Keywords: Collaboration, Gender Engagement, Risk Taking


“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 she uses, the commonality to every response was sharing information between groups of people.

“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.”

Gender Engagement

Noticing that girls have been excelling academically over the boys, Brianna was not yet at a point in her experience with technology to be able to definitively say that technology is bringing boys back into the academic arena. (She has only been using Google Classroom for one semester.)

“I do have some boys in my Science 9 class who are at a lower level, and they definitely like using Slides and being able to create that… because it is almost all boys— but they definitely enjoy using the technology a lot. As far as data, to say that it has increased their learning?  Well… they are interested in using it.”

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.

“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.”

And lastly, when asked to give advice to teachers who have yet to jump into a more technology enhanced delivery model:

“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.”

 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?  (side note: Kids pick up on adult hypocrisy all of the time. Perhaps we should actually listen to them, when they call us on our …. !)

Link to my transcript is here.


  1. Hi Dana,

    I really enjoyed reading through your interview – how neat for you to be able to interview someone you, yourself, have mentored! I was most interested by the collaborative document that “Brianna” discussed for the Biology 12 lab that allowed the three teachers to collaborate together on a curriculum document, and allowed for the sharing of ideas and feedback. As collaboration time can be hard to come by due to busy schedules, I thought this was a terrific way for colleagues to contribute as they are able and on an continuing basis.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Mary, Thanks for your response! I agree with you that it would be so great to collaborate with others on labs, etc. “Brianna” is fortunate to now be at a large school where there is more than one Biology teacher. For myself, I am the only physics teacher (and the only science teacher (other than our info tech teacher) who uses technology. I suppose, that this should not be a limiting factor, however. I could outsource for other physics teachers around the province! It seems to me, however, that as a collective, physics teachers are a fairly traditional bunch. I have yet to find another that has sold their soul to Google, as I have. Maybe I should put an ad into Craig’s List! ~Dana

  2. I thought it was really interesting about the collaboration of teachers and students using Google docs. My students love to use Google classroom but have just started to understand that they can collaborate on one document when they are working in a group. This is something I am trying to encourage as it will be useful for them in the future. I have done this in many ways through MET courses, with colleagues, and admin. It is a wonderful collaboration tool that I think is often overlooked.


    1. Hi Anne, I very much agree with your assertion that Google Docs are overlooked in the classroom. However, I predict that Google Docs usage will be increasing quickly in the next couple of years as more schools figure out infrastructure and wi-fi issues. Also, I am finding that technology adoption is like that shampoo commercial from the 70s– and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on… ( ~Dana

  3. Hi Dana!

    I also enjoyed reading your summary about your interview with your colleague! Collaboration was something I had noticed in the video cases we were asked to view and comment on last week and it was neat to see Brianna also found collaboration to be of key importance when using technology. It all seems to make sense that there is in fact a connection between the course work we are dong in this course and the real teaching world. I also liked the fact that if we ask our students to be open and daring to try new things, we as their teachers should also be open to trying new things like technologies in the classroom.

    Thanks for sharing,

    1. Hi Vibhu, The interview process was a little weird and awkward for me— I am not a natural interviewer (to say the least) and I have even more respect now, for those who conduct interviews for a living! “Brianna’s” quote at the end really struck a cord with me, though, too. Despite my lack of interviewing skills, it sure felt great to extract such an astute observation around technology adoption. Cheers, Dana 🙂

  4. Hi Dana,
    Well done to stick with it through the interview to elicit the type of quotations that enrich our analyses. In your “Battle of the Sexes” analyses of the video cases, did you find that the teachers (or you) shared similar observations to Brianna?

    1. Hi Samia, Brianna did echo what the TI-83 teacher said regarding how technology is able to capture the boys engagement in ways that traditional approaches may not. Her limited experience using technology as a learning tool prevented her from being able to definitively say if boys’ marks were improving, however. This is unquestionably an area that could and should be looked into more. (Could this be an “issue” for the Framing Issues assignment?) The anecdotal feedback from my students is very favorable when I can bring technology into the routine effectively. Not everything hits the mark, but this is not a reason to not keep shooting!
      One activity that my gifted class just completed is here: (I am presently tracking down who made the page “throb”!!! Gawk—-kids!)
      The reflections on their work made me really feel like I had my boys engaged!!! It’s a good feeling, for sure. ~Dana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *