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Archive for December, 2015

Top 3Welcome to my final blog post of 2015 and my annual tradition of my Top 3 Lists for the year.

Previous Top 3 lists for  2014 (here) 2013 (here) 2012 (here), 2011 (here) and 2010 (here).

Hopefully there is a link or a video that connects with you and starts a discussion.  I am finding I am having fewer interesting discussion online – hopefully something here might help.

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

1. The Learning Commons Mindset

2. How Was School Today?

3. Will School Sports Disappear?

Top 3 Learning opportunities  I went to:

  1. CONNECT 2015 – I am usually not a fan of large conference events, but this one has a good mix of sessions are great opportunities to network across the country.  I see they have Chris Hatfield as a keynote for 2016.
  2. IGNITE West Vancouver – Sean Nosek hosted our first Ignite session in West Vancouver.  It was a great way to learn with colleagues in a relaxed environment.  Who knew pro-d at the bar could have so much value.
  3. C21 Superintendent’s Academy – A group of about 25 superintendents from across the country have monthly conference calls meet in-person a couple of times a year.  We helped put together the Shifting Minds (pdf) paper earlier in the year.

Top 3 Education Books I Read That Influenced My Thinking:

  1.  Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros
  2. Beyond Measure by Vicki Abeles (and the movie is also excellent!)
  3. Creative Schools by Ken Robinson

Top 3 Speakers I Saw And Remembered Their Messages Days or Weeks Later:

  1. Yong Zhao – I saw him speak several times in 2015, and even if I heard some of the same jokes a few times – he said something that stuck with me each time.
  2. Wab  Kinew – I got to see Wab in the spring, and I am really looking forward to having him as our opening day speaker in West Vancouver this coming August.
  3. Will Richardson – Will’s TEDx Video (see my next list below) proved again that he is one of the best out there at making the urgent case for change in our education system.

Top 3 TEDx WestVancouverED 2015 Videos:

  1.  Collaboration . . . It’s Starts with Competition by Allison McNeil

 

2.  The Future of Education is Ready by Lane Merrifield

 

3.   The Surprising Truth About Learning in School by Will Richardson

 

Top 3 Technology Influences I Saw in Schools This Year:

  1.  FreshGrade – It is a monster in British Columbia and likely it will be across Canada soon.
  2. Google Classroom – If you don’t think people in your district use it – you are wrong.  They are just not telling you.
  3. Coding – Each year it gains momentum and Hour of Code is part of most schools now.

Top 3 Signs That Have Nothing To Do With Technology (mostly) That Show Schools are REALLY Changing:

  1. new curriculum in British Columbia with a focus on big ideas
  2. all the value being placed on core competencies for students
  3. the changes in student reporting

Top 3 Pop Culture Phrases That Get Used Too Much in Education:

  1.  This ain’t my first rodeo
  2.  Go down the rabbit hole
  3. Anything 2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 or . . . .

Thanks everyone for continuing to read and engage with me through my blog.  It continues to be a great place to work through ideas and connect to some of the most passionate people I know.  I have struggled to get a tweet from Dean Shareski out of my mind – he said something like, blogging is like jazz – it is not for everyone but will have a loyal following.  I did think that blogging was going to be for everyone but I was wrong.  There seem to be fewer people in education writing today than even a year ago.  I am not sure why.  That is probably a good blog post for the new year 🙂

Happy New Year – I look forward to learning together in 2016!

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Sentinel

It is always nice to connect in with the many other bloggers in West Vancouver Schools. Over the last five years I have continually found the themes that emerge from what others are writing to be very instructive about where we are going as a school district.

Here is a collection of some of what my colleagues have been writing about recently.

Like many in our district, our Bowen Island Community School Vice-Principal Laura Magrath has been thinking and writing about the changes in curriculum.  A recent post of hers focused on the increased emphasis on competencies:

The Core Competencies in the new BC curriculum provide a framework to use – adults and children alike – to build our confidence in key areas that apply to each and every task we face in life: Communication Skills, Thinking Skills, and Personal and Social Skills. If we use this framework, we can make any opportunity – and the choices within this opportunity – more meaningful and relevant. We can focus on “what are the best skills for this task?” rather than an unknown and ever elusive “being our best selves.”

A focus on competencies can ground us and help us determine the importance of and value in our decisions. But we can’t focus on all aspects of the competencies all of the time. Choosing a competency and clearly articulating the area we are focusing on ahead of the task can provide a sense of confidence prior to beginning, and a specific area to reflect upon and to document our progress.

Cypress Park’s Vice-Principal Kim Grimwood recently wrote about the subject area that gets discussed and debated more than any other – math.  Of course it is not a black and white issue as she pointed out in her Balancing Act post:

A recent blog about math educator Dan Meyer states that “so much of teaching math through a computational lens asks students to find the right equation and plug-in numbers. It doesn’t ask them to be big thinkers; but it’s precisely the experience of grappling with a problem that sparks curiosity, motivates students and develops the patient problem-solving that is so lacking in much of the population.”

Along with our students’ ability to think big, we also need to make sure that we are providing them with strong procedural skills. In education, we often see large pendulum swings between what seem like opposing ideas and theories.  However, in the case of mathematics what research is telling us is that we need a balanced approach between conceptual big ideas and procedural knowledge. Students are most successful when procedural and conceptual approaches are combined.

We want our students to be creative, big thinkers, and this means giving them the foundational skills to approach these problems.

All teachers and administrators have growth plans in our school district.  Craig Cantlie, principal at Caulfeild recently shared his question and thinking on his blog:

How can we redesign schools to better meet students where they are as learners across all disciplines? 

I don’t have the answer; but I’m curious to find out. I know that some schools around the world report out curricular outcomes on a formalized K-12 continuum. That’s interesting to me. At our school we have a host of clubs that are driven by student interest – what if these were during class time? We are investigating how to connect literacy and numeracy more with the maker movement. We possess the digital experience to now leverage the use of technology in student learning to a greater degree and our teachers have begun moving away from textbooks and more to Khan Academy and Discovery Education in math and inquiry to allow greater personalization. We are connecting our HOPE (Me to We) Committee members with the local high school students and outside agencies such as Startup Skool and Women Leading Change to provide relevant and meaningful learning opportunities. We are exploring opportunities to change our learning environments to be less designated classrooms, and more flexible and purposeful learning spaces. In this space the teacher role could change from “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side” to be more an “activator” of learning. A role of asking more questions that provoke debate, exploration and further drive curiosity and learning. This is interesting to me.

Ridgeview Principal Valerie Brady recently wrote about the importance of preparing students for all parts of life and giving students more than just academic tools:

Our job as educators is to prepare students for success in school and in the real world beyond school.  Teaching students to read and write is only the beginning.  A focus on success in life means that,  beyond teaching the three Rs we must also teach character, emotional intelligence, responsibility and an appreciation of the complexity of human diversity.  We must also teach the virtues of grit – tenacity, perseverance, and the ability to never give up.

While grit is a hot topic in education as of late, Ridgeview staff look to the research to expand our understanding of how grit is defined in the research and how to nurture grittiness in our young students.

While it is very important that students enjoy learning and want to come to school, the teaching of grit means that students will experience, and perhaps embrace some frustration and discomfort.  To prepare students for the real world, we must teach them how to respond to frustration and failure.  This is often a sticking point in education…while it is necessary for students to experience frustration and even failure as they move through their schooling years…. finding a balance between allowing children to experience frustration and rescuing them from this experience is necessary to developing grit.

Westcot Principal Cathie Ratz shared her thinking on kids playing with Pokemon cards . . . and it probably surprises some that a Principal would encourage and embrace these kind of passions:

Our students don’t just getting excited about anything.   Tapping the interest and passion of our students,   creative teachers leverage the interests.  Over the years I have seen Egyptian God trading cards, Flat Stanley travel around the world and the creation of new worlds to ‘teach’ mapping and government studies. I recently read about a teacher Joel Levin on twitter @MinecraftTeachr  who has embarked on a Minecraft journey  that is truly inspiring.

So, unless Minecraft, Transformers, Battle Bots, Littlest Pet Shop and whatever else begins to trend among our students seriously begins to interfere with  their healthy functioning  I want to take a little time to obsess along with them, just a little, and share in the interest and maybe leverage it all a little.

Happy playing!

West Bay Elementary School has been a leader in our district’s self-regulation work.  A recent post from Principal Judy Duncan reflected on her current thinking in comparison to her own school experience:

Three words come to mind when I think of my own experiences in school — conformity, uniformity and rules.  We sat in rows, were quiet for the most part, worked independently at our desks, memorized material, and weren’t allowed to wear jeans or hats. We were all treated much the same, all followed a long list of well-intentioned rules, and were given little choice as to how to demonstrate our understanding.
Today at West Bay and all the schools in our district, individuality, self-expression and different learning styles are embraced and celebrated. Educators are viewing student behaviour through a self-regulation lens and students are the beneficiaries. They feel empowered to make decisions for themselves as to what tools and strategies they need to ensure they experience success in school and in life. Students have greater choice, feel their needs are understood and respected, and are confident to be themselves — and they are appreciative. We are not finding gum stuck under desks and there is no argument from students when asked to remove hats on certain occasions. As my colleague Kim Grimwood, Vice-Principal of Cypress Park notes, “Students are learning how to be responsible with the choices they are afforded.”
 It is also the secondary school Principals blogging, including Rockridge Principal Jeannette Laursoo who recently used her blog to pass along the advice from a recent PAC Meeting speaker – Brett Stroh – who spoke on gaming:
One of the things that Brett said was just because one’s child is spending a lot of time playing games, doesn’t necessarily mean that one needs to be overly concerned.  “Just because they are playing a game on a Saturday for 5-6 hours doesn’t mean that there is necessarily an issue, and it’s time to hit the panic button.  One needs to also consider how the child is doing with school, family, friends and sports.  In other words, how is the rest of the world going for them (apart from the regular ‘drama’)?  Is gaming having a negative impact on or causing conflict in these areas of the child’s life?  Is the child spending a significant amount of time obtaining or thinking about the game, or recovering from its effects?
There are many ways we are trying to tell our stories in West Vancouver.  One of the ways our school principals and vice-principals often use is through their blogs.  It is an incredibly exciting time in education, and many of the ideas and practices are quite different from even a generation ago in our classrooms.  Whether it is face-to-face or digitally, we will continue to reach out and connect – starting conversations in our schools and communities.
It is great to be a member of the West Vancouver Schools digital community – our collective thinking and sharing makes all of us better.

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sleep

There has been no shortage of coverage in the media around the lack of sleep that young people get.  And while it is not a new issue, it does seem to be an increasingly worrisome trend.  An image shared on the  Facebook page from Wilson Elementary School in Kenosha, Wisconsin this past fall went viral and was shared thousands of times:

sleep-for-kids-CHART

While the information aligns with widely recommended guidelines for sleep it does surface some of the challenges of actually meeting these guidelines, from parents often working into the evening, out-of-school activities and homework sticking to these numbers is really challenging.

I was reminded of the sleep dilemma this past week listening to North Shore Medical Health Officer Mark Lysyshyn.   In his presentation What You Need to Know About the Health of Students, so much of it kept coming back to sleep.  Issues like physical activity, mental health and safety are all important, but the lack of sleep was pronounced.  Two particular slides from the 2013 BC Adolescent Health Survey emphasized the challenge.

In the survey of  local 13-18 year olds almost 20% of them were getting 6 hours of sleep or less:

Getting enough sleep

 

And to answer the question of so what?  There was a direct link between those reporting low hours of sleep and mental health challenges:

Mental Health and Sleep

It was interesting the discussion that followed with parents.  The community data also indicated the need for students to be getting exercise and participating in sports and many discussed how it was this participation in organized sports that often cut into sleep time – really a no-win situation.  We want our kids to be active and to get 8 or 9 hours of sleep – but soccer practices can go to 9:00 at night and school often starts by just after 8:00 in the morning.  Of course there is also persuasive data that indicates later start-times for school would be helpful but very few jurisdictions have built this into the systems.  Clearly we have structures in our lives that make it hard to adhere to the recommendations.

Media have been regular reporters of this – including this comprehensive story from Global News this fall.

There are many lists circulating the internet on tips for young people and sleep like this one from Canadian Pediatricians:

Have a relaxing bedtime routine. Have a light snack (such as a glass of milk) before bed. Try to go to bed at about the same time every night. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet but open the curtains or turn on the lights as soon as you get up in the morning.

Always fall asleep in your bed. Use your bed for sleeping only. Avoid doing homework, using a computer or watching TV  while in your bed. Try to be in your bed with the lights out for at least 8 hours every night.

Napping during the day can make it difficult to fall asleep. If you want to nap, keep it short (less than 30 min). Definitely don’t nap after dinner.

Get exercise every day, but avoid very hard exercise in the evening.

Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea and sodas) after mid-afternoon. Don’t use any products to help you sleep such as alcohol, herbal products or over-the-counter sleep aids.

Limit screen time before bed. Using electronic media and being exposed to the screen’s light before trying to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

On weekends, no matter how late you go to bed, try to get up within 2 hours to 4 hours of your usual wake time. This is especially important if you have trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights.

Make sure you are not trying to do too much. Do you still have some time for fun and to get enough sleep? If you are having trouble sleeping because you have too much on your mind, try keeping a diary or to-do lists. If you write things down before sleep, you may feel less worried or stressed.

There seems to be more and more research around the power of sleep.  From athletic performance to academic performance and letter grades in school.  It is one of those issues that seems so simple, but just isn’t.  I know in looking through the list of tips for helping young people get a good sleep – I am often missing the mark as a parent.

It is important to be continually reminded that poor sleep for young people leads to more than just being tired the next day.  Overall physical and mental health are very much connected to sleep.  Good reminders for parents and educators.  I am reminded by a quote I have often heard from my friend and former Surrey Schools Superintendent Mike McKay:  “When will what we know change what we do?”

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