Month: September 2019

Teacher Toolbox: Do you have what you need?

As educators we have a variety of tools that we use in the classroom. These tools help us to engage students, deliver curriculum and to be honest, just get through the day.

Where your regular everyday toolbox would have hammers, screwdrivers, a saw, measuring tapes, and other necessary utensils for craftsmanship. A teacher’s toolbox is filled with humor, knowledge, patience, kindness, curriculum content and digital technologies.

Throughout an educator’s career they stock their toolbox, learning from others (borrowing their tools) or developing professionally (buying own tools). I have recently learned about two more tools that I can add to my toolbox, the substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model and the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model. However, before I move forward in this post, I need to remind myself (and you the reader) that these are merely tools to be used by an educator, and not a stand-alone product. According the Hamilton, Rosenberg, and Akcaoglu (2016) “technology integration is neither an educational goal nor is it sufficient on its own to enhance learning outcomes.” (pp.439)

Both newly acquired tools deal with how to integrate digital technology in the classroom, a seemingly hot topic in the education field. Hamilton et al. (2016) would argue “the complex nature of new digital technologies further complicates the already difficult task of teaching with technology.” (pp.433) Koehler and Mishra (2009) agree that “teaching and learning with technology exists in a dynamic transactional relationship.” (pp.66) Both the TPACK and SAMR models for technology integration examine how to effectively integrate technology in the classroom. These models hope to aid educators in the design and implementation of various digital technologies.

The substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model looks at different levels for integrating technology. Hamilton et al. (2016) found “the context in which educators teach matters and is an important consideration for any model connected to teaching and learning.” (pp.436) The first level of integration is SUBSTITUTION, where the technology used does not change the function of the lesson. The second level is AUGMENTATION, where there is a functional improvement because of the technology used. The third level is MODIFICATION, where the task is redesigned to incorporate technology. The final level of the SAMR model is REDEFINITION where the technology allows the creation of new tasks.  The SAMR model outlines the various ways technology can be integrated in the classroom. It acknowledges that teachers need to be educated on how to use technology effectively before integrating it into their curriculum. Furthermore, the SAMR model acknowledges that students’ previous knowledge of the technology will impact successful integration. Romrell, Kidder, and Wood (2014) found “the familiarity that the learner has with mobile devices impacts how they are used.” (pp.3) In addition, Hamilton et al. (2016) agree that “the effects of technology use depend strongly on the nature of the teachers and students using it, as well as the specific tasks for which it is being used.” (pp.437)

The Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model “is an understanding that emerges from interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge.” (Koehler and Mishra, pp. 66, 2009) This model examines every aspect of technology integration, from teacher competence, student ability and accessibility of resources. Koehler and Mishra (2009) found that “teaching is a complicated practice that requires an interweaving of many kinds of specialized knowledge.” (pp.61) This includes educators understanding and feeling comfortable with using technology in the classroom. Koehler and Mishra (2009) discovered that “teachers often have inadequate (or inappropriate) experience with using digital technologies for teaching and learning.” (pp. 61-62) This may be due to teacher education programs being unable to keep up with rapidly changing technology. By the time teachers are in a classroom of their own, the technology they learned to use is outdated. TPACK looks at how connecting content, prior knowledge, alternative teaching strategies and flexibility are essential tools for effective teaching.

Adding SAMR and TPACK to my toolbox, it is hard to determine which model I agree with more. TPACK allows me to evaluate the use of technology from every aspect of teaching, whereas SAMR model outlines how I am implementing technology into the classroom. Both models are valuable, but if I had to choose one over the other, I would lean towards the substitution, augmentation, modification redefinition model. I believe it would help me evaluate if the technology I use is adding to the learning experience. Using technology just because you can or should is pointless. Digital technologies should be used to create a more engaging learning environment, that aids students’ understanding of curriculum content. Romrell et al. (2014) insist that “not all educational tools work well on mobile technology, and the pedagogical value of a learning object should be weighed against its ease of use on mobile technology.” (pp.11) Koehler and Mishra (2009) agree that “technologies have their own propensities, potentials, affordances, and constraints that make them more suitable for certain tasks than others.” (pp.61) Moreover, Hamilton et al. (2016) encourage educators to “understand the relationships between teaching, technology, and learning to promote student growth and achievement.” (pp. 439)

SAMR and TPACK offer unique perspectives on digital technology integration in the classroom. Both are useful tools to include in the teacher toolbox. It is challenging to build anything with only one tool, (could you imagine building a table with only a saw?), the same goes for education. A teacher cannot expect to educate a class of individuals using only one model of technology integration.


Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay



Hamilton, E.R., Rosenberg, J.M. & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use. TechTrends 60(5), 433-441.

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 Journal18(2).

LETS DEBATE: Does anyone know if media influences learning?

Clark would argue that media has no influence on learning and will never have an impact on learning. Technology is merely a vehicle to deliver information to students. His primary argument is that media in education can be replaced, as it is chosen based on cost and effectiveness. Clark (1994) states that “any necessary teaching method could be designed into a variety of media presentations.” (pp. 22) Clark (1994) argues that “learning is influenced more by the content and instructional strategy in a medium than by the type of medium.” (pp. 21) Finally, Clark (1994) explains “only the use of adequate instructional methods will influence learning.” (pp. 27)

To an extent, I agree with Clark. Working at a distance learning school with both online and blended programs, I have experienced that technology doesn’t change the content we are teaching. For example, in my online classes there are “green books” on the course platform, these green books are essentially a digital textbook. In this instance, the type of media (digital text versus hard copy text) makes no difference in learning. Students still must read the content and derive meaning on their own.

However, education is too complicated to say that media can never influence learning. Let’s set aside the fact that this article was written over two decades ago for a moment and focus on the “never”. I strongly believe that media can be a great enhancement to the learning experience. First, students learn more when they are interested. Half of my job as a teacher is to present information in a new or entertaining way, so that students engage with the content. Media can help with this.

In present times, students can look up any fact or information they want, knowledge is at their fingertips 24/7. Yet as educators we must show them the importance of learning and education over memorization and regurgitation. These changes in society are mirrored by the changes we have seen in B.C.’s curriculum over the past few years. The focus for teachers is to create an environment where students can build skills (communication, critical/creative thinking, and personal/social responsibility) using the course content. In Clarks time, the focus was on using various skills to teach the content.

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When content is the goal I fully agree with Clark, there is no media that will influence learning. However, when building skills is the goal, I believe Clark’s argument is outdated and no longer applicable to education.

Kozma believed that media had the potential to influence learning, however, we had yet to discover the connection. Also written in 1994, Kozma had no evidence to support his claim that media influenced learning. Despite the lack of evidence, Kozma wrote his article on how he believed media would influence learning in the future.  Kozma (1994) argued that “learning is an active, constructive, cognitive and social process by which the learner … create new knowledge by interacting with information.” (pp.8) Kozma (1994) believes the “integration of media and method, in turn with the educational context is also important.” (pp. 16)

The key to education is getting students attention long enough to engage them in the content. Media and other technologies are very effective hooks for classroom teaching. More importantly, media becomes a common ground between students and teachers. Becker (2010) agrees that there is a digital generation gap between students and teachers. Therefore, educators can use media as a tool for engaging students in their course material. Digital technologies provide a platform, a new opportunity to engage with various educational content. Furthermore, Becker (2010) states that it is important to create “a learning environment that actively engages the learner in the task at hand.” (pp. 3)

With our new goals (core competencies) for education media is becoming more present and critical to the learning environment. I believe that media can and does influence learning. Media may not change content, but it does provide a new delivery method to engage students. In my experience, learning can only occur when students engage with the content. It also affords teachers a new platform to deliver curriculum content to students. Reaching students in a media that they use daily and understand, helps them to participate in the learning environment.  Becker (2010) finishes her argument with a quote by Mann (2001) “Instructional technology only works for some kids, with some topics, and under some conditions – but that is true of all pedagogy. There is nothing that works for every purpose, for every learner, and all the time.” (pp. 4) In my opinion this is the truest statement, out of all 3 articles. There is no ONE SIZE FITS ALL, when it comes to education, regardless of what media is used. There are too many variables in education to accept a position that says, ‘media will never influence learning’, especially when the articles are no longer relevant to current society based on their publish date.

There are some instances when research conflicts with each other. I think that this is valuable, as it forces the reader to evaluate the information and come to their own conclusions. It also provides an opportunity for further examination of key issues in education. The classic Clark-Kozma debate is now outdated and irrelevant for our current education system. However, it does raise some important questions about how to effectively educate students.


Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Imagine a world, where teachers have the time and resources required to create innovative and effective lessons. Every day students would feel inspired and engaged with class material and absolutely love being in class. Classes would be so amazing that people would buy tickets, just to learn.

Then the alarm sounds, and reality sets in. It is back to school and despite all the amazing technology and ideas that can be incorporated into the classroom, it feels like there is not enough time. This summer I had planned to reconfigure the structure of my courses and create amazing class activities to inspire my students to learn the curriculum … but September came much faster than anticipated and I have had to adjust my expectations.


As an educator, I have often been swept up in the ideal classroom, with visions of what my courses could be. This is elevated by the fact that I work in a blended learning environment, where I have students both in class and online. Oh, the wondrous opportunities I have, incorporating technology in the classroom.

There are many technological trends in the educational field. Some of the top trends of 2019 include robotics, 3-D printing, virtual reality, coding and artificial intelligence. I believe that most educators are working towards integrating these technology trends in their classrooms. I am very fortunate to work at a school that relies heavily on technology and encourages students and teachers to experiment with new trends.

U-Connect is a distance learning school where students are either in a full online program or are in a blended program. For the blended program students are in class part time and then online part time. Therefore, the school provides each blended student their own computer for the year – achieving the 2019 trend of a device for every student. In addition, our students frequently collaborate and use cloud computing as part of our courses. As students spend more time at home working on assignments, any group work must be completed using cloud computing technologies. We also offer a technology course for students in grade 10, 11 or 12 that allows them to learn about and interact with various augmented reality and game based learning technologies. Many courses already incorporate technology effectively into the curriculum, but with new technology appearing constantly, I can’t help but desire to include more technology into my courses.

I believe the most important technological trends to incorporate into a classroom are custom learning experiences, seamless resource access, computational thinking, collaborative computing and adaptive tools such as speech to text. In our fast paced, and hectic lifestyle it only makes sense that education is flexible, adaptive and accessible in a variety of places. Holland and Holland (2014) found that “learners now have small, compact, increased access using mobile devices.” (pp.17) In addition there is a “shift towards more access, mobility, online, hybrid, and authentic active challenge based collaborative learning models to develop leadership and creativity.” (Holland and Holland, pp. 18, 2014)

Another key benefit of technology in education is the opportunity for accessibility and inclusion. Remote learning is becoming a popular trend as it offers students the ability to learn anywhere. Moreover, with the many assistive technologies all types of learners can feel confident and competent.

These amazing new tools we have as educators are both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because we can reach students at a whole new level, and terrifying because I feel ill prepared to use some of the newest technology. Using new technology in the classroom is just another way to humanize the teacher and show students that learning is a life-long process.

There are few technology trends that I didn’t agree with. For example, I feel that smartboards are becoming a dated technology. Although useful in some cases, I don’t know if they are always the most effective form of technology in the classroom. I also find that the gamification trend doesn’t always meet the curriculum needs of a course. Even though students enjoy playing games in class, I am not convinced that it is the best way for students to learn content. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in active learning opportunities and getting students attention with games. But I try to remind myself to use games and technology only when it is the best tool for learning.  Holland and Holland (2014) suggest that “when one analyzes the learning needs, goals, and objectives, then selects and aligns the best tools to accomplish the tasks, one increases opportunities for exceptional learning.” (pp. 23)

With all the technology available to educators, I look forward to implementing, testing, and incorporating digital tools into my classroom and lessons. I return to the dream of amazing courses, overflowing with technology and digital tools, bluntly ignoring the restraints or time and resources. Focusing on how students with diverse needs and learning styles can benefit from technology and begin to take ownership of their own learning and education.


Images retrieved from the public domain Pixabay



Holland, J. & Holland, J. (2014). Implications of Shifting Technology in Education. Tech Trends. 58(3), 16-25.