Thursday, July 26, 2012


GRADE 8! Yes, adolescents, puberty, hormones raging and peers being the utmost important part of these kids lives. I am determined to interrupt this. Well, add another element into their already complex lives and introduce (hopefully) a world of education where technology dominates. I am hoping this will be the leverage I need to keep them motivated to learn and to help me become as tech savvy as they are.Wait...introduce technology. I have to remember who I am talking about. They have already accepted technology into their lives, it is a part of their lives. I guess my role than will be to show them how this can be applied to their learning. Speaking of learning,  I have much to learn about this age group and I look forward to taking a peek into their individual personalities as I feel this is just as important as the curriculum I teach. But that is another topic for another post.

Upwards and onwards. Every spare second I have gotten for the last month, I have been learning. I think back to my university days when learning about problem solving and the philosophy of being stuck. I think about Mason and his theory that you have to become stuck and work your way through the problem to learn. Well, I guess I am somewhere on that continuum. I have been learning about so many different ways to incorportate technology in the classroom that my mind is spinning. I tell myself to slow down and remind myself that taking on too much at once time is worse than not doing anything at all. Theoretically, I think I will choose two or three things to learn and to implement in my classroom in September, but in learning these two or three only, I stumble onto something else that is equally or maybe better than what I was learning.

So, basically I am no further ahead than my last post. I have been using my time for reading about and learning about different websites and applications for the classroom. I have brushed up on my knowledge of Problem and Project Based Learning. Actually, it is this topic that has me consumed for the last week. For the last 3 years I have tried to implement a PBL environment. I have come far with it, but not quite where I want to be. Again, this is yet another topic for a future post. However, I will say that I have been trying to find a way to use PBL with technology and how to incorporate what I am learning into this type of learning environment. This makes sense to me as I try to create authentic learning experiences with my projects, I must then incorporate the technology. As it is this technology that makes sense to the students. Does it then become the medium to learning or the means? Or both? Hmmm....

Tech-KNOWLEDGE-y - yup, it is how we learn. It is a way of learning and it continues to freak me out a little. I am trying so hard to keep up with it. I can not imagine how "more experienced" teachers are feeling. I will prevail. I have to now start getting my head around the "what" I am going to teach because the "how" is through technology. So should I focus on the what and then figure out the how, or choose the how and then pick out the curriculum I can cover with that? Ohhh....Mason would be proud!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Learning

Well, summer is here. Many teachers are probably thinking about anything BUT the upcoming school year. They are probably enjoying the time where their brains can relax. Not me. I have decided that I need change and this change finds me at a new school in the Fall teaching a whole new regime of subjects and a whole new regime of students. I have been too comfortable with my elementary teaching assignments of the past and know each and every year who my students are and what their learning styles will be. Not this year. New school, new students, new curriculum, and new challenges! I love it.

Grade 8 is going to now be my home for a while. I am nervous but excited at the same time. Motivating these adolescents is the one challenge I know I will face. But I think I may have it!! I have committed myself this summer to learning as much as I can about at least 5 different ways I can use technology in my Grade 8 math and Ela class to motivate these students. I have no idea who these students are, or their interests or their learning styles, but that is the fun part.

So here is what I have been thinking...podcasts, blogging, socrative, digital storytelling, and twitter. I have been learning about using Socrative in the classroom and I really like the response of the kids when they use it. It is easy and gives immediate feedback. Twitter is my best friend and now I have to figure a way to bring it into my classroom. I have some ideas, but need to do more research. Blogging is something I have done in the past, but I need to change how and why I get students to blog. It became a chore and kids were not intrinsically motivated to blog. They did it because I told them to. I want blogging to become something kids want to do, for them to use it as a means of communication with me and their peers and not something that will be assessed. Digital storytelling is fun, and I will continue to use it, but I am looking for something now that is more than that. I have Grade 8 students now and I want to see how they will use their interests and abilities to bring digital storytelling to a whole new lever. Podcasts is my weakest link. This is where I need to focus my time. I think I need to read more and then do it. I need to create my own podcast to get a feel for how to actually do it.

So there you have summer mapped out. Oh, and I will have some fun. Maybe I can create a podcast about boating...hmmm...the possibilities!!

I'm excited!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A colleague of mine, introduced me to Socrative. "Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets ." (taken from I downloaded the app to my Iphone and began playing.

 I began thinking of the possible applications for this technology in my Grade 6 classroom and became quite excited with some of the ideas that began pouring in my head.  The buzz words of assessment for learning, and assessment of learning began circling my thoughts. I forgot for a moment about the restrictions in using this technology, the fact that our students can not connect to the wireless network to use their own personal devices to make this technology what it is supposed to be. I did however, think about how to make this work given what I have.

I needed to check this out. I signed up, received my room number and off I went. My lesson plan for the afternoon included a math review of patterning concepts. I had intended on photocopying an assessment that included multiple choice items as well as short answer questions. I transformed this thought into the possibility of using Socrative to create an online version of the assessment. Using copy and paste, I was quickly and efficiently able to transform this boring math assessment into this "new" technology. However, in doing so, I was not able to figure how to copy images into the questions, so I still had to do SOME photocopying to have students see the figures that was included in the questions. I booked the computer room where all students would have access to Socrative (via computer). I was ready to go, I was so excited.

Afternoon classes came and finally it was time to put Socrative to the test. The kids were excited and stoked about using this new technology. They were curious and some were a little worried about doing something new. I told then how to log on and briefed them on how it worked. That was it.I didn't have to do anymore than that. They entered their information and began the assessment. As they did, I was able to track their progress on my Iphone, as I logged into the Teacher Socrative app,  where I was able to monitor their  correct responses and where they were with the assessment. As I sat back observing , a few observations emerged:

1) students overall caught on very quickly to the technology, where there were no students having difficulty using the program
2) some students took longer to complete the given tasks than they would have if using pencil/paper, while others completed the assessment more quickly
3) one of the questions had students representing an equation where traditionally they would draw a picture to represent it. They now had to figure out a way to represent this equation using only the keyboard (using letters and symbols). The students that I consider the top in math in the class struggled with this question. They shut down saying there was no way they could represent the equation if they could not draw pictures. However, the student who has been struggling the most in the class this year, was the FIRST student to come up with a way to represent the equation. (I thought this was the most interesting thing from the day!)
4) After reflecting on the activity, students said they really liked using the technology; it made the assessment more interesting. However, they said that they felt they could not really show their true learning because they were not familiar with the program and they became frustrated with trying to figure out how to represent their equations. They said that it was at that point they wanted to go back to using pencil and paper.

These observations really hones in well with my post from yesterday talking about provincial assessments becoming available online and how I felt it would be important to ensure students are using the technology all year. This little experiment I completed in class yesterday supports this opinion.

Here is a link to Socrative :

Monday, May 28, 2012

Well, it is Monday morning and as my students complete their CRT - uhummm, sorry, "provincial assessments" I sit and ponder how technology will change these assessments. It has already been stated clearly that these "tests" will be online in the coming years. We are not talking 10 years and probably not talking 5-6 either, but within the next coming years. My question or main pondering about this is "How will the schools be able to logistically and authentically provide each student with the necessary technology to do this?"

First point : Logistics - coming from a small school with even smaller class sizes, there will be enough computers to enable all students in MY class access to the online assessment. However, depending on the day, there may or may not be enough working computers, which will leave some out in the cold. Working computers is one issue, but given the fact that provincial assessments are being written by Grade 3 and Grade 6 students at the same time, where will all the computers come from to accommodate both classes, especially since the Department wants all assessments completed in the morning? Money, money, money.

Second Point - authenticity. It is a wonderful thought that the province of NL is viewing technology as the way to the future and heading towards provincial assessment being on line. However, one must be careful of what they wish for. It is exciting to think that in the coming years, students will be able to use the technology they have already incorporated into their daily (outside school) lives, as a means to represent their learning. However, if this technology is not used throughout their school day, how would one be able to truly show their learning if the means is not available or offered until the day they get assessed. I am not saying students are not using word processors, internet etc in school, but merely suggesting that the necessary technology needed to allow provincial assessment to 'go online' would be more than what is being used in today's schools. The schools, district and government are going to have to commit to a huge investment in the technological advances for ALL schools to meet their goals and expectations.

So, if it was a perfect world with an infinite amount of resources, here is how I would like my Grade 6 class to look in the coming years when doing provincial assessments:

Each student in my class will have an Ipad, one in which they have been using all year. Each day, the specific part of the assessment will be emailed or an app will appear in which they get the text and the questions. These questions will be created with some type of technology such as Socrative, where responses for multiple choice will be clicked on and immediately received at the Department. The constructed response questions will appear where students would type in their responses and again, these answers would be sent directly to the department. From there, the department of Education would automatically get results from each student, school and district - work complete and compiled. The constructed response answers would have to be corrected individually, but instead of having a 35-45 person marking panel travel to one site, pay for accommodations, etc, each marking panelist would be given training via skype or some other form of technology, and the responses would then be emailed. Teachers would then give immediate feedback, track student scores and information would be compiled electronically. So, when you talk money, let's look at what they will be saving. Paper and printing costs will be eliminated completely, travel, meals, accommodations and all other expenses to have a marking panel will be eliminated. Yes, technology to run this would have to be available, but I would argue that this is already accessible, but just not made available. Oh the possibilities.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Check out my new learning...

My LiveBinder
Welcome to my new Blog. Although I am not new to blogger, I am using this technology in a new way. As a teacher in the 21st century, I am learning each and every day how to create learning environments in my classroom that supports my 21st century learners. I have decided to Blog my thoughts and keep track of my journey in this way. So, here we go...