Monthly Archives: April 2017

Forces at Rest

Misconception: If an object is at rest, no forces are acting on the object. (

Instruction Framework: T-GEM

Digital Technology: PhET

Lesson Sequence:

I. Warm up – Classroom

Use a toy car on a platform to do some demonstrations and ask students about forces that are acting on them:

  • push the toy car to the right constantly
  • push the toy car to the right and let go
  • push a toy car to the right then slow it down by pushing it in the opposite direction
  • let the toy car sit on the platform by itself

This warm up activity is designed to get students thinking about forces and to bring forward any misconceptions related to how forces make objects move, speed up, slow down, or be at rest.

II. Generate Hypotheses – Classroom

Show students examples where objects are at rest. Example 1 is of the toy car from activity I staying motionless on a platform.  Example 2 is a second toy car hanging from the ceiling with a string, once again at rest.  Ask students what kinds of forces might be involved in keeping the toy cars motionless.  Ask students to draw free body diagrams of the two examples, share with a partner, then ask for some volunteers to draw their free body diagrams on the board.

III. Evaluate Hypotheses – Computer Lab

Students are taken to the computer lab with their free body diagrams from the previous activity.  Students are directed to the Forces and Motions PhET simulation and are asked to replicate the toy car demonstrations they saw in activity I.  For a refresher the demonstrations are written on the board:

  • push the toy car to the right constantly.
  • push the toy car to the right and let go.
  • push a toy car to the right then slow it down by pushing it in the opposite direction
  • let the toy car sit on the platform by itself

Instead of the toy car, they are free to choose an object in the simulation.

Students are asked to make sure the “Force Vectors” box is checked so they can visualize the different forces acting on the object.

Students are asked to compare their own free body diagrams from activity II and those shown in the simulation.  Students are asked to write down in their own words the similarities and differences between their free body diagrams from activity I and activity II.

IV.  Modify Hypotheses – Computer Lab

Students are asked to summarize the forces that act on objects when the object is moving, and when the object is at rest based on activities I, II, and II.

V.  Apply – Classroom

Students are paired up and each pair is given a small bucket filled with sand.  One partner is asked to stand up and hold the buckets motionless using one hand.  The teacher asks the pairs to draw free body diagram of this situation that show all the forces acting on that small bucket helping it remain motionless.



Conceptual understanding in science topics that includes force and motion is difficult because of the number of different misconceptions students bring with them into the classroom. DEMİRCİ, N. (2003) states, “It is evident from the literature that students of different educational backgrounds and different ages have basic preconceptions or misconceptions about force and motion concepts” (p. 40-41).  Khan (2012) suggests that, “the use of GEM in science classrooms can produce significant students gains in inquiry skills and conceptual understanding..” (p. 59).  It is this conceptual understanding that is critical to tackle misconceptions among students.  Khan (2012) also states that, “…T-GEM enhances student understanding” (p. 62).  Enhancing GEM cycles with technology (noted as T-GEM) can helps improve conceptual understanding of science topics.


PhET simulations are an excellent example technology enhancement to the GEM cycle.

Wieman, Adams, and Perkins (2008) describe PhET simulations in great detail and speak very positively of this interactive program.  Wieman et al. (2008) enumerate common features found in PhET simulation that enhance learning as below:

  1. “familiar elements…to build real-world connections” (Wieman et al., p. 682)
  2. “visual representations to show the invisible (the motion of air molecules in a sound wave)” (Wieman et al., p. 682)
  3. “multiple representation to support deeper understanding” (Wieman et al., p. 682)
  4. “multiple directly manipulated variables” (Wieman et al., p. 682)
  5. “instruments for quantitative measurements and analysis (measuring tape, clock, and pressure meter)” (Wieman et al., p. 682)

These different features truly allow students to be immersed in the concept, try out different scenarios and test hypotheses instantly.  These features combined make PhET an excellent tool for inquiry.  Khan (2012) airs caution however that simulations cannot be used by themselves as stand alone learning tools as doing so, “…contributes to poor uptake in science classrooms and “clicking without thinking” amount students” (p. 59).  Hence it is vital to pair PhET simulations with sound teaching methodologies like the GEM cycle, anchored instruction, or the LfU model.


DEMİRCİ, N. (2003). Dealing with misconceptions about force and motion concepts in physics: A study of using web-based physics program. Hacettepe Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi, (24), 40-47.

Khan, S. (2012). A Hidden GEM: A pedagogical approach to using technology to teach global warming. The Science Teacher, 79(8). This article was written about T-GEM with middle-schoolers.

Wieman, C. E., Adams, W. K., & Perkins, K. K. (2008). PHYSICS. PhET: Simulations that enhance learning. Science (New York, N.Y.), 322(5902), 682-683.


TELE – Grow Plants Grow Inquiry

One part of Assignment 2, Option 2 Design a TELE says to share your artefact, so I thought I would share mine on here:

I have created a website on Wix to showcase my grade 3 plant inquiry project. I have designed the project around the T-GEM learning theory, which helped me put the project into 4 steps. Please check it out when you have a few minutes. I would welcome any feedback you may have. Thank you!


​Acknowledging Barriers does not remove them

There have been many challenges, however, to implementing geospatial technologies in K-12 classrooms. These include technical issues pertaining to the interface design of software, time for classroom teachers to learn to use the software, lack of existing basal curriculum materials that integrate geospatial technologies, and lack of time to develop learning experiences that integrate easily into existing school curricula (Meyer et al., 1999; Baker & Bednarz, 2003; Bednarz, 2003; Kerski, 2003; Patterson et al., 2003). While we acknowledge these barriers, new Web-based geospatial tools such as Google Earth and instructional resources integrated with appropriately designed instructional materials show much potential to be used with diverse learners to promote spatial thinking (Bodzin & Cirucci, in press) (p. 2-3).

In education, I believe there is no dispute that technology has a ton of potential to transform our classrooms. All learners can benefit from using simulations, VR, MR and other software to improve student understanding, improve collaboration and eliminate misconceptions students have but how do we ignore the barriers that everyone seems to recognize. Too little teacher training, technical issues, lack of prepared curriculum materials, and lack of time for teachers to both learn and implement these learning experiences. These mitigating factors will continue to affect technology use in the classroom until they are properly addressed.

MET students, colleagues in schools and professional researchers all recognize these issues but no one has found a way to deal with them. MET students are among the educators that want to use technology but struggle to find a way that doesn’t involve countless personal hours and expense. Teachers in all classrooms may agree with the awesome potential technology has but are still required to prepare their students for outdated standardized assessment. There is not time to do both. Finally, how do even proceed with implementing technology in our classrooms in a meaningful way if we do not have the devices, software or bandwidth to move forward.
As a member of my school boards technology development team, I have found these issues continually ignored and pushed to the side. Everyone knows change is needed but our cries fall on the deaf ears of administrators. Frustrating.


Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning Earth and environmental science. In Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Springer Netherlands.

All images courtesy of the creative commons.

The Power of Feedback


“feedback needs to provide information specifically relating to the task or process of learning that fills a gap between what is understood and what is aimed to be understood (Hattie and Timperly, 2007., p 82.).”

One of the most under rated forms of communication between teacher and student is that of feedback. Many educators believe that feedback is the mark on an assignment or test, the check marks and ex’s that show a student what they got correct or incorrect. But this is not really feedback at all. Feedback, as explained by Hattie and Timperly (2007), is information that specifically relates to the gap in learning between what a student understands (including misconceptions) and what is aimed to be understood.

If I look no further into my students learning than the grade on an assessment I have a very limited view of their understanding. I may be looking at lucky guesses or a lack of understanding in terms of what the question asked. Talking to my students, having them demonstrate their knowledge in multiple ways ( that are comfortable for them) is the only true way I can identify their misconceptions, clearly see where the gaps are in their learning and satisfy myself that I have a clear understanding of what they have learned.


Hattie, H. & Timperly, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112

All images courtesy of the creative commons.

Keep What Works, Change What Doesn’t

Each week as I did my readings for ETEC 533 I found myself highlighting specific sections of text that really spoke to me as an educator. Reviewing them all this week a few really stood out and reminded me of why I found them powerful in the first place.

We align professional development, knowledge integration, and flexibly adaptive curricula to build on the commitments and talents of teachers as well as the constraints and opportunities of their classroom contexts rather than imposing new practices without concern for past successes (Linn, et al., 2003. p. 518)

The above quote from the article “Wise design for knowledge integration” by Linn, Clarke and Slotta (2003) was like a breath of fresh air. Having been an educator in Ontario for the past 26 years my colleagues (in school and in the MET program) often speak of the never-ending reinvention of the wheel in education. That for some reason change in education often means throwing away all that you have been doing, the good and the bad, and replacing it with something else. Unfortunately, it usually comes about that the changes were not all that great.

Linn et al., (2003) seem to understand this phenomenon and allow for past successes to continue to be used. All administrators in charge of professional development should have this quote as part of their mission statement. It is much more effective than “out with the old and in with the new”. Perhaps it could be shortened to “keep what works, fix/change what doesn’t.”


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

ISTE Standards should be common knowledge



The standards speak specifically to teachers about their students becoming good digital citizens, as well as preparing and ASSESSING using technology. Assessment continues to be one of the areas that educators lack development in. We must move away from traditional rote paper and pencil assessments and provide students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in new ways. For more information on assessing in the current educational climate please watch the video below by Eric Mazur a Harvard professor and leader in 21st Century assessment.

In terms of the ISTE standards for Students the language itself is inspiring:
Empowered Learner
Digital Citizen
Knowledge Constructor
Innovative Designer
Computational Thinker
Creative Communicator
Global Collaborator

If you look at each of those terms for the most part you see verbs in all of them. Verbs are action words, things students need to be doing! Collaborating, Communicating, Constructing, Designing…
All words that bring us back to one of the most important changes we need to see in Education and that is moving the student from a passive role of sitting, listening and memorizing to constructors of their own knowledge. Allowing them to identify and correct misconceptions, building understanding through collaboration and leading their own learning.

(2013, November 19). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from Assessment the Silent Killer of Learning.

Bucci, T. T., Cherup, S., Cunningham, A., & Petrosino, A. J. (2003). ISTE standards in teacher education: A collection of practical examples. The Teacher Educator, 39(2), 95-114. doi:10.1080/08878730309555333

Synthesis of Module B and Module C

Synthesis of Module B and Module C

When I began reviewing Module B and C I literally saw lines connecting in my head between Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Module B focussed on ways we can help students construct their own knowledge. The various methods such as SKI/WISE, Jasper Woodley, Anchored Instruction, LfU and T-GEM help us see a way out of traditional teaching methods. Academia is so steeped in tradition that change seems impossible. We know that sitting students in rows, throwing facts at them by speaking, reading or a video, having them complete paper pencil tasks (preferably in silence) is ineffective and lacks engagement. Rather our classrooms need to be hubs of activity. Learning done in collaboration with others, by looking at problems, gathering information, testing hypotheses and identifying misconceptions. This is the change we must strive for.

The methods discussed in Module B provide a framework on which new types of lessons can be built. They all have their strengths and each is likely better suited to specific subjects and curriculum than others but using any of them is a step in the right direction. Right now the word constructivism is echoing in my head loud and clear. Construct, construct, Construct.

My infographic from Module B still represents how all facets of the TELE’s are linked in my mind.

I used gears to represent content and methodology as they are parts of a whole machine that must work cohesively if the machine is to function at all.

The funnel leads into the active learning and from there sharing and collaborating. In the end, this machine creates collaborative, critical thinking problem solvers.

Synthesis Infographic

Module C provided us with a variety of technological tools to take teaching to the next level. For me, it was where the Technology in Technology Pedogagocial Content Knowledge came to life.

There were so many programs and devices that can elevate and enhance our lessons vs just changing them. I realized the importance of kinesthetic awareness in understanding concepts and manipulating data. The value of virtual reality devices and learning experiences and finally the many programs available to us to enhance our STEM classes. The last activity where we combined what we had learned specifically from Module B and C showed me that combining TPCK using TELE’s and specific programs allows us to create units of study for students that will be rewarding and help them become collaborative, critical thinkers and problem solvers that are able to adapt to an ever-changing job market.




Why educators are frustrated by incorporating technology into their classrooms

Reflections on Module A: Lesson 3

Interviews / Why educators are frustrated by incorporating technology into their classrooms

One of the overarching themes that emerged from the interviews in Lesson #3 was how frustrated educators are by the lack of training and equipment that are available to them in order to properly implement technology in the classroom.

Most teachers either teach themselves technology because they are interested in it and see it as beneficial to the students in their classrooms or see a teacher using technology and ask for assistance learning it.  As was mentioned in the Strawberry Hill School video’s the new teacher had been helped by her teaching partner to implement technology but the new teacher felt she was imposing on the veteran teachers time. It was not the veteran teacher’s job to teach her (the new teacher) technology.

The teacher’s who do implement technology on their own often become overwhelmed by the requests of others to introduce them to new devices and software. This mentorship position while rewarding is often taxing on the mentor as they receive no time or remuneration for the extra job they are performing.

Another easily recognized problem mentioned in a number of the interviews was the lack of devices, the cumbersome problem of signing out and returning tech devices as well as the constant frustration of poor bandwidth issues. Teachers agreed that having technology in their rooms would be very beneficial so that devices can be used for those “teachable moments”. Having to sign out equipment and return it at a specific time does not allow for lessons to flow organically. Many teachers have given up on trying to use technology because of device issues (devices not charged, not working) or the inability to get all students on the network at the same time. Most teachers felt too much time was wasted in trouble shooting technology glitches.


The following are excerpts from the interview posts highlight the views of teachers across Canada:

  1. Mr. A also acknowledged frequently the difficulty of getting teachers the training they need to successfully integrate technology into their math and science classrooms. He noted that “You can ask for an expert to come out and help you with these things but it’s really hard because of all schools across the school division and only a couple of experts to come and help you. You’ve got to book the pretty far in advance.”. He identified that most of the effective technology learning happening in his context was a result of informal learning from colleagues. This seemed to be both a convenience for teachers and a necessity born of limited training staff as supported by his comment “If a teacher knows how to do something, we would go to that teacher because lots of times with the district it’s hard for them to come out and teach you…”.

Posted in A. Interview on January 19, 2017 by daniel bosse.

2.  Most uses of technology were used mainly for her teaching. Students had no interaction with the technologies. Second, the differential experience with technology her and her teacher education classmates had regarding Smart Boards. She did not feel that her teacher program prepared her for integrating technology but she also felt that her classmates “definitely felt differential in terms of technology coming out of the program.” Another aspect I found interesting was her limitations regarding integrating technology. From the start, she noted how her teaching partner does not use technology, which seems to have some influence on her as she says that “her teacher partner does not want to use technology with kindergarten students” and therefore she is “not currently using technology” in the classroom. Other limitations she mentions include the unreliability of technology based on its durability and wifi connectivity issues. Furthermore, she goes into detail about the inconvenience of the sharing aspect of technology. She says, “some schools have computer labs, which are shared between all classroom classes and resource classes. There are sometimes iPad cards that hold about 20 iPads, but again, shared between all classes. On top of that, teachers have to physically go somewhere else in the school to sign those out, sometimes finding out that the time they wanted use the iPads is already booked.” Though my interviewee currently does not use technology in teaching the math and sciences, she has shared her perspective about the limitations behind its use. 

Posted in A. Interview on January 20, 2017 by Gloria Ma

3.  One of the overarching themes that came through in the discussion was the lack of training to integrate technology into the classroom, whether it was for new teachers in teacher’s college or established teachers attempting to use it in the classroom. Both teachers felt that there was a big push for teachers to use different types of technology in the classroom, but that there was no real training to back up the initiative. Any knowledge or skills acquired were usually done on the initiative of the teacher themselves or it was a one-off PD session with no follow-up or time to practice. TM noted that “any pursuit of professional development must be on your own time, you must seek it out on your own” and TC echoed that with “it is not available in the school and we are not given enough time to practice and apply our new knowledge.”  I added that any real knowledge or understanding of the technology that I use in my classroom has come from my own initiative, finding courses online, or seeking out courses offered through the Board of Ed or my union. All of us agreed that if there were better training and time given to practice and apply the knowledge, there would be a greater integration of technology into all the subjects at a higher order level than just using them for typing or research.  It was also felt that this would give more established teachers a higher comfort level using technology as it does not come naturally to us, it is not our culture so there is a higher learning curve for many of us.

The major hurdle or challenge for these teachers was accessibility, of the devices and of training or assistance. Devices in the school have to be signed out through the library and are often not available when it is an optimum time for them to be used. TM explained that there are no teachable moments when we can just turn and use the technology in a seamless way as they would have needed to be signed out a week in advance, and I don’t have ESP to be able to know exactly when something like that will occur in the class.” It is difficult to know where you will be in your pacing of subjects to be able to determine when it will be the best time to sign them out. It is impossible to use them in the way they should be integrated as they are used in real life applications. TC added that when the devices freeze or crash there is a lot of lost time trying to fix it, or reboot it, and we lose the class’ attention while they wait. Often it is something we can’t fix and it takes days or weeks before someone from the board will take care of it.” , essentially making the technology inaccessible to the classroom while we are waiting for it to be functional.

Posted in A. InterviewUncategorized on January 21, 2017 by wincherella

4. Highlight #1:The Disconnect Between Teaching Training and Actual Practice 

As Teacher K is a recent university graduate, I was interested to see her perspective on the connection or disconnection between the education she received and her own classroom practice.  While in her experience the importance of and theory behind technology use was emphasized, even basic examples of programs and apps were not readily offered by instructors.  As a result, unguided exploration was the primary option for finding ways to integrate technology into teaching practice.  Conversely, her current school division and colleagues offer many resources for tools and implementation options, including time with mentors.  As I am Teacher K’s mentor, it has been rewarding to see her growth over time in the area of technology.  Despite the theoretical–practical disconnect between her university training and practice, Teacher K has been able to find ways to meaningfully use technology tools in her classroom.  “In science, technology allows students to see videos of situations we are unable to see in real life. For example, when studying ecosystems, we are unable to visit a desert. By using technology, students are able to see pictures and videos of the interactions that happen in different biomes all over the world.”   

Posted in A. Interview on January 23, 2017 by STEPHANIE IVES.

5. As a distance learning teacher, Teacher L faces some issues of isolation. Throughout the interview there is little indication of collaboration efforts with colleagues or professional development in the area of technology. When asked how she has learned to incorporate referenced types of technology into her learning space, she admits that it is largely “through trial and error” and that “you just need to jump in”. When prodded to share if colleagues have been a useful resource in helping learn new technologies, she seemed unsure and responded with “I guess” and then mentioned that she has “emailed the Zoom people to see how to make things work” when initially setting up a Zoom conference room for her students. Although Teacher L does not seem to have much collaboration with other teachers, she is self motivated to learn new technologies, but feels that her teaching assignment is too broad and is too demanding of her time and energy. She states, “I think there are definitely programs, and like I said these labs and stuff out there, that could enhance it [student learning experience], but this is my own shortcoming that I need to find, or spend time researching and getting those programs, or finding those websites that would do more. When I think of technology enhancing learning, I think of those things that you can send the student to help them in a more practical way. Ultimately that is what I would love to add more of to the courses.” From an earlier portion of the interview she shares some hopes and frustrations: “One thing that I haven’t used, but I would like to use but it’s challenging, and to be honest because I have so many courses I haven’t been able to look into it as much, but there are online labs that are for chemistry and physics, but I haven’t implemented them as much as I would like. I feel like I haven’t implemented a lot.” 

Posted in A. Interview on January 24, 2017 by jessica holder.

While these issues seem to be universal what was most interesting to me was that teachers want to use technology. They want to learn to work on new devices and software and help their students become more tech literate. The way this must come about, however, time for in servicing and learning the program, as well as the capital investment of purchasing devices and software so that everyone has an opportunity to have technology in their rooms available whenever needed seem insurmountable. There has to be a creative solution. Hopefully, it happens soon.


Reflections on Module A: Lesson 2

Grounding Issues and Finding Patterns in Experience (Case 1) 

In all parts of lesson 2, I found Case 1 to be not only the most informative but the most inspiring. Starting in my third MET course I became very interested in makerspaces and classrooms as learning labs. Case 1 of Lesson 2 perfectly embodies what I would like my classroom to look like. The learning lab classroom in the video is inspiring and how I think all children should learn. Inquiry, investigation and construction of knowledge by scaffolding activities, so that the learned information becomes valuable to the students and therefore more easily recalled at a later time. Students are able to see how their problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills helped them tackle the problems they were faced with.

Although I have been teaching for 26 years it has only been in the last five, that I have realized that what I have been doing in my classrooms is not creating self-directed, motivated learners who can solve new and novel problems. Classrooms need to evolve from rows of desks and seated children doing paper and pencil work to active learning labs where students are up, moving, discussing and engaged in their learning.

With this change in the way our classrooms look and function, it is equally important that as educators we change how we are assessing our students. We can not assess with the same old written tests that ask students to regurgitate memorized facts, rather we need to be actively assessing and interacting with our students, asking questions, challenging answers and encouraging students to dig deeper.

Case 1 of Lesson 2 demonstrated what a classroom with technology can look like. Several of the other video cases showed classrooms where technology was implemented but the dynamic of the room did not change as much as it did in case 1. For the most part the other video cases represented classes where the same material was taught, but technology was used rather than older methods. In my opinion this is not the best use of technology.

Technology should not be used to do what has always been done with a different tool. Technology should be used to take the learning further. Students interacting and solving problems that allow them to move forward in their learning. This is why I have fallen in love with makerspaces. A makerspace is an interactive learning environment that allows students to construct their own knowledge. Lessons and activities are scaffolded so that students are challenged yet do not become frustrated.

The following is a website I co-created on makerspaces.