SAMR & Google Apps – an infographic

SAMRJust on-sharing this infographic below based on SAMR and Google Apps for Education.

The jump between modification and redefinition is very big in my opinion. In some ways I think it should be, but there really is nothing much going on between substitution to modification (ie. I don’t see “significant task redesign” in the modification part).


Google Apps and the SAMR Framework Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics


SAMR Image source: Dr Ruben R. Puentedura CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0

The Backwards Brain Bicycle … and change

Brain neurons
Brain neurons

I follow a YouTube channel called SmarterEveryDay. This channel contains over 100 videos of the host exploring the world through science (I’ve posted about this before: Smarter everyday). There really are some great videos included that could be useful in the classroom as well as being simply, interesting!

Last week they posted The Backwards Brain Bicycle, in which they have to learn to ride a bike where turning the handlebars to the right turned the wheel to the left and vice-versa. It made for some interesting experiences.

Watch the video here:

As well as being a potentially good resource for the classroom, this video made me think about the change process and how difficult change can be. In regards to anything we try in the classroom, often we have to push through the difficult stage until things work appropriately and try not to slip back into the comfortable what we’ve always done frame of mind. Not to say that what we’ve always done wasn’t good, but sometimes if we want to go beyond that we’ve got to step out of our comfort zone and move into the unknown. The video showed that to learn to ride the backwards bicycle took great time, effort and a rewiring of the pathways in the brain.

Bringing digital technologies into the classroom can be a bit like that. It can be easy to question why we need to use technologies when the students were already learning. But perhaps we can take things a step further using technology. There could be opportunities for further learning and creativity around a concept or topic that only a digital device can offer.

It’s not about thinking that things were already working. It’s about thinking where else can I take my students in their learning? Where else am I willing for them to take themselves?


Image by Fotis Bobolas – CC-BY-SA 2.0 

Smarter Everyday

I’ve recently come across this YouTube channel: Smarter Every Day.

I’m not going to write much about it because I think the videos speak for themselves, however in a nutshell, the host has a question to answer and heads out to answer it through videos (including high-speed), interviews etc.

These are the two videos that first grabbed my attention.

How Fish Eat (Parts 1 & 2)

And just to whet your appetite a bit more, a cat video (that’s why we use the internet isn’t it?)—yeah, I know some won’t like that he’s experimenting on animals, but we know they land on their feet. The question is… Why? Lots of physics learning in this video!

There are a huge number of videos on his channel and he has over 1.7 million subscribers! The videos can be used in a wide range of educational contexts or even just to inspire kids to question and investigate more!

One device per child


An article appeared on Stuff today discussing how schools wanted funding from the Government for technology (see the article here). This was in response to recommendations in parliaments inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy.

One of the recommendations was that every child should have access to a digital device such as an iPad.

Principal’s are rightly asking for more funding in order to do this. I’m currently on the Boards of two different schools and I recognise that there is little room for what many people would call ‘extras’ in tight budgets. Most schools – Principals, teachers, Boards – recognise the need to have modern technology in the classrooms, but not all of them can afford to introduce them or increase their capabilities due to having to do things like maintain/upgrade buildings and classrooms with what is already limited funding. You can argue that there is set money for building maintenance, however I know that I am quickly learning that that amount is often not enough and schools are needing to break into operations grants or investments that have been made in the past – money/savings they are unlikely to ever have again.

In the article linked above, National MP Nikki Kaye said “the proposals were an opportunity to lead the world in digital literacy.”

I disagree.

The proposals are simply proposals – words in a document. The proposals themselves won’t do anything without the government choosing to act on them.

If the government wants to see New Zealand leading the world in digital literacy they’re going to have to begin investing in education rather than continually taking from it. The government needs to consider funding the majority (if not all) of what is required to put a device in the hand of every child in this country so that they have the tools required to live in this time; so they have the tools required to learn about digital literacy; so they have access to resources, information and experts right where they are.

They need to stop trying to fix something that is working and work on continually improving it.

Our children deserve to learn in modern learning environments that are not constrained by the four walls of a classroom, or the 50+ year old buildings. They should be able to have technology at their fingertips when required in order to learn, to share, to collaborate, to connect and to create.


Image source: Flickr – Cem K. (iyiinsan)

Managing the cloud with Otixo

otixoDo you use more than one cloud storage solution? Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, SugarSync, SkyDrive… There are so many options available on the internet now that it can be difficult to know which to use.

With Otixo you can use them all! Otixo is a cloud storage management app. You can access all of the cloud storage solutions mentioned above and many more all with a single login. It even allows you to copy files from one to another.


Otixo allows you to share files with your friends and colleagues. It is also set up for collaboration with Otixo’s Spaces. This allows each team member to keep files in their own clouds while collaborating together.

I haven’t tried it yet, but Otixo states on the website that you can edit and re-upload files from Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps on your iPad.

Otixo could be a very good solution for teachers and students who are using a range of cloud storage solutions.

Assistive technology

In yesterday’s blog post I talked a bit about the assistive technology that my son has received to help with his learning due to him having low vision. I had shared the link to the article in which my son stars using the CCTV on Twitter a few days ago and I got this response:

I loved this idea of making assistive technology normal! Why should only those with specific needs have access to these tools? Why should it not be normal for all?

Ocular albinism & BLENNZ

Me and Miss2On Wednesday my wife and I found out that our youngest child (girl – nearly 3) has ocular albinism – a genetic eye condition where there is a reduced amount of pigment in the retina. Apparently my wife is a carrier of the condition, but she has no issues with her sight. It’s not new for our family however, as our eldest son (7) also has it and we have known he had vision difficulties since he was only a few weeks old.

So what does it mean for them? Well, for our son (who vision is worse than our daughter) it means that he has difficulty focusing on things. It takes quite a lot of effort for him to focus. Glasses help, but do not fully overcome the problem. At school he gets tired relatively quickly as a lot of his energy is going in to focusing on what he needs to see. He has no depth perception. A good indication of his vision is when his Mum was standing on one side of the road with someone else and he was on the photo (3)other side, he knew there were two people there but could not make out who was who.

Right from the time our son was 9 months old however, we have had the support of BLENNZ and their RTVs. BLENNZ is the Blind and Low Vision Education Network New Zealand – they are a school in their own right, but they have RTVs (Resource Teacher of Vision) who go and work with and support children with vision difficulties (not just ocular albinism) from before school age and right through school. They work with and support their teachers and help in getting any assistive technology that will support the children in their learning.

BLENNZ learning libraryOur son since being at school has had the use of a few different pieces of technology. Firstly he has a dome magnifier that he can move over a page that he’s reading and it will magnify the text for him. Yes – it’s a magnifying glass, but in the shape of a dome. One advantage of this is that he doesn’t have to get right above it to see. Secondly he had the use of a CCTV. You can read more about that in this article from the BLENNZ Learning Library in which he stars! The CCTV, I think, made a big impact on his learning. It certainly made it easier to keep up with others in his class. He is quite bright, but his vision slows him down. When he has the technology to assist him, he is able to keep up.

(Here is a video about the BLENNZ Learning Library if you are interested – well worth a watch)

This year his awesome RTV helped get him an iPad, along with a Bluetooth keyboard and a airprint enabled printer/scanner. Now he can have class reading books made available to him as ebooks in which he can enlarge the print as much as he needs to. He can have any worksheets scanned and emailed to his iPad. He can take photos of work on the board and enlarge it (he struggles to see the board). He can do his written work on the iPad without having to try to see the faint lines in an exercise book.

Not only do BLENNZ work in the classrooms, but they organise curriculum days where they can get together with other students of low vision and learn with them. Earlier this year my son and I went up to Auckland for a zoo trip with several other children – it was fantastic! BLENNZ support the parents also with tips and guidance on what will help the children. Yesterday his new RTV took him (and me) fishing to teach him some new skills! He caught 7 fish!

My wife and I are really grateful for the excellent work that BLENNZ do. They are making such a difference for our son, and we look forward to the awesome work continuing with our daughter.

E-learning or learning?

I’ve heard quite a few people say that there is, or should not be, e-learning. It is just learning. While I agree with them in principle I believe it is important at this stage that we keep the ‘e’. Yes, while our job as educators is to teach / facilitate / guide (whatever term you prefer) students in their learning, and no, it’s not – or shouldn’t be – about the tools that we use, I believe that technology should be integrated into teaching and learning. The problem I see, is that although there are some teachers and schools doing this well, there are many others that have not even begun this journey.

There are probably many reasons why some have not taken up integrating technology into their teaching. Perhaps they are scared of it, or scared of doing something wrong/breaking it. Perhaps they don’t have time to learn it. Maybe they don’t believe it is necessary. It could be that getting through ‘the curriculum’ is most important to them. Personally, I believe (and I mentioned this in a recent post) if we don’t integrate technology, we’re disadvantaging our students.

Until it’s the norm for teachers to integrate technology into their teaching, then the ‘e’ needs to stay there. We need to show teachers that integrating e-learning/technology into their teaching is just a standard part of the job now. I think we also need to demonstrate to our wider school communities that e-learning does not mean our students, our children will be sitting in front of a screen all day, effectively cut off from the rest of the world. I believe this is a common misconception about e-learning (although it’s possibly legitimate in some circumstances). It’s about using technology to enhance the learning experience. It’s about using the tools we now have to expand our students creativity, their imagination. It’s about showing our students that with some of these tools that can do and be things they never imagined.

Yes, we need to drop the ‘e’ from e-learning. But not yet. For a while longer it needs to be separated to show what can be done with technology and to encourage more to jump in.

Is technology important in a classroom?

I firstly need to clear something up… Technology has always been used as a teaching tool. Eg. papyrus, slates, blackboards, overhead projectors (remember those? – Many teachers still use them!). Technology is dependent on what we know and understand at the time. Just because we have access to laptops, iPads, interactive whiteboards/projectors, mobile phones etc now, does not mean that technology in the classroom is a new idea. We’re just using different technology that has been used in the past.

Of course I’m specifically talking about computers, tablets, mobile phones and any other modern device you might be able to think of.

If we are not allowing/using at least some of these devices in the classroom as a part of learning then I think we’re disadvantaging our students.

Perhaps that’s a big statement to make, as there are many excellent teachers in schools teaching without using this technology, however I struggle to think of any jobs that does not require the use of this type of technology at some point.

I’m not talking about using these devices for word processing or simply publishing their work. We are beyond the age of typewriters. Teachers and students need to use these devices to be creative! Rather than sitting at a desk and writing by pen a draft story to then be edited before being typed up on a computer, our students could be writing and editing on the computer (that’s what they’re for). Or the student might not ‘publish it’ as a written story at all. Perhaps they will video themselves reading their story and share it on YouTube? Or maybe they will share it through an animation site?

When used to the full potential, our students are able to be creative and innovative and share their ideas they’ve come up with or created using technology, with a wide audience via the internet. They can receive feedback from this wide audience on their ideas/compositions/whatever they’ve done – both positive and negative – and can use that to learn and to improve on what they have done. It’s not just limited to feedback from one teacher, or their classmates.

There are so many tools available for students to show off their creativity, their innovation, their brilliance – both online or through apps and other software. Many of these tools are free! Yes, teachers will need to learn about some of them, but perhaps once some carefully thought through transfer of skills has occurred, our students will firstly learn to find new tools that suit their needs, and some of our students will create tools that suit their needs for others to also use!

If schools and teachers do not allow technology into their classrooms, we’re going to remain stuck in an age that the rest of the world is well beyond.

I know there are many many things that teachers and students can do using these devices that I have not mentioned – enjoy discovering them! And yes – many schools are embracing technology in teaching and learning. I think you’ve taken an exciting and needed step. Will it take time, patience and effort? For sure! But I truly believe it will be worth it.

Converted to Evernote

Converted might the wrong word at the moment, but I’m giving Evernote another go at the moment. After seeing a lot of tweets a few days ago about people using the service, as well as this fantastic guide to using Evernote (well worth a look), I thought I’d give it another shot. I have used Evernote a few times in the past but never really got hooked. After looking at the guide however it gave a few suggestions of what to use it for. The idea of using it for bookmarks seemed like a good one. Ever wanted to save something on a webpage? Just use the Evernote web clipper and away you go!

Then @fivefoot3 on Twitter said that she uses Evernote with IFTTT (If this, then that) so that when she favourites a tweet, it copies it to a notebook in Evernote. This was a brilliant idea in my mind so have set this up this morning.

One of the great things about Evernote is being able to add tags to EVERYTHING, so that you can easily search for stuff you’ve saved or notes you’ve created. Of course it has mobile apps as well and a range of other apps have integrated with Evernote. It’s well worth trying out if you haven’t already. It could be a great way to become paperless over time also if that’s something you’ve wanted to do.