Category Archives: Using Data

Success is your personal best: What does that look like in school?

Are you like me?  It seems that no matter what I’m doing, I always seem to connect things back to education.  I guess I know that teaching and learning is a vocation for me, not just a job.

So I was in Spin class this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about this class as an analogy for learning.  First of all, I only started spinning about 8 months ago because a friend of mine who was a Spin Instructor told me it was awesome; I had written it off previously as something I didn’t enjoy or couldn’t master.  In the spirit of trying things outside of my comfort zone, I picked it up again and now it’s my absolute favourite class.

But I digress.

There are lots of different instructors who each have their own strengths and styles and who motivate us in different ways.  Kelly, the owner of the gym, encourages us to modify the speed & resistance to suit our own needs; actually all of the instructors say that.  She tells us that success and failure is just a state of mind in this class and that the goal is to do our personal best.  I LOVE this!  It gives me the freedom to not compare myself to the person spinning beside me (though admittedly I always sneak a peak to see what others beside me are doing).  Each week I push myself to go a little farther & to increase my resistance so I am working harder.  When I leave the gym, it is with a sense of elation and accomplishment: success!

This morning, another instructor told us the same thing–modify according to where you are at.  But then, she walked around and checked everyone’s speed.  I guess this was meant to encourage us to go faster & push harder, but what it did to me, was make me cover my speedometer with my towel and pray she wouldn’t say anything to me  or check my progress.

And if you haven’t already made the connection, I am thinking about what this looks like for..

  • teachers leading learning in classrooms,
  • administrators leading learning in a school, and
  • people like me who are leading professional learning at the District level.

It made me think about  John Hattie’s idea of a year’s worth of growth and my evolving understanding of what that means, and what George Couros says in The Innovator’s Mindset about helping people move from their Point A to their Point B.

Are we measuring one learner’s performance against another or are we helping learners to recognize their strengths ?

Are we allowing adequate time or opportunity for them to reflect on where they need to go with our guidance, descriptive feedback, and encouragement?

Are we saying one thing but then our actions indicate differently?

Are we celebrating what success looks like in incremental steps,  or do we hold an unattainable standard that some learners may never even try to reach for because it seems too impossible to do so?

How do we help learners to know what their “personal best” looks like and help them become accountable to themselves when they don’t get there?

Does this look the same whether we are talking about young learners in a classroom or adult learners engaging in professional development?

I will never go as far or as fast as the gal who spins beside me on Saturday mornings.  We have different body types and fitness levels.  I’m ok with that. But I can tell you that compared to 8 months ago, I am rockin’ it!

Success =YOUR personal bestnot someone else's

 

How might we measure Innovative Practice?

innovative practice

Monitoring and measurement are things that I know I am supposed to do in my role as Literacy Consultant, but it is something I find the most difficult to do.

In a recent collaborative inquiry with teachers on inquiry-based learning, my colleague Sonia Racco and I tried to come up with a pre and post tool that was formatted similar to OSSLT questions.  One question asked students to create a question, the next asked them to summarize the main idea, and the third asked them to make a connection.  We used a graphic text.  And when we set out to do this, it seemed reasonable enough…

And yet, by the end of the inquiry, teachers had really moved in their understanding of inquiry-based learning and had tried it out in their own classrooms.  They brought student questions to the table and when we looked at them together, teachers and students were asking good questions, were engaged in critical thinking, and were genuinely interested in learning.  Students also created some really neat artefacts of their learning which we shared at one of our sessions.

And we decided that giving the post-diagnostic in the format we had given the pre-diagnostic did not make sense.  Because what mattered to us was the fact that teachers and students were engaged in a learner-centered process of learning and felt more comfortable with the stages of inquiry-based learning.

Measure Innovation

And so I struggle with the idea of assessing innovative practice.  If we are using standardized test measurements to determine “success” of a school community in 2016, are we missing the point entirely?  What are some more powerful measures of success? How can we convince parents that these measures are more valuable than report card marks and test scores?  How can we convince other stakeholders?

I go back to my What Ifs from another #InnovatorsMindset Blog Hop and can’t help but think that we do have the tools and the creativity to make a shift in practice here.

What if, we used technology tools such as Explain everything or iMovie (insert any other similar tool here) to capture the learning reflections and thinking of students and shared these as artifacts with the wider community?

What if instead of a Fraser Report, the true report of a successful school could be told through the voice of a student?  And not just a student on a Council, but a student in grade 9 applied or grade 12 open?  A dis-engaged grade 7 student?

What if the school climate exit cards could be captured in video reflections and garnered as much credence as the formulaic exit cards Districts are currently collecting?  Can school climate be measured by how happy kids are? how interested they are in their learning? How effectively they can read, write, represent, create, think critically?

I already see video reflections being used as a means to capture learning and reflection at several levels.  I see George Couros modelling this during in his work with teachers and administrators.  (Check out #LDSBCollaborate and the video reflections there) . I see Jen Hegna, Director of Information and Learning Technology for Byron Public Schools in Minnesota use video reflections to capture the learning experiences of teachers and students in her District to create a Board report summarizing a 1:1 iPad initiative.  I see the 21st Century learning branch of Ontario creating a resource for what technology-enabled learning looks like in classrooms across the province (of which I am honoured to be a part).  I see principals such as Doug Timm creating video newsletters for his parent community.   And I see it in classrooms whereby children beginning in Kindergarten are explaining their thinking and learning and this learning is being shared with parents to change the conversation around, “What did you do in school today?”.

Rethinking our assessment practices is not impossible; it just requires a shift in what we value as a true gauge of what innovation and learning looks like.

Check out these other blogs on the topic.  What I love about them is how each have approached the topic so differently!

Leigh Cassell

Donna Fry

Tina Zita

Mark Carbone

Amit Mehrotra

Stacey Wallwin

Lisa Noble

What are your ideas about how we might assess innovative practice?  Add your blog URL to the OSSEMOOC Blog Hop or feel free to comment here.

 

 

Professional learning that works

There is no paucity of articles bemoaning the state of professional learning and providing suggestions as to what to do about this.  I have been collecting articles about this since I began the draft version of this post back in August.

Doug Peterson’s post, “Thinking about Professional Learning”,  based on Tom Whitby’s post, “Poor Teachers, Who is to Blame”.

Katie Martin’s post, Re-envisioning how teachers learn  and two posts by EdSurge about personalized learning for PD.  Part 1 and Part 2

Mark E. Weston’s post, Flip the Switch for Professional Learning and Professional Development vs Professional Learning by George Couros.

These are all great reads about the need to personalize learning for teachers.  My reflection here provides insight into the models which I have had the privilege to lead and that I believe have been very effective for us in our District.

One of the key components in all of these is that professional learning opportunities I have led are voluntary in that teachers choose to participate.  

The Collaborative Inquiry Model

Many Districts in Ontario have been employing this method of professional development for several years now.  The point of a Collaborative Inquiry (CI) is not to come to a session where a District leader gives you a mass of strategies to go and try and then you are on your own.  It is a learning process which involves trial and error, co-learning, co-assessing, and reflecting.  It is iterative and requires a sustained commitment to meeting regularly.  At the end of the inquiry, there are no golden answers, but a better understanding of how to approach a student need.

The basic components of this model of professional learning include:

  • developing an inquiry focus to address a student need based on data (including standardized test scores, student work, and observations/anectdotal information)
  • unpacking assumptions (both teacher and student)
  • experiencing strategies and protocols rather than just presenting them and thinking about what these look like in the context of the student need
  • determining and/or developing resources needed
  • selecting two or three students to observe closely over the course of the CI
  • co-planning, co-teaching, co-debriefing
  • observation of student learning in the classroom
  • reflection and refocus based on student learning and feedback

For example, a Collaborative Inquiry I ran last year asked the question, “If we give students greater opportunities to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning will they become more self-directed learners?”  The question came from a desire for English teachers in my District to address the “Reflecting on Skills” strand in their Curriculum expectations.

And though our journey began with this very broad and lofty question, when we reflected on student work and listened to student feedback we realized we needed to reassess our direction and focus on something more specific: we decided on metacognitive strategies with reading as we noticed this to be the more student urgent need.  In the end, the students involved in the inquiry did see a value in metacognitive reflection before, during, & after reading, and became better at planning, monitoring, evaluating their own learning.  The teachers with whom I worked felt they had more strategies to address metacognition, and we all came to a better understanding of what metacognition looked like in a high school English classroom.

Learning Series

The Learning Series model is a solution to the  one-off PD session which we all know does not work, but is less intensive than the Collaborative Inquiry model (which is fairly time intensive as it requires co-planning, co-teaching, and co-debriefing and ideally works better with a smaller group of teachers).  A Learning Series model allows for teachers to come together to address a specific student learning need and meet regularly to address it.

This model includes the following elements:

  • establishing Norms for working and learning together to create a risk-free environment
  • community building activities and opportunities for sharing and asking questions
  • selecting two students of “interest” to pay particular attention to as we move through the learning series
  • experiencing a variety of strategies and protocols and brainstorming ideas for how to best incorporate these into the classroom
  • trying it out–teachers go back and try the lesson, idea, or strategy/protocol in their class; co-teaching is voluntary
  • collaborative assessment of student learning and conversations about next steps
  • hands-on integration of technology in the context of the student learning need
  • regular assessment of whether or not the series is meeting the needs of learners a re-focus as necessary
  • participants (the same group) meets about five times over the course of the school year
  • culminates in sharing and celebrating

My Learning Series this year is focused on Reading in the 21st Century. This particular series is also concerned with meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities, so we went through similulations in order to better understand what accommodations need to look like to support those students. Though I do provide the framework for the sessions, these are guidelines only and the sessions themselves are participatory and hands on.  If we need to spend more time on one idea, rather than move onto another, then that is what we do.  The time spent in community building means that teachers feel comfortable challenging one another (and me), and asking questions.

Inquiry Carousels

Last Spring, our elementary Curriculum team (led by Sonia Racco, Annette D’Addese, Yvette Sztorc, and Simone Kennedy) created a professional learning opportunity in the form of Inquiry Carousels as the culmination of some of the Collaborative Inquiries they ran.  What did this look like?  Essentially teachers who were involved in the CI’s, set up stations and shared their learning journeys including artefacts of student work. Participants (Teachers K-12) were invited to visit each station for sharing and asking questions.   It was a great consolidation and sharing opportunity for teachers who had engaged in the Collaborative Inquiry throughout the year, and an engaging experience for people who had never been a part of a CI, but who were interested in learning more about Inquiry-based learning in their classrooms. Most people left saying it was one of the best sessions they had attended.  It was organic, fluid, and very learner-centered.

Student Learning Proposals

Our District allots a budget for teachers who are interested in pursuing their own professional learning needs to submit a proposal for teacher-release time.  In this model, a Curriculum consultant or program resource teacher’s support may be requested if needed.  Primarily the learning happens at the school level and is driven by a community of learners interested in pursuing a common problem of practice.

When one-offs are inevitable

A few weeks ago, my colleague Gina Micomonaco and I had to run a session on Assessment for our NTIP (new teacher) program: A one-off and NOT voluntary like the other opportunities listed here. With only 2 hours and an after lunch time slot, the easiest thing to do would have been to engage in the presentation model with occasional opportunities to “turn and talk” with a partner.  We opted for a more constructivist approach.  We gave each group a different artefact (student work, an assessment tool, etc…), a copy of Growing Success (our Assesment and Evaluation guidelines for Ontario), and guiding questions about Assessement FOR, AS, and OF learning.  The result?  Almost the entire session was spent discussing the nuances of assessement in small groups in ways we would never have been able to achieve by presenting information at the front of the room.  We strategically and intentionally modeled what learner-centered instruction could look like, even in a very content-driven context and though there were still questions at the end of it, their feedback indicated that they really had a better understanding of assessment by the end.

EdCamps and District-Level Conferences

Let’s face it, the average teacher is not afforded the luxury of attending a conference–it’s just too cost-prohibiitive.  So it is incumbent upon District leaders to provide opportunities to teachers to attend an EdCamp and/or an in-house conference, free of charge which is modelled after some of the bigger conference experiences.  Teachers can choose sessions that will help them to learn and grow and are provided with the opportunity to network and share beyond the walls of their own classrooms and schools.  Best of all, our sessions are facilitated by our own teacher leaders which ultimately buids the capacity of our own talented teachers.

Elements of this model that have worked for us:

  • Lead learners from throughout the District facilitate sessions based on successful classroom practices.
  • Ignite sessions (by both teachers and students) which provide just the right amount of ideas and motivation.
  • Lots of opportunities for hands-on sessions where participants are doing rather than listening, blended with opportunities to pose questions and have discussions about topics that are important to them.
  • Providing food and prizes and not charging our teachers to attend
  • providing a back-channel for feedback and questions

Is all of the Professional Learning offered by our District this personalized?  Of course not.  But these are some concrete examples of professional learning opportunities that have worked and that we continue to model as we move towards more learner-centered and participant driven approaches.

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 4.46.03 PM

This post by Dean Shareski, Professional learning is messy is an interesting read on the topic and suggests that job-embedded practices are top-down, which they can be.  It’s worth a read.

What are some of the examples of professional learning models that have really worked for you in your District?  What has the best learning looked like for you? Please share!

 

 

 

Why do we feel the need to abandon good ideas for the next shiny new thing?

I was recently at the Bring It Together conference (BIT15) and engaged in an interesting conversation about using Periscope in Education, moderated by Andrew Campbell. We covered many important nuances on the topic, but what resonated with me, in particular was Andrew’s comment that we never seem to celebrate mastery of something, before we feel the need to jump onto the next thing (referring to Periscope vs the various other live stream/video options as well as other tech tools brought up in our conversation).

I’ve been thinking of teaching and learning with Infographics in this context after my Digital Literacy course last week was dedicated to Infographics.  I realized that despite the many benefits for teaching with infographics and even more for creating them, that there isn’t very much shared about the genre among the professional learning community I follow on Twitter anymore. I know I started talking about them in 2011 in one of my earliest blog posts.

 Are infographics already so yesterday?

Is this another case of abandoning an effective practice for something shiny and new?

Is it important that we teach students how to read and create infographics?

I reaiize that I had fallen victim to this mentality.  I too had stopped talking about infographics and instead have been focused on skechnoting which has been popularized by Silvia Tolisano, Sylvia Duckworth, Royan Lee and Vicky Davis, among others.  As a fan of Sylvia Duckworth’s work, I even tried my hand at one for this topic using Sylvia’s tutorial.  (you have no idea how long this took me to create!!).

Sketchnote Infographics

And though sketchnoting is a form of data visualization, reading, interpreting, and creating infographics are important for literacy AND numeracy skill acquisition and should NOT be ignored in education today!

Here’s why:

Infographics(Krauss, 2012)

Reading Infographics

  • Infographics are everywhere; students need to make sense of information in that format.
  • Because infographics include both visual and text, they engage more of the brain: The “eye is exquisitely sensitive–language with the eye + language of the mind = two languages both working at the same time” (McCandles, 2010).
  • Critical Literacy questions (Whose voice is missing? Is this source credible? What is the purpose? etc…) can be addressed naturally via an infographic.
  • The graphics within infographics can sometimes be mis-represented to make a specific point.  Looking at the graphics for misrepresentation of data is an important numeracy and critical thinking skill.

Creating infographics

  • In order to create an infographic a student needs to sort information, determine what is most important, and organize text and images in a cohesive way.  This requires students to think critically and creatively and to communicate ideas effectively.
  • Creating infographics really do require tech tools (canva, pictochart) which requires them to practice digital, technical knowledge.
  • If students are engaged in an inquiry they can ask their own questions and create their own data (with support).  This is important for developing research skills including creating effective questions.
  • Data has to be represented accurately.  These considerations require both literacy and numeracy skills.

Here is a presentation I created last year which I revised last week.  It includes resources to get you started.

Here is presentation with notes about recognizing misrepresented data, created by Diana Santos.

This New York Times Learning Network post shared by Dr. Janette Hughes provides a variety of resources that refer to subject-specific infographics.

I think we need to be cautious as educators about jumping from one fad to another.  We need to consider the skills students need to have and commit to those lessons that will meet those needs most effectively.  Creating infographics does take time, but considering the skills students are practicing, I think it is time well spent.

References:

Krauss, J. (2012).  Leading and Learning with Technology, ISTE. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ982831.pdf

McCandless, D. (2010). The Beauty of Data Visualization, TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization

 

Literacy Redefined

Literacy is not just reading and writing

“Literacy continues to evolve as the world changes and its demands shift and become more complex.  Literacy is not only used for reading and writing, but also to increase one’s understanding of the world.”

–Adolescent Literacy Guide, Ministry of Education (Ontario), 2012

I am in the process of writing a report itemizing the ways in which I have provided literacy support to administrators, teachers , and students in my District over the course of this school year and I’m thinking about how much my role has changed in the last four and a half years.

When I came into a Literacy support position (first Program Resource Teacher and now Consultant), the most significant part of my job was to help teachers and administrators prepare students for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT).  I poured over statistics and data  and I shared it.  I created practice tests and resources.   I was also involved in co-planning, co-teaching and debriefing with teachers specifically around reading (to support our District-wide goal for continuous improvement).  I still do this, BUT…

Two years ago, I became one of the lead learners in a District-wide initiative to integrate technology. I know that a few people might look at what I do and see this as two separate job-descriptions.  I have actually been asked, “Are you working on Literacy today or 21C?” And certainly, in those early days, I too thought that the work to support teachers to use technology in their classrooms operated separately from the literacy support I provided.  Today, I see it as the same work: multi-dimensional, multi-modal, and very necessary.  Thankfully, I work with people who support this modern approach.

Consider the NCTE definition of Literacy as seen in this wordle:

Literacy

Read full Definition of 21st Century Literacies, National Council of Teachers of English, 2013 here.

This is the kind of Literacy Consultant I’ve become.  When I’m co-planning with teachers and the focus is on students using metacognition when reading, for example, I have found it to be very powerful to capture their voices using Google Forms, or Todays Meet.  It also makes sense to offer students the choice to do a close reading of text on paper or by using Explain Everything or Read and Write for Google.  I am mindful of the fact that  helping students to communicate effectively in today’s world also means showing them that they can read text using devices (that we provide or that we allow them to use) using the accessibility features on the iPad or a Chrome browser.  Students do not seem to see this accommodation as a stigma as they have in the past.  I’ve had great success having students share their metacognitive reflections and the strategies they find most effective by offering the choice of using paper and pen (or electronic doc), as well as tools like Garageband, iMovie, or other digital storytelling tools to demonstrate their learning.  When combined with the high-yield, face to face collaborative strategies that we know work with students, the literacy learning becomes even more powerful.

And how do we define text?  This video, “Effective Instruction in Reading Comprehension”, from Learn, Teach, Lead shared by Donna Fry speaks to many of the questions I’ve been asking myself.

Effective Instruction in Reading Comprehension – VIDEO – LearnTeachLead.ca
Are we defining “text” too narrowly?  How can we support students to be critically literate when they read, write, create, view, represent, etc…, if our notion of text consists only printed text or the canon?  

      • How does your District or school define literacy?
    • What are the implications of looking at digital literacy as separate from Literacy? Numeracy? Assessment? vs the benefit of integrating it (both at the District level and at the Ministry level)?
  •  What courageous conversations need to be had to open up the definition in order to truly support our students to make sense of the world around them?

     At the time of writing, George Couros’s #EDUin30w7 question asked:

There are lots of great submissions to the #EDUin30w7 hashtag that are worth taking a look at!  Would love to hear about your thoughts.