Classroom Devices: Less noticeable?


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I have been working in a wireless laptop school for a number of years now. I find these devices are starting to become less noticeable and just part the everyday learning environment. I would like to focus this blog post on this and some other changes I have noticed over the years. The bandwidth has continually increased. At first it seemed that as bandwidth went up so did demand. That’s not a big surprise for us economists. There can be a lot of pent up demand that needs to get satisfied before you can figure out the optimal allocation level. This year is the first year I don’t hear many complaints about weak wireless signals and a slow internet. It’s usually the sites that are slow now (e.g. blogster). Solution? Stay away from slow sites. Another change I’ve noticed is some sites are making it more difficult for us teachers/students to use the free third party software as more conditions are being applied or features being taken away (e.g. voicethreads, jing, diigo). This of course is to encourage you to sign up for the premium version, which you need to pay for (another concept us economists are very familiar with). Student’s behavior has pretty much remained the same. They will get distracted quite easily if you haven’t developed a lesson that keeps students engaged. There needs to be some measurable outcome that students know that have to reach for each activity. I find student blogs good for this. They are easy to check for student progress and students can embed all kinds of other real time online tools within them (e.g. google docs). Teacher engagement of becomes important here. Even when the class activity is online, teachers need to be moving around helping students and initiating conversations if need be.

Just a quick thought on other devices in the classroom. I used to have students keep their mobile phones away, but now with permission, they can use them to calculate, research and take pictures of the learning taking place in the classroom. It has not been abused and they know when it is appropriate to get them out. They don’t even verbally ask now, they just look at me as they retrieve their mobile to do a task and then they put it away once completed.

Every class flips differently

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If students can understand concepts better through another lecturing medium, why should teachers spend class time lecturing? This is a great point that is being made in the article Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”I don’t think anyone can disagree that using our time in the classroom to best meet students needs is what it’s all about. Flipping the classroom and practicing best practices in reverse instruction can help us do this. 

My own understanding of reverse instruction and the flipped classroom is evolving as I read articles like The Flipped Class: Myths vs. Reality. I like the point that they make about the flipped classroom being “a place where all students can get a personalized education”. In my own economic classes I use a class blog for informational and assignment purposes. Students use their own personal blogs for displaying their work. I also use a website with videos of of lecturers explaining concepts and also current event type of videos for doing case studies. 

My own experience is that you really need to mix it up. Students sometimes want me to lecture and put my own spin on a concept even if they have viewed a video. I remembering learning in a course I once took on “how the brain learns” that it can take students up to 5 times to be reintroduced to a concept before they really get it. It can take this many times for learning to transfer from their working memory to their long term memory. Changing contexts and using different examples really helps students stay engaged through this process. I don’t believe there is a specific formula one can use in flipping the classroom. Every class is different. I would suggest every class flips differently (even if its the same subject and same level).


It’s still american football right?

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I’ll try an analogy here that may or may not work :-). Some would say technology integration in education is really just all about the same game but with a new uniform and equipment set. The fact is the rules have changed and that means the game is no longer the same. The coach needs to draw on new knowledge and teach his players new way to do things. The game may evolve into something no one was expecting. Education is similar, what are we preparing students for? The answer is we don’t really know and there in lies the solution. We know technology is changing the way we learn and the way we do things.

When I read the article Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many it mentioned that technology changes the role of the teacher and I think it does but now as things have progressed, I think it is more about changing the weightings of how much time you play in each role whether it be “advisor, content expert or coach”. The article What is Technology Integration? I like the idea of what technology integration is NOT. Sometimes it helps us to focus on not what is it but what it’s not. It’s like telling students not to focus on the similarities of similar concepts but focus on the differences because its the distinctions between them that may really helps us solidify our understanding of each.

If I look through the framework of the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) and try to apply it to my own practice of technology integration I can see some areas I could be more effective in. I am doing well in attempting to create an environment that technology is being integrated in an active, constructive, goal directed, authentic, and collaborative ways. When I look at the levels of technology integration I see infusion level is defined as “the teacher provides the learning context and the students choose the technology tools to achieve the outcome”. I have done this both ways with in that I have chosen the tools for the students and have let them choose the tools. Both work well but only if students have experience with the tools. If they don’t have and you assume they do then you are setting things up for less success. The transformative level is the one I’m attempting to do at the moment. Hopefully my students are learning new things to do new things that wouldn’t have been possible without the integration of technology into the lesson. This one requires the most planning but also the most reflection afterwords as students can sometimes surprise you on what they have learned and how they learned it.


Integrate don’t Isolate

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“The transition from an institution-centered, contact-hour teaching infrastructure to a distributed learning infrastructure will not be easy. Technologists alone can not lead the way, as they did in creating the Internet. The focus is shifting away from the electronic medium itself and onto its mind boggling capacity to amplify the human experience — the message. We would do well to remember that quality education and quality entertainment share one characteristic: both should be engaging “(Graves, William H. Towards a Distributed Leaning Infrastucture. The Canadian Multimedia Conference Proceedings, 1994) 

My last post was about an undergraduate course I took in university called “Computer Applications” so when I the required reading touched upon “Technology Integration” so it was no surprise that my thoughts quickly went back to an graduate MBA course I took in the 90’s. My final report for the course centered on the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Industry which looked at the impact ICTs will have on the industry of education over the next five years. Specifically it looked at what was then another hot word “distributed learning environments”. Distributed learning environments was defined as digital/computer networks that distribute learning content and resources to distributed learners in geographically dispersed locations. With help from Harvard’s Michael Porter’s value chain and five competitive forces model  I analyzed the present status of the industry and how things may change over the next five years. At the time I was working for the Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick, Dept of NB Education and Industry Canada doing training and setting up community access centers which were located in rural schools all over Canada. These centers provided the local community access to computer labs and the information highway after school hours (evenings and weekends).

To quote from my report:

“As learning environments, using the terms of Nicholas Negroponte, leave the world of the “atom” (physical classroom) to the world of the “byte” (digital classroom) the influences on education and training are quite dramatic. Our educators and content specialists are still in the world of the “atom” and even though some may want to move to the world of the “byte” their expertise and knowledge is stuck in the only environment they know how to function in. How can this knowledge and expertise be transferred to new learning environments? What has to happen is knowledge, expertise and content must be instructionally integrated into the new learning environment. Who does this instructional integration? Will it be the teacher, professor or content expert? Perhaps, but if they have been operating in the world of the “atom”, will they have the expertise and knowledge and/or the time and patience to learn how to do it. Once learned do they have the time and incentive to develop and prepare content for a distributed environment.”

My solution was for content experts to collaborate and be facilitated by instructional integration specialists. The study went on to look at the skills these people would need and where this industry might go over the next 5 years. Now it is many years later and although we still have these people in our schools and universities, the instructors and teachers are now taking on more of the roles these people used to and still do play. In my next post ( as this one is getting a bit long for a blog post) I will further expand on these roles and how I see TIM and SAMR frameworks being applied to my own practice of technology integration.

Sense and Meaning

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I read the article “What difference might one “S” make” and I thought back to the time I took a course called “Computer Applications” in university. I was quite into the internet at the time. Back then it was listserv, gopher, WhOIS, telnet, ftp and Lynx text based browser. It was quite the buzz being able to communicate with a mass a of people on listserv and discuss interesting and unique topics. To telnet into and take over another computer. To send files from one part of the world to the other also seemed pretty useful. I remember really enjoy doing that but in my “Computer Applications” we were learning about the the various office tools and I remember not being very motivated to do the activities using the various software.I spent most of my time on the new mediums. It’s like I understood (made sense of) how office software worked but when I needed to apply these skills to an activity that didn’t have much meaning for me, I just went through the motions. I think my grade reflected this. So when I read this article I couldn’t help but agree with the author’s sentiments on removing the “S” and start using the course to apply these skills within a much more integrated approach with other subjects. He called this a “much more authentic way of learning”. When I’m using technology related activity in class I used to ask students if they took the technology education course in the school but now I don’t. Why? It’s because it didn’t matter. In most cases the application of the technology that I was teaching them didn’t match up with what they had learned or that any overlap was so basic it really didn’t provide for much an advantage over the other students and therefore it was irrelevant for me to ask the question. The ed-tech course (computer applications) didn’t really teach them much they could apply in the real world. I believe using the NETS framework makes so much more sense and will help avoid the experiences shared above.

The contributors

When I started out planning this jing video it was to be about the great contributors to the economics field. Between a glass of beer, jotting down some notes, clicking on a few yahoo sports stories and listening to some music I ended up with a remix of another sort. I certainly deviated from my plan and along the way ended up creating a fusion of presentation zen (my interpretation) with a remix of random images that certainly pushed the envelope and probably went over the edge on fair use. A few retakes in jing and you realize that video editing software might have been the way to go. I’ll plead old school, new school or right hemisphere over powering my left on this one. 


Remix in Economics

The Economics discipline is built on economists taking other economist’s models and then building onto them with ideas of their own.

I regularly use cuts of videos from documentaries and movies to teach concepts in economics. I know my students are using basic diagrams already created and transforming them by adding more economic complexity to them. How much they do this I’m not really sure as it is hard to tell. They look pretty original when they are submitted. There are many economic videos on youtube that I have used in class that combine economic lyrics with rap music (which is also famous for remixing). One of the more popular economic music videos is a Hayek vs Keynes rap anthem.

YouTube Preview Image

My students also like to use images and diagrams in their blog assignments. I always tell them to use images that they have permission to use but the impression I am getting from some of the readings is that it is ok to use things without permission as long as you are creating something transformative and you give attribution. I guess I’m still a little old school. Perhaps this new school of thought will prevail among the new generation of artists and the argument will become moot.

Are you Sensitive?

My Google presentation is about the economic concept of Elasticity. It looks at how consumers and producers respond to price and income changes. It basically looks at how sensitive people are to changes in one variable by measuring the response of the other variable. I would normally teach this through detailed equations, diagrams and bullet points. With this presentation I am trying to use the things I have learned about presentation zen design principles to engage the learner, grab their attention and hopefully create more meaning for them before getting into the more technical aspects of the concept. This presentation touches upon getting students to look into their behaviors when they go into Starbucks and when they buy a variety of products. It also gets them to think about the relationship with various products (substitutes or complementary) and how producers revenue and income (e.g. farmers) are affected. 

Using an image to help teach about Unemployment

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I will use this image in my economic class to help convey the problem of youth unemployment in an economy. This image uses pictures, text and diagrams to communicate with the audience. It helps meet my curricular goals for the course by helping me communicate ideas and concepts to students. The use of this image helps me teach students about the implications of youth unemployment on both actual output and potential output in an economy. It also helps students understand that the issue of youth unemployment is a global issue. Some of the research presented in the readings this week lead me to believe that using this image should also help students with recognition and recall when it comes time for the assessment.

Redesigning my class econ blog

I have switched my emphasis from a Google site to a blog for the main communication tool for my IB Economic classes. I use many different online/collaborative tools and I wanted to make things more coherent, succinct and centralized for the class “go to site”. Originally I started off using a blog as a homework site with some links to activities. Presently I use it two ways. One to communicate homework and classwork for students and parents. The second way I use it to provide springboard to all my students economic blogs to showcase the work they are doing. I found I needed to make it fast, clear and easily navigable. To accomplish this I have changed to a different layout so I can have recent homework/classwork in the upper left and links to student blogs going down the right in a vertical order for each class. I use a simple white background with black type and blue type for headings. After reading the articles visual hierarchy and Lazy eyes,  I think the alignment is something I have already worked on to a certain extent and is about right. I think I can further improve the blog by adding more color and contrast. I can draw attention to homework and student blogs through using color to make it more interesting and to provide an emotional pull for viewers. I could also use color to better classify categories. Keeping things spaced and keeping posts shorter is something that is already there to a great degree. The last area I’d like to improve on is adding more visuals like pictures and diagrams to improve the overall impression and feeling for viewers without taking away from the functionality of the site. My blog as it stands now looks like this: