“Experienced Voices” — webinars and conversations

We are honored that Rhonda Hergott and Fiona Turner, current “experienced voices” in the Inspired Learning community, have brought their unique perspectives and insights on PBL and transformation of learning to both asynchronous discussions and scheduled webinars so we can all learn from each other.

Rhonda will be leading an interactive webinar with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on February 20, at 6:30 PM MST in Blackboard Collaborate sharing on a journey into PBL. You’ll want to register in the Inspired Learning community.

Rhonda will be engaging with participants synchronously much as she has been in asynchronous discussions in the community.

In “Blurred Subject Lines” in the community, Rhonda wrote:

So here is my proposal to my admin for next year. What if we blurred the subject lines? What if I only taught two classes instead of 6? What if I taught those 2 classes science, math and 5 of the language periods? And what if I could get them for 4 periods in a row of uninterrupted learning time each day?

and then she asked:

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your comments both for and against this model.

to which Kirsten replies:

You raise a serious issue – how scheduling and division of subjects drive the learning in many schools. You propose an interesting solution to the dilemma as well. I know there are schools out there that have experimented with a variety of ways to address this. Connect Charter school (formerly Calgary Science School) teaches using a hummanities/sciences division, which at least allows some grouping.

In “Who’s Overwhelmed”, Rhonda challenged:

So I am going to put out a challenge to all of the members who, like I did, participate in this forum by merely observing. And that challenge is: Describe one activity/event/lesson/situation where you feel the students of your classroom were completely engaged.

And Kat replied:

Our school has a resident mathematician (Math Pickle) come into our classes once a week for a 45 minute block to pose new and very challenging questions to students. This week he did a brief history lesson on WWI and their use of codes and ciphers, the P and presented the students with the task of breaking a code. They leapt at the challenge and started working collaboratively instead of competitively to help each other figure out what each letter combination might be. It was really inspiring to watch them move to better groups on their own, discuss and try ideas, and scratch their heads. Before they knew it, they had burned through their math and language arts period and it was lunch time. Definitely a cool classroom moment. 🙂

Fiona has asked community members to think with her on “What might transformation of learning look like?” and has suggested considering both TPACK and SAMR frameworks as well as the Contemporary Learning Schema.with which she is familiar.
In her recent post, she asks:

What do they tell you about transformation of learning? Is it helpful? What is it missing? What could be included? What model can you share that provides some insight into transformation of learning? I’d love for you to share some ideas.

In response, Kirsten added:

Thanks for sharing these models Fionna. I’d like to also share this model, which speaks to the move from teacher centred learning towards student centred learning. (from Barbara Bray)

You’ll want to join Fiona on March 20 in Blackboard Collaborate to engage with her around transformation of learning.

If you haven’t added your voice to those discussions in the community, take some time to do it now.

Important conversations among educators aspiring for improved learning for their students. In the Inspired Learning community, the opportunities to share and learn with educators around the globe can lead to true innovation.

Rhonda Hergott
Before entering the teaching profession, I was a professional dog trainer and then became a software developer. I have been teaching in the Ontario elementary system for 10 years teaching all grades from 4 – 8. For the past 5 years I have focused on grade 7 and 8 science and math. My passion is engaging students in the learning process and creating life long learners. By implementing project based learning into my program, I have successfully created an inclusive, safe environment for students to practice their 21st century learning skills. When not in the classroom or behind a computer you can usually find me in the hockey arena cheering on one of my 3 children or camping and hiking with our golden retriever.

Fiona Turner is currently an Education Officer (eLearning) at the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne. Australia where she is a Project Coordinator for the Integrated Online Catholic Network (ICON) Project for Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.

Fiona also coordinates the Contemporary Learning Research Schools Project supporting 8 schools across Melbourne to explore how new and emerging technologies can enable powerful learning.

Fiona has had 12 years of experience teaching in Primary Schools in Melbourne. During the last 13 years working with teachers in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, she has developed an extensive knowledge of new and emerging digital learning tools, and an understandings of how to harness the potential of new digital technologies for powerful and contemporary learning.

Posted in Events, experienced voices, Inspired Learning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Action Strategies for a Transformation in Education

Note: This is written by Garry McKinnon, Superintendent, Connect Charter School, Alberta and cross posted from the Inspired Learning community and excerpted from his blog.

Action Strategies for a Transformation in Education 

  1. Develop and Articulate a Shared Vision for Implementing the Inspiring Education Agenda – We need to engage everyone involved in and impacted by the work of our schools including Alberta Education, universities, school and school jurisdiction leaders, teachers, students, parents and community members in a process of making meaning of the Alberta Education Inspiring Education agenda. Traditionally, education has been left up to the educators; we now realize that the transformative agenda for creating a knowledge society impacts everyone and should be everyone’s priority.
  2. Make Teaching Practices Open and Public-If we are going to move beyond the celebration of exemplars and best practices and to establish new practices, we need to move away from the idea of teaching as a solo/isolated activity, to a more public, collaborative model. We need to open the doors of our classrooms, take the roofs off our schools and seize every opportunity to explore best practices and to learn with and from each other.
  3. Provide Well-informed, Supportive Leadership – Certainly it is critical that leaders in education at all levels develop a deep understanding of: societal changes; the impact of digital technologies; the increasing diversity of learning needs; the challenge of authentically engaging all students and providing opportunities for success and the need to provide leadership in learning globally. Leaders in education at all levels will need to be very good at telling the story and working collaboratively with others in developing a shared vision and commitment to action.
  4. Actively Involve Students in Directing Their Own Learning– We need to develop new approaches for hearing the student voice and actively involving students in sharing feedback about their learning experiences to enable their teachers to develop and implement diverse pedagogical strategies designed to better meet their needs. As well, students should be encouraged to take ownership for their learning as active members in the process.
  5. Create a Culture of Collaboration at all Levels in Education-We have seen the tremendous benefits for teachers of: having open classrooms with frequent visitors and opportunities for pedagogical dialogue; mentoring student teachers; collaborative planning and team teaching; sharing best practices and learning from others and having opportunities for participating in rich professional development activities with an emphasis on co-learning and co-creating through job-embedded learning experiences. In fact, creating a culture of collaboration at all levels in education is the key to successfully achieving the transformational goals articulated in Inspiring Education.
  6. Partner with Universities in Enhancing Teacher Preparation and Professional Learning Experiences – If we are to bring about significant changes in education, schools and school jurisdictions we need to partner with university teacher preparation programs to provide learning experiences for our future teachers in classrooms similar to those we have highlighted as exemplars. Universities can serve a major role as change agents through providing teacher preparation experiences and supporting ongoing, job-embedded, professional learning opportunities and establishing new structures to build the capacity of teachers and school administrators.
  7. Recognizing the Important Role for Technology as a Means to an End Rather Than an End in Itself – We need to recognize that technology in itself is not the change we are pursuing, but technology can certainly change how teachers teach and students learn. We have seen many rich examples of learning and teaching being enhanced through the appropriate use of technology for communication, research, collaboration and learning.
  8. Celebrate Diversity as a Feature of our Classrooms – We need to think not only in terms of addressing the diverse needs of learners, but also promoting diversity in teaching practices designed to intellectually engage and meet the needs of all learners.
  9. Work Together in Making Fundamental Changes in Curriculum and our Approach in Developing Learner Competencies-Educators should work together in making structural changes relating to curriculum and the competencies for 21st-century learners, which address the problems of fragmentation and enable teachers to explore the curriculum in a meaningful, engaging manner and to use a variety of teaching strategies to meet the diverse needs of their students.
  10. Promote Research and the Development of Research-informed Pedagogical Practices– We have seen the efficacy of conducting various forms of research and fostering research-informed practices. There is tremendous potential for more actively engaging teachers as action researchers and working closely with universities through opportunities such as the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) to conduct research related to new approaches to learning and teaching in keeping with the spirit of Inspiring Education and to openly share the learning experiences and the findings with others.

I welcome your feedback, thoughts and ideas related to this blog. I will continue to embrace opportunities to learn with and learn from others.

Posted in cross posts, Inspired Learning | Tagged | Leave a comment

Teaching as Improvising

NOTE: This is written by Kathleen X. Phelan, a Grade 5, Progressive Teacher at River Valley School and is cross posted from the Inspired Learning community.

This morning I watched Rebecca Northan’s TEDx YYC talk on improvisation and it made me think about what a classroom, nay a school, would look like if we as teachers practiced and taught our students the basic rules of improvisation?  What would happen to the fear of failure? What would happen to our stress levels? How differently could we inspire our students?

Be positive – Pernille Rip recently had a great post on how she gave up punishment. If I was able to control my reactions and talk to students instead of lecture them, what difference would that have on the lesson I want them to learn? Last year was my first year of teaching and I constantly felt like I wasn’t in control of anything. I found that when a kid gets put down, I feel like I put my self down too – no one is happy and what has really been learned? This year, it’s like I’m on a different planet! I find I breathe more, listen more, and want to find the root of the problem.

Say yes – Teachable moments come out of saying yes. Collaboration comes from saying yes. Learning from others comes from saying yes. 🙂

Fear of Failure – such a big thing as both a teacher and student! I fear that I will fail my students. Students fear that they will be wrong and suffer the consequences. When I hear this or start to feel like this, one thing that helps me is remembering that whenever you do something for the first time, you aren’t excepted to do it perfectly. First time trying long division? No way should you be an expert right off the bat. First year in a classroom? Celebrate your failures and try again tomorrow. Failure makes us better. Also, 10 000 hours rule.

Inspire your Partner – It really hit me because a few days ago, I presented my grade 5 class with a Language Arts challenge in connection with our study of the Hero’s Journey. Stage 5 is “The Meeting of the People”. (At each stage of the journey, students are presented with a new writing challenge as a way to practice different forms of paragraph writing). For this stage, students were asked to go onto their iPads to find images of characters for their hero (past assignment) to meet, name them, write a brief background story about who they are, and then explain how they will either help or hinder the character. I had NO idea how inspired students would be by this but they just want to do LA all the time now. I even had a student get up and give me a hug! I have never had this kind of response to an assignment. By looking to inspire them, they have inspired me to keep thinking outside the box and look for innovative ways for them to express their writing and thoughts…just like improvisers connecting on stage.

Posted in cross posts, Inspiring Learning | Leave a comment

Learned vs. Learner

NOTE: This post is written by Chris Smeaton, Superintendent, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division and is cross posted from his blog and from the Inspired Learning community.

“In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

Doctors are certainly viewed as learned. They possess an incredible amount of knowledge and their practice is unique. Their medical degree certainly suggests that they are learned. But how satisfied would you be with your doctor if she did not engage in further learning beyond her degree? Would we not want our own doctor to learn about the latest research, most effective practices and prescribe the best new drugs? It would be unacceptable for doctors to be simply learned, they must also be learners.

The same must be true for educators. Although it is not often  recognized universally, educators do possess a unique body of knowledge that satisfies a professional designation. It is easy to criticize educators because all of us have gone to school but the fact is unless you’ve been in the classroom you have limited knowledge of the real work of a teacher. However, receiving that education degree only enables educators to be viewed as learned.

There was a time in education when being learned was all that was required. We held the knowledge and delivered it accordingly. But today’s classroom is far different and far more diverse than ever before. Now, educators must still be learned to a high degree but to be truly effective, educators must be learners through and through. Just as we would expect our doctors to engage in the latest practices, we must expect that of our educators too! Today’s educators must be lifelong learners throughout their careers.

There are two critical drivers of being a learner in our educational system. The first is internal and is a necessary component for learning to be activated. Attitude! Educators, new or experienced must first have the attitude to be a learner. There needs to be a constant desire to improve one’s practice, to hone one’s skills. This is a difficult task because it requires honest self-reflection on the part of the teacher and high levels of feedback from supervisors and peers.

“Teachers who set high goals, who persist, who try another strategy when one approach is found wanting – in other words, teachers who have a high sense of efficacy and act on it – are more likely to have students who learn.” (Shaughnessy, 2004)

Classroom doors need to be flung open to expose our many strengths and also the areas requiring improvement. While that may sound to be a common attribute for educators, like most people in society, they are not overly eager to try something new beyond their own comfort zone!

“To teach like a professional or teach like a pro, as they say in the language of sports, is a personal commitment to rigorous training, continuous learning, collegial feedback, respect for evidence, responsiveness to parents, striving for excellence, and going far beyond the requirements of any written contract. But teaching like a pro, day in , day out, cannot be sustained unless your colleagues teach like pros too. … “Professional capital is about collective responsibility, not individual autonomy; about scientific evidence as well as personal judgment; about being open to one’s clients rather than sitting on a pedestal above them; and ultimately about being tough on those colleagues who, after every effort and encouragement, fall short of their professional mission and let their peers as well as their students down (p. xv)”. (Hargreaves and Fullan)

The second driver must be support. This driver comes from multiple sources but it must begin with an environment of support. A sense of trust must be established to allow for teachers to step out of their comfort zone. The ability for teachers to “try and fail” and risk take with the use of high yield strategies without the threat of outside watchdogs is central to a supportive environment. The support default (time and resources) tends to fall as a responsibility of the school or school system. There is little argument of that! Schools and systems need to create opportunities, time and resources for educators to engage in learning. It is unfair however, to believe that the school or system themselves have all the means to offer this solely. Additionally, educators must seek out other educators to collaborate and share and engage in professional dialogue about their professional practice. To suggest that this can only occur within the confines of the school day, while students are present is unrealistic.

We recognize that a love of learning must be a goal of any educational system since learners will be those who inherit the earth. We also understand that while students are in school, their greatest impact is from their teachers. They have the ability and possibly the responsibility to act as a role model for the love of learning and the importance of being not just learned but a learner! It is no longer permissible to be just learned! Educators must be learners!

Posted in cross posts, Inspiring Learning | Leave a comment

Inspired Learning begins its new “experienced voices” series

We’re excited that Rhonda Hergott, Ontario educator, has joined the Inspired Learning community as an experienced voice for the month of January.   Rhonda is the first of the experienced voices in a series  of 5.

Rhonda blogs at http://rhondahergott.wordpress.com/ and is @rhondahergott on Twitter. She will be sharing her extensive expertise with PBL in weekly discussions that you won’t want to miss. She has posted a challenge in her first discussion and we can’t wait to see your ideas and strategies in the conversation too.  Please welcome her to our community.

In addition, you’ll want to join Rhonda for a one hour webinar as she shares her journey into PBL in her classroom on February 6 at 8 PM EST (New York). Currently her Grade 8s are designing and experimenting with building a marble roller coaster to enter into the Canada’s Wonderland Roller Coaster Competition and are working on a proposal to design and build a miniature golf course in their township that represents what the township is all about. Talk with her about her measures for engagement, ask her about learning in her classroom, and share PBL from your classroom too. We’ll be meeting in Blackboard Collaborate for one hour of great conversation and learning.

Join us in the community and contribute to our collective learning.

Posted in community, experienced voices, Inspired Learning, student engagement | Leave a comment

2014 New Year Challenge in the Inspired Learning Community

 It is a new year and boy do we have some exciting adventures for you planned in your Inspired Learning Community. We are throwing out a challenge to help you get in the best connected learning shape ever. We have recruited a few folks to help us and we are hoping more of you will volunteer to join in leading some of the best whole school/whole teacher learning available.

Our 2014 Goals include:

1. Ongoing drive for new members. Expanded user population that includes all Alberta educators involved in implementation of Inspiring Education

We need your help. Please invite any Alberta K-12 Educator you know to join us in this community. There is no cost and there will be multiple opportunities to learn and grow around the Inspired Learning themes.

2. Deeper interactions between members as well as evidence of  co-created strategies.

We have brought in some of the best connected coaches we know– both from abroad and some from right here in Alberta (Josh Hill, Kirstin Tschofen, Erin Quinn). We will be posting bios as they arrive.

We have also invited Alberta’s Lorelie Lenaour from Holy Spirit RCRSD #4 to join Lani and Sheryl as a community leader. And some experienced voices (both local to Alberta and global from around the world) to join us and share on specific topics related to our Inspired Learning theme.

Together all of us will be doing our best to encourage each of you to be active and interact with each other here in our learning community. We hope each of you will be willing to share what you know works and why. We will also offer opportunities for you to work together on projects globally that everyone can use back in your local Alberta context.

3. Creation and sharing of new Inspired Learning aligned resources and innovative practice

We will be sharing the best content out there to help you in redefining and improving your classroom practice. We will also be engaging you (the community) to help us create needed resources that inform your work.

4. Become more informed about 1) Inspired Education principles, 2) Opportunities for visibility in Alberta, 3) Ongoing issues in Alberta education

Collectively as a community of practice we want to share and inform around these three area of focus. Together we can grow in our understanding and implementation of the Inspired Education principles and how they play out in Alberta’s classrooms.

5.  Develop self paced e-courses that will help Alberta educators grow in their connected learning skills. Offer multiple opportunities to learn together with others from around the world highlighting the success of Alberta educators from their work in classrooms and schools.

We hope you will connect with us in various scheduled global events sharing what you are learning and implementing around the Inspired Learning principles.

Your 2014 challenge? Log in at least once a day and do something.

Suggestions include:

  • reply to a threaded discussion around a topic that interests you
  • start a discussion
  • join the Newbie Room and engage
  • update your profile page to include your work and passionate interests
  • volunteer to help in the various activities as they are announced and launched
  • post a video or picture
  • engage in a group that interests you
  • ask questions and dialog with a coach
  • participate in one of the events of activities

So what are your 2014 learning goals? How can you utilize this online learning community to connect, collaborate and co-create with others? Share your ideas in this comments below.

Posted in community, Inspired Learning | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Connected Educator Book Club- everything you need to know!

teacherpreneursconnected_educatorWhat: Four books and their authors share insights and push your thinking around the content.

When: A new book launches each week in the month of October.

Where: In a cool new CEM educational community called edConnectr.

what_school_leadersinvent_to_learnHow: Twitter chats and webinars with the authors, asynchronous exploration of the key ideas with others in the club, weekly author updates and videos.

Why: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” You will learn new things and make connections with interesting people.

The Connected Educators Book Club is an opportunity to read books about or related to connected learning, then discuss them with your peers and the author, through asynchronous (self-paced) dialog (in edConnectr) and two real-time webinar discussions in Blackboard Collaborate in this room.  You’ll also receive weekly emails from the club highlighting the latest book-related discussions and events.


Now: Join edConnectr to start and then click here to learn more.

edConnectr signup includes simple questions about your role, expertise, needs, and interests that will help improve your book club experience.

October 1: 7pm EST (NY time) – CEM Book Club Twitter chat hosted by the four CEM feature book authors. Join us for a lively conversation around key themes in the books. Plenty of time for Q&A.


teacherpreneursCheck out, get the book

October 1: Teacherpreneurs book club launches
October 3: 7:30pm EST (NY time) Kickoff webinar with the authors
November 14: 7pm EST Closing webinar with the authors

The Connected Educator

connected_educatorCheck out, get the book

October 7: The Connected Educator book club launches
October 8: 6pm EST (NY time) Kickoff webinar with the authors
November 11: 7pm EST Closing webinar with the authors

Invent to Learn

invent_to_learnCheck out, get the book

October 21: Invent To Learn  book club launches
October 21: 9pm EST Kickoff webinar with the authors
December 4: 9pm Closing webinar with the authors

What School Leaders Need To Know

what_school_leadersCheck out, get the book

October 28: What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media book club launches
October 28: 7pm EST Kickoff webinar with the authors
December 2: 7pm EST Closing webinar with the authors


This CEM Book Club Info video will explain the details and help you navigate the edConnectr space and book club groups:

 What Do I Need To Know?

  • Each book club will kickoff asynchronously on a Monday during Connected Educator Month. They will last six weeks each, but discussions can continue long after the book club ends.

  • Participants in the book clubs can register and join the edConnectr community before the actual October 1 launch date. The groups for specific books will open on that book’s start date.

  • October 1 there will be a #hashtag chat using the #ce13 tag to announce all of the CEM feature books and give book club participants a chance to chat with the authors.

  • When a book club launches (schedule above) those participating in that book club will join the appropriate group and begin to get to know one another and weigh in through threaded conversations.

  • Sometime during the first week of each CEM featured book club launch, there will be an interactive, live webinar with the author(s). The kickoff webinars will give an overview of the book with emphasis on key ideas and led by the author and another facilitator.

  • Asynchronously, each week in the edConnectr Book Groups there will be structured threaded discussions related to the chapters. This will also provide the opportunity for  participants to engage with the authors and each other as they discuss the concepts and how to apply them in their local context and setting.

  • Each week there will be a homework assignment for the next week. Such as what chapters to read, what to ponder, or things to try.

  • In most cases, the Book Club group discussion will be led by the author(s) each week. However, in all cases the authors will provide a weekly update thread or video.

  • At the end of the six weeks each CEM book club will end with a celebratory webinar hosted by the author(s).

  • A certificate of completion or participation will be available for book club participants, in a form you can print out and as a digital badge.

Posted in AISINetwork, Connected Educator Month | Tagged , | Leave a comment