This past June, In Philadelphia, my wife (Jen) @faulkneronline, and I presented a model classroom presentation at ISTE (International Society for Technology In Education). The classroom was a dynamic and authentic environment in which participants took on the role of student as they immersed themselves in the same environment Jen’s students live in on a daily basis. Rather than talking at the participants, we worked with them explaining the process as we went. This really is a dynamic presentation method and we brought this style to our presentation at ECOO in Toronto this past October.

As a consultant, I have the amazing opportunity to work with so many amzing educators and to explore innovative practices in the process. My ultimate goal has always been to have teachers throw out the old ways of doing things – discard “the binder” – and begin anew with the individual differences and learning styles of the students in mind. This is a major cultural shift and changing one’s practice is intimidating. Jen did just that two years ago. She started fresh, as intimidating as that was, and explored new ways of doing things to optimize the learning conditions for students and to help them meet their full potential. The process has been magic and the students have become teachers as much as they are students, and have grown into self-reflective, autonomous learners that can guide the learning of both themselves and their peers.

Technology has been the lens of this development and process and all materials were purchased by us for implementation into the environment. The cost has been minimal in comparison with that usually expended on typical clasroom items.  With new focus, true learning at the forefront, and individual students in mind, daily differentiated instruction through learning centres / stations enables students to have multiple entry points for learning and provides them with the skills to self-assess in the process. This, of course, is not possible without coaching or guidance and that, in turn, is what The Growing Success document defines as the role of teacher in the 21st Century.

The use of assessment to improve student learning and to help students become independent learners requires teachers and students to acknowledge and enact a fundamental shift in how they perceive their roles in the learning process. In a traditional assessment paradigm, the teacher is perceived as the active agent in the process, determining goals and criteria for successful achievement, delivering instruction, and evaluating student achievement at the end of a period of learning. The use of assessment for the purpose of improving learning and helping students become independent learners requires a culture in which student and teacher learn together in a collaborative relationship, each playing an active role in setting learning goals, developing success criteria, giving and receiving feedback, monitoring progress, and adjusting learning strategies. The teacher acts as a “lead learner”, providing support while gradually releasing more and more responsibility to the student, as the student develops the knowledge and skills needed to become an independent learner. (Growing Success, pg. 30)

Regular Assessment in all of its tripartite forms (for, as, and of) allows for the understanding of each class of students (creating a class profile) and each need of the students as individuals. Knowing this allows the teacher to adapt and guide the students based on their needs and just right point of learning. Technology allows for students to explore concepts and build upon them on their own, seeking for support when they need it – each screen (tablet, mp3 player, eReader, laptop, desktop, etc.)  is a window to opporutnity and provides potentials for increased engagement. Student learning is at the forefront and we will always serve the students better when we keep in mind that every learner is different and unique. Using a tiered approach, some practices will be good for all (Tier 1), while others will be good for some (Tier 2). To extend, there are times when the needs of a few (Tier 3) will need more focused and targeted attention. These strategies, however, will also work and will benefit all, at the same time as they are essential for a few, that they may have been developed for. This concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is at the heart of differentiated instruction and the concept behind the Digi-Centers.

Check out the Powerpoint from the presentation and see how technological tools are used in rotation to meet the established Learning  Goals and Success Criteria for this particular SBI3C class.