Tag Archives: 21st century communication

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.

The Digital Divide Persists


As educators we often believe we are living in an era post the digital divide. Everyone has access to the internet, right? If we see our students with Smartphones that must mean they are connected, right? Wrong. A distressing article from the New York Times reminds us the digital divide still persists. Although this article is written about the U.S. context,  I have to believe many claims are true for Canada as well. Cecelia Kang from the New York Times writes,

“With many educators pushing for students to use resources on the Internet with class work, the federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up.” 

While trying to prepare students for the 21st century world, we as educators post homework and assignments online, ask students to post blog entries or participate in educational chat groups, and become active on social media in generative and meaningful ways. However, while we upgrade and innovate our pedagogies, we may inadvertently be leaving several pupils behind. How do we prepare our students for working and living in the 21st century, which is so digitally driven, while ensuring our most vulnerable students are not being left behind?

Read the full New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/technology/fcc-internet-access-school.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region%C2%AEion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1&referer=http:/m.facebook.com

Your Research Summed Up with EMOJIS!?

Academic writing is often criticized for being unnecessarily complex and as a result inaccessible to most people. In a response to simplify academic writing, there has been a hilarious online movement to tweet your research using only emojis. I decided to try it out. Surprisingly, this task was more difficult than I expected. Below is my final result (I had to use text + emojis). Interestingly, my husband commented the emoji statement helped clarify what the heart of my research is really about. Go figure!!

Our Team Research
Our Team Research

To Read more about this movement, click here:



Canadian Millennials Surveyed

Many of us have young adults, often referred to as generation Y or Millennials, in our classrooms. Millennials are growing up in a world much different than those generations before them. The challenges they face are unique and so it important to better understand “what’s weighing on them.” Huffington Post conducted a survey with 1,004 young adults between the ages of 18-30 across Canada. Below is what they found:


The Irony with Inquiry: Preparing pre-service teachers for the real world of classrooms

I (Yiola) am terribly excited about this week. This week my dear friend Julia, who is now a seasoned administrator in a local school board, will be visiting my pre-service classroom to share her insights on assessment, evaluation and reporting in the elementary schools.  I invited Julia to my class because I want students to hear from an administrator  the expectations and specifications for assessing and reporting on student learning. I look forward to presenting with Julia – going back and forth between what we talk about in class about best practice and what the day to day expectations are in schools for teachers. The process of assessment, of course, goes hand in hand, with instruction and pedagogy. And so, Julia and I got to talking…

It seems that so much of “real life” practice is still about the paper/pencil test or the worksheet. It also seems that while the ideas of inquiry pedagogy are “out there” and there are impressions of its practice, that when it comes to assessing students’ learning, there is the inclination to revert back to traditional methods.

I call this post “The Irony with Inquiry” because I spend much of my time framing my courses through an inquiry lens and using concrete examples of inquiry pedagogy from my own research (because it IS our there) and yet so much of what student-teachers see and experience in their placements is not connected to inquiry.   How then can we expect teachers to move their learning and practice forward?  We know from Hattie’s meta-analysis of thousands of studies of student achievement that the number one factor is the teacher.  It seems to me then that teacher knowledge and teacher development is just so important. And yet, this irony that manifests itself in theory vs. practice is out there.

Julia explains the reality when she described the following: we see new teachers stepping in and they are filled with wonderful ideas and good pedagogy and they want to do so many things all at once. The new teachers hit the ground, not running but, sprinting… there is limited time to think and so they ask their teaching partners or colleagues how to proceed. They are sometimes handed tests and worksheets to help them get through the first months of teaching. These worksheets become familiar and it is hard to develop new practices. 

Clare and Clive and our team of researchers have documented similar examples of the pressures and time crunches of early years teachers.

I tell student teachers to not try to do everything well at once but to focus on one domain at a time. Sometimes I wonder if even this is too hard to accomplish.

I am looking forward to this class, to the candid discussions that may arise, and to coming to some understanding of how we can better reconcile the ironies new teachers face.

Findings from a Study on Knowledge Building

Richard Messina who is the Principal of the Jackman Institute of Child Studies is the co-author of the article: Fostering sustained idea improvement with principle-based knowledge building analytic tools by Huang-Yao Hong, Marlene Scardamalia, Richard Messina, Chew Lee Teo

I (Clare) thought this might be of interest to you because of the extensive use of knowledge building tools. Here is the abstract:

The purpose of this study is to explore the use of principle-based analytic tools to improve community knowledge building in a class of Grade 5/6 students. A flexible design framework was used to engage students in use of three analytic tools a Vocabulary Analyzer, a Social Network Tool, and a Semantic Overlap Tool. These tools are built into Knowledge Forum technology so principle-based assessment is integral to knowledge work. The primary source of data was discourse generated by students in Knowledge Forum over a school semester (approximately four months). Findings based on a mixed methods analysis reveal principle-based knowledge building analytic tools to be effective in increasing the frequency with which key terms are used by individuals, in their own productive vocabulary as well as in the shared community space, thus creating a more discursively connected community. Results additionally show a shift from problem generation and breadth of inquiry to increased self-assessment, reflection, and depth of inquiry; also, students report significant ways in which knowledge building analytic tools can increase knowledge building capacity.

Here is a link to the article: Huang-Yao article[1]

A Beautiful Example of Digital Technology Used to Re-Imagine Literacy

I (Pooja) read a blog post I wanted to share with you all. Lee Bessette, a college instructor, shared an experience of how technology was used as a tool to “re-reading, re-teaching, realizing.” Bissette, while teahcing the works of Thomas King (Indigenous writer), had students use their laptops, smartphones, and tablets to make real-time connections with the text. She explained:

…all of my students have laptops or tablets or smartphones, so instead of me telling them who the actors are and why it matters, I have them use google. And find pictures. And look at the shows and history. And who W.P. Kinsella is and why he is being referenced. And then they can collaboratively annotate the text.

We didn’t come up with any hard answers, but just explored theories, including one reference to the first lines of Paradise Lost that a student found by googling “garden, heaven, seat, Eden.” And many of my students are still struggling with this level of discourse around literature. But, as I told them today in an email (I know, SO OLD SCHOOL OF ME), that these readings that we did today around the setting of the garden were completely new to me, too, even after reading and teaching this story countless times. And that it has taken 20 years of practice to have a DUH moment like that one I had before class about said garden.

But the moment wouldn’t have come if it hadn’t been for the integration of technology in active and productive ways in my classroom practice. I could have the students find and collect the information needed to begin to make meaning in the text and focus on taking that process of meaning-making to the next level. They still don’t believe me when I tell them to “google it” and require them to annotate together, but I think after today we are all finally heading in the right direction.

Bessette demonstrates how all the smart technology brought into class on a daily basis could be used in a truly meaningful way. She used technology to enhance student learning by digging into a text in multimodal ways. By having student collaboratively annotate the text, she had them learn from one another and in turn gain deeper insights. A great model for using digital technology to re-imagine literacy!

Read the whole blog post here: