Technology Integration: 24 Lessons Learned (One Term In)


So I've been working for three months now to bolster the integration of technology at my new school. In essence, my job is to encourage teachers to integrate technology in meaningful ways in a streamlined, pedagogically sound way.

Now, as I reflect on the term I've had, I must say it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Our teachers have, by and large, been very open to new ideas, and are excited about integrating technology into their classes.

I am not sure if the group of people I work with are typical of other schools, and if what I've noticed applies more broadly, but I'm going to put these ideas out there, firstly because that's what this blog is all about, and secondly because there may be something here that other edtech directors and schools might learn from.


The Lessons Learned

  • The ICT teachers are an essential core of any integration efforts. Do nothing without them!
  • Having a team of people who are excited about technology is essential. I have an awesome and diverse team who share ideas, assist with individualized training, learn as part of our PLN on Twitter, attend conferences, and who get other teachers excited about tech. Integrating technology is about creating a culture of innovation, and that can only happen when there is a core group committed to spreading the love.
  • By far the majority of teachers are keen to try integrating technology into the classroom. For most, you just have to show them the basics about how to use it, why it's valuable, and how it will save them time, and off they go. For some, some additional support, patience and encouragement are required.

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The Cheeky Philosophy of NationStates

I've been playing NationStates for just over a year now. An amazingly simple, yet somehow deeply addictive on-line game, you basically play by setting up your own nation and then making a few decisions every day. Guns or flowers? Coal or solar? Cars or bicycles? Religion or secularism? Gay marriage? Polygamy? Nudism? Welfare? The power! The pressure…

Your decisions affect your country's economy, political freedoms and civil rights – often in ways you don't expect. For example, after passing legislation to tighten gun control, I got this message: “Kids are arrested at gunpoint for playing with toy rifles”. Well.

There are a great many social, environmental and economic indicators which all change as your decisions start to pile up. And by many, I do mean many. Your country also gets classified differently depending on your mix of rights, freedoms and economic performance. My nation, for example, has been a Left-Leaning College State, a New York Times Democracy and a Scandinavian Liberal Paradise.

You can't really win anything on NationStates, although your Regional Influence can change and you can also get more involved on the forums and in managing regions. You can also get badges and banners and endorsements if you're into that kind of thing. You can even wage war if you want to, and on Halloween, you can choose to either repel or join the zombie hordes. (Which comes with its own philosophical considerations.)

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Apps for Education: Adobe’s Awesome iPad App Suite

I've been playing around with some of Adobe's iPad apps. There are quite a few of them in the App Store and they're all free. And they're actually pretty good.

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The Ant

This morning there was an ant in the bath. I think she came in because she was thirsty. She was skittering around the drain where there was a thin sliver of water from the dripping tap. It's been a very dry year and we've had hundreds of ants invading our home and garden. But we've had fewer spiders, thank goodness. In wetter years we've had to deal with more than a few massive rain spiders. This is not a bundle of laughs, I can assure you.

Ants are fascinating really. They form complex societies (sometimes even keeping slaves), they build intricate structures, communicate with chemicals, carry many times their own weight, and some even farm fungus and aphids. Some can even build living bridges and life rafts. Ants are as old as the dinosaurs, have conquered almost every habitat on the planet, and number in the quadrillions. Some even think that ant colonies might be considered an early form of civilization.

The ant in the bath this morning was a banded sugar ant. She was about a centimeter in length, with six fairly long legs. The thing with bigger ants is that their fascinating three-segmented, large mandibled anatomies are so much easier to see and marvel at. We don't get many sugar ants where I live, more often we get those little black garden ants making a nuisance of themselves whenever we leave the dishes a few minutes too long, or drop a crumb or two on the kitchen floor. Because they're so small, you can't really appreciate the little ones as much. They just look like little smudges.

I will confess, I usually murder these little black things when I see them, often with a firm press of my thumb, and sometimes in great numbers in a cloud of insecticide (when they invade en masse). I am paranoid that they will get into our food, you see, and my caveman food-protecting instincts kick in. But I am a bit more circumspect with sugar ants. With them, as with spiders, I usually use a shoe heel or a protective wad of toilet paper.

But I couldn't quite bring myself to kill this one. And I'm not entirely sure why. Part of me felt sorry for her. It's been a dry, hard year for all of us. Part of me was also enthralled at her struggle to get out of the bath tub. (If I left her for long enough, would she die of sheer tress and frustration – or from hunger?) And yet another part of me was considering where she came from in the first place – where there is one ant, there's usually a colony. And I suppose if I'm honest, some of me was a bit too apathetic to grab a wad of toilet paper in order to smoosh her and put an end to the whole business. I could have opened the tap, I suppose, to wash her down the drain, I could have hit her with a squirt of Doom, I could also have helped her out by giving her something to climb.

But I did none of these things. I just couldn't decide whether to help her or to kill her.

In the end, I left her there to try and find her own way out. Why should her life or death be my decision? Why should I have to be the one to agonize over what to do. Far easier to ignore her plight and walk away.

So I did.

She's dead now.

I'll wash her little corpse down the drain before I bath tonight.




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Hope Over Fear: On the Importance of a Connected Global Community

Here's Mark Zuckerberg on the importance of a globally connected world (as opposed to a Trumpian* 'walled world').


We stand for connecting every person — for a global community, for bringing people together, for giving all people a voice, for a free flow of ideas and culture across nations. And this idea of connecting the world has gotten stronger over the last century. You can now travel almost anywhere in the world in less than a day. Countries trade more openly and cooperate more easily than ever.

And the Internet has enabled all of us to access and share more ideas and information than ever before. We've gone from a world of isolated communities to one global community, and we are all better off for it.

But now, as I look around and, as I travel around the world, I'm starting to see people and nations turning inward — against this idea of a connected world and a global community. I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as “others.” For blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade, and, in some cases around the world, even cutting access to the Internet.

It takes courage to choose hope over fear — to say that we can build something and make it better than it has ever been before. You have to be optimistic to think that you can change the world. And people will always call you naïve, but it's this hope, and this optimism that is behind every important step forward.

Our lives are connected. And whether we're welcoming a refugee fleeing war or an immigrant seeking new opportunity, whether we're coming together to fight global disease like Ebola or to address climate change, I hope that we have the courage to see that the path forward is to bring people together, not push people apart — to connect more, not less.

We are one global community: The mother in India who wants to work so her family can have a better life, the father in the US that wants a cleaner planet for his children, the daughter in Sierra Leone who just needs basic healthcare and education so she can stay safe and reach her full potential, and that young boy in Syria who is doing the best he can with the cards he's been dealt to find a good path forward in the world.

And we, sitting here today, are part of this community too. And if the world starts to turn inwards, then our community will just have to work even harder to bring people together. And that's why I think the work we are all doing is so important. Because we can actually give more people a voice. Instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges. And instead of dividing people, we can help bring people together.

We do it one connection at a time, one innovation at a time, day after day after day. And that's why I think the work we're all doing together is more important now than it's ever been before.


* Trumpian: After Donald Trump: Former contender for the Republican nomination for president. Meaning something that is parochial, narrow-minded, bigoted, insular, short-sighted and intolerant. As in: The recently passed anti-LGBT legislation was very Trumpian in nature. Or, the removal of that atheist page from Facebook was seen as highly Trumpian.


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Quotes for Free Thinkers

I’ll just leave these here.



How to Change Minds: 7 Gentler Persuasive Strategies

In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.

Arthur Martine (As quoted by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings)


It is incredibly difficult to change minds. Even the strongest arguments, with the best supporting evidence, will seldom cause any kind of crack, let alone foundational mind-shift. Opinions and world views tend to set over time, and they become more resistant to being chiseled away at.

The reason our minds become so solidly set mostly has to do with cognitive biases like confirmation bias, loss aversion, the bandwagon effect and the just-world phenomenon. I don't want to go into these in great detail here, as fascinating as they are, so in short: cognitive biases essentially work because we treat ideas and information like we do physical possessions. That is, once we 'own' them, we protect them, assign them a higher value than they would ordinarily have, and, of course, we see them as markers of our social, cultural and economic place in the world.

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24 Things Gaming Can Teach Us About Real Life


Whatever the format, whatever the genre, every day, digital games engage millions of people from a multitude of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and lifestyles. And yes, there are a few evils associated with gaming, but these are mostly related to the nastiness that anonymity seems to breed in some (especially younger) players, as well as the health problems related to being too sedentary in front of a screen, munching snacks and imbibing carbonated drinks. But we are fairly certain that there is no causal link between what people do inside games and what they do in real life.

That said, there are a number of social, emotional and especially cognitive benefits associated with gaming. And on a philosophical level, the experience of gaming can teach us a few important lessons about real life:


  • Sometimes you just have to grind through it. There isn't always an exciting new quest or a sparkling new level to navigate or an intriguing new puzzle to solve. Sometimes you just have to stick at it, going backwards and forwards, to get the thing done.
  • Sometimes it's better with friends. Sometimes it's better on your own.
  • You may be able to carry around everything you find, but you can't use it all. In fact, sometimes a full inventory can slow you down and confuse you. The parallel with life is both in terms of our tendency to accumulate stuff we don't really need, as well as the useless mental and emotional baggage we carry around.

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Teaching Freedom: Why a Liberal Education is an Essential Component of a Progressive Education


What is it to be liberal? My definition runs as follows:

Liberalism is a world view that espouses the values of freedom, democracy and equality. Encoded into the term as a political system are the notions of social welfare, secularism and choice.


A liberal worldview would thus be one which emphasizes the value of personal choice – so long as no-one else is hurt as a result of those choices. Translated into a system of government, liberalism focusses on this same freedom to choose, as well as endeavoring to uplift the living standards of all people (especially the destitute) so that they have the option to choose their lifestyles more freely. A liberal society is thus one which embraces individuality, change and the welfare of the many.

A conservative world view is not the opposite of liberalism but a perversion of it. Co-opting the language of liberalism, conservatives will still say they value freedom of choice, but in reality, these choices are placed within such narrow bounds, as to make them statutory. Thus, even though conservatives will argue that they should have the freedom to choose how they live their lives, those choices are essentially confined to what the group believes is traditionally morally acceptable. As a political philosophy, this constrained worldview is put forward as the model of correct behavior, to which all citizens are to subscribe. A conservative society will privilege the rights of the few, be averse to change and multiple perspectives, and advocate a parochial view of the world.


Now let's look at education:

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Edtech Integration Advice: The Pipes Before the Taps

Original image: Wikimedia


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What I Want for Virtual Reality in Education

So, the release of the Oculus Rift is getting us tech geeks all excited. And Microsoft is working towards making the Hololens a viable prospect. HTC is also ready with a cool-looking system, and I'm sure many others will be following and refining their systems in the next few years. I am convinced that virtual reality headsets and peripherals are going to be a really big thing in the next 5 years. Already, the gaming industry is frenetically building immersive virtual reality experiences. (Amongst them quite a few horror titles – Um… nope. And nope again!) And, as we usually do, tech-minded teachers are thinking about how we can use virtual reality to enhance our lessons.


Here's what I would like for virtual reality in education:

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Why Television is Really Ruining Our Kids


I'm not one who believes that watching TV makes our kids violent. But I do think it can be dangerous by irrevocably warping their thinking. Here is why I think television is REALLY hurting our kids:


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Acronyms for Dysfunctional Schools

Dysfunctional schools are not necessarily under-resourced schools. In fact, many struggling schools do amazing things with minimal resources. And many affluent schools simply cannot seem to get it right, despite having the best of everything.

(That said, severely under-supported and under-funded schools are a different matter altogether. To all intents and purposes, it is physically impossible for a school to function adequately if it receives practically no funding, while servicing a socio-economically disadvantaged community. What follows is not aimed at these schools.)

Dysfunctional schools can be found across the spectrum. And, perhaps controversially, much of what makes them dysfunctional is either poor policy choices or sheer inertia. They are marked by…

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Flipped Music Theory Classroom

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Originally posted on Redhill Teachers' Idea Board:
By Angie Mullins Teaching music in a classroom setting can be very challenging. Students who have played a musical instrument for many years (and completed practical and theory exams) are placed in the…


Psychopathic schools

A wonderful post about slowing things down at schools…

Some of my boarding school colleagues have a frenzied start to the day. Overseeing morning roll call in a fog of morning breath, checking that all the boys are present and correct, making sure they…

(Click on the link below to read the full post…)

Read the full post: Psychopathic schools


Bloom’s Taxonomy: Thinking Group Questions


Bloom’s Taxonomy Thinking Questions:

  1. On the most basic level, is the ability to recall the same thing as knowledge? Why?
  2. Bloom’s is often imagined as a pyramid or a hierarchy, moving from the simpler skills to the more advanced. Could / should we imagine it differently? If so, how and why?
  3. The ultimate aim of Bloom’s taxonomy is to foster critical, creative and independent thinking. Do you agree with this statement? (Explain your answer.)
  4. Bloom’s isn’t always just about the verbs. What other factors could influence the cognitive demands of a question?
  5. How can we prepare students to be able to answer a fuller range of questions in class (without necessarily resorting to using past papers).
  6. Is the ability to look up facts almost instantly on Google going to change our use of Bloom’s?
  7. Bloom’s is described as a being ‘one way’ – meaning that teachers merely have to think of compatible questions for their students. Do you think teachers themselves need to model especially higher order thinking in their own lives?
  8. Higher order questions often require value judgements from students. Do you think this is fair? What happens when the teacher’s values clash with those of a particular student?
  9. According to Bloom’s knowledge comprehension presupposes knowledge, but knowledge does not presuppose comprehension. Is this right?
  10. In the age of ubiquitous information, knowledge must go hand in hand with judgement, analysis, synthesis, assessment and the evaluation of sources. What does this mean for how we use Bloom’s taxonomy?
  11. How can we use Bloom’s to design better, more meaningful, ‘Google proof’ project based learning?
  12. What exactly is meant by ‘creativity’?
  13. If we are going to teach our kids to think critically, is it fair to put certain topics and questions off limits?
  14. If we are going to teach students to analyse effectively, should we be teaching them foundational skills in argumentation, hypothesis formation and logic?
Image: Bloomin’ Apps
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It’s About Time: Flipped Teaching, Forms, Flubaroo & Google Classroom

A wonderful post by a very dynamic teacher!

Redhill Teachers' Idea Board

(By Barbara Williamson) * TECHIE OF THE WEEK! *

Fortunately I have always been able to learn a couple of tricks using computers relatively quickly… as long as it involves working with programmes that I find useful! I love things that make my life easier, especially if teaching becomes more effective at the same time. I certainly don’t enjoy time wasted by using something just for the sake of using it. Although I tried flip my teaching a few years ago when I first was introduced to the idea, most of the Grade 9 guinea pigs I used were not happy with being taken out of their comfort zones, and so I decided not to exert all my energy on something that freaked them out too much. Now they are bigger, and I decided to give it another try in this, their Grade 12 year. Fortuitously, what with our being…

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One Reason for Using Tablets in the Classroom: Agency

Image source:

(In response to David Didau's recent post titled: Just give me one good reason to use a tablet in the classroom)


Without any scene-setting to wade through, here is the one good reason for using tablets in your class:


Tablets are agency machines: They enable students to co-create knowledge, to research independently, and to demonstrate personalized mastery. They enable teachers to spend their time coaching individual students, and honing application skills rather than being the gatekeepers and disseminators of knowledge. Tablets have the potential to revolutionize education because they democratize the acquisition of knowledge and skills, giving students real agency in their own learning.

The kids in the lead picture are connecting with the wider world. And tablets enable kids around the world to connect to the collective knowledge of humankind. How dare we not allow them entry to the wonders of what's out there, in a safe and responsible way? And how dare we not allow them to become confident, independent participators in, and contributors to this world of ideas?


Of course, tablets are also useful in engaging students by making learning fun, hands-ons and relevant. They also encourage the on-going, self-driven acquisition of knowledge. But this is not the real purpose of tablets. Nor is it to simply replace paper-based activities with digital equivalents.

Also, devices do not have to be tablets, although tablets tend to be the most convenient option for most grades and classes.

Let me be clear: schools that issue tablets (or require parents to purchase them), without the requisite intensive pedagogical training of teachers, and the sincere, school-wide reorientation of methodologies, are simply wasting time and money.


Here's a little more about how tablets are being used in South Africa to revolutionize education.


And here is a short clip about a young man I have the pleasure of teaching this year:






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10 Alternative EdTech Terms That Make More Sense



“Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.”

― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul


Hello Blogland

So I've been thinking about words lately. Specifically the edtech lexicon. And I think it's time we made a few well placed changes. Here are my suggestions:


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Here Be Dragons: A Parable of Learning


Once upon a telling, a score of young adventurers set sail on adventure across the wide seas. They had a wise ol' captain and an ultimate destination, but they would each take turns to steer the good ship Learning by their own stars and towards their own discoveries. Most often, the captain's role was simply to ensure that the ship moved forward and avoided any danger. And to find destinations he knew they would love to explore.

They would stop at many strange and interesting places, whereupon the adventurers would go their own way, in groups or alone, to explore and make their own discoveries. And upon their return, they would regale the captain and their fellow travelers with stories of what they'd found out. Some would fail in their tasks, but they would still learn and they would try again at the next destination.

Yes, there were many challenges at sea, but they had the determination and courage to face them and conquer them.

Even the frightening first Sea Dragon of Failure was conquered once they figured out that to beat it, they simply had to reimagine it. They scooped Failure up and kept it as a pet. And it never bothered them again.


But then things changed. A dark squall appeared, the waves grew and the wind howled. The twin storms named Syllabus and Exam were upon them. They hunkered down and watched and readied themselves to weather the storm – armed only with the magic of Superficial Learning and a smelly coat of Rigor.

After the storm had passed, things were different. They skies remained grey and the sun remained hidden. They no longer had the desire to steer the ship, they were less enthusiastic to make their own discoveries, and they left it to the captain to steer the ship the rest of the way. They had only the end port of Grades on their mind.

And when they saw the mysterious beast called The Curiosity, they steered the good ship Learning directly at it, and killed it, never even bothering to look astern to see what it was. They tried to avoid the other sea dragons, but they were not always successful, and they did lose some of their crew to the nasty beasts.

And the 'ol captain was powerless to get them back to their former spirits.

Instead of scouting for new lands and new adventures, the crew, now many years older, sat below deck, infected with the scurvy of homework.

What had started out as such a wonderful journey of adventure ended in sullen silence, boredom and a general feeling of resentment. They disembarked vowing never to take the journey again. And as they watched, a new crew bounced aboard, bright-eyed and energetic, shouting enthusiastically while exploring the ship, all ready for their years long journey. To where? They knew not, nor did they care.

And the 'ol captain, pipe in mouth, bent over his charts, trying for all he was worth to plot a course to steer clear of storms and dragons. And if you listened closely you would hear him mumble something over and over to himself. And here's what he was saying:

“Next time, it will be better. I have to make it better.”


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