#ecsdtransform defeats #edcampYEG to win Hatcherelli #edhashtagology bracket!!

This post will make no sense unless you read my first #edhashtagology post from last week. Thanks to Bill Ferriter and his creative idea, I had the opportunity to reflect on the hashtags that I use in my own learning and sharing.

Here is how the final bracket looks (I thought I would post this before Spring Break):

Final #edhashtagology bracket

Final #edhashtagology bracket

I have to agree with Bill when he states that some of the most popular hashtags are being overused and the stream is becoming a little overwhelming. For me, hashtags are used as a filter to find information that is relevant to my own learning. Isn’t that selfish of me?

Here are some general comments that helped me to decide my winners in the bracket:

  • As a math teacher, I have always found #mathchat interesting. When I find something that is math related, I post to #mathchat. It was a clear favourite going into the tournament. Its toughest game was against #techcoach.
  • #anthemsmackdown was a ton of fun but since the Olympics it hasn’t had much use.
  • #ableg was interesting in the past few weeks leading up to the resignation of our Premier.
  • #rethinkhs is a favourite of mine. In our province, we have government project looking at High School Redesign. As a high school administrator, there is always some good stuff here. Definitely, this year’s Cinderella.
  • #techcoach contains information relevant to all kinds of technology and its use in schools. As a technology coach for our school district, I share and read lots of resources and cool ideas here. A clear #1 seed.
  • #ecsd is the hashtag for our school district, Edmonton Catholic School District. This tag allows me to share and get information which is relevant to the school district. The only down side is that, with 90 some schools, the information is sometimes overwhelming and contains information which is not at the high school level. In #ecsd, there are way more elementary teachers using Twitter.
  • I am very proud to be a member of Connected Principals created by a fellow Albertan, George Couros. I find that I will use #cpchat to post but I rarely use it to search. George is one of the first people that I connected with on Twitter and I have learned so much from him…in person and online. #cpchat was a definite favourite going into the tournament. It has been great to watch the hashtag grow, which shows the impact that George, and other school leaders, have had on the learning of others.
  • As one of the founders and organizers of #edcampYEG, this tag has always been near and dear to me. I have met most of the people who use this hashtag, so it serves to “keep the conversation going” between our annual local edcamps.
  • For the past two years in our school district, we have been working on a district project called Transform! This project involves sharing ideas that will better prepare our students for the world in which they are going to live. The hashtag #ecsdtransform always contains innovative ideas which are linked to this project. This hashtag was my winner because it was the one that I have used most in the past year or so.

So there you have it. The end of #edhashtagology for this year. Please roll, “One Shining Moment“!



Let the #edhashtagology Games Begin!

In his most recent blog post, Bill Ferriter (who is one of my online mentors) has started a game called Hashtag Bracketology. As a huge basketball fan, I cannot resist the #MarchMadness style competition. Bill is right…hastags have changed the learning that is available on Twitter and they have enabled us to “zero in” on certain topics and discuss them as a PLN.

Here is my bracket! To create this, I looked over my tweets from the last few months and I randomly (no seeds) entered the hashtags I used into Bill’s template. I don’t know how I will decide the winner of each “game”. If you click the bracket, it will get larger so that you can actually read it.


I invite you to accept Bill’s challenge and come up with your own bracket.

So you just had your PD…what now?

We just wrapped up our annual Teacher’s Convention…two days of learning, sharing, and attending great sessions by some pretty high caliber presenters. It is awesome to get together with teachers from both school districts in Edmonton, as well as teachers from Ft. McMurray. Every year, teachers are buzzing about the new things that they have seen and learned. For example, a few of my tech coach colleagues attended a session called Raspberry Pi, where they learned about a credit card sized computer which can be programmed to do all kinds of things. They were tweeting their creations during Thurday’s session and when I talked to them on Friday they were still buzzing about how cool it was. Thanks to Daniel Espejo for the great tweets!

Can’t wait to take a #RaspberryPi home! #getca pic.twitter.com/W9z7Q72Ujd


— Daniel Espejo (@danielespejo) February 27, 2014

Some other colleagues went to a session entitled, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lecture”, in which Rick Smith described many techniques which could be used to engage students in their learning. After this session, I received a text from one of the teachers on our staff, “It was awesome…would like to do a staff PD on this.”

Thanks! RT @thescamdog: Handout for 50 Ways to Leave Your Lecture. http://t.co/Cji0be4XFi #getca2014

— Daniel Espejo (@danielespejo) February 27, 2014

I attended some great sessions and I had the opportunity to share some ideas with teachers and administrators from all over Edmonton. I had a conversation with another high school AP about some of the things that they were trying at his school. Some of these things, I would definitely like to explore. Many of us were following the #getca14 hashtag and learning things from sessions that we did not have the opportunity to attend…so much good stuff!

This is the best convention I’ve had in 10 years! Thanks to all the presenters and organizers! #getca2014

— Daniel Espejo (@danielespejo) February 27, 2014

OK…so we had a great convention and we learned a ton of stuff. Just like every PD session that we go to…now what?

Let’s make sure that we go back to our schools and put some of these ideas into practice. Let’s try some stuff. Let’s share some of this great stuff with our students, and our colleagues! Let’s not just pack away the notes that we took and the ideas that were shared with us and forget about them. How many times have you found the bag of notes and convention trinkets months later totally untouched? Let’s take these ideas back into our schools and grow them in our classrooms! Even if we just take one idea away and try it with our kids…that would be great. Let’s take some risks…let’s make some mistakes…let’s make learning interesting for our students! Let’s keep the positive energy from convention alive in our schools!

Team Teaching

Recently, at a PD session, I ran into a former colleague with whom I used to team teach. Since we have not worked together in a decade or more, it was fun to reminisce and remember some of the memorable (not to mention funny) times that we had. We both taught Applied Mathematics (gr. 12) and our teaching styles were pretty similar. One year, we asked the AP that created the school schedule if our two sections of the math course could be scheduled at the same time, in the same room. The schedule worked out and, between the two of us, we had 70 students in one room. We team taught the course for the next few years after that. We have since left that school and now we both work as AP’s at different sites. As we were chatting, another AP overheard what we were talking about and came over to take part in our discussion. He said that he has two teachers working at his school who are planning to team teach and he was wondering if we could share any words of wisdom. We thought about it…we had to think hard because our team teaching was never forced or awkward. It evolved from having a great relationship with each other, and a similar view of teaching and the teacher’s role in the learning process. We were a really good team because we each brought different skill sets to the classroom. Al was the tech guru and I was more of an X’s and Y’s guy. He could show a solution on a graphing calculator or other technology while I showed the same solution algebraically. Students were able to connect with this approach. We got so good at working together that we were actually able to finish each other’s sentences.
As I think more about my experience with team teaching, there are a few more things that made us a successful team.
Sense of humour – We had a ton of fun! We joked around with each other and with the kids. We really played off each other and the students had a great time. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun and games. The learning was done through activities which were fun and we were always able to connect a funny story to what the students were learning. There was definitely a time to laugh and a time to learn.
Trust – We trusted each other as colleagues, and as friends. We knew that we had each other’s back and we would always stand as a united front. Our students never tried to play one of us off against the other. I never felt like I needed to compete with my teaching partner. We would help each other out. For example, if one of us was explaining something, the other one was walking around the room, checking for student understanding or giving one on one help.
Willingness to work hard – I think this was the key to our success. We worked hard for our students, planning lessons and building learning activities. We tutored our students outside of class and communicated often with parents. We had a one day turn around policy. When students wrote an assessment, it was graded and returned the next day. We believe that our students worked hard because they saw us working hard.
Communication – Obviously, we communicated with each other extremely well. We also communicated with our students and had them set goals and keep a portfolio of their learning. At the end of each unit, each student returned the summative assessment (signed by their parents) with a reflection sheet. This information was added to their portfolio along with any other pieces of learning evidence (quizzes, projects, etc.). If a student missed an exam, we had the student contact their parents the next time we saw the student in class. We only had to do that a few times before we had 100% attendance on exam days.
High expectations – We expected a lot from ourselves and we expected a lot from our students. We expected our students to come to class daily and take an active role in their own learning. We expected our students to set goals and strive to achieve those goals. We expected students to make corrections on exams and quizzes and to attend tutorials if they did not understand something.
Wow…when I think back, team teaching was a ton of work…but well worth it! When both teachers are active, a truly positive learning experience can result. I have heard of teachers entering into a team teaching situation where only one teacher is in the room at one time and the other teacher goes for coffee. This is not the way to team teach. Team teaching is truly that…teaching as a TEAM.
As a result of our team teaching experience, we would encourage any teachers to try it. Before you do though, make sure you have the right partner…very important.
It is always rewarding to bump into former students who we taught as a team. They remember the goofy stuff that happened and many of them say the phrase that I love to hear…”You made Math fun!”

Book Review – Wonder

Wonder by R. J. Palacio is an amazing book that everyone should read. It is beautifully written and can be read by people of all ages. Everyone in my family has read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. As an educator and a parent, I found this book really interesting, thought provoking and inspiring.

Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a boy who was born with a facial deformity. Up until the time that Auggie is 10 years old, he had not attended a mainstream school. The book tells the story of Auggie’s first experience at school. The great part about the book is that it tells the story from many perspectives…his sister, his friends and classmates, and his sister’s friends. It is interesting to read how Auggie’s condition affects the lives of others. There is one particular story about Hallowe’en costumes that had an impact on me. The facts of the story were the same but the emotions of the story are diffferent when it is told by Auggie and when it is told by his sister. That’s all I will say about that story, I don’t want to ruin for you. Palacio does an excellent job of changing her writing style based on the character who is telling the story…totally believable!

With inclusive education and more and more students with special needs in our schools, this is an important book. It is a quick read and it shows us that special needs don’t just affect the individual who has them.

Eight Characters

At our last Assistant Principals’ PD session, we had the opportunity to talk about and reflect on the Eight Characters of Catholic Education. Throughout my career as a Catholic educator, I have always enjoyed conversations and reflections around the eight characters.

After the session, I read through the handout that we were given and I created the following Haiku Deck. In creating the deck, I included the phrase (for each character) that had the most impact on me.

8 characters

Please click on the image to take you to my Haiku Deck.

More on Collaboration

I experienced an overwhelming response to my posts (here and here and here) about collaboration in schools. From my thinking and from the comments of others, I have come up with the following list of essential ingredients for collaboration in schools. When I say this, I am referring to collaboration of all learners (staff and students). I tried to write the following items so that they could be applied to students and staff.

Thanks to Maureen, Bruce and Shawan for their comments.

1. Adults as the lead learners – It is so important for adults to model good collaboration. As educators, we all must understand what it means to collaborate and how collaboration is different from group work and delegation. We must model good collaboration for our students and our fellow colleagues. Administrators must model the collaboration process for their staff. If you want your teachers to collaborate, you must show them how.

2. Shared vision – when a group is collaborating, each member must understand where the project is going and they must also understand how the piece that they are working on fits into the project, as a whole. Each member of the group should be able to speak about the project and each of its parts…even though they may not have worked directly on a certain part.

3. Trust – each member of the group must trust that their fellow group members will take an active role and will produce their best work. Members must also trust in their own abilities as contributing members of a team.

4. Time – effective collaboration takes time. If we want our students to collaborate, we must first teach them how and then give them time. As teachers, we need to spend time together, debriefing and discussing. This doesn’t mean that we have to have meeting after meeting, just for the sake of a meeting. It is important to meet when there are things that need to be discussed and tweaked. I used to team team with a colleague and we spent many hours planning and discussing. By doing this, we felt that we gave our students the best mathematical experience ever.

5. Flexibility – collaborating is more than just cooperating. We can’t just divide up the work and set everybody free.

When you work in an interdependent way you have to listen, accommodate and adapt to others’ but when you merely cooperate all you have to do is avoid overlap while you continue to work independently on your portion of the task. (Bruce Beairsto)

Reacting to the feedback from others is essential. This may even involve tweaking the direction of the project. The feedback that I received on my original posts definitely had an effect on this post and presented some things that I had not thought of.

6. Roles – each group member must understand their role and feel that their contribution is valuable to the project. Roles should be assigned according to people’s strengths and willingness. Group members must understand how their role fits into the entire project. In a true collaboration, I would be not only to describe my own role but also the roles of others. Recently, we collaborated at my school to host a 50 year anniversary of our school. We all knew what our own jobs were and we knew what other people were doing, as well.

7. Commitment – Each member of a group must be committed to the project and be prepared to see it through to the end. Commitment is different than consensus.

8. Shared Leadership - Just like geese flying in formation, there are times when you need to lead and times when you need to follow the lead of others. This goes back to the “trust” ingredient above.

9. Willingness to fail - Take a risk. Try something. If it doesn’t work, pick up the pieces…debrief…and start again. Making mistakes is how we learn.

Did I miss anything?

True collaboration is a very important skill and it is something that I believe that we need to teach to our students…both directly and by example. We need to develop learning activities which will force kids to collaborate. Why? Any time that I have been involved in a collaboration effort, the learning has been more powerful. Also, it is great to work as a team. You can’t be good at everything, but you can certainly draw on the strengths of others.


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