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Innovation Takes Time

I started this school year by participating in Educator’s Innovation Day. The day was dedicated for educators to work individually or in groups on anything they wanted to work on around the theme of improving education. I spent the day working with Jesse McLean around the idea of wanting to come up with a middle years entrepreneurial option. By the end of the day we had created the Becoming Tycoons Option and Student Business Planning Guide designed to allow for student choice, innovation, and introduce them to business concepts such as start-ups, management, marketing, and finances. Both Greystone Centennial Middle School and Muir Lake School students will be participating in this option at the same time so we are going to be setting up collaboration and sharing opportunities between our students with Google Hangouts and in person. We have not yet taught this option yet, but I am very excited to see what the students come up with for their businesses. Ultimately, my hope is that this will lay a foundation and open up possibilities for students in their future in the area of business and innovation.

Although, I am excited about this project that we came up with, the day in and of itself has bigger implications for educators. Taking the time to spend a day working on something that we have never done before and was completely brand new to us was extremely valuable. How often do we do that? It is so easy to fill up our days with the business of working and teaching in a school. Rarely, do we feel like we have the time to just sit, talk, and collaborate on working on something new with the aim to improve education. Yet, I would argue that this is some of the most valuable time that we could spend as an educator and is too often neglected.

As educators, we don’t spend enough time in quadrant II of Steven Covey’s Time Management Grid. Taking time to think, reflect, collaborate, share, be creative and innovate never feels urgent but it is of the utmost importance. This time is what keeps education relevant in an ever changing world. It is time that ignites passion and motivation in students and teachers. It is what fights off a culture of complacency that allows for things to be taught and learned in the same way just because that is the way it was taught and learned last year… and the year before that… and the year before that.  It is time that fuels inspiration, growth and change. It is time that allows for the extraordinary as opposed to settling for mediocrity. As educators we need to prioritize this time.

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I know our days are busy. I feel the pressure of the other quadrants everyday. (more…)

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Building 1-to-1 Learning Communities

On February 25, 2013 I had the opportunity to present our 1-to-1 technology initiative journey thus far at Muir Lake School at the Google Apps For Education Alberta Summit. It was great to present alongside Kelly Arnold and Charlene Daub and share our learning with others. I considered it a great privilege to present and share our work with the educators who attended and as expected thoroughly enjoyed the experience; however, what I didn’t expect was how much learning I would get out of it. In preparing this presentation I am convinced more than ever that schools need to become 1-to-1 learning environments. It is not about having technology for the sake of technology, it is about the opportunities it provides when used properly. If you are teaching in a school that is not 1-to-1, you should change that. Here are 11 reasons why:

  1. Our world is 1-to-1. Our schools should be too. If they are not, they are in danger of becoming irrelevant. 
  2. Literacy is changing. When students leave our school, they should not be illiterate(more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

“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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