Tag Archives: Superintendent

The end of wonder and the age of whatever

I had the great fortune to be with the Surrey management team at a presentation by Michael Wesch. I have viewed his The Machine is Us/ing Us many times and I had no idea that this was the guy who made the video. That was a pleasant surprise as I simply love the style and the messages that he brings. The next great piece was that I enjoy watching presentations by ethnographers or specialists in culture. For whatever reason, they seem to be in-tune with audiences, they care and it shows. Michael was a fun and inspiring presenter. I laughed, I learned, and I left with good questions in my mind.

Good company, good food, good presenter – so what did I hear as the main messages that fine morning? This post is simply a reflection on what I heard, what it meant for me in my work and life and perhaps to generate a bit of dialogue with others.

The big thing that stuck with me was his challenge to “how do we get students to a permanent state of wonder”? A place he called “investigative wonder” – simply wanting to know more. Something I would call a voracious pursuit of knowledge. How might we instill that in children?

He went from there to talk about students who have that state of wonder and how they see a myriad of tools at their disposal. Those without wonder just see tools as distraction and entertainment. This was a key message he gave around technology in that he seemed to say that without that permanent sense of wonder, we will only look for technologies with all their capabilities, as simply items to entertain us.

Michael said that if you want to know if students have this sense of wonder – then look at the questions they ask. Wonder emerges when you:
· Quest
· Embrace vulnerability, and
· Invite connections.

This description reminded me of something I wrote a while ago that described great teachers. I wanted to go back, write some more and talk about how, in some way, great teachers helped inculcate a sense of wonder in their students. They did it by just they above list….they quested with you. They were “along for the ride”. They embraced their own vulnerabilities as teachers and then they invited connections with students that were more than just connections with content. These connections were about relationships, wonder, and a journey together.

The next piece I got from Michael was about how we express ourselves through interactions. This was a very strong connection for me in that this rang true. We all work with people every day and the only reality we have is perception of who we are as colleagues and leaders. This struck a chord for me in that I thought that the act of writing, even blogging, isn’t just communication or professional development – it is identity work.

Michael views media not just as tools. He talked of how media mediate relationships and how we connect with each other. Media and the medium itself are far more significant than just a tool. This was interesting in that we so often hear that “technology is just a tool” – he would disagree or at the very least want to extend this dramatically.

He argues that forms of media could open things up to us but they do not always. Forms of media could open us up to things but do they? He talked of the decline in empathy and the danger that technology can permit us to NOT:
· Quest
· Embrace vulnerability
· Invite connections

We looked at how we need to get messages to our children/students about who we expect them to be. He was concerned that our tools are shaping us in ways we have not yet fully appreciated.

When he created the video A Vision of Students Today, he asked students about their views on education. They said that to learn is to acquire information. They did not see beyond to a capacity for critical thinking. They had a very narrow view of learning and this surprised him. He was hoping to find more and to help his students reach out.

We then were shown fantastic examples of students using technology to go beyond, to create, to make connections, and to make a difference. Michael feels that the first really good start to an educational experience is having a burning question, something that sticks in people’s minds. We need projects that grab students, use simulations, games, other techniques to build engagement. There were great examples shared of real problems, designed with a community and leveraged by technology. Even those students who once isolated themselves, like Hunter Browning found that we need the knowledge that others hold. We need to reach out, to collaborate, to innovate together.

In the end, I took two main things from Michael:

· People are longing for the power of “us” – opportunities to reach out, to collaborate, share, and celebrate together. He said he didn’t make his video go viral, millions of people did. Everyone should celebrate this.

· Technology is not a tool – it is so much more because of its incredible power to leverage collaboration and connections. It can be used to quest, to embrace vulnerability and to make connections, but the real power is in using this ability to resolve real-world problems that start with a great question and a sense of wonder.

In the end, I thought back to that age old question of the great teachers I had. I have my list, as others do and I’ve described them in many ways. I think the bottom line is that no matter who they were, they helped instilled a sense of wonder in me. What a gift that we should look for in every teacher and in every child.

Special thanks to Jordan Tinney, Deputy Superintendent of Vancouver, for this guest post. Jordan will be joining Surrey Schools in August as the new Deputy Superintendent. 

A Movement for Radical Social Innovation

Think of yourselves as a movement not attached
to the union or the government.
Charles Leadbeater

I was fortunate to attend the BC School Superintendent’s Winter Conference along with over 425 other attendees. I heard from Charles Leadbeater, Larry Rosenstock, John Abbott, Geoge Abbott and Bruce Beairsto. It was Charles Leadbeater’s comments, however, that were the most provocative. His presentation was called Innovation at Scale: Strategies for Radical Social Innovation. I also heard him speak at a CoastMetro session earlier in the morning. There were 150 people, including teachers and parents, in attendance at that morning event. Some key thoughts from all three of his sessions resonated for me.

Your vantage point determines what you can see…” was the opening slide. Our own organizational and system blinders often insulate us. Much like horses, we keep our focus away from the crowds and anything that might distract us from our purpose. He encouraged us to take ourselves out of education and have conversations about innovation with others. When we are consumed by racing down our own tracks, we fail to see what is happening around the world. Education and innovation look different elsewhere. The conversations with others in other professions, in other fields, in other business, and in other places, can enrich our own understanding. As tweeted by Cale Birk, “When we innovate, need to look sideways at other fields. We are too protected in our Ed cloistered life.” A wider vantage point, as we consciously and intentionally remove our blinders, allows us to create a more compelling and urgent vision. Leadbeater emphasized, “Just doing more isn’t enough. You have to do more, better and different. It is the different that is key.” It is strikingly different elsewhere.

See yourselves as mobilizers of the community rather than administrators of the system,” urged Leadbeater. He challenged us to move beyond pockets of innovation to transforming the whole field. He proceeded to ask us, “How do we increase this community’s capacity to learn?” How do we create large-scale system change? What are the tools at our disposal? Radical social innovation is most successful when it is a movement connected to a committed community that is driven by a compelling vision. Think of yourselves as a movement and not a system. We are the mobilizers of that community.  Who is leading this transformation? Our movement will be educators in the field that are engaged in shifting their pedagogy and collaborating with other educators in this pursuit.

People have to be pulled to innovation. You have to craft activities that draw people to innovate.” Are we doing that in our district? Your district? Who is crafting these activities that will draw educators—administrators and teachers alike—into the movement? Are we creating a pull to a new way of leading? Teaching? Learning? It isn’t about a push; it is about a pull because it is connected to a meaningful, authentic, moral purpose. We are creating a future for our own children. My son in kindergarten loves school. His favorite activity is “centre time.” My son in grade 3 loves math and gym. My two oldest boys, however, in grade 8 and 10, have “mixed emotions” about school and sometimes find it “boring.” The love for learning that characterizes young children—needs to be replicated for all students. Who will do that for my two oldest? Must we wait until it is too late for them?

Leadbeater made reference to the C’s in Innovation. These are composed as a series of questions, causing us to reflect on our own leadership practice.

Crisis: Is there a crisis–a sense of urgency for this change?

Curiosity: Have we created a space for educators to be curious and explore?

Connections: Are we working in combination with others? Are we creating connections with others, with ideas, with the past and the future?

Conversations: Are we having a conversation with others about this? Who is in the conversation? Who is hosting it? Where do we have our best conversations?

Challenge: Are we prepared to challenge ideas, ask stupid question, pursue useful deviants, and support the move to the future?

Commitment: And have we (that would be both you and me) made a commitment?—“You don’t learn to swim standing on the side of the pool.”

Co-creation: Can we co-create? Are we open to innovating for, with and by others? Who can you adopt? Who do you follow? And who is following you?

The C’s allow us to think strategically about our efforts.

I had the privilege of attending a powerful conference with world-class speakers. For that I am deeply grateful. But along with that privilege comes the responsibility to do something with the knowledge I have gained. If it doesn’t change my practice, then it has merely been a fascinating, titillating but somewhat empty intellectual exercise. That simply isn’t good enough for me. I want to create the movement. Are we creating mere pockets of innovation or can we scale it up to a radical social movement? I am committed to jumping in the pool. Will you join me?

Who is blogging in Surrey schools?

Blogging in School District #36 seems to be a rather recent phenomenon. Rick Fabbro might have been one of the first administrators to begin blogging as his first post (Rich Babbles) goes back to November 10, 2010.  Many others began blogging but most of them only within the last 8 months. Seven of the administrators blogging belong to the Innovative Learning Designs project. Three of the others are in my f2f Network group. All of the blogs are different in purpose and style but what I find fascinating is the window they provide into each author’s world, their area of expertise or their school and their view of education.

Many teachers have been keeping class blogs or wikis longer. You just have to love Teacher-Librarian Colin Sexton’s library page, The Panther Den, and his terrific tweets where he advises students to: “Forget Santa” and “get your picture taken with Buck the Christmas Library Duck!”  The hot bed of blogging appears to be Sullivan Heights Secondary where many of their teachers are keeping their own websites, wikis, or a department web site. It is that same school that has at least 60% of their teachers on twitter. I have to admit, I personally have learned so much from these posts and from the tweets of these educators.

Of course there are students that are posting on blogs, too. Sometimes I’m not too swift and I had to read someone’s comment to figure out this grade one student’s post in Karen Lirenman’s class: “we have a I paiied.” Yes, they do have an iPad!

Here is a list of some of the administrators and a small sample of teachers blogging in our district. I invite you to check them out!

Leadership Team:
• Mike McKay http://mikemckay.ca/
   Superintendent of Schools
• Rick Fabbro http://www.rickfabbro.com/
   Assistant Superintendent
• Elisa Carlson http://innovativelearningdesigns.ca
   Director of Instruction, Education Services

• Sheila Morissette http://viewfrommyschool.wordpress.com/
   Principal, Fraser Heights Secondary School
• Peter Johnston http://beprincipaled.org/
   PrincipaL, Earl Marriott Secondary School
• Tia Henriksen http://henriksenlearning.wordpress.com/
   Vice-Principal, Bear Creek Elementary
• The Admin Team http://sullivanadmin.blogspot.com/
   All Administrators, Sullivan Heights Secondary School
• Sheila Hammond http://sheilahammond.wordpress.com/
   Principal, Johnston Heights Secondary School
• Rob Killawee http://killawee.wordpress.com/
   Vice-Principal, Johnston Heights Secondary School
• Margaux Molson http://www.tamanawis.com/newsite/?cat=8
   Principal, Tamanawis Secondary School
• Gloria Sarmento http://frankhurtprincipal.blogspot.com/
Principal, Frank Hurt Secondary School
• Faizel Rawji http://rawji.wordpress.com/
   Principal, Senator Reid Elementary School
• Arlene Geres arlenegeres.blogspot.com
Principal, Old Yale Road Secondary School
• John Horstead http://horstead.wordpress.com/
   Principal, Frost Road Elementary School

Helping Teachers Blogging:
• Orwell Kowalyshyn http://surreylearn.wordpress.com/
   Information Media Literacy Helping Teacher
• Amy Newman http://dancingwithelephants.ca/
   Research & Evaluation Helping Teacher
• Chris Hunter http://reflectionsinthewhy.wordpress.com/
   Numeracy Helping Teacher
• JB Mahli         http://www.jux.com/surround/global/users/~courageouslearning/quarks
   Social Studies Helping Teacher
• Jan Gladish http://jglad1.wordpress.com/
   Aboriginal Helping Teacher

Some SD36 Teachers Blogging:
• Karen Lirenman http://learningandsharingwithmsl.blogspot.com/
• Nicole Painchaud
   (on the above are links to blogs for most of the departments at Sullivan)
• Sullivan Heights Secondary Athletics wikis       http://sullivanathletics.wikispaces.com/
• Colin Sexton     http://fcweb.sd36.bc.ca/~sexton_colin/pantherden/main222.htm
• Alyssa Becker http://lysmekah.blogspot.com/
• Hugh McDonald

The list above is incomplete. I know many other teachers have blogs or wikis they use with their students. I am sure I have missed many teachers and possibly some administrators as well. My apologies. If you are keeping a professional blog and you are an SD#36 educator, please feel free to send me a note so I can begin keeping a list. Blog on!

Apps & Twitter for my Superintendent

“I love it already.” Those were the words of my Superintendent as we introduced him to Flipboard on his new iPad2 this morning. He continued to download more apps from our list, smiling as he tested each one. Orwell Kowalyshyn, District Helping Teacher, created a list of apps specifically for Administrators. We had used Twitter to get recommendations from those in the field. We weren’t sure what to expect in return; it was a bit of an experiment. We wanted to know: What are the best apps for a superintendent?.  And, whom should a superintendent follow on Twitter?  Of course, I have a small group of followers, and probably the best gift they gave to me was to retweet it out to their own lists. Some of the people following me have over 2,000 followers. That’s the amazing power of Twitter. Then the suggestions came chirping back in and I wondered what the etiquette for Twitter should be. Was I supposed to respond and thank them each individually? My opportunity to thank them is through my blog (thanks @HHG et al.). What I ended up getting back in return were some very helpful suggestions; not just for my Superintendent, but for me as well.

The ideas for apps were great. Some I have on my iPad and some I will now get. The tweets looked like this: Flipboard, Twitter, TED, Google Earth, Kindle, iBooks, Pages, mobile RSS, 2Do (for his to do list), Evernote, Hoot Suite, Simple Goals, Get it Done, and memefy (just for a laugh).   We didn’t want to overwhelm him so we decided to make a summary list of the “must haves.” The list is broken down into three categories: Information Retrieval, Social Media Connections, and Content Creation and Collaboration Tools. I think anyone in a position of leadership would find the list helpful.

Who to follow? One of the first suggestions was to start local and follow teachers in our own district to get a flavor for what is being exchanged (use hashtag #sd36learn). Right now our hot bed of Tweeters seems to be coming from Sullivan Heights Secondary. Most of the Helping Teachers are on Twitter now too. The rest of the suggestions for whom to follow were mostly those involved in some leadership position or individuals considered thought-leaders: @birklearns, @tomschimmer, @darcymullin, @chrkennedy, @johnnybevacqua, @aakune, @vicit, @gmbondi, @k_timms, @jbellsd60, @remi_collins, @datruss, @larryespe, @GrantFrend, @myrondueck, @bbeairsto, @myphronesis, @sbenwell1, @UMAKADIFF, @MrWejr, @davidwees, @russeltarr, @cyberjohn07, and @missnoor28 . Of those individual recommendations, I was only following about six of them. I have now fixed that! Chris Kennedy, West Vancouver Superintendent also gave a summary list of BCSSA colleagues that he could follow.

I have to say, I was very appreciative of those twitter colleagues that responded to my request. The Internet is flooded with information. I don’t want to get swept up in the tsunami. I am looking for help to navigate efficiently through the water, for the sake of my learning and that of others. For me, that is what makes twitter great. My learning is accelerated from the wisdom of those in the field. Special thanks to Orwell for taking that information and giving us the key essentials. Our session with the superintendent was supposed to be only an hour. The tutorial took one and a half hours. I already have an iPad but I learned so much sitting at the table with Orwell. After we left, the Superintendent even tracked us down in the parking lot. “Orwell, just one more question,” he called out. I think it was a hit!