Blog and Learn

I came across this today on a internet browsing path that I wouldn’t be able to recall. At times when browsing the internet I feel like this.

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There is so much information available that it can be so overwhelming and distracting and the creation of digital content can easily take a back seat. Often, it is not until I begin to create content where thoughts, ideas, reflections, and deeper learning come into focus.

As I begin to create and participate more digitally with others, I find myself refining my thoughts and observations surrounding how to blog and use twitter (I can’t get used to saying “tweet”). I am faced with choices of identity, representation of others, interaction etiquette, and blogging skill development. There is no doubt that blogging is hard for me. But like many things, I find that there is only so much preparation before jumping into something with two feet. It is not until I hit the “publish” button on this blog that I get the same experience as standing in front of a group to teach for the first time. I vividly remember standing in front of my practicum classroom, the nervous recess beforehand, and the over analysis of my 30 minute lesson. But I also remember the buzz, the deep reflection with my supervisor, and my significant learning that followed. I was hooked. And interestingly, I wanted to immediately share it.

Last night I was listening to a colleague, Judi Chessa,  a grade 5 teacher at Craigflower Elementary, reflect about her day of teaching. At the end of her reflection, I boldly challenged her and asked “And so why wouldn’t you blog about that?”.  It would be the similar motivation to share for her, and I want her to shout her reflections from the hilltops because she has so much to share.  But is she ready?

In many ways, blogging for me has been a similar experience. I have spent time collecting, preparing, reflecting, and observing blogging. But it was not till I have begun to write my reflections out that deeper learning came to life.  Along the way, I wonder how blogging with continue to shape my design, vision, and innovative tool contribution to education in my school district. At this point, I want to get as many other educators experiencing learning through blogging as I do.  I really feel like it is the way forward.  But it is also about meeting educators where they at, with support and design to lower thresholds and generate educator buy in.

Related Articles:

George Couros (@gcouros) –  (2011 )-  Collaborate. Create. Learn.  – http://www.slideshare.net/gcouros/collaborate-create-learn

The Connected Educator – #savmp

When I got the job of an elementary computer lab teacher in Victoria School District 61, my first step was to connect with a few great computer lab teachers in our district. Since the position was part time, I was able to go visit Breafoot Elementary School and talk to Darryl Beck, as well as visit John Weston at Macaulay Elementary during school hours. I asked them all the questions I could think of at the time, observed their classes in action, and took frantic notes. These experiences significantly helped me design and implement how I was going to design the website for the computer lab program at George Jay Elementary. Since then,  I have shared my computer lab program with a number of classroom teachers around the district and computer teachers across the world as a resource, example or template.  (There are now 3 computer lab programs in our district that have used my template to run their own separate computer programs – Northridge Elementary, Craigflower Elementary, and George Jay Elementary ).

My point is that I needed to make connections with other educators to show me the ropes, and to support, challenge, and inspire me. Now in my first week of school, I have reached out to many colleagues within and outside my district to show me the ropes. Connecting with other educators remains at the heart of what I do and it should for all educators as part of their development of their PLN.

#edcamp36

Last week I traveled to Surrey School District 61 #edcamp36 with Dr. Valerie Irvine from Uvic. She has been connecting me with educators, vendors, and leaders in the arena of educational technology integration. I had the pleasure of meeting and asking a million questions of Tia Henrikson (@TiaHenriksen), Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson) and Hugh Macdonald (@hughtheteacher) in regards to school district leadership in our province. I collected resources, blogs, Twitter handles, ideas, systems, and stories from many other educators at the conference. And as you can see, the Professional Development sessions offered a wide range of topic beyond edtech, integration, and technology.

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But the most valuable piece that I took from the day was the connections I made with a wide variety of educators.

As a door prize winner, I selected the book “The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age” because I recognized many of the reviewers that include Alec Couros (@courosa), Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), and Kathy Schrock (@kathyschrock)Prize Table

The book builds on the premise that educators can be better digital connected, but that most don’t know how to get there. The book is filled with resources, blogs, contact, and tools filled with the why and how to use social media quickly and effectively to build their PLN.

My Goal:

An overaching goal for my position as “Coordinator of Educational Technology” is to design, build, implement, and facilitate new ways that teachers and administrators can connect digitally with each other to build their PLN. The use and growth of my PLN has significantly improved my teaching practice so convincingly that I need others to feel the impact of growth as well.  I plan to design blog systems, social media systems, workshops, sessions, and grants under the need for educators to develop their PLN. It has been the brainstorming of my week.

In order to build the appropriate PLN of teachers in our district I am looking at school districts all over the world for systems and design. I still have so many design questions, I am collecting the most relevant examples (on this public page  – https://daveshortreed.com/pln/school-district-61/), and will be translating these systems to the learning culture that exists in School District 61. It is going to be the challenge of my year.

Please feel free to add any ideas or thoughts below.  Much appreciated.

Starting Off Right #savmp

As educators, we are in the industry of building relationships and developing functioning levels of mentorship. I love being involved in mentorship at all levels – mentor, colleague, and mentee– for many reasons. But one of the main reasons is the learning relationships that develop surrounding from these mentoring levels.  Any moment I am able to share, discover, or learn something new with someone else is life giving and exciting. Sharing is at the core of why I am an educator.  So why would I hold anything back? Giving time, energy, and resources is an integral piece for me to develop new relationships and it is a part of my everyday life that reaches far beyond my career as an educator.

Give and Take

As my summer read, I was recommended to read the book “Give and Take” by Adam Grant by a good friend of mine,  Jamie Hubick. It has been the best read for me since Malcolm Gladwell‘s or Seth Godin’s written work, and I strongly recommend it. Grant’s book is about a new approach to success which particularly focusses on the impact of how we interact with others. Many of his ideas have reinforced how I think about relationship building and colleague interaction. Grant’s premise, which is based on compelling true stories, his own research, and others research, is that there are three kinds of people in the world: givers, takers, and matchers. Most interestingly, he shows through stories and research that it is the givers who are the least successful and who are also the most successful. Matchers and takers often end up in the middle. To keep this blog post short, I will leave the term ‘successful’ for now including the meaning, description, and definition.  As an example, Grant tells a story of a student who is a giver and helps all his classmates study for a test at the sacrifice of his own knowledge gain. In another example, Grant tells the story of a writer who continually gives credit, elevates, and encourages everyone around him, remains anonymous and continues to be a driving force for the successful cartoon series The Simpsons.

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Teachers interact with students and colleagues in an extension of their identity, motivations, insecurities, and perceptions. Grant proposes that is it how you frame your interactions that is more important than your talent, hard work, passion, and luck. As he writes in his book:

“Every time we interact with a another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or continue value without worrying about what we receive in return.”  

This statement can identify the difference in either being a giver, taker, or matcher as a measure and insight into the motivation of the person in the interaction. I believe in being a giver. I try to continually offer help and support, resources and workshops, expertise and credit to the people around me. As an educator, I want to be a giver because it seems that the more I share,  the more I learn. And I don’t see this slowing down.

So what does it look like to start off right? Be a giver. But it is much more complex than just ‘being a giver’. It all depends on what, when, how and with who to share. And in the balance, also provide space to be a listener. In order to usefully share with colleagues, mentors, and mentees, take the time to listen, collect insight, and ask a lot of questions.  Listening provides space for needs to be identified. And it is in the identification of needs where the problem solving can begis. But at this point, with my new job, I still need to ask where to park my truck. In many ways, I have a long way to go.

Why I am an educator – #savmp

As part of being involved in #savmp, the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program, I have been asked to reflect on one of two questions: Why do I lead? or Why I am an educator?  I have chosen the second question because at this point, being fresh into a leadership position in my school district, I am still in the design stage of the structure and systems surrounding my position.

Introduction:

The last three years I was a computer lab teacher in two elementary schools in Victoria, BC, Canada. My focus began in establishing a computer lab program and website for K-5 students, where I provided a digital space for students to explore, create, and re-create. My position quickly grew to using iPads in literacy classrooms when the school district purchased them for our school. I began sharing a blog, networking with other teachers with a similar position, and sharing my new findings and resources with colleagues. Just recently, I became an employee at the district as an Educational Technology Co-Ordinator. The job change entails even more learning, researching, connecting, and sharing with colleagues and students. I will be focusing on connecting with colleagues and supporting pedagogy and use of new tools in the classroom. Greater Victoria School District 61 has recognized the needs that many of my colleagues in the district were identifying: the need for a greater support regarding the use of technology in the classroom. Hopefully, with my position, I will be heading straight towards this need while problem solving and growing throughout the whole process to find solutions and systems that work.

Curiosity

Why am I an Educator?

I am an educator first and foremost because I love to learn. I am curious about all things and I love to investigate, problem solve, and creatively search for solutions. I am consistently searching out answers to things that I don’t know, or the history of buildings and cities, or natural world, or why people are the way they are.  Even as I write this blog post, a million questions are flying through my mind about this coming year, this position, this blog, and the new people I get to connect with and meet.

I am an educator also because I love people. I love developing new relationships with people and finding out what makes them tick. I love encouraging others to act in their gifting and to help people.  I love being a mentee, and I love being able to mentor and share with others. There is nothing more rich than a relationship that causes insight, reflection, and discovery of who I am as a person. I see how I am personally involved in my professional life, how there is an overlap, and how there is a disconnect. Ultimately, I see how education is based around learning relationships, mentorship, and professional learning network development.

In order to properly answer the original question, I came to reflect on the core values of my educational philosophy. Although this will always be a work in progress. Here are a few values/goals of my educational philosophy:

–       instill and restore a curiosity of the unknown for students

–       create spaces in school for students to imagine, create, and innovate

–       inspire a motivation to learn, explore and challenge

–       motivate to build relationships and engage in the various mentorship levels

–       support in learning and provide insight into who we are

–       prepare students with skills required in our 21st century world

–       challenge how education is shaped and help innovate new directions for schools

In closing, one particular person I want to acknowledge in this blog post is George Couros. I am so thankful for him and how he has set up the #savmp. I recognize how he is responding to a need in education, and the creative pairing of the need with the new ability to connect and mentor online across the world. Also, of the hundreds of educators involved in the mentor/mentee system #savmp, I am feeling thankful, excited, and nervous to be one of the three mentees that mentor George Couros has chosen.

Any thoughts?

#edcampwest

     Today I was part of a first time event that @_valeriei organized organized called EdCampWest. The event was complete with an amazing website where participants could interact on – before, during, and afterward the event. The website can be found at teachdifferent.ca. If you are unfamiliar with the structure of an EdCamp,  teachdifferent website says this: ” Edcamp (http://edcamp.org/ ) is an organic, democratic, participant-driven professional development model for people interested in education.  There are no keynote presentations, there is no formal pre-set agenda, and participants set the course of the day.  Participants at Edcamp are encouraged to contribute ideas in workshops and are invited to share a short presentation and/or propose discussion questions in a safe and supportive environment.  Workshops are interactive, conversation-driven and not typical lecture style presentations. If you want to help create and sustain a community of learning, plan on attending!”

       Edcamps have been the most effective style of Professional Development I have been a part of yet. It is a new trend that is becoming more and more popular across the continent. Just take a look at the edcamp wiki to see for yourself – http://edcamp.wikispaces.com .As it was the first @edcampwest, my brain has been buzzing around for the last few hours thinking of what I liked, what were my main take aways, and how I can innovate pushing forward.WHAT I LIKED: SO MUCHEdcampwest was unique for a few good reasons: there where three sites- Uvic, SFU, and Online.  This offered so much opportunity for educators to connect face to face and online across the Province. Not only that, but the participants included educators from both K12, Higher Ed, parents, University students, and people even outside of the education sector.  These two aspect broadened the influence, the conversation, and the make up of the day.  And it should only grow from here. It was well designed, well planned, and well funded event.  It was seamless, well publicized and well supported. For the first edcampwest I think the attendance was great.
The online organization, Uvic site was well organized, the volunteers were on it and helped monitor conversation, the timing of the sessions was great, the networking opportunities were plenty. Overall, the event was amazing. And I think there should be an award for best food.

TAKE AWAYS:

Recognize the Need  

As part of being part of innovation in the education system, the first step is recognizing need and then problem solving solutions. I have followed this philosophy tightly for a number of years now. Today, it was clear to me based on comments from colleagues, that there is a lot of need regarding the use and application of technology integration into education. At points it even felt overwhelming. There were some clear thresholds that can come flowing to mind – the late/early adopter teachers, the have/have not students with devices, WIFI issues, BYOD issues,  the differentiated school cultures based on staff, students, and admin, and the overwhelming need for educators to catch the fast pace set by the innovative world around us. Teachers require more support, schools require more funding for tools, and students require more personalized learning.  And all of this requires time, money, effective ProD, and educators to collaborate.

The Networked Teacher

This idea was reinforced once again today. I shared this image from Alec Couros , of his PhD Thesis Illustration on Twitter as a theme for the conference, on the screen during my group that self organized during session 1 called #sd61learn.

   This graphic portrays for me the direction we need to take educators. A networked teacher develops well in an edcamp style ProD setting because there is opportunity to collaborate and network with like minded educators that either share passions for a craft, or critically challenge ideas/pedagogy/practice. Either way, you connect with others, not stuck listening to a lecture, and whispering to your neighbour about plans to collaborate over lunch. The whole day was collaboration, and it was wonderful. We need more of it. It was a sign when as the first session, there was a desire to connect with other educators in #sd61learn, because we have so little time to share together.
INNOVATION AND PROBLEM SOLVING
    I think we are at a big risk of establishing isolated classrooms, teachers, and schools that are all rebuilding the wheel. In the spirit of collaboration I have shared all my resources and many have shared back. And yet, there remains such a problem with teachers sharing with each other. Teachers still close doors and resist change.  Schools all over the province need more than ever to connect to share best practices, pedagogy, policies, and ideas around technology. Otherwise, we run the risk of building our own silos, that are individualized and isolated.

Yet, I have no idea how to tackle this problem. I see how Twitter can open up informal ways of connecting and sharing, but until teachers recognize the advantage to collaboration, until a teacher buys into the philosophy of the 21st century teacher, then there is too much of a threshold for teacher to see Twitter as a viable resource for ProD. Twitter is my best source of ProD, but I do not know how it will be able to kick start collaboration in my own district.

My brain is still buzzing, and jury is still out. I see the needs in School District 61, but the complexities behind teacher support present real challenges. Today I saw these challenges being met head on, in the style of #edcampwest, and I thank all who were involved for giving us a connected starting point beyond our school district,  for moving forward into the next school year.