Modeling self-directed learning

For the next few months, I will be reading Cognitive Coaching – Developing Self-Directed Leaders and Learners by Arthur Costa and Robert Garmston, while I participate in the #CogCoachStudy book study and Twitter chat.

In our first week of reading, I discovered the (multiple) meanings of Cognitive Coaching and was asked to reflect and share how I model self-directed learning.

From the very first day that I set foot in my own classroom, I always told others that I saw myself more of a coach to my students than a traditional teacher. I expressed this because I always encouraged my students to be self-directed learners, and I saw my role in the classroom to be the one to provide my learners with the tools they would need to accomplish this. Over time, as I have worked my way up into a leadership position, my “students” are now teachers. However, my teaching philosophy has not changed and I continue to provide teachers with the tools they need to be empowered with a willingness to be life-long learners, like myself. To accomplish this, I model some of the following skills that encompass what it is to be a self-directed learner:

  1. I am resourceful – I am an active participant in social media. I participate in Twitter chats and online book studies, to develop my PLN of like-minded educators and leaders in educational technology. I am not afraid to ask questions and to seek out help and advice. I visit other schools and contact other Directors and individuals in a similar role to learn about their school, their strategic plan, their challenges and successes, and I learn from their experiences.
  2. I am goal orientated – I set professional and departmental goals each academic year and put them up in my office. In addition, I set personal goals at the beginning of a new calendar year. I revise, edit, and update those goals, and I ask my team of teachers to also set their own goals related to educationally technology and innovation.
  3. I am committed to life-long learning – My yearly goals always include learning something new, attending a seminar or workshop, reading books, traveling, etc.
  4. I ask questions – Though not currently a strength of mine, I have begun to ask more questions to myself, to reflect and challenge my own reasoning when making certain decisions. In addition, following the viewing of Start With Why – Simon Sinek TED talk, this past summer I have begun many conversations with my team, with the question why?

As I continue to be a role model in my leadership position, I look forward to developing the foundational skills related to cognitive coaching to encourage my team of educators to not only become self-directed learners but also to grow into cognitive coaches for their teams.

Being a “change agent”

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.  How are you embracing change to spur  innovation in your own context?

I try to embrace change every day and every way because I see myself as a change agent. Like George, I was also hired into a new position, as Director of Educational Technology & Innovation, to provide support to teachers and to help lead the way in innovating student learning at my school.

When I first started, I was assigned a teacher per grade level in the elementary division, as a “tech rep”, with whom I would meet with weekly to plan and discuss how we could integrate technology into their curriculum. Unfortunately, due to many challenges with technology and the school’s unreliable infrastructure, teachers felt very frustrated and found it hard to take risks in integrating tech into their classroom. Furthermore, most of my one-on-one meeting time turned into providing tech support and help troubleshoot issues, instead of planning.

After building trust in my team, and after several improvements were made to our infrastructure and tech support, I thought it would be a good time to refocus my team and get everyone back on track to invest their time with me on innovating their grade levels. Soon after, I changed their title from tech rep to innovation rep, to better reflect their role. Though we do discuss a lot about tech integration, I remind them that their role is to be a model of how to integrate, not just technology into the classroom, but to look at ways to innovate student learning. I constantly remind them that “Innovation can happen without technology, however technology can be used as a tool to drive innovation.”

The next step for me, in being a change agent for my team and my school was to help create a roadmap to help teachers build tech integration and project-based learning into their classroom. Over the past few months, we have been busy working all together to build our own K-12 EdTech Scope & Sequence.

As a result of having recently completed and updated grade level unit plans, the innovation reps have more easily been able to identify and link age-appropriate technology skills and projects into their curriculum.

Here is where the magic is happening: Because we have put together a scope & sequence and identified what needs to be accomplished at each grade level following the Alberta Ed ICT Learning Outcomes, those that have been more resistant to change and integrating tech into their classroom, have become more accepting that this is part of their curriculum. Also, in order to provide additional support to those that don’t feel as comfortable, my team has offered to go into their classroom and team teach. Furthermore, they have begun to model weekly, during their grade level meetings, a new innovative activity they are doing in their classroom. Little by little, the innovation reps are slowly becoming change agents for their grade level.


#ETCoaches…My first online book study & slow Twitter chat

In the world of educational technology, things are always changing: blog posts are being posted daily, tweets are being sent out every second, and from time to time, the EdTech world can seem overwhelming with the pressure of staying on top of all these changes and updates.

Thanks to the #ETCoaches slow Twitter chat and book study, I feel that these resources have helped me get my ideas organized and helped me refocus, using Twitter as a tool to stay current with the trends of educational technology and innovation. Participating in this online #ETCoaches book study and slow Twitter chat has forced me to be more structured with the time I spend online, with my reading before bedtime, and with how I organize what I learn in the sessions. This structure has also helped me come up with a Social Media Routine, something that I had been trying to establish for the past few years.

Now that my first book study on “Integrating Technology in the Classroom” by … has wrapped up, I have found another book study to participate in. This one will be discussing “The Innovators Mindset” by George Couros. And once that one is done, I will try and find another one. Why? Because not only are you connecting with educators around the world building your PLN, but it creates accountability in your reading and encourages you to reflect. We all have busy days, but like managing working full time and studying, or building a workout in your day, with proper planning and organization, you can make time and build this into your schedule.

If you have never considered an online book study, or are not currently participating in any online Twitter chats, I highly encourage you to start participating in one. I can’t even begin to explain how all of this participation, learning, and connecting has transformed me into a more knowledgeable and reflective leader in the field of EdTech & innovation. Furthermore, the spark has been lit back up in myself as I feel like I am now “on top” of things again.

Thank you online EdTech & Innovation Twitter world!

My participation in the #ETCoaches arose from the following snowball effect:
Innovators Mindset > Miracle Morning > Goal of becoming more active in Twitter Chats > Discovering and participating in #ETCoaches Slow Twitter Chat > More structured Social Media Schedule > Still to come: Better organization of my ideas and content for teachers with the creation of an online newsletter.


Creating my social media routine to become a networked educator

For years I have struggled with getting a routine down for spending time on Twitter each day. However, thanks to my Miracle Morning Routine, where I start the day off with 10 minutes each morning on Twitter, and with the encouragement to be a role model to the educators around my school, my 10 minutes a day has slowly grown into something bigger, and more organized.

Here is what my social media routine for Twitter now looks like:

🌅  Morning

I start my day off with 10 minutes on Twitter, simply scrolling on Twitter to learn about what others are doing in their classrooms. During this time, I bookmark “read later” articles with Pocket and I save “must share” items for the classroom in Google Keep. I also re-tweet and comment on others posts, and share tweet items to the teachers from my school for us to discuss during out 1:1 meetings.

👩‍💻  Day-time

My daily schedule is never the same; however, I’ve still made it a daily goal to tweet out at least once a day to share how EdTech & Innovation is being integrated into the classroom around my school. To achieve this, I’ve started to carve out more time to visit classrooms and take pictures of students in action with their learning. When taking pictures of students, I always ask them for permission, and if the timing is appropriate, I will ask students what they are doing in order to share authentic words and thoughts from the students. During my 1:1 meetings with the school’s Innovation Reps, I ask teachers to show or share with me any exciting projects they are working on with their students. I take photos and notes during these meetings, and then post images and information once I get back to my office.

🌆  Evening

Thanks to my dedicated 10 minutes in the morning on Twitter, I stumbled upon a Twitter Book Study offered through ISTE that posts a different discussion question to respond to each day. Therefore, in the evenings, I participate in the #ETCoaches discussion, by answering the daily question and responding and interacting with others on this feed.

In addition, I make the effort to visit my TweetDeck, where I have created a feed that follows all the educators in my school who are on Twitter. This allows me to stay current with everything that’s going on at my school.

Thanks to the inspiring message of George Couros,

“What if all teachers tweeted one thing a day that they did in their classroom to a school hashtag, and they took five minutes out of their day to read each other’s tweets? What impact would that have on learning and school culture?”

during the Innovation Rep meeting at the beginning of January, we created a school hashtag #JeSuisCFIS and several teachers decided that they would like to join Twitter and share student learning with the community. To encourage and support them, I re-tweet and respond to their tweets.

Next steps…

Though I am very happy with my progress so far, I would still like to become a little more proactive in certain Twitter chats and follow some more common EdTech & Innovation #hashtags. I feel that by doing this, my morning Twitter time will be more concentrated on
a) being more active in the EdTech & Innovation environment, and b) my learning on Twitter will be more focused, maximizing the amount of ideas and project examples I am able to collect to share with the teachers at my school.


If you have any suggestions of EdTech & Innovation #hashtags to follow, please let me know. I am also curious to know how you stay on top of being a networked educator.

“Je colorie mon français” with QR codes

I always love walking up and down the hallways of the school where I work. The wall displays are put together with care, with themes to really demonstrate what the students are learning in their classrooms. From artwork to poetry, lego, and pictures that capture students learning, there is always something new and exciting to see.

The other day while walking through the hallways in the school, this big poster of a rainbow paintbrush on the wall saying “Je colorie mon français” really caught my attention. So I stopped by one of the classes and spoke to one of the teachers to learn more about what the poster was for. She then explained to me that it was to help teach students French expressions and corrections. She explained that, after school that day, the grade 4 teachers were going to get together and make two videos for the students. One, that would teach them the expression of the week, and one to help correct common mistakes French Immersion students often make. Once the videos were finished, they would be published and a QR code would be created so students, parents, administration, and teachers could scan and watch their videos. This was the first week for this activity, so the grade 4 teachers created these first two videos to showcase an example to their students. Beginning next week, for the remainder of the school year, students will be working in groups to create, publish, and display their weekly French expression and correction.

In addition, to throw in a little bit of friendly competition and to integrate Math into this activity, when students use the weekly expression or correction in their day-to-day learning, they will receive points for their class. Classroom points will then be added on to a bar graph, teaching students how to use a bar graph – a learning outcome for grade 4 Math.

I was so excited to hear that the grade 4 teachers were embracing technology to get their students to learn French expressions and to help them correct common mistakes. I was also thrilled to hear that the grade 4 team was working together to create this project so all the grade 4 students would benefit from this activity.

The teacher said to me before I left the classroom that day, “you know us, were are never afraid to try something new!” These grade 4 teachers are really amazing and they definitely are not afraid to try something new. If you walk past their classrooms, you will notice flexible seating, gamification, and some really excited and engaged learners.


Starting my day off right with The Miracle Morning!

For months, “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod has sat on my bedside table staring up at me. However, as the days passed by, I (embarrassingly) never made the time to read this inspiring and life-changing book, until the days turned cold, and the Christmas holidays arrived.

Once I began reading it, I just couldn’t put it down and sat cuddled up on the couch until I was done.

Following the completion of the book, I joined the Facebook group, I read through all the .pdf’s that were emailed to me, I completed my goals for 2017, and then I planned out my Miracle Morning by looking at how I could incorporate achieving some of my goals into it.

For those that are not familiar with The Miracle Morning, the beauty of it is that it is based on what Hal calls the life S.A.V.E.R.S, creating a foundation to help you build a morning that will help you get focused, stay healthy, and to get you energized for the day.

S. silence
A. affirmations
V. visualization
E. exercise
R. reading
S. scribe

This is what I ended coming up with for my Miracle Morning:

  1. To begin my day with calm thoughts, I will start my day off with 10 minutes of meditation using the Calm app.
  2. Following my meditation, I will read out loud the daily affirmation, provided by the Affirmation app, and save those that speak to me on my affirmations page that I created on Pinterest.
  3. I will visualize achieving my goals as I read through my vision board, that I created with Canva. This vision board is divided into several sections: Health, relationship, financial goals, professional goals, personal goals, travel goals, and friendships.
  4. Once I have done visualizing my goals, I will then spend 10 minutes on Twitter, to be able to stay current with trends in Educational Technology & Innovation. During these 10 minutes, I will re-tweet posts and share specific tweets with staff members who are also on Twitter, as well as save articles to read later onto Pocket and bookmark items I would like to share with educators onto Google Keep.
  5. I will then get my body moving and complete 20-30 minutes of exercise with a combination of strength training, cardio, and other exercises.
  6. I will then finish the last 10 minutes of my miracle morning routine with a cup of coffee, my laptop, and my blog. My goal is to try and write approximately one blog post a week. This has been a goal of mine for many years, and I finally have time carved into the day to work on my blog.


Since reading this book, I have shared it with my sister, talked about my Miracle Morning with my colleagues, and will continue to promote and share the book as a gift with my friends and family.

If you have never heard of The Miracle Morning, I highly encourage you to check it out. It is an easy read, and will certainly change your perspective of the importance of creating an effective morning routine.

Hour of Code – could this become more than an annual event?

Can you believe it has already been a month since the global education event, Hour of Code?

Following the school’s week-long Hour of Code event, several Jr. high and elementary students at school, have continuously come up to me in the hallway saying “Mme Carter, when is Hour of Code coming back?” Students were really engaged that week. And, in the secondary wing of the school, students couldn’t wait until lunch time to come to our learning commons to participate in many of the activities that were organized and available that introduced them to coding and programming. Students were literally running through the doors by day 3 to be the first to get their hands on Dash & Dot, as we had up to 40 Jr. high students participating.

Even on the last day, grade 5 students had their faces up against the outside of the glass walls of the cafeteria to see what all the hype had been about all week. 

Having invested the effort in putting together posters for each station that highlighted the provincial learning outcomes that could be taught through robotics in the elementary division, the momentum is still going. Weekly, we have educators coming up to myself and other event organizers asking to learn more or inquiring further about some of the tools used during the event. Teachers would like to use some of the games, activities, and robots to offer school clubs, organize classroom activities, or even borrow them for a field trip. One teacher shared with me that during their visit to the local retirement home, she thought about organizing an activity with her grade 6’s where they could teach the elderly some basics of robotics with Ozobot or Osmo.

I am extremely thankful to all the school donors who continue to support 21st-century learning at CFIS. Thanks to their generous donations, this has allowed my department to invest in various different robotic and innovation tools that can be used across all age levels, from preschool to grade 12.

To learn more about the week-long Hour of Code events that we hosted this year (where we got 100% participation from students kindergarten to grade 12), check out the article I wrote for the school newsletter on page 14-15: Hour of Code a CFIS success.

The enthusiasm and energy that developed during that week is momentum I don’t want to lose. So I am planning to put my thinking cap on, and together with others, discuss and brainstorm ways to organize a smaller event later in the year.

Question: I would like to know, how does your school continue the momentum of Hour of Code throughout the school year? Please leave a comment below.