Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

Principal @PrincipalONeil, Principal @KerryGreenDuren and I presented at Connect 2016 in Niagara Falls on April 28, 2016.  Our session was well attended and the feedback was flattering.  We decided to keep working on our approach to school announcements and then brought our learning work to the TELL Conference in August. TELL is an OPC sponsored event titled: Technology Enabled Learning Leaders. Here is the updated slidedeck.

“These are your Morning Announcements: Sharing School News has Changed!”

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I cannot believe it! The Reciprocal Learning Partnership, The University of Windsor, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Greater Essex County District School Board are working together (with me) and sending a group of Principals to Chongqing China! There we are going to present at the annual Conference and learn in our 7 sister schools. I am going to keep a journal of my experiences here on my blog for my family, friends, school and colleagues to read.

Our district prepared poster boards to highlight our recent school life. This is it:

China Poster – Kingsville PDF

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“with the calendar about to turn to 2014, administrators must move past these tried and true techniques in order to stay visible and transparent and have an open door as a school lead learner – in the physical and virtual world.” –Mark Roth

It is a guest post Friday! True, I have taken 2 days off. And now I am guest posting…lazy? No. Truth be told  two days were spent in bed, with my two lovely and really sick kids. The flu bug got us all. Three days. Brutal. Flu shot avoidance no more. We were scheduled to visit a teacher friend and his family (we have daughters that share names–he named first) and I was scheduled to blog about our simultaneous teacher work in distinct parts of Ontario. Instead I watched 24 hours worth of Gold Rush, Ice Cold Gold and various Survival Shows (the real kind) with my two sickies. We slept and blew noses for the other 24 between doses of penicillin for the ear issues and motrin for the fevers.  In an unrelated and funny story the autocorrect feature on my planned hosts iOS called me a “sucky butt” instead of the intended sicky bug in her response text message to my plight and change in plans. Wouldn’t Freud be happy to know that even Siri slips!

Enough of my sob stories…

Today I am happy to introduce Mark Roth.  Mark’s work as a Vice Principal for the last 8 has brought him to 4 different schools.  There he has worked on his instructional leadership skills.  I am happy to share his first personal blog post here as another example of our administrative leaders challenging themselves to make their practise more transparent via web 2.0 tools.  Fittingly Mark has risen to the challenge b speaking on that very topic.

The Closed Door: No Longer an Option

by Mark Roth

For years staff in schools have wondered why administration have had their doors closed. Why, when there was a conversation in the office was it always private? Parents couldn’t understand why they had to wait four days after a report card before they could speak with the teacher. Administrators have walked the hallways, peered through the top half of a door and asked themselves, “why don’t they share with each other more”? Perceptions? Perhaps. I see a cycle that is being shattered by our youngest learners as they seek to change the world for the better. Then we realized, visiting classrooms, greeting parents before and after school, and making oneself available with an open-door office policy were great techniques to “open the door” and build deeper and meaningful confidence on the public education system.  However, with the calendar about to turn to 2014, administrators must move past these tried and true techniques in order to stay visible and transparent and have an open door as a school lead learner – in the physical and virtual world.

As a school lead learner, one must engage in learning and effective communication with staff, parents and students or one will be seen as having the door closed. The most logical way to stay engaged is to effectively use the tools that so many of our youngest learners are already using or better yet, be ready to use the ones they aren’t even using yet.  A quick Google search brought me to The Social Web. How can one possibly keep up? Web 2.0? Apps? iPad vs Android? To blog or to tweet?  Is this even smart as an administrator?

Social Learning in the Classroom

My suggestion, use the one(s) that work for you, understand the rest and continue to learn about the new ones. Let’s face it, our parents are engaged in the digital world. A recent study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 77% of 18-29 year-olds with an annual household income of less than $30 000 are smartphone owners. Usage increases to 90% as household income increases. Early Years students are Tweeting their twenty-something parents from school with a device that they brought from home and Skype with them at work so they can share with the rest of the class what their parents do all day. Aren’t these the parents of the young learners that will fill our schools for the next twenty years? My own teenagers have informed me that if I want to know where practices are or what time their next game is, I can subscribe to Remind101, check the blog, browse the website or join the e-mail list.

What? No phone calls? Better open the door.
Pew Research

You can follow Mark on his school twitter feed @brockbulldogs.  Stay tuned as he prepares his own blog for our shared learning.

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In typical Twitter fashion the connections between education folks has Kevin Bacon’s six degrees beaten hands down. Lisa Parisi, Brian Aspinall and Doug Peterson lobbed the ball to me (among others) to complete this blog meme. Lee Kolbert‘s challenge connects many of us.
Be sure to read all the way to the end because you may have been tagged to do this on your own blog.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 Random Facts About Me

      1. I’m a Creative Writing and English Literature double major.
      2. I love French toast, cooking it, sharing it, eating it. (real maple syrup only.)
      3. Before becoming a vegetarian in 2004, I could put away 2 Big Macs, a 9 piece chicken nuggets, a large fry and a chocolate shake. Scary.
      4. I put myself through university as Marmalade, goofy side-kick and jester for Canadian children’s entertainer Beebo. I played instruments, sang and danced but mostly acted like a clown for cheap laughs and children’s smiles.
      5. I can moon walk and do the worm. I do the worm (on the front lawn) on the last day of school every year as the buses leave.
      6. The second album I ever purchased was Michael Jackson’s Thriller on cassette tape.
      7. A team of 4, including myself and my wife, created two of the first academic “hypertext” websites for the University of Windsor, English Department. Christina Rossetti, Romantics Writer was our subject. We had to code every line. Our prof. would only mark the work if it was printed and bound. That is hilarious!
      8. I married my high school sweetheart.
      9. I cannot do the Rubik’s cube. Not even one side.
      10. I share a birthday with my first Principal as a teacher. – Mrs Keillor.
      11. I’m qualified to drive a semi, fully rigged transport truck in case this principal thing doesn’t work out.

11 Answers to Lisa and Doug’s Questions (I mixed and mingled them)

1. My favourite quote is:

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” ~ Carl Sagan From his fictional work entitled Contact. A piece of writing that inspires me to do my best as an educator is given to us by George Bernard Shaw:

“This is the true joy in life, that being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

2. Have you been to a concert?

A tonne of them. I am an Indie rock fan so my favorite spot is Magic Stick in Detroit. You can see great bands early in their career. The venue is small, the amps are loud. The building also houses The D’s oldest bowling alley downstairs.

3. Favourite book as a child:

In grade 5 Mrs. White read Robert C. O’Brien’s “Z for Zachariah “. I was captivated every day she read it and to this day it remains the only book I have read more than twice. I subsequently forgot to return it to the Maplewood school library and it is still in my possession to this day.

5. What movie do you think everyone should see and why?

I don’t answer should questions.

A movie that changed my perspective and ultimately changed my lifestyle is “The Cove”. I love documentaries. This one made the four of us weep (my kids included) As a family we do not purchase tuna and visit zoos or marine parks any more.

6. What is your favorite park?

My favourite park is “Big Hill Park” in Essex where I grew up. The kids named it that. The park is 3kms from my house with a man-made hill in the middle. I remember going down the hill on my bike for the first time when I was 8 years old. I took my son down the hill on his bike just this summer. The look on his face reminded me of the feeling I had. Exhilaration. Funny part…my home is taller than the hill.

7. What is the craziest thing you have ever done?

Most of those need to stay out of the print medium so my son doesn’t try them as a teenager. A double black diamond in Sunshine Valley, Maine was crazy. It was a natural run with trees and powder, like something out of a Warren Miller film. It was the closest I’ve ever come to actually flying. My brother-in-law bailed on his snow board and we thought he’d caused an avalanche. I have the whole event on video tape in my mind. It was awesome! Then there was the hike into the Tofino, old growth rainforest to the natural hot spring on my honeymoon to Vancouver Island. We started in at dusk. We didn’t have flashlights. My wife hits me in the arm to this day when I bring it up.

8. What are you better at than anyone else you know?

Easy, my hand written signature. I’ve been working on it for years.

I’ve been told in educational settings that at critical moments in meetings and conversations, both formal and informal, I use silence very well and know just the right questions to ask to keep the conversation critically productive. Critically productive does not mean comfortable. That being said. I’m self-aware that my biggest strength is also my double weakness.

9. If you were to know any language other than English what would it be?

Anishinabek / Ojibwe – I have a deep respect for First Nations people and culture. I would love to be able to speak the language and teach it to ensure it lives on. It is an honest and clear language. So far I understand that things are described in very natural terms, there is seemingly no hyperbole to distract the communicators from the truth.

10. What is the best picture you have taken?

My partner Tricia is the family photographer and my sister is a professional. For me though I got this one completely by accident last March break. I credit @jaxbeachteach for convincing me to stop off at Neptune Beach outside of Jacksonville, Florida on the way home.


11. What is your dream vacation?

This year I started a 4 over 5 with the intent to travel to 3 different continents during the year away from work. We have a family goal to write a book while away. We are busy narrowing down our list of 100 to 10 things we must see or do on the planet.

I nominate these great people to have fun with this activity: (If you don’t have a blog let this be your “About Page.”)

Jodie Nardone: @IteachELL
Zoe Cowper: @Zozibella
Shannon Hazel: @Shannonhazel73
Terri Barrette: @teach_terri
Connie Ellis Leclair: @ConnieEllis
Kelly Moore: @kellmoor
Chris Knight: @knightchris
Jenny Ashby: @jjash
Shelly Pike: @shelpike
Aviva Dunsiger: @avivaloca
James Shelly: @JamesShelley (my first twitter conversation ever)

Here are your 11 Questions:

1. What has been one of your most significant learning experiences?

2. Talk about something that, for you, reason can still not explain.

3. Rural living or big city life, why?

4. How did you get your name?

5. Name something you couldn’t live without.

6. If you were a professional wrestler what would your name be?

7. What are you pretending not to know?

8. If I dumped out your junk drawer what would I find?

9. What is a powerful lesson you learned from a parental figure?

10. Where were you on 9 / 11 / 2001?

11. If you could give all your time and wealth to a charity…who/what?

I need to mention this to Doug, Brian and Lisa…this blog post took me longer to format than the previous 80.

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Friday’s I have decided to encourage others to engage in the reflective practise of blogging followed by my sharing of their work here at The Principaled Life.  Today I am honoured to include teacher voice on my blog.  That of Jodie Nardone.  Mrs. Nardone teaches and learns at Eastwood Public School.  She works with ELL students and students that access the Special Education Resource Room.  Mrs. Nardone has used class blogs for some time.  She is an active Ontario Educator on Twitter.  Most recently I challenged her to use her blog as a reflective practise tool.  The result of our Skype calls is the rejuvenation of her professional blog.  She shared this initial story with me as she most recently chaperoned her students, along with her teaching partner Mrs. Silvestri, to the Windsor Mission.  This trip was the result of her students digging deep to truly understand the need and process that our most vulnerable citizens go through for the basic necessities of life.  Enjoy.

Mission Inquiry by:  Jodie Nardone

I am pretty confident with the why and the what about Inquiry. I’ve been struggling a bit with the how, particularly how it looks in my SERR (Special Education Resource Room) classroom. Until recently, and quite by accident.

In keeping with the spirit of the season and at the same time respecting the many cultures in our building, my teaching partner @SilvestriESL and I decided to decorate our school Christmas tree.  It sat bare, save for a few strings of lights, at the main entrance of the school.  We would decorate it with mittens and scarves to donate to people in need in our inner-city.  We would call it the “Tree of Warmth”.  It became a provocation for inquiry.  Each day more items were added to the tree by the kind staff and students of our school.  My students began to ask questions.  Questions about why we are collecting these items.  Questions about what we were going to do with all of the items the students and staff had collected. This prompted us to do some research and watch some videos. Together we decided it would be a good idea to deliver the donations as a class to the local Downtown Mission and get a first hand look at the impact their kindness has on our own community.

Tree of Warmth

We packed up all the items that had been collected, hopped in the cars and headed to the Downtown Mission where they welcomed us with warmth (despite the fact that their furnace had broken that morning).

The Windsor Mission

The Students were given a tour of the building by MaryJo, the Community Outreach Coordinator, with an explanation of what happens there. When asked at the start of the tour what was special about Eastwood school, in typical Eastwood fashion, students responded with answers like “because at Eastwood we are kind”, and “people there are respectful to others”.  Our visit to the Downtown Mission has since inspired our class to do more and thus began individual student inquiries.  The students learned that the food items needed most are proteins like tuna and peanut butter as well as boxes of cereal.  They brought that data back to the school and used it to create what they called a ‘7 Day Cereal Challenge’.   They were on their own ‘mission’.  With minimal direction from teachers they researched more information about the Mission on their iPads, prepared a presentation to share with all classes in the school, designed and hung posters, wrote and read announcements, and created videos using iMovie on the iPad to advertise their challenge.   Students who are not easily motivated were engaged and students who ‘don’t write’ suddenly had a purpose.   Ali was inspired. He wrote, practised and delivered morning announcements to motivate his student colleagues to take part in the challenge.  Each morning they are collecting, tallying and graphing the total donations coming in.  This is just the beginning for us.  Our intent was to collect and donate hats and mittens to the Mission.  It sparked more.  While not a traditional inquiry, it certainly lead me to understand how student ownership of the learning increases engagement and the moral purpose of education.  Where will my students go next with investigations around poverty in Canada?

Please listen to MaryJo describe the Foodbank and the personal care room.MaryJo in the Food Bank

 Please consider following Jodie this #FollowFriday at @iteachELL .  Her newest Blogging venture can be followed and read at mrsnardone.wordpress.com


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Cross-Post Thursday!

Today’s Blog post is a cross-post shared by Doug Peterson of Off the Record.   The interview took me some time so cheating here and using it in my 21 day event made sense.  I’ve had the honour of knowing Doug for some time.  Since I came on to teaching  actually.  He has been influential to so many educators by turning them on to some new tool that invoked critical thought or creativity in students.  Want to know what is going on in innovative Ontario classrooms?  Follow Off the Record.  You will be in the know.

An Interview with James Cowper

Posted on October 22, 2013 by @dougpete

I’ve had the pleasure to work with James Cowper in a couple of schools where he has served the Greater Essex County District School Board as an administrator.  He’s a supporter of teachers, as you would expect from an administrator, but he also “walks the walk” when it comes to using technology in education.  Recently, we met for a coffee to chat and solve all of the world’s problems and that served as a launchpad for this interview.

Doug:  Thanks, James, for sharing your thoughts via this blog post.

James:  No problem Doug.  I am happy to talk and listen with you.  I am quite flattered that you wanted to hear my thoughts and stories of days in the schoolhouse working with learners of all ages!  I appreciate it.  Thanks.

Doug:  I recall our first encounters with technology – it seems so long ago that you were involved in a technology project when you were at Mill Street Public School in Leamington.  What did you learn from working with students at Mill Street?

James:  I learned that kids are kids everywhere you go.  I came in on the front end of an ICT project in which recycled computers along with millions of meters of RJ45 (EthernetPicture1 cable) were deployed to a 350 pupil K-8 school.  The computers had competent capabilities and the staff and students were anxious to use them.  What I learned about kids and computers was that it is the creativity that we must exercise with the tools of the trade.  Using the computers, funny I don’t even call them that anymore, to drill and kill or surf and turf is just not the ticket.  Kids need to create, collaborate and communicate with the technology.  I learned an awful lot about what not to do with technology funny enough.  Of course we were doing the best that we could do at the time.  PL around the high-end use of the devices was not structured or supported in a way that would lead to critical use of the tools.  I learned that you couldn’t fool kids.  Saying that computers engage kids and then using them as word processors, encyclopedias and digital worksheets only lasts so long.  If you do this for too long the kids will video you teaching the class, put it to music, morph Albert Einstein’s head onto your body and post the video for all their tweeps to see.  Seriously.  It is not the computers or the iPads that “engage” kids.  It is the access to the world, the creative quotient and the ease of collaboration that engages them.  Those things are not done with a device, a computer alone.  They must be married to the facilitation and supervision of a learning teacher.

Doug:  Since that time, you have been promoted to Principal at Eastwood Public School in Windsor.  During our coffee, you indicated that you’ve been there for five years now.  So, a question – if someone is making their first trip to Eastwood – what would they see that would invoke the understanding that this school really has its act together with respect to Technology?

Picture3James:  Well, we don’t have hover boards and wear silver suits yet.  Kids are not glued to screens with robotic teachers.  Books and board games is still the best part of the day at first nutrition break so I am not sure you would really be able to see a difference.  I apologize for my sarcasm.  I mean no offence.  Really.  If you had asked me what school would look like in the year 2013 when I was in grade 5 I would have said flying in cars and learning from robots!   (I think Ms. McTavish assigned that project!) You can feel a difference at Eastwood School.  At least that is what almost every visitor has said to me at one point or another.  What you can feel is a calm energy that comes when we are all functioning at very close wavelengths.  Kids are working at learning and teachers are learning while working.  It is symbiotic.  The technology that is incorporated into the day and the learning is organic.  Getting an iPad is not a monumental event.  Students do not run full tilt to the power cart.  It sits open and students get them when they need them.  There are no more labs.  We do not covet our tools in closets or the Principal’s office to gather dust.  I would say that the novelty of the device is gone.  What is left is a new type of pen and pencil.  Kids view them as tools to do the business of learning.  It is not the device that has made the difference at Eastwood it is the inherent connectivity that has.  The device without Wi-Fi access would be like having a Porsche without tires.  You can enjoy the look and the rev of that awesome engine you just couldn’t go anywhere.  Kids do walk around with devices.  We have BYOD norms.  Before you even walked in the door you would recognize we have a pretty substantial online presence.  Short of that we have a staff that continue to learn and grow in the area of tech. utilization, integration and content creation.  We are as careful as we can be with regards to where and how we spend our limited budget dollars.  We also are always looking for innovative ways to build community partnerships.  Two years ago we were awarded a reading grant, the first in the district, and we gained the opportunity to spend eighty thousand dollars on learning resources.  So as a school that has its act together I would say that we have found the reasonable and appropriate place to infuse technological tools to enhance our learning.  I would say that we have been responsible digital citizens.  I would also say we’ve lots to learn and much work to do.

Thanks Doug for allowing me to share here.  If you wish to read the interview in its entirety please follow the links to Off the Record.

Tomorrow’s post–Hey Principals!  Are Those Teachers on Twitter?

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Looking back I am not sure where the time went.

I am certain that I wasn’t doing “nothing.”  I just didn’t write about the “something.”

It is time to push the publish button on a number of entries I have been crafting for some time.  Those ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) inside are not going to win the battle anymore.

I will endeavour to get back to the business of formal and public reflection on my practise.  A colleague unwittingly challenged me to do so.  Okay Terri.  Here goes.

My last published post was in April of 2013.  This is the embarrassing part.  Since the last post I began a new academic year, ran another marathon, rescued a dog from the pound, translated our 4 guiding assumptions to 4 leading intentions, celebrated my 40th, saw 60 point gains in standards based assessments at Eastwood (EQAO), taught the dog to use the treadmill, had reconstructive ACL surgery, started inquiry based professional learning for teachers in the school house, etc. etc. etc.

There has been a lot that has happened.  I don’t intend on using my “busyness” as an excuse.  There is no excuse.  As a lead learner in the year 2014 (almost) it is my obligation to share my learning and make my leadership transparent.

I will endeavour to do so, again, before any January 1st resolutions.

And here is the kicker….I am bringing 4 people with me.

Terri, Jodie, Lori, Kathleen.   Shhhhh.  I haven’t told them yet.

I taught Hawksley the dog to run on the treadmill in about 10 minutes.  He is up to 5.1 for 30 minutes.  All I needed was a clicker and a treat.  I taught him how to jump into the pool and swim in about 30 minutes.  Dogs inherently want to do these two things.  They just need to conquer the fear of the unknown environment and have a critical friend help them.  I recognize that I will not “teach” myself or my colleagues to write about their experiences just as I did not “teach” the dog to run and swim.Image

For human’s I have read that it takes 21 days to replace a bad habit with a good one.  I intend to blog and or convince another to blog at The Principaled Life for the next 21 days.

I am convinced that I have perspective and experiences that will add to the collective conversation and reflection on what it means to be an effective instructional leader.  I am also convinced that my colleagues have a similar strength of perspective.  The issue is the deconstruction of the moniker.  Effective?  Instructional?  Leader?  The term carries with it myriads of logistical, emotional, cognitive and innovation challenges.  Together with my critical friends we will work through this learning.

Tomorrow’s topic:  Getting into classrooms.  Logistics or Fear?

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