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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Kern’

lighthouse

Checking in on the blogs across the district is a useful way of getting a sense of the topics that are being highlighted this fall.  I have written several times about the power our schools are finding using the blogs to connect to the community.  At some schools they serve as a news update, at others they tackle issues.  Our metrics indicate they are very well read.

Here is just a sampling of the topics and issues that are being discussed this fall:

Bowen Island Vice-Principal and Program Builder for the outside45 program Scott Slater recently looked a the challenge and opportunities of going deep on a particular topic and the value of extended field experiences – all particularly relevant with the recent release of new draft curriculum in B.C.

Is it worth it?

We assess the value of things constantly.  Is it worth the cost?  Is it worth the time?

For teachers, the latter question, “Is it worth the time?” is an ongoing concern.

Teachers look for a balance between spending enough time on topics so that students can thoughtfully and thoroughly understand concepts, and retain this understanding for the long-term, with obligations to teach many learning outcomes deemed important by the BC Ministry of Education.

Students are also asking the question is it worth it?  Is it worth my attention?  Is it worth my effort?  If a teacher spends too much time on a concept, student interest might decrease; if they do not spend enough time, retention may not occur.

A regular topic on this blog has been the work in our schools with self-regulation. Irwin Park Principal Cathie Ratz recently did an excellent job of outlining the work and the changes, in this area at her school, now in its third year of focusing on self-regulation:

So what is different?

We have been looking at our classrooms and students through a different lens. We have become aware of the need to include regular breaks for our students. We are examining what and when students eat and drink.  Transition times, going from one lesson to the next or moving from one room to another, are used as opportunities to get some sensory work or refocusing done. Staff is also working hard to reframe how they see behaviours. These understandings are then used to help students identify early signs that they need to choose a strategy to help them self-regulate. This comes naturally for some, but for others it is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. It has been great to learn as a team and use the new information to make a difference in how we teach and how students learn. Staff is explicitly talking about and teaching to everyday opportunities and challenges. Self regulation is embedded into our daily work. Our teachers are having rich conversations and asking thought-provoking questions. What can we do to help students flourish? What stressors and triggers are within our classrooms that impact student learning? What strategies might be effective in dealing with these stressors? What tools and resources are available?

In her post, Zombies in Front of Screens?  Not Even Close!, West Bay Vice-Principal Brooke Moore tackled another theme that permeates the district – the thoughtful inclusion of digital tools in our classrooms:

Authentic audiences spark a sense of meaningful work and pride in their learning that simply isn’t there if students are asked to present their learning on a poster that gets hung in the school hallway. (Of course, for younger students, the hallway audience can be just as exciting as they are eager to share their work with parents and friends.) Teaching students how to engage safely in conversations beyond our walls is of absolute importance and allows for authentic “teachable moments” about cyber safety as an extension of their learning work through technology.

This shift towards students bringing a laptop to school as part of their school supplies is provoking some thoughtful conversations and it all comes down to both parents and teachers wanting the best for students. That’s a pretty great conversation to be having.

For Pauline Johnson Vice-Principal this fall has been a bit of deja vu – as a former French Immersion student now back teaching in a French Immersion school.   He is finding himself reflecting on his previous student experiences as he returns to teaching Immersion:

I also remember how as students we were constantly encouraged to speak French beyond regular classroom interactions; in the hallway, the gym and on the playground.  As a teacher, I find myself in that same position, pretending not to understand when a student asks me a question in English until they ask me in French.  If only my former teachers could see me now?  Strangely enough some of my past teachers have been able to see me now, former PJ teacher M. Yin and the mother of Mlle. Macdonald were both teachers while I was at Cleveland Elementary and Handsworth Secondary.

Director of Instruction Gary Kern’s work has been highlighted in the blog a lot recently – he deserves much of the credit for the leadership behind digital devices for teachers and creating flexible ways for classes to experiment with Bring-Your-Own-Device Programs.   His latest post looks at the power of active engaged learning:

As we want students to experience learning that is more actively engaged and applied, we need to design learning experiences differently. Students need to be curious and inquisitive (inquiry) and they need the tools to explore divergent ideas and to dig deeper into areas that will be unique and personal (digital access). Inquiry and digital access can help us move our students learning become more active and applied.

Our other Director of Instruction, Lynne Tomlinson has been leading our district’s work with the Squamish Nation.  She recently reflected on Reconciliation Week:

West Vancouver School District sits on the Squamish Nation traditional territory.  It is our responsibility to teach our students about the history of this place and its people, including the Residential Schools and their impact on many of our Squamish community members.  With the help of our Squamish colleagues, including Rick Harry (Xwalcktun), Bob Baker (Sa7plek Lanakila), Faye Halls (Yeltsilewet), Wes Nahanee (Chiaxen), as well as Deborah Jacobs (Snítelwet), Head of Education for the Squamish Nation, we are working to improve our curriculum and program implementation with an authentic focus on the indigenous principles of learning.

With a large population of non-aboriginal students in West Vancouver, it is important to improve their knowledge of local culture and history. Aboriginal Education needs to become a part of the regular curriculum so that it is more embedded in daily work.  This year, we will continue with our goal to increase our students’ understanding of First Nations’ issues seen through the Aboriginal lens.

Namwayut.

These are just a sampling of the stories that our staff are telling for their school communities and the world.  And while they offer insight into their individual schools – they speak to so many of the larger themes of the district:  self-regulation, inquiry, digital access.  They also cover other emerging areas of growth including our relationships with the Squamish Nation and the power of outdoor learning.

It continues to be an honour to be part of a community that takes the risk to share and reflect in the public space.  Blogging is not an easy task, but the stories help grow our community.

The entire West Vancouver social media community can be tracked here – all in one place.

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BYOD Blog Photo

In some ways, this is a follow-up or companion piece to my post last week when teachers have mobile devices in the classroom, on our findings and efforts to ensure digital access for all of our teachers.

While this has proven to be very powerful for teachers, our next step is around finding access for all students.  In a previous post, I shared some thoughts around BYOD and Equity (an issue I think is crucial when looking at getting devices into students’ hands).

In West Vancouver, student access is growing; in some elementary schools students have regular access mainly from devices they bring from home.  In other schools it is less consistent with pockets of classrooms having students on devices.  One key piece of learning we have realized over the last three years is if students don’t have purposeful reasons to use their device in class they will often stop bringing it.

So, before one announces that “everyone will bring a laptop on Monday” there are ways to work toward changing and improving that experience.  The challenges around the recent iPad rollout in Los Angeles schools are a good reminder of the complexity of these kinds of initiatives.

So, what we did rather than focusing on embracing devices and changing practice for the entire year, was to focus on trying it with support for a two- to three-week period.  We tried this last spring and have plans to do it again this fall.

Here is a brief overview of the project:

There is increasing support that access to digital resources and tools combined with inquiry teaching and learning practices improves student engagement, learning relevancy and academic success.  A challenge in today’s classroom is the inconsistent access to digital tools: some students have access some of the time, some have no access and only a few students have access all of the time. Building on the opportunities from the recent Modernization initiative, the Digital Access Action Research project is aimed at understanding the impact of “ubiquitous” or pervasive student access on learning and teaching.

The Digital Access Action Research project is looking for interested Grades 4 to 9 classrooms willing to try “ubiquitous access” for a two- to three-week period.  This would include:

  • Sending home a district letter to all parents asking them to provide a digital device for their students during that period. The device can be an iPad or a laptop. For those who do not have a spare device at home, the district will provide a device the student can use during the project.
  • Attending a morning session (TTOC included for teachers) prior to the start of the project to plan for the action research and to determine how best to utilize the opportunity that every student will have digital access whenever and wherever they need it.
  • Ensuring the students use the device when appropriate during the school day and to have the device taken home at the end of the day
  • Completing a follow-up summary around lessons learned and challenges from the project. This will provide a better understanding of the opportunities available through digital access as well as what challenges we continue to face.

There are many details to consider with this project, including:

  • When the students should and shouldn’t use the devices
  • How to shape the learning activities to benefit most from the digital access and minimize distractions
  • How to secure the devices when not being used
  • How to problem solve technical problems and challenges

If we want to move towards digital access for students, it is not a proclamation of change — even if students bring devices, very little in the classroom may change.  That is why our thinking around this is although some classes and schools are full speed ahead, in other situations we need to scaffold this change and start with  projects like this action research.

So, here is what we found:

1 to 1 action research v2

Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, has also blogged more about these findings here.  There is not a ‘one size fits all’ model around our work. In fact, this particular project has shown that sometimes, before we make big changes, we have to take some smaller steps. Before we say all students need to bring devices for the year, let’s try it for three or four weeks; before we say that teachers need to change their practice to embrace the digital landscape, let’s support them through doing it for a unit.  And, we were also reminded the power of digital access is its interplay with inquiry and innovative pedagogy.

Many of the classes that were part of this trial in the spring have moved to having students bring devices all the time this fall — it is a bit of a continuum.  It is great to say that “all our students have devices” but if nothing else has changed what really is the point?  It will be interesting to see our next group of action researchers take up the challenge this fall.

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blog photo

Last year, we began a program that can best be described as “classroom modernization” across the district.  Our Board of Education recognized the importance and education need for the modernization and made a commitment through its budget to support the purchase of technology to support the professionals in our classrooms.

The first decision we made was to ensure all teaching staff had access to a current, mobile device.  While often the focus is on ensuring all students have access to current devices (a continuing effort in our district) we realized that if we wanted classes to be engaging with digital tools, teachers needed to have access and feel comfortable with them as well.

The next decision was to give teachers a choice in their devices.  Just as learning is personalized for students, we know that teaching is different and personalized for each teacher.  In previous practice, when (if) we gave out the technology, we would have given everyone the same technology and lockdown the device — with device management being the priority.  Instead, we gave teachers choices that included iPads, MacBook Pros, PC Laptops and PC Tablets.

Another key component of this modernization push has been to install wireless projectors in all of our classrooms from Grades 4 to 12 (and deploying existing projectors to primary classrooms) so teachers could then easily display their screens.

Last and most important, we created ongoing training opportunities and support for teachers with their devices through centrally run training, and access to innovation grants —  teacher teams can now work together in an area of focus and often with digital technology.

Of course,  the projects are more complex than one can cover in a single post, but the general premise was simple — we want all teachers to have a common set of tools across schools and grades to effectively work with students.

And after the first year, this is what we heard . . .

Modernization Update

Thanks to Gary Kern for the infographic

83% of teachers said, “it had a positive impact” on their teaching and more than 85% found the impact on student learning to be “somewhat” or “very positive”. They highlighted a variety of positive impacts on their classrooms; their ability to use current content and resources; the opportunity to be innovative and to demonstrate learning in multiple ways and to be able to communicate this to parents. Some comments from teachers about key benefits included:

“It has allowed me to connect with colleagues and parents more efficiently.  It has allowed me to show videos and images to the classes I teach and has given me a great tool to plan lessons.”

“It’s great having my own laptop that I can use at a moment’s notice.  I also really appreciate being given the choice of platforms.”

“I compose lesson plans, assessment and correspondence on the device.  It is the hub of my teaching practice.”

“I move around the school a lot – so having a device that can come with me has made my job significantly more fluid.”

“My courses have gone completely paperless and I am able to incorporate virtual learning on  many levels.”

“I’ve been able to make using technology seamless.”

Of course, there have also been good lessons for areas of improvement and for better support throughout the process.  The exponential growth in technology has strained some of our wireless networks and choked our bandwidth — both areas we are currently working on to address.  We also realize each teacher has a different learning requirement, comfort level and expertise with technology, and for personalizing their teaching.

A modernization project is never quite complete. But, in giving our teachers the tools they need to teach, it has made a huge difference for our students in their quest for relevant, current and connected learning opportunities.

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tedimage

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In April, I wrote about TEDxMania sweeping West Vancouver when we hosted two amazing events, TEDxWestVancouverED and TEDxKids@Ambleside. What has become so powerful about the TED and TEDx presentations is that they take on a life of their own on the Internet. Full credit and thanks to the teachers and administrators who organized the first event and to the elementary school students who organized the second one. Also, a huge “Thanks” to so many students who assisted with the video production — a great example of “real-real” learning.

I have previously written about my experiences – Hopes and Dreams for My Kids Schooling, but I would also like to highlight some of the other presentations from both events. Each one (presentations were a few minutes to 20 minutes) is well worth watching and sharing.
Here are a few presentation highlights by West Vancouver School District Staff at TEDxWestVancouverED:

Provoking thoughts from Gary Kern on what he wanted for his grandson, Jackson:

Scott Slater reflects on the process of change and the implementation of Outside45:

Kelly Skehill gives a changing perspective of math:

Zoltan Virag shares his passion around music education:

Other videos from the day include (click on the link to open the video):

Lauren Bauman (WVSD student) – Accidental Learning
Bruce Beairsto – A Framework for Professional Learning
Qayam Devji (WVSD student) – How Teachers Can Help Students Achieve Big Ideas
Tracy Dignum (West Vancouver parent) –Rethinking Memory & Retention of Learning: Tips for Parents
David Helfand – Designing a University for the New Millennium
Ron Hoffart – Environments for 21st Century Learning
Katy Hutchinson – Restorative Practices to Resolve Conflict and Build Relationships
Dean Shareski – Whatever Happened to Joy in Education?
Shelley Wright – The Power of Student-Driven Learning

Turning to TEDxKids@Ambleside, a couple of videos I would like to highlight:

Kevin Breel – his presentation: Confessions of a Depressed Comic has already be viewed more than 100,000 times at the time of publishing this post:

Alex Halme gives a first hand account — from a student’s view — of the differences between the Canadian and Finnish School Systems:

And again, there are so many wonderful videos worth watching and sharing, and you can see them all from the day here.

Once again, congratulations to all those involved, particularly Craig Cantlie and Qayam Devji. I know people are already excited about TEDx returning to West Vancouver next spring.

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562px-Lighthouse_Lighthouse_Park (1)

I want to check back in and share some of the work going on in West Vancouver.  I last blogged about Some West Van Stories in November.

Director of Instruction Lynne Tomlinson got a boost for her most recent post on our district arts showcase – The Lighthouse Festival – when Sir Ken Robinson shared the post with his 167,000 Twitter followers.  Lynne highlighted the diversity within the arts at our schools:

The festival is indicative of the many programs offered in our district.  The variety of the performances provides a rich schedule of entertaining events as each teacher’s program is unique and highlights different aspects of performing arts.  We have enjoyed performances including: spoken word, theatre, choir, soloist, band, pop musical, flash mob and varied dance.

And she concluded, “This is public education at its finest.” – So true! It is great to expose the larger community to the great work in our schools, and give our students the opportunity to share their work with the “real world”.

Fellow Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, recently shared some of the initial feedback around our 1:1 Action Research.  There has been the good, the challenging and also the surprising.  Included on the surprising list from teachers:

  • It surprises me that people feel that students having 1:1 access to technological devices at any time at school is anything but to be expected. Many have their own iPads, or iPods in their backpacks. At home, although they often must share devices with other family members, all of my students have access to technology almost anytime.
  • How fast it is to find information (instant) when we are discussing things in-class
  • How much having google images supports our ability to “see” what we are learning
  • How many options exist/how many things we can DO with technology to show what we know or find things out
  • For educators too, tech opens up endless teaching and learning opportunities that far-outweigh the frustration of slow Internet, missing chargers, and access denied messages!
  • I was surprised when a teacher said, how can the students take notes from my lesson if they are ‘playing’ with their devices.  I figure the students take snaps and vids when they need to. A paradigm shift needs to be made here.
  • It surprises me that children think that computers are smarter than they are. When they figure out that they are in fact in the driver’s seat of these powerful tools and that the sky is the limit, they begin to see and think over the rainbow!

Sticking with technology, Caulfeild parent Andrea Benton wrote a guest post on Principal Brad Lund’s blog sharing her thinking as to why she supports and encourages the use of technology in their school.  Her post inserts itself into the discussion of what is the right balance in elementary school.  She argues:

Some people believe that technology shouldn’t be in schools. For me, this is short-sighted.  Schools shouldn’t be teaching for today but should be educating students for the jobs of tomorrow. This includes project management, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration. Technology is here to stay and it is only getting more complicated.

Hollyburn Principal Val Brady recently used her blog to nicely outline the WHYs and the WHATs to writing in elementary school.  Her useful post looked at the purpose of writing and what has been changing:

The philosophical underpinnings of teaching writing have shifted over the years. Developing student skills in writing is still important, but engaging students in writing for real purposes leads to joy in writing and at the same time develops communication skills that will serve students a lifetime.  Whether students put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, engaging in writing for real purposes gives voice and structure and develops thinking ability.

For West Bay Vice-Principal Tara Zielinski, a lot of focus in her class has been on Exhibition – the final stage of the PYP experience for grade 7’s:

In one sense, it’s a rite of passage.  However, after having both participated in and led Exhibition for five years now, I know it is so much more.  There have been and will be moments when our students feel like I did on the zip-line platform – fearful, intimidated, and adverse to things they have not yet faced.  Writing a Central Idea and Lines of Inquiry over and over demands resiliency.  Collaboration requires reflection and metacognition. Interviewing experts takes organization and calls for effective questioning skills.  However, each year it is one of the most rewarding components of my job to observe and support our learners as they integrate the essential elements of the PYP and more than six weeks of intense erudition into a final presentation.

At Pauline Johnson, they have just been through the student-led conferences, and Principal-designate Chantal Trudeau shared her thinking around their power:

The student-led conference is a wonderful opportunity for the students themselves to take ownership of their learning and to show their parents and guests what they have learned over the course of a term. Students invariably feel pride in what they have accomplished. They feel independent, confident and important as they read their favorite stories, lead their parents in the calendar routine, show science experiments or Social Studies projects.  Research shows that student-led conferences is a method that better helps students improve their learning, improve parent engagement, and get higher learning results for our students

Ridgeview grade 7 teacher Cari Wilson shared the story of her students inspirational meeting with Molly Burke:

One of the big privileges that comes with being in Grade 7 is the ability to join your school’s “Me to We” group. Last week many students in School District 45 joined thousands and thousands of other students in Me to We’s “I am Silent” day. It is a day of silent protest and solidarity, designed to bring awareness to the plight of the millions of children worldwide who are not listened to. The children who have no voice.

This year, on the day before “I am Silent” day, 5 lucky Grade 6 and 7 Ridgeview students got a chance to meet Molly Burke, a remarkable young Canadian who although blind has found her voice and is using it to inspire young people.

And finally,  also with a large serving of inspiration, West Vancouver Secondary Principal Steve Rauh had his blog taken over by John Galvani a grade 12 student in a wheel chair:

I am John Galvani, I am 17 and I am in a wheelchair. For my Global Education class I organized for wheelchairs to come to my school. I wanted to spread awareness and education about what my life is like in a wheelchair by giving my class the experience of being in a wheelchair for the day.

I contacted BC Wheelchair Basketball Association and arranged for them to deliver 10 wheelchairs on April 10. Ten students volunteered to be in a wheelchair.  They went to their classes, recess, lunch and some even went to P.E.!

We should do this for all grades so that they can see and feel the challenges that people in wheelchairs go through everyday.

Lately I have been seeing a lot of what I do as being the amplifier of good ideas – whether that is done face-to-face or in the digital world, my job is to tell our good stories and connect and network them to others.    And, there are lots of good ideas to share!

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We tried to stop them, but they just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

As a follow-up to my “real-real” learning post (here), last week I had the chance to spend some time with four Sentinel Secondary students, Adam Mitha, Justin Wong, Jun Jeagal and Sailesh Suri, to hear a story, firsthand, of what this kind of learning looks and feels like.

Supported by their teacher, Joel Gibson, the four young men, former classmates in Joel’s Information Technology class, were inspired to develop an “App” for the school that could easily match any created by experts in the field. They didn’t get paid, they didn’t get school credit, but it was some of the best learning they had ever experienced. In my conversation with them, they expounded about the 300 hours of coding, developing and designing that went into the finished product that has just been loaded to iTunes here (it is a free download).

So, just why did they do it?  They wanted to leave a legacy for the school. They described it as a mostly an out-of-school project, but they loved it because they were doing stuff they wanted to do and were interested in learning about. They emphasized the role of their teacher, Joel Gibson, “saying, I believe in you, is the best thing a teacher can do.”  When Joel saw the group needed to obtain more technical expertise for some parts of the project, he connected the students to experts from within and outside the system. Along the way, he connected them to the school PAC and others who could help.

Of course, as I stated at the beginning of this post, we didn’t make it easy for them. We (the system), limited some of their access to computers, were slow to support them technically, and made it challenging to move forward. They said that it was a good thing they had Mr. Gibson to mentor and guide them, but also, that they were part of the hacker culture. The hacker culture, as they described it, is “doing things over and over again. At school, the culture is that you do it right the first time.” One student remarked, “I had 30 failed projects before this one.”

I have been inspired by their inventiveness, determination and passion. How can we help students balance this kind of work with school, or better yet, how do we make this type of work systemic to the work of the school?  These four students were pursuing their passion, creating real work of value, and they were learning — for the benefit and reward of learning.

Often, this type of informal learning can be incredibly powerful. While our current structure does limit this “real world” opportunities, students like Adam, Justin, Jun and Sailesh, describe these as often the most exhilarating school experiences.

Be sure to download the fabulous Sentinel App:  HERE


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Trying  to do something new or different can be a real challenge sometimes.  Last week I had the opportunity to teach a class to students at Gleneagles Elementary School and West Bay Elementary School, and to share my story about how I started blogging. I also had the opportunity to learn about their work and their own digital writing.  The work at Gleneagles is part of a teacher inquiry project that focussed on the following question:

Will students include more meaningful detail and perspective in their weBlogs by focusing on social issues as their ‘purpose for writing’ and will continuous feedback, in the form of threads, lead to deeper understanding of a given issue?

The classroom was both face-to-face and virtual, and teaching students I couldn’t see was new and challenging.  Teachers are accustomed to reading a student’s body language, and receiving cues from the class.  Half of the students were in front of me at Gleneagles, but the other half were viewing the class on-screen at West Bay via Lync, and it was a one-way video.  The students could ask questions, but I didn’t feel the same connection as when they are in front of me, in a room, or at least when I can see them on video.

Of course, the whole topic was quite new for the students as well.  We all agreed that even two years ago, there would have been no way we would be having a conversation about digital writing and blogs; what it meant to have a personal brand, and what kind of topics we would write about if we were going to share our ideas with classmates, or the world.  Out of the presentation came a number of excellent questions:

  • Why do you blog versus using an alternative platform to share your message/knowledge?
  • Where do you get your ideas/inspiration for your many blogs?
  • How do you create an effective blog?
  • Where/how do you find the time to blog so frequently?
  • When you started blogging, were you inspired by anyone/anything in particular?  Do they continue to influence your thinking?  If so, by what/whom?
  • Do you follow other bloggers and use their techniques/messages as a model for your own?
  • How do you decide on the graphics, pictures, and links you embed when there seems to be so many to choose from?
  • How often do you post?  Why?
  • Do you believe the good connection with your readers is because of your transparency as a writer?

It is a different way to think about writing, and I often say that I think in blog posts.  When I sit in a meeting, I write my notes around themes that may later become posts; I can think of the visuals that might go with the words, and this is so different from only a few years ago.  I have started dozens of posts, which may or may not become a blog at some point, but they have helped me organize my thinking.  While I write about one post a week, I think about hundreds. It was great to hear students discussing the stories they would like to tell, because we all have stories; we all have our own powerful narratives to share.

Toward the end of the session, one of the excellent discussions was about commenting. I offered that when I comment on other blogs I try to expand on an idea raised by the writer, perhaps give a different point-of-view, or add additional information the writer, or other readers, may find interesting or valuable.  I am hopeful some of the students who participated in our session last week will do just that with this post — extend and reach out with all of your learning.  So, what did you find interesting/valuable? What are you going to do next?  What questions do you still have?

Thanks again to the students of Gleneagles and West Bay for your engagement.

Thanks also to Colleen Denman for session photos, and all of the teachers and administrators who were involved in organizing and setting up the session.

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I have previously written posts on Principals as Blog Leaders (here), highlighting the blogs from our district leaders and leaders in each of our schools. I have profiled the 17 BC superintendents in Superintendents as Blog Leaders (here), who blog to keep their community current. More recently, I have shared a post featuring our dashboard initiative (here) in West Vancouver, and efforts to give students their own digital learning space. There has been amazing energy around students as blog leaders, and many of our principals and vice-principals have blogged about their experiences, including Judy Duncan, Principal, West Bay Elementary (here), Chris Parslow, Vice-Principal, Gleneagles Elementary (here), Scott Slater, Vice-Principal, Bowen Island Community School (here) and Chantal Trudeau, Principal, Cedardale Elementary (here).

That energy and excitement is spreading. Last week, I spoke with a gentleman with grandchildren in two of our schools. He told me that each child had a blog to show him and were genuinely enthusiastic about what they were doing. It was also the first time they had shown him their writing, and he commented on how they were so engaged, and how he was even able to connect through the technology.

Our Director of Instruction for Technology and Innovation has already covered the student blog-a-thon (here) and a summary from our Digital Literacy Support Teacher (here) gives a comprehensive overview of some of the work taking place with our Grade 4-7 students around digital writing.

I often remind people who are looking in from outside the district with skepticism, envy (or both) at our technology use, the ultimate goal is not to have students blog, it is to have students improve their literacy skills and have the ability to be digital writers, and to do things that would not be possible without the technology.  It is about students creating content to hyperlink to the world, to embed photos and video with text.  It is about students publishing, and then to have the opportunity to receive feedback on their work, review, edit and republish. It is about students producing work not only for their teacher, but for the world. It is about students having their own space to be creative and connect in new ways.  It is, ultimately, about students having greater ownership of their learning.

Twelve months ago, I never would have imagined writing about hundreds of West Vancouver students blogging as a way to share their learning.  It is so exciting to see the new learning students are creating, the teachers that are guiding them, and the parents (and grandparents) who are engaging with them. A slide I often use in presentations simply says, “The Kids Have Tasted the Honey”. Having seen the work presented by so many students this past fall, the viral nature of the growth of digital writing, that quote is so true.  This month, the challenge for students across the district is to publish 5,000 posts (see all the monthly challenges here).

I do want to highlight and celebrate some of the students’ digital writing. As our student blogs are on an internal system, I have copied the text of a few of them when they wrote about their neighbourhood:

Grade Four

Jenna, Westcot

I live in wonderful neighbourhood in West Vancouver close to my school. I live in a cul-de-sac. My neighbourhood has some trees in the background and is open and sunny.

The view from my neighbourhood is wonderful; you can see pretty much see the whole city. I get a view of downtown, the ocean, and the rest of Vancouver. It is very pretty in the night because I can see all the lights and the city looks like it is shining.  When there are fireworks I can see them quite well, and it looks beautiful. The fireworks look like a spurt of colour bursting out of the sky. I can also see the sunset from my neighbourhood. I love seeing the pink and purple sky in the morning and evening. I love the views I get from my neighbourhood.

In my neighbourhood, we sometimes encounter wildlife. During the spring we sometimes get black bears. They would either take someone’s garbage and eat in our yard, or poop in our yard. When we had a plum-tree they would come into our yard and eat all the plums. We have a big grassy yard so I guess the bears like it. Once a black bear tore down my neighbour’s shed and they had to call the police. They did not turn on the flashing lights but, just seeing the stripes on the police car, the bear ran away. I also get a lot of crows in my neighbourhood and they usually perch themselves on the roof or on the electrical wires.

 My neighbourhood is very close to my school. This is convenient so we do not have to leave my house really early. Also, on snow days or warm days we can walk to school which is really fun.

We have wonderful neighbours and we like to go over to their house and play badminton or tag.

This is why my neighbourhood is such a wonderful place to live.

Lauren, West Bay

I have a really cool neighborhood. My street is on a beach. I really like going down to our beach in the summer because the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks is really soothing. I also like living near the beach because I can watch all the boats sail along the coast. It’s really nice sitting on the couch watching seals bob their heads up and down. Once I even saw whales! Can you believe it? Speaking of animals, we see quite a few animals on our street. For instance we have a “Block Deer”. A deer that is so comfortable he walks through the tables of our annual summer block party. Amazing right? On my street it usually smells okay but for a few days now and then it smells like skunk. My family has named the skunk Kyle. We even tell stories about him. We have quite a good time with it. A few days ago there was a baby bear on my street. He was an orphan because his mom was taken away earlier in the season. Luckily he was saved by my neighbors, who found him up their apple tree and stayed at the bottom until the rescue center came and took him. They named him Apple. My favourite animals of all on my street are the raccoons because they’re so cute when they put their paws on the living room window. Watching animals is not the only thing I do in my neighborhood. There are lots of kids. In the summer we like to ride our bikes together and on Halloween after we go trick or treating our street throws a fireworks party and we all watch. I love my neighborhood. It always makes me feel welcome.

 Grade Five

Nicole, Caulfeild

In my neighborhood, we have a glorious view of the water. We are able to see ferries and cruise ships gliding by gracefully. One time we had spotted a Disney Cruise! We could see the water slide hanging off the side of the boat. It was a very cheerful and magical boat.

The wild life around us is amazing. Every morning during the frosty winter you will hear a woodpecker pecking against some sort of metal heater that we have on the roof. The woodpecker has a cherry red mohawk, and a slim black body.

Another type  of wildlife around us are geckos. They look like they have gradient patterns on their backs which make them interesting to look at. Some of them we’ve seen are emerald green and a night black. During figure skating camp in the summer every time we came home there were two gecko’s in between the rock wall of our garden. One of them is a baby gecko and the other is the mother. Their colours were amber and grey. they were not scared of anyone who walked by or looked at them with interest.

One night during the summer we spotted a black bear strolling up the sidewalk beside our driveway. We think it was a cub because it was quite petite.

Another type of wildlife we have around are chipmunks. When me and my family are swimming in our pool,​ you will see tiny chipmunks fighting over a tiny pine cone. (probably because it has fresh seeds inside it.) Although, when the pool is completely calm you see the reflection of them on the glassy water.

In our neighborhood, there is a rocky beach just down the street called, “Stearman” At that beach when I was little I used to collect only one type of shell which is kinda like a mini conch shell. Stearman beach also has a water fall going down the center of the beach leading into the ocean. It is a gorgeous rushing waterfall. Also at the beach I can feel the gritty sand squishing between my toes. It is very ticklish! The water is very cold in the Pacific Ocean so I don’t like going in it very often.

Sherry, Chartwell

My neighbourhood is a fantastic place to live, because it small, quiet, and very peaceful. There are never car crashes, babies never scream, and our leaves don’t make any crunching sound when we step all over them. The only time there is ever any noise is when someone comes to mow our lawn.

Our neighbourhood is very lively. To the North of our house are the Lion Mountains, which have just been showered with mounds and mounds of white, fluffy snow. To the East lies a pretty little park called St. David’s park. Sometimes in the summer, I even go blackberry picking there during late August, when the berries are ripe. To the South is downtown, where I can see the Seabus going back and forth between the two towns, and where I can also see the blazing fury of red, pink, purple, orange, and yellow when I’m watching a breathtaking sunset. To the West is a kind family of Iranians that sometimes help us plant and take care of our garden. Our entire family is very grateful for their time and effort towards our flowers.

Sometimes we get interesting surprises from the wild.  Birds, raccoons, and squirrels come to our neighbourhood to seek out food. Lot’s of mornings I have even woken up to the pretty sound of robins and sparrows chirping outside of my bedroom window.

During the spring, there are often flowers that bloom and grow early, like bluebells, dandelions, roses, and cherry blossoms. When it rains, the dewdrops reflect off of the sun, causing it to look like little, miniature rainbows sparkling in the sunlight. In the summer, there are even more beautiful flowers, and this tie the flowers are all the colours of the rainbow. In the autumn, the leaves turn red, orange, and yellow. When they fall, I often stick them in my scrapbook so I won’t forget that specific fall. And finally, in the winter eventually everything gets covered in a thick blanket of white snow, and the bright red and green holly sticks out of the astonishing white landscape.

My neighbourhood is a great place to live all year round, and I wish that the whole world were as peaceful and beautiful as it is. We have such a great neighbourhood that we should all work hard to protect and cherish it.

Grade Six

Eva, Pauline Johnson

I have lived in my neighbourhood as long as I can remember. My neighbourhood is quiet and remote, but if you scratch the surface you will discover many exciting things. By reading the next couple paragraphs, you will find out lots about my neighbourhood. You’ll find out about the people and the hill and the view from my neighbourhood. You’ll find out that there are good and bad aspects to my neighbourhood. When balancing the good with the bad, my neighbourhood is a pretty nice place to live.

There are not many kids in my neighbourhood but there is an interesting collection of adults that live near me. There is one guy that carves native designs in cedar. He has carved a canoe out of a cedar log, a whale on his front door and he even made an eight meter totem pole that stands in his front yard. There is also a guy who has a red corvette that makes a lot of noise in his garage. There’s a really nice family that lives next to me. Their kids have grown up but they have a really cute dog named Millie and a playful bunny named Bruno who keep me company sometimes. I also have a war veteran as a neighbour who lives with his wife. They are really nice people. The whole group makes up a diverse set of neighbours

My neighbourhood is far from the city on top of a huge hill. There’s up sides and down sides to that. The down sides are that it’s hard to walk home and you are kind of cut off from the community below. The up side is that you get a nice view of the city and the ocean and sometimes you get so much snow that you can’t go to school.  Way up here, we can enjoy all that nature has to offer.  We get the birds chirping in the morning, we get the bear cubs in the spring and in the autumn we have trees bursting with colour. All this gives us a great advantage over living downtown.

My neighbourhood has an amazing view of the city. From up on my hill, we are so high that we are above the fog and can see the fog lying on the city below . Also we get to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the lights of the city at night, the dark rain storm clouds and we can clearly see the lighting storms. The only thing we can’t see is the fresh snow on mountain because we are actually on the mountain side.

You just read about the up sides and the down sides of my neighbourhood. I hope you think that the people are cool as I do.  I think if you saw the view and the nature you would find it magical. I hope you enjoyed reading about my neighbourhood.

Sarah, Pauline Johnson

My neighbourhood is fun and vibrant.  I will tell you all about living somewhere where you can walk to the ocean and why I’m lucky to live in my neighbourhood. I will also tell you about a wonderful park and my memories there, plus my place in Whistler.

In my neighbourhood there’s a park named Westridge Park. There’s a nice tennis court, it seems like nobody ever plays tennis there except for me and my mom. In Westridge Park there are tons of trails to walk around in, my friend and I like to collect all the BB’s while we walk. There are also creeks and streams, on a hot summer day I walk over to Westridge Park with my friend and splash each other with water. The waterfall is awesome; I love hiking up it but believe me it isn’t easy.

I think that I’m lucky to live in my neighbourhood because there are nice people and lots of activities to do. I’m lucky because I live pretty close to the ocean; it’s about a 20 minute walk. It’s a nice walk winding through the streets. When you think about it we’re lucky because there’s clean water and fresh air. Everybody has to go to school, but in some countries they don’t even have schools!

I have a cabin in Whistler as well. Our family loves to ski and we go up there every weekend in the winter and sometimes in the summer. I love Whistler because it’s pretty much always snowing. It’s nice to wake up when it’s snowing and drink hot chocolate getting all excited for the day ahead. I feel lucky to have a place at Whistler because on the drive there, there’s a Tim Horton’s, who doesn’t like a timbits on a long drive?

I told you all about Westridge Park, why I’m lucky and my cabin at Whistler. I hope you enjoyed reading about my neighbourhood, and just think about… do you feel lucky to live where you live?

Kate, Pauline Johnson

Bark! Bark! I sit up and look at my clock it’s 5:30 in the morning and I am once again woken by the sound of barking dogs. I try to go back to sleep but the noise continues. My house is right beside a dog park so in the morning I sometimes awaken to the sounds of barking, growling and once in a while it even sounds as if two dogs were fighting. You have to agree it’s not the nicest thing to be woken by. As I said my house is beside a park and in that park there is a high school. How come kids in high school are always throwing parties? What I’m saying is that in the morning I’m woken up by dogs and at night I can’t sleep because they are doing fireworks as loud as someone’s heart beat after watching a terrifying movie! Let’s say I sometimes have trouble concentrating in school the next day when I can’t stay awake! If you read on you will find out everything about my neighborhood. 

I have talked about how I see and hear lots of dogs. There’s one dog that constantly shows up in my front yard without an owner. Its name is Ellie you’re probably thinking I’m talking about a stray dog but Ellie does have an owner. Since my house is situated right beside a park I have seen a lot of animals some of which have even been inside my house. One animal that I see and hear a lot of are raccoons. One time at 8:30 at night I was reading my book when all of a sudden my cat starts to hiss and my dog is running around downstairs chasing something. I wait in bed thinking of all the possible things they could be chasing. At that very moment I knew that a raccoon was once again in our house. The sly raccoon had gotten through the cat door and had begun to eat the cat’s food. The raccoon had definitely underestimated my cat and was soon chased out by my cat Tommy. I doubt that raccoon will ever come back. Another animal that I see around my house is an adorable barred owl. I don’t see him very often but when I do it’s so fascinating because I know most people haven’t seen one in their natural habitat. When there in their natural habitat they’re so happy and they will do their birdcall and everything. Why go to the zoo when you can see one in your own backyard? The last animal I’m going to write about is bears. I have never seen the bear that lives in the dog park but he’s almost always there (unless he’s in hibernation) but about three weeks ago my mom told me that the bear had been captured. Anyway when the bear was still here he would eat all of the berries and he even went through some of the garbage cans. Of course he did this all at night and if the next day someone went to go pick some berries and they found that they were gone they immediately knew they had been eaten by are neighborhood bear. 

Imagine it as a beautiful, sunny, warm summer day what should I do? Go play soccer in the park with a bunch of my friends go swimming in the creek. Around my house there are so many things to do. I already told you how I live beside a dog park and that in that dog park is a high school. It’s not like my house has a wonderful view of the ocean but I still love where my house is. It is on a dead-end street we never see cars unless they accidentally turned on to our dead-end street. Which means it’s a fantastic place to bike, scooter, roller blade or even play a game of basketball, soccer or any other sport without having to watch out for cars. A lot of parents worry about their children going on to the street to play but no one in my neighborhood worries about their children getting run over by a car since no cars come down our street. Because I live beside a dog park whenever I want I can go and play soccer in the dog park on a grass field with real goals that are actually the right size. It isn’t very fun playing soccer with the size of nets that 5 year olds play with. In the summer blackberries, huckleberries, salmonberries and lots of other berries lots of people don’t even know what salmonberries are! Most people think they are a type of poisonous berry. I think I learn lots more than the average person about nature just by living beside a dog park.

You have all heard how homelessness is an enormous problem in Vancouver in this paragraph I’m going to tell you what I think my neighborhood could do to help the homeless. My neighborhood hasn’t done anything to help homelessness and I think these are some ways my neighborhood can help. I have noticed how in my neighborhood lots of people go on vacation more often than needed even in all of West Vancouver I would say most people have traveled outside of Canada. I think if everyone in my neighborhood went on one less vacation they could give some money to buy homeless people a warm blanket and a pair of comfortable clothes. In the summer my neighborhood had a garage sale if we did that again but this time gave all of the money to a homeless shelter. It would make a big influence in homeless people’s lives. Because pretty much in garage sales it’s giving away objects that you don’t want, why not give it to a good cause instead. Another idea would be to every year everyone in my neighborhood could each donate 20$ to the North Shore Lookout shelter.

Thank you for reading my blog I hoped you learned lots about my neighborhood and in your neighborhood you can also try to make an effort to help the raising number of homeless people in Downtown Vancouver. If you ever want to see wildlife instead of looking in the zoo try finding them in their natural habitats.

Grade Seven

Mollie, Irwin Park

My neighborhood is the perfect place to live. Our hou​se is in a great location for our family. We live in a very environmentally friendly and green location an it is also in a private and quiet place.

Among all the neighborhoods in West Vancouver, I think mine is one of the best.  We live in the Bayridge area, close to Caulfeild Village. To begin with, we are close to many schools, including Rockridge, so I can walk home from high school if I go there. If I did not want to walk home, there is a bus stop right in front of our house! Also, there is a couple of elementary schools that I could have gone to including West Bay and Caulfeild Elementary Schools. Another great thing about my neighborhood is that it is close to Horseshoe Bay, so it is very convenient to go for a nice hike by the water, go for lunch or go to Bowen Island for the day. Lastly, there are lots of little things that are good about my neighborhood like we are a ten minute walk to the beach and we are conveniently close to the highway for going to Whistler on weekends. This is why I like the location of my neighborhood.

Something else that I love about where we live is that it is a very natural environment. We always see wild animals going in and out of our backyard! These animals range from bears, deer, raccoons, skunks and many types of birds. I like seeing animals in our backyard because it shows that we are still at the boundary of an urban forest and that West Vancouver has a wild side to it. Another thing I like is that we have many creeks in our neighborhood where fish come back to spawn in the autumn. Yet another quality that my neighborhood has is that we have two magnificent parks. They are both very natural, not used by many people and fun to explore. You can find secret stashes of blackberries and salmonberries, build tire swings and tree forts. These again are some of the many reasons why my neighborhood comes out on top for me!

Last of all, my neighborhood is so great because it is private and quiet. Also, our lot is great. First of all, we have one the largest properties on our side of the street, which is the north side. Not many people in West Vancouver can have as big of a property as us. My favourite thing about my neighborhood is that it is so quiet. There are never many cars going by at night or in the day so I can have really good sleeps and go for runs safely in the day.  Lastly, because of the size of our lot we have lots of privacy when we are playing outside.

I have listed a number of reasons why my neighborhood is the best. It is quiet and private, very natural and in a great location. It is amazing to think that all these things can be found in one location.

Sarah, Ridgeview

Rain drops cool, snow falls soft, but sunshine is a welcome break. Streams trickle and rivers roar, as away the ocean tides shrink, and as my skipping stone sinks. West Van is a haven of dappled light and shade. Forests hide squirrels, as garbage cans conceal raccoons.

In my yard, there are regular visitors, ones that I feed scraps of bread or leftover food. I always have an animal waiting outside for a meal.  Sometimes the seagulls fly up from the beach to join the crows and sparrows perching in the pines. No matter what small creature comes, they leave with full bellies.

Another great thing is all the remarkable trees that stand guard over the inhabitants of this outstanding place. The wispy white clouds and the sometimes dazzling blue of the sky inspire my poetry, and my writing. Crying seagulls circle over the sandy beaches, waiting for the moment when a scrap is tossed and when they all dive down, big feathery lumps. Here the heart is always full of the sound of the tide and the blue of the sea. The mind empties then sets itself free to wander through the maze of thoughts and to delve into your imagination. Inspiration is everywhere. The very wind calls me to join it, to spread my wings and soar, to leave the world behind.

 I learned to imagine at a young age. At night I would clutch a blue marble, waiting until it settled comfortably into my hand. I would close my eyes and see myself at a cliff with the world spread before me, and then I would unfold my wings and jump. In my dreams I would glide, free of all my worries, and I would remember how it feels to fly, so when I wake up I just have to close my eyes to leave the world.

West Vancouver is a place of beauty, of comfort and safety, of nature. I know how to embrace the wild, flow with it. I hoped that maybe one day I could do something to make it even better. May all the people who pass through come with love and leave loved.

Will, Irwin Park

I think that my neighborhood is the perfect neighborhood to live in for many reasons. People move here because it has so many benefits that other places may not have. Going to school in my neighborhood makes you loads of friends, and the neighborhood is a very kid friendly area. Each person is unique, and together they form an interesting and fun place to live in.

A morning in my neighborhood starts with rays of sunlight pouring through my window. The glittering blue of the ocean reflects off my canary yellow walls, creating an emerald glow. In seconds I am aware of all the sounds around me. The faint barking of our neighbors’ dog and the zoom of cars whizzing by are the two that I can always count on. I look out my window to see the ocean, reaching out with its long arms to the laughing shore. I have always said that the air is so much more fresh and salty due to the ocean, and anyone who has visited Dundarave will notice it right away. I look into our yard, and see the play fort which has doubled as a castle, a spaceship, and a boat. The fence behind it still has a huge hole in it from our bear encounter (that bear sure was grumpy!).

My neighborhood is full of interesting people with interesting personalities. I think that it is these people who make my neighborhood so great. But there are also funny animals that live around me too. One could write a book about the animals in our neighborhood! For example, at least once a week a random cat will roam into our yard, hoping for a can of tuna. We named this cat Minerva, after the cat shape shifting teacher from the Harry Potter series. Another good example would be our neighbor’s dog. Thanks to him I never need to set my alarm clock. At 7:30 every morning it sounds as though he is attempting to drown out a lawnmower!

One thing you will notice as soon as you come to Dundarave is that everybody is friendly and seems to know each other in some way or another. My neighborhood proves that it is a small world after all. You may find out that you sister’s friend’s mom is the aunt of your buddy in Grade One! It sounds confusing, but you get used to it after a little while.

My neighborhood is like the perfect place to live. As we live near the water, we always see the ocean glitter as you take a walk down the Seawall, and the sun cheers up even the gloomiest feelings. A lot of kids live in my neighborhood, so I have a lot of friends. In the summer we find the beach a perfect hangout, as the pier serves as the world’s best diving board. The adrenaline rush that the jump gives you is like nothing else. Hitting the water stings, but will go away when you feel the cool water on your skin. I think that the beach is the best thing about living in Dundarave.

Overall I think that I live in the greatest neighbourhood. All the amazing people are so nice, and so are the surroundings. The nature that surrounds the neighbourhood is bright and vibrant. People come to Dundarave just to take pictures of the scenery! Dundarave is like a patch of Heaven that fell down to earth, and I feel that I am so lucky to live there.

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To varying degrees, the three most common elements I am hearing right now around new and evolving instructional and classroom innovation from teachers and schools involve inquiry, technology and self-regulation. Many school communities are talking about classroom design–what the schools of the future will look like and, for some, the future is now as they look at pedagogy and the spaces required to maximize these visions. There is more, of course, but these elements seem to dominate the conversation that only a year ago was often described as 21st century or personalized learning.  The direction has not changed, but the vision has become more precise, more tangible.

Inquiry

A worry around inquiry is the term’s overuse to describe anything that involves asking a question.  There are a number of definitions as they continue to be refined in different contexts, but I like the one from the Galileo Educational Network that sees it as:

. . .  a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world.  As such, it is a stance that pervades all aspects of life and is essential to the way in which knowledge is created. Inquiry is based on the belief that understanding is constructed in the process of people working and conversing together as they pose and solve the problems, make discoveries and rigorously testing the discoveries that arise in the course of shared activity.

Inquiry is a study into a worthy question, issue, problem or idea. It is the authentic, real work that someone in the community might tackle. It is the type of work that those working in the disciplines actually undertake to create or build knowledge. Therefore, inquiry involves serious engagement and investigation and the active creation and testing of new knowledge.

I wrote a full post last spring on inquiry available here.  While the term was previously reserved for the world of International Baccalaureate, it is taking hold, in varying degrees, in all of our schools.

Technology

There is no shortage of work taking place in our district, or other BC jurisdictions around the ethical use of technology to improve student learning and engagement.  Last week,  the Minister of Education, the Honourable George Abbott, listed a five-point plan around educational transformation in British Columbia (here) that  included Learning empowered by Technology as one of the key principles. There is amazing innovation happening with technology in a number of areas in West Vancouver. The work at Caulfeild Elementary is an example of this, and has been interesting to follow as they have launched their Inquiry based Digitally Enhanced Community (IDEC). Principal Brad Lund is writing a regular blog (here) keeping the local and larger community updated on their journey. Following up on the larger journey in our district, the Digital Literacy blog (here) is an excellent up-to-date resource on both the micro and macro efforts around using technology to fuel student learning.

Self-Regulation

Dr. Stuart Shanker has brought self-regulation to the masses. He has been a regular presenter in British Columbia, as mentioned in an earlier post on his work  here, and spent two days in West Vancouver at the beginning of September, that included him speaking to all staff. We are hoping to have him back soon, and have dedicated some time from Moray McLean, one of our occupational therapists, who will support each primary class in our district over this year around work in self-regulation.  Jody Langlois, Director of Student Support Services, has also shared thoughts on this through her blog here.

Beyond all the Shanker momentum, MindUP  is another example on the same theme of self-regulation. What started with training for one school staff  has spread to several, with more training to be scheduled soon. West Bay Elementary Principal, Judy Duncan, recently blogged (here) about her school’s experiences.

The conversations on the elements of inquiry, technology and self-regulation are a marriage of pedagogy and environment. Of course, in a world of increased student ownership and personalization of learning there will likely be more diversity rather than less to what a classroom should look like. Some may question the concept and purpose of the “classroom” itself. And, while this is an interesting conversation, we need tangible shifts we can implement now. As we imagine classrooms for the very near future, it will be interesting to track the place of these three current tenets in their design.

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Two metaphors I often hear our Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, evoke while discussing our work with technology are the faucet and the pool.  They are ones I find myself repeating more, as we explain the work we are doing with digital literacy.

In a typical district, school or class, the adults control the supply of technology that students use to support their learning.  While the district may have invested millions to support all students with digital literacy, in some classes the technology faucet is turned off; in others it is a slow drip, while others have it open wide.  We are trying to allow all students some steady flow of technology to support their learning — regardless of a particular school or class.  And, while some will enhance the experience, all students will have basic access.

In K-3, all students in West Vancouver have access to Dreambox (I have written about this program before here).  In some classes it is part of the school day, but all students can access it from home, and all parents can access the analytics to see the areas where they can support their children.  In Grades 4-12, we are just beginning to explore what is possible with student dashboards. Gary Kern, recently wrote about them here.  All students have email, instant messaging, storage, and a series of other tools which allow them to collaborate in a safe environment.  All students can actually instant message the superintendent (and four have so far).  We are not turning the technology faucet on full, but we are creating a steady stream for all students.  Students can explore how they can ethically use digital tools to support their learning.

It is difficult to teach kids to swim without getting them into the pool.  And, this is also true of being good digital citizens — we can’t teach digital citizenship without giving students a safe digital space to experiment, learn and grow in. Again, the student dashboards are part of the latest effort to teach our students to swim in the digital world.  And better yet, we know that when we get into the water with  the kids, it is even easier. We also know we need to continue to support administrators, teachers and parents in the digital world to be more comfortable swimming in the water with their kids.  While some take the approach that the technology pool, although very inviting, is closed with large, raised fences around it — we are taking a different approach.  We want to be able to say that all our kids know how to swim safely.

Turning on the faucet for all children and jumping in the water with them does challenge the status quo.  Giving all students access to some technology and expecting all students will have some ability to navigate in a digital environment is not the norm.  If we believe what Coquitlam administrator, David Truss recently wrote, that education is going to be increasingly open and distributed, we need to support students for this world.

There are times when I wish this fall looked more like last fall — it would make life easier but, of course, it would not be the right thing to do.  It will continue to be exciting to see what happens as we open the faucet and jump in the pool with our students.

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