Be PROUD of that “Minecraft Teacher” label (or whatever the label)….

A couple of days ago, I read a couple tweets from a teacher that was voicing thoughts about being labelled as a “Minecraft” teacher, rather than an Innovative teacher that uses many engaging and creative tools including Minecraft. I looked back through the Twitterverse, but couldn’t find the tweets again.

FDSC_0271irst, I think that any teacher, leader or principal  that is labelled a Minecraft teacher should be EXTREMELY proud.  Bring it ON!  Think about it. You are being labelled as a teacher that is creative, open-minded, collaborative and willing to use tools and methods that are engaging and encourage students to venture into ARTS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING and MATH! Not to mention, using a tool that lends itself well to having students THINK, REACT and ADAPT to certain situations.  And to further the point, you are using a tool that is Universally Designed and doesn’t restrict students that have literacy barriers or language barriers.


So, if people see you as a MINECRAFT TEACHER, then I suggest you thank them. Maybe they just don’t understand what a compliment they gave you!

I find myself thinking  more and more about the assumptions that are made about teachers that research, share, blog and reflect on specific technology tools they use as part of the learning and teaching process. In fact, sharing specific examples about the tool or program on Social Media can have an interesting result since the context isn’t always obvious and assumptions get made about the teacher. For example, The Minecraft Teacher, The Smartboard Teacher, The Livescribe Teacher, The Google Teacher, The iPad Teacher…… You get the point.

But who cares? I am certain that I’ve been labelled a certain “kind” of teacher. I suppose it depends on who and from when. Today, I might be considered the “Minecraft Teacher”.  I delivered several Smartboard workshops for my District about 10 years ago, so back then, I was the “Smartboard Teacher”.  About 8 years ago, I started using blogging platforms with my students, so those who know me then, might consider me the Blogging teacher, or the Skyping teacher since we used Skype so often. A couple of years later, I began incorporating tools that were Universally Designed, such as audio amplification systems. I used the Front Row system and had a microphone around my neck most of the day. Yes, for a while, I was the Front Row teacher. And then, there was the iPad. My iPad ‘ONE” was the only iPad in the school (of 700) for 2 years. This single iPad labelled me as the iPad expert.  In 2006, my students were using Scratch and Robotics and even for a short while, I was seen as the Programming Teacher. Then, there was the Livescribe. Another action research project that had me integrate the tool in ways that I still find myself attached to, especially around assessment.  Recently, I’ve been investigating and integrating a variety of Microsoft tools into the classroom. Maybe that makes me a “Microsoft” teacher too.

Doesn’t it seem like the technology tools and innovations that we blog and tweet about seemed to override everything else we do as teachers? as leaders? as learners?

Do we take the time to sift through our assumptions, to get to know the person and understand why they use the tools or methods they do? Why the “act” the way they do on Social Media? Who are they really?

I now use all of these tools or program as part of the teaching and learning process, depending on the situation, the student and the context. Those of have taken the time to know me, know that I am NOT an expert, but am willing to try out as many tools as possible in hopes that I can reach my students in a way that supports higher order thinking, inquiry, and depth.

My classroom focuses on collaboration and inquiry, not technology, not Minecraft, not Livescirbe, not Smartboard, not Coding, not Google, not robotics… (you get the point).  I am good with the many labels that are attached to my name and I’m even good with the fact that I have probably used these tools for “Subtitution”  (SAMR) on occasion. But…I used them and I continue to learn.

DSC_0272Back to the “Minecraft teacher “ and for all the “Minecraft teachers” out there, be proud of your label, because you ROCK. You are taking risks, trying new things, engaging your students and putting yourself out there to be scrutinized and judged…and still, you do it. Remember, it is most often due to the ignorance or lack of understanding of you and your practice that results in the LABEL, not you!


I wonder, what ASSUMPTIONS, based on interactions in Social Media,  about educators, leaders or others in your network, do you have?  

What assumptions do you think are made about you? 


Developing Teacher-Leaders

How are formal, organized and appointed leadership models in schools adapting to teacher leadership initiatives that are self-organized, community oriented, and both deliberate and organic in nature?

From teacher training programs, to experienced teachers, to online learning communities  – teacher leadership is becoming the driving force behind some of the most authentic, current and innovative projects and evolving pedagogies in education.  Information is more available and accessible then ever before. Networks are connecting beyond schools, districts and Ministries. Educators are forming learning groups, communities of practice and support mechanisms even beyond the formal direction or moderation from a supervisor or evaluator directly in their organization.  Almost every night of the week educators around the world are learning and supporting each other through online chats, e-learning environments, ed-camps, unplugd retreats, collaborative blogs, and shared video resources.

As a teacher-leader, I am inspired and excited by the efforts and partnerships between the Ministry of Education and the Ontario Teachers Federation for nurturing, supporting and empowering teachers to take on leadership initiatives at the Ministry Level through programs such as the TLLP (Teacher-Leadership-Learning-Program).  I applaud Faculties of education such as Brock University for empowering new teachers through a blend of leadership and technology courses.  It is thrilling and exciting to see Directors of Education (ie: John Malloy – Director of HWDSB or Chris Spence, Director of TDSB) at local districts not only using and modeling social media tools to expand vision and build capacity within the community but to also encourage and show support to staff. Myself – I  am honoured and proud to be part of a community of learners (of practice) through the online network at the grassroots level with educators, teachers and leaders at all levels in education.

There are so many supports and structures in place that empower teachers!  However, I wonder if there is one a missing piece in the development and support of Teacher-Leaders:

How are formal leaders (Principals, Vice-Principals, Superintendents) in our organizations – the formal, appointed leaders – being trained or prepared to adapt to a changing landscape of leadership within their schools and organizations? How are they using teacher-leaders in their schools to empower the rest of their staff? How willing are they to participate in a distributed and shared leadership model within their schools?   Is our Principal training programs and our Ministry of Education training and supporting principals to adapt to a 21st Century Model of leadership? Are they modeling the same skills that many of their teachers are practicing themselves?

How much of our Teacher Professional Development and Training continues to revolve around what the Principal-Leader directs? And, is it an irony that often, this Principal-Leader is not participant in the e-learning professional networks along with his/her staff (or beyond?)

Ann Lieberman, Professor and Author from Stanford University explains to a group of teachers at the Teacher Leadership and Learning Program earlier this week the importance of nurturing teacher leadership programs as a way to enhance school programs and student learning:

“Research tells us that people learn on the job, which presents some dichotomy for the academic world between the theory, research and practice.  The “dailyness” of work is different that the kinds of questions that are asked in research. The TLLP, for example, helps form a community of like minded people who are willing and open to better their practice.  When given the support and structure to implement an action research and have built a community of practice, Lieberman emphases that , teachers in leadership programs use their “fist full of strategies” to transfer and apply their learning and reflection with their own students.

Resources and further reading and learning ->

Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders

21st Century Teacher Education and Leadership Training

Ontario Teacher Leadership (TLLP)

OTF (Federation Initiatives) TLLP

Edtech Cohort (Brock University) develops future Education Leaders

 Sustaining Teacher Leadership in Enabling to Inchoate Cultures

Teachers Leading Teachers

These are a just few words that come to mind when I reflect on how I felt as I toured the hundreds of projects that were on display at the #TLLP2011 summit this past weekend in Toronto, Ontario. What an honour!

Together, teachers gathered from across Ontario’s 72 District school boards – all grades, disciplines, subject levels, departments and from across a diverse province of French and English learners, Aboriginal communities and Gay and Lesbian groups to share insights, perspectives, research and best practice. If the passion and energy of these leaders could have been bottled up and harnessed for power, I am certain that it would be enough power to get us through the next hundred years.


The TLLP is a joint venture between the Ontario Teacher Federation and the Ontario Ministry of Education and provides an opportunity, funding and support for teachers to engage in leadership initiatives within their schools and districts.

Although throughout the year we used an online network to share our progress, I don’t think that any of us were prepared for the magnitude of depth and detail that was on show at the summit.

As a participant and lead learner of the TLLP project, with my team -we too had a display that focused on a year long project that investigated the use of sound and ink and its impact on learning and we documented our learning on a collaborative blog called, “livewithlivescribe”. Being able to share and discuss our projects with other teachers across our province was incredibly empowering.

As I toured the showcase, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with emotion. Over and over and over, I heard teachers talk about how their project helped engage their students. I heard teachers talk about how their project put confidence in the students, how their project provided opportunity for students, how their project gave hope to students. I tried to imagine how many students were impacted by the initiatives in the room. As one teacher excitedly explained to me, “we only thought, this project would effect the 10 people in our school that joined, but over 30 teachers were ultimately involved”. He repeated with a huge smile, “30 teachers”. I smiled when he said that and pointed out to him the people in the room. “Your project will impact 100’s of teachers”, I said with a lump in my throat just imagining how many children’s lives would be touched.