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Fear Inhibits Progress

I recently had the opportunity to present at the Alberta Google Summit. I chose to share a little bit of our 1-to-1 journey at Muir Lake School and how teaching and learning is transforming in this learning environment. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and perhaps more than anything was an amazing opportunity to reflect where we have come from in our building and what our next steps are.

After my presentation and throughout the couple of days at the conference I was able to visit with some other great educators from other school divisions. I heard lots of great stories and got lots of other ideas from our conversations. There was definitely lots of examples of schools and teachers making huge advancements in transforming teaching and learning. Unfortunately, there were also some stories that I heard that made me cringe. (more…)

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…)

What’s The Big Deal With 1 to 1?

I don’t understand why creating learning communities in our classrooms where our students have access to their own device is a big deal. Why is this not the norm? Nobody makes a big deal about learning 1 to 1 with textbooks. Every student has access to their own binder, pencil, pens and other “traditional” tools for learning at a “1 to 1” ratio. In fact if students didn’t have access to a pen or textbook, we would consider this a travesty. So why the trepidation to allowing students to use phones, tablets, and laptops in the class?

Technology is just a tool. Learning with technology should never become just about the technology in the same way that learning with a textbook should not be just about the textbook. It is about the learning. It is about equipping our students with the best possible tools to learn. Let’s face it, a computer is a better tool for learning than a textbook. If a computer and a textbook were invented at the same time, what tool would you choose?

Technology shouldn’t be a novelty in the classroom in the same way that a pen and paper aren’t novelties. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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