Partners in Learning Global Forum

I just returned from the olympics of teaching - Microsoft Partners in Learning hosts national and regional events throughout the year that recognize innovative educators and school leaders. These competitions culminate in the Partners in Learning Global Forum.

This year’s Global Forum will took place in Prague, Czech Republic from November 28 - December 1, 2012. The Global Forum brought together more than 500 of the most innovative teachers, school leaders, education leaders, and government officials from 75 countries.

You can see the excitement that filled the Prague Castle on the final night during the Gala awards dinner.

A personal highlight was witnessing the Canadian team erupt in cheers as an Canadian team won silver in the "Beyond the Classroom" category.

Check out the video to see how teachers Leah Obach and Devon Caldwell had their primary students collaborate to complete activities related to sustainability. Students develop literacy, numeracy, social studies and science skills while planning and executing an action plan to help the earth.

Be sure to visit the Partners in Learning Network for links to all of the winning projects.

Microsoft Partners in Learning celebrates the world's most innovative educators and school leaders for bringing technology to life in the classroom and impacting millions of students.

8235727611_43ffd3ae3e_kMicrosoft Partners in Learning hosts national and regional events throughout the year that recognize innovative educators and school leaders. These competitions culminate in the Partners in Learning Global Forum.
On December 1, 2012, at Prague Castle, Partners in Learning announced the teachers and learning activities that won best practices awards at the Global Forum. All of the learning activities were reviewed by an international panel of educators using a 21st century skills rubric.
1. US – Doing business in Birmingham, Pauline Roberts and Rick Joseph
2. Singapore - Impactful Online Service Learning, Chen Siyun
3. Germany - Creating Fairytale-Radioplays, Holger Fröhlich
Knowledge building
1. Northern Ireland – Infinity Architecture, David Allan Young
2. Malaysia - The Journalist, Zamimah Binti Azaman
3. Lebanon - The Warak Warak Method, Youssr CHEDIAC
Beyond the classroom
1. Jordan – Glimmer of Hope, Ghadeer Obiedat and Rania Obiedat
2. Canada – little hands big world, Devon Caldwell & Leah Obach
3. Brazil – Ecoweb, Margarida Telles da Cruz
3. UK - The Hit Squad, Katie Boothman
Teacher as a change agent
1. Pakistan - Aqua Crunch, Munazza Riaz Butt
2. Nigeria – Rescue Mission, Ayodele Odeogbola
3. Cyprus - Online and Community-Based Research on Recycling Practices, Maria Loizou Raouna
Educators Choice:
1. Portugal - Oratio Classroom, João Carlos Ramalheiro
2. Macedonia – Fun, Education, Stop Motion Animation, Darko Taleski , Sofija Grabulovksa
3. US – What’s up Egypt, Todd LaVogue

A Guide for Facilitating 21st Century Learning

Students do not become 21st century learners on their own. They need learning opportunities that challenge them to utilize 21st century fluencies and integrate the five dimensions of 21st century learning. These dimensions include:
  • Collaboration 
  • Knowledge-building
  • The use of ICT for learning
  • Self-regulation 
  • Real-world problem-solving and innovation
The following is a set of guidelines developed by the Innovative Teaching and Learning Research program to help educators understand how they can create learning opportunities that will facilitate the development of 21st century skills. In addition to a brief description of each of the five dimensions of 21st century learning, the guidelines include a scale/rubric which educators can use to determine the degree to which each dimension is present during a specific learning opportunity.

Similar to Bloom's Taxonomy, educators should seek to create learning opportunities that challenge their students to demonstrate the highest level on each scale. While educators may strive towards the highest levels of each dimension, it is important to note that these scales/rubrics should be applied to a sequence of lessons or unit plan and not individual lessons. Even though an individual lesson could focus on a single dimension,  it is not possible to achieve the highest level on all of the scales/rubric within a single classroom lesson.
For the full description of the Innovative Teaching and Learning Research: Learning Activity Rubrics and Sample Student Work Rubrics please visit:

The information listed below is taken directly from 
Innovative Teaching and Learning Research: Learning Activity Rubrics


To challenge students to the highest level of collaboration, students need to have shared responsibility for their work, and participate in learning activities that requirs students to make substantive decisions together. These features help students learn the important collaboration skills of negotiation, agreement on what must be done, distribution of tasks, listening to the ideas of others, and integration of ideas into a coherent whole.

1 = Students are NOT required to work together in pairs or groups.
2 = Students DO work together: BUT they DO NOT have shared responsibility.
3 = Students DO have shared responsibility; BUT they ARE NOT required to make substantive decisions together.
4 = Students DO have shared responsibility AND they DO make substantive decisions together about the content, process, or product of their work.

Knowledge Building

Knowledge building happens when students do more than reproduce what 
they have learned: they go beyond knowledge reproduction to generate ideas 
and understandings that are new to them. Activities that require knowledge building ask students to interpret, analyse, synthesize, or evaluate information or ideas.

1 = The learning activity DOES NOT REQUIRE students to build knowledge. 
Students can complete the activity by reproducing information or by 
using familiar procedures.
2 = The learning activity DOES REQUIRE students to build knowledge by 
interpreting, analysing, synthesizing, or evaluating information or 
ideas; BUT the activity’s main requirement IS NOT knowledge building.
3 = The learning activity’s main requirement IS knowledge building; BUT the learning activity DOES NOT have learning goals in more than one subject.
4 = The learning activity’s main requirement IS knowledge building; AND the knowledge building IS interdisciplinary. The activity DOES have learning goals in more than one subject.

Use of ICT for Learning

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is becoming increasingly 
common in the classroom, but ICT is often used to support practice on basic skills rather than to build knowledge. This dimension examines how students use ICT—whether or not the use of ICT helps students build knowledge, and whether or not students could build the same knowledge without using ICT. 

1 = Students do not have the opportunity to use ICT for this learning activity.
2 = Students use ICT to learn or practice basic skills or reproduce information; BUT they are not building knowledge.
3 = Students use ICT to support knowledge building; BUT they could build the same knowledge without using ICT.
4 = Students use ICT to support knowledge building; AND the ICT is required for building this knowledge.


In 21st century workplaces, people are expected to work with minimal supervision, which requires them to plan their own work and monitor its quality. Learning activities that give students the opportunity to acquire self-regulation skills last for a week or more and require students to monitor their progress. Teachers can foster self-regulation skills by giving students working in groups responsibility for deciding who will do what and on what schedule.

1 = The learning activity can be completed in less than a week.
2 = The learning activity lasts for one week or more; BUT students ARE NOT given the assessment criteria before they submit their work and; DO NOT have the opportunity to plan their own work.
3 = The learning activity lasts for one week or more AND students ARE given the assessment criteria before they submit their work OR DO have the opportunity to plan their own work.
4 = The learning activity lasts for one week or more AND students ARE given the assessment criteria before they 
submit their work AND DO have the opportunity to plan their own work.

Real Problem Solving and Innovation

In traditional schooling, students’ academic activities are often separate from what they see and do in the world outside school. True problem solving requires students to work on solving real problems, and challenges them to complete tasks for which they do NOT already know a response or solution. For the result of this problem solving to be considered innovative it must require students to implement their ideas, designs or solutions for audiences outside the classroom.

1 = The learning activity’s main requirement IS NOT problem-solving. 
Students use a previously learned answer or procedure for most of 
the work.
2 = The learning activity’s main requirement IS problem-solving; BUT the problem IS NOT a real-world problem.
3 = The learning activity’s main requirement IS problem-solving AND the problem IS a real-world problem; BUT students DO NOT innovate. They are NOT required to implement their ideas in the real world.
4 = The learning activity’s main requirement IS problem-solving AND the problem IS a real-world problem AND students DO innovate. They ARE required to implement their ideas in the real world.

Here are some learning activities to review and determine where they would rank on the five dimensions:

Doing Business in Birmingham - Learning Activity Resources

Kinect Olympics - Learning Activity Resources

Creating a Global Consciousness about Poverty and Hunger - Learning Activity Resources

Consider ways to revise these learning activities so that students would be challenged to demonstrate the highest level of each dimension.

Join the Partners in Learning Network to interact with 21st century teachers from around the globe and review the searchable database of thousands of 21st century learning activities and resources.

The Need for an Innovative Approach to Education In Niagara

Why the Niagara region needs an innovation approach to education:

  • Results for the Canadian Education Association, What did you do in school today? survey indicate that:

  • Although many students are engaged at school, overall levels of social and academic engagement are quite low.

  • Levels of intellectual engagement – which tap into students’ sense of interest, feelings about the relevance of school work, and motivation to do well in class – are significantly lower than levels of social and academic engagement.

  • Levels of student engagement decline steadily throughout the middle and secondary school grades. 

  • Adolescent learners experience high levels of intellectual engagement when they encounter school work that is challenging, has practical and intellectual value, and engages them in authentic tasks similar to those that mathematicians, artists, or other professionals would pursue (Canadian Education Association, 2012 )
    • Speaking during the Ontario Town Hall: Establishing our Economic Roadmap: Securing our Future, Walter Sendzik, CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce had a chance to present findings of the identified the key pillars Niagara needs to improve upon in order to return to a prosperous state: 
      • The first pillar, is the creation of a 21st century workforce with a focus on education - from elementary students right up through post-secondary.
      • Pushing Niagara forward as a supporter of innovation incubation and entrepreneurship is the third pillar Niagara This Week
    • How can schools teach students to be more innovative? - Wall St. Journal
      • Most of our high schools and colleges are not preparing students to become innovators. To succeed in the 21st-century economy, students must learn to analyze and solve problems, collaborate, persevere, take calculated risks and learn from failure
      • Learning in most conventional education settings is a passive experience: The students listen. But at the most innovative schools, classes are "hands-on," and students are creators, not mere consumers. They acquire skills and knowledge while solving a problem, creating a product or generating a new understanding.
      • Mandating that schools teach innovation as if it were just another course or funding more charter schools won't solve the problem. The solution requires a new way of evaluating student performance and investing in education. Students should have digital portfolios that demonstrate progressive mastery of the skills needed to innovate. Teachers need professional development to learn how to create hands-on, project-based, interdisciplinary courses. Larger school districts and states should establish new charter-like laboratory schools of choice that pioneer these new approaches.
    • The Rise of Educator-Entrepreneurs: Bringing Classroom Experience to Ed-Tech - MindShift

      “Teachers are usually the last people to be consulted on many of these education technology companies.”
      Most teachers are happy doing their job — helping kids understand and make sense of the world around them. But there’s a growing number of educators who are wading into entrepreneurship, frustrated at the lack of tools they need, and wanting to extend their sphere of influence. As technology becomes more widely used and accepted in the classroom, teachers are taking their ideas about how to improve learning environments, sharing them online, and creating web-based tools to benefit teachers and students.
      At the same time, the fact that the multi-billion dollar ed-tech space is exploding has not gone unnoticed by investors. Programs like Imagine K12 run crash courses in ed-tech entrepreneurship, connecting fledgling companies to Silicon Valley venture capital firms (and staking out a six percent equity).
      But, as most educators know, while tech entrepreneurs can sometimes hit gold, not every newly minted site or software is useful to teachers. That’s what sets educator entrepreneurs apart — they have relevant classroom experience that can’t be gained any other way than by doing the hard work of teaching.
    • Redefining Teacher Education Programs for the 21st Century

    • Let's Radically Improve Teacher Training (and Stop Fighting About It) - Chronicle of Higher Education
    • Building a Better Teacher - NY Times

    • “The world no longer cares about what you know; the world only cares about what you can do with what you know,” explains Tony Wagner of Harvard, the author of “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.” (NY Times)

    • The Possibilities

      High Tech High - Four Integrations That Make up High Tech High

     Four Integrations That Make up High Tech High
    1. Integrating students across social class. 
    2. Integrating head and hand (making and doing things)
    3. Integrating school and community
    4. Integration of secondary and post-secondary education
    New Tech Network - Video 
    New Tech Network is a nonprofit organization that transforms schools into innovative learning environments. Our project-based teaching approach engages students with dynamic, rigorous curriculum. Through extensive professional development and hands-on coaching , our teachers evolve from keepers of knowledge to facilitators of rich, relevant learning. New Tech Network is re-imagining education and the student accomplishments speak volumes.The New Tech design provides an instructional approach centered on project-based learning, a culture that empowers students and teachers, and integrated technology in the classroom. Our hands-on, multi-year approach gives schools structure and support to ensure long-term success.

    Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning
    Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning actively promotes excellence in education by providing new learning opportunities for students and future-focused Professional Development for teachers. Established as the research and innovation unit, SCIL runs a range of programs and research projects that seek to transform educational thinking and practice both at NBCS and in the wider educational community.

    ECOO 2012

    I'll be presenting Tech-Enabled School Leadership: Using technology to support the distribution of school leadership at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) Conference October 26th.

     This session will examine the ways in which specific technology resources (Blogs, Google Docs, Twitter, etc.) can be used to support tech-enabled leadership and transform the scale and scope of traditional school leadership to facilitate the distribution of key leadership actions that contribute to school success.

    Apps to use an iPad as Instruction Tool

    AirServer (

    AirServer is available for both Windows and Mac. It is $15 for up to five computers, but the Windows and Mac versions have to be purchased separately. You can connect multiple iOS devices simultaneously, making it easy to compare work by two or more different devices.

    Reflection (

    Reflection is available for both Windows and Mac. It is $15 for each computer but includes a feature for recording a video file of the session. Like AirServer, you can connect multiple devices simultaneously.

    ~ Courtesy Kyle Tuck

    The Future Belongs to the Curious

    The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out.

    Helping Students to Succeed

    Even though I live north of the border, This American Life has always been one of my favourite radio programs/podcasts. I greedily save the podcasts for hour long drives so that I will be entertained while stuck in traffic.

    The Back to School issue examines How Children Succeed and how
    “non-cognitive skills — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education."

    This is is must listen podcast for all educators.

    A Great Start

    The academic year has just started and already we have some great blog posts from the 2012 EdTech Cohort. The professional reflection and passion highlighted in these post will be of great service to these teacher candidates as the enter the profession.
    What a great start to the year.

    Subscribe to the EdTech Cohort blogroll to read more of their posts. 

    How do you want to make a difference?

    We were asked in class on Tuesday "How do you want to make a difference" after watching the "What Teachers Make?" video. I've been thinking about it the past few days. I have decided this is quite a hard question because teachers can make a difference in so many ways. Every student connects with their teacher differently. A teacher is the single adult that a student sees most often beside their own parents. They are the people that a student relies on for answers.

    I have decided I want students to feel comfortable in my classroom. I want give them words of wisdom that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. I want to be that teacher that they think back on in 20 years and quote those words of wisdom to their friends and loved ones. A principal I had in elementary school had a quote, "I am IALAC" which meant "I am lovable and capable". Everyday he would recite this to us and have us recite it back to him, "How are you today Amelia?" he would ask and I would always answer, "I am IALAC sir". This saying has stayed with me my entire life. That is how I want to make a difference.

    I want to make students question what they think is Truth. Critical pedagogy makes students second guess the ideologies that they assume is typical and normal. I want to incorporate critical literacy into my lesson plans. I want my students to make their own capital T Truth. I want them to be question, criticise, and analyse information and think "Hm, I never thought of it that way". That is how I want to make a difference.

     I want to promote kindness, empathy, and compassion. I want students to feel unique and be proud of that feeling. I want to create a classroom of equality and acceptance. I want to promote anti-bullying campaigns (Educators Against Bullying) and show my students how  important it is to treat people with respect. That is how I want to make a difference.

    What does society expect from its teachers?

    By Jamie Gibson
    Fabulous question from cohort yesterday! What does society expect from its teachers? I believe that society expects teachers to be multi-dimensional. Teachers are responsible for educating the future, socializing them to fit into society, and preparing them to fit the role of active and participating citizens. Society expects compassion for their children, dedication to their success, and continuous commitment to their growth and development.

    Society respects the role of the teacher as a professional and demands that professionalism be maintained outside the boundaries of school. Teachers are highly valued and respected within the community and therefore need to dress and act appropriately, as well as manage their online presence. Nothing is more important than preserving the respect of colleagues, students and parents and therefore teachers are expected to filter their lives accordingly.

    Teachers make a tremendous impact on the lives of their students by fostering and developing their academic skills but are also expected to perform the duties of caregivers, psychologists, social workers, friends, and nurturers.

    What does society expect from its teachers? Loyalty to their profession, commitment to their students.

    Educational Gaming: Women Welcome

    Flickr photo by Bionicteaching
    The technology sector may no longer be a 'boys only' club, but is it still a 'mostly boys' playground. It is unlikely that this club will be dissolved until the number of female engineers and the number of girls enrolled in STEM programs sees a significant increase.

    In the meantime entrepreneurial women with an interest technology should consider entering the educational gaming space . With women dominating the ranks of social game users and a visit to any school will note that women make up the bulk of classroom educators. Merging these two areas may create a space ripe for female dominance. Girl power!

    Coaching in the Classroom

    Flickr photo by Axlape
    I recently listened to the Harvard EdCast "Pigskin Pedagogy" that discussed what the teaching profession could learn from the fundamentals of the NFL. While I found it very engaging, I wished they had spent more time discussing the similarities between teaching and athletic coaching. 

    It is rare that great professional athletes become great coaches. More often, exemplary coaches come from the ranks of bench warmers. Superstar athletes often possess supernatural abilities to know where the ball is going to be, omnipotent timing and spacial awareness or a sixth sense about their opponents tendencies. It is because these abilities often come to them naturally, that it can be very difficult for them to show someone else on how to replicate their success.

    In contrast, the bench warming coach spent hundreds of hours watching the game and had to spend endless hours honing their skill just so they could stay on the team. Thus, their ability to break down a complex set of skills into easily identifiable steps is a result of their having to go through the same process throughout their professional career.

     Coaches know that for their athletes to be successful the must make the complex easy to learn. They need to provide time to practice skills in slow motion so that they can be executed in seconds. They must structure practice time so that it replicates game time actions. They need to understand their athlete's strengths and weaknesses so that they can get the most out of them. They need to mold individuals into a team. They know that talent isn't everything, they must find a way to motivate great performances. In the end, they know that it is not about them, but the performance of their athlete that will determine their success as a coach.

    While they won't receive the salary or accolades of big league coaches, educators that embrace their role as that of a coach will be able to celebrate the success of their students.

    Teach celebrates by thanking their coach
    Flickr photo by EAWB

    Ultimate Gaming Niagara

    Had a great time at the Ultimate Gaming Niagara event. Special thanks to EdTech Cohort members John, Krista, Lisa, Rose, Ryan, Stephanie and Zach for sharing their great ideas about how to use the Kinect in the classroom. Special thanks to Jim Pedrech for inspiring us with his innovative ideas. Check out their blogs for more gaming information.

    A response to: What Role should Technology Play in Education?

    Before one can discuss the role technology should play in education, you need to examine the benefits of using  technology as part of the learning process.

    Current educational environment are not adequately engaging students as many student report that schools are not keeping pace with the degree to which technology is being used by young people when they are not in school. As a result, many students report that they have to “power down” when they get to school. While it may not be a direct result of the disconnect between personal and educational uses of technology, the Canadian Education Association reports that less than 50% of high school students are intellectually engaged at school (CEA, 2011). Consequently, technology can play a very important role in

    enhancing student engagement. 

    Disengaged students often report being bored at school and that what takes place at school is irrelevant to what happens in the real world (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). Using technology to enhance academic, affective, behavioural and cognitive engagement can have great benefits on the overall level of student engagement and academic achievement (You may want to checkout my previous blog posts about Understanding Student Engagement and Using Social Media to Support Student Engagement).

    In addition to enhancing student engagement, technology plays a vital role in supporting the development of 21st century competencies. These competencies, as noted by the Canadians for 21st Century Learning and Innovation, will play an increasingly important role in supporting the academic, social, economic, environmental and financial aspirations of Canadians(C21, 2012). These competencies, as noted in their Shifting Minds document are:

    • Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    • Critical Thinking
    • Collaboration
    • Communication
    • Character
    • Culture and Ethical Citizenship
    • Computer and Digital Technologies
    While technology is not necessary to support all of these competencies, access to technology can significantly alter the scope and scale in which these competencies can be addressed. The affordances of technology not only make the development of these 21st century competencies more efficient, but it also assists in making the process of developing these skills more open, collaborative and dynamic.

    Using social media tools like discussion boards, blogs and YouTube to make the learning process more transparent and open allows students to communicate with their peers, engage in critical thinking when commenting on blog posts and share their creative talents with a broader audience. Collaborative resources like wikis and Google Docs make collaborating with others outside of the classroom significantly easier, while dynamic tools like Skype, Google+ and Twitter permit students to learn from knowledgeable experts from around the world. Engaging in open learning experiences, collaborating and interacting with students, teachers or experts in other locales are all learning opportunities that would be prohibitively difficult to accomplish without the use of current technologies. 

    It is important to note that classroom teachers are essential in creating these types of learning opportunities, so any speculation that technology will eliminate the need for classroom teachers is unfounded. While the need to have a teacher at the front of the room in a physical classroom may be affected by the influx of technology, teachers will remain central to creating personalized, differentiated and engaging learning experiences for students.

    What Role Should Technology Play in Education?

    Flickr photo by Stepheye
    Looking forward to the Brock University Conversation Cafe'
    What role should technology play in education? 
    Technology is showing an increased presence in our classrooms. Some feel that it provides an innovative way to teach diverse learners and is a necessary method and medium for 21st century learning. Others say it takes away from skill development in areas such as art, music, movement, communication, social adeptness and patience. They are also concerned that easy access to information through computers will negatively affect learning skills and big-picture thinking. Where should technology stop and real-world education start? Have students started to rely more on technology and less on teachers? Where exactly should we draw the line and is there even a line anymore? Are some kids being left behind? 
    Join the conversation:
    Tuesday, April 3 
    7 to 8:30 p.m.
    Coffee Culture, 6 Main St. W., Grimsby

    Professional Development Schools & Teacher Education

    Flickr photo by ReSurge International
    Professional Development Schools were created with a desire to forge a tight link between K-12 education, preservice education and ongoing teacher professional development. Similar to teaching hospitals where medical residents and interns work closely with skilled medical professionals to provide patients with a high level of care, professional development schools provide new teachers with real-world experience under the guidance of skilled practitioners and professors.  Just as most teaching hospitals are centres of innovation, K-12 students that attend professional development schools are often exposed to innovative instructional strategies delivered in an environment that seeks to provide an exemplary education that will serve as a model for the rest of  education community.

    Housing university faculty and associate teachers in the same building can also serve to reduce the distance between the ivory tower and classroom practice. Ensuring that teacher candidates are provided with an appropriate balance of theory and practice is essential to supporting ongoing professional growth.

    The suggestion that initial teacher training should bypass universities and take place entirely at school-based training centres, so that teacher candidates can focus on practical experience, is gaining momentum in the United States. Alternative teacher certification programs that are field-based and circumvent the need for college/university accrediation can be found in almost every state.

    While preservice teachers may initially benefit from more practical training, that provides them with greater confidence in their ability to quickly establish their own classrooms, an over-emphasis on practical experience can result in routinized  training that is devoid of the theoretical foundation that guides the educational process. The end result may be skilled practitioners that can implement the routines and strategies that they were trained in, but they may struggle to find a suitable response to unique problem or challenge.  While nurse-practitioners can provide excellent care when responding to the common cold, most patients would choose to visit a specialist to diagnose an unusual polyp.

    Educators that receive an appropriate balance of theory and practice and are exposed to educational research during their training may be better equipped to diagnose your child's unique learning challenges. Consequently, professional development schools may be uniquely positioned to provide teacher candidates with the appropriate dose of theory and practice needed to support ongoing professional growth.

    The Challenge of Integrating Technology Training into Teacher Education

    In response to Chris Wejr's blog post about Autonomy in Teacher Training?

    I found the original post and the resulting comments to be very thought provoking and quickly realized that a simple comment would not be enough.

    Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that preservice training is simply the start of a lifelong learning journey. While it would be great if recent graduates had a complete understanding of current assessment & instructional practices, comprehensive literacy, digital/media literacy, 21st century fluencies, technology integration etc... These are skills that many mid-career teachers are still developing. One of the functions of preservice education is to plant the seeds of knowledge that will grow and develop with the support of skilled associate teachers and mentors.

    This does not discount the need for teacher candidates to have a foundational understanding of the technological resources and strategies that can be used to enhance teaching and learning. I agree with many of the other commenters, that there are not enough teacher education programs that include technology integration and TPACK as part of their training. The challenge is finding the time. Teacher training programs are already jammed packed with too much information that is delivered in too little time (This is especially true in Ontario with its eight month program).

    As noted in some of the replies to the Chris Wejr's post, the key to effective preservice education is pairing teacher candidates with skilled associate teachers that can build on the foundation of understanding that was provided to teacher candidates while on campus. For many teacher candidates, the lightbulb of understanding does turn on until they can see these theories and principles at work in the classroom.  While some educators would like to disregard educational theory and focus solely on current practice, it is important to remember that current practice is the result of previous theoretical principles. A foundational understanding of theory provides educators with a framework that can be used to analyse and synthesize new information so that they create innovative solutions to future challenges.

    Being prepared to overcome future challenges is a key goal of the EdTech Leadership Cohort at Brock University. In addition to their technology training, they were provided with an opportunity to develop their leadership competencies and examine the benefits and challenges to classroom technology integration so that they would be able to provide insight and guidance to their colleagues and school community. Since the start of the program they have used their blogs, Twitter accounts and Googles Docs to reflect on and discuss the challenges, while also sharing what they have learned by creating instructional videos, blog posts and delivering numerous workshops and coaching sessions to their associate teachers, instructors, peers and practicing teachers. More important than anything they will do this year, is the future impact that they will have as they transition into the profession and have the opportunity to further develop their knowledge and leadership skill. When discussing the challenges of integrating technology into teacher education we need to focus on the future and how to prepare teacher candidates for the future of education.

    If you plan is for one year, plant rice;
    If you plan is for ten years, plant trees;
    ~ Confucius

    21st Century Teaching

    As access to educational technology grows it is paramount that as these tools are used to support 21st century teaching and learning and don't simply replicate traditional classroom practices. One of the keys to creating 21st century learning experiences is to ensure that the instructional strategies used in the classroom take advantage of the affordance of technology to create open, collaborative and dynamic learning experiences. Tech-enabled teaching strategies that are open, collaborative or dynamic have the potential to engage students in ways that were not possible or prohibitively burdensome in the past.

    Flickr photo by ProctorAcademy
    When learning is open and transparent students can learn from each other and take advantage of the benefits of social learning to support academic success. Social technologies like Moodle, Ning, and Schoology provide students with academically-focused opportunities to interact with their peers. Increasing the number of educational interactions between students can serve to enhance a sense of classroom community and allow engaged student to serve are models or a support system for students who experience motivational difficulties, are vulnerable to educational failure or  show signs of disengaging from the learning process (Furlong & Christenson, 2008).

    The use of technology can also make it easier to create an open a window into what takes place in the classroom by creating an efficient way to provide parents with the information necessary to support the learning process at home. Classroom websites, blogs and even Twitter allow parents to stay informed about daily assignments and homework and even view videos or images of completed projects or presentations.

    Flickr photo by Proctor Academy
    More so that traditional classroom tools, the collaborative and participatory nature of many of the latest classroom technologies can make academic collaboration significantly easier for students and teachers. Collaborative tools like Wikis, Google Docs, and Office 365,  encourage students to become active participants or co-producers rather than passive consumers of content (McLoughlin & Lee, 2007). In addition to being an essential 21st skill, collaboration and the opportunity to work with their peers can be used to engage students who are at risk of disengaging from the educational process.


    Dynamic instructional strategies acknowledge that teaching does not always have to be a unilateral process and that the classroom teacher does not need to be the only ‘teacher’ available to students. Integrating the use of educational videos from YouTube EDU, Learn 360, or Knowledge Ontario eResources allows teachers to provide their students with a variety of ‘teachers’ that can address an array of different learning styles.

    Flickr photo by Mr. Mayo
    Tools like Skype, Adobe Connect, and Google Hangouts provide an easy way to bring additional teachers and experts into the classroom so that students can engage in real world  learning experiences. In addition to facilitating  interactions with experts or guest speakers from diverse background, these authentic  learning opportunities can also serve to heighten the relevance of classroom learning and support the development of global and digital citizenship.

    Furlong, M. & Christenson, S. L. (2008).  Educating students at schools with learning: A relevant construct for all student. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 45(5).
    McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2007). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. Paper presented at the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education Singapore.

    Creating a New Story of Education in the Digital Age

    OTF/OADE Social Media and Teacher Learning Conference 2012

    Using Social Media to Support Student Engagement

    cc Flickr photo by Bionicteaching
    Just as the social features of many of social media resources has attracted the attention of millions of young people, these same features have the potential to also draw the attention of students to the learning opportunities provided by their school. Educators could take advantage of these social and interactive features to encourage students to become actively engaged in co-constructing their learning experience with their teachers (McLoughlin & Lee, 2007), collaborating with fellow students, and sharing resources and ideas beyond the schoolhouse walls. 

    Using social media resources such as Google Apps for Education, Office 356, Moodle, and Ning as repositories of learning objects would allow students to access valuable and necessary learning objects regardless of their location and time of day. Not only could this negate the excuse, ‘I left my book at school’, easy access to a plethora of learning resources may also help to extend the amount of time students time spend engaged in academic pursuits. Within the traditional classroom, providing students with supplementary learning resources can be very expensive and logistically complicated. Including hyperlinks to supplementary resources to extend the learning experience in addition to required resources and class assignments as part of a class Moodle or Ning site may serve to support academic engagement by extending the amount of time a student spends actually doing homework or related school projects. 

    cc Flickr photo by Kaswenden
    The results of the 2009 High School Student Engagement Survey (HSSSE) noted that only 2% of student report that they were never bored in class, while the majority of students (66%) reported being are bored at least every day in class and one out of every six students stated (17%) stated that they are bored in every class everyday. The dynamic and participatory nature of many social media resources could be used to re-engaged previously bored students. Collaborative and participatory tools like Wikis, Google Docs, Office 356, Poll Daddy and Survey Monkey can encourage students to become active participants or co-producers rather than passive consumers of content (McLoughlin & Lee, 2007). The HSSE results also revealed that instructional methods that involved working with and learning with their peers were the most highly rated of all instructional methods that teachers use (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). Creating learning experiences that are social and interactive would serve to enhance behavioural engagement, which is reflected in active class participation, asking questions, and participating in discussions. 

    The second most cited reason given by students who considered dropping out of school was that they did not see the value of the work that they were being asked to complete (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). This highlights a lack of cognitive engagement, which refers to the extent to which students perceive the relevance of school to their future aspirations (Furlong & Christenson, 2008). The HSSSE survey also noted that of those students who reported being bored at school, 81% indicated that it was because the material was not interest-ing, and 42% said that their boredom was caused by lack of relevance of the material (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). To counter classroom boredom and support cognitive engagement, social media resources like iTunesU, Twitter, Skype and YouTube could be used facilitate authentic learning experiences that require students to learn from and interact with experts outside the classroom. 

    cc Flickr photo by Breity
    Integrating social media resources like Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr and Wordpress into the classroom may provide students with greater opportunities to get to know their peers and in turn develop a positive relationship with them (Rutherford 2010). This may result in greater levels of affective engagement, which refers to a sense of belonging and connection to their peers. Affective engagement also includes the sense of connection to and the support students receive from the adults in the school (Furlong & Christenson, 2008). 

    cc Flickr photo by Breity
    Social media can also be used to enhance and increase the number of interactions students have with their teacher by overcoming the barriers of time and location (Rutherford 2010). Increasing the number of potential opportunities to interact with students regarding schoolwork can be as simple as having teachers use a blog, Tumblr or Twitter where students can ask questions or leave a comment. As the number of positive interactions a student has with a teacher increases, so does the likelihood that a student will have the opportunity to develop a supportive relationship with at least one adult. Yassie-Mint (2009) states that connecting with at least one adult at the school is critically important for students to remain in school and be engaged with the learning environment. The importance of connecting with even a single adult is high-lighted in the fact that of the students who have considered dropping out, 16% identified “No adults in the school cared about me” as a reason for thinking about dropping out (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). 

    Furlong, M. & Christenson, S. L. (2008). Educating students at schools with learning: A relevant construct for all student. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 45(5). 

    Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social media and young    adults. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

    McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2007). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. Paper presented at the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education Singapore.

    Rutherford, C. (2010). Using Online Social Media to Support Preservice Student Engagement. Journal of online learning and teaching, Vol. 6(4).

    Yazzie-Mint, E. (2009). Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN: Center for Evaluation & Education Policy Indiana. Retrieved from