Virtual School Meanderings

November 5, 2015

BIT 2015 – When Virtual Resources Meet Virtual Learning

The sixth session that I am blogging at the Bring IT Together 2015 conference is:

When Virtual Resources Meet Virtual Learning

by Donna Millard

The HWDSB System Learning Commons has worked collaboratively with the 21st Century Learning Consultants to provide access and promote use of the myriad of virtual resources the board subscribes to. Using the provincial elearning platform and Media Core, access to the Virtual Library is being exploited to the max. Come see what we have accomplished, what trials we had along the way and successes we have seen.

Become familiar with one venue for virtual resources for student inquiry.
See how D2L can be utilized to provide appropriate access to resources.
See how Media Core provides streaming video access with links to D2.

As I’m scheduled at the same time as one that I am presenting in, I just wanted to pass along the session information.

BIT 2015 – Blended @ Navigate: Our Journey in Disruptive Innovation

The fourth session that I am blogging at the Bring IT Together 2015 conference is:

Blended @ Navigate: Our Journey in Disruptive Innovation

by Jeff Stewart

For the past few years, Navigate – one of British Columbia’s largest distributed learning schools – has been implementing a series of innovative new blended learning programs that are blurring the distinction between online and traditional instruction and receiving international acclaim for their work (CANeLearn & iNACOL). The eCademy of New Technologies, Engineering and Robotics(ENTER and ENTER 2), the Fine Arts eCademy (FAE), Secondary iClass, and Independent Learning Centres all act as innovations that are disruptive and challenging to the accepted norms of learning and instructional delivery. In this interactive session, participants will discuss and share their insights and reflections on blended learning, and its future as educational mainstream in any K-12 jurisdiction.

Article/Video Links :
CANeLEARN iNACOL Announcement

BCPVPA Adminfo Article (Feb. 2015 Pages 4-8)…

Blended @ Navigate: Our Journey In Disruptive Innovation…

ENTER & E2: 21st Century Learning

FIne Arts eCademy: Fesitval of Colour
Festival of Colour Performance

Jeff began with a bit of an overview of the regulatory system in British Columbia to contextualize it for the primarily Ontario-based audience (and you can see this regulatory regime at

One of the interesting aspects of education today, particularly technology and innovation in education today, is that it seems that the main driver of change within the system these days are students.  And change is good, but within education we often want others to go first because of all of the possible risks associated with being the first over (or through) the wall.

Jeff then described some of the different programs that they run:

One of the interesting statistics that Jeff shared (and Randy shared it in the previous session).  In 2013 within British Columbia, if a student has taken at least one course through distributed learning there is an 89.9% six year graduation rate (i.e., 8-12, plus one year).  Whereas, there is an 85.3% six year graduation rate for students that have not taken a distributed learning course.

BIT 2015 – Flexible Learning Western Style: Emerging Models Integrating Distributed/Distance Learning in BC & Alberta

The third session that I am blogging at the Bring IT Together 2015 conference is:

Flexible Learning Western Style: Emerging Models Integrating Distributed/Distance Learning in BC & Alberta

by Randy LaBonte

Join this discussion session and learn how BC and Alberta schools are moving beyond tech to using design principles to influence Blended Learning for online and classroom-based instruction. Randy will share how BC and Alberta schools and districts are organizing for flexible and personal learning opportunities in middle and secondary schools, all while maximizing learning resources and enhancing teachers’ tech skills.

Bring your own Blended Learning projects to discuss, share and dissect. Let’s share our successes to date and determine how best to design great Blended Learning opportunities for students.

Specific outcomes of this session include:
• Awareness of specific emerging blended models in BC and Alberta;
• Understanding of policy and funding implications inherent in various models; and
• How re-characterizing the “Carnegie Unit” opens new opportunities for flexible and engaging learning approaches.

Randy began his session with an overview of the Canadian eLearning Network – see for more information.  He then asked the participants what they wanted to get out of the session, so he could tailor his comments to their specific needs.  He then referenced the State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada report (see for more information).

The substance of his presentation was fairly consistent with the presentation he gave at PTDEA (see

Looking at the Alberta context, he describe a bit of what was happening at the movement – with the range of diversity of programs that occur, and the lack of guidance/support from the Ministry.  He also talked a little about the background to how much of this got started, focusing a bit on SuperNet.  At present, there is a great deal of Google use, as well as Moodle.  There are also two growing movements – one focused around high school flex options and the other around blended learning (see

Turning his attention to British Columbia, there was a policy shift in British Columbia to move from the nine regional distributed learning schools to an open course policy model – which allowed the funding to follow the student based on where the student enrolled for that course.  This open course model allowed for enrollment in distributed learning to grow significantly.  As one BC example that Randy focused on was the Navigate program (see

Some emerging observations that Randy did focus on, included:

  1. Blended and online practice are blurring – it is more about learning within flexible structures.
  2. Transition from online to blended more difficult than from classroom to blended/online.
  3. Personalization and flexibility are the critical drivers (often based on policy, or a lack thereof).
  4. First Nations seem to have a greater collaborative and broader focus.
  5. Research focus on better data and exploring pockets of innovation.

Randy finished his session with a conversation about about 10-15 minutes of chatting with the attendees.

You can view Randy’s slides at:

BIT 2015 – Innovation Station: e-Learning program TDSB

The second session that I am blogging at the Bring IT Together 2015 conference is:

Innovation Station: e-Learning program TDSB

by Zorica Prekajski

e-Learning program at TDSB is growing rapidly. We would like to share what we have learned on this journey and how do we support our e-Learning teachers and students.

Innovation Stations are found in the Learning Hall along side the dining area. These stations are a trade show of innovative classroom ideas. Innovation Stations are scheduled for Thursday or Friday 12:00 – 1:00 pm, or during the social on Thursday 5:00 – 6:00 pm.

This was an Innovation Session, which is a fancy way of saying it was like a traditional science fair kind of model.  I took a picture of their display.


There was also a brochure, and I took a couple of pictures of that too.



BIT 2015 – eLearning Can Be Awesome!

So today and tomorrow I am attending the Bring IT Together 2015 conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  While this is a general educational technology conference, with a provincial focus here on Ontario, I did want to blog some of the online and blended learning sessions.

The first session that I am blogging is:

eLearning Can Be Awesome!

by Tim Robinson and Peter Anello

You’re an eLearning teacher, you’re getting more comfortable with using an LMS with your students, but you’re feeling that the course isn’t as engaging as you’d like it to be. You feel a strong desire to take your eLearning teaching skills to the next level so that your eLearning courses can be an amazing learning experience for your students. This session will help by sharing seven key ideas to improving your eLearning practice, as well as providing an opportunity for eLearning teachers to share their insights and discoveries with each other.

This session was presented by Tim Robinson, someone who was one of the district eLearning specialists in Northern Ontario.

At the beginning of his session, he reminded us that great elearning teachers are not born…  Teaching in an elearning environment is something that needs to be practiced, worked on, and can be developed over time.

The other point he wanted up front was that elearning began as a way to solve logistical needs (e.g., how do we get certain courses for certain students).  But now it is a far more potentially powerful way to address unique student needs.

He focused his session around 7 ways to improve your elearning teaching.

  1. Believe that elearning can be awesome.  Basically, teachers need to believe that elearning is a positive way for students to learn – as opposed to approaching it as a necessity or something that is a last resort.
  2. Build, foster, create, and encourage community.  While this is important in any educational context, within the elearning environment it is critical – maybe even more important than the content itself.  Tim referenced a quote from Garrison about the importance of social presence.  In order to accomplish this community, elearning teachers MUST humanize themselves (including not being so serious all of the time).  Humanizing one’s self as a teacher, also models it for the students on how they can project their own social presence.  One strategy for doing this is to keep a file on student interests.  Another strategy is to notice which students don’t participate in the early – more social – kinds of activities, as this is usually a warning sign that students might not engage in elearning.  While collaboration can be more challenging in an elearning environment, it does foster greater learning through social constructivism.  Finally, remember that the human dynamics are still present in the elearning environment, they’re just harder for teachers to pick up on. [Note that the length of notes on this one is due to the fact that Tim spent over twenty minutes on this one.]
  3. Take control of your content.  In Ontario, most of the teachers are using elearning content that is provided to them by eLearning Ontario.  So elearning teachers need to take control of how students interact with this canned content to personalize it (and not personalize in the US, neo-liberal sense), but elearning teachers can edit the canned content, have students spend more or less time on each portion of the content based on their content expertise (in much the same way that teachers traditionally use more or less of the textbook based on what they know about the course), etc..
    [Note that he also spent eight minutes on this one, meaning Tim only had eight minutes for the final four points.]
  4. Center learning on students.  While the LMS can be limiting and the content is often canned, it is important to give students some control over their learning.  One strategy for accomplishing this is to allow students to design their own assessment that meets the same objectives/requirements of the rubric.  Another strategy is to get feedback from students.
  5. Create your own digital classroom space.  The idea behind this is that the structure – and clunkiness if you will – disappears and the learning environment is seamless or intuitive.  LMSes often limit this, but the more you can try this, the better. One strategy to use is to incorporate more whitespace in the page, (i.e., not to clutter things up).  Basically, does the text or image or learning object add to the understanding or use of the content.
  6. Try these tips.  This was where he basically asked the audience for additional tips – but there was no time for this.
  7. Connect with other elearning teachers.  Essentially, network and build a community of others who are doing what you are doing.

This was basically it…

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