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Hello Ontario Teachers,


A team of educators committed to the preventative and proactive approach of building positive community and incorporating Social and Emotional Learning into the school day are creating a website to assist educators in achieving this goal.


The site, called SELspace, is in early phases and is very much under construction, but we would very much like to get some feedback from teachers. Suggestions, feedback, things you'd like to see within the site are all helpful insights to make this the best resource possible for educators. 


Please have a look and let us know your thoughts. The site is not ready to be released and we would ask that you not share it at this stage unless it's with someone who will also provide feedback. We are hoping to release SELspace by late Summer, early Fall 2019.




We do have a facebook page; feel free to join as we have been posting a lot of great articles, lessons, and inspiration.


Thank you in advance,

the SELspace team


The second in a series discussing the Class of 2030.

When I was young I loved watching the TV show The Bionic Woman. I particularly loved how Lindsay Wagner was portrayed. She was smart, she helped people, she was pretty, and she didn't wear clothes my mother would ground me for life for wearing! This was a woman I could aspire to.

It's been a long time since the Bionic Woman saved the day, but we still haven't quite got role models for girls figured out. There is still a focus on outward appearance - make-up, hair, fashion. Thankfully, more and more we are hearing about role models who break that old mold - bright, young women who are making a difference in the world.

Take Emma Yang, for instance. She developed Timeless an app she developed to help her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Or how about the Three Irish Teens, Sophie Healy-Thow, Émer Hickey, and Ciara Judge, who won Google's Science Fair using bacteria to grow food? Their experiment uses seeds treated with microbes that speed growth and increase yields by as much as 70%.

Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta wanted to help earthquake victims in Haiti and came up with Luminaid, an inflatable solar light that can pack flat, to help alleviate dangerous night-time conditions like the safety hazards candles.

Likewise, Ann Makosinski, a Google Science Fair 2013 Award Winner, developed a human-powered flashlight to help the 1.4 billion people in the world without electricity who live in "light poverty".

What do all these exemplary women have in common? They saw a need and were bold enough to think they could do something about it! They used their brains to create a way to help others - and not just people they know, they helped people in meaningful ways all over the planet.

These young women exemplify what I hope is a trend that will keep growing - a trend to inspire the Class of 2030. A trend where being brainy isn't shunned, where it's okay to be bold enough to follow your dreams, and where people aren't afraid to put brainy and bold together to help others. That would be beautiful.


We Can All be Superheroes

Posted by noproblem Sep 17, 2018

This blog originally appeared here: We Can All Be Superheroes – emileferlisi

For the most part, these creative artists have figured out what makes people great. Comic writers have taken these truths and wrapped them up in beautiful contexts, back stories, settings and problems to be solved. They’ve also had popular actors portray them on screen. But what makes superheroes great? What components of their greatness can we harness and apply to our own lives?

Superheroes know what their gifts are. They’ve learned what their super power is and they’ve figured out how to apply their power to make the world a better place. Now, we’re not going to battle super villains, but to be great we’ll have to find exactly what skill or skills we can offer the world to make it a better place.

Superheroes work on perfecting the use of their power(s). Whether it’s been through deliberate practice or iteration as they’ve applied themselves to defeating their enemies, superheroes have put in the work, they’ve mastered experiential learning by reflecting on their experiences and applying their new learning – if they didn’t, they’d never get past the scene where they’re defeated or nearly defeated. If we want to be great, we’re going to have to apply our special talents, a lot. We’re going to have to use our skills, fail, reflect, apply the new learning, rinse and repeat. Call it grit, growth mindset or sticktoitiveness. Whatever you call it (experiential learning fits in here too) we’re going to have to do it.

Superheroes become their purpose; they commit their being to it. Now the work-life balance people won’t like hearing this, but it’s how real greatness is achieved. I won’t be a hypocrite, I’m a dad and I like to say that I’m a father first. But the reality is that greatness is only achieved through commitment. Superheroes don’t max out their sick days, cut corners, ask for frivolous extensions or show up chronically late. The line between self and purpose is blurred for superheroes because they’re committed to their purpose, they’re committed to being great. When you’re sharing your gifts with the world, when you’re living your purpose, there is a blurred line, if any, between who you are and what you do. If that sounds crazy to you perhaps it’s only because you haven’t been able to find your super power, YET.

Superheroes spend time with other superheroes or those who support their purpose. They also choose no company over bad company. Being realistic, we don’t want to be snobs, we don’t want to be perceived as arrogant; we can’t live as if we don’t need others. But the lesson from our made-up mentors is simple: choose your friends wisely. Superheroes are reclusive if and when necessary. When they are not alone, they surround themselves with those who can support their purpose (think of Batman’s Alfred) or others with a similar purpose who they can make a difference with, learn from and develop with (think of the Justice League or Avengers). It’s pretty straightforward: if we want to be great, we have to choose great company, whenever possible, just like superheroes do.


There may never be a comic or movie about you, but you can still apply the habits and mindsets that make superheroes great to your own life. And maybe that means we can all be superheroes, sorta’.



Posted by kathy Jun 19, 2018

Sunshine, blue skies, fledgling birds calling, and children laughing.  Well... some children are laughing.  The children who are looking forward to being with their families for July and August are excited and happy and enjoying all the end of the year celebrations, trips, and culminating activities.  I want to write today about the group of children who are not laughing, the children who are perhaps screaming, growling, stomping their feet, or simply have gone silent.


Transition times are a time of stress as change is stressful.  Please know I don't think all stress is bad!  Stress is a part of life and learning to deal with stress in healthy ways is a powerful skill to learn.  Many students can do this with the supports they already have in place in their lives. Others, just like some adults, are more sensitive to stress, endure intense levels of stress, have mental health challenges, physical health challenges, social challenges, and/or family challenges.  For these children, summer coming means a sudden and significant break from their support network and the structure and routines they have grown with over the year.  Imagine FEELING the message from the adults you trust, " We care about you, we are here for you BUT we are leaving you for two months."


How do we support these children throughout June so they are set up for a successful transition into July?  I believe in the direct teaching of resiliency skills, teaching how to build positive mindsets, and utilization ofmindfulness strategies. June needs to be a time for reinforcing and practicing these skills. Direct teaching of metacognition.  Set them up for success.


Please contact me or comment if you would like to discuss specific ideas for teaching these skills.

Connecting with the students you teach helps them learn.  Why do I say that?  A sense of belonging helps us feel safe and part of the whole. It is important to take a moment to mindfully connect.  This could be just stopping to listen to their story, complimenting a new hair cut or a shirt they like, or making sure the have food today.


Simple, mindful connections do enhance student learning as they build a child's sense of being cared for, valued, and safe.

Originally posted by Emile Ferlisi in Balanced Math: Supporting Differentiated Instruction With a Focus on Guided Math on May 3, 2018 2:39:29 PM


There are a lot of elements that go into a balanced mathematics program. Beyond a deep understanding of modeled, shared, guided and independent mathematics, teachers need to have a clear understanding of: setting conditions for learning, building classroom community and the effective use of assessment.


It's completely fair to say that implementing an effective, balanced mathematics program is impossible without these foundational understandings. Perhaps in much of our sharing as educators, we gloss over some of the steps along the way, assuming that our colleagues and even leaders 'know what we mean' or are completely aware of the work that goes into effective programming. I open with this sentiment because I feel that anyone unfamiliar with the aforementioned concepts and practices should start their journey by exploring these building blocks.


As we continue to work through this project, Katarina and I have deepened our understanding of how to effectively use assessment for learning to guide instruction. This isn't something new for Katarina, but the level of intentionality that this project asked for allowed her to refine her thinking. I had the pleasure of learning along with her, co-planning at times and providing an "outside looking in" perspective whenever needed.


While all of the parts slowly came together, Katarina continued to find it difficult to really get the guided portion of the program built into the classroom routine - we touched on that in our previous post. On April 24th we met to discuss what Katarina called her most effective and most comfortable implementation of guided practice so far:


"It all starts with an assessment for learning, a diagnostic, I did about eight weeks ago" Katarina started our discussion. "I found out that my students, as a whole class, really didn't know how to use place value to read numbers to the right of a decimal; they struggled with tenths and hundredths. The assessment for learning also helped me to find students who hadn't consolidated place value for whole numbers. I knew exactly where I wanted to start my whole group discussion".

Katarina explained to me that her whole group instruction aimed to help students understand 'how digits after the decimal work' with a special focus on the fact that decimals represents parts of a whole and, as such, are fractions. The class discussion branched further into how to read decimal numbers with place value (eg: saying five tenths when we see 0.5) and ended off with questions and discussion around recognizing when zero is used as a place holder versus when a zero is actually denoting a value (eg: 0.5 is the same as 0.50 BUT it's not the same as 0.05)






"My favorite part was all of the a-ha moments students were having around the connections between decimals and fractions!" Katarina explained to me.







Katarina formed groups using data from her assessment and observations she made as she circulated to conference and support groups of students as they worked collaboratively to respond to her prompts (we have a nice picture of Katarina's notes, but they include student names so we hope you'll take our word for it!).



"I found that I could make appropriate groupings because I know them; I thought about the depth of student responses, and what they demonstrated orally, not just what was being recorded on their pages. Conversations mattered when making my groups." Some other factors Katarina considered when making her groups included the leadership characteristics of group members and their individual work habits.





Katarina explained to me that the groupings she made were to be used during mathematics instruction over the next few days. She edited and scaffolded EQAO questions for three of her groups, she had guided instruction and conferencing with a fourth group while a fifth group worked on a number sense mission she had set up in Knowledgehook. Students would only be directed to Knowledgehook once they'd had a chance to participate in guided instruction as these missions were meant to check for student understanding (and could be used to further guide "circling back" in instruction).



Katarina summed up her learning to this point as we ended our chat: “I have learned about different ways to approach teaching mathematics and I have been able to move my teaching through involvement in the project. I found ways to take the theories and concepts and apply them in ways that were effective for my students and for my teaching. I've also noticed that students have improved in the processes of reasoning and proving as well as communicating" (we'll aim to be more specific about this quote in our next post!).


As a next step, and thanks to an idea I picked up at our most recent TLLP team meeting, I suggested that Katarina consider adding a 'today I learned' component to her mathematics instruction. The idea would be for students to use screencastify to record a response to the very open prompt: 'What did you learn today'. Student responses could be recorded in this manner on a rotating schedule, similar to the way guided instruction is set to work. These recordings could very easily be the content for a dedicated 'topic' in google classroom, but here I am getting ahead of myself, adding more to our "to implement" list!


As we come closer and closer to the end of our project we're developing a comfort with balanced mathematics that, admittedly, has been a long time coming. I've also found that our "to try" list continues to grow and is far longer than the school year will allow, which is probably exactly as it should be.


Balance is Being Responsive!

Posted by noproblem Feb 23, 2018

*Originally posted by Emile Ferlisi in Balanced Math: Supporting Differentiated Instruction With a Focus on Guided Math on Feb 23, 2018 4:36:50 PM - This is a closed group working on a TLLP around understanding and implementing a balanced approach to mathematics*




On our planning day, ktrogrlic and I spent a lot of time talking about the components of balanced mathematics (modeled, shared, guided, independent) and what balance really means in teaching and in a mathematics program. We talked about how her practice is changing as she continues to participate in this project and about how our shared understanding of effective instruction continues to evolve as we work together sharing and implementing ideas.


In Katarina's class, lessons typically start with a concept, question or idea that students are asked to explore collaboratively. Student thinking is shared and the lesson that follows will be in response to the needs that students are demonstrating. Modelling is done as necessary, again, in response to the needs that students demonstrate through discussion. Katarina describes her guided practice as a chance for her to 'push students', whatever that may mean. For example, for students who are struggling with work at the grade 6 level, guided practice would be the support and the 'push' necessary to help close the gaps they've demonstrated. For students who are working at or even beyond the grade 6 level, guided experiences would 'push' student thinking even further. It's always a chance for the teacher to support and guide productive, necessary struggle.




Through our discussion we determined that, despite her strength with a flexible and responsive, "in-the-moment" approach, Katarina and I will work to build more intentional guided practice into her teaching. The guided practice would be a targeted response to information we gather through assessment for learning (like the Nelson pre-assessment that our board has recently purchased).**


Once we had discussed the technical elements of balanced mathematics, we ventured into a conversation around teaching mathematics (and balanced mathematics as it were) as a way of thinking, a way of 'being', and maybe even a way of knowing. If that sounds a little too philosophical for a grade 6 math discussion let me explain!


In order to reach our students, we need to truly know them. We need to know them through assessment in order to gauge where their understanding is in relation to curriculum expectations and, more importantly, we need to know who they are in order to reach them with the instruction we are planning. Here our conversation went off on a short tangent about student voice and the power of building relationships with our students, perhaps a great topic for another post. It was, however, during this conversation that we began to think: perhaps a balanced approach to mathematics is also, quite simply, a responsive approach.




**Our plans also include exploring the use of Screencastify to support communication and self-assessment which continue to be areas where our students can grow.



If we take the time to know our learners and constantly update this knowledge through assessment for learning, our responsibility is to plan instruction that responds to the student needs we're identifying. The components of balanced mathematics provide us with the tools that will make it possible to meet the needs of our students. Knowing when, how and with whom we should be using each of the four components is where our professional judgement comes into play and is done through analyzing our assessments - it's important to note that these assessments go well beyond a pre-assessment we might give and include our observations around a students' abilities and, again, who they are as a people and learners. Think about the math processes; this is where we, as teachers, select the appropriate tools and strategies to solve problems. The tools and strategies are the components of a balanced mathematics program and the problem we are trying to solve is providing the best, most meaningful and effective learning possible for our students.










With this metaphor in mind and the components of balanced mathematics alongside the rest of the tools in our toolboxes, we look forward to the next four months of work on this TLLP.

These are the big 3 that are somehow branding

entire school boards, but the education

software sector is a 10+ billion dollar industry

beyond even them.  Happy to make money

from education, not so happy to pay taxes

to provide that education in the first place.

I attended a panel discussion yesterday a #BIT17 between educators and education IT support that jumped up and down on a number of hot button issues.  One thing that's always struck me about attending a conference like ECOO is the point of view of the support people in education; they don't seem to get the support piece.  Our function is to educate.  Not provide PD for teachers, or build an IT network.  Those things are there only to support the main function of what we do: educate children.

In the course of this discussion it was suggested by curriculum support people and board IT professionals that teachers should be spending an inordinate amount of their time closely reviewing the legal documentation around software applications and vetting software.  I thought we had people for that.  Having a teacher do that is akin to pulling all your commandos off the front line in a war and having them do paperwork.

Once I got past everyone who doesn't work in a classroom earnestly telling me I should be doing their job for them (odd that teachers never suggest that of other education employees), we continued to pursue the topic of heightened responsibility - the term that was used to shut down my suggestion of using your online PD community to source new technology ideas for your classroom.  From my point of view, if a number of educators I know personally suggest trying a new app or other piece of educational technology, that's a fantastic resource.  I was told by a panel member that this stifles innovation.  I always thought it was a source of innovation.  Perhaps this was a misunderstanding in terminology.  I used the term crowdsource to describe my process of vetting a new piece of software.  To the CIO and curriculum experts on the panel this meant trusting strangers on the internet.  That isn't my experience with online learning communities at all, it's anything but dealing with unsubstantiated strangers.  Maybe that's how they tentatively work online though.  Let's call that one lost in translation.

Michelle Solomon from the Association of Media Literacy was on the panel and created an awkward moment when she suggested that using even board/ministry sanctioned software like (a private, for profit company that uses student data to make its money) was morally ambivalent.  The CIOs and curriculum experts were quickly able to compartmentalize that truth and function again within their fiction, but it knocked the floor out of what we were talking about for me.

When describing themselves and their school boards, the IT people in the room said, "we're a Google board" and "we're a Microsoft board" as a means of stating their, what, affiliation?  Their purpose?  You're public school boards here to promote and deliver public education; what you aren't is an affiliate of a multi-national media company that undermines democracy and avoids paying taxes.

The 'stop loading malware onto our networks/teachers should be happy with less choice and spend more time pouring over software legalize' angle was designed to create a locked down, heavy drag system where innovation and moving with trends in data management would be years behind what everyone else is doing.  I have to wonder just how bad the teachers-installing-malware issue is, because I haven't heard anything about it.  This invented and absurdly low threshold for software access (watch out, everything might be infected!) then had the blanket of heightened responsibility thrown over it all.  Of course, you know what the answer to all these technically incompetent teachers installing malware is?  Get a corporate system!  Become a Gooplesoft board!

Except, of course, those earnest, well meaning multi-nationals, from their totalitarian labour to expert accountants, aren't in it for education, they're in it for money.  You want to talk about malware?  It's all malware!  Google promises not to advertise to your students while they are in Google Apps for Education, but they can't stop mining data on what students do in GAFE because Google is a data mining advertising company, it's how they make their money.  They always serve themselves first.

I left this talk with my head spinning.  I feel like we were talking in circles about a fiction that doesn't exist.  We could have a self-built, non-corporate technology foundation for Ontario Education, but it would be hard work and would require technical talent to achieve.  Why do that when we can give in to the hype and Vegas-like allure of the educational technology juggernaut?  Pick your poison, but if you're going to use educational technology none of it is blameless, it's all built on shifting grounds undermined by hidden revenue streams.


At one point it was suggested that we need to build media literacy in order to battle this situation.  It needs to start with the educators and technologists working in the industry.  If we're too busy drinking the koolaid to recognize just how twisted this all is, then there is little hope of graduating students who anything more than consumers.


Originally published as ECOO 2017: building your Edtech house on shifting ground on Dusty World, Nov, 2017

The other day I asked my senior class how millennials listen to music when they get their first car.  They seemed confused by the question.  I've noticed that young people don't like to manage files any more (many grade 9s don't know how to find files on a desktop), and since music turned into file management around the turn of the millennium, it's all about file management these days, isn't it?  It turns out it isn't.


When I started driving near the end of the 80s the couple of cassettes in my pocket turned into a briefcase of tapes.  That briefcase contained whole albums by artists, both what they released and B side stuff.  When you went to a concert you'd hear the released stuff, but you'd also hear the unreleased songs, and the majority of people in the audience were very familiar with it; they were fans of the artist who had spent a lot of time in a long form medium (the album).


That process continued into the 90s as my tape collection evolved into compact disks.  The smaller form factor resulted in flip books of disks.  The plastic box with the album art on it got left behind, but I was still listening to whole albums and collecting the works of specific artists in a detailed, long form, album based manner.  I was introduced to mixed tapes in the mid-90s by my hot, new girlfriend, so the idea of designing your own playlists have been around for a long time, but albums were the main point.  We spent a lot of time curating our collections.  You'd discover new artists in friends' collections, you'd hear unreleased music while in their car.  At a concert you knew the words to every song, even the unreleased stuff.  What happens at concerts nowadays?  They play their released songs only and then do popular covers so everyone can sing along?


I went digital early.  From Napster to modern mp3 distribution, I kept cultivating a locally based, artist focused collection of music, but that isn't the way that the industry has gone.  Nor is it the way that teens today relate to music.  The gigs of music I've curated aren't the future, it's me using modern tools to imitate my past relationship with less fluid, physical mediums, but is that a bad thing?  I'd argue that my relationship with an artist's music was deeper and more intimate because of the limitations of our mediums.  When you have the collected works of Dire Straits (six original albums plus four live ones) on hand, you are diving deep into what they did.  Surely deeper familiarity breeds a more loyal fan.


Kids are still into music, but the digitization of the medium has resulted in a much more fluid relationship with it.  I frequently watch students randomize YouTube videos as background music and then click through a song in the first ten seconds if it isn't grabbing them.  Their's is a high input low attention threshold relationship with the artist.  You can hardly blame modern artists for producing shallow, catching songs - the cloud based medium that has descended upon us pre-selects that kind of music for success in a fluid, digital landscape.


Laying on a bunk at air cadet camp in Trenton on a hot, un-air conditioned summer night in 1985 and getting lost inBrothers in Arms on a walkman isn't something millennials consider doing with music, is it?   We started doing the skip a song thing on CDs in the 1990s, but it was such a pain on tape that you'd just listen to the song.  In doing so you sometimes came around to liking something that didn't grab your attention in the first ten seconds.  At the very least you're experiencing an artist's thoughts and music in a more detailed fashion.


When I asked my students what they do when they get a car for the first time they were confused.  Spotify was the answer (it turns out Spotify is the millennial answer to any music related question).  I get it if you're swimming in wifi at home or at school all the time.  Sure, it's bandwidth and data ain't free, but it is if you're a kid in 2017 for the most part.  But what do you do when you're going for a ride in your first car and have no locally curated music to take with you?  I figured they'd all have MP3s on their phones, but they don't.  Spotify premium was the answer.  That's ten bucks a month to listen to whatever you want, and you can evidently save it locally if you're on the road, but do they?  If you've never had to manage a local music collection before I suspect it wouldn't even occur to you to do it this late in the game, it'd feel too much like work.


So the young driver's solution to the problem of never having cultivated a personal collection of music is to pay for a monthly cloud based service and then now begin cultivating a local music collection?  You could just hope your phone is willing and able to bring down all that data in a continuous way, but that's an expensive prospect in Canada.  With some of the highest mobility costs in the world and lots of long car trips in store, Canada isn't a comfortable place to be cloud dependant for your tunes.  If you end up not being able to pay the ten bucks a month for the pro version of Spotify, you lose all your local music.  Just when you thought the digital native's relationship with their tunes couldn't get any more ephemeral, it gets more so.  When you live in the cloud you don't really own your data, do you?


Another problem with cloud-based digital music natives is the interactivity.  When you're used to constantly inputting changes to infinite cloud based music it's second nature to go looking for whatever strikes your fancy, or skip through the play list looking for whatever drifted into your mind as a must-listen-to song in the moment.  How long are your eyes off the road while you're doing that?  If that's your relationship with music then you've trained yourself over many years to surf through your fluid, digital music with frequent inputs.


I wonder how this is reflected in statistics...

  • MADD stats on young drivers.
  • Young Driver stats on distracted driving
  • Transport Canada on distracted driving: "the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes was in the under-20 age group (16%) followed by those aged 20 to 29 (13%)"
  • NHTSA on distracted driving
  • It's a world wide issue, here is Australia


The texting culture is generally blamed for the problem of distracted driving, but I suspect this learned, constant input approach to music has a part to play in it as well, especially with younger drivers.


The long and the short of all this is that the music culture of young people is completely foreign to anyone over thirty.  For people who got into music before it got very cloudy in the twenty-teens, curating your own local music means you can jump into a car or go on a trip and never once wonder about access; you own your music.  Because of that effort you've probably also got a closer relationship with the artists you call your own.  For the cloud dependent millennial that move to vehicular mobility produces a number of expensive problems.  Of course, since you never really got into any one musician when you were younger because listening to more than one third of a song is boring, maybe you don't care.


Originally post on Dusty World, October, 2017.

The idea of computer technical proficiency has come up many times over the years on Dusty World.  Whether you want to call it digital literacy, digital fluency,  or twenty-first Century skills, there is obviously a problem with the computer user skills we're graduating people with.  This isn't a new thing, I've been benefiting from this lack of fluency in the general public for decades.

After dropping out of high school in the late '80s I started apprenticing as a millwright.  At our warehouse the new building control systems were becoming computerized and all of the very skilled welders and mechanics in our department were leery of them, so guess who got to take that on?  The new guy who had been working with computers since he was ten.

A summer job I got while going to university in the early 1990s involved converting an engineering shop over to computerized ordering (they'd hand written all parts orders and completed shipments prior to that, ironically while producing telephony computer electronics).  I got Lotus1-2-3 (which I'd never used before) working with the formatting so we could print out orders using our existing forms.  This took a bit of trial and error, but I wouldn't have described it as particularly difficult, it just took a willingness to make effective use of digital technology in problem solving.

After graduating from uni I continually found myself moved into technology implementation simply because of this fluency I seemed to have that many people didn't.  This eventually led to me getting IT qualifications as a technician.  It even followed me into teacher's college where I found myself teaching other students software, and my technical fluency has been a mainstay of my teaching career.

This week I came across a recent study that sheds light on all of this anecdotal experience.  The Distribution of Computer User Skills research across wealthy OECD countries point to some rather astonishing facts:

"Overall, people with strong technology skills make up a 5–8% sliver of their country’s population, and this is true across all wealthy OECD countries.  What’s important to remember is that 95% of the general population in North America cannot make effective use of computers in resolving even simple problems or overcoming unexpected outcomes."

Computer use isn't just poor, it's astonishingly bad.  Over a third of Canadians aged 16-65 can't do anything other than simple, rote, habitual work in a digital environment.  If asked to do tasks that I would consider straightforward and that require no particular digital expertise, they are unable.  Keep in mind, this is only looking at the skills of work-aged people.  It's not even considering seniors who generally have much weaker computer skills - so the actual computer skill level in the whole population is even lower than this implies.

You're probably doubting your ability to be considered an advanced user in this study, but you shouldn't.  None of these tests involved programming or having to do anything engineering wise with a computer, it's all user focused work using simple software.  To be considered a strong (level 3) computer user you had to be able to "schedule a meeting room in a scheduling application, using information contained in several email messages."  If you've ever had a group of people email and work out a date for a meeting and then you've put that meeting in Google Calendar, you're considered a high end user.  If you're reading this online blog on TeachOntario you're probably considered a proficient, level 3, high-skills user.

The article that started this leads on to another on the digital divide, but rather than hang it all on economic factors it also considers psychological and skills based limitations.  A few years ago I attempted to provide local households that said they couldn't afford one with a computer.  It was a complete failure - like giving books to illiterate people then wondering why they weren't illiterate any more; there is a lot more to the digital divide than economic barriers, though they no doubt play a part in it.  The fast evolving nature of technology means relatively recent computers are available often for free to people who otherwise can't afford them, but the problem isn't just access to technology, it's the inability of our education system to build sufficient digital fluency in our population to make use of them.  There is no point in handing out technology to people who can't make use of it.

With all of this in mind, who are we aiming at when we introduce digital technology into the classroom?  What are we doing when we pitch elearning at a general public who have this distressingly low level of digital fluency?  The vast majority of our students (fictitious digital native prejudices aside) are functionally illiterate when using digital technologies in even simple, user focused ways.  We seem to think we are graduating students who are able to make effective use of computers - except we aren't.  Many educators dwell in that level 0 to 1 poor user category themselves.


I've been advocating for it for over five years - nothing changes.

If our digital fluency were seen in terms of literacy, we're handing out the complete works of Shakespeare to illiterates and then wondering why it isn't working and why it's being vandalized.  At some point we'll stop dumping the latest multi-national prompted tech fad (ipads, chromebooks, whatever) into classrooms and start teaching a K to 12 digital skills continuum so people can actually make use of the technology we provide.

Last week one of my essential students intentionally punched and broke a Chromebook in my classroom.  This made me quite angry because I saw a useful and expensive digital tool being broken.  After reading this report I can't help but wonder if he was just breaking a thing that he can't do anything useful with that frustrates him.


“Educational technology has failed to move the needle on either cost effectiveness or student success in the past ten years…”  - Brandon Busteed, Gallup Education (they were talking about this in Phoenix in 2014)


OECD (2016), Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, France.


Originally published on Dusty World, December, 2017.


Exploring Math and Mindsets

Posted by sandlau May 12, 2017


Our TLLP  journey begins. Excited to see where math mindsets takes us... and how we will unleash our own math POTENTIAL and that of our students. Or where ever the journey leads...


At the end of #TLLP2017 training, I am thankful to have had time to sit as a team reflect and set goals. Grateful for the strengths of our team members, Jenn and her say like it is, no nonsense , get it done attitude, and Tracy's quiet go and think about it, come back with my thinking pages dedication.  And me, Laurel, the try anything, anytime,  I'm in!, have you heard about,  I have a book for that, and here are 7 more ideas related or maybe not, am I overwhelming you, Ok let's back up!!


You can find our journey here #SVETLLP and us @sandersonlaure1 @MrsClementJKSK @TracyMcNallySVE


Building Futures at OISE

Posted by noproblem Apr 12, 2017

Thanks to an invitation from leah.kearney I had the privilege of participating in the OISE Building Futures event on Monday, April 10th. I joined kwalton and her colleague, Yong Lee, from the Upper Grand District School board as experienced educators doing our best to offer perspective and perhaps answer some questions for this year's concurrent teacher education program graduates.



Image result for OISE building futures



Led by stefaniemuhling, our conversations were informal and, where ever possible, driven by authentic questions and wonderings from the teacher candidates. As part of my participation I did my best to explain TeachOntario and demonstrate how the platform could be used as not only an excellent place to find ministry resources and planning tools but also a place to foster collaboration beyond the school level with like-minded educators around the province. The teacher candidates seemed excited to learn about the TeachOntario community and hopefully they'll all be joining us soon.


Through my discussions I learned that the next generation of educators in Ontario have the passion and enthusiasm they will need to be successful. They seem to understand that the most important characteristic of a great teacher is a never-ending desire to keep learning; these candidates are comfortable with the vision of teacher as lifelong learner which needs to be embraced by educators today perhaps more than ever.


The teacher candidates that I had the pleasure of speaking with also seemed to have the necessary perseverance to be successful in education. Through sharing their stories and practicum experiences, the candidates made it clear to me that they had already dealt with some of the realities that education has to offer. No placement is perfect just as we all know that every role in education has its own unique set of challenges. Despite being surprised by some of the difficulties they faced, those who shared some of their challenges were also undeterred by these experiences - if anything, they seemed to be further motivated by the obstacles they faced which is a mindset that will serve them well in the near future as they start their careers.






I was honoured to share my personal experiences with a genuinely interested audience who will hopefully benefit from their discussions with me. I've had a small peek into the future and I look forward to the contributions that these graduates will make to our profession.

The 10 day challenges in both PQP Part I and Part II certainly allowed me to think and
reflect upon the use of technology in my classroom today, and how it can be
used effectively as a future administrator. Twitter was one platform that I was
using beforehand, however through the course work and 10 day challenges, I
realize its value in creating and maintaining PLNs and creating a collaborative
learning environment. Digital literacy was also a major theme throughout the 10
day challenge and how we can develop this skill in our schools. Through some of
the challenges a began to recognize the importance of creating a learning space
where students can become more digitally literate. Skills like
the ability to read and

interpret media during media literacy lessons or the ability to reproduce data and images
through digital manipulation through stop motion animation projects, the more
opportunity we give our students to develop these skills, the better they will
be prepared for the future. Creating collaborative learning spaces with teacher
colleagues and administrators through twitter, google docs, and blogs will help
to consistently move staff forward in the ever-changing digital world. As a
lead learner, it is important that we meet teachers and other staff where they
are, and then help to move them forward. The use of technology can often be
overwhelming and frustrating for some, so it is crucial that we support these
individuals every step of the way. When we do this we are not only helping them
become more digitally literate, but we are building positive and professional
relationships that will no doubt pay dividends in future learning and


Critical Digital Literacy

Posted by krystenc Feb 16, 2017

I'm doing an inquiry project for my Critical Digital Literacy Class and I would like any educators or future educators input. My question is: How can critical digital literacy learning activities be effectively integrated into the Health and Physical Education curriculum at the Intermediate/Senior level? Thanks in advance!

Originally posted here: A Chance to Celebrate & Share:#TLLP2016 – Educators Tell Us

Through the 2015 – 2016 school year I had the pleasure of leading a Teacher Learning and Leadership project at Holy Cross in Malton, Ontario, the school I called home for 10 years. The project is explained in the video loop here: TLLP explained and the work that we shared has been made accessible on TeachOntario and on twitter as well.

On November 24th and 25th my colleague Joe Florio and I traveled to the Hilton Meadowvale to participate in the TLLP Sharing the Learning Summit. The summit featured 100 projects proudly displayed and explained by over 200 educators from all over Ontario.


Joe and I taking our mandatory selfie (double selife?) just after setting up


With most of the participants coming in from out of town, the summit easily carried a culture of celebration and discussion; teachers almost always appreciate the chance to share the work they’re so passionate about with like-minded colleagues. As things started to come together at our display I realized that taking the time to stop, reflect and share my learning was EXACTLY what I needed before I stepped beyond this great experience and onto new challenges.


Summit participants were treated to inspiring talks from previous notable TLLP participants including keynote speaker, Michelle Cordy. We also had the privilege of hearing about how the TLLP is sparking other similar programs internationally and setting the tone for positive change within the profession through shared leadership and genuine teacher-led professional development. Ann Lieberman, Carol Campbell and Anna Yashkina shared the significant research and collaboration that they’re all a part of in this important initiative.


The DPCDSB secondary (led by Linda Primier) and elementary panel TLLP teams


Joanne Myers from the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario inspired us sharing her stories of success and learning throughout a career where she “woke up every morning to go to work as if she’d won the lottery”. Her passion reached everyone in the room.

We were even treated to visits from Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter and Ontario Teacher’s Federation President, Mike Foulds who both gave talks that made us all feel appreciated, important and certainly validated in our efforts for the students of Ontario.

Despite the clear value provided by the summit’s guest speakers, the most meaningful discussions and connections happened during the market place sessions where TLLP leaders had the chance to share our projects with each other. The opportunity to strengthen and expand our professional/personal learning networks will lead to continued learning and exposure to different perspectives. Many of the educators we connect with at the summit will serve as sounding boards for our future ideas, co-planners for lessons or an inspirational spark through some work, idea or reflection they’ve shared, typically through social media. Despite the fact that many of us will only have the chance to see one another perhaps once or twice a year, these connections with like-minded professionals, facilitated through digital mediums, can keep us energized and creative at times where our motivation might be at risk of fading.


In front of my display with Rolland Chidiac who has led two TLLP projects so far and is a part of my PLN via twitter


After two days of reflecting and sharing with colleagues I’m recharged and ready to continue doing what I love and supporting the efforts of the many teachers and students I’m so fortunate to work with each day. Beyond that I have new ideas for ways that I can have a positive impact on the teaching profession and, perhaps most importantly, an ever-expanding PLN to learn with and from.