EC&I833 Summary of Learning

Well another semester has come and gone and I was once again challenged to condense three months of learning into a 5-7 minute summary of learning.  I successfully met this challenge this semester with a 6 minute and 58 second videoscribe!

I wanted to try out a new tool to summarize my learning this semester.  I have seen a few whiteboard tools in the last few years and I have always found them quite engaging.  I’m not quite as ambitious as my friend Britt who did her very own whiteboard video by hand for EC&I831, so I decided to give Videoscribe a try.

I found Videoscribe quite user friendly.  I didn’t have the patience to explore every single feature, so I watched this tutorial video for a little help in creating my video:

Yay for online learning!

So without further ado…my summary of learning for #eci833.

(Neil Postman article)

Thank you to Alec and the #eci833 crew for a great semester!  Happy holidays to you all!

12 Weeks of EdTech – A Summary of Learning

Given that it’s the holiday season I thought I would have some fun and attempt to do a cover of a Christmas song for my summary of learning. I have done three summary of learnings before so I wanted to do something different and haven’t yet attempted a song so I thought why not this semester? I have to apologize as singing is not something that comes natural to me, nor is it something I do well. The background music didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to either. The music is quiet low and sounds a little echoey, but I honestly tried to record three different ways MULTIPLE times and this is the best quality I could come up with. If it’s too painful to watch feel free to skip through to the last 15 seconds where the 12 weeks counts down. Please also keep in mind that what EdTech taught me each week is not done in chronological order for obvious reasons. It was too difficult to make it all go in order and make sense, but regardless of the order I hope you enjoy my little song (singing aside).

In case you missed all the lyrics for each week, here it is:

Twelve weeks with you guys
Eleven ways to connect
Ten awesome blog posts
Nine classroom tools
Eight tools to assess
Seven grand presentations
Six assistive tech tools
Five classes with Alec
Four learning theories
Three types of web
Two different realities
And a collaborative experience online

Obviously I learned a lot more than just the list of items that I gave you in my song. I want to discuss some more of what I learned this semester since the song just doesn’t do it justice. We covered a lot of topics and had some awesome presentations this semester. There was some overlap in the topics which made it seem a little less overwhelming and easy to see how a lot of Ed Tech topics relate to one another. Here is a summary of a few main ideas from this semester.

Learning Theories
Technology allows us to use four different learning theories: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectivism. Although each theory can be used, most technology lends itself to constructivism and connectivism the most. Using different websites and apps such as web quests or genius hours lend itself nicely to the constructivist approach in which students are building on knowledge and making connections between what they are learning and the real world.

Blogging, and Skype are excellent ways to connect your students to others outside of the classroom and learn through the connectivism approach. Whatever learning theory is being applied we must always think of our students. Behaviourism and cognitivism are more teacher directed, one-way learning and connectivism and constructivism allow the students to build knowledge and direct their own learning. When choosing which technology you want to use, be sure to think about the learning theory involved and how that will impact the learning of the student.

Tool Selection
The tools that we use greatly impact how students learn, how we teach, what we teach and how we assess. Before we decide which tool to use we must always think about the message that is being sent through the medium we are using. What type of learnings are benefiting from the tools we are using? Which type of learners are falling behind? We also need to consider what the purpose of the tool is. Are we using each tool for it’s intended purpose? Are we going beyond the simple cognitive or behaviouristic learning methods?

Technology also allows us many opportunities to assess our students learning but how can we ensure that our assessments are valid? Many assessment tools offer multiple choice or true/false questions. The issue with these types of questions is that they are usually surface level questions and don’t question deeper understanding. Students are also able to guess with some of these questions. Does guessing really show us what the students have learned? It is crucial that we are evaluating the tools and consider the message that is being sent using the tools that we are selecting. We must always be questioning and evaluating the purpose of the tool. This is a great article to read if you need guidance for integrating technology effectively.

Both teachers and students (but especially teachers) have to know how to seamlessly integrate technology into teaching and learning

Advantaged Vs Disadvantaged Students
In all of our presentations we discussed who is advantaged and disadvantaged when we use technology. This is an interesting concept to think about because it boils down to the perspective you are looking at it from. If we start by looking at socio-economic status (SES) it is clear that a divide exists between those who can afford technology and those who cannot. We need to work at bridging this gap and allow those who are disadvantaged to have the same opportunities within our classrooms. Perhaps if students do not have devices to work on at home they get priority over those who do when using technology in the classroom. Whatever the scenario it is important to attempt to level the playing field in regards to access to technology.

Another perspective we need to think about is those who are at a disadvantage because of a disability whether it be physical, emotional or mental. For some of these students assistive technology can greatly impact their learning and make things more equitable for them. We must ensure that other students and parents do not think that the student using assistive technology is being given the upper hand. The reality is that if they didn’t need the tool, they wouldn’t use it. There are stereotypes and labels that are associated with students who use assistive technology. Often times students who use these devices feel as though they are singled out and “different” because they need additional support from the tool. We need to work towards eliminating these stereotypes and labels.




A whole new world: virtual and augmented reality.

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)!

First off, thanks to Bill for being a great presenting partner. I thought our teaching styles complimented each other very well.

Next, I wanted to provide something new to the #ECI833 readers than what we had presented about… and that is my experiences and subsequent beliefs, biases and views towards AR/VR. And for those of you coming in with pre-existing notions about the “uselessness of gaming” (yeah, you, Jayme. Your husband’s a good guy!), I got a class devoted to game creation and gaming’s power for learning that would beg to disagree!

My experience with AR/VR


A student was playing Ingress (an AR game) in my class last year after completing his work and, prior to reminding him he still had more work to do, I listened to him mention that the company that made this was planning on making a Pokemon game… since I was partially raised in the region of Kanto (this is a location in the original Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow games), I patiently waited.

My wait was almost rewarded as the official release of the game was in summer 2016… in the United States… still unavailable to the Canadian public. Fortunately, I had an AP Conference in Anaheim, CA. Let the Pokemon catching begin. The young Logan was ALIVE and, surprisingly, with the augmented reality, viewing my surroundings with creatures of my childhood, I soon connected with strangers and with my environment. Adults. Youth. Men. Women. I met and talked with strangers, I learned about locations in and around Anaheim, and I had fun. I was engaged. Interesting.


I had never tried out a VR device prior to this class. After registering to present about it (mostly out of post-Pokemon GO excitement), I mentioned it to my father, and he conveniently picked up a Playstation VR (for himself, not me, for the record) on sale three weeks prior to our presentation. He told me I needed to come over to try Batman Arkham. Several days later, I did…






It was incredible.


There I was in downtown Gotham City, analyzing a crime scene, yet simply doing 360’s in my basement looking around desperately for clues to solve a murder. I searched a morgue to locate a key, problem-solved using tips and inferences from the environment I was in. I was learning in a game. It was more than I’d ever felt playing a game before. My legs responded to the environment as my brain accepted what my sight and hearing had presented as real.

Then the implications came, and I was almost overcome with emotion. Perhaps place-based learning in a Saskatchewan classroom is possible for more than four months of the school year…

Virtual tours. Simulation of activities reimagined. Pseudo-hands on experience/training. Distance learning 3.0. Assistive technologies?! Imagine therapeutic treatments made possible with Virtual Reality… or transcending our mortal lives to exist as a series of light, sound and code for loved ones to reconnect…

But it’s not reality… or is it?

I would be inclined to argue that reality is subject to what we make of it… a virtual reality, though digital, is still reality nonetheless. Are we ignorant to accept it as real or toy with our brains to escape reality?

What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain. – Morpheus, The Matrix (1999) via IMDB

At least we’re not in the matrix… (or are we?)

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Actually, it’s Virtual Reality.

The first few lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is all I can think of when I think about virtual reality (VR). If you aren’t already familiar with virtual reality, to put it simply it’s a type of technology that allows you to experience another environment through sight. This happens by using a headset that tracks your head and eye movements to change the image you are seeing within the headset changing the environment you are experience. Our brains are triggered through the image and movement to make the experience more lifelike. Why might someone use virtual reality? There are a variety of reasons for using VR that go beyond simply entertaining ourselves. There are 9 different industries that use VR for training, education or experiences. Sharon discusses some VR tools that Sask Polytechnic use here in Regina to train their nurses. VR is being used to help treat patients with dementia and for teaching someone how to walk again. For an overview of virtual reality and how it works check out this video.

Amy found a really great Ted Talk discussing how virtual reality should be used to develop empathy through experiencing the lives of others around the world. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes in a war torn country or a country where children must walk miles to get to school. Yes I have seen videos or documentaries, but those videos do not give me the same experience that VR could. I had never thought of using VR in this way before and I think that this would is an incredible way to use the technology.

Photo Credit: bmward_2000 Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bmward_2000 Flickr via Compfight cc

Augmented Reality (AR) is another type of reality that can be experienced using technology. This is when we experience reality by combining the real world with overlaying information. Some forms of AR I am familiar with are found while watching TSN or other sports on TV. The first down line on an football field is an augmented reality, it can be argued that slow motion is a form of augmented reality as well because it helps us examine a clip more closely to see what happened. Charles Arthur provides a thorough description of AR by discussing the development, AR apps and the future of advertising using AR. Bill and Logan introduced us to Aurasma which is an AR app that has so many uses within the classroom. Rochelle described how she uses Aurasma at her school by having students create book reviews for the books in the library. A book review is just one example of the many ways AR can be used in education and within our classrooms.

Of course we can’t forget about the digital divide when we think about integrating these experiences in our classrooms. We must always remember that all students come from different socio-economic backgrounds and that the access to technology among them might vary. The cost to implement VR technology in our classes can also be very expensive (unless we use Google Cardboard which is reasonably priced).

I can definitely see myself using a word wall for my math courses and integrating some of the virtual experiences into my technology class. I am really interested in Google Expeditions and want to find a way to integrate that into my technology class. This might be something that I could collaborate with another teacher to make it a cross-curricular activity mixing technology with social or science class. I was happy to hear so many of you already have experience with these different realities and I love hearing how you integrate them into your classes. If there is anything you are doing that uses these technologies I’d love to hear in the comments below!



I have to admit, this week’s topic was one I quickly skimmed and skipped on the first day of class as we chose our group presentations.  I knew almost nothing about augmented reality.  The only inkling I had was that it was related to Pokemon Go, something else I have been scoffing at over the past four or five months.

30503663936_b4f17505a7Photo Credit: Paintimpact Flickr via Compfight cc

Well I can admit now, that I have not given Pokemon Go a fair chance, or a chance at all.  I apologize to all the Pokemon go-ers out there for my Negative Nancy attitude.  Logan and Bill, however, helped me understand augmented reality and virtual reality includes much more than Pokemon Go and gaming.  I have to admit, one of my initial thoughts within this week’s class was that I can’t post this blog post to Twitter because then my husband would read it and want to buy the latest and greatest piece of gaming tech.  Guilty!  And no Eric, you will not be getting an Oculus Rift for Christmas, but I’ll possibly splurge for a Google Cardboard.

This video really helped me understand that “virtual reality is a computer-generated environment that lets you experience a different reality”.  It is the creation of a virtual world that users can interact with, while augmented reality is the blending of virtual reality and real life.  McKalin explains a VR interaction through a completely fabricated world in which users are immersed while AR involves being in touch with the real world while interacting with virtual objects.

So with that understanding, Meron Gribetz is demonstrating the use of augmented reality because he is interacting in real life with virtual objects.

On the other side, the interactions that these loved ones are having despite distance is an example of virtual reality because they are created avatars within a brand new environment.

Once I got past the idea that augmented reality was more than just gaming, I came to realize that it has a lot of incredible potential within a classroom.  In fact, I realized that my students and I experienced and LOVED VR last year while on a field trip to the RCMP Heritage Centre.  I didn’t have a name to the technology, but my students were able to experience the Musical Ride through the headsets, while sitting on a saddle.  If you haven’t yet experienced this with your students or your own children, I highly recommend it!  The video explains that this is the only possibility that people actually have to experience the Musical Ride, within the Musical Ride, unless they some day become an RCMP officer within the ride.  This was an extremely engaging activity for my students to participate in and really helped them understand the Musical Ride.  As you can imagine, explaining “Musical Ride” to young students, especially EAL learners with very little English comes with confusion.  Within the Augmented Reality Teaching and Learning article from this week, Kloper and Sheldon are quoted saying that AR provides the ability “to enable students to see the world around them in new ways and engage with realistic issues in a context with which the students are already connected (Dunleavy & Dede).  The Musical Ride VR did just this…it enabled my students to see the world around them from a different perspective.

Within class this week, we discussed a variety of ways that AR and VR create opportunities for experiential, meaningful learning.  The Nesloney and Reede & Bailiff articles also provided many applicable ideas, two of which  I would like to highlight as upcoming endeavors within my classroom.

  • Book Reviews
    I loved Rochelle’s example of having her students do book reviews using Aurasma and indicating these books with an Aurasma sticker.  I have a student in my room who plans to complete book review as part of an enrichment activity.  He is a busy boy who loves to be active, and I think incorporating AR into this project will really keep him hooked.  It is my hope that he can then demonstrate how to do a book review to the other students.
  • Word Wall
    I have a few EAL learners in my room this year who speak very little English.  I have found it quite the challenge to support these students and begin to teach them to read when they have such a limited English vocabulary.  They are definitely progressing and know almost all of their letter sounds (thanks to Jolly Phonics) but it is hard to blend sounds together to create words (i.e. cat, flat, box) when all of that vocabulary is brand new.  Their vocabulary bank continues to grow but I do question if there are better ways that I can be supporting these students. (Please comment if you have any tried and true vocabulary apps/programs that would support grade 2 learners!).  I think it would be extremely valuable to label items within our classroom and around the school and have students record themselves saying these words in English.  I would like to use the Aurasma app to make a peer pop up on screen, reading the English word.

I do, however, think that I am able to consider utilizing VR and AR within my classroom because I within a very affluent community.  As much as we want to complain about poor wifi and insufficient log-in servers available, my students are very privileged to have access to the technologies present within our school.  I do not feel that I could as easily access some of these technologies in a school with lower income families or within a rural or remote community.  One of Logan and Bill’s final slides said it best when it claimed that AR and VR technologies continue to widen the gap.  They state,

“This solely enhances students who have access to a device.  Augmented reality completely revolves around having one, and more advanced devices lend itself to greater experiences…greater experiences=greater learning.”

Who is it that has greater experiences and therefore greater learning?  And more importantly, who isn’t getting these greater experiences and learning due to lack of access?  Reede and Bailiff claim that VR is a tool that is “bringing people from around the world to engage and interact-regardless of social, economic, or geographic disparities”.  I have to argue that those at a social, economic, and geographic advantage benefit much more from AR and VR than those at a disadvantage because they have greater access to devices.

So I ask myself…and you…

Can we lessen this gap?
Can we provide some students with VR and AR rich experiences guilt free knowing that others aren’t awarded these same opportunities?  What disadvantages are these students at within our digital age?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Assistive technology knows no bounds!

Assistive Technology.

Helping the blind, see.

The immobile, move.

The voiceless, speak.

The awkward and anxious, share.

Poor-writers, compose.

The disconnected, connect.

Always developing, never complete.

Assistive technology is an enormous umbrella term. We think of devices developed to help the “disabled” typically as assistive tech (devices), but then we are inclined to extend the definition to include even adaptations in the classroom (services). But where is the line? If we include differentiation as assistive, do we include adaptation? There are extensions of the technology definition to include ideas and classroom practices so I should… but, wow, including that wide definition of technology with a wide definition of assistive tech will that be a infinitely inclusive term. When we consider the definition of assistive technology including means to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability… it feels like everything in a classroom will be included. As such, what responsibilities does the school and education system bear to make this happen? What counts as a disability warranting support? If we include supplying devices in a BYOD classroom to those who have them, who is obligated to supply this? Today, many schools must include WiFi, is this now a mandatory “assistive technology”?


This ridiculously inclusive approach now also breaks down the illusion of limitations provided by assistive tech. Why is it simply an illusion? Circling back to the concept of a growth mindset, assistive technologies are constantly being developed and improved for all types and abilities of students/individuals. The strides made in hearing aids allowing individuals to hear again are incredible.

The increasing ease of movement for those bound to wheelchairs is ever-evolving or making music available to those who have lost their hearing. The field encapsulates potential, and while there will be difficulties, is there also the potential for the enhancement of the human form as a result creating a gap between “typical” individuals and those with assistive technologies. What comes to mind is sprinters with prosthetic devices, are they meant to compete against those with regular legs? If performance is drastically increased, is this fair or equitable? If they can afford it, should they be allowed it? Wealth gap aside, consider even grandiose ideas about the direction of human evolution. Is this wrong?

Sarah Reinertsen via Pinterest

I would argue it isn’t wrong, but we simply compare those with similar technology to others with the same tech? Or is this further segregating us? As always, where is the line?

What is a measurable amount of support to be provided to individuals requiring assistive technology? How do we train our educators to be familiar with an ever-changing field?

Where do we head next? What about assistive technology for managing teacher stress and workloads?

What assistive technologies are available to mitigating stress and workloads for teachers? Online assessment tools help reduce marking – but does the net work put into establishing these translate to better learning outcomes for students? Is there a world in which we tell devices to assess learning of each student, highlighting common difficulties students may experience, or individual anomalies and allow teachers to simply focus on learning support and facilitation? Totally possible. Will that negatively impact what a teacher provides their students or result in “worse” teaching?

Comments? Answers? Thoughts?

Logan Petlak

UDL=Greater Compassion and Understanding

Throughout this week’s presentation on assistive technologies, I found myself often questioning, “Am I doing enough to meet the needs of my students?”.  I found myself thinking that I really don’t use assistive technologies within my grade 2 classroom as many students have not yet received diagnoses at this point.  I think it’s a common feeling for primary teachers to feel that copious amounts of paperwork is done, observations are made and records kept, only to have students receive the necessary supports (technology and otherwise) down the road after they have already left your room.  In no way do I mean this as a complaint as it is absolutely my role to advocate for the needs of these children, but I suppose my point is that I don’t often see these “typical assistive technologies” introduced with my young learners.

Because the students I teach are so early in their formal schooling journeys, I do feel that it’s less obvious which students require these assistive technologies.  Let me clarify that I am not referring to students who have more explicit disabilities such as vision, hearing, or physical challenges (as those needs are much more visible) but rather, students who have learning disabilities.  I have yet to teach a child with a significant sight, hearing, or physical impediment but have taught several students who I suspect have learning disabilities.  That being said, a grade one or two child with an expected LD who struggles to learn to read isn’t that far behind a child in grade one or two who is learning to read at the expected pace.  It’s in the later grades, grade 3 and beyond that the gap becomes more apparent.

The article that Nancy shared within our Google+ community this week, as well as Nicole and Amy’s blog posts, really lead to me to view assistive technology in a different light.  I am using assistive technologies in my classroom constantly to meet the needs of my diverse learners, but I am doing this through more of a universal design for learning approach.

Within my class, some students use noise cancelling headphones, while others set up their “cardboard offices” to eliminate external distractions.

Some students sit on wiggle chairs or rockers, while others use a standing desk.

Some students use reading trackers while others are lie on the floor for read to self.

This week reminded me that assistive technology doesn’t have to be only this…

Photo Credit: USACE HQ Flickr via Compfight cc

or this…

Photo Credit: J P Davidson Flickr via Compfight cc

but can also be this…


If we are thinking of assistive technology as ways to assist the learning of students, then yes, Google Read and Write is assistive tech but so is my makeshift “butterfly-clip-pencil-grip”.  Hitchcock and Stahl state:

“As the concept of UDL gains acceptance, people will understand that assistive technologies are tools like eyeglasses and personal digital assistants that enhance personal effectiveness; they do not relegate their users to a separate category such as “disabled.”  Already, some of these devices, once solely linked to disability, are working their way into the mainstream community.”

I spend a lot of time each year discussing equity with my students.  Even at this young age, they can learn to understand that fair does not mean equal.  I find that through exploring children’s literature highlighting various exceptionalities and disabilities, students develop a great sense of empathy for those who may be different than themselves.  Words that are repeated tirelessly within my room are…

Different isn’t worse.  Different is just different.

I really appreciate reading Luke’s post this week regarding equity, metacognition, and student success.  Luke referred to having conversations with his middle years students about what success looks like for different people.  I have similar conversations with my students and we discuss how different learners need different things.  I am amazed at how compassionate and empathetic little ones can be.  In this day and age, when bullying seems to populate the media, there are also incredible cases of children being inclusive and understanding of others.  My students do not view a child needing an adaptation as any less, but rather, they understand he is just getting what he needs to succeed.  I do see a positive shift in that it is no longer only someone who is “disabled” that receives a tool to assist his/her learning.

So tomorrow, as I see the students within my school creating an essay using Google Read and Write, recording a journal entry through Dragon Dictation, using a pair of noise cancelling headphones, or simply completing a task in a “typical” manner, I’ll be pleased to know that teachers are working hard to meet the needs of these learners and despite challenges within students’ lives, these assistive technologies will help break down the barriers that could impede their learning.





Assistive Technology Doesn’t Just Involve Technology

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks Flickr via Compfight cc

I was a little apprehensive about having to write this post discussing the topic of assistive technology. I wasn’t sure that I would have a lot to say because I didn’t think I had a lot of experience with using assistive technology but after reading a few of my classmates blogs this week I was able to think about assistive technology from a new perspective. I teach at the same school as Andrew so my experience is much the same in the fact that I don’t have the variety of students that many other teachers have. I have had very few students with disabilities that need adaptations however there have been instances in which I have had to make adaptations. In my internship I had a student who was unable to read from anything printed on white paper so I had to print everything for them on yellow or green paper.  Another way that I have accommodated a student with a disability is by chunking their work. This involves breaking a big assignment down into manageable pieces for them so they don’t get overwhelmed and fail to finish the assignment.

I didn’t think that any of these adaptations could fall under assistive technology until I read Amy and Heidi’s blogs this week. Each blog discusses ways that we adapt that might not involve technology. If you check out the Understood website there is a large list of assistive technologies that don’t actually involve technology. After reading through some of the items in the list I realize that I do a lot more adapting than I had originally thought. In my math classes, students use calculators, graph paper, rulers, protractors and manipulatives. These are all assistive technologies. Other examples include chair cushions, fidgets, spell-check, timers and graphic organizers.

Dave Eayburn describes assistive technology as: “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability”. I feel like it’s a pretty good definition of assistive technology but I do think it assistive technology can help everyone, not just those with disabilities.

Assistive technologies (or ATs) are specialized technology (software and/or hardware) that are used by people with and without disabilities to adapt how specific tasks can be performed.

Photo Credit: DiegoMolano Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DiegoMolano Flickr via Compfight cc

I think that assistive technologies go beyond hardware and software and include any object or device that allows us to be more efficient or productive. We all use assistive technology everyday; computers, phones, word processors, Siri, microwaves and cars are just some examples of the daily items we use that assist us. Obviously there are some devices (hearing aids, braile, sensory objects to name a few) that are more helpful to those who have disabilities and which impact these individuals more in their daily life than my everyday life. For example, could I get by without a computer? Sure I could, but my work life would be a lot less productive. I appreciate having the technology to use but if the computer was never invented I wouldn’t know any different and I would be able to carry out my job no problem. However, someone who is blind and never learns to read braile will have significant issues reading and learning.

Google Read and Write was discussed a lot this past week and it was interesting to read teachers discuss their experience using it in their classrooms. Roxanne is able to integrate it into her daily language lessons and I think that it is a great tool to adapt for those who struggle, but is also a great tool for students who may not necessarily need the tool. There are a variety of features and two of them that I thought were really great were the vocabulary list and the word predictor. The word predictor is great for students who may be learning English or who struggle with reading.

I haven’t had any experience with the add on, but after watching this video there are a few suggestions that I have. The first is that when the picture dictionary is used it would be nice to have real, lifelike pictures to choose from as opposed to simple cartoons/clip art. My second suggestion isn’t just for Google Read and Write, but for all Text-To-Speech (TTS) software. It would be nice if the audio didn’t sound so robotic. Is it too much to ask to have it sound more like an audiobook that is read by a real person? Now I know that it isn’t as easy to develop software that can do that but my hope is that sometime in the future we get there. I can’t imagine having to use TTS often and having to listen to Mr. Roboto talk to me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a sample from the article we were asked to read this week. It had a listen option so I decided to click it to see how it sounds. Let’s just say I didn’t listen to the whole file and can’t imagine having no option but to listen to it.

One final thought is based on a recommendation from the article Rethinking Assistive TechnologyThe article has seven recommendations for rethinking assistive technology and the one that stood out to me the most was that we should consider using “technology enhanced performance” as a replacement for the term “assistive technology”. The reason I like this so much is because it breaks down the barriers and stigmas that might be associated with students who use the assistive technology. The adaptations shouldn’t be something that makes users feel singled out or different and changing the name of it might help break down those barriers a bit.

What are your thoughts? How do you adapt for your students? Do your adaptations always involve technology or are some of the adaptations less sophisticated? Have you had any experience with TTS software and did it involve a Mr.Roboto? Do you think TTS software will ever sound ‘human’?

I’m not secretive, I’m Socrative; Assessing Assessment Tools.

Assessment tools achieve assessment rules in assessment schools. Wisely choose or be an assessment fool. But what does an educator pick to be ‘assessment cool’?

Assessment Thoughts… and Kahoot

The ECI833 class came to a general acceptance and list of many digital assessment tools that are best used formatively. A large part of my experience with assessment tools, albeit limited, reinforced this belief. I had used Kahoot several times this year with my students but found that if students didn’t have their own device, or some had slower connections than others, it led to a misrepresentation of student understanding and has the potential to leave a small minority of students frustrated. Students may not be as successful with a timer (as I’ve used), and some get so caught up in the competition they will go with a speedy response rather than a calculated one for a chance to be in the coveted “top 5”. Therefore, formative, at best. (Kids love it though, just like in Heidi’s class, lots of excitement throughout the high school with grades nine-twelve finding enjoyment from it). I know that you can shut off the timer in Kahoot, but that takes some of the fun out of the activity for some of the students. In order to try and find a solution to the formative problems, I decided to look into the highly-touted Socrative.


Socrative is “your classroom app for fun, effective classroom engagement. No matter where or how you teach, Socrative allows you to instantly connect with students as learning happens.”

So how does it work?

Email to login? Done.
Click on create quiz? Done.
Created a question? Done (see picture below).
Share account ID with a student? Done.
Student finishes quiz, I can see immediate feedback.
Pros – accessibility and very straightforward.


My first quiz from Socrative taken via Screenshot saved with Paint.

The biggest challenge was figuring out what the heck Space Race was. Fortunately, like mentioned above, that too was very easy to fire up and use. Upon using “Space Race”, it appears I’ll be able to scratch the competitive itch for my students that may be done by Kahoot as well. If students didn’t not have availability to a device, this may not be as useful, but they do, so no worries!

Visually, it is far more professional-looking than Kahoot (no offence meant). For my senior science courses, considering a digital  alternative (formative or summative) to paper quizzing, I have every intention of using it. Like any program, there is an incentive to spending money to widen its capabilities (for myself, only $30/year), but the free features are more than enough. You can use images, much like in Kahoot for the question process or combine images with questions.

I decided to look up websites that had lists of assessment tools to see how it compared, but most sites had it listed near the top or in the discussion of great tools (even the EduTechChick did)!

Why digital assessment?

I avoided the thought entirely of whether or not digital assessment is wise in the classroom. I’ve historically used paper and reading body language for assessing student understanding, and justified it by stating that it “will prepare them for post-secondary”. But not only is post-secondary transitioning in assessment, but some students may not even pursue it. Therefore, maximizing engagement in the school including the assessment practice is likely the most student-oriented approach. Not to mention that these apps also minimize my marking workload with exports to excel and instant data recording.

So what more is there to say? It appears to be the next direction I head for assessment in the classroom. I have anticipated student reaction, but have yet to experience it, only time will tell. Unless, dear readers, you provide me with feedback on your experiences! What is your preferred digital assessment tool? Do you think there is still a place for paper and pen assessment as well? Or should we complete a transition to full digital assessment for the sake of engagement?


– Logan Petlak


A snapshot of assessment…or better yet, a camera roll!

Assessment…a buzzword in education that means so many different things.  Our class opened this week by the presenting group asking us to define assessment.  Words like tests, formative, summative, data, and reporting filled the screen but Amanda Ronan has a somewhat different definition of assessment:

“Assessment is the measurement of what students are learning.  Student achievement is defined as how well they’ve mastered certain target skills.”

My response in our class poll was “show what you know”.  I try my very best to incorporate authentic assessment practices within my teaching so that students have just this, opportunities to show me what they know.  This becomes challenging in a world of standardized tests and feeling the pressure to teach to such tests, but I’ve taken a stronger stance this year in only administering assessment that either further guides my instruction and my students’ learning (formative) or allows them the chance to authentically show what they know.

Now, as you may have already been able to tell, I have been known to go on a rant or two regarding assessment practices.  I have conflicting feelings regarding PowerTeacher Gradebook.  In one sense, it is great that as teachers we can be transparent and allow parents into our assessment practices.  It opens the lines of communication but where I struggle is what we are communicating.  Data.  Gradebook hasn’t allowed me to authentically and dynamically share my students’ learning and understanding (if you have tips on how to do so, please let me know!).  It allows me to grade to the outcome, which I do think is beneficial, but it is still lists of scores, whether they are As, Bs, and Cs, or BE’s, PR’s, ME’s, and ET’s.  Gradebook is product driven.  What Gradebook can’t communicate accurately is the process of learning.  The process of learning to read is magical, and at best, Gradebook can only provide a snapshot of what this might mean.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Flickr via Compfight cc

I don’t want a snapshot of assessment, I want a camera roll.

I want parents to view their child’s learning and get an accurate view of their understanding.  I also want students to have the opportunity to reflect back on their work and witness their growth throughout a school year.  Those are two of the many reasons why my students use Seesaw for assessment.  I could go on for days with all of the reasons why I love Seesaw, but to summarize,  I am Seesaw’s #1 fan.  If you would like to read more, or more, or more about Seesaw, check out these blog posts.

The second reading this week, How Technology Can Change Assessment , suggests that we need to “use technology to change how we think about the function and reach of assessment”.  Seesaw has allowed me to shift my assessment practice to one that only assesses a final product, to one that communicates understanding amongst learning of  a concept.  Seesaw allows me to share our formative assessments so that parents can further support their child’s growth at home in these areas.

I do, however, feel that I may be blinded by Seesaw’s convenience and endless opportunities as I realized this week that I really haven’t tried any new assessment tools since starting up Seesaw within my classroom.  In order to continue demonstrating professional growth, I decided this week to take a look at a new tool, Plickers.

Tyson plugged this tool well in class this week as he explained that Plickers is free and doesn’t require multiple devices.  I also chose to use Plickers as I want to incorporate a diagnostic assessment tool that allows me to understand how well my students understand content.  My task on Thursday was to use Plickers to administer a “Synonym Quiz”.

I was pleasantly surprised at this experience.  My students answered about 10 questions, testing their understanding of synonyms.  The tool takes a little prep work as the plickers need to be printed and copied on cardstock or laminated to use repeatedly throughout the year.  I also had a few students draw on the plickers and found that they wouldn’t then scan.  Despite the few set backs, plickers was extremely engaging with my young students.  It gave me a really clear view of where my students currently are with their understanding of synonyms.  I see it as a great formative tool although I imagine it could be used as summative assessment as well.  I have already set up a second quiz on Odd and Even Numbers quiz to use to assess my students next week.


While reflecting on this assessment tool and the others I already utilize, I am brought back to the following quote from Ronan:

“After all, in the end, the problem is less the idea of testing itself, but how we design them, apply them, and make use of their data.”

Testing will always be an element of teaching, but in many cases, we have the ability to create and shape these assessment practices.  I want my assessment practices to create dialogue and lead to further learning, not merely take a snapshot from a particular experience.  21st century technologies help create this record, this “camera roll”.