Coaches Corner: Creating Impact and Extending Digital Knowledge

The following post was written collaboratively by the Durham District School Board Elementary Educational Technology Coaches: Ryan Adams, Heidi Allum, Topher Stevens, Chris Taylor, Amber Welton and Carolyn Wilson.

Coaches Corner is an initiative by the Innovative Education department’s Technology Coaches to bring coaching teams into schools to collaboratively support initiatives, projects, and general next steps in leveraging digital. The goal is to bring a variety of perspectives and expertise into a school to support a number of educators throughout the day.

The first elementary Coaches Corner of the new year was hosted at Williamsburg Public School in Whitby on February 1. It was a hum of active learning, discussion, collaboration and problem-solving. Elementary Coaches worked with students, teachers and administrators to continue leveraging digital on a larger scale, with the hope of bringing educational technology to the forefront of curriculum planning and execution.

What happened was nothing short of magic.

Not only did Coaches share their love of digital learning, assisting students and teachers, but learned and defined how a team approach is so powerful.  

Our goals were:

  • To co-plan beforehand;
  • Meet and discuss with teachers who had either arranged time to meet with us prior in order to discuss and support their specific need (see more below);
  • Include ourselves in school-wide planning time, for example: the leadership team bringing Black History Month to life at school, and making student work visible on learning journey boards;
  • To work with teachers and students to correlate and organize leveraging digital tools that best support curriculum needs (create engaging and collaborative workflows for both students and teachers alike);
  • To demonstrate how to share information, so we can disseminate throughout the school.

Here are just a few things we experienced, what we learned from working with the Williamsburg team, and how we will now move forward.  

Establishing Accessibility and Equity by Optimizing Student Work

Students that will be using Read & Write in Google Docs to assist them in completing the EQAO assessment should be practicing using those tools in Google Docs as much as possible to ensure comfort and familiarity ahead of the assessment. Most of the same tools are available to students when working with a PDF in Texthelp PDF Reader, however, there are enough differences in the way students work in a Google Doc compared to a PDF, that practicing in Google Docs is important.

The EQAO website includes the past two years’ examples of student assessment booklets for both grade 3 and 6, however, the Inclusive Technology Facilitators (in the Innovative Education Department), have created optimized versions of the assessments for 2014-2017. Accessing these sample assessments in addition to those found on the EQAO website will give you a greater pool of resources to use with students so that they can practice using the tools they will use during the actual assessment.

Click here for currently available sample assessments optimized for Google Read & Write. The document also outlines how to distribute to students through Google Classroom.

While distributing tasks to students in Google Docs format is highly recommended, you may have some hard copies of resources that you want to share with students. There are several tools that can be leveraged for an effective workflow that allow you to take physical documents, scan them, and make them available to students in Google Docs. Because of the differences in tools used, the effort of avoiding PDFs is a fruitful one.

Apps for Scanning Physical Documents


Adobe Scan (iOS, Android)


Office Lens (iOS, Android)

Both apps allow you to save the PDFs or images directly to Google Drive. Right-clicking on those files in your Google Drive will give you the option to open them in Google Docs which will “automagically” pull the text out of the PDF or image. It’s a big time saver!

Curriculum Connections — Giving Teachers Places to Start within an Established Program

One-on-one teacher meetings can be some of the most productive when a teacher comes with curriculum expectations they want to examine under a digital lens.  I also love when meetings happen in an open space, and suddenly, two or three other teachers pop in, and start sharing and learning, too. This is what happened at our session today.

As a coach, these meetings go best when we start with, “Tell me what you are doing, and what you are noticing.”  Now, a booking that was originally “I would like to look at Science websites” turns into a look at specific Science expectations, information on what the teacher has already looked through, and gives coaches more of a chance to really dig into how they can help. This is where the planning process can really begin.  In this case, after our meeting, the teacher was going to follow up with Topher Stevens (Williamsburg’s coach) for future teaching discussions. Not only did we share some rich discussion, strategies and websites, but now more than one teacher is going to take these ideas forward and these teachers will move forward and embed these ideas into their regular practice. Click here for the Google Sheet compiled of all of the websites/ideas we discussed with these teachers.


Student Documentation and Sharing Learning with the World   


Another interaction involved a grade two teacher had who previously attended a Brightspace Portfolio workshop but couldn’t remember how to access their virtual class in order to activate it.  

Using the Chromebooks, students can login to Brightspace Portfolio using the DDSB Student Campus homepage and clicking on the D2L Brightspace button. Once in, they can upload documents, photos, videos and audio from their Chromebook, Google Drive or OneDrive. This is not an easy task for primary students. So, for ease of use, we suggested that the teacher borrow iPads from the library on a regular basis to allow students to add recordings directly to their Portfolios using their QR codes. A quick video overview of Brightspace Portfolio and its features can be found here.

The same teacher wanted a quick review of how to access Google Classroom. Once in, we added some materials in the Classwork section. Since she will be using Google Classroom, we also offered the alternative of creating student digital portfolios using Google Slides.

The benefits of job-embedded professional development are clear. It’s often challenging to attend a PD session and return back to your classroom with all the knowledge shared during a half- or full-day training on an educational technology tool. The opportunity the teacher had to ask questions specific to her needs and then be able to put them into practice quickly are a key component of the coaching model.


A teacher wanted to share student videos from class via a QR Code to add to their Learning Journey Board.  The hope was that people could scan, and see the student video right on their mobile device. We discussed using Flipgrid — and then downloading the videos and linking a QR code from Google Drive. However, after some discussion, we concluded that sharing the videos via QR Code right in Flipgrid would be even more efficient. Here’s how:

On the video you want to make accessible, click the ‘Share’ button



There are several options for sharing videos in Flipgrid, but to meet the needs of this teacher’s specific needs, the Share with Families QR code allows anyone in the building to scan the code to be able to view the video without the need to login.


If you’re new to Flipgrid and looking for some resources to get you going, here are some starting points:

WeVideo:  A Perfect Student/Teacher Cross-Curricular Creation Tool

The highlight of the day was seeing how students used WeVideo to the best potential of the program. Some intermediates had finished creating Math Concept Videos, and we had a chance to ask questions to ensure they had mathematical understanding, and then we assisted with editing, developing, and strategizing their next WeVideo project.  WeVideo is such a versatile tool, and seeing it being used in so many creative ways was inspiring. Check out an awesome student math video here.

Students working with WeVideo and AR for Black History Month

As a part of a student leadership initiative, a group of Grade 7 and 8 students wrote their own pieces on contributions of notable Black Canadians and important cultural events.  We had the pleasure of working collaboratively to help turn their writing into videos using WeVideo. Their end goal is to share their videos with the whole school community by adding QR codes to images for students and their families to access throughout the school at any time by using an iPad or personal device to make their videos come to life.  Some groups took their videos to the next level and used Augmented Reality to make their voices come alive! If you would like to access some excellent primary source material in AR, check out the following resource developed by The Harriet Tubman Institute at York University.

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Teacher Exploring WeVideo to Reach Out to Students

Students weren’t the only ones using WeVideo at Williamsburg. Teachers were using WeVideo to make various video projects and were seeking support with how to produce a particular visual effect.

A teacher was seeking to have visuals pop up in her video at a particular time in order to match the background music. This can be done in WeVideo by adjusting the time scale in the project using the slider in the bottom-right corner of the WeVideo screen.


Once the time scale has been “zoomed in”, you can drag the image into the project at the precise moment you want it to appear.

Double-clicking the blue circle will also zoom the entire project to fit the width of the screen.

Additionally, students making videos for their Black History Month projects were looking for support on how to use “green screen” or colour keying in WeVideo.  A video explaining this process can be found here.

Consolidation:  Making Connections between leaders, schools, and communities

As we are a fast paced team, taking time to consolidate, and see next steps happen is a rarity.  Seeing students and teachers move through the next stages of tech use is powerful for us as Coaches, as we can share our learning, and see the momentum of moving forward.  Suggestions and ideas can be shared, and curriculum can really be explored. We are now a community, and our learning will spread to other areas of learning within the school and the wider communities.  Teachers now have a way to connect with one another, student work is highlighted and celebrated, and the power of collaboration is experienced.


We are here for the students, so have a listen to some students discussing how powerful creating and collaborating together can be: Listen Here.

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