Are you an Edtechaholic?

The EdTech Tree It’s interesting, today began with a presentation to colleagues regarding the use of Google Classroom, Doctopus, and Goobric, a class where the students used portable white boards to teach each other mini lessons on chemical nomenclature, and then I spent the rest of the day conversing with Tech Integrators from around the province in a mini conference that my school held.  What’s so interesting you ask? Well, it wasn’t until I was lying on my front lawn underneath the fall colours with my 2 month old daughter hanging from my hands above me, that I realized that perhaps I don’t always put the things that are important first.  The tree, and my daughter brought to light just how much I used to love staring up at the changing colours, playing in the leaves, and just enjoying the moment.

How does this relate to Pedagogy or Technology?

Well, it truly is a metaphor for life, on all fronts, but for the purpose of this blog, and not to bore you with my personal life, I will stick to the point. I am a bit of an Edtechaholic. I sometimes grab on to new tech without fully thinking it all through.  So much so, that it sometimes muddles the message that I want to convey to my students.  I am going to call this the ‘EdTech Go-getters Disease’.  With all of the recent advances in technology, our migration to MacBooks from PCs, and the excitement that Cohort 21 generates around teaching with technology, it was easy to get caught up in pushing Edtech into all that I do.

Last week, we had Dr. Greg Wells  from the University of Toronto to our school.  Though he didn’t speak directly to this, he did talk about olympic athletes and how they handle high stress situations.  Athletes who are not ‘checking themselves’ and taking a step back right before they perform tend to do more poorly.  For the sake of argument, I have likened us educators to Olympians (this is a pretty good comparison I think). We all have a goal in mind, we try to do our best for our students, and we are life long learners. As someone who is also very much a ‘Yes’ man, I often find myself overwhelmed with new ideas, tools, and an overbooked schedule much like an athlete would.  This has certainly been the case with technology in the classroom.  I jumped on the tech train a long time ago and started rolling…out of control.  Truth be told, it started to give me a bit of anxiety and I lost sight of the pedagogy that makes it all come together.  It’s time for me to check myself.

Taking a step back, re-evaluating, and asking more questions about how it will help my students learn will assist in putting pedagogy first.  Simply put…   Pedagogy must drive the use of technology, not the other way around.

Perhaps, focusing on these 4 areas to further technology should be where I start my questioning:

4 Ways Educational Technology Is Changing How People Learn

4 Ways Educational Technology Is Changing How People Learn


What are your strategies to filter through the endless EdTech tools that stream your way?  

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Google Classroom, Doctopus, and Goobric

Ever since our school began pushing Google Docs while becoming a GAFE affiliated schools, it has been hard to find an efficient way to organize and manage student assignments within Google Docs. Truth be told, I struggle often with material management issues both at home and at school. If it wasn’t for my wife, I sometimes wonder how I would ever manage to have a mortgage and a car, and somehow always make the payments on time. Unfortunately, our school doesn’t provide me with another wife and so I have had to look for other ways. Though only in its infancy, to me anyway, Google Classroom in conjunction with Doctopus, just might be the answer.

Google Classroom:

  • It’s visually appealing
  • It’s easy to set up – If your school is affiliated with Google then it is easier as students have emails that are part of your domain.
  • You can quickly assign homework via the stream, send individualized assignments (Be sure to click ‘Make a copy for each student”)
  • Doctopus, Goobric, and Google Classroom have been integrated.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 8.58.33 PM


  • Allows you to easily manage your Assignments in Google Classroom.
  • It is easily added through Google Sheets: Add Ons –> Get Add Ons –> Search for Doctopus
  • Once you have intalled the Add On you can access any classroom and assignments that you have.
  • Watch the following video via Jennifer Magiera.  She does an amazing job at making a quick and informative video that will walk you through the steps to install and manage your files via Doctopus. (Check out her blog at


Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.12.50 PM

  Goobric: (Find it here at the App Store:

  • As mentioned in Jennifer’s video, Goobric is a great way to easily assess your Google Docs assignment through Doctopus.
  • It’s an extension and easily installed via Google Crome
  • The extension allows for Rubrics to be applied to many docs at once, and allows for painless marking that is paperless and less clumsy.
  • You do have to put in the work to make a Rubric in Google Sheets first but afterwards it makes life just a little easier.

I like it so far but it’s only been integrated for a few weeks now and I have only just started to play.  Any other thoughts, ideas, or opinions on the matter?  Please share!

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Some highlights from #SatChat – August 23, 2014

Some great conversation today via #SatChat.  Here are a few resources and highlights that I was able to pick out.  Enjoy!


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Back at it… What are you excited about this year?

What did you do all summer?

What I did on my summer vacation.

Hard to believe that summer has already come and gone.  No, I am not wishing away the warm-ish weather, but the school year is fast approaching and it’s time to start thinking of my year ahead.  With a new addition to my family in July and a new house, it has been tough to keep up the momentum that Cohort 21 provided this past year.

What, do you ask, did Cohort 21 provide me as a teacher?

  • First of all and most of all, it provided a professional learning network (Check out all the Cohort 21 blogs) of which I had never seen before.  The motivation, inspiration, and people that Garth Nichols & Justin Medved brought to every face to face meeting was astounding.
  • Opportunity to learn new things, try them in your classroom, and reflect on them was absolutely pivotal in pushing me out of my comfort zone as a teacher.  I know my students appreciated something unique, new, or sometimes just ‘edutaining’ after I came back from our meetings ( for example).
  • A positive learning environment – We all learn and strive to provide this for our students but do we really get this from the people who run our learning sessions…Cohort allowed for a comfortable, relaxing, and positive environment to explore new ideas.
  • A new view on teaching – My eyes are open after many years of pushing on my own.  I love the community I have become a part of, I think about what I do in the classroom and reflect on it, and I strongly believe that my students benefit every day.

This year, my learning continues and so will my blog (I apologize for the break!).  I recently registered for the GAFE summit in Montreal and am looking forward to attending my second professional learning opportunity with Google Educators.  I strongly recommend their Google Apps bootcamp .  It opened my eyes to the power of Google in the classroom and I look forward to more learning. I have also taken on another Teaching Fellow at my school in Lakefield.  The continuation of LEAP (Lakefield Education Apprenticeship Program) brings new ideas to the classroom and has allowed one on one reflection as we co-teach our way through the curriculum.  I will also continue to be a part of the Cohort 21 community in every way I can.

An amazing year lies ahead!  What are you going to do with it?




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What online tools are teachers using?

I asked this questions a few months ago to others on staff and received many great resources and tools. It’s only fair that I share what my colleagues and myself use and in what fashion.  I have used nearly all of them at this point and some are certainly better then others. Please feel free to comment and give insight into new uses or tools.  Sharing is caring?

Technology is the future. Embrace it.

Each of the following tools can be found by clicking on the links.

Interactive Presentation Tools:

  • Prezi – A fun online software that works in a ‘Three Dimensional’ space to zoom through information, videos, and pictures.  Some people may have to take Gravol to watch some over enthusiastic presentations though.  Personally, I like this better than the basic PowerPoint and more than one person can collaborate on the same presentation
  • Powtoons – If you are looking for a fun way to excite the kids into doing a presentation, then this tool should be your go to. Edutainment all the way.
  • GoogleDocs – Presentation is much like PowerPoint but allows students to collaborate, easily share, and research/site directly from the web with the Research tool under the ‘tools’ menu.
  • Popplet –  This tool is more of a visual tool that sets up mind maps easily and collaboratively.  The mind map can then be presented and mapped out to an audience with relative ease.  It is also very easy to share with other Popplet users.
  • StoryBoardThat – A storyboard creator (similar to BitStrips).  Allows students to create story boards, comics, and such to present information or communicate ideas.

Great tools that help organize or present information.

  • Padlet – This is such a great tool to organize students work, manage quick student driven lessons (of which you can print off as a note for them in various forms), collaborate, and essentially create an online cork board for sharing.
  • Piktochart –  This tool allows students to gather information and compile it in a visually appealing info-graphic.  By choosing templates, students can enter a variety of data, whether it be scientific, social, economical, the templates turn the information into very appealing and easy to understand graphs.
  • ThingLink – I have used this tool in various ways.  It allows students to pin information, websites, videos to their own pictures or maps. In particular, I see strength in it’s ability to allow students to make connections with information that already exists on the web.
  • PosterMyWall –  I have used this to have students complete quick informative posters that explain application of scientific concepts to real life (Static electricity use in painting cars for example).  Students take a screen capture and share them via Padlet.
  • iBooksAuthor – Mac based program that allows you or your students to create visually appealing digital books.  Don’t be scared of the word books.  I see a very practical use in allowing students to create or manage their own units, notes, and assignments.  Essentially creating a paperless environment.  Many great seamless functions assist in making it easier.

Surveying, Feedback, Quizzes, Discussion

  • Kahoot – Kahoot is such a fun, effective, and entertaining way to get feedback, engage the class, and quiz on understanding.  Student could also create and share there own ‘Kahoots’ with each other.  Lots of EduCheering in the classroom with this one, lots of fun. There is also no student password or log in and you can download the excel file with responses.
  • Socrative – This is great for a one click ‘Exit Ticket’ option that is already created.  Like Kahoot, there is also no student password or log in. Also great for quick knowledge based quizzes that are private and immediately emailed to you.
  • PollEverywhere – This essentially replaces the ‘Clickers’ with cell phones, tablets, or computers.  Teachers can poll students on diagrams or questions.  Immediate feedback and responses while teaching.

Visible Discussions and Forums

  • TodaysMeet – This is such a great tool for sharing information and links quickly.  Also allows students to respond to learning, ask questions, and share ideas openly.
  • Twitter – By using hashtags (#EdTech for example) students can have a dialogue openly about subjects, questions, classroom discussions.  It’s important to create unique hashtags so that only your students are in on the discussion.  Also, most students don’t want to use their own personal accounts. They will need to create a education use only account, as will the teacher.
  • GoogleModerator – Another great tool to allow students to share questions, ideas, and concerns in a teacher moderated platform.  Commenting and voting allows for students to interact in an online forum.

I hope you find at least a few of these tools useful.  Remember that your students have limited ability to handle lots of new tools at once.  I have noticed this with my own and need to be aware of it.  That being said, a few of these are very easy to implement and require no login or password which means they are effective and low impact on our tech-savvy youth.

Beyond this, I have only begun to explore the Apps that are available for education and there is so much more out there!  Check out Kathy Schrock’s ‘Guide to Everything’ for great inspiration and application of Bloom’s Taxonomy to digital Apps –> 


It’s about what you can DO with technology; don’t just be an edutainer, be an educator!

Happy Teaching!

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Final thoughts, but really just the beginning.

It’s over already!?

Hard to believe the Cohort 21 experience is coming to an end.  Through cohort 21, I have explored, reflected, redesigned, and pushed myself to think outside the box in my classroom.  There is no doubt in my mind, that Cohort 21 has been the greatest professional development opportunity I have had so far.

My Action Plan – Exploring the SAMR model through a dissection and the ThingLink tool.


Below is an embedded ThingLink photo describing some thoughts on my Action Plan (Included in the video above).

The Cohort 21 Experience: (


  • Like-minded individuals who value education, learning, and teaching.  
  • The Cohort 21 professional learning community is an invaluable resource for conversion, reflection, new ideas, and motivation
  • Our Face-2-Face sessions were inspiring and enjoyable.  


  • The blogging format forces you to reflect on your practices, start conversations, and share ideas in a public format.
  • Reflection has pushed me to ask the right questions to analyze my teaching. 


  • As per many endeavours, time is the ultimate challenge.  With family, work, and other life events, it was difficult to properly carve the time out of your schedule to blog/reflect/share regularly.  
  • I found it difficult to always be critical of my own ideas.  Sometimes it took conversations with others to really get down to the root of problems that arose throughout the action planning process.

Final Thoughts:

One of the most important take aways of Cohort 21 is the amazing group of people that are now part of your learning community.  Through this process I have become a more reflective and collaborative teacher.  Though overwhelming at first, Cohort 21 pushes you out of your comfort zone and opens your mind to lifelong learning. I look forward to further conversation with the individuals who value education and learning within this community.


Posted in Action Plan, Cohort 21, SAMR | 11 Comments

How do you really know where you are in the SAMR model?

Since taking on my Action Plan, I have struggled slightly with pin pointing exactly where I sit with my dissection overhaul.  I was hoping to redefine the task, but in the end, only met the modification stage.

I found this great infographic that helps quite a bit when trying to reach the deep end in the SAMR model.


Are you hitting where you thought you were?

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Thoughts from MaRS…Time for some reflection.

We had an amazing day at the MaRS Commons in Toronto.  The Cohort 21 team is so motivating and the conversations in themselves were an informative and collaborative professional development opportunity. The MaRS Discovery District is essentially the Silicon Valley of Toronto.  I was amazed at the design of their work spaces and the attitude and collaboration that exists on site.  It’s no surprise that MaRS is one of the leading innovation sites in Canada including businesses such as Microsoft Canada, Songza, MaRS Commons, and Etsy to name a few.

MaRS Discovery District, Toronto, Ontario

As we explored each others Action Plans, it was pretty evident that people were taking 21st century learning in so many personlized directions.  My action plan, involving ThingLink, needed to be refined and expanded.  I think my enthusiasm for the program clouded my view a little bit.  It was time for me to get some feedback and reflect about how the Dissection Portfolio was moving along.

Since then, the frog dissection portfolio has now come into complete fruition and the marks have been compiled.  Though the marks are important, it was the learning that I am most interested from this SAMR (Applied Approach) inspired project.  Here are some questions that I asked myself afterwards.

What was the biggest challenge for my students? Myself?

Challenges were consistent with most new project based assignments.  Students who had challenges mostly mis-understood the requirements due to misreading of assignment details or lack of reference to the rubric prior to submission.  To combat this, we issued a homework assignment where the students had to report the level they wanted to earn, and what they would have to do to get this based on the assignment rubric.

While working with ThingLink students were engaged in their learning. Though it is sometimes challenging to work with and learn a new technology, my co-teacher and I were able to manage questions, concerns, and problems with ThingLink as they arose. In other classes, where a teacher was on their own, this became a bigger issue and some students got lost.

Was my students learning increased by the ThingLink dissection project?

This is a tough question to answer.  I would argue that a more engaged student results in an increase in learning.  If we base it off of this, then I believe that yes my students have learned more through this process.  Is it a result of ThingLink? I would have to say, no.  The ThingLink program provided an means to an end of backward designing a unit that would increase engagement.  SAMR comes into play when we look at the overall design of the unit in relation to the use of the technology.

How did my students enjoy working in a more 21st century style?

Some students really enjoyed working with their own pictures and produced fantastic results with amazing detail. See below:

Some anecdotal comments from students:

  • “I wish I was making a poster and just labeling the parts” – a student used to more traditional ways, still effective though
  • “This is really hard because I have to find so many sources that connect to each picture.” increased research/analysis
  • “I love being able to work with my own pictures from the dissection.” – ownership
  • “Third hand smoke, I posted it on my Thinglink and it affects the liver.”  Student explored learning outside the requirements.  Personalized learning potential is quite high.

What are modifications that I could do in implementation next time around?

  • Reduce the number of pictures required from the dissection to a more manageable amount.  Perhaps three pictures – one detailed fully dissected, one external, and one that shows the tools and talks about the application of dissection skills. (The “Less is more” concept)
  • Have student collaboration be a component to their ThingLink portfolios (recent changes to ThingLink may assist with this)
  • Have students comment on each others pictures
  • Have students embed and reflect on the pictures they chose using a blogging based website. (Weebly, Blogger, Google Plus, etc.)

Where do I go from here?

Remember, our classrooms are our labs – try new things, innovate, reflect and learn from them.  After completing the ‘experiment’, I have come to the conclusion that based on the SAMR model, I was only able to reach the ‘Modification’ stage.  I feel that the students lacked collaboration within the technology and I could have instilled a deeper involvement all together.  ThingLink was still developing a more Teacher friendly version and have since upgraded their teacher profile which may assist with management of the student accounts.

I do feel that I was able to redefine the use of the dissection in the classroom. It was much more effective and the students were able to work with their dissection as they learned the material.  Something that is hard to do with biological specimens.  It was obvious that the Backward Design model enhanced the student learning throughout the unit and ThingLink allowed me to do this.

I’d love to hear suggestions on how to bring this to the redefinition stage as the Technology is concerned.

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Action Planning to Implementation – Technology in the Science Classroom

After the November Cohort 21 session, I decided I would embark on planning and implementing the SAMR model in my science classroom.  Through much collaboration with my fellow colleagues, we were able to redesign the Biology unit in grade 10 science with UbD  (backward design) and SAMR being the main focus.  I introduced the online tool, ThingLink, to redefine how we assess, organize, and implement a dissection. ThingLink is an online interactive picture creator.  It allows you to take your own photos and pin information, websites, and videos to the picture.

Though some may think this is Modification, I argue that it has in fact brought the dissection to a redefinition state, but just barely.  Using ThingLink allows the students to pin their own pictures and thus create an interactive online dissection portfolio.  We begin the unit with the frog dissection, and use the pictures and ThingLink (which also has an app for your IPhone/Android) to add to their own personal dissection pictures as we teach the organ systems, organs, tissues, and cells throughout the unit.  Essentially, starting with the big picture and working down from there.  It not only allows students to connect better to the content, but also takes the dissection to a new level using interactive, embeddable images.

It in essence, redefines the dissection as a teaching tool that is not something to work to, but rather to work from.  Students can also add Youtube videos, websites, and pictures to their own dissection pictures to enhance their structure and function explanations. Beyond that, it is possible to add even more through the ThinkLink Rich Media add-on.

What it looks like:

How to use ThingLink:

Here is a brief step by step process to create a picture of your own:

  1. Go to
  2. Sign up for a free account (use an easy to remember login and password)
  3. Once you are signed in, select the ‘Me’ tab at the top right corner.
  4. To add an image to your account click on the ‘Add New Image’ to the left. (Remember that this is an open site and you should only add your own pictures to avoid copyright infringement)
  5.  Once you have added a photo, it is time to edit it. Click on the picture you have uploaded if it does not automatically allow you to edit it.
  6. Your mouse cursor should change to a + and you can pin information anywhere on your uploaded picture.
  7. Once you have chosen a pinning site the following box will appear:
  8. Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 9.14.25 AM
  9. For an example go to:
  10. Add as many pins as needed to fulfill the assignment requirements (See below)
  11. Have fun!


  • Class 1: Our first class with ThingLink was an introductory one where students took pictures of their own hands and pinned information using ThingLink.  They were quick to learn and can ‘follow’ you (the teacher) easily which allows you to follow them back and keep track of their dissection portfolios.  You can also comment on them to provide feedback!
  • Class 2: The dissection was aided by the ‘Digital Frog Dissection’ which is available as a program or online.  Also, I created an assignment that had requirements for pictures that they must take during the dissection. See below for a photo of all the tools they had at their disposal (Laptop, phone/camera, assignment sheet, dissecting tools, and of course, the frog).
  • Class 3 and beyond:  Students will be given lessons on the systems/organs/tissues/cells followed by instructions to pin their photos with structure and function and any other relevant websites/videos.
Lakefield College Students using technology to enhance their dissection

Lakefield College Students using technology to enhance their dissection

Why I think the redefinition stage has not been met fully: Taking it to a new level could mean embedding their interactive ThingLink photos into a iBook Author program where they have reflected or kept their notes throughout the Biology Unit, essentially making a digital and interactive textbook of their learning.

Over all, it has been successful but we are yet to see the end result.  I will have to follow up from here.

Feedback? I’d love to hear any other suggestions you might have on my implementation of the SAMR model or uses with the ThingLink program.

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The Digital Era of Teaching – Action Planning with SAMR

Seven years and counting in education.  How many of you still use PowerPoint as the main ‘technology’ in your classroom?  On occasion, I still use PowerPoint as it is a functional and clean cut presenting software.  But with advances in technology, it is now not the only one out there. There are so many options in bringing information to our students in a more creative and meaningful way.  As an action plan this year, I want to investigate and challenge myself to take digital tools to a new level within my science classroom.  To start, some of you might be asking what the #$%@ is the SAMR model, so I will fill you in with a little background information.

The following diagram describes SAMR when applying it to technology in the classroom.



Our goal is to take previous assessments and move them through the SAMR model to transform them to meet our 21st century learners.  I think it’s important to point out that you are not going to always need to push things to the top of the system.  Some things are good with simple substitution (using PREZI instead of PowerPoint) or Augmentation (Use of collaboration with GoogleDocs or Padlet).  However, I do see the importance of bringing some meaningful assessments (Summative in nature) to the higher level of transformation with a redefinition of task.

An example of application of the SAMR model to an English class and Math class by Michael Hornback with the Vancouver Public Schools.  He takes tasks that we have commonly asked our students to perform and brings in technology to create deeper thought through the inclusion of creativity, in order to transform a once simpler method of representing learning.  In his examples, he uses Apps and digital technology accessible through apple products.  Similar online tools and apps can be found for PC’s as well.

How might this be implemented in the science class?  Well, for years, the ministry has pushed inquiry based labs within the science classroom.  However, they never truly trained or gave even reasonably good examples for teachers to follow.  My thought is to take a once cookie cutter lab and use the SAMR model along with new technologies for scientific modelling to scaffold students to make predictions for application to real or virtual inquiry labs.

A quick conversation with Sir Ken Robinson regarding technology in education:  Why it’s important to transform education through technology.


I’d love to hear some suggestions from you experienced science folk or SAMRs out there.







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