Making Learning Visible – Connect with parents using social media

These are the notes from a recent webinar that I did.  I wanted to make sure people were able to get the links we discussed during the session.  My first webinar – a very interesting experience!

We started with a prezi that I have used and modified for a few years.  It covers a whole host of communication tools, but every time I ask people what they are most interested in it turns out to be blogging.  Today seemed to be the same.

The importance of blogging with your parent community

I use a variety of blogs for a variety of purposes:

The SAN Script – daily to keep in touch with staff and put out information of interest. http://stanthonycatholic.edublogs.org/

St. Anthony Connects: A weekly blog to the parent community http://stanthonyconnects.edublogs.org/

Both these blogs are Edublogs – http://edublogs.org/ easily my favorite type of blog. It is a WordPress blog with an incredible help desk. I pay around $7.00 a month for each blog and it is money well spent. The assistance from their technical staff is excellent and that is the most important factor for me. There are also lots of great extra features like more templates, special fonts, print friendly button, contact us box and many additional features. When you get a pro subscription you also have at least 50 other blogs you can set up.

Teach Talk – https://paulmcguire1.wordpress.com/ and Principal Musings http://principalmusingsoneducation.blogspot.ca/ that I use to write about various topics in education.

This is from Blogger a great blogging tool to start with

The main importance of blogging is keeping in contact with your community. Better than a monthly newsletter you can put it out as often as you want. Parents can subscribe to the blog or you can send out the link.  With our community, the blog can be translated into several different languages, a really valuable asset in a community with a high immigrant base.

The community blog does things that a monthly newsletter simply cannot do including

  • Schedule for the week
  • Photographs – from the past week
  • Teacher notes – for the upcoming week – a really important feature!!
  • Teacher links to newsletters and blogs
  • Translatable into many other languages
  • You can embed videos for personal messages using apps like Touchcast

Here is a recent Touchcast I put out on the blog as well as our facebook and Twitter Page – just another way to get your message out there!

Social media apps -Twitter,Facebook,Flickr, Instagram

 

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/StAnthonyOCSB

We have 265 followers following 402 – the Twitter Page is one great tool that we use daily to post photos and updates on what is going on at our school.  We also link our Google Calendar up to Twitter so events get posted twice.

 

Facebook: We have over 100 likes on our Facebook Page and it is a great way to make the school experience more real for parents.  We post videos, pictures announcements and interesting information for parents on the page.  The most important thing to remember for Twitter and Facebook – post interesting material often.  Focusing on the students is one of the best ways to engage your parents.

https://www.facebook.com/St.AnthonySchoolOttawa

Facebook also will give you some really useful statistics on your audience reach.  We reach as many as 120 people with some of our posts!

 

 

Instagram – slide 7  

https://instagram.com/stanthonyocsb/

This is a great way to get the perfect moment to the parents.  Parents can sign up to follow Instagram and the photos will show up right in their inbox.  The photos are also posted directly to Twitter.

  

Challenges of connecting to hard-to-reach parent communities

How do we engage? By making students the center of the story.  We make short videos of sporting events and post them to Twitter and Facebook.  The kids love them so my hope is the students will lead their parents to our sites.  Here is a short one made using iMovie.

Finally, in the dying minutes of the webinar we started to address hard to reach communities.  We had the opportunity to hear Joe Mazza @Joe_Massa a few times this week.  He brought up all sorts of good ideas on how we can engage communities.  I have included a Storify here that encompasses some of the main points in his presentation.

Storify of Tweets: https://storify.com/mcguirp/ocsb-forum-with-joe-mazza

We finished on a great question – how to you ensure the safety of the student?

We address this by obtaining informed consent from the parent. We are careful never to publish the names of students and we do our best not to take pictures of students where parents are uncomfortable with social media.

Here is a sample of a letter we have used – we would love to see other examples of letters schools use.

How can we support innovation?

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Yesterday, I wrote this post.  It expressed my frustration over the challenge of being creative and innovative within a large education corporation.  It is OK to complain, but after that, what do you do?  First, the post:

The Death of Innovation

 I write this post because it has to be written.  It will not be inspiring, but I hope it is a bit of a cautionary tale.
There is a real danger in working for a big institution, especially when that institution is a school board.  Educators should encourage innovation, risk-taking and creative thinking.  What happens when the leadership of a school board loses sight of what an educator is challenged to do?

There is always a risk when a small group of people gather power onto themselves and try then to manage a large school district.  They run the risk of closing out dissenting voices and become used to expecting no opposition to their opinions. Their perspectives become narrow and informed by a very narrow base.  They lose sight of the risks and challenges that are so important to be on the cutting edge in the field.

I remember reading Steve Jobs‘ biography.  For me I was most intrigued by the story of Applewithout Steve Jobs.  The company lost sight of its mission and what made them cutting edge.  They began a long slow decline that only stopped when Jobs returned and made radical changes to the corporation.

I believe that all large organizations need to be wary of this.  Large organizations can become complacent and depend too much on the advice of a small group of people.  Organizations begin to be motivated by self-preservation, locking out any ideas that do not fit within their narrow view of the world.

This is an extremely dangerous situation for an organization.  It leads to the death of innovation within the board.  When ideas like 1:1 implementation or innovative forms of fundraising are discouraged you have to wonder what other good ideas are dying around the board table.

I am not sure how to fix a difficult decline in the ability of an organization to innovate, but I do think an organization has to learn again how to take risks and how to accept and welcome dissenting voices.  It has to learn to take away the fear of stepping up and offering something new that might not fit into their corporate vision.

I am sure this is a common problem, many organizations face this.  When it is an educational organization it is imperative that something be done.  Our primary job is the education of children. We can’t be effective and innovative in a culture that discourages change.

Ok, so what now?  once you get over your own frustration what do you do?
I remember years ago talking to Mexican farmers about their frustrations with NAFTA and their inability to compete with cheap American corn.  One solution that was considered at the time was the development of local economic ‘hubs’ where local producers would supply food in exchange for the local goods they needed.  I don’t know if this model ever succeeded, but fifteen years later I still remember it.  It was an innovative economic solution to a huge problem for local farmers.
Maybe the best we can do is look after our own school, our own students, staff and parents.  Try not to worry about the mammoth organization we all work for and do what is best for our own community.  Maybe it’s impossible to be creative as a large organization.
It would be interesting to hear what people think, maybe a #satchat topic?

Asphalt to Oasis – the drive to transform a schoolyard

mural project painted earlier this year by the students of St. Anthony

mural project painted earlier this year by the students of St. Anthony

 

St. Anthony Catholic School today, just as at its beginnings as the Dante Academy, is a Catholic school that serves a high proportion of children from immigrant families living in the Somerset Street West area of Ottawa.

 

This is a wonderful school community with students and parents from Asia, Latin America and Africa. The combination of different languages and cultures makes for a vibrant and exciting atmosphere. It is a true joy to work here at St. Anthony.

St. Anthony School was founded as the Dante Academy in 1925. On June 8, the Ottawa Citizen reported on the official opening of the school as follows: “The official opening of the Dante Separate School for Italian children took place yesterday morning, and a special Mass, honoured by the presence of Monsignor L.N. Campeau, representing the Archbishop, was celebrated by Rev. Father L. Larocque at the Church of St. Anthony…” It is very interesting to note that the Dominion horticulturalist, Mr. W. T. Macoun, provided ‘a generous donation of trees’ to celebrate the opening of the school.

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This began a long history of establishing a green oasis in the center of Somerset West. In 1998, the school, along with dozens of others, applied to win the “Ugliest Schoolyard Contest,” sponsored by Earth Day Ottawa-Carleton, the Canadian Biodiversity Institute and Nortel Networks. St. Anthony won the contest, which was held to encourage schools to take positive environmental action. By winning the contest, St. Anthony received $5,000 to help plant trees and make the schoolyard greener.  Additional awards were received from the City of Ottawa, the Arbour Foundation and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

 

Now, 17 years later, the schoolyard is in need of assistance. Many of the trees planted in 1998 need a good deal of work to revive them. The yard is mostly made up of cracked concrete that is extremely dangerous in the months when it is not snow covered. This year alone there have been several injuries resulting in trips to the hospital for several students.

In response to this need, St. Anthony School has worked with Evergreen to develop a new concept for the yard. The concept plan, draw by Evergreen consultant Andrew Harvey, is based on extensive discussions with the students and staff of St. Anthony School.

concept plan drawn up by Evergreen

concept plan drawn up by Evergreen

 

The plan calls for the pulling up of much of the old pavement along with the planting of more trees and shrubs. Evergreen also designed the yard in such a way that students would have low-cost wooden structures to play on. Currently, there is no play structure on the yard.

 

This is an ambitious plan. In the fall, we took part in the Aviva Community Fund campaign – a national competition to raise the money to start work on the greening project. We competed with hundreds of projects across the country and came very close to making it into the finals. The campaign is still visible on their website: https://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf19604

 

Now it is back to the drawing board. We are still totally committed to building our new yard and we are actively looking for new, inventive ways of raising money. St. Anthony’s Ladies Aid has been very helpful in their support of the project as has one of our local high schools.

St. Anthony is the community’s school and it will ultimately be the community that helps us continue to work of W.T. Macoun and Earth Day Ottawa-Carleton. As our slogan goes, we will turn our Asphalt into an Oasis!

 

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Our first school Maker Faire!

Our first Maker Faire will involve three schools. It is our attempt to bring together junior students from three schools along with a very innovative group of people interested in makerspaces.  We have never done this before, but the learning and collaboration will be great.

One of the great things about this project is that we have the assistance of a number of student teachers who are doing an amazing job of putting all this together.  From contacting resource people to take on demonstrations and workshops to organizing our grade 6 students to host the event, these students are pretty much doing everything.

 

The schedule calls for students around 10:00 to start off with some ice-breakers – the mix of students will be really interesting – one of the schools is coming from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation.  The University of Ottawa, a major partner in this project works closely with this school.  This should be the beginning of a very interesting partnership between our three schools.

 

We are asking our partners in this venture to supply demonstrations and workshops for the students.   Presenters will be asked to demonstrate the use of a piece of technology (i.e. 3D printer, Makey Makey, etc.) or prepare a very short interactive activity related to the chosen piece of technology. Activities should be no longer than 10 minutes and should be able to be carried out either on the table or on the floor close to the table. The demo booths should be able to accommodate 3 to 5 students. Clean up and preparation time should be minimal in order to prepare for the next group of students who will visit the demo booth.Demonstrations could include:

  • Raspberry Pi Minecraft Server ; a Virtual Reality headset that at the same time shows the inside of the Minecraft world or some other virtual world concurrently with the Raspberry Pi server.
  • a 3D scanner to scan busts of the kids and create a file that can be 3D printed or modified using 3D modelling software (eg. add cat ears, or pointy vulcan ears, long witch nose, etc.) 3D scan
  • playdoh creations that could then be 3D printed in plastic.
  • 3D image can also be
  • Use of a makey-makey as an interface to a Game or music program in processing.
  • a demo of programming in Scratch.
  • Run Scratch and Arduino/makey-makey demo in standalone instance on laptop or Raspberry Pi.

All of this has been suggested by just one member of our creative team!

Demonstrations would be followed by workshops that would be at least one hour in length.  This would give the students an opportunity to explore some aspect of maker culture in more depth.  For the workshops, the presenter will be asked to run the same activity station twice during the Maker Faire (11:15-12:15 and 12:50-1:50). Of the five activity stations to be scheduled, the students will have the option of choosing two. The student’s selections and the rotation schedule will be prepared prior to the actual event day. The activity stations will need to accommodate between 12 and 15 students.

Possible workshops include computer deconstruction, work with LittleBits, run by students, LED paper airplanes and robot building.

We still have a few weeks to put this all together, but this promises to be a really wonderful experience for everyone!

 

could we see these at our Maker Faire??

Questions to ask when considering a 1:1 program – how do we respond at our school?

We are on the cusp of starting a limited 1:1 program at our school.  As we prepare, it is important to consider al sorts of questions – as we prepare, I want to consider answers to questions asked by Ann McMullan in the article:

The 10 questions to ask before you start your one-to-one program

McMullan shared 5 start factors that are keys to success for one-to-one programs:

  1. Start with “Why?” What are instructional goals you hope to accomplish?
  2. Start small, think big. “Find some of those teacher leaders and let them try out the devices,” she said. “Find out what the issues are with the network. But do think big; it becomes an equity issue very quickly.”
  3. Start with teachers first. It’s critical.
  4. Start the conversation across all departments.
  5. Do start: Go for it. Failure is part of the learning process.

We have been getting closer and closer to 1:1 especially at the junior level all year.  The key point for us is the teachers.  We have a group that is willing to experiment and learn.  We have had several group PD sessions during and after the school day to work on our understanding on how various apps – especially Google Apps can improve student learning.  We have had great results with Read and Write and are learning how to give more effective feedback with Kaizena. We are learning more about digital portfolios.  We are also learning new ways to deliver PD to staff.  For our last PD venture, we invited a teacher from our partner school to spend the day with teachers and classes to work on digital portfolios.  Having an experienced teacher with us in the classroom made a huge difference.

The conversation continues.  Within the next ten days we should have enough Chromebooks for all the junior (grade 4,5,6) students.  Each student will receive a machine and will be expected to bring the Chromebook home every night.  Our partner school is following the same process.

According to McMullan, here are the top 10 questions schools should ask themselves, and the order they should ask them in:

  • What is the mission of the district and how does the one-to-one program align with it?

We are very fortunate to work in a district that is flexible and open to change.  Years ago, the school board created the conditions for innovation by providing every school with a reliable wifi network.  Each year, we receive more devices from the school board.  For a small school like ours, it is now possible to take the final leap to make sure that every junior student has a new Chromebook to work with.  We also were early adopters of Google which has been huge for us.  Every staff member and every student has their own Google account.  Everyone has equal access to all Google apps.

  • What are instructional goals that will be supported by a one-to-one program?

We have examined our School Improvement Plan to see what goals already exist that can be supported by our 1:1 program.  We have been putting an emphasis on feedback for the past few years.  Kaizena is a very effective feedback tool that if used properly and consistently will advance our ability to give effective feedback to our students.  We also have a very high ELL population.  Apps like Read and Write can be very effective in assisting ELL students move ahead with their reading comprehension and writing skills.  This applies as well to students with learning disabilities.  When distributing our machines, we have focused first on our LD and ELL students.  We have observed some significant gains in their learning based on their day to day use of the Chromebook.

  • How will all major departments, selected administrative and teaching staff, parents, and other stakeholders be involved in the planning and implementation of a one-to-one program?

For us, the key ‘departments’ for implementation have been resource (Learning Disabilities) and ELL (English Language Learners).  Our resource and ELL staff have worked with teachers and students to teach them how to use the Chromebook.  Resource especially has become a center of innovation where students have been well trained on how to use apps.  They in turn have taught their school mates how to use the same apps

  • What device will best meet the mission? (“Notice, that’s not the first question,” McMullan said.)

This depends on the grade level.  We have more iPads at the primary and kindergarten level and more chromebooks at the junior level.  Now however, we are finding that we need more Chromebooks in the primary classes so students can get acquainted to Google apps and how to use their Google accounts.

  • How will the one-to-one program be financed and sustained?

Sustaining the program will be interesting.  We think that once we have made the initial investment, our regular IT allotment will be used to replace older or defective equipment.  The key factor is making the initial investment.

  • What IT systems need to be in place to support and maintain our one-to-one program(s)? (Here, McMullan shared an anecdote about one district that purchased 20,000 Chromebooks, only to have them sit in boxes because there was no wireless access in classrooms).

We have the wireless access and this system will actually be enhanced and strengthened in the near future.  All machines purchased through the school board are supported by IT technicians employed by the board.  As more schools go 1:1 the board may need to look at more IT support, but at this point we are able to access IT support to assist us when we need it.

  • How will district and school administrators and board members be prepared to lead and communicate the vision?

There is value in starting small.  The current implementation plan involves only two schools.  I am not convinced tat 1:1 should be implemented across the entire school board.  You definitely need a willing staff and school leadership willing to take the 1:1 leap before you even consider moving in this direction.  The human factor is easily the most important thing to consider before going 1:1.  Staff and school leadership need to be working together and share the common vision that going 1:1 will improve student achievement.

  • What ongoing professional development strategies will be provided?

This is probably one of the biggest questions.  On-going embedded PD is crucial.  The PD has to continue throughout the year and it can’t depend on teachers ‘volunteering’ to learn more about the newest app.  It is crucial that 1:1 implementation be a major component of the School Improvement Plan and that the school’s PD budget (release time) be devoted to staff development.  It is also important that staff be consulted – always – on what they need to learn next.  This shows basic respect for the adult learner and ensures that staff will buy into the learning plan for the year.

  • What processes will be in place for making adjustments as needed?

Good communication is the key.  The principal must be open to the ideas and thoughts of staff and staff need to feel supported enough by the administration so they can talk freely about how the program is going.  As mentioned earlier, the human factor is the most important, we need to keep in constant contact with each other and learn together.  There will be bumps along the way, but teachers are good at change; all we need to do is manage it carefully.

Time to go 1:1 with Chromebooks

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We are taking the leap into 1:1.  We are close to this already at the junior level (grades 4,5,6) and we feel it is time to move to a Chromebook for every student.

Today, we have put in an order for 20 more Chromebooks.  This is an experiment we are taking part in with another school with similar demographics to ours.

My job will be to offer staff all the support they need to help this work.  I am already working on more PD sessions that I hope will help the  teachers adapt to a 1:1 environment.

Once the machines arrive, each student will be assigned a machine.  The students will then have to take the machines home and bring them back the next day.  Not bringing a machine to school will easily be the equivalent of not doing your homework.  I have also purchased six more tech tubs to help with storage.

Having the machines at home is really important for us.  Many of our students do not have computers at home and it is difficult for us to extend the learning going on at school if students have limited or no access to computers.

We will probably make mistakes, but we will learn together.  There are lots of good articles out there from people who have already gone down this road – we will take our direction from those who have gone before us.

I will use this blog to document how we do.  I really believe this initiative will bring about significant change in the way we teach at our school.  Now it is time to find out!

Here are some of the articles I will be re-reading:

Devices Need to Support Learning – 

Technology can close achievement gaps, improve learning – Stanford University

Five Steps for Implementing a Successful 1:1 Environment – Edutopia

Why 1:1? Why Chromebooks? 

The Logistics of 1:1 Chromebooks at Leyden

 (really important article – note the date 2012!)

Teachers Manual to a Paperless Classroom – Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

My Livebinder Collection on 1:1

Click here to open this binder in a new window.

http://livebinders.com/play/play?id=1351806&present=true

From Makerspace to Maker Faire – a collaborative project

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We have been experimenting with our makerspace for the past six months.  There is no question that the club we are currently running has been a major success with the students.  Now it is time to take it to the next level.

We are planning our first school-based maker faire.  This will involved several elementary schools, the University of Ottawa and some really innovative makers here in Ottawa like Maker Junior and other groups.

The maker faire tradition in Ottawa is growing.  Last year, the first  mini-maker faire was held and over  6000 people attended over the  two days.  The first full maker faire is now scheduled for next November 7-8  at Lansdowne Park the organizers are expecting 10,000 participants.

We work closely with another school – St. Luke.  They have done some amazing projects including the construction of an entire city in their learning commons.  At our school, we are trying to figure out how Arduino works and we are hoping to use Raspberry pi as a server to get Minecraft working in the learning commons.

We have yet to see a 3D printer or build any robots, but we are hoping that the school maker faire will move us all to the next level.

This project calls for lots of collaboration.  We have developed an ‘innovation team’ that includes elementary school principals, high school teachers, university professors, Faculty of Education students and local makers.  It is a group with lots of talent, resources and ideas and it will be this group that puts together the maker faire at our school.

We also have a new partner – students and teachers from Kitigan Zibi school in Maniwaki.  We have never had contact with this school, but it will be great to have them as partners in this project.  We have just been introduced to some of their staff through the Faculty of education at the University of Ottawa.

What will the day look like?  We are not entirely sure, but we know we want the students to have the chance to explore and make new things.  We want to expose them to the best of maker culture here in Ottawa.

So far, we want the students to learn and actually use 3D printers.  We will be getting a supply through Luc Lalande, the Executive Director, Entrepreneurship Hub at University of Ottawa and a real champion of maker culture here is Ottawa.

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Luc is a great supporter of innovation here in Ottawa

We have also discussed hands-on workshops involving Ardunio kits and Leggo and additional workshops involving Makey Makey kits.

Rick Alexanderson from St Peter High School will volunteer CARL the robot at the maker faire and  bring the Robot and provide information on workshops provided free to students by Carleton University.    Further CARL the robot will be then donated to the makerspace.   This is a line following robot and can do a few tricks  –  it is also a kit so teachers can look at the parts and see how this easy snap together the robot.  Rick works on really innovative projects with the Carleton University Department of Engineering.  

The workshops will be an hour long and we hope to have five options for students to choose from.  Each students will be able to choose three out of the five workshops.

The event will take place on April 30 and will probably be held from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

We are really looking forward to this, the maker faire will really push us to collaborate with many diverse partners and it will challenge all our students to really develop a better understanding of how to build, create and innovate.

We will use this blog to keep a running record of our progress as we work towards our April 30 deadline.

Lots to look forward to!

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