Tag Archives: twitter

Guess what? That’s us!

: The post below is reprinted with permission from George Couros and Jeff Unruh, a grade 7 teacher at Pacific Heights Elementary School. Jeff is the teacher that we are visiting and I am the colleague identified in the post. I had invited George to come to our district to do an environmental scan of our journey into innovation. I was interested in having “outsider eyes” and a “critical friend” provide me with feedback on our on-going work to improve student learning. This is what George wrote:


A Higher Chance of Becoming Great? The “Twitter” Factor

IMG_5158I walked into the room and I could tell right away.

This was a teacher I had never met and knew very little about, but the atmosphere in his classroom was great.  As I walked with my colleague, I asked her the question, “Do you think he is on Twitter?”  I wanted her to make an educated guess, and her thoughts were the same as mine; definitely.

How did we know this?

IMG_5148As I walked in, I saw unique seating spaces, posters all over the wall that focused on “taking risks” and encouraging students to think different.  The walls were also covered in information about “Genius Hour” and their recent “Maker Faire”.  At the time, the students were also learning how to play chess with a master player, who also happened to be a grandparent. Notice that there was no technology mentioned above, but just about a different learning environment.  There were multiple, amazing opportunities for learning in this classroom to reach students where they were at, and tap into their strengths and passions.

IMG_5160So when we asked the teacher if they were on Twitter, he mentioned that he was but he didn’t necessarily share that much online.  But it was his access to information that made things look differently in his classroom.  When I asked if he had seen an impact in his classroom from the use of Twitter, he wasn’t sure, but it was a type of “boiling frog” scenario.  The change could have happened so gradually that he did not notice the small steps that could have been made to where he was now.  Just being a “lurker” in that space though, had made a difference.

IMG_5140Now I am not saying that if you are NOT on Twitter, you are ineffective.  There might be several classrooms that look like the one I have briefly described that were designed by a teacher who may not be on Twitter, that receive their information elsewhere.  What I do know is that looked NOTHING like my classroom when I first started teaching, because honestly, I did not have the access to the same information that teachers do now.  Our opportunities have changed and people have taken advantage to benefit themselves, and more importantly, their students.

Isolation is now a choice educators make.  We have access to not only information, but each other. We need to tap into that.

Being on Twitter dIMG_5162oesn’t make you a great teacher any more than not being on Twitter makes you ineffective.  There are a lot of great teachers who do some pretty amazing things that do not connect online.

However, I do believe that having that access 24/7 to great ideas through the medium and the connection to other teachers increases your chances on being great.  If you really think about it,  how could it not?

Note: Thanks to George Couros, Jeff Unruh and Principal Sundeep Chohan for expanding our thinking. You will hear more from Jeff Unruh as our featured Ignite presenter at our next Learning by Design: Engaging the Digital Learner session. George will also be keynoting with Superintendent Jordan Tinney at that time as they look back at learning, look at the present, and predict going forward. It promises to be provocative. We will be streaming it live for those that want to join us.

Pondering Personal Space, Connected Minds and Action

Chance favours the connected mind.
Steven Johnson

How do we create a coral reef in our organizations? Where do good ideas happen? Can we create an environment where innovation thrives? Is there a space where good ideas can collide? Do we encourage opportunities for personal reflection too? And how do we allow that collaborative collision space, those innovative ideas, to generate action?

I keep thinking about the tweet from Neil Stephenson:

I want a coral reef too. I hunt down Steven Johnson. I remember I have the book (Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation). It sat on my night table for a little while. True confessions: I only read the first few chapters, as the book didn’t quite hold me. I head back to the digital highway and find some reviews that give me the basics on what I need to know.  I tweet a librarian who connects me to some more good related resources.

I watch the video:

Johnson has many entertaining ideas but I am particularly struck by the notion of connection. “Chance favours the connected mind” keeps reverberating in my head. I see it lived in our district, through our innovative projects, our Engaging the Digital Learner series and through our district’s professional learning network (see our twitter hashtag #sd36learn). I follow the hashtag and I see teacher after teacher making a connection with someone across the system. This connection often goes beyond the virtual.  Sometimes I see they visit each other’s schools, make arrangements to meet for real coffee and/or discuss their practice. I see people connecting across grades and from high school to elementary school in unusual ways, creating productive alliances around teaching and learning. This is a curious thing.

Johnson talks about the ‘liquid network’ as “an environment where ideas come into contact with each other.” He provides the historical context of coffee houses in 17th and 18th century–these were places people gathered to share ideas over coffee. We do that virtually via twitter. We do it in real-time, face-to-face in many schools. It often happens organically. But can we be strategic about ensuring it happens? Is there a liquid network in all our schools? Throughout our districts? Where are we taking time to incubate our hunches? Where are we connecting our good ideas beyond the virtual realm?  Does it happen in our staff rooms? In the hallways? At the Board Office? In the meetings we hold? At pro-d days or in between sessions at conferences? And do we create this same type of space for students in the classroom? In the library? The learning commons? Can we structure this architecturally into our system rather than leaving it to organic and spontaneous hit and miss activity? Can we be intentional and strategic in our diffusion strategies?

And when do we take the time for our own personal reflection so that we can come to the table rich with ideas and thoughts? Nigel Barlow asked us, “Where are you when you have great ideas?” Think about it. Where are you? Some of my best ideas come during or after a run. For me, these ideas come when there is an opportunity for both silence and alone time, often on the heels of a complex problem, significant question, or conundrum where someone at work has challenged me. Some of the best work we do is when we are asked curious questions, not yes or no questions, but those kind of questions that create that puzzled look on our faces. These are thought-provoking and disturbing questions that can create some uncomfortable dissonance. This is a good thing. I need the personal time to process, to reflect and to see things from different angles. Then I can come back to the coral reef to let the ideas collide, grow bigger and come to life.

and come to life. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems that flourish with life. The liquid network–whether it is over virtual coffee or the life-giving waters of the coral reef– is a potent metaphor; ideas connect, expand and are adopted.  Can we design our organizations to do the same?  I grapple with the notion of creating a coral reef for ideas and collaboration but I keep thinking about action. Does it come alive? Does it change our schools? Does it change our practice? Does it change learning?  Does it change me? How can I work better and differently in my position so that all of us can pause to think deeply, to connect richly with others (both virtually and in person), and then to allow those innovative ideas to become a lived reality across a large system.

I am looking for an organizational coral reef where ideas collide in some form of liquid network. I want whole scale change that permeates the system and where ideas are so attractive others are pulled to them from across schools and the organization. This is not about a one-classroom silo of significant change dependent on one teacher, or one team of teachers with a supportive administration. This is about creating capacity across a monolithic system. This is about generative conversations that lead us to learn and grow in such ways that we are compelled to change our practice. Call it what you may–the coral reef, the liquid network—but this becomes the inspiration for transformation. The contagion of good ideas spreads, is explored, and is action-ed. The organization grows and reinvents itself. We reinvent ourselves. And as we do that, our own sense of purpose, our own passion for our work, grows and comes alive as well. And professionally, this is how we come to life, too.

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!