What Does Technology Integration Look Like?

TransformativeIt was pointed out to me last night (not unfairly, I confess), that whilst I have a clear model in my mind of what great classroom integration of technology looks like, perhaps I have not articulated this clearly to those I work with. In the past my approach has been to drip feed ideas to various people within school, hoping to find fertile ground for certain approaches. In addition, PD sessions have been used to show a variety of uses for technology. In retrospect, such learning moments have been, for a variety of reasons, too dispersed, infrequent and ad hoc to perhaps make a complete picture. This post, then, is an attempt to shed some light on the approach I would like to see taken in integrating technology into the classroom.

Any technological advance provides us potential new ways to approach learning, and educators have a long history of adopting new technologies with the aim of improving what we do. However, most of the integration we see does not fundamentally change education, but rather provides a more complex, expensive way of doing the same old thing. A classic example of this is using a 1:1 laptop program to have students research and type papers, which provides very little of interest that could not be achieved with pen and paper in a library. What we need are integrations that allow students to do new, powerful things, not possible or practical without the technology being added in. This is the heart of the very popular SAMR model, which promotes Redefinition over Substitution (with Augmentation and Modification as a middle ground).

So, what does this empowering, transformative practice look like when implemented in the classroom? Whilst there is no one approach, some of the entries below might give an idea of the range and scope of what is possible. Each idea links to skills and conteps currently taught in many schools, and accepted as being positive, useful things to know and do. As a side note, these ideas are grouped into subjects, not because this is the best way to teach, but because most teachers are subject teachers, and approach their work from that perspective. There is no reason ideas listed in one subject area cannot be applied to other subject areas.

  • English
    • Persuasion & Publishing – ask students to come up with a literary product that they would like to create, produce and sell (for example, a coffee table book on Minecraft). Using graphic editing software (e.g. Acorn, GIMP, Photoshop), put together some mock up pages. Using collaborative writing software (e.g. Google Drive) to write up a blurb, sales pitch and press release. Create a crowdfunding campaign (e.g. Kickstarter) to raise the money necessary to have the book printed, and take this to your community and beyond (using Twitter, Facebook). Create and publish the book. Place the book in your library.
    • Creative, Non-Linear Writing – expand your students’s view of what creative writing can be by using Google Forms to build an open-ended text that can be read in different ways. See Google Forms Choose Your Own Adventure for an example.
    • Rich Writing – use Storify to enable students to create writing with rich multimedia elements, such as Twitter and YouTube embeds. This might be used to create a fictional story, based on real world events.
    • Graphic Representation – take a scene from a story or play, and ask students to represent it with a rich graphic mashup, using graphic editing software (e.g. Acorn, GIMP) and Creative Commons media. This means that students need to decode the text, and then re-encode it into a new format, which promotes questioning and assists with comprehension.
    • Book As Movie Trailer – similar to the graphic representation idea above, ask students to plan, film and produce a cinematic trailer for a movie version of a book.
    • Emoji Story – ask students to write a story using mainly (or only) emoji to express a narrative, and see how different students interpret it. Or, work in reverse and convert an existing text (e.g. Hamlet) into emoji.
  • Mathematics
    • QR Code Maths Hunt – find locations around school where mathematical concepts (angles, shapes, curves, patterns) can be observed, and label these with QR codes that can be scanned by students. Once scanned, the QR codes point students to websites or videos explaining the concept that can be observed, introducing new mathematical concepts in a physical way.
    • Hands On Geometry – use the Scratch programming environment to ask students to draw shapes (e.g. square, pentagon). Ask students to generalise their work into a program that asks users how many sides a shape should have, and then draws the shape. This helps take knowledge of specific shapes, and draws out general knowledge that connects a range shapes.
    • Math Memes – mathematicians are funny people, and the Internet is full of funny maths jokes that can be used to introduce subjects, or sow confusion and debate (example 1, example 2, example 3)
    • Write Your Own Textbook – rather than just following a textbook, have students create amd publish their own, with examples, questions and answers. Lay it out with desktop publishing software (e.g. Scribus, iBooks Author) and share it online.
    • Where In The World – find a picture of somewhere in your county/state/district that is distinct, but unknown to students. Ask them to use Google Maps, and visual clues from the image to triangulate and discover the location of the image. See Where In Hong Kong for an example of this process.
  • Science
    • Wikipedia Discussion – ask students to find a contentious scientific topic (e.g. evolution), and look at its page on Wikipedia. Look at the Talk page associated article to see some of the discussion and debate that goes on behind the scenes in presenting this idea. Some pages are protected? Why? How does scientific knowledge evolve over time?
    • Experiment Curator – create a website using a free online tool (e.g. WordPress, Wix, Weebly) to set up a site where students share and curate information on scientific experiments. This site can cross year groups and classes. Experiments can be organised by complexity, area of science, experimental approach, etc. This forces students to look at experiments from a broader point of view. Share the website online, invite other schools to participate.
    • YouTube Channel – extending on the experiment curation idea above, have students film experiments, adding subtitle instructions, and student dialogue explaining what is happening. Create a YouTube channel of the collected experiments. This encourages students to more deeply understand what they are doing, so that they can explain it back to others.
    • Arduino Electronics – use an Arduino board and sensor kit to take measurements of the environment, and store the data for further analysis. Get to know local weather and climate, and compare it to reading from other sources and other locations.
  • Humanities
    • Global Issues Board Game – choose a global issue (e.g. climate change), and ask students to produce a board game to simulate the issue, allowing others to learn about it through play. Use Creative Commons media and free iconography to produce something polished and legally saleable. Create some sets, and sell them to the community and other schools. Use money raised to fund change via micro finance (see below). As an example of a game made in this way, look at Producers & Consumers.
    • Micro Finance – taking a small amount of money, ask students to use micro finance (e.g. via Kiva) to fund small scale change in developing countries. Use a collaborative spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheets) to track loans, repayments and the changes facilitated. Discuss whether micro finance is a sustainable, feasible alternative to humanitarian aid.
    • Wikipedia Editing – find a Wikipedia entry on a relevant topic (e.g. erosion), read it, and see if there are any ways it can be improved or contributed to (e.g. fixing errors, improving text, adding sources, taking and uploading images).
    • Current Affairs Feed – use a feed aggregator or automated online news paper (e.g. Paperli) to create a school feed detailing current affairs and interest news. Share it with students and staff for use across school.
    • Local-Global Sharing – using Twitter or the web, find another classroom, somewhere else in the world, that you can connect to. Have students on both sides prepare ideas and information to share about their local geography, history, culture. Then schedule a video call (e.g. Skype, Hangouts) for students to both share their own local knowledge, and learn about someone else’s area.
    • Public Domain Historical Archive – copyright is limited by time, and old media eventually becomes part of the public domain, free for anyone to use. Ask students to choose a historical topic, and mine the internet for public domain archive material around this topic. Build a website using a free online tool (e.g. WordPress, Wix, Weebly), to bring together a range of such topics, for use by other schools or the local community.
    • Data Exploration – the World Bank, WHO and other organisations publish large data sets, ripe for authentic learning. Often these are hard to use, due to their size and structure. Make this data accessible and explorable to students with Google’s Public Data Explorer. Ask students to spot patterns in the world, and then research and unpack these patterns to extract lessons about the world.
  • Visual & Performing Arts
    • Meme Studies – unknown to most adults, our students are well versed in Internet memes, which shape and define most of their popular culture. The more visual of these memes provide rich and relevant ground for artistic analysis. Are these works art? Where do they come from? What influences them? How do they spread? How is one piece used to derive another (e.g. this lead to this which lead to this which lead to this)?
    • Collaborative Play Writing – using an online survey tool (e.g. Google Forms, Survey Monkey) ask members of your community to create characters for a play. Ask students to take this diverse cast, and build a narrative around it.
    • Automated Set Design – using Arduino, cardboard and tape, have students produce a model set with automated lights, curtains, sensor-driven cues, etc.
    • Classroom Design – introduce students to contemporary space design (e.g. Make Space), and ask them to use a design tool (e.g. Homestyler, Sketchup) to redesign their current learning space to their liking. Use a 3D printer (if you have one or can access one) to print a model. Have students present to school administrators to obtain funds to put their ideas into action.
    • Premature Ageing – use graphic design and aging software to have students consider their future selves, and what they might grow to become. For an example see Half-Old Portrait.
  • Physical Education
    • Fitness Data – use fitness trackers (e.g. FitBit, Polar) to help students gather data about themselves and the way they live. Bring this real data into lessons to ask students to consider their lifestyle, their fitness aims, and how they might develop.
    • Video Analysis – use ubiquitous cameras (phones, laptops, tablets) to have students capture athletic performance (e.g. long jump). Use video editing tools (e.g. WeVideo) to compare an equivalent professional athletic action with that of your students. Use this video to help students plan how to improve their own performance.
  • Languages
    • Online CollaborationDoulingo allows students to learn languages, whilst contributing to the massive online effort of translating web-based content. This means that students can make the web better, and improve their language skills, at the same time, for free.
    • Collaborative Subtitling – challenge your students to translate a video from one language to another, working collaboratively online (e.g. Amara).
    • International Connections – use Skype’s Classroom connectivity to have your students connect with language learners in other countries to exchange conversation time and tips.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Digital Scavenger Hunt – encourage students to hone their digital skills, problem solving and team work, using an online scavenger hunt, like this one.
    • Virtual Travel – use Google Tour Builder to create a virtual tour of  place you want students to experience, highlighting features and ideas relevant to your subject or topic as you go.
    • Consultancy – find a non-profit or company with a need, and offer your students to help them meet it. For example, in teaching cookery, it could be possible to help a company cater an event. Alternatively, students could offer their ICT skills to help solve computer-related problems.

Yes, this is hard work. Yes, it requires new skills. But, yes, students will engage and be enthused in new ways.

Once you start thinking in these terms, you can start coming up with your own, richer integrations. Alternatively search for “amazing classroom technology integration” in Google, or get onto Twitter and start building a community of practitioners to learn from. There is a whole world of sharing educators out there, into which we can tap.

Credit: butterfly thumbnail image by Benny Mazur on Wikimedia Commons shared under CC BY.

Producers & Consumers

Producers & ConsumersFor a long time I have struggled to convey my passion for free and open culture (via open source software and Creative Commons) to my students. They live in a context which often promotes (or at least accepts) piracy, and most of their cultural landmarks are commercial in nature. This makes the most convincing arguments for approaches like open source software and Creative Commons culture much less compelling. For example “free Creative Commons music” does not mean much to the average teenager, irrespective of the quality of the tunes, if Taylor Swift is not included in the catalog (and being a commercial artist, she is of course not). Similarly “open source software” (like Firefox) does not appeal when free, commercial software (like Chrome) is available, whether or not they promote a healthy, open, standards-based Internet.

Yet, these ideas, values, practices and communities are important, if we are to have a culture that is not more concerned with profits than with values, freedom and art. After struggling with this problem for over 5 years, I have decided to build a game to introduce these ideas to students via a live action, interactive simulation.

The result, called Producers & Consumers, is a cultural simulation game in which players (young or old) experience the interplay between culture, creativity, commerce, copyright and piracy, hands on. The aim is to help players experience the limitations of a corporate model of cultural production and consumption, and help them start considering alternatives, such as Creative Commons, based on openness, sharing and reputation.

Version 1 of the game is now complete, with one set of cards created and ready to play. The first game, with our Year 5s, is scheduled for Monday.

Naturally, the game is licensed under Creative Commons, and so is free for anyone to download, remix and share onward. All feedback is welcome. To access the game, click here and start by reading the Overview document.

Media Credits

Make Space

Make SpaceI was first introduced to the book Make Space by John Burns at Shekou International School, where its lessons had been applied to make their campus more inclined to spark and kindle innovation. For those not familiar with it, Make Space brings together lessons learned at Stanford’s d.school on the relationship between physical space, collaboration and creativity. The results on show at SIS were striking, and went far beyond my own efforts to create a teaching space that was less “classroom” and more “workspace”.

A year of germinating and working on other things, and I have finally spent some time browsing the book. Adding this to my previous thinking, experimenting and reading on the subject, I would love to design and build a studio workspace into a school. Such a studio would belong to no particular department, but would be bookable for use by anyone looking to break out of class, and set the scene for more creative, collaborative, flexible work. It might include some of the following features:

  • Relatively bare walls, unfinished concrete floor and lots of nature light. The ability for walls to be drawn on, repainted and hacked in other ways.
  • A range of seating including sofas, bean bags, foam cubes (which can become walls, building blocks, simulations), high stools.
  • A range of tables at different heights and surfaces for standing, sitting and leaning at, including d.school’s Periodic Tables and Flip Tables.
  • Movable whiteboards (such as Z-Racks from Make Space), which can be used for sketching and partitioning ad hoc spaces. Dry erase surfaces on walls.
  • Having everything on wheels, so that sofas, desks, and boards can be moved and re-purposed at any time.
  • Moveable projectors for setting up ad hoc display areas.
  • Some distinct micro-environments around the edges, including a hot desk area and a cozy area.
  • Hacking and making tools and materials (such as Make Do) for rapid prototyping and construction.

Such a space would hopefully shift the school focus away from the teacher, and towards student-centered learning and creativity: not something you want all the time, but definitely a model to build students and teachers up to.

Visual Assessment Guide v2

The Visual Assessment Guide continues to evolve alongside my school‘s requirements for assessment and reporting. v2 adds some new terms, uses a simpler scale in terms of levels and fixes a bugs with highlighting individual terms. In using this with students I am now opening it in Apple’s Preview, and using its built in highlighter to colour terms according to student achievement: green, yellow or red. This ties in with my school’s Common Formative Assessment reporting, which uses the terms Secure, Secure In Parts and Not Yet Secure to describe student learning.

Visual Assessment Guide - ICT & Media Printable Version (PDF)


The Wall Of (Internet) Culture

Over the past year I have been building up a wall in my classroom with a range of Internet inspired cultural artifacts. The aim is to present interesting, thought provoking ideas in a humorous way, using a graphical language that my students are familiar with and respond to (e.g. Internet memes). Although I never promote the site directly to my students, many of the materials are from 9gag.com, which though crude and inappropriate at times, nonetheless provides a wealth of cultural learning opportunities for teachers. Want to understand your students, what interests them, what they are talking about? 9gag is a great place to start.

Click on the image below to see a really large version, allowing you to enjoy the wall in some of its glory.

Wall Of (Internet) Culture

The result is that, unlike my more traditional boards, students really do stop and look at this one. Often this happens in pairs, and a discussion breaks out as they try and work out a joke or decide if something is serious or not. This might be called teaching by stealth.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 6

PlatoThe final session in this course! So far we have looked at what technology is, desktop basics, search and problem solving, graphic design, website design and coding. Although a real whistle-stop tour, the aim has not to go into great depth, but rather than get a sense of a range of different ICT arenas, issues and skills. Big picture stuff.

In this final session we will look at security and what ICT technology means for our children.


Security Threats

  • Hackers vs crackers
  • Who hacks and why?
  • Social Engineering
    • Kevin Mitnick was one of the world’s most famous hackers: when he was arrested in 1995, he was top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Whilst technically skilled, Mitnick is best known as a “social engineer”: essentially, talking and tricking people into giving him confidential information. The following video tells some of his story:

  • Eavesdropping
    • Traditionally, eavesdropping means to listen in to a conversation. Some modern versions include:
      • Man-in-the-middle
      • Keystroke logging
      • Password watching
  • Phishing
    • Phishing is the art of tricking people into going to a fake, parallel system in order to give up some confidential information. The video explains more:

    • Phishing attacks often make use of something called subdomains:
      • The domain name of the bank HSBC is hsbc.com.
      • HSBC can put subdomains in front of their domain, such as www.hsbc.com, banking.hsbc.com.
      • Only HSBC has the right to do this, as they own the domain.
      • However, there is nothing to stop me from buying safebanking.com (or similar), and putting hsbc infront of it as a sub domain: hsbc.safebanking.com.
      • If I use hsbc.safebanking.com in a phishing attack, I may trick people who see hsbc, and feel safe. However, those who understand how sub domains work, understand that because it is on the left of the domain, it is not the real HSBC, and so cannot necessarily be trusted.
    • You might find the Anatomy of a Phishing Scam poster useful.
  • Identity Theft
    • Stealing and assuming someone’s identity.
    • This is often done in order to commit a crime, whilst setting someone else up to take the blame.
  • Malware
    • Includes all kinds of malicious software, such as:
      • Viruses
        • A malicious program which can replicate itself.
        • E.g. Stuxnet
      • Rootkit
        • Software which gives a user unauthorised administrator access to another system
      • Keylogging
        • Software which records the keys pressed by a user
      • Spyware/Adware/Crapware
  • Spam
    • Unsolicited, bulk emails.
    • Often spam is a nuisance, but it is also often have malware is delivered and installed.

Protecting Yourself

  • Now that you know some methods by which you can be threatened online, how can you stay safe?
  • Read through and think about these ideas, which can help keep you safe.
    • Be aware, vigilent, sensible
    • Install only “safe” software
    • Keep all software up to date (when software wants to be updated, it is often to fix security holes which crackers might exploit.
    • Create offline backups (if your data is lost, an offline backup (e.g. one that is not attached to your computer), can help you to recover).
    • Learn to recognise spam, phishing and scams.
    • Use a strong password, pin or lock pattern to secure all devices and accounts.
      • A good password should be “easy to remember, and hard to guess”.
      • Try to use at least 8 characters (10+ would be better), and combine uppercase, lowercase, numbers and punctuation.
      • XKCD provides us with a good model, which we can make more complex with some extra characters.
    • Use 2-factor authentication on your main email account(s) (if some gets into your email, they can reset all your other passwords, so email should be highly protected).
    • Always log out or lock screen before walking away from a device
    • Use anti-malware apps to scan and protect from viruses, Trojans, keyloggers, etc.
    • Be careful about what personal data you share, especially geolocation information.
      • For example, if you take a photo in your house, and your phone adds your location (aka geolocation), you should not share this photo online, as someone can use it to find where you live.

ICT & Kids

A lot of people today worry about “the kids” in relation to ICT technology. This is an age old generational game…the last generation fretting over the moral development of the next generation:

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
Plato, 4th Century BC

In fact, a lot of people worry about technology in general: also not a new thing:

“[Writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.” – Socrates, as recorded by Plato

And, with some good reason, we see a lot of fretting over our current technologies (The Twitter Trap, The Shallows, You Are Not A Gadget).

The truth is, all technology is a trade off, and we have only limited control over the technological arc in which we live (you can get rid of your smartphone, but no one else will).

So, with the aim of finding some way to guide, rear, influence and inspire our own children, let’s consider the following collection of books:


As a parent and educator I ultimately take the following approach:

  • Kids are tougher and smarter than we give them credit for.
  • Kids like it best when we are honest and open with them.
  • It is not possible to protect our children from all danger (physical, moral, etc), and neither is it desirable.
  • Rather, we need to be aware of how, where and when our children are growing up, and give them the support and nurturing needed to deal with hardship and moral challenge.
  • Failure and hardship, combined with support and nurturing, give children a chance to develop positive character traits (e.g. grit, resilience, empathy) and make healthy decisions themselves. Highly restrictive rules do no.

Finally, whilst some parents find it hard to really look at youth culture (because we are old and boring), if you really want to understand kids, look at where their culture comes from (whether they engage with these sites directly or not):

Wow….that was a lot of content and ideas.

Credits: image of plato by Ricardo André Frantz on Wikimedia shared under CC BY-SA. Book covers copyrighted by their respective owners, used under fair use.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 5

scratchToday we are looking at programming (aka coding), which is becoming a major educational focus for governments, schools, companies and parents alike. In this session we will consider what programming is and how we can approach learning it. Most of the session will be hands on, with you attempting to learn some coding.

Hailed as “the new super power”, coding is the ability to control a computer by writing software. This allows us to make an existing computer do new things, as is the reason why computers are so popular. This is summed up in the video below:

For a more detailed look at coding, and its attendant culture, it is worth reading Paul Ford’s Bloomberg essay What Is Code?. In short, though, changing the world use to take a lot of labour and capital, but now, thanks to code and computers, it takes much less. It is almost embarrassing looking at Google’s first storage server.

Let’s now consider some of the following items and ideas:

  • Is coding for everyone?
  • Ways to code
    • Binary/assembly (see Margaret Hamilton, who practically invented software working on Apollo)
    • High-level languages (scripting)
    • Block coding
  • Coding arenas:
    • Web
    • Mobile
    • Desktop
    • Systems

So, if you want to learn to code, how do you get started. Some of the following are good first steps:

Let’s use Scratch as an example, and work together to build a simple game. After which, you can choose one of the approaches above, and have a go at crafting some code.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 4

ParkourTonight we started off by talking about a couple of books of interest:

  • For The Win by Corey Doctorow – young adult fiction, set in the near future, investigating themes of power, politics, economics and poverty through the lens of gaming. Intensely absorbing, packing with learning and lots of fun.
  • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough – a study of the psychology, sociology and personality of success. Strongly suggests that character is more important than IQ when it comes to success, and that character can be both taught and learned.

When you arrived last week, I was watching The Internet’s Own Boy (a tragic true story I can’t recommend highly enough). Interestingly, it’s focus (Aaron Swartz) was good friends with Corey Doctorow (author of For The Win above) and Lawrence Lessig (founder of Creative Commons, which we have been using in our work).

Moving on, we used a new learning strategy, Free Learning, pioneered at my school, with the aim of increasing student motivation, freedom, passion, choice and independence. Free Learning was inspired by, amongst other things, the video below:

To start with we used ICHK’s Free Learning materials to finish up last week’s Epic Wallpaper work, before moving on to some other units, including Web Design 101 and Sell A Teacher.

The 90 minutes rushed by..but it seemed you did not want to stop learning. Please feel free to continue with your free learning projects during the week.

No classes next week, but the following week we will move onto app design on Tuesday, and then our final session on Thursday.

Free Running thumbnail image by Alexandre Ferreira on Flickr under CC BY.

Parent Tech Briefing – Session 3

Seth GodinLast week we worked through a Digital Scavenger Hunt exercise, which tested our problem solving, search and teamwork skills.

Today we are moving onto graphic design, and will use the following resources to look at the nature of creativity, and build something fun and new. Hopefully this will give you an insight into the way you and your children might use technology to be not passive consumers, but rather active media creators.


Credit: thumbnail image taken from PressPausePlay, used under assumed fair use.

Educator, Programmer, Author