Friday, 27 February 2015

The Changing Landscape

As teachers, we have an opportunity to change the landscape. The work we do with students has such an important impact. The students we have in our classroom live in a world much different from when many (maybe most) of us went to school. They deal with many of the same issues as students have for many years. However, their reality includes a number of problems that never existed when we were students. In addition, our students have access to more information than many of us ever did. Their ability to access that information is increasing as well. As such, I would suggest it is our responsibility to help our students beyond delivering curriculum. We need to work with our students on developing critical thinking skills and help them wade through the digital world in a responsible, effective way.

We have a wide array of tools at our disposal to assist with this process. I know many of our teachers are utilizing these tools and many more would like to learn more about how to use the tools. I have heard from many teachers over the past two weeks through this survey they would like more training and time to learn how to utilize some of the tools we have available. I am here to assist with this process. I had the distinct pleasure of working with teachers at Brooks Junior High, Brooks Composite High School, and Griffin Park School this week. We discussed ways in which the tools could be used in their classrooms. In addition, I was able to go outside my comfort zone and teach Grade 3, 4, and 5 students how to use the tools. The excitement they had was really energizing. But, the tools cannot just be toys - the learning is the most important part. The students and I discussed how they could collaborate with each other, their teachers and students in other schools. They spoke about how they could learn more from other people. They were very excited, so were the teachers.

I also wanted an opportunity to share with you, in the voices of the teachers, things they are doing in their classrooms. Jeff Mason, a Social Studies teacher at Brooks Composite, agreed to share some of the things he is doing. I hope that our guest column becomes a regular part of this blog. If you want to share some of the things you are doing in your classroom, whether they are technology related or not, please send me an email. 


Guest Contributor: Mr. Jeff Mason

Hello everyone, my name is Jeff Mason and I teach high school social studies at the Brooks Composite High School.  Sean asked me to share a little about what I am doing in my classroom. I thought I’d use the opportunity to discuss how I use Google Classroom in my classes. 
Google Classroom is an app you can use with your Google account.

I find Google Classroom particularly helpful for my classes. The app essentially acts like a private Facebook stream for your class. You can easily post pictures, videos, web links, or documents from your computer. (Similar to Moodle) You can allow students to post and comment as well, or you can make it so that only you can post. The class is completely secure, meaning others cannot get into the online classroom if you do not allow it.

In the above picture you see a post I made for my 10-1 social class. We are learning about how language impacts identity and how globalization impacts language. I posted a quick PowerPoint and a few web links that we explored as a class. 

You can also create assignments for students in Google Classroom.

 This was an opening assignment I had my grade 10 class complete. We went through some of the most important current events of the last year at the beginning of the semester. They then had to write a paragraph response on how one of the current events demonstrated that we live in a globalized world. The assignment capabilities of Google Classroom is handy, as it keeps all the students work neatly organized, reduces paper use, and allows me to provide feedback digitally on the assignment. Google Documents save automatically as well, so there is less chance of students losing their work from not saving. 

I use Google Classroom in a variety of ways in all of my classes. It is great for “flipped classrooms” where I post videos or websites with content and ask the students to learn content at home and come to class prepared to have a discussion on the content. Almost daily we discuss current events in the world. Any pictures, articles, or short video clips on the current events we discuss are put on the stream so that students can revisit the information. Web quests are super easy to set up. For example, I can link four websites on the Residential School system in Canada and have the students explore the links and gather information from the sites. (or I can have the students find the websites themselves and share with the class). I can have trivia competitions with the students as they gather information. For example, I had students gather information about the Rwandan Genocide online; I then posted questions about the genocide on the stream. The students had a competition on who could find the correct answer first. There are other ways to utilize Google Classroom, however I worry that this post is too long already. I encourage you all to explore this app when you have an opportunity. It has certainly become a part of my classroom routine. 

If you have any questions you can email me at or follow my blog at

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Google Apps for Education Feedback

Over the past five months, I have had the opportunity to present to all divisions and spend time in all schools. During that time, I've presented on the tools available through Google Apps for Education and have discussed ways in which we can foster student learning through Universal Design for Learning and differentiated instruction. I always say that we need to begin with the learning outcomes in mind and then map on technology or look at different ways to present information.

I am interested in how the adoption of Google Apps for education is proceeding in different levels within the division. As such, I created a short survey using Google Forms. I would really appreciate if you could take a few moments to complete the survey. It is anonymous. The information collected in the survey will help me construct professional learning opportunities that reflect the needs of the division as a whole.

Thank you very much for taking the time to complete the survey. If you have any questions about it, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Google Apps for Education Survey