11 - Shift Your What? Elephant!

Every student is amazing, every student has gifts and every student has a pathway. That’s the message that Geoff Sheppard would like everyone to hear. We met Geoff near the end of January, when he was getting his Community Pathways Program students ready to present their annual Winter Tea. We were amazed to see so many students engaged in focus and purposeful work as they prepared the auditorium at MM Robinson High School for the event. Students were baking, setting up displays of work and troubleshooting the live feed to the Snow Shelter they had built outside.

When we arrived to record this podcast, weeks later, Geoff couldn’t wait to show us the Elephant that his students had been working on. We didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t what Geoff showed us. His students had created an amazing two person Elephant costume that was being used later that week by a HDSB elementary school for their school play. Seriously, the costume was epic and you can check it out below. While you are at it, have a listen to what Geoff has to say about building community and dealing with a different sort of Elephant in the room.

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10 - Shift Your What? Innovation!
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So the combination of snow and ice days might have slowed us down, but it hasn’t stopped us! In fact, the delay gave us an opportunity to sit down with Cindy Cosentino, the Instructional Program Leader of Science for the Halton District School Board. Cindy spent some time at the Ministry of Education working on “Innovation”. Her thinking helped ground The Shift in our early days and gave us a focal point for our own work.

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Cindy’s starting point at the Ministry was to define Innovation, to identify the skills that separate innovators from non-innovators and to capture the skills that need to exist for innovation to thrive in schools. Two years after starting The Shift, we thought it was important to revisit these early conversations and examine what, if anything, has changed for us.

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9 - Shift Your What? Wicked Problems!

Back in December, the Shift was visited by Taddy Blecher, a South African Education Entrepreneur. He was visiting North American on a fact finding mission for his latest Wicked Problem - incorporating Entrepreneurship Education into all schools and grades in South Africa. Taddy was leveraging his own personal connection to the Rotman School of Management and I-Think to find educators in the area to speak to.

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What followed was a great discussion with some Halton District School Board Science leaders and Rotman I-Think Fellows centred around how to scale up innovative education practice. If we want teachers to feel free to experiment and engage with their students in new ways of learning, leaders need to make sure there is a feeling of permission in their schools. We certainly learned a lot from the perspective and experience Taddy brought to the table.

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8 - Shift Your What? Future!

“This is the only class where I get to choose my classroom.” ~Co-op student . On this episode, we sat down with Kevin Kokerus, co-operative education teacher for Milton District High School, as well as our own co-op student this semester, William Baldwin to reflect on experiential learning through the co-op class and how it can be used to empower student choice in their learning. Kevin teaches self-advocacy and communication skills needed for students to grab hold of their own student created opportunities.

Have a listen to how a small rethink to how co-op is structured can lead to big change in offering real world opportunities for students.

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7 - Shift Your What? Semester Reflection!

Happy New Year Shifters and welcome back!

We are taking a small step sideways this episode for a few reasons. First, life before the holiday break got busy for several of our podcast guests. Second, life after the holiday break is no less busy. Third, we realized that semester one is quickly winding down. What better way to acknowledge that than by reflecting on the journey we’ve been on since September.

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6 - Shift Your What? Makerspace!

We will never forget the day when we finally understood the power of a Makerspace. In fact, the record of that visit has become our most read blog post. Since that day, we’ve had the opportunity to work with Amanda Williams-Yeagers on several occasions. She spearheaded the Empower book study last year and has been a great sounding board for us.

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Through her, we’ve also met Mark Maunder, a teacher in Milton who has totally reimagined his classroom space. The Innovation & Inquiry Lab at W.I. Dick Middle School has injected new energy into his teaching practice.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Mark and Amanda to discuss their own journey through the power of making.

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5 - Shift Your What? PD!

Professional development. Staff meetings. Everyone has had mixed experiences with these events. We can identify times where we’ve met as educators and learned a lot, times when we’ve been energized to try something new in our classrooms. We can also identify times when the model of PD or staff meetings has just not worked, times when the day drags and we leave feeling less inspired then we did at the beginning of the learning.

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We had the opportunity to present at Haltons’ Tech Enabled Lead Learner conference earlier this month. The day was an example of PD done right! Participants were engaged in real, hands on learning that could be directly applicable to their day to day classroom needs. Plus there was a robot greeting people at the door. We presented on “How to Podcast” but went one step further by inviting participants to share their own thoughts around how to Shift the PD we experience.

4 - Shift Your What? Thinking!

There are a few Big Ideas from Deeper Learning that we really enjoy experimenting with at The Shift. Of those, Defronting the Classroom, is one of the guiding principles we used when designing our Demonstration Classroom. The idea of defronting your classroom, when used in concert with the principles of the Thinking Classroom, is a powerful tool to transform a classroom.

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We sat down with Stephanie Briggs, Mathematics Program Leader at Iroquois Ridge High School and Nicole Jarvis, the HDSB Instructional Program Leader for Math to discuss the merits of Peter Lijledahl's Thinking Classroom and how it has the potential to shift not only math class, but other subjects as well in positive ways.

We enjoy working with the Thinking Classroom so much, we’ve also blogged about it!

3 - Shift Your What? Community!

Being home based at a Secondary School is proving to have a lot of advantages to our work. We’ve been working out of Milton District High School since September and this is giving us lots of opportunities to connect with educators we might not have otherwise met. Recently, we were asked to join Kathryn Compton-Morgan as she took her Applied English Classes on a field trip to Decode Adventures.

Students spent the afternoon engaged in a wide variety of team building activities, followed by a chance to complete one of the Escape Rooms on site. We were struck by the amount of community building that the teachers of these classes were engaged in. It was obvious to us that the classroom community was built with intention starting from day one.

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We wanted to hear more about how community was being built intentionally and with purpose in these applied courses. We sat down with Katherine Compton-Morgan, English Teacher and Karamjit Sangha-Bosland, the HDSB Instructional Program Leader for Equity and Inclusive Education to discuss what drove them to realize that continuously building community with their classes was important.

If you are interested in some easy community building activities that you can do with your classes tomorrow, check out some of the work we’ve collected here and here.

2 - Shift Your What? Design!

Shortly after the school year began, The Shift was scrolling through our own online professional learning network, looking for examples innovative classrooms. We were intrigued by what we were seeing from M. M. Robinson High School and their combined grade nine Math/Science program. Who wouldn’t be interested in an overnight field trip to the Ontario Science Centre?

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Steve Tolton and Maggie Warneke were nice enough to invite us into their classroom last week to talk about the genesis of the MMR Engineering program and why this program is serving the needs of their students. By keeping the class learning by doing, and seamlessly integrating the math with the science, they have created something truly special that is good for students. Steve and Maggie dig into why they built this program and give a little window into how they do it as well.  More information on MMR Engineering can be found here:

1) Updates posted on twitter @mrtoltonphysics

2) Video Updates: https://tinyurl.com/mmrengineeringupdates

3) All files for the program: https://tinyurl.com/mmrengineering


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1 - Shift Your What? School!

Well, it only took us 18 months, but we finally sat down and recorded a podcast. We are hoping to make this a semi-regular feature for us. We are interested in talking to educators who have made small shifts in their teaching practice, pedagogy or philosophy of education. We really want to know how those small changes made larger impacts with students, teachers or other community members.

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With help from Stephen Hurley from VoicEd Radio, we sat down with Jacqueline Newton, Superintendent of Education for the Halton District School Board to discuss the genesis of The Shift.