Category Archives: technology

Where are you on the Technology Integration Matrix?

Evaluate yourself and find a plethora of resources to boost you along your way to becoming a fully integrated classroom.
Check out the grade level index to find lessons and ideas specifically for your grade.

Watch videos to see what technology integration looks like in different classrooms.

Arizona also has a Technology Integration Matrix that can be viewed here.

It’s Their World, We Only Live In It

Study Claims iPad Helps Rise in Literacy for Kindergarteners

A study conducted in Auburn, Maine suggests that the iPad may be able to improve literacy rates among kindergarten students, notes The Loop. The Auburn School Department recently assigned iPads to half of the district’s 16 kindergarten classes for a period of nine weeks. This translated into 129 students being taught with iPads, and 137 without; to gauge results, all of the students were tested before and after the trial.

In the end, the classes using iPads are said to have outperformed the ones without them in every literacy metric used. The ASD is, however, reported to have put special effort into the project. “The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there,” says the Department’s Multiple Pathways Leader, Mike Muir. “We are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.”

He claims that many educational institutions have not put in enough effort. “Too many innovative programs don’t prioritize their own research, and even if they collect observations and stories later, they don’t make the effort to do a randomized control trial, like we did,” he argues. “We wanted to make sure we could objectively examine the contribution of the iPads.”

Sue Dorris, the principal at East Auburn Community School, comments that the Department is seeing “high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms.” While the exact apps used are unmentioned, they are said to “teach and reinforce fundamental literacy concepts and skills,” and be “engaging” while providing kids with immediate feedback. They can be customized to suit each child, letting people learn at different rates.

This Explains It All

How Education Fails Technology (And What to Do About It)

Posted on January 23, 2012 by Victor Rivero

by Mark E. Weston

Education has failed technology. Yes, you read that correctly. Education has failed technology.

To understand why this is, not vice versa, requires understanding what the research literature makes clear: It is possible to get all children learning at levels beyond their respective aptitudes. The same literature, however, makes clear that such levels of learning rarely occur outside one-to-one tutoring settings. Let’s unpack these seemingly contradictory statements to shed light on why education has failed technology and what we can do about it.

Nearly three decades ago, Benjamin Bloom (author of Taxonomy of Educational Objectives) led a research effort to find methods of group instruction that were as effective as one-to-one tutoring through which students performed two standard deviations higher than their classroom educated peers. Bloom named the target of his search the 2-sigma problem. The research-based solution he found was simple, yet profound. If certain instructional practices are used and specific conditions met then one teacher, instructing a group of students in a classroom, could help the students attain 2-sigma. The practices he identified that make 2-sigma possible include reinforcement, cues and explanations, corrective feedback, and cooperative learning. The conditions include student classroom-participation, student time on task, and classroom morale.

Despite Bloom’s work and thousands of subsequent studies by other researchers (e.g., John Hattie, Robert Marzano) that demonstrate the positive effect that specific practices and conditions have on classroom learning, 2-sigma remains a rare attainment for teachers. This is largely because in the current educational paradigm individual teachers must shoulder a disproportionate share of the pedagogical load for making 2-sigma happen.

The teacher-load conundrum is exacerbated by the organizational and operational design of schools that make load-sharing nearly impossible for 2-sigma oriented teachers. In such schools, a teacher trying to take a classroom of 30 students to 2-sigma must make it happen alone. That is a lot for an already heavily-laden teacher to do; a load even heavier if that teacher lacks the emotional, intellectual, or pedagogical wherewithal for unilaterally taking on 2-sigma. That these circumstances exist at all is a failure of the field of education, not the teacher. This failure is quite ironic given the intense pressure placed on the education field to get teachers to produce ever-greater student learning and achievement, mostly in the form of improved test scores.

When viewed through a produce-greater-student learning lens, school-level support for all teachers, especially the 2-sigma seeking ones, may be the most pressing, yet least recognized educational challenge of our era. My colleague Alan Bain and I call that challenge 1:X.

Sadly, schools are not designed for 1:X.

What can be done? The answer to that question must involve technology, because without its powerful benefits teachers stay in the same predicament and the educational paradigm stays the same.

During the past two decades many technologies have entered our lives. They brought with them lofty expectations for transformation of classrooms and schools. Implicit in such expectations was a belief that teachers and students with access to and mastery of technology would transform education.

While some evidence suggests that the personal lives of teachers and students may have changed as a result of new technologies, little evidence shows that their education lives have changed much. Technology has exerted little overall effect on educational settings and the teaching and learning in them. Student achievement test scores remain flat, school completion rates have not declined, and instruction is still mostly teacher-led in classrooms with neat-rowed desks.

The minimal effect that technology has had on teaching and learning is a failure of the field of education not a failure of technology. Teachers who strive to take their classrooms of students to 2-sigma, but have no school-level supports know this well. Further, those teachers know that the technology available to them barely connects to the real work that they do every day and the extra work they must do to make 2-sigma happen. And they readily admit that in many instances the technology that they do have actually increases their load. Not surprisingly, data show teachers rarely using technology in their classroom instruction.

What most teachers do not realize is that the lack of support for their 2-sigma work and the ineffectual technology they are given are symptoms of a much more pervasive failure. Both are a result of the field of education failing to acknowledge its own research about what works. And each is compounded by the field failing to investigate and build consensus about how to take what works to scale. This failure of scale limits the field’s ability to provide direction to the technology industry. It in turn limits the industry’s ability to help schools attain 1:X and teachers attain 2-sigma.

Fortunately, these circumstances can be changed significantly. The way forward starts with you, me, and other like-minded educators embracing Bloom’s and other researchers’ findings about the practices and conditions that have the most powerful effects on teaching and learning. Then, girded with these findings, we push, pull, and prod to secure school-level commitments that those practices and conditions become the basis for organizational and operational designs and decisions. The designs and decisions will in turn support putting technologies in place that enable teachers, students, and other educational stakeholders to generate emergent feedback about the school-level support they receive and guide further refinement of their efforts.

The shifts that we must seek in educational thought, theory, and action require education to demand technologies that extend, connect, and develop the capacities of teachers, students, and other educational stakeholders to benefit from the research of Bloom and others.

Sound preposterous? Perhaps it is. Anything less, however, reinforces past failures.

Mark Weston Ph.D., a co-author of The Learning Edge: What Technology Can Do to Educate All Children resides in Dunwoody, Georgia. He can be reached at

Balancing Technology Integration

A long article on the implementation of technology for differentiation…


EdCampTO 2011

Looks like an innovative gathering took place in TO this fall…watch this reflection video to see what happened at EdCampTO 2011 and visit the wiki to join in on the conversation.

ExploreLearning GIZMOS on PD Day

We are excited to have the ExploreLearning GIZMOS and REFLEX trainer at our PD day on Friday, November 25th.  All Intermediate teachers will get their accounts set up in the AM and junior teachers will be able to view the resources in the PM.  Please check your government e-mail for the PDF file that Peter Wright has shared with our teachers specifically for this PD day.

Using Social Media in Schools

Ten Ways Schools Are Using Social Media Effectively

Readers discuss how they use social networking in their schools, list helpful resources
October 21st, 2011
By Meris Stansbury, Online Editor
ESchool News
Smart phones might be getting the green light in more schools around the country, but social networking is still getting the yellow in many schools: Parents are worried about bullying, teacher-student online relationships are questioned, and school security can be compromised all too easily, some critics fear.

To understand how social media, an almost integral part of our current culture, can benefit K-12 schools and districts, we asked eSchool News readers: “Name one way you use social networking in your school/district. Or, if you can’t/don’t currently use social networking, how would you like to?”

From professional development to providing real-world examples of mathematics, readers say it’s time to make the best of what can be a valuable resource for education. Here are some of the top ways they’re using social networking in their schools.

How have social media enhanced your own district, school, or classroom environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

10. Professional development

“In my professional role, I’ve become very quickly reliant on Twitter and Facebook to inform me of trends and Web 2.0 tools I should be considering using with students/sharing with staff. For the most part, social networking is blocked in our district, and it’s frustrating to not have access to ed-tech blogs I’d like to check with on school time.” —Marcia Dressel, K-5 librarian, Osceola, Wis.

9. Community outreach
“At my school we use it to promote various activities, gain feedback, or start a conversation for something, and sometimes [for] recognition of a particular group, teacher, etc. We never use full names for students or tag them in photos. … I think it is a great tool for connecting with our parents who are already participating in social media.” —Shannon Bosley
8. Course assignments

“We have some teachers using to leverage social networking features in the classroom. With Schoology, we can create a private social network focused around course curriculum. Teachers can post assignments and create online assessments as well. The site is free to use, is intuitive, and works well.” —Brian C. Dvorak, technology TSA, curriculum and professional learning, school support services, Fresno Unified School District

7. Parent communication

6. Distance learning

“We use social media in two distinct ways: (1) As a communication tool between the district and parents. We are a small district, but over one-third of our families ‘like’ our Facebook page. This gives us a great tool to communicate pretty quickly with a good portion of our parents. (2) For classroom use—a teacher who taught a distance-ed class for our school and three others set up a Facebook page to foster communication between the remote students and the students she taught physically.” —George Sorrells, technology facilitator, Winneconne Community School District

5. Assessments

“I use Twitter to do an end-of-the-unit review. I tweet various topics, people, and dates for AP U.S. History.” —Ann Wright, assistant principal, Archbishop O’Hara High School, Kansas City

4. Cross-cultural communication and language learning

“A few years ago, when I used to work in … a Greek private elementary school, we cooperated with several schools from foreign countries, such as Holland, England, France, and Sweden, and used social networking in order to communicate with each other and break down the distance and language barrier. We used English as a means of the aforementioned communication and completed several activities such as writing chain stories and letters offering personal information in English, and arranged to meet in person with our students once a year in a different host country. This activity materialized with the great contribution of the internet, as it was our only means of contact. It has been a great experience and assisted young students in [becoming] communicative and confident in using English, as well as the internet, in [performing] hands-on-activities.” —E. Mantzana

3. Collaborative learning

“Our district is using the paid version of this year with the middle school and high school students and teachers. This online social media [platform] includes a social wall, very similar to Facebook, along with an eMail account, a digital online locker, blogging, … [and] many other available items. One of the main reasons we went with this medium is because of the tight security it offers our students, by using filters for slang words, curse words, hate words, porn, and more. It is a medium to teach the students how to use social media in a professional manner to help prepare them for the marketplace upon employment. The students enjoy having the social aspect of it, and the teachers are appreciative of the means to acceptably and safely contact the students. Also, the teachers can upload assignments into a specific drop box that only their students can see, where the students complete the assignment and submit it back to the teacher, totally without the need for printing anything.

“The teachers are also very appreciative of having access to YouTube through Gaggle, with the filters that are in place—they can show just about any education video without being blocked. Because it is a cloud-based program, anyone can get to their account anywhere there is internet [access], so students can access their social wall at home, as well as their homework assignments. Files can be uploaded to their digital locker and shared and worked on collaboratively, so the need to be in the same room together at all times is eliminated. As teachers create “classes” within the program, it concurrently creates a class social wall for the students enrolled in that class, where they can talk with each other, post pics, message each other, and more. So far, it has been a very positive experience for all our users.” —LeAnn Waldie, instructional technology specialist, Godley Independent School District, Texas

2. Networking with colleagues

“Our college is located in Queensland, Australia, and we are fortunate to have a one-to-one [computing] program for our students from year 4 to year 12 and for all of our staff. The power of the Personal Learning Network that our staff tap into would be impossible without the global interactions and connections our teachers have made through social networking tools. We encourage our staff to be at least active ‘followers’ on Twitter–and have established valuable networks for our teaching teams. In a recent Modern Foreign Language Teachers’ workshop, one of our team sent out a tweet inviting practitioners to share their expertise. We were amazed at the response we received, and without as so much as a blink of the eye–we switched into Skype mode and there was a ‘new’ face in our workshop–sharing their ideas and success stories from the U.K. We have just finished our review of our Strategic Plan, and we have indicated as one of our goals for 2012–the expansion of Personal Learning Networks for all of our staff harnessing the power of social networking.” —Jan MacNamara

1. Integrating real-world applications into teaching

“Social networking is an excellent real-world example of discrete mathematics. Students can post a joke and then track the vertex edge graph that results. The graph can be used to make inferences about popularity, outgoing personalities, and levels of friendship. Tracking the joke as a tree may also allow you to make inferences about natural communities, cliques. This document is one way we have used social networks to make mathematics meaningful.” —Mary Hosten

The Future of Schools

An interesting series in Education Week explores the future of school reform. To read the entire week long series of articles, click here.

To read one of the week’s items, on using technology to go beyond schools, click here OR continue reading below…

Think ahead 10 or 15 years and ask yourself, “What proportion of the activity called ‘learning’ will be located in the institution called ‘school’?” The availability of relatively cheap technologies offering direct access to knowledge of all types creates opportunities for students to experience a dramatic increase in the choice of what they learn, with whom they choose to learn, and how they choose to learn. How will the institution called “school” survive in this environment, in what form will it survive, and what would schools look like if they chose not just to “survive” but to find a productive place in this new environment?

With rare exceptions, schools currently treat the digital revolution as if it never happened. Computers, more often than not, still sit in dedicated rooms, accessible only with adult supervision. Laptops, when they are used at all in classrooms, are frequently employed as electronic worksheets, digital typewriters, and presentation producers, rather than as extensions of students’ access to knowledge. When students do use technology to extend the reach of their learning, they typically do so by visiting predigested information sources and cutting and pasting information into predetermined, teacher-driven formats. “Social networking” among students is treated as a subversive activity engaged in by kids who are up to no good, and certainly not as a promising point of entry to anything that might be called “learning.”

When students step out the door of the institution called school today, they step into a learning environment that is organized in ways radically different from how it once was. It’s a world in which access to knowledge is relatively easy and seamless; in which one is free to follow a line of inquiry wherever it takes one, without the direction and control of someone called a teacher; and, in which, with a little practice, most people can quickly build a network of learners around just about any body of knowledge and interests, unconstrained by the limits of geography, institutions, and time zones. If you were a healthy, self-actualizing young person, in which of these environments would you choose to spend most of your time?

The basic problem with this scenario, however, is this: The more accessible learning becomes through unmediated relationships and broad-based social networks, the less clear it is why schools, and the people who work in them, should have such a large claim on the lives of children and young adults, and the more the noneducational functions of schooling come to the fore.

Consider three possible school scenarios for the next generation or so.

The first might be called “fighting for survival,” or “turtle gets a laptop.” Schools continue to be organized and run in much the same way as they are today. They “incorporate” various forms of learning technology into their existing organization and culture—more laptops, more interactive whiteboards, faster Internet connections, more digital lessons, and greater use of technology for improved efficiency of operations (grading, parent communication, coordination of meeting times, and so on). Teachers and schools continue to control access to content and learning. In this instance, schools will increasingly become custodial institutions, isolated from the lives of their students and the learning environment beyond their walls.

The second scenario might be called “controlled engagement,” or “frog gets a GPS device.” In this case, schools make some nonincremental leaps in the way they are organized and run. Schools set the learning destinations and map out the best pathways to those destinations. Technology becomes less about adult control and rationalizing business operations and more about opening portals for learning that are connected to the world outside of schools. So, for example, an elementary school in Huntsville, Ala., develops a two-way bilingual instructional cooperative to teach its students Mandarin with an elementary school in Shanghai, where teachers alternate lessons in English and Mandarin using video technology and shared materials. Or a rural high school in South Dakota is wired into a math-science collaborative sponsored by the National Science Foundation that connects its students to a physics course with students from several other high schools around the country, including Bronx Science in New York City and High Tech High in San Diego. Teachers are less gatekeepers of knowledge, and more knowledge brokers. School leaders become less managers of instruction, and more entrepreneurs connecting their organizations to the broader learning environment. Schools become less places where students go to learn from adults, and more places where adults and students get together to enter a broader learning environment. But schools still play an important role in determining what constitutes “knowledge” and “learning” for students.

The third scenario might be called “open access to learning,” or “caterpillar learns to fly.” Here schools cease to play the determining role in what constitutes knowledge and learning. If society (read: politicians) decides that there has to be such a role (which will inevitably be increasingly contested), that role is vested in an organization that sets broad standards for content (not unlike the common-core standards) and broad guidance about how students and parents can get access to learning consistent with those standards. Schools are on their own, competing with other types of service providers and learning modalities for the interest and loyalty of students and their parents. A family might combine services from two or three different organizations into a learning plan for its children—tutoring for “basic” academic content, active learning and access to the digital environment at an experiential learning center, and physical and kinesthetic development from a sports and recreation center. Over time, a student might choose to focus for a period on only one type of learning—six months in an intensive language program, or three months on a biology expedition. And students might also choose to work on some areas of learning exclusively through online vendors. Students would accumulate digital learning portfolios that would summarize their learning and proficiency around broad standards and would be available for higher education institutions and potential employers to access. The system would be financed by a per-student capitation grant, adjusted to family income, parents’ education, and student learning needs (which would include accommodations for disabilities and English-language learning). Schools, as we presently know them, would gradually cease to exist and be replaced by social networks organized around the learning goals of students and their families.

Which of these environments makes sense, given the future of learning in our society? Is “school” a brick-and-mortar building, or a way of organizing and providing access and support for learning? Who decides what and how to learn? What is society’s role in that decisionmaking? How do we ensure that the students who have the most to gain and lose in any fundamental transformation of “school”—the very students least well served by the current institution of school—are best supported to thrive and succeed?

Here are a few first steps to get a start in exploring these questions:

1. Talk with students, teachers, and other educators about what school could and should look like. Encourage them to be audaciously imaginative.
2. Visit (in person or virtually) schools that look really different.
3. Use new school construction and renovation conversations as opportunities to think differently about the design of learning environments.

It’s 2025. What does school look like? Or better yet, what does learning look like and sound like?

About the Series—

Tough Argument

Branding BYOD: On/Off
by Jason Ohler

There is a new acronym that is rapidly becoming embedded in the public narrative about technology and learning: BYOD. It stands for Bring Your Own Device. It opens up an area of inquiry that can be summarized in the following questions: How should communities, schools, and teachers address the issue of students wanting to bring their own digital devices to school? What new opportunities and challenges would a pro-BYOD—or an anti-BYOD policy—present? How do educators manage a BYOD world?

I recently had a conversation with someone whom I consider to be very bright and reasonable in matters of educational technology in which she argued that we should say no to BYOD. I pointed out that she didn’t have the option. BYOD won. Kids already bring their devices to school and often use them in ways we don’t like because we have yet to define ways to use them that we do like. We are left to figure out how to manage the situation, often in reactive mode, as we scramble our way up a new learning curve.

As a management mantra, I am going to suggest we brand our efforts with BYOD with the following: On/Off.

On/Off means that we say yes to BYOD, and then manage the situation by asking students to use them sometimes, and turn them off at other times.

It is up to educational systems to figure out how to use them when they are in the On position. And before we holler “technological determinism,” just remind yourself that many of you didn’t even have the Internet 15 years ago. Now you wouldn’t consider living without it. The same has become true for your cell phone; for adults as well as kids. The average adult wouldn’t dream of living in world that wasn’t BYOD at work.

Likewise, it is up to learning managers to determine when to ask students and teachers to turn their devices off; that is, to unplug so we can talk, think, and collaborate face to face. On/Off. It’s balanced. It’s healthy.

If we tell students to turn their devices off all the time, they will turn them on anyway, sometimes defiantly, and do at least some things we wish they would rather not. But if we tell them to turn them on sometimes, and engage them in using their devices to pursue learning exploration in ways that we deem beneficial, they are more likely to turn them off when asked to. If the rhythm is On/Off, rather than “always off,” we may find we are much more pleased with what happens when they are on.

… it is up to learning managers to determine when to ask students and teachers to turn their devices off; that is, to unplug so we can talk, think, and collaborate face to face.
But there is a much more important issue in a BYOD environment than simply engaging students to use the technology that feels so second nature to them in ways we deem beneficial. We need desperately to talk to them about their technology, something we can’t do if they don’t have it with them.

The fact that their technology is so invisible to them is their Achilles Heel. Because they don’t see it, they don’t think to question it.

They need us to help them put their technology in a social context, and to ask questions about how it connects and disconnects them, or, in McLuhan’s parlance, extends and reduces them. We need to talk about how their technology impacts themselves, their communities, and their environment.

In the Preamble of my book Digital Community, Digital Citizen, I ask the question: Our choice for our children: Two lives or one? That is, do we expect students to live a digitally deluged lifestyle outside of school, then unplug when the bell rings? Or is it time to help them integrate their digital and non-digital lives into one healthy life based on a single identity, and talk about their technology in critical terms so that they become the kind of digital citizens the world needs?

I say it is time to help them pursue one life. And to do so, I say we brand BYOD: On/Off.

Are there issues with this? Of course. There are always issues with technology. After all, technology connects and disconnects—always. Most notably, there are three issues that vex us:

1.How do we keep kids safe when they are online?
2.How do we keep them on-task?
3.How do we address those who can’t afford a device?
The first two issues are important, but I believe best addressed in an On/Off culture in which we actually discuss, as a matter of normal fare, the up and downsides of our BYOD lives. Make no mistake—we are looking at a new era of teaching and learning. Professional development will never be the same. An On/Off culture will require teachers to do many things they never had to do before, like manage students who are constantly plugged into the Internet. But certainly we can make no progress about this if we aren’t teaching students the skills needed to address these issues. And we can’t do this effectively if they don’t have their technology with them, and on, at least part of the time.

The last issue, affordability, is certainly real. But when touch pads and other key technologies become so inexpensive that they can vie with supplying each student with a number of textbooks, a development that seems all but certain, this issue can be addressed, whether through lending programs, or easy-buy programs or other approaches that will present themselves as vendors and schools get creative.

I don’t think cost will end up being the issue. Rather, once we have the technology because it is so inexpensive, we will need to return the issue that has always vexed in education: just what does an educated person look like?

On/Off. Balanced. Healthy. Possible.