The Most Exciting News I’ve Heard All Year!

This is the most exciting news I’ve heard all year. And, yes, I do get out much.

As a huge fan of everything TED, I was delighted to hear about Ted-Ed Clubs!

Now to get to work together with my professional besties on this…


TED-Ed Clubs are for students ages 8 to 18, and can contain up to 50 members. An educator — who gets materials and a hands-on orientation from the TED-Ed staff — leads the club through a series of 13 meetings, designed to get students to permanently wear their thinking caps. For the first three meetings, students watch TED Talks, discuss them and begin to think: what idea most captures my imagination? From there, students learn how to frame their idea and present it in a TED-style talk. In meeting 11, students give their talks in front of the club and, in the next meeting, work on editing their video. As a final step, these talks are uploaded to the TED-Ed YouTube channel — some may even be featured on the TED-Ed website.

Before today’s launch of TED-Ed Clubs, two pilot sessions of the program were held with 125 clubs in total. More than a thousand students participated in over 20 countries, including the United States, China, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Brazil and Australia. The experience was pivotal for many students. One wrote, “I am not an excellent speaker. I hadn’t participated in much for the first 15 years of my life. … This [was], by far, one of the biggest opportunities I’ve ever gotten to express myself to an audience. My mind is always buzzing with ideas. Before now, I needed to be pushed into the spotlight.”

Educators were thrilled to see students get so into the program. Marc Siegel, a chemistry teacher in New Jersey, shared on his blog, “The most fascinating aspect of the club was the type of student who came to the meetings. Almost all of the students are those that you might classify as ‘wallflowers,’ excellent students who would prefer to sit quietly in class and complete their work rather than answer questions or have attention drawn to them. However, pull all of these students out of the classroom, give then a non-school related topic to discuss that actually interests them, and suddenly they won’t be quiet. Our meetings ran over time every time because the discussions were so interesting.”

TED-Ed Clubs are designed to create a generation of creative problem-solvers around the globe. Are you interested in bringing TED-Ed Clubs to your school? Find out how to start one »


3 Quick Tech Wins You Can Easily Pull Off

Pressed for time? Technology-challenged? During my 10 minute commute home from work today, I thought of three easy ways you can use tech with very little training or support. If you spent 30 minutes or so tinkering with each, you’d be ready to implement these ideas right away.

1. STUDENTS create engaging movie trailers using iMovie App

Please tell me the iMovie app is one of your favourite classroom iPads/iPhone apps! Even a complete tech newb will be able to navigate its clean and simple interface to put together Oscar-winning flicks, and every great flick needs its own trailer. Using the trailer feature, students will be able to make professional looking trailers using helpful tools and themed storyboard templates. Oh, don’t start jumping to conclusions when you read “templates”; there’s still plenty of room for student creativity. For iOS purchases or activations September 1st, 2013 and on, the iMovie app is free. If you aren’t as lucky, just shell out the measly $4.99 for your copy. You’ll be glad you did.

Below is helpful tutorial I found. Keep in mind that updates may mildly change the appearance of the app, but I’m confident you’ll get what you need to get going on this one. Don’t forget the importance of sharing these student made videos, doing so is also quite easy.

2. STUDENTS create clever and catchy comic strips using Comic Life 2 comiclife2

Comic Life or Comic Life 2 software, available in my division on most student machines and as an inexpensive iPad app, allows both teachers and students to easily get the hang of making their comic strips, scrapbooks, and stories. Users of almost any age or skill level will quickly master the drag and drop techniques for photos, images, text, captions, titles, etc. The learning curve should not get in the way at all allowing teachers and students to get after learning outcomes instead of fighting the technology.

A quick google image search on Comic Life will provide you with all the examples you’ll need to spark your creativity and help you to generate ideas to use this tool in your classroom.

3. Stop talking about places and start going to places (virtually) using Google Maps and Google Earth.

Both of these products can be had for free. Google Maps is available in my school school division through Google Apps for Education (known here as iGO). Google Earth (desktop version) is already imaged into both the student and teacher machines in my division as well, but can also be downloaded for free here. There are also mobile and in-browser plug isf_goldengate1ns available for free. So, really, there’s no excuse for not “flying’ to countries, historic sites, buildings, the moon, mars, etc. Sites like these are at least mentioned in everyday in every classroom, so put that fancy data projector to good use and take students on the occasional budget-friendly field trip. My guess is that at least one student in your class will be able to help you navigate Google Earth and Maps.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can help STUDENTS/CREATE their own content to/within maps. Check out this great resource for more information, tutorials, and ideas.

So there you have it. This post took me just a few minutes to write and I bet that these are three very basic tech ideas you could implement right away with very little training or support.

TTCT Member Spotlight – Kelsey

I am privileged to work with some of the most talented educators in the world. I’d like to introduce you to Kelsey, an incredibly creative teacher who joined the Thom Technology Catalyst Team (TTCT) last year and hasn’t looked back since. Although Kelsey no longer teaches full time at Thom, her presence is certainly still felt. She is also keeps connected with the TTCT through Twitter.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Kelsey last month to talk about her experience as a member of the TTCT. The following is just a short excerpt of that conversation. What I find interested about what Kelsey shares is her progression regarding the way she uses technology in her classroom. She describes joining the TTCT as beginner, creating a blog to interact with her students’ parents, and finally using that blog for student-centered inter-activities. In the interest of time, you won’t hear her talking about how she masterfully used Twitter in her English class to engage her students in conversations around literature, but she did that too. Clearly, she has demonstrated tremendous growth and development in the area of Ed tech. Her story is an nice example of why we need to encourage risk taking and experimentation with emerging technologies and trust that teachers will gradually, or in Kelsey’s case quickly, move towards pedagogically significant applications of technology.

With any luck, Kelsey will be making an appearance at the IT Summit in Saskatoon on Monday, May 6th when the TTCT will present their work. Until then, you can check her out in this video or follow her @KelseyMcTeach

Kelsey- Professional sculptor of minds and finder of students’ stories.

RPSTA Teachers’ Convention 2013

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Stuck in Customs

Thanks again for joining me at my breakout session. As promised, here are the links.


Tim Brown Ted Talk

Stuart Brown Ted Talk

Caine’s Arcade

National Institute for Play

Project H Design



Maker Faire

Imagination Foundation


Makey Makey

Technology Integration Matrix

Pearson Explorations

Parent Involvement

Harvard Family Research Project-Are Parents Relevant…

Club 2012

3 For Me

38 Ways to Get Involved in Your Child’s Classroom

Kathy Cassidy’s Blog


Using Electronic Porfolios in the K-12 Classroom


Great Tips and Tools for Creating Digital Portfolios

Show and Tell (Digital Storytelling)

Alec Couros’ Open Thinking Wiki

Bullies Called Him Porkchop

The Centre for Digital Storytelling

No Youtube? No Worries!

Put up your hand if you time to blog these days. Not so fast, Van Dusen!

I suppose, however, if I could hit two or more birds with one stone I could make time to submit a blog entry here and there. This is my attempt to do just that. Can I help to address what is quickly becoming a major barrier and dissatisfier for teachers looking to integrate technology in their classroom while actually contributing an #ETMOOC reflection at the same time? Let’s just see.

Pretend for a second that your access to Youtube has been impeded by connectivity issues, not by filtering. You once did a masterful job of curating engaging and relevant videos to use during instructional time, and your learners looked forward to joining you in class just to see what content you have for them today. Only now your playlists won’t play and the word ‘buffering’ is the bane of your existence. You have very little control over the conditions that led  to this issue, but until things are made better, you know you’ll have to come up with some creative strategies to address this predicament. Where do you start?

  • Find a neat tool or add-on to allow you to download Youtube content ahead of time and have it ready to play offline or from another source. Why not? Others swear by this technique and it’s so darn easy. If you are digitally fluent or if you are a model digital citizen, you’d take the time to determine whether stripping content from Youtube for playback elsewhere is in fact OK with Youtube. You check Youtube’s terms of service and sure enough you find several terms that lead you to believe that this is not a good idea. Go ahead and check it out for yourself, but I’ll save you some reading and let you know that you should shy away from downloading on Youtube. Check this little video out below if you prefer to have someone explain the terms to you. I first starting asking around the #ETMOOC when somebody in one of the webinars brought up the topic of copyright and fair use. They suggested I take a look at this article.
  • If it is just Youtube giving you trouble because that service has been intentionally ‘chocked’ or ‘rationed’ on your network, try your luck on one of the many other video hosting and sharing sites. You know that some of the other services were specifically designed for use in eduction and some of the content is exclusively hosted on these sites while not available on youtube. You’ll tell all your friends about this blog posting by Richard Byrne ” on Free Technology for Teachers.While you’re there, be sure to check out the entire blog and subscribe to posts. Richard has created a one-stop shop for all your Ed Tech needs. Dean Shareski, in his #ETMOOC session “Sharing as Accountability” specifically references Richard’s blog as an excellent example of person committed to sharing resources and ideas. Perhaps you need more, so you check out 80 Educational Alternatives to Youtube.
  • Start producing content instead of consuming content. Perhaps you are as disturbed as I am that lack of access to Youtube has brought our ability to integrate technology to its knees. What’s up with that? Students need to produce rich media just as much, if not more than they consume. There are loads of interesting and engaging ways to accomplish this and you’d do well to review the #ETMOOC archives on Digital-Storytelling and Blogging. I guarantee that if you spend just an hour listening to Darren Kuropatwa, Jim Groom & Friends, or Alan Levine, you’ll have enough ideas to last you a long time!

This didn’t exactly turn out to be the type of deep reflection I owe my fellow #ETMOOCers, but you’ll just have to trust me that lack of access to Youtube has been a hot topic around these parts.


Making Good Technology Choices is All About Design.

You should know and understand that this is not intended to be a self-righteous rant. The truth is that I am VERY guilty of failing to think critically about the choices I make regarding technology. I need help. We all do.

Here’s what is bugging me:

If we are truly going to transform teaching and learning using technology, we had better pause and do some reflecting. You know, sit the next one out and think critically about the choices and purchases we make. How many times are we going to be drawn in by shiny new tools and devices, which in the end, are really nothing more than expensive distractions and tools used to find another way to deliver the same old experience?

The iPad is a nice example as it is a hot commodity right now in K-12 and I see a rapidly increasing supply in my travels to various schools. Don’t get me wrong, I love iPads. The problem, however, is how they are (or aren’t) being used. It would appear that we are relentlessly devoted to finding the killer app that will somehow magically impact student achievement and lead to untold levels of learner engagement. I can save you a great deal of time by telling you now that such an app does not exist and in the time that you’ve spent looking for it, you’re probably missing the opportunity to leverage this particular technology in a very meaningful way. Furthermore, many of the resources and activities being accessed through the iPad can be provided in less complicated and less expensive ways. If you can accomplish the same with some sticky notes, a marker, and notebook, maybe you should just do that.

So how do we start to make better choices regarding the types of technology we use and how we use them? They key, I believe, is in the design of learning and measuring affordances. We need to think more about what we know about teaching and learning in general before ever considering the need to introduce technology. We need to pause, back up, and talk learning theory, pedagogy and instructional design. When we have a few examples of technology being used in a pedagogically-significant way, we need to use those designs as models from which we frame some of our next ideas.

Here’s what I think such a model should look like:

What’s this all about?

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) illustrates how teachers can use technology to enhance learning for K-12 students. The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal directed (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003). The TIM associates five levels of technology integration (i.e., entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation) with each of the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments. Together, the five levels of technology integration and the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments create a matrix of 25 cells.

Notice how the matrix shows lesson plans and short videos for each cell. I think we need something like this right here in Saskatchewan, aligned with provincial outcomes and the soon to be introduced digital fluency competencies. This will help move us toward the transformational uses of technology we all aspire to achieve while paying homage and respect to the other levels of technology integration which also have their place in today’s learning spaces.

Who’s in?

#ETMOOC Introduction

Greetings fellow #ETMOOCers! 8348141673_f53033bae9_m

As you can already tell from my blog, I work as an instructional consultant for Regina Public Schools. Prior to being appointed consultant, I taught for a total of ten years, five at Kindergarten and then five at the grade eight level.

I’m still trying to figure out a whole bunch of things about teaching and learning and how we can dramatically transform both. I guess that is part of the reason I am looking forward to sharing, connecting, and learning with and from this network of amazing people. I have not taken a “course” since completing my Master of Ed Tech at UBC, so I’m looking forward to engaging in some professional learning and intellectual discourse. I’m also excited that several of my co-workers are also enrolled in #ETMOOC and hopefully we can continue to work and learn together far after #ETMOOC ends, if indeed it ever will truly END..dun, dun, dun.

Interesting fact: During my undergrad studies at the University of Regina, I took the first course Alec Couros ever taught in the Faculty of Ed. Back then we learned about Hyperstudio, Netscape Navigator, and a chat service called mIRC (I think). Things have changed just a bit since then.




Technology Catalyst Teams

Thom Infographic

Following my last post, I have had several requests by email for more information on the work and approach of the Thom Technology Team. At the time, I didn’t have many free evenings to publish a post that would do justice to the outstanding work being done by the team over the past two years. Unfortunately, I doubt I will have that kind of time now that the new year is here and I’m booked up for what seems like the rest of my career. I would, however, be remiss if I did not make some type of attempt to respond to folks who are interested in perhaps starting their own technology catalyst teams and starting a Bring Your Own Device initiative.

I therefore leave you with the link to the wikispace page created by the team and the infographic above for now along with a promise that I will return to properly blog about what the TTCT does and to give them the credit they deserve.

Tech Superstar Spotlight- Kate Evenson

Kate Evenson, a member of the Thom Technology Catalyst Team, is another one of those teachers who is too modest to boast about the innovative and engaging learning experiences she designs for students. Here is a teacher who collaborates very closely with her colleagues to dream up creative tech-infused inquiry-based learning designs for her students in grades 9 and 10. In the past I’ve had the chance to see her in action guiding her students through mock trials, debates, and a sweet project where she had students create visual art in order to appeal to specific neighborhoods in Regina.  You’ll be interested in reading about her “Love, a fair” project she created to transform the way in which her learners master curricular outcomes through the reading of Shakespeare. And, how can I not mention one of her latest projects that can be seen HERE!

Recently, Kate has been concentrating on Digital Citizenship. She has put together a nifty little project that you can access HERE. Kate identified her focus as being:

– the basics (using word, attaching emails, saving properly on the school computers)
– the new basics (prezi, glogster, animoto, xtranormal, etc. As presented by a fabulous consultant.)motivation
– how technology is affecting us (emotionally, physically)
– cyber bullying (and bullying in general)
– what the internet really is
– how to evaluate websites and use the internet to research well
– what are uses and what are abuses of technology

The study culminated in a ceremony where students were presented with a “producing technology license”.

Follow Kate’s blog, The English Sight! I know she doesn’t mind sharing her resources and ideas.

technology license

Technology as a Catalyst for Pedagogical Change

I was recently involved in a conversation regarding the amount of, and the quality of technology integration observable in Pre-K-12 education. Most of the folks included in this dialogue, including me, expressed a certain degree of dissatisfaction about the issue. We felt that given the large amounts of funds spent on hardware, software, and infrastructure, one would think there would more going on in schools than what we see now.  Computer

Now before you start jumping to conclusions or feeling attacked, please understand I am not pointing a finger in blame. I am quite aware there are other essential conditions, over and beyond access, that need to be met before we can realistically make such expectations. Even when these conditions are met, technology integration is often impeded by many barriers and obstacles. From personal experience I know that lack of time, lack of support, and, well, technology just not cooperating can easily get in the way of even the best plans and intentions. I have, however, done some thinking around one of the comments made regarding the relationship between pedagogy and technology integration. Basically the assertion was that the most significant barrier to technology integration was a teacher’s personal pedagogy not being centered on the learner or underpinned by constructivism. I fully agree with this,  but it’s not like my personal opinion matters much when we have loads of research at our disposal supporting the notion that technology integration is less likely to occur in teacher-centered, behaviorist learning environments.

So, here’s the thing. I strongly believe that a teacher’s pedagogical beliefs can dramatically change over time, and that technology itself can be a catalyst for such change. Really! It’s true! I’ve seen it with my own eyes! A teacher begins to experiment with blogs or wikis, mostly out of curiosity, and slowly starts to re-think the way in which students learn and how to best design learning experiences to meet their needs. The ways in which technology is designed with a disposition toward social learning, communication, collaboration, and creative expression seems to lead folks in a new direction. The participatory nature of the web also encourages us to challenge our current practices.

I suppose my thinking mirrors the old chicken or the egg dilemma, and likely isn’t anything new. I just think it is important to recognize technology as a potential catalyst for pedagogical change and to not get sucked into assuming technology integration will not flourish in learning environments where the prevailing pedagogy is not driven by constructivist theories of learning.

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