Thursday, 20 October 2011

So do you like reading a paper book or e-readers?

I must admit that I prefer the paper version of a book and a magazine. In fact, for my online magazine subscriptions I simply just scan articles I want to read but my paper versions I still flip through every page and read the articles I want to read. I may end up reading an article I wouldn't have thought I would enjoy scanning through online.

I've been pretty good at reading anywhere, on the bus, on the subway, home and in the car (not when I'm driving). I somehow can block out the world when I read.

I've been introduced to a cool tool - it's called Book Track and you can download it from the Apple App Store. What Book Track does in a nutshell is create a soundtrack for your e-book which is so cool for those who have challenges with blocking out the world. As well it makes reading more engaging and you can control the 3 aspects - sounds, ambient noises and music. I'm sure this would make reading more engaging to our students as they live in such a multi-media world it's hard for them to read in a linear way.

I wonder if we could improve the love of reading with a tool like this?

EPS - Educational Positioning System

So I'm a big fan of 360 reviews - that's where a person get feedback from their direct reports, their boss, their customers, their peers; and the purpose is to understand what you do well and where you can do better.
Since I'm a fan of these I have also been a fan of what we refer to as - District Reviews as they are a review of our schools and again the goal is to review what is working and what needs to be improved.

The challenge I have seen with the District Reviews is that they are VERY labour intensive. The outcomes are worth it as there are always things to improve but more importantly it is great to get positive feedback about what you are doing well.

So CORE in New Zealand has created EPS - which seems to be very similar to our District Reviews. It is a series of 72 questions which is answered by Admin, Support Staff, Teachers and you can add parents, students and the community at large.

The answers are asked in a series of ways to validate the answers.

Once all the surveys have been completed the reports that is issued gives you a lot of data from what you are doing well, how to improve and what improvement would look like.
As well you are given information of the ranges between the answers - which gives you some idea on the differences of perception.

Well there is a cost, I think the actual cost would be significantly less than what we are spending on district reviews.
Of course there is still some coaching and face to face meetings required to do the Improvement Plans.

This is something I think we should pilot to see if it's effective for TDSB.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

How 12 year olds blew my mind!

I love being around kids - I've always loved children and this is probably the best part of my job - kids are honest, open to new ideas, don't think about consequences and thus everything is possible.

I often remind young people that most great inventions were created by people in their 20's as they have no limits!

So put me with Grade 7's who are using free software and I'm blown away.
When asked about technology they respond; - that they love using technology - they want more of it and it's easy - BUT are they learning anything?

Yesterday I reviewed their e-portfolios and was impressed with what they had in their portfolios. I saw assignments that we would have done on paper BUT does online with the same impact?  I would have loved these ideas when my kids were little as there would have been less paper pieces and glue over my floors and tables.

The students first told me it took 30 minutes to do the assignments I was looking at but with further probing realized that they meant it took 30 minutes to put it together online - they completely ignored the hours they took to gather the information as they thought it was fun! They were also excited to explain the work to me - a sign of true engagement and not rote learning.

I learned so much from them that I will post some of their ideas in separate posts as I don't want to skim over what I was taught.

Dr. Jack Bacon - futurist?

So maybe I've just been around too many people who have said they are futurists or maybe it's that the stories are all the same - yes some information is facts so how can you dispute the facts that we are doubling our technological capabilities every 18 months!
I guess I'm also a cynic as many of these presenters - give the same speeches over and over again - and not sure how all this information really impacts my life - and what I need to do to be ready. Again my practical side comes out.

So what does the future hold? Well according to Dr. Bacon - more of the same and hence my cynicism.

I'm not trying to be disrespectful I value and marvel at the work Dr. Bacon has done. Not to trivialize his work as he has been responsible for significant changes at NASA by limiting the fuel used by 87%. He has been responsible for many significant changes that are savings dollars as well as improving environmental impact. Jack also has family that lives in Toronto.
More about Jack here:

So I have Dr. Bacon's book - The Parallel Bang - so I will read it and further delve into whether I think he's thought provoking or saying the same old, same old.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Challenge of being a Principal

We had a good discussion about how to support and develop good principals.
It is a challenge in single admin schools to support and develop them. How do they get the supports that they need and when they need them?
There are so many responsibilities for Principals including keeping schools safe but if we expect them to be the curriculum leaders how are we supporting them?
There is a new system that has been developed here in New Zealand called EPS - its been described to me as a GPS system for principals but based on the description sounds more like a 360 Feedback review which is suppose to give Principals the good, bad and the ugly about what is happening in their schools. At this point its only given to staff to fill in and there are discussions to include parental, student and community involvement.
EPS has recently been piloted in England and although there was some discussion about tweaking it for the UK educational system - they didn't. The early results in England are very encouraging to consider this for the Canadian system.
The feedback is invaluable to a Principal and seems like a District Review without all the upfront work - but the results are where you can build from - I am looking forward to a further discussion on this tomorrow.

Meeting with Ausis and Kiwis

So I had the opportunity to spend some time with people from the Ministry of Education from New Zealand and Australia.
It was an interesting discussion as we have many similarities in our educational system.
One key place where we are opposite is attracting people into the profession.
We had a good discussion about why this would be. My first thought was it must be the pay scale - as that would be a key reason not to choose to be a teacher.
The reality Australia starts teachers around $60K and New Zealand $42K - so not a barrier like I thought.
It's an interesting discussion - as I know the doors have always been open for us to get our Bachelor of Education here and have it accepted in Canada.
There was a discussion about them looking to Canada to bring some of our trained teachers here.
I wonder if it's because we value teachers - but I'm sure I will have more discussions about why they have a teacher shortage and we don't.

Pecha Kucha

So I had the privilege of attending something new last night - something I had never seen or heard about before called a Pecha Kucha.
So what is it?
Teachers were asked to present for no longer than 6 minutes with a minimum of 15 slides and maximum of 20 slides. This ensured that the pace was fast and engaging.
Topics were random and were selected based on personal passion. So we heard about the challenges of social media in the classroom, how to engage learners using e-learning, how to learn online, the challenges of being a principal - all interesting topics.
One of the downsides is of course there is no questions and answers - it really is to simply engage the thinking.
I do love the creativity of it to engage a conversation which led to many interesting conversations since.
I'm trying to figure out how to engage this at home - open to suggestions?

Monday, 17 October 2011

QR codes

So I always thought QR codes were annoying - you know the squiggles in life that you see that you are suppose to scan and it gives you a secret message.
Why do I care? Why would I bother scanning some symbol for some information - I'm more practical - tell me what you want in "English"....

That's what I thought.

Today I learned how to engage learners using QR codes - how?
Simple, you can take ideas and concepts and it's really like a treasure map for kids.
Everywhere these QR codes exist - and what kid doesn't like to think they are special and know something their parent doesn't know!
Don't worry I don't plan to make everything in my life a QR code!

Amazing People of New Zealand

Tues Oct 18th - still 17th at home
So I am with an interesting group of educators right now - 3 teacher leads in ICT, a couple of teachers, a student teacher and a principal; so I'm getting a perspective of all the interesting aspects of education here.
So far it seems to be a MAC world but I will keep my eyes open.
They are telling me that phone plans are also very expensive here - so will be looking to see about the student usage and whether or not they bring them to the classroom.
Every school develops their own ICT plan - which would be similar to us - not sure if that's the most efficient way for technology.
Just learned that there is a blog in New Zealand - on iPad and iPods - so I will get my ICT leads to sign up for that!
it's called School iPad/iPod User Group where they share all sorts of ideas - website is

Welcome to New Zealand!

Tuesday October 18th (still Monday night at home).

Well it was a SUPER long flight! 19 hours on 3 different planes - pretty uneventful with very little turbulence.
The flight from LA to Auckland was BRUTAL - my knees were sore and I'm not a big person and I have short legs - can't imagine what someone who was claustrophobic would have done as the space was tight and confining. The washrooms were huge so go figure.
My row was 3 women - I sat beside Bridget Jones who invited me for dinner Friday night and she WAS Bridget Jones - so we had some good chats about life and what life throws at you!
So - we will see how life unfolds - I would have to rent a car as she lives on the coast.
I had a 9 hour layover in Auckland which was brutal as it was TOO long to hang out at the airport and too short to get into anything - decision was between a wine tour or shopping so I figured I would shop - my true calling!
It is "All Blacks" fever here - it's actually very exciting to be somewhere with a winning team!
So the "All Blacks" are in the World Rugby final on Sunday - everyone is wearing black and most men wear the shirts. I picked up a few things for Carol's son as a surprise as he's the rugby guy at home.
The bronze game is Friday night - so not sure how hard tickets would be to get so I will keep my ears open - not that I know a thing about Rugby but it would be a cool experience!

Searching for 'wool' things - so far the costs are similar to home - so not sure what to buy!

Today I started learning about technology in the New Zealand classrooms - very similar to our challenges although their schools tend to be smaller.
 Ginnie would love to know that the mobile carts also have the projectors attached to them - making it really an all in one cart!

I have a meeting with the Minister of Education tonight - I better google to find out who that is - and something about them - don't even know if it's male or female - yikes!