Face-to-Face Huddle, On Safari, Open Discussion @AncasterSrPS

Last week for two days, ASPS students and staff hosted E-Learning Contacts from Northern Ontario. Often referred to as eLCs, these are educators whose focus is to support Ontario students with digital learning opportunities.  As well, learning alongside with us were Education Officers from the Ministry of Education.

My Wondering:  
How to organize our time together so that our visitors would really understand our learning community and our collaborative culture? Continue reading

Is Your Connectedness Showing?

The Web is connection.  It’s about how google, twitter, skype, text, facebook,webinar, podcasts, blog posts, skype, wiki and so on connects us.   Thankfully, the list can, does and will go on and on. I’m grateful for my connectedness and how it shows.  There are limitless ways to connect in today’s digital world. This is how we live and learn. Today, I tap, tap my fingers on my keyboard to ask my principal and vice-principal colleagues:  Is your connectedness showing?

Interestingly, it often seems there is a tendency for many leaders to disconnect during the summer because our feet are not planted in the classrooms, hallways, offices nor playgrounds of our face-to-face physical spaces. In fact, come to think of it, I haven’t heard from many of you except for those who I connect with online and in the cloud. Why is that?  Why does the prefix dis come into play in our connected world? Being connected is not bound by time nor place in today’s digital world.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.   Continue reading

Connected HWDSB P/VPs

Great learning always happens when my colleagues gather together.  On Wednesday October 12th, we came together to discuss how the school self-assessment inquiry process and analyzing data leads us to identifying the  School Effectiveness Framework (SEF) indicator based on student strengths and needs.

Our next step was to making the connection that this then leads our school teams through collaborative inquiry to utilize other data sources and combine this information with the SEF indicator to inform the Teaching Learning Critical Pathway (TLCP) process.

Then we posed this question to our 15 tables of approximately 120 principals, vice-principals and superintendents:
When you are sitting as a co-learner in the Inquiry Process (TLCP), what are the questions  you can ask?

Why ask this question? We ask this question to tap the expertise in the room and share with each other good thinking that can help and guide us back in our schools working together as a co-learner with our staff.

How did we capture all the good thinking and questions?  Each of the 15 table facilitator contributed the questions generated  in the HWDSB Connected P/VP Group in the Commons.

Here’s a screenshot of the question posted:

Please note:  This is a private group for HWDSB P/VPs to network, share and learn together.  I offer the screenshot as a sample.  Actual contributions are not available for viewing publicly.

The HWDSB Commons is our collaborative learning space for all students and staff.   Using the HWDSB Commons as a real-time collaboration tool allowed us to aggregate all the questions from all the tables and facilitated the sharing of questions between tables during the discussion.  Think about it  – real-time, ongoing collaboration that will continue beyond the face-to-face.  All P/VPs members of the group can log in anytime and refer to the thinking their colleagues and also continue to contribute questions, ideas and discussion.  Let’s sustain the learning in our virtual learning space!

In closing, my reflection is meant to focus on collaboration and how collective wisdom is powerful.  Being together face-to-face is very valued however, it is important in today’s world to take steps to collaborate virtually together. This was one of those steps.   The HWDSB Commons is an online learning platform / tool that supports collaboration and networking where we reflect, share and learn from each other because we know the expertise is in the room – whether it be physical or virtual.  Beginning to use the HWDSB Commons is creating our virtual learning space and that’s a good thing.  Thanks to all my colleagues who took the risk, offered feedback and who are reaching out to continue our learning in this way.

Learning Together at Waterdown

Arrival time was 8:30 am and our time together involved two hours of initial set-up, orientation, connecting to personal learning and discussing a plan for how to implement the tool as a communication strategy in the school community.  So, what is the tool?  It’s Twitter, a micro-blogging tool.   It was time well spent with @mvisca@jasonrizza and @ddalexand with lots of problem-solving, discussion and fielding of questions about how and why Twitter is meaningful for connecting, learning and communicating with others.

Initially, it took time for my colleagues to imagine how to pull the tweets together in a meaningful way but once we explored the power of Tweetdeck I noticed how it became clearer for them.  The primary benefits of TweetDeck are its ability to show you everything you want to see at once, in an organized column format.  In addition, the sharing of how educational chat hashtags assist in aggregating tweets into columns with specific categories for learning and networking proved to be powerful for my colleagues. For example, four that I follow and contribute in are #hwdsb, #cpchat, #edtech and #edchat.

Michelle Visca, Principal at Waterdown DHS originally asked for support as she was interested in accessing twitter as a way of communicating with the school community.  So, today #WDHS was created and this is where all are encouraged to share updates, messages and information about Waterdown District High School.  See the first two tweets that Michelle Visca, Principal posted:

The administrative team has begun the journey of using micro-blogging as a tool for networking, communicating and growing in a 21st century way.  I look forward to supporting the next steps with the Waterdown DHS staff and students as they take the risk and explore this new adventure in communication, connecting and learning together.

Interested?  Here is a robust link to check out:  Twitter by Cybraryman. I welcome questions and comments.




Constructivist PD with Livescribe

It’s almost here and this is very exciting!  On June 2, 2011 in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, a learning fair entitled, Live Learning with Livescribe will take place.  The learning fair structure  and design is based on an open learning style. Participants will construct their own learning by choice in focused areas of inquiry by interacting with facilitators at learning centres.  To understand the design of this learning fair, take a few moments and play this pencast:

Opening learning is active, flexible, participatory, social and self-regulated.  Sounds very 21st century to me!  This is an exploration in professional development and building capacity in staff.  Will this create a model of learning with each other that should be sustained?  Stay tuned as I will be seeking input from all and share my reflections by writing more on this constructivist approach to professional development.

In addition, this learning fair will celebrate the teachers who were very committed to the Live with Livescribe TLLP this school year.  It is an honour for HWDSB to host and organize this learning fair that celebrates in the best way their hard work and year long commitment by sharing their expertise and building capacity in others. This interactive learning fair focuses on how the livescribe is a tool that facilitates student learning and engagement  in many different ways tailored to the needs of the students.  I conclude by saying out loud I have very good vibes!

Just like the kids!

It was exciting today to offer a group of colleagues a technology tool for exploration, experimentation and most importantly experiential learning for professional growth and a focused purpose.  In my observation, adults can be just like the kids!   Hand them a piece of technology and watch them play, ask questions and begin to learn.  For the most part, curiousity and inquisitiveness bubbles to the surface, especially when you have others nearby to share in your experience.

The rationale for giving the twenty participants on the HWDSB 21st Century Fluencies Advisory Committee an eReader is to bring a focus on our learning through the use of a piece of technology.  It’s about an intentional blend of learning with a device and as the chair of the committee, my hope is that we have engaged and intrigued members on many fronts.

The beginning of our learning road map will focus on these intial goals:

  • To engage  in dialogue around professional reading including face to face and web 2.0 methods
  • To provide an opportunity to experience reading through an eReader
  • To augment professional reading pertaining to the 21st-century fluencies and teaching and learning in the digital age
  • To increase awareness of reading materials available for loan from the HWDSB, the Hamilton Public Library, and for purchase from various locations
  • To discuss the experience of using eReaders for professional learning
  • To dialogue openly about our learning experience
  • To discuss the teaching and learning potential of the device as it relates to student and staff engagement and learning

Posted on our wiki, committee members were left with a list of six things to do in preparation for a hands-on learning session at the end of May.  At that time, we will also select our initial texts for shared reading and review guiding questions. It’s going to be interesting to see how each committee member internalizes the use of an eReader as a tool for individual as well as group learning.   More posts to come!  I welcome your advice, comments, resources and experiences.

My First MOOC – CCK11 – Connectivism and Connected Knowledge

This week I began to participate in my very first MOOC.  A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course.  So, why am I doing this MOOC?  I want to  expand how I connect and network with others.  In addition,  I am interested in learning more about the theory of connectivism and networked learning with participants and the course facilitators,  Stephen Downes and George Siemens.

For me, this MOOC, CCK11 will offer me the opportunity to continue my stance in the journey of lifelong learning in a very new and different way. I will begin to negogiate and navigate my way through this course, expanding  flows of new knowledge through the use of technology in an open yet paced way.  As I begin to orient myself to the course and digest the readings, I  underline that learning is social, contextual and complex.  I was encouraged by George’s words when he suggested that “confusion is a good thing” and I’m certainly figuring out my role and how I will engage in this course.

I look forward to my learning ecosystem evolving as I network with course participants. Stephen Downes shares with us that “Knowledge is a set of connections.  A mind is a learning thing.  A computer is a learning thing and society is a learning thing.”

In today’s digital world, learning is powerful when:

  • it is open, flexible and connected
  • it builds networks of information, contacts and resources creating growth and development in the mind
  • it is participatory, networked and builds in choice and personalization
  • it maximizes the use of technology and tools

Learner control and freedom is integral to 21stCentury lifelong education and learning.  As an educator, my goal is to grow my thinking and understanding of being a connected learner.

A question I have:
How do we create responsive and connected  K-12 learning models that encourages lifelong learning in today’s networked world?

I look forward to connecting and growing over the next weeks.

Stances: Do you have them?

As leaders, research tells us and we know that teachers play an integral role in how our students learn.  Teachers are key participants in the act of learning and it isn’t about how much they know but how well they can be both a learner and a catalyst for inspiring students in understanding how they learn.  As a leader, I suggest that we make connections and draw similar parallels to how our staff learn and how we must be catalysts in their learning.

Currently, I am participating in a leadership workshop series sponsored by HWDSB entitled Cognitive Coaching. The mission of Cognitive Coaching is “to produce self-directed persons with the cognitive capacity for high performance both independently and as members of a community. ” This eight day training positions four “stances” when working with staff / adults:

  • Cognitive Coaching
  • Collaborating
  • Consulting
  • Evaluating

It is most effective when we remain in the coaching and collaborating stance as these stances encourage self-directed and interdependent learners.  Learners who take charge of their learning.  At times,  consulting is needed to offer suggestions and recommendations  based on student needs, pedagogy, policies and procedures.    Lastly, leaders do evaluate and rate performance according to standards.  As leaders, we will adjust our stance depending upon how the interaction evolves with our staff.   In order to be an effective cognitive coach, one must first build rapport and trust with people.  To date,  I have participated in two full days of training and look forward more days.  My intent is to share further learning and reflections with you.

Upon reflecting after the first two days of training about how as adults, we will  and do alter our stance when we interact with others,  I began to draw parallels with how teachers must do this with our students even more in today’s web-based learning ecology.  Students learn anywhere, anytime and in many places and it is essential that learning conditions and adults (all staff) are flexible and responsive.

Last month, I had the privilege of  collaborating with a superintendent in our jurisdiction, Sharon Stephanian, reworking a component of  a  document being launched this week entitled “Education in HWDSB.”  We were asked to rework a chart in the document in order to position it to be more inclusive of instructional strategies and responsiveness to students needs.  In addition, the rework would illustrate how learning involves a blend and balance of instructional strategies.

Here is an image of the chart:

Sharon and I met and began collaborating together.   As it turns out, we are both participants in Cognitive Coaching and our discussion brought in the stances and how they are responsive and relevant for not only how we as adults interact with each other but how these stances with modification could create a model that responds to today’s teacher – student learning relationship.

We began to whiteboard our thoughts and take the elements of the chart and connect them to the cognitive coaching stances.
Our work:

Our thinking:
Our diagram began with putting the students in the centre in a tier format.  We then included the words personalized, customized and choice around the tier to underline the importance of students having choice in how they learn, when they learn and where they learn.  They must be able to chose from a variety of approaches that best suit their needs, learning style and pathway.

This then led us to include the “stances” that the teacher will chose based on knowing their students and how best they learn.  The teacher must be in tune and shift their stance based on responding to the needs of students.

The Teacher Stances:
Instructing – This is where explicit teaching is required. The teacher is focusing on curriculum content, knowledge and skills. (in Cognitive Coaching Model it is consulting)
Collaborating – Facilitating students working together, face to face or over distances, recognizing the norms of collaboration among various cultures, engaging in collaborative inquiry, on projects that have meaning for the learner.
Coaching – The teacher is supporting the student as the driver of his or her learning. This includes goal setting, problem-solving, practice and self-directed learning.
Monitoring – This is the ongoing formative assessment that the teacher engages in in  order to determine what the student needs and thus whether there is a need to the stance. Based upon established success criteria, students engage in peer assessment and frequent feedback from the teacher. Teachers ensure high expectations for all and create conditions that ensure time on task. (in the Cognitive Coaching model, it is evaluating)

A learning environment, with students at the centre, where teachers vary their “stance” given student needs creates a balanced environment focused on learning for life with attention to content, product and process in the learning.

All stances are circled by trust and rapport.  Learning is about building relationships with people and knowing the needs of our students as well as ourselves.  Teachers and all staff are just as much a learner in the process of learning as the students. We must see ourselves as learners too!  Learning is social and most reliant on how we connect in the moment as we learn together.

Here is the diagram that is included in “Education in HWDSB”:

For me, this model illustrates that learning involves action, participation and responsiveness.  We must shift our stance and  are learners alongside students.

A few questions:
Do you have “stances”?  Are you mindful of them when you work and learn with others?

Your comments and questions are welcome and please let’s  continue the discussion.

3 Words: Personalize, Blend, Balance

In today’s era of lifelong learning, we can and do learn anywhere, anytime and with anyone.  Ideas such as 24/7, JIT and learning now all imply how learning is open, personal and social.   More than ever, today’s professional development (our learning) must be ongoing and is integral to continually improving our practice which has a  direct impact on the engagement and learning of our students and staff.   Today’s PD must be about customization, responsiveness, collaboration and most importantly,  learning must be practiced in a job-embedded way.

Three words continue to surface for me as I connect with staff and discuss how we learn as professionals today. Developing  as a professional is best when it is personalized, blended and balanced.

From these threes ideas, professionals develop holistically:

  • personalized learning  is contextual, self-directed, reflective and meaningful to you and your work
  • blended  formal and informal learning differentiates  the ways, the  tools and the learning spaces; combining job-embedded learning with face-to-face and online
  • balanced learning involves the self and others; alone, 1:1, group, PLNs, critical friends and mentors

Think about PD as a  ILP – individualized learning plan.  Yes, you can be a free agent learner and take charge of your own learning.  Mix up how you learn everyday.

Next Steps: Lifelong Everyday Learning

On Friday April 30th in Toronto, I was honoured to spend time sharing with my continuing education colleagues from all over Ontario re:  how building a PLN can empower you to grow as a professional each and every day.  The goal was to demonstrate how it is possible and essential to go beyond F2F networking and learning and move to everyday learning with each other through the use of web 2.0 tools such as wikis, twitter and video conferencing.

For two hours, we navigated our  Networking 2 Learn wiki  discussing these questions:

  • What are 21st century skills, and why do they matter?
  • What does it mean to be literate in the 21st Century?
  • What is a personal learning network (PLN)?
  • How can growing a PLN make me a better educator?
  • How do I use web 2.0 tools to build and maintain a PLN?

In terms of context, it must be stated that our group creates programs in adult, alternative and continuing education in Ontario and most of us have staff who are in many locations and it is very challenging to bring them together onground and often impossible due to the geographics, etc…  Also, another reality is that we as professionals have very unique roles in our own school boards and do find that we are different.   Our staff is different, our schools are different and hence, we often don’t fit  in with the K-12 learning community.  We did conclude on Friday April 30th, 2010 that creating a PLN and starting out slowly and using web 2.0 tools would not only allow us to collaborate and network but it would also keep us in tune with the many students we serve.  In fact, my colleague, Becky Howse from TVDSB debriefed at the plenary on our behalf and in her own unique and candid way stated that “it was time to tweet!”

As I reflect this weekend, I am jazzed and optimistic as my provincial colleagues did agree that it was time to be on board as a collective in using web 2.0 tools and building PLNs. YEAH!  My next steps will be to encourage, model, position and invite  my “con eddies” in Ontario to be online with me.  I promise to keep it going with our small group.  I will be there when  they tweet me for the first time or share in  #conted.  I promise to celebrate with them when they begin to contribute in our wiki.   My promise is to be open, to support, to share, to encourage, to celebrate and most of all to collaborate and to learn with them.   This is my promise to them and all others who join us!  Lifelong everyday learning in continuing education – makes sense to me.