Thursday, April 24, 2014

Earthquakes, Technology & School Safety

An engineer sets up the shake table at the UBC facility 

Yesterday (April 23, 2014) a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit the west coast of Vancouver Island here in British Columbia.

As chance would have it, the previous day I had the opportunity to visit, along with a number of administrators and teachers from the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archdiocese, the UBC Earthquake Research Facility to begin the implementation and training process for the installation of an earthquake early warning system for the 49 Catholic schools located the greater Vancouver area.

News of the Vancouver area Catholic schools early warning system has been previously written about by various media outlets.

The following diagram helps explain how the Earthquake Early Warning system works:

iOS 5 Beta Pre Earthquake Warning Feature in iPhones | Tsunami Japan Softbank Mobile Ntt Docomo Notification System Multiple Users Mobile Carriers Mass Communication Magnitude Earthquake Kddi Japanese Users iPhone Ios Feature Phones Epicenter Eew Earthquake Warning Earth Japan Communication System Blackouts Alert Notification 3g Handsets

In short, the technology being used, detects P-waves (prior to the earth shaking) and leverages a connected communication network to notify all our schools immediately.

Learning about P-Waves from Dr. Ventura
If a P-wave, triggered by an earthquake, is detected in any one of our schools (we have 49 schools from Powell River to Chilliwack - 300 km apart) the networked technology will trigger an alarm in all our schools simultaneously.

This alarm will give teachers and students precious time to duck, cover and hold before the shaking actually begins.

There are also plans to develop a smart phone app that will be synced to the system - giving individuals earthquake notification directly to their phones.

The roll out of this warning system has already begun and is scheduled to be functional some time this fall.  As we prepare for its implementation I am left with a couple of thoughts:

  1. I am grateful for individuals who leverage technology to make a positive difference in our lives
  2. Mobile, networked technology can unite a system.
  3. I am hopefully that the work being done by our schools can lead to greater cooperation with other schools (public and independent) to help all students and teachers - like I've said before - they are ALL our children
  4. I can see how one broad early warning system across British Colombia can benefit all of us. 

Still figuring it out......

Friday, April 11, 2014

From Teacher to Learner

As we march ahead in education, navigating a changing landscape - imposed by a variety of forces (e.g mobile, web based and social technology, economic shifts, globalization, etc) - I am sometimes asked for my opinion on what will make (or has made) the biggest impact on our ability to re-image (or re-imagine) education and school.

My answer has been somewhat consistent:

A teacher's disposition as learner first, is the greatest factor in our ability to re-image school.

Which got me thinking about the power of words.  What if the word "teacher" was replaced by the word "learner"?

I believe that words are powerful:
“A picture can tell a thousand words, but a few words can change it’s story.” Sebastyne Young
This video, on the power of words, magnifies this message beautifully : So, what if we replaced the word "teacher" with "learner" in all its contexts?  Would it assist teachers in coping with some the changes occurring in education? Would it impact learning in schools and classrooms? Would it impact pedagogy? What impact would this have on students?

In an effort to have a little fun, here are a few common expression with the word "teacher" and an amended version with the word "learner":

Common expression with the word "Teacher"

  1. Teacher
  2. I teach.
  3. I am a teacher.
  4. I teach students
  5. Those who can, do.  Those who can't teach.
  6. I don't teach curriculum. I teach students.
  7. I am a (insert grade level or curricular area) teacher.

Amended version - replacing "Teacher" with "Learner"

  1. Learner
  2. I activate learning for my students.
  3. I am an agent of learning for my students.  Ultimately I want them to be free agents with their learning
  4. I am a learner who learns with and about my students...
  5. Those who can, do.  Those who can't learn.
  6. I learn about how students learn.  I am an activator of learning for my students.
  7. As a passionate learner of (insert curricular/content area) myself, I activate learning for my students in...(insert curricular/content area)

Is this a small, silly or superficial thing?


However, I would contend that, when we see ourselves as learners first we can more easily  live and embody a growth mindset for our students.  When we see ourselves as learners first, we don't see change as a threat but rather as a way of being.  When we see ourselves as learners first, we are passionate about learning and want to share that passion with our students and colleagues.

By being learners first,we can more readily allow our students to be free agents with their learning - something our children and students will require throughout their life.

Still figuring it out......