It’s Better Late than Never…

Just like this entry (a little late)…Innovation may come much later in a teacher’s day-to-day practice. Although there are, of course, many teachers who are innovative, there is always room for growth. As educators, we are always learning; and as learners we need to apply new things to facilitate and engage our minds to new horizons.

Upon sharing my learning with other colleagues, many of them have asked, “Does innovation mean technology?” The answer is no. George Couros says it best, stating that “Technology can accelerate or amplify innovation, but the technology is not the innovation. The thinking is.”

Yes, technology can help the learning process and yes, it is definitely a helpful tool, but innovation is the journey we take to get to the results. Answers to the hows and whys are beneficial to the learning process, which I believe, fosters growth.

Recently, I’ve shared a short Ted-Talk video clip with our staff members at one of our lunch and learn meetings about “Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders” by Kayla Delzer. This short, yet inspiring clip, shared several inspirational insights into her world of teaching and values. “What is right for kids, is right.”  And she is RIGHT.  Our students, our kids, live in the 21st century…we must teach like we are too. We need to adapt, create, integrate, communicate, differentiate, engage, motivate, inspire, construct, and collaborate.

…and Twitter might just be a starting point.

I’ll admit, joining the Twitter world was quite daunting…didn’t crack the egg until a month or so after joining…but it was a starting point. And from there I’ve learned a lot.

I wouldn’t have found this video if it wasn’t for Twitter. I probably wouldn’t have tried SeeSaw, Quizizz or EDPuzzle if it wasn’t for Twitter either. I’ve explored hashtags and currently follow inspiring people that provide a mini-PD session at my fingertips.  Social media is not going away, so let’s learn to work with it and teach our students about digital citizenship where they can create a positive (and significant) digital footprint.…before it’s too late. 

Maria Manzano,

Grade 5/6 Teacher,
Dufferin School,
Cluster 2010

ITLL Blog Post

Sigh.  I’ve had a really hard time writing this blog post.  And I can’t truly say why.  If you meet me in person I am not shy to speak my mind nor am I afraid of asking questions or admitting what I don’t understand.  But for some reason I have started four ‘posts’ that I feel unsatisfied with and later discard before sending them on to Shauna.

Why is this so hard for me!?!

I guess part of what I am struggling with is my own indecisive reaction to our PD.  At times I feel that what I do and the practices I use really align with the Innovators Mindset.  Inquiry based learning, AFL, student centred practices, collaborative teaching, reflection (for myself and students), technologically infused instruction and more permeate my planning and teaching.  Does all of it happen all day every day?  Well no.  But my decisions as an educator are planned and based with all of the above in mind.

One thing that I have heard and learned and felt reaffirmed about is the need to constantly be striving to do more and do better as a teacher.  My personal philosophy values trying new things and challenging myself and my students in a variety of ways.  I have a hard time when I meet a colleague that teaches the same content the same way every year.

But I also recoil at the idea of creating a ‘digital footprint’.  Try googling me… there isn’t much out there and that is the way I like it.  I feel that most social media is a black hole and I am not convinced that the benefits of creating a social network online are worth the loss of privacy and the need to constantly (CONSTANTLY) live my life through the lens of being a teacher.  In the same way that I am a mom, and I will always be a mom, it is not the only way to define my existence.  Furthermore, I don’t think that the lack of a ‘digital footprint’ should impact my qualifications as a conscientious and innovative educator.  While others are tweeting and blogging to improve their practice I may be reading or researching.  I may be speaking with my colleagues and peers or simply reflecting on what has and has not worked.  Information found online is not necessarily any better or worse than information found elsewhere.  Difference is simply difference.

Having said all this I wish to stress that I really value the conflict and thought that has been inspired by the PD provided by WSD and George Couros.  Anytime that I am (and we as teachers are) asked to think critically about purpose and methodology is a good thing.  I believe it is what keeps me inspired and innovative, I think it is integral to providing best practices in my classroom.  However, as a free thinking, well-educated and opinionated person I guess it is my right to adopt what I choose from the learning experiences provided to me.  What I take from this has been and will be positive, I’m just not sure what it will look like.

Jilll Joanette
Grade 2/3 Teacher
Principal Sparling School
Cluster 2010

A Hash Tag Away…

Innovation.  To me, it’s about thinking outside the box to ensure that we are reaching all learners in the classroom.  As we know, students don’t all learn the same way, or the same day.  Innovation gives us permission to interpret curriculum as we see fit… to empower our students with purposeful learning that is student driven.  I equate innovation with connection.  This can be achieved through a variety of means, it truly is, as George Couros writes, a mindset.  Innovation is crucial to student engagement- keeping them curious, means keeping current and trying things that may be out of our teaching comfort zone. Teaching is truly the best way to learn!

George Couros gave me a lot to think about after our PD session.   While I’ve always embraced using technology in the classroom, I was a little apprehensive about the social media aspect; especially since we’ve all been forewarned about the potential ill effects for teachers and students alike.   So when we started to talk about twitter… let’s just say I didn’t have a “tweet” to say!  A friend once told me that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, and thus my twitter journey began.

I can see the value Twitter has for networking, collaboration and instant communication.  It’s amazing to know that we can network with teachers across the hall and across the world… at the same time.    I have read numerous articles, feeds and participated in some discussion as a result of my 21 day (+) Twitter challenge.  I have shared Twitter sourced information with colleagues and friends.  I can attest that Twitter has merit if used in a responsible manner.  I have yet to try Twitter with my grade two students, namely because I’m still at the novice stage myself and I’m unsure how to even start with early years students.  Global classrooms are the wave of the future, and we must be prepared for it.  Today’s world is literally at our finger tips, a mere hash tag away!


Cluster 2010- Jenny Bui- Greenway School


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

Charles Darwin was the innovator of his time in the field of biology. Today, modern biology would cease to exist without the Theory of Natural Selection and Evolution. However, when Darwin created this Theory, he was ridiculed and rejected by his community and fellow colleagues. I begin with this because the processes of evolution can also be used to explain the transmission of ideas, also known as the meme. Furthermore, we cannot resist “change” because it may be difficult or uncomfortable.

A meme can be treated like an organism in gene pool (population). That organism must survive by adapting to its surrounding environment and passing along its genetic information to each successive generation. In order to survive, a variety of variables (changes) in the environment may occur and those organisms who have the “tools” to adapt to these changes will flourish and pass these “tools” on to their offspring. In order for a meme to survive in the meme pool (eg: culture), the idea must be able to be transmitted understandably to other individuals and survive the process of “imitation”. In order for the meme to flourish, it must thrive and be accepted in the meme pool or risk being lost forever. (1)

The culture surrounding education is changing whether we accept that or not. That change may be technology, social media or knowledge acquisition. Regardless of what change we see, or which one effects us the most profoundly, it is our duty to teach our students how to foster these changes. We need to provide our students with the appropriate “tools” that they require to succeed in their next challenges. Let us start first with a meme, educational innovation. With the support of colleagues, we can successfully propagate this meme (however it may look to us individually) and prevent it from dwindling away because of the fear of change. Let us end the culture of complacency and begin the culture of innovation. We owe that to our students.

Thank you to George Couros for inspiring me to change and innovate.

Kristin Melnyk

Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute

Cluster 2010


Inner City Art Critics

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I’m sure this activity isn’t a groundbreaking innovation, but I thought it’s worthwhile sharing something that’s worked with Winnipeg inner city junior high students who are sometimes resistant to trying new things.

This term I’ve used ‘A​Smarthistory Gallery’​in ‘G​oogle Art Project’​to teach grade 8 ELA students that art can be a powerful way to both depict/record/describe one’s culture as well as pass on beliefs/ideas/values to future generations. The gallery contains 119 high definition photos of famous and/or influential art pieces, as well as accompanying videos of 2 art historians who explain the techniques and, more importantly, the meaning behind each piece.

My students made a 2 column chart in their notebooks in order to record their responses and questions for the paintings we studied. I assured them that the art historians would be using some vocabulary they won’t be familiar with, but that they shouldn’t let that dissuade them from gleaning the overall message of the painting. For the above painting (“The Proverbs” by Bruegel), students were not only interested in the many strange scenes but also in how many of the proverbs/idioms they were familiar with (to bang one’s head against a brick wall, to be armed to the teeth, to crap on the world, don’t cry over spilled milk, etc.).

Students will next choose 1 of the 8 pieces we’ve studied and do some individual research into the painting and the artist behind it, then create an expository essay that includes their initial reaction to the painting, their immediate questions after watching the video, and a link to a modern day equivalent art/music piece. My short term goal here was to develop students’ questioning and writing skills, but my long term goal is to expose students to the idea that the world is infinitely interesting and can largely be understood if they are observant and take healthy risks.

Warren du Plooy
Hugh John Macdonald School

Cluster 2010

Blog Post 1

After our first session I really started to think about how I could use different technology to engage my students. I like the idea of having a classroom Twitter account and perhaps other social media like Instagram, in the future. But right now I’m just exploring Twitter. We mainly used Twitter to look at the accounts relating to the Manitoba election and NASA’s account. We are going to Tweet questions to the candidates involved in the current provincial election. In a class that isn’t really interested in politics, this should help the students to engage. They now have an opportunity to ask the candidates questions that would pertain to their life rather than listening to jargon filled debates or speeches.

I watched the TedTalk by Will Richardson. Many of his points are akin to George’s. I agree that schools are archaic in many of their approaches to learning and I do agree that often what we believe as teachers with regard to best learning in the class, is not applied in our practice. Will Richardson stated that it’s a great time to be a learner because of our access to information and I also agree with that. I do question how students and the general public are using their technology for information, or if they are at all. He gave the examples of his children exploring basketball and kale via different technology. I wonder if most students use technology for learning, or is it predominantly for entertainment? Perhaps this is where we need to guide them.

I also wonder what parameters are needed in schools. Will Richardson seems to be against schools with one sized curriculums, age grouped co-learners, time constraints in the classroom and lack of choice (among other things.) I wonder how many of these parameters or restrictions are needed in the classroom. As an elementary teacher I do feel like there are some key concepts and skills that kids do need which are curriculum related. 

Russell Miller

Gr. 6 Teacher 


Cluster 2010

Musings of an Innovator

When I was first told that I would be attending some PD days on “Innovation teaching, learning and leadership” I thought to myself  “here is the next bandwagon in a long line of bandwagons that we should embrace.” I was feeling overwhelmed with all the “new” strategies, ideas and learning opportunities that were coming my way. I was just about maxed out!

Then I read George’s book The Innovator’s Mindset. Finally, something I can wrap my head around without loosing my mind. Reading this book made me really think about how I run classroom and how I can change it for the better by implementing a few basic changes. Mind you, giving up executive authority is hard. Like it has been said before, we teach the way we were taught. Handing over some authority and leadership to the students is hard. However, I like to think that I am an open-minded individual, an on-going learner, and that this change will benefit all in the long run.

Being someone who is comfortable with technology, I thought this PD would show me new and exciting ways to use it in the classroom. It’s a lot more than that. I am trying to keep in mind that technology is just a tool we use to help us be innovative and creative. The use of social media, on the other hand, is something I am not used to. I do not Facebook, Instagram and, until very recently, Tweet. The use of these platforms has opened up a whole new learning curve for myself. The benefits to education are obvious now, so I look forward to embracing them in the coming days.

The Innovator’s Mindset has made me take a closer look at my classroom teaching style, and find ways to “empower learning and unleash talent” among my learners, including myself. I look forward to the rest of our meetings.


Allan Grimsley

Principal Sparling

Cluster 2010

Becoming a 21st Century Learner

Since the March ITLL session with George Couros I have had the pleasure of reading so many great reflections on innovation, its involvement in the classroom, and what everyone’s thoughts on this concept have been.  I have been having trouble narrowing down what I was going to reflect on since this year has been a tremendous year for professional learning for me.  But here we go… narrowing it down. I have decided to reflect on my experiences on my learning of Twitter; a platform I have recently learned to love.

My first experience with Twitter was extremely confusing. I just didn’t “get it”. I had seen facebook posts from former colleagues about their tweets and retweets and I wondered what all the fuss was about. So I signed up. I was still so very confused. I had no followers.  What were these @ symbols for? I would check my account every few weeks…still no followers. At this point my Twitter account fell by the wayside.

The next experience I had with Twitter happened this year. In September I was told a few students from our school would be attending a S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) program.  I was already familiar with the concept of S.T.E.A.M and volunteered to attend the professional development. It was here that I actually started to get the point of twitter (in regards to education and business). It was about being connected. For me Twitter became a platform that I could learn from.

With this new found knowledge of Twitter I decided to give it an honest try. I had attempted to create a second twitter account to use with my students. That account just didn’t seem to work out right and so I am currently only using my personal account. I am still learning the ins and outs of Twitter, but I find that every day I am learning so much from being connected to educators in my province and around the world.

One thing that had really stuck with me from the session with George Couros was that he was introducing twitter to a group of educators not simply to have these educators implement this new platform in their classrooms. He was introducing it as a way for educators to become 21st century learners through collaboration with fellow educators across the globe. The scariest (and the best) part of learning twitter and becoming more of a 21st century learner myself is that I don’t know the answers to all of the questions. I can now show my students that it is alright not to know something right away, but what matters is that you look for the answers.

Danielle Eppert

Weston School

Cluster 2010


Reflection on Innovation

When first reflecting on our innovation session I began by asking myself how I could use twitter to benefit my personal learning and growth. I appreciate how technology and social media can be used as a tool to connect with others about the same topic and to look at the world through a global perspective. I am interested in using twitter in order to connect with other educators across Canada and the world.

In reflecting deeper and looking forward I asked myself how I can use innovation in my Kindergarten classroom to help students grow as learners. In order to do this I first thought about what innovation looks like in my kindergarten classroom. We use found materials, nature, technology, art supplies, books, Lego, blocks, boxes and much more to explore, research, ask and answer questions. Whether students are using iPads to make commercials, found materials to make robots, or boxes and string to make a drawbridge pulley system what is important is that students are thinking critically, problem solving, communicating, and caring for each other through the process. I think this is what I would like innovation to look like in my classroom; using a variety of mediums to encourage students to think critically, communicate, be creative and collaborate. Moving forward I look forward to keeping an open mind and learn more about how to encourage my 4 and 5 year olds to use a material or resource in a new and exciting way.

Lisa Poettcker
Pinkham School

Cluster 2010


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Reflection on Innovation

Following the first innovation session I was unsure how I was going to incorporate Twitter into my personal and professional life. I had to think about whether or not I could really see myself using it and if it was something that was meaningful to me. After some time I realized I had to shift my thinking about innovation. Innovation is not just technology or more specifically Twitter. Innovation is about change, alteration, revolution and transformation.                                                                     

I had already begun to think about the physical environment of my classroom and how it was fostering student growth. So, rather than adding another piece of reflection to my teaching practice I started to think about how the physical environment was promoting innovation. I arranged and presented furniture in a different way, allowed students to have more choice in the physical space and brought items from home into the classroom. I think this is the most authentic first step in promoting a culture of innovation in my classroom. My hope is that students will begin to see the many different uses for everyday items.

Stacey Stone
Pinkham School

Cluster 2010


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