Wednesday, September 9, 2009

TLLP Final Report

I thought I would post this here so it is available to share. Sorry it’s a bit long, a three-page document in Word. Our blog site explains about TLLP and contains all of the posts from the year including student work and teacher reflections.


(Each section below is in response to a question on a hard copy form. It was not available to complete online. Please visit our TLLP project blog at

Anne Shillolo

Land of Lakes Senior Public School
92 Ontario Street, Burk’s Falls, ON P0A 1Y0

Near North District School Board


Our project planned to address both student learning and teacher learning and leadership. The original plan was weighted more towards student achievement, but as the study progressed the balance edged towards educators. Here are a few of our key goals: to facilitate student success and enthusiasm by using instructional strategies which connect to the student’s media-immersed lives, with a focus on blogging; to broaden teachers’ professional knowledge of technology and its uses in the classroom; to improve teaching practice, personal growth and confidence in use of technology. We felt that we became leaders within our board, as the first school staff to implement the broad use of blogs in the classroom.

Yes, we met our goals. Students were engaged by frequent blogging and further new activities such as wikis. Team members learned all aspects of blogging (site design, post, comment, moderation), increased comfort level with IT and the instruction of technology, experienced an overall increase in IT knowledge, integrated IT with a range of subject areas, and conducted outreach in our school and board to increase the involvement of other teachers with IT. Measures that we used included: reflective blogging by TLLP team members as well as students and parents, feedback forms at PD presentations, visitors to our blog and comments from outside our small school community, and “before and after” surveys about the team’s IT attitudes and comfort levels. Two team members went beyond the TLLP blog to create classroom blogs. As the team became known as “friendly experts,” we were consulted by teachers outside our school. One incorporated our ideas into an ABQ course. At our local high school, a guidance and special education teacher facilitated student blogging about transition topics.

The public: media coverage via features in our local paper and on CTV. Throughout our board: team members led half-day blogging workshops during the February PD day in the three areas of our board (North Bay, Parry Sound, South River). We also presented to all high school English teachers and to IT coordinators in December. Our staff: we sponsored a half-day workshop on podcasting, to extend teachers’ IT expertise. We also invited the Intermediate teachers from other schools in our district. Parents: newsletter home, IT Open House with opportunity for parents to blog along with their children, classroom blog sites including homework help links for French Immersion students and families. Our students: in many classes all year, led by team members as well as other enthusiastic staff. Our team: via our essential monthly meetings. Online: the WeBlog site at .

Our team experienced the most value from our monthly meetings, which we describe as “regular, face-to-face, funded PD.” Each meeting included a blogging activity, introductions to new applications, professional reading, as well as the study activities. This led to a learning curve that was steep and fast, as well as positive spin-offs. As one member said, “Once you’re driving tech, you’re driving that whole bandwagon.” Our school saw sharply increased use of educational blogs, online learning resources, wikis, SmartBoards, personal blogs and more. Other teachers enjoyed seeing how easy it was to learn about blogging, and hearing our story. They provided detailed, written feedback to us at events, as well as informal notes, calls and requests for assistance. It is very rewarding to hear teachers developing IT plans for next year, from blogs to podcasts. Some ideas involve subject integration, which is very helpful at our small middle school. Our students have been introduced to a number of new applications and activities, and display high levels of comfort and proficiency. In general, writing done on the blog compared favourably to handwritten output and contributed to better achievements on the CASI test (subjective observation). Students also gained better knowledge of Internet safety through frequent practice.

The project broadened students’ knowledge of IT applications and activities. The WeBlog project led them to write for an authentic audience of peers, teachers and others, beyond the confines of the classroom. It heightened their awareness of the wealth of online information, tools and resources via their class blog. Students expressed more positive attitudes towards math and language activities. They showed enthusiasm for continued learning that was engaging and motivating due to their existing interest in technology. Students were also open to new IT activities such as wikis for collaborative learning, and cameras used in math class. For the coming year, teachers are brainstorming about raising expectations on literacy levels in the blog, developing and extending the work that was begun this year. Others are thinking about how to apply what they learned this year to new teaching assignments.

Some challenges were: A) not enough computer time in the lab for blogging and/or other areas of the curriculum, B) learning the blogging software, C) tracking/assessing student work on the blog, D) making time to contribute to the TLLP section of the blog, and E) completing personal reading to become familiar with literature on 21st century literacy. F) We also worried about not being able to achieve all of our original goals. For example, we couldn’t carry out our basic teacher and student learning, as well as scientifically track student improvement levels. G) We also discussed the value of having more time to work with the IT technician at our school to troubleshoot and discuss options, and share this information more widely. H) We also set aside one of our goals, that of creating an online PLC for use in our board.

B) We were very successful in learning how to blog, and extended this knowledge well beyond the parameters of the project. This occurred via peer instruction and support from our team members, at meetings and onsite in our school. We had the chance for thorough, hands-on practice before asking our students to undertake the same tasks. C) We overcame this in part, by simplifying expectations, and using rubrics and targeted checklists. D), E) Team members found their own levels. Some spent much more time online assessing resources for use by students. Others made on ongoing effort to read more widely online and to access tools such as Twitter and Bloglines to create their own online PLC.

A), G) As our knowledge of and appreciation for using technology in our classes increased, so did demand for limited facilities. The success of this study was a double-edged sword: when virtually all staff wanted to participate, we no longer had enough lab time. We feel that the present schedule is fair, but that we need more equipment and support. We strongly believe that boards should invest in technology at the middle school level, to foster student engagement and ensure these young adults are properly trained before arriving at high school to carry out more complex assignments. F) Our original idea required a control group of classes that were not involved with blogging. When we saw the groundswell of teacher and student interest in the project we opted to satisfy this demand for participation, rather than exclude those who were not part of the original TLLP group. As well, we had to acknowledge our own learning curve, and accept that this was a fluid process. We needed more time to scaffold our learning before rolling out a large study of student assessment. In a longer project this would have been the logical next step. H) In the late fall we discovered that the board itself was planning to implement Sharepoint, which would fulfil the same goals as we had expressed in our proposal.

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