By teachers, for teachers, the award-winning online community TeachOntario was officially launched across the province Thursday, with the help of Our Lady of Fatima School teacher Dan Rolo and his Grade 5/6 class.
Connected via Google Hangout with students from St. Mary Catholic School in Oakville and Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals, Rolo’s class worked together with the other students on a math problem, first individually, and then as a group. Sandals also took a crack at the question.
TeachOntario is a program created to support sharing, collaboration and knowledge exchange between teachers in Ontario, with content for teachers by teachers.
The program now has almost 4,000 registered users, including Rolo and his class. A leader among his peers in researching and applying for funding grants through the education ministry’s Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP), Rolo said he first got interested when researching grants to get iPads into the classroom for his students to get them more engaged.
“I learned about TeachOntario at a conference. It’s by teachers for teachers,” Rolo said. “I do a lot of research looking for grants directed to a goal or project and I’m focused on inquiry-based math that allows for richer thinking.”
The program allows teachers over an age group, for example junior, to collaborate on projects to get kids hooked on math, look at any problems, come up with solutions and immediately implement them in the classroom.
“It’s professional development that is teacher directed so we can target the areas we are struggling with,” Rolo noted. “Junior teachers love it. Online we can interact and share our learning with other teachers.”
Already in the works is the next project Rolo hopes to bring to fruition from TLLP funding. He is currently looking at an application in the area of robotics to get kids in this digital generation excited about learning maths and sciences involved with robotics.
For the children in his class, Rolo said just the fact of having a camera link to the other classroom helps engage kids more in the math problems and adds a new dimension to working collaboratively.
Deb Crawford, St. Clair Catholic District School Board superintendent of education, was also on hand at the launch and said the program creates a teacher network locally and with other schools. She added it is a way to stay connected and improve student learning.
“It is a teacher-led adult learning method and a real way for teachers to learn from each other, be engaged and work collaboratively. It is very effective,” Crawford said.