TELE: Thinking in Meaningful Ways

My definition of technology is similar to David Jonassen (2000) because I believe that students learn from thinking in meaningful ways. Thinking is engaged by activities and hands-on learning, which can be fostered through technology. “Nothing can be taught unless it has the potential of making sense to the learner, and learning itself is nothing but the endeavor to make sense” (Frank Smith, 1978). Technology can take the form of anything that enhances student learning, provides students the opportunity to develop skills that will empower them, or allows students to share evidence of their learning.

My ideal pedagogical design of an elementary TELE centres around meeting learners needs to support differentiation, enrich learning intentions, and to transform teaching and learning. Technology needs to be viewed as a tool that provides deeper context, creative outlets, and opportunities where students take ownership over their learning. For a science curriculum, the TELE could provide virtual field trips, 3D exploration, and ePortfolio’s to post and reflect on their learning journey. Technology should provide a learning environment that supports inquiry, problem-solving, and thinking in meaningful ways, that a standard classroom could not fulfil.

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

Smith, Frank. 1978. Understanding reading: A psycholinguistic analysis of reading and learning to read. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.


  1. I believe that taking ownership of their learning is an important point that you hit on in your post. When I see students work through projects that I have set specific goals for then proceed to take those goal beyond what is asked I think that is when they have reached that point of self regulation. Technology has the ability to provide the platform for them to create something that they feel a unique ownership of, and extend their capabilities beyond what they deemed possible. I also think the far reaching power of multi media allows for students to reach people beyond their physical surroundings to share their ideas with and collaborate on meaningful projects. I think VR/AR, 3D design and fabrication and digital portfolios are a central component to 21st century learning in Science and Math. Out of curiosity as I am just starting to use virtual reality and augmented reality with my Grade 5’s what VR/AR tools do you use in your classroom?

    1. Hi Nathan. Thank you for the reply and for your comments. I definitely see technology supporting ownership over learning in my grade 2/3 classroom. On Wednesday’s we have “I Wonder Wednesday,” and students love choosing a question they have from our inquiry wall, and using technology to find answers to their questions. They are engaged, on-task, and producing incredible work – because they have choice! This is integral to learning. It demonstrates that my students are thinking in meaningful ways.

      We have been using Google Cardboard in my classroom. We are an inner-city school, therefore we use what we can afford :). My students have enjoyed virtual field trips to coral reefs in our science unit (Expeditions App). Youtube also has 360 degree videos.
      We love the app Paris VR – we used this in our Math 3D shapes unit.
      Discovery channel has great educational virtual reality choices.
      InMind VR (Cardboard) is also really cool for science lessons. It lets students go inside the brain to look at neurons.

      Grade 5 will love this! It provides such unique and meaningful opportunities. We always extend it into our writing and have students write descriptive and creative stories to “show” and not tell the reader what they experienced. Good luck 🙂

      1. Hi Danielle & Nathan,

        Thanks for asking and sharing what AR/VR tools you use. I had not heard of many of these applications (including Google Cardboard!!). I cannot wait to start using some of the tools in my classroom next year as I can definitely see the benefits (number 1 reason being engagement). Thanks!

          1. Thanks for sharing, for VR we recently stumbled on which is a web based app where the students can build their own VR spaces and then code using blockly. It is an amazing addition to Scratch if you use that in your class as you can program a 3D environment instead of 2D. Once they have finished their creation they scan the QR code in their devices and their world is available. They can then use google cardboard to move around in 3D. I think it will revolutionize they way we use VR as it combines coding with VR in ways which I have never seen before. For AR Augment and Aurasma have been great tools for students creating 3D modes and placing them in their physical environment. So many useful tools out there!

  2. Thank you for sharing! I am definitely going to try this with my students before the end of the year. I had never even thought of combining coding with VR.

  3. I like the fact that you brought up “students take ownership over their learning”.

    I wonder if you could explain how students would take ownership of their learning. Could this be accomplished without technology?

    A good next step might be to explain what type of technologies would be helpful to the classroom to “support differentiation”.

    Also, please double check your url for your first reference. The url should take the user right to the article.


  4. Hi Chris,

    In my experience, students demonstrate ownership over their learning by choosing to ‘drive,’ rather then be ‘driven.’ For example, in our science unit on life cycles, we started with a KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn) chart. Students wrote down what they already know about life cycles, and in the next column they wrote what they wondered. At the end of the unit we came back to our charts and then filled in the column on what they learned. A few students brought up that they hadn’t yet found the answer to some of their ‘wonder’ questions. The next day during Daily 5, one student came to me and said, “Can I do a wonder project on soil? I haven’t found out what nutrients the seed gets from the soil.” This is an example of a student taking ownership because he is taking control of what he wants to learn, and spending the time to inquire and create opportunities for deeper learning. This can definitely be accomplished without technology, however in this case, the iPads provided a platform for him to do research, and then share his learning through the Book Creator App.

    In my classroom, we use technology to support differentiation. One example is a student who has a learning disability in writing and reading. When we have Writers Workshop, he is able to use the Notepad app to record his story. He has difficulty with written output, therefore he can still record his creative story and share it with the class while meeting his individual needs. It is very similar to having someone scribe it for him, however it puts him in the drivers seat, and he doesn’t feel that he has to rely on someone else. Another example is a student who recently arrived to Canada from Syria. Due to language barriers, he is not able to do the same work as the rest of the students in our class. We have used apps like Brain Pop ESL to help provide him with visual media that is at his reading level. He can use the extended activities to practise english sight words, model conversational english, and play games.

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