Making My Connections Visual

For my mind map, I used the idea of connected learning as my starting point and branched out into four central areas presented in the readings that also connect to my teaching practice and conditions. You’ll notice that those central areas all tie back to one another. Instead of listing many specific examples, I chose instead to demonstrate the ways in which I provide or can provide connections generally.

Some aspects of my curriculum, content and instructional practices that naturally lead to making connections are:

* In Geography and History students are given the opportunity to use many forms of expression to demonstrate understanding of core concepts and therefore touch on different forms of media and oral communication, as well as writing in the process. Lock (2015) indicates that in effective learning, [s]tudents [need to] have opportunities to choose forms of expression appropriate to the task (e.g. PowerPoint, iMovie, tableau, mime, puppet show, readers theatre, drum solo, interpretative dance, debate, etc.) and to reflect on the impact of their choices.

* The social studies curriculum includes inquiry as a focus and the subject matter naturally lends itself to utilizing community to gather information, as well as working with other students to tackle bigger issues of population migration and the creation of national parks or the end of child labor in Canada. “The inquiry study originates with an issue, problem, question or exploration that provides opportunities to create or produce something that contributes to knowledge” (Lock).

Opportunities in my current practice that allow for connections to a local, national, or global community:

* Students have connected through different platforms including phone, email, guest speakers, Skype, to many local and some national agencies. Next year, I hope to take it globally. Use of inquiry and multi-modes of connecting platforms have allowed students to engage in “[e]xperiential learning [that] provides rich, authentic opportunities for students to develop the skills and knowledge associated with education and career/life planning” (Ontario Ministry of Education).

Tools used to support my students as they make connections:

* Skype/VROC (virtual researchers on call) are “[n]ew media forms…….making peer-to-peer learning easier and more natural.” (Lock) These “[c]ommunication technologies can connect students with experts, mentors, and peers anywhere in the world, providing increased opportunities for them to communicate and collaborate with others who share their interests and/ or who can support and enhance their learning.” (Ontario Ministry of Education)

* Twitter and school blog , help students to connect to one another but also other experts and allow for “parents and the larger community [to] have ongoing, online access to the study as it develops. (Lock)

Overall I believe the openness to using inquiry in my practice and my reflective nature have provided the opportunity that “[l]earning occurs in the journey students take to arrive at their intended outcomes.” (Furco)

Works Cited

Furco,A. (2010). “The community as a resource for learning: an analysis of academic service-learning in primary and secondary education”, in The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice. OECD Publishing. Paris. DOI:

Lock, J. V. (March 2015). Technology, Pedagogy and Education. Designing learning to engage students in the global classroom. Issue: 2. Volume 24. Pages: 137-153.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2016). Community-Connected Experiential Learning: A Policy Framework for Ontario Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12. Introduction / Community-connected experiential learning: Purpose, rationale, and considerations for implementation. Pages: 4-2.Toronto, ON


Designing a Connected Classroom Program 

Global Settlement Inquiry Project

Unit Plan

Following is a link to a unit plan I have developed presented on Google Slides:


The unit I decided to create relates directly to the grade 8 curriculum focusing on global settlement. After some direct instruction lessons on population patterns and growth, (and identifying some key terminology like settlement, demography, migration, economy etc.), I will provide driving open-ended provocation questions, “How does the environment affect settlements?”, “Why care about the effects of settlement?” and “Why do we need to live sustainably?” Two grade 8 classes will engage in an analysis of :

  • How physical environment affects settlement
  • Understand interrelationships between physical environment and settlement
  • Effect of climate change on settlements in future
  • Current trends in settlement
  • How settlement affects environment
  • Ways to make communities sustainable
  • Challenges to sustainability
  • Ways individuals and communities can become more sustainable

Throughout the inquiry students will connect with a variety of experts and classrooms using various technological tools.

The unit plan on Googles Slides is framed largely around Michael Fullan’s work in the Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. Focus is placed on the 6 Cs (explained in the unit plan) and how the task itself relates to those indicators. There is also a focus competency slide, in which I highlighted where I thought the unit plan was successful.

Overall, it was my intent to provide a unit of study that could effectively leverage digital while providing an experiential, interdisciplinary, project-based andservice inspired learning experience.

As David Moore has asserted, experiential learning “provides opportunities for the students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in a real world setting where they grapple with real-world problems, discover and test solutions, and interact with others.” In having students identify settlement factors around the world, it is my hope that they will uncover challenges that will allow them to effectively attempt designing real solutions to share with a global classroom and community. Vars and Beane indicate that curriculum should be organized around real-life problems and issues significant to both young people and adults andthe goal of education is for students to make sense of life experiences, learn to participate in a democracy and the way to do that is have school curricula thataddresses questions people have about themselves and their world. This unit follows the curriculum set out by the Ontario Ministry of Education and addresses a significant problem facing global citizens.

The unit is essentially divided into three parts: Research and Knowledge building, Application and Design, Communication and Globalization of Ideas. It is largely project-based, as outlined in The Work that Matters document. Students are divided into teams, learn skills of and practice collaboration, guided by their teacher and are to, “research real-world questions, pose solutions to real-world problems, and design real-world products in a rigorous way.” Students are responsible to “co-plan their learning with the support of the teacher, research the literature, and, as appropriate, meet with adult experts, build prototypes, and conduct surveys and experiments, among other learning activities, leading to the creation of a final product that answers their driving question.” In the end they must present their findings both to the classroom they have connected to on the other side of the world but also make learning public using a Wiki platform foranyone to access.

As O’Hara (2001) comments, it is knowing that one can “make a difference” that may propel students to be lifelong learners continuing their educational journey long after a course has ended. She remarks that few educational goals are more important than having students appreciate the extent to which the topics they study are relevant to their lives and to the lives of others (O’Hara, 2001).

As iterated in Community-Connected Experiential Learning: A Policy Framework for Ontario Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12, we understand communication technologies can connect students with persons anywhere in the world, providing increased opportunities to communicate and collaborate with others who can support and enhance their learning, helping students see the relevance of what they are learning by connecting it to the world beyond the school.

Leveraging digital is essential for deep learning and my choices in technology reflect the ability for the tools to be used in a transformational, authentic and goal-directed way.  As the TIM matrix suggests “to facilitate higher order learning activities that would not otherwise have been possible, or would have been difficult to accomplish without the use of technology” and ” link learning activities to the world beyond the instructional setting” where “technology is used to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results.” Oher considerations include; availability, familiarity, cost (free) and trying something new as well.The following is a list of technological tools with a brief description of purpose in brackets.

  • Google Slides/Docs/Maps/Forms (collaboration/presentation/survey)
  • Skype Classroom (global connection for planning/research/communication/collaboration)
  • Classroom blog (for after-school and weekend communication)
  • Mindomo (brainstorm collaborative tool)
  • Green screen App. (to enhance communication/presentation)
  • iMovie presentations (create videos for presentation/communication of ideas)
  • Web page using Weebly/Wordpress (to provide global platform to share solutions)
  • Twitter (for sharing progress with local and global community, reaching out to professionals, using hashtags to build community and recording guest speakers)

My choice of subject matter reflects my desire to become more familiar with a new curriculum to me this year, in grade 8 geography. The approach of using a project-based inquiry format is familiar and one I have been seeking to further develop. This unit, unlike others I have previously designed, seeks to become global, using some new technology or technology in a new way (Skype classroom, Mindomo), to include community (parents) and global (classrooms connect with) partners in the research and design planning process. “[U]nless experiences outside the classroom are brought into the classroom and integrated with the goals and objectives of the discipline theory, students will continue to have amazing outside experiences but will not readily connect them to their in-class learning…. Without a careful curriculum involving structured, reflective skill building, students may never learn what we hope they will outside the four walls of the classroom” (Qualters, Donna 2010)

Works Cited

Beane, J. (1991). The middle school: The natural home of integrated curriculum. Educational Leadership, 49(2), 9–13.

(2010). Creating quality integrated and interdisciplinary arts programs: Report of the arts education partnership national forum from ArtsSmarts.

Fullan, Michael and Maria Langworthy (2014). A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. Pearson. Support of ISTE, MaRS and Nesta.

(2012) Work that Matters: The Teacher’s Guide to Project-based Learning from,’s%20Guide%20to%20Project-based%20Learning.pdf

Moore, David from, ttps://

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2016). Community-Connected Experiential Learning: A Policy Framework for Ontario Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12. Introduction / Community-connected experiential learning: Purpose, rationale, and considerations for implementation. Pages: 4-2.Toronto, ON.

O’Hara, L. S. (2001) ‘Service-learning: Students’ transformative journey from communication student to Civic-minded professional’, Southern Communication Journal, 66: 3, 251 — 266.

Qualter, Donna. (Dec. 8, 2010). Experiential Education: Making the Most of Learning Outside the Classroom: New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Number 124.

Vars & Beane from,