Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Tag: technology (page 3 of 6)

“Crucial part of our learning”

So today I returned a laptop that a student had forgotten at school to a student during our homeroom. Two of his friends were standing nearby and expressed their shock that he would be so careless with his laptop.

Student 1: "How could you be so careless with your laptop? It’s a crucial part of our learning!"

Student 2: "It’s our main tool for school!"

The students obviously recognize the value of the laptops for their education. Why don’t more educators?

A 21st Century Learning Proposal

Here is a great video shared on the Edweek blog.

This video should be something to show your staff at the beginning of the year. In  fact, I’d like to make the focus of my training next year on building personal learning networks for the teachers, so that they see the value of their PLN.  Some of the staff at my school are connected with teachers from other schools and other parts of the world, but most are not except in limited ways.  More than anything else, I’d like my staff to see the value in creating their own learning network.

You should read the entire blog post on the Edweek blog and then decide how you will start your school year.

Working on a new podcast for educational reform

A Conversation With EducatorsThis afternoon I had a great conversation with David Miles and Fred Mindlin. David works as an Academic Coordinator in a private school in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Fred works as an educational consultant for the Central California Writing Project.

Both of them are extremely articulate and intelligent people who have a lot to say about education. I’ve known David for about 5 years now ever since we worked together in London, and I met Fred for the first time this afternoon.

I asked David through Skype, and I invited Fred through Twitter, and we all met in a Skype group chat.  We decided to continue the conversation from #edchat and talk about educational reform.

This idea for a Conversation With Educators is from the podcast @betchaboy does, The Virtual Staffroom and is something I hope more teachers do. Talking with educators from around the world about what we do is a terrific experience. I hope to chat with more of you next week.

For now you can listen to this podcast episode below, or subscribe to this podcast in iTunes here.  This podcast is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license so please feel free to remix it and share it, so long as you give proper attribution to the original work.

Listen here: here

For those of you who are curious about the production of this podcast, it was recorded using a program called Skype Call Recorder on Windows, and slightly edited using Audacity.

I don’t know how to use a fax machine

Today I had to ask for help using technology.  I know, I’m supposed to be embarrassed, I am the expert at my school on using technology, but really there are things I don’t know how to do.  I don’t know how to use a fax machine.  They were never a technology I considered useful, and in today’s world of email, I consider them somewhat archaic.

In any case, I had to send a fax today because it was the only way I could send this particular piece of information to a government ministry, don’t get me started on that.  I went to the front office and asked our really wonderful administrative assistant if she could help me.  Her jaw dropped, and the jaw of a colleague who was standing nearby dropped as well.  "You don’t know how to use a fax machine? But you’re like Mr. Technology! You should know this!"

My colleague patiently showed me how to send a fax, a skill I’m sure I’ll promptly forget.  It looks pretty easy but given that I have to send about 1 fax every year, it’s not a skill I get to practice often and I’ll probably have to ask again next year.  When my colleague finished showing me how to use our school’s photocopier, which I discovered doubles as a fax machine, I was happy and thanked her.  She did a fist-pump, exclaimed, "Yes! I showed Mr. Wees something with technology," and then went on to give the administrative assistant a high-five.  They were both excited that they got to show me something.

Now keep in mind, these are grown adults, and their reaction might not be the same as your students’ reaction, but let me ask the question: How do you think your kids would react if they got to teach you something?  Do you think that they would remember that experience? Would it be worth not looking like the expert for a couple of minutes?

Midway reflection on Apple Digital learning program

We are currently in the middle of what is known as the Apple Digital Learning Program.  I first learned about this program at a technology workshop sponsored by Apple way back in December, and through communication with my local sales representative, we submitted an application to host the DLP at my school.

How the program actually works is that you submit applications, or a set of joint applications from your school.  If Apple approves your application, and they have the hardware available, they will send you a set of very new Apple Macbooks, 10 iPod Touches, 1 digital camera, 1 digital camcorder, and 1 airport extreme base station.  You can use these devices free for a month, and then ship them back to Apple, of course if there are any problems during the month, your school is liable for any damages.

The process of getting applications back from my staff wasn’t too difficult, although it took a couple of times of putting out the word to the teachers to get some applications in.  We ended up submitting a set of 6 applications from our school, one from each of an outdoor ed teacher, a humanities teacher, a music teacher, a science teacher, and two math teachers with myself included.  

The box that arrived a couple of weeks ago looks like the picture on the left when you first open it.  The objective is to get it to look exactly like this as possible when you return the box.  There’s a decent lock on the outside and wheels on the bottom of the box.  We’ve discovered that moving the box around a lot is a pain, so we’ve moved classes of kids instead.

We had a workshop that where we worked with a wonderful instructor from Apple, her name was Julia Leong.  She was brilliant, I highly recommend having her attend your school for technology PD, even if you aren’t able to participate in the DLP.  The feedback from the teachers after the workshop was very positive, although most of the teachers are fairly technologically minded people so they didn’t have too much trouble picking up the skills and ideas Julia shared.

During that workshop, I even made a movie which was loads of fun!

The feedback from the students has been tremendous!  They have LOVED being able to use the Mac computers and have definitely appreciated that the teachers are learning with them.  The projects the teachers have been working on with the students have almost all been about creating and sharing ideas.  One of the nice things about having all of the teachers we do involved in this program is that it actually means that every student in the school, with the exception of our 12th grade students who are currently engaged with their IB exams, will get a chance to work with the laptops at some point.

We are only a couple of weeks into the program, but already I can see some possibilities that these computers offer for technology.  The first is that iMovie is extremely powerful software and makes editing movies a breeze, including some pretty advanced techniques.  My favourite part of the Mac iLife suite is how each program on the computer seems to communicate so easily with each other.  The integration between the programs is nearly seamless.

For example, I had students film themselves throwing a ball to a partner using the built in webcam on the laptops, they then learned how to crop the movie and overlay a transparent image of graph paper over their movie.  From this they collected data about their graph, which we are going to use later to determine the equation of of the motion of their graph.  We did all of this in a single block, with a group of students who had mostly never used either a Mac or iMovie before.

I recommend trying out this program at your school, it can be a way to really show your staff that educational technology is a really valuable way through which students can learn advanced ideas and skills.

Turning Math word problems into Math video problems

Last year I tried an experiment after being exposed to research about the Jasper project.  The basic idea of this project is, turn difficult word problems into authentic video problems which include potential extensions.  The experiment was this, have my students create the video word problems, and start creating a library of these problems to use with my future classes.

The experience of creating the problem has some minor mathematics in it, after all the students need to formulate a difficult problem, verify that they are able to shoot the problem on video and then show a working solution to the problem (on paper or handed in separately in digital form).  These skills are quite difficult, and are higher order skills in Bloom’s taxonomy.

Here’s an example of one of these word problems on the right.

It’s important to note here that there are some very difficult mathematical concepts embedded in this video.  Students will need to be able to understand rate problems, solve for the distance of the falling object using kinematics, and use trigonometry to determine the distance that needs to be traveled, and then go back to rate problems to answer the question.

The whole process from start to finish took about 2 weeks (or 8 classes).  One class to brainstorm the idea, one class to decide on the script and come up with the text version of the problem, and a few classes to solve the problem and do some in-class video editing.  Yes, this is a lot of time, but in terms of building student self-esteem, working on very important collaboration and planning skills, it is worth it.

There’s no way that is actually enough time to produce such a high quality (for a student group) video, so I know for sure that lots of time was spent on this video outside of class, probably many hours of time.

So this process also inspires the students and gets them excited about your material.  They will work much harder when they are excited about coming to class.  

The video editing process itself was fairly straight forward.  Most groups shot the clips with standard digital cameras, and then recorded the audio tracks after their video was done on their computers using Audacity.  One group used iMovie for their editing and production, and the other 3 groups used Windows Movie Maker which was totally sufficient for their needs.  If you want a no-install option, you can look at using which I’ve tested out myself and works fairly well.  It only really lacks two important features, the ability to edit the audio track separate from the video, and the ability to modify the video itself (instead of just moving it around), such as slow-motion, etc…

Check out these other two videos.  Maybe use them with your class and try and solve the problems.  As far as I remember, all of them have solutions, although some will require students to estimate distances.

Synthesis reflection – Summer of 2009

First thing I did when I started this assignment was to reread my flight path. I discovered very quickly that it had somehow been deleted, so I had to remember what I had written and rewrite it. I think I remembered most of what I had written, so it was nice to have my goals fresh on my mind.

In terms of success meeting my goals, I would say that I definitely got the experience using an LMS that I wanted. I took two courses this summer and for both we used the Moodle LMS, so this gave me many hours of self-directed training with the support of two communities of motivated practitioners. I’ve already decided that I want to use this LMS with my students next year, and happily my new school has it installed on their servers. The plan is to export what I started in this course, and use it with my class next year.

My other goals were met with varying degrees of success. I did get exposed to some other uses of multimedia that I was not already familiar so that was nice. I also read a lot of literature that suggested best practices for using different online resources. I also had a painful reminder of how to best format images for the web (in terms of a bad grade for not doing it!).

The toolkit is a neat idea. I would have liked to have had a bit more freedom on how it was arranged, but in terms of organizing a complicated resource for a large number of students, I can really see why such rigidity is important. My two course instructors for ETEC 531 and ETEC 565 use very different approaches in terms of flexibility of course requirements, and this has helped me reflect on my own teaching practices. Perhaps a bit more rigidity in my own course requirements would help me save time grading, which I could then apply towards preparing better lessons.

I was not as diligent in using the Toolkit as I should have been. There were a couple of items that to me seemed a little less useful. For example, I have been building professional websites in my spare time for the past 4 years, and so creating a simple website using a WYSIWYG editor seemed less useful to me. Reflecting on the accessibility of said website was an excellent idea, and the gigantic list of things that make a website suck was super useful. There were a couple of eLearning Toolkit pages which were a little bit less organized than I would have liked. I actually left a comment in the discussion page of one of them, with some questions that may turn into suggestions for improvement. However, such a self-directed exercise I think is a very important part of this course, and I would recommend that even my colleagues who are not currently enrolled in a degree program like the MET (but are interested in Ed Tech) perform their own such survey.

Let’s take a look at my own e-Portfolio and assess it using the SECTIONS criteria. I’m only going to focus on the criteria which I feel like I have something useful to say.


As my classmates and I are the students reading this blog, have I done a good enough job of writing my material for that audience? I feel like I have. Rather than re-iterate points they have brought up (which I have read through my feeds of their ETEC 565 blogs), I have tried to bring up new points, and to write from my perspective.

Organizational Issues:

This blog is well organized. I’ve tried to use useful tags and categories to make it easy to find posts, which are generally organized by either what classroom Module they refer to, or that they are in the Toolkit. As well, as per the instructions for creating this blog, the most important items have their own page. This means they have a direct link in the top header portion of the blog.


Using blogs for education is nothing new, but have entire classes of grad students create their own space for storing their writing is a good idea. Basically this way we can all share our experiences with each other, and we are encouraged to put our best work forward.


One immediate advantage of this platform is the speed at which we were up and running. I seem to recall that pretty much everyone in the class had a blog within the first week, which is impressive considering that a few of us had never blogged before. The instructions for getting started were slightly more rigid than some of us expected, but having recognized the reasons (earlier in this entry) for having such a formal structure in place for our blogs, it was pretty straight forward getting them set up.

Next year, I am going to be working at a new school where there is every indication I will end up being one of the leaders in the use of technology. I’m planning on focusing on helping other teachers get up to speed with some of the existing technologies as well as refining my own use of technology. The school has their own Moodle server, and I plan to use this more extensively than I have in the past, perhaps over the next two years building online versions of my existing courses.

One of my goals has been, and will continue to be, to become a provider of professional development opportunities. I’ve really enjoyed my chances over the past 4 years to provide training to my colleagues on how to use technology, whether it is for their own personal improvement, or in their classrooms. This is an area where I can see lots of room for improvement, and I can only do that with practice!

The next two semesters I am finishing off my core requirements for the MET program. I have ETEC 511, 512 in the fall, and ETEC 510 in the spring. Next summer I hope to complete the MET degree with the graduate project, ETEC 590. Once I have this degree done, I’ll probably take a break from the classroom for a few years, and try to put to practice what I have been learning.

Moodle proposal

David Wees

Stratford Hall


The British Columbia government recently strongly encouraged that all school districts must provide distributed learning for all interested students in their district. Although the private schools in BC have managed to thus far avoid this requirement, it is conceivably that all schools will eventually be held to this standard. Stratford Hall currently uses a distributed learning platform, but it is meant as an additional tool for a face to face classroom. I propose that we extend this platform to allow for students to take entire courses online if they so choose.

Moodle Proposal

As part of our desire to be an excellent school we have been providing the forefront of what is considered an excellent education. This is best done using sound educational practices and proven pedagogical techniques to best instruct our children. There are a few best practices which we should endeavor to use at our school, one of which is to provide a framework for students who have missed school to be able to catch up on work they have missed in a useful way (Govindasamy, T., 2002). Second, as many school districts in British Columbia have been accepting the initiative by the provincial government to produce distributed learning courses (BCME 2006), this is a new area in which to compete with the public schools.


Our current structure for our online learning is using the Moodle platform on an ad hoc basis. Some teachers utilize the system, others do not. No one uses the system to its fullest potential, and certainly no one at our school has an entire online course available for our students. We need to rectify this situation in order to continue to compete with the public schools in BC.


When evaluating which direction to go with our distributed learning, we need to look at the following criterion: cost, time required, usability, and accessibility which are some of the criteria we have discussed as part of my Master’s degree program.

Moodle will be the cheapest platform for us to use in terms of licensing cost. As Moodle is open source we do not need to pay any licensing fee to use Moodle. Any proprietary LMS we might choose will come with an associated yearly license fee.

In terms of time required to work on this project, continuing to use Moodle is the best value as well. Since teachers are already familiar with using Moodle, there will be very little additional training time necessary in order to extend our capabilities. Learning a new learning management system (LMS) would only extend the amount of time this project would take.

Moodle has been shown to have some problems with usability, at least for first time users. There is a bit of a steeper learning curve than with some other LMS which will have to factor into our decision. Although most of our current teachers are trained in the use of Moodle, any new hires will have to undergo training upon arrival at our school. Of course any new LMS we choose would require all of our current teachers to be retrained.

A major factor in choosing to keep our Moodle platform however is accessibility. A major competitor to Moodle, the WebCT LMS, is not usable without JavaScript enabled, which screen readers for the visually impaired do not enable. Moodle has been designed with accessibility for the visually impaired in mind. Extending current British Columbia educational policy regarding accessibility to distributed learning, it is clear that this will be a requirement of our project.

What this project will require more than anything else is time from the teachers to place their course work online. Creation of an online course is quite time-consuming and we should expect that it will take the better part of a year, using teachers working part-time on this project, to complete one course for each teacher. We already have the server resources already allocated to our Moodle platform. We have also invested a fair amount of time training teachers on how to use Moodle, so there will be very little additional training time required.


In the past few years a number of prominent educational institutes have been putting up their courses on the web. This list includes MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and even our local university, the University of British Columbia (Cox, J. 2007),. Universities across North America are rapidly adding distributed learning packages to their services offered in order to compete in a rapidly expanding market. It seems that the number of online secondary programs is rapidly growing (Chen, G. 2003). It must become our objective to be part of this phenomena.


If we do not join the other public schools in creating this initiative, then we will be lagging behind in our competition, even with the public schools. Our global economy is currently in crisis, the parents of our students are looking to save money wherever they can. One we can ensure that they continue to pay tuition to us and keep their students in our school is by providing more services than the public schools. Although parents value the overall quality of school, they are attracted to unique programs, hence the value of our current Taiko drumming and rock-climbing programs. A distributed learning platform would make us a very attractive deal indeed!


Bates & Poole. (2003). “A Framework for Selecting and Using Technology.” In Effective Teaching with Technology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

British Columbia Ministry of Education (BCME) policy, (2006), retrieved from on June 7th, 2009

Govindasamy, T. (2002), Successful implementation of e-Learning: Pedagogical considerations, Retrieved from on June 7th, 2009

Cox, J. (2007), MIT digitizes its courses, throws them online, and asks ‘What now?”, Retrieved from on June 7th, 2009.

Chen, G. (2003). What is an online high school? Retrieved from on June 7th, 2009

Flight path for the summer of 2009


Write a weblog entry that describes your proposed flight path during ETEC 565. Tell us a bit about yourself, your experience, and your goals for this course (or, perhaps, the MET). Explain what you want to learn about Learning Management Systems (LMS), synchronous communication, assessment, social software, and multimedia. Give your best estimate (guestimate?) about what resources you would need to master these technologies as a novice professional. Be sure to cite relevant literature to support your decision.

As I recall, my plan for this course was to focus on learning the LMS Moodle, and to learn more of the theory behind why we use various technologies in education. These two goals to me seemed a lot for a summer course, and I felt that trying to do too much would be over-ambitious.

My experience with the use of technology in education goes back to when I started working in NYC. I built a website for a project we were working on as a class using Geocities free websites. The website itself wasn’t great, and the project worked well without it, so I abandoned technology at that stage for another two years. I did lots of stuff with it myself, but my learning with it lagged, and I didn’t use it in education at all.

When I started working in London, I had a friend who mentioned he was learning how to build websites. He showed me a couple of examples, and they were so much better than I had worked with, I felt compelled to try it myself. Within a few months I had taught myself the basics of HTML/XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript. About a year later I had added PHP and MYSQL to my repertoire. As part of the learning exercise, I began to create online activities for my students, mostly using HTML + JavaScript.

My goals with the MET program in general are to solidify the learning I’ve done already in terms of technology use with students, and to find ways/best practices for things I can use technology in education. The fact I’ll end up with a credential as well is just bonus.

I want to learn how to effectively use an LMS. I’m not interested in just substituting content I would normally write down on a blackboard into an eLearning context. There are some best practices that should be implemented when using an LMS (Bersin, J., 2004) , and I felt that this course would help me find them. Since I will still be teaching a face to face course, I want to find ways to use my LMS most efficiently as a course companion to my regular course. One way that Tom Wulf (2004) suggests that one way to use an LMS is an archive of the class discussion, which I would like to explore as well.

Synchronous communication is something I’ve "experimented with" quite a bit, using various tools to keep in touch with my family over the years. I am a bit interested in learning how to safely use these in education, but given that I have a F2F course with my students already, these tools will probably be less useful to learn more about.

Online assessment is interesting to me. I would love to find a way to efficiently create secure online assessments for my students. It might be a bit of a time-saver at the end of the day to do my quizzes online. As long I don’t use the quizzes for more than verifying the understanding of my students, I should be okay to use them with my class.

Multimedia is less interesting to me, mostly because of my content area. I’ve found that when it is used (ineffectively) with mathematics, it can hurt the understanding of the students. It is so easy to create bad math videos or uninteresting math videos that I have hesitated to use them with my students. However I learned about the use of video word problems with students as a way to improve their understanding of the problem solving process. I am interested in learning more about this process, and wonder what other possibilities I have been missing.

In terms of resources needed to master these goals, I think the best resource I have will be the community of learners. We will be able to bounce ideas off each other, and share ways of using resources that I will not individually be able to come up with. As well, just the process of reflection required to complete this course is going to force me to practice skills that I don’t normally have a chance to use in my day to day teaching. This I think will be the most important aspect of this course.


Bersin, J., (2004)., The Blended Learning Book: Best Practices, Proven Methodogies, and Lessons Learned, Retrieved from on July 28th

Wulf, T., (2004)., Using learning management systems to teach paperless courses: best practices for creating accreditation review record archives, retrieved from on July 28th.