Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Register Now for the NOII Symposium May 2 & 3, 2014

We hope you will join us for the upcoming NOII Symposium on May 2 & 3, 2014. The theme for this year's event is Stories of Change: Pictures of Possibility, featuring innovative leadership in education in BC and beyond.  The featured speakers include:

·         David Istance, Director of the Innovative Learning Environment Research Study, OECD
·         Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of Schools, West Vancouver
·         Anthony Mackay, CEO of the Centre for Strategic Education Melbourne, Australia
·         Laura Tait, Director of Instruction, Nanaimo Ladysmith School District
·         Diane Turner, Superintendent of Schools, Delta School District
·         Richard Wagamese, Author of Indian Horse and Ragged Company

Space is limited so please REGISTER ONLINE NOW or click here to access the form in pdf.  Looking forward to seeing you there!

The world truly is a network!

A  few months ago, we wrote about Colegio Institucion Teresiana, a school in Chile that is now a part of the NOII through the leadership of Network educator April Lowe. Having visited the school last summer, and now through on-line coaching, April and educators from Colegio Institucion Teresiana are working together on a school inquiry question around reading and literacy:

“Will an increase in the number of books in the classroom and the time children have to enjoy reading, complemented by knowledge and use of success criteria, promote a love for reading and better reading comprehension for our students?”

Staff at Colegio Institucion Teresiana have been busy using Adrienne Gear’s Reading Power and developing criteria for success to evaluate reading comprehension.  They have also been creating more welcoming spaces for reading for the students, incorporating more story time into the school day and through school events, and building connections with family around developing a love for reading. Check out their work in action through the photos below!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Networks without borders, inquiry without rushing

Anne Jenkins, Angela Stott, Debbie Koehn, Linda and Judy with Andy Hargreaves Feb 10

Five  of us from the BC networks of inquiry and innovation recently had the opportunity to work with a  new network of rural educators from Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  This network is  designed to improve student outcomes and reduce teacher isolation in small rural schools through face-to-face and on-line collaboration. Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley from Boston University have been consulting with the team from Education Northwest and the Center for Strengthening Education Systems in Portland for the past couple of years in anticipation of the launch which took place in the midst of a freak snowstorm last week Seattle. 

Andy talked  with  Linda and me when we were together at a conference in England in December and he suggested to the organizers that having a team from BC come to help with the launch might be a great idea. We were delighted that Anne, Angela and Debbie were willing to spend Family Day helping this group of rural educators. We all felt that we  made a useful contribution and formed some connections that will continue. Anne was able to provide direct coaching help to a early career Science teacher - the only Science teacher in her tiny Idaho community.  This teacher was enormously grateful and epitomized  the kind of crushing loneliness that some teachers experience. Debbie shared her expertise in early literacy with the primary group and introduced them to the performance standards; Angela talked with school-based formal leaders about the importance of the on-going support and involvement of principals and vice-principals. Linda took the Social Studies and intermediate teachers under her wing and I spent time with the state education staff. 

After it was over, we all reflected on how lucky we are to live and work in BC where we have access to the BC performance standards and a coherent approach to inquiry.  Sometimes it is easy to take for granted the importance of the performance standards in providing a common set of learning progressions that help us answer the questions - Where are you going with your learning? How are you doing? and Where to next? The performance standards provide us with the tools that we need to help learners take more ownership of their own learning - and they help us as teachers   provide the kind of feedback that will move learners forward. The new common core standards in the USA are a step in the direction of creating greater consistency across jurisdictions -  and they do not offer the same focus on learning progressions as we have. 

We also thought about what we have learned collectively through our experiences with inquiry and networks in BC. In the networks, we used to start by asking schools to identify a learning problem that would become the focus for their year long inquiry. We know more  now about the importance of starting by getting a really clear idea of what's going on for our learners through the scanning process. This has to happen  BEFORE jumping to a focus or, even worse, to a solution.  We encouraged our American colleagues to take the time to develop a shared picture of what's going on for their learners and not to rush to action too soon. 

As teachers, I think we are all action-oriented. We see a problem and we want to fix it - right now. Sometimes prompt action is critical and totally called for.  Lots of the time, however, we could benefit from taking a little while longer to make sure we are really addressing the key issues.  I once had a friend tell me that at the school where I was the principal, I sometimes raced around like a hummingbird on crack. Pretty useful feedback - if a bit blunt!

I am starting to think that maybe we need to slow down the inquiry process in order to speed up the longer term impact. The analogy of bamboo seems to fit. When bamboo is first planted, there isn't much showing  above the ground. All the action is taking place underground where the roots are thickening and connecting. Only after a few years do the shoots grow wildly above ground.  Once established, it is really hard to remove.  If you have ever tried to dig bamboo out of your back yard,  you'll know what I mean.  So we are encouraged by the thoughtful ways in which districts and schools in BC are using the spiral of inquiry to build a shared understanding of what's going on for learners - and then to move to informed action.  

Sharing our experiences with our American colleagues provided us all with a great opportunity to reflect on the work in BC - and we are very grateful to Anne, Angela and Debbie for joining us on this adventure. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dukwala'mas? - Do You See?

Fort Rupert Elementary (SD #85) in Port Hardy, BC has just launched an innovative new project with their school community.  The project, titled “Dukwala’mas? – Do You See?” aims to connect students with traditional Kwakiutl art forms and inspire young artists toward a future in carving.

Fort Rupert Elementary students will have the opportunity to work with prominent Kwakiutl carver Trevor Hunt over the course of several months.  Trevor will work with students at the school every Friday from January to May 2014, and collaboratively, the group will co-create a large sun mask carving to display at the school.  

At this early stage in the project, students have already had the opportunity to work on pencil sketching, experience traditional forms of wood working, and experiment with their own interpretations and creativity. As the project continues, students will document their experiences and reflections through writing and an online photo journal.  

What an authentic way to connect students to their local community as well as celebrate traditional art forms and ways of knowing. Visit the school’s blog to watch the project unfold.  You can also see some of Trevor Hunt’s stunning art work here.  Thanks to ArtStarts, the BC Arts Council and the Province of BC for their financial contribution to this wonderful project. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Building Networks South of the Border

A team of NOII Network leaders has the unique opportunity to consult on the development of a new networked learning community in the United States.  The Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (RISE) Network is a collaboration between the Northwest Comprehensive Center at Education Northwest in Portland, Oregon; Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley from Boston College; and the State Education Agencies of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  Each of the participating states has recruited 2 – 4 districts/schools to participate in this new network, particularly K – 12 schools that have all grades in one building or site.

The goal of the new network is to bring together teachers from rural and remote communities.  Many participants will be the only teacher of their content or grade in the geographic area. The focus of the network is to connect teachers as a means of improving their professional capacity, increasing the potential for building student engagement and support the implementation of learning objectives across sites.

Feb. 10th and 11th will be the first time that the Northwest Rural Innovative and Student Engagement Network will be meeting in person (in Seattle) to get to know one another, share experiences from their own settings and discuss issues related to rural education/student engagement, and develop a plan for collaborating together to develop their practice moving into the future. 

What a unique opportunity for our NOII and AESN Networks to share their experience and knowledge with these rural educators from the US.  Three Network leaders will be joining Judy and Linda at this first meeting:

  • Anne Jenkins, currently principal at Springwood Middle School in Parksville, will share her experiences, particularly as past principal of False Bay School on Lasqueti Island,
  • Debbie Koehn, who is involved in the Teacher Education program at UNBC and facilitates the Network in Central BC, will bring her knowledge as a learning coach in remote Aboriginal communities across BC, and 
  • Angela Stott, vice principal at Golden Secondary School, will bring the perspective of rural education and Network leadership in the Kootenay area.

We already know how lucky we are to share in the breadth of experiences and knowledge from our exceptional educational leaders from across BC, but now our colleagues from the US will be able to join in this collaborative, networked learning as well.  What a great opportunity for both groups in moving learning and teaching forward in rural communities.  Stay tuned for an update from the meeting.