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I’ve moved!!

While it was neither easy nor painless (except the actual WP install), I have moved this blog to my own new web site.

Please visit my website at http://tech4learning.ca where you can follow the link to my blog, or go to my blog directly at http://blog.tech4learning.ca.

It’s all still a work in progress, so I welcome your feedback.


Schools engaging with Parents: Research says…

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Parent Engagement in K-12 Schools. What has struck me is the relative lack of controversy in the literature.

There are two consistent themes in the literature:

1. The parent engagement models are both limited and validated in the research. Parents want to engage, engagement declines over the schools years, and there is a positive correlation between parent involvement and school achievement.

2. Teachers and principal need help to build successful partnerships with parents. Teachers are not equally comfortable with the use of social learning tools. So, if technology is to be used in parent engagement, we will need to train the teachers not only in the practice of parent engagement but also provide support for the technologies they will use.

Improvement Cycle School Family PartnershipsI have also come to realize that the relationship between school practice, research and policy and legislation is one of continuous, or adaptive, improvement. Innovation drives changing school practice, academic inquiry about the successes of innovative school practice drives research, public opinion fueled by the research data drives change in policy and legislation. Policy and legislation requires changes to school practice.

One piece of feedback I have received is that the improvement cycle assumes that parents and teachers WANT to be involved. I think the research is saying parents want to be involved (if one can extrapolate that every parent wants the best for his/her child) but don’t know how, and that teachers aren’t hearing the research (although some get it intuitively or through experience) so aren’t motivated and also don’t know how to engage.

I am posing these questions in an effort to validate my assumptions. Can you help?

    As a teacher, have you experienced any formal or informal preparation for involving parents in their children’s learning?

    As a parent, where do you look for support in engaging with your child’s school?

Or propose an alternate conclusion. This is a work in progress.

Social Networking – New Research

The UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) has just published new quantitative and qualitative research on social networking in the report Social Networking
A quantitative and qualitative research report into attitudes, behaviours and use

The report categorizes users and non-users:


  • Alpha Socialisers (a minority) – people who used sites in intense short bursts to flirt, meet new people, and be entertained.
  • Attention Seekers – (some) people who craved attention and comments from others, often by posting photos and customising their profiles.
  • Followers – (many) people who joined sites to keep up with what their peers were doing.
  • Faithfuls – (many) people who typically used social networking sites to rekindle old friendships, often from school or university.
  • Functionals – (a minority) people who tended to be single-minded in using sites for a particular purpose.


  • Concerned about safety – people concerned about safety online, in particular making personal details available online.
  • Technically inexperienced – people who lack confidence in using the internet and computers.
  • Intellectual rejecters – people who have no interest in social networking sites and see them as a waste of time.

These categories are similar to those reported by Alec Couros in his post Digital Footprint: Where Do You Fit In? about the Pew/Internet study. This Ofcom report provides a more detailed categorization but the themes are the same.

The Ofcom report also provides a balanced approach to the risk analysis. It supports the study published in American Psychologist, Internet “Predators” and their Victims, that separates the safety risk from the actual incidents. (See also Kevin Jarrett’s post for a commentary.)

The report includes a significant literature review, but also indicates there remain gaps in the research, intimating that behaviour may have geographically, and presumably then culturally, based differences. I found this latter comment intriguing – do social networks remove time and space from relationships? are they a reflection of real life? does the networking site itself reflect a particular use? My Twitter network is not geographically bound, but I am aware of many teens that use social networking sites as a social organizing tool.

This work makes an important contribution to the growing body of evidence about social networking, but still perhaps asks as many questions as it answers.

Parent Choice and School Reform: The Case of the Science Leadership Academy

Parents and Students
Originally uploaded by PGoGS

Meaningful parent involvement requires more than just programming. Some would argue it begs for major school reform.

Mark Holmes, Honourary Patron of the Society for Quality Education and Professor Emeritus at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education lays bare his personal bias on his views of the aims of education while advocating for choice for all parents in his book The Reformation of Canada’s Schools: Breaking the Barriers to Parental Choice. Holmes’ book describes a reformation of Canadian education that would combine area public schools directed by elected parent councils and distributed programs of choice accessible (at least nominally if not geographically possible) by all. School districts would become managers of support infrastructure systems (buildings, human resources, transportation, administrative operations) rather than directors of a particular educational philosopy. Provincial authorities would provide central policies and standards respecting outcomes, student evaluation, funding to schools (not just districts), collective agreements for staff especially teachers, and collection of data to support decision-making by parents and schools.

The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia PA is a such school of choice that is lauded for its educational and physical design. Parent involvement is key. SLA provides programs for parents that truly engage them. The school’s mission and vision page includes the following: “At the SLA, learning will not be just something that happens from 8:30am to 3:00pm, but a continuous process that expands beyond the four walls of the classroom into every facet of our lives.”

I had the opportunity to dialogue with Chris Lehmann, the principal, in Alec Couros’ graduate class (listen to the recording). Chris doesn’t understand why some schools don’t honour the parents by sharing the rich life of high schools with them. Why not take announcements and email them home? He suggests it is such a simple way to start. At his school, they run social networking sessions just for parents, so that they can participate in the same technologies that their children are using. And they broadcast frequently using ustream.tv (but he does beliee there is a limit to transparency – kids need to have a place to make mistakes. So their Moodle environment has both a walled garden and a public place.) Chris believes that parents have a right to know what is giong on in their children’s lives.

How much is the Science Leadership Academy an example of Holmes’ view on educational reform? Not only is SLA a school of choice, but it also operates under a particular philosophy of education (which despite its self-described progressive curriculum, I would suggest Technocratic-Traditionalist) as evidenced through the three questions in its mission statement: “How do we learn?” “What can we create?” “What does it mean to lead?” Leadership is distributed among parents, teachers and students.

Perhaps there is more to learn from the Science Leadership Academy than just an instructional methodology.

Holmes, M. (1998). The Reformation of Canada’s Schools: Breaking the Barriers to Parental Choice. Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Storehouses of Stuff

Originally uploaded by mariacecita

I sent a tweet the other day asking for advice on how to capture and track all the great links that come flying across my Twitter Timeline.

@edtechworkshop admonished “I’m sure I will be blasted for this….but I say don’t even try! It’s a sure way to drive yourself nuts.If u need it u can retweet”. And from @kolson29, “i agree w/ @edtechworkshop – don’t try, it’s just too much. take what you can when you can.”

It’s like a mindstorm. As we examine our networks we find they are filled with information, some loosely connected and some literally stranded. So it is nice to come across nodes that are trying to be Storehouses of Stuff, at least where emerging technologies in education are concerned.

A couple that I’m more familiar with I’ll highlight here.

In a current graduate class, EC&I831 with Dr. Alec Couros we have started a wiki Technology for Teaching and Learning where we have been contributing information about tools, ideas, and case studies that we have learned about during our course. The suggested layout for each page is:

  • What is it?
  • How can it be used in teaching and learning?
  • What are some good examples?
  • What are some resources on the topic?

Our hope is that this resource will continue to be worked on by future classes and others.

Another example comes from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE is a “nonprofit membership organization, ISTE provides leadership and service to improve teaching, learning, and school leadership by advancing the effective use of technology in PK–12 and teacher education” (from the website).

In addition to hosting seminars and meetings at its Second Life location, ISTE undertakes several initiatives. This project on emerging technologies is a grass-roots initiative intended to build a database of information about emerging technologies, their use and application in K-12, costs and support strategies. An article in the society’s mag, Leading and Learning, describes the project in more detail. Unfortunately you need to be an ISTE member to view the article, but you don’t need to be a member to contribute to and search the database.

The team created a wiki that was initially populated by working groups at NECC in June 2007. An overview page describes the four main components: Organizational Capacity, Process Management, and Operational Capacity, which also includes Infrastructure Management . Contributors are asked to post the candidate technology to as many categories as it applies.

Kathy Schrock, co-chair along with Ferdi Serim of the project, has produced a You-Tube video describing how to enter information into the database.

As George Siemens reminds us, knowing how to find the nuggets is as critical as knowing them to begin with.

Parents, pedagogy and context

I spent the better part of the day yesterday pondering a great book by Kevin Marjoribanks called Family and School Capital: Towards a Context Theory of Students’ School Outcomes. The essence of the theory (without meaning to trivialize the complexity of the analysis) is that parents bring social and cultural capital togehter with family background and structure to the learning context, while schools similarly bring social and cultural capital through individual teachers and the school community, a school community history and structures for learning activities. Additionally, these elements interplay and the whole creates a context that can predict student success.

I also read George Siemens’ post yesterday, Pedagogy First? Whatever. in which he also talks about context in learning. I wanted to explore this use of context. Was it the same? Siemens was talking about the conditions for choosing the appropriate educational technology for a learning situation. He contends it is not pedagogy first, but rather context that drives the decision. So can this description of context add to the theory?

In his post, Siemens says: “Resources, expertise, technology, needs (of learners, educators, society), and funds impact what we choose to do.” This is the context for the selection of technology.

Marjoribanks states “effective teachers flourish in schools that minimize organizational and curriculum controls” (p. 137), in other words, effective teachers create effective learning strategies based on the context with which they are presented.

The context theory proposed by Marjoribanks explores several dimensions of family and school capital that create context for school success. Marjoribanks definition of school capital mirrors that of family educational capital: it is framed on the social and cultural context of the school. Siemens adds resources, expertise, available technology and funds to the dimensions of the theory.

Siemens description of context extends the meaning ascribed by Marjoribanks, but goes to the same point. It’s not pedagogy first that determines students’ school outcomes, it’s context.

Marjoribanks, K. (2002). Family and School Capital: Towards a Context Theory of Students’ School Outcomes. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Re-defining Technical Support

@achurches wrote an insightful post titled “One Size Fits All”. He writes about the barriers to teacher creativity due in part to lack of flexibility from school and district administration and a locking down of technology by technical support staff.

I agree.

But teachers need help in working with tech staff. Allanah commented on “One Size Fits All” that we need to walk in each other’s shoes. Basically, let’s figure out how to communicate with each other.

I am on a mission to do three things:

  1. Help teachers/administrators talk to their tech staff. I am putting together this how-to that I will post here in the near future.
  2. Promote the right kind of professional development for technical staff. What are the issues in allowing access to wireless networks? How do you configure a device to allow for creative use? I am starting with a discussion about social learning tools with some very knowledgeable technical staff to identify the specific security issues that each presents (or not).
  3. Evangelize the construction of technical architectures that drive the right balance for learning and availability. In the absence of understanding the difference between administrative systems (that need to be secure and reliable) and teaching and learning systems (that need to be responsive and flexible), districts will choose a one-size-fits-all approach. Networks can and should be designed to support these two uses in different ways.

Wish me luck!