From the Teacher’s Desk

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Learning influences

I’ve long thought one of my key roles as an educator is to elicit greatness out of my students!


The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there. – James Buchanan

I’ve long thought one of my key roles as an educator is to elicit greatness out of my students!

Within the structure of a lesson plan on a given day, or maybe imbedded in a particular assignment I’ve given, I want to create an opportunity for my students to shine. What do I mean by that? Well, here’s an example.

In my Grade Nine LA class, the assignment for this week and next is to write two to three scenes for a one-act play. Instead of having the students write their own play (they’ve already composed two other scenes individually); I decided to put them in groups of five and then use ‘Google Docs’ to create their presentation or slide show.

As my students are dispersed all over the province, Google Docs is a great way for them to collaborate on this project.

One of the best features of Google Docs is its social media function. As students are working simultaneously on their document or presentation, they can chat in real time on the website.

This almost replicates the group work situation in a traditional classroom. Or maybe it even goes beyond that, because not only do the learners have the document in front of them on the screen while they’re interacting, but they also have the advantage of being at home with maybe less distractions than in a normal classroom setting.

From the feedback I’ve received so far, my students are really enjoying this shared learning process.

At the outset of the assignment I randomly designated one person in each group as the leader. This person had to initially create a g-mail account and then add the e-mail addresses of his or her partners.

What’s exciting for me, as the teacher, is I asked each group leader to add my e-mail address to their list of collaborators in Google Docs. By having them do that, I’m now able to co-create the one act play along with my students by giving feedback on their presentation as we go forward.

Another quite interesting facet of this teaching and learning tool is the ability for me to check the revision history of the document being created. In that way I can track the participation level of all group members, just as a teacher in a bricks and mortar school would as he or she moved around the classroom.

The highly successful author, Ken Blanchard, when speaking on the topic of leadership had this to say: “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”

As teachers, we exert a very positive influence on our students when we allow them to demonstrate their ingenuity.

Famed American football coach, Lou Holtz, reiterated the previous point when he said: “It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.”

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

Organizations: Google, Ken Blanchard, Center for Learning

Geographic location: Okotoks, Alberta

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