The Innovation Train

Everyone get on the innovation train. I think it’s like a lot of things in life. You find yourself following the same routine…it can be the trap of school. Many of us attend the same building, follow the same timetable and see the same students throughout a year.   Maybe it’s a situation where it’s not just for a year but years…the same building, same timetable and/or teachable subjects. There is the strong built-in possibility for repetition. This is routine in the bad sense of the word. Innovation, I see as a practice of revisiting what we’ve already done without hopefully having to totally reinvent the wheel. The word that keeps coming up for me is mindfulness: Am I paying attention to good teaching practices? Are my students being empowered (I might have said engaged before but I recognize now the distinction between engagement and empowerment)? Is my classroom a place that students don’t look forward to going to? The question is about mindfulness, but innovation is the answer—at least in part.

I still have questions, notably about the diversity of learners in my classes and how to address their needs justly. But I’m now on this train with a lot of others who are along for the journey, hoping to pick up as many as we can along the way, able to figure out together the answers to as many challenges as we might encounter to innovation (and to good teaching practice, student empowerment, positive student attitude, etc.) along the way.

Russ Skinner

Grant Park High School

Cluster 1996

My Love Affair with Twitter

6 months ago I hated twitter… I have resisted it’s appeal for 99% of its 10 year existence. ( by the way, Happy 10th birthday Twitter!) The French song by Stromae- Carmen, summed up my criticism nicely.

I now realize that the song recounts the pitfalls of an uninformed approach to twitter,and certainly the dangers of an unguided use of any social media platform. Much like the song suggests, I thought it was an unhealthy tool for shameless self-promotion,used by the famous, to become more famous and the rich to become richer… I scoffed at it’s educational potential. I believed it caused its users to base their self worth and importance on their number of followers and that it reduced life to a popularity contest. I now realize it was a superficial understanding and that it has a much larger potential.

Several years ago, after hearing several colleagues jump onto the bandwagon, I decided to check it out. I created an account, I followed a few people and several news outlets. At first it was lackluster on my end, but I thought it was an interesting way to get real time news updates. I appreciated that it allowed for access to social movements such as the Arab Spring, the Idle No More movement and real time access to critical news such as social protests and natural disasters happening around the world. I never posted anything and used it only to consume news. It was great for that, I thought, but not much else. 140 characters allows for very little.

During previous professional developments I could not be sold on the idea of Twitter, and continued my criticism and fight against social media in general. A fight I was sure to lose. My students would not choose my methods of learning over theirs. Earlier this year, after reading and hearing George Couros extol the virtues of Twitter, I decided to invest some time, improve my profile and get to networking. At the very least, I thought it would help me understand my enemy.  

Investing time in Twitter caused a veil to be lifted from my eyes. A new world and a new language appeared before me.  I realized that many of the elements of technological literacy used by my junior high school students were a part of Twitter. From hashtags to embedded codes, from net citizenship to networking, from SMS to apps, Twitter summed up the framework for this new language; the language of social media.

Having had my head in the sand for so long, it was a steep learning curve but one that has helped me love and get excited about teaching and connecting with students again. One that has allowed me to share, encourage, ask questions, find inspiration and perhaps inspire. One that has allowed me to reconnect with students at a time where I thought humanity was doomed.

It took George Couros to show me the positive side of Twitter. His advice allowed me to maximize and enhance the use of my smartphone all the while interacting with students through this powerful device and creating genuinely engaging teachable moments about digital footprints and online ethics. I couldn’t believe I had only been using my smartphone to send the odd text message for all these years!

To learn about Twitter was to become more technologically literate at the least. At best, it summed up and made use of the most recent and important developments in social media and technology from the past 10 years. It allowed me to speak and experiment with this new language. It also meant free professional development anytime, anywhere. The upside seemed appetizing, so I dug in.

The criticism of Twitter is still strong among my colleagues, but I now I believe resistance is futile. We can struggle against it, or we can embrace the change. While living as a monk in Thailand, I was told that when facing the winds of change, it was better to bend like a flexible blade of grass then to stand rigid as a tall tree in the field of life, as the tree could too easily break or be uprooted. In this instance, in this battle, I felt the wind pulling at my roots. I now choose to be flexible. My focus has changed from opposer to embracer.  

As a teacher in 2016, in a globalized world, one where communication takes place as much online as it does offline, perhaps increasingly the former, Twitter has become a force to be reckoned with. And I now stand ready for the reckoning. The wave is washing ashore, our students were born in an era of high speed internet, smartphones and speaking a language and using tools that were becoming unfamiliar to me. Their future will involve this language whether I speak it or not, whether I like it or not.

Furthering my interest in this phenomenon, I followed a student’s invitation to join Instagram. Much like Twitter, it has been a big eye opener as well. I have seen it live as a kind of Jr. Twitter. Or a Twitter for kids. Its format is simpler, and perhaps focuses on photography and visual arts which adds to its appeal for younger users. Both platforms have allowed me to reconnect with students, on a level I did not think possible.  It has shrunk the generation gap that I was experiencing years before. It has given me a voice with younger learners and I do not regret moving towards this integration. School can be cool and fun and new and enticing again. Even at my age. All you need is a smartphone. Students love teaching me how to use it.

During our last session with George Couros, I was excited to see that many concepts I had learned through Twitter would be transferable and would integrate nicely with another love of mine:  blogs….

The learning continues…

And in the words of my favorite rapper:“Le combat continue….”

Thank you George.    Thank you #winnipegsdItll.    Thank you Twitter.

M Stéphane Gautron

Enseignant – École Sacré-Coeur

cluster 1965

Innovation in the Classroom

Over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about innovation and what that looks like in a classroom.  Initially, when I was invited to attend the ITLL meetings and realized what this acronym stood for, I thought someone must have made a mistake asking me to participate. Why would a teacher like me, who often assigns students to assist with classroom technology, be a good technology leader?  It wasn’t until George Curous made the comment “teachers  don’t have to be experts at everything” which made me realize that it’s okay to learn from my students.  In fact, when I reflect back on my 15 years of teaching , it has most definitely been the experiences with my students that I have been most insightful and taught me more about teaching.  My students have taught me that not everybody learns the same way and I have to give them the opportunities to learn the way that benefits them the most.  I’ve also learned that developing relationships with my students better helps me identify and understand their needs.

Another question that has really resonated is whether my children or I would want to be in my class? After thinking about this, I reflected on my school experiences and about the kind of teachers that made a positive impact on me as a learner and a person.  There are two teachers that I recall influencing my learning, and it was mainly due to how they took genuine interest in connecting with me and encouraged me to strive to achieve my best, which demonstrated their belief in my abilities. These teachers were also innovative and attempted to connect the classroom objectives to real life. In one of the classrooms, I recall learning about community by creating our own classroom town. This was almost 29 years ago, but it’s one of the few classroom experiences I remember enjoying and learning from.

I believe that throughout my career, I have discovered some innovative ways to connect with and teach my students, however, the last few months of professional development, collaboration and reflection has encouraged me to view things from a different perspective.  It has also made me think about what type of classroom experiences I would want for my own children. Overall, I want them to be excited to learn, engaged in their learning and empowered to voice their opinions and ask questions.  I look forward to learning and implementing new and innovative ideas to move myself and students forward.

Carrie Brown

Literacy Support Teacher

Dufferin School

It’s Better Late than Never…

Just like this entry (a little late)…Innovation may come much later in a teacher’s day-to-day practice. Although there are, of course, many teachers who are innovative, there is always room for growth. As educators, we are always learning; and as learners we need to apply new things to facilitate and engage our minds to new horizons.

Upon sharing my learning with other colleagues, many of them have asked, “Does innovation mean technology?” The answer is no. George Couros says it best, stating that “Technology can accelerate or amplify innovation, but the technology is not the innovation. The thinking is.”

Yes, technology can help the learning process and yes, it is definitely a helpful tool, but innovation is the journey we take to get to the results. Answers to the hows and whys are beneficial to the learning process, which I believe, fosters growth.

Recently, I’ve shared a short Ted-Talk video clip with our staff members at one of our lunch and learn meetings about “Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders” by Kayla Delzer. This short, yet inspiring clip, shared several inspirational insights into her world of teaching and values. “What is right for kids, is right.”  And she is RIGHT.  Our students, our kids, live in the 21st century…we must teach like we are too. We need to adapt, create, integrate, communicate, differentiate, engage, motivate, inspire, construct, and collaborate.

…and Twitter might just be a starting point.

I’ll admit, joining the Twitter world was quite daunting…didn’t crack the egg until a month or so after joining…but it was a starting point. And from there I’ve learned a lot.

I wouldn’t have found this video if it wasn’t for Twitter. I probably wouldn’t have tried SeeSaw, Quizizz or EDPuzzle if it wasn’t for Twitter either. I’ve explored hashtags and currently follow inspiring people that provide a mini-PD session at my fingertips.  Social media is not going away, so let’s learn to work with it and teach our students about digital citizenship where they can create a positive (and significant) digital footprint.…before it’s too late. 

Maria Manzano,

Grade 5/6 Teacher,
Dufferin School,
Cluster 2010

My Favourite Digital Tools

Josh Winestock, Tyndall Park, Cluster 1871
In my last post I mentioned that as a millennial I am quick to adopt any tool regardless of whether it meets any personal or educational outcomes. I am the one who searches for ‘lifehacks’. Most of these tools, apps, and technologies come and go, but some remain useful to me everyday. Here is a list that I have found helpful. In some cases, the connection to education may be a bit loose, but in making my life easier/more organized/flow better, these tools help me focus on my most important instructional goals.

Evernote, a cloud-based note-taking application, is where I store EVERYTHING from my life. It flexibly works with different formats and filetypes, and it synchronizes across platforms. In it I store resources, assessments, sheet music, music files, business cards, presentations, media and lesson plans. You can search for notes by any contained text, and email documents to the program using an Evernote-specific email address (E.g.

A few ways it has helped me teach:
​-Until it’s time to print and distribute, all of my resources are paperless.
​-I can play media files straight from the application (including those I needed throughout the winter concert).
​-It stores my report card comment bank.
​-All of my blog subscriptions (including My ITLL Blog) are sent to my evernote email address, keeping my real inbox clear.
– For our drama performance THIS week, a colleague of mine created a note where she placed music files throughout the script so she could easily read the script and launch the music at the same time.
I recommend partnering Evernote with Scannable – a high quality scanner for your phone.

Followupthen (
Followupthen is an email reminder program that lets you send reminder emails to yourself or someone else at specified times. Sending an email to the address will bring the email back to you on Thursday. will bring a recurring email back to you at 7am every workday.
How I used this application: Our school sends out a weekly bulletin for staff called Monday morning jazz. The optimal time for me to read it is every morning at 8:45am. I don’t want to print it or leave it in inbox where I will forget it, so I send it to the email address

Microsoft Sway (
I was introduced to this presentation application when the WSD sent out an email newsletter using it in September or October. Sway is a highly intuitive online presentation application (similar to Prezi). Teachers can create lesson plans online for students to access at home. Students can create presentations at home and link them to their teachers. In addition to lesson plans, I use Sway to hold all of my choir lyrics (

Planboard (
I haven’t been using this application much in the past school year. This application, created by, is an online planning notebook. You can include links and media throughout your lesson plan. Chalk also hosts Markboard, a site to record classroom assessments.

Other applications I find helpful:
1. Say it Mail it (iPhone) – take audio notes and immediately mail it to yourself or (bonus points) to your Evernote account.
2. The Email game (online) – quickly move through email.
3. Workflow (iphone/ipad) – Create apps within this app.
4. WolframAlpha (everywhere)- Find and compare anything quantifiable on the internet.
5. Substitute Alert (iPhone)- Notifications to your phone for Aesop jobs (for all the substitute teachers out there).
6. Duolingo (everywhere)- Language learning app.
7. Dropbox (everywhere) – Filesharing
8. Figure by Propellerhead (iPhone/Ipad) – Music fun!
9. Quick Graph – my favourite graphing app

Josh Winestock
Music/Math Support
Tyndall Park School

One Step at a Time

For the last month I have procrastinated writing this blog post. To be completely honest it scares me. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I miss a typo? What if I say something and it’s misinterpreted? These thoughts, as well as about fifty other “what ifs”, left me feeling very anxious about this post. I had the same feeling of dread about Twitter a month ago.  One of the first posts I saw when I opened my Twitter account was a retweet by Shauna Cornwell of something George Couros said, “when it comes to being innovative- to start…change one thing, not everything”. When I read that, all of the sudden Twitter became a lot less overwhelming. It reminded me that I don’t need to master Twitter overnight nor would anyone expect that. I decided I would start by opening Twitter and doing at least one tweet or retweet everyday. It’s been a few weeks since then and I have to admit that Twitter has grown on me. It’s a great way to network with others and I’m being exposed to things that I never even knew existed like “Genius Hour”. I’m so glad that I did not let my fear paralyze me because I would’ve missed out on a lot of great learning.

As I read and reread the last paragraph to make sure I haven’t accidently written any obscenities I am reminded of advice that my support teacher gave me in my first year of teaching –jump in and thrash around. I have used that mantra with so many things, like trying play based learning and as long as I take the time to reflect afterwards it never fails me. As I think about what having an innovators mindset is I have realized that being willing to “jump in and thrash around” is the first step.


Carrie Wood

Gr.1/2/3 Multi-Age Teacher

John M. King School

ITLL Blog Post

Sigh.  I’ve had a really hard time writing this blog post.  And I can’t truly say why.  If you meet me in person I am not shy to speak my mind nor am I afraid of asking questions or admitting what I don’t understand.  But for some reason I have started four ‘posts’ that I feel unsatisfied with and later discard before sending them on to Shauna.

Why is this so hard for me!?!

I guess part of what I am struggling with is my own indecisive reaction to our PD.  At times I feel that what I do and the practices I use really align with the Innovators Mindset.  Inquiry based learning, AFL, student centred practices, collaborative teaching, reflection (for myself and students), technologically infused instruction and more permeate my planning and teaching.  Does all of it happen all day every day?  Well no.  But my decisions as an educator are planned and based with all of the above in mind.

One thing that I have heard and learned and felt reaffirmed about is the need to constantly be striving to do more and do better as a teacher.  My personal philosophy values trying new things and challenging myself and my students in a variety of ways.  I have a hard time when I meet a colleague that teaches the same content the same way every year.

But I also recoil at the idea of creating a ‘digital footprint’.  Try googling me… there isn’t much out there and that is the way I like it.  I feel that most social media is a black hole and I am not convinced that the benefits of creating a social network online are worth the loss of privacy and the need to constantly (CONSTANTLY) live my life through the lens of being a teacher.  In the same way that I am a mom, and I will always be a mom, it is not the only way to define my existence.  Furthermore, I don’t think that the lack of a ‘digital footprint’ should impact my qualifications as a conscientious and innovative educator.  While others are tweeting and blogging to improve their practice I may be reading or researching.  I may be speaking with my colleagues and peers or simply reflecting on what has and has not worked.  Information found online is not necessarily any better or worse than information found elsewhere.  Difference is simply difference.

Having said all this I wish to stress that I really value the conflict and thought that has been inspired by the PD provided by WSD and George Couros.  Anytime that I am (and we as teachers are) asked to think critically about purpose and methodology is a good thing.  I believe it is what keeps me inspired and innovative, I think it is integral to providing best practices in my classroom.  However, as a free thinking, well-educated and opinionated person I guess it is my right to adopt what I choose from the learning experiences provided to me.  What I take from this has been and will be positive, I’m just not sure what it will look like.

Jilll Joanette
Grade 2/3 Teacher
Principal Sparling School
Cluster 2010

My ITLL Reflection, Cluster 1871, Tyndall Park School

I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to take part in the Innovator’s Mindset workshops over the course of this year. I appreciate the change to invest in my own learning, and, as a new teacher, I feel that I am being invested in.

One idea that most resonated with me while reading The Innovator’s Mindset was that of the growth mindset vs fixed mindset. I believe that this attitude, when adopted by student’s and staff, has the greatest leverage in supporting other positive behaviours. Those who think with this lens are more likely to exercise the grit and perseverance when any challenges show up.

“What gets measured gets managed” – Peter Drucker

As we explore the use of the technology throughout this learning experience, I am interested in how we use it to enhance assessment. This year, Tyndall Park school has introduced the program Manga High (, an online educational tool, in our grade 3 and 4 math program. I find it most helpful that through this program provides detailed feedback on each student every class. Without having to create an assessment, I can search the program to see how the students are doing with each module. This is so valuable as it gives us the ability to track student progress at a whole new level. I feel I am more effective in planning lessons as a result.

My one concern I have with my relationship with technology is that I often am quick to use tools without any idea of the outcome I want to achieve. George’s diagram in the The Innovators Mindset that showed the good and better reasons to use technology illustrated this point well. Being the millennial I am, I find myself incorporating new tools, apps, and technologies into my life, even when its not necessary.

Looking forward to continuing our ITLL sessions!

Josh Winestock
Music/Math Support
Tyndall Park School

Every Bit of Knowledge Counts

My class has just finished just about three months of intensive work on their Explora Vision Project and Science Fair Projects. These are inquiry based projects driven by the students’ curiosity over the topic of their choice, and as well by the desire to aim at a calibre of work that meets the competition level criteria. As these are projects that required an application of all the skills the students may have or are yet to learn as of this point, there was definitely a range of skills and learning needs that needed to be met and scaffolded for each individual student. Among the skills called for were: skills in applying reading strategies (such as visualization, making connections, questioning, analyzing, evaluating and summarizing), skills in effectively writing a report or a persuasive piece, skills in the use of technology to research and to present information, skills in organizing tasks and time, and skills in orally presenting to an audience. Indeed, with the immensity of the task and skill set demanded, but with not enough time to spend in conferencing one to one with each student, as a teacher, I knew I needed to pull out not just my strategies as a teacher that I’ve always tried, I would also need to innovate my teaching. I needed to learn to tap on the power and ease technology can offer to meet at least some of the tasks we needed to do.
Knowing just the basic so far in using technology, I knew, I could at least tap on its potential to make our task efficient. Thus, I emailed students both as a class and individually, tasks, schedules, reminders, or feedback about their work so far. We’ve communicated by email even through weekends, after school hours, or even during the Spring Break! In the classroom, I noticed that even students in the same group have also started using email to communicate their share of work to each other. It saved us so much time, as well as maximized the time we have for enhancing the depth of our research and quality of our work. Having spent so much time browsing the online resources, students have had the chance to access tons of information in print, images and video format. They have also discovered how to locate scholarly articles if they are looking for Scientific Studies done so far on their topic!
What I realized? Every bit of knowledge counts… it is not to be underestimated. Something as simple as an email could be a powerful tool to make the task efficient and meaningful.

By Melinda Severa
Prairie Rose School


I must be honest, I was apprehensive when George Couros encouraged us all—primary teachers and up, to use Twitter. I myself did not have a Twitter account, nor did I think that it would be an appropriate tool to use in my classroom. I was mistaken. I have always been keen to use technology in my Grade 1 classroom, and have used various forms of it throughout my career—from creating digital portfolios, claymation, movies, readers theatre, interactive games, etc… however, I had never thought about getting my students to Tweet. After our Innovative Teaching day, I left feeling refreshed and eager to try something new. I have started to talk with my students and their families about what Tweeting would look like in our class and have received positive feedback, thoughts, and ideas from them. I hope to partner with an older grade to get us started (probably more for me than my kiddies!) and will progressively build on that.
​A colleague and I were also inspired by a video that we saw at the PD and have spoken about creating a similar type of video with our own students, teaming grade 1s with grade 5/6s.
​In my classroom, we are currently working on a cultural identity project which has my students connecting with family here and in the Philippines and India. We are using our families as references and translators to create a multi-lingual book to help us and others recognize and be proud/positive about who we are, our identity, language, and culture. Students have used digital cameras, email, videos, journals, and multimedia to help us build and create this on-going project.
​Now, I am still new to Twitter and have to remind myself to use it, and when I do use it I spend way more time than I really should thinking about what and how to say something, but I am no longer weary of it and can see what the advantages are to using it.

Amanda Borton

Grade 1 Teacher

Tyndall Park Community School