Professional Development

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.

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.

3 Things That Make Kindergarten Teams ALL 21C

The image below is taken from:

Want ideas and resources?  Visit this teacher’s site! Follow her on twitter: @ElissaIagallo

Yes… I’m aware – this is a top ‘something’ article… and yes, I’m aware that I haven’t been the biggest proponent of ‘top something’ articles… but I can assure you.. I’m not a content farm… so here it goes!

Last week I blogged about how the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations provide a solid, attainable recipe for the acquisition of 21st Century skills. This week I’m going to blog about how kindergarten teachers and ECE’s across the country are really the pioneers of implementation of 21st-century practice. Over the past six months I’ve had the honour and the privilege of working with my school board’s Early Years Team and I have learned so much about what it really means to be a 21st Century Teacher! I thank @tulimari @tpucci13 for bringing me along this journey!


3 Key Challenges That Kindergarten Teams Face Implementing FDK (My Perception)

#1: Implementing the notions of play-based learning and student-driven curriculum within the confines of 100 years of tradition. Most of our kindergarten teams face the misconception that play-based learning is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. In reality, there is ample evidence to show that play and gamification develop and reinforce new neurological pathways in the brain and lead to development of self-regulation and problem solving skills. For more information check out the Kindergarten Guide found here and the subsequent sources cited within.


#2: To stray from the curriculum will certainly doom us all. Kindergarten teams have been tasked with bringing children to the curriculum – not the other way ’round. When a child arrives at school with a burning question, it could very well drive the learning of the day. It is then up to the teacher to make connections with the curriculum and provide feedback to guide. Imagine how risky that really is!


#3: Kindergarten teams know all-to-well that there is a low chance of teachers in subsequent grades continuing this approach once they leave the annals of the kindergarten classroom…. for now.


Do not doubt that kindergarten teams have had questions about implementation and they have questioned the ideas behind the full day kindergarten program, play-based learning, and inquiry-based learning. But they have questioned it for the benefit and the growth of their mission to show that this is the right way to approach education.


And so…. the 3 Things That Make Kindergarten Teams ALL 21C


1. Flexibility of Environment:


With FDK being implemented across the province, many of our teams have had to flex their environment to adapt to the new play-based stations and some have had to face rearranging their rooms regularly to find that different configurations serve different purposes. Imagine the mind-set of a teacher who is willing to make those changes for the sake of student learning. Imagine how you would feel if there was an expectation to adapt your learning space regularly to suit student learning. Many of our Kindergarten teams face that challenge everyday and have learned to provide that flexible environment.


2. Student Voice Drives Learning


"Bring the child to the curriculum… not the other way ’round." I am completely amazed at how many of our kindergarten teams are willing to guide learning based on what the children bring to school. Considering this requires teachers to leave the ‘tick-box’ specific curriculum expectations behind, it entails a risk and one worth taking. Children across our great province are arriving at school with questions and curiosities that drive an entire day or even week of learning. Such learning not only meets expectations, it exceeds and crosses curricula in ways you could never imagine. This is also when visual documentation of learning and the process of learning becomes paramount! These opportunities become ample and provide growth opportunities for teachers themselves. The children become the ‘living curriculum’.


3. Relinquishing Control:


Above all else, the sense that there will be chaos without regimented control must be put to rest. For there to be true organic learning Kindergarten teams have come to understand that in many cases, the plan enters when the first child enters the room. Or, the plan is altered as soon as an inquisitive question arises from the floor or the group exercise. By far fear of losing control dominates many teachers’ minds, but really, once we embrace chaos – or what we perceive to be chaos – incredible things happen.



Why Use an iPad for Pedagogical Documentation

In Ontario education is evolving its approach to teaching to add a much needed focus upon the Student Voice. As the guiding document for School Boards in Ontario, the Student Effectiveness Framework clearly articulates the need to provide opportunity for co-construction and feedback opportunities. Take a peek at the document and you will find that elements of student engagement and assessment are throughout.

Looking at the push for pedagogical documentation, the Ministry has identified Rinaldi’s description below in their monograph found here.

So – how do we effectively note our students’ learning, reflections and tie that into our work and research? Let’s begin answering that question by looking at the use of the iPad within the context of Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s theory known as the SAMR model. 

So – how can the iPad be used throughout this process?

  1. At the Substitution level, using the NOTES app would be at least an entry into documentation. A good start but really a deep need to move away from that as soon as possible.
  2. At the Augmentation level, you can easily see that carrying the iPad and adding multiple notes, saving them and accessing them with ease clearly shows the beginnings of a strong advantage.
  3. At the Modification level, installing an app such EVERNOTE, the observer can now create documentation that exploits the app’s built in capabilities such as mic recording and video integration.
  4. Finally, at the Redefinition level, one page of hypertext notes can link observer voice, teacher voice and student voice via MP3 recording, video evidence can be embedded on that same page along with hyperlinks to research, data and external resources.

Simply put, in the transformational phase of technology implementation, imagine one page that connects ten different resources that can then be exported or shared with experts from around the globe. In this case, a notepad simply fails. 

3 Reasons Why Corporate Pitches to Education Fail

Having sat through a 5 hour long pitch at Microsoft 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, but it was 30 minutes before noon when the clouds opened and two educators came to speak with us. The first made the same mistake as his corporate counterpart and did not know his audience. The second came in with great credibility and personality. These traits coupled with real educational application of the Microsoft products began to change a very cynical group over to the other side.

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

Microsoft – like all other corporations including D2L, Blackboard and Apple continue to make the single most embarrassing mistake when they pitch to education: 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.

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 from any software.

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! Both situations fail to see education for it what it really is in 2013: 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.

The 4 Culprits of Weak Online Courses: Why All Online Courses Are Not Created Equal

 The 4 Culprits of Weak Online Courses: Why All Online Courses Are Not Created Equal

There is no shortage of teachers taking online courses and one can easily argue that the teaching profession has adopted the online format for continuing education at a respectable pace.  The online course however is another matter. Laborious content, multiple clicks, poor navigation, broken links and outdated information plague most online content out there.

Now don’t get me wrong, the MOOCs are intensely groomed by their curators and I have nothing but positive reviews for most but when it comes to professional development provided by colleges and universities, I have seen little evidence of an online course format that has evolved with the times.

Culprit #1 – PDF’s and Word Docs

If your online course content is based on PDF’s or Word docs then you’ve already paid too much.  The diversity of the web is lost in such format not because you cannot hyperlink and embed within such formats (which of course you can), but because the course writer’s imagination is still linked to the limits of document files instead of a dynamic engagement with everything the web can offer – from external links, to video conferencing, to embed codes, to interactive objects, to sounds, to engaging discussion boards, to blogs and even simply making the course accessible to the blind/low vision or deaf and hard of hearing.

Culprit #2 – Too Much Navigation!

If your online course requires you to read content then navigate via the top menu to another area of the course to submit work or participate in a discussion, then precious time and mental energy is wasted on navigation. ALL LMS’s are capable of delivering every aspect of a course topic or unit on one simple page – with all links embedded within the content.

Culprit #3 – Gangly Discussions

Whether you want to admit it or not, the elephant in the room is actually sitting on top of 537 unread discussion posts. You know it, I know it and the entire online world knows it – so why do we continue to produce forums where deep thoughts go to die? Fewer discussions that are more thought provoking and allow for meaningful feedback are crucial.

Culprit #4 – Instructor Non-Presence

As a professional learning community we should be well aware that online courses are not correspondence/distance learning courses. Instructor presence is the first differentiating feature for a well run and well written online course. The advent of online meeting software and recording software allow for both instructor presence and flexibility to provide anyone who misses out with some form of contact with the instructor. Online courses worth the money have constant instructor presence throughout with plenty of time built in for flexibility to meet.

Anthony Carabache is a course writer and instructor for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. He is a consultant for the OECTA PD Department for all online course material. OECTA PD has embraced the evolution of online courses, their delivery and quality of material to better the online experience for its registrants.


Wrong Kind of Resistance

Resistance to change is never a good thing, but in my case, I have encountered a new type of resistance – resistance to taking it easy! After speaking with my grade one teacher – who by the way has brought another grade one teacher on board, it became abundantly clear that the grade one classroom could stand to be flipped despite its already natural state of inverted teaching. In other words, Ryan thanked me for the compliment but still insisted that a grade one could do more!

So… we dialogued back and forth about what the home environment could look like during a flipped project and even what the classroom lesson would look like. In the end I asked Ryan to move away from flipping a skill such as beginning reading and move towards the understanding and application of new content – for example inferencing.  Ryan and his teaching partner insisted that an element of sequencing stories also be present in the lesson so between the two ideas – sequencing and inferencing – we have the meat and potatoes of a lesson dedicated to flipping a grade one classroom.

Stay tuned for more…

Let’s Talk Shop – My First Meetings

It was a long day but after two inspiring meetings with two absolutely incredible teachers we are poised to begin this new journey into the flipped elementary classroom.

Makrina – Grade 7 Teacher

My first meeting today was with Makrina, a grade 7 teacher who was part of a board-wide tech rollout last year.  Each grade 7 class in our district received 10 netbooks for the class, a mobile cart, a projector and a teacher laptop. Teachers also received an incredible five days of PD to go with their new toys.  Needless to say it was well received and for the most part, the technology is still being used.

I know that you may think this is an ideal situation to attempt a flipped approach… and you’re right.

Makrina’s touches with technology are far beyond beginner and she displays a wonderful child-like curiosity when it comes to 21st century learning. I remember sitting across from her thinking that I would be learning more from her than the other way around. 

Ryan – Grade 1 Teacher

My second visit was with Ryan, a grade one teacher who had been teaching grade 7 last year… need I say more?  Ryan and I hummed and hawed about how a grade 1 classroom could be flipped effectively and I will admit that I was less than optimistic.  As we sat down to discuss the idea, thoughts surrounding the grade 1 flip became clearer and we decided on a two-pronged approach that would include the parents as much as possible. I have to admit that by meeting’s end the energy in the room had increased ten-fold.

After much discussion we both determined that for a flipped approach to work in a grade one classroom, the parents had to be onboard. Embracing this approach, we decided to begin the communication to the parents and involve them in the approach… we both knew that this had never been done quite like this before.

After sharing the ‘blue sky’ scenario with each teacher I wanted to make it clear that failure was indeed an option – but not a deterrent. 


Tomorrow, I launch my newest workshop: The Art of Google; Friday, I continue my flipped classroom journey into the secondary panel with a big meeting at Blessed Mother Teresa C.S.S.

Lesson plans to follow.


The Flipped Classroom Framework

I have outlined the framework for the project below. Initial meetings are taking place this week at three different schools.  I have chosen Grade 1, Grade 7, Grade 9 and Grade 11.  The subject areas will be chosen this week as well.

 Overall Expectations:

  1. To meet with teachers interested in the project and design a workflow that encompasses meetings, lesson delivery, data collection and summation of data;
  2. To work collaboratively with teachers to create lesson plans that incorporate the ‘explore at home, solve at school’ ideology that stems from the idea of the flipped classroom;
  3. To provide support for teachers in the delivery of the curriculum as they adapt it to a technology-driven experience;
  4. To follow up on delivered lessons and observe student learning and progress in the flipped classroom environment.
Proposal of Meetings (Virtual or Face to Face):
Initial Meeting:
·         To discuss the subject area/class in which the flipped classroom will take place;
·         To choose specific themes, lessons or units that will be used to flip the class.
·         To set a schedule of meeting dates for follow up;
·         To set a date of delivery of the lesson and determining how many lessons (maximum of 3 with support);
·         To establish a form of data collection;
Cycle 1
Meeting 1:
·         To plan the lesson;
·         To plan how to assess the delivery of the lesson;
Meeting 2
·         Lesson 1 delivery;
Meeting 3:
·         Lesson follow up (virtual meeting)
·         Data Collection/Assessment
Cycle 2 – see above
Cycle 3 – see above
I would like to provide support for 3 full cycles – this includes 3 meetings each per teacher. If the teacher wishes to continue beyond, I hope that the infrastructure already developed within the school can provide ‘first touch’ support.


Digitally Flipping Your Classroom – Old Idea New Twist?

It’s always difficult to introduce a new idea that doesn’t already sound familiar to many educators. So does the idea of ‘flipping the classroom’ really mean anything new? Once could easily argue that technology has changed the way we approach teaching as but some form of technology has always existed in the classroom. What captivates us now is that this is the first time in human history that technology has changed the way we learn simply because it has provided us with new and easy access to what I like to call Information Currency. But you will find that although more and more of us have access to Information Currency, there will be an ever-growing need to manage it effectively which leads us to ponder about another type of currency – Experiential Currency and its management.

The Carabache Twist on the Flipped Classroom

With ease of access to information the flipped classroom concept becomes more enticing especially to those of us who take differentiated instruction very seriously. Imagine a school in which concepts and ideas are initially explored at home and then problems related to those concept ideas are solved at school – under the teacher’s guidance.

Now there’s a revolutionary thought: teachers become the essential guidance system for students who have already acquired the of knowledge needed to solve a problem but have yet to develop strategies to actually solve it. In essence, the student has acquired a certain amount of Information Currency but lacks Experiential Currency to manage the problem.

21st Century teachers have been bombarded with the notion that they are not the centerpiece of the lesson and have almost been shamed into believing that they are no longer the content experts but I argue, that now more than ever, their Experiential Currency Management is needed most. The teaching profession is far from obsolescence. The role of the teacher has become crucial as it moves away from content delivery to the management of information currency.

Managers of Information Currency

As is the case with all currencies we must learn to spend, save or share it depending on the economy of the situation. For example one may decide to share information currency in order to collaborate on a problem or solve that problem within the classroom. Some may choose to save information currency in case it’s yet not quantifiable with any evidence or if there is a possibility that it would bring some competitive advantage. Finally, one may decide to spend time finding information that is related to an idea that they explored on their own.

Continuing with the idea of Information Currency, a teacher will come to see which students in their classroom save information for themselves and are thus competitive, which of those students share information and are thus collaborative, and which of those are always in some sort of information deficit because their efforts are not concentrated or their management of information currency is poor. The teacher’s role becomes prevalent as our students take their places in the information economy because we hold a much higher degree of Experiential Currency than they do and so we can assist them with proper management.

Experiential Currency becomes the one true advantage in the Information Currency Market – which can easily be likened to the monetary market.. just think of it as thousands of children walking around with millions of dollars that they don’t know what to do with!

More Than Activating Prior Knowledge

Flipping the classroom is so much more than merely activating prior knowledge – it is the development and application of that prior knowledge almost at the same time. It is a deep exploration of the way our students learn as they enter the classroom with an armament of information currency that we must teach them to manage.

The simplicity of the concept reaches beyond teaching students good information currency from bad but encompasses an understanding of why students value certain information over other information. This knowledge gives us a window into the way our students really learn and when we discover how are students learn through information currency collection we can then provide them with strategies to solve real world problems.

The Khan Academy is the Beginning – At least is should be.
The Khan academy of learning is the first step in a quest towards a flipped classroom. And I do say it is the first step because even Khan himself states in his mission statement that the website and the videos within were always designed to fill in learning gaps. By pure definition, the site is an auxiliary to teaching, not a change. Even Khan himself states that his competitive advantage is simply his voice, his humour and his visuals. The truth still remains that the site itself is a reaction to gaps in learning. Take a peek at the video below and you’ll get a good introduction into the Khan academy of learning.

In the coming weeks I will be providing sample lessons for classroom use that are practical and meaningful to students. In order to showcase this idea of Information Currency and the Flipped Classroom, II have also submitted a proposal to the International Society for Technology in Education Conference in June of 2012 in San Diego California. Follow me as I go through the process of trying to tease out what it really means to flip a classroom and to determine whether or not this really is an old idea with a new twist.