Develop your personal learning network – Now!

 

 

I’m sorry to say but the teaching profession is often an isolated and lonely one even though we are surrounded by people the biggest part of our day. A teacher is usually the only adult in the classroom, lunch is often with the students and our work area after class is in most cases in the classroom itself (because that is where our computer is). Our time outside of teaching is spent either preparing lessons, going to informational meetings in the school or writing reports. Our time to develop ourselves as professionals, discuss professional issues & exchange ideas is neglected or even ignored in many schools.

Ingvi Hrannar – from Personalized professional learning with Twitter

This article is so good I had to refer to it right off the top The main point – develop your own personal learning network, – never again accept the generalized PD model where everyone gets the same thing.

We expect a huge amount from teachers these days – more than ever before. But at the same time we are being trained using a 19th century model – one talking head at the front of the room. Any time you go to a workshop and that is happening you know this is not the way things have to be. At the very least, we should not call this professional development.

If we are to be treated as professionals, the learning model needs to reflect that we are all quite capable learning what we need on our own and in groups of like-minded professionals. The model that we have developed in our schools over the past three years is very important – it is the only way to go.  We have developed a system where the professional learning goals for the school are developed by the teacher teams from our three schools.

I find the learning goals coming from these groups get better and better.  The goals are more attuned to conclusions based on student work.  The goals also build on the work that has already been accomplished.  As administrators, our role is to facilitate this group learning experience, we do not deliver the information.

We are all professionals and if we respect the work we do every day we need to make sure we all stay in control of your own professional development.Never let anyone tell you that they know better than you do. There are so many people out there thinking and writing about educational issues – you need to choose who speaks to you and who you will learn from.

Hrannar has another great blog post that I think is worth reading –  14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools. If you read this post, take a look at obsolete item number 13 – ‘One-Professional development-workshop-fits-all’

I had to include a photo illustrating this point – I have seen this before and I think it should be posted anywhere teachers or administrators are subjected to drawn out talks by so-called experts.  

 

                                                                                        have you been to this session?

I do think this form of information delivery has its place. I take in workshops given by guest speakers all the time, but the big difference is that I choose these sessions and I am actually interested in the information.  Unfortunately, we are subjected to monthly sessions where someone else has decided that this information is invaluable for my professional development.  There are simply so many other ways to learn these days. Why can’t we try one or a few of these ideas?

  • an edcamp style session where participants choose what they want to learn and others volunteer to pass on what they know
  • learning hubs formed by people who are interested in a common learning goal.  Professional development flows out of this goal throughout the year, hub members blog about their findings
  • a concerted effort to use Twitter and Google+ to develop our own personal learning network – time at gatherings to develop these networks.  Share lists of who to follow and good hashtags
  • join a MOOC, or even better start our own!  Take a look at two MOOCs here:  DLMOOC OSSEMOOC
  • work on developing common blogs – we have teachers who have done this – the OCSB Learning Community
  • join an Edmodo book study as active participants

There are lots of other options, I think it is important that we explore what is possible.  Learning using a 19th century model just isn’t good enough any more.  We need to challenge the status quo and find new ways to let our learning take off!

There are some signs of hope.  In our board we have a terrific group called Learning Connections.  These teachers are doing some really interesting work and are certainly offering new and exciting ways to offer PD to educators.  Last month, I attended one of their sessions.

The first part of the day focused on interactive displays  led by teachers currently in the classroom.  Each workshop came with a card with a QR code that led to a great summary of the main ideas.  We had ten minutes at each site, then we moved on to the next display.  A Google presentation has been made of the day and it is certainly worth a look.

Even better, once we had visited all the teacher displays, we were tasked with coming up with a summary that would take in the main ideas from all the presentations.  So we were actually able to create content from what we had seen.  To make this experience even better, our media guides tasked with helping us with our presentations were all junior-level students – brilliant!

Let’s hope that the spirit of innovation that is alive in our teachers will soon be shared by more people.  Let’s throw out the old tired models of transferring information and begin to develop new and vital professional learning networks – Now!

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Our first Blogging Party!

Social & Policy Innovation in the Obama Admin 2o2
Social & Policy Innovation in the Obama Admin 2o2 (Photo credit: dpict.info)

I’m hoping to try something different at our next teacher PD session.  Our PLNs are essential. We have used them for the past three years.  Our teachers meet in grade or subject-based groups and plan their learning throughout the year.  At our upcoming consolidation session, we are going to attempt our first ‘blogging party’.

Rather than have the teachers present their findings orally, we are going to ask them to create a blog so that they can share their learning with the world!

To make this a bit easier, we are planning to teach them how to create a simple blog.  Audience is everything, we really want our teachers to share their great work with professionals around the world.

Our blogging party will be May 2nd.  We will post using the hash tags #ocsb and #bloggingparty.  Please comment, this will be a great motivator for our teachers!!

 

DGM Triad Evidence of Learning Document

Consolidation 2014

 

Tell your story or someone will tell it for you

@NMHS_Principal

 

How to set up your blog

 

1.  Go to https://www.blogger.com – you all have a blogger account as one of your Google tools.  Take a look at this OCSB Teacher blog run through Learning Connectionshttp://ocsblc.blogspot.ca/

 

2.  Click on the ‘new blog’ button on your dashboard.  You will then see a collection of templates to choose from.  You will also be prompted to choose a title for your triad blog.  Try something catchy!  Remember, ultimately your blog may be read around the world!!  Your will also get your address – please bookmark this! (good time to try Symbaloo)  Don’t worry if you have to come up with a temporary address to move on, your can change it in Settings after – your address is important, you want something as simple as possible – I am using triaddgmjunior.blogspot.com

 

3.  That’s it!  You have a name, a template you are ready for your first post!

a sample blog you can use!
a sample blog you can use!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  The rest is just a matter of trial and (a bit of) error!

Blogger  DGM   Edit post

5.  Try to set your blog up now!!

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Teacher professional development

IMG_20140416_103013

 

This morning I had a chance to sit in on the junior math triad at our school.  The triad is made up of three schools – St. Gregory, St. Daniel and St. Monica.  The teachers in each triad meet throughout the year and set their own learning goals as the year progresses.  These learning goals become the basis of our school improvement plan.

I believe that this is a very powerful model for professional development.  It puts the teacher in the driving seat and shows due respect to the adult learner.

I try to sit in on as many triad meetings as possible and I always find their conversations really interesting.  Because the teachers set their own learning goals and decide when they are going to meet to work on their own inquiries there is continuous discovery based on the evidence gathered from student work.

I have been fortunate enough to work with this group throughout the school year.  They have been working on a continuing inquiry on the use of math journals as a way to introduce and reinforce math concepts.

math inquiry
The rectangle and the parallelogram – a student reflection on learning.

If we continue to solidify students’ ability to communicate about math through the use of math journals with support through conferencing, then they should be able to demonstrate their learning through oral or written responses using math language..

current math inquiry goal – junior math

At this point, the teachers are reflecting on what they have learned this year and where they want to go in the future.  Reading through the math journals, it is very interesting to see how the students reflect on what they are learning.  The teachers shared some of these reflections with me and I am posting them here.

The junior triad is now exploring how the journalling, especially the reflections can lead to more sophisticated student inquiry.  They have learned that the ground for inquiry needs to be carefully prepared before jumping into one.  The math journals, leading to individual student reflection on learning is a great way to do this.

d81196ca4cab11e3b2e91251caec0405_8

 

 

The wonderful thing about the triad teacher inquiry process is that teachers choose what they want to learn based on the needs of their students.  They all record their learning in an Evidence of Learning document that gets updated every time they meet.  Ultimately, their inquiries become the basis for our school improvement plan.

For me, the most interesting teacher reflection throughout this process has to do with how their inquiries has changed their teaching practice.  We added this question this year after reading Intentional Interruptions by Steven Katz.  Katz states that every time teachers embark on a new ‘doing’, they need to reflect on some key questions.  One of these questions asks teachers to reflect on how any new initiative will deepen their professional  understanding such that teacher practice changes. (pg 78)

This is how the junior teachers answered this question:

Where to next?  Now what?

“The journals have shown us that explicit teaching prior to, or in combination with, inquiry allows for more success.  We need to fill the student’s toolboxes with concepts and strategies before we can expect them to be confident in problem based inquiry.  Confidence is one of the most important tools for students to be successful!

We have also learned that the journals have built in differentiation for all the learning styles in the classroom with the flexibility and creativity allowed in the reflection piece.

 

We will definitely continue the Math journal into next year.  Where possible, the students remaining in the school will have their journals passed on to the coming teacher and continued on from there (teacher discretion). We hope to take the explicit teaching in the journals and use it to strengthen the students’ inquiry skills.

Possibility for next year are some shortcuts for the kids who have a difficult time with copying or concepts, for example having the curriculum learning goals pre-typed, having some of the interactive tools photocopied, creating alternative interactive tools based on student needs.

More conferencing needed.”

Really interesting to see concrete examples of teacher learning taking off once they are given the autonomy to try out new concepts on their own!

 

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Week 22: Differentiation…for staff? #SAVMP Feb 10

“Supporting teachers begins with knowing that we should meet their individual needs in their own learning and growth. We no longer can be ok with the status quo, or a one size fits all mentality when it comes to PD. As the leader, it is up to you ensure that each educator has what they need in order to be the very best that they can be in their classroom.”

If you really want teachers to take professional development seriously, you have to let them set their own agenda.

This seems to be difficult for many leaders to accept.  I think it is the most basic of questions – what do you want to learn – and with that – how can I best support you.

 If we teach social skills to a target group then will we see an increase in self-regulation and positive social interactions outside of the classroom, within the target group (s).

resource teacher triad

 I have written about this before and I welcome the opportunity to do it again for the #SAVMP blog. It is more by accident than design that we started using a model that allows teachers to set their own agenda for professional learning. Three years ago the principals in our group (triad) decided to do our school improvement planning together.

It was hard to figure out at first – none of us had ever done this before, there was no model or guide to follow. I think one of the most important elements was, and continues to be the support we received from the school board. This was new to them too, but they were willing to let us try this new model out.

Over the past three years the teams have changed and we have learned a great deal. We still plan together and we have gotten a lot better at recording our learning. We have a great respect for the inquiry approach and have followed the learning stance of our board that encourages teachers to ask questions about how students learn.

If we continue to solidify their ability to communicate about math through the use of math journals in support with conferencing, then they should be able to demonstrate their learning.

grade 4,5,6 math inquiry

Teachers now keep a running record of their inquiries in a Google Drive document called Evidence of Learning. I am drawing inquiry statements from this document for today’s blog. This document allows the principals in our group to have a good understanding of what teachers are working on.  With an app called Kaizena, we can actually leave audio comments for each group in their evidence of learning section.

There nothing cooler than being able to talk about the learning plans of teachers in three schools!  As principals, we are active participants in the learning, but the teachers are in control of the process.

Having said that, I really feel an obligation to keep a careful record of what they are learning this term. I was able to do some of this last term and I have blogged about some of the really interesting work the math and French teachers were doing. Now I really need to get the rest of the groups!

Through the month of April, I should be able to meet with most of the groups and add the results of their inquiries to the blog!

Through this process, we feel we are giving the teachers the opportunity to set their own agenda.  We will continue to do this and teachers will continue to learn and grow.  I think this is the very best that we can do for the teachers we work with.

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Teacher Team inquiries

Stephen Katz emphasizes that the adult learning that takes place in a school should
be directly connected to student need – “Given that we have evidence to suggest X
is the most urgent student learning need, what does that suggest is the most urgent
teacher learning need? And from there, what is the most urgent leader learning
need?” (Leaders in Educational Thought, 2013). Student learning is the catalyst for
educator learning and “forms the essential material” of professional inquiry (Capacity
Building Series – Collaborative Teacher Inquiry).
Capacity Building Series :  Dynamic Learning

Our triad teams – three schools – St. Daniel, St. Gregory and St. Monica are starting on our second round of inquiries.  My goal this term is to do a better job of documenting the work that the triads do.  Each group was given a half day last week to review the inquiry from the first term and come up with a new inquiry for the second half of the year.


The videos here are my attempt to capture some of the learning that is happening within the groups.  I am hoping to record the work of some of the groups as the term progresses.

Triad teams working together
Triad teams working together

“If we teach social skills to a target group then will we see an increase in self-regulation and positive social interactions outside of the classroom, within the target group (s).”

special education inquiry

What is most important to the teachers and principals of the triad schools is that we are in charge of the learning.  When teachers are able to create their own inquiries, they are the ones setting the agenda, they are the ones who develop the ideas for inquiry.  As principals, our job is to facilitate this learning process and make sure that a good record is kept of the results of these inquiries. These inquiries and the findings of the teachers then become the basis for our school improvement plan.

“If we use a graphic organizer to introduce descriptive writing, then the students will be able to write short descriptive paragraphs related to various different areas of the curriculum.”

grade 1-2 inquiry – term two 

Reflect / Discern  Analysis / Assess

How does this change our teaching practice?   What have we learned and discovered? Where to next?  Now what?

It taught us to take our time and move at the students’ pace. It also made us allow time for reflection on new concepts before moving on to something else.  Allows for time to consolidate student learning in more depth than the standard 3 part math lessons.  Looking at the “proof” and “reflection” sections really shows which students are ready to move on and which are not. We are also taking the time to produce quality work with the students rather than simply quantity to get  through the curriculum.

taken from ‘evidence of learning document’ created by grade 4,5,6 teachers’ math inquiry

Over time, we have been able to reach some conclusions:

  • teachers who set their own learning goals are much more motivated to learn
  • teachers are able to clearly indicate inquiry goals and key learnings based on these inquiries
  • over time, a much wider variety of evidence is being used to document learning
  • communication tools like Google Drive and Google+ are indispensable tools that drive deeper collaboration
  • as principals, we have a much better understanding of what learning is going on in our schools

This is an important process to document, as a firm believer in this process I will devote more time this term to keeping a good, visual record here on this blog of the work that will be going on.

It will be an exciting journey!

Research shows that teachers working together to support children’s
learning is an effective means of teacher professional development.7,8,9
Professional learning communities (PLCs) facilitate knowledge sharing
and collaboration – often with experts in the area – to support teacher
professional learning.10 Features of effective PLCs include job-embedded
learning, group meetings held during the workweek and use of technology.11
What Works?  Research into practice Research monograph #46
students working on math journals - part of the grade 4-5-6 math inquiry
students working on math journals – part of the grade 4-5-6 math inquiry
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Collaboration and communication between students

We are now all familiar with the concept of the 4 C’s and their importance in preparing students for the future.  As educators, we need to look for examples of how teachers are facilitating these skills every day.Here is an activity recorded in gym today that shows how students in primary and junior can communicate and collaborate together to learn a new skill and at the same time cooperate in the use of precious gym time!

While the graphic represents each element distinctly for descriptive purposes, P21 views all the components as fully interconnected in the process of 21st century teaching and learning.
While the graphic represents each element distinctly for descriptive purposes, P21 views all the components as fully interconnected in the process of 21st century teaching and learning.

From Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Communicate Clearly

  • Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts
  • Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions
  • Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate and persuade)
  • Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact
  • Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multi-lingual)

Collaborate with Others

  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

Our grade 5’s working collaboratively with the grade 1 and 2 students.

Teacher collaboration project – Math journals

journal

I have written briefly about one of the teacher collaboration inquiries that has been going on in our three schools.  In this post, the teachers have written an explanation of their work so far.  I am hoping that more of our teacher groups will do the same so we can post their work on this blog.

These rest of this entry is written by Teresa Zappavigna, one of the teacher triad members.

Our Triad team came together in early October to determine an area of focus for our students in our junior grades.  After examining EQAO scores, last year’s records, and our personal running records to date, our next steps became quite evident.  The attitude toward math and in particular, problem solving, needed to be addressed. Many times, students have the skills, but are thrown by the math language.  Students needed to find a tool to help students break down math  problems (scaffold their thinking) in order to understand:  “What do I know?”; “What do I need to know?”;  and “How can I help solve the problem/ What strategies can I use?”. A tool was introduced by our partners from St. Daniel’s.  They were in the process of working on interactive Math journals which help guide a student’s problem- solving process and encourages them to demonstrate their understanding of new math concepts in a personal and creative way (through re-enactment, art, poetry, music, crossword puzzles, etc.,).  Our intention is that if we explicitly teach problem solving strategies and provide opportunities for students to prove, explain and reflect on their learning in Math journals, then students will have more success in explaining their thinking while problem solving.  By allowing students the opportunity to express themselves creatively (be it literacy, numeracy, arts, verbal, kinesthetic, tactile,) we hope to make math fun for students who shy away from math.

We are still in the process of developing a routine using these journals with our students.  Our observations so far have been positive.  Students have been eager to share their rap songs, cartoons etc with the class and are often asking the teachers if we will be working on our “journals today”.  The atmosphere is changing and we hope to continue these “brag books” as a tool to help students develop efficient problem solving strategies.

Video of a student conference…Please watch both (one is the continuation of the other) In this video, teachers can see the importance of conferencing with students on their journals, EVEN if the student puts a GREEN traffic light on the activity. He or she might not fully understand the concept. The example is a student working on Place Value activities.

samples and photos from the teacher inquiry

 

math journal - grade 4

 

Sample of a grade 4 journal – this is a collaborative project in grades 4, 5, and 6 being carried out in three schools