Saturday, September 6, 2014

EDTech 502 Module 2: plain 502 page

This was my first attempt at creating my own web page using HTML5 or any other language for that matter.  I have completed a few lessons on Code Academy so I had an idea what I was doing but this assignment was a bit challenging.  The video tutorials helped immensely as I followed them step by step.
This was also my first experience with Dreamweaver.  What a great program.  I found working with the split screen effective and I gained confidence as I worked through the assignment and I enjoyed coding much more than I thought I would.  I look for to the next challenge of learning about CSS

Here is the link to my plain 502 page.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ed Tech 501: Reflection of Learning

The last time I was a student was 20 years ago.  In 1994 I graduated with a B.Ed in French Immersion meaning most of my degree was taken in French.  As an anglophone this was quite a challenge so I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to be taking a course in English.  That being said, writing academically was a bit of a challenge for me.  Luckily, my wife is a reference librarian and she patiently proofread my work and lectured me on how to use APA properly.  

I found the course engaging in both content and delivery.  I wasn’t sure how I would like taking a course online but I found it quite enjoyable.  Learning about tech trends was fascinating but the artifact that I’m most satisfied with dealt with the digital divide.  As a social studies teacher, I teach about social injustice quite often.  For me the issue of a digital divide is a social justice issue which is why I think I was so interested in the artifact. I also found doing my own research such as surveying my staff and students for this artifact rewarding.

I truly learnt a great deal about technology during this course but using Google+ may have had the greatest impact on work environment.  I have already convinced my department members that this is the way we should communicate social studies business.  My next mission is to convince my administration that Google+ can be a positive communication tool for the entire school.  I think there is still a place for email (perhaps for official or formal messages) but for most of the daily inquiries that go on in a school among staff members, Google+ is perfect.

I hope the next course I take will be as rewarding as Ed Tech 501 has been.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

School Evaluation Summary

Since the beginning of this course, I have been thinking a great deal about the technological status of the school I work in and asking myself a lot of questions.  Does it have adequate technology?  Are staff using technology appropriately?  Where do we need improvement?  Having the opportunity to formally evaluate my school's technological maturity has allowed me to look into this further and I found it very interesting.  I work in a very large high school where departments rarely interact with each other so the opportunity to investigate the status of technology in the entire school was fascinating.

I was pleased to learn that most areas of the school have very good access to technology and that the technological infrastructure was very strong and reliable.  It was encouraging to learn about the long term commitment to technology at the school and district level as well.  Our recent move to the Google platform has allowed technology to move to the  forefront of the collective consciousness of the staff and students which is creating a real tech culture in the building.

I had always assumed that there was a technology plan but had never seen one.  I was a bit surprised at how informal the planning process was at the school level.  In fact, the vice principal responsible for technology had not actually written a plan until I inquired about it.  This might explain why the plan focuses on hardware acquisition and neglects any professional development.  In reality, the purchasing of computers is a part of the school budget plan which happens on a regular basis and is constantly reviewed.  I was asked what I thought should be included in the technology plan so I made some suggestions from our in-class readings. I am happy to report that Ed Tech 501 is having a positive impact on my school.

For the most part, I confirmed  few of my assumptions about my school.  We have some islands of teachers doing great things with technology and we have some islands of tech resisters.  There is need for professional  development with a technological focus in order to bring these two islands closer together.  Above all, I confirmed that we are doing an admirable job at my school and we are moving in the right direction.  If we continue our commitment to technology I think we will achieve intelligent technological maturity and move  from our current status of integrated.

Here is the link to my Maturity Benchmark Survey and my School Evaluation Summary.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Digital Inequality

I found this week's artifact on digital inequality very interesting.  The digital divide is a concept that I teach to my grade 10 social studies classes.  Like most, we focus on the unequal access to technology between the developed world and the developing world.  In class we discuss the concerns of having some parts of the world well connected to the Internet and having others poorly connected but the conversation usually ends there.   I found it enlightening to consider new dimensions of this concept of a "divide" and to put it into the context of my own workplace.

I learned a great deal about technology  access and use in my school by having staff and students complete a survey using Google forms.  I learned that 97% of staff and students have access to computers and the Internet at home.  This is much higher than the Canadian average of 80.3% and can be attributed to the urban nature of our community and the affluence oil and gas extraction has brought to Alberta. The two students who don't have access live in rural areas outside of town which confirms the urban/rural nature of the digital divide many of the readings mentioned.  I was very surprised to learn that 97% of my students have their own wireless mobile device.  I had always known that many of my students had these devices but I had no idea it was so high. Students also indicated that they would like to use their devices more often in their classes.

It was interesting to learn about my staff's thoughts on technology use in their classes.  100% of the 20 staff that responded to my survey think that educational technology tools are beneficial for students however many are hesitant to use them because they either don't know which tools work the best or who to ask for assistance.  I'm not sure why, but I had anticipated a more negative attitude towards technology but from what most of my colleagues responded, they are willing to learn they just need some help doing so. I found this to be encouraging.  There were however some staff who indicated that technology was more of a distraction than a benefit but they certainly were not in the majority.

There were three inequalities that I found in my research:

1.  There is unequal use of technology among classes in my school. Some students are allowed to access our technological resources and some don't.

2.  There is a knowledge gap among our community.  Some staff are very knowledgeable about technology use and some are not.  The same can be found with our students.

3.  There is a divide between what  our students want in terms of technology and what some teachers are able to offer.

One conclusion I made from all of this is that if we can do a better job of teaching staff on the use of technology and the benefits of it's use, we can potentially bridge the other digital divides found in our school.

Below you will find my presentation. To access my speaker notes, select the options icon at the bottom of the presentation screen.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tech Trends

Choosing a tech trend to focus on for this week's artifact was challenging.  Learning more about educational analytics interests me but  I'm also interested in learning more about open content and using mobile devices in class. I settled on doing something with mobile devices and cloud computing.  I am currently involved with a pilot project which involves Chromebooks so this seemed like a natural fit for me.  I decided to create a list of features I wanted to use in an Edtech tool.  I wanted to find an educational tool that:

  • Helps me create an engaging BYOD lesson
  • Would work on multiple platforms
  • Has interactive components
  • Is easily shared with students

To begin with, I searched the Google App Store and found Nearpod.  Nearpod allows teachers to create interactive lessons which can be used on multiple platforms and it allows teachers to embed quizzes and polls into these lessons. I was not happy with what I created. The lesson I created looked great and the learning analytic function provided useful information, but I found Nearpod's platform awkward and time consuming to work with. For example, to include a video from Youtube, you first had to convert the video to something other than Flash. I also found it difficult to share the lesson with students as they would need to download an app and be provided with a pin for every lesson created. I was using the free version; perhaps these issues are resolved in the upgraded version for purchase. In the end I decided to abandon my Nearpod idea, and find something that allowed me to easily create a BYOD lesson and would still be an effective learning tool.

I decided to see if I could use Google forms to deliver content. We have recently adopted the Google platform in my school district, and I have experimented with Google forms with simple surveys. I was certain I could create a lesson that students could access on their mobile devices, go through at there own pace, and would give me some data on their level of of understanding. The lesson I created has a variety of sources which students interpret (an important skill in our social studies curriculum) and there is a variety of formative assessments the students complete as they work through the lesson. In using Google forms this way, I found a tool that has the technological features I was looking for that also enhances student learning.

This is a link to the lesson plan I created. Direct access to the Google form can be found here.

In completing this artifact, I have gained a greater understanding of the benefits of using mobile devices in the classroom. Until now, I have had students use their own devices as a research tool. I may ask students a question and have them Google the answer using their phones and tablets. Now I see that I can create a lesson students can do at their own pace or even do repeatedly until mastery is achieved. I can also direct them to information that specifically targets learning outcomes which leads to a more efficient learning environment. I have gained a new appreciation of what Google forms can do. Whenever I learn something new within the Google environment, I cannot help but think Google created these tools with educators in mind. I have even started thinking about where I take mobile device use in my class next. The next step for mobile device use in my class is to have my students create using there devices. Perhaps they can film an historic re-enactment or maybe create a presentation for their classmates to use. It may sound cliché but the possibilities are endless.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Horizon Report: An introduction to trends in educational technology

This week we were asked to read the 2013 K-12 Horizon Report which is published by the New Media Consortium.  The purpose of the Horizon report is to indicate which  key trends in educational technology tools are on the horizon.  Trends such as social media, educational analytics, cloud computing, 3D printing and many more are presented in this report.  I found I was excited about some of these ideas coming into my classroom.  Ideas such as 1:1 Chromebook computing in the cloud and mobile device use in classroom are exciting but two ideas really captured my interest.  Learning analytics and open content are two areas I would like to investigate further.

To guide us through the report, we answered five questions.  My answers to these questions can be found here:


We were also asked to comment on what did we found interesting or provocative in the report.  This is what I posted in our discussion forum:

"I'm not sure I really grasp the full potential of open content in education.  I think this is why I am drawn to it.  I want to learn more about it.  From what I understand, this may allow all schools to have access to high-quality educational materials.  In my mind, this increased access will help democratize education by allowing students from all communities access to the highest quality resources available."

I quite enjoyed reading the Horizon Report.  It allowed me think about the future for a moment and I feel optimistic that  education and educational technology is moving in an exciting direction.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

EDTECH Research

Over the last two weeks I have been working on my research skills.  I received my undergraduate degree 20 years ago and researching tools have changed since I last did any academic research.  Google Scholar was a welcomed addition to my research process.  I enjoyed how I could save items in my library and work from multiple locations.  I also enjoyed the precision of Albertson Library's search capabilities.  I was able to do my research in a timely manner and stay relatively organized as well.

My artifact this week is an annotated bibliography on EDTECH Research.  I researched how social networking affects student's ability to express a point of view.  This is one of many outcomes, social studies students must show proficiency in and I think social networking can reinforce this skill.  The articles I read reinforce this idea and take it even further.  Social networking and teaching social media skills can improve many social studies skills including the learning objective in my research.  Several of the articles also reinforced the idea that it is the educator that dictates the success of using technological tools.  When purposely chosen by an educator, students will see improvement in many areas.  When technology is simply placed in front of students with few guidelines or a lack of instruction, the benefits of the technology are lost.  I plan on suggesting the use of social networking to  my colleagues.  Final exam results show that some students in my school  have difficulty with the subject of my research and I think my department will be receptive to any suggestion that will help student achievement.

You can find my annotated bibliography here:

PlastowB_EDTECH Annotated Bibliography

Friday, February 21, 2014

RSS in Education

Last week we were asked to think of how we could use RSS feeds in our classroom or place of business.  I thought that I could use this technology to solve a problem I have in my Grade 12 social studies classes.   I lose classroom contact with these classes during our final exam week.  In the past, I would create a website to act as a study resource.  With RSS feeds, I can take this idea further and have my students subscribe to a "study blog" which will allow them to review on ongoing basis rather than cramming for their exam.

This week I decided to put that plan into action and create a blog for one of my social studies classes who have an exam coming up.  I structured this blog to have a review activity in every post.  In fact, I scheduled  some posts to publish over the next week so the students won't have all of the review activities at once.  To satisfy the requirements of this week's artifact, I included a video tutorial on how to subscribe to its RSS feed and how to use Feedly as an RSS reader.  I introduced the review blog to my students and they seemed receptive.  I am  positive that this will work quite well, and I plan on monitoring the page views each post receives to gage the effectiveness of my idea. I will be looking for a correlation between the page views of the posts and the how well the students do on the corresponding concepts of the exam.

I learned quite a few things creating this artifact.  I learned how to create a script/storyboard which proved to be very helpful.  I learned how to make a screen cast which is something I wanted to do for quite some time, and I learned how to use RSS and incorporate it in my teaching.  I am noticing that my classmates and I are  showing considerable growth and we are becoming more comfortable with the technological tools introduced to us since starting ED Tech 501.  I appreciate being able to use what I am learning in this class at work with my students.

Here is the video tutorial I created for my students.

If you are interested, you can access the blog I created for exam review here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Elements of Educational Technology

Our assignment this week was to analyse the Association for Educational Communications and Technology's definition of educational technology.  We were expected to choose three elements of this definition that we thought were the most important.  Educational technology has always interested me but I have never really thought about this field in a philosophical sense. Like most people in this program, I see this field as an exciting, fast paced aspect of education that will lead us into the future.  As I worked through the introductory paragraph that was assigned, I felt myself thinking of the responsibilities an educational technology professional has to address and how important a field educational technology is for students and teachers.

By doing this assignment, I have furthered my understanding of the impact an educational technologist has on the learning environment.  They set the course a jurisdiction will follow in terms of planning and acquisition of resources.  They manage the resources and create ways for teachers and students to succeed in the use of the technology that was acquired.  Ultimately, they help ensure that learning takes place either in the classroom or in terms of professional development for educators.

I can certainly see the value in having us complete this assignment as we begin our studies in educational technology.  I wouldn't say my attitude has changed about educational technology, but I would say I now have a broader idea of what educational technology is.  Below, you will find a link to my assignment.

Brian Plastow's Introductory Paragraph on The Definition of Educational Technology

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Let me begin by introducing myself.  I am from Red Deer, Alberta which is a city of 100 000 people located between Edmonton and Calgary.  According to Google Maps,  it's a 15 hour drive from Red Deer to the Boise State Campus.

I have been teaching for 19 years at middle school and high school where I have taught everything from French to Phys. Ed.  Currently, I am a social studies teacher and curriculum leader at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School here in Red Deer.  I have been very fortunate this year as I am piloting a Chrome Book initiative at our school with our Grade 9 students.  Outside of class I am an assistant coach for our senior football team, the Raiders.

When I am done school, I have a lovely family to come home to.  My wife, Kristine, and I have two daughters aged 9 and 12 who keep us busy with their school activities and their dance classes.   Fortunately, my girls allow me to participate in my favorite pass-time, fly fishing.

Since beginning my career, I have had a keen interest in the use of technology in the classroom.  I am hoping that this program will further my knowledge and capabilities in this area so I can create a more engaging learning environment by sharing what I learn with my students and colleagues.  Therefore, this learning log will serve as a living record of my progress during this program.