Monthly Archives: August 2011

Adult Learning

I attended a Ministry of Education summer institute this past week – targeted audience: School and System admnistrators.  Theme was Leadership in the adult learning realm.  So the focus of the 2-days was about collaborative inquiry and developing the thirst for this learning cycle in the adults in our schools.  Key quote for me was,

     “Adults do not learn from experience, they learn from processing the experience”  Judy Arin-Krupp

So it became obvious to me that if I need to conduct a workshop on a pedagogical strategy that needs revisiting, we have to then build in time to conduct a collaborative inquiry to try it out – mess with it, struggle with it, but in a collaborative, respectful, and professional way that lets the teachers process the experience. 

May I never forget to build in processing time after any new learning – hands-on application (why haven’t I learned this from teaching students???)  Adults need the very same experience!


Leave a comment

Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Musings



Going Beyond Engagement

We all agree – technology in the classroom is amazing for engaging students – it grabs their attention, raises their heart rates, gets the juices flowing – but for how long?

We know how short the attention spans of some of our students can be – the novelty of any new toy or tool wears off really fast, especially if the tools we offer in our schools may not be the most upadated version of what the students own in their own homes.  So engagement gets their attention at first, but how do we go beyond this and actually see improvement in learning?

The question is:  How can technology do for us, that the most amazing teacher has difficulty doing in the traditional classroom? What does technology provide that we can never do as well on our own. (let’s face it – technology is awfully expensive – we need to have the strongest argument for its inclusion in our budgets)

 I suggest the following list, although I am sure there are far more out there. 

  • it meets the students where they are (and isn’t that the basis of good instruction and DI?)
  • peer collaboration and feedback are easier (using tools like Google docs and online chats)
  • group work can continue outside of school (no worries about students living in different communities)
  • animations/simulations can solidify understanding of difficult concepts
  • increases opportunities for creativity – countless tools for this
  • wider range of tools for students to demonstrate what they know and can do rather than posters, ppts, and papers
  • caters to a wider range of learning styles
  • provides access to global resources eg Skyping with authors, scientists, world leaders
  • allows students to collaborate in creating resources eg wikis
  • opportunities to teach students about digital citizenship as this is where students are creating their online identities outside of school hours

Are there others?  Can you tell I am preparing myself for something?

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Musings



Leading Student Achievement

For the first time, I attended the International Confederation of Principals’ International Convention held in Toronto this week and encountered 2000 school leaders not just from North America, but Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and many from Africa.  It was fascinating to hear the stories at the lunch tables about how different cultures view education – critically important, yes – but providing the essential service in a wide variety of ways.  Despite the differences in cultures and viewpoints however, the passion for attending to student success was the commonality we could identify easily.  It was gratifying too to see how many of the delegates wanted to learn everything they could from the Ontario experience.  Time and time again, we were told how well known we are across the world in our efforts to build excellence in our education. The workshops highlighting the Ontario experiences were always filled to capacity by leaders from elsewhere anxious to learn how we are making change happen. 

My favourite sessions in any of the conferences I attend are those given by the keynote speakers – and these were exceptional – Stephen Lewis of course is powerful in his passionate plea for social justice in the world – and despite hearing Michael Fullen and Andy Hargreaves many times, they still bring new learning for me every time.  This time there were three speakers that were new to me:  Sir Michael Barber (although I am very familiar with his work, I have not heard him speak), Jennifer James (a cultural anthropologist from the Seattle) and Roger Martin (Dean of the Rotman School of Management).  I’ll share some of the nuggets that caused me to explore their websites and hunt down their books for my professional reading:

Jennifer James brought cultural mythologies to my attention, as these hold us back from change, especially in times of stress and turmoil.  She described the horrible conditions in the US political scene, as the Tea Party pulls their entire political landscape backwards – banning evolution in schools for example – because their mythology of the past gives them comfort in such economic chaotic times.  Teachers struggle with change if they are stuck in their pasts and can’t imagine a new story.  Fascinating viewpoint, and as anthropology is one of my key interests, I intend to read more of her lectures on her website.

Sir Michael Barber began his keynote with the topic of the importance of government and I wasn’t sure where he was going with this idea – I was worried that I was going to be spending a lot of time sitting through a lecture that wasn’t what I expected.  But then he needed to start with this, as the rest of his lecture was about how we need to hold the government accountable by asking key questions (which are the same questions we should be asking ourselves whenever we implement any program in our schools).  His book Deliverology101 (which I quickly scooped up at the vendor’s booth) provided all of his models of program delivery that he insists leads to success in any branch of government – education included.

Lastly, Roger Martin was another keynote that I found fascinating, although I initially wasn’t sure what a dean of a business school would have to offer us – but he shared his research on the success of several top CEOs and not what they did, but how they were thinking – what was different about their thinking that made their companies so successful.  He called it Integrative Thinking and he showed us the steps in looking at opposing models of any implementation, and how to integrate them into something new.  His book, the Opposable Mind is another of my must-haves after hearing how we can listen to several models of how system leaders are implementing teacher PD, and find a new solution through this integrative thinking. 

Since I’ve been back at home, I find myself immersed in reading – online and in the books I purchased.  That’s the sign of an amazing conference!

Next one is in 2013, in Cairns Australia……field trip??

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Musings



First conference of the new school year

Starting the ball rolling by attending the usual August conference to tighten up the summer brain and get back in shape mentally.  Taking a course this summer did help a lot, but to target the specific needs of my job is something else…budgets, PD planning, and meetings meetings meetings…

The ICP World Conference looked really interesting – Principals from all over the world converging in Toronto (next year it is in Cairns, Australia!)  The topics were so wide-ranging I had a terrible time selecting the workshops.  Can’t wait to look for familiar faces – already saw a few from our Ministry of Ed already. 

21st Century learning topics are definitely on my list, as are topics about connecting teachers and administrators into learning networks.  Can’t wait!

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Musings



A Balancing Act

Reading a recent post by my prof from the UBC MET course I just completed – Dr. John Egan – about sage on the stage vs guide on the side.  (Sorry, the blog is housed within the confines of the UBC blog world right now, so I can’t share the link)  He points out that we need to provide both for our students.  Most of us have experienced the sage on the stage, and for some of us – the only model we know.  For some of us, we teach the way we were taught and so the tradition continues.  Yet we hear over and over again about the need to embrace constructivism, which adherence to its ideals requires one to step aside and wear the mantle of guide on the side – much to the chagrin of those students who prefer instruction that is heavy-handed and top-down. 

Dr. Egan points out that we need to be both – the sage AND the guide and upon reflection of that claim, I have to agree.  How do we balance both roles?  How do we know when we need to step in and out of the learning process?  Of course, the sage is required for the initial planning of instruction and resources that students need – we are trained in learning theory and its application for best results, so our expertise is definitely needed here.  And we all know that eventually, at the end,  it is the sage that evaluates the success of the students’ efforts.  But in between those 2 book-ends, is the grey area of learning activities that we wrestle with what exactly is our role?  As teachers, we tend to jump in when our students are struggling – after all, isn’t reducing frustration an important step in helping them succeed?  Yet, if we do believe in Vygotsky’s Zone – we need to ensure that students have to struggle a bit – not too much, but enough to reach the tipping point of new learning.  So here again, the sage arrives – knowing when to step in and help, and when to stand back and insist that they find out for themselves.

As a provider of PD for our teachers, I need to do the very same for our teachers – make sure they have the content and pedagogical knowledge needed for the sage, but also the gift (and I do believe this is the skill found in our most talented teachers ) of knowing when to be the guide.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Musings


Tags: ,

Taking Great Care

I spent a good part of the day today composing a job posting for an e-Learning Contact (eLC) for our board thanks to some funding provided by the Ministry to move us along in our efforts for elearning and blended learning.  The initiative will over a 3-year period expand blended learning from K-12 and students will be accessing the D2L platform for their online learning.

So, my challenge is in the right description of the skills, experience, and expectations for this position.  This teacher needs to have strong computer skills yes, but more importantly, a strong understanding of how the digital resources and tools will make a difference for student learning.  I want so much to avoid someone who is dazzled by the bells and whistles, someone who can rattle off all kinds of 2.0 applications, and fancy equipment that they have in their arsenal…No, I want someone who gets it – that there is a time when technology can really help a student learn and then there are times when it actually impedes it. 

So, I will need to carefully word the posting in such a way that it is obvious that I am not interested in how many apps they have on their smartphones, or how many friends they have on FB, but on how well they understand how kids learn and where the digital world fits into that.  On top of that, this teacher will be supporting the blended learning teachers who will come from both elementary and secondary schools – not everyone can span the 2 panels easily.

This is my chance to really move us forward…keeping my fingers crossed.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2011 in Musings



Am I Just a Cheerleader?

I read an interesting post on a blog that I follow faithfully: Connected Principals where a network of administrators post their thoughts about their schools – technology use included.  It has been an inspiring group of people to follow and today’s post really got me thinking:  Have Patience…We All Arrive at Different Times by Patrick Larkin.  He ponders about whether we who are passionate about technology, and in this particular instance, social media, are really making a difference in our schools.

Good question!

I have also been following 2 Twitter groups #edchat and #edtech where a constant stream of tweets is available for resources and ideas – but what do I do with all of that information?  I tell others what I have learned, but is that enough?  Larkin says that being “just” a cheerleader is OK – at least I am getting the conversations started.  But that’s not enough for me.  I need to demonstrate in my daily work, how technology is making my job easier and more effective.  I need to be able to take what I learn from my Learning Networks ( I know you are out there!) and make it come alive so that my colleagues say, “wow, did you see how she used that tool to her advantage?”  followed by, “we need to do that more often!”

So, I guess passion is a start:  Larkin included this quote in his post:


Taking my courses from the UBC MET program has really helped me get better at doing what I love – using technology to make what I do fun, engaging and connected to a ever-increasing number of people just like me. So my blog is here to stay…and my connections with my fellow learners are as well.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 4, 2011 in Musings