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My First MOOC – CCK11 – Connectivism and Connected Knowledge

This week I began to participate in my very first MOOC.  A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course.  So, why am I doing this MOOC?  I want to  expand how I connect and network with others.  In addition,  I am interested in learning more about the theory of connectivism and networked learning with participants and the course facilitators,  Stephen Downes and George Siemens.

For me, this MOOC, CCK11 will offer me the opportunity to continue my stance in the journey of lifelong learning in a very new and different way. I will begin to negogiate and navigate my way through this course, expanding  flows of new knowledge through the use of technology in an open yet paced way.  As I begin to orient myself to the course and digest the readings, I  underline that learning is social, contextual and complex.  I was encouraged by George’s words when he suggested that “confusion is a good thing” and I’m certainly figuring out my role and how I will engage in this course.

I look forward to my learning ecosystem evolving as I network with course participants. Stephen Downes shares with us that “Knowledge is a set of connections.  A mind is a learning thing.  A computer is a learning thing and society is a learning thing.”

In today’s digital world, learning is powerful when:

  • it is open, flexible and connected
  • it builds networks of information, contacts and resources creating growth and development in the mind
  • it is participatory, networked and builds in choice and personalization
  • it maximizes the use of technology and tools

Learner control and freedom is integral to 21stCentury lifelong education and learning.  As an educator, my goal is to grow my thinking and understanding of being a connected learner.

A question I have:
How do we create responsive and connected  K-12 learning models that encourages lifelong learning in today’s networked world?

I look forward to connecting and growing over the next weeks.

Stances: Do you have them?

As leaders, research tells us and we know that teachers play an integral role in how our students learn.  Teachers are key participants in the act of learning and it isn’t about how much they know but how well they can be both a learner and a catalyst for inspiring students in understanding how they learn.  As a leader, I suggest that we make connections and draw similar parallels to how our staff learn and how we must be catalysts in their learning.

Currently, I am participating in a leadership workshop series sponsored by HWDSB entitled Cognitive Coaching. The mission of Cognitive Coaching is “to produce self-directed persons with the cognitive capacity for high performance both independently and as members of a community. ” This eight day training positions four “stances” when working with staff / adults:

  • Cognitive Coaching
  • Collaborating
  • Consulting
  • Evaluating

It is most effective when we remain in the coaching and collaborating stance as these stances encourage self-directed and interdependent learners.  Learners who take charge of their learning.  At times,  consulting is needed to offer suggestions and recommendations  based on student needs, pedagogy, policies and procedures.    Lastly, leaders do evaluate and rate performance according to standards.  As leaders, we will adjust our stance depending upon how the interaction evolves with our staff.   In order to be an effective cognitive coach, one must first build rapport and trust with people.  To date,  I have participated in two full days of training and look forward more days.  My intent is to share further learning and reflections with you.

Upon reflecting after the first two days of training about how as adults, we will  and do alter our stance when we interact with others,  I began to draw parallels with how teachers must do this with our students even more in today’s web-based learning ecology.  Students learn anywhere, anytime and in many places and it is essential that learning conditions and adults (all staff) are flexible and responsive.

Last month, I had the privilege of  collaborating with a superintendent in our jurisdiction, Sharon Stephanian, reworking a component of  a  document being launched this week entitled “Education in HWDSB.”  We were asked to rework a chart in the document in order to position it to be more inclusive of instructional strategies and responsiveness to students needs.  In addition, the rework would illustrate how learning involves a blend and balance of instructional strategies.

Here is an image of the chart:

Sharon and I met and began collaborating together.   As it turns out, we are both participants in Cognitive Coaching and our discussion brought in the stances and how they are responsive and relevant for not only how we as adults interact with each other but how these stances with modification could create a model that responds to today’s teacher – student learning relationship.

We began to whiteboard our thoughts and take the elements of the chart and connect them to the cognitive coaching stances.
Our work:

Our thinking:
Our diagram began with putting the students in the centre in a tier format.  We then included the words personalized, customized and choice around the tier to underline the importance of students having choice in how they learn, when they learn and where they learn.  They must be able to chose from a variety of approaches that best suit their needs, learning style and pathway.

This then led us to include the “stances” that the teacher will chose based on knowing their students and how best they learn.  The teacher must be in tune and shift their stance based on responding to the needs of students.

The Teacher Stances:
Instructing – This is where explicit teaching is required. The teacher is focusing on curriculum content, knowledge and skills. (in Cognitive Coaching Model it is consulting)
Collaborating – Facilitating students working together, face to face or over distances, recognizing the norms of collaboration among various cultures, engaging in collaborative inquiry, on projects that have meaning for the learner.
Coaching – The teacher is supporting the student as the driver of his or her learning. This includes goal setting, problem-solving, practice and self-directed learning.
Monitoring – This is the ongoing formative assessment that the teacher engages in in  order to determine what the student needs and thus whether there is a need to the stance. Based upon established success criteria, students engage in peer assessment and frequent feedback from the teacher. Teachers ensure high expectations for all and create conditions that ensure time on task. (in the Cognitive Coaching model, it is evaluating)

A learning environment, with students at the centre, where teachers vary their “stance” given student needs creates a balanced environment focused on learning for life with attention to content, product and process in the learning.

All stances are circled by trust and rapport.  Learning is about building relationships with people and knowing the needs of our students as well as ourselves.  Teachers and all staff are just as much a learner in the process of learning as the students. We must see ourselves as learners too!  Learning is social and most reliant on how we connect in the moment as we learn together.

Here is the diagram that is included in “Education in HWDSB”:

For me, this model illustrates that learning involves action, participation and responsiveness.  We must shift our stance and  are learners alongside students.

A few questions:
Do you have “stances”?  Are you mindful of them when you work and learn with others?

Your comments and questions are welcome and please let’s  continue the discussion.

2011 Project 365

Happy New Year everyone!   On this first day of 2011, I share with you my  commitment to participate in 2011 Project 365.  Each day I will take a photograph and post on my Flickr Photostream as well as share on the Twitter PLN 365/2011 and 52/2011 Group.

This will be a great way to document life from many perspectives on a daily basis.  Time moves surprisingly fast and often we capture moments mentally that merit a snap.  Taking images will allow me tell stories and share messages that might remain untold otherwise.  On another note, I hope to become a better and more creative photographer.  The Twitter PLN group has already inspired me!  I have enjoyed viewing and commenting on their twelve  images today.

I’m excited to get started and so please enjoy my very 1st photo of 365 photos.
My dog, Bill.   He is the best! My dog, Bill on January 1st, 2011.

SIP Learning

This past friday, I had the opportunity to participate in a School Improvement Visit (SIP).  Two of my colleagues, the principal and vice-principal of  this JK – 8 elementary school shared with us (two consultants, superintendent, system principal) their school data, discussed their SIP (School Improvement Plan) and their journey with the staff.  Together, we used this time to listen, interpret data, ask questions and share expertise.  Our learning conversations were open, honest and very meaningful as we focussed on discussing how we can  build the collective capacity of the staff.

In our time together, we interpreted data that generated a cause for celebration and also offered a suggestion to ask staff how they could improve the learning spaces in the classroom.  Asking the question:  show me how learning happens in the many spaces in your classroom?  For example, the Smart Board or computer create a learning space in your classroom.  Approaching the classroom as a environment where there are many learning spaces.  There was more all connecting back to these two indicators:

  • A culture of high expectations supporting  the belief that all students can learn, progress and achieve
  • Instruction and assessment are differentiated in response to student strengths, needs and prior learning

As a system principal, I admire the courage and openness of my two colleagues, Linda and Pat!  What a great leadership team!  For me, it was the two of them that inspired me.   They modelled the way in our meeting.  They set the example by sharing with us how they encourage their staff, set interim goals and look for the small wins to foster increased collaboration and inquiry with their staff.  I felt their hearts, ongoing optimism, hard work and persistence as they shared with us.  Thank you Linda and Pat as well as Sandie, Delores and Manny for furthering my growth on our journey in continuous improvment.

3 Words: Personalize, Blend, Balance

In today’s era of lifelong learning, we can and do learn anywhere, anytime and with anyone.  Ideas such as 24/7, JIT and learning now all imply how learning is open, personal and social.   More than ever, today’s professional development (our learning) must be ongoing and is integral to continually improving our practice which has a  direct impact on the engagement and learning of our students and staff.   Today’s PD must be about customization, responsiveness, collaboration and most importantly,  learning must be practiced in a job-embedded way.

Three words continue to surface for me as I connect with staff and discuss how we learn as professionals today. Developing  as a professional is best when it is personalized, blended and balanced.

From these threes ideas, professionals develop holistically:

  • personalized learning  is contextual, self-directed, reflective and meaningful to you and your work
  • blended  formal and informal learning differentiates  the ways, the  tools and the learning spaces; combining job-embedded learning with face-to-face and online
  • balanced learning involves the self and others; alone, 1:1, group, PLNs, critical friends and mentors

Think about PD as a  ILP – individualized learning plan.  Yes, you can be a free agent learner and take charge of your own learning.  Mix up how you learn everyday.

Is Leadership Different in 21st Century?

I get excited about change, consider myself to be responsive and positive when change happens and truly believe that in today’s world the only constant is change.  So, after eight rewarding and amazing years as the Principal of Community & Continuing Education for  Hamilton Wentworth District School (HWDSB), I’m moving on in my leadership journey to a newly created principalship in HWDSB.  I officially began my role this September as the Principal of 21st Century Fluencies and I am humbled and honoured to be in this new role.

As I transitioned over the summer, I found myself spending  time reflecting and asking myself more and more:  How do we define leadership in the 21st Century?  Is it different?   What are the key leadership skills of today?   Are they different? What do leaders of the 21st Century do differently when it comes to:

  • inspiring a shared vision and setting direction
  • building relationships and developing together with people
  • focusing on learning and achievement for all

How do leaders in the 21st Century model the way, inspire a shared vision of learning as we move forward in the future?   How do we challenge the process and take risks empowering others to act and make a difference in the lives of our students and greater community?

For me, it starts with setting an example of  how we  learn in the 21st Century.  It is about always learning in today’s era of lifelong learning.   Also, leading  today is about connecting, collaborating and most importantly contributing in a local and global way.  And that’s part of what is different.  How do we do this?  We leverage the use of different tools such as social media to learn and collaborate real-time with others anywhere and anytime.  Our learning  reaches far beyond those we  network with in our schools.

Don’t get me wrong, we must always first focus on the staff and students who are onground learning day to day with us.  We model the way and practice collaborative inquiry with them.

A blogpost written  this week by Chris Lehmann, Principal of Science Leadership Academy  comments on his recent article in Tech & Learning Magazine, Top 3 Leadership Skills.  Chris underlines that leadership  today does not  “focus explicitly on tech skills”. He comments that it is the soft skills that are most important as you learn from your teachers and students in their classrooms.

As I go forward into the future with my team and in my new role, I will be open, flexible, optimistic,  ready to learn from and with all and practice an inquiry habit of mind.