Monday, 29 April 2013

How we learn as a community

On Friday,  we spent most of the day working in our triads and sharing information with other teachers.  It was probably the first time that many of the teachers heard what the other groups were doing.  What I loved about it was the great diversity of inquiries that are going on in our three schools.  I am firmly convinced that this is how we learn as a community.
It is always tempting to focus just on one topic - say the assessment loop.  People who follow this approach say that the same language circulates around the school and you can see the same thing going on in every class.  To me, there is value in following the same learning plan, but I think this limits your creativity.
There is so much to investigate and learn about education.  Just a quick look at Twitter will show you that there a huge variety of topics being studied all the time.  Take a look here at some of the topics being discussed in this very small sampling of Twitter:

This is a short sampling of one of the Twitter lists I have made - it is full of new ideas every day.  You also might want to consider - this service will deliver articles to your inbox every day.  The articles are based on your interests.   This is part of a sample e-mail I receive every day

This again is only a small sample of a daily e-mail I get from
Then there is Zite - free on your iPad.  Here is part of their description of what they offer:

With so much information available online today, it’s increasingly difficult and time-consuming to find the content we want. That’s where Zite comes in. Zite evaluates millions of new stories every day, looking at the type of article, its key attributes and how it is shared across the web. Zite uses this information to match stories to your personal interests and then delivers them automatically to your iPad or iPhone.
These are just three.  If you want, pick one and play with it over the summer.  As we move into the third year of the triad process, now is the best time to open yourselves up to new sources of information to inform your practice.

Friday was really a great day -we were are all exploring new and exciting ideas.  I know our teachers will keep it up, maybe  one of these tools will help.  Whatever happens, it will be very exciting!

Google Drive Tips - Youtube video

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What does it mean to dig deeper?

A few months ago, we had a district review.  This is a staandard procedure for all schools in Ontario and I have to say it was a very interesting experience.  In preparation for the review, the staff worked hard to display what essentially goes on in our school.

One major area of concern and interest for us is how we do professional development with our teachers.  We work in a triad system.  This means that teachers at the same grade level get together on a regular basis to plan out inquiries that need to be tried out and tested.  The teachers are free to choose what their inquiry will be on, but over the past two years, we have asked the teams to keep better records of their key learnings.

Here is a sample of an eveidence of learning document that needs to be completed by the end of the inquiry:

Group Members:                                                           Grade:

Working Session Details:
When:                                                Where:
Inquiry Intentions:   (If . . . then . . . )

How does your inquiry relate to the SEF?

Plan / Envision    Needs Assessment
Where are we now? Where do we want/need to go?

Act / Sow     Evidence-based strategies/actions
How are we going to get there?  What are we going to do?  

Observe / Nurture   Monitor/Gather Evidence
What are students demonstrating? Triangulation of Evidence    

Reflect / Discern  Analysis / Assess
What have we learned and discovered? Where to next?  Now what?   

At this point, on our third inquiry, all our teaching teams are at the Act/Sow phase.  The expectation is that they will be at the Observe stage when we meet again at the end of April.

After the review, it was clear that the challenge was to 'dig deeper'.  Although this was a review of our school, the conclusions and the challenges apply to our partner schools as well.

So, what does it mean to dig deeper?  We are getting very good at teacher collaboration which to my mind (and is back up in the literature), is the best way for teachers to learn.

Where do we go from here?  How do we know that the collaborative process is working, but how do we measure that this is actually having an impact on teacher practice?

There were a few suggestions that we need to consider.  While triad groups will have the freedom to choose their own inquiries again next year, do we need to overlay this with an overall theme?

Two suggestions so far are to focus on the assessment loop or focus on developing rich tasks.

Both strategies should make the teacher inquiry richer -  while teachers decide on what to work on based on the needs of their students they can overlay their inquiry by focusing on assessment or on the development of rich tasks.

Here is our challenge.  This is what we need to present to the teachers in our three schools.  To my mind, it is imperative that the teachers remain in control of the process, but can we add value to this work by having an overall theme?

Any ideas are most welcome!