Using Technology to Enhance Professional Learning Through the Virtual Classroom

Area(s) of Focus: technology
Level(s): Kindergarten, Grade 1

Welcome to our teacher learning co-op project! Our intention for these 360° tours is to provide teachers with an easy, engaging and accessible way to share ideas and information with colleagues across our school board and the province.

Our project involves using an overlay program called WalkInto, 360° cameras (Ricoh Theta S) and Google Street View to provide a groundbreaking forum for teachers to share stories of their learning, as well as student learning, with other teachers from other schools.

Being a teacher from a small rural community provides various professional learning challenges. We do not have the opportunity to visit our colleagues at their schools due to the distances. This project will provide teachers the opportunity to learn from other teachers.  

This project will provide teachers with the necessary skills to help prepare our learners for the 21st century, one of our board’s improvement planning priorities, including (but not limited to): critical thinking, communicating ideas, understanding media, working with various technologies and collaborating in teams.

Team Members

  • Tracy Lalande

    Northeastern Catholic District School Board

  • Jeanette Foy

    Northeastern Catholic District School Board

  • Shannon Culhane

    Northeastern Catholic District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Learned and applied digital media skills (spherical imaging, WalkInto overlay program, producing various media works including audio and video recordings) to create a virtual classroom tour
  • Collaborated with colleagues, community partners and project partners from around the world via video conferencing and social media
  • Increased awareness of the challenges faced by teachers living in rural Northern Ontario communities
  • Helped to build capacity among teachers living in rural Northern Ontario communities through the use of virtual classrooms
  • Found creative ways to demonstrate how we are aligning our SIPSA goals into our everyday practice

Activities and Resources

We were very fortunate to work with the creator of the Walkinto app, Boni Gopalan. We had a one-day training session on how to use the program. Neil Cariani from Creative Xistence 360, a photographer from the U.S., provided our team with support and training on the 360° camera and how to take panos.

We had a “photo day” which gave the team the opportunity to play with the camera and learn about lighting, shutter speed and camera placement.

Our board technology coordinator did a Google training session and showed us how to use Google Street View and Google Maps as both apps are required for uploading panos to Walkinto.

After the training sessions, we had two working sessions. The first was to talk about and visit virtual tours. We needed to decide content and audience, what should be in a tour, and who will be visiting the tour. We left with a plan and team members were responsible for collecting artifacts for their tours. The second meeting was a working meeting so team members could work collaboratively on creating a tour.

We had one last session which we dedicated to training new teachers. After our tours were completed, we decided to invite interested teachers to a training session. They learned how to take panos, work the camera, create a YouTube channel, blog on Teachontario and create their own tour.

Unexpected Challenges

Our team was faced with a few challenges during our project. One challenge was privacy. When we sent out consent forms to parents asking permission to include student videos, many parents said “no.” Since Walkinto requires using YouTube when posting videos, many parents did not feel comfortable having their child in a public YouTube video. As such, we had to go back and delete the videos and replace them with either pictures or alternative videos.

It was suggested by Parent Council that perhaps parents did not understand our intentions and we should present the project to the entire parent population at our open house in September.

Next year, we intend to present at the open house and change our consent form.

Also, we intended for students to work hand-in-hand with teachers to create their virtual classroom. We had hoped that they would decide together what learning would be highlighted that week as we thought the virtual classroom could be updated regularly. This became a challenge for us as our school is a K-3. We discovered teachers need to use and feel comfortable using the technology themselves before we could include the students that young. Now that we feel more comfortable, our plan for next year is to include student input and create co-constructed tours.

The final challenge was time. In order to have a current tour, a new background pano had to be taken and hotspots either copied over or new ones made. We learned that to update the pano, we had to create a new tour every time. To solve this issue, we decided to use the classroom as a background that never changed and use the hotspots to showcase  lessons and new changes to the room.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

This project will provide a space for teachers to access other classrooms within their own schools and the board.  Teachers will be able to learn from their colleagues as they take a virtual tour of their classrooms. Teachers will be able to watch lessons, watch students demonstrate their learning, and see first-hand how other teachers are integrating many board/ministry initiatives and technology in order to enhance student learning.

This project will increase teacher understanding of a variety of technological tools, which aligns with the 6 C’s of 21st-century teaching (thinking critically, communicating clearly, working collaboratively, embracing culture, developing creativity and utilizing connectivity). We hope that teachers will be engaged in their new learning opportunities, as they will have a stake in the project. They will also have the opportunity to reach beyond their community and form real connections with other educators/mentors and global partners through the use of technology.


Our project was originally intended for teachers. Due to our board’s large geographical region, teachers do not get to visit other schools or classrooms. Our team thought that virtual classrooms would allow teachers the opportunity to not only see a classroom, but get a snapshot of the learning going on in the classroom.

When we first met to discuss the purpose of the tours, we included parents as well as teachers as our target audience.

Once our tours were completed, we sent out a survey with the links to a target group of teachers, principals and superintendents in our board for feedback. We also sent out the survey to some of our teacher friends outside our board.

The team came up with a parent survey and the team leader presented the project to our Parent Council for feedback and the other team members sent their students’ parents the survey.

With the feedback collected, we will make the changes and post the links to the tours on our Facebook page as well as our board website.

Our plan is to expand our project to the rest of our staff. We will be working with a new cohort of teachers in June to train them on how to use the camera, set up a YouTube channel, introduce them to Teachontario, and provide them with training on how to use Walkinto to create their own virtual class tours.

Project Evaluation

We believe our project was a great success and we achieved all of our professional goals. We set out to create three class tours and we ended up with four completed tours. Each member has created their own class tour and has learned the necessary technology to continue the project next year.

A pre-survey was completed at the beginning of the project to gauge teacher’s knowledge and level of comfort around using various technologies such as cameras, creating videos and uploading them to YouTube, using Google Hangouts, Google Forms and the Walkinto program. We were feeling very nervous as this was new to us.  Many of the participants had not used a 360° camera or taken part in a virtual tour before. They were basically using iPads as a documentation tool and were not using or did not have access to other forms of technology.  Forty per cent of respondents indicated they were either beginners or learners. We also had no experience with creating surveys using Google Forms or analyzing data. This all changed over the course of our project!

The post-survey indicated a significant change in our level of comfort and knowledge. All members indicated a higher confidence level as well as a higher comfort level in using the technology introduced during the project. We now have our own YouTube channels, can work the 360° camera with confidence and use the Walkinto program. A great deal was learned about creating surveys with appropriate questions that provided informative feedback in order to guide our learning. We are excited to share this learning with other teachers so they can create their own classroom tours, with the hope being that every classroom will have a tour by the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Resources Created

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