Thursday, October 31, 2013

People of ECOO 2013 Part 3

Yes, I'm still at it, filling my blogs with names and appreciations. There's a bit of a shock when you realize you've been mentioned by name on someone's blog, and a thrill when it's for something good. Here are some more ECOO People categories.

People I Saw at ECOO 2013 that I know from Elsewhere (and Adore)

Annie Slater (@AIslater on Twitter) used to be a teacher-librarian in my family of schools in the Toronto District School Board. We co-presented at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference on "Pets as Possibilities @ Your Library" in 2012. Annie is now teaching Grade 7 at a different school. I'm sorry that she is no longer a teacher-librarian (because she was fabulous) but a great educator is a great educator, regardless of job description or location.

Cyndie Jacobs (@cyndiejacobs on Twitter) is supposedly retired - but if her schedule is that of a typical retired person, then if I want to relax, I better stay employed! Cyndie used to be the Director of Curriculum and Assessment at OTF and I first met her when the Ontario School Library Association began offering week-long sessions with Camp OTF. Cyndie's got her fingers in all sorts of pies and she did a great job co-chairing the ECOO conference this year.

Doug Peterson (@dougpete on Twitter) is a huge inspiration to me. If you search this blog for his name, you will see it appear frequently, as his tweets and blog posts make me reflect on my practice, try new things, and challenge myself. I think that I first met Doug when we participated in the very first Face Off (was it at ECOO or OSLA?). Doug makes everyone feel valued and valuable. If I get a mention in one of his #FF tweets or "This week in Ontario Edublogs" posts, it makes my day. Most of the time Doug has seen me in person, it's been wearing crazy outfits (like a mohawk, wearing roller skates, or a Creeper costume). Even though he was one of the busiest people at the conference, because he was co-chair, he still made time to talk with me.

Alanna King (@banana29 on Twitter) and her husband (Tim King, @tk1ng on Twitter) are to the Canadian Ed-Tech world like David and Victoria Beckham are to English sports&pop culture - icons! I first met Alanna at one of those Library Camp OTF events; I helped present and she attended. Demonstrating early on her huge heart and thoughtful ways, she helped arrange a thank-you card and gift for the OSLA organizers of that event. Alanna and I have a lot in common - we are both teacher-librarians, we are/were both part of the University of Alberta Teacher-Librarianship via Distance Learning, we both present at OSLA Superconference (and that girl can ROCK a 1970s dance party, trust me!), we are both wives and mothers ... my only regret is that I only get to see Alanna in person at conferences. When we are together, we can spend hours talking.

Julie Millan (@jsm2272 on Twitter) has been part of my volunteer and work life for quite a while. I don't remember when we first met. (Ask her. She has a better memory than I do.) She used to be a teacher-librarian and now she's the Instructional Leader for Teaching and Learning with Technology for TDSB. I have the pleasure and honour of working with her on the Ontario School Library Association's editorial board for The Teaching Librarian. I have attended her workshops (and my staff still refer to "remember that good workshop led by Julie whats-her-name? It was really good!"). She is the nicest person, patient despite bureaucracy, optimistic despite setbacks ... she is a person I want to add to my "friend friend" list, not just "work friend" or "TL friend". I saw her at ECOO 2013 for five minutes as we passed each other in the hall, because she's that busy, but we still squeezed time to talk.

People I Saw at ECOO 2013 That I Want to Know More About

(Not a stalker list)

Alana Callan (@alanacallan on Twitter) - Alanna King was "the other Alana", to distinguish her from the amazing human dynamo that coordinated the ECOO 2013 early-morning run. Alana seems to know me, although I'm racking my brain to recall when we might have met, not counting Twitter. Her playful banter with my buddy David Hann made me believe that she would be a joy to sit down and talk to, both personally and professionally.

Jim Cash (@cashjim on Twitter) - Jim was all over ECOO, giving presentations, like this one (which I unfortunately missed), attending sessions, like our Friday Minecraft one, and tweeting frequently and thoughtfully. For me, Jim radiates calm and consideration, two qualities I could benefit from experiencing more.

Moojean Seo (@moojean_seo on Twitter) - Who is Moojean Seo? The Twitter image for Moojean's account are sharpened pencils, and the tweets came fast and furious during ECOO 2013, but I'm dying to put a name to the face!

Andrew Schmitt (@Tall_teacher on Twitter) - Andrew is the "new Julie Millan", but he used to teach at Joyce Public School, a school with great technology integration. He also used to be the teacher-librarian there. We'd have some interesting conversations, I think.

Speaking of names and faces, tomorrow's blog will have photos from ECOO 2013. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More Than Silver Stars - People of ECOO 2013 Part 2

I hope no one thought I was gamifying or creating a hierarchy of friends in yesterday's posts. ("Hey, I'm just a silver star friend? Why not gold? What does it take to make it plantinum?") Casual friends can become good friends or just acquaintances, and that's okay. All of the people I interacted with at ECOO are of great worth. I'll ditch the Silver-Gold poem and instead use some different categories to celebrate some of the wonderful people I saw at ECOO.

People I First Met at Previous ECOO Conferences That I Continue to Learn From
Brian Smith

Brian Smith


Still learning, one char at a time. Also a new Dad. Please excuse the Flickr spam :).
Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario CA

I first met Brian Smith at ECOO in 2011. Brian impressed me then with his sense of humour, and taught me about Korean BBQ, especially Chako. I still continue to learn from Brian through Twitter. If I want to hear about the latest or greatest board game, I can turn to Brian. His board has finally given him a permanent contract, thank heavens! We didn't get to talk too much in person at ECOO 2013, but he made a point to stop by the Minecraft room to say hello just before he went off to explore night time photography. 

David Hann

David Hann


Teacher & Life-Long Learner, Thinker, Philosopher, Tinkerer, Builder, Maker, Explorer... Believer, Parent and Husband! :) Tweets (and opinions) are my own!
Toronto ·

David was also a great "ECOO 2011 find" for me. Despite being in the same board, we just haven't had the chance to get together when we are not at ECOO. This year, as I was searching for people and things to prepare for our Minecraft evening soiree, David called me over. Once again, thanks to Twitter, I've been able to keep up with his school adventures, but it's one thing to hear about using a 3D printer and another to see the ECOO log recreated in plastic in your hand. David is personable and enthusiastic. Everyone wanted a piece of him at ECOO, from student radio interviewers to runners.  David's schedule this year at school is a bit crazy but somehow, he's making it work and doing amazing things. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The People of ECOO 2013

In 2011, I wrote a post about the fantastic people I met at ECOO.
In 2013, I met some more great educators that were new to me.
Another post will highlight some of the "old favourites".

Make new friends but keep the old.
Those are silver and these are gold. (Joseph Parry)
Here are the "silver pals".
Michelle Korda

Magdalena Front
Mother, wife, book worm, shoeaholic, 
master lip sync-er, lifelong learner, tech teacher at a K-6 school in ON, Canada

Chris Solesa

These energetic women came to the Thursday Minecraft LAN party. Andrew Forgave - I don't know if I count him as a silver or gold pal, since this was the first time we met in person - showed them his amazing Survival World Minecraft farm and the group of them outlasted us! Liam, Denise, and I returned to our rooms to crash around 12:30 a.m. but they were still going strong until 1:00 a.m.! I also admired the way they strengthened our connection through Twitter and now email. 

Jen Apgar
Gifted Education- in UGDSB - Teachable Moments-always

I first met Jen on Twitter, after I re-tweeted a post she made quoting mutual friend Liam O'Donnell. I didn't realize that Jen's class was part of our Multi-School server too! Have you ever had that feeling after meeting someone that you fit well together? This was the impression I got from Jen. I didn't immediately recognize her because she shaved her head as part of her school's Terry Fox initiative. I really enjoyed talking to her. She is inspiring, enthusiastic, friendly, and knowledgeable. How she found the energy to supervise the "fun ribbon and badge" table on Thursday and Friday baffles me. 

Jenyi Wu
ESL teacher, WRDSB, avid tester of all touch/button based gadgets.

Jenny attended the Connecting the Blocks talk Gaming Edus gave and it could have just ended with that, but she took initiative to chat with me at another session and I decided to talk with her instead of attending the session. It was worth it. Jenyi asked great questions and really prompted me to think about Minecraft more from the parenting side of things. I realize we need more parents that play, and educators that don't just sit with the status quo and push what's possible. Jenyi's comments about parent involvement and cultural identity creation in Minecraft show her insights.

Apologies if I've forgotten any of my new connections!

Monday, October 28, 2013

#ECOO13 Conference Reflections

I've been blogging about ECOO here since 2010 (even though I didn't attend it that year). The Education Computing Organization of Ontario annual conference often inspires multiple posts, and this year will be no different. Here are my learning reflections from this year's event.

Educational Computing Organization of Ontario

2013 Conference - Bring IT Together

Thursday, October 24, 2013 8:00 p.m.
BIT Minecraft LAN Party

Summary: The members of the Gaming Edus hosted a "play and learn" session for educators to come try out Minecraft and ask questions in a relaxed, social atmosphere.

So what? Now what? = Denise Colby and I drove from Toronto to Niagara Falls (the site of this year's conference) in time to help set up. The original event was scheduled to last from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. but it actually went way past midnight! Considering that there were two other major social events occurring simultaneously (the Night Lights Photo Walk and BIT Jam Session), we had a decent amount of people attend. The networking and conversations were just as enriching as the questions and answers. We didn't leave until after midnight, and the final attendees left at 1:00 a.m.!

Friday, October 25, 2013 8:15 a.m.
Opening Keynote by Jaime Casap

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd site) Jaime Casap is the Global Education Evangelist at Google, Inc. Jaime evangelizes the power and potential of the web, technology, and Google tools in education. He helps educational organizations across the world find ways to utilize these tools in support of new learning models.

So what? Now what? = Confession - Denise and I skipped this session so we could eat. We drove almost immediately after school (5:00-7:00 p.m.) and our plans for a late dinner were shelved when the Minecraft LAN party continued longer than anticipated. We knew we had to take care of our basic needs if we intended on lasting the entire day without collapsing, so we had a delightful breakfast buffet in the Marriott with a fantastic dining view of the Falls. My realization was that learning can't occur unless we take care of ourselves. This time was "prepare to learn".

Friday, October 25, 2013 10:00 a.m.
Forget Sony, Disney & WB: You can have a film making studio by Oren Grebler

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd) One computer? No Problem! One Camera? No Big Deal! No Money? Easily solvable! Creating a “Movie Studio” environment is fun way to engage your students in demonstrating their learning in a dynamic and creative way. This session will explore ways that you can turn your classroom into a film studio that is capable be of producing Short Films, Documentaries, Zombie Movies, Cartoons, Stop Motion Animation, Shadow Puppetry, and so much more. Let’s turn our students into the next great filmmakers!

3 Key Points

  1. A great free tool is the National Film Board's Pix Stop app; a great function is the trailer option on iMovie (because it provides the timeline, genre tropes, etc); a great paid tool is Go Animate for Schools (which costs $99 for 30-40 students).
  2. Feedback is very important to learning, so provide comments at all stages regarding all sorts of things, like suggesting different angles, recommending to reshoot scenes, honing the "ideation" stage where the vision is constructed, etc.
  3. Film making employs language, math, art, music, drama and more curriculum areas, but the important thing is to celebrate the process through things like movie festivals (in class/school/board), entering contests, participating in film festivals, and going above and beyond.
So what? Now what? = None of the methods shown and suggested were new to me (i.e. last year for dance-drama we did Shadow Puppet videos, last year for media we did  stop-motion animation, two years ago a small group set up green screen filming for a history project). I think the benefit of this session for me was to remind me to share the results in special ways (not just on YouTube). 

Friday, October 25, 2013 11:00 a.m.
Digital Selves: Navigating the Self in many places at once by Timothy King

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd) We live in a time of profound change. The very definition of who and where we are is constantly changing. Never before in history have people been as connected to so many different people and places as they are now. Trends suggest it will only intensify. Are we doomed to a half existence in many places, constantly distracted, unable to complete a thought? Or will the person on the other side of this technological adolescence be multi-dimensional in ways we can't currently imagine?

Come with me on an examination of recent history and future trends. How can we integrate or separate technology to better facilitate learning? How can we prepare students for the strange world they are about to graduate into? How can we survive and thrive in these times of profound change ourselves?
3 Key Points
  1. Schools are part of the problem (when we lock things down too much for students, when we encourage students and teachers to be helpless, when we allow their familiarity / passive, low-level use, by establishing practice barriers) but could possibly be part of the solution (by helping to establish digital mastery, offering a variety of devices, encouraging students to build your own device and not just bring your own device).
  2. Digital mastery is like learning to ride a motorcycle - give some theory, deconstruct the skill, (time spent important), provide everyone with a device that suits their needs, spend lots of time on the bike riding and falling, get pushed to the edge of your comfort zone by educators, do again until you get it, having it not work isn't a failure unless you cannot explain and understand what went wrong, learn enough yourself to self correct, etc. 
  3. Examine your origin story - how did you learn your digital kung fu? Consider the emotion and the self-direction. 
So what? Now what? = I intended to attend three sessions all scheduled at this time, (including "Ipads iLearing, iLibrary") but in the end I stayed for this entire talk. It was very philosophical and challenging - is 50% good enough if you are a mechanic? So why is it good enough if you are a student? No topic escaped his analysis and critical eye, even including conferences like ECOO, where he asked why we bring in "experts" as keynotes to promote their particular brand, especially if they are not educators. It's hard for me to pinpoint a specific next step based on this talk - I think it is to remember our role in the zone of proximal development - when a skill for a student is too hard for them to master but is possible with the guidance and encouragement of a knowledgeable person. Diversify our tools. Be wary of the "corporatization" of education. 

Friday, October 25, 2013 12:00 noon
Tinkering Teachers Tool Tale: Using iPads to Disrupt K-8 Learning by Brian Harrison, S. Louca and Andrew Bernier

Summary (from Lanyrd): McLuhan said "We shape our tools and then they shape us." This session will document and share the inquiry that Andrew, Brian & Stephen launched when they invited their teaching colleagues to substitute their binders with iPads, launching them into an exploration of the ways this tool could augment, modify and redefine their practice.

3 Key Points
  1. The role of the principal is to disrupt, not support - Brian saw teachers working very hard but the effort wasn't making an impact on student learning so he devised a way to radically disrupt evaluation practices and patterns to improve learning. The intent was not to parachute in technology or promote a particular hardware or software, but to redefine what we do in effective ways (because 20 years ago, it may have been a binder, Polaroid camera and cassette tape to document the learning, but now all of these can be done with an iPad).
  2. Providing a guiding question that teachers agree to investigate in exchange for receiving technology helps: How can we use iPads to document and share evidence of student learning and connect our assessment with our instruction?
  3. Conflict and bumps in the road are inevitable. At first, the teacher community asked "What app should I use? / When do I get training?" (admin won't dictate tool but will always provide learning support). The parent community worried about privacy and the desire to have schools like they had as children despite having a different world for their children (teachers didn't give up on their journey, just created systems to code identities so student privacy in the cloud was respected AND it was important to communicate to families that they have good intent, to take kids safely into digital spaces and guide them).
So what? Now what? I liked their end analogy with the Flintstones and the Jetsons: despite all the technology, the Jetsons still acted like the Flintstones, which makes the tech pointless. We need to change. Although my original intent was to attend a session to help our class teachers help students effectively use iPads, this helped me think about not fearing change and staff conflict (some progress happens when there's fear, as long as we can keep on tinkering and exploring options). Teachers need to articulate why and how they will use the technology and in what ways it will impact their teaching and learning. I asked about late bloomers and Brian said there are still some staff members who do not yet have iPad access because they have not yet demonstrated the pedagogical shift needed to make it worthwhile - that's wise and brave. Brian told me that dealing with conflict is like building a muscle, so my next step is to bring in some metaphorical barbels into my school. 

Friday, October 25, 2013 2:00 p.m.
Connecting the Blocks: Linking Minecraft to the Ontario Curriculum by Liam O'Donnell, Denise Colby and Diana Maliszewski

Summary: (taken from Lanyrd) You've heard about Minecraft. You've seen it in action. You even played the video game for yourself. You know it's that weird, blocky Lego-like game the kids at your school are crazy for. So, how do you connect their enthusiasm for this game with the learning in your classroom? The GamingEdus have you covered.

Liam O'Donnell, Diana Maliszewski and Denise Colby are three gamers who happen to be teachers with the TDSB. Together, they are the GamingEdus. Last year, they showed you how their students play with TNT and dodge Creepers during their weekly Minecraft after school clubs.
This year, they bring the blocks into the classroom to show teachers how they (and other educators around the world) use Minecraft to cover the curriculum, with inquiry-based activities in Language Arts, Science, Media and more.
In this lively and interactive discussion, Liam, Diana and Denise will share their successes and failures using Minecraft in classrooms with 30 plus students covering a wide range of skills and learning abilities. You will leave with game based learning lesson ideas that meet the Ontario Curriculum and a solid foundation on how to get a GBL program started at your school. You will also have a chance to play Minecraft on the GamingEdus Professional Play server, a multiplayer Minecraft world designed to let n00b teachers level-up their Minecraft skills and connect with other gaming educators from around the world.
3 Key Points:
  1. When students direct the learning, it is richer. It is the task of the skilled teacher to surface the expectations, to jump on the teachable moment to make the curriculum explicit (like Denise did when she connected why students wanted to make diamond swords with the previous science unit on rocks and minerals about durability and other mineral qualities.)
  2. It is possible to incorporate content areas (such as language, math, science, social studies) as well as learning skills (organization, perseverence, collaboration) in Minecraft. As Liam said, the learning can happen in-game and after-the-game.
  3. When students are passionate about the topic, they invest more time and effort. Denise's students planned to meet online before school to plan their Minecraft adventure, and some are choosing to write Enderman narratives. Diana's students took an entire year to make their Media Definition instructional video.
So what? Now what? = The next steps for the Gaming Edus are to a) post the ECOO presentation slides and the Agnes Macphail PS Room 114 Minecraft Media video online for others to see, b) arrange a regular time for one of us to be on the Professional Play server to help teachers new to Minecraft explore and discover, and c) continue to answer questions from inquiring educators in person and on Twitter about gamification, parent involvement, safety, and ways in to the game. 

Friday, October 25, 2013 2:00 p.m.
The Edu-Apprentice by many people

Summary (from Lanyrd): Being a 21st century educator is an increasingly difficult task. Finding a balance between technical, pedagogical and content knowledge is often a challenging and overwhelming task. This presentation seeks to show the lighter side of 21st century learning and demonstrate how any teacher can plan based on the TPACK model (technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge).

Willy Wiki, Doc. Google, Ivana Tellastory, Ed Modo, Bridget Together and Demo Moore make their return to ECOO in Donald Chump's "The Edu-Apprentice."
Come watch as two teams rush to build and deliver lessons based on a set of learning goals. Which team will be the most successful and which will be sent to the boardroom to explain where they went wrong? Mr. Chump and the audience will decide!
So what? Now what? = I only had a chance to see 5 minutes of this presentation. Jenny, a fellow educator who had just attended our session prior to this, had some more questions about helping parents with their children's Minecraft love, so we went out into the hall to talk with Denise and Liam, and we spent the rest of this hour discussing. I'm really sorry that I didn't get to see this session, as it looked hilarious (especially with people slipping into the hallway to dress in costume) and relevant, as small teams worked in PLC-like groups on what looked like a TLCP. However, I think it was valuable to answer questions immediately when asked. The Gaming Edus also went on Twitter to check the back channel, retweet, respond to comments related to the presentation, and make new connections.
Friday, October 25, 2013 3:00 p.m.
Closing Keynote by Kevin Honeycutt
Summary: Unlocking Learning with Today’s Tools
In this presentation I’ll share powerful, transformational stories of student and teacher success with technology tools, networks, apps and devices. I’ll challenge participants to re-engage as learners on behalf of their students.

3 Key Points (as taken from Twitter)
  1. Live out loud. Be storyfied. Be Googleable. (Thank you Daniel Ballantyne @ballantynedj)
  2. Teaching is non-invasive brain surgery. Do no harm. Emotion cements learning. (Thank you Lisa Noble @nobleknits2)
  3. To invent is to have an idea no one agrees with. That's where innovation comes from. Our strange kids. (Thank you Cathy Beach @beachcat11
So what? Now what? Kevin knows how to work a crowd perfectly. He had us laughing, crying, and cheering. The messages were many, short and tweetable. My reflection just on Kevin's talk will be sometime this week, based on this Tweet quote by Brian Smith @smithwithclass "Hug first. Ask questions later."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Remembering Paul Kay

Last week, I received some shocking news. A good friend of mine, Paul Kay, passed away suddenly on Thanksgiving Monday. Paul used to be the teacher-librarian at Northlea Elementary and Middle School with the Toronto District School Board, but about four years ago, he became a vice-principal. I wrote about Paul on this blog before. Even though we hadn't seen each other in years, we still held each other in high regard. Paul tried to arrange for me to come sailing with him a couple of summers ago, but I got lost and stuck in traffic, so by the time I arrived at the arena, they had already left. I can't clearly remember the last time we saw in other in person. Thank goodness for Twitter and other electronic means.

I attended the funeral home visitation on October 18, 2013 and it was comforting to see how many people were there. The people I spoke with had many stories to share about their experiences with Paul.
Embedded here is the footage from the time Paul and I appeared together on TVOntario.

I either laugh or cringe when I see this, because no one told me that I didn't need to look at my fellow panelists when I was talking, so I ended up looking like I was watching a ping pong match. I remember joking with Paul beforehand when we had our makeup done before the cameras started rolling. On film, Paul was articulate, educated, and unflappable - just like he was in real life.

I would rather let other people share their Paul Kay stories, if they so choose and in whatever way they wish. It's a tribute to Paul that I ended up getting some professional development while celebrating his life and acknowledging his untimely death, and it is this I want to mention as the conclusion of this post.

Paul was a life long learner. I used to love sitting with him at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference plenary sessions because the conversations we would have would prompt me to reflect and learn even more. Paul helped me understand why certain people behaved in certain ways. As friends and I reminisced at the funeral parlour about the topics we'd discuss with Paul, it led my colleague to mention his work on infographics, which I'm keen to explore. My friend sent me a follow-up email with links to test. I also volunteered for a new commitment that will increase my knowledge of current children's literature. This wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Paul.  Paul Kay was a great educator and a great friend. May his family find solace and support - I hope they can be consoled with the knowledge that he touched many lives. Mine was.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Learning how to Lead

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We had an almost-four-day weekend in Ontario. Last Friday we had school-based professional development in the morning and self-directed learning in the afternoon. The session I planned to facilitate and discussed in last week's blog (which I might now call it after the fact, "A Conversation about Learning Skills") seemed to go well. Our junior/intermediate division completed our Teaching Learning Critical Pathway template form outlining our Term 1 focus on summarizing and synthesizing strategies to discourage plagiarism during the rest of that morning. In the afternoon, I was part of an administration team meeting and found time to work with another teacher on uploading and captioning YouTube videos for research purposes. (I still left school an hour earlier than normal, so I consider that a four-day weekend!)

I do not wish to betray confidential discussions held during the admin team meeting, but some of our conversations led me to spend a huge chunk of my Thanksgiving Monday to begin reading a book earlier than I had planned. The Skillful Team Leader: A Resource for Overcoming Hurdles to Professional Learning for Student Achievement by Elisa B. Macdonald (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2013) is a book I received from my friend Moses. I'm on Chapter 4 of 7 and I'm finding it very useful, especially as I reflect on how to learn to lead.

I "fell" into the role of chairperson at my current school because a colleague would have been declared surplus if someone on staff did not volunteer to take the role. I led the workshop on Friday because our initial presenters could not come out on that day and my principal felt confident that, because I am a trained Tribes TLC (c) facilitator, I would be more than qualified to conduct the session. Other leadership opportunities I've undertaken in the past have been more deliberate on my part. As I read this book, I found a statement that resonated with my recent workshop leader role:
"When named team leader because of her expertise, a teacher is put in a paradoxical role - the peer expert (Mangin & Stoelings, 2011)." (page 58)
This is why creating those questions that framed me as a co-learner alongside my fellow teachers helped me de-escalate the potential divide. Abandoning the "sage on the stage" role helped tremendously.

Leading a group or team isn't an innate set of skills. This resource describes some of the hurdles a Professional Learning Community might face and how to deal with these hurdles productively and professionally. Our goal is to have a high functioning, high impact team. Here is how it's described:

"... the high functioning, high impact team works well together and produces measurable gains for students. Members have a shared purpose for collaboration with goals. They utilize teaming tools such as agendas, group agreements, roles, and protocols effectively. They voice different opinions but still come to consensus, produce action plans, and follow through on those actions. they not only engage in constructs like the inquiry cycle, but they use those constructs to continuously assess their impact on student learning and adjust their instruction. Memmbers in high functioning, high impact teams are generally proud of their team and highly invested in the team's work. They continuously transform teaching and learning and have evidence to show for it." (page 30)
 I'll continue to digest information from this book and share it with my admin team. Leaders aren't born - they are developed (and this philosophy fits with the book's mindset on fixed vs growth mindset) - and I hope this book and the discussion it might encourage will help me continue to learn how to lead.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Preparing to Present

A 'selfie' from ECOO 2012 I'll put in this year's PPT.
This past week, I spent a great deal of time preparing for some upcoming presentations: "Connecting the Blocks: Linking Minecraft to the Ontario Curriculum", along with my dear colleagues Liam O'Donnell and Denise Colby for the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario's annual conference, and an as-yet-untitled session on Learning Skills for my school's October 11, 2013 Professional Activity day. The latter session was a bit trickier to craft. The original intention was to have some of the wonderful teachers from the Halton District School Board that presented this topic at the Ontario Tribes Learning Communities Consortium do a modified version of their talk for my staff, but it took too long to find their contact information and invite them to come. Somehow, I became the workshop facilitator. In my experience, it can more be challenging to lead a professional learning experience for co-workers than it would be for strangers. Thankfully, Moses Velasco, an Instructional Leader with the Professional Learning, Training, and Leadership Development unit of the Toronto District School Board, was available to help me plan. As a specialist teacher, I was worried that what I had to say about learning skills would not be as valued, because I am not always directly involved with that portion of the report card - and there's the whole "prophet in your own land" piece to consider. What Moses recommended was to avoid lecturing or telling, and to be a co-explorer with my fellow teachers by using powerful questions to encourage discussion and thought. Moses helped me design some great reflection questions at various stages of the session to help the group unearth some findings and revelations about learning skills. We spent an hour refining the precise words that invited contemplation and when I showed my fellow chairperson the results of our plans, she responded positively. It looks like it will be an enjoyable and educational session.

This process led me to further reflection: it took an hour to create effective questions for a "lesson" that on paper is supposed to last for an hour. Do I spend equally enough time crafting effective questions for my students? Do I bounce ideas for good questions off teachers whom I respect and admire for their teaching skills (like I respect and admire Moses)? It may be near-impossible to spend that much time, but my young learners are equally deserving of thought-provoking questions as the learners with B.Ed. degrees are, so I should ensure I think carefully about what I ask in class, to get quality results. Thankfully, I have a lot more open flexible collaborative time in my schedule this year, and I have been co-planning with other teachers to create rich, engaging learning experiences for our students. They may not always involve Minecraft Creepers, but they look pretty exciting, all the same.