Our district continues to push the boundaries in understanding how to engage the digital learner in more effective ways. We have not achieved success but acknowledge and appreciate that this is a on-going journey. This is the notion behind our district’s vision of “Learning by Design.” We are the intentional architects and designers of these new learning experiences, places, spaces, and endeavours. Our work is deliberate, meaningful and challenges the status quo. Teachers takes risks, try, experiment, and repeat. What a privilege to learn from their stories.
At our dinner series in February, we were fortunate to hear from three outstanding educators, and a student, as they shared their passions in trying to make their classrooms and learning more meaningful. You can find their stories here:
Communicating Student Learning featuring teacher Beverley Bunker from Crescent Park Elementary School. Great comments, including this one: “Student voice was no longer optional, it was assumed.”
Applied Learning = Fun! featuring Zale Darnel a technology teacher from Princess Margaret Secondary School but now most recently hired to the Education Services as a Helping Teacher for Curriculum & Innovation.
Our third presenter was a 13 year old grade 8 student from SAIL (Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning). She provides a snapshot of what it means to be in the STEMX program through her presentation on Learning by Design.
Our fourth presenter was from Fraser Heights Secondary, teacher Jessica Gonsales “Ownership: I put that shift on everything!”
Jessica’s courage to design learning in new ways continues to be an inspiration for others across our district. We are grateful for the leadership she provides!
As part of our dinner series, we were also fortunate to hear from Bill Rankin, one of Apple’s premier educators. His presentation is available to Surrey educators on the SS.ca hub at my internal blog Engaging the Digital Learner 2016: Learning in a New Age. Staff must be logged in to access this video.
A big thank you to all our #sd36learn educators for joining us at our February session. We look forward to May’s event with Jennie Mageira (@MsMageira) and more of our own Ignites.
Thank you to the Education Services Curriculum & Innovation Helping Teachers for organizing this event!
The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.
I tried not to do it but I couldn’t resist. I have parodied Superintendent Chris Kennedy on two previous occasions, taking his masterful Top Three List and brutalizing it a bit with my own satirical Top Three. I did this in 2012, and 2013. In 2014 I wrote a half-baked caricature but did not have the nerve to publish it. Now we are in 2015 and he has published his Top Three again (seehere and read his first). I was waiting for it. I cannot keep my cheek in check. Even in this form, please note, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” (Charles Colton).
My Top Three Blog Posts
Here are most read posts for 2015, as gleaned from my followers.
But, I have to tell you the stats are absolutely pathetic. It is a wonder I post anything at all. The social media honeymoon just might be over. I note that the second most read post this year (2. A Window into Learning) was even published last year, in December 2014. At that, the post Treasure Wild Ducks: The Flight of Innovation continues to be the most popular piece and that was published way back in November, 2013.
Top Three Blog Posts I Would Like to be Writing
Chris seems disappointed more people are not blogging. He gives no explanation for why there is less blogging but leaves us hanging for a “next post” (unintended irony) on that topic. With no excuses–I expect to find him unpacking it for us in the New Year. And I would like to point out, I, at least, have excuses. I have not even started the blog posts that I would really like to finish. I would if I had time. I would if I could think clearly. I would if I didn’t have an inbox full of email. I would if I didn’t have four children underfoot (even Chris could have used that one). Posts that keep swirling in my head:
Scaling Up: Chasing the Unholy Grail of Transformation
Research Results from a District-Wide Learning Commons Implementation
Passion, Purpose and People: The Interlocking Keys to Excellence
The Top Three Regularly Used Education words (that show we still don’t really know what we are talking about)
See also “scaling up” referred to above. Pardon my cynicism.
Top Three Videos I Have Watched
First of all, I would like to know when people have time to watch all these TEDx videos? I am still relishing the same animated movies from previous years.
How to Train a Dragon
How to Train a Dragon 2
I feel better AND I am inspired by the sheer art and beauty of them. Sometime I will find a list of the Top 10 videos for Educators, make some popcorn (or melt some butter and sprinkle it with popcorn) and then watch them all.
The Top Three1 Stories People will be talking about in BC in 2016 (see also above category regularly used education words)
Reporting (aka Communicating Student Learning).
The Top Three2 Things I Learned This Year
Hard Work Isn’t Always Enough
Excellence is in the Eye of the Beholder
Timing is Everything
Professional Learning is Never Done
Sometimes You Need to Let it Go
Top Three People/Things That Inspire Me
Good Friends: They help me to “let it go”
My Staff: They are amazing at what they do
The Quiet: Silence in the swirl of work & home is treasured
New Staff Members: Karen Fadum (@mrsfadum) and Joe Tong (@teachertong), both Communicating Student Learning Helping Teachers, Shauna Nero (@MmeNero), Modern Languages Helping Teacher and Maryanne Kempthorne (@Maryakem), new Manager of Learning Resources. You should follow them all on twitter–they are great additions to an already amazing #sd36learn Education Services Team!
A Window into My Child’s Learning: Having my own son get a digital portfolio (via @freshgrade) was an unexpected surprise. I’ve been working on this partnership for three years and when it reaches my own child who attends school in another district–that’s personally and professionally rewarding. I get my own parent view!
Learning from Others: Finding out how other leaders do their work in other districts in B.C. and across Canada, inspires me.
Leaders I Admire:
Dean Shareski (because I won a coveted #deanie award and he is a most gracious and giving man)
Chris Kennedy (I continue to be inspired and learn from his work)
To sum up the 2015 year can be a daunting task. To follow the high bar set by Chris Kennedy in his blog Culture of Yes is impossible. I have blogged, though, at last.
And a big thank you to those of you that take the time to read my posts. Thanks for your patience with me as I continue to learn what it means to push the boundaries of innovation, attempt to transform education, personalize learning for both students and teachers, communicate that learning to wider audiences and scale up these changes across our district and beyond.3
I will be, forever, a dreamer.
Footnotes: 1Did I mention I have a Numeracy problem? 2Numeracy continues to be a challenge. 3Guilty, I am.
The digital portfolio embraces the challenge of making learning visible and mirrors quality assessment where the learning and student choice, voice and ownership are central and core. How does one capture quality assessment evidence and produce an ongoing digital portfolio for every student? The point is not to regulate but to re-orientate what we know about quality assessment practice and to systematically uncover and capture what is essential in communicating student learning. It is no longer about standardization of reporting but about the personalization of the learning journey. Where are students now? Where are they going? And how are they going to get there?
Guiding Principles for What Teachers and Students Include Throughout the learning process, teachers and students intentionally focus on gathering evidence of learning that demonstrates student growth and helps to guide both instruction and learning moving forward. “What is captured and shared should show students’ learning over time, changes and growth in their ability to communicate, think and build their capacities of self as a learner.” http://abvendramin.com/2015/07/09/digital-portfolios-moving-beyond-the-glorified-scrapbook/
In collecting evidence the teacher role is thoughtful observer, listener, and designer. Quality documentation reflects the design of teaching/learning tasks which are well constructed, process-centered and open-ended inviting students to think, question, reflect and assess their own learning. Together teachers and students engage in setting criteria and uploading exemplars which allow for ongoing, timely, descriptive feedback for students and parents. The carefully shared decisions about WHAT to make visible not only helps students assess their growth but also helps them understand how to improve and move forward toward their learning intentions and goals.
Three important guiding principles should be considered when selecting documentation, artifacts and evidence (http://kellivogstad.com/2015/08/31/digital-portfolios-making-the-learning-visible/). It is important that what is made visible links with quality assessment practices and demonstrates student growth and learning. Vogstad recommends: (1) Documentation which shows growth over time through revisited curriculum tasks or experiences, demonstrates concrete change in abilities, skills, behaviours, attitudes, and understanding; (2) Artifacts which invite student reflection and analysis of student learning incorporating the thinking operations of observing, comparing, contrasting, analyzing, hypothesizing, imagining, and making conclusions; and (3) Evidence that demonstrates student behaviour and growth in the three core competency areas: thinking, communicating ideas, and personal/social development, reflects meaningful and relevant learning across all curriculum areas and provides opportunities for students to show their learning in a variety of ways.
There are four practical ways for teachers to categorize and organize
documentation (see Vogstad above). Two of the Same – Student completes two of the same tasks which are documented over a period of time. For example, an impromptu write completed in October, and one completed in January; the two similar artifacts invite observations and comparisons, demonstrating student’s growth and learning. Showing the Knowing – Demonstrations/process-based sharing: student presents or “walks” through an activity, task, or process, explaining thinking, strategies, connections, decision making, problem solving skills, and understandings. Celebrating the Learning – Documented student artifacts show skill and ability reflecting criteria of success. May include performance standard descriptors or task generated criteria; comments are made based on observed evidence that meets criteria. Communicating the How and Whys – The fourth component documented by the teacher provides parents accessing the documentation a lens through which they can understand and support their children’s learning. Descriptions and explanations about the curriculum activities are documented which inform, instruct, and communicate the big ideas, learning intentions, purpose, and goals behind the artifact.
Dissonance and Hard Work The exploration of communicating student learning using the digital portfolio is not without its challenges and has created some uncomfortable feelings of dissonance. At this stage there are probably more questions than answers and yet, educators are attracted to the opportunity to develop better and more meaningful ways to motivate students and communicate with parents using the digital platform.
The “hard work” is to continue the search for learning which is visual, fresh and aligned to elements of quality assessment. This forces teachers to think deeply about the design of activities and the ways they document, assess and share what they see. As designers, teachers are key to transforming the learning.
The Search for Delight As teachers and students become more comfortable with using digital portfolios, students learn to search for their own evidence of their learning, upload artifacts and provide their own reflections on their growth–signalling the opportunity for them to have choice, voice and ownership and to produce their own brand of creativity.
The personalized learning journey depicted by visible artifacts and essential documentation produces quality moments which quite frankly register delight. On the part of the student, parent and teacher there has been powerful recognition of the influence of the well-crafted digital assessment. The evidence is formative, relevant, accessible, meaningful, and engages students in live, authentic action. And, the personalized learning journey has only begun.
~ ~ ~ ~ • ~ ~ ~ ~
Research Note ~ Elements of Quality Assessment Pertaining to Digital Portfolios.
It is no longer about standardization of reporting but about the personalization of the learning journey. Where are students now? Where are they going? And how are they going to get there?
• “What is captured and shared should show students’ learning over time, changes and growth in their ability to communicate, think and build their capacities of self as a learner.”
• Communicating student learning to students and parents is for the most part formative and demonstrates student growth and learning.
• Effective feedback is timely, ongoing, specific, descriptive, relevant, accessible and engaging.
• The student role is an active one. Students assess and celebrate their own learning and understand steps toward improvement. Student choice, voice and ownership are central and core.
• Assessment has a profound impact on motivation and well-being of student.
Results of assessment are used to monitor and adjust teaching and learning.
Note: Special thanks to Dr. Donna VanSant (@vansantd) for assisting in the consolidation of the thinking and contributions of myself and the others identified in this post. Thank you to the many #sd36learn teachers who have been embracing this learning journey and contributing to our understanding as an organization.
If you change the way you teach, you change the way you assess, and if you change the way you assess, you change the way you teach.
Tammy Hartmann, Principal, Ocean Cliff Elementary School
Our district has been looking at and changing the way we communicate student learning for several years now. We recognized in an evolving societal context that our current reporting system was antiquated, not reflecting the realities of new research on assessment practices nor the possibilities offered in an expanding digital landscape. Our problem was multi-faceted: an antiquated report card platform, an archaic checklist approach to learning, misalignment with the BC Ministry of Education’s Redesigned Curriculum and changing understandings of quality assessment practices. Nor did our current system take advantage of a socially networked and connected world with new possibilities for sharing information.
Since 2012 we have been using digital portfolios in partnership with the company FreshGrade. In our first year we were part of their beta pilot, giving them our feedback as they developed the platform. In our second year, it became a pilot for teachers to use as an alternative form of communicating student learning. Last year, and this, we gave teacher’s the freedom to use it as one of three reporting options available in the district. We have a very exciting new non-digital template available as well so teachers have the opportunity to choose which new practice they want to try on. We made a commitment to not force change but to give teachers opportunities to learn more about assessment and reporting practices both digitally and non-digitally. The former, however, is the focus of this post.
As we explored sharing student learning through a digital window, we had key questions that drove our learning. In today’s context, we wondered if we could…
communicate student learning in more powerful ways?
communicate student learning to increase student success & engagement?
use technology to highlight student learning & thinking?
change “reporting” to fit with what we know about quality instruction, learning & assessment?
We wanted to consider, what are the possibilities in a new world?
How can we leverage this digital tool to transform learning?
How can we encourage & direct the conversation?
Who is telling and shaping the story?
Can we create a new story and a better way of “reporting?”
It is important to note that central to our thinking has been keeping the role of the teacher clear: We know that no web 2.0 tool, no program, no paper template transforms learning. Teachers transform learning.
As we engaged in our learning journey as a district, more and more questions would emerge to push our thinking. Are we making learning visible? What is the evidence of learning? Full stop. These latter two questions are perhaps most significant for those embarking on this journey.
Once you begin to look at digital portfolios, it creates the opportunity to examine student learning and explore what quality assessment looks like in a digital context. For us, it is not about posting cute pictures or entertaining videos, nor is it about overloading a portfolio with endless artifacts that fail to communicate the learning journey. The focus is on evidence of learning that demonstrates student growth and helps to guide both instruction and learning moving forward. We recognize that as teachers, we are learners on a continuum of understanding as well. There is the first step of accomplishment from uploading an artifact and conquering the technical piece of the platform to progressing to understanding how to gather artifacts that actually show student learning and incorporate important descriptive feedback. As teachers and students become more comfortable with using digital portfolios, students can actually learn to search for their own evidence of their learning, upload artifacts and provide their own reflections on their growth–signally the opportunity for them to have choice, voice and ownership. Student engagement quickly accelerates the motivation and interest in learning.
We have shared our journey with others internally, locally and abroad at evening sessions, workshops, and conferences as well as through social media. Our most recent event is at the Learning Forward Conference in Washington, DC. As part of sharing our journey—imperfect as it is—we wanted to include some of the learning that has taken place while growing in our understanding of this new form of digital reporting. To learn more about what it means to actually show the learning, we have several helpful blog posts that we reference in our district (click on the title to access):
Where is the learning? by Karen Fadum, a Communicating Student Learning Helping Teacher (Instructional Coach) with Education Services.
A Window into Learning, is adapted from an Executive Briefing presented to the District Senior Team and co-authored by myself and with Dan Turner, Director, Information Management Systems, and describes our adventure and rationale for moving into digital portfolios.
This video uses the words of famous thinkers, leaders in the field of assessment and the words of those who have lived the experience in our district. We often use this at the end of a session as a way to encourage new thinking about assessment practices. (Music Credit: “Shadow by Lindsey Sterling).
We have a multitude of other documents that we have developed to support the scaling up of this project, everything from powerpoints to a planning tool for teachers and even a guide for parents. (Click here to download the Digital Portfolio Parent Guide). A big thank you to the #sd36learn educators in our district (many are mentioned above) who have been creating these documents “just in time.”
There are other educators across our province who are also doing significant work with Digital Portfolios. You can read more from Ian Landy, Principal of Sorrento Elementary, on his website. You can read more about Kindergarten/Grade 1 teacher Michelle Hiebert’s journey with e-portfolios on her website as well.
Your are welcome to contact us if you would like more information.
The more we can do to help travel this uncharted path together, the lighter the load for all.
Our district is exploring our vision of Learning by Design. We are examining how manipulating the variables of traditional structures, simple & complex tools, and learning strategies can deepen the learning experience for students.We create these important conversations through the Engaging the Digital Learner Series. The eventis designed to expose our educators to different ideas, new frames for thinking, practical applications of innovative practice and inspirational speakers.
This past week our evening was punctuated with inspiring stories from four teachers who shared the ways they are experimenting with their practice. From “trying on” new teaching strategies, such as SOLES or Maker Spaces, to believing that anything is possible and preparing students for a future in physical education, each of these teachers shared their thinking and their challenge for us as individuals. Our keynote presenters, George Couros (District Principal of Innovation from Parkland SD) and Superintendent Jordan Tinney, had us anticipate the future as they examined new ways of learning and leading.
The educators in the room represent teams of three from some of our schools. They sit at tables with other teams and engage in structured conversation in response to the presentations. Table seating remains constant each evening so relationships can develop, informal networks can be established and community can be built. When you have over 5,000 teachers in your district, creating opportunities for connecting allows us to humanize and personalize the organization.
Each evening is live streamed (we had a teacher from Singapore following along and tweeting into our #sd36learn stream) and the videos are included here. Our purpose is to share our learning with not just our own community but with educators across the world so we can all learn from each other. There are no district borders to separate our commitment and passion to make schooling for our students the best it can be.
Laura Mayer, grade 6 teacher from North Ridge Elementary School, shares her story of her experimentation with Self Organized Learning Environments. Sugata Mitra’s research Hole in the Wall formed the original ideas behind SOLES. You can find his TED talk here. Laura takes a deeper dive into wonder and inquiry with her students using the SOLE framework.
Glenn Young, District PE Helping Teacher and District Athletic Coordinator speaks on Motivating the Future Learner in Physical Education. Glenn explores the power of motivating young learners through the integrated use of instructional technology in the PE context.
Marilyn Carr, grade 5 teacher from Harold Bishop Elementary, shares her belief thatAnything is Possible. Based on the book by the same name, Marilyn urges us to encourage our students. This would be the first time we have an Ignite presenter conclude her story by actually singing a song!
Jeff Unruh, grade 7 teacher from Pacific Heights Elementary tells his story of Learning to Share: A Twitter Discovery. You can also learn more about Jeff in this guest post, Guess What? That’s us, authored by George Couros.
What does great leadership look like to you? What are the implications for future change? These are just some of the questions posed by keynote presenters George Couros and Superintendent Jordan Tinney as they talk about Anticipating the Future and “going elbows deep into learning.”
Learning by Design, our district’s vision, happens when we take the time to listen to the stories of others who inspire us to be intentional architects and designers of deep learning experiences for the students in our classrooms.
Note: Thanks to all our presenters for sharing your hearts and minds with us.
Our Engaging the Digital Learner: Learning by Design series continues to be a motivational, inspirational and informative event for the 280 educators that join us each evening. The sessions are designed so we hear learning stories through four Ignite presentations, with table talk in-between, dinner for more continued conversation and then an opportunity to hear a keynote address. The seating arrangement typically includes three representatives from each school, three schools at a table and up to 10 in total. The teams are committed to all sessions with the intention that they take back their learning, share it with others, and experiment with new ideas around teaching and learning. What happens, however, is that the learning doesn’t take place just there in that room each evening. We have it livestreamed so others can watch it at home and even those that aren’t watching the livestream are following along our #sd36learn hashtag. Apparently we were so active in sharing our learning that night that our hashtag was trending during the session. It is fascinating to see how professional learning, in an era of technology, is now spilling out of its traditional boxes and spreading across organizations through the power of the internet and social media.
Nathan Horne is a PE teacher from Singapore that was on his spring break to visit relatives in White Rock. Our PE Helping Teacher Glenn Young reached out and asked if Nathan would be willing to do an Ignite for us. We were not disappointed! Here is his Ignite: Giving our Students a Physical Education for the Future.
Alyssa Becker, a Science teacher from Sullivan Heights Secondary shares with us her passion about travelling to new places with her students, Student Travel:
Curtis Weibe, a Teacher-Librarian from Strawberry Hill Elementary challenges us to Think Differently.
Each night I try to keep something that we are doing a bit of a surprise for the attendees. Bringing in young people, as young as grade 2, to present at Ignite was a wonderful and refreshing opportunity for us as educators to learn right from students. Jaslehna and Mya, two seven year olds from Woodward Hill Elementary School, share their message: You Are Never Too Young.
Our keynote presenter, Jan Unwin, works as the Superintendent of Grad Transitions for the B.C. Ministry of Education. Her presentation was outstanding and she encouraged us not to wait for the Ministry to make changes to legislation or curriculum but to do what we know is right for our students. In her own words, “We can’t wait for the Ministry of Education to clear all the brush. It has to come from you.”
I hope you find the opportunity to enjoy these stories and perhaps even show a clip to your colleagues or use one as a conversation starter at a meeting. We have so much we can learn from each other, let’s continue the sharing.
Note: Special thanks to Sarah Garr for her ongoing assistance with the Ignites each evening. Thank you to Karen Lirenman for providing us with her grade 2 students.