Intentional Summer Posting Plans

This isn’t going to be much of a blog post. Sorry to disappoint right at the outset. I am intentionally posting this for two reasons. One – I need to set my thinking straight before I begin what I hope will be several blog posts in the next couple of weeks, and two – I need a bit of a disclaimer for those few who do happen into this space so they will know exactly where my delayed and scattered topics are coming from. Phil Macoun recently reminded me of the importance of intentionality in a recent post of his, so I’m approaching blogging this summer with that mindset.

Last summer, I purposefully engaged in a detour from work, or, more specifically, a summer detour in the form of a what I called my ‘detour bag‘. This summer I feel that I’m finally beyond the bulk of the processing about my Masters degree and I’d like to do some professional development over the summer. More specifically, I’d like to blog and re-acquaint myself with all those wonderful people who originally pushed my thinking way back when I started all this online pro-d years ago.

I have various blog posts cooking in my head and in half-written posts waiting for that publish button to be clicked. I will, however, honor my family as my first priority this summer so I’m not sure how much flow and continuity I’ll be able to create with my blog posts. I’ll be spending most of my days biking, hanging out at the lake, watching movies and attempting to fill the stomachs of my always-hungry boys. I do though, feel a need to read others’ posts, comment, write my own posts, and release thoughts out of my head to clarify. Here’s a list of what I intend to write about in the coming weeks:

  • my own blog post inspired by Michelle Baldwin’s recent post, No More Rock Stars
  • reflections on TEDxWestVancouverED
  • thoughts about my first edcamp, #edcampwest at UVIC
  • the Edmedia experience, including presenting in a lecture theatre, the Darth Fiddler experience and seeing/meeting the brilliant Helen Keegan
  • the past school year and how being a former high school art teacher helped me figure out my grade five students
  • the past school year and the incredible results of the inquiry project
  • the past school year and being a mentor x3
  • next steps and new changes in the Elementary Connected Classrooms project
  • saying good-bye to a great principal, waiting to say hello to a new one and welcoming back a former mentor

Now that I’ve written the list, that’s a rather intimidating goal to work towards while I’m supposed to be hanging out with family and enjoying downtime! It also speaks to how much has happened in the last ten months and makes me understand the need to unpack it all.

Now if I only had an iPad so I could blog while relaxing at the lake…

Windy day complete with waves splashing onto the shore.

Windy day complete with waves splashing onto the shore.

Photo by me.

Leadership Day 2011 – Risk, Trust, & Relationships

Today is Leadership Day 2011. Every year on this day, the creator of Leadership Day, Scott McLeod, invites bloggers to post on a topic related to leadership. This year, he narrowed it to effective school technology leadership. I’ve participated in Leadership Day before and at this time, this topic seems even more present in my life. Last week I completed my Masters of Education and one strand of my research focused on technology in the field of education. For the past eleven months, I immersed myself in learning about this topic and, as a result, I’m even more passionate about integrating new technologies into my practice, my classroom, my school, my district.

When I think about effective school technology leadership, I think about how best to encourage educators to bring new technologies into their practice. Here are my thoughts on how to do this and they aren’t related to the technology at all, but rather to the people involved:

  1. Risk – The first thing that comes to mind is risk taking. For most adults using new technologies, it’s often necessary to extend well beyond one’s comfort zone. Learning can be messy and uncomfortable. Mistakes are often made. Profound learning often involves an element of risk if gains are to be made.
  2. Comfort and Safety – In order to feel comfortable taking a risk, a person has to feel safe, supported. I learned this as an art teacher. The few students who were unsuccessful in my art classes were those, for whatever reason, unable to risk doing something they couldn’t do or had never done before. Strong support and an environment perceived to be safe and secure is vital in situations in which learning is risky.
  3. Vulnerability – Once a safe learning environment (or school atmosphere) is in place, most can be encouraged to be vulnerable and step outside of the comfort zone. Vulnerability is a tricky thing. It’s raw and within a realm of human experience that many don’t feel comfortable being in. Some don’t need much coaxing, some do – every learner is different regardless of whether they are a grade five student learning how to upload photos from a digital camera or an educator striving to learn how to use Twitter for professional development. If you haven’t seen it yet, Brene Brown’s talk the Power of Vulnerability is well worth the twenty minutes.
  4. Trust – In my opinion, trust is essential to enabling people to be vulnerable enough to risk learning something new and intimidating (I don’t know about you, but technology can be pretty intimidating at times). If someone trusts you, they are more willing to listen and take into consideration your opinions, beliefs, vision. Trust is earned. It’s tentative at times. It needs to be maintained. Which brings me to…
  5. Relationships – It always comes back to relationships, with ‘it’ being just about anything in education. Out of 19 thesis presentations last week in my MEd cohort, most included the theme of relationships as a central part of the learning that occurred. The best way to create trust is to establish and build a solid relationship with someone. That relationship will shift depending on the people involved, but making the effort to show care for, and consideration of, another human being goes a long way in creating and maintaining relationships that can enable powerful learning to take place.
  6. Modeling – My last point for today is that it’s important for the leaders in this situation to model all the points mentioned above. A great example of someone who embodies this is an administrator I’ve recently ‘met’ through Twitter. Tia Henriksen recently burst onto the social media scene and she is a great example of a person role modeling her learning about and increasing understanding of how to integrate technology into the field of education. I was delighted, and not at all surprised, to find a Leadership Day post on her blog today too.
Finally, outside of my list above, but still central in my thoughts, when I think about effective school technology leadership, I think, as I often do, about the students. I think about kids and their use of technology in and out of the classroom. They (usually) aren’t intimidated by new technology. When technology doesn’t work, they just figure out the problem or ask for help. Yes, they get frustrated, I’ve seen it many times in my classroom full of the latest technology, but that just seems to be an accepted part of working with technology. Even though they have never lived in a world without computers or the internet (like many of us who will be writing these posts for Leadership Day!), I think that we should remember to always learn from them too.

(Digital) Citizenship

Less than two weeks ago, I was excited that eight months of teacher research was solidifying into the central idea of learning relationships. While I originally focused my MEd on student/teacher rapport through a video camera, there is much more going on in the Elementary Connected Classrooms to focus simply on the teacher/student relationship. There are peer-to-peer relationships, the collaborative relationships between the three teachers involved, and then all the crossovers between the almost 70 students and 3 teachers interacting in different ways (not just through the camera) each week. I decided that the term ‘learning relationships’ better described the complicated web of interpersonal connections in our unique setting and changed my terminology to reflect that deeper understanding.

I was, however, only temporarily satisfied with ‘learning relationships’ as the hub of my research. It just seemed too simple and not quite right. Now, after further reflections on my experiences at the Digital Learning Spring Conference and another weekend at SFU with a brilliant professor, I finally think (I hope!) I’ve found the main themes that connect all other ideas at the center of my learning.

At this point, deep caring for children – all children – sits as the base of my pedagogy. It always has. Motherhood is a part of that, but not all of it. I care deeply for the well-being and the happiness and the future of all children, mine first, of course, but other’s children are a close second. I love working with kids and absolutely fight for the best education they can possibly get because, in my opinion, not offering what they deserve in the classroom every day is a disservice to them.
digital citizenship

In my opinion, if we, as educators, truly care about children, we need to honour the learning environment that today’s children are growing up in. If we are guiding them to become good citizens, we need to incorporate digital citizenship into their learning. Each child, family, and community will vary as to the extent to which new technologies have become a part of daily life, hence the idea of honoring each individual’s learning environment. Thanks to some simple online dialogue with David Truss, I’ve decided that (digital) citizenship is the other main theme that binds all my research strands. Citizenship is still the main idea, but with the lesser theme of digital connected to it.

A vital component of (digital) citizenship is how to create and maintain healthy learning relationships. I worry about those, for example, who don’t understand social media because it is the way of the world in a very real sense. We need more educators to become experts in how to use new technologies, if for no other reason than to be good role models and guide the kids; the kids who will use those technologies anyway, regardless of whether or not they’ve received guidance to help keep them productive and safe. Even more important, we need educators who don’t get caught up in the technology, but who become (digital) citizens themselves and then gain a greater understanding of the larger, more meaningful themes, such as learning relationships, within that new technologically-rich context.

Imagery by I am I.A.M. from and altered as allowed per CC license using FotoFlexer’s SuperPixelate.