Posts Tagged ‘integrating technology’

It was a busy year

July 13th, 2013 No comments

This school year I underused wikispaces. Wikispaces have been a central component of my tech integration. I’ve used it as a sandbox and peer collaboration space in the past. It is the platform for my students digital portfolios. All that slipped a bit this past year. Partly, it was competition from other tech applications I used this year. In some measure, it was a growing issue of mobile compatibility.

Wikispaces do not edit or view well on the iPad tablets my school acquired this past fall. iPads and the students personal iPods don’t accommodate the widgets I have usually taught the students to embed. I will stay with the wikispace digital portfolio in the fall, but the shift to mobile platforms has created a problem I need to solve.

I wonder how mobile technology, and its incompatibilities with desktop applications is impacting other teachers.

I paid for VoiceThread this year and never used it! I have had a lot of success using VoiceThread collaboratively over the years. I accidentally paid for my subscription again this next year. In consequence, I think I need to take time to exploit it. It does seem to be compatible with the iPads we use. I just stumbled on that app as I was writing this. At first glance it does not seem as friendly as the desktop application.

I social networked with Skype, Edmodo and epals this year. I think those cross classroom collaborations enhanced the units they supported. They were not as integrated into learning as I would like. Edmodo was probably the most useful. I’ve reflected on these experiences in this space earlier in the year.

It is easy to understate the constant utility of browsers, Microsoft Word, and other tech staples. My students use so many, but Google Drive became much more important as the year progressed. Drive is where I will begin this year.

Integrating technology authentically

March 5th, 2012 1 comment


This was an exciting moment on Friday. Two of my students sharing their writing with a pre service teacher. It was frustrating though. I have been trying to set up writer’s workshop between peers from different schools using Skype. This has not been a success so far. I want students to experience this. These girls told me they had Skyped with their mother the night before. I need to remember integration is happening faster outside our classrooms in many instances.

BYOC: Bring Your Own Context

October 28th, 2011 No comments

BYOC: Bring Your Own Context

by Shelly Blake-Plock

A lot of discussion recently over the pros and cons of BYOD — Bring Your Own Device. Some folks have been quite adamantly in favor or against.

For all the hub-bub, I think it’s worth thinking about devices not just in relation to what kids do with them in the classroom, but rather how they relate to the connection those devices represent for them in the real world.

Fact is that we are living in a time — not unlike those previous — when one device will not do it all. 

Context is the key.

If I am processing audio, I want to be on a Mac. If I am tweeting on the bus, I want to be on a smartphone. If I am reading the news, I want to kick back with a tablet. If I am learning a new language, my iPod will do just fine.

Does this make life more difficult when you are trying to find a “solution” for you school? Yes. Technology is not making life easier.

Again, context is the key.

Personally, I don’t think that forcing a “school standard” will change the fact that for a lot of people, the smartphone represents their connection to the Internet.

Nor is giving me a laptop going to change the fact that I personally read better on an iPad. Nor is giving me an iPad going to change the fact that I type better on a laptop.

There is no “one device”.

So why do schools pretend they can provide it?

My wife loves Android. I’m waiting for Windows 8. Fortunately, we can make decisions to experience technology in the way that is most conducive to the way each of us work. So, I can’t afford a new fancy Mac to do high-end video, but luckily there is a community center in town that offers time on theirs. I take my iPad to the library, but when I want to do some heavy writing, I use the desktop PCs they have there running OpenOffice. In other words, between what we can provide and what the community can provide, we have a range of options for using devices to do what we need to.

Maybe instead of trying to find the “device” or the “solution”, we should step back and think about our role in schools to provide a range of computing experiences — and to allow kids to bring a range of computing experiences with them. This after all is fundamentally what a school is meant to do: provide a range of learning experiences and accept that kids bring a range of experiences with them.

One of the biggest failures of 1:1 computing in education is school’s inability to understand that there is a difference between having a machine and having a lifestyle device.

One of the biggest potential failures of BYOD is thinking that kids can provide equity on their own.

My own approach as a decision maker would probably be to strike a balance whereby the school would provide machines capable of handling the task at hand and the students are allowed to bring their own devices to complement the tech infrastructure.

We need to integrate both into a learning experience.

We need a range of devices to handle a range of problems and provide a range of opportunities.

Going hard one way or the other — for or against BYOD — is missing the reality of the way most of us actually compute, and missing a chance to leverage the context in the way we and our students actually understand and relate to technology.

In reality, this isn’t about BYOD, it’s about BYOC — Bring Your Own Context.

from TeachPaperless

Create to Learn

July 22nd, 2010 No comments

Paula White is presenting at EduStat next week on Wednesday and Thursday–Wednesday in Philadelphia and Thursday in New Hampshire.  The name of her presentation is “Create 2 Learn” She is talking about how as we create, we are also learning. She asked me what some of my reflections on this topic might be. It was a good question I thought and I hope to follow the thread of her presentation.

There is a significant topic. I searched my blog for reflections on wikispaces and found quite a few references in the past three or four years. Nothing connects exactly with your topic. Perhaps that would be worth a new blog.

I think my experience in this last year has been the best. Previous to this I have worked in a community school with a high number of immigrant children. They took readily to technology (the Chinese girls liked following Cantonese or Mandarin sites), but most of them lacked confidence to explore independently. My current school was another matter. Very quickly our relationship shifted from teacher-master to connected, collaborative learning. Once students understood the concept of embedding, for example, a yeasty fermentation of possibilities was opened up. Because of the open internet policy our school division maintains, my students began exploiting the cloud creatively. I established a minimum of norms:

Wikispace Manners

  • I can be polite and respectful
  • I can be school appropriate
  • I can respect people’s spaces
  • I can share what I learn

On reflection, I should have emphasized copyright more. Something for next year I think.

Mentoring became the norm as one good idea after another spread around the classroom. Pride and confidence was evident. Not all of my twenty-one fourth and fifth graders became deeply engaged. We lose sight of the fundamental principles of differentiated learning if we expect a single approach to learning to reach everyone. Some stayed in the shallow end, most swam with confidence using their favorite strokes and a good few were completely immersed in the potentials. I learned the most from these young boys and girls. The most important lesson they taught me was that when I relinquished control (agenda, pace), and offered trust and respect, they learned. Yes they learned the technology, but they also explored their own voices through that technology and used that technology to learn authentically. At nine, ten and eleven, the results of their learning are flawed or rudimentary, but we would all dismiss that concern.

Kelsey’s page does not demonstrate the most creative use of technology (or organization) but it approached the thematic, personal level I hoped students would aspire to. Other students embedded their own videos, twitter streams, radio stations, and so much more. Ryan’s video is typical perhaps.  The wiki became my choice for digital portfolio as well

We have favorite tools and Wikispaces was mine. It is a straightforward application that allows the aggregation of other applications. I like Wikispaces because it connects young people to that paramount exemplar of connected learning: Wikipedia. Clearly, the internet itself is a monumental example of a democratically constructed, open community of purpose. It is the environment, the ecology we all inhabit now. Deconstructing ecologies, modeling complex systems is beyond difficult. Being connected learners through wiki applications is manageable.

As the year progressed, I created a private Ning for my class. They wanted access to digital pictures best not shared publically. Five students had family limitations on their digital footprint. Perhaps that was the primary reason. It allowed us to explore chat and blogging. I’ll continue with this next year but I don’t really like it. It connects their voices but it is a limited vehicle for learning I think. I think the challenge for the future is to free students to explore the possibilities. I think of the student who started his own Ning in order to research a topic. It was unsuccessful, but creative. We all need to get past our fixation with the power of the tools and let them rest comfortably in the hands of our students. They will play of course, but they will also use them to meet their need to learn and share. I had thought myself always committed to professional growth, this last year has been amazing not least because of the way I view the young people around me as fellow travellers. There are many factors converging that create a successful year. Some are in our hands, others not. I’m crossing my fingers.

It’s just another day …

February 3rd, 2010 No comments


In Prairie South School Division Westmount School’s Kathy Cassidy was selected as one of Canada’s most tech-savvy teachers. I’m impressed with the technology she has introduced in her classroom. She is leading in a direction I want to follow. I was reflecting on the absence of DVD or VHS use in the video. There were no shots of books or traditional seat work either. It is there in the classroom I am sure and I understand why it is not in this short video. The video highlights new instructional technologies. In 2010 viewers would wonder why a video would highlight decades old technology like video recordings. They have been more or less successfully integrated into North American classrooms. I hope we are working for the day when Skyping with a guest, receiving an aunt’s response to a blog, and compiling data from around the world on a wiki are as prosaic and unremarkable as slapping a DVD into a machine and watching Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Dean Shareski on the way it ought to be

January 30th, 2010 1 comment

Ideas and Thoughts

Dean Shareski, January 30, 2010

I was fortunate to be able to spend Thursday and Friday hanging around the school. Here’s what I saw:

  • Lots of smiles.
  • Loud classrooms
  • A principal’s office that looked more like grand central with equal numbers of staff and students talking and working, coming and going
  • Teachers who discussed personal issues with students
  • A brief power outage that didn’t paralyze learning despite them being a 1:1 school
  • A lack of emphasis on technology
  • Students occasionally off task
  • Students excited to talk with adults

None of these things are particularly amazing and are all things you could find in many, if not all schools in North America.  I didn’t see one thing that couldn’t  be done almost anywhere. The teachers are good teachers but they aren’t doing anything I haven’t seen before. So what’s the big deal?

Increasingly, there is no big deal. We speak about integration as a goal for new instructional technologies and remain surprised when we actually encounter situations where technology is no longer an innovation. Better than half of my fourth and fifth graders have cell phones and the rest use their parents mobiles as thoughtlessly as they use the land-line in their homes. “I’ll Skype you,” is a common phrase at the end of the day in my room. You commented recently that our division has 1-2 computing. It doesn’t actually feel like that to me in practice, but I realized that if the computer lab and library at our school were distributed tot he classrooms, we likely would have it. Technological integration is emerging around us.

I’m reminded of another blog-tweet (cannot discriminate between the two sometimes) requesting that we stop talking about teaching for the 21st Century. We are nine years into it now. Thanks to the open policies of our division, we can be technologically integrated now. There are other sorts of openness that contribute to effective learning environments.  Effective staff teams, an open-door administration, and flexible environments are a few.

Wednesday and Thursday I distributed ActivExpression handsets to my fourth and fifth grade students so we could become familiar with them. They found the multiple choice buttons momentarily confusing. Except for two of them, they understood the texting function immediately. It seemed natural for the text to be limited to about 140 characters. The handhelds were novel to them, but not a big deal. I liked them too, but recognized them as an incidental addition to the full range of tools I might use in the classroom and frankly not my first choice.

Getting tangled in my own feet

January 15th, 2010 No comments
Diary of a Wimp on ebook

Diary of a Wimpy Kid on ebook

Despite it all, I still underestimate my own efforts to integrate technology into my classroom. Yesterday during silent reading one of my boys slipped away from his desk and took a laptop to the study carol. In a cohort of enthusiastic computer users his dedication reduces 70% of his peers to the status of Luddites. I think of him as a reluctant reader so I checked his activity after five minutes and discovered him re-immersed in a book on line. Across the room a classmate was reading the same book in print. There was nothing inherently superior about either option. It was just the option he chose. I offered him some fatuous praise and he rolled his eyes (I mean he really did that) and with an exasperated tone pointed out that I had supplied him with the link over the Christmas break. I slunk away feeling embarrassed. I returned to take a picture of him, “Are you going to Blogger that?” he asked. We think alike at times.

I have an appointment this morning and quickly threw a plan together for the ‘guest teacher’ (something is apparently wrong with the word ‘substitute’). That was a relatively simple task, unlike my chess play I do plan my moves well ahead. As I was printing off the plan I remembered I had a Skype call scheduled for this morning. My counterpart has installed Skype on a laptop following my lead. We are now set to send students off for independent conversations now. Only I am not going to be there this morning to orchestrate that. I left a note to the substitute with two student’s names and now I have to leave it in the hands of a nine year old and a ten year old. I think that is what we are working for here. We have to be aware of our student’s activities and guide them toward valid learning outcomes, but we have to stop being technology gate keepers, allow independence and for gosh sake, stop responding to their activities as if they were miraculous. Its just all in a day’s work now.