Category Archives: ETEC 533

Collaborative Quizzing

Today, I launched a new assessment approach in my academic Math 10 and Physics 12 classes: collaborative quizzing.

I had my traditional quizzes ready to go but I had students pair up to do the quiz together. Admittedly, I have not counted quizzes for marks for almost 10 years. When Assessment for Learning approaches came to BC, we were instructed to not penalize students for practicing. Although extreme advocates for AFL interpreted this mantra as necessitating the elimination of due dates and late penalties, I personally found that this modification increased stress levels and dropped performance levels of my students. I did, however, eliminate quizzes that lowered overall grades, then quickly eliminated all quiz scores from my gradebook. Overall, students appreciate having quizzes represent a snapshot of their present knowledge, yet also not contribute to lowering their grades. Consequently, making the leap into a collaborative model, was more like a step for me.

Throughout my Masters’ journey, I have read about the merits of collaboration and social construction of learning. And although students will simply have a unit test and final exam as their solo flight assessments, my gut is telling me that this is the way to go. My main concern is for the students who are struggling with the material— how can I provide opportunities for them to increase their conceptual understanding within my short time with them in class? Students can self-quiz themselves, outside of class, should this practice be needed, whereas this collaboration time may not be as easily accessed, once the bell rings at the end of class.

Today, I had phones brought to the chalkboard or I witnessed them being stowed into backpacks. Each pair had their own quiz, along with a table top whiteboard, to get ideas out in the open. Some groups worked solo and only conversed occasionally. Other groups talked about every question in detail. When a group was unsure, I guided their understanding and sent other groups to help, when I was busy. Potentially, in this model, students harbouring misconceptions will have their issues resolved right away! I also had each student input their final answers into a Response System, so that I could gauge where everyone was at, at the end of the process, and review any questions with the class that proved to be challenging. Tomorrow, I will poll the classes to see how they felt this approach went.

If I was the student, who was not entirely sure about the concepts, I would have very much appreciated this style of non-stressful, non-punitive, low-anxiety collaborative assessment.

I am more than curious to see what they will say! …stay tuned!

Update On Post: Here is a link to the Google Spreadsheet summarizing the students’ responses from my Collaborative Quiz Survey.

March 12 Update: After absorbing the comments from the survey, I decided to allow individuals the choice of “going solo” on their quiz. Although, I tried to convince them of the merits of teaching others (being the MKO), a few students still preferred to be take on the “lone wolf” approach to their learning. The students who have fallen into this lone wolf category tend to either be on their own in class usually or are very capable students who typically are able to resolve their issues on their own. By far, the vast majority of students are fully using or partially using this time as an opportunity to work together on questions. Seeing my “strugglers” make full use of their time during a time that would otherwise be spent doodling on the back of the quiz, is reason enough to make me want to continue this assessment technique. I now have students hand in corrected quizzes that count toward Practice Work (Homework) marks. Students mark their own and are responsible for making their own corrections. Work MUST be shown and absent students can get the answer key from the Google Classroom. This process is a home run as far as I am concerned!

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Filed under assessment, collaboration, ETEC 533, Vygotsky

My First Impressions of WISE: Web-based Inquiry Science Environment

The very first search I made in the WISE platform was “Grade 9 – 12, Physics”.
One lesson came up. (Three really, but only one was in English.)


I am a fan of not reinventing wheels, so having read many pages of research about the affordances of WISE, I was eager to dive into a plethora of ready-to-go senior Physics activities. Sadly, I was not off to a very good start.

So back to the instructions I went and began looking at the suggested lessons on the ETEC 533 Connect LMS. Thankfully, the suggested lessons were well chosen and left a really great second impression! The project that I tinkered around in was the Graphing Stories (with motion probes). Although it was categorized for Middle School grades, I found that much of it also could apply to the current (but soon to be turfed) BC Science 10 and even a Physics 11 course.

Without any trouble, I added another activity and played around with some “steps”. Adapting the “story” to an older student would be fairly easy and I think the project is fairly good “as is”. I am very impressed that the WISE interface can integrate Vernier Motion Detectors, although it appears that not all probes have been programmed into WISE.

Where my hesitations exist with WISE in general, is substituting a simulation with real equipment and real data collecting. I appreciate, however, that WISE opens doors to exploring questions that CAN’T be done in the classroom. I particularly like that the Graphing Stories weaves in the work with the motion detectors– getting students to move their bodies to produce the position-time graphs is fabulous.

For Physics 11, I would definitely add in an activity that utilizes, “The Universe and More’s Graphing Challenge”. Also, I would add in Mazur’s Peer Instruction process to get students’ misconceptions identified and resolved. Both of these “add ons” would layer more elements of SKI, via all four of SKI’s main tenets:
1. Making thinking visible;
2. Making science visible;
3. Providing collaborative opportunities; and
4. Promoting lifelong learning. (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002)
Another limitation with WISE is that on assessment pages, it allows for students to keep guessing when incorrect answers are given. I appreciate the effort to reduce the number of points after each choice has been made, however, for students who are disengaged, they will merely keep guessing until they are correct, as opposed to rereading or rewatching the material. Teachers may have a false sense of what their students actually know, because of this.

Without question, research has repeatedly shown that the reflection process is a critical piece to one’s learning process. This week’s reading reported on a study that 90% of students participate in asynchronous reflections with two or more pieces of evidence, compared to only 15% of students and little evidence, in a class discussion model (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002). Should student blogging not be established in one’s classroom, WISE provides a great way to take advantage of this research.

To diverge a tad bit, I have an overall concern with the lack of face-to-face experiences that we are having in our society. Most of us are likely old enough to remember how tacky it was to break-up with someone over the phone, but these days, a phone conversation “to do the deed” is more commonly replaced with a e-mail or a text. Although, screens engage our students in ways that worksheets can not, having discussions that are not typed has got to be woven into our practices still. And for that reason, combined with the importance of actually using equipment to collect data, I can not see myself adopting WISE to any great extent. I would, however, consider using it for a lesson, or two.

I am such a Moderate, when it comes to teaching!

If you are unfamiliar with Peer Instruction, there is much out there in YouTubeLand.  Here is a relatively short introduction to the process told by Mazur himself:

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Filed under educational apps & programs, ETEC 533, Misconceptions, WISE

WISE 101: A Brief Introduction to a TELE

  • What is WISE?

    • Web-based Inquiry Science Environment
    • Created in 1996 at The University of Calfornia, and Berkeley; has been expanded on from various researchers, educators and scientists worldwide
  • What was the motivation to create WISE?

    • Developers recognized that learners share a variety of misconceptions about every scientific phenomena and that learners also “deliberately” learn about science in order to expand on their own views of the world around them.
    • Developers hoped to create a platform that supported inquiry projects that lead to cohesive, sensical and thoughtful scientific reasoning
    • Utilizing the affordances of the internet, more realistic approaches could be weaved into the projects (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002)
  • In what ways does SKI promote knowledge integration through its technological and curriculum design?

    • SKI: Scaffolded Knowledge Integration
    • There are four tenets to the SKI framework:
      • 1. Learners should have opportunities to “make their thinking visible”.
      • 2. Learners should be provided with opportunities that facilitate science being accessible to them.
      • 3. Learners should be provided with collaborative opportunities.  
      • 4. The design of the learning model should promote lifelong learning.
    • There are four types of “Knowledge Integration” prompts within SKI:
      • 1. Overarching: the process of connecting views across the entire project
      • 2. Critique: prompts that require learners to assess the scientific content
      • 3. Interpretation: to reinterpret evidence in a new context
      • 4. Explanation: learners are required explain evidence in their own words. (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002)
  • Describe a typical process for developing a WISE project.

    • Should an educator wish to develop their own WISE project, creating a free account would be the first step. Although I have limited experience with the design process, in the first two hours that I spent with WISE, I was easily able to copy an existing project, then alter it to my own needs. My recommendation would be to tinker with pre-existing projects before starting one from scratch.  Overall, I would predict that the platform would be very user-friendly for those with a moderate amount of technological courage and experience, or more.
    • When developing an inquiry WISE project, researchers have narrowed down a few general strategies for problem-based learning and inquiry design:
      • 1. Ensure that disciplinary thinking and strategies are explicit
      • 2. Expert guidance (scaffolding) should be embedded throughout the project
      • 3. Complex tasks should be structured/scaffolded, thus reducing the “cognitive load” on the learners. (Lee & Chen, 2009)
    • Research has determined that reflections and explanations are more effective than procedural prompts
    • Although not too many studies have been done on how much scaffolding is needed within projects, educators should be mindful of the “Situated Knowledge Paradox”— when learners lack sufficient prior knowledge during an inquiry, thus their naivety misinforms and creates resilient misconceptions. (Kim & Hannafin, 2010)
  • How does this design process compare with the Jasper Adventures?

    • Compared to the Jasper Series, WISE is by far the more adaptable platform. In WISE, educators can choose to embed a vast array of tasks within the lesson, in addition to what Jasper can offer.  Students can effortlessly navigate from task to task, watching videos, performing experiments, reflecting on their learning, collaborating with others, visiting other simulations, and more.
    • Knowing what I now know about WISE, I would have rather spent two weeks investigating it as opposed to one week on Jasper and one week on WISE.  WISE “wins” by a landslide, as far as I am concerned!
  • How could you use a WISE project in your school or another learning environment?

    • From a senior Physics perspective, I would utilize WISE in a unit such as Gravitation or Modern Physics, where I lack the ability to demonstrate or conduct labs with my limited equipment. As a proponent of “hands on” learning, in units that I can bring into the classroom, I would be more reluctant to have students on screens.
    • I could also see the benefit of conducting an Earth Science 11 or a Science and Technology 11 course purely on WISE, as the students who mostly take these courses are not moving on to science related post-secondary programs.  I think more of our “reluctant learners” who just need a Science 11 credit to graduate, would have more buy-in with a format that was focused on learning fewer outcomes, but more in-depth. In courses like these, Final Exams could be eliminated entirely, in exchange for a Final Inquiry Project of their choosing.
  • What about WISE would you customize?

    • Everything.
    • Because I can.
    • “I like my teacher, but he never teaches us anything.” “We read a novel, did a project and moved onto the next novel without discussion.  I really wanted to talk about the first novel, but that wasn’t part of the process.” These are two comments from the daughter of a friend of mine who came out of an inquiry middle school model. Although she enjoyed picking her own projects, she also wished that her teacher had actually ran the show at times.  I believe that students want to have confidence in their teachers’ knowledge. Should teachers choose to run inquiry delivery models, they need to keep their essence in their lessons. Personalizing lessons within WISE, conducting class discussions, pushing students to think outside of their comfort zones and acting as the MKO (More Knowledgeable Other) at times, are all important actions and roles for educators to adopt.
    • As far as I am concerned, it is wise to keep our wisdom in WISE!

Kim, M. C., & Hannafin, M. J. (2011). Scaffolding problem solving in technology-enhanced learning environments (TELEs): Bridging research and theory with practice. Computers & Education, 56(2), 403-417.

Lee, C. -Y., & Chen, M. -P. (2009). A computer game as a context for non-routine mathematical problem solving: the effects of type of question prompt and level of prior knowledge. Computers & Education, 52, 530–542.

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.

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Filed under educational apps & programs, ETEC 533, Learning models, WISE

Further Reflections on the Jasper Series

Reading my classmates posts this week both  validated my thoughts and made me think how I could incorporate Jasper methodologies into my practice.   Now that BC Math 10 teachers have had their Provincial Exam shackles removed, there is theoretically time to weave “real world” problem solving into the course. In addition, the new curriculum is noticeably less rigorous– it appears as though for every new learning outcome that has been added, we have “lost” about three.  (Is this a good thing?  Well, that is a completely different blog post to be written…)

Reflections that I have included on classmates posts include:

  1. On Vibhu Vashisht’s post: “To respond to your question, I think that I would like to do a Jasper-esque problem at the end of my course (Foundations/Pre-Calculus 10), once the concepts have been taught and rehearsed. I think that students would really sink their teeth into a “real life” problem that involved concepts from the course and with a group dynamic, everyone at every skill level could participate. The new Math 10 curriculum has a probability component in it now, so devising a problem that incorporates a game would be very cool. Perhaps after trying it out once, I would consider having more through out my course, but I am not prepared to jump in with two feet, at this point.”

  2. On Catherine Servko’s post: “My ultimate point is that when adopting new strategies, I believe it is advisable to not let the pendulum sway to an extreme. So keep some rote learning on the basic skills— ones that are critical to continue in academic mathematics in high school and post-secondary. But then, adopt new strategies that also allow students to receive the socio-cultural, anchored learning affordances. Best of both worlds!”

  3. On Mary Sikkes’ post: “Sometimes, it is hard to NOT overthink things. I think that you should just give the Jasper approach a shot, on a relatively small scale, and then reflect on what went well and what could be adapted for next time. It is kind of like bringing in a new form of technology to your practice— it will likely not be perfect, but it gets the ball rolling, at least!”

  4. In response to  Anne’s reply on my post: “The one time, as a student in grade school, that I dreaded math, was when I clearly did not have the basic skills down pat. I was at the end of my Grade 3 and I was at my third school in that grade. I was so behind the other kids with my times table knowledge. I would feel so dumb because we would sit in groups of three with a student flashing cards and testing us. Public humiliation felt horrible! However, once I caught up in that area, I started liking math again, and really appreciated the fact that with extra effort, I could do as well as anyone. When in Grade 5, Mrs. Wong gave us a challenge to complete all of the questions in the supplemental math text, I took her up on the challenge and was the first student done (and got the first pick off of the prize table!) You could imagine that my basic, fundamental skills were automated and accurate after having completed hundreds of extra questions. I truly believe that Mrs. Wong’s competition is one of two main reasons that I went on in math in university. It allowed me to confidently attack the more difficult problems in every math class in Grade School and set me up to enjoy learning new mathematics. I appreciate that not everyone will respond to rote learning competitions, as I did. But at the end of the day, it really worked for me.”

This week, Catherine Sverko, mentioned the “grey nature” of teaching.  Becoming a “Shades of Grey Educator”, is a time-consuming and at times, overwhelming metamorphosis.  Considering each student as a whole individual, can be messy, because in order to do so, the personal qualities of the individual can not be ignored. Not every educator is prepared to “go grey”, either. A counselor who is on a temporary contact mentioned  to my colleague that she is really enjoying her time at our school because when she approaches teachers to make accommodations for her clients, the teachers actually make them happen without difficulty. Apparently, this is not always the case at other schools.

As individuals, we do not all learn at the same rate, and have the same preferred methodologies. I would speculate that perhaps more than any other subject, students bring an incredible amount of psychological baggage with them into the mathematics classroom. To think that one approach to mathematical learning is going to reach out to every student that enters your room, is optimistic at best.

My ultimate issue with adopting the Jasper methodology as one’s main pedagogical approach in mathematics is that it does not seem to give students enough repetition, to truly learn a particular process. Also, if groups are being utilized, the weaker math students risk being dragged along (happily) by the stronger math students. Can we simply sugar coat a core literacy such as mathematics, in the spirit of having students “like math” more? I do not think this is a wise approach.  To quote a colleague of mine, “In high school, we do not want to sacrifice the top 20 for the bottom 80.”  I think that classrooms that remove the rote components of mathematics are doing just that, in the name of making math “real”, and “fun”.

I am not saying that the math classroom should purely be rote learning.  I am actually quite eager to employ a Jasper style approach as an activity that brings my course to its conclusion. I think that it would serve as an engaging way to review and concurrently have students work together in teams to address a realistic situation mathematically.

As a non-purest, rote-learning advocate, I surely must ask myself, how much rote is enough? That I do not know, although with some research, I may be able to have a definitive answer.  In the meantime, I have come across The Bulletproof Musician’s blog, who espouses that if it takes about 40 repetitions to learn something, then we should aim to 100% “overlearn” (i.e. do 40 additional repetitions) for mastery.

I would estimate that in my own mathematics learning, 100% “overlearning” is about right for me. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, however, I am certainly not the dullest, either. For some of us, perhaps 0% “overlearning” is required, and for others, 200%.  If the ultimate goal is to have our students master the concepts, I believe our classroom approach should attempt to accommodate these differences; although who is to say there is only one way to accomplish this?  We do not learn any skills be merely watching others— if this were true, we would all play basketball like Steve Nash.   Learning skills required repetition. Repetition requires perseverance and  will. Should our students not possess both of these qualities, at what point is it OK to say that maybe a career involving academic math is not someone’s destiny? Moreover, should we continue to lower the rigor of our mathematics classes so that the “bottom 80” enjoys math class more?

What do you think?

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Filed under assessment, ETEC 533, Jasper Series

My Love-Hate Relationship with the Jasper Series

At the onset, what’s not to love?  Two of the readings that I chose, concluded that students self-reported to enjoying math more, and having less anxiety (CTGV, 1992b; Shyu, 2000). Both readings reported that students’ problem solving skills improved, and I would speculate that the Shyu study would see even larger increases in problem solving skills had the students participated in more than one Jasper Series problem. 

The main issue that the folks at Jasper are attempting to address is that many students are unable to apply microcontext (“end of the chapter”) questions, to macrocontext (“real life”/situated/anchored) problems.  The literature that I read, convinced me of one thing—group work, when orchestrated well, is beneficial to most students.  In “Complex Mathematical Problem Solving by Individuals and Dyads”, the younger, Grade 5 dyads, performed much better than their older (and more mathematically talented) Grade 6 soloists (Vye, 1997). Two lesser-able heads and better than one more-abled, it seems. How great is that???

I am not convinced that diving head first into Jasper methodologies is wise, however.  The entire premise favours a “top to bottom” skills approach, where the focus is on higher level thinking, and to scaffold if and when needed.  In my experience, this is a disastrous methodology to follow to the tee when teaching mathematics.  In order for these higher level problems to be attacked, a base knowledge needs to exist. Otherwise, in the group work, one or two “hot shots” will take the lead, the students who don’t understand a stich, get pulled along, everyone advances to the next level, and sure… Everyone feels good, because the low level students had life jackets on the entire time—of course, they enjoy this approach!

Borrowing a thought from John-Steiner and Mahn’s 1996-piece, “Sociocultural Approaches to Learning and Development: A Vygtoskian Framework”, the authors emphasise the importance of when looking at Vygotskian Theory, to refrain from abstracting portions of the theory, which can consequently lead to “distorted understandings and applications” (p. 204).  To me, the Jasper folks have abstracted portions of constructivist learning strategies, conducted studies using the best math students or studies where groups can make the struggling kids float, and declared, “Hey, we’ve made math fun and relevant!”

Many of us agree that Piaget and Vygotsky had a lot of things right in their constructivist theories.  Both theorists agreed that the material world aids development due to environmental experience (Glassman, 1994). These environmental experiences are often transpiring amongst peer groups, in a social context. Can we not replicate these transformative experiences in our classrooms?

When students possess self-generated motivation to accomplish a task (due to being adequately challenged), constructivist approaches to learning can flourish (vonGlasersfeld, 1983). But here’s the thing… according to Vygotsky, the development of thought requires spontaneous (self-generative) concepts to occur in opposition of non-spontaneous concepts (Glassman, 1994).  Non-spontaneous concepts can occur through peer interactions, however, they can also occur through instruction, from adult MKOs (more knowledgeable others). Vygotsky himself was privately taught by a mathematician who followed the Socratic method. He learned an incredible amount from his parents and his tutor; his own children were brought up in a similar Socratic environment living in a single room house with 11 other people (please refer to the Vygotsky timeline:

Ultimately, I would urge educators to digest methodologies like Jasper in small quantities.  These approaches are not the magic pill that will solve all of our problems. I believe that rote learning still has its place in mathematics. (Yup. I said it.) If it is the only approach that one adopts, I would ask that person to get with the program, however. We don’t want to kill the beauty of mathematics for our students, yet students moving onto academic levels of math, need to have the skill set, the automated skill set, in order to succeed and actually understand what the heck they are doing.

I’m still looking for that magic pill— it’s a quest worth pursuing, indeed! I suspect that if someone ever DOES find it though, that it will not consist of just one approach.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992b). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program, description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.
Glassman, M. (1994). All things being equal: The two roads of Piaget and Vygotsky. Developmental Review, 14(2), 186-214. doi:10.1006/drev.1994.1008
John-Steiner, V., & Mahn, H. (1996). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework. Educational Psychologist, 31(3), 191.
Shyu, H. Y. C. (2000). Using video‐based anchored instruction to enhance learning: Taiwan’s experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 57-69.
Von Glasersfeld, E. (2008). Learning as a constructive activity. AntiMatters, 2(3), 33-49.
Available online:
Vye, N. et al. (1997). Complex mathematical problem solving by individuals and dyads. Cognition and Instruction, 15(4), 435-450.

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Filed under ETEC 533, Jasper Series, Learning models

Subject matter as a “vehicle”: What are you driving?

In Shulman’s “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of New Reform” (1987), he provides readers with an analogy that implies that our subject matter is a vehicle that will “service other goals” (p. 7). He continues to assert that at the secondary level, “subject matter is a nearly universal vehicle for instruction” (p.7).  Near the end of his paper, he provides us with the example of the talented English teacher with two degrees, who lacked grammatical confidence.  When teaching topics that were not in her wheelhouse, she transformed into a “didactic” pedagogue, lacking confidence and displaying anxiety.

I would be lying if I never felt like a didactic pedagogue, early on in my career!  When I started out, I taught a lot of Junior Science, which meant  teaching Biology and Chemistry, two subjects that I did not have beyond a first year level of instruction. The lack of knowledge base, shook me to my core; I am certain that my lack of confidence was obvious to my students, as well. In time, I grew more comfortable with the material, but never above the level that I was teaching. Thankfully, in the last twelve years, I have solely been teaching Mathematics and Physics, but being thrown a junior science is a possibility, every year. <insert wheezing sounds>

Courtesy Joost J. Bakker from IJmuiden, Flickr

What I have learned in my time at the wheel, is that it is OK to not know everything, but it is important to know enough.  And without question, it sure helps to have a solid grasp of at least one year above what you are teaching. Preparing students for their next course is very difficult, when you personally do not understand the material in the next level up!  So to answer my question, these days, I feel like I am driving a pretty solid BMW, although stick me with Junior Science and hello 1977 Ford Pinto.



One strategy that I have only recently used, is to teach/review algebra with my FPC Math 10 (academic math) class, having the students sit in pairs of their choosing. Each pair has a table top whiteboard (London Drugs sometimes clears them out…), marker and eraser.  I review the basic “moves” and reinforce opposite operations and remind them that the order of the “moves” is important (“Reverse BEDMAS”, usually helps them remember).  Then, we do a series of increasingly difficult algebraic problems, WITHOUT variables. For example, rearrange “2 + 3= 5” for 3.  My approach is to reinforce that “if it works on the numbers, it will work on the letters.”  The students work in pairs and flash me their answers.  When students are struggling, I send other students to help, that have already shown me their work. The goal is to increase student interactions— Vygotskian social learning!  During which time, I am discussing proper notation (where to put the = sign, working vertically, using fraction bars for division, etc.). What I am finding is that is is a huge confidence boost for my low folks, because they can find their own mistakes (clearly, 3 doesn’t equal 5/2, for example). When we leap into the variables, I can then attach the more abstract algebra to the concrete algebra.  Practically right away, we can then start throwing our symbols across the equal sign, completing multiple steps simultaneously.

I chose this as my example because it exemplifies how important it is to have a knowledge base beyond your subject material. Being a physics teacher, I know how important it is to be comfortable with symbolic manipulation.  My colleagues without the physics, tend to not prioritize symbolic manipulation prior to substitution. What they don’t seem to understand, is that it is far more efficient to rearrange before substituting and it is critical to do so from Physics 12 onward.


Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching. The foundations of a new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1)1-23.

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Filed under ETEC 533, General thoughts, Vygotsky


Photo by  courtesy of Imgur.

In my experience, you can lead an educator to technology however, you can not make them prep.

Technology is most certainly not a “vitamin” that can be consumed with the expectation that benefits will passively and spontaneously appear. I very much align myself with Dede’s view on technology’s purpose within classrooms: “…emerging interactive media are tools in service of richer curricula, enhanced pedagogies, more effective organization structures, stronger links between schools and society, and the empowerment of disenfranchised learners.” (Kozma, 2003)

Designers of technology enhanced learning experiences are best served by staying true to their core pedagogical beliefs. As individual learners are unique, so are educators.  My strengths as an educator will differ from my colleagues, therefore the technology that I utilize may also look different. In math and science, I believe that the best way to utilize technology is to focus on three questions:

  1. How can I bring science or math into my classroom in ways that I otherwise could not?
  2. How can technology be used to maximize social learning interactions (student-teacher or student-student)?
  3. How can technology be used to increase engagement, curiosity, and overall excitement to learn?
Kozma, R. (2003). Technology, innovation, and educational change: A global perspective, (A report of the Second Information Technology in Education Study, Module 2). Eugene, OR: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, ISTE Publications.

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Filed under ETEC 533, Vygotsky

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to not try your hardest.

Personal reflection time.

Without question, my butt is being kicked right now. Semester turnaround is my busiest time of year, my immune system has not been fully operational, family responsibilities do not seem to disappear for some reason and I am not handling it.

I occasionally ask my busy students who sometimes come to me in tears, “How often are you crying?”  I use crying as a litmus test for stress. Unless you are a Buddhist monk, it is fair to say that you have stress in your life. (Heck, even the monks probably have some stress!  I wonder…) We all can deal with that stress to varying degrees of success, depending on who we are, what life experience we have, etc.  My “Crying Litmus Test” theory is that if you are crying multiple times a week due to your workload/life, then you need to make a change.  What that change looks like, looks differently for different people.

As I have officially passed the Crying Litmus Test as of this morning, I need to heed my own advice.  So what change is it going to be?

Of course in the throws of despair last night, I uttered, “I’m quitting this degree!”  Hmmm… a tad bit extreme.  This perfectly exemplifies why we shouldn’t make significant decisions or write impulsive emails to people, when in a heightened emotional state!

So in lieu of quitting, I have decided to not complete my next assignment to the best of my ability.

For some, this is no big deal. In fact, throughout my degree, friends, family and colleagues have encouraged this approach from the very beginning! They say, “Your marks don’t matter.”, “You will still get your pay raise.”, “Your family is more important than an A+.” and so on.

But for some of us, this is not an option. When our names are on something, we want it to be attached to work that we are proud of. When we spend $1500 on ONE course, we want to leave that course having learned more than the minimal. We actually enjoy losing ourselves in the learning process. Slapping a project together is not in our D.N.A..

Until now.

So… wish me luck.  I’m going to give this a go this week.  It won’t be my best work, but I have to live by my own words.

I wrote this blog post a long time ago for my students.  I think I need to reread it.


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Grounding Issues and Finding Patterns in Experience

For this assignment, I was asked to interview, transcribe and analyze a conversation with a math or science teacher with regards to their technology use in the classroom.

Link to my transcript is here.


“Brianna” has been teaching a variety of subjects for 14 years, including junior Science, senior Biology, P.E., “Reconnecting Youth” (a program for at-risk students) and Yearbook.  Presently, she is teaching Science 9 and Biology 12 at a large high school. As Brianna and I have young children at home, and she teaches at a different high school than mine, I conducted the interview via Google Hangouts, at 9 p.m., January 18. (This was a less than ideal time to interview—both of us were exhausted!) I asked Brianna to be my subject for two reasons.  1. There is only one other person in Math or Science at my school who uses any technology and she was spread so thin this week, you could see through her. 2. Bri and I have worked together for 13 years, but last year, she was bumped to another school due to seniority. This summer, I gave her a Google Classroom 101 class in my kitchen, so I was eager to see how she was coming along!


When prompted to respond about current technology enhanced processes Brianna uses, the commonality to every response was sharing information between groups of people.

Reading other interviews, this was a common theme amongst technology users. What surprises me somewhat, is that although many of us are participating in collaborative processes via our Masters’ work, not as many of us have incorporated similar approaches in our own classrooms. Reasons for this may include having restricted access to one-to-one technology, school districts may not be buying into the GAFE model and lack of time to learn or make make large pedagogical shifts. Having access to reliable wi-fi, is another major issue that is affecting schools nationally. Talking to our IT guru this week, even within our school district, there is a huge disparity between individual schools. Because high schools in British Columbia are funded on a PER BLOCK basis, the more students taking the more courses, results in more funding for that particular school. As overhead for running a school of 500 students is not much different as the overhead for 750 students, the school with 50% more bodies, can easily pay for their overhead and have money to spend on other things. The bottom line, is that in Victoria, the large schools have enough bandwidth and the small schools do not.
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Risk Taking

Brianna provided me with two “wow moments” in this interview.  The first came from her anecdote about a student who was so anxious about using the Google Classroom platform for assignments, that the student brought herself to tears.  Identifying this student in the first week of class, via a digital Interest Inventory on Google Forms was critical. Brianna’s limited experience with this platform, was balanced by her many years in the classroom, so she knew to address this student’s concerns immediately and with compassion. Allowing the student an alternative to the technology would have validated the student’s fears, thereby strengthening those fears. Instead, Brianna provided her with a safe and scaffolded process, that demystified the technology for the student, and the student went on to a successful and enjoyable semester.

So if some educators are demanding that their students take huge leaps in their digital literacy acquisition, why can it be so unbearable for other educators to even take a baby step? Other interviews reported teachers feeling helpless with their technology due to lack of training. Conferences such as GAFE, cost hundreds of dollars and not everyone is prepared to invest. Moreover, when I have given Professional Development to the entire staff, it has been with mixed reviews! People can feel threatened by overwhelming feelings of confusion, inadequacy, or anger, when new ideas are brought to the table that may not be in their wheelhouse. After having a colleague have a near panic attack in my Twitter 101 talk at a Pro-D five years ago, I learned very quickly that when it comes to technology training, it is best to lure certain folks to you, as opposed to cornering them in a staff meeting. Everyone’s relationship with technology is very different and very personal— it is prudent to individualize learning situations, whenever possible! Personally, I would love to research more about providing Pro-D in a variety of different formats. As with our students, colleagues will be more receptive to new modalities when they are calm and have trust in their instructor.

 Although I need to work on my interview skills (at times, I was so awkward, that I wanted to go into the fetal position!), Brianna’s last quote is absolute gold. How can we, as teachers, as parents, as just plain people, preach to others, to act a certain way, or think a certain way, if we, ourselves, are not prepared to do so?





“Assignments, so I created an assignment, for example we did this thing like the Genius Hour, but not—  we did this project and I had it set up into three parts and so each part we did a check-in so that I could see what they were doing and when they decided to work in groups then they would share that with their group members so that all 3 of us could look at it. And with teachers, we are working on, well there’s 3 of us working on a brand new Biology 12 lab and so we have the Doc at the same time each doing different parts and seeing what the other people are working on, and adding feedback and comments and stuff like that.”“I think that one of the things is about group projects…  one student was sick and the other student was upset because they weren’t there doing their part.  But they were able to talk using the comments on the Docs, right on the document.”

“I don’t have to worry about the TOC because I can post everything on there and the kids know exactly what they are supposed to do and I can come up with something on the fly and stick it up for them to do.  Just attaching it from the Drive, without worrying about photocopying or where it is on my desk— I just stick it on the Classroom.”















“An interesting one with a student who was really anti-technology and her like misconception about technology she was only thinking about it as like using a cell phone all the time— so she was really scared and was in tears…. throughout the semester, she ends up adapting to the technology and once she adapted, she got over the fear of using it.”





























“As teachers, we always want things to be organized and planned.  But this is not going to be perfect, and you just have to jump in.  We want our kids to take chances and be brave, so you have to take chances and be brave.”

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Narrowing Down ONE Issue is NOT EASY. (Or is it?)

The first lessons in the course are complete. I have unpacked, then repacked my assumptions surrounding technology-enhanced learning in math and science environments. I suppose it is time to start unpacking, again!!!

The issues that have resonated with me to date, in order are:

  1. How to turn negative early childhood experiences with technology, into positive experiences in the future for students. When asked to discuss an early experience, it was interesting to realize that I had had many negative experiences with technology for 20+ years of my life.  How is it that I overcame this to be the tech-lover that I am today?  How can I help my students overcome their own fears?
  2. Battling screen time addictions. How do we teach healthy screen time usage with our children and/or students?
  3. What are some “best practices” when it comes to weeding out misconceptions in science or math class and does gender play a role? This blog post that I made for my Lesson 2 activity was based on reading some really great work by researchers wanting to explore this topic.  I am not ready to put this issue away yet as dispelling misconceptions is REALLY important in my books.  (How good would I feel if my students left Physics 11 still thinking that there is no gravity in space??)
  4. In technology enhanced lessons, does engagement increase more with boys than with girls?  Is the only way (best way) to rope our boys in is with tech?  How much of an engagement factor does tech play with our girls, since they appear to be doing well with or without tech?

With every major topic choice in MET so far, I have chosen topics that directly impact my practice, wherever possible. If I use that as my criteria, I think that my choice of focus will be on #3: battling misconceptions.  I only read 2 of many studies out there that address this issue.  To examine it through a technologist’s lens will be right up my alley and will directly impact my students, AS I read each study, potentially. That’s pretty cool!

If anyone other than myself is reading this, thanks and sorry! Sometimes it helps to “talk it out” when needing to move into a certain direction.  The apology is for stealing 3 minutes of your time, that you will never, ever get back.  🙂

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Filed under ETEC 533, Misconceptions