Category Archives: Setting Goals

Leading & Building a Positive Culture as a Teacher-Librarian

I was at a family function last weekend when my sister said it.  No one had talked about the fact that I was changing roles in September.  Now I know why–they had talked about it amongst themselves.  She said, “So you went from being the Literacy Consultant for a whole board to a Teacher-Librarian? Like isn’t that a total demotion?  Why would you do that?!” (yup, her exact words–gotta love my sister’s direct & honest approach??)

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback, but it made me really think about leadership and how people perceive leadership as being connected to titles. It also showed me the extent to which people don’t recognize how valuable Teacher-Librarians can be in a school.

What I explained to her is that I chose to be a Teacher-Librarian so I can continue to be a leader. In that role, I have the privilege of working with teachers, administration, and students in positive and impactful ways.

Two awesome posts by George Couros this week : 10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #Classroom Culture this year and  10 Easy Ways to Build a Positive #School Culture as a Principal, helped me to think about the ways in which a Teacher-Librarian is not just a leader, but has the incredible opportunity to contribute to the building of  an amazing culture in a school.

An effective Teacher-Librarian supports teachers to try something different, offers a little tweak that can move a lesson or unit from good to awesome, offers a second set of hands, eyes, and ears to help differentiate and assess.  An effective teacher-librarian can help a teacher find the perfect tech tool or resource to serve the learning needs of their students.

We know about critical literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and every other modern literacy classroom teachers haven’t had the time to dig in to or keep up with in this age of abundant information.

But our space isn’t just another classroom in the school.  The Library Learning Commons can and should be the heart of a school; a place where learning, literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and fun come together.

Teacher-Librarians also interact with students– lots of students every day.  I am completely new at this role, so maybe I’m off base here, but I think that George’s Top 10 list can be modified for the role of Teacher-Librarian.  This is what I’m thinking:

10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing School Culture as a Teacher-Librarian this year (2)

 

I’d like to create an inviting and positive learning culture when it comes to allowing cellphones in my Learning Commons.  I am experimenting with the wording on this poster and would love your feedback on this sign:

Be prepared to rethink how you use social media here (2)

 

More about building a positive culture by connecting your students

I am committed to helping teachers and students to see how technology and social media can be used to learn and share learning, connect with others, and be a more positive influence in the lives of others!

I am excited for the opportunity to work with teachers and students at my school and in the world on the following initiatives:

I would like to start a High School Global Book Club to foster digital leadership and a love of reading.  My VERY DRAFT ideas are here.  So far, I’ve got a few North American schools and an International school in Thailand interested.  Would love for you to join us!

I am participating in the Global Peace Project sponsored my Buncee launching September 26th. It is free to join and is an excellent way to build empathy, cultural awareness and to work towards spreading peace.  Details here.

I am helping my friend, Barbara  from Norway to get some North American classes involved in a Digital Storytelling project beginning in September. Check it out here.

I am organizing a Global Amazing Race EDU for grades 7, 8 and high school.  The project launch happens on February 10th with a Virtual Breakout EDU!  Details here.

I can’t wait to see my sister at the next family function to tell her all about my  start to an amazing school year!

Quotation source: http://ottmag.com/most-famous-leadership-quotes/

 

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

 

Innovative Change: FETC Executive Leadership Summit 2016

Last week I had the privilege of attending an Executive Leadership Summit organized by Jennifer Womble and hosted by Tom Murray and Eric Sheninger, along with George Couros who played an integral role in the learning over the two days.   The summit itself is an invitation-only event which occurs prior to the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida.  It is designed to bring thought leaders from across the US and other countries together to talk Education: this year’s theme: Innovating Education for the Future.  Because I was accepted to the summit and subsequently to the conference, I chose to take a personal leave to attend;  I’m certainly glad I did.

As is the case with connected learning today, many people from my District and province (Ontario) followed the #fetcexe hashtag to learn virtually which I highly recommend you do even now!  My reflection here represents a consolidation of the big ideas and my own learning from this incredible event.

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Building a Culture of Innovation–George Couros

Big idea: Everything you need to innovate and transform learning can be found in your own District, you just need to tap into it.

To me, an effective keynote is one that inspires, entertains, but ultimately is thought-provoking and challenges thinking.  Despite having seen Couros speak several times (he spent time at our District last Spring), he never fails to make me laugh, cry,  and push my thinking. He expertly weaves his own experiences while sharing examples of innovation and transformation which he sees in his work with schools.  The first day, George set up the “why” with his keynote on Building a Culture of Innovation and then on the second day, he set up the “how” very effectively by having us engage in guided conversation based on some his prompts & examples. His keynote served as the foundation for many of the conversations and subsequent presentations throughout the summit.

He also had us engage in an activity around competitive collaboration which I am totally stealing and using in my next Professional learning session!

Couros had me thinking about:

  • a few of the ways we can make the good work happening in pockets in our District go viral
  • the dramatic impact on actions and decisions at every level that would happen if everything we did began with student learning at the centre
  • how technology can be tranformational in the hands of a good teacher
  • ways to build collaboration and connections within our organization
  • how the 8 things to look for in today’s classroom can provide a user-friendly framework for innovative change

Here is a copy of the guiding questions  with accompanying resources he provided which will serve useful for our own conversations back home in the coming weeks and months.

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Reimagining Learning Spaces–Pam Moran and Ira Socol

Big Idea: Do you change the learning experience or the learning space first?  Like the chicken & the egg:  Does it matter if you end up with a chicken?  

Pam Moran, Superintendent and Ira Socal, Director for Innovation & Ed Technology, Albemarle County PS spoke about Creating an Innovative School Culture by focusing on these elements: Invention (curiosities questions ideas that fuel creative rapid prototyping),  Innovation (scaling creativity as prototypes across the system), Strategic (moving creativity into systems-thinking), and Operational (embedding creative solutions into expected practice).

They used a YELP framework:

yelp-395

Get to YES

Engage Team  

Leverage Resources  

Prototype 

From transforming distinctive offices for Central Staff, to reimagining libraries and hallways, Albermarle believe that different spaces for learners can be transformative for learning.  They even built a Treehouse in the Cafeteria!  Most of us agreed that having a Superintendent as open to the diverse ideas posed by students is remarkable and goes a long way towards making change.  Their presentation can be found here.

Leading Change with Less–Dwight Carter

Big Idea: Instead of doing something brand new, do something better.–Rastor Joel Kovacs

Carter focused a great deal on the ways in which relationships impact his role as principal, a nice complement to the ideas posed by Couros earlier in the day.  He says, “You can’t grow them until you know them.”  His talk focused primarily on How to Lead Change with Less:

  • Be Compassionate-Relationships Matter
  • Communicate Concretely/Succinctly
  • Reexamine Your Vision
  • Think Different (Innovate/Reinvent)
  • Collaborate at all levels

Carter shared  a few of the innovative ideas being implemented at his school including the fact that every senior at his school asks someone to give them their diploma, as well as the fact that the student body is organized into houses (yes, like in Harry Potter) for building community.   His idea that, “the teaching cycle is not complete until students learn,” also really resonated.

IT Panel Discussion

Big Idea:  IT works in the service of student learning

It was awesome to hear IT Directors speak about the fact that they serve learners first! Some of the choices often made by IT Departments don’t necessarily subscribe to that!  Equity of access for students once they go home has always been a concern for me and so I was really interested in hearing about the many partnerships school Districts are making with business and community partners to increase opportunities for access to wifi outside of school.  Here are  some examples.

Future Ready Schools–Tom Murray

Big Idea: Is your school or District Future Ready?

Murray, a champion for the Future Ready movement in the U.S. showcased many examples of how schools are embracing innovative ideas and changing learning environments for kids.  He spoke of the cemetary effect by projecting an image of a cemetery, juxtaposed with a classroom: it was quite eerie.  His presentation showcased some of the innovative ways schools are transforming learning environments for students, including this example from Elizabeth Forward High School.

In particular, I really appreciated learning about the Future Ready Schools initiative and the links to the resources and Framework; an incredible resource for any District in any country.  Check it out here.

Here is a link to all of the resources from the summit.

If you are a leader in your school or District, I urge you to apply to next year’s Executive Leadership Summit @FETC.  If it’s anything like this year’s experience, it will be a great investment of your time.

As for the rest of the FETC conference, I learned lots, but most importantly connected with so many amazing educators; many of whom I’ve known only virtually.  That’s what it’s all about though, isn’t it?

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Social Media and Trying to Find Balance

 

I have been thinking about this blog post shared by George Couros and the subsequent conversation with Jason Wigmore.
I'm quitting Social MediaIn her post, Jessi Hempel talks about the many factors that have influenced her decision to take a sabbatical from social media for the month of August.  It’s a humorous and thoughtful take on how to balance social media in your life.  I think that what’s niggling at me most is the idea of going cold-turkey for a month and whether or not that is the best approach; at least I don’t think it is for me as an educator.

You can’t argue with the fact that technology is so ubiquitous that it can literally take over every minute if you allow it to.  And that the need for balance is more necessary today than it ever has been as a result.

But, like Jason, I enjoy having the luxury of time in the summer to read more blog-posts and connect with like-minded educators on Twitter which I don’t necessarily have the time to do when the school year is in full swing. I really love reading someone’s post, the comments, and then adding to the conversation with my own comment.  I think I learn more from that process than I might attending a conference.  I simply don’t have as much time for reflection during the school year when I know I skim and scan some of the items shared with me on Twitter and put them aside to get back to.  In the summer, I can actually read a post twice if I need to, I can think about where I could use the ideas and plan to make it happen or I can thoughtfully share the information with people who might find it useful.  I truly believe that being a connected educator is valuable every day of the year.

If I believe that to be a teacher is to be a learner,  

then does it make sense to stop learning in the summer?

Socially, I am notorious for missing birthdays and milestone events in the lives of my friends and family because I rarely get on Facebook or Instagram (which I use for personal rather than professional connections) unless it’s summer time.  I love to re-connect with everyone on those platforms in July and August.

I think of my kids, who have spent every daytime moment with their friends at school who because of varying schedules have not been able to physically connect with their friends over the summer.  They use Snapchat and Instagram to keep in touch.  I remember how connected to my friends I was at that age and how often my parents yelled at me for being on the phone!

Admittedly, I have to try really hard to strike a balance with technology and social media and to model that balance for my kids, but the lazy hazy days of summer seem like the ideal opportunity to do that.

Every summer, we go on a family road trip.  Typically, we turn off our cellular data and only used our phones to take pictures.  We listen to music and trivia in the car.  On our Washington DC visit this summer, we toured tons of museums and monuments, and had lots of great conversations. I’m not going to lie.  When we hit a McDonalds or coffee shop with wifi, everyone took out their phones to get updates.  It was like we had been trekking through a desert and didn’t realize how thirsty we were until we arrived at an Oasis.  But we had a good conversation about that at our next non-wifi stop and for almost the entire trip we were connecting with one another.

Summer for us is about going for walks, or long bike-rides, swimming in the pool, visiting cottages, and hosting friends.  At camp, there are no devices allowed.  And so with all of these opportunities for outdoor activities, it’s actually easier to model an appropriate balance. Isn’t it?

As a parent and teacher, the need for modelling and seeking balance is particularly important. But sometimes, it’s tough-going!

I would say that both myself and my husband are just as addicted to social media as my kids.  I am definitely a Twitter addict! One of the things I had to do while I’ve been busy working on a course is turn off my notifications, so I could keep from being distracted.  I openly shared my struggle and why I was doing that with my teens so that when they have an important assignment, they might use the same strategy.  And I love Hempel’s idea of creating a Folder on my phone called, “Don’t Touch” which might work for these instances.

There are a couple of year-long absolutes in our family:

1. no devices at the table (at home or a restaurant) and when guests are over

2. devices stay downstairs at bedtime

The rest is a bit of a work in progress.

Obviously, we are a middle class family with summers off.  The issue of balance becomes even more complicated if kids are left to their own devices (pardon the pun) and don’t have the opportunities and the modelling that our family situation can provide.

But technology isn’t going away any time soon, so we really need to keep working at finding a solution that is going to work for us.  Giving up technology for a week, a month, or for Lent isn’t going to solve the problem.

And I think we need to take it easy on kids if as adults we’re struggling too. It can’t be one of those, “Do as I say!” things because I know how much I hated that!!

Putting your phone away.jpg-large

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_good.html

Knowing when it is appropriate to have a device out of sight and when/how to connect with experiences and people in real life are increasingly important lessons for any age group every day of the year.

Being fluid and mindful and having ongoing conversations about it might be the best approach.

 

 

 

 

 

I also

A local innovation project: St. Jerome’s SPLICE week

As much as I was impressed by the innovation I saw at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia, there is a local project that I’d like to highlight in my District that is just as powerful as some of initiatives I saw showcased there.

Ingredients for Success

  • 1 highly motivated Intermediate teacher-team willing to try something completely different
  • 1 administrator supporting the initiative and removing barriers that might impede success
  • 1 collaborative peer group exploring ePortfolio and the All About Me Portfolio
  • 2 dashes of inspiration (Bishop Strachan‘s similar initiative & George Couros’ presentation @YCDSB talking about Innovation week at Parkland School Division in Alberta)
  • 1 bunch of  grade 7/8 students using their creativity and passion as inspiration

Bake for 1 full week.  Result is an amazing learning opportunity for students!

Marisa Benakis and Brad Blucher, two intermediate teachers at St. Jerome Catholic Elementary School decided to drop everything in order to create a unique learning experience for their intermediate students.  In order to do this, they needed and got support from their Intermediate team and administrator, Michele Reume who gave them the go-ahead to eliminate all other subject periods.  This meant that the whole school day for one full week would be entirely devoted to this self-directed learning opportunity.  I’m not sure what SPLICE stands for exactly, but the learning initiative was awesome!

Goals of SPLICE (as articulated in the student handout)

  • To learn more about a topic that interests you
  • To push your creativity and innovative thinking skills
  • To reflect upon yourself as a learner and the learning process
  • To communicate your learning and experiences to others

Students could research or create absoultely anything of their choice and could work independently or up to groups of three.  Most importantly, they had to capture the process in a reflection and share the learning with their peers.

These are just a few of the presentations I was privileged to see:

  • A student created an All About Me scrapbook and showcased the process in film
  • A group of students built a marshmallow launcher (after unsuccessfully trying to create a potato launcher)
  • A student painted a canvas and created an accompanying short story

Many more projects can be seen in this storify.

Assessment

One of the questions that is a burning one for educators is, how can you possibly assess or evaluate a project like this?  Well, Benakis and Blucher addressed this in two ways.  Firstly, students were evaluated on the quality of their oral presentation.  And though you might be wondering, what if a student isn’t strong orally,  I can assure you that when a student is presenting a project that is meaningful and personal to them, this is a non-issue.

There is also an explicit focus on Assessment AS Learning through these guided questions:

  • What did you learn about yourself as a creator?
  • What was difficult? What was interesting?
  • What would you do differently?

When we chatted later, we agreed that if we really wanted to go into the Curriculum to evaluate the project, we would likely find lots of curriculum connections.

Connections to the Individual Program Pathways, All About Me Portfolio

Both Benakis and Blucher are involved in a District  pilot exploring ways in which to implement the Creating Pathways to Success Policy Document; more specifically helping students address these four areas:  Who Am I? What do I want to Become? What are my Opportunities? What is my plan for achieving my goals?

Ed Career Poster smaller

Many other teachers in that collaborative pilot, led by Michelle Bulger, Ines DiTullio, and Patricia Zaroski are providing students with unique opportunities to explore these questions.

Interested in hosting your own Innovation or SPLICE week?

Contact @marisabenny or @blucherclass  They are so passionate about the project and its success, they would be willing to assist anyone who is interested in trying it!

Jesse McLean, @jmclean77 , of the Parkland Public School District in Alberta, generously shares his resources here.  He too is excited for schools to realize the benefits of an Innovation week project.

 

 

 

Big Idea at ISTE2015: Student Agency

I was fortunate to be able to attend the ISTE conference in Philadelphia.  There were over 15,000 educators there, so you can imagine the passion, excitement, and learning that happened!  I will share the tools I learned about over the course of the summer, but in this post, I want to reflect on the presentations that had the most significant impact on me.  Perhaps it is because I have been focusing on digital leadership and student voice in my own work,  but the big idea which seemed to be an over-arching theme  at ISTE for me, was the notion of student agency which I heard a few times at ISTE and which is articulated nicely in this post.  The idea being that when students are given autonomy and power over their own learning, they are in control of their own development and therefore more invested in the process of learning. This is not a new idea in Education–it’s been a buzzword for a long time now, but it’s one thing to talk about it, and another to see examples of this in action.  Below are the presentations and the examples which made this idea come to life for me.

Jennifer Scheffer, Panelist for ISTE 1:1 PLN — Challenges and Solutions for Large-Scale PD

Jennifer Scheffer (@jlscheffer), a Technology Integration Specialist/Mobile Learning Coach for Burlington Public Schools, located in Burlington, Massachusetts spoke about a unique course she created in which students run a Help Desk to assist other students and teachers.   This was perhaps one of the most significant examples of the power of student agency.  Students are not only assisting other students with tech applications at their own school, but they are interviewing industry people, and using social media to create a powerful digital footprints.  They are true Digital Leaders!  Check out the link to the Burlington Publish School Help Desk Site for a glimpse into what this looks like.

Here’s Jenn’s ISTE Ignite where she encapsulates the BHS Help Desk program in 5 minutes/20 slides:


What is the impact of this program? This powerful video reflection by one of her students says it all.

I’ve reached out to Jennifer, who has been amazingly helpful, and hope to explore what this could look like in our District.  Surely, there is potential for the Help Desk idea to happen anywhere?

Shannon Miller, ISTE Librarians Network Annual Breakfast Keynote.

A Teacher-Librarian extraordinaire, and Tech Integration Specialist, Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) has made connecting students a priority at Van Meter in Iowa.  She engages students in opportunities to connect with experts and other students around the world and advocates that it is important for students to have access to other people in the world.  One of the most powerful testimonials came from a young 6th grade student whose school experience was transformed when she connected with an author on Skype.  Meridan has gone on to create her own blog, Meridan’s Little Voice,  in which she showcases tech tools and inspires other students.  Check it out here.

In her keynote, Miller focuses on the many ways in which connecting students and giving them a voice is not only rewarding, but should be a priority for educators.

(Fast forward to 10:15) The quality isn’t the best, but it the message is worth the effort.

Miller’s blog can be found here. 

 

Chris Lehmann and Diana Laufenberg:  Transforming Schools into Modern Learning Environments

Chris (@chrislehmann) Diana (@dlaufenberg) of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia spoke to the Inquiry process and how it has transformed learning for students at SLA.

I was completely inspired by the way in which inquiry-based learning has created a place for students to take control of their own learning.  One example Lehmann & Laufenberg showcased centered around the inquiry question, “How are local communities shaped by history?” Students were to create a hypertextual narrative telling the story of a building within their zip code.  They selected a building with a name on it and had to research the origin of that name.  The results?  Incredible and meaningful.  Check out their CAPStone Project in which students explore the questions,  “How do we learn?” “What can we create?” and “What does it mean to lead” through a self-selected and designed independent project.

I am excited about exploring the potential of Inquiry-based learning in secondary schools in our District and Diana has offered to lend a hand!

George Couros  The Innovator’s Mindset

George (@gcouros), whose presentations are always so dynamic and engaging (in fact people were pressed up against the back doors to hear his talk), speaks to the Innovator’s Mindset, which is intricately connected to giving students opportunities to not just “do school” but to become participants in what that school could look like.  He advocates that leaders spend time in schools to listen to students and what they have to say.  To me, Couros’ focus on relationships & the innovative leader are the essential ingredients: only by establishing a context of trust by leaders in Districts and schools can innovation flourish as in the examples above. Each of the presenters had Superintendents & Principals that were champions for them so that innovation could happen.  Couros resources can be found here.

Everyone who attended ISTE brought their own context and experience to the sessions they attended. I’m sure that what I got out of these sessions, may be completely different from the learning of others.   Feel free to peruse the #ISTE2015 hashtag for other perspectives and check out for post-ISTE reflections at Tech & Learning.