stumbling through computer science

Month: September 2019

Background Check

Pedagogical Alignment

The model which is the most useful for incorporating technology into my classroom is the TPACK model because of how the lessons are developed and planned. First, instructor decides the learning outcomes of the lesson; this is the content. The second is which activities will be used in the lesson; this is the teaching pedagogy. The third is deciding which technology, from pens and paper to smartphones and videos, will be most effective in the activity for delivering the content. This model aligns with how I currently plan my lessons, so to be able to support my teaching methods with a model is very reassuring as a new educator. As a secondary trained teacher with a degree in science, it was a requirement when being hired as a teacher that I have a strong background in science and math. When teaching in a high school setting, your background knowledge in what you are teaching is critical in order to convey higher level thinking and complex topics to older students. The TPACK model prioritizes content and background knowledge, which is what has been my priority as an educator in my pedagogical development. Using pedagogy and technology to support content delivery is the basis for the TPACK model, which is how I structure my lessons and units in my science and math classes.

Background Knowledge

When examining the TPACK model, background knowledge and a high level of understanding of the content is required to simplify and present the material to students. I can relate to this through my teachings of computer science and biology to secondary students. During the summer, I completed the Introduction to Computer Science course with Microsoft, where I learned the basics of coding, programming, and simple game development using coding software. After completing the introductory course, I attended some workshops in Java script and Python coding in order to become proficient at those programs as well. Before starting the summer training, I had no previous experience using computer coding software, and I knew that I would not be able to effectively teach my students without having some background in this topic myself. Taking the Java and Python training courses allowed me to become more advanced in the course than I will be presenting to my students. It also provided an extensive knowledge base for me to draw on while working with my students. Reflecting on the TPACK model, I would have struggled to present more complex lessons in a simplified way in the introductory course had I not done the more advanced training. The TPACK model acknowledges that in order to simplify a concept for students, the instructor must have a higher level of understanding of the content. I believe this higher level of understanding also instills confidence in the instructor and encourages teachers to take on new courses that they may not have taught before. With this Java and Python training, I was also able to assess which coding software we would be using to best support the students learning. Without this further training and increased expertise in my field, I would not have been able to effectively decide which programs or technology would be best.

Supporting Inquiry Based Learning

In the new curriculum, each subject has a large inquiry based component, where students have the opportunity to explore a topic of interest to them within the subject. With inquiry based research, topics can expand far beyond the prescribed curriculum, and advanced questions can be explored. Without a teacher who has a well-developed background knowledge of the topic, the students research areas and questions could be limited. If the teacher leading the inquiry research has an extensive background knowledge of the topic, students can explore complex questions and broader subjects because of the teachers’ expertise in the field. The pedagogical insight for leading an inquiry based unit is highlighted, and the use of technology will be properly utilized because the teacher is aware of how to lead an inquiry unit based on a topic they are familiar with. Inquiry projects are best supported using the TPACK model, because it acknowledges the necessity of having a well balanced educator in the topics of teaching pedagogy, background content, and technology.

Technological Support

The TPACK model uses technology to support the content. In order to use the technology most effectively, it is critical to have a sound understanding on what you are teaching. This model favours the well-rounded individual and backs up lifelong learning. Teachers with a sound background in biology are able to go to a professional development conference to learn about a way to present the learning using a new technology and then present the lesson with that new technology in their classroom. They are not experts in the field of biology or technology, but their interest and experience in both fields allows them to blend the two worlds together to present the information to their students. This method reflects my method of teaching because I am actively looking for ways to present my information better. I have a sound understanding in both my subject areas of science and math, and technology – but I am not an expert in any of those topics. My skills as an educator and pedagogical background in teaching young adults, mixed with this technical knowledge background enables me to assess which technology to use for each lesson based on the content and learning outcomes for the student.

The Who and The What

The students and the learning environment are large components in the TPACK method, along with the technology and content. Who you are teaching to is as important as what you are teaching. While the content you are delivering to your students may be the same, the technology and teaching styles will vary based on which students you have in your class and how they are best able to learn. An example of this is while one math class may learn best through notes from a slideshow and guided practice, another class may learn best through videos and small group activities. The learning outcomes may be identical, but the technology and pedagogy behind the delivery is different depending on which group of students are being taught and their differing learning environments.


The SAMR model appeared to be much more regimented in terms of the steps used to implement the model in your teaching. While the TPACK model functions as more as a Venn diagram, integrated model, SAMR was more of a step by step guideline for using technology in place of traditional teaching, when appropriate. Substituting technology for pen a paper, enhancing your lesson by using technology such as internet links rather than textbooks, modifying your lesson to use technology when it is more appropriate, and assessing whether or not technology would make your lesson more valuable to your students. The augmentation portion of the SAMR model aligned most with my teaching beliefs where it is important to enhance your lesson with technology where appropriate, rather than doing it to tick a box or use the technology simply because it is there. The technology needs to have a purpose, whether it be replacing another resource of inferior technology, or supporting handwritten notes to deliver content, including graphic organizers such as Prezi. Currently, using my NewRow online classroom platform to deliver and moderate my computer science course, is an example of augmenting my unit to include technology. Instead of a traditional face-to-face model of teaching physically in the classroom, I have used NewRow to allow for computer science professionals in Vancouver to deliver the course content in a much more effective way to my students. Augmenting my unit and replacing face-to-face with online instruction enhanced the quality of my lesson, and follows the SAMR model process. While both models are effective and view technology as a supplemental, not essential part of education, the wholistic integration including pedagogy, knowledge background, and technology with the TPACK model resonates the most with my teaching philosophy.

1994: The World Wide Web Was Born

Book vs e Book reader published November 16, 2012 by Frederick Deligne

Before reading the articles on the Clark-Kozma media debate, I expected Clark to completely swear of technology, and for Kozma to embrace using technology entirely. I predicted that Clark would support no technology in the classroom whatsoever, and only use paper, pencils, and direct instruction in education and learning. Kozma, on the other hand, I thought would opt for entirely online, self-directed courses, using Smartboards, videos, and mediums like digital games to connect students learning without direct in-person instruction. A debate is usually black and white, with one side opting for no technology at all, and the other supporting it entirely for all learning. What I discovered, after reading and watching supporting videos regarding the Clark-Kozma media debate, is that it wasn’t really a debate at all, but rather an elaboration and continuation of the examination of the usefulness of technology in education.

Clark presented the point that technology and media do not need to be present in order for learning to occur, and that only certain medias are more effective for certain learners, learning goals, and tasks (Clark, 1994). I agree with Clark’s point that the media and technology aren’t necessary for the learning to occur; teachers and educators must be present in some form or some point of the learning to direct the students to the correct learning outcomes. There needs to be critical assessment from the teacher to ask “is this media supporting what the learning outcomes of the student are?” The media is the vessel or portal from which the content and lesson comes from, but the media or technology platform is not the source of content or material. In order for the media to be used effectively, there has to be a source of knowledge or information that is integrated into the technology. Let’s look at a Smartboard, for example: the Smartboard alone is not what the students are using to learn; they are learning the content that the teacher or educator has loaded onto that technology which is then presented through the Smartboard media in an integrated way that is captivating and experiential. Without the effort from the teacher to load the videos, whiteboard notes, slideshow animations and content, the Smartboard alone would not be the source of learning, it would just be a blank digital screen. The merging of content and media is effective because it delivers content in a dynamic, multimedia way which is engaging to learners.

The reason I feel that this Clark-Kozma media debate is less of a debate and more of an elaboration is because Kozma seems to take Clark’s points of replaceability, and the inability to learn from media alone, and find a space that media can be effectively used, despite its shortcomings. He acknowledges that media alone won’t deliver a lesson, but he does support the idea that media can be used to deliver a dynamic, engaging platform to deliver otherwise dull or difficult content. His argument that using media is a complementary process connecting the learner, content, and technology to allow for the information to be processes in a multitude of ways, including visually, audibly, and kinaesthetically, is one that I agree with. His perspective on technology comes across as an agreement to Clark’s perceptions of the shortcomings of technology and seems to offer a solution for where technology and media can be useful in education. That being said, if I had to pick a side in this loosely defined debate, it would be with Kozma because of his practical merging of technology, media, and learning.

It has been 25 years since the Clark article was written, and a lot has changed in terms of media and technology both inside and outside of the classroom. Smartphones were an inconceivable notion of the future, and just having one computer in the entire school was deemed as high tech. Students were taught using blackboards, paper, pens, and textbooks. Teachers taught at the front of the room in a face to face manner, and once they left the classroom the only way to connect was over the telephone or waiting until class the next day. I can relate to Clark’s views on technology because given the time when this article was written, there was skepticism on the new wave technology and how it would change the world we once new. Terms like “new-age”, “revolutionary”, “the computer of the future” were being tacked on to computers, calculators, and technology programs which gave the sense that it was hokey and a gimmick. I can imagine that teachers were not receptive and unsure about spending all of the school funds just to have a computer in their classroom which may become obsolete within the year. Technology was so new in schools and educators were not largely familiar with the programs or how to use the new multimedia devices, which meant they were not being properly integrated into the classrooms and learning. Computers were seen as a fun supplement to the learning and something to use for exploration and free-time after the real learning had occurred. In 1994, the World Wide Web was invented, so it is no wonder Clark did not see a connection between technology and learning… because it was such a new idea!

Flash forward 25 years later, with over 45 billion web pages existing and everyone owning their own smartphone with endless internet access in their own hands, technology has changed quite dramatically since the release of Clark’s article. It takes a few generations for new ideas to become integrated into large social groups, and the same goes for integrating and finding useful ways for technology to become part of education.

The new BC curriculum has suggestions for technology in every subject, and courses around media design, computer science and digital literacy have been created as a response to the changing job market, and presence of technology, electronics, and media in today’s society. What was once a flashy new invention is now an everyday, completely integrated existence. While Kozma’s article was also published in 1994, his views on the integration and supportive opportunities for technology and learning apply to our education system and student needs in our schools today. I am supporting my students through an introduction to computer science course, where they are learning the basics of coding, algorithms and computer literacy. The entire course is run through an online classroom, where instructors based in Vancouver are leading the course from their offices remotely. The instructors are experts in computer science, and have developed a curriculum to support the students learning of basic computer science. From Kozma’s perspective, the online classroom is not the source of the learning, but rather the support and platform through which the learning process occurs. The use of videos, digital whiteboards, coding games, and programs like SNAP! are used to transfer the instructors knowledge of computer science and coding to the students. Without the media, this learning could not occur, or would be much less effective, because the communication of ideas and theories revolving around computer science could not be as accurately demonstrated or taught.

There are implications for the misuse of technology in the classroom. The first is with students taking advantage of the media in ways which are not productive to the learning process, such as texting on their phones or playing games on the computer when they are supposed to be using their phones or computers for research or watching a movie. Technology and media redirect the control of the teacher, and it may be harder to manage a class when the technology is being used. It is difficult to manage a course when the instructors are online and not in person, or when students are asked to watch a movie about space travel, rather than learn about it from the teacher on the board at the front of the room. Direct, face-to-face instruction, with limited supplies is the easiest teaching situation to manage in terms of staying on task and classroom management, but that isn’t what learning and education should be about. Students need to have opportunities to explore new technology, outlets for learning, and be given a chance to learn though a multitude of ways. There is a time and place for media just as much as there is a time and place for teaching a lesson at the front of the room with students using pencils and paper. In this day and age, technology has come a long way and it is important to harness its potential to support the learning of our students.

Education is such a broad subject, with many different aspects involved in learning and students. There will always be new technology, fads, and initiatives developed which claim to be the next best thing in education. These new ideas and initiatives being introduced all the time include technology, programs, methods, and curriculum. Each new idea will spark debate amongst educators, because we work in a passionate field where everyone aims to provide the best learning experience for their students. With new fads and studies coming out, debates will form over which ones work the best for students. There will be topics or tools that I will disagree with, or see as impractical, but in order to deal with conflicting opinions, it is important to keep in mind that educators will always have their students best interests in mind and that we are all working towards the same goal of creating educated citizens of the future.

Technology: Approach With Caution

Three Tech Trends That Tick the Right Box

1. SmartBoards – An Oldie, but a Goodie

Most SmartBoards in schools can either be found in the janitorial closet, the basement, or covered in posters and sticky notes at the front of the classroom. These SmartBoards, or electronic interactive overheads and whiteboards, were installed or delivered to many classes across Canada, but many ended up in storage or were out of use soon after delivery. Why? Because most teachers didn’t know how to use this technology and simply gave up trying to integrate them into their classroom routine. Why would they have a use for SmartBoards when they already have a whiteboard and an overhead or projector in their classroom? The answer: Interactive learning and seamless integration.

In my grade 6 classroom, the times I lose the attention of my class the most is during task changeovers, or when I have to switch over from technology from the projector back to the whiteboard. As I am fiddling with my HDMI cord to show a video, or becoming entangled in the projector screen cord to display the worksheet on the document camera, my students start chatting, get out of their seat, and I lost their attention entirely.

SmartBoards, with their integrated technology, reduce tech change over time from document cameras, overheads, projectors and whiteboards. Students don’t have the option to become restless or distracted, because you are no longer fiddling with cords or projector screens. Teachers can play videos right on the screen, draw with digital markers over their projected notes, or display images from the internet or draw them for the class. Interacting with your class and showing concepts in written, audio, visual, or video form is the best way to teach a lesson. SmartBoards combine all of those elements into one technology.

An additional invention that would be interesting would be a tablet where the students could interact with the SmartBoard from their desk. This would be similar to individual whiteboards, where students could show their answers or participate in activities on the board.

2. Virtual Reality (VR) – From Alien Invasions to Ancient Forest Exploration

When I took my class to the UVic Digital Scholarship Commons, we had an opportunity to check out their virtual reality room, and explore the Commons through augmented reality. Students could pick from riding a roller coaster, to shooting intergalactic space aliens in the VR room. Most of them ended their turn with a huge smile on their face… and maybe a little nauseated. Virtual reality gives classes an opportunity to explore worlds out of reach on a regular school day. From exploring an archaeological site in Ancient Greece, to a flight simulator across the Atlantic, the opportunities are endless. Virtual reality in my classroom would be great for students to explore the original territories of their relatives, take a walk with an elder through ancient forests, and visit other First Nations groups around the globe. Virtual reality allows students to explore activities and destinations beyond the scope of the physical classroom.

3. Augmented Reality (AR) – When Worlds Collide

While most technology aims to bring students outside of the classroom, whether it be delving into content on the computer screen, or exploration using virtual reality glasses, augmented reality attempts to blend the classroom and technology realms. My class uses an app called HP Reveal, where students can animate or create digital clues and videos using actual objects in the classroom. For example, a map of Canada can have QR codes which students scan with the app on their smartphones to learn more about historical events which happened in each province. Videos may play, images may appear, or audio recordings will play as the app is scanned over the QR codes printed on the map. This blending of classroom and technology is very applicable with the push for cross-curricular activities and engaging students in the classroom.

Another perk about AR and VR?

The varied price point for devices and technology. Top of the line virtual reality glasses and a laptop with a high processing speed are out of reach for most classroom budgets, and more expensive equipment means fewer devices per student. If top of the line VR glasses are not in the cards for your class, cardboard attachments for any smartphone device can be made, which work just as well! There are lots of VR apps out there, some free of charge, and can be used with these cardboard attachments.

Save your recycling! You can find a link to the cardboard VR headsets here
Where in the world are your students? You can access a wide range of VR apps, including Google Expeditions, here

Three Troublesome Technology Trends

1. Generation Z: A Bad Rap For a New Generation

The TopHat article outlining the 5 tech trends to watch in 2019, Generation Z is mentioned as being the next demographic of students. This generation comes after millennials, and have been born into the technological generation. They have never known a world without the internet, smartphones, or technology surrounding their everyday lives. The article mentions how these students will want technology and digital access in all of their lessons, and will want to be connected digitally in school and into their professional careers. They prefer watching videos over text and want digital interactions over face-to-face communication. What I have noticed in my classroom is actually the opposite; students crave face-to-face interactions, written work, and offline tasks because they are so surrounded by technology in their everyday lives. They didn’t choose to be born into a technology-centred world, it is the previous generations that have forced them to be living in the digital age.

With such an abundance of technology around, students in my class are drawn to the good old-fashioned games like checkers and cards – something they wouldn’t normally access at home. When given the choice for a free play activity, a majority of my students will opt for face-to-face games like cards over a game on the computer. I had a student who complained that there was not enough face-to-face communication among his peers and that they only communicated on their apps and phones (he then immediately went back on his phone.. but old habits die hard). There is a desire to connect with folks face-to-face and that is being lost in this generation. It is important to have a balance between hands on, technology free activities, and digital devices so that students remain connected to both worlds.

2. Personalized Devices – Quantity Over Quality

While having a class where every student has their own device would be great, this isn’t a reality for most schools. Commonly, the only schools able to afford a tablet or computer for each student are those which are privately or parentally funded. In today’s education age, technology seems to be the draw for picking which school your child will go to. If you can afford to attend a school which offers devices for every student, that would appear to be the superior school. Schools which aren’t able to offer technological incentives are often seen as less desirable. This creates a stigma between children who can’t help but notice the privileges other students at other schools have, including high tech devices. The quality of education depends on what the students are actually doing with the technology, not the simple fact that each student is offered a laptop upon arrival at school. There is a time and place for devices such as laptops and smartphones, but they aren’t crucial for receiving a quality education.

TedTalk: How to Fix a Broken Education System… Without Any More Money

Seema Bansal addresses the current problems and issues in our education system, and how technology is not always the solution…

3. Wearable Technology – a loss of people skills

Wearable technology can include a wide range of technology, from assistive speech  devices to smartwatches for each student. The first issue that is raised is the cost of providing each student in your class with a wearable piece of technology like a smartwatch. Schools which are privately funded would likely be the only schools able to afford this personalized technology. Most schools are struggling just to have enough desks and chairs for kids, let alone enough smartwatches for their students.

Another issue with wearable technology, is that teachers are using them to interact with their students during class. These watches are used to remind students to stay on task, or allow shy students to answer questions without having to speak out. It is important that teachers maintain that personal interaction between themselves and their students, which has a positive impact on classroom management. If those students acting out only receive a small buzz and a text message to their wrist, this method of keeping them on task will rapidly become ineffective. Students behave best when there is mutual respect and valuable interaction between teacher and students. Using these watches to allow shy students to answer questions will not serve them in the long run. In life, it is necessary to speak in front of a group, and the classroom should be the safest space to practice and become comfortable with speaking in front of your peers. Teacher and peer support in low-risk situations should support and develop student confidence with answering questions in class and public speaking. These wearable devices, if used incorrectly, could act as  a negative crutch for some students and hinder teacher to student relationships.

The Everest Effect: Doing Something Simply Because It’s There

The “Everest Effect” refers to the act of doing something just because you can. People climb Mount Everest, just because it’s there. The same goes for bringing new technology into your classroom. Should you bring in tablets to your classroom, just because you can? I find that with the rush of technology in our education system today, teachers are bringing in all of these new technology programs and devices just because they are offered to them, without assessing the actual educational value of these devices. Does having a laptop or tablet for each student really increase the education they are receiving? Do smartwatches really improve the behaviour of each student in the class, or are we just using these devices simply because they are there? It is critical for teachers to not assume that improved technology leads to improved instruction or learning.

Top Three Education Trends

1. Alternative seating in classrooms including stools, beanbag chairs, no furniture at all, and eliminating rows of desks
2. Twitter for teacher professional development year round
3. Global Connection Apps such as Tik Tok, SnapChat, and NewRow virtual classrooms

Holland & Holland – Acknowledging The Individual

In Holland & Holland’s article, Implications of Shifting Technology In Education, the authors address how to find a balance between the use of technology and other teaching methods. A main issue that resonated with me was the gap in technological knowledge which exists among teachers. With all of these new apps, robotics, tablets, and coding programs being released by tech companies almost daily, it is impossible for teachers to remain up to date on these new programs in order to teach their students. The importance for teachers to fully explore what technology they are using in their lessons is critical to deliver and implement these programs effectively. An example in my own classroom is my Intro to Computer Science course I am teaching this year. I spent some time in the summer completing the Intro to Computer Science curriculum and made sure that I was able to complete all of the assignments I will be delivering to my students. Holland and Holland address the gaps in student knowledge with technology, but gaps also exist in teacher knowledge as well. Before bringing any technology into your classroom, it is important that teachers are well versed and able to fully support their students learning.

It was refreshing to read this article because it effectively weaved technology, apps, and computer programs into learning styles and lesson delivery techniques. The authors explored online programs such as and Hour of Code, but also addressed how to use these programs in a variety of student exploratory methods including inquiry, problem based learning, and global learning. Rather than showcasing the technology or program as the focus of the lesson, it became a part of a larger learning exploration. An example of this was using problem based learning with the support of online programs to solve their larger group problem. In my classroom, I am looking forward to using the Hour of Code from as part of a global connection during our inquiry lesson. This way, the technology is not the centre of the learning process, but rather a part of the bigger learning picture.

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