Saturday 28 November 2015

Hardware in International Primary School

Armfield (2011, p.109) suggest that in many situations technology integration in the classroom is simply used for traditional activities. Yet, we need to be looking at how technology transforms the teaching and learning experience for our students and ourselves as teachers. 

Armfield (2011, p.111) also brings to light the idea of a community of practice in which all stakeholders are working towards the same goal. I think this is an important point with regards to technology integration. If the administration does not value the transformative aspects of technology in education, there won’t be budgeting for devices. If teachers don’t value technology in education, they won’t bring it into their classroom. If students don’t value it, they won’t engage with it. It really needs to be a part of the school’s mission and vision about creating a learning environment to meet individual needs using 21st-century tools and strategies to enhance learning. 

Armfield (2011, p.114) suggests further challenges such as teachers having little experience with technology and fearful of attempting to use it. Many teachers lack knowledge in how technology can support pedagogy and content to benefit their students. This is something that is very common in schools. It takes a lot to build ownership in learning as well as the confidence and courage to take risks in the classroom in front of students. 

Matzen & Edmunds (2007) suggests that just teaching technology tools in professional development is not good enough and teachers will not likely integrate into the classroom in a transformative way. However, if there is a student-centred approach to instructional strategies, then teachers are more likely to have a shift in their own instructional methods.

My role is to lead all of the professional development sessions for education technology. This includes creating surveys to understand staff needs and develop a professional development plan each term to meet these needs, deliver the sessions and reflect back on the success of them and where to go from there. Depending on the time of year and session topics, attendance can vary but I measure success in how teachers then take their learning and apply it in their classrooms or share their learning with others. I love when teachers come back and say they’ve tried something they learnt during a session in their classroom and can share their reflections on it. This also helps them consolidate their own learning and they can then support others who would like to try similar integration strategies in the future. Just like I would facilitate sessions with our students, our professional development sessions are all linked to at least one of the ICT in PYP skills that the International Baccalaureate outlines (2011). This allows teachers to also think about what transferable skills they are developing, similar to how we teach our students. 

During sessions, I believe it is important that it is hands-on for teachers and that they try things out. I always allow for time to explore so that teachers are constructing their own learning with technology (Matzen & Edmunds,2007). In addition, I model teaching the sessions in a way that I would teach my students to ensure that the learning is student centred (Matzen & Edmunds,2007). This also helps teachers integrate into their own classrooms as they often model what they have been shown during professional development sessions in their own class (Matzen & Edmunds,2007, p. 427).

I think that it needs to be a combination of ICT skills and learning new ways of teaching. This cannot just fall on the technology coach though - it needs to be supported by the administration and the curriculum coordinator to guide the way of teaching and learning. In order for teachers to incorporate technology into their lessons, they need to understand how to use the technology. Therefore, whenever we do EdTech PD at our school we always have a dual approach where we look at the technology tool and also look at applications of this in the classroom. From there, hopefully, we’ve sparked some ideas with teachers to help them use the tool to deliver or assess content in the future. We can also then have coaching sessions to support teachers in their planning and draw on some of the tools that would help them best deliver content without spending time ‘teaching’ them during these times. 

Professional development is ongoing as suggested in Armfield (2011, p. 115). Therefore, we cannot teach teachers everything there is to know about technology integration at once. There needs to be an ongoing commitment to professional development of best practice and technology integration at the school level to build this idea of community of practice. This will help teachers become more confident using technology in their classes and move beyond just teaching skills towards transformative learning.

In addition, as teachers become more confident using technology they should also spend more time reflecting on how they’ve used it and adapt to enhance their teaching. Similarly, as more professional development sessions are run, there needs to be reflection by the technology team to ensure the sessions meet the needs of the staff in a challenging and effective manner. 

Our school is really good about providing time and resources for teachers to actually learn through technology. Our department has offered close to 30 sessions this year for teachers and are looking to expand that to an online course for new teachers to bring them up to basics as well as use 2 days if  staff professional development days and 2 Primary/ Secondary meetings to develop our new digital citizenship curriculum next year. Schools need to keep this commitment of giving teachers time if they want their teachers to use technology effectively (Armfield, 2011, p. 119). 

Lawless & Pellegrino (2007) suggest that most professional development is voluntary. This is very true in our school this year in terms of technology integration professional development. All 30 sessions are voluntary meaning that only those who are motivated and want to engage with these sessions, rather than those who really could benefit from sessions like this. This is another reason we are moving 4 mandatory staff professional development sessions next year. Effective technology integration is something that all staff need to work towards, hence the whole school approach by administration next year. 


Armfield, S. (2011). Technology leadership for school improvement Planning, designing, implementing and evaluating technology, pp. 109-128, 2011. in Technology and Leadership for School Improvement. Papa, R. (Ed) California :Sage 

International Baccalaureate. (2011).The role of ICT in PYP. UK: IB. 

Matzen, N. J., & Edmunds, J. A. (2007). Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of Professional Development. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 39(4), 417-430.

Saturday 21 November 2015

TPACK Framework

TPACK framework is a well-known framework in the education technology realm that connects technological, pedagogical and content knowledge.

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In my role of an educational technology coach, I believe that I sit mostly on technological/ pedagogical knowledge. I believe this is where I fall because I understand how to teach and good teaching practice and have to regularly stay up to date in education technology. However, I do not always know all of the curriculum in depth across the primary school. My role is to help teachers connect the content knowledge or their pedagogical content knowledge to the technological knowledge.

I believe that expanding to tech with tech-PACK helps to emphasize the technology knowledge needed to integrate technology as mentioned by Roblyer & Doering (2014, p. 53). However, it is important to remember that as a teaching leaving out the technology is okay when it doesn't make sense to use it. Thus, an important role of a teacher is to make conscious decision of when to include technology and when to just stick to content and pedagogy knowledge.

To do this, I plan with teachers on a given unit they are working on and provide suggestions for technology integration. From there, I may upskill the teachers in small groups or co-teach the lesson with my focus as technology and pedagogical knowledge and taking the lead from the homeroom teacher. This is what Koehler & Mishra (2009) would describe as “An understanding of how teaching and learning can change when particular technologies are used in particular ways. This includes knowing the pedagogical affordances and constraints of a range of technological tools as they relate to disciplinarily and developmentally appropriate pedagogical designs and strategies."

Whereas most homeroom teachers would be developing the technology from me, I develop my understanding of the content from them. From there, our knowledge is completed as TPACK. My role is really to help teachers to become confident integrating technology and providing them the knowledge and support to add this third component of knowledge to their teaching. I believe that supporting teachers in having all three types of knowledge is important before implementing technology into the classroom as they plan a unit/lesson. Adding the technological knowledge where appropriate in their units/ lessons allows them to provide a 21st century learning community for their students.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M.J. (2008, March). Thinking creatively: Teachers as designers of technology, pedagogy and content (tpack). Keynote address at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), Las Vegas, NV, March 3-7.

Roblyer, M., & Doering, A. (2014). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching: International Edition, 6th Edition, Pearson.

Friday 20 November 2015

Digital Immigrant or Native? Growth Mindset More Important

Evolution involves adapting to a surrounding to survive over time. In the education profession, it is similar as a teacher in a digital age. According to Marc Prensky (2001), digital immigrants are individuals who have not grown up in a digital age and have needed to adapt and adopt the new 'language' of technology'. Digital Natives are individuals who have grown up using technology. We can't expect the educational world to regress back to times without technology so it is up to both the 'digital immigrant' and 'digital native' to continue to evolve with their environment by embracing education with technology integration.

By that definition, I would be considered more on the digital native end of the spectrum with technology integrated into my schooling and experiences at times, though not fully.  Technology played a large role in my educational upbringing in university. My students therefore be digital natives as they have always grown up surrounded by technology with access to technology.

For me, I believe those labels don't belong in education. Rather I believe the focus should be more on growth mindset and the willingness to learn. No student or educator will ever know all there is when it comes to technology. It is important to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mixed as an approach to learning.

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A growth mindset as an educator allows you to be open-minded to new ideas and concepts. Educators with a growth mindset enjoy trying to challenge their thinking and push boundaries beyond their current knowledge. An educator with a growth mindset continues to problem solve with resiliency until they are able to come to a suitable solution. 'Not possible' is not the answer, rather an opportunity to try something new.

When we stop worrying about failing or looking silly for trying, we can allow ourselves the ability to explore a technology to understand it and find deeper and more meaningful uses of it within our classrooms.

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For more thoughts on being willing to learn and eliminating the labels of digital native and immigrant,  please feel free to check out an earlier blog post here.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), p. 1-6.

When To Use Technology in the Classroom

Some days as a teacher you may use technology in almost all components of your classes, then other days not even touch it. When is too much? When is not enough? In my mind, why are we even asking these questions? If we focus on what is important, then those questions become irrelevant.

In my role as an education technology coach, my role is to support teachers in integrating technology into the classroom. Many would think I would advocate for getting more technology into the classroom but more doesn't mean better.

I always chuckle when I have a teacher that comes to asking for an opinion on an activity that they want to use technology with and I suggest a non-technology approach. To me, using technology should only be done when it makes sense, when it enhances the learning experience for our students and is authentic. We shouldn't force the use of technology in our classes just because we have it.

There are definitely many benefits of being able to use technology in the classroom - access to information, connecting with others, supporting individual needs, motivation, etc. But the most important aspect of teaching should always remain the teaching and learning for student growth.

When I was a homeroom classroom teacher, I always loved assigning a final project with no limit on how it was presented. In doing so, it allowed the students to express themselves using the tools and resources they felt comfortable with. The final products were of higher quality and more diverse. Whether it was a bulletin board, a dramatic presentation, an online presentation of slides, video, art piece, or handwritten essay, the important thing was that the student felt they had ownership in how they chose to demonstrate their learning journey.

If we stop asking when is too much and not enough use of technology and start asking does it make sense to use technology for this learning experience, the technology integration will be more meaningful. In doing so, we are then able to provide our students with just another set of skills to add to their toolkit that they can draw upon when it is most appropriate.

Citizenship in a Digital Age

Digital literacy is about helping our students develop the skills and behaviours to be successful in a digital age. This includes supporting our students in how to find, access, and use information they find online, communicating through various digital medias, collaborating with others and making smart decisions while using technology that demonstrates being a good citizen. 
As technology becomes more accessible to the masses, digital tools provide educators and students with an unlimited amount of resources and access to information. Students need to be able to not only access the internet but be critically analyze what they discover, the source of information and its validity.

With Web 2.0, the user experience has gone from just consuming digital content to engaging and interacting with it. The ability to connect and collaborate with someone from across the globe has become easy with the various social media platforms. Through this, students can connect with experts to raise the quality of their work by getting information from the source. In doing so, students need to be aware of how their online communication really should not be that different from their offline communication. Respect, kindness and common sense should continue no matter if you blur the lines of communication to a virtual platform. 

Above all, we must continue to educate our students with how to be a good citizen with how to be a good digital citizen simply as an extension of citizenship. Our students should understand that the choices they make online will remain present for all to see in the future. The pictures they post give insight into the type of person they are and their identity that extends offline. As they continue to build their online relationships, they must think about how this impacts their lives on a greater scale. 

Perhaps calling referring to as 'digital citizenship' is too narrowing. Being a good person is being a good person. Rather, we are educating our students of how to be a good citizen in an increasingly more digitalized world. As we educate our students for an unknown tomorrow, we must provide them with the appropriate skills and behaviours that allow them to be successful in a digital age - not only online but in every day life as well. 

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Thursday 19 November 2015

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is helping our students develop the skills and behaviours to be successful in a digital age. This includes supporting our students in how to find, access, critically analyze, and use information they find online, communicating through various digital medias, collaborating with others and making smart decisions while using technology that demonstrates being a good citizen. 

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Using Technology to Enhance What We Want for Our Students

On page 30, question 6 states: " Educational technology historian Paul Saettler (1990) said "Computer information systems are not just objective recording devices. They also reflect concepts, hopes, beliefs, attitudes" (p. 539).

Post your thoughts about how you think these "concepts, hopes, beliefs, and attitudes" are reflected in our current approach to educational technology. What do you think our use of technology in schools is saying about what we want for our students and society?

Discuss the our past and current uses of technology education reflection.


Paul Saettler (1990, p.539 as cited in Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p.30) suggests that "Computer information systems are not just objective recording devices. They also reflect concepts, hopes, beliefs, attitudes." Computers and technology have seen great development over time, which reflects how they are used within an educational setting. Computers in education has evolved from something explored by few in university settings to becoming mobile devices that are accessible to the masses. The importance of computer literacy skills began to evolve in the microcomputer era, suggesting the importance of developing skills and understanding of the technologies being used (Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p. 7). From there, technology became a means of connecting with others through the internet era, while also having a plethora of technological resources available at your fingertips while investigating online for information. As technology further developed into the world of mobile devices, accessibility became more readily available (Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p. 9). Most adolescents now have devices that they can use for educational or personal enjoyment. Because of this, learning could access more resources for learning in the forms of e-books, distance education and social networking. With all of this information and experts so accessible, the student needs to learn how to filter what they are viewing and critically analyses the information in a digital age.

The way we use technology in our schools now can vary from school to school, from country to country depending on the resources and philosophies of teaching. In my experience, technology is used as part of the teaching and learning process and should not be thought of as a separate component from it. Students now have the opportunity with Web 2.0 to not only read but also write and create what is online. Thus, technology provides students a means to showcase their individual creativity as they differentiate how they express their learning.

I believe technology is used in the classroom as a way to develop transdisciplinary skills that will last beyond the classroom and into the real world. The Internationale Baccalaureate suggests there are six ICT skills that should be included in the written, taught and assessed curriculum (ICT in the PYP, p.2). These include investigating, organizing, creating, communicating, collaborating and becoming a digital citizen. No longer is the focus on specific content but rather, how the content is obtained, used and manipulated to demonstrate, challenge and extend the learning of the students. Through the development of these skills, students develop their creative and critical thinking, allowing them to take their understanding of concepts to greater depth. Technology should be used in a purposeful and meaningful way to help students make connections, see things from different perspectives and be used as a means of reflection in their learning journey.


Roblyer, M., & Doering, A. (2014). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching: International Edition, 6th Edition, Pearson.

The role of ICT in PYP. (2011). International Baccalaureate. UK: IB. 

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

As a teacher who received my qualifications in Canada and now working in an international school setting, my knowledge and experience with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers is limited. That being said, as I read through them, I can easily see where ICT weaves into these standards. In fact, I can feel it is possible to justify how almost all of the standards are linked through ICT in some way or form. Technology should be integrated throughout the curriculum, planning and assessment seamlessly, while not be seen as an extra burden.

For example, standard 1.5 suggests teachers "Differentiate teaching to meet specific needs of students across the full range of abilities." If I was having my students work on a piece of writing, I may have students use an online dictionary or thesaurus to enhance their vocabulary. I may also have students use Google documents to type their rough draft so that it is more convenient to have their peers and myself as the teacher comment/make suggestions for future development. I may allow my ESL students to use google translate to help them discover the words they are trying to say in English. For some other students with dyslexia, I may have them use a read-to-text programme so that they don't feel overwhelmed by the spelling and can focus on creating the story.

When it comes to publishing their writing, I may have my students transform their writing into an animation, use blurb or flipsnack. Perhaps they would like to record their story as an audiobook and enhance it with images.

In terms of assessment their writing, I may use Video notes if they have created a digital story as a video, or a rubric through Google Sheets. I may use  Fluberoo or an online rubric.

This is just one example of how technology can be integrated into a learning experience that meets a standard. I could do the same for almost every other one as well when thinking of Assignment 1.

The ones that seemed to jump out at me as I read through them as the 'easiest' to connect to when focusing on Assignment 1 would be as follows with the ones the explicitly mention ICT as bold.

Standard 1: Know students and how they learn
1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities
1.6 Strategies to support full participation of students with disability

Standard 2: Know the content and how to teach it
2.1 Content and teaching strategies of the teaching area
2.2 Content selection and organisation
2.3 Curriculum, assessment and reporting
2.6 Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
- Implement teaching strategies for using ICT to expand curriculum learning opportunities for students

Standard 3: Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
3.3 Use teaching strategies
3.4 Select and use resources
3.5 Use effective classroom communication
3.7 Engage parents/ carers in the educative process

Standard 4: Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments 
4.1 Support student participation
4.2 Manage classroom activities
4.3 Manage challenging behaviour
4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically
- Demonstrate an understanding of the relevant issues and the strategies available to support the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.
Standard 5 - Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning
5.1 Assess student learning
5.2 Provide feedback to students on their learning

Standard 6 - Engage in professional learning
6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice
6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice
6.4 Apply professional learning and improve student learning

Standard 7-Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community
7.4 Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities

Australian professional standards for teachers (2014). Australian institute for Teaching and Leadership. Retrieved from

Monday 16 November 2015

Technology: One of Many Tools

Blog Prompt: One of the interviewees, Greg Whitby, claims that the focus on technology is a "waste of time". He says: "If you focus on the technology, you ignore the central problem and the central issue." What do you think he means by this, and to what extent do you agree? Why do you think we focus on the technology?

As part of a podcast with Future Tense (Funnell, 2012), Greg Whitby suggests that you can't just focus on the technology when it comes to education. There is an abundance of technology within our reach with new advances and releases, such as the iPad Pro, becoming available to consumers each day. Our students have more access to technology than ever before and they can choose to interact with it even outside of school. Therefore, focusing on getting technology into the hands of the students isn't enough any more - the novelty of 'using technology in classrooms' has worn off. Beyond that, just teaching students how to use a particular technology tool doesn't promote the type of learning environments our students deserve to have. Rather, as educators, we need to be more cognizant of creating meaningful uses of technology integration to enhance the learning process. 

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As an educator, one aspect of my role is to focus on the providing the best teaching and learning to my students. As Bill Gates once said, "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important." If they don't have a teacher who is able to use best practice in integrating that tool effectively into the curriculum and teaching then, the tool is not meaningful. Teachers continue to upskill their own technology abilities with the purpose of utilizing it within the curriculum when approach. Teachers need to not only be able to use and integrate technology but decipher when it is best to actually use technology and when another strategy or tool is more effective to achieve a specific learning outcome or experience. Teachers continue to write curriculum, teach content and assess their students choosing the right tools for each learning experience to provide students with a quality education. 

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I would argue, that while technology is a tool, it is a powerful tool. It is a tool that can connect classes from across the globe to contrast and compare lifestyle, schooling and interests. It is a tool that can help students access information from various sources in a click of a button. It is a tool that can enhance the learning experience by allowing for experiences that were not possible in reality such as travelling to the bottom of the ocean to explore wildlife. It is a tool that can help students organize their lives through notes and calendars. It is a tool to communicate in a multitude of ways. It can be a tool to document learning and reflect on their educational experiences. Utilizing technology can help engage students while also developing social, self-management, thinking, and communicating skills. Students can create, collaborate, and curate as they develop transdisciplinary skills that can be drawn upon at any time to use. 

In a 21st century classroom, the technology still does not replace the teacher, hands-on learning, visual thinking and planning on paper or face-to-face interactions. But what it does achieve is creating an endless supply of learning opportunities for students to engage and experience if integrated in an appropriate manner.  


Funnell, A. (2012, Aug 19). 21st century education. Future Tense [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: 

Sunday 15 November 2015

Introduction to ESC515

Hi all,

My name is Emily MacLean and I'm currently an international educator working at Chatsworth International School in Singapore as the Education Technology Coach. This is my 3rd year at the school and I've just switched over from a Year 5 teacher into the edtech role in August. I've also worked in Beijing for a year and I'm originally from Oshawa, Ontario in Canada. 

I never thought I'd focus on technology as an educator but it sort of just fell in my lap. When I moved to Singapore, I had a 1-to-1 laptop class with students who knew way more about it than I did. I had no choice but to figure out how to use it and integrate technology in my classroom or get left behind by my students. A few years later, I'm now in the role supporting teachers integrate technology. My role consists of regularly leading professional development sessions for teachers, working one-on-one to build capacity and co-teaching in the classroom. I love the constant challenge of trying to find innovative ways to teach and creating solutions to problems. 

I feel fortunate to be able to use a variety of technologies in my school from iPads, laptops, iMacs, Interactive Whiteboards etc. I wouldn't say there is a specific tool I'm looking to learn more about throughout this course but rather how the tools can be used for various jobs across the curriculum and year groups and hearing how others effectively integrate technology. 

My Master of Education blog is available at:
I will be using the hashtag #ESC515 with all my posts specific for this class. 

Looking forward to learning with everyone this term!

Monday 9 November 2015

Connectivism Creates Connections

Connectivism provides the connections and networks to broaden the type and amount of content available to us, thus also increasing the amount we can learn from this content. Learning is about making connections between our schema and new information to make sense of it. Our students are doing this constantly.
Connection is a key concept for everything that I do in my school. My role is to help teachers and students make meaningful connections between content and using technology. It is important to help students and teachers to understanding that learning and technology are not separate but rather one when done appropriately.
For me, connecting to social networks is the most rewarding way to grow as an educator. Through twitter and blogs, not only can I share content with my personal learning network but I can consume it as well. I have made connections to educators from all over the world that I never would have been able to meet in person. Thus, enriching my personal learning experience.
While it may be easier to make the connections as an adult, it is important that we help students make connections and create networks not just within our school but also globally. One way we did this last year was to use Mystery Skype to learn about other regions of the world and the children who lived there. From there, we were able to contact them should we need them as a resource for future projects. This helped our students become more globally aware and understand how using your connections can help you learn more about the world you live in.

Google Translate - Bridging Communication Barriers

When I first began at my current school about 2 and a bit years ago, I had a new student who had just arrived from Russia and had little to no English. She was too old for flash cards constantly and I didn't want to make her feel like I was treating her like a child. One day I was talking to my Director of Education Technology about it and he suggested Google translate - a simple solution that had astronomical impact. 
Within minutes, we were able to communicate by typing and setting the two languages as English and Russian. This also was great for a few of my Japanese students who had trouble 'finding the right words' in English. 
This year, Google Translate has evolved again to include a feature I am in love with - voice talk. Now you can use speak to text and it will translate to another language in text OR it will translate and speak the translated text. This helps to eliminate the time to actually type in the text when you use the voice option. 

Twitter in the Classroom

So many social media sites have that age restriction in place so it makes it hard for students to access it as a resource. I have seen teachers create the class account at the elementary level but students are still posting on it. We actually have Twitter blocked by our firewall for all students K-12 (and teachers). I agree with the younger students but could be a used as a valuable way to connect students for global projects or interact with celebrities/ experts on specific topics. 
I personally use Twitter all the time and it is the best source of professional development for me. I sometimes just throw out a question I'm thinking about and see the various perspectives or resources that I get sent back in return. It's actually been a great way to gather research articles for a few papers now! You have access to experts who can share their experience and research they've done too. 
We don't use Google Classroom even though we are a good school due to using Hapara Teacher Dashboard and ManageBac (in secondary) for submitting assignments. 
I also love using Google Docs in language classes. The ability to take editing and revising to the next level is fantastic. Plus there are add-ons for table of contents, referencing etc. One of my favourite features is the 'suggesting' mode instead of commenting where a friend can suggest edits and the owner can choose to accept or deny the suggestions. This really helps the digital revision process come alive. 

Social Media in the Classroom

Social media allows individuals to have a platform to communicate and connect around the globe. I agree that the bullying can continue away from the educational institute, causing the student to ever have an escape from the bullying.

We do not use social media too often with our students, have an acceptable use policy and most social media sites (Twitter, Google+ , Snapchat, etc.) are blocked on the school network. Unfortunately, this does not eliminate what happens on cell phones and personal devices that are not connected through the school wifi. One of the ways I have worked with students in a closed and supportive social media network is through Edmodo. Edmodo mimics Facebook for students in a closed group that is created and monitored by their teacher. Students can communicate, share resources, etc. in small groups, through the discussion feed and learn how to navigate social media. When using Edmodo, we discuss a lot about digital citizenship, digital footprints or digital tattoos, online identity, creating profiles, how our 'brand' is seen by others, etc. It allows students exposure to social media without some of the challenges that are experienced through open social media tools.
I have personally not had to deal large scale issues of cyberbullying. However, social media also has the opportunity to take a turn for the worst allowing the 'trolls' to come out. I use Twitter to build my Personal Learning Network (PLN), gather ideas and resources, and share resources I have created. I find it to be a positive experience, though some of my colleagues have had very different experiences where people have 'trolled' them. Trolling is when someone posts negative or mean comments at another user. My colleague had others call him all kinds of things just because he had a different opinion to theirs. These are educators. If adults who are supposed to be role models for their students spend time trolling the internet, how can we expect our students not to? We as educators have to role model for our students safe and responsible use of social media.

It was nice to see when I read the article 'Why Twitter is Finally Taking a Stand Against Trolls' (Lapowsky, 2015) that the social media sites themselves understand the importance of not tolerating people who cyberbully others. Twitter is flagging inappropriate comments, indirect threats, violent threats, underage usage etc. This is essential for making the social media experience enjoyable for all users and it is positive to see resources put into identifying and eliminating those who do not wish to use social media in a positive manner.

Connect With Students and Parents in Your Paperless Classroom | Edmodo. Retrieved September 12, 2015, from

Why Twitter Is Finally Taking a Stand Against Trolls. Retrieved September 20, 2015, from

Digital Divide

The digital divide is one that is very prevalent. However, as a teacher at a private international school, I don’t often experience it first hand. In fact almost the opposite. Most of my students have the latest technologies and I’m the one trying to catch up to them when I don’t have the latest versions. My students are often showing me new things out on the market and then I’m trying to figure out how to use them. We are very lucky to have 1-to-1 laptop programmes in Years 3 and above and iPads/iMacs in the lower grades.

However, back in Canada, it is a very different story. I would be forced to teach in a very different way. Most schools have a computer lab that students go to once a week, compared to my students who have their laptops sitting on their desks all day long whether we use them or not. It would require more thoughtful planning of when and how the technology would be used. There would be less seamless integration of technology when necessary and rather a ‘we’re using technology now’ type lesson.

When I worked in Canada, many students didn’t have access to technology at home in some areas as well, though this is becoming less the case as time goes on. I wouldn’t have been able to do many of the same projects I do with my kids now from research projects, to email home writing programmes, to flipped learning. The digital divide impacts not the subject material but the way students are given the information. The learning experience is completely different. While technology is only one tool in the classroom, it is one that engages students and connects them to an endless supplies of resources, tools and people from around the world.

Mobile Technologies

I believe that mobile technologies have a lot to offer our students. One thing I have been helping our teachers set up is blogs for our early years students (K- Year 2) using iPads and the EasyBlogger App. The students are creating work, writing, speaking, videoing, photographing... and above all, making their learning known. From there, they are able to share their learning through student friendly apps. Because the learning is shared on the web, this can be accessed from anywhere and shared with whoever the child wishes to learn with.

One challenge I have had as I have begun working with the early years teachers and the iPads more is that the iPads require teachers taking an active approach to make sure they are charged. There have been numerous lessons where I go into the classroom to support teachers but they haven't charged the iPads from the day before and thus, the students do not have the tools they need.

Another challenge I had at the beginning of the year was choosing apps to put on the iPads. In the past, there have been a lot of games on the iPads and not a lot of content creating applications. This year I wanted to ensure the teachers and students had access to applications that served more than one purpose. Apps like Explain Everything can be used in any subject at any grade. This will also help with continuity for the students throughout the early years at our school and will minimize the time students require 'learning' the app before they can use it.

While challenges exist, I believe that the benefits outweigh them. I witnessed a 3 year old girl hearing her own voice for the first time and the excitement she had when she was able to record herself talking about the purple flower she had shown. I just had a lesson with Year 2 students using Maps and then screenshots to document their travels and zoom in on certain locations. Then they used Explain Everything to expand and reveal their journeys. These types of experiences are just a few of so many that wouldn't be possible without the use of mobile technology.

Acceptable Use Policy

I work at an international, PYP school in Singapore and we indeed have an Acceptable Use Policy. In fact, in my new role this year as EdTech Coach, I actually had to rewrite the Acceptable Use Policy in conjunction with our Director of Education Technology.

The AUP is for all students in our school. In the primary level, students use the school's technology whether that's iPads/iMacs in Kindergarten - Year 2 or the 1-to-1 laptop programme in Years 3-6 or the BYOD (MacBooks) from Middle School onwards. There is also a teacher's AUP as well as now a parent AUP as the Middle/High school parents have school emails to access ManageBac.

One of the major challenges is finding wording that is suitable for all students, especially the younger year groups. This year we rewrote it to make it more positive and student friendly. Thus, instead of saying "Don't do this", it now reads "We will...". This provides a more community approach that we all are responsible for abiding by the rules and frames it in a way of what students should be doing.

Our Acceptable Use Policy is broken down into different sections:

1. Be polite and respectful

2. Be responsible

3. Care for the devices

4. Keep your information private

5. Access appropriate information

6. Reference your work

7. Discipline

8. Social Media

Each section is expanded on with a few key bullet points. The social media section was added this year to fill a much needed gap. While we do not use social media often at our school, it is important to have the policy in place for if/when we use social media for specific needs.

The other challenge with developing an Acceptable Use Policy is that technology is always changing and the policy needs to be created in a way that will allow for new technologies to be fit in to the existing AUP. Thus, not always so specific to a certain tool but rather more the overarching ideals.

When going into each of the classrooms to talk about the AUP, I had to have very different approaches for the younger and older students. Some classes were more of a discussion while others were hands on practice of how to hold, carry, use, etc. the devices. I am interested to review the document after a year in the role and see what I would change after experiencing the role and the challenges within it.

Interactive Whiteboards

In our Primary School, our current situation is that there are Promeathean interactive whiteboards in every classroom. The boards are mounted on the wall and the projector is mounted from the ceiling. All teachers have a laptop with the ActivInspire software so they can create interactive lessons from home or school. The use of the IWBs varies from class to class and the teacher’s comfort with technology.

Interactive Whiteboards are seen from various perspectives. However, I believe they still can be a useful tool in the classroom just like every other piece of technology if used appropriately. Short small group whole class lessons and small group activities are great for IWBs and a fantastic way to illustrate expectations for students for activities.

Of course, there are some challenges as well. It is stationary so you have to plan your lesson around one spot, similarly to you reading a book and students sitting and listening. I find the ActiveInspire software to be older and can lag with newer MacBooks at times.

One of the biggest challenges is that teachers are often not trained in how to use them. Just like with any piece of technology or a new program at a school, without training we can’t expect our teachers to be successful to the extent we would like them to be.

Often the lessons can be a bit time consuming to make. However, I would argue that often when making your own content, you need to take the time to create quality instructional tools (whether technological or not). In addition, because resources are built using a computer, the teacher can save and reuse resources easily as well as share with others. In addition, using technology helps to engage students using 21st century tools. Thus, it is important to explore all options, including the IWB.

Nielsen (2010) states that the teacher’s back is to the audience most of the time when using the interactive whiteboard. My question is ‘Why is the teacher at the front of the room using the IWB?’ While I understand the need for teacher led sections of lessons, in my eyes, it should be the students who are at the front of the room interacting with the board. Thus, leaving the teacher to speak facing the students and move freely around the room. Typing is a skill that is learnt but it doesn’t replace writing (or writing on an IWB). Handwriting and printing will always still be needed in education.I also disagree with Nielsen’s thoughts about professional development. I believe professional development is useful for any tool. Many teachers don’t have the time to just ‘figure things out’ when they have a number of other responsibilities each day. With tailor professional development, teachers can learn the skills they need to be effective. Neilsen seems to have a very narrow view of the use of the interactive whiteboards.

Interactive whiteboards do not just have to be for whole-class lessons with the teacher at the front as Neilsen (2010) suggests. Rather, if used appropriately can be integrated into the classroom and used as needed just like any other resource. The benefit of IWBs is that the tool can be used by up to 4 people at the same time (which is not the case for an iPad or laptop computer).

Our school is about to embark on a new trial of comparing Promeathean boards to SMARTBoards and also how to best use the SMARTBoards in our classroom. We have replaced 1 Promeathean board with a SMARTBoard and will be working with that teacher to develop this trial. We are not sure what we will find out or the full details of this trial but it should be interesting to use what we know about IWBs to compare and contrast and find best practice for making them useful tools in our school.


Nielsen, L. (2010, December 8). Are interactive whiteboards a smart idea when they make even the most innovative of educators look dumb? – 10 reasons to ditch the board [web blog post]. Retrieved from

Google Docs & GAFE

We are a GAFE school as well. There are a ton of great resources on You may want to consider doing some of their online modules or even becoming an Google for Education Certified Innovator or Trainer. Both of these opportunities completely extends your professional learning network and resources. I've learnt a ton by becoming these two things. 
While I agree with professional development as being important and necessary, I think the most important thing is for teachers to be willing to be risk takers in the classroom with technology. Our students will often figure it out way before the teachers do but we also need to give the students the opportunities to figure it out and be okay with knowing less than they do. 
Last year I had 2 techsperts as class jobs. These students were the go to people for my students, which also meant that I had more time to work with my students instead of solving problems. You may even want to have your students build some of the resources for the teachers. We can learn a lot from our students and it helps to develop a whole school learning community. 

Creating Presentations

Before you can even begin creating a presentation you need to know your audience and the purpose for your presentation. This can greatly impact the content of the presentation and how you present it. 
In terms of creating a presentation, I use the CARP design principles: 
C - contrast 
A - alignment 
R - repetition 
P - proximity 
These principles can be used in terms of colour, text, shapes, and any other content on the slides themselves. 
What I find is often not taught in conjunction with making presentations is how to actually give a presentation. Students need to be taught to build their presentation to complement their oral presentation rather than just being exactly what is going to be said on a slide. Students need to understand how an image can convey much more than text and how using different features of presentations can enhance or diminish their presentations. 
While I understand that bullet points are highly overused by students and teachers in their presentations, there is a time and a place for using them. I think it's important to teach students when it's appropriate to use different strategies rather than eliminating them completely. 
I do subscribe to the limited text on the page. I have seen so many times just slide after slide of text. I always try to go for 5-7 words maximum for presentations. Though again, at times you are using more to show certain things.

Word Processing & Keyboarding Skills

Keyboarding is a skill just like learning your multiplication tables, collaborating with others and learning to read. You can type if you understand how to read letters and spell, but you learning proper keyboarding skills can help you be more accurate, save time, present your work in a variety of ways and be able to share typed documents with others easily (Roblyer & Doering, 2014).Knowing how to use word processing documents effectively can enhance the learning experience.

I believe students should learn start using word processing when they are exposed to using laptops and computers. At this time it is also necessary to begin teaching keyboarding skills concurrently. In our school, our 1-1 laptop program begins in Year 3. At this point, students should begin to focus more of their final products as being published online. By teaching students how to keyboard at this age, it will also allow them the ability to type with more speed and confidence. As teachers teach word processing, they need to also explicitly teach different skills within the word processing programs. This is an excellent time for teachers to talk about design, visuals and digital literacy.

With anything, the more time you spend learning something, the better you will become at it. Thus, the more students are exposed to proper keyboarding techniques, the more proficient they will become. In addition, as students spend more time learning keyboarding, this also means they are spending less time on their handwriting skills. It is important that students know how to write and read letters before beginning keyboarding. I believe that there should not be a 100% transfer to keyboarding from handwriting as handwriting helps students develop their fine motor skills. Both of these skills are important and help students develop different needs.

Last year I previously taught Year 5 and almost all writing assignments were submitted via online tools (such as Google Docs, FlipSnack, e-portfolio etc.). This was easier for me to read as a teacher as I didn’t have to worry about decoding handwriting that was messy. I was able to take only my laptop home rather than a stack of books. My students were allowed to do their rough draft on Google Docs, thus allowing for corrections and feedback to be easily done using comments and suggestions by both peers and the teacher, saving valuable learning time as well.

Another point to note about using online tools is the accessibility options that are built into many of the word processing programs. Whether it is speech to text or text to speech, highlighting of words or increased font size, many programs allow the accommodations needed for students to succeed. Autocorrect was of great importance to one student in my class with dyslexia as it allowed him to gain more confidence with spelling and also get the instant feedback about incorrect/correct spelling and how to fix it. The downside to spellcheck is that sometimes it changes a word to another word than the one you want. Thus, students must still read and review before submitting.

With any technology tool, it is important to remember that it is still just one of many tools for teaching. No technology can replace bad teaching. If students don’t understand the writing process, then using a word processing software will not make their writing better. It is still up to the teacher to teach students using best practice and the best tool to support their learning intentions.

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Sixth Edition].

Word Processing - Early Years of School

We use iPads in our K1 - Year 2 classes so like you, I don't think it's really appropriate to teach students keyboarding at that age. I believe it makes the most sense when students begin using laptops/computers regularly. We wouldn't expect our students to be able to multiply without ever teaching them adding before and I feel it's a bit of the same with keyboarding. Keyboarding should be taught when it will be meaningful and useful to students and their learning. 

Games Based Learning and Gamification

It is no secret that video games captures the attention of young and old for hours upon hours. They are engaging, motivating and above all fun. When an activity or task is turned into a game, there seems to be this instant motivation to want to play. Judy Willis argues the importance of using the principles of video games in the classroom as a way to increase motivation of students as well as resiliency when they receive feedback. 
Games are always goal oriented whether it is to complete a level or end up with the most money at the end of the game. There is always something you are aiming to achieve. This idea of achievement motivates the player to continue until they are successful. Games provide a low rate of failure as they allow the player to try repeatedly until sucessful. Games are always providing feedback to the player. Sometimes the feedback is not being able to make it past a certain point in the game until the player figures out a new strategy. 
This past year, our Year 5 classes created a gamified unit of mathematics called the Battle 4 Chatz. Our goal was to make the entire geometry unit one big game where each class ('gang' or 'team') had to battle the other 2 classes in order to win over the various sections of the school. This unit was played as a mixed learning enviornment with both online and in person components. It had a narrative of a MR. ME character taunting the students to get better at math so they could capture each other and defeat the other teams only to have things change drastically in the final boss level. Along the way, there were also many sidequests for the students to participate in. Motivation and participation in mathematics was at an all time high as students were completing work at home and in class with enthusiasm to work towards badges and help their team achieve their goals. 
Breaking it down by Willis' main ideas, you will see that we took the principles of video games to create a positive experience for our students: 
- Motivation: Gain more points than the other two teams through completing individual activities, which would then allow students to capture different areas of the school. 
- Incremental Goal Progress: Students rewarded when a number of activities completed. A class could capture a portion of the school at the end of each level if they had the most points. 
- Individual Achievable Challenge: There were 2-3 activities per level that were mandatory based on the grade expectations with tutorials for support. Students had to complete tasks individually in order to help their team. If they completed the mandatory tasks (main storyline), they could challenge themselves by doing sidequests for bonus points to add to their teams total. 
-Feedback: Students received immediate feedback every time they completed an individual activity on their progress. As a class, their point totals were seen on the game site and updated in real time. 
If you are interested in learning about the theory and reasoning behind the game, feel free to check out the link here: 
You can also access the game site itself here:
Willis, J. (2011) A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool. Retrieved from

Video Game Model

To be honest, I actually had a Grade 1 teacher who let us play video games when we finished our mental math early. Some may not agree with it but the motivation of the students in that class was always high and we worked really hard to learn our math facts. 
In addition, video games provide a huge opportunity for our students  to develop problem solving skills. While you may argue that the classroom has no place for video games, games like MineCraft are sweeping through education and becoming a new way to engage our students in a safe learning environment where they can expand their ideas and learn in a way that best fits there needs while still being a lot of fun at the same time. 

Class Website

In my classroom, I have a class website where I have all my resources posted online. This is a great way for parents and student to utilize the resources at home. The students always know where they can find the information so I don't receive emails saying 'I forgot how to access that site we were using today'. In addition, there is transparency with parents about what is happening in the classroom, which is important as I work at an international school and they want to know what their children's education looks likes. It also allows them to log on at any time and have resources available to help support their child. 

A Simulation Resource

We used MineCraft in Year 6 this past year as a simulation. There were 3 tribes that had 3 separate pieces of land within a given world. Ultimately the game was to survive. The teams started by fighting each other and stealing things from the different places of the world. Eventually some started to form government and systems to have a more civil environment where it was easier for all to thrive. It was interesting to hear about the different types of government that came out of the experience as well from dictatorship to democracy. 
The unit was about types of governments. The best part was the teachers had to do little input but rather let the students explore and learn through inquiry. As they needed information, the teachers would support them or the students would research information. These types of experiential learning opportunities are very important for students and allows them to engage with the learning in a meaningful and memorable way... plus it is fun!


BrainPop is great for so many reasons. Whether it's a quick tutorial video for students, quizzes, games or lesson ideas. BrainPop has a lot of content that is beneficial for both teachers and students. 
There is also BrainPop Educator that takes it even further. It includes lesson ideas with all the required resources to be successful. It has online training including webinars and professional development for teachers. As well, it has a section dedicated to games - teaching with games, educational research about teaching using games, student game design. It definitely allows for creativity while also hitting content.
One of the other things I like about it is that you can search by the standards you use (ie Ontario, CommonCore, etc.) , grade subject and grade. This helps teachers quickly find the content they need that will be relevant to their students.


This has been a great resource for students from learning letters, to sounds and words. There are opportunities to learn about holidays and they continue to expand Starfall to have more teacher supported materials as well. I used this with my ESL students in Grade 1 while in Beijing and KG students while in Canada. 
As I was reading the Marc Prensky articles, I felt like the labels are less relevant if we think more about a balanced approach to technology as well as a willingness to be a risk taker and learn/use technology. 
My students have a 1-to-1 laptop programme at our school and regularly use them as a resource for their studies. For major projects, I tell my students they can choose how they show their knowledge as long as I can see what they know. Many projects have them making presentations, videos, animations and more. However, I still remember the first time I had students approach me and ask if they could make a brochure by hand instead of doing it digitally. Of course I said it was but it also became a more frequent conversation. I also had students going to the library looking for books rather than looking online at sites. It is important to know what resources are available and how to access them. It amazed me at first that students wouldn't want to incorporate technology but rather have a variety of options. There are sometimes days when our laptops go untouched from our desk and then others where we are on them a good chunk of the day. Even I still prefer a notebook and pen for my to do lists but find taking notes for my studies online easier. It is important that students understand that technology is just one of the many resources available for them to draw upon. Thus, even our digital natives don't always want technology but rather it is necessary to find the balance and appropriate times to use technology effectively. 
I also thought about it is more important to have a willingness to use and explore technology rather than whether or not you grew up using technology as a 'digital native'. I would argue I am more on the digital native spectrum. But still have a lot of digital immigrant tendencies. I grew up using technology from elementary school but the last 2 years is when I really have skyrocketed in my learning. There are others of all ages at my school who are very proficient with their technology usage and others who aren't. A few of our new teachers who would definitely be considered digital natives are not comfortable using technology in the classroom. So is it more important you grew up in it? Or are more willing to explore teaching through technology? Labels can sometimes be too confining to fully explain the situation in reality. 
I also wonder if we are needing to rethink our teaching as digital immigrants for the digital natives, what will this impact be 10, 20 , 50 years from now? How will it effect the new generation beyond our current digital natives. What implications will there be when digital natives are teaching digital natives? (Or even teaching the next label we come up with?)
Gamification and games based learning has been a real interest of mine in the last year. We have created some full units that are games and I'm excited we will be exploring this more in the next few weeks. Games are so engaging, rewarded, and have a low failure rate. Students have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and try a variety of tasks. There are awards, leader boards, levels, main quests, side quests, avatars and storylines to really help the students have fun while learning. Hope to have some great discussions about this in the coming weeks.