Monthly Archives: April 2016

Getting to Know Our Students

I (Clive) have long believed in having a warm, friendly class community and a good IMG_3114teacher-student relationship. However, my understanding of what this means continues to grow. This term in my graduate course with 22 students I seemed to develop a closer bond with my students than ever before.

As time went by, each would greet me in a friendly, open way with a smile on their face. They told me more personal information about themselves (often in emails about why they couldn’t be at class that evening!) Before and after class, at the break or in emails, they shared with me (and I discussed with them) individual matters, e.g., interest in going on to doctoral work; wanting to teach high school rather than elementary; wanting to take an individual reading course; moving from the public to the private school sector; the struggles of teaching while raising 3 children; not really wanting to be a teacher.

I found this closer relationship had several advantages:

  • There was a higher energy level in our engagement
  • Our interactions – and the class experience generally – were more enjoyable
  • Attendance was higher
  • I could better understand “where they were coming from”

This was quite apart from the help they received by discussing their individual concerns.


Sometimes people worry about an overly close relationship between teachers and students. However, a sensible teacher can figure out what is appropriate and what is not; and in general I feel we are still far too removed from our students. We need to be constantly developing appropriate links with our students, rather than being afraid of links in general.

In terms of appropriateness, one important point is to avoid having favorites. We should go out of our way to have meaningful conversations with – and hence get to know – every single student in our class. They will really appreciate it and our own teaching experience will be enhanced.


OTF Supports Teacher’s Self-Directed Professional Development


The Ontario Teacher’s Federation (OTF) recognizes that teachers need to direct their own learning and professional development. To support this need they now offer a professional development  problem-based learning model which encourages teacher teams the opportunity to create their own learning projects.  The model encourages teachers to: select a team to work with; develop a project; conduct the research; and evaluate the effectiveness.  If the proposal is accepted, the OTF also provides support for the project through a mentoring program. Each team is assigned an expert teacher who will act as their mentor, who assists the team as needed throughout the process.

Through this process teachers are given the opportunity to:

  • become involved in ongoing self-directed learning;
  • spend real time collaborating with colleagues of their choice;
  • work as a team on a project of they deem significant (within the specified areas of focus);
  • have release time to carry out the learning initiative;
  • develop and implement the project over a period of months;
  • deepen their practice and evaluate teaching enhancements generated through your research and discussions; and
  • share their knowledge and resources with colleagues.

This year they have suggested three areas of focus:

  • Using information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance teaching and learning
  • Supporting capacity building in Kindergarten
  • Supporting teachers in implementing revised curriculum
    • Grades 1-8
      • History and Geography
      • Social Studies
    • Grades 9-12
      • Canadian and World Studies
      • Classical and International Languages
      • First Nation, Métis and Inuit Studies
      • Social Sciences and Humanities
    • Grades 1-12
      • French as a Second Language
      • Health and Physical Education

Deadline for 2016  proposal applications is May 31.

Some  2015 projects were:

Assessment Technology in Primary Physical Education

Cross-Curricular Integrating Technology/Media Studies

iPads for Inclusion

I remember, as a classroom teacher, wishing my school board would allow me the opportunity to identify my own areas of strength and weakness and seek out professional development accordingly.  It is appropriate that the OTF is acknowledging this form of PD and taking a step in the right direction.  It would be helpful if teacher education programs could also offer similar forms of support for their own staff and faculty.


JICS: Outstanding Laboratory School of the Year Award

As many of the readers of this blog know, I (Clare) am the Director of the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS). It is an amazing place — Lab school, teacher education program, ICSand research centre. The Lab school has been given the Outstanding Laboratory School of the Year Award. A HUGE HUGE HUGE congratulations to our teachers and leadership team. I have looked at the list of lab schools in the association and there are some mighty prestigious schools in the group. And for our school to be given this award is truly an outstanding accomplishment.
Below is the press release done by the OISE Communications Team
OISE/UofT’s Laboratory School Named World’s Best in 2016

The International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) has named the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) winner of the 2016 Outstanding Laboratory School Award.

Richard Messina, JICS principal, will accept the award in Puerto Rico on April 27, 2016, at the International Association of Laboratory Schools annual conference.

“The JICS school community is very excited about this award. It recognizes the hard work and creativity of our teachers, the involvement of our parents, and the guidance we receive from our scholars,” noted Messina.

Watch JICS in action: Password: kidscodingfinal

The Jackman ICS lab school, part of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and University of Toronto, is widely known for its innovative and integrated approach to applying the latest research evidence to ensuring leading edge teaching and learning.

A leader in education, the keys to its success are the partnerships among and between students, teachers, parents, and world-class professors from OISE and the University of Toronto.

For more information about the Outstanding Laboratory School of the Year Award, please visit:
For more on the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute for Child Study, please see attached for background details, or visit:

Media Contact Information:

Richard Messina, Principal, JICS: or 416-629-1018
Chriss Bogert, Vice-Principal, JICS: or 416-702-1093
Lindsey Craig, Media Relations Coordinator: or 416-458-2136

Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE)

My (Pooja) good friend and fellow educator has been traveling the world for a unique project. She is looking to get a global understanding of educational reform in the 21st century. On her blog this week she highlights the work of educator Felipe Spath from Bogota, Colombia. Spath is leading the SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environment) initiative in Colombia. SOLE is a methodology developed by Sugata Mitra in collaboration with educators from various countries around the world, proposing self-organizing collaborative learning using the Internet spaces. Listen to what Spath has to say about collaborative learning in the 21st century.

To learn more about educational reform and this series, follow edumodels:


Why I love blogging: Take my creativity post and watch the learning grow

Writing blog posts is one of my most favourite things to do. I (Yiola) do not think I’m an entirely seasoned blogger but with time, practice, and learning I hope to become good at it one day. Why? Well, as an academic one of my goals is to share what I study and what I know with others. One way I do this is through my teaching. I am a teacher educator. My goals as a teacher educator are to prepare pre-service teachers to become excellent teachers by thinking about what they teach, how they teach and most importantly who they teach.  I am also a writer — but a very particular kind of writer. I have been taught to write in academic prose for journal articles and book chapters. Sometimes our articles and books are read by others in the field.  But… blogging… this is an entirely different genre and such a wonderful way to network and meet amazing people – some directly in the same field and others in slightly different but related fields – while sharing knowledge and information. Since writing on the academic / teaching blog I have met wonderful people and learned many things and taken away wonderful ideas. Let me share an example based on something that happened recently.

Some time ago I posted a blog about creativity in teacher education. Here is the link below:

Last week I received an email from a person who is in the field of creativity who has also done some good work in the area. This person shared their insights on what I had written and provided supportive feedback and then also shared their work with me. What a delightful process! I am now sharing their work with you. The following link leads to a list of ways to infuse creativity into the classroom. I reviewed the link and like it for several reasons: 1. It’s foundations and theoretical underpinnings are closely linked to the work I shared with my student teachers in our classes on creativity  2. The list is very easy to view and accessible  3. I found the list inspiring and doable — so yes! I will now proceed to share this link with my student teachers and friends.

This is but one example of how blogging in academia and in teacher education serves such good purpose. Yet another example of how digital technology and literacy work hand in hand to foster communication and learning. I am delighted when I receive messages with feedback, interest, and sharing. Looking forward to more connections and learning through this medium.

Sleep Deprivation: A talk by Dr. Reut Gruber

The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Parent Education Association organized a fabulous event this week on sleep deprivation. I (Clare) attended and felt I learned so much!

The speaker Dr. Reut Gruber (professor at McGill University) walked us through “sleep for gruber-mainsuccess” which included a description of our sleep cycles and some of the consequences of sleep deprivation. Here are a few key points that I found incredibly informative.

  • Sleep is affected by intrinsic biological processes, cultural values, parental beliefs, school start time, and age
  • Sleep deprivation affects academic performance, mental wellness, and physical health
  • Regarding academic performance she said executive functions are affected, not allowing children to filter, make correction decisions, plan, resist distractions and regulate emotions
  • Regarding sleep, learning, and memory she said that we need to sleep so that the new information/learning can be integrated into what is already known. She said that we tend to think that if we expose children to “more” they will become “more brilliant” but knowledge needs to consolidated.
  • She gave a great analogy – if we do not sleep it is like not pressing the “save” button on our computer. Memory consolidation occurs when we sleep. For this process to occur we need to be “offline” that is be asleep.

Her work has been profiled on CNN, CBS …. Here is a link to some of her articles:


Actor’s insights into Literacy

If we talk about literacy, we have to talk about how to enhance our children’s mastery over the tools needed to live intelligent, creative, and involved lives.

Danny Glover


I was curious as to why actor Danny Glover would be credited with such a profound quote on literacy.  Looking into his background I discovered two things about him:

1.Danny Glover suffered dyslexia at school when he was younger and the school staff would label him retarded. This definitely was not very encouraging for him but he ended up finding ways to feel better about himself. He says that dyslexia had given him the feeling that he was not worthy to learn and that the people around him would not care of what would happen to his education. With time he eventually regained his self-esteem and became a great actor.

2. Danny Glover is a political and civil rights activist. For example, while attending San Francisco State University (SFSU), Glover was a member of the Black Students Union, which, along with the Third World Liberation Front and the American Federation of Teachers, collaborated in a five-month student-led strike to establish a Department of Black Studies. The strike was the longest student walkout in U.S. history. It helped create not only the first Department of Black Studies but also the first School of Ethnic Studies in the United States.

I am sure these two factors contribute enormously to Mr. Glover’s insightful views on literacy.  What we make of our backgrounds shape our identities as leaders, particularly in education.  My newly discovered knowledge of Mr. Glover increases my respect for him not only as an actor, but as  a human being.  I look forward to reading more about his journey and commitment to literacy development.


Why is a constructivist approach to teaching so difficult?

I (Clare) am writing with my research team a paper about literacy teacher educators who use a constructivist approach. I found this amazing quote from Virginia Richardson which seems to succinctly sum up the challenge. I thought I would share it with you because it helped clarify some of the issues. 12801662_10156708871645121_4206799058803873009_n

Constructivist teaching as a theory or practice, however, has only received attention for approximately one decade. Current interest and writing in constructivist teaching leave many issues unresolved. These issues relate, in part, to the difficulty in translating a theory of learning into a theory or practice of teaching, a conversion that has always been difficult and less than satisfactory. However, the nature of constructivism as an individual or group meaning-making process renders this conversion remarkably demanding (Richardson, 2003, p. 1623).

Topics and Methods for Class Debates

In previous postings, I (Clive) have recommended debates as a way to give students a voice in university and school classrooms and also introduce some variety into class activities. Of course, the topics have to be interesting to the students if they are to get really involved; and the overly combative tone of traditional debating needs to be avoided so there are no hard feelings.

This term, in my graduate class of 22, I used two debating topics that worked very well. They were: (1) Teaching Values in School and (2) Formal Professional Development for Teachers. In each case we formed 4 groups (by numbering off from 1 to 4 around the class, including myself) and then assigned “positions” to the groups as follows:

Teaching Values in School

Group 1: On the whole, teachers should keep their values to themselves

Group 2: It is often appropriate for teachers to promote the values they believe in

Group 3: On the whole, schools should advocate general “human” values (e.g., treating women and men equally) even if they conflict with the values of the family

Group 4: On the whole, schools should honor and respect the values of the family, even if they conflict with general “human” values

Formal Professional Development for Teachers

Groups 1 & 3: Formal professional development has a very important role to play in teacher learning and school improvement. Examples of effective formal PD include….

Groups 2 & 4: Formal professional development does not play a major role in teacher learning and school improvement. Examples of more important methods and factors are….

Each group spent 20 minutes preparing their case, with each person in the group proposing and outlining an argument and/or example. Then each group in turn presented their case to the whole class, with every member of the group speaking. Finally, we returned to the whole class circle and went around with each individual saying what they thought about the topic (we didn’t have time to go all the way round the class, but this final activity also proved very valuable).

Notice that the “opposing” positions were softened by using phrases such as “on the whole,” “it is often appropriate,” “not a major role” (rather than “not any role”). Also, the emphasis on giving examples to support one’s case was a big success – I hadn’t used this before.

So, this was my experience. If you have a chance to experiment with debates, let us know what topics you used and how it went – we can do a guest blog!






Anya Kamentz from NPR sat down and tried something we all should try. She attempted to make the latest  buzzwords in educational research simple and easy to understand. If you were at AERA last weekend, you probably attended sessions (like I did) which were so jargon heavy it was often difficult to follow along. As researchers and writers, our job is to communicate big, complex, and messy ideas to those who didn’t conduct the research or know as much about your particular topic as you do. Jargon often gets in the way of that. creating a divide between researchers/writers and the audience.

Kamentz set out to define some of the most popular educational jargon using only the most 1000 common words in the English Language. Here are a few of my favourite:

Authentic (learning or assessment)
What does this schoolwork have to do with my life or the real world?

Culturally responsive teaching
Do you know where your students come from and what their lives are like?

Hybrid education
Let’s use computers and people to teach students.

You have a good idea. Making it happen is the hard part.

Don’t stop until you really know a thing.

Professional development
Teach the teachers too.

Project-based learning
Don’t just write words and numbers. Do something.

Schools need to change.

Teaching things step by step so the student can do more and more by herself.

Lots of people care what happens in schools, like students, teachers, parents and leaders. You should listen to everybody.

A teacher should act like a businessperson.