The Learning Principal

The Power Of Video In Learning Communities

I had an interesting experience the other day… I attended my first ever parent/teacher interview as a dad.

 #nedaviahjael on Instagram

My daughter is in kindergarten in the same division in which I work but not at the same school. It was a unique experience. Obviously, I have been a part of many parent/teacher interviews as an educator, but sitting on the other end as a father was a completely new and powerful experience. During the interview, her teacher Heather Harcus, @HeHarc showed us a video on her tablet of Nedaviah presenting to her class about bats. Watching that video was extremely powerful for me as a Dad. Obviously, it made me incredibly proud to watch my beautiful daughter give this presentation while I marvelled at her cuteness (speaking like a true biased dad); however, it was much more than that. It was more than just viewing a home video. It was like time and place was suspended and I was actually transported into the classroom participating in my daughter’s learning. For the first time I peered through a window into my daughter’s classroom and was able to see her learning in action. It gave me insight into seeing who she is in a new environment; one that I have never witnessed. It gave me a platform for discussion and participation in my child’s learning and school life. I realized that this was a platform I continued to want to access. I don’t want to miss the next 12 years from 8:00-3:00 of my daughter’s life.

For a while now, I have been thinking about how and why video can and should be used in the classroom. (more…)

1:1 Technology Initiative

I am excited about the 1-to-1 Technology Initiative that we have been implementing at Muir Lake School. We are in year one of our three year plan to see all of our students in Learning Communities 4-9 to have access to a personal laptop in every class to be utilized whenever it is the best tool for the learning activity.

Let me be clear. Just adding access to technology for our students is not the goal. We don’t want $500 notebooks sitting on every child’s desk functioning as expensive pen and paper. Our focus is learning first. We want our students to be able to collaborate and extend learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. We want our students to think critically and problem solve. We want our students to increase information fluency and literacies (National Council of Teachers of English Definition of 21st Century Literacies and My Kids Are Illiterate. Most Likely Yours Are Too). We want our students to be prepared for their future, opening a world of opportunities to them. We want them to be able to solve problems that we don’t know are problems yet, and make careers in jobs that currently do not exist. We want them to be creative, innovative, motivated and engaged in their learning. We want students to choose and explore different ways to demonstrate their learning. We want every student to succeed to the best of their ability. Utilizing 1-to-1 learning environments effectively accomplishes this.

Our classrooms should no longer look like they did in the past. (more…)

Collaborate, Create, Learn: A School PD PLan

Let’s be honest for a second… Have you ever found yourself trapped in a seemingly irrelevant professional development session, sitting painfully, watching the clock slowly tick by while someone drones on at the front? You know the presenter is apparently supposed to be teaching you something that will help develop you as the professional educator that you are, yet for the life of you all you can hear is…

“Bueler… Bueler… Bueler… Bueler… Bueler… Bueler… Bueler…”

I’m sure I am not the only educator who has had the privilege of such an experience. In fact, if I am being honest with myself, I have even been guilty of creating a “Bueleresc” experience for colleagues as an administrator on school pd days. This is why I am optimistic, enthusiastic, and even excited about our Muir Lake School Collaborate, Create, Learn (CCL) School Professional Development Plan.

First thing I need to note. I am sharing this work that has been done on this plan because the idea was first shared with me. Kudos and thanks to George Couros for so freely and consistently sharing his work, resources, and experiences. It is this same spirit of transparently sharing that is the foundation of this plan.

We began developing this plan by forming a PD committee with representation from all staff groupings: early  years teachers, middle years teachers, and Educational Assistants. We set aside a day to work together to vision cast and plan what professional development could look like in our school.  The result of this day is our Muir Lake School Collaborate, Create, Learn (CCL) School Professional Development Plan. The cornerstone principles of the PD plan are:

  1. Self-directed
  2. Maximizing Staff Expertise
  3. Collaboration
  4. Transparent Sharing
  5. Distributed Leadership
  6. Time and resources (more…)

I choose… Leadership Wisdom

Today I participated in the Chick-fil-A Leadercast that featured a wide array of visionary leaders. The event featured many great speakers and inspirational leaders, some of my favourites of the day being @AndyStanley, @AngelaAhrendts, @johncmaxwell, and @TimTebow. It was a great event full of amazing wisdom that left me inspired and motivated to continue to grow in my leadership capacity. After listening and tweeting #cfaleadercast leadership wisdom all day, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect upon and share some of my biggest take-away leadership principles of the day that spoke to me the most.

  1. Great leaders are vulnerable. Intentional vulnerability by leaders creates an atmosphere of trust imperative for any great team. I choose to be transparent. 
  2. A leader is a dreamer with a plan. Innovation is the starting block and the implementation of the of the vision is the race. I choose to plan to dream.
  3. People will live DOWN or UP to the expectations leaders set. Creating an atmosphere of high expectations in a culture of trust, fostered by mutual collaboration, with the freedom to take risks is essential to great achievement. This is true of students and staff. I choose to expect a lot of myself and others.
  4. Managers manage everyone in the same way… leaders lead everyone differently. People are individuals. It is the mission of a leader to foster an environment for team members to flourish. Leading everyone the same will not motivate or inspire. I choose to seek to know the people around me as individuals.
  5. The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda. Growth is not passive; it is intentional. My daily habits and choices will either lead me to where I want to go or take me father away. The greatest investment you will ever make is in yourself. I choose to be intentional about growing. (more…)

Innovate, Engage, Learn: Student Online Educational Portfolios

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. – John Dewey

Reflection upon one’s own learning and practice is vital to growth. As a teacher, I learned very early in my career that reflecting upon all aspects of my practice was important to increasing my professional competency. Despite knowing this, my practice of reflection was sporadic at best due to the daily rigors of the job… until recently. After hearing @gcouros talk about his portfolio The Principal of Change as being the most meaningful learning he has ever done, I was inspired to create my own blog as a tool of learning and reflection. Although very early in the process, this journey thus far has been incredible. Not only am I deliberately and intentionally reflecting on my practice, I am thoroughly enjoying the process; consequently, it is making me a better school administrator and educator. I am learning more about my strengths and how to improve them, as well as my areas for growth. So if this works for me and helps me learn, why wouldn’t it work for students?

(more…)

Are Textbooks Going The Way Of The Dodo Bird?

Are traditional textbooks outdated? Are they convenient? Are they even practical? Will traditional textbooks go the way of the Dodo bird? Will they become extinct?

recent Scholastic survey commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and released in 2010 found few teachers believe traditional textbooks can engage today’s digital natives and prepare them for success. Teachers say they prefer digital and non-digital resources like magazines and books other than textbooks. Only 12 percent of some 40,000 teachers surveyed said textbooks help students achieve, while only 6 percent said textbooks engage their students in learning. (High School Hustle: Overloaded backpacks and outdated textbooks; a better way?)

(more…)

“Who’s on First?” Conflict vs. Combat

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.” Max Lucade 

It is natural and even expected that whenever a group of people gather in one place in order to accomplish a task that disagreements, differences of opinion, and conflict will occur. Many people tend to shy away from confrontation, viewing it as a negative or uncomfortable event, that will often bring disastrous results. I have witnessed people walk away from disagreements carrying personal offense over an issue that has been damaging to the relationship. Consequently, a tendency to avoid confrontation, contribute to problem solving tasks, and collaborate effectively with one another will develop among colleagues. This type of staff culture is highly ineffective, debilitating, and unacceptable for a highly productive learning team. Conflict is actually a positive thing that can inspire the best in individuals and solutions moving forward, as long as it doesn’t become combat.

As an administrator of a school, I have dealt with a number of conflicts at our school that have arisen between staff, students, volunteers, and parents in different combinations of all of these groups of individuals. Every conflict involved different people and different issues; however, they all, in one way or another, had one thing in common… communication or more accurately… miscommunication. (more…)

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