ITLL Weekly Challenge

In the spirit of one of our learning intents of the ITLL Initiative… to build community and shared understanding... I couldn’t help but be excited when I received this email from Sheila Seafoot one of our learning leaders from Lord Roberts.

I just had a thought….do you think it would be possible to have a weekly “challenge” for teachers to take part in? I’m thinking that teachers could sign up if they want to participate, then, every week, there would be a challenge for them to try and tweet about. For example, week one could be to try the following “instant challenge”: (insert challenge here”. They would fit it into the week and tweet about something great (or not) that came out of it. Week two might be to “participate in a Twitter Chat” with a small list of #s to choose from (ie #1stchat). Maybe a challenge might be to do another blog, or to try out coding……”.

What a great idea! One most certainly worth giving a try! If the weekly challenge works for you and your students …great! If not check back next Monday for a new one. No need to sign up…. just participate if and when the weekly challenge works for you. Be sure to leave a comment on this blog post during the week letting us know how the challenge went with your learners. Or Tweet something about the weekly challenge  to #winnipegSDITLL.

This week’s challenge is to try an Instant Challenge, of your choice,  with your students and let us know how it goes.  There were a variety of resources shared on the links on the Hub from last week’s session, or check out this amazing document shared this week by another ITLL. Awesome find, Genevieve! The resource can be found here.


We look forward to continued sharing and learning together!


5 Reasons To Have a Collaborative Blog

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This was a quote from Kristin Melnyk, a member of the “Innovative Teaching and Learning Leads” that I am working with in Winnipeg School District.  The program is focused on developing not only educators to challenge the way they think about education, but to also develop innovative teacher leadership, to help this group lead meaningful change within their own schools.

It has been a great process so far, although I have only worked with the group one date personally. That being said, through the #WinnipegSDITLL hashtag as, well as being led by an awesome team within the Winnipeg School District, the learning shared has been great.

One part of the initiative is that educators in the program are asked to blog about something in their classroom or the program, to share their learning through the process, to the ITLL Project blog. This is a powerful way to share that their is a constant space for learning, and it is not focused only on our face-to-face time together, but shows the power of learning throughout.  Reading their blog posts online, will also help build relationships in the times that we are face-to-face as well, as I am able to learn more about them not only as educators, but learners and thinkers. It creates a pretty powerful dynamic for learning and relationships.

There are so many benefits to having this type of “collaborative blog” throughout a professional learning opportunity, and I am so grateful to the team supporting the process.  It has been wonderful to learn from them, but there are so many other powerful benefits.  Here are some of them below.

1. Safe “guest posts”.  Blogging is a powerful way to “openly reflect” on your learning, and in one of my favourite articles on the topic from Dean Shareski, talks about the power of this type of collaboration:“So here’s my plan. Hire a teacher, give them a blog. Get them to subscribe to at least 5 other teachers in the district as well as 5 other great teachers from around the globe. Have their principal and a few central office people to subscribe to the blog and 5 other teachers as well. Require them to write at least once a week on their practice. Get conversations going right from the get go. Watch teachers get better.”

Although I agree with what Dean is saying, having your own blog can seem daunting.  But having a space where you can have a post with some guidance, can help some people feel more comfortable with the process and perhaps realize that it is not only valuable, but they are pretty good at it.

2. Competitive-Collaboration.  This is a concept that is near to my heart.  I believe that we need to learn to work with one another, but I also believe we need to push each other.  In this space, I have noticed that the blog posts are getting more and more in depth, and I wonder if the quality is going up because the group is reading the posts that the others are doing.  They are also not only writing reflections, but either sharing visuals, or creating videos.  We wanted to give them some guidelines (suggested 250 words but shared that it can be more, or less, or anything), but wanted people to be creative in how they shared.Check out this great video posted from Veronique Bedard


The learning that has been shared in this space has not necessarily taught people to be creative, but unleashed their creativity.  Pushing each other in space where we also support one another, is where that “unleashed talent” is more likely to come to the surface.

3. Opportunities to Reflect. As Dewey states, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” Although the process of change can seem “fast and furious”, this only makes it more important to slow down and think about why we do what we do. If we are truly looking at moving forward, we need to take the time to look back.  There is so much learning that can happen through the process of reflection.  It needs to be a non-negotiable part of the work in true learning organizations.

4. Rich data.  Not all data is measured by numbers, and this blog is proving that. We are seeing this process to be extremely valuable, but this blog has become that evidence.  As I was discussing this process with a group yesterday, how often do we do work in PLC’s and then create evidence that either no one sees, or really, no evidence of learning at all?  This space will be here long after the initiative but shows the evidence of this program.

5. Everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner. As the leader of this program, I truly believe that if the group ONLY learns from me, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.  This is why this space is so crucial.  Not only does the group have the ability to learn from each other, but selfishly, my own learning is being pushed and prodded by this group.  This flattened hierarchy of learning is beneficial to everyone willing to take part and ultimately will benefit so many kids in so many places.  It has been powerful to watch and learn from this great group.

Chris Kennedy recently wrote about seeing a decline in blogging, and a part of me agrees.  That being said, I actually think it is more valuable than ever. Giving people the opportunity to do it in a way where they get to experience themselves first in a safe space, and then seeing the value of learning from others, might be the best way to have them eventually create their own space, but even if they don’t, the opportunity to learn from these collaborative spaces has been extremely powerful.

Kristin Melnyk shared this quote in her blog post:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”—Charles Darwin

What is important to understand is that we can’t change others, but only ourselves. What we can do is create the spaces where change is more likely to happen, and these platforms of open and continuous learning could make that impact.

ITLL Blog Post

I went into the first session with George Couros with an open mind – not knowing what to expect but looking forward to learning, both with a friend and colleague from my school, and with colleagues from across the division.

As the day went on, I became more and more inspired and motivated to do more in my classroom – but I was also pleasantly surprised in my realization that I AM already providing some pretty great opportunities for my students to be innovative.

Going into the PD in March, my class (grade 3) and another class (grade 4/5) were just finishing up a project in collaboration with an Engineering student from the University of Manitoba. We were fortunate to receive a Science grant in order to work with this student. Our students were able to visit the Faculty of Engineering, see a young, future Engineer in her workspace, and create alongside her.  They then took that learning back to the school.  The students worked in groups to create structures that were to withstand both an “earthquake” and an “Angry Birds Attack”. The students were to follow criteria, which they created, in order to build a model of a Winnipeg landmark building. Every single bit of this project was student-driven.   In their groups they created plans, problem solved, adapted plans, made blue-prints, and created amazing, intricate structures. Some examples include the Human Rights Museum, The Forks Tower, Silver City Polo Park, and Hotel Fort Garry. Our Engineering mentor came to our school to visit, motivate, and give advice.  My colleague and I acted merely as supervisors. We circulated, provided supplies, reminded of criteria when necessary – but the bottom line was that our students were creating, our students were directing their learning. It was loud, it was messy, and it took a long time. There were about 43 kids in one room at once, and things were getting done! Every group finished with a well-done, thoroughly planned and executed design project. They learned what it means to be Engineers and Architects. The sense of pride and excitement was obvious. It was a great, great project.

Now, when I went into our first session with George Couros I was thinking that project was done. Spring Break was coming – what I wanted “done” by Spring Break was right on schedule. However, this session screwed up my plans…in a good way! Now it is time to somehow bring some technological pieces into this project. I don’t know exactly how yet – but I was very intrigued by the “photo a day” video. This project was such a big part of the kids’ school year – it would be great for them to be able to create their own video keepsake to remind them of their first experience as Engineers – I think I will bring that to the table and set them loose with the iPads!

I am not the most tech-savvy person – but I am looking forward to becoming more aware of what is out there. I never, ever thought that I would have a Twitter account. To be honest, I have not used it a lot since our first session – but now with this idea to extend the learning from this project, I believe I will reach out to the Twitter-verse and find out just how to use that photo a day app – or something along those lines – I’m still learning. J

Leslie Marnoch

Sister MacNamara

SchoolCluster 1965



Time for Reflection

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As posted on The Meaning of Meraki- blog by Shauna Cornwell

In my previous post, I outlined the initiative my school division is currently involved in; Innovative Teaching and Learning with George Couros.  As the lead on this project, I have been lucky enough to take part in each session. George regularly refers to the “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom”.  He also references this document as something to aim for in “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Professional Learning”.  It struck me just how many of these concepts George does hit the mark on in his sessions.  What also became apparent is the potential impact asking our Innovative Teaching and Learning Leaders(ITLL’s) to blog about their experiences could be.  Voice, choice, time for reflection, connected learning, critical thinking…blogging is a powerful tool for sharing, collaborating, and moving forward.

As I reflect on the ten days George has spent with us in WSD so far, many big ideas, thoughts and reflections continuously resonate for me. Taking part in so many days facilitated by George Couros is truly a gift.  Many of my takeaways are more reaffirming than novel, and very much reflective of many of my strong beliefs as an educator. Others are big, powerful ideas George has brought forth that so ring true for me and I keep coming back to.

So, if I am asking others to blog about their experiences in the work we are doing around innovation, it seems only logical that I too should share my own.  Here a few of my own reflections, based on our sessions, summarized below…

  • In order for change to happen you need to “Disrupt your routine”.We need to put ourselves out there. Try new things. Be risk takers. But we also need to be realistic and strategic in the initiatives and things we attempt.  As George would say, “To start- change one thing, not everything.” Change is inevitable, productive and needed.  To quote Grace Hopper, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.”


  • We can’t look at innovation as yet, another initiative. It is not. Nor is the notion of innovation a new one. Instead innovation is a lens, through which we should look at all and everything we do.  Just because something is new that does not mean it is better.  WSD defines Innovation as:  creating new and improved ways of thinking and doing that inspire and empower learners.  The keyword is improved or better.  We need to make sure our intentions for learners are always clear and we are not making change just for sake of change.


  • In developing a culture of innovation there is nothing more important than relationships. In order to support our learners in being the best they can be, we need to ensure that they know we value them, we trust them and they matter.


  • It is our job as educators to not only engage our students but empower them. The traditional school system that many of us went through as children was heavily driven by compliance.  Moving forward in todays’ world, our students need more.  As educators, we can no longer use the model of “teacher as the holder of all knowledge”. We need to move beyond solely fact based instruction, and give our students frequent opportunities to problem solve, work collaboratively, think critically and creatively.  Our students need to be They need a voice. They need ownership of their own learning.  This involves having some choice, in what they learn, how they learn and the methods of sharing their learning.  This does not mean ignoring curriculum, it means rethinking curriculum in ways that are both engaging and empowering for our learners.  This does not mean we are “moving away from the basics”.  Literacy and Numeracy are the foundation of what we do, but they cannot be all that we do.  George shares this quote from Yong Zhao which sums this up nicely “ Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling”.  Check out this blog post on The Principal of Change, “Learning Before You Innovate”, which explores this topic further.


  • It is a dynamic, every changing, world we live in. As schools, we have a responsibility to help prepare our learners for the world in every way we can, which includes educating them to be not only good “digital citizens” but “digital leaders”. We need to move away from the concept of “computer time” and “digital citizenship training”, to integrated, authentic, in-context learning opportunities for students to use technology tools and learn about the responsibilities that come along with doing so in meaningful ways.  We need to educate our students about the importance and necessity of developing a positive digital footprint in today’s world.


  • Today, our learners have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Technology can be an invaluable tool for learning.  However, it is essential that we support our students in their work, to not only be consumers of content and information but to also becreators.  It is through the act of creating that we can truly get a sense of who our students are as learners.  It is through the process of creating we can truly see our students’ skills, talents, strengths, interests and passions. In recent times in education, it seems conversations are all to often data driven, and deficit focused.  We hear talks of intervention, response and how we are going to “fix” things.  By focusing on empowering students and giving them choice and opportunity to create, make, do, think, invent, and design we have the opportunity to shift to a more strengths based model. Students who feel successful, and empowered are more likely to have continued success in school overall. Check out my past blog post entitled, “Students as Creative Producers” for further exploration of this topic.


  • One of the most powerful things we can do for our students and for our self as a learner is to become a connected educator. Developing a professional learning network through a social media platform such as Twitter is an invaluable opportunity for an educator to gain new insights & understandings, and make new connections with like minded teachers. It is a chance to connect your classroom with others around the world.  It is also a chance to connect to your families in a way that changes conversations at home and encourages community, sharing and celebration. Being networked as an educator, whether it be through Twitter, Instagram, Voxer, Skype or blogging etc. is a game changer. It opens the door to new opportunities and our minds to new possibilities.


10 Practical Ways to Innovate in Your Classroom (From A.J. Juliani)

A.J. Juliani is an amazing educator and forward-thinking leader, who shares some great stuff on his blog. He is definitely a must-follow on Twitter, and here is a snippet from a recent blog post (with his permission).


I recently wrote a post (ok, it was kind of a rant) about “innovation” in education and who get’s to decide what is innovative. The bottom line of my argument is that the teacher and students get to decide, and what is innovative for you, may not be for others–which is completely ok!

That being said, I received a number of emails and questions about what types of “innovative work” I’ve seen in my role as a teacher, administrator, and speaker around the country. To be honest, there has been so much great work I’ve witnessed in my own district and traveling that it is hard to share it all. I’ve widdled it down to ten (because that seems like a solid number right?). These are some of the examples I share when doing workshops and working with teachers because I know they work and there are many teachers they can collaborate with that are already doing this type of learning.

I’m calling these 10 examples practical because I believe they are doable. They work in most grade levels, in most schools, in most situations. However, as we talked about in a previous post, you and your students are going to have to be the ultimate decision makers on whether or not any of these ideas would work.

1. Let Your Students Design the Learning

We all have those assignments, assessments, and units that need some revitalization. Often we toil, thinking about how we can design a project or activity that is going to engage our students and empower them to do amazing work. One time, I didn’t do this. One time, I asked and had a conversation with my students about the final assessment. And that one time turned into one of the most innovative projects I’ve ever been a part of: Project Global Inform. You see, when I brought my students into the actual “designing” process they took an enormous amount of ownership in how we would structure this final project, how we would grade this final project, and what the expectations were from them. Give your students a chance to design the learning with you and watch what can happen.

2. Run a Student-Led Edcamp

In 2014 I read about Jason Seliskar running an “Elementary Unconference” as an Edcamp for his 4th grade students. It was fantastic. Thes students create their own learning boards (just like in Edcamp), schedule for the day/class, and then become experts and learners in each other’s session. Since then I’ve seen a number of schools and teachers run student-led edcamps (here is one at a MS) with great success. Why does it work? For the same reason Edcamp works for us teachers: They own the learning and experience.

(To read the rest, check out the original post on AJ’s Blog.)

Welcome to the ITLL Collaborative Blog! (First Session)

Thank you for being a part of the Winnipeg School Division ITLL (Innovative Teaching and Learning Leaders) Project.  We appreciate the opportunity to share you thinking with others, while also learning from you.  Over the term of this project, this space will be sharing the thinking of the ITLL’s as well as a collaborative blog where our own learning experiences will be posted.

From the first session, here are some links that you may find helpful:

Twitter Session

Your Digital Footprint

Blogs as Portfolio

As an assignment, I would love for you to share your thoughts on this video below.  What pushes your thinking? What challenges you?  What would you challenge?

Thank you for your participation in this project! We look forward to learning from you!