Successful Risk Taking and Learning

The staff at Pacific Way Elementary spent the Pro D day learning about technology.  The school, through the assistance of the PAC, has purchased Apple iPads and the day was developed to learn some of the basics features of the iPad and some apps to enhance student learning.

The day began with a TED talk by Shawn Achor, the talk focused on the happiness factor that is created when individuals meet with success.  That hard work just for the sake of hard work does not equate to greater understanding or foster a love for learning.  Achor embraced the outliers and challenged listeners to not just settle for being average but reaching higher to improve the average for everyone.

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Teachers then went on a discovery mission to learn some of the features of the apple devices, how to multi gesture swipe, close programs, operate the camera, turn on the speak selection features.  Everyone seemed to learn something new and enjoyed the exploration on their own or with a partner.

The first app that was featured was explain everything.  This is a great app for students to use to explain just about everything,  The features of the app were highlighted then teachers were given a math problem to solve and explain to others through the app.  This was a challenging task as the teachers had to solve the word problem and solve how to use the technology, after some time and many questions they were ready to present.  It was amazing to see the variety in the explanations and to hear the struggles as they learned how to explain how to do the math, not just find the answer.

With the introduction of technology it was important to highlight the why portion of the task.  Why is technology being used and how does it improved the lesson or task being taught.  Teachers were asked to create a list of tasks that have been taught this year and group them into the SAMR framework.  SAMR is a model for reflecting and planning the use of technology to ensure that the technology is enhancing the lesson.  I think of it as a measure of thinking and creativity, the four steps in the ladder are all important but your teaching should include some of each step and not just one level.  It would be difficult to teach only using the redefinition level and it would not be challenging enough to only use substation a good balance if important to including technology in your teaching.

The discussion with staff on the task that they wrote on the chart paper was excellent it was emphasized that there was no wrong answers and that the explanation of why they thought the task fit that area was the most important piece.  The dialogue and rich discussion that followed was impressive, it was encouraging to hear the reflective thought that went with why technology was being used for each task.

Armed with a better understanding of the SAMR model, teachers were given time to search for apps that seemed interesting and may be of use on the classroom,  these apps were then collected into the framework of theSAMR model and teachers were given time to give a quick review of one of the apps that they had selected.The afternoon was devoted to book creator, an app that allows the user to create a ebook in a quick and efficient manner.  The tools were highlighted briefly then teachers were given a mission to create a book with certain features. The results were amazing and the books created included humour, a moral message, and were extremely creative.  In less then thirty minutes the groups had created something special with meaning and were proud to share with the class.I think this was the kind of success that Achor discussed in his talk.  That feeling that you created something that you were proud of and wanted to share, a feeling that encourages the growth mindset and the love of learning.

The day was a success in that people were motivated to learn, enjoyed the collaborative nature of their learning, and were able to create and have choice in their learning.  Many elements of effective teaching were modelled during the day.  This day centred around introducing technology (iPads, apple tv, wireless, apps) but again that was just the topic of the day, the success was framed around tasks that had meaning and value, and an approach to learning that encourage exploration and risk taking over listening and memorizing.

 

 

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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

http://www.thoughtleadersllc.com/2013/04/how-letting-go-can-strengthen-your-leadership/

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

http://www.toddnielsen.com/international-leadership-blogathon/the-top-4-attributes-every-leader-should-embody/

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2013/03/why_it_takes_more_than_a_genius_to_lead_a_school.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-TW

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?”

http://racinginrain.blogspot.ca/2013/04/exploring-alternate-assessments.html

 

http://cultureofyes.ca/2013/01/21/what-about-final-exams/

 

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

 

http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/data-driven-decisions-in-bc/

  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?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Michael-Haberman/why-school-culture-matter_b_3047318.html

 

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/climate-improve-your-school-environment-allen-mendler

 

  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…

 

http://www.justintarte.com/2013/04/the-21st-century-classroom.html

 

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

 

http://www.teachthought.com/trends/shift-learning-the-7-most-powerful-ideas-shifts-in-learning-today/

 

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/03/5-tools-to-help-students-learn-how-to-learn/

 

  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?

 

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr13/vol70/num07/The-Human-Factor.aspx

 

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

 

SAMR Model

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rMazGEAiZ9c

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Ipad’s

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

WE DID IT!!!

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 (http://www.nigelbarlow.com/)

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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