New Tricks

cc licensed flickr photo shared by JB London

I am honoured to have another one of my teachers, Norm Usiskin, guest post on my blog today.  Norm is a shining example of how you can be leader from any position in a school, and that learning is continuous as educators.  He inspires me daily by his work with kids and staff.

I was fortunate this past week to attend an inservice at my school intended for a parent audience on the subject of “Connecting and Sharing – Building Learning Communities Using Web 2.0”. This workshop was delivered by my principal, George Couros and one of my colleagues, Lesley Cameron to approximately 15 parents from our school community.

As I listened and watched as the parents were given an overview of some of the current thinking on educational reform and the initiatives involving technology that we have undertaken here at Forest Green School in Stony Plain, Alberta, I couldn’t help but sense a feeling of apprehension and uncertainty amongst some of the parents. This caused me to reflect on my own thoughts and feelings when I was presented with an opportunity at the end of the last school year that would see my teaching assignment change fairly drastically.

You see, George came to me and asked me if I would consider taking on the challenge of being a Technology Integration Facilitator at our school. No big deal I can hear some of you saying. Possibly true, but let me give you some insight into who I am. I am currently in my 27th year of teaching which to most of us makes me an “old dog”. New tricks aren’t supposed to come all that easily for people like me – and I am the first to admit that I have always liked using technology, but my knowledge of using it effectively and in ways that meet the needs of the students we face today was, at best, limited. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about my ability to fulfill this role that I knew came with high expectations from “the boss”!

Fortunately, I have always enjoyed learning new things, and I have always enjoyed collaborating with colleagues so once the year started and we had mapped out a plan for rolling out some of the initiatives we were wanting to introduce to our teachers and students (which included providing email addresses for students in grades 3 – 6, establishing blog sites for students in grades 3 – 6, introduction of the use of Google docs, a 1:1 laptop initiative in the grade 5 and 6 classes), that while overwhelmed at times by all of the minutiae of setting things up, the work with the teachers and students was fun, challenging, and invigorating. The prospect of helping our students into the world of Web 2.0 tools (not to mention the teachers) continues to make more and more sense as we progress through this year.

I have observed our students being very engaged by the opportunities to Skype in with teachers and students from around the world, to receive comments on blog posts from people both within and outside of our school community, and having everyday, all day access to information and tools that assist them in their studies. And on top of all of that, I have benefited and learned from great mentorship from George and great interaction from my colleagues and the students in our school.

I guess I am living proof that old dogs can learn new tricks – and these tricks are going to be of benefit to me and my students as I continue to travel this path. Can’t wait to see what might be around the corner!



  1. Great post Norm, you really are inspiring to everyone to always be learning and always be growing. The vision you and the staff of Forest Green have for your school and for the future of each and every student is amazing. I look forward to interacting with your students and hearing all of their stories as they transition in to our building in the coming years. I look forward to more posts Norm!

  2. Way to go, Norm! You really are a role model for other educators as you jump in and get involved. Your colleagues, parents, community and students are lucky to have you :-)

  3. Great post, Norm! Thanks for sharing! You are an inspiration to all teachers because you model the importance of teacher development and the need to continue learning everyday. Thank you for all of your hard work and patience, especially with my group whose passwords never seem to be liked! I appreciate your help, effort, and time with our projects! Does this mean we'll be reading your own blog soon too??!!

  4. Thanks everyone. I feel fortunate to work where I do and with whom I do! I can't promise you'll see me with my own personal blog soon – but never say never!

  5. Way to go Norm!!! I would love to pick yours and George's brains about technology info. Sessions for parents as my LC6 team members and I are embarking on effectively utilizing technology like iPod Touches and Nintdndi DS' into our classrooms. We will need all the help and support we can get!!

  6. Here's the thing, Norm: You're not really having to learn any new tricks, right?

    After all, the skills that are important for your students to learn—-connecting with information and ideas, expressing their thoughts persuasively, giving and receiving feedback—-aren't new at all! I'll bet that you've been doing those things for your entire career.

    You're just trying to show teachers how digital tools can make those same practices and behaviors more efficient and effective. These "changes" everyone is talking about are really more about evolution than they are about revolution.

    That's comforting, isn't it?

    I try to remind myself—and the digitally hesitant teachers that I work with—that old dogs have already mastered the most important tricks. Our knowledge and skill is irreplaceable.

    Anyway…rock right on,

  7. Thanks, Bill. Can't say that I have considered things with that perspective but what you say makes perfect sense.

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