Category Archives: #WinnipegSD

Never Losing That “Look”


This is a little clip from one of my favourite videos online, that shows the sheer joy and wonder of a child.


One of the goals of my work is that kids never lose that curiosity, and we fan that flame. To do this, our own love and excitement for learning as educators should look like this:


What I love about this clip is how the excitement becomes contagious. I have watched new parents look at learning through a totally different lens when they have children. They ask questions, point out wonder, and just have an excitement that their own child exudes.

I was fortunate enough to spend the year with Winnipeg School Division, and I end my year with them full of excitement, as we focused on a renewed view on the power of learning for the educator, not just the student. When educators are excited not only about teaching, but more importantly, learning, their passion becomes contagious.

Yesterday, I listened to the awesome George Pearce share that instead of spending his nights aimlessly looking at social media streams, he now spent his time seeing what his colleagues were sharing of their own learning on a shared hashtag.  It was truly inspiring.

This great post from Stephane Gautron last night talking about his own shift in thinking this year really resonated with me:

Having had my head in the sand for so long, it was a steep learning curve but one that has helped me love and get excited about teaching and connecting with students again. One that has allowed me to share, encourage, ask questions, find inspiration and perhaps inspire. One that has allowed me to reconnect with students at a time where I thought humanity was doomed.

…To learn about Twitter was to become more technologically literate at the least. At best, it summed up and made use of the most recent and important developments in social media and technology from the past 10 years. It allowed me to speak and experiment with this new language. It also meant free professional development anytime, anywhere. The upside seemed appetizing, so I dug in. (Read the whole thing.)

Slowing down to go fast is sometimes important, but only if we are focused on deep and powerful learning.  To watch the journey of so many educators over year become really excited about their own learning has been something that has increased my enthusiasm for my own work.

As it says on the side of my blog, “I believe we need to inspire our kids to follow their passions, while letting them inspire us to do the same”.  Kids should read “learners” as I have been moved by the passion of learning of so many through this project.  If we can be excited about teaching that’s great, but if we become excited about our own learning, the differences we can make in schools moving forward will be immeasurable.

The Power of the Process

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I spent the day working with educators who are developing their own learning portfolios, before we embark on a journey of students going through the same process.  I truly believe that why digital portfolios have failed in so many places is that we are encouraging educators to teach them without learning how to do them first.  This, to me, is the equivalent of someone teaching math who has never learned math.  Though this process might be slower and not have students going through the process as quickly, it is the idea of going slow to move fast.  The depth of this project can be much deeper if educators think of the process from the point of the view of a learner, not the teacher.  Not only do these “blog-portfolios” help with educators understand the process through the viewpoint of a learner, it also helps in the following ways:

  1. Consistent focus on their own teaching and learning practices.
  2. Understanding how to develop their own digital footprint.
  3. Possibly creating future opportunities for teachers to write and present.
  4. Shared practices that help elevate teaching as a whole.

As we talked about this process, we discussed the idea of both “learning” and “showcase” portfolios. A “showcase” focuses on your “best stuff”, where learning shows growth over time.  I often find the notion of a learning portfolio is one that people struggle with because the growth in a year might be harder to see, so I showed them, what in my opinion, is part of the potential of a learning portfolio.  This link, “Artist Shows His Progression From 2 Years Old To 28“, displays the power of what you can see when you capture learning over time.  Check out the samples of work overtime:

Age 2

Age 2


Age 5

Age 5

Age 10

Age 10

Age 28

Age 28

(Check out the entire article to show the growth over time.)

Now the picture at 28 is quite amazing, but when you see it compared to where the same artist was earlier, it becomes much more powerful.  Yet this powerful learning journey has often been stored in our head, or been shown mostly in the form of numbers.

Showing growth over time helps us appreciate not only where learners are at, but where they have come from, which is something that we need to put more of an emphasis on in education.

Educators as “Guinea Pig” of Learning

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When new initiatives roll out for education, you may hear some pushback from parents saying, “I do not want my child to be a guinea pig for this new initiative.” In some ways, I agree with this statement.  The “guinea pig” should be the educator, acting as learner first, teacher second.  How do we truly understand any initiative in our classrooms, unless we go from the perspective of  the learner first? Master teacher does not happen without becoming a master learner.

I have worked with Winnipeg School Division this past year, focusing on “Innovative Teaching, Learning and Leadership”, with the focus on the educators as learners first.  The reality is that some will dig deeper into their own learning than others, but I have been amazed by some of their reflections shared through this year and our collaborative blog (I wrote about this process in the post titled, “5 Reasons To Have a Collaborative Blog“), and as I go through some of the educator reflections, I am amazed by what some of them are sharing (emphasis is mine on the following quotes and you click on the teacher’s name for the full post in it’s entirety):

“What stood out to us after reading the book and spending the day with George was how we currently use the technology in our classroom. Based on our reflections and conversations with colleagues, we realized we are using our technology (iPads, computers, digital cameras) primarily for consumption. We would like to begin guiding elementary students towards utilizing technology more creatively. We are trying to find the balance between the practicalities of using technology for consumption while finding ways for students to express themselves creatively.”  Vanessa Madsen & Val Mytopher

“Empowering students “means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future”. We need to raise the bar from just settling for engagement through good content and practice, to empowerment. It’s easy to do an inquiry project, or genius hour as a “one-off” empowering activity, but how do you embed this idea mindset into our classroom environment? I do not have the answer yet, but I certainly hope to continue to learn and find out.”  Jeremy Midford 

“I think I am moving in the right direction in terms of the innovator’s mindset.  I want my students to have more than just worksheet experiences in math and sitting at the carpet and me telling them how to solve math facts.  If I go back to decision that made me change my practice, it probably was from my own experience as a new mom, what would I want from my own daughter’s early years teacher?  A teacher who believed in play based learning with hands on experiences or a teacher who was old fashioned in her teaching style?  The first one would appeal to me more as a mom.  I’m excited to see what else I can come up with for my math practice in the classroom.  I’m sure George’s book and the conversations we will have during these sessions will inspire me with more ideas.” Shannon McMurtry

What I love about these reflections is the open struggle that they are having with this process, and to be honest, the need to get better.  Think of the types of questions that are being asked by these teachers going through this process.

What does innovation mean for education?

What type of learning would I want for my own child?

How do we move from consumption to creation?

These questions are being focused on, and as Jeremy mentioned in his post above, he is looking to find out more.  The more we shift our focus to that of being a learner, the better we become as teachers.  The struggle is not only “real” but it is an encouraged part of the process, as it should be.

3 Reasons Why All Learning is Personal

Personalized learning is something that educators have talked about for a long time, but I am really struggling with the term.  I have talked about the idea and differences between “individualized and personalized” learning before, but really, all learning is personal.

Think about this scenario…

I recently spoke to approximately 200 school leaders (at all levels) over a three day period.  Each group had people in similar positions, but from different schools, programs, etc.. After about 35-40 minutes of talking to each group using the same slides and ideas, I asked them to reflect in a google form about what they wanted to learn and their takeaways.  Although the talk was the same over the three days, their responses were so different from one another. We have to realize that this is the norm, not the exception, but why is it the norm?

Here are three reasons that struck me upon reflection of this experience.

  1. Each individual has their own experiences and acquired knowledge. (Past)
  2. Each person creates their own connections to content based on the reason mentioned above. (Present)
  3. What interests each person biases what they are interested in learning moving forward. (Future)

Doesn’t this to apply to all teaching and learning whether it is from the curriculum, delivered in a workshop, or watching it on a YouTube video?

We should focus less on all people learning the same thing, and more on all people learning forward. There is a difference.

Cheating or Resourceful?

As I was watching students build a “cotton ball sling-shot” with items that they had, I was sitting there looking at what was in front of them and all I wanted to do was Google how to make something.  I actually tweeted the following out:

I struggled with this concept as there is a balance of trying to figure stuff out on your own, and the ability to connect with others (or information) to find the answer. I then tweeted the following out:

What is interesting is that the responses both helped to shape my thinking, while challenging me. This is something that is quite powerful and although we talk about “collaboration” and “connected learning”, some people see them as the opposite, where I see them as quite similar.

Here is a few things that I am struggling with:

  • If you were hiring someone, would you go with someone who would take a long time to figure something out (but eventually will), or the person who connects with others and can find out instantly?
  • Are we developing kids that have both the skills listed above?
  • Do kids think to Google things outside of school, but when we do activities like this, they don’t even think about it?