Anthony Carabache

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.

A Teacher’s Union Disrupting Online Ed

How a Teacher’s Union is Changing the Game of Online Learning in Ontario

These are busy times… and the speed of new technologies, access to information and split-second decision making only make things busier and busier. Whether you are a teacher of 25 years or just newly hired, a young parent with children or an empty-nester, time is a premium and many say the most valuable currency.

Despite these demands, when it comes to professional development, some way, somehow teachers always find a way to fit it into an already full day. The drive to continue to learn and apply new information to the classroom has always made teachers life-long learners in every sense of the word, yet Additional Qualifications providers rarely acknowledge the need to mitigate stress and promote the well-being of their teachers… until now.

OECTA always seeks to improve the teacher experience which has led us to disrupt the typical AQ pathway by offering Modular AQ’s. 

Introducing OECTA Modules for Additional Qualifications or Professional Learning

In a world that’s continuously accelerating and pulling us in different directions, teachers in Ontario and all over the world, have been given an option to take full courses in smaller, manageable bites.

Understanding that life-balance and well-being are integral to all teachers, OECTA Modules respect time constraints, budgetary concerns and most importantly the need to balance personal and professional life. The teacher can take one fifth of the course, at a time, over a six-week period.

Unbundled Learning

More and more, consumers are demanding the unbundling of preset product packages so why shouldn’t teachers have unbundled professional learning opportunities? Modular AQ’s unbundle full courses and offers them as ‘Just Right, Just in Time and Just for You” packets to all teachers.

In the United States and to a lesser degree in Canada, there is a growing movement towards Massively Open Online Courses or MOOC’s. In fact, MOOC’s have garnered so much attention that studies are being conducted globally to determine how they have disrupted traditional tertiary education.

Though the mechanics of the module and the massively open online course are similar, at their core they are very different.

Your Needs, Your Choice

Modules come accredited by the Ontario College of Teachers. If you take five modules in the same course you will receive accreditation for that one course. In essence, a teacher can choose to complete a course in one session or break the course up over 2 years. Imagine how that releases stress and anxiety on those who wish to continuously develop!

OECTA also offers modules that have no bearing on additional qualification status. In fact we have embraced the idea that teachers would like to take professional development courses out of interest and desire for their own learning. In these cases teachers can take a module without worrying about completing the assigned tasks in order be officially credited, rather a certificate of completion would be issued.

The Association has always been committed to professional and in the face of an ever evolving profession, and in light of ever changing tides module offerings demonstrate just how incredibly passionate the Association is about respecting its members, it’s members’ workload, and importantly its members’ professional development needs.

Take a module with OECTA and feel the difference and learn at your own pace!

Join us:

Critical Thinking – The Most Crucial Skill of All

It seems as though the theme of 2030 continues to come up these days as educators continue to hypothesize about the skills needed for 18 years from today. The 21st Century Fluency Project has honed in such skills but I would argue that the most important skill of all has to be Critical Thinking. When I begin to reflect on my own children – Class of 2026, Class 2027 and finally Class of 2031 – once the panic attack resides, I come to understand that if I can teach my children one thing, it is to be critical. My role with the Toronto Catholic District School Board has enabled me to study, apply research findings and practice the development of Critical Thinking skills with our entire school board. Coming from a Catholic upbringing myself, the practice of self-reflection has always been taught and practiced. So for me it wasn’t that far fetched to continually reassess my approach to just about everything from relationships to education theory.

My concern also stems from a hubris that seems to exist among many educators that prevents access to self-reflection, especially in relation to what and how they teach. I find that the most fervent arguments come from colleagues that worry so much about access to  hardware and the corruption of our children because of ease of access to information. I often wonder if they truly understand that 21st Century learning has little to do with technology (though it can be such an incredible tool for enrichment) and more to do with challenging a system of traditional structure that just doesn’t work anymore.

When I am approached by colleagues in my workshops regarding the lack of computers, Smart Boards, wi-fi, printers and projectors I often rebut with the cruel check-list of questions found below:

Start with first things first:

1. When your students walk into your class – are they sitting in groups?

2. When your students submit work – is it predominantly a word processed document?

3. Do you have a choice board up in your class for student submission?

4. Have you covered a unit on online etiquette, respect and integrity?

To be honest, if a colleague answers yes to all of those questions, the first thing I do is arrange a visit, then find a way to champion the class… but alas – the ones that complain never do.

It’s not enough to use the web for research – this is all too easy.  If a student is able to find an answer to a question on Google, then perhaps the question should never have been asked. Indeed – if we are truly going to teach our students to be critical thinkers, then the questions we ask cannot be answered by Google now can they?

If we ask this of our students – why do we not ask this of ourselves? Have we developed so much hubris that we ourselves are immune from new information and discovery? I was originally going to post the graphic below for student consumption but felt the crucial need to post it as a reflective tool for ourselves.

What kind of questions do you ask in class? Be careful how you answer – my children’s future depends on it!

Critical Thinking Skills [Source: Enokson]

Wikipedia – A Teacher’s Sworn Enemy

So I thought I’d mix it up and challenge everyone to do a little side research (20 minutes) about Wikipedia. The ever popular website slowly became the focus of some discussions surrounding surface surfing. One of the great comments made was that we are now able to find information fast – crucial when no depth is required. We will be discussing this during our meeting on Monday, but ever so briefly.

I am sure that all teachers have researched Wikipedia before, but I’m hoping that everyone might explore the following anyway:

Who runs Wikipedia?
Can anyone post to Wikipedia?
Who edits Wikipedia?
What are the editorial restrictions on Wikipedia?
What are the editorial flags on Wikipedia regarding erroneous information?

Oh… please don’t use Wikipedia to answer those questions…