Photo by Talia Cohen on Unsplash

This week I want to focus on one of our additional resources that really resonated with me. Fullan and Langworthy’s white paper Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning focuses in on deep learning, which is categorized by character education, citizenship, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity, and how deep learning can be accelerated with technology. The paper suggests three new models of teaching which should be investigated: The teacher as designer of powerful learning experiences, The teacher as a source of human, social and decisional capital in the learning experience, and the teacher as a partner in learning with students, accelerated by technology.  These three models suggest that the teacher has indeed moved away from being the bearer of all knowledge, or the expert in the room, but is in fact the facilitator of knowledge drive learning experiences, which can be enhanced through the use of technology. One note on technology as mentioned in the paper is that “technology can play an indispensable deepening and accelerating role across all education processes”. The paper continues: “The goal is to examine where and how technology is an effective deepener and accelerator of specific teaching and learning processes, and to work with clusters of schools around the world to identify and share its most powerful uses”.

Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

Deep Learning and Technology

Reading a white paper like this brings me back to something that I say often, and that is that technology should never be used for technology’s sake, but the use of technology must be purposeful and have a clear tie to the lesson or unit.  The paper uses the term “technology as an accelerator”, and that is important to think about; how is technology being used to deeply embed the learning. An understanding of this concept has shifted the way I used to embed technology to how I look at it today. When I first started to integrate tech into my lesson planning, I was definitely more focussed on the tech, than I was the students, or the learning targets. I think in many instances this is why the impact that I may have been looking for did not take place. When I think back, part of this was due to the fact that I was a newer teacher and there is a tendency to want to be progressive and bring new things to the classroom, without always thinking it fully through. In addition, being new, there was a lack of that deep knowledge of standards and learning targets. When I look at the way I plan technology integration currently, it is completely different. I know that my time working in curriculum had a profound effect on how I approach my work now, and this is a great thing. In course one, we looked at Kim Cofino’s blog 3 Steps to Transforming Learning in Your Classroom, and I want to quickly revisit it here, as it has merit. When using technology as a driver, it has to start with what you want students to know and be able to do, what are your learning targets? I quite like that this was labelled as step zero, because this should be the basis, the foundation, before you even speak the words technology, this is your planning phase. Kim goes on to three other important steps, make it relevant, make it a real world task, and have an authentic audience (a term we see in the Project Based Learning Framework) The above article is definitely worth the read.

Empathize Tile as Designed by ISC

Students as Empathetic Designers

In my last post, I spoke about our new Middle School Design and Innovation Lab. One of our drivers for how we teach in our lab is Design Thinking. About 18 months ago several of our teachers were able to travel to the Stanford dschool to learn about Design Thinking from the experts. This approach was brought back and has been the foundation for all the classes that we run out of our Design and Innovation Lab. Additionally, other departments, such as Marketing, and Finance and Operations, have used the Design Thinking Approach to solve problems within their departments. One of the biggest shifts for us in using this approach is having the students consider their end user and building empathy towards that end user as they develop their designs and build their prototypes. One of our biggest challenges was students telling us that they already knew what they wanted to build or create when working on a design challenge. Our question is “how do you know your end users will like it, or even use it”? Disregarding all the other steps in the Design Thinking process, just shifting them in the empathy stage has had a huge impact on student learning and critical thinking. If you are looking for some good resources on Design Thinking I suggest David Lee’s Website on Design Thinking. It is well laid out, with numerous resources, and David has, and is doing some great work with Design Thinking.

I am curious to hear from others as to how they use technology to accelerate deep learning? What are the wins, and more importantly, where have they made mistakes and learned?

9 thoughts on “Deep Learning

  1. Good morning Ryan – loved the first picture of the scuba diver, as it sets the scene for what is to come in your post!

    To hear that not only your teachers, but also other non-teaching departments in your school are using the Design Thinking Approach is fabulous. I was wondering… did this happen from a top-down approach, or much like Fullan suggests, was it driven from the different departments and teachers themselves?

    I love the question that you give to your students…”how do you know your end users will like it, or even use it?” as it does indeed build empathy, and it firmly plants the students in the shoes of their products potential user/consumers.

    As for what are the wins and what have I learned? For me I think the major win is your very question above! If the students, our users, don’t like it or can’t see it as a benefit then it will falter. As for mistakes? Well, that’s a tricky one. I suppose from time to time, when I feel under pressure or stressed, I may slip into risk oversion mode; which is fatal in technology.


    1. Hi David,
      In order to create this type of environment for Design Thinking, the four of us that went to Stanford, came back and designed a learning experience for our own staff. We have Professional Learning Mornings as part of our schedule (Monday’s from 8am-9am), and we used 8 weeks of PLM mornings to offer Design Thinking training. Many of our non-teaching staff participated, and thus we were able to drive this learning to a large group. We actually had so many people sign up, that the four of us ran two separate groups of about 25 people! It was a great learning experience!


  2. Hey Ryan,

    Thanks for your post. As always, I see a lot of connections to my own work in your blog. I have been curious about the idea of accelerator vs. facilitator from Fullan’s work. I saw that you used the word facilitator above. Has your thinking changed at all from these last two weeks of deep learning with Fullan? I could see that you were advocating for teachers as facilitators, and if you had talked to me 2 weeks ago, I would have agreed. I think it’s something that Fullan repeats a few times in various media– that the teacher should be a co-learner with the students. What do you think about the idea of being an activator?

    I agreed with everything else you said above. I too was overly focused on tech at the beginning of my career as a tech coach. I think now I’m learning to find balance between good pedagogy and engaging tools. Thanks, Ryan.



    1. Alex, as always, you ask good questions! I don’t see the roles as absolute, your not always facilitator, or accelerator, or activator. I think that the role you play is based on the situation, or the needs of the students in the room. Sometimes I have to be the one who pushes the students forward, other times, I ask good questions, or provide good tools to accelerate learning, and other times, I have to be an activator and learn right along with them, as there are other experts in the room.


  3. Hi Ryan! Thanks for sharing your experience as a young teacher. I think we all face the same but the reflection of the years made us evolve as educators. The integration of technology will be the accelerator towards new ways to experience learning, deep learning, and not the main goal. We require a balance between content, pedagogy and technology. I’m sure you have also seen the case of Studio5 at ISHCMC in Vietnam (,
    It’s an amazing example of deep learning and technology integration.


    1. Hi Liliana, yes, I have seen this space and I must admit that I am jealous, LOL! It really is a living example of using technology as an accelerator!


  4. Ryan,
    I also enjoyed the white paper ‘Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning’ because it induced new thoughts and reinforced some preconceived ideas. For example, the idea of 6 Cs (Character Education, Citizenship, Communication, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Collaboration, Creativity and Imagination) have never seemed so important as they do now. It opens the path for a more open learning across the world whereby only the students in a school are not learning, so are other students in other schools.
    I like the idea of Design Thinking and in the Social Studies Curriculum C3 that I have used we have something similar called an IDM (Inquiry Design Model) ( for a deep dive in a particular topic as part of a project.
    What I found most interesting is the phrase ‘Mobilization model must be usable and expandable’ (p.5) from the white paper as this model of learning could be adaptable to a school in a developed and developing country. If smartphones could be used as maybe the only technology in a developing country’s schools then can we have deeper learning there as well. Why not? If we are able to use design thinking to develop critical thinking amongst students and then focus in on the 6 C’s.
    It sounds exciting to say the least!


    1. Saadia, I am quite fond of the C3 standards. At my current school and my previous school we have used them as our social study standards. And at my current school, we have layered the UN Sustainability Development Goals on top of the C3 standards to help drive our curriculum.


  5. Hey Ryan,

    The first thing I had to do when reading was your blog was lookup white paper 😂. I had never heard of that before your blog post.

    I liked how the reading broke down the models of teaching. We’ve been reading about teachers being the designer of these experiences so that wasn’t new to me but what was interesting was teachers as a source of human, social and decisional capital in the learning experiences. Working with such young children, a lot of these theories or practices seems a bit out of touch for our younger years. This particular model really addresses this missing link because teachers for the younger grades do focus on human and social aspect of the learning experience. When I read the term “technology as an accelerator” I was thinking that could also address how quickly it makes learning happen. Instead of going to the library to find the resource or contacting an expert and arranging a face to face meeting, technology has given us the means to do all of these quickly and from the comfort of our own home. The time that it saves is is another way that it accelerates our learning. I’m glad that you brought it back to Kim Cofino’s blog from Course 1 because I really appreciated that article as well. Her three steps or mantras still apply today for deeper learning tasks – the parallels are great! All three are about action and making the connection past the classroom and into the real world.

    I was having some questions about your use of the word facilitator and noticed that Alex had the same questions. After reading your reply, I think you’re right, it’s more of a spectrum. Sometimes teachers are the facilitators, the designer, the activator or even the student! Thanks so much Ryan!


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