Educator spotlight: Erica Armstrong

Every now and then you come across an educator who is doing things that make you go "Wow". Erica Armstrong is one of these teachers and I had the pleasure today of visiting her "Tech Lounge" in Fairlawn Public School in Brampton, Ontario.

I first "met" Erica on Twitter (@ms_e_a), having noticed her standout application video for the Apple Distinguished Educator program, which took my breath away:



Recently, I discovered that her innovative teaching techniques were profiled on CTV news. Click here to watch the 2 minute clip.

Erica teaches half time Technology, half time Core French, to grades 1 to 8. Two years ago she was given "Carte Blanche" to furnish and equip her classroom and her "Tech lounge" was born. (Note: I am positively green with envy.)

In addition to the wonderful IT initiatives that Erica has started at her school, she has also gamified her classroom: setting up challenges for her students to work towards winning virtual badges. She created a website, FrenchQuest.ca for her students to earn and store their badges. She explained that she spent many hours setting up a working system, but that now, the students are entirely self-directed, constantly striving to win more badges and points.

At the beginning of her French classes, Erica sets a timer for 5 minutes and the students have to chat en français, using visual prompts displayed at the front of the room.



I was amazed at how her students enthusiastically launched themselves into this activity, talking non-stop until 5 minutes was up. (I took a video of this, but unfortunately it won't play back :( )



Erica explained that if she has any particular point to teach/reinforce that day, once the 5 minutes are up, this is when she does it. After this, the students scattered all over the lounge, grabbing different devices (iPads, Mac desktops, MacBook Pros) to get to work on completing projects to win their badges. Throughout the class, Erica circulated to troubleshoot or advise students on their devices. 

I noticed that the students were thoroughly engaged and on-task the entire time, working collaboratively, creating projects together and problem-solving. There were no behavioural issues whatsoever, and Erica told me that these issues disappeared altogether once she started this model of teaching.

My goal this summer is to think about how I can create a similar environment in my classroom for September. Unfortunately, with only 2 iPads in my class, it's going to be a challenge but I am going to try to make it work by signing out our school devices as much as possible. I know that my students are going to love winning badges for completed work.

If you are interested in visiting Erica and her amazing Tech lounge, you can contact her on Twitter. She and her students love to receive visitors! She will also be presenting a full-day workshop how to gamify your classroom at the BringItTogether 2015 Conference.

Thank you, Erica, for allowing me into your classroom today. You have inspired me beyond words!

Here are some more photos of her students:
















5 comments:

  1. I'm in awe of her classroom and teaching methodology. So beautiful, it brought a tear to my eye...

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  2. I will go visit her soon and after reading your post, I am looking forward to it even more now. Even the pictures of her classroom make me envious. I think I'll start begging for more money to redecorate!! ;-)

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