IB Conference in LA #ibmyp


I just spent the last three days at the Category 2 MYP (Middle Years Programme) Head of Schools/Coordinators session as part of a larger IB workshop in lovely Los Angeles. I travelled to LA with 5 of my colleagues from school including another AP as well as some PYP and MYP teachers. Each of us were involved in different sessions. We had lots of time to learn, discuss and take part in some unique learning activities. For me, the best part of a conference is connecting with other educators from all over the Americas. It is interesting to find out how schools are organized and to learn about some of the strategies that are used. It is extremely interesting to hear about the various challenges that administrators are faced with.

So, as I sit here on the floor at LAX waiting for our flight home, I ask myself, “What were my biggest takeaways from the conference?”

1. The IB programme is not an additional thing that you do at your school. It has to be part of the foundation of the school and is an important part of the culture. It should be woven into everything that you do. It gives us a common language to use as we teach our students. This is the same with Catholicity at our school…it is the foundation of our school and it is permeated into everything that we do.

2. It is not about the final product, it is about the learning that happens along the way. I have always believed this but it became particularly evident during this workshop. As an exercise, we looked at a process journal and a personal statement from a student’s MYP personal project and we all decided that this student deserved excellent marks for the learning that she had done. We had not even seen the final product yet! That because, learning isn’t about creating products…it is about demonstrating and being able to articulate the learning and changes that are happening as you work through the project.

3. Collaboration is vital. Administrators, coordinators, teachers and students all need to be part of the program and have their voices heard. This was evident during one of our learning activities this past weekend. We were challenged to design a strategy for introducing a change at a fictitious school. We were given the descriptions of some of the staff members at the school and with only that information, we had to decide (as a large group) how we would introduce the change. During the process, some leaders emerged and some participants jumped on board. Some decisions were made and a final presentation of the solution was given. The facilitators of the session acknowledged that we had, indeed, come up with a solution. At this point, I looked at a couple of other people at my table and we simultaneously said to each other, “What was the solution?” BOOM…I understood the point of the exercise. As a school leader, you cannot force change and push things through. Change is a slow process and must be carefully planned out. Everyone should be able to answer questions about what is going on and the changes which are occurring. How many times does this happen at school? Go to a meeting, decide a bunch of stuff and later you find out that some people have no idea about what is going on. #frustrating

4. Changes in a school will not be sustained if they are flash in the pan, one time only. As I stated above, changes should be carried out with a vision and a mission in mind.

5. Educational leaders need to model what they expect of staff and students. For example, if you want your kids to be good learners and represent the IB Learner Profile…that is what you need to be. In the same way, if we want the kids at our school to be good citizens, it is important to model that and, more importantly, correct and redirect learners who are not meeting our expectations.

6. A program in a school cannot be run by one or two people. Yes, there are a few people who are responsible for organizing and will be held accountable but if a program is going to be effective, each staff member must understand their role and how their role fits into the big picture.

It was a great conference and it provided me with many things to think about and reflect on. It was also a great way to connect with some staff from our school as well as other educators. It is interesting to hear what my colleagues were learning and how it fits with what I was learning.


2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Introduction of my #geniushour project


This year, I am teaching a technology option class for ninth grade students. These students came to the class in early September and were eager to learn. In the past, they have learned about Photography and Animation. As a former Math teacher, I was a little confused about how to teach technology. As a technology leader, I have learned things by trial and error and by making mistakes. I thought about teaching the students to use Photoshop…but what if they could care less about that?

To make a long story shorter, I challenged my class to use their time to learn whatever they wanted. The only requirements that I placed on the students was that their project had to involve the use of technology. Sticking to the #geniushour philosophy, I also told students that their project had to:

  • be driven by a guiding question (eg. How do you create a green screen movie?)
  • involve a research component (eg. there is so many sources of information online)
  • their learning must be shared

Hmmm…how do I get my students to share their learning with, not only each other, but with the world?


So that was my project…I started a class blog on Kidblog and I intend to have my students document and reflect on the learning that they will do for the next few months. By starting this blog site, I am not only giving my students a platform to share their learning, but I am also modelling the learning process in which I want them to become engaged.

Our school is an IB world school and our learner attribute for the month of September was Risktaking…ironic, isn’t it?

I will let you know how the projects are coming along.

FrontRow – I applaud your customer service!


At school this week, our junior high French teacher was complaining that the brand new FrontRow Juno FM system which was installed in his classroom over the summer was not functioning correctly. The sound system is a necessary part of French class as it clarifies and amplifies the teacher’s voice so that he is easily understood by the students. On this particular unit, the microphones would not charge when they were plugged into the tower. As our school’s tech coach, I felt compelled to help with this situation. I spent a little bit of time online and I found the manual for the system. There were some troubleshooting tips in there but none of them seemed to solve my problem. I discovered that when I used a phone charger plugged into AC that the microphones would charge so I knew the problem had to be something with the tower. I phoned a former colleague at another school who has been using these systems for a few years…he had not experienced this problem before.

So…what now?

Here’s what I came up with:


It wasn’t too long before I received this:


I was impressed by FrontRow reaching out to me and including their Help department in the message. I sent back a message thanking them for their quick reply. Later on in the day, I had the following “conversation”:


Now that is what I call customer service! Quick and simple, but most importantly, effective. Now I know how to solve our problem and I didn’t have to sit on hold for an eternity. Great products are backed by great customer service.

Kudos to you, FrontRow!




Yes George, School Counsellors Do Have A Hashtag

Wow…my re-tweet triggered a great blog post!

Counsellor Talk : Creative Collaborative Connections

Thanks to @hatcherelli I saw this post today and it got me to thinking about the many times I have seen this kind of post! There has been hashtags for school counsellors for a very long time, but many are not aware of them.

The longest standing hashtag for school counsellors is #scchat, a great place for school counsellors to gather. Thanks to @ecmmason and @sch_counselor this is a great place to share and learn.

After our time in ETMOOC  @EHordyskiLuong and I tried to get Canadian School Counsellors to join in using the hashtag #CSCchat. We know you are out there school counsellors and we still want you to join in using all the school counsellor hashtags. It is the best PD ever …

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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.



At our district Technology Coach meeting this morning, we are learning about (among other things) Makerspaces. What is a Makerspace? That is what I asked when I first heard the term. A Makerspace is an area where learners are given tools to create what ever they want. It is interesting that when I googled the term, the first result was the Makerspace at our very own Edmonton Public Library.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a Makerspace in your school? Imagine the things that kids could create and explore.