Useful Apps for Helping Students Develop Executive Functioning Skills

This blogpost was co-written with fellow colleague, Michele Owen @mowen05


brainAccording to an ACT study (2008, 2014), The Forgotten Middle, the best predictor of academic success in college and university lies in developing executive functioning skills, and neurologically, Middle School is the prime time to do explicitly teach students about these. “The term executive functioning describes a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations. The ability to form concepts and think abstractly are often considered components of executive function.”[1]

At Lower Canada College, this has become part of our ethos in the Middle School. For the past 7 years, we have run an Orientation week for our grade 7 students. The initial idea, was to set our students up for success in high school, but also to give them the possible change at academic success from now and thereon end. In the past two years, the week has evolved and grown with our iPad program.

Orientation happens in the first week of school after labour day. Regular classes are cancelled and students attend a series of 4 Executive Functioning classes as well as other workshops that range from setting up their iPad, digital citizenship, using some of the core apps on their device such as Notability, Cogito (now Studyo) and Google Drive to selecting musical instruments and athletic activities.

As we rolled out our one-to-one iPad program this past year, we not only focused on developing students ability to use the iPad as an educational tool, but we also focused on developing the students executive functioning skills. In the past, we have spent time during the first weeks of school organizing students’ agenda’s, explaining how to plan their work effectively, as well as how to organize their binders. With the shift to digital devices, we have continued to teach similar skills, but with a digital tool. Throughout the year, we found that Notability, Google Drive, Explain Everything and Cogito proved to be the most useful apps in helping students remain organized, plan their time, demonstrate flexible thinking and initiate action. Below, we briefly explain how we feel each app helped students develop effective executive functioning skills this year.

Unknown-2Google Drive – Organizing: Google Drive became the student hub for all files, their binder. Although documents could be saved on the iPad, within each app, students learned to save their documents in folders for each class and assignment within Google Drive. With the ability to save all types of documents, with an unlimited storage capacity, Google Drive become our hub for organizing information. Students knew where their files were at all time. In addition, it was easy to not only upload files, but also open files when they needed to revise or edit. They could access files from multiple devices, if needed. Students also received files from their teachers through pick-up folders or shared with me on Google Drive. They knew where to get files, and they could easily file them with other documents in their folders on Drive.

Unknown-1Notability – Planning, Organizing and Flexible Thinking: Notability offers several tools that help students demonstrate their understanding of material, in a variety of ways. Flexible thinking was enhanced, as students were able to choose in which way they would demonstrate and keep track of their understanding. Notes could either be typed, hand written using a stylus, or they could sketch out using a combination of pictures and writing. The versatility of tools allowed students to make mind-maps, draw images or sketchnotes, or even include pictures or recordings. Once files were opened, they could easily be saved into dividers or subjects, making it easy to locate files later on. Students could also easily send it to Google Drive to be stored with their other files. Sharing with their teachers, as well as peers was also made easy.
Secondly, Notability was used frequently to plan writing and reading assignments. Students could use it to sketch out ideas, or to plan a piece of writing. It was a great tool to help students brainstorm, create an informal outline or gather ideas prior to writing.

Square logo with colorsCogito/Studyo – Planning, Organization: Studyo is the electronic agenda we used this year. It helped students keep track of short and long term assignments, as well as all their classes. Tasks were easy to input, and using the different views (Day, Week and month), students could see their tasks at a glance, helping them plan their work. The new version of Studyo will offer a timeline view where students will be able to see their work, and break up tasks even more effectively. An additional feature that we used a lot this year was the ability to take a photo and insert it into a task posting. This allowed students to take a picture of instructions, or even the page they were to complete, providing them with a visual when they opened up the task, to remind them of what needed to be completed. Many students claim that Studyo was their number one app this year, helping them to remain organized and aware of homework, as well as tests and assignments. Several students set up reminders within Studyo. They would receive notifications reminding them that assignments or homework were due the next day.

UnknownExplain Everything – Organization, Planning and Flexible Thinking. With all of the versatility of this app, students were able to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways, developing their ability to think flexibly. Using the tools in this app, students created a variety of assignments, including screencasts, short videos, audio recordings, as well as procedural tasks. Students used this app across disciplines this year. In addition, students had to plan their thinking prior to using the app, as well as organize their thoughts. Explain Everything helped students build their organization, planning and flexible thinking skills.

Final Thoughts

There are a vast array of apps available, but from our experience this year these are the ones that were the most useful, as we adapted to using an iPad as an educational tool, and used it to enhance student learning. In addition to introducing a one-to-one iPad program, our focus was to help students develop their executive functioning skills. We found that Cogito (Studyo), Explain Everything, Notability and Google Drive, were apps that helped students the most to develop and build effective organization and planning strategies, as well as develop their flexibility thinking.


1 Executive Function in The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders :

Pure Genius – Un livre inspirant sur l’innovation pédagogique


Le mois dernier, j’ai lu le livre de Don Wettrick “Pure Genius; Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level.” Le 20% ici fait un lien avec un mouvement devenu populaire aux États-Unis qu’on appelle “genius hour”.  Wettrick y explique qu’il a été grandement inspiré par la présentation Ted de Daniel Pink “The Puzzle of Motivation”.

Wettrick reconnait que le marché du travail change, mais que les systèmes d’éducation prennent trop de temps à s’adapter et changer. Il a décidé d’agir en fondant une “classe d’innovation” dans son école.

Il définit cette “Innovation Class” comme un espace de cours dans lequel les élèves ont le temps pour créer leurs propres expériences d’apprentissage et où ils collaborent aussi avec des experts du monde entier. Il ajoute: “it’s a space where students learn by doing and creating, where there is less focus on compliance and more on self-discovery and the pursuit of curiosity and knowledge-building” (p.2).

Don Wettrick, c’est aussi un apprenant à vie, il se pousse à apprendre de nouvelles choses, à développer de nouvelles habiletés pour démontrer à ses élèves qu’il se place aussi dans une zone d’inconfort. Selon lui, cette modélisation a un impact sur la motivation de ses élèves et il satisfait par lui même son besoin de continuer à apprendre.

De plus, Wettrick lance un défi au système d’éducation américain en disant qu’il faut arrêter d’encourager les élèves et les étudiants qui travaillent seulement dans le but d’obtenir un meilleur résultat scolaire. Inspiré par une visite au bureau chef de Google, Wettrick désire encourager et récompenser les élèves qui prennent des risques et innovent. Une des leçons importantes qu’apprennent les élèves de Wettrick est l’échec. Et il leur rappelle que lorsque l’on poursuit un projet qui une valeur pour nous, il y aura sans aucun doute des moments d’échecs, mais c’est souvent dans ces moments où l’on apprend le plus.

Le livre propose des pistes à suivre pour créer une culture d’innovation dans votre classe et démontre aussi l’utilité de certains réseaux sociaux en salle de classe pour collaborer et partager.


Pure Genius; Building a Culture of Innovation and taking 20% of the time to the Next Level par Don Wettrick est disponible sur Amazon.


Le numérique à l’école : entre humanisme et utilitarisme #REFER EDU – Mars 2015

Il n’y a pas de doute le Québec et le Nouveau-Brunswick comptent un bon nombre d’enseignants dynamiques et créatifs prêts à se remettre en question et plusieurs d’entre eux étaient au Rendez-vous des Écoles Francophones en Réseau (REFER) aujourd’hui. J’ai assisté à cette belle rencontre depuis le Foyer du Collège Saint-Jean Vianney à Montréal.

Thérèse Laferrière professeur à l’Université Laval était la première conférencière. Elle a passé en revue l’historique de l’intégration des TIC et en contrepartie à la notion de l’école en réseau. Le professeur Laferrière nous a rappelé qu’une école en réseau est en outre une école collaborative. Dans ce contexte, collaborer veut dire :

1) l’accès à des plateformes de communication

2) l’accès à des ressources numériques (Web)

3) l’accès à des personnes (élèves de différents milieux et cultures, enseignants et intervenants)


De plus, elle a fait état des 8 conditions essentielles (Ely, 1999) à mettre en place pour faciliter le changement. En outre,: il doit y avoir une insatisfaction de l’enseignant, des connaissances et certaines habiletés, les ressources doivent être disponibles. Par ailleurs, on doit allouer du temps à l’enseignant et des incitatifs. De plus, l’enseignant doit voir des possibilités, se faire confiance et collaborer avec les autres.

Laferrière a aussi évoqué l’ utilisation de plateformes multiusage comme outil de base pour atteindre la collaboration. Elle a notamment cité Knowledge Forum (KF), une plateforme développée par deux chercheurs de l’université de Toronto, Marlene Scardamalia et Carl Bereiter et qui permet aux élèves ou étudiants d’échanger sur des sujets ou des questions en lien avec leurs cours. L’enseignant a comme rôle de faciliter conversation en classe et de faire en sorte que la discussion en ligne évolue aussi. À ceci, se mêle la notion de communauté d’apprentissage et j’irais jusqu’à amener celle de la communauté de praticiens telle que décrite par Étienne Wenger.

Finalement, Thérèse Laferrière nous laisse avec le Référentiel de compétences pour les enseignants de l’Unesco: un document très utile détaillant des pistes pour :

– alphabétiser aux technologies17835_TIC-Unesco_Referentiel

– développer des communautés de pratiques

– l’ approfondissement de connaissances

– la création de contenu

Par la suite, Pierre Poulin a parlé de son travail avec la firme iClasse. Il explique, « nous n’encourageons pas le changement pour le changement. Nous proposons plutôt des façons de faire qui sont différentes. » L’idée derrière l’iClasse n’est pas de complexifier la tâche des enseignants. M. Poulin enseigne toujours à un groupe d’élèves et insiste pour dire qu’il est important de garder un pied dans la classe pour repenser comment faire l’école. En étant dans une classe quotidiennement, on  peut la repenser, revoir l’évaluation des élèves… c’est ça l’innovation! Poulin nous rappelle de l’importance de donner le choix et de respecter l’enseignant dans tout ça. Le but n’est pas que les enseignants se sentent incompétents. iClasse – propose un plan d’action qui commence MAINTENANT!

Rino Lévesque, du Nouveau-Brunswick, nous as ensuite parlé de son projet d’école communautaire. « Nous habitons un monde interdépendant et interconnecté. L’école se doit d’être interconnectée avec son environnement. » Il a mis de l’avant l’idée d’entreprendre collectivement, pour imaginer quelque chose qui n’a pas encore été imaginé : Apprendre à entreprendre. Les trois programmes suivants en sont de bons exemples de cette vision :

Studio PURE et le Programme de Place aux compétences du Nouveau-Brunswick

Finalement, M. Yvon Fortin a conclu avec une présentation explosive et passionnée: L’innovation mode d’emploi

Tout en faisant quelques références historiques à Archimède, son héros scientifique, M. Fortin a rappelé aux enseignants et aux leaders en éducation que : « Pour innover, il faut savoir aimer, croire aux esprits et avoir des visions. »



Avec des démonstrations scientifiques, il a soutenu l’importance de provoquer le questionnement chez l’élève. « La science se construit sur toutes les erreurs que l’on a faites, » dit M. Fortin.

Peut-être devrions en faire de même avec la pédagogie?

Fortin va plus loin dans sa réflexion et nous rappelle que nous sommes des créateurs d’école, c’est ça « notre business ». Notre travail en tant qu’enseignant est certes critiquable, mais il fait partie du fil de la connaissance. Voilà pourquoi il est important de prendre le temps de modéliser… de montrer aux élèves qu’on se retrouve parfois, peut-être même souvent, dans la même situation qu’eux. Il faut démontrer que nous aussi, on aime apprendre. Donc au coeur d’un enseignement innovateur se retrouve un pédagogue qui accepte de ne pas tout savoir ou tout comprendre et se met dans une situation d’apprentissage.

En toute sagesse, M. Fortin a conclu en nous disant qu’il est impératif de « transmettre le fil de la connaissance avec respect. »

Ce que je retire de ces conférenciers aujourd’hui, dans un premier temps la passion. La passion qui nous anime en tant qu’enseignant est au coeur d’une pédagogie innovatrice. Mais aussi, il  faut savoir trouver la passion chez chacun de nos élèves; elle nous permettra de différencier, elle leur permettra d’avancer, de mieux apprendre… de mieux comprendre.

Aussi, la théorie du constructivisme de Vygotsky est toujours bien courante. Nous guidons nos élèves dans la construction de leurs apprentissages et il en est de même pour nous, les enseignants, nous continuons de déconstruire et reconstruire notre pratique.

Finalement, nous devons abattre les murs de la salle de classe et aussi ceux de l’école et réellement mettre l’élève en tête de nos planifications stratégiques.


The value of student tech leaders


Our iPride squad on an educational workshop at the Apple Store in Montreal

Last week, I took part in the #symchat on Twitter where the topic was student tech leaders. It was wonderful to see that many schools have adopted a group of students tech leaders to support their 1:1 or BYOD initiative.


Student and faculty member working on Google Drive

I was pleased to see how many of us have “used” our student helpers in teacher PD sessions and we all had very positive experiences. Faculty members do open up to students and feel more relaxed about tinkering with technology. Furthermore, they then have someone they can rely on in class when they run into problems.


Student panel – EdTech101 in October 2014

I have also asked our iPride squad to participate in a student panel at a recent EdTech Conference. The students were asked about their favourite apps, how they like to use technology in the classroom, where they saw potential to use more technology, etc. The result was beyond my expectations. The conference participants were most impressed with how articulate students were and realized that they did a lot more with their device then just gaming.

If you have a group of student tech leaders, what type of activities do you plan for them? How do you help them learn new things? I would love to hear from you.

Corrine Gilbert (Collège Saint-Jean Vianney) and I are hosting the first “iPad Student Genius” bilingual conference on May 15th in the Montreal area. If you are interested in participating in this event, please register your group here. We will be in touch with you!

Conversations about teaching, learning and technology

Will Richardson recently tweeted:

IMG_1726Dear Ed Leaders, Don’t have a conversation about technology until you’ve had a conversation about learning.

I have been pondering on this one for the past couple of days. I often feel like schools are caught in a rat race when it comes to technology without always reflecting on the impact of student learning. Just recently, an administrator from another school was asking whether we had ever considered going Chrome Books because they were cheaper. Another administrator was raving how she had been successful at making her school completely paperless. This made me uneasy because as a teacher, I still value the use of pen and paper in the classroom. I do believe there is a strong thinking process that is sometimes key to the deepest form of learning when writing things down, sketch noting or annotating a paper back. And in the words of Shawn McCusker, “Paperless is a bureaucratic preference, not a learning objective!” (quote from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston) Thus, while budget considerations are important in our time of financial austerity, student learning and instructional practice need to weigh in the decision-making process.

In discussion with colleagues on our school’s integration team, I often find myself talking about “teacher mindset” and how it is part of our role as professionals to rethink the way teaching happens in our classes with and without technology. Because yes, technology can be transformative and if we open our minds to it, we may be able to find ways to help our students better. Some simple examples I have seen in our school recently:

1) An English teacher has students take pictures of passages in novels and import them in Explain Everything to write and records notes prior to writing a more substantial assignment. The notes are now in one document, papers don’t get lost in school bags and no time was wasted recopying a quote before analyzing it. Also, it provides foreign students to engage in the same activity as their peers by recording their thoughts as opposed to labouring over writing. This is an exercise in reading comprehension.

2) A math teacher uses the camera function (of the iPad) to take photos of the work that was done in class on situational problems and then gets students to export these on their designated folder in Google Drive. This not only serves as en exit ticket, but also it keeps the students accountable for the work they do at home and may serve as a digital portfolio for parent-teacher interviews.

3) A French teacher has students take pictures of the first draft of an essay they wrote in their notebook and has them think-aloud using Explain Everything to gain insights into what grammatical concepts have been understood, need to be taught or retaught. This provides the teacher with key information about student learning that she would not normally have until the work was fully completed.

Finally, I want to talk about a conversation I had this week with a set of parents who were concerned about our school choice of having students using an iPad in the classroom in the Middle School. Their biggest criticism is that we had not given much thought about what would happen with the devices at home. Now, my first thought was, as parents, they should decide on their own acceptable use policy. But that’s when it struck me. When we initially presented our 1:1 iPad programme to parents, we did not stress enough how the device would be used in teaching and learning and this is a key conversation to have with parents as well. Back in August, we had an assembly with the students; explicitly telling them that this is a learning tool, using it comes with great responsibilities. We also had a special orientation week for our students filled with workshops on iPad use, creativity and digital citizenship. And by end large, our students have done very well with their device within the walls of the school. So, now we are looking at ways in which we can have sessions whereby teachers and students can show the value of LEARNING with technology and enable these conversations with parents as well.

So, thanks for the reflection, Will Richardson! Sometimes, we all need a little reminder.





Nouvelle année, nouvelles idées

Voilà, c’est fait, la rentrée scolaire est amorcée pour la majorité d’entre nous. Pour moi, la rentrée scolaire a toujours été signe d’un renouveau, de résolutions et de me donner certains défis dans l’espoir d’améliorer ma pratique et d’allumer les jeunes qui se trouvent devant moi. Je vous propose quelques pistes intéressantes issues de mes lectures d’été et congrès récents.

Différentiation et personnalisation

Différentier et personnaliser l’apprentissage ne sont pas synonyme l’un de l’autre. On pourrait penser que ce n’est qu’une question de sémantique quand en réalité, il existe des différences fondamentales. La personnalisation, part de l’élève : ses forces, ses intérêts, ses habiletés et ses difficultés, alors que la différentiation a pour point de départ, la tâche et comment on peut la modifier pour répondre aux besoins de tous les élèves. Justin Reich, chercheur à Harvard et professeur à MIT a créé une série d’exemples de problèmes de mathématiques personnalisés :

Je vous recommande de lire le blogue de Barbara Bray et Kathleen McClasckey pour en savoir plus :

Outils pour amener les élèves à découvrir, discuter et démontrer

Voici quelques idées tirées d’un atelier par Richard Byrne (Free technology for teachers). Byrne propose des idées et outils pour amener les élèves à découvrir, discuter et démontrer leurs apprentissages.

Repenser l’architecture de la classe et le Design Thinking

Vous voulez nourrir la créativité de vos élèves? Il est peut-être temps de faire un peu de Feng Shui dans votre salle de classe, se défaire des rangs d’oignons et peut-être même vous débarrasser de votre précieux pupitre de prof.

« Ce processus appelé en anglais “Design Thinking” a été développé à Stanford dans les années 80 par Rolf Faste sur la base des travaux de Robert McKim. Contrairement à la pensée analytique, le “Design Thinking” est un ensemble d’espaces qui s’entrecroisent plutôt qu’un processus linéaire avec un début et une fin. Roger Martin de l’Université de Toronto présente d’ailleurs le “Design Thinking” se situant au croisement de la pensée analytique (preuve chiffrée) et de la pensée intuitive (savoir sans raisonnement préalable) ». (Tiré de : Les Étapes du Design Thinking :

pdi-v3 design-cycle_design-thinking-for-education-1

Voici une excellente ressource pour amorcer le Design Thinking en salle de classe :

La citoyenneté numérique – la responsabilité de tous

Apprendre à nos élèves à être de bons citoyens numériques n’est pas seulement la responsabilité des enseignants d’éthique ou des titulaires de classe. Nous avons tous un rôle à jouer là-dedans. Il ne faut pas hésiter à saisir les opportunités lorsqu’une situation survient ou qu’une thématique s’y présente.

Voici quelques liens :

Média Smart (site canadien)

Common Sense Media (site américain)

Programme de citoyenneté numérique de la commission scolaire Lester B Pearson

Développement professionnel à venir :

imagesJe vous laisse avec quelques colloques spécialisés et séminaires à venir.

Faculté de l’éducation de l’université McGill

iPad summits de EdTech Teacher

Sommet francophone de l’iPad

Bonne rentrée!

Reflections on innovations – year 1

In my role as Head of Innovations in Teaching and Learning, I have worked on action research projects at Lower Canada College in Montreal. Through these projects, I have seen tremendous potential for this kind of work with regards to professional growth and pedagogical innovations.

In the past year, I have reflected upon four great challenges recurring for educators and administrators in Canada and the US. I will present these four challenges and engage colleagues in discussions about possible solutions at the upcoming EdTech Teacher Summit in Chicago next week. This post evokes reflections begun in a French blog post I wrote in April.

Challenge #1 – Student engagement

If you are a classroom teacher in 2014, you are bound to have a variety of learners in your class. From ADHD, to dyslexia, including average students as well as high achievers. The reality is, we can no longer streamline our teaching to the middle. It is no longer acceptable because we know better.

Technology becomes a great tool to differentiate learning and instruction. Many teachers at Lower Canada College have taken steps to modify their pedagogy to use technology to help all their students learn better.

Caroline Hétu, a French as a Second Language high school teacher, has innovated with blended pedagogy. Caroline uses a combination of the “Three before me” approach and “comprehension pods”. The “Three before me” approach is known to foster independent learning, increase perseverance, resilience, creativity and research skills. Students are thus encouraged to use 1) course notes and textbooks 2) internet and videos produced by teacher 3) peers (could be from a different pod as discussed below) and finally only if needed – ask the teacher. The “Comprehension pods” are based on the premise that all students will learn, just not at the same speed. Therefore, Caroline has created three pods that are called: Google Chrome (autonomous learners), Mozilla Firefox (semi-autonomous learners who sometimes needs a guide), and Internet Explorer (learners who display constant difficulty). Caroline feels confident that using this approach in her class has enabled her to help all of her students achieve their full potential.

Furthermore, shifting the locus of control from teacher to student is not easy but is necessary thinkto develop those 21st century skills, we are redefining the teacher’s role. In Nathalie Simard’s grade three class, the teacher is at the center of learning more than ever. On a daily basis, her students are involved in “the 4Cs”; they collaborate, they communicate, are engaged in critical thinking and are encouraged to use creativity to solve problems. Nathalie says, “I feel as though I am the one who has to adapt to the technology I have in my class, not the opposite.” Through our action research project, Nathalie has decided to modify her pedagogy and move toward a project-based learning approach, which facilitated her own goals to include technology in her teaching. This links up to the various models discussed in the next section.

Following the ACT 2008 study, “The Forgotten Middle” which stated that executive functioning skills developed during the middle school years were key indicators of university success, our school set out to develop these skills in every student. This serves two roles: one, it is a way to empower students and allow them to take ownership of their learning, and two, we hope that this indeed will contribute to them being better prepared for higher education. At Lower Canada College, we have developed a program for grade 7 students to help develop these skills. We hold an orientation week after Labour Day where we explicitly teach Carol Dweck’s notion of Fixed versus Growth mindset, organization and note taking as well as elements of digital citizenship; digital literacy as well as health and awareness. We then keep track of how our students fair in terms of these executive functioning skills and report to parents twice a year. In the spring, we also offer a bootcamp for those who still need the help in developing some of those skills. During that same week, we have sessions on iPad set up, the device students use in the middle school.

These are some concrete initiatives by our school to engage and empower students. What do you do? What are some of the initiatives taken by your school?

Challenge #2 – Classroom innovations at what cost?

In the past couple of years, most of us in educational technology all have been exposed to a variety of models for technology integration.

The TPACK model stands for Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowldege developed by Mishra and Kohler in 2006. As you likely know, the TPACK model was developed by Mishra and Koehler and it is a framework that identifies the knowledge that teachers need to teach effectively with technology. It extends on Shulman’s (1998) idea of PCK of teachers developing knowledge about their profession discussed in a previous post.

As stipulated by Mishra and Koehler, effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject-matter requires being in tune with these various components, yet we must keep in mind that every teacher’s situation is different and unique and no combination of content, technology and pedagogy will apply for every teacher.

The SAMR model developed by Ruben Puentedera in 2009. “The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model offers a method of seeing how computer technology might impact teaching and learning.  It also shows a progression that adopters of educational technology often follow as they progress through teaching and learning with technology.” This model encourages teachers to move beyond substitution and augmentation to more student-directed open-ended initiatives in the classroom.

The ASPID model recently devised by Thierry Karsenti (2013), a professor at the University of Montreal, “offers two potential pathways for adopting technologies and integrating them to education”. According to Karsenti, “The model posits a sequence of phases in the technology adoption and integration process. The first is ADOPTION, in which teachers usually need more time, at least in the beginning, to familiarize themselves with the technologies so they can integrate them properly into their teaching practice. At this point, teachers may embark on two very different pathways. One leads to a DETERIORATION of their teaching practice, because poor use of technologies only aggravates the teachers’ own shortcomings. The alternate pathway is the SUBSTITUTION phase, where technologies act as a direct tool substitute to the teachers usual teaching methods, but with no functional change and with about similar efficiency. This is followed by the PROGRESS phase, where teachers begin to apply the technologies in truly efficient ways. In this phase, teachers show marked improvement in their teaching methods, with positive repercussions for their students. Finally, they reach the INNOVATION phase, in which their teaching practices evolve in the Darwinian sense. At this point, teachers can use technologies to prepare learning tasks in ways that were never before open to them. All the phases in the model are related to the teacher’s collaborative engagement in technopedagogy. However, it is important to understand that higher commitment does not necessarily bring teachers to the next phase. For a truly evolved teaching practice, teachers need to commit to the process in a reflective manner and in collaboration with their peers (i.e., train and be trained), while listening to their students and keeping abreast of new developments in educational technologies.” (p.77).

Thierry Karsenti

Thierry Karsenti, 2013

In looking at these models for understanding and transforming our pedagogy, as teachers we must remind ourselves that change involves a willingness to take risks. And we, ourselves, need to tackle the 4Cs in our profession. We are preparing our students for a future that we are uncertain about. We often hear about the fact that the jobs our students will hold in the future do not yet exist, but these are the skills they will need. We need to be role models to our students and begin our own transformation as educators.


Challenge #3 – The art and science of classroom teaching.

Donald Schön (1983) suggested that practitioners in various fields reflect-in-action. He held that professional practice includes an element of repetition. Thus, a professional practitioner is a specialist who encounters certain types of situations over and over again. Schön further stated that when a professional “reflects-in-action he [sic] becomes a researcher in the practice context. He [sic] is not dependent on the categories of established theory, but constructs a new theory of the unique case” (p.68).

I believe this is the type of case research that is needed in the field of educational technology and the current work we have been doing at LCC exemplifies how practitioners themselves can undertake such research efforts.

Action Research is a qualitative form of research that puts the practitioner at center of the research process. The practitioner researcher, in this case the teacher, takes control of the research questions and reflects on her own practice. In our school, it is also participatory and collaborative. I will return to this idea later.

I have been doing action research with educators for over 10 years and one thing that I like about it is that it brings out the professional with a capital P in teaching. It leads teachers to develop and demonstrate a profound mastery of their craft (Sagor, 2010) And I believe this is what Tony Wagner means when he says:

Nearly every profession has reinvented itself to create forms of collaborative problem-solving – except education. How might groups of educators be organized to go beyond mere “learning communities”—a current catchphrase—to work on ongoing problems of practice in schools and districts? What might communities of practice look like in education?

Action research also leads to, informed, committed action that gives rise to knowledge rather than just successful action, which in turn contributes to growth of knowledge bases in the profession (Shulman, 1998). Shulman, as mentioned above is the father of PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) which served as inspiration to the TPACK model discussed.

Action research is said to have evolved from the work of social psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890-1947), who was concerned with social issues and with the process of studying theoretical and practical problems together. His model includes a process in spiral steps, each comprising of planning, action, observation and the evaluation of the result of the action (Kemmis, 1988, McTaggart, 1994). His primary emphasis was on action research as a form of professional problem solving (Noffke, 1997). Lewin’s version of action research emphasized a collaborative process, i.e., a group of people addressing a social issue. “It was cyclical, with each cycle of research affecting subsequent versions of planning, acting, observation, and reflecting” (Kemmis, 1988). This resulted in dynamic research constantly evolving in response to the reflections of each phase (Noffke, 1997). Although Lewin is widely recognized as the grandfather of action research, and clearly his motives were laudable, one criticism of his type of inquiry is that there was a distinction between the researcher and the researched, which can create power inequity.

What I have described up to this point relates to conducting research as an outsider. Because action research can often be conducted by outside consultants whose task may be to inform management decisions.

An alternative method of inquiry has surfaced in recent years whereby the researcher takes part in the action research process as an insider. This method is called Participatory Action Research (PAR) and, while it holds the same fundamental tenets as action research, participatory action research is a form of “insider research” (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000), in which participants move between two positions. On the one hand, they see themselves, their understandings, their practices and their settings from the perspective of insiders who see these in an intimate way.

Conversely, they also see themselves, their understandings, their practices and their settings from the perspective of outsiders who do not share the partiality of the inside view but also who do not have the benefit of insider knowledge. Alternating between these two perspectives helps the researchers achieve the critical distance necessary to transform educational theory and practice (Noffke, 1997).

As a professional engaging in reflective practice and action research, one must keep up with literature and current initiatives in the field. Ways in which our team has been successful with this is by following key educators on Twitter and becoming part of various PLNs.

Personal or Professional Learning Networks have grown in many sectors including education. A personal learning network is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a personal learning environment. In a PLN, a person makes a connection with another person with the specific intent that some type of learning will occur because of that connection.

An important part of this concept is the theory of connectivism developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, i.e., where learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge. The learner does not however have to know these people personally or ever meet them in person.

A recent article published in TeachThought discusses this widely:

Also, Thomas Whitby created the Educator’s PLN, a Ning on which teachers can request membership and exchange with peers from around the globe.  Whitby also organizes weekly edchats on Twitter.

Challenge #4 – Changing school culture

Over the last decade in North America, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on preparing our students for standardized tests. However, experts tell us that there are a number of skills needed for the future such as Leadership, Digital Literacy, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Global Citizenship, Problem Solving and Team-Working.

We have a responsibility as teachers and administrators to prepare students for their future. Thus, we must reclaim time in our schedules to reflect and innovate, give our students opportunities to develop these skills.

We must also focus on our professional growth and make it part of our schools’ ethos. As one of my colleague, John Vlahogiannis always says, professional growth, unlike professional development, is on-going and it is each teacher’s responsibility. At our school, John and I are responsible to lead faculty in professional growth each year. This program simply requires teachers to set out one or two professional goal for the year, work on them during the school (this may involve some professional development such as courses, workshops or conferences) and the submit an end of year reflection and meet with the respective department head to discuss growth on objectives and the following year’s goals. Some innovative teaching practices have emerged from this initiative; the executive functioning project discussed above, several flipped or blended classrooms, robotics, digital citizenship, etc.

These are some concrete initiatives by our school to engage and empower our teachers. What do you do? What are some of the initiatives taken by your school?


References cited:

ACT (2008) The Forgotten Middle; Ensuring that all students are on target for college and career readiness before high school.

Dweck, C.S. (2007) Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books

Dweck, C.S. (2010) Mind-sets and Equitable Education, Principal Leadership, January pp. 26-29

Karsenti. T. (2013) ASPID model: two potential pathways for adopting technologies and integrating them into education, Teachers and Teaching (21) 1,

Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (2000). “Participatory action research” in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research, Second Edition, Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp.567-606

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054

Noffke, S.E. (1997). “Professional, personal, and political dimensions of action research” in M. Apple (Ed.) Review of Research in Education, Vol. 22, Washington D.C.: American Educational Research Association, pp. 305-343

Noffke, S.E. (2009). “Revisiting the Professional, Personal and Political Dimension of Action Research” in Noffke, S.E. and Somekh, B. (Eds) The SAGE Handbook of Educational Action Research, Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 6-23

Puentedura, R. (2013) The SAMR Model,

Sagor, R. (2010). Collaborative Action Research for Professional Learning Communities, Solution Tree Press

Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, Basic Books

Shulman, L.S. (1998). “Theory, practice, and the education of professionals” The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 98, No.5, pp.511-527

Siemens, G. (2005) Connectivism:
A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

Wagner, T. (2004) The Challenge of Change Leadership: Transforming Education Through ‘Communities of Practice’, October

Les défis de l’école d’aujourd’hui

Je viens de passer deux jours au Sommet de l’iPad de Montréal, un congrès éclectique qui faisait place aux jeunes élèves d’écoles primaires et secondaires présentant projets et APPS avec leurs enseignants, aux enseignants, conseillers et administrateurs ainsi qu’aux chercheurs universitaires de la communauté internationale. Une rencontre entre « convertis » pour citer Ron Canuel, mais qui, à mon avis, nous permet de pousser notre réflexion sur l’innovation pédagogique un peu plus loin et prendre conscience des défis pour l’école d’aujourd’hui.

Voici où j’en suis :

Défi #1 : Engager tous les élèves

Placer les élèves au cœur de l’apprentissage, aller chercher leurs forces, permettre à certains d’aller plus loin ou à d’autres d’apprendre différemment, selon leurs besoins pour éventuellement les amener aussi plus loin.

cerveauLise Galuga, nous a parlé des pratiques en Ontario où les enseignants doivent faire un rapport sur les habiletés d’apprentissage et les habitudes de travail des élèves. Ceci ressemble un peu aux compétences transversales qui ont déjà été plus importantes chez nous. Ces habitudes et habiletés sont liées aux fonctions exécutives du cerveau et les recherches démontrent que les élèves ayant bien développé ces dernières ont de meilleures chances de réussite à court et à long terme. À notre collège, nous avons développé un programme en première secondaire où l’on enseigne explicitement ces fonctions exécutives et les enseignants doivent rendre compte des progrès des élèves deux fois par année. Par ailleurs, ceci nous donne des pistes pour mieux aider les élèves qui en ont besoin.

Défi #2 : Innover, oui, mais pas à tout prix.

Tout le monde s’entend que l’ère de séduction de la technologie dans les écoles est révolue. La technologie fait partie de nos vies et celles de nos élèves à l’extérieur de la salle de classe et on s’entend qu’elle est un outil maintenant indispensable.

Cependant, il faut toujours garder en tête l’intention pédagogique et voir si la technologie peut être l’outil qui nous aidera à atteindre nos objectifs. J’aime bien le modèle TPACK pour cette raison, parce qu’il tient compte de la pédagogie, des savoirs et de la technologie.TPACK-new

Ces derniers temps, plusieurs enseignants m’ont confié sentir de la pression pour arriver à des pratiques transformées (modèle SAMR) en tout temps. Sur ce sujet, les propos de Thierry Karsenti se sont faits rassurants : « Le but n’est pas d’innover en tout temps, le but c’est d’apprendre » (conférence, 1er mai).

Défi #3 : Enseigner est un art, une science

L’art et la science de l’enseignement, le Dr Robert Marzano en a fait son affaire aux États-Unis et je lui emprunte l’expression. Après plus de 20 ans dans l’enseignement au Québec, en Ontario, dans les écoles privées et publiques et dans quelques musées, je crois que nous devons former les enseignants et les futurs maîtres à réfléchir sur leur pratique, à l’étudier, à la transformer. Nous devons aussi leur apprendre à se créer des réseaux professionnels (communautés d’apprentissage à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur des murs de l’école). Ceci est commun dans les autres professions : médecine, droit, etc.

Défi #4 : Changer la culture de l’éducation

J’entends souvent, « je n’ai pas le temps! » Je me suis même attrapée à le dire moi-même, puis j’ai fait une prise de conscience. Si on ne prend pas le temps de s’arrêter, de réfléchir, on devient des automates qui enseignent. On ne prend pas de bonnes décisions quel que soit notre rôle en éducation.

J’ai le privilège et le plaisir de travailler dans une école où la réflexion professionnelle fait partie des mœurs. On y consacre du temps, on a même créé des matinées où l’on commence à enseigner plus tard pour permettre aux enseignants de se rencontrer en communautés professionnelles. Tous les enseignants se fixent des objectifs professionnels en début d’année et doivent en faire un rapport par écrit avant de partir pour l’été; on l’appelle justement : la réflexion professionnelle. Ces initiatives et ces changements sont venus de discussions entre enseignants et membres de la direction et bien que tout ne soit pas parfait, ces pratiques ont mené à plusieurs innovations pédagogiques dans notre établissement.

Je suis chercheure dans l’âme. J’ai une passion pour la recherche-action parce qu’elle est transformatrice pour ceux qui s’y engage. J’en ai parlé dans un autre billet. Je demeure convaincue que pour changer de paradigme en éducation à notre époque, le changement doit être mis en oeuvre sur le terrain et faire son chemin vers les universités et puis au gouvernement.

L’ère est à l’innovation et non à l’intégration

Hier, j’ai participé au REFER (Rendez-vous des écoles francophones en réseau) au foyer Collège Saint-Jean Vianney. J’en suis sortie un peu plus transformée.

Le panel d’experts francophone composé de François Taddei (biologiste – France), Simon Collin (UQAM), Christine Renaud (E-180), Marcel Lebrun (Psychologue -France) et Ron Canuel (ACE) a présenté pistes et approches pédagogiques au 21e siècle.

Ce que j’en retire principalement, c’est pourquoi on s’acharne à parler d’intégration des technologies de l’information dans les écoles alors que la technologie est omniprésente dans nos vies et comment, par le biais cette technologie omniprésente, pouvons-nous faire place à plus de créativité dans nos classes. Tous les experts s’entendent sur une chose, la plupart des métiers que nos jeunes feront à l’avenir n’existent pas encore, donc la créativité et la pensée critique seront les habiletés essentielles à leur réussite. Or notre contexte éducatif actuel ne laisse pas beaucoup de place à ces dernières. Trop d’enseignants subissent et succombent à la pression d’enseigner pour répondre et réussir les examens du ministère. C’est ça la priorité dans beaucoup de classes nord-américaines.

Comment changer, direz-vous?

Changeons d’abord la façon d’aborder la technologie dans nos écoles. Arrêtons de parler d’intégration des TIC et lançons deux défis à nos collègues : comment pouvons-nous innover nos pratiques pédagogiques avec la technologie qui est présente dans nos classes? Et, par le fait même, comment pouvons-nous réveiller la créativité chez nos élèves?

Mais pour changer, il faut prendre le temps de réfléchir, de se poser des questions, de rencontrer et de discuter avec des collègues… des « brain dates » (Christine Renaud).  Et du temps au quotidien, les enseignants n’en ont pas! Les innovateurs, qui passent souvent « sous le radar » (Ron Canuel) sont des passionnés qui vivent, respirent et mangent de leur art, mais ce n’est pas la norme. Il faut donc créer des espaces et du temps dans nos écoles pour permettre aux enseignants de sortir de leur quotidien et de réfléchir. Il faut leur donner du temps!

Cela fait plus de dix ans que je me penche sur le développement professionnel des enseignants. Les recherches le démontrent que la transformation d’un enseignant et de sa pratique se fait de façon efficace lorsque celle-ci est initiée par l’individu. Allez lire Donald Schon (The Reflective Practitionner), cette œuvre date de 1983, mais est toujours valide. Il en est de même pour les travaux de Shulman (Theory, Practice and The Education of Professionals) et les livres de Tony Wagner. Je crois profondément que si le gouvernement voulait réellement revitaliser le système de l’éducation, il entreprendrait une réforme au niveau de la formation des enseignants et aussi réviserait l’emploi du temps des enseignants pour leur permettre plus de temps de réflexion et d’innovation. Il est intéressant de constater qu’en Finlande par exemple, pays qui a un haut taux de réussite mondialement selon les normes de la PISA, donne ce temps de réflexion pédagogique à ses enseignants et la formation universitaire pour ces derniers est complètement différente de ce que nous connaissons en Amérique.

Idéaliste et utopique, direz-vous? Peut-être, mais chaque idée a son départ et c’en est une que je vais continuer de faire cheminer.innovation

Oeuvres citées:

Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, Basic Books

Shulman, L.S. (1998). “Theory, practice, and the education of professionals” The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 98, No.5, pp.511-527


Teaching Naked

José Antonio Bowen is Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts and Professor of Music at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas Texas. He is also the author of Teaching Naked (2012).

At EduTech14 in Toronto, Bowen recently discussed the three major changes, in his view, that universities face with regards to technology: 1) The relationship to knowledge; 2) social proximity; and 3) customization and gaming. Bowen stated that, university professors today might at best prepare their students for their first job.


Some of the realities we must face are that students have access to more information through their phone than the campus has available in its library. Bowen also compared APPS as internet filters, later using this analogy for what we want students to be. Bowen also stressed that all the High Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) on Bloom’s taxonomy are increasingly important in the era of high access to technology in all spheres of education. “In thinking about our relationship to knowledge, technology is great for content,” the discussions, reflections and knowledge building should happen in class. Bowen suggesting assigning video watching at home or reading a Wikipedia page on a given subject, George Washington for example and then finding three mistakes and reporting back to class the next day. Another great suggestion was to Google everything on your syllabus and see what you and your students will find. In class, we need to teach the non-googable. Podcasts are also a great way to teach to the many, as opposed to the middle. He also suggested faculty should have a look at EdX and Phet for online


Social Proximity

“Make more time for your students”, this is what Bowen suggested. Show your passion to students, this matters more than you think. Be transparent, explain everything, introduce readings by linking them to real world examples and make connections with the world and your teaching (tweet, post, etc)… bring it to your students.

Give up making announcements in class, the world doesn’t work that way anymore. Again, e-mail, tweet, post, use your portal for these. The same goes for your reflections and final thoughts; post them, make them available online. On the other hand, demonstrate and model your reflection process in class. Make the connections in real-time. A Learning Managing System (LMS) is passive.

I liked the idea of establishing e-communication guidelines and publishing them on your syllabus, i.e., establish how you will communicate, create a schedule for online office hours, be clear and consistent about what information will be communicated through which channel and limit the forms of communication. Bowen reminded us that, “somebody needs to be on-call, 24-7, your bank is.” Use Facebook for this, create a group so students can post questions and maybe someone else will get to it when you are off hours.



Getting students to the right level of frustration is what we can take away from gaming. Are our classes engaging enough… or frustrating enough for students to feel challenged? Again, it is about making questions that Google and Siri cannot answer. Socrative or Smashfact are interesting platforms and apps that allow for quick game-like interactions and feed the teacher with what the students have learned.

Douglas Kiang whom I saw at the iPad Summit in San Diego in February also talks bout this. He calls it progression dynamics and compares this to karate belts and reminds us of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) whereby there is a problem in the room and students are in different zones, so we tend to teach to the middle. But in gaming, with just the right dose of frustration, we might lead students to do some critical thinking and metacognition. Kian suggests a 45-minute rule to figure out a problem which is sufficient to get them in the “flow” (Mihály Csíkszentmihályi) and “flow doesn’t happen in a linear class.

Kiang concluded his session in saying that 1) games support critical thinking and safe risk-taking; 2) games are catalyst for learning; and 3) make your classroom a place where it’s okay to fail.

Bowen wrapped up his talk with a simple point form “teaching naked” cycle:

–       email to prepare – your entry point matters

–       content is for first exposure

–       exams are to evaluate

–       writing is to reflect

–       class time is to challenge

–       use ecommunications to reinforce

I would love to hear from educators or professors who have adhered to these principles in their classrooms. What were some of your successes and challenges?