Saturday, 14 March 2015

Building Capacity in Technology

Where I work teachers are required to implement technologies into the classroom in a meaningful way; it is considered part of our professional responsibility. As with most things there is a wide gap of knowledge and experience regarding technology within the 65 plus teachers at my school. My passion for technology seems to have only increased as the year has progressed and for the most part,  as I reflect, I am happy with the growth we've made this year. However, sometimes I struggle with how much I want to accomplish and how to get there.

Our journey began early this year when our Technology Committee (TC) decided they wanted to step back, clearly define its working agreements, beliefs and its purpose and dedicate the year to building capacity in order to support our staff.


1. Agenda sent out in advance.
2. Honor and respect each other's time i.e. do not engage in time wasting behavior e.g. unnecessary cell phone, cross talk, off topic, consistently late.
3. Use the seven norms: Pausing, Paraphrasing, Posing Questions, Putting ideas on the table, Providing data, Paying attention to self and others, Presuming positive intentions.


In order for technology to be a powerful tool/resource, it must be student centered, authentic, integrated seamlessly and accessed equitably.

When this occurs, technology will transform teaching and learning.

Because technology is ever changing, it requires ongoing support to empower users and continuous digital citizenship education.


  1. Building capacity to empower and support staff and students.

  1. Advise in the acquisition and implementation of technologies and school wide policies/procedures.

At the same time our school was selected to participate in a Chromebook (CB) pilot project that would see nearly 200 grade seven students and their teachers be loaned a CB for the school year. There was a lot (and will be) significant crossover between the Tech Committee and Chromebook pilot committee, both in membership and purpose. Grade seven is the entry point to our school and the project will grow each year and involve more students and teachers. Next year will see nearly 400 students and their teachers in grade seven and eight as part of the pilot. In many ways the students are helping to push the need for teachers to build capacity and the committees are providing the supports and advice along the way.
We have tried to offer capacity building for teachers with mixed success. Our Teacher Librarian has an open door for teachers to ask for support or to help develop lessons integrating technology, she has also offered lunch and after school sessions. We have tried to create weekend cohorts, but with the exception of our already “advanced” TC members, we have had limited interest.
Our most successful PD in technology occurs when we integrate it into the day. We try to influence technology usage by integrating it into our staff meetings. All staff members are to bring a device to every meeting and at some point they need to use it in some way. At  recent meetings we used Screencastify to present information and then a QR code linked to a google form for a survey for teachers to fill out. Another day the CB pilot committee developed critical thinking challenges for grade seven students to free up time for teachers to learn, plan and experiment with technology. We are planning an annual “technology fair” where teacher experts will offer a variety of sessions during one of our school-based professional development days. Our Learning Commons (which is accessed by 100’s of students a day) needs to be booked by filling out a Google form. Most information from the office including agendas and reports are increasingly being “shared” instead of being “sent” or “attached.”
A year ago some teachers were amazed when they saw me edit a Google doc live as someone else was adding to it or had never been able to sign into their Google account. I sometimes need to remember the growth of our staff and celebrate that instead of being consumed with pushing  where I want to go.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Teacher-Librarian/Administrator Relationship

One of the most significant partnerships I have in my school as an administrator is with our teacher-librarian (TL), Lisa Mueller. In recent years our library has been transforming into a Library Learning Commons (LLC) or simply, Learning Commons (LC). This transformation is occurring as a result of having a TL with a vision for creating a LC as well as an administration supporting this vision. The creation of a Library Learning Commons has had a major impact on the school. Earlier this year I traveled with Lisa to a meeting with school trustees who represented multiple school boards in Alberta. At the meeting we shared the journey from library to learning commons. Preparing for this gave me an opportunity to reflect on how her role has affected our school. From my perspective, the LLC has made a direct impact on student learning in four main areas:

  1. collaboration
  2. technology
  3. environment
  4. culture

The LC is a place to collaborate. The space has specifically designed areas for this purpose and is utilized by students, classrooms, teachers, professional learning communities and a variety of committees and departments. The one time computer lab and librarian office has been transformed into technology rich learning and collaboration spaces.

Our TL has “poured” herself into technology and is a “go to” person for this area. From troubleshooting to facilitating the integration of  technology into the classroom to enhance learning, our teacher-librarian plays a significant role.

The environment in our LC is flexible, safe, welcoming and energetic. Students feel like the space is their “home away from home.” Students have shared that they feel sophisticated and motivated to learn. The LC is not so much a place as it is a perspective. The Learning Commons is a space that facilities deeper learning, not by accident, but by carefully researched design.

Our Learning Commons has helped shift the culture of the school. Its presence in the building and its focus on students, learning, wellness, technology and collaboration all spill into the rest of the school.

Our Learning Commons is the center of the building, both literally and figuratively. All other classrooms and areas of the school spread out from the LLC and are connected in some way. It is the “heart” of our school and rivals or exceeds our two gymnasiums in terms of student usage. In the morning students begin waiting for the doors to open at 7:30 a.m. At lunch nearly 200 students converge on the facility to eat, socialize, learn, discover, create and read. A conservative estimate would see approximately 500 students per day utilizing the Learning Commons, that’s 2500 students a week or 100 000 students a school year in the facility that are being exposed to what the Library Learning Commons and Teacher Librarian have to offer.

The LLC does not run itself. Lisa is part of the leadership team; she attends our Team Lead (dept heads) meetings, is on multiple school and district committees and is a resource that can be accessed by all staff at our school. Our TL is a capacity-builder, innovator, risk taker, master teacher and a learning leader. Lisa will be the first to say that we are just in the initial stage of our journey and there will never arrive at a final destination. We still have much work to do to help students meet 21st Century competencies, but the work she has started in creating an environment that supports student learning in a relatively short time has been transformative and inspiring. It is because our school and administration believe and support the role of a TL and a LLC that we have been able to see and feel the changes that have come with it.

Video showing the journey towards a Learning Commons

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Chromebook Rollout through Teacher Leadership

As the administrator responsible for technology in my school I had the opportunity to facilitate a Chromebook pilot project. Every grade seven student was loaned a Chromebook for the school year. The goal of the pilot was to determine the effectiveness of utilizing one-to-one devices to enhance learning in the classroom and to improve technology capacity among teachers.
In early October nearly 200 Chromebooks were deployed and the journey began. Eight months later and the project can only be described as a success. One of the first steps in the process was to get CB’s into the hands of teachers. We had an evening of professional development for teachers to receive some support, but because  CB’s are so intuitive it did not take long for the majority of the teachers to become somewhat proficient. We created a google classroom that we used to communicate information, thoughts, concerns and tips. We sent a letter home to parents explaining the project and hosted an information night with presentations and an opportunity for questions.
For the students, in the beginning, a great deal of time was spent in building capacity regarding how to care for their device. Students were given formal lessons on proper care and respect for the device being loaned to them. This paid off tremendously as students took ownership for their CB and we were fortunate to not have any damage or issues related to misuse. Knowing that a goal would be to allow students to transport a device home our teacher-librarian collected resources and created an extensive “CB license” that ensured that students  reached certain benchmarks before being allowed to take a  ChromeBook home.
The teachers and students were amazing as they learned side by side. As much support as was requested was provided from our central office who were actively involved in the initiative. The team provided support throughout the year and organized PD time embedded into the school day. Teachers took ownership for their own learning and developed and shared lessons, strategies, struggles and challenges.
As I reflect on the success of the project I feel the biggest impact has come from the lead team that was formed. This team was composed of two “lead teachers,” Jen and Michelle, the school’s teacher-librarian, Lisa, and myself. These three guided, reflected and made decisions in every school based aspect of the initiative ensuring a process that was ultimately best for students and most effective for teachers.  They spent countless hours organizing, supporting and creating. The team shared a common belief, vision and passion for integrating technology into the classroom in a meaningful way to enhance learning.  
By surrounding myself with people with skills superior to mine in many areas and by encouraging and supporting these teachers to lead, it made for an extremely rewarding and powerful project.