Future-ready learning leaders: Barb Seaton

A teacher helps two students on a laptop, with the caption "Barb Seaton: New tech, math, and the modern classroom"

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Barb is an educator and lifelong learner, passionate about making mathematics accessible to all. As a former educator with Thames Valley District School Board in London Ontario and a Provincial Mathematics Professional Learning Facilitator, she has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in integrating new technology into math curriculum. Barb works with districts across Canada, delivering professional learning on computational thinking, coding and integrating programmable devices, Makey Makey, and more.  She strives to empower educators to see the many technology connections that can enhance their curriculum.

We caught up with Barb to ask her a few questions about the future of today’s students and what we can do to prepare them today.

What small changes can you make in the classroom that can have profound effects on long-term outcomes?
Over my many years of working with students and teachers, I’ve learned that it’s vitally important to understand how students learn. As we expand our learning, we as educators can create an environment that differentiates instruction for all. In busy classrooms, it’s hard to be at every student’s desk, hearing their thinking as they work. Today’s technology allows us windows of opportunity to better see how students are thinking. Apps like OneNote enable students to easily annotate their work when problem-solving by capturing their voice, adding screenshots of their work, or simply drawing on the screen. By capturing a student’s thinking, it opens up opportunities for sharing ideas with the whole class for provocations, for use in consolidating, and for sharing with parents.

How have you seen technology empower personalized learning in Ontario classrooms?
Over the holidays, I took on learning a new-to-me technology and started experimenting with FlipGrid. I’d seen it mentioned on Twitter and at PD sessions, and felt there might be something there. My experimenting has led me to agree that FlipGrid is an excellent tool for capturing and sharing student thinking. For example, as the educator, I can post a problem I want students to tackle. Students can solve that problem using concrete or digital tools, capture their work and thinking with video, and seamlessly share with me. I have the opportunity to view the video and offer feedback, use the video to consolidate during class, share the video as an example everyone should see, and so much more. It’s a fantastic opportunity for students who may be hesitant to share with the whole group. And what a window into student thinking for me!

What are some of the challenges that students starting school now will face when they graduate?
Throughout my career, it’s often been said that educators are preparing our students for whatever comes next—kindergarten students for grade 1, intermediate students for high school, high school students for careers and post-secondary education. But now we don’t really know what we’re preparing our students for. The landscape is changing rapidly. So now we need to empower the students of today to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers. They need to be able to collaborate and work with others, while at the same time being self-directed.  They need to be innovative, creative, entrepreneurial, and ready to communicate their thinking to a wide variety of audiences. Finally, they need to view themselves as citizens of the world. Today’s kindergarten students will need to have all of these transferable skills at their fingertips, and it’s our job to get the learning started now.

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To learn more about the needs of today’s students as they approach the world of tomorrow, read our study with McKinsey and Company: The Class of 2030 and Life-ready Learning. If you want to learn more about Microsoft’s cutting-edge, student-centred edtech tools, head to microsoft.ca/education. For free courses, resources, and to connect with Microsoft Innovative Educators across the world, check out the Microsoft Educator Community.

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