#BIT16Reads Presentation: Building school cultures that support the integration of technology

The full presentation is here:


Our live results are here:

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The Best Bits of #BIT16Reads

Trying to grow and sustain a book club over 5 months has been a real experiment.  It all culminates in the biggest and best conference on educational technology in Ontario (maybe Canada!) which is the Bring IT Together conference.  If you’ve never been before, you’ll find a whole bunch of people who want to enable you to go to your next level.  My favourite day is the first one where we get to play in Minds on Media or work deeply in a 1/2 day workshop.  That’s where I’ll be on day 1…learning!

On Thursday November 10th we will finally meet face-to-face at the #BIT16Reads Book Club Breakfast →7:30 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. in the Peller Estates Ballroom A. Our Thursday morning begins with our #BIT16 Reads book club breakfast, right before the conference’s opening keynote speaker, provided through a partnership with TeachOntario and the Ontario School Library Association and facilitated by moi.  Looking forward to seeing you for breakfast and a byte!  We will have discussions through Twitter so make sure to use and follow the hashtag #BIT16Reads.  We will reveal one of the books for next year’s book club and there will be giveaways for everyone who attends.

On Friday November 11th at 10 a.m. in Peller Estates Ballroom D I will present

#BIT16Reads: Cultures that support tech integration in education

I encourage you to spend some time with me and open up some of the issues we encountered in our reading this year. I began this year’s book club asking the question: How can schools develop cultures that facilitate the integration of educational technology? Each of the 5 books we read this year offer insights into these answers.  Through research and leadership, critical thinking, learning strategies and education reform I think we have the power to begin and sustain this transformation.

Please drop me a line here or on Twitter where I’m @banana29 and let me know when we’ll meet up at #BIT16.  Personally, I can’t wait.


Best BITs: Preventing discrimination in schools

This week I’ve been focused on the overall message when reading pages 98 to 113 about how discrimination is embedded in the structures of our schools. I feel very protective of public education and how it needs to be accessible to all who attend.  Specifically, authors Zac Chase and Chris Lehmann highlight the barriers to learning that are perpetuated against race, sexual orientation and ability.

The authors go so far as to say that we need to be deliberately anti-racist; that we need to be deliberately inclusive in our heteronormative culture; and to create spaces for all student voices to be heard.

Are policies, procedures and structures the only place in our schools where we allow discrimination to persist?  Can you see areas in your school that need improvement?  Have you made any changes that have improved access for all student voices?

Last year in #BIT15Reads, we read a book by educator Jose Vilson that really touched me called: This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education by Jose Vilson — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists It’s just a really moving book as Jose writes passionately (like you Leah), and from a very raw place.  His blog is also amazing: The Jose Vilson | Educator – Writer – Activist – Father

Leah Kearney says: “Anti-discriminatory policies need to be in place to disrupt long-standing bias towards marginalized and racialized members that occur throughout our school systems, law enforcement systems and justice systems. We know that teenage males of colour seem to be on the receiving end of disciplinary measure much more than their counterparts, this is clearly evident in the data. But, what surprises people is that this bias occurs towards our earliest learners as well. Last month a study was released by the Yale Child Study Centre that revealed youngsters in child-care settings are also being regarded differently depending on their ethnicity and gender. “Implicit bias is like the wind — you can’t see it, but you can sure see its effects,” said Yale’s Walter Gilliam, an associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology and the lead researcher on the study. Gilliam said the findings show that implicit biases “do not begin with black men and police. They begin with young black boys and their preschool teachers — if not earlier.” Studies like this demand that we pay attention to our own biases and take measures to address them. Here is a link to a good article on the study;

Study: Teachers’ ‘implicit bias’ starts in preschool

Kate Johnson-McGregor says: “Certainly the issue of race and culture in our schools is at the forefront right now with the Truth and Reconciliation movement. I have noticed a significant increase in students looking for literature written by indigenous authors this fall – so much so that I’ve been researching and have just purchased two dozen books (fiction and non) to help serve the demand. So – I would say that as much as I strive to make my school library learning commons an inclusive space, perhaps I had not been as sensitive as I could have been to the FNMI literature collection. All school programs are limited by budget constraints and curriculum demands – and I suppose that it all comes down to timing. I have tried to keep current (I bought the TRC publications last fall when they were released for our non-fiction collection) and there is a certain amount of “supply and demand” to be considered. My goal is to be responsive to cultural, social and political shifts, as the students need me to be. So now is the time to invest in indigenous authors. And teaching in a high school on the edge of Six Nations, it is wonderful to see my students excited about seeing themselves and their culture reflected in literature.”


Best BITs: Wrestling with math in School 2.0

I wrestle with math.  There was a time when I was almost deemed gifted in math in grade 7 and then my grade 8 teacher proposed the concept of integers and it just blew my mind apart.  Later in grade 10 there was that time when I skipped math 23 times and obviously missed a lot of content.  When my good friend Darrin helped me scrape by in grade 11 with a 57%, I closed the door on my studies in math forever.  Yet as an adult I can do my own taxes, and I’m able to keep track in my gradebook, and generally function in my day-to-day living…or so I thought until my son started coming home with math homework.  Max is in grade 7 and is working through grade 4 work.  But having few skills and little passion for the topic, we struggle to do 2 – 3 hours per week of supplementary work.  All of Max’s ambitions are in the sciences and I just know that his options will be limited if we can’t get these math skills upgraded.

Looking around my school I see math being taught in pretty much the same way that I learned it.  Students are taught a new skill or concept over time with the use of a textbook and lots of questions.  Some innovative teachers give each student a whiteboard in order to give immediate feedback.  Fewer teachers use tangibles in a secondary classroom.  The entire department is working towards developing deeper understanding of math concepts in their professional development.  But it continues to distress me that the Ontario math curriculum hasn’t been updated since 2005.

Lehmann and Chase suggest that we need to adopt a similar attitude to Conrad Wolfram:

If it is true that math is part of so many of human innovations, then why do we continue to teach math in isolation rather than as part of other disciplines?  Do you see this changing in your school?  How would you like to see math education change in the future?

Kristy Luker countered my experience with her insight:

I am not sure if I can adequately talk about how Math should be taught when I excelled at Math in school. The methods used worked for me, but I do agree that there is a huge disconnect between what is taught and how we use Math in our everyday lives. In life we often stumble upon the Math, and I agree with Wolfram that it doesn’t present itself as a calculation. We have proceeded in education with the belief that if we focus on teaching children how to solve equations then when presented with problems they will be able to solve them. Unfortunately, students struggle to see what the computation question is in a problem that they need to calculate in the first place. I agree that focusing on critical thinking and extracting the Math out of real life scenarios would help bridge this gap.

We have been sewing a lot lately at our Enrichment & Innovation Centre. We are currently linking it to Science and Social Studies, but I can really see that as students get comfortable with sewing the rich Math that will immerse. The Math will become practical, necessary and real for the students. Fake problems can only get you so far. I can also see the 3D printer and the design programs that can be used with them leading to real life, hands on Math. You should have seen me trying to follow a bread recipe when I didn’t have all the right measuring cups! I was trying to find equivalent fractions! Or how about coding! Gosh the algebraic thinking that goes into creating loops!

Unfortunately, similar to the problems presented for Inquiry teaching, educators need to be comfortable with the notion that not all students may be learning the same thing at the same time. We get hung up on covering curriculum and panic about assessment. We need to discuss ways of tracking student achievement and be provided with the time to truly digest our curriculum. I have said  over and over that one of the reasons that I am comfortable using Inquiry is that I know my curriculum. I see the learning that is happening and understand where it fits on a continuum of learning in order to help create a next step with a student.

I think as educators we have to find a balance between what we know is best pedagogy and what we can manage and handle based on the size of our current classrooms. These leads me to wondering how much changing the student to teacher ratio would and could affect our practices? Many of the methods we use in our classrooms exist as managing techniques. We do things to keep things neat, tidy and predictable. But learning isn’t those things. Learning is MESSY!

Math does need to infiltrate all disciplines to be authentic. It would be best not taught in isolation. Embed it into art, dance, science, social studies etc. . . make it real by pondering real numbers and real questions.”

Kristy and I are both looking forward to your responses.

Best BITs: What should school look like?

Zac Chase and Chris Lehmann ask us:

  • What do you think school should be doing?
  • What is the role of school in the modern world?
  • What does success look like?

Leah Kearney, Kristy Luker and I took these questions apart a bit.  Here’s how it went:

LEAH: I posed this very question to my Faculty of Education students last year and was struck by their hesitancy to answer the question. The movement to create modern schools that serve our students goes beyond laptops and tablets (although they are certainly part of the discussion) and addresses the rapid societal changes that we are undergoing. How can we best create places of rich inquiry and learning, collaboration, wonder and dare I say… joy? I cringe when I hear that are goal is to create students that society needs, it seems to me like our goals need to be loftier.

ALANNA: I found your part about the hesitancy of teachers (new and old!) to respond to ring very true!  In fact, I think that very question is probably what causes the most ripples in our leadership team.  We re-worded our school’s core values last year and this is what we came up with after 3 meetings…and I’d love your response:

We do what’s best for each student by:

Having a culture of collaboration,

Continually striving to improve our practice,

Purposefully designing for deep understanding

LEAH: I read and re-read your school value statement and was struck by a few things; the simplicity, the accountability and the call to action. What was the process like of trying to distill all of your ideas into something so succinct and compelling. How will you use the statement as a marker of your actions? So often mission statements are laboured over and then forgotten. Keen to hear how your staff is using it to shape practice.

ALANNA: I think that the process of having a group of disparate but motivated teachers hashout and rehash why these things are really important was a very valuable experience.  I really struggle though to see how these statements are going to actually drive us…and the reason is that they aren’t really any different than what we’re already doing.  So there is no striving forward.  There’s just status quo.  In fact the team of teachers that developed the statements has almost evaporated and been reborn with new teachers in these leadership roles…so we have a new group of people who aren’t personally connected to our core values.  But such is the way of public education in Ontario in the year 2016!  Out of 100 staff we have 25 who are LTO and they are not nearly as informed or experienced or committed as the contract teachers, even though they would desperately like to be hired!  For the first time in my career, I’m starting to see the cycle repeat itself and I’m feeling old (at the age of 44!).  I totally see the necessity of repeating the valuable process for each invested stakeholder, but I’m not sure I want to.

Instead I’m using these core values as a springboard for my own work this year.  I’d like to begin to curriculum map the whole school with these concepts in mind:

  • inquiry
  • reflection
  • 21st century competencies

What are we already doing in our school? What gaps do we have?  Where are the redundancies?  And can I develop tools to help teachers and students to fill in those gaps?  Can I see a continuum in our school of these concepts and if not can I help support the development of a continuum?  These are my burning questions.

KRISTY: What should school look like? – Oh my! In my current role as a Gifted Itinerant teacher working in a Maker space that question certainly calls into question the physical space aspect of school. Our classroom has flexible work spaces, different pockets of spaces to work in that address various learning needs (quiet living room area, busy maker space, a kitchen for gathering). Do I think that every space has to look like my space. No. I think that different Maker spaces can look different. However,  a common thread woven among each Maker Space would be that the spaces allow for flexible groupings, that the room highlights various learning styles, that the space encourages students to take risks and make mistakes. I envision a space that values a multitude of disciplines and allows students the opportunity to pursue their own learning needs, when desired, independently from the group.

What should school be doing? – I LOVED the idea addressed in the book of building citizens rather than marketable employees. I believe that schools should be developing critical thinkers who respect the opinions and ideas of others. I believe that schools should empower individuals while teaching students how to think collaboratively. I believe that schools should help students understand and develop their strengths instead of focusing on fixing deficits.

What is the role of the school in the modern world?I know much of what I said above could fit here too, but I also see schools as creating informed citizens who understand World Issues and have the creativity, knowledge, problem solving skills, confidence and ability to work with others to solve them. I don’t mean just through paid employment, but through everyday actions, choices, activities etc. Additionally, school should assist in developing (along with the family) citizens that value themselves and the others around them for the various “gifts”, “skills”, “abilities” that they have.

What does success look like? – At my Leadership course this evening my table group and I got into a discussion about data. I am not sure that quantitative data alone can measure the success of a school. I personally love qualitative data, and appreciate the push for educators to begin looking at a model of triangulation of data when assessing students. Unfortunately, measures such as EQAO have not yet caught up to where we are in respect to assessment in the classroom and therefore many schools and educators continue to struggle with how to interpret the quantitative data that is provincially collected on their students. As a mother, I gauge the success of my own children by their feelings and emotions. When my primary aged children skip happily to the bus every morning and return home telling me about their day – then success in some form has occurred!

ALANNA: You’ve really got my mind going here.  At our PD day last week we got to hear the inspirational Sandra Herbst revisit the triangulation of data with us…but your comments here have made me wonder why we don’t collect conversations/observations and products about our own teaching environments and classes.  I think a lot of I do each day would support your thoughts about school in the modern world…I’d just add that we need to give them authentic experiences as often as possible.  Maybe in those authentic experiences come the skills that students will need to market themselves to go along with their learning portfolios.  I graduated in the doldrums of the economy in 1994 and I still regret not having more practical skills to get me through …I really struggled to value and market my education skills. I guess it’s the “prepare for a zombie apocalypse” side of me that worries that our kids don’t know how to raise their own food, etc. in the case of an impending disaster.  I often think…what would Chris Hadfield do?  He’d prevent the crisis by proactively making sure that his lifestyle was sustainable.  I think this readiness and adaptability has to be part of school in the modern world.

Best BITS: What are your learning rules?

Author Benedict Carey made this quick video to summarize some the findings he uncovered when writing his book “How We Learn”.

Benedict Carey: unlearn everything you’ve learned about learning from frank on Vimeo.

As a teacher and/or as a parent, what are some of the learning structures you put in place?  Are there methods you rely on day in and day out that you swear by as good practice?  Has the book (so far) shaken up your learning ideals?

In my house, we focus on math 3 nights a week and reading 4 nights a week.  I have the same location each time, the same start time and finish time, the same rhythm…start with some worksheets and end using the software Dreambox.  Get a reward when goals are met.  That all seems so sensible to me.  Repeat , repeat the concepts in a different modality, repeat in a tangible, practical way….  I think we need to question Carey’s definition of learn.  If learn means memorize, then that’s different than understand deeply.  Like with math, music, language….where there is a lot of memorization, then repetition makes sense.  Adding real world applications and real world distractions also makes sense but not until the basics are understood.  Do you think these are the best methods for history?  I’ve always thought the best way to learn history would be for someone to hurry up and invent Star Trek’s Holodeck Image result for star trek holodeck

…so that we could walk safely and virtually through history in order to experience it from multiple perspectives.

Elizabeth Mason Brown reminded me of the pencil problem that Carey proposes:

You have six pencils to create 4 equilateral triangles. They cannot crisscross and you cannot break them.

Elizabeth says: ” I think that Carey’s ideas about incubation and percolation can definitely lend themselves to subjects that require deeper understanding. I’ve felt for a long time that too much emphasis on just memorization or just critical thinking or just math skills or just literacy skills is short-sighted and doesn’t best serve our students. To meet the needs of learners who have no idea what the world will be like in 10 years, we have to prepare them to be more flexible thinkers, and I am continually searching for ways to achieve this. I had an AHA moment while reading the book, around the Pencil test. I must admit that at first I was unable to solve the problem. I hit that impasse and walked away. Without really working the problem, an idea came to me full-blown and I was able to solve the problem. Now, I can’t say for sure that his ideas are all on target, but I can see how allowing ourselves to walk away from a difficult problem might relax us enough or give us some form of insight that allows us to use our existing knowledge in a new way or innovatively think that lets us see the solution we have been seeking.”

So what do you think?  I look forward to your thoughts.

Best BITs: Admiring administrators

What are the 3 qualities you admire most in your favourite school administrator ever?  Here’s what our group inside TeachOntario said:

  • “…openness, approachability, and excellent communication skills, an understanding of academic subjects, a belief in trauma-informed classrooms, and a positive, trusting attitude towards their teachers.  I have had Principals whom I knew “had my back,” and trusted me;  they helped me grow professionally.”~Anne Rocchio
  • “…Allowing staff to explore and pursue their passions/interests as well as leadership opportunities; Approachability; Respect and support I have been also lucky to have had administrators who have allowed me to attend workshops and conferences every year. It is also important when administrators are approachable and take the time to listen.~Jess Longthorne
  • “…mutual respect; openness to new ideas brought in by staff; challenging the “norms” of the school to create a culture of learning”~Daniel Pinizzotto
  • “I admire principals that are passionate about school improvement. Ones that constantly seek ways that we can do better. I appreciate leaders that allow people to take risks when trying something new. I also like to feel supported.”~Michael McClenaghan
  • “Administrators who make a point of sharing an interest in their colleagues’ areas of focus while supporting growth, demonstrate the importance of learning.”~Sean Kelly
  • “They believe in me! – I actually think that this sums it all up! When I have had educators who have believed in me then it as resulted in autonomy, trust, opportunities, professional dialogues etc. . . Additionally, it also means that they pay attention and actually listen to what I am saying and are willing to take risks with me.”~Kristy Luker
  • “Someone who has a vision and is transparent about what they expect; Someone who gives teachers freedom to try new things (especially technology!); Someone who communicates clearly”~Larissa Aradj

I like administrators with vision.  I like them to think globally and to act locally.  I like to have a focus.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to add to the conversation.

Best BITs: Would you rather…

#BIT16Reads asks participants in the How We Learn by Benedict Carey book club:

Would you say that you’d rather be a grade 9 student in the year 2016 or would you rather be a grade 9 student in the year that you were actually in grade 9….and why?

Here are some of the more interesting answers:

  • Kate Johnson-McGregor says: “I would much rather have been a grade 9 student in 1986 than now. The absence of privacy that our kids have come to accept as the norm – the obligation to create and maintain a virtual as well as a real presence, the “selfie” and “snapchat” pressures – I think it must be very difficult to be in Grade 9 today. In 1986, I wrote letters to my then-boyfriend on pieces of lined paper that have been long-since destroyed. My friends “called on” me by ringing the doorbell. And Dirty Dancing and Top Gun were winners at the box office. It’s hard to beat that.”
  • Elizabeth Mason Brown contrasts Kate’s ideas by adding: “Now! I know that there is a LOT more pressure on kids today, but I am a total tech addict. I don’t consider myself old, but I remember when TVs were black and white and we listened to 8 track tapes! I love the instant access to information and people from all over the world and hope that we become a truly global community. In teaching History this year, we are learning how long it took the explorers to travel from Europe to the new world but we can travel to virtually anywhere instantly. That excites me.”

I got into a lot of trouble in grade 9 and none of it was published on the internet so I would have a constant fear that my bad behaviour would get back to my parents if I was a teenager in 2016.  Having said that I think a do-over of grade 9 in 1985 wouldn’t have prevented me from getting into trouble because I still wrestle with those impulses now as an adult in 2016!  However I would rather be a student in 2016 in terms of learning because I bet it’s so much more improved than my 1985 experience.  Is that a huge assumption?  There are so many classes in my school that I wish I could audit.

So if Kate and Elizabeth represent opposite ends on the spectrum of answers, where would you place yourself?  I look forward to your answers.

Best BITs: The role of the teacher

In secondary school we often see teachers as subject specialists.  In elementary school we see teachers as generalists but facilitating many activities that cross subject boundaries. Authors Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case outline 3 contrasting foundational beliefs about teaching and learning, and the role of the teacher is listed in the discovery, didactic and thinking forms.  I feel that I have been more of a teacher that teaches through discovery working in English, drama and media arts before I was a teacher-librarian.   I often didn’t know the outcome that I would get and would help the students discover their creative work through various workshop-type activities.  I had two major problems: a) the discovery process made it sometimes difficult to return to the curriculum, especially in senior grades after 2 years of discovery in grades 9 and 10, and b) students often chose safe or known topics for discovery which made for shallow learning. Now as a teacher-librarian, each day that I help teachers and students with the inquiry process, I feel stretched to deepen the thinking and to help them find a way through the next stage in their process.

How would you describe yourself as a teacher…more discovery or more didactic?  Can you see yourself becoming more of a choreographer?  What are the challenges with moving in this direction?

Mackenzie Sayers started us off with this thoughtful response:

“As a teacher (who’s been out of the classroom for four years) I believe that I was introducing my students to a discovery classroom after putting up a fight because I initially was instructing in a didactic classroom.  By putting up a fight I mean, after I returned from maternity leave there were changes that I wasn’t familiar with and fought them until I finally realized how beneficial things were for my students and me.  I was the teacher who needed to have perfectly printed anchor charts and unfortunately after not giving what I now feel is a suitable “wait time” for students to give an answer, would correct their errors without waiting.  In my last year of having a classroom I was exploring learning through students voicing their interests.  I felt more confident in the reasons why I conferenced, why I let students introduce ideas, and how experiences and experimentation could be implemented more in the classroom (then what I was doing previously).  I think choreographing a thinking classroom is possible and that despite me not being in my own classroom I hope to facilitate and support this mentality.  I believe I see educators within our own school community experimenting with this and that when we collaborate with teachers at this “choreographing” level we can learn from them and eventually try it in our own classrooms.”

Is your experience the same?  I look forward to your thoughts.


Best BITs: The purpose of schooling

Authors Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case don’t go easy on the reader in the first chapter so I think it’s important to ease into the critical thinking with a bit of philosophy.  I have often been criticized for being quick to jump at anything shiny and new in education so I found Chapter 1 to be quite challenging as it forced me to reassert the foundational principles of why I wake up and teach each day.  Gini-Newman and Case argue that most decisions in education are based on 4 core assumptions.  When you think about your own reason for getting out of bed before work each morning, which foundational beliefs do you hold to guide your purpose? a) the nature of learners and learning b) the role of the teacher c) the nature of knowledge d) the purpose of schooling Likewise, which of the 4 components of an educational system do you think are most in need of reform? a) School and classroom practices b) Guiding principles c) Educational beliefs d) Foundational beliefs (the ones listed above!)

Inside TeachOntario we had a great talk.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Mackenzie Sayers says: “We need to be reflective of our practices, what happens if we are not meeting the needs of our learners?  It isn’t to say we haven’t tried but it’s about grit and honouring the struggle because it is important to honour where we came from, what we are doing and where we are going with our successes, especially as educators.”
  • Caroline Freibauer jumped in with: “We need to make small changes on all fronts. Rather than replace everything we are doing, we just need to “invigorate” our practices. Garfield highlights five principles which appear to be the key to addressing problems in the current system: engage students, sustain inquiry, nurture self-regulated learners, create assessment rich learning and enhance learning through digital technology. This lists seems to be simple and straight-forward but when you unpack each idea, they open into vast landscapes of learning for educators and administrators. I think that engaging students and nurturing self-regulated learners would be my personal top focus because if students are engaged and take responsibility for their own learning then they will naturally sustain inquiry and will find ways to use digital technology to enhance what they are doing.”
  • Michelle Hudon relates on a personal level: “In the past 10 years I have been in a variety of capacity building roles. I’ve worked with teachers whose instructional practice is based on the needs of their learners as well as teachers who aren’t there yet. Much of the time I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and not making any headway. It makes me wonder what is happening or not happening at the system level–including looking at the purpose of schooling–to provide support that teachers need to shift their own foundational beliefs. Do we even spend enough time on discussing foundational beliefs?
  • Jess Longthorne wonders how evaluation can be reformed: “Mark Driven Culture (page 9)-this is true yet something I am not sure will ever change. Marks/Grades are still necessary to get into colleges and universities. Do students really have a desire for high marks or a desire to want to learn valuable skills that will help them to become lifelong learners? I think many students would chose a desire to learn but the pressure of getting a post-secondary education is all about marks and being the best to get that scholarship in order to afford to go to school in some cases.”

I look forward to your thoughts on the topics.

Best BITs: Unleashing talent in your school

George Couros’s book is immensely read-able…his writer’s voice is intensely genuine and although there are big ideas that he presents, the reader never feels overwhelmed with jargon.  So in a nutshell, George does quick recap of the first two parts of the book:

Innovation is creating something better…the key to doing that is developing relationships. 

That’s tweet-able!  Do you and I have the power to unleash the talent in our building? Do we have the power to leverage that talent to bring our vision into being?  Part III promises to kick start these ideas.


Truthfully, Part III starts to feel a bit out of my realm as I think my leadership is best described as a quiet coaching.  I explore and I model. and I’m not sure that I possess the scope of influence needed unless I have my community with me. That’s not to say that I haven’t enabled innovation.  What I’d really like to get good at though is to enable people to be leaders!

a) What opportunities do you have for informal learning, exploration and play in your work?  Do you provide any of these opportunities?

b) Are there ways that you or your leadership team could “lessen the plate” of your staff and organization to allow for more innovation?

c)  On pg. 185 we are presented with the 8 Things to look for in Today’s classroom…and then to see if you have these same 8 things as a professional in your own learning.  Do you see some of these in your own professional learning?  What elements are lacking?


Derrick Schellenberg and I had a great conversations about structuring time with students (and colleagues) for unstructured exploration. We both had concerns that we need to find new strategies for measuring rigour, accountability, and sharing with peers (and even beyond the classroom.  How have you managed to rejig your strategies to make room for unstructured time?

Best BITs: Are you underwhelmed in online spaces?

In reading Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, I’m reflecting on how not much has really changed since the invention of forums in the 70s … not that I was lurking there, but really it goes like this: post discussion thread, reply to discussion thread, repeat. …Right?

Why am I underwhelmed in my online spaces

Henry Jenkins says:”… It is abundantly clear that not all forms of participation are equally meaningful or empowering.”  Can you recall a time when you felt underwhelmed by a participatory experience?  What were the circumstances and what went wrong?

Looking forward to your comments.

Best BITs: My brag book of student voice

Each year I apply and receive a Speak Up grant which allows a mighty group of student editors to create a magazine of student creative work…usually art and creative writing. We’ve just finished our final editing of the year and I think it looks marvelous: https://odsspaperandink.com/

ODSS Paper & Ink is featured in the Canadian Library Association’s Standards for School Library Practice visionary document called Leading Learning.

Our humble project is described as leading the way for others as an example of the “LLC [Library Learning Commons] is an active participatory learning centre modelling and celebrating collaborative knowledge building, play, innovation and creativity.”

Now I’m not the one who came up with the idea…that happened 8 years ago. But when I joined the team of staff supervisors, I suggested we save money and take it online. I would love for it to be fluid and dynamic, which it is somewhat…..but it’s not the holodeck on Star Trek, you know? I try not to interfere too much with the decisions that students make but it hasn’t yet taken on a life of it’s own. It still exists because I hound students to edit and submit and submit and edit. Meanwhile Mizuko Ito works for the MacArthur Foundation of Chicago who attract young voices like this one:

In our Book Club: “Participatory Culture in a Networked Era” Mimi Ito takes the idea of student voice to a whole new level and she argues that we need to allow students to design these online places themselves, from the ground up. We need to allow them to fail as a natural consequence for creative risk-taking…and I really get that. But is the world of education as we see it ready for that? I don’t think that it is. I’m not sure my students would want that. To some degree I think they like that I badger them and push them to step outside of their comfort zones, and that I always give them recognition when they achieve something. It’s the carrot and stick approach again…so is it really student voice? Well is it?

Looking forward to your comments.



The Best bits of #BIT16Reads

Today marks just 16 days away until the big event…the most stellar education technology conference in Ontario: Bring IT Together #BIT16

As such, I’m going to revisit 16 of the best conversations we’ve had inside TVO’s TeachOntario.  I enter into this idea with the same ideas that support #BIT16Reads:

  • to grow through my professional reading
  • to grow and strengthen a community of educators

…so please feel free to grow the conversation again.  I look forward to your thoughts.

#BIT16Reads: Garfield Gini-Newman joins us for a Hangout on Air

 We’re midway in our August book “Creating Thinking Classrooms” and author Garfield Gini-Newman has agreed to join us for a lively discussion on this topic: How schools need to refocus the goals in order to better prepare students. Join us here live at 2:30 ET or via the Twitter stream at #BIT16Reads .