Being a tourist in your own Education System

Last summer my wife’s aunt and uncle visited us from Cape Town, South Africa. Her uncle wanted to visit all of the major Toronto landmarks. We took the red double-decker sightseeing bus all around the city. I saw parts of my own city that I had never really paid attention to before. Being a tourist in your own city can be  a very enlightening experience.

Taking that tourist approach to your own education system can be equally enlightening. I found this video on Edutopia from the OECD Education Everywhere series about education in Ontario. The video focused on Unionville High School (part of the northern Toronto suburb of Markham ).  Markham is an extremely diverse city with a very large Chinese and south Asian population.

The video paid specific attention to the role of the “Student Success” teacher and the larger Student Success team. The team meets weekly and focuses on coordinating supports for the transition of new Canadian students. The goal is to provide supports for the whole child and not only the academic side.

Additional information and perspectives can be found in this OECD document:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7X-Dkl-q6IfdWZDVFVRNnVHamM/preview

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Video – Tools for the 21st Century Educator

I was playing around with Animoto this morning, making videos of my kids. I thought that I would make one highlighting 21st Century Education resources. PLEASE enjoy and share as often as possible.

Education Collaboration II – Connecting Ideas

I was really happy to see the response to the Education Collaboration post from yesterday. The goal is to continue these posts and solicit suggestions for bringing educators and their ideas together to foster student success.

Before we discuss tech platforms for collaboration, the genesis of ideas should be examined. One of the foremost experts in this field is Steven Johnson, who funnily enough penned the book, “Where good ideas come from”. An RSA summary narrated by Johnson himself can be found in the header of this post. Johnson points out that many great ideas develop slowly and manifest themselves more as a hunch in one’s mind. Often these hunches are pieces of a bigger puzzle that only really take off once they are combined with the hunches of another. A good example would be Jobs and Wozniak – each held a piece of the Apple puzzle.

Johnson points out that the coffee houses of the enlightenment were so important because they brought great thinkers together under the same roof, helping to connect hunches to form great ideas. What platforms will serve to connect people for an educational enlightenment? Statistics show that face to face collaboration is the most effective, but how often do we have face time at school?

The ideas that will move education in the desired direction will come from the connected hunches and intuitions of teachers dispersed around the world. How do we connect them? There are so many social media platforms that will facilitate the connections but how do we stoke the flames to get people interested in mass collaboration?

Share here or at:

#educationcrowdsource

I found an interesting article on Edutopia about a group of teachers leading such a collaboration movement under the name “The Educator’s Village”. It is a very good read and it provides you an opportunity to collaborate immediately via a Google Form. Click on the picture to read the article.


Crafting Social Media Guidelines for your School

Social media represents the best and the worst of this digital generation. It can create strong collaborative cultures that serve to flatten traditionally hierarchies or it can become a marketing tool for businesses to shill their products.

In her book, “Get Bold”, Sandy Carter (IBM Vice President of Social Business) brings us the concept of a social business. Social business differs from social media in terms of the level of integration into the heart of the business. Social business should be a way of life that promotes openness within an organization and with its customers. We can adapt her concept of a social business to that of social organization in an educational concept. All schools must make use of the best aspects of social media to create an open environment that connects all stakeholders together to promote student success.

The darkside of social media means that schools must have a carefully crafted policy for social media integration. Steven Anderson, prolific blogger from “Blogging about the Web 2.0 Classroom” put together a comprehensive set of guidelines complete with resources to help both schools and boards create guidelines of their own. I have embedded this document into the image below:

Sparking Global Student Collaboration

The Oracle ThinkQuest design challenge offers students 9 – 19 the chance to create a website based on their particular educational interest. The competition is unique because once the students form teams, they seek out their own coach to support their development. This is a real testament to the power of flattening the educational hierarchy. Coaches are there in a support and guidance role rather than to direct the process. Teams are made up of 3 to 6 students with NO restrictions on location. The team highlighted in the video was comprised of students from several continents.

You can visit the ThinkQuest page by clicking on the picture:

Imagine local school boards adopting a similar competition or attitude towards collaboration. Taking advantage of the collaborative technology available to our schools could easily make this possible. Using project-based learning in a networked context would have tremendous upside for both staff and students. Embedding 21st century fluencies into daily practice does not have to be directed from up above. Facilitating opportunities for mass collaboration is much more effective and sustainable because it is student directed.

Sandra Mustacato and Mike Papadimitriou from the TCDSB AICT team delivered a powerful  Prezi at the Area 1 Innovator’s Day at Msgr. Percy Johnson (organized by VP Marcello Mancuso and Area 1 S.O Loretta Notten) where they displayed the power of Skype to facilitate such collaborative student learning possibilities. Follow this link to view this fantastic Prezi:

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Lessons from Abroad – Finland

Finland has been getting tremendous amounts of positive publicity for the success of their education system. They have catapulted up the PISA rankings and based on aggregate scores, Finland is now ranked as the #1 education system in the world. At the TCDSB Student Success Conference, renowned education expert Andy Hargreaves compared the Finnish system to a Ferrari because it the nexus point of innovation and performance. Hargreaves compared Canada to a thoroughbred racehorse because of the tremendous focus on improvement at the expense of innovation.

What makes the Finnish system so great? The first video from the American Teachers Federation focuses on the following success indicators:

1) Teaching is a highly respected profession where all teachers are required to hold a Master’s degree. The opinions of teachers are taken into account when important decisions are made. Job embedded professional development and teacher collaboration are core to the development of all educators.

2) The relationship between teachers and administration is extremely close. There is a synergy between these two important roles.

3) The focus on the individual student in a priority. Differentiation is organic to the process.

The second video from the OECD via Edutopia takes a closer look at the focus on the individual child. Key points from this video include:

1) Early identification of students who are struggling. The goal is to deal with learning gaps early so that struggles do not compound. The special education resource teacher is engaged early in the process to observe students who are struggling.

2) There is not a stigma attached to special education support in Finland. Upwards of 90% of kids in the system have received support in some manner.

3) Every school in the system has a student welfare committee made up of school personnel who meet twice monthly. The goal is to regularly discuss the development of all children but especially those who have been flagged. Individual problems are dealt with on a case by case basis. These issues range from the emotional to academic level.

The Finnish system places a huge emphasis on people and not bureaucracy. Policy is of secondary concern to the welfare of students and educators. Surprise, surprise..putting people first actually works!

Lessons from Abroad – Singapore

Edutopia in conjunction with the OECD created a series of videos highlighting the education reform movements of several countries. I will post each of the videos along with a brief summary. I found these videos to be EXTREMELY helpful. Finland has been getting most of the accolades when it comes progressive systems but Singapore deserves some love as well.

This snapshot of education in Singapore was enlightening on many levels but three things really stood out for me:

1) The focus on Student Engagement. The school leaders explicitly stated that “fun” was a priority.


2) There was an acknowledgement that technology was core to the being of the students. Rather than view it as a distraction, the teachers and administrators found ways to integrate into the curriculum.


3) Professional Development as a networked activity was HEAVILY emphasized. Technology allowed these teachers to create learning communities that extended FAR beyond the walls of the school.

NEXT UP…FINLAND

From the mouthes of babes…

As educators, we spend a lot of time dissecting the gigantic topic of “Student Engagement”. I wonder how often, we truly entertain student perspectives when we unpack this hugely important topic. Edutopia.org has been exploring Student Engagement from a variety of angles. The most powerful article came from Heather Wolpert-Gawron of www.tweenteacher.com. She surveyed 220 students regarding what motivates them to learn and stay engaged at school. She turned the student responses into a top ten list for teachers.  Not surprisingly, the top two responses were 1) working with peers and 2) working with technology. These responses underline the fact that we must adapt traditional schooling practices or risk being perceived as irrelevant in the eyes of our students.

Click the Edutopia logo to read the full article:

TCDSB Area 1 Innovators Conference

I am very excited to be participating in tomorrow’s “TCDSB Area 1 Innovator’s Day” at Msgr. Percy Johnson CSS. I want to thank Loretta Notten (Area 1 Superintendent) and Marcello Mancuso (Msgr. Percy Johnson Vice-Principal) for offering me the opportunity to present.