A Library for New Teachers

Just stumbled across this article.

The Best 50 Books for New Teachers

I recognize quite a few of them but certainly not all.  I think that the collection would be a nice starting point for a lending library at the district level for new teachers.  At the school level, a teacher-librarian would be immediately of value to the new staff members by populating their professional corner with titles from this list.

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Moving Forward

I had an interesting conversation about educational leadership in the age of constant change in technology recently.  There was a time when you could make one wide sweeping decision and it would be functional for everyone.  Remember the expression “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”?

Is that realistic today?

It seems to me that it is totally impractical for a one size fits all solution.  That’s certainly the easiest way to go but with so many students and so many tools, the classroom practitioner now has so many more ways to address individual needs.

Where does that put the leader?

The best leader has an open mind.  As long as the primary educational goal is being addressed, and within district policy, innovation and ideas that work need to be embraced and celebrated.  This so evident in the Ministry of Education’s Teacher Learning and Leadership Program.

Recognition that great ideas originate from those on the front lines continues to ensure that we don’t get complacent just because a particular pedagogy worked with a particular student at one time.

Hats off to those of you who are constantly experimenting and looking for better ideas.  Where would we be without you?

Nimble Classrooms

For a great read, check out “How Will Classrooms Change With the Use of Computers?

One of the quotes really resonated with me.

“It’s going to be more about teachers having nimble classrooms.”

To me, this means a number of things and many teachers are embracing it already although they may not have considered their classes “nimble”.

I’m seeing:

  • No need for a traditional computer lab which conveys the notion that computers are a distinct subject;
  • Portable computers that are invited into the learning environment at the point of instruction;
  • Engaging students in learning activities that are truly different – not just the same old stuff transposed to a computer;
  • Considering smart phones, tablets, etc. as just another computer;
  • Conversations within and without the classroom with teacher as guide not as the dispenser of information;
  • Creating new content to address expectations where the old content just doesn’t cut it;
  • Students confident in their abilities so that they become the experts and geniuses in a subject area;
  • A blend of face to face and online learning experiences becoming the norm;
  • A classroom that can be reorganized on a moment’s notice as required;
  • Traditional literature pieces replaced by multimedia including podcasts, videos, broadcasts, hangouts;
  • Classrooms complete with a suite of tools where students elect to use the most appropriate one;
  • Students not only using the technology but can describe critically why they choose to use it;
  • This point intentionally left blank – if a classroom is truly nimble, this list should never be complete.

What does “nimble classroom” mean to you?

Cube Gets Groups

Late this summer, I was invited to test out the new Group feature that Cube for Teachers was incorporating into their excellent resource for Ontario Educators.  I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since I reviewed and blogged about the initial release of the online resource.  At the time, there was a concern from a reader that the service would become pay for use and Cube for Teachers replied that they would remain free and there’s no indication that has changed.

The concept of groups really leverages the service.

It now goes beyond the original concept of a repository – now you can use the area as a collaboration space for writing teams, planning groups, NTIP, …  Rather than rehashing my thoughts, what follows below is the announcement from Cube for Teachers.

There are a lot of repositories online but this grouping feature makes the Cube for Teachers really unique.  Keep that in mind if you’re ever working on a project that requires pulling resources together.  Even if you’re not ready for that yet, it’s still a nicely organized resource for Ontario teachers.

As over 1800 teachers across the province have already discovered, Cube for Teachers allows teachers to search for, share, and save links to internet resources which will help them meet the needs of their students.

And now, Cube for Teachers has introduced a powerful new feature:  Groups. Teachers across the province can now invite other teachers to form professional learning networks (PLNs) inside Cube for Teachers.

The Group feature within Cube for Teachers can be used:

a)     to share resources
b)     to share teaching ideas
c)     for professional development
d)     as a forum for discussions on important educational topics

Reasons Why Educators Will Want to Use the Groups Feature:

1.     Ontario teachers can now connect with others throughout the province on specific topics or other areas of interest.

2.     School departments can collaborate on resources for various courses.

3.     School administrators can invite their staff to form groups for professional development.

4.     Subject Council members can share ideas, resource links and next steps.

5.     Administrators can form PLNs with other administrators.

6.     School Family representatives can support each other and share ideas.

7.     Faculties of Education instructors can establish networks for their teacher candidates to share ideas, resource links, and support each other.

8.     New teachers (NTIP) can offer support and ideas for each other.

9.     Teachers can form groups to continue collaborating after an in-service.

10.   The Groups Feature helps make Cube for Teachers the one-stop shop for Ontario teachers to collaborate!

We welcome all Ontario educators to register with Cube For Teachers and try our latest feature! Remember that The Cube is a secure community designed exclusively for Ontario teachers. Teacher can search for, share, and save links based on grade, course, subject, and expectations based on the Ontario Curriculum.

And please, spread the word!  Refer a friend. Let others know what a fabulous website www.cubeforteachers.com has become. The greater the number of teachers who register and contribute to the website, the more valuable it will be to you!

Always Learning, Always Connected

On my first day as a program consultant, I asked my superintendent what was the best way to introduce myself when visiting a school for the first time.  His answer made me smile “Just let your reputation open the doors for you”.  Whatever you do, don’t say, “I’m here from the board office and I’m here to help you.”

I still remember that conversation.  As I was assembling the interview blog post from yesterday, I was really struck by a comment from Brenda Sherry.

When I’m asked to coach in a school, for example, it’s not really just me who visits but my whole network, as these are the resources (people and ideas) that I rely upon in order to maneuver effectively through the learning landscape of today’s world.

What an interesting and appropriate comment to read in the year 2012.

Ask anyone not in the teaching profession and it’s likely that you’ll get the opinion that the teacher is the sole owner and dispenser of information and knowledge to students.  I think it’s something to be expected.

For the most part, we (just about anyone who reads this blog) graduated from a system where we expected that our teacher knew everything about the subject matter and our goal was to be able to learn 50% or more of it.  The more we remembered and was able to pass back on an exam, the better the mark.  To reinforce the concept, we attended college or university where our abilities to soak it all in was truly tested in classes of 2-300.  In a way, I think that’s why some of the tenants of video learning are so popular.  Watching a video of someone solve a mathematics or science problem reminds us of our classroom experiences – only better.  We can replay the video many times until we understand.

Such an environment is far removed from the real classrooms in today’s schools.  Even the notion that Brenda’s employer sees the need to hire a technology coach is confirmation that the classroom teacher can’t possibly know it all.  In her interview, Brenda acknowledges that she doesn’t know it all but she sure knows where the resources lie. They lie in her network.

There may have been a time when collaboration meant working with the other teacher of the same subject.  That’s not enough.  Having that “whole network” of ideas, resources, colleagues, teams, dissenting opinions, links, like minds, … is priceless.

In a district the size of Brenda’s, it’s unlikely that she’ll be able return to that classroom working with teachers and students day after day.  Yet, the true value will accrue to those who watch and listen when Brenda says “I have an idea from …” or “Let me connect you with …” or “I saw …’s ideas about this”.  The true value lies in the connections.

At this point in 2012, I think that Brenda has truly nailed it.  If there’s one thing that she can leave behind after one of her visits, it’s that there’s a whole connected world just waiting to be accessed.  You just need to make the connection.

I also hope that you, dear reader, are nodding your head as you think about her comment.  A connected teacher is the most valuable asset that any system calling itself a 21st Century institution can have.

Are you connected?  Are you connected enough?  Are you one of the people who Brenda takes with her when she visits schools?

They “Get It”

I really like this story.

Teen founders launch Hallway, a homework helper for high-school students

In a world where school districts, schools, teachers, administrators and parents continue to debate and wonder about the value of social media, the landscape is scattered with what could be opportunities for learning.  In some places, it’s embraced, in others it’s grudgingly accepted, in others it’s totally blocked.

Where there’s a need, though, there are often thinkers trying to find a solution.

Hallway is an answer to questions that are often asked.

  • I don’t understand;
  • I need help organizing myself;
  • I know we were taught in class, but I still don’t get it;
  • I was sick on a particular day and there’s a gap in my understanding;
  • I’m doing my homework and need some help.

Learning is best accomplished when it’s social and you can work with your peers.  That’s the premise behind Hallway.  This is a startup that has huge potential.  Embraced properly, it could be that extra set of hands, that translator, that personalizer that you’ve always wanted in your classroom.

Will you accept it?