Monday, February 14, 2011


The Alberta Initiatives in School Improvement conference was held in Edmonton on February 7 and 8.  All of our curriculum coordinators had the privilege of attending, and in some cases, giving sessions.  It was a wonderful experience to hear about other projects, reconnect with colleagues and reengerize to finish the year strong.

Dawne Kurtz-Mcnaught, AISI Coordinator

“We’re learning that early reading success and early writing success have a significant impact on successful high school completion. So one of our goals is quality literacy teaching for every child in every classroom.”

Kathy Anderson, Literacy

I was fascinated by the keynote on brain research and development. In our classrooms, we see kids who have come from such a variety of backgrounds - range of experiences, stage of development, genetic switches turned on or off, and even the stresses their parents felt during pregnancy...we must be so cognizant of each individual in our classroom and how to best meet their needs while not driving ourselves crazy.

The other thing I learned (or revisited) is the idea of rural schools working together to achieve great success. Even though our school divisions across Alberta are unique in their challenges and must create unique solutions, there is so much that we can learn from each other. Collaboration and building relationships are absolutely critical pieces to the AISI (and education!) puzzle.

Jenny McAusland, Literacy

The thing that I noticed the most had to do with difference between AISI projects across Alberta. Not surprisingly, I attended mostly literacy/technology sessions, and I have come to the realization that each district's project was born via a different set of circumstances. Some seemed to come from resources, and then the project was built around those resources; some were driven by assessment tools and results; and some were based on research/philosophy, which was translated into a clear vision. Kind of like the "planned" VS "unplanned" child; both will grow- both can thrive, but as our Keynote said, the stresses we expose our "children" to have an impact on who they are- we are our experiences.

Rowena Stewart, Literacy

Dr. Bryan Kolb’s presentation on brain research was enlightening and challenging. It truly reinforced that every opportunity, conversation and enrichment activity in which we engage our students (and our children) have the potential to impact their lives forever. Consequently, each new day presents opportunity for impact.

Corry Stark, Division 1/2 Math

It is very enlightening to hear the challenges that various projects have encountered and how they have worked together to overcome them. By hearing the passion in the presenters, you can truly tell the amount of effort that people are putting in order for their project to be successful. I love to hear how various projects are organized.
Deb Stone, Division 3 Math

AISI 11 achieved several goals. It introduced innovative ideas in the areas of peer coaching, solutions for scheduling, awesome hands-on, ready-for-classrooms math activities; it reinforced the direction we are taking to improve student engagement and success; and lastly it provided an excellent opportunity to build further resources for the Numeracy III AISI project.
Joan Coy, Division 4 Math

For the inquiry approach, the teacher is more aptly described as an activator rather than a facilitator. A concept I feel is central to success in implementing project based learning.


Lynn Nordhagen, Division 4 Social Studies

We need to share as educators because collectively we can be experts! We also need to ask questions of ourselves like 'am I further ahead today than I was yesterday'? Or 'how can we keep challenging ourselves to engage our students in inquiry based learning'? There was also a lot of great 21st century learning ideas: that technology is not the only 21st skill students need--they need to collaborate, think critically, and be able to access and interpret the information surrounding them 24/7. As for web 2.0 tools teachers can use (or get students to help them use): social media, photostory 3, storybird, google docs, voicethread, glogster, bitstrips, gizmos, etc. One of the great successes for this conference for myself and some of my fellow participants is the use of twitter as a learning and collaboration tool--why only sit and learn about one session when you can learn and comment on what is happening throughout the whole conference? One of the may ways we can collaborate as a group or as an international community of educators to become experts in our fields.
Farouq Hassanali, Division 4 Science

Every experience physically changes the brain. Thoughts are experiences. What a teacher makes a student think – about his/her abilities or about the world – changes his/her brain. As teachers we need to remember that (especially when we start thinking our roles and responsibilities are limited).

Jen Clevette, Educational Technology
AISI comes in many different shapes and sizes.  Some school divisions hire a coordinator and then distribute the money and leadership among their schools, others keep the project to a small number of schools, others to the entire district.  There are lead teachers, instructional coaches, curriculm coordinators and much more.  In the end it always came down to relationships, time and working together to improve teacher practice. 

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