Wednesday, 16 December 2015

All or Nothing?

I'm considering making a change. With change often comes the traditional interview process and the preparation that comes along with that ritual. I suppose there is a benefit to this process in that it forces one to reflect. One of the interview questions is sure to involve my thoughts on what I think is the most important quality of an effective leader. After role playing this question in my head a dozen times, I have come to the conclusion that this is an impossible question to answer with any real depth. I compare it to what is the most important ingredient in a really delicious recipe? Without all the ingredients you don't get the really delicious food. The vanilla is no less important than the sugar or the flour.
                        
I feel the same with my top list of ingredients of a truly fine leader. What good is a clear vision without communication or relationship abilities? Is being responsive or supporting teachers meaningful if a leader doesn't have current knowledge around pedagogy? Does enthusiasm and innovation make an impact when organizational skills or the ability to really listen are weak?

Maybe I'm wrong, I'd like to hear others thoughts, but for me it seems to be all or nothing when discussing the qualities of a truly effective leader. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

a culture of learning

“... and now you're a wacko like me.” I'm not sure if I've ever had a greater compliment regarding my philosophies on education (assessment in this particular case) then hearing these words from Rick Wormeli on my shift in thinking over the past seventeen years in education. I haven’t always been the type of thinker I am today regarding education. Mainly, I think, because once I became a teacher, for a few years,  I stopped learning.


I think my beliefs first significantly began to move when I began my masters degree many years ago. I don't remember the title of the book, but in the first paragraph, there was a statement about how education is modeled after the industrial age and in many cases has never looked back. It went on to compare schools to prisons and hospitals as being highly institutionalized organizations. This message made me pause and reflect not only on educational practices in general, but what was going on in my own classroom. I took the balcony view and imagined the school that has its students sitting in rows, being taught one discipline for 60 minutes, the bell rings, students stand up, move to another room, sit in their assigned seat where another teacher lectures another subject in isolation for 60 minutes, the bell rings, repeat …


Today I work with some pretty amazing educators who help “push my thinking.” Conversations involving inquiry-based learning, relevant projects, Genius Hour, makerspace, flex time, interdisciplinary challenges, dismantling of computer labs, breaking down classroom walls, questioning why we need bells, deeper learning, community classrooms...all in an effort to make learning fluid, relevant, engaging and purposeful. None of this would be possible without having a culture that supports learning. A place where teachers are reading, talking, researching, forming learning communities. One of my most important roles as an administrator is to support that culture of learning and help it permeate throughout the school. Leaders, I feel, need be strategic and creative to motivate and support a school to continually have its professionals engage in learning.  George Couros recently posted the question  How do you make the great learning go “viral” in your school, to move from “pockets” to a “culture of innovation?” which he addresses in his new book (which I’ve ordered, but yet to read) The Innovator’s Mindset.. It's a great question and one I look forward to exploring further.









Sunday, 1 November 2015

Finding The Balance

I believe technology is a wonderful thing. I rely heavily on it every day and it is one of my passions. I facilitate my school’s technology advisory  committee and am involved with tech at a district level as well. I provide release time to teachers so that they can plan ways to integrate technology into their lessons in a meaningful way. My teachers know the fastest way to get ahold of me is by first text, second email and then a distant third my office landline. Every teacher has my cellphone number. I Google Hangout with the secretaries when they need to get ahold of me.
In my house of four we have ipads, a mini ipad, android, iphones, a Mac, PC, Chromebook, laptops and tech toys (some of them mine). I tweet, email, instagram, blog, text.


I share this with the intent of laying the foundation to those who choose to read this that I am a tech guy and support it greatly, but….another one of my passions is wellness. I have always been pretty good at taking care of my physical well being, but up until a couple of years ago did not pay a lot of attention  to working out my mental health. Because I, like so many of us, are continually being bombarded with information through technology I have found it important to make a concerted effort to take time to let my brain rest.  For a couple of years now I have been practising “mindfulness” in an attempt to be more in the present, be more productive, less reactive and be more focused on particular tasks when I am working on them. At work our school created a mindfulness group for teachers and another for students. We are introducing mindfulness to all of our students to help reduce anxiety.


Recently the teacher-librarian handed me a copy of The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer and I found the book really resonated with me. The book is small (it can be read in one sitting) and has (at least for the past week) helped me “slow down” and appreciate things more. A good portion of the book talks about technology and its impact on our society. It in no way “bashes” tech, but rather provides some interesting insights on how we can ensure we don’t become too consumed with always being “plugged in.” The book provides plenty of examples from Google and Intel on how tech leaders like this who are often “leading the charge” also recognize the importance of slowing things down. The book states that according to “interruption science” it takes 25 min to recover from something like a cell phone call and yet on average we are being interrupted every 11 minutes so we never fully recover unless we train ourselves to.


I certainly have a ways to go to strike the right balance (whatever that is), but lately I have been feeling calmer, more content, appreciative and more productive. So as I sit in a little coffee shop with my Chromebook and Android looking out the window on a nice fall day, I know that later, when I head out for a walk, I won’t be using that time to make phone calls, answer emails while I clumsily maneuver the sidewalks, think of work projects that I should be working on and instead I will (at least try) to appreciate my surroundings so that when I do return will be rested and more capable to tackle what may be left on my list of things to do.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Journey towards inquiry-based learning through P.B.L.

I have always known that inquiry-based learning is a very effective method for structuring learning. It also aligns very well as a process that meets many of the requirement of Alberta’s Ministerial Order on Student Learning. I just wasn’t sure how to go about implementing...inquiry can be easier said than done.

Our journey going deeper with inquiry based learning began last May when a fellow administrator told me he was arranging to bring in a Project Based Learning (PBL) facilitator, Charity Allen from www.pblconsulting.net, to put on a two-day workshop for his middle school teachers. He had 18 available spots he was going to open up to the district. I asked him to hold all 18 openings for two days until I had an opportunity to talk to the middle school teachers at my school. The following days I spoke with the teachers and by the end of the second day the middle school team had committed to doing the training and pursuing PBL implementation this school year. Only one of the teachers had already received the training and was using PBL in her classroom. She was excited to take the training again and support teachers new to the process.

Knowing ongoing support would help the chances of follow through, I asked our Teacher Librarian to participate in the training so that she could offer her expertise throughout the year. Having already received the training and already using PBL with other classes, she knew the benefits of providing support to teachers. She could use her flexible timetable in order to offer this vital ongoing support.

For two days, Charity facilitated an Intro to PBL workshop for our two schools. As president of PBL Consulting, she was extremely gifted in managing the workshop. She guided us through the why of PBL, the what of PBL and then moved us into how to design high quality, inquiry-based projects.  By the end of the workshop, participants reached near completion of their projects. She explained that inquiry was basically attempting to resolve the unresolved using a process. She shared multiple processes and methods of inquiry upon which projects could be modeled. She further instructed us that projects need to be in a context that is connected to the real world in a way that is relevant to students. Teachers developed projects such as: how to revitalize a vacant city lot, input into our district’s new school design, school renovations, the impact on environment from invasive aquatic species in provincial water bodies, how to sustain society on another planet (MarsOne) and more.

After two days, teachers were very impressed with the workshop and eager to develop and implement their projects in their classrooms. The priority now will be offering support and encouragement so that our middle school continues with this approach.


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Start up

This year began with a change in my role as an administrator. I find myself working with an exceptional group of middle school teachers. The past three days of school have been what I can only call inspiring as this teacher cohort has dedicated itself to welcoming new students and welcoming back returning students.

The first day began with teachers volunteering their prep time to facilitate activities planned by the counsellor. The purpose of these activities was to build relationships with one another and their teachers as well as to get familiar with a large new school. Activities included a “fashion infraction” where teachers modeled clothing deemed unacceptable to a school setting (I wore a beer shirt with sunglasses), how to open up your lock, an amazing race to explore the school and much more. The grade sevens were the only students in the school and had free reign to explore and get comfortable for the entire morning before the first day of school started two days later.

Another teacher organized “activation.” A series of stations where each grade level (seven through 12) came in at different times and within an hour had their picture taken and received school ID, text books signed out, lockers assigned, timetables handed out.

I visited every middle school classroom the following day and watched how teachers had planned activites around getting to know one another and building relationships. Another noticeable characteristic of most of the classrooms was how their rooms were set up. All rooms had desks or tables set up for cooperative learning (not group work). Most classrooms had “soft seated” areas in the  classrooms and many had light filters or lamps to adjust the lighting. Words of welcome and encouragement were displayed throughout.  


I am confident all of this preparation and dedication in the beginning will pay huge dividends throughout the year. I am very proud to be a part of this team and look forward to supporting them however I can.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Final Exams...a tradition worth questioning


I have been having many conversations this year with teachers about our practice of administering final exams for students. Although I cannot confirm with certainty, I recently read that the final exam process has been happening since the 1830s. With all the current research on effective assessment, how students learn and knowing that we are required to make decisions that have a student's best interest as the primary consideration, I have to question why we are still doing this, this way. What is the purpose of a final exam and is it the best way to achieve that purpose?  Many people indicate that a final is a way for teachers to measure whether or not a student has learned what has been taught in the classroom, some indicate its how universities do it so we should too and others sometime claim it prepares them for the “real world.”

I watched a teacher work with a student the other day. She was watching him explain to another student how to do a math calculation. Through this process the student was truly able to demonstrate what he knew. Her biggest fear for this student will be when he is required to write a timed high stakes test with a hundred other students in an extremely structured setting. What approach seems to be more reliable and really indicative of what the student knows?

At random I chose two well known universities, Harvard and Berkley, and googled their final exam procedures. At Harvard only 259 of the 1,137 classes offered finals. Furthermore, it is expected that unless the professor declares early in the semester and notifies the Office of the Registrar that they plan on having a seated final exam they will not have one. Berkley communicates that oftentimes the alternatives (to final exams) may even be advantageous to promote student learning and be a more authentic means of students demonstrating what they have learned.  Surely if these two institutions have changed  we must question this approach in our schools. Even if universities are not changing their final exam procedures, is poor practices by other institutions really an excuse and reason for us to do the same?

As for real world application, other than school and my driver license I can’t remember writing a high stakes exam to demonstrate what I know. Not that long ago I was held accountable to my colleagues and had to demonstrate what I knew regarding a leadership approach. This was not done by sitting in  a room for two or more hours writing a multiple choice exam that would determine whether or not I  could continue as a school administrator. I worked with partners and presented to an audience.
I understand that there are limitations and perhaps different subjects require different approaches, but continuing to do the same thing the same way, just because it's how it's been done decades or perhaps even a century ago seems to be unfair and outdated.

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New School Design to Support Today's Learners

It’s not that often that a smaller city gets to build a new school so when the Superintendent put out a call for people interested in providing input for the design of it I leapt at the opportunity. The district that I work in will be building a new school that will serve 600 students from K to grade six. I had no idea what to expect as I entered the meeting room along with approximately 20 other educators and professionals including:  teachers, central office staff, school administrators and architects. Being the only administrator from a high school I was a little uncertain at first if I was in  a position to offer much in the conversations. What I soon discovered, however, is  that regardless of grade level, good philosophical and pedagogical ideas in education transcend age and grade levels. To be certain there are many differences between a high school and an elementary school, but the “big” ideas are aligned regardless of whether you are talking elementary or high school.
The process began with our Ministerial Order on learning. In groups we were asked to pull out pieces that resonated with us when deciding how a new school could  support the Order. It quickly became clear that student centered, flexible, inquiry based opportunities were a priority. A building that supported technology necessary. We also noted the movement towards a greater emphasis on competencies and less on content and meeting the needs of a variety learning styles.
From there we were asked to create a visual metaphor representing what the school would look like. We were asked, what would teachers or community members see when they came into the building that support our beliefs on what learning looks like ? The commonality with all the groups was not unnoticed. Themes of collaborative, flexible and fluid learning environments with the ability for students to pursue their interests and inquiry were prominent. A school that is welcoming and supports 21st century learning skills emphasized.
An architect team then gave a presentation that included the history of schools. They educated us on how the structure of schools have evolved and in some ways impeded research proven ways to enhance learning. The schools that once relied on tall windows that opened along with high ceilings for natural light and fresh air circulation have been modified and distorted as society felt the need to control the environment. The team also shared the policies and guidelines they are responsible for, but also how flexible space can be. The total square footage is locked, but how it is used can be manipulated.
Armed with information and beliefs we were then able to start listing physical suggestions to the building. Ideas such as glassed-in breakout rooms so that students could be supervised while they work in small groups or independently, garage door type doors in the gym that could be opened so the space could spill out into a large welcoming entryway foyer, outside walls constructed so that they could help with outdoor classroom space, a learning commons that is a focal point and easily accessible, natural lighting, spaces to create, inquire and explore, flexible walls….I think our group probably came up with over fifty suggestions. Architects sat at each table and continuously wrote notes, asked questions for clarifications, offered suggestions and informed us of constraints.

Five hours went by very quickly. We still have much work to do, but what inspired and gratified me as I left the first meeting was how I truly felt a part of the process and how everyone at the table was putting the best interest of the child into every consideration.

I  welcome any comments or ideas from others who have experienced or have ideas on how they feel a new school environment should support student learning.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Why Guy

I will change roles next year. I will now be responsible for the school’s Middle School (grades seven and eight). The other day I went around talking to each Middle School teacher sharing a little bit about myself, my beliefs and some initial thoughts on my vision of where I see our school going. I prepared every teacher for the fact that I will be continually asking “why?” and I invite and encourage them to do the same of me. It  is not that I necessarily believe we are doing something wrong, but I will always want to know the purpose and challenge if there are other more effective methods to reach the goal of doing what is best for students.


As I sat with a couple of young teachers, I noticed a stack of traditional final exams, all the same, photocopied and ready to be handed out to grade seven students for a timed test. I asked why? What ensued was a great conversation. No one in the room truly felt that these final exams were the best way for students to demonstrate what they have learned, so why are we still doing it?


I confessed that I have many whys. Why do we still have parent-teacher conferences that often don't even involve the student?  Why do we celebrate academic achievement in such way that honours only those who have reached a certain percentage and a way that ranks students? Why do we make decisions without consulting students?

What’s your why question?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

superstars

It's that time of year when my thoughts not only start to think about next year, but also reflect on the previous ten months. Because I’m always looking at how to improve my school, how to offer better opportunities for my students, how to implement change, I recently spent some time reflecting on how to best accomplish change and innovation. The answer, I believe, is in recognizing and utilizing our best teachers.


I think that Todd Whitaker does an excellent job of expressing the importance of our “super star” teachers. Too often we neglect them. We worry and wonder what the “nay sayers” may think or express.  Todd tells us that this thinking is wrong and I have to agree with him. He has lots of good advice in his book What Great Principals Do Differently, but the three things that are currently resonating in my head are:


  1. Start with your superstars when implementing change
  2. People, not programs make the difference
  3. Base every decision on your best teachers.


Todd also communicates that these invaluable people may be the first to leave if not acknowledged and listened to. The complainers will stick around and continue to do what they do, but if we (leaders) do not provide the enrichment for our elite just as a classroom teacher should do for their “gifted” then they will take the initiative and go elsewhere. For me that would be tragic.

Jim Collins in Good to Great informs us that that verbal praise is an extremely effective method of ensuring our superstars know they are valued. He also tells us that Great vision without great people is irrelevant. I am very fortunate that I have several superstars that I surround myself with every day. I am very guilty, however, of not letting them know how much I appreciate and depend on them. I think I better go have some conversations.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Exciting Times in Education


There are so many great things happening in education right now. What I have been reflecting on and appreciating recently are the priorities of student-centered education and pursuing a deeper level of understanding. In Alberta our Ministerial Order on Student Learning informs us that all decisions regarding a child's education must have their best interest as the primary consideration. Inquiry and discovery are emphasized and technology to support learning is nonnegotiable. Taking risks is encouraged.

Walls are beginning to be torn down. Conversations around authentic, meaningful assessment, eliminating traditional final exams, providing a time for students  to take ownership of their learning, to inquire, to explore, to create and to tinker through  methods including PBL, makerspaces, genius hour, flex time the new Career Technology Foundations (CTF) program are creeping into daily discussions.

Educators are taking ownership of their learning too. Teachers are directing, initiating and driving their own professional development:  ed camps/unconferences, empowering teacher learners, administrators shifting focus to creating a culture of learners. All good stuff.


I’ll admit there are days when my head starts to spin and I need to take a step back and regroup and wonder if I can keep up, but then a colleague pushes my thinking, questions the “why,” forwards me another tweet, blog, article or invites me to come and see something new and innovative in their classroom and I’m reminded of how exciting things are in education right now and how incredibly fortunate I am to be doing what I'm doing. 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Chromebook Pilot Reflection

Almost nine months ago the school district that I work for began a Chromebook pilot initiative. I was fortunate enough to facilitate the process at my school. The initiative saw nearly 200 Chromebooks being placed into the hands of grade seven students and their teachers. Now as the school year quickly draws to an end, we are evaluating and reflecting on the initiative.
Part of the review process was giving a presentation to our school board of trustees. Myself, along with a teacher and central office personnel  met with the Board to report our summary. I am thankful to work in a school district where relationships with central office and trustees are professional yet open and welcoming. Our presentation included data through surveys, anecdotal observations and personal opinion from our three different roles. Surveys were administered to students and teachers and the results clearly indicate that students feel not only more engaged with a 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks, but also feel that Chromebooks are important to learning and are easy and exciting to use. Teachers commented that they felt their teaching performance improved and important components such as immediate feedback and assessment were improved. Transitioning away from computer labs teachers also expressed a feeling of freedom they had never felt before in terms of accessing technology. Anecdotal observations saw students engaged as well as taking ownership and responsibility for devices. Of the 200 Chromebooks we rolled out in September only four issues arose in terms of mismanagement or abuse. Compared to the maintenance and mistreatment of our traditional computer labs there is no comparison.
We still have a long way to go on our journey and  eventual goal of becoming a BYOD school with meaningfully integrated technology, but I am very proud of how far we've come in a relatively short time. As a leader in the school my most important role as I see it is to support teachers and remove barriers along the way. Next year our initiative will double in size to include our grade eight teachers and staff. I look forward to this next part of the journey, both the challenges and the rewards.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Time to learn

I am fortunate to have many interests in life. Many of those interests are shared between my personal and work life. I don't consider it work when I am reading about instruction, leadership, assessment or technology or just plain learning about anything. Another one of my interests is wellness and physical fitness. Today I traveled to Montana, U.S.A. to participate in an obstacle race with a few friends and colleagues.

My supplies for the trip would indicate to many that I am going to a conference or engaging in some form professional development. Sharing space in my luggage with my trail runners, sports gels and nutritional bars  are my books on assessment, deeper learning, innovative leadership and of course my chromebook and smartphone.  On the road I take the opportunity to reflect and consider new challenges, where to focus my attention, what I have been neglecting and what I want to accomplish. Sitting in the hotel room I take the opportunity to write, prepare for my race and appreciate all that I have. So as I travel on my own this time, I don't feel a need to leave all my 'work' behind me. I'll enjoy the time to reflect, the time to read, the time to write, the time to learn and the time to race.





Saturday, 14 March 2015

Building Capacity in Technology

Where I work teachers are required to implement technologies into the classroom in a meaningful way; it is considered part of our professional responsibility. As with most things there is a wide gap of knowledge and experience regarding technology within the 65 plus teachers at my school. My passion for technology seems to have only increased as the year has progressed and for the most part,  as I reflect, I am happy with the growth we've made this year. However, sometimes I struggle with how much I want to accomplish and how to get there.

Our journey began early this year when our Technology Committee (TC) decided they wanted to step back, clearly define its working agreements, beliefs and its purpose and dedicate the year to building capacity in order to support our staff.

WORKING AGREEMENTS

1. Agenda sent out in advance.
2. Honor and respect each other's time i.e. do not engage in time wasting behavior e.g. unnecessary cell phone, cross talk, off topic, consistently late.
3. Use the seven norms: Pausing, Paraphrasing, Posing Questions, Putting ideas on the table, Providing data, Paying attention to self and others, Presuming positive intentions.

WE BELIEVE

In order for technology to be a powerful tool/resource, it must be student centered, authentic, integrated seamlessly and accessed equitably.

When this occurs, technology will transform teaching and learning.

Because technology is ever changing, it requires ongoing support to empower users and continuous digital citizenship education.


PURPOSE

  1. Building capacity to empower and support staff and students.

  1. Advise in the acquisition and implementation of technologies and school wide policies/procedures.

At the same time our school was selected to participate in a Chromebook (CB) pilot project that would see nearly 200 grade seven students and their teachers be loaned a CB for the school year. There was a lot (and will be) significant crossover between the Tech Committee and Chromebook pilot committee, both in membership and purpose. Grade seven is the entry point to our school and the project will grow each year and involve more students and teachers. Next year will see nearly 400 students and their teachers in grade seven and eight as part of the pilot. In many ways the students are helping to push the need for teachers to build capacity and the committees are providing the supports and advice along the way.
We have tried to offer capacity building for teachers with mixed success. Our Teacher Librarian has an open door for teachers to ask for support or to help develop lessons integrating technology, she has also offered lunch and after school sessions. We have tried to create weekend cohorts, but with the exception of our already “advanced” TC members, we have had limited interest.
Our most successful PD in technology occurs when we integrate it into the day. We try to influence technology usage by integrating it into our staff meetings. All staff members are to bring a device to every meeting and at some point they need to use it in some way. At  recent meetings we used Screencastify to present information and then a QR code linked to a google form for a survey for teachers to fill out. Another day the CB pilot committee developed critical thinking challenges for grade seven students to free up time for teachers to learn, plan and experiment with technology. We are planning an annual “technology fair” where teacher experts will offer a variety of sessions during one of our school-based professional development days. Our Learning Commons (which is accessed by 100’s of students a day) needs to be booked by filling out a Google form. Most information from the office including agendas and reports are increasingly being “shared” instead of being “sent” or “attached.”
A year ago some teachers were amazed when they saw me edit a Google doc live as someone else was adding to it or had never been able to sign into their Google account. I sometimes need to remember the growth of our staff and celebrate that instead of being consumed with pushing  where I want to go.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Teacher-Librarian/Administrator Relationship

One of the most significant partnerships I have in my school as an administrator is with our teacher-librarian (TL), Lisa Mueller. In recent years our library has been transforming into a Library Learning Commons (LLC) or simply, Learning Commons (LC). This transformation is occurring as a result of having a TL with a vision for creating a LC as well as an administration supporting this vision. The creation of a Library Learning Commons has had a major impact on the school. Earlier this year I traveled with Lisa to a meeting with school trustees who represented multiple school boards in Alberta. At the meeting we shared the journey from library to learning commons. Preparing for this gave me an opportunity to reflect on how her role has affected our school. From my perspective, the LLC has made a direct impact on student learning in four main areas:


  1. collaboration
  2. technology
  3. environment
  4. culture


The LC is a place to collaborate. The space has specifically designed areas for this purpose and is utilized by students, classrooms, teachers, professional learning communities and a variety of committees and departments. The one time computer lab and librarian office has been transformed into technology rich learning and collaboration spaces.


Our TL has “poured” herself into technology and is a “go to” person for this area. From troubleshooting to facilitating the integration of  technology into the classroom to enhance learning, our teacher-librarian plays a significant role.


The environment in our LC is flexible, safe, welcoming and energetic. Students feel like the space is their “home away from home.” Students have shared that they feel sophisticated and motivated to learn. The LC is not so much a place as it is a perspective. The Learning Commons is a space that facilities deeper learning, not by accident, but by carefully researched design.


Our Learning Commons has helped shift the culture of the school. Its presence in the building and its focus on students, learning, wellness, technology and collaboration all spill into the rest of the school.


Our Learning Commons is the center of the building, both literally and figuratively. All other classrooms and areas of the school spread out from the LLC and are connected in some way. It is the “heart” of our school and rivals or exceeds our two gymnasiums in terms of student usage. In the morning students begin waiting for the doors to open at 7:30 a.m. At lunch nearly 200 students converge on the facility to eat, socialize, learn, discover, create and read. A conservative estimate would see approximately 500 students per day utilizing the Learning Commons, that’s 2500 students a week or 100 000 students a school year in the facility that are being exposed to what the Library Learning Commons and Teacher Librarian have to offer.


The LLC does not run itself. Lisa is part of the leadership team; she attends our Team Lead (dept heads) meetings, is on multiple school and district committees and is a resource that can be accessed by all staff at our school. Our TL is a capacity-builder, innovator, risk taker, master teacher and a learning leader. Lisa will be the first to say that we are just in the initial stage of our journey and there will never arrive at a final destination. We still have much work to do to help students meet 21st Century competencies, but the work she has started in creating an environment that supports student learning in a relatively short time has been transformative and inspiring. It is because our school and administration believe and support the role of a TL and a LLC that we have been able to see and feel the changes that have come with it.


Video showing the journey towards a Learning Commons




Sunday, 8 March 2015

Chromebook Rollout through Teacher Leadership


As the administrator responsible for technology in my school I had the opportunity to facilitate a Chromebook pilot project. Every grade seven student was loaned a Chromebook for the school year. The goal of the pilot was to determine the effectiveness of utilizing one-to-one devices to enhance learning in the classroom and to improve technology capacity among teachers.
In early October nearly 200 Chromebooks were deployed and the journey began. Eight months later and the project can only be described as a success. One of the first steps in the process was to get CB’s into the hands of teachers. We had an evening of professional development for teachers to receive some support, but because  CB’s are so intuitive it did not take long for the majority of the teachers to become somewhat proficient. We created a google classroom that we used to communicate information, thoughts, concerns and tips. We sent a letter home to parents explaining the project and hosted an information night with presentations and an opportunity for questions.
For the students, in the beginning, a great deal of time was spent in building capacity regarding how to care for their device. Students were given formal lessons on proper care and respect for the device being loaned to them. This paid off tremendously as students took ownership for their CB and we were fortunate to not have any damage or issues related to misuse. Knowing that a goal would be to allow students to transport a device home our teacher-librarian collected resources and created an extensive “CB license” that ensured that students  reached certain benchmarks before being allowed to take a  ChromeBook home.
The teachers and students were amazing as they learned side by side. As much support as was requested was provided from our central office who were actively involved in the initiative. The team provided support throughout the year and organized PD time embedded into the school day. Teachers took ownership for their own learning and developed and shared lessons, strategies, struggles and challenges.
As I reflect on the success of the project I feel the biggest impact has come from the lead team that was formed. This team was composed of two “lead teachers,” Jen and Michelle, the school’s teacher-librarian, Lisa, and myself. These three guided, reflected and made decisions in every school based aspect of the initiative ensuring a process that was ultimately best for students and most effective for teachers.  They spent countless hours organizing, supporting and creating. The team shared a common belief, vision and passion for integrating technology into the classroom in a meaningful way to enhance learning.  
By surrounding myself with people with skills superior to mine in many areas and by encouraging and supporting these teachers to lead, it made for an extremely rewarding and powerful project.