The Final (and First) Steps
Well… as we reflect back on the first year of board-wide tech implementation, it’s hard not to get a little sentimental. It’s been quite the ride! My colleagues and I participated in a year-long PD with the PLP Network, and called our little group “Look Ma, No Hands!”. How appropriate. It truly does feel like a roller coaster ride, so many thrilling highs, unexpected twists and turns, and a couple moments where it does feel like we’re defying all laws of physics.
But that’s kind of what education is, isn’t it? We don’t ever really know what the road ahead looks like, but with high hopes we endeavor to make the ride as meaningful and memorable as possible. And for better or worse, we’re all in it together.
So, as much as I personally feel that wind-blown crazy feeling… like, wow, I can’t believe that just happened… I also can’t wait to run around back and get back in line. We have learned many things this year, and will I’m sure we’ll be tasked with creating reports depicting those important reflections and next steps… but what I really REALLY want to do right now is take give each of our partners in education a big high five.
And a thank you.
And a big fat CHEERS on my deck or dock to say Congrats, see you in the fall.
Okay, so I can hardly type that without a smirk on my face. I was working with my grade 8’s in the art room where the atmosphere is relaxed during studio time. While I’d been working with a small group putting some finishing touches on our musical sets, someone made a 4-20 reference and there were a few snickers. We continued working, me seemingly oblivious, and the students enjoying the exclusivity of their conversation. Later, I’d let them know I’d be away (again) during their next class, that I’d be at a Google Summit in southern Ontario. One of the girls asked what that was, and I replied “I’m getting Googled”. A male student: is that what you’re calling it these days? Me: Yea, on 4-20 no less.
That’s what I love about this age.
Anyway, about Google. In the first-ever Google Apps for Educators #gafesummit in Ontario, we had two very action-packed days of learning and sharing all-things-Google. (Well, not all things, see above, but all things educational.) 🙂 We travelled as a tech team- which was awesome- and learned alongside some highly-regarded educators leaders in educational technology. Things I loved about it: it was in Ontario. It was in a school full of beautiful student-created art. It was participatory in many ways. I learned with my teaching colleagues. We shared some of the great things happening already, and came away with loads of next steps. (Not to mention, I was with my peeps- we laughed our butts off and participated in much juvenile shenanigans when not in learning mode… totally necessary!)
What I didn’t love about it: sitting in ridiculous wooden desks in classrooms all day. (Who DOES that???) *insert slap in the forehead reminder here* And the rooms boasted chalk boards.
My learning is cyclical and ongoing and deep and daunting and energizing all at the same time. I get saturated. Then I get revived. When we learn alongside our colleagues, we learn differently. We had one of our IT guys with us- genius! We came back with a greater understanding of one another’s needs and when we wanted apps to appear in our K12 domain- it happened! We travelled with an active administrator- genius! We had time to create a learning plan for her school and students, and she learned how to Tweet with FOUR tech teachers at the elbow and an in-house PLN to see AND follow. SO COOL.
Above all else, participating in the learning opportunities makes me proud and grateful. I’m proud of our school board and our teachers and our students and our tech team. We are doing some great things. We have a LOT going for us, not the least of which is accessibility and support. (Our Director, Jack McMaster, has recently been granted the ORION award for his direction and leadership with technology… our team is doing some incredible things and sometimes I think we have a forest-for-the-trees situation.)
Our students will continue to benefit from our ongoing professional development and it will always be a struggle to stay ahead of the game, but the pressure is a positive one. We are learners together, and in this culture of learning we embrace the possibilities with a sense of humour and willingness to adapt. Getting Googled, in whatever interpretation you choose, is part of my life as a technology teacher, and one that makes me remember the WHY of what we do.
Primary iPads with Langwitches
Silvia Tolisano is awesome.
She shared her awesome work with our primary teachers this week, via two Skype sessions, and was awesome.
(I just encouraged a grade 6 student to not use that word so frequently in his writing, and his response, “…but Mrs. H, it IS awesome!” is what I’m hearing right now. Thanks, Nick. I get it now.)
In about an hour and a half, Silvia shared her stories. Teachers dig that. Especially, teachers love stories that are relatable, doable and not preachy, and inspire them to move forward. (As a tech teacher, I LOVE that! Moving forward is good!) As any great presenter, Silvia got a quick overview about our situation before the sessions, and personalized her sharing. So, our teachers were thrilled to hear about inquiry, project-based learning, story-collecting and story-sharing. They were completely engaged and motivated when they were shown ways to communicate with parents with the use of technology. They were thrilled to be shown ways to communicate with their students families with technology, because educator-to-educator PD works.
In each of our communities (we had teachers from Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Kenora and Red Lake participate), the feedback was positive and laden with next steps. “We want to create blogs. “”We want to try these apps. ” “We want to share this in our schools.” THAT’s AWESOME.
Thank you, Katie Burch, for organizing these sessions with Silvia, and to Silvia for inspiring our teachers. Your reach is further than you think, and your work is creating learning. Thanks as well, to our open-minded ready-to-learn teachers who make the difference every single day you smile at our students.
Now, go check out Langwitches. You WILL find something to inspire you too!
As students prepare for their grade 12 graduation, it’s imperative that every student pass the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test. This week, we supported students in doing so with the use of assistive technology at Beaver Brae Secondary School. (I wasn’t allowed to take photos- which is a bummer as it was awesome to see.)
Walking into the school the tension was palpable. I always feel for students during standardized tests, and for teachers who, in spite of their encouraging words, also feel the pressures to see students succeed, follow Ministry rules, and get things done.
the number of students who declined the opportunity to use technology.
I taught many of these students in grade 7 or 8. Conferring with their English teachers and for some, resource teachers, they agree. Technology would increase their likelihood for achievement. Yet, many declined. Speaking with one of my Keewatin Public alumni, I was told that this student hadn’t USED their netbook since they left our school. This person wasn’t comfortable using it any more. (And he had used it every day in grade 8.) So, he wasn’t sure he would do better writing this test, if he had troubles getting started, and he knew he couldn’t get help to use.
Of course, in fairness, this is a snapshot. Some students did use computers. There were some on desktops, some on netbooks. A few students wrote in some sections of the test booklet and only typed out a few essay questions. But overall, there were many students who declined the use of a tool which, inevitably, would move them closer to passing this mandatory test… a test which would enable them to graduate high school.
I was left feeling both inspired and discouraged. What can we do better, or differently, to ensure we leverage this awesome tool for student success?
Looping Back is a Good Thing
This week sees our board taking a U-turn of sorts as we take a focused look at where we are and where we’re going. Two full days of Visioning have been planned, one for a teacher focus group and one for administrators. It’s a good thing! (As Martha Steward would say). Incredibly, we are 8 months into our full-on 1:1 plan this year- it is a great time to reflect and regroup.
Where are we?
What are we doing well?
What’s not working?
What is the vision for moving forward?
With the help of Pearson Education and Karen Hume, a group of educators (a cross-section of teachers and ECE’s from each of our schools, both elementary and secondary), were brought together. The day was purposefully designed to not include administrators or senior admin., with the goal being to create an open sharing atmosphere to answer some of the questions above. The agenda was full, progressed from the Why 21st Learning?, to identifying barriers, and on to a personalized yet collaborative visioning exercise.
The day was also framed around the results of a recent survey which was completed by +70% of our staff. The survey was an inclusive (read: lengthy) and anonymous opportunity to communicate thoughts, practices and wishes for technology use in the classroom.
In the principal technology visioning day, administrators will receive an overview of what the educators communicated on day 1. They will be challenged to address some of the barriers, and to create a personal and collective vision for moving forward with technology at both a school and system level.
Heavy work indeed.
What I love about this process is that we have identified the need for many voices to be heard in order to effectively move forward. Our consultants at Pearson identified the presence of 2,000 lb. gorillas (or a few heavy lifters) and the need to distribute some of the ownership for the successful SHIFT to happen. With the focus group (not sure if I like that term or not) of educators, we have identified that there is a unique and varied viewpoint across our school board. Ms. Hume did a great job ensuring voices were heard, recorded anonymously, and appreciated. She also held strong in challenging the educators with the notion that, while we may be in different places and have unique needs, it IS possible for us to share a common vision or goal. I love that.
I always say, the best part of PD is consolidating. The voices heard in the room echoed in my head all evening. It may seem that Visioning is a day late and a dollar short, while we’ve rolled out all of this technology months ago, but to me it’s just in time. The power to create change is immeasurable and is beginning to lie in the hands of educators, and by extension, students. THIS is what 21st Century learning is all about.
I’m so happy to hear this question asked:
If you could have all of these barriers removed, what would your IDEAL learning environment look like?
Where do you FIND all those RESOURCES??
As I find myself in any grade, in any classroom on any given day, I basically find myself planning like crazy ALL the time, but inevitably what I need ISN’T what I’ve prepared for… While this is GREAT for my OCD and Type A personality, (and medicinal sarcasm helps too), it has also helped me refine my research skills substantially.
This week I’ve found myself supporting everything from kindergarten through grade 12, working in a rainbow of subject areas. In each scenario, we’ve collectively searched for resources and web tools to support student learning. (If I haven’t said it enough- I LOVE MY JOB!) What puzzles me though, is how we continue to struggle to find a just right platform for sharing this great work. With Google, we create a single-use document and share it with those (usually in-house) who might find it useful. With Diigo, we share with those who are invited to view at their will, again limited to our sphere of colleagues. (Usually, Diigo is much like my iPad Reading List- a place I go to when I have a free second to catch the gems I didn’t have time to earlier.) We blog, we Tweet, we Facebook some goodies too. However, in the long run, are we re-creating great things when someone up the highway or across the sea has already done as good as or better work and is more than willing to share.
As far as I’m concerned, we can’t get this universal platform developed soon enough.
My Favourite Words:
You will be SO PROUD OF ME!
Truly. I get to hear this all the time, and it never loses its appeal. This week I heard it twice, once at the grocery store and once at the rink. Among the produce, a former grade 8 student, now in grade 11, was beaming with pride as she couldn’t wait to tell Mrs. H about how she was helping not only her teacher, but several students as well as they finally started using Google Drive in her class this term. She was ecstatic, and incredibly proud to share how what she was doing meant a lot to her because she had a great base of knowledge from her time in elementary school. SO proud of her.
The second time- walking into the rink- a teacher. “Lindy, you will be so proud of me! I can’t wait to show you what we created!” The posture and pride go hand in hand- both my student and colleague wore their successes with such incredible grace, and could not WAIT to share with someone who, they knew, would want to know about their success. And frankly, it’s not even about the technology. (Hmmm… maybe don’t tell them that…) Admittedly, not everyone gets thrilled to bits about a new mind map for design-down planning or an updated presentation tool for student collaboration, and it can, in fact, get lonely when you look around the staff room table and not one person is excited to hear about your use of cell phones in the classroom. But what really matters is not that I am proud of THEM, but that they are so darn thrilled with themselves. The shift is empowering. Change is good.
1:1 Cycle of Inquiry
Old habits are hard to break. I’d been struggling with the idea that we are going BACKWARDS in our implementation, by just now dealing with things like PD for Admin, creating a sharing space, and creating a central vision statement. As an educator, I firmly believe that in the best-laid plans, these things CAN and SHOULD come first.
The cosmos lined up and we got funding for board-wide one-to-one use of technology in our classrooms. We moved on it. Our hands-on implementation went, by all accounts, quite smoothly. In four months, we can say that in all of our buildings, poeple have begun teaching, exploring, learning, and creating in new and different ways, supplementing their learning with and through technology. We have wifi in every learning space. That’s pretty awesome! Would this be different if we had told everyone, on the very first day, WHY we are moving into integrated technology in the classrooms? If we had put other people’s resources on desktops, would students and teachers have been MORE enthusiastic about opening up a brand new netbook? If we had prescribed a 5-year projection of how teaching and learning would differ, would there be marked differences in the day-to-day happenings in our buidlings? I doubt it. So I ask myself, why can’t I practice what I preach?
In every co-teaching experience, whenever I am supporting another teacher or student or administrator or parent… and ESPECIALLY with my own children, I encourage explore time. I live by the addage that we can’t be experts on everything, that we must create a culture of co-learning… we don’t know all of the answers, that often questions are more important than answers, and if we don’t know, we can find out. THIS is a culture of learning. Is this not what we are doing? This has been explore time. We have not mandated Thou Shalt Use Technology x-amount each day. We have provided access. Large-scale explore time. Huh.
We have been at-the-elbow as much as possible, established initial practices in communicating, managing, repairing, facilitating, and monitoring… and are able to effectively re-group to ask, What’s next? Our priorities- leadership professional development, creating a sharing space, and envisioning our long range plan. I realize, we can’t possibly have asked the questions we have today, without the work we’d done yesterday.
Now, that’s not to say, if we were to do it all over again, that we’d do everything the exact same. Far from it. When I read blog posts like this, 6 Pillars of a 1:1 initiative, there is a good amount of food for thought and I am inclined to add on, as requested, a few other tidbits. And together, we learn about others’ best practices, build a stronger foundation for creating something from nothing. As with any cycle of inquiry, we continue to revisit the questions, tweak them, explore, discuss, dig deeper, expand, loop-back in and around sometimes, and through the process, we discover.
A ten-year-old, who seemed to figure this out on his own, said to me last year, “OH! So the best questions come at the END of the assignment! I GET it!”
Free Time Part 2
I just had to add to the last post of 2012… and the comment on Free Time. As a technology teacher I spend a LOT of time in front of my screens. Over two weeks of holidays, I spent next to none.
I checked my personal messages now and then, (mostly to set up social engagments with family and friends), and watched my work email inbox climb past 86 messages before Sunday night. When my grandparents came to visit, I showed them some videos on Apple TV and my kids downloaded a movie on iTunes. When we skiied, went out fishing on the lake, and skated, we took pictures that were posted pretty quickly to Facebook or Twitter. But, I did little work.
In the morning over my tea I read blogs and articles. I can’t seem to read an actual paper book without jotting something down or looking something up on an iPad. My family kept tabs on eachother via text messages and emails. We used our devices here and there. But, I did little work.
Technology is interwoven in our lives. My youngest daughter, who is six, has access to many devices. (Her gift from Santa this year, in fact, was a keyboard that connects to an iPad to teach her to play piano.) Yet, as always, the kids were crazy excited about all the large boxes for making forts in the house. Not once did I hear a family member, immediate or distant, say to someone, “Put down that technology and talk to the real people!” We seem to be leveraging the use just fine.
I’m curious how many of our students and families got new technology this Christmas, and how it will impact their families. I’ll do some asking this week. As for me, I wonder if just knowing my PLN is there, that my work will be there alongside my colleagues and students, when I return, is that enough to be able to take that pause and break away? It wasn’t an intentional tech break, (nor was it cold turkey- woah, that would be tough if it was imposed on me!), but when I mentioned in the staff room Monday morning that I hadn’t read or replied to work emails, there was definitely a stunned silence. 🙂
In a laptop rollout I heard a fellow Technology Teacher state, boldly, that under no circumstance, would these netbooks be used for FREE TIME. Absolutely, unequivocally, these devices are for WORK ONLY and were given to students for one purpose, and one purpose only… to learn.
Wait a sec.
Do you see a problem there? Netbooks are for student use for learning… yep, we get that.
Not for free time…
And for work only.
Hmmm…. do we not learn in our free time????
I understand the message behind this statement. In the beginning, there was a great fear that students would be playing games, on Facebook, and off-task, ALL the time. With a device in the hands of every student, it’s a legitimate concern that without clear expectations and much front-loading on the purpose for using the technology, there would be certain problems. And yet, there remains that question on “free time”. Can students learn in free time?
In the last week of school before holidays, I did not see classes watching movies. (In the past there have been messages circulated with direction on academic press and the need to protect every second we have with our students while we have them… so really, this was no surprise.) What I did see, are students engaged in self-directed learning. Students were engaged in small groups, across the grades, using iPads, netbooks, SMART Boards, and hand-held devices. Students were huddled in the backs of rooms, in hallways, and in the library, devices in hand. Were they learning? Was this free time? I asked three students in three different grades, “What are you up to?” and this is what I was told:
“We’re going online to see what the weather will be like over the holidays so we can decide if we’ll play outside or inside.” (on the SMART Board)
“We can go on anything that has mulitiplication or fractions cuz we just finished that unit.” (student playing Math games on the netbook)
“We’re taking turns on Letter School then making up rhyming words.” (0n the iPad)
It seems to me, learning is happening all over the place, without specific teacher direction, on the last days of school. In FREE TIME???
In each of these classrooms, students were given a set of time with basic parameters of what they could work on. The key is, students were given time and choice. Parameters were set. And in the end, students were using technology to meet a self-directed need.
It makes my heart happy when I see the shift in our teachers, our students, and our culture. Engagement is a given; we take for granted that students are capable of making sound decisions, and that the world will not fall apart if we leave our young citizens in charge of their own time managment on occasion. And my guess is, when our staff and students head home for the holidays, there will be hours spent with family and friends, and time spent with technology as well. A well-deserved holiday is at hand. 🙂
I love working in our Intermediate classes. In every school I fully anticipate substitute teacher treatment. After all, they hardly know me, they are tweens or teenagers, and I’ve not built one lick of trust or community with them… unlike their regular classroom teachers. So, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I DO get respect and buy-in with students, especially when we’re working on DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP.
I believe what’s key is that they do NOT need another list of Do’s and Don’ts. They know more than me, in many ways, and I am pretty happy with that. They LOVE social media, and the first thing I say, is that I’m on the PRO side too. (It also helps when I start out by slipping in that I’m an Intermediate teacher too, and know their friends in other schools.) Then we talk about Facebook. We talk about what they know. We learn very quickly, what they DON’T KNOW too. I hear, in every class, all of the bad things that happen on Facebook. They know about bullying. They want to talk about it. It’s often difficult for students to fill in the PRO side of our list than the con.
One of my favourite resources is a documentary done by CBC’s DocZone called Facebook Follies. (I co-created a mini unit with a Lakewood colleague last year.) In every class, we set some basic expectations- maturity, respect and willingness to participate, then use clips from the documentary to have focussed discussions. We’ve created a wiki, use Google Docs and Glogster, and have blogged about some pretty hot topics arising from this documentary and their own experiences. (I have to say, that it’s Canadian is a total bonus… even our youngest students appreciate Canadian media!) I truly appreciate the classroom teachers who are willing to learn alongside their students, who co-teach, make cross-curricular connections and follow up the discussions in between or before and after my time in the class.
What are your favourite digital media resources? Is there room for a bank of resources for us to share for teaching digital citizenship?
Sharing the Stories
This week we had the opportunity to share some information about the work we are doing as a school board with interested parties around the world. In a edWeb presentation, and in partnership with Robert Martellacci at MindShare Learning, we prepared and shared a short presentation about the implementation of 1:1 in a board-wide capacity. What I LOVE about sharing this way, is that participants are able to see, hear and participate from wherever they are- in this case, we covered not only a number of time zones, but also participants from the Middle East. Location once again is not a barrier to this personalized and universally accessible learning.
Another cool thing- chat. Within the framework, the three of us (myself a technology teacher, Lynn a principal, and Scott our Student Success lead) collectively presented our work. Our moderator fielded the questions and participants were free to ask and comment along the way. Leveraging the time is always a challenge, but in most cases questions were addressed and were very appropriate to the content. (On the top of the list- how do you manage Apple’s VPP policy? How do your teachers receive PD and support? What is the selection process for teachers to get to “pilot” technology?)
In theory, the time and effort required to prepare a presentation in this capacity should not have been too extensive. We have, after all, shared in the past and work with our trustees and media to update our work on a fairly regular basis. However, with the three of us presenting, some of the barriers were time to collaborate, learning a new format for some, and of course, fitting our three heads in the webcam at once. 🙂
The follow up? There is talk of a showcase in a print publication to extend the sharing to others in the MindShare network. Many chose to follow me on Twitter to learn more about our board’s path and future endeavours. The feedback was quite positive. What I sometimes wish though, is that we could be a fly on the wall in others’ discussions. How do you know that what you’re sharing makes a difference in the path others take? Does that matter? Are there more questions than answers? When asked why I blog about the work we do (honestly, I’ve been asked), it seems the best I can come up with is that I wish someone else did it. Transparency is a good thing. Sharing is a good thing. So, if any one participant in our webinar took one morsel of information and helped to inform their practice, that’s a good thing too.
Year 1 vs. Year 2
I’ve been reflecting lately on the progression from year 1 1:1 to year 2 1:1. (Huh?)
Three of our schools began the journey with full-on one-to-one technology last year. Lakewood Public School in Kenora, Open Roads School in Dryden, and Sioux Mountain School in Sioux Lookout were all immersed with netbooks, SMART boards, and portable labs for the 2011-2012 school year. So what does it look like a year in?
At this time last year, our teachers were hungry for PD. The implementation curve was steep, but we were seeking support for use of the interactive white boards and teacher laptops, (used with docking stations). There was legitimate concern as computer labs were dismantled and teachers watched their beloved workstation be removed from the teacher desks in the classroom. What if my documents don’t transfer? What if something happens to my laptop? What if someone steals my laptop? How can the laptop work with the SMART board? The trepedation was real. This year, teachers resumed using their laptops and I’ve heard, have assured others that ALL of their files transferred and ALL of their email was intact. The bonus: accessing personal board email in Outlook is even easier because, wherever you are, the contacts list pops up. 🙂
PD and Pedagogy
A year ago, teachers were feeling a little pressure to get using their SMART boards. For those who had little to no experience using an iwb (interactive white board), it was daunting to say the least. I don’t want to break it. Should the kids be using it? Why would I do it on there when I have to create something new- why not just use the white board? What if I spend all of my time making the file and I can’t make it work during the lesson? What if the Internet goes down? We created opportunities for teachers to come together to PLAY with the board in a common space. Much to my surprise, even in the PD session, we saw hesitation to TOUCH the board. Teachers are not used to interactive PD, but are very good recipients of information.
Then, we did some work in the classrooms. Being at-the-elbow was important for some… knowing that the time spent creating an activity would not be “all for nothing” when it was time to DO the lesson… and honestly, there were some pretty audible sighs of relief when it actually worked. I created this activity. It opened. Students are on task. Learning is happening! Immediate feedback was postitive.
TODAY: Just this morning, a grade 2 teacher shared with me that she now does the morning message WITH her students, there at the laptop, while they interact by making predictions, correcting and contributing to her thoughts. They are more in control of their learning- the release of control was for her, the greatest struggle. Naturally, we hear over and over that increase in engagement was, and continues to be the number one “bonus”. Moving into higher order, critical thinking? Double BONUS!
Attitudes have shifted. Technology is seldom seen as an add-on, but rather a tool. (Insert choir of angels here.) Here are some myths debunked by our staff:
Students don’t TALK or communicate anymore. Students are always on Facebook. Laptops are only used for bullying. Kids get too much screen-time as it is, why give them more at school? Kids won’t learn to read or write if they’re always on a device.
In the past month, I have heard these comments addressed in the community and in the staff room and in the hallways… in conversations NOT directed to me or by me. From the perspective of teachers who have used technology in their k-8 classrooms, for a year or more, these truths have been proven false. The truth is, in a community of effective student-led learning, each of these statements CAN NOT be true. The truth is, it is the shift in thinking for the entire learning community that disproves the theory.
And so, as we reflect on a year’s work, the challenge remains: how do we continue to grow? How do we not take for granted the accessibility and support? How do we support the other schools, teachers, students, administrators who are new to the journey and assure them, the learning curve is steep but the view when you get there is pretty awesome?
(I thought maybe that was a typ-o… but like Santa, I checked it twice. And yep, wouldn’t you know it, we are THAT FAR into the school year!)
Across our school board students were exploring Anti-bullying week and, of course, the connection to cyberbullying. The resources are plentiful! Some of my personal favourites are Common Sense Media, Miss Representation, and of course, the work of other teachers and students. I came across this creative primary PowerPoint on bullying, and a great post by a grade 7 teacher which led us to a discussion about this article on the effects of what we tweet.
We’re continuing the discussion about digital citizenship in our junior and intermediate classrooms. Some of the great questions being asked are:
What is digital citizenship?
- What is my role?
- Does what I post/tweet really reflect who I am?
- What consequences do I face for inapporpriate online content?
- Who defines inappropriate?
We’ve agreed that this is important work that doesn’t have a beginning and an end, and that we’ll continue to share the learning that happens around these topics. I have to say though, I have their attention the MOST when I talk about adults, or about situations I’ve been in with students where their words have gotten them into trouble. It surprises me that THEY are surprised when adults mess up!
Balance is key. Not to state the obvious. But it’s true. It’s true in life, everywhere. With our support of teachers adopting some new strategies to supplement some best practices, to stretch their thinking outside the box, it’s important to remember, well, the box.
I suppose it is in part due to the weather and time of year- late autumn in Northwestern Ontario is grey and, without snow, very dark. We all feel the need to shift into comfort mode with our warmer sweaters, comfort foods, and routines of the day. Along with this, comes a habitual search for tried and true practices. We all know what sound teaching looks and feels like, and with our munchkins in the swing of things, (Halloween madness behind us, middle-road in terms of reporting, and not-quite-holiday-madness in our focus), good sound pedagogical greatness is easy to come by.
I believe, with everything, there is room for improvement and growth. (Certainly my students will hear that from me in our feedback, conferencing and assessment.) But what is really beautiful to see is that teachers and students alike are content with their use of technology. It’s sandbox time. Exploring is happening. Consolidation is permitted. And, technology is not always part of the equation. Balance is good. And in the words of Forrest G, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”
Right hand, Meet Left Hand
Every September teachers take a deep breath and brace themselves for the coming year’s focus, with a “What’s it going to be this year?” attitude. There are so many acronyms for initiatives it is hard NOT to joke. In recent years, there has been a cry for consolidation time. When asked, educators are happy to explain that there is a need to IMPLEMENT the learning and strategies. Essentially… we need time to see what works and time to make it work.
This year, KPDSB is focussing on Learning Skills and Assessment. This is in direct response to our senior administration coming school-to-school in the spring and asking, “What do you need?” Teachers know what they need to teach (curriculum) but could use some support with (and focus on) student learning skills to help everyone move forward. Make sense?
Knowing that we are looking at a number of other factors (attendance and achievement among them), the result is a focus on BSIP Priority #2. We know that when we integrate assessment and focus on meaningful feedback there is less disconnect between the learning and achievment. So how does this align with our work with technology?
Our teachers are getting creative! Together we are creating learning opportunities (for staff AND students) where we are aligning technology, assessment and learning skills. Here is an example from Michelle Parrish at Golden Learning Centre, where her grade 8 class is working with The Hunger Games. Notice that in Google Docs, her students have the opportunity to give and get immediate and meaningful feedback. She integrates Learning Goals and Success Criteria in her lesson, provides multiple forms of feedback, and provides opportunities to move forward, which sets her students up for success with transparent (collaboratively-created) goals and next steps.
At the primary level, teachers are using iPads to collect learning stories and share these with parents. With programs such as CLiC or apps such as Voicethread, we are seeing the learning skills integrate beautifully with content. Shelley Penner, FDK teacher, is interested in documenting just how many curriculum connections and learning skills are met in a single kindergarten inquiry. She is absolutely looking at assessment for and of learning, embracing the inquiry-based model, and using multiple layers of technology on a daily basis.
As a classroom teacher and a technology teacher, I know what it’s like to feel like there are too many things to do, too many goals to reach, and too many people telling you what to do. I get that. We have asked that we try to align the initiatives so that teachers are less overwhelmed. Teachers know when there is disconnect. By aligning the terminology, practice and expectations, we are able to support teachers in their work. So when a curriculm Special Assignment Teacher uses technology, and a Technology teacher imbeds a board-wide focus on Learning Skills and Assessment, the road is just a little bit smoother.
In week 11 of our first year of board-wide 1:1, I’m seeing growth. I’m seeing perseverance. I’m seeing collaboration. In spite of so many obstacles teachers face every day, there is a sense that many people are finding access to technology to be useful in meeting goals… from the board-recommended, classroom-generated, progress-report-based and student-directed… goals are being identified and our students are the centre of the work. I’m thankful, everyday, that I get to see, share and support the great things that are happening. 🙂
I’m a Principal in a 1:1 School- now what?
aka: Which End is UP???
In a school board that is newly embracing 1:1 technology, there is a vast range of technological support required. Some of the support is lateral (teacher-to-teacher, student-to-student). This was outlined as a strength by our consultant, as teachers have had many positive experiences working with coaches and colleagues, and have embraced an effective PLC cycle where action research and cycles of inquiry are becoming standard practice. In short, we are learning to work with our colleagues through co-planning and co-teaching. As with Math and Language, the support for technology is no different. We like to observe, share, gather best practices… all from our colleagues and coaches.
In these cases, we are finding student leaders very effective. Our high-school co-op students (lateral support) work with peers, but also are available to assist teachers with setting up and installing programs, as well as trouble-shooting when things go awry. (And let’s face it, who hasn’t asked a teenager for tech help at some point??) Another example of bottom-up support is our tech teachers working with principals and other administration in a quiet little game of “catch up” in terms of great tools and strategies related to technology in the classroom. A perfect example: Using Google Drive to manage documents. Because nobody is born knowing how to use a web tool, we need to support our school leaders to be LEAD LEARNERS.
At Lakewood Public School, Lynn McAughey embraced this whole-heartedly when she started the school year with every document for staff and students made available on Google Docs. She shared the folder with staff and expected teachers to access the information for first-week use. Every staff meeting has an electronic agenda. While she is the first to admit it didn’t come easily or naturally, it is through this incredible effort to MODEL the TECHNOLOGY that she struggled over the learning curve, and earned the street cred from her staff, by “walking the talk”. (Ask her- would she do it any other way now?)
Which leads us to top-down support.
Can we expect educational change if our senior administration has not bought in? I highly doubt it. Last week the work with high school groups continued, and there was a moment when a member of senior admin and a high school principal both experienced Google Chat for the first time ever, simultaneously, with one another. How cool is that? Did I mention that they were 150 km apart? And learning together???? Both new-ish to the next generation of technology in their respective roles, both leaders embraced the opportunity to learn from and with their colleagues. It will surely only help with the process. (And I’d love to hear their thoughts on this- you know who you are- where will you take this knowledge and new skill set?)
Leading educational reform- and let’s face it- this is what we’re doing- isn’t easy, and sometimes, does not come naturally. Fortunately, there are a number of incredible resources out there for leaders. Here are a few starting points:
Check out connected principals, and in particular, this post on effective implementation.
Start small- and remember, we are LEARNING TOGETHER.
Starting Points and Digging Deeper
Teachers are deep into their work in the classroom. Students are comfortable with the routines and as cooler weather settles in, everyone is beginning to sense that the work is here, it’s real, and it’s now. In some classrooms, we see students using Google to co-create success criteria and do self-assessments. Another collaboration is forming with a group of Intermediate students creating a Google presentation for Remembrance Day. Primary students are working their way past login issues on the netbooks, digging into RAZ Kids in centres, and setting goals for learning skills that include their technology skills. A junior media focus on advertising is in full swing with feedback on commercials. There is incredible joy in the kindergarten room as they interact with their SMART board and have two types of tablets on the go for learning centres. Yes, this is the work, and it’s real.
With regards to technology in the classroom, like anything, if we choose to let it sit, it will. If we choose to wait until we have just the right climate- not on a full moon, not right before Halloween, not in cold season- we will never have the perfect opportunity and it simply won’t get used. We are still waiting to set up our e-texts. We are struggling to get classes into the LMS to integrate more blended learning. And we are balancing the acquisition of apps with our i-Pads, debating whether it is best to use iTunes cards or a credit card. These can be seen as barriers or obstacles, and can be just enough to make even the most patient teacher experience the band stretched thin.
In the face of this- the onset of dark and cool November in the classroom- we are asking teachers to consider these questions:
Where am I now?
Where would I like to go?
What do I need to get there?
Consider the SAMR Model
Where do you see yourself by Christmas? By June? A year from now????
Google, Google GOOGLE!
This week has been all about Google.
Specifically, teacher PD on using Google Drive.
Throughout our area, our technology teachers are offering on-the-spot support with using this central platform for teachers and students to manage documents, collaborate and offer feedback. Along with our focus on meaningful assessment for and of learning, teachers have just finished progress reports in the elementary panel so learning skills are on the front of the brain. This, too, ties in to managing student work and focussing on collaboration.
So what does Google training look like?
Whenever possible, we are striving to embed the training in our plc cycles.
As teachers come together and self-direct their cycles of inquiry they create next steps in their work with students. It’s incredible to me that they call ,e up and request PD from me.
In our high schools, this is a great opportunity for me to spread my reach k-12. I had a great time sharing the learning with a group of phys.ed and science teachers. Not surprisingly, the concerns and goals are similar.
-how do I manage my class lists to share assignments?
-how do I shift from paper to electronic work with my tried and true best practices?
-how will I effectively manage the work and correspondence with my students now that they have always-on access to the technology?
(This last one is slightly different for these teachers… Our elementary teachers can determine when and how students use their netbooks. In grade 9 -12 students can take their equipment with them me have access all the time outside of school hours.)
So this is where we are. Together, our four technology teachers are creating and sharing resources for each other to share and use with our colleagues. The work continues, and by all accounts, we are moving forward!
We are living in some interesting times. With the implementation of technology in our schools, so comes inevitable change and growing pains. There is a honeymoon phase for sure- and then some bumps in the road. Primarily, the rollout is full of anticipation and enthusiasm, then the inevitable question.. “Now What?” This is the question I’ve been waiting for, and the fun begins. Pedagogically speaking, this is WHY we do what we do. And because we cannot possibly have all of the front-loading PD before rollout, (nor would that be beneficial), there are a few gaps and glitches.
As far as I can see, we are right on track.
However, this week, along with a deadline for progress reports, we are facing the additional crunch of taking a pause and the continuation of McGuinty Mondays.
As a technology coach, it is my job to work with teachers and students to incorporate technology in the classroom. Essentially, everything comes back to the student. As we are wayfinding it is essential for us to be respectful of the viewpoints and values of the educators and administrators in different schools and classrooms. Again I say, in all we do, it all comes back to the students.
So as we address professional development needs of our staff, to support our students, we take a variety of approaches. Through staff meetings, Professional Learning Communities, after-school and lunch break PD sessions, online webinars and a gajillion emails, we support our teachers in their technology-based pedagogy, because that’s our job. Ultimately, we cannot support learning alongside our students without supporting our teachers.
(And, I’ve always wanted to ride an elephant.)
Moving toward Professional Development
Our technology team is fortunate to be part of a year-long PD with the Powerful Learning Practice. In this capacity, we will work with teams from around the world on moving forward with integrated technology in our schools. This is incredibly exciting as we are able to not only connect with others and share in our goal-setting and capacity building, but also because as technology leaders we are carving out time for our own personalized professional development.
I believe so strongly that with a common goal we go further, and even the act of connecting personally (via Twitter and the PLP Ning) with our Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), as well as with our own tech team, we will be better able to serve our community.
The network will provide us a platform for the learning, including synchronous gatherings (interactive webinars every 3 weeks), as well as asynchronous activities and discussions, through the NING. It will be exciting for our team here to share the learning with others, while continuing to develop our own best practices.
Moving toward Professional Development
On Friday, September 28th, teachers and staff of KPDSB had a Professional Development Day. Throughout the board, the day was meant to provide time for educators to work on a number of school-based areas, including our work in School Improvement Plans, Professional Learning Communities, and Technology. So, with this in mind, we began to ask:
what are the highest priority needs for staff in terms of technology, right now?
For me, as a technology teacher supporting 7 schools in a part-time capacity, this is an equally daunting and exciting opportunity to meet the needs of teachers, with the focus temporarily shifting from student to staff. Daunting, because, quite frankly, I KNOW I can’t reach everyone. Exciting, because I have a whole day to reach as many people as I can.
I received a message the day before from the high school principal saying that he appreciated that I’d been booked elsewhere, but could I please put together a self-directed PD package for their staff. At 9 p.m. my own principal told me to go home, which I did, in order to continue to collate and share resources for Google Docs, well into the evening. The package included tutorials, videos, tips sheets, a Survey Monkey survey and blogs posts. Waiting to get some feedback on this…
I began the actual PD day in a school which has not yet received their netbooks, nor their staff laptops. This administrator had asked me to come in and share some information and get a feel for the school’s needs and focus prior to rolling out the technology. In honesty, I wasn’t sure this was the most effective use of my time when I had dozens of other requests from schools and teachers who were already using the technology and thirsty for hands-on PD for getting started. However, keeping the commitment and planning for whatever this might entail, I began my day with the school and it was, from my viewpoint, quite successful.
As with other schools, this staff had some misconceptions about what the board plan is, what the equipment allocations are, and a generally fuzziness about what to expect on a rollout day. So we covered this. We took some time to clarify, to ask and answer some good questions. (I want to re-state here, EVERY school experiences this to varying degrees. I did another post on the range of teacher buy-in and the degree of hesitation on a scale, and this is something that continues to be seen.)
Then we spent about an hour going through a mock rollout of student netbooks, at which time administrators, teachers and education assistants opened the box, set up a netbook, and checked out some software. It is a constant reminder that as adults, we are all learners and just like with our students, we see a range of confidence and skill. Of course, my colleagues enjoy heckling me- thanks Jane and Ian- which makes it all the more exciting as well. In the end though, this school was comfortable to set a date for their rollout.
The second part of my day was spent working with a staff of a smaller school (Valleyview) where we worked on an Introduction to Google Docs. Staff worked toward accessing, creating and sharing documents. As always, there was less time than what I’d planned for content, but I find that with keen learners we go far by supplying additional resources for continuing the learning.
After realizing that, although I will support 4 schools in one day and have not ONE invitation for lunch, (sometimes when you’re everywhere you’re actually nowhere), I continued on to my own school, grabbed a juice, and participated in the final segment of school-based PD. As a staff, we looked deeply into what our PLC cycle presently is and could/should look and feel like. I admit, this is frustrating sometimes. Where I am focussed, at most times these days, is on student-based, appreciative inquiry, and blending the TPACK model. It’s in me. It directs my learning, teaching, and doing. So, to hear some staff comments which are similar to where we were years ago… even last year… is a very real reminder that the work exists HERE and that we have much further to go. But, to be connected to my own school staff, that’s pretty awesome.
And with that, I am given the floor for what was planned to be a third of the day, but instead about 45 minutes to address my own school’s technology PD needs. My agenda included a learning goal, practice (setting up iPads) and pedagogy (quickie review on using Google Docs). The reality- over-tired, wrung out staff co-creating a Google Document complete with “Hey! Look, I’m finally on here!” and “Susie is taking over my space!”
And quite frankly, it’s all good. 🙂
Just when you think you’ve got it figured out…
Continuing on with our secondary schools rollout, we ventured into what is now our largest high school this week- Dryden High School. We had glitches. Choosing to take one full day to get the devices into the hands of our students, we chose to roll out netbooks by grade, in a similar manner as what we’d done at Kenora’s Beaver Brae High School. Bringing an entire student body by grade means a lot of students trying to get online at one time. This week, this caused problems. We tried a number of different strategies, including adding more points of access and re-routing, but it seemed no matter what we did there were delays in getting students online.
In order to facilitate this, we eventually divided the student population in halves- as in, half of the room going online now, the other half waiting. Not the prettiest strategy, but effective. However, as we look at the numbers, a secondary issue arises… students in grade 9 and 10 who already had their devices and were sent to their classes, were now also online in other parts of the school. Additionally, by the time we looked at the grade 11 and 12 cohorts, dividing the room was no longer as effective when students were also creating their own hotspots to access wifi on their phones and iPods… further delaying our rollout Internet access.
Through perseverance, however, we did manage to get the netbooks rolled out in the school day. Yet other obstacles arise- how do we get the devices to students who didn’t show up that day? How do you ensure students and teachers that this is a great tool when Internet is sketchy at best? What do we do with students who choose not to take a netbook because they prefer to use one of their own devices? These are all questions we continue to answer, some more easily than others, through ongoing communication and trouble-shooting. We re-work, revise, re-route continuously.
This week saw a tremendous undertaking- getting our devices in the hands of highschoolers.
Because our schools vary as much in size as they do in demographics, we have had different experiences in each school we roll out. Some of our pro tips, however, help to keep us prepared for whatever the day may bring.
We cannot thank our support staff enough for the extra time and effort taken to ensure the day runs smoothly. By having student logins and passwords created and distributed to students ahead of time, we are able to effectively ensure students can gain Internet access. By scanning each netbook ahead of time and recording the name of the student to whom it is signed out ON THE BOX, we are able to ensure all students receive the correct device and charger. By ensuring all user agreements are signed and returned ahead of time, students are able to use the netbook immediately.
We have a great team and are working very well together as the presentation component of the roll out becomes familiar. Lots of hands on deck makes it almost smooth sailing… when hands shoot up in the air someone appears from the sidelines to offer assistance and get them back on track.
There are some funny moments for sure- when asking a group of grade 11 students “What is the number one thing people download illegally?” the response was a chorus of “MUSIC”. (This is where I keep thinking I should have stopped…)Then asking, “What is the second thing typically downladed illegally?” the shout from the sidelines “PORN!” should not have surprised me… nothing like turning to the dozen adults in the room to see them all synchronously turn their heads away and leave it to me to follow through.
Gotta’ love high school.
Well, in a whirlwind tour of Northwestern Ontario communities, we rolled out many, many ASUS Netbooks this week. Teachers have had some really good questions, as have students, and in each school our tech team learns a little something new ourselves.
Quite honestly, it feels like Christmas.
In the span of a week, we have visited Lillian Berg School in Vermillion Bay, New Prospect School in Dryden, Keewatin Public School in Kenora, Golden Learning Centre in Balmertown, Ear Falls Public School, Savant Lake Public School and Ignace Public School. This means that hundreds of students will now be taking the first step in a remarkable journey as active participants in their education.
So what does a rollout look like?
As a team, our Technology and Learning teachers, Information Systems Manager, and Information Technology technicians come to the school and spend about an hour with the students. Together, we review basic overall expectations and review the user agreement, which is signed by EVERY student. The netbooks are logged in our inventory system (L4U) then signed out to students. We then have the students open up their netbook, set the configurations (as easy as “naming” the computer and allowing a re-start), and check that every student is able to log on the Internet. We give a brief tour of the ins and outs of the equipment, and set up students with access to our k12 domain on Google Docs.
After that, we send the students and teachers on their way!
Support will continue in a variety of formats, but above all else, we reiterate that it will be through joint exploration that teachers and students find a fit for its use at their respective grade and comfort levels. The key messages are important, and we recognize that in today’s world there is no one-size-fits-all teaching and learning model. For some, it may be starting with a simple transition from doing what they what they would normally do in the computer lab, instead, in the comfort of classroom. For others, having access at their fingertips may inspire something new, such as creating new strategies for teaching and learning across the content areas with web tools. The beautiful part- the choice is ours.
We are still working on communication among our tech team and administrators, and striving to ensure we have a common objective among our Technology Teachers. We wonder, how do we maintain a common overall objective while personalizing our support roles with our respective schools?
There was a moment this week when it felt more like rolling down a hill.
Communication in a system this big is SO important. Everyone may very well believe they see the big picture and are heading down the same road, but WHAT and HOW we communicate this vision with others makes all the difference when it comes to moving from point A to B.
Case in point: beginning this week, we have begun whole-school roll-out of grade 4-8 netbooks. We began in a rural school, with a small student population. In order to make this happen, the following people needed to align their schedules:
-technology administrator, Information Systems director, 4 technology teachers, 2 technology technicians, 1 principal, classroom teachers, support staff including office and school librarian, and of course, a school of students….
Behind the scenes, there is a planet of work being done to ensure we have active wifi, student logins, user agreements, presentation materials… The backbone of what we do. In addition, there is tremendous need for accountability to those we serve- our communities and schools- with a lot of talk about what we are, or aren’t, doing. One major bump in the road came when 2 very different messages were sent to all staff involved. Critical confusion ensued.
Fast forward to roll -out. We take an all-in approach. All hands on deck. Common mission.
There are bumps.
We navigate them.
Most importantly, we debrief. As a team. And wouldn’t you know it, we not only survive, we have cause for celebration. We acknowledge that, as a team, we respect what each other does. We appreciate feedback. We support one another. We agree that when we have a concern or technical issue, we have to pause. Re-group. Re-route if necessary.
And we now have set a (tentative) common schedule. Monday will see a second small school roll out. Many miles will be put on board vehicles as we travel to other communities, and we will test another server’s capacity to maintain hundreds of users. We will practice our support techniques and no doubt, continue to talk others off cliffs and celebrate the highs of anticipation.
To some extent, we are taking a collective deep breath and putting one foot in front of the other in order to move forward. We are balancing many Type A personalities who would prefer to plan, plan, plan…. (oooooo, I just realized that plan is PLN with an “A” in it…. Coincidence? I think not!)
And as I perch on the edge of this too-soft bed, writing my first blog post on the iPad, listening to the flurries of the family and my cellphone ringing and glancing at the clock knowing I need to get moving, I know it’s true… It starts with one foot forward.
Year 2 of our Technology Plan, moving ahead with expanding our 1:1 netbooks from 3 schools to board-wide (grade 4-12), and introducing iPads k-3…
The journey has been such a whirlwind for those of us fortunate enough to be part of the planning and implementation, and as we move into this exciting stage of rolling out technology it is, at times, almost surreal.
A fellow Technology & Learning Teacher called it, eerily, The Calm Before the Storm.
In our first week back at school, the goal is to test drive our schedules and get the 3 pilot technology schools (k-8) up and running. (Open Roads, in Dryden, ON, Lakewood Public in Kenora, ON, and Sioux Mountain in Sioux Lookout, ON have had 1:1 netbook use for grades 4-12 in the 2011-2012 school year.) This is important for us to be present to support the schools’ technology presently in use- getting netbooks in the hands of the students and ensuring teachers also have access to their staff laptops, as well as effective use of SMART boards and other tech devices.
As we’ve had a few changes in student enrollment and staffing, and of course, a new batch of grade 4 students in each of the 3 schools, the task is manageable. Our IT department has had projected numbers since June and has worked incredibly hard to ensure the equipment is ordered, imaged, and ready to roll out. This is left primarily to the 3 Tech teachers, and with few exceptions, has gone smoothly.
One of the bigger challenges, however, is the addition of a new tracking system for all tech devices. Using L4U, through our library’s electronic system, we are tracking each netbook and iPad, along with their respective cords and chargers. This is an unexpected add-on for our very hard-working librarians, and a necessary learning curve for staff. Necessary, for sure.
Our high school teachers at Beaver Brae Secondary School received their staff laptops. This is a pretty big step, to be honest, and as I understand it, a risky challenge to ensure all files transfer from the desktop computer to the laptop. The greater challenge will be to ensure that all teaching spaces with SMART Boards are also equipped with the docking station to connect and display from the laptop. So far, so good.
So, at the end of the first week, we are well on our way to having the existing technology in use. Some of the great lessons learned from Year 1 and put into play in week one this time around, include:
- having new ASUS netbooks pre-imaged. (This saves us walking students through installation of anti-virus and malware in the rollout stage.)
- cataloguing all software in L4U
- encouraging teachers to stay cool by embracing the technology as they see fit, and getting to the early adopters first
Principals got together via video conference at the end of the first week where they discussed, among other things, the year’s focus as related to school- and board strategic improvement plans (read: what we are working on this year). Technology & Learning Teachers met with our Technology & Learning Principal to plan our support model for rolling out the technology across the board. Together, we will do our best to align curriculum, pedagogy, technology and best practices. But first, we must get the devices into the hands of our staff and students. Next step- rolling out the devices to new schools.