This past week we held our first Google GAFE Summit in Thunder Bay and the event was a great success. Local and visiting educators were treated to an informative, fast –paced Google experience that left everyone excited to continue learning. Although there were many highlights to discuss in the sessions and keynotes, the one that stands out for me was the admission by one presenter that she did not know the answer to an audience question regarding a specific application. Within an instant a participant spoke out and facilitated as the presenter followed the steps live on screen to solve the issue. At that moment the audience witnessed the true power of collaboration. As a member of that audience I can honestly state that you could detect the sense of relief and awe on the faces of the participants as they realized it is ok to not know the answer or to only have some experience with the GAFE. From that moment on, the collective sense of collaboration as a community of learners was palpable and remained that way for the rest of the weekend. This sense of an open learning community was strengthened by the fact that many of our own TBCDSB staff facilitated presentations in a variety of sessions. Colleagues learning with colleagues; this to me is the ideal form of professional development.
In a recent post by Eric Sheninger titled, Waving Goodbye to Drive-By PD he outlines the key elements in effective, long last professional development. Sheninger describes most professional development sessions as one-stop; one-size fits all attempts to reach all participants with the hope that the key message survives past the actual session. Sheninger goes on to state that the true measure of success for professional development is whether the learning is sustainable based on a number of key factors. I would like to explore these factors as outlined by Sheninger through the lens of the recent TBCDSB GAFE Summit.
First on the list of factors is the idea that PD must be on going and job-embedded Although the summit was a one time event, it was clear that all participants had some background in using the GAFE and had plans to implement their learning into their role immediately. The support offered by the presenters and colleagues is ongoing and serves to establish a community of learning related to the GAFE. It was great to see participants posting messages and revelations on Twitter both during the event and continuing past the initial ‘buzz’ of excitement. This is real, tangible evidence that the learning will not only be sustained but continues to grow. The encouragement and openness from the Google staff to contact them if any questions arose and to generally keep in touch addresses the next key factors that are coaching support and personalization. Each participant has the opportunity to continue their learning from the presenters and colleagues in a manner that meets specific and individual needs. The wealth of experience in the room from colleagues ensures that any question can be explored and a collaborative solution sought and realized. Considering all of the positive comments and calls for more GAFE learning and a thought to make the GAFE Summit an annual event, we have clearly met the ongoing professional development standard outlined by Sheninger.
Sheninger states that long lasting PD is facilitated by people who have done the work and that the PD is directly correlated to professional practice. Our GAFE Summit certainly meets this criterion as all of the presenters; especially our colleagues in the TBCDSB live this work. This makes the learning contextually real and deeply meaningful for the participants. Working alongside colleagues that have varied experience in the GAFE, seeking advice and answers to questions is certainly linked to our practice as 21st Century educators. Furthermore learning the GAFE through colleagues helps address the real challenges educators face in the context of their daily work.
All of this leads to the realization that the TBCDSB GAFE Summit was the ideal professional development as it was contextual, relational, accessible, and most importantly it established an ongoing, learning community that will serve all those using the GAFE in our system. Everyone involved from the presenters to participants, leaders and tech support came away from the TBCDSB GAFE Summit more informed and better positioned to support learning. Everyone is the winner in this scenario especially the students we serve every day.
Eric Sheninger is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader with the International Centre for Leadership in Education ( ICLE). He is also the author of the best selling book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, as well as the work Pillars of Digital Leadership.
A Principal's Reflections [Web log post]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://esheninger.blogspot.ca/
Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ericsheninger.com/esheninger/home
It is important to be around people that have the right kind of attitude, being happy about what they are doing.
This past week marked the last session for the school leader Google workshops that I facilitated along with two of our school board’s Technology Resource Teachers. The sessions were established to support leaders as they begin the process of utilizing the GAFE suite in their daily work as we prepare for an upcoming Google Summit, sponsored by our school board, and ultimately to prepare for a switch to the Google platform for both staff and students.
Organizing and facilitating these sessions was a considerable undertaking and I could not have tackled the task without the support and collaboration of the Technology Resource Teachers, Ryan and Jerry. I cannot thank them enough for their work. What came out of theses sessions was a greater sense of community and collaboration amongst colleagues that are now immersed in a growing digital learning landscape. Each participant was engaged in the learning of a considerable amount of new information and processes all within a collaborative environment that allowed for open questions and risk taking. Looking back we have clearly met the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards of practice involving establishing a digital age learning culture and supporting excellence in professional practice. (ISTE Standards, n.d.) What remains to be undertaken is the use of these new skills within the context of our individual learning communities, essentially practice through the use of the applications.
The quote at the beginning of this entry comes from Kevin Garnett, power forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association. Kevin has been a key player for the teams he has played for over his career because of his skills and team leadership. I chose this specific quote for two reasons. First it summarizes the atmosphere that was present during the Google sessions. Each participant was eager to learn and share from and with colleagues regardless of what level of experience each had with using the GAFE previously. School staff and board staff came together to support each other with the shared spirit of contributing to something that will have a tremendously positive impact on student learning. Through my discussions with colleagues and a feedback survey I was very pleased to find that everyone felt the same way and that they were happy to have the opportunity to work and learn alongside each other.
From the beginning there was very strong participation in the voluntary sessions. The numbers of participants continued to grow as the project unfolded and both myself and the co-facilitators were pleased to see the vast majority of principals and vice-principals attend regularly. This brings me to the second reason why I chose the Kevin Garnett quote. During the Celtics run to the playoffs in 2009, Garnett sustained a knee injury that sidelined him with the possibility of missing the playoffs. Although he was not obligated to attend, Kevin would dress for practices and join the team on the bench. Despite many warnings from his coach, Doc Rivers, Kevin couldn’t just sit and watch as his replacement was learning the system. Garnett would mimic the plays and every move the new forward was making on the court. At one point coach Rivers ended the practice early just to ensure his star player would rest his knee. To me, this mirrors the actions of my colleagues as they kept asking questions and becoming more involved in the workshops. Remember these sessions were voluntary. These school leaders could have chosen to only attend the sessions that interested them or the one session that supported their present work such as Gmail. Instead these leaders chose to attend as many sessions as possible and they were co-learning with the facilitators every step of the way when they could have easily ‘rode the bench’ on the sidelines. They worked as life-long learners eager to improve their skills and I know that each of them will continue to practice even when the season is over. I am looking forward to more learning with them as we continue towards the Google Summit in April.
Standards for Administrators. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-administrators
This week my school community is participating in a weeklong Hour of Code event as part of Computer Science Education Week. Each senior class will be receiving instruction and support through our classroom staff and Learning Commons teacher. In turn we will have these senior students act as coaches for the primary classes as they are introduced to coding as a culmination to the week of digital learning activities. After meeting with staff to review the learning outcomes for the Hour of Code sessions, I began to reflect on how quickly our students have acclimated to the daily use of technology in their classrooms. Within the scope of four months we have witnessed students as young as seven who can navigate their Google Classroom, submit assignments, review feedback and contribute to their class community.
Considering the vast amount of new information that students are utilizing and creating, we must refocus our efforts on supporting staff in the effective use of technology within the classroom. A 2010 Walden University study outlined the pivotal role classroom teachers have in utilizing technology to support student acquisition of 21st century skills. At the top of the list is the need for educators to model their confidence in using technology and to guide students towards its constructive use through the development of new skills. Where we were once content to emulate a level of comfort now we are to demonstrate confidence. This is a shift and quite frankly I think we are past the I need to know everything stance and we are hopefully well on our way to a co-learning model. With procedural literacy and coding in our midst, our intent should be to welcome new knowledge and skills as a community of learners with open minds.
We have come very far in a relatively short amount of time. We have quickly moved past the use of technology as a tool to improve student engagement to the use of technology to support learning, everyone’s learning. Considering this we can surmise that we will soon be at the stage where if we are not intentionally using technology for learning, then we are effectively hampering student success. It is not a matter of comfort level, adoption rate or professional development opportunities. It is simply about our true intent in using technology as an effective tool for improving learning outcomes for all.
Quillen, I. (2010). Education technology: Educators, technology, and 21st century skills: Dispelling five myths. Education Week, 29(36), 5.
It's not my job to motivate players. They bring extraordinary motivation to our program. It's my job not to de-motivate them.
Lou Holtz is one of the most acknowledged coaches in Notre Dame football history and the second most successful in NCAA history. His record of 100-32 was a result of a tremendous amount of determination and consistent communication with his players and staff. His thoughts on motivation are well known in the world of sports but they also resonate with our push to improve learning outcomes with our students and staff.
At a recent professional development day we had the opportunity to learn from Shawn Lennie, Ontario educator and consultant. He provided a plenary session on the power of the effective use of digital technology and challenged based learning (CBL). At its core challenged-based learning is a multidisciplinary approach that supports learners as they leverage technology to solve real world problems. More information on both Shawn and CBL is available at the end of this post. Mr. Lennie built his presentation on a number of key focus areas including the elimination of barriers to the technology experience and the importance of building relationships and sharing resources. There were many important points to consider for all of the educators in the audience. Shawn’s commentary on the need to connect with what motivates learners resonated with me as we continue on our digital leadership journey.
Technology is not the motivation in itself; it is the enabler that supports our motivation. Ultimately we strive to support improved outcomes for our students. Along that path we come across obstacles that present challenges to the realization of our vision. For me technology provides the edge I need to overcome the many managerial distractions that take time away from working directly with staff and students. Technology in the form of Google Applications allows me to effectively manage the daily administration of the school, communicate with staff in a timely manner and meet school board expectations regarding school improvement monitoring.
Shawn Lennie challenged us to create environments that spawn self-motivation. How can we leverage the use of technology to spark interest and use with our staff members and school community? For me this is the image of the leader as coach. It is all about the walk that supports the talk. Show them a better way with technology and they will incorporate it in their lives and their work with students. And the most important part – don’t stop. Persistence led Lou Holtz and the Fighting Irish to a historic number of consecutive bowl came appearances. It wasn’t an accident or luck ; it was the determination of one person to continually find ways to light each team member’s desire to succeed.
This week consider what motivates you and your colleagues and pinpoint your role in igniting that spark that each one of our community members brings with them.
Information on Challenged-Based Learning can be found at . . .
Information on Shawn Lennie can be found at . . .
Earlier this week, my daughter reminded me that I should follow my own rules. The conversation started innocently enough with the usual supper hour discussion as to how her school day went. Let me back up a bit here and tell you that this is my daughter’s first year of high school. As such her first few weeks have been filled with excitement, some worry and a little fear mixed in just to make things interesting. Nothing unusual for a fourteen year old entering a new school four times the size of her previous one.
As she was elaborating on the many interactions she had with new and old friends and her thoughts on the senior students, I felt I had to interject with the question that was burning in my mind. “What assignments do you have coming up this week?”, I blurted out as if the words were trapped inside. The question was met with a pause and a stare with a furrowed brow (not sure where she gets that from). “Dad,” (insert a three- second pause), “didn’t you check our calendar?” Her response was met with a smile and a pause of my own. Yes we share a Google calendar and this was her way of telling me that she was doing her best to stay on top of things.
Last year the students and staff at my daughter’s school were part of a pilot for Google Apps for Education and each student had an opportunity to explore and utilize the applications. My daughter was keen to explore all of the applications but she was particularly interested Google Calendar. She created one for us to share and sent me an email invitation to collaborate. Since that day we have been sharing the calendar and adding important dates for her academic and extra curricular activities, times when I will be out of town and most importantly our father-daughter dates.
This got me thinking of how far we have come with information sharing and collaboration. The possibilities for staying connected seem limitless and the power that this connectivity has to support all of our students truly complements our efforts as school leaders. The use of a shared calendar with staff is a great way to get all staff connected to the life of the school and an easy entry into digital collaboration. Upcoming events, celebrations and deadlines are but a few items that we can readily share with staff to get the ball rolling.
It still amazes me how the technology is able to complement our work and activities and how a simple thing such as a calendar can enrich our lives giving us time for more important things like trying to figure out which expensive restaurant my daughter will pick next. And the rule my daughter reminded me about? When we are at the table we only concern ourselves with what is happening in the moment. Perhaps my response should have been that technology could help us with the rest.
This week the CBC published an article highlighting the province-wide adoption of Google Apps for Education in Nova Scotia. This is a very significant step for an entire province and it speaks to the potential of the Google Applications to meet student needs in different districts that may have quite varied needs. The author was careful to balance all of the many advantages in adopting the platform with some of the concerns that are often raised with cloud computing, specifically security and information sharing. Alexandra Hunnings, spokesperson for Google is quoted within the article as she states that it is the individual user that owns their own data and information and that there are safety protocols in place for data security. Both conventions are very good and go a long way to address the concerns.
There is no denying the advantages in utilizing the Google For Education platform for all learners. The applications serve our collective goal of supporting students as they strive to meet the ISTE standards for students in the field of digital learning. While the article speaks to the ability of learners to access their work and the applications supporting their learning, it does leave one question unanswered. What can be done for the students and families that have no Internet access at home? Accessibility from anywhere is great but only for those that have a means to access the technology in the first place. This reminded me of an article I came across this past April entitled Wi-Fi on Wheels puts two Districts on the Fast Track to 24/7 Access. The piece highlights the efforts of Darryl Adams, Superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School district in California. Adams recognized the disparity in access and set out to make changes to better serve his community. His plan began with the use of school buses fitted with WIFI hubs that were parked overnight in neighbourhoods that had a known need for the service. Initially the hubs ran off of the bus battery but this drained all of the battery power rendering the bus inoperable by the morning. Not to worry, a solution was put in place quickly that included the installation of solar panels on the roof of each of these buses which provided enough stored energy to power both the hub and the bus ignition.
This is much more than a story about innovation and digital learning. It is about the desire to find solutions to the challenges of equity of access. It speaks to our obligation to meet the needs of all learners especially those struggling to remain engaged in digitally supported education. This leaves us with two daunting questions that we must ask ourselves. First considering our own contexts, how can we leverage Google for Education Applications to meet this obligation? More importantly, how can the promise of connectivity and digital learning meet the challenge of equity for all learners?
CBC News - Google Apps for Education finds place in Nova Scotia classrooms. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/canada/story/1.3226800
ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students
Wi-Fi on Wheels Puts Two Districts on the Fast Track to 24/7 Access -- THE Journal. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2015/04/30/wifi-on-wheels.aspx
Before the school year started I was in search of a digital leadership goal. I asked myself the standard questions of where do I see myself in the scope of digital leadership? and what do I want to achieve in this area? I decided that I would like to start the year by fully utilizing all of the applications in the Google For Education platform. The impetus for this is two fold. First on a system level, we are all preparing for a Google Summit in April 2016, which is a culmination of sorts for the roll out of the Google for Education application platform that we have adopted across the system. Secondly on a more personal and school-specific level I would like to leverage the opportunities afforded in Google Hangouts to extend the discussion stemming from our staff learning community meetings. Added to this is the ease of use with Google applications and for supporting connectivity amongst staff.
As we work towards the GAFE summit next spring, I can see how each element in the Google for Education portfolio can enhance our efforts to lead and model digital learning within our schools. The move towards this platform also means improved accessibility for our students and staff regardless of what device they may be using to connect their learning. Gone are the days of difficult file sharing, student hand in formats and disjointed connectivity. All of this is a welcomed change as we strive to improve our digital learning and leadership. I am looking forward to utilizing the applications with staff and students and school community as a whole.
This week take some time to look at the offering in the Google applications platform and explore one element that can best support your digital leadership efforts. I guarantee that once you get started you will not be looking back at what once was, only looking forward to what may be next.
At our principals' retreat this week I had the opportunity to participate in a session led by Bev Freedman , educational consultant and adjunct professor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. She is also a former executive officer of the Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. Her workshop entitled The Role of The Learning Leader cast a new light on many of the constructs of leadership that my colleagues and myself were taught as we entered the role. As I listened to her speak I began to critically evaluate some of the ideas that I once held true not that long ago and I began to contrast these against my efforts to learn about digital leadership and 21st century learning.
The first of these long standing constructs that I questioned is the notion that leaders lead - everything. Looking back on my first year as a school leader I remember the heavy sense of responsibility that I felt for having to know the answer for everything from curriculum to policy to any question that my staff would ask. I fell victim to the idiom of 'the buck stops here' , in essence I felt I had to be the gatekeeper of all things school related. Information is not a protected currency.In fact in order to lead the vast changes that have come and are yet to come from digital learning, leaders must view information as a shared commodity that serves to benefit the entire community. The more we admit to not having all of the information , the more adept we become at facilitating the increase in capacity for learning of all members of our school communities. It is not about having the answer , it is about the desire to know the answer and how this desire has a positive ripple effect through your staff and students.
Next on the construct hit list is the idea that leaders must learn to plan every detail in order to guide an improvement process. Having been part of two school wide technology projects during my tenure at my present school, I quickly learned that real leadership happens when best laid plans go awry. During our second technology and math project we encountered a true " TSN turning point in the game" moment as the technology we planned, sourced and budgeted for at the outset became obsolete three months into the project. When you are mired in the path of Plan A you are more likely to get caught in the mindset of defeat. The solution was to be open to possibilities and that is when the opportunity to take a different technological path was found and the project outcome was better than we had imagined.
Where does this leave us in terms of our path to digital leadership? Simply stated be open and take risks with your learning. Leadership has come a long way from the measured process of learning to lead. Digital leadership is positioned at a turning point. We can no longer assume to know everything but we do have to be prepared to learn everything and be demonstrative with this desire. There is one long standing idea that will always remain true, experience counts. The only change is that now we must see experience as the verb in moving forward and not the noun in remembering the past.
Last week I began to explore the work of Simon Breakspear , one of the keynote speakers at the Technology Enabled Learning and Leading conference in Toronto earlier this month. Through the use of a sports analogy, Mr. Breakspear outlined the need for a concerted drive for personal and professional improvement. The question remains, how do we as leaders support and nurture this drive in our students and staff ? The answer may lie what Breakspear calls the 'Killer Apps' of deep learning - agency, relevancy and connection.
The agency of meaningful learning is found in the co-producing, co-designing, interacting and leading our own learning based on our personal goals and needs. This is imperative for all learners. The approach stems from the work of Charles Leadbetter a leading voice on innovation and learning. Simply put learning should happen by and with us rather than for and to us. Furthermore, learning ownership requires a steady diet of meaningful and timely feedback reflecting on the real world work that students create. Think of a football offensive coordinator as a coaching model. There is no point in talking to your quarterback about the interception he threw after the game is over. That player needs feedback and direction now before his next set play. Constantly learning in the moment, adjusting our plan of attack in real time, this is one key to steady improvement.
The next 'killer app' is relevance. This is achieved through developing work that matters to our students and supporting staff as they take risks with new approaches such as flipped classrooms. Relevance takes determination and risk with a willingness to accept failures along the way. What are the present practices that impede relevance? Choose one and change it to reflect the need to have the 'work' relate to the students. This doesn't mean that we need to drop everything and solely teach code tomorrow. This means that we need to connect the content to real world problems and concerns that students will face , that we will all face. Students want to make a difference , they want to know that what they are learning and doing has a connection and meaning to their lives and their future.
Finally now more than ever we all need real connection. Nothing can replace the human interaction and community created with your staff and students. In the ever growing digital landscape , students need to know that they are safe and that they matter as individuals. No other element of teaching and learning is as important as the social interaction in a school community. This is the mentoring, peer support, coaching and just being there for students and staff. We all have stories of former students and staff members returning for a visit, greeting you in the mall or inviting you to their wedding.These are the memories of an enduring connection. A strong supportive school community has a palpable energy that hits you when you walk through the door. This is the difference maker, always was and always will be. Good coaches do not just lead from the sidelines, they get to know their team and their families, they create a community. They are heard and seen and when they lead - they lead loudly.
This week I reflected on the work of Simon Breakspear and Charles Leadbetter. I have included two of their videos for you to explore at your leisure.
Charles Leadbeater: The era of open innovation [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=W7raJeMpyM0
Simon Breakspear: Edupreneurship on Vimeo [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/50557321