13

Goal One: To Read More Children’s Books

One way we promote a love of reading at Kent School.

In the past year, the staff of Kent School have had some inspiring conversations and professional learning opportunities (stemmed from professional autonomy and inquiry) around helping students to develop a love of reading based on Steven Layne’s book “Igniting a Passion For Reading”.  The book is jam-packed with strategies that are easy to implement as well as thoughts that cause deeper reflection on HOW and WHY we teach reading.

One of the pieces that he discusses is that if we want students to continue to enjoy reading, we have to read the books they enjoy.  Although I do not currently teach in a primary classroom, I feel as a principal, I need to be able to discuss and share some of the books that our students are reading.

This year, one of my goals is to read more children’s books.  We have many teachers who are passionate about reading in our school (and this has a huge impact on the joy of reading in our kids) so I am tapping into their strengths and have asked them to recommend books for me to read.  Our amazing teacher-librarian drops off a new book each week in my “Mr.Wejr’s Hot Pick” cubby (see photo above -many of our teachers have this just outside their classrooms to help promote books) and I read it and share it with students. I am excited to read my first books this year: When You Were Small by Sara O’Leary and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (actually recommended by my sister).

Although this is a very simple goal, it is just one way that I can tap into the wonderful work that is being done at Kent School around encouraging a love of reading.  By doing this I can better meet kids where THEY are… and have fun reading the books they love to read.

Thank you to our staff for all the work they have done and continue to do to encourage pure joy in reading!

7

From Followers to Friendships

Fist bump – from http://flic.kr/p/7XiTUz

Many of us have written about how our PLN (personal learning network) has helped us get through challenging times.  I wanted to share some experiences of how people I have met through social media have impacted me in my day to day life and even moved from followers to friends.  I am not a fan of lists of people and this is not meant to include or exclude but more to share some recent positive experiences resulting from social media.

As I head back to work and reflect on the summer, some key moments with friends stand out… moments that would not have occurred had I not been using social media as a tool for professional learning.

People who do not use Twitter and Social Media often state that “real relationships” cannot be formed through these avenues.  This summer was a clear example of how friendships CAN result from relationships formed through social media.

At the beginning of the summer, George Couros, division principal in Alberta, planned a few days stop over in Vancouver on his way to a speaking tour in Australia.  We planned to hang out for a day and then meet up with a few others that evening.  I picked him up at the airport (I was a bit late… although I did a drive by and he was too busy tweeting out that I was late to notice me driving by) and we spent the day chatting about all things life, education, and social media.  In the evening, we met up with a few other amazing educators (whom I have also met through Twitter) for some dinner and in depth chats about technology, education, and professional learning.   The weird thing is that this was only the third time I had ever met George face to face.  We have ‘spoken’ through Twitter, Facebook, email, SMS, Skype, etc for a few years but because he lives in Alberta, we rarely get to meet.  George and I hung out like we were university buddies… often it felt like we were catching up by sharing old experiences and bouncing ideas off each other.

Brian Kuhn, the technology leader in Coquitlam, is someone whom I met through Twitter and blogging a few years back.  I originally went for breakfast with Brian to pick his brain about developing a tech vision for our district.  What resulted has been regular (EARLY!) breakfast meetings throughout the year that include dialogue not only about technology and education but also about family and life in general.  We often meet up at conferences or events and I follow his travels around Europe and mountain biking trails via Facebook and he follows the growth of my young daughters.  Today we attended an Edcamp together and he made a comment “It is so cool to see photos of your daughter growing up… feel like I am watching family”.   Brian is a bit of mentor to me but also has moved to a trustworthy buddy that I can chat with about anything.

Another connection with Kuhn.

A few weeks ago, I was heading up to a family reunion in Salmon Arm and the route to there took me through Kamloops.  Cale Birk, a principal in Kamloops, invited me to stop by his place on the way back.  His house was a perfect pit stop for my family (you cannot get very far with two 20-month-old daughters in the car) so we popped in for a few hours.  Again, hanging out with Cale was like being with a buddy that I played hockey or basketball with.  We chatted about everything until finally my wife gave me the signal that we had to head out.  The crazy part of this is that our wives had actually connected through Facebook a few weeks prior as they are both dance teachers.  Further, Cale has 2 beautiful daughters (2 and 4) who immediately connected with our daughters.  The best part of this meeting was the fact that I had never met Cale face to face before.  We had also used a variety of tech to communicate with each other so we knew each other quite well but meeting face to face created that friendship.  Cale, Lori, Paige, and Kate stopped by our place for lunch the following week, en route to Victoria, and we are planning some more gatherings in the near future.

 

Meeting the Birks


The last example I want to share does not involve a face to face meeting but more of someone whom I keep in touch with on a regular basis.  Darcy Mullin, a principal in Summerland, and I have been Skyping once a month for the past year.  In addition, we chat via Twitter, Facebook, email, and text messaging.  Although our attempt to meet up this summer (which would add up to a whopping 3 times) did not work out, Darcy and I kept in touch by Skyping a few times and texting throughout the summer.  The best thing about our conversations this summer is that the focus was not just on education but mostly on our families.  Darcy has twins as well so the stories of my daughters really bring him back; too, I enjoy his narratives of his family outings throughout BC and Western USA – the excitement in his voice when he speaks about his wife, son, and daughter is truly contagious.

Meeting with Mullin

To me, the learning that results from the connections we have with people is obvious.  This post is by no means meant to be a cheesy shout out to George, Brian, Cale, and Darcy nor is it to exclude the many other people and friends I have met through social media; it is to share and highlight the potential deeper relationships that can arise from the effective use of social media.

Connecting through social media is not about the quantity of followers or ‘friends’ that a person has but it IS about the deeper, trusting relationships that can result if you take the time to make these relationships happen.  These guys have had a huge impact on me – and I probably would never have met them without social media.  I look forward to deepening the relationships and learning with a few more folks in the near future. Thank you to all those that have taken the time to connect with me to help me both as an educator and as a person.

For another example of how followers can turn into friends, please check out Stacey Garrioch’s wonderful post on #edcampkinder.

 

29

How Social Media is Changing Education

CC Image from http://kexino.com

The title of this post is a bit misleading.  It is not social media that is changing education, it is the people involved in education who are collaborating by sharing great ideas and challenging others to continue to grow as learners.

Before social media, there were pockets of brilliance in every school, district, and education system but very few people knew about them.  In some countries education was (and still is) viewed as a “race to the top” in which you do not share ideas, you hoard them and hope that your ideas are better than others’.  Schools competing with each other do not share ideas and, as a result, they do not grow as effectively.  What social media has done is allowed the spreading of great ideas in more efficient manner.  Educators in British Columbia can connect and learn from practices taking place anywhere in the world; in addition, they can receive feedback on ideas from any people interested in education.   Good ideas not only become viral but these same ideas also grow to become even better.  I love stealing ideas (and giving credit) from other educators.  George Couros told me one time, “the more people I connect with on Twitter, the more ideas I can steal to make our school better.”

Yes, we still have rankings of schools and countries and these do create much harm and stress; however, as Chris Kennedy said, we can now connect with educators in the other countries to find out what they are doing well and how we can work together to bring those ideas into our own systems.  Let’s be honest, do we want ONLY our students to do well or do we want ALL students to do well?  Can we help create a better society if we are only helping students within our walls to be great?  We don’t hope to be the best by knocking everyone else down… we hope to be GREAT alongside those who we work and grow with.

On Saturday, I had another great edcamp experience at Edcamp Fraser Valley.  The Edcamp experience is highly promoted through Twitter and blogs and the actual day can almost be like a microcosm for Social Media.  We had sessions facilitated and participated by parents, teachers, professors, admin, and students (from elementary through university) and it was all about sharing great ideas and making them better.  People left the edcamp reflecting on how they are going to bring these to their school or learning community… and they left with connections to people that can help them to do this.  We meet people who have like interests that inspire us and we meet people who respectfully disagree and cause us to look at things through a different lens (in my opinion, this is what we need to see more of in social media – those intellectual collisions that help us grow). Edcamps and social media are driven by passionate participants who want to share a voice in education.

Social Media is a place  in which there is less hierarchy (I realize it still exists).  Prior to social media, the idea of me connecting with the author of the book I just read or the keynote speaker I just heard would have been absurd; now, I almost expect to be able to continue the discussions with others, including the speaker or author, through social media.  Also, when conversations are occurring on Twitter, I rarely know the formal position of the person I am chatting with as it is about the dialogue, not the position.  We purposely did not include position or affiliation on our name tags at EdcampFV for this reason… it is not about where you work or what you do but more about what ideas you bring to the discussion.

Gone are the days when we believed we should be trying to be the best by outdoing the school or country next door.  In today’s world we are starting to realize that in order to become great, we need to collaborate and help each other grow by sharing ideas and challenging mindsets.  Yes, policy changes need to take place but the people that can drive system change are those who work within the system; educators, including everyone that impacts education, can affect change by modeling and sharing great practices.

So, how is social media changing education?  It is not… but the people using it to continually connect are directly and indirectly affecting those ‘around’ them and thus, changing what we call education.

 Thank you to George for the chats that have inspired this post.  Just realized that George has already written on this topic so have added it here.

1

Assessment Chat with @TomSchimmer – Thurs, Nov 17

It is no secret that an area of education in which I am passionate is assessment – in particular Assessment For Learning or Formative Assessment.  The work of Dylan Williams, Ruth Sutton, Rick Stiggins, John Hattie, Ken O’Connor and Anne Davies have had a significant impact on my thoughts around assessment but since last year, I have had the opportunity to work closely with another local (BC) educator around assessment and grading: Tom Schimmer.

Tom and I met through Twitter and since then, have met face to face as well as over the phone a number of times (see my notes from his presentation here). His mentorship around creating change in schools in the area of assessment will help me for years to come as we move away from the traditional practices to more current ones that benefit student learning. His book “10 Things That Matter From Assessment to Grading” is highly recommended as a practical way to encourage shifts in your classroom and schools.

In our recent #BCEd Chat on Monday November 4, the topic was “the link between assessment and learning”.  It was a great discussion and at the end, I asked “So we all agree that AFL (assessment for learning) is one of the most powerful tools for student learning; why is this practice not in every school and every classroom?”HOW can we work to changing the mindset so AFL is the norm in each classroom?

To help me with this question, I have asked Tom to chat with me on Twitter this Thursday, Nov 17 at 4:00 PST (7:00 EST).  The hashtag for the conversation will be #AFLSchim and

I invite you to join us on Thursday to ask Tom, and engage with others, any questions about implementing AFL into your classroom or school.  If you have any questions you would like Tom to focus on, please leave them in the comments below. Here are some that I will be looking to ask:

  • In a system in which class sizes are not getting smaller, and money and time is tight, HOW can we implement changes so that AFL becomes more of the norm in BC schools?
  • How do we move toward Assessment For Learning in a system that requires grades, percentages, and report cards?

Hope you can join us Thursday at 4:00pm PST! #AFLSchim

Tom will also be joining us at Edcamp Fraser Valley on December 3 in Maple Ridge.  Hope you can join us there to continue the dialogue around topics including assessment and grading.  www.edcampfv.ca

5

You’re Invited! Edcamp Fraser Valley – Dec 3

Last April I attended the best professional learning day of my career: Edcamp Vancouver (for more on my experience as an “edcamper”, please click here).  Following this experience, I knew we had to bring an “unconference” like this to the Fraser Valley so along with some other admin, teachers, and parents, we have organized Edcamp Fraser Valley for Saturday, December 3 at Garibaldi Secondary School in Maple Ridge.

So what is Edcamp and why is it such an amazing learning experience? Grant Frend, one of the Edcamp FV organizers, describes it as:

One forum that enables educators [including students, parents, community] to engage in meaningful and relevant professional development is the Edcamp model.  What is Edcamp? Edcamp is organic, democratic, participant driven professional development for educators. There are no keynote presentations, there is no formal pre-set agenda, and participants set the course of the day.

My thoughts on Edcamp:

  • flattened hierarchies – voices from ALL people passionate about education can be heard rather than one expert and many listeners
  • participant driven – have a topic you want to learn more about – put up an idea and then join up with other interested people
  • all about conversation – the “empty vase” model of professional development does not exist at Edcamp -YOU drive the learning!
  • relationships – you get to meet new people that share areas of interest AND/OR you get to meet those people whom you have already connected with online
  • flexible schedule – the schedule is decided on the day and participants are encouraged to vote with their feet – they can decided to move to a different session at any time
  • networking sessions – there is much more time in between sessions to continue the dialogue or meet up with other participants to reflect on the sessions. Click here for the schedule for the day.
  • price is right – it is FREE! (unless you want lunch which is $5)

Here are some slides from David Wees (the educator who brought Edcamp to BC last year) that describe the Edcamp Vancouver model:

If you are a ANYBODY (students, parents, community members, trustees, educators, etc) interested in education in the Fraser Valley or beyond, come join us in Maple Ridge on December 3rd!

With the release of the BC Education Plan, this is a great opportunity to share and discuss the future of education in the province.  For more information and to register, please go to the Edcamp Fraser Valley website.  Join people already registered from the Frasey Valley, Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Okanagan and Washing State!

Also, like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.  For an information sheet to distribute, click here. For more info, please contact me.

 

For a more in-depth talk on Edcamp, please watch the embedded video from Kristen Swanson:

4

Becoming a Connected Leader: A Journey

Image from http://bit.ly/pZYAkL

[caption id="attachment_1343" align="aligncenter" width="230"] Image from http://bit.ly/pZYAkL[/caption]
I recently had the honour of presenting to a neighbouring school district about my journey in developing

15

Challenge Me

Help me grow. Image from http://bit.ly/n89fga CC

In his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni tells us that if you have a team that sits around and always agrees, you are not a real team.  Teams must challenge each other to be better.  There is no innovation if everyone agrees; agreement equals status quo.

I have recently read a few posts by educators whom I consider leaders in the the world of professional learning communities – Bill Ferriter and Cale Birk.  In Ferriter’s post, he quotes Dyer, Gregerson and Christensen (from the book Innovator’s DNA) when he writes

Recognizing that the best ideas are the by-product of intellectual collisions, true innovators constantly seek out sources of personal and professional challenge.

For my first few years as an administrator, I had battles with colleagues around assessment and student motivation.  I would come away from meetings angry and frustrated.  If someone debated me, I would take it personally.  I would defensively REACT rather than professionally RESPOND.   I strongly believed in my philosophies and would become offended if someone challenged me.  I felt there were some colleagues that i just did not get along with.

In 2009, I opened up a Twitter account and began blogging.  It took a lot of time and building of confidence to put my ideas out there but eventually, I did.  I starting writing about rewards, discipline, awards, assessment, and homework (among many other topics).  People immediately began to challenge me and I was not sure how to react.  I realized that I better have research and experience to back up my thoughts.  As I grew in the blogging world, I began to mature as an educator.  I started to love being challenged on topics and engaging in professional debate with people online.  However, in the face to face world, I still took things too personally.

This past year, I realized that I should be THANKFUL to those that have challenged me both online and in person.  It is THESE people that have helped me to grow and see education through a different lens.  Those who have asked powerful questions around student motivation and assessment have actually helped me to either become more confident in my philosophies or reflect and alter my views.

It is only through this challenges and intellectual collisions that I have grown.  To those who have challenged me within our school staff, our district or online: thank you.

It is acceptable to disagree with a person at the table but it is UNacceptable to ignore them when they have a different view.  It is important to have people in your professional learning community/network who continually challenge you and the team to be better. When someone disagrees, do not take this challenge personally and then react.  Instead – listen… reflect… respond.

I am addicted to learning and it is through respectful, challenging educational dialogue that I see the most growth.

Pernille Ripp challenged me to write about how blogging has changed my world.  Blogging had led me down a path to meet so many educators who continue to engage with me in dialogue around student learning.  The lessons I have learned from these intellectual collisions have transferred from the computer screen to face to face meetings.  Now, instead of taking things personally, I have begun to take things professionally and use the disagreements as a way to grow as an educator and as a person.

Help me continue to grow. Challenge me.

 

3

#BCed Chat Monday, July 25 at 7pm

Monday, July 25 at 7pm

Monday, July 25 at 7pm

“Social Media Super Man” @davidwees and I invite you to attend our second ever Twitter chat about issues in BC Education. We will be having these chats weekly/biweekly throughout the year and will be using the hashtag #BCed.

For Monday, July 25th at 7:00pm, you can tune in to voice your thoughts as well as hear from others interested in BC education on the topic: “What should personalized learning look like in our schools?”. This is a continuation of the dialogue started in our first BCed chat with Education Minister George Abbott.

David and I invite any person with an interest in education in British Columbia to come join us.  Also, if you have a colleague not on Twitter, this is a perfect opportunity to get them to join and see the power of connecting.

(Adapted from David Wees’ blog)