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What's the Greatest Edtech Tool?

Posted by Emile Ferlisi May 8, 2016



For a little over 14 months, I've spent more time than I'd like to admit scouring the internet (with a heavy focus on twitter) looking for great edtech ideas and tools. I've been reading articles from well-known and followed 'gurus' and many lesser-known yet often equally insightful educators. I've learned a lot; through my TLLP I've been given the chance to lead a team of educators who are willing to take risks and who are comfortable trying approaches where success isn't guaranteed. Though there is one more feedback survey to be done, so far the responses from the team and the observations I've had the chance to make would suggest that we've all grown as professionals and as leaders thanks to this project.


As we've moved along from October to May, I've supported team member with various resources and through asynchronous collaboration right here on TeachOntario and through our team OneNote. I've thrown far too many emails with resources and ideas at the team hoping that someone might find what I'd sent useful for their classroom; most of the time I was at least partially correct. Team members gladly accepted the challenges and opportunities that their participation in the TLLP (and my personal vision for it) presented.


Perhaps the best part of the project was that team members provided their own half-day professional development sessions for two of their colleagues and since then have made themselves available as technology mentors/coaches to those colleagues. All told, the project has helped to directly improve professional capacity with technology for 30 teachers and two administrators and, even more importantly, helped change the school's overall culture around collaboration and technology for the better.TLLP phase 2.png

Through my scouring and the team's implementation, I've had the pleasure of learning and, more importantly, USING edtech tools that allow students to collaborate and express themselves in ways that might not be possible without the given digital tool. Ultimately, the implementation of any digital tool that I have now learned relies on the simple fact that I HAVE learned it. That is, I can reap the benefits of, Nearpod, for example, because I've been able to create with it and, in that way, can empathize with my learner while supporting their use of the tool. Even if I'm of the mindset that a high level of free exploration will benefit my students, I need to be proficient enough to troubleshoot and support those reluctant learners who simply won't 'jump in' and every classroom has at the very least a few of them. I wrote about this topic in a previous post where I did my best to promote the authentic, creative use of digital tools by educators as a prerequisite for effective classroom implementation.


By now you've figured out that I am not going to point out the 'greatest edtech tool" per se; I think several of them are great and, yes, I do have some favourites including Explain Everything, Padlet, OneNote, and Nearpod, but any tool or group of tools that I point out would be limited and based on my personal preferences and biases. What I can say with confidence and total objectivity is that YOU, my reader, as part of your organization's culture have the potential to be the 'greatest edtech tool' possible. What has made Effective Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - @HCTLLP such an enjoyable and, hopefully, effective endeavour has been the culture of learning that we have successfully created, at first for the team of 12 educators we started with and then, progressively, as influencers for our colleagues in the school. We've even been successful in encouraging, promoting and modelling the effective use of digital tools to our school board peers through our consistent sharing on twitter.


So, ironically, the greatest edtech tool isn't available on your tablet, smartphone, laptop or desktop. The greatest edtech tool is informed, inspired teacher leadership complemented by a culture of collaboration and risk taking. It's not about the technology, it's about the people and their commitment to meaningful learning.

eacE7WeU.jpgMarc Hodgkinson's Blog can be found at The Fifty-Twenty Blog


Twitter_Logo_Hd_Png_06.jpgHe is on Twitter @Mr_H_Teacher

NOTE: This was originally published in Blogger in August, 2015

Here comes the Boom


Last spring, the Ontario Government released the details of the updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum. However, it was quickly branded the “New Sex Ed” curriculum by both detractors and defenders. Controversy and commentary began immediately, and I was soon hearing and reading everything from legitimate, well-considered critique to absurd criticism and outlandish generalities. 


Within the month I was fielding questions from parents, friends and intrigued strangers at social gatherings. It was a political hot-potato and teachers were often thrust into the spotlight as instant authorities. The big questions (other than the occasional “Is it true that…?” inquiries) seemed to be “Did I agree with it?” and “How was I going to implement it?”


My Temporary Harbour of Ignorance


At that time, I was safe.  I was far too busy with the current school year and the existing health curriculum - so I didn’t have to comment.  My grade 4 students were dealing with the dangers of smoking - creating skits about “saying no” and manufacturing warning labels with Google Draw - safe from the storm of controversy in our little harbour of ignorance.


I did, however, remind any inquisitor that the classroom teacher remained an important human factor standing between the specific expectations of the curriculum and the delivery of that information to the student. He or she is the filter who will make a sincere, prudent and professional effort to meet the expectations of as many people as possible.  It was a good sentence and it afforded me many thoughtful nods of approval.  At the least, it was long enough for me have time to change the topic - “So, how about those Jays?”

How do I square that circle?

It is now mid-summer and I do have the time to examine the documents for myself.  I should preface that I am only looking at the Grade 5 (C1.3 C1.4 & C2.4 pages 156-158) and Grade 6  sections (C2.5 C2.6 &C 3.3, pages 174-177) of the curriculum.  I am setting up my lessons for the upcoming year and I know that the flames of controversy will be fanned again on the next "slow-news" day. I know that, this time, I will need to be prepared.

After reading it for the first time...I remarked that it didn't seem markedly different from the curriculum I remembered when I last taught Grade 5 & 6.  Looking back at the 1998 document - I was correct.


Regardless, I typed the following in my lesson plan notes to use as my anchor moving forward...


“So, how do I professionally approach this curriculum in a way that respects the importance of these concepts?

How do I ensure that students are prepared for the changes they will undergo while also respecting their innocence?

Concurrently, how do I respect the multiple values of each family and culture in my school community?”



I know I echo the sentiment of many educators when I say - We agree - we don't relish the idea of teaching the "prickly-topics". We would far prefer that the family navigate the edges, angles and corners of human growth and sexuality. In fact, we would rather focus on many of the more conventional topics and leave much of the health curriculum to parents - including dental hygiene, healthy eating & internet safety.  It would certainly free up a lot more time for things like coding, writing, and problem solving. 


However, the prickly topics are unavoidable because we should all be in the business of making informed thinkers. We all want to be difference makers and provide our young charges with the important information they need to protect them from as many avoidable pitfalls as possible.  The question seems to remain - Who needs the information and when do they need it? Additionally, if my students are not able to make healthy choices with their bodies, diet, dental hygiene or internet interactions - things like coding, writing and problem solving become a minor concern.


At this time, I need to take a necessary pause and turn my attention to something else - perhaps the recently adapted Social Studies curriculum.  A fall election is looming and I need to be prepared to maximize that learning experience.  Hopefully, someone much smarter than I will provide me with the ideal approach to this slippery slope.  Volunteers?


The Tyranny of Choice

Posted by mr_h_teacher May 5, 2016

NOTE: This is a repost of a blog, originally published through Blogger on August 5, 2015


I am finally going to “post” a blog today.  I'm emphasizing the word “post” because I have written, tinkered-with, debated and deleted many over the past five years. This will be the first one I have officially released into the wild. 


This reticence was not due to apprehension about the content, but a self-imposed hesitation about the platform and presentation.  Much like choosing Friday night entertainment on Netflix -  the delay was a product of the "Tyranny of Choice. What do I choose? What should it look like? What will be a great title? Is this good enough?


My routine, for many years, has been the same. I start, or rediscover, an account on a platform (WordPress, Blogger, etc) and then begin to build the perfect blog environment.  I select titles and templates and carefully craft a catchy URL address.  I dutifully search YouTube videos to provide me with step-by-step tutorials. Simply put, I exhaust my enthusiasm in the minutia.


Invariably, I would get as far as composing a large, unedited chunk of my first post when distraction would set, circumstance, uncertainty, a hockey game on TV. I would convince myself that I needed time to reflect and I would leave the post unfinished. 


Prior to my return, I would learn of a new platform (Edublogs, SquareSpace) - I have stale accounts on them all - and I would begin the process anew. Today, I have decided that this must end.


Here is what I have learned about getting an education blog started. (And this will be short and simple because of #3)


  1. Just write something that you think is important and that you want to share with fellow educators. Once it is written, you will be far more keen to put it out into the world.
  2. Find a tutorial to help you, but look for a tutorial that is current. Blog platforms change frequently. An excellent tutorial from 2011 may be more confusing than an satisfactory tutorial from last month.
  3. Make your points simple and clear. Write a blog that you can edit easily and can be read in a few minutes.
  4. Have fun. If you are not enjoying the process, blogging is not for you.
  5. Post it. Give it a quick edit and then put it up.  You can always revisit it in the future when you gain a new perspective.


With that said - here goes nothing.


Why the 50-20 Blog?

Posted by mr_h_teacher May 5, 2016

NOTE: Originally posted on Blogger on August 5, 2015


In my first post "The Tyranny of Choice" I talked about my struggle to find the perfect title, or URL, for my education blog.  I have tinkered with many - only to create a long and unnecessary delay in my efforts.


I guess I spent much of my thought on my audience.   After all, it is an important lesson I teach to my students when they write. Should I be writing a blog that has a title that will attract other educators? colleagues? parents? students?   How can I welcome anyone on this personal and professional journey?


How clever should my title be?  I once named a Fantasy Baseball team the "Hurley Buehrles" - my punny-play on the last name of a Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher. I was chuffed by my wittiness until it became increasingly clear that the team I had selected did not deserve a clever moniker. I realized again, it's not the name, it’s the content that matters.


This summer, as I embarked, again, on my quest to create an active blog, my struggles began anew. However, this time, the mental gymnastics were short and an ideal name revealed itself to me quite quickly.  I'd love to say that, like Chris Cornell's "Audioslave", it came to me in a “shaman-like vision”, but that would be embellishing the mundane.  I thought of it while walking to school one morning.


This summer, I turned 50 and 2005 also marks my 20th year as an educator. (I am counting my year of Teacher’s College).  The 50/20 Blog was born. To use a golf analogy, I am (without a doubt) on the “back 9” of this beautiful and challenging course - and I want to finish strong.  This blog can serve to mark this occasion and also act as a scorecard for my journey. 


Like most veteran educators, I would not dare suggest I scored below par on the first nine.  I think I shot well... I certainly learned from my mistakes and managed to pull myself out of a number of hazards.  By its very nature, this is a profession that propels us forward and makes us adapt and change to the landscape.  You can’t reflect on mistakes and missteps.  You can’t fret over missed opportunities and there are no mulligans. You simply must move forward. As Stephen Stills once wrote…


“Don’t let the past remind you of what you are not now.”




So, I move forward to the next tee, eager to begin another year.  I am now overwhelmed with the task of finding the best way to get everything in motion with my new class - Edmodo, The Global Read Aloud, Dot Day, Tween Tribune, Class Dojo, Thrively, Edmettle, Kidblogs, NoRedInk, Hank Zipzer and more.  There is a Federal election in October and that is a teaching opportunity that can't be missed. There will be successes and casualties on the way.  I have changed grades and I am embarking on a curriculum I haven’t looked at in some time. I also have to navigate a new Ontario Health curriculum that attracts both proponents & detractors - but - a lot more people like me, who are not sure how to feel about it yet. I think I'll write about that next.


Regardless, the 50/20 begins.  I welcome anyone to join me on this leg of the journey.


Endless Possibilities

Posted by jencassatodd Apr 20, 2016


Hi everyone,


My name is Jennifer Casa-Todd and I am a new Teacher-Librarian at Cardinal Carter CHS in Aurora. I am thrilled to be back at a school after having worked as a Program Resource Teacher and Literacy Consultant 7-12 for the passed 6 years.  Before that, I taught high school English, Special Education, Cooperative Education, Religious Education


I am passionate about student voice, global collaboration, and empowering students to use technology and social media to become Digital Leaders. I am currently enrolled in a Curriculum and Technology Masters program at UOIT, with a research focus on Social Media in Education. I am also in the process of writing a book which will be published in the Spring by Dave Burgess Consulting.


My blog is a place where I reflect on my learning, write out some of my research findings and musings, and share ideas for global collaboration. It will also be the place that will house supplementary resources for the book. I called it Endless possibilities because as teachers, I truly believe we can inspire our students to reach great heights and the possibilities for them are endless if we believe in them and support them.


I am grateful for anyone who stops by to read a post, as I know how busy everyone is. Comments and feedback are always welcome!

Reaching out for Opinions with Zaption



In mid February, after watching a video called 'The Voice of the Active Learner' during a presentation from the DPCDSB technology coaches, I put together a Zaption designed to find out how educators feel about the rapidly evolving world of digital learning. I specifically wanted to get honest opinions and responses from educators about the concept of the 'digital native' and how we can improve or, at the very least, alter some of our teaching methods to support the context that today's students are coming from. The original video is at the link below. You can submit your own responses at the link just below the video link.

The Voice of the Active Learner - Education From a Digital Native's Perspective - YouTube


Zaption discussion


Despite sharing this content frequently, over several networks, I only had 22 respondents. Even so, there are some interesting results that are worth discussing here.


Question 1 - When you hear about a "digital native" what do you REALLY think, be honest!


For this question, respondents chose either A, C or D with the overwhelming majority choosing D. In this case, D was a response that suggested that teachers believed using technology could improve their teaching and, of course, their students' learning. The actual wording of response D, in case you didn't watch the video, was: It makes sense; When used properly, the tools we have now can make lifelong learning MORE possible than ever. For this one, though I'm sure the answers were honest, I feel that respondents could easily determine that this was the 'best' answer; it's not tough to agree with the sentiment in this choice.


Question 2 listed several quotes, asked educators to select one and then asked them to "explain how you think and feel about it. Explain how the idea you've chosen will impact your teaching practice and professional development".


Educators chose various quotes, of course, for this response. The sentiments ranged from fully embracing the need for digital learning to questioning whether or not students have the critical thinking skills necessary for independent, online learning. Several responses included a concern for the lack of human interaction that may be a by-product of some digital learning tools while others shared a concern for the insatiable need for some kind of digital engagement wondering if it will ever "be enough". Here are some of my favourite responses; I've kept all respondents anonymous:


A balance is needed in learning going forward. Technology is out there and as I type this and you receive it and you read it, technology has already advanced and there is something new ready for someone to use. The balance is the teacher. Good teaching pedagogy is key to any new innovation and at the heart of moving learning forward is knowing the learner. The video is all about student voice!..The student is letting us; the teacher know what they are all about and how they learn and it is good teaching strategies that will move that student forward.



"To learn I look online..." Completely true. But I see students who are indeed connected, but are not literate in what they are interacting with. They don't know how to filter any searches they see (and I'm not talking Boolean - just seeing a response and knowing that perhaps it's an academic journal or it's relating to a synonym of their search or it's from the wrong country...) We don't yet seem to have a curriculum to learn the neighbourhood of searches and how to efficiently navigate or determine what's accurate out there. I hear, "But it says that so I'm writing it down," way too much.



I agree more with the second option. As a resident of rural Northern Ontario, we have relied on online digital courses. As teachers, we need to develop capacity for making these courses rich and relevant.


I definitely agree that the educator is THE MOST IMPORTANT tool in the classroom (I will be writing a post on this topic soon!) as stated here. I also see, from these responses, that we need to teach our students the basics when it comes to technology. For some reason many educators seem to believe that students already know how to use pretty much any technology; while this is sometimes true, it is often very far from the truth. We are still obliged to learn how to effectively use digital tools and make sure that we are proficient with whatever tool we expect our students to use. Again, the assumption that students "already know" will lead to the perpetuation of misunderstandings and ineffective use of technology.


Question 3 - What are your final thoughts about the challenge your future student (the narrator) poses for you? What are you looking forward to in the years to come? What are some limitations you expect to face? Again, be as honest as you can be! 


This question also provided a range of responses. Some educators described their enthusiasm for continued professional learning while others focused on the limitations of technology and almost seemed resistant. Some respondents pointed to a lack of funding and effective mentoring and professional development (obviously something that our TLLP efforts try to address) and their hopes for improvement.  My personal responses could never be as thorough as the collective I was able to gather so, with that in mind, here are some of my favourites. Again, respondents are anonymous:


The biggest challenge will be to keep up with the technology and to insure that all students have equal access, regardless of socio economic status.


I'm wondering how much knowledge will my future students be coming in with...from some of the experiences I've had in my classroom to date, students don't know as much as we think they know. The common assumption that kids know more about computers/ipads etc than their parents, and at an earlier age, is not always the case. Most students are familiar with these devices but have been introduced to them because that's the current form of entertainment - a babysitter for parents...(these are very general statements...I know) Students need to understand the power these devices hold and how they can assist with their learning.


Although students are digital natives there are some basics that they don't understand or do and because they think they are so tech savvy they are not willing to listen to suggestions. Since information is so readily available, students are overloaded and don't necessarily have the skills to sort through the vast amounts of information. We need to guide them through the process and ensure that they become critical thinkers. Our schools are not equipped with enough technology and we need to move to BYOD and embrace.


The biggest challenge I believe is keeping up. Using technology in as many possible ways to keep the students engaged and wanting to learn more. I look forward to educating myself on the latest trends in technology to strengthen my teaching approach. The biggest Limitation that I expect to face is access to technology. It's obvious that this is the direction that schools are heading in, but at the same time it can be quite difficult to get funding for devices like laptops and tablets



Having enough technology or the funding for improvements in resources seems to be a common thread and one that I'd agree makes sense. It was also clear that educators felt that we have no choice but to be able to 'beat students at their own game' so to speak in order to avoid the situation where students feel that they don't need to learn or, worse yet, that their teacher simply doesn't know what he or she "is doing" with the technology. While a co-learning stance is ideal and we definitely want to learn with, and often FROM, our students, we also have to "do our homework" and be proficient enough with the tools to determine whether or not students really do "know what they think they know".


The responses I received, though varied, allowed me to see the commonalities that Ontario educators have when it comes to our opinions on digital learning. It would seem that we agree on the idea that effective implementation of technology can lead to better student outcomes if and when WE are effective in using the tools. Along those lines, we acknowledge the need for great professional development and have our concerns around both accessibility of technology in our schools (BYOD doesn't seem to fill all of the gaps) and effective mentorships (several respondents mentioned that they felt they hadn't received enough guidance for implementing tools in practical ways). In addition,  'the students already know how to use it' philosophy seems to be rather thoroughly dismissed by respondents. Although I would have loved to have a much larger sample size, I'm happy to have found some validation for my own opinions, along with some nuanced perspectives to broaden my thinking - thanks very much to all respondents!


140+ Learning

Posted by @stepanpruch Mar 31, 2016

Stepan Pruchnicky is a Toronto-based teacher who is passionate about learning and knows that it takes more than 140 characters to express his thoughts and ideas on education. His blog is full of funny memes and video clips that highlight and enhance his deep thinking on what happens in and out of the classroom.

Click here to read his blog.


Our Second TLLP Team Meeting - Sharing Our Learning

Posted by Emile Ferlisi in Effective Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - @HCTLLP on Mar 18, 2016 7:13:01 PM



On February 16, our TLLP team had our long-awaited second meeting. Up to this point we'd been collaborating through informal discussions and meetings, through twitter and right here, on Teach Ontario. At our second meeting, tweeting and texting wasn't going to be enough; each team member had about 15 minutes to explain how they'd effectively incorporated a digital tool into their teaching practice. Prior to team presentations, I led the group through discussion around leadership and what our mentorship might look like. I've included the John C Maxwell video that I used a portion of in our group and you can view thepadlets that we used for collaboration here: Why Should we Implement technology and why should we share our learning?Thoughts on Mentorship. What will our mentorship look like? . My goal was to provide something that resembled professional development for the team with a focus on making the transition from learners to 'leaders who learn'. We even participated in a few self-knowledge quizzes, the idea being that if you don't understand yourself, you most certainly won't be able to lead others. Based on the feedback I've received, it seems that my portion of the day went well.


The rest of the team provided the real treat for the day as they presented a variety of great digital tools to their team mates.danielacraveiro, showed us how she's used Sway with her students to enhance their presentations for social studies; she even took us on a quick tour of Pow Toonmariafava, told us how Class Messengerhttp://http// improved communication with parents and students in her grade 8 class before helping us to create

our own accounts. kasiamoroniewicz, gave us some insight on how the role-playing natureCbWPn5IW8AEWDdN.jpg of Prodigy gamifies the reinforcement of mathematics skills in her classroom.


annamaria, explained how Socrative has been an effective tool for assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment of learning with her grade 4 class., and joeflo, told us all about the many ways they've used Seesaw in their teaching practice, especially to support diverse learners. jpaulsartell gave us a crash course in using Nearpod effectively and demonstrated how it's worked well with his students. daianasantin shared the multiple features of a personal favourite of mine, Explain Everything and how she's been able to cater its use to a primary classroom. anistellato talked about 'The Hour of Code' as a concept that all educators should consider supporting and proceeded to walk us through some engaging and useful activities at hourofcode.

com . Finally, francisco demonstrated the ways in which Adobe Voice can be used to help students tell their stories in a more engaging and effective way.



CbWQ_SqUkAARIOF.jpg:largeI'm proud to say that our second meeting was even more of a success than I anticipated. Team members continue to learn from each other; every member has contributed to the collaborative and supportive approach that has made the project a success so far. I think it's also exciting to note that many of the tools that we've learned are outside of the great Microsoft Office 365 tools that we are using as part of our school board's suite of applications. Team members have become unofficial leaders around the school in using these tools as well, which speaks to the great work and the amount of learning that members of @HCTLLPhave done.



Our mentorship days were also very successful, in fact, they need a post of their own!

From February 21 to 26, I was one of 70 educators who attended the Teacher's Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy, hosted by the Library of Parliament. Hopeful attendees had to be accepted through an application process and, if selected, spent a week in Ottawa engaging in excellent professional development sessions led by the Education Outreach Department of the Library of Parliament and a range of Parliamentary professionals.


2016-02-23 20.46.43.jpg


The schedule in Ottawa was busier than many of my colleagues might have expected. I typically responded to the " did you enjoy your vacation?" banter by explaining that our schedule had us on the Library of Parliament's time for 10 to 14 hours each day. The busy days, however, were well worth it. As part of the process, my team leader asked that we document our thinking and 'take aways'. What follows started as an email to my team leader; I have since made some minor changes, added the visuals and links, but the core of this blog was written in room 205 at the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario on February 25th, 2016 at around 6:30 pm.



When I first decided to apply to the Teacher's Institute, my goal - if I was accepted - was to bring back as much practical, useful learning as possible for my school, my colleagues and myself. In the last several years my interest in Canadian politics has grown and I have re-kindled a passion for politics that I also had while I completed my minor in Political Science at the University of Toronto: my personal interest in Parliament and politics was just as strong as my desire to get some valuable professional development. I was very excited when I learned that I had been accepted to attend this year's institute.


Over the course of the week, I have found that the education outreach team for the library of Parliament has been working on modernizing the materials and resources that they offer to support teachers. I plan on showing my colleagues that this is happening by presenting the websites that were shown to us to interested teachers. I'll be provided with a few minutes at a staff meeting to explain that I am available to staff who would like to go over resources from the Library of Parliament; I'll also send out an email with links. I plan on also making a point of visiting our grade 5 teachers as well as our grade 6 - 8 teachers (grades where government is specifically in the curriculum) to show them the excellent ways that they can engage their students with the resources that I have now learned more about. In particular, I think I will show our grade 5 teacher "Bill on the Hill" and possibly show the 2016-02-23 08.53.33.jpgintermediate teachers the "Setting the Agenda" online activity to support their learning, or prior to our trip to Ottawa. I can also, of course, show our staff the "searching for symbols" resource which may be useful in a very broad context.

2016-02-23 08.43.25.jpg







Perhaps even more importantly, the experiences that I have had and the insights that I have gained will provide me with the tools to, hopefully, clear away some misinformation and misunderstanding that I have actually seen amongst my peers. It's one thing to bring resources and activities to teachers - and I am glad that I will be able to do that - but it's quite another thing to work on changing minds. I hope to explain to my colleagues, again, why it is worth their time to understand and appreciate the parliamentary democracy that we are so lucky to have; too many of my colleagues told me directly that they didn't vote because it "doesn't matter" or they simply "don't know anything about politics" - if we, as educators, believe that this kind of thinking is okay, how can we possibly hope to influence and guide our students in ways that lead them to a life where they are responsible citizens who contribute to our society?


I hope that I can convey to my colleagues that there are a lot of similarities when we consider perception versus reality for both teachers and MPs, Senators, etc. To be a good educator, you have to be committed and dedicated to your class. You have to work hard to meet the needs of your students and you are FAR more busy than anyone in the general public knows or will give you credit for. To be a good MP, you have to be committed and dedicated to your constituents as well as your country and political party. A good MP has to meet the needs of the people in his or her riding and is ALWAYS busy, though some members of the general public tend to believe that MPs aren't doing very much besides living large off of public money.


Another significant similarity that I've noticed is that MPs and other parliamentarians seem to agree that the way Parliamentary democracy is conducted and shared with citizens is in need of modernization; a large part of this process is developing useful tools for collaboration. I don't think that any educator can say that they aren't painfully aware of this same trend within education.We are constantly looking at ways to improve student voice through collaboration tools and many of us spend a lot of our time in efforts to modernize our practice (effective implementation of technology is likely the phrase we are used to).


Understanding and presenting these connections might be a great start to get some of my colleagues on board - again, the point being that if we don't understand the value of our Parliamentary democracy, there is NO WAY that we can teach it well. If I share these resources with teachers who haven't yet "changed their minds", it won't really matter.


Lastly, some of the most powerful learning and deepest insights came from simply listening to the stories that the various speakers shared. The stories we heard over this past week were powerful and, from what I can tell, transformative in that many of us had at least some of our opinions re-formed. When I get back to school on Monday, February 29th, I am going to start telling my version of the story of the 2016 Teacher's Institute

2016-02-24 09.58.03.jpgon Parliamentary Democracy.




I'd like to think that this blog is a great starting point as I continue my work in telling the story of #TIFE16.

The AMDSB Technology Learning Community was originally founded in 2013 to provide a collaborative learning space for members of the 2013-2014 TLLP team. Our TLLP, Blogs as Digital Portfolios, provided students with a balance of inquiry-based learning opportunities designed to improve student outcomes in AMDSB’s priority areas: Creativity and Innovation, Communication and Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving:

Teachers in our Technology Learning Community (TLC) are learning how to design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences that utilize technology to transform learning into high levels of achievement for students. The SAMR model is one of the tools we use to help us think about our own technology use, and the ways our students use technology as we continue to make shifts in the design and implementation of technology driven learning experiences. Students blogs, digital portfolios, and the AMDSB Technology Learning Community Blog are the tools we are using to:

– raise awareness
– start conversations
– find answers (to the students’ questions)
– join partners
– change minds
– make a difference
– take action
– drive change
– show growth over time
– document learning

Teacher Learning and Leadership Program for Experienced Teachers (TLLP), 2013-2014

In 2014-2015, our TLLP team expanded to include a 10 more teachers as we continued moving forward with our learning and implementation of blogging as pedagogy in our schools. By the end of the year over 300 teachers in the AMDSB joined us in our learning journey and are have now integrated blogging as a platform for learning to improve student achievement in literacy and maximize student outcomes in the areas of 6Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking & problem solving, citizenship, and character). The Technology Learning Community blog has become THE collaborative hub for blogging as pedagogy in the AMDSB, supporting hundreds of teachers during the stages of technology implementation, and throughout the process of learning new literacies.

By the end of the 2015-2016 school year, I anticipate that 85% of all K-8 teachers and students in the AMDSB will be using blogging as a platform for learning. We hope you will join our conversations and share your stories, reflections, favourite resources, and thoughts about teaching and learning with technology!

Leigh Cassell

The following AMDSB staff were members of the TLLP project teams between 2013-2015 and are recognized for all of their contributions to the AMDSB Technology Learning Community:

TLLP Team 2013-2014

Leigh Cassell (Project Author & Project Lead), Stephen
Jennifer Regier (Project Author & Project Lead), Seaforth
Danielle Mascolo, Anne Hathaway
Jennifer Yantzi, Avon
Jen Cook, Brookside
Becky Versteeg, Eastdale
Laura Stanley, Elma
Tracey Peters, Goderich
Shannon Hughes, Milverton

TLLP Team 2014-2015

Leigh Cassell (Project Author & Project Lead), Stephen
Jennifer Regier (Project Author & Project Lead), Seaforth
Danielle Mascolo, Anne Hathaway
Rosemary Halle, Anne Hathaway
Jennifer Yantzi, Avon
Susan Steven, Avon
Jen Cook, Brookside
Kim Liddle, Brookside
Becky Versteeg, Eastdale
Kerry Hill-Keil, Eastdale
Laura Stanley, Elma
Becky Dietrich, Elma
Tracey Peters, Goderich
Sherry Hodges, Goderich
Shannon Hughes, Milverton
Corey Hernden, Milverton

Trust, Authenticity and Genuine (Digital) Leadership

Posted by Emile Ferlisi in Effective Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - @HCTLLP on Jan 7, 2016 6:00:00 AM



Over my Christmas break, while I was trying to focus on other things (with limited success), I started to think about the idea of authenticity within leadership. I started to pay close attention to much of what I was seeing posted online, particularly on twitter, by 'leaders in education' and I couldn't help but feel some disappointment. You see, without sounding overly critical, I got this feeling that many of the gurus out there in cyberspace (some of whom I have had real-life interactions with) might have authenticity issues. Here's the thing, our current (very useful) culture of positive thinking looks down on anything that resembles "negativity", however, if we're thinking critically, we can't simply accept everything that is thrown our way; this connects perfectly to the kind of digital literacy that we have to teach our students: beware of disingenuous individuals; don't "buy everything that popular people are selling" just because they happen to be popular and ALWAYS, ALWAYS think for yourself. Now, as ironic as it may sound, within education I'm finding a number of individuals whose leadership and influence simply wouldn't stand up to the kind of analysis I've described here; I'm seeing this as a phenomenon that applies to the leadership (not only admin or beyond) within our profession at large.


So, what exactly am I trying to say? First and foremost, whether it's in person or online, those who have decided to influence others, those who have decided, even if only through accepting a particular position, to LEAD are obliged to earn the respect and TRUST of those they'd hope to lead. Leadership is difficult - I will certainly concede that! - But the very first step, and quite possibly the most important step, in leadership is to earn the trust of those you'd like to positively influence.



So how can we (and yes, I do consider all of us capable of providing positive influence in our profession), earn the trust of those we'd hope to influence? Dr. Joe Martin says that students ask three questions of their teachers and I agree with him; while watching the video, consider that the students he's referring to are professionals you'd hope to influence:





My biggest concern while following tweets and other social media posts from "leaders in education" stems from question three. I find myself wondering if the gurus always "mean what they say", not because I don't think they are experts, but because it often seems that they aren't taking the time to evaluate what they post or think thoroughly about the quality and/or standpoint that they are sharing, retweeting, etc. I'm also not a fan of the "retweet is not an endorsement" disclaimer that has found its way into several profiles.


Rather than simply outlining a concern, I have come up with four tips to help potential influencers in avoiding the trust and authenticity issues that I have noticed:


Read everything you post THOROUGHLY!

Have you ever had a friend share one of those misinformed Facebook posts? You know, the ones that attack not-for-profits and charities with made up statistics for example? Leaders can't make the mistake of posting misinformation: either your reputation will suffer or those who follow your lead will be misinformed - neither option has a good outcome for you or the profession.



Respond when people interact with you!

Heaven forbid that a like-minded professional tries to make contact with you OVER SOCIAL MEDIA! It makes sense that influencers with large followings might have to be very economical with their 'reply time', but I don't think that gives anyone license to be that "sorry, too many followers, too important" person. Even 'liking' a reply or comment might be enough acknowledgement for someone trying to interact with you.




It often seems that some gurus are just sitting there at a desk hammering the share button at a few websites of choice, maybe a couple of days a week - this is probably not the best example of digital leadership. We don't have to be glued to our smartphones or tablets, but mobilization of knowledge is exactly where our society, and education in general, is heading; those who seek to lead and influence the profession should model this reality (within reason, of course).



Create your own content!

I don't mean tweet a picture of your family dinner here (though you certainly can!). I just mean that influencers would do well to create some content that is relevant to their role rather than ONLY sharing the great thinking of others (the value of which I am not dismissing). 'Your own content' could include a broad range of items including blogs, photos, musings, lesson plans, and any other relevant, shareable content. Most influencers do a fairly decent job on this one.



To sum up, we all have the capacity to influence our profession and the digital tools that we have access to provide us with a forum to reach an audience of educators who are willing to listen and be influenced. If our colleagues are listening to us, we better make sure that we're genuine and authentic. Those of us who are in a position to lead (which is arguably all of us!) should work at earning the trust of the professionals we may have influence over and these four pointers provide some influence that I hope will be helpful.

Our project focused on environmental inquiry-based learning in Full-Day Kindergarten and Grade One.  As educators, we know that children learn by asking questions, exploring and investigating.  Our project built on the natural curiosity and sense of wonder that children possess about the world around them.


Our goal was to develop and extend the inquiry skills of our youngest learners.  We aimed to provide students with a rich, stimulating classroom environment and varied opportunities to plan, observe and gather information about topics that interest them.  We worked at deepening our knowledge and ability to effectively interact with students in order to clarify, extend and help articulate children's thinking as well as to encourage students to share findings through oral, visual and written representations.  In essence, our goal was to make student thinking visible through the inquiry process.

The Capacity Building Series publication "Getting Started with Student Inquiry" states:  "There is growing consensus, both provincially and internationally, that greater student engagement leads to greater student achievement."

Our GOALS:                                                                                                                                                     

  • increased student engagement
  • increased understanding of a problem, topic or issue
  • development of a community of co-learners (students and educators learning together)
  • development of inquiry skills (exploration, investigation, communication)
  • development of self-directed learners

Where We BeganOur journey began when we visited the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School in Toronto.  We chose to visit this lab school because of its inquiry approach to learning – children learn by doing. front of Eric bldg.jpgeric photos.jpgSK eric.jpg

Front entrance of Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School

Highlights of our learning:

  • Focus on teaching children, not on teaching the curriculum.
  • Children have theories.  They are naturally curious and natural researchers.  As educators, start with their theories.
  • Don’t undermine what children are capable of and don’t make acquiring information simple for them.
  • Design experiences where children feel safe to ask questions, state ideas and take risks.
  • Create an environment where children learn for themselves and the community of learners in the classroom.  Work on building collective understanding.


The school’s publication Natural Curiosity: A Resource for Teachers – Building Children’s Understanding of the World through Environmental Inquiry was our guide and inspiration throughout our project.





Science Big Idea - Kindergarten:

Children are curious and connect prior knowledge to new contexts in order to understand the world around them.


Science Overall Expectation - Grade One:

Students assess the impact on people and the environment of objects and structures and the materials used in them.


Key Concept: Growth and Change in Trees and Our Relationship with Trees

Subject and Skill Areas:  Science, Visual Arts, Math, Language, Oral Language Development, Personal and Social Development

Focus of Inquiry: Trees

The Early Years:
Shannon’s Story


After reading the document“Natural Curiosity” and visiting the Eric Jackman Institute in Toronto, we knew that we wanted the focus of our inquiry to be on the environment, but more specifically, the study of trees.  We chose the topic of trees, as we felt that every child could relate to trees because of their experiences with them, particularly because of our geographical location –IMG_6392.JPG
Northwestern Ontario, where forestry is a big industry.  We began by creating a planning web – we, as the educator team, put on paper our ideas for how we thought this inquiry could unfold.  Our ideas came in handy when we needed a new hook – a way to get students thinking about trees in a different way.


Early in the year, the children began noticing the changes that were occurring with the onset of fall.  They were particularly interested in a tree on our playground that was losing its leaves after the leaves changed colour.  We did the standard ‘leaf activities’ – collecting, observing, sorting and visual arts activities.  But we needed to make the learning deeper,
with a focus on trees.  We started by assessing the students’ prior knowledge by asking them: IMG_6390.JPG“What do you know about trees?”  We compiled the students’ knowledge by facilitating a Knowledge Building Circle about trees.  We also invited them to draw a picture of a tree.




Fall was now turning to

winter and we were contemplating which student ideas to explore further, when it happened by chance.  While playing outside, a student asked “Why do some trees have no leaves and other trees are green in the winter?”  Rather than attempting to answer the student’s question, we brought the question to the students.  Their responses were interesting:


“Some leaves blow off.”

“Too cold for leaves to stay on.”

“Maybe the snow is too blowy.”

“Some trees don’t have leaves and some trees do.”

“Some trees are called evergreen and they stay green forever.”

“What kind of tree is the Advent wreath?  Why are the leaves not falling off?”                                                 

We proved and disproved their theories by studying coniferous and deciduous trees – perfect timing since many homes had a shining example of an evergreen in their living room.

IMG_3337.JPGDuring this brief (because of approaching Christmas holidays) but important study, the children learned that they can gain information from library books, the internet or by asking others.  More importantly, students realized that their original thinking was based on their background knowledge and therefore, was accurate.  In the New Year, to refocus students on the topic of trees and to establish a personal connection with trees and each other, we sent home an assignment for students to complete with their parents:



Each student shared their work with the class and it was interesting to see the variety of tree types (including some invented ones) that are ‘special’ to the children.  There were no right or wrong answers and the questions were designed to be open-ended.


Science Centre – We sent home a second homework piece on trees.  Students brought their

branches to school and they were housed in our Science centre, along with paper, pencils and magnifying glasses, to encourage close observation.  We told the children that scientists, or
people that study nature, write down their observations, and make drawings to help them remember or to show the information to others.  Student drawings were posted in this centre. IMG_6924.JPGOne student brought in a branch with needles on it.  As the time went on, the needles were falling off.  A Knowledge Building Circle about why the needles are falling off, resulted.  Most students thought that a tree needs water and that a cut-off branch can’t get water. The question “How does a tree get water?” was then asked.  The question lead to a study of tree roots using plants that the students grew.
Students were finding seeds (i.e., in an apple, a sunflower seed on the ground) that they wanted to plant.  They asked questions such as, “Will an apple tree grow?”  The following chart was helpful in questioning students during the experimental process.

Before the Experiment

During the Experiment

During and After the Experiment

“What do you think is going to happen?”

“Why do you think that is going to happen?”

“What do you see happening?”

“Look closely. Has anything changed?”

“Is everything the same?”

“Why do you think that happened?”

“Did you expect that to happen?”

“How is what you saw different from what you thought would happen?”

“What does this mean about ______?”

We had several clear cup containers in our classroom, each with a different seed type.  As some started growing, students were still interested in the root systems.  We had already established that trees have roots, so we decided to examine how trees and plants are the same and different.


Student Responses

“They both grow on the ground in soil.”

“Plants have leaves and trees have leaves.”

“Plants and trees both need water.”

“Plants and trees grow flowers and fruit.”

“They both need sunshine to grow.”

“Plants and trees both grow by seeds and they take a long time to grow.”                                      


“Trees have sticks (wood).”

“Trees can grow bigger than plants.”

“Trees can give you shade and plants can’t.”

“Trees change, like the leaves fall off.”

“Trees change their colour of leaves when it’s a different season and flowers just die.”

The students always heard us (the educators) remark that our playground had very little shade on a sunny day.  This discussion on lack of shade came up many times throughout the year.  The students decided that they would like to plant a tree on our playground.  During a Knowledge Building Circle, the students were asked about why it is a good idea to plant a tree:  

“So we know how to plant stuff.”

“Give us oxygen.”

“Grow vegetables and fruits.”

“Give us shade when we are hot.”

“Beavers eat the trees and build dams.”                                                                            

“Squirrels make homes.”

“Spiders make webs.”

“Birds make nests.”

“Animals eat off trees like giraffes.”

“A bear can live in it.”

“Owls peck in the tree and make a home.”

“Acorns for chipmunks.”

“Deer eat leaves.”

“Monkeys get their bananas from trees.”

We went on a field trip to our local garden centre to browse their selection of trees and determine which type will be suitable for our playground.

IMG_5765.JPG   IMG_5766.JPG    IMG_5771.JPG    IMG_5778.JPG

The students were asked:

How can we raise money to purchase a tree?  Student ideas were plentiful and included having a yard sale, reading books for money, making lunch and selling it and giving money from their IMG_6796.JPGpiggy banks.  In the end, the children voted to have a family BBQ (complete IMG_6932.JPGwith a lemonade stand) and set up a donation jar at the event.
  Parents sent in food items and cooked at the event. The children were involved in all aspects of preparing for the BBQ, such as menu planning, writing invitations and signs, making cupcakes and setting up a lemonade stand.


After the BBQ, the children shared that it was “good” because their families came, the food was yummy and we made “a lot” of money to buy trees.  We actually raised enough money to buy 4 trees for our playground.



Integrated Learning


We studied the book The Giving Tree


Learning Goals:  We developed our critical thinking skills about a text.  We learned to think about the author’s intent or message.  We learned to respond to teacher prompts by talking, writing and/or drawing.


The students acted as literate learners when they analyzed the author’s message by answering the following question:  “If you were the tree, would you be happy?”

Some of their responses were:

“No.  I don’t like it for someone to cut down my trunk.”

“If they take my branches, yes.  I want people to be happy.”

“Yes, if someone picked off all of my apples because they could give them away so poor
people could have food.”


We also studied Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid.  As a way for students to make meaning by accessing prior knowledge before reading the book, students were shown the following image and asked “What do you see?
What do you think?  What do you wonder?”

One saw a grave and another saw a shed.  One said it makes her think of an elephant doing a hand stand.  Another said it reminds him of when he goes ice fishing with his family because one of the branches looks like an ice auger.  One student wondered why the ‘trees’ are tangled up.



Two seedlings were given to our class and we used them to develop the concept of measurement.  We worked on measuring using non-standard units.  The focus questions posed to the students were:  How can I find out the length of the seedling?  Is there a part of your body that you can use to measure?  We extended this concept by making comparisons between the seedlings and the mature tree on our playground.                       

          “We can use our legs and arms to measure.  The cedar goes up to my elbow.”

“Use a shoe to measure.  The tree is as long as Jake’s shoe but on Nyssa’s shoe, it’s two of Nyssa’s shoes long.”

“I can use my head.  It goes from my neck to the top of my head.”

“It fits all the way around my neck!”

“It’s 5 inches long.” (Student demonstrated an inch measure using her fingers and then used that measure to check the length of the branch.)

“I used my wrist.  My wrist is bigger than Payton’s wrist.”

Students also explored and counted the money raised from the BBQ.  They started by putting it into groups (e.g., all the quarters in one group, all the dimes in another, etc.).  Three or four students were assigned to a ‘money group’.  Within their groups, they had to count the number of coins or bills and report back to the whole group with their findings.  From there, we (the educators) figured out the final total.  IMG_5813.JPGOne student decided to make her own 'money' to buy a tree. She cut out circles from paper and wrote numerals and drew people on them.

Surveys – When questions came up, we encouraged students to try to find an answer by conducting a survey (as they already learned that asking others is a way to gain information).  Student survey questions:  Are there vegetableIMG_6913.JPG trees?  Do bears use trees to live in?  Do chipmunks live in trees or in the ground? The students asked the adults in the school as well as the grade 7/8 class.




Visual Arts

We went on a nature walk and each student was given the opportunity to take a close-up picture of some part of a tree on our school ground.  Back in the classroom, we looked at the pictures using the SMARTboard and talked about the question “What do you see?”  The intent was for students to look closely at the photographs and notice the details.  Students were given the task of choosing a photograph and drawing it using any of the following mediums: pastel, crayon or pencil.












To consolidate learning, students were asked:

“Why are trees important?”



Parent Survey:



Once we purchased the trees and positioned them on our playground, we realized that we didn't have room for four trees.  We brought the dilemma to the children.IMG_6943.JPGThe class unanimously agreed to give the tree away.  Ultimately, it ended up being planted on the grade 1-4 playground for other students to enjoy.



Grade One:

Margaret's Story


The Grade One students were asked to draw a picture of a tree and write about what they knew about trees. The students had a very good understanding about trees and the parts of a tree but were not engaged in further learning. At lunchtime, as students finished eating, some were placing recyclable plastic bottles in the paper recycle bin in our classroom. I had mentioned that we can only put paper in the bin. We had a discussion about what we do with the plastics, tin and paper at home. Some students mentioned that they placed recyclable plastics and tin cans in one container and paper in another. (Our town recycling collection centre collects plastics 1 and 2 and tins together, and paper separately). The class thought everyone could bring the used recyclable containers home to be recycled but then decided it would be easier to have a bin for those items at school.  We set up a separate bin for plastics and tin in our classroom.


gray recycle bin.jpgWe put the bin at the front of the room and students made a conscious decision not to put anything but recyclable plastics labelled 1 and 2, and tins in the bin. We discussed how to identify if an item is recyclable. After a couple of weeks, someone put a pizza crust and a paper plate in the bin. A few students spotted the waste and the class determined that we should create a label for the recycle bin so then everyone would know that the bin was for recycling and not garbage. After researching recycling through the reading of books, we discussed what reduce, reuse, and recycle means.




survey picture.jpgThe students were pleased with how successfully they were recycling the plastics and tin in their classroom. They wondered if other classes recycled plastics and tins so they wanted to conduct a survey in the school. Each student took a clipboard with paper attached and a pencil to record their findings. Students visited classes and tallied the classes that had a recycle bin for plastics and tins. Students discovered that all classes recycle paper but they didn’t have a recycle bin for plastics 1 and 2, and tin.

survey results.jpg

We brainstormed what we could learn about our environment:

brainstorm sheet.jpg Fun with Fall Leaves Boy-color.png

Earth Day.jpg











We picked up garbage in our school yard and participated in a community clean up organized by our school staff. Students wore green and blue clothing on Earth Day to celebrate the special day. The students planted Marigolds to give as gifts for Mother’s Day. Mrs. Richard’s class donated a tree for the grade 1 to 4 playground. The students started using the other side of recycled paper in the recycle bin.


The class felt that other classrooms in the school would be able to recycle plastics and tins in their classroom if they had another recycle container. We asked our custodian if there were containers available for each classroom to use for recycling and if the school had a large recycle bin for the school lobby. Our custodian brought us enough containers out of storage for each classroom and a big blue bin for the school lobby. Using a computer, the students made recycle labels for each container. The students proposed that class helpers in each class could empty the class recycle bin when it is full into the large blue bin in the school lobby.


Below is a picture of a recycle bin that the class delivered to classrooms throughout the school. We noted that it is being used along with the paper recycle bin in the classroom.

recycle bin being used.jpg

lobby recycle bin.jpg





The students throughout the school are using the recycle bins as evidenced by the large blue recycle bin in the school lobby that is being filled on a regular basis.






Maple starting.jpg





In May, an opportunity came to further our learning about trees and their importance to our environment.  Every Spring, a student’s family taps trees in Southern Ontario for several weeks.  The student and his father shared their knowledge of how to make maple syrup with a Power Point presentation to the class.


making syrup.jpg






Our class learned about the tools and equipment needed to take the sap from the trees. The students learned how the sap is processed in the sugar shack. After the presentation, the students loved sampling the syrup.








Our learning about the making of Maple syrup:

class learning of maple syrup.jpg



oct writing.jpgA sample of a student’s writing in October.  In the second writing sample, from May, you can see the student's progress in writing about his thoughts regarding the making of Maple Syrup.

May writing.jpg


















In June, a Park Naturalist from Quetico Provincial Park visited the classroom to present a Power Point presentation to students about frogs and a toad in the surrounding area. The students explored living things in a sample of water from a creek. They found that spotting the tadpoles was easier than the smaller organisms.

We followed up with a nature walk with the Park Naturalist in Quetico Provincial Park to further our learning about our environment. At the park, students also had an opportunity to explore the creek with a small net, locating a toad and organisms.


tadpole in tank.jpg               





thank you.JPG

Written by Shannon Richard (Full-Day Early Learning Kindergarten Teacher) and Margaret Cunningham (Grade One Teacher)


Here's the link to the original blog post in TeachOntario:

Ten Week Check-in

                            Posted by Emile Ferlisi in Effective Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - @HCTLLP on Dec 6, 2015 11:17:42 PM                                             


After a little over two months of our TLLP, I sent out a Socrative quiz to all team members with the hopes of gauging where we were in terms of implementation of technology and what we might do better as a team. I was also interested in seeing what areas of our board learning plan the team had been addressing through their use of digital tools. For context, the areas of improvement our board is currently focusing on include: knowing our learners through assessment, a focus on mathematics, the ministry mandated 'Pathways to Success' initiative and digital citizenship.


Here's each question and a summary of how team members responded:




What digital learning tools have you tried with your class so far?


This question shows the range of tools that team members have implemented. Responses included: Sway, Mathletics, Seesaw, Explain everything, Nearpod, Catholic Bible online, Kahoot, Puffin Academy, Class Messenger, Prezi, Gizmos (found within explorelearning), Prodigy Math, and Epic read aloud.


Since the quiz was sent out, team members have also started to implement Zaption as well as OneNote (class notebooks); our team also has a OneNote space for group collaboration as well as reviewing and sharing of resources.


If you take the time to check the hyperlinks you'll notice that the tools we've used have ranged from presentation apps to improvement on parent-teacher communication. We have used our technology to support instruction in language, mathematics and everything in-between since many of the applications and web-tools listed here can be used in multiple ways for different content areas. We've taken the initiative to learn how to incorporate these tools into our practice and go beyond the "novelty" factor and into the realm of effective implementation; that is definitely what we are trying to accomplish with our project.


Are there any digital tools that you have started learning about but haven't implemented yet? Which ones?


This question showed me that team members are striving to learn more and put some learning "in their back pockets" for further exploration later on; there is only so much you can implement effectively at any given time! Most team members mentioned their desire to become more proficient with tools like OneNote, Sway or other software within our board-provided suite of apps. There were some interesting inclusions, however, including: Comic Life , Powtoon, and Book Creator.  I have personally been exploring a few newer web-based applications that I'd like to help team members run with (hopefully) in the near future: Spiral, and seem to have some pretty incredible creative possibilities, but right now they only serve to prove that there really are more tools out there than anyone can possibly wrap their head around! I do, however, encourage anyone reading this (including team members!) to check out Spiral or Ideaphora to see how you might be able to take advantage of these tools in your classrooms. I've also come across a tool called 'Tanjo' as well as 'Teacher Templates (' - both, again, have their creative possibilities and I do hope to 'unpack them' in the near future!


Which area of focus from our CBLP (board learning plan) have you decided to focus on?


This question served to remind all of us that our use of technology should be deliberate and intentionally focused on improving student achievement. Framing our work with our board learning plan provides structure and allows team members to meet the goals of the project as well as our board and school improvement plans simultaneously. 30% of the team responded that they were using technology to know their learners while 22% said they were using digital tools to address digital citizenship and 22% said they were satisfying 'Pathways to Success' expectations. Only 13% of team members said they were focusing on mathematics, but perhaps this is okay since improving mathematics instruction is part of our larger school plan - it's definitely worth looking at either way and something for us to tackle as we move forward. Of course, with so many choices, it only makes sense that we've chosen to address different sections of our improvement plan.


How can your team or team lead better support you?

This question gave team members the chance to mention their concerns, if any, with how things have progressed so far. Most team members mentioned that they felt comfortable asking for help and supporting each other. The overall feel I got from team responses was that we genuinely have, at least to this point, created a culture of collaboration. Team members are working together and supporting the effective implementation of technology and we're all comfortable seeking support from each other - this is probably the most important element of our work together so it's encouraging to see that we're doing well to this point. One very important concern brought forward was that, perhaps, we don't "meet in person" often enough. My most sincere answer for this concern is that meetings were intentionally replaced by effective sharing through twitter, blogging and, most recently, collaboration on our team OneNote. The project was designed in this way so that there was no "extra layer" of work associated with the time commitment of additional meetings - team members were (and still are) expected to engage in self-directed learning - we most certainly have enough resources to go through! - and then bring that learning back to the team. It's also important to note that this project is intended to go beyond our school-level setting; there are team members who are not on staff at our school. Lastly, our next meeting date will provide in-school team members with a full day for in-person sharing and collaboration prior to launching the second phase of our project.


Our team continues to build momentum as we progress towards the end of the first phase of this project. I honestly feel that we're improving every day and the results of this survey give us reason to continue our optimism moving forward.


Thanks to all team members for their valuable input!




Beyond Digital Citizenship

Posted by Emile Ferlisi in Effective Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age - @HCTLLP on Nov 16, 2015 6:00:00 AM



I came to a revelation the other night while reading another educator's blog post. I won't include the link because it might cast me in a light that I simply don't belong in. Here's the thing, the blog was about an epiphany this blogger had with regards to digital citizenship. Basically, the author had come to the realization that just avoiding negative interactions, "keeping your nose clean" and maintaining a clean online presence isn't enough. It's funny because I am reminded of something my brother-in-law said to me while I was first explaining my ideas for this group to him. He said, "most people use Instagram for selfies and food pics and Facebook for the odd status update and to show off pictures". He wasn't wrong and right now there are some readers who, if they're honest, are either a little bit offended or are a little bit confused as to what my point is here.


We're in an age where you can support any number of charities, causes and organizations without leaving your couch: you can read about atrocities and injustices, watch a video showing you a village in need, or check the daily bread food bank's website for a visual (infographic) illustrating the percentage of families in your community who rely on food banks. Never has there been so much information at our fingertips and so many ways to DO SOMETHING good, creative, useful - meaningful, with less than an incredible effort (if that's the route we'd like to take). The character in the blog I am referencing had never done more than the normal "social media to chat with friends, share my outfit, show the 'world' my breakfast", etc, and it wasn't impressive enough to land them a job - which makes sense to me! For reasons that go a lot further than how annoyingly self-centred the "selfies, outfits and breakfast" approach to social media is, we need to educate our students on just how powerful the tools in their phones, tablets and laptops really are because, let's be honest, it's not just the students who are taking these incredible mediums for granted.


Maybe the first thing we need to do, as educators, is take a look within - a touch of introspection - and ask ourselves how we are doing more than "not being bad" when it comes to our use of digital tools. Are we "twitter literate" and, if the answer is no, why not? Let's keep in mind that a mechanic has to keep up with the changes to auto-mobiles year over year, doctors need to keep up with the advancements in medicines, procedures and treatments and lawyers need to have their fingers on the pulse of ever-changing legislation and legal precedents. Our profession requires us to keep up with the technology that our students are using; to be good at that, we need to actually live it, or at the very least learn it and understand it (I'd always prefer "live it" because your students learn more from what you are than what you teach - a quote I borrowed and modified from W. E. B. Du Bois).


Let's be clear, "living it" doesn't mean that you have to suddenly blog every night, donate to 8 charities on-line, follow Amnesty international and UNICEF on twitter, set up an account at, set up a Youtube channel for video content connected to all of your lessons and become a master at coding (though you can do all of that if you like!). It just means that you didn't think: "who?, where?, huh?" while you were reading that last sentence...It just means that you are actually trying to keep up, to learn and apply your learning to your life and your profession (doesn't that make sense?) so that you can actually support your students in their positive use of the digital tools they are surrounded by.




Our students need to understand that there is a world of good that they can do if they decide to connect with the global community using the tools at their disposal. Our students need to learn that they can have a positive impact on the world, far beyond their own communities, even if they are not able to travel the world - because they really can. The thing is, they need us to guide them. They need us to lead them; but we can't lead if we are oblivious to the creative possibilities.


I'll end by sharing a great resource that is part of an interesting project from the National Film Board of Canada called 'High Rise'. If you click on 'begin' a virtual host of your choice will lead you through different stories that relate to how people have made meaningful connections to the world around them through the digital tools they had available to them. Your exploration will be more meaningful than my explanation, so go and see what I mean: NFB/Interactive - UNIVERSE WITHIN


**please note that "The Universe Within" would best suit the intermediate level or above when thinking about student use**