Author Archives: maureen boyle

Goals, Engagement, and Experiences.

Mr. C. has extensive experience with educational technology. Beginning with his career in the Canadian military and later as an elementary school teacher, technology has been a consistent component of his professional experiences. Mr. C. has used his talents as an educational technology consultant and more recently as a grade 7 teacher toward his endeavor to “make a difference”.

During our interview, Mr. C. talked about the different ways he uses technology and his thoughts on technology and its impact on student learning. Throughout the interview, it became evident that Mr. C. uses technology as a means to an end. Three words that helped to frame this notion are: Experiences, Engagement, and Goals.

When asked about the strategies used to integrate technology, Mr. C. was very clear in stating his views. Learning goals and student needs are the basis from which decisions concerning technology are made.

Mr. C:

When I integrate technology I begin by looking at the curriculum learning goals. Then I look to see what technology we have available that can help in meeting those learning goals. Knowing your students and knowing you’re curriculum comes before knowing what technologies to use in the classroom.

Mr. C. recognizes that his students are more engaged when they are having fun. He also sees technology as a strategy that allows students to show their knowledge in multiple ways. He spoke in detail about the ways he integrates technology in his classroom. In science, his students enjoy learning by using robotics, simulations, and virtual reality tools. However, he also identified the importance of close monitoring and facilitating student learning noting that some students can get carried away or become sidetracked and need support and guidance to produce interesting and quality work.

As a grade 7 teacher, Mr. C. is responsible for teaching music. However, he does not have an educational background in this area. Yet despite his lack of knowledge, he’s able to provide students with a meaningful learning experience by using technology.

Mr. C.:

Where I don’t have all the intricacies of teaching grade 7 music, I can look at the big ideas in the curriculum and use technology like Garageband and the Finale Music to help me.

Mr. C. uses an integrated approach to teaching music by using musical technology as a part of his Language Arts program.

Mr. C.:

I’m showing students different ways to use technology to reach their learning goals. For example, in our novel study, we used Garageband to show demonstrate the mood of the novel. We used Finale which is a program that uses music notation to write a song about the book.

This brief ½ hour interview with Mr. C. provided me with a unique opportunity to understand a seasoned educator approach to using technology. From my perspective, Mr. C. shows signs of being very intentional and thoughtful about his approach. Pedagogy and the process of learning are strong influences that govern how Mr. C. uses technology in his classroom. He is also acutely aware of how technology can be used as a bridge for a teacher in their teaching and for students in their learning.

Technology in the Classroom

The first video that I watched was Learning Environment 4 (Space Learning). The teacher being interviewed identifies herself as “part of a team” to help support student learning. Many of the students, who were English Language Learners, used technology in different ways in order to express their understanding. The teacher identified that she used project-based learning as a form of instructional practice and technology was an integral part of the process. This was evident from the math book that the student shared which contained students pictures and real world math scenarios. In addition, I also gleaned from the interview that the learning and success that students have in one subject areas can carry over to other areas.

I wondered as I watched the video about the strategies the teacher uses to manage the classroom. What measures are in place to help students stay focused and on task. I noticed how loud it was and how some of the students were distracted. I also wondered about the strategies that are used to ensure that students working collaboratively share equal responsibility for the product of their work.

The second video that I watched was Learning Environment 5 (Middle School Science). The teacher in this segment listed a range of technology related tools that he uses with students. He also mentioned how he uses technology for assessment and communication purposes. What I found most interesting was his comments related to student accountability. He alluded the fact that worked published online creates a pressure that helps to hold students accountable for their efforts. The students who were interviewed in this segment were able to clearly articulate that using technology was engaging, provided a break from textbook reading, is useful because people learn differently.

It was interesting to note that in both videos teachers mentioned that time was an issue for them. It was noted that they cited needing time to become familiar with the technology and how to use it in the classroom. Other professional challenges mentioned were; comfort level with technology, and not enough information and professional development.

What constitutes a good use of educational technology?

Good use of digital technology enhances student learning experiences. In an ideal environment, it would be available for all students. In the same way students use pencil and paper to complete assignments, digital technology provides a more flexible and diverse tool that enables students to express their ideas, personal theories, and explore their curiosities. Technology can also help to accommodate different learning needs by providing platforms for blended or online learning experiences. Digital technology is also useful for documenting student learning journeys in the form of digital portfolios. With digital technology, students can also engage in global learning experiences where they learn with the world and not just about it.

In order to make good use of digital technology in education, it needs to be coupled with sound pedagogy. Teachers who know the process of learning need to engage in a deliberate and thoughtful process when selecting technologies. The same way we plan, assess, and evaluate student learning, we need to be to have a process that assists with selecting tools that are purposeful and beneficial.

Integration of technology in today’s classroom is not a straightforward or simple process. Although issues of accessibility and availability have improved over the years it is not an equal playing field for all students due to issues like budgeting and internet availability. Another barrier is teacher education. Optimal use of technology takes awareness, time, and planning and teachers need to be supported with quality forms of professional development in order for this to happen.

Unpacking Personal Theories

Heather’s personal theories of what causes the change in seasons varied from the accepted scientific understanding. I’m not sure where her misconceptions stems from but it was clear to see that her beliefs were deep-rooted. Despite having been present in class and having access to learning material, her personal theory on the topic created a block to being able to fully adopt a new understanding.

What became clear to me during the video was the need for the Heather and her teacher to confront their own personal theories. It was interesting to hear the teacher comment, “You assume that they (students) know certain things.” Shapiro (1988), advocates that teachers should understand our own assumptions and consider what impact it may be having on the learning process. Equally important is students being encouraged to share beliefs. Having students unpacked their personal theories allows teachers insight into student thinking and an opportunity to explore ways to introduce new ideas and/or challenge misconceptions.

Conceptual challenges are not just related to what students are learning, but also from how teachers are teaching. In my own profession practice, I have encountered challenges with parents and students in the area of mathematics. I have been present during many interesting debates concerning student achievement in the area of mathematics. Parents and many teachers I know hold firm to the idea that success in mathematics is best achieved through the practice of drills as a way to enhance speed and accuracy. Shapiro (1988), identifies that this approach requires that students not delve into the complexity but rather accept what is being taught. At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that student should explore different ways to solve math problems instead of using a single algorithm. Shapiro (1988), identifies that this type of approach factors into account the learners’ individual ideas, feeling about the learning.

In support of a more open and exploratory approach to math, a study conducted by Ng and Sinclair (2015), investigated grade 1/2 and 2/3 learning in a dynamic math environment. The learning environment emphasized quality communication as a basis for learning. Whole class dialogue exploring ideas and learning were central to the study. It also focused on the use of digital tools to aid in student understanding symmetry. The results documented a shift in student thinking toward a deeper understanding of symmetry. Although the results were based on only three lessons, the notion that dynamic environments for learning can be enhanced with quality dialogue and use of manipulatives is worth consideration.


Shapiro, B. L. (1988). What children bring to light: Towards understanding what the primary school science learner is trying to do. Developments and dilemmas in science education, 96-120. Available in the course readings library.

Ng, O., & Sinclair, N. (2015). Young children reasoning about symmetry in a dynamic geometry environment. Zdm, 47(3), 421-434. doi:10.1007/s11858-014-0660-5

Coding and Programming

High school provided me with my first exposure to computers and digital technology. I remember having to take a computer science course and feeling completely overwhelmed. I had no real idea what the teacher was talking about. I was handed cards with holes in them and was asked to “run a loop”? I muddled through the course thanks to “Steve” a straight “A” student, who graciously arranged my cards for me and walked me through each painstaking assignment.

We have come a long way since then. The advances in today’s technology are having a significant impact on the landscape of teaching and learning. Coding and programming are good examples of subject areas that have evolved tremendously. Today, students as young as kindergarten are learning how to code in some schools. In addition, there are even large scale events e.g. Hour of Code, that are promoting not only the benefits but the necessity of this skill. I have read several sources that claim that programming skills are going to be one of the skills needed in tomorrow’s workforce. Along with that is the idea that many of the jobs that we are preparing students for do not even exist yet!

Interesting Times!

Hello From Barrie Ontario

Hi Everyone,

My name is Maureen! I live in Barrie, Ontario and have been teaching elementary grade students for close to 15 years. At this point in my career I would have thought that I am ready to coast my way to retirement. However, 5 years ago I began to think about technology and its potential to revolutionize education. One idea lead to another, and ended up with me applying to the MET program. That was then and now I am nearing the end of my journey with UBC. This is my second last course!!!!!

I have enjoyed all of my courses to date, but I am super curious about this one. My original degree was a bachelor of science in nursing, so I am interested in exploring any new learning that is related to science.

The city of Barrie is a great place to visit if you are thinking of traveling for the summer. It’s located in Central Ontario on the shore of Kempenfelt Bay and only an hour away from Toronto.

I look forward to getting to know everyone over the next little while:)