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Welcome to my final blog post of 2017 and my annual tradition of my Top 3 Lists for the year.

Previous Top 3 lists for  2016 (here) 2015 (here) 2014 (here) 2013 (here) 2012 (here), 2011 (here) and 2010 (here).

As per usual, I will try to take up topics you probably don’t see covered by other year-end “Best of” lists:

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

  1.  The Hat Rule
  2.  It’s Not You, It’s Me
  3.  So What About Badges?

Top 3 New Technologies I See in Schools That Are Exciting:

  1. Virtual Reality – We have our first students going on “field trips” around the world through Google Expeditions
  2. 3D Printing (the next wave) – We have moved beyond printing toys and other novelties and using the technology to create and solve problems.
  3.  Robots – I have written about them before, but continue to be more convinced that robotics is a great experience for students to have

Top 3 Modern World Realities That Are Crappy for Schools:

  1. The decline of community newspapers – they not only hold school systems accountable, they tell our stories (I have shared some frustrations HERE before)
  2.  Parents at Christmas Concerts – there are so many people standing at the front with their phones, cameras and often iPads there are few opportunities for those who just want to watch the show to actually see it
  3.   Sports Specialization – School sports are still in an uncertain spot and I can’t figure out exactly what their future will be but the stories of kids not playing a particular school sport because it goes against the wishes of a community sports coach continue to be pervasive

Top 3 Technologies I Use Way Less Now Than 12 Months Ago:

  1. Facebook – I probably scan it about once a week and if I didn’t have an account I probably would not get one
  2. Snapchat – I tried, I am too old
  3.  News Apps – I get most of my news between Twitter and old-fashioned newspapers

 

Top 3 Ways Technology Still Runs My Life:

  1. Fitbit – 10,000 steps a day.  I have a streak that dates back to 2014 going.  I can’t sleep until I see the green circles.
  2. Instagram – post a photo everyday has been going on for 2 years.  I have become a much better photographer.
  3. Culture of Yes Blog – I wrote a bit more this year than last year (between 2-3 times a month) but I can feel the pressure when it has been 10 days and I am not sure what my next post will be about.

Top 3 TEDx WestVancouverED Talks that I Still Think About From This Year:

1. Cities Belong to People – Paul Fast

2. Making the Jump – Gavin McClurg

3. We Are All Different – and THAT’s AWESEOME – Cole Blakeway

Top 3 Cool Things I Got to Do This Year When I Wasn’t At Work:

  1.  The Dodgers in LA
  2.   Front Row for Paul Simon in Montana
  3.  Doing a TEDx Talk with my daughter

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Top 3 Cool Things I Got to Do This Year When I Was at Work:

  1. Attend all the school grads – I love graduation events.  It is such a great moment for students and their families
  2. See a Whole Bunch of New Programs Start – From growing robotics, to new academies in environmental sciences, table tennis, and computer animation I love how we never stand still
  3. Hire, hire and hire some more – For the first year in a long-time we were adding teacher and administrators.  This new energy is so great for our organization and the chance to help people launch their career is very exciting

Top 3 Things I think We Will Be Talking About This Year in Education:

  1. Exams – I think we may see testing rebound in BC in 2018, with some feeling the pendulum as swung too far one way
  2. Reporting – I could probably put this on every year.  Questions of the modern report card are definitely unanswered.  Is the 3 times a year report card dead?  Will we finally go all online?  A lot to be worked out
  3. Changing University Entrance Requirements – University of British Columbia (UBC) has got out there with a more broad-based approach and others are going to follow.  The “system” for getting in to post-secondary in changing, which will have huge ripples in K-12.

As always, I really appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and engage with me through the blog.   I find that this blog continues to be a little less formal each year.  The process still brings me great joy.  All the best for a wonderful 2018!

Chris

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Tools

Last week I shared Superintendency & Social Networking, a post that was also published in the AASA School Administrator Magazine.  I also wrote two smaller pieces for this most recent edition; edited versions are below.  I came back to two questions that I get asked frequently – how do you find the time and what tools should one be using.

Here are my thoughts:

Finding the Time for Social Media

The superintendency is already a completely consuming job, so how can you possibly find the time to invest in social media? These are my suggestions for those looking to add social media to their work routine.

Create manageable expectations. Whether it is a blog, Twitter or other tools, be realistic about the commitment you can make to participating in social media.

Choose a few tools and use them well. There are thousands of tools available. Select a few and develop a comfort level with them. Start with tools such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, all of which are heavily subscribed to by those around you.

Block out some time. As you get into a routine, schedule time each week to spend engaging in social media. It might be 15 minutes a few nights a week or some time on Sunday morning, but it needs to become part of your routine.

Decide what this will replace. As you start tweeting and blogging, decide what you won’t do and what this will replace. As you engage in social media, some of the more traditional outlets, such as reading newsletters, can be eliminated.

Embrace mobility. Be sure people know you want to be contacted, and then ensure you have access to all these tools on your mobile phone, whether it is phoning, texting, tweeting or Facebook use. You want to be mobile so you don’t have to be in the office to be at work.

Five Indispensable Tools

Blog: Consider this your home base for social media and the venue for sharing your ideas on leadership and education practices. My blog is where I share my thinking, and it serves as a great portfolio of the work that has engaged me.

Facebook: Often considered more of a personal communication tool, it remains an excellent way to connect to your community. It is still the No. 1 social media tool used by our families, so it functions as a great place to share photos from events and alert the community to upcoming events.

SlideShare: This is the place to post all of your PowerPoints so they are easily accessible to educators in your district and elsewhere. No longer do I distribute presentations by e-mail. Rather, I make them all accessible through SlideShare so others can use and share them.

Twitter: This is your avenue for connecting to your community 140 characters at a time. Twitter is a wonderful professional learning network, connecting me with colleagues from around the world.

YouTube: Short videos of your school visits or records of your speeches now can go online. The use of video is growing, and YouTube is a great place to create a repository of your work.

I know these are regular questions for many – I would love to hear other tools that people find as core, and also other strategies people use to find the time.

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Hah! I am doing my best to stay away from blogging, Twitter and the rest of the being “on” 24-7 culture for a few weeks, but I have had a wonderful reminder of what makes what we do as teachers so special, so I am writing a mid-summer post to share with you, what Lisa shared with me.

Lisa is one of the 24 students I had the great pleasure to work with during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. I have blogged on several instances about what a defining experience that was for my teaching career.   It was an experience I shared at TEDxUBC here (the script of my presentation) and here (a reflection that includes the video of the presentation) and also referenced in my post How My Teaching Has Changed, on how the experience has pushed me to expand real world opportunities for students.

With the Summer Olympics starting, I received this email from Lisa this week:

I just finished watching the Opening Ceremonies… what a beautiful sight! No technical difficulties with the cauldron, amazing British music, ethnic outfits during the “March of Nations”, a testament to an English children’s hospital and youth ambassadors running the final stretch of the torch relay. London really nailed it!

In the days leading up to the games, I was frequently thinking of you guys and my whole Students Live experience. I’ve thought about A New Direction and how they’re probably busy attending events, conducting interviews and composing articles. Yesterday, while watching a CTV program on London 2012, they named these Olympic Games “the first Twitter Olympics”. I found that interesting because I distinctly remember the Students Live meeting when we set up our Twitter accounts. I was so unfamiliar with the idea that I remember vividly how confused I was when you showed us a parody video of Twitter. And of course since the 2010 Winter Games, Twitter has grown at an unbelievable pace, but I always enjoy reminding my friends that I was the first to have Twitter! Earlier today, I tweeted this, “The worst part about hosting the Olympic Games in your city is that they will never again even compare. #London2012” and I think it’s safe to say that much of that is thanks to the incredible opportunities I was given through Students Live.
 
I can’t even begin to describe how useful my Students Live experience was when it came to applying for scholarships, filling out supplementary post-secondary applications and much more. Throughout my grade 12 year, there wasn’t an application I submitted that didn’t mention Students Live as one of my proudest accomplishments. On top of that, I often consider Students Live as the most life changing time in my life. That was the first time I had ever branched away from my safe little community and done something that challenged me and pushed my comfort zone a little. After the 2010 Winter Games; however, I have been involved in so many other programs similar to Students Live that continue to challenge me. It is thanks to Students Live that I broke out of my little bubble and branched out to new things. Just before I graduated in June, I had to present a “Presentation of Self” to a panel of teachers, fellow students and community members, and when they asked me what my most life changing experience has been, I’m sure you can predict my answer.

So this is just a little note of gratitude for you all, and to show my appreciation for everything you have done for me. In September, I will be beginning a new chapter of my life as I head out to Halifax to attend Dalhousie University. Even as I leave Vancouver behind, I will always hold those few months in the winter of 2010 close to my heart. I know how much effort you put into making the experience unique for us, and I can tell you that it really was ‘once in a lifetime’.

The relationships I have created through Students Live and Sharing the Dream are also priceless. On Monday night, I went to Emily’s 19th birthday and watched her enjoy her first legal drink! We reminisced about the hockey game we attended together and watching the gold medal game in the Sony store at Pacific Center. I still frequently read Michelle’s blog from her experiences of first year at Bates College and I often chat with Dharra over Facebook.

I logged onto my Blogger account today and I was surprised to see that one of my posts has 622 views, and people are still viewing my blog today. Who would have thought that Singapore would have generated 318 views on my blog, and 55 from Ukraine…

So one last time, I would like to thank you all for everything you did for me and the rest of the Students Live and Sharing the Dream teams.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and GO CANADA GO!

It is the little things that are not so little, like the small gestures and heartfelt “Thank Yous”, that can bring so much joy in our profession.  Thanks Lisa.  It is also so true adults often learn as much or more from the kids we work with as they learn from us. In reading Lisa’s note I am once again reminded that technology done right can (and should) humanize and personalize.

Through Facebook, and likely face-to-face again in the future, I look forward to following Lisa’s next steps.  And, as she says , Go Canada Go!

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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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I had the wonderful opportunity to read several essays written by Grade 6 and 7 students in the West Vancouver School District about how Canadians can promote peace in the world. Our “new generation” does understand that technology can play a key role in this.

Here is an excerpt from Sayeh (Grade 7 student):

We, as Canadian students, have the privilege of being educated and the right to speak up for global issues. Therefore, we can promote peace in the world by raising awareness in nations where people cannot speak up for their rights. You might not believe it, but it’s the reaction of the rest of the world which makes these brutal governments rethink their actions. And now, the generation of youth in these suffering nations has new ways to spread their message to the rest of the world and connect to our youth through advanced technology and social media. With these new communications, learning can occur quickly and the message can be spread.

Sayeh recognizes there is much more to social media than Facebook with her
friends. She sees social media as having the power to influence change around the world.

Genevieve, (Grade 6 student) also recognizes this potential when she discussed how young people can make a difference:

How, you ask? We live in a technology generation, and we can use it! All of us can email our MP, our Premier, and our Prime Minister. We can let them know about issues that are worrying us and about what we want them to do about it. We can use websites such as YouTube to tell people around the globe about issues that we want the whole world to know about, and to get them to be concerned and help those affected. We can create websites; write blogs, or use twitter and Facebook to contact people! There are endless possibilities.

Genevieve breaks down the stereotype about how young people spend their time online. This generation is growing up recognizing they can use technology to help promote change. We are a well-educated and connected country, province and district; these students are absolutely right that we have the ability to leverage social media networking to help promote change. We have a long way to go, but with the reflective thinking of Sayeh and Genevieve, it is evident we are on our way to embedding the powerful, positive use of technology with our kids.

Thanks to Tara Zielinski for sharing these essays with me.

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Earlier this week, I had the chance to spend an hour with Catherine Walton’s Grade 11 and 12 Peer Helping class at West Vancouver Secondary.   We spent the hour discussing the current state of schooling and the potential of social media.

The first activity was having the students write down everything they could remember from Grade 6. In the discussion that followed students realized that not one of them had written about content covered, but reflected on their feelings and connections. They wrote about the teachers they loved, the friends who were in their class, the activities they participated in and the fun they had.

The conversation moved to describing their current school experiences.  They wrote about their anxieties and fears about university; the challenges of getting good grades, and the complexities of navigating the system to find the right courses to land them in the right universities.  It was actually a bit depressing — few students had positive comments about their current experiences.

So, naturally, the conversation flowed to what could be done different now, in their schooling, to bring back some of those strong, positive feelings they associated with in Grade 6?  I left the conversation feeling that while they were nervous and anxious, the only thing we could do worse, right now, is to change the system.  These students have figured it out — they have binders full of notes; they know how to study for exams, and they are completely fluent in the entrance requirements for universities across the continent.

When pushed for what they would change, they spoke of schooling that placed less emphasis on homework, “It shouldn’t be for marks, it is practice”.  The students liked the idea of their texts being digital, but, almost to a person, they did not feel ready to replace their paper binders with a digital equivalent. While they are interested in using technology, they are frustrated with the different systems they need to spend time figuring out, and that take away time from their subject area.  They have mastered the system — so, change the way for the kids who follow, just don’t change anything now for them.

And what about social media?  The only time students had uploaded a video to YouTube was for school projects, and beyond Facebook, the use of social media was very spotty.  They did report Facebook was an excellent learning support — a place to get help with homework and promote school events.

And finally, what about e-mail?  Please, only teachers send them e-mails — even their parents know to text them.

Having done a similar exercise with Grade 6 and 7 students several weeks ago, it was interesting to see how much more open these younger students were to changing the learning model.

At least, given this small sample of Grade 11 and 12 students, they want to be sure there are no changes late in the game to a system they have spent 13 years mastering.

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I recently wrote about transparency, and in my comments, the discussion moved to finding balance, managing work, home, and finding strategies to being more accessible, but mindful that we need to be present in our non-work lives.  In looking at many of those using social media in education, the common denominator was — we have young families — making this issue/concern even more relevant.

The question: “How do you find the time?” is one I am asked, more than any other, from educators interested in social media. I also hear more from educators worried about expanding their accessibility online, “I just don’t have the time for it.”  To be clear and upfront, it takes time to build as well as participate in the community online. There are no promises that being accessible, modelling the use of social media, and engaging with others online, will reduce your work hours. Then again, we don’t need to sell everything in life with a promise it will allow us to work less.  There are many other motivators than the “promise of less work” in our lives.

I don’ t have the answers, but as with my blog on Transparency, I do have an emerging list of beliefs and strategies to make sense of my work/non-work relationships.

Building on a response to Chris Wejr on my blog, here are some principles/strategies which guide me:

1) I have no idea what it means to have a work/home balance, so I’ve given up on talking about this notion. More and more, work is not about a place — my office is very often my phone and it can just as easily be in my den at home, or my car (hands free) as it can be my business office.  I love the ability to jump in and out of work at home.  Technology no longer forces us to stay at the office late every night.  There are times we can go home early, spend time with our families, and go back to “work” later that night.

2) I block out time on my calendar that is virtually non-negotiable as private time.  It is not a lot of time, but it is consistent every week.

3) While I play, learn and engage in social media, I limit the tools I use.  I don’t know how some people participate in so many places.  In my non-work life I participate in Facebook, and in my work-life I engage in Twitter and through my blog (and others blogs).

4)  Every way I interact digitally (not face-to-face) can be done through my mobile device.  I encourage people to call my cell or text me, and I have access to my blog and Twitter through my mobile device.  I don’t need to be in any one particular place to be working.  I can’t imagine having to come into “work” on a Sunday to do work.

5)  Sunday is my writing day.  I often post one or two times a week, but the draft posts are written on Sundays.  I don’t have time during the week to write, but there is also value in not making postings too close together — so I try to be strategic about when I write and when I publish.  I tend not to write “news” posts (except on topics like PISA), so  the timing is often not crucial.

6)  I commit to commenting on five posts for every one I write. On Sundays, I also read what others are saying, and often, my thoughts.  I tend to prioritize local (BC) bloggers, and those in similar roles.  I see this as part of being engaged with the online community, so I set time aside for it.

7)  I organize Twitter.  I am often asked, “how do you follow 400 people?”  I use TweetDeck and have a series of columns.  Right now, I am following bced and cpchat, as well as several specific lists.  I also accept I will not see everything posted from everyone.  I will often drop in to Twitter at lunch, or when I have a few minutes before a meeting, but I don’t get excited about missing something.  And, while I know the research about multi-tasking, I will usually have it on as background noise at night when I work.

8)  I don’t do things other people do. For one, I don’t write newsletters.  It is about choices.  I find the learning from Twitter, and the reach and conversations through blogging, to be extremely powerful. Conversations in social media domains can help lead the narrative in our schools and community.

9)  I define my work day online.  Unless it is urgent, I will usually not e-mail members of the community outside of extended business hours (e.g. no e-mails at noon on Saturday from my son’s soccer game).  I might write the e-mail but will delay the sending of  it. Of course, if it is urgent, I respond immediately. I just don’t want to get into a back-and-forth e-mail conversation while standing on the soccer sidelines.

10) I really see technology as largely invisible.  I don’t think of being on-line or off-line.  I tend to always be connected and, very often, being habitually online saves a lot of time longterm – solving issues before they become problems.

Finally – I signed up for busy – when I applied for my job and had a family. Work keeps me out most Monday to Thursday nights – but I try to find ways to include my family (for example, I will take my kids with me to school plays).  Like so many of us, I don’t sleep a lot – but love it. As I said in a previous post, “Hey, my choice.”

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