31 Days of posting

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This week marks my final week in formal education as a principal.  This is my 31st year in education and I retire this Friday.

It is with mixed feelings that I leave, but it is time for new adventures and most importantly, it is time for some reflection.

What have I learned over the past 31 years?  I need to begin the process of sorting that out.

I want to do this through blogging because I find that writing really helps me to clarify my ideas and helps me consolidate my learning.  The pace of the day in our school – in any school is simply too hectic to allow time for proper reflection.

So, starting in the new year (taking a break for Christmas), I will be writing 31 blog posts on some of the things I have learned and am learning about education.  I see this as a great way to begin the process of renewal, by reflecting on what has gone on and what the future holds.

Topics?  Not sure, but I am sure a whole bunch will come to me.  I am open to ideas.  If you can think of something I should write about, let me know and I will give it a go.

For now, here’s to 31 great years and to whatever the future holds!

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Poverty in the schools – we are not all created equal

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Today was a good day.  We connected two of our community partners together and maybe now we will have a cooking class for our students after school – great!

 

I am a principal at a wonderful inner-city school in Ottawa, Canada.  We have a high immigrant population and many of our families live in poverty.  On our own, we don’t have much.

 

I am not complaining – it’s just that life in a poor school is so incredibly different from other schools, schools that are not much more than 20 minutes away.

 

Most people don’t see Ottawa as a city that has lots of poverty, and to be very honest, I didn’t really understand the level of poverty that exists in our city until I became principal of this school two years ago.

 

So, what does this mean?  First, there is no equity.  Some schools in our city can raise as much as $30,000.00 a year by fundraising projects and student fees.  We get a stipend at the beginning of the year that represents about 20% of our overall budget and of course, we can’t fundraise.

 

To be successful in a school like this, you need to become a community activist.  You attend brown bag lunch sessions with community service providers, you reach out to every community agency in the area, you never turn down something that is offered to your school for free.

 

You also become an expert fundraiser.  Over the past two years, we have raised over $150,000.00 through fundraisers run by our community and by winning one very generous national fundraising competition.

 

All this takes a tremendous amount of work.  The results are very gratifying, but even with grants there are strings attached.  Well over 90% of the money we have raised goes to environmental projects.  Again,  this is not a complaint, that money is enough to rebuild our dilapidated schoolyard.

 

However, we need money for sports equipment, software licenses, computers, recreational and arts programming and good winter clothing.  There are very few grants for items like these and that’s a problem.

 

What do we do?  We keep looking for opportunities.  Every child in our school from grade 3-6 has their own laptop – this is essential as many families do not have a computer so these machines go home every night and help families stay connected.

 

We get free swimming lessons and even free music lessons from the Orkidstra program.  We have a great program called Rec Link that works to link families up to free or inexpensive recreation programs in our community.  We even have a wonderful summer camp that takes at least ten to fifteen of our students for overnights throughout the year.

 

What does this all mean?  To work in a poor school, you have to be an advocate, you have to reach out to everyone, you sometimes have to be a bulldog.  But if you don’t do this, who will?

 

Is there equity in education?  Not a chance.  Whose fault is this – I leave that for you to decide. Am I complaining?  No, just acting and connecting every day.

Call for Presenters!

Discovery

university of Ottawa

University of Ottawa: Teacher Education Program

“ Minds on Learning for a Digital Age”

September 16 & 17, 2016

Call to Presenters

 

The Teacher Education Program at the University of Ottawa are thrilled to host two days of professional learning that are focused on three goals: Learning, Sharing, and Connecting for a Digital Age.

 

  • Friday, September 16, 2016- 8:30 am -3:30 pm– Professional Learning for Lead Associate Teachers and teacher candidates.
  • Friday, September 16, 2016- 5:30-7:30 pm– Ignite Event
  • Saturday, September 17, 2016- 8:30 am -3:30 pmDay of Discovery presented by Discovery Education

 

We would like to invite you to lead or host a 45 minute-long workshop, presentation, hands on activity or demonstration at the upcoming professional learning event on September 16 and 17, 2016. As a presenter, you will work with groups of educators to explore and share ways to integrate digital media and technology tools into the curriculum and classroom. You might share how you integrate digital media resources into your lessons, share a favorite project or app or anything else you think our attendees would be interested to learn about (like digital citizenship, STEM, Coding…). Your workshop could be done individually, in teams, or in coordination with a community organization.

 

If you are interested, please submit a brief proposal for your presentation by May 31, 2016, by sending an email totcrowe@uottawa.ca with the following information:

 

  • Your name, association, and contact information
  • A short description of the workshop/breakout session you would like to present
  • The teacher division most appropriate for your workshop (Primary/Junior, Junior/Intermediate, Intermediate/Senior, or all)
  • The number of participants will be capped at 30 participants
  • Your technology/room requirements (laptop, smart board, projector, etc)
  • Your availability: (please list all that apply)
    • September 16, 2016- morning or afternoon or both
    • September 16, 2016– Ignite Event
    • September 17, 2016– morning or afternoon or both

If you are interested in presenting at the Day of Discovery event could you also register at Day of Discovery

 

For more information, please contact the symposium planning committee at tcrowe@uottawa.ca.

 

We look forward to hearing from and working with you.

Have a great day.

Tracy Crowe

Directrice adjointe, Assistant Director

Teacher Education

Faculté d’éducation/ Faculty of Education

tracy.crowe@uottawa.ca

Tél. | Tel. : 613-562-5800 (4149)

Téléc | Fax : 613-562-5354
145, Jean-Jacques-Lussier (341)

Ottawa ON Canada K1N 6N5

www.education.uOttawa.ca

 

ECOO 2014 Some of what I learned – part II

I was really struck by the keynote by Ron Canuel.  I have never heard him before, but I could listen to him all day.  What great ideas!

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Here are some of my notes and my thoughts since then -the italics are my comments tonight.

Impressive But not convincing – this was the name of the talk

Technology and integration into the classroom – this was the key point – technology is great, but how is it implemented?  This should be the major challenge for the administrator
If teachers are not on board, nothing happens. Average number of teachers a child will see K-12 is 55. Teachers have an enormous challenge.

You want to move an agenda forward? Surround yourself with people more intelligent and talented than you – to really move things ahead. A good note for all admin

CEA – Transforming Education – research-based , best practices based organization. We do not  base practice on solid research – this is what we need to do. Join us!  Excellent point – what research do we have to know that we are doing the right thing?  What really is effective, what do we really know?

 

Domains that we need to focus on:

Student engagementyes, but what about parent engagement
• Teaching the way we aspire to teach
• Challenges to change – a keynote in itself – covered very well by  George Couros’ keynote on the Friday
• Effective integration of technology into classrooms – what is effective? Nothing worse than bringing tech into the classroom and doing the same old thing.
• Neuroscience and the classroom
Technology that is transformational –

Students and teachers have done great things with chalk, pencil, etc technology is a portal to the imagination – who is on the other side – the student. What an important point!

Tech is not a tool – it is a portal to students – a really good point, we can’t see our new technology as ‘just another tool’ it is so much more than that!

“The more you trust teachers and decrease regulation achievement goes up”  What a great point – do boards listen to this , does the province consider this?

“The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge”
Seymor Papert – this is the basic idea that motivates the work we are  doing on Makerspaces

Constructivism, Technology and the Future of classroom Learning – – quote on change in teaching methods http://ww.alicechristie.org/classes/530/constructivism.pdf
technological changes that have swept through society at large have left the educational system largely unchanged. In the course of 20 years, a dramatic rift has opened between the process of teaching and learning in the schools and the ways of obtaining knowledge in society at large, a rift made obvious by the fact that the process of teaching has not changed substantially, even in the past 100 years everything that you do has to be in moderation – it has to be in balance – 10% effective integration over 90% mindless implementation

Four common strategies from resistors of change: John Kotter Phi Delta Kappa magazine Dec 2010/Jan 2011

• Fear mongering eg. Wifi is harmful
• Death by delay eg. Pilot projects – what happened to that idea? Piloting create a very specific base of teachers trained – what happens when they move? We have to train the base, not jus a specific group of teachers.
• Confusion eg. Media focus
Early adoption – we have to see, how will it transform practice?

Blaming current technology on declining relationships in schools is disingenuous, to say the least – totally agree – technology connects people, helps kids to collaborate

Machines have nothing to do about encouraging positive relationships – this is what the teacher does.

We are in a structure that was created in 1894 and 1895 – designed to mimic the industrial system at the time.  When will we finally act on this and change our structures??

Students value teachers more on who they are than by what they say.

Learning how to think differently is what is important

Are students engaged? Rapid decrease from grade 5 to grade 10 –we need to change this, why are students not engaged – a question for all of us.

No courage = no change

Early adaptors don’t convince mid-adaptors do –what a key point!

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Creating a makerspace – what are the next steps?

We are working our way through the steps we will need to create a makerspace or innovation center at our school.  This week, I was asked to respond to a number of questions that may allow us to get some funding for this project.  I am adapting my responses into a blog post to keep a record of the steps we will need to complete to come up with a successful model.

What you are trying to accomplish

We want to develop a center for innovation at St. Anthony School.

Every day more is written about makerspaces and the benefits these centers offer students. We have experimented with Makey Makey kits and littleBits in the past, but now we want to take a more comprehensive approach.

Our idea is to create a center for innovation in our school for the use of our students and the wider community. The components of this center are certainly up for discussion, but the important idea is to create a space for creativity and innovation in our school and a concept that can be shared with other schools in the years to come.

 

How will  integrating “making” into the classroom contribute to developing a new culture of learning?

This is a segment from the first blog post I read on Maker Spaces written by Eric Sheninger, the author of Digital Leadership.  This is the post that got me first thinking about how to develop a makerspace in the school.

Over the past couple of months, the staff at New Milford High School has been diligently creating our own unique learning environments for our students. Building on the success of our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative and with the addition of a new, innovative staff member two noteworthy advancements have been made since September 2013. That new staff member is Laura Fleming and she has done nothing less than blaze a trail since joining the NMHS team. She embraced the autonomy that she was given in a position that functions as a librarian, media specialist, and educational technology integrator to push the envelop. Lucky for her, NMHS already had many innovative teachers on staff and students yearning for changes in how and where they can learn since NMHS is an ancient building (i.e. 1928).

LED stools at the Little Bits bar at NMHS
LED stools at the Little Bits bar at NMHS

Creating Our Own Unique Learning Environments

One of the most amazing transformations that has taken place at NMHS is the creation of the Makerspace in what was our traditional library. A space that could once be compared to a barren wasteland is now a thriving learning metropolis where students flock to tinker, invent, create, collaborate, work, and most importantly, learn. When I hired Laura I basically told her what her budget was and that she had complete control of how she wanted to use the money. I could never have imagined how quickly she could radically transform this outdated space, using money that in the past had always been spent on books, magazines, and electronic databases. Some quick highlights include the following:

 

For a comprehensive listing of important articles on Makerspaces, Luc Lalande from the University of Ottawa – one of our partners – has provided these reference articles:

 The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism

Meet the Makers

The DIY ethos has spilled into schools, reminding educators how much students can learn when they use their hands.

The maker empowered student: Activating agency with a sensitivity to design

What can educators learn from the maker movement?

Innovation Spaces: Supporting individual actionmaker 2

Maker Education: A “Good” 2013-14 Educational Trend

Why the Maker Movement matters to educators

3D Printing Will Be Adopted by K-12 in 5 Years

I would add another article that I read today:

 How to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven

one quote from the article:

 

Kids want to make an impact on the world and very often they are more motivated by contributing to the common good than to anything else. Many kids will design and build incredible things, but then put their templates online so someone else can improve on it. Those are the qualities educators should try to nurture in students. “All we have to do is open up the classroom doors a little bit and let them change the world,” Martinez said. “Because they want to.”

 

 What is the value of the project to kids & community?

The most important idea is empowerment, this is expressed best in the Mind/Shift article:

“Perhaps one of the most inspiring results of the Maker Movement is the creative confidence young people are developing. “The best thing that happens is a student completely exceeds your expectations,” Martinez said. And when students do things they didn’t realize they could do, they feel empowered.”

Who are your  partners?

This is one of the great joys of this project – we are bringing people together from many different sectors – there is a great creative synergy within this group!

Luc Lalande – Director of University of Ottawa Entrepreneurship Hub

Tracy Crowe – Assistant Director, University of Ottawa Faculty of Education

Marlaina Loveys – Blockheads Learning

Allison Burnett – Algonquin College

Rick Alexanderson – St. Peter High School Personal Robot Teaching Environment

 

The link to the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education is especially important as we are expecting to recruit student teachers who want to work on and develop the innovation center at St. Anthony.

One important idea – we feel we will need a Maker Week to introduce this concept to teachers and students. Our partners will help us to develop a ‘Maker Week’ where various aspects of maker culture are introduced to students and staff over a five-day period.

One of our partners, Marlaina Loveys has come up with a wonderful way to jump start our Maker Week:

I have been giving some thought to what type of fun event we could do to get everyone excited about the Innovation Centre.  I would like to propose that we select a theme – LEGO Stop Action Movies.

I am envisioning each class have the opportunity to be inspired by previewing some LEGO stop action movies (I can pull together a bunch from You Tube) then the teachers/students (I would love to be there too 🙂 brainstorm to decide on a theme or ideas for their Stop Action Movies.  I would provide all the LEGO for a hands on activity where they build the scenes and we could use the school IPads and either the LEGO movies, Stop Motion or Windows Movie Maker software (all free) to create the movies.

watching lego movies?
watching lego movies?

Then, we could have a school movie “night” where the whole school could watch the movies.  We could incorporate a lot of other maker/entrepreneurial activities into the movie night event.  For example:

  • Students create posters and tickets for the event
  • Make it a drive in theatre theme and use cardboard boxes for students to create cars.  Goes with the idea Allison had about cardboard creation.  I will send a separate e-mail with some pics I found on Pinterest of these types of creations others have made.
  • Maker Junior – maybe she could come up with some sort of wiring/lighting maker project to add to the movie night
  • Concession stand to sell popcorn/juice, etc. which could be an entrepreneurial project for the older students which links back with Luc

These are the kind of ideas that will make this such a special project!

I will continue to use this blog to record the progress we are making towards the innovation center.  What, I wonder will be the next step?

 

 

 

 

 

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Our first Edcamp

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one of three workshops put on for our first Edcamp

How can we possibly find the time to give teachers opportunities to learn about new technology?  There is no question that we need to find a way to change the way we deliver PD.  Teacher learning needs to be embedded and easily accessible so that everyone can keep up with all the changes being brought on through Google, Apple, chromebooks and apps apps apps!

We are experimenting with a version of the edcamp model. To do this, I gave over our regular meeting time (once per month) and allowed teachers to sign up for three 20 minute workshops.  Fortunately, we had three staff members who were willing to present.

I don’t think this is how a regular edcamp would work, but we were dealing with limited time and no more than 15 staff.

The model needs some work, but based on the staff comments (below) I am already convinced that it is a good idea to give up staff meeting time on a regular basis so that we can build a stronger learning culture here at our school.

Really enjoyed the round robin of activities. Small groups work well

Snacks were amazing. Time was perfect.

IEP info was very useful. Symbaloo was interesting. Vine was neat but 7seconds is very short for a video.

Love the idea of these mini workshops as a staff meeting. It doesn’t even have to necessarily be technology related. Could grade partner meeting time be part of it?

Sometimes we get so busy and we’re communicating in a rush, so extra time would be great. 

Very good. Just enough time.Timing good, more specific programs, eg, great spelling or writing app. Went smoothly. Time frame was sufficient: quick, to the point and gave us enough info to understand program/ app should we decide to explore further. Thanks to presenters

Timing good, more specific programs, eg, great spelling or writing app. Went smoothly.

Time frame was sufficient: quick, to the point and gave us enough info to understand program/ app should we decide to explore further.

Thanks to presenters

 

here is the original google form we used to get ideas from the teachers

and… here are some of the learning needs we still need to work on – based on teacher response.

  • Kid Blog Edmodo
  • top 5 math apps –
  • top 5 reading apps –
  • top 5 presentation apps
  • symbaloo
  • Interesting apps or software.
  • Technology for non-readers
  • How to be more interactive with Smartboard
  • Not sure How to effectively use twitter in the classroom.
  • Time to explore google/apple apps.
  • how to integrate technology when you don’t have enough computers/ipads for the whole class
  • making mini-movies using the imovie app (I think that’s what it is called)
  • how to save youtube videos to use off-line
  • Using Lucid Chart, Read Write for Google

What a terrific list!  Time to plan our next edcamp

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Future@Now Conference – Discovery Education Conference

picture of an e-learning classroom
picture of an e-learning classroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some of the notes I took from the one day Discovery Education conference.  The record has been supplemented by tweets from #futurenow.  Some of the sessions were quite short, so I don’t have great notes for some really interesting speakers!  I will try to supplement them later as I find more material.

How do we implement a plan for creating a digital transformation? That is the theme for today.

First session – The Call to Action – Student Speak – how digital learning is impacting the lives of students.(trying to upload this!)

Dr David Dance – Superintendent  Baltimore County Public Schools @DDance_BCPS

  • conversion starts with engaging community. “Build a case for the urgency of now”
  • If the infrastructure is not there this is not going to work –
  • really makes sure they have strong partners in the community
  • Lighthouse schools – application to become school labs – teachers need to vote to become a Lighthouse school
  • digital transformation started with elementary!!
  • digital conversation is about making edication individualized for all students
  • we have to build cultures where risk taking is part of the culture
  • status quo is not acceptable – we only get one chace to work with our children
  • our goal – to deveop students who can compete on a global level
  • School districts need to partner with groups like Discovery Ed to plan the transition
  • Technology allows students to take responsibility for their learning
  • Our world is digital. Schools can no longer ignore this fact…our students need opportunities to excel in the digital world.
  • The cost for infrastructure should not be so unattainable and exorbitant that the implementation of digital learning is halted

US Representative George Miller – Senior Democrat House Education and Workforce Committee

We are making that transition to digital schools by bringing students, teachers, parents and the community on side.

“There’s a magnificent bonfire [of education innovation] burning across this country.”

The achevement gap does not have to be a constant – we are inspiring education in and outside of the school through new initiatives

Universal access for ALL students to online resources is critical to successfully transition to new educ paradigm

Politicians can take ownership of the system so that we can get the resources we need in our schools!

live audience at Furure@Now conference

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Digital Transformation – panel discussion

How do you measure success in implementation?

  • “Measures of success? Funding Infrastructure and finding innovative ways to inspire”
  • other meaures? Accelerating outcomes for all students
  • looking also to ‘repurpose’ our spending. Difficult to do since the vast majority of spending is on staff
  • a case can be built for ‘if we don’t spend it now, we will spend it later’ – investing in our students
  • centralize spending on technology to allow for bulk buying discounts
  • have to demonstrate our early wins so that we can leverage what we are learning to allow for future investment (Lighthouse Schools)

Chris Kennedy @chrkennedy – next speaker – Superintendent of Schools – West Vancouver

  • OWN IT, ACTIVATE IT, ENGAGE WITH IT. I say ALL parties should do ALL. You gain a wealth of ideas,creativity, & henceforth
  • Conversations over BYOD is the wrong conversation.  If we are spending time talking about digital, there is probably a conversation on education we need to have first.
  • if your community is fighting about digital there’s conversation missing–should be about learning!

Chris’ full presentation can be found here

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