Learning2 – Day 2 Extended Session 1

Leading Systematic Change with John Mikton

Take Away #1:

I am a “piggy in the middle”. I am between the teachers and the admin. The advantages of this are that teachers don’t see me as admin and so they are more open and collaborative with me. Also Admin doesn’t see me as a classroom teacher so they are more open and collaborative with me. I find that I have a good understanding of both how and why decisions are made. Also realistic views of how they can affect classroom teachers. I have been very lucky that in both of the schools that I have worked as an integrationist, the gap between teachers and admin has been very small and so I am not too much in the middle but I can imagine that in some schools the gap is wider and teachers in the integration role can be put more in this role.

I see being the “piggy in the middle” as a huge advantage. I am able to dip into both worlds to gather information and data when thinking about decisions. I am able to dip into both worlds to get feedback on ideas, plans and rollouts. I am able to use one group to support the other. I am able to leverage the knowledge of both groups to make decisions for the school.


Take Away #2:

This take away connects #2 from my first Learning2 Post. John made the point that because change is happening at such an exponentially fast rate, teachers feel out of control. So when they say no to things, like new tech, it is sometimes not because they feel strongly against the new tech, but that the tech becomes a change that they can control. So it’s not that they teacher is saying no to ePortfolios, but that they are saying no to a change, because this change is a change within their control.


Take Away #3

One of the visuals shared with us was Peter Segne’s Creative Tension Model where admin and school leadership curate the vision, teachers live in the current reality and teacher leaders are curators of the creative tension that moves teachers towards the vision.

As leaders we need to know the potential of our teachers, even better than they know themselves. Then we have to provoke them so that they can become their potential. I think that this is the hardest part of my job. When I first began and when I moved to Moscow. Learning my colleagues potential is not only crucial it is difficult, but once learned helps me understand how to direct teachers towards their potential. This is why I live in the creative tension zones because I poke teachers towards their potential by creating safe and challenging activities that give them tension but not frustration.

Take Away #4

Rethinking communication is another takeaway I have had from this. How can we better communicate during, before, after and in-between meetings? I think that the reliance on email has created a communication problem that is difficult to solve. The reality is that we need places where we can have conversations in a similar way to how we do it on social media. One – a group, small group, large group, one – one, etc. The issue with these is whenever you try to set one up, the general response is, but I only want to go to one place.

The going to one place being “I only want to have to check my email”. The problem with that is that email is not an efficient way to have small group or large group conversations. I am not sure what the solution is but I do think that something does need to happen!

Take Away #4

Pencil Metaphore.png

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This image was used by John to help us to think of times when we have been in any of these roles. There is a time and place for each of them. I found this infographic to be a few good visual of the personality types that I see in a school on a daily basis. I think my take away from John’s session on this is that we need to recognize the stage people are in and understand why they are there before we can move them to another stage. Also that in is not my job to always be in the Leaders stage. Sometimes I am needed to be an eraser of bad decisions or be the wood and allow others to be the leaders to help be grow.


Learning2 – Day 3 A Connectivist Approach

This session was run by Madeleine Brookes.

Take Away #1:

And the connections keep on coming. This connection begins with going back to my last post’s take away #2. How powerful it would be for students to take control of their education where teachers become better mentors. Mentors who help you understand your learning, your path, the possibilities and your potential.

I think for high school students this is very easy to imagine. For middle school even, I think that teachers can visualize this. For elementary it becomes harder, yet possible. Of course elementary school students are still building basic skills. For example how can a student tell their teacher how they are going to independently study when they can’t read, write or know how to study.

So this is where idea, examples, brainstorming needs to happen. For example you have a student who has a goal to be better at using technology so you give them time to learn a specific app with a specific focus. Then you facilitate a way for them to teach their classmates. The next time they have a tech goal, they choose the app and they identify the focus and they plan the lesson to students, teachers, or parents. This is a tech example but you could easily do the same with a math or writing concept.

So I see younger elementary students participating in a classroom that looks very different. Teachers working with individuals and small groups while other students are doing a variety of independent learning. Not dissimilar to they way many classrooms do “stations” or “centers”, except the stations are student driven not teacher driven. The reality of this is the management of it. Making sure that all students are conferring with a teacher when needed and enough times to keep them focused and growing. I purposely didn’t say equally because that may not be what is needed.

Also this could be done with a variety of mentors. I think that similarly to the way that the exhibition draws on mentors from a variety of teachers. A key point of this would be that mentors would need to have training. This would help to insure that they would all be working with similar mindsets and expectations of support.

Take Away #2:

This acronym refers to collecting data/content. Aggregate the wanted content. Remix to look for patterns, connections and associations. Repurpose it to create and compose new thoughts. Then Feed Forward by sharing with others.

Feed Forward is the element that Madeleine says gets dropped and I agree. This is the element that teachers value but skip due to time restraints. What if this became the focus not the bit to skip.

What if the importance shifted from the “what” to the “so what?”
What if these questions became the focus?
What did you learn about teaching this to others?
How will you use what you learned when you shared?
What questions were you asked?
How will those questions drive you to change your presentation?
Will those questions drive you to do more research?

Feeding Forward also raises the question of how will you share your knowledge. What is the best media/tool to share it with? Who is your audience? How will you change your message for a change in audience?

Google Expeditions in Grade One

These are the student’s reflections after being introduced to Google Expeditions during their unit on how journeys provide experiences that expand our knowledge and understanding of the world.

I basically showed them how to get around in Expeditions for about 5 – 10 minutes guiding them to understand how to switch between the different slides. Then we let them explore.

Here is what they thought!


Learning2 – Day 2 Help Me Decipher it

This session was a student session run by a lovely student named Julia. Julia told us about her struggles with Dyslexia and the tools that she found to help her in her studies.

Take Away #1:

Julia shared a document that she created with us. This document has some very useful tools for all students not just those with dyslexia. I have already shared these resources with our SEN (Students with Educational Needs) team to help be start the conversation with them around how to better serve their students. I hope that this allows me to continue to build a relationship with them around how the tech we use in school can be best leveraged to help their students.

Take Away #2:

We need to have students teaching each other and teachers more about their passions, dreams, goals, challenges and successes. We need to have more collaborative learning by everyone. How awesome would it be for there to be a forum where students could run lectures, lessons and practicals for anyone and everyone in the school. Think about how powerful it could be for a student to teach a teacher about the latest tech tool and how the student can imagine it being used in the class environment. Or students teaching SEN teachers about which tools work best for them or teachers sharing their passions with students instead of just the standard curriculum.

Learning 2 Pre Conference

Beyond 1:1 Pedagogy Leading Change with Mark Dilworth

Day 1 @ Learning2 was a great start. mark helped lead us in some discussion around how to make/think about/drive changes in a school.

Take away #1:

While the focus of this session sounds like it would be about tech, the reality is that the tech is only a small element.  The driving forces is the question “What educational goals do you want to achieve?” Then long after that is decided, “What tools will help us achieve this?”

Take away #2:

Another take away that I had was how ZIS (Zurich International School) included teachers in this discussion.  We learned about how they made teacher’s input, all teacher’s input, part of the process. This helps answer the question of “who owns these decisions?” I can already see how this technique in my school would help the process. There is already a bit of a history of “…brought in the BYOD” or “… brought in this piece of tech.” Not “We decided that … tech is the best option for our school.” Not including teachers in the decision gives them the permission to “blame” someone else for issues that arise.

Take away #3:

Something that I am not sure was considered, was student’s voice in these decisions. Were student’s voices given any weight? Were students involved in any way? How can they be involved in the future beyond taking a survey?

Take away #4:

How do we measure the success of our programs? How do we know if we are helping students learn? How do we find out what was improved, changed, or not changed?

Take away #5:

A need for a few teachers to have some basic training in how to facilitate these input sessions. So that large groups of teachers stay on task and on topic and work as a functioning unit in helping with these decisions. This will lessen the off task behavior that teachers are really good at during these types of meetings!

Take away #6:

One of the things that ZIS did was begin to use Bloom’s Taxonomy when discussing tech to move the conversation away from “How good is the tech?” and towards “How good is the learning?” This changes the conversation and redirects the focus. I know that this idea is what my principal has been leading me towards and it was something that I was hoping to get out of this session. I think now I can use this idea to move forward towards helping lead teachers away from conversations like “We want you to teach … tech.” and towards “We want to to achieve this type of learning with tech.”

Take away #7:

Something else that came up was the idea that adding tech elements to the teacher appraisal conversation is more about asking teachers how and where they are growing as professionals and less about judgements. This is a great way to focus the conversation around evaluations and one that I realize has been my own personal view point about tech learning for teachers. One of my goals has always been to help teachers grow as professionals when I teach. This is possibly why I have never stressed as much as I see other teachers about evaluations and observations. I am excited about growth. Growth drives me to learn new things and expand my knowledge base. Growth allows me to build my confidence in my ability to learn.

Non-Standard Units of Measure

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to be a guest math teacher in one of our grade one classrooms. The grade one team was beginning to plan a unit on non-standard units of measure when I was sitting in on their planning meeting. I piped up that I know a non-standards unit of measure and I could teach a lesson about it.

Well one teacher took me up on the offer. So I taught a group of grade one students how to measure height in “hands”. The way that you measure a horse. This is something that comes almost naturally to me with my love and experience with horses!


I started out by showing them a picture of a friend and her horse. I talked to the students about what position a horse needed to be in to measure them, and that we measure to the withers. I then informed them that we don’t measure to the head and asked them why they thought that might be. They had many great answers, which were all a bit correct. They realized that the head moves too much to measure.img_7804

Then I showed them how we hold our hands to measure and that I happened to have
perfect hands for measuring horses, but that one of the smaller girls in the class did not because my hands were bigger.

I then measured one of the students to show them how it worked. We discovered that she was 11.1 hands tall. We talked about how we only measure horse’s height in hands not their width.

They then took a guess at how tall Henny might be. We had guesses from 8 hands to 20 hands! One student nearly had the right answer when she suggested 14 hands. I then showed them that Henny is 14.2 hands tall.

Finally, I gave them a list of things that we were going to measure and we talked about how to measure only the height and how to hold our “hands”. Then I set them loose on the room. It was very interesting to see all of the different measurements that they came up with for the same thing! They even had their teacher as the tallest person in the room which made her happy even though she is the opposite!





The Big Ideas with Heidi Hayes Jacobs


This week at our school Heidi Hayes Jacobs spent time with us helping the curriculum teams get to work on some of our projects. I was lucky enough to see her three different times.

The first time was with my design team hat. I am on a design team looking at technology in learning. Heidi sat with our group in this meeting and helped us to see some of the paths that we could take while pulling research for this team. As well as what some of the suggestions or prototypes could look like.

The main thing that I took away from this session was that we need to have good research and good examples to show. I think that the tricky part for us might be the research. Not that there isn’t research out there that will help us, but that it might not be obvious to other teachers why we chose a piece of research that might look like it has nothing to do with technology. I think the important thing will be to find a variety of research that supports the pedagogy behind a type of learning not of technology. For example finding research that shows that students learn effectively through independent exploration. Then, as a team connecting that to the role technology can play in independent exploration.

The second time I was with the curriculum council, which is a group of teachers from all curriculum areas. This is where I really got to see Heidi flex her curriculum muscles! Her main point was the one in the image above. What do you Cut? What do you Keep? What do you Create?

One of her points was that in order to bring your curriculum into the present and help it modernize, then you need to cut some things. Cut the things that have been done the same way for 10 years.

We have to look at the content, skills and assessments. We have to make sure that our curriculum is accessible. Remove statements like “Shows knowledge of, or Shows understanding of.” The curriculum must be full of measurable statements. Only then can you design assessments that will show that a child has achieved success in the curriculum.

The skills within the curriculum need to be actionable, scaffolded over time and described in specific terms.

Assessments are demonstrations of learning, tangible products, observable performances, observable evidence. They must also be varied.

As we were beginning work on mapping the curriculum to units of study Heidi discussed how the unit needs a big idea (in the PYP the Central Idea). Then it needs essential questions that help guide the student to understand the big idea. Thinking of these essential questions as “chapters” of the curriculum. The big idea is the title of the book and the questions are the chapters. They must be married to the big idea.

I think that the PYP does this well, though I do see that sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the content that is required by the curriculum and try to make essential questions fit both the content required and the big idea, when they don’t.

She also talked about the idea of bundling the curriculum. This is the idea that one unit of study can pull standards from other subjects. For example a MS Science unit might pull data collection and analysis from Math, explanatory writing from Language and citing sources from Information Literacy.

I know that this is the idea for the PYP but sometimes I find that it is too fragmented. I feel that many times that single subject teachers for example could pull more curriculum statements from a classroom teacher’s realm. I have tried to do this as an integrationist. I have offered to take over whole writing units only to be told by the classroom teacher that they would still have to do what they “normally” did. My hope is that teachers will continue to see how this can help both them and the students and they will give up the control a bit more to allow what is already happening to be explored and expanded.

The third time that I saw Heidi was during her keynote to the whole staff. I was active on Twitter the whole time that she was talking so I have linked my Storify here for you to read.

So what are my takeaways from Heidi? That I am at the forefront of a major shift in Education. My role as an integrationist makes me a key player in this shift. I have a lot of (Sorry, Ms. Spencer!) homework to do and several books to read.

I am looking forward to exciting times in education.