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Creating a Vision for 21st Century Learning



To have a vision, one must begin with the end in mind. Stephen Covey states that the mental creation precedes the physical creation.


“All things are created twice. First the mental creation or plan;

second is the physical creation or work.  Highly effective people

clearly see the outcome they want in every area of life before they act.”


When trying to lead a school towards 21st century teaching and learning, it’s sometimes difficult to envision 21st Century learning when you have only experienced 20th century learning for your entire life. In order to develop the “mental creation”, exemplars and possibilities are needed.  This is where social media and other contemporary literacy tools come into play.


At the ATLE conference in 2010, Alec Couros offered a session on the Networked Educator (see diagram below).  He showed new and different ways to connect with people who were using technology in education.  This diagram showed many tools and resources that educators could tap into for professional development or ideas to try within a classroom or school.  By using these tools, educators could develop their skills and attitudes for 21st century learning.


This diagram made a lot of sense to me so I decided to become a networked educator. Lurking on Twitter helped me to see changes towards 21st century learning. Then I started reading blogs such as Langwitches by Silvia Tolisano,  What Ed Said by Edna Sackson and The Wejr Board by Chris Wejr. By following key people on Twitter and by reading the experiences of other educators on their blogs, I started to form the mental creation of what a 21st century classroom and school could look like and sound like. When I started to share on Twitter and try different contemporary literacy tools, I began to feel the change. I started to change some of my 20th century behaviours to 21st century behaviours little by little. By changing some of my workflow behaviours for personal and professional reasons, I began to believe the change. By seeing, feeling and believing the change, this enabled me to have a clear vision of a 21st century classroom, school and educator.


Leadership: I Used to Think…

In November I was asked to share thoughts at our divisional principals’ meeting about the importance of leadership to technology integration.  As I was working on some notes about what I was going to present when I came across Shelly Wright’s post I used to think… on the Power Learning Practice blog.  After reading this great post, I decided to start my message with “the why” for me personally using a similar format.  I also wanted to model a new presentation format so I decided to try the Haiku Deck app on my iPad.  This app was easy to use and made me synthesize my message on each slide. Here is the link to the end result and below are my notes that I used to elaborate for each slide:

Slide 1 I used to think that my own kids should never have their own computer.  Now I realize that I want my kids to be literate. 

The Definition of 21st Century Literacies according to the National Council of Teachers of English:

Develop proficiency with tools of technology
Build relationships with others to pose & solve problems collaboratively & cross culturally
Design & share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
Manage, analyze& synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
Create, critique,analyze & evaluate multi-media texts
Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
I want my own kids to have these skills. Do I still require them to have balance in lives between screen time and physical activities? Yes, but by having their devices gives them lots of opportunities to practice with guidance!
Slide 2I used to think I was literate.  Now I know I have new skills to learn.
Am I there yet? No.  However, after seeing Alan November, Alec Couros, Dean Shareski and Will Richardson at a conference a few years ago, I knew I better start to know something and more importantly– someone! Being networked is the only way to keep myself up to date with what is happening with digital literacies. 
Slide 3I used to think that I didn’t have the time to try the technology at my fingertips.  Now I know using it is important to the climate & culture.
Start with what you know & have. Use technology for everyday purposes so that people see value in the tool. For example, set up a sub calendar via your email system for staff to use when they need a substitute teacher.  This way everyone knows which sub you have booked.  The secretaries also know what budget line so the sub. gets paid.  Another example is to store resources for professional learning communities in Docushare so everyone has access and can collaborate. It’s how we do things around here. Make sure it’s purposefully tied to your school goals,  what you already do– Digital Citizenship, Professional learning communities, inclusion, etc.
Slide 4I used to think that being a leader in the 21st century was making sure there was enough money in the budget for SMARTboards.  Now I know I need to be a Networked educator.
Twitter is the best PD!  Reading and seeing how other educators around the world are tackling the challenges that come with technology integration is a tremendous learning experience. My own professional growth has far exceed my expectations in this area.
Slide 5I used to think that PD was workshops & books.  Now I value coaching & collaborating in-house & globally.
In-house coaching has made a huge difference to bring about change.  It boosted confidence and we have seen our most reluctant teachers start to feel comfortable with technology integration and the pedagogy that goes with it.  We have seen teachers teaching teachers and seeing the benefits in our own building.  This coaching provided 1-on-1 blogging start-up & a goto person for continued support.
Slide 6 I used to think that technology integration was about the tools.  Now I know it’s about the pedagogy.
It’s not about the tool, it’s about the culture & climate, creating, collaborating, critical thinking. Are these skills and attitudes best taught in a traditional setting? You must rethink the pedagogy.  If you try to fit these tools in a traditional setting, all it will be is word processing & PowerPoint. We rethink classroom design.  What is the purpose of having kids sit in rows? What is the purpose of having  a variety of types of learning spaces within 1 classroom?
Slide 7: I used to think that only a few people in the building needed to be “tech savvy”.  Now I know that all learners need to feel comfortable in using the tools purposefully.
As more devices are being used/purchased/brought, all adults and students need to know how to manage them. The “tech contact” should not be responsible for updating 5 SSDZ laptops, 4 assistive tech laptops & 12 iPads, etc. Teach everyone how to “fish”.  Build leadership capacity in managing the devices as well as & pedagogy.  This empowers people and they will start to get creative and innovative.
Slide 8I used to think that my Instructional Leadership time included classroom walk-throughs, coaching and collaborating.  Now I know it also includes social media and blogging. 
There is a shift in how I spend my time.  Social media and class blogs can change the stories about what school is all about.
Slide 9I used to think that teachers could make it all happen.  Teachers are awesome, but I know that my leadership matters!
You have to make those connections for people. Leaders have to create the conditions and the opportunities for change. Leaders have to be equipped to lead, coach and build leadership capacity in others. Do we have to be experts? No, but we need to willing to experience the tools ourselves and, model risk taking, creativity and innovation. That’s what we want from our teachers.

iPads in Pre-K: App-solutely Fun!

Here is a list of our top 5 favourite pre-k apps according to the pre-k students.  These apps are an engaging way to develop fine motor, speech and thinking skills:

1.  Cookie Doodle: This app lets the students be creative and it develops their fine motor skills at the same time!

What the pre-k’s say:

” I like cracking the egg.”

” I like to roll it and bake it.”

2.  Cyber Toy:  This app develops fine motors skills by pushing and sliding buttons with their fingers.

What the pre-k’s say:

” It transforms!”

” I like Bumble Bee.”

3. Toca Hair Salon:  This app also let’s student be creative and giving their fine motor skills a work out!

What the pre-k’s say:

“I like to cut the hair.”

” It’s fun because you get to blow dry the hair!”

“The guys are funny.”

4. Talking Tom: This fun app repeats anything you say!  It gets students talking and practicing proper speech in an engaging way!

What the pre-k’s say:

” He’s funny!”

” I can hear what I say!”

5. Meet Biscuit:  This app has the read aloud story, coloring pages, sticker book, memory game and puzzles!

What the pre-k’s say:

” I like the puzzles!”

” The story is funny!”

Tune into Abundance

Stephen Covey describes the Win-Win Habit as the “Habit of Mutual Benefit”.  The mentality that one must have for this habit is of abundance:  “There is plenty out there for everyone, and more to spare”. I am amazed at my own children and how they have acquired a win-win attitude.  They love to share their ideas with others and enjoy having their ideas “remixed” by others for the benefit of everyone.  I think I grew up in a more competitive time.  I was taught to not share my work because others would “steal” my ideas or copy me.  I was not encouraged to collaborate often enough and thus have more of a competitive attitude. This paradigm has evolved for me due to the nature of my work and even more so due to interacting with others using social media such as Twitter.  I wonder if my children became more tuned into abundance due to their interaction with Web 2.0 /social media tools?

When I think about 21st century learning, collaboration is at the heart of it and having an abundance mentality is a prerequisite!  I ask myself…have I held children back from sharing and collaborating as often as they should due to my mentality?  Do the adults in children’s lives have the scarcity mentality and do our children have the abundance mentality?  If so, what does that look like for our learning environments at home, at school and at the hockey rink/soccer field/dance studio, etc.?  A win-win paradigm is crucial.  This leads to creative cooperation that result in innovation and invention.  Isn’t this what we want for our own children and our students?  What paradigm are you coming from and has it evolved?

My “TweetBites” from #ATLE

I’m looking back at my tweets from the fantastic ATLE 2011 conference last week.  The great thing about Twitter at a conference is that it is collective note taking.  You are left with all of the information & ideas that resonated with you as well as from other people. My learning is also reinforced by tweeting key points in the session or just reading what others tweet in the hashtag stream. Here are some “Tweetbites” from the three engaging keynote sessions: Scott Kinney from Discovery Education, Stephanie Hamilton from Apple and Michael Furdyk from TakingITGlobal.

Scott Kinney:

  • Why digital? interact with content differently, access to current & relevant content,  to meet the needs of all learners
  • Retention and speed of learning increases with digital media
  • Digital  media reaches students in many different ways
  • Joe Non-Netbook Video
  • Students ages 8-18 spend 71/2 hrs interacting with media per day=101/2 hr of content intake

Stephanie Hamilton:

  • The learning needs to drive the technology not technology driving the learning
  • Does the physical environment match an effective environment for learning?
  • Our brains are naturally social. We need collaboration maximize learning
  • Learning environments need to be user/student centric
  • SAMR Model
  • SAMR: Substitution is when you have the technology but you don’t change the pedagogy
  • Schools need to focus on pedagogy not just the technology
  • Teachers become paralyzed when they don’t know what 21st century learning looks like
  • “Job of teachers today is to create the conditions for invention”- Seymour Papert
  • Schools need to be providers of context not content or schools will be irrelevant…Content is everywhere
  • Information can double 3 times in 1 class period
  • Great book about change: Switch
  • Students want school to be less boring, real world application, interact with media and they want more choice!
  • Students don’t want to be the receivers, they want to be part of creating

Michael Furdyk:

  • Real world application for students
  • Giving kids voice throughout the world
  • TakingITGlobal actually giving voice to youth in changing the world. Powerful!

The Pedagogy Project

Let’s improve learning one slide at a time!

                                                  Flickr photo by aforgrave

Please add your slide to this Google Doc !

My goal with this project is to gather global exemplars of what pedagogy looks like and sounds like in effective 21st century learning environments. This project will be organized into five areas of teaching.  I believe that change will happen in small chunks.  Just like good teaching and coaching, chunking skills for educators can result in mastery little by little.  My hope is that change will be less overwhelming and paralyzing for educators if they see exemplars in smaller chunks.  They will feel confident and say “Hey, I can do this…”.

The slide should include a picture or document or video, link, etc. of a great example in the areas below.  Please also include the age/ grade level for your exemplar and your twitter handle.

Area 1: Formative Assessment

What formative assessments do you use for 21st century learning such as:
  • inquiry-based learning
  • student self-directed projects
  • writing using contemporary literacy
    tools such as blogging
  • …etc., etc. ?

Area 2:  Collaborative Culture and Routines

How do you establish an effective collaborative culture and set of routines for 21st century learning?

Area 3:  Planning

What are some examples of effective planning or planning tools you use for 21st century learning?

Area 4:  Evidence of Learning

How do you know the students have mastered the intended outcomes of learning?

Area 5: Interventions and Inclusion

How do you engage all students in the learning?

What strategies and/or tools do you use to assist students with different learning needs?