Episode 25 – Divergent


In this episode, we interview Joanne Milligan who is the Department Head of Mathematics at Mississauga Secondary School. She shares how she believes that the students she sees each and every day are shaped by the ever-changing world we all live in. She talks about how she has adapted to meet the needs of these learners, and how she gives students the power to direct and be aware of their own learning.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim shared an idea to support project-based learning activities. The status, details, goals, and so on of students’ ongoing project-based learning can change from session to sessions, day to day. One of hallmarks of PBL is regular and open sharing of ongoing work. A simple solution using Google tools is to create a Slides Doc in which all students have edit access but each student owns a slide. This slide acts as their project portal and can contain images, videos, descriptions, details, instructions, links, comments pertaining to their project. The slides are dynamic and continuously updated. This approach not only serves a project management purpose but also can be a source of assessment as learning in the form of ongoing reflection and planning.

Amit shared the work that he was doing with the teachers over at Caledon East Public School on a three part workshop on Empowering Modern Learners. He talked about how they spent the first part really diving into the document and into the Innovative Elements, and how the teachers wanted to focus in on one Element in particular: Access to Technology. These discussions led them to conversations about docAppender as a tool to use, and Amit mentioned how sometimes these tools can be used as the spark that “Ignites” the passions of learners.

Links from the Interview with Joanne Milligan:

In her interview, Joanne mentioned:

Shares for the Week

Jim shared research into computational thinking from Harvard. The research helps educators think straight about computational thinking in three domains: defining, assessing and supporting. Jim also shared ideas from the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide.


Amit shared a new podcast that he is listening to by Jen Giffen and Kim Pollishuke who are two Digital Learning Resource Teachers in the York District School Board. Their podcast, called the Shukes and Giff Podcast, is a weekly show that shares some really cool EdTech “treasures” they have found and where they talk about how they use them in their work with teachers. They share some of their “Ahas” and encourage teachers to “give it a go”. They are using the Anchor App to record their podcasts, and having a lot of fun sharing their ideas.

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Episode 24 – The NeverEnding Story


In this episode, we interview Jael Richardson who is the author of The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, A Father’s Life which is a novel about her father Chuck Ealey. Jael is not only a former Peel student, but she is a celebrated writer who was a Toronto District School Board Writer-In-Residence in 2013 and 2016. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph, and she lives in Brampton, Ontario where she founded and continues to serve as the Artistic Director for the Festival of Literary Diversity.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim shared some of the work he is doing with a team of teachers from Turner Fenton who are passionate about changing and improving how they are assessing students. One of the key themes that came of out the work was that one of the most productive and useful conversations between staff was to share how teachers in different departments and courses are finding, recording and organizing the different kinds of evidence of learning from students in their context. Triangulation methods are not identical between different classes and subjects.

Amit shared the work that he was doing with some English teachers over at Humberview Secondary School around assessment. He mentioned that they started their work around looking at docAppender as a tool to collect evidence of student learning, and that brought them to a point where they started having conversations about why they are doing some of the assessments they currently have. He encouraged teachers to continue to take a step back and examine the why when it comes to any assessments to ensure that the assessments themselves are empowering for students and that they offer them a chance to build on skills.

Links from the Interview with Jael Richardson

Jael shared:

Shares for the Week

Jim shared an Edutopia article entitled Finding Students’ Hidden Strengths and Passions written by Maurice J. Elias. One way we can ensure that students feel empowered is to foster learning that grows from each child’s interests and passions. But, sometimes, that information is not clear to the child or to the the child’s teacher. The article includes some simple advice to help teachers take action in order to find out:

  1. have all your students tell you about their hobbies or other things they really like to do or are very good at
  2. ask students to talk about times when they found out something surprising and good about someone else
  3. have students talk to their parents or guardians about “hidden talents” (you may want to use this exact term)

…action must be taken to find what is hidden. Let’s be sure we are taking those actions so that our students do not lose some of their most deeply treasured possessions: their strengths and passions. —Maurice J. Elias

Amit shared his visit to the Google Offices in Kitchener that the GEG Ontario Group hosted as a kick off to the EdTech Team‘s Ontario Summit this past weekend. Here are some of the images he captured on his tour:

Episode 23 – Dream Weaver

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In this episode, we interview Kathryn Lagerquist who is a STEAM teacher at Brisdale Public School. She shares how she connects the 21st Century Competencies found in Empowering Modern Learners to the work she is doing with her learners. She talks a lot about using creativity and tapping into the imagination and dreams of her students. In her interview she also shares how she believes that critical thinking should be the cornerstone of education.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim shared some work he recently did with the English teachers at Turner Fenton SS. We spent some time exploring the opportunities afforded by using green screens and digital storytelling and video production. The app we looked at was Green Screen by Doink. There are many learning opportunities afforded in each of the three phases of production: pre-production, production and post-production. Another exciting thing we talked about, and actually did on the day, was the experience of discovery with the technology for students: what can this technology do to help tell a story? What’s the potential and how does it work. That can inform new ideas and provide a structure for design and innovation, much like the creative learning spiral:


Amit shared the work he was doing with new teachers through the NTIP Program specifically around the work that is being done in secondary schools around Final evaluations and assessment. He talked about how sometimes new teachers feel like they need permission do try innovative things in their practice, and how the Empowering Modern Learners vision document gives teachers permission to not have to teach how they were taught.

Links from the Interview with Kathryn Lagerquist

In the interview Kathryn shared:

Shares for the Week

Jim shared book called Invent to Learn by By Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager. The book is an outstanding resource for teachers and parents and includes comprehensive and detail information about how students can make and learn through good projects that align with their passions. Here are some of the topics addressed in the book:

  • Maker movement
  • Constructionism
  • Design thinking, invention and innovation
  • Project based learning
  • How does it look in the classroom
  • Examples of activities
  • Shaping the learning environment
  • Chapter 14 includes quite a large list of linked resources

Amit shared a video entitled “What Dark Skinned People Will Never Tell You

He mentioned why it’s important to use texts and content that is culturally responsive so that our learners can not only see themselves in their learning, but that they see that they too are beautiful and we do not limit them to one concept of beauty. He mentioned that if we truly want our students to be empathetic, global citizens, we need to show them more than just a Euro-centric view of the world. He talked about the connections between this Belief Statement and equity:

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Episode 22 – The Director’s Cut


In this episode, we interview Peter Joshua who is the Director of Education in the Peel District School Board. Peter shares his passion for teaching and learning in a new age, and offers encouragement for teachers who are trying to empower their modern learners in their classes each and every day. He talks about how classrooms are constantly changing, and shares how he has been inspired by the work being done in Peel by our teachers, students, administrators, superintendents and trustees.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim shared an a-ha moment he had recently where he thought this is it – this is what empowered students do. Working with another teacher in a grade 5 class, Jim noticed and took note of, the quality of the interactions between the students and their teacher. In every case, when students approached the teacher, they did not have questions about what to do, how to do it, what should they be doing next, or saying that they were done.

Instead, the questions students were asking demonstrated they were driving their learning and their actions. Questions were more about asking to leave the room to go get a resource, or if they could borrow her phone for an experiment, or if they could bounce some ideas off her to receive some input, or ask when some supplies would be delivered because it was part of the project they were working on. Interactions that were initiated by her were open-ended, asking questions such as: How’s it going so far? What’s coming up? How did you solve that issue you had yesterday?

Jim’s reflection was that paying close attention to the kinds of questions and the quality of interactions between students, and between students and teachers, reveals crucial information about the level of empowerment of students. 

Further reading: Empowering Students to Find Their Own Way

Amit shared the work that he was doing with the “Modern Family” Department at Mayfield Secondary School. He talked about how a conversation about Empowering Modern Learners led to conversations about assessment and then revamping major components of the course itself. He advocated for teachers to be given this time to be released together as there was so much they were able to accomplish in one day as they were offsite and together.

Links from the Interview with Peter Joshua

If we teach

Shares for the Week

Jim shared an excellent video created by Education Alberta. It was created to serve as a brief but informative introduction to Universal Design for Learning principles. Jim also discusses UDL’s application to teaching practice and how the Empowering Modern Learners vision aligns with UDL principles.

Amit shared a video from the World Economic Forum about the innovative ways that India is working toward reusing plastics to make roads. He talked about how important it is for teachers to provide opportunities for their learners to be creative and innovative in their learning to prepare them to be creative, innovative thinkers when they leave school.

He also talked about the Call for Facilitators for Peel’s first Digital Toolbox Summit. Digital Toolbox Summit Image (1) (1)

The Summit is just for educators in the Peel District School Board, so if you are looking to facilitate a workshop for the day, you can find the information here and/or you can apply here. You can email Amit at amit.mehrotra@peelsb.com if you have any questions.

Episode 21: Tomorrowland


In this episode we interview Susan Adamthwaite who is the Student Success Coordinator 7-12 in Peel. She shares how part of her jobs is to help expand the Learning Environment to include experiences outside of the classroom walls for students. She hopes to create authentic opportunities for students that challenge them and allow them to become global citizens. She shares how she views Empowering Modern Learners as a blueprint to becoming a life-long learner.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim shared a discussion he had with a teacher about apps and the SAMR model. She had printed out a chart off a website that seemed to show which apps are to be used within certain tiers of the SAMR model:


The problem with charts like this one (and there are many others online), as well intentioned as they are, is that educators who view them often infer that, for example, if they use Explain Everything (which is classified as a ‘redefinition app’ in this chart) then they will be integrating technology at the Redefinition level. However, the SAMR model was not designed to classify technology. It was created by Ruben Puentedura as a reflection tool for individual teachers to use as they improve their teaching practice by integrated technology to make learning more powerful for students. In fact, any of the apps listed in the chart above could be used at any of the SAMR levels depending on how they are being used in relation to the original task. A few years ago, Jim assembled a few ideas/examples of how the SAMR model could be used to bring some structure our reflections about how the use of different technologies might make a learning task more powerful.

Amit shared he has been doing with the Business teachers at Castlebrooke Secondary School who are hoping to move toward a Feedback Based Assessment Model in September. Their principal, Q Hoppie, was featured in Episode 14: Inside Out, where he shared the school’s vision around Project Based Learning, and it connects to the work that is also being done at Mayfield Secondary School and the information that Jim Kardash shared in Episode 4: Rogue One. He talked about the work they are doing around Informative Assessment and how being a co-learner is such a rewarding process.

Links from the Interview with Susan Adamthwaite

Susan shared a couple of books:

You can reach Susan on Twitter or on email at susan.adamthwaite@peelsb.com.

Shares for the Week

Jim shared an inspiring TEDx talk called Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching by Dan Finkel. We promise that it will be 15 minutes of your time well used:

Here are the 5 principles he outlines in the video:

  1. Start from questions
  2. Students need time to struggle
  3. You are not the answer key
  4. Say yes to your students’ ideas
  5. Play!

The ideas are exciting, inspiring, and completely align with PDSB’s EngageMath initiative and the Empowering Modern Learners vision. What Jim loves most about the principles is that the core of all the principles is thinking. The goal of mathematics education is not rote training to solve problems; the goal is to engender and encourage students to become very adept at mathematical thinking.  As Dan says in the video, if they are just  memorizing the steps of how to solve a math problem, there is no real thinking going on.

Amit shared a clip from the Jimmy Fallon Show where he and Chadwick Boseman listen to people who share how they have been inspired by The Black Panther movie.

Amit talked about how if we are trying to create empathetic, global citizens, that we need to expose our learners to more than just a Euro-Centric view of the world. He mentioned that learners can only feel truly empowered when they see themselves in their learning, and when they see that they too can be heroes. Part of empowering students means helping them see that ALL of our students have a place in this world.

Episode 20: Quantum Leap


In this episode, we interview David Wiwchar who is currently teaching Physical Education and Science at Mayfield Secondary School. Dave shares a bit about his journey from being a student at Mayfield to now being a teacher there who is opening up his assessment practices and using technology as a way to help giving feedback in a more effective manner. His ideas parallel Jim Kardash who spoke in Episode 4: Rogue One, but he also shares how he has truly embodied becoming a co-learner by learning how to code in order to make Google tools do what he wants.

What’s New in the World of EML

Jim shared a conversation he had with a primary teacher who asked him about her craft table and who wondered what the difference was between a craft table and makerspace. The most important aspect is how the space is used rather than what it is called. In the conversation with the teacher, Jim shared some common themes he has seen in other school-based makerspaces, including:

  • Maker stance or mindset is in place – creative learning, students work on projects, usually longer term, making things there are interested in or passionate about, a way for teachers to learn more about their students, a way for children to express themselves and ideas, thoughts that are important to them
  • Idea that if children can imagine it, they make it
  • Roles – students make the choices of what to make, teachers support with materials, interest, questions, allowing time to tinker, play, experiment
  • Ways to use those experiences – Teacher ties to curriculum, inquiries (rather than predetermined lessons or procedures) for example – students can share, discuss, reflect, write about what they are making, connect to other experiences
  • Oral language, conversations, observations – opportunity for assessment
  • Students ideally are making, and then discussing what they are making with each other, peers and classmates (structures often need to be put into place to ensure)

The core feature of most makerspaces is they are intentionally designed spaces that serve as an invitation to children to play and make things they wish to make. (Chapter 1 of Makerspace Playbook clearly describes the historical and philosophical foundation of the maker movement.)

Amit shared the amazing work done by Francine Tulloch-Harvey and her crew who put on the Peel Equity Summit. He saw many of the links between the equity work that is happening in the Board and the Empowering Modern Learners vision document. Dr. Carl James put on an amazing keynote address followed by presentations by equity leaders in Peel.

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Links from the Interview with David Wiwchar

Shares for the Week

Jim shared a free, online document called the Makerspace Playbook as a very practical guide to thinking about, developing, implementing, and maintaining a school-based makerspace.

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Amit shared a great resource from Kasey Bell entitled Word Sneak Activity that is inspired by Jimmy Fallon. He talked about how the activity could be used to review terms students may need to know in a class or to introduce terms they will be learning about. It’s great for a pre-assessment or even as a Minds On or Bell-Ringer activity. Here’s an example of a great one with Jimmy Fallon and Bryan Cranston:

Episode 19 – Design Inc.


In this episode, we interview Julie Vandendool who is an ISSP Teacher at Alloa Public School. Julie shares how her role involves helping teachers design their lessons with all their learners in mind. She talks about working from a Universal Design For Learning standpoint and guiding students to make choices that help them know themselves as learners.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim shared a student’s project that explored how energy can be converted into different forms. Specifically, her LEGO Mindstorms robot converted electrical energy into kinetic energy. The project was exciting to her and she talked about various other interesting things she learned along the way. Also, and perhaps the most important point, is that her project was not one of 25 LEGO Mindstorms projects, each exploring energy. She chose to explore the conversion of energy in this way creating a project she was excited about. Other students followed their own passions and found their own ways to explore that was exciting to them.

Amit shared the work that he was doing with teachers and students at Whaley’s Corner Public School around a digital playground where learners got to explore Dash & Dot, Sphero, Lego WeDos, Ozobots, Osmos, Scratch Jr. and Makey Makeys. What started as a Lunch & Learn for teachers turned into a full exploration with students who were very curious about the different robots that were “crawling” around the room. He worked with the teacher librarian Kate Sharp on using the various tools with learners.


Links from the Interview with Julie Vandendool

Julie also shared these fantastic resources for educators:

Shares for the Week

Jim shared the free, online tool Desmos. His main point was that younger students, for example, in the junior level, can easily explore concepts such as y=3 or y=x and see a graphical representation on the Cartesian plane. Because Demos was designed to be interactive and easy to use, young children can play with simple or complex equations and explore mathematical ideas to see what happens. There are plenty of teaching ideas and classroom activities shared on the site to help teachers get started.

Jim shared that his first Desmos project was a circle. The project demonstrates how easy it is to add interactive coefficients in order to play with the equation’s points in real time. One of the things Jim learned from experimenting with circle function in Desmos is that as long as the powers are equal and even,  x^a + y^a = 25 where a is 2, 4, 6, … the greater the power is, more the circle turns into a square! Give it a try here.

Amit shared the work that he is doing with the GEG Ontario Team and the Ontario Learning Series that will take place on February 28th at 7:30. You can find more information about the session on the GEG Website or by checking out the details in the photo below.

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