Big Rocks Blog – A Moment of Reflection

My course, Integrating Educational Technology, is coming to a close.  We began by looking at learning theories.  I was strongly encouraged to make connections between my work as a primary teacher and the learning theories we have been exploring. I now have a new appreciation for the work of Vygotsky (and to think he died in 1938).  Vygotsky proposed learning is socially constructed. Based on my last experience with being a student, learning was a private, individual affair (yes – it was a long time ago).  “Knowledge is not transferred passively, but is personally constructed.” (Hall, 2007, p.95)   I have been personally constructing my own knowledge through writing responses and reflections, making connections to my work and concepts, keeping a blog, and reading/pondering other’s work.  Posting blogs and sending tweets are two examples of socially constructing knowledge I frankly thought I was much too shy to participant in.  When I began grad school in July, I knew what and why I wanted to learn, but I had not considered the how.

Learning has consistently been the foundation of our work.  Knowledge may have been a trickle, but with technological advances, it is a deluge. (Siemens, 2006)  This course modeled knowledge creation versus knowledge consumption.  Siemens (2006) says learning is messy and chaotic.  That tells me it is okay to take my orderly classroom where everyone is doing the same thing and differentiate for individual learners (which at first glance looks ‘messy’).  It’s okay to make mistakes. Incorporating technology in a meaningful way, through the lens of TPACK (Harris, Mishra & Koehler, 2009) is common sense…and a lot harder than it looks.  Asking students to construct knowledge and make connections, is a necessity and something for us all to strive for in our pursuit of instructional excellence.  It’s messy, but worthwhile.  Neither does it happen overnight.  “Real learning happens in bursts, and often those bursts occur in places or situations that are out of the ordinary.”  (Godin, 2012, p.144)  Those serendipitous conversations in the hallway are invaluable.

The work of George Siemens (2004) was the beginning of my own conscious connections to my own learning and to my work.  Siemens refers to connectivism as a model of learning.  He speaks of how one can take action in order to provide value to knowledge changes and latest trends.  He suggests becoming active in the conversation of organizational change.  Individuals form connections within the whole, make mistakes, dialogue with colleagues, and have a strong level of trust.  It also takes an investment of time by all members of a learning community.  Knowing this, I feel a sense of responsibility to my colleagues and students to share my time, my learning, and my mistakes and be a positive contributor to our school culture.

“It  is  likely  that  teachers will  experience  more  success  and  less  frustration  if  they  take  small,  but progressive steps  toward  change.” (Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon & Byers, 2002, p. 512)  Sound advice for those of us on the steep learning curve of using technology in pedagogically sounds ways to extend learning for students.  As Godin (2012) encourages, aiming to learn something new every day will move us towards change.  It may very well transform education.


Godin, Seth. Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School For?). (Free Online Publication, 2012). Retrieved from:

Hall, A., (2007). Vygotsky Goes Online: Learning Design from a Socio-cultural Perspective, Learning and Socio-cultural Theory: Exploring Modern Vygotskian Perspectives International Workshop 2007, 1(1), 2007.

Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416. Retrieved from:

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from:

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved from:

Zhao, Y., Pugh, K., Sheldon, S. & Byers, J.L. (2002). Conditions for classroom technology innovations. Teachers College Record, 104(3), 482-515.  Retrieved from:


Let’s talk about Learning, not Just Technology

Teachers surveyed in a report by Valerie Steeves (2012), agree that simple access to networked technologies does not make students better learners.  It is common for school boards to focus on training students to use technology rather than providing learning opportunities that are enhanced by technology.  (Steeves, 2012)  So how do teachers go about keeping learning the priority?

Mishra & Koehler (in press) delve into the question of what teachers need to learn about integrating technology, by looking at how teachers will learn about integrating educational technology.  They conclude teachers learn educational technology by doing educational technology and being “designers of learning”.  Although most teachers use technology in our personal lives, we need to collectively explore and think about technology in the classroom.  “Learning technical skills alone is not sufficient – learning how to integrate technologies into teaching is equally important.” (Mishra, Koehler, Kereluik, 2009, p. 52)

In my school we are looking at developing and nurturing our school culture.   I wonder if the process of defining that culture could incorporate explorations of technology by the teachers.  I envision us contributing to the solution of culture by creating and sharing knowledge through a brief video clip, podcast, or other technological tool deemed appropriate. The product(s) could be shared on the school website for the community and newcomers to learn about our school.  These products would also serve to enhance the school website and communicate the culture we are endeavouring to nurture.

Watson’s (2006) research illustrates the importance of professional development on teacher’s self-efficacy.  As our school begins to participate in professional development designed to aid us in developing our school culture, a bi-product may very well be the increased self-efficacy of teachers. Collective efficacy is essential to the entire school’s level of achievement. (Bandura, 1991)  There’s an Aha moment for you:  increase the collective efficacy of a school and learning becomes central to its achievement and culture.


Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28(2), 117-148. Retrieved from:

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (in press). Not “what” but “how”: Becoming design-wise about educational technology. To appear in Zhao, Y. (Ed.). What do teachers need to know? Educational Technology Publications. Retrieved from:

Mishra, P., Koehler, M.J., & Kereluik, K. (2009). The song remains the same: Looking back to the future of educational technology. Retrieved from:

Steeves, V. (2012). Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase 3: Teacher’s Perspective. Retrieved from:

Watson, G. (2006) Technology Professional Development: Long-Term Effects on Teacher Self-Efficacy. Retrieved from:

Digital Citizenship: There is more to teaching than three R’s


If you Google “Digital Citizenship”, you will receive 5,910,000 hits.  What is digital citizenship?  Ribble, Bailey and Ross (2004) define digital citizenship as “The norms of behavior with regard to technology use.”  The Alberta Education Digital Citizenship Policy Development guide definition is as follows:

Citizenship is defined as the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political or national community. Citizenship carries both rights and responsibilities.  (Alberta Education, 2012, p.7)

I had the opportunity to hear Bill Belsey speak this evening.  His talk focussed on cyberbullying.  Belsey says our students are facing issues that have never before existed.  “It’s the best of times and the worst of times to be a kid.”  Computers, cell phones and other technological devices are tools and as such are not the issue.  Teaching students to be responsible for their behaviour online and offline is just as important as the three “R’s”.

Digital citizenship requires teaching and guidance from parents and teachers.  In his talk, Belsey (2012) said, “We parents count on the school to teach it, the school thinks parents are talking about it at home.”  It needs to occur in both environments.  Ribble, Bailey & Ross concur, “Technology-infused teaching does not always include teaching about appropriate and inappropriate uses of technology.”  (Ribble, Bailey & Ross, 2004, p. 8).  We are doing our students and children a disservice by not having conversations regarding digital citizenship.  Digital citizenship needs to be interwoven throughout the year and continuously discussed and reinforced.

Belsey (2012) likens technology to the Trojan horse.  It is a wonderful tool, but we must be aware of the underlying dangers.  “Technology can only enhance learning if students are taught to think critically about online content and to evaluate their online own behaviour against a set of shared social values.” (Steeves, 2012, p.6)  Digital citizenship is about learning.  Technology is playing an ever increasingly important role in student learning.  The teaching of digital citizenship must go hand in hand with using technology.  Our school division policy recognizes this; “We firmly believe that the value of information and interaction available on this worldwide network outweighs the possibility that users may access material that is not consistent with the educational goals of Canadian Rockies Public Schools. “ (CRPS Technology Plan, 2012, p. 12)

Students use technology daily – teens say almost three hours per day according to a poll (cited in Canmore Collegiate Newsletter, 2012, p.10); for social uses, for entertainment, and for learning.  In the process they leave a digital footprint behind.  “Finally, technological changes offer us new metaphors and languages for thinking about human cognition and our place in the world.”  (Harris, Mishra, & Koehler, 2009, p.10)  Online, a person’s place in the world is forever documented, for better or for worse.  We are not anonymous.  Students need to be aware they are responsible for their own digital footprint.  Conversations must happen simultaneously with internet use.  Access to technology begins in Kindergarten at my school.  This means we primary teachers must begin to include digital citizenship alongside teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. I discovered recently that Alberta Education has signed licensing agreements with Media Smarts to provide all K-12 school authorities with resources for students and teachers on Internet safety and cyberbullying.

I began my career when only ‘Citizenship’ existed.  Technology has changed what we teach and how we teach.  Teaching is so much more.  Learning acceptable behaviour is one of the core literacies of the 21st century. “The core to digital literacy is helping students develop citizenship skills.  Building character today for communities of tomorrow.” (Steeves, 2012, p. 23).  By the time I retire, I believe digital citizenship will evolve back into plain old “citizenship”, regardless if it’s online or offline.


Alberta Education, (2012).   Digital Citizenship Development Policy Guide.  Edmonton, Alberta: Alberta Learning, Learning and Teaching Resources Branch. Retrieved from:

Belsey, B. (2012).  Cyberbullying.  Canmore, Alberta.

Canadian Rockies Public Schools (2011-2013).  Canadian Rockies Public Schools Technology Plan. Retrieved from:

Canadian Rockies Public Schools (2012). Canmore Collegiate Newsletter, (Issue 1), 1-24.  Canmore, Alberta.

Harris, J., Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge and learning activity types: Curriculum-based technology integration reframed. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(4), 393-416. Retrieved from:

Ribble, M., Bailey, G., Ross T., (2004).  Digital Citizenship:  Addressing Appropriate Technology Behaviour.  Learning & Leading with Technology. 32(10), 6-12.  Retrieved from:

Steeves, V. (2012). Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase 3: Teacher’s Perspective. Retrieved from: