Monday, June 19, 2017

The Relative Advantage of the Google Suite

I have been using the basic Google suite of tools (word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool) for a few years now and I have found a number of advantages to using them in a classroom setting. In fact, it seems like Google created these tools with teachers in mind.As with any basic suite of software, the G suite allows for improved productivity, improved appearance, improved accuracy, and  more collaboration (Roblyer, 2015).  These qualities are what all software suites would boast so what is the relative advantage of the Google suite?

The cloud based aspect of this suite is one relative advantage.  By not being tied to a particular machine, users can work on their files anywhere there is an internet or wifi connection.  This is very liberating and allows for redefinition of the work place.  I can easily do my work on my desktop in my office at work then continue working in my backyard on my laptop seamlessly.  Because everything is constantly  saved to your Google Drive, files are constantly being backed up and saved automatically. G suite really does increase productivity.

Another advantage of these tools are their relative ease of use.  Google designed their suite to only include the features of word processors, spreadsheets and presentation tools that people use most (Grevstad, 2016).  The lack of complex features is a big bonus when the majority of users are not tech savy.  The same can be said for classroom use, as the suite is easily used by learners of all ages.

The collaborative nature of Google tools is the suite’s greatest asset in the educational setting.  Teachers can collaborate easily together in developing materials.  Items can be transferred from one person’s “drive” to another simply by using the share button in every Google file.  Teachers can edit students' work, informally assessing them by using the comment feature in Google Docs.  Students can collaborate with each other within this suite which has helped reinvent what can be considered outputs for student work.  For example, students can share research collaboratively on a single document shared with the class or collaborate with each other during the writing process.

Grevstad, E. (2016, October 16). At home with Google G Suite. Retrieved from

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

EDTECH 541 Reflections on the 2017 Horizon Report's Preview

I always get a little excited when the Horizon Report comes out.  I feel like by reading it, I become privy to information that few teachers get even though they could easily access it. Reading the preview of the 2017 report has me thinking about how some knowledge of what is on the “horizon” is already affecting my teaching practice in the realm of Social Studies. Of all the upcoming trends that this report highlights, I can see three that could be integrated easily in my area of the school and in some cases, have already started to implement.

Redesigning learning spaces is one area that interests me a great deal.  Already, early adopters in my school are started to embrace the notion that our classrooms should be more student-centred than teacher centric (Horizon Report, page 4).  This idea follows the notion that we need to teach our students how to learn as much as what to learn.  In fact, my jurisdiction has recently signed on to an Alberta Education initiative called Moving forward in High School Redesign. Under this initiative, we can allow several entry and exit points for students throughout the year.  For example, if a Math prodigy has learned an entire course by mid-march, why would we make him sit in the class until the end of June.  The goal of redesigning this structure of High School is ultimately to have students be more accountable over their education.  In fact, Alberta Education defines flexible learning environments as a place where learning is student centered and teachers are empowered to decide how best to structure time to teach students (Alberta Education, page 2). So far our experience with this flexibility has been positive.

Another trend that I have already experimented with to a certain degree is Authentic Learning Experiences.  I started to use  Project Based Learning with my classes last year as PBL’s foundation has authentic learning at its core. (Boss, 2017).  I found that when students have a real live, authentic, activity it is more meaningful and they are more apt to retain what is learned.  Although not a new phenomenon, authentic learning may go to the next level thanks to advancements in educational technology in areas like virtual reality.

Finally, our school’s makerspace (Horizon Report, page 7) is one thing that I have a keen interest in.  This is a recent addition to our Learning Commons area and now that I am the Vice-Principal responsible for tech acquisition I’ve been purchasing some pretty interesting things.  Recently, I acquired a 3D scanner that can scan a nut and bolt for example and then our 3D printer can recreate them.  In fact, if I was to evaluate my school and it’s readiness for the upcoming trends in education technology, I would give us an above average grade.


Alberta Education. (4 Mar. 2016). Foundational principles for high school redesign: Flexible learning environments. Retrieved from  <>

Boss, Suzie. (20 Sept. 2011). Project-based learning: A short history." Edutopia. Retreieved from

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report Preview 2017: K-12 edition. (25 May 2017). Retrieved from

Saturday, June 3, 2017

EDTECH 541 Mission and Vision Statement

I have been an educator for 22 years and educational technology has always been a part of my teaching practice. I have sought to use different technological resources to enhance the classroom experience of my students by listening to my instincts as an experienced teacher but I have never articulated a formal vision or mission statement about the integration of educational technology into the curriculum I teach until now.  Doing so has increased in importance for me as I have recently been appointed vice principal of my school, and one of my responsibilities is the acquisition of edtech resources for our entire school of 1700 students.  Without a clear vision, it will be difficult for me to execute these tasks in which I am now in charge.

First and foremost, I believe that educational technology can and should enhance the curricula we teach.  Teaching and learning are complex processes and educational technology can play an important role in assisting teachers to deliver knowledge and for learners to acquire that same knowledge.  Educational technology has become a huge industry with endless choices available to schools.  Recently, we have seen Smartboards, tablets, chromebooks and  handheld devices become commonplace in our classrooms.  With all this choice it may be difficult for educators to decide what technology to acquire.  If it doesn’t enhance a curriculum, don’t bother (Provenzano, 2012).

I also believe that educational technology can help bridge achievement gaps by providing assistive technology for learners with special needs.  Thanks to apps like “Read, Write Google,” students with reading difficulties can quickly and easily have text read to them.  Speech to text apps are common place and help students who normally would have needed a scribe in the past.  Students with vision problems can overcome that limitation by increasing font size on an e-reader.  Translation tools can assistant English Language Learners in schools.  It is clear that many of the challenges some of our students face can be overcome thanks to technology.  In fact, the assistive nature of educational technology is a strong reason for its use in our educational settings (Roblyer, 2015).

Technology of all sorts is ever present in all aspects of modern life.  We have smart TVs, connected appliances, wearable technology, etc.  I strongly believe we would doing our students a disservice if we didn’t embrace technology in an educational setting.  The ability to work and live in this technological world had become a core competency that we should be teaching our students.  (Alberta Education, 2016).  With limited funding, educational institutions may find it difficult to acquire educational technology but not acquiring it, is not an option.  I firmly believe we have a moral obligation to our students to integrate technology into our schools.


Alberta Education.(2016, March 17). Competencies Overview. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from

Provenzano, N. (2012, April 17). A (Very) Short Guide to Purchasing New Technology. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card. Pearson College Div.

Friday, March 31, 2017

EDTECH 532- Learning Theory Mashup

Learning Theory Mash-Up

Over the course of my studies in the Masters of Educational Technology at Boise State, I have been exposed to several different learning theories.  Discussing these theories have been an essential part of several courses I have taken.  In this post, I will “mash- up” two such theories that resonate with my own philosophy of education.  Specifically, I will look at Lave and Wenger’s Community of Practice theory and Bloom’s Mastery of Learning Theory.

Lave and Wenger theorize that it is our desire to belong to a certain group that motivates us to learn (Communities of Practice, 2016).  In turn, we create natural learning communities where those who desire knowledge can reach out and learn from others.  We often see this behaviour in gaming communities where players can improve their proficiency by seeking help in online forums and communities.  They are motivated to become more integrated in that gaming community itself.  For example, I was once a member of a gaming “clan” when playing Medal of Honor a decade ago.  Within our clans forums, I learned more and more about the game and as my knowledge grew, my stature within the clan did as well.  

Bloom’s taxonomy is well known and has always been part of my foundation as an educator. Simply put, the learner will gain proficiency in at a certain level of their learning before advancing to the next, higher level of learning. (Mastery Learning, n.d).  This is also very evident in the world of gaming.  To proceed to the next level of a game, the player must first master the current level they are on.  They will continue at that current level until the game deems they are proficient enough to move on.  This concept of scaffolding is ever present in both the educational and gaming realms.

When we mash these two theories together, I feel we achieve something akin to “Communities of Mastery”.  To acquire the desired knowledge or to reach the next level, we need our communities assistance.  We achieve clout within our community when she share the knowledge we have already acquired.  Both of these ideas serve as motivators for learner and teacher.  In the end, we want to achieve the highest level of mastery we can.  These goals also serve as motivators for both learner and player alike.

mashup (2).jpg


Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger). (2016, June 29). Retrieved March 31, 2017, from Learning Theories,

Mastery learning. (2017, March 25). Retrieved March 31, 2017, from Wikipedia,

Sunday, March 26, 2017

EDTECH 532- Simulation Games 2- Real Time Strategy Games

Real Time Strategy are very popular with gamers who want to immerse themselves in completely different environment.  These games require strategy and  resource management while continually advancing the player through harder and harder scenarios in other words, these games provide the player with a productive struggle.

For this challenge I played to of the suggested games. World of Warcraft II and Kingdom (Total War Battles).  Both these games had similar characteristics.  They require the player to build human resources (ie craftsmen), natural resources(minerals, food, construction materials) and develop increasing battlefield capacity(stronger and stronger soldiers).  The other requirement for these simulations is time.  Players can easily play for hours at end, losing track of time.  Both of these games remind me of the Command and Conquer series of the mid 1990's which were very popular.  I believe the real secret to this genre's success is that create a viable reality withing the player.  You are whisked away to an alternate reality of sorts where you can quickly become assimilated.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EDTECH 532-Action Games -Rytim Games

I played  Rhythm Fireworks 2 for awhile and was totally engrossed in matching keystrokes with the beat of the music.  This game is very similar to such video game hits Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance, Dance, revolution.  Although these games keep score, the real challenge is to keep in time with the music.  I would say they are more "pass time" than game.

Nintendo Wii really embraced this form of game in many of it's games. Some games demanded peripherals such as drum kits and guitars (Rock Band) or a mat in which you would step on arrows (DDR) that would make the user use their entire body.  I know elementary teachers that have used similar games during indoor recess, a phenomenon in Canada when the weather is too cold, to make sure students burn off excess energy.

These games have taken video games beyond just hand/eye coordination and incorporated a full body experience which requires concentration and physical coordination.  It will be interesting to see where this genre takes us to in the future.

EDTECH 532- Action Games- Driving

I forgot how much I like driving games.  Playing "Shut Up and Drive" reminded me of the arcade game "Outrun".  I think the attraction of a good racing game, like any game really, is it transports the player to a place they will probably never visit.  That is to say, the seat of a high performance race car.  Driving a car is actually a mundane task and like most people, I have been behind the wheel of my own car, and wished I could just blow by everyone

Although the sounds and the graphics are not realistic, our imagination gets captured within racing games and we are competing as if the situation were real. Racing games can be pure fantasy as well. For example, Mario Cart is one of the most popular racing games ever and it's premise is completely far-fetched.  Who can imagine a race scenario between people, dinosaurs, apes, etc in small go carts could be so compelling. Nintendo tapped into something powerful when it allowed the players to use special powers they could collect which are designed to keep everyone in the race.

Racing each other has been part of our collective experience for ever.  Ancient Greeks created the olympics, every kid races his brothers and sisters, to the door, etc It is only natural that racing games are popular with us as well