Monday, February 28, 2011

Upon Reflection: Thanks Boys

The past four months have meant busy days, nights and a whirlwind season of action for our Grade 8 Boys Basketball team. The boys entered Delta Secondary School as eager young ball players from a combination of five local elementary schools. Despite many of them knowing each other or at least knowing of each other through community sports activities and mutual friends, the boys gravitated towards former classmates when they entered the gym back in November.

Fast forward to the end of February, a few days since our season came to an end and I now have the opportunity to reflect on the season that WAS, rather than the season that IS or the season that WILL BE.

Upon reflection, I'd like to thank each of the players...

For modeling what it means to be a student athlete.  You walk the hallways with confidence. You have identified yourselves as Pacer basketball players and take pride in representing yourself, your teammates and Delta Secondary with class. Your interactions and support of each other as teammates has contributed to a supportive community and to each other's sense of belonging.

For transforming from 15 individuals into one unit.  Your ability to come together throughout the course of the season is a credit to the teamwork and trust you have placed in each other.  You united around a common purpose and shared a vision for how we would play the game. You were willing to sacrifice for the good of the team and you set aside personal accolades in pursuit of team success.

For always embracing the challenge.  As coaches, we challenged you to step up every day, either in practice or in a game.  Not once did you exhibit signs of fear or doubt in your eyes.  Rather, you approached the game with courage and determination. You played the game with grit and tenacity and you always believed that we would be successful.

For demonstrating perseverance and overcoming adversity.  Each of you probably remembers turning the ball over, making an ill-advised pass or missing a shot at a crucial moment in a game.  As teammates, you supported and encouraged each other in these situations and consistently practiced and played hard.

For being resilient and bouncing back from the few tough losses we suffered during the season. You remained positive, optimistic and unwavering in your belief of the team. In moments of defeat, you held your head high and chose to remain proud of what you did achieve instead of what you didn't.

For being risk-takers.  Every practice and every game you put yourself at risk of failure.  You accepted constructive criticism and feedback in order to learn and improve.

For inspiring me to continue coaching.  The passion you brought to the game each day is contagious.  Your effort, your desire, your belief in us as coaches and your development throughout the season has made for an extremely rewarding coaching experience and motivates me to continue coaching in the future.

Thanks boys!  See you on the hardcourt!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

EdCamp Vancouver Movie Screening: Schooling the World

As many of you have heard, an exciting 'unconference' called EdCamp Vancouver is going to be held on Saturday, April 16th from 9am - 4pm at John Oliver Secondary School in Vancouver.  For more information about EdCamp Vancouver, please go to the website

In conjunction with EdCamp Vancouver, there will be a movie screening of 'Schooling the World'.  Background about Schooling the World can be found at .  

The movie screening will take place at 7pm on Saturday, March 5th at Rhizome Cafe in Vancouver. For location and details about Rhizome Cafe please go to their website

I look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


"Don't Wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize normal moments and make them great"

The inspiration for this post comes from the Grade 8 Boys Basketball team that I'm currently coaching with Steve Cowan (@stvcwn) and Brandon Chancey.  The boys came together for the first time back in the fall and over the course of the past four months have shown great desire, dedication, perseverance and resilience.  Similar to any athletic season, there have been high points, low points, moments of triumph and moments of adversity. Through a lot of hard work, the boys have earned the opportunity to play in the Delta District Final on Thursday evening.  Despite belonging to a relatively small district composed of seven secondary schools, the accomplishment of making it this far remains significant. Thursday's game also presents a tremendous opportunity for the team.  The players have never been more motivated and engaged in games and practices. We have stressed to the boys the importance of performing to the best of their ability because there is no guarantee that they will have this opportunity in the future.

Even though I don't particularly like the term, everyone knows what I'm referring to when I speak of 'teachable moments'.  These moments usually arise spontaneously when a student asks an interesting question or makes an interesting comment and it takes the conversation on a tangent away from our initial plan.  As teachers, we often wrestle with what to do in these situations. On one hand we want to continue along the tangent, capitalizing on our students' peaked interest.  On the other hand, we hesitate to stray too far from our plan, feeling the pressure to cover the extensive prescribed curriculum.

So, how should we handle these situations?
I suggest that when these opportunities arise and our students are most engaged, we should follow the tangent and turn it into a great moment of learning.  If our students' curiosity is peaked, why would we do anything to squash it?  This is when the most relevant and deepest learning is likely to occur.  Rather than kill our students' interest in a topic by cutting short a discussion and forcing ourselves back to the prescribed curriculum, we should be looking to tie our discussions back to important aspects of the curriculum.

I'm not advocating that we ignore the prescribed curriculum, nor am I suggesting that a set curriculum need not exist. However, I am suggesting that we consciously choose to teach less, allow for and seize the spontaneous opportunities to pursue the relevant, meaningful tangents that engage our students.  After all, similar to a basketball team's opportunity to participate in a district final, these meaningful opportunities in the classroom don't happen all the time.  I encourage you to seize the moment!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


As our focus continues on engaging the 21st Century learner, it is important to consider the impact technological changes will have on the learning of educators, as well as students. The recent Premier’s Technology Council report suggests the K-12 education system “should more consistently focus on the skills required to find and use relevant content rather than on the delivery of pre-determined content.” So, if our challenge in the classroom is to work with our students so they learn the skills necessary to adapt to new content, shouldn’t the focus for our own learning stress the same? While there continues to be lots of discussion about personalizing learning to improve student engagement, we also need to focus on the engagement of educators and creating ways that educators can participate in meaningful, relevant and personalized professional development. 

One forum that enables educators to engage in meaningful and relevant professional development is the Edcamp model.  We are excited to announce that the popular Edcamp model of professional development is coming to Vancouver. Organized by a group of teachers, school and district level administrators, Vancouver will be the first city outside of the USA to offer an Edcamp. What is Edcamp? Edcamp is organic, democratic, participant driven professional development for educators. There are no keynote presentations, there is no formal pre-set agenda, and participants set the course of the day. 

The purpose of Edcamp is to put a bunch of creative, innovative and dedicated people together to share ideas and improve teaching and educational practices. Workshops are conversation driven and not typical lecture style presentations. All participants are invited to contribute ideas in workshops, and any attendee who feels comfortable is encouraged to offer a workshop.

The Edcamp experience will be that of an un-conference. Wikipedia describes an un-conference as a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. The term "unconference" has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations.

A key component of the Edcamp Vancouver un-conference experience will be the use of technology to assist attendees in learning what is happening in each of the facilitated learning opportunities that is occurring. Social media tools such as Twitter will allow attendees to monitor different groups and decide how to spend their day. Attendees are encouraged to vote with their feet- if a session isn’t meeting your needs, move to a session that will-no hard feelings!

I look forward to seeing you at EdCampVancouver!

For more details and registration information, please visit

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Visioning: The Value of Process

As many of you are aware, the Delta School District has recently invited all stakeholders to participate in an inclusive Visioning Process.  As challenging as it is to create a shared vision for a school district, the goal is to generate a district vision by late spring time.  The process of creating this shared vision will include contributions from each school community in the district and from some district events that bring stakeholders from across the district together.  To read more details about the Delta School District's Visioning process, please read Terry Ainge's post Vision: Begin with the End in Mind .

On Monday, February 7th over 120 members of the Delta Secondary School community participated in the first step of the school's contribution to the Visioning process. Teachers, educational assistants, support staff, students, parents and administrators all participated in this sharing process.  Each of the 24 groups was composed of at least one student and three or four adults who play a variety of different roles in the school community.

Table discussion started with each person sharing his or her most memorable moment of learning in the Delta School District.  Moments of Greatness included people's experiences inside and outside the classroom, curricular and extra-curricular, short moments and moments that spanned years.  Each group then extracted the common core values that were revealed by the stories.  The following wordle was created from the core values that each of the 24 groups contributed.

Most of the words on this list are commonly referenced words in educational circles.  Many of you may then wonder why we bothered to engage in the exercise we did.  Well, as important as it is for the school district to eventually come up with a vision, it it the process of doing so which is truly valuable. The process of working together with a variety of members of the school community was an excellent reminder to all of us that we all have the best interest of our students at heart.  We have different responsibilities and play different roles in advancing the learning of our students and naturally, from time to time we have different ideas and opinions on how best to move forward.  The value of this inclusive process is that it brings us closer together  and gives US the chance to create OUR vision.  It will not be someone else's vision, a vision we don't understand or one that has been thrust upon us.  It will be a vision that each of us has contributed to...a vision we share with each other.  I'm hopeful and optimistic that our vision will provide us a compass for future decision making and will serve as a bold reminder of where WE hope to go.

To view pictures from the recent visioning exercise at DSS, please see Terry Ainge's video DSS Visioning Part One .

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No Phones, No Cameras, No problem?

One evening late last week, I visited a high school from a neighboring district.  As I walked through the hallways I noticed two recurring signs.  Unfortunately the camera on my smartphone is not the best, but you can see the pictures and captions below.

"Voice and text communication devices are to be turned off and out of sight inside the school from 8:00am to 3:30pm."

"The use of photographic, voice and video recording devices is not permitted at school or       school sponsored events"

Before I raise questions about these signs, I must admit the following:
  • I was not in the school during regular school hours so I was unable to observe whether students respected the policies and how the staff responded to students who violated these policies.
  • Although I'm not certain, I don't believe these are district policies.  I believe these policies originate from school-based decisions since I have not seen these signs posted in other high schools within the same district.
  • I do not know whether these policies were developed in reaction to specific situations
  • I do not know whether these policies apply to staff as well as students
With those disclaimers out of the way, I admit that I found myself questioning and somewhat frustrated by these policies.  Some of my reasons are:
  • We have an active group of photography students at Delta Secondary who can be regularly seen taking photos in different areas of the school both during and outside of regular school hours.  How would a photography class exist within this type of environment?
  • Teachers at many schools such as ours are exploring how these mobile devices can be used in a productive manner in the classroom to enhance student learning.  Some students have been using their smartphones as a research tool, some for text polling and others to listen to student-created podcasts.  A recent article titled Mobile goes Mainstream points out many educators' changing perceptions to accept the use of mobile technology in the classroom.
  • The fact that "Voice and text communication devices are to be turned off and out of sight inside the school" but appear to be acceptable outside of the school points to a disconnect between the worlds inside and outside of school.
  • Isn't it a school's responsibility to help students learn to regulate the appropriate use of these mobile electronic devices?
  • Shouldn't we be exploring when, where and how students can use their electronic devices in positive and productive ways?
  • If students are so engaged in using their electronic devices during class time, what does that say about their level of engagement in what they should be learning during class?
Having said all that, I realize that these devices can potentially be a significant distraction for students. I also recognize that incorporating mobile devices is quite a leap from traditional models of education and for this reason can cause many of us some discomfort around the idea.

Is there a magic policy around mobile devices that every school should apply all the time? Definitely not.  But, I do believe there is a time and a place for everything, electronic devices included.

What we all must acknowledge is that these devices are part of the world and their use is only going to grow in the coming years.  As much as we may not yet be fully comfortable with how to implement the technology into our classes in a way that supports student learning, we must take some risks and try some innovative practices in an attempt to make our students' lives in school more relevant to their lives outside of school.

I invite your comments and would love to hear ways in which your students are using mobile technology to support their learning.