Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dive into a good book this holiday!

A good book is a great treat at any time of the year, but over the holidays, it’s so nice to be afforded a bit of extra time to curl up with something that sparks our imagination or challenges our perspective.  As you sip you holiday beverage of choice over the next couple of weeks, here are some reading selections for whetting your curiosity and creative thinking:
Critical Maths for Innovative Societies: The Role of Metacognitive Pedagogies” (Zemira Mevarech and Bracha Kramarski – OECD Publishing)
InvestigatingCulturally Responsive Mathematics Education” (Cynthia Nicol, Jo-ann Archibald, Jeff Baker)
Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” (John-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner, Edmund Metatawabin)

Meeting Wise:Making the Most of Collaborative Time for Educators(Kathryn Parker Boudett and Elizabeth A. City)

For last minute gift ideas for children, check out these book recommendations from the Self-Regulated Teacher  or visit the Strong Nations bookstore in Nanaimo or online. 
Wishing you all a relaxing and joyous holiday from the NOII! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Getting Beyond "No" | Judy Halbert | TEDxWestVancouverED

How many times do children hear the word “no” at home or school on a daily basis? How do you think this impacts their willingness to work through challenges and their capacity to stay curious? Judy addresses (so eloquently, I might add!) these questions in her recent TEDx talk presented in West Vancouver earlier this fall. And more importantly, she challenges us as educators to strive to “get beyond no” in our teaching, as well as nurture this ability in our learners.
She begins by referring to Chris Kennedy’s – Superintendent of Schools in West Vancouver – “Culture of Yes” blog (check it out if you haven’t already), and her opinion that in developing a culture a yes, we first need to get beyond no….by being open to new ideas, building the capacity to see opportunities rather than obstacles, and be willing to take risks.
Judy’s reference to the Lil’wat concept of watchful listening as one strategy we can use to begin to build resilience for our students to get beyond all the ‘no’ responses in life really resonated with me. To learn more about this, please watch the video and share it with your colleagues.

We also continually updating our “Resources” page on the NOII website, so check back often for new additions. We just posted the European Journal of Education article Creating and Sustaining Inquiry Spaces For Teacher Learning and System Transformation  (Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert, 2014) which provides a succinct overview of the progress of the Networks over the past 15 years.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A week of learning! Network update, BCSSA conference and more...

The last week has been filled with engaged professional learning and collaboration, with the BCSSA conference last Thursday and Friday, and then a great Network Leaders meeting on Saturday in Vancouver. 

If you missed the BCSSA conference, you can check out the presentations here. Keynote presentations included Andy Hargreaves (see his new book Uplifting Leadership), Michael Fullan (visit his website for articles, books and videos), and Yong Zhao (speaking about creativity and education reform – see more here).  Network leader Terry Taylor – Superintendent of Schools at SD 10 (Arrow Lakes) – shared learning from the district’s Reconciliation Through Art focus. It’s amazing work that you need to check out!

During the Network meeting on Saturday, leaders from across the province shared and celebrated stories, learning, challenges, goals, questions and triumphs so far this school year. We spent time listening to one another and offering insights from our own practice. We discussed that idea that inquiry takes time, and that our questions and projects evolve as we continue to scan our environments, act on our hunches, and learn from our students and colleagues.  

Network meetings are always buzzing with collaboration, ‘a ha’ moments, and supportive sharing of ideas. In the spirit of the Network, members leave their roles at the door, and we come together openly to share and learn from one another – to really move our practice forward.  But something about this gathering felt even more powerful. Perhaps it’s because we articulated how grateful we were to have a supportive environment in which to learn and re-learn the Spiral of Inquiry, and in so doing, reminded ourselves that we need to be working hard to nurture those supportive environments back in our respective regions of the province. I think many of us left the meeting feeling more inspired to continue this important work, and encourage new colleagues to recognize the good work they are already engaged in and support each other in enriching and deepening what we are already curious about as educators.  

And now the Network is growing again! Judy and Linda are in England this week at the Whole Education Network conference. A group of schools there will be building a network based on Spirals of Inquiry! We’ll share more about this project as the work progresses, and some members from this group will be attending the Network Symposium here in Vancouver in May 2015.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Inquiry question templates now available

Among the key features of the Network from its very inception is that participation in networked inquiry is always open and always voluntary.  We also expect school teams to include principals, vice principals, teachers, support staff and cultural workers – with everyone leaving their formal role at the door to enter into inquiry with genuine curiosity and a spirit of teamwork. We also know that micro grants go a long way to both saying ‘thank you’ and to providing a tangible form of recognition for sharing school level work with a broader audience.  We believe that it is critically important to create a space for school teams from across districts to meet with one another – both face-to-face and on-line. This year is no exception.

This year, there are four areas of inquiry in which schools can become involved.  Templates for each of the four inquiry areas are available on our website (click on the links below).  

·         NOII– Learning Principles

The deadline for all inquiry proposals is December 15th. For more information about each of the four areas of inquiry, please refer to the 2014-2015 Network Guide. Please also feel free to contact us for more information.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Links for Professional Learning

With the BC wide professional development day this past Friday, many of you have likely spent the last few days fully engaged in conferences, workshops or other learning opportunities around the province. In the spirit of continued learning, I’m including some links below to interesting articles, resources or tidbits of information we’ve explored recently:

·         In her article “Pre-Reading Strategies for Picture Books” from Canadian Teacher Magazine, Brenda Boreham highlights the beautiful new book Mouse Celebrates the Winter Solstice, by Kwakwaka’wakw author Terri Mack and Tsimshian artist Bill Helin. As Boreham points out, this story can support a variety of units of study, such as the seasons, solar system, friendship and courage, while building on aboriginal ways of knowing in the classroom.
·         The Whole Education Network, based in England, is “a partnership of like-minded schools, organisations and individuals that believe that all young people should have a fully rounded education, developing the knowledge, skills and qualities needed to help them thrive in life and work.” This school year a pilot group of 20 lead schools in England will be using the Spiral of Inquiry as the framework for their efforts to advance outcomes for all their learners.
·         At the last NOII Symposium, Richelle Ouimet and Ashley Barker shared their learning in Growing Digital and Global Citizens through Online Literature. This was a multi school inquiry project using digital technology. See their presentation here (starting from the 2nd video on the page), as well as other inquiry projects here.
·         Particularly for those that teach in a rural setting, visit ruralteachers.com and explore this “Rural Commons.” There are a wealth of resources, videos and links to innovative projects happening around the province.
·         Check out the recent Conference Board of Canada’s report How Canada Performs – A Report Card on Canada. This is a comparative study examining Economy, Education and Skills, Innovation, Environment, Health, and Society in sixteen peer countries. British Columbia ranks third overall, after Japan and Finland, in the latest Education and Skills report card. 

Please contact us with other ideas for resources, links, articles that you think should be shared with network members.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Strong Nations opens new location!

Many of you are familiar with Terri and Ken Mack’s Strong Nations book selling and publishing business, which focuses on Indigenous literature from across Canada, and particularly supporting literacy acquisition for all learners through Indigenous texts.

One of the highlights of break time at the NOII Symposium, and many other conferences, has always been to slowly peruse the wide selection of Indigenous literature that Terri and Ken share with us through their exhibitor booths. It’s an opportunity to chat with colleagues around how they’ve incorporated different books into their classrooms, and learn about new resources, curricular ideas and publishing opportunities.  I have really valued Strong Nations, and Terri and Ken’s suggestions, as a integral part of my professional learning at these events.

That’s why it’s so exciting to announce that Strong Nations has opened a bricks and mortar location in Nanaimo, at Suite 1 – 1970 Island Diesel Way. Check out this announcement in the Nanaimo Daily News. This location will not only showcase a wide breadth of material, it will be a space for supporting and building capacity in the publishing field by providing author and illustrator workshops and events.   

We’ll certainly be visiting their new location very soon, but if you don’t have plans to be in the Nanaimo region in the short term, you can still browse their selection of books and resources through their website and order materials online.

Congratulations to the Strong Nation team!  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Resources for start of school year

Welcome back to school and classes! We hope this week has been a great start to getting to know more about your classroom students and school community.

We’ve recently added Resources section to our website. Here you’ll find links to key tools you and your colleagues can use for planning your inquiry.  If you have new teachers in your school this year, particularly those beginning educators, these resources are a great place to start in connecting them to the inquiry process.  Did you know that Spirals of inquiry: for equity and quality is considered required reading for many teacher candidates at universities across BC? So new teachers may already have some experience with the inquiry process!

The First People’s Principles of Learning, developed by British Columbia’s First Nations Education Steering Committee, is a great resource to bring to share with staff at a meeting early in the school year.  These guiding principles can help to shape the pathways of learning for both staff and students throughout the school year.

We’ll soon add an Articles section to the Resources page on the website. We encourage you to share your suggestions for what should populate this space. Please contact us with your ideas!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Traditional Language Learning in Mission School District

We recently sent out the latest Network newsletter, highlighting a number of upcoming events, resources and research. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, check it out now, or let us know if you’d like to be added to our email list to receive future editions. 
We have been so encouraged and inspired by the case studies that have been coming in over the last few months (see one great example here). Given the challenging circumstances of last spring and now this fall, we have decided to extend the deadline for submission of 2013-2014 case studies until October 15. Hopefully this will give every school a chance to share their inquiries and their findings. Templates for submitting case studies are available on the NOII website. NOII templates are here, and the AESN templates are here.

A student receives a Halq'emeylem translation
of her English name at Deroche Elementary.
—Image credit: Alina Konevski/Mission City Record

We’ll also keep you informed when more case studies are added to the website, but check back here often for case studies we will highlight, offering a treasure trove of ideas and strategies shared by your colleagues from BC and beyond.

Check out this awesome example from Mission School District (#75), which made the front page of the local newspaper back in February.  The story highlights how Mission has incorporated the teaching of the First Nation language Halq’eméylem, the traditional language of the Stó:lo people, into seven schools in the district. All students at the schools have the opportunity to engage in this language learning during regular class hours, taught by a language instructor who works side by side with the teacher. This project is part of the AESN transitions initiative, with Carolynn Schmor, aboriginal education principal with the district, sharing some of her remarks with us:

“I am astounded at the progress of the students already. We were doing a cultural day at the school and I was admiring some of the button blanket dolls some of the students were making when a few of them started speaking to me in Halq’eméylem. They taught me some greetings and words and when I struggled to keep up they told me I needed to connect with their teacher “Pepte”. He will teach you, they said. I went into another class and shared this story with the teacher and she asked her class to share a song with me in Halq’eméylem and they did!”

Despite the current challenges, there is a great deal to celebrate about the impact of your work with the NOII and AESN. Thank you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Increasing Graduation Rates by Supporting Transitions

When flipping through the latest Canadian Education Association bulletin, I came across this article regarding action steps that schools and districts can take as an attempt to reduce dropout rates for secondary students.  The article, from a Quebec perspective, presents some interesting ideas.  But it particularly caught my attention because it made me think of the innovative steps Network schools are taking to address the same issue, using an inquiry based approach, and one that focuses less on dropout and more on ‘every learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options.’ 

Recently, Network leader Kim Boettcher, District Principal of Curriculum & Assessment with School District #60, shared their approach to helping students transition from middle school to secondary and beyond.  This work was part of their inquiry last year, focused on Aboriginal Transitions and ensuring students are supported as they craft their Learning Journey. 

It starts with laying out a proposed learning plan in Grade 9 for each student.  Kim (and often an Aboriginal Support Worker) sat one on one with students at the computer, and typed the proposed steps in the learning journey as the student described their plans.  Not only does this give the student something tangible to refer to when thinking about their future, but as Kim pointed out, it’s also a good step in getting to know the students as people – especially what they hope and dream for the future.  When students enter secondary school this coming September, they will have access to their plan electronically, and can make changes and additions as their interests/goals/learning needs change.  Throughout their time in secondary school, the document will be a way for them to plan for their dual credit, apprenticeships, work experience, university transfer, scheduling for post-secondary requirements, etc. 

On a district wide scale, SD #60 is also supporting the transition from middle to secondary school through Transition Night dinners with school district staff, support workers, Band Councils, Elders and other community members.  This helps everyone get to know each other, as well as develops a community support system that students can draw from as they make this transition.  And having noted that math is often a barrier to graduation for many of their students, the district is also supporting additional professional learning for their secondary math teachers to build their capacity in addressing this area of student need. 

It’s amazing to see this layering of support for students as they transition to the next phase of their learning.  We’ve included a sample plan here to give you a sense of what this can look like in practice.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Missed the 2014 NOII Symposium? Videos now available!

We are happy to share that the videos from the 2014 NOII Symposium are now available on the NOII website. There are many videos posted – both from the keynote talks as well as the breakout sessions. If you missed one of the talks, or were not able to join us this past May, you can now review the sessions through these videos. We’ve also found it very helpful to be reminded of the many great ideas and connections that were shared together in May. These short videos can be easily downloaded and shown at upcoming staff/district meetings, professional development days, network gatherings, etc.  If you have trouble accessing any of the videos, please let us know.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to making this event a wonderful opportunity for learning and networking. As well, a special thanks to professional videographer Shawn Lam, and to network leader Brooke Moore for editing the videos into bite-size viewing opportunities.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Nations House of Learning Graduation Ceremony

Through the Network, we often talk about the interconnectedness of our teaching and learning, and how important it is to work together toward our collective vision of every learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options.  We share our moments of struggle and our moments of success, and together, we weave a story of a shared commitment to this ongoing work.  We all know that this is not easy work, so our story building is a way of renewing our energy and commitment to moving forward.

That’s why it’s exciting to share this story – one that Dempsey Bob, acclaimed Tahltan-Tlingit artist, Officer of the Order of Canada, and recent UBC honorary degree recipient, described so aptly as a “magnificent struggle.”  Just a few weeks ago, 33 UBC Aboriginal Graduates from the 2013/2014 school year walked through the graduation door of the First Nations Long House at the Vancouver campus.  In his keynote address, Dr. Dempsey Bob congratulated the graduates and recognized the stress, discipline, and commitment needed to get to this point in their journey.  He also spoke to the potential of education, and the need to continue to be diligent as we move forward:

“Because education to us has always been negative because of the residential school, what happen there. But now we have to turn it around because that’s what going to be our power in the future — the education. That’s what’s going to make our people better. That’s what’s going to lift our people up. But don’t forget about our culture. Don’t forget about our values. Don’t forget about our people. Don’t forget about our land.”

Melanie McKenna, Secwepemc, a NITEP graduate, was the graduating student speaker.  She reflected on her experiences as a new university student:

“I remember my first day at the Longhouse, searching for somewhere I might fit in. I was worried that maybe this wouldn’t be the place for me. Maybe everyone would be smarter than me, older than me, more native than me. But the moment I stepped through those doors, all those worries went away and I knew this place I would soon call my home. I was greeted with smiles and the offer of food, the two things that seem readily available here.”

This reflection is reminiscent of numerous NOII and AESN case studies that speak to the importance of building connected, safe spaces for learning and teaching, where students can feel supported and encouraged in their journey. It’s amazing to see the interconnectedness between the learning that comes out of the Network, and what McKenna has described as contributing to her success.   

Congratulations to these 33 graduates, and all the graduates that have been walking across the stage, or through the door, this past school year. 

And congratulations to all Network members who choose to journey through this “magnificent struggle,” and in so doing, create more opportunities for learners in BC and beyond.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Submitting Case Studies

Templates for submitting case studies are available on the NOII website. NOII templates are here, and the AESN templates are here.  

As an example of one story, we're really happy to share this presentation from Pineridge Elementary in Prince Rupert (SD# 52).  In addition to their case study, Sheryl Sadorski and Shauna Moore created this presentation to share their inquiry project with the networks back in May. It is a thoughtful reflection on their work this past year around improving learning through self-regulation.   

It may also be helpful to take a look at both NOII case studies and AESN case studies from past years. Although the templates have changed over the years to reflect new learning, these case studies offer rich context from experiences across BC and beyond. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Creating opportunities for post-secondary connections

It’s amazing to see so many AESN schools focusing their inquiries this year on the various transitions students face as they journey through their learning and work towards graduation.  As adults, we’ve all experienced the stress and anxiety that can come from moving from one phase of life to another.  We know our students experience this too, and perhaps even more so, without the benefit of experience to guide them through the process.

With so many graduation ceremonies happening across post-secondary campuses in BC over the last few weeks, it seems timely to share how several schools have been supporting their high school students in preparing for their futures. 

Two schools in SD 82 Coast Mountains – Kitimat City High and Caledonia Secondary – focused part of their inquiry this year around building a connection with the post-secondary institute in their region. Students have had the opportunity to visit their local college, learn about the services and programs offered, tour the facilities and even have lunch in the cafeteria.  It was important for students to experience first-hand, but in a supported nature, the possibility of post-secondary options, and what they may expect as a means of easing that transition.

This shared experience made an impact.  Students commented that the visit “gave me a better understanding of how the college works” and “it helped me set my career goals” and “it got me thinking to start making a plan.”  Several students have applied to the college this year, and several more are now thinking about this as they work toward graduation.  

This is really inspiring. It captures the networks so clearly – helping every learner cross the stage with dignity, purpose and options. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Leading the Change

Challenging times right now for everyone  - especially as year end decisions pile up. And yet, every day Linda and I are inspired by the quality of learning taking place in BC schools and the terrific educators with whom we get to work. 

As an example, the year end meeting last Friday for the northwest region was a cause for real celebration. Along with several teams from Prince Rupert, Nisga'a, Coast Mountains, Bulkley Valley and network leaders from Nechako Lakes and Prince George,  Linda and I had an amazing day. Each year we attend the Northwest Celebration we see that the work just keeps getting smarter, deeper and more connected. Some of the recurrent themes in the school presentations were:
  • be relentless in support of all learners
  • make intentions and strategies clear
  • project based learning and building community connections
  • self-regulation from emotional control to deep readiness to learn
  • the impact of co-teaching
  • going in depth on one topic "If we lose focus, so do the kids."
  • the ripple effect of resiliency
  • moving from a small team to a whole school initiative
  • integrated and seamless use of technology 
A big thank you to Bulkley Valley School District for hosting the celebration and to Dwayne Anderson for facilitating the day. And, thank you to the Northwest network leaders  - in particular Nicole Davey, Roberta Edzerza and Debbie Leighton Stephens  - for making this day and the work in the northwest so very special. This was Debbie Leighton Stephens' final meeting as she leaves her formal role in Prince Rupert and she will be sorely missed. Debbie has been a support, a mentor, a leader and an inspiration to countless educators and families - not just in Prince Rupert but across the region. We have reminded Debbie that no one actually ever retires from the network and we look forward to hearing her say 'yes' repeatedly over the next few years. 
Debbie Leighton Stephens and Roberta Edzerza at NOII Northwest celebration

We respect that it may be difficult for school teams to meet to complete their case studies - and we would like to keep this as simple as possible. The completion and submission of the case studies is one consistent way we have to learn from each other. Up to now, we have been able to provide recognition grants to all schools that completed their case studies and this is the plan for 2013-2014 as well. The templates will be emailed to all network schools within the next week and they will also be posted on the NOII website. 

Just before the long weekend, we had the great pleasure of visiting schools in Vancouver Island North - being part of the trades and transitions experience at NISS, meeting with the inquiry team at A J Elliott, learning about the depth of the Aboriginal language and culture work at Fort Rupert Elementary School, and observing the STEM challenge at Seaview Elementary Secondary School in Port Alice. D'Arcy Deacon did a great job of organizing the STEM Challenge - here is the powerpoint he used to explain the process to the students involved. 

We also really enjoyed meeting and learning from the students at Fort Rupert who explained the Dukwala'mas Project, shared their writing about a recent field study, and showed us some of the masks and the dances they would be sharing at the ing house in June.  Check out the school blog post. http://fres.edublogs.org/2014/05/15/celebrating-fres/

And, the work in BC is being recognized in a range of international forums. Lead the Change is the name of the journal prepared by the Educational Change Special Interest Group (SIG) at the American Educational Research Association. Recently Louise Stoll, a lead international researcher from the Institute of London, was interviewed by Dennis Shirley.  She was asked what she saw as some of the most promising educational change innovations. As part of her response she identified the work in BC and the spiral of inquiry as 'a research-rich framework for collaborative inquiry.'  

Check out  the complete article. 

Louise also talked about the importance of the OECD study on innovative learning environments, especially what will be learned from the five systems participating n the final stage of this study. We are  proud that BC is one of these systems - along with New Zealand, Peru, French Belgium and Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. 

There are three key aspects to the BC work featured as part of the OECD study - the focus on disciplined inquiry through the networks of inquiry and innovation, leadership development for formal and informal leaders through the CIEL and MEDL programs at Vancouver Island University, and the provincial curriculum reform initiative.  Next steps in the study is for each system to provide an update on how things are unfolding and also to consider an evaluation framework for innovation that is being developed by Helen Timperley and Lorna Earl. The will take place at a meeting in late June and we will let you know what we learn as a result. Here's more information on the ILE study.

Despite our challenges, there is much for us to celebrate and for us to be proud of. As Linda so eloquently said at the recent symposium, BC teachers rock! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Network Learning Through Coursera

Have you experimented with Coursera yet?  Did you know that the Network is involved?

Judy and Linda, through the Commonwealth Education Trust, have designed a 7 week Coursera course called “Planning for Teaching and Learning.”  This course is the 5th component of an 8 part series of courses that make up the Foundations of Teaching for Learning Specialization. The Foundations of Teaching for Learning program is a specialization primarily for people who are currently teaching, but have had little or no formal teacher education. It is an introductory program that considers the three domains of being a teacher: Professional Knowledge and Understanding; Professional Practice; and Professional Values, Relationships and Engagement.  

Coursera offers individuals the opportunity to take courses through their online education platform for free.  Sometimes a small fee (optional) is charged in order to be granted a verified or specialized certificate.  Learners from all over the world can participate, working at their own schedules, and interacting through online forums.  Check out the video where Linda and Judy describe the course in more detail.