Archive for December, 2011

I compiled a “Top 3” list for 2010 (here), and am thinking of turning the “Top 3” into an annual tradition.  Many of my 2010 choices could have held for this year, but I wanted to highlight new people, blogs, resources, etc.  These year-end lists are a great way to raise topics, discussion and debate, and shine some light onto areas that may have received less attention than I thought they deserved as the year went along.  I look forward to your own “Top 3” thoughts for 2011.

Top 3 “Culture of Yes” Blog Posts – these posts have generated the most traffic this year:

1.  My Take on Librarians

2.  Preparing and Supporting Teachers to Integrate Technology in the Classroom

3.  A Little Bit About Mrs. Caffrey

Top 3 BC Teacher Blogs I Follow:

1.  Keith Rispin, West Vancouver

2.  David Wees, Vancouver

3.  , Lytton

Top 3 BC Edu-bloggers (not current teachers or school administrators)  I Follow:

1. Mike McKay, Surrey

2. Brian Kuhn, Coquitlam

3. Tom Schimmer, Penticton

Top 3 Digital  Learning Trends in Schools:

1.  Everyone has a blog — students, teachers, administrators, district staff.  From a few dozen to a few hundred (or more) in B.C., in just one year

2.  Personally Owned Devices — more jurisdictions are including PODs as part of their digital-learning strategy

3.  iPads — from school pilots to being one of the most popular presents at Christmas, they are finding their way into more and more classrooms

Top 3 Professional Development Events I have Attended:

1.  GELP – Global Education Leadership Program

2.  West Vancouver Opening Day with Stuart Shanker

3.  MindShare Learning 21st Century Canadian EdTech Summit

Top 3 Used (and often overused) Terms in Education for the Year:

1. The Flipped Classroom

2.  Technology is just a tool

3.  Taking to Scale

Top 3 Books I have Read this Year that Influenced My Thinking:

1.  Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merrymen

2. Spark:  The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey

3. What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

Top 3 School-related Videos from West Vancouver (that I bet you haven’t seen)

1.  Students at Cypress Park talking about their project with the Obakki Foundation – Kids for Clean water

2.  Caulfeild Elementary sharing the story of their iDEC Program

3.  Students at West Vancouver Secondary and their lipdub from the spring

Top 3 School-related Videos from B.C. (that I bet you haven’t seen)

1.  Students from School Completion and Beyond reflecting on the BC EdPlan

2.  An introduction to Learning Commons in BC

3.  Delta School District Vision Video

As I finish my first full year as Superintendent, I continue to love using my blog to reflect, share and engage.  I like David Eaves‘ notion that the blog is a great place to work out the mind.  I look forward to continuing to connect in 2012!

Chris Kennedy

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The Globe & Mail recently ran a series (one example here) on teachers across Canada who are leading the charge with innovative teaching infused with technology.  As part of the story, parents, teachers, administrators and others were encouraged to submit their stories about how and in what ways teachers were doing this. I can’t be sure of just how many West Vancouver teachers were nominated, but four applications were shared with me, as well as submitted to the paper, and I want to share their stories because they are such key learning leaders in our district:

Cari Wilson, Teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School and Digital Literacy Resource Teacher for West Vancouver School District.

Cari has been leveraging technology with her students for the past decade, finding ways to make content engaging and empowering students to own their own learning through various web applications.  In her current role, Cari has spent time in every Grade 4 – 7 classroom teaching the power of “creating a learning network.” Learning networks are made possible through technology previously unimaginable; students can connect with other students, teachers, and digital content to help improve their learning understanding and opportunities. Cari’s tireless and enthusiastic approach has provided a glimpse for our whole district about what is possible when we tap into the “collective wisdom” of our learning network. It is work that is shifting our understanding of teaching and learning, and what can truly be possible with innovative practice and digital access.

Martin Andrews, Teacher at Caulfeild Elementary School

Martin has taught at Caulfeild Elementary School for the past 20 years, and currently teaches a Grade 6/7 class. Martin has always been a leader in the use of technology in the classroom, so it was natural for him to jump at the chance to become involved with a new program called iDEC (Inquiry-Based Digitally Enhanced Community). In his role as a lead teacher, Martin helped create an environment which employs Smartboards at the Kindergarten/Grade 1 level, iPads at the Grade 2/3 level and student-owned laptops at the Grade 4 – 7 level. Each classroom was fitted with a wall-mounted, short throw wireless projector and teachers were provided with technology appropriate to their level.  Martin works tirelessly to train teachers, encourage students, and assure parents that what we are doing is making a dramatic and positive difference in student engagement and achievement.  The program uses the Understanding by Design model to deliver curriculum enhanced by the latest digital tools, and also teaches the soft skills necessary for a well-rounded 21st Century Learner.  We call these skills our S.U.C.C.E.E.D. Skills (Self-regulation, Understanding, Creative and Critical thinking, Cooperation and Collaboration, Empathy, Enthusiasm and Determination). Martin helps his students use the technology as an ethical tool to communicate.  They also represent their learning with various types of technology under his tutelage. The iDEC program would still be a dream without Martin’s leadership.

Arlene Anderson, Teacher-Librarian at Rockridge Secondary School

Arlene Anderson is the teacher librarian at Rockridge Secondary School and the recent recipient of the 2010-11 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. The press release around her award describes her well, as the “techno-wiz teacher–librarian [who] inspires students and…reinvents [the] school library. If the school is an atom, the library is its nucleus where energy and enthusiasm fuel ideas.”

Arlene is always learning; she has made efforts to be familiar with and lead the use of noodle bib to help students create annotated bibliographies, wikis and voice threads. She has led staff in the development of scope and sequence for technology, and in understanding the importance of crediting the correct source, finding the original source of information, as well as understanding how to determine if the source is accurate or not.

She is also a side-by-side teacher with her colleagues, as in working with a science teacher to teach students how to create a wiki, find correct information on the Internet and check sources. In this project there were five classes: the first group of students wrote out their research on the wiki, the next group checked the sources/accuracy then added information, the third group also checked and added…etc., and when all five classes had spent time working on these wikis, they had created a powerful document on body systems. Each class had a group of students working on each topic.

Arlene models the way for teacher librarians, at the heart of our schools, embracing technology to support students and their learning.

Christine Winger, James Topp, Mike Richardson, Alex Kozak, Stew Baker and Keith Rispin, Teachers at West Vancouver Secondary School

Six teachers from West Vancouver Secondary School  have undertaken an exploration into how technology can improve both instruction and learning. Specifically, these teachers have agreed to spearhead a 1:1 iPad initiative with a cohort of 28, Grade 10 students working in the subject applications for Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Social Studies, Planning, and Science.

The teachers are exploring applications for the iPad in an attempt to find meaningful ways to collaborate, present content, reduce paper and communicate efficiently with students. Students use their iPad to explore, from a learning perspective, which elements allow for deeper and broader understanding, as well as creating a platform for personalization of learning. To date, many aspects of the initiative have been positive. As with any initiative, there have been minor stumbling blocks as all participants strive to find that balance between efficiency and expediency.

What is so impressive about this group of teachers, and students, is their ongoing willingness to take a risk, try something new, and go back to the drawing board when all else fails.

These are four wonderful examples from four different schools about how teachers are leading the way to improve student learning and engage young people with technology.  Of course, a challenge of highlighting some of these achievements is recognizing there are similar stories in all our schools. We are exceptionally fortunate to have an amazing group of teaching professionals taking the best of what they know about pedagogy and marrying it with the tools of today for tomorrow.

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I have been a long-time admirer of the work of UBC’s former President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Martha Piper. And, in the past two weeks I have had two opportunities to hear her speak directly about the road ahead for education in British Columbia; first, in roundtable discussions focussing on the qualities of an Educated Citizen, with the Honourable George Abbott, B.C.’s Minister of Education, and this week as she keynoted the BC School Trustees Association 2011 Academy in Vancouver.

On both occasions, Dr. Piper referenced the work out of Singapore and the influence of Lee Kuan Yew on her thinking.  She recalled his advice, and the three key points he shared:

1) the importance of multiple languages

2) the value of being scientifically literate and technologically savvy

3)  the need to study cultures and religions

In the most recent session at the BCSTA Academy, Dr. Piper framed these key points in context to her five suggestions to foster creativity and global citizenship. She restated these suggestions, and not only “preparing students for the workforce”, as an essential role of our K-12 system:

1)  A Commitment to Languages

There are a series of new languages required to be competitive.  Should we  have all students learn two, or three languages?  How can we infuse literature from other countries and expose our students to foreign language films?  The research is clear that the learning of languages will boost creativity.

2)  Integrate Humanities and the Arts into Curriculum

We have become focussed on areas relatively easy to test.  Areas that we have agreed are increasingly important to support creativity push beyond these traditional core areas.   These areas will not be able to be evaluated on a bubble sheet, but will be used in the “test” of life and living.

3)  Embed Global Citizenship

We need to make connections to the real world, so students in a science class understand how the science in the lab is changing the “real” world.  These kind of connections need to be made at all levels, in all classes.

4)  Embrace Community Service Learning

We need to build citizenship in students and within communities that is part of the school experience.  As well, constructive projects that connect with and build community need to be a role for our schools.

5)  Build Unique Environments

Each community is different, so programs should be flexible enough to tailor to community needs to best serve the students of each school and district.

Dr. Piper put a different frame on some of the personalized learning discussions, but with familiar themes around global citizenship. However, her stress on languages is not one I hear often.  She spoke about our goals of creating tolerant, compassionate and respectful environments, making students feel welcome and secure as they pursue their passions.

We can all point to examples of teachers, programs and even schools embracing the ideals that Dr. Piper speaks about.  The challenge is acknowledging and sharing the great practices around them: the schools who have found ways to add Mandarin to their school day, or integrate Social Studies, Music and Math in their inquiry projects, or have a scope and sequence for global citizenship, or encouraging all students to participate in meaningful community engagement, or have taken ministry curriculum and tailored these documents for their schools.  There are excellent examples of these practices, but are largely pockets of innovation.

I have heard a number of speakers on their way forward, and found Dr. Piper’s views of incremental change and focussing on citizenship to resonate with many of my hopes for our system.

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This past week the Honourable George Abbott, B.C.’s Minister of Education, spent a day in our district. It was another great opportunity to share a slice of West Vancouver’s public education story, and while I do cover many of our schools’  initiatives and learning directions through my blog posts, this time, I would like to share it through photos of the day spent with the Minister connecting with students, teachers, administrators, parents and others in our schools. I would also like to share what Dean Shareski described as “narrative champions”, telling our exciting, ongoing and ever emerging story.

At Eagle Harbour Montessori School, although there was a room full of adult visitors, students remained focussed and intent on their work:

All groups working together at Caulfeild — administrators, teachers and parents discussed with the Minister the work the school has undertaken with its iDEC Program:

Also at Caulfeild, students demonstrated some of their work with self-regulation and how they are more easily able to answer the question, “how fast is their engine running — too slow, too fast, or just right”:

An opportunity for students to share how inquiry and digital technology are coming together using their student dashboards:

At West Bay, we heard firsthand from students about choice and ownership of their learning:

As part of the school’s work in inquiry, outstanding interaction and questions between teachers and students as part of this work:

At the Premier Sports Academies (with Rockridge and Sentinel students) we watched as students pursued their passions:

Albeit a small slice, it was a very representative slice of learning in West Vancouver. Different examples, often fulfilling the same narrative, could be found in all of the schools. The West Vancouver District has had a long tradition of choice  — in programs, and in learning opportunities within the programs.  What has become increasingly important are inquiry, digital technology and self-regulation, and elements of all three can be found in all schools.

We also know that a large part of our great story can be attributed to our outstanding teachers, supportive and engaged parents, and passionate students. But the most gratifying element of the visit was the outside voice reassuring us we are on the right track.  Call it “21st century learning”, or “personalized learning” or “the West Van way” it can be seen in all of our schools.

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Over the last two weeks, I have had the opportunity to be a part of several conversations on the question of  “What do we want to see, or expect to see” from a citizen who has graduated from the K-12 education system in British Columbia? With the many discussions surrounding system transformation, this was a good time to look at what we currently say we want in British Columbia. The following definition out of the Statement of Education Policy OrderThe Educated Citizen, has existed in this province since 1989:

 The Educated Citizen

A quality education system assists in the development of human potential and improves the well-being of each individual person in British Columbia society. Continued progress toward our social and economic goals as a province depends upon well-educated people who have the ability to think clearly and critically, and to adapt to change. Progress toward these goals also depends on educated citizens who accept the tolerant and multifaceted nature of Canadian society and who are motivated to participate actively in our democratic institutions. Government is responsible for ensuring that all of our youth have the opportunity to obtain high-quality schooling that will assist in the development of an educated society. To this end, schools in the province assist in the development of citizens who are:

• thoughtful, able to learn and to think critically, and who can communicate information from a broad knowledge base;

• creative, flexible, self-motivated and who have a positive self-image;

• capable of making independent decisions;

• skilled and who can contribute to society generally, including the world of work;

• productive, who gain satisfaction through achievement and who strive for physical well-being;

• cooperative, principled and respectful of others regardless of differences;

• aware of the rights and prepared to exercise the responsibilities of an individual within the family, the community, Canada, and the world.

In reading this, I was surprised how little I would change in the definition. While so much has changed in our world, many of our values and goals have remained unchanged.  Others across B.C. are thinking and writing about this. Brian Kuhn, for one, has looked at the various comments on this topic, including this post (here) on the Educated Citizen.

So, what should be added or amended?

While acknowledging the importance and ability of individual work, we also clearly value the ability to work collaboratively and in groups.  I also think an increasing importance should be placed on social and environmental awareness. Focussing on the future, the document should acknowledge and include the requirement for our graduates/citizens to have the proficiency to participate in both face-to-face and digital environments.

There is no argument that much of the conversation around the skills we want for our children are exactly as described in this 1989 document, “think clearly and critically, and to adapt to change.”  We now know our current challenge is to prepare students for a world in constant change and increasingly difficult to predict.

In fact, while the world around us has changed quickly, our “Educated Citizen” has not. So, we will continue to meet the goals in the 1989 definition, but the strategies employed will differ dramatically from what they were 20 years ago.

I would love to hear your feedback on what you think is missing from the 1989 definition, or if you think there is anything missing at all.




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