My Sway: Teaching with Technology


Check out this recent SWAY:

TEACHNOLOGYI made this SWAY with both inspiration (for educators) and practicality (for the real classroom) in mind for those teachers/schools who are looking into furthering their use of technology.  Be it elementary, middle or secondary, it is difficult sometimes to step back and look at the integration of technology into our classrooms from a practical (and realistic) perspective.  In the last few years, technology in education has been a passion of mine, especially when its comes to educating teachers on its use in the classroom.

Please enjoy!





Mac & PC: Effective Use of Technology Tools


I went to an amazing Microsoft conference this past weekend, and by the end of the last session, just after the group photo, I realized that I could no longer call myself a “Mac person.”  This self-labelled title has been a big part of who I am as an educator for a number of years; I now have a good reason to toss the title aside: the greater good of education.

Both Apple and Microsoft (and other companies) have teams dedicated to making their products work for education, but when we choose to stick to just one or the other it becomes a detriment to our students.  This weekend really opened my eyes to an entirely different world of applications, hardware and learning tools for a variety of learners.  Obviously, I’m not in purchasing, nor in a position that allows me to make those “big decisions” for my school, or my district; however, I want to call upon those who are to really think about the tools they’ve chosen for our students.  Did they choose iPads because of the prestige of being labelled an “Apple District?” Do some of our schools run Chromebooks because of the cost?  Are COWS made up of $1000 Macbooks an effective way to get technology into elementary classrooms?  How “long-lasting” are basic PC’s?

This isn’t about promoting one technology over another as I don’t work for Microsoft, Google or Apple (and no one is paying me extra to advertise them on my blog!) but I will ask you to consider the following questions when you are purchasing technology tools for your district, school or classroom:

  1. How many students will this technology impact?  Can this technology be used by kindergarten students as easily as Grade 7’s?  Can Biology 12 students utilize it just as much as English 8 students?  Is it just for main stream users, or can it be modified or used for those students with learning support needs?

2. How versatile is this technology? It is great for just research?  Can it be used a reader and scribe?  How easy it is for students to submit work electronically?  Can they print with it?  Does it multiple controls (mouse, keyboard, stylus)?  How much software does it require to be multi-functional?  How expensive is extra software or programs?

3. Does the price point match the answers to the above questions? Does it make sense to purchase only a few per classroom, or it is more effective to purchase based on a one-to-one application (class sets)?  Can we afford enough of this technology to make it worthwhile for learning?  Is this product a novelty or long-lasting technology?

I hope that I can at least start the conversation surrounding technology purchases and the opportunities available for those willing to let go of the “Mac vs. PC” dichotomy.  In the long run it shouldn’t be about labels, it should be about learning.

Disguises…are you REALLY a “Technology Teacher”?


This post might stir up some negative feelings, but please don’t take it as a swipe at your use of or your enthusiasm regarding technology in your classroom.

It seems everyone is labeling themselves “technology teachers” these days. I take issue with that for a number of reasons, but first and foremost: the title of “technology teacher” belongs to those who have the actual trained specialist designation of technology teacher; those who teach woodwork, drafting, metal works, etc.  These secondary school teachable subjects have been called “the technologies” for quite some time now…give these guys a break!  Don’t steal their entitled titles.

Semantics, you must be grumbling to yourself.  Of course, you’ve already registered an awesome technology Twitter handle or started a fun blog with alliterations.  Perhaps you weren’t aware that this teachable fell under the title of “technology.”  Well, consider yourself in the know (and pass it along): you are not technically a technology teacher, unless you teach the aforementioned classes.

For me, as a computer sciences teacher,  I (of all people) should be first in line to label myself as a “technology teacher;” however, I don’t want the title.  I am a computer science teacher.  I love that I am a computer science teacher.  I trained to be one, I love to tell people about my job.  I love to explain what I teach (digital media, yearbook, interior design, programming).  My position includes teaching and using technology, but my position is more than just the computers I have in my classroom.

Here are three reasons why you should drop “technology” out of your self-proclaimed job title:

  1.  Everyone, everywhere uses technology in their classroom to some degree.  It’s 2015, after all.  It doesn’t necessarily make you stand out (if that was your intention).
  2. You should be proud to be a Grade 6 teacher, an English teacher, a French Immersion teacher.  You teach something special already, something unique and exciting to your students.  People want to know what you teach, as well as how your teach it.
  3. Your tool isn’t your title.  You don’t teach technology, you teach with technology. The difference is important.  It isn’t just semantics.

Don’t sell yourself short with a disguise.  What you teach is important, technology should be secondary.

Let’s all be teachnology teachers instead.

Teaching Technology to Students!


You’ve taken the time to learn [insert new technology here] and you are ready for your classes to start using it.  It will be amazing!  They will be engaged and excited, ready to demonstrate their learning using [insert new technology here]!  But wait…your students don’t quite know how to use [insert new technology here].  Half the battle of initiating technology as a tool in your classroom is the process of teaching students to properly utilize it—whether its an iPad App or a web-based blog program—most students require instruction before the magic of [insert new technology here] can happen.

Here are some basic tips and tricks for teaching students technology for use in the classroom.

Q: How do we successfully use technology with our students?
A: They need to know how to properly use it first!

Biggest Mistakes for Technology Use in the Classroom:

  1. Assuming students know how to properly use the technology, no matter how basic it may seem. Did you know that many students don’t know how to use MS Word or MS Powerpoint for more than basic functions? Did you know that many students don’t know how to properly research online? Students use technology socially rather than academically.
  2. Not taking the time needed to teach the technology. If you have a grand purpose for the use of this or that technology in your classroom, it is imperative that you properly demonstrate that technology to your students, no matter how time-consuming it may be—it is useless to their learning if they use it incorrectly or if it becomes a hindrance to their actual learning. 

Before you begin:

  • Schedule a tutorial/lesson to teach the technology prior to when you wish to introduce the main assignment or purpose for the technology. Don’t choose a day to teach your tutorial that many students are away, so check for field trips, etc. prior to scheduling your tutorial. Also, TELL YOUR STUDENTS TO BE IN CLASS. Like a test or quiz, your tutorial will impact how well they do on their upcoming assignments. You don’t need to tell them specific details about the technology—in fact, probably not a good idea—but a “heads up” that class attendance is important on a specific day will set you up for success.
  • Make sure that you have properly working technology—internet connectivity, wireless technology, installed software/apps—this will make things run smoothly. Check your connectivity before class begins, and installation well before you schedule your lesson.1108_classroom_tech_630x420

Tips for Teaching Technology Tutorials:

  • Live demonstration. Show the steps on a projector/screen. Visual learners will thank you, and it is sometimes easier to show students how to do something than explain it. This is especially true when trying to demonstrate something with menus and tools.
  • Make it fun! Choose something silly to use as your “demo.” For example, a Powerpoint about cheese, or a resume for Cookie Monster.
  • Speak slowly and slightly louder than your normal teaching voice (unless you are already really, really loud). You are competing with screens, which means you need to command attention. Like a boss.
  • Use steps. Break down almost EVERY LITTLE THING into a step. Do not try to teach more than one process at a time. Start each step with “STEP 1,” “STEP 2,” and so on. This cues students to pay attention to you and get ready to follow your instructions.
  • Repeat everything at least twice. When demonstrating or explaining a step, repeat yourself. For example, saving a file in MS Word: “Click on the File Menu, THEN Save. File, then save.” Throw in another repeat if your step is complex.
  • Be prepared to go extremely slow. You are only as fast as your slowest student.
  • Make sure NO ONE GETS LEFT BEHIND. Use “hands up if you haven’t ‘insert step here.’ ” Check and make sure they’ve completed the step. Walk around the classroom.
  • Have a finished product. Students should have something to show for their participation in the tutorial. You can let them know at the beginning that you expect to see their completed tutorial.
  • Explain your assignment/project using the same “language” you used during your tutorial. Project and assignment expectations should mirror skills learned in the tutorial. If you would like them to go “above and beyond,” then give an example of where/how they might do that.