#sd36learn #bced #edreform

5 Lessons Learned About Teaching Home Economics While NOT Teaching Home Economics

(Click on the images to download the PDF)

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Food for Thought: Secondary CSL Networking Dinners 2017


Do you have an appetite for change?

The ideas, questions, and possibilities are endless!
Join us for three evenings of focused sharing & collaboration around communicating student learning, assessment, and our current explorations in the secondary classroom!

At each school-hosted evening we will:

  • Share from teachers at each host school
    (5-minute learning stories from each colleague)
  • Dig deeper with host teachers in breakout sessions
  • Dine (thanks to our talented students and colleagues from our #sd36learn teaching kitchens!)
  • Takeaway a professional book/resource following each session based on host teachers’ themes

Join us  on these Thursdays from 3:30PM – 7PM:

March 2 – Enver Creek Secondary

April 6 – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary

June 1 – LA Matheson Secondary

Registration at
Cost: $0.00 + your commitment to attend and share your learning!

Please contact Joe ( for more information!


Are we being honest with ourselves?

Below is a transcript from my Ignite at this year’s ERAC (Education Resource Acquisition Consortium) IT4K12 Conference (November 17-18, 2016). 


I’ve realized that preparing for an Ignite (presentation consisting of 20 slides x 15 seconds each) can be quite the cathartic experience. Two days after our slides were due I had a moment.  What am I supposed to talk about? What am I supposed to do? Will my ignite be good enough? Will it make people mad? Will people understand where I’m coming from?


As I contemplate my self-centered criteria for the next 4 minutes and 45 seconds, my mind shifts to my friends and colleagues who have been asking similar sets of questions in light of curriculum transformation


What am I supposed to teach and assess? Am I doing this curriculum right? Do I have to use this digital tool? How do I mark all these portfolios? Am I supposed to mark portfolios? Aren’t we moving away from marks? How do we sell this to parents? When are the powers that be just going to tell me what to do?


When I think about what it means to do well, I go to my cultural roots, more specifically how I was trained to perceive success. I was born into an immigrant family that, since the late 70s, has been navigating what it means to live and learn in North America.


For my parents, it was imperative that my brother and I be able to navigate the education system well – there was a perspective that if you did well in school you would automatically get a good job, good money, good life, good future.


Frequent statements at the dinner table included: “Just do what your teacher tells you” “Just get along with people” “Just don’t make trouble” “Just be on your teachers’ good side” and probably most common: “Just get good marks.”


This led to my fascination with interpersonal dynamics as a teenager –  I spent most of my time observing –  seeking patterns – What and who did my teachers like? What did my teachers count for marks? What questions could I ask a teacher so I knew what I was doing was going to be good enough?


I spent more time focusing on what mattered to my teachers rather than focusing on how learning matters to me. Okay – so nothing mind-blowing here in terms of a typical high school experience, but let’s connect it to our experiences as educators navigating the world of digital assessment and portfolios.


For most of us teachers, our 13-years of compulsory schooling were spent training us to follow linear-quantifiable guidelines and pre-determined criteria. Consequently, when teachers raise needs regarding digital portfolios they talk at length about structure, guidelines, and checklists.


So let’s contemplate if we are falling into the same trap of monotony with digital portfolios. How do we ensure digital portfolios are not “done to” learners? My big wonder about all the work that we have been exploring with digital portfolios in our district and province-wide is this:


When we talk about digital portfolios (with each other, with tech companies, district-to-district) are we actually talking about the same thing? Are we acknowledging the change in mindset required to shift from “gradebooks” to “portfolios” or are we just putting lipstick on a pig?


Are our portfolios connected to what research tells us moves learning forward? (quality, formative assessment and communicating learning as being anything but a unidirectional reporting of marks and assignments)? Or are we trying to force what we usually do to fit into a digital platform?


Have we started masking spreadsheet gradebooks to appear to be digital repositories of what is being done in school? If we stripped what we call portfolios of all the photos, videos, and digital files, would these portfolios have essentially the same structure and values of a traditional gradebook? Where is the learning?


Has the conversation authentically shifted from “what did we do in school today” to “what did we learn in school today?” Are we approaching a time in our exploration with digital portfolios when we start to get wrapped up in whether or not we are “doing them” in the right way?


Are we getting stuck in: “How many posts is good enough?” …Check. “What are parents and administrators requiring us to put in a portfolio?” …Check. “Is there a comment for every learning standard” …Check?


How about this: What really matters? Our learners’ growth and love of learning. So how are we using digital assessment and portfolios tools in a way that actually empowers students to connect and choose learning experiences and communicate their growth over time?


Bringing it back home: I want you to take a gander at this –  on the left are a list of questions that we often say we want to move away from, questions that emerge from a marks and compliance – driven culture, and questions that we don’t necessarily associate with authentic learning.


On the right are a list of questions that fill my inbox on a daily basis – usually from my friends and colleagues in the complicated journey with not just digital portfolios but redesigned curriculum, redesigned assessment, new staffing structures, and new course offerings.


What do you notice about both columns? As I said, I like patterns. What I notice is that our students as learners is far from the focus of either column. Ultimately shifting towards communicating student learning through digital tools should not about our egos.


As professional learners, we have the responsibility to seek experiences that question our practices so we can feel intense moments of frustration, perhaps anger. Without intense emotions we can’t commit to being revolutionary and transformative. We owe it to our learners to get over ourselves, so that THEY can truly be our focus.

Engaging the Digital Learner: May 2 EdTalks & Jennie Magiera

#SD36learn EdTalks:

Brette Barreiros (Kindergarten Teacher)
The Power of Voice: Exploring the Possibilities

Carol Sirianni (Fine Arts Helping Teacher)
Arts Education for Everyone

Seth Young (student at Johnston Heights Secondary)
IB Personal Projects: My Hoverboard

Ami Kambo (English, First Nations Studies, Work Experience Teacher)
Engage, Inspire, Be Vulnerable! Sharing Our Stories for Endless Possibilities in the Classroom

Marc Garneau (K-12 Numeracy Helping Teacher)
Teach like a…

Keynote Speaker:

Jennie Magiera
Courageous Edventures

#CSLcamp36 – April 12 Proceedings

Click HERE to view our #CSLcamp36 proceedings in Google Docs.
Add comments HERE.

#edvent2016: how do we hold back from hitting people who want to be hit?


I was honoured to be in the presence of inspiring, powerful, and passionate educational leaders at a wonderful event (Back to Basics: All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) hosted by Gabriel Pillay, Rose Pillay, & students of St. Mark’s College. Thank you for the invitation and what a wonderful theme from start to finish!


Transcript from #edvent2016.

My chosen line of the poem: don’t hit people.


I have one simple question for you today: How do we hold back from hitting people who want to be hit?

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Now, before you say it looks like Joe learned absolutely nothing from kindergarten, I want to give you some background behind this perspective. Before I became a classroom teacher I was on my way to becoming a family counsellor. I had studied everything from lifespan development, interpersonal dynamics, to the ever changing family context. However, I had a passion for studying parent-child relationships.  I was fascinated by the categorization of parent-child relationships into dimensions such as secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized. I was thrilled with having a means to understand the relationships I had with my own parents, and how we fit into the “Canadian context of family.”

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You see, I come from a Chinese family. My parents immigrated to Vancouver in 1979, and my brother and I were born in the late eighties. My family was the epitome of Chinese collectivist culture – individual passions and desires were out of the question; rather, family goals took precedence over all personal decisions. In the occasion that we strayed from the family’s desires, we were reprimanded promptly, often with some form of corporal punishment.

My first year of formal schooling was definitely an experience for me, not to mention for those around me. You see, I was not a very patient or easy child. I was what you’d call – spirited.

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I wanted to do things, and I wanted to do them yesterday. Consequently, the following phrases were often used with me: Now Joe, what is a better choice when it’s not up to you? Don’t hit others, Joe. Would you want someone to hit you?

And a common question that’s used with me up until today:  Joe, is this a big problem, or a little problem?

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In my current work with teachers, building human capacity in the context of communicating student learning, I have realized the same shifts we have made around shifting the focus away from us as authorities, to students and their individual passions – needs to happen with professional learning.

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Just like students who ask “what is the answer, just tell me the answer and I’ll remember it,” we have well-trained teachers, including myself, who do the same: “tell me what the reporting order will be and I’ll just do it,” “just give me a template to do formative assessment in class and I’ll do it”

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In other words: Just hit me. Hit me with that information. I need to know information in order to change.

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So far in my experiences participating in professional development, consuming hour-long lectures, half day sessions around one topic, full day sessions where my lips and body don’t move,  I’ve realized two qualities about professional learning where hitting professionals with information is the focus:

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  1. Hitting distracts from professional learning.

When we hit people with information, the how-to-do a strategy, about something as personal and emotional as teaching practices, it becomes more about the transmission of the how-to, and the replication of a strategy outside of someone else’s lived experiences, rather than the true ownership of what we do and who we are, seeing the purpose and reason for making shifts in our learning and practice.

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  1. Hitting prioritizes compliance.

One question I got over and over when I first started my work with Communicating Student Learning was: Joe, what’s your mandate? I thought: What’s my mandate? What do I want to impose on my colleagues? What do I want to tell people to do?

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While we encourage sharing of teachers’ journeys and work, I am often hesitant to tell people what is “best practice” only to have my colleagues think that to be current in their practice means they have to do things a certain way and best practice is the end.

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In fact it’s quite the opposite, I’d rather my colleagues realize that it’s more about “next practice,” practice for the future, that is more important in empowering our learners for the future.


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How do we hold back from telling people what to do, what to know, how to do it, even if they express frustration with not knowing, ask for templates, fall on district mandates? How do we engage our professional learners in a way that sparks their own curiosities while releasing the perception of having to learn yet another thing?

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And how do we shift from hitting each other with information to hitting each other with motivation?


#CSLcamp36 Day 1: Topics & Schedule (participant-generated)

#CSLcamp36: Day 1 Topics (PDF)



Opening Space: An Introduction to #CSLcamp36

When I first started in this position in late October I must say that I was completely overwhelmed. Most of you who I’ve already met through the first few months can attest to this as I’m a fairly open book, especially with my emotions: frantically running around to schools giving workshops and speaking at staff meetings, department head meetings, pre-service teacher sessions, parent nights, and conferences – delivering the same message.

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What happened as I roamed from school to school, district to district I realized that if I put myself, conceptually, in a position where I was the source of information for Secondary Communicating Student Learning, the job became more about me, the perceived authority that came from being a helping teacher, and the impression that Communicating Student Learning was something that would be mandated down to a teacher’s every move by a district. The last thing I wanted my work to be was a platform to preach and teach, plan and sell, stand and deliver, and ask then tell.

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CSLcamp, using the vision of Open Space, was born when I found that the most powerful realizations and progress happened during times of connection, choice, and space outside of a usual workshop. The side conversations, personal sharing, and ultimately – relatability – strengthens a common purpose. When we are able to connect with others with similar questions, we share our stories and progress, and continue to ask more questions, deepening not only our learning and passion into our work, but to deepen the connections that make our work have purpose. With deepened connections and personal freedoms, learning, community, and collective spirits move our focus to what really matters most: the experiences we create for students, and the empowerment of students to realize their capabilities as learners.

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So I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Open Space gets us moving, thinking, and sharing. The bad news: that may mean that things are going to be different from before. Wanted things appear, unwanted things disappear – but sometimes vice versa. And this is a true life lesson – that sometimes what we may have to let go of what we want – we can start to think about professional learning opportunities such as this as being lessons for real life just as we consider crafting real-life lessons for students.  In short: Open Space brings life back to organization and organizations back to life.

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One of the questions that we may all have: What will happen today? We never know what will happen when we “open the space.” But we all are responsible to make sure that the most important issues for all of us will be raised, the most important ideas, discussions, data, recommendations, and questions will be documented, and we will all consider the impact others have had on our practices looking to the next session and the next school year.

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When you all walked in here today, you were asked to pick up a name tag and four stickers to show your interest in various topics around communicating student learning. Each of the topics on the boards was recommended by participants at this session during registration. Today’s schedule will be designed based on interest – consequently, the agenda as it stands at the moment has no topics.

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You get to pick the topics. In a few minutes we’ll take a short break, I’ll take a look at the board, and I’ll post the session topics for the first session. You may have noticed that there are four distinct zones of the room, all labelled with my favourite magical beasts – dragons, griffins, phoenixes, and unicorns. This is where our chosen sessions will take place. However, you will also notice that there are tables that are not part of those clusters. These tables are meant to be used for any purpose: for example, if you feel the need to break from your existing group to explore a specific focus with someone, you may choose to use these tables; or if you meet a small group in one session and want to continue working into the next session because the first session didn’t give you enough time, also feel free to you these tables. Listen to your feet: just because you start off in one session to begin the hour doesn’t mean you have to be there the entire time. All that I ask is that you continue to connect with others, share your experiences, and continue to question together.

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The goal at the end of today is not to solve all of our issues surrounding Communicating Student Learning: that’s why we have at least two sessions one month apart – but frankly, some issues won’t come up until later, until attempts are made, until we go back into our schools, share with our colleagues, and inform our practices.

We have a platform to document all of our conversations, thoughts, and plans moving forward from today. Each of the four zones has a sign with a list of URLs that link to Google Docs for each session that takes place at that zone. Take some time to log into those Google Docs to see the guides for recording issues, ideas and samples, recommendations, and further questions. After our session today, I will compile and send all of the proceedings to you in the coming week. These proceedings will serve as a jumping point for our May 24th session.

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Finally, the purpose for using Open Space today is based on the fact that Communicating Student Learning fits the conditions for such an open format:

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  • Complexity: communicating student learning is bigger than any one person, group, or area of expertise to fully address
  • Diversity: communicating student learning requires a wide variety of different kinds of stakeholders with a wide diversity of interests
  • Conflict: real or potential, communicating student learning brings out passionate situations and causes people to care enough to fight for or about it
  • Urgency: when the time for decisions and actions around communicating student learning was yesterday

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ONE DAY to #CSLcamp36

Good evening #CSLcamp36 participants!

We are very excited to welcome you to CSLcamp and our new REC building tomorrow! Angela Monk and I set up the room this afternoon and we are more than happy with its possibilities with Open Space!

I am sending a quick amendment to the schedule for tomorrow. We will do our best to stay with this schedule so all of us can keep our existing plans!

Open Agenda:

8:30AM Check-in & Registration

8:40AM Opening Space: An Introduction

9:00AM Session 1

10:10AM Networking Break

10:20AM Session 2

11:30AM Lunch

12:10PM Session 3

1:15PM Networking Break

1:20PM Session 4

2:15PM Looking Ahead

Google Account

We will be using Google Docs tomorrow to document our discussions, ideas, questions, and recommendations. If you don’t have a Google Account already, I would recommend getting one so you can contribute to your group’s living document in real-time; however, this is not mandatory. Each table cluster will have a list of links to your session’s document. More details tomorrow!

Have a great rest tonight, and see you all tomorrow! 


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