Category Archives: Environment Conducive to Learning

Creative Construction with MakeDo


Makedo is a simple to use, open-ended system of tools for creative cardboard construction. Using the saw, screwdriver, and screws, students of all ages can build imaginative and useful creations from everyday cardboard. Makedo facilitates an interdisciplinary, hands on learning experience which engenders a deeper understanding of concepts with application to real-life scenarios. What’s more, Makedo is accessible for all types of students and their differing learning needs, Makedo teaches students to value the learning process as much as the results and Makedo develops collaboration skills.




Design Thinking into Biohacking?

I just recently read Brian Aspinall’s (@mraspinall) blog post on Coding: Developing Rigorous Thinkers where he discusses the reason why students should learn to code – to think, problem solve, take risks, modify their work through trial and error, etc. All the competencies (specifics from Alberta Education) we want them to engage and grow as learner and it reminded me of an amazing TED Talk from Andrew Pelling where he “grows” human ears from other objects that you would never suspect.

He also recently founded pHacktory which is an independent research lab founded on extreme play, curiosity, undertaking audacious projects, taking risks and learning from failure.

I wonder how we could take Andrew’s zest for engaging in dramatic and disruptive learning and put it into our learning environments?




Bring on the Codes with Bitsbox


Bitsbox is a website where kids as young as seven can learn computer programming. It’s best to buy one of the subscription boxes that contain books and trading cards with coding lines and ideas to use on, but you can go directly to the site as well.




Give Every Child a Voice

This is such a powerful and emotion story! Grab some tissues, sit down for 17 minutes and take time to watch this video. As you do so, think about:

  • How can we design learning opportunities for students to experience a variety of different technologies so that they can communicate, create, and connect?
  • What does independence mean to you?
  • What is your definition of an Inclusive Classroom? How can you create one? Who can support you along this journey?

Pigs + Innovation?

Design Thinking

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Critical Inquiry

And many more concepts are certainly part of the education vernacular in 2016. These are not new concepts, however what is NEWer, is that schools, administrators and teachers are re-inventing the use of flexible learning opportunities by changing how the school day looks and feels. No more, ALL students should use the same No.2 pencil AT THE SAME TIME, but more time given by teachers to provide a space for students to engage in some really interesting learning.

The commercial below reminded of the amazing ‘innovative’ work that I get to see within PSD70 and via the #psd70 hashtag of engaged and effective learning!



To continue your learning, check out:



The Alberta Education system should strive to install the following qualities and abilities in our students:

  • Engaged Thinker: who thinks critically and makes discoveries; who uses technology to learn, innovate, communicate, and discover; who works with multiple perspectives and disciplines to identify problems and find the best solutions; who communicates these ideas to others; and who, as a life-long learner, adapts to change with an attitude of optimism and hope for the future.
  • Ethical Citizen: who builds relationships based on humility, fairness and open-mindedness; who demonstrates respect, empathy and compassion; and who through teamwo9rk, collaboration and communication contributes fully to the community and the world.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: who creates opportunities and achieves goals though hard work. perseverance and discipline; who strives for excellence and earns success; who explores ideas and challenges the status quo; who is competitive, adaptive and resilient; and who has the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions in the face of adversity.
  • Some great documentation is found with the Cross Curricular Competencies, created by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium (ERLC).


  • Critical Challenges found in Alberta’s Social Studies Program of Studies (password-protected). Once in LearnAlberta portal, then search “Critical Challenges” and you’ll find a goldmine of resources!
  • The Critical Thinking Consortium is also a great place for these resources. Some free but to dig into some more amazing stuff, get a membership! They also have some Critical Challenges but also so many more resources.

Myths of Teaching and Learning

Recently, the Canadian Education Association released its latest poster regarding some neuromyths connected to learning and teaching. Take time to read each of these three myths and share how you are taking current neuroscience research to change your teaching practice and students’ learning environments.

edcan_neuromyths  1) Adapting instruction to students’ learning styles (K,S,A)

The promising practices that I do see making are difference are:

  • multiple means of representation – information/content is shared via audio, images, video, text so that students can engage with it in a variety of ways, not just their “preferred” way. I often share with staff and students that there may be times when I would just read the content on my own while another time I’d like the computer to read it to me or watch a brief intro video instead. It’s the opportunity for access to these options that I find crucial.
  • cooperative learning – engaging students by learning with and from each other via ‘scripted’ learning and sharing opportunities exposes students to a variety of experiences so even if the student prefers a specific way to learn, they are supported through practicing other ways in a safe and engaging manner.

  2)  No such thing as brain dominance

Promoting Passion Projects (197 examples, in the classroom), Genius Hour or Innovation Weeks (GCMS) where students study, explore, create a level of learning that is very personalized and student-centered allows opportunities to further develop their talents and/or skills in a particular area OR dip their toes into something of interest that they may never have pursued.

3) Cognitive capacity and function improves after 30 mins of vigorous exercise

Initiatives like Daily Physical Activity (DPA) and Physical Literacy offer fantastic opportunities for students to get up, moving and socially connecting with each other and themselves. Brain Breaks (such as GoNoodle) give the brain a break and may regroup students’ attention but do not necessarily improve cognitive capacity.

So, go ahead, share this poster with colleagues, print it off and take turns speaking about it during a PLC/Staff meeting. What are your thoughts regarding these neuromyths?


Invest in Inferencing with Students


Photo Credit: Gwen Vanhee via Compfight cc


I work most often with teachers and administrators in my role as Curriculum Ed Tech Facilitator in my school division. Over the years, I have come to recognize that a majority of students struggle with inferencing. They can most easily gather evidence and observations, but when it comes to applying these pieces of information to draw conclusions, students are at a loss as to how to achieve this.

These skills are needed for all sorts of school activities and learning, in all subject areas. Inferential thinking is a complex skill that will develop over time and with experience and teachers need to explicitly teach this to students throughout the school year.

There are many resources that can support teachers, below are a few examples as well as more resources to allow both teacher and students to engage in various inferencing activities.

For me, information comes in many forms – think about text (articles, newspapers, textbooks, poetry…), but also audio (lyrics, transcripts), video, and imagery. One such example of how powerful images and symbols are is found in this VIDEO. Teachers should use enticing images to build student’s background knowledge and even to replace text!! Watch the video – what do you think about these images and symbols? Are they not powerful? Think about how you can add and/or replace text with images to enhance the learning environment. Images can be found in a variety of places. For Alberta Teachers, the LearnAlberta website has many curricular-based images, just use the Search and Format features. For everyone, check out’s image gallery (make sure to click open the index), Creative Commons Search, use Discovery Education Canada (if your school division subscribes to it) and even Google (with proper copyright criteria).

Another resource (Explain the Image) that I like to share is one that was created by The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2) where the template can be used at any grade level (just adjust the amount of text and add visuals for your younger students). It is a great one to use throughout the year and is easily scaffolded from a whole class activity, to small groups filling in specific rows, to small groups filling in the whole template to even individual work. Try it yourself! Click on the IMAGE and then have the QUESTIONS document open at the same time. (Make a copy so you can type in your info online). Input the Evidence/Observations column first and then add your Inferences next. Finally, summarize your thoughts. I’ve seen this used effectively with any text, audio, video and images with a variety of grade levels. The discussion between students about the artefact are SO amazing.

As a trainer for the Stepping Out Literacy Program, I also like to share this template – It Says, I Say, And So. In this example, I am only showing one row of text, but as a teacher, you may be looking at a longer text that would require several other rows to be filled in. Teachers would enter specific portions of text that they want their students to tackle. Once again, scaffold how students learn to use this template.

For those of you who live in the GAFE environment with their students, make sure to take advantage of:

    • GDoc > Tools > Research
    • GSlide > Tools > Research

These tools allow students to work within the Google environment with a separate pane right where they are working. And if they find some great information but are unable to tackle it as easily, do show them how to use text to speech (like chrome extensions, VoiceNote, Read&Write Google, or even Announcify). The citation pieces that come with this are fantastic. (Show students how to read the links to understand where the online information has come from.) As well, I also introduce, as young as grade three, GDoc – Add-ons > like Speech recognition (speech to text), SpellRight (proper spelling), Mindmeister (mind mapping).

If students are unable to write well (when they hold a pencil or pen it seems to drain all their thoughts and they are unable to write anything) or unable to type but can certainly speak out to demonstrate their knowledge, try out an image + audio iOS app/website for Fotobabble.


Extra Resources