Summarizing our TLLP Learning

This post was cross-posted from our TLLP Blog:


We officially wrapped up our TLLP today. It was bitter sweet. As we looked back at our learning and reflected on the capacity built within our school this year we are flabbergasted. It has been an excellent year for developing a culture of learning and sharing among staff, moving forward in our learning as a group. We were able to personalize learning for all staff to honour all starting points and needs.

In June of 2013 we did a “pre” survey and this June 2014 we completed a “post” survey. This survey included all teachers on staff, not just the TLLP core team. Our TLLP was designed to include staff from all areas of the school as we moved through the year.

The first part of our survey asked teachers to self-assess themselves on the five main competencies outlined in the ISTE Standards for Teachers. They were assessing themselves as either ‘beginning, developing, proficient or transformative’. From this first part of the survey we learned the following:

  • we feel we made a slight improvement in “facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity”. This area was already high.
  • the folks who were proficient in “designing and developing digital age learning experiences and assessments” shifted up to transformative levels, but not many “beginners” moved. This is an area of great need for us.
  • a large shift in “model digital age work and learning”. This area was quite low before this year – we demonstrated impressive gains.
  • substantial improvement in “promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility”. This area was already fairly high.
  • a large shift in “engage in professional growth and leadership”. We were quite low and have shown large improvements.

I find it very interesting that teachers feel they have made excellent movement in their own selves as learners in the 21st century and modelling working in the digital age. It makes perfect sense to me that our next area of great need is to design and collaborate on creating ‘digital age learning experiences and assessments’.

Next, we asked a variety of questions and learned the following:

Types of future learning desired by teachers:

  • specific requests for 1:1 expert training and small group setting supports.
  • A shift out of “workshops about specific digital tools” and into “release time to work with other colleagues co-planning” and “attending conferences”.
  • Request for watching or visiting colleagues classrooms remained the same

Specific digital tools support:

  • More “creation” tool support requested
  • D2L requests stayed the same, but with specific higher-end tool support opposed to beginner requests
  • Huge increase in requests for Google Apps support

Essential Practices

  • Specific requests to support providing descriptive feedback digitally
  • Increase in requests for developing class or learner profiles
  • Decrease in requests for differentiated instruction, but an increase in differentiated assessment


Again, these responses make sense to me and show a further need for co-creating assessment and learning experiences.

We began the year focused on the “mechanics of BYOD”. We communicated with teachers that as we head into September 2014 (where all grade 9’s are bringing in devices) that teachers had to have the following four mechanics sorted out, but that they could choose any tools to accomplish these goals that they wished (we provided supports and examples of all the major players).

  1. Share information to students (files, material, links, media, etc.)
  2. Receive information from students (documents, links, video, audio)
  3. Provide descriptive feedback digitally
  4. Provide a space for facilitated online student collaboration (discussion, sharing resources and collaboration)

As we moved throughout the year, we focused our efforts more and more away from the mechanics on more on defining what “Blended Learning” is and on creating differentiated assessments and providing descriptive feedback online. As we built capacity throughout the year, more and more teachers wanted to be involved. Our school board Program department graciously supported some additional collaboration (with release time) as we ran out of release time quite early in the year.

It sure was an excellent year and our reflection has provided us with some clear direction for moving forward. Many teachers expressed a sadness that our TLLP was at an end. I can honestly say that I have never seen such movement in terms of a large group of teachers transitioning into truly owning and directing their own learning. Each one of our collaborations was guided by participating teacher suggestions and ideas (not my ideas as a the leader, but participating teachers). Thanks to all the teachers who stepped up and were involved in this years TLLP at MSS and PSS!



Effective, descriptive feedback and assessment with GAFE

This post cross-posted here and on


I had the opportunity to work with an AMAZING group of English and Language teachers from MSS and PSS today. Todays session has been in the works all year. A few things led us to this day:

  • one of the teachers in our TLLP (Robin) came back from ECOO very excited about using Google Drive for effective feedback in the writing process
  • our school board opened up Google Apps for Education for our students and teachers
  • we visited Derrick Schellenberg and his TLLP crew at Sir William Mullock SS in Newmarket and observed them using Google Apps for awesome peer and teacher feedback
  • our Program Dept. supported our collaboration through their Tech Hub program after we spent all of our TLLP budget
  • most importantly and to be certain, my colleagues are an AMAZING group of teachers

What impresses me so very much is that even though today involved a LOT of procedural step-taking and technology tool use, the focus and the passion was really about effective feedback and how to revolutionize our classrooms to support student learning. Our heads exploded about 3 times per hour. We ranged from first-time Google Docs users to “living in the cloud” (chromebook) users.

Below is a list of the steps and stages we used from a technology point-of-view (and resources to support them). However, I am not sure how to put into words the real learning from today. The sharing of ideas and strategies for class assignments and assessment was fascinating. The energy in the room even though our heads were spinning, was contagious. What really resonated for me was this group of teachers’ excitement for the continuous feedback cycle where feedback leads to improvement which leads to more feedback and more improvement and only then to a final assessment.

(This way too long 25-minute video provides an overview of the entire process )

GAFE Descriptive Feedback from Jac Calder on Vimeo.


From a technological point of view, here is what we looked at today.

  1. Used Google Chrome as our browser (installed it if not already on device)
  2. Activated our SCDSB Google Apps account if not already done
  3. Create a folder for your class in Google Drive
  4. Create a master spreadsheet for each class. Include the following headings: Last Name, First Name, school email address. (If we needed a list of class usernames we had to find someone with PowerSchool access to run this report)

  5. Create a Google Group for class (this allows you to share a document or send an email to the entire class by adding only one email address. It also lets you remove a student from the group which removes access to all those documents you shared, if needed).
  6. Use Doctopus to send shared assignment files to students

    • copy your master spreadsheet and put it in a folder named for your assignment (last name, first name, email)
    • create the master assignment file (docs, drawing, presentation, spreadsheet) and put it in your assignment folder
    • run the doctopus script to send the assignment to students
  7. Use Kaizena to provide audio feedback and differentiate student next steps in learning (by attaching different resources to different student work) in student writing. Video resource:

  8. Use Goobric to assess student work
    1. Create a rubric in a Google Sheet (spreadsheet)
    2. Install Goobric
    3. Run the script from within the students assignment


Next Steps 

We didn’t quite get through everyone getting Goobric up and running, so ideally we will be able to book our next meeting for after we have student work in their files and we’ve given them some descriptive, effective feedback. Then we will be able to use our Goobric rubric (can you say that ten times fast?) to do a checkpoint or final assessment. Hopefully at this point we can share what worked in this process and talk about how our feedback worked to improve student learning.

Lastly, we’d love to share something else we observed at SWMSS, (Derrick’s class) at risk of more heads exploding. His students were running seminars in groups and were using Google Presentations. Each student in the class was following along during the presentation and could choose to verbally ask questions and comment, or they could also provide feedback right within the presentation file. It was empowering. Andrew (from PSS) spent a lot of time talking to the students in this class and we can’t wait to bring that forward to the group.


MSS and PSS Transition to a Blended Learning, 1:1 BYOD Environment in Fall 2014

Its official! MSS and PSS are moving to a blended learning environment, 1:1 BYOD in the Fall of 2014!

Read the press release here: .


What does this mean?

It means that all grade 9’s coming into our schools will bring a laptop or a tablet starting September 2014. A fully functional device that they choose. If a family cannot provide one for their student, we will. One that they take home for the school year. Every one of our grade 9’s will have access to the technology they need to access resources, materials, communication/collaboration tools and the support they need after school hours and in school.

Students will all have different devices. Students can choose the devices that work best for them based on their strengths, needs and preferences.


How does this impact learning? What will the classroom look like?

To be completely clear – this does NOT mean students will be doing online courses. Students will attend face-to-face classes as they do now and the teacher will be there leading the learning. There will still be lessons. At times the devices won’t be used at all, because we still put a very high value on discussion, collaboration, group work, physical activity, artistic abilities, design process, building things, tinkering and making. In classes right now many teachers post materials online, hold online discussions and collaboration opportunities using the web. Our concern is that not every student has access to these in an equitable manner. When each student has a device, teachers can integrate technology seamlessly. Students can choose how to organize learning materials in ways that make sense to them. Everyone can participate fully.

When every student has a device, it allows;

  • learning to be differentiated among students (access different types of materials, based on learning styles, to learn the same content or develop the same skills). Basically we can all learn the same things, but take different pathways to get there.
  • collaboration among class members and beyond the walls of our classes to be seamless (example: having a med student support a science class in learning body systems, discussions with authors)
  • students to take on more responsibility for their own learning
  • students to create digital artefacts that demonstrate their understanding of concepts (digital artefacts could include video, animation, audio recordings, blog posts, etc.)
  • students to develop the skills required for post-secondary options such as college, the workplace and university. Almost all jobs, universities and colleges use technology. Whether it be computers and tablets in the workplace or online learning management systems that every university and college has moved towards using, the technology is there.


What does this mean for teacher professional development?

It makes the goals of our TLLP project ever so important. We are supporting each other in developing the skills we need to lead the learning in a classroom infused with technology. We need to learn things as simple as how to use some tools and as complicated and philosophies and pedagogies to engage learners in this technology-enabled learning environment. We will do this by focusing on high-yield, tried-and-true, research-based instructional strategies. For example, research shows that descriptive feedback is one way of truly helping students improve. We will embed this strategy with technology that can be accessed on every type of device and practice using it with our students. Doing this with a variety of instructional strategies, we will develop the skills we need to lead the learning effectively in this new and exciting learning environment!