Author Archives: Cristina Leo

TELE: An Individualized Approach

I connected with the idea of “cognitive affordances” by David Jonassen (2000) as PYP teacher, where inquiry-based teaching and learning is the goal. As he states, “Students learn from thinking in meaningful ways. Thinking is engaged by activities, which can be fostered by computers or teachers.” This made me think about the importance of constructing learning engagements that are open-ended and do not necessarily have one right pathway to the solution. Technology isn’t the latest high-end device on the market, but rather how learning is transformed through the use of the tool.

Therefore, designers of learning should be thinking of creative and innovative ways to foster risk-taking in the classroom that pushes students to find their best, individualized pathway to success. This may include differentiated instruction or tasks that challenge students to think critically. Design of learning engagements should provide the right amount of scaffolding so that students understand the what and why of their learning. As Lev Vygotsky’s proposed the zone of proximal development is important because it determines what a child can with no support, to what a child can do with some support. Even in science and math classes, the framework  teacher models and students do, is important because often the student will go beyond the confines of the assignment and find new, creative, and innovative ways of achieving a given task. The exciting part of a lesson is when students are given time to reflect and discuss their strategies with peers and teachers to inform the classroom community of the variety of ways in which a goal can be achieved.

Interpretation, Personalization, Search

The interviewee is the Director of Technology Integration at an Independent school for students ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The interviewee has taught in a variety of schools both nationally and globally. The main points discussed focused on Interpretation, Personalization, and Search.

Interpretation of Data
The interviewee noted that when integrating technology into math and science, considering what applications to use to demonstrate data manipulation is a key factor. Within the disciplines of science and math using technology to analyze and present data in user-friendly ways can be better achieved through technology, ensuring that data is presented so that it can be interpreted correctly. In science, through the use of applications we can use these tools to allow students that ability to conduct activities that provide models, etc. that may not be available within the classrooms. As well, software allows students to develop their executive functioning skills, such as organization, when students learn to use tools that suit them best.

Personalization of Concepts
Within a global context, the personalization of content has evolved to be of importance within the last few years when it comes to compiling individual data that monitors students progress. Teachers are better able to use the data, or analytics of the students progress through a program, to than scaffold and personalize the lessons or areas a student needs to learn better/identify areas of weakness. Therefore, the data provided to the teacher gives the teacher a better indication of what is missing, such as low literacy, and then providing the teacher with the pathways needed to ensure the student can reach their goals. Providing a differentiated approach for individual students can be better achieved when educators use programs tailored to support the teaching and learning goals intended in science and math courses.

When considering what tools to use when integrating technology into a lesson plan can be overwhelming now that choice is endless, especially when companies are targeting to niche markets/areas of focus.Companies are now targeting their program towards a specific area; learning how to rank, evaluate and validate tools for a particular lesson is critical. For students, they also need to learn how to search, finding what they want, and evaluating if the source is valid. This goes for content and when deciding what tool to use. When educators know what their intended goal is for the students to achieve, they need to evaluate the right tools for the requirement. Using use cases or business cases is the way to achieve this. However, in terms of productivity, if this tool can be used across grades, there is better success for this tool to be used (adopted) and find success.

Search Part II
Students need to learn how to define, and redefine questions while searching. Developing computational thinking within students is important when determining what tool to use to find the information. Students need to learn how to code the computer (e.g. code, keywords, excel) in order to efficiently find the information they think they are looking for. Students often expect to log on and immediately find what they are told to find without thinking about the process of how they will best arrive at these answers without considering their plan of action first.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

While watching the following video cases, I couldn’t help but think about the quote by Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I explored video cases 5 and 8, and the common theme that good use of technology in the science and math classroom is when students effectively use technology to explain their thinking and understanding, clearly, creatively, and collaboratively.

Video Case 5
The first video began with the teacher who was very positive and optimistic about her use of technology in the classroom. She often spoke about how busy yet engaged the students in her class are with their project-based activities. From the background noise heard in the video, it is clear that the students enjoy her science class; the kids are talking, thinking, and learning. The teacher goes on to talk about how she is more of a coach in the classroom, often referring to the class as her team. She encourages risk-taking, while modelling this herself, by integrating technology into her lessons, often mentioning how she self-taught herself. This teacher clearly enjoys organized chaos and is not rigid in her classroom managment, by this I mean she is comfortable allowing the students to guide their own inquiry. Her growth mindset is obvious when compared and contrasted with the retired teacher video.

The retired teacher reiterates on more than one occasion that technology is frustrating for her, and time consuming. This made me question why is it okay for teachers to display this negative narrative in schools when teachers are often seen as role models, or at least in roles of influence. This can often be said for regarding math, when parents or teacher say in front of students, this subject is not their strong suit. One of the things I have noticed from my own students is that they will always be the collective experts because they are willing to take risks in their learning, displaying trial and error in its finest. I was equally surprised by the new teachers video confession that she worried about the lack of time available for her to implement technology into her lessons. However, I think she raised an important point in that her B.Ed did not tackle technology integration as an important subject area while preparing her to teach. Overall, the issue that stood out for me from this video is how do schools foster collaborative teams of teachers and students who are willing to take-risks in their learning to showcase their understandings?

Video Case 8
This video explore the perspective of the pre-service teacher students who are creating content based videos using slomation, or digital animation. This video made we compare how excited these adults were in creating these videos, relying on collaboration, communication, and creativity in their own groups, and how this would easily be adapted by their own students when given the chance. This use of technology in the science classroom can easily be adapted by students in elementary and middle school. Not only are student learning about the content of the subject matter but they are also learning the skills behind video editing, researching, time management, negotiating order of importance, etc. This integrated learning engagement far exceeds the retention of what would be remembered if students were only to read and observe information in a print based textbook, for example. Here, students are engaging the senses and learning is happening organically.

Overall, these two video cases reinforced my belief that when technology is integrated meaningfully into the design of a learning engagement, many learning objectives are being met collectively. Students are excited to explain what they know in a simple, yet intricate way with the support of technology as a tool.

Moving beyond substitution

Good use of digital technology in the math and science classroom begins with an educator who has a vision on how to engage their students towards meaningful inquiry. Meaningful use of technology moves away from teaching content in isolation and moves towards interdisciplinary problem-solving. Teachers who are passionate about motivating their students to think critically, collaborate effectively, and take risks in their learning are what is important in these STEM classrooms. When students are learning WHY something is important, in a hands-on way that explores real-world connections, students are more likely to care and engage in the learning engagements. Digital technology goes beyond the replacement of an ‘old’ way of doing something, but rather is innovative and modifies and redefines the original task. This is the SAMR model at heart.

Digital technology should be implemented with a clear scope and sequence but also be able to handle the teachable moments that present themselves along the way. Students need to develop their computational thinking in a fun way that challenges yet sustains interest.The benefits of using a variety of digital technology tools within the classroom is that there are many different options for students to personalize their learning. For example, when students struggle with conceptual challenges such as volume and capacity, students can watch Brainpop videos, use hands-on manipulatives such as bottles, in order to understand. They can explain their thinking with various iPad apps to document their thinking and learning, as well as be used as reflective samples for their portfolios. A successful science and math class is one that aligns itself with the inquiry cycle, where students are encouraged to tune into real world issues, find out more about these problems and begin making connections while attempting to find solutions, or take meaningful action. Overall, an effective STEM classroom is one where the teacher cannot be found at the front of the room, but rather can be seen transitioning between small groups of students who are busy tinkering, designing, and collaborating.

Implementing effective and useful digital technology in the classroom is possible when educators stop making excuses in their own abilities, such as saying ‘Technology is not my thing.’ As well, I believe it is equally important to break down gender inequality when it comes to digital technology. All teachers need to be supportive of all students learning to become digitally literate. I am fortunate to work in a school that believes in supporting teachers through professional development in digital technology, such as coding and robotics. When schools are creative the possibilities are truly endless, and digital technology does not have to always be about having the latest high-end technology, but it is necessary that all technology should be used effectively.


The video documentary, A Private Universe sheds light upon an important issue many educators face on a day-to-day basis, the question of a student’s metacognition. A question highlighted and discussed in this video centres around the notion of what exactly is a student thinking about regarding their own learning and understanding, before, during, and after a lesson. While watching the video it is intriguing to note that Heather, considered a more competent, intelligent, and insightful student from the perspective of the teacher, is unable to accurately and thoroughly explain how seasons work and the rotation of the earth and moon. It is clear from the video that as Heather is being interviewed, she is looking for validation from the interviewer to support her thinking, and continue the dialogue. When she begins to draw her ideas she is better able to have confidence in her thinking strategies.

According to Sacit Kose (2008) research into diagnosing student misconceptions can be better explored when coupled with allowing students to draw their ideas alongside interviews. Kose (2008) states, “That’s why; the results obtained indicate that drawing method is effective in determining the student’s’ misconceptions. One of the probable reasons of the determined misconceptions may be the difference between the scientific and daily language.” As students learn to use the vocabulary associated with new topics, they are then able to better communicate their understanding of these ideas with confidence and accuracy.

For myself, I have realized that importance of the simple KWL activity, and how within science classes, this tool is often misused. When students begin a new unit of study, accessing prior knowledge is critical. It is an opportunity for students to reflect upon their learning, understanding, and knowledge, but also to spend time thinking about what they wonder about. The challenge lies in finding the time to sort these reflections and ideas into meaningful lessons that will lead to clarity in future lessons. As Galen Erickson, (1979) mentions, “with knowledge of what the learner brings to an instructional setting recognized as such a vital component in planning educational programs, it should have become an important stimulus in educational research.” Therefore, what the children are thinking is the epicenter of true inquiry. Learning to be flexible in planning to avoid continued misconceptions of understanding being perpetuated means the teacher must put the student first.

What was clear from both the video and the research by Erickson (1979), Kose (2008), and Driver (1983), is that students need to be able to describe their thinking with the use of hands-on manipulatives, whether it be drawing ideas on paper or using models. When students are given opportunities to describe their thinking, while working one to one with a teacher, the teacher is then capable of targeting misconceptions and reteaching on the spot. This is where technology can come into play. Students can then use apps on the iPad, such as Explain Everything to record their understanding of the topic being studied, and teachers can provide better feedback to ensure that any misunderstandings are caught, and retaught. Yes, the issue of time will always be a concern, however, in British Columbia with the introduction of a new inquiry-based curriculum is being rolled out, less emphasis is placed on content, but rather on the big ideas within a grade. When educators spent time exploring concepts with the goal of quality understanding rather than quantity of content being covered, students will have a stronger foundation of knowledge, ultimately leading to more curious, inquisitive students, wanting to explore further.


Driver, R., Guesne, E., & Tiberghien, A. (1985). Children’s ideas and the learning of science. Children’s ideas in science, 1-9.

Erickson, G. L. Children’s conceptions of heat and temperature. Science Education 63, no. 2 (1979): 221-230

Kose, Sacit. Diagnosing Student Misconceptions: Using Drawings as a Research Method. World Applied Sciences Journal 3 (2): 283-293, 2008

(Math) Blast from the past

When I was in Grade 5 my grandfather purchased my family our first home computer. I remember seeing this large piece of technology and thinking to myself, how exciting! However, I quickly realized that I did not speak the same language of this computer, and would quickly need to learn what MS-Dos was all about. One of the biggest challenges with this new technology was that there was no expert in my household or even in my school who was able to teach me how to capitalize on all of the features it held, and I didn’t know what questions to ask. When we started to buy different programs, such as Midnight Rescue a reading comprehension clue game, Reader Rabbit, Math Blaster or Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego games was I able to ‘do’ more with the computer. One thing that has always stayed with me is thinking about how far we have come since the day we unpacked that giant, desktop computer, today we open a box and out comes a laptop with graphics, sound, and wifi capabilities all set up and ready to go. In the early 90s you had a computer, and that was it unless you purchased the speakers separately. Today, I continue to realize that there are many different languages associated with computer technology, such as coding that I need to become more fluent with.

Hello from Vancouver

Hello Everyone!

My name is Cristina and this is my 5th course in the MET program. I am currently teaching Grade 5 in an independent school in Delta, BC where I have been teaching for the past 9 years. This fall I will be moving to Grade 1, as I have never taught in the primary years, and have decided to take on this new opportunity! My goal for this course is to learn more about implementing technology into science and math classes in a hands on and user friendly way, both to enhance the learning experiences of my students, and spark passion in their knowledge of these two disciplines. In my spare time I love to travel, and will be spending some time in Italy this summer. I’m looking forward to learning alongside everyone during this course.