Category Archives: General Teaching Resources

Technology, Pedagogy, Mindset, and now – Learning Environments

FullSizeRenderOur 1:1 iPad initiative in the Avon-Maitland District School Board has been responsible for the fastest and most significant change in mindset that I have had in 17 years of teaching.

As an NGL Technology Coach (Next Generation Learning) I have gone through a transformation as my role has organically evolved in the past two years. Initially, what we did as coaches was largely about the device, and seemed very app-centric. That’s understandable, as there was a lot of training and professional development to be done. But as we systematically put 4500 iPads into the hands of our grade 7 – 10 students, our focus became the professional development that would result in a transformation of pedagogy.

In 24 short months we have moved from the device, toward the PD and pedagogies associated with transformed practices, and a massive shift in system mindset. This innovators mindset, paired with a focus on new literacies, shifts the roles of teachers and learners and leverages the power of the device (among other things). We are slowly getting our heads out of our apps. 😉


The final piece in this transformative puzzle is that of the learning environment. If we are no longer delivering content in traditional forms on a regular basis, why must our classroom reflect traditional designs? My students no longer need to spend the majority of their time facing the ‘front’ of the room, looking at me. I know longer act as the sole provider of content, but more a facilitator,or guide, in an effort to tap into the creativity of my students. They now work in a much more collaborative environment (both physical and digitally) and are learning to communicate and problem solve in new and exciting ways. Their learning environment should be reflective of that transformation. Hence, our agile learning environment.

This collection of flexible and agile work spaces instantly changed the feel of our room. There is no seating plan. There are no assigned partners or seats. In truth, in some cases there are no seats – as students choose to stand in Stand2Learn desks, or at adjustable and mobile ‘Ergotron’ standing desks. There is even a couch.

The addition IMG_4019of transparent, wall-mounted “idea panels” for brainstorming, and the ever-popular window bar (which takes advantage of our 5 metre window that overlooks thousands of acres of fields and forests) add an openness and airiness to the room that is refreshing.


The students IMG_4021have been asked to be very mindful and metacognitive when it comes to justifying the workspaces they choose for certain tasks. Already, they are aware that the sofa, been bags, and ottoman are better for collaborative tasks that involve conversation. They suggest that the window bar offers a more private area where students choose to minimize distractions. They’ve even said the view allows them to focus and visualize while reading and writing! These, of course, are early observations and are qualitative at best. The ultimate goal is that our agile learning environment has a positive impact on student outcome.


When paired with an innovators mindset, a transformative approach to teaching and learning, and 1:1 mobile devices, I’m certain that our new agile learning environment will create results that reach far beyond engagement and motivation.

If you’d like to see more pictures, or have a conversation about our classroom, follow me on twitter and DM me at @iAMTrevorHammer

Not a Secret: Code!

As the week that was ‘An Hour Of Code’ came and went, 10’s of millions of students were engaged in coding activities of every shape, size and entCoding Botry point. A self-proclaimed ‘non-coder’, I took it upon myself to engage my class in coding activities from the only entry point I knew – stories.

We began with a cursory conversation around coding language, and the students quickly schooled me on their awareness that computers speak in a series of ones and zeros, and that there are no room for inferences. We had some fun with that one, programming human movement in, around, and outside the classroom. Movements that required background information and inferences quickly became comical.

From there we transferred our written language ‘code’ into Hopscotch, using coding blocks to replicate the movements and tasks that we had our classmates perform. Truthfully, some of the output looked a little less than complex – but the fact of the matter is, we completed tasks in a coding environment that met a need.

Our journey is just beginning, and we currently moving toward flow charts that create a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ story through a series of If/Then statements which we will then input into a coding app. I am looking forward to the results!

If you are looking to justify the movement to code, here are a number of skills that your students will use, gain and improve upon by experimenting with coding:

  • learning is a process and not a product
  • take complex ideas and break them down into simpler parts
  • collaborate with others
  • how to keep persistent and persevere in the face of frustration
  • become fluent with technologies
  • express ideas in new environments
  • demonstrate creativity in problem solving and the product/output

So, jump in, have fun, and allow the students to lead the way by sharing in the teaching and learning of coding in your classroom. If you’re looking for resources, check out my tweets from this week. I’ve included some great links to some rich resources.


Unpacking our Learning

TPACKThe last few learning sessions  that we, as an NGL group, have shared together have been quite inspiring! The ‘adult-learning model’ or ‘go where you grow’ philosophy, combined with the energy created when like-minded people share their expertise and ask questions of each other, has generated some real excitement for the teaching and learning we are doing as a team.

As you continue to unpack your learning, feel free to reach out to your Tech Coaches and peers to push forward with new and exciting ways to engage your students and make their learning more visible.

When we look at our classrooms through the TPACK lens, and reflect on our practices in a way that continually combine our content and pedagogical expertise with new and emerging technologies, we begin to see real change.


With respect to the SAMR model, it’s okay to begin by substituting tech strategies, or augmenting your existing tasks and assignments. But as we move forward together, ask yourself how you can consider transformational practices that move toward Modification and Redefinition through the use of 21st century strategies. And remember, it’s not just the tasks you are considering, but the ways that individual students can transform their learning (with respect to the SAMR model) one task at a time. That is, by differentiating the process and the product, you allow students to redefine their learning in a way that is personal and meaningful to them.

In the meantime, stay connected. Share your learning. Ask questions. Release some of the control and responsibilities to your students. And most of all, have fun trying something new!

Looking for new ideas and resources? Follow me on Twitter!

iPad Friendly Novel Responses

Here is the novel response assignment that my students use during our independent reading time.

Independent Reading Novel Response 

You will be expected to complete multiple independent novel responses during term one and two. After you finish your novel you must complete:

1. A summary and personal opinion (Voice, Pages , Google Docs)

2. A character analysis (choose one character and include 3 character traits with support from the text)

3. A creative assignment

Your assignments need to show that:

• You have read the book

• You have thought deeply and reflected on the book

• You have understood the assignment

You will set individual reading goals and due dates for assignments as the year progresses during conferences with your teacher. You should have your novel choices approved by your teacher.

Happy Reading!

Creative Assignment Choices

Links have been provided to suggested apps and websites for each assignment. Please feel free to you any other apps of your choice.

1. If a journey was involved, draw a map with explanatory notes of significant places. (Google Earth, Notability, Showme, Explain Everything)

2. Dramatize a scene from the book. Write a script and have several rehearsals before performing it to the class or recording it. Include stage directions in your script. (Screenplay, iMoviePuppet Pals)

3. Lead a small group discussion with other readers of the same book. Focus on a specific topic and report your group’s conclusion to the class. (Notability, Adobe Voice)

4. Find a song or a poem that relates to the theme or events of your book. Explain the similarities. (Pages,  Keynote ,  Google Docs)

5. Make a travel leaflet inviting tourists to visit the setting of the book. What types of activities would there be for them to attend etc. (Pages, Google Docs)

6. Write a letter to the main character of the book. Write the letter he or she sends back. (Pages,  Google Docs)

7. Make a fake Facebook page of a main character in the book. Think about how their status would change throughout the plot. Who would be on their list of friends? What music would they listen to? What movies would they like?  Be sure to include specific details from the text. (fakebook , Pages )

8. Make a comic with photos of yourself acting out important scenes from the book. (Stripdesigner , )

9. Design and make the front page of a newspaper writing articles, designing adverts based on the character and events of the book. (Pages,  Google Docs)

10. Write a song or rap for your story or non-fiction book. Make sure to include specific details from the text. (Garageband)

11. Write a poem (or poems) related to characters or events in the book. (Wolfram Alpha, Pages, Verses notebook + rhyming dictionary)

12. Create a storyboard for a section of the book. Decide on camera shots etc. Remember to explain the plot and also why a particular camera angle was chosen. (StripdesignerExplain Everything , Book Creator )

13. Find the top 10 web sites a character in your book would most frequently visit. Include an explanation of why each would be of interest. Add screenshots of the websites to explain. (NotabilityPages , Keynote,  Google Docs, Haiku Deck , Adobe Slate)

14. Create a board game based on events and characters in the book you read. By playing your game, members of the class should learn what happened in the book. Your game must include the following: a game board, a rule sheet and clear directions, events and characters from the story. (PoppletTotal Recall, Inspiration Maps )

15. Construct a diorama (three-dimensional scene which includes models of people, buildings, plants, and animals) of one of the main events of the book. Include a written description of the scene. (no app here. Get dirty with paper, coloured pens and glue!)

16. Imagine that you are about to make a feature-length film of the novel you read. You have been instructed to select your cast from members of your class and/or teachers. Cast all the major characters in your novel from your English classmates and explain why you selected each person for a given part.  (Haiku Deck , Adobe Slate, Notability, Pages, iMovie, Keynote, Google Docs)

17. Plan a party for the characters in the book you read. In order to do this, complete each of the following tasks: (a) Design an invitation to the party which would appeal to all of the characters. (b) Imagine that you are five of the characters in the book and tell what each would wear to the party. (c) Tell what food you would serve and why. (d) Tell what games or entertainment you will provide and why your choices are appropriate. (e) Tell how three of the characters will act at the party. (f) What kind of a party is this? (birthday, housewarming, anniversary, engagement etc.)  (NotabilityPages, KeynoteiMovie, Explain Everything,  Google Docs)

18. Make a collage that represents major characters and events in the book you read. Use pictures and words cut from magazines in your collage. Include, on separate paper an explanation of some of your choices. (Photo Wall Pro, Pic Collage Pages, Split Pic)

19. Record a video interview with a character from your book. Ask at least ten questions that will give the character the opportunity to discuss his/her thoughts and feelings about his/her role in the story. (Reel director ,  iMovie )

20. Create a presentation about your nonfiction book with 10 key ideas that you learned. (Haiku Deck , Adobe Slate, Keynote, iMovie , Explain Everything)

21. Write an alternative ending for the book. (Pages , Book Creator,  Google Docs , Book Creator )

22. Make a silent movie of the story. The audience needs to understand the storyline without sound. (Silent Film Studio)

23. Create a Mash Up  that contains at least three songs that relate to your novel (plot events, characters, theme,setting). Share your mash up and defend your song choices to the class. (Garageband)   Fantastic Mash Up example –

25. Create a movie trailer for your book. Make sure that it includes information about the plot, mood, theme, setting, conflict and solution, characters. You can use still camera shots, images from the internet of live action film. (iMovie)

24. Keeping the theme, plot and character in mind rewrite the words to a popular song to fit this book.  (Pages,  Google Docs)

25. Create a podcast about your novel.  Your podcast should include information about the plot, mood, theme, setting, conflict and solution, characters, and as a bonus some biographical information about the author. Share your podcast with the class. (Garageband)

26. Create an movie trailer for your book. Make sure that it includes information about the plot, mood, theme, setting, conflict and solution, characters. You can use still camera shots, images from the internet of live action film. (iMovie) *Remember to cite your sources if you are choosing images from the internet. 

27. Recreate 2-3 settings from your book in Minecraft. You must include specific details from the text. Share your world with the class. Remember to always be working under the “Creative” setting to ensure no damage comes to your project.

28. Create a commercial for your book. Make sure that it includes information about who you think the target audience for the book would be. Give support detail from the text. How did the author do a good job of appealing a specific audience.  (iMovie)

29. Write a detailed summary of your book including information about the protagonist, antagonist, setting, plot, conflict and theme. Using the information from your summary, create a Kahoot on the website . Read your summary to the class and then play your Kahoot. Your classmates will have to google to join your game.

30. Create a Touchcast about your book. For a fiction book be sure to include vApps to illustrate major plot points, characters, setting, conflict, theme & mood. For non-fiction book include 10 vApps to illustrate new things that you learned. (Touchcast)

31. Create a sketchnote about your book. For a fiction book be sure to illustrate major plot points, characters, setting, conflict, theme & mood. For non-fiction book illustrate 10 new things that you learned. Download your sketchnote into Explain Everything and narrate the thinking behind your note ( Paper 53, Sketch Express, Explain Everything, Notability)

If you have another idea that isn’t listed please discuss it with me 🙂

Independent Novel Response Success Criteria

Please consider the following success criteria every time you  complete and Novel Response for your Independent Reading

  • Response contains specific support details from the text (settings, names of characters, events from the plot)
  • Response shows a thorough understanding of the plot of the book
  • Response shows a clear understanding of the theme of your novel with support from the text
  • Response shows a clear understanding go the conflict in your novel with support from the text
  • Character analysis is supported with different specific events from the plot
  • Response shows that you have reflected on the book
  • Response shows that you have understood the assignment that you chose
  • Clarity of your work
      • Conventions (spelling and grammar)
      • Word choice and vocabulary
      • Variety of sentence length and types
      • Using part of the question in response
      • Clear voice during presentation

The Next Step in Next Generation Learning



Much has been made of the central role of the iPad in our next generation learning initiative. And, as much as our technology rollout has been significant in both a physical and pedagogical sense, NGL is about so much more than the tool itself!

Remember that the iPad is only one of many technologies that we carry in our teacher tool belt. And, in truth, the technologies that existed before the iPad, were also designed to make our work flow, communication, and creativity more efficient and visible. Think -Smart Board, Clickers, Light Scribe Pen, and even white boards/markers. So, should the iPad be the central player in your 21st-Century learning environment? We’d say “not necessarily.”  (See the lack of a committed response there? 😉 Previous technologies (including the light bulbs in your classroom) are just there – and are integrated seamlessly into the things we do with and for our students. We’d argue that the iPads should fall into that category, and that the emphasis falls upon making thinking and learning visible in a shared learning environment.

Last week, in the company of the other NGL coaches, I travelled to the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston, MA. It was a wonderful learning and networking opportunity, but I walked away with a renewed focus on what it means to be a next generation learner. NGL encompasses growth mindset, agile learning spaces, a shared responsibility for the teaching and learning in the classroom, and it also includes a host of apps, online resources, and devices that redefine our learning spaces and attitudes.

In the days and weeks to follow, we will expand on our learning in what I like to think of as  a “Monday/Someday” approach. There are many things that we feel we can coach you through on a Monday (including “Explain Everything 2.0”, Go Formative, Sketch Noting, etc).  But, there are other goals that we will collaboratively work through in order to achieve them “someday” (soon). Big picture ideas like agile workspaces, growth mindset and design thinking will take some time and effort to integrate as we continue to reflect upon and evolve our practice.

These next steps in Next Generation Learning will ultimately take some time to digest, but in the end, the efforts we make to overlap our technology, content and pedagogy will make for richer learning environments and opportunities.


What I Found at ECCO 2015

I thought it would be useful to share some of the interesting things I have been learning here in Niagara Falls at the ECCO 2015 conference.

The first workshop I attended was about the app “Seesaw”. This a free app that provides teachers, students and parents with a platform in which they can share student work. Students and teachers are able to capture different formats of student work (pdf, photo, audio etc.). I think that this app is sort of a “pre-blogging” experience for younger students. It is an efficient, simple and well-organized way for creating digital portfolios. If a primary teacher wanted to spend a couple of days working with Seesaw to capture evidence of learning – I would love to chat. Email me or comment here.

There are some great Google Extensions I found out about as well.

Speech Notes (for voice to text extension within the Google world)
Screen Castify (for building live video links into Google slides)

Another tech tool I want to find out more about is a device called a “Makey Makey”. This is a primary’ish electronic device that is designed to facilitate problem solving, exploration using a computer and the Makey-Makey to get the kids building working circuits. Definitely fun and great for inquiry projects.

I have also signed up for “Periscope”. An app I have put on my iPhone. This app live broadcasts the video being captured by my iPhone. As part of a community of broadcasters (through Twitter) I can watch a sunset in Australia, a concert in Los Angeles and others can watch a presentation I am watching (and recording) on i Tunes U in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I think that Periscope could be a way to share educational content in new ways.


Building Creativity

This is a website (Part of Project Zero at Harvard) that helps teachers and students build skills in creativity. Listed here are a number of exercises that promote creative thought, collaboration and problem solving. I have also included the Map of Understanding which is a graphic from the same project, that diagrams the different ways we come to understand a concept.

Understanding map circle

Creativity Routines