• Fair Chance Learning

My Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) Journey of Partnership

My new learning began in November 2017 with the approval of my second Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) Ministry grant for the 2018-2019 school year. The project involved professional development through a co-learning model where students and teachers learned together about using technology as a vehicle for integrating innovation with the mathematics curriculum. One of the most exciting parts of the new TLLP was that at the end of the day the learning could continue because the technology would be left at the school for a month. During this time with the technology, teachers and students could participate in engaging and empowering activities by taking risks, exploring collaboratively, and sharing learning with peers.

Prior to my TLLP I had the opportunity to develop a partnership with the InkSmith team (Jeremy Hedges and Doug Braden). I learned about design thinking, integrating 3D printing, and how to leverage this into the mathematics curriculum. At this time, Inksmith was at the early stages of developing the K8 Robotics Kit. My grade four students spent time putting together K8 and provided feedback on the assembly instructions and coding. This partnership was my first introduction to micro:bits and provided the inspiration for the TLLP.

In May 2018 my TLLP partner Justyna Knopinsksa and I participated in a professional development workshop offered by Code to Learn and Taking It Global. The first day was filled with learning about Microworlds, led by Peter Skillen and Brenda Sherry, where we connected virtually with another group participating in the same workshop. What a learning experience! The second day came with a surprise when Martha and Dustin Jez from Fair Chance Learning wowed the crowd with a “micro:bit kit for you, and you, and you….” We spent the day learning about the power of micro:bits and created our own step counter. Justyna and I were convinced that micro:bit was the tool to introduce to our schools as a vehicle for deepening learning in mathematics; this learning experience helped us finalize our technology choices of micro:bits, Spheros, and 3D printing for the TLLP.

The learning and partnerships continued as a conversation with Doug Braden from InkSmith led to a virtual introduction to Andrew McDonald from Kids Code Jeunesse. After sharing the outline of our TLLP, and the impact that we were having on our Waterloo Catholic District School Board schools, Andrew was interested; Kids Code Jeunesse provided us with resources that complimented our presentations and provided participating schools with micro:bits that they could keep beyond the initial one month plan.

It is through these connections and true partnerships made with passionate people and organizations that the TLLP learning continued to thrive beyond its initial scope. The thing about partnerships is that one leads to another as our eyes are opened to the potential for transformation; when partners share an understanding of the importance of students learning code and developing global competencies for solving complex problems learners benefit.

In June 2018, just as I thought we were set in our TLLP, I was at a WCDSB Innovation meeting where we heard from Dr. Julie Mueller, Associate Dean and Professor in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, about her research into computational thinking. From this, another partnership was born; Julie and her research team joined us to spend time in our schools conducting computational thinking research with participants. Beyond our TLLP we have continued to leverage this partnership to co-lead, with TLLP participants, computational thinking workshops for teacher education candidates and in-service teachers that focus on integrating micro:bits into the primary, junior, and intermediate divisions.

Over the past few years my students, educators I have worked with, and I have all benefited from partnerships. I want to take this opportunity to thank Code to Learn, Taking it Global, InkSmith, Kids Code Jeunesse, Peter Skillen, Brenda Sherry, and Dr. Julie Mueller for supporting ongoing learning and access to technology; without these types of partnerships, the educational experiences for all of us would be less.

About the Author:

Michael Leonard is an Experiential Learning & Innovation Lead with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.