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?

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#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.

Diversity, Curiosity, and Creativity

It is nice to hear a a confirming message, like the latest from Sir Ken Robinson, regarding the topics that often come up between my colleagues and I. Like Sir Ken Robinson, we are recognizing how education is failing and we want to be part of the solution. It has started with recognizing the needs, creating solutions, and striving for innovation.  
Enjoy some Friday inspiration:

 

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Remembrance Day- Lest we Forget

Here is what we played at our Remembrance Ceremony. We used an iPhone to take pictures of work, emailed them to Windows Photo Story 3 to record voices on the schools PC, and then uploaded the pictures and ‘photostories’ to Animoto. The work was worth the 3 and 1/2 minutes of the contributions of students and the respectful attentive remembering during the ceremony today. A total success. Have a view below.

Guidelines for teachers in exploring iPad Educational Apps

   In my pursuit of integrating technology and iPads in the classroom, I have begun to identify the associated problems. On my previous blog I wrote to the problems involved with providing effective and useful Professional Development.

      Another problem associated with integrating technology into the classrooms is providing useful and effective exploration time for teachers and iPad Apps. When exploring iPad Apps for the classroom, it can be helpful to provide guidelines for what and how to look for quality educational apps, tried and tested, that are connected with curriculum learning outcomes. 

  Here are some guidelines and questions that currently help frame my exploration of iPad educational Apps to be more narrow and purposeful in my App selection:

  1. What does the iTunes App Store say? What are the reviews?
    • are the reviews from teachers- are they positive, tried and tested, what is the reception
  2. What kind of internal motivation does the App provide?
    • this will show how long the App will last in my class, and how rewarding
  3. How many levels of difficulty are contained within the App?
    • to meet the levels of each student in a class, or across different grade levels, personalized learning
  4. Do I think the graphics are engaging?
    • this is a subjective measurement but still matters for level of student engagement and fun, and whether the students will want to use the App or not

       In any case, iPads are built to be a personalized tool that can be designed to meet to needs of each individual user. The use of my class set can and will look differently than a class set of iPads at a different school. Our class set is shared across kindergarten to grade 5 classrooms and I am currently not spending any money on any Apps because of the multi-user licencing issues. (In Canada, there is currently no arrangement for multi purchasing of Apps, and I am waiting before multiplying every paid app X30)

      On top of looking in the iTunes Top Education Apps catalogue bestsellers, I also look at different iPad app blogs. Here is my current shortlist of websites that I have found through Twitter to provide useful feedback and recommendations for iPad educational Apps for K-5.

Also, here is my Educational iPad App catalogue that shows all the Apps that are currently on our K-5 iPads.