Category Archives: Visionary Leadership

School Libraries and The Digital Backpack

School librarians are uniquely positioned to collaborate with teachers to infuse technology to support learning, assessment and curriculum within a collaborative learning environment. Teacher-librarians are connected to current research and can assist with best-practice in effective technology implementation.

The Saskatoon Public Schools’ Elementary LibGuide provides an “Insight” into aligning the role of the teacher-librarian with the needs of today’s student. Each Insight is based on ISTE’s NETS for Students (NETS•S); the standards for evaluating the skills and knowledge students need to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly global and digital world.

Research and Information Fluency
Communication and Collaboration
Critical Thinking
Creativity and Innovation

Digital Skills and Literacies

How can we meet the needs of students in the 21st century? How can we use technologies to align with curricula in order for our students to be digital fluent – to communicate, collaborate, connect and critically think?

Saskatchewan’s educational system will foster the comprehensive and systematic development of knowledge, skills, dispositions, and judgements essential for DIGITAL FLUENCY in educators and students.

– Technology in Education Framework

Saskatoon Public Schools’ Vision for Technology Use

Students will use technologies in transformational and inquiry-based learning environments with teachers who use a variety of technologies to create the conditions for deep learning. We attend to the educational use of technology through the lens of Saskatoon Public Schools’ vision, our learning priorities and the Continuous Improvement Framework.


Digital Backpack

To assist in the attainment of the outlined vision, Saskatoon Public Schools has created a digital backpack of literacies students require to be adept, appropriate and critical in their uses and understanding of technology. Each document in the digital backpack outlines the detailed hardware, software, and instructional support materials to provide for project-based learning experiences in various formal and informal environments.

Technologies to enhance digital literacies emerge and evolve, including apps for iOS and Android devices. The Saskatoon Public Schools’ Elementary LibGuide details technologies which could be used in addition to the supports outlined in the digital backpack.

Digital Fluency

Digital Fluency – Collaboration
Digital Fluency – Creativity
Digital Fluency – Global Digital Citizen
Digital Fluency – Media Fluency
Digital Fluency – Solution Fluency


Throughout the session, we looked at different ways to determine to gather and provide feedback in order to check for understanding, respond to questions, and to determine next instructional steps. As educators, we should gather formative assessments frequently, and while or after a new idea, concept, or process is introduced.

It is imperative to look and to listen. Observing the actions, behaviours, and words of students provides valuable data and serves as a formative assessment (Edutopia). Technology can also assist with the provision of formative assessment data. The following technologies were used to monitor and gauge the session’s progress:

The participants were asked to respond to the question as a blog comment:

How will you develop digital fluent students?


2013 Tech Trends

Happy New Year!

What is the forecast for 2013 in regards to technology and education? Changes to the way education is approached are peppered throughout the various innovations and advances. The following lists my top five predictions, based on the readings of the industry’s top gurus, of which technology trends will be the most interesting or influential this year.

1. Using the Network To Connect and Produce
Today, there are more things connected to the Internet than there are people in the world. In 2013, teaching and learning will be increasingly connected, integrated and flexible. Students will be empowered by the network; they will be able to quickly and easily access needed content pertient to their inquiry and connect with global experts to further their knowledge and view diverse perspectives. Not only will students be able to access and connect with needed information and resources, the network will also foster the individual design of their learning experiences.View TechyTeacher for more ideas!

2. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing technologies support networking. The cloud provides students with access to resources, including data and applications, without the restrictions of a single location or computer. It also allows the opportunity for students to contribute to, and sychronize work, on any device with an Internet connection, whether it be a laptop, desktop computer, smartphone or tablet device. Cloud computing facilitates ease of collaboration. Some services allow several users to be created, and students can then choose to allow other users, or even the general public, to access some or all of their files, with read or edit rights as desired from anywhere and from nearly any device. Services such as Dropbox and Windows Live SkyDrive offer users a fast and easy way to transport documents and files between a user’s individual and the school network, potentially eliminating the need for lost USB sticks and other portable storage options. The continuity among devices provides a continuous experience for users. View TechyTeacher’s Online Research Containers for ideas!

In 2012, “bring your own device” model took root. Many classes allow for the seamless use and integration of students’ personal devices for educational purposes and facilitate connections to school networks. Education is realizing people live in, and thrive in, a multi-device mobile world, where students are increasingly relying on their iPad and smartphones for just about everything. Bring Your Own Device has transformed the classroom by creating new opportunities for learning, such as the use of different media to differentiate learning needs, the control of, and personalization of learning, and interactive learning using specialized apps. In SPS, two elementary and one collegiate are piloting a BYOD initiative.

4. Connecting Using SMS
SMS allows eductors to connect with their students using the networking and communication channels of students’ choice. SMS can be used to update students of pending deadlines, schedule changes, and other newsworthy information. Communication is instantaneous and can be accessed on any Internet connected device. View TechyTeacher’s Shifting The Classroom for more ideas!

5. Using Social Networks
Friending on Facebook, to photo and video sharing on Instagram and Vimeo, to creating playlists on Spotify and Songza, 2013 will bring more custom networks that gateway to smaller, more focused social networks. Students can customize their learning to suit their evolving needs. Visit TechyTeacher’s Personal Learning Network for more ideas.

What tech trends do you anticipate seeing in 2013? What would you like to see?




Formative assessment ensures students are learning successfully, as we constantly review data regarding students’ learning performance and our implementation and modification of instructional strategies to improve student achievement.

What does good assessment practices look like? Cale Birk argues that schools need to be places where students are inspired to try instead of where students spend their time cowering in fear of failure. Bill Ferriter claims that we need to create buildings that take a mastery — instead of performance — orientation to learning outcomes. Mindshift also tackles this issue by stating the difference between mastery and performance orientiations to learning, is the difference between the kind of learning that students experience in summer camps and the kind of learning in today’s high-stakes classrooms. According to Mindshift, in summer camps, students learn for the sake of learning.  Every day is an opportunity to explore, to think, and to experiment without  worrying if you are correct or will experience failure. 

In the words of Rick Stiggins, hitting targets is not half as important
as being willing to continue shooting in mastery-driven learning environments.

Dean Shareski has uploaded several videos about assessment to help teachers develop a positive learning culture.

  • Assessment Success Stories – Dean interviews people who detail effective assessment experiences in their professional lives.
  • Student Involved Assessment – This 2004 video is still relevant as educators delve into providing effective formative assessment. The video features various students and teachers talking about assessment for learning.
  • Rethinking Assessment  – Jill Tressel looks at ways teachers are using student involvement and assessment for learning as a new approach to helping students.

Five-Minute Film Festival: TED Talks for Teachers

This week’s announcement of a new initiative called TED-Ed caused a flurry of excitement about the new videos TED is creating to spread powerful lessons beyond the classroom walls. It is not just a new home for education-related TED videos; it is a call to action — anyone can nominate an outstanding teacher or suggest a fantastic lesson, and the TED team will work with the educators chosen to record and then animate those lessons. View the first few of these gems on the TED-Ed YouTube Channel.

Though it can sometimes feel challenging to find twenty minutes to sit still in our multi-tasking lives, the Edtopia’s list of videos are worth it.

Changing How Teachers Learn

Nancy Dana talks about how traditional forms of professional learning, like “sit and get sessions” don’t make a significant difference for teachers or students. She explains that job embedded professional development, which is learning directly tied to what happens in your classroom everyday, is the most powerful form of professional learning.

In both Saskatoon Public Schools priorities, Literacy for Life and Collegiate Renewal, job embedded professional learning is now the main form of professional learning offered to teachers. While you can still attend professional learning specific to a subject or focus, most professional learning is organized by you or other teachers in your school, and it is focused specifically on how well your students are learning and what you can do to improve your students’ engagement and achievement.

One of the big challenges of this form of professional learning is that it requires us all to be in charge of what we learn and why we learn it. It is no longer enough to sit there and take it all in, now we need to be continually trying things, checking to see how they worked and then adjusting accordingly. That process is the data collection and professional inquiry we keep talking about. The process is just like shifting your classroom to be more student focused – it requires additional skills, focus and a change in role for everyone.

Ultimately, giving you time to focus on improving your students’ learning and engagement is the most powerful professional opportunity you can have. It recognizes and values the professionalism of teachers.  And as teachers keep learning how to use feedback loops to inform instruction, it makes a significant difference for our students. Learning how to effectively structure job embedded professional learning takes time and resources, but just like inquiry in the classroom, it makes a bigger difference in the long run even if the process is messy.

Reposted courtesy of Wendy James


Future Work Skills 2020

The Apollo Research Centre identifies 10 skills that are vital for success in the future workforce:

  • Sense-making: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
  • Social intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
  • Novel and adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  • Cross-cultural competency: ability to operate in different cultural settings
  • Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
  • New media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  • Transdisciplinarity: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
  • Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
  • Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
  • Virtual collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team

Read the entire report.



Instructional Practices

 In this spoof, panelists discuss a new report that found only 84% of education funding goes to teaching children about whales. Are Our Childen Learning Enough About Whale Video?, a parody of instructional practices, begs a reflection of our teaching and learning methods. Where do we place instructional focus and does our agenda keep student learning at the forefront?

In The Know: Are Our Children Learning Enough About Whales?

This Is Broken

Why are so many things broken? In a hilarious talk from the 2006 Gel conference, Seth Godin gives a tour of things poorly designed, the 7 reasons why they are that way, and how to fix them. Can we apply Godin’s thoughts  to things that are not working well in education?

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

Teaching Kids Real Math with Computers

According to Conrad Wolfram, mathematics as it is taught in classrooms rarely echoes how it is used in the real word. Wolfram (the driving force behind the Wolfram-Alpha “knowledge engine”) suggests that we consider changing the math teaching model, to teach students to conceptualize problems and use computerized tools to apply solutions, as opposed to spending inordinate amounts of time teaching how to perform calculations “by hand”. He methodically addresses many misperceived ideas behind today’s approach to math education.