Jeremy O'Shea

Applying Educational Technology in Technology Education

Author: joshea (page 1 of 2)

Games and Equity in the Classroom

After watching my classmates’ videos on varying topics of technology education research, I found myself most interested in gamification and digital equity. Both topics interest me for different reasons but I think both are important topics to consider in both the current and future state of education.


Video games have been a household reality for many decades now and, in recent years with the advent of smart phones, video games have made their way into the classroom, whether educators like it or not. This new reality should not be despaired though, as it creates an opportunity for greater engagement for many students who would otherwise have little interest in more traditional forms of teaching/learning. When I was in high school (the age range I teach) I was very into video games. I have a pretty good memory of being bored to death in classes while being able to go home and play video games for hours on end. I did not interrogate this until much later in my life and I have found that video games offered something that school was not, letting me take control and explore at my own pace and with minimal pressure to perform perfectly.

Games in the classroom can take many forms, from being as simple as a Kahoot quiz, to open building with Minecraft, to scientific modeling/simulators. All of these examples are relevant but what a teacher needs to ask themselves before implementing a game is, “is it worth it? Does the game meet the students needs and is it effective beyond more traditional methods of educating?” These are not easy questions to answer and require some serious time and criticism of the game.

Games in Action

In the past I had a student who was struggling in my electronics class to complete some hands-on work addressing the application of digital electronics. The class took place in a computer lab and the student had been avoiding class work by playing Minecraft.  Fortunately, I knew a little bit about the game and knew that there was an aspect in the game that could be used very similar to digital electronics using switches. I asked the student if they wanted to use the game instead of doing it by hand to demonstrate the concepts being learned.  They were extremely happy to do that and ended up not only completing what I asked them to but also built upon it, expanding the scope of what they learned. I was very surprised at the success. It is important to note that not all students would initially have the same success as this student did. They were well versed with the game and did not require tutorials. In the end, I was glad to offer an option, even an out of the box one, to help the student learn and show the digital electronics concepts.

This example only worked because I and the student had a foundation in games and that game. If that had not been the case it would have likely not have been such a success. Therefore, it is important for educators to receive support and training in the implementation of gaming in the classroom. It is also important to select educational games that meet all students needs equitably. Most games are made in a way to be as accessible as possible but sometimes some students differing abilities may leave some behind and this needs to be factored into any gamification usage.

Digital Equity

Digital equity is a real concern in the public-school system. Students come from a range of backgrounds and have a range of varying abilities. This can quickly lead to some students having and some having not. To further compound this, most schools’ budgets for new tech is not high and often spent strictly on maintaining the current equipment rather than addressing new technology options.

Internet access has become nearly common place but in communities, such as in the one where I work, not every student has reliable internet at home. This limits options such as inline learning or flexible classrooms. The internet is a great thing to have access to, but internet literacy is still a thing being learned by adults, let alone kids. When I was growing up, I recall being told that anyone can write a book so make sure you think about it critically and don’t just believe it. That concept is a hundred-fold more important now with the internet and it is giving everyone with an opinion a platform to say whatever they wish, whether they know what they are talking about or not. This creates a very dangerous reality and can lead students to finding incorrect knowledge and believing it to be true.

Teachers and Technology

Teachers have a tough job at the best of times but add on keeping up with their discipline, their teaching methods, and new technologies and there is little time for a life outside of the job. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be supported when implementing new tech in the classroom by their administration. Without training, tech being put in the classroom is almost surely doomed to fail. Only the teachers most interested in the tech will likely put in the time and effort to learn and implement it.

Basic Principles Of Multimedia Learning (EDCI 570/71 Assignment) – Sean, Jeremy, Clay

In the introduction article, multimedia is defined by presenting both words (spoken or printed text) and pictures (illustrations, photos, animation or text). Multimedia teaching is presenting words and pictures that are intended to promote learning by building mental representation from words and pictures, in order to teach a deeper understanding of concepts rather than words alone. There are over 20 principles of multimedia instructional design .


Split-Attention Principle

The split attention principle happens when the learner must focus on two or more sources of instructional information simultaneously to understand the material. This in turn adds a stress to the cognitive load of the learner which slows the learning process. For example, a worksheet with instructions on one side of the page and a diagram on the other requires the learner to read the instructions, hold that knowledge, scan the diagram (while still holding that knowledge), and then attempt to apply/combine that knowledge with the diagram. If the concept is too complicated for the learner, their attempts at understanding the information may be slowed or halted.

By integrating separate instructional material into a single form, the cognitive load is lessened, and learning and performance generally increases. To build on the previous example an educator could take the information from one side of the page and break it into parts, applying it to the diagram when and where it is required to be the clearest. This in turn will allow the learner to focus in one place and see where that information will be applied as well.

There has been some interesting research done into the split attention principle. Some surprising research by Sweller and Chandler (1994) and Chandler and Sweller (1996) suggested that students learning to use a computer program who initially learned strictly from using integrated learning techniques and no computers met greater learning outcomes than students who learned using a computer-based information and a manual. This initially sounds counter intuitive to the learning process but demonstrates the effect split attention instruction can have on a learner.


Modality Principle 

The modality effect or principal exists when learning occurs through a mixed-mode (partly visual and partly auditory) presentation instead of a single mode of presentation. This creates a balance in the visual and auditory pathways and does not create an extraneous cognitive load.

  • Mousavi, Low and Sweller (1995 )The modality principle works under the same conditions of the split-attention principle.
  • It is essential that the auditory information is necessary to understand the visual information and that it is not redundant (Kalyuga, Chandler and Sweller ( 2000 ).
  • Modality effect depends on the logical relationship between the sources of information and that the information is connected, similar to the split attention effect. 
  • Mayer & Moreno (1998) Modes that over-stimulate the visual or auditory pathways inhibits the learning process.
  • Using graphics and narration in lessons establishes a balance between visual and verbal channels, allowing processing in working memory. 
  • An example of the above, is showing a screenshot of information (graphic) and narrating (auditory) along with it which allows a balance between the visual and verbal processing channels. This allows for essential information to be processed and avoids creating an extraneous cognitive load. 
  • Alternatively, animations (graphic) grouped with only text (visual) can overload the visual channel making it much more difficult for the learner to process the information.   

With teachers using technology in the classroom it is important to keep the modality principle active in your practice. Children can easily become overwhelmed by stimulation from media and by controlling the modes by which information is communicated you increase the opportunities for successful learning. 


Redundancy Principle

The redundancy principle effect happens when information is presented in multiple forms simultaneously, such as a picture with words describing said picture. By adding further information to a full body of information learners may become confused.  A further example would be, adding a summarization to a full body of information. Excluding this info may be better for learning, by eliminating redundancy.

Much like the split-attention principle, having to coordinate resources (i.e. visual and audio) requires a heavy cognitive load and may prevent learning success. To prevent redundancy, any repeated information should be removed.

Often, educators feel that presenting information in varying forms is more advantageous (or at least neutral) to having only one. This assumption has been proven incorrect by current research into students and the cognitive loads they can handle during the learning process.  


Signaling principle

The signalling principle explains how a signal or cue can have a learner fixate on information that is deemed important or crucial in a topic. Fixating is a way to view how a learner can focus on one particular component of what they are trying to learn in order to lessen their cognitive load during a lesson.

While learning something which is delivered or supplemented with multimedia, a teacher can use the technological properties of the media to cue fixation. For example, a student could be presented with a diagram of an internal combustion engine. The first part of the lesson could be to learn what a piston is. Using an animation or slideshow, the main block of the engine could be greyed-out or fogged and only the details of the piston would remain.

Research was conducted to ascertain which method of multimedia signalling was the most beneficial to learning. Some examples are: Visual paragraphs with colored words, visual paragraphs with narration, pictures with colored portions, pictures with on-screen text bubbles…and so forth. 

The researchers found that there was no ‘perfect’ method for multimedia delivery, and suggested that it was likely that certain delivery methods would have their own best fit for use, depending on the content.

In relation to the theme of the chapter, I found it quite that this principle and research offered some answers to questions about multimedia learning, such as:

  • What are the consequences of adding pictures to words? 
  • What happens when instructional messages involve both verbal and visual modes of learning? 
  • What affects the way that people learn from words and pictures? 

However, I believe the most important part of the signalling principle research was the use of eye-tracking. When possible, researchers tracked the physical position and fixation of participants’ eyes in order to ascertain what cues they responded to. Mayer favors learner-centered approaches in regards to multimedia learning. Perhaps, in subsequent research, the development and improvement of eye tracking software could be used to answer his question “How can we adapt multimedia to enhance human learning?”


Click here to watch explanatory video

Research, Technology, and the Classroom

This week I read K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two decades of scholarship by Arnesen et al, Trends in mobile technology-supported collaborative learning: A systematic review of journal publications from 2007 to 2016 by Qing-Ke et al, and Developing an Understanding of the Impact of Digital Technologies on Teaching and Learning in an Ever-Changing Landscape by Voogt et al. These articles/chapters offered insight into the trends of research in the last two decades in relation to technology in the classroom. They offered insight into important topics such as group demographics, group size, tech and mental load, and technology and the teaching profession. The articles offer a interesting look into how educational technology is being researched, by who, and what methods they are using to do it.

Research on Technology in the Classroom:

It is suggested in the articles that there is a growing trend for technology in education and that the trend will continue to grow in the coming years. This mean that educators need to be aware of what their options are and know how to implement them. This sounds easier than it is as technologies can come and go so quickly that it can be difficult to know what will stick around and what won’t. I personally hesitate to jump on a new technology until it proves itself and finds a footing in the field. There are many reasons for this, but a large factor is prep time and school budget restraints. Ultimately, this growing trend for tech in education will require more research into education technology which means a growing need for more researchers.

One thing that struck as interesting when reading the articles is how a relatively small group of authors can have such a large impact on an area of study. As educational technology in its modern form is relatively new it is to be expected that there would be few contributors to researching in the discipline. They are assets to their area of study, but I feel the subject matter would be better served with more input from a more well-rounded group of researchers to allow the introduction of other approaches to the subject matter. This opinion is not to take away from the work researchers have done and are doing. More collaboration and sharing of different ideas and take on the subject would help broaden the research in the area.  After all, is it not the take of the authors to encourage collaborative learning?

In recent years there has been extra emphasis put on collaborative learning in education circles. This is generally a positive thing as it is realistic of most jobs and careers students will take on in adulthood. There are very few jobs where you don’t work with others in some capacity to a goal. It also allows students to socialize and work together to overcome problem or achieve a goal. The struggle most teachers run into is deciding how to best make up said groups for the best learning dynamics.

Group Demographics and Size:

Research into group lessons using tech has found that most teachers group students of similar knowledge levels in the same groups to maximize their learning potential. This allows the students to make learning progress without retreading old, already learned, territory. In my robotics classroom we group up often to take on challenges. Usually I try mix my groups levels of skill, knowledge, and learning styles despite the research focusing on otherwise. My reasoning is that a mixed group will allow the more knowledgeable students to take on a leadership role and share their knowledge with the others in the group. Also, having students with different skills and approaches is well suited to robotics as there are many roles that need to be taken on and requires many different types of skills. For example, a robotics competition requires a team to build a robot, program it, journal daily progress, and even raise funding for parts and trips. I have not met a student yet who could take on all those roles by themselves. I couldn’t do it myself either. This is where having a diverse group helps. It is unfortunate that there isn’t more research into students being grouped based on their learning styles.

Most research shows teachers usually group students into pairs or groups of 4, allowing for students to pair off. Most teachers avoid not have larger groups for fear of student redundancy, but it is suggested that technology allows for extra students to remain involved, via self learning, despite a groups size. This is under the assumption that the student is engaged to begin with. It also allows a student who is less social an easy way out of group work. I find large groups to be overwhelming and without someone taking charge of organizing, students become lost or choose to slip through the cracks.

I have found in my robotics class that when doing group work which utilizes technology that I have to have groups of preferably 4 because robots are expensive, and my budget cannot cover having one for each student or even for them to work in pairs with one robot to share. Furthermore, 4 makes a good number because it allows everyone to have a job, whether that be robot builder, programmer, leader, or documentation keeper/organizer. There is also room for those four students to do a little of all the other jobs as well, of course.

Mobile Learning and Mental Load

There is little research about mobile collaborative learning that focus’ on cognitive load and learning anxiety often attributed to subjects like mathematics. Focus is generally on sciences and social sciences where learning is generally more relaxed and freer. Although I do feel more research needs to be done in this area, I am curious if the overall cognitive load and anxieties around math, even without mobile learning, already suggests an answer. Most students are very stressed about mathematics, even without technologies involvement. Student depending, I’m not sure adding mobile tech would alleviate that.

Technology and Teaching

It is disappointing that there is little research into teacher and professional development using mobile technology. It seems backwards and perhaps a little hypocritical to not implement tech in the profession and then expect it in the classroom. There are likely a couple factors as to why this is the case. First, if the teacher and administration are not prepared to buy into such a thing then it will never happen. Last year our school introduced an app for students and teachers to use to keep track of students for a “focus block,” a class where students can go to any teacher for extra help or special lessons. Fortunately, the school embraced the app and it is now in its second year running. Meanwhile another school in the district did not so lovingly embrace the app and this year they have discontinued its use.



Arnesen, K.T., Hveem, J., Short, C.R. West, R.E.  & Barbour, M.K.  (2019) K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two decades of scholarship, Distance Education, 40(1), 32-53, https://DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2018.1553566

Qing-Ke Fu, Q-K., & Hwang, G-J. (2018). Trends in mobile technology-supported collaborative learning: A systematic review of journal publications from 2007 to 2016.  Computers & Education, 119, pp. 129-143,

Voogt, J., Knezak, G., Christensen, R., & Lai, K-W. (2018). Developing an Understanding of the Impact of Digital Technologies on Teaching and Learning in an Ever-Changing Landscape. In J. Voogt, G. Knezak, R. Christensen, & K-W, Lai (Eds.) Second Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, pp. 3-12. Springer International Handbooks of Education. Springer, Cham.

Battle of the Education Technology Models

Koehler & Mishra’s Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge model (better know as TPACK) presents a method for teachers to develop technology into their teaching practice while trying to maintain a balance of its primary elements: technology, pedagogy, content, and knowledge. By understanding TPACK’s main principals a teacher will be better able to understand the different types of technology levels, when they should be best utilized, and how. These levels are outlined in Romrell, Kidder, & Wood’s Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition model (SAMR).


TPACK Model: Koehler, M & Mishra, P. (2009)


The SAMR model is broken into its four core sections:

Substitution – Technology is used as a substitute for a lesson with no real change to the way the lesson is done.

Augmentation – Technology is used as a substitute for a lesson with functional changes to the way the lesson is done.

Modification – Technology allows for a redesign of the lesson

Redefinition – Technology allows for the lesson to be done in a way it could not have been done without the technology

SAMR, as outlined by its authors, breaks down the varying levels in which technology can be applied to a lesson or learning activity. If applied correctly SAMR and TPACK can work well together in guiding educators to finding and implementing tech into their classroom.  But that does not mean that everything that SAMR and TPACK offer is appropriate or correct.

When reading about how the authors of SAMR felt it should be implemented I felt they went a little too far and were rigid in their assessments.  They claim that redefinition, and to a lesser extent modification, are what educators should be always striving to achieve in their technology focused lessons. I hesitate to agree with them under the principle that it is important not to lose sight of the goals of your lesson/exercise. If the goal is to learn the tech, then these focus’ may be appropriate but otherwise it is possible for the tech to suddenly overshadow the point of the lesson. When building a lesson with tech a teacher should ask themselves, is the tech distracting from the point of the lesson and the research methods? If so, it may be necessary to reassess the use of said tech. The SAMR model appears to focus on the tech over the learning goals/outcomes and that is why it needs to be paired with the TPACK model.  Together, an educator will have a guideline in which to assess and implement tech into their curriculum.

SAMR further pushes mLearning as the future of tech in the classroom. I mostly agree with the merits of the technology and do see in the future a greater implementation of the tech but, for now, we are limited by budget and equity concerns.  Schools have limited budgets and, in the school I teach at, a device is not supplied or available for every student. Because of this, their can be a divide among the students who have devices and those who do not. Due to this reason I occasionally hesitate to endorse the strict use of mobile learning without a way for the “have not” students to participate as well.

MLearning does have its advantages as outlined by Romrell, Kidder, & Woods. Mobile devices do allow for students to be situated and connected with a personalized device of their own. This can help students learn quicker and with more familiarity than if they used an unfamiliar device. A drawback of personalization is that students can have apps and games on their devices that distract from the learning process. Most students I have interacted with can overcome the temptation to play games but there are a few that cannot make it through a class without playing one much to the detriment of their engagement and education.


Romrell, Kidder, & Woods (2014)


It’s important to remember that the realities of teaching are that most educators are generally not well versed in making mobile apps or building with technology and it is not reasonable to expect them to be. Teachers can utilize apps and tech, but it is unlikely they will have the time, resources, or knowledge to create them. Most teachers are at the mercy of tech developers and generally they are not giving their products away without a price tag or other monetary motives which can open up questions of ethics among other things.

TPACK offers the superior model for implementing tech into lessons when compared to SAMR. SAMR does have its merits in outlining what levels of tech implementation are available and what they are. The real challenge id for educators to apply the correct level of tech with the pedagogical goals of their lessons.

To conclude I will leave you with this quote from Koehler & Mishra (2009):

“Teaching with technology is a difficult thing to do well. The TPACK framework suggests that content, pedagogy, technology, and teaching/learning contexts have roles to play individually and together. Teaching successfully with technology requires continually creating, maintaining, and re-establishing a dynamic equilibrium among all components.”



Hamilton, E.R., Rosenberg, J.M. & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use.

Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)?. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Waynesville, NC USA: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education.

Romrell, D., Kidder, L.C., Wood, E. (2014).The SAMR model as a framework for evaluating mLearning. Online Learning Journal, 18(2).

TechTrends 60(5), 433-441.

The Relationship of Educational Instruction and Technology

Clark and Kozma’s great media debate raises the question, does the medium in which instruction is given effect the learning of students or is it instructional method that dictates a lessons success? It’s an intriguing question that I believe both Clark and Kozma make good points to back up their respective arguments. These arguments were last made in the mid-nineties and now, in a much more technological age, Becker chimes in with their opinion focusing on games used for educational purposes.

Clark, Kozma, and Becker’s Positions

Clark sees media as a tool to present instruction in a more efficient manner.  He further adds that media does not influence learning under any circumstance. Media may save money, time, and be convenient but it is only traditional instructional methods being implemented to a new medium.

Kozma argues to the contrary of Clark saying, a student’s style of learning can be best suited using specific types of media and help an educator present information in a meaningful and more understandable way than if using other forms of media or tradition education methods.

Becker adds to the argument that a good educational game requires both good educational design and game design. They cannot be forced onto each other. So, it is more than using traditional instructional methods and becomes its own entity.

Reflections on the Debate

Upon initially reading Clark’s position I felt that what he was saying made sense to a point.  Certainly, traditional instructional methods are reused and adapted to new medias. I think it is fair to say that educators don’t want an emphasis on medium over instruction. Often when this happens, the new technology is embraced and then quickly fades into obscurity. Tradition instructional methods have their merits and need to be considered when using various mediums for the best learning outcomes. It is still important to the learning process that information be demonstrated, learned, and then applied in some relevant manner.

Kozma’s position felt more insightful and predictive of what future technology was going to have to offer education in the coming years. It’s important to recognize that not all students learn the same way and that some methods are more engaging than others. Essentially, different methods can have better results in important ways. I know in my practice, that students respond far better to me showing them a concept rather than talking about it.  Arguably, new media can be used in a way of showing/doing a lesson that essentially ups the ante. Students become more engaged, it allows them to participate or even, gods forbid, be entertained, with the lesson.

We are in a very different age than the mid 90’s when Clark and Kozma were having their “Great Media Debate.” Then, the internet was a baby and household computers were not overly common. Now, we have smart phones and portable gaming devices. Students are surrounded by competing mobile entertainment! As an educator it can be difficult to keep student’s attention when they can check social media on their phone and interact with their friends whenever they want via text message. Educators have an uphill battle at times. Employing the same or similar media to educate, or fighting fire with fire, may be required to combat this new reality.

Adding to the debate Becker points out, and I think Kozma would agree, there is a reason that NASA employs simulation machines and doesn’t just require astronauts to only read up on spacecraft control theory.  Interactive mediums offer the opportunity allow practice and skills growth when it otherwise could not be done or would not be cost effective.

Booker further notes that gamification in education is not only an alteration of instructional methods. Gamification utilizes traditional instructional methods, but it requires a serious understanding of how a good video game is made to make a good/effective educational game. Even standard entertainment-based video games use (usually subtle) instruction to teach the user how to navigate the game. But games can take on a life of their own.  You are no longer a passive learner. You are making the learning happen, you are a part of it, and I think that is the key point to understand. Educational video games allow the user/learner to be actively engaged in a way no other medium does.


Clark, R.E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2),  21-29.

Kozma, R.B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2), 17-19.

Becker, K. (2010). The Clark-Kozma Debate in the 21stCentury. Paper presented at the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education 2010 Conference. Published under Creative Commons. (

Future Trends in Education Technology

As a Technology Education teacher, keeping up with the latest trends in educational technology is extremely important.  It can be exciting to see what new programs, apps, and tech are being implemented in the classroom, but it can also be scary and overwhelming in the pace that new tech is being developed. I have found it important to connect with other teachers to communicate what tech is working for them and what is not.  It is too easy to jump on new tech that looks cool and useful only to find out that the technology has very limited educational application and does not lend itself well to the learning process. It is especially important to be aware of some tech’s possible shortcomings as it can be expensive and high schools have limited budgets.  For this reason, I generally use caution and wait for a technology to prove itself a little first before investing money and preparation time into it. But new educational tech is not all doom and gloom, it can also be extremely helpful in implementing exciting and efficient ways to communicate ideas and challenge students in their learning and understanding of the world and their place in it.

As an electronics / robotics teacher, using coding, cloud based collaborative learning, and prototyping via 3D printing have quickly found a home in my classroom. These technologies have taken the subject matter and really opened it up for every student. Students are now able to communicate both in class and out, using cloud/collaborative apps such as Google Docs and it has never been easier to share and refine ideas.  Robotics and coding have helped my students develop their critical thinking, explore iteration, and logic skills which, as many educational technology trend articles have described (see below for article links), are projected to be valued skills in future employment opportunities. With the advent of lower cost 3D printers’ students can now readily design and prototype ideas, taking the digital and turning it into the physical.  Being able to take the idea of a concept and putting it into practice allows students to connect the entire design & production process from beginning to end. These types of tech have changed the way my classes are taught and made the learning process more efficient and effective.

Unfortunately, not all tech is as applicable to education (or, at least, my taught subjects). I have played around with augmented reality (AR) apps such as HP Reveal, as noted on the Tech & Learning website, and I have found that, although the technology looks really cool it is difficult to implement unless it is guaranteed that every student has a device (which my students do not). As a technology education teacher, I bristle at the idea of virtual reality (VR) in my classroom.  I pride myself on giving students a hands-on experience and the idea of putting on a head set or staring at a Chrome Book and “virtually” cutting wood or driving a robot does not interest me. What is the point of pretending to do something in a virtual landscape when you can do it in real life!? I do understand that it can be utilized in demonstrating things that are too expensive or prohibitive to do normally, such as a virtual surgery as noted in multiple articles (see below), but if the VR system is only being used for one application it will likely not be cost effective for a high school purchase. I agree with the Top Hat blog in their assessment that VR & AR have limited appeal and very specific use and need, otherwise they are a fun distraction. It should be noted that VR and AR could be adapted well in situations where students have a disability and can not participate in the traditional hands-on projects.

Educational technology has helped streamline the classroom and make learning more fun and effective for students. This makes pursuing it worth the time, although I do have some criticisms. Firstly, digital security can be a difficult to manage. Can I store information on this server? Is the information safe? Could I lose my work, or my students work, if the tech closes? All these things and more need to be addressed when using tech in the classroom.

Secondly, as technology rapidly changes it is important to remember that not all changes are necessarily good if not addressed critically.  In the Holland & Holland article it discusses the idea of having internet access everywhere which would allow down time to become more effectively used.  Although they immediately state they are not advocating a 24/7 work schedule, the thought made my skin crawl.  Most people would agree that having internet access everywhere would be great and allow flexible work hours. That is not being debated but it leaves wiggle room for abusive employers to demand more work from their employees. This can already be seen with people sometimes being expected to monitor emails even when off the clock or working from home outside the regular business day.

Tech in the classroom has helped prepare students for the realities of the future job market, broadening their understanding of the world and their ability to be adaptable and think critically. Overall, tech in the classroom is a good thing but it needs to be approached with care, respect, and mindfulness. Like our parents and their parents before them, we want a safe and bright future for our students, and we want them to have the best we can give them.



Overcoming the Roadblocks to Technology Education, STEM, and the Trades

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers:

Moving Beyond Cultural Barriers: Successful Strategies of Female Technology Education Teachers by Ray McCarthy and Joseph Berger sets out to assess why female technology education teachers pursued the career path they did and explore why there is such low female representation within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and Technology Education fields of work and study. McCarthy & Berger used a qualitative research method by interviewing ten female participants of varying ages, all technology education (tech ed) teachers, and comparing their overall responses. The participants were asked questions over two interview sessions, focusing on their lives and upbringing and how they came to the decision to pursue a technology education/STEM career path.  A third combined interview concluded the interview process which allowed for the interviewees to discuss their thoughts and findings together. The interviewees were also tasked with keeping a journal over 14 days which documented influences and important transition points that may have led them to their career in technology education.

Pixabay, 2019

McCarthy and Berger (2008) concluded, based of the information provided by those interviewed, that the following should be done to encourage an increase in the growth rate of female representation in technology education and the STEM fields:

  • provide families and schools with information on the learning needs of girls
  • provide education for men and boys outlining the importance of including women and girls in STEM/tech ed.
  • Stress importance of male role models and encouraging female growth within STEM/Tech ed
  • Create opportunities for STEM to be used in the elementary school setting. Prepare teachers so that they are comfortable and confident with the subject matter and willing to share it with all students equally
  • Provide young girls, especially those without a male role model in their lives, with male modeling and support
  • Encourage more males to teach lower grades to balance the predominantly female teacher representation of lower grades.


Personal & Professional Connection:

For just over a decade I worked as a full-time journeyman carpenter.  I loved the work, but the job site can be a hot bed of sexism, among other things, like bigotry and racism. It is my belief that the extremely toxic culture on the work-site is largely one of the reasons many women do not feel comfortable there. As I reached my late twenties, I decided that I had had enough and that I wanted to help institute a change in the toxic work-site culture. I discovered the people I was working with were highly resistant to changing and felt very set in their ways. I concluded that change would need to come from a new generation. It was then I decided to pursue a career in education. There are, of course, other reasons for my career change but this one was very important to me and it is what drew me to the McCarthy and Berger’s article.


Interest, Problem, Purpose, Questions:

My experiences on the construction site have made me come to believe that “site culture” is far behind the times in regard to workplace equality/equity.  All too often there is a bigot, racist, and/or sexist, or group there of, who harass anyone who is “other” until they either quit or become one of them. It is because of this I became a teacher. My goals as an educator are to help change, not only attitudes towards women, but also for everyone on the job site, including LGBTQIA folks and people of all races, class, ability, religion, sex, and gender.

It is my predominant goal to help encourage girls/women to pursue a career in Technology Education, the STEM field, or Trades. I also wish to encourage others to let go of the toxic norms of yesterday which do not accurately reflect a woman’s value or ability. There are many ways I attempt to address this within my classroom. This could be as mundane as common daily interactions with students but can lead to full on lessons about the potential realities of the work site and respect for others. Daily, I endeavour to portray myself as welcoming and respectful to all my students. It is important that they feel comfortable with me, the other students, and the machinery they will be using. Everyone has just as much right to be there as anyone else. Everyone has the same right to design, make, and learn.

My inquiry into encouraging girls/women to pursue technology education, STEM, or trades naturally could expand to encouraging people of different sex, gender, race, class, religion, and/or ability to follow their passion for one of those disciplines. Technology Education, STEM, and trades, I believe, would be far better off with the addition of other points of view and ways of knowing.  Furthermore, it would help meet the growing need for people in those disciplines.


Collected Resources:

There has been several studies into women in STEM , tech ed, and trades.  Below are some resources I have collected and how they add to the discussion.  I have also added other resources which expand on my research for equity in my classroom.

  1. Men & Women and Tools by Marcia Braundy – Book & Video

This book dives deep into the toxic culture that can be found on the trades site and in technology education.  Using their experience and scholarly research, Braundy weaves a rich argument for change. Further, Braundy also created a drama which demonstrates the kinds of harassment and treatment women can experience on the work site.


  1. Toward Inclusive STEM Classrooms: What Personal Role Do Faculty Play?
    By Tess Killpack & Laverne Melon – Academic Journal

This paper sets out guidelines to challenge educators to overcome the cultural and implicit biases that are often held for STEM courses.  The authors provide a guide for educators to help assist in the adaption of syllabi, material, and approaches.

  1. Gender, interest, and prior experience shape opportunities to learn programming in robotics competitions by Witherspoon, Schunn, Higashi, & Baehr

This article examines girls’ interest in robotics and programming from elementary to high school.  The research highlights a drop off in female interest as they get older and concludes on potential ways to address that loss of interest.

  1. Googles Ideological Echo Chamber by James Damore – memorandum

This is a memo written by a google employee, James Damore, outlining why they do not believe that women will ever have equal representation to men in the STEM field.  I felt it was important to include this in my readings as it gives a very different interpretation that stands counter to my beliefs and many of the other articles collected.

  1. Considerations From Places Where Indigenous and Western Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing Circulate Together: STEM as Artifact of Teaching and Learning By Borden, L. L., & Wiseman, D. – Academic Journal

This article challenges the Western assumptions and philosophies of teaching and learning STEM and presents STEM using Indigenous ways of knowing.

  1. Participation and achievement in technology education: the impact of school location and socioeconomic status on senior secondary technology studies By Steve Murphy – Academic Journal

Murphy explores the limitations put on STEM courses at rural schools caused by school location and socio-economic status.

Putting Social Media and Research Methods into Practice (Final Blog)

How Research Diaries Can be Used to Better Research and be Used Via Social Media/Online Blogs:

I have written diaries on and off in my life and I always find value in them. They are a great way to record your thoughts in the moment and to reflect on what you have been doing/learning in a meaningful way.  In the two summer courses I am currently taking, EDCI 515 & 568, I have been tasked with keeping an online diary (blog) of my reflections on the academic readings and class time. I feel this is a smart approach to the courses as it is extremely condensed, and the blog forces me to reflect daily, helping me articulate my thoughts and challenge my knowledge.

Research diaries, as discussed by M. Engin in Research Diary: A Tool for Saffolding, allow the researcher and opportunity to reconnect with earlier research in the point of view of the researcher when the observations were made. This prevents the researcher from retroactively altering the way they perceived their past research and allows them to connect with the research process in a stronger and deeper way.

Using a blog, such as this one, as a research diary throughout my master’s program will serve in a similar way, affording me the opportunity to reflect and reconnect with past work. Online and offline programs, such as OneNote, Diigo, Trello, or Zotero, can be used to aid in the moderation of research and organize it for later consumption.

I have used a diary system in the past in my robotics courses to help students keep track of their progress and to help them reflect on what they have and need to accomplish. I find that, despite initial resistance, students do find them useful and by the end are glad they put in the effort.  I intend employ the blog method in the coming semester, expanding on my previously offline method. It would likely ease the work load and allow other students to see what other groups are doing and respond to it, adding another layer of student critique, peer assessment, and the sharing of ideas.  This could in turn lead to further reflection and refinement of their projects potentially making them better.


Ethics, Online rights, and Responsibilities of Use:

The research and design diary system I have used in the past with my students has always been offline.  If I were to move it onto a blog based system or any other online method I would need to be sure to meet BC FIPPA Cloud Guidelines and be conscious of other online ethics concerns.  As a member of a public institute, I am required as a teacher and researcher to make sure my students’ personal information is kept safe from potential online threats. I would need to be sure to use either a service that keeps the information stored in Canadian servers or I would need to gain permission/consent from students and parents to allow for it to be stored elsewhere. This can be a problem when using sites like Google Classroom which are based in the United States.

I have a duty to my students to make them aware of the potential harms that can come with being online and sharing one’s personal information. They need to understand that what is posted to the internet can very rarely be taken off. They are leading the way into a new frontier and we are all playing catch up. They will be the first generation to have had the internet their whole lives and we are only now starting to understand the good and bad or what that means.

Continuing on the theme of research and ethics, Alexandra D’Arcy explores in IRBs, researchers, and the gathering of data from social media the importance of being an ethical researcher. We were fortunate enough to have Dr. D’Arcy, former head of the UVIC Ethics Board, join us in class to discuss ethics and research with us. She stressed the importance of maintaining high ethical standards in our research.  She made clear how difficult it can be at times navigating the line between private and public material/information when collecting data and when it is necessary to gain consent from the public to minimize harm, risk, and confidentiality breaches. I found it particularly interesting how, as a teacher, I can make observations of how lessons and projects go and then make changes based on the in-class research/assessment I do. But if I record that data and report it without consent from each individual student and their parent, I would be breaching ethical standards.  Her overall message was, if you aren’t sure it’s ethical you should ask the ethics board.


Professionals and Students on Social Media and its Potential Perceptions:

Research, such as George Veletsianos Public comment sentiment on educational videos and Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse demonstrates some of the potential dangers that social media can pose for students and professionals. Velentianos’ research suggests that females generally receive more negative comments/social interaction when online. This research would make a great opener for discussion in a classroom on online social behaviour. Students could be asked: Do you believe these results are accurate? Why or why not? Have you experienced this personally? Have you been on both ends of online abuse? What can you do to prevent this kind of behaviour? I think it is safe to say that some social media like Facebook and Twitter can be toxic places and it is up to teachers/parents to inform ourselves and the next generation of how to properly navigate that negative space. It is equally important that we understand the potential abuse women and people of color can face in an online context.

In Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility, the authors assert that students perceptions of their teachers/professors changed based on their Twitter use. Personally, I have always hesitated to use social media as a professional. This is perhaps due to my teacher education program instilling a healthy fear of teachers posting the wrong things and getting fired for it.  I think the growing pains of the wild west internet of yesteryear have passed though and it may be time to open myself up a little bit. I think, if utilized responsibly, Twitter and/or a professional blog, can make for a powerful way to connect with students and colleagues to share ideas and help one another grow.

Christine Younghusband, sets a strong example of how Twitter can be used in a positive way on her blog post Evolution of my PLN. Here she outlines the BC EdChat group and demonstrates how it can be used to improve ones teaching practice and network effectively online.


Inquiry Based Research / Learning in the Modern Era:

One of the many things that has drawn me to higher education is the opportunity to conduct a large inquiry project into a subject of my choice. A big part of inquiry-based learning is the research, so it is important to understand the different methods that can be employed. There are the more traditional quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as mixed method, autoethnography, action research, narrative inquiry, phenomenology, and metissage. All these methods have their benefits and draw backs, but I find myself drawn to the more people focused methods, such as autoethnography and narrative inquiry.  Education is a person driven profession and reducing people to numbers or objects does not adequately help the individual student. Perhaps in broad general terms quantitative methods would work best but to be precise in my research I would select another method with a more person centric focus. I find myself drawn to the narrative inquiry method as it, if written well, can pull the reader into the work and entertain while it educates. It can input more feeling and story where often most research is cold and attempts to be overly objective.

Higher based education is based on inquiry research and beginning to take roots at the lower levels of education as well. Jeff Hopkins, who has started the PSII high school in Victoria, or High Tech High in the USA have demonstrated impressive programs that are driven completely by inquiry based learning.  Much of the work I do is at least partially inquiry based as shop classes tend to favour that type of learning.  The practice of full on student led inquiry sounds amazing and I have had some students capable of it but certainly not the majority.  Some students refuse to take the reins to their education and need a lot of encouragement to be pushed into taking ownership of their projects.  Others have become too accustom to traditional teacher led educational systems up and get confused or lost when they are given the freedom to choose their topic of research/learning. Using the competency framework outlined by Jeff Hopkins and the inquiry structure of Trevor MacKenzie, I believe I can find more inquiry learning success in my classroom.

Oddly enough, I think I would need to create more structure in order to make it work.  Students need a clear outline of expectations and they will need proper scaffolding to get them there.  It will be on me to set them in the right direction with the right amount of resources to do the research they need to do.  They will need to learn how to research, work independently and thoughtfully.

Inquiry Based Learning in Practice

This last spring, I was fortunate enough to be a member of a school based ecological-literacy inquiry team. For one of our meetings we decided to visit a school on Saturna Island called the Saturna Ecological Education Centre (SEEC). There we met Martin Anevich, the programs lead teacher, and the several students under his care. They gave us a grand tour of their school’s property including dorms, a shared cooking/hang out area, and their solar panel set up which powers most of the small campus.

The students were encouraged by Martin to mingle with us, a group of teachers and administrators, and show us all the things they had been learning. Throughout the day I was shocked to see how engaged the students were and how motivated they were to be discovering new things about the environment around them and the visitors who had come to see their school. The students were dedication and had a desire to learn and inquire that really blew me away.

You can learn more about SEEC in the video below.

After watching Education as if people mattered, a TEDxTalk b

y Jeff Hopkins (@hopkinsjeff) and having an in class conversation with him, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Jeff was not too long ago the superintendent of the Gulf Islands School District.  This is the same district that the SEEC operates in. Jeff now is the principal teacher at the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII). PSII is a school based heavily on inquiry and self-motivated methods of learning/educating. As an educator I am always extremely intrigued and slightly skeptical at the success of heavy inquiry-based learning. In my experience, there are some students who thrive and excel in this kind of learning environment while others flounder and lose focus and even give up. I think a lot of the time the reason for students lack luster performance with inquiry-based learning is because they are not used to it and have not been trained to do it. For example, in my grade 11-12 woodworking classes students are given the opportunity to find their own project and pursue it. For some this leads to the chance to really test their skills and try something that they have wanted to do. For others, they can’t grasp why I am not assigning a project and ask me what they should make. I always try to work with them through a process of finding their own projects but there is often a small group of students who just refuse to take the reins of their education.

When I was at SEEC I noted that the students there all had to sign up for it and were not necessarily from the island.  These students chose to take on this specific kind of learning and for those that didn’t like it, they went back to their original schools.  I feel there is a lesson to be learned here.

After our class conversation with Trevor MacKenzie (@trev_mackenzie), (EdTech MEd student at UVic & Teacher at Oak Bay Secondary on Social Media to Support Inquiry) I realized that it is possibly a shortcoming of my scaffolding techniques that may be limiting my successful inquiry results. This did give me pause and force me to re-examine my inquiry methods. Next school year I plan to try and build from structured inquiry and work through a controlled and guided inquiry until the students are working at a free inquiry.

It wouldn’t take too much change and integrate this approach. Usually the first project we do we do it together. Next, I would provide students with demos, instructions, and other resources to guide the through their projects. The next project I would give them the goal (example: a table or horizontal surfaced piece of furniture) and the students would find the resources and instructions to design and build to that end goal. Lastly, they would come up with their own project and then design and build it.

Getting to meet and talk with Jeff Hopkins and learn from his experience as the lead of an inquiry school was very eye opening for me. It was interesting to see what he has managed to do and hear about the growth and changes that have taken place at PSII in the last 6 years since the schools opening. I was especially heartened to learn that his school does not pick and choose students to join but accepts students off all abilities and needs.  I love how the school encourages students to follow their own interests and encourage them to connect with community businesses and groups.  This is something I try to do in my own classroom, but I often am more limited in scope of people to connect with as Sooke, where I work, is a small community in comparison to Victoria.

Here is a link shared by Jeff which I intend to use to help guide me in the practice of inquiry:

Indigenous Education

Idle No More by S. Pete  (2017). (*Chapter 3)

Meschachakanis, A Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education by S. Pete (2018) (*Chapter 10)

When reading Idle No More and Meschachakanis, A Coyote Narrative: Decolonizing Higher Education by Shauneen Pete, I was teleported back to my teacher education program. Pete, an indigenous resource coordinator and professor, tells of her experiences of exhaustion and conflict with students. This conflict arose when teaching them the importance of indigenous education.  She asserts indigenous education is not “extra” to teaching, education, or the curriculum but is those things.  I remember all too well students within my own education program asking when they were going to “learn how to teach.” I can sympathize with both positions. The students, including myself, knew the system of education they were taught and had expectations that their teacher program would show them how to teach in a similar manner. Furthermore, many other courses in the program set a “classic” or settler focused approach to education. Only a few teachers in my program, much like Pete, challenged those expectations and it made some upset, particularly when many of us were accused of being racist.

It took a lot of time for people to come around to the teachers’ way of thinking.  I recognize now what Pete and my teacher were doing.  They needed to challenge our preconceived notions of education and do it in a startling way.  It worked for some, but it shut a lot of students down as well and caused them to not participate in class other than the bare minimum to pass the course.

I really enjoyed reading Pete’s point of view on this situation.  Having been on the student side it was hard at times to see what the teacher must have been going through. Pete’s words are very eye opening. I am intrigued by Pete’s repeated regrouping and reattempts to integrate indigenous education into her curriculum.  Despite numerous setbacks she was able to try a different angle until she found what worked for her.

Now and educator myself, I see the challenges of Pete’s work and people like her far more clearly then I did when I was in my teacher program. I have tried very hard to teach with an indigenous educational focus in my classroom. Admittedly, I fail more often than I succeed but I feel I am getting better. I include many indigenous projects, such as bentwood boxes, drums, carving, and paddles. When we make these projects, we work through indigenous design and connect with our local community and band, the T’Souke Nation. This is all a start and I still have a long way to go to properly indigenizing my educational methods.

Both articles did challenge me in many ways to improve my classroom. First, I hope to include more information focused on First Nation and Metis artists/carvers/builders. Further, I would like to include projects related to current indigenous issues and concerns.  Instead of giving trinket gifts to elders/role models when they share with my classes, I need have the class and myself do something for them in return for so graciously giving up their time and sharing their knowledge. Lastly, I need to do my own research in how to better indigenize my courses instead of relying on others to do my work for me. I plan to check out the works of Dr. Rauna Kuokkanen & Dr. Marie Battiste, among others, as suggested by Pete.

As research, I find both of Pete’s papers to be very clear and well written.  She has taken an auto-ethnographic approach and inserted elements of story telling which not only enhance her points but also make them more enjoyable and colourful to read.  Her use of “Coyote” as a blunt truth-speaker to her thoughts really emphasizes her points in a fun and engaging way. Her research is important in that it conveys indigenous points of view and the requirements of healthy indigenous education to be implemented into the modern classroom.

Both papers are neither quantitative or qualitative but more based on Pete’s lived experience.  When in class, Pete shared her story and explained her love for story telling. I found the part of her story where she described her dissertation very interesting. Her work was presented in the way of a story rather than traditional academic methods and some judging members of her work were unsure of how to perceive that or whether her work was admissible. The use of story made a great point about traditional academia/education not considering outside or other methods, sent home her point of having to fight constantly for indigenous point of view in education, and did it in an engaging and sympathizing way.

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