Category Archives: Leadership

You Don’t Need to be an Edtech Specialist

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In order to implement technology into education, you do not need to be a specialist in technology, but you do need to have an understanding of educational technology. This means that educators should understand how Web 2.0 tools can be applied to education, and how it can impact student learning, whether it be in a positive or negative manner. There is an inordinate amount of Web 2.0 tools available to learners, making it impossible for educators to be knowledgeable or even proficient with all of these tools. Understanding its purpose and social features is a good start for implementing a Web 2.0 tool. Determining it’s privacy restrictions will allow teachers to determine whether the tool is suitable for the age group they are instructing. From there time can tested prior to utilizing the tool for instruction. Teachers do not need to know all the features of the tool before implementing it with students. They may gain a basic understanding first and then learn as they go. Using the tool with students can be beneficial as students may already know how to use the tool from prior experiences or can figure out the tool’s use more quickly as all students would experience the tool a little differently than their teacher would.

Another important aspect of technology integration is for teachers to take risks by stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something new. They should be willing to make mistakes and not feel the need to be experts when working with technology. It is permitted to say “let me look into that” or “I’m not sure, let’s figure it out together.” My mantra has always been to try something new with my students every year. It may be the implementation of a new technology, it may be to refine our use of a familiar technology or even something non-tech related, but a different approach to learning and assessment. Regardless of the tool being selected, it is my aim to improve learning by taking risks and changing my teaching practice.

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What will you try differently this upcoming school year? Don’t be afraid to try something new 🙂




How to get the most out of Twitter

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Today, I came across a Tweet where a fellow educator was wondering how educators can get the most out of Twitter. This blog post discusses how I get the most out of using Twitter. Of course, every educator has different needs and time commitments so they may use Twitter differently and benefit from its use in their own way.

1. Schedule time for Twitter

You will need to dedicate time in your schedule to read Tweets on Twitter. I do this in two different ways. I have the Twitter app on my phone that I will check periodically when I have free time and will e-mail myself articles or posts of interest to read when I have more time. I also have myself signed into TweetDeck on my computer, so that way each time I log on, I can see the most recent posts on my timeline and hashtags that I follow. My caution to scheduling is that you shouldn’t feel that you need to always be connected. Take time with family and don’t obsess over posts you missed that day. If it’s concerning for you, read the missed posts when you have time, they will be there for you when you log in next. It’s also okay to skip over posts as it is not always possible to read every single Tweet that comes across your timeline.

2. Participate in the discussion

It’s great to be a consumer of Twitter, but even better to be a producer. When you come across an interesting Tweet worth sharing, reTweet (RT) it. Just make sure you read the entire Tweet first to ensure that you agree with the article being Tweeted or your can add your perspective when Tweeting it. If you have learned something interesting in grad school classes, conversations with colleagues or students, then Tweet about it and add a meaningful hashtag to your post (check out this list of educational hashtags). Share good stories of what is happening or being observed in your teaching practice (without naming students or school). By posting information you are interested in, you can connect with others who are interested in the same topic. This can help you increase your follower list.

3. Follow discussions on hashtags

There are several interesting discussions happening weekly on Twitter. Find out which topics interest you and see if you can find time to follow or participate in some of these discussions. You can learn more about the topic of conversations and further make better connections on Twitter. I like to use these Twitter chats to share resources and blog posts on the topic of conversation. I feel it’s just as important to share our learning and understanding with fellow educators than merely observe conversations. The best way to learn is to actively participate in your learning and Twitter is one way to actively participate in a professional learning community (PLN) of your choosing.

4. Take risks on Twitter

Don’t be afraid to provide your opinion on topics that matter to you, even if they may spark judgement. Just be certain that you express your ideas respectfully and with a certain degree of caution. Think about how your readers would interpret your Tweet and whether you are prepared to further discuss your opinion. I like to ask questions to further understand another Tweeter’s perspective or add a positive contradicting comment. For example, there was a recent discussion on social media use in education. I provided an example of how another school board uses social media in an effective way than another school board.

5. Encourage your friends and colleagues to participate on Twitter

Twitter discussions are as good as you make them and benefit those who use Twitter. I have to admit, before becoming a Twitter user, I was against using Twitter. I thought Twitter was used to communicate everyday feelings and status updates, that I didn’t see the need in using this social network. I was not aware that a large network of educators were using this media to discuss educational matters. These educators span across the world and can connect with you with the click of a “follow”. It was through my first grad school class that I was asked to participate in social media and since then have benefited greatly from this network. I am certain there are many educators out there with the same previous mindset and may need so encouragement or awareness of this tool. I encourage educators to discuss with your friends and colleagues about how you are using Twitter. Show them your timeline and explain what you are learning. Offer to help them set up an account and guide them through the process of learning how to use Twitter. Here’s a pfd that can help them understand how to use Twitter (New to Twitter…).

Digital Citizenship Norms (EDER 679.10)

Today’s society is engaged in a participatory culture (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robinson, 2009): they are interconnected through social media and technology. Individuals are creating, sharing, and posting information/media with a global audience, sometimes unaware of the effects of their online behaviours. As educators, bust most importantly, educational technology leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure there is a policy in place that addresses digital citizenship – “the norms of behavior with regards to technology use” (Ribble, Bailey, & Ross, 2004, p. 7). Students should engage in responsible technology use, as they would engage as responsible citizens in the classroom and in their communities (Kowch, 2013).

Educators need to understand the digital world and how it affects students and their learning. School board policies should be reviewed and understood. Schools need to create a school digital plan that address the norms and behaviors expected of students within their particular context (micro, meso, macro levels). Each age level will require a certain set of norms, as students use technology in different ways inside and outside of the classroom. Digital norms ought to be applied in both settings. It would be very destructive to tell students that they have to be responsible at school and then let them decide how to behave at home.

Once educators have created a digital citizenship/technology plan, they then need to educate and instruct students on the importance of these norms. Students should be cognizant of their digital footprint (i.e what is posted online can outlive you and can define you as a person), should engage in responsible communication (i.e. respect individuals online and do not cyberbully others), and use technology in a safe way (i.e. use a system that is secure and not sharing personal information with people they don’t know). Ribble et al. (2004) provide a list of 9 norms to digital citizenship which can help you determine which norms will guide your school technology use. These include (p. 7):

  1. Etiquette
  2. Communication
  3. Education
  4. Access
  5. Commerce
  6. Responsibility
  7. Rights
  8. Safety
  9. Security

Being connected with a global and online world, students and educators need to be aware of the potential dangers and be proactive in ensuring that those utilizing technology should do so in a safe and responsible manner.


Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robinson, A. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press. Retrieved from

Ribble, M., Bailey, G., & Ross, T. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6-12. Retrieved from

How to create innovation in your organization (EDER 679.10)

What makes a school or an organization truly innovative? You need a starting point and then you need an attractor that creates a newer idea, that is disruptive in nature, in order to innovate change. Let me example with a few drawings:

a) Ideas now and no attractors


This is the status quo. You are are point A and you’re heading to point B with the same defined purpose and process as years before. There’s no real incentive to change and innovate.

b) Ideas now and stable attractors


You understand that your organization needs some change to do things better, but the change that you are implementing is surface change (Kowch, 2013). In other words, it is minimal change that will not have a huge impact on the organization. There will be change, but not enough to innovate and change the organizational culture.

c) Ideas now and unstable attractors


You understand and implement some purposeful changes (Kowch, 2013).  Technology is an example of disruptive technology (Kowch, 2013). Take cloud-computing for example, the purpose of cloud computing would be to another way to collaborate and share resources just-in-time within a network. By introducing cloud computing to an organization as an idea (an attractor), staff will engage in meaningful discussions on whether to implement cloud computing and how it can be beneficial or otherwise to an organization. This attractor provides more tension between the now and the ideal, but it’s this tension that actually helps create a positive tension that helps bring innovation forward (Kowch, 2013). When embraced with tension, interactions can be more collaborative and changes the nature of what we are doing (Kowch, 2013).

If you want true change in your organization, you’ll need enough tension caused by a disruptive yet achievable idea. In order to allow for tension, you’ll need a diverse staff with different perspectives wanting to engage in meaningful discussions; and a leader who is willing to guide and lead those discussions. The question for edtech leaders is whether the idea you have will create enough tension for it to be innovative among your organization.

What is trending in the NMC Horizon Report? (EDER 679.10)

Every year the NMC Horizon Report publishes a report on emerging technology trends and their potential impact on student learning (Johnson et al., 2013). Here is a list of the tech trends this year for K-12:

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 10.04.59 PMIt is not surprising that mobiles devices and tablets were listed as the most important tech trend. Schools either already have iPads/Chromebooks, or are finding ways to finance and purchase tablets for their classroom. In fact, a Winnipeg school division has decided to make iPads mandatory in their schools and are implementing a 1:1 iPad pilot project this fall (CBC News, 2013).  This goes to show that educators are already placing an importance on mobile learning in schools. The way in which they are implementing tablets should also be considered. Tablets shouldn’t be used merely to replace textbooks and provide a technology alternative. They should be used for collaborating, learning and productivity (Johnson et al., 2013). If a school does decide to make tablets mandatory for in-school use, are they promoting access to technology or creating a bigger digital divide? Should parents have to pay for tablets to be used at school? Are school leaders basing their decision on the trends or on sound logical reasoning? These will be some of the many questions educators and edtech specialists will have to determine when adopting tablets at their school.

The other trends listed in this report seem foreign to me at the division 1 level. I am not sure how learning analytics will assist student learning at this level. Nor have I considered open content, 3D printing, and virtual laboratories. Cloud computing is something that was mentioned as a potential option for school, however, with the policies and parameters needing to be addressed around cloud computing, I am unsure if schools will be ready to adopt cloud computing in the next year. I can see this happening in the next 2-3 years instead.

What surprised me the most between the 2012 (Johnson, Adams, & Cummins, 2012) and the 2013 (Johnson et al., 2013) report is that there was a significant difference in emerging trends. The 1 year adoption were similar, but the 2-3 and 4-5 year adoptions were very different. Would it be wise to follow all the suggestions of adoption when one year the focus is on game-based learning and the next year the focus is on learning analytics?


CBC News. (2013, May 29). Winnipeg school division making iPads mandatory in class. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). NMC Horizon report: 2012 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon report: 2013 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Social networks within an educational organization (EDER 679.10)

Social networks have become more and more important in the last few years. With the introduction of Twitter, teachers no longer needed to rely on their confined school network to improve teaching practice. Today’s teacher can follow educators who share similar goals and values and engage in discussions on topics of their choice. They may also participate in discussions that matter to them through threaded hashtags such as #cdnedchat, #edtech, and #abed. Questions about learning can be discussed by a broader group of educators than those limited to your place of work (in this case your school).

IMG_0275Why have staff in some schools or school boards been isolated from social networking? I believe the underlying issue with social networking is that the education system is a structural functional organization (Kowch, 2013). This means that there is a certain hierarchy that leaders are expected to follow. When asked to manage within this model, one might view staff as tiny boxes (Kowch, 2013) nicely aligned into place with specific tasks and goals. Instead, staff’s expertise should be valued within a hierarchy and staff should be allowed to contribute beyond their hierarchical position within an organization. This means allowing for more social connections between staff that would not normally be connected through the formal hierarchical structure.

Do communities of practice move practice forward? (EDER 679.10)

Leadership in education has evolved since the 1900s. It started off with managing where there was “one Great Leader” (Kowch, 2013) and progressed to the model it is today, with a focus on distributed leadership. In the distributed leadership model, the idea of a communities of practice was introduced (DuFour & Eaker, 2005; Kowch, 2013). The purpose of a communities of practice is to engage a group of people who share the same ideals in a “process of collective learning” (Wenger, 2006). In the case of education, the purpose of a communities of practice is to work towards improving student learning. In Alberta, our communities of practice are called professional learning communities (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, 2006).

In order for a professional learning community to move practice forward, its members need to collaboratively work towards a common goal (i.e. student learning) and members should be able to self-select into these communities (Kowch, 2013). Opportunities to meet and discuss student learning should be at the forefront of the discussion and should be on-going. This should not be a “meet 4 times a year” commitment. It should be sustainable, where teachers receive the administrative support and resources they need to improve student learning (Pols, 2013). Communities must be based on mutual trust and respect where members feel open to share opinions and get along.

A leader who is able to effectively ensure these conditions are met throughout the use of a communities of practice, would be able to move practice forward. Those who neglect the ability for self-choice have already created a disservice for the communities of practice as they will not have the buy-in engagement necessary in these forms of communities. They may experience more resistance or less desirable outcomes due to teachers not putting their best efforts forward.

Does your professional learning community have these necessary qualities?

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DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2006). Professional learning communities at Work™ plan book. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Solution Tree. (n.d.). The power of professional learning communities at work: Bringing the big ideas to life. Retrieved from

Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction [Web post]. Retrieved from