Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reading Picks

With the rush of Christmas now over, we thought we would share some of our reading picks for the holidays and for the New Year. We'd really like to hear what you think so please leave us a comment or a suggestion or your own.
All the best for 2013!

Linda and Judy’s suggested reading list for 2013

1. Environmental Awareness/Leadership

Education for Sustainability: Becoming Naturally Smart  - Paul Clarke

We believe that every school in the province should have a farm (problem-based learning) and that the farm should be connected to the Pop-Up Farm international network. Paul’s book helps to explain why. So will his video clips from the May seminar – available for your use by September on the website.

2. Reform of Systems

Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School - Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan

Strong thinking from two leading reform analyzers – an enjoyable exploration of systems and reform strategies that do and do not work.

3. Learning and Teaching

How Children Succeed: Grit Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character  - Paul Tough

Provocative and hopeful book on how to help children develop perseverance, curiosity, optimism and self-control.

Visible Learning for Teachers John Hattie

If we want to draw on what is already known about teaching and learning,  this book is a strong summary of a huge amount of empirical research.

4. Assessment 

Active Learning through Formative Assessment  - Shirley Clarke

Lots of practical advice for learner engagement from K-12.

Clarity in the Classroom  - Michael Absolum

Especially strong on learning relationships and intentionality.

Embedded Formative Assessment  - Dylan Wiliam

Very good for teacher study groups. The core resource for AFL practices.

5. Parents/Social and Emotional Learning

Ten Mindful Minutes  - Goldie Hawn

Workable strategies for reducing stress and anxiety for family members and learners. Another easy read.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success -  Carol S. Dweck
A book that all educators, parents, trustees and coaches and high school students should read. Clearly and without jargon, Mindset explains why we need a growth mindset to learn. Web resources are excellent too and include questions for a book study.

Seven Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!  - Susan Zimmerman and Chryse Hutchins

A useful book for parent reading clubs and for educators interested in learning more about understanding reading.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking  - Susan Cain
Great book for understanding yourself, your family members and other educators and students in your work life. An easy read.

6. Professional Learning

Realizing the Power of Professional Learning -  Helen Timperley

Helen is the most knowledgeable international researcher about what makes professional learning a truly high impact activity for adults and for young people. She has synthesized all the studies to find what actually makes a difference to student learning. A must read for informal and formal leaders – especially professional learning committee members.

7. Inquiry

Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana

Not an easy thing to accomplish and this book can help educators learn how to do it – probably better for those who already have inquiry experience rather than complete beginners.

8. Innovative Learning Environments

The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice. Hanna Dumont, David Istance and Francisco Benavides

This is a succinct synthesis of the knowledge from the learning sciences – a must read reference for everyone interested in creating more innovative learning environments for young people.

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World
Tony Wagner

Valuable for teachers and parents and trustees. Interesting combo of text and tech for those who like pushing the edge.

Coming Soon
Spirals of Inquiry  (2013) Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert

Published with BCPVPA. The research combined with some ‘how to’ practices for school teams committed to quality and equity for all learners and illustrated with case studies from BC schools. 

Making Successful Transitions - The Gift of Sharing

Thanks very much to Debbie Koehn, a Network leader,  for sharing this story from the Nass Valley.

This is the time of year when present opening plays an important role but gifts come in many different forms. One of the most important gifts educators can offer students is our own opening and sharing of practices.  As we grow as educators our students benefit.  The Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network is enabling the learning and sharing of strong practices.   One great example of learning that is taking place is our understanding of the importance of transitions. 

We are learning lessons from the First Nations’ Peoples in the Nass Valley about the power of community.  Last September Gitwinksihlkw Chiefs, Matriarchs, Elders and  parents/family members presented the students to the Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School staff.  A Chief from each Tribe gave their blessing and words of wisdom, as did other respected members of the community.  The staff at Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School was honored to be part of such an important ceremony, accepting the shared role of educating and developing students’ potentials as members of the community.  This ceremony was one that demonstrated communal trust and respect for all educators and caregivers working together to help students develop skills and strategies that will help guide them through the future.

Important lessons are to be learned from this ceremony.  The Aboriginal community is helping to lead the way to understanding each individual’s personal need to feel like a valued member of the learning community. Each student is known to all the stakeholders by the end of the ceremony and should be more ready to move into a structured learning community after being acknowledged by all participants. 

Members of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network will be taking this practice a step further, examining it thoughtfully so that we can emulate this wise practice when transitioning our students from grade to grade or from school to school. 

Imagine the impact on the community when the students leaving one school structure are formally presented to the new school and staff by not just their current teacher, but by caring Elders, Chiefs, caregivers and members of the Aboriginal community painting a picture with words and actions of who the student is as a person and a learner.  Students could feel ownership of a place, before even attending, knowing that the important people in their lives have come together to celebrate them as individuals. Community members could feel more at ease, knowing that students were entering a place where they already were known and knowing that the seeds of relationships had already been planted. Students and community members will have begun to develop an understanding of the new school expectations.  

If done in late Spring and early June students could have the possibility of moving back and forth between the buildings they are exiting as students and the buildings they are entering - creating a bridge of relationships between the two.  Peer learning partners could be established so that the learning community is actively interacting long before the official first day of the school year. The importance of moving through life skills (represented by educational buildings) would be acknowledged and celebrated in a traditional, dignified manner.

Although we cannot replace the meaningfully relationships built in home communities, we can begin to learn through watching, and attempting to embed in our schools the wise practices of education that take place daily in our Aboriginal communities.

                                                   Gitwinksihlkw Elementary School 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Connections and Transitions

When we started the Network in 1999, we had no idea that thirteen years later the work would be continuing. Neither of us has ever lived in a house that long let alone stuck with an initiative that has become such an important part of our lives. We occasionally wonder when it will be time to step away and say that the work is all done. From our perspective in working with schools across BC, there is still much to be done. We are encouraged by the ways in which more and more educators are embracing the goal of every learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options. We are gratified by the extent to which coaching forms of assessment is becoming a way of life in many settings. And, we are deeply interested in the various ways that professional inquiry is becoming central to professional learning.

At the same time, we hear from, see and meet many educators who continue to feel isolated in their settings, where professional learning is disconnected from the needs of their learners, and who are thirsty for the kinds of connections across schools and districts that the network provides. We also know that there are still many learners who are not intellectually engaged in their learning and who feel little or no connection to their schools. To borrow from the words of Robert Frost "We have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep." Our promise is to always provide a space for BC educators to explore powerful ideas, to interact with each other, and to make a contribution to the learning of others.

So, what does that look for the Network going into a new year? We are welcoming questions from any school in BC (or the Yukon) who wants to be part of a networked inquiry community. The template is easily accessible on the website ( and while we would like to receive questions by the end of December, it is never to late to get started.  We are looking forward to the spring seminar that will be held May 5 in Vancouver - there will be lots of opportunities for interaction, for learning from other schools, and also for probing some leading edge research. Look for a flyer early in 2013 and save the date now!

Across the province, network meetings are taking place in a variety of forms. We know that face-to-face meetings are really important - and that if we use technology skillfully we can create many other ways for connections to be strengthened. The big idea is that teachers, principals and support workers have the opportunity to learn from and with each other in ways that are not constrained by geography, or role. We are also very pleased that starting early in January, there will be a research study looking at the impact of AESN in  deepening knowledge and changing outcomes connected to the goals of district enhancement agreements. We are also very pleased that we have secured funding support from two foundations. This will help us to deepen and extend the support provided to schools. We are pleased with the ways in which other initiatives, for instance the Changing Results for Young Readers and the VIU Rural Literacy projects are building on much of the work of network schools. We are looking forward to the release in February of Spirals of Inquiry and very much appreciate the partnership with BCPVPA that will direct all proceeds to network schools.

The next phase of the OECD Innovative Learning Environment project also has a direct connection to BC and to Network schools. We have been invited to be part of the international team looking at ways to sustain and extend the learning that had emerged from the international case studies on innovative learning environments. The BC network is seen as an important example of a sustained approach to innovation and we are looking forward to sharing what we learn from the workshops and deliberations that will be taking place at the International Conference on Innovative Learning Environments in January.

Our very best wishes to everyone for a relaxing an happy holiday season. May 2013 be filled with enthusiasm for learning, new connections, and the contentment that comes from knowing that our work truly does change lives.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Reflections from Down Under

Linda and I have just spent the last week working with hundreds of principals, district leaders, teachers, Ministry staff and consultants in four regions of New South Wales. We were invited to Sydney because some  key leaders have read "Leadership Mindsets" and are interested in the ways we have supported networks of inquiry in BC. The state is going through a major restructuring  - regions (aka school districts) are being reduced and more responsibility is being devolved to schools.  There is considerable interest in figuring out how networks of schools can help sustain the positive momentum that has been created over the past few years as well as how the mindsets can create a positive framework for principals.

To say the week has been fascinating would be a gross understatement. We have met many absolutely wonderful educators whose passion for public education is inspiring. The challenge of creating equity and equality in a system where roughly a third of students attend private schools and another third attend religious schools is not taken lightly. Most of the indigenous students attend public schools and the educators we met are determined that public education is the route to a better life for the vast majority of their learners.

We introduced the spiral of inquiry to each of the groups we met and it was seen as a useful cognitive tool to keep the focus on the experiences of their learners - and avoid being submersed by the churn in the system. There is a lot of interest in creating stronger links with BC schools and opportunities for the exchange of ideas abound.

We also shared the framework for Aboriginal understanding and knowledge that was developed by Laura Tait and her colleagues. This was very well received and the acknowledgement that 'Aboriginal Education is for Everyone' is also starting to take hold in NSW. There are 7 key principles of indigenous understanding that are expected to be incorporated into every aspect of the NSW curriculum. We look forward to learning more from our colleagues here and to sharing what we learn through this blog.

Working through key questions in Sydney
Sydney Opera House - beautiful
Thinking of all of you back home. Hope this week and the conference many of you are attending is chock full of new learning. G'day!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Indigenous Storywork - a new opportunity for sharing, learning and fun

UBC has declared this as the year of Indigenous Education and as part of this celebration, they are focusing on Indigenous Storytelling and opening up a province-wide Indigenous Storywork challenge  with the intention of 1. building interest in indigenous stories, 2. using stories for education, 3. encouraging creativity, 4. encouraging participation and sharing, and 5. Having fun.
 For schools involved in AESN, taking part in this challenge will be a great opportunity - as it will be for any school interested in deepening indigenous understanding through story and fun.
Please check out the information and get involved!

Youth and Media Literacy

Here's some information about an upcoming (Nov 24) conference sponsored by the YMCA on Youth and Media Literacy. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Networks Matter - a lot!

Spirals of Inquiry
Today we pressed 'send' on the book we have been working on for over a year entitled Spirals of Inquiry. We are grateful to the BCPVPA for partnering with us to publish this book and are very pleased that all the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to supporting inquiry schools - particularly those serving vulnerable communities.

In some ways working on this book represents our gift to the educators we have been so privileged to work with over the past several years within various networks across BC. Your stories, your observations, your questions, and your inquiry journeys have all provided rich opportunities for us to grow in our understanding of the importance of inquiry. Your experiences also reinforce for us the absolute necessity for educators to  connect in substantive ways across schools, across districts and across roles. We have heard this repeatedly from many educators over the past few months -  and we are listening.

We spent last Sunday with thirty of the volunteer network leaders from around the province. Although  not exactly a day of rest, the conversations were lively, the laughter was contagious, and many  connections were strengthened. As a group, we had a chance to reflect on the ways in which inquiry is taking hold through various initiatives across BC and we also explored ways to sustain the emphasis on self and co-regulation that the network represents. One of the key features of the network has been the persistent focus on the six key strategies of assessment for learning  - and the understanding that assessment for and as learning are the bridge to a more personalized, learner-focused system. Despite the progress that has been made, there was no sense that we had arrived in a place where coaching forms of assessment are way of life in every setting, for every learning.

We were very pleased that Maureen Dockendorf was able to join this discussion. The CR4YR initiative provides such a great opportunity for a well-resourced and supported network focused on young readers.  In addition, having the coaches and facilitators from the VIU rural literacy research project led by Paige Fisher  added another dimension of coherence-creation. The more connections and coherence we can create across initiatives, the better. Our discussions led to the set of beliefs that you will find below.  Networks do matter - a lot!

So what is happening next? The case studies from the 2011-2012 schools have been posted on the website and within the next little while we are planning to get small grants out to as many of these schools as we can with the proceeds from last year's seminar. The video clips from the seminar are also posted and we encourage you to check them out.  We know that many school districts find ways to acknowledge and support the dedication of network schools. This local recognition is hugely important and greatly valued.

Any school in the province is welcome to be part of the network. All it takes is a commitment to the core beliefs of the network and a curiosity for learning. A guideline for inquiry as well as templates for school questions are available on the website.

Here's what the network leadership team sees as the core beliefs. We hope you agree.

Networks of Inquiry and Innovation*

Core Beliefs

It is our moral purpose to create a system where every learner crosses the stage with dignity, purpose and options.

We want learners to leave our schools and our learning settings as curious as when they arrive.

To sustain and encourage curiosity in young learners requires that they learn from and with adults who are also curious.

Learner well-being – intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and environmentally – matters.

Social responsibility and the development of democratic citizens matter to us as Canadians.

The imperative of meeting the needs of every learner is simply too challenging for any one teacher, school or district to do in isolation.

Aboriginal education is for everyone. The Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network provides a critical space for educators to explore questions related to changing outcomes for Aboriginal learners AND to deepening knowledge, understanding and respect among all learners of all ages.

A persistent emphasis on learner self and co-regulation and ownership of learning creates coherence within and across the networks.

The relentless focus on the six key formative assessment strategies provide a framework for inquiry action - and for learner engagement.

Engaging adults in inquiry inspires life-time professional curiosity.

Creating a learning space that is not bound by roles or associations can help educators to do their best work. Networks cannot be mandated or contrived. Participation is always voluntary. Networks are always open.

Continually asking What is going on for our learners? How do we know? and Why does this matter? ensures that inquiries are focused on the experiences of learners (and not the interests of adults – no matter how exciting these might be).

Demonstrating how much difference the inquiry has made to the learners  - and their learning - based on thoughtful learning progressions (the BC performance standards) creates a shared sense of responsibility for results.

Documenting the outcomes of school level inquiry through case studies and public showcases builds confidence in the process and also helps to link knowledge and practice.

The seven key learning principles provide a framework for ensuring that our innovative efforts are genuinely evidence-informed and substantive.

Small recognition grants to schools that commit to learning with other schools and then make their learning public are important. Recognition grants communicate that the efforts of a single community is genuinely valued and that their work is part of purposeful, on-going provincial community.

Face-to-face meetings are necessary for building coherence and community.  On-line communities and technology-enhanced communication create additional and vital opportunities for networking and collaboration.

Having a consistent template for generating inquiries and for case studies helps in creating coherence.

* We use the term Networks of Inquiry and Innovation to include what we referred to previously as the Network of Performance Based Schools, as well as the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network, the Healthy Schools Network and recently  the international network of Innovative Learning Environments.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kangextola Sewn-on-Top: Kwak'wala Revitalization and Being Indigenous

This is the title of Trish Rosborough's doctoral thesis that she defended brilliantly on July 16. Linda and I were both honoured to be there along with several members of her family and seven members of the examining committee including Dr. Kathy Absolon, from Wilfed Laurier University and Dr. Patricia Shaw who skyped in from Australia. Over a two hour period, Trish held the group spellbound as she explained her work and responded to probing questions from each of the examiners. Her study was conducted through a Kanextola framework, an Indigenous method based on the metaphor of creating a button blanket, the ceremonial regalia of the Kwakaka'waka. Part of Trish's study involved two years  in a Master-Apprentice relationship as she studied her own language. Her research included her own journals, personal stories, and interviews with individuals engaged in Kwak'wala revitalization.

The learnings from Trish's study have significant implications for language revitalization and language learning. Chief among these are that the complexity of the task of Kwak'wala revitalization requires a multi-faceted approach by applying indigenous principles to teaching and learning and must take into account the impacts of colonization.  Further, it is essential to sustain the spirit of the language by maintaining the literal and symbolic meanings that are important in the transmission and maintenance of the culture. Just learning the words is not enough - language learning involves so much more and a large part of this is reclaiming voice, culture and identity.

Trish, with Dr. Rita Irwin, committee chair,
Dr. Shaw on Skype and her button blanket on display,
Each of the examiners recognized the quality of Trish's work and praised her for her persistence, perseverance, creativity, academic excellence and determination. She received a spontaneous ovation from the examiners - something rare in the academy! We were proud to be there for many reasons. As graduates of UBC, witnessing the rigorous approach of the defence process was gratifying. As colleagues of Trish's, we know just how hard she has worked to manage her professional obligations and the challenges of her doctoral work. This is a huge accomplishment. And as educators in BC, we are grateful to Trish not only for her initiative in getting the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network started, but for her wisdom and leadership that is creating better and richer lives for countless young people - of all backgrounds.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Endangered Languages and Google - a new partnership

                                                              Dr. Lorna Williams
 Lorna Williams is one of our heroes. Her tenacious work to strengthen and preserve indigenous culture, to create schools where indigenous ways of knowing are part of the fabric of the curriculum and of every child's experience, her generosity in sharing her knowledge and her wisdom so freely with our grad students, with us, with international colleagues and with everyone in the Network - these are but a few reasons why we are so deeply indebted to Lorna.

Lorna has been able to help countless teachers tap into their own sense of humanity and to deepen their sensitivity to others. She has helped to teach us the importance of language and culture  - and to understand the impact when people of any age are denied their language. She has had the patience to answer many of the questions that we have - about language, culture, Aboriginal life, and what we as settler educators can do to strengthen education for Aboriginal young people.

Last week saw the  launch of the Endangered Languages Project, a website that allows users to archive audio, video and written information about the world’s rarest languages and dialects. The project could prove a boon to cultural preservation in Canada, where dozens of aboriginal languages are at risk of fading away. Dr. Williams is the chair of the First Peoples Cultural Council and deserves much credit for making this happen. Through a partnership with Google, many endangered languages may be preserved in a way no one might have thought possible a few years ago. Please check out the websiteread the press release and consider the ways in which we can all support this critically important work. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer reading list

With only a few more days of school ahead, it is time to get that summer reading list ready! We've prepared a short list for you - some that will be great poolside reading (when the sun appears) - and others that you will want some quiet space to enjoy. We'd welcome comments on the blog about any of these books - or others that you would recommend. Happy reading!
Right now, we are working on an inquiry handbook that will be published in partnership with the BCPVPA.  Professional  inquiry is becoming increasingly a focus in many school and districts and we hope that building on the strong examples from network schools where inquiry has been driving student and teacher learning for quite a while will be timely and helpful. We are also working on a book with Helen Timperley on Leading Professional Inquiry that with any luck will be out by the late summer of 2013. No lounging about this summer! Maybe it is a good thing the weather is still rotten......

Friday, June 8, 2012

Making a difference

We are truly fortunate to be able to get to know and to work with so many wonderful educators. There are so many stories that never make the media - and here is a quick snapshot of some of the good news just from this past week.

On Monday we attended the convocation at VIU for graduates of the third cohort from the MEDL program. Wendy Nixon Strothert, a music educator from Comox Valley was recognized as the gold medallist in the class. Wendy is a most deserving recipient of this award and what her VIU colleagues may remember most about her was her generosity in sharing her talents and her expertise with others. At the invitation of one of her VIU classmates, Wendy recently spent time in a neighbouring district working with choirs from a number of elementary schools, modelling for other choir leaders how to work with large groups of singers, and then conducted a mass choir performance as a culminating activity. This was right at the time when Wendy was pressured to finish her thesis and coursework.  She did it all with enormous class and we offer her our sincere thanks and congratulations.

Then we received the news that  long time network teacher, VIU grad and  Healthy Schools Leader, Lynn Brown has been recognized nationally for excellence in teaching physical education.  The PETE (Physical Education Teacher’s Excellence) award honours exceptional teachers (one from each province) for their excellence in teaching physical education and their ability to motivate children and youth to participate in physical activity. This award is the only national award in Canada that recognizes physical education teachers for their hard work and dedication in helping to build strong, healthy and physically active children. Congratulations, Lynn.

Lynn Brown - Excellence in Teaching
Next it was off to Smithers where teachers from both Bulkley Valley and Coast Mountains School District were sharing the results of their network inquiry work.  We were inspired to hear the ways in which learners of all ages are  becoming more engaged and enjoying more success. Consider grade 9 Math students being able to demonstrate their knowledge of key concepts by creating their own video clips and creating a class TV station through YouTube.  Or Grade  8 students who were reading with much greater enthusiasm and understanding as a result of their exposure to Aboriginal fiction and non fiction. And, then the intermediate students who were getting instant feedback on basic Math skills along with specific strategies for improvement as a result of a program designed by one of their teachers. Speed and accuracy were moving off the charts. The stories go on.... the girls group at a secondary school where senior girls were designing lessons and activities for younger girls connected to body image and healthy choices....these are the stories that must be told.

Here's an image that will stick with us - Dave Margerm and his VP at Twain Sullivan Elementary School in Houston. This young man greeted us at the door, proudly showed us around the school, and was acknowledged by staff and students alike as the VP. He tries to emulate his principal in every way he can. Dave is now having to up his wardrobe to keep up  - and this boy knows what it is like to feel valued and respected.

Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged when all one reads in the media is of conflict and strife. There is so much more that needs to be told. At the convocation at VIU, Chancellor and national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, explained that in this language the word for love and pain are the same. Let's make sure that the stories we tell about our schools and our learners reflect love - and the courage to make a difference.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Aboriginal Understandings - Letter of Gratitude

Within the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network, we take the position that learning more about Aboriginal culture and history, ways of knowing and wisdom traditions is absolutely essential for everyone in British Columbia and in Canada.

We are deeply grateful to mentors such as Lorna Williams, Laura Tait, Debbie Leighton Stephens, Stephanie Stephens, Gail Bedard and Colleen Hannah who over the past few years have shared their knowledge and experiences at the NOII - AESN seminars.

Last year, Laura Tait shared the draft form of a learning progression for Aboriginal understandings. This resource has led to some very thoughtful discussions and much thinking in districts around the province. You can find this posted on the NOII website as well as video clips from previous seminars.

We know that with the support of our Aboriginal colleagues, we can learn much more and we can move to informed action. We are proud of the growth that is taking place in many AESN schools - and  there is still a lot of work to be done.

Last week Brooke Moore, a teacher at  Rockridge Secondary in West Vancouver spent some time in Nanaimo with Laura Tait to explore questions that were troubling her. The letter that Brooke wrote in response to this day is a must read for all of us who are determined to make a difference to the outcomes of Aboriginal learners.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gleneagles - Ch'axay Elementary School

Students at Gleneagles Elementary School in West Vancouver wrote their names into history last week, each autographing a large cedar carving commemorating the school’s adoption of its new First Nations name.
Following a naming ceremony on Thursday, the school is hereon known as Gleneagles-Ch’axay, the latter being the centuries-old title for the Horseshoe Bay area where the school sits today.
Pronounced “CHUCK-hi,” the name is a vocal approximation of the “sizzling” sound made by the once abundant herring that spawned in the waters of the bay, according to S7aplek (SOP-luck), a Squamish cultural advisor. Please follow the link above for more on this very important occasion.

Director of Instruction, Lynne Tomlinson, the former principal of Gleneagles was honoured at this ceremony by the Squamish First Nations for her contribution to increasing Aboriginal understanding and respect among West Vancouver schools. Lynne is a long time network leader whose work both with the Networks of Inquiry and Innovation and the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network is greatly valued. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Building Aboriginal Understanding and Respect

One of the greatest opportunities that Linda and I have is to visit schools across the province. The entrance to the building says a lot about the identity of the school, what is valued, and the extent to which local cultures are valued.  Kitwanga Elementary School is tucked into a remote corner of the Coast Mountains School District - and just stepping inside the school is worth the trip. At Kitwanga we were greeted by two intermediate students who took enormous pride in showing us many of the special features of their school, including this button blanket in the main entrance. The KES message contained some powerful words. "We will listen with our ears, our hearts and our brains" - imagine what our world would be like if this was something we all did.

This year we have  had the chance to create four short videos of creative and innovative work in AESN schools with a grant from AANDC. The first of these comes from Uplands Elementary School in Nanaimo where the focus of their inquiry has been on building understanding and respect through the creation of legends. We encourage you to take a look on the website to view this video.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What a weekend!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Network seminar this weekend. The learning was intense, the ideas were flying and the connections deepening. Guy Le Masurier exhorted us to move - and provided all the evidence why this is not only important, it is essential. Paige Fisher reminded us why assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning - and how the impact of our assessment practices live on far beyond what we might think.

Sharon Friesen helped us all understand what inquiry in depth really means. As inquiry becomes more of a buzz word, there is a danger that inquiry practices and understanding will be stuck at a superficial level. The resources on the Galileo Network website are very helpful - and the using the attached rubric for inquiry will help us all focus on what authentic inquiry really means.

Kim Schonert Reichl challenged us all to think about how we are attending to teacher social emotional learning - and showed some powerful graphics of the MDI results. We are grateful to Kim for her leading edge work in SEL and for her ability to link research and practice in a way that is changing lives.

Environmental sustainability is all of our responsibility and the notion of pop-up farms (farms, not gardens) is one way of creating local solutions to global problems. Having Paul Clarke share his passion and his expertise - as well as examples of the ways in which pop-up farms are changing schools and communities around the world - opened up our thinking to all kinds of new possibilities.

Laura Tait's work on deepening Aboriginal understandings and the emerging recognition across the networks that Aboriginal learning is for everyone is enormously important. Netcamp provided the opportunity for everyone to participate in focused conversations - and the conversations were great.

All the key sessions were videotaped and we will have short clips posted on the website ( within the next few weeks.

In the package was an article Linda and I wrote  -  Inquiry and Innovation - New Mindsets Required. This article is based on the work in the networks of inquiry and innovation in BC and it is being used as pre-reading for a government policy round table in Australia. Sometimes we never know where this work is going to lead. After this weekend, we are more convinced than ever that good things will happen, when in the word of Margaret Wheatley, we can turn to one another and say, " I have an idea....what if?"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Deepening Inquiry and Building Curiosity - May 6

Hang on to your learning hats - this weekend is the Network seminar.  The pace and depth of learning will be fast and intense. There are still a few spots left for those of you ready to open up your thinking to new possibilities about the ways in which we can harness inquiry and curiosity for a healthy learning world. Check out the program and go to for registration information.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Forward With Learning

The Network seminar is coming up May 6 and we are looking forward to a deeply engaging day of inquiry, sharing, new knowledge, and powerful connections. Here are a few of the topics we will be exploring....
You have probably heard of pop-up restaurants. Have you heard of pop-up farms? This work is really taking off in England and many other places around the world. Lots of you are thinking hard about how important it is for learners to have a real connection with the land - and we think the work of Paul Clarke has enormous applicability here in BC. Many of you are finding ways to build brisk physical activity into the first part of the day because you know what a difference this makes for learners cognitively, physically and emotionally. You are also working hard to incorporate Aboriginal ways of knowing into every aspect of the curriculum. And, you are exploring the ways in which technology can enhance inquiry - and shifting assessment practices can deepen learning. If these questions - and others - interest you, then we invite you to check out the NOII seminar. In addition to Paul Clarke, we have invited speakers - Paige Fisher, Sharon Friesen, Guy LeMasurier, Kim Schonert-Reichl and Laura Tait to join Linda and me in 'deepening inquiry and building curiosity for a healthy learning world'. We are also excited to be incorporating a NETcamp experience into the program to provide you with the chance to explore additional topics of interest in your own setting.

Space is limited because we want to encourage deeper conversations and stronger connections.

We look forward to Sunday May 6 as a chance to spring forward with learning. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Parents and Performance Standards

A few years ago, a group of parents got together to review the performance standards. Our language as educators can sometimes sound quite weird and the guide that was developed provides a very useful set of explanations. Many of you are working hard to help parents understand the shift in assessment practices and how the performance standards are designed to help learners coach themselves. The suggestions for parents in the reading guide for parents are still current and very helpful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Assessment Resources

Jacob Martens (VSB) is developing and collating a strong set of assessment resources. Please check out his blog,

Policy or Practice?

One of our key beliefs that the best way to influence policy is through demonstrating strong practice. Here is an article from a blog post by Richard Elmore at Harvard along the same lines although in an American context. See what you think.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deepening Inquiry and Building Curiosity

The Networks of Inquiry and Innovation in partnership with DASH, VIU and educators from the West Vancouver School District are hosting a one day seminar on May 6. Please take a look at the flyer and mark the date now for an exciting day of learning, inquiry and networking. Video clips from the 2011 seminar are available on the network website

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Making a difference

Valentines Day is a good day to remind ourselves about all the people whose lives we touch through our work. We were given the link to this movie from one of our students at VIU. Please take a look - We have all had a Teddy in our lives.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Quick News Flash

Congratulations to Surrey principal, Yrsa Jensen, a long time network leader is one of four BC principals to be honoured February 28 as one of Canada's Outstanding Principals. Linda and I have been fortunate to have been associated with Yrsa both through the network and through her work in designing the Leadership Seminar series at BCELC.

Check our Brooke Moore's latest CEA blog post to learn how she is encouraging her grade 8 student to 'jump into inquiry.'

Mark Sunday May 6 on your calendar for the annual network seminar. This year the theme will be Inquiry and Innovation: For a Healthy Learning World. We are working in partnership with DASH and our colleagues at VIU to create what we think will be an exciting and highly engaging day of learning and connection. The location will be SFU Harbourside. Stay tuned for more details.

The 2011-2012 questions for both the mainframe network and the Aboriginal network are now available on the website. Don't hesitate to contact schools directly for more information.