You Don’t Need to be an Edtech Specialist

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In order to implement technology into education, you do not need to be a specialist in technology, but you do need to have an understanding of educational technology. This means that educators should understand how Web 2.0 tools can be applied to education, and how it can impact student learning, whether it be in a positive or negative manner. There is an inordinate amount of Web 2.0 tools available to learners, making it impossible for educators to be knowledgeable or even proficient with all of these tools. Understanding its purpose and social features is a good start for implementing a Web 2.0 tool. Determining it’s privacy restrictions will allow teachers to determine whether the tool is suitable for the age group they are instructing. From there time can tested prior to utilizing the tool for instruction. Teachers do not need to know all the features of the tool before implementing it with students. They may gain a basic understanding first and then learn as they go. Using the tool with students can be beneficial as students may already know how to use the tool from prior experiences or can figure out the tool’s use more quickly as all students would experience the tool a little differently than their teacher would.

Another important aspect of technology integration is for teachers to take risks by stepping out of their comfort zone and trying something new. They should be willing to make mistakes and not feel the need to be experts when working with technology. It is permitted to say “let me look into that” or “I’m not sure, let’s figure it out together.” My mantra has always been to try something new with my students every year. It may be the implementation of a new technology, it may be to refine our use of a familiar technology or even something non-tech related, but a different approach to learning and assessment. Regardless of the tool being selected, it is my aim to improve learning by taking risks and changing my teaching practice.

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What will you try differently this upcoming school year? Don’t be afraid to try something new 🙂





Productivity & Creation Apps for Elementary Students

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 11.28.18 PMMobile learning (m-learning) is the fusion of mobile devices and educational pedagogy. Mobile devices such as smartphones, digital media players and tablets are being used to support student learning through technology integration. Mobile learning is currently being adopted by educational institutions (New Media Consortium, 2013). In elementary schools, tablets such as iPads are commonly used for m-learning practices (Merchant, 2012; Pegrum, Oakley, & Faulkner, 2013).

Apple, the leading mobile device provider, offers educators with more than 20,000 educational apps available for download (Rao, 2012). These apps can be placed into different categories depending on what they can and how it will be accomplished. Productivity and creation apps best support student learning and teaching (Attard & Northcote, 2011). These apps are not subject or concept specific, they can be used across contexts for different purposes. Students have more control over the process and presentation of their work while using these types of apps. Here is the top K-6 recommended productivity and creation app list. It is important to note that the specific app itself is not as important as its function. For example, audio apps allow students to record their thoughts and ideas. Audiboo is listed as the recommended audio app on this list, but Croak.It is another great alternative that has similar features and functionality.

Always remember….

When selecting apps or mobile devices for learning, we need “to consider how educational experiences might be enhanced or transformed through the use of mobile technology” (Merchant, 2012, p. 779). We should focus on how technology devices support teaching and learning and not on the device itself (Attard & Northcote, 2011; Pegrum et al., 2013). Pedagogy should drive the incorporation of technology.


Attard, C., & Northcote, M. (2011). Mathematics on the move: Using mobile technologies to support student learning (part 1). Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 16(4), 29-31.

Merchant, G. (2012). Mobile practices in everyday life: Popular digital technologies and schooling revisited. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 770-782. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01352.x

New Media Consortium. (2013). Horizon Report, K-12. Retrieved from

Pegrum, M., Oakley, G., & Faulkner, R. (2013). Schools going mobile: A study of the adoption of mobile handheld technologies in Western Australian independent schools. Australasian Journal Of Educational Technology, 29(1), 66-81.

How to get the most out of Twitter

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Today, I came across a Tweet where a fellow educator was wondering how educators can get the most out of Twitter. This blog post discusses how I get the most out of using Twitter. Of course, every educator has different needs and time commitments so they may use Twitter differently and benefit from its use in their own way.

1. Schedule time for Twitter

You will need to dedicate time in your schedule to read Tweets on Twitter. I do this in two different ways. I have the Twitter app on my phone that I will check periodically when I have free time and will e-mail myself articles or posts of interest to read when I have more time. I also have myself signed into TweetDeck on my computer, so that way each time I log on, I can see the most recent posts on my timeline and hashtags that I follow. My caution to scheduling is that you shouldn’t feel that you need to always be connected. Take time with family and don’t obsess over posts you missed that day. If it’s concerning for you, read the missed posts when you have time, they will be there for you when you log in next. It’s also okay to skip over posts as it is not always possible to read every single Tweet that comes across your timeline.

2. Participate in the discussion

It’s great to be a consumer of Twitter, but even better to be a producer. When you come across an interesting Tweet worth sharing, reTweet (RT) it. Just make sure you read the entire Tweet first to ensure that you agree with the article being Tweeted or your can add your perspective when Tweeting it. If you have learned something interesting in grad school classes, conversations with colleagues or students, then Tweet about it and add a meaningful hashtag to your post (check out this list of educational hashtags). Share good stories of what is happening or being observed in your teaching practice (without naming students or school). By posting information you are interested in, you can connect with others who are interested in the same topic. This can help you increase your follower list.

3. Follow discussions on hashtags

There are several interesting discussions happening weekly on Twitter. Find out which topics interest you and see if you can find time to follow or participate in some of these discussions. You can learn more about the topic of conversations and further make better connections on Twitter. I like to use these Twitter chats to share resources and blog posts on the topic of conversation. I feel it’s just as important to share our learning and understanding with fellow educators than merely observe conversations. The best way to learn is to actively participate in your learning and Twitter is one way to actively participate in a professional learning community (PLN) of your choosing.

4. Take risks on Twitter

Don’t be afraid to provide your opinion on topics that matter to you, even if they may spark judgement. Just be certain that you express your ideas respectfully and with a certain degree of caution. Think about how your readers would interpret your Tweet and whether you are prepared to further discuss your opinion. I like to ask questions to further understand another Tweeter’s perspective or add a positive contradicting comment. For example, there was a recent discussion on social media use in education. I provided an example of how another school board uses social media in an effective way than another school board.

5. Encourage your friends and colleagues to participate on Twitter

Twitter discussions are as good as you make them and benefit those who use Twitter. I have to admit, before becoming a Twitter user, I was against using Twitter. I thought Twitter was used to communicate everyday feelings and status updates, that I didn’t see the need in using this social network. I was not aware that a large network of educators were using this media to discuss educational matters. These educators span across the world and can connect with you with the click of a “follow”. It was through my first grad school class that I was asked to participate in social media and since then have benefited greatly from this network. I am certain there are many educators out there with the same previous mindset and may need so encouragement or awareness of this tool. I encourage educators to discuss with your friends and colleagues about how you are using Twitter. Show them your timeline and explain what you are learning. Offer to help them set up an account and guide them through the process of learning how to use Twitter. Here’s a pfd that can help them understand how to use Twitter (New to Twitter…).

Providing Scaffolding for Students When Blogging

When deciding to blog with your students, it’s important to determine the purpose of your blog and what blogging activities you would like your students involved in. Educators may use blogging for the following purposes:

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I like to provide my students with a variety of blogging activities. We use our blog site as a group blogging site where we provide literature responses to novels we are reading, explain concepts mastered in class (mirror blog) and provide our opinions on current events/thoughts. We also will post some of our written work with poetry and add an audio component to our writing. I like providing a variety of activities so students are kept interested in blogging. If you need some ideas for blogging with your students, check out the website Write About (Write About, 2015).

Throughout the blogging process, students are supported through modeling on how to write a good blog post and how to respond with an appropriate comment. To assist students with commenting, they are provided with 3 different ways to respond:

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At the moment, I am learning side by side with my students about good teaching practices that will assist with blogging activities. With the help of my students, I plan to develop additional resources that will support students with blogging and provide good modeling/scaffolding of expected outcomes.


Halsey, S. (2007). Embracing emergent technologies and envisioning new ways of using them for literacy learning in the primary classroom. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 6(2), 99-107.

Write About (2015). Ideas. Retrieved from

Zawilinski, L. (2009). HOT blogging: A framework for blogging to promote higher order thinking. Reading Teacher, 62(8), 650-661.

How to Select a Blogging Platform

There are many blogging platforms on the web available for student and/or teacher use. How do educators select a platform for student use? The first thing that must be considered is security of student data and information. Student’s identity and personal information must always be protected from online predators, creditors and anyone else who wish to misuse this information. Ensure that you fully understand the platforms functionality – whether it be public, semi-private or private, and how information is being stored/used by the platform developers. This can be a daunting task, so I suggest consulting your school board to see if they already have a list of approved/unapproved blogging platforms. With the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), they have provided educators and the general public with Web 2.0 guidelines. The guidelines explain how they determine the approval of Web 2.0 tools while considering the ethical and legal implications of using the tool. To see a list of the CBE’s criteria and tools, go to this link:

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The next criteria is determining your student’s skill level. Certain blogging sites are easier to set-up and use than others. From personal experience, I recommend Kidblog for elementary students as it takes about 10 minutes for a teacher to set up their classroom accounts and students have opportunities to personalize their page, in addition to being able to communicate their ideas with media (photographs, audio, links). This site is also on the approved CBE Web 2.0 guidelines which gives me more confidence in using this platform. I recently conducted a survey on blogging use with students and Kidblog was very popular among elementary teachers to date. I will include a poll on this site to see which blog site you prefer for elementary students.


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For older students, they have more experience with typing and using Internet websites, so they would work best with a blogging site that allows for more personalization. My recommendation for secondary students would be WordPress or Blogger.

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These sites are more complex and have many more options for student personalization. They may require a lot of support when first used, but the end result is worth it! I actually use WordPress as my professional blog site and enjoy using this platform. Having experience writing my own blogs on this site has given me a better understanding of this platform and of how to blog, which I could also share with my students.

For more details on blogging platforms, read these tips from Dr. Fryer:

Once you’ve selected your blogging platform, take some time to become familiar with its format and styling. Don’t be afraid to consult other teachers who are blogging or use Twitter to find teachers who blog. This is where I have made many professional connections.

Happy Blogging!


Fryer, W. (2015, August 9). Tips for choosing a classroom blog. Retrieved from

Blogging Expectations With Elementary Students

Before beginning our grade 3 blogging project each year, we go through a list of blogging expectations with our students. With any online tool, it is important to discuss guidelines with students so they may participate in a safe, secure and caring online environment. Whether students are in elementary school or secondary school, they should understand appropriate netiquette that is involved with this form of digital communication. The guidelines I set with my students have been inspired from samples seen online and from a reading on digital citizenship norms created by Ribble, Bailey, & Ross (2004). They wrote an article discussing the notion of Digital Citizenship and how to address appropriate technology behavior. They go through nine different norms that need to be addressed when working with Web 2.0 tools. If you are not familiar with these norms, I encourage you to read through their article as they are applicable to all online users.

I have included our blogging expectations as an example of how you could set guidelines with your students or children who wish to blog privately or publicly. Our students are blogging privately, meaning that only their classmates, teacher and parents can view their posts.This is why we allow a little more freedom in our blogging environment as their identify and personal information is better protected. As this is my second year blogging with students, I feel more comfortable working in a private blogging site than opening it to the public. As I get more comfortable with blogging, I will consider opening it up to the public based on administrator input and comfort level.

Image* In the blogging website section, I have removed the rest of the hyperlink for privacy reasons, but students have the direct link to click on to access their classroom account

If you are blogging publicly, you may want to consider adding different expectations as their posts can be viewed by anyone and will have less privacy restrictions on names and images. The age of your students will also determine whether you want to review posts or comments before they are published for the class. I find that with first time bloggers, students need a guidance in how to write appropriate responses to their peers.


Ribble, M., Bailey, G., & Ross, T. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6-12. Retrieved from

Digital Citizenship Norms to Consider When Selecting Apps for the Classroom

The Internet can be overwhelming with the amount of apps and tools available to students.  As educators or parents it can be difficult to keep up with the trending technology or even attempt to become an expert in each tool. Even tools we are already familiar with are continually evolving. Although it can be challenging to learn all tools, it is important that we understand its characteristics and how the tool allows students to be good digital citizens. Ribble, Bailey, & Ross (2004) provide 9 norms to digital citizenship (see Digital Citizenship Norms (EDER679.10)) that should be reviewed when considering app use.

The most important norm to review first would be security (Ribble et al., 2004). Make sure to understand how the tool is being accessed whether it is public, password protected or private. Students should be aware of who has access to their information and content and why it is important to keep certain information private. Take Facebook for example, Facebook has many different privacy settings such as who can access your Facebook page, who can email you, who can view your pictures, who can see where you are living, your birthday, etc. Students should understand why they should limit who has access to their information and what they should share online. Some businesses today are looking at sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to learn more about potential employees. If a student has a bad digital footprint, they are less likely to get the job they want.

Next, I would consider communication (Ribble et al., 2004). Do students have opportunities to communicate with others through the online tool? If so, can they do it in a safe manner? Are their conversations public or private? Take Twitter for example; every post communicated through Twitter is public to the entire world unless the message is sent through a direct message. This can be a huge security issue for younger students, as they may not understand that what goes out there, stays out there. I am aware that younger students cannot own their own Twitter account as they are too young, but if educators decide to go ahead with a class Twitter account, they will need to have a plan in place to educate (education norm) their students on proper netiquette (etiquette norm) and responsibility.

With every good app, the last step would be to have a plan to educate students on proper technology use of the identified tool (education norm – Ribble et al., 2004). Students need to be aware of the positive and negative impact they could have when using the tool. This is where the other norms come into play with being a responsible user (responsibility norm), understanding intellectual property rights (rights norm), avoiding online purchases (commerce norm) and understanding the security and communication norms discussed above.

Once you are happy with the education plan you have set for your students, you are ready to use the apps of your choice. I must mention that norms do not need to be applied in the same way or with the same focus as each learner and each classroom is different. Perhaps you are teaching students who already have a good foundation in digital citizenship and may be able to use apps that are more public and in a wider social network. As long as the norms have been taken into account and you can ensure student online security, then you are well on your way!

My next project is to create an app checklist incorporating some of these digital citizenship norms. If you have created an app checklist, I’d love to see it.

Ribble, M., Bailey, G., & Ross, T. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6-12. Retrieved from