Making Creative Spaces at our school

 

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We want to develop a center for innovation at St. Anthony school.

Every day more is written about makerspaces and the benefits these centers offer students.  We have experimented with Makey Makey kits and littleBits in the past, but now we want to take a more comprehensive approach.

Our idea is to create a center for innovation in our school for the use of our students and the wider community.  The components of this center are certainly up for discussion, but the important idea is to create a space for creativity and innovation in our school and a concept that can be shared with other schools in the years to come.

The most important part of this process is to have great partners.  Right now we are working with a small brainstorming group that includes Luc Lalande, the director of the Entrepreneurship Hub at the University of Ottawa, Tracy Crowe, assistant director of teacher education at the University of Ottawa, Marlaina Loveys of Blockheads and Allison Burnett from Algonquin College.

This is a terrific group to work with!

So…where do we start?

First, we need student teachers who are interested in developing this project.  We are hoping that some of this year’s student teachers will be willing to volunteer at our school this year.  Hopefully, they will also get placements at our school.

Then, we need an event!  We are thinking of planning a ‘maker week’ at St. Anthony.  Each day, our students would be exposed to another component of a makerspace – a 3-D printer – lent to us by Luc Lalande, a lego day with Blockheads, possibly a Caine’s Arcade contest (building with cardboard) and other activities and demonstrations.

The idea is to introduce something new every day in order to spark interest and new ideas amongst the students, staff and the University of Ottawa students.

From there,  the students and staff will work together to build  our own makerspace or innovation center.  At this point, we would certainly need financial support to purchase the component parts.

The rest of the year would be devoted to learning how our students can benefit from this creative space.  This will be new learning for all of us.  It will call on the creativity and innovation  of our students, partners and staff .

The result will be an innovation center for the St. Anthony community.  Even better, we hope to come up with a model that can be transferred to other schools in the years to come.

Let the making begin!creativity-396268_1280

 

Learning about robots and the Ottawa Makerfaire

I had the best day – I have never seen so much innovation and cool stuff in one place – ever.

Carleton Autonomous Robotics Learning Centre

 

This was  a pretty amazing opportunity for all of us.  I met Rick Alexanderson – a teacher in our school board – today at the Ottawa Maker Faire - a truly wonderful event that is on again tomorrow (Sunday). I sat on a panel with him and the more I heard from him the more I stopped talking – this is a guy you really need to listen to.  This is a guy who has been around and has seen lots of stuff.  When you meet people like that, it is best to keep quiet and just listen – you might learn a few things.

He is affiliated with Carleton University and they are willing to hold an instruction session for teachers and students who are interested in developing a maker culture at your school.  Rick has found his own partners, he is not waiting for others to catch up – he is making change and offering this to us.

From what I understand, you can register for workshops they he puts on with the university.  After your day,  you and your students return to the school and teach them what you just have learned.  Everyone ends up with a robot – how cool is that!

Rick Alexanderson is the future of education – and educational entrepreneur who is offering the rest of us a chance to learn some amazing stuff.

I could have listened to him all day!

Our informal networks and PLNs are truly our life blood.  There will never again be a good reason to wait for change to come to you – you need to go to the change!

Find a way to start a makerspace.  Get your teachers and students creating – this is what true education has always been about!

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do you want to make this in your class?

Technology SAMR Model for Administrators Part 3: File Management – my response

 

 

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Thanks Josh – another great way to discuss the SAMR model.  Where are we when it comes to file management and SAMR?

If you don’t already have one, you need a way to manage your files so you can retrieve them quickly.  I don’t really think it matters which ones you use, but you can consider Diigo, Pearltrees, Dropbox, Google Drive Livebinders or something that allows you to keep things organized.

Right now, I store all articles I want to keep on Livebinders.  I like this system – it is simple – all you need to do is set up categories and then each new article becomes a tab under the selected category.

Diigo is also great – you can set it up  so that every tweet you send out is automatically stored in Diigo.  Like Livebinders, you can set up categories.  You can also set up groups and share your articles with your group.  Both services allow you to tweet out the article you just stored.

I can’t imagine working without Google Drive.  All my files were moved on to Drive last year – I keep nothing on my hard drive.  Drive allows me to collaborate with staff and other administrators. Just to be careful, I have backed up my files to Dropbox too.

We set up all meeting agendas on Drive and share editing privileges with all staff members.  People can then go in and add items that need to be discussed by the group.  Drive is especially great for meetings – you can start keeping a live record of the proceedings as the meeting progresses.

So, where do I find myself on the SAMR model?

Substitution

  • Attach a document to an email.
  • Save a document to a flash drive.
  • Save a document to a school computer.

Augmentation

  • Upload to Dropbox.
  • Upload to Google Drive.

Modification

  • Share folders and files on Google Drive.
  • Share folders and files on Dropbox.
  • Upload data and use Google Analytics to analyze school information.

Redefined

  • Using Google Drive, allow others to edit, comment on, and share your documents.
  • Administrators share data and converse digitally for articulation meetings.

I have no idea what an articulation meeting is so I will start there.  Big hint – always look at the redefined category in Josh’s articles.  I checked out Nearpod after one of his posts and ended up having a great teleconference with the Nearpod people.  I would love to get this service in my school!

 

Final point – Josh is bang on when he says that administrators need to lead by example.  One of the reasons i do this is to encourage staff to try some of these tools and techniques out.  This is certainly one of our jobs as administrators!

So, lots of challenges here – where will you put yourself on SAMR when it comes to file management?

 

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Technology SAMR Model for Administrators – Part 2: Community Interaction The Edutopia Series

 

I am continuing to comment on this really interesting series by Josh Work on Edutopia.  The posts read like a social media 101 for administrators!  We all should be able to measure our progress in social media using the SAMR model.  Josh is looking at specific areas that we have responsibility for and he relates each area to the SAMR model.

How do you measure up in key areas like staff presentations, community interaction, file management, classroom evaluations and staff input (Technology SAMR Model for Administrators).

The second post focuses on community interaction which to me is a key responsibility for all administrators.

It is no longer acceptable to accept the notion that parents will just naturally show up at your school.  Parents are much more discerning now, they check out your web page, your Facebook Page (do you have one?) and any other social media tools you are using.  It may a while, but your school will establish an online presence that will attract parents to your school.  I really believe that this is a key factor now that parents consider when choosing a school.

I have read lots of posts from administrators who work hard to make the learning visible to all parents in the community.  My model is Eric Sheninger, the author of Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.  There is so much to recommend in this book – I think all administrators need to read this book if they want to stay relevant in a time of rapid change.  One thing I have learned from Sheninger and other authors is that we need to make learning visible to our parent community.  We need to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and any other tool that allows parents to see what is happening daily in the school.

Using these tools has an interesting impact on students, teachers and parents.  Everyone talks about the learning that goes on in the school.  Parents in our community really like Remind 101 and Facebook, the kids love Instagram.  Our role as administrators is to publish using a variety of tools so that our community can access more information on what is happening every day.

I like how Josh Work has applied the SAMR model to community outreach.  I really think we all need to be way past the substitution stage at this point.  Writing a conventional newsletter then e-mailing it out is simply not good enough.  In Canada, with the Federal CASL legislation, it is now actually illegal to send out unsolicited e-mails.

I love his idea about using QR Codes and especially Aurasma to highlight student work.  These are two communication tools that I will have to try in September!

My September plan at my new school will also include setting up a new Edublog for the parent community along with another for staff.  I will continue to use Facebook and Twitter along with a brand new Google Site as our school web site – thanks to our school board – AMAZING!  I will also continue to use Flickr to store all our school photos and of course Instagram to send daily photos to the school community.  I will not produce a monthly newsletter – this is simply not worth the time when there are so many just in time communication tools available.

As an administrator, what communication tools will you be using this year?  Where would you put yourself on the SAMR model?  Where do you want to be by the end of the year?

Looking forward to Part III.

 

 

 

 

Technology – SAMR for Administrators The Edutopia series

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Google (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)

I have started reading a really interesting series by Josh Work – a guest blogger on Edutopia.  The series is focused on what tools administrators can use to keep up with their teachers and the use of technology.  I think this will be a terrific series.  In my experience, teachers are far ahead of administrators in their use of technology.  If we are going to be good role models to the teachers on staff, we need to get much better at using technology.

My hope is that the move to modification and redefinition (SAMR) will also influence how information is delivered to us at the district level.  That is a major topic in itself!

Josh Work is using the SAMR model as the basis for all of his work.  I think it is a reasonable expectation that administrators move through the SAMR continuum from substitution to redefinition.

In his first post, Work writes about staff presentations and how administrators can improve their communication with staff.

What a great topic to start with!

There are so many great tools we can now use to communicate more effectively with staff.  Are you still stuck using e-mail as your only communication tool?  It is really time to move on.

Before moving to any particular tool, Work makes a great point – time is a precious commodity for any school staff and we need to really examine if there are other ways to convey information beyond the traditional (yawn) staff meeting.

Work concentrates on Google Apps for Education (GAFE) which, in my opinion, is certainly the way to go.

So, what can administrators use to communicate more effectively?  Agendas can be circulated before the meeting using Google Drive.  Work also mentions that administrators can get good feedback from staff by using Google Forms or by hosting a Google Hangout to enrich communication with staff.

I agree, all these tools can really help keep the flow of information moving.  I use Google Drive to post a working copy of our agenda a week before the staff meeting.  All staff have access to the document and anyone can add an agenda item to the document right up to meeting time.  The rule is, if you can post on Drive then your item will be part of the agenda.  I then try to get away from paper copies of the final agenda.  We can then edit the agenda as the meeting goes on so that we have an annotated agenda recorded in Drive by the end of the meeting.

We also use Google Forms on a regular basis to survey staff on a number of issues – some of the best information I have received from staff members has come from these surveys.

We use Google Groups as our staff e-mail conference.  It is a good interactive tool that allows staff to communicate effectively.  The membership is controlled by an administrator and it is a closed, secure system.  It is very easy to use, I am moving to a new school in September and most of the staff in my new school are already using this tool to communicate with other staff members!

Google + is an amazing collaboration tool that we have used in the past.  We are using the Communities feature to connect special collaborative teams between schools.  This tool took a bit of time to catch on, but it a terrific way for educators to keep in touch, especially when sharing information between schools.

As administrators, we need to take a lead role by trying out these tools.  It is no longer excusable for an administrator to say they are not ‘comfortable’ with the use of technology.  It is part of our job to be risk-takers and try out new forms of communication.  If we try these tools, staff members will be encouraged to do the same.

My next challenge is to try out Nearpod.  This tool is suggested by Work – I don’t know anything about it, but I feel obliged to give it a try.  It may or may not be useful, but I need to at least check it out.

I hope all administrators read this series and then make a serious attempt to adopt new communication tools in advance of the next school year.

Then we can start work on the district!

Next – Community Interaction

Where is the next network? Google Educator Groups

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Google (Photo credit: warrantedarrest)

I am always looking for opportunities to push myself to learn more.  I find that becoming an active member of networks is a great way to do this.  At the very least, it gets me to write and post more material.  The OSSEMOOC is a great example of a network that has motivated me to post.  It’s a little like the ‘publish or perish‘ notion.  If your blog is publicized on other sites, but better keep writing!

Yesterday, I heard about another network that looks like it has potential – Google Educator Groups #GEG.

I took a look at where you can find GEGs and there are none in Canada!  We need to do something about that.

The idea behind the GEGs sounds really interesting.  From their site, GEG leaders benefit in the following ways:

  • Meeting like minded people, breaking the walls of isolation
  • Becoming well connected to people of similar passion
  • Building learning management, event management, communication and organization skills as you hold events.
  • Eligible to attend local GEG Leader summits hosted by Google

This is what is wonderful about social media and education, there are so many great networks that you can join that connects you to other educators.  In the past year I have connected to ECOO (the BIT 2014 Conference), OSSEMOOC, DLMOOC (need to get back to that!), #SAVMP mentorship group via @gcouros, a terrific Edmodo book chat on Digital Leadership through #satchat, Learning Connections – Google + group run through #OCSB as well as a whole host of Twitter chats and Google + discussions.

Every day I learn through these great networks.  At this point, I can’t imagine being an educator and not being connected, my networks are my own personal school.  There are so many great initiatives and ideas out there that I would be totally in the dark without my learning partners.

Even worse, without my personal learning network I would be dependant on professional development delivered in the tradition method through our own district.  This way of learning simply does not work anymore.  We can complain about this or we can do something much more useful – make up your own learning network – get connected – today!

So next, time to get some GEGs into Canada – any volunteers?

Develop your personal learning network – Now!

 

 

I’m sorry to say but the teaching profession is often an isolated and lonely one even though we are surrounded by people the biggest part of our day. A teacher is usually the only adult in the classroom, lunch is often with the students and our work area after class is in most cases in the classroom itself (because that is where our computer is). Our time outside of teaching is spent either preparing lessons, going to informational meetings in the school or writing reports. Our time to develop ourselves as professionals, discuss professional issues & exchange ideas is neglected or even ignored in many schools.

Ingvi Hrannar – from Personalized professional learning with Twitter

This article is so good I had to refer to it right off the top The main point – develop your own personal learning network, – never again accept the generalized PD model where everyone gets the same thing.

We expect a huge amount from teachers these days – more than ever before. But at the same time we are being trained using a 19th century model – one talking head at the front of the room. Any time you go to a workshop and that is happening you know this is not the way things have to be. At the very least, we should not call this professional development.

If we are to be treated as professionals, the learning model needs to reflect that we are all quite capable learning what we need on our own and in groups of like-minded professionals. The model that we have developed in our schools over the past three years is very important – it is the only way to go.  We have developed a system where the professional learning goals for the school are developed by the teacher teams from our three schools.

I find the learning goals coming from these groups get better and better.  The goals are more attuned to conclusions based on student work.  The goals also build on the work that has already been accomplished.  As administrators, our role is to facilitate this group learning experience, we do not deliver the information.

We are all professionals and if we respect the work we do every day we need to make sure we all stay in control of your own professional development.Never let anyone tell you that they know better than you do. There are so many people out there thinking and writing about educational issues – you need to choose who speaks to you and who you will learn from.

Hrannar has another great blog post that I think is worth reading –  14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools. If you read this post, take a look at obsolete item number 13 – ‘One-Professional development-workshop-fits-all’

I had to include a photo illustrating this point – I have seen this before and I think it should be posted anywhere teachers or administrators are subjected to drawn out talks by so-called experts.  

 

                                                                                        have you been to this session?

I do think this form of information delivery has its place. I take in workshops given by guest speakers all the time, but the big difference is that I choose these sessions and I am actually interested in the information.  Unfortunately, we are subjected to monthly sessions where someone else has decided that this information is invaluable for my professional development.  There are simply so many other ways to learn these days. Why can’t we try one or a few of these ideas?

  • an edcamp style session where participants choose what they want to learn and others volunteer to pass on what they know
  • learning hubs formed by people who are interested in a common learning goal.  Professional development flows out of this goal throughout the year, hub members blog about their findings
  • a concerted effort to use Twitter and Google+ to develop our own personal learning network – time at gatherings to develop these networks.  Share lists of who to follow and good hashtags
  • join a MOOC, or even better start our own!  Take a look at two MOOCs here:  DLMOOC OSSEMOOC
  • work on developing common blogs – we have teachers who have done this – the OCSB Learning Community
  • join an Edmodo book study as active participants

There are lots of other options, I think it is important that we explore what is possible.  Learning using a 19th century model just isn’t good enough any more.  We need to challenge the status quo and find new ways to let our learning take off!

There are some signs of hope.  In our board we have a terrific group called Learning Connections.  These teachers are doing some really interesting work and are certainly offering new and exciting ways to offer PD to educators.  Last month, I attended one of their sessions.

The first part of the day focused on interactive displays  led by teachers currently in the classroom.  Each workshop came with a card with a QR code that led to a great summary of the main ideas.  We had ten minutes at each site, then we moved on to the next display.  A Google presentation has been made of the day and it is certainly worth a look.

Even better, once we had visited all the teacher displays, we were tasked with coming up with a summary that would take in the main ideas from all the presentations.  So we were actually able to create content from what we had seen.  To make this experience even better, our media guides tasked with helping us with our presentations were all junior-level students – brilliant!

Let’s hope that the spirit of innovation that is alive in our teachers will soon be shared by more people.  Let’s throw out the old tired models of transferring information and begin to develop new and vital professional learning networks – Now!

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