Episode 10 – Short Circuit

IMG_0766 2

In this episode, we interview Adam Hughes, who is the Chief Information Officer for the Peel District School Board. He shares how the work being done in Learning Technology Support Services (LTSS) connects to Empowering Modern Learners. He also shares the new vision LTSS has established and the journey they took to get there.

What’s New in the World of EML?

learnersJim shared his strong first impressions of a Thanh Trieu’s Grade 5 class at Cherrytree PS this year. Students were excited, engaged and empowered in their inquiries and project work going on. It is clear from the first moments one enters the class that this is what it looks like when a strong belief about learners being competent, capable and able to take an active role in their own learning is being realized.

Amit shared the work that Sapna Khosa, who was a guest back in Episode 5: Family Ties, did after attending a coding workshop. She modelled being a lead learner with her students by learning about how to code one evening, and diving right into the learning the following day. This is a great way to promote a positive Learning Culture in the school as teachers learn along with their students.

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 7.11.34 PM

Links from the Interview with Adam Hughes

Adam shared the new vision for LTSS:

At LTSS, our vision is to collaborate as strategic partners to deliver innovative, reliable, and adaptable solutions that will enable all learners to reach higher levels of success through equitable access to technology. To achieve our vision, we will:

  • Be strategic partners to better serve the needs of all learners, including our students, staff, parents, and our community.
  • Provide adaptable and robust technology solutions that manage cost and risk while promoting creativity and innovation for all learners.  
  • Deliver operational excellence with modern, reliable, and responsive services to drive efficiencies.

Adam also shared the journey that LTSS has been on to get to this point. He talked about a quotation from Michael Fullan.

Shares for the Week

Jim discussed a new curation and sharing tool he and some teachers & students are exploring at makershare.com. Jim recently set up his portfolio page there. The site provides the means by which users can create a maker profile and then add projects to their profile’s portfolio. This aligns with many established practices of using portfolios as a major component of creative learning approaches (e.g., creative learning spiral, 4Ps, design-thinking) in the classroom. (Scratch also uses the project page portfolio approach.) Jim has promised to revisit this resources in a later podcast to comment on its effectiveness when using with students. If you try this with your students, be sure to first obtain parent permission if students are younger than 13 and please share thoughts on how well it works for sharing and curating project-based learning activities.

Amit shared an episode from Chris Nesi‘s House of EdTech Podcast that goes over a number of different apps that can help empower students.

Amit also shared a video that was produced by The Communications and Community Relations department at the Peel District School Board in conjunction with Peel’s Director of Education Peter Joshua who did a Jimmy Fallon inspired video entitled “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”.

There was also a share to the bloopers that came out of the video as well as a mention that there will be a section on our website to highlight our own bloopers (watch for a link here over the winter break to listen to our outtakes).

Episode 9 – Extreme Makeover – Library Edition


In this episode we interview Jennifer Brown, who is the Teacher Librarian at Castle Oaks Public School. Jenn shares her journey of how she transformed her library space into a space for everyone at the school. Through embracing the concepts of open learning and adopting a maker mindset, she has noticed shifts in her learners that have left them truly empowered.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim recently visited the Library Learning Commons of Huntington Ridge PS. He was involved in early discussions about the redesign a few years ago. The space is now a well developed, exciting learning environment in which learning is supported with a wide variety of materials, spaces and opportunities. There is a dynamic makerspace workspace and a busy reading, co-learning, building, exploring space next to it. Student inquiries are rooted in classrooms and supported by the teacher-librarian, Deborah Hammond, as students use the learning environment to explore and share their questions.

HRPS Makerspace



Amit shared his trip to Jean Augustine Secondary School, where he and a teacher from Mayfield Secondary School visited Michelle Hollingsworth to see how she is empowering her students in her Science classes. She is really trying to focus on skills and weaving the Scientific Investigation Skills strand in the Ontario Curriculum into all the rest. The students are working independently, but can book lessons with Michelle when they need to review concepts.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 9.13.14 AM


Links from the Interview with Jenn Brown

Shares for the Week

Jim shared a Mindshift article entitled 10 Tips for Creating a Fertile Environment for Kids’ Creativity and Growth. This article is actually an excerpt from the book Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitch Resnick. He shares ten strategies parents and teachers can use to support children’s efforts to imagine, create, play, share and reflect. Jim focused on #7 in the podcast as a strategy that he is working on with students this year.


  1. Imagine – show examples to spark ideas
  2. Imagine – encourage messing around
  3. Create – provide a wide variety of materials
  4. Create – embrace all types of making
  5. Play – emphasize process, not product
  6. Play – extend time for projects
  7. Share – play the role of matchmaker
  8. Share – get involved as a collaborator
  9. Reflect – ask (authentic) questions
  10. Reflect – share your own reflections


Amit shared the information on the Peel Equity Summit that is taking place on February 22, 2018 at Jean Augustine Secondary School. You can register for the Summit here.


Episode 8 – Risky Business

IMG_0747 2

In this episode, we interview Omari Rhoden, who is currently the Head of Business and Library at Turner Fenton Secondary School. He shares how he creates a safe environment for his students to take risks, and talks a bit about his journey in becoming an amazing educator.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim brought us up to date with the Design Clubhouse at Arnott Charlton and the power of student sharing. Time is set aside at the end of the session where students can share their learning with peers. There is incredible excitement at this point in the meeting.

This discussion structure is not only another way to give students a voice but it also strongly implies that their thinking, their learning and their products are important. There is affirmation that there is value in sharing ideas and learning from one another. It’s not just sharing “what did you do” but also “what did you learn. How did you do it? How are you improving?” and so on. Other students get ideas, get inspired, see an immediate resource person to go to, or one to visit to later on. Scratch includes a “Project Page” so that students can include instructions, notes or other information they wish to share. 

Amit shared the work he was doing with a teacher at SouthFields Village Public School around using TouchCast Studios to help promote creativity using green screens.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 8.55.31 AM

Links from the Interview with Omari Rhoden

Shares for the Week

codebrJim shared some ideas from the book he just started reading by Brian Aspinall called Code Breaker: Increase Creativity, Remix Assessment, and Develop a Class of Coder Ninjas! In chapter 2, he learned about the origin of the term “computational thinking” and that it was first coined by Jeannette Wing in 2006. She published a three page paper in March if that year called Computational Thinking. She wrote a follow up to that article on her blog called Computational Thinking, 10 Years Later. He talked about the role computational thinking plays with today’s modern learners and how he’s made peace with the term, so to speak. 

Amit shared the 12 Days of Twitter challenge he saw from Eric Curts for folks to consider:

12 Days

Amit also talked about the new FREE version of EquatIO that is out for teachers to sign up for. He mentioned a video that explains what it can do, the Chrome Extension you can download and the screencast he created to help teachers navigate through it for the first time.

Episode 7 – Home Improvement


In this episode, we interview Erica Armstrong, who is currently an Assistive Technology Resource Teacher in Peel District School Board. She shares how she made improvements in her classroom to promote a positive Learning Environment for her students, and how by creating a safe space, students were more inclined to take risks.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim shared the work he is doing with a teacher who is striving to make improvements to her learning environment, and he made mention of the Ministry of Ontario Monograph on the The Third Teacher.

Amit shared the work the Humberview Secondary School students are doing to create their own Podcast entitled “The Howl” and played a clip from the introduction of the show. Students are highlighting the amazing things happening at the school by interviewing teachers and students.

Amit also shared the work he was doing with the Castlebrooke Secondary School History teachers on Learning Maps. He mentioned a Google Sheet that has Learning Maps that people have created and are sharing, and talked about how creating Learning Maps can be a long process, but it helps to make improvements to student learning and empowers them by allowing them to be part of their Informative Assessment.

Links from the Interview with Erica Armstrong

Shares for the Week

Jim shared a recent post he made in his blog called 5 ways to turn the hour of code into the year of learning. In his post, he recommends five ideas that might help extend the initial experience student have with the Hour of Code:

  1. Learn to code by starting your own coding project
  2. Think of coding as a literacy
  3. Plan a design-thinking, project-based learning activity
  4. Use programmable robots or controller boards
  5. Offer challenges but maintain student voice & choice

In #5, he shared a Scratch studio that contains (currently) 28 mathland challenges many of which connect directly to the Ontario Curriculum:

mathland chall

Amit shared the idea of putting together a Google Doodle as a challenge entering into the Hour of Code that is approaching. This is something that is connected to Google’s CS First Program. You can watch the video that explains the challenge and then follow along in Amit’s screencast below.

Amit also mentioned the upcoming Peel STEAM Conference that will take place on April 19th, 2018 at John Fraser Secondary School. If you are interested in applying you can click here.




Episode 6 – La La Land

LauraIn this episode, we chat with Laura Smiley who is currently the acting Department Head for Moderns for FSL and ESL at John Fraser Secondary. Laura shares what she’s doing with her students in FSL and how it connects to Empowering Modern Learners. She shares that since she has made changes to her practice, her students sometimes get so immersed in their learning, they don’t want to leave at the end of class. Laura believes that as educators, it is our duty to prepare students to become members of a global, diverse and rapidly changing society, going beyond the classroom and transferring learned skills and knowledge. In this way, students continually learn and work to develop their place and role as active and responsible citizens.

In the introduction, Jim mentioned the idea of “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and you can watch this video to learn more about it:

What’s New in the World of EML?

Amit shared the work he is doing with a teacher and students at Mayfield Secondary School around podcasting. Their teacher is asking students to explore podcasting as a means to express their ideas about the texts they’re reading, and she wanted to use a new medium.

Jim shared the work he is doing with the teacher librarian, along with other teachers and students, at Arnott Charlton PS. A school club has been established called the “Design Clubhouse” in which about 60 students meet to work on long-term design projects in the makerspace and LLC space at the school. We are learning about what students are interested in designing and what connections could be made to the curriculum if brought into the classroom.

Links from the Interview with Laura Smiley

Shares for the Week

Jim shared points from a conversation he had last week with a small group around the idea of engagement:

It reminded him of the above graphic, created by @plugusin, which draws a distinction between engagement, which is more about strategies to get students interested and excited about what we what them to learn, and empowerment, which is more about supporting students to learn by following their interests and passions. I think both are often on the table but they are both on a continuum of student agency:Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 2.02.33 PM

Image by John Spencer

Amit shared an article from Mindshift entitled Developing Students’ Ability to Give and Take Effective Feedback by Katrina Schwartz where she outlines a method of using Edward de Bono‘s strategy called the “Six Thinking Hats” to help students provide and receive feedback in class. He outlined what the various hats look like as well as what ground rules were set down for these students. The video below shows a sample that was shared in the article.

Episode 5 – Family Ties

SupnaIn this episode Amit interviews Sapna Khosa who is a Grade 6 teacher at James Grieve Public School who shares how she is creating a positive Learning Culture and Learning Environment with her students and how when students feel like they’re part of a family in their class, the learning opportunities are endless.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Amit shared his experience with the staff and students at Larkspur Public School and the work they did to promote 21st Century Competencies and Models of Learning by using a Breakout EDU kit. The students were very excited about the experience as the video below show.

Breakout EDU at Larkspur


Jim recounted a recent conversation with a grade one teacher who, just last week, was beginning to see significant improvements in self-regulation among her students after two months of focus on the development of empathy, kindness and self-regulation. Jim shared a few examples of how she works with students to carefully listen and to help them (teach and model) to work through conflicts when they arise. Students witness and experience repeated positive and constructive social interactions that, over time, build feelings of safety, caring and kindness. In turn, these become a normal part of the culture of the class. She cites Stuart Shanker’s book Calm, Alert and Learning as an excellent resource.

Links from the Interview with Sapna Khosa 

Shares for the Week

Jim shared a recent article from the Toronto Star which describes a survey that showed how almost half of Ontario youth miss school because of anxiety. Mental illness and mental health are important issues that need to be continually addressed and considered.

Links to Peel Board’s Bullying Prevention Resources:

Amit shared an article about How Project-Based Learning Unleashes Students’ Creativity by Pamela Brennan and Brandi Zivilik that talks about moving outside of the four walls of the learning environment to involve the community in project-based learning. It’s a great way to promote collaboration, creativity and help our students “as a community of learners”. 

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 12.07.05 PM

Episode 4: Rogue One


In this episode, we chat with Jim Kardash, principal at Mayfield Secondary School. He shares his passion for learning and the school’s journey of their “gradeless” pilot.

What’s New in the World of EML?

Jim shared the work he is doing with a grade 5 teacher at Helen Wilson Public School. The “rules” he shared, and outlined to students during the initial Genius Hour session, are the 4Ps of creative learning (see Mitch Resnick’s new book Lifelong Kindergarten for more details).


Here is the student conversation that was featured in the podcast:


Amit shared the work he is doing with teachers from Stephen Lewis Secondary School, Lorne Park Secondary School, Clarkson Secondary School, Lincoln Alexander and Mayfield around creating an Open Source Resource for Grade 9 science that will help go beyond a traditional textbook. This is a work in progress, and once it’s complete, the teachers will be getting feedback from students on how it is working for them. Once the final touches are put on it, the teachers are hoping to release it out to the system.

Amit also mentioned a quotation from Brian Aspinall:

“Once we accept that school is nothing more than an idea that we’ve all agreed to follow, the possibilities become limitless.”

You can hear the Ignite Talks from the Mindshare EdTech Leadership Summit 8th on voiced.ca

Links from the Interview with Jim Kardash

Jim shared his book recommendation of Empower by A.J. Juliani & John Spencer

Contact Jim: Jim Kardash on Twitter
Contact Mayfield: Mayfield on  Twitter

Shares for the Week 

Jim shared the graphic below that summarizes the student, teacher and organizational shifts involved in moving from a compliance-focused education system to an innovation-focused education system. (This graphic was created by Tom Downs, a founding teacher at D39C, following a series of conversations with Kaleb Rashad, director of High Tech High).


Amit shared an article by Jesse Stommel on Why I Don’t Grade as well as two quotations that resonated with him:

“Grades (and institutional rankings) are currency for a capitalist system that reduces teaching and learning to a mere transaction.”

“Research shows three reliable effects when students are graded: They tend to think less deeply, avoid taking risks, and lose interest in the learning itself.”

He also challenged teachers to take one assessment that you traditionally assign a grade to, and only provide feedback to students to see how it goes.