CASA Day 2

Today I began in a session hosted by Hamilton Wentworth District School Board They provided some excellent information on their strategies that they were implementing to meet the needs of students in the 21st century. An interesting quote that caused me to reflect was, “Learning should never stop, it must be engaging and have relevance to the learner.” One of the reasons that this statement has caused me to reflect is that no where does it mention technology. It is all about student engagement and relevance which is clearly 21st century learning. Technology may be needed to engage and build relevance but it is still only a tool. It still requires excellent teacher pedagogy and is therefore more about the headware than the hardware.

21st century fluencies continues to be a focus from the district point of view. They have outlined their defintions of these fluencies in a clear and concise manner  These fluencies should really be common sense for educators and in today’s educational world should be non-negotiable. How can you argue with solution, information, creativity, media or collaboration fluency?  

The next session I attended was presented by Thames Valley District School Board The focus of their presentation was on the use of handheld or mobile devices. What I came away with was more questions than answers which is exactly what I need in order to continue on my learning journey. Simple questions like managing iTunes accounts for our classroom sets of iPads or iPods, caused me to reflect on what we need to do. Is there a need for a corporate strategy to assist/enable this to occur? Another consideration came from our table talk: Should we be in the business of providing devices for our students or providing the infrastructure for the use of these devices? I’m a big believer that handheld devices, cellphones, smartphones, etc, should be in our schools, responsibly used for educational purposes. Students should not have to “power down” when they walk into our schools. It is time to remove these barriers with good thought to further engage our students.

There were a couple of additional resources that I would like to share with you. The first is the Horizon Report 2011. I would also suggest thatt you look up the New Media Consortium website It certainly has a wealth of information especially if you’re looking at acceptable use policies. Finally, for those interested in furthering their knowledge on handheld devices, take a look at the book, “Toys to Tools” from ISTE

Immediately following lunch, Lorelie Lenaour and I presented on our journey in Holy Spirit. We tried to mimic what we had done in the last couple of years, using conversations, Moodle and showing video clips of many of our activities. Our demonstration illustrated our commitment to move our entire LLT forward on the path of 21st century learning. It was cause for celebration and was well received.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference and then I head back to Lethbridge. The opportunity to share conversations with educators from across Canada is powerful professional development. It has been a very worthwhile learning experience.


CASA Conference Day 1

I’m sitting in my room after the first day of the CASA Conference on 21st Century Learning contemplating today’s sessions that I attended. It has been an interesting day on a number of different levels.  As a beginning user of Twitter, I began the day with only 7 tweets. Throughout the day I have made it to 24 tweets and followed a number of participants at the conference. That may not seem consequential to most technology gurus but to a newophyte like me, I’m pretty happy.

Although still a little tired from the travelling, I am invigorated with the learning that I am engaged in right now! It’s not that the information received today is all new, in fact much is common to our leaders in Holy Spirit. But, the information that I heard today either (a) pushed me to want to learn and lead more or (b) reaffirmed that we are doing many of the right things in Holy Spirit.

My morning sessions were spent with Ian Jukes. I have listened to Ian on a number of occasions including the opportunity when we brought him via videoconferencing to work with our Learning Leadership Team (LLT) and Tech Leads last year. Often he makes you uncomfortable because he pushes you to places where quite honestly you may not be ready to go. However, in the end, the education system has to continue to be transformed and that transformation sometimes requires a push.  We need to remember that as educators, we have been in the “schooling” system since we have been 6 years of age and sometimes it is difficult to see outside the box when it is still sitting on our heads.

It is hard to imagine what the world is going to be like in 20 years. Yet, in education we must prepare our students for their future! So what are some core competencies/skills that we must teach our students so they can lead a future that is vastly unknown. The list that Jukes provided is probably very similar to those that most of us would create: problem solving; creativity; think analytically; collaborate; communicate; ethics, action, accountability. If these are the  agreed skills that need to be cultivated in our schools, what are we doing to instill these skills in our classrooms? That is the question to be addressed by all educators!  This type of transformation will come only with a shift from teaching to learning, memorizing to understanding, evaluation to assessment, passive to active and isolated to connected learning. As leaders in education, we must drive that change.

A great example of that change in process was presented by Tom D’Amico, Superintendent of Student Success- Learning Technologies of Ottawa Catholic School Board. They began their journey in 2010 from the board level and senior administration. Their document, Towards 2020, Connecting with our Students, is an outstanding example of system visionary leadership by looking at grade 2 students and what they want for them when they get to grade 12. 

Every division needs to start to define what our students need to prepare them for the future and then DO IT!  I will guarantee it will be “just in time” learning and not “just in case” learning. We also need to anticipate and accept that becoming a 21st century division is a messy process; it is not a linear process, it is dynamic! And as leaders in our systems or our schools, we need to recognize it is not for the faint of heart.

But isn’t that why we got into education… to change the world.



Heading to CASA

Tomorrow morning, I’m heading to Niagara Falls for the annual CASA conference. This year, Division Principal, Lorelie Lenaour and I are presenting on “Engaging the 21st Century Learner”. We will be speaking about the initiatives that Holy Spirit has engaged during the past couple of years.

From the Desk of the Superintendent

June is here… the last month of the 2010- 2011 school year! There will be a multitude of activities in our schools with closing assemblies, liturgies and field trips. Students, especially in our high schools will be preparing for their final exams. Before you know it, summer holidays will be upon us.

At the Regular Board Meeting in May, the main topic of discussion was the Preliminary Budget for 2011-2012. It is never an easy budget when your revenues are decreased, but I believe that we have addressed the priorities of the division even with scarce resources. Over the past three years, schools and the division as a whole has been extremely frugal and conservative in their spending which has minimized the impact faced by many other divisions throughout the province. For more information on the budget, please click here. The Board of Trustees reviewed and made changes to the following policies: Policy 11: Staff Code of Conduct and Policy 19: Nepotism. Please refer to our Board Meeting Briefs for more information.

There were two information items that deserve special attention from the Board Meeting. The first is the “Spirit Sings” CD. Each of our schools, plus a staff choir, recorded a sacred song for this project. With support from Fr. Tim and All Saints Parish, we recorded this beautiful compilation of songs at St. Patrick Church over a three day period. The CD will be available at our next “Spirit Sings” Concert, scheduled for October 25, 2011. Special thanks to Shelley Baier, principal of St. Patrick Fine Arts Elementary, for her organization of this initiative, and to all the support from our 13 schools.

The second piece of information that I would like to highlight from our Board Meeting is the May 2011 Accountability Pillar Report. Once again, Holy Spirit continues to demonstrate very high achievement and excellence. These results can be attributed to highly committed and competent staffs who engage our students on a daily basis. Our students, your children, are well supported in Holy Spirit and, as Superintendent of Schools, I continue to be very proud of our results. To view our overall summary, please click here.

As this is my last “From the Desk of the Superintendent” update for this school year, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with our Holy Spirit community. We know that it takes a village to raise a child and we are blessed to have a strong village with Holy Spirit. I would like to wish our students the best of luck in their coming exams and sincerely thank our parents and families for their continued support. The staff we have are exceptional and I am most appreciative of the work they do for our students. And finally, I would like to thank our Board of Trustees for the support I have received again this year as Superintendent of Schools.

Enjoy the last month of school and have a safe and blessed vacation!

God Bless,

Christopher Smeaton,
Superintendent of Schools