Makes Me Think…

Photo by Life Inspired Photography

I recently finished the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.  In this book he argues how opportunity and time on task result in success and that it’s not always the “best and the brightest”.  He gives a wide variety of examples from birth dates to lucky breaks.  Here are some of my thoughts in relation to students, staff and  instructional leadership for the 21st century:

1. Gladwell suggests that if your birthday is within 3 months after any sports cut off date, you have a very high chance at getting to “the show” in that sport.  He gave hockey as an example.

This makes me think about our students who have “late” birthdays.  We often forget what a difference a few months can make developmentally.  When we think about infants, a few weeks can be the difference between walking and not walking yet.  We cannot forget this as they get older.  Kids need to know that they might not be ready for some concepts and we cannot let them think that they will never “get it”.  One size does not fit all.

2. Gladwell reveals that studies show how low-income kids start school academically similar to middle – high income kids.  However, the academic gap increases by the time they are in grade 5 due to fewer opportunities during the summer months.

This makes me think how important it is to continue to support students all year.  What can we do to increase awareness and support for these kids?

3.  Gladwell discusses how 10,000 hours of practice is needed to master a skill. It does not depend on natural talent.

This makes me think:  Are we giving our students enough time to practice skills.  For example, we expect our students to be proficient readers but do we give them enough time to practice reading silently or to someone during the school day?  Are we instructing 80% of the time and only giving students 20% of the time to practice when it should be 20% instruction and 80% practice?  What about math?  It takes time and practice to solve problems.  Are we assuming the best students are the ones who can solve problems quickly?  Are we giving others opportunities to solve even if they take longer or prefer different ways to show what they know ?

This also makes me think about the time we give our teachers to master new skills as well.  As leaders, have we created built-in time for teachers to collaborate and master teaching in a 21st century environment?

4.  Gladwell states that opportunities are a huge factor in success.  Bill Gates would not be where he is today if he did not have the opportunity to have unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal to master computer programming when he was 13 years old.

This makes me think:  Are we giving our students opportunities to learn how they want to learn and with the tools that they prefer?  As leaders, have we given opportunities to our staff to master technology integration in the classroom?  Have we created even the smallest opportunities to have procedures such as signing up for a whole school activity using a collaborative web tool instead of circulating a sign up paper at the staff meeting or having 25 copies of the sign up sheet going around via emails?   As leaders, have we neglected opportunities that have been given to us to improve our 21st century skills or have we pushed them aside due to time, fear, beliefs, hoping it will go away,…etc.?

If success = opportunities and time, what opportunities can we continue to create for staff and students?  Check out our school’s journey.


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!”

Shift: “How Can We?” to “This Is What We Can Do!”

It is amazing to the see the mind shift of our teachers since starting our IREC Pedagogy First Project in September!  Our plan was :

Year 1

1. Teach the 7Habits of Digital Citizenship that our staff created so the filter can be opened

2. Assist teachers to create a class blog using the Gradual Release of Responsibility model

Year 2

1. Continue with class blogging

2. Invite students to bring their own devices

Well!  Plans are meant to be changed! It’s only January and half our classes are ready to start exploring BYOD!  It’s so exciting that our teachers are “chomping at the bit” to open up the filter and solidify our BYOD policy.  The conversation has shifted to “How can we?” to ” This is what we can do…!”.

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?

Don’t Forget the Management

                                         cc licensed  photo shared by Life Inspired Photography

There is a lot of literature out there about being a leader and the importance of leading not managing. This solid advice includes building trust and relationships but let’s not forget about the management of 21st century learning environments. I am not talking about making sure there is heat in the building…although heat is good.  I am talking about the structures that need to be in place for effective 21st century learning environments and the skills that go with developing and nurturing these environments.  Sometimes we don’t have the right balance of both and this can cause barriers in organizational/school/classroom change. This balance does not necessarily mean 50/50. At times, you may need 90% leadership and 10% management which could mean that you have not yet established solid trust and relationships and, therefore no learning will move forward for anyone in the organization/school/classroom. It could be 20% leadership and 80% management which may mean you have established trust and relationships and now it’s more about facilitating the teaching of skills and/or structure for effective learning. For example, when we think about 21st Century pedagogy which includes providing individual learning in a variety of formats for all children in a classroom, we think about how great that would be. I have not met an educator that did not agree with the fact that facilitating personal goals for all students and allowing for many choices in the learning process would be best for students. BUT…. where the resistance comes in is the “how”…how can that possibly be done? It’s the “how” of letting go of that control in an effective way.  Just the thought of following through with this kind of environment can be overwhelming and paralyzing for educators. However, if the management structures of the change are examined and broken down into manageable chunks then organizational/school/classroom change could be more successful.

Recently, @jimknight99 tweeted out about a book by Monty Roberts  that is a recommended read for instructional coaches. In this book Roberts (2001) writes about 0-10 learning. If all learning is from 0-10 then the 0-1 learning is building trust and relationships. If this 0-1 piece of the learning is not solid then no learning will happen. When I think about organizations/schools/classrooms, this is also true.  I would then add to this idea and say the 1-2 learning is managing this type of environment. This 1-2 piece includes explicitly modeling and teaching the routines and structures of the learning environment before the content. The 21st Century learning structure is new to many educators and students (unfortunately we have trained them in a traditional structure for years and the majority of them comply!).  Often this piece of professional development for educators is left out because we assume that educators can figure out how to manage this structure of learning for themselves once they change their pedagogy but, in fact, that is usually where they become paralyzed resulting in one of two things: end up going back to old ways or not feeling like they can be successful and do not even begin.
Think about your situation… What leadership/management balance do you
need to do for organization/school/classroom in order for effective change to
move forward?

Making Connections: Ask yourself…

                      Flickr Photo: Press Factory Juggling Group by chamsin

As leaders, we often hear from our staff that we have “too many balls in the air” and we are just “adding one more thing to our plates”.  We need to listen to this feedback and recognize that we may have too many school goals or these goals might not align with what we really want to accomplish in regards to student learning.  When too many goals are in front of us or when goals do not align then staff will get overwhelmed and, as a result, feel like they do not do anything well or only skim the surface.

Part of being a leader is making strong connections and alignment between school goals and what staff is actively doing to move towards reaching those goals.  In the book The Leader in Me, Covey adds a visual on page 179 that resonated with me.  It is a picture of arrows pointing to stakeholder needs (student learning) and inside the arrows are things/actions that a school is doing such as mission, vision, strategies, etc.  Some arrows are pointing all in the same direction… some are not.

Alignment Diagram pg. 179, Covey, 2008

As a leader in your school, ask yourself:

If the things we do as a school are put into each arrow, would all of the arrows point towards improving student learning?

Do I, as a leader, develop and facilitate meaning processes to align school goals and actions?

Do some arrows need to be taken way because they do not align?

Are some arrows actually barriers that hinder student learning for the 21st century?

If our arrows do align, what can I do as a leader to help make connections for my staff?


“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”

 Stephen Covey, The 8th Habit

Deadheading: Moving Forward

A friend of mine is a horticulturist and she always tells me that deadheading flowers is “a must!” in order to sustain continual growth.  So while enjoying a morning coffee on the weekend I realized that I had better pull off the dead flowers so that new flowers can grow before she finds out!  While I was deadheading I began to think about the up coming school year how exciting it is going to be.  Last year our staff had a successful year of learning how to move students towards independence so that they can ‘hand the reins’ over to the students using the Gradual Release of Responsibility model (@Whatedsaid refers to this model in her Feb. 16, 2011 post). This model sets the teacher up for success in terms of effectively letting go of control that is so imperative for 21st Century learning environments. Akevy Greenblatt’s recent post “Technology does not equal 21 Century Learning” reminds us that facilitating learning is one of the essentials for a 21 century classroom.  As our teachers build their capacity in this area, a model that matches 21st century learning is beginning to replace the traditional model of the classroom.  Essentially, we are deadheading structures in the traditional classroom that do not allow for effective student learning.  As educational leaders we need to “deadhead” the structures, policies and strategies that hinder optimal student learning and find ways to support classroom teachers so that change is successful.  We must deadhead to allow for the development and the sustainability of best practices.  What will you “deadhead” in your classroom, school, or district this year?  Check out how adunsige @Grade1 does it!