Author Archives: Nathan Lott


I felt that David Jonassen’s description of Mindtools ” digital tools that support knowledge construction, exploration, learning by doing, learning by conversing, and learning by reflecting” (Jonassen, D. H. 2000),perfectly encapsulates what designers of learning experiences should aspire to.  Now more than ever our consumer based society is shoving technology in our faces to view and use.  Technology is often overlooked as a tool to create and is seen as a device to consume.  The DIY/Maker/OpenSource movement moves in a counter direction to the corporate controlled environment that surrounds us.  It is our duty as teachers to help our students not only understand how to create with technology but to educate them on how technology works.

I am currently moving my grade 5 class away from segmented core subjects into a more interdisciplinary station approach. I usually use direct instruction to introduce the general base components of each stations.  I cannot be in all places at once so I have been building web pages using wix to help build a structured approach around each station.  For example I have a 3D printing station, raspberry Pi station, VR/AR station and robotics station.  Each station has its own website that guides the students from basic steps to a self regulated approach where they begin to branch into individual areas of interest.  All stations are linked back into google drive and their own personal wix website where they place their assignments and projects.  We end in a passion project attached which incorporates all of the stations. I hope I can I can continue to build on my students digital literacy and my understanding of how it can enhance their learning.


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

Risk, Resources and Collaboration

The interviewee is a colleague at another elementary school in our district, he is in his 8th year of teaching in general grade 5.  The interview was in his classroom after school, below are the 3 summative points from the conversation.


He felt that one of the main underlying themes to actively integrating technology with teaching practice was taking risks.  Technology combined with content and pedagogy, “unless actively practiced and tested in a classroom environment cannot become an integral part of a teacher’s toolkit.”  He takes risks daily when using new technology but finds that the rewards that present themselves when technology “clicks” far outweigh the times when his experiments with tech failed.  When a piece of software or hardware can be used for a specific application he often found that that device or app had much broader applications when applied between subjects or combined with previous successful technology platforms. He had to break out of his previous “binder based” lesson planning to start to develop his lessons online and this in itself required an investment of time and risk into a new platform to better store his work.  He stated, “part of the risk was letting go of your control over all aspects of the classroom and realizing that with these new tools there are many times the knowledge is reciprocal especially, for example with coding.”


He talked about the lack of cohesive resources that tied technology to content and competencies within our newly developed ADST curriculum.  He is moving towards a station approach to his classroom with Math and Science in which each station has an interdisciplinary approach using tech.   He is trying to develop automated websites which the students can log into to follow online instructions to learn the new digital fabrication and physical computing component that our district elementary schools are investing in.  “A direct teaching method is unproductive using stations and the individualized, authentic approach we are trying to use. The challenge lies in developing web based platforms to guide the students, moving them to self regulated learning tasks creating projects that combine reflection, adaption and collaboration.”  He does not have time to create these resources and finds it frustrating that our district and government seem to lack any centralized repositories to help teachers develop and integrate tech into their subjects.


He felt Multi User VIrtual Environments were possibly the most interactive, cooperative, dynamic teaching tool he had used thus far. He uses Minecraft with his teaching I asked him how the M.U.V.E.’s could benefit students.  He stated that “these large scale sandbox platforms are a place for teachers to build lessons that most closely mimic our physical environment in terms of unpredictable events, visual relation and open creativity.”  He felt as if M.U.V.E’s were in their infancy and not often used, however as an interdisciplinary tool for all subjects it covered a broad swath and had limitless possibilities.  He stated, “Most teachers will dismiss it as just a game, but the level of creativity and problem solving I have seen from our disengaged learners is astounding.”  Professional development on how to use this tool was probably the best way to bring it into skeptical teachers focus. He said “the limiting tool could possibly be the level of technology that schools require to run the platform in their labs.”  

Fear of the unknown

I found a common theme running through the videos which linked back to my previous blog post.  That is the use of technology in the math and science classroom should be interdisciplinary, interactive and meaningful. I chose to focus on cases 5 and 8 as these videos relate directly to my grade levels, broadened my views on what platforms can be used in the classroom and raised an important question.  Both cases provided an insight into what I see as the 3 central functions of technology. Technology allows content and competencies to be woven together in a rich tapestry that blends core subject areas in ways that help students gain meaningful insight into how our world connects.  The interactive platforms the teachers use combine text, sound, images and video that is not just consumed by students but created by students, allowing for authentic learning experiences.  The students take the skills outside the classroom into their homes and continue with projects on their own time which indicates meaningful learning activities.


Looking at case 5 answered questions as to the effectiveness of technology in the elementary classroom but also raised some questions.  As the teacher in this class is doing I am also working towards combining subjects into silo’s or interdisciplinary projects.  Her use of music in science was obviously a creative way to engage students in artistic impression using digital tools but also linking into a larger science theme, based on space.  I am currently having my students build a colony in Minecraft on Mars using a modification called Galacticcraft which provides realistic gravity, atmosphere and day night cycle environment.  We are also coding a song for a video based on our colony using the excellent musical coding tool called SonicPi on our raspberry Pis.


I was excited to see how she promoted understanding by challenging them to use a piece of digital technology to break through subject barriers.  We do not have a large ESL base in our school but another great point she made was how the technology levels the playing field for ESL students and allows them to express their ideas using a multimodal medium instead of just text.  Her project based learning approach seemed to be applied across her subjects and it was heartening to see that someone is working towards a similar goal as I am. 


However the two teachers who felt uncomfortable with technology at the end raised a huge question for me.  While we worry about our students concepts and dispositions they bring into the classroom I am more concerned teachers.  So many have little to no interest in applying technology into their classroom because of their fear of the unknown.  It seems to me at the heart of the problem is the uncomfortable position technology places teacher in.  Their role is no longer gatekeeper of all knowledge, as it has been for hundreds of years. Both teachers felt as if they should know “it” before they teach it, they had no time to learn new ideas. This is where a shift in attitude needs to occur about technology.  It is ok to make mistakes and learn new tools along with the students.  I find their engagement level increases as they realize you are both on a journey of knowledge together.  I have been teaching the new ADST coding curriculum for 3 years now.  I have had many times when I have asked students for help, or find that with the tools they have been given they create and share their ideas with me. I gain knowledge from their creations and further my problem solving abilities.  Teachers do not have to be experts in technology but must be willing to understand that tech savy students need to be given control over how they want to show and grow their knowledge.


This brings me to case 8 where new teachers are learning how to take text and images and create a new engaging way to present the information to the students.  It seemed that technology was not a standalone subject in their practicum but a tool to help integrate content into a optimal learning presentation.  This is where hope lies for technology integration into our practice in the Science and Math curriculum.  It is through education and professional development, so that the fear of the unknown vanishes and is replaced with a certain comfort level with digital literacy.  Too many teachers feel as if they don’t have time, or the students are already the experts so why bother.  So while some of my questions about technology enhancing learning have been answered I still wonder what is the answer to having all teachers understand the interdisciplinary, interactivity and meaningful learning it can inspire?

Digital Literacy

Good use of technology in the math and science classroom should be interdisciplinary, interactive and meaningful. The digital tools we have at our disposal allow for the melding and weaving of content and competencies together using visual, textual and auditory creation and delivery tools. Moreover, if students can draw relationships between science and math we are moving much closer to an authentic learning experience that mimics the complex intermingling of disciplines we encounter in our daily lives.  

Interactivity goes hand in hand with technology, as an example just last week I 3D printed a slice of Mars where the Spirit rover landed and had the students calculate the area and perimeter of the rover’s path.  The ability technology gives us to make the virtual physical or provide students with tools to manipulate a digital space to solve complex problems and be creative is a marvel.  Finally technology can make learning meaningful, you can see when you apply technology as a learning tool students are engaged and motivated to learn.  The often will take what you have taught them and continue to pursue it outside of the lesson which for me is when I feel the learning has been impactful.

Technology allows a conceptual challenge like place value and decimals, which is something that all elementary students struggle with, to become a transformative learning event.  You can wire up a LED to a raspberry Pi or Microbit, apply a code in Python or Java Script and have the students play around with decimal value to make the LED blink faster or slower. I struggled with place value when teaching using Math Makes Sense but with technology digital meets physical, math meets computer science, and learning becomes authentic and permanent.  Digital technology is nothing without digital literacy, and I often find that a shiny new ipad or macbook computer is expected to be a silver saviour for students lack of interest in outdated teaching methods.  I feel, while important, our focus for Professional Development (at least in my District) seems to still lie with numeracy and literacy.  There are few opportunities for teachers to learn how to incorporate technology into their classrooms, probably because there is no one with the skills to organize that movement.  I hope one day it will be a priority as I feel there is so much more we can offer our students in this new realm.

Media Knowledge

The video “A Private Universe” describes the teachers struggle with communicating new concepts to students as they hold on to their preconceived ideas and have difficulty creating new knowledge structures. Students discover new ideas form a multitude of places.  “Everyday experiences, everyday communication, mass-media,and language,” (Driver, Guesne, Tiberghie, 1985).  No other time in my teaching experience have I seen media such as Youtube dominate my students opinions on so many topics in Science and Math. Not only that but it guides the direction of knowledge and focuses their attention on singular topics.  The area which I believe is becoming more prevalent as we move into the digital age is the power that mass media has on students preconceptions and knowledge base.


Learners use their existing knowledge (i.e. their conceptual ecology), to determine whether different conditions are met,”(Hewson, 1992).  They come into class with so much information fed to them through their personal media outlets that I find it is hard at times to draw their attention away from that focus to create a contradiction that will lead to an accommodation. For example, we are currently focusing on Mars and every student talks about the movie Martian and the 175km wind storms that they have to deal with.  I told the students that really the atmosphere on Mars is only 1% as dense as Earth so winds of that magnitude would have little effect.  To which my class responded, “Don’t ruin the movie!” It is a bit of a comical example but this Net Generation has their heads filled with “false facts” or “non facts” (useless information) through their digital repositories on a daily basis.  This “intuitive or naive knowledge. Its primary characteristic is that it constitutes the person’s reality, something the person believes in,” (Fosnot, Catherine, 1994).) combats on a daily basis with the knowledge I am trying to imbue.  


A second area of interest in childrens concepts  is the preconceived idea that all technology is primarily for consumption.  At the start of this year my grade 5’s felt as if the technology they were using does not work the way they want it to they could just give up or find a new piece of technology that would work.  They had little understanding of what lay behind the technology they were using, how to manipulate it and how to create with it. All of the apps, computers, software and hardware has its base in Math and Science yet we give our students little understanding of what lies under the hood and how to tinker with it. This is why in my class we use Raspberry Pi’s daily in Science and Math to learn physical computing.  To remove the prior conception, which is almost universal in my school, that computers are used to create knowledge not just entertain, word process and research.  I believe we are facing an increasing amount of children with a large amount of knowledge given to them through technology and it is our job to help them culminate that knowledge in meaningful and productive ways.


Driver, R., Guesne, E., & Tiberghien, A. (1985). Children’s ideas and the learning of science. Children’s ideas in science, 1-9. Available online: search the title using any engine.  

Fosnot, Catherine. Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. Teachers College Press, 2013 or 2005 version. Chapter 1: Introduction: Aspects of constructivism by Ernst von Glasersfeld or Chapter 2: 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.

Hewson, P. W. Conceptual change in science teaching and teacher education. June 1992, National Center for Educational Research, Documentation, and Assessment, Madrid, Spain

Fairytale Adventure

When I look back as a child playing so many of the “retro games” that the students in my class now can build with the new coding programs, I have one that definitely stands out.  Fairytale Adventures was built for the Amiga 1000 gaming system in the mid 80’s and really was far ahead of its time in terms of an open world gaming experience. Guided by the actions you make you could follow the game’s quest system, or wander aimlessly around destroying skeletons, wraiths and monsters who liked to creepily pop out from behind bushes or under bridges, what more could a 10 year old ask for!  The game had a sophisticated trading system, hunger/sleep gauge and the enemies grew fearful of you as you gained strength.  Those immersive elements kept me playing that game for long hours much to the dismay of my parents.  When I am looking at what I am doing in my classroom now with my students in our sandbox Minecraft worlds I often think back fondly to this game. I believe that open choice platform that the game was based on was far ahead of its time.  It embodies for me the wonder, creativity and curiosity that digital media can bring to our lives. That ability to control your destiny (digitally) yet remain unpredictable resonated deeply with me.  We now have the tools to bring those same possibilities into our classrooms, firmly rooted in educational practice.  


Hello from Rossland

Hello everyone, I have been teaching for about 15 years and I am currently a grade 5 teacher in the little ski/ mountain bike town of Rossland, BC.  This will be my 3rd course in the MET program,  I am also taking 512, raising two toddlers and teaching full time, so I will be busy!  I have been working on applying our new ADST curriculum and core subjects into  physical computing (Raspberry Pi’s/coding), 3D printing/design (Tinkercad) and Multi User Virtual Environments (Minecraft) over the past 5 years in my classroom.  I hope that through this course I can gain new perspectives and ideas from both the course itself and all of you, that I can apply to my teaching practice.  I love making music with digital tools, laser cutting and 3D design as well as playing with my kids.  Looking forward to an interesting course!

A picture of my family