How our teachers make learning visible through collective blogging

Every Sunday I take immense pleasure in putting together a blog post for our parents.  The best part of this is that almost all of it is written by our teachers.  For the past two years, our staff has developed an incredible expertise for writing to their parents each week on what will be coming up during the next few days and what the highlights of the past week were.  We write a ‘collective blog’ together each week.

ch7

display of art work put up this week – portraits of Einstein 

I write every teacher back and comment on their post.  I have often said to them that they really need to share this with others! Of course they do – to the people most important to them – their parent community.

It is up to me to highlight their work to the wider education community.  I am very happy to do this.  People need to see what this incredible group of people put together each week.  All of this is completely voluntary, but they all see the great benefit the collective blog has in getting their message out.

Kindergarten News for December 5-9, 2016

We are very excited to plan many great events for our Kinders. They are embracing all of our initiatives and as educators we are delighted to see how all of our efforts are so very much appreciated. A special thank you to our parent community for supporting us too!!

The Kinders were so reflective and attentive during the school’s first magical Advent celebration on Thursday. We look forward to attending the second celebration next Thursday

Thank you to all the parents who have sent in their donations of toiletries for St. Luke’s Table. Whatever small donation you can make is much appreciated.

On Friday they all had fun on their walk in the neighbourhood and they loved discovering where their stuffed animals were hibernating in the school yard. Of course, the delicious hot chocolate with marshmallows was enjoyed by all after coming in from the cold. Thank you for sending in a little stuffed animal to hibernate. Thank you to Ms. Ekich for joining us on our hibernation walk!

Kindergarten news for the upcoming week

All our parents read this every week.  The students as young as grade one will ask if a particular picture or event will make it to the blog.  Students want their parents to see what they are excited about at school.

This is what I think all schools need to do.  By putting out regular collective blog posts like this we are breaking down the barriers between the school and the parent community.  The beauty of making this a ‘collective blog’ is that the teachers do the most important work – providing the content.  I put it all together in one blog and post it to our Twitter and Facebook accounts and send it directly to our parents through Remind and Synervoice.

k4

winners of the St. Anthony Superstars Award for the past week – proud kids!

One great benefit to all this is that I have such a better idea of what is going on at school.  I read all the entries and notice as new ideas, activities and programs spread throughout the school.  Through the blog I know how we are growing and innovating as a group of educators.

I won’t post the entire blog here – its pretty long – but you can see our latest edition here.

If you take a look, maybe you could post a comment on the blog – Great work deserves to be recognized!

n2

Digital Implementation in School: How are we doing?

digital-implementation-in-schools-how-are-we-doing-google-docs-clipular

Implementation of digital content seems to be widely misunderstood.  You can’t just drop in a sophisticated digital program without a really good implementation program.  Like with everything in education, it comes down to the person.  If teachers are ill-equipped to use new programs, they will fall back on traditional teaching methods.

Implementation is a long game.  To successfully introduce a program, you need a multi-year plan for professional development and support for your teachers.  If we use the SAMR Model as a measuring stick, I think that most teachers are still at the Substitution level.  At this stage, with all the technology available, we should at least be working at Modification – ‘Tech allows for significant redesign’.  I don’t think this is happening mainly because teachers do not have sufficient time during the day to explore the tools already out there that would allow them to transform their use of technology.

In Canada, teachers spend an average of 800 hours in the classroom per year.  In contrast, Japanese teachers spend 600 hours in the classroom (Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators).  The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education suggests that teachers need at least 10 days a year be set aside for in-school teacher training supported by coaches and mentors.  In Sweden, teachers are allocated 15 days or 6% of a teacher’s total working time to professional development (How High-Achieving Countries Develop Great Teachers, August 2010).

Timely, well-supported PD might help us to move towards Modification and eventually, Redefinition.

digital-implementation-in-schools-how-are-we-doing-google-docs-clipular-1

As part of this process, it is really important your staff with excellent digital training resources. We are in the second year of a partnership with Atomic Learning.  I consider this a great investment.  You cannot ask your teachers to rely on YouTube or Google when they have questions on a variety of digital programs.  They need sources of curated material delivered by professionals who are used to working with teachers.  Atomic is not the only source for this professional learning, but for us, it’s works really well.

Discovery Education, especially in the United States and Great Britain is also providing excellent on-line and person-to-person PD.  The personal touch, in my opinion is really important.  Discovery spends a significant amount of time encouraging teachers to meet and share ideas.  They also feature innovative teachers on their blogs through the DEN- Discovery Educators Network.  The element of ‘teacher voice’ is a very important aspect of their approach to professional development.

digital-implementation-in-schools-how-are-we-doing-google-docs-clipular-2Discovery Education puts a great emphasis on connecting with other educators

Pockets of innovation certainly do exist, but to me, the implementation of digital technology has been painfully slow.  We seem to still be willing to invest in text and print resources rather than make the leap to digital texts and resources that allow for greater innovation and creativity.

The tools are certainly out there.  They do require a significant financial commitment, but we need to move in a more deliberate fashion towards the adoption of these tools at a much more meaningful level.

Implementing Digital resources at your school some points to consider.

adobe-spark-clipular

Today I learned that we will be losing two really important digital programs at our school.  This is a real blow for us as we are trying very hard to supply our teachers and students with excellent digital content to support the use of chromebooks in the classroom – all students from grades 3 to 6 have their own computer and the juniors (4-6) are expected to bring their machines home every night.

There are two important factors that seem to be influencing decisions about access to digital resources.  One is the expense, the other is implementation – not enough teachers across the school board are using these costly programs.  I would like to focus on implementation.

Implementation of digital content seems to be widely misunderstood.  You can’t just drop in a sophisticated digital program without a really good implementation program.  Like with everything in education, it comes down to the person.  If teachers are ill-equipped to use new programs, they will fall back on traditional teaching methods.

So what can we do?  Here are a few ideas.

  • Implementation is a long game – to successfully introduce a program, you need a full-year plan of PD and support for your teachers.  Some of this training has to be driven by the principal or someone else who is available to put on demonstrations and workshops during the day.
  • Webinars are good, but people are better.  We have found that while webinars are easier to arrange, teachers prefer to meet with a representative of the company producing the content.  When we have been able to arrange this, implementation has gone up dramatically.
  • Teachers need in-school time to experiment with the programs.  Last year, after the introductory workshops, all teachers were given release time to experiment with the programs.  They could choose what program they wanted to experiment with and many times they were able to contact the service provider to get just-in-time solutions to their problems.
  • Provide your staff with a good on-line PD resource.  We are in the second year of a partnership with Atomic Learning.  I consider this a great investment.  You cannot ask your teachers to rely on YouTube or Google when they have questions on a variety of digital programs.  They need a source for curated material delivered by professionals who are used to working with teachers.  Atomic is not the only source for this professional learning, but for us, its works really well.
  • People need to understand the importance of curated resources. Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers states that he rarely uses Google as a way to locate material for teachers.  This is a really important point.  If you want really good content, it has to be curated.  Discovery Education, for example, does an excellent job of bringing educational resources together in math, science and social studies.  Other tools like unroll.me and Scoop.it are wonderful ways to collect information of interest to you. You choose the content and receive (in the case of Scoop.it) suggestions from your personal learning community.  The important point is – curated resources can cost money.  You can’t sustain your school just using Google and YouTube.  You need to make sure the materials you are using with your students are excellent and have been selected by professionals – you can’t guarantee this with uncurated sites like Google.

Implementation is not easy.  It is much harder than simply buying machines for everyone in your school.  It is something that requires a great deal of thought and yes, sometimes, financial resources.

couros

The Innovator’s Mindset: Powerful Learning First, Technology Second

couros

What I really like about this book are the provocations that are put out there in every chapter.  In chapter 9, George Couros writes about the importance of the appropriate technology being introduced into schools, but more importantly, he writes about the mindset that needs to go along with that.

We are trying to implement 21st-century technology with management systems that sometimes seem to harken back to the 19th century.

Our management systems have not caught up to the terrific learning opportunities, assisted by technology that are out there.  Couros quotes Seymour Papert in this chapter and I have to add part of the quote in this post because it defines the bind we are in as we try to revolutionize our inflexible education structures:

So if I want to be a better learner, I’ll go find somebody who’s a good learner and with this person do some learning.  But this is the opposite of what we do in our schools.  We don’t allow the teacher to do any learning.  We don’t allow the kids to have the experience of learning with the teacher because that’s incompatible with the concept of the curriculum where what is being taught is what’s already known.

Seymour Papert, Seymour Papert: Project-based Learning,” Edutopia, November 1, 2001.

What is really needed is a change of course (pg 146) when it comes to the application of educational technology in our schools.

George quotes Tom Murray from the Alliance for Excellence in Education and an article he wrote on “10 steps Technology Directors Can Take to Stay Relevant.” Based on this article, George poses  four questions that focus on the intelligent implementation of technology:

  • What is best for kids?
  • How does it improve learning?
  • If we do ______, what is the balance of risk vs. reward?
  • Is this serving the few or the majority?

These are essential questions – how often are these questions asked when it comes to the implementation of technology?  I believe, in my experience, these questions are asked by technology departments, but too often their way is barred by system decision makers who do not have as clear a vision on how to answer these questions.

Are we really asking what is best for the learner, or are we asking what is easiest, cheapest fastest in the short-term?  Are we really exploring what is best for all learners and do we really have a comprehensive plan to come up with the intelligent implementation that involves all learners – students and teachers alike.

 

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!

Enhanced by Zemanta

SAMR in the schools – where is your staff?

It is very exciting to see what is happening on our staff.  With a good representation of the SAMR model (below) it is possible to get a good idea on how our staff is progressing.  There is still a good deal of work to be done, but the survey gives a good idea of what my role as principal and what our staff need to continue to work on.

Think back to September, where would you have put yourself according to the SAMR model

Substitution333%

Modification333%

Augmentation333%

Redefinition00%

Now that you are half way through the year where would you put yourself on the scale?

Substitution 4 40%
Modification 4 40%
Augmentation 2 20%
Redefinition 0 0%

Where do you plan to be by the end of the school year?

Substitution 1 13%
Modification 4 50%
Augmenataion 0 0%
Redefinition 3 38%

Is there anything that I could do to help you move to the next level

I am using some technology that is listed in all of the SAMR categories but because I only use them some of the time I probably was (in Sept) and still am at the S level. I still have a long way to go and would really benefit from some in-service. We have spent a lot of money on the technology and none on teacher training in the use of it. I am not tapping in to the full potential of the iPads (or even the SMARTBoard for that matter even though I use it all the time). ? More time to explore and train with devices and programs. Also – not much for you to do on your end but – tech support is not always available to us when we really need it ASAP. ( understandably, INFO TECH is always busy, but why are they not adding more “IT” staff to reflect the increase in number of devices and tech items were are using compared to a few years ago? We still only have one very busy service IT for so many schools. You have done an outstanding job of putting technology into the hands of teachers and students. Thank you.

To move to the next level, a couple of half day in-school workshops from Lisa Langsford or Marcie Martel (or similar) to SHOW us how to use some apps and show us some real student samples of how to use them would help a lot. And allowing some hands-on to explore what they are teaching us. (Or after school if funding is not available). We must be able to tap into some board funding??? I get the feeling we are only scratching the surface of how we can be using the ipads.

If there was a set (minimum 4) Chrome books in my class all the time I could reasonably incorporate them into constant use, therefore making them a full time tech choice. Continue educating us on shortcuts or new apps at staff meeting I need concrete suggestions for primary activities where tech can be substituted on a more regular basis. What aps are best for primary level which students can use on their own to produce work? Personally, I find my tech goals are pushed back by lack of time but I would make an effort to take the time if I had to present my activity to others or had a deadline to send student work to you. My goal is to use it on a more regular basis though… Not just for one project to demo. Provide some in-school PD time to learn a new tool.

WiFi – are there any areas of the school where the wifi signal is not strong. ie you can’t pick up a signal

library and the hallway outside of it, staff room No issues! ? Staffroom hall, and please share comment above with them as well all OK as far as I know x in and near library Staff room and library

Thanks for all your comments – we are up to seven!!

I promise some action will come out of this survey and i will amke sure the Board knows there are no weak wifi zones

 Click here to download the PDF – will really help you figure out where you are and where you are going!!

Enhanced by Zemanta