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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Wejr’

SoI.indd

Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have been at the forefront of teaching and learning in British Columbia for decades.  I have written previously about their work with the Network of Performance Based Schools (now the Network of Inquiry and Innovation).  Their latest book Spirals of Inquiry For equity and quality is a welcoming book; it takes us from where we are and invites us on a team journey. Halbert and Kaser have a wonderful way of bringing us aboard and to become part of their team – “We have had the privilege of working together on system transformation for a number of years.  We have experienced the joy of teamwork and the support that comes from facing challenges with a trusted learning partner.  Inquiry is not a solitary pursuit.  Meeting the needs of all learners is simply too big a task for any one leader, teacher, school or district to attempt alone.”

I have taken a stab at defining inquiry in my post All About Inquiry; I referenced the work of the Galileo Educational Network and in reviewing previous posts realize that I have made reference to inquiry in one out of every five posts written.  Inquiry is THE buzz word in education, but while there is opportunity there are also drawbacks that can be attributed to one word used so often, by so many, in so many circumstances.  There is general agreement we want more inquiry (the anti-inquiry movement is quite quiet), but exactly what this is and means is not clear. Although the work  Halbert and Kaser describe is hard work, their approach is straight forward.  I find it far more accessible than other frameworks and they provide structure without recipe.

Halbert and Kaser encourage us to start our investigation into inquiry with four key questions that “help move our thinking from a preoccupation with content coverage, to a focus on what learners are actually experiencing with the learning we are designing for, or with, them”:

  • Can you name two people in this school / setting who believe that you can be a success in life?
  • Where are you going with your learning?
  • How are you doing with your learning?
  • Where are you going next with your learning?

They move into their spiral approach, quoting Madame Gertrude de Stael, “The human mind always makes progress – but it is a progress in spirals.”  Halbert and Kaser focus their spirals around several key questions continually coming back to the first:

  • What is going on for our learners?
  • What does our focus need to be?
  • What is leading to this situation?
  • How and where can we learn more about what to do?
  • What will we do differently?
  • Have we made enough of a difference?

While I researched the book to better understand the process of student inquiry, it reminded me that we, as teachers, need to be committed to the same efforts with our own learning.

Halbert and Kaser have created a book with useful approaches to both student and adult inquiry; more importantly, they validate the work in British Columbia, link the efforts they describe with existing practices in districts across the province, and do not  hit us with a stick if we are not all doing it yet.  I would argue this book should be a must read for all new teachers, and for educators with decades of experience, it is a reminder that we are all part of a big team, who need each other and that our students need us, for as Halbert and Kaser conclude, “Let’s stick together and stick with this work until every BC learner does indeed cross the stage with dignity, purpose and options.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE

Spirals of Inquiry is available through the BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association for $20 (all proceeds support innovative and inquiring schools).

Chris Wejr and I are hosting a Twitter conversation on Sunday, May 26th at 8 pm Pacific.  We will be joined by the authors, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser, and hopefully many others who would like to explore Spirals of Inquiry.  If you are interested in following along the hashtag will be #inqbc.

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iwonI want to share a struggle.

I have written before about ‘candy for rewards’ in the classroom – A Candy for Your Thoughts?, and my challenge with this is on a couple of levels: first, unhealthy, sugar-filled treats are seen as a reward for doing things correctly, being good, or essentially is giving prizes for (good) behaviour.  I have also written a piece on my struggles with book clubs rewarding students based on the volume of books they read – I Blame You Twitter. I have seen students (and my own children)  intentionally select easy books to ‘win’ and perpetuate the notion that reading is something that needs to be incentivized.  I have been well  indoctrinated by Alfie Kohn, Daniel Pink and others who raise the concern flag over rewards, and passionate Canadian edu-bloggers like Joe Bower and Chris Wejr who have regularly challenged the use of rewards in school.

I can remember rewards working for me in school.  I struggled with reading, but I recall a reading-fundraiser to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society where family and friends sponsored me to read books and if I hit a certain number (I think it was 20 books) I got a certificate — I read for those months like I have never read before.  I also can remember engaging in social responsibility initiatives like raising money for prominent and worthy charities, knowing that if I reached a certain level I would get a free Frisbee or Yo-Yo.  But, shouldn’t I have read because of the pleasure of reading? Shouldn’t I have engaged in charity to support the community?  I’m not entirely sure I would have done either with such fervor if it were not for the incentives.  And, I’m also not sure if I would have studied so diligently every Thursday night for the Friday spelling test if I didn’t know a star on the board, at the front of the class, was on the line each week.

I am currently pulling together a presentation for the upcoming TEDxWestVancouverED around my parenting wishes for my own kids’ schooling.  I keep coming back to this idea that I want learning to be the prize for them.

I wish that I could say that I was more intrinsically motivated.  And, keeping the learning as the prize makes perfect sense in theory, and is a worthy goal, but for me it has always been an ongoing struggle.

Are others sharing this same challenge?

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Growth

I have written a fair bit about how my teaching has changed.  The post I wrote earlier this year generally described three basic stages.  At the start of my career I saw myself as a content provider and storyteller. When I became more comfortable with the craft I gave more ownership to students over their learning, which created a range of simulations and role-playing opportunities.  More recently, I have searched for more ways on how to do give students ownership and, now, opportunities for real world experiences as well.

Just as my teaching has evolved and changed, so has my learning. Early in my career I was hungry for any and all professional opportunities.  This was pre-social media and during the early days of the Internet.  I wasn’t that selective, but I did know I wanted to know more and improve.  I would read any article or book I was given. I would take gently read copies of Educational Leadership from my principal and vice-principal, and attend any opportunity offered for professional learning – from classroom management strategies and instructional design, to creating a democratic classroom.

As I moved into school administration I loved the big names and the big conferences. It truly was exciting to see and hear the big thinkers on education around the world. And, truth be known, there was something thrilling and honouring in attending these big conferences; the kind where thousands are in the room together – and I was one of them!  I sat at tables with some of the key leaders in my district, the province, and the world.  We all heard the same message from Michael Fullan to Sir Ken Robinson and had perspectives on where key leaders in our educational world thought we should go. I was sharing the room with edu-celebrities (I liked this word that Chris Wejr used recently, and committed to using it in a blog post).

Having recently attended two well-run, high-profile conferences, I realize these events with the speaker at the front of the room with all of us listening to the same message, no longer really works for me.  They are still great events, but I don’t feel they are actually pushing my learning.  What I need now is a chance to spend time making sense of what I am hearing — I crave the opportunity to engage with the smart people who are with me in the room.  I like Rebecca Rosen’s notion that “The smartest person in the room is no longer a person but the room itself.”  I have seen what is possible in the social media era. If I want to watch a speaker deliver a keynote I can watch it on YouTube. If I am going to see that keynote in person, I need to have some focussed engagement with others on what is being said.  If I am going to travel to conferences, then I need it to add value — not only to come away with new ideas, but new tools that I have had the chance to try, and the experience I couldn’t have had if I were not there.

I don’t mean to criticize the traditional conference because it DOES have value and there IS something powerful about being in a room of people hearing a similar message. Personally, however, I have moved past the learning options that were available to me a decade ago.  So, having also recently attended an EdCamp, I can say there is something between that and a traditional conference that would be best for how I want to learn.  And, I am okay with giving up a Saturday (with the promise of a bagged lunch) to sit in a high school to talk teaching and learning.

A couple of TEDx events I attended were also closer to hitting my learning mark, with shorter times for the keynotes and longer times for participant interaction. I am also finding events that bring people together from outside education, other government sectors, non-for-profits, or the corporate world, to be valuable in adding a range of views and perspectives to conversations.

And what else do I find is making a difference?  Focussed visits to districts, schools and classes are very powerful, with specific objectives and learning in action and not only in a presentation.  I also find the traditional ‘study group’ to continue to have a huge impact on my learning.  My first principal, Gail Sumanik, would bring donuts and coffee an hour before school started on Wednesday morning when interested staff would discuss an article, a strategy or part of a book.  I have carried this simple structure forward to other roles and find these conversations to be extremely valuable.  Another structure that I find valuable is some sort of networked learning – the kind that Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have led so well in BC for well over a decade.

And yes, I find the ongoing engagement on my blog, the dozens of others I regularly read and other ways I connect in social media, to be very powerful on my learning.  I love the opportunities, both face-to-face and virtual, that are about sharing and learning together.

Last, but by no means least, I guess what I want for my learning is what I want for my kids, some form of personalized learning.  And, I am realizing my learning has changed, and that I have become a different learner than I was even five years ago.

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I feel like a Twitter veteran with my five-year subscription anniversary coming up on March 23.  And yet, in recent weeks, I have been disillusioned with Twitter — it must be the growing pains of social media.  While the current labour unrest in BC has, at times, brought out  thoughtful discord, too often, as discussions have moved to Twitter, it has brought out name calling, anonymous accounts, idea trashing, and inappropriate language.  Too often, adults have used the power of social media in ways we would never want our kids to.  Too often, I see one of the great powers of social media for educators being misused, instead of fostering its ability to role model for students how we engage in ethical and thoughtful ways.

So, with that said, I stand by the comment that I often make — that learning through social media, and Twitter in particular, has been a most powerful and inspirational learning.   Here is a slide I often include in my presentations describing Twitter:

A recent article by Max Cooke:  Twitter and Canadian Educators,  from the Canadian Education Association, nicely captured the use and potential for Twitter:

An emerging group of leaders in Canadian education has attracted thousands of followers. They’ve made Twitter an extension of their lives, delivering twenty or more tweets a day that can include, for example, links to media articles, research, new ideas from education bloggers, or to their own, or simply a personal thought. At their best, edu-tweeters are adeptly leveraging Twitter to brand themselves, to reinvent teacher PD, and perhaps to accelerate the transformation of our Canadian education systems. Twitter is being used to extend formal PD conferences beyond their venue to followers on Twitter in real time; it’s facilitating informal discussions (“unconferences”) among educators with common interests; it’s allowing best practices to “go viral” on the Internet; and it’s allowing innovative classroom teachers to challenge the status quo.

In his article, Cooke included a list of 30 Canadian Educators to assist new users as they begin to explore Twitter. One of the key ideas about Twitter is to follow a diverse group of people to avoid the ‘echo chamber’ effect. I, personally, have found it very useful to follow a group of people with local, BC, Canadian and International content, and even a few for humour (how else do I explain why I follow @peeweeherman), and I am often asked by new users, who to follow?  My suggestion is you start by following one person, look at who they follow, and build your interest and list from there.  I found Cooke’s list of Canadian edu-tweeters to be very helpful, and it gave me a few great, new people to follow as well.

So, whether you are a new or experienced user, and having been inspired by Cooke’s article, here are 40 BC edu-tweeters I would start with as you look at who to follow.  I understand there are several thousand BC educators now using Twitter, so this list is only a small sample of the connections available. While almost all organizations have corporate accounts, I find following and engaging with people to be much more satisfying. My only rules in creating this list were (and are) that people are directly related to K-12 education, and not in West Vancouver (the West Van tweeters are all great and I encourage you to follow them from this list here).

Aaron Mueller, Secondary Online Teacher, Vancouver

Al Smith - Teacher-Librarian, Kelowna

Brian Kuhn – Technology Leader, Coquitlam

Bruce Beairsto - Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University

Cale Birk – Secondary School Principal, Kamloops

Carrie Gelson – Elementary School Teacher, Vancouver

Chris Wejr - Elementary School Principal, Agassiz

Darcy Mullin – Elementary School Principal, Summerland

David Truss – Vice-Principal, Coquitlam

David Wees – IB Math and Science Teacher, Vancouver

Elisa Carlson – Director of Instruction, Surrey

Errin Gregory – Elementary Teacher, Gold Trail

George Abbott – BC Minister of Education

Gino Bondi - Secondary Principal, Vancouver

Glen Hansman – 2nd Vice-President, BC Teachers Federation

Gregg Ferrie - Director of Technology, Saanich

Heather Daily – Teacher-Librarian, Coquitlam

Hugh McDonald – Elementary School Teacher, Surrey

Jacob Martens – Secondary Science Teacher, Vancouver

Janet Steffenhagen – Education Reporter for the Vancouver Sun

Johnny Bevacqua – School Principal, Vancouver

Karen Lirenman, Elementary School Teacher, Surrey

Kelley Inden - Secondary Humanities Teacher, Nechako Lakes

Larry Espe – Superintendent, Peace River North

Peter Vogel - ICT / Physics Teacher, Vancouver

Mike McKay – Superintendent, Surrey

Moira Ekdahl - Teacher-Librarian, Vancouver

Neil Stephenson – District Principal of Innovation and Inquiry, Delta

Paige MacFarlane - Assistant-Deputy Minister, BC Ministry of Education

Patti Bacchus - Board Chair, Vancouver School Board

Ron Sherman – Elementary Principal, Kootenay lakes

Robert Genaille – Teacher, Fraser-Cascade

Sheila Morissette - Secondary Principal, Surrey

Silas White – Board Chair, Sunshine Coast

Stephen Petrucci – Director of Instruction, Peace River North

Steve Cardwell – Superintendent, Vancouver

Tamara Malloff – Teacher-Librarian, Kootenay Lakes

Terry Ainge – Secondary Principal, Delta

Tia Henriksen – Elementary Vice-Principal, Surrey

Valerie Irvine – Educational Technology Professor, University of Victoria

Looking through my list of who I follow, and checking in on their accounts, has been a good process and an excellent reminder of the passion and curiosity so many BC educators have and are sharing in digital space.  It was interesting to see how different districts were represented — I could have found at least another dozen from Surrey for example (like @rwd01 and @bobneuf ) but tried to share a more provincial picture.  This list should not be looked at as a Best of list (this is relative), but rather a starting point for new users, or users with more experience looking to broaden their conversations. To be sure, even as I go through my list, I know I have missed a number of awesome BC educators I learn with and from on a regular basis.

So, what of the powers of this social media tool? It is the ideas, not role or geography that matter.  And, hopefully, this small slice of my network can help you grow your network.

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I have used the above slide in a number of presentations to make the point that British Columbia is leading Canada (perhaps even the world) in the professional use of social media in K-12 education. I freely admit I don’t have the statistics to back up the claim – there are simply more teachers, administrators, parents, trustees, and others here, who are logging into their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts in the name of professional learning, than any other jurisdiction.

In the past year we have moved from several dozen blogs around K-12 education, to numbers in the hundreds, with representation in every area of the education system.  The #bced tag on Twitter is one of the most engaged with conversations about the ever-changing education profession, and there are many other social sites having these conversations as well.

The conversations around the profession itself are very interesting.  In social media, ‘role’ becomes less important; there is a flattening of society and it is ‘ideas’ that have increased value.  There are also incredible opportunities  to reflect, share, and learn without the limitations of geography. I could go on, and there have been many others who have covered the ground about the value of social media for educators, and how Twitter and blogging can be extremely powerful in professional development.  This is true for those interested in education in BC, but it is also true of other professionals around the world.

So why has BC moved so quickly and taken such leadership in this area? As mentioned, I have no statistical proof, but a series of ideas as to why BC is the leading jurisdiction using social media to engage in the profession of education.

Some Thoughts:

1) It is not as “new” here as it is in many places:  Five years ago, as a principal in the Coquitlam School District, I was seeing for my colleagues, blogs were already becoming routine including: Brian Kuhn (district), David Truss (school administrator) and James McConville (teacher), all engaging in social media.  We have a long history of models to look at and are in a much deeper place with this type of learning than other jurisdictions.  So, it is no longer a novelty here that it is in some other areas and is a much more mature and developed.

2) Networking is a core element of BC’s education scene:  Since 2000, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have been working with teachers, administrators and other educators through The Network of Performance Based Schools.   This network (which I blogged about here) has been a model for jurisdictions around the world.  The culture of face-to-face networking moves naturally to social media networking, and connects the interest around learning ideas.  This social media networking is an extension of the face-to-face conversations that Halbert and Kaser have long sponsored.

3)  The traditional media “plays” in social media: Most notable is Vancouver Sun Education Reporter, Janet Steffenhagen, who has the popular Report Card blog and is a regular tweeter.  She is not the only one.  From The Globe and Mail, to CKNW, to most local newspaper reporters covering education, they regularly engage in social media.  Often, we now see what will be “news” on a nightly newscast or morning newspaper make news first on Twitter or in a blog.  Social media has become fertile ground for education reporters researching their next story; it is seen as a place to break and make news.

4) Organizations and government “play” in social media: I knew Twitter was part of the establishment and no longer on the fringe when I saw the education minister join a debate online one night. Of course, that is not the only example. Almost every organization involved in education is on Twitter including the BCTFBCPVPA, CUPE, BCSTA and BCPSEA. Not only are these organizations out there in a corporate sense, but many in their leadership have their own accounts.  One can look at examples like the recent Facebook campaign by BC principals, or the revamped and expanded BCSTA social media presence on the value being placed on social media.

5)  There are some regular and thoughtful voices:  There are a number of individuals with a profile well beyond our borders.  From  Bruce Beairsto who blogs on the Canadian Education Association site, to well-known edu-bloggers including Chris Wejr from Agassiz, David Wees from Vancouver, Cale Birk from Kamloops and many more, there are some regular contributors who are seen as “go to” people for interesting reflections and ideas.

6) We are at a time when we are examining the profession:  Even before the BC Education Plan, the last several years have been full of discussions within the system about how a high-performing system should evolve.  With some high-level direction from the province, but not a lot of prescription, the time is ripe for sharing ideas and innovations within and across jurisdictions.

7) We have an amazingly dedicated profession:  Even in challenging times, it is stunning to see the number of teachers, school administrators and other educators spending time in their evenings and weekends to reflect and share through their blogs, Twitter and other venues.  The reason why we have one of the highest performing jurisdictions in the world is because it is accompanied by an equally talented and dedicated group of educators.  As social  media has grown, so has our educators’ need to harness it for professional growth.

This is far from an exhaustive list.  But, I am often asked by other jurisdictions why those who are involved in the BC education system have taken to social media at such a greater rate than anywhere else?  I believe it is our ability to see around the corner to where we need to go next that is part of our success story, and that is what we have done by engaging in social media.

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This post also appears in the current edition of the BC College of Teachers TC Magazine (here)

Never before have teachers faced challenges such as those created by continually evolving information technologies. Five years ago, we found it difficult to imagine the concept of touch-screen computers, yet today the word “apps” is part of the vocabulary of our pre-schoolers. And many of our children are entering school completely at ease with computer technology, having the technical skills to create digital videos and participate in virtual spaces that were foreign to the generation that went before them.

Students’ technical expertise must be nurtured and supported by their teachers. Yet our challenge as educators is far greater than simply staying up to date with advances in information technologies. We need to make sure our educational system creates environments to engage technically adept students, and that we use technology in our professional practice to support our students as critical thinkers, lifelong learners and ethical decision makers.

Across our province and around the world, educators are wrestling with the implications of personally owned devices, coming to grips with the role for social media in education, and having rich debates on issues that speak to the core values of our system, including safety and equity. The increasing pace at which technology is evolving has also fostered an ongoing reflection on what the latest changes mean for our profession and what lies in store for the next decade.

Without question, our profession is evolving. We are connecting across roles and geographies in new ways using blogs and Twitter. We’ve shifted from seeing technology as a way to support distance learning to looking for ways to make blended learning part of every student’s educational experience. And we are beginning to move beyond being excited about the tools themselves to looking for ways we can best use these tools to support learning goals and good pedagogy.

As a profession, we need to take a critical look at the structure and content of teacher training programs. It is simply no longer acceptable for someone to enter our profession without some degree of digital literacy. Teachers entering our system need to know the how of using the tools and also the why. They need to apply their reflective and critical thinking skills to the digital space. I expect that the new teachers we hire into our schools will understand the suite of tools available to them, know how to model their use and be able to choose the appropriate tools to match learning objectives.

I also expect new teachers to enter the profession with a mindset that the digital tools they are using now will likely be different a year from now. That is the way it should be, for it is not really about the tools themselves, but about the learning, which requires matching the best tools of the day to the process. These are not easy tasks, but they are essential.

And some specifics for teacher training programs? Teacher education programs need to include a course on the history, philosophy and practical use of educational technology. Educational technology learning at teacher colleges should be grounded in research, pedagogy and the use of current technologies. Finally, technology should be taught to teachers in ways that are consistent with how we would like teachers to teach students in their classes.

For those in the system, we need to commit to embedding technology and digital literacy in our growth plans and in all our ongoing professional development. Employers need to support teachers in the use of technology throughout their careers. This must go beyond the superficial. We must acknowledge that replacing lectures with digital lectures or online videos simply substitutes one mediocre practice for another. I have been in far too many classrooms where interactive whiteboards were a source of entertainment that facilitated “fake-learning” and did not truly support student learning.
Technology is no longer an event, and “computer lab” is no longer a course. Digital tools are being used to support literacy, numeracy, social responsibility and the full gamut of goals in our system. To be relevant, engaging and current, we need to be committed in how we prepare teachers and how we support them throughout their careers in the thoughtful and purposeful infusion of technology into their professional practice.

There are wonderful examples across Canada of education faculties embracing these ideals, and of districts, schools and classrooms across BC trying to figure out a better way to use technology every day.

I like the saying that when it comes to teachers and technology it is okay to be where you are, it is just not okay to stay there.

Thanks to Gary Kern, David Wees, Chris Wejr, and others on Twitter who contributed to this paper.

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This Friday, I am presenting at the British Columbia School Superintendents Association (BCSSA) Summer Academy on how district leaders can use social media to build community.  I have embedded the slides below but, as always, they only tell part of the story.

This presentation is a departure from the one I gave two years ago at the same event (linked here) which focussed on Student Engagement in an Age of Distraction.  It focussed on the changes taking place inside and outside of education, while the new presentation is more about how we can use the new technology as part of how we can lead the change. In fact, if we want to have an influence and presence as education leaders, our participation in digital space is no longer optional.

There are always risks as we expose ourselves more publicly, but social media allows us to tell our own stories in our own words, to connect to new people and new ideas across roles and geography, and to model for others in our system – students, staff and parents – continuous learning.

I am closing with the quote: “don’t talk about it . . . be about it”. This is a call to all of us who lead in education because we need to model the way.

There is more content about social media, education and building community in this presentation, and in the coming weeks I will  devote a number of separate posts to share this information.

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Twitter, or more specifically those who I connect with using it, has influenced my thinking and work in a number of ways. Although, from time to time, I do hear “Twitter is a waste of time,” my experience has been that if it is a waste of time you are following the wrong people.  While it is not the greatest tool for a discussion, or the best place to share deep, thoughtful commentary, it is a wonderful place to connect.

Here are the three ways it has influenced me as I look ahead to the next couple months:

My kids won’t be joining the library book club this summer

Every summer, we go to the local public library to get our sticker book and then make the weekly visits collecting stickers and exchanging books.  If there is one topic I have been most influenced on this year, it is likely the use of rewards and motivation.  From the powerful examples of Daniel Pink in Drive, to the sharing of Alfie Kohn’s work, to the thoughtful discussions around the use of awards in school from local educators like Chris Wejr,  I am much more conscious now of using external motivators.  I want my kids to love reading, and not because of a sticker.  I am not as firm in my belief as some of those on Twitter around external motivators, like stickers or candy, I am much more conscious of it now than I was a year ago.

I am not going to any major conference this summer

Once students leave for their break, it is often an ideal time for adult learning.  In past years, that has included attending a major conference — whether it be an event hosted by ASCD or the Building Learning Communities.  These major conferences are a wonderful way to be invigorated, connect to wonderful educators, and meet informally with many people who may only be previously known through their blog.  It is just not the only way to do it anymore.  There are many other choices and options.  Twitter allows me to drop in to a number of conferences across North America by following along with the conference hashtags.  Many of the major presenters are also streamed live for those who are not in attendance.  There is absolutely something about “being there” but it is not the only way.  For less money and travel I can sample a number of different events, and learn from a range of thoughtful leaders.

We are going to try un-conferencing with our administrators

I have been fascinated by the growth of the “un-conference” as shared on Twitter. So many people I follow describe their experiences as the best professional learning of their lives.  Whether it is the informal learning that is associated with TEDx events, the Edcamp events that seem to be all the rage in British Columbia, or a range of other participant-driven events, there are more people moving away from structuring professional learning around a series of “sit and get” Powerpoint presentations.  It is common to hear educators talk about Birds of a Feather events, lightning talks and world cafes.

We hold an annual summer conference with our school administrators and will try to model the un-conference format.  Our August event has often been heavy on information and outside speakers.  We will try to use some less structured formats that take aspects of the Edcamp model, and also experiment with Pecha Kucha (another term I hadn’t heard before Twitter).

I will probably blog a little less frequently over the next two months, but I will be learning and growing on Twitter.

All the best for a wonderful summer break and thanks for your ongoing support and engagement in this space.

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A great deal has been written about who is framing the education conversation in B.C. And some suggest, I believe wrongly, nobody is leading these conversations.

As the system evolves, a number of contributing voices have emerged.  It is impossible to create an exhaustive list, but in identifying the 25 people who, I think, are currently contributing to the conversation and are influencing the direction of education in B.C., I hope to generate even more conversations.  I have tried to look across roles, and balance those from within and outside the province.

Some guidelines I used for the list:

  • no elected officials (local, provincial or national)
  • no Ministry of Education staff
  • nobody I work with in West Vancouver (though I wanted to add a couple)
  • it is not about the people I agree with, but those who influence the education system

With that said, here is my list, organized alphabetically, of 25 influencers on the state of public education in British Columbia in 2011. Some of their key areas of influence are bracketed, and you can click on their name for links to bios, blogs and more information:

John Abbott, Director, 21st Century Learning Initiative (personalized learning)

Jameel  Aziz, President, BC Principals and Vice-Principals Association (assessment / principal and vice-principal advocacy)

Cale  Birk, Principal, South Kamloops Secondary School (secondary school reform / social media)

Steve Cardwell, Superintendent, Vancouver School District / President BCSSA (student engagement)

Damian Cooper, Education Consultant (assessment and evaluation)

Peter Cowley, Director of School Performance Studies, Fraser Institute (school rankings)

Maureen Dockendorf,  Assistant Superintendent, Coquitlam School District (early learning / professional learning)

Kieran Egan, Professor of Education Theory Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University (imaginative education)

Carole Fullerton, Teaching Consultant (numeracy)

Judy Halbert, Network Leader, The Network of Performance Based Schools (networked learning)

Valerie Hannon, Director, Innovation Unit (personalized learning)

Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education at Boston College  (school/district reform)

Clyde Hertzman, Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC  (early learning)

Linda Kaiser, Network Leader, The Network of Performance Based Schools (networked learning)

Craig Kielburger, Founder of Free the Children  / Co-founder, Me to We (social responsibility/global citizenship)

Susan Lambert, President, BC Teachers Federation (social justice/teacher advocacy)

Barry MacDonald, Canada’s National Advocate for Boys, Educator and Registered Clinical Counsellor, Professional Speaker (boys and learning)

Gordon Neufeld, Developmental and Clinical Psychologist in Vancouver (parenting)

Sir Ken Robinson, Internationally Recognized Leader in the Development of Creativity, Innovation and Human Resources, Author/Speaker, (creativity, future thinking)

Stuart Shanker, Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University (early learning)

Janet Steffenhagen, Reporter for the Vancouver Sun, (social media/system transparency)

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, BC Representative for Children and Youth (youth advocacy/at-risk learners)

David Wees, Teacher at Stafford Hall in Vancouver (social media)

Chris Wejr, Principal at Kent Elementary School in Agassiz (social media/rewards)

Lorna Williams, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning (Aboriginal education)

I look forward to hearing about who is on your list.

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I recently wrote about transparency, and in my comments, the discussion moved to finding balance, managing work, home, and finding strategies to being more accessible, but mindful that we need to be present in our non-work lives.  In looking at many of those using social media in education, the common denominator was – we have young families – making this issue/concern even more relevant.

The question: “How do you find the time?” is one I am asked, more than any other, from educators interested in social media. I also hear more from educators worried about expanding their accessibility online, “I just don’t have the time for it.”  To be clear and upfront, it takes time to build as well as participate in the community online. There are no promises that being accessible, modelling the use of social media, and engaging with others online, will reduce your work hours. Then again, we don’t need to sell everything in life with a promise it will allow us to work less.  There are many other motivators than the “promise of less work” in our lives.

I don’ t have the answers, but as with my blog on Transparency, I do have an emerging list of beliefs and strategies to make sense of my work/non-work relationships.

Building on a response to Chris Wejr on my blog, here are some principles/strategies which guide me:

1) I have no idea what it means to have a work/home balance, so I’ve given up on talking about this notion. More and more, work is not about a place — my office is very often my phone and it can just as easily be in my den at home, or my car (hands free) as it can be my business office.  I love the ability to jump in and out of work at home.  Technology no longer forces us to stay at the office late every night.  There are times we can go home early, spend time with our families, and go back to “work” later that night.

2) I block out time on my calendar that is virtually non-negotiable as private time.  It is not a lot of time, but it is consistent every week.

3) While I play, learn and engage in social media, I limit the tools I use.  I don’t know how some people participate in so many places.  In my non-work life I participate in Facebook, and in my work-life I engage in Twitter and through my blog (and others blogs).

4)  Every way I interact digitally (not face-to-face) can be done through my mobile device.  I encourage people to call my cell or text me, and I have access to my blog and Twitter through my mobile device.  I don’t need to be in any one particular place to be working.  I can’t imagine having to come into “work” on a Sunday to do work.

5)  Sunday is my writing day.  I often post one or two times a week, but the draft posts are written on Sundays.  I don’t have time during the week to write, but there is also value in not making postings too close together – so I try to be strategic about when I write and when I publish.  I tend not to write “news” posts (except on topics like PISA), so  the timing is often not crucial.

6)  I commit to commenting on five posts for every one I write. On Sundays, I also read what others are saying, and often, my thoughts.  I tend to prioritize local (BC) bloggers, and those in similar roles.  I see this as part of being engaged with the online community, so I set time aside for it.

7)  I organize Twitter.  I am often asked, “how do you follow 400 people?”  I use TweetDeck and have a series of columns.  Right now, I am following bced and cpchat, as well as several specific lists.  I also accept I will not see everything posted from everyone.  I will often drop in to Twitter at lunch, or when I have a few minutes before a meeting, but I don’t get excited about missing something.  And, while I know the research about multi-tasking, I will usually have it on as background noise at night when I work.

8)  I don’t do things other people do. For one, I don’t write newsletters.  It is about choices.  I find the learning from Twitter, and the reach and conversations through blogging, to be extremely powerful. Conversations in social media domains can help lead the narrative in our schools and community.

9)  I define my work day online.  Unless it is urgent, I will usually not e-mail members of the community outside of extended business hours (e.g. no e-mails at noon on Saturday from my son’s soccer game).  I might write the e-mail but will delay the sending of  it. Of course, if it is urgent, I respond immediately. I just don’t want to get into a back-and-forth e-mail conversation while standing on the soccer sidelines.

10) I really see technology as largely invisible.  I don’t think of being on-line or off-line.  I tend to always be connected and, very often, being habitually online saves a lot of time longterm – solving issues before they become problems.

Finally – I signed up for busy – when I applied for my job and had a family. Work keeps me out most Monday to Thursday nights – but I try to find ways to include my family (for example, I will take my kids with me to school plays).  Like so many of us, I don’t sleep a lot – but love it. As I said in a previous post, “Hey, my choice.”

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