USA Tour – Day 4 – Visiting Canadian Schools


Today we managed to fit in three schools into our tour with a final workshop session with CUE-Surrey educators for networking and sharing at Clayton Heights Secondary. Hosted by Kevin Amboe, an ICT integration expert for the Surrey Schools District in British Columbia, we had the opportunity to look at some great learning and meet some of the enthusiastic students at the schools.

It is important to understand the way that schools are serviced in Canada. Each set is separated into Districts and Surrey is the largest district in B.C. and one of few growing districts in the province with  124 schools. With a budget of approximately 550million for its operations, (90% on wages) the District’s vision is to start to bridge the gap with learning and the use of ICT.

ICT History

Of particular note is the history of ICT. Traditionally, ICT was locked down and the argument that the ICT was not working ‘educationally’ caused contention between the various groups at a district and school level. As a catalyst to this was the District’s roll out of a new Wireless LAN service where there is guest wireless access and where students can bring in their own devices. Which meant that the usage scaled faster than expected (250 on first day and a further 250 the next which caused it to shut down)…. note this is a massive project… 47 schools a year getting a fully implemented wireless network that works with two secure networks and one guest network and most interestingly… a dedicated open Apple TV network.

The iPad project started just after Christmas with the District trying to understand the technology both at a technical level and at a user level. To do this they asked for volunteers to be part of the Inquiry Project who would be supplied with a cart of 30 iPads, a projector and a laptop with 11 schools chosen to go forward. In May 2011 teachers were given the iPads and told to go away and play… prepare projects for the start of term. The District however didn’t start the trial until September simply because they had no idea how to go about implementing it. Each school was given a school issued MasterCard for Apps and the school was responsible for purchasing and the reconciling of the apps etc. A total of 1200 iPads were released in the district plan and then more were purchased by schools. As an addition to this process, in February, every teacher librarian was given an iPad (about 95) and the technical facilitator was also given one (the ICT technician) with no release time provided and they were given training opportunities and workshops with apple etc and then named learning coaches and movers and shakers.

The process is ongoing…

Johnson Heights Secondary School

Johnson Heights has roughly 1400 students from Years 8 – 12 with the school worked intensively with iPads and a core of 50 students doing secondary school differently.  It is part of a teacher driven inquiry project which allowed for the first time a group of 4 educators to try something different. Not a natural fit, the educators have been working hard with selected students to find a way to integrate technology, iPads and PC’s, in a way that enhances learning and builds an environment that promotes extension.

What was great about the day was that the teachers themselves never had the opportunity in the past to collaborate in a team environment in classrooms with so many students. It should be noted that the teachers selected in this project were not necessarily complimentary but were four educators that wanted to have a go. The teachers were not experts in technology but were willing to work with these Year 11 students. It is also important to note that these teachers taught the usual classes, Maths, English, Theatre Arts, Geography etc…Thanks Cam, Mike, PJ and Kelli for having us along..


When reflecting on this visit, it was evident that the school system itself was half the issue. The teachers were given the opportunity to do something different, setting off a chain of events that looked to inspire them and their students. I had the opportunity to head into the classroom they were learning in (I snuck in with Cam, one of the teachers) and had a chat to them in general. I noted also that they are allowed to have BYOD as long as the teacher allowed it and mobile phones were just a reality of being with the student (normal classroom management for phones). Often we forget that in high schools we try to move the collective group but that is nearly impossible. At Johnson Heights this small group of teachers working together on something new have opened up the school to much bigger things. The fire is burning, the students are engaged, they are learning and the technology is only a tool in that learning. It was not the focus and as highlighted by the teachers they were still working out what and how to interact with it themselves.

A message to Australian secondary administrators is simply this; It was clear that changing the focus of a large number of teachers is nearly impossible but lighting lots of little fires, with culture changing teachers implementing student centred learning through the catalyst of technology, will ultimately provide you with critical mass… and those that don’t.. well that’s why we have reviews…

Cindrich Elementary School

Cindrich is a school that has also been a part of the inquiry project into iPads and has also implemented Apple TV devices. The school itself is quite small and is what in Australia we would consider to be a very low socio-economic population. The crazy thing about this school was the shear engagement of the students in the Year 5 and 6 classes that we visited. Using iMovie, Story Book Builder and hosting ALL…. ALL…  school files and folders on dropbox (I mean every student and every class on a single dropbox account), It was truly inspiring. While the quality and level of the projects were in the beginning stages the students themselves explained, articulated and presented their work with such pride. I will explain the Apple TV network used at Cindrich… and all schools in the Surrey District… it will disturb and amuse many of you for its boldness and simplicity (I say this particularly to schools that are afraid of these devices). I also will highlight the importance of the Guest Network and the way that this is run… again I specifically speak to network administrators and our administrators at head office.

The Network…

The wireless network was installed recently in many schools with four separate VLANs.

The Guest network is a network that has NO authentication on it, not through a password, not through AD but is open and has no restrictions except for that of the normal filtering (porn etc). This is the network students predominately use! It’s great… to give you an idea of what this means at a district level, when I walked into Johnson Heights first I connected to this network… when I walked into Cindrich  it is THE SAME NETWORK… same name same everything.. seamless integration between schools… IT WAS GREAT… I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH… and it makes me think why I have not implemented such a thing in the past. Sure it can be accessed by someone else but with unlimited data plans the more use the community gets the better… (NO PROXY ISSUES… NOTHING… TRUELY GREAT).

Apple TV Network – Now I am a little unsure about how this works specifically but it is protected, I think, by a password, but students have access to this password, it’s not a secret. Students can project to ANY APPLE TV ON THE NETWORK… EVEN AT HEAD OFFICE… AT ANY SCHOOL, and this is about ownership and responsibility. In primary schools this works well but might have some issues in secondary where it is harder.. but I give them full credit for the trust they have in their students, and again I stress that both schools have had no issues.


Cindrich is a school that was not about the level of the work but the level of engagement and passion teacher had for meeting the needs of their students but also the engagement of students in their learning. The ability for them to communicate with each other during the day, to make something new every day and to have a go and gain confidence in themselves is what this school showed me. I spent time with four young men with their own youtube page. Genuine was really what it was about and more importantly the technology just worked, network was beautiful and handed all of us using it as well as their iPads. The fire lit in this school was all centred around students.

Hillcrest Elementary

Hillcrest Elementary has approximately 550 students with an implementation of iPads and MacBooks. This school has embraced learning with iPads and key to this has been the focus on learning and the accountability of the technology to learning, rather than the reverse. The school has worked to create an environment where they are able to collaborate with tools and produce work that represents each individual students abilities and talents. Each student has a webpage setup on Weebly and manages their own page and settings for this page. Work is put onto this as a digital portfolio and is linked back to the teacher’s main page which allowed students to express themselves. We met a boy, Eric, who had taken his love of sketching to a level of showcasing his ability with digital graphics to manipulate and create truly inspiring digital characters.

Complimenting this has been the use of blogs and the collaboration and conversation generated by the students themselves. In a recent reading task the students did peer reflections and then used these to rewrite their review of the book they read which formed a basis for assessment and review. Many many more examples can be sited and the teachers should be commended for their flexibility. Check out Hillcrest on Weebly

Hillcrest’s shining light however was their mapping to learning and assessment ensuing that students when doing something digitally were doing it for the right reasons, the right learning goals and not allowing it to be a distraction. Students had freedom of choice in the project product and all getting to select their own ways to present content differently. Collaborating between their class and others across the hall and just the emphasis that technology is not used for the sake of it, was heartwarming and the teachers certainly showed this. The term ‘learning police‘ was coined for one of the teachers but honestly, there should be more of them as they ensure that technology is being used for a reason and not as the baby sitter it sometimes can be.


CUE-Surrey educators

The final session of the day was informal with some of the CUE educators where we were able to hear from their experiences and issues. It was also a chance to collaborate and discuss what our various roles were in schools. It is inspiring to hear from many people about their various roles and projects but truly the standout of the day was the understanding that you need to set spot firers and fan them until they encompass the entire staff – a slow process but it can work.

The Controversy Section

In Western Australia,  it is very easy to make hard decisions when working with individual schools but it is the top that fails us in so many ways. Granted, recently some changes have been put in place but overall there still is minimal documentation, help and guidance for schools, in schools, from any sector. What was great to see in Canada is a district trying to be progressive and having a go. While I am fully aware of the issues that the Surrey District must face supporting the schools at least now they have paperwork, policy, ideas guides for their schools all built from the trial schools.

Speaking as an educator who always wants to be leading from the front I guess I must also remember that leading from the front takes some blood, sweat and hours and hours of time.

Other important factors to recognise are the little things, celebrate the little successes but never let those misguide you from expecting the best from staff and students. I think today I also noticed that, I don’t know if it is a symptom of so long of the same, but students didn’t demand better access to ICT… which I found very odd… and it seemed it was seen as something that was extra work… just an observation but something that I think I will be mindful of..

Canada and Australia are very similar in my eyes, starting a journey that was only kick started by us with the NSCCF.. but without the same funding they place a higher value on the journey, therefore I predict a higher chance of success. Some schools in Western Australia should be held to account for there usage of this money because I am sure the Canadian schools would love even a tenth of it.

Finally.. the ability to pass between schools and not have to have any wireless issues… WE DONT HAVE THIS IN ANY SCHOOLS IN WA. It would be fantastic to do this in any school in our system… WISH LIST ITEM

Seattle Tomorrow.. thanks Canada its been great… and to my new twitter friends and others please if you need anything send me an email.. more than happy to help


Johnson Heights Secondary School

Hillcrest Elementary

CUE-Surrey educators for networking and sharing at Clayton Heights Secondary

Twitter Tags

Surrey District B.C – #sd36learn

Kevin Ambore – @amboe_k:

Picture Gallery



6 Responses to “USA Tour – Day 4 – Visiting Canadian Schools”

  1. Peter 15 June 2012 8:21 pm

    Sounds like a great day Brad, love the SSID standardisation across schools, what a great idea. The number of open wifi networks in US schools really struck me when I was last there, it just makes so much sense!