Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Interactive Whiteboard Activities That Get Students Up Out Of Their Desks

We're moving into a new unit in my Educational Technology and Distance Teaching class - interactive whiteboards for higher order learning. In this unit I teach about how to use the most common interactive whiteboard software to create engaging presentations. But the real power of interactive whiteboards has always been the opportunities they provide for student interaction and higher-order learning. My students who are often new to teaching with an interactive whiteboard, often make the mistake of just presenting at the board while students just watch from their seats. They soon learn that the best presentations take advantage of the affordances of the interactive whiteboard and have students come up to interact with the board.

What are some of the activities that students can do at the board? My book, Educational Technology for Teachers provides several different types of activities that support student engagement and interaction and here are some of the types of activities with videos showing how to create them with interactive whiteboard software:
These and other types of activities can be compelling ways for students to get involved in their own learning on an interactive whitebaord. Northern State University education students learn to create these and other activities so that they can successfully support higher-order learning and student interaction in the classroom.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ed Tech Podcast for SD Teachers Episode 30: Ideas for Getting Started integrating Technology in Your Classroom

Have you been asked to integrate technology in your classroom, but you don't know where to start? In this episode, I share some ideas from Doug Johnson's book, The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide. First I share some ideas to change non-technology-based activities into technology-based ones. Then I share about some basic and easy activities and technologies that can be incorporated into classroom learning.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Using the iPad Pro for Learning in the Classroom

While the iPad Pro won't be available until November, I thought I could discuss some of the ways that this new tablet and its features might enhance teaching and learning activities in K-12 classrooms. I think I can make some educated guesses on how this device might be used for teaching and learning and try to get beyond the hype that apple salespeople and others might inspire.

First and foremost, it is not the device itself that causes learning. In Educational Technology, we always have to remember this, and yet we seem to keep forgetting it. The device itself is not what makes the difference, it is how it is used in the classroom, and how it is used by students, that makes the difference.

So with that in mind, how should we use a device? I like to go back to the constructionist point of view by Seymour Papert. In this view, a device should be used by students to create something, not as a device for viewing, reading or listening to (Harel & Papert, 1999). I have spoken about the good, bad, and ugly of adopting iPads in a previous podcast episode, the iPad really was originally created as a device to allow users to consume information, not create it. However with later versions of the iPad and with the iPad Pro, we see a positive direction with more and more features to allow the user to create (though I am still waiting for a feature that allows you to access your own file system and upload files).

An interesting new feature of the iPad pro is its 12.9" screen size. More than the iPad, the iPad air and other tablet computers, this screen size can allow for more creation of content with a larger screen space. Anyone who has used the iPad to create a video, author an essay or compose a song, knows that screen space is quite limited. A larger screen size will help students to more efficiently create digital media to show their knowledge.

Even some of the multitasking features now available with iOS 9, along with the larger screen size, can enhance teaching and learning. Students can use the split screen and picture-in-picture features to do a variety of learning activities:

  • Take notes while reading a book on the other side of the screen
  • Create a presentation while watching a picture-in-picture video on the same topic
  • Write an essay while viewing the cited sources 
  • Read feedback from the teacher while making corrections to a project

A larger screen will also allow more sharing of presentations and projects by teachers and students without having to connect to an external monitor or projector. If the new speakers are as powerful as Apple claims, then it will be possible for the whole class to hear videos and presentations without plugging in external speakers. Students could share presentations and projects that they created simply by bringing their iPad Pro to the front of the room and tapping the play button.

External items that can be purchased and paired with the iPad Pro can also enhance teaching and learning activities, especially those that allow students to create. Anyone who has tried to create a serious essay on the iPad knows that on-screen keyboards don't cut it. External keyboards that fit previous iPad versions are often too small for long term typing. The new Smart Keyboard that is made especially for the iPad Pro is a more serious keyboard which can better be used by students to write essays, create brochures and build slideshows. This keyboard, however, comes at a hefty price of about $169.00.

The new Apple Pencil also has great potential for supporting student creation activities. One important difference that this will have from previous iPads is that it will only detect the pencil and not students' palm or hand on the iPad Pro surface. This can help students create accurate drawings and lessons in a more natural way. Even younger students can practice writing letters and numbers in a way that was not possible with earlier tablets. The iPad Pro is the right size for a slate on which students can compose letters and words from an early age. More advanced students could create better whiteboard lessons and presentations with apps like EduCreations and ShowMe. Art students can use this technology to create digital artworks and submit them to the teacher. Keep in mind that the Apple Pencil also comes at an extra price, $99.00.

Remember, it is not the device itself that causes learning, it is how the device is used by students. The new iPad Pro will allow for more opportunities for students to create something, not just to view, read or listen, and this could make a positive difference for learning.

Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1991). Constructionism. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Google Drive - Lesser Known Features for Teachers

Recently in my Classroom Technology class at Norther State University, a student created and presented this screencast about some of the lesser known features and functions of Google Drive. This presentation is nice because it assumes that many viewers already know about the basics of Google Drive, and goes into detail on some of the lesser known items.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ed Tech Podcast for SD Teachers Episode 29: Visible Learning

Have you ever wondered what types of interventions, teaching and learning practices and other items really make a difference for student learning? In this episode, we take a look at the interventions, teaching and learning practices and other elements have an above average effect on student learning.
I discuss John Hattie's framework for Visible Learning to help answer some of these questions.

Visible Learning, and Visible Learning for Teachers

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Is Wikipedia a Reliable Source of Information?

One of the first websites that is likely to come up in an online search for information is Wikipedia, a Educational Technology for Teachers.
free encyclopedia that allows anyone to edit and add information. Much of this post is an excerpt from my book,

The allure of Wikipedia is that it is free and easy to find, and almost anyone can share their knowledge and post or edit an article. However, this allure has also led teachers to be wary of the reliability of Wikipedia's content. In a previous podcast episode, I discuss a test you can use to determine the accuracy of information sources, called the CRAP test. But Wikipedia is a different issue altogether.

While anyone can edit the pages, it's important to remember that changes on Wikipedia pages are monitored. One experiment that we conducted in class involved sabotaging a Wikipedia article for a University by changing the University's official slogan. It took only two minutes for the change to be corrected back to the original slogan. We tried the same change again, and again it was corrected, but this time it took a few hours.

Some studies have even found that Wikipedia is as accurate as other major encyclopedias and information (see Reliability of Wikipedia for more information). So if Wikipedia is just as accurate as other major encyclopedias, then why can't students use this information as a cited source? Is it that we just have a bias against sources of information that can be easily found online? One point to remember is that the studies featured at the above link are reported by Wikipedia, which has an interest in casting a positive light on it's own information. However, it is pretty clear with the way that things are reported, that Wikipedia is overall a very accurate source of information.

My suggestion for teachers is that right now it is probably best to allow students to use Wikipedia as a tool to gather preliminary information on a topic but not as a reference to cite within a paper. Instead, students should be encouraged to follow the references at the bottom of a Wikipedia article for more accurate citations. Even so, it makes me wonder at what point should we allow citations of Wikipedia articles in student papers if these articles are indeed as accurate as they are purported to be?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Kahoot: A fun tool for capturing student responses

In my Classroom Technology class, we learned about a great tool for capturing student responses called Kahoot. Have a look at one of my student's tech talk session, in which she does a great job introducing Kahoot.


Kahoot is best for elementary classrooms, especially with classrooms that have a mobile device, laptop or computer for each student. So if you are a teacher in such a classroom, be sure you know about Kahoot.