Planning a Lesson (PAL) project: What’s involved in creating an LBS lesson that flows?

A Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) lesson is a narrow, yet revealing window into the complexities, challenges, and rich opportunities so much a part of teaching adult learners who also are aiming to strengthen their digital skills. Whether you are teaching fully online, delivering instruction through a hybrid model, or are fully back in a physical classroom, planning an engaging lesson where skills are honed, connections are made, and a meaningful use of digital technologies is applied, is likely what you aspire to.

During the session, we will share how we came together as the Planning a Lesson (PAL) working group and explored the intricacies of lesson planning by considering the on-the-ground realities of teaching LBS learners and integrating technology whenever possible. Learn how we met regularly to discuss and identify the common challenges practitioners face before a lesson begins, during the lesson itself, and after a lesson, and how the insights we shared and the tasks we reflected on became the foundation for co-developing resources aimed at bringing flow and deeper learning into lesson planning.

Some tips and lesson planning resources will be shared, and you will get a sneak peek into the Planning a Lesson website that will house the PAL resources.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Don’t delay! Register today!

Save the dates

The fall showcases have been scheduled:

  • Tuesday, October 22, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 19, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Topics to be announced soon.

Check out the Past Sessions section of the website for presentations, recordings, additional tips and resources shared by guest presenters. 

As a literacy instructor, Nadia Mustillo aims to offer transferable technology skills that learners can apply in life and future employment. As a program administrator, Nadia is interested in learning about tools and applications that can streamline and support her daily tasks.

Nadia is the literacy and basic skills (LBS) supervisor at the Thomas Merton Centre for Adult and Continuing Education with the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB), where she’s been working since 2023. Coming from a 35-year government and social services career, Nadia’s current role includes teaching (English and digital skills), marketing and administration.

“I work part-time, and it’s a bit of a balance and struggle between doing instruction, admin and coming up with new platforms to work in,” explains Nadia. “After speaking to colleagues working in the English as a second language (ESL) program, I became interested in setting up Google Classroom. Around the same time, I noticed that AlphaPlus offered a Google Workspace course and wanted to see what I could learn.”

Expanding skills to embrace new platforms and tools

Nadia took advantage of an evening training option within the AlphaPlus Building Digital Skills training series in February and March 2023. She explains that the instructor guided the group through the suite of options available through Google:

“The instructor for this training was excellent, and I discovered a whole suite of apps and resources I can use in the classroom. We got to hear about how these tools have been used in an educational context, including from the instructor and peers in the course. I feel confident, tech-wise, but I wasn’t familiar with the Google suite. During the training, I discovered that I could replicate what I already knew from using Microsoft products, and I learned ways to help learners pick up transferable skills in turn.”

Google Workspace offers many benefits to both Nadia and her learners, one of which is being free and accessible to anyone with a Gmail account. Google tools provide a low-barrier way for learners, many of whom are comfortable with phones or tablets, to transfer their skills to using a computer. And building skills in Docs, Slides, and Sheets prepares learners to move on to credit programs, many of which require computer proficiency.

In the fall of 2023, Nadia returned to the Building Digital Skills series, taking training focused on Microsoft: “Although I’m comfortable with Microsoft products, there are always things you don’t know. For example, I was familiar with Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Calendar but not with using OneNote with learners. It has accessibility features that will be useful for my students, who can use it for translation or help from the math assistant when they get stuck. It’s important to be well-prepared to help adult students with Microsoft products, as it’s widely used in business settings.”

From learning to implementation: Nadia’s next steps

Next, Nadia plans to spend more time exploring and applying what she learned in the training series. She would like to organize her Google Classroom as a central area for lesson plans and worksheets according to units and topics so that it’s more structured for students and fellow teachers. She’d also like to use the Google suite in new ways, including tracking work and progress for use in reports to the ministry.

“I’ve been blown away by the available tools and resources and the possibilities for me, my colleagues and our learners.”

“Because the training moved quickly, I’d like to take more time with the next steps, and I plan to get support from an AlphaPlus coach — getting guidance about what I can and can’t do based on our centre’s setup,” says Nadia. “I’ve been blown away by the available tools and resources and the possibilities for me, my colleagues and our learners.”

Would you like to build transferable skills for you and your learners? Sign up for upcoming AlphaPlus training designed specifically with the needs of adult literacy educators in mind.

This timely training is designed to support educators in understanding and using AI applications (such as ChatGPT) to create effective learning experiences and manage student learning.

In 3 Zoom sessions (90 minutes each), you will:

See the training overview for more details about what we’ll cover, the format, timing and deadlines for registration.

The training series is three workshops:

If you’re interested, secure your spot. And don’t forget to invite tutors working in your programs.

Get the registration links herearrow right

This training is designed to support educators in understanding and using accessibility functions to create effective learning experiences for diverse cohorts.

There are three series of workshops on Wednesday afternoons: 

Each series consists of 3 Zoom sessions (90 minutes each)

See the training overview for more details about what we’ll cover, the format, timing and deadlines for registration.

The training series is three workshops starting in the summer of 2024.

If you’re interested, secure your spot. And don’t forget to invite tutors working in your programs.

Register nowarrow right

Community Gabfests are Zoom gatherings for literacy educators who want to connect with their peers in an informal setting. Connecting with other educators helps us see our work with fresh eyes, validates our experiences and is a powerful way to renew our energy, purpose, and excitement about our work.  Join us as we chat, vent, brainstorm, etc., about this work that we love.

The next Gabfest is on February 8, 2024 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The conversation starter is

How do you create your own learning pathway?

  • How do teachers learn?
  • Where do teachers learn?
  • What do LBS teachers want to learn about in 2024?

Tracey and Guylaine are your hosts.

Contact or if you would like more information.

Future Gabfests – save the dates:

  • February 8, 2024: Teachers as learners

Past Gabfests – see what happened:

Thanks for a wonderful year as we piloted this new program: Real talk as Community Gabfest pilot continues

Here is what participants say happens at a Community Gabfest:

  • Lots of opportunity for discussion.
  • Others sharing their best practices
  • Learning about what other programs are doing to increase learner engagement.
  • To know that others experience the same challenges that we do. Sharing ways to enhance our programming; sharing ideas to help solve problems
  • Meeting new people from the literacy field and learning about their ideas.
  • Going into different breakout rooms and meeting different practitioners.
  • Connecting with others in small groups

And here are some of the ways participants describe the Community Gabfests:

  • The Community Gabfest gives everyone an opportunity to share, to learn and to discuss. We are guided by seasoned adult literacy professionals.
  • It is great to meet, share, discuss ideas, and best practices.
  • An avenue to share techniques and strategies that are working in our programs. A forum to learn together about best practices, challenges, and possibilities.
  • It was a place where people could share their ideas, issues and challenges and share solutions too if needed. You also got the chance to meet people that were outside of your immediate region and you had the opportunity to expand your network in the space. There are also of really great people and agencies out there doing really great work for the community. It was nice to see just beyond your own agency or region.
  • It was nice to learn about different experiences from literacy practitioners. The environment was safe and cordial to talk about your experiences with learners.
  • We got to meet different literacy practitioners on Zoom and talk about what we do, resources, and learn from each other. It was a really relaxed environment and we wouldn’t normally get to do this in-person. This was a great alternative.

Are you a teacher who enjoys exploring and experimenting with how digital technology can enhance learning in creative ways? Then the Alphaplus Educator Makerspace is for you.

A makerspace is a place where people come together to create or invent things, either using traditional crafts or technology. At the AlphaPlus Educator Makerspace, we combine the craft of teaching with newer technologies to make things that elevate teaching and learning. 

Each year we choose a theme and a technology that matches that theme. This year our theme is Empowered Learning and our technology is H5P, an activity creation tool. We will create interactive activities from your favourite resources or you can choose a resource from our Open Education Resources library.

You will attend six 90-minute online workshops at a time that works for our group to

  • learn to use an activity creation tool
  • create dynamic activities that provide learners with choice and feedback 
  • learn about how to find, evaluate and adapt Open Education Resources
  • assess the makerspace experience as a possible practice in your own teaching

Learn more about makerspaces and our plans for the Fall here: The AlphaPlus Educator Makerspace.

Join us starting October 16 to exercise your creativity in a facilitated, collaborative environment.

Here is what participants said about Makerspace 2022:

  • The stimulation of being in a group of curious, congenial educators/lifelong learners; the access to an excellently curated bank of resources and expert coaching thanks to Guylaine and Tracey; the flexibility of project direction, pacing and final product deadline, which in my case likely made the difference between not finishing and creating something I was happy to share.
  • The Wayfinder’s experience is an ongoing mission, as part of a fun and motley crew, to discover what is important and what is needed in my work with adult learners. The chance to experiment with tools that can make a true difference in my practice. The opportunity to uncover, connect with, and share the stories of our teaching and learning.
  • It is a guide or a map for processing your understanding, beliefs and ideas about educating and learning. It provides a flexible structure, plenty of resources or tools, and questions that inspire reflection about why you do what you do, and how you do it… some ways it is a means to creatively evaluate your own “process” and present it to others.
  • I’m really grateful for the chance to participate in this program.  It has definitely helped me feel less isolated as an educator, and more aware and a part of the professional literacy network across Ontario. Also, viewing this experience as an adult learner, this was one of the few times I have felt fully supported and accommodated in a learning project, based on my own needs, preferences, and life situation, which is hilariously ironic but a big factor in my enjoyment and the quality of my outcomes.

What could you create if you stepped back from your day-to-day teaching routine? What could be possible if you gave yourself time to celebrate creativity in teaching? Literacy educator Lori Armstrong found out her answers to these questions at the AlphaPlus Makerspace.

Lori has worked in countries including Canada, China, Ecuador, Egypt and Colombia — with teaching experiences spanning kindergarten, high school and adult literacy. Over the last eight years, Lori has focused on adult education, and in 2020, she returned to her hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Joining her peers in a Makerspace

While working in her role as a computer instructor for the Thunder Bay Literacy Group, Lori was trying to figure out easy-to-use and consistent technology tools for her adult learners. She discovered and joined the AlphaPlus Educator Network. “I loved the format of regular meetings with peers to discuss the sharing, instruction and good use of technology,” says Lori. “So, the next year, when I was invited to join Makerspace, I jumped at the opportunity.”

The AlphaPlus Makerspace is a combination of a course and a community of practice led by AlphaPlus team members Tracey Mollins and Guylaine Vinet. In the program, a small group of literacy educators experiment, pilot and reflect on how digital technology can enhance learning creatively.

The 2022-23 Makerspace that Lori joined was focused on video storytelling, and in the first few meetings, they investigated video tools such as Flipgrid and Edpuzzle. In the next several sessions, the group explored storytelling structure and elements. Then they moved into a creation phase, during which participants worked on individual projects, regrouping periodically for peer support and feedback.

“Tracey and Guylaine understand that the whole point of adult education is to recognize all of the skills, experience, knowledge and creativity a learner brings — and trust them with it,” says Lori. “They bring this perspective to providing a stimulating and safe Makerspace experience. And they offered flexible timelines, which allowed me to work in small steps that I could fit in when I had the time.”

Using video storytelling to synthesize a teaching framework

Tracey explains that Lori brought her thoughtfulness and creativity to Makerspace, expanding her experience from video-storytelling skill-building to a chance to think bigger: “Lori took the opportunity to synthesize ideas about her practice that she has formed over years of teaching and explore the concept of the personal web.”

“I’m a Métis person and come from a blend of Western settler and Indigenous cultures. The personal web integrates both ways of learning and seeing the big picture. It acknowledges adult learners’ needs beyond academics in four areas: belonging, safety, fun and power,” explains Lori. “With digital teaching, there are so many tools and options; we need a way to prioritize approaches to address learners’ questions and needs. The personal web is a tool for pausing, thinking about the connections in our lives and focusing on where to direct time and energy.”

I’m a Métis person and come from a blend of Western settler and Indigenous cultures. The personal web integrates both ways of learning and seeing the big picture. It acknowledges adult learners’ needs beyond academics in four areas: belonging, safety, fun and power.

Lori completed her video and wrapped up her first Makerspace in early 2023. Since then, she’s started sharing her reframed perspective with her colleagues and peers. She presented the personal web at an AlphaPlus Gabfest as a way of understanding what could be getting in the way of learners doing what they want to do and generating ideas for unique, individualized supports. And she’s bringing the concept into her new role at Lakehead Adult Education Centre

Energized by thinking creatively about teaching

Because of her Makerspace experience, Lori has created a meaningful body of work, built her comfort with sharing digital stories and made valuable new connections with fellow educators.

“Teaching can be fast-paced without time for reflection. Makerspace has offered the deepest reflection and synthesis I’ve been able to do so far on my teaching perspective, bringing together my values and cultural influences,” says Lori. “In this program, educators can be learners, discovering new tools, making mistakes and exploring. I could not recommend Makerspace enough to friends and colleagues in education.”

Would you like to feel more energized by teaching creatively? The Makerspace program is returning in fall 2023 with a focus on using open educational resources to co-create activities and lessons. Contact Tracey at for start dates and registration details.

Learn more herearrow right

Take advantage of our FREE, customized digital technology support 

Are you looking for ideas, guidance or tips when it comes to using or implementing digital technology in your program? 

Our coaching team can help you and your team quickly identify technologies and tools that suit your unique needs and can help programs improve administrative processes while keeping in touch with learners. We will work with you to identify your specific expectations and build a work/training plan that will work with your and your team’s schedule.

The support we received from AlphaPlus has enabled our small organization to manage most of our own digital needs without needing to find money to pay outside organizations or contractors. From email migration, to website, to Google Classroom and Workspace, no ground has gone untouched, and we are forever grateful!

I highly recommend this coaching program to any organization who wants to be more efficient and have more control and confidence in their digital spaces!
” – 2022/2023 coaching participant

No question is too big or too small! Our coaching engagements can be quick and short (one or two meetings or training sessions) or we can work with you throughout the entire fiscal year to help you explore tools and ideas that fit your specific needs. 

 Our coaching team can help you:

  • Adopt blended learning approaches and use digital technology resources to enhance the education experience.
  • Improve technology use to simplify and streamline administrative tasks.
  • Improve the integration of technology in teaching and assessment practices.
  • Identify short-term digital technology goals that you can achieve this year. 
  • Plan for longer-term goals that can be achieved in stages.

We look forward to hearing from you! Simply reach out to

to let us know how we might be able to help. 

Learn morearrow

The Educator Network Applying the Google Toolbox program is a series reflective-practice workshops for people who participated in the Building Digital Skills with Google workshops. We take a deeper dive into the features and functions that you think are most relevant to your practice and support each other as we apply these new possibilities by co-creating activities and lessons.

Our first check in and planning sessions are on May 16 (2:30 – 4:00) and 17 (6:30-8:00). If you participated in one of the Winter 2023 Introduction to the Google Workspace and Google Applied Skills series, contact Tracey to find our more.

Here is what we have planned for our opening discussion:

Slide Deck: Check in, Planning and Foundational Skillsarrow right
Register for May 16 2:30-4:00arrow right
Register for May 17 6:30-8:00arrow right

Learn how programs use OneNote to manage learner files and explore how social media can help you reach, teach and connect with learners.

Finding practical, innovative ways and digital tools to effectively manage learner files, or to reach and engage with new and existing learners can be difficult. In fact, it’s often the most common frustration we hear about from our coaching clients.

That’s why we decided to cover these topics in our Spring 2023 showcases.

We invite you to join us in May and June for 1.5 hrs AlphaPlus Virtual Showcases to hear how our guests are tackling these issues and see examples they will share.
ASL interpretation will be provided. 

You will have a chance to ask questions and leave the sessions inspired with practical tips and resources you can use at your own program. 

Session 1: Using OneNote to manage learner files and other resources
Tuesday, May 23, 2023, 1:30 to 3 pm

Session 2: Using social media to reach, teach and connect with learners

Tuesday, June 20, 2023, 1:30 to 3 pm

We will also host two showcases in the Fall.

Session 3: Topic TBD – Tuesday, Oct 24, 2023, 1:30 to 3 pm 

Session 4: Topic TBD – Tuesday, Nov 21, 2023 1:30 to 3 pm 

Act now! Register and save the Fall dates today!

“I found that the speakers had great tools to use and that the sharing of those tools was great! There is a vast amount of knowledge out there and to be able to listen to how people are using the various apps/tools was very informative. Knowing the different organizations that are working with this kind of education to help individuals and having the ability to connect with them is great!

This has motivated us to use the different apps and learn how useful it will be for our learners.”

So many apps for so many clients! Awesome! Will research accessibility apps for sure!

Want to suggest a topic or be a presenter? Click here to share your ideas with us.

Check out the past sessions section of the website for presentations, recordings, additional tips and resources shared by guest presenters. 

Don’t delay! Register today!
Questions? Contact Monika at