Author Archives: Ryan Silverthorne

Technology and Creation

I see technology, from an educational perspective, as a set of tools to enhance the learning experience of students. When used properly it can literally transform thinking in meaningful ways. It provides an opportunity to view a problem or product in a variety of ways that can promote deeper thinking.

When any teacher seeks to use technology I would argue they must do so with the purpose of creating opportunities for growth in students. The act of creating can have profound impacts on a learner and this is no different when we talk about technology. Transformation occurs when creation occurs because of the personal meaning attached to the product created. When designing a teacher must prioritize having the most engaging physical space and environment possible to facilitate such opportunities. Proper use of technology moves beyond interaction to a role far more important and impactful on the learner. 

I would also say that to achieve the goal of facilitating creators through technology we need to constantly evaluate the needs of teachers in professional development and ensure these opportunities are being given.

Challenges, Learning, Misconceptions

The interviewee, Lisa, is a teacher and educational technology coordinator of an international school in Bangkok Thailand. In addition to these duties, she teaches grade 7 language arts. She has been with the school for 7 years and has held the formal title for the last 3 years. Over the course of these years, she has been heavily involved in the growth of the school. Below is a summary of our interview, split into specific points.


One of the main challenges talked about was that of consistency when you are doing the job in an international setting. Many new teachers come in every year and there is a sense of “starting over” in terms of getting full teacher buy into the programs used. Lisa also discussed at length the issue of time. In a job that is not always well understood it can be difficult to manage her time and monitor and encourage the other teachers effectively. She also noted that admin support is a crucial element in the success of the job. When admin is supportive and helps to enforce the importance of the job it increases the chances for success greatly.


Lisa indicated how important it is to understand the people you work with, realizing not everyone comes with the same passion, interest, and often times they come with preconceived notions they cannot figure the technology out. This led her away from doing professional development that was example based, to workshops where teachers did hands-on activities. This ensured that there was always a takeaway, that teacher could use. Differentiation, she learned, is important when dealing with colleagues also.


The most common misconception people have about educational technology, according to Lisa, is that it is essentially the same job as an IT technician. Explaining to teachers her job doesn’t include fixing computers is a common occurrence each year.

A further misconception about tech that is often harder to manage than the belief technology shouldn’t be used is the belief technology should always be used and adds value in every instance. Truthfully one always has to evaluate every activity based on its merit and if the tech adds no value to the exercise then you need to upgrade the activity. For example putting a worksheet online into a form may be using technology but it’s still a worksheet and has the same value as it did on paper in terms of learning.

Technology balance and collaboration

I chose to focus on case 3 and case 6 this week as they were the two most relatable to my current situation.

Case 3

What stood out for me in this video is teacher B identifying the fact that assumptions were made before the teaching began that likely affected the learning. As a teacher, I have experienced and have also witnessed it as an administrator. You look through lesson plans that appear to be perfect but you quickly realize there is no link to prior knowledge acquired and even the greatest of plans can bomb badly when this is the case. In her case, it was the assumption that students had some basic computer skills but this was never tested beforehand and it slowed things down.

The teacher also identified a key question when using technology, which is what if? If your lesson is based completely on a specific technology, what do you do when it fails.

Teacher A’s experience and comfort were more evident in discussing his method’s. He had a plan that facilitated helping the weaker students in technology, without his direct teaching. The concept of activity based learning is certainly an excellent one when it is approached correctly. Having proper knowledge and perspective are important, however, and it’s important that teachers are still constantly assessing their students and providing help where it is needed.

I also found the argument about hands on vs. simulations interesting. I would be interested to hear for about studies done on the benefits and drawbacks of each but I can certainly see the benefit of having a more blended approach. Cost is an issue for schools and the fact is you cannot experience the amount of things you would be able to on a simulator. While I don’t agree that simulators can’t simulate problems (when I did flight simulations I had plenty of preprogrammed failures built in that forced me to think on my feet) I do agree that there is value is live experiments and this should never be done with completely.

Case 6

This case also caught my attention because the teacher had a certain passion for using technology that was focussed on benefitting the students. Parent and teacher communication can be difficult through old channels but this has changed greatly and for teachers that take the initiative they can stay very connected. Doing so encourages interaction at home, which only strengthens learning.

I was also struck by the inquiry-based approach of trying to find what the students are interested in and building off of that.

What was most impressive to me was the teacher understood the reality that you “go to war with the army you have, not the one you want.” This is to say he understood he was not going to get all of the technology elements, at least not through standard means. He added components by being crafty in pitching ideas and showing results to back up his requests for more funding.

Both cases were interesting in their own right. Certainly, the context and approach differ slightly but the basic principle of using technology in the most efficient way possible was a common thread. I believe sincerely that collaboration among teachers is the key to expanding learning opportunities to all and it appears these teachers are very willing to share their experiences and learn.

Value Added

I believe good use of technology is anything that adds value to the activity. In this way, the use of technology is just like any tool. I am a huge fan of Alice Keeler (Ed Tech guru) who consistently asks the question does technology make the experience better for the student? If the answer is no, then upgrade the activity. There are simply way too many teachers out there that assume tech in all cases adds value and it isn’t the case. Without strong pedagogy you have nothing.

The best example of this I can think of is my own school, which went 1-1 this year with chrome books. During the first two weeks, we had some trouble with the vendor and getting the books in the hands of the students. I had a teacher who was livid, claiming “he could not teach without technology.” My response was, “you shouldn’t be proud of admitting that.” What it says is the technology teaches for you and that is not what technology in the classroom is for. He went on say he doesn’t want to be one of those teachers who “just gives out boring worksheets in class”. I, of course, explained you don’t have to be and all the ways one can do engaging activities without a 1-1 classroom. However, when I did a review of the activities he was doing I had to ask the question in each case, how does this activity upgrade the learning experience? What I discovered was the activities he was doing were essentially online worksheets. The only value they added was they were paperless, yet it was assumed this was best practice.

To me technology needs to support inquiry and higher level thinking. It needs to provide options for students to express and create. It must go beyond simply automating tasks or mundane flashiness. Technology always has to be a tool in the hands of critical thinkers. The tool is necessary often but the one wielding the tool is always the most important.

A Private Universe

The video this week, “A Private Universe,” pointed out something I have seen a lot over the years as a teacher and an administrator: what we perceive as basic concepts as teachers are not necessarily basic. It is something that needs to be addressed through better teaching practice (clearly established and communicated goals of each lesson, diagnostic, and formative testing). For any student, assuming prior knowledge is dangerous but Heather’s case is somewhat different. Her theories are based on her own efforts to construct knowledge and the theories themselves show an active mind wanting to learn. Her theories were incorrect but this is due mainly to the fact that her teachers did not have an accurate picture of what she previously knew. This speaks to Catherine Fosnot’s understanding of constructivism (2013).

In his book, “the pupil as scientist” R. Driver (1983) accurately explains Piaget’s concept of dissonance and how it relates to learning. I would argue that Heather concept of the astronomy was never challenged and no dissonance occurred, making it impossible for assimilation to occur. He in class learning did not build on her knowledge but rather had little impact because it didn’t address the misconceived notions she had already constructed.

Heather’s struggle resonates with me because I have gone through many similar experiences as a student in school. When one lacks the basic understanding or has a misconception this leads to an inability to reinforce factual conceptions because they do not match (Chi, 2015). Other misconceptions can occur from a teacher’s own misunderstanding of the material that can confuse the student (Burgoon, Heddle, Duran, 2011). As we saw in the video very prevalent myths survive in the minds of students and it was truly fascinating seeing the well-accomplished science grads at the beginning of the video so consistently get “basic” information wrong. In this case, the explanation is so prevalent in society it shouldn’t surprise most to think that High School students would not know this but the video itself shows just how these gaps in knowledge can be sustained over time and theories much more advanced and complicated can be understood and explained. It speaks to the fact that teachers can have a lasting effect that is not always positive.

As an educator, an important motto I live by is that one must know where a student is to be able to help to get them to where they need to be. Certainly, we are doing a better job of this than in the past but a firm commitment must be made to be meet students where they are rather than where we assume they should be.

Burgoon, J.N., Heddle, M.L., Duran, E. (2011). Re-examining the similarities between teacher and student conceptions about physical science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(2), 101-114.

Chi, M. T. (2005). Commonsense conceptions of emergent processes: Why some misconceptions are robust. The journal of the learning sciences, 14(2), 161-199.

Driver, D. (1983) The pupil as scientist? Milton Keynes: Open University Press

Fosnot, Catherine. Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. Teachers College Press, 2013 Chapter 2: Constructivism: A Psychological theory of learning

Where I’m from

I’m 39 years old as of a couple days ago. One might think my exposure to technology would have come in late high school at the earliest but the truth is its been a part of my life since I can remember.

My father was a doctor but he was obsessed with computers as a hobby and the latest gadget was always in my home. We had the commodore 64, then apple 2E before switching to IBM We had an ISDN line (keep in mind nobody had these for private home use) when I was in Grade 11. We would strip computers and replace parts like it was a car. All fun memories indeed.

Over the years a lot has changed but I think the biggest thing with me is I had a unique upbringing in that we always rolled with the changes. It drove my mother nuts because my dad invested in a lot of stuff the quickly became obsolete and we have some computer junk in my old home that is archaic.

The point is I’ve always been up on technology and that made the changes in education easier for me. Education is a second career for me as I was, and still technically am, a pilot. In that field, I used all kinds of technology and loved it.

My first promotion in Education came as an educational technology coordinator. Essentially it came down to me being very ambitious and wanting to help others. This was seen as useful and it started me down the path toward administration.

Now, as a soon to be Principal, I look for teachers who are open to rolling with changes, offer input, keep an open mind, and use technology to add value to their lessons.

We are in a great time for educational technology and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities.


Hello all from wet and hot Thailand!

My name is Ryan and I am the Vice Principal of the British Columbia International School of Bangkok.

I am currently taking three courses so will be at luck number 8 by the end of this semester.

From an administrator’s perspective, I really want to learn ways to support STEM in my school and empower students through this. I recently hired an actual computer science teacher with experience in the field and a teaching degree and I couldn’t be more excited about collaborating.

When I worked as teacher in Qatar I took up robotics as an after school club and this turned into my kids competing in the national robotic olympiad, placing 4th overall. I’ve since been keenly interested in learning programming and being forward thinking in my school planning.

Looking forward to learning with everyone!