In my role, that of an Itinerant Teacher for Educational Technology in the Elementary Panel, I have had, and continue to have, the incredible privilege to participate in some phenomenal events. As I work at the board level, I don’t have a regular classroom so the normal process of getting a supply teacher to cover my responsibilities is never an issue. I am blessed to have the support of my immediate supervisor, Superintendent Dave Abbey, and to have individuals within organizations advocate on my behalf. That affords me opportunities to participate in some incredible learning events and develop my own learning. I’d like to highlight three specific events over the past few months that caused me to reflect on my own position as an educator and gave me a renewed vision for technology integration.
The first event was the Microsoft E2 Summit in Toronto. If I was to use one word to describe this conference, “humility” comes to mind.
I was invited to the Microsoft Summit in Toronto, along with 2 of our Elementary Teachers. From the outset, it became apparent that this was no ordinary event. Educators from 85 different countries had been brought together to spend three full days in learning, collaboration and sharing. I attended on the final day. After registration was complete, I was directed to share breakfast with the other participants. My day began in conversation with the American delegates who joined me at the table. Right from the outset, I was able to connect with a wonderful educator who has had extensive experience with transforming library spaces into what we now call Learning Commons. I was particularly interested since one of the school based projects I currently support is focused on just that – the transformation of typical library spaces into areas of collaboration, creativity and multi-faceted learning. It was fantastic to be able to become involved in a conversation immediately and share thoughts, ideas and questions. This was only the first of many conversations that took place that day. From the keynote speakers to the marketplace, from breakfast to final snacks just before the conference part of the day wrapped up – I couldn’t help but notice that everyone involved showed the same characteristic – humility. Everyone I spoke to, especially the educators from around the world during the Marketplace, shared their learning authentically and no one believed that they were doing anything spectacular or particularly noteworthy, yet here they were on an international stage, sharing their experiences literally with the world. The collective expertise within that room was overwhelming – individuals coming together, sharing their individual learning – the true meaning of collaboration in visual form.
I wondered how much better our schools, our Boards, our education systems would be if educators would only have the courage to make their learning more visible to those around them? What could I do to make my own personal learning visible? What things do I do that I deem to be “ordinary” that could have the potential to move someone else forward in their own learning? What could you, as a reader, share?
The second event worth mentioning was a chance to spend a day at the Learning Hub in London, Ontario with educators from Ontario who were interested in participating in a Makerspace type of experience. For this event, organized and sponsored by Fair Chance Learning , the word “equity” comes to mind. The whole day was filled with hands-on learning involving the Micro-Bit and MakeyMakeys. We sat together and worked together at tables in the most incredibly transformed space. At my particular table, there were three individuals from the Ministry, three teachers from a variety of school boards and myself. We worked together, talked together, shared together with no consideration of position or experience. We were simply co-learners, all focused on a task. The integration of technology leveled our “field of play”.
I wondered what it would be like if we could provide more experiences like that – where students, educators, parents, administrators, and, dare I say, representatives from the Ministry, could come together and learn TOGETHER – everyone working together as equals, learning from each other. I wonder what kinds of conversations would take place during an event like that? What would the continued “wonderings” be? What would the community of learners look like following an opportunity like that?
The third event I was privileged to attend was the recent Google Summit, again in London Ontario. I was so fortunate to be there, attending and co-presenting, with Karen from the Ministry as we shared the new resource document regarding technology integration. I had never been to an event such as that before as I have always had scheduling challenges when any of the Microsoft Camp 21 events were close by. From the outset, I was struck by the friendliness, the openness and the welcoming atmosphere I experienced. Before I even entered the building, someone was coming to greet me, provide me with a lanyard and nametag and answer any questions I might have had as a first time participant. Everyone was greeted warmly. Thank you, TMack, author of “Dive into Inquiry”, for giving me such a welcome – it was so appreciated!! As it turned out, I had several more opportunities to learn from and chat with this incredible educator over the next two days. I also had a chance to learn and interact with Donnie Piercey who challenged us to look for “surprise and delight” when working alongside our students.
The challenge that continues to haunt me was a question posed in the closing keynote: “Are students running into your classroom or running away from it?” This simple question has so many implications. It causes me to reflect generally on the physical space in our classrooms, on the content of our lessons, on my priorities as a teacher and moves rapidly into deeper reflections regarding my past and present interactions with all ages of learners – was I/am I as welcoming as I could be? Have I ever greeted my students in the welcoming way that I was greeted initially? Do I present a welcoming environment? Do I make each of my students as much of a priority as I think I do? Do I genuinely listen to individuals with whom I interact? Do I create the conditions for “surprise and delight”?
I think it’s time for me to take some advice from a new hero and do some deep diving myself. Look for me on Twitter and join the conversation. Let’s continue to learn from each other.