Tribute to Marilyn Allen

Today is one of those markers in time.  For the last 7 and a half years, I have had the pleasure of working with and reporting to Marilyn Allen,  Executive Superintendent of Business and Financial Services at the WRDSB.  As Marilyn winds up her final day and prepares for stepping into retirement, it seems appropriate to share a few comments.

baseball hat

Over the years, there have been many hats worn: mentor, coach, cheer leader, planner, organizer, advisor, team builder, strategist, problem solver and friend.  All hats were worn with purpose, integrity and thoughtfulness.

Mark&Marilyn

                    The #selfie

I have appreciated the qualities you emphasized in our going work: up front and open conversations no matter what the challenge or topic, pro-activeness, no surprises and clear language.  On a personal note, I loved that no matter what was going on, you ended every meeting with a resounding “go forth and do your best work“.

ducks in a row

Marilyn, you have been the champion of “awesome” and “keeping our ducks in a row“.  Thanks for being  a great mentor, open to new ideas and believing in me!!!

You have much to celebrate.  I wish you a long, happy and healthy retirement!

~Mark

 

Forward Thinking with Jamie Weir

At semester turn around I had a great opportunity to connect with WRDSB teacher Jamie Reaburn-Weir.  After some conversation about student voice, choice and assessment strategies, she kindly agreed to capture the conversation for wider sharing.

Enjoy Jamie’s forward thinking insights in this video.

I look forward to following along the journey where Jamie is leading her classes.

Follow Jamie on Twitter: Jamie Weir
Read Jamie’s Blog.

~Mark

uLead: Engagement Take 2

In the uLead 2015 Monday afternoon keynote,  Andy Hargreaves spent some time exploring the idea of student engagement. He closed by asking us to do some deep thinking about the notion of engagement.   What does it mean in our K-12 context?  I felt compelled to comment on the challenge and explore this for myself.

stop the press

This is my second go at writing this blog post.  Wait!  Maybe I am engaged with this task.  Aha!!!  Here we go with a clean slate, or whatever you call that in bloggers land – a clean screen or a clean digital writing space perhaps?

I am thinking that perhaps instead of getting stuck on some formal or historic definition of engagement, I am simply going to consider it in this learning context as being “in the active learning & participating  zone”.  My way of considering this will be to consider a number of factors as they relate to the person I know best — me.

I know I can be engaged when alone or with others.  A good example for me is music. I might be practicing a new piece of solo music or perhaps rehearsing with the members of my quintet.  I should be totally engaged during a performance situation.  Perhaps focus vs distractedness is an element of this too.  Level of readiness or willingness also plays into this.

IMG_0100

I know that I can be engaged with or without technology. For those of you that know me, I’ll bet the “yah right” thoughts are  flowing through your mind.  So yes, there a lots of ways I engage with and through technology: learning something new, solving a problem, collaborating, reading, discussing, searching, researching … arranging a piece of music, writing a blog post :) …  and on the list goes.  It might be the technology itself – learning to use a GoPro camera or a Myo wrist band, or the technology might simply be the means to get to another process such as writing, composing, arranging or creating.

MYO

I enjoy a great conversation too: something new, something deep or maybe just a new context.  I like variety – these conversations could happen F2F, on a walk, over the phone, or online.

I know the potential level of participation and/or newness plays a role.  I am sure we can all think of a scenario or two when you simply want to opt out or not be there … the KMN situations.

Timing is a factor for me.  I am in tune with my high and low  energy  times. I might be more or less engaged depending on my energy level.  Balance is in the mix too.  I know when I need my introvert time – recharge time. In some ways this is a powerful force within me – a must have.  I know that I will not engage well in an extroverted situation when I am in introvert recharge mode.  Simple:  overruled,  not happening.

As I think through this, I am realizing what engagement isn’t. I don’t think engagement is a one size fits all “thing”. There is no magic formula that applies to all people in all situations.

cookiecutters

So,  put those big paint brushes and cookie cutter ideas away.  There are no everyone should  do this, stop that, use this, don’t use this etc. solutions.  Engagement is a complicated recipe that has many variables.

Perhaps the secret is building our skills as learning chefs by being aware of the ingredients and knowing how to create that perfect recipe with the ingredients on hand.

Develop skills in reading people as individuals and groups, consider readiness and trust in trying something new, sense the energy level, learn to maximize participation, ask great questions, poke at what comes next, what if, I wonder … know your learners.

Clearly,  this is a complex topic. I know I have much more to learn about this topic.  Help me learn by sharing a comment or insight here,  send me a link to your blog post about this or consider connecting on social media.  Whatever you do, on your own terms:

engage

~Mark

 

 

uLead15 Keynote reflections

The kickoff to the uLead 2015 conference was spectacular: over 800 educators at a great venue with Simon Breakspear and Abdul Chohan keynoting.

Simon focused on 3 keys for critical change:

  • Design Learning Futures
  • Embrace Radical Collaboration and
  • NEVER stop learning.

I am keen to reflect on this framework and see what else I can learn about the approach.

Now, how many times have we heard the “never stop learning” or “life long learners” messaging.  The giant  BUT  is you HAVE to LIVE it – lip service doesn’t make the grade.  Not only can we never stop learning, but we have to take things to the next level:  connected learning, a commitment to sharing and making your thinking visible.

Are you up for the challenge?

I really enjoyed hearing Abdul’s story and appreciated the learnings he shared.  Some personal highlights include:

  • theories of action do not equal a well understood vision
  • technology allows us to do things we just could not do before – in all walks of life.  Why resist this in education?
  • go beyond substitution to redefine (#SAMR thinking)
  • leading change: build community, secure accountability, manage process, develop the people and secure with vision
  • Simple, reliable and equitable technology is ESSENTIAL
  • increasing planned coincidences
  • take it global
  • the challenge of taking the complex and making it simple

EasyButton

The highlighting of the easy button approach to technology really resonates with me. Complexity drives people away which means the flow between F2F, online, and digital resources is broken … the chance to do something that was not previously possible (#SAMR) is gone or at least unlikely.  Simplicity, reliability, equitable access and sufficient bandwidth are requirements.  I think this aligns with the ideas of Digital Inclusion.

Finally, a few tweets to give you a flavour of the learning and sharing. Check out the full stream at  #ulead15.

u01

u02

u03

u04

u05

u06

u07

u08

u09

and … Abdul’s closing challenge.

u10

~Mark

Publishing Makes a Difference

I recently had an opportunity to enjoy a site visit to John Mahood PS,  a WRDSB  K-5 school to see a their technology use in action.

Under the leadership of principal Tracy Tait, the staff has been working hard over the last 3 years to explore new effective ways to utilize technology to enable student learning in new ways, change and improve practice and share their successes.

The traditional lab at the school has been dismantled and the desktops have been redistributed throughout the school.  The mobile technology (iPads and Chromebooks) within the school has been allocated so that each classroom has a minimum of 6 to 8 devices to share among the students.  The lab space is now used as a “tech lounge” – more of a flexible creative work space.

In a site walk through, Tracy commented that she expects staff to integrate mobile technology into the learning environment as part of their daily practice.  I enjoyed observing a couple of classes during silent reading time and seeing that student had a choice in both what they read and HOW they read it: paper based, via iPads or Chromebooks. Talk about a great example of student voice and choice!

The school focus on choice for students is making a noticeable difference.  Several staff commented about technology options providing choice and independence for students.  In some cases, the use of technology created benefits in socialization between students both in and out of class.  In conversation, it was noted that technology use  improves the focus on learning which in turn impacts behaviour in a positive way. In some cases, the use of technology removes frustration when paper and pencil based tasks create an obstacle for students.  The result is increased  participation through differentiated approaches.

This video captures some of the observations and thinking of students and staff at the school.

Ethan’s Story

Kyle’s Story

Samuel’s Story

Note: The video and story presentations are published with permission.

~Mark

Remix – Connect – Challenge

As educators, we ofter hear that the  plan, act, assess, reflect (PAAR) cycle promoted as excellent professional practice.  Extend this to an online context:  the importance of sharing, telling your story, learning from each other (the smartest person in the room is the room),  building relationships,  leveraging online connections and opportunities and finally using technology tools to facilitate this process (don’t just focus on the technology itself),

I was struck by my reading experience this morning.  Call it what you will: growing awareness, synchronicity, convergence, coincidence  or perhaps some other term of your choice, but there certainly was an emerging theme.

remix

First,  I see an interesting Facebook post by Patrick Larkin,  a valued member of my Personal Learning Network (PLN) highlighting a position on school and system leader technology use by  George Couros.  George concluded is blog post with this powerful question: If the purposeful use of technology can enhance or accelerate those ideas above, shouldn’t more leaders look at how these tools can be used in their own practice?   Got you thinking?  Read George’s thoughts [here].

As I finish reading George’s article,  an alert pops up that a new OSSEMOOC  post called  How Do We Get There From Here?  has gone live. Perfect timing Donna.  Intrigued by the title, I decide to take a quick look. Talk about timely.

Leaders_Tech_good_bad.

You will have to read the post (How Do We Get There From Here?) to see the list :)

Now,  back to catching up on Facebook happenings … where did I leave off?   Timely:  Kathi Smith  has re-shared a Leonard Nimoy quote that really resonates with all of the reading I just finished.  Perfect!

spock_share

In some of my earlier thinking about this topic, I wrote “Allow the global community of educators the privilege of searching, finding, reading, re-reading, sharing, curating, linking and commenting on your blog posts.”  Read my full blog post:  Just Make It Public.

Consider your role in learning from other educators.  Take the challenge and make Spock proud!

Additional Resources

… from OSSEMOOC and Dean Shareski.

~Mark

Purposeful Connecting

As I was reviewing materials for some upcoming presentation, I was struck by the insightfulness Silvana Hoxha shared in the interview I did with her in preparation for an OSSEMOOC submission to the K12 Online Conference.

I am confident that you will find Silvana’s message inspiring. Grab a comfy chair and enjoy the message she has to share.

Related Resources

Connected Learners Need Connected Leaders – an Ontario Perspective. (K12 Online Conference Submission)

TEDx Talk by Mark W. Carbone & Donna Miller Fry
(TEDxKitchenerED: Connected Learners Need Connected Leaders)

~Mark

Connect, Learn, Reflect, Share: Make a Difference Today

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