Mistakes Educators Make With Technology

This morning while going through my Feedly, I came across a article titled 3 Mistakes Parents Make with Technology. After reading through the article that outlined common mistakes including not setting limits, not engaging in family technology activities, and parents also being tech addicts, I was struck with thinking about what are the mistakes that educators make with technology. In thinking about mistakes that I have made with technology and observations I have observed, I have come up with this short list of mistakes that I think are important to address.

The first mistake that I think educators make is focusing on the technology. Often educators start with the technology or add the technology on top of what they are already doing, instead of focusing on how technology can be used to amplify strong pedagogical principles. I utilize TPACK as a framework when I am conceptualizing how technology can support my instruction. Through this process, I help to ground my use of technology with the pedagogical and content knowledge that is necessary to build a strong instructional program. I think that it is important that educators are constantly reflection on the relationship between technology-pedagogy-content to ensure that technology is enhancing the learning process.

The second mistake that I feel educators make is not taking advantage of the expert in the room – the students. Even though I feel comfortable using technology and have been using it since I was in elementary school, the kids in my sixth grade class constantly amaze me with their knowledge – I cannot even imagine what the difference would be in a high school class. With this being said, I think that too often, educators don’t use the strengths of their students. Perhaps, you have one student who is very knowledgeable and keen with technology – they can become your resident tech support and help other students who run into trouble. You can ask your students to think of places where tools they are using can be incorporated in an academic setting. Give students a leadership opportunity by establishing a student tech team to help build teachers technological knowledge.

The third mistake I think educators are guilty of is not having the right mindset when things don’t go as planned. Technology will fail. The power will go out. The internet will go down. Your projector won’t work. There will be a program update and your instructions won’t work. Someone will forget their password. All of these things WILL HAPPEN, I guarantee it. When these things happen, you can either approach the situation looking to place the blame on someone else, or you can make the best of it and have a back up plan. Use it as an opportunity to teach kids problem solving skills – these things happen in real life. As the lead learner, these situations provide a wonderful opportunity for you to model a mindset that students can learn from.

I’m sure that there are other common mistake that educators make regarding technology but I feel that these three underpin some of the stress teachers feel when they consider where to begin with the effective use of technology.


Why can GAFE be so powerful?

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Google (GAFE) Summit in Kitchener. I think I might have been one of the only people from a non-GAFE school/board but I was still able to learn many things that I can apply to my teaching practice (another blog post!). For me, I try to make technology integration not about the technology but a focus on maintaining strong pedagogy and utilizing the tools to allow us to reach beyond what is possible without its use. Over the weekend listening to many of the other educators talk, I couldn’t help but thinking about why GAFE was such a powerful tool when mass adoption in an organization takes place. I also developed a greater understanding of how GAFE can enhance teachers ability to hit the sweet spot in the TPACK framework .

Here are a couple of the strengths I identified:

(1) Everyone speaking the same language – Having a common ‘toolkit’ allows all teachers to speak the same language in terms of their technological knowledge (TK). There are still ways to customize the toolkit through the use of add-ons and 3rd party tools; however, the core set of tools provides amazing flexibility and adaptability across K-12 (+higher ed) and subject area. As everyone is familiar with the same tools, teachers can ‘collaborate’ and assist each other, sharing their knowledge and ideas, strengthening the technological knowledge. With greater technological knowledge, teachers are better able to see where technology can be selected to work together with their pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge.

(2) Workflow – The GAFE suite makes distributing and collecting student work a streamlined process, but it also allows teachers to observe students ‘during’ the learning and can help shift the focus from being solely on the product of the learning but also to the process of the learning. With the ability to monitor and support students throughout the learning process, the teachers role can shift to being a facilitator and guider of the learning process, rather than the keeper of knowledge (pedagogical knowledge). This is not to suggest that it is not possible to do this without the use of GAFE because of course it is; however, it could require a greater level of technological knowledge to ‘hack’ other tools to preform similar functions and be more time consuming to monitor.

(3) Enhanced Assessment Capabilities – With the shift to monitoring the process of learning, the GAFE suite has a number of built in tools that allow for teachers to provide timely and effective feedback throughout the learning process. The ability to provide ‘comments’ and have students respond to the comments while they are working, allows for personalized feedback without the student having to ‘hand-in’ their work, the teacher sitting down to look over all of the tasks, and then waiting until the next time they see the student to return the work. Another function that is beneficial to the assessment process is the ‘revision history’. This is particularly useful if you are looking at shared-documents where students are working in groups and you can see each members contributions, or if you are looking at how students are able to apply feedback and make changes to their work. In terms of TPACK, having more formative assessment information during the process of learning allows the teacher to identify concepts that students are having difficulty with and better match their ‘content’ with the students needs.

(4) Takes the focus away from the technology – This kind of seems silly but I actually think that when students and teachers are using a common toolkit and develop fluency with the tools the focus of the learning doesn’t need to be the technology. I personally thinking, that often the sweet spot in TPACK is reached when the focus is not on the technology but on the harmonious blending of the technology, the content, and the pedagogy. Currently, I find that I have to spend a lot of time teaching the tools that I have selected for my students to use because they have often not used them in previous grades. Although students today are fast learners, and often figure out things that I didn’t even know were possible, it still takes time and shifts the focus away from our other learning. With GAFE, the toolkit can become a ubiquitous part of their learning environment instead of an add-on.

What other reasons have you found that make GAFE a powerful toolkit in your organization?
What drawbacks have you found to GAFE?

#GREAT14 Conference

The Year 2 Cohort of the MAET Overseas program, organizes and presents a conference related to educational technology. All of the arrangements for the conference are made during a 2 week period before the conference is hosted.

Each member of the Year 2 cohort is a member of a presentation group responsible for hosting two sessions, as well as contributing to the overall organization of the conference.

Our first session was done in the Ignite format and each member of the group prepared an Ignite talk. I selected to speak on my experiences with integrating coding in the classroom. If you are not familiar with the Ignite format, the presenter uses 20 slides with each slide showing for 15 seconds on auto-advance.

For more resources related to the IGNITE session and my co-presenters presentations please visit:

Our second session was Engaging Teachers in Professional Learning: Creating Sustainable Change. This session was presented by Doug Frankish, Natasha Smith, Ashley Hufnagel, and myself.

The following is a recording of the beginning of the session and portions of the breakout groups.

For more resources related to the Professional Learning session please visit:


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iPads: First six weeks

I have had iPads in my classroom now for approximately 6 weeks. With 8 school iPads, 3 iMacs, 1 laptop, and my personal iPad we can almost reach 1-to-1 if we need to.

Although my students had mostly used iPads previously, they really didn’t know how to “use” iPads in the context of learning.  They knew the basic functions (how to turn on and off, navigate to a specified app, change settings in the system preference), but having them think of them as a learning device instead of an entertainment device was the first shift in thinking that I broached. Developing an acceptable use policy, as a class was a great first step in getting them to view them as a tool for learning. I also have been very careful in selecting the ways in which students utilize the apps to so they are not used as an extra activity students can do when they have finished there work. I think that the time spent in this page was critical to future success with iPad/1-to-1/BYOD type programs. It is important to not make any assumptions in students knowledge when it comes to technology – they may be very good with technology, but they have often not learned how to use it for learning.

Prior to starting the iPad project, I did a fair bit of research to examine how other schools and teachers were implementing iPads in the classroom. There was a huge spectrum of usage – from drill and kill style digital worksheets to individualize personal learning. I wanted to be deliberate, focused, and purposeful from the introduction in my classroom as I could see there was a lot of experimentation that had already taken place and I didn’t want to waste anytime. From my research, my belief was that iPads were great devices to increase student engagement, allow students to demonstrate their understanding in multiple ways through content creation, and provide students with a medium to share their learning with a broader audience.  This has formed the basis for how the iPads are being integrated into my teaching practice.

The next challenge was to select apps for the iPads that would facilitate these goals. I also wanted to select apps that would be easy for students in Grade 4 to use independently (without assistance – but not necessarily as only 1 student), flexible across subject disciplines, build students digital literacy skills, and complement each other (weave together). Although this was not a requirement, all of the apps that I have utilized so far have been free. There are a great deal of free apps out there.

How have we been utilizing the iPads to support learning in the classroom and work toward our goals?

Increase Student Engagement

• A favourite activity so far has been utilizing the website Today’s Meet to have a back channel going on during a lesson or activity. One iPad per group of students (2-4) allows the students to share and post there ideas that are going on during the activity. Often students thinking will get deeper during the session, as they see each others ideas and build a deeper understanding.  As I teach in the PYP, our programme is designed to be inquiry based the back channel has been a great way of recording students thinking and wonderings during our lesson. As the website Today’s Meet allows the ‘room’ to be archived the conversation can be saved and utilized for in the future.

• Other apps/websites such as NearPod, and Socrative allow you to embed assessment questions into a presentation and allow students to become active participants.

Content Creation

• Apps like ScreenChomp, Explain Everything (fee), and Educreations turn the iPad into an interactive whiteboard screen with a recording feature. This allows students to write and explain their thinking orally. We have utilized this for explaining how we are solving math problems so far, but can also be used for explaining sequences of events such as the water cycle, or explaining a diagram. This apps can also be utilized to create “flip-classroom” type video lessons.

Share Learning

• I selected KidBlog as our online sharing platform. This allows the students to post their work so that it can be shared with myself, the other students, and their parents. It also allows them to develop an e-portfolio of there work over the school year.

On Cutting Strawberries With A Whisk …

Cutting strawberries with a whisk you ask … it actually works better than you might imagine!

On Friday,we were examining TPACK as the framework for understanding the integration “technological knowledge”, “pedagogical knowledge”, and “content knowledge” (Koehler & Mishra, 2008). In order to develop a deeper understanding of this concept, our quickfire challenge involved making breakfast – but there was a twist. The group was divided into 4, and two members from each group came up and selected the kitchen tool they would like to utilize. Then each group was assigned to a specific table to create a specific portion of the breakfast.

When I went to select a tool, I decided to choose the whisk because I noticed that one of the breakfast products involved whipping cream, so I assumed someone would be making whip cream. As I know it is difficult to make whip cream without a whisk I decided to grab that tool. The other member of my group selected a knife so at least had 2 different tools. Unfortunately, my group was assigned to making fruit salad and not whip cream! This involved cutting up apples, strawberries, and removing grapes! Now, I know what you are thinking! How are you going to make a whisk a useful tool for cutting apples or strawberries?

strawberries with whisk

Photo credit: Alison Keller


Obviously the whisk could not be used to cut the apples as they are to hard, so that left the strawberries. At first, I was using one wire of the whisk to cut a bottom section of the strawberry off, and cutting off one section at a time. This worked and was getting the job done – it was just very inefficient. After working with the tool for a little while it seemed that if I utilized the bottom of the whisk and put the strawberry so that the large end was face down to the cutting board, I could cut 4 section is one motion. This was a much better use of the tool than I was first utilizing.

Now, how does this relate to TPACK? The kitchen tools were representing the technological tools that are present in today’s classrooms. Some tools are appropriate for the task, and some tools are not! But some tools, at first may not seem appropriate but with some creativity can be re-purposed to achieve the desired outcome.

So the next time you go to cut strawberries and you don’t have a knife, don’t forget about your whisk!


Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Eds.) Handbook of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) for educators (pp. 3-30) New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). Too Cool for School? No Way! Learning and Leading with Technology