January 17, 2017

The interactive whiteboard… how do you use it?

Interactive white boards have been a hot topic in Quebec ever since the government promised one in every classroom back in 2011. The promise was long critiqued for not being well thought out and the fallout today is that many classrooms in Quebec DO have an interactive white board at the front of the room but… well… how are they being used?


January 13, 2017

Success indicators + technology

Sandra, Johanne, and Kaçandre’s workshop is continuing to inspire the work I do. I began by creating this video that focuses on how Hattie’s #1 indicator – Teacher estimates of achievement – is embodied in our classrooms in Quebec. It addresses how technology can be used to amplify it as well.


May 26, 2016

Learning at a Distance (or up close!): thoughts inspired by #REFAD2016

I am in Ottawa at the annual conference on distance education offered by REFAD. One of the opening comments was that distance education is just one of the tools we have to reach our learners and to help frame their learning. I like that the conference started off in this vein. It flows well with my own beliefs in tools – that they are just tools in service of our real work: student learning.

The task then is how best to design learning situations that take place at a distance (or up close!) to reach the needs of our learners in ways that make sense.

The answer seems to lie in relationship and intention.

These are the same themes Avi and I explored with online tutors in adult education a few weeks ago.

CORAL (Complementary Online Resources for Adult Learners) is an online tutoring service offered to adult learners from LEARN Quebec. CORAL’s Barbara and Cheryl asked us to accompany their tutors in some professional development on tutoring at a distance.

At REFAD, presenters from CEGEP á Distance (CAD) told us their story of online tutoring. They talked about the centrality of feedback for success and for fighting dropout rates and absenteeism in distance learning.

What I found especially interesting is that their tutors are all CEGEP teachers, which is a similar situation as our CORAL tutors who are all teachers within Quebec’s English sector Adult Ed system. What the CAD is doing, is providing their tutors with explicit professional development in how to provide effective, intentional feedback as the backbone of their practice.

Roselyne Boyer from Université de Laval spoke about the biggest task in online learning being to manage the human element within all of the technology and in face of the distance. That is, in fact, her vision, as shown in this image from her presentation.


It is really from this point that Avi and I framed our Professional Development with the tutors at CORAL. Our main message was that no matter where we are teaching, the student-teacher relationship frames the work.

Rather than focusing on the technology behind online learning, if we focus on student learning we can then find the tools that make the most sense for everyone within that context.

To return to what I wrote earlier – while the teacher student relationship frames the work, there is also that other human factor that is often missing from the context of the work: the social context.

P., a high school student from Ontario took both online and face to face courses at his school and he shared his experiences with us at REFAD2016. While he did well in his online courses, he preferred his face to face courses because of his friends in the room. I have a feeling that a perfect online course (if that can possibly exist…) will exist somewhere in between the online and the face to face.

So. Flexibility, differentiation, and a recognition of the human element (it is sacred) need to be key factors of learning at a distance. Not very different from learning in presence, is it?

**Featured image: Don’t waste your time or money on ROT! Wellcome Library, London, on Flickr. Shared via CC. BY. ND. NC

January 15, 2016

Shifting the shift – moving away from interesting conversations

Back in my early days of blogging…somewhere before and around 2007… there was a lot of talk about shifting priorities in education as a result of technology. Just for fun, I looked through my old blog archives and found these articles from that time:

Learning the way they’re living … where I write about the teacher’s evolving role as a connection maker, connecting students to their learning with technology.


Why technology in schools? And how do I lead something that is constantly changing? 😉…where I write about how technology can not be separated from the rest of life.

Also at around that time, I remember the hype around Shift Happens. They are a series of videos that were first published in 2007, based on a presentation created for a staff meeting in 2006, called Did You Know? Basically, the videos show us statistics about how and how often technology is used and the underlying message is that we are preparing learners for jobs that do not yet exist.

Recently I was at a Google Leadership Symposium where the facilitators were sending the exact same message – that we are preparing our learners for jobs that do not yet exist and that technology needs to play an integral role in that preparation.

10 years later and we are still preaching the same message with as much fervor.

So I ask myself – what has (or hasn’t happened) in the past ten years to replace the skip on the broken record?

Is it time to shift the shift?

A 2015 study by CEFRIO (a centre that facilitates organizational research and innovation around technology) came to the conclusion that Quebec teachers are, at best, in the infancy stage of technology use. Early adopters? That number is at less than 15% of teachers.
CEFRIO (2015) Usages du numérique dans les écoles québécoises (Use of technology in Quebec schools)

So. Preaching hasn’t worked. Scare tactic or shock videos like Shift Happens, haven’t worked as much as we might have liked them to. Targeted training by a network of consultants in technology hasn’t worked as much as we might have liked it to.

I remember a poster in the classroom of a colleague many years ago – it went something like

If you have explained it to me the same way a million times and I still don’t get it…who is the slow learner?

It was in response to well-meaning teachers or tutors who sometimes just re-explain things, only louder and slower, in the hopes that their charges will ‘get’ whatever it is they don’t understand.

So what do we do? Do we continue to offer technology training, only louder?

Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague about how, too often, the important conversations about our students and the roles technology play in their learning are happening between the people who already agree with the outcomes.

My conclusion? Those are interesting conversations but they are not the important conversations.

EdCamps and Twitter chats – PD that happens on Saturdays, in the evenings, on our own time – are fabulous for inspiration and motivation because when we get together with like-minded people we become a mutual cheering society and that can be motivating in the We. Are. Awesome! kind of way. But again – the conversations are happening with those who already believe in the outcomes. They are interesting but not important in a change the culture kind of way.

Important conversations need to include many voices. Not only the ones that echo each other.

I think we have moved past the point where EdCamps need to remain voluntary and on our own time to be valid. What if we move the edcamp philosophy into our places of work? What if we allow expect educators to have conversations about what is important to them as a part of their in-service PED days? It is something we are experimenting with in Quebec’s Adult Education community.

Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well. Conversation is the natural way we humans think together. We may have forgotten this, or no longer have time for each other, but it is how good thinking grows into actions that create real change.

~ quote from Margaret Wheatley

Conversations about what matters to us are necessary to the human existence. Necessary! How human to have these conversations in the places where we congregate to help people learn how to participate in society and create a better future for us all.

These conversations may be difficult ones. They may get messy. But, facilitated in a caring, open, and practical way they may likely become the important ones.

I think they will form the basis for the shift.

October 14, 2015

Why Daniel records his math lessons

Teacher voices are incredibly powerful.

They are powerful for me because they teach me how I can best support them.

They are powerful for each other because they can support each other in this extraordinarily complex and important profession that can often feel so lonely.

They are powerful for their students because it is their teacher’s voice, their teachers’ voices, that are their prime models for learning – their anchors in learning.

And this is why Daniel records his math lessons. As he explains in this video, he records himself every day so that his students can have access to his lessons when they are ready for them – at their pace. Sometimes it is during class time when he explains things live … but sometimes it isn’t and that is ok. By recording his lessons and posting them online, he can model learning to his students wherever they are in the learning process without having to do much more than press record when he starts speaking. No extra prep, no circus sideshows with apps that do or do not need wifi or login credentials or fancy devices. As he concludes in the video:

It assures the students that, you know what? If I don’t get it now, it’s ok! I don’t have to beat myself up about it right now. I can always go back later and then learn this thing.

And if this weren’t enough, it is only one of the areas where teachers voices hold power.

It was through feedback sessions with teachers that I learned of the need for videos like Daniel’s. Last spring, my colleague, Avi Spector, and I went to an adult education centre to present something that the teachers ended up absolutely hating but that particular afternoon became incredibly valuable to me (to both of us, I think). Why? Because some of the teachers let us know that they hated it (beyond just falling asleep in the back of the room) and let us know what they needed from us. They said, you know what would be valuable to us? Concrete examples of good teacher practice going on in Quebec Adult Education Centres. Some might think that flop of an afternoon PD session was a disaster but it changed the course of how I support the educators I work for. This is the power of teacher voice for me and I am hopeful that videos such as Daniel’s story above (and Julie and Michelle’s story, here) hold proof of the power of teacher voice for each other.

(If you are interested in Daniel’s approach, a good place to start to learn more about it is on this PD Mosaic tile about Blended Learning.

If you know a teacher who is doing something great in their classroom with technology or if you are doing something interesting yourself – please let me know about it so we can share even more stories. Find me @tracyrosen on Twitter)