Educational Technology

Starting another journey


Gif created by ctrades. Person image free at Clipart Library

I had always thought tweeting was weird. And blogging, well, I’ve read a few blogs written by travelling friends but most of the blogs I go to are recipe blogs and I just want the good stuff – the recipe. It never occurred to me that tweeting could be a way to mine information or that blogs could actually be a source of educational inspiration. On top of that, it’s a way to connect with educators you don’t know yet. I didn’t understand that there was an educator/learner culture on social media. Kind of like Tinder for learners. And to belong, you have to tweet and blog to read others’ tweets and blogs because they are doing the same thing – looking for inspiration and connection with like-minded individuals. If you don’t tweet or blog, you will lose that connection.

Once you start, there is just SO much information coming through. Like reading a newspaper – you don’t have to read every little thing, but you need to scan to look for the ‘good bits’ for where you are right now. TweetDeck and Feedly were easy to set up and use as an organization system. Hootsuite will get consideration next week even though I am happy with my current two systems. I am starting to find a voice on Twitter, and I am working on my voice in blogging. If some future (or current) MEdTech student finds my blog helpful, great! If not, it doesn’t matter because I am finding it helpful. Putting my thoughts in writing has always been useful for me but blogging about it makes me consider my word choice a little more carefully and makes me be a little clearer. Something interesting is that the quote I retweeted from another educator (below), I decided to research today. Weirdly enough, it is an internet quote with no background! No one can track down the originator, so it has become somewhat of an internet urban myth. Another lesson in research and attribution. Should I have contributed to the confusion by retweeting and not attributing properly?

And of course, you need to make your blog pretty, so I spent about an hour making a gif I wanted for my last blog. I used the Creative Commons to find editable scrabble pieces (though there wasn’t a ‘C’), edited the ‘G’ and ‘M’ to a ‘C’ through Photoshop, made 32 images in InDesign, and then used an online gif maker, EZGif, to create my scrabble gif. I wanted to use the logos of the social media in a gif, but I checked the brand guidelines for Twitter and it states you cannot animate it. Actually, the brand guidelines for even the use of the Creative Commons were very restrictive, so I decided to err on the side of being too careful and did not include them on my blog. Too bad, so sad, but rules are rules. (And then, I couldn’t let this post aimed at my Social Media course be without a gif, so I spent half an hour making this one.)

My last (long) post was about all the connections I’ve been making based on our Research methods course. After a quick meeting with Valerie on Friday, I had another connection made. So much of my self-directed learning has been through experimentation and online tutorials and videos found primarily on YouTube and a school subscription to Lynda. I was really using those websites as a learning community but in the static, traditional lecture style where teaching and learning stay on their assigned separate sides. At school, our students are good networkers within our classrooms during class and through email and through google docs and classroom when outside of class. They also make use of online tutorials and sites they find or we direct them to. Could I curate and moderate (with help) an online learning platform where teachers AND students contribute? Create a learning community that would connect our students with incoming students (an area where I have concerns, particularly in mathematics), and perhaps students outside our school community? Our classes already have online teacher resources, but could we get the students to share their work, especially those with errors that would help others? Could I get teachers to share their work outside our organization? The site structure around concepts/content/skills would be complicated, and then there would need to be some specific diagnostic tools created as well as some motivational interactive learning tools, specifically made to develop mathematical inquiry skills and to use math in real-life problems. Altogether, that could potentially be a Masters Project. Hmmmm.

It’s Like Scrabble!

Gif created by ctrades. All photos used in gif taken by
MarcoG2012 and licensed under CC BY 2.0

The pieces are coming together! The massive amounts of information from the readings, the presenters, and our instructors! Exciting! I have had a number of ‘AHA’ moments over the last three days, with over half involving waking up in the middle of the night and making notes on my phone. So today, since it is about getting ready for Wednesday’s class and how information from Wednesday’s class was used, I think a long post is justified.

We were assigned a reading on mixed methods: Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework by Alicia O’Cathain, published in 2010. I searched to ensure I had an accurate understanding of mixed methods before reading the academically worded article. This Overview of Mixed Methods from the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching (CIRT) at the Grand Canyon University in Arizona was concise. Reading through it made me realize that I would have difficulty believing a study that presented only quantitative data since there are always qualitative factors that affect the reliability of the data collected and therefore the validity of the study. Similarly, I would be challenged to accept the findings of a qualitative study that included no quantitative analysis of data. As the article from the CIRT stated: “quantitative research is weak in understanding context or setting . . .(and) qualitative research may include biases and does not lend itself to statistical analysis and generalization.”

Still procrastinating about the assigned reading, I searched for an article in my area to share in class (as required). The top hit was Promoting Students’ Motivation and Use of SRL Strategies in the Web-Based Mathematics Learning Environment by Peidi Gu and Youngjin Lee. It was written in 2017 and published in 2018. I did not save my search and learned my lesson as I have unsuccessfully tried to duplicate the search. Yet the article was EXACTLY what I was looking for and so interesting that I have reread it and analyzed parts of it more than any of the articles I have read so far!

The 4Rs – Researcher

Alicia O’Cathain is currently a professor of Health Services Research at the University of Sheffield, UK. According to Google Scholar, she has her name on 227 articles and has almost 20,000 citations with almost 100 of her articles receiving at least 10 citations within the last 5 years. This is not surprising considering O’Cathain’s first paper was written in 1988. Interestingly, it was Mixed Method Research in Education (on my to-do list to read). Quite a contrast was the primary author of the article I enjoyed so much: Peidi Gu. Gu does not exist on Google Scholar, which worried me. Luckily the biography in the article states she “was a PhD student in Educational Technology in the University of Kansas . . . (w)ith multi-disciplinary background in Computer Science, Mathematics and Education”. Her co-author, Youngjin Lee is an associate professor of Educational Technology with 32 articles listed on Google Scholar with his first article listed in 2000. Upon further research, I found Gu’s dissertation – but saved it for later reading and bibliography mining. So both researchers are credible, not that there was any doubt about a reading supplied for class, but my reading, though engaging, could have been chaff. Valuable lesson: do not waste time reading a found article without researching the author. Fluff is not allowed as a citation resource.

The 4Rs – Research

O’Cathain summarized the difficulties in ascertaining whether mixed methods used in research are legitimate. Her system of nine types of quality assessment in four domains with a number of criteria is rigourous and complicated. But any study conducted with mixed methods should be held to high standards. But is this list really comprehensive? New technology has been created since this article was written.

The research in Gu’s study (and I am going to call it Gu’s study as it is a portion of her Ph.D dissertation which required one of her supervisors’ names to get published) combines qualitative and quantitative methods. Her choice of mixed methods made sense to me as a mathematics educator and is in the area I would like to explore for my project. My understanding of the criteria presented in O’Cathain’s article was furthered by applying it to Gu’s methods, which on a brief consideration, seem reasonable. If I use Gu’s dissertation as a I plan, I will need to assess it more carefully using Cathain’s system.

The 4Rs – Reader (About Me)

O’Cathain’s article was definitely instructional in nature and will be very helpful as a tool. Gu’s article (and later her dissertation) will be extremely useful as I develop what I anticipate my project will be. I am looking at the difficulty motivated international students have coming into our secondary programs at the Grade 10 and 11 level and trying to fit themselves into our mathematics courses. Canada’s integrated mathematics programs do not align well with American programs. Other countries’ programs do not integrate topics in the same years as we do. Our focus on inquiry learning particularly at the Grade 10 level is also very new to most of our students. My hope is to curate as well as create resources that motivated incoming students can explore in order to be more successful in our mathematics programs. Yes, it will be specifically aimed at our school, but hopefully will be adaptable by other math teachers. In addition, I want to include the types of questions found on our British Columbia Education Numeracy Assessment which is now required of students graduating in BC. I believe the cultural basis of some of the questions exclude our international students from success on the assessment (although I have limited data). Although this new assessment should not require preparation, those new to BC or Canadian culture can find some of the situational questions posed are just inaccessible.

Literary Review

The lit review was introduced in class and my head spun. It made sense and yet it didn’t. To me, a lit review sounded like a OPVL (Origin, Purpose, Value, Limitations) form yet it was Chapter 2 of your project? I went home and found a couple of videos that made sense:

So without reading the assigned article, which our instructor previewed in class, I went to Gu’s article to compare her bibliography with her Chapter 2. The colors are not exactly the same, but you can see the relationship between the information presented in the Introduction of the article to the bibliography. There were some citations that were only included in the Measures or Research Implications sections, but the majority are in the area that would become the Chapter 2 of a dissertation or project. Analyzing an article this way made reading David N. Boote and Penny Beile’s Scholars Before Researchers: On the Centrality of the Dissertation Literature Review in Research Preparation much more meaningful.

I did a review of Gu’s article based on Boote and Beile’s rubric. As it is only a 20 page portion of a 146 page dissertation, I thought the level of achievement quite good!

I don’t need convincing that good research is important before undertaking a task, whether it is a thesis or a project. Even in my regular work, I would rather spend a bit of time researching rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’ in case someone else already has a perfectly good ‘wheel’ which I can choose to use or customize. I want to make sure I am using the best of the information that is out there (and free) to create something that is new (or at least new to being free). I feel like one of our Grade 10s, embarking on my International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme’s Personal Project! Just like our incoming Grade 10 students, I am in the Investigating stage, doing my research and coming up with my problem.

Mixed Bag

While not exactly Mixed Methods, my thoughts today are like a shopping cart full of interesting things that need to get sorted out into the appropriate spaces in my head, my computer, and my to-do list!. Glad we got the Zotero up and running because I now need to use it to start on that lit review list. Have to go check out the Zotero tutorial to really get going, but this short video was helpful to solidify the idea of a lit review.

All the Twitter information we found as a group has been shared on the googledoc, so I went out to my PLN from readings and IB work to find a few more: @geographywee (a great tech teacher), @joboaler, @MapleLeafMath (a transformative math teacher), and (because they distracted me from writing this blog) and (which sent me down a rabbit hole a couple of days ago). There are so many interesting tech and math ideas and I want to curate a list for my staff and my IB workshop participants.

I really enjoyed being in a group with someone accessing remotely. I may head out again just so I have the excuse to be a remote learner and experience that again – hopefully someone else in the room will be the online monitor. It is difficult for the presenter to be the online monitor as well as the presenter, because there is just too much to do for one person. Other situations I have been in where there has been an online chat, the chat was monitored by someone other than the presenter. I expect it will be different when we are all online.

On to my To-Do List!

Time Management

Waiting for the bus and then the short ride is good thinking time. You might even meet another classmate on the bus! And that chat might get a stranger to comment on your conversation of not getting all your readings/prep done! And that stranger might even be a retiring Education prof who reinforces what you just realized – scan the articles for general information and carefully read the ones you connect with. Taking two courses in just over 3 weeks means you need to be efficient in your time use. This became really obvious this morning when instead of reading the assigned readings carefully, I went to Rich McCue’s blog and found all sorts of interesting stuff! I did eventually manage to tear myself away long enough to scan and take basic notes on the last reading for today.  But I am starting to realize what is good information, what is interesting information, and what is going to be relevant for me! Now, how to find the balance of how to allocate my time between the three. . .

Reflections of Online Class Attendance vs Being In Class

I wanted to try this and I’m glad I did it early on in the course. It helps give perspective on how the online students are experiencing class. And now I can take the positives and apply them to when I am in class (as well as taking the negatives and sharing them so hopefully the online people will have an improved experience). I think everyone in class should try this at least once in July!

All you online learners, please add things I missed!


After our first class, I needed to go home and get right to work AND I needed to do absolutely nothing so my brain could absorb the conversations. So I compromised by gardening and cooking. After a significant break, I was able to work on creating my blogsite. Thank goodness I had done Thursday’s readings already!

The Autoethnography: An Overview article was pretty heavy for me. So much vocabulary but yet the idea is quite simple: “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.” The article listed a number of types of autoethnography, but quantifying and qualifying this type of research is complicated. “As ethnography, autoethnography is dismissed for social scientific standards as being insufficiently rigorous, theoretical, and analytical, and too aesthetic, emotional, and therapeutic.”

Autoethnography is actually connected to a concern I have about our provincial numeracy testing and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) Mathematics exam I mark based on a mark scheme from IB: does the assessment require personal experiences that may influence a students’ success when unpacking the questions? If I research the success students experience in the numeracy assessment, based on their cultural experiences and the type of questions they chose to do their long answers on, then I would likely be using some variation of autoethnography. I can see that this is an area where I will need to delve a little deeper. Re-reading the article and making a dictionary of terms (as was suggested in class) is on my to-do list.

Research Diary: A Tool for Scaffolding was actually a feel-good read. It clarified and justified my chosen method of working. I have always been a list and note person, documenting what was done and what needed to be done. My formats just were not in the form of a traditional diary. With our school being so focussed on email communication, my email was a big part of my diary, with even some emails sent to myself with extra comments about things I wanted to remember or look back at in a few days, months or years down. My extensive filing system for my emails helped out a number of times, particularly when decisions made by staff that had departed the school were required to sort out an issue. I had my day planner and calendar online with many notes to look back at from year to year, as well as documents for specific big tasks that listed actions taken, the order that worked from year to year, justifications for decisions made and reflections on what to try in the future. Thus, I particularly connected with certain statements in the article:

“it makes visible both the successful and (apparently) unsuccessful routes of learning and discovery so that they can be revisited and subject to analysis”, “in the research process, data collection should not be separated from reflection and analysis, as all processes feed into each other”, and “the aim of starting the journal is not usually for reflection, but as part of the data collection and to increase validity by keeping a log of decisions made”.

As a researcher, I will definitely be more cognizant of keeping even more careful notes of what I have searched and found, particularly those items that are not of use now but may be in the future. With the speed of this particular course and the volume of information being taken in, I cannot depend upon my memory to keep track of bits and pieces the way I was able to at work.

Our second class was very interesting. The idea of trying to pull three items out of each reading helped settle me. I take notes from each reading (that I do not post) but I reread these notes a few times. I already know which articles will need a re-read, so not worrying about totally absorbing each one the first time helps with the overload. Also, I appreciated looking at research through the 4 Rs: Research (What? How?), Researcher (Who?), Researched (on What or with Whom?) and Reader (Who?). This will be important to do on articles I find to help judge reliability for whatever I eventually choose to do.

The short session with the librarian was really helpful. Research in my position at school was only in British Columbia Education documents. The last time I had to do significant research was in my BMusMusEd and BA days, when we still had to dig through all the cards of article abstracts and then read the articles on microfiche!

I was even more overwhelmed after class today than the first day. Plenty of work added to my to-do list and a realization of how helpful Fridays without classes was going to be. I am very thankful we have such a positive and open group of students and teachers.

Underestimating Big Time!

The amount of time to get through the assigned readings was more than what I expected, having forgotten the idea that each hour of class probably requires two hours of preparation. Plus, my ability to analyze and evaluate needs a substantial amount of actual ruminating as what I have read percolates through my accumulated knowledge. Therefore, it takes more time than anticipated – new skills for estimation of time to complete a job are required!

I appreciate that our first set of readings included a movie to set the questioning tone for our degree. Why technology and project-based learning and why now? Yes, the movie left much unsaid by focusing on just a few students, but it is a movie; when watching it as a documentary, you have to question what is behind the scenes that could be filmed to prove the totally opposite points. Similarly, the two readings presented opposing extremes of teaching methods while referencing the same study of medical students and interpreting the data to support their position. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.

The movie, Most Likely to Succeed, was presented in a way to convince the audience that project-based learning is the teaching method of the future. Some essential truths presented were:

– Education systems created for the industrialized age do not necessarily apply to our technology/information age.
– When you DO it, you remember it because you were involved. (which actually works well when you consider the apprenticeships that took place in the Medieval period and are still in place as an education method today).
– Problem-based learning develops soft skills (competencies) needed for moving forwards in a world where knowledge can be researched in an instant and basic skills can be completed by a robot.
– Problem-based learning encourages growth mindset, and can build perseverance, resourcefulness and resilience.
– Actually creating a final product results in the satisfaction of having done something new and helps students with learning to deal with stress (Stress is a very real problem in our current workplaces. At school, we can, hopefully, provide students with more tools to manage and cope with stress.)

Our two readings, Teaching for Meaningful Learning (Barron & Darling-Hammond) and Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work (Kirschner, Sweller & Clark). My primary disagreement with the Kirschner et al. article was its limited definition of learning “as a change in long term memory”. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines learning as

1: the act or experience of one that learns – a computer program that makes learning fun
2: knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study – people of good education and considerable learning
3: modification of a behavioral tendency by experience (such as exposure to conditioning)

The Oxford Dictionary defines learning as

“The action of receiving instruction or acquiring knowledge; spec. in Psychology, a process which leads to the modification of behaviour or the acquisition of new abilities or responses, and which is additional to natural development by growth or maturation; (frequently opposed to insight).”

Both of these definitions reference behaviour and behaviour modifications as a part of learning and the Kirschner et al. article downplays the importance of this. Even when describing crossing the street, Kirschner et al. only alludes to the importance of “information in long-term memory (which) informs us how to avoid speeding traffic, a skill many other animals are unable to store in their long-term memories” and does not include the requirement of trying out that information multiple times in a real-life situation in which more information is gathered until you do not have to think about the information and your behaviour in most crossing-the-street situations is automatic. How successfully would a person cross a street if they only relied on memorized information? And I am not talking about crossing at lights, but at an uncontrolled area that was busy? There is a need for both gathering information as well as real-life opportunities to use that information.

Kirschner et al. also states that all information stored in working memory is lost in 30 seconds and only a few (2-3) new pieces can be retained, but items in long-term memory can be brought in over and over. According to the article, inquiry-based instruction does not support the limitations of working memory. Yet part of project-based learning is the requirement for students to communicate and make lists of ideas, information gathered and approaches tried, so they will be bringing in the information multiple times in order to get it stored in working memory. This is no different than bringing in the new bits of learning multiple times by having students hear it or practice it multiple times.

“balance” is licensed under CC0 1.0

In my opinion, we need a happy medium; a balanced approach. Variety is good for students to be excited and not become stagnant. Some drill is helpful to speed up recall and develop behaviours that are automatics. Exploration is helpful to test basic knowledge and connect what you know with what you are learning. No one method is ‘the best’. Even Kirschner et al. quoted other studies while referring to the practice at medical school where students experience problem-based learning:

“as students are grappling with a problem and confronted with the need for particular kinds of knowledge, a lecture at the right time may be beneficial . . .participants trained in PBL retained the backward-directed reasoning pattern, but did not seem to acquire forward-directed reasoning, which is a hallmark of expertise.”

As Barron and Darling-Hammond’s chapter states:

“When teachers don’t fully understand the complexities of inquiry-based learning, they may simply think of this approach “unstructured,” and may, as a result, fail to provide proper scaffolding, assessment, and redirection as projects unfold.”

Successful education of the students in front of you is never the same from group to group and therefore we should base our educational practice in a broad mix of instructional techniques. We should not underestimate what type of educational style will be the ‘proper’ one to reach our students.

So it begins

I have considered doing a masters for a long time. I did ongoing research and training for the classes I taught, but that eventually became stale. Getting involved in the International Baccalaureate Educator network satisfied my craving for new information and pedagogy development, and then my career path changed – being in administration required a whole new set of readings and research. Although I just retired from full-time work, I plan on continuing with shorter contracts and as a consultant, so the timing is perfect for starting a Masters of Educational Technology.

Through IB training and learning how to run our new Information System, I have been in online classrooms, face-to-face inquiry/lecture workshops, and required to read many documents. Most of the documentation was not to be read critically, though. It was to be memorized and questioned so it could be applied, but there was only a little analysis and evaluation. This is a HUGE jump, because everything needs to be analyzed and evaluated and then you have to blog about it! Yikes! I come from a generation where we were trained to be careful about what we put in writing because it could come back to haunt you. And now I have to put it out in public, online, and not just in a letter or a report card! (Yes, we were given the option to keep it less public, but . . . ) As the saying goes, “faint heart never won fair lady”, and in my case, the fair lady is this wonderful opportunity to take a Masters online, starting with a July of synchronous classes (half of us attend online), and connecting with a wonderful group of like-minded individuals. Time to analyze my readings!

“Bloom’s Taxonomy”by Vandy CFT is licensed under CC BY 2.0