Monthly Archives: January 2017

TELE Design

Jonassen’s (2000) comments on learning with technologies were a great reminder of how to use technology in the classroom and reconfirming, for myself, many of the topics raised so far in the course. As educators, effective student learning should always be the primary goal we are trying to accomplish. As Jonassen discusses, this is accomplished by “thinking in meaningful ways.”   As a result, engaging students with activities and meaningful lessons, which may or may not involve technology, should accomplish that primary goal of thinking and learning in the classroom. In terms of design, educators need to utilize and implement technology to enhance or support their lessons. Roblyer (201) discusses these pedagogical goals and how it relates to theories of learning, students abilities, curricula etc. In attempting to develop a technology-enhanced learning experience for my own classes, first and foremost I have to consider what subject or topic is currently being taught. The activities come after and hopefully, an online resource or other equipment are able to support that learning and allow students to produce understanding and meaning for themselves. The activity needs to provide a learning experience that allows students to simultaneously question their current understanding of concepts and develop an appropriate and better understanding of a topic.


Technology and Design

Dear class,

Like many of you have already expressed, I am very much enjoying reading the diversity of definitions for technology that have emerged from our class discussions thus far. We are learning together how each of you are conceptualizing technology. The additional definitions, readings, and visual images you are bringing in have enriched and broadened our scope of what might “count” as a technology. This is an important starting point in any program on edtech.

It is also interesting to note  how we sometimes conceive of ourselves as designers and what becomes designed in the math and science learning space. From the posts that I’ve read already, design is broadly conceived of as moving beyond the interface to include the environment and interactions within the environment.   As we enter Module B, we shall begin to extrapolate, extend, and elaborate upon our visions for technology-enhanced learning in math and science environments.

I look forward to reading more,


Does it encourage innovative thinking, collaboration, risk taking and problem solving?

The definition of technology I found myself connecting with was Jonassen’s (2000) idea that “[S]tudents learn from thinking in meaningful ways. Thinking is engaged by activities, which can be fostered by computers or teachers.” This definition addresses the fact that it is learning that is the outcome, not simply the use of technology in the classroom. Digital technology can and should be used, but its incorporation must enhance student learning. This is an essential part of designing a technology-enhanced learning experience; digital technology cannot be used simply because students enjoy using it, or because we feel pressured to include it within our classrooms.

Jonassen’s definition made me think of maker spaces, coding, STEM activities and other constructivist learning strategies within the classroom. Ideally, I see a technology-enhanced learning experience being one that encourages innovative thinking and collaboration between peers, motivates students to take risks and engages students in unexpected problem solving. It must also involve students in a learning process that leads to a deeper understanding of concepts presented. Kafai and Peppler (2011) state that “To be a full member in today’s participatory culture should mean much more than knowing how to play video games, for example; it should also mean knowing how to design video games” (p. 113). Students should not walk away with surface knowledge of what we teach, but of an understanding of the concept and how to connect it and apply it to their own lives.


Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Computers as mindtools for schools, 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/ Prentice Hall. Retrieved from Google Scholar:

Kafai, Y. and Peppler, K. (2011). Youth, technology, and DIY: Developing participatory competencies in creative media production. Review of Research in Education, 35, 89-119.

Choice and Context

My definition of technology would be a blend of Feenburg’s attribution of social values and Roblyer’s description of technology as our tools, methods, and creative problem solving.  From this, an ideal pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced learning experience for math includes recognition of the context of scenarios, effective manipulatives and devices, and strategies, and the interconnections between these elements. For example, a word problem describing a photovoltaic cell may be unnecessarily confusing for a student with minimal electrical physics knowledge, who may then be unable to achieve the intended mathematical outcomes due simply to the disconnect between his experience and the question context.  At this point, devices and strategies would likely be ineffective as he would not have enough understanding to adequately apply them.

When designing a technology-enhanced learning experience, I would account for the different backgrounds of the students by attempting to provide a variety of pathways including a variety of technology tools to hopefully engage every student in some way.  Increasing student choice enables them to make the best decisions for their own learning needs, and to find their own connections between their strategies and digital devices.  In my mind, choice is central to growth and learning.

Blending curriculum rather than teaching in a fishbowl

PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge) proposed by Lee Shulman and TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) put forth by Mishra and Koehler are both valuable theories as they focus on the blending of curriculum for teachers. Mishra and Koehler extend Shulman’s theory by adding a technological component which has become an important part of education today.

In reading (or re-reading the articles this week- I believe I have read them all in previous MET courses) I was struck by quotes I hadn’t really even noticed before. For example, Shulman (1986) states: Teachers must not only be capable of defining for students the accepted truths in a domain. They must also be able to explain why a particular proposition is deemed warranted, why it is worth knowing, and how it relates to other propositions, both within the discipline and without, both in theory and in practice. This quote really struck home for me as I realized it states exactly why we need the PCK model. To be effective teachers we can not just be experts on Content, or Pedagogy but rather we need to blend these with other facets of the students education so they can see cross-curricular connections. Teaching each subject as if it were a fishbowl and untouched by other elements creates compartmentalized knowledge that does not help the student understand the world.

In the second article by Shulman (1987) he states that one of the frustrations of teaching as an occupation and profession is its extensive individual and collective amnesia, the consistence with which the best creations of its practitioners are lost to both contemporary and future peers. I actually stopped and said “yes” this is exactly what happens? Why does it happen? How have we not learned from this? How is it our profession does not function like architecture, medicine and engineering, where lessons are learned, ideas are shared and curriculum improves?

Finally, Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) article on TPACK is an extension of Shulman’s work on PCK. For those who have heard about, yet not studied TPACK an error is often made. People throw technology into their lessons with out stopping to wonder why and if it is indeed improving the lesson. My favourite quote from this article is : “ In other words, merely knowing how to use technology is not the same as knowing how to teach with it. (p1033).” Knowing how to push buttons or work a program does not mean it is improving your programming. Teaching with technology should immediately imply that something different is happening. I have become very interested in the learning by design format and believe it applies directly to the idea of PBL’s (problem-based learning) in the classroom. Learning by Design is the PBL of the teacher.

An example of how I use PCK in science is when we study the solar system, even before the availability of videos like Cosmos by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, it was a very visual and hands-on unit. Students created models of our solar system not in the usual sense (similar size balls coloured differently and hung on a clotes hanger) but rather to scale (obviously with in reason but they had to understand that and explain it, it also requried an understanding of scale). This activity required students to use math skills in measuring and finding replicas of the size of each planet in relation to each other. It involved problem-solving and collaboration ( I can’t tell you how many groups ended up frustrated when they chose thin thread to represent the distance- thin thread tangles easily and when it is metres long it is even harder to control). Students had to figure out how to store their projects so they didn’t return each day to a jumble of threads.

In addition to their own amazement at the distance of the planets in realtion to each other and their size, they also had to find a way to demonstrate and explain this to students in grade one and two. They were also in charge of assessing how well the younger studetns understood their lesson.

When the students have completed the unit (including seasons etc) the groups take part in the final assignment. Each group is provided with a scenario. The scenarios are open-ended and require debate with in the group to make a decision. One of the example scenario’s (this works well in my area as we are 40 minutes from Niagara Falls, students understand the seasons here, we cover the war of 1812 in great detail and there are always activities to attend, we read novels like The Bully Boys by Eric Walters so students can look at the war from a different perspective).

The scenario reads something like:
The war between Canada and the US has been going on for three years now. You are a group of General Brock’s advisors. He has stated the final push for the war must come in the next year, but when is the best time to launch the attack? As his advisors, you must come up with a proposal of when the attack should occur (why is this the best choice, preparation, surprise etc), how the attack will occur (what is the best plan that costs the least in terms of supplies and lives)?
It is great to see the kids get involved in this. They present their findings and usually, a debate ensues. (Go in summer we can travel lighter, Go in winter we can walk across the Niagara river and not need boats).

There are a ton of cross-curricular activities that help the students to see the connections to the real world.


Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.

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

Technology Enhances Learning Experiences

Technology, as defined by Merriam Webster, is the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.  This definition can be expanded to include a collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the accomplishment of objectives such as scientific investigations.  When we add the definition for Educational Technology we get the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Richey).

The most important idea that strikes me about technology is the application of skills and knowledge for a specific purpose such as scientific investigations. Jonassen notes that “students learn from thinking in meaningful ways. Thinking is engaged by activities which can be fostered by computers or teachers”. He supports this with Mindtools, which are computer applications that require students to think in meaningful ways in order to use the applications to represent what they know.  Dede notes that emerging and interactive media are tools in service of richer curricula, enhanced pedagogies, and stronger links between schools and society.
As for my own definition, I would emphasize the idea that the technology is a tool to transform and transmit our learning. Technology is a tool, the effectiveness of a tool is not absolute, but is dependent upon how it is applied and new users may find novel uses for a particular tool.  Technology is much bigger and more complex than a single device or site.  The key driver in using technology in the classroom should be learning goals and how the technology can be used to achieve that goal. It does not have to appear in every lesson or unit, but should be strategically utilized to maximize the effectiveness of the tool, and student learning for the specific subject at hand. In science this may mean using a big screen and projector for a virtual visit to an archaeological site, or allowing students to manipulate tools to participate in a virtual dissection of a frog. It also might mean having technology readily available for students to create or find uses to enhance their learning while it is relevant to the moment. Technology should be like oxygen, ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible (Chris Lehmann). It should not be an addition to the learning, but an integral part of it, much like our pencil and paper.



Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Computers as mindtools for schools, 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/ Prentice Hall. Retrieved from Google Scholar:

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.

Levinson, M. (2013, May 29). Technology in schools: Defining the terms. Retrieved January 28, 2017, from

Richey, R. C., & Klein, J. D. (2005). Developmental research methods: Creating knowledge from instructional design and development practice. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 16(2), 23-38. doi:10.1007/bf02961473

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching, (5th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Authentic Learning: Revisited

Based on three readings from this week, the Jasper materials seem to be responding to the issue of inauthentic learning in mathematics. That is, teachers seem to be emphasizing the importance of mathematical facts and fluency, which has caused several additional problems of student learning including: lack of problem solving skills (CTGV, 1992a), lack of motivation and engagement (Hasselbring, Lott & Zydney, 2005), an increasing gap between low and high performers (Hickey, Moore & Pellegrin, 2001), as well as low scores on standardized achievement tests (Hasselbring et al., 2005). I agree on the relevance of this issue because problem solving has always been a skill students have struggled with and that though students excel at drill and practice equations, they are somehow unable to translate these strengths into hypothetical word problems. At the same time, these word problems are confounding because it requires students with adequate reading comprehension abilities but then additionally are irrelevant and not applicable to real life situations. On the contrary, authentic learning includes the development of core skills of mathematics in the context of meaningful solving activities (CTGV, 1992a). The Jasper Project addresses these issues because it teaches students to identify and define issues, to participate in collaborative problem solving, and to actively construct of knowledge about mathematical concepts.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992a). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.

Hasselbring, T. S., Lott, A. C., & Zydney, J. M. (2005). Technology-supported math instruction for students with disabilities: Two decades of research and development.

Hickey, D.T., Moore, A. L. & Pellegrin, J.W. (2001). The motivational and academic consequences of elementary mathematics environments: Do constructivist innovations and reforms make a difference? American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 611-652.

Kindergarten Math and Science: Essential, Interactive, Creative.

Camille has been living in the United Arab Emirates for four years.  She is Canadian, with a Bachelors in Social Science, with a Masters in Childhood Education.  She teaches Math, Science, and Reading in Kindergarten.  I thought this would be an interesting change from all the other interviews we have seen in this thread. I also thought that it would be interesting to see what technology use looks like at a younger age level in a country beside Canada. In the UAE students in kindergarten are aged 3 to 5 years old.  This interview was conducted over the phone on January 28, 2017.

How often do you use technology in your class?

I honestly use technology daily.

What ways do you use technology in class?

I use technology for everything from taking attendance, to lesson starters, to interactive games.

Describe to me some ways that you use technology in your class?

We do math interactive games on the smartboard.  I also use the Smartboard to show videos and other forms of media for Science.  We have a computer area with two computers (for 25 students).  Students are also taken to the computer lab once a week for 30 minutes.  During this computer lab time students, can practice their reading, as well as work on Math and Science activities.  We also have 5 iPads in the class that students have time to use once a week for 30 minutes.

Have you seen an improvement in technology use among students over the years you have been teaching in the UAE?

Definitely, there has been a significant increase in the students’ ability to use technology.

Tell me about some of the advantages you have noticed in your students from using technology in the classroom.

Some of the teachers at our school are very comfortable using technology in the classroom, I love technology and I think that it is essential to have in a classroom in this day and age.  Kids as young as 3 can log in on their own, use the mouse, the are comfortable with the touch screens.  Having technology in the class makes it easy to teach things like research skills, which is something that the Abu Dhabi Education Council is pushing hard right now.  They want use to teach critical thinking.  We try to teach students that you cannot just believe whatever someone tells you, you must be able to look it up yourself.  We show them how to do basic searches on Google.


Teachers who are not comfortable using technology do not use it in their classrooms and this puts students at a disadvantage.  There are no clear outcomes or outlines from the school or from the Abu Dhabi Education Council as to how we should use technology in class.  Also the upkeep is not there, teachers have to look for useful programs on there own.


Because I teach older students and many of my students are lacking in their technology skills, I was happy to see that so many young students possessed basic computer skills.



Virtuosity versus Variety

In reading Schulman (and reviewing Mishra) I was caught by the complete untenability of our current system for assigning teachers. To simply meet the goals of PCK, we require teachers to have significant subject matter competence, pedagogical skills, combine these into specific tools and approaches for each concept within curriculum, and then adapt it all to a body of students that changes by the year or even by the term.

Consider from here that a teacher may be placed in a science 4 classroom one year and a science 8 classroom the next. Not only have the students changed, but the subject matter may be vastly different. Even this is nowhere near the common situation in primary grades where a teacher with Math training may be responsible for 4 or more subjects.

Successful education at the PCK level seems to require a certain degree of thoughtful assignment and consistency of teacher placement that does not seem to exist in reality. While flexibility in placement may be of benefit to a teacher’s career, it is not in the best interest of students. I like to consider myself a pretty well versed generalist but I am a music teacher by training. I could probably teach most of my hardest concepts with little more than a stick (conducting baton) while the easiest concepts in my course might leave non-music teachers jibbering with terror. Conversely, I am assigned 1 grade 6 science class. I like science. I get science. I am not a trained science specialist. I’ve lost track of the number of hours spent consulting my google oracle for things that a true science teacher could explain after 3 days of sleep deprivation. Things that I thought I understood I clearly did not to the extent necessary to teach with the fluency I have in my area of specialty.

When we add the desire to teach with the most appropriate technologies to a discipline or topic, the whole thing becomes ridiculous given the current system. It seems that educational institutions will have some hard decisions to make regarding how to balance administrative conveniences and necessities against the educational benefits of specialist teachers able to instruct using all facet of the TPACK and PCK models


One example of PCK teaching in my own practice is a technique borrowed from an former English teacher of mine. The goal is to get students to write specific and clear instructions, something very useful in the procedure section of lab reports. We use the analogy to a recipe and have the students write out the steps to make an ice cream sunday. The English teacher actually made them but I just acted out the instructions. The job of the teacher is to take the instructions absolutely literally and look for any possible way to misunderstand them. “Put the sprinkles on”, guess I’m wearing sprinkles in my hair. “Peel the banana and add the ice cream”, little Johnny gets a banana peel ice cream sandwich. The whole thing is acted out in the most dramatic way possible. The humour of the lesson really helps to embed just how specific you have to need to be to make sure your directions are perfectly clear.

Backwards Design

For me, ideal pedagogical design of a technology enhanced learning experience must begin with the end, i.e: backwards design. Primary goals and outcomes must be established.

Following this, we set out how we will know these goals have been met. This may include formal assessments, conversations with students, self reflections etc.

Finally we must select the appropriate tools to develop the students’ understanding. These tools include all different forms of technology including computer software, digital instruments, manual tools (such as microscopes, prisms, models), instructional approaches, and ways of thinking. It is important to consider all types of technology (especially the cognitive/pedagogical ones) so that we do not fixate on the most exciting tool but instead the most effective tool. To select the best tools we will need to consider a number of factors. These include:

  • The composition of the class: There interests, beliefs, conceptions/misconceptions, interests, familiarity with the proposed technology, etc.
  • Our own abilities with a given technology
  • availability of a given technology
  • Relationship of the technology to the field/topic (is the technology authentic to this discipline?)

Once the goals, assessment, and tools/methods have been established, we have a sound basis for a technology enhanced learning environment.