Week 3: Components of a Transformed Learning Environment

The shift to a “Technology-Accelerated” (Fullan) inquiry-based learning environment requires personalized, job-embedded professional development opportunities that meet the teachers where they are, rather than large group presentations that fail to differentiate for the broad spectrum of adoption seen within our classrooms.

Within each one of these six pillar components there exists a continuum of adoption strategies to help differentiate the transition for all professionals. These are not quick transitions: a classroom doesn’t shift from lectures and handouts to authentic inquiry-based learning overnight, nor does a classroom necessarily create a website, a Twitter account, and an online course; but classrooms with one of these items may consider the benefits of additional outlets as they grow more comfortable, and classrooms that begin relinquishing control and becoming more focused on student curiosity will quickly recognize the advantages of this shift. These recurring themes make up the “catalogue” of responsive Professional Development required at the school level.

Teachers who are just beginning to changetransform their practice, and those early adopters who exhibit facets of all six of these components, can all find additional growth opportunities within these broad categories. It is the role of the instructional coach (using that label to include all members of Leadership and Learning, Consultants, and School Admin, who help to coach instructional practice), to consider where the teacher is on this continuum, and then find the ways in which their practice can be enhanced, transformed, or re-imagined.

A transformed classroom contains characteristics of all six components.

The Digital Wing of the Classroom

Extending access to resources, and to other learners, beyond the scheduled classroom time, is an important facet of the changed learning environment we are trying to create. In the same way that students know the room in which their class occurs, we need to provide a digital space to centralize online conversations, connect classmates, and store resources for future reference. This space may be where all collaboration occurs, or it may be a launchpoint to other tools and resources necessary to fulfill the learning goals in the classroom.

There are a few different board-provisioned tools that help to provide a robust digital wing of your classroom: The HUB,
HWDSB Commons, Google Drive, or tv.HWDSB are all ways to extend your classroom into the digital realm.

Teacher as Activator

Creating lessons that differentiate for student strengths and needs, and involve tasks that allow them to extend their thinking and innovate, is a great first step. These types of activities can be made more effective through the use of digital tools and resources. This progresses into lessons that attend to student curiousity, and allow for individuals to explore and collaborate on real world problems. The teacher is no longer the sole source of information within the classroom. Content delivery becomes secondary to activating student interest, guiding the students towards rich sources of information, and teaching them how to learn for themselves beyond the confines of the school.

The Largest Textbook in the World

Accessing knowledge is different in the information age. Information is now exponentially more plentiful, more immediate, and can be accessed in multiple modalities. The “information highway” democratizes information sources, providing every individual bias a potential stage. This makes it possible to move beyond teacher expertise, to attend to student curiosity; but it also increases the need to explicitly teach critical literacy skills. Students who know not only where to search, but how to discriminate between accurate and faulty information, can be empowered to learn about previously inaccessible content, in deeper ways. Students and teachers can also contribute to this knowledge repository. Learning how to think critically, to curate information from multiple sources, and to contribute responsibly, are important skills to acquire. Knowing how to integrate web resources into lesson plans, to go “beyond Google” when researching, and understanding how to sift and sort information on the internet from both the board provisioned databases within the Virtual Library, and from external sources (Wikipedia, Khan Academy, MOOCs, CK12, iTunes U), is a key facet of this transformed learning environment.

Creating materials using centralized board tools makes it easier for colleagues to access, re-use, and remix resources. Sharing your lesson ideas in The Hub’s Curriculum Share, sharing student products on HWDSB Commons, or on tv.HWDSB, helps to provide adoption pathways as we collectively build student-centred, inquiry-based learning environments.

Teacher as Connector

Teaching students to be life-long learners requires that they understand that school, and their teachers, are not the only sources of information. It is important for teachers to help students connect with experts within the local community, and around the world. Learning can no longer be confined to the books on the shelf and the expertise of the individual teacher. Using resources like Twitter, Skype in the Classroom, Google Hangouts, Discussion Forums, or Virtual Researcher on Call, help to promote the ideal: a connected community of learners, sharing and building knowledge in social, collaborative ways. Teachers need to find ways to facilitate these types of connections, to help promote learning beyond the traditional classroom structure.


Innovations in technology now make it easier to create. Music and Film that once required expensive equipment and a recording studio can now be published from a tablet. Lessons for learning to Code websites or mobile apps are now readily accessible on the internet. 3D Printers are beginning to allow learners to engineer and fabricate solutions to everyday problems in ways that once required entire factories. Inexpensive microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino allow students to create computerized projects once too cost-prohibitive to explore. Lego makes creating and programming robots something that can be explored with younger and younger audiences. These examples, and many others, allow learners to share their learning in ways that supersede the more tradition pencil and paper task: increasing engagement, unleashing creativity, and differentiating for different learning styles and needs.

A Stage, A Window, A Megaphone

Sharing the learning that happens within the classroom can have a number of benefits. Learners are provided with a platform to publish that can make their work available to an authentic audience. Parents can play a greater role as a partner in the education of their child when they are able to access information about daily classroom activities. Colleagues can learn from each other and share best practices. Sharing lessons with The HUB’s Curriculum Share, or providing parent access to your course; posting classroom activities on an HWDSB Commons blog; sharing video on tv.HWDSB; or through social networks like Twitter; can all help to facilitate this transparency, and help provide connections within the school, across the board, or around the world.

Week 2: Transforming Learning Everywhere: iPad Distribution Nights

Tonight we embark on our first iPad Distribution Night at the elementary schools. These are the resources we will be using at the seven TLE phase one schools. These are different than the resources we utilized at Henderson Secondary. We will be working in the classrooms with those previous tutorials where applicable, to contextualize the iPad to the differing needs of a Grade 4-8 learning space. We will share more about the night after we are on the other side of the first session.

Week 1: Transforming Learning Everywhere

We’ve started distributing iPads to the students. This project, which began at seven elementary schools in the North end of Hamilton last year with teacher devices and classroom kits for approx 70 Grade 4-6 classrooms, has now TLE Day 1expanded to include Henderson Secondary, and Mountain Secondary, and will see iPads deployed to all students and teachers from Grade 4 to Grade 12 at these nine schools. We provisioned iPads to the additional teachers in early June, and have now begun a month-long distribution that will put devices into the hands of all of the students. Throughout the year we will provide ongoing professional development opportunities for the teachers to help leverage this technology to transform the learning happening within the walls of our schools. We hope to use this space to document that journey.

We’ve quickly realized that in order to do this correctly the process needs to include sitting with each student one-on-one at a variety of centres: creating iTunes accounts, configuring email, describing the ways in which students can access the HWDSB app catalogue to download apps, setting an onscreen security password, and signing in to Google Drive, The HUB (our blended learning environment), and the D2L Binder app. We are also helping the students to subscribe to all of the class calendars from the courses they are taking this semester. This service will push assignments to the student’s calendar so that they have a centralized space where they can see all of the different assignments and important dates that they need to attend to in order to succeed. Despite some being savvy at using the devices in their personal lives, in most cases the ways in which these tools can be utilized to enhance and accelerate learning in the classroom is uncharted territory for student and teacher alike.

There are a variety of instructional hand-outs that we are using during this initial process this that may be of use to others. We’ve shared those documents here:

Summer Institute Resources

We will continue to populate this blog post with additional links as we process through your questions and feedback.

PicSketch Courtesy of @bevkj

PicSketch Courtesy of @bevkj

Here is a link to the Google Drive folder in which we have shared a number of slide decks from the presentations: Summer Institute Resources

Airplay Information

Create an App Store Account without a Credit Card

Thank you to all the participants who came out over the summer to learn and prepare for the 2014-2015 school year, and thank you to all of our presenters:

Teri Thompson
Kelly Dunford
Scott Johnson
Kristen Armstrong
Terri Corneil
Sonya Clarke
Tim Kivell
Paul Hatala
Jared Bennett

AirPlay Three Different Ways

Tim Kivell and I presented at the Brock Tech Showcase last Friday on the ways in which an iPad and an AirPlay enabled projector could be utilized to replace most ofairplay the functionality traditionally achieved using an Interactive Whiteboard. Being able to circumnavigate a room with an iPad wirelessly connected to the projector at the front of the room has huge benefits. The projected image could be used to show a variety of different apps, or the camera functionality could be used as a Document Camera of sorts. We focused mainly on the iPad as a device to capture student learning, or as a means to communicate information, through a variety of screencasting apps (Educreations, Explain Everything, and Ask3 specifically).

A number of questions came up around how to AirPlay within a classroom. Here are three options.

Apple TV

This is probably the easiest from an end user perspective. There isn’t a lot of tweaking necessary. When we set up a AppleTV to be used in a classroom environment, go into Settings/AirPlay and change the name of the Apple TV to something specific that you will be able to locate on the Network. If there are multiple Airplay capable devices on the wireless at your school, you’ll need a way to locate which AppleTV you are attempting to connect to. You can also go into Settings/Airplay and set the display to Conference Mode: this blocks all of the iTunes TV Show and Movie advertising from the class. The third tweak would be to set up the “Onscreen Password”: this ensures that anyone connecting to your AppleTV is present in the room.


I don’t need to tell you much about this one. They have a great website located here: http://www.airserver.com/ Make sure you check out their comparison table.


Another one I don’t need to sell to you. Here’s the link: http://www.airsquirrels.com/reflector/

…But I don’t have Wireless

Here’s a third option that only works for those of you who have a Mac. You can use your laptop to create your own wireless network. Connecting your iPad to that network creates a way to piggyback on a wired connection to your laptop, providing wireless access to your iPad, and any other device in your classroom. This basically turns your laptop into a wifi hotspot. Again, the internet being a wonderful thing, I’m not going to re-write something that someone else has already done an excellent job explaining. Check out this link here: http://tapintoteenminds.com/2013/12/26/create-a-macbook-apple-tv-wifi-hotspot/

Screencasting Links

How To Use Educreations

Read-aloud as a Screencast

Group/Class Activity

Student Led Lesson

Teacher Led Lesson

Using a Protractor with Explain Everything

On an iPad, just press and hold on this picture and select Save Image to create your own copy

On an iPad, just press and hold on this picture and select Save Image to create your own copy

Here’s some brief instructions on how to add a Protractor to your Explain Everything screencast videos. I’m sure this probably works in other screencasting applications: the key is to use one that allows you to add multiple layers/images. If your layers get overlapped incorrectly in Explain Everything, you can hit the i button and rearrange the layers.

This will work with any transparent image. If you can’t find a transparent image you can use Photoshop to create one. (I’m not sure how long this tool will be free, but it’s another option if you don’t have access to Photoshop: http://clippingmagic.com/)


Searching Safely

Occasionally we can be lulled by the false security of an internet filter. As teachers we need to realize, especially with our young primary and junior students, that the internet is a wild and un-moderated space on which the most base of our society post all nature of inappropriateness: some of which — despite our best computational efforts to block them — leaks through. At the end of the day, we need to recognize (both parents and teachers alike) that the caring adult in the room is the only 100% accurate internet filter we have.



Here are a few settings you can check, and some strategies to ensure the safety of our students:

Don’t “Just Google it”

Google is an incredibly powerful tool, but to the untrained “searcher“, being unfurled into Google can be like drinking from the fire-hose: you are almost guaranteed to find an inappropriate post amidst the results. Search before the lesson, and then locate a number of different resources that you think might be helpful and cluster those options together as a blog post on your classroom blog. Social bookmarking tools like Delicious or Diigo can allow you to create a collection of links like this tagged selection on Space: http://delicious.com/mrjarbenne/space There are enough links there to provide students with choice, but I’ve explored the links first to ensure they are safe for my students to peruse.

Use Other Database Resources

I won’t list them all here, but the HWDSB Virtual Library has a host of different research databases purpose-built for student use. The recently licensed Encyclopedia Britannica is a rich resource for student inquiry. Learn 360 provides access to a large catalogue of video resources. ExpertSpace is a great Science and Social Studies repository. There are a number of others I will let you explore on your own. Utilizing these research spaces is not only safer, but also guarantees better, more academic results, provided at different reading comprehension levels.

Turn on Safe Search

Google has Safe Search options, but they need to be turned on (Bing seems to have them turned on by default). There are a couple of different websites that turn this on without needing to jump through the configuration hoops. This is one: http://www.safesearchkids.org/.

Create a Walled Garden

We don’t allow students free reign in the video rental section, nor do we let them watch whatever they want on television: why would we allow them unfettered access to the internet? Set out boundaries and guidelines on the sites you allow the students to use in your classroom, just like the list of television shows we allow as parents. This can be a rich and varied list. Check out Graphite for a vast library of vetted, teacher-approved websites to use in your classroom, and decide ahead of time where the students are allowed to go. Hold the students accountable to this list.

Teach Students to Search Smarter

You don’t need to ask Google full questions (eg: What time is it in Moscow right now?) when a few key words will do (Moscow Current Time), but you also don’t want to be too vague. Creating a better search combination will bring back more accurate results, and will help to eliminate unwelcome surprises on the search results page.

Search Privately First

One of the great advantages of having access to the internet in the classroom is the ability to attend to student curiosity, even on subjects where you may lack expertise. Searching on your laptop or iPad first, disconnected from the projector, will help to ensure you aren’t broadcasting any surprise imagery. Despite the temptation to play that YouTube video that seems to infer that it will answer the question, if it isn’t from a reputable source (TVO, PBS, Discovery, etc.) you may want to vet the video first, and show it during your next meeting with the students.

This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but it should provide some strategies as we teach our students to navigate resources in this digital age. We need to teach students to look both ways, before we send them careening out on the information highway.