Looking Ahead With Project Ideas for 2010

In starting my third year of Technology Coaching at UGDSB  I’ve just loved helping teachers build capacity with tech tools, try some new things outside of their comfort zone, and then watch their students improve and become more independent learners, especially with the help of assistive technologies.

In an attempt to keep the focus on technology that is closely focused on student learning goals, rather than one-off software training sessions,  I’m recommending that teachers who are interested in working with me choose a project that might fit their classroom, their students, and their comfort level with technology, making the coaching experience more impactful for their own professional learning.

The projects listed below will hopefully provide a natural way to embed most, if not all, of these components:

  • literacy expectations
  • media/technology integration
  • media literacy curriculum
  • assistive technology, differentiated instruction and differentiated learning
  • social media and our new Acceptable Use Policy
  • critical thinking

Digital Storytelling

Teachers will learn how to extend the traditional writing process and create multimedia stories with students, especially with:

  • personal narrative
  • persuasive writing pieces

Multiple Representations of Knowledge
(‘reading’ and ‘writing’)

Teachers will learn to use technology to provide an opportunity for students to differentiate the products they create in order to demonstrate their learning.

  • formative or summative assessments
  • note-taking
  • presentations
  • collaborative documents
  • using assistive technology such as audio recordings and digital graphic organizers

Global Projects

Using a Global network like iEARN.org or iEARN-Canada.org, teachers can choose a cross-curricular project and connect their students with other classrooms around the world.

Media Literacy

Teachers will learn how students can deconstruct and analyze media messages and construct their own media in a variety of forms.  Students will become more critical of the overt and implied messages that are embedded in the media they view and in what they create.

Web 2.0 Tools

Social Media tools are generally free and can increase collaboration, reflection and engagement, as well as promote a global classroom.   Teachers will learn how to find the right tools (e.g., wikis, blogs, voicethread, collaborative documents) to enhance collaboration in their classroom, and find an authentic audience for student work.


  1. Hi Brenda,

    Thank you for sharing with us how your year will unfold as you work with the teachers in your system. We have very similar work assignments as we have talked about and reading your words allow me to reflect as the school year is still quite young.

    Besides our mutual passions for writing, digital storytelling and media literacy I really liked this sentence: “choose a project that might fit their classroom, their students, and their comfort level with technology, making the coaching experience more impactful for their own professional learning.” I believe this is the way to go with regards to working with staff in schools. We need to encourage and support the teachers in our schools with interesting technology integrations in subject areas and writing that is already happening in the classroom. This is not always and easy task but well worth it.

    I was really struck this week by an article by Bernajean that talks about rigor. Perhaps you saw the article in a tweet or two or in this month’s L & L magazine from ISTE. The timing of this article, like your blog post, perfect as we begin the school year. A section in the article talks about not just adding a recording or podcast to “make it technology”. But to reach for the higher order thinking skills during the process then pick a modality and software that fits. Challenging and fun all a the same time.

    So again, thank you for your post. It helps to know that we are in the same boat paddling together!

    Your colleague,



  2. With the exception of the last one, I’d suspect that many teachers would have roughly the same sort of goals. However, the underlying theme that I see throughout all of your goals is student engagement. That’s where I think that you can bring your special talents to the classrooms of Upper Grand. Once that level of engagement has been obtained, then great things can happen. I wish you all the best with your plans. I’m sure that the teachers that you’re supporting will appreciate it and you may gain a whole new legion of followers with your interesting approaches.


    • Doug. I think student engagement is important and a very valuable part of learning. I’m wondering how to continue the conversation about what it is that we do that creates the engagement and motivation of our students? I don’t think it is the technology, although it adds to it. I think it is the material in the classroom which is delved into on perhaps a problem based or project based environment.

      Would you agree that if we just add technology to a non-interesting or less-than-challenging topic of study, we may add engagement by using the technology but we many not be really going down the right road.

      Anyway, I’d be interested in trying to continue the discussion around this area.



      • Doug and Kent,
        Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

        With a focus on professional learning that really does come from the teacher, I’m hoping they will see what an important part learner choice plays in engagement and learning.

        IMHO, what technology does is give so many more options to get at that element of student choice…about what to learn, how to learn, who to learn with, and what to do with what we learn! It seems that would also apply to teacher learning as well.

        It’s a constant battle with me because I really feel the need to bring as much choice as possible to our learners, especially when we face classroom environments that mostly involve direct instruction. We’ve got a good curriculum and many expert teachers- hopefully technology puts more control in the hands of the learners to get at that engagement.

        I agree with you both, great things can happen when students are engaged, and if we use inquiry or project-based approaches we can capture the interests of students and learn about things they really care about.

        Using technology becomes a no-brainer then!


        • Well, the ‘engagement’ question for me got raised significantly when we started the school at the Y. The school was originally described as one that serves kids who are ‘disengaged from learning’.

          Of course, lil ol’ starry-eyed, PBL-loving, student-focused, and naive moi — thought that this was pretty much a no-brainer.

          Engage these kids in student-driven, project-based initiatives of their own choosing and tie all of this to the curriculum. No problem.


          I had neglected to think of the ‘rest of their lives’ that they live every day. In some cases the hunger. Or the broken marriage of their parents. Or their abandonment. Or that they have been enabled to a fault. Or that they have learned they are totally dysfunctional in learning. And so on. And so on. There are many other issues I could spell out, but you get the idea. And I do NOT want to paint the school as a magnet for kids who are really very different from your average school. These kids have been a source of inspiration to me. They have taught me lots. And the school rocks. I would send my kids there in a flash.

          But engagement?

          Needed love first. Acceptance. Trust. Respect.

          Respect. I learned, above all else, to respect that these young adults had the right to make their own choices – be those choices ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It was our job to help these young people to reduce the harm* of their ‘bad’ choices – their absences, lates, schoolwork ethic, attitudes, etc.

          We chose not to use punitive approaches – but, rather, we engaged them in conversations. We treated them with the respect we would give an adult.

          We understood the ‘model of change**’ and didn’t expect instant changes in their behaviour.

          It took time. Much time. We weren’t always successful.

          But once we had their trust; once they recognized our respect for them; once they knew we loved them – engagement in schoolwork was easier to achieve.

          I know this comment is a departure from my usual ‘socio-cognitive’ yakety yak – but perhaps I need to share more of what has changed me so much over the last several years.

          * Harm Reduction – usually discussed in the context of drug use – but is NOT exclusively applied in that domain. The principles can be applied across any behaviours from absences, lates, lack of school effort, etc.

          ** Transtheoretical Model of Change — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transtheoretical_model


  3. Hi there,
    great post! We are also focusing on the learning goals and choosing tech to support as appropriate. I love your ideas. I am also finding that many of the literacy/numeracy consultants are beginning to model and use more tech integration with some support. No longer are they separate areas – I love it! 🙂 Happy September! Thanks for sharing.


    • Hi there,
      That is happening in our Curriculum Department as well! We have a group of people who have lots of technology skills and they just naturally apply those in their literacy/numeracy areas!

      Hope you’ve had a good start! 🙂


  4. We too are trying to define how to make our instructional technology coaching program help teachers engage students in higher order thinking skills, express understandings and make learning a partnership between all stakeholders. The “tech” side will come from working with schools in their improvement plans and allowing teachers to feel comfortable with learning along with their students. Like you, we are not teaching tools.

    Your list of projects aligns well with my thoughts about the big ideas, the big questions and how to connect student-driven learnings to overall, and specifc expectations.



    • Barbara,
      I couldn’t agree more…if we can connect “student-driven learnings” (like that phrase) to our required curriculum expectations we’ll likely see many kids exceeding our expectations! 🙂

      I also like your focus on teachers “expressing understandings”…or did you mean students? I think the coach can play a role in making teachers more explicit about their teaching practice. My last course at OISE for my M.Ed. was Barry Bennett and Instructional Intelligence (fabulous course). I couldn’t believe how much of my knowledge about the kind of strategies I used in the classroom was under the surface…I wasn’t able to be explicit until I reflected quite a bit! And that was after 20 successful teaching years…geez!


  5. Kent, I can’t agree that the use of technology necessarily goes down the wrong road. Anything that you use can be used for good or for evil. I think that the good user of technology will analyze what needs to be learned and then what tools are required to head in that direction. It may be that technology isn’t the proper tool for the purpose. It reminds me of the old adage that says that if the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like nails.

    What access to technology can do, when used properly, is allow for the scaffolding that we’ve always dreamed of and the differentiation that we know can be helpful to all students.

    In a perfect world, it seems to me that teachers and students should have an arsenal of tools that are at their disposal and are smart enough to know which to choose for the task at hand.


    • Doug. It is not about disagreeing or agreeing with one another. We just need to keep the conversation going that’s all. I was trying to get the conversation going about the higher order thinking skills that are necessary to engage the learner, that’s all.

      I guess it is time that we all meet in person to have some of these conversations.

      Hope to see you and the others soon.


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