IF I COULD BUILD A SCHOOL….

community hub

This is a great writing prompt that is good enough to drag me away from reading report cards for a few minutes.

First, I have to say how much I have enjoyed the on-going Voxer chat on the Innovator’s Mindset – a great good by George Couros which is great reading and wonderful as a discussion piece.

Some of the conversations have really changed the way I think about innovation and leadership and the constraints put on us by the system we are in.

So, for today’s prompt – I don’t really want to go ‘pie in the sky’ on this one, but there is one thing I would really like to see in schools.

Equity – this is becoming a really big issue for me.

I think there needs to be more of an effort put into schools in low-income areas.  It is not just a matter of not having the same amount of financial resources as suburban schools, it is actually an issue of how we support children and families.

Too often I hear about kids who can’t get support at home because parents are working extra hours or just do not have the capacity to offer the support their kids need.  Many are supporting families on a single income or are dealing with life in a shelter or other issues we can hardly imagine.

Often these families cannot afford the after school sports and recreation programs other families take for granted.  These programs are really important to help kids have a really well rounded education.  We try to provide some of these extras through our school programs, but we simply do not have the resources to bring as many programs into the school as we need.

My ideal school would be restructured to offer a really good tutoring/homework club staffed by qualified teachers.  The program would be supplemented by a recreation or arts program that would take place after the tutoring is done for the day.  The students would all have their own Chromebook to bring home to work on really good digital programs like the Discovery Science Techbook or Mathletics.  We would make sure the students had a healthy snack before being picked up with extra food available if the family was in need.

Our school would be open to parents who could use our wifi to work on their own courses or take advantage of instruction in areas that they need.

None of these things are ‘pie in the sky’.  I know this because I have heard of schools that provide these supports to their families.  The problem is that these are shining examples of what should be happening in all our low income schools.  There are not enough of these schools.

Our school needs to be a hub for the community, especially for our students and our parents – every day of the week and throughout the summer as well.

We have the resources and the models to make this happen if we really invested in making a change in the lives of the most disadvantaged in our society.

All that is missing is the will.

That would be a great school to work in!

 

Four take aways from FETC

FETC Banner

It has been two weeks from FETC in Orlando. Easily the most exciting conference I have been to in a long time. For me, there are some really important takeaways that I have been thinking through for the past two weeks.

First – coding is king (or queen)

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Reshma Saujani was for me a highlight of the conference. It is so inspiring to listen to a young person who has taken hold of an important issue and has created real change within a large community. Reshma spoke about Girls Who Code – a group I would really like to bring to Canada. She is making a great effort to get more girls and women into computer science by working with great partners like Google and Facebook and by linking up to businesses across the United States who pledge to hire graduates of the program when they complete their studies.

Apart from this inspiring talk, I saw so many companies that are bringing out new technologies that allow students to learn to code at an early age.

 

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Programmable robot by K’nex coming out in July

We have been fortunate enough to buy some of these kits from Lego and Pitsco and we will be adding these to our maker space and science classes as soon as possible. The applications in the class for these kits are endless and the engagement potential makes them so valuable for our teachers. Before FETC, I had never seen any of these kits, now they are being produced by a whole range of innovative companies. What makes these kits really important is that students can learn coding as a way to make machines move and complete complex tasks.

Second – you need a learning management system if you are moving to 1:1

This is something I really never thought too much about before FETC. What I noticed, however, is that most school systems are using some sort of an LMS to manage the use of computers in the classroom. Whether it is Google Classroom, Moodle, Webanywhere or in our case Hapara, you need a way to manage the amount of information your students are accessing and sending back to you in the form of assignments.

We have had Hapara for more than two years, but it never occurred to me that as we move closer to a 1:1 school at all grade levels, the most important digital tool that we can make available to teachers is a management system.

Within two weeks of returning from FETC, I arranged a half-day training session for all of our teachers and we hope to follow this up with another session this April. Teachers are now starting to use Hapara to send out material to students and monitor their work during the school day. It is amazing that I had to go so far to learn the value of this great program.

Technology tips are everywhere

I took in at least three workshops that acted as a survey session on technology tips for the classroom teacher, for the administrator, for anyone. These sessions were so important. Which such a huge selection, you really had to take in a few of these sessions – if you could get in, they were very popular.

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Twitter notes from The Top Ten Technology Tips to Transform Teaching in one hour!

The pace in these sessions is so frenetic that the only useful way to take notes is through Twitter. I wrote tons of posts during my time at FETC and tried valiantly to quickly use as many tools as I could so I could remember what I was learning and pass this on to our staff.

Last take away – if you get an opportunity to go to a conference go!

To be honest, I don’t know how you can get by these days without getting to a conference whenever possible. My passion is education technology and I use Twitter and a whole variety of blogs, but there is no better way to stay current than by attending one of these great events.

You all need to get out and learn, talk to people who are making the innovations then take back as much as you can to staff.

Finally, I leave you with some of my visual impressions taken with my new GoPro. It’s a bit jumbled, but I hope it gives some sense of the great creative energy of FETC.