Tag Archives: TEL

The ConnectED School Leader

As part of our Board capacity building program, we offered 2 full day sessions for our school administrators and instructional leaders with  George Couros.  George’s session aligned perfectly with  our  system plan  and Ontario school improvement framework.  The timing of our sessions also support the global work of  Connected Educator Month.


George is very personable in front of a crowd, and that in itself helped drive home one of the key messages of the day – the human connection.  His approach captured and reinforced an important message in my recent blog post providing a perspective on  technology enabled learning.  It is NOT about the technology itself.  It IS about the human connection: how we connect, develop relationships, learn, support the learning journey of others and reflect.  Technology plays a powerful role in the “C’s” – communicate, collaborate, citizenship and character development, creating and critical questions.

The “C’s” provide connectors for us to  learn, tell our story  or tell the story of our school or system.  The “C’s” help us connect beyond our school and system.  We gain a wider perspective on innovation and best practices from educational counterparts around the world.  Who can better tell your/your school story than you, the administrator and instructional leader?

Through personal and heart warming examples, George shared a journey that connected the dots on the benefits of becoming connected.  In the end, the tools themselves, and the technology involved, was simply that – a mechanism to get to the relationships and the story.  Tools that supported the journey included Twitter, Google tools (docs, hangouts, youtube etc.), Ted Talks.   Use the tools to make your job more streamlined.  Deal with information once:  Google doc vs word processor to pdf to email for example.

One can not under estimate the value of developing a personal learning network (PLN) to give you access to sharing, resources, problem solving, exchange ideas, thinking and best practices and asking questions – all part of telling your story.  I really enjoyed George’s analogy to using your PLN to ask questions and source the wisdom of the PLN  crowd to lighting up the “Bat Signal” – a call for help, information, collaboration etc. – awesome!

Dovetailed with blogging, you have a powerful method of communicating your story to a real world audience.  This journey certainly does require one to step into the role of the learner and that in itself may be one of the most powerful things that you do as an instructional leader.  People around you will benefit from watching you learn, ask critical questions, share through blogging & other means,  and shape your thinking.

Sounds like this could be messy – right?  So what – learning is messy, and that is simply OK.  Why wouldn’t it be messy?  Process vs end result.  This journey does require that you put your self out there and demonstrate transparency in what you are doing.  And just like the first time skier on the 60 foot run (reference to video) – go for it — it is just a little longer and faster than the 20 foot run.

You can do it.

Take action.

Start building your network by spending a few minutes a day on Twitter. Commit 10-15 minutes daily – that is all it takes to get started.  Commit to contributing to your board/district hashtag (#edwrdsb for us).

See you online in the “Twitterverse” and “Blogosphere”.


View the session Twitter Stream at Storify

Digital Citizenship “Pathway”

Today I am sharing a framework from WRDSB to consider digital citizenship and literacies in the K12 environment.



Technology Enabled Learning: a Perspective

Yesterday,  my morning started with my  with my usual routine – a  check on the ‘Twitterverse’. There is always something interesting going on there, and this day was no different. I took note of a tweet from  Donna Fry  announcing her new blog post  Changing the Trajectory.  I always enjoy reading Donna’s blog as I find her writing thought provoking and insightful.

This article inspired as anticipated, digging into critical aspects of student learning – learning is for ALL, learning is messy and sometimes very messy.  Then there were “those words” that REALLY caught my attention:  building capacity, personalized learning and towards the end of her article a strong statement of importance of  Assessment data Thinking, collaborating teacher + Technology. 

This last statement fit nicely with a diagram I had sketched various of versions of on my office whiteboard.  These words capture the essence of what I think of as Technology Enabled Learning (TEL).  The journey is all about student learning.  The use of technology should not interfere with best instructional and assessment practices. We should not use technology because it is there or perhaps new, but use it in ways that make a difference in the learning.

I am a believer in a thoughtful approach to the use of technology in the learning process and encourage educators to familiarize themselves with both the  TPACK  model as well as the  SAMR  model.  The C’s,  as often described in 21C learning references,  provide what I think of as key “hooks” for leveraging the potential of technology for learning.  All to often,  I think we get caught up in thinking about the hardware …. desktops, operating systems, mobile – laptops, netbooks and tablets.  Ah yes, and don’t forget about the bring your own option.

In the end, these devices are well, simply devices.  Today, the rate of change in technology is staggering.   Devices will come and go, improve, get faster, and have more capabilities.  If we are lucky, the price of a device suitable for student learning will continue to drop in price over time.  In the spin of the “device of the day”, we do have to learn them and design support models. BUT, we need to be prepared for change as the churn of hardware development and operating system advances will never stand still.

The focus must remain on best instructional and assessment practices and how we use technology to support and enable learning, and not what the technology of the day is.  I have attempted to capture a way of connecting these ideas in the diagram below.


I appreciate the timing of Donna’s publication, that she  wrote such an insightful article and created an opportunity for me to share how some of my thinking and learning as it  links to her  learning.


Manifesto for 21C Learning

The OASBO ICT  group (K12 IT Managers)  has prepared a document to capture network infrastructure needs to support 21C learning.  Read their thoughts on capacity, scalability and sustainability in a  Manifesto for 21st Century Learning.


Reflections on Ed Camp Hamilton

Saturday May 4th, beautiful sunny weather, no humidity and roughly 150 energized educators at Ancaster Sr. Public School to participate in Ed Camp Hamilton.


First, hats off to the organizing committee for planning a great event  — lots of positive energy and opportunity for networking —  take a bow.

I arrived early enough to take advantage of the opportunity to network prior to the official kickoff. It was wonderful to greet friends, meet online acquaintances for the first time and make new connections.

The day followed the traditional ed camp format with a group kickoff to pose questions to form the basis for the days discussion.  The submissions were sorted into groupings and assigned to room locations to facilitate the proceedings of the day.  Each of the discussions I attended was thought provoking:

  •  shift
  • motivating colleagues to change, try new things and take risks when they are reluctant
  • the role of administrators
  • innovation: grass roots, top down, or both
  • what other ingredients are needed for change
  • assessment: do current practices hinder change?
  • the squashing of innovate practice by some of those who fear change and risk taking

Great discussion, no easy answers, nuggets to chew on, things to ponder, take aways to try, ideas to share — awesome!  In addition to the excellent session discussion, three additional conversations are still rattling around in my mind.  One conversation started with Ron Millar and continued with Jenni van Rees  — new ideas for scaling a PD plan for next year.  Hold that thought and perhaps watch for a future blog post.

The second conversation started in the lunch line with Jane Mitchinson and Carlo Fusco, then continued at the lunch table with Ron and Jenni joining us.  We got talking about socialization, the impact of that process and when important conversations become too big and lose focus.  I believe we agreed that one of the hot topics and key elements of change in education right now is the “hot ball” of putting the conditions  of change in place, the shift to technology enabled learning, continued focus on pedagogical improvement and building capacity for change and risk taking. In essence, I believe this synergy  burns brightly because events such as ECOO, the OTRK12 conference,  the Ontario GAFE Summit and this Ed Camp event keep fuelling the flame  for continued learning, sharing and professional reflection.  Sustained energy is SO important right now.

BUT, what happens when the conversations become blurred by the big paint brushes — questions that could take the collective us off our game. Questions that are too big and too general to ever be wrestled to the ground.  Loss of focus would be a major hinderance.  Do people supporting change NOW, have to also be guardians of the focus of the journey?

The third conversation happened after the event – a very engaging conversation with Donna Fry. We talked further about the challenges of creating opportunities for change, and sustaining the energy to keep things going.  Donna has great ideas and big plans for her area — what an amazing educator! I hope I can be a part of the action.

Thanks again to team Ed Camp Hamilton for arranging this successful event.  For those that could not attend, check out the #edcampham twitter stream.  Until the next event, see you online and keep the learning, sharing and reflecting GOING.

Related Resources

Now Thats PD  by  Jane Mitchinson
The revolution will be tweeted … at the Shifting Ideas  blog by Carlo Fusco
Ed Camp Hamilton Reflection by David Fife (www.davidfife.ca)
EdCampHam left me with more questions …. by Karen Wilson


Technology Enabled Learning at Millen Woods PS

I recently had a chance to spend some time at Millen Woods PS (link) with principal Gwen McCutcheon and her staff.  The school had a very welcoming atmosphere. There was a definite energy for learning, and yet a calmness at the same time. Impressive!

The visit began with an opportunity to meet with Gwen in her office to discuss some background information and leadership philosophies. Gwen is very interested in how technology can support and enable learning. Gwen states emphatically that she is “NOT a techie”, but has worked hard to establish a culture to leverage the best uses within her school. One of the resources that is shaping Gwen’s thinking is the book Visible Learning. She has noted a few key quotes from the book that really resonated with her, and reads them often. Some of the key points include:

  • teachers need to understand learning through the eyes of the student
  • what works is not just the tool or the structure
  • students learn best when they understand the learning process
  • learning is an:  explicit goal, appropriate challenge or  measuring progress towards meeting a learning goal
  • in this context, effective use of technology makes a difference to student learning
  • technology can add a level of accountability
  • when students explain their thinking, they become their own teachers

Millen Woods P. S. has 60 iPads at this point in time – some from their start up funds 3 years ago, some purchased by the school and 20 from our  central allocation this year.  Principal McCutcheon views iPads as the most versatile piece of equipment in the school. She has been impressed with how well staff have adapted to thinking in a technology enabled framework and using iPads to support small group instruction, rather than taking a 1:1 approach.  She is proud of the way the staff have focused on using technology to enable, support and capture student learning – making student learning visible, exploring critical questions and sharing thinking. Students enjoy the hands on approach and many staff feel that this has increased accountability.  One example of students capturing their work is by using the Explain Everything app.

I enjoyed meeting teacher Stephanie Ringwood and her French immersion class.  I was very impressed with seeing how her students used the iPads to support their learning. Listen to  Stephanie’s perspective  (video) on the shift to using technology in her classroom.

At the time the school opened two years ago, one of the big changes for staff was having the computers dispersed in pods around the school.  While it took some time for all staff to adjust, Gwen feels they have “mad the transformational journey” and see the value in this approach.

As we walked the school, I saw other groups of students working in classrooms, pods and in hallway groups using technology to capture their learning — making movie trailers regarding physical fitness.  I could tell from the way the students interacted with Principal McCutcheon that they were used to seeing her out and about in the school.  I noted that there were some interactive white boards in the school, perhaps in roughly 25% of the classroom.  Gwen feels this number is quite appropriate for the school and that there is no need to have one in every classroom.  I do concur with her views on this as many teachers find it challenging to move past the teacher centered instruction early phases of using them. I also took note of some students working at their literacy skills using electronic books.

As we returned to the office area, the large flat screen TV in the hallway captured my interest.  It is used to display student work the Millen Woods way – students teaching other students and students capturing their learning — AWESOME!

One video example of a student demonstrating their work is evidenced in Roane’s Video (posted with permission).

iPad syncing trays and Mac Mini (side mount) for syncing

Hallway TV displaying student work

Laptop controlling hallway TV

Thank you for sharing your learning journey!