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.
My staff describe it as a “year of wonder.” Sometimes we call it a tsunami and just want to ride the wave without crashing. Other times we refer to it as a fire beginning to flame across the district. We consider it as seeding pockets of innovation we want to take root and spread organically as connected and rooted networks. We liken it to Leadbeater’s “radical social movement.” The Global Educational Leaders program, refers to this as a strategy of diffusion. These are all metaphors to help us understand our work. Supporting teachers in their own learning is central for me. When teachers are passionately engaged in their learning (and when I am passionately engaged in my learning), it spills over to the students. It transforms us all. So just what were the pieces in this “year of wonder?”
Innovative Learning Designs (Phase 1) A year ago we announced the 18 schools that were awarded grants as part of the Innovative Learning Designs schools (ILD), Phase 1. I started my blog for this purpose. These grants provided a set of iPads (this was our first push to go mobile and begin to encourage BYOD) along with open wireless (this was start of getting our Board to fund Open Wireless across the district) for each school. The grant, however, was focused on learning and not hardware or wireless. I write about it here.
The Engaging the Digital Learner Series We realized that as educators we needed to find a way to engage our learners. We designed a series open to both Administrators and Teachers entitled Engaging the Digital Learner. We managed to have four evening sessions in the midst of job action that were truly amazing. We had Chris Kennedy, David Warlick, David Vandergugten and Joe Morelock keynote this series. You can read about it here. Again, the series exceeded our expectations and we had fabulous feedback. Teachers were hungry for this kind of inspiration and information. We kept the groups at the same tables throughout the series in the hopes that some key contacts would be made and that it might spawn other organic connections across the district. And, it did.
The Digital Discovery Series This series ran parallel to the one above. We provided iPads to all administrators. The Superintendent and Deputy were key in making that happen. Part of the decision to do this was because some administrators were not interested in or providing much leadership in the area of digital integration in the schools. We needed to find a way to capture their interest and educate them to become technology leaders. We also wanted them to use it to encourage their own professional learning It led to the launch of our three-part dinner Digital Discovery Series (George Couros spoke at one, Alec Couros spoke at the other and Bryan Hughes did the first one as a bootcamp). Details are here. Our district hadn’t done anything like this in a long time and the administrators were very appreciative. We had tons of excellent feedback on this initiative.
Cadres of Digital Champions We created Cadres of Digital Champions (a team of three educators at every school). We provided iPads to every Teacher-Librarian and Technology Contact at every school so they could join forces with Administrators in providing some interest in digital literacy. We were, however, limited by job action in how this manifested itself. We also left it up to the schools and these teams to determine how, and if, they chose to work together. It was about creating the opportunity should others choose to step into it. Find out about it here.
Core Digital Coaches From the above group, we asked for volunteers that wanted to become a core team of Digital Coaches to provide support to their larger group. Remember, we are a very large school district. There are 124 schools in our district so that meant we had 124 Technology Contacts, close to 100 potential Teacher Librarians and over 225 Administrators. When we requested volunteers we were overwhelmed with interest. We picked sixty people (20 admin, 20 T-Ls, 20 Tech Contacts, 20 Administrators) to be our core team of Digital Coaches. They are supposed to support and help mentor the others. In return, we provided them with advance training and opportunities to be involved in other initiatives. We also see them as our way of keeping our ears open to the needs of the field, consulting them for key advice along the way.
“Movers & Shakers” We are starting a “movers & shakers” group. We planned this last spring but couldn’t activate it during job action. These are the teachers providing leadership in the area of technology across our district that are not necessarily involved in any projects. Digital Coaches and Cadre members are intentionally excluded from this group. We looked for teachers that were providing school and/or district leadership in the area of digital integration. We wanted teachers that were making active use of social media to spread ideas about best practice. Our purpose is to recognize, acknowledge and provide them support. We also want them, in return, to continue to provide leadership and mentor others. This is a mixed group of forty teachers. Our first initiative is to bring them together for a session with George Couros.
Teacher Librarians Navigating the Digital Space: We are encouraging our T-Ls to become Digital Impressarios. We are also now receiving applications from at least 12 librarians who want to move further along the spectrum into becoming a Learning Commons. Many of them are already doing this. We are just finding a way to provide them with additional support. The interested T-L’s have submitted applications and will be announced mid-June. Next year they will meet together and explore what it means to be a learning commons in our context. They will define this work together. Lisa Domeier (@librarymall) and Sarah Guilmant-Smith, have been the key Teacher-Librarian Helping Teachers behind this work.
Out of Their Heads: We have two Fine Arts schools in our district that our now jointly collaborating on a project. You can read more about the project and its anchoring philosophies at their website. Amy Newman (@amnewish), District Helping Teacher, was instrumental in its development.
Making Thinking Visible: We have 9 teachers (across schools) that are part of an innovative, one-to-one project called Making Thinking Visible. This is a different project in that the teachers were hand-picked for being excellent teachers but most of them were not necessarily engaged in the digital space (except for one of them—Karen Lirenman). We want to see what happens when outstanding teachers begin to add technology to their practice….There is no website for that project. It is still in its infancy. We refer to it as a “field study.” Christy Northway, District Principal (Literacy and Early Learning) is working with these teams.
Innovative Learning Designs (Phase 2): We just announced another 40 elementary schools as part of ILD, Phase 2. We are scaling up our very first initiative. We refined our application process to make sure we were more explicit about our district’s guiding framework (collaborative inquiry, assessment, differentiated instruction). We also anchored it in twenty-first century literacy and kept it school–based and teacher driven. The applications submitted were amazing. You can read about it here.
E-text Project: We also wanted to dip our toe into the digital realm and make some shifts from print to digital resources. While we are not necessarily fans of e-texts (they are still in their infancy), we felt we might leverage this to shift practice. JB Mahli (@JB_mahli), Social Studies Helping Teacher, initiated this project. We have a video about it embedded in the blog post.
We have also promoted the use of twitter as a way of furthering conversations about best practice. This is the purpose of the #sd36learn hashtag. You can read about my own personal journey with twitter here. The post was just published in the BCPVPA provincial journal that goes out to all BC administrators in our province.
There are many, many other creative projects that come out of the Education Services department that are also innovative: The Numeracy Project, the Early Numeracy Project, the Secondary Focus project, etc. For this post, I have just described the key ones that have a digital component.
How have others viewed these initiatives? Kevin Amboe (@amboe_k), IML Helping Teacher, described this past year this way, “While an incredible challenge with being a bargaining year and essentially work to rule most of the year, we also moved this district further forward in inquiry, innovation and collaboration than I have seen in the past 8 years doing this position.”
Amy Newman, Research & Asssessment Helping Teacher, describes her own journey, “on a personal note, involvement in some of the technology innovations has moved me from an interested bystander to an active engaged and eager participant- hooked on twitter, excited to be blogging and working with teachers on these blogs, as well as sharing all kinds of learning with teachers at all levels. I actively seek out and curate new ideas apps and strategies related to learning through technology and it has transformed my thinking, my learning and shifted my mindset.”
And as Kevin reflects, “the pace of inquiry, innovation, and collaboration was like a river rushing through a canyon. I am hoping that we can either find a back eddy to rest or that we reach the delta. This has been an energizing year, but I don’t think the pace is sustainable.” We are seeking ways as District staff to support this work in a way that continues to build capacity at the school level. If we have met our diffusion strategy successfully, we will soon be able to step back and let the work that launched itself go viral of its own accord.
Thank you to George Couros (@gcouros) for prompting this post. He requested a summary of what we were doing in our district. After he read it, he asked that it be made public for others to access.
Thanks to the whole team of amazing Helping Teachers who have created and supported this new work.
Thanks to the IMS Department (and @dj_turner) for allowing us to ride this tsunami.
And some stats compliments of their department: Surrey School District has 124 schools, 4,000+ teachers, 70,000 students, 8,000 laptops(mac/pc), 11,000 desktops(mac/pc), almost 4,500 iPads, 60 IT professionals, 25+ Helping Teachers, and daily priceless moments…
The Teacher Librarians’ role in our district is evolving and expanding in the digital landscape and they need an innovative tool as educator leaders to push professional practice forward. The iPad is a learning and creation tool that will help Teacher Librarians to promote innovative teaching and learning in their schools. TLs, in collaboration with staff, directly contribute to more relevant, engaging learning experiences for students.
Seth Godin calls librarians “a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user”. He goes on to state that the future of librarians is as “producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario”. In Surrey, we have already embraced the dual notion of a librarian as teacher and now we need to expand this role as an impresario of digital information and a foreman in information construction.
As we move towards the library as a learning commons, a “full-service learning, research, and project space” (EDUCAUSE 2011), Teacher Librarians need innovative tools to help them do their best work in serving students and teachers. The library needs to be, as David Warlick states, a “making commons” where students learn how to construct their learning and share it with others. Teacher Librarians are the perfect fit for sharing best teaching practice as that is what they do all day, share and connect people with information, whether it be the right book, teaching strategy or district database.
What would an iPad in the library look like?
Personal learning and communication tool with the idea that TLs become advocates for innovative technology use at the school level
Promotional device to promote the ethical creation and consumption of digital resources such ebooks, epubs, and district databases
Students create ibooks, comics, graphic novels and movies about books they are reading to promote literacy in the school and community
Students Skype directly to authors and local and international experts
The Teacher Librarian becomes one of the go-to-people in the school to promote innovative teaching and learning
The library more than ever becomes a space where educators come to learn, experiment and create new ideas
If a Teacher Librarian works at more than one site, the iPad travels with her or him. When Teacher Librarian leaves the district, s/he gives the iPad to their replacement.
For the first time, as David Warlick stated in our Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series, we are preparing students for a future that we can’t describe. What will a traditional story time in the library look like in the future? Perhaps, Teacher Librarians will read an interactive ebook to students via AppleTV and hand the iPad to a student to read or to share their own ebook with their classmates and community. Educators and students are now not mere passive consumers of information but participants in the creation of information. As Edutopia technology journalist Audrey Watters states, “After all, the library isn’t just a collection of books. It’s a crucial digital / community / free / open / public learning space.”
Written by Lisa Domeier de Suarez (@librarymall), a School District #36 Helping Teacher whose portfolio includes Teacher-Librarians and Information Media Literacy. Excerpt from concept paper prepared for the T-L initiative taking place in our district.
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!
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!
The greatest challenge is moving beyond the glitz and pizzazz of the flashy technology to teach true literacy in this new milieu. Using the same skills used for centuries—analysis, synthesis, and evaluation—we must look at digital literacy as another realm within which to apply elements of critical thinking.
Often I get the question from educators, “How can I teach in a classroom with students having a variety of their own devices?” This new reality of giving students the flexibility and choice to bring in their personal learning devices really gives us the opportunity to address how we can improve the learning environment for students. We need to build a culture of ethical use of devices with our students and build assignments that give students choice on how they will deliver their learning to us. It is not the poster project that is the problem but the better question that we need to either form with or pose to our students. Are we giving them “non-googleable” questions that inspire them to explore concepts or are we just asking them to cut and paste their way to graduation? The sea of devices in a classroom forces us to embrace our role as facilitator of knowledge in a community of learners. Are we going to embrace the possibility to improve education for our students with these new tools? Digital devices are just that, another tool that will stretch and expand learning in the student/teacher toolbox. Teachers need professional development in the potential of digital devices and the cloud and students can help in this learning. In the end, an innovative, open teacher is really our best app.
This guest post features Lisa Domeier de Suarez (@librarymall), Helping Teacher (Teacher-Librarian & ICT) for the Surrey School District. She supports Teacher Librarians as they provide educational leadership through their collaboration with teachers to promote creative, professional learning in schools. Her post originally appeared as a comment in response to Chris Kennedy’s blog on After Personally Owned Devices.