TransformEd Change Agents: Heather Chalmers and Raffaella Coletta

Three students work at a laptop, with the headline "TransformEd: Class of 2030"

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Heather Chalmers and Raffaella Coletta are two teachers from York Catholic District School Board with a passion for empowering student voice and personalized learning through edtech. Learn about the benefits they’ve seen from orienting their classroom toward student-directing inquiry.

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What are some small changes you’ve seen that can drive big outcomes for students?
Changing the physical space in a classroom to flexible seating can have a large impact on students.  This kind of arrangement allows students to choose the best place for their own learning.  When flexible seating is used, the classroom shifts from teacher directed lessons to student-directed learning.  This helps to increase student engagement and ownership of their own experience.  Another small change that can be made is creating student-focused classrooms where student choice is a greater priority.  Increasing student choice allows students to choose topics of interest to explore.  As teachers, we can empower this practice by adapting our lessons to be more topic-based or include more discussion.  These lessons help students to focus on big-picture ideas and real-world problems that they can help solve.
Providing prompt feedback using online tools such as Flipgrid can also have an impact on long-term outcomes.  With real-time feedback, students can redirect and focus on learning goals.  Using a tool like Flipgrid can also help to encourage a growth mindset as students reflect on their own learning.

What are the opportunities you’ve seen when learning is personalized?
When learning becomes personalized, all students have the ability to reach their full potential. Students can choose the technology tool—including assistive technology—that helps them learn best. It gives students ownership over their own classroom experience.  Personalized learning also allows them the opportunity to choose topics of interest and explore them. Students take ownership of their own inquiry in an environment where they become engaged and aware of the issues and problems that exist beyond the classroom.  Personalized learning can also help to connect students to their passions and the global community through Skype in the Classroom.  These kinds of connections and passion-based learning broaden student viewpoints and can help to increase student empathy and understanding.  Students feel empowered to explore and solve problems from a variety of perspectives.

How does student voice play into the personalized learning experience?
As we encourage student voice, we see an increase in both interest level and engagement in learning.  Using Flipgrid, students can have open discussions and become active participants.  New topics and ideas create an environment where both students and teachers embark on a learning journey together, which fosters a growth mindset in the classroom.

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To learn about ways you can empower future-ready education in your classroom visit microsoft.ca/transformed. Explore edtech tools available to teachers at microsoft.ca/education. You can find resources, courses, and a community of likeminded educators at education.microsoft.com.

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