From the Teacher's Desk:

Leonard Quilty
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Challenging students

It’s an exciting time to be an educator! I’ve been saying that a lot lately. Teachers today have so many tools available to them.


It’s an exciting time to be an educator! I’ve been saying that a lot lately.

Teachers today have so many tools available to them. Over the last few months I’ve been hearing and reading about teachers developing their own PLN (Personal Learning Network).

With the multitude of resources available through blogs and websites from other teachers, and twitter postings, the learning curve is spiraling upward. It gives all teachers a great advantage in the classroom.

With the tremendous growth in social media, both students and teachers have, at their fingertips, the power of instant communication and access to the vast repository of the world’s knowledge. That’s exciting!

The challenge for educators, probably more so now than ever before, is to help our students navigate their way through this ocean of information. We need to help them develop critical thinking skills in order to enable them to chart their own direction; and, at the same time, give them the appropriate moral model so that our exemplary behavior will be another compass they can use along the way.

But even with all the exciting learning opportunities available to our students, it’s unfortunate a significant number of teenagers are deciding to drop out of school. I read recently that, in the U.S., an average of 7,000 students drop out of school every day!

Here in Canada I understand about 10 per cent of students drop out yearly. The reasons for this disturbing trend and the possible solutions to reverse it are most assuredly on the minds of many in the teaching profession.

What can I do, as an educator, to help alleviate the above challenge?

Well, one of the first things that come to mind is to keep finding ways to energize my instruction. One of my goals as a teacher is to incorporate novel ways of teaching my course content, whether that is through blogs or wikis, or some other technological tool.

If children have interests, the education happens. – Arthur C. Clarke

The litmus test for me, as a teacher, is framed in the following question: ‘If I was a student in my class, would this assignment, or teaching method, or piece of information engage my interest?’

If the answer is ‘no’, well the solution is obvious – change the bait, as one of my teaching colleagues is fond of saying. Revamp the assignment, vary the teaching style or package the course content in a more learner friendly way.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was preparing my Grade 7 LA lesson for the week, I decided to put a different twist on the assignment for that lesson. Instead of having the students answer questions on a visual spread in the text, I decided to give my class a writing assignment that allowed them to use their visual thinking skills.

It’s called ‘five card flickr’. (I happened to pluck that idea from the bountiful stream of great ideas on my Twitter account).

Their task was to go to a website where they had to choose at random five cards, or pictures, and then use their imagination to create a story around those pictures. Before I sent the assignment to my students, I challenged myself to come up with my own story around a set of chosen visuals.

It was a fun task! The students really enjoyed doing the piece of writing and produced some high quality work.

Anything I can do to pique my students’ interest will be a win-win. It’s fun for me to create a more engaging lesson format, and, hopefully at the end of the day, my students will gain a deeper learning experience. 

Leonard Quilty is a teacher with the Center for Learning@Home in Okotoks, Alberta. He can be reached by e-mail at ‘’.


Organizations: Personal Learning Network, Center for Learning

Geographic location: U.S., Canada, Okotoks Alberta

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