Advanced Enabled Broadband Learning (ABEL) Assists Educators with 21st Century Learning

by Sarah Hayward

Imagine a classroom from the late 1980s. You can most likely conjure desks, pencils and chalkboards. What you won’t picture are interactive whiteboards, cell phones or tablets.

It’s hard to believe today, but less than two decades ago computers were only slowly being introduced as teaching tools in the classroom and educators didn’t know exactly how or why to incorporate them into the teaching curriculum.

In 2011, educators can still sometimes struggle with 21st century learning and how to adapt their teaching styles and curriculums to students who are becoming more technologically savvy at an increasingly younger age.

Group of students sitting in front of a laptop instructed by a teacher

Students in a blended learning environment with their teacher, an ABEL member.

Studies show that adaptive and assistive technology work especially well for students who have special needs and/or learning disabilities. Effective use of technology for learning also allows teachers/faculty to differentiate instruction that address learning needs, styles and preferences.

The Advanced Enabled Broadband Learning (ABEL) program at York University assists trail-blazing educators through collaboration, innovation and transformation. ABEL contributes to educators understanding the importance of differentiated instruction for all levels of learners and offers pedagogical examples the role technology can play in teaching and learning.

Founded in 2002, ABEL is led and funded by Office of the Vice President, Research & Innovation at York University and the York Region District School Board (YRDSB). Since its inception, ABEL has developed a reputation for excellence and expertise across Canada, and has established national and international credibility as a leading authority on new modes of teaching, training, learning and collaboration. The award-winning program transforms learning by connecting people, virtually and face-to-face.
ABEL connects researchers, educators, public and private sector organizations and other affiliated partners through the program’s services:

  • Delivering professional learning
  • Providing access to technological tools and support
  • Delivering and providing learning resources
  • Building effective partnerships
  • Driving innovation and mobilization through research
  • Offering technical and pedagogical consulting services

ABEL’s Professional Learning Program is differentiated in its approach to providing training sessions for members meeting the needs of all types of learners. A wide array of professional learning offerings is available for ABEL participants providing support for, and expertise in, a variety of tools and pedagogically sound approaches to the effective use of technology for teaching and learning. Virtual and live interactions with experts provide connections with educators from many different geographic areas. Some of our Speakers Series found in the ABEL Multimedia Centre focus exclusively on working with children at various learning levels – in one case, reading.

Screen shot of ABEL members having an online meeting

ABEL holds online meetings so members in different geographic regions can participate in professional learning and sharing best practices.

As part of the Professional Learning Program, ABEL offers two face-to-face Conferences every year – the Leadership Summit in the winter and the ABEL Summer Institute.

This year’s Leadership Summit takes place on Friday, February 10th, 2012 at York University. It is the third annual. The theme is Leadership to Engage Change and Achieve New Learning Cultures. The purpose of the ABEL Leadership Summit is to engage education leaders (administrators, superintendents, principals, faculty, teacher-leaders), and private and not-for-profit sector leaders in dialogue and discussion about the role of technology in engaging change and achieving new learning cultures. After the Summit, there will be two follow-up one-hour virtual sessions in the spring – Understanding the New Learning Culture and Learner Footprint, and Celebration and Planning the Way Forward. Visit our website for more information about ABEL’s Leadership Summit.

The 11th Annual ABEL Summer Institute (ASI) is intended as both a guided and self-directed exploration of technologies as educational tools with learning engagement and knowledge building potential for all. This year’s theme is Changing Learning Cultures: Transforming Practice and will take place on August 21st and 22nd, 2012 at York University. Confirmed keynote speakers include Nora Young, the host of CBC’s Spark and Clarence Fisher, a Teacher and Consultant from Snow Lake, Manitoba. Each year our ASI features a session or two on adaptive technology directed specifically at those educators who work with special needs students.

Throughout the year in addition to the two major face-to-face events, ABEL also provides member access to a variety of technology tools and services. These are continuously updated to reflect the latest research and development, and include wikis, blogs, podcasting, interactive whiteboards, ePortfolios, digital storytelling, videoconferencing and more. Categories of tools include: Collaboration; Online Streaming and Digital Media; Gaming in Education, Web Content Management; External Resource Links; and Research Pilot Tools.

The ABEL Program also offers access to an exciting variety of learning resources and content. ABEL Members gain access to content provided though our website and ABEL online community, as well as our partner-supplied content.

ABEL engages in beneficial collaborations that allow its business, government and non-profit partners to innovate, collaborate, and transform their practices. Our partners are organizations in the public and private sector as well as institutions involved in research and in the community. And since ABEL works with a variety of partners in different fields, the program offers a range of services to meet their partners’ diverse needs. These include technology and professional learning services; videography, web hosting and streaming services; and consulting services that support learning and training, community outreach, research goals and collaboration.

Two men sitting in front of a laptop, where one man is pointing to the screen.

ABEL members meet face-to-face at least twice a year at our annual Leadership Summit and our annual ABEL Summer Institute to learn new tools and teaching strategies they can use for all levels of learners in their classrooms.

The ABEL program regularly conducts research and evaluation focused on technology enhanced learning, collaboration and effective implementation strategies. We also participate as a partner in research projects with other organizations, agencies and institutions as well as private sector partners. As one of the ABEL Program’s services, research helps our members and partners move from inspiration to knowledge mobilization, applying the latest research to real-life situations in the classroom, the workplace, and the community.

Our Consulting Services help members build capacity for technology-enhanced learning, collaboration, knowledge sharing and mobilization. Our expertise ensures quality support that leverages technologies and connects people regardless of geographical distance. These services and costs may be modified based on client or partner requirements. ABEL will meet the needs of their partners and collaborators by customizing service to meet specific goals of program delivery and access.

If you are an educator looking for assistance to navigate through 21st century learning and teaching styles for all types of learners, please visit our website for more information. If you have any questions, please email us at

Sarah Hayward is the Communications and Marketing Administrator for the Advanced Enabled Broadband Learning (ABEL) Program at York University.

Published February 2015