Integrating Techology in Class – Practical Steps

January 25th, 2012

5 Elements of a Successful 21st Century Lesson 

As teachers begin to embrace the integration of technology in their classrooms, strategies for success need to be hilighted to sustain momentum. Take a quick read and ask yourself where you stand in the practice of tech integration.
1. Begin With The End In Mind
In the end, we are asking our students to submit a product. Whether it is a picture, essay, podcast or skit – if we as teachers do not share the big picture, expectations and final marking scheme then it won’t matter what technology you attempt to use.
2. Have a Plan
Even the most seasoned teachers should strongly consider a formal plan for every attempt of integrating technology into the class.  Without a plan and at the first sign of trouble, we often revert to what is comfortable. If there is a plan then at least we may find recourse within it.
3. Accept Failed Attempts and Move On
Even with a detailed, well-thought out plan, some lessons are doomed to fail due to fire drills, school yard fights, in-promptu meetings, tournaments, illness, faulty projector lamp, downed network, sticky keyboard…. you name it! The most important lesson I attempt to impart on my teachers is to accept a botched attempt and move on quickly.  Avoid dwelling on what could have been and look forward to what could be.
4. Set Realistic Goals About Classroom Tech
When surveying teachers I am often blown away by the expectations they set on themselves. Most teachers believe that true integration for technology needs to occur on a daily basis for the better part of the day. The reality for any teacher who wants to begin integration of tech in the classroom should be 2 – 3 times a week at about 30 – 45 minutes each time. Start slow and move on – beginning with unrealistic expectations always leads to certain failure.
5. Direct Your Own Professional Development
Look to enrol in courses offered throughout the summer or evenings to develop your knowledge of technology and technology tools for the classroom.  There are so many new and interesting courses available specifically for educators, there has never been a better time to engage in professional development even from the convenience of your own home.
Anthony A. Carabache


January 7th, 2012

Cutting the Chord

Our family household finally took the plunge and cancelled our cable service. Though mounting frustration with our cable company was enough of a reason, paying $80 per month for 500 channels that held no interest for us helped with the final decision.  The offensive barrage of commercial advertising simply sealed the deal. Bottom line was we were more willing to pay a subscription fee for a seamless commercial-free movie or show than to watch it butchered over an agonizing network-approved timespan.

The first couple of days were admittedly challenging for me but not so much to the rest of my family. I quickly came to some important realizations:

  1. There may be instances where we would need to pay for episodes and movies;
  2. We would definitely be consuming more bandwidth;
  3. We would have to think about what we want to watch.

The first two realizations are obvious but easy to manage once you know where to go to get movies and shows online. It is the last point that really hits you, but before examining the last point I’d like to share some of the strategies we have used as far as hardware and video sourcing without cable.

Our home has a PS3, Apple TV, and a couple of laptops. I use our PS3 to stream Netflix, watch Bluray, DVD and YouTube. If you don’t have a PS3 then Xbox or any other relatively new Bluray players can do all of the same things. The PS3 will also play a large variety of video formats – the most successful of which in my experience has been AVI. I use our Apple TV for shows that we have downloaded from iTunes mostly for our kids, and we have a monthly budget specifically for iTunes.

I had set out to eliminate hardware redundancy but learned that to get the most out of what’s out there, there is no singular set top or streaming video service that can cover all the bases – funny that an old laptop would do everything for you without a problem but where is that damned remote? If you are interested in learning more about set top media players you will find a great article here:

The cable service was costing us close to $1000 per year with very little satisfaction (A rottisserie channel – really?). Even the on-demand viewing was often slow and we were at the mercy of a rowdy PVR that seemed to be in constant and noisy contact with the mother-ship! At a $1000 per year, there was no doubt in my mind that we could keep ourselves entertained and in touch without a worry in the world.

Now, onto this idea of thinking about what we want to watch – truly fascinating! Our televisions would no longer be a source of white noise spewing network trash and poor advertising into our immediate atmosphere.  We could also avoid the plague of 24 hour doom and gloom news channels. As a family we decided to give the television a specific set of purposes: to inform, educate and entertain – all on our terms, not the cable company’s.

Truly on-demand programming would now require us to really think about the quality of programming before we consume bandwidth or pay for an episode. Think about this folks: We are now going to actively participate in the process – essentially choosing exactly what we want when we want it. Simply mind-boggling isn’t it?

Without doubt this is much more cerebral for us as viewers. Turning on the boob tube to put ourselves to sleep ain’t gonna happen anymore – but maybe it should never have been that way to begin with. I can’t quite remember when the television was classified as a sleep assistive device.  The point is, we are taking control of a medium that we never truly had any say in and using it for its orignally intended purpose.

The hubris of the cable company as evidenced in Huffington Post’s article: is more than obvious, but since the cable company also holds much of our country’s Internet bandwidth for ransom, it is almost understandable.

Our next step will be to cut service with my cable company as my ISP and move to a company that provides a healthier helping of bandwidth.

A Flipped Unit Outline

Slope Unit Outline – November 28th and 29th –

Danielle’s first go at a flipped classroom looks like the plan below.  The students will be taking home ‘kits’ to help them prepare for application and consolidation of skills at school the day after. Danielle will introduce the lesson briefly, guide the activity then move around the room to discover which students engaged with the take-home kit the night before.

Below are the first three days.

Date School Work Homework

November 28th

Introduction to the idea of the flipped class and Cartesian Plane Review

Introduction to the Ontario Educational Resource Bank

Online scavenger unt – conducted in the library lab

1. Watch the Cartesian Plane VIdeo

2. Complete the handout (Labeling the Cartesian Plane)

3. ILC Learning Object about the XY plane.www.homeworkhelp.ilc.or

4. Get the Point – start activity.

November 29th    

Consolidating the Cartesian and Introduction to Slope

The Cartesian Plane – Consolidation:

1. Get the Point Activity and self-assessment;

2. Consolidation of XY Plane review and problem solve in groups.  

What is Slope? Take Home Kit

1. View

2. Students may also view:

3. ILC Website – Interactive Tutorials – Slope Calculation Parts 1 and 3 ONLY.

4. Guiding Questions Handout:


How does the first application calculate slope? 

-What does it mean when the rise is positive?  Negative?

What does it mean when the run is positive?  Negative?

What is slope a measure of? When do you think slope is used in the real world?

5. OERB Learning Object: ELO1325840?

6. Challenge:

November 30

Consolidating Slope and calculating rise/run;

Finding Slope;

Introducing Slope formula and simplificationo

Slope – Rise/Run

1. Measuring Slope Activity – Centres, rulers measuring slope around the classroom and school;

2. Consolidation: Discuss steepness, negatives and why they are important; Given an endpoint, find another point using slope;

Practice text questions.

1. Subtracting Integers Video:           

2. OERB Learning Object: ELO1033400

3. Simplifying expressions (My video with accompanying  practice questions)

4. ILC Website àInteractive Tutorials à Slope Calculation parts 1 – 3


Social Evolution

Make no mistake about it – socialization as we know it has already changed. Some say for the better and some say for the worse… so which is it? Youth are engaged more deeply in networking and sharing information than ever before through a medium that they are native to. Texting, blogging, video scrapbooking, tweeting and facebooking are all new ways to interact and though they may seem to be counterproductive – this is simply not the case.

With the rapid development of communication tools, society has yet to establish proper protocol for appropriate social practice using technology. Even though we stay connected like never before, we have neglected the rules of social engagement within the technological medium. Many of these pitfalls can be avoided by establishing and practicing rules and expectations. Facebook and Twitter are certainly the most popular social media networks, but if not used moderately, they can become more of a hindrance than tools for communication. Twitter is an excellent tool which can be likened to a river flowing past.

Trying to catch all of the water as it rushes by is futile – but dipping a cup into the river of information every once in a while, will allow you to partake in smaller, more digestible morsels of information.


As we begin to develop social governance for these new tools and forms of communication, consider the following questions – Please don’t assume that the answers to these questions are obvious:

1. Would you consider it rude to chat on your cell phone while checking out at the grocery store?

2. Is it appropriate to text a friend when you are at home eating dinner?

3. Separation in the same space – what does that mean to you; What is ideal practice to you at home?

4. When is it appropriate to text instead of calling? 5. Why do people text more than talk or vice versa?

Bending to Our Will Part 1

I came out of my meeting with Danielle, grade 9 and 10 math teacher at Blessed Mother Teresa, simply exhausted.  I had promised her a three hour meeting to get her flip in order and she could have easily kept me hopping for six.  What strikes me most about this bright young teacher is her ability and more importantly – willingness to recalibrate, even at the expense of her own comfort.  As we worked through her slope unit, she constantly asked herself, "Why was I teaching it this way to begin with?" over and over.

Taking elements of the text book, a rich resource available to teachers in Ontario known as the Ontario Educational Resource Bank which is full of learning objects, elements from a ministry-driven homework help site, and her own recordings, we began piecing together a plan that looked practical and engaging! The plan looks something like this:

1. Understanding the Cartesian Plane

This will be supported by a self-made video about the basics of the Cartesian plane that students can review at home. Danielle’s video coupled with two learning objects provided in the OERB provide a very effective ‘kit’ for the students to engage with at home. Here is an example below:



The in-class portion will consist of group work deciphering several examples of Cartesian planes that demonstrate understanding of plotting, quadrants, negative integers, labelling etc.

2. Learning Slope – What are Rise and Run?

The second chapter will focus on the simple definition of rise and run as they pertain to the Cartesian plane.  The ‘kit’ that the students will receive will consist of videos chosen by Danielle in conjunction with three learning objects from the OERB and homework help website.

3. Understanding Differences

Danielle mentioned quite explicitly that understanding differences was often a challenge for grade nine students.  Many students struggle with calculating differences of negative integers and even more so – negative fractions. Danielle has endeavoured to create a short five minute video of her own that focuses solely on subtracting negative integers and understanding how to subtract negative fractions.  The in-class portion will be an exercise of redundancy (which we still need by the way!) where students will work together to calculate differences of negative fractions. The goal of the exercises will be to understand that the fraction is not affected by whether the numerator or denominator are negative – the outcome is still the same.

We parted as Danielle turned her focus to developing her first recording using JING by Techsmith.  Look for it on my recommended apps page.

Danielle has quickly learned that she can bend all materials and mediums to her will and I am confident that her students can only benefit!

Wrong Kind of Resistance

Resistance to change is never a good thing, but in my case, I have encountered a new type of resistance – resistance to taking it easy! After speaking with my grade one teacher – who by the way has brought another grade one teacher on board, it became abundantly clear that the grade one classroom could stand to be flipped despite its already natural state of inverted teaching. In other words, Ryan thanked me for the compliment but still insisted that a grade one could do more!

So… we dialogued back and forth about what the home environment could look like during a flipped project and even what the classroom lesson would look like. In the end I asked Ryan to move away from flipping a skill such as beginning reading and move towards the understanding and application of new content – for example inferencing.  Ryan and his teaching partner insisted that an element of sequencing stories also be present in the lesson so between the two ideas – sequencing and inferencing – we have the meat and potatoes of a lesson dedicated to flipping a grade one classroom.

Stay tuned for more…

Flipping a Grade 1 Would Make it Right Side Up

I woke up this morning at around 2:00 and came to a not-so-stunning revelation that a grade 1 classroom is already flipped. Although the trending definition of flipping a classroom has a large element of learning at home via video or online learning objects, the crux of the flip is really about how the teacher spends time in class with their students. Is the teacher standing and lecturing or is the teacher moving around to the students engaging in conversation about what they have learned, how they have learned and how they can apply that new knowledge? I think the answer is pretty straight forward. Most, if not all Kindergarten to grade 1 classrooms are already flipped – already hands on, already having the teacher as a facilitator and motivator not a lecturer. The goal for the grade 1 class will then become the seamless integration of technology in the classroom and bringing parents on board with resources at home.


I will now begin planning for a unit about Slope for grade 9 mathematics as well as Heat for grade 7 Science.  The teachers are starting to eat this up!

Delving Into Secondary

A very enthusiastic admin team arranged for time to meet with two teachers from Blessed Mother Teresa about flipping their classroom.  Both Avi and Danielle walked into the meeting with open minds and one could see their wheels start turning as we spoke about the idea.

Without a doubt, both teachers were approaching this from unique perspectives.  Avi, a Health Sciences and Healthy Living teacher was looking for new ways to engage his students.  Having taught an open course for the past few years, he knows that students are not always keen to engage in the material prescribed by the curriculum.  Avi’s enthusiasm and curiosity have made him the perfect champion for a flipped classroom experience. 

Avi’s partner in this project, Danielle, is a math teacher who takes the delivery of curriculum extremely seriously but is also looking for new ways to enhance student engagement.  Danielle’s approach is cautious and closely connected to a majority of teachers’ views on technology: She is eager for progress but does not want to jeopardize student learning in the process. 

After close to two and a half hours of dialogue, I believe that both Avi and Danielle’s creative juices were beginning to flow – I was beginning to see that they were developing ideas of their own as I threw my own ideas down on the canvas. I left excited and I hope they were left with as much as well.

Next steps: Awaiting teacher units for the flipped plans.



Let’s Talk Shop – My First Meetings

It was a long day but after two inspiring meetings with two absolutely incredible teachers we are poised to begin this new journey into the flipped elementary classroom.

Makrina – Grade 7 Teacher

My first meeting today was with Makrina, a grade 7 teacher who was part of a board-wide tech rollout last year.  Each grade 7 class in our district received 10 netbooks for the class, a mobile cart, a projector and a teacher laptop. Teachers also received an incredible five days of PD to go with their new toys.  Needless to say it was well received and for the most part, the technology is still being used.

I know that you may think this is an ideal situation to attempt a flipped approach… and you’re right.

Makrina’s touches with technology are far beyond beginner and she displays a wonderful child-like curiosity when it comes to 21st century learning. I remember sitting across from her thinking that I would be learning more from her than the other way around. 

Ryan – Grade 1 Teacher

My second visit was with Ryan, a grade one teacher who had been teaching grade 7 last year… need I say more?  Ryan and I hummed and hawed about how a grade 1 classroom could be flipped effectively and I will admit that I was less than optimistic.  As we sat down to discuss the idea, thoughts surrounding the grade 1 flip became clearer and we decided on a two-pronged approach that would include the parents as much as possible. I have to admit that by meeting’s end the energy in the room had increased ten-fold.

After much discussion we both determined that for a flipped approach to work in a grade one classroom, the parents had to be onboard. Embracing this approach, we decided to begin the communication to the parents and involve them in the approach… we both knew that this had never been done quite like this before.

After sharing the ‘blue sky’ scenario with each teacher I wanted to make it clear that failure was indeed an option – but not a deterrent. 


Tomorrow, I launch my newest workshop: The Art of Google; Friday, I continue my flipped classroom journey into the secondary panel with a big meeting at Blessed Mother Teresa C.S.S.

Lesson plans to follow.


The Flipped Classroom Framework

I have outlined the framework for the project below. Initial meetings are taking place this week at three different schools.  I have chosen Grade 1, Grade 7, Grade 9 and Grade 11.  The subject areas will be chosen this week as well.

 Overall Expectations:

  1. To meet with teachers interested in the project and design a workflow that encompasses meetings, lesson delivery, data collection and summation of data;
  2. To work collaboratively with teachers to create lesson plans that incorporate the ‘explore at home, solve at school’ ideology that stems from the idea of the flipped classroom;
  3. To provide support for teachers in the delivery of the curriculum as they adapt it to a technology-driven experience;
  4. To follow up on delivered lessons and observe student learning and progress in the flipped classroom environment.
Proposal of Meetings (Virtual or Face to Face):
Initial Meeting:
·         To discuss the subject area/class in which the flipped classroom will take place;
·         To choose specific themes, lessons or units that will be used to flip the class.
·         To set a schedule of meeting dates for follow up;
·         To set a date of delivery of the lesson and determining how many lessons (maximum of 3 with support);
·         To establish a form of data collection;
Cycle 1
Meeting 1:
·         To plan the lesson;
·         To plan how to assess the delivery of the lesson;
Meeting 2
·         Lesson 1 delivery;
Meeting 3:
·         Lesson follow up (virtual meeting)
·         Data Collection/Assessment
Cycle 2 – see above
Cycle 3 – see above
I would like to provide support for 3 full cycles – this includes 3 meetings each per teacher. If the teacher wishes to continue beyond, I hope that the infrastructure already developed within the school can provide ‘first touch’ support.