Technology for Learning

discussing the issues and joys of technology and learning

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Explaining Learning Platforms

January 18th, 2010 · No Comments

Also called Learning Management Systems (in some contexts) or Portals, I’ve used this fun video to introduce the concept to teachers and parents. This is about using technology to engage and connect – and ultimately to enhance the support of student learning.

Thanks to Chris Thomson in Sheffield, UK for delivering this great work.

→ No CommentsTags: educational technology · parentengagement · parents · schools

What kind of digital citizen are you?

October 27th, 2009 · No Comments

Be decisive
Creative Commons License photo credit: quinn.anya

Some time ago I read a post helping teachers determine what they should and should not post on their classroom websites. It was a very positive list from Mrs. Smoke who posts often with helpful hints.

But when Alec Couros had a bad experience with someone favouriting his daughter’s photos on flickr, I was reminded again about the potential issues of posting too much about our children in the wide-open online.

Now, Mrs. Smoke does address following district policies and offers a tool (fotoflexer) to blur students’ faces when posting pictures online.

The Internet changes daily. Every day social networking tools both flatten and shrink the world. As we guide our children through these new spaces, they are moulding the tools to meet their own needs. Danah Boyd reminds us that the “ethos among teens is ‘public by default, private when necessary’”. As adults, we often come to the Internet from the opposite perspective, choosing carefully what we will “put out there”.

Parent or teacher, are we up for the task? How will we decide when to be open and when to be secure? What will we model as digital citizens for our students and children?

→ No CommentsTags: educational technology · parents · privacy · security · social networking · social software


October 26th, 2009 · No Comments

I had the chance to help a friend get her blog started. What a privilege. And now her blog already has a rich entry, where she explores the excitement of the language we are creating in our online world.

She even invented a new word – GLEU2C (glu-tic). Check out her blog – Make a Difference to find out what it means and invent your own new word. As Brenda says, be part of history!

→ No CommentsTags: educational technology

Digital Footprints in the Sands of Time

October 6th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Footprints in the sand
Originally uploaded by Welshdan

Jesse Bradley, in his recent post about the invisible audience, touched on the trail of his person that was collecting in cyberspace. He wondered what his children would come to know about him through his digital footprint online.

Gottsela touched on similar issues as she explored what should be posted online. Her post generated several comments on issues of privacy and risk. What should we post if it is accessible by anyone? And forever?

So having just read Jesse’s and Gottsela’s posts, I was struck when I heard on an episode of Spark about Viktor Mayer-Schonberger’s book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. According to the Spark trailer,

Mayer-Schonberger argues that forgetting is a natural human process, and that digital technology and cheap storage are creating all sorts of problems, from an assault on privacy, to an inability to make decisions.

Sue Waters also reminds us that “online is forever”. Sue said in the EC&I831 class tonight, “If I wouldn’t say this in front of an audience of people then I wouldn’t say online.”

We need to think carefully when we post online. But Mayer-Schonberger’s work goes beyond the notion of what we should post. He speaks about what we as a society need to consider. We have changed the way we relate to one another. It is not just about the posts that we make, it is also about the digital traces that may be left about us by others. As humans, we have the capacity to forget. In our digital lives, our footprint lasts forever.

Have you googled or binged yourself today?

→ 4 CommentsTags: educational technology · privacy · security · social networking

The Social Web? Immerse, Model and Invite!

May 21st, 2009 · 1 Comment

I had the good fortune recently to keynote a technical symposium – about 70 IT professionals engaged in supporting technology in K-12 schools. I spoke about the social web and our need as IT professionals to understand the social web and its role in our schools.

The call to action is to immerse yourself in order to learn, model the opportunities, and invite others to the experience.

Here is the presentation:

→ 1 CommentTags: educational technology

4 Steps to Personalized Professional Development

April 12th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Creative Commons License photo credit: courosa

Donna DesRoches recently tweeted about it, Matt Townsley blogged about it, Dr. Alec Couros is passionate about it. Learning for teachers that is open, connected, personal. As 21st century educators we are committed to personalizing learning for our students, so why not for ourselves?

Authentic learning is as critical for the adults, yet many districts are still locked into in-service models that pull teachers out of the classroom, leaving the teachers asking – as Matt so eloquently put it – “how can I use THAT in my classroom?”. The shift is happening, yet there may be several barriers that need to be overcome. I’d like to enumerate some of these, and welcome others to add to this list. When we know what stands in our way, we know what we need to address for a personalized professional development approach to be successful.

  1. We’ve always done it this way. Those that are responsible for “delivering” professional development may not be willing to change the model. Be it job security or simply a fear of change, these folks need to be brought in to the discussion.
  2. Where will we find the time in our classrooms? When teachers are supported in an action research paradigm, using data to assess, analyze gaps, and develop strategies, the student classroom is also their classroom.
  3. Staff meetings are filled with administrative discussions.Working together as a community means thinking differently about how school organization time is used. Rather than leaving the school for professional development “classes”, each teacher creates a personalized plan with goals and objectives that are supported through his/her PLN. The communal time can be used to share learnings. Focusing on learning objectives for both staff and students changes the staff meeting conversation from recess duty to student achievement.
  4. The sites I need to get to are blocked.Using the same safety and security model for our adult learners as our student learners imposes unnecessary restrictions. The realities of our professional responsibilities sets the parameters for young learners’ access. As adults we are expected to select appropriate resources for our own learning. The technology environment should be differentiated for staff and students to provide that freedom.

This beginning prescription can help to focus on the issues necessary to make personalized professional development a reality. What else have you uncovered? What have been the keys to success?

→ 2 CommentsTags: educational technology · security · social networking · social software · technical support

My Ada Lovelace Day Contribution

March 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I’m blogging this.
Originally uploaded by Foxtongue

I live in the middle of a Venn diagram. My circles are IT, edtech, and learning. Women figure prominently in one of these circles – learning – but less so in edtech and perhaps even less in IT. What a wonderful event Ada Lovelace Day is to celebrate women in technology, the very centre of my Venn diagram.

I’ve chosen today to focus on the circle currently having the most influence in my life. I am in the final days of my M.Ed. program where I have delved deeply into educational technology. There are many notable women in this field, including Barbara Bichelmeyer, Bonnie Bracey, Elizabeth Boling, Elizabeth Burge, Katy Campbell, Carolyn Guss, Janette Hill, Marcy Driscoll, Linda Harasim, Michele Jacobsen, Maria Klawe, Thérèse Laferrière, Elizabeth Murphy, Ellen Rose, Allison Rossett, Marlene Scardamalia, Susan Silverman, Cynthia Solomon, Sherry Turkle and Nancy White (with my apologies to any I have left unnamed). But these Ada Lovelace posts are about one person that has influenced you, and I want to share the story of a teacher in Montreal Quebec that I interviewed this year for the Virtual Museum project.

Sharon Peters is that special teacher, educational technologist, leader. She is the proof that one person can make a difference. I invite you to listen to my interview with Sharon (follow the link and click on her name) on our Virtual Museum of Educational Technology wiki. I think you will be inspired too.

→ 2 CommentsTags: educational technology · leadership · women in technology

K-12 Parent Portal Implementation Guide

March 23rd, 2009 · No Comments

Improvement Cycle School Family Partnerships
Originally uploaded by rdrunner

As I have often posted here about the development of the Implementation Guide for K-12 Parent Portals, I am pleased to report that the work is ready. I will not use the word “finished”, because it will always be open for improvements. You can access the guide here:

K-12 Parent Portal: An Implementation Guide

For those of you interested in how the Guide was developed (it was my Master’s Project), you can view my eportfolio. The materials there are available for viewing and downloading.

Please let me know if you use the Guide, so that I may follow progress and incorporate new findings as they become available. Thanks to everyone who helped me see this project to completion.

→ No CommentsTags: educational technology · parentengagement · parents · schools · security · social networking · technical support

Some Advice for a Technical Leader

February 27th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Are you the technical leader in your school district? Whether you are an educator or an information technology professional, you are faced with two distinct challenges – first to align the work of the technology department with the district learning goals and second to ensure that IT best practice is employed to deliver a reliable technology service.

Students on Computer
Creative Commons License photo credit: Samantha Morra

When the role of technical leader rests with a single individual (most often in large school districts) that individual is usually an IT professional, and when it is part of a combined role it is usually staffed by an educator. In the latter case, the person will also most often have responsibility for teacher professional development in technology integration and specific accountabilities with respect to learning outcomes in the district. The educator’s set of experiences provides an easier path to alignment, while the IT professional will be well-versed in IT best practice. Finding the balance of the two challenges is key to the job.

In Canada, the information technology profession is supported by the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS). All CIPS members (including students) agree to abide by the Code of Ethics and its ethical principles/imperatives:

  1. Protecting the Public Interest and Maintaining Integrity;
  2. Demonstrating Competence and Quality of Service;
  3. Maintaining Confidential Information and Privacy;
  4. Avoiding Conflict of Interest; and
  5. Upholding Responsibility to the IT Profession.

Information technology professionals do their best work when they directly contribute to the goals of the organization. Alignment with the business, creating shareholder value and meeting service standards are often measures associated with critical success in an internal IT department. But what does this look like in a K-12 school district? How can we come to understand not only how our work aligns, but better yet how to communicate that alignment?

Simply put, what is the role of the Technical Leader in advancing student learning?

There are several components that are critical to the overall success of a school district when addressing technology, its value, and implementation. District technology leadership, professional development, sound technology design and student engagement all combine to create a rich environment for learning.

The technical leader must use his or her own knowledge and experience to define and action their contribution to district and learner success.

To do so, one must first understand the role of technology in advancing student learning.

Twenty-first century technologies (the new media) include all things digital – voice, video, data. They include the network that connects them, the storage media, the software applications, and the devices that allow you and me to access them.

Reading in progress
Creative Commons License photo credit: andyp uk

We have already seen the impact of the new media in the marketplace. In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman interviewed Mitchell H. Caplan, the CEO of E*Trade who noted that technology has placed power in the hands of the consumer. Consumers can now customize the product, service, and even the price. Don Tapscott in his book, Wikinomics, provides further evidence about the changes that technology has enabled through mass collaboration. In fact, the final chapter is an invitation to collaborate in producing the definitive guide to twenty-first-century strategy at

Collectively, these technologies also shift the power to every learner. Learners are able to create their own paths to knowledge. They can:

  • Access experts
  • Access data
  • Using software applications to build understanding
  • Using software applications to demonstrate knowledge

What is even more powerful is the ability of all learners to participate in the creation of knowledge. Technology connects learners in communities local and global, where new knowledge is created. Wiki’s, chats, blogs – all are tools that allow learners to congregate, unfettered by geographical and often temporal distance. Critique, enhance, engage are all outcomes of these 21st century technologies.

So the role of the technical leader is both simple and complex. The simplistic view: to provide every learner with access to the needed technology. The complex view: do so in a cost-effective, reliable, secure and sustainable way. How does one balance these potentially competing viewpoints?

First and foremost, you need a strategic view. A compelling outcome to start with would be:

All learners will have access to the technology they need to participate and create knowledge in the 21st century.

The key word is access. Every learner needs a device to provide access. They need connectivity to join their communities. They need software applications to manipulate and create. They need online storage to house their creations.

What can you afford? Few districts can afford to provide a device for every learner (1:1 access) AND connectivity AND applications AND storage AND … You must design an architecture to deliver access. This will mean investing in networks for connectivity and seeking alternatives or low-cost strategies to the components.

You will meet the challenges of the technical leader if you:

  • Design your network and security to allow learners to use their own devices to connect.
  • Partner with others to create volume licensing and purchase opportunities. Smaller school districts do not have the clout in the marketplace to negotiate the price downward. But school districts joined in partnership, or through a government department can generate significant savings. Don’t be challenged by the barriers – they are many but none are insurmountable. Look for timing opportunities when another district is purchasing or at a similar point in their life cycle replacements. Seize the opportunity for small wins and the network of districts will grow accordingly.
  • Be clear about your technology model. You may be able to leverage free online tools to deliver the services you need.
  • Joint to build shared service models. is a wonderful example of a subscription model. Small companies gain the benefit of world-class software delivered securely over the Internet.
  • Be the quiet hero. Live the Code of Ethics. The technical leader in a school district rarely wins awards. The prime objective in school districts is advancing student learning, not building state of the art technologies. Providing access to technology does not provide the direct link to that prime objective. But with it, the objective in the 21st Century is achievable.

With technology, the power in the new learner is the very essence of the democratization of learning, and the bedrock of public education.

→ 3 CommentsTags: educational technology · leadership · schools · technical support

Ada Lovelace Day

January 16th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I’m blogging this.
Originally uploaded by Foxtongue

Thanks to Alfred Thompson I’ve heard the challenge of blogging on March 24, 2009 – Ada Lovelace Day – in celebration of women in technology.

Ada Lovelace Day was started by Suw Charman-Anderson. The challenge is to build a catalog of female role models by blogging about them on March 24, 2009. Use the tag AdaLovelaceDay09 on your blog. Tweet about it using #ALD09.

I’m looking forward to reading the posts.

→ 2 CommentsTags: women in technology