Tag Archives: Life Long Learning


I was talking to some friends/co-workers the other night when inevitably the subject turned to school. After some initial chatter about curriculum, school governance etc… I came up with an outrageous idea! I am quite certain that no school will ever implement what I am about to propose, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since last week. I will share the idea here, then I will share this post with every administrator I work with from now until the end of my career and see if, perhaps, at some point, it will be possible. If the idea appeals to you, I suggest you do the same.

We were, my friends and I, talking about the Grade 12 IB art exhibition and discussing the mind-blowing work most students produce at the end of this two-year course. I mentioned how impressed I have always been with the accompanying process journals, when I casually mentioned that I would love to take an IB art course. Like right now! As an adult. While I am at school. With the grade 12 students. While I teach. As part of my schedule.

Here is my idea:

What if part of your teaching load as a teacher was to take one course at your school with the students. It could be IB or AP or any course you find interesting. You teach one less class and use that time to sit in with the class of your choice as a student. You do the work, you participate, you model learning. You are a Teacher-learner.

I am not sure of the logistics, or how it would work contractually. I am sure there is an administrator, somewhere out there who can work that out. I am an ideas guy! Perhaps, I need to actually sit down and work out the logistics, because let’s face it, for all the jargon of life-long learning, most schools would never seriously consider a plan like this. Paying teachers not only to teach classes, but also take them? Radical. I know.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cayoup

Just think of the community a model like this would create. Think of how the students would perceive teachers as learners, as people who love the act of learning new things. Teacher-learners would model behavior in terms of tech use, discussions, work ethic and more. Imagine siting with a group of grade 10 students trying to figure out how to graph a slope. (Yeah, I still don’t know what that means) Imagine showing students that you are not an expert in all fields. Yes, I can teach grade 8’s how to find inspiration and write poetry, but I am just like you when it comes to the final Drama assessment.

Here are some course I would love to take:

  • IB Art, Drama, and/or Music.
  •  Any basic math class (maybe Algebra again)
  • TOK
  • Language B Chinese Foundation
  • IB Econmics
  • IB Film
  • IB Language A Lit (Yes, I know I can technically teach this class, but maybe it would be more fun to take it)

Like I said, I am not sure how all of  this translates into pay-scales or teachable hours, but I do know that a school with Teacher-learners would be a pretty amazing place to work…I mean learn. It would be a school that takes learning communities and life-long learning pretty seriously. What do you think? Ridiculous or the best idea you have ever heard. Looks like I am may not be the only one and this is nothing new. Take a look at Freedom to Learn by Carl R. Rogers.


Building A Culture

When I first start teaching DC101 a few weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. I could not have anticipated the level of reservations and anxiety teachers would have about writing. I didn’t not realize the effect that past experiences many of our staff would bring to the table in terms of writing and sharing, furthermore I never imagined the influence these experiences would have on how they view digital citizenship. It goes without saying, that I have learned a lot in the last three weeks.

In short, I am beginning to see that for many teachers with a limited understanding of connected learning and life online, opening up and publicly sharing (blogging) is a much larger obstacle to overcome, than the fear of insufficient technical skills needed to run a blog. The latter are pretty basic and can be learned with some time and training, but the paradigm shift of understanding online life is a much bigger issue. It’s as if people are realizing that running a blog is not very complicated, but writing one is. Perhaps, the early development should focus on writing, on learning, on sharing. Leave the tech stuff for phase two.

I am seeing that many people still struggle with the notion that their voice matters. People feel that they don’t need to add to the noise. Why would anyone care about what I have to say? Is a common question I see. I get the sense that due to time, stress and administrative expectations, the notion of reflections, sharing and writing about their teaching feels superfluous. What if we gave teachers time to blog throughout their work week? We spend so much time and energy on reports, what if teacher reflection and blogging was considered as important to the administration of schools? What if we allowed our teachers the freedom to be learners? Created supportive communities of fellow teachers, who could blog during school time? What if this wasn’t considered a luxury, but an expectation?

At our school, we are trying to work toward a learner based coaching model. We want to encourage inquiry from our teachers as well as our students. In the realm of technology, we are trying to move away from the traditional notion of training and moving towards a more holistic understanding of how technology influences our personal and professional lives. We are not interested in transferring technology skills, but of building a culture of sharing and learning. An open community, where all members have a space (blogs), where they can feel comfortable collaborating and sharing ideas, creating content, communicating and connecting to each other through the use of various tools on a platform we are calling e-hub, which at this stage consists of a system wide multi-user WordPress platform and The Google suite for education.

When I began, I thought that DC101 would be a way to give staff members the tools they needed to access e-hub, but half-way through I am realizing that we need to start with understanding the why first. Once we have e-hub up and running, and every knows how to access it, then what? Trouble is that I find myself in a chicken-and-egg scenario: We need blogs and a basic understanding of how blogs connect ideas and people to build community and culture, but we cannot understand the power of these networks without using the blogs to connect people.

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by US Embassy New Zealand

Having said that, things are going well. The conversations are starting. People are feeling challenged I hope, and they are  having conversations about things like Creative Commons for the first time. It will, however, be a long road. Culture is not created overnight. This understanding is important for schools hoping to implement blogging and expecting kids and teachers to magically use them authentically. It is not very difficult to set up a few class blogs, or even to implement blogging school wide. It is also not very difficult to train students and teachers to write posts, add hyper-links, add photos, video, etc… but creating an organic system where teachers openly share their ideas without fear, where they read the work of their peers and comment, collaborate and create together is a much more time consuming situation. If you are interested in blogging with your class or in your school, you may want to have some pretty big discussions before hand.

It is clear that we can create blogs as portfolios and have students upload post-after-post of homework. We can create class blogs, which teachers use as administrative tools to share curriculum with parents and students, but is this enough? Is this blogging? Of course not this is content management. You might as well use Moodle or Studywiz. Blogging has to be more than content management. So what next?

I am not sure. We have only been doing this for two months. I should be pleased with what we do have so far, but as always I want it all and I want it now, to quote Jim Morrison. Perhaps, you can share some of your ideas. What does blogging culture mean to you? What can it look like at a school? What do you do at your school that promotes a culture of sharing? How do you get teachers and students to write authentic posts, not just upload assignments? As you can see there are many questions, but very valid ones I think, before we assume that since we have blogs at school that we are really blogging.


Learning 2.011 Presentation

Originally, I had wanted to write a brief blurb to accompany the presentation I gave at Learning 2.011, but time and crazy preparations have made that difficult. For now, I have included the slides and the brief write up I asked each participant to write, below in this post.

I hope to write more about the basic philosophical ideas that drive the presentation, but for no, the gist of my talk is that when you open yourself up, honestly and passionately, you will be amazed at the opportunities made available to you, but more importantly I wanted to highlight the relationships one can build with amazing people across the world. There is so much talk about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) but I wanted to show that it does not happen overnight, there is no one way to do it, and that it takes time and hard work to build relationships. Trust takes time and is most often aided by honest reflective vulnerability.

It is a simple Pecha Kucha style presentation, which means that there are 20 slides each for 20 seconds. I hope that I conveyed my story as a learner through the people that support, challenge and teach me everyday. A big thank you to everyone who helped. I know it was a creative stretch and big risk taking task for some.

Here are the slides including the blurbs I asked each person to write. All the photographs were taken by the person in the picture themselves. I just asked that they take a well thought out portrait that somehow included me in the frame.

I also hope to reflect on the process of creating the presentation, the fact that 20 seconds goes by really quickly, and the reaction from the audience soon, but I am late for breakfast and we have another full day starting now!

Thanks again for all the support from the audience, #ds106, and of course the people in the slides. There are so many more of you that should have been included. You are all very important to me. Thank you.


Vision 2011

Exciting things are happening at our school. Big changes. Changing roles. I can feel a big shift on the horizon, and I am lucky enough to be part of a team involved with reshaping how our school views not only technology, but what our school should look like as a learning community in general. For the last few months, we have been busy self-examining what it is we want from IT, but more importantly we have been looking closely at what kind of institution we hope to be in the near future. After all the discussions and meetings, we came up with a draft proposal for our new vision, a statement and subsequent document that would guide the direction of our school. Because it is still in draft form, I will not share it here.

We have identified a few key first steps, but know that we must have a larger more encompassing vision of who we are. Nonetheless at this point, I was asked to present some of the major ideas to our staff in hopes that it would excite them to become more involved and offer their input. Given that task last Wednesday, I hunkered down and got to work!

I will stop here and share the presentation, but if you are interested in my reflection on the process continue reading after the clip.  Unfortunately, no one at our school was switched on enough to record it live, so I added some music and did a narration at home. Enjoy:

I am proud of it. Let me get that out there first. Some comments from people around school

That was like a Tedtalk!
That’s as good as any professional presentation I have ever seen.
Loved how you told it like a story.
Great script. You really seemed to know what you were talking about.

Like I said I am proud of it. I worked hard. I learned a lot and it shows. It is this process of working hard, stumbling, learning, sweating, and growing about which I want to talk about further in this post. As I mentioned in the clip, I had never really worked with Keynote before, and all told I must have spent two or three hours a night for about four nights putting this together. That is roughly twelve hours of time on the machine, not to mention the many hours I stayed up at night conceptualizing and thinking about how it would all look!

I can already see the heads shaking, “TWELVE hours on a presentation? Who has that kind of time?” Most teachers have too much on their plate to sit home at night and go through every single build in and build out of a Keynote, or to practice layering slides, or to come up with work-arounds for unforeseeable problems. Most teachers want someone to come in and show them what to do.  I see this as a fundamental problem with the concept of teacher training versus professional development.

Learning takes time. It takes energy. Passion. Determination and desire. And most importantly it takes time. Unfortunately time is the one thing teachers have little of, but if we, as professionals really want to learn new things we have to make the time, or demand from our institutions not only to set expectations, but to give us time to learn, grow, play. There are no easy fixes. I am not saying that every teachers needs to sit at home every night and agonize over the perfection of every slide for a presentation, but if we are truly serious about learning how technology can help our teaching, we must make the time to learn something. We must set goals and find people who can help us grow.  We can no longer expect to  have others show us what buttons to push or what tools  to use. I see teachers determining what they want to learn and my job is to help them get there. I am a firm believer in the concept that we learn tech tools to help us learn other things. For example, I did not spend twelve hours learning how to use Keynote. I spent that time learning how to use Keynote to give a presentation- how to tell a story. Next I will spend twelve more hours presenting a Pecha Kucha for Learning 2.011. Which brings me to my next point: the coaching model.

I have been so lucky this year to be working with an amazing grassroots team of teachers determined to push our school into cutting edge territory. We have an extremely supportive and excited administrative team, and we are doing some great things well. I mentioned some of the changes in the presentation, but we are also rethinking the role of the tech facilitator and looking toward a more mentor/coach style of developing teacher confidence. I am sure I will write much more on that soon, but for now let me say that I am learning everyday about what it means to work with others and help them activate and become excited by their learning.

In closing, I wrote this post to share the fruits of not only mine, but our whole team’s labor, with you-our fellow learners, in hopes that it might prove useful to you. I will also share it with our staff in hopes that perhaps it can be a starting point for a bigger conversation about what it means to admit that we are all learners and what to do once we have admitted that.

If you are a member of staff, please take the time to share some thoughts. Remember the point is not all accolades and back patting. I’ve already mentioned that I am proud of what I created. The point is to start conversations and share ideas. What do you think about all of this? What stuck out about the vision? What excites you? What scares you?Let’s begin to have these discussions out here on the open web. Leave a comment. Take the first step.

Feel free to answer these questions even if you are not at our school and are reading and watching from some place else.



Who Are You Bringing to Shanghai?

I am writing this post for several reasons and several people all at once. Just so we don’t get too discombobulated right from the start, let’s lay out the goals:

  • Proposal for my administrators
  • Promotion for Learning 2.011
  • How to attend a conference as a team
  • Announcement of some changes at our school and my new role at school

Let’s start from the last point and end with the first.

Announcement of some changes at our school and my new role at school:

A few months ago, our school created a special IT task force to take a closer look at our current VLE, Virtual Learning Environment, to see if it is everything we want it to be. We are a 1:1 Mac school, but we understand that we are not functioning at our full potential when it comes to being a technology focused school. As a task force, we decided that perhaps a one-stop shop, closed VLE, which shall not be named, is not the best tool for what we want to be doing school wide in terms of teaching and learning and communication. This realization has led us to re-examine our vision, the roles of teachers/students, and of course the right tools to accomplish what we want. It has been exciting to work with such a great team. More importantly not only have our concerns been heard by our amazing director and administrators, but they have been instrumental in making major changes school wide.

In short, we are moving to Google docs and WordPress blogs as the main structure of our VLE. We are busy creating a solid foundation of  blogs and have begun work on our school wide Google Apps network. I will write more soon about the process and what the nuts and bolts look like, but let me just say now that we are building something authentic and organic and wonderful here. We have been working as a team. Because I have  a vested interest in making this a reality and because of my intensity I have taken on a bit of a leadership role in the direction we are heading. This new role is both humbling and exciting. I am proud to be able to work with our team to make a system that will help our school. Because of my past experience and knowledge I have been ask to only teach three classes next year and spend the rest of my time helping teachers learn how to function in this new environment. I have a mindful of ideas about a professional development plan, but for now we are busy building blogs and getting this machine up and running.

Which finally brings me to the point of this post. Well almost. As we start to see what our new system will look like, we are realizing that we will need a batch of teachers who are not necessarily techies, but open to the possibilities of using technology and understand the basics of a new pedagogy that is more student driven and teacher facilitated learning. We are looking for a core group of teachers who can help make our new blogging system a success.

Promotion for Learning 2.011

I have written  about my experiences with Learning 2.011 here, so I will keep this intro short. I love this conference. It has been good to me. I like the people who run it. I love the people who attend and I like the way it is run. They have given me a great opportunity this year to play a bigger role behind the scenes, and I want to help teachers at my school get a taste of the power of a great conference. So here is plan:

@lissgriffin @chamada @DearLibrariAnn @jutecht

How to attend a conference as a team

Too many times Tech conferences are attended by teachers who are already involved in networks. We read each other’s blogs, share Tweets, let’s face it we are a family. We use this time to meet, tighten bonds, and reassure ourselves that we are on the right track. We go back to our schools and seldom have anything to share that we didn’t know before we left. Last year my school sent our entire tech team, a few administrators, but honestly, we didn’t feel like a team.

Proposal for my administrators

My proposal is that this year we send about six people from different divisions in the school.  This team should not necessarily be teachers with tech experiences, but teachers who have shown an interest in pushing their understanding of what tech can do for learning. I want the experience for this team to be similar to my ADE experience. We will arm the team with the tools they will need to monitor, document and reflect on their learning as a group. As the new tech facilitator, I will take the leadership role to make sure that this team is armed with what they need. We will make sure all members are on Twitter and understand how to hash tag their way through a conference before we arrive. Each member will be shown how to use a blog as a journal space to reflect on their daily learning and thoughts throughout the conference. We will use Google Docs to share resources, links, and ideas for others teachers back at school.

In short, I want to take a team of learners who are willing and enthusiastic to be students again. I want to give them the tools we will be using next year, in hopes that they will be blown away by the power of what these spaces can do to connect and collect leanring. I want to introduce them to the powerful existing network of educators here in Asia, and I want them to return to school infected and passionate about what they learned, in hopes that they will take leadership roles in helping developing a functioning and collective professional development program. I have felt the magic of this conference two times and now I want to help others experience it as well.

I am not sure if you are a teacher, tech facilitator, head of IT or administrator, but I suggest you take a close look and who you are bringing to this conference and develop a plan.  Assign a leader or group of leaders and empower your attendees so they can get the most out of their days in Shanghai. Maybe we can even introduce our teams to each other before we meet in person. Create some kind of diectory of teachers and schools. I am open to any ideas.

I am sending this post to my director and principals in hopes that they will approve the group I want to lead through this conference. I suggest you do the same. Let this be the conferences where we build cracks in the echo chamber and begin to let some of the noise out, so we can start to hear new voices and create a more robust and diverse network. Let us share the amazing things we are doing not only with each other, but with those teachers at our school who are not connected but should be.

See you in Shanghai at Learning 2.o11!