Learning Today in a 24/7 Connected World


Photo Credit: Kellie M. Simpson Flickr via Compfight cc

Like a traditional board game, learning has moments where all the experiences connect into some genuine learning wins while other times it seems like there are not enough resources and/or supports (like board pieces) in place to be successful. This post reflects on the many discussions, resources, and ideas that Will Richardson, renowned blogger, author, and outspoken educational advocate,  shared during his two keynotes at the BlendED Alberta 2018 Symposium in Edmonton. 

Whether in an Outreach program, learning centre, distance learning program or classroom, teachers are using the online environment to expand and extend learning opportunities, building flexibility to student learning.  The blendED Symposium is designed to share emerging practices while providing opportunities for networking with sessions that will inspire and provoke delegates to think outside the traditional learning environment.

With today’s society changing at a rapid pace in all aspects of work, life, and general society, what are schools doing to prepare students?

An important question to ask ourselves is: what is PRODUCTIVE learning?

How do we set up a learning environment that is relevant, active, engaging and supports the needs of all our students?


What is your belief? How does your school or even school division support this work?

Another book to put on your professional reading list is Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a collection of essays, many of which build on articles for the New York Times, Bloomberg and elsewhere. This book follows a similar use of evolutionary psychology as self-help as his previous two books. The world is a scary, fast-changing place, so it’s no surprise our primitive brains struggle to navigate through it. We simply haven’t evolved to cope with automated checkouts and emailing after 7pm. Harari points out that humans are endlessly creative and sometimes we solve problems by changing the question rather than answering it. Hence, the large role that lifelong learning plays in each of us!

What are the contexts and conditions for this to occur?

Teacher answers around the world:                What people never say:     










For further reading, check out Timeless Learning a book written by an award-winning team of leaders, Chief Technology Officer Ira Socol, Superintendent Pam Moran, and Lab Schools Principal Chad Ratliff who demonstrate how you can implement innovative practices that have shown remarkable success.


How do we come up with the skills to address an algorithm-driven online existence?

In Alberta, some jurisdictions are already using gradeless report cards. Our own school division uses achievement indicators in grades 1-9 as seen HERE. Joe Bower, a former central Alberta teacher, shared the many ways he went gradeless in his classroom. His blog continues to be a great “go-to” for teachers to reflect on his experiences as well as update some of their own assessment practices.

Modern Learning

Some things to ponder:

  • What is learning?
  • What is “blended” learning?
  • What is our mission? Why “blended”?
  • Are we doing blended learning or blended teaching?
  • What is the most important role of the teacher in blended environments?
  • Do we have full empathy for the student experience in blended environments?
  • Are we co-constructing curriculum with students?
  • What opportunities are we creating for students to fulfill their greatest potentials?
  • How are we a model for blended learning?
  • Is our practice in “perpetual beta”?

Compare those questions with those directly from Richardson’s 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning. What do you think about being in “perpetual beta”? Is this a comfortable way to learn for teachers and students? How can we introduce this concept in the classroom? It certainly points to showing that nothing (like learning) is ever finished, rather knowledge is a constant conversation in the modern world. Have a peek into Peter Senge’s Schools that Learn (revised and updated) book.

What is the best way to provide a framework for students to show that productive learning is worthwhile?

Let’s make a move from Genius Hour and change it to Genius Learning; from Tinkerlab to tinkering our learning anytime/anywhere. We need to continue our professional conversations and provide the most inviting learning environments as possible. I look forward to seeing the influence that the new concept-based curriculum has in not only the K-4 classrooms in Alberta and also the upper grades as new curriculum rollouts will be seen over the next few years.

So, while we all like playing a “game”, it’s really not the games themselves that improve learning, but rather smart game design and its impact on the brain. Teachers and administrators want to provide students with modern productive and engaging learning activities.



Get Techy w/ Geography

Take a look at these resources when you are planning those memorable Social Studies activities in the classroom:


  •  Arguably the best image search engine in the world.  Try finding a picture of something today. Then choose Tools and change the Usage Rights to labeled for reuse.  If you are working with a Google Document, you can click on the Explore button (bottom-right corner) and it will take you to an already filtered search engine. Also take time to filter even further and use different image types, colors and sizes.

  •  Need a current event?  Forget about the newspaper, use the internet to find stories that are only minutes old.















  • GeoGuessr – Play a geography game where you guess the location based on a randomly chosen Google Street View map.


Have students create great infographic summaries using a Google Slide icon board. This simplifies the infographic process. You can also insert Google Drawings. Make a copy of the Slide icon board for each student (or groups). More icons can be found via the GSlide add-ons Icons by Noun Project and Insert Icons.


Get Techy w/Literacy and Timelines


Demonstrating learning in the middle years classroom can take on many forms. Take a look at a few resources and pick one to add to a choice list for students to utilize while they are reflecting on a science experiment or math activity or even a character analysis in language arts.

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  • Introduce and/or connect current learning by using Kahoot! or ReadWorks resources. Check out the quick 30 second videos for both of these tools at Kahoot!, ReadWorks



The ultimate graphic organizers, timelines provide a visual tool for studying a brief period of time — a day, a year, or an individual’s life — or for examining a topic across the centuries. Researching and creating timelines appeals to students’ visual, mathematic, and kinesthetic intelligences. Check out these three resources:

  • Timeline by ReadWriteThink allows students to create a graphical representation of an event or process by displaying items sequentially along a line. Timelines can be organized by time of day, date, or event, and the tool allows users to create a label with short or long descriptive text. Adding an image for each label makes a timeline more visually appealing.

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  • Sutori is a vertical timeline tool, take a look at the teacher’s section for ideas on how to use it in various subject areas.

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6800 kilometres east of Edmonton, Alberta sits a small community in England. West Sussex is a county in the southern portion of England and it is known for a colony of bizarre houseboats.

Using spare parts from old buses, missiles, and planes, each boat has its own unique look and feel. Among the residents of the community is Hamish Mckenzie. An imaginative houseboat renovator, he’s incorporated his wacky and creative personality to create a truly spectacular home. From a microwave as a mailbox to the nose of a jumbo jet as a window, Hamish infuses new life into discarded objects.

Check out this brief video clip:


STEAM lesson: Build Your Own Houseboat

Overall time required: 2-4 45 minute periods

Engineering Teamwork and Planning

You are a team of marine engineers given the challenge of designing a houseboat with sails using everyday materials that can hold a set weight, have an original look and move 4 feet along a classroom waterway harnessing wind energy from a fan.

Planning and Design Phase

Each team has been provided with a set of materials (recyclables). Review these as a group and draw your plan for a houseboat design in the box below. Think about how the weight your boat must carry should be distributed in the boat for stability during motion. Also think about what your sail material will be and how it will be attached to the boat securely.

Construction Phase

As a team, build your boat, and then complete the questions below (via Flipgrid video, Padlet or even Google Doc/Slide):

1. How similar was your design to the actual houseboat you built.

2. If you found you needed to make changes during the construction phase, describe why you made revisions.

Testing Phase

Your teacher has created a waterway for testing your watercraft. Test your boat! If you find your sail or houseboat design doesn’t work the first time, you’ll have an opportunity to redesign your houseboat and try again. Don’t worry if it fails the first time. Part of engineering is testing and designing products until the optimal design is achieved.

Evaluation Phase

Answer the following questions to summarize your experience with this activity. Work in teams to come up with group opinions. (Via Flipgrid video, Padlet or even Google Doc/Slide).

1. Were you able to create a houseboat that could hold weight, catch the wind, and travel one metre?

2. Do you think your design could scale upward and work as a full-size houseboat? Why or why not?


Get Techy w/Goals, Logins and Videos

Start the school year off right with having students share their passions, interests, hopes, and dreams while also being able to log into their online space easily. Check out this week’s Get Techy items!

  • Hopes and Dreams

Goal setting can be done anytime throughout the school year. It is also great to revisit it on a regular basis. Below are three resources that will help teachers create some goal setting opportunities for students.

Hopes and Dreams Hyperdoc example for early years.

The Art of the Selfie for middle years and high school.


Student Perspective forms and surveys are found in the Alberta Education Inclusive Ed Library. Knowing your students–who they are and how they learn–makes differentiated planning and instruction possible. Students need a variety of opportunities to share what is important to them and their learning. This could include one-to-one interviews, small group discussions, written reflections, drawings, and completing inventories and checklists. Use the forms in this section to gather information about your students.

myBlueprint: All About Me (K-6), Education Planner (7-12) – some of our schools are using these subscription-based tools that bring in many research-based and current resource tools for students to build up their portfolios. There are ready-made lesson plans and many opportunities to link to the curriculum.

  • Effective login procedures

Yes, with close to 1:1 access in our schools, teachers, and students are needing time efficient logging in procedures. Take a look at the Student Login Cards – template. As well, I know of other teachers that have the student logins put on stickers and stuck to an index card on a key ring so that they are ready and handy for students. Find more ideas with this blog on Classroom management.


  • Use Video to Tell a Story

Read through the 5 Ways to use Adobe Spark Video in your classroom and you will be able to instantly add these ideas throughout the year for any student-centred projects. A great opportunity to work on refining thoughts and ideas while also producing something unique and a showcase of what a students knows!


Get Techy w/Digital Literacy and Citizenship

The idea behind Get Techy is for teachers to try ONE thing to move their instructional practice forward. Think of it as a “next strategy” into becoming more digitally literate in the learning environment.


  • Digital Literacy and Citizenship skills


Our students live in an interactive digital culture where they are used to accessing media whenever and wherever they want. In order to be literate in today’s media-rich environments, students need to develop knowledge, values, critical thinking, communication and information management skills for the digital age.

In Alberta, we look towards Alberta Education’s Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF)  in guiding this work in schools. In particular, Policy Direction 1: Student-Centred Learning where students will use technology, online learning and digital learning to:

  1. access, share and create knowledge
  2. discover, develop and apply competencies
  3. develop and apply digital citizenship and technological skills
  4. demonstrate what they know and are able to do through effectively using a range of resources and media
  5. monitor their learning progress and inform decisions through the use of data and evidence-based reasoning


Technology Competencies all schools work on Global Citizen and choose to highlight one other Tech Competency throughout the year.

screenshot-2018-09-29-at-20-13-12Technology Skills and Resources

  • Assistive Technology, Basic Procedures, Coding, Communication Applications, Data Entry and Analysis, Digital Learning Environments, Multimedia, Search Skills, Writing and Publishing



  • Let’s Look at Privacy Basics


Common Sense Education has many thoughtful resources to support teachers and even parents when looking at digital resources. Take a look at a few specific Privacy Basics resources regarding Social Media.

Video – Facebook and Blog post – Protecting Student Privacy on SM

Video – Twitter




  • Your Data Portrait


No, you don’t have to be an artist nor an amazing infographic graphic designer to create your own data portrait. It is an opportunity for both teachers and students to look at themselves in a pictorial way to create an understanding about ourselves and to continue to evolve with our experiences. A really fun activity and even more interesting discussion afterward! Read the blog post, do the activity, reflect and then watch the TED Talk.

How to Draw Your Own Selfie – Using Your Personal Data



UDL Series: Resources for All Subjects


people-woman-coffee-meeting.jpgThis post is the sixth of a six-part series dedicated to the educational technology resources available for teachers and students to use to offer the best universally designed learning environment possible. There will be resources to provide multiple means of engagement, representation, action & expression.

For more information on universally designed learning environments (UDL) please check out the UDL guidelines site.

ENGAGEMENT – the goal is to have purposeful learning and motivated students.

  • Accessibility Settings – chrome environment, chromebook, laptop (Mac or PC), smartphone (iOS or Android) – all of these have accessibility settings built-in so make sure you go into the settings areas to see what they have to offer from speech-to-text, text-to-speech, magnification, font and color, size, and so on.
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality – A.R., V.R. check out the K-12 spreadsheets where I have vetted various Augmented and Virtual Reality resources per grade level (according to Alberta Program of Studies)! See Get Techy with AR/VR as well.
  • Chrome add-ons – Doctopus (S), Flubaroo (S), Orange Slice:Teacher Rubric (Doc) – students need to install Orange Slice: Student Rubric, Flippity (S) – website
  • Chrome apps – Google Calendar – students can use their calendar to input class schedules, exams, etc. or if they are in a Google Classroom, due dates will be automatically shared within a Calendar.
  • Chrome extensions – These are to make your day more efficient and informative: 
    • Add to Google Classroom
    • Doctopus
    • EDpuzzle – upload a video, add Q&A
    • Google Cast for Education – allows you to turn your computer into a wireless projector for screen sharing from another device.
    • Google Arts and Culture – breathe a little culture into your day whenever you open a new tab. Can use visuals as discussion and writing prompts.
    • Google Keep – on the computer as a great note taking tool, goal setting, checklists and on a mobile device the added bonus of audio + transcript.
    • Google Tasks – keep your lists close-by.
    • RW4GC for GDocs (Voice, Talk&Type, Highlighter, Voice Note), RW4GC for Web (Voice, Talk&Type, Highlighter, Screenshot Reader, Simplify), RW4GC pdf Reader (Voice, Text, Pins). Read&Write has a variety of tools – text to speech, talk&type, dictionaries, highlighters, PDF reader, website reader, vocabulary list builder, etc. A subscription is required.
    • Remote for Slides – if you use Google Slides for your presentations and have a mobile device, this extension allows you to move away from the laptop while still have access to your presentation (and speaker notes).
    • Screencastify – a great screen recorder. Easy to use and saves directly to Google Drive and even YouTube.
  • Digital Presence 
  • Feedback/Exit Tickets/Assessment
  • Gamification
    • Classcraft
    • Kahoot
    • Quizizz
    • Quizlet
    • BreakoutEDU – an immersive learning experience like an Escape Room experience but set up for the classroom. The experience can be hands-on or digitally interactive whereby groups of students must solve various riddles and find clues to complete or “breakout” of the experience. Teachers can buy Breakout EDU kits and the platform of lessons. There is also a great template for teachers to create their own learning experiences (and students can even create ones too!) Great for any age, any subject area and even for staff. If you really like this type of learning I highly recommend joining the BreakoutEDU Facebook communities as well.
  • HyperdocsEdgaged with Hyperdocs
  • Mood Meter app
  • Reinforcing Effort examples
  • Setting Objectives –
  • Videoconferencing – Google Hangouts Meet, Skype (Skype in the Classroom, Mystery Skype), Webex, Zoom….
  • YouTube PlaylistsCrash Course, Mental Floss

REPRESENTATION – resourceful and knowledgeable students.

  • Accessibility Settings 
  • Blogging – use blogs as math/science journals, to showcase learning. Use specific blog sites like Kidblog, Edublogs or reflections in GDrive, on GDocs, on GSites.
  • Chrome add-ons
  • Chrome apps – PicMonkey, Pixlr Editor
  • Chrome extensions 
    • Announcify – reads aloud any website.
    • Google Keep
    • Mercury Reader – removes ads and distractions from websites.
    • Open Dyslexic font
    • RW4GC for GDocs (Dictionaries, Voice, Talk&Type, Highlighter, Voice Note), RW4GC for Web (Voice, Talk&Type, Highlighter, Screenshot Reader, Simplify), RW4GC pdf Reader (Voice, Text, Pins)
  • Classroom Screen –
  • Discovery Education: SOS
  • Flocabulary – Resource Link
  • GDocs – File>Page Setup, Explore features for research of sites, information and images.
  • GClassroom will keep assignments, resources and information altogether in one area. Great to use as a subject tool/LMS.
  • Identifying Similarities and Differences examples
  • InfographicsPiktochart
  • Instructional Strategy Templates
  • Templates, new Templates from Google
  • Knowledge Search Engine WolframAlpha
  • Non-linguistic Representation – post
  • Online Reference Centre (Alberta access only)
  • Public Library Card – Tracpac > Cloud Library, Hoopla, Overdrive

ACTION & EXPRESSION – strategic and goal-oriented students.

  • Chrome extensions 
    • Bitmoji – create your own avatar! Drag those images into GDocs as part of your comments on student work. Use them on top of other images/text in a Google Slide. Make a visual story, spruce up an email or grab attention in a newsletter.
    • Google Keep
    • RW4GC for GDocs (Dictionaries, Voice, Talk&Type, Highlighter, Voice Note), RW4GC for Web (Voice, Talk&Type, Highlighter, Screenshot Reader, Simplify), RW4GC pdf Reader (Voice, Text, Pins)
  • Cooperative Learning examples
  • Digital Sign Generators –
  • EduMemes –
  • Green screening
  • GSuite – GDocs, GSlides, GSheets, GDrawings, GClassroom
  • Image Responses
  • Interactive video assessment 
    • EdPuzzle
    • FlipGrid
    • Thinglink
  • Summarizing and Note-taking – post
  • Video Responses
  • Voice Responses
    • Chatterpix – make an image speak using your voice and lips.
    • Fotobabble – similar to Chatterpix, only available now on the computer (hope their iOS app is fixed soon).
    • Thinglink – annotate images, video and 360 content. Freemium.
    • WeVideo
    • RW4GC – use voice note.