Why attend major conferences

Every once and awhile I am able to make it to major conferences either here in Canada or in the US.  Last week, I attended the FETC Conference in chilly Orlando Florida and have just spent two hours with John Sowash on Google and the Paperless Classroom.

 

FETC 1.png

 

on the first day, I attended a three-hour session on Makerspaces, MaKey Makey and eTextiles.  Later I will be attending a session on filmmaking in the classroom.  All this at the preconference!

 

my attempt at eTextiles

We really need to attend these conferences if we want to move learning in our schools.  As a principal, I am very fortunate to be able to attend a major conference every two years.  I have always taken advantage of this opportunity and I have always learned a great deal to bring back to my school.

 

Conferences also gets the creative juices flowing.  My to do list just from this morning includes learning Pear Deck, arranging a workshop on Hapara and connecting again with Discovery Education.  Not bad for the first two hours!

 

Creativity and innovation are the lifeblood of education.  Educators need the opportunity to share and exchange information as often as possible.  Twitter is a great help, but there is nothing like a real, live conference to really get the creative juices flowing.

 

This is a great place to connect as well.  Many of the people I follow on Twitter are here, Richard Byrne (Free Technology for teachers) and George Couros (The Innovator’s Mindset) are both here as keynote speakers.  The chance to see these educators live and possibly talk with them is exciting – my version of attending a Rock concert!

 

This may seem a little nerdy, but these conferences really revive my love for innovation in education.  The workshops fuel me with ideas that we can try back at our school.  Conferences fuel my desire to write and share with as many educators as possible.  I even present at some of these conferences and was briefly on the organizing committee for one in Ontario, Canada.

 

I should probably be doing more of this sort of work, but I am happy to attend and share right now.

 

As we get ready for our next workshop, I am meeting people from all over the States and Canada. I have talked to the presenter who I know can help us propel our makerspace to the next level.  

 

My job – just share everything!

FETC 2.jpg

The Innovator’s Mindset – It’s all about Relationships

We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings.  As leaders, it is our sole responsibility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organization together.  As employees or members of the group, we need the courage to take care of each other when leaders don’t.  And in doing so, we become the leaders we wish we had.

Simon Sinek (pg. 67)

In chapter Four of The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros starts out with this quote and I think it sums up the message of this chapter.  So far, George has defined innovation and its essential elements.  In this chapter, he begins writing about laying the groundwork for innovation in an organization.  We all want to either be in or lead innovative organizations, but how common are these organizations?  How do we move from having ‘pockets of innovation’ to an organization where innovation is accepted and encouraged?

You can’t make innovation happen by stuffing the newest concept down the throats of your teachers.  This may encourage compliance, but it hardly encourages people to try new things, take risks and think outside of the box.

People need to know that their ideas will be valued, that they will be protected and that they live in a culture of ‘yes’ rather than in an environment where innovation is actually feared.

What a bizarre concept!  Fearing the innovative spirit because it may put more pressure on others in the organization or that it will raise expectations beyond what is considered reasonable.  When we create an atmosphere where we are most concerned about managing people we discourage innovation and stifle creativity.

This would not be acceptable in a classroom, so why would it be considered appropriate for a school or a system?

Still, we have all been in situations where ‘no’ is the norm.  No means the status quo or it means that one person’s ideas matter more than anyone else’s.

What we need to focus on are relationships.  We need to trust the people we work with and let them know that their ideas will find acceptance and understanding.  As George writes, “…we need to strive to create a “culture of yes.”  When trust is the norm and people know they are supported, taking chances seems less “risky” – for learners, educators, and leaders.” (pg. 73)

I totally agree with this approach.  Our job as leaders is to develop positive relationships with our staff so that new ideas have a voice and teachers are confident that their ideas are being listened to.  We need to be the spark, build confidence, then get out of the way. (pg. 78)

Why do we so often feel that we need to be the ones leading the change?  Why is our opinion so much more important than the collective? How do we limit the imaginations of our teachers managing the change process in our schools?  I really have no idea, but I do know that this approach stifles innovation and creativity.

Last week I watched a video on a Google experimentation lab.  The video is amazing, so I have included it here.  Basically, the idea behind the lab is to try new ideas without the normal institutional restraints.  If failure is going to happen, the members of the lab are actually encouraged to ‘fail faster’ so they can move on to some other new idea.  When you watch the video is clear there is mutual respect amongst the members of the team and all ideas and notions are valued by the group.  

What would it be like if we ran our schools even a little bit like this lab?  What would we be able to create?

Technology – SAMR for Administrators The Edutopia series

Google
Google (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)

I have started reading a really interesting series by Josh Work – a guest blogger on Edutopia.  The series is focused on what tools administrators can use to keep up with their teachers and the use of technology.  I think this will be a terrific series.  In my experience, teachers are far ahead of administrators in their use of technology.  If we are going to be good role models to the teachers on staff, we need to get much better at using technology.

My hope is that the move to modification and redefinition (SAMR) will also influence how information is delivered to us at the district level.  That is a major topic in itself!

Josh Work is using the SAMR model as the basis for all of his work.  I think it is a reasonable expectation that administrators move through the SAMR continuum from substitution to redefinition.

In his first post, Work writes about staff presentations and how administrators can improve their communication with staff.

What a great topic to start with!

There are so many great tools we can now use to communicate more effectively with staff.  Are you still stuck using e-mail as your only communication tool?  It is really time to move on.

Before moving to any particular tool, Work makes a great point – time is a precious commodity for any school staff and we need to really examine if there are other ways to convey information beyond the traditional (yawn) staff meeting.

Work concentrates on Google Apps for Education (GAFE) which, in my opinion, is certainly the way to go.

So, what can administrators use to communicate more effectively?  Agendas can be circulated before the meeting using Google Drive.  Work also mentions that administrators can get good feedback from staff by using Google Forms or by hosting a Google Hangout to enrich communication with staff.

I agree, all these tools can really help keep the flow of information moving.  I use Google Drive to post a working copy of our agenda a week before the staff meeting.  All staff have access to the document and anyone can add an agenda item to the document right up to meeting time.  The rule is, if you can post on Drive then your item will be part of the agenda.  I then try to get away from paper copies of the final agenda.  We can then edit the agenda as the meeting goes on so that we have an annotated agenda recorded in Drive by the end of the meeting.

We also use Google Forms on a regular basis to survey staff on a number of issues – some of the best information I have received from staff members has come from these surveys.

We use Google Groups as our staff e-mail conference.  It is a good interactive tool that allows staff to communicate effectively.  The membership is controlled by an administrator and it is a closed, secure system.  It is very easy to use, I am moving to a new school in September and most of the staff in my new school are already using this tool to communicate with other staff members!

Google + is an amazing collaboration tool that we have used in the past.  We are using the Communities feature to connect special collaborative teams between schools.  This tool took a bit of time to catch on, but it a terrific way for educators to keep in touch, especially when sharing information between schools.

As administrators, we need to take a lead role by trying out these tools.  It is no longer excusable for an administrator to say they are not ‘comfortable’ with the use of technology.  It is part of our job to be risk-takers and try out new forms of communication.  If we try these tools, staff members will be encouraged to do the same.

My next challenge is to try out Nearpod.  This tool is suggested by Work – I don’t know anything about it, but I feel obliged to give it a try.  It may or may not be useful, but I need to at least check it out.

I hope all administrators read this series and then make a serious attempt to adopt new communication tools in advance of the next school year.

Then we can start work on the district!

Next – Community Interaction

Our day at Learning Connections #lcocsb

 

English: QR Code takes a browser to the articl...

Today I attended my first Learning Connections workshop at our school board office (OCSB). What an amazing experience! In the morning we all attended six different presentations put on by elementary teachers from around the school board. We had ten minutes in each presentation before we were moved on prompted by a makey makey banana bongo. Each presenter had all their material linked through a QR code – really helpful!

lc 1
One of the presentation centres – all info was accessible through QR codes

After this, we met with other participants to compare notes and create a summary of our key learning. We created a Powtoon – a totally new tool for me. The results can be found at the top of this post.

The great thing about this session were the experts available to help us with our creations. Our expert was a junior level student from one of our elementary schools. He patiently took me through the steps on how to set up my first powtoon. He was an excellent teacher!

This is a good lesson for all of us. The real experts in this new digital age are the students. There is no way we can learn this technology as quickly as the students can. Whether it is an app, a maker kit or the newest chromebook, the students are the new experts. We are all learners!

the learning connections google community
the learning connections google community

What a terrific group! Learning Connections is a unique gift to our staffs. It is a growing group of educators learning new digital tools to innovate and learn. As a principal, I need to learn all that I can from this group. Educational leaders need to know how to use digital technology. We don’t need to be the experts, but we certainly need to be open and accepting of the changes happening on a daily basis.

We need to be gateways for the teachers and students who want to innovate and experiment with brand new ways of doing things.

Thanks Learning Connections!

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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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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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