Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Exciting Times in Education

There are so many great things happening in education right now. What I have been reflecting on and appreciating recently are the priorities of student-centered education and pursuing a deeper level of understanding. In Alberta our Ministerial Order on Student Learning informs us that all decisions regarding a child's education must have their best interest as the primary consideration. Inquiry and discovery are emphasized and technology to support learning is nonnegotiable. Taking risks is encouraged.

Walls are beginning to be torn down. Conversations around authentic, meaningful assessment, eliminating traditional final exams, providing a time for students  to take ownership of their learning, to inquire, to explore, to create and to tinker through  methods including PBL, makerspaces, genius hour, flex time the new Career Technology Foundations (CTF) program are creeping into daily discussions.

Educators are taking ownership of their learning too. Teachers are directing, initiating and driving their own professional development:  ed camps/unconferences, empowering teacher learners, administrators shifting focus to creating a culture of learners. All good stuff.

I’ll admit there are days when my head starts to spin and I need to take a step back and regroup and wonder if I can keep up, but then a colleague pushes my thinking, questions the “why,” forwards me another tweet, blog, article or invites me to come and see something new and innovative in their classroom and I’m reminded of how exciting things are in education right now and how incredibly fortunate I am to be doing what I'm doing. 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Chromebook Pilot Reflection

Almost nine months ago the school district that I work for began a Chromebook pilot initiative. I was fortunate enough to facilitate the process at my school. The initiative saw nearly 200 Chromebooks being placed into the hands of grade seven students and their teachers. Now as the school year quickly draws to an end, we are evaluating and reflecting on the initiative.
Part of the review process was giving a presentation to our school board of trustees. Myself, along with a teacher and central office personnel  met with the Board to report our summary. I am thankful to work in a school district where relationships with central office and trustees are professional yet open and welcoming. Our presentation included data through surveys, anecdotal observations and personal opinion from our three different roles. Surveys were administered to students and teachers and the results clearly indicate that students feel not only more engaged with a 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks, but also feel that Chromebooks are important to learning and are easy and exciting to use. Teachers commented that they felt their teaching performance improved and important components such as immediate feedback and assessment were improved. Transitioning away from computer labs teachers also expressed a feeling of freedom they had never felt before in terms of accessing technology. Anecdotal observations saw students engaged as well as taking ownership and responsibility for devices. Of the 200 Chromebooks we rolled out in September only four issues arose in terms of mismanagement or abuse. Compared to the maintenance and mistreatment of our traditional computer labs there is no comparison.
We still have a long way to go on our journey and  eventual goal of becoming a BYOD school with meaningfully integrated technology, but I am very proud of how far we've come in a relatively short time. As a leader in the school my most important role as I see it is to support teachers and remove barriers along the way. Next year our initiative will double in size to include our grade eight teachers and staff. I look forward to this next part of the journey, both the challenges and the rewards.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Time to learn

I am fortunate to have many interests in life. Many of those interests are shared between my personal and work life. I don't consider it work when I am reading about instruction, leadership, assessment or technology or just plain learning about anything. Another one of my interests is wellness and physical fitness. Today I traveled to Montana, U.S.A. to participate in an obstacle race with a few friends and colleagues.

My supplies for the trip would indicate to many that I am going to a conference or engaging in some form professional development. Sharing space in my luggage with my trail runners, sports gels and nutritional bars  are my books on assessment, deeper learning, innovative leadership and of course my chromebook and smartphone.  On the road I take the opportunity to reflect and consider new challenges, where to focus my attention, what I have been neglecting and what I want to accomplish. Sitting in the hotel room I take the opportunity to write, prepare for my race and appreciate all that I have. So as I travel on my own this time, I don't feel a need to leave all my 'work' behind me. I'll enjoy the time to reflect, the time to read, the time to write, the time to learn and the time to race.