Author Archives: baljeet gill

Support Your Pedagogy, Not Define It

Technology Enhanced Learning Environments should follow the theory of constructivism and allow students to interact with content to construct their own understanding of it.  As Jonassen (1995) states,, the “technologies should be used as knowledge construction tools by learners rather than programmed tutors, that students should learn with technology, not from it” (p. 41).

For designers of learning experiences, this creates a challenge.  Over the past 20 years, the accessibility to curricular content has exploded and yet we have not seen a widespread adoption to this change from educators.  Technology-enhanced learning experiences can attempt to focus on student learning through the creation of a product; this could take the form of videos, websites or music with one key emphasis on student reflection of their learning.  Further, the creation of an original artifact can help some challenging students overcome the fact that they are learning – a real challenge in some K-12 classrooms.  Finally, effective learning environments should pose large, open-ended questions and then guide students through their own process of inquiry to come up with a comprehensive answer to that question.


Bates, J. (2014). Teaching in a digital age, Chapter 8. Retrieved from

Jonassen, D. H. (1995). Computers as cognitive tools: Learning with technology, not from technology. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 6(2), 40-73.

Senior Science: Efficiency, Essential, Deep Learning

My interviewee has been a teacher in the British Columbia school system for 21 years teaching senior science.  My interview was conducted through Google Docs as it allowed my colleague the flexibility to answer the questions at their own leisure.

Through the interview I learned that his views on technology in the classroom are that “it is essential to practice” as it allows the teacher to bring in a wealth of resources to aid in student learning and many times, drive student learning.  Tools such as an LMS like Moodle and electronic meters are used “every single class”.  The use of an LMS allows transparent conversation with parents, helps to keep students accountable, and creates inefficiencies (such as reducing paper usage or direct feedback to students on assignments).

Some of the barriers that my colleague has encountered throughout his teaching career is when large technology decisions are made, but teachers are not consulted on their needs.  We understand that administrators have tough decisions to make, but the users of the technology should be key stakeholders in those decisions.  Specifically, he utilizes a lot of simulations that use both Flash and Java and class sets of iPads will limit their use – rendering this technology useless for him.

In regards to how tools are picked and how often they are replaced, he will first look at what his pedagogy states and then find the tools and is not driven by simply what is new.  Further, he will “only replace if something better comes along”.  In terms of assessment, and in line with the changing BC curriculum, he states that he no longer uses test and instead utilizes ongoing feedback and interviews – all with technology as an aid and not the driving factor.  I was impressed by his uses of alternative methods in a senior science class so asked him how he finds the time to implement technology in his classroom and still cover all of the course content and his response was simple:

“Technology is a tool that we need to take advantage of, to me it’s as basic as a pencil.  We wouldn’t ask an educator how they have time to utilize a pencil in the classroom would we?”.  

It was a stark reminder that if we have the right mindset and embrace its use, the veil of mystery covering technology can be lifted.

Case 4 – Preservice Biology Teachers

The underlying issue in Case 4 is that a professor who has been teaching for many years is lecturing to preservice teachers the benefits of introducing technology in the biology classroom.  The professor goes on to speak about how it is so important to have a support network of other teachers of similar subject areas; his own experience was two physics teachers who were his seniors.  This support network allows an educator feel comfortable trying new technologies and if something is to fail then the support teachers are there to help.  I’m not sure when this case takes place, but the professor also goes on to say that the district is not going to provide tech support and this is definitely not the case in my current place of employment.

The professor mentions that there are three levels of technology integration in the classroom.  Level 1 – Lecture enhancing

  • Teacher doesn’t have to do much
  • No real change in pedagogy
  • Allows teachers to become used to software and don’t need

Level 2 – Student use of technology

  • Need to have more than one computer in the room
  • Maybe 8 computers in the room
  • Students do all the activities at the same time
    • Simulations etc

Level 3 – Students directed, self paced learning

  • Here’s what you have to know, go know it
  • Progress through a study guide
  • Teacher really needs to know the curriculum and the technology

Finally the professor mentions that with curriculum limitations and the amount of content that needs to be taught, there is a significant time crunch on all teachers.  He mentions that in Science 10 all of his fun labs are gone as there is a provincial exam in that course.  Since the time of this writing a lot has changed in the BC K-12 Education system including the provincial exams and the curriculum.

We are then given a chance to hear from the preservice teachers about their upcoming practicum and how likely they are to attempt the use of technology in their own classrooms.  The answer is the same ‘not likely’ across almost all of the educators and the reason is also the same: “I don’t feel comfortable with the technology and what if something goes wrong”.  I think there is a fundamental problem here and one where both the educators and the students lose out.  Many educators have brilliant ideas but are afraid to implement them with the fear of failure.  The last two years of my teaching career have been transformational as I have been encouraged by my district and school administration to take risks with the potential to “fail forward”; the results have been amazing – I have implemented large, inquiry based projects in almost all of my classes.

Pedagogy and Technology

Use of technology in any classroom (not just science) should begin with teacher pedagogy first and technology second.  There are many efficiencies that technology affords us and they should be embraced.  One such efficiency I utilize on a daily basis is the Google Apps for Education; this suite of applications includes Google Classroom, Google Drive, Docs, and Sheets among others.  These tools have allowed students and educators the ability to collaborate in a virtual environment much easier.  Students who are absent because of illness or vacation are able to keep up to date and group work is much more efficient as all students have access to all documents regardless of where they are.  I, as an educator, am able to keep tabs on student progress at my convenience and can provide feedback instantly.  I have the privilege to be teaching at a school that requires students to bring their own device – the recommended device being a ChromeBook.

In the science classroom, teachers can utilize technology such as simulations to aid in student learning.  Using a gravity simulator can allow students to adjust different parameters and observe how it affects different objects or motion.  From our example last week, using simulations can allow students to see how direct and indirect sunlight impact our seasons, or how the position of the moon creates different phases.  When students are able to get hands on experience and see the results of their actions (such as moving the sun around, or changing the tilt of the earth), then I think they will have deeper learning.


Misconceptions, Constructivism & Technology

Technology with its wide adoption and ease of use brings with it great opportunity but also presents a challenge to educators.  Our ability to share ideas to a large audience is easier than ever and thus we find ourselves with the challenge of filtering false ideas from our students.  Further, students arrive in our classrooms with their own experiences and misconceptions of ideas we are attempting to build on, challenging the educator to cover course content yet also ensure students are developing deep, meaningful learning.

Fosnot (2013) describes behaviorism and maturationism as two theories of learning that educators use to either help students understand concepts or determine when it may be appropriate for them to cover that material.  Behaviorism, specifically reinforcement and practice, is a pedagogical approach many math teachers, including myself have used to develop student understanding of specific ideas.  The problem arises if these methods of teaching are used to help students memorize procedures without any attempt to ask the question why?.  The third theory, Constructivism, addressed this problem directly.  It is a widely studied theory that states students construct their deep knowledge on a particular topic through experience and reflection.  Further, the new knowledge is built on top of previous knowledge again demonstrating the importance of educators addressing student misconceptions early.

In our course video, we learned that regardless of their science education, twenty one of twenty three Harvard graduates had misconceptions about the phases of the moon and why we have seasons on earth.  The video went on to focus on a grade 9 student, Heather, why had some interesting ideas on the same question.  We saw that Heather had much of the terminology correct but didn’t fully understand what the terms meant (indirect and direct sunlight for instance).  After classroom instruction on the topic, Heather was able to reverse some of her misconceptions but even after direct, one on one instruction, Heather was not willing to let go of some ideas she had formed.  

We, as educators, have great resources at our disposal to help students develop deep understanding of our course content and curricular competencies.  We have lesson videos such as Khan Academy and free graphing tools such as to allow students to manipulate equations and see the impact these manipulations have graphically.  Accurate simulations are available for almost every subject area (I teach business education and there are a wealth of simulations available to educators) and are generally free to use.  Ellis et. al. (2011) studied students experiences using technology in the science, math and history classes and found that students engaged highly (for different reasons depending on the subject) with the content.  One of the findings was that students appreciated the wider range of answers they could find on the internet and thus potentially increasing the chances of developing a deeper understanding.



Constructivism: A Psychological theory of learning or Cobb, Paul. “Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematical development.” Educational researcher 23, no. 7 (1994): 13-20. Available in the course readings library

Ellis, R., Goodyear, P., Bliuc, A., & Ellis, M. (2011). High school students’ experiences of learning through research on the Internet. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(6), 503-515. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00412.x

Fosnot, C. T. (2013). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. Teachers College Press.

Email and Richard Scarry

My first memories of technology in an educational setting were in grade 3 or 4 when our class was corresponding with students from Australia.  We were given an introduction on this thing called email and we could write letters about life in Canada and would receive responses from our ‘Pen Pals’ on the other side of the globe.  In hindsight, I appreciate that my teacher would have explored email as a pedagogical tool to make the learning real when it would have been much easier to just have traditional English class.

Another highlight comes from the same class because once our weekly email was sent, we were allowed to explore Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy World.  It was a computer game and I don’t remember much other than if you clicked on something it would react and possibly a speech bubble would say something.  This was my only experience with Richard Scarry but now I often find I gravitate towards those stories in the library when helping my 4 year old pick out books.



Hello from Abbotsford BC

Hello all,

My name is Baljeet Gill and I currently teach at the Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business in Abbotsford BC.  I am a business education teacher (marketing, entrepreneurship, economics, accounting) but have also taught both math and science classes.  I worked as an accountant, at various levels, for six years before realizing my passion of helping students realize their potential and entering the world of education – its a good story, maybe it will come up in the discussions.

I am currently enrolled in my 9th and 10th course of the MET program and have enjoyed the learning communities I have been a part of through my journey.  Our school is in the process of constructing a dedicated makerspace that will be open for student use this upcoming September so I am hoping to gain some insight into both the theoretical and practical ways to utilize this space.

I try to spend most of my summer riding my motorcycle and am hoping tomorrow’s forecast of sun for the next week is accurate – it has been a dreadful spring for riding thus far.

I look forward to getting to know you all as our term progresses.