30 Comments

  1. George, I have really enjoyed reading about the changes that you're making for next year. I think that what you're doing is amazing, and I think that this will provide a great working and learning environment for your staff and students.

    In answer to your questions, I think that I would replace writing in a standard note journal with writing in a blog. When my Grade 1 students started blogging last year, their journal entries were replaced with blog posts. This doesn't mean that they never wrote with a pencil and paper because they did, but this blogging activity provided a much more meaningful writing opportunity for them. Their writing skills improved thanks to blogging, and I saw a difference in what they could do with a pencil and paper after having these rich writing experiences online. I think that your teachers will see this too. If they still want to continue with keeping a journal though, what about taking photographs of the journal entries and uploading them to the blogs? I did this a couple of times with my students, and they loved how it gave them a much larger audience for their written work.

    As for your agenda question, I may be alone in this one, but I would replace a Google Calendar with an agenda book. I've wanted to do something like this for the past couple of years, and maybe one day, I'll be brave enough to make this change too. I know that there's value in agenda writing (such a being responsible for bringing the agenda home and learning how to write the homework in the correct place), but I always feel as though I could make better use of this agenda time doing other reading or writing activities. At the beginning of the year, it takes a long time for students to write in their agendas, and most of the time, I find them not signed anyway. I'm not sure what your plan is for the Google Calendar, but if it was up to me, I would let students help add events to the calendar and take responsibility for sharing homework this way.

    I'm very interested in reading the comments from others too and then seeing what you do. Good luck with this amazing initiative for next year! I think it will be an incredible experience for everyone!

    Aviva

    • George

      I am trying to model everything on our website for staff and students and have embedded a google calendar with events. I have given everyone on staff open access to add events to the calendar (instead of emailing them to the secretary who opens them). This will hopefully ensure that we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date on how to use these things effectively while they are learning the tool.

      Here is a copy of the calendar:

      http://forestgreenschool.ca/calendar

    • George

      …so you know..you can scroll through the events and click on the items to see detailed descriptions. The cool thing is that I have it synced with my phone and I think that parents are able to do this as well 🙂

      • This is awesome, George! I just love Google Calendar. It would be wonderful if parents could sync it to their phones too. This would really help them keep track of all of the school events.

        Thanks for sharing the link with me!

        Aviva

  2. It's impressive that your entire school is moving (shifting!) to a true integration of technology. It sounds like such an inviting atmosphere – teachers and students learning about these tools and sites together. I appreciate the commonality of tools being used. In my school some teachers are using lots of different tools, and some are using NO technology – but there is no one tool that students and parents can count on seeing across classrooms and grade levels. Just as we seek to use common language in curriculum and classroom management, we need to develop a common language and adopt some common tools for technology. I have had the issue with some parents expressing reluctance to read online newsletters. At this point I have a blog and a class Twitter account, but I also send copies of newsletters to families. I will be using your research regarding transferring a blog into a newsletter! Thank you for sharing your hard work. Do you intend to schedule any parent training to help parents become more comfortable with this shift? I know that I get so excited by it all, and I just assume that parents will realize the positive impact technology will have on their child's learning, but I have to make myself take a step back and remember that most parents are not digital natives. Parents might have fears related to their personal learning (my kid is going to pass me up and I won't know what he's talking about) or their child's learning (will my child be safe in this new technology filled world?!) I look forward to reading about your school's ongoing shift!

    • George

      Julie…parent learning is a component of our plan. I can not make all parents "come" to sessions, but I am hoping that the parents that do come will spread their knowledge of what they are doing with others. I am hoping that they ask questions. Lifelong learning should be done by anyone that has/works with a child and I think that this give parents a chance to grow with their kids. I have to do my best to provide them learning opportunities throughout the year. There are a ton of great way to share information with parents. I also think that through the connection our bonds with the parents will grow exponentially. I already have parents that have joined twitter and are blogging since we have started our shift at the school. It has been amazing! Thanks for your comments 🙂

  3. Greta Sandler

    Wow George! This is absolutely amazing! This shift will definitely lead to meaningful learning. This is what really matters.

    To be honest, I don't have much experience on this. I liked what Aviva said about blogging.

    My students started blogging one week ago, and I'm amazed by what they've been doing. They've been blogging not only from school but also from their homes, commenting on their classmates' posts and sharing their stories with people all over the world. I am sure this will help them improve their writing skills. Writing has become meaningful and exciting for them!

    Regarding the agenda question, I'm not very familiar with that. I'll read what other people have to say about it and learn from them.

    I loved what you said: "Is there really a better way to show students the importance of lifelong learning than doing it alongside them?" There's isn't a better way. If we want our students to be life long learners, we should be life long learners ourselves. You are a role model to your staff and students. Your students and staff are so lucky to have you.

    • George

      Thanks for your comment Greta…I appreciate your kind words. Believe me, my kids inspire me to push my thinking and learning a great deal. It is only fair that I try to provide them the opportunities for them to do that themselves 🙂

  4. I have my students blogging this year instead of writing in a journal, and it's completely new to me AND the students. I'm the only one in my entire school (but not the district, thank goodness) using blogs so I'm kind of out in the night alone. The kids are super-excited about it though, which makes all the headaches worth it. I've already told my kids they're my guinea pigs this year (which cracks them up), and that I really need their input on what's working and what's not. Guess we'll see.

    Looking forward to reading more of your adventures with Google and blogs!

    • George

      I appreciate that you talk about the "headaches". I think this is one of the strengths of our program. Since it is meant to go long past this year, it will definitely be something that becomes second nature. Also, since teachers are using the same platform with the blogs, we are definitely building leadership capacity within our school. This will help to have several experts in the area as opposed to the "lone ranger" in the school. Sometimes though, the lone ranger is needed to clear the path for others and I see that you are doing that 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

  5. Becky Ellis

    Wow! This is so 21st century I cannot stand it! First of all, I appreciate your verbage about shifting the way you do things. While things are being done differently, I don't see that it is increasing the work load. That is a definite plus from a teacher point of view.

    You specifically asked about writing in journals vs. writing in a blog. I think that a great deal of positives have come from students authentically writing to an audience of more than one (the teacher). I further appreciate your plan to turn their blog into an eportfolio.

    Students will be able learn many things including how to practice digital citizenship, the value of reflection in learning, and considering one's audience. I also believe it will increase parent communication. I will also tell you that it is physically easier to grade by clicking on the computer than to open those journals, mark them by pen, and THEN enter a score into their gradebook.

    The second point you asked was whether or not to use a traditional agenda or to use Google calendar. Hands down I would have to say Google Calendar. I think it is one of the BEST tools Google has to offer. Parents can have access to their students calendar and be aware of how they can assist their student at home. I feel this is a relevant skill and one that will actually help them in a future setting. Best of all, it is awfully hard to loose Google Calendar!

    Great SHIFT! I look forward to your updates!

    • George

      I appreciate your comments as it shows me a teacher that has put these things into action and how it has been successful. This will definitely help with our implementation 🙂

      Thanks so much for your comments and reading!

  6. I would love to teach at your school! I think we should be moving away from paper altogether! (See @teachpaperless) I have it as a goal to be paperless in 5 years. That might be too long. I hope you continue to write about this experience. I am very intersted to see how it works.

    blessings.

    • George

      Thanks Scott! I am curious to see how you work towards that. I saw that you recently just signed up your students for twitter. Due to the age limitations in our school, we would not be able to do that, but I appreciate how progressive your approach is that. We definitely will be saving a considerable amount of money this year in the area of paper use and putting it to better use. Not to mention the impact it will have on improving our environment.

      Thanks for your comment!

  7. Melody_ugdsb

    You have wonderful things happening at your school, George. You always make me think and I love that! Thanks!

    • George

      Thanks Melody! We are really excited about the year…our next hurdle is more access for everyone. Once we get that, we will really move forward 🙂 Thanks for your comment

  8. George, what an amazing project (and undertaking). You are doing a lot of work for your students and faculty. I am sure it will have long term rewards for them (even if they don't realize it now!) One additional piece could be places for faculty to collaborate, communicate, form communities of practice, and even conduct meetings online.

    Our company, Learning Objects, developed a Social Learning Platform (Campus Pack) designed for education; we put all the pieces together so you don't have to :-). http://learningobjects.com/

    I am very interested to see how your project progresses throughout the year. I'll be following along on your blog! I'd love to talk to you about a pilot project if your interested. @nancyrubin

    • George

      I have been thinking about that…we have opportunities for some asynchronous technologies with this program, but not sure how well it will work. The nice thing about google applications is that when you collaborate on them, you will have the opportunity to chat and discuss on the work as you create it. This is a great component of google apps.

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. Carrie

    George,

    Kudos for stepping outside the norm and perhaps, even your own comfort level. With that in mind, it sounds like you are conscious of the fact that you may be stepping outside of the norm for your parents too. This isn't a bad thing but, as suggested by others, may require you to provide information and training to parents to bring them up to speed. I'd use the happy meal approach. If the kids are happy doing it, let them mentor the parents while you facilitate this 21st century learning.

    Writing should be authentic. Some argue that it should be purposeful, but we need it to also be pleasurable and engaging. Pencil and paper will not appeal to all and I suspect neither will blogging and google docs. Offering a diversity of choices to meet multiple intelligences will allow you to meet most of your learners, if not all.

    Good luck!

    Carrie

    • George

      I agree Carrie…we need to open up all different types of opportunities for kids, and that includes technology. Often we say that but do not offer kids the opportunities to blog. The most important aspect of this whole project is that students will have the chance to share and collaborate with each other which is extremely beneficial to growth. Just responding to this comment is one thing that we need kids to be able to do.

      You are right about the parent piece though. I plan on working with parents every step of the way and see this as one of my roles as a principal. Not only will I be sharing information with them on our blog, but I will be able to do sessions with them on parent nights. I believe that if the school works together as a community, this will create the best opportunities for our kids.

      Thanks for your comment…it is really appreciated 🙂

  10. Hi George,

    I have started using blogs with my fourth graders this year. Since I teach them math and social studies, I would like them to use their blogs as a reflective journal. I was amazed when the first blogs were published and I tweeted asking for comments and got over 100 responses. The kids were thrilled to see as many as 20 comments on their blogs. Now that is writing taken to a whole new level.

    As far as agendas go, our school provides one for each students and they are responsible for writing their homework assignments in them. Parents sometimes will write a note to the teacher in the agenda, but often the children are not trained properly at the beginning of the school year on how to use them. I spend time at the beginning of the year training my students on how to fill them in. I do an agenda check daily for the first couple of weeks and then do spot checks unannounced. My students understand that keeping them updated is an important skill.

    We receive a monthly paper calendar from our administration and I have to transfer everything into my Google calendar(which I sync to my iPhone too). I am going to suggest that we shift to using Google calendars and will volunteer to train our staff on how to use them. I have my class Google calendar embedded in my wiki. Parents love that they can be kept informed of all the events and assignments this way.

    Good luck with all your innovations. I think your teachers will love the changes.

  11. Michae Josefowicz

    You might want to consider some staff development on the process of editing. My experience is that blog writing gets to writing expertise much faster if teachers can easily make editorial type suggestions to student's blog writing.

    What I have seen many times is that teachers tend to focus on "copy editing" in the sense of spelling and grammar. Unfortunately that is precisely what discourages a continued focus on crafting the words.

    If on the other hand the teacher takes the point of view of the interested reader, it usually leads to more and more precise writing. The trick is students – like many of us – love to write. But like many of us they hate to revise.

    Hope this is helpful.

  12. Great post George. I'm most intrigued by the "teachers conversing in meaningful ways with parents" aspect, which is really about a new level of parent engagement.

    In terms of shift – it might be a much needed paradigm shift.

    Technology can certainly unlock doors. But do you see other factors, perhaps maybe culture or mindset (on both sides of the school house doors) as being barriers?

  13. Kelly

    I think blogging can replace the journals kids have, but I still let those students that need paper and pencil to map their writing out first before we publish. I think it is important we see the needs of the students and assist them so they can be successful bloggers. I did replace my reading response journals with a blog that we can all respond to a certain questions about the books and writing we do in our classroom. The key for me is access. We do not have a lot of computer time. I would love to do away with a lot of the things we do on paper, but like I said the kids only go to the computer lab two times a week.

    I love this post because it illustrates why we need to change and how we can "shift" without making more work for teachers. I also think the need to have computer access for all students is a given in this post. Using technology has helped me work smarter and not harder…I think that is an important message to send to those teachers that may be nervous about shifting to this type of interaction with their students and parents. I commend you for being such a supportive and cutting edge leader…what a great atmosphere to be in!

  14. Congratulations on spearheading this new direction!

    It's so important for kids to learn and (keep re-learning) online collaborative skills and tools.

    You are truly opening doors for many new possibilities for your students, your school and your community!

    • George

      Hey Geoffery! The best part of this project is that I can't even imagine an endpoint. It should actually just be continuous past school. Hopefully this inspires lifelong learning in our school!

  15. Thanks for your advice Diana. I am very near recovery but there are still days when it gets me, if I’m tired etc and I still believe I could do this thing but most of the time I just say as if’ and can see it in a more rational way. Its interesting to see that you suffered for 35 years, I’m so glad you are recovered! I have suffered for about 16 years and really thought I had had it too long to recover fully as the habi was ingrained. Thanks again Diana

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