Category Archives: innovative teaching and learning leads

Meaningful Change is On All of Us

I truly loved this post from Ira Socol, “Your School’s UX. What is it? And where to start“.  In it, Ira challenges us to think about the messages our schools send to our students:

What do kids see? What do they feel? What do they smell? What do they hear? What is their experience as they move through your school?

One of the things that is clear is that every single thing kids see, hear, feel, smell, taste, sends a message about your school. Every single thing. And many of the messages schools send are as awful as they are unintentional.

As someone who walks into schools often, I notice things right away and they do send messages about the environment. We often become numb to them so we have to be intentional about how we as educators ensure that we are always paying attention to the words on the walls. I even suggested on Twitter that a great professional learning opportunity would be to read Ira’s article as a staff, and then walk around the school and discuss what you see.

But what if you are a teacher and not an administrator? Is this opportunity for you to suggest to the entire staff?

Short answer? Yes.

Every child in your school, whether you teach them or not, are our kids. If we look at our students this way, then we need all people in the building to challenge, suggest, and lead.  It is essential to the growth of schools as true “learning organizations”.

In my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, I outline five areas that schools should focus on to help others move forward.  They are listed below:

Innovator's Mindset (Foundations)

The reason I left the last column open was to encourage people to come up with their own solutions, and revisit this space.  It is not very “innovative” if I can prescribe exactly how to make “innovation” happen. Yet this “chart” is not meant for the admin to answer the last column, but it should be a discussion within your community.  How do you bring these questions to reality?  (Please feel free to print off the image above and use for discussion.)

I really appreciated this post from Jeremy Midford, who is part of the ITLL (Innovative Teaching and Learning Leads) project:

I have to remind myself often that you can’t do ten things at once. We all need that reminder sometimes. Designing, planning, and carrying out innovative learning opportunities for with students is the best and most rewarding part of our jobs as teachers. But it’s not the only part. When it starts to feel overwhelming with work on reporting, documenting, communicating, committee planning, etc, I remind myself to focus on one thing that puts students first. One lesson or activity that is innovative, and changes my practice for the better. Then build on it. That is the only way to accomplish the first part of our goal as ITLL leaders in this Winnipeg School Division initiative in innovation. In order to move from the idea of “pockets of innovation” to a “culture of innovation”, you have to put one foot in front of the other, and change one thing at a time.

Despite that fact, I can’t help looking and thinking big picture, and wondering how I can impact the teaching and learning of others in my school. I never really see myself as an “expert”, who might be able to offer insight to another teacher to improve their practice. But then I had that type of light bulb moment when you stop, put your fist to your head and make the sound effect as you simulate the explosion with your hand. My task as an ITLL leader is not necessarily to impart my own pedagogy, technology, or content on other teachers, my job is to bring people together! Connect our school, and the teachers and students in it to the outside world of innovation. It might involve a few Twitter tutorials, or maybe a learning lunch with Google Docs, but mostly my job will be to allow my colleagues to benefit from the same process that I was so lucky to be apart of. Give them a chance to be inspired by new technology. Demonstrate the power of a professional social network. Be a part of the positive change in my school that hopefully results in an environment that reflects a culture of innovation.

It may sound like a tall order. But on the bright side I know exactly how we need to do it. Together, and one step at a time.

Jeremy looks at how he can lead from the position he is in, not one that he is allocated.  He has no admin time allocated nor does he have a formal title; he is just trying to find a way to not only help his students, but more importantly, his school.

The crucial part of his post is that he sees the importance of doing this “together”.  If we expect the “principal” or the “superintendent” to be the only one responsible for moving our organizations forward, meaningful change will either be excruciatingly slow, or not happen at all.

5 Reasons To Have a Collaborative Blog

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.05.25 PM

This was a quote from Kristin Melnyk, a member of the “Innovative Teaching and Learning Leads” that I am working with in Winnipeg School District.  The program is focused on developing not only educators to challenge the way they think about education, but to also develop innovative teacher leadership, to help this group lead meaningful change within their own schools.

It has been a great process so far, although I have only worked with the group one date personally. That being said, through the #WinnipegSDITLL hashtag as, well as being led by an awesome team within the Winnipeg School District, the learning shared has been great.

One part of the initiative is that educators in the program are asked to blog about something in their classroom or the program, to share their learning through the process, to the ITLL Project blog. This is a powerful way to share that their is a constant space for learning, and it is not focused only on our face-to-face time together, but shows the power of learning throughout.  Reading their blog posts online, will also help build relationships in the times that we are face-to-face as well, as I am able to learn more about them not only as educators, but learners and thinkers. It creates a pretty powerful dynamic for learning and relationships.

There are so many benefits to having this type of “collaborative blog” throughout a professional learning opportunity, and I am so grateful to the team supporting the process.  It has been wonderful to learn from them, but there are so many other powerful benefits.  Here are some of them below.

1. Safe “guest posts”.  Blogging is a powerful way to “openly reflect” on your learning, and in one of my favourite articles on the topic from Dean Shareski, talks about the power of this type of collaboration:“So here’s my plan. Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least 5 other teachers in the district as well as 5 other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and 5 other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.”

Although I agree with what Dean is saying, having your own blog can seem daunting.  But having a space where you can have a post with some guidance, can help some people feel more comfortable with the process and perhaps realize that it is not only valuable, but they are pretty good at it.

2. Competitive-Collaboration.  This is a concept that is near to my heart.  I believe that we need to learn to work with one another, but I also believe we need to push each other.  In this space, I have noticed that the blog posts are getting more and more in depth, and I wonder if the quality is going up because the group is reading the posts that the others are doing.  They are also not only writing reflections, but either sharing visuals, or creating videos.  We wanted to give them some guidelines (suggested 250 words but shared that it can be more, or less, or anything), but wanted people to be creative in how they shared.Check out this great video posted from Veronique Bedard

 

The learning that has been shared in this space has not necessarily taught people to be creative, but unleashed their creativity.  Pushing each other in space where we also support one another, is where that “unleashed talent” is more likely to come to the surface.

3. Opportunities to Reflect. As Dewey states, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” Although the process of change can seem “fast and furious”, this only makes it more important to slow down and think about why we do what we do. If we are truly looking at moving forward, we need to take the time to look back.  There is so much learning that can happen through the process of reflection.  It needs to be a non-negotiable part of the work in true learning organizations.

4. Rich data.  Not all data is measured by numbers, and this blog is proving that. We are seeing this process to be extremely valuable, but this blog has become that evidence.  As I was discussing this process with a group yesterday, how often do we do work in PLC’s and then create evidence that either no one sees, or really, no evidence of learning at all?  This space will be here long after the initiative but shows the evidence of this program.

5. Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner. As the leader of this program, I truly believe that if the group ONLY learns from me, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.  This is why this space is so crucial.  Not only does the group have the ability to learn from each other, but selfishly, my own learning is being pushed and prodded by this group.  This flattened hierarchy of learning is beneficial to everyone willing to take part and ultimately will benefit so many kids in so many places.  It has been powerful to watch and learn from this great group.

Chris Kennedy recently wrote about seeing a decline in blogging, and a part of me agrees.  That being said, I actually think it is more valuable than ever. Giving people the opportunity to do it in a way where they get to experience themselves first in a safe space, and then seeing the value of learning from others, might be the best way to have them eventually create their own space, but even if they don’t, the opportunity to learn from these collaborative spaces has been extremely powerful.

Kristin Melnyk shared this quote in her blog post:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”—Charles Darwin

What is important to understand is that we can’t change others, but only ourselves. What we can do is create the spaces where change is more likely to happen, and these platforms of open and continuous learning could make that impact.

5 Reasons To Have a Collaborative Blog

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.05.25 PM

This was a quote from Kristin Melnyk, a member of the “Innovative Teaching and Learning Leads” that I am working with in Winnipeg School District.  The program is focused on developing not only educators to challenge the way they think about education, but to also develop innovative teacher leadership, to help this group lead meaningful change within their own schools.

It has been a great process so far, although I have only worked with the group one date personally. That being said, through the #WinnipegSDITLL hashtag as, well as being led by an awesome team within the Winnipeg School District, the learning shared has been great.

One part of the initiative is that educators in the program are asked to blog about something in their classroom or the program, to share their learning through the process, to the ITLL Project blog. This is a powerful way to share that their is a constant space for learning, and it is not focused only on our face-to-face time together, but shows the power of learning throughout.  Reading their blog posts online, will also help build relationships in the times that we are face-to-face as well, as I am able to learn more about them not only as educators, but learners and thinkers. It creates a pretty powerful dynamic for learning and relationships.

There are so many benefits to having this type of “collaborative blog” throughout a professional learning opportunity, and I am so grateful to the team supporting the process.  It has been wonderful to learn from them, but there are so many other powerful benefits.  Here are some of them below.

1. Safe “guest posts”.  Blogging is a powerful way to “openly reflect” on your learning, and in one of my favourite articles on the topic from Dean Shareski, talks about the power of this type of collaboration:“So here’s my plan. Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least 5 other teachers in the district as well as 5 other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and 5 other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.”

Although I agree with what Dean is saying, having your own blog can seem daunting.  But having a space where you can have a post with some guidance, can help some people feel more comfortable with the process and perhaps realize that it is not only valuable, but they are pretty good at it.

2. Competitive-Collaboration.  This is a concept that is near to my heart.  I believe that we need to learn to work with one another, but I also believe we need to push each other.  In this space, I have noticed that the blog posts are getting more and more in depth, and I wonder if the quality is going up because the group is reading the posts that the others are doing.  They are also not only writing reflections, but either sharing visuals, or creating videos.  We wanted to give them some guidelines (suggested 250 words but shared that it can be more, or less, or anything), but wanted people to be creative in how they shared.Check out this great video posted from Veronique Bedard

 

The learning that has been shared in this space has not necessarily taught people to be creative, but unleashed their creativity.  Pushing each other in space where we also support one another, is where that “unleashed talent” is more likely to come to the surface.

3. Opportunities to Reflect. As Dewey states, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” Although the process of change can seem “fast and furious”, this only makes it more important to slow down and think about why we do what we do. If we are truly looking at moving forward, we need to take the time to look back.  There is so much learning that can happen through the process of reflection.  It needs to be a non-negotiable part of the work in true learning organizations.

4. Rich data.  Not all data is measured by numbers, and this blog is proving that. We are seeing this process to be extremely valuable, but this blog has become that evidence.  As I was discussing this process with a group yesterday, how often do we do work in PLC’s and then create evidence that either no one sees, or really, no evidence of learning at all?  This space will be here long after the initiative but shows the evidence of this program.

5. Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner. As the leader of this program, I truly believe that if the group ONLY learns from me, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.  This is why this space is so crucial.  Not only does the group have the ability to learn from each other, but selfishly, my own learning is being pushed and prodded by this group.  This flattened hierarchy of learning is beneficial to everyone willing to take part and ultimately will benefit so many kids in so many places.  It has been powerful to watch and learn from this great group.

Chris Kennedy recently wrote about seeing a decline in blogging, and a part of me agrees.  That being said, I actually think it is more valuable than ever. Giving people the opportunity to do it in a way where they get to experience themselves first in a safe space, and then seeing the value of learning from others, might be the best way to have them eventually create their own space, but even if they don’t, the opportunity to learn from these collaborative spaces has been extremely powerful.

Kristin Melnyk shared this quote in her blog post:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”—Charles Darwin

What is important to understand is that we can’t change others, but only ourselves. What we can do is create the spaces where change is more likely to happen, and these platforms of open and continuous learning could make that impact.