Tuesday, February 2, 2016


"I've 'decided' to join the #ossemooc Blog Hop around George Couros' book 'The Innovator's Mindset'. To start things off, we've decided to share our ideas around the concept of innovation. Enjoy! Also, be sure to take a look at the blogs posted at the bottom, and hop from one to another to see some other ideas."

It might be my affinity for all things marketing - I love looking at new products, ideas, processes, etc. Talking about a topic such as innovation, I am immediately drawn to the stories of how products and services came to be. It's amazing to read about the people behind the YouTube, Spam, and the concept of sharing a car with a complete stranger. It has always struck me that when looking at these innovations now, they seem so simple; however, at the time so revolutionary. 

The stories however all share one quality that set them apart in my mind - improvement. And I don't mean over the long term; just an improvement from the day before they came into being. I do stumble over this idea at times when I look at products so popular and are considered innovations, and yet am left saying "Whaaaaa? Why?!" I think back to early days of social media tools (Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc.) where many share that same expression. Many ask the simple question - how does this improve my life? It's difficult to see what's innovative at times because we fail to hear the story behind these innovations. The story always starts with a problem, and that is the key.

And so even though we find it difficult to see what is innovative at times, it doesn't mean it's not solving a problem. Many don't see the innovation because we don't see how the improvement impacts us - we hold innovations at a personal level and expect them to directly impact us. And if they don't, well they can't be innovative. Can they?

Sometimes it takes a new perspective - watching how a technological innovation can change a whole person's life. I think this is what strikes me as innovation - has it changed someone's way of doing something? Is it better than before? Than that to me is innovation. It doesn't have to be complicated. It just has to make a positive impact.

Be sure to check out the other #ossemooc bloggers and their ideas!

    Friday, January 29, 2016

    Our Limitations

    Sometimes we feel ashamed, embarrassed, or lost. I think it's important to remember...

    Thursday, January 28, 2016

    Optical Illusion

    Today was a bit of a tough one. A real great opportunity for professional learning, sharing, and connecting hit a bit of a snag. It was to be a great night, one that I think would have really done much for the learning community. The decision behind it was due to 'optics'.

    When I think of 'Optics' I often think of Economics. I know weird right? Tangent? But hang in here for a second. In economics we often look to indicators to judge economic performance. We look to GDP, unemployment, inflation, as well as several other indicators. What we often don't do however, is look behind these. For those who may be unaware, the big three (GDP, unemployment, and inflation) are not exactly perfect; and have flaws in using them to judge performance. However, we often look to these indicators because 'optically' they can be quickly used to make things 'look good'.

    In education, I think this happens as well. Standardized test scores, gradebook printouts, media stories, etc. only tell part of the story - typically the 'optically positive one'. However, we need to look past 'optics' and really think critically. Sometimes positive optics are negative; and something which may seem negative, is actually quite positive.

    • A school with high EQAO scores BUT all classrooms have desks with rows in them?
    • A learning environment touted as tech savvy BUT has huge photocopy numbers?
    • A gradebook printout for a student which averages 90% BUT all entries are tests and quizzes?
    • A professional development day for staff BUT all staff are working individually?

    These are just some things that require questioning. When we see things we often make assumptions because they look good. Sometimes we think things look bad, when in fact they look good. We need to dig deeper, and not just go with our gut. Otherwise we may casually disregard underwear, because optically it just doesn't look good.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016

    A Pace for Learning

    Professional learning as a group is a challenge for every school. Trying to appease a variety of learners and support their learning journey is a delicate balance. It's really a 'no-win' situation as not everyone is invested the same way; and just like the students in our classroom, each has a different preference of learning.

    Today, I was a part of a discussion about this topic - how do we support the adult learners in the building so they can grow as professionals? The planning group's main concern was about the current pace of learning and the culture of learning in the school. It struck me at how similar this discussion was like the discussion we have about our students in our classrooms.

    We often look at our classrooms and plan according to curriculum. We know we have to fit in 'X' units of study in 'X' number of days. The pressure we put on ourselves as teachers to "finish the course" is countered by the pressure we put on ourselves to "ensure all students learn". This delicate balance is no different than what all school's deal with as part of their own professional learning.

    We hope to achieve learning goals as a staff by the end of each semester, or by the end of each year. Many would like to go 'slow' while others need to 'speed up'. We do need to ensure that all learn, and are supported with the appropriate resources and strategies to ensure understanding & proficiency. And if we race through the material then we can almost certainly ensure that learning will be haphazard at best. Going slow is therefore necessary.

    However, when it comes to certain learning goals there is no option however. Students are the ones directly impacted by our professional learning, and if we slow down too much then we are not living up to the expectations of our students. I'm not saying we need to put the pedal to the medal, but I think we always need to ensure our foot is at least on the pedal.

    I guess what I'm left with is just a question. When do we need to 'go'? And when do we need to 'go slow'? Either way, however, we still need to be going.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016

    #Peel21st Sketch Hop

    "Here's the next instalment of #Peel21st Hop. This time it's a little different - instead of a blog, we decided to 'Sketch it Up'. Remember to check out others' sketches posted at the bottom"

    I have enjoyed 'doodling' over the years. I don't consider it much of an art, but I find myself during presetations, lectures, etc. needing to do something to keep myself focused - "Squirrel!"
    I noticed sketchnoting creep into my Twitter feed more and more recently, and came to realize that it could be a useful strategy to use while listening. It's helped keep my attention, aided in synthesizing information, and allows me to create a useful summary to reflect on after. 
    For this hop I decided, rather than summarize a lecture, just jot down some ideas about the future of school...

    Be sure to check out the other #Peel21st Sketchers and their best creations!

    Sketch it Up!

    Alright, so I'm no artist. Want to get that out of the way right off the bat. I can barely draw a stick figure, and don't even think about having me draw any kind of perspective! However, something grabbed my attention when I saw Sketchnoting for the first time. The visual representation of notetaking seemed to align pretty nicely with how I learn - colour, images, fonts, etc. - all capture the eye, and mind in turn.

    So I took a whirl; grabbed a stylus, and my ipad, and tried it out. It became evident early on that it's not exactly hard, but not exactly easy either. I learned a bit and still figuring it out, but here are some thoughts:

    1. Trying to sketchnote during a lecture or keynote may be the most difficult. Trying to synthesize information while creating a visual representation is pretty challenging. I came to realize it's all about the rough work while listening, and then going back over it after.
    2. Not all apps are the same, and finding one that works requires experimenting with each. Each may have slightly different tools, and 'play' differently. I have come to realize the ones that offer a grid of some sort really help, and allow you to judge spacing and size more effectively.
    3. Play, play, and more play - the fonts, the images, the layouts, and everything else. I started trying to refine a couple different specific font styles, banners, and layouts. This really helped as it created a bit of 'go-to' set of tools that I could use quickly for the times I did try sketchnoting a lecture or keynote.
    Other than that, it's a bit like doodling. ;)

    Friday, January 22, 2016