Facilitating a Digital Publishing Program in my new Education Commons Role



Last year started out as an exciting year, where I had the opportunity to launch a Student Publishing Program in our Library.

Inspired by the SAMR and Technology Integration Matrix, and the TPACK models, I decided to design a Digital Publishing Program.

As I continue with this initiative in this new school year, I hope to inspire and motivate students to Publish the wonderful work that they are already doing in their classrooms. It will provide many new opportunities for, but not limited to, collaboration, differentiation, sharing, creating, and consolidation of learning. Work stations will be set up with iPads, netbooks, laptops, and other devices that students may have.

This program will also be linked with the Forest of Reading initiative through the OLA.  I will also be presenting this model at the BIT 2014 Conference in Niagara Falls in November. Don’t lose the forest for the trees!

This program will meet criteria from:

  • Board Improvement Plans
  • School Improvement Plans
  • School Effectiveness Frameworks
  • Essential Practices
  • Digital Citizenship & BYOD policies and Procedures
  • Curriculum Expectations
  • Community, Culture & Caring
  • FNMI knowledge and FNMI-friendly strategies can be infused

Students can come down to Publish their work!

This certainly is not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the suggestions of what students will be able to do:

    • Publish short Stories on iBooks
    • Blog your reflections instead of journal writing OR re-blog your journal writing
    • Create a ‘Fakebook’ page for a character in a book you are reading
    • Publish poetry into an eBook
    • Classroom Newsletters & website updating
    • When a class finishes for example, art work, send a student down with all of the pieces, and we can take pictures of them all and put them into a dynamic presentation
    • Explain Everything’ where students can explain what they are doing in math to teach another group of kids, or show to their parents.
    • Publish work anonymously to your website/blog
    • Take pictures of your work in class at various stages, then come back later with those pictures to put them into a slideshow presentation that demonstrates a continuum of learning
    • Record your findings of an experiment
    • Create oral or written ‘Book Reviews’ to share with others
    • Drama Presentations turned into iMovies and even use of Greenscreen
    • Create infographics, or other visual representations of data from your findings in math
    • Record music you have made
    • Discover new ways to demonstrate your knowledge from your readings to replace traditional  Book Reports

The benefits of Student Publishing can include:

  • Safe ways to publish student work
  • Motivation for students to get their work done knowing that they can work on it using technology
  • Feelings of Pride and accomplishment for seeing a Published piece of work
  • Something to share with parents
  • Opportunities for students to teach other students
  • Knowledge consolidation
  • Creativity and Imagination
  • Differentiation
  • Collaboration and support from other people in the school
  • Gives student work new purposes
  • Ideas can be shared and transferred into different classrooms with students teaching other students about new tools they learn about
  • Inspiring others to do new things with their work
  • Inspiring new types of learning
  • Feedback that Teachers can use for summative assessment and evaluation:
  • Assessment OF learning
  • Reinforces the learning process
  • Ability to share work ‘anonymously’ with other classrooms and students. Peer feedback from others.
  • Meeting different needs of students to provide motivation or enrichment to some, but not mandatory for those students who may be overwhelmed or be experiencing processing difficulties with the myriad of visuals and text, for example.

Please feel free to share some of your ideas based on what you have done or would love to do in your own classroom or Library! 

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Making the Shift to Inquiry Based Instruction


Currently I am re-examining my instructional practice, and trying to understand how I can effectively teach students to nurture a sense of wonder about the Natural world around us. With my current focus, on integrating FNMI strategies into the Science Curriculum, I have decided that Inquiry Based Learning is a strategy worthy of researching and implementing, to provide the most effective educational strategies for students.

However, Inquiry based Learning can be more difficult than it sounds. To give students a key role in directing their own personal learning experiences, often flies in the face of the more traditional teaching frameworks and personal schemata that we have been learned about teaching itself, and practiced for many years!

Some situations that I believe are wonderful opportunities to include Inquiry Based Learning include, but are not limited to:

  • The Learning Commons & conducting Research
  • Learning 21st Century Technologies
  • Science
  • Numeracy
  • Integrating First Nations, Metis & Inuit perspectives,
  • Special needs including working with students on the Autism Spectrum & ADD/ADHD
  • Virtually anything the Educator sees fit!

I also envision Inquiry based learning also as ‘Brain-Based Learning’, where new neural networks can be built within the brain from hands-on learning and experiential learning. It helps students to use our brains in different, creative, personal, and concrete ways! For instance, students could design their own scientific experiments based upon the ‘Big Ideas’, link it to their own cultural background, use the resources within the Learning Commons, and then test out their own experiments and sharing their findings. The lists can go on!

Barriers to Inquiry Based Learning: Perceived and Real

Often, in our instructional units and lesson planning, it is easy to think in a linear fashion, with each new concept or expectation building upon the other. Further, certain subjects, including Science, are often be deemed a subject to be handed off to a planning time teacher, thus increasing focus on Literacy and Numeracy. When this happens, teachers are often trying to ‘fit’ the science curriculum in to 1,2, or 3 Fifty minute blocks. With increasing pressures to fit in many expectations within limited time frames, it can feel that the very subjects that lend themselves well to Inquiry Based Learning are placed on the back burner in favour of strategies deemed necessary for literacy and numeracy. So, where can we begin as educators?

How to start making your classroom and Learning Commons ready for Inquiry-Based Learning

How do we take what we have, and start the process to making Inquiry Based Instruction happen with students? How can we meet curriculum expectations and still allow students to be directly involved in their learning and shaping their own personal understanding of the world around them?

You can start with baby-steps, or you can jump in with both feet and make it happen! Either way, it is a process that involved changing your schemas of how students should learn, and how teachers should teach.

It takes flexibility, thinking about the curriculum in a balanced way, and trusting your own professional judgement that you will be able to guide students effectively through the curriculum, without the pressure that you must cover each and every curriculum expectation. This is because you value the process of student learning more than ‘covering’ every single thing on your prescribed list.

A teacher in the Inquiry Based classroom will understand where students need to ‘go’ with their learning, so that they can ‘facilitate’ student learning, but not methodically planning out each lesson or experiment with a prescribed set of rules that must be followed. This will enable student learning to become more personalized and increase retention. It will also promote the building of important learning skills and strategies that will help students out when they are learning outside of the classroom.

I also believe it involves understanding the curriculum expectations yourself inside out and backwards, and understanding where students need to ‘go’ so that teachers can ‘facilitate’ student learning. However, on that note, teachers do not need to be methodically planning out each lesson or experiment to a prescribed set of rules. The process of student learning is more important than covering each and every curriculum expectation!

Strategies for implementing Inquiry Based Learning within your Classroom 

  • So far, I have found the use of Circles and ‘Talking Circles‘ to be very beneficial in terms of sharing knowledge and information on a regular basis.
  • Provide Hands-On experiences!
  • Allow students to ask questions!
  • Students can also work in ‘Groups’, and face each other.
  • Ensure that you help students connect the information and Curriculum directly to the students personal lives and cultural backgrounds.
  • Engage in Culturally Relevant Teaching Practices
  • Take the learning outside when possible!
  • Read Relevant Picture Books to the class!
  • Differentiate your Instruction!
  • Encourage Brainstorming opportunities with the students!
  • Reflect on Learning and ideas any opportunity you have!
  • Listen carefully to the students questions to inform the next potential learning experience!
  • Focus on the Big Ideas instead of specific curriculum expectations.
  • Enable students to use all of the ‘Senses’ to experience the world around us

Personal Reflections

When creating an Inquiry-Based Learning Experience, it is beneficial to really understand and know the curriculum you are teaching. Having this knowledge will help guide you toward the types of questions and learning experiences that you want to see from your students, so that you can work to be a leader and facilitator for the students to ensure they are learning the ‘Big Ideas’ and overarching concepts. You really need to trust in yourself as well, and be flexible! Finally, throw away any assumptions that you will cover the content in prescribed amounts of time. Most of the learning experiences that you will end up facilitating with your students will either take much longer, or shorter than you may have originally expected!

For me, this is a work in progress! I would love to hear from others about your personal experiences and learning curve with Inquiry Based Learning!

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creating Welcoming Environments in our Schools and Libraries


In many schools, there can be a lack of cultural diversitiy, symbols and practices that make students and parents feel welcome and important. This is unfortunate, because creating Welcoming Environments are essential to improving Student Learning.

However, it is a challenge to continually create Welcoming Environments in our schools.

With increasing demands surrounding school report cards, test scores being linked to school funding, and demands for increased accountability for educators and students, Educators, parents, and students can feel overwhelmed, and forget that creating a welcoming environments can be the most powerful tool in our quest to improve student learning. Welcoming environments invariably increase parental involvement and support, and parental involvement is paramount to improving student learning both directly, via activities such as tutoring and homework help, and indirectly, via activities including reading aloud to a child and discussing the value of education. Parents and community only become invested in their schools when they feel invited and welcome!

Welcoming environments can be created and improved upon by attending to the Physical Environment, School Practices and Policies, Personal Interaction, and Written Materials and Communications. Here are just a few ideas that can be used:

Physical Environment:

  • Embed Culturally significant symbols, ie., Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, Dream Catchers, into hallways, classrooms, offices, libraries and websites.

Practices and Policies:

  • Promote strong sense of Community, Culture & Caring Policies
  • Restorative Practices
  • Character Education Models
  • 21st Century Technologies and Digital Citizenship Policies
  • Involving Parents in decision making perhaps through surveys or other assessment tools, parent groups


Personal Interaction:

  • Leaders in the school working on teambuilding to bring staff together & recognize accomplishments;
  • Co-create and share visions at Staff meetings by brainstorming key ingredients of a Welcoming Environment;
  • Do the same with Parent Groups;
  • Staff as friendly and inviting to students, staff, and parents

Written Materials and Communications:

  • Regular Classroom & School Newsletters,
  • Classroom & School Websites
  • Recognize parent & community volunteers
  • Write articles about staff members, volunteers & students
  • Parent Handbooks
  • Twitter Feeds
  • School Facebook Page
  • Ministry Learning Management Systems
  • Telephone answering machine messages
  • And always remembering to limit educational jargon, and write communications at a 6th to 8th grade reading level

Deborah McCallum


Seeing your school as others see it.: Welcoming environment. http://www.education.ky.gov/users/OTL/Beginning_of_School_Year/Seeing%20Your%20School%20As%20Others%20See%20It.pdf

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cognitive Science: How thoughts and behaviours impact achievement and success in Education

Cognitive Science is a valid, quantifiable field that is able to help us understand a wide range of issues as they pertain to Education and Learning. The research behind Cognition has been focussed on how we think and the way we learn, and more specifically on the systematic biases in of the schemas that we hold about the ways the world works. Our biases and distortions are often the barriers to an effective education, and therefore, we need to address them within our education system.  Once we begin to recognized what those barriers are, we can engage in discussion, assessment, and appropriate intervention strategies. Intervention strategies can include effective ways for educators to begin to disrupt the thought patterns that lead to maladaptive behaviours. This is essential to help students and Teachers alike to create positive change in the education system.

Aaron T. Beck developed Cognitive Theory because of the belief that humans have the ability to evaluate their own thoughts, which in turn elicit behaviours. Thoughts certainly affect personality. Therefore, individuals must identify and change dysfunctional thoughts and maladaptive cognitive functioning, in order to improve behaviour.

The theory behind our Cognition basically posits that our cognitions (thoughts, beliefs and assumptions), will trigger our affect, behaviour and our motivation. In other words, how we feel will affect how we behave, and they will in turn have profound effects on our motivation to learn.

Self-monitoring is an excellent tool that teachers can use with students, to encourage more reflection, and metacognition skills (thinking about the way we think). Once students develop an increased awareness of their thoughts, then educators can help students engage in appropriate activity scheduling to help students actively dispute maladaptive thoughts, which will in turn affect maladaptive functioning and behaviours in the classroom.

Three cornerstones of Cognitive Theory include:

a) The necessity to recognize the ability for students to self-monitor their own thoughts and behaviour,

b) The ability for Educator(s) and students to collaboratively engage in appropriate activity scheduling, and

c) Active thought disputation.

Maladaptive behaviours basically occur because of maladaptive thoughts and reflexive responses. However, we as humans have the power to be active agents in our own development. Therefore, dysfunctional thoughts can be replaced if an individual engages in activities including deliberate thinking, goal setting, problem solving, and long term planning. With careful questioning and activities such as personalized homework assignments, Cognitive Science really helps to teach us that students can learn to use conscious control of their thoughts in order to recognize and override maladaptive behaviours and poor choices. Other specific activity scheduling strategies can include (but not limited to) Role Playing, Social Skills training, Assertiveness Training, and Talking Circles.

In addition, embedding Character Education, Community building, and a Culture of Caring within our schools is also extremely important to restoring public confidence in the education system, in addition to improving transitions from elementary to high school, and high school to higher education.

It is important for Educators to use questioning to bring about new learning by:

1) Clarifying and defining problem areas

2) Assisting in the identification of thoughts, images and assumptions

3) Examining the meanings of events for a student

4) Assessing the consequences of maintaining maladaptive thoughts and behaviours.

Cognitive Science also has the ability to inform maladaptive behaviours and thought patterns including anxiety and depression in our students. An increasing variable that we as educators are facing when educating each cohort. Cognitive Theory posits that people suffering from depression and anxiety are not consciously seeking failure in their lives, but distorting their own reality by adopting negative views of themselves, and of their potential for happiness. Another key assumption is that negative automatic thoughts are developed through everyday experiences that are perceived as negative. Activity Scheduling interventions are excellent ways to actively dispute negative thoughts and behaviours!

In Cognitive theory, we as educators can use these thoughts to serve as hypotheses that can be subject to empirical validation. Many Educators appreciate the tasks of homework assignments where students  test their own hypotheses, and can make personal observations to refute (or confirm) their hypotheses of their own thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, individuals are always active participants.


D. McCallum