#peel21st Blog Hop: Collaborating Near & Far

This is our March blog hop where educators all post to their blog the same night at the same time around the same topic. Inspired by the Ontario Ministry of Education’s  21st Century Competencies Discussion Document and explore 2 of the areas: Collaboration & Global Citizenship. So for this post we are focused in on sharing our experiences of collaboration both near and far and the role technology played in our experience. Please check out the links below my post to hop on over to their blogs and read/view their stories. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments too!

I should have used headphones. Oops. Tried something a little different with an audio visual post. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


So hop on over to Amit, Jim, Jason or Kate’s blog and check out their thoughts. We would also love to hear from you! Leave a comment or write your own post.


Better, Easier and No

Every February I do a shortbread cookie fundraiser for a food bank I volunteer with. It used to be huge: 1000+ cookies in a weekend with non stop baking from Friday sundown till sun up Sunday. As time has passed it has dwindled to a much smaller affair (the result of less free time and a much smaller kitchen). I had this moment of crisis as I was baking this February. Standing in the kitchen over the third batter of cookies, I realized that I could just donate the same amount I was raising. It wasn’t much more than I was investing in the ingredients. I could save myself several hours of mixing, baking and packaging. Was it worth the time?

It made me think of education. How many times was I being wooed by what is easier: the go to lesson that I have down pat, the app that is quicker not necessarily better at communicating my message, the easy answer in a conversation instead of the challenging question. As much as the cookie fundraiser takes more time and the donation would be easier, in the end the time spent allows me to build awareness and hopefully a smile on friend’s faces. It was worth the investment.

I thought that was the lesson and then I stumbled on a post by Seth Godin on Saying No. Sometimes I can get caught in this place where I want to do everything better. Everything seems to be just as important and in an effort to do them all well, they all fall slightly short.  Accepting that better over easier also means saying no to some things. Everything can’t be better. Investing the time means letting go of other areas. But how do you choose?

Something I continue to work on.

How do you choose between Better, Easier and No?

Would love to hear your thoughts!


Measuring Innovation

So for our fourth blog hop for the #ossemooc #Innovatorsmindset book club we are tackling the question of measurement. How do we measure the impact of innovative practice in education? After you read the post below, jump on over to the OSSEMOOC site to read the posts of others or add your own ideas. All are welcome. Join in any time!

How do you measure innovation? It is funny how such a simple sentence can be so intimidating. I find I often get stuck on the word IMPACT. What counts as impact? Am I having an impact with my own practice? Are we having an impact as a collective on our system or even education as a whole? I know it is a vital question to tackle as a teacher leader but assessing innovation has often left me feeling grey.

Nature is amazing with perfectly timed lesson.

IMG_9811I was caught off guard by the light coming in to my condo this afternoon when I walked over to the window and noticed a dark grey cloud being pulled across the city sky. I think in many of my conversations about innovation, especially assessing innovation, this was the measuring stick. Sitting down and several months, even years later looking back and saying: ‘Oh can you see the cloud?’ It was almost an innovation checklist, a yes/no, on/off evaluation of the system and change. I always left the conversations disappointed, deflated, defeated. I couldn’t see this blanket of change.


While reading the Innovator’s Mindset and our ongoing conversations in the Hangouts and on Voxer, I’ve been reminded how innovation really starts with small choices. Small choices we make every day to better our practice. Then those small choices, through sharing and supportive cultures, have this amazing opportunity to grow and flourish. Sometimes you can see the innovation trail. I think back to our #peel21st experience and I can pin point the moments on a timeline if need be. Other times it’s hard to nail those moments down, that first seed that started the innovation is so small we forgot about it. Other times it has become such common place we miss the growth we have had as a collective altogether (I reflected earlier here on undercover innovation if you want a better explanation).

So as I stared  at the cloud rolling in this afternoon, I started to wonder if our assessment of innovation needs to be more like the gradients of a sunirse. Maybe it needed to feel more like metacognitive exercises with our students, an exit ticket after an experience. Maybe it is less about standards and more about an ongoing conversation.  A daily reflection to observe, celebrate and plan ahead.

  • How have I/we innovated my practice recently?
  • How did it impact my/our learning community (the big and the small)?
  • Who benefited? Who didn’t?
  • Where do I/we go next?

Maybe that is simplifying the process too much. Maybe there are structures in place to better help with assessing innovation. All I know is that the conversation about assessing impact and innovation has always felt like a dark grey cloud and I’m hoping there it is a way for it to invigorate our practice like a stunning sunrise.

What if…

This post is part of a blog hop as we work through George Couros’ The Innovator’s Mindset and try to tackle fostering a sense of innovation in ourselves as well as the community. Please hop on over to one of the other blogs linked at the bottom of the post and share your own ideas to the prompt at #ossemooc

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We started a recent Tech in the Library session with the above quote. I remember liking it when Jeanne first pointed it out but like many powerful quotes, it took a few more reads to sink it. ‘Questions that send you on meaningful lifelong quests’ That’s where I want to be.

So as I look at the What Ifs listed on page 117 I think of the quote above. What are the questions that are sparking my reflections, curiosities, and maybe even challenging my assumptions and biases? What questions are fostering more questions? As George mentions, it’s time to dream big!

Right away ‘What if people were always our first focus, as opposed to stuff?’ jumps out. I don’t think any of us would argue that people come first. I have had the pleasure to learn from great mentors that have invested in me and those around me, modelling the time it takes to build those relationships. I hope I do the same. On the other hand I know I can get caught up in the stuff sometimes. The logistics, the details, the process, the assessment sometimes feel like they can take over. Am I taking the time to listen? Am I jumping to a quick solution? Is it about me or is it about the kids/learners? Maybe more so than anything it is a reminder to take the time to do that daily check. An opportunity to refocus on what is most important.

Another that jumps out is ‘What if we believed everything that we had to make great schools was already in our organization, and we just needed to develop and share it?’. Another hard one to tackle. I love taking the time to curate and hopefully connect great folks doing great work in my own community of practice. I have to admit it’s easy to look for the missing pieces, the reasons why it won’t work, it can’t work. The grass is always greener on the other side they say. Taking that time to remember that we have all we need at our disposal to make a change is empowering and terrifying at the same time. It reminds me not only to try to change a system but also to reflect on my own practice and what changes I can make to help foster that change.


There is one ‘What If’ that I can’t seem to shake lately. The more I have conversations about teaching and learning today and the future of education, the more it comes to mind. It popped to mind as we have been working on our visioning project in #peel21st. It popped to mind as I watched Most Likely to Succeed.

What if we measured success in education by the passion for learning learners leave with? 

I know it sounds a little wonky, a little too idealistic. I don’t think I have the wording quite right just yet. I realized as I was having many conversations that I am still stuck in the go to school – go to college/univeristy – get a good job – make money sequence. How do you break that cycle?  If I believe school is about igniting student passions and interests, to help them be caring global citizens, how can I show that? How can we better measure the things that matter and what impact does that have on our day to day interactions in school?

Like Wesch mentioned in the quote, reflecting on the what ifs has just left me with more questions and there is no place I’d rather be. 

What What Ifs spoke to you? What What Ifs do you have about education? We would love to hear your thoughts. Share your ideas on your blog, in the comments or on Twitter.

Hop on over to these posts for some inspiration.

Jennifer Casa-Todd

Katie Martin

Mark Carbone

Peter Cameron

Stacey Wallwin

Donna Fry

Lisa Noble

Darren Lukenbil