Deeper Learning

I have been involved in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for the past nine weeks titled Deeper Learning. During this course many of the discussions and links provided have connected to the school improvement strategies and thoughts my staff have begun to implement.

Deeper learning involves a focus on content knowledge, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communicating, learning how to learn, and doing so with an academic mindset. Marc Chun in a March 14th Ted Talk discussed Deeper Learning and its relationship with the transfer of knowledge; both near and far. He defined the transfer of knowledge as simply taking something learned at one point in time and using that knowledge to influence performance at another point of time. Chun stated the importance of this premise by suggested that every teachers goal should be that students learn the ability to transfer everything they learn in the classroom to situations outside the school walls.

At my current school we have been looking at achievement, performance, and effort data and trying to make sense of the patterns and anomalies that exist in these numbers. One hypothesis I have generated is that we are lacking a transfer of knowledge from one grade to the next. Our school goal centers around numeracy and the development of basic skills and building an understanding for problem solving (through math vocabulary and critical thinking). Through our discussion as a staff we have created a series of charts and statements to show what we are doing now, and where we would like to go in the future in terms of how we learn numeracy.This reflection on what we are doing now leads to the obvious question of WHY. Why do we teach numeracy in this manner? WHAT could we be doing differently? And finally, HOW do we get there?

That first question of why seems to resonate throughout the deeper learning course. In order to understand what we are doing we first need to establish why it is being done. It is not good enough any more to explain to students that they are learning math to prepare them for college or university. Students need an understanding on how math can influence their lives today and tomorrow. By learning through a problem based model or a constructivist approach students can live the math that surrounds them and build on the information that they already possess. Student can start to understand why math is important and transfer that information to everyday life; to use math to solve common problems they face daily.

I led a professional development day for a number of my colleagues in late February, the title of the day was Why Technology. We focused our discussion on the goal for implementing technology in our schools, that is developing an understanding of the specific purpose for using the device and how to measure the learning. I showed a TED talk, performed by Simon Sinek (How great leaders inspire action), in this talk Sinek also discussed the importance of developing the understanding of why something is being done. When people understand why they are doing a task it makes the task more meaningful and encourages the growth mindset. For my school this has meant reflecting on where we currently are and questioning everything in an effort to build a picture of what numeracy means for learners. The question that we are working on really becomes, if you were a student in this school what would you be learning in math class, and how is that benefiting you outside of the school walls?

Deeper Learning is a good phrase for learning, for me it identifies key competencies that need to be included in all tasks performed at the school. Chun stated that in order to develop the transfer of knowledge, student learning needed to focus on the deeper learning competencies and educators needed to reflect on whether the transfer was productive. This may seem like a daunting task but students are waiting for us to take this lead and provide education that is engaging and meaningful.

The challenge for my school is to get from good to great, and to do this we need to develop a growth mindset and provide collaborative learning tasks that challenge students to think and transfer their knowledge to new concepts. This Deeper Learning is not a catch phrase it is good teaching and engaging learning.

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Flipped Meetings

At our last Principals and Vice Principal meeting there was a discussion on the following topics.  Tables were asked to discuss a couple of the questions and to reflect and provide links or thoughts back to the Google document that was shared prior to the meeting.

The attempt was to run a flipped meeting, the agenda with reading and video was sent prior to the meeting.   Then participants are able to add to the minutes and provide their own thoughts.  The discussion part went very well but the additions and comments to the minutes were brief.   Just shows that this process needs to be modeled and discussed to encourage all to participate.

I will be trying a similar process for the next meeting.

Here are the questions that were discussed


Which of the following statements best defines effective principals?


a)     They have a clear vision and inspire and engage others in developing and realizing it
b)    They drive, facilitate and monitor the teaching and learning process
c)     They foster a cohesive culture of learning
d)    They are committed to student and adult learners and their development
e)     They model professional, ethical behavior and expect others to do the same
f)     They ensure equitable learning opportunities and high expectations for all
g)    They lead continuous improvement

Principals are the key players in developing the climate, culture, and processes in their schools. They are critical to implementing meaningful and lasting school change and in the ongoing school-improvement process. Principals who have a clear vision; inspire and engage others in embracing change for improvement; drive, facilitate, and monitor the teaching and learning process; and foster a cohesive culture of learning are the collaborative leaders our schools need to fully commit to ensuring each student—and school staff member—is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Successful teachers are extremely aware of their purpose. They understand that they are the connection, the conduit that will enable the student to bridge the use of knowledge with the willingness to learn that knowledge.

Leaders matter. Therefore, significant improvements begin with significant changes in what leaders think, say, and do

Data Questions to discuss at tables

  1. What data do you gather to drive achievement in your school?

Whatever we say we VALUE, that’s what we need to be assessing.” Are teachers asking themselves: “What are the most important things I want my students to take away from my course? Am I assessing those elements?”


  1. Do we currently have enough data to drive achievement initiatives? What other data sets would you like to gather?

  1. Where is this data displayed?


  1. What is the climate and culture of your schools? What tools do you use to assess the culture and climate of the school?


  1. What do your schools achievement results report?


The 21st century Classroom understands that you can’t be “data-driven” unless you actually make adjustments and modifications to your instructional practices as a result of that data…


  1. Do your goals and objectives serve as signposts for where your school needs to go?


  1. Have you looked back at other school improvement efforts to identify what has worked and hasn’t?


  1. What makes data so difficult to engage with?


  1. How do we measure higher order thinking in classrooms??


SAMR Model

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One to one device thoughts.


Two years ago we began a one to one ipad project with students in grade 5 and 6.  As a science and technology school we saw this as an opportunity to enhance the inquiry and project based learning we have been developing at the school.

The introduction of the ipads has been very positive in creating more engagement and interest for the students; and providing a tool that creates opportunities for lessons that would not be possible in a traditional class setting.  The bottom line question through the project is does the technology enhance the quality of learning in the classroom.

I was able to attend the apple leadership conference this year and hear a keynote on the SAMR model.  That presentation and theory helped to anchor my thoughts on the use of technology in schools.  It was clear when discussing the model with teachers which level some lessons were at and what was needed to promote the learning to a level that promoted higher order thinking.

In the classroom students have been using dropbox, explain everything, Lego Robotics, puppet pals and other common apps for creating and sharing their thoughts.  The classes also support younger students in buddy groups were the older students work with primary students on early phonics and math apps in a peer teaching model.  This social interaction has been positive for both children and they look forward to the time each week.

Recently an apple TV was added to the classroom to support presentations and the display of student work.  This simple to use device has again increased engagement and student interest.  These teaching tools are being used effectively by the strong teachers of the class to allow the students to collaborate, innovate and explore in an independent manner.

I have also worked with a large administrative group to promote and teach how the ipad device can benefit principals within a school setting.  This group has learned how to be more organized and share key ideas and concepts through social media.  The introduction of twitter and the use of flipboard to organize articles, blogs, and common thoughts has been some of the best Professional development and personal learning ever.

We continue to work as a group to promote the use of technology in schools and to develop a shared vision that allows for students, teachers, and administrators to be more collaborative, independent, to problem solve, to question, and make better decisions.


Moving forward I have been developing some course content in Itunes U and I hope to see high school students using this soon.  We have a number of students in the district that take course through videoconference technology and I see Itunes U as an excellent way to support those students and assist in overcoming the distance barrier that they face.    In addition the personalized learning ideas of the administrative group can be shared in a simple manner that allows reflection and growth for the group.

In the classroom we continue to look to the ipad as a way to develop eportfolios to gather the presentations and content that students are creating.  Displaying and presenting this work is an important part of the process in student engagement.


The addition of apple products to the school has enabled us to grow and learn with the students and improve the education of the students in our school, and the educators in our district.  The collaboration and discussions that occur between teachers in different schools shows the power of the technology and the willingness of the educators to grow and master their craft.   It is a difficult task to raise the bar for all learners we are working at doing that but keeping an eye on the more important aspect of lowering the gap between learners.

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School Infographic

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Social Responsibility Goal

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Environmental School Goal

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Reading Goal for BEST

Reading inforgraphic

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Guinness World Record


Bert Edwards Science and Technology School (BEST), working with BIG Little Science Centre, have had our results for the Guinness World Record ACCEPTED! We are now officially part of a new World Record for a science lesson, along with many other schools from across Canada, and will be listed in the Guinness World Records!

Working at BIG Little Science Centre, BEST intermediate students took part in a Canada-wide record for “Largest Simultaneous Practical Science Lesson in multiple venues; same time and same lesson.”  The experiments involved performing and observing how materials react to the movement of fluids, following Bernoulli’s Principle.

BEST students did two different experiments; first they predicted what would happen and then they performed the experiments to observe what really happened. Experiment One involved blowing between two balloons held about 10 centimetres apart. Experiment Two involved blowing through a drinking straw, straight across the top of another straw standing upright in water. Organized by the Government of Canada, this record attempt was a giant undertaking. Over 85 grade 4 to 6 students from Bert Edwards participated, along with teachers Rob Wielgoz (local organizer), Mr. Bloom, Mrs. Villeneuve, Mr. Wagner, Ms. Shelton-Lawson and Ms. Mauro. We would like to thank the many community volunteers who also assisted, including; Bill Quast, Carol Paulsen, Rae Nixon, Lloyd Nixon, Irene Desrocher, Matt Reudink, David Green. Representing BIG Little Science Centre were Gordon Gore, Lance Rousselle, and Susan Hammond.

This event took place on October 12, 2012 from 10:00am to 10:30am, and is the first time this record has been tried. Results are still being examined, but BEST’s results have been accepted.

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What School could look like

Recently I attended a workshop on rethinking education,  the presenter was Nigel Barlow (

His task for our table was to write a short article on what school would look like at a future time.  The article was to be from a certain point of view and our table chose a students viewpoint.  It was an interesting activity to go through and the discussion on how school would look was fascinating,

Nigel had previously removed the phrase YES, BUT from our vocabulary.  With no restrictions school took a radical new shape in our eyes, technology became just a tool for students and teachers (Advisers) to work with and students had more control over their day.
So imagine you are a young middle school student about to go to school

POV: Student

I wake up early to get to school; I’m so excited I rush through breakfast and can’t wait to see my friends again to talk about our summers.
The crossing guard greets me by name and we chat briefly as we wait for the lights to change.  She had a good summer too, with some camping trips and visiting family, and they got a new pet Aardvark named Steve.
Talking with my friends on the playground it’s great to catch up.  One friend has a new neighbour that we all meet, and we explore the interactive playground together, with its reactive slides and multi-touch collaborative play stations.
We all cheer and my heart swells as we hear the jaunty melody that signals the start of Options period.  A couple of my friends bolt for the school building right away, anxious to meet the new teacher, knowing that all of their learning materials would have been transferred to the class stations by the time they get there.  I know they like to do their direct instruction sessions first thing in the morning, but I don’t feel like that today.
Other friends of mine choose to head for the field house to start their day with the collaborative obstacle course, or maybe they’ll hit the pool.
I like to end my day with the pool, so I pick up a drink and a snack from one of the food stations in the yard, and I walk with my new friend to one of the Advisors spaces.  My new friend and I both still talking about our vacations to other countries when we sit down with the Advisor at a Sharing Station.  We start pulling out our photos and journals, vlogs and other artefacts from our trips, and the Advisor guides us through some discussions as we make connections between the two vacations, and compare some of the cultural learnings that we’ve learned.  It’s nice to see the our learnings from vacation increase the achievement bar on my yearly goals; hey, it’s the first day of school and I’m already on my way to the next badge!
It isn’t until we’re leaving the Advisor that I realize there’s a few years difference between my new friend and I, and I introduce him to another friend we run into who’s just now arriving.
We tell our new friend that the change in melody that we’re hearing indicates the Options period is ending, and we start to head to our project areas, but agree to meet up at the pool for the Options period at the end of the day.
It’s going to be a great year, I just know it.
Great thanks go to Paul Yipp, Sean Lamoureux, and Jarod Bell for the insight and conversation.
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What an Inquiry School is:

Bert Edwards Elementary school became a school of choice in 2007.  Parents initiated the process in westsyde in an effort to keep their elementary school open.  The proposal created by the parents went before the board of education  The board asked for a group of parents, teachers, and principals to meet and discuss what a science based school would look like.  The group met several times and visited a science school in Calgary as part of their study.  That group expanded on the parents proposal and made a public presentation to the board of education and interested parents.

Once the board approved the concept for the school the principal was hired and then teaching jobs were posted, with science backgrounds required for intermediate teachers.

Over the past five years the school has continued to grow in student population and parents are very happy with school and how we are changing the way we teach.

As a staff we have a focus on teaching through an inquiry approach.  That means creating more independent students that take an active role in their learning.  Students develop more questions and work through real world problems when possible. In the primary grades the main focus is on reading and ensuring that all students are meeting expectations by the end of grade three.

In the intermediate grades students work more on project based learning and I wonder questions. Some of the bigger projects students have worked on include, Lego robotics, marsville, Thompson River studies and a project were grade 6 students worked with respiratory therapy students from TRU on the circulatory and respiratory systems

Classes also do collaborative projects with their peers, schoolmates, and with students across Canada and the united states. We use videoconference equipment for students to speak with each other as a class and a Moodle website to chat and develop presentations in a variety of web 2.0 tools (prezi, glogster, and other tools that allow video images and text to be combined into a truly multimedia presentation)

This year we were pleased to announce a partnership with Apple Canada that has every student in grade 5 and 6 using an iPad.  Students are using a variety of apps and have replaced some textbooks and novels with the device.  In the last week we have been able to use the iPad to program our Lego robotics equipment. Students with written output issues use dragon dictation To record their thoughts. The dictation app converts their voice to text which students can then edit and submit.  With some students this has seen a dramatic increase in their writing and confidence levels.  Our grade 5 students took their iPads to McQueen lake and did a video project on the environment. When they returned to class the next day the edited the video and did a voice over to create a display for other classes.

Micheal Fullan wrote that there were three basic needs for a school; Literacy, numeracy, and well being.  Through our inquiry approach, literacy encompasses more than reading to include comprehension and a joy of being literate.  Numeracy involves reasoning, problem solving, and being good with numbers and figures. The well being of students is the inclusion of all learning to be healthy, to stay safe, and enjoy learning.

Our students have above average attendance, less homework, and describe their school day as fun and interesting.  I believe our students have become more independent and have learned how to learn, which will  increase their success in high school and beyond.

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