Monday, January 31, 2011

PACER PLN comes 'Face to Face'

Last Wednesday morning a group of 12 of us worked together to become more proficient at using Twitter and to build our own PLN's  (Personal Learning Network).

90 minutes before we met, I tweeted a request to my PLN to say hello to my DSS colleagues who would be gathering.  Within minutes, I had at least 20 responses and by the time we came together I must have received 40 or more.  The responses I received came from all over North America.  Chicago, Buffalo, New York, Ontario, New Brunswick to name just a few.  Of course, I also received a considerable number of responses from Twitter users in neighboring Lower Mainland school districts.  The locations of the respondents proves the ease with which one can connect globally with other people.

Since each person was at a different stage in their use and comfort with twitter, people naturally started working and learning together.  Some people were figuring out the basics...following, followers, timeline, mentions, what's happening.  Others were searching for educators beyond our school and a few people were sharing links to video clips, websites and blogs that they had found.

We briefly discussed the importance of searching common hashtags (#BCed, #edchat) and using hashtags to tag tweets for people to find.  We decided we will use #delearn as the hashtag for Delta Secondary School.

By the end of our 60 minute session, each person was following each other and each person had begun to create his/her own PLN.  What we found is that sitting down face-to-face increases the comfort each person has interacting with colleagues in his/her PLN.

Of a staff that includes approximately 85 teachers, our PACER PLN has grown to include 17 teachers. As you can see, we comprise a wide variety of roles and subject areas within the school.

@agoelstevens (A. Goel-Stevens - Vice-Principal)
@gharkley (G. Harkley- Business Ed & Career Prep teacher)
@kgadowsky (K. Gadowsky -Delta Work Options Alternate Program teacher)
@rheagunning (R. Gunning - English teacher)
@dssev  (C. Mynott - Automotive & Math Teacher)
@jenheiden (J. Heiden - Learning Assistance & Communications teacher)
@samotohashi (S. Motohashi - Science teacher & Edublogger: ' New Teacher on the Block' )
@nic0lecruz (N. Cruz - Spanish teacher & new Edublogger: ' iTeach, uInspire, WiiLearn')
@stvcwn (S. Cowan - counsellor)
@robinjwait (R. Wait - English teacher)
@glenn_addison  (G. Addison - Computer Animation teacher)
@danahuff75 (D. Huff - SS & Eng teacher)
@northdelta007 (B. Pannu - Science teacher)
@aakune (A. Akune - Vice-Principal & Edublogger: ' Educating in the 21st Century)
@terryainge (T. Ainge - Principal & Edublogger: 'Pacer Post' )
@andrewboldt (A. Boldt - Guitar & Digital Media teacher) new
@katylizlewis (K. Lewis - Photography teacher) new

A number of us are using Twitter on a daily basis, accessing a variety of blogs, videos and websites, tweeting links to interesting resources, asking questions and commenting to each other.

As I reflect on the collaborative work session we had last Wednesday, I am encouraged and excited at the possibilities that exist for the growing PACER PLN.  At that same time, I am reminding myself that the technology (Twitter) is not the learning.  Twitter is simply a TOOL that allows for LEARNING!

So, where do we go from here?

Some possibilities include:
  • using twitter to continue collaborative projects started face-to-face in work-alike groups
  • sharing engaging lesson ideas with each other
  • connecting the PACER PLN with other PLN's
I look forward to hearing how other groups of educators are using their PLN's and any suggestions you are willing to share with the PACER PLN.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Growing the PACER PLN

As I mentioned in an earlier post On Becoming a Tweep , I joined Twitter back in October thanks to the encouragement of Terry Ainge (@terryainge).  Since that time I have realized the benefits of establishing a Personal Learning Network (PLN).  Twitter has enabled me to:

- build my PLN and connect with educators globally
- establish face to face connections with other educators
- exchange resources (teaching & leaderships tips, blogs, publications, videos, etc) with others
- access and contribute to collaborative documents such as GoogleDocs
- ask questions and find out how other educators are approaching similar challenges
- answer questions and provide creative approaches for other educators
- share my persepctive with other educators
- challenge my own thinking by reading the perspectives of others

The beauty of Twitter is that I can constantly update and customize my PLN so that I can explore my own areas of interest. Other advantages of Twitter is its 'anytime', 'anywhere' accessibility.  Finally, Twitter breaks down any type of formal hierarchical structure.  Teachers, school-based administrators and district administrators interact freely with each other, sharing experiences, opinions, perspectives and resources with one another.

Over the past few months, Terry Ainge and I have been regularly sharing our positive experiences about Twitter with our colleagues.  In his post Using Twitter to Build a PLN  Terry describes some of the professional connections he has established and re-established through Twitter.  Our goal is to gradually build our PLN to include as many of our Delta Secondary colleagues as possible.  Much like Brian Kuhn (@bkuhn) says in his post, we are encouraging people  One Person at a Time to join the PACER PLN.  The response has been very encouraging. In a short time, the PACER PLN has grown to include 15 educators.

@agoelstevens (A. Goel-Stevens - Vice-Principal)
@gharkley (G. Harkley- Business Ed & Career Prep teacher)
@kgadowsky (K. Gadowsky -Delta Work Options Alternate Program teacher)
@rheagunning (R. Gunning - English teacher)
@dssev  (C. Mynott - Automotive & Math Teacher)
@jenheiden (J. Heiden - Learning Assistance & Communications teacher)
@samotohashi (S. Motohashi - Science teacher & Edublogger: ' New Teacher on the Block' )
@nic0lecruz (N. Cruz - Spanish teacher)
@stvcwn (S. Cowan - counsellor)
@robinjwait (R. Wait - English teacher)
@delta_wing  (G. Addison - Computer Animation teacher)
@danahuff75 (D. Huff - SS & Eng teacher)
@northdelta007 (B. Pannu - Science teacher)
@aakune (A. Akune - Vice-Principal & Edublogger: ' Educating in the 21st Century)
@terryainge (T. Ainge - Principal & Edublogger: 'Pacer Post' )

Each of us is at different stages in our use of Twitter.  The PACER PLN includes active tweeps, bloggers, beginning tweeps and passive tweeps.  Regardless of how each of is using Twitter presently, the important point is that each of us has jumped in and is experimenting with social networking as a means of continuing our professional development beyond the usual boundaries.

At Delta Secondary, staff participate in face-to-face collaboration time for one hour every second week.  This continues to be time well spent as teachers work on new and ongoing projects together.  As positive as collaboration time has been this year, the limitations of any face-to-face collaboration is that it can only happen at scheduled times, scheduled locations and can only involve a limited number of people.  The PACER PLN offers an extension of the conversations that are occurring during face-to-face collaboration.  Without the already mentioned limitations being a factor, ongoing conversations, planning and projects can be continued through Twitter.

During our upcoming collaboration day this Wednesday, the PACER PLN will be gathering to discuss how we can use Twitter in the most effective ways to connect Delta Secondary colleagues with each other and with others beyond the school. It's safe to say that I am extremely encouraged by the growth of the PACER PLN and I look forward to its continued growth over the coming days!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are you Ducking Leadership?

The luxuries of a winter day in Vancouver... cool, crisp, clear and sunny!  A few weeks ago, I took advantage of the weather by going for a walk along False Creek.  A flock of ducks quickly caught my attention, first because they were all chewing away at the nearby grass.  As I approached, one duck noticed me, turned and started to walk away.  Within seconds, the remaining ducks all followed along and turned to walk away. This got me thinking, did all of the ducks sense my presence  or did they pick up on the actions of the 'lead' duck? The flock didn't glance up to look at me, nor did I detect any auditory communication amongst them.  It just seemed like they knew, like they shared some sort of intuition.  At this point, I couldn't help but pull out my camera! I observed the ducks as they moved into the water and interestingly enough, over the course of the next few minutes I realized that they were modeling much of what we, as school leaders and educators strive to create as a culture in our schools.

                                           As leaders and educators...

...we must have the courage and conviction to stand on our own for what we believe in.

  ...we must envision a bright, optimistic future and boldly lead others in this direction

...we must participate in teams so we can collaborate and learn from each other

 ...we must encourage each other to branch out and share our knowledge with others

...we must inspire each other to take flight with new ideas in the interest of improving student learning.

Recently, there has been lots of talk of the need for change, improvement and innovation. As funny as it sounds, we can probably take some simple lessons from these ducks. If each of us tries to carry out these five actions in some way each day, we will continue to progress!

While I consider myself fortunate to be a part of a great school and learn with some passionate colleagues, I am not allowing myself to become complacent.  My goal is to model these five actions each day in an effort to continue to move us forward!

Will you join me? Or are you 'ducking' leadership?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Learning as Leading

Quite often I hear people refer to Principals and Vice-Principals as 'administrators' or 'instructional leaders'. Originally, the title of Principal was assigned to the 'principal teacher'.

When I looked for dictionary definitions, this is what I found.

Administrator - a person who manages or has a talent for managing.

Instruction - knowledge or information imparted.

Teacher - a person who teaches or instructs.

These titles were probably very applicable at the time they were coined but nowadays, these references no longer accurately describe the role of principals and vice-principals.  As a vice-principal, I do carry some organizational responsibilities, but I do not see myself as 'managing', 'instructing' or 'imparting knowledge'.

Rather than focussing on managing, instructing or imparting knowledge, I believe principals and vice-principals must place an emphasis on learning.  I see myself as a leader of learning.  So, how do I do this?
  • I participate in a Professional Learning Community (PLC)  during the collaborative time that we have incorporated into our schedule this year at our school.  One discussion centred around Project-Based Learning.  I am very excited about an upcoming collaborative session that will focus on creating a PLN.
  • I participate in study groups that focus on specific readings and topics. Recently, we have been reading 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn
  • I continue to build my Personal Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter and share my thoughts and ideas to other educators globally through my blog.  
  • I ask questions.
  • I explore new ideas and strategies with staff. An example of this is the use of social media to increase student engagement and facilitate learning.  
  • I encourage students to share with me what they are learning in class so I can learn from them.
  • I listen to students and help them learn from their mistakes.
  • I reflect on my experiences and learn from my mistakes.
  • I listen to students and learn from them.
  • When conducting classroom walkthroughs, I focus on what the students are doing rather than what the teacher is doing.
  • I'm willing to try new things and take risks in an effort to improve student learning.
Most importantly, I am willing to admit that I have LOTS to learn and on a daily basis I'm willing to learn from colleagues, with colleagues, from students and with students.

Schools are learning organizations.  In order to be a healthy learning organization, I believe my responsibility is to model and contribute to an environment where learning is reciprocal and everyone in the organization learns from and with each other

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Salute to the Coaches!

During the Winter Break I have been into the school on a few occasions to run practices with my basketball team. While in the school I noticed that a number of other teams were also practicing. I think it is great that many of our teams are staying active during the holidays and preparing for the second half of their respective seasons. But, the truth is that for every team that is practicing over the holidays, there is a coach who is dedicating personal time to his or her players.  Amongst the other Delta Secondary School coaches that I missed while I was in, Ms. Trotman, Mr. Griffing, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Wait, your passion for coaching kids is unquestionable.

All over the world, there are teachers and coaches who share the same dedication, coaching their teams through practices, games and in some cases traveling with their teams to international tournaments during the holidays. They all do it because they are passionate about coaching, have high expectations and are committed to their players, but it does not negate the fact that it comes at the expense of their personal time.

So, to all of you who have spent time volunteering your precious holiday time to coach, I salute you on your dedication and commitment to your players.  Thank you for doing all that you do!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

No more excuses...

Have you ever heard people make these kinds of comments to describe their reluctant learners?
  • Other kids seemed to learn...I've always taught like this.
  • They rarely complete their homework or do any studying.
  • They never come to see me for extra help even though I offer it.
  • They're lazy.
  • They're totally disorganized. They forget their work and materials all the time.
  • They have a bad attitude and don't seem to care about school.  
  • They miss too much class time.  They're late or absent so often.
  • They spend too much time on extra-curricular activities outside of school time.
  • They don't pay enough attention in class.  They are too easily distracted by social matters and their cell phones.
  • They don't take enough responsibility for their own learning.
We can all probably picture a student who has demonstrated one or more of the comments above.

But even if some of these comments are true of our students, unless we act on our comments aren't they nothing more than 'excuses'?

If we truly care about our students and their learning, I believe we should rephrase these comments as questions that begin with 'why'.  We need to ask ourselves 'why' our student are demonstrating these characteristics.

Furthermore, I believe we should challenge ourselves by asking two more questions...

  • What am I doing/not doing that is causing my students not to learn? 
  • What can I do to help them learn?
When we start answering these questions, our excuses will disappear and we will be taking the steps to help our students learn!