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Posts Tagged ‘Cale Birk’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaron Mueller, Secondary Online Teacher, Vancouver

Al Smith – Teacher-Librarian, Kelowna

Brian Kuhn – Technology Leader, Coquitlam

Bruce Beairsto – Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University

Cale Birk – Secondary School Principal, Kamloops

Carrie Gelson – Elementary School Teacher, Vancouver

Chris Wejr – Elementary School Principal, Agassiz

Darcy Mullin – Elementary School Principal, Summerland

David Truss – Vice-Principal, Coquitlam

David Wees – IB Math and Science Teacher, Vancouver

Elisa Carlson – Director of Instruction, Surrey

Errin Gregory – Elementary Teacher, Gold Trail

George Abbott – BC Minister of Education

Gino Bondi – Secondary Principal, Vancouver

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

Gregg Ferrie – Director of Technology, Saanich

Heather Daily – Teacher-Librarian, Coquitlam

Hugh McDonald – Elementary School Teacher, Surrey

Jacob Martens – Secondary Science Teacher, Vancouver

Janet Steffenhagen – Education Reporter for the Vancouver Sun

Johnny Bevacqua – School Principal, Vancouver

Karen Lirenman, Elementary School Teacher, Surrey

Kelley Inden – Secondary Humanities Teacher, Nechako Lakes

Larry Espe – Superintendent, Peace River North

Peter Vogel – ICT / Physics Teacher, Vancouver

Mike McKay – Superintendent, Surrey

Moira Ekdahl – Teacher-Librarian, Vancouver

Neil Stephenson – District Principal of Innovation and Inquiry, Delta

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

Patti Bacchus – Board Chair, Vancouver School Board

Ron Sherman – Elementary Principal, Kootenay lakes

Robert Genaille – Teacher, Fraser-Cascade

Sheila Morissette – Secondary Principal, Surrey

Silas White – Board Chair, Sunshine Coast

Stephen Petrucci – Director of Instruction, Peace River North

Steve Cardwell – Superintendent, Vancouver

Tamara Malloff – Teacher-Librarian, Kootenay Lakes

Terry Ainge – Secondary Principal, Delta

Tia Henriksen – Elementary Vice-Principal, Surrey

Valerie Irvine – Educational Technology Professor, University of Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some guidelines I used for the list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damian Cooper, Education Consultant (assessment and evaluation)

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

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

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

Carole Fullerton, Teaching Consultant (numeracy)

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

Valerie Hannon, Director, Innovation Unit (personalized learning)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I love year-in-review lists, so I’ve come up with one of my own — the “Top 3” in a variety of categories.   A great way to spur on discussion and debate.   I look forward to your own additions.

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

1.  Printing is not Meant to be Convenient

2.  A Recipient in the Sharing Revolution (thanks to Dean Shareski for sharing this post)

3.  TedxUBC (Post 1 and Post 2)

Top 3 Jurisdictions I Want to Learn More About:

1.  Revelstoke — latest graduation rate is a provincial best 98%

2.  Ontario — their recent PISA results in reading is something from which we can learn

3.  Finland — in almost every measure, they continue to lead the way in education

Top 3 B.C. Principals Influencing My Thinking and Work in our District:

1.  Cale Birk — his post on collaborative time was particularly helpful

2.  Gino Bondi — he is pushing the change agenda and thinks differently about high schools

3.  Chris Wejr — a great champion of thinking differently about assessment

Top 3 Professional Development Events I Have Attended:

1.  TEDxUBC

2.  BCSSA Fall Conference

3.  Twitter (pretty much on a daily basis – and it doesn’t cost a cent)

Top 3 Social Media Tools I’ve Used More of in 2010 Than Before:

1.  Twitter — it is changing the game with professional development

2.  Slideshare — wish more teachers would use it to share PowerPoints

3.  YouTube — it was only a couple of years ago this tool was blocked in schools

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

1.  personalized learning

2.  backchannel

3.  21st century learner

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

1.  “It is not about the technology”  (guilty of this one)

2.  “The 21st century is more than 10% over”

3.  “Creativity, now, is as important in education as literacy” (or other Sir Ken like quote)

Top 3 Canadian Educational Reform “Blueprints” Worth Reading:

1. British Columbia – A Vision for 21st Century Education (pdf)

2.  Alberta – Inspiring Education

3.  New Brunswick – Creating a 21st Century Learning Model of Public Education (pdf)

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

1. Digital Immersion Class Video – from Riverside Secondary in Port Coquitlam

2.  Barry McDonald – Boy Smarts from TEDxUBC (Barry is a Langley teacher)

3.  The North Delta Secondary Focus Group Initiative

Top 3 Education-related Videos from Outside B.C. (not featuring Sir Ken)

1.  RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

2.  Project-Based Learning Explained

3.  Alfie Kohn vs Dwight Schrute (thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for pointing me to this one)


The best thing I did professionally this year was start this blog.  Thanks to all of you who engage with me here on a regular basis.  I look forward to more discussions to come — there will never be a shortage of topics.

Happy Holidays!

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I have written quite a bit this past week on educators’ professional learning, and how we are experimenting with extending these conversations, using technology to engage more people.  I have also written, here and here, two posts on backchanneling during the recent BCSSA Fall Conference.

There are a couple of more reflections I want to pick up on before moving on:

1. School District borders matter less and less when it comes to professional learning

This really struck me on Monday night.  I came home, went on my computer at about 8:00 and saw a post on Twitter that an online session was starting at 8:15, entitled Blogging First Steps, hosted by Lesley Edwards from North Vancouver.  This is part of the LAN: Learning Is Social series that is coordinated by staff in the North Vancouver School District.  There were 12 of us who participated from a variety of districts.  I don’t know everyone on the elluminate (this tool is available free to B.C. educators) session, but I know there were participants (trustees, administrators, teachers) from North Vancouver, Vancouver, and Coquitlam.  In my just over three-year tenure in the West Vancouver District, on the North Shore, I have not attended a professional development session in North Vancouver.  That said, there was nothing that could have felt more natural than sliding into the session on a Monday night.

We still have lines on the map for School Districts, but when it comes to our professional learning, these are blurry and less, and less, important.  We are finding ways to connect and engage online that has very little to do with geography.

2.  Ideas, not roles are dictating the people I connect with

There are still many traditional structures where we gather in role-alike groups.  There are sessions for teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, the community, and sometimes we bring these groups together.  What I am finding online is that roles are almost inconsequential.  It is the ideas that matter.  I did an interview with Janet Steffenhagen on Monday, and we talked about how technology has really had a dramatic effect on realigning the power structure in education.

I find that I don’t follow topics, I follow interesting people.  I also find that while I am still attracted to voices from afar like Philadelphia Principal, Chris Lehmann, and edu blogger and presenter, Will Richardson, I am increasingly more attracted to local voices who share a somewhat familiar context.

It is always dangerous to make a list, knowing I will miss some key people, but some of those within B.C.’s education system who are influencing my thinking right now include:  David Truss (a Coquitlam principal currently working in China), Chris Wejr (an elementary principal in Aggasiz), Cale Birk (a secondary principal in Kamloops), Brian Kuhn (technology director in Coquitlam), Gino Bondi (a secondary principal in Vancouver), Gordon Powell (coordinator for library and information services in Richmond) and David Wees (a teacher in Vancouver).

I want to finish this post  by coming back to the students, and looking for guidance from my experiences as an adult learner, with how students learn.  I think what I take from this is student learning will continue to be less hierarchical, less about the teacher being the keeper of knowledge, and more about the teacher helping students make sense of content, and connecting them to other experts.  Schools will be less bound to discussions within the walls of a building, and connections will be made across schools, communities and beyond.  School will continue to look less like an activity that happens between nine and three from Monday to Friday.

This is a great time for a transition in how educational professionals learn, and it is this transition that is also changing the game for how our students learn.

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