Ice Bucket Challenge Sponsors Family Discussion about Digital Citizenship

The ALS ice bucket challenge is a current phenomenon taking over social media pages and even family dinnertime conversations. I believe initiatives for raising awareness and funds for good causes are good ideas. The ice bucket challenge has definitely raised awareness of ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and increased funds for the ALS association. I also believe these types of initiatives provide important opportunities for conversations with our children about digital citizenship.  Our family was recently nominated to take the challenge. I do not wish to offend those nominating us or in any way suggest ALS is not a good cause, but we declined to take the challenge as a digital citizenship choice. In our house, this topic provided good conversation about charity donations, posting self-videos on the Internet and following the crowd.

  1. Charity donations – MacAskill (2014) http: discusses the idea that most individuals are limited in how much they donate yearly.  As such, charity donations need to be thoughtful.  So, as a family it is important to discuss how donations will be made throughout the year. For example, we have friends that have two children with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. This gradually progressive disease means these children are not able to walk and experience many physical and medical challenges. We support the Walk for Muscular Dystrophy and hope for increased research and medical advances to help those afflicted by Muscular Dystrophy to enjoy quality of life. We also donate to many other charities to support family and friends experiencing various medical challenges, such as Cystic Fibrosis, Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes, Heart and Stroke, Cancer, to name a few.  We are selective in the charities we donate and pay close attention the amount that goes to administrative fees.  In our home the ice bucket challenge has definitely increased attention to ALS and other charities.  Hopefully the increased funds going to one organization do not limit or reduce funds going to others.
  2. Posting videos on the Internet – We also discussed the idea of posting videos of yourself on the Internet.  Many family, friends and even well-known celebrities are posting videos and making their ice bucket challenge visible in online spaces. We discussed the importance of carefully selecting the type of photos and videos posted on the Internet and to consider the attire you might be wearing in the video.
  3. Following the crowd – Similar to the idea in chain letters, those taking the challenge, nominate three more individuals to take the challenge. It is so easy to become enamored with an idea because so many people are involved and participating in the challenge. Since _____ is doing this, then it must be a good thing and I should do this too.  We want our children to make informed choices and make decisions themselves.  We also want our children to take risks and go against the status quo.  So, I believe the ice bucket challenge is a good opportunity to have an open discussion with your children about the choice of either participating in the challenge or declining the challenge.

    Some other posts to consider:


    The cold, hard truth about the ice bucket challenge

    Post written by MacAskill (Aug 14, 2014)



    ALS ice bucket challenge: Do you know what you are supporting?

    (August 24, 2014)

RVS Research Conference Presentation Summary

My presentation at the RVS research conference (August 22, 2014) is based on my completed doctoral study guided by the following research question – How do principals cultivate teaching and learning improvements integrating technology that meet the needs of today’s learners?


In the presentation, I provide an overview of the literature based on the conceptual framework related to leading, learning and pedagogy in a digital age.  The research design, data analysis and findings are also discussed briefly. Overall, principals’ technology leadership is a pivotal practice foundational for growth-oriented leadership and instructional improvements in a digital age.


Several prevailing themes emerged from the literature review as interrelated antecedents for educational technology leadership, such as, visionary leadership for innovation; research-informed professional learning; attention to contexts for support; monitoring for continuous learning and growth; and creativity and openness for change.


Information was gathered from principals and teachers in three diverse school districts in Alberta that were in the midst of innovative reform involving educational technology through an exploration of the actions of the principals over a period of one year.  Both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods (selected-response and open-ended survey items) were followed by qualitative methods (semi-structured interviews, observations, artifacts). All principals in the three jurisdictions were surveyed as part of the first phase of the study.  In the second phase there were five schools (considered cases in the multiple case study) involved in various initiatives related to technology integration or leading a reform involving educational technology that agreed to participate in more in-depth interviews.


The online survey used in this study was primarily based on the seven interrelated leadership dimensions and descriptors of daily practice from Alberta Education (2009) Principal Quality Practice Guideline: (a) fostering effective relationships; (b) embodying visionary leadership; (c) leading a learning community; (d) providing instructional leadership; (e) developing and facilitating leadership; (f) managing school operations, and resources; and (g) understanding and responding to the larger societal context.  The survey items invited principals to reflect on their daily practice and how they perceive their role in leading teaching and learning improvements integrating technology.  Additional survey items were used to determine the extent to which principals report the use of social and technological networks to support professional learning.



Even though the survey aligned with the jurisdiction priorities and received approval from the jurisdiction superintendent and research liaisons and any associated research approval committees, the overall response rate (26%) was satisfactory.  What are the barriers for principals in completing online surveys?  Are there too many requests for surveys demanding time of principals? Is it common to fill out surveys and never see any results or changes?  Is it time to let go of the lengthy surveys and replace with one-item questions using social media?


Findings suggested there is a need to improve how principals are prepared for leadership in a digital-age. Overall, the survey results revealed that ONLY one out of three principals selected a high level of performance (can teach other principals) in leading teaching and learning improvements in the context of technology integration. Alberta principals in this study identified their weakest performance level in descriptors related to instructional leadership in the context of technology integration.


Summary of findings:


Question #1: How do principals perceive their role in leading teaching and learning improvements integrating technology?

Finding 1.1 Fostering effective relationships is an area of strength for principals

Finding 1.2 Instructional leadership is an area for growth opportunity

Finding 1.3 Managing school operations and resources is an area of least interest and requires time

Finding 1.4 Inconsistencies in visionary leadership need attention

Finding 1.5 Partnerships are desired (despite absence of descriptors related to this)

Finding 1.6 Recruiting and retaining staff is important (despite absence of descriptors related to this)


Question #2 – To what extent do social and technological networks support principals during an educational reform?

Finding 2.1 using social and technological networks for leadership support and professional learning is an area for growth opportunity.


Question #3 – In what ways does the principals’ conceptualization of their leadership practice change during the diffusion of teaching and learning improvements integrating technology?

Finding 3.1 Promoting open dialogue is an area for growth opportunity (shift from observations to conversations for monitoring student growth)

Finding 3.2 Considering multiple perspectives for informed decision making is an area for growth opportunity (shift from top-down decision making to including student voice in decision making)

Finding 3.3 Facilitating meaningful parental involvement is an area for growth opportunity (shift from ambiguous assessment to transparent assessment and reporting)

Finding 3.4 Fostering technology-rich pedagogies is an area for growth opportunity (shift from technical to pedagogical approaches for tech integration)

Finding 3.5 Understanding and responding to the larger societal context is an area for growth opportunity (shift from teacher-centered to learner centered environments)


Question #4 – How do teachers describe the leadership actions needed to support teaching and learning improvements integrating technology?

Finding 4.1 Teachers value principals who exhibit an increasing level of technological fluency. (growth-orientation)

Finding 4.2 Teachers value principals capable of fostering effective relationships through personalization, trust and collaborative approaches.



Question #5 – How are principals managing the challenges of planning, implementing and sustaining teaching and learning improvements integrating technology?

Finding 5.1 Attention to contexts of support is important in managing the challenges associated with planning, implementing and sustaining teaching and learning improvements integrating technology.



Three key recommendations resulting from the study are also discussed in the presentation: (1) design-based research should be considered for increasing practitioner-researcher partnerships and for intentionally cultivating innovation in schools; (2) technological fluency is needed for instructional leadership; and (3) more study is needed exploring the value of technological networks in supporting ongoing professional learning for school leaders.


At the end of the presentation I ask participants to “tweet-it or post-it” –

  1. What are the questions that remain unanswered for you about this study?
  2. What suggestions do you have for school leaders or for future research agendas?

    PDF of presentation

Spread seeds of happiness and buy chalk!

During my summer vacation this year I had the pleasure of visiting Kelowna, BC and spending a morning with one of my mentors, Susan Crichton.   Dr. Crichton was previously faculty at the University of Calgary and a member of my doctoral committee.  She is now director of innovative learning and an associate professor in the faculty of education at the UBC Okanagan Campus.


Susan gave my son and I and tour of the beautiful campus and open work spaces. I didn’t think visiting a post secondary campus would be exciting for a 13-year old but he seemed particularly interested in viewing the fitness facilities, high tech medical classrooms and the education maker spaces.  Susan also shared her work in organizing Maker Days, “a facilitated event that requires participants to thoughtfully and fully engage in design thinking and creative problem finding and experience hands-on activities.” Read more about Maker Days ….http:

She also shared the  “Maker Day Toolkit” that she created along with PhD candidate, Deb Carter. The toolkit is available as an EPublication and PDF at http:

This is a great resource for educators interested more details about maker days (great links and docs that can be tailored for your own use).

The best part of our visit was when we were sitting in one of the collaboration spaces and were discussing the value of having open spaces for writing with others.  On campus, it was evident markers are used to write on the glass walls and whiteboards that surround the classrooms and learning spaces. There is no lack of spaces for collaborative writing and sharing. I shared how one teacher I know buys large pieces of plexiglass for her students to write freely and share ideas.  It was at that moment that Susan contemplated using chalk on concrete walls.  She literally jumped out of her seat to go and retrieve a box of white chalk.  Within minutes, she had everyone adorning the concrete walls in chalk zentangles.  We were part of a true moment of serendipity. I can’t wait to visit the campus again and see how the chalk zentangles spread!


IMG_0972       IMG_0971

Krahula, B. (2012). One zentangle a day: A 6-week course in creative drawing for relaxation, inspiration, and fun. Beverly, MA: Quarry Books.

As a token of appreciation, I gave Susan a small strawberry ornament from the Krause Berry Farm http: in Aldergrove (another stop in my travels this summer) to remind her how important she is in spreading seeds of happiness.  When I saw the strawberry seeds of happiness ornament it immediately reminded me of Susan and her positive impact on others in cultivating learning!



Reflecting on year after defense…

Some might wonder, what happens after graduate students complete the oral defense.  I will share my experience over the past school year (2013-14) following my oral defense examination.  Three stages can be used to describe the year: (1) finalizing the dissertation in preparation for graduation, (2) sharing the work, and (3) exploring research interests.   During the oral defense, the examiners provided some valuable feedback about the dissertation and areas for improvement.   Prior to submitting the final version of the dissertation in digital format for sharing publicly it was necessary to make minor edits.  Once all changes were complete, the final version of the dissertation was submitted to fulfil graduation requirements.  There are also some administrative tasks required to apply for graduation especially if attending the convocation.  In my case, the convocation took place over two months after completing the oral defense.   Second, it is important to share the study beyond the dissertation.  I submitted a paper for presentation to http: The Canadian Society for the Study of Education Conference held in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in St. Catherines.  The paper was accepted and I attended and presented the work at the conference at Brock University in May 2014.  Currently, I am preparing for another presentation in August 2014 and drafting a manuscript for publication about the research.   Last, the year has been filled with numerous teaching and collaborative learning opportunities, such as: continuing to teach online graduate courses in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, conducting research and PD with the Galileo Educational Network, co-writing a literature review about technology in higher education for the Provost’s Learning Technology Task Force, and working with a team to develop a STEM course for pre-service teachers.   I also had the opportunity to co-present conference sessions throughout the year including the following sessions: