MAET Blog Posts

Demo Slams

At the Week 1 Cross Share on Friday the Year 2 group demonstrated a “Demo Slam” to the group.

Throughout the program, we have been exposed to a number to new tools that I would like to share with faculty when I return to my school. I am considering doing a 2-minute screen-cast to “demo-slam” new tools. These would be easy to post in a faculty forum, share at a meeting, or email to colleagues looking for assistance. I think that the 2-minute time frame is an excellent way to provide the key information to allow other people to decide if the tool would be valuable for there use. Although they are only 2 minutes, I think that creating these will actually be more challenging than it first appears because you need to provide ideas for how they can be remixed or repurposed in a meaningful way.



Approaching ‘Wicked’ Problem Solving

Schools are living organizations that face many decisions in terms of daily, monthly, and yearly operation. There are always challenges and problems to be address, and though it may seem as there is a clear solution from our perspective, there are always multiple points of view to consider.

Through working on attacking the wicked problem in class, it has been an opportunity to really consider how these types of problems are addressed in our schools today. Recently, I have had the privilege of sitting on a steering committee for a strategic planning initiative which has also given me insight into these types of problems. I think the fact that it is very easy to talk about this issues at a surface level makes them seem easier to solve than they really are. Once you dig into the complexities of the problem, and the challenges that solutions to the problem introduce, it is not so easy to discuss anymore. Also, people are emotionally invested in programs that are attached to the wicked problem so there is a personal level that touches people when you examine change.

When we were discussing our problem, it was interesting how much educational jargon we were utilizing, but yet how we each had a different view of what those words meant. I think that it is really important that the problem be broken down clearly with the removal of as much jargon as possible – so as to not simplify the problem but provide clarity in understanding.

The truth is, change can be difficult and challenging, but change can also bring with it wonderful new opportunities and improvements that make things “better”. I think that problem solving is truly more of an mind-set that involves continual analysis, tweaking, and honesty in addressing concerns and not being afraid to admit when something isn’t working as well as it could/should.

Reflection on The Anti-Education Era By James Paul Gee

For the MAET Y1 program, we were asked to read The Anti-Education Era written by James Paul Gee. The book is divided into two sections – the first focusing on why humans are in general stupid in the 21st century, and the second provides his ideas on how we can improve the situation. Personally, I found the first section of the book very repetitive and overly detailed, however the idea that we are not utilizing the tools that we have available for us to access to our full potential was my main take away. I found the second section of the book much easier to relate to my professional practice and the other readings we have been examining in the MAET Year 1 course work.

Cover of Anti-Education Era By James Paul Gee

Like every society before us, there are a number of complex problems that we have to face. I would hazard to guess that although the problems people faced before us, may not seem as challenging to us compared to what we face, I am sure that they were equally or more challenging given the context and availability of resources. Today, many problems are considered wicked, or complex in that there is no clear best solution to the problem – such as how do we change education to prepare students of today for the unknown future. In Gee’s opinion the reason that we are unable to solve these problems effectively is due to the fact that we are “short-cicuiting the circuit of human reflective action” (p. 11) through our process of formal schooling that does not allow for students to develop real world experiences and apply their learning in meaningful ways.

In the book, Gee argues that in order to face these complex problems we need to utilize collective intelligence or a “Mind of minds”. Gee states that “we humans think and act better when we do so by getting the help of others and giving help to them” (p. 164). He promotes to use of affinity groups and affinity spaces to serve as a way to bring together individuals who share a common interest or passion, but have varying levels of expertise and a variety of backgrounds (Gee, 2013, p.174). Through the use of this collaboration, a wider variety of ideas, opinions, and thoughts can be brought into the wider forum, where they can be analyzed, synthesized, improved, and re-imagined into a better solution than could be thought of through only one perspective or outlook.

The description of affinity spaces found on pg 175-177, reminded me very much of the maker movement and maker spaces. Thinking about how we can broaden this concept so that as a society we can be collectively more intelligent, I automatically think about politics and the role that politicians play in solving problems that they often are not really passionate, knowledgeable, or interested in. How could something like the maker movement or maker spaces be utilized in government to utilize the interests of passionate and motivated citizens? How can we utilize affinity spaces and groups in schools to promote change from the bottom up and develop policies that are meaningful for the people who are working on implementing them on a daily basis?

When I look at the ‘wicked problem’ of meaningful technology integration, I think affinity spaces could be a valuable tool in creating a school culture that is exploring what technology integration looks like in a meaningful way. Take for instance that every Tuesday after school from 3:30-5:00 any teacher who was interested was welcome to attend the “technology integration space” in someones classroom. Here they could share tools they have been using in their classroom, look at new tools and brainstorm how they could be remixed into the classroom, create how-to video tutorials explaining what they are doing. Then they could utilize an online platform to store and share their discussions and allow other teachers to become a part of the conversations. Over time, their interest may grow and they may become “experts” at a specific form of technology integration. Also new members may join, after seeing the organic nature of the development and been interested in exploring technology in a non-threatening way. The important point is that all members of the group are valued equally and the individual development is based on the needs and interests of each person,  not the same goal for each member.

I think that affinity spaces and the maker movement provide an interesting approach toward developing solutions for problems that challenge us both inside and outside of schools today. The importance of being able to recognize ourselves as learners and continue to challenge our own understanding and thinking is a critical component of developing meaningful solutions for the future.


Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Reflections on #GREAT13

Each year the 2nd year cohort at the MAET Overseas program hosts an Educational Technology conference that they organize and pull off in 2 short weeks! This year it was called GREAT13 – Explore Technology: Set Sail toward New Horizons.

The conference opened with a guest lecture by Dr. Tony Hall, National University of Ireland, Galway, School of Education. His talk was about the power of narrative and storytelling, which I felt was very appropriate considering the importance of storytelling in Irish culture. Digital storytelling, is something that I have been interested in for a few years now, but I haven’t really explored it deeply in the classroom yet. Dr. Hall made some strong arguments based on the work of Jerome Bruner, for the importance of narrative in the context of education as stories have the power to unite groups of people across cultures, and storytelling is an aspect of every culture. I am interested in doing further research into how I can incorporate more storytelling into my classroom, and looking for legends and tales that would make interesting connections to the units of inquiry that we study.

The first session I attended was about the use of e-portfolios. E-portfolios are digital versions of the more traditional portfolio that is kept of student work. There are a variety of types of portfolios but in general they are used to document students work over time. The presenters made a comment about portfolios being a form of storytelling – and although it makes complete sense to me, it is something that I had never really considered. When I heard this comment, I think that because I had storytelling already on the brain from Dr. Hall’s talk, it was like a switch flipped in my brain in the way that I see portfolios as a story, instead of individual artifacts. The power of a portfolio is not in looking at one artifact or chapter, but at looking at the changes that occur as you go through the artifact or chapters. The presenters also highlighted the work of Dr. Helen Barrett, the electronic portfolio guru and her process for developing portfolios which I found very helpful. The process they outlined was 1. Selection 2. Collection 3. Reflection 4. Direction 5.Connection. For me, one of the things that I have struggle with is keeping up with portfolios – they are massive undertakings and I have yet to develop a system that is effective for me to use. As I look forward, I feel that using e-portfolios may make it easier to develop a process that is manageable for me, as the students may be able to do more of it independently through a blogging platform such as

The second session I attended was Presentations that WOW. The purpose of this session was to review effective presentations skills and examine how to build effective visual aids to support the teaching and learning process. The importance of keeping the visual presentation area uncluttered, visually minimalistic, and concept based was the focus. It is very easy using all of the presentation software that it is available to get carried away when making visual presentation aids, but it is important to remember to keep things sleek and simple so that the audience can focus on what you are saying as well. In this session we utilized, which is an app for iPad that has many interesting features that I would like to examine further for assessment purposes- especially if I was to have 1-to-1 iPads.

During the break we gathered in the main foyer for a “Tech Tools Tour“. During the tour there were multiple stations where you could utilize a QR code to watch a YouTube clip on a specific tech tool. The YouTube tours are great and are worth watching but it was a little challenging to do it in the crowded environment of the foyer.

The third session I attended was Adobe Photoshop Basics. To be honest, I have always been intimidated by Photoshop as I have seen experts use it and it looks very confusing when you have never used it before. I went into the workshop as open-minded as possible and I was surprise and what I was able to accomplish in the short session. Like any tech tool, having an expert take the time to show you is so much easier than learning it yourself! I now feel like I am not as intimidated by it that I would be able to try something on my own without ruining the project! It is always good to be reminded of how challenging it is to learn something new, and remember what our students feel like in the classroom!

The final portion of the day was a guest lecture by Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her lecture focused on the growing power of video as a medium for communication; however, she did begin by reinforcing the importance of pedagogy before technology when using technology in teaching and learning. One point that she made was that many young people today use YouTube as their search engine of choice as they prefer to find videos to learn the content or answer the questions they are interested in. I had heard this concept before, but each time it seems to resonate with me a little more, as I watch the students in my class at indoor recess and the stuff they come across on YouTube amazes me. Then she moved into looking at FlipClassroom as well as video for documentation and reflection purposes. It is clear that there are many applicable uses of video in the classroom, and it is a technology that I feel we will see the increased use of as it has many positive qualities for educators.

There is always a certain energy to conferences – especially EdTech conferences where teachers are able to teach other teachers and share and build ideas together.


Guest Lecture: Punya Mishra – Explore|Create|Share

On Monday July 8 the MAET – Galway Year 1 Cohort had a guest lecture from Dr. Punya Mishra who is a Professor at the Michigan State College of Education and the  Co-director of the MAET program. He is one of the founders of the TPACK framework along with

Before beginning our talk, Punya had each member of the class write on the board their name, what they teach, and a hobbie or interest outside of school. If you weren’t there I would suggest writing these things down as they will be important later on.

The focus of the lecture was on Creativity and Teaching. One really interesting visual tool that he utilized were ambigrams. An ambigram is read the same way forwards, and when you turn it 180 degrees. This is an ambigram for the word creativity, created by Punya Mishra. Creativity is currently a “buzz word” in the education and business worlds and it has been identified as skill necessary for success in the 21st century, but can you really define creativity? What is creativITy? We have all heard of creativity, and we recognize it when we see it, but actually defining it is a challenge.

Punya Mishra proposed a “N.E.W.” way of defining creativity.

N – Novel
E – Effective/Useful
W – Whole

For a good overview of this concept, watch this video from Punya “Creativity, the new NEW (Novel, Effective, Whole)”.

Next, he discussed the importance of disciplinary knowledge as they teach us to see the world through different lenses. A mathematicians view of a problem, would be different than a biologists, would be different than a historians. Although disciplinary knowledge is important, it is also important to be able to see outside of that discipline as well.

Then we discussed some research being conducted by Dr. Danah Henriksen around creativity in teaching. She has conducted some interesting research around these themes and I am looking forward to seeing some of her current work be published as it is in the realm of trans-disciplinary frameworks, which is what I use in my teaching practice, and technology rich-contexts, which I am obviously interested in.

Stemming from the discussion of Dr. Henriksen’s work we discussed “How do you use your creative interests in the classroom to enrich your teaching?” (This is where the hobbie or interest outside of schools comes in). I had selected traveling as this is something that I seem to do every school break, so then I took some time to brainstorm how I have and could use my interest in travel to enrich my classroom environment.

Some of the things that I listed were – photos that have connections to curriculum units – i.e. pictures of landmarks from previous civilizations
– purchasing children’s books from around the world with stories from other cultures
– picking up rock samples for our geology unit from other locations around the world

It was interesting to think about how my interest in traveling does translate into a lot of curricular areas that we discuss in my class. I also think that sharing some of my stories from traveling helps to humanize me and make connections with my students.

Obviously, if you had other interests your list could be significantly different from mine – but I think the important thing is that you are utilizing your passion to get the kids passionate about learning. I think that if students have a role model who is passionate about something, they are more likely to find something to be passionate about because they will see the meaning that it can bring you.

After this discussion, the lecture moved to how are we going to prepare students for the NEW (creative/21st century) world. A lot of the reading I have done recently is around this topic, and how we include 21st century skills in the classroom – and there is a lot of discussion but it is not an easy thing to define. Punya discussed about the need to “learn to see” and “to wonder why”, we have to be actively observing the world around us and looking for opportunities to see learning so that we can use those opportunities to enrich the learning of our students.

At the end of our session he asked us to create some type of verse to summarize the main ideas from the guest lecture. This was my creation.

See the ordinary as learning opportunities
Apply disciplinary knowledge
Think flexibly to conceptualize learning and
Experience the world around you


Mishra, P. (2013, July). MAET Year 1 Guest Lecture. Lecture conducted from National University of Ireland, Galway.