Tech-enabled leadership: Using social media to enhance school leadership

Tech-Enabled Leadership vs. Tech-Savvy Leaders

While the ability to use social media can be of great benefit to the school leaders, it is imperative that these resources are used to support the essential leadership functions that affect student learning. It has become increasing popular to idolize principals that are tech savvy and showcase them as 21st century leaders. While principals that embrace the use of technology can be seen as role models, it is paramount that these social media resources are integrated into the daily practice of principals in ways that support student learning. Tech-savvy principals may be early technology adopters using the latest tech toys as part of their personal practice, but tech-enabled leaders know how to capitalize on the affordance of technology to enable leadership actions that are open, collaborative and distributed. 
Read the full article

Rutherford, C. (2013). Tech-enabled leadership: Using social media to enhance school leadership.                    Canadian Association of Principals Journal.Fall 13-19.

Getting the Most out of Twitter: A Guide For Canadian Educators

1. Don't be an Egghead: No one wants to follow an egghead.
Be sure to complete the Twitter profile with a picture and a brief description about who you are and what you do. Include a link to your blog or website so potential followers can find out more about you.  Here is a great example:

2. Share Information and Retweet: Don't just lurk or promote yourself, share ideas and links to resources. Retweet the information that you find valuable. Make sure you have a good ratio of tweets and retweets. Nobody wants to follow your never ending monologue. Just like in kindergarten, you need to listen and share to make friends. 

3. Know your Audience: If you want to use Twitter as a professional learning network post information that is relevant to your professional life. The occasional goofy picture is fine, but create a personal account if you have a frequent urge to share your beer can collection or LOL cat fascination. Sharing relevant professional information that highlights your professional interest or expertise will facilitate the development of an active learning community that will support your professional growth.

4.  Use #Hashtags and Twitter Lists to Avoid Being Overwhelmed: Your Twitter page can looking like a fast moving springtime creek once you start following more than a hundred people. Using Twitter lists or searching by #hashtags can make it easier to find the information you want. A Twitter list is a curated list of Twitter users that you can create or subscribe to. Once the list has been created you can view the Tweets just from the people on the list. This is a great way to follow the Tweets of people from your school, district, or educational speciality.

#Hashtags enable you to search the Twitterverse to find Tweets related to a specific topic. Searching by #hashtags is the most efficient way to find educational resources. Use the guides listed below to find the #hashtag for what you are looking for.

5. Follow the Leading Canadian Tweeters: The quality of your Twitter experience will depend on who you follow. In addition to following your colleagues and the organization you work for be sure to follow some of the most active Canadian educators on Twitter. The large number of followers these educators have amassed is a result of their exemplary use of Twitter. Following these leading Tweeters will give you a diverse offering of perspectives and resources. Following just people you already know will result in a echo chamber that fails to provide you with new ideas or opinions.

  • Top 100 Canadian Educators on Twitter
  • Top 100 Canadian Educational Leaders on Twitter
  • Top 100 Canadian Professors on Twitter
  • (These lists were created in early 2013. The number of followers and rankings may have changed)

    Learning From Games: Using Games to fulfill learning goals

    I recently watched an excellent video about the role of games in education that was created by Penny Arcade TV. The video serves a commentary about intrinsic motivation of video game play. Their premise is this - play is a voluntary activity, forcing students to play educational games reduces intrinsic motivation and thus students are robbed of the pleasure of play. This got me thinking about how to turn this dilemma on its head.

    Instead of teachers telling students what game they will play and what they will learn why not ask the students about what their favourite games are, why they like that specific game and what they have learned from playing that game. This could provide the teacher with an opportunity to create a learning experience for the student that builds on their interest in the game. As a former classroom teacher I know it would be very challenging to create 30 individual learning experiences that build on gaming interests of 30 students, but I do think it would be possible to create a series of lessons that address a variety of learning objectives while giving students the option to choose the context.

    1. Students could write a paper that uses descriptive language to describe their favourite game and why it is their favourite. 
    2. An additional persuasive writing task would be to have them compare and contrast their favourite game to other lesser games and provide suggestion for improvements to the favourite game. This authentic learning experience mimics the work of professional game and product reviewers.
    3. A procedural writing task could have students write out the steps to be successful in a game. The assessment of this task could be to give the steps to success to someone not familiar with the game to see if the procedures listed are accurate.
    4. Having students describe what they have learned from their favourite game  and how it connects to classroom learning could provide educators with an opportunity to explore the academic relevance of game play. Learning about mythology, geography/history, physics/engineering could enhance student understanding of game play in Legend of Zelda, Call of Duty, Gears of War, F1, Forza or Motorsport. Thus, students might become more engaged in the subjects that could improve their game play.

    These activities can also be used to engage non-gamers as well as all of these learning tasks could be applied to a variety of student interests from specific sports to a favourite novel, movie or music genre.

    Play on!

    Becoming an Education Entrepreneur

    Have a great idea to change education?
    Flickr Photo by Life Mental Health

    Step 1

    The first stop for any entrepreneurial educator should be an EdTech MeetupHackathon, StartUp Weekend or EdCamp to further develop your idea and build a team to develop the product. 

    Step 2

    Before you start creating your product you'll want to become knowledgeable about what's happening in the EdTech community and check out your competition. 

    Step 3

    Next, you'll need to do your research so that can demonstrate how your innovation will improve teaching and learning at scale. Here are some sources that you can provide with the data to understand the potential impact of your idea.

    Canadian Data 

    Ontario Data

    American Data

    International Data

    Step 4

    Develop your product / Refine your product.

    Step 5

    To ensure that your innovation works, you'll need to find some schools to pilot your innovation.

    Step 6 

    Pitch your innovation at an EdTech event to showcase your product and secure  support so that your idea can grow into a self-sustaining company. 
    * Be prepared to repeat steps 2 through 6 
    as your company transitions from a start-up to a mature enterprise. 

    Kinect in the Classroom: Integrating Gesture-Based Gaming into the Ontario Classroom

    With the launch of the Xbox Kinect in 2010, Microsoft sought to assert its position in the console gaming market. With a history of bringing innovative products to market, the Xbox Kinect would serve to highlight Microsoft’s continued leadership in the gaming industry. What many may not have initially realized was that in addition to revolutionizing gesture-based gaming, the Kinect has the potential to transform student engagement and classroom learning.

    With support from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network, educators in Ontario have had the opportunity to investigate the benefits and challenges of using the Xbox Kinect to enhance student engagement and support 21st century teaching and learning. In addition to the hundreds of educators that have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of Kinect in the Classroom and Gamification of Learning workshops delivered by Brock University, Teacher Candidates, a number of Ontario educators were provided with access to an Xbox Kinect and a variety of games so that they could explore ways to integrate the Kinect into their classroom practice.

    Following participation in a Gamification of Learning workshop that demonstrated ways to use the Kinect to support classroom instruction, educators were asked to describe what they considered to be the benefits and challenges to using the Kinect in the classroom. The 82 comments that were captured noted some common themes (full listing of comments). The key benefits to using the Kinect in the classroom were the ability to engage students, the interactive nature of the learning activities, and the opportunity to have students participate in physical activity. The greatest challenges to using this gaming system in the classroom were identified as the limited opportunities for large group or whole-class participation, the cost of acquiring the game system, and a lack of curricular focus.

    Key Benefits
    The participants of the Kinect in the Classroom workshop identified student engagement as one the key benefits to using the Kinect. This finding supports the research literature that indicates that gaming in the classroom can have a positive impact on student engagement. A meta-analysis of over 300 research articles related to gaming for education found that playing video games as part of the classroom learning often resulted in increased levels of student engagement (Young et al., 2012). Additional research has also noted that Kinect-based learning activities support multiple physical engagement patterns, and allows students to use a larger spectrum of the their multiple intelligences (Hsu, 2010). Consequently, the Kinect’s success in engaging student may be a consequence of its ability to simultaneously address multiple intelligences, by taping into the visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities of students (Hsu, 2010).

    In contrast to teacher-directed lessons where students can remain inactive and passive for significant periods of time, learning opportunities that stress student interactivity have been identified as contributing to successful teaching and learning (Angotti & Bayo 2012; Hsu, 2010). Being able to physically interact with educational content can make learning some concepts easier for the 15% of students that are kinesthetic learners (Hsu, 2010). Thus, it is not surprising that a number of the Kinect in the Classroom responses identified the interactive nature of the Kinect as being one of its key benefits.

    A number of the respondents noted that they considered the ability to use the Kinect to get students physically active and support the provincial mandate of daily physical activity (DPA) as being one of the benefits of using the Kinect in the classroom.

    Key Challenges
    A large number of the responses noted that they considered the limited opportunities for large group or whole-class participation when using the Kinect to being a challenge to using this resource in the classroom. A repeated theme noted in the responses was that educators had concerns about only a few students being able to use the Kinect system, while the majority of the class would be left to watch. While it is understandable that teachers would want to ensure that all students are engaged, what they may not have considered is that every student does not need to have their individual gestures captured by the Kinect camera for them to be actively engaged in game play. A number of the educators that had the opportunity to utilize the Kinect system in their classrooms reported that even though a student’s gestures were not captured on the screen, many students were happy to play alongside the “active” players, provide instructions to the players or study the active players as a means to learn from their actions and improve their chances of success when it was their turn.

    Although there are significant space limitations as to how many students can be moving their limbs while mimicking game play, educators have noted that moving the Kinect system to the gymnasium and using a LCD projector will enable large numbers of students to participate simultaneously. One educator noted that were able to have the entire school, over 200 students, participate in a Kinect dance game as part of a school-wide rainy day DPA initiative.

    It is interesting to note that a number of educators considered the cost of the Kinect system as being a concern, as the price of acquiring the gaming console was not part of any of the workshop presentations. Regardless, the Xbox Kinect bundle, which includes the Kinect Adventures game, can be acquired for $300. For anyone that may already have an Xbox 360, the Kinect camera and Kinect Adventures game can be purchased for less that $120. While spending $300 to play games in the classroom may seem like a frivolous purchase, it is important to acknowledge that the Xbox Kinect can also be used to as DVD player, media (photos, music and video) storage system, Internet browser, and video conferencing system with the addition of the Skype app.

    To alleviate the financial challenges to using the Kinect in the classroom, a number of teachers in the Niagara, Hamilton, London Catholic, Toronto and Toronto Catholic school districts have benefitted from the opportunity to borrow an Xbox Kinect system via a partnership between the Teacher Education Department at Brock University and Microsoft Canada. The loan program increased the number of educators that have had an opportunity to experiment with Kinect in the classroom and find innovative ways to use the gaming system to support the Ontario curriculum.

    Despite the number of responses that indicated a concern about a lack of curricular connection, educators that have had an opportunity to participate in the Kinect loan program report that they have found a number of interesting ways to use the gaming system to support specific learning expectations in variety of subject areas.

    By far, the easiest way to integrate the Kinect into the classroom is to use active games such as Dance Central, Just Dance, Just Dance Kids, Kinect Sports, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved to address the Ontario Ministry of Education’s daily physical activity (DPA) requirement.  Moving beyond the provincial DPA requirement, the next most obvious opportunity to integrate the Kinect into the classroom is to use the Body & Brain Connection game as part math class. This game provides students with an engaging way to develop their mathematical reasoning while supporting kinesthetic learning. Educators also noted that compiling the results from a number of the sporting activities that are part of Kinect Sports game, allowed students to engage in data management as they analyzed and documented the game results. Adjusting the angle of ones limbs, changing the force applied or varying timing of movements and then calculating the changes in gaming performance can also provide students with an opportunity to address some of the ministry’s geometry and science expectations.

    Some of most innovative ways to integrate the Kinect into the classroom came from educators using the non-fitness games to address the language arts curriculum. Procedural writing is an expectation that is addressed at all elementary grade levels. Consequently, requiring students to write out the steps or procedures to successfully complete any Kinect game or activity challenges them to be clear and precise in their written directions. Evaluating the accuracy of the directions can be completed by having another student implement the written directions to determine if they will result in successful completion of the game.

    Oral communication is also a curriculum area that is address at all elementary levels. One innovative teacher noted that blindfolding a student, while another student provide oral directions to complete the Kinect activity challenged their students to be direct and concise when providing oral directions.

    While completing any Kinect partner game can challenge student communication and interpersonal skills, teachers in the London Catholic board have reported great success is having students with Autism engage in Kinect partnered game play to develop the communication skills of their special needs students.

    These example of using the Kinect to address oral or written communication expectations highlights the innovative ways that the Kinect can be integrated into the classroom to support the Ontario curriculum expectations.  These findings pleasantly contradict concerns related to a lack of curricular focus. The ability to use the Kinect in the classroom to support student learning is limited only by imagination of educators as they seek innovative ways to engage students and support learning.

    Angotti, R., & Bayo, I. (2012). Making Kinections: Using video game technology to teach math. Prato CIRN Community Informatics Conference (pp. 1–5).

    Hsu, H. J. (2011). The Potential of Kinect in Education. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 1(5), 365–370.

    Young, M. F., Slota, S., Cutter, a. B., Jalette, G., Mullin, G., Lai, B., Simeoni, Z., et al. (2012). Our Princess Is in Another Castle: A Review of Trends in Serious Gaming for Education. Review of Educational Research, 82(1), 61–89.

    *PDF version of Kinect in the Classroom: Integrating Gesture-Based Gaming into the Ontario Classroom with charts and response comments

    Emerging Tech Trends

    1. Mobile and Open Learning: Learning that can take place anywhere, at anytime, with anyone. 
    2. Device Agnostic Learning: Key to the device agnostic classroom is the ability to easily and quickly share and project student work from any device.
    3. MOOC Makeovers: If you consider MOOCs to be the petri dish for higher education, you will see them as an essential opportunity to revise and makeover traditional approaches to teaching and learning. 
    4. EdTech Start-up Mania: EdTech companies received 1.1 billion in 2012 from venture capitalist, angel investors, corporations and private equity shops (Gigaom, 2013).

    Mobile and Open Learning:

    One of the most profound trends affecting both K-12 and higher education is the move to support learning that can take place anywhere, at anytime, and with anyone. Gone are the notions that learning can only take place on campus or in the classroom.  Schools can now be open for learning 24-7.

    Access to mobile technologies that can be used to support learning has grown significantly (see below), thus providing the majority of young people with a learning resource or educational opportunity they can take with them where ever they go.   This has the potential to put a teacher in the pocket of anyone who wants to learn.
    • 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
    • 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
    • 95% of teens use the internet.
    • 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members. (Teens and Technology Pew, 2013)
    Those with concerns about equity and the digital divide should review the  plethora of data from the Pew Research Centre's ongoing studies that examine access to digital technology.

    I appear to be one of the few people interested the EdTech endeavours of the developing world. The $50 Aakash tablet was awash in problems and has not come close to delivering on their promises. The New York Times article, An Idea Promised the Sky, but India Is Still Waitingprovides a detailed review of the problems the Montreal based company, DataWind, has faced in trying to deliver a product at price that could greatly reduce worries about the digital divide. Regardless of whether this product becomes a reality, I still think there is a lot to learn from countries trying to more with less, when we in North America still haven't gotten around to doing more with more.

    Device Agnostic Learning:

    Despite the overwhelming popularity of the iPad, I continue to predict that the future will be platform agnostic, even though the numbers don't support this claim.

    The iPad is experiencing unprecedented adoption in the education market.  Educators are taking notice.  In the June quarter when most of educational buying takes place, iPad sales to schools doubled.  Over 2,500 schools are using iPads.  “The adoption rate of iPad in education is something I’ve never seen from any technology product in history,” Tim Cook, Apple CEO, said.“Usually education tends to be a fairly conservative institution in terms of buying, or K-12 does, and we’re not seeing that at all on the iPad.” (Forbes, 2012)

    The proliferation of mobile devices means that the developers of learning resources must ensure that their tools are device agnostic and can be accessed from any type of mobile device. This will lead to a greater reliance on cloud-based and HTML 5 friendly resources.

    MOOC Makeovers:

    Instead of seeing MOOCs as the end of the higher education world as we know it,  MOOCs should be considered a the petri dish for higher education. As a large scale pedagogical experiment, MOOCs can provide the education community with an essential opportunity to revise and makeover traditional approaches to teaching and learning. Think MOOCs are only a concern for higher education? Be prepared for a MOOC coming to a high school near you. The flipped classroom movement, Khan Academy, and MOOCs are all are breed from the same tech-enabled DNA that attempts to take advantage of the web 2.0 world to provide students with access to world class resources and instructors. Regardless of whether you are looking to create a MOOC or flipped classroom these instructional strategies require highly skilled and highly trained educators. This could lead to the emergence of the post-modern educator.

     Postmodernism tends to be defined either as the period after modernism or as a 'condition' whereby established values are rapidly eroded by new technological advances and a general apprehension of what the future will bring. Postmodernism is therefore skeptical of explanations that claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person or within each paradigm, therefore having a relativistic view on reality (Wikipedia).

    EdTech Start-up Mania:

    Educators tend to get a little upset when outsiders begin trampling on their turf. The recent influx of entrepreneurs into the education sector is starting to show the beginnings of a turf war. The billion dollars that EdTech companies received in 2012 (Gigaom, 2013) coupled with estimates of a global education market being worth over 4 trillion (Education Week, 2013) has drawn a lot of attention from the start-up and established business community. News Corp's entry into the education sector with their Amplify tablet is already ruffling some feathers with great concerns about student privacy and profit motivated instruction (Forbes, 2013). I've never been a fan of profit-driven educational endeavours, but the recent intrusion of start-ups with dollar signs in the their eyes isn't the first and won't be the last attempt to see the school house as an ATM.  I can only hope that we will see an increase in the number Teach-preneurs or edupreneurs that pair their wealth of teaching experience with innovative approaches to teaching and learning that truly benefit students,

    For the definitive review of the emerging educational technology trends 
    be sure to check out the annual Horizon Reports that includes both 
    K-12 and Higher Education reports

    Inforgraphic and article on how teachers ranked the latest educational trends.

    The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Teaching Towards the Future

    2030 sees a very different classroom and different students. As part of The Agenda's special Learning 2030 series, we ask: Are Ontario teachers ready for the digital future? From Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.

    Panel participants:
    Dr. Michale Fullan, OISE/UT
    Dr. Catherine Bruce, Trent  University
    Dr. Camille Rutherford, Brock University
    Ron Canuel, CEO Canadian Education Association

    TCDSB 21st Century Learning Design

    Workshop Resources Folder

    Join the Partnersin Learning Network to interact with 21st century teachers from around the globe and review the searchable database of thousands of 
    21st century learning activities and resources.

    For the full description of the Innovative Teaching and Learning Research, Learning Activity Rubrics and Sample Student Work Rubrics please visit: