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Category Archives: Excellence in Professional Practice

Learning Today in a 24/7 Connected World

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Photo Credit: Kellie M. Simpson Flickr via Compfight cc

Like a traditional board game, learning has moments where all the experiences connect into some genuine learning wins while other times it seems like there are not enough resources and/or supports (like board pieces) in place to be successful. This post reflects on the many discussions, resources, and ideas that Will Richardson, renowned blogger, author, and outspoken educational advocate,  shared during his two keynotes at the BlendED Alberta 2018 Symposium in Edmonton. 

Whether in an Outreach program, learning centre, distance learning program or classroom, teachers are using the online environment to expand and extend learning opportunities, building flexibility to student learning.  The blendED Symposium is designed to share emerging practices while providing opportunities for networking with sessions that will inspire and provoke delegates to think outside the traditional learning environment.

With today’s society changing at a rapid pace in all aspects of work, life, and general society, what are schools doing to prepare students?

An important question to ask ourselves is: what is PRODUCTIVE learning?

How do we set up a learning environment that is relevant, active, engaging and supports the needs of all our students?

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What is your belief? How does your school or even school division support this work?

Another book to put on your professional reading list is Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a collection of essays, many of which build on articles for the New York Times, Bloomberg and elsewhere. This book follows a similar use of evolutionary psychology as self-help as his previous two books. The world is a scary, fast-changing place, so it’s no surprise our primitive brains struggle to navigate through it. We simply haven’t evolved to cope with automated checkouts and emailing after 7pm. Harari points out that humans are endlessly creative and sometimes we solve problems by changing the question rather than answering it. Hence, the large role that lifelong learning plays in each of us!

What are the contexts and conditions for this to occur?

Teacher answers around the world:                What people never say:     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further reading, check out Timeless Learning a book written by an award-winning team of leaders, Chief Technology Officer Ira Socol, Superintendent Pam Moran, and Lab Schools Principal Chad Ratliff who demonstrate how you can implement innovative practices that have shown remarkable success.

 

How do we come up with the skills to address an algorithm-driven online existence?

In Alberta, some jurisdictions are already using gradeless report cards. Our own school division uses achievement indicators in grades 1-9 as seen HERE. Joe Bower, a former central Alberta teacher, shared the many ways he went gradeless in his classroom. His blog continues to be a great “go-to” for teachers to reflect on his experiences as well as update some of their own assessment practices.

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Some things to ponder:

  • What is learning?
  • What is “blended” learning?
  • What is our mission? Why “blended”?
  • Are we doing blended learning or blended teaching?
  • What is the most important role of the teacher in blended environments?
  • Do we have full empathy for the student experience in blended environments?
  • Are we co-constructing curriculum with students?
  • What opportunities are we creating for students to fulfill their greatest potentials?
  • How are we a model for blended learning?
  • Is our practice in “perpetual beta”?

Compare those questions with those directly from Richardson’s 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning. What do you think about being in “perpetual beta”? Is this a comfortable way to learn for teachers and students? How can we introduce this concept in the classroom? It certainly points to showing that nothing (like learning) is ever finished, rather knowledge is a constant conversation in the modern world. Have a peek into Peter Senge’s Schools that Learn (revised and updated) book.

What is the best way to provide a framework for students to show that productive learning is worthwhile?

Let’s make a move from Genius Hour and change it to Genius Learning; from Tinkerlab to tinkering our learning anytime/anywhere. We need to continue our professional conversations and provide the most inviting learning environments as possible. I look forward to seeing the influence that the new concept-based curriculum has in not only the K-4 classrooms in Alberta and also the upper grades as new curriculum rollouts will be seen over the next few years.

So, while we all like playing a “game”, it’s really not the games themselves that improve learning, but rather smart game design and its impact on the brain. Teachers and administrators want to provide students with modern productive and engaging learning activities.

 

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Lead Yourself – Leadercast 2018

Leadercast Live focuses on the leadership issues most relevant to today’s leader. It is a pairing of inspiring messages and rich interaction with fellow leaders who are being intentional about raising their standard of leadership, through a creative, energetic and memorable experience. My school division hosts this annually in our Centre for Education Board room.

It is an exciting time bringing together various PSD employees, vendors, students and community members. I enjoy the excitement energy and thoughtfulness that the day brings. I also like coordinating my hosting efforts by setting up an elaborate theme for the day! I have a fantastic and creative Administrative Assistant that is just so phenomenal. We not only want the speakers to be the focus but also the environment.

Our group was joined with more than 100,000 leaders for the largest one­-day leadership event in the world this past Friday, May 4th!

This year, the Leadercast Live stage featured leaders who explained the power and importance of leading yourself first so you can lead others well. I posed three main questions of reflection at the start of the day for participants:

  • What does it look like to lead yourself?
  • How can you intentionally develop your own leadership skills and style?
  • What qualities do you hope to embody as a leader?

We also had fun with the Lead Yourself and the May 4th Be With You theme. Some of us dressed up as Star Wars characters, all of the food and drink items were labeled with Star Wars references. Leadership books were on display. The tables had the itinerary and lightsabers. The food tables had huge Star Wars LEGO models as well as Leadercast Speaker quotes. This year we had a wonderful set of sponsors – Cisco Canada and Compugen Inc.

Check out the visual summaries (sketchnotes) created by @jgough on each of the Leadercast Live 2018 speakers:

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I also added to the Speaker lineup a few special guests to make the day a little more personalized. We used our Webex platform to videoconference in the following:

  • our own infamous MCHS Choir to sing Oh Canada to start off the day
  • Willa Black, VP of Corporate Affairs for Cisco Canada that spoke about the Connected North program during the morning break
  • 5 Prescott students on how they are leaders in their environments during the lunch break

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Overall, Leadercast Live always sends me away with many gems and takeaways. Definitely, a day that I look forward to in experiencing with colleagues and one that I don’t mind taking all the extra time beforehand in setting up and coordinating.

 

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How do I know that my support, research, and information is having an impact on staff/student learning?

Throughout the school year I will share on this blog:

1) my evidence from school sites

2) and how I am moving the learning forward for colleagues

I’ve already spoken briefly about it earlier this month in Got How? You Also Need to Know Your Why?.

Based on draft TQS July 2016, I have chosen the following competencies and indicators:

 

Demonstrating a Professional Body of Knowledge

A teacher applies a current and comprehensive repertoire of effective planning, instruction, and assessment practices to meet the learning needs of every student.

  • incorporate a range of instructional strategies, including the appropriate use(s) of digital technology, according to the context, content, desired outcomes and the learning needs of students;
  • incorporate digital technology and resources, as appropriate, to build student capacity for: – acquiring, applying and creating new knowledge; – communicating and collaborating with others, – critical-thinking; and – accessing, interpreting and evaluating information from diverse sources;
  • provide a variety of methods through which students can demonstrate their achievement of the learning outcomes;
  • provide accurate, constructive and timely feedback on student learning;

Establishing Inclusive Learning Environments

A teacher establishes, promotes and sustains inclusive learning environments where diversity is embraced and every student is welcomed, cared for, respected and safe.

  • using appropriate universal and targeted strategies and supports to address students’ strengths, learning challenges and areas for growth;
  • recognizing and responding to specific learning needs of individual or small groups of students and, when needed, collaborating with service providers and other specialists to design and provide targeted and specialized supports to enable achievement of the learning outcomes;
  • providing opportunities for student leadership.

 

For both competencies, my…

Actions/Strategies

  • Acknowledge the diverse needs and contributions of all
  • Access resources, services, information and collaboration opportunities
  • Hone academic, social/emotional and physical skills through knowledge-building, creativity and innovation
  • Utilize a variety of resources, technologies and spaces to support learning for teachers, leaders and students through thoughtful instructional design and collaboration as well as effective assessment of learning
  • Model and share learning experiences to empower real-world and relevant learning experiences
  • Refine instruction for essential digital literacy, research and inquiry and communication skills
  • Develop opportunities for staff learning and innovation to be demonstrated, shared and showcased
  • Build staff capacity to ensure sustainability and attainment of PSD/School Ed Plan/Tech goals
  • Advocate for the essential and effective uses of technology
  • Explore and connect personalized learning while embracing the use of digital literacies and skills to empower independent learners
  • Assist staff in taking ownership of their digital rights and responsibilities in building their digital skills

Resources

  • Learning Services  and IT Teams
  • Senior Exec
  • Admin Teams
  • Inclusive Education Leads
  • Collaborative Teaching Partners
  • Frameworks: Fierce Conversations, Cognitive Coaching, Bucket Filling, Cooperative Learning, Critical Thinking, Universal Design for Learning
  • Listservs: QIAT, ATLE, ORC
  • Alberta Education, School Technology Branch
  • PLN
  • ERLC Advisory Committees
  • ETCATA
  • ATLE and ATLE ProLearn
  • ISTE and TCEA
  • Frameworks: TPACK, SAMR, UDL, DI, RTI, SETT, LTPF
  • Twitter feeds and weekly chats (#edchat, #atchat, #edtech)
  • Blogs
  • 2Learn
  • GSuite Apps for Education

Timeline

  • Ongoing
  • Monthly meetings: Lead Team, ERLC CoP, Inclusive Education Leads, Learning Services Team

 

Indicators of Success

  • Contribution to Learning Services work is recognized
  • Learning Services Team work plan is moving PSD Vision, Mission and Commitment Statements forward as per Admin meetings, PSD Voice, Student Advisory Committee
  • Learning Services Team incorporate the LTPF throughout their work with staff
  • Staff utilizing, documenting success and sharing how they are using technology in learning, for efficiency, etc.
  • Marked improvement between Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 ET/IT survey with Admin
  • Well attended training, PL and PD sessions with follow up work with staff

 

 

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Got How? You Also Need to Know Your Why

In May of this year, I wrote about The Elusive Why: Yours and Theirs, and today I continue this stream of thought with looking at the HOW but really to need to KNOW YOUR WHY. Whether this wny is personal or professional there are some important pieces that we need in place in order to find our “calling”, our “passion” or the reason why we get up in the morning every day.

Just taking time throughout the week to look at the upcoming personal/professional activities is important. Yet, having some sort of growth plan will allow for these weekly overviews to connect and make sense with your BIG goals. With this “big picture” plan of personal/professional life in place, we can begin to make incremental changes in our daily habits and routines, and our life will start to change. If you haven’t read Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, definitely check it out!

As well, watch Michael Jr’s short video clip on this topic. It’s a video definitely worth showing your colleagues, family, friends and even students.

Now it’s my time to work on my annual Teacher Professional Growth Plan. As per my teacher organization (Alberta Teacher’s Association), “developing the plan is a professional function through which teachers demonstrate their commitment to lifelong professional learning while fulfilling their regulatory requirement pertaining to continuing education. The key components of developing the plan found in the policy governing growth plans states a teacher’s annual growth plan shall:

  • Reflect goals and objectives based on an assessment of learning needs by the individual teacher
  • Show a demonstrable relationship to the Teaching Quality Standard
  • Take into consideration the educational plans for the school, school board and Alberta Education”

I hope this inspired some conversation on your part!

 

Habits: Make ’em Small in order to get Big Results

Habits.

We all have them.

Some are good habits and others we need to let go if we want to move forward professionally and/or personally. If you are interested in habit formation and performance improvement then take 52 minutes and watch and take notes on this video. The speaker, James Clear, shares his work and other research that is relatable for any field of work or personal paths. This particular video was taped during Snaps, a leadership conference that unites key influencers from across the basketball world for a weekend of inspiration, leadership development and relationship-building.

While watching, think about some of the goals and habits your currently have. And write down any great triggers to change or move you forward as you listen to James.

If you are wanting to show this to staff and/or students (I’m in education), my suggestion would be to break down the three parts of the video. Show them on three different days so that staff/students have time to process but not too far apart that they don’t recall the information.

If you are working with colleagues in another sector, figure out what is best to have each part of the video work for your situation. If you have weekly meetings, then you could use each part of this video over three weeks. Or if it is during a work retreat, add more time in between the parts of the video so that staff can write down and do the suggested work.

  • Introduction (0:00-7:19) and Why do some habits stick and others fail? (7:19-22:03)

Ask staff/students to watch the introduction and write down any key thoughts. Stop the video at 7:19 and Think, Pair, Share. If time have some pair share with the whole group. Or those thoughts could be put onto Post-it Notes and stuck on a wall.

Watch part I which is 15 minutes long, again with some note-taking. Write down some systems thinking and goals in your current work, any triggers, list all the things you do (complete the Trigger TChart Exercise) and add a new habit. Share any thoughts with a partner and/or small group.

  • How do I know what to change? (22:03-37:10)

Watch part II, a 15 minute section of the video. List any of your distractions, try the Closing Open Loops exercise. Download and fill in the Eisenhower Box. Share some of your top information in each of the quadrant with a partner, small group.

  • How do I get started and take action? (37:10 – 52:44)

Watch part II, the last 15 minutes. Write down a pre-commitment statement or set up something in your calendar. Statements like ” During next week, I will partake in ___(date)___, ___(time) or any visual cues you might use. And if this topic is of more interest to you, download James’ Transform Your Habits: The Science of How to Stick to Good Habits and Break Bad Ones document.

 

 

Keeping the Thoughts at Bay

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Notes, note-taking, messages, information – it’s all important at different times throughout my day and work week. I use all sorts of tools to take notes, but for the short ones, like a quick stand up meeting, a voicemail, phone call or quick “to do” list, I have relied on a physical notebook for the work that I do.

Sure, I use GSuite applications and Notes iOS app on my smartphone and laptops, but my “go to” note taker has been the 9′ x 6′ (23cm x 15cm) notebook that I use each school year. Just like my previous teacher notebooks, when I was in the classroom, this one is in paper form and stays in my office. However, lately I have noticed that I want something more available to me, whenever the need arises. I turned to Google Keep for this.

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Being a school division that uses the Google Suite of Applications, it was an easy tool to turn to. I’ve dabbled with it, seen other teachers use it effectively with their students, but I did not quite have a continual and mindful purpose in using it.

Here’s how I’ve started to use Google Keep:

  • in Google Chrome settings > on startup > add Google Keep tab to the “open specific page or set of pages” during start up so it is ready for me to review when I sign in.
  • install Save to Google Keep chrome extension for this items of interest that I’d like to look further into (otherwise I use the Diigo chrome extension for blog posts, larger information for later use (no time limit).
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone. I love the audio note feature here as it keeps the audio while also providing a transcript.
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone to make a drawing. Whether it’s a quick description or a math problem, I’ll have it saved for later use.
  • within GKeep, create labels. Right now, I’m using monthly labels and color backgrounds. Gives me a quick overview of what’s occurred or occurring in a specific month.
  • within GKeep, you can easily add collaborators or save to a Google Doc. Information doesn’t just have to reside with me, crowd sourcing is easy here.
  • within GKeep, the Remind Me feature is getting a lot of use. Now I don’t have to highlight or sticky note my notebook to ensure things get done. I do use Google Tasks within my Google Calendar so this remind feature is fantastic. The reminder can be set for a date/time or even a location.
  • within GKeep, adding images, making lists, or just typing notes gives me some creative writing choices.
  • within GKeep, you’ll never lose a note. Just search for it! It even uses OCR so you can take a picture of a page with text (textbook, magazine article, etc.)  which will also be searchable.

After a couple of weeks, my digital notetaking is doing well. I do scribe some items in my notebook and transfer them to GKeep. I think that after Christmas Break I will “hide” my print notebook whereby I will need to use GKeep exclusively. We’ll see how that goes!

 

 

Make Yourself Open to Opportunity

Kare Anderson is a super story teller and brings us into her world where everyone can make a difference. Not only are we all “smart” at something, we also can connect with each other and also connect others so they can network and learn. If our stories, our ideas and/or our products/services are presented by people who are startling (grab your emotion), compelling (show you there is a way) and credible (some experience), then change can and will happen.

It’s a great video to watch yourself, but even a better one to watch as a group!

Ask yourself/group – How are we using our collective talents to create a better society? Are there others (outside organizations/people) that we should tap into to help with our cause(s)?