teachers Do Differently.”

At an orientation earlier this week we welcomed 45 new teachers into our District. What a great day it was after spending 8 months recruiting and hiring the best teacher candidates we could find from Universities and Colleges across our country. This year we decided to keep the day short so we wouldn’t overwhelm our new recruits, so the day (which only went from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) included welcomes and introductions, a meal, a payroll/benefits presentation, and an explanation of our new teacher website, which replaced the 2 inch thick binder we’ve handed out in the past. Our gift to them as they left was Todd Whitaker‘s book, What Great Teachers Do Differently, which we strongly encouraged each of them read before the first day of school. During our two hours together I was continually reminded of the importance of identifying and hiring the best possible teachers and then powerfully supporting them throughout their career.

A week earlier I attended a presentation by Professor John Hattie and his team who have completed extensive research on the influences on student learning. His Visible Learning research suggests that most everything we do influences student learning. The average effect size is .40 so suffice to say, if strategies from the following list are present in our schools, we will be on the right path.

Hattie-ranking - summary

Hattie’s Top Influences on Student Achievement

This has me reflecting a lot about the 45 teachers who have joined our #GPCSD team. I believe we’ve hired some great young teachers and I would argue that most every strategy identified on this list could be replaced with the words “great teaching.” Lets take a closer look at the top 10:

Self-Report Grades – This strategy involves the teacher finding out what are the student’s expectations and pushing the learner to exceed these expectations. Once a student has performed at a level that is beyond their own expectations, he or she gains confidence in his or her learning ability.

Piagetian Programs – These programs focus on the thinking processes rather than the outcomes and do not impose the adult thinking process on children. This is done when the teacher creates and provides engaging and relevant learning experiences.

Providing Formative Evaluation – The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by teachers to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning.

Micro Teaching – This involves the teacher video recording a lesson with a debriefing. The lesson is reviewed in order to improve the teaching and learning experience.

Acceleration – Great teachers know how to accelerate learning for their students (not just enrich). They understand that if students are able to move on to higher levels of curriculum we should not be holding them back. Perhaps another case for moving away from grouping our students by age.

Classroom Behavioural  – The best teachers build trusting relationships with their students. If they don’t know that you care, they won’t care what you know.

Comprehensive Intervention for Learning Disabled – To improve achievement teachers must provide students with tools and strategies to organize themselves as well as new material; techniques to use while reading, writing, and doing math; and systematic steps to follow when working through a learning task or reflecting upon their own learning.

Teacher Clarity – Excellent teachers clearly communicate the intentions of the lessons and the success criteria to their students. Teachers need to know the goals and success criteria of their lessons, know how well all students in their class are progressing, and know where to go next.

Reciprocal Teaching – This refers to an instructional activity in which students become the teacher in small group sessions. Teachers model, then help students learn to guide group discussions. Once students have learned the strategies, they take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading a dialogue.

Feedback – Hattie emphasizes that the most powerful feedback is that given from the student to the teacher. This feedback allows teachers to see learning through the eyes of their students. It makes learning visible and facilitates the planning of next steps. The feedback that students receive from their teachers is also vital. It enables students to progress towards challenging learning intentions and goals.

So in my opinion education researchers and authors like John Hattie and Todd Whitaker have it right. Our most important work is in supporting the right people doing the right work. If we place our energy and resources behind this simple concept, visible learning and teaching will become the norm.

Who are we looking for when we recruit?

What are our expectations of them?

How are we welcoming them into our District?

How are we supporting them throughout their career?

 

 

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Can We Learn From A Swiss Watch?

I’ve always thought we can learn a lot from a great story of the past. My father always told me that by doing so we can avoid making the same mistakes ourselves. I can remember him reading me stories and then asking what I learned from them and what I would have done differently.

So with that in mind I want to recommend a great story to read if you are an educator today. It’s the story of the history of the Swiss watch making industry. It can be found all over the web if you’re interested in a longer version. Here goes:

In the 1940’s the Swiss watch industry enjoyed a well-protected monopoly. The industry prospered in the absence of any real competition. Thus, prior to the 1970s, Switzerland held 50% of the world watch market.

In 1969 when Seiko unveiled the first quartz watch, the Swiss watch manufacturing industry was a mature industry with a centuries-old global market and deeply entrenched patterns of manufacturing, marketing and sales. Switzerland chose to remain focused on traditional mechanical watches, while the majority of world watch production embraced the new technology.

Despite these dramatic advancements, the Swiss hesitated in embracing quartz watches. At the time Swiss mechanical watches dominated world markets. From their position of market strength, and with a national watch industry organized broadly and deeply to foster mechanical watches, many in Switzerland thought that moving into electronic watches was unnecessary.

Others, outside of Switzerland, however, saw the advantage and further developed the technology, and by 1978 quartz watches overtook mechanical watches in popularity, plunging the Swiss watch industry into crisis. This period of time was marked by a lack of innovation in Switzerland at the same time that the watch making industries of other nations were taking full advantage of emerging technologies.

As a result of the economic turmoil that ensued, many once profitable and famous Swiss watch houses disappeared. The period of time completely upset the Swiss watch industry both economically and psychologically. During the 1970s and early 1980s, technological advances resulted in a massive reduction in the size of the Swiss watch industry. By 1988 Swiss watch employment fell from 90,000 to 28,000 thus crippling the Swiss economy.

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2012 Market Share Compared to 50% in 1970 http://www.wthejournal.com/images/pages/EN_Graph_1.jpg

In looking at the history of Swiss watchmaking, it’s clear that by not responding to the electronic revolution, it nearly lost the industry completely. Initially, companies were slow to embrace quartz technology, but many companies eventually realized it was the key to their survival and to the industry as a whole. In 1997, Swiss production of finished watches was 33 million pieces, with 30 million being quartz analog, and the rest mechanical. By finally embracing the change, albeit late, the industry has partially recovered, employing 56,000 in 2012.

Education, I believe, is facing a similar crisis today. Technological advances and globalization are changing society as we know it and Education holds the responsibility of preparing our young people for this new era. If we wait too long, and remain focused on traditional methods as the Swiss watch makers did, a great number of students will exit high school early or complete high school unprepared for todays workforce. Our work as educators will only remain relevant if we adapt with the changing times.

Please read this story carefully and start pushing yourself if you are not already doing so. Let’s learn from this great story of the past and not make the same mistakes.

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

You Weren’t Hired To Maintain The Status Quo

Dr. Justin Tarte is one of the most influential people I follow on Twitter. He continuously shares relevant material that both reinforces and challenges my thinking. If you don’t mind, Justin, I would like to borrow this powerful quote you shared as part of some very important work I will be carrying out over the next few days. UnknownMy plan is to visit a number of teachers in my district to personally present them with their continuous contract. A contract they have earned over the last number of months. One that has been recommended by the principal of their school after a year of formal and informal observations. They have, in no small way, proven themselves to be the kind of teacher we are ready to commit to for the rest of their career and I want to remind them that this is a big deal. After visiting their classroom and observing them teaching one final time this year, not only do I plan to present them with a copy of Justin’s quote, I will share a few other thoughts as well:

  1. We are offering you this contract because we see you as a forward thinking and innovative teacher who will do whatever is necessary to help your students experience success.
  2. We are offering you this contract because you are a risk-taker, always pushing the envelope with your teaching.
  3. We are offering you this contract because you have a growth mindset.
  4. We are offering you this contract because it is evident that you see the value in collaboration, constantly building your own capacity and that of your colleagues.
  5. We are offering you this contract because you have shown us that you know how to meet the needs of all learners, making the learning experience relevant to them.
  6. I encourage you to continue the development of your digital portfolio. It will assist you in identifying areas in which you excel as well as areas in which you could continue to grow. It will also provide you with a body of evidence on which you can continuously reflect.
  7. We are offering you this contract because it is obvious that you love children, and that they love you.
  8. We’re counting on you and so are your students.

I could have sent the contract out via our inter-school mail system, but I want each of them to know that the decision to offer a continuous contract is a very difficult one that requires a great deal of conversation and reflection. So I’m going to take the time to go to them. As Superintendent Karl Germann says, it is like offering “a million dollar contract.”

As I near the end of my first year in the role of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources I’ve come to see this as my most important work – inviting the very best teachers to become permanent members of our district family. I hope they will never forget why.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

We All Want Excellent Teachers

Recommendation #21 of the Minister of Education’s Task Force for Teaching Excellence – Maintenance of Certification for Teachers has, in no small way, created uncomfortable feelings for some educators in our province. Key word – some.

After all, the Alberta Teachers Association itself takes a very strong stance (as articulated in this 2012 position paper) on making sure individuals within its membership are reflective practitioners who use their professional judgement to provide leadership in matters related to their professional practice.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 9.36.24 AMThe Association is already dedicated to upholding professional standards, ensuring that a high quality of teaching continues to exist in Alberta. This would suggest that incompetent individuals are addressed in an acceptable manner.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 9.14.50 AMSo, as the individual responsible for Human Resources in my district, I have a great deal of interest in Recommendation #21 and how it may play out in the coming months; in particular the part that reads:

“Teachers would be required to prepare a teaching excellence dossier of evidence of their professional growth, currency and competency.”

I would encourage teachers to take a look at this slide presentation created by Doug Strahler, Communications instructor at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. He makes a good case in support of creating and continually updating a professional portfolio to reflect on and improve professional practice.

A portfolio, in my opinion, places the onus on the individual teacher to identify, reflect on, and address the aspects of their teaching that does or does not consistently meet the Teaching Quality Standard. This is not to say that the teacher did not meet the TQS when they were offered a permanent teaching certificate or a continuous contract. It simply means that as the education landscape continues to change, so does the evidence of what excellent teaching looks like.

And think about it – our C2 committee work throughout the province has us looking for ways to reduce teacher workload and build teacher efficacy. A portfolio could easily replace professional growth plans, evaluations, and year plans while providing a great platform for PD, collaboration and professional conversation.

We all know the recommendations brought forward by the task force have once again created a divisive climate. I don’t think anyone expected anything different. But not all task force recommendations require opposition. I’m sure all stakeholders can agree on a number of them. There is not a teacher in our province who would want their own child taught by a colleague whose practice is less than acceptable. One way to ensure this is through an expectation that teachers create, share and reflect on a dossier or portfolio, demonstrating that their practice continues to evolve.

The 35 probationary teachers in my district created portfolios this year.

Here is an exemplar I would like to share: Justin Lowe Portfolio.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 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

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