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Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

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I was pleased to contribute to the recently published paper – Shifting Minds 3.0 – Redefining the Learning Landscape in Canada.  The paper is authored by Penny Milton, the former long serving  head of the Canadian Education Association, and had contributions from more than twenty superintendents across the country, among others.

I have written before about the value of a national conversation in education.  Despite falling under the mandate of provincial governments there is huge value in building a learning network across the country.  As we embrace a post-standardized world, learning from jurisdictions across the country is essential, as we want all students in our country to be well prepared for the rapidly changing world.

There have been a number of papers written in recent years on the shifts in learning that we are seeing, and that we need to see, and I have given a lot of blog space to the great work I see on a regular basis in West Vancouver.  What is particularly valuable about the Shifting Minds 3.0 document is that the same conversations, the same areas of attention, and the same urgency, are being seen and felt across the country.   The work is both exciting and daunting:

The challenge for school district leaders is to extend the transformation to all classrooms and schools. Whole-system reform requires conditions that support educators in examining and reshaping the foundations on which their practice is built (leadership and management, as well as teaching) . . . Because education is complex and the stakes for students are high, a dual strategy of both improvement and innovation can offer a reliable way to maintain stability while enabling forward momentum.

The dual strategy notion of innovation and improvement is one we often talk about in West Vancouver.  Yes, the world has changed and the skills our learners need are changing.  But this change is within a context of having one of the highest performing systems in the world.  We are moving from a place of strength so stability must be alongside momentum.

It is interesting to see the work in British Columbia in the context of the country.  In reading this document, I get the sense that we are ahead with much of what we are doing.  The document describes three governance models and management approaches and we see all three in BC:

Central direction involves stakeholders in an iterative relationship of policy design and local implementation. This approach has raised academic achievement across the majority of schools. Success depends on feedback loops, with leaders and practitioners learning from and adjusting strategies as needed. Central direction can promote improvement in schools, but it limits innovation.

Non-intervention approaches allow school districts to respond to local contexts without the pressure of specific school improvement policies. In these cases, the central authority encourages rather than mandates the change. Some districts have been able to innovate under these conditions; others less so.

Enabling or permissive approaches encourage or support experimentation and innovation at the district and school levels. Some may enable innovation by the simple absence of a prescribed regulatory framework; others may develop specific innovations—for example, in curriculum or assessment. The advantage of this approach is that it allows the province to learn and try out alternative policy designs before attempting to replace one significant policy with another.

We also see all three of these approaches at work locally in West Vancouver.  We have spent a lot of energy  trying to foster enabling and permissive approaches, but it is important to use all three depending on the initiative and the circumstances.

Finally, the shifting system drivers described in the document are very useful.  It is not that the shifts are new, but it is an important reminder of their interconnectedness.  We are definitely shifting learning environments and pedagogies and working hard on shifting governance.  We are getting strong leadership from the province on shifting curriculum.  I see shifting assessment and citizen and stakeholder engagement, of the six, as the two we have the most work to do.  Very important to see they all must work together (double-click to open graphic in a full-page):

www.c21canada.org wp content uploads 2015 05 C21 ShiftingMinds 3.pdf

I encourage you to read the full document.  There are many documents on the topic of the shifts in education, from many organizations with many intended audiences.  This one nicely describes the challenge needed by those of us at a systems level.  It is an important challenge for us to continue to take on.

As the paper concludes, “change is inevitable; transformation is possible. System leaders create the conditions for transformation by encouraging leadership at all levels, imbued with the very attributes we are aiming to develop in young people—creativity, inquiry, collaboration, calculated risk taking, reasoned problem solving, and the capacity to learn from experience and face the next challenge.”

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In reading the Programme for International Students (PISA) results, Canada is broken up by province, while all other nations report as countries.  Of course, this speaks to the responsibility of education in Canada as a provincial matter while in most countries, it has some Federal coordination.  While it is a provincial matter in Canada, there are times where some national engagement is important.

We often look to Finland (guilty as charged with these posts 1 and 2) as a possible model for the way forward, and look to the United States as a model we dare not, or want to, emulate (Many in Canada worry that Texas curriculum or online learning from Florida will make its way north). Yet, we spend very little time learning from other provinces.  We know far more about reform in New York than we do in Winnipeg, and about improvements in Helsinki rather than Ottawa. It is quite interesting how we look outside of BC (and I think across Canada) for learning partners, examples to follow or avoid, without fully engaging in conversations across this country.

There are some efforts and organizations trying to bridge this gap.  The Canadian Education Association (CEA) has been in existence since 1891, bringing together educators from a variety of roles across the country and advancing ideas for greater student and teacher engagement. This past week CEA’s Chief Executive Officer, Ron Canuel, launched a challenge around Why Do We Need Innovation in Education?  The CEA has a series of projects to link jurisdictions across the country including several awards programs and a series of national research reports.

Other nationals include C21 Canada, shaped somewhat after the P21 Organization in the United States, is a not-for-profit organization advocating for the 21st Century models of learning in education, and has recently released Shifting Minds:  A Vision and Framework for 21st Century Learning in Canada.  Another organization, is  The Learning Partnership, a national charitable organization dedicated to championing a strong public education system in Canada through innovative programs, credible research, policy initiatives, executive leadership and public engagement. Two of their more recognizable programs include Take Your Kid to Work Day in November and Welcome to Kindergarten.

There are also a number of other national organizations including the Canadian School Board Association (who will host their national conference this coming July in Vancouver),  Canadian Association of Principals,  the Canadian Teachers Federation, the Canadian Home and School Federation and the Canadian Association of School Administrators.  Clearly, there are no shortage of education organizations working at a national level.

So, returning to my original question, and my interest in writing this — somehow, we need to have more conversations linking education work across the country. There are huge learning opportunities from other jurisdictions and while there is value in learning from Finland, Singapore, or New Zealand, there are also great possibilities in learning from our fellow provinces, many of which join BC at the top of the PISA scales.  Whether it is the Inspiring Education efforts in Alberta, the work in assessment and evaluation coming out of Manitoba or the early learning lessons from Ontario, among many others, there is a lot to share.

I have also noticed another shift in the BC Education mindset in recent years –our schools are becoming less competitive with one another, and I also think the same holds true for our districts. There is no pride taken when one community in BC struggles, while others flourish; we do need to move this to a national conversation and a real sense of national ownership.  This is more challenging, but is a laudable goal.

We should/will keep learning and networking with countries around the world, because that is what one needs to do as part of a global conversation, but this should be alongside rich, national conversations on the same topics.

I am part of a free event this coming Friday morning (November 30), that will try to view education through a national lens.  The Action Canada Public Dialogue:  Challenges and Change in Canada’s Education Systems is at the Work Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver.  The event, moderated by Tom Clark, Chief Political Correspondent, and Host of the West Block on Global TV, hosts three panels:  Standardized Testing in Canada:  Real Accountability or an Illusion of Success?, Teaching Questions Not Answers:  Adapting Canada’s Education System for the 21st Century, and Who Cares About Young Caregivers:  Children’s Rights and Education.  I will be part of a five-member panel on the 21st century system question.  Full details are available here including registration information.

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Smart and Caring

In a recent address to members of the Canadian Club of Vancouver, the Governor General of Canada, His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston, talked about Canada being a “smart and caring nation”, a theme I have heard him speak on so eloquently before.

I am, and have been, impressed with his thinking and ideas about education ever since he assumed his current position. I wrote about him in connection to World Teacher Day in October 2010 (here),  quoting his installation speech:

Anyone who has achieved any degree of success and been placed in a leadership position can point to dozens of teachers, mentors and coaches who have made them better persons along the way. In my case, they number in the hundreds.

During my term, we will find ways to properly recognize our teachers who are responsible for our intellectual development. If there is one trumpet call from my remarks today let it be “Cherish Our Teachers”.

I have always had great admiration for the teachers and educators of this country.

In this most recent speech I heard, the Governor General outlined 10 challenges “we need to address, both as caring Canadians and as a caring society, to improve volunteerism and philanthropy in Canada.” (Full text of speech here).

In brief, the 10 points:

  • identify the needs of the community — discerning what the community requires, as well as the needs of individuals
  • find a new definition for volunteerism that goes beyond altruism
  • improve social innovation — how we volunteer and give; we need to be innovative in our thinking as our society evolves
  • attract young volunteers — young people often report they don’t volunteer because they are not asked, or because they don’t know how to become involved
  • engage volunteers and new ways devised to attract givers
  • engage new Canadians to become volunteers, and help them give back to their new community
  • revisit professionalism and recruitment in non-profits — these organizations need to operate efficiently, and to do so requires professional skills that may fall outside the volunteer sector
  • collaborate outside of what we traditionally do — we could look at what has happened in the US with Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and others, and find a made-in-Canada approach
  • link volunteerism and education;  organizations must be able to define their existence to advance the strength of the volunteer sector and it must be part of formal and informal education for young people
  • honour all Canadian volunteers — not just with awards, but acknowledging all their giving in communities

His words are also part of a challenge as Canada moves toward its Sesquicentennial in 2017.  The Governor General’s Canada vision resonates with me, and the Canada we want for our children — smart and caring.

While his words are great, he is also an exceptionally eloquent speaker.  Here is a segment of the Governor General’s Installation Speech:

As he closed his speech on the day I saw him, his focus on Canadian youth and education was compelling, “Canadians have done great things in the past. We are accomplishing so much today. Let us show the world that we are capable of so much more in the future.”

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IF YOU RECEIVE THIS POST VIA EMAIL YOU WILL LIKELY HAVE TO GO TO THE SITE TO VIEW THE VIDEOS EMBEDDED BELOW.

Sometimes I feel like we are the only district or province talking about school system design, and it can be a lonely conversation. After all, why change? We already have an extremely successful system. Every now and then, however, the topic is front and centre as was the case following the release of B.C.’s Education Plan last week.

In addition, I have the opportunity from time to time to participate in projects which remind me that discussions about how to move our education system forward are taking places in all corners of the country, albeit often quietly. The following five-minute video, Learning to Change, Changing to Learn: A Canadian Perspective (recently released by the Pearson Foundation) in which I — along with my BC colleagues, Mike McKay of Surrey and Steve Cardwell of Vancouver, and colleagues from across the country — was asked to
share our thoughts about the changes that need to take place. In seeing the video, I realize that we are saying some very similar things right across the country.

Nor are Canadians the only ones asking questions. The video was modelled after one created by an international group of educators who offered their reflections on education:

Stephen Hempel’s statement at the end of that presentation is one that really sticks with me. “It’s the death of education and the dawn of learning,” he stated, “which makes me very
happy.”

These are exciting times to be part of this profession.

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After school activities have always been a major concern for parents. Over the last two decades, this has been a growing concern with both parents often working, and young people having reduced supervision after school.   The latest Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth paints a disturbing picture about physical activity for children and youth between 3-6 p.m., and suggests the problem is not the same problem as lamented in the past, but a growing and more concerning challenge.

Quoting from the report:

“Right now, kids are spending over 40 hours a week in front of screens,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Chief
Scientific Officer, Active Healthy Kids Canada, and Director of HALO. “These alarming numbers equate to a
very sedentary child, so we must transform the after‐school hours into healthy, active living time.

In part, some of this “healthy, active living time” has been diminished because of parental concerns about supervision and safety around after-school activities like running, biking, and playing outside with friends. This time is now often filled with watching television, or playing video and computer games. Increasingly,  students are attending after-school programs with little or no physical activity.  We see this with the rise of businesses catering to or offering more “school” after school for students — whether that be additional language training or, very often, math support.

And what do the report authors see as some of the solutions?

Getting kids outside:  those who are outside take about 2,000 more steps than those who stay indoors after school

School-Community Partnerships:  finding ways to offer recreational programs in school facilities, or nearby facilities after school

Youth Leadership:  have students assist in the development of programs for their peers

Policy and Investment Support:  target resources for the promotion of physical activity in the after-school hours

This time period is particularly challenging as there is no one group with a solution to the challenge.  There are, however, roles for policy-makers, parents, early childhood educators,  recreational and health professionals, and schools to play.  There is overwhelming research indicating youth who are physically active improve their mental health, academic performance, contribute/maintain a healthy body weight, and develop physical literacy.

This being true, communities will need to work together to reverse the growing after-school trends.  The efforts to increase physical activity during the school day are laudable. Now, we need to figure out on how these efforts can be supported between 3-6 p.m.

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The title comes from a mantra we often hear with produce and other food products.  Wikipedia describes it:

Local purchasing is a preference to buy locally produced goods and services over those produced more distantly. It is very often abbreviated as a positive goal ‘buy local’ to parallel the phrase think globally, act locally, common in green politics.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately in the context of our work in the digital world.  I wrote recently (here) that while I continue to be influenced by many thinkers outside of British Columbia and Canada, more and more I am connecting with local voices.

While I love the learning that is free of borders, I feel it is very important to support B.C. educators who are beginning to put themselves out there in digital space. There seems to have been an edu-blogging boom this fall in British Columbia.  I have created a rule for myself that I will try to comment on at least five blog posts for every post I write, and comment more on B.C. educators’ writing.

I am not quite sure why we have a huge increase in local educators writing on the web, but it is great for education in B.C.  We are using social media to connect around ideas, at a point in time, when there is so much discussion about learning and schooling and how a high-performing system like ours should move forward.

I listed four local bloggers in a previous post — but I want to list all the local bloggers who are adding to the conversations.  I am sure I will miss some (particularly, in the teachers’ category), so please add comments to point me toward others, and I will update the post.

The parameters of my list — blogs by active educators in the K-12 sector in British Columbia who have posted in the last 30 days.  I know many teachers have class blogs, but this list is not intended for blogs used with a class of students, or as a news site, but rather to share ideas with other educators and the larger community.

District Staff

Scott Benwell, Assistant Superintendent, Fraser-Cascade

Larry Espe, Superintendent, Peace River North

Rick Fabbro, Assistant Superintendent, Surrey

Tom Grant, Superintendent, Coquitlam

Chris Kennedy, Deputy Superintendent, West Vancouver

Brian Kuhn, Director of IT, Coquitlam

Doug Sheppard, Assistant Superintendent, Delta

Jan Unwin, Superintendent, Maple-Ridge / Pitt Meadows

Principals and Vice-Principals

Terry Ainge, Principal, Delta Secondary, Delta

Aaron Akune, Vice-Principal, Delta Secondary, Delta

Cale Birk, Principal, South Kamloops Secondary, Kamloops

Gino Bondi, Principal, John Oliver Secondary, Vancouver

Joe Campbell, Vice-Principal, Seycove Secondary, North Vancouver (ADDED)

Remi Collins, Principal, Kilmer Elementary, Port Coquitlam

Dean Eichorn, Vice-Princpal, Burnsview Secondary, Delta (ADDED)

Grant Frend, Vice-Princpal, Garibaldi Secondary, Maple Ridge (ADDED)

Cindy Gauthier, Principal, Vancouver Learning Network, Vancouver

Mark Heidebrecht, Principal, Gibsons Elementary, Gibsons (ADDED)

Gary Kern, District Principal, West Vancouver

Chris Wejr – Principal, Kent Elementary, Agassiz

Teachers

Paul Aiken, Coquitlam

Jaki Braidwood, Comox Valley

Jeremy Brown, Port Coquitlam

Moira Ekdahl, Vancouver (ADDED)

Errin Gregory, Lillooet

Starleigh Grass, Lytton (ADDED)

James Gill, Coquitlam

Bryan Jackson, Coquitlam

Phil Macoun, Nanaimo

Jacob Martens, Vancouver

James McConville, Coquitlam

Gordon Powell,  Richmond

Al Smith, Kelowna (ADDED)

Zhi Su,  Vancouver

David Wees,Vancouver

Jen Whiffin, Coquitlam (ADDED)


Others (ADDED)

I feel like I need to add another category for several blogs related to education in B.C. that are not written by currently active B.C. educators

Christina Campbell, Education Reporter, Vancouver Observer

Lesley Edwards, Retired Teacher-Librarian, North Vancouver

Heidi Hass Gable, DPAC President, Coquitlam

Janet Steffenhagen, Education Reporter, Vancouver Sun

David Truss, Princpal, Currently in China on leave from Coquitlam


Finally, a shameless plug. The Culture of Yes has been nominated for the Best New Edublog 2010.  You can click here to vote.  This site is also a great place to find other interesting blogs to follow. Thanks for all the ongoing conversations.

 

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World Teachers’ Day is an opportunity to highlight our profession.  In addition to celebrating the excellence we see in our neighbourhood classrooms, it is an important opportunity to also raise the larger issue for which the day was initially intended:

World Teachers’ Day, held annually on 5 October since 1994, commemorates the anniversary of the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. It is an occasion to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. 

Currently, there are some interesting conversations around the future of teaching and learning in B.C., across Canada, and around the world.  Jurisdictions are wrestling with the big issue of what the changing world means for learning, and what this, in turn, means for teaching and schools.

While some of these discussions, at least those I have been following in parts of the United States, have focussed on improving teaching and learning by placing blame on teachers, and excluding teachers (and students) from the discussions on reform — there IS a better way.  Our system will continue to improve, be relevant and engaging, when we focus on where we are going rather than who to blame for any of our current shortfalls.  

Hopefully, we will continue to focus on the changing pedagogy and how this will impact our profession as we continue to move forward.   My confidence was buoyed just last Friday with the Installation Speech of our new Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston.  While the entire speech is worth reading and the video worth viewing (the second part which includes the focus on education is embedded at the bottom of this post), I was struck by his passionate commitment to teachers and public education:

Anyone who has achieved any degree of success and been placed in a leadership position can point to dozens of teachers, mentors and coaches who have made them better persons along the way. In my case, they number in the hundreds.

During my term, we will find ways to properly recognize our teachers who are responsible for our intellectual development. If there is one trumpet call from my remarks today let it be “Cherish Our Teachers”.

I have always had great admiration for the teachers and educators of this country.

As we consider our vision for 2017, I ask “Can we have equality of opportunity and excellence too?” I believe that no nation in history has worked harder than Canada to ensure equality of opportunity. How do we square that with excellence as well? For me, the answer is through our public educational system which is the most inclusive in the world.

How do we ensure accessible education for all so that all Canadians can realize their full potential? And how do we reconcile universal access with stellar achievement? And how do we continue to innovate in order to compete with the world’s best? Innovation at its simplest is crafting a new idea to do things better. Innovation embraces both technological and social innovation. We want the same continuing commitment to excellence in our learning and research institutions that we saw in our Canadian athletes who brought us a record 14 gold medals at the 2010 Winter Games, we need the kind of innovation that has made “BlackBerry” a household expression. We want to emulate our Olympic and Paralympic athletes by constantly striving for excellence in all that we do.

We want to be the Smart and Caring Nation; a society that innovates, embraces its talent and uses the knowledge of each of its citizens to improve the human condition for all.

Our Governor General said what so many of us think about teaching and public education.  Teaching continues to be a simply amazing and powerful profession.

I want to reiterate what I said on Opening Day last month:

It is funny we often use different words for teacher.  We have teacher leaders, lead teachers, principal teachers, support teachers, helping teachers, mentor teachers, and then we sometimes take the word teacher out – and have instructional leaders, among a range of other terms.  I am good with teacher.  It is who I am, and it says it all.  The rest is about the different roles we have, but teacher describes who we are.  I don’t think we actually need anything more.  And while teachers sometimes get beaten up in the media, and our profession is asked to do more and more, it is still the greatest profession in the world – and there are few things better in life than being called a teacher.  What we do makes a dent in our world; it matters, and makes it a slightly better place in which to live.

I am blessed to have come from a family of teachers, to have spent my life guided and influenced by one excellent teacher after another, and each day I work with teachers looking to change the world one student at a time.

To all of you, Happy World Teachers’ Day!

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