One Simple Tool for Class Tomorrow

One Simple Tool for Class Tomorrow

The rhetoric that pervades our classrooms about ‘21st Century Learning’ has become a curriculum onto itself. Onwards and upwards into a framework that is born out of trend, material desire and stealthy marketing while the true essence of teaching is all-too-often forgotten. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what technology you use in the classroom as long as it works, works efficiently and works fast. Consider that the new WWW.

Below you will find one such tool that works, works efficiently and work fast with students of all ages. It is an example of a tool that facilitates communication, critical thinking and collaboration.


Today’ is the perfect tool to teach students in grades three and up about the basics of social media. I recommend reading their privacy statement which is written in plain English. The beauty of this tool is that it requires no login to use.

What is

It is a chat tool that allows for a conversation during class, note-taking and/or questions and answers about a lesson.

What are some of its features?

  1. A teacher can open a chat room for one hour, two hours, eight hours, one day, one week, one month or one year.

Why is this important?

When trying something new for the first time, it’s good to know that if anything goes wrong, the room will close in a very short time. This allows you to reflect on the experience without exposure to the World Wide Web.

  1. The Room Tools allow you to save and print a transcript of the chat that can serve one of two purposes: To provide documentation of learning or to provide evidence of misuse.

Why is this important?

The ability to print a transcript allows you to collect vital information about how students behave, how they process information and also what gaps may be present in their learning. The transcript will also capture students’ thinking who may not always readily participate in class. Finally, the evidence collected can be shown to parents, saved to a portfolio and most importantly drive your teaching to fill in gaps.

  1. For advanced users, you can embed the chat, present and share too.

Why is this important?

If you are using a virtual learning environment like BrightSpace (D2L), Blackboard, a blog, Google Sites or Office 365, you can link the chat or even embed the chat so that users never have to leave their native learning environment.

  1. It works on all platforms regardless of browser, operating system or choice of hardware.

Why is this important?

It doesn’t matter what device your board provides, works on all. This means that whether you use iOS, Android, Safari, Chrome or Firefox it simply works. Translation: A lot less stress on the teacher.

  1. It extends the conversation beyond class.

Why is this important?

Sometimes we as adults have our ‘Ah Ha!’ moments long after the conversation. A tool like this allows for later contributions to the conversation and gives the students time to ‘soak’ in the concept that you were teaching that day. The tool also allows students who may be out of class to participate or at least consume valuable information shared during the lesson.

Recommended Tips

  1. Post rules about online conduct first (i.e., Be Respectful, Stay on Topic, No Slang etc.)
  2. Anonymity is not allowed. Insist that students join the chat with first name and last initial. If someone signs in inappropriately then suspend their usage of the tool.
  3. Start slow. Select a small group of students (3-4) to be the ‘note-takers’ for the day or the week or for any given class. As your class progresses, consider assigning ‘Researchers’ ‘Questioners’ and ‘Fact Finders’ using the tool. Avoid permitting the entire class to take part until a culture of online citizenship has been established.
  4. Post the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectation the Effective Communicator somewhere at the front and draw your students’ attention to it often.

Start Smart – Going Paperless – Level 1

Go paperless key on a computer keyboard Understanding that pedagogy should always come first, there is something to be said about having a simple goal to start. For example, perhaps you can choose January 2017 as your ‘Go Paperless’ month.


Why January? (Assuming it’s October)

1. It gives you time to learn about the tool you will use

2. It gives you time to practice without consequences

3. It gives you time to try it with 4 or 5 students as a test

4. January is shortened due to vacation days, so less stress on keeping it up for the first time.

Which tool will you use? (Ask which tool is sanctioned by your district)

1. Google Classroom

2. Office 365

3. Brightspace (D2L)

Start by posting a permission form for an upcoming trip and see how that goes.

Why Corporate Pitches to Education Fail (Or Ought to)

3 Reasons Why Corporate Pitches to Education (Continue to) Fail


I posted this about 3 years ago, but after conversations with peers from around the province, it proves to be true today.

Posted on November 3, 2013 by Anthony

Having sat through a 5 hour long pitch at one of the largest software companies last Friday, I ached to get myself home. Mentally exhausted I had slowly suffered through a morning of missing the mark (this being the 3rd attempt) by a corporation that seemed to be drinking its own punch. I did say hours and yes the morning was tough on the presenter. He simply didn’t know his audience and although a second presenter came to the rescue with a touch more personality, by then the cynicism of the audience (me) was insurmountable.

1.”Oops! Your Bottom Line is Showing..”

Microsoft – like all other corporations including D2L, Blackboard, Apple and most startups under the sun continue to make the single most embarrassing mistake when they pitch to education: they prove time and time again that they simply don’t know their audience. No presenter worth their salt would ever stand in front of audience and share information without knowing where to take the audience. Even the savviest pitch takes its audience into account, tailoring the product’s capabilities to suit their needs. But when closing the sale supersedes the user’s experience, it becomes an obvious sales pitch. It also becomes quite embarrassing when the pitch assumes an understanding of education that is often a decade out of date.

2. But, But, But I’m a Teacher Too!

Despite corporations’ best efforts, they prove that they have no true understanding of curriculum, it’s extensions and the creativity that flows from it. A teaching certification fails to give the account executives even a remote understanding of what teachers need the moment they step into a classroom.

I tend to chuckle when I hear the words “Oh but I’m a teacher too..” Yet they have either no experience or have retired for some time. Both situations fail to see education for it what it really is in 2016: an ever changing paradigm that you’d never understand unless you’re in the field present time. So no.. a certification does not buy any credibility when it comes to teaching.

3. I Have All This Money… Now Where is That Mouth of Mine?

Most peculiar is the corporations’ failure to make teacher consultations through contractual commitments a part of their education scheme. Teachers like any other profession can always stand to gain from professional consultations financially and the corporations can gain the insight they so sorely need. The third party training by certified teachers is a model that utterly fails and proves to be an embarrassment over and over again.

Bottom line: if your product improves my students’ quality of education – I will always approve…period.

Valuing Your Professional Judgment

This article originally appears in @OECTA Magazine, published June 2016

You are a teacher and make no mistake about it, you are doing God’s work. You are a professional, caring individual that more often than not, loses sleep over that one student who may not have succeeded as well as you would have liked. You live and breathe learning, in and out of your students, curricular lessons and even more so, life-lessons. You have trained, philosophized, argued, cried and reflected upon everything to do with education… everything. You operate as a surrogate parent, attuning your senses to pangs of hunger, outcries for attention, fear of social abandonment, the need for love and safety and otherwise undetectable rhythms of understanding between a trusted adult and those in your care.

You are truly doing God’s work.

So why then, in the name of God’s work, would you ever relinquish this understanding, this connection, this crucial attunement, to instead base your year-long teaching plan on scoring taken from any standardized test? This is quite baffling to be completely honest.  

I have been privy to many discussions, seminars and keynotes led by researchers that, based on quantifiable evidence, reiterate how standardized tests fail to measure student success with any degree of accuracy or reliability. Unfortunately this argument fails to offer the simplicity of using the standardized test as one tool among many. It really doesn’t have to be so black and white.

What the researchers do say, is that data known as observable evidence is paramount in the world of data. This message is even heartily supported by EQAO’s Chief Executive Officer, Bruce Rodrigues. This observable evidence is born out of the ability to study and note actions and interactions during the everyday. There can be only one, pure procurement of this precious data and that my friends is where the classroom teacher comes in. The classroom teacher, that breathes the same air as her students, is the ultimate and decisive source of observable data.

OECTA has fought for and continues to fight for your professional judgment and here is what it truly boils down to for you: You are the only one truly qualified to assess your students’ success. To suggest that any singular test ought to direct your energies and efforts, belittles your training, your passion and most importantly to your professional judgment. It is but one tool among many that serve to support your God-given talents and passion for teaching.

Looking for Authentic Professional Development? 7 Reasons Why OECTA’s Collaborative Learning Communities are Ideal PD

This article originally appears in @OECTA issue April 2016

I can’t exactly pin-point when it happened, but at one point during the last 15 years, educational reform became an imperative.  Calls for modernization, engagement and higher test-scores became the dinner bell for every researcher, blogger, Tweeter, administrator and education minister.  As millions of dollars were poured into initiatives and their twinned research faculties, teachers’ own voices about effective project management, professional development and inquiry were drowned out by the system.

But your Association was listening quite carefully.

OECTA has, for a decade now, sponsored and supported Collaborative Learning Communities (CLC’s) for teachers interested in pursuing their own burning questions about teaching, practice, student learning and research.

Here are 7 reasons why OECTA’s CLC’s are ideal professional learning models for teachers.


CLC applications may promote a universal theme such as math or technology, but the applying teacher-team really takes the lead on the specific subject matter they wish to pursue. This unfettered, autonomous project is fueled by teachers’ imaginations and desire to help their students achieve more.

2. Curiosity-Driven

Teachers are all-too-often overloaded with initiatives or what I call ‘perpetual pilots’ that are here today and gone tomorrow. Instead, the CLC’s provide opportunities for teachers to present ideas that they are interested in. We so often encourage student-curiosity in the context of inquiry and rarely support teachers in the same vein.

3. Authentic Assessment (Observations, documentation and so much more)

To be part of the CLC’s our teachers understand that assessment of their own processes are critical. OECTA’s respect and defense of teachers’ professional judgment is demonstrated through this aspect. CLC groups document their observations, reflect, discuss and reshape their practice and even attitude towards teaching.

4. Time and Space

Ask any teacher in any jurisdiction what they need most and you will hear, “Give me time and space to try something.” The CLC is designed to do just that and although funding is never extravagant, 4 days of colleague-to-colleague discussions often spark conversations that last a professional life-time. Sometimes all you need is that spark.

5. Observable Change

We have visited hundreds of teachers that have documented real change in both their practice and in their students.  This change is documented through videos, pictures, anecdotal remarks. The most important piece to remember is that the biggest change comes from teachers’ own perspectives on learning.

6. Provincial and Global Networking

Learning as part of a small group at one school or two can be quite powerful, but connecting with like-minded, curious and courageous teachers provincially and even globally can be awe-inspiring. At OECTA we strive to assist our CLC projects connect with one another and share learning. We often refer to ourselves as the groups’ promoters.

7. Teacher-Directed, Teacher-Led

Our view of leadership is not nestled within the comfort of hierarchy. Teachers lead CLC projects from the start and their leadership is often tested academically, socially and spiritually. Teachers involved in OECTA CLC’s demonstrate true, selfless, servant-leadership. Their leadership is tested, honed and recognized throughout the process and encouraged to serve others through invitation into their work.

3 Keys: Going Digital in the Classroom? Understanding Workflow is a Must

This article orginally appears in the February edition of @OECTA


Once upon a time, workflow in the classroom was pretty straightforward. The teacher would conduct a lesson, assign the work and we, as students, would complete the work and submit it. Today we have adopted a much more complicated workflow that processes student work and more importantly processes learning, goal-setting, success criteria, and timely, ongoing feedback before assessment.

Here are some keys that will help you establish a workflow for your classroom. Non-tech options are also provided.

  1. Identify your goals

Your goals may be curricular, technical or pedagogical or all.

  1. Select a noninvasive sanctioned tool to use in the classroom.

The trendiness of classroom innovation has flooded the market with tools that may not always respect our privacy as teachers or our students’ privacy. Be selective when considering your tools.

  1. Be OK with retooling your workflow.

The only way to test your workflow is through its use in the classroom. This also gives you opportunity to cultivate student voice and include students as architects and engineers of the workflow.

Below is an example of a workflow for Gr. 7 Science.

Sample Workflow:

Curriculum Goals: Understanding the impact of human activities on our environment.

Technology Workflow Goals: To go paperless for this unit.

Pedagogical Goals: To provide feedback through discussions and keep record of learning.

Tool: Desire2Learn Virtual Learning Environment

Mini-lesson about discussion etiquette, Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectation: Responsible Citizen & Collaborative Contributor

Stage 1 – Expose the goal.

Jumping Point: How does the production of millions of devices worldwide impact our environment?

Tech Workflow: Post the ‘jumping point’ question in the NEWS area of Desire2Learn

Non-Tech Workflow: Post the ‘Jumping Point’ question centrally on a bulletin board.

Stage 2: Provide a means for discussion and a timeframe.

Tech Workflow: Now post the ‘jumping point’ question on a discussion board in Desire2Learn and ask students to submit a digital source of information that will help their understanding of the question. The students ought to explain why it was selected in a meaningful way.

Non-Tech Workflow: Distribute post-it notes to the class and devote some time to brainstorm responses to the ‘jumping point’ question. Students can then post their responses as groups or individuals to a bulletin board using post-its. This now becomes a public discussion board.

You may cover the bulletin board with a large white sheet to signify when it is available and when it is ‘off-line’.

**Be sure to discuss discussion etiquette and consequences for violations**

Stage 3: Capture the Learning and Provide Feedback

Tech Workflow: By virtue of going digital, discussions are automatically captured. Spend some time reading and responding to your students. Your responses should attempt to give them further direction and challenge.

Non-Tech Workflow: Take a picture of the bulletin board to capture the student work. Reply with your own post-it privately or publicly to the students depending on context.

Where does this go next? Remember that a workflow is only as effective as its focus. In this case, the workflow was designed specifically to support a curricular goal by using discussion as a way to provide feedback and to go paperless, using Desire2Learn. Logically, the next step would be to design a workflow to accept student work. Knowing the 3 keys to designing workflow will make that next step a lot easier and more importantly, sharing those keys with your students will bring everyone onto the same page, whether it’s digital or paper.

Why Facebook? Why Now?

Why Facebook Why Now?


About 16 years ago, long before sense and sensibility took over the Facebook or let’s say, the audience of Facebook matured, I was a very enthusiastic wide-eyed first-year teacher. Swimming in the ocean that is first-year teaching, I was hit with waves of worry that were just barely balanced by the love of what I was doing. In the midst this, the dark shadow of an untethered social media monster crept into my classroom and into my school. 

It was in my first two years of teaching that I took it upon myself to be the watchdog over my grade 6 and 7 students as they became entangled in the World Wide Web, and in particular with their use of Facebook. With no guidance, and Facebook being relatively new, it was truly the wild wild West.  I found myself guarding that very thin line between chaos and order in the social lives of pre-teens, which to me was absolutely terrifying. 

My students and those I coached, approached me on a regular basis about online bullying, threats and an overall fear because of confrontations that happened on Facebook the night before. Oh sure there was – once upon a time – ICQ and MSN which were popular too, but the magnitude of bullying on Facebook surpassed those two services easily and by far. So I started educating kids the only way I knew how: I taught them about safety, etiquette and above all else I told them to stay off Facebook because they were all underage. That was the beginning of what I faced. 

About one year into the ‘Facebook phenomenon’ I found myself, on too many occasions, standing at the front of the school stopping high school would-be assailants, from entering my school to beat the you-know-what out of gr. 6, 7 or 8 students at my school for posts they had made on Facebook. To this day those students have no idea this happened.

CITY TV also conducted a feature on my work to stop cyber-bullying and it went so far as working with Toronto Police to identify locations for staged fights established on Facebook. My taste for the social media site was sour from the get-go, and I never stuck around to see it change – and it did.

As years passed I did my best to dabble in Facebook but the stigma was too strong and I was far too stubborn. I began missing things.. Began missing growth, lessons, life changing events.. I stayed of the road that led to that info and it was my own doing. 

 I still witness some of my former students practicing what I taught them during those early years, even though now they are employed, married and working citizens. I wonder if I did too much to protect them or was it enough?

Now, 16 years later, my best friend’s wife, set out to get my wife on Facebook and in doing so forced me to reconsider and I’m so glad I did. As a teacher, a resource for technology in education and staff of a professional development department I had had enough of my self-inflicted state of irony. It was time to go to where my friends and family were and to admit I was overdue. And so here we are and I’m so grateful for it. 

We do want to share and we so want to celebrate. We have 4 beautiful and vibrant children, friends and family that we love and that are a part of that village it takes to raise our children. If you’re reading this now then that’s you.

Thank you for meeting me on the other side.. 

Thanks Wendy!

Do EdTech the Right Way

Edtech intro qrThis article originally appears in the @OECTA Magazine found at: This article is an example of an interactive article. Because it was distributed in print form, readers were encouraged to download any QR code reader from the Apple App Store, Android Store or use the BlackBerry Smart Tag app to scan codes like the one you see to the left using your tablet or mobile device.

Thinking about taking the next step to integrating technology in your classroom? Experience has shown that there are 3 keys to successful integration of educational technology:

  1. Have a Plan
  2. Use Non-Invasive Technology
  3. Be OK with Trying Again.

The Plan

Having a plan is probably the most critical factor for success when attempting to integrate tech into everyday teaching. The plan can be broken down into 3 key parts:

A – Identify the Overall Expectation from the curriculum that you would like to explore.

B – Identify a non-invasive tech tool that will help facilitate learning based on that expectation.

C – Build in time for trial, error and retrial within the activity.

Always remember that teachers teach students, not curriculum. Avoid the pitfall of being compelled to ‘cover curriculum’ or ‘cover content’. When you begin with the Big Ideas featured at the beginning of each section within any curriculum document, you start with a broad idea that promotes student inquiry. Also avoid ‘covering’ each of the specific expectations and instead invite your students to arrive at those expectations on their own.

You will find over time that your students will meet and exceed all of the specific curriculum expectations. If they do not, then you will have enough evidence to pinpoint which areas of learning require your attention.

Once you have identified the overall expectations, decide on what tools (if any) you will need to facilitate student learning. Will the tool be used to drive content, make student learning visible or assist with a culminating artifact?

What is Non-Invasive Technology?

It has become quite apparent that software companies have turned their focus to education looking for ways to penetrate a relatively unexploited market. In doing so the web has become saturated with a variety of tools and apps that help make learning fun, engaging, visible, measurable and interactive. On the surface this looks like a very good thing, but as teachers we must always remember our responsibility to protect our students. Consider the following before you select your next online tool for the classroom.

1. Is the tool licensed by the ministry or by your school board?

2. Does the tool respect student privacy? What login information is being asked?

3. Does the tool collect invasive amounts of data such as age, geographic location, gender, school name?

4. Does that tool necessitate use of your personal device?

5. Does that tool necessitate parental permission?

6. Does the tool require that you keep pictures, videos or any other data locally on a device?

7. If data is lost, does the tool enable swift recovery?

8. Is there teacher support at your school or board for that particular tool?

There are a great many applications that are powerful learning tools that are completely non-invasive. The key here is to answer the question: What do you want the tech to do? There are numerous non-invasive tools that can explore content, visualize learning, categorize research or consolidate learning through creation of an artifact.

Be OK With Trying Again

Teachers are often hard on themselves when plans seemingly fail when in reality, students have learned in spite of that perceived failure. Be sure to understand that patience for yourself is just as important as patience for your students. Select a tool that is straightforward to implement and even more importantly, straight forward to manage. Establish rules and expectations with your students not for your students. Student-voice should always define the protocols for using any online tool with the guidance of the teacher.

When you select a tool, set a realistic goal about its frequency of use. Attempting to use a tech-tool everyday is very unrealistic. 1-2 times per week is an ideal pace for anyone beginning his or her journey of tech integration.

Below is an example of a simple lesson for Grade 9 Mathematics. It uses 3 tools that are considered non-invasive. 2 tools help deliver content and 1 tool is used to capture student voice, rationale and learning.

Sample Learning Activity

Curriculum Goal: MPM1D – Investigating the Properties of Slope

  1. Have the class view video 1 from (see link below) and select 5 students to write notes using Assign 1 other student as the moderator of those notes.
  1. Watch the second video from Khan Academy via YouTube and ask 5 other students to write notes about points made that may not have been made in the original video. Assign 1 other student as the moderator of those notes.
  1. Have a class discussion about which video achieves its goal to introduce slope and why.
  1. Create groupings of 3 and challenge each group to create a tutorial about how to calculate slope. This can be done using paper, tech or any other appropriate means.
  1. Build in time for exploration and dialogue
  1. Attempt to solve real world problems based on lessons learned.
  1. Assess for learning and provide meaningful feedback.

Non-Invasive Tech Tools:

EdTech Graphics

3 Reasons Why it’s the Perfect Time to Take An OECTA AQ for Technology in the Classroom

FallAQcourse2Teachers looking for an opportunity to learn at a pace that respects their style of learning have a wonderful opportunity to do so with OECTA’s Integration of Information Technology in Classroom Instruction Part 1. The course was designed with the beginner in mind and deeply explores simple tools and simple integration for anyone willing to try. For those that are ready for a challenge, our IITCI Part 2 looks at more complex tools and marries that learning with research and deep pedagogy. (Our specialist has not been released yet but its focus is on leadership development, system roll-outs, research, pedagogy and change theory.)

Here are the top 3 reasons why you should take one of our AQ’s about integration of technology.

Reason #1 – Total Support in an Online World

Much of the feedback that we have received about the course has been about how flexible, patient and encouraging our instructors are. Offering many opportunities to connect via email, texts, phone calls and online webinars, our instructors have proven that they are willing to go the distance to make your first foray into technology enabled learning a positive one. We have had many participants taking the course who had never taken an online course before and found themselves to be very successful.

Reason #2 – Real World Application

The course content was designed to work in your classroom, period. There are hundreds of fleeting fads and tech trends that sweep through our schools everyday, but the approach to technology used in our courses focuses on skill development and a broad view of how any tool can be used in a pedagogically sound way.

Reason #3 – Government Subsidy is Now Available

Technology & Math Subsidy

As of November 2015 OECTA is able to offer a $450 subsidy for Ontario teachers in good standing with the Ontario College of Teachers upon completion of our Integration of Information and Technology in Classroom Instruction and Mathematics courses while funds remain, so be sure to register soon.

There is no better time to take first or second steps into the world of technology enabled learning than now. As course designer and former instructor I can say with great confidence that you will enjoy the course from beginning to end.

Come join us for a new online learning experience!


Kids and Online Behaviour

The Difference Between ‘Careful’ and ‘Responsible’

This article originally appears in the September 2015 @OECTA Magazine –

By Anthony Carabache – Sept. 15, 2015


My son Julius is seven years old – the eldest of four children. The morning he told me he wanted his own YouTube channel, I leaned on my kitchen counter, looked at my wife and said, “Already? Really?”
If you know who I am and what I do, I invite you to relish in the irony… it’s actually okay with me. I told him his mother and I would discuss and then lay out a plan to get his channel going. The next half hour was spent contemplating how to avoid this inevitability.

When I finally came to my senses, I went to work digging through my presentations looking for something – anything – to fix the situation. From laptop to Dropbox to Drive, I just knew that somewhere in the Cloud I had a presentation or a talk or a handout that would make this all better. But I was frustrated and worried. How could I, a designer, author and implementation strategist for technology integration in education be stymied by my seven-year-old’s desire to start a YouTube channel?

The 21st Century Learner

A few moments later, my two-year old tried to climb up onto the kitchen table to reach my iPad. When my wife gently told him to “Be careful,” it hit me! I ran back to one of my machines and pulled up a graphic that had been driving a good chunk of my talks about the 21st Century learner during the past year. I had overlooked it while I was thinking “defense.”

The graphic I uncovered has a simple, yet profound message. It is the promise I make to teachers and parents across Ontario and via Twitter to the world: We should change the word “careful” to “responsible” whenever discussing our online behaviour. The beauty of this simple change switches us, as a collective, from defense to offense.

Being careful entails waiting for something to happen, and then to treading softly as we negotiate that something. Being responsible requires us to act by a standard we created ahead of time. One is passive (waiting for something to happen) and one is proactive (anticipating what’s to come).

Empowering Students

As a teacher, when you change the dialogue in your classroom from careful conversations to responsible ones, you empower your students to take control of potentially harmful situations. When you ask a child of seven to seek out videos on YouTube about Minecraft that only have positive language, you open yourself up to the question: “What is bad language?” Well of course
you have to answer that question, but when you answer, you explain how speaking in light of Christ’s teachings is what makes us who we are. You tie that responsibility to the beauty of Christ’s story and draw that connection between our faith and your student’s behaviour. When you do that, you begin shaping a very potent young being.

When next you speak to your students about the dangers of the World Wide Web, try to catch yourself before you utter the word “careful” and instead replace it with the word “responsible.” It is then that you witness what incredible ideas, lessons and conversations will follow.