Big Rocks Blog: Pivotal Moments: So empowering that time took still….

Pivotal Moment #1:  Technology-how it has changed teaching & learning.

After reviewing my previous blogs, what resonated with me the most is how technology has changed the teaching and learning processes.  Teachers now design lessons differently by thinking about how to better use and implement technology into curriculum through the development of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK).  Furthermore, learners now have many choices from E-intensive settings, face-to-face learning environments to blended learning options.  Both teachers and learners are constantly exposed to technology.

However, does this influx of technology increase student literacy rates?  The New Media Consortium (2005) defines twenty-first century literacy as “the set of abilities and skills where aural, visual, and digital literacy overlap…” (p.8).  Literacy must also include traditional literacies of reading and writing as well as new media literacy of developing social skills if students are to work collaboratively in a global, interconnected society (Jenkins, 2006).  Research has shown that students’ ability to use technology has not necessarily increased students’ knowledge and capability to use digital tools effectively.  As the Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) research project (2012) demonstrated, many teachers felt that their students enjoyed engaging with networked media, but that this access to technology did not make their students better learners.   One instructor from the Atlantic stated “They know how to use Facebook or YouTube, those kinds of spaces…I think a lot of students know how to chat, how to text, but they don’t know how to use the learning experience”(Steeves, 2012).

Learners are exposed to vast amounts of information on the Internet, and most students take what they find online as “given”.  Therefore, educators need to help learners to think critically about online content if students/teachers are to maximize the benefits of digital literacy.   Digital responsibility and ethics when using online sources is another concept that has been introduced as a result of this influx in technology.  Learners need to be aware of the negative consequences of recording peoples’ conversations or taking pictures of others and putting it on YouTube without permission.  These actions destroy the sense of community and trust that needs to occur in classrooms if learning is to transpire.  After taking this course, I am now more aware of the benefits and the pitfalls of using digital resources in my classroom.

This means that educators need to assess their teaching practice to determine ‘how’ they can better use and manage technology to teach competencies in a diverse skill set including: media literacy, technological literacy, critical thinking/problem-solving, communication, collaboration, leadership, social awareness, ethical responsibility, accountability and more (Standards for the 21st Century Learner, 2007).

Pivotal Moment #2:  The Need for Teacher Reflection

Another key moment for me was when I reviewed my teaching processes.  This review allowed me to reflect on how I can better use and manage digital resources, improve self-efficacy, technology implementation, and the creation of authentic activities to enhance learning opportunities.

I have learned to first assess my students’ abilities and interests before designing activities to ensure that my students are intrinsically motivated.  I have encouraged students to build communities of inquiry so that information sharing and experiences perpetuate. Furthermore, I realize that students need to be put in control of their learning.  They need to manipulate information and ideas in ways that transform meaning through problem solving.  They also need more time to reflect on their learning processes, as well as on specific topics to encourage higher-order thinking skills.  I now have a better understanding that covering less material in a course, but making sure that the components of the program are well connected and extended to real-world applications constitutes good teaching practices.

Pivotal Moment #3:  The Need to Design Authentic Learning & TPACK

I wish to improve my lesson planning and the quality of my teaching by learning how to better design authentic learning activities.  I have learned that connectivism and social constructivism can be used by educators to create authentic, inquiry-based projects.  Social constructivism supports “learning by design” since educators design technological tools to solve authentic problems.  Teachers become the designers of technology and learn along side their students.  Teachers need to put aside their egos; something that many educators fear because they may lose control of their classroom.  Consequently, this type of teaching takes much confidence and classroom management skills.  Connectivism also supports authentic learning because students connect with their peers through classroom or online discussions, through large or small group activities, or through correspondence with other students around the world.  The Internet has made these interactions possible, which has forever changed teaching and learning environments.

Investigating the many concepts presented this term has also aided in my TPACK development.  TPACK is the intersection of seven interwoven and interdependent sections of teachers’ knowledge (Harris & Hofer, 2009).  I learned that a pedagogically sound method of developing TPACK is to start the process with content-based planning so that technology is integrated into curriculum in a manner that is not technocentric (Papert, 1987).  Once these instructional decisions have been made, I can focus on selecting, organizing, and sequencing activity-based tasks.  Then choosing the best technology to use from the list of taxonomies given in the Harris and Hofer article comes naturally.  The taxonomies have been designed to best serve learning goals and to meet school constraints.  I look forward to learning more about how to use these taxonomies in my TPACK development.

I am moving towards the sweet spot in TPACK development.  From the course concepts, I have noticed that my process has been this development.  I want to incorporate technology into my lesson planning since it is the future, but I want to do it in an authentic and appropriate way.  I also want my lessons to spark real-world, relevant learning, which is a requirement for authentic teaching.  I have spent the last two years learning how to better create this synergy in my lesson planning.

Through awareness of how technology changes teaching and learning, and through reflection and the development of TPACK, I have greatly improved my teaching abilities.  By reflecting on my own teaching processes, I am now more adaptive and flexible (Clark & Peterson, 1986).


Clark, C. M., & Peterson, P. L., (1986).  Teachers’ thought processes.  In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.).  Handbook of research on teaching.  New York:  MacMillan.

Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2009).  Instructional planning activity types as vehicles for

curriculum-based TPACK development.  In C.D. Maddux, (Ed.).  Research highlights in technology and teacher education 2009 (pp. 99-108).  Chesapeake, VA:  Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE).

Jenkins, H. (2006).  Confronting the challenges of participatory culture:  Media education for the 21st Century.  John D. and Catherine T.  MacArthur Foundation.  Retrieved from

New Media Consortium (2005).  A Global Imperative:  The Report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit.

Papert, S. (1987).  A critique of technocentrism in thinking about the school of the future.  Retrieved November 16, 2012, from

Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007).  Retrieved March 29, 2010 from

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


EDER 679-Blog #4: Is “Learning by Design” the answer to “how” teachers develop authentic, inquiry-based learning opportunities?

Much research has focused on “what” educators need to know to create meaningful curriculum and classroom environments that integrate content, pedagogical and technological knowledge (TPACK).  However, teachers need to know ‘how’ to better implement technology into classrooms.  They also need to become more proficient in using technology, but focus should not be on learning specific software because this knowledge is too specific and quickly becomes outdated (Mishra & Koehler, in press).

Mishra & Koehler, (in press), argue that traditional methods of training teachers using workshops and courses are ineffective and are “…ill-suited to produce the “deep understanding” that can insulate teachers from the changes brought on by rapidly changing technology”.  Training programs using these approaches leads to teachers becoming consumers of technology; they don’t develop an understanding of how to build relationships with technology.  Teachers need to be committed to professional development, which includes becoming more adaptable to technology, but training programs need to focus more on proper implementation.  One method of learning and implementing technology that supports the development of TPACK is through “learning by design” (Mishra & Koehler, in press).

“Learning by design” involves teachers designing technological tools to solve an authentic problem.  Through this process, teachers understand technology along side their students, which allows educators to experience the benefits and pitfalls of the technology for themselves.  Teachers become designers of technology through active participation supporting social constructivism and sustainable inquiry projects.

An example of how I have used “learning by design” in my teaching at Bredin is through the development of a student website.  When teaching the Workplace Communication Class for the BIM (building information modeling) program, I soon realized that many students preferred to work on assignments in isolation.  I knew that these students lacked the necessary Essential Skills such as working with others and oral communication to be successful in the Canadian marketplace.  Often engineers don’t excel in these ‘soft’ skills, but foreign trained engineers from certain countries seem to lack these skills even more so.  I wanted to build a community of inquiry through collaboration and relationship building.  I also wanted a resource for students to access outside of the classroom.  Thus, I designed a website for my students-(

I posted questions in the discussion board and encouraged students to respond, and I linked resources to the website to support learning outside of the face-to-face classroom.   I also downloaded pictures, with students’ permission, from school fieldtrips to help develop relationships and mentoring.  Then I asked students to work in teams to create their own websites showcasing learning from the BIM program.  Instructors in the program including the AutoCAD, Revit, cultural awareness, pronunciation and employment readiness teachers, gave students class time to work on the websites and encouraged students to include artifacts from their classes on the sites.

Through the design of my website, I was able to anticipate challenges students may have with the technology.  I also knew how long such a project would take since it took me approximately 20 hours to create my website.  This was my first attempt at “learning by design”, and even though it was time intensive, I can now use this site for future classes.  I believe that “learning by design” sparks authentic, inquiry-based instruction where students realize that learning is messy and ill structured, so they need to develop strategies to solve problems.  I hope to develop more tools to use in my teaching through “learning by design”, which will further my TPACK development.


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:

Does “Activity Types” for TPACK Development Allow for Authentic Learning?-EDER 679-Blog #3

The practice of using curriculum-specific, technology-enhanced learning activity types as the building blocks for instructional planning has been suggested as a way to develop TPACK (Harris & Hofer, 2009).  Technological pedagogical content knowledge is the intersection of seven interwoven and interdependent sections of teachers’ knowledge (Harris & Hofer, 2009).  Instructors are encouraged to first design curriculum keeping in mind learning outcomes, pedagogical decisions that best suit learners, the appropriate sequencing of activity types and assessment strategies.  Does this approach to lesson planning aid in TPACK development and authentic learning opportunities for students?

By starting with content-based planning, the integration of educational technologies become more authentic and not technocentric ( Papert, 1987).  Once these instructional decisions have been made, educators can focus on selecting, organizing, and sequencing activity-based tasks.  Then choosing technologies to use that best serve learning goals and meet school constraints can be determined.

I found the learning activity type taxonomies given in the Harris and Hofer article to be extremely helpful in developing authentic lessons where technology enhances learning rather than it becoming the focus of the lesson.  I also found that technologies such as Word, PowerPoint, Wikispaces, Audacity, Inspiration, Excel, Google Docs, VoiceThread, etc.  can be duplicated at different stages of the planning.  This reinforces my notion that “less is more”.  I have always believed that educators don’t have to be technology experts to effectively integrate technology into curriculum.

I have used a similar method when learning to teach English to Newcomers to Canada.  The series “Teaching Techniques in English as a Second Language” by Oxford University Press focuses on teaching new instructors learning activities for the language classroom.  Some of the books include:  techniques in teaching vocabulary, writing, grammar, reading, listening, and speaking.  The books also include sample lessons so new instructors can visualize how learning activities can be incorporated into larger lessons-similar to how Harris & Hofer use activity types as building blocks to form lesson plans, projects and units.  The idea of using activity-based building blocks to design connected lessons is not new.  When viewing languages, collocations or groups of words build to represent ideas and communication.  It is interesting how old ideas become new again.

The challenge of using “activity types” is to ensure that curriculum-based learning goals are met, that activity types are combined in a way that addresses more curriculum standards simultaneously and that these activity types flow smoothly.  Students complete activity types through out the lesson, but educators need to make sure that these activity types are smoothly connected and build on each other.  Otherwise, these tasks can lead to “activitymania” where tasks are disconnected and do not address curriculum outcomes.  When this occurs, students are confused about what the tasks represent and how they build to concrete learning outcomes.

I have used many of the technologies listed in the Harris and Hofer article successfully in my practice.  When adding technologies to my learning activities, I try to implement technologies that students are familiar with so that learning the technology isn’t the focus of my lesson.  I will continue to follow this strategy, but I will increase my use of possible technologies to expand my TPACK development.


Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2009).  Instructional planning activity types as vehicles for curriculum-based TPACK development.  In C.D. Maddux, (Ed.).  Research highlights in technology and teacher education 2009 (pp. 99-108).  Chesapeake, VA:  Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE).

Papert, S. (1987).  A critique of technocentrism in thinking about the school of the future.  Retrieved November 16, 2012, from