Tag Archives: technology

What’s your rock?

I want to be a linchpin. Seth Godin says, “Every organization needs a linchpin, the one person who can bring it together and make a difference.” Can we create an organization of linchpins committed to making a difference? And he adds, “What will make someone a linchpin is not a shortcut.  It’s the understanding of which hard work is worth doing.” What is the most important work? Which hard work is worth doing? Do we have clarity and laser-like focus on what truly counts?

My personal goal is to transform education. I have a rock in my office that I keep on my desk. My goal is written with a black sharpie across the rock. I have intentionally used this to guide my work and remind me of my focus. My goal is broken down further into two key pieces so when I speak of transforming education it looks like this:

  • Continue to create and support opportunities for Curriculum Transformation (ie: personalized learning, 21st century learning).
  • Use technology as a tool to leverage change in pedagogy in order to transform teaching.

Essential to achieving my goal is building capacity across the organization. For me, this fits. I am fundamentally addicted to learning. I have a thirst for knowledge that is inherent in my being. I do believe that when others are equally engaged and passionate about their own learning, it has the potential to transform the organization and the classroom. When we find what we are passionate about, when it is connected to a higher purpose (making a difference with students), we are released to maximize our potential. The enthusiasm for learning, for growing, for improving, is infectious. It spreads across the organization, across the school, and into the classroom. Students reap the benefits.

At a recent meeting with some district staff and external guests, I brought my rock for “show & tell.” I used it as a symbol to talk about what is important in my work, and the work of the district. I also talked about it in connection with our district. I do feel that if we can transform education in Surrey (the largest district in the province), that we can transform it in other places as well. I see our district as a potential “tipping point.” Do it here, do it in a big way, and it will overflow and tip out to the rest of the province. In some respects, it is embarrassing to share one’s deeply personal goal with others in this fashion. I try not to feel self-conscious but it feels like one is undressing a bit of one’s soul, of what is at the essence of one’s being, in a room full of strangers. I do like to dream big but I don’t always like to share that out publicly. Others might think I am crazy. But, that being said, I would rather be crazy and adventurous than live my life in a stalemated routine of sameness. The “bleeding edge” suits me quite fine.

I have people standing on my rock. How do I know this? They are committed to the same work as me. We do it together. Our Superintendent has described his view of the purpose of our organization: “Building Human Capacity.” I would consider that his rock. And I stand on his rock as well as my own. What is your rock? And whose rock do you stand on? Does the clarity of your focus help drive your actions? We are inundated with the urgent that we sometimes lose sight of what is most important. Let’s bring clarity to our work. Which is the hard work worth doing? What’s your rock?

 

Who Owns the Learning?

In too many cases, we bolt new technologies on top of current learning tools in the standard learning environment, which effectively means we give our kids a thousand-dollar pencil.


Alan November

In Alan November’s new book, he asks the crucial question: Who Owns the Learning?  This well-designed title intentionally creates some cognitive dissonance for us as educators. Who does own the learning? Have you asked yourself that question? Whether we are teachers, principals, district consultants or district administrators: Who owns the learning?  How would you answer that?

Alan November then goes on to describe how we can prepare students for success in the Digital Age. He has two central ideas: students need ownership in the learning and they must have purposeful work.  It is no different for students than for us as educators. He cites Daniel Pink’s work in Drive as key to understanding how this motivates all of us to do high quality work.

November uses the analogy of a farm to create a model for changing education. In the old days, children were required to participate in meaningful work that contributed to the family’s success. He suggests that we need to think of the classroom as a Digital Learning Farm. This requires using technology to change the nature of the roles and relationships between educators and students. He gives three first steps to get started:
1. Increase the autonomy of students.
2. Publish student work to a global audience.
3. Create a community of contribution within the classroom.

For students to own their learning, they need important student jobs that are meaningful and prepare them for success in the future. He outlines four key roles for students: tutorial designers, student scribes, student researchers, and global communicators/collaborators. As teachers create the learning environments where students can flourish in these new roles, students become contributors to the curriculum, engaging in problem-solving, critical thinking and global communication. This is the new Digital Learning Farm.

He is clear that, “Simply adding technology—the thousand-dollar pencil—to the current highly prescribed school culture won’t help very much.” It is the changed roles and relationships that are paramount. Central to this, from my perspective as well, is the power of the teacher in creating these learning conditions. It is the teacher who designs these powerful learning opportunities. As he emphasizes, the role of teacher as guide, mentor, facilitator, and instructor has never been quite as critical in shifting the learning. It is the teacher who shows students how “to use information and communication technologies to innovate, solve problems, create, and be globally connected. “

Who owns the learning? It is a question worth asking.

Thanks to Amy Newman (@amnewish) who recommended this book. Schools in the Innovative Learning Designs project have been sent a copy of this book along with The Connected Educator. Antonio Vendramin, Principal at George Vanier,  also writes about Alan  November here

 

When Learning Hurts

Educators are asking each other the following questions: “How has this year and this learning journey been for you? What has been the most important thing you have done this year? What’s the best thing you’ve done this year?” I struggle to put it in words, to be authentic and to even share the real truth. Do I want people to know? And why? I want to write something truly noble and glowing about the wonder of the year and my own profound, wise and deep reflection on the experience. Alas, I am recovering from the onslaught. I am walking, running, lifting weights, and turning pages in books but not really reading them. And I am generally burying myself into my family and time alone. What makes it so difficult is I have no inspiration to give—me, in my position, have struggled in the learning curve.

I will say right up front that this year was too difficult for me. I found it painful and intense. How’s that for honesty? I had so much to learn at times it was way too overwhelming. I had too many responsibilities to juggle and didn’t feel I could do anything well. My goal has always been to exceed expectations and to make a difference in the work that I do. On top of that my actual personal mission statement, “joyfully obeying the call” didn’t seem to be anchoring my world. I was losing most of the joy in the intensity of the workload and spent many days struggling to be grateful. I had a difficult time navigating all the relationships and since I wear my heart on my sleeve I would often feel personally hurt over matters that should not have seemed so significant. I have worked hard as a teacher, vice-principal and principal but never as hard as I have this past year to survive being a Director of Instruction.  In some respects, it is but an act of grace that I have made it through the year.

Now we need to place that previous paragraph in its proper context. I do love my job. I love being in a position to encourage innovation, system change and organizational learning. This is the best part of my learning journey. I work with a team of fabulous helping teachers that are committed to supporting teachers in their learning and making significant change happen. These teachers are amazing. I have learned so much from them. They guide me in the work I do. They are the experts. Our work is driven by the need to make a difference with students. We do this by ensuring the work is school-based, teacher driven and teacher-led. I believe that deep changes to our education system will come from the professionals in the field.  And I do believe we are at a critical junction where both structural and pedagogical changes are needed. My job is to support that work. I am passionate about it.

So what is the most important thing I have done this year? Learning. Learning for myself and for others. I love learning and I love inspiring learning in others. I love creating opportunities for teachers, and administrators, to innovate, play, learn, explore and improve their practice. When teachers fall in love with learning, it spreads to their students. I am most excited when schools, administrators and teachers push the boundaries of “traditional schooling” and begin to explore ways to make learning more engaging for students. This is happening in our district. For me, when I hear from the field, of the work being done, that is deeply gratifying. So this is the paradox of what has also made my learning journey so difficult this past year. It is an antinomy of sorts.  I stand stretched and sometimes yanked between it.

And then what are the best things I have done? I realize these are things I have actually personally not “done.” They are initiatives that I have helped support. Others have done the real work. They deserve the credit.  Here are a few that come to mind:

• I am very excited about the early numeracy aboriginal project. This is a field study and we have not blogged about it yet. I think it is potentially ground breaking and “the first of its kind” work.

• Working strategically with IMS to get wireless across the district & hardware into hands of teachers & students was the game changer for teachers and learners. We hear that everywhere we go.

• The Engaging the Digital Learner Dinner Series was a significant catalyst for learning across the district. It sparked the beginning of publicly introducing twitter to educators and promoting the use of our hashtag (#sd36learn) as a way to promote best practice. The purposeful use of that hashtag has exploded.

• The Innovative Learning Designs project has breathed new life into the practice of many educators. More than one educator declared this was the most personally exciting year of the past twenty+ they have spent in the profession.

• I could talk about the SS11 e-text project as a turning point—a project that is truly more about shifting pedagogy than e-texts.

• And I could say a great deal about Teacher-Librarians as well. I do believe they have a strategic role to play in the future—if they choose.

These are points of hope for transformation in teaching and education. “When will what we know change what we do?” challenges Mike McKay, our district Superintendent. I see these as significant leverage points in that journey to action. So the best things I have done are reflected in the work of others. And what makes them the best is that they truly are moving practice forward.

As much as my learning this past year was intense, overwhelming, and difficult, it was equally exhilarating. I aspire to be a linchpin in the organization: finding new answers, new connections and new ways of getting things done. I like to dream big and make it happen. There is significant work to be done in education. I do feel like we are at a critical junction. It is my dream to help create the leverage points that will tip the whole district, the whole system, to create learning communities for students that are authentic, personal, real and connected to the wider global community. We are the experts. We can move the system to effectively meet the needs of learners. Many of you reading this post are already doing that. Others are poised to tip. I know that; I have heard your stories. What I ask, moving forward, is: Will you be a linchpin too?

Thanks to everyone’s support this past year and for your ongoing commitment to your own learning and that of your students.  May peace, hope, love and joy befriend you on your summer holiday! 

Playing in the New Sandbox

I have been playing in a new sandbox. I have been trying out our district’s SurreySchools.ca site (click on graphic to make it larger). This is a new Sharepoint platform that is designed to bring people in our organization together and create some efficiency around our work. School districts like West Vancouver, Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows all use this same platform, although I understand each district’s version is quite different.

People might not know but our platform went through a “silent” release last week (Oops~I don’t think I am supposed to share that publicly). That means all teachers and staff can now access their own internal web page. I had access earlier but hadn’t really taken time to “play” in the site. I decided, however, that if I was going to figure out the vision of this thing (connecting us as educators and providing us with a forum for collaboration) I better get in and make the vision happen.  It seemed to me that the only way to really do that was to set up a “group” and invite some educators to play along with me.  Here is how I am moving the sand around in this new box and what I am thinking as I explore it.

1. It’s all about connecting our learning.
For me, the group section of SurreySchools.ca is the most interesting feature; it holds both the promise and potential for deep learning by connecting educators. I started exploring by setting up a group for my f2f Network (see below).  I chose to make this group closed so that no one else could see the site (or my mistakes!). I would prefer to “play” and experiment with a small group before I launch wider to ensure I design something that is useful for others.

I wrote a description for the group on the site itself. I added what I thought might be the most useful features. I posted a Special Announcement (Last session for the 2011/12 year), a regular Announcement (Don’t forget to pick up your book, The Connected Educator, before you leave our session), I listed emails for key contacts external to our group, and posted the invitation to our session as a Shared Document. That was just the front page that set the context for our group.

2. It’s all about sharing resources.
Have you ever scrambled at the last minute to find just the right video clip to kick off a discussion, presentation or staff meeting? This could be a solution. In the Resources Tab, I included description of its purpose: a place to find useful links, videos, quotes, etcetera so we might have a “toolkit” of resources at our fingertips. I started by posting the New Brunswick video on 21st Century Learning and the video on the Murmuration of Starlings. We used the latter to discuss our leadership and how when one of us moves it triggers others to move as well. There are more clips to be posted and I’m hoping others in the group will begin to add them as well.

3. It’s all about sharing the wisdom.
One of the purposes of this group was to keep me connected to the field. I wanted the ideas and needs of others to inform my work. We can now use the Discussion Board as a way to facilitate these conversations.  In the Discussion tab, I included a description of its purpose. I posted my first question on the Discussion Board: How can we encourage the development of organic networks focused on learning? There may be more provocative questions but that one represents my current wondering. I believe in the power of networked educators and want to facilitate that across the district. We learn best when we are connected to others that have the same burning questions as us. I look forward to insights from my network.

4. It’s about playing.
As much as it might be about my work and my learning, it is also about “playing” in the sandbox with others as we explore the journey together.  When one frames their “work” as “play,” it feels different. It can be more about bringing a playful attitude to the exercise, being more open to possibilities, less critical about what we don’t like or isn’t working, and a commitment to making it fun. For me, it is about finding joy in the work I do and appreciating the work of others in the same sandbox. I know I can be the first to see the glass half empty and therefore I have to choose my frame of reference. I articulate this carefully because I know I need to work hard at bringing this very attitude to everything I do.

I am curious to see how others in our organization will make this platform work for them and their own networks. I see a place for principals and vice-principals to do their planning in the sandbox. I see opportunity for teams across the district, whether engaged in The Numeracy Project or The Innovative Learning Designs (Phase 1 & 2) or something else, to connect. Grade 1 teachers across the district could link in here and share their lesson planning and ideas about improving student learning. Anyone engaged in collaborative inquiry can record their journey and make it a place for sharing their joint thinking about their purposes. There is great possibility in the dream. We can connect, we can collaborate and we can “play” in the sandbox together.

Are you ready for it?

SchoolSchools.ca is currently in “silent” release. The Go Live date for both external and internal users is August 20th. 

The Prezi Party

My calendar was pretty full but the teacher was strategic. She sent me an email invitation with an embedded video of her three students inviting me to their party. There I was, face-to-face with three girls. It was pretty hard to look them in the eye and think of saying no. I was also curious to find out what these students thought of using prezi as a tool to demonstrate their learning.  Thus, this past week I ended up in the library at Green Timbers Elementary with Mrs. Thiessen’s grade 3 class.

As a member of district staff, it was actually a bit of treat to be back in a school setting and see the excited faces and keen enthusiasm of these students. (Yes, sometimes I really miss being a principal). And Mrs. Thiessen knows how to organize a party. There was finger food, cake, punch and medals for all of the students at the end of the presentation. She made sure she had invited special guests so the students had an authentic audience as well.  You can watch a video of her party here. There were many things that impressed me about the party; here are a few observations:

1. The students designed their own rubric to assess their learning. The rubric included the things that these students felt were important. They wanted to make sure that: they stayed on topic, they included captions, the information reflected their learning, they used appropriate grammar and punctuation and that they demonstrated the ability to embed videos and pictures in their presentation. Finally, they tried to add some “cool factor” for a special effect. By helping design the rubric, the students were owning their learning.

2. The students had learned a new tool. I have never made a prezi and I could see that they clearly had a few things to teach me.  I was also amazed at their versatility using prezi for being in grade 3. Two of the invited guests also have children in grade 3. We noted that our own children have only had the opportunity to use computers in their schools to do typing and math games. It was nice to see these students using technology creatively to support their learning.

3. This tool gave students the opportunity to represent their learning in a variety of ways. Each presentation was different and you could not tell who was learning disabled, gifted or simply a struggling learner.  As one student shared:

 4. The students were deeply engaged in their learning. At the end of each of their presentations they reflected on their experience and what they thought about learning in this fashion.

This Integrated Media Literacy Project was a joint initiative with the Education Department of Vancouver’s Pacific Cinematheque.  They are a non-profit charitable organization that focuses on teaching the creative, critical and pedagogical aspects of digital media production, media literacy and film education.  They provided a trained facilitator, Adelle Cabral, to help the students learn about Web 2.0 tools. The students chose prezi as the tool they most wanted to investigate. The students, the teacher, the parents, and guests enjoyed the opportunity to see the students present their learning. And as one guest described it, “Talk about personalized localized learning. Now these students really know where they live…on this planet.”

The Co-Blogging Writing Experiment

 

The Tunnel in Hidden Valley

Co-blogging with my son for spring break was an experiment. Typically when we go on a really long adventure vacation I would stash drawing and writing journals in the car along with books, games, snacks and toys. As we have camped across Canada as well as to the tip of Baja California, we have designed ways to keep the four boys busy. I have always found it difficult, however, to actually motivate any of the boys to write. They have never been that interested. This time I decided to get a little sneaky about it. I asked my one son if he wanted to do a blog with me about the vacation. I would write from my point of view and then he could write from his perspective. He thought it was a good idea. As well, he was responsible for choosing the blogging platform and designing the layout. I made some suggestions, none of which he followed. He is independent and stubborn, just like his mother. I note that this child has not yet had the opportunity to blog in school. He is in grade eight. When he asked if he could do a blog for one of his classes, his teacher said “No.” She wanted a paper copy of his assignment. So, it made sense that he would blog for us as a family. And what was the result? Here are some observations.

1. He was motivated to write. He actually appeared to be interested in writing.  I did not have to nag him. As a parent, that was wonderful. I’m sure he appreciated it as well. And for me, he was writing. It worked. The technology itself was motivating for him. He has kept written scrapbooks before on trips but this was different.

2. He was writing more than I would normally see. I think it helped that this was just a journal reflection. I was not interested in the quality of his work; I was more interested in having him write.  My son is in French Immersion and research has indicated their writing skills can lag. It was just important to me that he record words on the page (or screen, to be precise).

3 We talked about the act of writing. This conversation was natural in this context and seemingly invisible but important. We talked about how exaggeration can make things more interesting for the reader. We talked about storytelling and the importance of opening and closing lines. We even discussed what makes a good title. As we went, sometimes I could see him make the appropriate changes to his own writing.

4. It was an opportunity to build our relationship. We had a new and different kind of connection. He was excited to review his statistics at the back of the blog. “Mom, did you know someone from Vietnam is reading our blog?” he would announce. Or, “Mom, right now two people in Canada are reading our blog.” Or, “Most of the people reading the blog are using mobile devices. Eighty-two percent are using some kind of Apple device.”  On blogger, there are all sorts of interesting statistics that he could explore and then share with me. Of course, it helped as well when he wrote something that was particularly funny (eg. his suntan lotion entry), that captured our family perfectly and would send me into peals of laughter.

5. He had a chance to experience the “social” aspect of the Internet. Thanks to some kind colleagues, a few people wrote comments in response to his writing. Of course, he was sent an email each time he received a comment. “Mom, did you know someone just commented on my blog.” That is reinforcing!

6. We could share our experience easily with other family and relatives. Again, this allowed us to keep connected. Although we were not face to face with these people, they had a sense of shared experience with our adventures. This, too, builds relationships.

7. It gave us a family record of our trip. As parents, we are committed to making memories with our children. Adventure vacations expand their horizons and our own.

The co-blogger in a slot canyon

Finally, I asked my son for his observations on the co-blogging experiment. Here are his responses:

Mom: What did you like best about co-blogging?

Son: I liked making if funny and seeing the stats.

Mom: Was it easier then keeping a paper journal?

Son: Probably, because I could just delete mistakes; it was more convenient, faster and easier to store. I knew I wouldn’t lose it.

Mom: What did you learn from doing it?

Son: I learned how to write better, how to use technology, how to make things funny, how to exaggerate and be sarcastic and how to use hyperbole.

Mom: How has your writing changed?

Son: I wanted to capture the reader’s interest by the title, the beginning and the ending. I might want to make the ending like a surprise or really funny.

Mom: Would you do it again?

Son: Yes, in fact, we should do it every vacation. You and me co-blog.

You can’t ask for much more from a teenage son!

From my perspective, the co-blogging experiment worked. My son wrote and he enjoyed doing it. The co-blogging adventure made learning meaningful for both of us. The fact that the journal was authentic, that others could read it and interact with him had a big impact on him. I also think the notion of “co-blogging” itself, with his mother, was powerful. And truly, this time out, technology did make the difference.

Postscript: Our family’s exploits are recorded here: ArizonaPhoenix. Comments are most welcome!

Innovative Learning—For Teachers, For Students and For Me

I have the privilege of visiting schools. Once a week I head out for a site visit with Dan Turner, the Director of Information Management Systems (IMS), to the Innovative Learning Designs schools. We send a list of questions out to the principals ahead of time. For example, Where is the integration of technology working well? Do you have any evidence it is impacting student learning? Are you and your students using social media? Is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) happening at your school? If not, help us understand what the barriers might be to encouraging this practice? And, how can you move BYOD forward at your own school? How are you (as administrators) using technology to accelerate your own learning? How are you using your own use of technology to impact your staff? The district has created a potential cadre of digital coaches (technology facilitators, teacher-librarians and administrators) at every school in Surrey. How can you use this cadre to help push practice forward? What are the challenges, if any, from a technical point of view (equipment maintenance, wireless, internet speed, technical support)? Although we send out a list of questions ahead of time, we also let the administrators know that the visit is intended to be a “learning conversation.” They are welcome to invite any staff member to join us or to have us take a tour of classrooms instead. Sometimes the conversations supersede the questions with the exciting stories of staff and student learning.

There are so many things I have learned. I have been amazed at the work of our teachers–their excitement, their enthusiasm and their willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of their own learning. I also have a much greater appreciation for my administrative colleagues. Their leadership, sometimes seemingly silent in the current political context, is still so clearly evident.  Both teachers and administrators are anchored in keeping student learning at the centre. Truly, I am humbled by the work and dedication of both.

1. Teachers are learning.
Although I have only visited about half a dozen schools, already themes seem to be emerging. Here is what I have noticed:
The Hillcrest Elementary grade seven teacher was clear, “It has totally revolutionized how I teach. I am not at the centre. The kids are at the centre.” As she further described it, “Being part of the project has forced us to be accountable for our learning.” “The younger generation has inspired us to play.” And, they are “bringing their world to us.” For many teachers, it has revitalized their passion for learning and their love for teaching.
2. Teachers are learning, together.
We have discovered that teachers are leading the learning. The strength of this teacher-leadership was clear at MJ Norris Elementary. Teachers are sharing their learning in collaborative sessions.  The same is true at other schools. They are meeting afterschool, at lunch or in the morning to explore their questions, together. They are inquiring into their work and how they define their best practice, together. The opportunity to be part of the initiative has created the impetus to ask the key questions, together: What are the learning intentions? What do we want the students to know and do? In what way might the technology help us achieve this? Teachers are owning their own learning as they help their students to own their learning. They are all doing it together.
3. Students are engaged.
At Cindrich Elementary, the students were described as “leaning into” their learning. The intense engagement was “incredible.” “Teachers have not had a single behavior problem.“ The output of students has been remarkable. George Vanier students have been experimenting with Genius Hour (you can read about it on twitter). At Hillcrest Elementary, students have created amazing websites for their Science projects. Perhaps, however, what is most remarkable is that the students, after creating the rubrics for their assignments, have asked to revise their rubrics as they have discovered they no longer describe their learning. The power of assessment and descriptive feedback is clearly at work; student ownership of their learning is profound. At George Vanier Elementary, after the students learned how to create their own websites, one of the students even built a website for his dad’s company. That’s authentic and practical learning that has clearly transferred to the real world!

Although I have only been to one third of the schools involved in this initiative I am already amazed at the learning—for both students and staff—that is taking place. I am not naïve to believe that this is the result of the project, or the result of the technology—it is actually about the passionate commitment of teachers working together to improve student learning.  I am just privileged to be a witness.

From Teacher-Librarian to Digital Literacy Impresarios

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.

Works Cited
EDUCASE. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/Resources/7ThingsYouShouldKnowAbouttheMo/22714
Godin, S. (2011, May 16) The future of the library. Retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/05/the-future-of-the-library.html
 Watters, A. (2011, December 7). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.hackeducation.com/2011/12/07/top-ed-tech-trends-of-2011-the-digital-library/

To Gel or Not to Gel

Some days I just want a really good gel pen and a brand, spanking-new journal notebook. Those are the days when I am tired of hearing about, talking about, and learning about technology. It can all be a bit overwhelming. I think some of the people that tweet and blog have some genetic predisposition to using technology. I do not. I have to work at it. And, for me, it is frustrating. It seems that things never actually behave the way I want them to. I will give you an example. I wanted to create the background to my Twitter profile. I read about it in a book. I tried to follow the directions and three hours later (on a Saturday mind you) I gave up. I paid $4.99 on my Mastercard to get it to behave. I didn’t want to do it that way. I wanted to do it myself.

Okay, another story. So I decided it would be a good thing to follow some of the people in my district who were blogging. As a Director of Instruction, with technology in my portfolio, that seems important for me to do. And frankly, some of these people are posting great material (see Peter Johnston). Unfortunately, what happens is I often miss their new posts. In order to get these posts, I need to subscribe to their blog (if they have included that feature). I was finding it cumbersome to subscribe to blogs as it clutters up my mailbox, which is already protesting over too many emails (and, frankly, I like a clean email inbox, too). So I decided to learn about Google Reader. I put all the blog URLs into Google Reader so I could then create an RSS feed to my Flipboard on my ipad (I may not even be using those terms right in that last sentence!). Now, I love my Flipboard. It helps me manage the flow of information. And, at a quick glance, it allows me to get all the information I need, whether it is catching up on twitter or following blogs.

Of course, this is not the end of the story. I wanted to create a summary paper of all the recent posts that educational leaders in Surrey schools were creating. I felt it would encourage others and they might realize their colleagues are also posting good information. I have seen others do this through paper.li or summify.  This seemed like a reasonable goal. I googled the directions, watched a video, read some FAQ—all of which I found very time-consuming. In the end, I created a paper for the #sd36learn hashtag. That was not my goal but it gave me a chance to practice. I still haven’t created the summary paper of Surrey blogs but I am waiting to see if summify will fit the bill. Actually, I tried summify but it isn’t working as I hoped. The gracious people behind it responded to my tweet for help and gave me additional instructions. Unfortunately, it isn’t generating what I had envisioned.  I will have to find some other tool (another day, when I am not feeling so overwhelmed).

Which all brings me to a point. (You were beginning to wonder, I bet.) I am not the only one that finds it laborious to use technology. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is the most rewarding part of my job.  However, some of us are just challenged. Yes, technically challenged. And I guess that is why it is important for us to pay attention to the learning needs, styles and interests of our colleagues. It works best for me when someone actually shows me what to do (just in time, when I want and need to learn). Then I need them to watch me try to do it myself. I describe this as hand-over-hand (and, please, do not do it for me because if your hands are on the device, I am not learning). Then, they need to release me to do it on my own.  That works best for me.  And, personally, l would like them to check back with me later because my brain feels overstuffed and in between I actually sometimes forget how to do things.

We need to keep this in mind as we provide support to educators. They need to do it themselves, we need to provide the right tool for the their purpose, they need just-in-time training and we need to continue the gradual release of responsibility (with plenty of patience). Remember, those of you reading this post probably have a natural attraction towards technology. We need you to help those of us that don’t. And, finally, please be patient with our learning or we might just throw in the towel and return to our gel pens.

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

Administrators:
• 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
http://painchaudopinion.blogspot.com/2011/12/sharing-in-educational-playground.html?spref=tw
   (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
http://mcdclassroom.weebly.com/mr-mcds-blog.html

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!