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... after my year as a 'Cohorter'.  I began to see myself differently.  I began to believe that I could do things.  Crazy, RIDICULOUS things.   I began Cohort21 last fall with a sense of trepidation; I did not consider myself tech-savvy, I didn't know what a 'tweet deck' was or how to use Google Forms ... but I was curious.  A little encouragement from @lmcbeth and I decided to take the plunge - into a community that as @gvogt recently posited (and I agree) is "the gold standard of a supporting culture".  My journey of the last year is documented in this blog up to the end of last spring; and that's when a funny thing happened.  I was asked if I would join a team of tech-integrators to provide innovation support for teachers at my school.  "But I don't know how to code!" I exclaimed!  Hmmm.  I went home.  I told my husband.  He laughed. I thought about it.

I thought about it some more.  I asked questions. I wanted to do it.  I REALLY wanted to do it and I wasn't even scared!  That is what I believe the leaders of this experience would call 'The Cohort Effect'.  I have read much about Carol Dweck's 'Growth Mindset' and have challenged myself to ensure that I helped my students develop this type of approach to their learning; but until I became part of Cohort 21, I'm not sure that I consciously challenged myself to adopt this mindset.  So, I said yes.  And now, I am as some unknown person once told me: "building the plane in the air". This is a very foreign way to approach teaching for me, but I am learning that 'just-in-time' knowledge and skills delivery may be a good approach to teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Over the summer I undertook training in Design Thinking at the Nueva School in San Mateo California, with a great group of educators - many of who were Computer Science teachers.  It was in Palo Alto that I snapped the feature image for this post at the 'Institute for the Future' 

It did seem ridculous to me at first that I should be asked join a team of tech-savvy teachers in a support role.  But the more I thought about it, the less ridiculous it seemed.  Strategically, we are moving towards a more 'innovative' teaching and learning environment at Branksome Hall, and when I think about how George Couros (Educator, author and consultant) defines innovation as “a way of thinking that creates something new and better"   and the idea that it is borne out of “invention" (something totally new) or “iteration” ( a change of something that already exists) I have come to realize that innovation is a multi-faceted approach to teaching and learning, and furthermore something that under this definition, I am actually extremely passionate about.  Much of my action plan this year will center around exploring the application of this definition to my work in the classroom and as a member of our newly minted 'Innovation Support Team'.

I am beyond excited about continuing my Cohort 21 adventure this year in the role of Coach; but I also value my simultaneous role of learner and look forward to the many conversations ahead and the destinations that are as yet blissfully unknown.  Onwards!

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When I was thirteen, my family moved to Birmingham England. My parents were teachers of the arts and we were going on exchange from a small rural community in Ontario to a city that was the heart of the industrial revolution.  It was, needless to say, an experience that was an outright assault on all of my senses.  In navigating my way through that year however, I learned a lot and became a keen traveller. On one of our first weekend adventures out of the city in our cramped little Renault hatchback, we got stuck going around and around the loopy roundabouts of a mess of merging highways known in Brum as ‘spaghetti junction’.

Ok, this wasn’t it, but that’s how it felt to thirteen year old me.  In thinking about one of the first questions posed to me for my Cohort 21 application: What does 21st century education mean to you?  I have often come back to that visual of spaghetti junction; a huge mess of interconnecting roundabouts, a merging of many pathways designed to get us going in the direction of our next adventure. This is where I am at in my thinking around 21st century education.  My thoughts are a bit of a mess, truth be told.  But here is what I am sure about, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in education.  We are tasked with preparing young people for an uncertain future using tools that change so rapidly that it requires that we take on the role of learner and leader simultaneously.  Engaging with this shift requires a new mindset; new ways of communicating with our students, colleagues and our broader communities.  It requires a critical look at the balance of skills and content; our approaches to teaching and learning and the application of foresight in decision making.

In this, my first blog entry, I thought perhaps I could put forth some ideas and questions that have captured my interest in the hopes of connecting with others who would like to take the conversation further. This is really what brought me to Cohort; the potential to listen to, learn from and collaborate with like-minded educators with the goal of improving my own practice, and sharing with my colleagues.

  1. I feel that the role of a ‘teacher’ is evolving to become more of a facilitator; What does that look like? How might I share that role with other ‘experts’ by leveraging technology?
  2. How might I improve my creative confidence and bolster my confidence to take risks?
  3. How might I prepare students to ‘add value’ in a world of smart technology?
  4. It seems to me we need to invest more in the development of socio-emotional skills; particularly empathy; how might I leverage technology to build empathy?

So you see, I am at spaghetti junction; my thoughts are messy, but I know they are connected and likely to take me in the direction of adventure.  I am optimistic about the time I will spend within this supportive community investigating these and other questions; I look forward to connecting with many of you over the course of this (r)evolutionary experience!

“Please always remember, the secret of survival is to embrace change, and to adapt.”

-Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance

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c21_logo_mediumWelcome to Cohort 21. This is the first post on your new blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share and collaborate as you move through the C21 learning cycle towards your action plan.

Cohort 21 is a unique professional development opportunity open to CIS Ontario teachers and school leaders who are seeking to explore  what it means to a teacher in the 21st century.