Tag Archives: Monica McGlynn-Stewart

Guest Post: Monica McGlynn-Stewart: Talking Stickers

Image_TalkingStickersI (Monica) am an advisor to a team of recent MBA graduates from the University of Toronto who are one of six teams in the finals for a $1 million start-up fund for their product. Here is how they describe their work:

The Attollo technology assisted learning concept has been developed for use by parents and children in informal urban settlements in developing countries as part of the 2015 Hult Prize Challenge – which is the world’s largest student-based competition. Talking Stickers involves stickers with embedded bar codes (QR codes) that can be scanned by a device, which in turn is prompted to record and replay user generated audio content or replay pre-recorded audio content stored on the device. This spring and summer we have piloted our device in Toronto in George Brown College’s lab schools, and in Hyderabad, India and Mombasa, Kenya.

Whether these young professionals win the final prize this weekend or not, they are committed to bringing their technology to developing communities in India and Kenya to support the literacy learning of children in low-income communities.

Here is a link to a short video on their recent pilot projects in Kenya and India:


Here is a recent article in The Globe and Mail about the project:


Canadian school in global final for social enterprise prize

The question, on paper, is simply stated: How would you provide quality education by 2020 for 10 million children under the age of 6 living in the world’s urban slums?

Six business school teams from around the world, including one from Canada, think they have an answer to the question posed by organizers of the Hult Prize, a global competition for young social entrepreneurs that drew 22,000 applicants this year.

Next week in New York, at a session of the Clinton Global Initiative, a Hult partner, the winning team will walk off with $1-million (U.S.) and a chance to market a potentially game-changing, socially conscious business idea.

Win or lose, the four-person team of MBA graduates from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management plans to pursue its idea for “talking stickers” – quick response bar codes that activate a low-cost reader enabling children to listen to a recorded voice or to record their own voice to say or sing the words.

For example, with talking stickers, the child (or parent) could use a hand-held device to scan a bar code near, for example, a bright yellow star on the page of a nursery rhyme book to hear Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. By scanning over a differently programmed sticker with a bar code, the child or parent then could record their voices to practice their language skills. The stickers are not just in books; they can be placed on household items, which then become tools for the language development of young children.

Earlier this year, having scrapped their initial idea for the Hult Prize, the members of Team Attollo (Latin for elevator) turned their attention to the literacy challenges faced by young children in impoverished countries. According to Hult Prize organizers, 112 million children up to 6 live in slums without access to schooling while 70 million children, more than half of whom are girls, are prevented from attending school.

“We found that language development and vocabulary is the key issue in early childhood development,” says Jamie Austin, who like teammate Lak Chinta, holds a PhD in neuroscience and earned a Rotman MBA this year. The other team members are engineers Peter Cinat and Aisha Bukhari, who earned their Rotman MBAs in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Over the summer, with advice from early childhood professor Monica McGlynn-Stewart, the team conducted trials in Kenya and India, working with local school officials and families who cannot afford even modest school fees for their children. The early results were promising, with children and their parents adding to their vocabulary.

Meanwhile, with help from Toronto-based Autodesk Research and U of T engineers David Johns and Matt Ratto, the Attollo team developed a low-cost prototype for the hand-held device, with a view to making it affordable ($1.50 a month) to families who earn between $2 and $5 a day. As well, the team is working with local publishers and schools to develop school curriculum content for the stickers.

Over the summer, Hult Prize organizers brought finalists to a boot camp in Boston to make their business idea “investment ready.”

“It was a little bit collaborative and competitive,” says Mr. Austin, of the relationship with the other five teams. “We would talk out the ideas and we saw each other’s presentations every week,” he says, with coaching from academics and industry leaders. “We got tons of feedback from the Hult Prize business experts.”

Mr. Austin and his colleagues are so committed to their venture that, for now, they have quit their day jobs to found Attollo as a social enterprise company.

The other Hult finalists are: ESADE Business School (Spain); the University of Tampa (United States); Oxford University (England); and two from China – Jiao Tong University Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance and National Chengchi University.

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Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net

Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn-Stewart

Hungry Caterpillar

Dual Language Texts

In my (Monica) preservice ECE class this week I had the most amazing experience. The Monica McGlynn-Stewartclass had been given the task of finding a dual language picture book for young children that was inviting and enticing and would support the language and literacy learning of children whose home language was not English. My students were encouraged to choose books that represented their own home languages. We have a wonderfully diverse class and they took up the challenge with enthusiasm. If they couldn’t find a dual language picture book in their home language, they translated a text and added it alongside the English text. For those (like me!) who only speak English, they were encouraged to choose a text that represented the language of children in their placement. They needed to develop six pedagogical strategies that they would employ when using the book with young children. I gave them a fabulous article by Gillanders and Castro (2011) the journal Young Children entitled “Storybook Reading for Young Dual Language Learners” as inspiration.


On Tuesday, they came with their picture books and their strategies, eager to begin. In small groups they took turns sharing their books, props they had made, teaching each other words in other languages, and practicing their strategies such as doing a “picture walk” through the text and pre-teaching key words or phrases that the children could chime in with during the reading. I had never seen the class so alive and so engaged. There were a dozen languages in the air. My students who were English Language Learners themselves, who were generally quiet and shy, were confidently sharing their expertise in their home languages. What I learned was the use of dual language texts can benefit not only young learners, but can also be an opportunity for dual language preservice students to value their home languages as a rich resource that they bring to their teaching.


Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn Stewart — Tools or Toys?

I (Monica) and my colleague Tiffany MacKay are just starting a new research project exploring oral and visual literacy learning with iPads for 3-5 year olds. Our research will be situated in both childcare centres and public school kindergartens in Ontario. Here is a bit more about our project:

IPadYoung children, aged 3-5 years, are exposed to many forms of digital technology (DT) both inside and outside of their formal learning settings, yet there is little research to guide pedagogical practices for early years literacy teaching. Many registered early childhood educators (RECEs) working in childcare centres are reluctant to introduce DT into their programs, while many RECEs and teachers in Full-Day Kindergarten are using DT in a variety of ways.


This research study will introduce educators and students in childcare centres and public kindergarten classrooms to one of two i-Pad applications, 30 Hands or Explain Everything. Both of these applications allow children to easily photograph their work with an i-Pad (e.g., painting, block structure, sand table creation, etc.) and then record their voice explaining what they have created, how they created it, and what they plan to do next, etc. This digital visual and audio file can then be shared with classmates, teachers, or parents via email. Teachers can archive this documentation for assessment and planning purposes.


Our objectives include: a) to understand educators’ comfort level and experience using DT for literacy learning with young children; b) to understand children’s use of DT as a means of communicating their work and ideas; c) to explore the value of DT for supporting young children’s literacy development.


Our hypothesis is that educators will become more comfortable having their students use DT applications that allow for active, creative, and open-ended literacy learning. Furthermore, children will be more motivated to articulate and share their thinking with the i-Pad applications and will become more competent with both their digital technology and oral language skills.


We will be interviewing the educators before and after the implementation of the software to determine their comfort level and experience with using DT for literacy learning and teaching, their current practices, and in the post-implementation interview, any changes that they observed in their students’ interest and ability with respect to literacy learning. In addition, we will be observing the students in their classes as they use the applications to record and share their work.

What Influences How Teachers Teach?

Monica McGlynn-StewartAs a former elementary teacher, I (Monica) know that there are many things that influence how teachers teach in their classrooms. In our longitudinal study of teachers, Teacher change: patterns, factors, and implications for professional education, we have been learning from teachers about the kinds of formal and informal professional development that they find most relevant and helpful. One of the factors that intrigued me early on in the study was the influence that the teachers’ own early schooling had on their teaching. I interviewed 6 of our participants over the first three years of their teaching and discovered that they all use one or two teachers from their own childhood as role models for their teaching. My research has just been published in Language and Literacy: A Canadian e-Journal. Here’s the link: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/langandlit/article/view/20426/16419

Guest Blog: Living the Inter-generational Novice/Expert Flip Flop

Monica McGlynn-StewartMy (Monica) husband and I live with our two teenaged children. Anyone who is or has lived with teenagers knows that it can be challenging at times. I imagine that this dynamic has been difficult for many generations, yet I think this generation is living through a unique twist on an old problem. Teenagers have always been experts in their own world as compared to their parents. They know what is cool to say, wear and do, and their parents definitely do not. Traditionally, they knew a great deal less about the world their parents inhabited. However, now teenagers are also experts in aspects of their parents’ worlds. For example, just last week our 16-year-old daughter helped her dad with his business website, and our 13-year-old son taught me how to use Google docs for my research. In some ways, they are quite proud to be able to teach their parents something (to be the experts), and proud that we are doing our best to keep up with technical innovations in communication (eager novices), but they are also irritated when we ask them for technical help. Partly I think they are just annoyed that we are taking them away from whatever they were doing, but I also think they are a little uncomfortable dealing with their parents as novices. On the other hand, they are not too happy when we are experts either. They get annoyed when we are better able to navigate material that they have so expertly found on the internet. Our “expert” old-school skills of skimming for relevant information, synthesizing and evaluating material leave them exasperated. How dare we understand more about their world than they do! When I asked my kids how they would rate themselves and us on a scale of 1-10 regarding proficiency with ICT, they rated themselves a 10 and us a 4!

Recently (May 8, 2014), CBC’s The Nature of Things ran a fascinating documentary called Surviving 🙂 The Teenage Brain. They present a great deal of interesting research on teenagers and conclude that, “Today marks the first time in history when children are an authority on something really important – the digital revolution. With social media, human social evolution is unfolding before our eyes and under the leadership of teenagers.” Check it out: http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/surviving-the-teenage-brain


Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn-Stewart

How Does Learning Happen?

Monica McGlynn-StewartOn April 25th, Ontario’s Ministry of Education released a new Early Learning Framework called How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years. http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/atkinson/UserFiles/File/Policy_Monitor/ON_25_04_14_-_HowLearningHappens.pdf
It is a learning resource for early years settings such as childcare, child and family support programs, and before-and-after school programs. In some ways, it is a departure from the previous early years curriculum framework, Early Learning for Every Child Today (2007). http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/early_learning_for_every_child_today.aspx
In addition to a statement of principles and guidelines for practice, the older document includes a section referred to as the continuum of development which has separate sections for infants, toddlers, pre-school/kindergarten and school-aged children. Each age group is further divided into five domains, social, emotional, communication, language and literacy, cognitive and physical. Each domain includes a list of specific skills, what educators might see that would indicate that skill, and suggestions for how educators might support those skills. In other words, it is quite detailed about how children develop and how educators can support them. The new document, How Learning Happens does not have this developmental section. It appears to be inspired by New Zealand’s national early childhood curriculum Te Whariki. Like Te Whariki, How Learning Happens focuses on children’s relationships, well-being and inquiry learning, and educator’s collaboration and critical reflection.
As a professor of early childhood education, I think a combination of the emphasis on reflection, relationships, and inquiry learning from Te Whariki and the continuum of development from Early Learning for Every Child today would be helpful, the latter particularly so for new early childhood educators. Over the last 25 years I have seen similar swings in the school curriculum in Ontario. When I first started teaching elementary grades in the late 1980’s, there was an incredibly open-ended primary curriculum which allowed excellent teachers to run fabulous programs, but left less informed and skilled teachers with little to go on (and some less than effective programs). We then had a conservative government in the mid to late 1990’s who introduced a much more prescriptive and reductionist curriculum, making it more difficult to be creative and to integrate the curriculum, but it could be argued that it supported new teachers. Now, with the school curriculum revisions in the last few years, and the new full-day kindergarten play-based curriculum document, we are moving back towards less prescriptive outcomes, subject integration and inquiry learning. I think new educators/teachers need support and explicit guidance, and more experienced, knowledgeable educators/teachers need more freedom to be creative and spontaneous. The question is, how you capture this in a one-size-fits all curriculum document?

Guest Blog: Gisela Wajskop

Yesterday I (Gisela Wajskop) shared with Monica McGlynn-Stewart an important moment Gisela Wajskopin her professional and personal life as well as in the lives of her students at George Brown College (Toronto, Ontario). I attended the Second Annual Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership Research Symposium organized jointly with Fanshawe College (London, Ontario) and Sheridan College (Oakville, Ontario). The event celebrated the innovative early childhood education (ECE) program. This four-year program prepares students to be educators and to become leaders in curriculum and pedagogy development for Ontario’s early childhood settings. These include: childcare centers, nursery schools, family drop-in programs (including Ontario Early Years Centres, family resource centers and parenting programs), family support programs, and early intervention services.
I was quite excited by the students’ serious and enthusiastic research presentations that were based on their practice/placements in schools and community centres. The program believes the field of ECE requires critical thinkers and practitioners who have vision, a professional demeanour, and in-depth knowledge. The ECE program wants to prepare future leaders and educators; they hope to empower students by using a variety of pedagogical strategies (e.g., research on practice). Overall they aim to raise expectations for their students; the new standards for the profession raise the accountability bar.
Attending the Symposium reminded me of my Brazilian students and the practices we developed together the last 12 years. As a teacher educator I was committed to empowering my students to have a critical voice in the field just as those three Colleges aim to do.
Participating in this very special event reminded me that we are entering Passover: I am grateful to Monica who opened her door to me … and I wish her students all the best. Under her supervision and leadership may they develop and become better people and excellent professionals.
Chag Sameach for all!

Guest Blog: Monica McGlynn-Stewart

Monica McGlynn-Stewart who is part Monica McGlynn-Stewartof our research team on the longitudinal study of teachers is our first guest blogger. For more information on Monica click on the tab About our Research then click on Meet the Team.

I (Monica) gave my 16-year-old daughter I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai for Christmas and now I am getting a chance to read it.  It is the memoir of a 16-year-old girl who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about girls’ right to education. I find it fascinating for many reasons, not least of which is what I am learning about life in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. As an educator, I am always interested in learning about different systems of education and different pedagogical practices. Malala is the daughter of a school I am Malalaprincipal and had access to formal education except for a brief period when schools were closed by the Taliban, but many girls in the Swat Valley do not have access to education. In her descriptions of her studies, she relates how she memorized and recited religious texts, poetry, history, and even chemistry formulas. Her mother, who did not learn to read and write, can also recite many texts that she learned through hearing them. When I went to elementary school in the 70’s, we sometimes had to memorize a poem and recite it, but it was a rare occurrence. As an elementary teacher, I never asked my students to memorize texts, but they would learn many poems by authors such as Dennis Lee or Shel Silverstein because we read them out loud so often. For young students, “memory reading” a text that they had memorized was an important step in learning to read. So I am wondering, what role does memorization and recitation play in literacy learning? And can we consider someone illiterate who has memorized and can purposely refer to a large body of literature?