Let the Reflecting Begin

After the busiest first month I’ve had in this role over the past five years, I finally found a few minutes to sit down and put some of what I’ve been reflecting on into words. I tried this last year, but failed miserably after only a few posts. My goal this year is to blog more regularly, as I see it being such a powerful tool to reflect not only privately, but to a world of learners who may – just may – learn a thing or two from my experiences.

I start with GAFE (of course).apps_logo_flat_print_medium

This  year at @npsc_schools, students and teachers now have access to Google Apps for Education. This was a huge step that took almost a year of research as part of our ongoing initiative of ‘going to the cloud’ as an organization. Our biggest hurdle was to assess all levels of risk management; questions included ‘is Drive really safe?‘, ‘how are we going to police it?‘, ‘why are we going Google when we are a Microsoft shop?’.

google-edu-appsMany questions came up with varying levels of concern from both administration and IT. Thanks to colleagues in school boards across Ontario as well as research, all issues were addressed with ease. That is the beauty of developing a network; whether it be through email, Twitter or even at conferences, there is always someone with answers.

Now that users have access, the ongoing battle is – of course – professional development. At first I wasn’t sure where to start, but I decided to start small during the first few weeks, visiting only two classrooms. This way, I was able to show both students and staff what GAFE really is first-hand, and how it can be used effectively in the classroom. First impressions included ‘I don’t need a memory key anymore?‘, ‘I can access my stuff and work on it from anywhere – even my smartphone?‘, or even ‘why haven’t we had this before?

Needless to say, GAFE is a hit in the early going, and I don’t anticipate the reactions to differ too much.

Change. Collaboration. Pedagogy. Leadership: Where to start…

First off, and I already mentioned this earlier today, but I need to repeat it: the ScotiaBank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls is by far the best venue for any (larger scale) #EdTech conference. Period.

Time4Change

I am happy that I attended Connect 2014 this week. I attended in 2013 as well, and told so many people at work that it was the best conference that I’d been to in a while.

Day 1 was full of great sessions, including keynote speaker Dr. Michael Fullan, who – no matter how many times you see him – always has new information to take away from his presentations.

Overwhelming to say the least. I’m not even sure where to start with this post.

Change… collaboration… pedagogy…leadership…

Let’s start with change.

A couple of quotes from Dr. Fullan’s keynote this morning:

“Change is voluntary but inevitable”

“Professional development: a great way to avoid change.”

Change is such a broad term in education, especially dealing with new technologies and strategies in the classroom. As I’m sure you can attest to, being in a ‘coordinator’-type role, I have seen and experienced many different groups of teachers when it comes to adapting 21st Century teaching practices; from the ‘I’m not changing what I’m doing’ teachers, to the ‘you have something new? Show me!’ teachers.

Unfortunately, this won’t change – unless so so much else does.

I couldn’t keep up with the inspiring quotes, lessons, strategies, etc… from Dr. Fullan’s keynote. But, as Andrew Bieronski so eloquently put it: “You will only truly improve #edu with robust collaboration“.

Which leads me to collaboration – or pedagogy – or both?

Might as well throw leadership in there.

They all seem to go hand in hand, especially if you want to get any traction with either – or all  – regarding systemic change.

In my role, I see it all; teachers getting technology without proper training; decisions being made for the classroom without input from those who are directly in it. It is tough to be in a position where you see so much in a day that is possible for improvement that you don’t know where to start. Not to mention, hoping that you have the proper audience that can make appropriate changes happen.

A few more quotes from Dr. Fullan:

“Pedagogy needs to be the driving force in change.”

“You need a strategy for implementation – not just a vision.”

I find it funny; when I started in my position as e-Learning Contact, I thought I was going to have a hard time being a ‘salesman’ for Desire2Learn’s vLE as part of the Ministry’s e-Learning Strategy. After four years of the professional learning cycle in my work, conferences and constant reflection, I regretfully still find myself being that salesman, focusing on the tools; what they can do and how they can help teaching practice and student learning.

I am part to blame for this vision, as this is what my role entails essentially – getting people online.

I feel I was handed a vision – ‘striving for 25’; unfortunately this masked the strategy that I should have been focusing on – the pedagogy and theory of using the tool, rather than just getting people to use it.

Mind you, pedagogy is a beast on its own, where I think a team approach should be used to developing best practices. But:

“Getting a framework in place is the key.”

As the school year is coming to a close (well, not really, but it’ll creep up for sure), and knowing that there is another year of e-Learning Contacts for 2014-15, I have an opportunity to make change happen; to be a leader that people need to see the value of change. To what scale? That is to be determined, relying on many factors; such as, most importantly, collaborating with key stakeholders and making them aware of the need for change.

Without this, I go back to being a salesman.

The journey begins.