Staying connected as educators – The OSSEMOOC blog

The OSSEMOOC Blog is starting up another 30 days of connecting which is a wonderful idea that we should all consider.

Here is one of the resources also available on the OSSEMOOC blog today

It still amazes me that in this world of instant communications and social media we are so poor at connecting on a professional level.  It seems almost impossible to connect administrators (in our area at least) through any form of social media.  Just think of the great ideas out there that are not being shared!  

Here is the first part of the challenge:

If you are reading this, you already know that the world is changing, and you know that as a leader in education you need to be connected.  But where do you start?

This month, OSSEMOOC is taking you from beginner to connected in 10 minutes a day.

I contributed my small part to today’s first challenge:

It is easy to connect for ten minutes a day. I like what we did before where we invited people to write blog posts to the connected community and then we commented on them. This serves two purposes, it encourages writers and it gets a dialogue going. These seems so hard to do! It is nearly impossible in my area and it is not really encouraged. However, as administrators we need to take the responsibility to connect seriously – how else can we be expected to actually learn anything new that is not already mandated?

Now it’s your turn – can you connect for 30 days?

Happy to connect every day for the next 30 days – thanks for getting this started again!!

Discovery Education DEN Ambassador Program – great PD for staff

We just finished the first three lessons in the Discovery Education DEN Ambassador Program.  I have written about this before but it needs to be repeated – digital integration will never be successful unless there is really good embedded PD that comes along with it.

Discovery Education through their LEAD DEN Ambassador program has done an excellent job at giving educators the tools they need to really teach how Discovery can be used in the classroom.  I have included my reflections about the program below:

Our first Ambassador training session was really interesting.  While some of our teachers have used Discovery before no one had used SOS or had even seen the strategies.  The focus on SOS got everyone’s attention immediately. 

Going from the paper copies to what is available on-line was a smart strategy – the ideas come alive when you can see teachers who developed the strategy talking about how they used them in the classroom.

It was great to get to the first set of interactive lessons – My DE this was the group’s assignment after the first session.




We pushed session 2 and 3 together and this worked really well.  The staff were amazing at working through the Discovery material.  Everyone actually completed the first set of interactive lessons and printed out their own certificate!

This is a keen group!  Some went on to the second set of lessons and now they are well on their way.


We went through all the video portions of lessons 2 and 3 and these were really helpful.  A Day in the Life of a Discovery Educator is great – it shows lots of practical applications for how a whole variety of material can be used in the classroom.  We finished off with the handing out of DEN Ambassador certificates which everyone really liked!  I even showed them my DEN Star!




The wonderful thing about the Ambassador Lead material is that there is so much good instructional material to choose from.  From videos to interactive activities to downloadable lessons and certificates, there is easily enough material to fashion lessons for staff that work well at any level.


The lessons are open ended enough that staff can plan what they want to learn next. 

Digital Integration and the Student Experience are the two sets of lessons the teachers will work on next.  Now they know enough about how to navigate around Discovery that they can set up their own timeline for completing these lessons.

Most importantly, each teacher will be given 1.5 days of PD time to be used within the school day to work on Discovery or other programs we have introduced this term. 



The learning is now in their hands!


Digital Integration means effective training in your school

What do we really need if digital integration is going to be successful at your school?

What I am finding, is that you need excellent training on a small scale, maybe even as small as one school.  This year, we have trained our teachers on Mathletics, Discovery Education and Atomic Learning – just three programs.  

When I mention to other people that we need to make the school the locus of professional development for better digital integration, I get all sorts of objections. Our school is too large, I’m not the expert, it will be too expensive, let the district do it – it goes on and on.  All these objections allows people, especially administrators to do nothing, then blame the district for not training their staffs.  

Training is not as difficult as one might think.  Many companies, including all three of the ones I have mentioned above offer personalized webinars for staff who want to get a better sense of the software.

Discovery Education has the DEN Ambassador Program that actually supplies lessons with excellent resource material to lead teachers that can be used to introduce educators to some of the important components of Discovery.  We finished our three lessons on our last PD Day and now all of our teachers have a good understanding of some of the components of Discovery along with a clear picture of where they can go to find out more.

Atomic Learning is an excellent tool that our teachers were introduced to on Friday through an interactive webinar.  This is the only program we have had to purchase, the others are available to all teachers in our district – this however does not mean that they will be using it, there is no training plan for these teachers.

Atomic offers modules in a whole variety of areas, some do not involve technology at all but address important areas like assessment, class discipline and teaching methodologies.  The also offer really interesting modules on  topics like using Minecraft in the classroom.

The beauty of this system is that staff have been introduced through a variety of workshops to programs they can explore for the remainder of the year.  While we have used some of our PD budget for these introductory workshops, the rest of our time will be allocated to staff who want to explore these and other digital programs they are using in the classroom – Hapara is another program that comes to mind.  

The most important point is that this is not difficult to do.  Companies like Mathletics and Atomic and more than happy to offer webinars and help you with any technical programs your teachers may have.  Just take the first step, start working with your teachers to arrange training on the programs you are working with. Consider a training platform like Atomic to teacher people about programs that you don’t cover in your focused workshops.

Whatever you do, don’t wait for someone to show up to do this vital work for you.

Here is a sampling of the training covering Atomic and Discovery:

Atomic Webinar with Derek Herman

1.  Please join my meeting.
webinar set up by Atomic learning – we spent the first 45 minutes of the day going over the features of the program.  Teachers are free now to contact Atomic to set up their own webinars on topics of their choice.



Review from Session One

  1. How have you integrated with students what you learned from our last session?

     What have you learned or shared in Edmodo?

SOS Review

  • Which strategy did you implement?
  • How did your students react?
  • How did you tweak it to make it your own?
  • Homework Review
  • Did you complete the Interactive Training? • Did you learn anything new about integrating digital media?




Phase 1- Event 2

Day in the Life


This event continues building on the integration strategies and expands knowledge of the depth and breadth of the resources available through Discovery Education. The content is delivered through 5 video segments. It is designed to give Ambassadors examples of digital integration strategies within multiple subject and grade levels.  Time will also be provided for Ambassadors to share a strategy they tried from the first session.

Day in the Life of a Discovery Educator

In the next portion of the event, you’ll play 5 video segments that provide an overview of the variety of resources within Discovery Education.

    • NOTE: Depending on what services you have access to, will determine how many of these resources will appear within their individual searches.
  • Each segment ends with a question, plan to leave approximately 3-5 minutes for discussion

Virtual Events

Remind Participants they have access to virtual events from Discovery Education.

Phase 1- Event 3

Student Experience and Celebration

In session three, ambassadors will learn more about enhancing the student experience and share personal successes. This session will review resources shared that walk them through My DE for Students, how to share content, and highlight some of Discovery Education’s great educational partner programs. The culmination of the program includes an opportunity for each participant to showcase what they have learned and how they have implemented their new learning in their classroom.

Going Digital (15 minutes, Slide 6)

  • Script Next, we will be watching “Going Digital: The Next Chapter in Teaching and Learning” from Discovery Education’s Senior Vice President of Partnerships, Scott Kinney.

Student Center Experience (15 minutes, Slides 7-10)

  • As a review from the homework Interactive Training Activity, have Ambassadors review the Student Center Board


Reflection & Closing (20 minutes, Slides 13- 21)

Transformation Story

  • Script: Your final assignment for the program is to complete a reflection of the Ambassador program through a Transformation Story.

What to do when trust is broken

Ours is a very difficult profession.  So much depends of mutual trust to make things work.  So, the question is, what does one do when that trust no longer exists?

Whether it is the trust between teacher and student, parent and teacher or administrator and supervisor.  How is one to continue doing the difficult work we do when that trust has been destroyed? How does one come back from that.  Can one come back from that?

The web that keeps us together is a frail one.  Once it is broken, is it even possible to rebuild it?

I think it is possible, but it take a great deal of hard work, honesty and incredible communication skills.  It also takes a great deal of courage.  Sadly, such a combination of skills are hard to find.  It is much easier to leave the bond broken hoping that somehow it will mend itself.

As administrators we have a special responsibility to keep that bond strong and ensure that when it is threatened, bold measures are taken to make things right. When action is not taken relationships and trust are destroyed possibly forever.

This is an important lesson for an educator.  If it happens to you, the best you can do is to make sure you never do the same thing to another person.

Learn from your own misfortune and become more empathetic so that your actions bring healing and confidence in others.

Do nothing to break that fragile bond.



Micro training: How do we organize effective PD? Four key points.

For those interested in better schools, another bomb dropped in August—though I’m not sure many of us heard it. TNTP, a teacher-training and advocacy group, published a report called “The Mirage,” a damning assessment of teacher professional development. Despite being an $18 billion industry, with costs for services of up to $18,000 per year, per teacher, professional development doesn’t appear to have much effect on teaching quality. As Education Week reported, TNTP found that “PD doesn’t seem to factor into why some teachers get better at their jobs and others don’t.” Said one observer quoted: “It just doesn’t look like we have any purchase on what works.”

But what if, in fact, we do know “what works”—but haven’t acted on it? If this were the case, the TNTP report might be the catalyst for a transformation in teacher preparation, training, and student outcomes that was not unlike the one undergone in medical training after the 1910 study known as the Flexner Report. That similarly damning assessment from the last century led to changes that, according to the historian Page Smith, may have saved more lives than any event in the history of medicine.


It’s Time to Restructure Teacher Professional Development

This is a really important article that warrants careful review.  How effective are our current models of teacher development and what can we do to change the way teachers receive effective PD?

To me this is a huge question these days, especially with the implementation of digital technology in our schools.  More than ever, we need to find effective ways to train our teachers on a regular basis so that they can use the tools that are becoming prevalent in the classroom.

For our school, going 1:1 using Chromebooks has been relatively easy – the machines are cheap and we have a small school population.  Every student from grade 4 to 6 has their own Chromebook and they are required to bring it home to continue their class work at home.

My job as administrator now is more difficult.  I need to provide excellent digital content and make sure teachers have the time to learn how these systems work.  We now have access to Mathletics, Raz Kids, Discovery Edu, Dreambox and as a supporting application, Atomic Learning.

teachers from three schools taking part on a Mathletics webinar during the school day

Mathletics and Atomic are entirely new to our staff and Discovery is a huge program that needs time to learn and use properly in the classroom.  I am developing a micro training model to give teachers the resources to use these tools in the classroom.  There are a few key points in this model:

1.  Time – make sure that digital integration is central to your PD plan.  Teachers need blocks of time embedded into the regular day  to absorb the various features of these programs.  I use the term ‘micro teaching’ because you have to be realistic on how much staff members can take in at any one time.  So far, all our training sessions have been no more than a half-day and we have never looked at more than two programs during a session.

2.  Connect to people working with the programs you are using.  I have found that it is essential to make personal connections with staff responsible for professional development at the various companies we are working with.  In the case of Discovery, Mathletics and Atomic, people have been very happy to set up training webinars for our teachers that can outline in detail how the programs work. Discovery goes the extra mile by offering a series of training sessions through their Discovery Ambassador Program that will allow you as the lead learner to help teachers to better understand the many features of Discovery.

3.  Connect to a learning resource that teachers can go to when they need to learn more.  We have purchased licenses with Atomic Learning for all our teachers for the year.  Once they have had an introductory webinar on how the program is structured they will be able to sign up for modules on their own and learn at their own pace.  I am hoping that by January, we will be able to give teachers release time so they can work on the Atomic modules that are most important for them.

4.  Take the long view – a digital integration plan can take years to implement.  Teachers are not going to learn everything they need to know in just a few sessions.  My plan for this year is to offer them three webinars – one each from Discovery, Atomic and Mathletics and three lessons from Discovery and that’s it.  I hope to have all the structured lessons done by Christmas so that teachers can choose what else they want to learn starting in January.  Next year, we will continue to focus on digital integration, but will  look for additional webinars and lessons teachers need to continue their professional growth.

Right now these seem to be the key points.  I think it is next to impossible for a district to organize training for all of its members on all the new technologies.  It is up to school leaders (principals and lead teachers), to come up with plans that will work for their own staff.  If this is not done, staff will not adopt the new programs our district is offering them.  Their implementation of technology will remain superficial and BYOD or 1:1 plans will not be successful.

The key point here is not to wait for someone to do the training for you.  Schools need to take the initiative to get the training that they need for their teachers.  Stop thinking about system-wide training and think more about micro training.

Remember, getting the machines into your building is relatively simple, training people to use them effectively is not.

Encouraging Innovation and partnerships in the Community

Yesterday, we had the first meeting for the new school year with a wonderful group of innovators in our community.  The group includes staff from Ottawa University and Algonquin College, tech consultants, teachers and administrators from our school board and soon, student teachers from the University of Ottawa.

Our group only meets a few times a year, but the group performs a very important function for a small group of schools in our area.  The energy of the group fuels innovation in our schools and comes together to create really special events like the first school makerfaire in the Ottawa area last year.  

What I am learning from this group is that the best way to fuel innovation in your school is to work on the micro level with people connected by the desire to push the envelope and create great learning opportunities for students.

Brainstorming at this week’s Innovation Team meeting – Luc Lalande

It is especially great to have people from outside the school system.  We all share a common purpose, now we have to decide what projects our group will take on for this year.

We have achieved a fair deal in one year – team members were involved in some or all of these activities:

  • a joint PD session (two schools) on maker culture given by Alison Evans Adnani of Maker Junior
  • cooperation between three schools including Kitigan Zibi, an Algonquin school close to Maniwaki, Ontario.  We really hope to have a cultural exchange day this year at Kitigan Zibi
  • a one-day makerfaire including workshops on coding, 3D printing, making and learning from each other – all members of our Innovation Team took part in this day including some great University of Ottawa Education students
  • a full-day teacher workshop on makerspaces including 3D selfies!
  • a series of great blog posts by our library technician on various aspects of makerspaces


Our first meeting this year was a flurry of information and ideas.  We talked about major initiatives like Ottawa’s first Makerfaire to be held November 7 and 8, the Ottawa Edcamp planned for November 21, the mobile makerspace that has been developed by the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Ottawa and possible trips to Makerspace North.

We will also plan another makerfaire for schools and we are actively looking for more schools to join our group!

With the inclusion of new team members from the University of Ottawa, Engineers in Residence and Makerspace North, we are creating a really creative group that will fuel innovation in schools this year.

Collaboration, cooperation, good communication and a willingness to try new ventures promises great opportunities for our students this year!

How to keep up the momentum on 1:1 implementation

We are soon to enter the first full year of 1:1 at our school.  We will be using a combination of chromebooks, iPads and iPods and every student will have access to a device every day.  Our junior students (grades 4-6) will be required to bring their devices home every night.
We started with some training last year in preparation for 1:1.  We worked on Google tools and our staff is now comfortable with Google Drive, Docs, Groups and a number of important apps like Read and Write.  We connected to Discovery Education and we really hope to have access to the Science Techbook for all our students this year.  
My main concern as the principal is to continue to offer high quality training and support for all staff so that it is easy to make a complete switch to using devices every day in meaningful ways throughout the year.  
It is one thing – pretty easy – to supply every child with a device.  It is a far more difficult thing to provide the individualized training each staff member needs to make implementation effective.  Wherever staff start the year on the SAMR scale, it will be important to see movement as the year progresses.
So, how do we meet this challenge?
Our School Improvement Plan emphasis is digital integration, but teachers need direction on how to find  resources.  We need a resource that is flexible and allows teachers to continue learning at their own pace throughout the year.  We need a system that respects the adult learner and allows easy access to excellent material.
One service we are considering is Simple K-12.  The good thing about Simple K – 12 is that so many good resources are collected in one spot and I recognize many of the presenters from Twitter.  It is a credible resource.
I think there is an argument for making services available that offer excellent customer service and good content in one easy to find location. Discovery Education  is another important service.  I went to their principals’ conference in Washington this summer (DENSI 2015) and it was excellent.  
The problem with these services is that they can be expensive.  We could easily spend our entire school budget on these two services.
Relying on ‘free resources’ is not the answer.  We need access to resources that are credible and designed specifically for educators.  We also can’t afford to waste teachers’ searching on their own for good services to use.
To be fair, everyone is busy and it takes time to find  resources that are capable of offering excellent professional development and customer service.  Once the resources are found, administrators need to be trained on them first before they are introduced to staff.
This means that there needs to be a plan that starts with the administrator and focuses on professional development first.  Individual schools should not be left to fend for themselves when it comes to searching for the best resources.
We also need to find solutions that do not focus on training one or two staff members.  To expect that training a few people with the hope that their experiences will translate to an entire staff are simply not realistic.
So, what is an administrator to do?  To be honest, I am not sure.  I think really good professional development is expensive and if we expect 1:1 initiatives to work we will have to make greater investments in excellent services.
As an illustration of what is possible, I have listed a few webinars I will take part in through Simple K-12 in the next few weeks.  What is the solution for our school?  I’m still working on that.

“Creative Ways to Fund the Cash-Strapped Classroom”.

“Extend Your Impact on Students and Parents Using Mobile Technologies”.

“Implementing an iPad Pilot”.

“How Going 1:1 Can Transform Your Learning Environment”.

“Top 10 Mistakes Schools Make When Going 1:1 and How to Avoid Them”.