Tag Archives: PLP

What’s cooking?

An interview with Susan Carter Morgan.

What you can do when there is not a computing device or clarinet in your hand. see page 16

I am thrilled to be part of the new Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) Connected Coaches project.

~ Mark

WRDSB Futures Forum Project Goes Live

It is hard to believe that after almost 2 years of planning, the WRDSB Futures Forum Project will go live. This has been a real journey involving:

  • ongoing discussions with the Communitech organization in Waterloo to look at a view of a future classroom
  • PLP experience for a centrally based team (including me)
  • The formulation of a new innovative approach to learning within secondary schools with staff from Learning Services and IT Services working collaboratively on the planning
  • 7 of our secondary schools commit to this project
  • PLP experience for teachers and administrators from each school site involved in this project and a library resource team for project support
  • course design, technology components (wireless, netbooks, iPads, web 2.0 tools, Adobe Connect etc.)
  • planning, planning, resource development
  • and we are ready to go live!!!


The project emerged out of the recognition that although educators and others were striving to engage students in a variety of approaches and learning activities to better prepare for the changing world, these efforts often occurred in isolation without a systemic approach or support.  The project strives to integrate promising practices and learning across schools to meet the needs of all students in a more effective, sustainable and progressive manner.

The Futures Forum Project is an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented approach integrating the teaching and learning of grade 10 Academic English, Civics, and Careers expectations (see Appendix A) into a morning block of 220 minutes (2 periods) during semester 2 of the 2010-11 year.

The overall curriculum expectations are addressed through the following components:

1. Guided Inquiries – These involve opportunities for students across participating schools to use technology to interact and work together.

2. Independent Inquiries – These self directed tasks provide students with opportunities to meet course expectations independently and tailor learning based upon their interests and readiness.

3. Portfolios – Portfolios allow students to engage in learning of interest to them and supports sharing with “authentic” audiences.

4. Summative Project – Students demonstrate mastery of Civics, Careers, and English expectations; independent inquiry, personally relevant learning and the of use technology as an effective collaborative and communication tool.

The summative project is focused around a “big question”…“What is my digital footprint?”  It addresses the separate course expectations by requiring students to demonstrate, in a variety of ways, responses to the following specific questions:

  • How am I an informed, participating citizen in a democratic and technological society? (Civics)
  • How can I develop and achieve personal goals for future learning, work, and community involvement in a technology rich society? (Careers)
  • How can I demonstrate I have a range of oral communication, reading, writing, and media literacy skills needed for success in school and life in a technology rich society? (English)

As part of the approach to the project each teacher will work with a network of teachers focused on this same inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented, and technology mediated approach to learning.   OT Coverage and professional learning are provided to plan and facilitate the use of effective instructional strategies and technology related resources (e.g., PDAs, notebooks, online tools) to develop and deliver the interdisciplinary class addressing expectations of the English, Civics and Careers grade 10 curriculum.

The Futures Forum project is focused on addressing the system success plan goal of improving the ability of students to communicate their thinking in writing by providing job-embedded professional learning opportunities, and access to some technological resources, as part of an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented, technology mediated approach to learning.  The project’s focus is on:

  • achieving the system success plan goal of improving the ability of students to communicate their thinking in writing
  • promoting job-embedded professional learning opportunities for administrators, teachers and central staff,
  • increasing access to technological resources,    exploring an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented, technology mediated approach
  • addressing grade 10 Academic English or History, Civics, and Careers expectations during semester 2 of the 2010-11 year
  • identifying and consolidating effective instructional strategies (i.e., instruction, assessment and reporting), tools and techniques mediated with technology related resources (e.g., PDAs, notebooks, online/internet networking tools, specifically Facebook, wireless access, etc.)
  • monitoring and reporting on project progress and system learning (e.g., resource requirements, professional learning requirements, promising instructional practices, scalability, sustainability, etc.).

The Project metrics (indicators for assessing the project) include:

  • increased student success rates in grade 10 credit accumulation, specifically for boys.
  • increased student engagement in learning (i.e., more choice, opportunities for inquiry, topics of interest to students, etc.)
  • increased school administrator, teacher, and central staff knowledge and expertise in using technology to engage students and promote learning;
  • increased familiarity and effectiveness in the use of WRDSB research-based strategies, tools and techniques for improving written communication (e.g., student exemplars, anchor charts, non-fiction writing, graphic organizers/frameworks, open-ended critical questions), professional learning networks and professional learning cycles

Futures Forum Participants

School participants include a teacher and vice Principal lead.  Grades 10 teachers teaching academic type English, open type Civics and Careers courses in semester 2 of 2010-11 are participating in the project. Participation includes a commitment to professional learning sessions, co-planning, networking, implementing, reflecting on lessons and assessment tasks, and a willingness to use technology to effectively implement system identified instructional tools and techniques in an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented approach to teaching and learning.

Futures Forum teachers maintain a daybook, collect teacher reflections on learning, complete reports requested by central staff, and attend regular meetings with Learning Services staff.   In addition, expectations include:

  • Participation in co-learning with other Futures Forum teachers.
  • Completion of data collection (e.g., survey teachers on what strategies they found most effective) for assessment purposes by central staff.
  • Work with the administration to implement the project.
  • Consider and contribute suggestions to support the project’s focus as determined with Learning Services staff.

Learning Services and Information Technology Services (ITS) staff provide leadership and support in the coordination of the project. They are involved in facilitating professional learning, monitoring project progress, allocating resources as required, supporting access to technology (e.g., students using both board and their own technology) through a wireless classroom environment, collaborating with the vice-principals and assisting in the completion of reports (e.g., status reports, final reports, data analysis).

Technology Components

A Variety of devices  including Netbooks, laptops, smartphones, etc. along with wireless access and the use of specific internet based applications (e.g., Facebook, Desire to Learn – Learning Management System, Ontario Educational Resource Bank, Moodle, Ning) are among the technological tools and vehicle utilized to facilitate learning in the project

Professional Learning and Resource Support

A variety of technologies, regular professional learning sessions and facilitated professional learning network (i.e., PLP – 2 full day face to face and 4 adobe connect mediated by External experts) is used to support staff (teachers, administrator and central staff) involved in the project and promote collaborative learning and networking.  This work in learning teams involves:

  • collaborative planning of instruction including a common assessment task with rubric, and
  • moderated assessment of student work
  • effective instruction/assessment;
  • use of instructional tools and techniques;
  • use of technology mediated applications
  • reporting on and assessing the project.

It is very exciting be at the ‘go live’ point, and I look forward to seeing this project in action.

~ Mark

Note: Some of the above content is from an internal report and is used with permission.





The Training Factor

During the last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to attend 2 interesting events: our Board’s PLP kickoff session and a K-12 briefing with IBM. In some ways one might think these event would have little in common.  However, in looking at effective teaching and leadership, there was a list of common elements which included: a focus on student needs, learning, collaboration, networking & relationships.

Reflecting upon these events, I found that I was left with one major question.

What would teaching look like today if all faculties of education primarily focused training on

  • building communities, both face to face (i.e. classroom) and online (extension of classroom) and
  • inquiry & research based, collaborative learning and problem solving

as the key strategies to address the various literacies required to today’s student?  Where would we be today?

Just thinking.

~ Mark


Kicking off the 2010-2011 School Year

I enter the 2010-2011 school year with great anticipation and excitement.  Many of the projects that were in major planning stages last year will ‘go live’ this year.

  • Effective today, we have wifi hot spots in each secondary school. These hot spots will allow staff and students to use their own equipment for Internet access.
  • Expanded use of web 2.0 and social media tools to support curriculum delivery. Staff and students now have access to Facebook. Facebook and Twitter, along with other resources will be used to extend school community and support curriculum delivery.
  • By mid month, we will role out email for elementary students. In addition to the secondary role out last April, all students fill have a Board assigned email address to support curriculum and communication needs, and identification in other online environments.  All students will be part of our FirstClass system.
  • Launching our Future Forum project (semester 2), developed as our 2009/2010 PLP project
  • Automated processes now reduce manual work to support account management
  • Redesigned and significantly improved drupal based web sites for our secondary schools
  • Moodle hosted setup to deliver Health and Safety content (launched Sept. 2nd)

Significant projects for this year include:

  • expanded development of our Library Learning Commons (LLC) project
  • a complete rewrite of our Technology Acceptable Use procedure to align with Digital Code of Conduct, Digital Citizenship, and Character Development programs
  • iPads & netbooks in the classroom
  • continued involvement in the PLP program
  • a look at e-book strategies
  • expanding our wireless project
  • building on our Digital Citizenship program

Day one went well. We hit our startup targets and hit the road running. It is going to be a great year!

~ Mark

PLP Experience Focuses on Educator Learning

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email inviting me to participate in a set of interviews for a story about how PLP cohorts help educators learn. Having just completed an exciting year participating in the PLP program lead by @snbeach and @willrich45, I was eager to participate.

I took a bit of time to check out Converge, an online publication and located education reporter and writer @reportertanya on Twitter and Linked In, then replied to the email indicating my interest. The next couple of emails exchanged covered some background information and arranging a time to connect via skype for the interview.

On interview day, we connected via skype at the appointed time, bridging California and Ontario, and had a 45 minute video discussion about my experience in the Ontario PLP program, what I felt my key learnings were and what our Board will be doing differently as a result of participating in the PLP project.

Congratulations to:

  • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson for designing and running the PLP program to provide an excellent training opportunity for educators, and
  • Tanya Roscorla for her excellent research and article – well done!

Enjoy the published article, Global Communities Rethink Learning at the Converge website.

~ Mark

iPads on the Move

After using my iPad for the last 6 weeks, thanks to @ron_mill, I thought I would share a few first impressions and some thinking about use in education. On the topic of first impressions, I note:

  • how much I enjoy using the touch screen interface – very easy to use
  • the context sensitivity of having the right options at the right time (such as a pop up keyboard) is amazing
  • the pop up keyboard is sized to allow for ‘traditional’ typing (not the fingering poking method)
  • battery life is amazing – I am getting 9 – 10 hours per charge.
  • the selection of quality apps is good
  • e-reader capabilities are strong
  • overall, lots of potential
  • the only drawback I have found to date, is that the wifi connection process seems a bit clunky as stored known networks do not always auto-connect

With all of these good qualities, I can’t help but think about the possibilities ….  iPads for classrooms, staff development, library learning commons, moving the e-books agenda forward all would link nicely to our key initiatives.

Currently, the following iPad plans are in place for the 2010/2011 school year:

  • some will be available for staff to try at CATC Camp, our summer teacher PD session
  • a number of units will be available for use by elementary classroom teachers
  • iPads will be used in our secondary school Futures Forum project, developed as our PLP project
  • units will be purchased for our central elementary teacher librarian group for September

Other plans under discussion include:

  • iPads preloaded with staff development reading material that could be loaned out
  • additional expansion of the iPad program as it relates to our Library Learning Commons project

I am looking forward to supporting these new initiatives!

~ Mark

2009: What’s Changed?

Last week, while waiting at Starbucks to meet my wife for a coffee, I fired up Tweetdeck on my iPhone and flipped through the recent list of Twitter updates. One that caught my interest was from Will Richardson asking “What changed in 2009?”. I read his reflective blog post at Weblogg-ed.com. Great question, great time to reflect and time to jump in with a blog post to respond.

Will specifically asks “So, as a way of taking stock, I’m asking, what’s changed?

I mean really changed in your school? What stories are there of moving wholesale to an inquiry-based curriculum, of real reinvention of assessments, of students participating in global learning networks, learning how to create their own personal networks around their own passions? Or even moving off of paper into a digital reading and writing space? Or moving from a teaching community to a learning community? Or other changes? My sense is that once again, there’s not all that much different today than a year ago.”

I will comment from two perspectives: personally, and from a K-12 system point of view. For me personally, 2009 was an amazing year filled with many projects, a lot of learning and many opportunities. Upon reflection, I consider all of the following to be successes for me:

  • began blogging mid year, still doing it, writing regularly, and having fun doing it
  • embraced Twitter and other social networking tools
  • actively participating in a number of online forums (ISTE, Ning, Classroom 2.0, Ontario Meetup etc.)
  • participating in the Ontario PLP cohort
  • developed a solid personal learning network (PLN)
  • completed a leadership course at the Queens University Business Executive Development Centre
  • continued participation with education committees/organizations including: OSAPAC, COCA, RCAC, OASBO

In the broader K-12 context in my Board, things ARE different than a year ago – maybe not in the ‘wholesale’ way quite yet, but they are in fact different. Specific targets that were set 12-18 months ago are being realized or are at least under way. Some of these successes include:

  • implementing our new shorter technology replacement cycle
  • roll out of wireless with network access control (NAC) is under way
  • convert 40 elementary schools to a new dual boot Mac environment (starting Jan. 2010)
  • mobile learning projects with iPod Touches in the classroom are underway
  • implementing our Library Learning Commons model for better system support
  • significantly improved alignment between Learning Services and IT departments
  • provided greater access to online resources (less content filtering) including access to some social media tools
  • planning new staff development strategies for Sept. 2010 to include social media component
  • more people are ‘involved’ than a year ago, and the thinkers and changers are better connected
  • more teachers and students are using blogs, wikis, media, inquiry based research/learning

What have I learned?

  • I can make a difference
  • I can participate
  • I can help to keep these important conversations going
  • I can initiate
  • educational change takes time
  • maybe we (the big picture we) are not ready (yet) for chaotic change given the variance of teacher understanding and readiness in the areas of technology use and embedding in the curriculum
  • there are indeed systematic approaches that can be taken to engage people and move the agenda forward – and we need to actively keep working on them

A Context for Continuing the Journey

At the end of the day, or school year, or graduation day for our students, I think we fundamentally will arrive in a similar place – we want to graduate students with:

  • certain experiences and character traits in place
  • well developed critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • strong skills in writing and a variety of literacies
  • developed emotional intelligences
  • creativity
  • etc. ( I am not attempting to generate the perfect list here, just make a point)

Maybe we don’t need to revisit/review/change every classroom, teacher and instructional practice. What we can change, in a broader strategic manner with impact, is the journey that happens between enrollment and graduation.We do need to systematically put things in place so that each child that journeys through a system has some guaranteed experiences. These experiences should also include:

  • readiness to live and work in a technology oriented world
  • embedded technology supported learning
  • collaborative online experiences
  • social media use and awareness
  • participate in a culture of sharing
  • digital literacies and digital citizenship

Count me in! This is doable. The question is how do we achieve greater invovlement, provide the right ‘enablers’, keep costs down, change things at the systemic level at a greater rate of change, keep the energy behind sustained change and yet without ‘upending the apple cart’? Personally, I am looking forward to 2010 to keep working on this agenda. When 2011 arrives, I want to look back at 2010 and say that more change has occurred and that I made a difference.

~ Mark

PLP ‘on the road’

Yesterday I attended the ECNO annual AGM meeting in Toronto. As expected with the AGM of an organization, there is a certain amount of formal business processes to be followed. As mentioned in my blog post yesterday, by complete luck, I arrived an hour and a half early for the event. The best part about arriving early was that fellow Ontario PLP member @jeffreaburn.

I first met Jeff at the kickoff event for the Powerful Learning Planning (PLP) event in Windsor. Given the commonalities in our roles, we do cross paths at conferences and provincial meetings. Whether face to face, or online, I always find interactions with Jeff to be great learning experiences.

Our early arrival yesterday, was no exception. We had a great opportunity to discuss and compare IT department structures and strategies, netbook and iPod projects and the broad landscape of 21st century learning. Given our PLP connection, conversation eventually rolled around to a couple of key questions:

1. What is 21st century teaching?

2. How do we best create a culture of change and sustainability at the system level?

Culture changes in education need to encompass change that fundamentally impacts the way we teach. Ideas we discussed included:

  • teaching with technology embedded as more of a natural part of the learning process and not ‘separate’
  • significantly impacting teacher involvement in using technology – breaking past the keen ‘volunteer’ group and getting to a technology use by all scenario
  • strategies to expose and encourage greater use of free/cost effective web 2.0 tools in the learning process
  • ongoing PD opportunities
  • training for school administrators
  • stronger linkage of teacher technology training, embedded classroom use, school success plans and system goals
  • alignment of the instructional delivery to the technology world that is available to all of us – embrace the power

All in all, a great conversation that made the early arrival very worthwhile! The bonus was, I left with some key ideas to share with my staff and keep the conversation going with our Board. In the meantime, the learning will continue online.

~ Mark

Twitter experience becoming richer

From where I sit, Twitter use seems to be changing and evolving. When I first started using Twitter, it seemed that most Tweets could easily be placed into a few predictable categories:

  • general comments: updates regarding your current activity
  • web announcements: updated my blog at … or bookmarking site …. or read about something at …..
  • resource announcements: great smartboard resource at …..
  • asking a question

Some examples of these type of posts are:

Picture 5

Picture 7

Picture 6

Picture 8

My observation is that people are now ‘more connected’ through Twitter. By that I mean that I see evidence of more ongoing dialogue within groups of users. Requests for information are responded to. People are connecting for specific purposes.

For example:

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 1

Picture 2

To my way of thinking, this shows development in how Twitter is used. I feel there is a much greater sense of community – at least in the people in interact with. Users also have a better sense of harnessing the power of search terms and hash tags. Twitter is such a powerful tool to develop one’s PLP network. I feel fortunate to have a great PLP team to learn from and I look forward to the online dialogue that is an important part of every day!

~ Mark

Ontario PLP Kickoff Event

This evening I am taking a few minutes to reflect on the exciting day I had. Today was the launch of the Ontario PLP Cohort with Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. From the moment you entered the meeting room at WECDSB,  you could feel the energy and excitement has people found the team tables, plugged in laptops and connected to the wireless internet access. It was great to meet some people face to face that I had only worked with online!

The day was a ‘power’ session designed to make us all feel ‘whelmed’ – close to overwhelmed, but not quite! Sheryl presented first taking us through exercises to define networking and community as it pertains to our roles and the online world. Teams were provided opportunities to dialog about setting their expectations and assumptions about their ongoing working sessions. She beautifully set the stage for Will to present and challenge us as why the status quo will not do justice to preparing students for the world in which they will live and work. The presentations were well designed and delivered with impact.

The balance of the day was a mini ‘boot camp’ to get the 100 participants oriented to the online tools required to complete our work over the next year. We took tours of Wikispaces, Twitter, Delicious and Ning. After each tour, we had working time to register accounts, set defaults and get oriented to using the various tools. We will use #ontarioplp as our Twitter hash tag.

The wrap-up session included establishing our rules of engagement, booking Elluminate session times and reaffirming our individual commitment to participant and get the maximum learning, sharing and contributing over the next few months.

I am very excited to be a part of this project and learning with educators from Canada and the U.S.A.  We have a great team from our Board and I look forward to moving our thinking about learning, systemic change and the role of teaching forward.

Thank you Sheryl and Will for a great day.

~ Mark