The Problem with Technology and Being Connected

I’ve got a problem.

I can’t seem to read or write any more.
Specifically, I can’t seem to read or write or create for pleasure any more.

And I blame technology.

Take this morning, for example. While it is the first day in ages that I could sleep in, instead I find myself up at 5 a.m. The eldest ice princess DID have a six a.m. Ice time, and the hubs was getting up to go hunting, but as they head out the door, I think, what a great time to finish that other Giller book.
Wrong.
The book is on the iPad, and on the iPad as well is Twitter, home of #satchat. And I can’t resist.
The delicious topic of conversation this week is How to Leverage Negativity in our schools, and as a curriculum technology teacher it’s in my work every single day… Admittedly, it’s also part of my mindset more often these days too. So, with questions like “How do you deal with negative thinkers in your staff?” Responses such as these are elicited:

photo 1

photo 2  photo 3photo 4

Which leads to great fast-paced thoughtful discussion, brilliant revelations, and a beautiful lead-in for the final question, How do you know when to get out?

Now let me just say, I have never, to my knowledge, been described as a Negative Nelly. My general tendency seems to be generally positive. So when I hear educational leaders describing their best practices in leading in a positive way to generate positivity, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m all ears and picking up pro tips every step of the way. This last question sort of came as a curve ball. And I can’t stop thinking about it.
I’ve found myself struggling this past month or so. The work is hard. I’ve never steered away from hard work. The challenges are great. I love to be challenged. There is awareness and a move toward much improved and increased understanding of our needs and areas for improvement… So why do I feel negativity creeping in? Why am I thinking about getting out?

These are big questions at 5-now-6-now 7 o’clock Saturday morning. And especially surprising when the discussion about negativity is bringing such a tone of POSITIVITY to the community.

So following #satchat I did what I often do, make a cup of tea and browse through the discussion, check my emails, check out Facebook, and reach for one of four books on my table. This morning’s pick was a dog-eared copy of Leaders Make it Happen, followed by a serving of The Art of Focused Conversation for Schools. Both are being used to direct my thinking on system change, and both have been sources in our PLC and area work. Both, too, connected to our Twitter chat. And to the work we did on Friday as a tech team.

I used to fall asleep reading professional resources.
Now they seem to fire every neuron in my head.

I’ve come to realize…

 this IS my reading for pleasure

 this IS my writing for fun.

this  IS creating.

And perhaps most significantly, this IS my critical thinking. It’s part of our collective journey, for sure, but I think for me, begrudgedly, I have come to realize that I can’t possibly embrace the full movement forward without accepting the reality that negativity is necessary. It challenges our work. It challenges my thinking. It amazes and scares me, and sometimes makes me want to bang my head against the wall… When we are in a good space ourselves, negativity can be much more easily deflected. When we allow ourselves to get worn down, negativity can seep in from many sources (our self, situational, and from others).

So I will come back to these #satchat gems. I’ll continue to align our work and our challenges and resources and my various notes and Tweets and post-its. And perhaps most importantly, I’ll accept the negativity as a gift. My own Growth Mindset cannot be fuelled otherwise.

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from http://www.teachthought.com

My boss Sean…

What a great time to be in education!

I know, I say that all the time. But how true! It sure makes it easy to love your job when little triumphs like this are part of the daily work.

This week, our Director Sean Monteith, joined the Blogosphere. He is very open to sharing, and as he embraces his new role he is committed to ensuring that each of our board employees know what he stands for. Sean believes in servant leadership, and is committed to our board vision:

All stakeholders create a culture of learning so that students come first.

While he is also the first to say that he is not a techy-type-of-guy, he fully supports the 21C work we do here at Keewatin-Patricia, and is working daily to ensure that we are all walking the talk… in creating a culture of learning, we will collectively prepare all of our students for the world of tomorrow by knowing our students today. We will strive to meet the needs of the whole student.  He believes in his heart that equity is non-negotiable, and that every day, students come first. How do I know this? Because he walks the talk. And because he told me. He will tell you too if you ask him!

And so, my boss Sean creates a regular post and it’s shared on his brand-spanking-new blog. I would SO love for you to check it out here, and support him as he continues to support me (and us) in our daily work. I know what my leader stands for– how awesome is that??!

A culture of Learning

“All stakeholders create a culture of learning so that students come first.”

Here we are, 9 weeks into the school year. In our classrooms, we have developed routines and set expectations, and in the spirit of learning, have taken a dive into the deep end of good teaching, learning, assessment and evaluation. As interim and mid-term reports go out, we pause to take a look at where we are and where we need to go.

As we began the 2013-2014 school year at KPDSB, we adopted a learning stance through the Board Strategic Implementation Plan (BSIP). With a new vision statement, we are asked to put these words into action:

“All stakeholders create a culture of learning where students come first.”

Powerful. When dissected, a colleague of mine noted that there are no unnecessary words in this statement. In its succinct simplicity, it requires nothing more, nothing less.

And in our schools, in our meetings, in our daily work, we are asked to not only reflect on what this vision means to YOU, but to determine how you see your work in this statement.

A teacher friend commented that clearly the most important part of this statement is that “students come first”. And admittedly, if you are worth the paper on which your degree is printed, you’d better believe that.

And yet.

To me.

In my work, an equally vital component is agreeing that we are taking a learning stance, that we will collectively create a CULTURE OF LEARNING.

You see, I can’t do my work without this key component. As a curriculum technology teacher I am asking students, teachers and leaders alike to change the way we do business. To change the way we teach and the way we learn. To learn together. In creating a culture of learning, we shift the educator’s role from giver of information to gatherer, curator, and inquirer. We work elbow-to-elbow. We admit we do not have the answers and are challenged to problem-solve collaboratively.

We give away power, and in doing so, create something so much more powerful than we ever imagined possible.

We create a culture of learning SO THAT students come first.

How do you see YOUR WORK in light of this vision?

Bloggedy Blog Blog

What happens when you give a bunch of grade 1 and 2’s an iPad and access to kidblog?
Magic of course.

With a few minutes taken to create a class list, I went into Sarah Ferguson’s grade 1/2 class to introduce blogs. Sarah had the students sit on the carpet and reflected her iPad to the room’s Apple TV and in ten minutes, we went over the basics to get into the app on their iPads. Three steps:

-find the icon
-enter the class code
-find your name from the drop down menu

As all good teachers do, Sarah demonstrated once, then had the students DO. In partners, students repeated the steps.

Apple TV demo

Monkey See Monkey Do (or …this is how we dooooo it….)

Monkey See Monkey Do (or ...this is how we dooooo it....)

**Insert Rookie Mistake Here**

In typical teacher fashion, the two of us are watching and waiting for all the kiddos to get in the same place at the same time so we can show them the next step.

CLICK CLICK

(sounds of pictures being taken).

“Okay, how many of you are ready…. bwah bwop blah”

(my voice being replayed on various devices)   LOVE it!

Sarah kids ipads

Soon we realize, students are creating posts, snapping pictures, taking video, adding text… without instructions. So, we decide to let them at it.

Your assignment- create a blog post with your partner. Include text and a photo. Your choice of topic. GO.

Buddy Blogs
Buddy Blogs
Say CHEESE
Say CHEESE

Within twenty minutes, ALL of the students had two blog posts created, one for each partner, complete with age-appropriate text (a sentence or two), and a photo. They inquired, problem-solved, and learned together.

Some of this sounds too easy, even to me. But it happened. Honest. Just like that.

One of my favourite tidbits of advice given to me by an awesome teacher, is simply “Get outa the way”. This is a perfect example. We don’t see children sitting and waiting for PD to make things happen. They are naturally inquisitive and when we put a device in their hands, they will use it. Sarah is an incredible modeler of inquiry in her classroom, and more than once, I have marveled as I speculate what kind of learners these students will be in two or three or five or ten years. Simply incredible.

This class is planning to continue to use their blogs to document their learning, with a focus on their Communities unit. Stay tuned- they may be looking for some feedback on these blogs very soon… if this is any indication I am probably already behind in sharing that request 😉

Wrapping Up doesn’t seem quite right…

As we are here in London sharing the totally awesome things going on in Ontario schools, through our work with the PLP Network, it doesn’t seem quite right to say we are at a finish line.
The reflection is MOST POWERFUL and the next steps are so exciting.
Loads of common threads throughout the school boards, and most of all, passion for education comes through loud and clear.

“The messiness is important as we transform education”

YES!

Imagine This…

I have three daughters and it wasn’t until THIS YEAR that one of them wanted a doll of a Disney Princess.
From the movie Brave, Merida is everything my girls represent: feisty, independent thinkers, spirited, energetic, thoughtful and kind… so when my 9-year-old asked for the movie and my 6-year-old asked for the doll, I considered it.

Now, the Merida controversy is everywhere.

It seems Disney has re-vamped the doll to be somewhat more sexualized, which is upsetting to many and has entered my world through #notbuyingit. You can read more about it here.

I haven’t had a chance to chat with my girls about this- and not sure I want to, to be honest. I feel deflated and discouraged. Why do all of the good action heroes have to be hyper-sexualized? She is a young girl who rides horses, fights for her independence and knows what she wants in life. Does she need to have big boobs to make her likeable?

Anyway, this morning my sister tagged me in this video, which couldn’t come at a better time. In her work with women’s health, she is doing her part to rip to shreds the stereotypes of women, and at the same time, is raising my nieces to appreciate and celebrate their girliness in whatever way they see fit. If the world only saw women and girls for who they are, not what they look like, wouldn’t we be better off?

*This often is the start of an ongoing debate among the women and girls in my life about the validity of wearing school uniforms. I am SO FOR this, and am willing to enter this discussion with anyone… As you can imagine, the 6-12 year olds in our lives have some strong opinions on this topic too!*

So here’s the video, made by some pretty awesome Canadian women. Feel free to use it and credit the brave women who lend a voice to this topic, and celebrate what it really means to be a girl or woman today.    (Thanks, Leo. You make the world a better place.)