The Reflection Pool

Andrew Kelly – #HWDSBaccelerate

I first met Andrew Kelly as a classroom teacher. His curiosity, questioning and deep thinking stood out then and are even more evident now. Andrew embraces learning and always welcomes others’ viewpoints as he seeks to understand. Andrew’s blog Stop Start Continue showcases his thinking and provides entry points for any educator and parent. He talks below more about why he loves to blog. You’ll find his ideas fascinating!

What is your role in HWDSB?IMG_20160517_194834 (1)

Currently I am a Character Networks Pathways Teacher.  Using the CPS approach, I work with teachers, EAs and administrators to figure out how to best support students who display challenging behaviour. Beginning in September, I’ll be working with the 21CL team supporting the TLE project in Special Education classes.

What led you into education?

I got into teaching for two reasons: my interest in History and a desire to positively impact others. I figured I was signing up for a job where I’d be delivering Chomsky-influenced lectures on U.S. foreign policy during the day (probably wearing a tweed vest) and editing lengthy essays in the evenings.  Although my job doesn’t resemble my initial vision of how my career would play out, I feel fortunate to be in an occupation devoted to removing barriers and empowering young people.

What are you go-to pieces of tech?

My Lenovo ThinkPad R500 is my work laptop.  Originally designed in 2008, it weighs a ton and doesn’t have any bells or whistles but the extended battery pack helps with longer meetings.  Because I travel between 15 schools, I use web-based tools to collaborate on plans with staff on a regular basis.  The R500, although almost a decade old, is fast enough to access web-based applications such as GAFE, WordPress, and Piktochart.  Proof you can be connected without having the newest tech.

Last year I got rid of my iPhone and switched to Android.  The customization options, innovative apps and relative low-cost of the device made it an easy decision.  My Moto X phone is my go-to piece of tech.  Main uses: Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, podcasts.

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Twitter or something else?

Twitter really is a game-changer for professional development.  The staff room, hallways, structured PD, AQs…all of these places where PD traditionally occurs have their value, but they’re limited in the audience and the ideas to which you have access.  Twitter allows you to connect with (or even silently observe) educators in your district and beyond.  One hashtag that broadens my perspective and enriches my professional learning is #educolor.  Equity and anti-oppressive practices are foundational parts of my pedagogical stance (and Twitter feed) and #educolor is an easy way to stay current and keep these things in the front of my mind. Checking out these hashtags and following some of the active contributors is a must (@RusulAlrubail and @ChrisEmdin are good places to start).

Other hashtags I frequent:

#criticalpedagogy

#selfreg

#TMCtalks

My next steps on Twitter are to explore #MakerEd, #MakerSpaces, and to participate in one weekly chat session.

In addition to Twitter, I listen to education-based podcasts and find them a great tool for accelerating my learning.  I regularly listen to Ross Greene’s parenting podcast, his school-related podcast, and to the House of #EdTech podcast.  Since I drive between schools, podcasts really work for me and my schedule.

How has technology shifted the way you learn?

Being a connected educator allows for quick access to a wide range of sources allowing for professional learning that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. It’s not just about learning new concepts or ideas but also about finding inspiration.  Twitter extends the reach beyond your in-person PLN. For example, I follow Dan Scratch, a progressive educator who is truly empowering students at Inner-City High School in Edmonton.  Inspiration also comes from inside the HWDSB and the group of educators that contribute to the online community by tweeting or blogging their ideas and experiences.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wondering how to use tech to accelerate their learning?

Start blogging.  No other tech-supported learning compares to it.  It feels risky to put your ideas into public space, but educator generated content is what drives the learning for everyone else. Additionally, an enormous amount of thought goes into one blog post, causing personal reflection while challenging you to both articulate and justify your pedagogy. Simply put, blogging connects you in a way that “lurking” doesn’t.  So fire up the WordPress and give it a try!

Behind this series: Inspired by the innovative and trailblazing Royan Lee and the #workflow series on his Spicy Learning BlogI’m asking connected educators around our district how they use technology to accelerate their learning.  In HWDSB, we’ve been talking about how to transform relationships, environments and learning opportunities. The driver is pedagogy, but the accelerator is technology. I’m hopeful that educators’ insights and experiences will kickstart a conversation and even spark some action.

Do people do well if they want to, or if they can?

The phrase, people do well if they can, has been echoing in my head for the past few weeks. It’s a new way of thinking about others.

My upbringing included the “work hard and don’t complain” belief.  One of its underlying messages was that people do well if they want to.  That meant if you didn’t do well, there was something wrong with you. You were lazy. You didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t want to. You chose not to do well.

I suspect that I’m not alone in this.  I can see it clearly in how our society deals with people in our homes, in our workplaces and on the streets.

What if we switched the script? 

Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, has done just that.  He believes that people do well if they can. Under the leadership of Shelley Woon, our district is beginning to try to change the script as well. Educators are using Greene’s ideas with children in classrooms to create environments where they can do well. We start with this idea that students want to be successful, to be happy, and to do well. If they aren’t, we try to figure out what is missing for them and what we can do to help. It’s not about children choosing to behave well or trying harder.

But it’s not just about our kids.  It’s about all the people we serve.

I’m thinking about the employee whose attendance is very irregular. Or the dad who comes in to the office yelling about a situation. Or anyone else whose actions seem problematic to you. Understanding what is behind someone’s behaviour is an important part of working with them. It doesn’t mean that we accept the behaviour or want them to shirk their responsibility, simply that there has to be more to it than someone who doesn’t feel like doing well.

If I believe that people do well if they can, what part can I play in creating an environment for them to do so?