All posts by Donna Fry

I am a Secondary School Principal in Northwestern Ontario, currently on secondment with the Ontario Ministry of Education as the Provincial Lead for Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching, a proud member of OSAPAC, co-lead of OSSEMOOC, and a member of the Board of Directors of ECOO.

What’s Best For Kids?

For the past 24 hours I have been participating in the rich, immediate conversations in The Innovator’s Mindset Voxer Group.

Last night, we were thinking a lot about the challenges of innovating from the middle.  When we challenge leaders to innovate their practice, we are seen as “rogues”, as troublemakers (I can’t tell you how much this reminds me of bright, creative children in a classroom!)

In response (at 1:30 a.m. I might add), George Couros generously jumped in and said that it is important to do “what is best for kids”.

And this is exactly where I see the problem.

As educators, we all want to do what is best for kids.

Perhaps “what is best” for a child is passing the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test so that he might graduate.

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In that case, the “best for kids” strategy is to teach the child to write a news report, and to practice it over and over again so that they might pass the test necessary for graduation.

An innovative educator might suggest that in a world where media companies are failing, and people are getting their news through Facebook (CBC Radio Noon, Feb. 4, 2016), Buzzfeed, Twitter, etc., that writing a news report is a ridiculous bar for graduation from secondary school.

What is “best for kids”?

Until the structures in the system align, until we can clearly articulate what school is for, what is “best for kids” will be blurry.

We need even better arguments to insist on innovative practices to meet the needs of our learners in 2016 and beyond.

Please join The Innovator’s Mindset Voxer group and keep the conversation going!IMG_2004



What Does Innovation Mean to Me? BlogHop for #InnovatorsMindset

This post is part of a blog hop on innovation.  Details can be found here.


Innovation in Education is…

For me, innovation in education has two parts:

a) successfully navigating barriers to create an inclusive, participatory, and responsive learning environment for everyone, and

b) building relationships to successfully and collaboratively break down those barriers to innovation.

We can’t wait for the barriers to come down.  Learning needs are too urgent.  We need to work around the barriers to meet those learning needs.

But at the same time, we can’t stop working to bring those barriers down, in a way that is supported by our community of learners.


Innovation requires connections.  Education 3.0 is all about connections.  More connections means more ideas, which leads to better ideas (Crowd accelerated innovation).

Shared by Dr. Jackie Gerstein under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license
Shared by Dr. Jackie Gerstein under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license

What are the Barriers?

CEA recently looked at barriers to change in education.

  • The system values kids who fit the mould.  They do school or they leave school.


  • Time (scheduled classes) is a constraint on learning – experiential learning, without the constraints of time, is what we often remember as valuable


Image shared by Lisa Neale, Principal, Ancaster Senior Public School
Image shared by Lisa Neale, Principal, Ancaster Senior Public School
  • Confining physical spaces – having to learn in specific places.
  • Competition at all levels is negative – competition among students, competition among schools, competition among school districts (e.g., which of 4 boards in Ontario will you enrol you child in?)


  • Competition limits spread of ideas because there is value in a higher ranking.  Sharing makes it more difficult to win, yet ideas are needed for innovation.


  • Fear of being judged.  This is a pervasive response from both students and educators.  Has “growth mindset” thinking made a difference?  We can’t do amazing things with kids without the courage to get over the fear of being judged.


  • Creative risk takers?  We need innovative leaders, yet rarely are creative risk takers seen  as leaders in education.


Shared by Karl Baron under a CC-BY-2.0 license.
Shared by Karl Baron under a CC-BY-2.0 license.

One of the biggest barriers to innovation in education is that the two-digit number that represents children, and where they rank among their peers, determines the learning they will have access to in the future.

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Shared by Dean Shareski under a CC-BY-NC-2.0 license.

We decide on the available education paths by the average mark on the school report card.

When you create a system where a mark determines a future, you can’t ever make it about something else.

Learning to work around and through barriers, while maintaining positive relationships, is successful educational innovation – making the learning needs of all our students the true priority.

Shared by Andrew Forgrave under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 licence.
Shared by Andrew Forgrave under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 licence.


Some other thinking about Innovation from Ontario Educators:

Stacey Wallwin

Jennifer Casa-Todd

Tina Zita

Paul McGuire

Patrick Miller

Mark Carbone

Check out more at OSSEMOOC!

*Featured Image created by Tina Zita


CEA: Innovation means giving up control

CEA: Sources of Innovation (Stephen Hurley)










Learning not Grades: Answers from #Educon

Educon, for me, has always been such a hotbed of fresh ideas.

This year, the theme of Educon 2.8 is EMPOWERMENT.

Here is part of the Friday night panel conversation that seriously resonated with me.  I didn’t ask the question, but I am thankful to the person who did.

How do we transform students from learning for their grades to learning for knowledge?



College in some ways hinders that opportunity for growth when it comes to ideas.  I have said to my sister, “Don’t go to college.  I will help you create an idea instead”.

Will your fails from your ideas be bigger than the debt from going to college?  When you go to college you come out with big debt and then you have to work for someone else to pay it off.

“It isn’t that important to have good grades.  The work ethic involved in getting those good grades, though, will help with building your own company.”

Jeff Boodie @jboodie @jobsnap



I definitely think that children love to learn, they love knowledge, but I think students have become a victim, a monster of sorts, that we create, and they are the ones…

the culture we create, creates the kind of student that only understands learning in terms of grades, and so it’s not that young people have to fix that, it’s that we as educators and school administrators and as a culture have to figure out…

which is what Jeff was exactly alluding to…

which that we have gotten to such a narrow path of understanding.

I would really think that it is our ultimate challenge as the educators of children and leaders of learning to understand that we are we on a very, very narrow path of knowledge, and defining it, and reducing it, and measuring it, and KILLING it, ultimately.

And so that is the thing that has to change on OUR end before we can expect our kids to do it.”

Helen Gym @HelenGym2015

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(Shouldn’t this be a priority in our teacher education programs?)

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How do we transform students from learning for their grades to learning for knowledge? What do you think?





Future Ready – Are We? 10/10

What is Future Ready?

Jon Phillips – Managing Director, Worldwide Education, Dell Inc.


This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina!


This morning, I had the opportunity to listen to Jon Phillips speak on the concept of Future Ready, and what we know about how to do this in our school systems.  Below are my notes from his session, outlining some of the key messages.

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  • IT and curriculum – they are no longer separate.  They must work together.  [This made me consider the work we do at TELO – capacity building for both TELT Contacts (pedagogy focus) and DeLCs (technology focus).]

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  • We have to build technology enabled critical thinkers.
  • The learning environment is as critical as the curriculum.
  • Student-led learning – this is easier said than done given the current structures that define the system.


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  • Successful schools have a restlessness and ongoing passion for continuous improvement.
  • Information is important, and the whole nature of information has changed.  Access to information is even more important than the information.
  • How are our ideas of student behaviour and achievement in conflict with students’ own ideas of what this needs to look like?

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  • Professional learning is crucial to move from teacher-centered to learner-centered practices in a 1:1 learning environment

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  • Approximately 3 years of ongoing and embedded professional learning is required for teachers to be proficient in a 1:1 student-led learning setting.  This is not about “doing” PD.  It must MODEL student-centered learning with teacher-centered learning.  (This made me wonder – If this is the way forward, is it the way student teachers are learning in their professional programs?)
  • Do we have common language and common understanding of how we use technology?  How do we define the terminology like blended learning, eportfolio, elearning, online collaboration.  [Do we all see the same things in our heads when we use these words? I don’t think we are even close to this.]

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Key elements of change:

  1. Project based learning – studying the “process” of the project. Ask questions like: How did you build this? How did you arrive at this question?  How do we DOCUMENT the process of learning, not just the products.  How do we make the process more important than a test score?

2. School wide projects where students explore passions.

3. More and more creative Internships.

4. Student driven action research projects.

5. Authentic service learning.

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Thinking about “Makerspaces”

Can we allow students to design the room?

What is a maker space?  It is a physical community workspace.

It connects the library philosophy of content, technology, spaces and each other – 4 key pillars

  • Emphasize high tolerance
  • Identify that failure is high
  • Have apparent support from administration

With every concept in learning, is there something we can physically make and/or do?

How do we have all of this work together?

How do we build Future Ready Momentum?

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Do we hire based on this kind of thinking?



When the slides for this presentation are available, I will post the link here.

What do you think of this?  Technology enhanced learning or Technology enabled learning? #TELT

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When Will You Be Ready? 9/10

Are we preparing our students for the world we grew up in or the world they are growing up in?*


This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina!


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This image of disruptive technologies caught my interest this morning.  I see that John Mikton has written further on this image here.

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Over and over we see images of the fast pace of change in the world.

Over and over we hear that schools are becoming irrelevant because they are not changing fast enough.

Over and over we hear about goals for student achievement that include no technology integration whatsoever.

Over and over we hear stories from parents – my child spent four nights at the kitchen table colouring maps this week, or my child got a 0 because one word was spelled incorrectly.

Over and over we hear from leaders and educators that they are “not ready” to integrate technology into their practice.

Where are the rights of the children in these scenarios?

Tina Zita asked this recently:

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I responded with a link to Tom Whitby’s post here.

How do we stop illiterate educators?

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Is educating our students for their world a priority in your school?


What Drives Student Achievement?

*With special thanks to Patti Pella, Thunder Bay Regional Manager, Field Services Branch, for asking this question in one of our learning sessions: “Are we preparing our students for the world we grew up in or the world they are growing up in?”

Innovation in Secondary School: The #ELADSB Journey – 8/10

How can we provide rich digital learning environments to ensure that all students have access to the pathways they need for success?


This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina!


Over the past 2 years, I have been incredibly fortunate to be learning with an innovative group of eLearning educators in Algoma District School Board.

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Last spring, the group shared their story with Ontario at On The Rise K-12.  David Truss was a keynote speaker at the event, and as a leader in the Inquiry Hub, we shared many ideas around how to engage all students in rich, authentic, relevant learning opportunities.

Recently David connected me with his colleague, Will Eaton, and I offered to share the work of the #elADSB educators to give him some idea of how Ontario is working to use innovative strategies to make online learning an exceptional opportunity for secondary students.

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In Algoma District School Board, there is a 3-year commitment to eLearning teachers to provide opportunity and the supports needed to work on a collaborative inquiry around best practices in eLearning.  During the first year, over 20 teachers worked together to think about how to move from text-based online courses, to online instruction that put relationships ahead of content, and utilized a strong understanding of student assessment to allow for choice in how students demonstrated evidence of meeting course expectations.

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The Theory of Action for Year 1 was: “If we as e-learning teachers develop rich learning tasks for/with our students and IF our courses incorporate effective on-line collaboration and communication strategies (s-s, s-t, t-s, s-w,t-w) THEN students will become more actively engaged RESULTING IN a positive experience and a stronger sense of classroom community”.

The story has been captured in this video:

Several of the eLearning teachers in Algoma District School Board are now blogging about their work, and it is worth learning about their personal journeys.

Brandon Grasley

Laura Mitchell

Joe Caruso

Kaila Wyslocky

As well, some of the educators who have been brought in to support aspects of the collaborative inquiry can be found online here:

Mark W. Carbone

Kathy Pick

Heather Theijsmeijer

Ron Canuel

We shared some of our ideas for growth in this video: What’s Your Next?

We have shared some of our thinking on our Flickr site

Be sure to share your ideas and resources about online learning using the #eladsb hashtag on Twitter.

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We Don’t Think Differently (or do we?) – 7/10

Do we think differently, or have we just learned differently?

This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina!



You’ve felt that right?

You know, it happens when you say something like, “Why would we not just share that openly on a blog for everyone to see?” – and the room goes silent.

For those of us in the Lone Wolf Pack, this is our normal.

We are told that we “think differently”.

I’m not sure I buy that.  I am not sure that I believe we “think differently”. I wonder if we have just been through very different learning experiences.

We have been learning as networked, connected learners for years – decades in fact.  We have been learning in spaces yet to be discovered, yet to be respected, yet to be acknowledged by the status quo in our profession.

We have been learning different content.  We have been learning through ideas.

Ideas just pop into our network all the time.  Seeing and exploring new ideas daily, hourly, but the minute almost, is what we do.

We have had the time to share, converse, think through, research, challenge, ask about – to form thinking about – millions of ideas from around the world.

Then we throw out one of these ideas f2f,  and silence.

We are called names, like “rogue“.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.14.05 AMIt’s not so much that we might think differently, it’s that we learn differently.

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We learn through education 3.0, in a profession that is talking 2.0 while remaining firmly entrenched in 1.0.



And that’s the problem.


Shared by Dr. Jackie Gerstein under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license
Shared by Dr. Jackie Gerstein under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license


Featured Image: Shared by Dr.  Jackie Gerstein  under a CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 license


Dear Lone Wolf by David Truss (@datruss)


We Feel Lost – by Will Richardson

35 Years Later – by Tina Zita


Katie Martin: 5 Reasons Professional Development is not Transforming Learning.

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