Collaborative Novel Writing Presentations for MPTC

This is the presentation that I gave today for the MPTC Div II and III.  Collaborative ideas for all three sessions are in this post as well, so find your sessions ideas and get writing, due date is Friday March 14th.  If you have questions or concerns, please email me!

Class Novel for Division II & III

From the High School session this morning:

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From the Division III session this afternoon:

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From the Division II session this afternoon:

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Education in the age of change: A TEDx Talk

I gave a talk a week ago at TEDx RockyView Schools, and I wanted to share it with a little bit of context for it with you.  One of the biggest hesitations teachers often have when I am working with them on enhancing their practice and working with digital tools is that they are somehow losing in the process.  There is an overwhelming feeling out there that the more teachers ‘put out there’ of their work and skill, the less value there is of having them in the classroom.  I used to be unsure how to respond to that fear.

For a time I thought (mainly to myself) that if the world was changing in such a way that teachers could be replaced by online tools, then I would want to be aware of those tools, familiar with them, because someone has to know how to keep the ‘machine’ running.  If all of us were on the ropes, I would at least be as valuable as I could by understanding the new technology.  Then if the teachers were all ‘let go,’ I would possibly still have some value in the new system.  It was a naïve perspective.

In doing my research for this talk, I found that I do believe that we are in the midst of a change because of technology and that we most certainly need to become familiar with technology.  This is not because technology will replace us, but rather because it could replace us if we aren’t pushing our teaching practice to be as effective as possible.

Make no mistake, there are billions of dollars at work trying to figure out the ‘next way’ in education, you need only look to the United States and the various initiatives at work there to see how money and cost-saving can effect education.  However, if you look to Alberta, Canada, you will also see some amazing efforts by teachers to integrate technologies both personal and publicly purchased, to change practice based on current research, and the possibilities the democratization of knowledge has brought to a modern education system.  These changes have been brought about by an environment of research and study, willing to look at how to best blend the expertise of teachers with the innovation technology brings.  It’s not perfect, but it does inspire hope that instead of looking to replace teachers with some learning program or hardware solution, the answer will continue to be a blended, human approach to learning.

Enjoy the talk!

Support for iPads in the Classroom? Check your Staff!

I had a great discussion today that reminded me why I feel it is so important to do what I do with Developing Education, New Teacher Chat #ntchat and other supports I am involved in online.  My conversation was focused on the best way to deliver support to teachers with the various technologies we have been providing teachers.  While there is an inclination to digitize support and send the teachers to a website, video tutorial, or even Google, this misses the mark with teachers who are already overloaded and don’t have the ‘extra time’ to go out to these sources to learn about technology.

Think about it for a moment, if teachers were apt to go online and had plenty of time to spend on their own personal development on their own time, I think the uptake with technology in many cases would be exponentially further than it is.  The truth is, great teachers worry about the art of teaching and the preparation for it in their own time.  Their dedication is part of what makes them great to start with. We burn these teachers out by pushing them to do more in an environment they don’t understand, even when we provide support by way of training videos or websites.  They simply don’t have a passion for technology learning, or they would be doing it themselves.

Instead of offloading training and support for technology to be done ‘at your leisure’ (how many of us have leisure, or use leisure time for that?) look to someone on your staff who does have the passion for using technology in learning.  Give that person some extra prep time, collaborative time, or better yet, make that person a full-time educational technologist.  If you are able to provide your staff with someone who effectively uses a passion for educational technology in the classroom, and has or is developing a knowledge of the curriculum links associated, I bet you will find that the money spent on that position will go far further than the man hours putting together presentations on technology or training guides.  Every teacher I’ve known who has taken up a technology I have offered has seen the value of that technology to their own classroom and situation before they started.  It is hard to instil that value without a passionate, articulate teacher who is willing to walk with them into the classroom and help them make it happen.  Think about your team, your staff, do you have someone you think could fill that role?  You may be further along the path to great technology instruction than you thought!

I have had the fortune of being in this role in two schools, and let me tell you as someone who is passionate about this, it is FUN to watch teachers flip the switch.  It’s why I get so fired up about technology in the classroom!  If you want to ask me more about this, or have me work with someone you want to test in this role, see my contact link above and connect.  I would love to support you!

Lev Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development: A Lesson

During my Masters program, I had the fortune of doing some in-depth study of the work of Lev Vygotsky, particularly in the area of the Zone of Proximal Development. What I wanted to share today was a lesson that myself and my peers developed for teaching the concept to other Master of Education students in our class. It was well received, and I thought others might benefit from it as well.
We started the lesson with an overview of Lev Vygotsky and his life, including the development of his theory. We had the voice of Lev narrated by another student who is a professional voice actor, and animated Lev’s face to narrate his own life using the app Photospeak, which is a blast to work with. What we really liked about this part of the presentation, is that there really was a sense of the ‘history’ of Lev’s work in the presentation with his photo ‘talking’ to the audience.

Once the group had an overview of Lev and his history, We wanted to create some activities to highlight the idea of ZPD. My portion was a hands-on activity in whichI discussed with my students the familiar game ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors.’ We discussed that this was a common game that most people in our culture understand. I added that we were going to expand on their understanding by adding new options to the game. I showed the group this ‘instructional video’ with the basic rules.

One of the groups asked to see the video several times, and with each group I rehearsed the new learning by showing each of the options and asking the group which other option ‘beats’ it. After this rehearsal, I had each member of the group practice the new moves to ensure they were clearly shown, and then played a tournament to see who our ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock’ champion was. It took only a couple of rounds of hesitation before the new moves became fairly well incorporated in the game and the new learning was comfortable for the students.

Zone of Proximal Development Graphic

This image show the teacher’s role in the zone of proximal development for students.

Once we moved back to the classroom and we were able to debrief, I showed this image to the class and described that the linking to a common understanding (the initial game) was key to Vygotsky’s concept, and that the initial discomfort the groups felt as they watched the video and started to practice the new game was the zone of proximal development. I knew learning was successful for the group once they lost that initial hesitation and were able to complete the tournament.

We have to remember that learning is generally not a comfortable process, and is often downright frightening for students. If we are not linking and rehearsing new concepts, students may not even be willing to attempt the new learning. It is our approach as teachers, and our ability to scaffold students to the zone of proximal development that makes all the difference to learning.

If you wish to use any of these materials with a link back to this site as attribution, please feel free to do so.

5 Traits of the 21st Century Administrator

What do you believe are the traits needed by an administrator in the 21st century?  I have outlined five of the traits I have found most useful in considering administration in this new educational world. At the end of this post, I have included a PDF version of these traits for you to download and print off if you’d like. Share as you’d like.

The 21st Century Administrator is…

An Active Listener – If there is one thing that social media has taught us, and continues to teach us, it’s that everyone wants a voice. Focus and listen so deeply during conversations that your partner knows every word is being absorbed and processed. It is through deep listening that we get to the heart of concerns and attend to the real issues at hand. Too often we find ourselves having superficial conversations day-to-day, saying ‘hi’ or ‘how’s it going?’ in the hallways. This is not bad in itself, but if these conversations are the only ones we have with our peers for any length of time, we miss important personal connections.

A Connected Leader – Administrators have the ability to connect with many others in education when and where necessary. We do not live in a vacuum in education; if you want to be connected, you can be. This applies to the connections you forge within your own building, but also includes supports from your central or divisional office. These relationships must be cultivated as well, so that anyone from your community that needs support can rely on your connections and abilities to connect to them. This does not mean I am advocating for all teachers to work through you, but rather that in their work, you always have the ability to offer support. In our digital world, there are many connections to be forged through digital media, and I’ve seen many proactive leaders forging those connections to support their work.

An Authentic Conversationalist – Effective leaders know how to have the encouraging conversations, and behaviour changing conversations. We are in great danger of loosing momentum and gains if we as educational leaders do not at times engage in those crucial conversations to bring teachers ‘on board’ with what is going on in the school. While I realize contractual obligations prevent certain discussions, we can go a long way by forging strong relationships where these teachers respect our perspectives as well.

Inspirational and Empowering – Empower teachers to be able to do great things. As leaders we are the enablers of the teaching and learning we want to see happen. Take as many roadblocks out of the way as you can for teachers doing great things, and let them fly. Often, once they have a taste of the kind of teacher they can be, they will start breaking down their own walls. In addition to empowering others, leaders that have solid beliefs about education and create strong vision statements and craft a school culture around them, are the leaders that people flock to because they make a difference in the lives of students. If you are such a leader, share your experiences and skills with others!

A 21st Century Learning Specialist – I know the difficulties some educators have with technology, that is not going to go away. I like the old saying, “Use your strengths and manage your weaknesses.” Educational Leaders that are well versed in the traits of the 21st Century Learner can attract and maintain those who are skilled in technology implementation and collaborative learning. While I see immense value in maintaining these skills for myself, those who don’t can still be focused on what they want to see happen in schools and put the right people in positions to be able to achieve it.

What do you think of these traits?  Do they fit with your vision of educational leadership in the 21st Century?

A Pedagogic Oath – What if we had one?

Upon their entry into the practice of medicine, doctors take an oath dating back to Hippocrates that has guided their service through the centuries.  As I was completing my Masters work and reading the works of Dewey, Vygotksy, Coelho and other educational thinkers, I began to wonder what an educational, or pedagogic oath might look like.  Here was what I believed to be the essential components of education.  What would your pedagogic oath look like?

A Pedagogic Oath

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

of those teachers in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to


I will apply, for the benefit of children, all teaching methodologies that are required, avoiding those twin traps of personal bias and judgement.

I will remember that there is art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh standard testing or ranking systems.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed to support student learning.

I will respect the privacy of my students, for their learning needs are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of assessed learning or grades. If it is my honor to facilitate great learning, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to harm a student’s self-esteem and self-value; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own inconsistencies.

I will remember that I do not teach a curriculum, a concept or an idea, I teach a human being, whose learning is linked to and affected by their community and experience, and that learning in our classroom may affect the student’s family, economic future and connection to society. My responsibility includes these re- lated areas, if I am to teach adequately any student.

I will create inquiry whenever I can, for curiosity is preferable to drill or rote learning.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those of higher education as well as those with more practical learning.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of teaching those who seek my help.

Derek Keenan
Developing Education

Leave a comment with your thoughts.  If you like the oath and you would like a more polished PDF version, head over to my resources page to download a copy.  If you are willing to take the oath, grab this badge for your site:

Pedagogic Oath

Simply copy the following code into the HTML on your website or blog:

<a href=””><img src=”; alt=”Pedagogic Oath” border=”0″ /></a>

…and yes, that is Dewey’s moustache.