Tag: technology

About Negative Behaviour

I got a little pushback today when I shared this article via Twitter.  “How To Address Negative Student Behavior in 1:1 Classrooms“.

In the article, the author Keith Sorensen did a nice job of identifying and describing potential areas for behaviour issues.

  1. Technology becomes the distraction;
  2. Distracting other students;
  3. Difficulty evaluating information;
  4. Less interest in the class;
  5. Loss of sleep;
  6. Increased incidences of bullying.

All of these are serious areas of concern, to be sure.

The pushback I got was that the readers didn’t feel that there were enough solutions offered.  So, I’d like to take a few moments here to try and share my thoughts about it.

Turn back the clock to the days when the only technology in your school was the computer lab.  At 10:30 on Wednesday mornings, it might have been your class’ “turn” in the lab.  So, you’d line up and head to the lab to do computer stuff.  It’s been my observation that it really was seldom that something curricularly relevant was ready to be done on computer at 10:30 on Wednesday.  Hence, it became a “computer class” that focused on learning some skill that was probably totally unrelated to anything else that might be happening in the class.  Or, even worse, a chance to play some sort of mindless computer game.

Fortunately, as educators, we matured in our use of the technology that was available and made those excursions to a computer lab somewhat more meaningful.  It got much better with the one or two computers located permanently in the classroom.  Even better, when laptop technology came along and you could use the technology when it was important, not when you were scheduled – and, at your desk.  A superintendent that I worked with had a wonderful phrase that has hung with me – it was called the “technology at the point of instruction”.  Even that became more descriptive when we really understood what was happening when we changed it to “technology at the point of learning”.

We’ve come a long way, getting better and maturing with each iteration.

But the 1:1 or BYOD classroom is a whole different thing.  We’ve got to refine our learning again.

As long as the technology is imported to the classroom or a student has to physically move to a computer, there is an element of control over the whole process.  But, 1:1 or BYOD takes all of that away.

I’m a firm believer that a total rethink of things needs to be done when you move to 1:1 or BYOD.  In fact, I would suggest that the issues outlined in the original article are the result of putting 1:1 or BYOD in the classroom and, at the same time, not really changing what’s happening there.  If students are bored and unmotivated before, you’ve just given them another outlet to demonstrate this boredom.

When I look at successful 1:1 or BYOD implementations, the environment changes.  Students take control of the learning with the use of the technology.  It is no longer an add-on that tries to make the same old, same old appealing.  When that happens, and it’s not easy – nobody is saying this is easy – the behaviours get minimized.

Successful teachers have a way to make this happen.  And yet, there are times when the 1:1 or BYOD is not appropriate.  Just like the old fashioned instruction – put your pencils down and listen, the successful teacher finds a way to make it happen.  One unique way of making this happen was to create a penalty box on the desktop with strips of masking tape.  When technology is not to be used, it goes into the penalty box and alternative class activity takes place.  A quick teacher glance over the room ensures that the technology is where it is supposed to be.

My mantra for these times is “don’t do things differently, do different things”.

Done properly, I think that the issues raised in the first four points can be at least minimalized.  Honestly, I don’t think that there is any solution that solves it completely.  Anyone who claims so should be pushed for their thoughts.

As for the fifth point, now we’re getting into the realm of parenting.  There was a great article the other day.  It takes the concept of the penalty box to the home! Does every family need a tech basket?

The sixth point is probably the most serious and everyone is searching for a solution.  I often wonder if part of the problem is that the person being bullied is ashamed or embarrassed to find themselves in the situation of being bullied and consequently just doesn’t want to admit it.  We’ve got to change that mindset and make it acceptable to come forth and ask for help.  Kids Help Phone is a great step in the right direction.  That should be the first thing that a student see when she/he logs onto a school computer to serve as a reminder that she/he is not alone.

There’s my reaction to the pushback that I received.  I’d be very interested in your thoughts.


Technology Integration Matrix

The Technology Integration Matrix is an interesting resource.  For the experienced teacher who is using technology well, it offers a confirmation that things are done well.  For the teacher struggling to engage students through the use of technology in lessons, it offers a world of ideas from the simple to the rather complex.  For the new teacher, or especially teacher candidates, it offers a complete interative overview of what should be, might be, could be…

Across the top, levels of sophistication include Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Infusion, and Transformation.

Each of these levels deal with a type of technology use:  Active, Collaborative, Constructive, Authentic, and Goal Directed.

As I worked my way through the matrix, I found myself agreeing with a great deal of it.  At the same time, I pictured people by name who I knew would argue, not on the concept, but on the label attached.

Regardless, if you’re a technology using educator, a person who supports others using or trying to use technology, or a person who just wants to glean more ideas, it’s time well spent to work your way through the resource.  There are some great ideas along with movie clips to demonstrate the concepts.

Share it with your colleagues.  It may just be enough to push them to the next level of sophisticated use.


About Useless Gadgets

This article appeared in my Zite news feed this morning.  “Schools ‘wasting £450m a year’ on useless gadgets“.

Those of us whose job it was involved acquiring technology and helping classroom teachers use technology effectively live in dread of titles like that.  The really offensive term to me was “useless gadgets”.  For as long as I’ve been using technology in education, I’ve used just a whack of gadgets.  I wonder — what makes a gadget useless?

Reading the article from the Telegraph, they specifically identify tablet computers, computer software, and electronic whiteboards.  I  kept reading to see if the author actually would explain why the gadgets were labelled as “useless”.

I’ve certainly been involved with computer software all my career, even serving terms on the Ontario Software Acquisition Program Software Committee.  In that role, I’ve worked with many teachers helping them understand the functionality of the software and where it fits into the Ontario Curriculum.  The OSAPAC Committee, in fact, has a sub-group whose job it is to identify Curriculum Connections so that teachers using the software could get a sense of where it fits into the big scheme of things.  Within my own district, I was part of a team that rolled out IWBs to the system.  In our case, I had the eyes, ears, and candor of a group of Computers in Education School Contacts, a small but dynamic team of Early Years Literacy teachers, and a spectacular teacher-librarian who got the original SMART Board, nicknamed it “Big Bertha” and used it to raise her library program to a new level.  Even today, these leaders work with their colleagues to ensure ongoing implementation success.

Any time I talk about technology, one of the things I stress is that technology does allow us to do things differently but more importantly, it allows us to do different things.  In my mind, that’s the ultimate promise of technology and why we spend so much money, time, and should devote a significant effort in acquisition decisions and implementation once the technology has been purchased.

The article, in particular, takes some pretty tough shots at the implementation of tablet technology.  But, as I sit back and think, the one piece that’s missing in all of the scenarios that are described is the lack of support for teachers as they try to use them.  I can speak with confidence that the job of a teacher is absolutely jam-packed.  From knowing the curriculum, to differentiating for student success, to assessment and evaluation, to a changing curriculum in a changing world, to pressure from administration to raise test scores, to dealing with individual students’ social issues.  The absolute last thing, and probably the dumbest educational move, is to buy a bunch of technology and drop it off expecting it to perform all of the promised results.  It’s a formula for failure.

And yet, the article would have you believe that the technology is useless and that teachers are somehow pulled in to using it.  There is no mention at all about how much support was given or whether there’s an implementation plan or just who a teacher is to turn to for answers to questions.

I wish that the article had dug deeper.  I think more details about the actual implementation plan are needed before any piece of technology can be labelled “useless”.

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Nimble Classrooms

For a great read, check out “How Will Classrooms Change With the Use of Computers?

One of the quotes really resonated with me.

“It’s going to be more about teachers having nimble classrooms.”

To me, this means a number of things and many teachers are embracing it already although they may not have considered their classes “nimble”.

I’m seeing:

  • No need for a traditional computer lab which conveys the notion that computers are a distinct subject;
  • Portable computers that are invited into the learning environment at the point of instruction;
  • Engaging students in learning activities that are truly different – not just the same old stuff transposed to a computer;
  • Considering smart phones, tablets, etc. as just another computer;
  • Conversations within and without the classroom with teacher as guide not as the dispenser of information;
  • Creating new content to address expectations where the old content just doesn’t cut it;
  • Students confident in their abilities so that they become the experts and geniuses in a subject area;
  • A blend of face to face and online learning experiences becoming the norm;
  • A classroom that can be reorganized on a moment’s notice as required;
  • Traditional literature pieces replaced by multimedia including podcasts, videos, broadcasts, hangouts;
  • Classrooms complete with a suite of tools where students elect to use the most appropriate one;
  • Students not only using the technology but can describe critically why they choose to use it;
  • This point intentionally left blank – if a classroom is truly nimble, this list should never be complete.

What does “nimble classroom” mean to you?

Unplug? I hope not


Many thanks to @sheilaspeaking for proofreading and making suggestions for today’s post.


I read this article three times yesterday morning during my reading routine before I elected to share it with my followers on Twitter and Facebook.  From TheStar.com, “Let’s unplug the digital classroom” is one professor’s thoughts about the presence of technology in higher education.

My first thought came in the format of a silly tweet that I had sent some time back asking people to refer to this resource “When someone whines about the good ol’ days in education”.  I had no idea when I shared that message just to share a smile with friends that it might actually be used in a serious blog post.

I find this statement so telling. “Almost all professors use computers, projectors, Power Point presentations and the Internet as part of their lectures”  His next sentence doesn’t deserve comment.  But the first, descriptive statement brings back memories of sitting in a lecture hall of 500 being treated as a learning vessel that could somehow be filled up just by the presence of the professor who sat at the front of the hall clicking his way through a canned lecture.

I didn’t have Facebook or a smartphone at the time but my mind managed to wander all the same and my notebooks were full of doodles at the end of the course.

In fact, I would suggest that my marks in university courses were directly related to the size of the classroom and the ability of the professor and teaching assistants to engage me in meaningful, active learning activities.

Elementary and secondary schools have fought this battle.  Students today own and understand different technologies, live in a different world, and have a different set of passions and social awarenesses.  Like it or not, you just cannot ignore it.  The author makes comments about the futurists who haven’t been in a university class for years.  I would ask if he had been in a secondary school classroom to see where his future students live and learn.  Here you will find a decidedly different approach to learning and teaching.  Students engage in smaller groups, invite technology to the journey, have and are encouraged to have different passions to pursue, and enjoy the educational benefits of education that respects personalization.  One size does not fit all here.

Thank goodness, we don’t have to dig through the “bowels of the university library” only to find that the one book is already checked out.  Today’s teacher-librarians are among the most progressive of educators.  They value the benefits of the research process and have updated it to leverage the technologies, and yes, student owned technologies, for the best results.

One of the most promising thing that technology does is provide a level and equitable playing field for students.  Not all schools are able to offer all courses to students and online learning now makes that possible.  How can we deny a student the opportunity to take a course prescribed by the Ontario curriculum just because they attend a school that doesn’t offer it?

Is it perfect?  I would question anyone who says that we’ve found all the answers.  But, I’ll throw my support behind anyone who is at least trying to meet students part way and recognize that the days that students sit facing forward, transcribing the wisdom of a single source in the room, and walk away filled with all the knowledge that they can absorb are long gone.


Don’t Do Stupid Things

Isn’t that great advice?  I received it from my parents, I’ve given it to my own children, and I was reminded about this on Thursday night.

On Thursday night, as part of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century Professional Development event, I was asked to chair a panel after supper.  I agreed to do this and a great deal of preparation went in to the event.

I decided that I would script the event using a Google Document and laid out the evening as I thought that I would like it to go.  Once I was ready, I shared the document with the project manager for the event, Siria Szkurhan who went through and helped tighten the language in the questions.  We also talked on the phone to make sure that we got the maximum value from the panel of experts to make the event the most beneficial for the participants.  So that the panelists could be prepared, they were shared the agenda as well, in advance of the event.

With as big an audience as we would have (potentially over 200 educators), I felt that we also needed to have some visuals to put the questions in context and so went about doing some research that would complement the questions posed to each of the panelists.  My friend Peter Skillen volunteered to man my laptop and go from tab to tab as the event unfolded.  He did a great job and the visual helped put a context to each of the questions.  I put links to all of the resources together into a bit.ly bundle and shared it here if you’re interested.

During the panel, we encouraged the continuation of the conference backchannel on Twitter and there were many comments flying about from the tag #OTF21C.  There weren’t any specific questions that appeared but we did have microphones for the audience to take advantage of the expertise on the stage.

First up, was Will Richardson who would lead a full day on Friday.  The goal here was to set the stage for why we were here and to break the ice for the rest of the panel.  I know that Will is widely travelled and asked him to share a couple of examples of the use of Social Media that he felt was exemplary.  I liked the answer that it was a great deal easier to find uses today than it was three years ago when he first spoke at another OTF event.  And, the panel was off.

We next heard from a couple of Ontario Educators.  Kelly Moore, an elementary school teacher from Greater Essex County share some of the successes that she enjoyed as a Teacher Librarian.  She gave some examples as Peter showed off her wiki on the screen.  Through example, Kelly explained how getting online was so helpful for the students that she reached.  I did get her to explain how she used Social Media to help her differentiate the learning process for her students.  After Kelly, we moved to Danika Barker, a secondary school English / Media teacher from Thames Valley.  I think that I had talked with her personally once or twice before this event but I sure knew all of the interesting things that happens in her classes.  She is very open with her comments on Twitter and through her blog.  What I was most interested in getting her to share was how she used Social Media in a blended format with her classes.  There were great answers and I think that the audience may have been surprised to hear that she had the luxury of an English class booked into a computer lab for an entire semester.  That opened all kinds of opportunities to move everything that she did online.  After their individual responses, I did ask both Kelly and Danika about balance and how they managed to learn these new things while at the same time having a real life.  There were interesting responses that reflected the professionalism in both of them attempting to reach every student in their charge, all the while looking for new and innovative ways to motivate.  At one point, Kelly noted that this was her hobby.  Imagine having a hobby that also turned into accelerated learning opportunities for students!

What would be an educational learning event if we didn’t have a student to talk about things?  Jaxson Khan was a very well spoken young man from a Peel Region school.  I didn’t know Jaxson going in and so decided to lob up a softball to get things started.  I had checked before he took the stage and yes, he was packing a smart phone.  What I didn’t expect was him to pull out a knapsack filled with the technology that he uses on a daily basis, including “his baby”, his Macbook Pro that he had worked for and paid by himself.  I suddenly felt badly that I wasn’t wearing a tie.  He then proceeded to share how he connects to his school network both inside the physical building and outside on the yard.  He freely talked about access to technology and how it didn’t seem to be distractive to him or his friends.  Jaxson is also a leader through the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association and talked about a recent survey of Ontario students and their attitudes towards the use of smart phones in school.  Jaxson also shared some insights about equity and even offered suggestions about how to put personal technology into the hands of all students.  Plain and simple, for me, this gentlemen stole the show.  You couldn’t help but feel humbled knowing that he was speaking for thousands of students.  We owe it to the Jaxsons in Ontario to provide the very best.

Next up was a guy with a tie.  Mark Carbone is the CIO for the Waterloo Region District School Board and he had his black tie with his Twitter name silk screened on it.  Mark and I have a long history of talking and debating educational technology issues.  I know that he and his district anguished long and hard about what parts of the internet provide the best educational relevance for students.  It was this relevance that led the district to not only unblock Facebook, but to develop strategies for using that as a community learning environment within their schools.  Mark talked about the successes but also reminded us that this project also had questioners within the district, particularly as it launched.  The administrative team is behind this effort and the audience got to experience the visionary approach taken under Mark’s leadership.  If you’re interesting in providing this type of learning environment, then you should cast a look at what Waterloo is doing.

Three of the teacher federations had representation on the panel.  At the first event three years ago, Bob Fisher from OSSTF had delivered his thoughts at that time.  As Bob noted, the big concern then was whether we should be using email to communicate with students.  Things certainly have changed since then!  Bob, Joe Pece from OECTA, and Jennifer Mitchell from ETFO shared some great advice from their individual federation perspectives.  Joe cautioned the group about keeping things in perspective and under control.  Bob talked about professional boundaries which is always a concern whether you’re using technology or not.  Finally, Jennifer talked about the differences between a personal and a professional appearance on services like Facebook.  It may not have occurred to the audience that you could manage two identities for specific purposes.  All three had great reminders that educators are very visible and that people are watching what we do and how we do it online and off.  All federations regularly provide advice to members about important issues.  ETFO provided a paper handout with reference to bulletins from Toronto about how to handle yourself online.  She encouraged all to take a look through the memos.  It is good advice for everyone.  All three representatives noted that their mandate was to stand behind and support their members.  We were all reminded that it is very easy to create videos or podcasts and quickly post them online for good and sometimes not so good purposes.

Coming full circle, I had the opportunity to ask Will Richardson about transparency and the teaching profession.  Just how transparent should an educator be?  Will shared his thoughts while we checked out what things that Danika has on her class blog.  There were specific directions for students and for parents as they use her resource.  As you’ll note in the article that Will wrote recently for ASCD, he pulls no punches in his thoughts about where all learners should head in their approaches to learning that take advantage of the network.  Will loves to talk about his kids and we closed by discussing parts of their Christmas gifts – personalized domain names for his children that he hopes they take advantage of in the future.  He did share with us that they were a little more excited by the other packages under the tree!

As you can imagine, with this great discussion, we had gone beyond our one hour timeline but nobody was leaving.  The discussion was first-rate from the panelists and we opened the mics on the floor to the audience for some great questions.  One that really interested me was a question about making schools hot spots.  There was a good discussion about equitable access throughout the province for all students to bring personal devlces and engage in their learning.  After all, they use them outside school hours and it’s just part of what they do.  Mark took us on one of those cart/horse stories with the neverending question of what do you buy first – connectivity and infrastructure or the devices?  Waterloo is in the enviable position of having their technology budget topped up to cover for the Ministry cutbacks in grants to school districts.

I was so happy with the way that the panel discussion went.  All of the panelists were on their game and shared successes, cautions, and strong doses of reality.  Time and technology are such precious commodities that they have to be managed intelligently.  With all that can be done, a considered approach does need to be taken.  I think that Bob spoke for everyone when he offered the best advice of all.  With all the good that can be done,  “Don’t Do Stupid Things”.

Christmas Resolutions

It’s too late for this year, and probably won’t be possible, but my resolution for future Christmas events is to not have gifts of technology.

It’s a great deal of work to support and everyone wants everything to work right away.


If there ever was a cause for the importance of literacy, one only has to take a look at what passes for manuals these days.  Life was so much easier when it was just putting Tab A into Slot B.  But, now we’re looking at high tech instructions that have been either poorly written or poorly translated or just a guess as to what would work.

Perhaps with software like Jing now being freely availabe, companies can come up with more completely documented instructions.

Next year, it’s going to be mittens all round.

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