Episode 18 – A Current Affair

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In this episode we interview Judy McKeown who is currently the Department Head of English at Louise Arbour Secondary School. She shares how she is helping her students take risks in their learning and learn how to be empathetic global citizens. She talks about how she uses “Hot Topics” as a way to generate discussions and try to meet both teachers and students where they are at in their learning.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim is working with several teachers whose students are making projects using the BBC micro:bit project board. These are small circuit boards that include an array of LED lights, light intensity sensors, an accelerometer, two buttons, USB connector, bluetooth, and pins to connect to other components (such as speakers or motors). In one of his middle schools, a teacher had tried to used the Arduino Uno with her students but was disappointed because she found it to be more complicated than she thought and she did not have enough time to give students so that they could properly explore and create projects with it. The micro:bit proved to be a much better project board for her students. Interesting fact: In 2016, every grade 7 student in the UK was given a micro:bit free of charge for school projects.

Jim shared a description of one of the students’ first programs using the micro:bit. It plays a lullaby when the light level goes below 50:


Amit shared the work that he did with the families at James Bolton Public School recently for their Empowering Modern Parents night. Families had an opportunity to come in and learn about Google Classroom, Read & Write for Google Chrome, Screen Time Balance and Cyber Safety. It was a great way to engage these stakeholders in the work that we are doing around Empowering Modern Learners, and Amit talked about how more schools need to be doing this in order to help families understand the work that we are doing and the shifts we are trying to make in education.

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Links from the Interview with Judy McKeown

Shares for the Week

Jim recently shared a blog post on Twitter after a conversation with a teacher about the similarities between a Reggio-inspired approach in the classroom and the Empowering Modern Learners vision. Jim’s admitted that he is no expert in schools of Reggio Emilia but, from what he has read, these are some of the parallels:

  • Children are curious, competent and able to take an active role in their own learning
  • Collaboration, a learning culture of students uncovering the curriculum (instead of the teacher ‘covering’ it), inquiry and project-based learning
  • A learning culture in which every student’s voice and ideas are valued and listened to in order to meet their needs and respect their own learning process
  • The learning environment acts a ‘third teacher’ which is interwoven into learning culture. What ideas and messages does the learning environment convey to the students who are making, speaking and learning there?
  • Informative assessment focuses on documenting the learning process as it is going on, not reporting the results of the learning after time in the classroom is over
  • The hundred languages of children is an eloquent way of characterizing not only student voice but also the diversity of those voices, and that each students needs to be supported to find their own way into making connections between new information and previous learning.

The Wikipedia entry entitled Reggio Emilia approach also has good information and references.

Amit shared the amazing YouTube Channel that that Assistive Technology Resource Teachers (ATRTs) in Peel have set up for teachers and students to use. There are great videos there on using Read & Write for Google Chrome, but also on different Chrome Extensions that students and teachers can use. He also spoke about the work that he is doing with some of the ATRTs on the EquatIO pilot that is coming to some schools and talked not only about the power of that tool, but also how teachers can access it for free.

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