Tag Archive: Technology


Assessment for learning (AFL) has been a long-standing practice in the field of education. Unfortunately it continues to be misunderstood and under utilized.  In our ever advancing technological age how can tech / online resources be used to assist educators in implementing AFL in their classrooms?  Here are a few links to sites that may spark some ideas:

Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment

5 Fantastic, Fast Formative Assessment Tools

Integrating Assessment and Instruction Using Technology and Performance Assessment


IMG_4091-0011.jpgTry going anywhere urban and see if you can find someone without a smartphone or connected device of some kind.  Virtually impossible in today’s wired(less) world.  This holds true for schools as well.  Both staff and student alike connected 24/7.  This holds both potential and pitfalls for our education system.

Student information systems have been a part of everyday life for school staff for well over 20 years now.  With this the presence of computers in the classroom has become a must.  Teachers are required to input attendance daily and marks on an ongoing basis.  Administrative staff use the system daily to adjust schedules, lookup demographic info, schedule courses, etc.  Our reliance on computers has taken hold in some classrooms with teachers adopting connected tech to engage students.

Fast forward to 2016 and smartphones are a reality in every classroom (to varying degrees depending on socio-economic circumstances).  What are we doing to harness the potential devices walking into our classrooms each and every day?  Is there a sign on the door claiming no phones allowed?  Is there a bucket at the front of the class where phones are deposited?  Are students encouraged to record homework using Evernote or OneNote?  Are apps like Remind being used to keep students on top of upcoming assignments?  Is Google translator being used to help students understand a new language?  Are videos being created to demo dissections in a biology class?

From my experience the reality is all of the above.  Yes there are still the classrooms where devices are taboo and must be kept out of site but there are those classrooms that fully utilize the potential of these powerful portable computers.  As an educator with a distinct bias towards use of technology to enhance both teaching and learning I cringe every time a device is handed to me after being confiscated.  Students have a responsibility to ensure they are being responsible in their use of smartphones by not texting or snapchatting during class but we as educators also must recognize that these devices are here to stay and we can either resist or realize the Borg were right all along.

Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?

imgresChange is difficult at the best of times but technological change seems to be on a whole other level.  Educational practice is personal and perfected seemingly in isolation.  Feedback is available but typically in short supply.  With this professional isolation comes the development of a skill-set that has been tried and tested over time.  A comfort zone is established and an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mindset.  A set of tools are also established and a comfort zone with these tools soon follows.  Enter the technological revolution!

Change for the sake of change is never a good thing.  ‘What problem are we trying to solve?’ is a great question to ask.  The SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, looks at the evolution of technological integration in education.  Replacing one device for another device without significant change in practice or student engagement lacks meaning or purpose.  This is not to say the potential for change is not present but rather the comfort with one form of technology or one methodology is a strong force against change.  So how can we achieve change given this dynamic?  Peer collaboration and/or curricular change are the influences that can bring about meaningful pedagogical change.  Without the necessity the urgency will never exist.  Without peer support the buy-in will never be achieved.  Now I speak in absolutes but in general these ideas hold true.

Peer collaboration is, in my opinion, the single greatest vehicle for change that exists in our system. Working along side a colleague in the same discipline (or cross-discipline) is inspiring and rejuvenating.  One example that comes to mind is of a group of colleagues who worked on identifying the fundamental skills a student needs entering Science 8 and developed a series of activities to start the school year and provide this foundation.  Collaboration between these colleagues persisted the entire school year and the difference in the enthusiasm and ability of those grade 8 students was evident.  Another example is when I had the pleasure of collaborating on a project in Biology 12 with support from the University of British Columbia.  The project focused on what part of the curriculum and the students put together fine projects but it was the professional conversations and thinking through the various challenges associated with the project that led to meaningful understanding of my teaching practice.

Curricular change, as is slowly occurring in British Columbia, is another way to bring about fundamental change in a system.  Coupled with a reevaluation of what is important comes a reevaluation of assessment practices.  Asking yourself ‘why am I asking students to do this,’ or ‘what skill or concept am I assessing with this assignment,’ is key to any successful teaching practice.  If curricular outcomes drive pedagogy toward a student-centred approach with technology as its backbone then and only then will change not be an option.

Courtesy: www.edudemic.com


Tech Reflections for 2012

Well the world hasn’t come to an end so on goes the struggle to integrate technology into education.  2012 has seen the tablet take hold and firmly become the go-to device for many tech enthusiasts and casual tech users.  Schools are still struggling with less than ideal bandwidth and budgets still have little in the way of flexibility when it comes to tech spending.  But all is not lost as strides have been made to bring schools into the current tech revolution:

1. Wireless capability is slowly becoming a reality in most schools

2. Portable labs of laptops and ipads are more prevalent than in 2011

3. Social media is becoming a platform for communication and instruction in the classroom

4. BYOD is a reality – for better or for worse

5. Old tech like overheads and VCRs are being phased out and being replaced with Multimedia Projectors and CPUs

6. More projects are including a tech component, if not completely immersed in technology

7. Libraries are becoming Learning Commons and providing a venue for students to interact and synthesize information from a variety of sources

8. Professional development days are utilizing tech more and more with many schools opting to dedicate at least one day to technology integration

9. Educators are engaging in conversation through Twitter and developing networks across the globe

10. Educational resources and textbook companies are finally developing apps and publications that are cost-effective and easily integrated

We still have a long way to go to reach the level of tech integration students immerse themselves in on a daily basis, when not at school, but we are inching closer to parody.

An excellent matrix put together by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology and adapted by the state of Arizona.  A great tool to gauge your level of tech integration in the classroom.  The original article can be found on Edudemic.  Click the link below to download a PDF of the matrix: AZK1031_Matrix_Print


Courtesy: http://techedblog.tumblr.com/

It’s almost impossible to be an educator without implementing some kind of technology in the classroom. From blogging to educational games to online tracking tools, there are numerous tools that educators can take advantage of to cater to an increasingly tech-savvy group of learners.

But not everyone knows just how to do that or what is best for students, and with so many options it can feel overwhelming to even get started. That’s where great books on the topic can really come in handy.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best edtech reads out there, from essential texts on the subject to cutting-edge research, that will help you learn about and implement educational technologies and curricula that can truly benefit both you and your students.

Apersonal favorite that should be required reading is Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. Worth checking out (digitally, of course).

  1. Instructional Technology and Media for Learning by Sharon E. Smaldino, Deborah L. Lowther, and James D. Russell:

    This textbook, now in its 10th edition, is one of the best foundational reads for learning about educational technology. Using examples drawn from real-life K-12 settings, the book shows how technology and media of all kinds can be successfully incorporated into the classroom setting. It also offers tips and tools for developing curricula, working with technology and media specialists within the school, and even ideas on where to find free and cheap resources for your classroom.

  2. Education, Technology, Power: Educational Computing as a Social Practice by Hank Bromley:
    Bromley’s text is perhaps a more academic read on the topic but a useful one nonetheless for those who are looking for a well-rounded approach to understanding educational technology. In a series of essays focusing on cultural criticism, Bromley, an assistant professor in the sociology of education, explores the deeper meaning behind computers and other technologies in the classroom, considering the sociopolitical implications of bringing the high-tech world into education.
  3. The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid:
    Despite being more than a decade old (eons in technological time), this book still offers a compelling look at the social context of information technology. In it, the authors explore the gap between what we often believe technology should be (or what it’s marketed as being) and how it actually affects us in real life. Interesting examples from education and business show how integrating the social and the technological is a critical step in building technology that really does make our lives easier.
  4. How Computer Games Help Children Learn by David Williamson Shaffer: 
    Ever wonder if educational computer games are really helping children learn? This book will show you that they do, highlighting some great examples that are helping students to become critical thinkers and boost problem solving skills. Shaffer also addresses the future of educational gaming, something any educator, even a tech-savvy one, can always stand to learn more about.
  5. The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis J. Bonk: 

    This text by Indiana University professors of instructional systems technology Chris Bonk is a must-read for any educator interested in bringing more technology into the classroom. Bonk uses his “WE-ALL-LEARN” model to explore 10 key technology and learning trends and to showcase inspiring educators and learners who are making them work. Even better, there’s a companion website to the book that helps keep all the resources and information discussed in the book right at your fingertips.

  6. Foundations of Educational Technology: Integrative Approaches and Interdisciplinary Perspectives by J. Michael Spector:
    This textbook is aimed at student academics in education technology programs, but that doesn’t mean that others interested in the topic can’t benefit from it. It’s filled with exercises for educators that can help with professional development as well as a methodology for bringing technology into the classroom that can be integrated into almost any classroom, no matter the topic or age group.
  7. Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary by Al Januszewski and Michael Molenda: 
    Sponsored by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, this book is chock-full of great reference information for anyone looking to learn more about educational technology. Chapters cover topics like key terms and definitions in the field, historical context, and even ethical considerations, offering an amazingly well-rounded look at the subject.
  8. Digital Game-Based Learning by Marc Prensky: 
    Marc Prensky believes that technology can be an amazing tool for teaching, especially for students who’ve had trouble learning through more traditional methods. In this book, he offers a look at the potential that game-based learning can have for education, exploring some of the impressive ways games are already changing the face of education.
  9. Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson: There’s no doubt that the digital revolution is having a marked impact on education, but Collins and Halverson discuss in this book whether schools are really making the most of the tools they have at their disposal. The authors believe that the education system itself is due for reform that will draw it in line with the needs of Information Age students, outlining problems and proposing solutions that educators will find of interest.
  10. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson:

    Since it was published in 2010, this book has become a must-read for educators looking to engage students through social technologies like those he describes. This popularity is not without reason. Richardson makes all of these technologies accessible even to those who aren’t especially tech-savvy and practical to use in the classroom setting through valuable tips, tricks, and ideas.

  11. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown:
    If you’re looking to get inspired about the future of learning, then this read may be one of the best choices on the market today. Thomas and Brown see a culture of learning that evolves with technology and the students who use it, an ideal that isn’t just inspiring but necessary.
  12. 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn by James Bellance and Ron Brandt:
    Technology hasn’t just changed how we learn but also the culture of students who are doing the learning. As a result, educators need to be able to adapt and change. This book, the fifth in a series of books on educational technology, asks teachers to take a hard look at the issues that influence students’ success to discover new ways to improve student outcomes using the latest technologies.
  13. Recapturing Technology for Education: Keeping Tomorrow in Today’s Classroom by Mark Gura and Bernard Percy: 
    While a bit dated (it was written in 2005 and much has changed since then), Gura and Percy’s look at technology in education is still applicable to many educational institutions today. Despite the benefits that technologies offer, some educators and administrators are reluctant to allow them into the classroom or to engage students with them in a meaningful way. The authors demonstrate why educators need to bring technology into the classroom to produce students who are ready to take on the challenges of a 21st-century world.
  14. Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Nativesby John Palfrey and Urs Gasser: 
    Feel like you don’t understand your students? This book may be able to help. It explains the differing educational and social needs of students who have grown up in a world where the Internet has always existed and been easy to access. Learning more about what makes these digital natives tick can help educators of any age bridge the gap and implement high-tech tools in a way that will help meet the needs of these young minds.
  15. Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning With Web and Mobile Technologies by Susan Brooks-Young: 

    Kids these days learn to use technology almost as soon as they learn to walk, and navigating high-tech gadgets and the web comes as second nature to many. Written by a middle school teacher, educators will learn some amazing strategies for using smartphones, laptops, MP3 players, and even digital cameras in the classroom to the benefit of modern students.

  16. Leading 21st-Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement by Lynne M. Schrum and Barbara B. Levin: 
    If technology isn’t already a part of your school’s curricula, then learn some ways to lead change in your school. While geared towards administrators, this text can also be a great read for any educator who’s trying to get colleagues, administrators, and other professionals on board and on the same page when it comes to edtech.
  17. The Race Between Education and Technology by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz: 
    Take a look at the history of education and technology and where they intersect in this book by social scientists Goldin and Katz. They argue that as technology changes, so does schooling, a process that they demonstrate through historical examples and data. What effect does this have on the modern educational system? You’ll have to read to find out.
  18. The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall:
    Get a push to excel in your professional development, teaching, and leadership skills from this tech-focused book for teachers. Through real-life examples, reflection questions, and step-by-step instructions, the authors guide teachers through a number of processes aimed at getting them using technology in the classroom and helping others to do so as well.
  19. Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli: 
    Do you have a personal learning network? After you read this book you might want to start building one, or at least exploring what they can offer you as a professional. Richardson explains how to use the web to build a network that will make you a better teacher, improve student outcomes, and feel more confident using technology in the classroom.
  20. Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson and Michael B. Horn: 

    While the word “disruptive” might lead you to think that bringing tech into the class is a bad thing, this book argues quite the opposite, showing real-life examples of how technology can help students succeed, help school reform, and make students more competitive in a global market. If nothing else, read it to see business expert Christensen’s “Jobs to Be Done” theory applied to education.

iPads in education is not a unique topic by any means.  Many have written about these wonder devices that will change the educational landscape forever.  In theory I agree wholeheartedly that iPads in the classroom can become a powerful learning enhancer and promoter of student engagement.  The practical integration of these devices in a classroom is another story entirely.  Having had experience with both laptops and iPads in my classroom I quickly realized what the potential advantages and disadvantages are for both devices.  My focus here is on the iPad but a future post will look at laptops in the same critical light.  Here are my impressions of iPads in education:

The Good:

Technology in general, for many schools, is still a novelty so student engagement dramatically increases as a result.  As I have stated in previous posts the more standard technology becomes in the classroom the less novel its use will be.  It is for this reason that sound pedagogy has and always will be the key to student engagement.  But on the novel side of things here are some definite advantages to using iPads:

1. Ease of use: The iPad is an intuitive device able to picked up and navigated by anyone.  For the classroom teacher this means minimal time being spent training students on how to use the device and more time being spent on the curricular advantages of having the iPads.  This also means that teachers can spend time focusing on a collection of apps they find useful and target instruction on the use of those apps and not the device as a whole.

2. No cords: Not being tied down to a desk or bench means free movement and increased collaboration.  A static computer lab is the antithesis of collaboration and discussion whereas the iPad in a standard classroom can be an individual or multi-user device with ease.

3. Network speed: Having tried laptops and iPads on the same network backbone the iPads clocked in at a faster connectivity, hands down.  Now this still might be painfully slow for dynamic instruction in the classroom, depending on your district network infrastructure, but it should be a more pleasant experience to a static desktop or laptop lab.  The reason of course is the proprietary nature of the iPad and the integration of the O/S with the apps.  Windows-based machines can come in so many different hardware and software configurations that seamless integration is much harder to achieve.

4. App Integration: The iPad allows for smooth integration between apps so creation of dynamic content becomes second-nature.  The ability to record a video, import it into iMovie, create a soundtrack in Garageband and export it into a Keynote presentation is amazingly easy.  The cutdown nature of these apps compared to the more robust desktop versions means the options are limited but the basics are easy to access.

5. Specific vs. General Apps: Many educators focus on looking for apps specific to their discipline but will sometimes ignore the power of using a generalized app.  As a science teacher I have looked at many of the specific science apps and some are good but most are mediocre.  I then turned to using apps like Dragon Dictation, iMovie, Toontastic, Keynote as a few examples.  These apps are not subject specific and depending on how you have embedded them into your lesson can be equally if not more powerful than a subject specific app.

6. Simple or Complex: Depending on your level of comfort the iPad can be used as a simple web-surfing device or a machine able to create rich, unique content.  This makes the iPad a wonderful entry-level to high-end user device.

The Bad:

It can’t be all sunshine and roses.  Here are some of the drawbacks to iPads in the classroom:

1. Proprietary: The seamless integration of apps on the iPad also means that getting content out of the iPad is really, really tricky.  There are ways to transfer content from the iPad to another computer but it takes a certain level of technical expertise and, more often than not, an iTunes account which then must be shared amongst multiple devices.

2. Single-User: The iPad was made to be a single-user device.  The very nature of the device is a personal tablet customized to meet the needs of a single-user.  This makes sharing a class set of iPads amongst an entire school cumbersome.  The difficulty becomes in partitioning content so it can’t be altered by other users.  A simple example are photos taken on the iPad.  There is currently no way to secure a bank of photos so only a single-user can access or delete them.  This means a student in another class can both access, use or alter your photos without difficulty.  There are ways around this, exporting to iPhoto being the ideal one, but this is not always a practical solution for a busy classroom with 30+ students.

3. Poor network infrastructure: Now this is not a fault of the iPad but rather a tragic reality for many schools.  A slow data pipeline into schools, coupled with the addition of new devices accessing an aging network means painfully slow login times and network speed.  The iPad can only do so much until it gets jammed on the same information highway as every other machine in the building.  Districts need to ensure the backbone of the network is sufficient enough to accommodate iPads, smartphones, laptops and other wireless devices logging in at peak times during the day.

4. Handing in Assignments: So a student has created a beautiful keynote presentation on Charles Darwin and wants to hand it in before the end of class… they run out of time and can’t hand it in to you until next class.  They come back and realize it is deleted.  Locking down content is difficult, if not currently impossible, to do on the iPad.  This means handing in assignments must be done immediately for fear of something terrible, like the scenario above, taking place.  All teachers must ensure they have an iTunes and e-mail ready to go for students to submit content.  Students will need to set up an e-mail account on the iPad before trying to e-mail content out to you.  The trick is making sure students delete their e-mail information before leaving the device otherwise their e-mail is now open for others to access.  This goes back to the single-user nature of the device.  If you are just using the iPads for the first time in your class and don’t realize this right away you may have quite a headache when students want to submit assignments at the end of class.

5. Security: This is true for any piece of equipment but making sure all devices are back and in working order before the end of class is a necessary evil.  One solution is to assign a specific iPad to each student, like a textbook, so you have a list to refer to should something go wrong.  Another helpful tip is to assign the job of collecting and sorting the iPads to one student in each class so you have another set of eyes to help you.

The Ugly:

1. Meaningful Integration: This is not really an ugly but as you use the iPads more and more in the classroom you will need to make the experience more and more meaningful.  There are only so many keynote or iMovie projects you can assign.  The ugly part becomes the time required to meaningfully reflect upon your practice and decide how iPads, or tech in general, can complement your teaching style.  This is ugly because it is not easy to critically look at yourself and it is even harder to do when someone else is doing the looking.  This is why provincial, district or school initiatives that call for the use of technology under the guise of some new groundbreaking educational reform will always fall on deaf ears.  The critical analysis has to be on an individual basis and has to come from a genuine desire to see how technology can be used to complement sound pedagogy.

I welcome your comments and feedback on this post.  If anyone has solutions for the problems posed in this post I welcome your willingness to share them.