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.

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