Category Archives: ipads

The Best & The Worst of Times


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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities

I left on a Wednesday morning flight and it wasn’t until I landed on the tarmac in Ottawa that I received a text message from my oldest saying, “I guess you’ve heard the news.” I hadn’t heard anything as my cellphone was off during the flight. My first thoughts were those of a mother, fearing there had been an accident to someone in the family at home. I quickly searched the news on my phone and found a gunman was in Ottawa. There was more than an accident; a young guard at the National Monument had been shot down. And yes, he had a mother. It was she who had lost her son in a a tragic and senseless shooting. “There is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you,” says Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.

IMG_2538It was a very surreal and eerie trip. As the chauffeur drove three of us from the airport to the Fairmont Chateau Laurier (right across, and I mean right across, from the War Memorial Monument where the murder had taken place), we noticed that although the city lamps were brightly shining there was hardly anyone on the deserted streets. Stores and restaurants were completely closed and darkened, their neon signs off. The city was in lockdown.

Our hotel was also in lockdown. The doors everywhere were locked, the street taped off with red police tape, police vehicles blocking off streets that were closed, reporters with cameras and microphones staged behind the red tape cordoning the hotel. We could not go in the front or side entrance but police directed us through a back door. Inside the lobby of the hotel and even boarding the elevators were police in bullet proof vests, guns tucked in holsters. At that point there was still rumor of a second gunman. The letter under the hotel door from the manager advised us of the circumstances and asked us to remain inside the hotel. From my room I heard sirens wailing and could see the lights from police cars through my window. The whole situation didn’t seem very Canadian; events like this don’t seem to take place in our quiet and reserved backyard. And for me, locked in the hotel, Ottawa was my backyard.

The next day lockdown was lifted and so we went on the scheduled school tours arranged by those organizing the Canadian Academic Leadership Summit. There were hardly any attendees, however, as almost all of the registrants from the remaining provinces cancelled their flights when the city went into lockdown. Those of us from BC and California had already left on flights and so we did not have the opportunity to cancel. Our gracious hosts, despite the national trauma the day before, continued to open their school doors, classrooms and hearts to us. There is something so normal about being in a school and about having children all in their places.

“It was the best ofWelcome. Turn on your devices. times, it was the worst of times…” In between all that oddness, visiting the schools was more than a pleasant distraction. We spent our morning at Mother Theresa High School and were greeted by student ambassadors that guided us through the school to the Learning Commons. It was there that we joined some staff and students for a First Nations Talking Circle. Led by the school secretary we each had the opportunity to hold the “talking feather” and provide an introduction of ourselves. The talking feather was then rotated to the students immersed in our circle where they each described their personal story of learning at the school.

Brilliant student created bannerUpon completion of the storytelling, the staff guided us through classrooms to ask teachers and students about the learning. In the English class, some students were studying Of Mice and Men and every student was engaged in exploring and learning about the novel in different ways. One student was studying the music of the era and then applying her understanding of the lyrics to explain the cultural background for the story. Another student was creating a movie trailer while a different student was writing an alternate ending. There wasn’t a student in the room completing the same task. Devices were everywhere because at this particular school all students bring a mobile device (iPad) with them. The school has back up devices for those that don’t have their own but basically everyone has a device on their desk. In many rooms, students were using them but in other classes students were engaged in group work or whole class work without accessing technology. The devices didn’t seem really noticeable as students and teachers were simply engaged in the learning process. The school purchases the licenses for the apps that students may want to use and some of the apps have also been created in-house. They also use Google Apps for Education. I did learn that the school does have “sticks” that students can sign out should they require wireless access at home to complete assignments. Overall, there is minimal district tech support provided and trained students are there to give a hand to students and staff.

IMG_2613The Senior Staff at the Ottawa Catholic School Board Office hosted us for lunch and a conversation about their journey moving their district into the 21st century. It was here that we had a chance to learn more about the district’s priorities and strategic plan, their organizational structure and departmental functions and their mode of both independent and interdepartmental governance. The district had made some pretty significant budget decisions that impacted all departments as they looked across their systems to find ways to funnel monies to newly determined priorities, many directly associated with technology.

IMG_2625On our afternoon visit we landed at St. Cecelia Elementary School, nicknamed the “School of the Jetsons.” This newly designed school appeared spacious, open and inviting. The Learning Commons had a completely exposed wall along the central foyer. The only separation was the curved bar with stools where chrome books lay out on counters and tables as options for incoming students. Glancing down the hall you could see groups of students working in “caves,” small alcoves with assorted furniture—comfy chairA corner in the Learning Commons.s, benches, tables—where students were spread out working on different tasks. Classrooms were structured in pods with a shared central area for students together in groups or for independent work. While the school has opportunities for whole group and direct instruction, we had arrived at a time of day when most were involved in individual or group work of their choosing and related to their personal interests. What were students doing? Some were reading in corners together, others were in a group watching a science-related video, others were using math tiles to explore patterns to extend their learning, some were standinA bucket of chrome books in each portable.g and manipulating shapes across a projected Smart board and others playing games, puzzles, or huddled together engrossed in learning conversations. There were chrome books, netbooks, desktops and iPads being used seamlessly throughout the building. They weren’t really noticeable as what was more evident was simply students engrossed in learning.

On Friday it was an intimate crowd of about a dozen of us. I was one of the speakers but it is significantly different when you are only speaking to a small room of people. I guess because it was such a small crowd we had opportunities for great dialogue with some pretty amazing and humorous people. I love learning and I particularly appreciate the opportunity to have a window into the ways and thinking of other districts. I found the goals, direction and plans of the district future-oriented, declarative and provocative. I found the flexible learning of the students inspiring. In between the visits, the lunches and sessions, however, it was the opportunity to engage in a rich dialogue with those from the school and district. The shared stories of their journey to a new future, their ongoing plans and challenges as they pursue creating great environments for learning was encouraging and kindled hope for our future.

I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out…” Charles Dickens.

We flew home late that afternoon as the lights began to shine across the city.

Surreal.

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Note: SpeciaExploring Google Glassesl thanks to our gracious and flexible Ottawa guide, Denise Andre (@deniseandreOCSB), Deputy Director of the Ottawa Catholic School Board, and the inspiring and amazing hosts from Discovery Education who organized the event. Author tries out Googles Glasses compliments of Summit Keynote Hall Davidson (@halldavidson).

All Canadian Surrey Schools: The Apple of Apple’s i

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The prestigious award for Apple Distinguished Program is finally coming to Canada and has landed in Surrey. The Social Studies iPad E-text Project is an exciting innovation and an important part of a larger radical social movement happening in Surrey (#sd36learns). The teacher-led grassroots initiative is the forerunner program through which this recognition was achieved. The Social Studies 11 course provided the impetus for both students and teachers to “jump-start” learning through technology. Specifically, the course prepares students for their lives as Canadian citizens and their roles and responsibilities as members of the international community. It seems more than appropriate that the first district award for the Apple Distinguished Program in Canada is awarded to an initiative that encounters the Canadian experience. An honor indeed!

The Leap

The Social Studies iPad and E-text Project was a bold step. A key aspect of the initiative was that it was grassroots, driven and led by Social Studies teachers and department heads. The teacher-led innovation placed the iPad and the E-text technology tools directly into the hands of the students and teachers. Students were given the iPad, in part, to create digital content to showcase their learning.  This initiative is unique in that it provides digital tools and digital resources to students to meet the needs of the newly emerging curriculum in BC (BC Ministry documents).

Educators felt that the opportunity to incorporate technology with the curriculum would greatly enhance collaborative inquiry, student engagement and also help move instruction closer to the practices of personalized learning.    

Teachers and their students took a leap. They acted with courage capturing an opportunity to change traditional ways of learning in the Social Studies classroom. The learning curve was steep and the journey was not always easy.

ADP Award-compressed7

The Pull

Steeped in Surrey tradition, helping teachers (teacher leaders) navigate not only the classroom but also the middle space bringing administrators, teachers and students together transforming education. An integral part of the project was providing support to all participating schools by a team of district helping teachers. This team as part of the Surrey Schools’ Education Services hosted boot camps for all teachers using the iPad. Through cutting edge practice they “pulled” the schoolhouse beyond traditional literacies toward closer examination of personalized learning, improving student/teacher learning and enhancing student/teacher engagement.

Surrey’s deliberate, multifaceted approach to staff development and the provision of innovative technologies has fostered networks of educators committed to purposefully exploring new ways to improve student learning and extending their professional repertoires. Teachers, students, administrators, and staff mobilize their school communities aligning effective use of technology for learning with the shared vision of transforming education. The intense investment “pulls” the community of learners together and fans the fire of innovation.

The Champion

Who are the champions? “It is all of those people that are out there trying things out, they’re on twitter, the ones who are excited about learning, period. They are always wondering and doing something different.”
Karen Steffensen, Assistant Superintendent

ADP Award-compressed1JB Mahli, Social Studies Helping Teacher, championed the project. Through his thoughtful and credible leadership he piloted the project in his own Social Studies 11 classroom. As Social Studies Helping Teacher he modelled innovative practice and advocated for new approaches. His actions invigorated all those involved creating an environment where everyone could voice ideas and benefit from collective wisdom. From start to finish JB was an inspired steward for the project. One teacher said, “While I do believe that my teaching practice has changed because of the introduction of the iPad having a helping teacher who has also been talking about using problem and inquiry-based instruction, as well as critical thinking and historical thinking, is important as well.”

The Impact

Partway through the project important questions were posed. Was this project making a difference to student learning, student engagement and was it moving pedagogy closer to personalized learning practices? Was it meeting school district priorities? Has there been an impact?

The online survey gathered information of teacher’s and student’s perceptions specific to utilization of the iPad and E-text focusing in three key areas: student learning, student engagement, and the shift in instructional practices toward personalized learning. In addition, open-ended questions were asked about strengths, weaknesses of the program as well as suggestions for improvement. At this stage of the project it was important to provide some data around the impact of the project for moving practice forward.

Results indicated there were positive changes in the way that both students and teachers experienced Social Studies 11.  All teachers described changes in their pedagogy, which they felt, were directly related to the impact of Social Studies iPad & E-text project.

Significant Shifts in Instructional Practices

  • Shift in pedagogy away from content coverage to teachers being facilitators of learning and advocates of student created content.
  • Teachers shifted away from a task-oriented classroom to a learning and experiential orientated classroom.
  • Teachers centered their instructional practices on meeting the needs of students by using iPad, Apple TV and other tools to engage students.
  • Students felt encouraged by their teachers to demonstrate their learning in a way that meets students’ needs and choice.
  • More instructional time was dedicated to student interacting and sharing with one another using the iPad.
  • Teachers took the lead in instructional design and have created iTunesU courses to increase the amount of Canadian content available and to provide a platform to learn by inquiry in an interactive way.
  • Most profound change among teachers was the shift from simply covering information in the classroom to creating, curating and sharing content.


iTunes U SS 11

Radical? Contagious?

Word spread. In hindsight it seems that the initiative was like a contagion. More and more teachers and administrators wanted to “act” on the opportunity. In this case the project used learning with technology as a lever with the overriding vision to transform education. It is the growth in numbers of participants, the depth of learning and the changed behaviour of participants that signal a radical movement.

Surrey School District transforms education by creating a radical social movement of educators committed to altering their practice in order to deepen student learning. This uses a form of leadership that focuses on exponential rather than incremental change by creating networks of field-based educators committed to sharing their practice and spreading the change to others. It is about distributed leadership so that it is not the central person at the board office that owns or dictates the vision of transforming learning but the professionals in the field who own it. This vision for the iPad E-text project proved to be realistic and achievable.

All along the way the project exemplified qualities and characteristics that closely align with Apple Distinguished Program best practices. Leaders have been strategic in ensuring all stakeholders have a voice in the direction of the project and have had an opportunity to learn, play and share their successes and challenges. The project has been robust and resilient evolving to meet the needs of diverse learners. In the words of Apple “the project demonstrated an innovative and compelling learning environment that engaged students and provided tangible evidence of academic accomplishment.”

The Social Studies iPad E-text project is the recipient of the Apple Distinguished Program award and is in reality, a Canadian first.

 

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Apple Distinguished Program

Recognized by Apple as a distinguished program for innovation, leadership, and educational excellence.

Note from Elisa Carlson:
Guest post is by Dr. Donna VanSant (@vansantd) of Healthy Ventures, some edits are mine. Thank you to former Social Studies Helping Teacher JB Mahli (currently Vice-Principal at Semiahmoo Secondary School) for leading this project. Thanks to Information & Media Literacy Helping Teachers, Kevin Amboe, Orwell Kowalyshyn and Lisa Domeier for providing inspiration and support along the way. Our appreciation goes to the Social Studies Department Heads and Social Studies teachers in the district for diving into the project. Surrey truly has amazing teachers! Thanks to the unseen but essential support of Gloria Morton (Manager, Learning Resources) and Dan Turner (Director, Information Management Systems) who managed all the technical pieces so the magic could happen.

James Ardiel Elementary: Our ILD Journey


Guest Post
:
Thank you to Iram Khan, the Vice-Principal at James Ardiel Elementary school for sharing their school’s Innovative Learning Designs journey.

James Ardiel had an eye opening and inspiring year. At the end of the last school year we were ecstatic to hear that we were one of the Surrey schools who were successful at a proposal for an Innovative Learning Design (ILD) Grant. Our principal and a few staff members proposed that we would work on the following question: How can the use of digital technology assist students designated with special needs in their attitude/engagement in learning and their academic achievement?

As we were putting in our order for the new school year, I have to admit our excitement moved towards all the iPads were going to get. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on all those babies!

At first it was all about the technology pieces, the iPads, projectors and wifi. I myself entered a huge learning curve of being thrown into the steps involved in the technicalities of maintenance, tracking and distribution. In particular, the lists of recommended apps were thrown at us from everywhere; all the possibilities were overwhelming.

Right from the beginning we were advised to be thoughtful about the apps that we bought. We struggled with the excitement, and installed apps that sounded great. Eventually, though, we agreed that if the app did not help with creating, collaborating, communicating, or developing critical thinking skills we would think twice about uploading it… Even if it was free!

Then, something magical happened. Because of the nature of the technology and the inspiring professional development the district provided, we were able to just let go and our students stepped up to the challenge. We could feel that our students understood the importance and the privilege they were being given… that this was not “normal”. They did not want to disappoint, they wanted to prove to us that we made the right decision to let go. Believe me, this was a really difficult thing for us to do especially since a Kindergarten class was involved. What if they break something, what if they mess it up, what if they are silly and get off task, what if they behave inappropriately online? The more I heard and stated “student led learning… it’s all about the students”, it became a mantra. Everything our tech team decided on came from this philosophy.

We were there to facilitate 21st century learning and it was exhilarating for our students and us. Some highlights were students participating in project based learning, genius hour, blogging, class websites and mystery Skype.

Another indirect result of the ILD grant was collaboration. The grant encouraged us to collaborate with other staff members and students. Teachers directly involved with the grant offered assistance to those who wanted to introduce the new technologies to their classes. Students collaborated with each other and reached out to other students beyond their fellow classmates. Students and teachers reached out to experts around to world to help them in their learning. The library became a “learning commons”.

Which brings us to the ILD grant celebration project. Of course, the tech team teachers could not do it… we handed it over to our students to show us how the ILD grant changed their learning this year. Plus, they knew how to use the creative apps better than us!

A small group of girls were chosen to produce the iMovie below. They took pride in what they were doing, and understood how important it was. As I made myself a fly on the wall, I heard them discussing criteria for students that would be able to speak on behalf of the school, what parts to cut out of people’s responses, what the audience would like to hear, etc. One questions in particular I loved was; “Well you know everyone thinks he’s cute, but all he is talking about is Angry Birds and Star Wars. What does that have to do with school and how the grant changed his learning?”

Here was critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity all working together! This project was just one example of the many that occurred throughout the year. So, did the use of digital technology assist students designated with special needs in their attitude/engagement in learning and their academic achievement? YES, but it clearly went beyond this group of students!

It has been an amazing year due to the ILD grant. It definitely has been a catalyst for all of us to reflect on the way we teach and the way students’ learn. We can’t wait for the next school year, when we can just hit the ground running.

Enjoy our iMovie!

 

We are just scratching the surface: Panorama Park

Guest Post: Lucky Kalair, Grade 6/7 Teacher at Panorama Park Elementary

Panorama Park’s Innovative Learning Design Story: A continuing journey of reflecting and sharing….
we are just scratching the surface.

 

Context: School with a population of 350 students, high ELL
Prior to ILD:
• slow wireless connection, limited experience with iPads, only a couple of DocCams, no ATV, MacBooks…

Post ILD: updated wireless connection, 40 iPads, updated MacBook cart,
5 ATVs, majority of classrooms have DocCams,…

Inquiry Question: How will focusing on digital storytelling and the implementation of WEB 2.0 tools increase student engagement and increase student communication skills?

As a result of the ILD project, the teaching practices of teachers have changed and enabled us to focus on student-directed learning. The ILD project has promoted greater reflecting, sharing, and co-learning with our students; we have focused on creating learning environments that are student centered with learning as the focus.  The technology has complemented the learning piece and has helped to increase student engagement and increase student communication skills.

Some of the things that happened at our school as a result of the ILD project include:

1. Transformative teaching/learning
• reflecting, questioning, sharing, exploring, experimenting, designing, and creating–>we are all learners–> co-learners
• moving from paper/pencil–>multimedia – voice, sound, visuals
• inquiry based –>uncovering curriculum–>more content choice-
• scaffolding and modelling thinking/learning–>adjusting our teaching/learning
• focusing on the process of learning
• engaged learners – student centered learning environment
• making thinking visible –>technology complements the learning
• empowering students–>greater student choice/voice/input
• partnership with students – reciprocal teaching – third space

2. Connecting/Collaborating/Sharing: Co-learning/Connecting with  students
• Digital Storytelling – iMovie trailers, KeyNote, PowerPoint, Book Creator, Popplet, Puppet Pals, ….
• WEB 2.0 Tools – Weebly – student web pages, teacher web pages, blogging, Glogster, Kidblog, iPadlet, Today’s Meet, Prezi, Skype, Twitter, PLN, publishing work on YouTube
• reflecting using blogging
• shift in learning/teaching–>student centered – they own their learning
• becoming co-creators, co-designers, co-architects of learning
• exploring ePorfolios –>documenting progression of learning
• presenting/sharing…communicating

3. Focus on: Differentiated Learning
• more voice/choice to represent learning – visuals, pictures, recording voice
• greater student ownership–>greater student motivation
• power of choice = students working at their level
• empowering students – building self-confidence

4. Personalized Learning: (‘How to use technology to enhance and magnify learning…’ – Neil Stephenson)
• increases student motivation and accountabiity
• how students want to learn, what they want to learn, how they represent their learning, how they share their learning
• Genius Hour, iMovie trailers…learning is relevant and meaningful and the technology piece complements the learning
• more content choice –>caliber of work improves–>shift in learning

5.  Assessment for Learning – AFL
•embedded in the learning process –>ePortfolios – the process of learning
•giving students opportunities to share and create using multiple options
•reflecting, self-reflections, peer feedback…blogging, collaborating, and discussing summative assessment …ePortfolios=progression of learning
• student-teacher conferences/presentations

6. ILD Team:
• blogs for reflecting/sharing —>3 teachers
• Twitter – #sd36learn #panopanthers –> 5 team members contributing
• share at staff mtgs, ILD mtgs – informal/formal, assemblies, pro-d

7. Next Year:
• building student ePortfolios – exploring Evernote, Google Docs,..
• Skype projects, global connections,…
• Blogging – Weebly/Kidblog •expanding Twitter PLN •staff mentoring
• student tech leaders as mentors for staff
• pro-d  •visiting other classes/schools   •PBL ….authentic learning
• conferencing/sharing with other classrooms/schools

8. Other Highlights and accomplishments in our first year of ILD:
• focusing on digital storytelling including: creating, designing, and sharing
• buddy activities
• students planning and discussing – reflecting, questioning, and exploring
• using manipulatives and technololgy
• Glogster – multiple options for sharing learning
• Genius Hour – Inquiry Learning – Wonder Qs – choice and voice
• creating iMovie Trailers – composing and sharing
• using Web 2.0 to collaborate ideas and content
• peers learning from peers – excited to explore blogging to represent their thinking and learning
• communicating with parents and peers – creating class and student web pages
• enhancing learning with Prezi
• students, teachers, and parents collaborating
• representing learning in a variety of ways
• brainstorming on Padlet
• participating in a Webinar – building, discussing, and creating together
• Skyping about careers
• using critical thinking skills
• creating simple digital portfolios using Weebly, exploring Kidblog
• self-reflection and self-assessment….peer feedback
• empowering students – learning together
• building confidence and self-esteem
• providing instant, descriptive, and specific feedback
• Many of our students would ask:
     • When can we start the next Genius Hour project?
     • Could we stay in at recess to finish our work?
     • Could I do an extra project?
     • Could we use the iPad or MacBook?
     • Could we make an iMovie trailer? Keynote?

During our first Webinar/Skype activity on careers, many grade seven students stayed in at recess to continue working on this activity. During LST, students were excited and motivated to track their reading speed. Students are asking about when can they blog next, excited about providing/receiving feedback from their peers. These are just a few examples of how some of our students became intrinsically motivated to learn new concepts. Again, learning was the focus with students being at the center, while the technology enriched the learning experience. Since teachers and students are co-learning together, there is positive energy being created and that is promoting collaboration, creativity, inspiration, and sharing.

Whether it be digital storytelling or Web 2.0 activities, students have confidently, eagerly, and successfully showcased their learning, with emphasis on: choice, voice, and collaboration.  With increased opportunities for ‘choice’ in a student-centered learning environment, it is evident there is greater student participation, ownership for learning, and increased levels of engagement and motivation. This is exactly what Shelley Wright@wrightsroom focused on at the second Engaging the Digital learner series presentation.

A student-centered learning environment has enabled our students to improve: fluency skills, confidence, speaking, and writing skills. By giving students choices and opportunities to share their learning using a wide array of multi-media apps and platforms – iMovie, Popplet, Educreations, Keynote, Class weebly webpage, Explain Everything, and Kidbog, engagement levels increased. This helped to enhance student responsibility and accountability for their learning.

The learning curve has been steep for many of us; however, it is because of our Innovative Learning Designs inquiry project that we have seen the above outlined accomplishments. Wow – amazing that none of this would have happened without ILD! Reflecting back, it amazes me that we had no comprehension of any of the above at the beginning of the inquiry process in September. ILD has had a tremendous  impact on the learning of our teachers and students at Panorama Park. It has been a wonderful learning journey for all of us, and we look forward to continuing to enrich and enhance our learning experiences next year as co-learners with our students and each other.

Below is a video clip that we shared at our ILD sharing session: Snapshots of staff and students, at Panorama Park, co-learning about Digital Storytelling and using WEB 2.0 tools.

On behalf of Panorama Park’s ILD team, I would like to sincerely thank Elisa Carlson and the IMS team for supporting, guiding, and inspiring us on this fabulous learning journey. You are an amazing team – thank you!!

Guiding Principles: What do we believe?

What do we believe? We have some guiding principles that have anchored our digital learning journey as a district. Our vision has grown and is best represented through our Digital Learning Principles. Below is a short form of the “baker’s dozen,” a series of  belief statements that guide our work. These principles, outlined in the district strategic technology plan, grew over time. The principles are grounded in research about good teaching and learning.

1. Begin with a learning plan
We abolished the district’s traditional hardware replacement strategy and replaced it with a learning-centered strategy. Schools have to provide a forward-thinking, smart learning plan through an application process to ensure schools have the commitment and readiness to move learning and teaching forward in their schools. No grounded plan means no hardware.

2. The learning plan anchored in twenty-first century pedagogy
Key priorities for learning are identified at the outset: authentic learning tasks, descriptive feedback, inquiry learning, differentiated instruction, critical thinking skills, virtual and face-to-face collaboration, student voice and choice, and technology as a tool. The impact on transforming pedagogy? “It has totally revolutionized how I teach. I am not at the centre. The kids are at the centre,” explains Anne-Marie Middleton, Grade 7 Teacher at Hillcrest Elementary.

3. Action grounded in collaborative inquiry
Each application is team-focused and anchored in a job-embedded model of collaborative inquiry. Teams of teachers are engaged in studying meaningful questions about student learning and their own practice. Teachers own their own learning.

4. Evidence of student learning required
The district expects schools to share their organizational and individual learning and that of their students. Participants are required to report out using a flexible template to tell their story of learning.  These digital stories provide the inspiration, advice and resources for other schools also embarking on a digital learning journey.

5. Learning focus for all
While students are at the centre of our raison d’etre, we recognize that in organizations everyone is a learner and that we are all co-learners together: students, teachers, support staff, and administrators can equally share in the learning journey.

6. Empower teacher exploration months before student deployment
Teachers need time to experiment and play. Teachers need time to learn. We provide both devices and opportunity for staff development. Foundational idea: “Professional development is the hallmark of every successful technology implementation,” outlined in  the report commissioned by the National Coalition for Technology in Education & Training.

 7. Teacher-led, teacher-driven and centralized to the school house
The district is not dictating the direction. Schools, and teachers, decide their learning needs based on their school context. The result and our experience, we have gone from push to pull.  As educator Fraser Speirs declares: “I am no longer pushing technology at teachers. They are demanding this technology in their classrooms.”

8. Linking staff development opportunities across the system
Many educators are involved in two-year inquiry projects which include release time as well as a commitment to on-going learning with colleagues at their schools. Educators also have the opportunity to attend an inspiring dinner series with thought leaders in the field of educational technology, as well as after school workshops on topics as diverse as digital storytelling and moviemaking. In all cases, we focus on the learning, and not the tool.

9. Transformative practice shared and promoted via social media
We created our own hashtag: #sd36learn. We promote it and encourage the educators to keep the focus on learning, best practice, sharing resources and building connections. We acknowledge the words of Daniel Pink on the power of social media: “…the deepest, most enduring impact of social media might be on learning.”

10. Intentionally encouraging a radical social movement
Our goal is transforming education. Our diffusion strategy is creating networks of educators committed to creating the best learning conditions for students. As educators take risks, explore, experiment and play with their practice, we want to support their efforts. Creating a tipping point is key: “If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior… you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured,”  underscores Malcolm Gladwell.

11. Multiple projects/people supporting the same ideals all across district
We intentionally create a culture of innovation in practice by seeding pockets of innovation all across the district. Whether it is an Innovative Learning Designs project, a Learning Commons transformation, Making Thinking Visible, Out of Their Heads or a SS11 e-text initiative, they are all opportunities to focus teachers on shifting pedagogy to better embrace the ideals of curriculum transformation.

12. Mobile learning + the new electricity
Based on the key trends identified in The Horizons Report, we made a decision to focus on mobile devices. That decision meant that providing a quality wireless solution together with upgrading Internet links were top priorities for all our schools. We want to create opportunities for students to learn on any device, anytime, anywhere.

13. Education requirements leading technological shifts
Whatever technological changes are taking place around the world, we know the needs of learning should set direction for how technology is provided. All technology decisions are to be made in service of the needs of learners and educators.

Thanks to the many educators in our Innovative Learning Designs projects that contributed to our learning. Thanks as well to the members of the three focus groups that responded to our questions as we explored ideas such as: what works well, what needs improvement, where to next? Your insights enable us to move forward on the continuous improvement journey. The guiding principles themselves were developed and refined by a team: Helping Teachers Orwell Kowalyshyn (@kowalyshyn), Kevin Amboe (@amboe_k), Lisa Domeier (@librarymall), IT Director Dan Turner (@dj_turner) and myself.

The Story of a School


Guest Post: Jas Kooner, teacher at Woodward Hill Elementary, provides this article. She tells the story of her school and shares the video that premiered at the Engaging the Digital Learner Series. With repeated requests for the video, you can now read their story and watch the video here.

Woodward Hill Elementary is an ordinary school with some typical students learning in some extraordinary ways.  As you walk the hallways, you will find students engaged in audiobooks, writing on blogs, communicating with other classrooms around the world using Skype or Google Hangout and sharing their learning using a variety of ways, whether it is a live drama skit or a Comic Life creation.  Students and teachers are engaged and using the tools they need to further their learning.

It has been a quite the journey to get to here. This journey began before the school was even built.   A lot of thought and discussion went into developing a vision for the school.  Our staff was very pro-active in having input into decisions that were being made by all of the people involved in the construction and furnishing stages of opening a new school.  For example, electrical outlets were placed in the ceilings for LCD projectors and conduit for the wiring in the walls. Classrooms were equipped with large speakers in the ceilings to enhance sound. The PAC contributed by entering the Keg’s Thanks a Million contest and winning $25 0000 to purchase a set of iPads for the school.  Using new technology was part of the vision established for the school.

Once the school opened, there was a steep learning curve for everyone. To be provided with the opportunity to use technology was one thing but to know how to use it was another.  Teachers had to learn independently and with their colleagues how to best use SmartBoards and iPads in their curriculum.  Teachers had to mentor and share their learning with each other.  Everyone soon realized that daily teaching activities were easier because of technology such as the document camera and speakers in the ceiling of each classroom.  Even teachers who were wary of using computers and iPads found the document camera to be an essential part of every day.  Slowly, technology began to transform teaching and learning at Woodward Hill Elementary.

Now, technology is being used as a tool where it fits in naturally for teachers and students. Differentiating learning is made much easier using technology. If a student has difficulty reading content area text, they are using audiobooks.  If a student has difficulty showing their learning by writing their thoughts, they are given the opportunity to use DragonSpeak, or Educreations or any number of other tools where they can share their understanding visually.  Learning Support Teachers (LST) have a set of 10 iPads in their room that kids who need support use without prompting even if it is not their LST designated time.  This puts students in the driver’s seat of their own learning.  They use the tools that help them learn best.

Students who would traditionally have difficulty organizing their work and space seem to thrive using technology.  They can save their work to DropBox in specific folders and find it easily.  Many students with a lack of fine motor skills use technology because they can take pride in the neat and tidy appearance of their work.  This, in turn, boosts their self-confidence as learners and they can see themselves as “successful.”

All of this has happened slowly over time and it is still happening because each teacher is in a different place in his or her own learning. Actually, it has happened in such a way that teachers don’t think that what they are doing is anything special.  We decided we needed to document the journey that our school had been on in a video in order to share our learning with each other and our parent community.  Creating this video was a very eye opening experience.  We had to ask staff to share with us what they were doing in their classrooms and at first there was hardly anybody willing to share.  Everyone thought that what they were doing was very ordinary and not worth sharing.  However, as we stepped into different classrooms to take photos or videos, we were struck by how many teachers were using technology to enhance their students’ learning and how many different ways technology was being used.  As we took video and photos we realized we had more material than we could fit into one video.  We needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together to tell a story, our school story, bringing out some common themes.

Once we had a rough copy of the video we shared it with first a small group and then the staff for the purpose of editing it, so that people could point out spelling mistakes and give input into making it better.  Instead what ended up happening was that everyone wanted to talk about what was happening in the classrooms and share ideas. Sharing the video made for a rich conversation. We learned that conversations about what we do, and sharing, even if we think it’s ordinary can be powerful, like it is here, where we share our school story:


Postscript from Elisa Carlson:  Special thanks to the whole staff who contributed to the video and to Anne Mackie, Principal, for her visionary leadership. Anne reflects… “It has been such a gift to be able to start a new school like this……and then have a year like we have had where the staff are happy, the parents are happy and the students are happy and successful……I think we all feel that we are part of something special.” We wish her all the best as she wraps up her year, her career and forges ahead on her new learning journey. Thanks to the staff, to Jas and Anne, for sharing their story.

iStory-Telling

“The truth about story telling is… that’s all we are.”  Dean Shareski

We live in our stories. There is power in telling our stories and sharing them with others. This video celebrates the learning that took place in the Surrey School District during Year One of our Innovative Learning Designs Project. The focus for the video was to explore how we, as educators, might facilitate and transform the story-telling skills of our students through the integration of technology in the classroom.

As Lisa Domeier de Suarez (former Teacher Librarian Helping Teacher) visited the various pilot schools and talked to the students and teachers involved she discovered the myriad ways students were using technology to tell their stories.  Ms. Domeier de Suarez noted the wide range of age groups and ability level able to participate in these projects.  The students readily embraced the possibilities and transformative directions made possible by the use of various technological tools and by being connected with the outside world through web publishing.

Students of all ages and ability levels were able to create: eBooks, movies, animations, stop-motion movies, demonstration videos — even alternative ‘histories’ of civilization — to tell their stories and share these stories with the rest of the world.

The response of those involved was overwhelmingly positive.  These story-telling projects were opening doors for students to share themselves with the world and each other in new and exciting ways.  There was a palpable sense in those interviewed that they were just beginning to discover the possibilities available; where this could go in the future was anyone’s guess.

Note: Thank you to Chris Walton, LST Teacher, for writing this guest post. This video features the reflections of several of our students along with Fraser Heights Vice Principal, Denton Muir, and SD 36 teachers:  Lynda Dyck, Barbara Feltham, Lara Hayward, John Kelly, Jessica Pelat, Narinder Walia, Chris Walton and Jody Wilson.  Thanks to, Lisa Domier de Suarez and Forrest Smith, for creating this video snapshot of Year One of our learning journey. This video premiered as part of an #sd36learn workshop at ISTE last year.

For more on story telling in the 21st Century see this slideshare by Dean Shareski:

http://www.slideshare.net/shareski

Social Studies 11—Exploring Learning Through Technology

How do we know if what we are doing is making a difference? When we invest time, money and resources in projects, what are we hoping for as an outcome? How will we know if we have achieved it? We must never stop asking key questions: Have we chosen the right priorities? Is what we are doing working? If it isn’t working, are we prepared to acknowledge that fact and adjust our plans accordingly? How do we learn as an organization if we do not take the time to reflect on our work?

A year ago we launched a Social Studies 11 e-text project (you can read about it here). As JB Mahli, SS Helping Teacher (@JB_Mahli), explains it, “A key aspect of the pilot is the fact it is a grassroots initiative, driven and led by Social Studies teachers and department heads.” The purpose of the project was two fold: to explore putting our feet in the digital e-text waters and to see how the use of technology might provide an opportunity to reconsider “traditional” teaching practices. We did not just drop e-texts and iPads into classrooms. The teachers were also supported with key staff development opportunities, from bootcamp on the one hand, to exploring ideas around historical thinking and inquiry-based learning, on the other hand.  The teachers also looked at assessment practices and how to differentiate instruction or personalize learning. As we had rolled out a small pilot in phase 1, and added additional schools in phase 2, the timing was good to collect some feedback from teachers and students before we moved into Phase 3.

What did we want to know? Three things formed the crux of our query: Were students more engaged in their learning? Was student achievement increasing? Were we creating opportunities for students to personalize their learning? We set up a simple on-line survey and sent it out to the Department Heads. We wanted to know what was working well and what needed to be reconsidered before moving forward.

Our results (see here) provided us with a window into the experience from the teacher’s perspective.  Questions ranged from asking about student ownership and control, student ability to remix content and express historical ideas, to the student’s ability to represent their own thinking through their own lens.


Overall, teachers were candid in their responses. There was definitely a strong theme about the impact on student interest. One teacher wrote,

Engagement, engagement, engagement. Students were far more engaged in class content with the use of the iPad. This engagement provided more energy in the room and that allowed a more positive attitude toward all areas of the class. The iPad leads to more student centered activity, more trust, higher order thinking activities and more ownership over their learning.

Another teacher tempered his response with, “I am not sure if the level of thinking is improving…just the resources to investigate essential questions and inquiry projects is greater” to “Yes, I believe it has improved [student learning]. Students have shown their understanding by creating iMovies and other videos where they are the creators and ‘narrators’ of their story. The evidence of improved student learning is the portfolio of student created work.” Not all comments were glowing, one teacher felt the impact on student learning was “inconclusive at this time” and another indicated, “I would need more time to adequately determine this.” We need to be mindful that some of this technology is new to teachers as well and the learning curve can be steep. Time to learn together was identified as important.

The use of technology was strategically embedded in learning about effective instructional practices. We were clear that an iPad in the hands of a student was not the solution to a better classroom. The focus was on teaching and learning; it is the teacher that makes the difference. One teacher summarized this succinctly:

While I do believe that my teaching practice has changed because of the introduction of the ipad, having a helping teacher who has also been talking about using problem and inquiry-based instruction, as well as critical thinking and historical thinking is important as well. The iPad and a helping teacher has been essential if the district socials department is going to have any change in pedagogy away from content coverage.

The challenge of moving from content coverage to uncovering the content was seen as an important shift.

We repeated the survey (with a few student-friendly adjustments) with a small sample of students that were participating in the program from across the participating schools. The full results can be found in the prezi here.

An executive summary of both surveys is also available here. This, too, is fascinating and captures the key ideas that emerged.

Perhaps, for me, the most fascinating theme that emerged was that “All teachers described changes in their pedagogy which they felt were directly related to the impact of the Social studies iPad and E-text pilot.” At the end of the day, it is about teaching and learning. We provided support and learning for teachers to reflect together on their practice and create richer opportunities for student learning—perhaps we accomplished our goal after all.

Thank you to JB Mahli (Social Studies Helping Teacher, @JB_Mahli) and Dr. Donna VanSant (@vansantd) for their work in designing the survey instrument. Thank you to the many Social Studies teachers and students that were willing to complete the survey and be candid about their experiences. The project was supported with rich professional development opportunities (including workshops with @shareski, @neilstephenson, @JB_Mahli and @Iain_Fisher that focused on themes around Inquiry-Based Learning, Historical Thinking, Critical Thinking, Assessment and Differentiated Instruction). The E-text in question was the Pearson Counterpoints 2nd Edition.

Extreme Learning: Extreme Influence


Karen Lirenmans is an extreme learner. This is not much different from how she trains. We rode our bikes out to the tip of River Road and back again. It was on the way back and in the last five minutes of our 90-minute ride that she dropped me.  I was actually stunned. I had forgotten she had completed five Ironmans. She is unassuming in her endurance and remarkable in her tenacity. She brings the same intensity to her learning and her teaching. Perhaps what is most remarkable about Karen, however, is the measure of influence she is having across North America. Tucked away in the corner of Bonnacord Elementary School in Surrey, B.C., she spends her days teaching six year olds. This is her first love. She cares passionately and deeply about her students.  She is determined to see them be successful. By night she shares her stories, her struggles and her passion for learning and her students around the globe.

Karen is focused on good instruction. She only recently fell into using technology. Initially, she didn’t even have an iPad. She borrowed the district’s loaner iPod set for a short time.  Seeing her intensity for integrating technology, my team found a way to get her one iPad. That was how it started. We smuggled her into an Apple Canada Bootcamp at the Richmond Headquarters with a secondary school staff so she could get some intensive hands-on instruction. From that small beginning she has since been catapulted into the limelight as an oft-requested presenter, speaker and writer.  She has even been asked to write a book. Her post about Using One iPad in the Classroom (click here) went viral, receiving over 7600 hits.  She has written for the International Reading Association on three separate occasions (click here).  She has written for Kidblog as well (click here). Her podcast is featured here.  Her upcoming webinar is scheduled December 8th and you can register here. She just became a DEN Star (see what that means here). Besides her prolific popularity in the digital world, she is frequently asked to present after school workshops or pro-d sessions in our district. She is one of our district’s Innovators (also referred to as a “mover & shaker”) as well as a Digital Coach. She is now involved in an Innovative Learning Designs Project (Phase 2) at her school as well as the district’s Making Thinking Visible (one-to-one literacy pilot). She is recently became part of a joint initiative between the district and the union focused on Teacher Inquiry.

In her words:

In July 2011, I joined twitter and almost immediately became a connected educator learning from some amazing global educators.  Seeing the potential of being a connected educator, I felt it was important for my students to be connected learners too.  We set up a class blog where we shared our learning with the world (over 20,000 hits).  My students were given their own individual blogs to write for a global audience.  We regularly visited class blogs, and left comments and responded to the comments that left for us.  We skyped, and face timed with classes in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Illinois, sharing our learning with them while learning from them too.  We took part in twitter chats with other classes, and even started our own hash tag where we shared secrets about Santa with the world.   We learned how to draw a comic character from a student in Ontario through a video his teacher had.  We connected globally and learned from students around the world.  In addition we were involved in several global projects including Quad Blogging, Full of Beans Project, and a Flat Classroom Pilot Project.  We worked collaboratively with many other classes in the Flat Classroom project. While my students learned from me, their teacher, they also learned from one another and from children and teachers around the world.  We were true global learners. Oh and did I mention, my students were only in grade one.

Karen continues to push her own learning, to create connected opportunities for her students and to share her thinking around the globe. Few would know we have a teacher like this hidden in our own backyard. A women of extremes, whether she is training for an Ironman, pursuing her own learning, teaching her students or influencing the educators around her and across the globe—clearly, she is transforming the way we learn and teach.

Karen Lirenman teaches at Bonnacord Elementary School in Surrey, British Columbia. She has taught for over 20 years. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @KLirenman. She is a regular contributor to #1stchat.

What does digital literacy look like?

 

The conversation with The Vancouver Sun reporter went something like this: How does your district definite digital literacy? Few people seemed to have a clear definition of what it means.  No one seems to be nailing it down. Most districts are merely teaching students how to use software and hardware. I hear that perhaps Surrey is doing something different. Can you tell me how it looks in Surrey?

The reporter’s reference was the Canadian MediaSmarts website where you can find a definition of media literacy and a useful chart. There are a multitude of definitions and terms used to try and describe the notion of media or digital literacy. You can find a good article about it here.

What anchors our work on digital literacy?
We have talked about the skills required to be twenty-first century readers and writers, using the definition from the National Council of English Teachers (2008).  See here.  This gives us a frame that clearly places learning at the centre. We want teachers to think about the use of technology in this context.

How has it changed the learning?

Our focus is to find ways to ensure our use of technology transforms learning for students.  We want students engaging in learning activities that are fundamentally different from what they were able to do before the introduction of technology. Here a Grade 6/7 teacher at Hillcrest Elementary describes what it looks like in her classroom:

Digital literacy in my classroom is not about an event; rather it is an integrated component of the planning and delivery of the curriculum. Digital literacy is embedded into the learning for all my students.

This past year when we were designing a unit for science the grade 6/7 teachers wanted to ensure students used critical thinking skills, creativity, and that they had choice in their learning. To do this it was decided to have each student create a website for other students to use from around the world. Doing so incorporated many of the skills that we know are essential for success in the 21st century. Critical thinking was used in researching and synthesizing information, as well as determining credible resources. Creativity was important in how the websites were designed, laid out, navigated. Media literacy was developed so students could incorporate different forms of media into their websites from images, to links, to videos. Collaboration was essential for success. Students valued each other’s opinions, accepting feedback on content and design, and utilized those students who became the ‘experts’ in the technology field pushing each other’s learning every step of the way. Finally, motivation and self-regulation were needed to ensure that each student was able to complete a website that they were proud to share with the global community. Students would spend many hours outside of the given time to ensure their websites were well thought-out, informative and creative.

Digital literacy was, and is, embedded into the learning of the class; it was not a separate subject. For our students to be ready for the future…the skills needed for students to be successful must be an integral part of their day-to-day learning.

Anne-Marie Middleton

 There are teachers in Surrey, and all over the world, that are using technology to change the way we teach and how students learn.  As we seek to understand, define, and teach digital literacy, we all become learners—teachers and students—navigating this new digital highway together.

Thanks to Anne-Marie Middleton (@AnneMidd) for sharing a window into her classroom. Hillcrest is one of the Innovative Learning Designs schools (Phase 1) in the Surrey School District (#SD 36). She works collaboratively with Ryan Hong (@RyanJHong), another great teacher at Hillcrest.