Category Archives: Navigates Change

Let’s Be Flexible!

When we think of FLEXIBLE or being flexible we may focus ourselves on:

  • our health – can our bodies be more flexible or do we need to work on different athletic moves or…
  • our food – allergens exist and how can we eat well and stay healthy
  • our work – balance between projects and ideas

AND really, this post is about:

  • our schools – what kind of learning environments are we providing in order for students to be engaged critical thinkers, problem solvers and curious learners who are seeing the connections between education and the world around them?

My notes below are the experiences over the three day period where I attended a Canadian Academic Leadership Summit hosted by Surrey Schools and Discovery Education. 

PLEASE click on the Flexible Learning Environments photo to be taken to the Spark Page that I created.

Flexible Learning Environments


Design Thinking into Biohacking?

I just recently read Brian Aspinall’s (@mraspinall) blog post on Coding: Developing Rigorous Thinkers where he discusses the reason why students should learn to code – to think, problem solve, take risks, modify their work through trial and error, etc. All the competencies (specifics from Alberta Education) we want them to engage and grow as learner and it reminded me of an amazing TED Talk from Andrew Pelling where he “grows” human ears from other objects that you would never suspect.

He also recently founded pHacktory which is an independent research lab founded on extreme play, curiosity, undertaking audacious projects, taking risks and learning from failure.

I wonder how we could take Andrew’s zest for engaging in dramatic and disruptive learning and put it into our learning environments?




Sir Ken: A New Model for Education

Sir Ken was pushed into the global educational spotlight over a decade ago with his sharing via a TED talk regarding schools killing creativity and follow up talks such as Changing education paradigms, and Bring on the learning revolution. He’s also traveled the world even visiting Alberta a number of times to heighten our awareness that the traditional way of teaching and learning must change.

The video below is part of an introduction to the work Sir Ken is participating in with the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory (ARC). This is a global group of educational systems that want to advance values such as equity, excellence, wellbeing, inclusion, democracy and human rights for all students within high-quality professionally-run systems. What rings true for me is that the educational community cannot rest at ease in the work to move the learning and teaching processes forward. No longer should it be acceptable for systems to just look at OUTPUT but look towards SUSTAINABILITY while equipping teachers and students to handle the current and future global challenges and changes. It is also important to note that Sir Ken says it takes more than just one group to make this move, it takes many.



EdTech Trends, Challenges and Developments

5077453679_3f51278a13_mPhoto Credit: Marlene Manto via Compfight cc

Each year, the NMC Horizon Report provides information about various educational technology trends. For this post, I am concentrating on the newly released 2015 K-12 Edition.

Key Trends in accelerating K-12 educational technology adoption are:

  • long-term impact (5+ years): rethinking how schools work and shifting to deeper learning approaches
  • mid-term impact (3-5 years): increasing the use of collaborative learning approaches, shifting from students as consumers to creators
  • short-term impact (1-2 years): increasing the use of hybrid/blended learning designs, rise of STEAM learning

For the school division that I work with, we have focused that last several years in rearranging the entire school experience by being part of the High School Flexibility Project, looked at various project-based learning throughout the school year such as Innovation Week, CTF Showcase, Genius Hour and continue to utilise Critical Thinking challenges (from TC2) and Cooperative Learning techniques (from Kagan Structures) to change the typical classroom environment to one of creativity, innovation and flexible learning for all students. We also are fully vested in the GAFE environment (sharing the various Chrome apps, extensions and add-ons to have students participate at their level) as well as building our digital presence via Edublogs (for classroom blogs and student showcase eportfolios), Twitter (check out #psd70), Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram.

Challenges impeding this adoption are:

  • solvable (we understand and can solve): creating authentic learning opportunities, integrating technology in teacher education
  • difficult (we understand but solutions are elusive): personalizing learning, rethinking roles of teachers
  • wicked (complex to define/address): scaling teaching innovations, teaching complex thinking

I work within Learning Services that supports all schools, their staff and I also work closely with our IT department and other departments in using technology and embedding curriculum in interesting and engaging ways. We have facilitators who work with staff to create more inclusive environments for all students. We have staff who are experts in curriculum, early years education, etc. We also have many expert teachers throughout the district who are willing to share, collaborate and create together. We continue to talk about the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (student-centered learning, research and innovation, professional learning, leadership, access, infrastructure and digital learning environments) and see what are readiness is and where our schools need to work towards to move along. We also work closely with our New Teachers throughout the year to build their confidence in using the technology that is available at our school sites – projectors, document cameras, Smartboards, Chromebooks, BYOD, iPads – to name a few. There are always many professional learning opportunities for staff throughout the year. We are also looking forward to see where all the work in the province of Alberta on Curriculum Redesign will go after our new government has had a chance to review it.

Developments in educational technology are:

  • > one year adoption: BYOD, Makerspaces
  • 2-3 years: 3D printing/rapid prototyping, adaptive learning technologies
  • 4-5 years: badges/microcredit, wearable technology

BYOD or Bring Your Own Device Initiative has sprouted to various school sites and grade levels throughout our school division. A couple of our schools (one K-4, one 5-9) have delved this past year into 3D Printing and more are interested in using this tool in the learning environment. (For some its a budget concern and for others its pedagogical.) With Makerspaces we are seeing our Library Learning Commons staff taking the lead in introducing this to their school sites and some keen teachers taking it further and making curricular connections (ie. Caines Arcade). Some adaptive learning technologies being used are IXL Math, Accelerated Reader.

Overall, my school division sees the value in integrating technology into the learning and teaching environment. We see the many opportunities it creates for ALL our school communities from creating new ways to express and demonstrate learning, removing barriers (such as print or writing or reading) to engaging with each other, other schools and even other countries.

Take a quick read through the NMC Horizon Report Preview 205 K-12 Edition and then for a “meatyer” report, check out the full meal deal of the NMC Horizon Report.


Are You Brave?

Having another opportunity to host a Leadercast in our school division is just an amazing and unforgettable experience. For those who don’t recognize “Leadercast”, it is a day-long learning event with a variety of speakers focused on speaking on one particular subject from their own experiences.


This year the speakers were:


The theme – The Brave Ones – showcases one of the essential behaviors for innovative and forward-moving leadership. Those leaders who push their organizations into different paths and who are bold enough to think of both the ethical, social and moral pieces while engaging their people are the ones who we heard from today. It is not just those famous leaders that one needs to think about, it is important to think about everyday leaders in their communities who are audacious and driven to make a difference.


Whether it was in the journal in print or the Leadercast App, there was a Be Brave Checklist found in both. For each speaker session, (there were four) participants were asked to create their own brave action. Below are mine, so far….

Session 1 – speakers: Andy Stanley, Rorke Denver, Bill McDermott

  • To wrap my head around the idea of saying “wow” not “how” when ideas and/or policies are not meeting our educational standards. Then ask “what do I believe is impossible to do in our educational field but if it could be done, would fundamentally change our work?” I will have to think more about what I could ‘bravely’ be doing to answer that question. Currently, in Alberta the previous government froze $$ going to school divisions for the 2015-16 school year, however last week a new government was voted in. Could the $$ situation change soon? If it does or doesn’t, I still need to think further on this.
  • Leadercast_Andy
  • Sketch created by on May 8, 2015
    • Session 2 – speakers: Malala Yousafzai, Peyton Manning
  • Continue to speak out for all students and my instance that the learning environment be set up in a universally-designed manner to engage everyone no matter where they are in the Alberta curriculum continuum. My goal is to support teachers and EAs and students to utilize available resources, materials and tools. It is also my goal that our Admin and any leaders who present or create workshops also think about adult learners and design appropriate, engaging and demanding opportunities for participants.
  • Leadercast_Malala
  • Sketch created by on May
    • Session 3 – speakers: Seth Godin, Ed Catmull
  • I need to work on being even more curious, to think outside the box and share my thoughts with colleagues. I do have a great Learning Services team and school division whose vision is to provide “a place where exploration, creativity and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams” (including me!). Sometimes, I feel I may do many things at various sites and with other groups that I may not share clearly to the Team what I have been doing. (I try to share directly with colleagues, in my blog, on Twitter and via the weekly Online employee newsletter, but one can never share too much!)
  • Leadercast_Ed
    • Session 4 – speakers: Aja Brown, Rudy Guiliani
  • Don’t be afraid to have Fierce Conversations with groups of people or even individuals. If you are unsure how to get started, Susan Scott’s bestseller Fierce Conversations or even the training will help you. I know that in my work dealing with school administrators, staff and sometimes students this training has allowed me to get clarity and clearly envision the conversation(s) at hand.

Leadercast2015Leadercast 2015_2

I will continue to follow @Leadercast #leadercast throughout the year as well as subscribe to the Leadercast Now site (video clips and action strategies) throughout the upcoming year. I know that the 50 people who attended the simulcast were moved by the people and the theme.

What will you do to be brave in the work that you do?


Emerging Technologies – Promise and Peril

Promise and Peril intro

Today, I had the opportunity to sit and learn with people from across North America, the UK, Finland and Australia from various sectors of education, health, research, police, trades and government.

This is a time of infinitesimal technological change where we all need to understand the immense impact of the digital environment has on our health and well-being.

I had the honor to facilitate the thoughtful conversations that occurred between keynote speakers at my table. This blog will reflect my personal thoughts, table thoughts and that of the main group attending the research colloquium.

The intended goals were to:

– consider the extent to which technologies are (re)shaping the minds and bodies of children and youth

– identify the issues, perspectives and contentions emerging from current North American research

– generate key questions to guide policy decisions and future research on emerging technologies, learning, teaching and the well-being of children and youth


Dr. Michael Rich

Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, United States Full Bio

Centre on Media and Child Health – Explore Dr. Rich’s extensive work on behalf of Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public HealthCBC national panel discussion on Youth and Technology (February 2014)Ask the “Mediatrician” a question

Dr. Rich took us on quite a journey:

–         The average 8-18 year old uses media for 7 hours and 38 minutes per day

–         Kids are getting less sleep because they are using their devices during bed time which means less sleep = less consolidation of learning (the brain cannot process the days learning since it isn’t in full REM long enough or deep enough)

–         Those students who are heavy users (16+ hours/day) have poorer grades, are twice as likely to get in trouble and have low personal contentment.

–         What we feed a child’s mind is as important as what we feed their body

–         There is value in boredom – do youth have time to be bored anymore with the large amount of time spent with media content?

–         ¼ of 8-9th graders say that video gaming gets in the way of their studies

–         Video games are set environments and conditions where players direct, rehearse and are rewarded for behavioral scripts

–         Kids don’t understand that when they set up their profiles in various social media sites that advertisers are already connecting their products to those profiles

–         58% of cyber bullied victims do not tell adults for fear of losing access to their media. Many youth stay online in self defense as they fear of missing out.

–         Social media is neutral; human nature makes it the promise or peril

–         A lot of characteristics of drug addictions are consistent for addictions to media/technology

–         Take a digital Sabbath – 24 hour period once a week where you turn off your devices.

–         The following news items are great to share with parents or in school newsletters. For even more check out and

online happenings


–         Use media with your children in their digital space, talk to them about the experiences and don’t use time limits on screen time, rather, prioritize their life with rich and diverse activities

kids want tech

–         Kids with severe health issues are able to connect online with their clinicians

–         Embed media literacy with the curriculum through mindful reception, critical thinking and thoughtful responses


Panel Information

Catherine Adams, Assoc Prof from University of Alberta

Nicole Sherren, Director, Norlien Foundation

Michele Jacobsen, Assoc Prof from University of Calgary


–         Technology as pharmakon – it can be seen as a remedy and as a poison. Too little and it doesn’t work, too much and it is poisonous

–         Technology not only affects the individual but the entire system

–         Neural circuits are developed from the bottom up. The brain strengthens the circuits used most. Positive builds positive.

–         Executive function helps kids navigate their world n succeed in life + based on cog, social, emotional competencies

–         AB Family Wellness Initiative  – fantastic site w/brain resources

–         Stress shapes brain architecture – types: + (brief acts, required), tolerable (serious but temp), toxic (prolonged, damaging)

–         New research: 78% of 12-17 yr. olds have mobile phones, 47% have smart phones.

–         If we value our kids, they can acquire AND contribute ideas to shape their society

leverage tech

issues tech

Dr. Valerie Steeves

Dr. Valerie Steeves, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa, and principal investigator of the largest Canadian research study on children & teens’ online habits. Full Bio

Cyberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and ThreatsOnline Privacy, Online PublicityLife Online

–         99% Cdn students access internet outside of school, 62% use tablet/mobile device

–         Children’s’ internet use is highly gendered

–         25-33% students post digital content, but only 4% do so frequently. 50% search for info/current events

–         students’ frequent online activities – gaming, downloading, reading SM posts, Twitter following n posting

–         content creation focuses mainly on students social lives

–         The idea we can throw tech at kids and they will instinctively innovate does not appear to be supported by research

–         Top sites for Cdn Kids – YouTube Facebook and Google

–         Over 50% of Canadian grade 11 students report sleeping with their cell phones. 20% of grade 4 students report the same thing

–         kids who choose 2 go offline – spend time w/friends/family, quiet time, outside sports

–         Besides the gr8 resources, Media Smarts has an informational edtech blog 

–         Influence of photoshop and girls images of themselves

–         Who do kids say they learn digital literacy from? 45% say from parents 41% say from teachers

–         Cyberbullying – big range of behaviors – mainly drama-based from kids points of view – they say adult standards are unreasonable

–         Internet filters & blockers don’t build trust with students. How do we create avenues of trust when we’re putting up barriers?

reality bytes


– it’s about the relationships both online and offline

– marketization of the online environment – children’s data being used by companies

– we need to unplug but need some solid “how much”/core direction to move forward

– talk to children/community about when and how much screen time is appropriate




Responsive Resilience

Over the past couple of years in the school division that I have the pleasure of working in and for, we have incorporated a Youth Resiliency Initiative. This initiative is intended to build health and wellness in schools and communities through capacity building, programs and partnerships. As well, strategies are being developed to build and support a more equitable foundations for resiliency in our students.

The September 2013 Education Leadership magazine is completely dedicated to this topic of Resilience and Learning and of the many informative articles, Sara Truebridge and Bonnie Benard’s “Reflection on Resilience” gives a wonderful snapshot of the work that is occuring in our school division with this initiative.


As well, if you have time set aside, Sara Truebridge’s keynote from the Whole Child Virtual Conference is available.