“I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.”
—President Barack Obama, January 10, 2017
We need some hope.
Today, I found the link to President Obama’s new Twitter account and his foundation page. It starts with a really positive message.
When you go through the site, you are asked a few questions on what kind of positive initiative you would like to see happen. You are also asked to add an image and write about why it is important to you. I wrote this.
I think a good citizen is someone who contributes in a positive way to make things better for those in their community. That community could be your neighbourhood, city, country or the entire world. We can all make a positive difference if we want to.
I am part of a group that will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in March 2017. I love this project because we get the adventure of a lifetime and at the same time, we raise money for a charity of our choice – mine is Rec LINK, a small organization that helps families in poor neighbourhoods access recreational services.
It would be great to do something like this in Guatemala or El Salvador – places more people need to explore and learn about.
That’s it – I got to write the President about Dream Mountains and its potential to continue to match adventure and social justice – something I really hope will happen in the future.
I am really glad he asked.
I am on the search for great story-telling tools!
Sometimes you need to spend a whole day to find just the right tool. I think I found it – Kuula – a great interactive tool, which unfortunately will not embed to a WordPress blog!
https://kuula.co/share/7ft6s – link to the interactive version.
This find is the result of a day-long search to find apps that will allow me to easily share interactive photos from my upcoming climb to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It is great that we are all raising money for different charities – mine is the Sens Foundation and specifically, Rec LINK, an organization that does terrific work in our community, linking families up to recreational opportunities for their kids.
From their website, they outline their mission for their community:
1 in 5 children in Ottawa lives in poverty and many more face barriers that make participation in after-school sports, recreational or social programs difficult. Rec Link aims to help children and youth participate in social recreation activities during the critical afterschool hours by working to effect change on three levels: system, community, and individual.
I understand the importance of this work. For over two years, I worked in the community they support. Kids in our neighbourhood simply do not get the opportunities to play sports and take part in enriching activities due to the lack of resources available to families.
So, while it is important to raise money for Rec LINK, I also need to tell the story of the journey to the top of Kilimanjaro. I am doing this for the kids I used to work with and for all those wonderful people who are supporting me. To date, 82 people have contributed $4082.00 to Rec LINK – my goal is $6000.00 and I am going to make it.
Now, back to story-telling. I continue to look for ways to tell the story. Kuula is really important because it is really difficult to share 360 photos. These photos are really important as you can manipulate the picture so you can get a 360 degree perspective on what is going on in the photo. The photos are taken using the Ricoh Theta S – a wonderful camera that takes 360 photos and videos. I have the photos worked out now but still learning how to do interesting 360 videos.
The jewel in the story-telling crown is certainly ESRI Story Maps.
The story map is supposed to embed to web pages, but it won’t work here which is a problem. The opening page looks like this
The actual story map will scroll down as you add to your story. You can embed maps, photos and of course 360 interactive photos and videos!
I hope to use this tool as a way to share the actual climb with students back in Ottawa. With the aid of an InReach Satellite Communicator I will actually track our progress up the mountain. To do it on a 3D map would be the best – however, I don’t know how to do this yet.
Another story-telling tool I am experimenting with is Sutori. This tool has lots of interesting features that are not included in ESRI Story Maps and it might be a better way to interact with students. Sutori allows you to add collaborators to write with you. It has functions that allow you to add forums for questions and music. Like ESRI, you can’t embed the story to your website which is certainly more engaging. You also can’t embed photos which is a problem.
screen shot of the Sutori Page
I will keep searching for good ways to bring this story to life. I can’t imagine doing this without sharing as much as I can.
If you have good ideas on tools I should be using, I would love to hear what you know!
I find that my priorities are beginning to shift.
While I will still continue to include lots of education posts in my 31 days of blogging, more and more of my mental and emotional energy is going into the immense physical challenge of getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Dream Mountains.
I took this challenge on as a way of starting retirement and I guess as a way to rewire (or reprogram) myself after 31 years of working in the education world.
What is important to me is that in doing this climb, I have pledged to raise $6000.00 for the Senators Foundation – a charity that does lots of important work in and around our school community for our families. I wouldn’t be doing this if this was a bucket list thing, I’m not interested in projects that don’t tie into my former school community.
I was fortunate to meet up with Shawn Dawson who leads the Dream Mountains Foundation. Shawn is a very accomplished climber who is giving back to his community every year by recruiting and training 20 non-climbers to take on the challenge of a lifetime.
In the years Shawn has run these trips he has raised close to $1,000,000 – in fact, we will break this barrier very soon as we raise money for our different charities.
Our ultimate goal is to do 10 stories in 10 minutes per set. Right now, I am at 8 stories completed in under 13 minutes each.
I have a way to go.
We change things up by hiking an 8.5 km trail that quickly ascends 310 m. This past weekend, we did this ascent in 55 minutes – a good pace!
These hikes serve many important purposes – the main objective is to get to know your fellow climbers – these are the people who you will depend on during the climb and it is important to know who has your back on an arduous climb. The climb also gives you the opportunity to try out your equipment – a constant experiment and most importantly at this point, it gives you a chance to test your fitness level.
For me, I realize I have work to do, but that’s OK – this is January 16, and we don’t leave until the end of March. There is something wonderful in focusing on your physical fitness – it is so rare in this society that we have the opportunity to do this. After 31 years of working as an educator it is a very welcome change!
I am loving every minute of this experience – the training, the hikes, the constant learning and the team building. There is lots more to write about – especially how I hope to share this experience in real time as much as possible, but that is for a future post. Lots of time now to write.
Today, recover and get ready for another assault of the stairs.
This is a position I have been in before. A large part of my role as an administrator has been to encourage the development of new teaching techniques based on digital technology and at the same time, work hard at making the learning at school more visible through the use of social media.
The move to digital transformation however does not last. Generally, the tools that we use especially to communicate with parents are not always picked up by the next person to fill the role of school administrator.
There is a systemic problem here. Administrators are not trained in the use of technology or social media. Many are still hesitant to use Facebook or Twitter and fewer still blog to or text their parent communities.
Part of the problem is that many administrators did not teach at a time where the use of digital media was becoming more prevalent in the classroom. There is also very little time spent on forming administrators as digital leaders in their schools. Many administrators are still deeply suspicious of social media.
To me, there are several basic tools that all administrators need to be using. All of these tools have been around for years and do not require a huge amount of technical expertise to use.
Facebook: Many administrators seem to have grown up at a time where Facebook simply was not trusted by educators. What they don’t realize is that most of our parents grew up with Facebook and still use it as a way to communicate with friends and family. Facebook is easily the best tool to let parents into the school to see what is going on every day. Administrators need to use Facebook to open up their schools to their parents – they deserve to know what is going on.
Twitter: Twitter needs to be used as a way to quickly communicate with parents and administrators should also be using it daily to keep up with the most recent trends in education. We have a responsibility to stay well-informed and that means developing a good list of people in the education field that are then followed on a regular basis.
Remind: This may seem like overkill, but parents choose their own way to communicate with their school. You need to use a variety of tools so that parents can choose how they want to hear from you. You don’t need to use Remind, but you need some form of text communication with parents. Remind is very easy to set up and parents are the ones who decide if they want to receive your text messages. Remind is now set up to allow parents to respond to your texts – all in a way that preserves the privacy of the user.
Blogging – you need to blog! The day of the tired out monthly newsletter is gone, thank goodness! Having said that, this does not release the administrator from communicating with parents on a regular basis on what is happening and what is coming up at school. At my last school we used Edublogs to send a weekly post to parents on what was planned for the upcoming week. All the teachers contributed to the blog with a rundown of their plans for their class. The blog was the very best tool we had. Parents and teachers read it every week to keep up to date with all academic, sports and social news coming from the school. It was an invaluable tool and one that really should be used by all administrators.
There are many other tools that can be used to engage your parent community and new ones are being created every day. My main point is that this is part of the administrator’s job in 2017. I don’t know how we can ask our teachers and our students to become adept at using digital technology when our own principals lage so far behind.
There is hope. If you are an administrator – challenge yourself – start learning today!
A few weeks ago I read a great article from E Missourian.com
The article was about a report written by Debbie Haley, technical director for the Meramec Valley R-III Middle School. In the report, she outlined that through a district initiative, each student from grade 6 through 8 had received a Dell Chromebook.
The students were able to bring their new machines home while the teachers received training on how best to use the Chromebooks as a learning tool in the classroom.
The comments of the students speak volumes about programs like this:
“Having a computer to take home means I can look up stuff and learn how to do things any time without having to ask the teacher,”
“This is the best way to do homework because if I forget my math book, it’s on the website,”
What I noticed about these comments is that the students in our school have been saying exactly the same thing for the past two years.
I recently retired as principal of a small low-income urban school. We made the decision over two years ago that to give our students a greater chance of success, they needed to have their own Chromebook and the juniors (grades 4-6) needed to bring them home every night.
The program had its hiccups and nay sayers, but it was a success. Teachers received good quality PD and the freedom to learn more on their own. Students were expected to bring their machine home every night and continue work on digital programs, including Google apps for Education and Hapara that they had started at school.
It became the expectation that a computer would be available at all times and if one broke down, it would be replaced immediately.
Our school board did some things to make it feasible to become a 1:1 school. Chromebooks were cheap to buy, we were a Google board, so students and teachers had access to all the great apps available through Google. Training was available to students and teachers on some of the programs that we were using every day and we did receive some computers from the school board as we were considered a high needs school.
While we never did a comprehensive report, I feel that the program was a success.
As part of my ‘good-bye’ from the students and the teachers, a video was created that allowed many of the students to say something they were thankful for that had taken place while I was principal. Many of them said they were thankful for their Chromebooks and the freedom it gave them to learn independently.
I was surprised by this especially because we had just completed a major school yard renewal – with play structures – and I thought this would be what meant the most to our students.
It wasn’t – it was their Chromebooks.
To me this is really important. By providing powerful computers to our students we were giving them a voice, we were allowing them to control their own learning. By training the teachers, we are giving them the confidence to use the machines every day in class.
The major drawback to all this is that this was a school initiative not a district-wide project like the Meramec Valley students were part of. Sadly, because our district cannot yet see the value in 1:1 programs, our effort to provide computers to most students will not be sustained.
It is sad to say that most administrators do not see the value in having a computer for every child. Our district no longer gives out computers and has recently gone with a new Chromebook that is twice the price of the ones we used to purchase.
It is very hard to understand why people do not see the value in these programs and why they do not listen to the students who have been empowered by these sophisticated tools. There now is ample evidence that 1:1 makes a real difference when done properly. I look forward to the day when small initiatives become district priorities.
Every Sunday, I try to read Brain Pickings. I used to read this to find something I could add to my staff blog. That is over now, but I still need to write and share. This quote from Marcus Aurelius seemed to be a great way to start as we all head back to some form of work.
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
Marcus Aurelius – as read in Brain Pickings
Now is my time to redefine what it means to work. This is my first day without a formal ‘job’ in over 31 years. How I will define work will have to change.
There is plenty of ideas to fill the gap – no problem.
First, I pledged to do 31 posts in 31 days. This was to be the first real posting day, but I snuck in a few earlier. There is also the great challenge put out by AJ Juliani to blog for 30 days. Signed up for that too #30daysblogging.
That could be enough work to get me started, but I have also taken on a different challenge. I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a great group of adventurers at the end of March. I am doing this because I need to break out and take on a physical challenge. The climb also allows me to raise money for the Ottawa Senators Foundation – a group that does amazing work for our kids here in Ottawa.
No pressure, but if you want to donate to my charity (goal $6000.00) you can give on-line here.
This is my main work for the next three months.
I will also work on learning and reflecting on what I have experienced as an educator over the past 31 years. The more distance I get from my conventional job the easier – I think – it will be for me to reflect, learn and of course write. This blog will actually help me to focus my learning. There are so many directions I can go in now that I am finally freed from my daily work obligations. This blog may help me to focus on a few learning goals that I can move through over the next few months.
For today, an eight-kilometre hike in -30 C conditions. A good start, I think for the first new day of learning.