One of our #NorthStars is that #WeLearnBetterTogether. It is always important to remember that these aren’t just hashtags or slogans and they aren’t just for students. They are there to guide our path and inspire our decisions. Therefore, I thought it might be worthwhile to look a little more closely at how just part of this North Star actually actually plays out.
This is just about the time of year where we finish our first round of conversations with teachers about their progress, performance and professional growth. With the unveiling of a new OJCS Learning Target (how we believe teaching and learning should look) last year, we have identified “Amplification” as a key pillar. At the highest level, when we talk about a teacher’s “professional amplification”, we are looking for things like:
Teacher participates in school-based and online learning communities to access and extend continuous, ongoing professional learning for self, and effectively shares with colleagues knowledge about current thinking, methods and best practices in education
Teacher works in collaboration with others to design robust learning tasks and obtain feedback about instructional planning from colleagues and mentors, or acts as mentor or peer coach.
Teacher takes the initiative to inform self about current research literature and incorporates it into teaching and learning practices.
Teacher shares thoughts about current research openly on digital platforms. Parents, experts and members of the larger community are invited to respond to it.
Teacher actively and regularly connects their own work to educators from around the world via a variety of platforms.
I thought it would be fun to see how the faculty of @The_OJCS learns with and from each other and the world. As I have done once before, since Twitter is the platform of choice for teachers who amplify, I thought I would share a little Wakelet of recent activity:
Our students are the beneficiaries of all this amazing crowdsourced wisdom and I am so proud to work in a school where so many teachers (and it is so many more teachers – and part of Mrs. Thompson’s role as Teaching & Learning Coordinator is to do this work, which is why you see her so frequently – and comes in so many more ways than just a one-week glance at Twitter) learn from each other and the wider world!
You know who else amplifies at OJCS? Our students! Through their student blogfolios (Grades 4-7 and growing!) and through Classroom Twitter accounts. But that’s for another blog post…
Another PD Day is ramping up at OJCS and we are looking forward to a day of growth and a day of community-building with our teachers. Days like today are critical pitstops on our learning journey towards our North Stars; they give us the mini-break and the mini-boost we need to keep our rhythm and our momentum. And, as always, it is my pleasure to give you a peek inside with one my seasonal “liveblogs”.
How are we beginning our day (after breakfast)? Let’s check in with our Vice Principal, Keren Gordon:
9:00 AM “The OJCS Way” Strategy GooseChase
What is a GooseChase you may ask? Well GooseChase is an app for creating your own online, collaborative scavenger hunt that allows you to create teams, develop missions, track live scoring, etc. It is something we experienced in our work with NoTosh and are now using with our full faculty. When used in an educational setting, you can create missions that require students – or in our case teachers – to learn something, do something, show something, etc., all in service of growth.
Our Faculty GooseChase today is to help our teachers better understand how to teach and learn according to “The OJCS Way”. You have heard a lot over the last few years about our “North Stars” and they are really important. Our North Stars are our core values and, as such, remain permanently fixed in the sky as our guide towards being the best school we can be. But how do we get there? What is our path? Well. Those are our Strategies. If you want to see how the Good Ship OJCS sets sail towards its objective – guided by North Stars through Strategies – this amazing sketchnote by our Teaching & Learning Coordinator Melissa Thompson puts it all together:
So, in order to help our teachers better understand the Strategies…
Champion the Wellbeing of Each Person
Be Open to Critique
Work is Part of a Jewish Learning Journey
Include Student Voice
…what kinds of missions are our teachers running around the school trying to complete? Here’s a sample:
Each time a team completes a mission, they upload the evidence – a text, a picture, a video, etc., – and they get points. There is a live leaderboard that scrolls all the uploaded content and the scoring as you make your way through. Our teachers are running around the school, taking pictures, making videos, learning, laughing and having a great time.
There are lots and lots of hilarious videos and pictures that I cannot show here, but needless to say, our teachers had themselves quite the GooseChase! We are excited to see how their deep dive into strategy will impact teaching and learning and we are excited to see how many of them will try a GooseChase of their own in their classrooms. Stay tuned.
11:00 AM Structured Conversations
For the last part of our formal program, we divided our faculty into four structured conversations, differentiated by department:
TACLEF for French Faculty
ALSUP for Middle School Faculty
VoiceThread for Jewish Studies Faculty
STAR Reading for Language Arts Faculty
TACLEF for French Faculty
With all the professional development our French Faculty has been receiving through TACLEF (our work with TACLEF is generously supported by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Ottawa), we definitely thought it was a good idea to give them an opportunity to take stock and think together about how to move the work forward. Today the team explored how to use our new assessment tool as part of our process for determining both original placement in our Core and Extended Programs, as well as when it may be appropriate to switch from one to the other. Here’s what else was on the board:
ALSUP for Middle School Faculty
As part of implementing our new Behaviour Management program, our whole faculty are frequently asked to conduct an ALSUP for goal-setting purposes as we prioritize growth in all areas of their learning, including social-emotional wellness. What is an ALSUP? It is an Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP) and it is used to help identify what is behind the behaviours we are seeing and how to strategically support the student with goal-setting that invites different outcomes. Today Middle School conferenced about the ALSUP, the process for goal-setting and how to invite meaningful follow-up conventions with students and their parents.
VoiceThread for Jewish Studies Faculty
I led this one myself and so I have nobody to blame for not having take any pictures! We spent time looking at VoiceThread – a sophisticated, versatile recording tool that creates lessons which include video, images and sound. Although we already utilize a variety of other apps and tools that have some similar features, we really believe that VoiceThread may give us an easy and exciting way to provide students with opportunity to practice listening and speaking in Hebrew. We brainstormed ways we could use VoiceThread in class, as personalized homework, to enrich, to remediate, and enhance second language acquisition. We will be getting a license so that our teachers can begin to play – and perhaps prototype. We also believe this could be a great tool for French as well.
STAR Reading for Language Arts Faculty
Our Language Arts Faculty looked at Star Early Literacy/Star Reading Assessments and learned how to read reports to find the focus skills that will help guide lessons, as well as plan differentiated, personalized lessons for individual students based on their personal reading comprehension needs. They had a great discussion around reading for the love of reading and reading to grow. There’s a time and a place for both and both can be true in our classrooms and at home. This diagnostic is ONE tool that exists for our teachers to help learn a little more about our students and support their ever-growing journey as life-long learners.
For the rest of our day, we gave our teachers the most precious gift of all…time! Time to finish those report cards, to plan for meaningful parent-teacher conferences, time to catch up and time to get ahead. We are looking forward to resuming school on Monday renewed, rejuvenated and ready to reach for those (north) stars!
Sure for some folk it is “Black Friday” or a “day off” – but at OJCS it is our Winter Professional Day and we are excited to spend a day together learning! We want you to be as excited about what we are learning and what it will mean for our school as we are, so I will once again liveblog the day.
[A liveblog is as it sounds – I am typing live as it is happening. Which means it will come even more unedited than normal!]
9:00 AM “Speed-Geeking”
We began the day with “Speed-Geeking” – a quick rotation (about 20 minutes a station) where the cohort of teachers working with Silvia Tolisano this year (our “DocuMentors”) have each chosen a tool they have begun learning about and think other teachers would be excited to add to their growing repertoire of innovative pedagogies.
In this session, they are learning about how to use the “Explain Everything” app to create tutorials, to have students better show their work, etc. Lots of great conversation about how this might apply in Math classes – not just showing me the answer, but how they got there. What a great example of documentation not just of learning, but as learning! Jewish Studies Teachers are brainstorming ways they could use the app to demonstrate ability to retell the narrative of holidays. I can tell already that a lot of teachers are going to be looking to use this in the class – across subjects and grades. Twenty minutes goes fast! On to the next one…
In this session, teachers are being wowed by what they can do with Flipgrid. This has become a very hot tool in the education world and we have already begun using it at OJCS (as teachers and with students). It is a very good tool for shared reflection, a really import skill if one is going to “own their own learning” (north start alert!). You can also develop virtual “pen pals” through FlipPals – exchanging videos with students from all over the globe. We definitely do “learn better together” (north start alert!)! It is always exciting to watch teachers be excited and get excited. Right now the teachers are using a QR code to take them to two live OJCS Flipgrids being used in Grade 5 – one for our new “Genius Hour” prototype and one to share about books they love. It is another example of how 21st century learning changes the where, when and how of learning. Students can add new videos anytime and anywhere…and they are! It is also a great tool for teachers – so we created our own Flipgrid for our teachers to share their ideas with each other and with the world. Time is flying…
Do you know how amazing it is to watch a teacher who was nervous and reluctant to try a tool wind up teaching other teachers about that tool? I do! Because I am watching it happen in real time…iMovie isn’t so much the chiddush here, but for teachers to better understand how using video as a tool for documentation of/as/for learning is so critical for developing the artifacts we need to better understand their growth and to better explain that growth for parents. One issue that has come up is how great video is for helping students for whom writing is a challenge be able to better express all that they are capable of. [Side note: Watching the cohort begin to use similar language from the work they are doing with Silvia shows you that the learning is beginning to stick. It was the same from our last PD day when the NoTosh Design Team presented in a similar fashion and began to speak the new language.] [Side side note: Considering how many years across so many organizations I have worked with Silvia, it is extra special. I have missed all that Silvia has brought to my last three jobs. And to me.] [Super inside side side note: I see you Andrea Hernandez. We’re not done with you!]
What’s the best way to do PD in 2018? Get on Twitter and join the conversation. Connecting with other schools and communities? Twitter. Expand our learning networks? Twitter. Learn from leading international educators? Twitter. Free, open and a sharing community? Twitter. Learning about Twitter from a teacher who just recently joined Twitter and is super-excited about it? Well that’s OJCS. #TheOJCSDifference indeed! We are being walked through a tweet, hashtags, replying, etc. Teachers are seeing how easy it is to use and I have a feeling there will be a few more members of the Twitterverse by the time the morning comes to and end! We’re almost done…one more to go!
Skype isn’t just for connecting with grandparents! (Actually that’s kinda FaceTime these days, but still…) There is so much happening on Skype these days, especially for education. That’s why they call it “Skype in the Classroom“! Between Mystery Skypes and Skype Virtual Tours and Skype Collaborations and Skype Guest Speakers there is really no end to the where in the world the learning can take you. As has been true in other sessions, teachers of every age and every subject are beginning to dream what could be true for them. Kitah Hay can take a virtual tour of a a kibbutz. Grade One can have a book read to them by a famous author. Middle School can have a Mystery Skype in Hong Kong. And I have a feeling they will!
10:30 AM “Strong Connections Through Personalization”
This is probably the most traditional and formal of our sessions today. Our new Director of Special Needs Sharon Reichstein is leading a session on how by beginning with relationships we can better meet the diverse needs of all our students. As a school committed to being as inclusive as our resources allow for, and a school committed to moving towards a personalized learning approach for all its students, using one (personalization) to help achieve the other (inclusion) is both natural and super complicated. Or rather, it might make sense philosophically or in the abstract, but the magic or the artistry is in what happens at 9:15 AM on a Tuesday in a French class with a specific group of children.
It is hard to capture a session like this appropriately and it might be the case that we share out the slides or do a version of this with our parents and community. After watching a video of students describing what it feels like for them to live with various learning needs, our teachers are engaging in a simulation that shows them what a reading disability feels like. And it is eye-opening to say the least…
And then a video of students struggling with organizational issues and a simulation…
And then a video of students struggling with attention issues and a simulation…
And then a video of students struggling with math issues and a simulation…
And then a video of students struggling with writing issues and a simulation…
What is important to name is that it isn’t that our teachers are being exposed to anything they don’t already know – at least intellectually. And it isn’t that our teachers don’t already make all kinds of accommodations for all kinds of students – they do. But a radical dose of empathy is always healthy to swallow. And I love how our teachers are responding to it…
And I love what it is going to mean for our students…
1:00 PM “The Prototype Protocol Fishbowl”
For our last session this afternoon, we went back to reconnect dots with the “Prototype Protocol” our NoTosh Design Team created to help our teachers understand how to translate the many innovative ideas they come up with into specific prototypes as part of the design-thinking culture we have created here at OJCS. To help make it real, we created a “fishbowl” and had teachers volunteer to act out the first couple of steps in the protocol which deal with finding a peer to test assumptions. It was great on two different levels. It was great to hear more about some of the amazing prototypes that are in varying phases of work. And it was great for the teachers to see real examples of how to move the work forward. When you plant seeds, it takes time, water, sunlight and a little luck to bring forth flowers. At OJCS, there are a lot seeds in the ground..imagine how beautiful it is going to be when they bloom.
So that’s it! Another innovative PD Day has come and gone. And we even have an hour or left to hit the “Black Friday” sales before Shabbat. Days like today remind me how lucky I am to work in this field. Schools like ours remind me how revolutions in education don’t happen in think-tanks or large membership organizations; they happen in schools – big and small, in large cities and small towns. They happen in Jewish day schools. It is happening here. And we are just getting started…