Author Archives: wincherella

T-GEM – Heating Curve of Water

GEM is an acronym for a pedagogical approach to teaching science that involves students taking an active part in constructing their own understanding of relationships and concepts, as well as learning how the scientific inquiry process works (Khan, 2007).

G in GEM stands for students Generating ideas about relationships,
E represents students Evaluating the relationships they have constructed,
M is the stage where students Modify those relationships to account for any discrepancies discovered during the modification stage, or to rectify any misconceptions held.
T-GEM is an adaption of the strategy to incorporate the integration of Technology into its implementation in the form of simulations or interactive models.


In her case study, Khan highlighted an important piece to the GEM cycle. Background content knowledge provided by the teacher at the beginning of the lesson is an important step to help students make some sense of the data they will be seeing in the experiments and simulations. This is essentially activating their schema or their prior knowledge in order for the students to build on their conceptual knowledge.  If the students don’t know what they are looking at, seeing relationships in the data becomes difficult (Khan, 2007).

Computer simulations that assist students’ visualization of scientific phenomena have been associated with gains in conceptual understanding among science students (Khan, 2010).  This corresponds directly with the TPCK pedagogy allowing teachers to integrate interactive science simulations for students enabling them to grasp somewhat “invisible” concepts.

Over many years of teaching the science of Heat Energy, every year the students have misconceptions around the process of boiling liquids, and in particular the boiling of water. These misconceptions appear to have their basis in the way students observe their world around them (Johnson, 1998; Collins & Gentner, 1987). Andersson  (as cited in Driver, Guesne & Tiberghien, 1985, pg 82) found that 40 percent of twelve year old students expect water to continue to heat up even after it has reached its boiling point. The students also thought that the amount of time that heat was applied would affect the temperature would continue to affect the boiling point. This is true for my own experience with this age group doing a heating curve of water experiment. As the students got older, the percentage of students with this misconception decreased but there was still a large percentage who continued to misunderstand the nature of boiling. Driver, Guesne & Tiberghien (1985, p.82) state the “children’s logic had led them to think that the time of boiling and energy supply could influence the boiling point of a pure liquid.” They argue that “much of the confusion arises from the child’s view that heat and temperature are the same” (p.82). Since children have this preconceived notion they associate the increase in temperature with a corresponding increase in heat.

In order to combat this misconception in my science classroom I would use the T-GEM method to provide some computer simulations that complement the physical experiment of boiling water in the classroom.

Heating Curve of Water Lesson Plan

  1. Provide an Anticipation Guide on Heat and Temperature for students to complete and to generate a class discussion. This should elicit misconceptions, if any, to be aware of as we progress through the lesson.
  2. Generate – Students are asked to present a hypothesis on what they predict will happen when they heat an ice cube in a beaker over a period of time. They should use their knowledge and understanding of particle movement in matter, and heat energy to explain their hypothesis.
  3. Students will then conduct the physical experiment using hot plates, beakers, ice cubes, thermometers, and timing devices. They will work in partners, one to observe the beaker and read the thermometer at 60 second intervals, and the other to record the data and time the intervals. This could also be recorded by video using a device for students to replay.
  4. At the completion of the experiment, the students will graph their data to show the heating curve and provide an explanation to fit their observations, and prove or disprove their hypothesis. This is generally where most of the students have difficulty understanding why the temperature plateaus as the water changes states from solid to liquid, and again from liquid to gas. They are usually surprised that the temperature does not continue to rise at a steady pace throughout the whole process. It is here that I feel the computer simulations will benefit the students as they will be able to see the particles moving in one, and they can rerun the computer simulation showing the boiling point to determine the cause of the plateau.
  5. Evaluate – Students will be introduced to the two computer simulations showing the heating curve of water. One simulation allows them to view the particle movement as they are heated up demonstrating the changes in state, and the other allows them to complete the boiling water experiment in a virtual situation where they can observe the changes as the time increases. This also generates a heating curve graph for the students to compare to their own graph. If the students videoed the experiment, they can generate comparisons between the computer simulation and their video observations.
  6. Modify – Given the new information from the computer simulations, students can compare their data with the computer generated data and come up with new hypotheses for the plateaus in temperature. Small group discussions would be held for students to compare data, understanding and hypotheses. Discussions will help determine if there is a need to repeat the experiment for better observations, or to design a different experiment to explain the data and scientific phenomena.
  7. After discussion and evaluation, students will write a conclusion for their experiment that allows for all the information generated through the physical experiment, as well as the computer simulations.
  8. Students can now take their observations and hypotheses and apply them to other pure liquids.

Hopefully this will allow the students to understand the concepts of heat energy and changing states of matter.


Driver, Guesne & Tiberghien. (1985). Children’s Ideas in Science. Open University Press.

Johnson, P. (1998). Children’s understanding of changes of state involving the gas state, Part 1: Boiling water and the particle theory. The International Journal of Science Education, 20(5), 567-583.

Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-905.

Khan, S. (2012). A Hidden GEM: A pedagogical approach to using technology to teach global warming. The Science Teacher, 79(8). This article was written about T-GEM with middle-schoolers.

Fournat, J. (n.d.). PCCL | INTERACTIVE PHYSICS SIMULATIONS |Physics and Chemistry by a Clear Learning : free interactive physics animations | online learning for sciences | School support with interactive flash animations for lessons and corrected exercises. Electricity, Mechanics, Waves, Optics, Chemistry, Nuclear Physics. For Upper School, Secondary School, High school, Middle School and Academy. Retrieved March 02, 2017, from

My World LFU – Full STEAM Ahead

LFU is to support learners in developing knowledge in a way that will be easily retrievable when needed in the future (Edelson, 2001). With teachers being asked to more content more effectively and to foster “deep” and “robust” conceptual understanding in students there needs to be a change in the way science is taught in the classroom. The didactic model of lectures and reading, with separate learning activities only serves to provide students with inert knowledge that cannot be called upon when it is most needed (Whitehead, 1929). We have all had those students who cannot seem to remember anything that had been previously taught to them, mostly because the information was not relevant to them. This shallow understanding of scientific concepts leads to student misconceptions and unreliable information for future understanding.

The LFU model, based on four basic principles of learning, support constructivist, cognitive, and situated learning perspectives. These principles put the learning firmly in the hands of the learner, allowing them to set goals, make deep and new connections between knowledge structures, and retrieve the relevant information in the future.

One aspect of the LFU model that resonated with me the most was the evidence that application and reflection are both critically important to the development of useful knowledge. In many traditional models of learning the task was assigned, students met the requirements by doing the task, the task was graded, and it was never re-visited again, making it difficult for students to see how knowledge connects across the curriculum or across different disciplines. Mathematics and scientific concepts are not applied in isolation in the real world, and yet, that is how they are taught traditionally in the classroom. The LFU model emphasizes time to reflect upon the acquisition of new knowledge, and how that knowledge connects to what they already know, and how it can be applied to problems or relevant situations. This was evident in Camila, the Earth, and the Sun when the students shared their ideas and understandings with their peers in an open discussion, allowing all of them to reflect on the information being given, and to reform their ideas with the new knowledge. I find it is one of the things that many teachers do not take the time to do in their classrooms, give the students opportunities to reflect on their learning, both formally as in a written response, or informally as in an open discussion or small groups. It was one of the aspects of the WISE projects that I appreciated, there was time for the students to go back and revisit some of the information and reflect on what they had learned.

Since I teach all the content subjects to my class, I am always interested in finding ways to integrate the subjects to help make the topics more relevant to the students. I was particularly intrigued by the Create-a-World project, especially as new planets have been discovered which may sustain life similar to that on earth. Using these types of programs students could determine how different landforms were created, climate patterns of different areas, the water cycle, and environmental issues which may arise with civilizations. Although My World and World Watcher seem to be optimal for this application, I do not think they are supported by my Board and would have to seek out alternatives for the project. Google Earth is supported and could easily be used to investigate a variety of landforms around the world, it does not seem to have all the affordances of the other programs. Our Board does support Gizmos through the Explore Learning website ( which has many interactive lessons on specific math and science topics which would allow students to explore such concepts as Weather and Climate, Tidal Effects, Seasons, and Topographic Maps. Students can choose which Gizmos they would like to explore relevant to their project. These interactive lessons allow students to explore things of interest to them motivating them to learn, they construct new understanding using previous knowledge and new knowledge to form new connections, and they have time to reflect on how these concepts fit with their world requirements.

In keeping with the STEAM movement, I like to add a creative aspect to the project, much as Camilla used the drawings of her perception of light on earth to demonstrate her learning. Students could create a physical model of their planet, showing the different landforms and various eco zones using colour and texture. They could create a series of drawings to demonstrate their understanding of weather, climate, precipitation, landforms, etc. They could create an evolution video on how their world was formed using iMovie or other similar software applications.

Having been exposed to these different types of GIS applications and the principles of LFU, discovering other software or programs to support this type of learning will become a focus for the future of my classroom.


Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385

Radinsky, J., Oliva, S., & Alamar, K. (2009). Camila, the earth, and the sun: Constructing an idea as shared intellectual property. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(6), 619-642.

Hot Stuff – Heat Energy Transfer

There were a couple of projects that intrigued my interest as they related directly to what I would be teaching next in my science class. After exploring both of them, I settled on How Does Heat Energy Move. This one explores the different ways that heat energy is transferred. This project covers the types of heat transfer and allows for student predictions, experimentation, data recording, and reflections or revisiting previous ideas to allow for changes in knowledge and understanding.

This project begins with a bit of an introduction for the students but, since most of them will not have had much experience with the concept previously, I would want to do an Anticipation Guide or KWL with the class to gauge their prior knowledge before starting to get an idea of where they may need more support as they go through the project. The project itself meets all of the requirements for the science expectations covering the transfer of heat and required little adjustment. There are places where the students can investigate scientific phenomena through digital examples which display the transfer much more effectively than doing a physical experiment, and there are places where the students can pause the project to conduct some physical experiments on their own.

The main drawback to both the projects I explored was the use of temperature probes as part of the equipment linked to the graphing system within the project. We do not have access to these probes and rely on school thermometers to measure the temperature for class experiments. I adapted this part of the lesson to use the thermometers but since they are not connected to the graphing link, the students need to create the requisite graphs by hand. This is unfortunate as noted by Slotta & Linn, when students constructed a graph by hand, they often lost sight of the purpose of the experiment and were distracted by the graphing procedure. In contrast, when they could observe the probe collecting data and watched the graph form automatically on the screen, they were able to notice important qualitative characteristics of the system (Slotta, Linn, 2009). For instance, they could actually see the plateau when the water begins to boil, rather than try to deduce this from their data. I have seen this disconnect in the classroom when students are recording the data and creating the graph by hand. Although they record the data accurately and create the graph accurately, they are not able to make the connection to the energy being used to change states instead of heating the water. An adjustment or inclusion I might make here would be to include a visual of some sort, video or digital experiment, which shows the graph being created as the water boils so the students could make the connection more easily. It would make more sense to them to watch it after they had done the experiment themselves.

These projects would fit naturally into my classroom as the students are quite familiar with using a variety of digital tools and programs. It would take them a short time to figure out the logistics but they would soon be able to move through the project quite independently. There are plenty of ways for the teacher to scaffold the information for the students as they work through the project, and dispel any misconceptions as they arise. The project provides a good mix of digital technologies and hands on experiences, to give the students an opportunity to practice the necessary skills. Following the TPCK model, the content of the project follows the curriculum expectations closely and allows the use of technology to deliver the content, as well as allowing the students to prove and explain their understanding within the project. This allows the teacher to give students timely feedback as they work through the project, rather than waiting for a culminating activity at the end. It combines many of the 21st Century Learning Skills that are a necessity for students to be successful today, in a fairly user friendly digital environment. I am looking forward to using this in my classroom for our next science unit.



Slotta, J.D. & Linn, M.C. WISE Science: Inquiry in the Internet in the Science Classroom. Teachers College Press. 2009


Materials available to assist science teachers in developing significant inquiry instruction for the numerous science standards and contexts are in short supply. Although most science standards and expectations require students to use inquiry based learning, many science classes are continuing to follow a more traditional step by step experiment based curriculum, where the outcomes are generally already known and very little discovery occurs.

WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment) was developed to provide a way for teachers to promote more inquiry based learning into the classroom and integrate modern technologies and scientific concepts into an inquiry based activities that help students develop a more cohesive, coherent, and thoughtful account of scientific phenomena. It was developed specifically to provide a technologically enhanced learning environment for a wide community of science teachers and educational researchers. WISE bases its projects on the framework of scaffolded knowledge integration (SKI) consisting of four major tenets: 1) make thinking visible, 2) make science accessible, 3) students learn from each other, and 4) promote lifelong learning.  The WISE software allows curriculum designers to create inquiry projects using its technology features and curriculum design patterns based on the SKI framework. These patterns can be incorporated into new curriculum designs, or existing WISE projects can be modified for specific topic areas. Once the project design is completed, it is tested in a classroom context and observed by the design team. Once it has been tested successfully, the project is eligible to become part of the WISE library of projects.  Classroom teachers can customize these projects to suit the conditions in their own classrooms to meet specific student needs and classroom contexts.

This design process is different from the Jasper series in that each project is developed in a series of scaffolded steps to support the students’ learning as new concepts are introduced. These steps build upon information already known by the student or recently introduced through the project. Specific prompts are used throughout the project to aid students in linking and connecting ideas, critiquing their own progress, analyzing their own knowledge, and reflecting upon their own ideas. The Jasper series provides all the information required to solve a specific problem, but leaves the students to figure out the steps on their own or in small groups, with some guidance from a teacher. WISE promotes student collaboration using discussion prompts and partners, which is similar to the collaboration of small groups used in the Jasper series to solve the problems.

There are many ways to use the WISE projects within a school or classroom setting, and many that are specific to science curriculum expectations in Ontario. One way to use the project is as an introduction to the science concept and the inquiry process by allowing the students to work through the project at their own pace, using the scaffolding resources and teacher guidance. This would allow the students to make scientific discoveries independently, while limiting any misconceptions.

As the few WISE projects that I perused fit quite neatly into the science curriculum expectations for my grade, there is little that I would need to customize. However, many of the resources are specific to the project, such as the heat probes, which are not available in my school. These are connected to some of the data tables and graphs set up within the project and would be inaccessible to my students without the special equipment. I would have to change this part of the project to reflect the equipment available to me (thermometers) and consequently change the data collection method used for this part of the project. Unfortunately, some of the research states that this form of data collection where the student can see the changes in the graph as they hold the probe, solidifies the understanding for the student as it is in real time as opposed to students physically recording the data, creating the graph, and trying to interpret the results.

This is one of the drawbacks of the program in that there is an assumption or expectation that these tools are available or can be obtained for the project.

Anchored Learning and Jasper Woodbury

It has been my experience that although students may know how to solve a series of directed problems in mathematics given a formula or strategy, they have a difficult time taking that knowledge and applying it in a realistic situation. The Jasper Series attempts to move students beyond the basic component skills regularly taught in the classroom, to the higher level problem solving and generative thinking. In other words, students must learn to identify and define issues and problems on their own rather than simply respond to problems that others have posed for them (CTGV, 1992). The video series provide stories with embedded information needed to solve the problem the story poses. The information is often given within the dialogue, rather than explicitly with demonstrations, although this is also evident. This requires the students to analyze which information is important for them to use to solve the problem.

One of the positive aspects of this model is that the videos can be accessed by anyone, and most students will be able to glean information from the story, allowing all students to participate in the activity. There are many entry points for students at varying academic levels. Where some students are quite capable of thinking about Bernoulli’s principle and weight payload of the ultra-light, other students could easily measure the distance on a map. The beauty also lies in the affordance of the students to use their own strategies to come up with a solution, not an answer. There could be many solutions to the problem which takes away the notion of right and wrong, which allows students to take risks with their learning. Unlike other videos such as Khan Academy which are much more didactic in tone, telling the students what they need to know, rather than letting them discover it for themselves.

Although the Jasper videos are somewhat dated, the problems and solutions are still very relevant today. One thing that I thought might be interesting for older students to demonstrate their mathematics knowledge would be for them to create similar video scenarios, either for their peers or for younger students, following a similar format, and posing a challenge at the end. A project for the future perhaps.


Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.

Shyu, H.Y.C. (2000). Using video-based anchored instruction to enhance learning: Taiwan’s experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 57-69.

Elementary TPCK – PCK

As an elementary school teacher, albeit in the upper grades, I have to teach every subject all the time. Of course, I am not an expert in everything that I am called upon to teach and this is where the PCK framework is essential in order for me to be successful in my teaching practice. Because I am with my students for the entire day I am able to form a relationship with them as a class, which then informs my knowledge about the processes and methods required for successful teaching and learning in the class. Over the years I have been able to increase my content knowledge of all the subjects, through my own learning and through interacting with the students, finding new and different ways to present the materials as I become more knowledgeable in the content. The advent of digital technology has enabled me to be more knowledgeable about the curriculum and the specific content that I am teaching as the information is more readily available, and there is a plethora of ideas suitable for use in the classroom to create my own lessons to benefit the learning styles and abilities of my students. I have noticed over the years as I become more comfortable with the content I am teaching, that the pedagogy of teaching becomes easier, I can focus on the learning of the students rather than making sure my understanding is clear. Also in being with one classroom of students throughout the day makes it easier for me to relate the content of what we are learning in mathematics to what we are learning in science, or art, and show the students how all things are connected and not in convenient compartments. It is a standing joke in my grade 7 class that whenever I point out that we are doing math in science, or reading in math, the students all say “It’s all connected – mind blown”, but at least they are starting to get the idea.

One of my favorite science units to teach is Structures, Mechanisms, and Forces. During this unit the students build a variety of structures out of different materials, for different purposes, and make observations about the process. As a way to bring the unit together at the end we do a study of Rube Goldberg and his fantastic machines. As a whole class we look at a variety of his cartoons depicting a few of his fantastic machines. We brainstorm about the actions that we are seeing as a class. Then we focus on just one of them to determine how the machine works and what forces are acting upon each structure to cause the movement or action. Each student writes out the process of the machine from start to finish. We then compare them to note any discrepancies and students justify the reasoning behind their process. The next step is for them to get another fantastic machine that has been divided into the individual actions and put it together like a puzzle to show the actions and functions of each part of this specific machine. This is usually done in a small collaborative group so the students can benefit from the collective ideas. After this practice, the students design and draw their own fantastic machine in the style of Rube Goldberg. They have to show all the actions and forces used to create the machine, and the process in which functions using at least 10 steps and three types of simple machines. This is done on grid paper as a scale drawing. The last step is for the students to work with a partner to create one of their own fantastic machines for a specific purpose, such as make a ping pong ball fall into a cup using at least 10 steps and a few metres away from the start. This is a way to take the ideas from the drawing board into a working model. Lots of trial and error, students learn perseverance and the value of testing for mistakes,  but lots of fun in the learning too.



Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.


Technology Enhances Learning Experiences

Technology, as defined by Merriam Webster, is the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.  This definition can be expanded to include a collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the accomplishment of objectives such as scientific investigations.  When we add the definition for Educational Technology we get the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources (Richey).

The most important idea that strikes me about technology is the application of skills and knowledge for a specific purpose such as scientific investigations. Jonassen notes that “students learn from thinking in meaningful ways. Thinking is engaged by activities which can be fostered by computers or teachers”. He supports this with Mindtools, which are computer applications that require students to think in meaningful ways in order to use the applications to represent what they know.  Dede notes that emerging and interactive media are tools in service of richer curricula, enhanced pedagogies, and stronger links between schools and society.
As for my own definition, I would emphasize the idea that the technology is a tool to transform and transmit our learning. Technology is a tool, the effectiveness of a tool is not absolute, but is dependent upon how it is applied and new users may find novel uses for a particular tool.  Technology is much bigger and more complex than a single device or site.  The key driver in using technology in the classroom should be learning goals and how the technology can be used to achieve that goal. It does not have to appear in every lesson or unit, but should be strategically utilized to maximize the effectiveness of the tool, and student learning for the specific subject at hand. In science this may mean using a big screen and projector for a virtual visit to an archaeological site, or allowing students to manipulate tools to participate in a virtual dissection of a frog. It also might mean having technology readily available for students to create or find uses to enhance their learning while it is relevant to the moment. Technology should be like oxygen, ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible (Chris Lehmann). It should not be an addition to the learning, but an integral part of it, much like our pencil and paper.



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

Kozma, R. (2003). Technology, innovation, and educational change: A global perspective, (A report of the Second Information Technology in Education Study, Module 2). Eugene, OR: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, ISTE Publications.

Levinson, M. (2013, May 29). Technology in schools: Defining the terms. Retrieved January 28, 2017, from

Richey, R. C., & Klein, J. D. (2005). Developmental research methods: Creating knowledge from instructional design and development practice. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 16(2), 23-38. doi:10.1007/bf02961473

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching, (5th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Cult of Pedagogy – The Teacher’s Guide to Technolgoy

I have recently come across this resource that a teacher has put together. It seems to be the ultimate resource for teachers on different types of technology that can be used in the classroom by students and teachers. There is a good video that she has put together to explain how it is used and the handbook itself is in plain speech, easy to understand. It is not a free resource (25.00 on TPT) however, it seems to be an excellent resource for people who would like to integrate technology more and need information on the different types of options available.

Here is the link to her blog and the resource.


Interview Synthesis

After reading through all the interviews, it seemed that similar issues were echoed throughout, which is particularly interesting as the experiences were not limited to one grade level, one district, or even one province. I am aware of teachers in the US that also have these issues so I think it would be fairly safe to say that these issues are education issues, not just teacher issues.

The first issue seemed to be that of time and training. Teachers interviewed seemed to agree that there is not enough time given to teachers to learn how to integrate technology purposefully into their classrooms. Many noted that anything they have learned has been on their own time and expense. One teacher in Jessica’s abstract said that she had incorporated technology through trial and error, and that you just had to jump right in. Most of the information around using technology came from collaborating or meeting with peers and colleagues to share information. One teacher noted that she did not have the time to explore programs that were beneficial to her program and relied on the information other teachers shared with her, and another online teacher said that she knew there were programs out there that would benefit her students but did not have the time to search them out and try them to make sure. In Stephanie’s interview of a recent student teacher, she noted that although there was some emphasis put on using technology in the classroom, they were not formally shown anything but were basically left to explore things on their own without any guidance or information. All of this means that teachers are expected to research and learn relevant technologies on their own time, without sufficient guidance as to what or how. This leaves a lot of teachers without enough knowledge and confidence to integrate technology in meaningful ways into their programs.

Another key point was the appropriate use of technology in the classroom. It was widely reiterated that technology should not be used just for the sake of using technology. It needs to be subject and grade appropriate, but should also enhance the learning of the students. In one interview there were two intermediate teachers who said that they integrated technology quite a lot in their classrooms, only for us to realize it was for watching videos or playing games. Although these are ways to use technology, it does not transform the learning of the student. This is not to say that this should never be done, but that other ways of integrating the technology should be used also. However, having said that, this issue seems to relate back to the time and training issue. Teachers are not given the time to collaborate with other teachers to find programs that will enhance their subject, nor are they given the training on specific software to allow them to use it for more than a large viewing screen or a basic research tool.

The last issue which seemed to resonate with each interview was the frustration that came with the devices themselves. There were many instances where teachers were frustrated with the lack of band width for a whole class to use devices simultaneously, unreliable wifi with slow uploads and downloads, computers or chrome books that crashed frequently or were not charged sufficiently to use them. Many teachers still have to sign out equipment to use it making it awkward to use it seamlessly during the day. With the entire school sharing the devices the upkeep was difficult with many devices being broken, screens scratched, keys missing, and the like. There is also the issue of things going wrong and being unable to troubleshoot to fix them. Waiting for IT to fix an issue could take hours, if not days, depending on the issue and where the IT is located. I have to put in a ticket and wait for the IT department at the board to rank it, then put it in a cue to be dealt with. Some teachers can trouble shoot their issues, but at the expense of losing the class who are left waiting while it is being fixed. The lack of devices also seems to be a standard issue. Some schools have adopted a BYOD policy allowing students to bring their own devices to use, but this comes with its own set of issues such as inappropriate use in the classroom. This takes us back to time and training on how to teach students to use technology responsibly in a classroom setting.

Technology in the classroom is not going away, it is only changing, and we have to change with it. This requires appropriate time and training for all teachers to be able to confidently integrate technology into their classrooms to transform learning. and the infrastructure to support them in their efforts.


Elementary Interviews – Time, Training, Troubleshooting


I interviewed two elementary school teachers who work in my school, one in primary and the other in the junior division. I work in the intermediate division so this gave a good cross section for discussion around the use of technology in the math and science classes we teach. The interview was held informally in my classroom after school. Every classroom in the school has a mounted Smartboard and projector, a document camera, and laptop. For clarity, our age range is from 46-56, so we are not digital natives as most technology has been developed after we had completed our education.

The first teacher TM, teaches a grade 2/3 split class and has been teaching for 15 years in the primary division. She is not quite a technophobe, but she admits to not being totally comfortable with technology and often requires a lot of support to integrate it into her classroom.  She is fairly comfortable using her Smartboard, but in limited ways to show videos and use pre-selected programs. She uses her document camera extensively to moderate student work and to show examples.

The second teacher TC, is a long term occasional teacher in a grade 6/7 classroom, and has been teaching on a supply basis for five years. This is her second full year as an LTO at our school. As a more recent graduate from teacher’s college, she is more aware of different programs that are available for education. She also uses the Smartboard consistently as a screen to showcase programs, videos, or games, but does not use the Smart Notebook as a tool. The hovercam is also a tool that she uses on a regular basis.

To add to the mix, I teach grade 7 and have been teaching for 15 years also. I use my Smartboard every day incorporating a lot of the Smart Notebook lessons into my day, as a screen to show videos or internet sites, as the platform for our Classcraft activities, and as a place to show the students what has been entered into Edmodo or Google Classroom. I also have the use of a document camera as a way to moderate student work, take up work and show examples in real time.

One of the overarching themes that came through in the discussion was the lack of training to integrate technology into the classroom, whether it was for new teachers in teacher’s college or established teachers attempting to use it in the classroom. Both teachers felt that there was a big push for teachers to use different types of technology in the classroom, but that there was no real training to back up the initiative. Any knowledge or skills acquired were usually done on the initiative of the teacher themselves or it was a one off PD session with no follow up or time to practice. TM noted that “any pursuit of professional development must be on your own time, you must seek it out on your own” and TC echoed that with “it is not available in the school and we are not given enough time to practice and apply our new knowledge.”  I added that any real knowledge or understanding of the technology that I use in my classroom has come from my own initiative, finding courses online, or seeking out courses offered through the Board of Ed or my union. All of us agreed that if there were better training and time given to practice and apply the knowledge, there would be a greater integration of technology into all the subjects at a higher order level than just using them for typing or research.  It was also felt that this would give more established teachers a higher comfort level using technology as it does not come naturally to us, it is not our culture so there is a higher learning curve for many of us.

Tying in with this was the idea of being an expert in using technology is necessary for it to be used effectively in the classroom. Both teachers disagreed with this, but added that it helps. TM stated that it is not necessary but it helps, the less expertise you have in the technology, the more time consuming it is to use it and therefore prohibitive to teachers under a curriculum time constraint.”  This underlines the idea seen in some of the videos that some programs are too time consuming to institute effectively in the classroom and teachers do not feel they have the time to devote to it. TC added that many established teachers have an issue with students being more competent and knowledgeable around technology and viewed it as a weakness on their part.”

The major hurdle or challenge for these teachers was accessibility, of the devices and of training or assistance. Devices in the school have to be signed out through the library and are often not available when it is an optimum time for them to be used. TM explained that there are no teachable moments when we can just turn and use the technology in a seamless way as they would have needed to be signed out a week in advance, and I don’t have ESP to be able to know exactly when something like that will occur in the class.” It is difficult to know where you will be in your pacing of subjects to be able to determine when it will be the best time to sign them out. It is impossible to use them in the way they should be integrated as they are used in real life applications. TC added that when the devices freeze or crash there is a lot of lost time trying to fix it, or reboot it, and we lose the class’ attention while they wait. Often it is something we can’t fix and it takes days or weeks before someone from the board will take care of it.” , essentially making the technology inaccessible to the classroom while we are waiting for it to be functional.

We concluded that in order for us to move forward with more seamless integration of technology in the math and science subjects, or in the classroom culture overall, there would need to be more deliberate and ongoing training for teachers in up-to-date software and new hardware offered by the Board within the school day much as the math and language initiatives have been over the years. That students and teachers need to be immersed in the subject with the devices to be able to use them seamlessly and to a higher order level  in order to transform learning.

My colleagues and I thought it would be interesting to take the discussion and put it into a word cloud to see what popped out the most.

To see the questions and transcription of my interviews, please check them out on my efolio webpage at