Collaborate. Create. Learn.

“.. I believe that the single most important idea for reform in K-12 education concerns a change in goal. The goal needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.” Steve Denning

 

Wow!  What am amazing start up in Parkland School Division (PSD).  I continue to be amazed by our passionate staff focused not only on ensuring our youth receive a quality education but how they are embracing learning. Parkland School Division’s vision remains steadfast:

Parkland School Division is a learning organization dedicated to the development of children.

More than ever, we here in PSD are talking about each and every one of us being a learner and the importance of lifelong learning.  Our vision is clear…we are all learning.  The question now; is what does that look like for staff, students and parents?  How we learnt/taught 50 years ago does not hold true for today.  Do we throw out the system of education that has been around for over a 100 years?  No… but we must revisit the “how” we are instructing our children.  We must ensure we meet the needs of our students in a global economy.

Our children are connected more than they ever have been, they have information readily available.  In PSD we are talking about collaborating, creating and learning together as we move forward in transformation.  Our focus in PSD remains on pedagogy, good sound instructional practices aligned to the Provincial program of studies.  Some think transformation means introducing “technology”. As Marc Prensky discusses, the focus is always on the pedagogy:

“Just adding technology, however, will not make this happen.  In  fact, in some cases, laptops have already been added and removed for having “failed”.  But the failure in those cases was neither of the students nor of the technology, but rather of the pedagogy.” Marc Prensky, Teaching Digital Natives  

In PSD technology will be used to provide innovative and  unique opportunities for our learners, but it is just one of  many ways that we are wanting to improve the environment for our students.

John Seely Brown in The Power of Pull stated:

If we are going to succeed in this rapidly changing world, we face two challenges; making sense of the changes around us, and making progress in an increasingly unfamiliar world.

The work under way in Parkland School Division is about making sense of this “unfamiliar world”.   PSD is embracing this journey of transformation to meet the needs of our students as 21st Century Learners. Transformational initiatives include:

  • Leveraging leadership to lead change
  • Meaningful engagement with our community
  • Inclusive education
  • Meaningful assessment and reporting
  • Professional learning as the foundation of a learning organization

To support our transformational initiatives we are focused on three verbs…collaborate, create and learn.  Recently I attended a thanksgiving dinner put on by students at Greystone Centennial Middle School in Spruce Grove.  Student in grade 7, 8, 9 under the supervision of staff worked together to cook turkeys, potatoes, dressing, vegetable, pies and all the fixings!  They created a feast to be enjoyed by staff and students.  Students met our facilities staff and senior team at the front door and showed us to the Food Studies Lab where we shared the feast.  The learning was huge!  Cooking a turkey and making pies was just part of  what students learnt.   Students greeted guests, engaged in conversation with guests, assisted guests and planned for this great event.  Citizenship and social responsibility was alive and well; a testament to collaborate, create, learn!

Our collaborative approach begins in our back yard here in PSD.  Through such programs/initiatives such as Citizenship and Social Responsibility , learning coaches, curriculum based report cards, learning leader program, 184 Days of Learning, Board of Trustees system review, we are focused on coming together to collaborate.   As David Weinberger said, “The smartest person in the room is the room”,  and that is why we focus on the need to come together.  We make better decisions as a collective and we need to focus on building the strengths of the individuals of that team.

“As we look ahead to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Bill Gates

Out of collaboration comes innovation; the opportunity to create.   When we encourage students to connect with other students with similar interests/projects not just face to face but through social medi, we start to see amazing things begin to happen.   For example, last year Forest Green School had created some amazing connections through their portfolio project and were able to learn from experts Skyping into the classroom to work with students.  These are opportunities that we did not have as kids, but we need to ensure we take advantage for our own students.

“We can think more creatively if we open our minds to the many connected environments that make creativity possible”.  Stephen Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Our youth are inquisitive and do want the world to be a better place.    As our youth are exposed to the global world and we as educators facilitate their learning as an ethical citizen, their entrepreneurial spirit will flourish.  The same holds true of our staff.  Given the opportunity, I have always believed those with passion will step forward to make the world better.

“It is the habit of curiosity that allows an individual to begin to wonder how a system might be substantively improved or even reinvented.” Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap

In PSD we are all embracing learning.  We are continuously asking questions, breaking down barriers and sharing our learning.  We have entered a world of connecting with other learners at the school and division level.  Tweeting, blogging as well as the 184 Days of  Learning project has provided us new avenues to learn from others while connecting.  We are still focused on face to face learning, meeting Provincial learning outcomes/competencies, but we are also embracing the connected world that will enhance not only our students learning but ours.

Throughout my education, I have always felt that things needed to be perfect before the final product was shared. As I have grown in my own practice, I have seen the power of sharing the process of learning, as the contributions of others only help enhance what we are doing for our students.  We need to embrace this open process with our school community, and especially our students.

I have always thought of myself as someone who is passionate about  learning and doing what is “right” for kids. Through my recent learnings, my excitement for the future of education and passion has been heightened.  As we talk about transformation and what it means to us in Parkland School Division, every chance we have, we need to collaborate, create, and learn as an organization and a community.  It is always about doing what is best for kids.

What a great time to be in education!

Embracing Change

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28 Responses to Collaborate. Create. Learn.

  1. Shaye says:

    Tim,

    You have done a great job sharing much of the exciting work that is being undertaken here in PSD! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

  2. Nicole says:

    It is a great time to be in education. Our students are being provided fantastic learning opportunities as you mentioned. For me the overarching theme of collaborate, create and learn is – communication. Today we have a variety of ways to communicate our content, knowledge, skill development, and reflections. That’s powerful!

    • tmonds says:

      Nicole, you are so right, communication is key to our work. We must continue to engage in conversation not only with our students and colleagues but our wonderful stakeholders…parents and beyond! Thanks for sharing. Tim

  3. As I read your post, I smiled from ear to ear, I nodded my head several times in agreement and I almost shed a tear. I am also a very passionate educator who believes this a a “great time to be in education!” Being a mother of 3 and 4 year old, I have butterflies in my stomach when you talk about “our youth (being) exposed to the global world” and that we must “facilitate their learning as ethical citizens,” and watch as “their entrepreneurial spirit flourishes.” As I watch my own children grow and become students of our public systems I hope they are exposed to 21st century learning opportunities. I want to help foster an environment where children create… create… and create for an authentic audience. In this process, learning takes care of itself, but the end result is self-confident, self-assured, active and responsible citizenship. Tim, you have really worked hard to align your district on the mission of being 21st century leading educators. You are working to align expectations on administrators and teachers, align assesement and pedagogy, and align students, parents and community. This is a work in progress and I believe you are on the right track. Thanks for sharing such a transparent and heartfelt blog post.

    • tmonds says:

      Thanks for sharing. I share in your passion as a parent, I have four amazing children all pursuing wonderful careers, engaged in learning, focused on creating a wonderful future and are truly responsible citizens. What more could we ask for as parents!! If we can do that as parents and educators…we have been successful. Tim

  4. Randy Hetherington says:

    Thanks Tim, not only for the tone and genuinely personal message your blog contains….but for presenting it in a manner that reflects the “professional” nature of our work in public education and models a leadership practice that reflects upon best practice, current research and looks beyond our realm to other professions for their wisdom. This is the true essence of Collaborate, Create and Learn.
    I would like to focus on one comment you made for my “two bits worth” as they say. You stated:

    “Given the opportunity, I have always believed those with passion will step forward to make the world better.”

    In drawing upon the work of Senge (as our trusted colleague Ms. Mann does) a learning organization is one that not only relys on such people of passion stepping foward, it actually encourages it through establishing a culture of support and embracing risk-taking (Senge, 1990). What I think will be critical in PSD over the next few months (years) is differentiating between two oft confused concepts that while related, impact the implementation of passion in very different ways. I speak of self-esteem versus self-efficacy. A well respected Albertan temporarily re-located to Stanford, Albert Bandura, has spent a life’s work exploring this relationship and I offer here only a small snippet of his learnings.

    Teachers as a whole, despite their extraverted occupation, are not all extraverted as individuals and expressing their passion beyond their own classroom (i.e. with colleagues and through newtroks to a global audience) is not necessarily within their comfort zone. While they certainly require a strong sense of self-esteem, feeling good about who they are, they need something else. They need a strong sense of self-efficacy (Wood,Bandura & Bailey, 1990, p.181) both as individuals and as an organization. Self efficacy is the belief that you have the necessary skills, knowledge and environment to be successful in a pursuit. This is where our site leaders and the PSD executive team come in.

    Site leaders need to establish an environment where the passionate not only feel good about themselves as teachers, but feel competent and motivated to collaborate, create and learn. PSD executive and lead team members need to do the same for our site leaders and both directly and indirectly for teachers, EA’s and all others who work in the service of our students. This is not easy work at either level and requires consistency and dedication to acieve within the current reality of budgetary restraint. Certainly the focus on transformation from AE gives us the permission and encouragement to proceed and if your blog is any indication, PSD has accepted that invitation. Where we go from here will no doubt be an adventure. Finding all our passionate people and engaging them through positive self-efficacy is one of our biggest challenges in my opinion.

    Cheers!
    Randy

    • tmonds says:

      I appreciate your response Randy, Well said…it is up to us to support all our amazing staff in fulfilling the self efficacy you speak off. For our students to be successful we must be successful in our learning and collaboration as a organization. Tim

  5. lohara says:

    Tim,

    I think many of us feel the shift happening in our district. My amazing colleagues and I are excited to embrace PSD’s collaborative initiative and tweak our teaching practices to encourage more discovery and student directed learning in the classroom. If we are excited to implement these changes as teachers, our students will feel that enthusiasm as well. Thank you for the great post. It is important for all of us, teachers and students, to feel guided and supported.

    • tmonds says:

      You are so right, support is key to our success. I am excited to hear you speak of tweaking our teaching practices. It is rewarding to hear so many of our staff talk about learning, enthusiasm and the future. Thanks! Tim

  6. sboyce says:

    Tim,
    Thank you for your insightful and reflective comments. The true testament to the work we all do in PSD is the number of people involved in this work. It’s no longer individual or small teams of teachers trying to make minor improvements here and there. We’ve seen teachers collaborating with students, board members working with teachers, senior executive, and students, parents getting involved in school and district initiatives, and community members wanting to contribute and learn as well. All of this collaboration sparks the creativity that ultimately results in some amazingly deep learning.
    You’re right – it truly is a great time to be involved in education. It is a time of risk taking, which for many people is a bit uncomfortable. We all need to support each other in taking those risks however, as it is only together that we can construct that collaborative, creative, learning environment. The transparency you show in your posts helps to assure us all that PSD is such a place.

    • tmonds says:

      Well said Shauna. I so agree with you the true testament is the number of people involved. We have a strong board who truly wants transparency, is committed to engaging our stakeholders and does want to make good decisions grounded on research. New world is uncomfortable world at times, but I am finding we are better because of it. Thanks for sharing. Tim

  7. gcouros says:

    Thanks for your post Tim. In what you are discussing, I was reminded of this quote from John Seely Brown:

    “Learning in an age of constant change simply never stops. In the new culture of learning, the bad news is that we rarely reach any final answers. But the good news is that we get to play again, and we may find even more satisfaction in continuing the search.”

    I think that as we move forward in our world, the idea that we can simply say what success looks like for any individual person is impossible as they have a huge bearing on what success looks like them. I think with the opportunities that we can provide them, it is essential that they have ownership on their own learning and have opportunities to learn the way that best suits them.

    So what does success look like for every student in Parkland? I think that is dependent on each child and you should really have 10,000 answers for what it looks like. With that being said, if school pushes them to be true lifelong learners and follow their passions and interests, while becoming great citizens that make contributions to the betterment of our world, we will have made a huge impact. Hopefully our schools continue to spark curiosity and a love for learning.

    Thanks again for your transparency and sharing of the way forward.

    • tmonds says:

      Very well said George. Learning will look different for each of us. If our children are truly ethical citizens, lifelong learners, doing their best to have a positive impact on our world…we have done well as educators. I do believe our schools will continue to create a love for learning. George thanks for sharing your knowledge on blogging, tweeting and more with PSD staff and specifically with me. This has provided another avenue for us to communicate.
      Tim

  8. George Couros shared the link to this blog with me, and I’m so glad that he did. Wow! I love your Board’s student-centred approach to learning and how you’re using technology to help make great things happen. In both your words and actions, it’s clear that you’re all about doing what’s best for kids. I can’t wait to read more about your amazing year (and I’m sure that it will be just that)!

    Aviva

  9. I enjoyed reading your post, Tim, along with all of the comments that followed. What I want to add is that here in Parkland School Division, we are not just talking about transformation in education…we are actually doing it! I am so proud of the courageous leadership being shown in our schools and in our School Division as we move forward with creative, innovative, student-centred learning. The implementation of our new curriculum-based report cards is an example of how we are addressing the development of process skills and competencies as a focus for student learning. The ongoing collaboration throughout our School Division will assist all of us in moving forward together. Having you share with all of us so transparently and seeing you keep open lines of communication with our partners in Education is setting an excellent example for all of us. The world is changing far too fast for any one of us to think we have to get this all figured out before moving forward – I am so glad to hear you are more comfortable with the process of learning together, when all the answers are not yet known, as we continue to do what’s best for our kids here in PSD70. Very exciting times!

    • tmonds says:

      Carolyn, great to hear from you. Very exciting times indeed! PSD is under way as you say…we are collaborating and looking to the future to ensure our children have the best educational opportunities available to be a well rounded individual in the 21st century!. Thanks for sharing. Tim

  10. Glen Thiel says:

    Tim,

    Thank you for your leadership. It is only in a culture that supports and even nurtures risk taking that transforamtional growth truly occurs. Whether it be working at the leading edge of the technology or “collaborating, creating & learning” with respect to the latest in brain, pedagogical and developmental research, there is a chance for us to transform education. It is truly a great time to be in education and the opportunities for educators are limitless…supported by a culture of growth, with the best interest of children in mind and a willingness to “collaborate, create & learn” we will all benefit.

  11. Todd Wandio says:

    Tim, thank you for sharing your vision for educators and learners in Parkland. This year is important for me in my work with differentiating learning for some of our more sensitive learners as I look to find how online learning can be adapted to meet the needs of struggling learners. I believe that by putting the students’ needs first, we are able to find solutions that don’t fit neatly inside a plan book or instruction manual. I feel there is some significant support for these different learners, and I look forward to the challenge ahead.

    • tmonds says:

      Todd glad to hear you are up to the challenge. You are so right students’ needs don’t always fit neatly inside a plan book or instructional manual. Thus the need to have passionate educators learning together and supporting one another to meet the needs of all of our learners. Thanks for sharing. Tim

  12. This really stood out to me, Tim:

    “Throughout my education, I have always felt that things needed to be perfect before the final product was shared. As I have grown in my own practice, I have seen the power of sharing the process of learning, as the contributions of others only help enhance what we are doing for our students. We need to embrace this open process with our school community, and especially our students.”

    You mention an open process for the school community AND the students. This is key. Our students need to see us, as their teachers, going through the same process as they are; a process of learning, frustration, reflection, success, and sharing. I find, though, that for many teachers it is difficult to be so transparent. As Randy mentions, not all of our educators are as extroverted as they may appear or we assume them to be. To be open, especially during the learning process, for some is a big step. Many teachers are use to being the source or fountain of knowledge in the classroom. To be an active participant in the same process as the students may mean that we have to show our own weaknesses and faults. But that is what makes it so great. We often ask our students to “try harder” or “take a risk” and yet many of us are reluctant to drink from the same cup.

    What about the school community though? I’m not sure how broad you meant that, but I would imagine that it refers to the families, neighborhoods, local businesses and public organizations. I believe that if we truly what to bring about change in education, we must have the support and participation of all our community members and organizations. When those on the “outside” are invited in, to see, to collaborate, to share their voice, we reach a point where not only do the learners (as George mentions) have ownership, but the community does as well. In my community, not too many people have an opinion until their pocket books are affected; but we move forward and continue to invite others to participate in our learning, in the process, and in our success.

    Thank you for your thoughts. I will be sharing this with my Superintendent here in Klamath Falls, OR, USA.

    • tmonds says:

      Jeremy thanks for commenting. You are right about the school community…here in PSD beyond our students and staff we mean our families, businesses, municipal partners and more. Our board began a very successful engagement of our communities through their generative governance approach last year. This approach will continue into the 2011-2012 school year.

  13. Kathy Mann says:

    Self-efficacy. That’s a juicy word. I like it. What I hear Randy saying is that we can’t just be about the feel good. We need to know how to get the job done in a real way that impacts learning. What I’m wondering about is, how do we strike the balance between feeling like we have enough of a handle on things to go forward, but still be comfortable enough with potentially stumbling? We need to be confident enough to model that learning involves taking risks.

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