Thursday, November 22, 2012

Where Relationships & Expectations Intersect

In my role as Principal, I have the distinct privilege of overseeing the supervision of  instruction of  teachers.  With that privilege comes the awesome responsibility of teacher evaluation (formative and summative).  I am not sure exactly how many summative evaluations I have conducted, but I think I am getting close to 100.

This post is not about the merits or pitfalls of any one approach to teacher evaluation (although I do have some thoughts on this)

Nonetheless, when reflect and think about some of the most transformational and effective teachers that I have had the pleasure of working with, there are some obvious trends that emerge.

The Research
The research is exhaustive on what constitutes "effective" teachers, with various researchers listing a host of correlates for effective teaching.

Marzano (2003) identifies three main correlates: Instructional Strategies, Classroom Management and Classroom Curricular Design.

Stronge (2002) list such qualities as classroom management, instruction plans, implementing instructions and monitoring student progress.

For each of these qualities the researchers have identified a myriad of research based teaching practices.

While not trying to be dismissive or overly simplistic in my interpretation of the research- my "field work" as a principal has crystallized a couple of trends when it comes to transformational teaching.

My main hypothesis is that transformational teaching does not begin or end with a teacher's adoption any particular pedagogical approach (e.g technology integration).  Instead, I have found that transformational teachers operate at the place where positive relationship intersect with having high expectations of students.

Let me explain each idea further

Positive Relationships
  • These teachers focus on teaching students, not the curriculum.
  • These teachers notice, recognize and listen to students as real people, each with their own learning needs, challenges, gifts and blessings.  This mindset allows teaches to differentiate instruction and assessment to best meet the needs to students.
  • These teachers are prepared to have challenging conservation with students and parents in an affirming and constructive way.   
  • These teachers anchor their assessment AND evaluation of students in descriptive and depth of feedback
  • These teachers have a unique ability to be vulnerable to their students as a teacher and co-learner.
  • These teachers never violate personal and professional boundaries with students.  
High Expectations

I've written about this topic before here
  • These teachers are confidence builders while simultaneously stretching and challenging  ALL students to reach for successes beyond the students' wildest dreams.  
  •  The "sink or swim" mindset does NOT exist for these teachers.  These teachers set the bar high and create a unique and appropriate road map for each student to reach that target. 
  • These teachers are boiling over with enthusiasm about their course and learning in general.  This enthusiasm becomes contagious with students  
  • These teachers understand that genuine learning is rooted in a teachers ability to empower each student take control drive their own learning.

As always,  I am interested in hearing from other practitioners and their opinion on my stated hypothesis.

Still figuring it out....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

BYOD: What We're Learning

Regular readers of this blog will know that our school has embraced BYOD approach to technology at school

Although we have had a soft launch to this policy for the previous two years, this year marks the first year of our full implementation.

Two months into the school year I thought it would be helpful to report out on some observations, challenges and successes.

The Numbers
We have seen an exponential growth of devices here at school.  To be clear, many of these devices were probably already here but our policy is now bringing those devices out, in public, where they can be successfully used by students.  We are currently peaking at 1200 devices on our WiFi network.  With a school population (staff and students) of 550, that averages to about 2 devices per person.

Sharing the Technology
A teacher's tech problem/issue doesn't have to stall the lesson.  With both teacher and students having access to devices, a technology dependent class has a less likelihood of stalling if the teacher's device crashes.  No more awkward "talk among yourselves" as the teachers scrambles.  We can now share devices.

Stability Required
With more users relying on our WiFi and wired network,  the need for a stable and consistent infrastructural has become more pronounced.  Minor interruptions to our WiFi network (our system has been very reliable)  today causes a loud chorus of "is the WiFi down?" from both staff and students.

Need to Support
Creating, supporting and sustaining a technology rich environment requires technical support.  Nothing is quite as frustrating and undermining than having a less than consistent hardware and software.  Nonetheless, from time to time stuff breaks down.  Because of the increasing reliance on our technology infrastructure (WiFi, desktops, projectors, etc) , the timely repair of these issues is critical. Over the years we have increased the time allocated to our I.T teacher to provide the necessary supports to enable a learning culture supported by technology.

Any outlet will do
Honesty & Integrity
Academic Integrity is a priority.  This has always been a priority for any school.  Cheating is an issue that needs to be dealt with when it arises.  In our experience, technology has not created more cheating but rather new realities and challenges.  We have had to do some teaching around integrity and create systems to mitigate the likelihood of cheating with personal devices.   The bigger issue around cheating revolves around the "why" of cheating.  Solve the "why" and solve the cheating.

Where's the outlet?
We are seeing more student devices plugged into outlets around the school.  Moving forward we probably need to adopt smart solutions to this.

From under the desk to the desk top
As student devices become more mainstream at school, it has brought on-line interactions more mainstream and to the attention of responsible adults.  The devices have gone from under the desk to the desk top.  This has allowed us to deal with issues of digital citizenship more frequently.

What is my role?
More and more teachers are realizing that they no longer have the sole responsibility of delivering content to students.  It is my observation that this reality has caused more and more teachers to reflect deeply on what their fundamental role is.  An interesting response to this reality (I don't think it is a coincidence) is that a large number of teachers are looking at Problem Based Learning as part of their professional learning plan.
QR Code in English

Apps that leverage personal devices
I am noticing that teachers are accessing and using more applications that cater to the effective use of personal devices.  I am happy to report that we are seeing more than just teachers using PowerPoint.   For example, we have seen a rise of QR codes throughout the school.

The need to unplug
We need to unplug.  As our use of technology at school evolves, we are becoming increasingly mindful of modelling the need to unplug at times.  Being present in relationship and being present in authentic community is a value we need to uphold and maintain.  This is essential to who we are as a Christian Catholic school community.

I'm sure we will learn much more as we continue to empower our teachers and students to use technology to enrich learning.

I am particularly interested in hearing from other schools that have adopted a BYOD approach to technology.  Any insights and ideas are always welcome!