About Professional Development


I was really excited to see the title for this article fly by on my reading this morning.

What Does the Research Say on Professional Development, Anyway?

I’m looking forward to doing the reading.  What works; what doesn’t?  That would be the sort of thing that you’d expect from an article like that.

As I’m reading the results of other research, I see this paragraph.

As I read the article, I got the distinct sense that the forms of professional development that they’re talking about involved activities that are “done to you”.

So, I continue to read with expectation of where it might be headed only to suffer the disappointment that the results wouldn’t be released until August 4.

Until then, we can speculate and guess.  After all, the internet is built on speculation and other treatments of pseudo-truths and opinions.  <grin>

In my mind, I know what didn’t work for me.  I’m thinking the big, mass indoctrination events that teaches everyone everything in one full-day drive-by professional learning session.  At the end, the system can brag “We’ve all trained our teachers about #########”.  As I’ve noted many times, you train dogs, try to train cats, but you don’t train teachers.  You should be helping them to grow professionally.

Or, let’s go with the current in vogue concept of not training everyone at once; let’s train a select few and they can hit the classrooms and coach.  Will this generate the best results?

Or will it be something else?

I fully recognize that my background is in the maths and technologies.  I’m hard pressed to think of any concept that can be fully developed in a single session. I’ve been to training sessions lead by a person who certainly knows her/his stuff but had difficulty reaching and engaging an audience.  Again, with the training. 

I recognize that it’s expedient but is it effective?

I’ve been exposed to many formats on both sides of the professional learning.  My thoughts?

Professional learning works best when:

  • it’s self-selected;
  • the teacher identifies a need and seeks a solution;
  • it’s continuous and ongoing – no one shot deals here;
  • there’s a mechanism for connections with attendees after the formal session for continuous learning;
  • everyone in the room brings and shares an element of expertise;
  • you leave inspired to learn more and change your practice.

What I’m viewing as the most effective way to learn, at present, is an amalgam of a number of things.  For the formal face to face piece, I’m a huge fan of the edCamp model.  I distinctly remember my first edCamp.  It was edCamp Quinte.  I drove all the way to Belleville (after a twitter message to my friend Andy “Headed East”) and I spent the day learning with a group in the Belleville library.  I didn’t go for the personalities that might be there; I didn’t go with a specific learning goal; but I came away with a wealth of knowledge and, more importantly, the inspiration to learn more going forward.  I also went with the full expectation that I’d be a sponge and yet ended up leading a discussion about QR codes in the classroom.  Was it effective because I didn’t prepare a Powerpoint Presentation to step through but instead had a group sitting around a table sharing their ideas and thoughts?  I remember thinking afterwards on the drive home that the total was most certainly greater than sum of the parts.

Even more powerfully, I maintain connections with some of the people that I met there.  The learning and the connections didn’t end just because the day did.

As I talk to folks, this sentiment seems to be very popular.  They recognize that any model for professional learning needs to inspire, invigorate, and provide some mechanism for growth and learning into the future.

So, I’m really interested in the results that will be shared on August 4.  Am I on the right track?  Is there a better way?

We’ll see.

OTR Links 07/30/2015


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Digital Citizenship Resource


Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Tom D’Amico from the Ottawa Catholic School Board.  If you haven’t had the chance to read the interview, I’d encourage you to do so.  Then, why not pass it along to your own principal, superintendent, or director to encourage this sort of progressive, open thinking.

I really like the open concepts and sharing of resources for the benefit of those in the OCSB.  But, the advantage for those of us who don’t work with the OCSB is that the resources aren’t hidden behind some educational equivalent of a paywall.  They’re there for anyone to access and use.  Follow Tom’s Scoop.IT resource to find the latest things that he’s found, bookmarked, and shared for anyone to dig in to.

If you read the entirety of the interview, you’ll see that Tom has given us some insights into how he finds the resources that he shares.  Links will take you to the resources online if you’re interested in following.

There is one link that I think is worthy of special recognition.  In the interview, I ask Tom how the OCSB handles the concept of Digital Citizenship.  I know that’s a big concern for many districts.  Ottawa Catholic has that covered already in a project they’re calling “Samaritans on the Digital Road“.

 

It’s a terrific example as to how a Google Site can be used to collect such a resource.  Many people who have adopted the Google platform in education have created their own resources for these purposes and certainly this from the OCSB shows how to do it.

This complete site addresses the concept of digital citizenship from JK/SK right through Grade 12.

Navigation to a grade is accomplished through a menu on the left side of the screen.

Within each grade, you’ll have a menu to the resources similar to this.  (Grade 12 menu)

You’ll see the actual lesson plan along with SMARTBoard and non-SMARTBoard resources just a click away.

Each of the lessons indicated which of the Ontario Curriculum Expectations can be addressed with the lesson.  As OCSB is a Catholic school district, you’ll also see references to the Catholic expectations addressed as well.

I know that many people are doing summer AQ courses or are already planning for lessons in the fall.  This resource may well serve as inspiration for your own works.

OTR Links 07/29/2015


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Where Have You Been?


If you’ve ever watched an episode of Law and Order, you know the importance of cell phone pings to solve various crimes.  As a phone moves from location to location, it needs to connect to a service in order for the phone to work; that’s just how it works.

Now, Google has a similarish service called Timeline.  Clicking this link should take you to your timeline if you’re logged into your Google account and you have your location history enabled.  I gave it a shot.

The first map that was displayed sort of showed that I’m an Ontario-type of traveller with most of the travelling done along the 401, with a few sidetrips to the Niagara Falls area.  None of this was any big revelation; I know where I’ve gone and I always take my phone with me.  The little red dots that are displayed are cell phone location check-ins as I travelled.

There were a couple of outliers though and those were interesting to check in to.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog or a CSTA member, you know that I was the Program Chair of the recently concluded CSTA Conference in Grapevine, Texas.  That would explain the red dots in Texas!

Clicking a dot reveals the location underneath.

So, it was no surprise that I was at the airport, then there’s the hotel/conference centre, and then a couple of interesting location.  Fireside Pies.  I swear; I wasn’t there.  But, as we were driving around looking for a parking spot for the Mexican restaurant that we ate at, I remember seeing it!  And, the Bookstore at the University of Texas at Dallas wasn’t on our agenda but I remember seeing it as we went to the Computing Centre.  So, I guess close does count in this case!

Google assures us that only we can see the locations in the description of the service.  Of course, those of us who are foolish enough to blog about our trips have already revealed the locations to those who read the post anyway. 

Make it stop!  If this is a little freaky, then it’s probably time for you to check out your privacy settings.  This blog post explains how to do this and more.  In the meantime, on your location history timeline, you might be interested in seeing most visited places.

I seem to have a weakness for parks and ONRoutes.

In the classroom, this would be a very engaging and visual activity for students (they all have cell phones, right?) and a great launchpad to an awareness that there are things out there unseen.

In the meantime, if you’re going to commit a crime, make sure you turn off your phone so that you’re not leaving digital tracks!

OTR Links 07/28/2015


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

An Interview with Tom D’Amico


This is a real treat for me.  I’ve been a follower and a fan of Tom D’Amico for a long time.  I have a real appreciation for those who scour the web, find, and then share the best of the resources.  Tom is a daily source for inspiration through sharing with his Twitter account @TDOttawa.  The best part is that his finds are archived in his Scoop.it! resource iGeneration – 21st Century Education.

Thank you for agreeing to the interview, Tom.  I’m really looking forward to your thoughts and insights.

Doug:  I always start with this for people that I’ve met in person – do you recall when we first met?

Tom:  I’m not certain but likely in the early 90’s at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario conference (ECOO).  In the early 1990s I created a pilot Multimedia course and shared the resources at ECOO.

Doug:  What inspired you to get involved with Twitter?

Tom:  In January 2009 I changed from being a high school Principal, to Superintendent of Information Technologies.   I wanted to model professional learning and I also wanted to expand my own professional learning network.   Twitter was a natural location at the time to connect with others interested in leveraging technology for increased student achievement.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I’ve always gone with the philosophy “Just Do It”, and I started my global professional learning network at that time.

Doug:  Of all the archive utilities that are available, what attracted you to Scoop.IT?

Tom:  This was really trial and error.  I had tried many edTools for archiving and curating.  I was using Delicious and Diigo for social bookmarking and a variety of other tools including Twitter.  Scoop.IT turned out to be my favourite tool since it automated my work flow.  It allowed me to quickly view other Scoop.IT postings, curate ones I found interesting, and I could also then share and schedule Tweets all on the same screen.  These features worked well for me and I’ve been an avid user of ScoopIT ever since.

Doug:  With all of the things that you could be doing, what intrigues you about finding and curating educational technology resources?

Tom:  As a teacher I saw first hand the impact of technology on both my students and on my teaching practice.  When I was teaching in the early 90s technology was a scarcity as was connectivity.  I was fortunate to have access to a computer lab and to multimedia computers so I was able to see how students were engaged when using technology and how the classroom discipline issues that took up so much of my time as a young teacher, were non-existent when students were using computers.  I’ve kept that passion and insight with me over my 25 years with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. 

I spend time locating and sharing resources as one of my ways of staying connected to the classroom.  As an administrator I looked for resources that could help teachers and other administrators save time by automating work flows, and as a result they would have more time to develop professional relationships with their students. 

Although I advocate the use of technology in the classroom, the greatest impact a teacher or administrator can have on their students is by getting to know them and focusing on positive relationships that leave all students with a feeling of hope and knowing that the teacher or administrator really cares about them as a person, not just as a student taking a particular subject.

Doug:  Before you became the Associate Director with the Ottawa Catholic School Board, you were a superintendent in charge of Learning Technologies.  How did you get the inspiration for innovation in that role?

Tom:  In 2009 when I became the superintendent of information technologies I worked collectively with many talented educators to come up with a vision of how we would integrate technology with pedagogy to innovate teaching practices in our Board. 

One of the first things we did was change the title of the department from Information Technology, to Learning Technologies.  I changed my title from Superintendent of Information Technology to Superintendent of Student Success – Learning Technologies.  This subtle change, set the focus on Learning. 

We moved from a Board that was focused on a culture of caution and fear of technology, to one that focused on curiosity and innovation.  We shared a white paper “A BluePrint for Change – Towards 2020 Connecting with our Students” and this set the direction for the many changes that we implemented in the last 5 years including adding the 4Cs to our Board Priorities and embracing social media and Google Apps for Education as tools to lead the change.

Doug:  What initiatives are you particularly proud of from that portfolio?

Tom:  I’m proud of many changes that took place as part of the vision for our District.   We moved to enterprise wireless, we added LCD/SmartBoards to every classroom so that teachers could access digital resources, we provided all teachers with laptops, we created a social media policy and encouraged teachers to be online where their students were, we converted our libraries to learning commons, we moved to blended learning, we promoted BYOD, and we had extensive PD opportunities and focused on the proper pedagogy to ensure that the technology was being used to do more than just digitize static learning activities.  We also began investing strategically in devices for students, from iPads to Chromebooks, and we began to address the digital divide that existed for some of our families and their access to technology.

Doug:  How big is online learning through eLearningOntario within the OCSB?

Tom:  Traditional eLearning has not been a focus for the majority of our students, but rather blended learning has been the priority.  We do have a small number of students who benefit from online courses, and we have about 18 online courses offered every year to students across our 15 high schools.  

When we had focus groups with students one of the key messages they shared was that they did not want to lose the social aspect of going to school everyday, they liked to use technology, but the majority were not looking to complete courses online.  We did introduce a game based blended learning grade 10 course in Careers/Civics to ensure that all of our graduates will have taken at least one course delivered via a platform such as BlackBoard or Desire2Learn.

Doug:  According to Twitter, you’re approaching 10,000 followers.  Obviously, I’m not the only one who appreciates your efforts!  How many of these followers would you estimate are from OCSB?

Tom:  I’ve never tracked the number directly from our Board.  The majority of our 83 schools have Twitter accounts and we have many staff who actively share and learn via twitter.  We hired a full time social media community engagement specialist in our communications department to help develop this skill set in our employees and to engage with our community. 

I do know from analytics that approximately 50% of my network is from the U.S.A., 30% from Canada, and 20% from other regions of the world.

Doug:  Does it matter to you where they come from?  Why or why not?

Tom:  One of best features of social media is that it breaks down barriers so we can all learn from one another in a global context.  Gone are the days that learning only happened in the school or at the district.

Doug:  Do you ever find that ideas you’ve shared end up in your district’s classrooms?

Tom:  Yes, I often hear from administrators or from other staff that they are using an edTool that I had recommended, or they signed up for a free service or are connecting with other educators around the world.  This is rewarding feedback that helps me to validate the time that I put into reading and sharing resources.

Doug:  From my perspective, you’re “leading by leading” in this field and I really admire that.  Do you ever get questioned by colleagues for being so open about your learning and sharing?

Tom:  No, I’ve never been questioned about being open with sharing.  I have had questions about the level of online engagement and how to manage the large number of interactions when you move beyond your Board.  Time management is always a key for all educators and setting limits and recognizing that you can’t be on all social learning networks an important framework.

Doug:  I know the resources that I use for my daily inspiration and your readings do seem to cross at times but you always seem to find even more interesting things.  Care to share your work flow?

Tom:  I subscribe to over 1000 different sites/blogs/newsletters.  I use Unroll.me to package the newsletters into a single email that I receive each day with about 75-100 posts.  I quickly scan this single email to determine which articles are relevant and that I may wish to review.   I also use Feedly.com as my RSS feeder to review articles with a basis on EdTech.   I use Scoop.IT as a source of recommended articles based on topics I have setup including:  EdTech, Leadership, and Pedagogy.

I spend about 10 hours per week, usually first thing in the morning and then about an hour every evening reading articles online and then curating the most interesting ones via Scoop.It and scheduling tweets within Scoop.IT to go out the next day.  Using ScoopIT I am able to schedule by the hour and also include a photo in the tweet and relevant hashtags.  I make sure that I also use appropriate keyword tags in Scoop.IT so that I can find resources later when I need them.

I use TweetDeck to review and respond to mentions on Twitter.  I try to do this at least every two days.

Some people enjoy watching T.V., I enjoy reading and learning via the Internet.  Substitute 1-2 hours of evening T.V. watching, and there is time to curate resources on topics of interest.

Where possible, I filter what I’m reading by following others who curate great content such as:  Edutopia, Edudemic, MakeUseof.com, Free Technology for Teachers, Education Technology and Mobile Learning, and several Paper.li accounts including yours – The Best of Ontario Education Daily

There are many other favourites that would be wrapped up in my Unroll.me each day such as:  Nine Connections, Diigo weekly summaries on various topics, SmartBrief on EdTech, ASCD Express, EdWeb.net, TechCrunch, eWeek, Daily Genius Edtech updates, Education Dive:K12, Brook Top 5 tweets, and summaries from TCEA and ISTE… to name a few.

Doug:  How often do you go back and use the resources that you’ve tucked away?

Tom:  I use my Scoop.IT archive on a regular basis.  If someone asks if I can recommend a good tool for a particular need (such as a BackChannel), I can do a keyword search in my Scoop.IT account and quickly provide them with current resources on the topic.  Whenever I deliver a presentation I always update the content by reviewing resources that I’ve “scooped” on that topic over the last year.

Doug:  How important is a social media presence in the OCSB?  Are schools encouraged to have Twitter / Facebook / Google + / etc. accounts?

Tom:  Yes – we are an extremely active Board when it comes to social media.  Just about all of our schools have Twitter accounts and we have hundreds of staff sharing via their personal or their class Twitter accounts.  Many of our schools have Facebook accounts.  We have very active Google + communities based on shared interests, such as French teachers, Kindergarten teachers, etc.  

Social media has opened up the sharing of resources between educators and schools across our district.

Doug:  What advice do you provide the learners/leaders within your system about the use of social media?  Do you have a routine to be followed if something goes wrong?

Tom:  I would suggest that they begin by working with a trusted colleague who is on social media.   We will send our social media community staff member to work with them or one of our education technology integrators to help them out.  We have staff resource booklets available online to take them step by step on how to create accounts using tools such as Twitter and how to effectively use the tools. 

If something goes wrong, staff contact our learning technologies department and they work with the provider such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google, to work out a solution.  We ensure that all of our staff are aware of our social media policy that was created to encourage staff use of social media in a responsible manner.

Doug:  Speaking of leaders, there are very few superintendents/directors that have significant contributions to the collective learning like you do.  What can be done to encourage more to jump in and start sharing their learning?

Tom:  Across the province we are sharing with one another how we are using social media in our administrator roles.   Within our Board we have many administrators who are very active and they present on a regular basis and share with their associations how social learning and social networking is having an impact on student achievement.

Staff can easily become overwhelmed with the number of edTools available and the amount of time that can be invested in online professional learning networks.  My advice is to not try to do it all, find one or two tools that meet the goals that they are trying to achieve and work with those.  There is no need to be on every possible social network or to know every latest social media tool.

Doug:  How is digital citizenship and responsibility addressed with students in the OCSB?

Tom:  As we opened up our schools to BYOD and to online resources and we encouraged the use of social media, we also wanted to ensure that digital citizenship became part of the yearly curriculum.  In the early years of our plan we had many guest speakers and presentations.  Although we still have presentations for students and for parents, we created curriculum that is taught to all students every year to focus on the responsible use of social media and technology.  

We now have bilingual resources linked to the curriculum covering all grades from kindergarten to grade 12.  We call our resource, “Samaritans on the Digital Road” and it is instructed and sequenced on a yearly basis to help students participate in a digital world in a proactive, responsible, and compassionate manner.   Our resources are freely shared via this Google site.

Doug:  Are there any specific initiatives for the upcoming school year from Ottawa Catholic that we should keep an eye on?

Tom:  We continue to look at transitioning away from traditional textbooks to more paperless resources.   We have recently licensed Hapara for our teacher’s use and we are focusing on automated workflows for teachers/students so that both rely less on traditional print based workflows and move more into ePortfolios.

We are part of the global New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning initiative that focuses heavily on leveraging technology for improved student achievement.  We will continue to expand our involvement in this global initiative.

More and more of our schools and learning commons are initiating MakerSpaces and have embraced the Maker movement.   I’m looking forward to seeing how our talented staff help our students become more creative through the use of these transformed spaces.

Doug:  The upcoming school year could be a challenge.  Do you see any way that a collective agreement could be in place with teachers and school districts before September?

Tom:  The negotiations currently are at the central provincial table and I’m not directly involved with the provincial negotiations.  I’m hopeful that a resolution can be found to ensure that all students across Ontario continue to benefit from Ontario’s strong educational system. 

If agreements are not reached prior to the start of the year, it will likely be a challenging time for staff and students.  The important thing to remember is that work to rule or strike or lockouts eventually do end, so everyone needs to keep positive relations through the challenging time so that we can continue to progress and innovate as a system when agreements are reached.

Doug:  Tom, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us.  I know that I look forward to your daily shares and now I know even more about the person behind the Twitter handle.  Thank you so much.

You can follow Tom on Twitter at @TDOttawa and his Scoop.it! page is located at:  http://www.scoop.it/t/igeneration-21st-century-education.