Tag Archives: alec couros

To Those That Have Heard Everything


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Steven Shorrock

I was a little surprised to see a tweet from someone talking about how we shouldn’t be talking about “being connected” with people anymore because everyone should just be doing it.  I found it rather interesting as a great teacher would differentiate learning for students and understand that people are are different points in their journey, not simply say, “you should all get this by now”.  It should be no different with educators.  Differentiation is not just for kids, and if we treat people like that when we are in an administrative position, you will lose more people along the journey then you will gain.  I understand the “push” that many people make, and have been guilty of doing this myself, but the support has to be there.

My mentor would say to me when I was frustrated with what I sometimes felt was a slow pace by others was, “not everyone is you”.  Because something makes sense to me, it does not necessarily mean it is common practice for others.

Now I have been in keynotes where I have heard the same message over and over.  So what can I learn from this?  Well as someone who is in an administrator position, and especially someone who does keynotes myself, the “content” is only one part of what is happening in any presentation.  I am a huge basketball fan and decided years ago that I wanted to become a referee.  When that happened, the way I watched games changed.  I wasn’t watching the games as much as I was watching the referees.  My focus had shifted onto something different.

This was made abundantly apparent to me when I recently keynoted a conference in Vancouver and Chris Wejr, a good friend and colleague, noted that although he had seen me speak several times, he was more focused on what I did as opposed to what I said. There are great elements of teaching and leadership in many keynotes/talks/presentations, and if you think that you know all of the content being presented, you need to shift your focus.  You can learn from the great speakers as well as the bad ones.

For example, I remember seeing a keynote at a conference who started off with saying something that was totally lost on the audience and was a great way to show he was smart, but he made the audience feel dumb.  He lost them immediately.  Because of that, I really try to focus on taking something complex and making it simple so that is relatable to people, especially in larger settings.

Now for the great lessons that I have learned from others watching them speak.

My brother Alec, who helped me get into speaking, showed me the power of visuals and media to supplement ideas in a talk and was a great way to engage the audience

Dean Shareski taught me that is important to empower the audience to do something great, not for them to feel lesser in their work.

Jenny Magiera showed me that laughter and learning go hand-in-hand and it is way easier to connect people t with an idea when they are smiling.

Adam Bellow showed me to honour and value the people sitting in front of you and although you can share a similar message, it is important to show that you are focused on that audience.

Will Richardson continuously teaches me to ask tough questions, and to push people to think deeply about their work.

I honestly could not tell you much about their content, because in reality, I feel the people that I have listed talk about many similar things.  That being said, all of those lessons can apply to any position, whether you are a speaker, principal, or teacher, or a combination of any of those.  There is a lot to be learned even when sometimes we act like we have seen this all before.

Leading Innovative Change Series – A New Staff Experience

I wanted to try my hand at writing a series of blog posts on “Leading Innovative Change.” As I am looking at writing a book on the same topic, I thought I would put some ideas out there and hopefully learn from others on these topics. I also want to give these ideas away for free. These posts are for anyone in education, but are mostly focused on school administrators. In all of these, the idea that administrators openly model their learning will only accelerate a culture of innovation and risk-taking.  You can read the previous post here. 

A New Staff Experience

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” — Albert Einstein

Staff meetings were something that I dreaded in my beginning years as a teacher.  We would often spend the majority of our time together discussing rules and policies, and would debate, on end, things that are seemingly significant.  Hours have been spent in schools talking about whether kids should wear hats or not in school.  Really?

I saw the following quote on a slide, and I have shared it many times in talks that I have given to leadership groups.  It seems to resonate with many:

“If I die, I hope it’s during a staff meeting because the transition to death would be so subtle.” Unknown

staff meetingTime is limited, but is this how we want it to be remembered?  How do we make better use of our time?

Epiphany

A few years back, as principal in a school, I had an interesting conversation with my brother (Alec Couros) and Will Richardson.  As we talked about something as simple as bookmarking, he asked why I didn’t use a social bookmarking service such as Diigo.  I simply replied that it was too much of a hassle.  Will simply said, “So you are not into sharing?”

That changed everything.

As I thought about myself as principal of a school who is supposed to be the “instructional leader” in the school,  I was not even sharing with my staff.  I was simply hoarding all of the information that was coming my way.  If you want to be innovative, you have to disrupt your routine.  It was time to do things differently.

I jumped into Twitter and was amazed by the learning that was happening and being shared in such an open network.  The ability to have professional learning at your fingertips every minute of the day, is something that has changed the way I viewed my own practice.  This ability to learn at any time, any place and at any pace is the reality of our world.  As educators, we need to jump in.  Will Richardson acknowledges this belief in how educators need to take advantage of the same opportunities for learning that our kids do every day.

“…And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now.  Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop.  Adults shouldn’t either.”

It is imperative that we move staff to the place that they are able to take ownership of their own learning.

A New Look Staff Experience

We spend a lot of time in schools telling people about how teaching and learning should look.  Yet, how do we create opportunities for them to experience it?  I watch a lot of schools talking about things like blogging initiatives with students, yet their own staff have never blogged.  How do you teach something that you have never done?  More importantly, how do you have people embrace the unknown?  Well, my belief is that you make it known.

I felt it was imperative for our students to use blogging to create digital portfolios of their learning.  It was essential that staff blogged as well.  To create this, I did not simply say, “Thou shalt blog,” but I actually did it myself first.  I spent time doing something that I wanted to trickle down to staff and students.  It is easy to say, “Do this.”  It is more important to say, “Let’s do this together.”

Jumping into blogging and seeing the amazing opportunity that it had created to reflect, collaborate and make learning transparent, we started to give this opportunity to staff.  For example, on one staff Professional Development Day on a Monday, staff were asked to have a blog post written for Friday to share with others.  The catch was that if they did not feel comfortable doing it on their own, we would provide time at the beginning of our staff day for them to have support.  For the staff that were able to do this on their own, they had the opportunity to come in later.  If it is a priority, you will put time and resources into it.  If you do not put those two elements in place, it is not priority. That simple.

So if you want students using Google Apps for Education in the classroom, use it with staff.  If you want learning to be personalized for students, help personalize it for staff.  This experience helps you to not only embrace this change, but to experience what your students will feel in the classroom.

A question that I always ask teachers is, “Could you spend an entire day sitting in your own classroom as a student?”  

The question that I asked myself as a beginning administrator was, “Could I spend the whole day in my staff meeting?”  I tried to create an environment that I would want to be in as a teacher.

Differentiated Learning for Adults

Differentiated instruction is something that we talk about all of the time for students, but it also applies to educators.  We often see frustration from administrators when they feel staff are all over the place, but this is something that we need to embrace.  I am comfortable with staff learning at different paces.  Where I struggle is if they are not open to learning at all.   This does not mean agreeing with everything and not having critical conversations.  Sometimes we have to embrace the “naysayer” as a challenge that helps to make us all better.  It is, however, imperative that they have, as Carol Dweck states, “a growth mindset.”  We have adopted the idea that we need to move staff from their point “A” to their point “B.”

One of the most successful practices that I have partaken in is taking one-on-one time with staff where they have the opportunity to ask questions about things that they are trying to do in their classrooms.  We simply book time in a day, and we have time for them to ask questions to start learning from where they are, as opposed to where someone wants them to be.  The person who is asking the questions is also the one who is often doing the learning. Creating opportunities for individual staff to ask these questions and get personal attention, no matter who it comes from, can often accelerate growth a lot quicker for your entire organization.

Forward 

Innovation often comes out of experience and we have to change the way we do and think about professional development.  I have sat and watched someone speak to a group of teachers and administrators, sitting in rows, for hours on end about “21st Century Learning,” showing bullet points on a presentation.  How much do you think will really change in the classroom if that is what our time together looks like?

Want innovation in the classroom?  Get people to focus on being open to new learning and create different experiences for them.  They are more likely to do the same for their students.

“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.” — Paulo Coelho

“The longer you wait…”

Watching through Twitter,I noticed my brother Alec had shown this video of a girl’s first ski jump in one of his talks, as a way to discuss some of the fears we have about trying new things in our own learning.  As I have now shown this video to others myself, I had noticed that at 1:06, the kid sitting beside had said, “The longer you wait, you’ll be more scared.”

Isn’t this true with so much of the reluctance that we have in learning new things?  When we put it off, it becomes much more daunting and worrisome than had at first glance.  The more others seem to go ahead, the more reluctant many of us become to take part.

As the girl shows us below, sometimes we have to just jump!  Really, it can be a lot of fun :)

Why I try to follow every teacher I can on Twitter


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by stevegarfield

Tony Baldasaro wrote a blog post yesterday that is getting a lot of attention regarding why he “unfollowed 5000 people on Twitter” and how he is going back to starting over.  There is a lot of powerful thoughts in his post on how we actually connect with each other in this space:

As I pressed unfollow 5,000 times, I realized that I didn’t know most of the folks that I was unfollowing.  Actually, it was more than that, I had no clue who these folks were.  They were complete strangers.  I literally had no connection to them, which, in hindsight, should not have been a surprise.  As I said earlier, I didn’t “pay any attention to them” how the hell would I actually know them.  It did hurt to unfollow folks who brought great value to my life, but I knew if I was going to do it, I had to fully commit.

Now I don’t want to say Tony is wrong, and from my several meetings with him I can tell you he is an awesome guy,  but I do want to offer a different perspective.

Several years ago when I first started Twitter, I thought, like many do, that it was probably the dumbest thing ever.  I used it randomly, followed some educators, but mostly celebrities, because I didn’t understand how it could improve me as an educator.  My brother and others asked people to blindly follow me to help me build a network even though I had nothing to contribute in that space.  It was not that I had nothing to contribute, but that I just didn’t really understand how I could do it on a social network.  So people followed me and I offered nothing other than a wise-crack here and there.  Then after a couple of weeks I decided to take a year sabbatical from the space :)

A year later, I was coaxed into trying it again and people blindly followed me knowing how I easily gave up on it in the first place.  I actually decided to give it a legitimate try and quickly I was hooked.  I was amazed at how much I learned from others and how open people were to connecting.  I remember sending out a google form and having people share and reshare a tweet that showed my staff the power of Twitter for professional learning.  I look back at that post and some people that helped have become good friends and some people I still don’t even know.  Yet they were all willing to help some guy from Canada who was trying to help his staff.

I even watch today as my brother asks people from his network to help him get others connected:

Him asking for this help while only following a select few would be hypocritical in my opinion. (He follows over 13,000 people.)

The network that I have connected with on Twitter have helped me through some tough times.  When my first dog Kobe passed away people supported me from wherever they were in the world to make it through a difficult time.  When I was dealing with some personal issues, again people rallied around me and either tweeted, commented on my post, or emailed me directly to offer stories and support.  Some I knew and some were total strangers, but all were willing to help.

Currently, I follow over 8500 people on Twitter and that count will continue to grow.  I rarely look at my “home” column because, as Tony mentioned, it moves way to fast.  I use hashtags and lists to find information I am interested in.  Every once in awhile though, I take a peek at that home column (interestingly enough, that is how I found Tony’s blog post) and find something amazing, or see someone I follow asking for help.  Either I try to help them myself, or “Retweet” them to help them find a connection.  If I didn’t follow them, I wouldn’t be able to do that.  I do this because so many people have done this for me.  Although it is my “Personal Learning Network” it is not just about what I take from it, but also what I can give, not only in information, but in facilitating connections and offering some help.  I am, as all educators are, extremely busy, but when I can help, I try to do my best.  We are all teachers and we all should focus on what is best for kids.

I look back at when I started and if people look at what I had actually contributed, no one would have followed me.  I think they looked at what I could contribute in the future.  I remember this summer when someone with 15 followers and 26 tweets, helped me out a great deal.  If I used Tony’s way, this would have not happened.

Now some of you may be reading this that I am not following on Twitter and if that is true, I apologize.  I don’t use a “follow back” function because I do limit my network to mostly teachers (yes, I do follow Justin Bieber), and do not really care to connect with companies.  I also don’t check who unfollows me because I don’t really know how that would be helpful to me in any way. I do follow people that don’t follow me because I can still learn from them. The only reason I wouldn’t follow someone is because I find them offensive.  I try to look at who follows me when I have an opportunity, and follow them back if they are an educator because I know that I can probably learn something from them.  But unfortunately, sometimes I miss people and when it is brought to my attention I am often quite embarrassed.  Allie Holland, Jimmy Casas, and Diana Williams are all people that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t following, yet I have learned a ton from them in a short time and actually would consider them friends now.

Although there are some tweeters that I look at daily, Tony could have done what he was talking about by simply creating a list of his favourite tweeters and inserting that column into Tweetdeck.  It really is that easy.

I have learned over and over again, that I have no idea who I can help, who can help me, and who I can be the connector for between two separate parties, so I do my best to follow as many teachers as possible.  You do not have to be a prolific “Tweeter” to help me become a better educator although your sharing does help.  A ton of people trusted that they could learn from something from me a long time ago when I had contributed very little, so I am going to continue to do the same.

You Should Read… (July 8, 2012)

As I sit in the Vancouver Airport waiting for a flight to Sydney, I thought that I would continue to share some of the things that I am reading over the summer.  I think it is nice to keep up with different articles but I am enjoying looking into some different blogs.  It is nice however to have a break and just relax.  I think over summer you can have both (or winter which I will be experiencing in about 16 hours).

Here are some posts/things I saw this last week:

1.  Less Confident People Are More Successful – A friend set me onto the Harvard Business Review and I have read some great articles already but was really interested in this article.  I was actually kind of surprised at the idea that confident people would struggle.  Here is one point that I struggled with:

Lower self-confidence makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical:Most people get trapped in their optimistic biases, so they tend to listen to positive feedback and ignore negative feedback. Although this may help them come across as confident to others, in any area of competence (e.g., education, business, sports or performing arts) achievement is 10% performance and 90% preparation. Thus, the more aware you are of your soft spots and weaknesses, the better prepared you will be.

What I struggled with here is that it would seem confident people would be more willing to accept criticism and move forward with it than someone who lacks it.  A confident person would be able to take that feedback and realize it is not personal, but an effort to make some better.  Am I way off here?  What are your thoughts?

2.  Letters to a first year teacher (Compilation) – This is just a cool little resource that has a lot of inspiring words for both new and experienced teachers.  Something that is definitely worth looking at as many prepare for their next school year.

3.  The Evolution of a LectureJeff Utecht, who has some amazing ideas and does some very cool things with his students, talked about what many still know which is that the lecture still has a place in our schools.  Just as many complain about PowerPoint presentations, the reality is, if used properly, that type of lecture can still be useful.  The reality of it is that if done with some interactivity, the lecture can be a quite informative piece of the classroom:

There are so many ways to engage your audience when giving a lecture that it should be just what we expect from a lecture in today’s digitally connected world.

We also know more about the brain then ever before and know the brain needs processing time, or think time about every 10 minutes. Which is why whenever I’m giving a talk, about every 10 minutes I give the audience a 3 minute talk and process time. This also allows me to look at notes, chat rooms, tweets, or whatever system I have set up and reflect on how the lecture is going, see where I need to make changes and adapt to the audience. Again TED Talks are so good because they are no longer than 18 minutes and most are much shorter than that. Giving us that perfect chunk of knowledge that we can handle, process, and make meaning of.

Jeff offers some great suggestions of how you can improve the lecture using technology and engaging students in a different way.  Definitely take a look at the article.

Alec Couros (who actually blogged twice this week!) shared this really powerful image of a “life in 3 pictures”.  It is emotional to say the least:

I also thought this video of someone conducting an interview with themselves from 20 years ago was a pretty cool highlight this week:

My flight is boarding and I am off to Sydney!  Have a great week!

21st Century PLNs for School Leaders


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by krossbow

I have to admit that I was pretty excited to write my first post for the Edutopia group that has a great list of educators sharing some of their best practices.  I wanted to share the piece in my own learning space, but you can see the original article posted on the Edutopia site.

As many school administrators are enjoying their summer break, we all tend to think of ways that we can make our school better in the upcoming year. Often, I point school principals and district leaders to a powerful post by Will Richardson that helps us point the finger right at ourselves when we are looking to push our school ahead. Richardson states:

“Meaningful change ain’t gonna happen for our kids if we’re not willing to invest in it for ourselves first. At the heart, it’s not about schools . . . it’s about us.”

With that being said, I have spent the last few years focusing a great deal on my work as an instructional leader within my role as school-based principal, and now as division principal. Although building relationships is the most important thing that we can do in our schools, in my opinion being an instructional leader is a close second.

With all of the new technologies that are surrounding us, and to the many school administrators that are not feeling comfortable with Twitter, Facebook, etc., I would like to suggest three ways (as opposed to the typical round number of 10) that you can focus on your own professional development over the summer. Less is oftentimes more in the digital world as we move from simply being “literate” to “fluent” in this language.

So for the administrator new to the world of social media and all of the possibilities that it holds for developing instructional leadership, here are three ways that I would suggest starting to learn this summer

1) Start a Twitter Account

Twitter is not just about “what I had for breakfast” (although I did have a delicious omelette at my favourite breakfast place this morning). There are a ton of educators on Twitter that are connecting and learning from one another, while building some global relationships that will be invaluable to the future of their own professional development, as well as their schools. Two years ago, it was something that I swore to stay away from, but in those short two years, Twitter has made more of an impact on my learning than any professional development opportunity I have ever been a part of, and dare I say, much more than my undergraduate and graduate work. The learning is real, the ideas are powerful yet simple, and the connections to resources and people are infinite.

To start, simply go to Twitter and create an account. Once there, you can follow the people on this list of educators, which will immediately start filling your column with great ideas and resources. If you are lost, you can often ask questions from Twitter sherpas like Dean Shareski or Alec Couros, two guys always willing to help. You are also welcome to connect with me, and I would be more than willing to help guide you in this world that isn’t as confusing as it may seem. You can also use the Twitter Search tool and look at tweets from school administrators, or on the topic of educational leadership through the #cpchat hashtag.

If you are not sure what you want to put out there, I wrote this post, What should a networked educational leader tweet about?, to help school leaders share in a way that will benefit their own learning. Once you start to create your own Personal Learning Network (PLN), you may also want to look at creating a Twitter account for your school.

There are a ton of benefits from joining Twitter, but until you immerse yourself in using it, you will not be able to share them with those you serve.

“Go the way, know the way, show the way.” (John C. Maxwell)

2) Read Blogs

Now that you have started connecting and learning using Twitter, you will probably have figured out that most content worth sharing goes way past 140 characters. With that being said, many school administrators are looking for content specific to their position, especially since the position of school principal can be quite isolating.

A great blog to start at is the Connected Principals site, where a ton of school- and division-based administrators share some of their best work within their schools. Although this site does have some great ideas, there are many other administrator blogs out there which may be of interest to you. Edudemic does an excellent piece on 20 Educator Administrator Blogs, which will lead you to some great writing of administrators that continuously share those ideas.

If you are using Google Reader (which you have if you have a gmail account), you can easily subscribe to a bundle I have created that will update you on blogs as authors post them, which will save you from constantly checking the site for updates. (Contact me for details.) In general, there are a lot of other good educator blogs as well, which share some great ideas for your school.

There is some great information out there and hopefully this will have helped you on the right path.

3) Write a Blog

Now that you have had access to some beneficial learning through Twitter and blogging, how will you share this with your staff and the world? Many leaders find that sharing links through email is a great way to start aggregating resources for staff, but many others are annoyed by all these messages. However, with these media opening up the world, it is important that, as school leaders, we share our learning back.

Dean Shareski shared the idea that blogging makes better teachers, so it is logical that school administrators do the same:

“There’s a natural transparency that emerges. The teachers who blog as professionals in this reflective manner in my district invite anyone to look into their classrooms and you can get a picture of what happens on a daily basis. This goes a long way in addressing accountability concerns.”

So where would one even start?

Although there are plenty of blogging platforms out there (EdublogsBloggerTumblr, etc.), I would suggest using WordPress. It is free, has no advertisements and is simple to use. There is also a ton of support.

Reading other blogs, you may develop some ideas of what you want to write about, but if you are stuck, I started You Should Read, a weekly blog post that shares some great online articles that I’ve discovered. This is an easy way to start sharing some of the brilliant stuff you are reading, an easy way to start writing, and an opportunity to spark discussion with your staff and the global community. The best leaders not only can speak, but also have the ability to be good listeners. Blogging becomes a way to listen to your readers and learn from them while sharing your own knowledge.

Conclusion

Many look at tweeting and blogging as technocentric or even narcissistic, yet I look at them as ways of learning and connecting. There are so many real educators out there who want to get better at what they do so that they can always do what is best for kids. By opening up your own learning to the world, you will be surprised not only how your knowledge elevates, but how your passion for teaching and learning will benefit as well. Two years ago, a group of generous people spent time with me to help me learn about this awesome network, and I am glad to be doing the same for others now. Hopefully this will give you a good start.

It Changes Everything

Below is a video that I watched the other day (definitely a good watch) of David Jakes and David Warlick talking about learning and technology.  There was a quote by David Warlick that has been sitting in my head from the video for the last few days.  When asked, can a teacher be good without technology, he replies:

“…yes, but is that teacher doing their job? No.”

I also saw a discussion today regarding iPads versus Netbooks in the classroom, where my brother (seen here in his “Numa Numa” outfit) suggested that a certain level of tech savvy is a good thing for teachers (and students) to have.

I agree with both the statements suggested although I know there is some challenge for some to use technology in schools.  It is maybe not something they are passionate about, but it is something that our students need to have the skills in.  It is not only the ability to be able to use technology, but, in my opinion more importantly, the ability to sit down with something and problem solve.

Would we ever settle for a student saying working on any problem, “I don’t get this so I give up”?  Never.  Nor should we model that for our kids.

Take the time to watch the video below…

Tell More Stories

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by umjanedoan

Reading a USA Today article on social media in schools followed by Eric Sheninger’s post,  I was not surprised by reading some of the comments Eric listed on his post such as this:

More evidence of the “dumbing-down” of society. Stupid media like USA To-shmay buying into it, of course. Put the cell phones and calculators aways, stay off the waste-o-time websites and GET TO LEARNIN’!

The idea of appealing to the general public on school reform through the media is extremely tough, especially when reporters have narrow views of education, character limits, and are probably wanting a little controversy to push the envelope and draw an audience.  Something similar happened when Chris Wejr and I were discussed in an article regarding award ceremonies.  I thought that this was an interesting response on that article:

We already pamper our kids too much.  Few of them even do chores around the house or learn to cook and do their laundry.  They are chauffeured everywhere and constantly praised for their burps and farts.

Although our stance was not in any way about pampering kids (both Chris and I have extremely high standards for what we expect from students), based on the article and limited amount of information, it could have been easily misconstrued.

We all have heard arguments from those that are not educators such as, “It was like that when I was in school and I turned out just fine.”  It is really easy to assume that when we as educators blog, that the majority of our readers agree with us, yet we often forget that the majority of our readers are educators.  This would not be the case for a publication like USA Today though.

For example, the quote by Chris Lehmann in the USA Today article, “Being literate in 2011 means being digitally literate”, probably means little to the many.  The thought of literacy to most is being able to read and write.  Although reading and writing are the cornerstone of literacy, to many educators there is more to it.

Now I am not saying that we should not put ourselves out there and push for improvements to the education system (although in Canada I would say that there are a lot of things that are right as well).  It is imperative that we continue to be serious about getting education into the conversation and we can see that many educators out there are getting frustrated with the feeling that we are always taking steps backwards in the area of public relations.  The conversation and theory though is not enough.  There are many schools out there that are doing amazing things with their learning and are sharing it with the world.  Using terms like “collaboration” may be cool, but what does it mean in a school setting?  More importantly, what does it look like in action?

Last night working with my brother on a Google Doc (his favourite thing ever), he marvelled at how amazing and easy it was to just work together either in synchronous or asynchronous time.  Now does that story move education forward?  Probably not, but showing a simple video that applies to both business and education about Google Docs might help others see how what we are doing in school is really connecting to what a lot of the business world is doing, or sometimes even, we are a step ahead.  How do we do this though?

Watching stories like Chris Kennedy’s Ted Talk on how students used technology to become journalists (not like journalists but actual journalists) for the Vancouver Olympics was an absolutely amazing way to show how students were not only engaged, but doing very meaningful work.  Watch any of the PS22 Chorus videos (awesome version of “Rolling in the Deep” here)  with anyone and see the emotion these young students invoke in anyone, whether they are educators or not.  No one would have heard of them if their teacher did not share the work of these amazing kids.

This does not only show what we are doing in technology, but how we are changing the way we think of leadership.  Yesterday on Connected Principals, Bo Adams shared an email that he sent to staff to truly collaborate and get their feedback.  He could have simply talked about it, but he actually posted the email.  It is examples like this, that others take and build upon, that will first and foremost help schools move forward, and then the “public” will see how many educators are really getting it right for the sake of our students, not just looking for an easy way to do things.

I hate to say it, but data and statistics are boring.  It definitely has a purpose in moving our schools forward but connecting it with the  stories and examples that are shared is what will push things forward.  Chip Heath discusses this in “Made to Stick“:

This is the most important thing to remember about using statistics effectively. Statistics are rarely meaningful in and of themselves. Statistics will, and should, almost always be used to illustrate a relationship. It’s more important for people to remember the relationship than the number. (Heath, 2007)

This post is not a slight in any way to Eric, but more to discuss the frustration that many educators are feeling right now with bad press and public backlash.  Eric has shared some amazing examples of learning, such as this project his students did regarding the Holocaust:

Technology now allows the students and staff at NMHS to share in the authentic learning experiences taking place in Europe (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic). Last year, we launched a blog where the students in Europe chronicled and reflected on essential questions, focusing on a dark time in human history. Meanwhile, students and staff back on the campus of NMHS are using the blog as a catalyst for a variety of other learning experiences. Some teachers even have their students respond to the posts each day…Skype has also brought a whole new element to the program. Prior to the trip, students Skyped numerous times with their guide who resides in Israel. This year we even Skyped in a Holocaust survivor to our elective course on the topic.

That is not only engaged learning, but it is learning that is better and different from the way I could have done it when I was in school. We want the statement to move from, ‘That’s how it was when I was a student’ to, ‘I wish I would have done that when I was in school!’

As long as educators keep doing amazing things and sharing those stories of authentic and deep learning, schools, and ultimately public perception, will continue to get better.

New Teacher Presentation

I will be working with a class at the University of Regina tomorrow and I thought I would share my slides with everyone. This presentation is based on the post, “What Makes A Master Teacher“, while also discussing an educator’s digital footprint.  I hope this can be of some help to anyone working with new teachers.

Canadian Educator Conference (May 2012)


cc licensed flickr photo shared by alexindigo

In January 2011, my eyes were opened to an awesome way to share conversation and learning when I attended Educon in Philadelphia.  Through my experience of connecting and collaborating using social media, these connections were made extremely strong through face-to-face connections that were made.  The conversations were also deepened on what we were doing in education.  This was not the “stand and deliver” type conference that I have attended in the past.  Educon was something different.

Through one of my conversations with Dean Shareski and Alec “Google Doc” Couros, we wondered why do we not have something like this with a Canada wide focus?  Many of the conversations that happened at Educon often turned to things that really didn’t apply to our situation in Canada (No Child Left Behind, etc.). Through my conversations with Alec, Dean, and others, we talked about some essentials:

  • Students and parents were involved.
  • It was held in a school.
  • It was participant driven.
  • It was affordable and focused on treating educators awesome!
  • It was in a large center that had a major airport so it would be easy for participants to get there.
  • It shares innovative practices that we can take back into our schools.
  • It is not focused solely on any particular grade set (good teaching is good teaching) and was open to all educators.
  • It would change locations yearly.

Through talks with Neil Stephenson, his school (Calgary Science School) has graciously offered to host this conference in May 2012 (May 25-27).  As this is the first one and we want to keep it in a school, there would be room for about 300 participants.

As we REALLY want this to be participant driven, I would love some ideas from everyone on the following:

  • What would be a good name for this conference?
  • What are some things that would be essential to make this truly a Canadian conference? (To all of my international friends, you are more than welcome to join us!)
  • Any other questions?

Also, if you are interested in joining us, please take time to fill out this short form.

P.S. Thanks to Chris Lehmann and SLA for the inspiration.

We would love to hear your thoughts!