Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November

Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November

This video by Alan November talks about shifts in educational trends. He states that we robbed the young people of the possibility to contribute when we invented tools and machines to replace youth in the workplace. The shift of control from the teacher with a top-down curriculum, to children who are helping one another learn. Teaching people to shift the control takes time. A school where lots of designs and perspectives are in one place creates. People think that the provides a platform for diverse ideas from around the world and would result generally better educated society – but research actually shows that people are going to the web to get their version of the truth. We need to identify critical skills in schools that we actually really want students to have.

Each classroom should have:

1) a research team – have an official classroom researcher student

2) a curriculum review team – reflective learners are lifelong learners – every week create a podcast to review work they have learned the week before

3) a scribe team – Google docs for collaborative note taking

November states that students research assignments related to topics in class and find assignments that they’d like to do. (ie, doing a book ‘trailer’ as an assignment)

Can we get out of the restraint of filtering information to the point where students can really thrive online safely?

Technology Enabled Learning Models


Strong pedagogy leads to the use of technology, and the evolution of it in the classroom from Substitution to Augmentation, Modification to Redefinition (SAMR).



TPAK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge)


More info at:

TIM (Technology Integration Matrix) (the following images retrieved from this website)

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ITSE  (Information Technology and Smart Education) standards – contain essential skills for the use of technology in the classroom.


Constructivist Math in Primary and Junior Grades

I read through these two documents and created the infographic below to compare the learning in primary classrooms to junior classrooms. (all) (page 1-8)

The Evolution of the Constructivist Approach – Carla van Vliet


This blog provides a brief interpretation of the book Unshakeable about teaching in a student-lead classroom.

How we learn mathematics…

First, contemplate this problem and it’s vast entirety.

These are two great videos delving into the depths of math teaching:



And some additional food for thought is here:

The spiralling Leo the Rabbit problem can be found all over the internet…

What connections can you make between the two resources you accessed?

I noticed that video presenters focused greatly on creativity as a medium for mathematics learning. They both focused on needing to take the time to explore in many different ways in order for the learner to make independent conclusions. They also noted that observations are meant for discussion with peers, and should be received with sincerity.

“Forget about calculating the actual answer – why does this pattern exist? The right answer is the one that satisfies you.” Stuart Jeckel suggests scrambling the numbers using creativity, colour, numbers and pictures.

“When we’re not comfortable with math, we don’t question the authority of numbers.” Dan Finkel – Renee Decartes “I think, therefore I am.” A person confirms and denies, wills and refusals and that imagines and perceives – the kind of thinking involved in every math class every day.

1) Start with a question – so there is room for thinking

2) Time to struggle – persevere when struggling with a genuine question

3) You are not the answer key – ‘I don’t know, let’s find out.’ You create space for the kind of thinking required for deep learning.

4) Say ‘yes’ to your students’ ideas – accept it, study it and disprove it or approve it if necessary, instead of being told your wrong by the teacher

5) Play – playing with math is the gift of ownership.

We can’t afford to misuse math. Authentic learning is important.

Paul Lockhart argues that math is as creative as music and painting and the primary reason that students become frustrated with math is that they are not allowed to invent and use original ideas, comparing rote learning to not painting until all colour combinations are learned and paint my numbers are mastered, and only ever doing scales and transposing in music. An interesting perspective, indeed.

What might be the benefits of embracing the ideas?

When mathematics is thought of in a creative way, it brings on many more possibilities of engaging with the problem.  I know that from learning about one issue thoroughly we can begin to understand similar ones around.  A snail shell exhibiting the Fibonacci sequence is only related to Rabbits jumping up a stair or two if a creative person can make that connection.  Students will feel validated when learning is authentic.

What challenges or obstacles do you foresee?

Using lengthy questions in a classroom inducing frustration due to time constraints would be my primary concern in the classroom. There is already a multitude of information that we as elementary teachers need to teach, so how will we ever teach these ideas along with the very important, and basic math that should be learned for any foundation in study? I feel that students would feel both a great sense of pride, and also a deep frustration due to the lack of obtaining a real and true final answer. This method seems a little like we want every student to find the struggle that took place before any mathematical formula was ever invented.  I struggled with Leo the Rabbit because I KNEW that there was a formula and I wanted to know it.  I’m glad that I struggled first, but it took way longer than I thought.  And my creativity was flourishing, but mostly it was just repetitive annoyance.  Finding the final answer was the only solace.

What might math teachers do to overcome those obstacles?

Teachers might assign these lengthy questions for family learning as homework…  but that is also another debate in and of itself. An alternate would be to integrate math as much as possible into other learning across the curriculum.

This task has made me think of teachers, and re-inventing the wheel.  I am constantly thinking that I am in fact re-inventing the wheel because the amount of collaboration that is needed to ‘pull-off’ a cross-curricular, dynamic math lesson every day is astounding.  Where are the resources for a Leo the Rabbit lesson every day?  I feel that as a teacher I should let the students struggle to find the answer, but I feel in the core of my being that the answer should be shown after sufficient time is given for the struggle to learn it. I feel that the struggle is necessary but if the problem has already been solved, the struggle should end at fully understanding the solution.

Kid Blog vs Easy Blog Jr.

Why Blog?

There was a heavy focus on incorporating blogging into our weekly school routine at my international school last year.  We had a class set of laptops in a cart for each floor, and a moderately difficult to access class set of iPads in the faraway library.

Here is a detailed Prezi that might answer some of your questions about how blogging can enrich the learning in your classroom.

My school purchased a Kid Blog account for grades 2-5. I was teaching Grade 2 (aka Year 3). The students had never blogged before but they were pretty excited to start! It took a lot of teaching.  I had to teach tech skills.  The KidBlog interface is pretty good, but there are some negative points – like it’s difficult for parents to log in originally because they actually have to create a profile before being able to comment. I went to an EdTech half day conference at another local international school and learned that they were using Easy Blog Jr.  I was jealous.  It seemed so much easier than what I was doing! I like that with Easy Blog Jr. it’s just a link they click.

Here is a table that lists the ease of use of many different blogs for education.

Easy Blog Jr

Easy Blog Jr  is an amazing iPad or tablet application for lower primary students to share their work through pictures with audio captions, video, typing or audio recognition text posts. This application is not available for computers, and is easy enough for a 2 or three year old to use. The most interesting part, though, is that it can be used by much older children for simple video blogs too!  The school I saw it in use at used it from Kindergarten until Grade 6.  It was amazing because the platform was a little less strict than Kidblog, and families from all over the world were getting instant notifications when their granddaughters or nephews were making video post reflections about their learning. I saw a post of a kindergarten student counting to 20 in both Chinese and English with the proudest face ever, and a grade 6 student reading a poem he had written that day at school.

Easy Blog Jr seems like it is a bit more instant. It’s more focused on getting ideas out there, than the writing aspect.

Easy Blog Jr – for EduBlog or WordPress (Easy Blogger Jr – for Blogger blogs/ Google)

Easy Blog Jr can be used with only one iPad in the classroom because the classroom interface is completely integrated.


KidBlog is an amazing online tool that is both an application for a tablet or iPad as well as a fully operational website for computer access.  The iPad application needs to have some updates as our videos took too long to upload and some of the functions were difficult to find or poorly placed.

Kidblog on the computer was great for our class but took a lot of work to set up. Once running, the kids REALLY enjoyed reflecting on their work, or special events in our classroom.  We used Skype in the Classroom quite a bit, so they liked reflecting on what they learned through guest speakers.

In our classroom, we used KidBlog exclusively on the laptops and exclusively for writing reflections about previous learning experiences.  I had a table sticker chart on the wall with names of students on the left side and blank boxes along the top.  After we did something noteworthy in our class, one member of the class (or me) would write down the topic along the top.  When it was time to blog students would check to see the list of things we had accomplished in our class since the last time we blogged in the class, and would independently choose their own topic to write about.  They understood where to find the photos I took of that event on the school server and they had the tech sense to be able to locate the photo, upload it, reflect on it, tag it, categorise it, and comment on other student’s work.

Kidblog was used as a PYP portfolio at the end of the year and students went through all of their blog posts with their parents in a student-led conference.

The only real problem with a platform that is so safe and closed to the outside world is that after the year of blogging, my students had SO many articles and reflections that just disappeared when the new year started and the class blog was archived.  There’s a way to bring forward blogs each year, but you really need a ‘tech guy’ for that.

In all, my experience blogging was extremely provocative and gave the quiet students a real chance to shine.  Because all comments are teacher-censored, it was tedious until I opened it up and stopped checking after a while.

Some videos:

An introduction to different Blogging Apps:

How to use Easy Blog Jr:

An introduction to Kidblog:

Creating your first post in Kidblog:




Plickers – QR code Classroom Evaluation!

Plickers is an amazing tool that allows clicker tools in a classroom without the clickers. All you need is one specialised laminated paper card for each student, and the app loaded on any portable teacher device like an iPhone, tablet, android phone, or iPad.

This really is the kind of tech I love to see in the classroom: the kind that takes seconds to use and actually reinforces simple teaching tools for the better, without necessarily making every student use a new program, or log in to an app.  I have used QR codes in the classroom before, but this is really taking the concept to a new level, in a very good way.

Plickers, to me, screams formative feedback.  Teachers are always struggling to get real time results and this seems like the best answer. It keeps results anonymous while simultaneously forcing everyone to participate.

Emerging Ed Tech has some awesome ideas about how to use Plickers in the classroom.

Plickers was reviewed on Free Tech 4 Teachers in 2014.

It got great reviews on Graphite.

And the Minds in Bloom blog called it transformative for teaching.

I can’t wait to use it in my own classroom and hear about it in yours!

Quick Video:

Instructional Video:


Learning A-Z, a reasource

Learning A-Z is a spectacular, multifunctional cross-curricular language learning tool that is intended for use in Elementary classrooms. Each part is available for a 14 day trial period that I took advantage of for some – they all have different price points depending on your needs.  I purchased Raz-Kids myself for my class because my school couldn’t pay.  It was definitely worth the money.  The best part about Learning A-Z is that it’s current, and constantly being updated.   There are new and relevant books and lessons that come out that are applicable – like pluto changing it’s status and new presidential elections. 

Reading A-Z

Reading A-Z is a magnificently large database of levelled, applicable, printable books that comes with integrated lesson plans for a variety of different uses. It’s robust library boasts developmentally appropriate printable pdf material in an easy-to-access and easy-to-use format. It has more than 1,500 fiction and non-fiction books across a wide range of levels – 29 to be exact.

My related blog post.


Raz-Kids is an amazing database of levelled books in an easy-to-navigate online platform. It’s ideal for independent learning and differentiated education.

My related blog post.


Headsprout is for very young learners with a focus on phonics and early literacy. It then moves on to comprehension and other valuable, targeted reading skills. I haven’t tried this resource but it looks like an amazing tool for kindergarten and grade one.

Science A-Z

Science A-Z is great – I used the trial version for a while in my class a few years ago. It had many very applicable lessons that used cross-curricular tools to make teaching science in an already packed schedule easier.  It is very american curriculum based but some topics overlap with others, of course. I thought that the resources needed to be more plentiful – but that was in 2013, I think they have beefed it up significantly since then.  Try it out to see if it fits your needs! You get several free downloads for your choice of material.

Writing A-Z

Writing A-Z is a fully functional and completely differentiated resource for all writing styles whether it be persuasive 5 paragraph essay, biography or personal recount etc, all students can learn the same topic with a small one page. It’s so great.  It has a comprehensive lesson plan with so many additions for each type of writing.  I downloaded them all and love it!

Vocabulary A-Z

This is a very large database of applicable words for elementary school. It has lesson plans for how to teach vocabulary well and customisable word lists based on word function or topic. I haven’t used it but it looks great if vocabulary is part of your teaching goals.

Ready Test A-Z

This is for American testing.  I haven’t looked into it, but it’s fully integrated into several State curriculums as well as the common core curriculum.